Tao Te Ching (Mitsu)

GEAR

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#1
Ka-chak.

With a rusty groan of metal, the floodlights sparked back into existence. Across the underground tunnel, mining equipment lay silent and dormant, hurriedly drawn to a halt and shunted aside, their once mighty tools now quiet.

"What do you make of it, Professor Fang?"

"Don't rush me."

"O-Oh. Sorry."

A pair of figures, clad in bleach-white hazmat suits, trod through the underground. One of them raised a large torchlight, bringing its beam across the earthy floors, and onto the rock ahead. Veins of jade marbled the rock, snarling into... a shape that hardly seemed to match the surrounding strata. No, this was man-made.

Carved into the heart of the rock, a gate of some kind, formed of pure Jadeite mineral, inlaid with streaks and hues of gold. Characters formed and flickered across its surface suggestively, before fading back into the patterned rock, as though it was never there. The center of the gate was open, like a slender maw - and within, only pitch blackness. Nobody had dared to tread into its depths, not since its discovery. The figure holding the torch made their way towards it, running a gloved hand across the characters, eyes narrowing in concentration.

"See these marks here?" - A woman's voice, stern and formal, stated as a finger was pointed towards the corners of the gate.

"This architecture dates back to the Qin Dynasty."

"How many years old?"

"Thousands."

The beam was brought back around, once more circumnavigating the exterior of the gate, as Professor Fang continued, thoughtfully.

"What I'd like to know is... What it's doing here?"

Cartagena Port City, Colombia
January 12th, OE 102
 
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Jun 14, 2018
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#2
As the plane touched down at the airport, Lunam Lumine watched out the window at the Columbian landscape. The blonde girl rummaged through her characteristic messenger-style bag while the plane taxied into the gate. "Okay. Passport, check. Identifying paperwork, check. Grandfather's camera, check. Directory-approved camera gear, check. Now it's time to start this investigation~!" The plane was small - one of those private corporate numbers that ferried around small groups of people as part of the jet-set elite - and while she missed the Huckebein's familiar cockpit this investigation required a more subtle approach.

Subtle. Lunam was going to be... The Boosted Child snorted to herself as she felt the plane come to a stop and popped her seat belt off. The petite young woman was less subtle and more of a 'take refuge in audacity' personality. But this was important to Hyperion. Failure was unacceptable. Besides the Directory would be distracted with the dozen other things that were going on throughout the Earth Sphere so as long as she kept her sassy perkiness to a dull roar she should be fine without her partner.

"Push comes to shove, I'll just Gundamjack someone. ..What is a 'Gundam', anyway? What a weird word. Eh, not important. Onwards, to glorious photos!" As the door popped open to let her out Lunam was in swift motion. Her dress swished to and fro as she fairly bounded off the plane and onto the tarmac with a triumphant attitude. The sunlight revealed her to have a rich green frock layered over a cream-white petticoat with black thigh-high socks. Her signature black mary janes made a loud shoe-noise as she skip-hopped off the last step as though to make her announcement of her presence to Columbia with authority.

"Now, where do I go from here?" The cargo - namely the Directory-approved camera equipment - was being unloaded behind her as she looked about for her next course of action, like someone waiting for her.
 

GEAR

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#3
El Dorado International Airport bristled with much the same energy it always had...

Well, except with less drugs. Terra Sentinel had seen to that, and replaced the cartels with the seemingly all-seeing eye of Hyperion. Lunam would doubtlessly have been briefed on the history of the nation, as well as the extensive efforts by her predecessors to clean it of crime, extortion, and filth in a protracted campaign that had lasted more than 20 years. Now, the forms of several Directory Huckebeins stood guard near the airport, ever vigilant - yet these too, were Terra Sentinel operatives.

In some sense, Lunam was home - South America was TS' back yard, and for good reason: The Directory had done little for the people of Colombia, but it was Hyperion who not only kept the lights on, but who put the fear of God into the former Cartels, coming in the night, leaving only bloody messages - instructions to his own followers, warnings, and enigmatic messages that to this day lay undeciphered - in his wake. But, perhaps such a thing was necessary, in a society that had suffered so much?

Regardless, as Lunam made her way into the terminal, there would at first glance appear to be nobody to greet her. Glancing about, however, she might have caught sight of a tall form, slouched at a waiting bench, leaning backwards. There was a sheet of paper draped over their features, and a cigarette dangled from their fingertips, as well as a long, red-leather coat - yet they made no move towards her.

