Description: Geese takes steps to assure his ability to counteract rivals and hold old territory, bringing the veteran mercenary Rolento Schugerg into the fold in a most unanticipated way. Is it true what they say about Might Club in Venice? Is Mr. Howard building an army?
Human beings look for structure, for comfort in stability and order, repetition; it's a law of human nature that Geese has long built a successful business on. Rare are the true lone wolves, the people who eschew all the comforts of society and law for true freedom. Sometimes, they become little more than fringe radicals, forgotten or tomorrow's tragedy. Other times, well.. it's hard to call Rolento less radical than most who live the anarchistic existence of the true mercenary, but he certainly has the skills to still be alive. To have made his message heard, time and again.
TWO NIGHTS AGO:
Rolento Schugerg is not a specialist you find in the yellow pages under 'commando'. There are usually various channels such underground operatives use, ways to channel particular types of clientele into the right bins for sorting, preferably by someone at a lower paygrade. If one wants to hire such an agent, one can seek out these channels through their own contacts and money in the right hands, or one can demonstrate their own capacity for reconaissance and subtlety and simply intercept the target in their own unique way, and apply copious amounts of money.
So it is that a courier (who, incidently, knows nothing except where he got the package, and who he was to give it to... and that it was on the order of the Syndicate) intercepts Rolento off the beaten path with a briefcase. It is a briefcase, shiny and new, all for Rolento. Of course, there is also about $40,000 in mixed, untraceable currency inside, along with an address in Venice, and a date and time.. two nights hence. The note says to come alone, that Rolento will be well compensated for his time, and that his prospective employer is certain of his interest in the project; and Schugerg's discretion.
The indicated building is not so much a home as it is a palace, a towering three stories of antique Venetian architecture, nigh perfectly preserved where it floats on the wide waterway, cast dully in a crescent moon overlaying the canal on a starry, crisp night.
Rolento is a man wanted by many people. His radical idealism, along with not only the capacity but the absolute ability to do whatever might be neccesary -- including acceptable losses that might be much more then a statistic to your average person -- Interpol, international police, the UN, and more would very much like to bring him in. Dead or alive, in most whispers. Navigating the dead ends and false leads is part of the game if one wishes his services or attention. And Geese just so happens to know precisely how to manage it. The briefcase was accepted. Venice was easy enough to reach and sneak within. A traditional approach to the grandiose manor is not taken. Subterfuge and investigation, instead. After a thorough background check of the area with public records, Rolento then attempts to enter unknown, while taking stock of any guard or electronic surveillance that could be detected by a thorough and well-trained operative. He has an inkling of who this might be. Billy is not a subtle and simple man, if he would have even retained ties with the Syndicate after it's collapse. The critical flaw in Geese's empire, as seen in the aftermath, was that Geese had no replacement. Those who might be able to likely ended up dead. But he would skulk around as best he could... trying to find someone within he can coerce answers from. Or, perhaps, until someone locates him instead.
In one sense, Rolento's infiltration is very easy. It's kind of eerie. It's eerie because the building, past its lavish and carefully kept exterior, is quietly wired to the gills. Laser grids that would defy even the acrobatic Schugerg's formidable aerial abilities are coupled with thermal scanners, motion detecting infrared cameras, along with pressure plate triggers all wired to what the techno-savvy mercenary could fairly easily, at the moment, confirm is a flamethrower grid. He can easily confirm this, and easily infiltrate the palace, because all of this is utterly deactivated.
Each of two obvious entrances on the ground floor is wired this way, while balconies throughout the mansion have their own very, very trippable security sensor grids; but yes: none of this is active. There are also no guards, though the corridors open out into a chokepoint practically screaming for their presence. It may make Rolento more nervous than active resistance. He can take as long as he likes to peruse the security hardware, and the state of the art server suite operating the (disabled) grid around the facility in a perfectly air-conditioned room near the heart of the mansion. He may even take enough time to run up against some -seriously- firewalled, locked down, AGGRESSIVELY walled off sections of system that look like brand new military-grade measures customized for the job.
If he takes time to poke at that, he might piss someone off! Or miss his appointment with the solitary, Italian-suited figured in black jacket and pants with brilliant crimson shirt and tie waiting for him in an awe-inspiringly starlit solarium on the third floor, sipping single malt and sitting in a posh easychair, watching the stars.
