The Tana Case Part 8

GM: Yin
Players: Lotus (aka Pema, Yangchen)
Synopsis: Lotus decided in the past to expose herself to the public by appearing in a news broadcast ("The Tana Case Part 6"). As a consequence, one of the two criminal groups responsible for the fate of the missing subject Tanaka Tana is now going to kidnap, torture, interrogate, and kill Lotus. This log describes how Lotus is lured into a trap, captured, and questioned. She finally fails to free herself and Nadine Wuang (NPC), another woman held captive. The plot ends with Lotus, hurt badly, and surrendering to the seemingly hopeless situation. At this point we agreed to get a rescue plot going ("The Tana Case Part 9").
Date: 2082-11-19

Meeting with Danha

Text Message to Utayama Hasuko from Yin (#9019)
Konnichiwa, Pema-san! If you find the time, pay me a visit at my place. I have something you probably want to see! ;) Also, I received a message from Nadine Wuang earlier today. She wants to get in touch with you. Is it okay if I send her your mobile number?

Text Message to Yin from Utayama Hasuko (#7659)
I'll be there in a bit. And yes, Miss Wuang can contact me if she wishes.

From a distance, Lotus approaches the door to Room 130, slots her key, and then steps inside.

Mountain Hills: Room 130

About an hour or so after the text message to Pema got a reply, there's a buzz coming from the Intercom system. In the camera, Yin can clearly see it's her on the other side. She has left her thermoptic camouflage cloak behind and put on a winter coat instead with a thick scarf. No longer hunted by the Shining Mountain, but nevertheless by the cold.

With a broad and somewhat devilish smile, Yin opens the door, bowing respectfully. "Pema-san, thank you for your visit." He wears black slacks and a white buttoned shirt with casually rolled up arms. The apartment is well heated and the indirect lighting promises a cosy and warm ambience. It doesn't seem like Yin has been working on any cases right now. It smells faintly like incense is burning somewhere.

"Please, come in and feel at home," he offers, "We have another guest, by the way." He makes a gesture towards one of the corners, suggesting to Pema that she should move on to where the sofa is located.

Pema bows in return before hanging off her coat and enormous scarf by the door. She's wearing a thick sweater and long skirt underneath, the former somewhat oversized so her hands tend to disappear into the sleeves like some sort of ancient Chinese robe. "I came at haste, I apologise for not bringing a gift with me." She looks surprised at the mention of another guest, though, slowly heading towards it with some trepidation.

The sofa around the corner is about four meter long, with a shorter side forming a classy L-shape around a small table. Right there, a buddhist monk was sitting in his traditional attire; - a "Bhikku", as Pema prefered to call him back in Chinatown that day. It is Danha himself! He stands up and deeply bows to Pema, with his hands put together. A prayer chain is wrapped around one wrist and thumb: "Tashi Delek, my brave friend!" He laughs with a disarming joyfullness. There is nothing left from the moment on that crossroad, when he was covered in gasoline. He has his head shaved, of course, which further adds to his haggard look. His neck and collarbones are sharply emphasized. But he seems to be alright. He speaks Tibetan.

Yin stays in the background, taking care of another cup of tea. Two are already served on the sofa table. But he keeps a curious eye on the unfolding encounter.

Pema gasps in surprise upon seeing the monk, a big sleeve coming up to cover her mouth. The other sleeves comes up too, hands emerging and palms joining to return his greeting. "Tashi Delek, Lama Danha," she says and bows down as well. "I was afraid they'd never let us see you again…" she says, her emotions coming through much more as she speaks in the Tibetan language.

Danha continues the greeting gesture for a while, giving both the chance to focus and explore the moment of reunion as it seems fit for both. Then, he waves dismissingly: "Aaah, Pema - if I might call you by that name! - the way unfolds before us, there is no sense in being afraid. And I don't think you are! But I feel your joy and happiness. And that's something good." He nods. "Could I believe that we would meet again? - Haha, no. But now you see. Come, let's have a tea together."

Danha seems to have anticipated that Yin was just about to serve a green tea for Pema as well. As he approaches, Yin casually states in Cantonese: "I decided after the interview to try and get through to him in his arrest. And Danha had seen your interview as well. I…" Yin smiles "convinced him that it would be a good thing to finally accept a lawyer - which he had declined until then. Well, and so we bailed him out."

As it appears, Yin has learned to at least follow a Tibetan conversation on a basic level, but he prefers to speak in Cantonese for now.

The Tibetan girl lowers her arms, her hands slipping back into her oversized sleeves and sort of wraps them about herself. "Pema Lhadron is my given name. Only my parents ever called me Yangchen, but I suppose that might change now." She sits down as there's tea coming in. She looks up at Yin, her brain switching between Cantonese and Tibetan fairly comfortably. "How does bailing out work? Does that mean he's free? I'm sorry, American laws are confusing… in Asia, if you get arrested, you simply disappear."

Yin serves her the tea respectfully and explains: "Ah, well, Asia knows very well what a bail is. And they use it. But your statement sadly shows us how two-faced a law can be. Especially criminals with high status and a lot of money get out on bail easily. - Basically it means that I deposited some money as an 'insurance' that he will not flee but await and stand his upcoming trial. I'm pretty positive though, that this whole thing will not see him disappear. Maybe he has to stay in Denver for one more month, but given the charges against him, he'll be free to leave Denver and return to China, maybe even before the end of the year… Western calendar, that is." Yin sits down. "I will defend him in court. For free, actually. Because Danha had a very valuable gift he was willing to share after all that has happened." Yin looks up between both, making a pause.

Pema lifts her sleeves in a helpless shrug. "Pardon my personal ignorance then, I have always lived my life outside the law, never bothered to learn much about it." She looks over to the monk as Yin explains the situation, her face a mixture of different emotions. "I suppose it is difficult for the authorities to make him disappear, given the high profile of the situation. Why go to China, though?" She turns over to the monk, switching over to Tibetan. "Are they sending you back to China? Why go there, that horrid patchwork of a country is a cesspool that would rather worship demons than the Buddha. Even in Hong Kong, the Chinese treat us like the casteless Dalits of ancient India." Yin might probably not be able to catch up with all those words, but the scorn in her voice is unmistakeable.

She turns back to Yin eventually. "What gift? Something about the case?"

Yin nods: "Oh yes," but leaves it to Danha to explain.

Danha remembers, shifting his gaze to somewhere beyond: "I came to Denver in February, with a few friends. One of them knew a Tibetan family that was willing to open their door and let us stay for a few weeks. So I learned quickly about the missing boy Tana. It was a major thing at this time. So many people cared for his disappearance, it was heart-warming! As your friend Yin told me, you are working very hard to carry on the torch, still looking for Tana. That's a good thing! And you had also spotted Tana's name on the list we were distributing and presenting to the public that night. The list of the killed and missing. Naturally, the detective inquired about Tana." He gestures at Yin. "You discovered so much about Tana's fate already, yet you seem to have missed a very crucial thing. An aspect of Tana that is very well hidden by the few Tibetan families in Koreantown. Because there is a story attached. An important story. One that even Tana's mother was not ready to share with you, maybe out of fear." Danha continues to explain to Pema…

Pema lifts a teacup and uses it warm her perpetually cold hands. "They all cared so much for his disappearance, yet tried to hide the truth about it for so long… how complex humanity can be. It also explains why it feels like the investigation has stalled for so long." she sighs a bit, her frustration coming through for a moment. "Does it have something to do with him trying to lear… no, you know what, I shouldn't speculate and just listen, for once."

"As you know, Tana suffered from a plane crash when he was younger. During this airplane crash, so the story has been told, a bird of fire entered the passenger cabin, and it told the people aboard that this plane would carry the future Maitreya incarnate, and that it was a great pity, that he, his vessel, would now die in this crash, but the wheel would continue to spin. Tana remembered in precise detail, that the messenger gave something to him while the plane was already dropping rapidly: a gift of the pure Dharma that Maitreya would eventually bring into the world. He put it into Tana's hand and told him he should tighten his fist until the plain would crash, and then, he would be allowed to open his hand and see and share." Thus Danha ends with his narration, picking up his cup of tea. Yin nods. He probably has heard it already from Danha at some earlier point.

Pema sets her cup of tea down next to her and lifts her hand in an expression of bewilderment. "My parents also told me that I was the reincarnation of a Lama that died in India, 28 days before I was born. I never paid much attention to it except when it became apparent I had an affinity for Yin and Yang, the five elements and Akasha." She shakes her head, "Is this why he went to a psychiatrist? Because he believed himself to be a Tulku of Maitreya Buddha? I can see how the family was distressed by this, but I don't think this is anything unusual amongst our people. How did it contribute to his disappearance, though?"

Danha tries to explain what he's learned about the whole story, and where his knowledge ends: "Pema, you might be right. I can't tell for sure. You must bunderstand that I was there, listening respectfully, curiously, but I did not impose myself in any way onto the community. Tana's fate was his and theirs. The way that had lead /me/ to Denver was my own. So I did not interfere too much. It was clear to me though, that his family and their friends knew very well about what had happened to Tana on that day the plane had crashed. But they shielded him, tried to raise him as the simple young man he was - and had the right to be. But I think everyone in his community was watching, hoping, - and ready to go a long way to protect him. For his own good; but maybe also for a greater good that had been promised? - What Tana had actually brought from the plane wreck remains a mystery. I think noone knew. And if I understood his mother right, Tana himself did not know. And they never mentioned him to be a reincarnation of Maitreya. But maybe you are right. So, for years he tried to learn what it was the Phoenix had given to him. Or maybe I should say: all around him carefully tried to learn about it."

