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Cold Cold War

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GM

 

Monday 12th August, 2013

 

Freedom City Airport..late morning...

 

Agent Cord checked his watch, standing by the small single prop plane in the airport. UNISON was not the best resources agency in the world, or the States, but it could stretch to chartering the flight to Canada. Not that it would, by his estimation, be a particularly easy or comfortable ride. 

 

He was a man of slim and slightly short build, probably in his early forties, but still fit. He was a totally average black suit, a totally average white short, and a totally average black tie. His brown hair was cut short, and his features rather unremarkable. His eyes were hidden behind some mirror shades. In his left hand, an unremarkable suitcase. 

 

The observant would, perhaps, notice a small bulge in his left armpit. 

 

Agent Cord didn't really approved of using minors in UNISON's operations, but there was no doubt from the resume. The Blue Jay character had some particular skill sets they could use right now. Her history had embedded her with unparalleled tracking skills. A few other specialists in the world would come close, he judged, but they were both expensive to hire, and would not necessarily have Blue Jay's other skills. 

 

He wasn't expecting trouble, but on the other hand, he was paid to expect the unexpected. 

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Tona Baudin was having a strange day. She had been dreading the beginning of the week and the resumption of her summer school classes, even as they were winding down and she was preparing to reenter the regular school year. However she had been called into the Headmaster's office quite suddenly and asked if she wanted to go to Canada.

She had packed light for the trip, and one of the senior students walked her through the airport and, interestingly, around the long lines of security. She had watched a few television shows dealing with airports, and long lines as security seemed pretty universal, so it was odd that she was completely bypassing all of that.

Before long those thoughts were chased from her mind, as she stepped out on the tarmac and watched a huge plane, seeming bigger than the whole of Claremont Academy, roll down the runway and speed up, straining for flight. She braced for a crash, but at what seemed the last possible moment the huge metal craft lost contact with the ground and floated away, its slow grace belying the impossibility of it all.

Tona adjusted the straps of the bulging backpack she wore and tightened her grip on her rolling suitcase. The fact that she was supposed to sit in something like that was going to be scarier than anything else she was supposed to do in Canada, she was certain of it.

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GM

 

"I hope you like flying" said Agent Cord, offering Jay his hand. 

 

"My name is Agent Cord, from UNISON" he said, giving a modest smile and a firm handshake. "I understand you are Blue Jay. I have a UNISON dossier on you. And, in case you are wondering, I have read it..." he said, making sure nobody was in earshot. It was a safe presumption. The airport runway was noisy and there was nobody about. 

 

Cord gestured to the plane they were using. It was small twin prop plane. It looked in good shape, but it was not a luxury flight by any means". 

 

"Just us and the pilot. And a generous amount of leg room. Best get started, its a four hour flight in this baby. And we don't have any in flight entertainment or air stewardesses with salmon sandwiches" he smiled. Cord was a professional type of guy, not used to, or needing, luxurious transportation. 

 

Without further ado, he mounted the plane and beckoned Tona in, as the engines started firing up with a satisfying grumble. 

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Now Tona was having a bad day. She planted her feet and crossed her arms, making an annoyed noise in her throat. She glared at the airplane like it was insulting her mother. "Do we have to?" She was deeply suspicious of anything that traveled faster than her own feet could carry her, but air travel was something she would never get used it. Running down a field so fast you held out your arms and left the ground seemed like something that should send all sane people running. "They do have trains that go to Canada, I think." Trains were still crazy, but they were a different kind of crazy. At least trains ran on set paths, they didn't wander all over everywhere like cars did.

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GM

Cord, despie himself, gave a chuckle.

"You know, I'm pretty sure they do. Real trains that go on rail tracks and everything. It's just that UNISON hired this here plane, and this here pilot. And air travel is a heck of a lot faster, except perhaps in Tokyo. But Japan is for another day, kid" he smiled.

He gave another look at his watch.

"Every hour is another hour the trail goes cold. I heard you can track nearly anything, but the clock is ticking here. And it's time to get on board. Such are the perils and trials of an agent of UNISON, my friend. Which, incidentally, you are for the duration of our little excursion!" he added, with encouragement.

"He'll, if I knew you were going to chicken out, I could have brought some sleeping gas or something!"