Well. If Geese had wished to impress upon Rolento how sheerly thorough his systems are, he has managed. This is not something that can be bypassed with what he has. Even the things he has in mind to circumvent them he cannot verify would work. A 'blitz' attack would be the best method, but the chokepoints and other items confirm that is liable to fail, to boot. Whoever resides here will fully be aware that someone is coming, and similarly be able to escape if they have half a mind. Nothing short of a massive perimeter shutdown around the facility would do, and that would require the incontrovertible proof that this building is designed to prevent.
But the message is clear. 'Come in, have a look', says the deactivated, mostly empty mansion. Far from a simple man, he arrives in the upstairs solarium about as quick as is expected. No attempt to conceal himself done. Simply pushing open the door, casting his muted white gaze on the interior. He sees no beauty and serenity. Filtered out with the discerning eye of a man who has lived his life on the run longer then some have been alive.
"Geese Howard." His smooth voice does not show the slightest hint of surprise. He had put that much together before arriving on this floor. The audacity of there being someone else who could have organized this with the confidence of meeting Rolento one on one defies probability. Numbers, in the long term, can be trusted. "It has been years since our last physical contact. Your lapse in presence made it impossible to conclusively say you were not dead."
Geese seems confident that Rolento will not come here in force, will not blitz the building. It seems the Syndicate overlord is certain that he will have no need to order the perimeter locked down. It seems that Howard believes his continued existence is not threatened by this meeting. Perhaps he is relying on what he used to know about the mercenary. Perhaps Geese has new information, or simply enough strength and arrogance to take the risk with a man he -has- to know is capable of making one hell of a play for his head. "Rolento Schugerg." Geese echoes, politely, gesturing to a finely upholstered chair mirroring his own near the overlook of the canals.
Rolento's initial observation draws a wry smirk from the blonde crimeboss, "Yes." Geese notes, drily, "So I've been told." Even so, Howard seems /absolutely/ at ease with this fact. "It's good to see you alive as well." Howard chuckles lightly, relaxed and surprisingly amicable for a corpse. "Sit, have a drink if you like, let us talk about the /future/. You did always have something in mind for your retirement package, as I recall." Another small, measured sip of that fine scotch passes Geese's lips, tasted thoroughly, his pace decidedly not rushed.
Even if Rolento had a mind, and the resources, assaulting this building successfully with Geese Howard inside would be impossible, even if he had much longer then two days. The ultimate weakness of his army is that Schugerg himself is the paramount military force. If he cannot personally take someone down, then that limitation cannot be easily circumvented. And Geese is one of the few people he readily accepts can defeat him with absolute consistency. It would not be easy, or painless, but it would be inevitable. A reasonable man. It is easy to forget that the cruel, sadistic, destructive soul within him remains dormant and asleep if not roused. He is rational and calculating otherwise...
The chair is ignored. Rolento confidently strides towards Geese, then settles into an 'at ease' stance beside the chair. Back straight, head lifted, hands at his lower back with legs apart. "Negative. The purpose of this meeting is business, not pleasure. You would not ask for me unless you had a definitive plan for the immediate future. I am not so close an ally that reassuring me you are alive was a neccessity. However, this might be mutually beneficial. The groundwork and foundation for my own move is near." Oh, Geese will need to work harder then that to get Rolento to relax. A far greater challenge then any number of physical battles with the stoic colonel.
Rolento's tension seems to put Geese further at ease. The crimelord turns to gaze out over the canals as he weighs the mercenary commander's words, nodding at several points. "Reassuring anyone I am alive is calculated risk, ventured gambit, not necessity." Still, Geese plays it his way. He explains it honestly, directly, with no pretense or wasted time. ... not that either is a mainstay of doing business with the Syndicate. It's important to understand where everyone stands, after all.
"Men like you, Schugerg, men like me... we always have a plan for the immediate future. Three or four of them, if we've learned anything at all, hmm?" The liquor is set aside, and Geese similarly rises to his own formidable if not exceptional height. Hands clasped loosely at his back, the exiled emperor of Southtown eyes Venice thoughtfully. "I'll be very straight with you, then, Rolento. The briefcase was both incentive to prioritize this meeting and the first installment of what I'd like to make a very regular retainer. You're one of the few spooks in the world with the expertise to execute and oversee this project, and in fulfilling my ends you will have the two things you have always lacked: Manpower and a veil of legitimacy."
Geese steps away from the glass, ice blue eyes settling on the commando, "You'll have to excuse me for being vague, your cooperation in this will be with the most absolute secrecy. No one but you and I, outside this building, will know for some time." Which, they're alone in the building, right? "You and I have both watched this world crash and burn as shortsighted vultures pick at her scraps, Schugerg. I have a solution. Are you part of it?"