Yin nods again, commenting at this point: "I also think this could be the reason - or one reason among others - why Tana saw the psychotherapist for so many years, Pema. Maybe he tried to come to terms with the event, and learn about the meaning of this 'gift' and what its significance would be. I mean, I am not an expert on Tibetan religion and mythology. I don't know how unusual or exceptional such 'gifts' from a phoenix would be. But what I see is how everyone involved was so tight-lipped about that aspect of the case! So, I am assuming that there could only be one reason: they feared for this story to become a wider knowledge. It's almost like the protection of the story of the plane crash was more important to them as Tana's disappearance, in some way. Maybe we don't have the full story yet."

It's starting to look like Pema's brain cannot handle this mess at this point; she tilts her head and rests it in her palm, looking down on the floor. "So…" she says with a bit of a sigh, "I fear this is what happens when a community does not have guidance from a Lama's lineage. Even if mystical experiences occur, we do not know how to interpret them." Her eyes roll a little and she leans back in the sofa. "To me, this is starting to sound like there is some forces behind this. People whose interests align with Tana disappearing, or at least keeping it a secret. Not sure who it'd be, though."

A silence falls, after Pema's closing conclusion. After a long pause, Yin remarks: "Which would actuylly mean, Pema, that for the first time we have … a possible motive. We're now actually talking about someone who would have an interest in getting a grip on Tana, his story, his gift, whatever. Or someone who wants to damage a third party through his disappearance. This is… a major thing to the case."

Yin leans back, his brain rattling behind his closed eyes.

"Who would that be, though?" Pema says without looking down from the ceiling. "Locals forming a little cult around their new Tulku? Or is it some Tibetan officials from India coming to prove his pedigree? That would certainly explain how he got hold of textbooks from Tibet. Like, from within the Maya Cloud. I'd chop off my right foot for access to books from Tibet itself!" She shakes her head, "No, that's too bizarre. There must be some local, Asiatown sect that's involved."

Resolute, Yin says: "I'm going to confront Supervisor Leng with that! Did he know? Did he not? He /still/ owns me an answer why the Shining Mountain rides that… em,… why they still pursue such a cold case. I've always assumed there is a significance to it. It's time he speaks straight about it."

Nadine Wuang Calls for Help

Danha stays quiet for now, watching Pema and Yin pondering the case, with an expression of calm joy. However, the conversation is suddenly interrupted in mid-sentence. Pema's mobile phone starts to ring.

"Personally, I don't know if Leng is involved," Pema says, leaning back up and picking up her teacup to take a sip. "He might just as well be a puppet. Everybody knows the Shining Mountain does whatever the Triads tell them to do. He never struck me as the cultist type, but you never kno…"

Pema stops and takes out a small Japanese-style keitai flip phone, with a small Tibetan tassel hanging from it. "Excuse me," she says and answers. "Moshi moshi."

At the other end of the line, the voice of a quiet known news anchor can be heard: "Oh, Konban-wa!", Nadine Wuang seems to be surprised to hear a Japanese greeting, maybe. She continues on Cantonese: "Miss Yangchen? Is it you?"

Nadine Wuang: "This is Nadine Wuang, Huang Hu News."

Recognising the voice, Pema switches from Japanese to Cantonese. "Good evening Mrs. Wuang. Yes, this is Yangchen. How delightful of you to call. What can I do for you?" She looks over to Yin, speaking out Wuang's name loudly so that there's no doubt of who is on the line.

Yin nods, probably confirming and remembering that he gave her Pema's number earlier.

Nadine continues: "First of all, excuse me that we didn't find the time to properly greet and wave goodbye after the show. This day was a bit crazy. Busy beyond relief! But I wanted to thank you personally for your contribution to Huang Hun news. Also, I was wondering if you would be ready to meet for some kind of follw-up interview. Nothing formally though! I was thinking about a lunch or dinner, and you give me some idea on the outcomes of the show on your end. Huang Hun follows up with the topics and we will pick up the Tibetan story again … tomorrow, maybe. So, I don't know how spontaneous you are, but I'd be really happy if you could help me out, just once more, I promise!"

Pema gets up from the couch and walks over to the other room, giving Yin and the monk a nervous smile. "I understand you were quite busy, don't worry about it. I'm happy that you decided to call, still. Tomorrow? Uhm… let me think. I do have some work to do tomorrow, but lunch could perhaps be done. If you want to experience more of the Tibetan community, I could show you my friend Tenzin's restaurant. It's not too far from the Huang Hun building. Or if you've got anything else in mind, I'm all ears."

There is a moment of silence, then "Tenzin? I think I know that place, yes, why not. I was about to invite you to a bowl of my favorite Laksa. They have a cook smuggled in from Singapore who's a unique experience. - They wouldn't have let him go if they'd known about his cuisine, hence they smuggled him out." Then, reaffirming: "Anyway, Tenzin's is very good. It just makes sense. - And tomorrow you say? Can you confirm? I have a tight schedule, so I'd kindly ask you to be on time, if you don't mind. Sorry!"

"Consider it confirmed, then," Pema says. "Not having to sneak down alleyways to avoid Shining Mountain patrol cars certainly makes it easy to be on time for things." She chuckles a bit. "Sorry, I've developed a strange sense of humour recently. Anyway, I'll be there."

Nadine Wuang returns the chuckle briefly. "I understand. - But wonderful. I hope to see you there then, Miss Yangchen!"

Nadine Wuang is ready to end the call.

"See you there," Pema says and then hangs up. She then heads back into the other room to join the others, and she bows briefly. "Pardon the interruption," she says in Tibetan, expecting both to understand the relatively simple phrase.

In the meantime, Yin and Danha had continued in conversation, talking about a place to stay for Danha. Yin really seems to be taking his responsibility seriously. There is no doubt that his new client will get his full support. He turns his head to Pema: "Nothing to excuse for. No harm done. - So, I'd like to get Danha a stay for the next weeks. Worst case, a hotel will do for today. But I'd rather try to get him something more permanent today. This will take a while, so please excuse me. If you want, Pema, just stay as long as you like." He gestures between her and Danha and would retreat to the bedroom section of the apartment, in order to get the stay for Danha settled.

Interlude: Some Unexpected Insights on the Case

((What follows are two diary entries from the plot board.))

Diary Recording #5

((Yin is sitting in his apartment, alone again. After a few troubled days he finally finds the time to reflect and take a look back on what has happened since the Huang Hun News Show appearance of Lotus on Channel 9 [Tana Case Part 6]. Yin looks focused and serious while he speaks to his indifferent trideo camera in Japanese.))

"Hm, it's been about a day and a half now, since we did the trideo interview on the Huang Hun News Show. Or I should say: since Pema-san did it. The interview was part of a larger evening program about the situation of minorities in Denver and Asiantown specifically. I think it was Supervisor Leng, from the Shining Mountain, who finally arranged this opportunity, even though I had to convince him in the first placer to go public. However Nadine Wuang and Supervisor Leng's common past might be, the interview was a success, I'd dare to say.

"Pema-san outlined what had motivated her to save the Tibetan monk Danha from self-immolation on the streets of Mid-Chinatown a while back. That was obviously something the media exploited to some extend. But the host, Nadine Wuang, also put some pointy fingers on the issue of minorities in general. I wonder, how this whole evening program got clearance from the show's upper management at all. Supervisor Leng showed patience and even accepted a defensive position for the Mountain for some time. And Pema-san did speak quite plainly about how Tibetans and other fringe groups are marginalized and pushed back into an existance of formal non-existance and invisibility. Finally, the host gave us about 90 seconds to actually talk about the Tana case. It was a good and timed conclusion. Even though I was not so happy about having May Naru called out by name. As the latest known person and girlfriend of the missing subject she's of major importance, of course. But calling her out is a drastic measure, since she's neither missing nor wanted, legally speaking.

"However, it was in the same night, that people driving through K-Town could wittness a sizable number of quiet, small protest marches and silent vigils on several corners. Mostly lower-class groups and minorities were involved and they seem to raise awareness for the missing boy called Tanaka Tana. When I spoke to some, they told me that they echoed the Huang Hun Show's intention: raising awareness. Many had indeed watched Pema-san's live appearance or the translated recording later that night. - When I asked Supervisor Leng about the vigils next day he confirmed the events. He had instructed his personel to tread lightly and refrain from excessive show of force. Seemingly, he was also willing to give the public announcement a chance to further the case.

"Well, and today, I pushed my luck and bailed the Tibetan monk Danha out of the Mid Chinatown jail. Why didn't I think about this opportunity earlier? Well, maybe it's fate that I passed the bar examination a few weeks ago. But eventually it was Danha's readyness to cooperate, that made his release possible. He had declined any legal representation since his arrest after attempted self-immolation. Seeing Pema-san, his savior, on trideo, speaking on behalf of the minorities' cause, changed his mind. I'll now defend him in court. But having had the opportunity to see Danha and Pema-san meet each other again was already worth the whole hassle.

"Also, Danha finally offered to us what we were hoping for with this public announcement and interview: a new angle on the case! Tanaka Tana, the missing lad from the Tibetan diaspora, plays a significant role to the few Tibetan families in town, and also among other minority groups. When his plane crashed in 2077, with him being the only survivor, he had a supernatural experience, or so the Tibetans in K-Town claim. A bird of fire appeared in the plane, just moments before the crash, speaking to Tana. Allegedly, the apparition anounced that an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Matreya was among the passengers - and would now die.

"The arrival of Maitreya is prophesied to occur during an era when the teachings of Gautama Buddha have been forgotten by most of the mundane world. But the Phoenix reassured Tana that the wheel would continue to spin. Tana remembered, that the messenger gave something to him: a gift of the pure Dharma that Maitreya would eventually bring into the world. Then he closed his fist around the gift and the crash occured.

"Pama-san stated that having such an experience of enlightment is quite common and well accepted among the Tibetans who, in accordance to the Buddhist teachings, expect their existance to be an reincarnation of a former life. She concluded that such an experience would not explain why the Tibetan families hid the story from us and seemingly everyone else. They went to some length to keep Tana's story a secret, as it seems. However, Danha did not share Pema-san's interpretation. Firstly, the story, as it was told to Danha, never claimed Tana to be an incarnation of Matreya. He simply received a 'gift of pure Dharma' from the messenger phoenix. Secondly, Pema-san probably follows the Lotus Sutra which shuns the idea of an embodied messiah. Rather she could be reading 'Matreya' as a metaphor for compassion, a title given to any votaries of the Sutra.

