The Zagami Files Part 1: A Prologue

GM: Sizaani
Players: Dr. North
Synopsis: Dr. North meets with her favorite joyboy after some time, for a lustfull night of pleasures. However, early morning brings a very unpleasant surprise. Her joyboy contact Silver Sterling tells her about an assumed abuse he suffered two days ago, from a new client called Sam. Silver now shows symptoms of drugs used to cause memory loss and maybe a truth serum. Since a closer friendship developed between Dr. North and Silver Sterling over the past years, she descides to help him out. They drive to Dr. North's turf at Stanfried Business Park where she makes good use of her laboratory equipment and knowledge of Pharmacology and Chemistry in order to identify the drugs her friend has been exposed to. Silver Sterling will not suffer any long-time damage or adverse health effects. But what is the significance of this whole event? Why did his new client drug him beyond what was initially agreed upon between both? And why did this new client interrogate Silver Sterling for details on his clients - including Dr. North? And are there parts of the story, still unremembered by Silver Sterling, cut-out by his memory loss?

Date: 2083-03-09

A Night of Pleasure

Text Message to Chloe North from Sterling (#13829)
Hey. Another moon lost in the city sky. Another speck of wine on a white sheet. Are you a sun, a moon, a star? Where have you been wandering? And is there an eclipse brewing? Gosh, I've been listening to Mahler's 2nd symphony half night and I can't stop thinking of you.

«Plot» Sizaani says, "It's past sundown by now. About 10pm."

Text Message to Sterling from Chloe North (#13300)
Me? I'm a bioluminescent fungus. Haha, sorry, I spoil the mood. I'm not half the poet that you are. No business tonight? Wanna head down to a nice hotel in the FTZ?

At the time of sending, Chloe has shut down the grow lights in her garden and only the LCD panels on the electronic control panels still glow in the dark hall below her. She's sitting on the couch/bed up in the office space, a projector playing a flatvid movie on the wall in front of her as she's sipping on a glass of wine.

Text Message to Chloe North from Sterling (#13829)
Please come, from your orbit out there, and touch gently the ground mere mortals walk on! :) Charlton Creek Hotel, CAS North, bordering FTZ. Traffic is light, so the trix tell me. If you hurry, you make it before the soprano solo has finished ;)

Stanfried is calm as it could possibly get. There was some ruckus lately, from the neighbor in A6 who moved some stuff about, but otherwise it's just another lonely Thursday. Ghoul attacks have hit second line news by now. Winter or spring? Weather forecast is undecided.

Text Message to Sterling from Chloe North (#13300)
I'll be there, as soon as I've decided for green dress or black. Might take a while.

Text Message to Chloe North from Sterling (#13829)
Chamber is 102. And I see both. Black. Green. You. Colors and light. Leave me on suspense, like you always do, I guess :)

The projector is turned off and Chloe gets up. Fortunately, she's the type that always keeps her makeup and hair impeccable, so she doesn't need to prepare much. Her sleep regulator implant also means the night is young. She heads off to her closet, changing from her more casual jeans and blouse to something more befitting a fancy hotel. Green dress it is, dark emerald, short and clingy but with long sleeves, matching shoes and dark stockings. Sterling is a professional when it comes to creating an aura of class, and Chloe does her best to keep up.

She packs a few enjoyable substances in her purse along with a fresh credstick, grabs her coat and heads out to her Tsarina, the small electric car lighting up as she approaches and opens its cockpit-like chassi. A moment later, she's on the way towards the hotel, putting in the address on the autonav. Never been to Charlton Creek before, sounds like a more Gilded Age-type classic establishment more than one of those modern corporate hotels with experimental architecture.
Classy it is indeed. The hotel front and entrance is covered in brass, with large windows allowing all the wannabes and low-lifes to capture at least a glimpse of what it means to be settled. Gorgeous as she looks, Chloe is welcomed by the staff at the entrance. A female norm and a male ork, both well groomed, educated and ready to deal with upper-class late-comers until far past midnight. No questions asked. Just friendly staff to help her find the elevator to 102. Chloe's probably used to the setting by now, but this also means there is a tingling sensation rising within. Silver knows her. Almost a clsoe friend. And he also knows how to please her.

After a few years of living in exile from her old life in Tir Tairngire, Chloe has become more a street creature, getting used to the laid-back and less formal life that being a low-life sprawl dweller offers. So going to places like these is a throwback, an illusory remnant of what her life used to be like, and perhaps how it could have been if things had turned out differently. She struts right through the lobby, perhaps giving the dimly illuminated lobby and the grand piano playing in the bar a glance, but that's not what she's here for.

After leaving the lift, she comes out and walks up to room 102, and gives it a knock.

