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Trouble with a capital L

Post 1

FWR

For Superfrenchie's manicurist!

Trouble with a capital L.

Rain. He hated rain!

Pulling the heavy coat tighter around his neck, he risked the short dash from the quayside to the dimly lit tavern.

Heat and music hit him in the face, smells of strong wine and strange food assaulted his nostrils.

He stood, taking shallow breaths, letting his stomach settle as his eyes adjusted to the low light.

A few locals sat at tables, crunching on some kind of garlic and wine soaked shellfish, guzzling noisily from jugs of red wine.

The stench of the patrons overpowering even the smell coming from the small kitchen at the rear.

He headed towards the kitchens, descending the rickety wooden stairs down into the equally foul smelling and very damp cellars.

Two hulking figures, stinking of fish and tobacco barred his way in the narrow corridor.

His gaze took in the gnarled hands, idly resting on the bone handles of rather wicked looking blades.

He fished a handful of coin from a pocket and held the silver out to the guards.

"I'm looking for Brume" coin jingled in his hand.

"Brume?" One of the heavies shrugged, "There is no Brume down here, you are mistaken".

More silver. He hated these deviants, hated playing their silly games, wanted nothing more than to pull out his blaster and waste them both, do Society a favour, instead he simply smiled.

"Tell Brume I have a business proposal, a very lucrative business proposal. He has the time it takes for me to have a drink, then me and my coin will try another bar, I'm sure there are plenty of other 'businessmen' along Quai Maubec?"

Not waiting for a reply, he climbed the stairs and took a seat at the sticky bar.

He smiled to himself as he heard the footsteps behind him, his glass still half-full.


2.

Grey overalls mirrored the spring skies. Citizens milled around the loading bays, the huge unit and transporters backing silently and efficiently up to the open doors.

Heavily wrapped crates, destined for the furnaces of Capitol, glided silently into the transporters.

Four Agents, overseeing the operation, leant against the walls, bored with their redundant task, automated systems having no need for human supervision.

A simple mop up operation, months after all the glory and excitement had faded, a few loose ends to be tied off. The Agents there simply to assure the workers they were doing a vitally important task for the good of Society.

The last crate rolled aboard, shutters silently closed. The two fifty-foot containers pivoted silently, connecting with an almost inaudible click. The transporter unit effortlessly began to glide out of the loading bay.

The first Agent felt the impact of the bolt before his ears registered the sound. Clutching his chest he fell forward, his partner jolted from her boredom, reaching for her weapon as the crossbow sights found her. She joined her colleague on the immaculate floor.

Two more shots. Four dead Agents within a moment. Panic amongst the workers, conflict and danger as alien as the red pools on the loading bay floor.

Eight figures ran into the bay, two climbing up the transporter unit, six herding the Citizens back inside, nasty looking swords and crossbows garnering zero resistance.

Two minutes and it was over. The transporter drove away silently, controls overridden, towards the harbour.

Onboard tracking noted the anomaly and alerted the Society mainframe. Agents were despatched.

By the time the transporter was surrounded at the dockside in Biddeford, the doors had been forced open and the cargo spirited away into the sea mists.


3.

Lytham was not happy. Fingers jabbed at the tablet, grainy footage of the...and he struggled to use the archaic term...robbery, maps plotting the diverted route, images of the empty transporter, dead Agents, and, most sickening, the inventory of what was missing.

He slammed the tablet onto his desk, startling the four Agents.

"Do you have any idea what I've sacrificed for this!" He gestured out of the window to the peaceful streets of Capitol, "Any idea of the planning that was involved in ridding Society of the deviant scum up north?"

The Agents shuffled uneasily, unwilling to offer answers.

"This was to be the last of them, the final, and very public, end to it all!"

He picked up the cracked tablet, pushing the inventory into the pale faces of his underlings.

"Two hundred and twelve!" The tablet shattered into pieces as it hit the wall behind the Agents.

"Get out! Get to work and get me these bloody things back! Now!"

The Agents hurried out of Lytham's office, all four panicked and wondering what kind of deviant would want to steal over two hundred scrapped motorcycles?

4.

Brume sat at her helm, pondering the situation. The gentle sway in the Bay of Biscay soothing her mood. She was glad to be back at sea, glad to be back in business, glad of the coin in her coffers.

She was, though, slightly perplexed at her employers instructions.

She had until the turn of the tide, until the great chain was retracted into the towers and the harbour opened, to make her decision.

The theft had been easy, little action there, four wasted crossbow bolts the only cost, but the instructions that followed baffled her.

