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Checking in
The team flew in together. Nicholas met with the two agents at JFK where the three of them embarked on the long, tiring journey that ended with Moscow. The travel arrangements were first class, but still, first class on commercial airlines paled in comparison to private jets.

The route through customs was usual enough. They weren't a camera crew, so other than computers, technology, and related equipment there was nothing extraordinary to them which needed searching.

Nicholas had done as he promised Agent Abrams and memorized the information which was distributed to him beforehand. And Abrams questioned Nicholas sharply, just in case. There were communication protocols to learn, plans to coordinate, and layouts to manage. At one point Abrams even asked Nicholas if he had any firearms training, and after which, promised to show the man a thing or two once they arrived in Moscow.

The flight in was otherwise uneventful. Once in a while Reed would signal and she and Abrams would separate themselves from their package for a quick chat. Sometimes Reed disappeared altogether, only to reappear at the gate to their connecting flight. Abrams never seemed concerned about her absences, and explained them to Nicholas as only representing the work she carried out. She was in charge of surveillance and protection, of course, and at her direction, changed their dinner reservations at the last minute on one of their layovers.

Finally, luggage collected and no shortage of wear and tear from traveling, they were picked up from their terminal by a Kremlin driver. Reed checked his credentials, then nodded her approval that the group go with him, and mid-morning Moscow, they were dropped at the Ritz-Carlton, Moscow, across the street from the Red Square.

They were shown to the three bedroom suite they would share for the duration of this trip, but Reed left her luggage with Abrams and ducked out. Motioning that she was going to do a casual walk-around, which in CIA language meant a perimeter search.

Their room was the epitome of luxury complete with down comforters, marble baths and Russian imperial style furnishings. A traditional array of tea party foods greeted them, cuisine styled to date back to the 18th century. Prosciutto wrapped asparagus, caviar lined smoked salmon, truffled zucchini, glistening fruits, jams and breads, and decadent truffles were stacked elegantly alongside hand-painted china trimmed with gold edging. Real gold edging.

Abrams told Nicholas he would be staying in the room farthest from the entrance, which placed two CIA agents between himself and anyone which might try to get inside.

He deposited their luggage to their appropriate rooms and soon enough was on his private phone, spinning off into Russian like he were born to it.

His accent was clear then. He was based in Moscow. This was his turf, his base of operations, and Nicholas was caught up in the middle of it.
The trip to Moscow had been uneventful, of course. What was supposed to happen on an aging dreamliner eight miles up? Same with the trip through customs--there weren't going to be many disturbances in the largest airport in the most powerful nation in the world. On some level he hated that.

He was just about ready to turn in for the night when they reached their apartments. Ten hours of doing nothing--I can't believe they still don't allow wallets on planes
--have a way of tiring a man out. And their best bourbon--still cheap
--didn't help matters. But he had work to do.

Abrams sat him down once all their luggage was piled up in the main room. One thing Nicholas had learned about the agents was that they took their job seriously. Another was that Reed was kind of a bitch. Still haven't heard the ice queen's voice.

"Alright, Mr. Trano." Abrams was sitting at the table, across from him. Neither had touched the food. "I need to make sure you have everything memorized." His eyes narrowed. "We can't afford mistakes."

There wasn't much in the Wallet to begin with. But the questions came nonetheless. Some of them were odd. "How many guards are on patrol in the Savior Tower at midnight?" One. "How quickly can the Moscow PD reach the Kremlin proper?" Two minutes. He had to answer a couple hundred questions of that nature before the agent was satisfied. Only a few of his answers were wrong.

Nicholas was clearly bored at this point, but Abrams was as intense as ever. "Have you had any firearms training?"

Nicholas looked at him. "I was in the Navy. Of course I had firearms training."
Odd that they would forget that.

Even so, Abrams promised to show him a thing or two. Probably not a bad idea, Nicholas had been very busy the past few years. He'd had little time to practice.

