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Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!

Posted on Sat May 30th, 2020 @ 8:57am by Petty Officer First Class Sparrow Kells & Lieutenant Commander Talina Sarafian

Mission: Mission 1 - "Pound of Flesh"
Location: Pila-Pala Casino Resort
Timeline: MD 3

As they walked through the jaws of death that passed for an entrance, Talina and Sparrow found themselves inundated by crashing sounds and bright lights that were very clearly designed to overwhelm the senses. The crowd roiled like a turgid sea of bodies that threatened to suck them into its oily depths.

"Do you see a manager's office?" Talina shouted above the din.

Hands over her ears, Sparrow winced at the assault on her brain. It was too much at first, an intentional surround sound visual battlefield for pleasure and pain purposes, neither of which she wanted right now on this level. Slowly, she began to adjust, but she kept her ears protected and lipread the boss' question.

A finger pointed from a briefly dropped hand and Sparrow began to push ahead through the masses towards a barely visible set of metal stairs that hugged the left-hand wall.

It took some doing, but the two women forced their way through the crowd. The stairwell leading to the glass encased overlook was guarded by two burley alien men in black tuxedos and curled horns over their heads.

"That's far enough," one of them said with his gravelly goat-like voice. His cloven hand stretched out to forcibly obstruct the investigators. "Nobody sees the pit boss without an appointment."

Talina somehow combined a smirk and a scowl. "I've got my appointment right here." She reached for her badge only to find it wasn't in her vest pocket. A quick pat down of her front and sides revealed that she had been relieved of her badge between the entrance and this spot.

Far more humble than she had been a moment ago, she gave Sparrow a pleading look. "Show the man your badge, Kells."

It was about then that Sparrow regreted having held her hands over her ears when they'd entered. Because reached in for that familiar comfy blanket of gifted authority, she found her badge to also be elsewhere. She cursed.

But there was another option. Ch4d. It would just take a minute.

"We have an appointment," Sparrow said, her voice filled with the absolute unwavering certainty of the truth. Her expression was sweetness hardened with supreme confidence as she stared down the two tuxedo-clad goat dudes. "Ask your boss." Sparrow smiled an impatiently polite smile. "Sarafian and Kells. We're just a few minutes early."

The two burly satyrs looked at one another in disbelief.

"We'll wait," she added helpfully as the duo exchanged glances with each other. "And you can retrieve our badges from the rabble below before we leave, too," Sparrow added, as if this were the simplest of tasks indeed.

"No ID, no entry," one of the guards said.

"You are free to go," the other said imperiously. It was not a mere statement of fact, but an order to go away.

Talina leaned back on her heels to give some distance without giving up ground. Without identification she had no direct means of gaining access to the pit boss. Even her comscanner had been lifted, which meant she couldn't even call for backup. This was uncharted territory for her.

Hopefully Sparrow knew what she was doing.

Utterly unconcerned by the reaction she was getting or the distinct and rather overt request for them to leave, Sparrow remained exactly where she was. Her covert AI didn't need long to infiltrate their employer's terminal, and her wandering about outside earlier had given her sufficient time to suss out the offence and defence, on the both hardware and software level. The appointment wrestled itself into the pit boss' own system with a silent subtlety.

"Just ask him," she said, with a polite smile. "Please."

The second guard to the right pressed his earpiece and waited for a response. A hiss of static signaled a reply that wasn't audible to Talina or Sparrow. "Yeah, I got two cops out here sayin' they scheduled a meet with the boss." Silence. Waiting. "Names were... Yeah, Sarafian and Kells. They are?" His brow furrowed in surprise. "Copy."

After clicking his earpiece again, the guard gave his partner a soft elbow and stepped aside. "Boss is waiting."

"Thank you," Talina said amiably. As she passed between the burly, trollish goat-men, she made a note to ask Sparrow how her trick had worked.

Leading the way up the stairs -- honest to goodness stairs instead of elevators -- Talina marveled at the pit boss' office. At the top of the stairs, they came upon a wide-set chrome desk with a busty receptionist painted halfway to a clown.

"Hellooo," she purred. "If you care to have a seat, Mister Naismith will be right with you."

Talina did her best not to roll her eyes at the living caricature behind the desk. "That's quite all right. I prefer to stand."

Despite her own boss' decision to stand, Sparrow took a seat and leant uncomfortably back into it. Back to the wall, she regarded the decorated woman behind the desk for far too long, literally staring across the space at her in silent disbelief and curiosity as to reasons. "Will he be much longer?" Sparrow soon asked, no impoliteness in her tone.

"Some have said Mr. Naismith is known for being longer than the average bloke." The greasy haired man bulging out of his luxurious business suit beamed wide and broad at Talina and Sparrow. "I coulda' swore I didn't have an appointment with two beautiful ladies today. Somethin' I woulda' remembered, that. Now that I lays eyes on ya, though, I can't say as I'm sorry." The twinkle in his beady eyes turned his broad smile into a lusty one. "Please. My office is right this way."