"Even though we now know that Tana's community and mother intentionally hid this religious part of Tana's story from us, we are still clueless about why. What is the significance of Tana's fate - and of the shrouded story that surrounds his plane crash? Is there any significance at all? Danha thought it to be an important detail of the case. Maybe it simply explains why Tana is still not forgotten but actively sought after by his community: they put all their hopes in this young man. Maybe they hope for him to be a messiah some Tibetans are looking for - at least for their little community?

"Well, after all we have dozens of hints coming in, from all kind of people across CAS. Maybe we'll get some more payout from the public announcement."

((Yin stops the recording.))

Diary Recording #6

(In grey daylight, Yin dictates this diary entry on a terasse, overlooking a downtown area of the CAS sector. The FTZ can be seen in the distance as a faint outline.))

"I just concluded my meeting wih Supervisor Leng. It went well! He really appreciated our sensible understanding for the Shining Mountain's interests during the Huang Hun interview - even though Pema-san's criticism seems to have raised some anger among other Shining Mountain players in Asiantown.

"However, I had a pressing matter to discuss with him! From the monk Danha Pema-san and I had learned that the Tibetans in K-Town keep Tana's supernatural story about his plane crash a secret. I confronted Leng with this insight and… well, he smiled, nodded and finally flashed a grin: 'Wow, that took you a while. But it's good that you found out on your own, eventually.'

"It cost me some patience and discipline not to outright yell at him! He knew about the story of a firebird appearing to Tana during the plane crash all the time! Leng then told me that he had learned about the Tibetans hiding that story from the Shining Mountain through an informant last January. However, Tana's significance to the Tibetan community became apparent to Leng but he now told me he 'could not follow the lead' and was 'forced to lay the case aside'. Now, that's something…

"Of course I insisted to get the full truth now! Why a private investigation at all? What's that all about? And, as we learned from Danha: what's the significance of Tanaka Tana? - He offered an apology for having withold some details of the case and explained that the Tana Case would be 'representative for quite a number of unsolved cases against minorities' in Asiantown, 'namely against Tibetans'.

"He further detailed that, initially, this was not an issue. No one really cared. But then, the attacks against the diaspora raised suspicion among the Shining Mountain. They seemed to be systematic in nature, not coincidental. And as it seems, so Leng told me, there is an unknown group hitting the minorities in Asiantown, without knowledge, backup, or clearance of the Shining Mountain … or 'some of the Red Dragon'. This has since stirred anger and confict among the middle ranks and some power players. Who is that group, working on Red Dragon territory without leadership approval - but obviously with some resourcefulness, success, and support?

"Leng reassured me that the investigation is still legit. The Shining Mountain seeks more knowledge about who or what hits the diaspora, and why. And they seem to fear that some of their ranks are secretly providing support or cover for the attackers, hence an independent low-profile investigation. He urged me to continue, since everything that came to light so far was what he was hoping for.

"At least we now know that the investigation of the Tana Case has two agendas. One is set by the family and community of the missing subject, the other is set by Chinese power players who are most likely scheming against their own. And since Leng 'was forced to lay the case aside', he probably has at least some very clear picture of who might be involved."

Diary Recording #7

"Unbelievable! I just returned from the hospital in Chinatown. May Naru has been rescued from deep below the Rez. She's in a very bad condition. She got violated, tortured, and mutilated. I am still on edge about how all came to pass. She is, still, one of the main wittnesses to the Tana case. The young Vietnamese-Korean woman was Tana's girlfriend for almost a year. And for almost another year she disappeared from the screen. But first things first.

"When Tana disappeared in November 2081, his girlfriend, May Naru, was among the last who saw Tana alive. Both drove together to this manga shop in Little Chibba. He entered, he left, but never returned to May Naru, waiting in her car. May Naru took part in the subsequent searches for Tana. But after two months, she basically disappeared as well. Tana's family couldn't reach her. She had given up her numerous odd jobs. She had no known residence and left no ways to get in touch with her.

"Now, about ten months later, May Naru reappeared. It wasn't unexpected, since the investigation targeted her since the beginning. But what came unexpected, was Sylvia's reckless determination to infiltrate the Rez Sousterrain Workshops within less than three hours! I had recruited Sylvia as a social handler and expected her to probe the Rez for any hints about this "Genie in the Bottle" Simsense group of criminals. Looking around for May Naru was just a coincidence, actually. Meager chances, but we took them.

"In some way, Sylvia found both beneath the Rez: May Naru and a trace from the Simsense group. I just reviewed Sylvia's images she captured with her headware. It is horrific. They dragged May Naru to a place called 'Waste Bin', below the Rez. A torture chamber, where they put her, among others, on grim display. Stripped naked, hurt, deprived of her eyesight, she was almost dead, dangling in a crude pillory that held her upright.

"Sylvia didn't even hesitate. She infiltrated this chamber of death and found out that it serves two purposes. They sell the living and dead bodies to the sickest of minds, for maiming, torture, rape and butchery. But they also use this place to send messages. Next to May Naru a sign read: 'Media Bitch - Likes to be on display. Don't wish for the djinni unless you grant them their wishes!' A clear reference to the so called 'Genie in the Bottle' Simsense group. We assumed May Naru might have had ties to this group, since we found a modified Simsense deck in Tana's private rooms. But now, they assumedly left May Naru to die.

"Even more disturbingly: they are communicating through her suffering. But if the Simsense group is responsible, and the author of her grim display, who is the intended recipient? Is it the Simsense subculture at the Rez? Or is it us? Did they expect us to find her there? Is it a threat?

"I fear that May Naru being called a 'Media Bitch' might be related to our latest step in the investigation. We went public, with the Huang Hun News show on Channel 9's trideo broadcast; and Pema-san called her out by name. Did we somehow force these Simsense criminals to cut loose ties and close open ends? If so, where is the connection between the Simsense group and the things we learned from Danha and Supervisor Leng? Hardcore BTL Simsense criminals, Tana's religious and supernatural experiences, and some Chinese group from the organized crime milieu in Chinatown; - is all of this really connected or do we have to see more clearly and rule out the misleading trails?

"However, I sincerely hope that May Naru will give us the crucial information we need, as soon as she's stable and recovering. Her suffering has shown that the investigation was enough to stir up violence and the case is far from dead, as it initially appeared to be. My hope for Tana's survival falters. But more importantly, we have to increase our own security measures."

Pema Ambushed and Abducted

K-Town, Golden Orchard food court, Tenzin's Tibetan Restaurant. Pema is going to meet Nadine Wuang, the host from the Huang Hun News Show.

East of Golden Monkey Street and north of Little Chiba is a network of alleyways and narrow streets known as "K" Town. Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and various other "Tiny Dragons" inhabit this multiethnic slice of the Asian Sector.

Not being part of either the Chinese majority or the Japanese powerful minority, the different groups in this sector have difficulty creating more than little pockets of relevant identity. The street gangs here often organize along national lines and protect their identity by playing off Yakuza or Triad affiliation and suppliers, and are always looking for a better offer.

Despite this, those who live here are conscious and proud peoples, the descendants of survivors and victors of past attempts by Chinese and Japanese hegemons to control their lives. Most are aware that they hands they are dealt are not as strong as those with dragon gangs and corporate gods to back them, but that does not mean that they will ever fold.

The Golden Orchard food court is a tight maze of fast (and some slow) food restaurants serving all of Asian tastes. Numerous escalators, stairs and elevators shuffle people from ground level up to top floor, framing the stretched out main court below that runs for about 100 yards. The food court is accessed either from metro sub level, one of two main entries from the street, or by several bridges that connect to neighboring buildings on different levels.

Basically, the court is an indoor-outdoor market with a bunch of small restaurants in rows, plus food stalls that have a shared inner court for sitting, covered in neon.

After taking part in that live debate on Huang-Hun news and all the mixed emotions of regret and pride that it led to, Pema is not sure what to think about meeting up with Nadine Wuang. But at the very least, she can be on time. Knowing fully well the horrible crowds around Golden Orchards at this time of day, the young mage does something audacious and flies there, in invisible form. She even takes the opportunity to take a seat on top of one of the huge Chinese-letter signs that form a canopy of neon and trid-holos above the streets. She sits there, dangling her legs above the street, watching the crowds below. She remains sitting there for a moment, until her pocsec's alarm clock begins to bleep, indicating it's time. Almost like a diver, she leans back and falls over, landing on the corrugated steel roof of a food court and hops off in an alley, then walks the final few steps over to Tenzin's restaurant. Even in this chaotic mess of colourful advertisement, it's not that common to see a big LED sign showing Tibetan characters. She makes her way in.

She's dressed smart for the occasion, wearing a Futura Line two-piece suit of blazer and knee-length skirt, although instead of a blouse she opted to wear a turtleneck jumper underneath the former, and thick stockings under the latter. She joins her palms in a traditional Tibetan greeting to Tenzin, as he's most likely standing at the semi-open kitchen boiling soup or kneading dough for momos. As usual.

Tenzin greets her welcome from the kitchen area, his warm smile speaks of a genuine happyiess to see her again. It's the prime time of the day, so most tables are already occupied and Tenzin and his small staff are working hard to serve the orders in time. But nevertheless, he takes his time for a quick chat:

"Tashi Delek, Pema! You have a meeting, right? I received a reservation, which is a smart thing this time of the day, actually! Lots of customers today. Wait, I'll just get you seated. - How are you doing, my friend?"

He leads Pema through the tight little maze of small tables and chattering folk, offering her a seat at a table for two.

As it seems, Nadine Wuang hasn't arrived yet.