Questioning out of the way, Abrams began to fill Nicholas in on some of what his mission entailed. Reed, the mute one, would be handling surveillance and protection. I wonder how she's going to warn me if she can't talk.
He didn't think Abrams noticed his smile.

A lot of what Nicholas was going to be asked to do was intended to clear a way for Abrams to do his work. That was fine with him. Spying wasn't his job, and he didn't want it to be.

"You should probably catch some shut-eye." Abrams was powering up his Wallet. "Takeo Onada himself will be coming here to meet you tomorrow morning." That was the last thing Abrams had to say before taking off, spouting rapid-fire Russian into the Wallet.

So tomorrow morning I get to meet my evil twin.

This was all coming together quickly. And way too easily by half. Three quarters even. In fact, he still wondered if this was all an elaborate prank. That'd be funny, wouldn't it?

Edited by Nick Trano, Sep 7 2013, 02:51 PM.
The Square bustled as it did most mornings, upstanding Muscovites hurrying to and from offices and lofts scattered around the nexus of the CCD and deftly avoiding the slower-moving and often dead-stopped crowds of outer Russians, Dominions and Foreigners. This morning in particular they seemed to sense Takeo's well-buried apprehension. Their feet seemed to step a little lighter. Their eyes darted a little more, or fixed on the cold gray stones in front of them. Takeo could almost smell the tension in the air.

His nose wrinkled. That wasn't tension. "No, thank you," Takeo said, preemptively, as a young girl approached with a basket of overripe fruit. He pressed a ruble or two into her outstretched hand, and smiled when she stared back at him dumbly. "They're still good in the capital." She looked less than convinced. "Trust me."

The girl nodded, uttering a thanks, but was quickly shooed by the large German at Takeo's side. It was for the best. She had bananas. Rotting bananas always turned Takeo's stomach, for some reason.

Beneath Basil's Cathedral, Takeo's party might have been mistaken for tourists at first glance. Six Asian business men and women, and perhaps a German-Russian guide. However, one would need only take a second glance to see the non-plussed countenance of them all. Save the youngest, perhaps - he looked scared enough to be American, despite his obviously Japanese descent.

If one was at all current with the news, he or she would also recognize a man of monumental distinction. One of only seven individuals on this planet whom could truthfully call himself Privelege.

Takeo Onoda stood as tall as the German, his man Sergei, but was a third the girth. Decked in a white/gray seersucker suit, immaculately cut to his frame, black leather shoes, belt and tie, he put the most polished in the Square to shame, even his similarly-appointed right-hand man, the intensely blue-eyed Junichi, and the three-piece wearing woman with them. The others were in slacks and sleeves, though obviously they held no rank in the Privelege's cabinet.

After the stench of too-sweet fruit had abated, Takeo started off across the Square, quickly surrounded by his team. They even moved with purpose, and this time it was the onlookers' turn to steer clear. Many did recognize the Privilege - the trusted senior advisor to the Ascendancy Himself - and others learned as word of him spread across the Square. Even in Red Square, the Fourth Privelege was a spectacle.

Of course, with Sergei at the point and five bodies surrounding him, Takeo was unmolested by the masses. They reached the grand stairs of the Ritz-Carlton and, suddenly, they stopped. A small crowd had begun to approach, and the two women of Takeo's group - the older in the suit, the younger in a skirt, heels and a crisp, high-buttoned blouse - stepped forward to greet them. Yes, Privilege Takeo was in Moscow. He was not staying at the Ritz-Carlton. He was hosting Nicholas Trano of the United States. No, he would not be fielding questions right now.

Takeo entered with the other men. Save, again, the youngest. He peeled off to run his Priveleged's errands for the morning. That left Jun and one other Japanese man. Older, smaller, and infinitely less charismatic, Saito was, nonetheless, a genius when it came to history. Particularly Japanese-American relations. Takeo could have as easily kept the old man online, as he had any number of contacts, but Saito would never have forgiven him for that. The old goat.