The door opens. Silver Sterling is wearing tight black trousers and a loose fitting white shirt. His hair is just…. wild. A mane befitting a lion, but silvery and shiny as if he just stepped out of a shower - bah, shower! A silvery /waterfall/ has given birth to Silver Sterling! His eyes meet Chloe's and that's always like a stabbing. He is not just looking at her, but piercing right through her. Of course, he's aware of that gorgeous green dress, but the only thing that seems to be of relevance to him are Chloe's eyes. And he captures. He reaches out with a hand and leads her inside of the room, as a dancer would lead a dearest partner. Music is playing in the background. Maybe Mahler, maybe something similar, and again: it captures. When the door closes behind her, everything outside doesn't matter anymore. Silver is going all in. No need to talk. His presence is intense. It seems like he's about to create the perfect moment.

The typical idea of male elven beauty is a somewhat androgynous one, and Sterling represents it quite well. Clean-shaven, sharp features, long well-groomed hair and of course gracefully elegant with every move. Not that Chloe is any worse in that regard - she is a former elite gymnast, after all, and elves do not lose their edge with time like the other races do. So, she is dragged along into the movement, and then she stands before him. She grins and narrows her eyes. "Looking good, as usual." She puts a hand on her hip. "Though I have to say I'm a bit surprised; usually I'm the one booking the hotel. Not that I particularly mind; the place is gorgeous."

He can't help but smile and pulls her closer with one arm around her waist, gently: "We've met since….? I don't even know for sure. And I have to admit, this night, it was a bit different." He comes closer to her ears, whispering: "You've always been something special and, when I listened to this concert this night, someting changed, something happened within. And I had to call you and see if you would be looking forward to see me again as I was looking forward to see you." And with a grin he adds: "And if this feels awkward, you are free to pay in advance, however you prefer."

Chloe has a bit of incredulous grin to his sweet talking. He is, even if they've become sort of friends, still a prostitute, and she knows he probably talks like this to different women every night. Still, she lets him play along, even putting her hands on his shoulders as he comes closer. "I'm sure business was slow and you just took your chances that I'd be a willing buyer," she says with a teasing chuckle. "Well, good for you that I'm a loyal customer. And that I was just at home watching Russian flatvids anyway. So, got any Willamette Valley for the occasion?" She says, referring to a region of Tir Tairngire known for making high quality sparkling wine.

He laughs quietly and nods: "The only way to get your Willamette Valley is down your thighs and sparkling through my lips. Are you fine with that?"

Chloe rolls her eyes, "Oh sweet Lord…" and she can't help but laugh in turn. "No champagne then, alright. I can live with that." She lets her hands run down his shoulders and his biceps. "It's been a while, you'll have to slow down with me. You don't mind going a bit slow, do you?" She steps back a bit, kicking off her shoes.

Silver turns her around, pressing her softly against the mirror that makes up the wall opposite to the bed. His face is close and stern. He is with her. After a few deft moves, her green dress rustles past her heels. Almost as if by accident, his fingers brush her breasts and hips, neck and lower cheeks. He then spreads her arms, locking his fingers with hers, and steering her in a wide circle to lay down on the bed, face down. It's probably not by chance that Chloe, spread on the bed, can see Silver in the mirror now, climbing up behind her, rubbing his hands with massage oil. Kneeling on her lower legs, he waits for her to surrender and open up. Funnily, there /is/ champagne ready at hand in the mini bar with a transparent front. He just knows her well enough, it seems. His warm and oily hands start to move up, from her feet up to her cheeks, further on past her shoulders and neck. His body eventually pressing her down into the sheets…

After so many encounters like these, Sterling knows exactly how to make Chloe melt in his hands; how rough she wants it, how controlling he should be and what spots she likes it the best. So she just lets him take control, explore her as he wants, knowing well that the night will be long and full of pleasure. He might charge her quite a bit for it, but as a once married woman now reduced to a life falling asleep alone on a couch in a hydroponics lab, this is just what she needs.

A Disturbing Morning After

Early the following morning, she slowly wakes up. Her long black hair is spread out over the sheets like a massive halo, and all her clothes except her thigh-high stockings are in a pile on the floor, her body only covered by the satin blanket. Her sleep-controlling implant makes snoozing late mornings redundant, but even she decides to lay in for a little while this time, looking over beside her.

Chloe awakens. There was much good to have. The everlasting city lights are dipping the hotel room in a pale blue. From her angle on the bed, the mirror opposite at the wall, that did wittness their pleasures just some hours ago, now reflects a sharp bright light. The door to the bathroom is a crack wide open. Heavy breathing and maybe a sobbing can be heard.

The bed besides her is empty.

That wasn't exactly what she expected. She lets out a low 'huh' to herself and rolls over, setting her still clothed feet down on the floor. She picks up her underwear and puts it on but doesn't bother with the dress just yet. She also grabs her hair and ties it up into a huge bun at the back of her head before she heads over to the bathroom and peeks in, knocking a bit on the door. "Hey, what's the matter?"

The door to the bathroom swings open by Chloe's careful knocking. Silver is sitting on the closed lavatory, naked. His silvery hair clings to his chest. The neon light is piercing and merciless, revealing an elf broken. It suddenly appears to Chloe that it's quite early in the morning, about five. His breath comes heavily, and it's only through the mirror again, that he raises his head and looks at Chloe: "I don't feel well. I don't feel well." Never since she met him, Chloe has seen him in such a state. He is weeping.

