Trickster Heist, Part 1
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Last time on Nexus:
Dean, Part 3

Viktor was happy. Finally, he was sitting on his terrace in peace, sipping a cup of cocoa, the birds were chirping, and with some amusement, he heard Mathilda noisily toiling with the lawnmower downstairs.
Work builds character…
He liked this house in the green. There was nothing here to get in the way, no annoying supervisors, nothing constantly trying to kill him and, most importantly, no ghosts. It was perf-"
"EY! GO WAKE UP! GO WAKE UP! GO WAKE UP! GO WAKE UP! GO WAKE UP! GO WAKE UP! GO WAKE UP!"
Reluctantly, Viktor's mind found its way back to reality as that voice echoed through his head. He was asleep, sure, but that voice was really quite rude….
Wait a minute… That voice
More out of reflex than intent, Viktor's right fist extended and hit something soft that was stretched over something hard.
Anyway, the clamor gave way to a short "Oomph!" and Viktor finally opened his eyes.
The room was about four meters wide, oblong, and full of boxes. His sense of motion told him that the entire room was in motion, though there were no windows for his eyes to confirm this impression.
In front of him squatted a blonde with a large handbag, leather jacket, bellyless top and skin-tight jeans. She was rubbing her cheek.
He himself realized he was still wearing his favorite green polo shirt and brown pants.
"That hurt!" she nagged.
Now Viktor could finally place the voice….
"YOU…"
"MEEE!" the woman replied theatrically, throwing her hands in the air.
She rose and held out her hand to Viktor.
Suspiciously, he grasped it and allowed himself to be helped up.
"I have no idea why you're looking at me like that," the woman said dryly. "I've never seen you before in my life."
"Oh really?" said Viktor bitingly. "Don't you remember the ball? You almost got me killed."
"The ball?", Elli made sure. "What ball?"
Viktor rolled his eyes.
"Pocket dimension, masked ball, all sorts of strange characters," he helped out.
"Oh," the woman made in a moment of enlightenment. "I still have tickets for that, so I've got something to look forward to."
Viktor felt like he was being punked.
"The ball happened already. Months ago."
"Not for me, Rambo, I don't exactly move linearly through time and space, for me everything is whenever I want," the blonde lectured him. "That's why it's entirely possible that you've already met me. But this meeting is yet to happen for me. All clear?"
It took him a moment to get behind what this woman was trying to tell him.
"I'm Elli, by the way," she followed up. "And you are?"
"Call me Viktor."
He gradually came down.
"Where are we, anyway?"
"That's an excellent question," Elli complimented. "But I have no idea. Looks like we're on a train. How did you get here?"
Viktor racked his brain, but he couldn't find an answer. Before he had woken up here, he had been sitting in a pub, eating with his work colleagues.
Behind him, it sounded like a wet bag falling over.
And he heard screams.
Wait, he didn't hear them. He thought them.
It took him a moment to put one and one together.
"What the- Johnny? Are you around here somewhere? What's going on?"
Elli rolled her eyes in annoyance.
"That's what you get for stretching my brain," she said to no one in particular.
A low wheeze came from behind some boxes and sure enough, Johnny was on the floor foaming at the mouth.
"The idiot just tried to connect to me without thinking about the fact that my head is wired differently than his," Elli explained with a raised eyebrow. "He's stuck in a logic loop, wait a minute…"
Elli winded up her left foot and kicked the poor guy right between the legs.
"GNNNNGGGG!" gasped Johnny, straightening abruptly.
"Keep your focus on it so your noggin resets properly," she inculcated him. "And you'd better stop trying to get into women you don't know, you have no idea what you can catch in there."
Johnny nodded suppressedly and covered the stricken area with his hands.
Just wait until I can walk again, you bitch, Viktor's head chimed.
"Uh, what exactly just happened?" he asked.
"Getting into my head without standard safety precautions can be fatal for you, so your colleague was still lucky that he apparently only wanted to read my mind."
She looked around promptly.
"Anyone else awake here?"
"There's another big guy sneaking around here," a voice next to Viktor reported.
Mathilda, of course…
She had abruptly appeared next to him.
"Ah, that's Dean," Elli waved off, seemingly unsurprised by Mathilda's presence. "He's just keeping an eye out for that berserker. That stupid bitch tried to knock me out shortly after I woke up."
"Exactly how long have you been awake?" Viktor asked suspiciously.