"Tashi Delek Tenzin," Pema replies after lowering her hands. Of course, she has always spoken solely in Tibetan with Tenzin. She's not even sure if the man speaks English at all… it's not really a necessity in this part of town. "I'm well. How is your family? Is your daughter reading Tibetan yet?" She drops a few of those courtesy questions, but is a little surprised there's a reservation. Clever Nadine. She takes a seat at the small table, rubbing her hands a bit. "Could I get a pot of butter tea as I wait? I need something to chase the cold away," she says with a timid smile, never showing any teeth.

Tenzin laughs at her question: "Reading?! Hehe! I'd say she's good at memorizing, yes, hehe. But it'll imporve, I'm sure. I'll have her translating our menu back and forth in no time! - Butter tea is coming right away, my friend. And, by the way, we all saw your interview on Channel Nine two days ago! How surprised we all were, seriously! I didn't know you are so engaged in the little community we have. Really, thank you for all your time and effort, Pema!"

As Tenzin continues to speak to her about the news show, one other regular, a very old Tibetan man in simple and worn cold weather clothing actually turns around and tries to remember Pema's face. Eventually, he smiles an almost teethless smile and joins Tenzin's little praise with a silent gesture and a toast across the table.

Pema lowers her head, almost bowing, at the mention of the news show. "Oh, it'd be wrong of me not to accept the offer when it came. The golden chord must not break," she says in reference to that old song about the unity of the Tibetan people, even in exile. "I think you'll also recognise who actually made the reservation too, then… though I'd be happy if you, you know, sort of pretended not to? For her sake, you'll know what I mean. So she'll feel welcome."

Tenzin nods, "Oh? Alright, sure. I won't bother you or your guest. Let me get your tea then."

Tenzin quickly tries to catch up with the little delay his chatting has caused, but it's all good. Pema receives her buttered tea shortly after. And then it's just about time for Nadine Wuang to appear!

After about a ten minutes delay, a Chinese man enters Tenzin's place. He wears a grey suit, shimmering with fine golden threads in the shifting neon lights. A Mortimer's overcoat protects his expensive looking clothes against the light rain outside. His hair is grey, but he might be in his early thirties. It doesn't take him too long to spot Pema. With some effort he moves through the tables:

"Miss Yangchen, I assume?" the man greets her with a slight bow of his head in Cantonese: "I am Lian Wu, Miss Wuang's driver. I'm sorry for the delay, but we ran into some trouble." The man remains standing, obviously not inclined to take a seat: "She… well, she suddenly fainted on her way from the parking lot to the entrance. An ambulance is underway, but she asked me to get the word to you. She won't make it and she's very sorry." He gestures a bit unsure and waits for a reply.

Pema pours herself a cup of silky smooth butter tea as she waits, wrapping her fingers around the cup to warm her perpetually cold, slender fingers. She's only just begun to take her first drink as the driver comes in. She looks up in surprise, and then her eyes widen at the mention of the ambulance. "She fainted, ah?" She says, switching to Cantonese. "Is there anything I can do? Can I visit her at the hospital?"

The driver Lian runs one hand trough his hair. I don't know if you can do anything, actually. Her bodyguard is with her, but I'd rather get back to her quickly." Nervously, he lowers his voice and speaks into his wrist: "I am with Miss Yangchen. How is she doing, Ma?"

After a moment, Lian nods and extends the response: "She's unconscious again… I don't know. I should get the car to her. If the ambulance doesn't make it in time, I'll have to hurry…" He makes an excusing gesture. "Do you know her better, Miss? Are you a friend? Can you probabaly help?"

"I don't know if I can help… I've only got rudimentary medical skills and herbal medicine. But if there's something…" Pema hesitates for a moment, almost biting her lip. "Perhaps I can help. Can I go with you?" She sets her cup down and gets up without waiting for an answer.

Lian nods: "Of course. Miss Wuang doesn't like to be caught in… unfavorable or embarassing situations, but since she's already lying on the sidewalk, literally, I guess it doesn't matter… Please, follow me. She's right outside the south exit."

Tenzin seems to have realized already that something is at odds. With a stern face he nods to Pema and gestures that everything's fine and she shouldn't bother about the tea.

Lian leads her outside and then downstairs to ground level. The south exit is about 50 meters away. This part of the court is actually roofed and provides protection against the light rain that has started about fifteen minutes ago. The Chinese style portal that marks the exit is huge enough for small trucks to pass through - or five trolls, marching hand in hand! Nevertheless, it's a bottleneck and people shove and ellbow their way in both directions. Lian tries to make a convenient path for both to the outside. There, a broad sidewalk is bathed in golden lights from the court behind them. It's a grey midday and Lian looks around for Nadine Wuang.

Pema reaches into the pocket of her blazer and takes out a small silk bag, containing her prayer beads. She excuses herself to Tenzin, giving him a gesture of farewell before heading out the door along with Lian, wrapping the prayer beads around her hand. She takes a deep breath and begins to snake along with Lian through the crowded streets. Lacking the elbow strength, she tends to get pushed around in real crowded places and this is no different. Nonetheless, she manages to catch up with the man and she stops when he does, her dark eyes darting around.

Lian needs a few seconds, then he spots something: "There's the car. There she is." He moves on towards a grey sedan with mirrored windows, about ten meters away. That's when Pema suddenly has a bad feeling creeping up her neck. Something or someone behind her in the crowd moves in a strange way, getting caught in the corner of her eyes. Wait a sec, didn't Lian say he was about to get the car? But the car is right here, and where is Nadine Wuang??

Sneaky, devious ambushers actually try to get her hands on Pema! The moment she turns her head towards this Chinese guy dressed in a black suit behind her, Lian, the 'driver' pulls out a handheld weapon, seemingly out of nowhere. Quickly he fires a shot, aimed from the hip and from close to his body. The shot is almost completely quiet, only giving away a solid 'thumb' sound to those nearby. Considering himself in control of the situation, he aims for Pema's head with his dart pistol.

Lian, cold-hearted and professional as he is, fires his dart weapon right into the neck of poor Pema! Taken offguard between two assailants, she realizes way too late what hit her. The dart unloads his unhealthy package, causing Pema's bioware to spring to a sudden alarm! Pulse racing, heart beating, she manages to stay on her feet for the moment while the trauma damper wrestles down the chemical agent.

Through a momentary haze, she stumbles one step or two, right into the arms of the other attacker who crept up from behind. He raises a taser, casually trying to finish her off, as if they're practicing this kind of shit right before breakfeast.

Despite having just taken a dart loaded with one of the most horrific neurotoxins on the streets, Pema does not go down immediately. She stumbles, instinctively reaching up to her neck and pulling the dart out, dropping it to the floor just a moment before she stumbles again. Then, as a taser dart hits her square in the chest, she stumbles again, her back slamming into a vending machine by the end of the alley. She drops on one knee, then falls over head-first into the street.

Pema did not come completely unprepared to the event; underneath her blazer and blouse, she's wearing a thin ballistic vest and form-fitting armour. Ironically, she also has a taser, resting in an armpit holster.

Hurriedly, Lian tries to get Pema up on her feet after the stun dart did its work. The second goon is right next to both, shielding the situation as good as he can against onlookers. But dragging limp Pema to the grey sedan doesn't go unnoticed. Some people shriek and stumble away, assuming an assault. Some cries for help can be heard. Lian tries to fool the potential wittnesses: "Out of the way, she fainted! This is a medical emergency!"

Even though they make it to their sedan unhindered, several Asians at this crowded entrance to the food court observe the events. Even as their getaway driver kicks the pedal to the medal, some are stepping on the street, looking after the kidnappers.

During their flight, Pema is treated on the backseat. While the gamma-scopolamin is left doing what it does best, one kidnapper makes sure the heavy hit of the taser, square on her chest, doesn't pose a risk to her life. Her clothing is ripped open, electrodes applied to her chest, blood pressure checked and a special solution is applied via an infusion.

All of this goes unnoticed by Pema, of course, who remains unconscious for an unknown stretch of time…

Rumour About the Abduction

«Plot» +rumor/add Street/8=Rumours and news flash in K-Town: Abduction!

Abduction in Bright Midday!

Around 13 pm local time, wittnesses called the local Shining Mountain security sevice in Korean-Town, reporting an assumed kidnapping right at the south entrance of the Golden Orchid food court mall.

Reports from the local population indicate two man, overwhelming an Asian woman in business dress. No shots were fired, Shining Mountain says, but anonymous wittnesses recall CSI personel gathering something that appeared to be a bullet or dart.

Kidnappers and victim were seen leaving the scene at high speed, disappearing into the K-Town mace in a grey Ford Americar sedan with mirrored windows, way before Shining Mountain's arrival.

Independent investigations revealed the victim to be from the local Tibetan diaspora. This further fuels the ongoing debates about security in minority-dominated parts of Asiantown. Shining Mountain has released no comments so far.

Into the Dungeon

After a while, the unconscious woman slowly begins to move and come back to life. Her body is aching like nothing before, the light searing her eyes as they slowly begin to open. Some low groans in pain escape her lips, that not even her pain-reducing implant can deal with.

Life likes to kick you, when you are down. Ironically, just as Pema struggles back to consciousness, she realizes that she can't see anymore. The idea of light fades into blackness. There might be a sensation of eyes being opened, but they fail to serve. Pain is present throughout her body. The headache is intense. But there is at least a sense of up and down.

A solid load of icy water then unloads upon her head. Enough to soak her through and through. Did she just get dumped into a lake or river? Probably not. - Pema is wide-awake immediately, gasping for air, taking in the immediate situation: She can't see, she is tied to a chair, with her hands and feet fixed, she's soaked, and the temperature is chilling.

"Welcome back… Miss /Yangchen/." A solid slap hits her square across the face. The voice seems familiar. Haven't she heard it before…recently…? Lian?

