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Thunder King

Lord Steam and the Clockwork Assassins (IC)

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GM

Friday, June 15th

9:35 PM

Two officers stood around a dead body below a modern office building. The face of the building was marred with a massive hole in one of the windows.

Several floors above, lay the body of Jameson Smith, slumped against the wall. There were no visible wounds on him, he was just...dead.

"That's not human..." A third officer said, walking up to the body. He was detective Wayne Brodzki, FCPD. "Looks like some sorta...robot, but I can't make sense of that stuff."

The other officers concurred. The body was obviously not human.

Two hours later, a consultant from one of the robotics research and development divisions was shaking his head.

"Never seen anything like it." He said.

Brodzki raised an eyebrow. "Thought you knew about robots..."

The other man nodded. "Well, I do, it's just...it's not one of ours, and frankly, the parts are all wrong. This looks ancient, like...from another time." Suddenly his eyes opened wider. "Or another world...okay, I know who you can contact."

"Who?" Brodzki asked. "I don't want to bring too many people in here, could cause publicity, and that..."

"Don't worry, he'll be discreet. He's called Lord Steam..."

Several hours later, in the early hours of the morning, the doorbell at the Steam Mansion rang...

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"Good evening Gentlemen!" said Lord Steam, enthusiastically as Blakely opened the door.

He was dressed in a smoking jacket and slippers, holding a book on American History in his hand (supposing he should get to grips with the basics of this curious dimension) and had been relaxing with a glass of port that was still in his hand.

"Port for the gentlemen. And bring out some of that marvellous Stilton you managed to procure, Blakely, there's a good fellow!" he said to his butler.

"Now then, sirs, please do make yourself at home. The Stilton is excellent and at a quite suitable temperature. Please help yourself. The port is also of suitable vintage and makes an excellent combination..." he whittered, bringing them into the reception room where he sat himself down behind a large bookcase, and offered seats to his guests.

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GM

One of the men instantly looked as though he was about to say something he'd regret.

"Sorry Sir, on duty, can't drink." He said with a smile. The other man nodded, with the same degree of regret.

"Hi, I'm officer Jones, this is officer Montoya. We're sorry to bother you at this early hour, but there's been a murder. The killer seems to have been some sort of...robot. The other consultant we found said he couldn't make heads or tails of it, but he said it might be right up your alley."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a photograph.

The picture contained gears and other miscellaneous contraptions, laid out as evidence for a crime.

"We could really use your help, Sir. Especially if this stuff is from your world."

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Lord Steam raised an eyebrow.

"It does look remarkably like the technology of my dimension" he concurred, sifting through the photographs carefully but speedily.

Most interesting. Our technologies do not often transport over very well between dimensions. Somebody has been extremely clever. And, unfortunately, the person who knows most about transporting over such technologies and building them...

...is me.

He would have taken the job anyway, but the prospect of being prime suspect gave him added impetus. His diplomatic immunity would spare him from prison, but not from humiliation and ejection.

"My help, such as its...and it is considerable, is at your disposal" he said, standing up swiftly and giving a most elegant bow.

"No time to waste! Blakely, get Singh up and the car started. Then get my bag of tools. I shall get my hat!"

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GM

Less than an hour later, and Lord Steam was presented with the disassembled clockwork device. It was skillfully wrought, and, indeed, looked like it could have been from his world.

"This thing has our men stumped. We called an expert on robotics, but, he directed us to you." The man that spoke was in his early 40s, with slightly graying hair. He was a reasonably good looking guy, but it was clear that the job had worn him down a bit.

"Detective Wayne Brodzki." The man said, nodding to Lord Steam. "I appreciate you coming down like this. It's not exactly something we're used to dealing with. Normally, we would have tried to figure it out on our own, or contacted other people but..."

He sighed and looked down.

"What I have to say is in strictest confidence, I hope you know better than to try to tell anyone about the case. This is very sensitive information..." He paused. "This isn't the first victim, and we're afraid it might not be the last. Two men dead within a month. Both by poison, both injections, both wealthy professionals. We don't know if there will be more deaths, but, we can't afford to sit on this case for much longer."

"So, is this tech from your world?" He asked.

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"Two deaths?" queried Lord Steam as he sat on his haunches to inspect the Robot.

Certainly looks like one of ours... he thought on first impressions. But he relied just as much on second or third impressions in his line of work.

"Pray tell, do explain" he asked Brodzki.

"You can rely on my discretion on the matter. As, I hope, I can rely on yours. This is, I am afraid, a politically sensitive matter. This technology certainly appears very similar to that of my own dimension. And that, I am sure you will understand, is political. I don't think we are talking an inter-dimensional war just yet" he said with a smile "but nevertheless, I would rather avoid any tensions. In any case, appearances can be deceptive, as I ams sure you know. "

He peered a little closer.

