The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice CLXIX – The Scottish Rockettes

Over in Scotland, Leon had set up the Hanging Gardens near the Hedgerows… He might as well oblige whoever-it-was with the camera, and he’d need a staging point for the takeover of Saudi Arabia. Aikiko had located her second Solar Guardian in the Hedgerows, and had a line on the third. Charles… was making things and talking to Yu-Shan’s devas. Ruki… was still dealing with Doc Brown, and his promise to analyze whatever weird cyborging process she’d been put through!

Ruki… was seriously annoyed! This maniac was spouting all kinds of information – half of which he couldn’t possibly know, and the other half of which made no sense whatsoever! Whoever it was who had done this to her had to be some sort of black-labs crackpot, not a bedamned wizard!

(Doc Smith) “So then! Still no indications as to why this was done – although the “How” has become a lot clearer!

(Ruki, sighing – and going with it for the moment; the details on the systems were worth something anyway) “That does sound about right – but the “why” is the annoying thing in this puzzle!

(Doc Smith) “Now, it’s possible that there are additional modifications behind concealment effects – but there’s no way of knowing what those might be!”

(Ruki) “So what are you saying, someone wanted to use me like a pawn or something.”

(Doc Smith) “There must be a tie to somewhere outside of fate though; otherwise you wouldn’t be outside of fate at the moment…”

(Ruki) “The hell!”

(Doc Smith) “Oh, I expect so! That is, sadly, very common…”

(Ruki) “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

(Doc Smith) “What, using people as pawns? Are you actually unused to that?”

(Ruki) “Well yeah… I’m not used to being used so subtlety though!”

(Doc Smith, with some shock) “You find having massive quantities of artifacts installed in your body and replacing large parts of your flesh subtle? What kind of people are you used to dealing with?”

(Ruki) “I didn’t know about THAT! And I am used to dealing with casual displays or murder every other day in Ronoapor”

(Doc Smith) “Well, I suppose that the easiest way to avoid being used as a pawn is to get off the board!”

(Ruki) “Yeah…”

(Doc Smith) “Well then! Our business will be concluded relatively recently; is there somewhere where you would like to be dropped off?”

(Ruki) “Eh, I’m not real sure honestly.”

(Doc Smith, being abruptly called away to work on another esoteric piece of machinery) “Well, there is time!”

Huh… Leaving HER alone in a workshop full of fragile devices? Was the man actually THAT trusting? Truly a mad scientist!

Well, “Robby the Robot” was still serving Raspberry Biscuits!

(“Robby”) “There. Are. Also. Chocolate. And. Vanilla. Biscuits.”

Ruki took some – they were pretty good actually – and walked around the workshop… There were vast amounts of extremely weird apparatus, at least one-third magical, one-third technical, and one-third bad sci-fi movie. The “Doc” was a complete loon!

Well, OK… the stuff did all seem to be doing SOMETHING – although it was hard to say what! STILL a loon!

Another robot turned up a little later to inform her that the analysis was complete – and to provide her payment. Wait… if she actually had the money later, would that mean that at least some of this was real?

(Ruki, taking the money) “About damn time, what did you find out about me then…”

And she got handled a huge file folder full of technical information… At least there was a summary… a list of implants, some information on how they were implanted, and some information about “Sidereals”…

(Ruki) “Great, so I’m someone’s sick idea of a anime wet dream of being a cyborg if I’m reading this mess right.”

(Robot) “The. Evaluation. Is. Partially. Accurate. Many. Human. Fantasies. Are. Actually. Unconscious. Memories. Or. Subconscious. Perceptions. Of. Reality. The. Wilder. “Fictions”. Are. Actually. Fairly. Good. Guides. To. Reality. This. Is. Known. As. The. “Tabloids. Effect.”, First. Popularized. In. The. “Men. In. Black”. In. Itself. A. Fiction. Expressing. Underlying. Truths.”

(Ruki) “You really need to work on your bedside manner, you know that Toaster.”

(Robot) “You. Are. Not. In. A. Bed. I. Will. Send. For. One.”

(Ruki, hitting her forehead and groaning loudly) “I didn’t mean literally you fucking walking toaster oven!”

(Robot) “Not. Equipped. For. Suggested. Activities.”

(Ruki) “AGAIN, I DIDN’T MEAN LITERALLY! Stupid toaster!”

Gah. She was arguing with either a robot or with a figment of her own imagination. Either way it wasn’t going to end well. She fought the urge to break “Robby” right now. Still, she was a guest, and had been well paid for her trouble… Even if she’d almost rather be shot at than deal with the toaster!

Ruki headed out to look for dinner. Cookies were all very well, but an actual meal would be nice – even if all the restaurants seemed to be run by… hobbits.

BUHA?

On the other hand… the cooking was very good and the microbrews were extremely good – but the place was also being patronized by a couple of centaurs, a unicorn, several elves, an earth elemental, and a dozen African tribesman. Weirdo’s in a weird place. It was definitely time to clear out of this hallucination.

Well, once she finished dinner.

Meanwhile, in the Hedgerows… Aikiko was hearing some odd rumors floating around about a new freehold appearing to the north – but the fair was full of odd rumors! There were rumors that the barriers were going to come down, so England would no longer be divided between the realms of the fey and men. There was a rumor that an entire middle school had wandered over the borders on a “field trip”, and would be up for sale towards the end of the fair. Finally… a group of extra-solar fey were supposed to be dropping by for a little trading about that time too; they usually had all kinds of hard-to-obtain stuff up for sale.