The icy water has Pema shaking, gasping out loudly and shivering. She'd double over but with her hands tied to the chair, she stops only leaning forward. She coughs, her head dropping a little. No time to relax, though, because then the hard slap hits her on the cheek, sending her back again, hissing through her teeth in pain. "Tayata om bekanze bekanze mahabekanze ranzesamudgate svaha," she replies, repeating the mantra of the Medicine Buddha instead of giving a proper answer.

"You know, it is funny, that you went so far to learn about May Naru's and this Tanaka Tana's fate. Did you ever consider that this could make things worse for some, including you?" Lian, her torturer, steps away from her and she can hear some squeaking sound. Shortly after, water can be heard, drumming on a concrete floor, wandering closer to Pema and hitting her feet: "I'd prefer you stop your prayer and listen."

So far, through all the pain, the intense sensations, and maybe some wild thoughts raging about, trying to occupy and besiege her clever mind, Pema is aware that she's probably in a larger room or hall. There is an echo to be heard, from every single sound. Everything sounds bare, cold, abandoned.

The mantra stops after a few repetitions, and she goes silent for a while. "I'm listening," she says through her teeth, coughing some more, a drop of saliva running down her lip that just lingers there as she can't wipe it off. She wriggles a little, trying to make her discomfortable position as bearable as possible, but nothing helps much.

"You might want to know that May Naru died already. Or maybe she's still in the process of dying. I don't know. It doesn't matter anymore. But I'd like to tell you her story."

With a squeaking sound, the water stops again. "These Simsense wizards took care of her, as they should've done already a year ago. I heard they cut her eyes out." Her torturer leans against something. He seems to relax. "They cut her open and had their fun with her, then put her on display. The usual stuff. But, you know, I refused to look at the sick trideos they shot. I heard they impaled her. Can you imagine that?"

He walks a bit around, circling her, still talking, now with a serious interest in the topic: "I had to look it up though. I always thought impalement is like running a sharp spear through someone's ass until it pierces neck and chest or back. But no, they actually used a smoothed and polished pole, slick with oil. … I mean… yeah, exactly, I was thinking the same. What the dreck? But it makes sense. From the weight of your body, the pole will slowly move through your entrails without causing too much immediate damage. The process of dying takes ages. The Mongolians invented it, maybe. But even some armies in the First World War still held it in high regard for deserters. Anyway, I got carried away. But I think these guys are taking treason seriously. And May Naru should've stayed put. But no, she couldn't resist the money she imagined to collect after your little speech on trideo."

After Pema goes quiet and the gruesome description begins, the Tibetan girl slowly tries to sit up and straighten herself in the chair. After a while, she sort of zones out and begins to chant to herself again, repeating the same mantra as before, but with a low voice that will barely even be noticeable to the torturers as they revel in the gory descriptions.

Lian now steps closer to her, from behind, caressing her hair while Pema tries to focus on her voice: "These Simsense guys really know how to let the genie out of a bottle, so to speak. And Tana's fate, if you ever wondered, was even more cruel, in some way. What we received was a man with a skull cut open. But what they had torn out was worth shit, so they dumped the pile of meat on our doorstep and we had to take care of it ouselves. What we actually paid them for, I don't even know. It was a total waste of effort. Well, mostly. — Didn't I ask you to stop praying?" He slowly walks back to where he was again, probably picking up the water hose he dropped earlier. He continues to talk, but she has some time to probe the astral world.

Pema finds herself in a bright room, glowing from a hot orange color. Tears stream from her astral eye. She is trapped in some way? There is the shape of a man in front of her, he's moving. The dark bond between him and Pema suggests that he's her torturer. Tension, fear, and sadism are slowly building up. But everything else is hard to see. The astral plane seems to be some kind of very brightly lit building? Maybe Pema is sitting in some kind of courtyard? The shapes of its walls and the open space above her almost suggest a temple of some kind? It's very hard to distinguish. Some astral presence occupies this place, blurring everything. Pema is not strong enough right now, to pierce it. But one thing is for sure: she is sitting within a ward of some significance. And there is one more essence right next to her. Some human being, maybe an arm's length away to Pema's right. But she can't read the details. So, all in all: The torturer, someone to her right, some astral presence stretched across the ward that surrounds her - and the idea of an Asian temple.

"But again, shocking to see, what this Simsense Interpretation technique does to people. They open the skull," Yian continues to explain, again with sincere interest: "Probes are piercing your brain, and they dive into the stream of consciousness directly. Amazing, you'd think: a guy diving into your consciousness, interacting with your very mind, like a perpetrator of souls or whatever! You can pull out everything: feelings, raw sensory input, emotions, memories, even forgotten memories and unconscious stuff. Of course, the guy who rapes your mind must feed you some kind of impulse, a sentence, a picture, anything, and then he rides shotgun and rummages your stream of consciousness. Sadly, everything the guy touches in your brain, gets /alienated/. Well, what's that supposed to mean, I asked? It means that your brain refuses to accept it again as its own consciousness. A psychic nightmare. Endure it long enough, and you're done. Well, and thus they steamrolled poor Tana and found a lot about your precious holy men and women. Or so they thought. In the end, he was a mess, and the crucial part was missing, when they dumped him to us."

Pema's posture slouches a little again after her chanting stops. She sighs and whimpers a bit at the pain still soaring through her body. "There are no holy men or women, only disciples. The mind is a hard thing to train," she stops to cough again. "Lord Buddha told us that not even in one lifetime, may be find it. So don't be surprised to find all sorts of baggage in our minds." Her lips force a little smile, and she looks up at where she imagines Lian to be. "I hope you'll find something enlightening. Perhaps then our deaths will have served a purpose."

As a reply, the water house is opened again, this time, it fires directly at poor Pema's face. What was left of her hairdress gets blown away. She can move her head left and right a bit to dodge, but Lian takes a steady shot of about twenty seconds. So cold… When the water stops, Lian speaks again. Surprisingly, there is a certain tension to his voice, as if Pema's words struck true:

"Your humbleness won't help you, in this life or your next, /disciple/!" He relaxes his voice again: "The point is, /Yangchen/, this doesn't have to go down neither of both roads I just laid out before you. In this triangle of sadness your're trapped in, you mustn't follow May Naru nor Tanaka Tana. I, for my part, am convinced that this can be settled without such… inhuman carnage. You just have to accept that the sum of suffering will only increase if you don't cooperate. - So, are you willing to cooperate and answer to the questions I have?"

The water spray manages to catch Pema with her mouth open at first, filling up her mouth with water before managing to close it and look away. It still showers her, sending her gasping again in the intense cold, the mouthful of water being spit out on the floor. She pants, trying to regain her breath. "My next life," she spits out, "Not even the gods can control that. And you're not a god, even if you're trying to be one." She shivers, tensing up her frail body to fight the cold. "So what do you want, then? Why won't you just kill me, like you so gleefully… murdered the others?"

"Funnily, we killed less than you might imagine. The genies messed it up. This time, we'll take care of it ouselves from the start. Which is lucky for you. And i appreciate your cooperation. - So, to begin: What is your true name? And don't fool me. We probed the shadows, we know that you use numerous names. You are not Yangchen. I want the one name by which you are known to your brothers and sisters from Tibet."

The water hose is put down on the ground again. The man steps right in front of Pema now, about half a meter away. It seems as if he lowers himself down, to have a closer look at her blindfolded, wet face.

Pema withdraws a bit on her chair, as if sending Lian's face coming closer to hers. "I'm not Chinese," she says, "We don't have ancestral temples and records, keeping track of names. We call ourselves whatever we want. My parents call me Yangchen, what could be a more true name than that?" She shakes her head, "Or do you want what's on my SIN? I don't have one. Not a real one, anyway. So what good is a name to you?"

Lian: "Don't fool me! We know very well that the Tibetans are organizing small, inconspicious terror cells all across the world, Denver is no exception to it. Like your dear friend, this monk you saved, you are also part of this stinky movement. And even though the authorities in Asiantown give a drek about these terror cells, we do! And this time of ignorance will be over soon anyway! We are watching you all for years now, uprooting you steadily and effectively! We know that you are part of the Denver terrorist cell, and that you are not using the name Yangchen among them!"

"Outrageous," Pema lashes out with a mix of anger and disgust, breaking her previously stoic image. "Us Tibetans are a peaceful people. I know nothing of any such cells."

Lian smiles at her rage. Yep, Pema can't see it, but she can somehow feel it. "Tibetans are undermining authorities since the day they felt enlightened and aloof. They hurt the mainland, as they hurt the exclaves everywhere. But alright, alright. I promised I'd give you a fair chance to get out of here, without ending like a whimpering pile of meat, as May Naru, or like a braindead Tana. So, let's just assume you're honest and move on and talk about something you should be quiet familiar with." He stands up again, but remains standing in front of her.

"Since you are so concerned about Tana's fate, like so many others of your despicable kind, tell me: what do you think is the reason we caught him in the first place? What was it, he had to die for?"

"You Chinese have always seen us as lesser," Pema says, shaking in her chair as if she'd smack Lian right in the face if her hands weren't tied. "No wonder you hate us so much, now that we've got our own free homeland again. You're despicable. You know what," she says, the last few words suddenly in English instead of Cantonese. "I don't want to talk Chinese anymore. Please use English."

"Answer the question! I don't mind you switch to a pig's language! Seems to befit you! But you should watch your tongue, literally! Now answer the question! What was it, Tana held in his hand after the plane crashed in 2077!" he now yells at her, "What did he receive from this phoenix spirit?"

Pema backs down a bit, lowering her voice, but she does not switch back to Cantonese as she speaks, even if her English has a bit of accent while her Cantonese is as fluent as any native Hongkongese. "I don't know," she replies. "All I heard is that a spirit spoke to him, and that some Tibetans now consider himself the new Maitreya Buddha." She frowns. "And if you must know, I don't believe it either."