Chloe is obviously taken aback by the situation, and she looks around in confusion. She carefully walks up and stands next to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. It's quite an odd scene, and thoroughly un-sexual, even though he is sitting there naked and she's in sexy lingerie and they spent the night together. She squeezes the shoulder a bit. "Did you take any chems tonight? Feeling symptoms of poisoning? I've got an antidote patch in my purse." It's like the source of his discomfort coming from an emotional state doesn't really cross her mind, instead assuming it's drug-related.

Silver takes comfort in Chloe's gentle caress. He breathes several times, heavily, to get his grips together: "I think I fucked it up, Chloe. I don't know," sobbing again, "I had a client, a few days back, and I took a mind bender to make her more comfortable. She was all about privacy, you know. It's a common thing, to make sure we… I won't remember too much. But next day I discovered this," he shows his lower left thigh, where someone obviously put a needle in one of his veins, "and I started to remember … things. I talked to her. I talked about you… And others, I believe. I don't know what's happening. I think I gut abused, and I fear …. my phone was acting weird as well…"

"Wait… hold on," Chloe says and puts a hand on her forehead, biting her lower lip. "What compounds did you take? Do you still have them?" She looks at the needle mark, but she also knows she won't be able to learn anything about it without running the poor guy through a toxicology testing. Something she probably could do - at her lab. "Did they ask questions? Do you remember anything…?" She pauses for a moment. "It's not because of this that you called me here last night, was it?"

In a moment of clarity and sincerity he looks up and grabs her hand: "I called you because… I keep you close to my heart and and I want you no harm. I called you because I … I care about you. And I know that you probably can help me. Can you take a bood sample and see what's going on? I mean, I find it hard to put everything together, maybe I am just overreacting. I don't know! But can you check me up? I'm used to privacy drugs, but this was different."

Chloe reaches down to place a kiss on Silver's head, atop his soft platinum-blonde hair. "Of course," she says. "But we'll have to head down to my lab to do that. Are you up to it, or do you need rest?" For a moment, she ponders why on earth she doesn't keep a medkit in her car. And why she never got around to get that cybernetic chemical analyser implant.

Silver nods, "Chloe, I am fine, I am just… it's been stacking up the bast two days. I can tag along," he nods again and stands up, then, his hand raises, caressing her cheek, "I just suddenly, cared so much, can you understand?"

Chloe smiles a little, then withdraws her hand from his shoulder. "Well get your pretty ass dressed, then. Guess we're skipping out on the continental breakfast." She then heads out of the bathroom and goes to pick up her dress, holding her breath for a moment as she slides it onto her slender frame, adjusting it a bit. Finally, she goes to pick up her shoes and is ready to leave, so she goes to pour herself another glass of sparkling wine before he is good to go as well.

Heading to Her Stanfried Lab

After getting dressed again, Chloe heads out of the hotel room and summons the lift, making sure that Silver Sterling is tagging along and that he doen't look too messed up. A couple of elves checking out early is no big deal, but if one looks like he just had an emotional breakdown, it might be enough to be memorable to the staff.

"Just go grab some fresh air outside, I'll be right back," she says and pats Silver on the back before she heads over to the hotel lobby and puts the room key down. "We'd like to check out, please. And I'll pay for any bills left on the room."

Silver Sterling gathered himself , he took a quick shower, got dressed again, put on his perfume, some fancy shades. The only thing he couldn't don was a relaxed mood. Something had haunted him in his sleep, and this came crushing down, on top of the deep worries he had already carried around. His guts tightened into a massive fist full of anxiety.

And so Chloe pays 280 nuyen while Silver is taking a deep breath outside. He is doing better, definitely, when Chloe steps outside as well. He manages a smile but says nothing. Still, it's an awkward situation. And, given the things Chloe heard so far, the situation might as well be urgent.

«Auto-Judge[]» Dr. North (#13300) spends 280 nuyen for "Hotel Bill".

Quietly slotting her credstick, she smiles to the night receptionist and wishes them a good morning before she grabs her purse and walks out, her sharp heels echoing against the marble floor of the empty hotel lobby. The automatic doors slide open, and she joins Silver outside by the entrance. There, she takes out a pack of cigarettes and offers one to her companion, lighting up his cig before her own if he decides to take it. Her clingy mini-dress isn't much protection against the cold morning air, but she doesn't seem too bothered by it.

"So…" she says, spewing out a puff of cold air mixed with smoke. "You spoke about me to other clients? Did they ask about me? Were they from Tir Tairngire?"

Silver feels similar about the early morning's cold. Its reviving and sobering. He nods with a thankful smile and flips the cigarette and waits for the lighter before he speaks, with his head thrown backwards against a column that carries the hotel's roofed entrance area. The sky above Denver slowly glows towards an icy blue.

