Federation-Apocalypse Session 179 – Any Old Port in a Storm

Raphael and Marty’s continued investigation into the survivors of the Pirate’s Cove Massacre had led from one of their contacts and suppliers to the Port Authority – where one ex-pirate might be working. Who knew? He might turn out to NOT be the accountant who’d run off…

Raphael rather felt that just walking up, knocking on the door and asking for the appropriate individual would probably work best. After all, it was an official building! People went in and out and saw various officials all the time!

Marty was inclined to do some stealthy scouting. The last time he’d gone to the Port Authority the entire place had fallen apart!

Well, this WAS a social investigation – and Raphael was of the opinion that a businessman like Marty would know more about how to get information from such an organization than he would AND had had prior dealings with it since he came in by boat…

(Raphael) “Wait, fell apart? I thought their magic was better than that or do they just not care about the shape of the docks?”

Marty explained; their encounter with Customs resulted in the officer trying to overcharge them. Kevin took offense, magic was used by both him and Marty, and the building wound up turning into mud and collapsing. On the bright side, only one person died (more or less suicide by idiocy) and one had fled – via teleportation – from the massive display of magical power. Pretty much everyone in town had heard variously-distorted rumors of the event.

Kevin was still aggrieved about that; they’d carefully made sure that the building collapsed in such slow motion that the occupants all had plenty of time to teleport, run, walk, or – for that matter – crawl out. How were they to know that a port official would be so stupid as to hide in a closet or something, fail to use any protective or escape spells, and fail to leave with the city guard?

(Raphael) “I have a bad feeling about this. I guess we should get moving and check if our guy is still here.”

Marty had suggested scouting, so Raphael spent some time thinking of plans to efficiently map the area, tally it’s population, and evaluate it’s defenses and routine.

Marty had MEANT socially, but Raphael took his scouting militarily. Social scouting would never occur to him.

That was why Kevin and Marty went to parties a lot more often than Raphael did.

For good or ill, Raphael was assuming that Marty – while from a violent and silly world – was more-or-less a conventional businessman at heart, and wouldn’t really be planning . He knew that Marty was a toonworlder, but he had never actually experienced Battling Business World.

Marty, of course, was a lot closer to a berserker mercenary in a nice suit. He hadn’t really been considering a military assault given that the place was open to the public and that they didn’t want to take it over – but a bit of social scouting was considered a proper prelude to the paramilitary invasion of the enemy’s corporate headquarters and a way not to get conned on office supplies back home.

He was a bit surprised when Raphael suggested that they find someplace secluded to observe the area. What good would that do? Oh well, Raphael WAS a master diviner. Presumably that sort of thing would tell him something useful! If he knew a fight was coming, it might be best to get a good look at the forces the enemy-to-be could muster before starting in on the social stuff!

Marty offered to help Raphael and his robots get a good map of the area of the docks and a count of the people and armorments involved with an eye for cover and other things of military value.

(Raphael) “Oh no, that is what robots are for; to go into dangerous situations and get kille… get valuable information while people plan out what to do with the information. So how does helping them scout help us get the information we want? Or is it just in case a fight breaks out?”

(Marty) “That, or if he tries to run. It’s good to know where the exits are when that happens. After we do that, I suppose we can start on the social stuff.”

Marty contributed a lot of practical tactical insights, and help in hiding the robots, since most of Raphael’s military skills were purely theoretical – while Marty had been in a lot of ground conflicts. Admittedly that assault on that ground-floor far eastern theme restaurant hadn’t gone so well – but he should never have gotten into a land war in Asian Gardens.

Without that input, the illusion-disguised robotic scouting wouldn’t have amounted to much more than generating a map and counting people and other passive things.

Nobody seemed to notice the robots given the rather inconspicuous positions they were hiding in and the illusions. Currently there were some forty-one employees in the Port Authority building going about their work. All of them have some magical power and were using it quite frequently to perform simple tasks. Important strategic locations in the building included the roof, the front and side doors, the rather large vault in the basement, the archives, and the Headmaster’s office. Currently some two dozen of the employees were coming and going from the building and the docks and warehouses near the harbor. They were carrying clipboards and were constantly jotting down notes. Inside the building ten people took the papers from the clipboards and made even more notes which were then summarized. The notes then went into the archives while a report was sent up the chain to management. Eventually the paperwork all led to an old badger in the top office who was constantly swearing about his assistant having left.

