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Do Unto Others: Chapter Five
Last updated: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 21:55 EDT
The next day, additional security measures were put in place. Caron was publicly escorted by Elke and Bart, and Jason found a reason to skulk around after meeting with the dean and head of security. Elke felt better with backup. Security wasn’t about pretending to be nice. Security was about providing force.
After a visibly uneventful day, Shaman showed up in a limo, swapped seats with Bart, who then drove to a pre-arranged appointment even Caron didn’t know about. The car passed through three rings of London, paying a heftier fee each time to be allowed access to the roads, and pulled up in front of an old building with a simple brass sign, “Fashion by Joy.”
They flowed out of the vehicle and straight through the door, and up to a first floor, meaning second floor outside of Britain, studio behind a glass and brass entrance that would stop some artillery fire.
Joy Alexander awaited, with two of Cady’s men who’d swept her shop earlier.
“Welcome,” she said, with a gracious sweep. “You must be Miss Prescot.”
“Please do call me Caron. I’ve of course heard of you, Ms Alexander.”
“It’s a privilege to provide you with a wardrobe.”
“Yes, I appreciate it.” Caron looked puzzled. “I wasn’t aware I was getting more.”
Elke sat back where she could watch the polarized windows and the door. With Bart outside and Aramis looking for threats across the street, she felt safe enough. All she had to do was watch and listen, as Caron got fitted for an entire wardrobe. This wardrobe would be classy, upscale, and loaded with useful tools in case of further incursions or attacks.
Joy Alexander would never be considered pretty. Elke had seen her on TV, and she dressed well enough for her figure, and wasn’t unattractive. She was just rather plain, short and a bit overweight.
Still, it was not obvious. The woman really did know how to dress, which was why she got paid as much as she did. This line of clothing was specifically for clients like the Prescots, and had been designed with the aid of several experts in the field.
“First, we’re going to update your accessories,” Alexander said. She opened up a real but probably lab-grown leather jewelry case the size of a doccase, and unfolded the inner partitions.
Caron looked on with interest at the show. Elke kept professional eyes on it and the room.
“That’s a lot of sunglasses,” Caron commented.
“You’ll wear them from now on. Ten styles and colors to suit any outfit. Do you ever wonder why celebs wear them?”
“I assume to hide their faces, disguise them somewhat.”
“That, and hide their expressions, and these are also self-polarizing enough for one of the military’s flash bang grenades, or camera lights, or even some incendiaries. They’re ballistically proof against pistol fire or some shrapnel. They all have built in transponders for location tracking, which your security team will be able to follow. They have a laminate frequency shifter to improve your vision in low light.”
“So I should wear these inside as well?”
“Especially inside, and outside at night. That’s where flash is most effective at stunning. If it creates a new trend, of course I will sell plain, un-upgraded versions through my brand.” Alexander smiled. She did know how to make money, after all.
“I suppose I can get used to them,” Caron said. She flipped open a pair, tested their mechanism, and twisted them around. From Elke’s estimation, they really were fantastic sunglasses on top of everything else, probably around a thousand Marks a pair. Caron slipped them on, nodded at the fit and looked in a mirror.
“Oh, I do like them,” she agreed. “Mysterious, sophisticated.”
“Larger eyes are seen as more attractive. While these aren’t eyes, they lend a similar effect. You have oval and oblong lenses, and the angular ones. I think the angular will suit you better for daily wear. The oblong are probably more suited to evening.”
“Very good,” Caron said. Elke could tell she was eager to move on.
Alexander said, “Okay, these aren’t jewelry, but the earbuds contain active noise-cancelling circuits. You should wear these whenever your team thinks it advisable; they help with flash bangs, too, and with sonic stunners to some extent. They are small and hard to see, but you’ll still want to style your hair over them.”
Alexander held up a necklace on a fine chain.
“Now, these are real platinum, rhodium, silver, gold. The gems are real. Each also contains a tiny transponder; we want you to have as many means of contact as possible. If you snap them off and drop them, they are a low-power, but very loud and bright flash bang.”