"Yes, Chloe. I had flashbacks, since yeserday. First in my dreams, but then, even when I was awake, I suddenly remembered … scenes. I think I talked about you." He looks her into the eyes, "I am so sorry, this wasn't my decision, Chloe. And I think it wasn't just you, about whom I babbled. Others of my clients as well. But you are the only one I, well, I know as someone who could check on me. - It was this new client - 'Sam'. She asked me to throw in some pills, to ensure a bit more privacy. And whatever happened then, I think that caused the mess." He shakes his head again, in disbelief, "Abused me, damn it."

After barely smoking half the cig, Chloe flicks it away and lets it sputter away in the night. She sighs, not looking at him but rather just looking up at the sky. "It's alright, I understand. Probably used Sodium Pentothal on you. It makes you talk, or blather even. Shit," she shakes her head and looks down. "Oh well, let's head back and find out. I'll go get the car." She heads down the staircase leading down to the front yard and the parking lot. She disappears in among the cars, and a moment later she comes back and her Tsarina stops in front of Silver, opening up the front cockpit-like seat for him. She quietly waits for him to get in, before driving off onto the quiet streets of early morning Denver.

Silver climbs in, and both drive off. After a brief moment he adds: "This Sam was not an elf, if that helps you a bit, or gives you a relief. She is a colored norm, afro-american maybe. So, Tir Tairngire? I don't know. Probably rather not," he shrugs. "In these fashbacks, it's been her I talked with, I think. If others… had their fun with me, I can't remember." He then falls silent, as if he's trying to connects some dots and fill in some blank spots in his memory.

Chloe looks a little relieved by Silver's confession. "Not too many of those in Tir Tairngire, mostly lots of Wineg." She casually uses a somewhat racist Sperethiel term for orks and trolls. "You can also tell if someone's grown up in the Tir. The accent, the way they look over their shoulder… Tir Tairngire is a world of its own. Anyway, I rant," She shrugs, and just keeps driving, or rather letting the autonav drive them back towards Stanfried.

Early Morning at Stanfried Business Park

Stanfried Business Park - Warehouse A7(#14001)

The morning finally breaks, and they arrive at Stanfried Business Park. Quite busy, actually, with trucks and vans moving about, blocking and locking each other out, stalling automated drone operations on top of it. Good thing, that Chloe has a rather small electro car. They smuggle themselves past the trucks and arrive at A7, after they've passed the almost pathetical checkpoint that guards the Business Park at this early and busy time of the day. A quick scan of her license plate was all they had to endure. Just don't linger too long at the bottlenecks now!

Silver is puzzled and finds some distraction from his haunting problem in the fact that Chloe has any business here. He says not a single word, even though he probably has a lot of questions. How limited your picture of a person can be, if you happen to be just her joyboy and she just your client - and all your shared time is built badically on elaborated illusion.

Finally, both enter Chloe's Hydroponics Garden, her hometurf.

Silver is clad in his black, tight trousers and white shirt again, with a tres-chick coat of dark purple and black flung over his arm. His wild silvery mane is tied into a loose braid. Unsure of what awaits him, he follows her in silence.

The graceful little electric car noiselessly whizzes past rows of warehouses once she makes it through the checkpoint, stopping on a GridLink-connected charging spot that lights up with orange light as her car connects to it. A moment later, the cockpit opens up and she climbs out, adjusting her short skirt once back on the pavement. She makes her way over to the door to her warehouse, swiping a keycard and running a palm-print scanner on the door. It blinks in green and the door slides up. She invites Silver in first before she steps in and closes the door behind her.

As soon as one leaves the grey industrial landscape outside and steps into this space, the air changes. The temperature is warmer than outside, heated by hundreds of LED grow lights bathing the place in a mixture of white and magenta light. The air is slightly humid from thin mist of water vapour being sprayed out at all times. Most of the room is essentially a greenhouse, with rows of shelves and basins loaded with lush greens of all sorts. The setup uses fairly basic materials, with regular industrial storage shelves and white plastic tubing, but it clearly functions quite well. One can see basic garden-variety vegetables such as herbs, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peppers, as well as varieties of flowers and other plants grown for more 'medicinal' purposes.

A network of electrical wiring and water hoses run across the floor, congregating near the corner where a number of desks have been set up with laboratory equipment. A number of old office desks, likely discarded by another tenant, have been repurposed here to house a chemistry lab. The equipment is mostly nondescript machines and computers, but there is still a section housing rows of glassware containers, a microscope and various burners and distillers. A large still also stands on the floor there, capable of producing significant amounts of alcohol.

Once inside, the warehouse is dark, but the air is warm and humid, much like one would expect from a greenhouse. "Welcome to my little hideout," she says and goes to a small control panel, turning the lights back on. The white floodlights in the ceiling stays off; instead the magenta grow-lights lining all the rows and rows of greenery turn on, turning into a landscape of green and pink neon, like a cyber-jungle. She grins. "The lab's in the back."

