Saturday, 27 June 2009

Obolenskidonia - Babbage under siege, meeting general Kuroe

I alluded previously to an interview, I should perhaps recount the events that led to that. As the boy Skyler has since contacted me. I am to call out to him and thus meet the resistance.

Things are dangerous here. I do not think I am under suspicion but at the same time I do not think I can assume that I am not watched. Above all else I have to take care in my reports not to betray my
friends. Some friends may themselves be doubting of my values too, not pausing to consider my position and simply concluding that I am a collaborator based upon their observations.

I had not been back in the City for long when I came upon the newly promoted General Kuroe. I had left my house in the palisades late in the afternoon and took the trolley bus through to the port,
alighting at Larklight Alley. Immediately ahead I saw the familiar figure of Kuroe, he was talking with a young lady, Miss Jaggernov, I believe her name. I had met her briefly in Viv Trafalgar's
store. she had alarmed me then, her trust or perhaps her naivety had led her to tell me of the resistance and I had since been concerned for her safety if she was so open to all she met. But now I saw
her talking amiably with the General. this brought further questions to mind. Had she been toying with me? Assessing the "loyalty" of this apparent "newcomer" to town? Or was she protecting herself by
building a bond with the enemy? They had noticed me so I had little choice by now than to approach.

Ashiko Kuroe nodded "Ah... well I look forward to hearing about it." "Good day Ma'am!", smiled Miss Jaggernov "Good day madam, general.", I replied. "As I believe is now the appropriate term of
address former Capt. Kuroe" "Former?", blinked the general as Miss Jaggernov raised an eyebrow. "It is said that in my absence things have changed, indeed the evidence around town certainly supports
that, and that you have been elevated".

Kuroe grinned his cigarette holder jutting "Ah... General of course...". Scarlet Jaggernov smiles in relief, I smiled in return. "Indeed... how may I assist you Citizen?", he continued.

"I have been out of the city. I am a loyal citizen of Babbage sir, I do hope you will not hold against me our previous altercations?"

General Kuroe looked at his hat shaking his head "No you took very good care of my hat... I cannot fault someone who is that considerate. Now that you have returned are you needing any permits
warrants or scones?"

The latter forced a gasp of surprise from Miss Jaggernov, and I can only conclude that the mere thought of such a delicacy in times where much of the population appear to be short of provisions. Miss
Jaggernov went on to ask about the factory and the conditions of employment. Genreal Kuroe remarked that it would be staffed by criminals and in a careless moment I retorted to the effect that
criminal was a subjective term. Luckily that error passed unnoticed and Genreal Kuroe explained that the fatory would be using children and criminals such as Mara Razor, that the conditions would be
as expected of Doctor Obolensky. Miss Jagger was quite upset at the implications and proceed tio get angry with the general.

This lady confuses me greatly, she may well be a resistnace supporter/sympathiser but she also demonstrates a remarkable closeness and frankness in interacting with the General. At that time I
realised that I could not without further knowledge trust this lady, but it is my aim to determine her true colours as I am in no doubt that her position of apparent trust could be useful if her enery
and volatility could be reined in somewhat.

Away to my right, a gentleman had taken up a nonchalant position leant against a lmapost and looking out across the harbour. I took him to be one of the General's secret guard.

I changed the subject. "Sir, I would love to interview you for the journal with which I have recently taken employment. You may have heard of it, The Primgraph."

The general adjusted his false eye as he weighed the options before briskly asking, "This isn't a trap is it?"

"The Primgraph is of course a balanced and fair publication, we have our reputation to think of. We would not wish to upset the standing or the sales of our publication within the City by slandering
its leaders."

"Ah... well then... I suppose I am available.", The general glanced over my shoulder as a young boy walked past hefting a large rifle upon his back.