“Am I okay using those?” Caron asked, looking up at Elke.
“I know the model,” Elke said. “They will be annoying to us, but not critically debilitating. The plan is that any attackers will not know of them, and we gain the advantage for a few moments. If you feel the need if we’re attacked, say if someone gets inside our perimeter, you should use them. If alone or cut off, you should use them as soon as you think you are threatened. Even with the glasses, you should close your eyes for a moment.”
Caron nodded, and accepted the jewel carefully but with interest.
“Now, a variety of accessories your security detail will teach you about. These lacewood hairsticks are actually boron composite inside. One Mont Blanc pen has a single tear gas shot in it for close quarters, the other contains another stiletto. Your watches have alarms built into them. Slap down hard on the face and it will transmit. Your purse straps are reinforced cord. This looks exactly like your family ring, but has a stun gun built into it. You get two good shots, and it will need recharged periodically. There are two of them.”
“So be careful how you hug,” Elke grinned.
Caron smiled back. “This is rather spy thrillerish. I didn’t know stuff like this really existed.”
“It does for a few million marks,” Alexander said. “Your father paid for a lot of the development, which means a little more income for both him and my sales company.”
“Yes, that happens a lot,” Caron said, blushing.
They were at the point, Elke thought, where any development of any kind was going to generate more income. They’d have trouble spending enough in any fashion to get poor, or even just less rich.
“Now, I have replacements for several of your outfits with me,” Alexander said. “I tailored them to your new measurements.”
“Good,” Caron said. She smiled and shrugged at Elke. “More boob.”
“You would not want to be pinched, I imagine,” Elke replied smoothly.
“All your clothing other than evening gowns now has ballistic armour in it. It won’t stop bullets, but it will help with any fragmentation or knives.”
“Is that necessary?” Caron asked Alexander. She seemed rather upset.
Alexander turned to Elke, who turned to Caron and said, “We don’t expect direct attacks against you. However, if one is directed at us, you could be at risk. There’s also always a risk in a hand to hand fight, of someone mixing up with you.”
Caron looked somewhat reassured, but still rather sobered. “Okay,” she said.
Alexander continued, “You’ll be wearing a lot of corsets and bodices, both as outerwear and underwear. The reason is we can incorporate better body armour into them.”
Caron asked, “Do I have to regard everyone in the world as a threat at this point?”
“Only those who might consider killing or kidnapping you for a billion marks,” Elke said. Caron nodded and sighed.
There was still more. Alexander said, “These belts are strong enough to rappel with, will work as tourniquets, and as belts. You should wear one in most outfits.”
“They certainly are stylish. Name brand,” Caron said.
“On the outside, yes. Eventually I’ll secure licencing rights. For now, these are private for you. And this.” Alexander grabbed a belt buckle and pulled. Out came a pair of boron fiber claws, contoured to exactly follow the curve of the belt around Caron’s waist, which was coincidentally a great angle to hook someone in the guts or under the chin.
“Oh, my.” Caron accepted the weapon and looked both impressed and shocked.
Alexander said, “I’ll seal everything here, and your couriers will deliver it, yes?”
“That’s the plan,” Elke agreed. She couldn’t guess if Alex would change plans partway through, just to wrench anything someone might try. “Take your time, Caron. When you are ready we’ll head back.”
“But how will I be able to use this properly?”
“We’ll train you. Our job is to stop threats from reaching you. If we fail, you use these.”
“Well, let me try the outfits then,” Caron said, obviously uncomfortable. She scooped up two bodices and some slacks and headed for the dressing room.
Elke snagged her arm.
“Sorry, we need to keep you in sight anywhere out of your apartment from now on.”
“Oh.” That made the young woman sigh and pout. “I guess I don’t have a choice.”
She didn’t, but the men had politely turned toward windows and doors. Elke kept her eyes on Caron and Alexander and anything in the room someone might hide behind. It was ridiculous. It was also imperative.