Sterling laughs, surprised: "Chloe, what by all means? You are…you /are/ a gardener. Look at this! Tiny tomatoes. By all spirits," amazed and puzzled (and maybe even a bit more relaxed), he can't help but ask: "What is this for? You make your living out of this?" He explores deeper into the warehouse, looking for the lab she just mentioned.

Chloe laughs as she wanders down the rows of plants, like a queen among her minions. Her green dress looks more fitting than ever. "What'd you expect? Some people are willing to pay a fair bit for vintage-strain. non-GMO strawberries. Other things I just grow for myself." Once she's made it past the greenery, the chemistry lab unfolds - a small but well-equipped little corner containing computers, machinery and glass lockers full of petri dishes and bottles. She walks over to it, kicking a small stool on wheel over his way before grabbing a few bits of equipment. "Take a seat, and roll up your sleeve."

Silver finds a place to drop his coat and stops the stool with his foot: "You know what? You look like an emerald elven princess, nothing less. That's what you are. Damn, you are gorgeous. And now even the doctor game? Tsss," he hisses with a grin, obviously uplifted by her mood as well. He then starts to unbutton his shirt and slips his left arm completely out of its sleeve. "I never liked any needles, you know."

Analysing Sterling's Blood Sample

Chloe makes a tut with her lips and shakes her head. "You just can't help yourself huh," she says and chuckles. "We can continue up on my couch if you want, but let's sort business out first okay?" She puts on a pair of disposable gloves, grabs an empty vial and loads it into an autoinjector. Then, she abruptly goes up to silver, puts the gun-like instrument to his arm. A few seconds later, it has filled the vial with blood, and the needle mark gets a plaster on it. The vial gets taken to an analyser machine, and she fires up one of the computers.

The vial containing the blood sample gets checked, the computer showing up rows of data that probably doesn't make sense to anyone without medical training. That doesn't seem to be it though, as she takes the sample out of the analyst chamber again and heads over to the table. She begins to distribute the blood sample over to a number of glass petri dishes, adding a tiny droplet with a lancet needle, then closes them up. She looks quite focused as she does it but also relaxed, showing that she's clearly had plenty of experience with laboratory work. The petri dishes then get inserted into a number of slots on a different machine, and she begins to run tests for individual chemicals, one by one, accumulating data.

Silver is in a good and healthy condition, in general. That's the first thing that's almost auto-confirmed. But then it gets tricky. Chloe has very good equipment at hand, which helps her greatly with this task. But she is challenged with her knowledge and can't just rely on the automated routines of her equipment. So, sit tight and let's see…

After a few layers of standard analysis, she hits on traces of two fading substances in Silver's blood sample. /That's/ not supposed to be here, definitely. And it seems like her guess earlier was not bad.

The first 'Substance A' is based on serotonin and norepinephrine blocking chemicals, two of the brain's key chemical messengers. Also, this compound combines with the depletion of brain levels of cholesterol. Both effects combined cause drastic short-term memory loss. Primary ingredients are Protriptyline and Statins. That's supposed to cause some heavy memory losses.

Then the second 'Substance B'; only traces are left of what most likely is a synthesized compund of 3Q-Benzilate and Scopolamin, both rated as military grade agents. The actual effect and purpose is impossible to analyse after such a long time the compound was injected into Sterling's circulatory system. However, both substances strongly suggest a specialized truth serum, as Chloe already suspected.

The results finally come in from different linked hardware after about 15 minutes, and are assembled as colorful wavelenght spectrograms and molecular patterns. That's only the beginning though. Chloe could invest more time and go one level deeper, trying a molecular analysis and taking care of some anomalies that slipped the analysis so far.

Silver, however, is curious, keeping his distance but observes her work. Waiting for her results patiently.

As the computer runs through tests for various substances, one by one and compiles it onto a long list, Chloe hmms and furrows her brow. "Well drek," she says, using English for once for emphasis. Not that Sperethiel lacks expletives; non-elves would probably be surprised how foul it can get. "Yeah, definitely a truth serum. Some proprietary compound too, must be some military stuff. Your normie friend Sam must be a spy or something. Also some other components made to cause memory lapses too. Impressive stuff." She puts a hand on the device's computer screen, and frowns. "I could run further tests, but it'll probably take a a while, like an hour. You can head upstairs and have a lie down, if you want. Grab something from the fridge, if you want." She looks intent on running more tests, even though it means her secret friend Silver gets to see that her everyday life is nowhere near the life of glamour that they both like to paint for each other. She sleeps on a couch, even!

Silver listens with a stern impression. "Sure, I'll wait, you can bet on that. Thanks already! But, …" he hesitates, "how bad is it? Will it stop, or…?"

"Eventually they'll metabolise out of your system," Chloe says and folds her gloved hands. "The usual half-life of scopolamine is about nine hours, but clearly we're talking some synthetic version that's a lot worse. Like Gamma-Scop, which is pretty common on the street as a neurotoxin. But if I can get a more detailed readout on the chemical composition, we might be able to come up with some way to neutralise it. Give your body a bit of a boost, so to say."

