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Aberrant: 200X - [Gods of War] Interlude: Ein [Mature] (FIN)


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Hong Kong, May 18th.

The Lucky Temple, the flashing red neon lettering outside the club proclaimed. Framed as the lettering was by the silhouettes of two kneeling women, the overall impression was of an establishment that was less-than holy, an impression reinforced by the burly man in a suit who guarded the front door and the numerous beautiful women, and men, that came and went on the arms of people who, whilst not so beautiful, were definitely rich.

Ever since the Triton Foundation had released a cure for the AIDS virus in October 2003, the fleshpots of the world had renewed their vigorous and thriving trade in pleasure. Free of the threat of deadly consequences, various tourists had responded appropriately to the revival. The Nova Age had wrought some other changes too, as those with a node, and the marketable talents derived from same, had the capacity to earn huge amounts of money beyond the dreams of their former selves, and then use it to fulfil their various fantasies. ‘Entertainment’ was the euphemistic term utilised by various corporate enterprises for the expenses incurred in satisfying their most-prized employees and customers needs, and given Nova physiology, quite a lot of entertainment could sometimes be necessary. This was most of all true for those most dangerous of Novas, the mercenaries known to pop-culture as Elites, who tended to play as hard and dangerously as they worked.

Situated, not in the seedy red-light district, but rather in an upmarket area of town surrounded by casinos and exclusive clubs, The Temple was, on paper, a bathhouse and gentleman's club. Beyond the facade of relaxation, booze and strippers however a multitude of services could be purchased and sold, from a simple meal and a drink to one or more willing sexual partners skilled in virtually any sexual art. It was an open secret on the Hong Kong underworld scene that the Heaven Thunder Triad ran the place and kept the peace there, eager to keep paying customers happy, to the point where some whispered that darker needs could be met for the right person with the right amount of payment. Hard-edged and dangerous Novas from around the world, as well as the inevitable ‘wannabes’ and those who wanted to meet such people, stopping in at The Lucky Temple if they were in that area of the world.

The elegantly beautiful nova stepping from the limo knew this, knew that the man she sought was inside, and certainly qualified as a dangerous nova. The three men in dark suits hurried down the steps as she approached, two of them novas themselves, and all of them nervous. Her Heaven Thunder 'colleagues', scared of being hoist on their own petard. The HTT extended impartial, neutral ground protection to all their visitors, permitting no assault on their guests... But what if their guest was a man on the hit-list of the world's most dangerous Elite organisation? That sort of news had 'profit/loss' deficit all over it, and the HTT were nothing if not businessmen.

"Thank you for coming so swiftly, Madame Wu." The man in charge said, bowing slightly to the head of Novelty Consulting and reputedly the smartest woman in the world. She was certainly one of the most dangerous - not personally, but with the leverage and brainpower she could bring to bear, Amanda Wu made a terrible enemy, and a valuable ally for the Triad.

"Where is he?" she asked, her heels clopping as she walked past the welcoming committee. They fell into step with her, the spokesman answering.

"In the third floor bathhouse, with some girls. He's been drinking, eating and gambling, as well as..."

"I can imagine." Wu replied dryly. "Have you simply tried asking him to leave?"

"Yesterday, Madame Wu. He grew... pugnacious. He has a suitcase of money that he is spending like water, but he has been here two days now and, well, we do not wish the trouble he brings to affect our business." The man told her, then said brightly "Still, Shining Mountain is on his way from the mainland now. We sent for him after we called you, just in case..."

"Idiot." Wu didn't even try to moderate her scorn as she turned on the man, the long French braid her dark hair was in waving like a snake behind her, so fast did she wheel. "Shining Mountain is a thug with a node. You would try to eject him from this place using that imbecile as muscle? If you were lucky, the Elite might just swat Mountain like a fly and go back to his wenching. More likely you would end up with no establishment, and I have interests here also!" She held the other man's eyes. "You will send Shining Mountain back where you got him from. I will deal with Einherjar."

* * * * * *

"Madame Wu!" Einherjar's booming voice filled the bathchamber with boom to spare as Amanda Wu swung open the doors and entered without knocking. As she had surmised, the big elite was facing the door, sitting on the edge of the large bath that was set in the floor. On either side of him, close at hand, were his weapons. Behind him, two beautiful Asian women were draped over the broad shoulders cooing and rubbing oil into the skin. Amanda assumed he was naked, since there was a woman in the bath in front of him, the back of her dark head of hair bobbing to and fro as it obscured the man's groin. She concentrated her gaze on his face, noting the cold glow of his pale blue eyes as they studied her in turn. By all reports the Elite - sorry, ex-Elite - was a formidable mind as well as (her eyes flicked over his chest and arms) a formidable body.