Caron tried the outfits, approved the fit, and seemed eager to leave.
“Follow me, then,” Elke said.
Once in the limo, Elke said, “We have a couple of additional things, too.”
“This.” She handed over a small tube.
“That’s a hash pipe,” Caron said, looking cross.
Elke said, “Technically, it’s a ‘one-hitter.’ You hold it up, click the igniter, and it will deliver a lungful of concentrated THC vapor, either as smoke or as a mist with flavor mixes.”
“So what does it really do?”
“You exhale and it blows out a sleeping gas that will fill a car’s compartment. There’s also this one that looks like an asthma inhaler.” She handed it over. “Acting nervous shouldn’t be a problem. Then you disable everyone in the vehicle, assuming slow speed or crash webs.”
“Yes. Don’t inhale or you’ll just collapse and leave them wondering.”
Caron burst out in musical laughter.
“That is both wonderful and terrible, and I feel like I’m in some spy sensie.”
“Yes, but this can disable a carful of people. You must take it seriously.”
“Oh, I do. It’s just…I understand. It’s serious, but it seems so fun.”
“Any of your transponders will squawk if you just snap the chain. I mean they’ll be loud enough to disorient people, and draw attention. Of course, that compromises them. But you can choose to draw attention, or have us track you covertly.”
“I really will need some training in all that.”
Bart said, “I will do so. It’s not as complicated as it seems.”
“There is one more thing,” Elke said.
“You must discuss this with no one. Not your father or uncle, not the staff, not even our associates from other teams. This is training and gear between us and our principal.”
“But doesn’t Joy…?”
“She provides many types of devices to many people. The specifics are tailored. None of this is beyond an expert to figure out. It just slows them down. The result is that experts are unlikely to bother, because legitimate income is easier. Amateurs will be hindranced enough we can stop them. In between is a gray shade of people who are trained enough, and willing. Those are the real threat now.”
“I understand,” Caron said, looking serious and sober but not frightened.
Elke didn’t mention the other precautions they’d taken, that they wouldn’t share even with their principal. If it went well, she’d never know.
The man responsible for the shots was rather pleased. They’d not been expected to be real threats, and in fact, he’d have been rightfully pissed if they were. No, just enough to scare those macho thugs into cracking down. The daughter was more sequestered, and Bryan Prescot was more removed from his staff. That was a good thing. Separate them all from each other, and their friends and employees, then move in. Ideally, it would be bloodless.
They’d added quite a bit of security, though, and that would make further attacks more awkward. Or rather, convincingly believable ones more awkward. However, it took money to make money. Proper investments would result in more threats. This was a financial game. They didn’t have to succeed, just to have might have succeeded.
At the same time, though, there were a finite number of possible threats. He had to keep things discreet, anonymous, infrequent and unpredictable. Games theory said that each successive attack would narrow the possible origins. He had to move them where he wanted them, and do it shortly after the term ended, but without making it look like a manoeuvre.
The best thing, then, was to encourage amateur freelancers. He was rather sure enough chaos would cause the Ripple Creek people to recommend a withdrawal. If not, the family security almost certainly would, and if not, then Joe Prescot definitely would.
Predictability was useful at times.
“Well the good news is I was able to do a tactical survey of the school, with the blessing of both school and local police,” Jason said.
“So what’s the bad?” Aramis asked from a dilapidated couch he’d arranged to have delivered to their on-site command room.
“They were pretty close to me the whole time.”
“So you weren’t able to hide anything?”
Aramis looked relaxed on that couch. Jason thought he might, too. Good purchase. It wasn’t nice enough to worry about, unlike everything in the estate and most of the stuff across the hall in her apartment.
“You know me better than that. However, I was limited to stuff that wouldn’t give off a traceable signature. So no actual explosive. But, since we went past the area the chemistry labs are in, I was able to stash Elke’s backup gear. It won’t show.”
Elke looked disgusted. “Did you also stash me some sinew and chipped flint?”