He nods, and follows her so far. "Okay, thank you. I,… just leave you to your work then and try to rest a little bit. It was a hell of a night… well, the last part at least. But please wake me up as soon as something else comes up, yes?" He then graps his coat with a heaaavy sigh and walks towards the staircase.

The second run needs more processing power and a different set of skills. Dividing blood and all that's gotten mixed up with a sharp razor on molecular level also means a huge increase of type I and type II error probabilities on a much larger set of hypothesises. And she can't bleed poor Silver dry for unlimited sample material, right? The experiment setup needs a re-arrangement of Chloe's operational equipment, which is unconvenient but necessary. After about twenty minutes she starts her first analysis. And after about 80 minutes, first results come in.

The molecular analysis of Substance A shows that it is highly synthesized and manufactured with impressive know-how. So called 'carcerands' serve as transport vessels, releasing the substance's proteins and chemicals over a prolonged time. This is probably the reason, why the substance is still traceable. This looks like a custom design. Whoever synthesized the substance must've used state of the art equipment and knowledge. (TN 8) - Taking all facts together, it is unliklely that Substance A was tailored to fit Silver's metabolism. The long decay period is not desirable and it's probably due to Silver's individual body condition that it's still traceable. So, at least Silver was not hit with a custom tailored compound, but with a generalized one. (TN 10)

Now Substance B. Given the assumed time since injection and its present state of decay, this substance has been very aggressive and potent. It's hard to tell anything else. But there is one extraordinary thing: The substance seems to have been delivered via nanomachines on the 1.5 micrometer scale. Most curiously, these nanites are built from synthesized Iodine (a halogen on the periodic table). The purpose for this rather expensive and sophisticated procedure is a mystery. Chloe has to double-check it twice to be sure that she's not reading an artefact caused by the measurement. It's Iodine nanites. And this is certainly nothing you buy at your local fixer… (TN 8)

After about an hour and half, Chloe comes up the staircase to her small but cosy little living area. She has put on a lab coat, making for an interesting match together with her tiny dress and stockings. She has a datachip in her hand. "Alright, so this is what I've got," she says and picks up a data-reader monocle laying on the table in her living space. Then, she notices that Silver has fallen asleep on her couch, and she goes quiet. Looks a little stumped, even, unsure whether to wake him up or let him rest. She puts the monocle down on the table in front of the couch, takes the lab coat off and decides to lie down on the couch next to him, using what little space is left on the couch, and closes her eyes.

Cooking and Scheming

And then, another unusual morning together with Silver STerling. Well, it's more of a second morning, since it was already past sunrise when Silver hit Chloe's couch. And then she followed about an hour later and dropped just next to him. When she awakes, it is about noon already. And again, her awakening is unusual.

She had a dream. And this dream chases her consciousness even after she'd opened her eyes. SHe had dreamt of something, someone… It was about the findings she discovered earlier, about the blood sample. About Substance B, the Iodine nanites! Damn, she's heard about that already, back with Telestrian Biotechnology in Portland.

Silver is still asleep right next to her. His hand has found away beneath Chloe's labcoat, and down to her bottom.
«Login Notifier» Franziska (#11545) just logged into the game.
If Chloe could make up her mind, maybe she still has some records about these Iodine stuff from her time back with Telestrian. Where did she store it?

Chloe snakes her way out of bed, gently lifting Silver's hand away from where it shouldn't be, then heads off into the bathroom to have a shower, slipping into some more comfy casual street clothes. A pair of black faux-leather trousers, a black blouse and her dark green leather jacket. Casual but smart, as she always does it.

The thoughts go through her head as she showers and gets dressed, putting on fresh makeup in the digital mirror. There isn't a lot of stuff left with her from her corporate days. She still subscribes to all these scientific journals, just to try to keep up to date with the latest research. But old data?

She emerges back into her living room, and goes to the fridge to grab something breakfast-like. Which for her means grabbing fresh greens she got from her own garden and whipping up a quick stir-fry and salad with home-made pickled vegetables. She ain't the frozen StufferShack pizza type.

«Auto-Judge[0]» Dr. North (#13300) rolls Cooking + Task Pool: 1 for "Getting to use this skill for once!":
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«OOC» Dr. North says, "Damn :D"

While she gets up and ready to tackle the day all-in, finally, Silver also drifts back to life. He looks good, given the hard morning he had - and the small couch territory he could claim for himself! He's definitely unsure how to play along with this morning - and Chloe. They usually are not doing the 'shared apartment and everyday life' game deep into late morning. So, he sneaks into the bathroom right after she left, and he only greets her with a careful 'Eh, good morning Chloe'.

However, when he returns, Chloe is already occupied with her cooking. Something not so ordinary as well, just fitting for today. "Hey, Chloe, what are you preparing? That smells awesome…?" He steps closer, lured by whatever brunch fantasy she's about to fullfill.