Why go to the trouble of stealing from Society, killing the English Agents, loading the loot aboard her ship, just to dump the unopened crates in the Atlantic?

Made no sense, not at all?

She had given her word as skipper not to open the crates, been paid extra for that promise. But who would know? Was there extra coin to be made from a crafty sale on the side? Bartering for provisions and equipment along the Free Coast?

She picked up her knife and went down to the hold, decision made.


5.

Also in the bay, a black vessel, engines humming almost silently as he cursed the swell, he hated the sea, hated boats, hated the hours peering through the powerful scope, praying and hoping the pirate ship would do as expected and put back to sea.

He'd banked on the greed of Brume, hoped the scoundrel would double cross him, watched in dread that the ship would suddenly start throwing the crates overboard.

As dawn fell and the tides turned, he looked inland, the Tower de la Chaîne lowering the barriers, fishermen and traders preparing to enter and exit the old rebel town, white buildings catching the rising sun.

Engines, old old engines, coughed into life as he turned the scope around.

He smiled as Brume's ship turned away from the harbour, setting her course southwards, cargo still on board.

Pleased his instincts had been right but dreading the voyage, he barked orders and the sleek black vessel turned about and silently followed the Pirates.

6.

Lytham cursed as he scanned the morning notifications and reports.

The screen seemed to burn into his eyes, words mocking, frustrating. The simple reminder, a brief set of instructions, a briefer thank you, and that was it. He was done. Twenty years, over.

A few credits, an apartment in Capitol amongst the other millions of inconsequential citizens deemed to have served their purposes, Society retirement was a prize for the majority, for Lytham it was an impending torture.

Eighteen months. Lytham stared at the date, willing the numbers to change, praying for a reprieve.

The most annoying thing was that he had, technically, another ten years of Service ahead of him, ten glorious Agency years. He'd still be unhappy retiring, but his career would have run its full course. Completed, not this half-arsed limbo he was being threatened with.

And all because he'd done his job well, too well it seemed!

Honours and commendations he expected. A promotion to the Council even, but this? This was not a reward!

He read the lines again, grimacing at each word.

"...and in recognition of the outstanding operational success and your devotion to Society.....the High Council has taken this unprecedented decision to reward you....full benefits and accommodation....ten years early retirement as a measure of the debt each and every Citizen owes....please ensure all Society property, Agency weaponry and I.D are returned promptly on....we wish you well and thank you once again for your Service to Society...."

Eighteen months.

What Lytham needed was a new threat, a Deviant menace, new barbarians knocking down Society's walls.

And there was the problem. There were simply no more deviants, he'd personally seen to that up in Forest.

His unhappy retirement was one hundred percent of his own making, Lytham was the victim of his own success.

Long, sleepless nights had followed, Lytham went through each and every twist of the plan he'd put into place, identifying every minor decision that could have made a difference, produced an outcome that may have seen him, if not lose the war, at least leave a remnant of a deviant threat, a seed of threat to come, justification for him remaining in his post. Nothing.

He'd scanned the morning briefings and Intel reports for weeks, looking for clues that something, someone, had been missed, that a threat worthy of the talents of the famous Agent Lytham still loomed. Nothing.

One brief hope, soon shattered, when the motion sensors in the ancient tunnel activated. Deep beneath the waters of the Channel something stirred, a threat from the continent? Hordes invading from the wild coasts of the Atlantic?

He'd personally donned his armour and overseen the investigation, dismayed when the search revealed not a deviant army but a pack of scrawny wolves probably hunting the rats that flourished down there.

No where in the civilised world was there the slightest whiff of a threat.....but the tunnel had sparked an idea.....what if the next threat came from outside Society?

What if there was a hidden threat, a foreign force growing on the fringes, across the seas, beyond the eyes and ears of Society?

Lytham asked the computer to project all area not controlled by Society on his screen.

Pitiful! Obviously the Celtic Nations were closest, nothing but sheep and mountains. Lytham couldn't conceive of a threat coming from so close to home, the borders were well patrolled.

Mexico and California were barren wastelands, the Free State of Australasia too far.

The old Republic of Europe? Germany destroyed, Spain plague ridden, the rest firmly under Society's control. His eyes flicked to the coast of France, a thin strip of territory, the Free States, smugglers and pirates, a few ancient ports and decaying boats. But close to Capitol, very close, by sea and still linked by the all but forgotten tunnel!

Lytham asked the computer for random reports, covering his searches with a multitude of meaningless requests. He left his office with a slight smile, the beginnings of a plan and the hope of a productive future.

7.