Pema's answer causes her torturer to pause a moment. Then he continues a bit calmer himself: "It is hard to believe, that you would not believe Tana to be a messanger of some importance, maybe even more. This plane carried more than some random boy, even though he was unimportant when he entered the plane… Or… maybe you actually don't know why this plane had to crash in the first place… - Hmmm, alright, we'll come back to this later. And I strongly urge you to gather the easy and simple points in the first round here. You might style yourself as the unknowing poor /investigator/ who has no clue, but this won't help you in the later rounds. For now: When did /you/ leave the Maya Cloud, and how? And did you ever receive any knowledge about a prophecy of the State Oracle of Tibet?"

"I'm sorry to say," Pema replies with a low voice and head equally held low. "I am not from Tibet. I have never even been close to the Himalayas. I grew up in China." She changes back to Cantonese again. "Why do you think I speak this language in the first place? If I knew how to penetrate the Maya Cloud, I would've left this place long ago to never return." She stops, coughing some more and shivering, the cold clearly getting to her. "Why would the Tibetan government even have resources for that sort of stuff? They're a primitive agrarian society, aren't they? And the prophecy of Maitreya Buddha has been part of Buddhist scripture since the Pali Canon, two thousand years ago. Don't need a state government to preach that."

"Well, well, well! You are either very effective in lying to yourself, denying the grim facts of reality, or you are simply lying to me. But let's take a break for a moment," the torturer steps away from Pema, picking something up from a table, or so it sounds.

"Actually, we have another little piggy in the oven and might just take our time to see if it's ripe and well-done."

The man moves past Pema to her right side and seems to pull on something. Earlier, when she assensed her environment, she could see another person's essence lingering at this spot. Pema can hear a muffled groan and the ringing of chains, then a deep and pressed breathing, shaking with fear.

Then Lian again: "Miss Wuang, since you did so well and helped us obtaining this Tibetan little piggy over there, your miserable role in this game is soon over. I know that you know, how things go…"

Rhyming his way through this display of sadistic control and power, he suddenly activates what must be some kind of electrical meat-cutter. A gnawing, mechanical sound. Nadine Wuang sobs and gives a suppressed cry as the meat-cutter suddenly stops - and most likely gets in touch with her body somwhere. There is a faint ringing of chains again. Five seconds of silence, then a whisper: "Please, don't…, I've complied!"

The torturer beats her hard with his fist, then the meat cutter can be heard again: She tries to get away from the kitchen tool, struggling in chains with a shriek. The man demands: "Just imagine for a second, that I would let you go. And I would task you with only one thing: get to the broadcast building, get me her SIN credentials she used when she checked in for the show, and bring it to me? Would you do it? Would you strike that simple deal?"

Nadine Wuang hesitates a moment, and maybe she nods, then the man continues: "Good, piggy, I knew it. But sadly, your reckless sense for egoism is a currency out of circulation since we now have what we needed you for. As I explained to you long and hard, your public display of sympathy for the Tibetan cause will not be tolerated. Instead, your final message to the world will be your body, dangling from several interstate bridges across the sectors. And also, negotiating about a media leak with this Vietnamese layabout didn't help either, to get you out of focus. - I know, I know, what you're about to say: you were just doing your job as a host! But I believe your cruel death will actually reach exactly the people who should understand that the ways how they run things in Asiantown are not appreciated by all. Not here, in Denver, and not appreciated on the mainland."

The electrical meat-cutter springs on again and there is a sickening sound of rending, mixed with a scream and the sound of an electric motor humming under load. This is probably a, if not /the/, moment for Pema to say something and interfere if she feels any sympathy for Nadine Wuang.

As the torturer turns away from Pema to taunt Nadine instead, the Tibetan girl tries to seize the opportunity while he is looking away. She bites her lip, keeping her mouth shut despite the wish to center her magic; the healing Dharani only being repeated in her head. As the healing spell is released upon her, she takes a deep breath as some of the pain in her body begins to wash away, replaced by a soothing warmth. She still has a ringing headache from the drugs and her body is cold and bruised, but at least she's feeling better for the moment.

The same, however, could not be said for Nadine, and when the sound of the saw comes on and Nadine's screams fills the room, Pema raises her voice and shakes in her chair. "NO! Please, don't! Don't hurt her…" Pema begins to sob, trying to keep her tears back, while wriggling in her bondages.

Actually, Lian stops the cutter and appears to turn towards Pema instead. "Oh, do I hear sympathy? That makes me happy, really, it does! For everyone's sake." Nadine is panting heavily and tries to gather herself as well, maybe.

"So, listen: I leave you two alone for a while, in order to give you a little chance to contemplate together: how important are secrets compared to sheer survival. And when I return for the second round, I want to hear your true stories about Tana, this almost-burned monk, and any organized Tibetan community. Names, places, organization. Furthermore: who do I have to ask in order to learn more about who is hiding among the Tibetan families in Denver, or which families are actively hiding people. And also names of people who are supporting the community from outside. Everything. And I mean both of you. Don't weigh yourselves against each other. If you want to get out of here alive, you have to walk hand in hand. No one of you will drag the other. I want answers from both of you."

"I leave a recorder between you two, and I will evaluate your 'confessions' when I find the time… And then I'll decide how much hope is in order - and how much suffering." With this closing words, the torturer walks away, unless Pema wants to address him once more.

Lotus Unchained (Shapechange)

"Nadine, can you hear me?" Pema calls out, her voice quivering with distress. "Are you alive? Don't be afraid, we'll make out through this… I swear we will!" She sighs, going silent for a moment. She closes her eyes behind the mask and lets her third eye open, gazing into the astral plane to see if Lian is still in the room or if he's walked away. Then, she begins to chant another Buddhist Dharani with a low voice.

As Pema falls silent, she can hear the torturer walk away from them, with heavy footsteps, sounding dull on a concrete floor. Then, after about ten steps, they step lightly on what must be metal stairs. One, two, three… twenty steps lead the torturer upwards. Then there is a thumping, like a fist gainst a metal door. It is soon answered with a turned key and shrieking hinges. All these sounds transport the impression of a huge, empty and cold hall that surrounds Pema. There is not a single sound from the outside world. Coldness and moisture suggests a place underground. Then the metal door is shut and locked again with a lasting echo.

Nadine Wuang snuffles and clears her throat before she speaks in pain: "I'm alive… but I'm bleeding from my upper leg… I am sorry… I'm so sorry… he, he left a small dictating machine on the table. I think it is on…"

Pema shifts her sight to the world beyond - and is, again, struck by the sensation of a powerful ward. Again, she can see blurry features of what could be Asian temple walls, again she has the feeling that there is another presence stretched out across the ward, but it's to hard to pierce the veil and distinguish all features in detail.

However, some things are clear: Nadine Wuang is the only metahuman presence in vicinity. She is not awakened, she's wounded, and in distress. Her essence shimmers in a woeful deep red against the golden haze that makes up the astral temple/ward that surrounds them.

Actually, Pema might conclude that it could be helpful to see their surroundings in the physical world as well. Especially since there is a bright source of orange, astral energy right behind her and Nadine. But what are the proportions of space here? The astral environment is still outright confusing to Pema right now.

"Remain calm, Nadine, please remain calm… I know you're in pain, but simply chant with me. Repeat, 'Om Mani Peme Hung, Om Mani Peme Hung…'," she says, choosing an easy mantra that Nadine should've heard of as well. She goes on to chant, almost making sure that Nadine goes on too, and then her body begins to twist. Pema's voice eventually disappears as her voice box shrinks, her body contracts and becomes impossibly narrow for a moment. Her clothes collapse into a pile on the chair, and a moment later a small green snake slithers out from the sleeve of her shirt, off the chair and landing on the floor.

Almost immediately afterwards, the snake begins to transform again, standing up and returning back to Pema's now naked form. "It feels better after chanting the mantra, doesn't it? We'll be fine," she starts talking again immediately as her form allows her to. "What shall we say to them?" she says as she begins to pick up her clothes off the chair, slipping back into them as quickly as possible while also looking about the room.

Resourceful as she is, Pema breaks the bonds without hurting herself, or breaking the chair or zip ties. After a brief moment, she's free of her blindfold too, and can finally have a look around while she tries to work herself back into her wet formfitting armor and clothes.

Nadine Wuang and Pema are trapped in an industrial hall of roughly 12 times 10 meters. The hall maybe once housed chemical tanks of some sorts. There are old rusty signs and sturdy remains of metal grilling, beams, and pipes. The tanks have been removed, though, opening up more than enough space to stage this interrogation.

The chamber they are sitting in is constructed with desaster prevention in mind. The ceiling is about four meters in height. There is only one human-sized door right beneath the ceiling. A rusty staircase runs down to ground level. Also, beneath the ceiling, close to the door, are huge wall breakthroughs that maybe once allowed pipes, cables and power supplies to connect to other facilities in halls beyond the door; given the old signs on walls and pillars, their prison once could have served as a chemical product chamber.

Investigating the Chamber

Besides this general impression, there are some more details of, probably, utmost interest…

First of all, there is a huge circle, marked by very noticeable stacks of stone tiles of some sort; eight stacks are placed evenly around them with a radius of about 4 meters. All stacks are connected with a white chalk line that outlines the circle. Within the circle, there is a small alluminium table with torture devices, and a massive metal-grilled water tank made from plastic. It is about 1.8 x 1 x 1.5 meters in size and contains a huge amount of water. Then, there is Pema's chair she just escaped from, bolted to the ground. Nadinw Wuang is tied to a metal pole to the right side of the chair. Her arms are bound above her head, she's standing, and her leg is bleeding badly. She still wears a grey business dress with a skirt, but she definitely received a beating - though her face has not been touched yet.

Finally, there is something behind Nadine and the chair, something that appears to be an illuminated model of a temple. Orange light comes from this model that rests on a small table, with handles to carry it on two men's shoulders. The model is colorful and very detailed. It definitely doesn't fit in here. It illuminates the scene with a warm orange and golden light.
Nadine Wuang picked up the chanting while Pema dressed herself. She wittnessed the shapeshifting with wide eyes, glancing around for any onlookers, but finding none. She still continues to chant right now.