To be fair there were hundreds of other rumors, but those were the only ones her investigative talents gave any weight to.

Well… England wasn’t really all that large – and she had more than enough cash to rent a car and had travel thaumaturgy too. She could check out the freehold rumor and be back in five or six hours. Those middle school kids might need some rescuing if THAT rumor was more or less accurate.

As far as the freehold went… there had been several reports on it – mostly suggesting either the re-emergence of a freehold that had been building up its power for thousands of years – or possibly of a breakthrough from the wyld. That could be dangerous or useful – so once she had enough to deduce the approximate location she rented a car, sped things up with her Travel Thaumaturgy, and headed up north. It took a mere hour or so to get into northern Scotland.

Ruki, meanwhile, had considered her environment – and decided on the one worthwhile insight that she’d found in this entire bad trip… If you didn’t want to be played, get off the board!

Hm… She’d never been anywhere NEAR England… She had them drop her off at a resort in Scotland – which she knew nothing about save that it was the setting for “Braveheart”. Presumably that meant that no one would be expecting her to be there!

Great. They actually DID wear skirts.

Aikiko… was finding that her best location… had a campground, a minor resort area, golf courses, and a small mall… That… didn’t look much like a fey stronghold – but then, what would? A big sign saying “Welcome to the Enchanted Forest”? Wait. Perhaps she’d better check out a few places like Disneyland when she had a little more time… A freehold would make a very good amusement park! They all… had limited access, channeled the crowds from place to place, caused people to lose track of time, left them emotionally drained, were filled with bizarre characters, told stories, and tricked visitors with many rigged games with more or less illusory prizes. And if they kept a few… well, with a little careful selection… people disappeared all the time! All they’d need to say if anyone even asked was that they’d… never shown up.

Aikiko was so distracted by THAT line of speculation that she didn’t realize that she was turning into the parking lot a – thanks to her travel thaumaturgy – an effective speed of better than two hundred miles per hour. That almost didn’t register on Ruki – how on earth could someone make a sharp turn at THAT speed? – but the shock yielded near-instantly to the need to use a dodge charm and GET OUT OF THE WAY!

(Ruki, ducking and rolling – while pulling out a pair of chromed .45 Colt pistols and pointing them at the car) “The !@#$%!!!! What the !@#$%^!!!! do you think you’re doing! You nearly ran over me you !!@#$%!!!”

(Aikiko, poking her head out the window – as the cars speed dropped from 240 MPH to “parked” in the space of thirty or forty feet….) “Sorry, didn’t see you! Are you okay?… Nice dodge, though!”

(Ruki) “Great! A !@#$% who can’t see past the bridge of her !@#$ nose nearly splatters me across the front grill of a ground-based jet plane or something… (she put her pistols away as she looked Aikiko over) “I’m fine, just watch where the !@#$% you’re POINTING that !@#$% thing!”

Well! A fellow Asian person in Scotland – and she had a nasty temper! Not that she wasn’t justified… she’d better be more careful when using the travel thaumaturgy next time! Best not to make the kid with the guns mad! Well… any madder than she already was. A good thing that she’d already sent the kids to Aden!

Great! A teen without a clue! They’d let anybody with a pulse drive these days!

To be fair… Aikiko was a year older than Ruki – although Ruki’s denim blue jean short shorts, black tank top under a blue jeanvest with a under-slung set of pistol holsters did tend to produce the impression of “underage gun moll”. Of course, Aikiko’s cargo shorts, hoodie worn over a T-shirt, sneakers, and complete lack of weapons didn’t impress Ruki either.

Aikiko took a moment to check the area. It looked like she was out of the Wyld zones – but there was definitely a fey undertone here, along with some rather benign geomancy – reducing aging and speeding healing. She was familiar enough with THAT one to recognize it easily!

(Ruki) “So then…, what’s got your panties in such a wad that you’re driving faster than any drug runner I’ve ever seen?

(Aikiko) “Drug-runnner? (Well, she had looked pretty out of it for a moment there!) I’m looking into some rumors I heard about this place.”

Huh…. the Geomancy was obviously a manse-aura – but it was coming out of nowhere instead of radiating from a manse… somebody had hidden their Manse very well, but the resort wasn’t the Manse.

(Ruki, rather irrelevantly) “Yeah, the guys here wear skirts as well as the chicks.”

(Aikiko, absently) “”Uh… you mean kilts? Yeah, they do that… Same thing, really. I guess they call it something else because a man’s wearing it.”

(Ruki) “What kinda rumors you hear about then?”

(Aikiko) “I don’t want to talk about it in the parking lot; somebody might overhear. Maybe in your room?”

(Ruki) “ I just got here, so I ain’t got no room or anything “

Aikiko looked around… it was a resort; there were lots of paths and walkways and quiet places… She set up a privacy ward in a nice garden.

(Aikiko) “Okay, how much do you know about the supernatural?”

Oh great, some sorta traditionalist nutjob. Sure, there was luck, and some of those psychics occasionally seemed to have a bit of information that they shouldn’t, and she’d seen some weird stuff recently – but there HAD to be a sensible explanation! Even if she got the odd feeling that the lunatic girl was doing SOMETHING effective…

(Ruki, shrugging a little bit) “Right, so what the hell are you doing then?”

(Aikiko) “I’m setting up a privacy ward, so that people will have a harder time hearing what we’re saying.”

Sadly, another short session…

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