"Whether you are alive or not mattered little to me unless you were in a position to do business. Your decision is commendable." Well, no worry about Rolento being upset that he's left out of the loop, but that's to be expected. A lack of response to the first question confirms it. When dealing with Rolento, he is not a conversational man. It is not an issue of charisma, something he has in spades, but his efficient and direct approach. Unless Geese says something incorrect, he can likely expect the mercenary dictator to not so much as blink. "..." The latter seems closer to making Rolento interject, but the slight hardening of his face is all that comes. At last, he speaks. "I have little interest in the world. I stand as a visionary. People never stop being weapons once made. They cannot be sheathed. They cannot exist in a time of peace. My dream is to give purpose to others like myself. Those who know only how to fight and kill." After a pause, "But I do not presume you to be embarking on a charitable venture to better the world. Even if I do not personally endorse your value system, unless it runs contrary to my utopian ideals, then I have no objection to working with you as you would both expect and desire. Assuming mutual benefit."
"Of course." Geese agrees with just about everything Rolento says, in turn. A gesture of one deadly hand invited the mercenary commando to follow him into the next room, Howard leading a short jaunt down the hallway as he responds smoothly. "As you foreshadow, this has nothing to do with charity and everything to do with synchronicity, Rolento." The Syndicate Shadowmaster seems to enjoy this almost as much as he does rumours of his death.
"As I said, the world has been all but brought to her knees by senseless wars. One, after another, after another, the world's militaries engage, criminal factions and corrupt governments and corporations vie for control of the scraps of burning economies. It's bad for everyone involved." Especially Geese Howard. "My reach is still broad, global, but with my 'death', splinter groups have seized power in many areas where Syndicate interests once kept the peace; and the fools who enabled Kain's treachery from NESTS and Shadaloo continue to imagine that the world would be saved if only THEIR retarded yet godlike boy-king sits at the head of the table." No, really, Geese totally respects Vega and Igniz.
"We are going to correct this problem, and exert more thorough, direct control." Howard's little tour isn't guided, and he doesn't discuss the fine paintings or fixtures and furnishings. Instead, he leads the way to an unassuming guest bedroom, with a large mirror that takes up one entire wall. Things are about to get sexy. ... or not! Business it is, as with a toggle on his own PDA, the 'mirror' opens from the middle, reinforced mirrored panels parting to reveal a steel-framed elevator. Its doors open, and once again Geese steps forward... and invites Schugerg to accompany him with a flourish, and this time, a knowing smile. "You'll be pleased to know, Commander Schugerg, that I am quite prepared to do business.... and you will may already have your eternal challenge." The hardened elevator would descend swiftly, for what seems like an impossible amount of time. All logic says they are going deep, deep below the city.
"Wars will always persevere when human ideals clash amongst those with sufficient power." Rolento comments simply, moving to follow Geese precisely two strides behind. No more and no less. Nothing is said on Kain. Rolento supports the man as a visionary of purity, but has done very little to actually work with Heinlein on any meaningful level. "NESTS and Shadaloo are two organizations I cannot allow to exist. When my dream is made reality, I plan to actively commit my own personal war with them on a global level. Others are better suited to accomplishing personal shows of force." Indeed, Rolento has done significant damage and uncovered many secrets from both those agencies. One of many on a long list who want Rolento dead. In this area, the pair are in complete agreement. If anything is noticed about the decorum, or Rolento thinks it unusual that he's lead into a mirrored bedroom with a relaxed and possibly mildly drunk Geese, it's not remotely apparent. Settling inside without any personal flair, he still gives little comment. "War is a beautiful and pure manifestation of humanity's worst traits. It is a beast that must exist. I wish to give purpose to those who desire it. If you can give me a satisfactory target for my crusade beyond NESTS and Shadaloo... I would not reject it!"
"While fire may purge away weakness, lack of direction coupled with the wild ambitions of fools threatens to smother regrowth. Conflict is inevitable - but I will not be held sway to such idiocy any more than you, Commander." Geese seems quite certain they'll agree on this point. "I'm glad you still feel so strongly about the demons I mention, however." Why? Well. The elevator arrives at the underground lair with an electronic whoosh, security doors sweeping open once more to admit the pair to a hardened corridor with a checkpoint at the end.