"Some of these materials are, I believe, from this dimension, for instance. What we have here is a hybrid..."

"Very political" he concluded, standing up and brushing himself off.

He started to examine the immediate area with his usual thoroughness.

"Now then tell me about the other two deaths...and this robot. What is the story?"

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Brodzki nodded in understanding. This could be a very bad thing if someone from Lord Steam's home dimension were actually involved.

"See, from what we can gather, both victims were injected with a slow-acting lethal poison. The second victim, however, managed to trip the robot and it ended up falling out of the window and onto the ground below. That's how we found it, broken to pieces. We're not sure, but we think there could be more victims. Both victims were wealthy investment experts. We haven't found any connections between the two of them, but if you want to help, you're free to. Any help we can get is appreciated.

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Lord Steam straightened up and tapped his silver-tipped cane against his chin.

"A difficult problem indeed. A slow acting poison, presumably delivered by these automatons. These clockwork assassins. Nobody would be any the wiser...."

"Gentleman, I smell a mystery. And any mystery is one I love to sink my teeth into. The fact that I am presented with the most unusual of circumstances, and the possibility of politics, just makes this all the more vital. After all, I am officially a diplomat...."

"I think we should start with the body, if I could examine it...in the mean time, I will have to see if I can find any background information on the two known victims. Not that you fine gentlemen are not capable of course, it just I like to take a good look myself, if you would be so kind...."

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"Not a problem." Brodzki said, nodding. "I don't know if you'll spot anything our guys didn't, but, more people ain't a bad thing. I trust you know how to handle a crime scene. This is an unusual investigation, requires unusual help, you know?"

He turned to walk away.

"Oh, one more thing..." He pulled out a piece of paper and wrote something down. "My number, in case you figure something out. But, understand, we'd like to keep at least one officer around you at all times, to help you with official police business should you need something. Like if we need a warrant, having an officer as an escort could make sure you get into all the right places."

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"Of course!" replied Lord Steam.

"That's politics!"

Later, at Steam Manor...

Phone calls had been made, favours called in, and on more than a few occasions, money had passed hands. Lord Steam had cast the net wide in order to find any connection between the men.

And he hadn't, he conceded, come up with much.

The best he could do was that they had attended the same diner. Not much to go on, he admitted to himself, but it was the best he had.

What else? youngish men, in the prime of their life, wealthy....and a nightstick.

A few pieces of the jigsaw, but nothing clear yet.

The nightstick, he conceded to himself, was worrying. If this was political then all sorts of subtleties could be at work. Where the police involved? why had they asked him? was he being set up? it was not likely, he thought to himself, but he best been on his guard.

"Blakely, see if you can round up my diary, and witnesses for the murder times, just to be on the safe side. I want some alibi's if this starts going rotten. And better telegram them over to M, just to be double sure..."

"Very good sir!" replied his effectual butler.

He took up his copper plated archiac telephone and dialed Brodski's number.

"Brodski? is that you? ah yes. Steam here. Look, been a bit of a hoo-hah trying to piece this together. Best I got is a diner both men frequented. I am going to pop over there now. GIven our last conversation, could you send someone to meet me from your force? mmmmwah...ideallly yourself, given how splendid you have been...."

He took out his Lockwood special, his own design, a steam powered revolver, and tucked it away in his overcoat. Just to be on the safe side.

"Singh, get Bessie running, we are going for a ride..." he commanded his chauffeur.

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GM

There was an officer already there, dressed in his uniform, waiting for Lord Steam to arrive.

"Hello Sir, my name is Officer Jennings, I'll be your...escort in all of this." He said, extending his hand to shake Lord Steam's.

It was a fairly upscale diner, located not that far from the place of business the man died in. It catered, primarily, to professionals in the area. All in all, it was meant for quick, hearty lunches for a decent price.

Standing in front of Lord Steam was a woman of around thirty five to forty years old. It was obvious to anyone who saw that she was quite shocked to see a man like Lord Steam enter her establishment.

"Hello, um, can I help you Sir?"

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"Ah yes Madam! you may just be able to!" smiled Lord Steam brightly, sitting himself down by a table.

He took a quick look at the menu and decided on something to eat.

"I'll have the steak, rare, peppercorn sauce, with all the greens you can thrown on the plate, crisp and al dante!" he said, opting for something inoffensive and what he hoped would be a safe bet. His tounge had been used to the top class food of his Manor, as well as the finest restaurants of Freedom City. The Diner would no doubt be a few notches behind that, but it looked reasonable none the less.

"My friend here will have the same" he motioned to Jennings.