Naismith led them into his glassed-in cage that overlooked the entire casino floor. There were few places to sit, as the space wasn't really meant for anyone but him. He stepped right up to the window and stared out over the crush of gamblers with his arms folded behind his backs. "What can I do for you two?" he asked without turning around.

Sparrow offered up a humourless smile in response to the 'longer' joke, though it shifted into a marginally warmer expression as they were both shuffled into the office space. An impressive domain as it turned out, one worthy of the man's monetary wealth and apparent status in this filthy business.

"Great view," Sparrow stated coolly, stepping close enough to the window to take in the view whilst remaining comfortably out of the immediate reach of Mr Naismith. "You must see everything that goes on down there." A compliment to the architect and designer. She watched his reflection in the glass as she asked her question. "We understand that you've had some trouble? Someone went missing?"

That made his Naismith's brow arch. "Oh? And where did you hear that?"

"Station grapevine," said Sparrow. "Anxious relatives. Y'know, the usual. A Mr Pimms."

"Pimms was separated from employment," Naismith said with an odd cadence. "Haven't heard high nor low of him since."

Talina jumped at that. "What was the reason for termination?"

"Attendance," Naismith said, staring her right in the eye. "I need my employees on time and accounted for, capisce? Pimms ain't one."

"Funny..." Talina shifted her weight to the side, giving more distance between her and Sparrow. Naismith was a particularly large man, bigger than both of them, and she didn't want to give him a chance to bumrush them both if things went south. "Adrian Pimms isn't registered as a resident of this station. Official records say he was a stock broker in transit."

Naismith's neck bulged against his too-tight collar. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Really?" Talina arched her eyebrow. "You just said Pimms worked here."

"No I didn't." Naismith shook his head back and forth like an angry bull.

"Yes you did!" Talina exclaimed incredulously. "We both heard you!"

"I think it's time for you to leave," Naismith said, turning around again.

Talina scowled. "I think you'd better come with us."

"Are you arresting me, Lieutenant Commander Sarafian?" Naismith raised an incredulous eyebrow of his own. "That would not be wise."

"I'm bringing you in for further questioning," Talina said. "Whether you comply or not is up to you."

Naismith let out a guttural laugh. "Oh, I'll comply all right. Just that... it's a tough crowd down there. You lost your ID badges on the way in here. Just think... what might you lose trying to perp walk me out the front door?"

Okay. Not-so-veiled threat. If she hoped to get answers out of this Mister Naismith, she would have to involve Station Security. Something she could not presently do.

"We'll be back!" Talina said.

"One minute," suggested her companion.

Sparrow had remained silent while Naismith and Sarafian conversed, but she had not been inactive. Ch4d needed a little time to fully inflitrate the Pila Pila's systems and time was exactly what the other two were buying with their to and fro. Information then came flooding into her terminal from the Kaylon hacker AI, sharing data, recordings, imagery and personnel files, dropping idetailed tech-based ammunition alond with vid feeds from the club and sound files from behind the scenes. Someone, it seemed, was always watching. So many hackable microphones in a room these days...

Naismith's voice played back to him, loud and clear in the office, from his own desk as Sparrow regarded the man with a steely eye.

"Pimms was separated from employment..... Haven't heard high nor low of him since."

"What was the reason for termination?"

"Attendance." "I need my employees on time and accounted for, capisce? Pimms ain't one."

"You can tell us what really happened," Sparrow suggested, politely. "Or I can start drawing some very high level attention to all the imagery and files I just took from your records and uploaded to an external site. The data hidden in the covert and encrypted folders, naturally. I could also release the last week of phone conversations from your personal account, or just let it play out over the main speaker feeds to the club and the foyer... Any preference?"

Talina's eyes bulged out of her head. "That will be quite enough, Ms. Kells!"

All Naismith did was give a devilish grin. "On that note, I'll invite you bitches to get the fuck out of here before I call security. My security."

Grabbing Sparrow's arm, Talina escorted her out of Naismith's office. "You just illegally accessed and took possession of that man's private information!" Talina slammed Sparrow up against the wall just outside the door, barely controlling her rage. "Anything you found there is now Fruit of the Poisonous Tree. We can't use any of it! None one bit! What's more is if he incurs any damages from your little illegal search and seizure, then we will both face censure, if not criminal charges ourselves. What the hell were you thinking, Kells?!"

Ah... crap. It was those little details, those little but highly important details that sometimes skipped her mind in the relentless pursuit of truth, justice and locating missing persons. But, as her back solidly hit wall and the Chief's fury rained down verbally upon her, Sparrow made the connection. She bowed her head and exhaled before looking back up at Talina.

"He can't prove it," she said moodily, but with steel in her tone as she avoided putting up any physical resistance. "And it was worth a try. I was thinking we'd find him, that was all."