In the course of less than twenty minutes, Chloe has managed to whip up a dish of stir-fried mushrooms in spicy sauce with noodles, a green salad and a gazpacho-like cold soup. Skills honed by being a busy working mom with picky eating habits. Silently, she arranges the dishes on the table by the couch, and without asking she puts out one bowl for each one of them.

"You need some sustenance after I drew all that blood from you. Eat," she says and sits down and starts to serve herself without really waiting for him to sit. "I got the results from the tests. Some weird stuff that lady, Sam, put in you."

Working on his silvery braids, he sits down and offers his sincere thankfullness for everything: her open ear, the mental support, the couch, the amazing breakfast, and, finally, some answers: "Thank you for everything, Chloe, really. I think we both share a common feat of not having too many people to talk seriously about such stuff. So, what did you find out then? What's the bottom-line? How worried should I be, about the whole thing?" Done with his hair, he /enjoys/ the served meal. It's obvious that he did not expect her cooking that good. He even looks a bit confused, unsure, maybe, if this is perfect synthetic taste or actually the real thing.

Chloe looks over at Silver working his braids as she slurps down some spicy mushroom noodles. "It's alright, Silver, don't mention it. You've managed to keep me sane through some otherwise very lonely nights." She looks down as she says it, as if it came out a bit more heartfelt than she intended. To avoid this from becoming too weird, she switches topic. "So, I found traces of Carcerands; an organic compound that can encapsule other substances and render them inert for a time. Like a chemical time bomb of sorts. If all the memory lapses and all kicked in a long time after the injection happened, that would explain it. I also found traces of nanites, meaning she used some kind of fucking nano-toxin. I'm not an expert on nanotech though, so I'm not exactly sure what that stuff would be. I've got hundreds of Megapulses worth of old scientific journals saved somewhere, I could look into them if I find anything about it. Judging from the sophistication, and the time it takes for corporate top research to hit the streets, that stuff probably would be written about some five to ten years ago."

Silver's unease returns a bit, he shifts on the couch, licking his lips. "Okay, nano-toxin? I mean, what will it do? Will it continue to cause more memory loss? Or is it… damaging my brain? I mean, I kind of agreed to take the pill, to ensure her more privacy. So, I guess that's what is was all about. Kinky stuff, I shouldn't recall too clearly afterwards. But then I think she interrogated me, more or less. I kind of just spilled stuff out then. But is there anyhthing else? Will it…" he throws up is hands, with a nervous laugh, "haha, will it kill me now, or is it over? Please, just tell me if there is anything else."

Silver's unease returns a bit, he shifts on the couch, licking his lips. "Okay, nano-toxin? I mean, what will it do? Will it continue to cause more memory loss? Or is it… damaging my brain? I mean, I kind of agreed to take the pill, to ensure her more privacy. So, I guess that's what is was all about. Kinky stuff, I shouldn't recall too clearly afterwards. But then I think she interrogated me, more or less. I kind of just spilled stuff out then. But is there anyhthing else? Will it…" he throws up is hands, with a nervous laugh, "haha, will it kill me now, or is it over? Please, just tell me if there is anything else."

Chloe sets her bowl down, shaking her head. "It's not going to kill you, Silver. What I see is a truth serum combined with a neuroblocker intended to cause memory loss, that's all. It makes no sense to use something like it if she wanted you dead." She frowns a bit and pushes her chair back as if preparing to get up. "My hunch is that she either works for someone who wanted their new truth serum tested, or she got hold of something on the black market without really knowing what it was. How much do you remember about this woman?" She gets up, and goes over to pull out a storage box from the bottom drawer of her desk, rummaging through old datachips and other random crap from her old life.

He leans back, following her with his eyes, glancing over his shoulder, the bowl still in his hand: "Well, Sam, teased black hair, sharp undercut. White dress, quite dark skin color. Her English was okay, I guess, probably her native tongue. Um…" he tries to remember, "I think she made contact from either another client or through the matrix boards. Both can and will spill my trix number. So, I don't know for sure how she came across my service. Mostly, it's a social network of someone who knows someone else and suggests to give me a call, you know. But you can sniff me out on the hostess boards, if you want to. Anyway,… hm… then it's mostly a set of stills I have left. I feel her close to me, I think we definitely shared a good time." He scratches his cheeck… "I don't know, em… how much do you want to know about that? I mean, the drug was brought into play to /not/ make me remember, so I guess some things slipped my mind. But, then, there are some other spotlights. I remember talking about you, as um… a beautiful researcher." He makes a bague gesture, trailing off at this point.

As Silver explains the encounter with this mysterious Sam and describes her, Chloe mostly goes 'mm-hmm' to acknowledge her listening while she searches through her stash of old OMCs. Eventually she finds one, inspects it and goes to fetch that monocle data reading unit she brought with her upstairs. She slots the chip in and then puts it on, scores of text-based data getting projected onto the glass visor covering her eye. "It's strange that you still seem to remember so much, clearly the drug wasn't as effective as she probably wanted. Using carcerands with such a long half-life as to still find trace proteins in the blood also makes sense. It doesn't feel like she's much of a professional; it's more like the chemical equivalent of… I dunno, someone who's never driven a car being given a Saab Dynamit with the autonav disabled."

