Trickster Heist, Part 2
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Last Time on Nexus:
Trickster Heist, Part 1

"GpExpress?" asked Viktor.
He had never heard of such a company.
"Are they dangerous?"
Elli chuckled humorlessly.
"GpExpress is the Terminator of shipping companies. If they're supposed to deliver something, they deliver it. Our task has just been set to maximum difficulty."
"Well, if Dean keeps knocking everybody down, we'll get by, right?" Johnny speculated.
"Provided this platoon contains only individuals I can 'knock down'" Dean replied matter-of-factly. "These people aren't above hiring people with special powers to protect their cargo. That's probably why Martínez sent us here. They'll have their means of recognizing Antares Society members."
Elli groaned as she pondered. Then she measured up the guard with a quick glance, and then Alice….
"Jo, Mrs. Hooligan! Put this on!" she demanded then.
Alice gave her a look with enough venom to pollute entire oceans.
"Why should I? If you really need that thing, put it on yourself."
Elli put on a smile that made it clear to everybody present that Alice was playing with fire.
"Dear Ma'am, the point is that in case of combat, the guards will mistake you for one of their own, which could buy them precious seconds where you don't get riddled with bullets or eaten by something."
"And why don't you wear it if it's so safe?" asked Alice.
"Because since a little conversation with your compagnon here, I know that he has met me before in a place I haven't been yet. As a time traveler, that makes me immune to anything that could prevent that meeting at the moment. I literally cannot die. So put that on, or Dean and I will end up being the only ones who get out of here."
Alice looked at Viktor, who just nodded mutely. Alice blushed briefly, but then complied with the woman's words with a sigh.
"Turn around," she growled.
Viktor, Dean, Johnny and Elli complied with the request.
"Speaking of groups," Johnny said, "Who is this Antares Society that 'hired' us, anyway?"
"Their full name is 'Antares Society for the Renewal of the Human Spirit'," Elli explained. "They believe in the existence of entities superior to us that will one day lead us to a bright future. Supposedly, some of their members are able to communicate with and receive instructions from these super-beings. Such as directing us to steal a skull."
"And that makes them capable of erasing our memories?" asked Viktor skeptically.
Elli grinned at him without humor.
"They can do much more than that. Telepaths, spirit mediums, psychometrists, they have a wide arsenal of psychically gifted personnel. They could read your entire brain and store your biography on a film reel. They are formidable opponents, you never know if what you are seeing or trying to achieve is just smoke and mirrors."
Viktor swallowed.
"Well, I'm done," Alice yelled behind them.
Turning around, Viktor had to admit that she didn't look bad at all in the uniform, though she had slightly broader shoulders than the actual owner.
"That was quick," Johnny commented.
"With MTFs, you have to be able to change quickly," the agent defended herself. "And you will kindly not tell anyone about this!"
Viktor stifled further comments as the group started moving again, not wanting to fall victim to Alice's QCQ like Elli did earlier…. Wait, there was something?
"Why did you attack Elli anyway?" he asked quietly as he walked.
Alice collected herself for a moment.
"She was lounging around in the train car like she was looking for something. I assumed it was me but apparently she was looking for this Dean guy. I figured it might be better if I found her before she found me."
"You miss your work, don't you?" asked Viktor.
"Yeah… A little…"
"BONK!"
Now they stood outside the door to the next car. A guard slid unconscious down the wall beside Dean and was dragged by him into the blind spot of a nearby camera.
"Johnny," Elli pleaded. "Please get in touch with everyone but me and Dean and maintain these lines so you can improvise a radio channel."
"Can do, but why should I leave you out of it?" the telepath asked.
"Because otherwise I'll have to kick you in the nuts again," was the short answer.
"That's fair…"
The next wagon appeared to be some sort of large aquarium, though Viktor had never seen any of the strange organisms before. They looked like orange-sized Pac-Mans, which glowed yellow. They had a toothy mouth, and in one particularly large tank dozed something that bore resemblance to a silver-blue crocodile. It could swallow Mathilda in one bite. Viktor noticed that its eyes had been taped shut.