If Pema still had her shoes on while in the chair, she leaves them off - walking around in heels would create too much noise. She looks around to see if there are any obvious cameras in the room. Then, she carefully walks up to Nadine and joins her back in the chanting as she approaches, reaching out with a hand to lightly touch Nadine's bleeding leg.

A quick glance reveals that medical attention is in order! Maybe it was intentional, maybe the cut was just placed badly, but it bleeds rapidly. The meat-cutter has ripped a jagged wound into her uper right leg, just above the knee, on the inside of the leg.

Obviously, Nadine Wuang is catching up with the situation, accepting the fact that Pema is indeed a shapeshifting awakened woman! She continues the chant, shifting her eyes between Pema and the metal door up ahead.

Pema makes a bit of cringing face as she looks at Nadine's nasty laceration, and perhaps it is enough for her to fail to heal the wound completely. As she touches the cut, Nadine can feel a certain warmth emanate from the spot, some of the pain disappears, and the bleeding stops - at least for a moment. The wound fails to close, but at least it looks somewhat less critical. "Sorry I brought you into this, Nadine," she says as she steps back, moving closer to the recorder so it won't be too obvious that she's moving about the room. Then, she heads over to the aluminium table housing all the torture devices… perhaps to look for a weapon.

There is no real weapon, only high-power batteries, wire clamps, screwdrivers, a scissor, a grim hammer, … and a motor driven meat-cutter. Also more gags, blindfolds and zip ties. The water hose still lies on the ground next to the water tank.

Nadine gives a deep sigh of relief as the pain is lifted from her to a good part…"Thank you, for your words, and don't worry about who framed who or who got us into here… There is no excuse for them to do such … things to anyone… " She glances around in her chains, obviously considering how to communicate clearly without giving away her doings.

Pema shudders a bit at the meat-cutter, the wicked saw-blade still stained with Nadine's blood. She grabs the pair of scissors and walks up to Nadine, checking if she's shackles with just zip ties or something more substantial. If they're just plastic zips, then she cuts them, freeing Nadine from her bondage. Then, she heads back to the chair. "I don't even know what to tell them… I've dreamed all my life of going to Tibet. Now they make me wonder what sort of things are going on beyond the Maya Cloud."

The chains are metal, but the zip ties are plastic. The scissor works fine and Nadine carefully tries her wounded leg on the floor. Ironically, she also has no shoes on. Her stockings are covered with dirt and ripped apart for a good part, she probably lost the shoes when they got her?

"It is all the fault of this May Naru! If she hadn't called me to negotiate a price for what she knows - /and/ bragged about it in front of the wrong guys, they'd have never dared to pull this off. I know nothing about Tibet either…," rubbing her wrists, she points Pema to the circle line of chalk and the eight piles of stone tiles, then she wiggles a finger to advise caution: "They're fanataics, fighting against the Tibetans, I think. My father despise them as well! I've no ties with them anyway!" She winces as she tries to walk a step or two, but it works so far.

"This will not stand, no matter if they feed me to the crows or let me go… this will not stand…," Nadine Wuang mutters to herself.

Pema looks at Nadine as she tries to take her first steps after having freed herself from the zip ties. She looks a little bit relieved as her leg does seem to be good enough to walk on. Perhaps not run, but at least walk. She frowns and walks over to the table housing the recorder. Promptly, she picks it up and tosses it into the nearest concrete wall, hoping that's enough to destroy it. "I severely underestimated May Naru; I believed her to be just a delinquent, but it seems she's much more than that." She sighs and looks down at the recorder after it has bounced off the wall, before walking over to the shrine-like object radiating orange light. "Hmm, is this perhaps what keeps the ward up…?"

The mysterious object seems to be an illuminated model of a temple. Orange light comes from this model that rests on a small table, with handles to carry it on two men's shoulders. The model is colorful and very detailed. It definitely doesn't fit in here. It illuminates the scene with a warm orange and golden light. On closer inspection, little, tiny, even diminuitive details become visible. It's the model of a shrine or residence from ancient China, obviously. But the level of detail is impressive.

Everything seems to be hand-made. There is an orange tree in the courtyard, with seven crows sitting on its branches. A well, with a little servant, fetching some water from down below; a cat on the prowl nearby. Then, through one of the open portals to the courtyard, Pema spies at a scene that looks like children playing with… AR goggles in a living room. There are several canvas stands as well, just about 4 centimeters in height, with little paintings visible as well; there, a piano in one corner, and pigs and chicken in another room that seems to be a stable. Whoever lives in the model, certainly admires the arts, modern media, but also the peaceful rural life.

Slowly, Pema develops an understanding of its significance. It's a shrine to someone who died, probably long ago. It reminds her of processions she once saw, from Taipeh, but also Thailand. Families invest enormous sums of money to provide their anchestors with luxury models of their afterlife residence, with everything the inhabitants loved and admired in life. This model most likely is a residence to some anchestor spirit. And not a lesser one, given the furnishing of the model and the high quality of materials and craftmanship used.

Alas, if this model is tied directly to the surrounding ward remains unclear for now. It is very likely, but Pema can't tell for sure yet. Her astral perception was hindered by blurring signatures, but maybe a second try will help…

While inspecting the shrine, Pema begins to hum to herself, singing on a Tibetan song to herself. Although the physical details of the object are interesting, it doesn't do her much help so she covers up her eyes and draws a quick talismanic shape onto her forehead, sending her consciousness to perceive on the astral plane. Understanding it is likely to be some sort of funerary object, she tries to study what sort of spell it is under, and if it is responsible for the ward surrounding this dungeon.

With shaking limbs Nadine Wuang lames over to the table, thereby watching Pema. She whispers: "This is some kind of temple they carried in here. Be careful… I have no idea what that's all about… " She then lowers down, painfully, and investigates a stack of concrete tiles next to the table. "Hm… some leftover fromn the facility maybe… they used the same tiles here on the stacks as well… I think there is a magic barrier of some sort attached to the circle and the stacks of tiles…"

Pema tries her luck with astral assensing again. This time, with her eyes close to the model, it warrants a beter success. On the astral plane, she is actually sucked into the model and - bluntly ignoring the rules of physical space - the courtyard seems to fill the ward circle they are sitting in. The cat is staring at her, the crows are looking down from orange-lit branches above, Pema smells a fresh breeze as well, and feels the warmth of an imagined sun above. It becomes immediately clear to her that there is a presence living in this shrine, an anchestor spirit for sure. And from the intensity of the residence and all its details that spring to life on the astral plane, she estimates that she is probably outmatched by the resident's power. But, at the same time, it's quiet clear that the residence does not equal the ward. Both are different by nature, but somehow linked. The shrine is placed inside the ward, but it is not its source of power. Rather, the residence is also placed inside of the ward, like just another prisoner. - Maybe, the resident of the shrine is around here somewhere, even watching her already? She can't pinpoint the resident's signature, but it seems possible to take a look around and invesitgate the residence, astrally speaking.

Pema opens her eyes again, stepping back. "They're a prisoner as well," she gasps out. "This shrine is not the source of the ward, these piles of stones are. We should erase them."

She recalls that there was a water hose back by the torture chair, that she proceeds to grab. "I'll flush out the chalk, and then we remove the stones until the ward is disrupted." She eyes up at the door above them. "Be careful though, they could come back at any moment, especially if they were listening in on that recorder."

Meeting the Spirit Prisoner/Guardian

While Pema starts to get active and Nadine Wuang nods in faint understanding, something changes in the room. The light starts to shift, shadows change. The orange light from the temple is diminished by some other source of white, bright light, right behind Pema. On Chinese, a deep and rough voice speaks up, with a light and playful melody that immediately calls forth the image of old grandfather, smirking at the younger folk's petty problems of youth:

"Ah, ah, ah! What a nifty trickster we have here. Soooo resourceful, this young girl! Someone really missed the obvious. What hubris, to bind a slippery snake to a chair! This is worth a good narrative, or even a joke or two!"

From Nadine's gasping stare it becomes very clear, that something might have appeared right behind Pema.

As Pema goes to pick up the water hose and is just about set to start destroying the ward. As the shrine suddenly springs to life, though, she stops in her tracks and turns to face it. She doesn't look intimidated by the spirit, far from it. Almost out of habit, she sets down the hose and joins her hands, bowing before the spirit appearing before her. "Joke all you wish, old master, but if we do not make it out of this room alive, there will be none to hear the joke. Can you help us?" She begins to look around nervously, as if having a premonition her captors might be on their way back.

Turning towards the light, Pema can see that the source of the white light is a magical phenomenon, a gleaming cylinder that reaches from the ground to the ceiling, with particles of pure white moving upwards. Within this enlightened elevator, a human figure appears in a haze, floating in midair. The white of his clothes, hair, and skin almost make it appear translucent, but the features of an old Chinese man in official robes are plainly visible. A long mustache frames his lips; reaching down to a long forked goatee. The hair is tied into a solid topknot:

"Hmhm, I see you're in a dire situation. Aware I am of it. So, let's say it that way: You probably don't want to touch the ward, otherwise, I have to fulfill my progeny's wishes and… do you some harm, I fear!" The apparition turns his bemused face towards the stairwell and metal door where the torturer left. "I don't know if I have any rights to judge their doings, but I am at least aware of the political schemes and agendas they try to advance… and I'm just left wondering… Actually, I feel like my distant offspring should refrain from bringing violence into the world, but who am I to question? Every generation has their own struggles to fight and endure." He turns his head back to Pema and Nadine, seemingly unsure of how to proceed. It appears to Pema that this spirit doesn't seem to be very eager to fulfill its command.

Nadine, in the meantime, steps right behind Pema, maybe hoping to find cover or at least some reassurance.