"And a glass of Pinot Nior to wash it down with" he said, snapping the wine menu shut.

"Do take a seat Jennings, and try not to look so conspicious!" he smiled, speaking in a more hushed tone.

"Before making inquiries, lets see what we can observe from the place...upmarket food, professional clientele, prices reasonable...maybe their food and wine will give us a clue too....and what can we observe from the staff, and the customers, and the service?" he asked, scanning the place with his expert eye.

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GM

Jennings merely blinked, and sat down. He was doing his best to stay calm. He figured that if this Lord Steam guy was paying, why not let him? Worse comes to worse, he could try to get his money back from this work related lunch.

"Well, Sir..." Jennings said. "Everyone around us is in suits,the customers, that is. No one is in anything but busness attire." He said.

Lord Steam's critical eye spotted not just that, but also the fact that a group of people walked in, five strong, and were immediately directed to a specific table near the back. Almost as if they came here so regularly they had a set spot.

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"That particular group over there look rather interesting. Regulars, same table, habitual..." he noted, pretending to inspect a fork.

"Not silver...most dissapointing...." he mumbled, placing the fork neatly back in its allotted position.

He nodded appreciatively to the waitress bringing his wine, and gave it a good sniff and taste in an expert manner.

"Most adequate!" he concluded, giving a polite insult. "Unwooded, and freshly opened?" he asked, before putting the bottle on the table.

"Let's let it breathe a while then...oh and miss, I don't suppose you could tell me who those men are over there?" he asked, nodding inconspicously over to the group of men.

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GM

She smiled. "Oh, that batch is a bunch of regulars. They've been coming here over a year, once a week, like clockwork. Funny, there are normally more of them. Ah, well, maybe the other two are sick..." She said.

"Care for anything else while I'm at it?"

"Coffee, please?" Jennings asked.

"Right away, sir." She said, smiling, walking towards the back to fetch a fresh cup.

The group of regulars, however, were all sitting and talking in hushed, quiet tones, looking somewhat somber. One of them had his head in his hands, as if upset about something, something big.

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"Two sick, eh?"

"Very sick I imagine" he said, catching Jennings eye.

He gave thanks to the waitress as she brought over his meal. He tucked in, too absorbed with the group of men to make much comment on the average quality of the steak this time.

"Now, we just need to find out what that group of men are all about" he said, keeping one eye peeled on said consortium at all time.

"Waitress, send over a bottle of this Pinot Nior!" he said, choosing the most expensive wine on the menu "with my condolences!" he explained.

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GM

"Yes Sir..." She said. A few minutes later, a bottle of wine arrived at the other table. The five people looked up, and spotted Lord Steam. One of them stood up and walked towards Lord Steam and Jennings.

"Excuse me, but, what's that about?" He said, pointing to the table with the bottle of wine. "Who are you, what do you mean, 'condolences'?" He backed up. "What do you know..." The last phrase was almost in a whisper. He looked terrified suddenly, as if Death itself had come to him in the form of a gentleman who had just ordered wine.

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"Delighted to meet you too" answered Lord Steam smoothly, not getting up, but dabbing his chin with his napkin.

"My name is Lord Lockwood. I noticed you are two men down. I deduced from your verbal tones, your posture, the lateral deviation of your eye movements during heightened stress-points in key phrases, and the involuntary transient tension of your peri-orbital musculature that you had been bereaved, and where under considerable stress. The young lady waitress informed me that your group was normally seven, but now is five. "

He put down his napkin carefully, studying the man.

"I wished to lighten your spirits, with spirits ahahahaha" he laughed gently at his feeble joke.

"It is an excellent vintage, I assure you. But perhaps you are possessed of a deeper fear, yes? fear for your own life? I would be delighted to render assistance if you would care to unburden yourself...."

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GM

"Look, um, I don't know who you are, or what you're talking about."

Jennings looked up and subtly flashed his badge.

"Oh, so, you guys are cops?"

"I am, he's working with us on this." Jennings said.

The man looked a bit relieved. "Okay, um, I'll talk to my friends, and can we meet somewhere a bit more, um, private? Discreet? We'll tell you everything, I promise. Just not here, please."

It was then that the others noticed he was talking to Lord Steam. They all whispered to one another in hushed tones, obviously afraid and worried.

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"Well done Jennings" said Steam, patting down his chin and finishing off his wine.

"I really must get one of those" he added, pointing at the Police badge. "They seem delightfully useful in this dimension. Back home, a top hat and a monocle do the job..."

He brought out his monocle and gave it a little polish to make his point, before placing it back in his waistcoat.

He kept one eye on the group of men, observing them carefully.