(Marty) “Well, lets go in and see if our man is there! If we’re lucky, we won’t have to use this intel at all. If we aren’t, well, we have it.”

(Raphael) “Lead on then!”

Marty did. He considered bashing in the door and demanding their surrender and pastries – but the pure Battling Business World approach probably wasn’t really suited to Cyrweld! He just went in and informed the front desk badger, quite politely, that he’d like to talk to Axel Renquist. If they needed an appointment, that was fair enough! Waiting was not a problem!

(Front Desk Badger) “I’m afraid Mr Renquist is quite busy right now. Ever since our Operations Manager fled during the attack, Mr Renquist has been having to do both jobs at the same time. Is your business urgent?”

Fortunately, Kevin had been keeping an eye on the place, and had a Thrall applying for the job already. After all, Smartclothes were probably every bit as good as a magical abacus! He’d been having trouble getting past the front desk – who thought he was far too young to be applying for such an important position – but Raphael and Marty provided a wonderful distraction

The Mr Axel’s secretary was busy bemoaning the issue.

(Secretary to the thrall) “And you are?”

(Thrall) “Temporary or permanent aide sir!”

(Secretary) “Rather young to be applying for an accounting position aren’t you? Do you have any mathematical aptitude?”

(Thrall) “Yes Sir! Do you wish to test me?”

The secretary pulled a stack of papers out of his desk.

(Secretary) “Please look these over, answer them as best as you can then return them to me.”

(Thrall) “Certainly sir!”

He scanned them in, analyzed them, and started checking… Fortunately young Verdith Narr had excellent basic mathematics and bookkeeping skills (and had run away from Coruscant because he thought that the bank position he was being pressured into taking would be utterly phony). He’d also taken the organizational package deal…

(Secretary, turning back to Marty and Raphael) “Now, is your business urgent? I might be able to get a few moments of Mr Renquist’s time if it is.”

(Marty) “My associate here is writing a history on some of the pirates who’ve plagued the city. We’d like to ask him some questions. If we can’t get an interview today, when do you think he’ll be available?”

(Secretary) “Hard to say, a lot of that depends on when we can fill the missing accounting position.”

At about which point Verdith was finished with the stack of papers.

(Marty) “Wow. Kid, you’re a natural!”

OK, that was obviously another Thrall – but if Kevin had called for an accountant, no dount there were at least a hundred or so Thralls with talents along those lines – and it might help them get an interview in TODAY.

(Secretary) “Finished already? That should have taken you nearly an hour to work through. Are you sure you did that right?”

(Verdith) “There are six ambigious entries; to be found on pages 3, 5, 6, 6, 8 and 11, eleven typographical errors, and a set of inconsistent values in section 17; any of those may have led to an error – so I cannot be entirely sure sir!”

(Secretary) “What? Let me see that. Hmm. It looks like you are correct. My, you are talented young one. Do you have time to sit through an interview with the Headmaster right now? We might have a position for you after all.”

(Verdith) “Certainly sir!”

(Secretary, to Marty and Raphe) “And if this young one works out, we might actually have some time for you after all. Would you mind coming along then?”

No, they didn’t mind a bit.

The Secretary led the three of them through the halls of the port authority building. The fact that the building was destroyed and reconstructed only a week or so ago wasn’t even perceptible in the place – save for the minor chaos that seemed to surround the Headmaster’s office as they arrived. The stack of paperwork was large and growing larger. Three people were currently trying to hand over reports while the Headmaster was tearing up a stack of papers in frustration.

(Headmaster) “What? More people wanting my time? Can’t you see that I am busy right now!”

(Secretary) “We have an prospect for the accounting position.”

(Headmaster) “What, the three of you? Do you split the tables and papers among you and work in parallel or something?”

(Marty) “No, just the kid. My friend and I are here for something else.”

(Headmaster) “The kid? What, you have some weird magic math talent?”

(Secretary) “He did complete the test in a matter of minutes and found a number of errors.”

(Headmaster) “Errors? What sort of errors?”

(Secretary) “Let’s see, in the young one’s own words; “There are six ambigious entries; to be found on pages 3, 5, 6, 6, 8 and 11, eleven typographical errors, and a set of inconsistent values in section 17; any of those may have led to an error – so I cannot be entirely sure sir!”

(Headmaster) “What? Let me have a look at that! (He grabbed the papers out of the Secretary’s hands.) Hmm, alright who taught you accounting young one?”

(Verdith) “The Imperial Accounting Schools sir!”