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Cord's last statement stung her pride, though Tona did her best not to show it. She did climb the stairs into the plane after him, though her body language was still closed off and turned in. The interior of the plane was well-appointed, with upholstered floors and large chairs to sit in. It was still small, though, with the space confined by the hull of the airplane.

She took a seat and peered out the small window, watching planes in various states of readiness and ground crews scurrying across the tarmac. She set one bag down by her feet, but kept her backpack on. Though her eyes were wide and staring out the window, she affected a bored, almost distracted tone with the UNISON agent. She wasn't sure how well she managed to hide her fear. "I can track anything you can find. It doesn't matter how cold the trail is. If there was a trail once, I'll find it again."

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GM

 

Midflight

 

The day was drawing into the evening but as they headed north, to bright and long summer day's, there was no diminishing of light. 

 

"So" said Cord, placing a neat and slim folder onto the table infront of Blue Jay. 

 

"Our mystery man is Matt Golding. Straight up regular guy. Worked twenty years in Insurance Law. Wife, two kids, and a dog named Rex. You couldn't really have asked for a more regular guy..." he said, pressing his fingers together. 

 

"If you ask me, suspiciously regular. We got one citation for car parking fine twelve years ago. Other than that, he is clean as a whistle. Pretty good going for twenty years, even for a smart lawyer"

 

"So why are UNISON involved?" he said, asking the obvious question, before pushing a sereis of black and white photo's to Jay. 

 

They showed a demolished house. A demolished street. 

 

"Four days ago, he exploded. Witnessed exploding. Destroyed his own house. We managed to confirm the story. The witness is still in Intensive Care. The guy is like a living, breathing, ball of TNT. Never seen anything like it in all more years..." he said. 

 

"Then, the guy disappeared. Like a ghost. We just about managed to track him down to Canada. Courtesy of two massive holes and a few smoking cars on the highways up there. But I gotta say, this guy has got the smarts. His trail is cold..."

 

"Other than that, we got zip. We don't know what he can do, we don't know why he is running. Psych profile tells us nothing, they think he might be running to an unpopulated area for safety. Not his. But those around him, like his family. Of course, who knows what the safe distance is..." he frowned. 

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Tona flipped through the folder, focusing on the words and images inside to distract herself from the distinct feeling of being way, way too high in the air moving way, way too fast. "So this guy... blows up." She frowned at the picture of the devastated street. She shook her head. "If he's heading away from people, he isn't dangerous to anyone else. So why do you want me to find him?" She sat back and glared at Cord. "It sounds like you want me to get really close to a guy who can blow himself up and not get hurt. I'm not the same way."

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GM

 

"That's a fair point" conceded Cord. "As I matter of fact, neither am I. Suicide missions aren't part of the job" he explained. 

 

"However, here is the fly in the ointment" he explained, showing Jay the photographs again. 

 

"Our guys have examined the three explosions to date. Calculating tonnage and radius size is not a precise science, you understand. But even if you study the photographs for a minute...."

 

Cord was right. Even to the untrained eye...

 

"They are getting bigger. Mr. Golding has indeed done us a favour by moving to the wilderness of the Northern  tundra forests. In so far as his potential to cause death and destruction is limited. On the other hand, he would have done us far more of a favour if he came to us."

 

"How much more powerful are these explosions going to get? How quickly? Is there even, in fact, a limit at all?" he said, posing serious questions. 

 

"Hence you see why we can't leave this one alone. So we need to find him. And, if necessary, subdue him. Your bag of tricks - your arrows - could certainly come in handy there. But I emphasise we don't want to kill him, we want, if possible to talk to him, and see if we can't work out a solution for everybody..."

 

He packed the files away in his bag. 

 

"And, as you say, it would be prudent to stay away from him. I'll buy a megaphone when we land..." he said with a chuckle "..which won't be long now..."

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GM

 

An hour or two later...

 

...Breakwood, North Canada

 

The tiny airstrip the plane landed on was enough to give even Agent Cord pause for thought, but the pilot was used to such difficulties and the landing was uneventful. 

 

Breakwood was a tiny northern settlement, more like a village than anything else. This far north, with almost perpetual summer sunlight and a frigid atmosphere despite the sun, not many came, and not many stayed. 

 

Cord rented a four by four pick up truck which was waiting there, and was greeted by two men. 