"This is a surprise." Einherjar said with a grin, not even bothering to hide that he was lying, nor that he knew that she knew it. Amanda smiled inwardly even as she kept the look of cool disdain on her face. He'd counted on her being here. He was up to something. "I'd get up, but..." he shrugged and glanced at the head moving hungrily in his lap, then at Amanda with a 'what can you do?' expression. Well, that was quiet enough of that. Amanda clapped her hands together loudly, causing the three girls to stop what they were doing, one of them with a barely-audible *pop*.

"Leave." she told them icily, and the girls left, grabbing their robes and scurrying out. Amanda let the last one leaving, foamy water dripping on the floor behind her, then shut the doors and locked them. She heard a splashing sound and turned back to find that the large blond nova had slipped into the water. Thank whoever's listening for small mercies she thought despite the faint twinge of disappointment. It's going to be hard enough without him pointing at me all the way through the conversation.

Einherjar watched her, arms spread along the rim of the floor tub as he reviewed his plans. He was without money - other than the half-suitcase he had left - without support, and had a lot more to do before he was done with the Congo or DeVries. Wryly, the big warrior reflected that, in all the conflicts he'd fought in, he'd planned none of them beyond the operational level. What he had in mind was bigger in scale than anything he'd yet attempted, and he would need information.

Amanda Wu was good at information, and she also liked people that brought her valuable news. Hopefully, this would go well and both side would come away satisfied...

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A few hours later...

"Well, that was satisfying." Amanda Wu all but purred as she propped up on her elbows on Einherjar's chest, getting comfortable atop the large Elite.

"Mmmhmmm." he rumbled in agreement, tucking his own hands behind his head on the pillow and grinning slightly. "It's been awhile, Amanda." Around them, the bedchamber looked as though a whirlwind had hit it. Furniture was overturned, there was water all over the floor, and the air was heavy with the smell of large amounts of sex. The grin turned teasing. "For you too, I think. Good thing these rooms are soundproofed - you were hitting some high notes there."

"If I didn't know you were the soul of discretion, I'd never bother with you." she chided, poking his broad chest playfully. "A lady has to watch her reputation." The poking finger stroked the steel-hard muscles it found. "Even if she does need to be unladylike at times."

"And you are certainly a lady." Einherjar said agreeably. "Even when you're being unladylike." Amanda laughed.

"Flattery won't get you anywhere." she told him with a smile. "Which isn't saying I don't like it. So..." she fixed him with an expectant look.

"So...?" Einherjar asked ingenuously.

"Don't play coy, big man." Amanda told him with a dangerous glint in her eye. "My time is valuable, to me most of all. You never come to see me for purely social reasons." Her tone was matter of fact. "Indeed, I suspect that you don't actually like me all that much. But that doesn't bother me. Or you either, I suspect. We have good sex and do good business."

"Great sex." Einherjar deadpanned. "And you know I've never shorted you on the business side of things either."

"What's on your mind?" Wu asked him bluntly, tiring of the dancing around.

"The Congo."

"Yes. Your little humanitarian crusade there is all over the news... and the grapevine. Anna must be incredibly irritated with you right now, Einherjar. I'd offer you a job, but I can't afford your scruples any more than she can - and besides, the whisper is that there's a twenty million dollar mark on your head for the person who can collect it."

"Well, I know you're not tempted at least." Ein said comfortably. "You make that just waking up in the morning." Amanda shrugged, acceding the truth of that statement.

"So what about the Congo?" she asked.

"Let's just say I'm planning to give Anna cause to raise that price well above twenty million." Einherjar said quietly, his glowing icy gaze on Wu's. "But to do that I need information... and discretion."

"And in return?"

"Information, discretion... and a promise that Novelty will be my first port of call should I want to, oh, best exploit some mineral wealth, for example. Or design a working infrastructure to bootstrap a Third World country into the 21st Century." His gaze didn't shift an iota, and Amanda smiled slowly.

"I see." was all she said for a long moment. "Your promise is... good. Everyone knows that. And what you have planned is interesting."

"It would be an excellent opportunity for Novelty to counter some of its recent bad press. Rebuilding a nation - something DeVries is known for the opposite of doing - but it takes considerably more smarts. Doesn't it?" Einherjar asked rhetorically.

"What do you need, exactly?"

"Comprehensive information on the factions and main figures there. Updates wherever possible - things change and I don't want to be caught with my pants down. No support, no risk other than that for you. I'll do the rest of the work."

"And the payoff. Stock options?"

"Certainly. 80% of the planet's mineral wealth is there, waiting for someone to design safe, efficient and eco-friendly ways of extracting it. Foreign investment is the lifeblood of a modern nation." Ein said equably. "But in the short term, you should probably quietly let go of any interests you have there. Some stocks are going to take a dive."

"Utopia will interfere."

"Possibly, but unlikely. I'll be playing the media game too, and right now their popularity can't afford any clobbering."

"You've thought this through." Amanda said appraisingly, with a slow smile. "Have you thought it through enough, though?"