"Were can we meet safely then, Jennings? You know this city better than I, of that I have no doubt. All its nooks and crannies, its atmosphere. The park always seemed rather delightful at this time of year..."

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GM

"The park sounds good, I know just the one..." Jennings said, pulling out a small piece of paper and writing something down.

The other man nodded "Okay, meet you there in two hours?"

"If my friend here doesn't object, that sounds good." Jennings said with a nod.

The man walked back to the table and he and his friends began talking in hushed tones. It was obvious that they were talking about Jennings and Lockwood, probably discussing the meeting. They all looked scared, and very nervous. Worried about what would happen next...

Two Hours Later

The five individuals were all nervously huddled together. The one who had approached Lockwood spoke up first.

"See, we're all people from local businesses. We all met at the diner about two years ago, and we just started going there regularly, becoming friends and whatnot. Well, it wasn't long before we began to give each other stock and investment advice. Nothing illegal, but you know, helping out friends. Well, one of the guys who...well...he came to us talking about some very high quality imported goods. Again, all legal. It was some electronics and mechanical components, rare stuff, really high tech. he said the guy was trying to get some of the local tech companies to manufacture the parts. Well, we got a tech guy to look at the schematics, and he seemed really excited. Well, this guy apparently needed a way to ship the prototypes here and store them, and had no idea how to do that. So we got together, pooled our money, and helped the guy rent a space. We had a contract and everything, it was all honest and legal. We even got paid really well. Then the guy started acting weird, asking how much we knew was going on. We didn't know anything but...that's when John disappeared. And then recently, Frank was found dead. We think that guy tricked us into importing something illegal and dangerous, and is trying to get rid of us."

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Steam lit a cigarillo whilst listening to the man, nodding in encouragement, and pondering the matter.

When the man finished, he removed the cigarillo and exhaled in a smooth long puff. He leaned precariously on his cane, swaying slightly.

The technology of this dimension was sufficiently different to his own that he was often at a disadvantage. Whilst he was a genius with mechanical contraptions of all sorts, the world of computers and electronics was grey and shadowy.

"I see...very helpful, and, if I may say so, concerning. Gentlemen, I would concur with your assessment of the situation and advise you to take all due precautions whilst we try to unravel this mystery and stem the threat at the source. Which we will do with all haste and expediency!"

He nodded at Jennings, hopeful he would concur.

"So, to penetrate this conundrum, we need leads" he continued, turning back to the man who had spoken to him "it would seem that your business, whatever it is, has landed you in this predicament. Perhaps the first port of call would be base you rented for Mr. John. And if I could peruse the schematics you have, that would also be most helpful..."

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GM

"We don't have the schematics, unfortunately, John carried them around and we think the guy who killed him took them." He said. "But we do have an address for the place he stored the stuff." He handed Lord Steam a small piece of paper.

"One more thing, we're willing to cooperate, but we're scared of the guy, I mean, I don't know what happened to our friends, but they're probably dead. We want police protection, please? For our families, too?"

Jennings nodded. "Give us your addresses and we'll send some officers to pick your families up. We'll protect you until this all blows over.

Jennings glanced at the paper and looked at Lucien. "I think it's best we call in a few officers to do a thorough search of the area. We can canvass a lot of property, but if someone's moving dangerous technology around and there's a murder conspiracy, we need to search the area faster than two people can. What do you think?"

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"Very good" agreed Lord Steam, glad of any help.

"If you would permit me, and wish it, I can call in some help of my own..." he answered back. "My house staff are most able, and suitably diplomatic. I trained them myself. If we have ground to cover, and need more boots on the ground, I am sure they can help..."

He studied the address they have been given.

"It strikes me that these men are indeed in danger. Quite possibly very serious danger. The sooner we conclude this mystery, the better. They have been bold to talk, but it does place them in increased peril. If you wish, my staff and I can accomodate them at my Manor. It is staffed, and safe, although, the truth be told, it is highly conspicuous. A secret identity and concealed location may be more prudent..."

"Then, let us make haste to this address!" he said, pointing at the address. "And see what mysteries we can unravel!"

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GM

Jennings nodded. "Your staff is fine to help search, but once it becomes an actual crime scene, they have to leave. If they stick around we risk contamination of evidence. We have some safe-houses we can put them in, though I'm sure they appreciate the offer."

He pulled out his phone and began to make a few calls. First to the police with a list of addresses for pick up. "You'll be with your families shortly." He said to the worried people. The second call he made was to the office of Detective Brodzki, to inform him of what they had discovered.

"Brodzki's going to meet us there." He said.

An Hour Later

"Well, Sir, looks like an interesting place." Jennings said to Brodzki.

"Alright, Lord Steam." Brodzki said. "Shall we?"

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