 

The first, Captain Mike Torson, was a stout man, the local police officer, with a great big ginger beard and equally red hair. He looked like a medieval viking full of humour and solid strength. 

 

The second was an older man, probably in his sixties, with a grey beard and a heart still full of vigour. He was still strong and fit. Karl Oxbane was his name, a Canadian from further south who had just arrived himself. 

 

"Karl here is one of the best damn hunters I know of" he said, smiling as he shook Cords hand. "Comes up here every month, and knows the lands like the back of his hand..." he said enthusiastically. 

 

"Like I know the back of my hand at all?" said Karl with a modest smile. 

 

"But look", the old man said "Mike here told me about you guys, trying to find some runaway guy who you think might be looking for a cold death in the mountains. I know you got your own expert..." he said indicating Jay, raising his bushy eyebrows at the youth's age. "But I'd be happy to help, even if its giving you my tent and supplies..."

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Tona was at the edge of her seat for most of the flight, but as the plane started to descend she sat as deeply in the cushioned chair as she could, squeezing her eyes shut and trying to ignore her inner ear as it told her they were screaming towards the ground. By the time they touched down she was grey-faced, and her grip on the armrests would surely have ripped them off if she had more than human strength. As it was, it took her several seconds of deep breathing once the plane was completely still for her to open her eyes and stand up.

She collected her things and made her wobbly way down the stairs, still feeling queasy from the quick plane ride. She breathed a sigh of relief as she finally touched solid ground, coloring returning slowly to her. "I brought everything I need," she said, doing her best to ignore the looks of the two older man. "And if I couldn't find what I needed out there, I wouldn't be much of a hunter, would I?"

She did a double take at the man in a uniform with a bushy beard. Something seemed... off about him. His tone was cold and flat, like he was reading lines off a page rather than speaking and engaging with the people in front of him.

Edited by Raveled

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GM

 

"I guess not" said Captain Torson, frowning slowly. To Jay, his eyes seemed slightly unfocussed, his words a little slow and ponderous. It was a subtle effect, but disconcerting once perceived. 

 

"Still, the offer is there. Whatever we can do to help..."

 

His companion, the elderly hunter Oxbane, merely frowned and looked away. 

 

Agent Cord stepped in, cool and diplomatic. 

 

"We appreciate your help...any help. I guess my office rang you, Captain Torson? We are trying to find a Mr. Matt Golding...we know he was heading into this town a few days ago..."

 

Captain Torson, again slowly, scratched behind his ear. 

 

"Yeah, I asked around. The whole town pretty much knows everything that goes on round here. Your Man arrived two days ago. Only one who did. We are too darn cold for many visitors, you know, bar some hunters and climbers. And your man didn't look like either. Checked into our local bed and breakfast for one night, and one night only. Then he bought up a load of food, camping gear, the like, from our store and headed off in a rented car. Just like your one over there..." he said, indicating the 4x4 pick up that Cord held the keys too. 

 

"Thanks Captain, we will take it from here. Hopefully it wont be long before we can catch this man. I emphasise that he is dangerous. Please do not approach him, and I must ask you refrain from using any force on him if he is seen, lethal or otherwise. We want to avoid a tragedy here..."

 

Oxbane and Captain Torston shook hands with Cord and offered their hands to Jay. 

 

"Well, your the tracker...where do we go from here?" asked Cord to Jay. 

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Tona shook Oxbane's hand briefly, but barely touched fingers with Torston. She tried not to let her suspicions show on her face, but she wasn't very experienced at hiding her emotions or reactions. In just a few minutes, the gear from the plane was transferred over to the 4x4, and Tona had donned a well-worn parka, care of the older hunter. "We should follow Golding's trail," she said. "Find whatever road he took out of town, and follow that."

As they drove through the town, Tona took an item from her rucksack. It was more than a simple domino mask; it has an extended, sharp nasal part that invoked a beak. She began fiddling with the controls as Cord drove. "That police officer," she said. "There is something... wrong with him."

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GM

 

The "Town" barely amounted to few dozen buildings. A store, a tiny police station, a bed and breakfast, and some residences. The tiny settlements only real industry was hunting and climbing - a base for the infrequent visitors. It certainly didn't take long to drive out, and it didn't take long to hit rough terrain where the four wheel drive came in handy. 