"Skyler!", cried Miss Jaggernov, "Hello dear! How are you?" "'Ello Miss Scarlet. I'm doin' good. Jus'...wanderin' 'round town." "Come give me a hug, darling!", the young lad hugged Miss Jaggernov,
"Did you enjoy the ball?" "Aye... It was fun." "One of you future employees General", I probed. Miss Jaggernov shot a murderous look between us. "I think not! Mr Kuroe, how could you even look cruelly
on something so adorable!!" Ashiko Kuroe turned to the lad, eyeing the boy cautiously, "Who is he? And why is he armed?" Worried for the lad's safety I interjected, fabricating an excuse, "its just a
toy I expect, isn't it lad?". "Isn't it!", I asserted.

The you ng lad, Skyler stared at the general a moment before turning to me. "No miss... it's th' real deal." I sighed, and shook my head, you can't help some people it seems. "I've seen it work! It
is.", added Miss Jaggernov, compunding the damage. "I'm sure he means no harm with it General", I explained. The General blinked and sighed, "Child...When a man of authority asks you if the gun is
real... you say no... then shoot them in the back.". I grinned, the general had surprised me with this display of humour.

"But if a lady asks if it's real, I tell th' truth.", countered Skyler, whose mouth appears to know no sense of fear. Miss Jaggernov started giggling. "I may be an Urchin but I know me Manners."

Ashiko Kuroe chuckled holding out his hand "Ah...and so you do... I trust you will hand that over?". Skyler shook his head.

"I trust I will not.".

The general watched the boy as Miss Jaggernov smiled at Mr Kuroe appealing to his pride, "It would be a shame to so ruin such a well composed outfit. I daresay you'd look far less dashing without your
weapons. So do let him keep it.", Skyler nodded.

"An Urchin without a gun would be like a Pirate without a ship. It jus' wouldn' be right.". To my complete surprise the General seemed to accept this. I could not understand how this had passed the
way it had. why had Kuroe accepted a public affront to his authority?

Mercifully, Miss Jaggernov changed the subject. "What newspaper did you say you worked for, may I ask?" "The Primgraph I replied, smiling. "I thought so... How marvellous!" "I am their newly appointed
correspondent to New Babbage" "Nice ta meet ya miss.", piped in Skyler, doffing his cap to me. "Ah... You do mean Obolenskidonia...", said the General sternly, watching me closely. "oh yes sorry of
course...", I stammered, anoyed at my slip, but equally certain that I'd make the same mistake again. "My mistake, I have lived here since it was a tiny city state. Old habits die hard."

Skyler Gant smirked. "Still New Babbage ta me. Since... I can't for th' life o' me pronounce th' other." "Mr Kuroe, do we still have freedom of press?", asked Miss Jaggernov and I glanced nervously to
the General, once again wiondering whose side Miss Jaggernov was on, perhaps she did not trust me either, that would be a fair position.

"Why yes... Admiral Lupindo is free to press as many citizens as he wants.", chortled the general, laughjing aat his own joke. Miss Jaggernov giggled.

"Not people juice, silly! Do we still have freedom of press in Babbage? As in, publications?" "Publications... well not my sort to be honest... I suppose so..", replied the General, a little uncertain
as to what he was opening himself up to.

"I am glad to hear it sir. How better to get your message to the people, your loyal subjects". I bit my lip, suppressing the shudder that passed through me as I said those words.

"They aren't my subjects Mademoiselle Beq... They are Obolensky's"

"Spread th' message on Toilet Tissue an' use it ta wipe your bum. Tha' would be a better use ta spread th'O's message.", smirked the urchin. I sighed, this lad was asking for trouble that was clear. I
watched the general cautiously again as he momentarily lost his composure before gasping and straightening his cravate and stooping to the level of the childs humour.

"Ah... I wouldn't expect you to know of such things considering your scent", he retorted. Skyler Gant smirked again, enjoying his sparring match.

"Sure th' scent isn' comin' from you? After all... must be hard ta wash your fur after...doin' th'deed." I winced at the jibe. "General, I am sure this lad means nothing by his remarks, he is of no
concern to you. Or The Doctor Overlord", I wanted to kick the young lad in the shins make it clear he was out of line. I had to resort to a frown and pursed lips, a voiceless "shhhhh". I stared at
Skyler trying to catch his gaze, "Master Skyler, the general is a powerful man, you should take care not to upset him."