"He could prove it, Miss Kells, because I would admit to it." Talina glared at Sparrow. "I don't know what kind of mess was going on before I got here, but my unit doesn't break the law in order to uphold it. Members of my unit do not lie about criminal actions. We do this the right way or not at all. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes, Chief," said Sparrow, and she kept her tone of voice utterly devoid of anything besides compliance. It didn't seem like a good time to point out that the law hadn't helped them so far, and the only way they were likely to get around Naismith was by circumventing the system. In retrospect, however, Sparrow acknowledged that she could have probably handled the covert ops side of things a tad more discreetly. She watched her boss' face closely and waited for any comeback.

Talina stormed off back toward the stairway that led to the gambling floor. "Let's go."

By the time they reached the bottom, a passing waitress bumped into them and dropped her tray of shot glasses. The pungent smell of cheap liqueur filled the air. "Oh, I am so sorry," the waitress said. "Please, forgive me!" She pulled out a wet towel and began wiping down Talina's torso.

Alert to the unsavory situation, Talina immediately traced her hands across her pockets and found an object had been slipped into her possession.

"You have a nice day," the waitress said with a lingering poignant expression on her face.

Talina looked at what the waitress had slipped her. It was a handwritten note on a bar napkin that featured only two words: Ladies Room.

"Looks like we need to make a pit stop," Talina said to Sparrow.

Heading toward the nearest sign, Talina couldn't help but wonder what might come next. Heading into a private bathroom was how many law enforcement officers lost their lives. After the recent shitshow at the hands of Sparrow, however, Talina found herself more willing to risk their personal safety than normal.

"Hello?" Talina called out as she entered. "UCID. If anyone's in here, show yourself now."

The waitress from before walked out of the stall furthest from the door. "Keep it down, why don't you? And lock that door. We ain't got long." Her eyes shifted as if worried that someone would jump out and nab her. "I'm Trix and I think these belong to you." She flung two UCID badges onto the counter. "Got'em from a lowlife. Weren't cheap, neither."

"Why are you helping us, Trix?" The question wasn't harsh but neither was it friendly. Talina simply did not know what to think.

"I ain't helping you," Trix said. "My friend disappeared. Parvati. I figured that's why you were here. It is, right?"

Talina nodded, not wanting to waste time with unnecessary words.

"That's what I thought." Though she breathed a bit easier, Trix was clearly nervous. "Parvati was a palm reader. Entertainer. She came in here..." She paused to look around, her face pained with a haunted expression. "... and never came out." Looking to Talina and Sparrow, she turned frantic. "What the hell could do that?! And why ain't the Boss sayin' anything about it?!"

Sparrow picked up the two badges and regarded the waitress with a grateful, but unamused expression. She refrained from offering payment considering her error of protocol upstairs, and simply said. "Thank you, Trix," as she turned the badges over to check they were really theirs.

"She disappeared from the bathroom?" Asked Sparrow, making sure she understood the details of the disappearance correctly. "Or from the hotel itself?" Both questions were utterly serious. Trix's words resounded in her prain. A palm reader. "Whose palms did your friend read, exactly?"

At first Trix just scoffed. "I said she disappeared from right here. Are your ears broke, little miss? Parvati was just a con artist like half the peeps who troll through here. Only difference was she was good enough to get hired on at the Artanis in their regular stage performer lineup. She told me the good news a week or so ago. Said she was gonna' powder her nose and then high tail it out of here for good. Except... she came in and never came out."

"No," said Sparrow, dryly. "My ears work just fine. I was merely seeking clarification of your tale of woe." She resisted the urge to roll her eyes at the mention of con artists, and instead wandered about the restroom examining the space meticulously. "We should run a scan," she suggested to Talina, in a sideways request for permission to do so.

Talina nodded. "Do it." Looking back to Trix, she asked, "Do you know of any other missing persons?"

"I dunno," Trix said with a shiftless shrug. "Nobody sticks around here forever."

"You don't know?" Sparrow couldn't help but ask as she scanned the space around them and each wall in turn a little more closely. Up to the ceiling above them, then she aimed the tech downward to check the floor. "I think there's more space than there should be here," she suggested, "but it's a little glitchy. Maybe shielded?"

"But how is that possible?" Talina mused aloud. She was no scientist, but spatial volume did not seem to her among the more negotiable properties of the universe. "Let's get CSI in here. Have them bring a... well, whatever it is they would need."

Trix squealed and shook her head. "No! Bring down the fuzz and Naismith will have my head!"

"We can protect you," Talina said. "You'll be placed in protective custody, even send you far away from here if you wish."

At first Trix made to protest, but then she reluctantly nodded. "I can live with that. I hope."

Sparrow wasn't about to get into the wonky physics that might be applied to the world if certain illogical and mostly impossible rules were applied. Space, time, warp-fields... it seemed highly unlikely that a bathroom in a club possessed such properties, but... the guy hadn't been flushed down a toilet either.

"I'll make the call, Chief," she said, and stepped out into the corridor to summon CSI and their tech wizardry.



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