Two more guards patrolled the wagon. At the moment they seemed to be surveying one of the spherical creatures and kept muttering something deliberately quiet, but they would be jostled if anyone tried to get past them. The hallway was too narrow. The unwilling intruders took cover.
The orb are Eat Mines, echoed in Viktor's head, while Johnny transmitted Ellis's whispering. Scavengers. Usually live in the deep sea. Their defense mechanism is to explode with the force of a grenade. They respond to kinetic impulses and fluctuations in the stability of metaphysical levels to do so. They are therefore used as biological thaumaturgy and magic detectors, for example to detect teleports and farsight. Don't knock on the glass or make loud noises.
"And the big one?" Johnny asked quietly.
Shortly after, the telepathic answer came for Viktor.
A blue weight crocodile. If you're not in its field of vision, you're fine, it can increase gravity in its direct line of sight.
"I'll try to lure the guards into a wider area," Alice reported. "Then you can sneak past them.
Before anyone could retort, she came out of hiding and approached the guards with a big smile.
"Hey, hello! I am new here, can you help me really quick?"
The guards turned to her in confusion. Both of them turned out to be Asian.
"不好意思,你说啥?", one of them asked.
It could have worked…
"Uuuuuh," Alice made, before she lunged at one of them and tackled him down.
The other tried to rush to his colleague's aid, but Mathilda suddenly appeared beside him out of nowhere and tripped him. He flopped lengthwise and let out a choked gasp as Dean threw himself at him via slam-dunk.
Elli, Viktor and Johnny got eyes the size of dinner plates and awaited with bated breath the tremor that was bound to follow this maneuver.
But the wagon swayed only slightly on impact and the Eat Mines merely bared their teeth.
The wagon was apparently stored vibration-free because of the cargo….
The three exhaled in relief, while Alice continued to wrestle with her victim, trying to put him in a headlock, while at the same time preventing him from getting enough air to shout loudly.
Dean rushed to her aid, but at that very moment the scuffle reached a point where the Asian knocked away the agent's grasping hand.
All eyes, even those of the two opponents, followed the limb as it arced through the air and struck the aquarium glass.
Alice pressed her lips together while Dean, sighing, grabbed Mathilda against her will and held her above his head to the ceiling.
But nothing happened.
"The glass is vibration dampened," Elli whispered.
Again, relieved exhales from all present.
But the ceiling of the carriage seemed not to have been cleaned for a long time, so noticeable amounts of dust had accumulated there. Mathilda, who was only a hand's width away in Dean's grip, got some of it in her nose.
And it came as it had to come….
"Ha- Ha- HATCHOO!"
The Eat Mines began to vibrate….
Elli opened the door to the outside with an expressionless face, holding on to a safety handle.
The aquariums exploded. Small splinters and metal frames flew through the air and damaged the tank of the weight crocodile. The crocodile was startled out of its slumber and threw itself several times against the cracked glass, which shattered completely.
The alarm bells shrilled as the water with the remains of the Eat Mines drained through the open door.
Mathilda, as Dean had intended, was the only one spared from the hail of splinters and remained dry. The sole good thing was that Alice had managed to knock out her opponent in the chaos. Viktor noted that no one had been hurt. Apparently, the aquariums had been designed with such a phenomenon in mind to increase safety.
Elli rubbed the bridge of her nose.
"Okay, new plan, in the corners next to the door on the other side. And that you don't step on the crocodile or the rest of the Eat Mines!"
'Don't step on the crocodile…' That's the first time I've ever gotten an order like that, Johnny commented in Viktor's mind.
They had just positioned themselves in the corners when other personnel also rushed into the room to find out what was going on.
An amazingly large, well, humanoid creature with tree-thick arms reaching to the ground took it upon himself to secure the weight crocodile.
The reptile struggled a bit in its grip, but seemed unable to break free.
When no one else entered the wagon, Elli took cautious steps toward the door. No one noticed her, so the rest followed her.
"Eww! I'll never get this seaweed out of my pants!" grumbled Dean.
"At least you only got wet up to your knees," Alice growled.
"In my defense, dear ma'am, who didn't wait until we had a plan?" Dean asked.