Sergei led them to a pre-destined lift. A key gained them private access, and instantly they were ascending. "It's not too late to cancel," Jun said as soon as he switched on his short-range scrambler. "We have excuses for you. I can stand--"

Takeo merely moved his head to the left. No. Why should he fear this man? This corrupt media mogul who in no way represented every evil perpetrated against him as a child, nor reflected his present self down to the prize-winning news show and interviewer's guest list.


Brandon had asked him, and so Takeo had come.

Ding. Sergei stepped off the lift and preceded ahead. After a quick scan, he nodded and Takeo and the others followed. The rooms here were separated by long expanses of neo-nouveau on canvas, in linen and on the floor. A statue of some lonely God occupied one alcove. Another held a Native American display of baskets, pots and leatherworks. Very subtle.

They stopped at the very last room, and Takeo centered himself. He checked his watch. 0900 exactly. He gave Sergei a nod, and Jun a wink, then faced forward as the German knocked soundly on Nicholas Trano's door.

Time to earn that title.
Reed and Abrams were supposed to be his assistants. Interns, excited to be in the center of the CCD's power and bound by their jobs to serve Nicholas' every whim and fancy. Hah. I wish.
After breakfast, Abrams had set himself to work on one of the Holoframes they'd brought along. If there was one thing he was good at, it was appearing uninteresting.

Holographic computer interfaces were still new and damn expensive. Only the best for my interns.
He had one in his office, but hadn't felt the need to lug one out to Moscow. It was 0830 and his evil twin was about to arrive.

Nicholas had nothing but time to fill. "Takeo Onoda. Privilege of Dominance IV. Modern day ninja and news personality. More corrupt than... well, than most people who aren't working for the CCD. Anything else I should know?"
Abrams shook his head. He wasn't much more talkative than Reed, not when he didn't have to be. Reed.
She'd slipped out while Abrams was setting his computer up. Abrams said she was running reconnaissance. Whatever there was to scope out in the Ritz-Carlton.

His public image hadn't taken nearly as much of a hit as he'd expected when he left for Moscow. A few celebrities had been championing his cause. A couple crazies, too. He'd have to distance himself from Jessika Thrice as much as possible when he got home. She was ten times worse as a friend than as an enemy.

That reminds me.
Jon Little Bird was in Moscow. He'd have to meet up for a drink or something--see how the court case was going, maybe do another interview. More importantly, it was good to have somebody in Moscow he could count as a friend, no matter how tenuously. Friend? I barely know the guy.

It'd still be nice to talk to somebody who wasn't a CCD lackey. I wonder if they've got good whiskey in Moscow.
It wasn't nervousness that was making his mind wander--why would he be afraid of another corrupt CCD politician?--it was anticipation. He just wanted to get it over with, and until that clock struck 0900 he felt like he had an itch between his shoulder blades he couldn't quite reach.

He glanced at the clock. 0900. Well shit.
A couple seconds later he heard a sharp knock at the door. He crossed the room and pulled it open. So this is Tokeo? I thought he'd be taller.

He didn't force a smile, but he did extend a hand. There was no excuse not to be civil. "I'm Nicholas Trano, nice to meet you. Can't say I'm a fan of your work but I know you're very good at what you do."

Edited by Nick Trano, Sep 15 2013, 11:11 PM.
So this is Trano. I thought he'd be younger.

Takeo bowed politely to the man holding the door. He had of course seen photos of Nicholas Trano, but photos rarely do a man justice. Even holograms cannot capture the heft of a living, breathing human being. Only blood and bones and flesh can do that.

To the hand jutted out at him, Takeo regarded, then shook. His handshake was, as usual, quick but firm. "Greetings, Mr. Trano. I am Takeo Onoda, and I will be your host while you are with us in Moscow."
He studied the man's face a moment, and smiled at what he took to be a compliment, no matter the backhand that came with it. "Please, allow me to make a few quick introductions."