"Maybe." Einherjar said with a shrug of his massive shoulders. "But I need to do something. It's not enough for me anymore to just go from battlefield to battlefield. I woke up and realised that there's more to me than that. Maybe I'll fail." he admitted with a grin. "Maybe I'll die on the end of Totentanz's spears, or Utopia will arrest me. Anything might happen. But I'm going to try and change things."

Despite herself, Amanda was stirred a little. Of course, she was more stirred by the professional and public coup this would be for her company if the big Elite pulled it off. If he was successful, it would be easy to leak out that Novelty had supported him from the start. If he failed, no one would know and she would figure out how to turn that to her advantage too.

"Alright." she said. "I'll set up secure data streams for you. You'll have a package arrive tomorrow." She rolled off him and got up to dress. "Not to offend, but remember your promise."

"Thank you." Einherjar said simply. Amanda looked over her shoulder at him archly.

"Shall I send the girls back in?"

"No." he rumbled with a lazy grin. "I'm completely satisfied."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Undisclosed location, May 21st...

Einherjar sat in the expansive armchair, his blue eyes glowing softly as he stared at the fire dancing in the grate. His large hands rested lightly on the armrests, and his attitude was one of impassive meditation as he sat rock-still. All the activity in this room was in the flicker of the fire... and the flicker of his thoughts.

Einherjar was not what many thought of when they conceived of a nova genius. He had some technical skills and proficiency with medicine, spoke many languages, but otherwise did not seem much interested in cerebral pursuits. The illusion was completed by his size and looks - few wish to believe that the big, friendly, handsome guy with muscles that can shatter rock is also capable of out-thinking them.

War was Einherjar's calling. It was his passion, his interest, and his talent. Whilst Totentanz dealt in death, Einherjar made war. He had learned more than just how to fight in quantum powered battles whilst at Windhoek and Praetoria - he'd questioned and talked to all of the old Sandline mercs who now helped with the training. He'd listened and paid attention not just to his part of a mission briefing, but all parts. He'd spent his spare time reading the classics of his profession, such as Sun Tzu and Von Clauswitz, and studying the principles in relation to his missions for DeVries. The result was a solid foundation of principles which, combined with a nova-class intellect and icy self-control, made Einherjar's brain almost as dangerous as the rest of him. Almost.

Now that agile mind spun down a dozen different paths into the tangle of the Congo, picking apart some knots and simple taking the Gordian solution with others as he put together plans within plans. He'd studied the file Wu had provided him and now considered his options. Novelty Consulting were the best information brokers around - maybe the Directive had better sources, but they wouldn't have as many nova brains.

The TDR and CCF were the keys, he felt sure. Between idealism and cynical realpolitik a decent collaboration could be forged - if he could bring them together. He started to lay plans and scenarios to accomplish this, as he considered the other elements.

The interhamwe would need to be eliminated or driven out of the country. That meant the various warband leaders had to be killed and their men given the chance of fleeing or surrender and assimilation. The novas amongst their ranks would likewise be prime targets.

Asani's forces were the enemy, but Ein had no interest in exterminating thousands of soldiers to reach his objectives. Power came to a single point, and that point was Asani.

The foreign powers in the Congo were all corporations with mineral interests, or elite agencies. The big player was DeVries and their bedfellow, DeBeers Mineral. Then there were smaller outfits and baseline merc groups. Something he'd read tickled his instincts.

Vyse Elites...? he mused, picking up the file once more from the table beside him and turning to the printouts. Formerly Vyse International, baseline mercenary company with a trade reputation for low-profile, high-paying dirty jobs. So he has a nova or two now. Interesting. Why would they go to him when even the lowest ranked elite agency can pay more? The warrior flagged that as anomalous. Hired recently by General Kayembe for action against insurgent elements of the CFF... he turned to an attached report. That's interesting. A few survivors, telling tales of a blood-covered demon that slays indiscriminately. A berserk nova? And here... he flipped another couple of sheets. Kayembe boasting about his success at a party in Kinshasa, recommending Vyse and his pet... Morrigan.

Einherjar smiled faintly, the humour in his expression cold. Another war god... goddess. A killer of women and children, of people who tried to run. Vyse had his own Totentanz, or at least a copy suitable for massacring a village at a fraction of the cost that old Gold Skull would be. A weapon of terror for hire, in the hands of Asani's regime.

"No." he said softly, his eyes resting on the fire for a moment as he thought it over. "This won't do." He went back to the re-read the reports.

Kayembe hired her once, he may hire her again. Or one of the other generals will. Let's see here... And for the next hour he went over the different regions detailed in the report one by one, analysing the data and running the probabilities through his head. He compiled a list of trouble spots and likely places that could be visited with a less-than-surgical strike.

In the end he sat back, rubbing at his eyes. There were just too many possibilities to accurately predict. That left either luring out Vyse, or seeking him out.

Or maybe a little of both. he thought to himself with a slow smile. He needed to take the measure of this new nova, to see whether the Morrigan could be a threat to his plans.

And if necessary, to eliminate that threat.

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