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Dressed To Kill

Steed's Tale - "Dressed To Kill" - Chapter 03

Journal of Prince "Major" Jonathan Steed of Amber:
Based on a Scenario by Rain Donaldson
Written by: R. Cal Westray, Jr. in 1997-1998.
Steed's history was written in 1994.

"Extraordinary crimes against the people and the state,
need to be avenged by agents extraordinary..."

Episode A4-3 - Wish You Were Here (a.k.a. The Prisoners)

In which Steed meets an old friend 
... and Emma has a change of mind. 

No. 2's profile surprised me. It takes me back to my days in the boarding school, when I was eleven. I saw the school bully for the first time, he was fourteen and outweighed me by nearly 30 pounds. I had heard about him by reputation and there were many lads who suffered many injuries and humiliations at his hands. I resolved not to be intimidated by the much larger and older bully.
Our inevitable encounter was on one fall morning. He struck me from behind and I went sprawling. He proceeded to insult my family honor. It was the 'one' thing that couldn't be tolerated. Instinct took over, I rolled and reached upwards and grabbed him by the belt, kicking his legs out from under him. He crashed to the ground, flat on his back. This knocked the wind out of him. I was upon him in an instant, punching him. I took out my accumulated frustration on him. He became the cause of my lack of friends and allies. When the house master came to separate us, I found that I had thrashed him bad enough to be sent to the hospital. His parents were going to press charges, until they saw our comparative sizes. I supposed they were embarrassed at their son's reputation and that he was beaten by such a smaller child. After that incident, no other bully took me on. I had won over the other students completely, who were constantly under attack from him.
I had seen him frequently at school since. He respected my determination and refusal to back down, regardless of the odds. Surprisingly, it became part of his personality as well. He became quite a decent chap and we soon became friends. He still got into scrapes occasionally, but it was usually someone else's fault. We even covered each other's backsides in a few fights I lost touch with him after leaving school, and I learned of (and followed) his escapades when I joined the Ministry. He became quite a gentleman and quite an agent for Her Majesty's Secret Service; one of those double-0 lot.
His features haven't changed much. Except he is gray around the temples, he has a few lines in his face, and sports a peppery beard. It suits him quite well, he looks very distinguished. "Hello, James. Or should I say No. 2? My, you 'have' come up in the world."
"Hello No. 9. Hello No. 72. I prefer to think of it as a bit of a come down. Would you like a martini?"
"No thank you. Would you have a passable wine or brandy?"
"For you, I'll see what I can do." He nods to a well dressed butler, of smallish proportions; who brought him a martini. I remember now; shaken, not stirred. He disappears into the darkness.
"Thanks, old boy. How did they manage to bring you here? I thought you would have preferred endless travel."
No. 2 looks contemplative. "I was requested to take this posting, after a long career of service. It seems that they needed someone to keep an eye on the youngsters."
"Do they have more problems with agents, than they use to?"
"You know how it is these days. It's not like the days when 'we' were in the game. Now it is all killing, blowing things up, and fancier gadgets. Mostly through military attacks; no real style involved. The agents aren't trained to be well rounded and proper gentlemen, hardly more than thugs these days."
"Pity, I've noticed that. Mother's lot were amateurs; only 'he' was able to convince me to surrender. If I meant ill of the old boy, I would have killed him first. You know, it makes the job harder if you try to keep your foes alive. Today's agents would have killed them all, no style at all. So, No. 2, are we in it for the duration?"
"That is how they like to work things here."
"You probably heard our dissatisfaction with the numbering system here. You know my partner and her consummate value to the organization. Who was the lout responsible for the faus pas in her assignment? I am quite put out about it."
"It is all done by computers these days. No accounting for personal tastes. I share your sentiments. Sorry, No. 72. I trust No. 9 has been a passable companion."
Emma has been quiet, observing and evaluating our situation. "Of course, No. 2."
"She wouldn't complain about the computers, but that is another thing wrong with this generation of spies. They spend too much time hacking and too little time socializing."
"Don't I know it."
The butler brings in brandy for us. I place the shoddy bowler and brolly on No. 2's table, so I can hold the glass. I sample the drink. "A 'more' than passable brandy, No. 2." I nod to the butler. "Thank you, my good man." He nods and leaves. Emma takes a glass, I observe her. "Cheers." She takes a sip and she has an odd expression on her face, as if she doesn't like brandy. Odd, Emma usually purrs with the warm sensation of brandy. I suspect that things are not what they seem.