"Do you have any training in armed conflict?" retorted Alice flippantly. "Excuse me while I try to do my job and protect my bunch here."
"I was in the French Foreign Legion," Dean replied, and added with a sideways glance at Elli, "For fifteen years."
"I told you before, I'm sorry!" retorted Elli. "I got the time frame wrong, shit happens! I've also been stuck in the palace of Nofrusobek1 for twenty-three years before, so give me a break."
"You were her closest advisor!" returned Dean angrily. "And your brand of diplomacy consisted of laying other countries' envoys."
"It worked," Elli defended herself. "And did you ever see how good some of the men looked, It would have been a crime if I di-"
"Don't change the subject!" Alice spoke up again. "You are, after all, the catalyst for the explosion."
"That was the girl," Dean defended.
Mathilda sniffled briefly.
"You lifted her," Alice insisted.
"It wouldn't have come to this if someone had been waiting," Dean replied.
Viktor decided to let the two of them argue. The wagon in front of them was again filled with numerous boxes.
Then he saw the ghost in front of him.
Startled, he grabbed Elli by the shoulder and pulled her back.
"What is it?" she asked.
"Someone seems to have died on the floor there," he replied. "But something's not right. There shouldn't be any mirages in here, what I see is always stationary…"
Elli frowned.
"How did the man die?"
Viktor looked at the man. He was wearing a business suit and had his mouth very wide open. He tried to close it to no avail. He informed Elli of this. She reached into her purse and pulled out some sort of tuning fork with a screen in the handle.
"Ah, thaumaturgic soul magnet," she said after staring at the display for a while. "Acts like a black hole for Akiva radiation. No wonder there's postmortem residue here."
"Is it dangerous for us?" asked Viktor.
"Oh yes," the blonde confirmed. "If we get too close, it pulls our life essence out of our bodies. There's a red line around the boxes, that's probably the spacer."
An idea occurred to Viktor. After all, this lady's snooty manners were starting to get on his nerves….
"Then I just saved your life, didn't I?"
"Um, yeeees?" replied Elli slowly. "I rather suspect it's because of my temporal immunity, though. Why?"
Viktor put on a sympathetic smile.
"Well, a quid pro quo would still be in order, don't you think?"
Elli measured him from top to bottom as if she were X-raying him. He felt slightly offended when she paused at his pelvic region with a particularly skeptical look….
"Maybe? What do you want?" she then asked.
"A weekend in Venice, along with MTF agent Emilia. You'll figure out who I mean."
"Mmm," Elli made with little amusement. "Assuming I'm going to go along with such a hare-brained demand, what makes you so sure?"
"You've already did it."
It took a moment, but then Elli's face took on an expression of impressed surprise.
"What a bastard!" it escaped her before she turned away from him in pique and strode into the next train car.
A shadow fell on Viktor.
It belonged to a smiling Dean.
"Uh, is something wrong?" asked Viktor cautiously.
Don't hit me! Please don't hit me!
"Oh no, it's nothing, I'm just amused how you used temporal physics against Elli after she was so arrogant. I'll remind her later when she 'forgets'. I'm looking forward to it…"
Viktor entered the next wagon with a brief frown. It was empty except for a few computer terminals and server blocks.
"Uh, with internet!" Elli rejoiced. "Let me get this…"
She pulled out a USB stick with kitten stickers and plugged it into one of the terminals. Then she started strumming the keyboard as if her hands were suffering an epileptic seizure.
"What are you doing?" asked Johnny.
"These terminals probably have a cargo list and the location of said cargo," Elli explained. "I can use that to find out where this thing even is."
It took a moment, then Elli groaned.
"What is it?" asked Mathilda. "Have we been spotted?"
"No," Elli said. "We went the wrong way. The skull is at the other end of the train…"
Collective sighs escaped from those gathered.
Viktor turned back around to change carriages again, together with Alice. He didn't notice how Elli continued to work behind him and finally started to grin.
"Oh, well who would have thought…"
She pressed [Strg] + [P]…

Next time on Nexus:
Trickster Heist, Part 3

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