Here, there is a guard, somewhere behind an operating camera. Geese doesn't comment, they're just buzzed through as he continues seamlessly, "Operations to ensure the destabilized Shadaloo is never again a threat are among our top priorities. NESTS seems to be having some trouble of its own. As for better targets, well. I can't say this is -that-; but other targets, Commander. Profitable targets." Passing through another reinforced door at the end of that long, underground hallway, Geese and Rolento would step out into a glassed-in walkway above a deceptively normal barracks. Men who look to be military at a glance to a man like Schugerg mill about here and there.
"Part of my... reinvestment strategy has involved the procurement of numerous private security firms worldwide through shell companies and middle men." He informs Rolento frankly. "We've been bringing together the best and the brightest with a psychological profile that makes them approve of our work here. Your job will be to institute advanced training regimens, hone your pick of the litter into crack squads, along with a core of officers to sharpen the rest to unyielding precision." It's a minor order, Geese thinks small.
"From there you will be deploying to your heart's content, free to use anonymous resources to strike at opposing organizations, and preparing a force that can be directed as needed to /ensure/ that my efforts to eliminate the vermin from my empire are successful. All while I pay you the same sort of exorbitant retainer I pay any vital operative of the Syndicate. How does that sound, Commander?" This kind of operation puts Rolento in that inner circle. A world-influencing force of secret, top of the line commandos with nigh-limitless funding. ... to say nothing of a very expansive mandate.
"Affirmative. A war must be righteous. I am a victim of someone who raged an impure war, based on politics and economy." The Vietnam War, Geese would likely know. Rolento was a scapegoat -- he acted on orders, a blank check of plausible deniability, and for the services of becoming a monster, was to be destroyed by the country he sacrificed so much for. Although an absent thought is given for the fact that Geese does, in fact, have a hidden evil villain lair. Much like Shadaloo and NESTS! A rare honor of sorts. "My wars are not against civilians anymore." Rolento makes clear. "If my utopia is to be accepted by the world, then it cannot be the demon I once was." Of course, attention is paid to the rank and file. "...I see. I will have conditions, of course. You have done well to tap into a resource that I do not have access to with any ease. But a team such as this I will want integrated with my own elite. It will better ensure training effectiveness and also proven loyalty. There is only one operative I possess who I would trust with actions of utmost precision that I could not personally attend. El Gado. You can meet him at your leisure to confirm such." Of course, the implications are not left lurking in the shadows. "That means ultimately the one in control of this unit would be me, Mr. Howard. If it came down to it, they would defect in my favor, not yours. That is an absolute requirement if you wish my complete aid. If at any time I find our disagreement to be unrectifiable, then I will not leave such a beast in your hands. They will either come with me..." The next comes with a sort of cruel ease. "Or you will destroy them before they manage. I have no intention of betraying you. The loyalty and trust of a man swayed by money is precisely what I do not allow in my army. If what you speak is true, then this ultimatum will never come to fruition..."
"These men are loyal to an idea, Commander. Not a man. Never a man. Each knows what we know: that unrightous and selfish destruction has to be opposed without mercy or hesitation." By the tone of Howard's voice, Rolento's conditions are, however, mostly agreeable. At its heart the differences have become philosophical. "I suspect should either of us stray from that ideal, we would begin to lose any warrior worth his salt. I do not choose to speak my motivations at length, but chalk it up to enlightened self-interest and you'll be near enough for comfort. I'm going to make a lot of money from a lot of people far 'worse' than I, from this." It's not that simple, that much is obvious. Still, there's nothing to suggest Geese isn't purely on the level, here.
"It doesn't take strength or vision to take from people with neither." That's Howard's opinion on targetting the rank and file masses, in a nutshell. "As far as most of the world is concerned, you're a terrorist willing to level a populated city. You and I know better, but as long as we're making the boundries clear: The inverse is true. I need you collected and precise. Invisible, more than anything. No slip ups, no errant casualties." Both men will be held to account. "You'll see. It will be beautiful... the same forces that stopped Vega, they're going to help me win."
"You are right, Mr. Howard. But that requirement for loyalty is for the commanding officer. A unit must have a person they trust their lives and souls to in order to operate perfectly. In the end, ideals are simply a psychological tool to bolster morale. I would never trust a radical who might obey what they believe is best over myself. That kind of errant behavior is not tolerated, and would not be tolerated. The extent of a soldier's judgement is simple. Who they follow. You are welcome to try and ensure that it is you, ultimately, that they will listen to. But there are some areas of mastery I possess no living human can rival. If you wish to control the entire unit, then you must control the commander. That advice can be considered absolute. If it is not, then the commander in question is only playing war."