(Headmaster) “Imperial? Then you’re from the lands near the center of the continent?”

(Verdith) “Near the core sir! I left ahead of a small internal war!”

Raphael started… Was that… Did the Emperor’s reach extend even to a minor, distant, weird dimension where animal people lived in a giant tree?

(Headmaster) “Alright, I want you to take this stack of papers (he gestured to a stack about two inches thick) and give me an itemized report for that trading company’s exports for this year. If you manage to come up with results identical or better than my own, you’re hired.”

(Verdith) “Certainly sir! I shall get to work!”

(Headmaster, turning to Marty and Raphe) “Now, what do you two want?”

(Marty) “We would like to talk to Mr. Rehnquist, sir. My friend is doing some research for his book and we think he could help out.”

(Headmaster) “Well, I am Mr Renquist. What sort of book are you working on?”

(Raphael) “The History of the pirates of the Salty Jerky.”

Renquist dismissed the Secretary with a wave of his hand.

(Renquist) “And why are you coming to me regarding a book about pirates? I don’t get many pirates coming into this port except those about to be executed.”

(Marty) “Oh, Gussey suggested you . . . Nelson.”

(Renquist) “Damn it Gussey! Are you really here for some book or are you really after that bounty still on our heads? I bet you are the bunch that found that cove aren’t you?”

Raphael looked a little uncomfortable with taking such a direct approach.

(Raphael) “No and yes. We are not after the bounty, but I did find the cove.”

(Marty) “We just want to ask you some historical questions. No need to get too worried.”

(Renquist) “And what sort of questions? If it’s treasure you want, I don’t have any.”

(Raphael) “We’re not looking for treasure – just for what happened to the survivers after the massacre and some other small things.”

(Renquist, sighing) “There weren’t very many survivors after that last bad haul. Then when those monsters caught up to us it got even worse. I am only aware of two others that made it out of there alive.”

(Raphael) “Would they happen to be the chef and the captain?”

(Renquist) “And how would you know that?”

(Raphael) “I am quite capable of finding information when I want to, but cities full of people tend to leave far less clear records than empty coves that have not seen a living person in years – especially when someone had to have put up those wards on the cove that protected it from most detections”

(Renquist) “I take it you compared crew manifests and bodies then? Sigh, I figured none of the others made it out alive, but it’s still depressing.”

(Raphael, sighing a bit himself) “It does not sound nearly as impressive if you say it that way but yes – and yes, it is depressing.”

(Renquist) “Last I had heard, the Captain had gone to shack up with his girl, although her parents weren’t exactly pleased with that. Went legit as a banker. Adams I think opened up his own pub serving up more of that greasy mess he called food to anyone willing to pay. Last I had seen him, he had really let himself go and was at least double the man he used to be. I think he called the place the Grease Pit. How that man managed to make a barrel of carrots catch fire is beyond me.”

(Marty, who had to smile at that) “That’s pretty impressive there.”

(Renquist) Was that what you were wanting? Or is there something else you wanted to know?

(Marty, privately) “I believe that was it, wasn’t it?”

(Raphael) “Yep – unless we want to try for the items we are actually after… but I don’t want to actually bring that up until we have an idea what happened to it or have completely lost the trail.”

(Marty, on whom some of Kevin’s utterly direct approach was rubbing off, privately) “Why not just ask? It’s not like he can really come up with a price you can’t pay, it’s only to make our lives more convenient anyway, and it’s useless to him in any case.”

Raphael had to admit that that was a point… Oh why not?

(Raphael) “Do you know how the door was opened?”

(Renquist) “The door? You mean to the cove?”

(Raphael) “Well the one from the cove to the sea. I would rather not try to make a new opening.”

(Renquist) “The Captain had a key. A round silvery object about so big (holds up hands). Turning it would open the main cove entrance to the sea. Magically bound so that attempting to use something else would cause it to detonate. I know there are other protections over the door, but that was Emerson’s job to maintain, not mine. I just got him the supplies he needed for whatever enchantment he wanted to put on the place… I take it you weren’t able to find it in the cove?”

(Raphael) “Indeed not. We assume that one of the survivors has it. It would be handy to have – but I can write the book without it, and we can always disenchant and re-enchant the door.”

(Renquist) “Well, I don’t. Sorry.”

(Raphael) “Ah well! On to the next on the list then.”

(Renquist) “What exactly do you plan on doing with the old place anyway?”