The piece of paper on their face seemed to read, upon closer inspection:

"LUNAM"​
 
Jun 14, 2018
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#4
"Well, that's.. something." She wasn't exactly sure how to quantify this person who seemed to be slacking on the job waiting for her, but it was what it was. The petite blonde altered her aim to this person and rapidly crossed the terminal to the quick, rhythmic tktktktktktk of her polished black shoes as she scooted up to the greeter who was lazily sprawled over the seating. Reaching them she came to a halt and felt the bottom hem of her dress swish forward before settling back into position.

A period of awkward silence ensured as she stared at the person, her bright blue eyes taking in every detail as she rapidly processed the sight before her. The Boosted Child pursed her lips for a moment after the silence had dragged on for as long as she felt like letting it go before she spoke in a cheerful voice. "I'm Lunam Lumine, and you might wanna tend to that filthy cancer-stick before it singes your fingers..."
 

GEAR

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#5
"Zzz-Whowhat?"

At the sound of Lunam's voice, the seated individual bolted upright, the paper falling from their features in an undignified scramble. What Lunam was left with... was a surprisingly fresh-faced woman of Chinese descent, her hair tied back in a long bun, and her sharp features softened somewhat with the use of makeup. She cast about, searching for the owner of the voice, before settling on Lunam.

"...Cancer stick? Nrgh." - Her eyebrows gave an errant twitch of annoyance... But, with a sigh, she eventually relented, putting out the cigarette with a dejected look against the bench. After this blatant damaging of public property, she stood, and straightened with a yawn, stretching as she did so.

"You must be Lunam Lumine..." She said, waving a hand.

"Please, excuse me... I haven't had much sleep the past, say... Three days?"

Taking a moment to wipe it off against her coat, she extended a hand in greeting towards Lunam, giving a broad, albeit coffee-stained smile as she did so.

"Professor Fei Min Fang, Peking University. Nice to meet you."
 
Jun 14, 2018
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#6
Lunam shook the offered hand and gave her a small but polite smile back. She was careful not to squeeze too hard since she could probably break this woman's hand with a good flex. As the shake finished she withdrew her hand and clasped her hands in front of her left over right at her waist.

"You should sleep properly. I'm sure everything is exciting but it's easy to miss something if you're deprived. No sense in kicking yourself later over it, right?" The smile grew to a beaming one for a moment; a shining example of innocent concern that the professor would probably have wanted welding goggles to look directly at. For her own part, Lunam seemed to be contrasting the tired woman by almost imperceptibly vibrating in place; her personal penchant for going and doing itching in the small of her back to the point Professor Fang would be able to tell this petite young woman was a girl of action from the slightest glance.

"While we wait for them to load my forensic camera gear into our transportation, is there anything that I need to be aware of for this site? Lighting conditions, possible debris blocking angles, peculiarities of the site... Paparazzi?" The last word was suddenly hissed as the million giga-watt smile dimmed for as long as the syllables took to get out of her mouth. Lunam's professional pride was evident at the visible disgust with the word and those who rated it, and would brook no interference with her work from such vultures.

Right to business, this girl. A perfect match to both personality and cover story. She awaited the response with a polite quietness.
 

GEAR

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#7
Professor Fang's brow furrowed as Lunam shook her hand. There was that slight sense, almost imperceptible, that considerably less force was being applied than was otherwise possible. There was something about the young woman's grip that was... not ordinary. Yet, this moment of unexplained discomfort passed, and she instead listened to Lunam's inquiries, giving her a light pat on the back as she began to lead her through the throngs of the airport.

"No Paparazzi, no... Thank goodness. As far as the rest of the press knows, there was a viral outbreak. Doesn't exactly bring them out in crowds."

Fang reached for a cigarette, fumbled with the package - but then cast a glance aside at Lunam before placing it back in her pocket. Around the two, the crowds thronged about, going about their business - the Directory was a melting pot of various individuals, and all manner of languages were being spoken about them. Though it was a less common practice than it once was, the use of EOT-integrated translators had made understanding one another easier than ever before. Her hand waved about as she elbowed her way past a security checkpoint, waving credentials in a guard's face as she did so, talking all the while:

"There's an expansive media suite for you to make use of on site. I understand it wasn't cheap, so you'll be free to experiment as you so please."

The double doors of the airport swung open, and parked on the corner of the ahead road was a sleek sedan. A pair of attendants were busy grappling with Lunam's luggage, working it steadily into the trunk of the vehicle, as the Professor paused on the sidewalk, observing them with no small amount of amusement.

"Ultimately, the Directory just wants a better idea of what exactly we uncovered, and you're the gi... the woman for the job."
 
Jun 14, 2018
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#8
"Yes. Yes I am." There was a tone of pride in her tone as she nodded at the assessment. Watching the porters struggle with the luggage was a slight concern as Lunam was itching to get to the bottom of this assignment (and get some juicy intel!) but she stopped herself from going to help them or doing it herself. There was no sense in tipping her hand about her abilities at this juncture.