Ultimately, some manner of understanding is likely reached. There is none better to run an elite operative team in this world then Rolento who fits Geese's conditions, and in similar turn, this opportunity is one that nobody but Geese can make and have accepted. "Everything in this world can be measured on the scales. That is what people foolishly refuse to understand. Everyone cannot be saved. Everyone cannot win. It is the job of the leader to make those calls, and to live with the burden."
For long moments, Rolento says nothing more. "I will be the weapon you desire against Shadaloo and NESTS. I can guarantee nothing more in absolute terms. But know this. As I said, all things can be weighted." White eyes slowly turn to take in Geese. "You are one of the neccesary evils in this world. That means ultimately, I do not agree with your methods and motivations. That means ultimately, I do not and will not ever trust you. I speak this openly because if I did not believe you knew this of me, then I would not be here meeting with you. You are a man with the personal power and strength of personality to change this world. I only have the latter. You stand in a tier above me. There are very few on that tier, Mr. Howard. And I must ally myself with one of them. I said that men who are loyal to an ideal rather then a person can never be entirely trusted either. You must understand... I am one of those people. How long our relationship lasts... will have to be consistently reassessed."
"I think the simplest task... is to make sure their commanding officer continues to see the wisdom in the targets placed in front of him." It may skirt the actual issue, but it's not something that can be answered definitively in the time they have. Indeed, Geese does know how Rolento sees him.. at least in part. He also knows how the capable merc views some of the other options, without Howard's involvement. "Many would call you one of the world's true evils." He points out simply. "You may be surprised, yet. As you say, some must be sacrificed, and someone has to make the hard choices. If it isn't the Syndicate, the vacuum will attract the worst types to grasp for themselves. If the war in Southtown has proven nothing else, the years since have proven -that-."
Geese smiles darkly, thoughtful a moment as he scans the complex. "The security office is at the end of the hall. You'll want to screen duty officers there yourself, I imagine, and they'll have your clearances ready. For all intents and purposes this facility and the safehouse above are yours." It seems Geese may have foreseen Shugerg's likely authority, a bit. "You'll find the armory well stocked, but as I said... resources are available. Do try not to get too zealous, too soon, Commander... we are pragmatic men, and I would hate to finance a war at my own back." Though it's not an outcome that seems to terrify Geese, as it perhaps should. "Nor destroy such a valuable weapon." Trust is definitely the wrong word, but Howard makes his own position crystal clear nonetheless, turning back towards the facility's hidden entrance.
"If I am a great evil, then I am one that was made and discarded. I was not born this way. I have no innate quality that would have drove me to this life. My strength is not this aging body. It is my mind. Imagine what I could have contributed to the civilian population in science or medicine. Instead, it knows only the arts no truly peaceful world has any use for." A sombering note on Rolento's personal philosophy that few are ever privy to. "And you are correct. There will be evil and crime in this world. You are stable and predictable. That is why I am here. You have no need for the petty goals that can destroy a city or a nation. You are not driven to control the world. Out of revenge and hate. Out of a mad lust for power. It is best in your hands."
"Isn't it strange, Mr. Howard?" Rolento suddenly says. It is no longer pure business. That alone is probably not expected. "How with age grows patience. Those with the least time are the most willing to wait. Because we understand there is a right time for everything. Rushing things is tantamount to failure. You need not worry about me. But I will give you a final warning." He turns away to walk towards the barracks proper. "NESTS believed me a weapon they could control. In that, they were right to a degree. But they also thought I was one that could be removed. Make no mistake. We will both be surviving this partnership. And I am not an enemy any would want to have. Make sure that enters your calculations properly."
"You can ask anyone, Commander Schugerg." Geese steps on the elevator, turning back to bid farewell to Rolento, for now. "I am not a man who idly discards, or fails to reward talent and vision. I do not seek to remove such people from the world, I seek to.. enable them." In Rolento's case, to see if he doesn't see it rather similarly, after all. "The independence and will of the people I directly employ is one of the paramount prerequisites for that employment. NESTS has a history of mistreating its most valuable assets. I prefer to ensure loyalty by.. other means. Do enjoy, Commander." The lift doors seal, and Howard leaves Rolento with his wonderful toys.
Log created on 20:25:57 05/31/2012 by Geese, and last modified on 01:00:26 06/01/2012.