"I see," Silver nods, "so, if I get you right, she applied bad stuff, or the wrong stuff. Or maybe the dose wasn't right." He then falls quiet when she starts to look through her datafiles.

It doesn't take her long, actually. There was this Shiawase Biotech employee and researcher. He got hired by Telestrian Biotech to give a speech about Iodine nanomachines back then, during an in-house scientific conference, when Chloe was still with the company. His contribution was later redacted due to copyright concerns, that's why she does not have the record of the speech he held. But Chloe's personal notes on Megacorporate Research still confirm that he was a lead researcher who pioneered that fringe topic. His name was Nichimura Kanto. So, she's pretty sure, Shiawase is running special research groups for the use of halogen carriers, especially Iodine, in the nanotechnology of tomorrow. However, there are no specific entries in the patent register for consumer products yet, only claims for fundamental research results. But that's enough for Chloe to make a well educated guess that Substance B came from some shelf in a Shiawase laboratory, or at least from one of their hundreds of subsidiaries and contracters.

After a while, Chloe removes the monocle and puts it down, blinking a few times from the apparent discomfort of using that unit for too long. "So I think I know what tech was used for those nanites. Some shit a Shiawase researcher came up with a couple years ago. Japanese guy, of course. Not sure if that helps us though, unless Sam conveniently left her Shiawase employee ID card around while you were having fun." She shrugs and picks up her bowl again, filling it up with her cucumber garden salad and begins to crunch away. "I guess your Matrix correspondence wouldn't reveal much, either… hmm, not sure where to go from here."

"Alright," Silver replies, a bit lost, "I guess it doesn't really matter where she got it from anyway. Hm, what do you think, how should I react if she calls again? I guess I could just say 'go fuck yourself', literally, or I could ask her why the hell she messed me up so hard. I could even try to learn a bit more about her. Do you think it's worth it, or should I just store it in the same drawer together the with the other weird things that happen from time to time in this business?"

"It might be relevant if the effects don't wear off and we need to find an antoxin," Chloe says with a frown on her face, setting down her bowl. "I mean, as long as you're alright, that's the most important part. I would like to know who this lady is, though. Why she is casually administrating experimental nanotech drugs, and why she asks questions about your other clients." She nods, "Yeah, I'd love to have a talk with her. A stern talk."

He chuckles, "You want to have a 'stern talk' with her? So, you think I should actually confront her then, and tell her that 'my dear Chloe North has some problems if someone drugs her favorite loverboy?' - Tss…" he stands up and walks over to her, putting his hands on her shoulder, softly, and smiles at her: "She's a client after all, you know? I mean," he sways his head, "so, are you, I mean are you /serious/ about it?"

"It's not about that," the dark-haired scientist rolls her eyes. "Well maybe a little bit. The thing is, the toxicology reports I managed to extract are rudimentary. My lab here can only do so much. There's no way for me to know if those nanites will have more long-lasting side effects. Don't you want to find out to make sure you're actually okay?" She shakes her head so that her long strands of jet-black hair brush against his hands. "But we can wait if you want, wait and see if you're improving. If we're lucky, the nanites will just go inert and flush out of your system and we're all right."

He lowers his eyes: "Oh, I did not think of that valid point. You are right. If there is anything attached, you can bet I want to know. Thanks for being so honest with me. You've done real magic there earlier this morning. Somehow I thought… you've seen this through completely." He ponders the situation a moment, his hands still on her shoulder, than he tries to simply kiss her on her lips. Chloe might realize that this is a thank you and maybe a goodbye for today.

A Kiss Goodbye

"Maybe you should just head home for now, take it easy and let me know if things don't get better," Chloe says and looks up. Then, he leans in for the kiss and for some reason, she just closes her eyes and accepts it. There's even a bit of whimper coming out of her as their lips meet. Of course, they've kissed before, dozens of times, but only as escort and client. Not like this.

Silver can sense her reaction, and probably has similar thoughts for a second. I will go now, yes. I'm a big boy, a bit messed up lately, but I'll get home without you playing chauffeur again. You've done enough and I stole you a good part of your day already." He picks up his coat and his cellphone from the couch with a sigh. "Great cooking by the way, and your garden downstairs, almost heartbreaking, really. Keep it up." WIth a wave and a smile he heads downstairs and straight towards the exit. After a minute, he's gone and Chloe is alone again.

Chloe only manages a bit of a wave as he leaves. The hand lingers in the air after Silver is gone, and she touches her lips with the finger and a lot of strange thoughts go through her head.

In an effort to clear her thoughts if nothing else, she cleans up after breakfast, then heads downstairs into her garden. She grabs her white lab coat and datapad and gets ready to do her daily inspection of the plants.

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