Absinthe and the Ascendant are on their way to Chola City when a rainstorm hits – sheets of grey rain, thick, heavy and greasy. It almost obsures the traditional warning shot from the guards; but not quite. Amy, Winn and Barr (members of the Loved) are riding in the back, rifles ready, under a tarp to stay dry.
When Dustwich, leader of the guards, finds out they’re coming for medical attention, he gets twitchy. Says that he doesn’t like outsiders coming in and using narcos his men might need, and shakes the Ascendant down for a minute.
(The tithe for fortunes is to take all they have accumulated and, as a group, decide what to give to the Ascendant. A lot of it comes in the form of gold teeth, wedding rings, etc … which the Ascendant often wears to show his favor.)
Winn tells the Ascendant she’d trade the guards one of his necklaces for entrance (Insight) and is praised by the Ascendant for her take on it. Absinthe reads Dustwich and finds out that he’s in debt to someone – promises to take care of The Partridge within the next moon. They wave them through, though one of the guards tries to move on Absinthe and Winn hawks a loogie at his feet. He’ll remember that.
Hank finds Dylan, gives him some meat, tells him he’s been holed up for two days. Everyone’s gone, to Chola, and Hank’s worried – Prim is rationing food. Dylan asks if he can hold down the fort, and he says with guns, but Jonker’s locked the armory. Dylan says he can open it.
Joseph comes back and finds Prim divvying up the food. She suspects Gnarly of holding out and orders Joseph to find out. Joseph instead seizes Prim and kills her with his violation glove, then calls Gnarly to be his second in command and sends the others to the groves, but Gnarly suggests maybe they should go to the armory.
A strange standoff takes place between Dylan and Jospeh, ending with Jospeh and Gnarly leaving but Gnarly threatening Hank as they went. Dylan uses THINGS SPEAK on the door …
• Most recently, the door to the Armory was jimmied open.
• What’s wrong with it is that it’s not that hard to jimmy, which could be fixed by taking everything somewhere safer and leaving a note.
• Last words around it: “”/characters/mice-4" class=“wiki-content-link”>Mice got gone, but the others won’t."
Three guns are missing, but all the shotgun shells and a lot of ammunition are gone. Hank takes the vest and a submachine gun. Dylan decides to destroy the lock in such a way that you’d have to either break down the door or take an electric drill to it, and he’s pretty sure he has the only electric drill in town. He spray paints “J – see me – D.” in red across the door. Dylan and Hank decide to hunker down in the workshop, but Hank wants to bring in LaLa. Dylan takes a moment, then agrees.
Joseph sees a shuttle coming up the road and goes to meet it. There’s a feminine scream – the brakes hit – and a petite brunette jumps out and tackles him with kisses, shouting
“Joey, Baby, you waited for me! I’ve been driving all the way – I never doubted you baby – I always knew I’d find you!” The dude driving the shuttle seems less thrilled with the situation, but she tells Joe he needs to take her now. Joseph takes her to the Temple …
After some time, Jonker walks back into Chola and notices a few changes: The Loved are working, and there’s a new face furiously … chain-smoking outside the Loved’s compound. He approaches to talk to Sauna, the driver, who explains he’s carried Joe’s Girl here from the mountains without so much as a handjob for his trouble. Now she’s in the cinderblock shithouse fucking some guy eight ways to Sunday, and does Jonker know this Joseph?
There’s a bit of back and forth that boils down to Sauna asking if Jonker might be amenable to killing Joseph in return for some payment. Jonker says it depends on the Joseph, it’s a common name; but seeing as he’s the only one with any real authority in town, Jonker says Sauna can stay a few nights in the Watch, anyway. He thanks Jonker, says he’ll head up to Chola for gas, and then come back to take him up on the offer.
Jonker breaks in on Joe and his girl going at it, hot and heavy, and briefely interrogates the Brainer in his open trenchcoat and not much else while his girl makes with the backrubs and ear bites. Joseph spills about Dylan and Hank nosing around the armory, and Jonker tells Joseph to stay put. “No problem,” says Joe’s Girl.
Dylan’s apologetic to Jonker about what happened, but he’s going to make it right – fix the door up properly so that only he and Jonker should be able to get in. Jonker’s all right with this, but he’s more upset about the fact that he had some secret stashes in there, of grenades and other big items. Dylan says he didn’t see anything like that, which Jonker says is kinda the point; but he wants to get in and check ASAP.
Outside, Hank calls out – and Dylan sees he’s got both LaLa and Wisher, her older brother, with him. Both are memebrs of the Loved, and Dylan pitches a minor fit before deciding all three can some in – he’s got some questionsfor the Loved anyway, and he might as well ask them on his home turf.
In Chola City, Absinthe and the Ascendant make their way to the OP. Behind that big steel door there’s a cavernous reception area, lit only by two work lights dangling from black pythons of cable. They’re allowed to enter with Amy and his rifle only when a Hispanic nurse named Mimi in her blue surgical mask and nurse’s cap assists Absinthe – after showing Twice via camera that it’s Absinthe and the Ascendant – to the operating chamber, which is flooded in the whitest light and has four cameras the group can see. The route to the chamber is confusing – they’ve knocked holes in walls and hung operating drapes in all kinds of places, it’s hard to tell which way they came from and which way they’re going.
Twice enters the room followed by another male nurse in the same cap and mask, Barker, his name is. They turn on a kidvid from the Golden Age and get to work, narcostabbing Absinthe and sending hir into a sweet, spiralling dream. It takes a good two hours but in the end, Twice, Mimi and Barker have all left the group alone without another word.
The Ascendant waits another hour before picking Absinthe up and carrying hir out the door, but the warren’s hell to navigate, and Amy whispers, “These fuckers moved the cloth, boss. I know it. I can feel it.” They eventually make their way to the reception area, and halfway down the busted escalator a speaker chimes in with Twice’s soft voice:
“Nobody has paid.”
The Ascendant lays down 3-Barter (Two off of Absinthe’s body, one of his own) and a skinny, buck naked eight year old skitters out to collect it. He’s got a white scar running halfway down his body, and as he’s backing away he mouths “Help me” to the Ascendant.
“Amy,” The Ascendant whispers, and Amy goes to grab the kid but gets a bullet in the chest from a hidden sniper in the atrium! He falls back against the wall, reaching out to the Ascendant, coughing blood – there’s no way he can get both of them out alone, Winn and Barr are banging on the steel door and shouting, they’ve heard the shot.
“I’ll be back for my associate,” the Ascendant says, and the door starts opening slowly for him but Winn’s halfway through, shouting and screaming that they can take these fuckers, she’s dealt with their fucking kind before, just get out of the WAY, boss, and the door starts closing swiftly.
The Ascendant shouts to Barr, “Bring everyone! If Jonker comes, follow his lead until you hear from me!” He pulls Winn inside the OP with him, and then reaches into the psychic maelstrom to retrieve an artifact. He emerges with a shard of pure hatred.
“Absinthe,” he whispers, “Time to wake up.”
And he plunges it into hir chest.