“I did what I could. Sorry.”
“It is fine. I will adapt. However, every assignment, I am more and more tempted by Novaja Rossia or Grainne. There are too many rules meant simply to inconvenience me.”
Alex said, “Just make sure it’s not discussed anywhere else. Even our employers are timid on this subject.
Elke shook her head. “The nature of this society saddens me. For people descended from Celts, Romans and Vikings, they are pale shadows.”
“We’re fine, Alex. And of course you’ll remind us again, because you have to.”
“Yup. We understand each other.”
“With that, it’s dinner time. Those chickens should be roasted.”
“Bring it on,” Aramis said.
After that, it was up to Bart to teach tactics.
“We will go through this quickly, and we will go through it daily,” Bart said. “You will quickly learn instincts for using the devices without having to stop and think.”
“Good,” Caron said. “I like not having to be a helpless princess.”
“So what do you have?”
“I wear armour, I have the briefcase, the brolly, my glasses and the stun baton that looks like a silly talisman.”
“Yes, that is the correct order. Wear the armor from the case, then open the umbrella, and use the baton or your other personal weapons as needed. We will also work on how to seek cover. We will do this regularly, and sometimes in front of staff.”
“Doesn’t that risk leakage? Of the information?”
“We hope so,” Jason said. “If a particular item is compromised, we have a good suspect on who the leak was. That’s why there are multiples of almost everything.”
“I hate not being able to trust anyone. I’d give all the money away if it would help.”
Bart said, “Celebrities enjoy their money but hate the fame. Not being able to walk down the street, shop, talk to anyone. You have some of that. It could be worse.”
“Yes. Well, let’s get to it, then.”
Bart raised his headset and advised, “This is Bart. Test session. Thirty minutes.” He turned back to Caron and said, “Let me see you activate your earrings.”
She clutched at her ears and squeezed.
He grabbed toward her, being careful and slow, and she responded with the baton.
“Good,” he said.
“That was so slow,” she protested. “I could easily read you.”
“Yes,” he agreed. “I will get faster as we go. Within a week you will be quite fast and not have to think.”
“Okay, then,” she agreed.
He just hoped things stayed calm for that week.
After thirty minutes of practice, he let her sit down and relax. He’d prefer more time, but as with all principals, she had major life issues to deal with. Her classwork must be done, too.
Elke came in for the late evening shift. She was managing on two lengthy naps a day, of about four hours each. She could do this for a while, but Caron and her family would soon have to adapt to men around her even in private surroundings. More so with the threat level raised.
Caron acknowledged her but didn’t speak, being busy with some project or other. Elke found a seat and studied details around the room to keep herself alert and awake. Four hours of nothing was bad enough. Four hours of nothing while Caron listened to bad music, hummed and muttered to herself, shifted and moved around and constantly stared at her with an annoyed expression was very hard on the nerves. But, it was what she was paid for.
This was a fairly dusty apartment, because the shelf across the room already needed wiped. That indicated Caron was very wrapped up in her studies, because she did a good job of maintaining the place. The dishes were done, the sonic washer empty and the kitchen quite neat. The climate control might need adjusted. The temperature swung a couple of degrees, and Elke could feel the breeze get warmer and cooler. She’d mention that to Jason. Caron seemed to get more and more agitated, then pull herself back down. That was partly attention to her work, but she also probably found Elke unwelcome for something private.
That continued to get worse for almost an hour, then--
“AAArrrgh!” Caron slapped her fliptop closed and flung her notepad across the room.
“Yes, Miss?” Elke asked at once. She relaxed as soon as she determined it was frustration, not a threat.
“Transmission design. I hate it.”
“Ah. Tough problem?” She recovered the notepad from the couch—at least Caron wasn’t the kind to smash things, only toss them in frustration. Elke handed it back to her.
Caron read from her screen.