 

"There was?" answered Cane, frowning. "I didn't notice it myself..." he said, irritated at his own performance.

 

"It pays to be alert. Good work" he said to the youngster. "Although I don't know if we should act on it. Keep your eyes peeled..." 

 

Cord was a good driver but the track was getting rougher and rougher, leading up to the mountains. 

 

"So, I guess we are going to run out of road..." he said, killing the engine. He was dressed up in arctic clothing himself, although he kept his pistol and taser in easy reach. 

 

"This is where you come in, kid. Time to show off those skills..."

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Tona leapt from the truck, quite happy to be traversing on her own two feet again. She zipped the jacket up to her chin, but she was only wearing jeans and hiking boots; if she didn't find Golding in a couple of days, she'd have to make camp and send in for warmer clothes.

She pushed the mask into a pocket and slung her rucksack over her shoulders. It was simplicity itself to find Golding's foot path, and the light brush and snow made it child's play to follow. She moved swiftly over the terrain, happy to be in a place that reminded her so much of home (albeit without the red sky and burning Nilhor) even if the cold did burn her exposed skin.

Some miles down the trail, Tona stopped. When Cord caught up, she pointed at the ground, at a sudden profusion of footsteps. "More tracks," she said, squatting down next to them. "Four people. Men, I'd say. Heavyset, wearing boots. They're moving at a good clip, following Goldman's trail." She twisted her neck to look back at Cord. "Are you sure UNISON is the only one looking for him?"

Further down the trail was a 4x4, presumably the one their quarry had rented. It wasn't hard to guess why he had abandoned; the trail aside, it had been driven into a tree, and even Tona could tell that it wasn't in any condition to be driven any further. "Looks like he had an accident," she said dryly, approaching the vehicle and peering inside. She looked closely for signs of blood or a torn seat, something to indicate Goldman had been more than bruised in the crash. If he had broken a leg, he could be dead by now...

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Cord examined the wreck with a forensic eye. He looked pleased that he could help, investigation was more like home territory for him.

The car wasn't badly damaged, the engine even started, but gave a jarring whirring noise indicating trauma rather than function.

There were all the signs of Goldman being in the car, and taking a least some supplies and equipment. Jay even found traces of what was presumably his hair.

"We'll we should press on" said Cord, hugging himself in the cold.

"I don't know of any one else after our man, but from what you say this may be turning into a chase rather than a hunt. Perhaps we should have brought more men, but it looks like we are on the clock, and it's falling on all us..."

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Tona made a noise in her throat at the suggestion of more searchers. "No more," she said. She stood and scanned the forest, sharp eyes piercing through the weather. "Would just slow us down." There was more than a little arrogance in the statement, but also truth. The pair could hardly wait for more UNISON agents or local troops to get to the town and catch up to them, and Tona wasn't inclined to trust the locals after the display by the sheriff.

The snow did worry her, though. She stole a sideways glance at Cord. "Getting tired," she asked, looking for the tracks again. "We could look for a cave, or a big tree to make camp under."

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GM

 

"That's a good idea..." said Cord, stamping his feet and hugging himself. A light snow was falling - fortunately without a wind, but still...it could get damp. 

 

"I'm cold, I'm tired. And so is our quarry, I bet. I don't want him freezing to death. But then, I don't want us freezing to death either. I don't want anybody freezing to death..." he explained. 

 

He looked up at the crystal clear sky. A refreshing change from Freedom City. This far north, you realised what clean air was. And what dirt clogged up Freedom City. Any City, come to that. 

 

"We wont get much darkness this far north, at this time of summer. A fire would be good though, just to warm the bones..."

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"Fire can also be seen," Tona pointed out. "Rule of thumb, a light can be seen from twice as far away as it helps you to see." She looked up at the sky, frowning into the storm. "We could do something, though." The archer cast about for a bit, and eventually called Cord over to what looked like any other snowdrift. She plunged into the powder-dusted underbrush and quickly came out in a cave. There were a few ramshackle chairs scattered about and a broken table; in warmer months, this would be a very handy hideout for young children, but for now it served to keep them out of the cold.

Tona reached into her pocket and pulled out an LED flashlight, being careful to point it at the floor when she lit it. "No fire," she said, "but it's out of the wind." She stamped around, doing her best to stay warm. "No one should find us, even if they are looking for us." She was quiet for a moment before continuing. "So... do you hunt for people a lot, Agent Cord?"