"Honestly mademoiselle... I have more important issues at hand than a mouthy child...", and with that the General seemed to dismiss the entire incident. It was clear now however that the young lad was
perhaps my way to find a trusted friend, anyone who  might know me in the resistance.

"Skyler do you attend school at all?", I asked. Skyler Gant shook his head. "No miss." "have youlearned your letters at all?", I added, hoping that he would be ablte to read a little. "The Doctor
could implement an education program!", laughed Miss Jaggernov laughed. I frowned at the thought of what this would entail. "Why the frown? Marvellous as it'd be, I doubt the Doctor is planning
enrichment and nurturing any time soon..." "frown? did I frown? oh my, just the sun reflecting from the ocean. I am sure the the Doctor would put a fine program of education in place", I replied, not
hiding my disdain. I feigned making note of the forthcoming interview, scribbliung in my notepad before surreptitiously tearing out a small note. Skyler shook his head in reply to my eralier question.
"Jus' a few from th'books people toss out." "Oliver Twist is not an easy book, dear.", added Miss Jaggernov, "I was quite impressed" "indeed so", I replied, incredulous. Skyler nodded. "But it is me
all time fav book, miss. It's how I took me Nickname, Artful Dodger. I...share a bit o'similarities to th' Character with tha' name in th' book."

I stooped down, my back to the general and pretending to straighten Skyler's jacket slipped a note inside. As I stood, I held a finger to my lips, hoping that the lad at least knew enough to hold his

"Pleased to meet you all. General I will return shortly". I noticed Skyler pocket the note quietly and smiled. Perhaps I can meet you in one of our bars, assuming we do not have prohibition here yet.
"Prohibition? You can imagine the pirates being refused drink?" "Oh dear heavens no... merely a recall on all wines made over 20 years ago..." I smiled at the thought of the general and the doctor
standing over a collection of confiscated fine vintage wines. "Then perhaps the Absinthe bar by the canals at 20 to three?" The general nodded and checked his watch "I suppose so...". He paused then
tapping his forehead as if he had overlooked something. "Actually... I am afraid that an hour later than that would be better if able." "There was a Jar of cookies placed in front of city hall for my
breakfast and I have yet to retreive it.

"A quarter past three then perhaps?" "that's acceptable...", nodded the general "wonderful, I will see you then."

I wandered off, heading down towards the ocean tunnel lift but soon became aware of foot steps on the cobbles behind me, keeping pace, but staying back. I paused outside Miss Frye's workshop and
walked out onto the new promenade there and stood staring out to sea, waiting for my pursuer to pass. The foosteps rapping against the stone cobbles halted and changed as their owner walked onto to
the wooden promenade. I tensed.

"Miss Janus was it?", a mans voice. I turned slowly. "Yes, sir. I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage. I do not believe we have been introduced." "Ah, I apologize. I am Lans Starsider.", the
stranger, Mr Starsider, bowed slightly

Shots rang out fromthe back streets of the port and a cry of "DEATH TO THE OPPRESSORS!"

Mr Starsider looked about. "I do believe that was gun fire", I muttered, stating the obvious. "Quite..." "Mr Starsider, pleased to meet you" "And you as well." "So, I overheard that you're a
reporter?", I nodded in affirmation "Tell me, what is your take on the recent occupation?"

I looked nervously about. "I...I am a long term resident of this City sir. I have been away for a time about a month or so. I am somewhat taken aback by the changes if I may be frank" Lans Starsider
sighed. "Look I'm not working for the "Truth" ministry or anyone like that, so please feel free to be honest."

"but then someone form such a ministry would say that wouldn't they? I am sorry sir, I do not wish to be obtuse trust is not easily earned. The general and I have met before. I have thwarted his plans
twice in the past."