"Twenty minutes. Ran into the stupid cow while probing, but luckily I stumbled across Dean on the way."
"What stupid cow?"
"Can- Can we all just gather around?" asked Johnny from the floor, gingerly straightening up. "What happened, anyway?"
"I guess we'll find out in a minute," Elli agreed. "DEAN! Please come here and bring Kung Fu Girl."
Stomping footsteps were heard as "Dean" pushed his way between the boxes.
Yep, just as tall as Viktor remembered him. On his shoulders he carried an unconscious Alice Peterson. She was still in her casual clothes, as they all were.
Elli breathed into her face, whereupon Alice immediately opened her eyes and began to fidget.
"Whoa! Have you been drinking methylated spirit or what!" she spat in disgust.
Elli retrieved a flask from her purse in response and took a hearty swig from it. Dean, meanwhile, lowered the agent.
"So, why are we here?" asked Johnny.
"Well, some are of the opinion that we were created by a divine entity on a whim," Elli began. "Still others are of the opinion that we evolved from a fish that once crawled out of the ocean-"
Dean slapped her on the back of the head.
"Wrong moment, Elli," he growled. "I don't suppose either of you are aware of how we got in here?"
General shruging ensued.
As if that had been the sign, sparks suddenly leapt out of the ground in the middle of their round. These hovered at about eye level and began to form a face in the manner of a continuous firework. It belonged to an elder man with a smooth beard.
"Greetings," it said.
There was a brief surprised silence.
What else was about to happen today?
"Who are you?" asked Alice, the first to regain speech.
"My name is Martìnez," the face explained.
"Are you responsible for our little predicament?" Elli inquired.
The face wobbled a little. It was probably meant to represent a nod.
"Where are we here? And why don't we know how we got here?" asked Alice.
"You are here at the starting point of your mission, for which you need no memories. We have excellent methods to make you forget."
Matching his name, his Spanish accent was now seeping through.
"Then I guess these people overshot the mark," Elli replied. "Because can't remember being paid by them. Neither in goods, nor in services."
"I recommend that you and also Agent Peterson reach into your right pockets."
Both women complied with the request and each pulled out a photograph.
Curious, Viktor stepped up to the female agent.
The photo showed Dr. Ainsworth, bound and gagged.
"Dr. Ainsworth!" gasped Mathilda.
A rustle announced that Elli had crumpled her photo.
"Chloe…" she muttered with suppressed anger…. "Get the hostages back out now, or I'll show you what special set of skills I have…"
"Dear Ma'am, you are under permanent observation in here," Spark Face explained. "We know about your abilities, so I'd like to point out that you'd better not open your fancy portals while their friend is under our control. The same goes for you, Agent. Contact the Foundation, and I cannot guarantee the Doctor's well-being."
"This is blackmail!" Mathilda blurted out.
"True," Martínez confirmed unapologetically. "But you will get our hostages back unharmed if you do what we sent you here to do."
"And that would be?" asked Dean.
"We have had an artifact stolen from us," the Spaniard began. "An artifact that is extremely important to us. It is here on this train, in another compartment, and it will be your job to find and retrieve it."
So Elli had been right, that explained why the floor was moving.
"Why don't you go get it yourself?" growled Alice.
Elli nodded in agreement, sourly.
"It doesn't matter. You're looking for that item."
The face disappeared to make way for a skull. It was a strange skull, it had four eye sockets and was much larger than that of a human.
"This skull is made of pure gold and is specially secured because of its value. You will know it when you find it."
"What is it?" asked Viktor. "What does it belong to?"
"The former is of no interest to you and the latter is obvious. It belongs to us, the Antares Society," Martínez replied. "You shouldn't ask so many questions. This train is traveling through the Russian pampa at the moment, but eventually it will reach its destination. And then it will be too late. Good luck."
The face disappeared.
"Ugh," Elli made. "A heist episode…"
"Okay, okay," Viktor exhalled rushedly. "What do we do now?"
Knowing he had a time limit didn't do his composure any good at all.
"I'd say inventory," Elli recommended. "So? What do we have? Muscles…"
She pointed at Dean.
"A honey trap…"
She pointed at Alice.
"What did you call me?" the agent asked, lurkingly.
"I'd fall for it," Elli defended herself, pointing at Johnny. "A telepath who can't keep his thoughts to himself and…"