"’A prospecting crew has left an omnidirectional beacon on a metallic planetoid with a high concentration of readily extractable ores (Subtype M Six). The beacon broadcasts a digital, spread spectrum signal containing its ID, contents, and location in space; however, when you go to the broadcast location, you find that the coordinates are in error. Directional receivers are unable to triangulate the location of the beacon due to the presence of multiple other beacons, interference from iron-containing ores, and signal bounce off intervening masses. Your prospecting ship contains a number of similar omnidirectional spread-spectrum beacons that can be set to receive instead of transmit. Describe a method for triangulating the desired beacon location using only these omnidirectional receivers.’"
"Ah. So it's a signal propagation problem."
"You're familiar with it?" Caron asked. She seemed surprised.
"I work with explosives. Signal theory is a pre-requisite for proper remote detonation, and for dismantling foreign devices."
"Oh. Of course." Caron took a moment to think on that.
"I'd lay it out as a direct-sequence spread spectrum design." Elke leaned over and sketched on the notepad.
She thought for a minute to translate from Czech to English, since this was a very technical discussion.
She said, "Inverse square alone would be enough to triangulate source if there was no interference. But, iron-containing asteroids and other radio sources will spoof with signal strength, so by using code division across a spread-spectrum you can calibrate the noise from interference sources and use timing differences to also estimate distance. Iron is mentioned, so correct for its reflection and absorption across the frequency spectrum. Adjust the apparent signal strength at the receivers to accurately indicate the distance to the beacon. If you need to fine tune more, take the M Six type’s content average of nickel and cobalt, and iridium is a relatively very powerful interferer in Sol system, I recall. Allow for those. Don’t forget the alloying structure if it’s pure enough ore to alloy, and how it affects reflectivity. That should be in your metallurgy for antennae texts."
Caron squinted, seemed to grasp it, and said, “I’ll try it that way. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. For metallurgy or mechanical engineering, you can ask Jason. Shaman of course knows biology. Bart can help with steam turbines. Alex knows marine geology and history. Aramis is actually well read in surveying, cartography and the aerial geometry for it.”
It was amusing to see the girl mouth silently. She’d obviously never considered that her security team was trained to do anything other than pull triggers and stop bullets.
She dove back into her coursework. Elke couldn’t fault her work ethic, and she was a very bright girl. If she stuck to it, she had the potential to make her family business a long-lasting legacy.
She finally went to bed at 0135. Jason came on duty at 0200.
Jason checked the corridor to ensure he was secure. He knocked while buzzing a code. The two together, along with cameras monitored here and at Alex’ desk made a pretty good protection screen.
Elke answered the door with a pistol, of course.
“Good morning,” he said as he walked in. “I say that because I haven’t slept yet. That’s the only kind of good morning.” He sat down at the dining table that was their ersatz office. He hated mornings, so he tried to stay awake late enough to sleep through them.
“Things are well enough,” Elke reported as she secured the door behind him. “You should have a fairly quiet time.”
“Good.” It could be boring, but that was better than the alternative.
Right then, Caron’s door opened and she wandered out, giving a quick nod.
“I just need a snack,” she said, looking slightly shy.
He didn’t think she was being a tease this time. Likely, just familiar and a bit more comfortable with her security. That was a good thing. That T-shirt that ended just high enough for him to wonder about panties was the tease. Damn the woman. She opened the fridge and bent, legs demurely together, and he looked away.
“No worry,” Elke said, walking past the alcove toward the table.
Caron stood up with a chunk of real Cheddar cheese and a Golden Delicious apple, and padded back to her bedroom.
“G’night,” she said.
“Night, Miss,” Jason agreed.
“No, she wasn’t,” Elke said, fumbling with her fliptop.
Elke swung the screen around.
It showed a low angle but very-well framed image of Caron from the underside. No, she wasn’t wearing panties.
Very, very impressive. That was all he could think about Elke’s photographic skill. The image itself was just…
“I don’t know if I should thank you or hate you.”
“Either way. I’m scrubbing it in ten seconds.”
“I assume you’re considering that recon practice.”
“What else would it be? Done?”
“Yes, thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
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