The children ran laughing along the beach, screeching as the cold surf sought out bare feet. Slowing to climb the slippy rocks, searching rock pools, picking up feathers and shells. Smiling at each discovery.

As they rounded the headland their smiles vanished.

Strewn across the golden sands, wreckage, a large ship run aground, hull shattered, charred and battered crew moving in a slow motion semblance of life as the tide animated their bodies. Gulls feasting.

Track marks, gouged deep in the sand, showed something large had been dragged from the stricken ship, a female corpse, pistol still in her hand, arm outstretched, pointing after lost treasure.

8.

Lytham received the report three days later. Border patrols near Calais had identified the crew of a shipwreck as being part of a smuggling and piracy ring headed by the notorious Captain Brume.

Weather reports showed no storms in that area that could have beached the vessel. The Agents in charge writing the wreck off as pilot error, probably drunk at the helm as these deviants frequently were.

Several illegal firearms were recovered and destroyed, no cargo was onboard, legal or otherwise.

Lytham carefully filed the report, requesting the channel patrols be doubled and drones scout the surrounding areas over the next week. Something had destroyed the ship and her crew, his question was what were they after?

9.

Deep beneath the canopy of the wood the camp was busy. Crates were dismantled and their contents carefully unpacked and sorted.

Crude diagrams had been provided, construction was haphazard, but there was no need for perfection, just an overall impression.

Finally the work was complete and the heavy carts loaded for the trek up to Coquelles.

Heedless of the possible attention such a train would undoubtedly attract, the wagons were hitched and cargo secured. Emerging out of the cover of woodland, steadily moving northward.

Above the horse drawn convoy, drones buzzed, images being transmitted to the outposts. Progress was tracked into the ruined town, the carts lost as they entered the underground approach to the ancient structure.

10.

Lytham pored over the latest Intel, Agents keenly watching the master attempting to decipher the jumble of reports.

"Pirates, farmers? Horses, coast, robbery, cargo..." Lytham mumbled to no one in particular, picking out key points in the ever growing puzzle, "Any ideas what links all these sightings and rumours? Anything?"

"Some kind of deviant festival day? Like the Druids have in the C.N?" Offered one.

"An early harvest or some kind of new trade route we were unaware of?"

Lytham seemed to chew over these suggestions, before spitting out the pips.

"So French pirates turn to fishing, their cargo...say shellfish...is stolen and the crew and ship eliminated? Ok, then some aspiring merchants manage to get over fifty carts into an organised convoy and head north...back towards the coast and more fishermen...to 'trade shellfish' or have some kind of pagan mumbo jumbo deviant festival?"

The Agents looked hopeful, Lytham wasn't ranting, so maybe they'd hit on a. Plausible explanation?

"So, explain this" he held up the latest screen, "It would appear that those involved in this 'trade caravan' have also been very recently, and very efficiently, butchered!"

The tablet showed carts and horses scattered around the ruins. Bodies slumped against wheels, some still in the driving seats, ground littered with still more. All the carts were empty, no sign of tons of stolen fish, not a single prawn, lobster, mussel or even a bloody cockleshell!"

The Agents took a quick step back.

"I need to sort this out, get to the bottom of it, and I want it done yesterday! Get out, get me a boat and get me to France. Now!"

11.

Struggling down the steep, overgrown embankment, torches picking out the remnants of a once great structure. The high mossy walls dominated by two perfectly circular bricked up entrances.

Gravel crunched underfoot, rusty rails led to the dead end.

The black clad figures gazed up in awe at the crumbling masonry work, what kind of giants once roamed this place? Truly impressive, even in its present state of disrepair.

Work began, hammers and chisels opening and widening the cracks at one of the circular bases. Damp air and the smell of wolves mixed with brick dust.

As dawn arrived, the hole now wide enough for the real work to begin.

For the first time in centuries, the Channel Tunnel welcomed vehicles again.

12.

31 miles. So he'd been told. Pitch black, water pouring through the ceiling, footing treacherous on the gravel, and everywhere those metal lines, disappearing into the dark, leading them onwards.

Curses echoed around the tunnel as the heavy machinery was pushed inch by inch into the dark.

He simply couldn't imagine the noise that these beasts would produce in such a space, if they were still running.

He was glad that they only needed to go in as far as the last machine.

His orders included setting up the long line, the biggest machine at the head, the remainder four abreast, even the the column stretched deep into the tunnel, over two hundred in all.

Then came the dead. Bodies from the ship and the caravan, each arranged carefully. Some gruesomely sat astride the equally dead machines, others sat in the dark, sharing silent plans for eternity.