She turned to Viktor and Mathilda and frowned.
"Excuse me, but what exactly are your malfunctions?"
"I see the dead," Viktor explained flatly.
"Everyone sees the dead," Elli countered dryly. "It's very rare for corpses to be able to hide."
"No corpses. The moments when corpses become corpses, on the scene."
"Ah," Elli went on, her face brightening. "Postmortem psychometry, fascinating field, drives most people to suicide."
She suddenly looked next to Viktor.
"Uh, Elli, my face is here," he remarked.
She turned her head to him briefly.
"Ah, I see…" she then said, half circling the area she had been staring at.
Mathilda suddenly reappeared from non-existence next to Viktor.
Of course, he had forgotten about her again….
Elli had positioned herself behind her and carefully bent down to her.
"Boo!"
Mathilda got wide-eyed and turned around. Astonishment spread to the other tricksters as they realized what Elli had actually just done.
"You remembered me?!" asked Mathilda, perplexed.
"Yep, just because you can decouple your existence from this reality doesn't mean everyone forgets you," Elli said. "For example, once it's stored in i, no information leaves my noggin. You should be careful not to rely too much on your ability."
Mathilda nodded in disbelief.
"Like you still remember crystal clear how you got here?" Dean asked, annoyed.
Elli rolled her eyes just as miffed.
"Not being able to forget doesn't mean nothing can be blocked, Dean!"
"Uh, are you guys married?" asked Johnny.
"Worse," was all Dean said.
"You may have listed our 'abilities'," Alice said, "but what exactly can you do?"
Elli turned to her with a cold smile.
"I know things, missy. Things that can save your ass."
Alice raised an eyebrow doubtfully. Elli ignored her.
"Okay, now we know what everyone can do, but what do we do now?" asked Mathilda. "We could stop at any moment."
"Then we should start moving," Viktor agreed. "There's a door there!"
"Stop!" admonished Elli.
All Tricksters turned around to her, annoyed.
"What now?", Johnny asked.
"We are supposed to obtain a skull that is somewhere on this train. Question: why didn't we wake up directly in the compartment where it is?"
"I'm sure you'll tell us in a minute," Viktor surmised resignedly.
"Are there any cameras in this room?" Elli asked. "As you'll notice when you look around, there aren't. Wait a minute…"
She rummaged in her bag and pulled out a couple of metal Celtic crosses.
"Anti-attention talismans," she explained, "Should keep the man at the camera screens from noticing us."
"Do these things make you invisible?" asked Johnny.
"No, just harder to notice," Elli countered. "But 'harder' doesn't mean 'impossible,' so don't push your luck. And they don't work on automatic alarm systems. If you let the siren scream, we're done."
She distributed the talismans to those present, who eyed them skeptically.
Viktor, for his part, shrugged his shoulders and stepped through the sliding door, which opened for him at the push of a button.
He looked out at the tundra at night. The train they were on seemed to be very modern, for it looked futuristic and shined white. He didn't see much of the locomotive, even though the train was just about to turn a corner.
"Will you go on?" asked Mathilda sullenly behind him.
Normally he would have rolled his eyes, but Viktor recollected himself. The girl must have been getting quite a shock from this hostage situation, too.
A surprise awaited them in the next compartment. A female guard with dark skin turned to them just at the moment Viktor joined her. She was wearing a white uniform with a strange symbol on her chest.

So-hard-to-use

Viktor immediately tried to silence the guard, for there was no way he was relying on a talisman alone. He ran up to her and pressed his hands over her mouth. The woman didn't think much of it, knocking Viktor's arm aside with a practiced motion and taking a breath to yell.
Viktor felt the breeze as Dean's fist whizzed past his head at what felt like the speed of sound, hitting the guard so hard she staggered against the wall and slumped to the floor.
"Element of surprise," he explained tersely to Viktor, who was still staring at the felled guard.
Luckily, this guy is on my side…
After that scare, he finally took the time to look around. Apparently, he was in another cargo car. Boxes formed an unmanageable maze.
From behind Dean came Elli.
"Oh no!" she groaned when she saw the security guard.
"What is it?" asked Alice, lurking behind her.
Elli pointed to the symbol on the guard's uniform.
"We're supposed to steal from a GpExpress train…"

Next time on Nexus:
Trickster Heist, Part 2

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