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GM

 

Cord looked surprised as the cave was unveiled, and was glad of the comfort. 

 

"Yes, that's part of the job" he said, cautious about revealing to much. "Don't believe all the hype, madam. It's not all evil suits and conspiracies. Basically, we are the good guys. If we keep secrets, its to protect lives, not harm them". 

 

"Damn, its bitter outside here isn't it? I don't mind telling you, we don't get trained for this kind of stuff. That's where you come in, you see. What worries me is that Mr Matt Golding isn't trained or experienced like you are. I appreciate his motive, to keep from exploding in any populated area, but he is going to freeze to death out here before long..."

 

"...that's if somebody else doesn't get to him first. Who might be after him? SHADOW perhaps? Anyone, really. A guy packs that much firepower, people are going to come knocking..." he mused to himself. 

 

"Anyway, we aren't going to get anything done cold and tired. I suggest we get a few hours sleep and some food, then press on..."

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"Mr. Golding also can't kill with a look," Tona pointed out. "You have to forget what you think you know about him. If you keep treating him as an insurance agent, he might just kill you." She unshipped her pack and pulled out a thermal blanket, which she made sure to lay on a stretch of dry floor. "Make sure to get something between you and the ground, or you'll wake up cold and sore," she added.

She sat on the ground, glad for a moment to stretch. "So do you usually go into the wilderness to track people down?"

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"He is an insurance agent" said Cord, shaking his head. "But, as you say, he is something else too. A living time bomb, probably. And maybe something else..."

 

He lay down the thermal sheets and tried to make himself as comfortable as possible. It wasn't too bad, they had been well equipped. 

 

"And no, my job takes me everywhere. There is no usual to my job, madam. But I have to say, freezing my ass of this far north is pretty unusual even by my standards. I can see why nobody lives here, and why nobody runs here..." he mumbled, as he tried to get some sleep. 

 

A few hours later

 

Sleep had been fretful and not very restful, but at least it had come, and there had been time to have some food. Cord was looking progressively more haggard, cold and with a stubble growing. He was out of his comfort zone. He mechanically checked his tazer and his gun and hugged himself. 

 

"Damn I could use some hot coffee!" he whined. "But we best get going I guess?"

 

At this time of summer it was light already - only a few hours of night. 

 

"Lead the way madam, lead the way..."

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Breakfast was dry crackers and cheese and river water, and showers were a luxury Tona would have to wait until they got back to town for. Instead, she stretched and searched for more tracks. "Coffee's smelly," she said, examining the snowy ground. "Would mark us out from too far away." After a few minutes she had picked up Golding's trail again, and they were on their way once more.

The pair hiked through the snow, not speaking much, until Tona suddenly brought them up short. She squinted through the trees, trying to discern shapes moving through the trees ahead. Finally it all snapped into place and she could see them -- hunters, four of them. She bent close to Cord's ear, whispering to him. "Four men. Camo and rifles. Think they're part of the group we saw earlier." She glanced back down the path and continued. "I'm going to flank them. When one goes down, you hit them from behind."

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GM

 

Cord frowned deeply. "I dunno, taking orders from a kid" he muttered, as he brought up his gun and reflected on in a moment. "And I should have brought a damn hunting rifle..." he sighed. 

 

"Goes with the job" he concluded, before settling down into the light snow. The day was crisp and cold, with a very light snow falling, and little wind. Not perfect conditions for a hunt, but it could have been a lot worse, he reflected. 

 

The hunters themselves did not seem to have noticed Cord and Jay. They were on foot, and looked at least reasonably professional. The trail was not so cold now, their quarry not so fair away in this bleak but beautiful Canadian landscape. And the men seemed to have a mixture of excitement and anxiety about it. 

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Blue Jay left the path and left Cord behind, cutting through the underbrush far faster than she could have if she was still dragging the agent along. In no time at all she had flanked the rifle-toting group, and was drawing down on them. She had to hit the weapons right; the arrows didn't have much mass, and while they moved fast they still weren't much of an impact. She had to hit the tips of the barrels...

Four arrows sang through the air and struck four rifle tips, sending them spinning through the air. Jay let out a breath but stayed in her crouch. Next step was for Cord to get their attention.

Edited by Raveled

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