A small camp, never to be used, was erected at the mouth of the tunnel.

Fires set and immediately dampened. Food and drink to feed hundreds abandoned to the night. Weapons also, left seemingly carelessly, around the camp, and more dead; tending the ghosts of cooking fires, sharpening the very weapons that had slain many of their own number. A legion of the dead.

The last instruction truly made his skin crawl.

He'd been asked, and had readily agreed over the years, to do many unsavoury tasks for his well-paying employer, but this?

This was almost too deviant, even for him.

He gave the final orders to his men, checking each detail before trudging back to the embankment, he risked a backwards glance as the sun rose further.

Golden light illuminating the banner now flying above the camp, chills ran down his spine as he looked at the symbols.

"What does it mean?" One of his men asked.

"It means trouble, my friend. Trouble with a capital L!"

A spoked wheel, wings flying from the hub.

Bold characters in red, above and below the flying wheel, the words simply reading :

Liberté M.C.

La Normandie.


13.

Lytham ended the conference call with the Council, a smile on his face for the first time in weeks.

A detailed report, intelligence led, warnings of a possible deviant threat, one that could rival his last intervention.

Hundreds were reportedly gathering over the Channel. Deviant forces plotting to invade Society and, more worryingly, very very close to Capitol and the good Citizens of the Council itself.

With a flourish, Lytham had produced schematics of the ancient tunnel, indeed he himself had recently investigated an incident down in Folkestone. Wolves had activated the early warning motion sensors.

The report written off by those with a lesser understanding of deviant behaviour than he!

Lytham now believed that these animals had purposefully been sent into the tunnel, with the sole purpose of testing Society's defences.

The robbery at the storage facility by French pirates, the sale of the same cargo turned into a double-cross by the deviants, no honour amongst these thieves. Further deaths suffered by poor traders, forced to transport the abominable cargo north.

Then, his trump card, aerial surveillance, the drones capturing images of the actual deviant camp, hundreds of motorcycles lining up to enter the tunnel, then the final shot, the bikes just glimpsed through the opening, the camp all but abandoned as the deviant horde obviously set upon its thirty mile journey under the channel.

He allowed the winged wheel banner to linger on the screen for several seconds, letting the dread sink into the Council..

He respectfully requested a free hand in defeating this invasion, the resources needed to bury these mutants once and for all.

Lytham, with his unique experience and understanding would formulate a plan and execute every last deviant before they even set foot or wheel into the country.

Three minutes later he had what he desired. Resources, authority and a hope of continuing his career.

14.

The three figures scrambled through the small opening. Equipment was pushed through to them by the two that remained on guard.

A hundred yards into the tunnel they began assembling the items. Remote control units linked to the master control held by their leader, waiting patiently at the entrance.

"Ready, good to go for test, over!"

"Roger that, testing in three, two, one.."

Inside the tunnel, the three clamped eyes shut and covered their ears with hands.

Three dozen lights flared into life, sounds of engines and gunfire blared out of the speakers.

Then silence and darkness returned.

"Now that was freakin' awesome! Test completed, come out lads, let's go get paid!"

15.

The convoy of tankers made their way slowly and carefully towards the dead end.

What seemed like miles of pipe was unwound and connected to the tankers. Agents, heavily armed and armoured, gingerly trudged towards the entrances.

Industrial drilling equipment followed, making short work of the ancient brickwork.

Pipes were pushed into the holes and the tankers pumps readied.

Lytham walked forwards. Gesturing for the recording crews of the press to remain at a safe distance.

Lenses zoomed in on the brave Agent in charge, once more putting his personal safety aside as he went to face the deviant threat, protector and saviour for the second time in as many seasons. Society truly owed this man their all.

Lytham bravely drew his blaster, high powered lights illuminating the hole, casting his giant shadow onto the walls.

Lytham turned to his troops and the cameras.

"If I'm not out in five minutes, commence pumping, fry these deviants for me!" And with that he ducked into the darkness.

Two minutes. The recorders picked up the glare of headlamps, the roar of (surely thousands?) high powered motorcycles, the deafening retorts of gunfire.

Agents began to run towards the battle, then stood, unsure, as they remembered the plan. Keep the deviants in the tunnel, keep the motorcycles contained and impotent. Don't let the riders out into the open to reek havoc.

The tankers started up, methane pumping through the pipes and into the tunnel.

A shout! A single figure clambering out of the entrance, bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound to the left leg.

Lytham stumbled into the arms of his troops, smiling through the pain

"Light them up!" He shouted, then collapsed.

16.