(Raphael) “Oh a couple of things – building a small shipyard and secondary port, using it as a local base of operations, and opening a museum, a tour, and a gift shop to go with the book!”

(Renquist) “Well, if you are looking for any help with that, I may know some names that you might find useful. It’d be nice to see the old place up and running again.”

(Raphael) “Well we shall have to see after we see the condition of the place after we get the doors open.”

They left for “The Grease Pit”. They didn’t yet have a clear answer as to the identity of the Captain, and it was time to eat anyway…

Kevin, having completed his morning arrangements and “recreational activities” rejoined them…

Raphael sighed… You didn’t have to know him all THAT well to figure out what he’d been up to! Yet ANOTHER girl? Wasn’t he already towing around a harem? AND keeping one in Kadia?

Marty was anticipating! It had been a while since he’d had some good, greasy food! But would it be as greasy as that dive he went to once on Staten Island? He’d needed ice skates to get around there!

Kevin was anticipating too! Greasy fattening food appealed to all teenage wolves!

It took a little searching to find the right neighborhood, but once they were there, it was easy to find; it was the building that was currently on fire.

Marty had to admit, with flames that high there might be even more grease HERE than on Staten Island! Hopefully nothing had happened to their guy!

An assortment of City Guards were standing around the place, watching the fire burn as they sighed.

The largest and roundest Chipmunk that they’d ever seen was busily opening a streetside grill in the meantime as his pub burned down behind him. They got the impression that this was not the first time, since the various pedestrians weren’t paying any heed to the fire save to get in line at the grill.

Nobody watching the fire? Marty thought that THAT was a sign of a good greasy spoon! He got into line!

(Chipmunk) “What’ll you have? We got various sorts of meat, the vegetables are already smoked, and today’s special is a wood fired chicken straight out of the kitchen!”

(Marty) “What do you have for roasts?”

(Chipmunk) “Well we’ve got various portions of pig, chicken, seasoned and roasted nuts, the steak is probably a bit roasted and more than a little smoked too, and I think I have a turducken somewhere.”

(Marty) “Turducken sounds good! I’ll have one of those with a side of nuts!”

He didn’t have any idea what it was, but it sounded exotic enough!

The chipmunk rifled through a box behind him before he pulled out the oddest looking roasted bird Marty had ever seen and slapped it on a plate. He then shoveled a side of nuts that were visibly distorting the air with heat and handed the plate to him.

(Chipmunk) “That’ll be fifteen seventy and careful of the nuts, straight off the fire!”

Marty gave the man his zenni and ate, being careful to let the nuts cool down a bit before tasting them. That took several minutes…

Meanwhile Raphael was orderin the days special and Kevin was ordering LOTS of pig! Three orders!

(Chipmunk) “Today’s special is straight off the impromptu wood fire! Honey baked ham marinated in a fine beer base and then roasted with a ummmm…… cedar wood fire! The potatoes should be done any moment, the nuts are still very hot, and the vegetables are quite smoked!”

Marty thought that THAT was a businessman!

(Kevin) “Sounds great!”

He grossly overpaid for freshness!

The food was incredibly greasy, a little burned, and the impromptu seating area was a bit cramped – but the taste was quite good. Especially so considering the fact that he was working out of a few boxes, at pile of burning wood, and was limited to whatever casks of food and drink got blown out of the pub.

That was just the way that Marty liked it! Since it was considered polite to leave a tip he left a very generous one – accompanied by a note indicating that the group would like to talk to him after his workday was done. That seemed like a nicely discrete method to get into contact! A small spell from Kevin easily made it look like an innocuous bit of paper to anyone else.

Raphael also – rather calculatingly – left a tip even though greasy stuff was hardly his favorite.

The chipmunk looked at the note, seemed a little surprised by it, then nodded in assent before continuing on with his serving of food.

They waited. That load of grease took a lot of digesting!

After a couple of hours the lunch crowd died down and the Chipmunk began to assess the damage now that the fire had gone out.

(Chipmunk) “Bah, put another tin roof on top of the place, some new furniture and stocks, and the place will be as good as new!”

(Marty) “Need any help with that? That meal was great!”

(Chipmunk) “You got tin sheeting, food and drink stocks, and some furniture?”

(Kevin) “It was tasty! If I make another building, can you put up a box lunch for three for tomorrow?”

(Marty) “And Angkor isn’t kidding about that either! He will happily make a new building for you and eat your box lunches.”