Stepping back into the hall, and motioning Nicholas to follow, Takeo made the rounds. "This is Sergei Braun, my bodyguard."
Sergei offered a bear-sized paw to shake, eyes dull and jaw set. "Junnichi Yamada, my staff manager. Kasumi Fujimoto, my assistant."
Kasumi seemed to have something to say about that, though she did not. "Ken and Miki - pages. And this,"
he smiled, ushering forward the oldest of the group, who shuffled obligingly with an excited smile of his own slightly messy teeth. "This is Dr. Takeshi Saito, a Japanese-American Historian and your number one fan."

Saito shot him an immeasurable look, but Takeo ignored it. "I wanted to meet the fu--,"
Saito faltered, but recovered quickly, "I wanted to meet you, Mr. Trano."
His hand was sweaty. "It is an honor. I would love to speak with you about your experience in Moscow tonight at dinner?"

Takeo seemed unconvinced. "We will let you know, Sensei."
To Trano, he added, "Sergei and Miki will join us today. And, your two assistants?"

To be honest, Takeo had expected Trano to come alone. He was only bringing Sergei and Miki to balance the numbers. They all turned to greet Abrams and Reed, and only Jun's eyes - those nearly mechanical blue disks - lingered on them. Junnichi was untrusting to the point of paranoia at times - but it was what had kept him alive this long, what had kept many alive.

The final party decided, Takeo motioned toward the elevator, "Shall we?"

Edited by Takeo, Sep 9 2013, 01:54 AM.
You can tell a lot about a man from the amount of lackeys he keeps in tow. At six, Takeo Onoda thought he was a very important man. A bodyguard, he could understand. Always good to be prepared when your job description is essentially "do whatever you want, never face consequences." Then there were the pages, and the assistant, and the staff manager.A bit much?

Now Saito, on the other hand. That was something special. The Japanese-American historian seemed less like a servant and more like Takeo's grandfather. A very curmudgeonly grandfather. A very curmudgeonly grandfather who is not my biggest fan.
Still, Nicholas thought he might enjoy a conversation with the man. If anything, it would be amusing.

The exchange of pleasantries went about as well as expected. Which is to say, a little tense, not at all jovial and everyone was clearly glad when it was done with. Takeo began moving the group towards the elevator. "Shall we?"
It was clear he wanted to get on with it.

Agents Reed and Abrams--haven't even given me their first names
--were unfortunate enough to be dragged along. Reed was caught returning to the room, and Abrams was simply not allowed to continue working on his holoframe. So the ten of them were left standing awkwardly in the hallway waiting to leave.

Nicholas turned away from studying Saito, and waved Reed and Abrams along. "It's what I'm here for. Lead the way."
There was no point delaying. At least he'd finally get to see what it was like touring North Korea thirty years ago.
Edited by Nick Trano, Sep 9 2013, 02:36 AM.
Reed stepped up to shake hands offered to her. "Julie Reed," she greeted each of the Privilege's entourage with a slim smile and quickly retracted hand. But held the gaze of each one firmly behind a blink that captured their facial features in the camera embedded in her Lens Warriors: a device with technology that worked similarly to the Land Warriors sported by mainstream military. While her partner, Steve Abrams made the more normal rounds of introductions, she was relieved when her phone rang. Reed tugged the device from her bag, which was custom sized to carry the Wallet, hers being a curvacious model with a bright red backing.

She moved away from the group, turned her back and spoke quietly with the caller. When she returned, she pulled her boss aside and spoke to him. For essentially the first time. She had a crisp, no nonsense tone that matched the type of woman to carry a cherry-red Wallet, work painfully high heels, and wear a snug pencil-skirt. After their brief words, she moved away and returned to the suite.

Abrams didn't seem concerned that his fellow assistant had business elsewhere.

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