Pema tries to look as dignified as she can in front of the ancestral spirits. Despite having dishevelled hair, bruises and dried blood on her face and wearing a ripped and torn suit, she manages to stand tall somehow. "So you are bound to service my captors? Then I will leave the circle be. But please tell me… did you see if they stole my foci before placing me here? I need them back."

The bemused look on the spirit's ethereal face turns more serious and empathetic, as if Pema's sudden self-awareness reflects immediately on him. "You did well without them, but yes, they took them away from you. I am sure, if you just calm down and focus yourself, you will find them closeby." He points at the metal door. Then, he takes a deep sigh, rubbing his chin and tending to his goatee in thought. "You see, young girl, you seem to be civilized and decent. Not the kind of monster they announced would come. I am very curious about their agenda against a Tibetan people they seem to hate with such uttermost devotion. Back in my time, the Tibetan Empire did not exist, even though I learned of the name of the ascetic Sakyamuni. I think he was a decent fellow as well. I wonder why you would now become such a threat to my progeny. What do you want from them?"

The Tibetan girl scoffs at the last question, "I don't want anything from these people. I have no interest in these schemes and plots, I do not participate in their silent war. All I want is to recover a lost son of my people, because his family and community is missing him. That's all." She crosses her arms over her chest. The fact the spirit speaks of being close to two thousand years old, juding from his description, does not seem to faze her. Perhaps such things are commonplace within the Tibetan community, or becuase she has a bond with an ancestral spirit on her own.

"You speak of the one they call Tana, right?" He hovers over to the chair where Pema was strapped to a few minutes ago. "He once sat here on this very chair, just like you. So, you are a friend of his family?" Curiously, he observes Pema reaction.

Pema's gaze follows the spectral creature as he moves from the shrine over towards the chair, the mere sight of it causing the girl to shudder. Not because of what she experienced in it, but what -others- experienced in the past. "So he was here also, then…" she shakes her head in slight sadness. "His disappearance brought me and his family together. Your descendant, who seem to hate us so much… oh, how ironic that they've brought us Tibetans so much closer."

With a deep frown, the spirit relates: "They had already cracked his skull open, and performed a rite to stabilize his fleeting mind, asking me to hold communion with his soul. For something hidden inside…," the spirit probes further for Pema's knowledge or motives maybe, expecting an answer.

The look of discomfort on Pema's face turns into one of disgust. "They're madmen, psychotic blood-thirsty madmen." She walks over to the table of torture instruments and picks up the electric bone saw, bring it with her. "I will not lie - a part of me would gladly open up their skulls in turn, see what evil comes out from there." Then, surprisingly, she tosses the implement away on top of the table. "But evil can create only more evil. That is the worst of the three poisons, that Lord Buddha taught us." She eyes the saw, then Nadine. "We better seek a way out of here, before they open our skulls as well."

The spirit runs his white, pale hand through his beard again: "My great, great, great, great …." and it goes on for a while, "…great, great son and his band have probably done more errors than one should tolerate. Pushing me beyond my boundaries with this poor lad, overlooking what a powerful woman you are, and… being too self-righteous when they set up this ward. … Maybe a very knowledgeable and bright mind would find the flaw they built into it, and thus a way to overstep the boundary that binds her - and me?"

Towards Desperation

The spirit starts to slowly fade away, leaving Nadine and Pema alone in the orange light that radiates from the little shrine. It seems like the spirit was drawn back into its little residence before it turned completely invisible again.

Talking in mysteries and riddles like old ghosts are prone to do for some reason, Pema says, "Hey wait… who's her?" But since the spirit has already disappeared by then, she sighs. "I was never that good at building wards…" she says and looks over at the circle again. "It is a bit sloppy work admittedly… say," she turns to Nadine. "Did you ever get any indication that May Naru practiced magic of any sort?"

Nadine tries to regain some courage after the spirit disappeared, shaking her head and finding her voice again: "I never met her, really. And from what the torturer said and asked, I think May Naru is on their death list as well… Unless they lied about her being dead already, for getting in touch with me. I never saw her face to face, actually."

Nadine adds: "But I think the stacks of tiles are important. I saw them taking special care that they're not touched, when I was dragged in here, and later."

The ward is made from eight stacks of concrete tiles each; every single tile is about either 25x25 centimeters or 75x25 centimeters in size. The stacks all consist of three levels. They are about 5 centimeters thick and stacked in the following pattern:

 ---  ---  - -  ---  - -  - -  ---  - -
 ---  ---  ---  - -  - -  - -  - -  ---
 ---  - -  - -  - -  - -  ---  ---  ---

There are also some unused tiles beneath the table: four elongated and seven square ones.

It doesn't take Pema very long to figure out that this forms a circle of eight I Ging trigrams, forming a solid lock around this place. Moving or removing some of the tiles will certainly trigger the ward and its warden. The chalk circle is possibly without any real effect here, given the pattern of the trigrams.

Nadine, shivering and stepping next to Pema, adds some thoughts on it: "The spirit mentioned a flaw they made, when they set up this circle. I guess you know what he might have been referring to, don't you?"

"I did come across some intel on May Naru before, but nothing saying she's a mage." Pema says as she squats down next to one of the stacks of tiles. "I thought she'd be just some foolish girl that got dragged into this mess by forces beyond her comprehension. But she seems to have been a more resourceful girl than I expected. Perhaps she died in this very room as well. I'd try to pierce into the astral residue of the room, but I am honestly afraid a room like this would bear too much trauma." She looks up at Nadine, "I've investigated many murders before by gazing back into the history of crime scenes. I've seen murders through the victim's eyes. I've had so many nightmares of death… it frankly doesn't even scare me anymore." She chuckles. "Us Tibetans have a bit of morbid bent… I don't know why, maybe it's in our blood." She looks back at the tiles. "It's the Ba-Gua," she says and stands up. "Let's see if it follows the Pre-Heaven or Post-Heaven arrangement… help me find the 'Kin' trigram. It's the one with three unbroken lines, pure Yang. From there we can determine the setup."

Nadine nods: "If this place has been used for many murders and interrogations, I guess there's quiet some thick arcane layering flowing around… or whatever you would call it properly. … Here, there's the sky. Three solid tiles."

After locating the 'Kin' stones, Pema follows the stacks of stones one by one until she has finished the circle. "They are all arranged according to the Pre-Heaven Bagua. No flaws there," she says and scratches her neck. "Must be something else the spirit was referring to."

So far, the setup seems flawless. The eight trigrams form a static pattern, channeling the ward's and barrier's energy quiet effectively. No tile should be moved or removed.

Nadine ponders: "It must be something fundamental they missed. I mean, the guardian spirit could even give us a hint. How poorly can you command a spirit? I don't know… Maybe it's some out of the box thinking necessary?" Nadine starts to walk along the circle once more, checking the hall, the pillars beyond, and also all the things that are arranged within the circle.

Pema, following Nadine's lead and inspecting the immediate surroundings, finds the following: There is a metal pole running from ceiling to floor, where Nadine was tied to. About 1.5 meters to its left, there is the chair bolted to the floor. Both things, pole and chair, are roughly in the center of the circle. Behind both, there is the shrine, glowing in orange color. The table stands about two meters away from the chair, next to it, the water tank. Beneath the table with its cruel instruments on display, there is a small pile of unused concrete tiles. They seem to be from the same kind as the ones used for the stacks, carelessly left lying around. Actually, the pattern of all objects don't seem to be very intriguing. Besides the shrine, chair and pole forming a triangle of some sorts, there is no geometrical form or shape suggested. But maybe Pema already has some other suspicion…

Clearly Pema does not have any other suspicions. Reluctant to go sit on the torture chair, she squats down on the floor, resting her elbows on her knees. "The circle is flawless. Wards aren't generally affected by the interior either. Otherwise, moving this table would upset the balance," She says and walks over to the table, then grabs it with both hands to flip it over, not caring in the slightest if all the instruments spill out on the floor.

The table flips easily, sending all the tools shattering to the floor. Nadine seems to pick up a certain frustration, giving a tense sigh, as if suddenly, the situation crushes down on her again: free but not free! So close! Pema, however, just stares down on a flipped table and a pile of damn leftover concrete tiles.

The sound of the flipping table echoes through the hall for a second. Then, it's silence again.

«Plot» Yin says, "If you want to fold and wait for other things to happen without further actions on your side, let me know. Otherwise I assume you are planning on your next move and Haven't given up yet."

Pema sighs and looks like she wants to kick something, but being barefoot and with cold feet, it's probably not a great idea. She looks around, "I wonder where those damn people went… we've made so much noise here. Not much left to make noise with now." She looks to Nadine, biting her lip. "I guess there isn't much left for us to do anymore, except…" she points over to the shrine. "Can we try to carry it over the circle?"

Nadine follows her direction: "Moving this thing…? Wouldn't that upset its … owner. The spirit I mean?" She shifts her eyes back to the circle, obviously unsure. "Maybe it's simply that the ward is inactive? Should I just try and step over it?" She looks back at Pema.

"You can always step over it," Pema says. "Wards do not exist in the physical space, it will not affect metahumans. It will only be a barrier to a spirit, or someone whose spirit has left the physical realm."

"So, I am actually free to …go?!" knowledge and hope seem to struggle within her. She seems to want to believe. Then, suddenly, the over-confident kidnappers finally respond. The squeaking sound of a key turned in its lock rings through the hall again. Nadine freezes on her spot, thoughts raging.

"Hide! Behind the water tank!" Pema says, while she begins to chant a low dharani to herself.

Pema-san just flipped a table over, out of frustration. Tools of torture scattering across the floor. She is soaked, she is shivering, her clothes torn and stained. She still suffers from what these kidnappers did to her. But most of all: she feels trapped and desperate. Out of options. Because just in this very moment, the door that leads to the outside hall is opened again with a squeaking sound. The torturer is coming back. And when he sees what Pema had done, she'd be killed right away.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License