The newcomer rolled his eye, "Yes I suppose, but with that sort of logic how the bloody heck to you expect me to prove it?"

"...Obolensky is a pompous ass. Satisfied?". I smiled and sighed, deciding to trust the man, they occupiers already had more than enough reason to detain me for my past involvement, they could hardly
need prof of my loyalty to Babbage. "Let's sit". I indicated to the benches and we sat, watching the sea.

"I have no love of these fiends sir, Babbage has been my home since I arrived here, some 2 months after its founding. I have property and friends here. I would not have it overrun by buffoons
masquerading as oppressors."

"I see. I must confess I am somewhat of a newcommer here myself. I've been trying to feel out the exact situation here.", he then grinned. "And yes, the doctor's henchmen aren't all that wise, are

"no, but it seems that they have the upper hand at present my reporting must remain fair and above board but I intend to assist the resistance, if they indeed exist. I have not yet seen a number of my
friends, I am worried for them. I hope they have gone to ground."

"I would say there is evidence. I recently heard news of some sort of strike against the doctor's forces. Though I would hope that that pistol weilding man we heard earlier is not among them. While
gallent, I'm afraid his tactics will get him killed."

"Yes,", I nodded, " and the young lad, Skyler. That tongue of his....." "Yes. Quite the fire in that one isn't there?", chuckled Mr Starsider.

"One hopes it can be channelled appropriately, the general seems too arrogant to be concerned with the urchins, but in our past they have always proven to be a stubborn and resilient force."

"Well, at least he chose the target of his heckling wisely, if only by chance. I'm afraid several of Obolensky's other minions might not have been so indulgent."

"es, the feline in particular needs to be watched and treated with caution", I leant forward and whispered "Zebratski, if I recall correctly" Lans Starsider nodded, "Yes I've encountered him before as
well. He seems to be the most competant of those I have met so far."

"A vile character, but, yes, quite effective. May I ask sir, what is your part in this. What brought you here in these troubled times?

" be honest I'm investigating some rumors about the doctor himself. I currently believe them to be false, but I need to be sure. I actually came here as part of my explorations though. Simple
bad timing on my part it seems. I smiled grimly, "yes, indeed. May I ask as to the nature of the rumours?

"Hmm...yes, I suppose. A few rumors have suggested that some of the sources of the doctor's technology may have been gathered via...temporal means. As I said, I currently believe this is false, and
that he is simply a brilliant, if twisted, man."

I nodded thoughtfully. "but...", I began, "I fear they may have some foundation in truth. There was an exhibtion, some months ago now, it took place in the library here in Babbage. One exhibit, was a
time machine, of course none of us believed it to be real." "Ah yes...I've seen those 'time machines.'", Mr Starsider, chuckled to himself, finding something amusing in that statement. "But still, you
believe Obolensky may have one of these machines?"

"Part way through the opening ceremony, a group of henchmen accompanied the doctor and using some form of key, managed to steal the exhibit. It vanished sir. Into thin air. I myself checked the very
solidity of the walls and floors there was no other way out."

" appears quite clear that further investigations were warranted. Still, very interesting Ms Janus...and possibly most helpful. I'll have to do some research of my own into it.  May I
accompany you? I'm quite interested in listening to what the General might have to say."

"I am meeting the general in the absinthe bar by the old theatre"

"In the canal district, yes?"

"yes indeed. I would rather interview him alone, but I cannot prevent you from getting drunk in a stall nearby now can I?"

"No, that would be quite out of your control.", Mr Starsider grinned.

"I must depart I have some notes to make before he arrives"

"Good luck, miss."

"It was a pleasure meeting you sir. I am sorry for my rather frosty greeting."

"Understandable given the circumstances."

Since these events it has become apparent that the General was not as forgiving as it seemed, and though I have yet to confirm the facts, it is apparent that Skyler was kidnapped shortly after my meeting, and I believe it was this that delayed the general's arrival for my interview as recorded in the published article in the primgraph

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