Thirty one miles away the three flamethrowers burst into life, moving backwards from the head of the column of dead bikes, towards the sunlight. Flames devouring everything in their paths.

The camp was an inferno as the three made their way back to civilisation.

17.

Footage of the victory was played and replayed for weeks. Lytham lay in the infirmary bed, nodding sagely and conducting brief interviews with the clamouring press. He was, once again Society's saviour and hero.

Slowly, through the short sound bites, Lytham explained his plan. Having investigated the original breach of the tunnel by a wolf pack, he had cleverly discovered the tunnels had been soaking up natural gasses for decades, if not centuries, this information formed the backbone of his plan of attack.

Having further deduced that the invading motorcycle deviants - no seriously, any good Agent could've pieced the evidence together! Well thank you, that's very kind but I'm just doing my job - were obviously planning to use the abandoned tunnel under the channel, it was obvious - again, thank you! - what needed to be done.

Society and Nature, flooding the entrance with flammable gas, it was then a simple chain reaction, igniting pockets of methane all the way back to France, incinerating the deviants with no losses to our brave Agents - oh this? Merely a stray shot, the deviants panicking and retreating once they realised their plan had been foiled! Very kind, but a slight personal price I gladly pay for the safety of each and every Citizen!

And so it went. Lytham was discharged several days later and was requested to attend a Special Council meeting at Capitol.

18.

The Agents moved silently towards the farmhouse.

Intelligence gained from AIC Lytham indicated this was the hideout of the deviant collaborators who had planned the piracy attack on a Society soil. An attack that resulted in the cowardly murders of four brave and innocent Agents. No mercy was to be given to these traitors.

Weapons blazing, the operation was over in a matter of minutes. Eight dead deviant-lovers and a large amount of Society cash recovered, Agent Lytham would be pleased!

19.

Agent Lytham was not happy.

Agent Lytham was fuming.

The meeting had been purely and simply to honour him, the man of the moment.

Hero.

Saviour.

Society's most highly decorated and revered Agent.

But what do we reward such a man with?

What do we give as thanks to a man who is already so well lauded?

The answer?

Agent Lytham scowled, years of frustration and anger running down his cheeks.

All that work. All that planning. And what does he get?

'In recognition of your dedication and bravery, to express Society's deepest gratitude, the Council hereby relieves you of the requirement to serve your remaining time with the Agency. With immediate effect you will be granted full retirement status and privileges. Thank you once again, Citizen Lytham."

He was still crying as he emptied his office and handed in his firearms and credentials.


Trouble with a capital L

Post 2

Superfrenchie

Do you mean to tell me the whole of Freedom Found was actually planned by Lytham?! smiley - bigeyes


Trouble with a capital L

Post 3

FWR

This is in the middle of Falls and Found, thought you'd appreciate a closer look into Lytham's devious mind!


Trouble with a capital L

Post 4

paulh, not fond of Lord Mudpants

Less than ten sentences into the story, I reached for air freshener. smiley - winkeye

[Goes back to read more smiley - run]


Trouble with a capital L

Post 5

FWR

Ok, that bar actually based on real life, the basement housed the kitchens AND the toilets, good job the cigarette smog masked the worst of it!


Trouble with a capital L

Post 6

Superfrenchie

Sounds lovely smiley - erm

smiley - biggrin


Trouble with a capital L

Post 7

FWR

We only spent five or six hours in there so I couldn't comment! smiley - biggrinsmiley - redwine


Trouble with a capital L

Post 8

paulh, not fond of Lord Mudpants

But that's good effective writing, making a place seem real by describing how it smells.


Trouble with a capital L

Post 9

FWR

Strange how we never call up the beautiful scented places in our stories....seems the seedier places take top billing! Cheers Paul


Trouble with a capital L

Post 10

FWR

Writing right - the power of smells? smiley - run


Trouble with a capital L

Post 11

Dmitri Gheorgheni

Ever read 'Jitterbug Perfume'? smiley - laugh


Trouble with a capital L

Post 12

paulh, not fond of Lord Mudpants

Writing that stays memorable depends on powerful imagery. I'm trying to remember whether Homer described how the land of the Lotus eaters smelled.

When I went to Taiwan I became familiar with a lemony scent that I loved. When I was in Maui, I loved the smell of Oleanders. When I'm planting flowers, I gravitate to the ones with the strongest fragrances. Only one species of hosta interests me: the fragrant-smelling Plantagenea. I don't bother with Hydrangeas. Even Blaak eyed Susans have one or two sweet-smelling cultivars.

(As i reread the above, I wonder if I am obsessed with aromas. Oh, well. smiley - erm)


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