Her blue eyes darted to and fro as any professional photographer would have a penchant to do. Lunam was a person who valued knowing things, and currently she was searching for tails or anyone paying particular attention to them. So far, no one drew her ire. As she looked into the distance at the rumored location of the site in question a sense of unease rumbled in the corner of her mind that governed her Psychodriver nature.

Hyperion was right to send her here, she mused to herself. "This assignment is very interesting... Oh! Looks like they're done loading. Shall we go? Time, tide, and good light wait for no man!"
 

GEAR

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#9
Their luggage now appropriately stored, Fang gave a grunt of acquiescence before slipping into the rear of the vehicle, to sit beside Lunam. The interior was akin to a classic car, the scent of worn leather wafting up as the engine revved up beneath the two of them, the vehicle pulling away into the falling evening. EOT had done wonders for automotive efficiency - the vehicle they traveled in was wholly electric, and said machines had managed to almost wholly displace traditional gas-powered automotives since their introduction.

Lights from the freeway danced across the windows, the car making its way through Cartagena. Within, Fang rummaged about in a storage bin otherwise concealed under her chair, talking all the while.

"So tell me-"

There was a crisp metal snap, and a faint citrus aroma as she rose, offering an orange-tinted can towards Lunam.

"What do you know about the situation here? Information control has been pretty tight, but I don't know if that extended to your briefing or not."
 
Jun 14, 2018
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#10
Lunam took the offered can, scrutinized the nutrition label for a moment, and popped the tab open. Using both hands to hold the can in place as she took a long sip from it as she pondered how best to respond to the query. There was Terra Sentinel operational secrecy to consider but certain things could be brushed off as part of the rumor mill.

"Honestly, it got locked down pretty quick. People tend to go 'ew' when they hear the word 'biohazard'. But the fact that you have called for someone like me is an immediate red flag that this isn't an actual biohazard or some new disease strain or something. The Directory has a whole division of it's government to cover diseases and health risks including their own photographers and other forensic media people. Which means it's something other than icky death-goo or a mountain of diseased corpses that you've got at the site."

Lunam looked from the can she'd been casually observing into Fang's eyes. The professor would probably see a definitive glimmer of inquisitive intelligence in those bright blue eyes as they seemed to stare the older woman down like Lunam was plucking at a fistful of loose threads out of Fang's head and weaving them into a narrative to justify her presence here.

"There isn't a massive military response or even rumbles of any shifting of garrisons of troops, so you're not sure it's a threat to be aggressive over. But at the same time this cover story of biohazards means you don't want unauthorized people nearby to see whatever it is. The logical solution to what I'm going with you to document is therefore that there is some sort of structure or whole site that has been found or.. revealed itself that has low-key alarm bells ringing in the Directory's head. Enough to justify a quick response and full cover story that gets people to stay away, but not enough that it would require visible elements like troop deployment or a ton of people in those hideous garbage-bag cleansuits."

With that, Lunam took a long sip from the can. What Fang would note about the almost smugly performed act was that Lunam didn't break eye contact. There was blinking, obviously; but Lunam was clearly waiting for the reaction to her deductive reasoning. Nothing she'd said could possibly link her back to her true allegiances, but it would be clear that Lunam had at least a semi-solid grasp on why she was there.
 

GEAR

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#11
Fang lazed about as she listened to Lunam, nodding along. There was the sound of sirens, as police vehicles passed them by, tearing off an exit to parts unknown. Even with the area under tight Directory control, the usual suspects found ways to cause trouble.

"Very well put."

The older woman folded her arms and looked out the window as she spoke, towards their destination as it grew larger in their field of view. Lunam was sharp for her age - enough so, she thought, that she didn't need to hold back any details. Chances were good, after all, that they would end up being found out regardless. Better to be up front, no matter how bizarre the truth may have been.

"About a week ago, there was a mass incident in this area. Approximately forty hospitalized, eighteen dead - billed in the media as a biological act of terrorism, but the truth is... much stranger. We're still trying to figure it out."

She gave a slight shudder upon recollection of the event, of examining the bodies in the morgues, twisted by some ancient and unseen forces. The expressions on their faces alone would haunt her for the rest of her days, and she had been quietly relieved at the fact that most of the tunnel mapping was being taken care of by automatons.

"It would be better to describe as a kind of mental attack that occurred after a cave-in in the area." She explained, "After that, while probing the site, we found some ruins that closely resemble those from Ancient China. You know-" -Fang glanced back at Lunam - "Except halfway around the world."