(Chipmunk) “Sure thing, but I have to warn you, simpler buildings are best as they are easier to fix after a fire!”

(Marty) “I take it you have a lot of them. Think you can fireproof the kitchen there, Angkor? That’s GOT to be a hassle.”

(Chipmunk) “You might also want to fireproof the fireproofing enchantments if you go that route.”

(Marty) “Now that’s what I call fire!”

(Kevin0 “Solid monolithic stone I think! And a fireproofing spell!”

(Chipmunk) “Now what can I do for you chaps?”

Kevin cheerily wandered off to make a building; this wasn’t his treasure-hunt after all. Hmm… Walls of solid granite, about three feet thick, archways, domes, and deep cellars should work well. Lots of private nooks, a couple of secret passages, some arched staircases going to more private nooks on a second-floor balcony that had a clear view of the first floor (and doors) with a rear exit, some iron-reinforced stone doors that seal well (to contain fires), thermal vents, an extinguishing system (using rainwater cisterns on the roof), and a few other minor long-term effects and enchantments…

Meanwhile, Marty and Raphael approached the Chipmunk about their scavenger hunt.

(Raphael) “We are here looking for information about the pirates of the Salty Jerky. Specifically the key to the sea door. or the captain if you dont know anything about the key.”

(Chipmunk) “Did Nelson send you? If he is still upset about me catching the sails on fire he needs to get a life. Wait a minute, a key? What did it look like?”

Raphael repeated the discription he’d gotten.

(Chipmunk) “Silver you say and so big around? And the captain had it with him all the time?… Hmm, let me check something. Could you help me move this wooden beam that’s fallen in the way?”

Raphael said “Sure!” – but suddenly got VERY paranoid… Was this guy about to turn something really nasty loose? A jet of concentrated grease-fire from HIM might melt down half the city!

Marty was suddenly paying attention now, too – but Kevin wasn’t worried; A few questions weren’t worth starting a war over!

After some heavy lifting and breaking of burnt wooden supports, they managed to move a section of the collapsed roof out of the way to reveal a large decorative ship’s steering wheel. Embedded in the wheel was a plaque and a silver ring.

(Chipmunk) “Captain brought it in the last time he came to visit with Ole Nelson. He wanted me to put it up on display for nostalgia’s sake. Is that what you are looking for?”

Meanwhile, Kevin was transmuting the burnt furnishings into nice new ones, adding fireproofing, decorating with mosaics (non-flammible tile), and ordering in some supplies.

(Raphael) “Looks like it. but the only way to tell is to try it.”

(Chipmunk) “Are you the bunch that found the cove by chance? Yes? And what are you going to be doing with the cove?”

(Raphael) “Assuming I can get it open, a shipyard, museam, base of operations and second port for the city”

(Chipmunk) “Well, I suppose the captain would’ve gone with that. Tell you what, I’ll give it to you on two conditions: First I would like my shipmates to have a proper burial, rather than being disposed of like criminals like I am sure the guard wants to do. They deserved something at least. Second, I want another souvenior to replace this. Preferably one with a really good story behind it!

(Raphael) “Well, that’s reasonable enough – but the souvenir will take some looking for unless Marty knows of something off the top of his head.”

Kevin suggested one of the ships figureheads, or a selection of weapons and cannon or whatever they used, or perhaps the original ships log?

Marty kind of liked the figurehead idea.

(Marty) “How about we trade a wheel for the figurehead? There’s got to be some history to that, right?”

(Chipmunk) “Hmm, the figurehead might be nice, but I was hoping for something exotic. How about you think about it a bit and when you find something bring it here?”

(Marty, privately) “Do we need to get this to him right away, Raphael? If not, we could find something on the voyage.”

(Raphael, also privately) “We can wait a bit… the burials will take a while anyway.”

(Marty) “Tell you what. Me and Angkor are going on a voyage soon. I’ll bring something back for you. Deal?”

(Chipmunk) “A voyage? Hmm, alright bring me back something real nice and with a good story. In the meantime here you go (he grabbed the wheel and handed it to Raphe). Take good care of it. I am sure the captain wouldn’t mind you having it.”

(Raphael) “Thank you”

(Marty) “Yeah, and keep up the good work here! I’ll definitely be back for seconds.”

As the cook concluded his bargain and turned to look over his new establishment, he was more than a bit shocked… The wolf-kid had just casually thrown THAT together? It looked like a nautically-themed fortress!

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