Time for an experiment. As I sip the brandy, I bring up the Pattern and focus on a slight shift. I desire my possessions, items that are intimately linked to me. They 'should' be here because they 'must' be here. The shift 'does' occur, I notice the difference in the items. Hopefully, James and his monitors will not notice the difference. My carnation and Trump will be under the bowler. This little experiment answers one question: Pattern is not blocked here.
I am curious about Trumps as well, but experimentation will have to wait. I don't want 'any' witnesses. There is one more thing to do before I initiate my escape plan.
"So, James."
"Please call me No. 2."
"You know, I'll never get the hang of these numbers. It seems like only yesterday, that I told Mother that I didn't approve of this 'giving you a number and taking away your name' mentality."
"It took me awhile to get use to a 'change' of numbers."
"You did do a splendid job for Her Majesty; she should have wanted you by her side, not here."
"Thank you, as did you. A lot of youngsters seem to think that they are here to be punished. This is a 'retirement' community. A place where you can relax, kick back, and enjoy your declining years."
"I had envisioned spending my retirement in a more spacious environment, with less surveillance. It is quite disconcerting to have doors open for you."
"If you prefer otherwise, we can shut them off and make them manually operated. That is the charm of this place. We can specially tailor the village to suit everyone's preferences."
"It's the whole package, No. 2. Television without knobs, speakers without a stereo, and monitors everywhere. It's too '1984', don't you think?"
"They were installed long before 1984. But I understand your resistance."
"Are there more of these Villages or is this the only one?"
"As far as I know, this is the only one, but 'they' don't tell me everything."
"Are you enjoying your retirement here? Neither of us are truly in our declining years, however we may appear. We could travel somewhere together. I'll wager I've found a few good places that you haven't visited yet."
"Truth to tell, No. 9, I've gotten bored of the game. It is 'blow up this', 'shoot that', and 'stop another super weapon'. This, that, and the other. It all becomes the same after awhile."
"I, too, quite frankly, got bored of the game. I just moved on to more activities on a personal level."
"Precisely! That's the attitude, this is a perfect place for personal activities. You should spend time with your beautiful companion and enjoy our many activities together. We even have activities here that are unknown elsewhere. You should try Kosho, an excellent sport. There is a tournament going on, you would be a natural; it is a highly strategic sport. Actually, I think No. 72 would excel at it. Her kicking style would give her a definite edge. I'm sure I could arrange and entry for you both."
"I will consider it, James - No. 2. When I 'am' ready to retire, I think I would like to 'return' here. As it is, I still have too much to do. Should I send a card and who do I address it to?"
That gets a laugh out of him. "You would like to 'return'. That is priceless! 'First', you must escape. That is not likely, but expected and encouraged nevertheless. No. 9, old boy, of course you both must 'try'. The warders get so little entertainment here."
"By the way, what did Mother do with our belongings? I miss my normal tailored clothing and my Walther. I'm sure my Walther is not needed here, of course."
"Of course. That is one of the problems with this little amusement park. If you start allowing guns in, soon everyone will want one. As for the rest..."
"I understand."
"We also have chess games, including a live chess match. Those are 'so' much fun."
"Who is the resident fencing instructor?" I have another suspicion.
"No. 17. You may remember him. A British gentleman who ran a school for assassins. Before you captured him, of course. He was just asking about you, when he learned you were coming to the Village. Something about a rematch, he was quite beside himself with excitement."
As I suspected, Ponsonby. "He came to my mind awhile back ago. I had a dream that I killed him, I was rather sorry about that. No choice, you see. He is one of the best I've faced." It was in the arena in the Corridor of Mirrors. "Is he still training lads to be gentlemen? We could use a few more."
"Certainly, and doing a fine job of it. Outside of his one indiscretion, he is a perfect English gentleman. He should have known better than to associate with an enemy spy with the name of Nutski, I mean 'really' No. 9, that in itself is a give away."
"We 'all' make mistakes, No. 2. Mine was in revisiting an old 'friend'. It will all work out, though; and we got to see each other again."
"That's the spirit, No. 9."
If I am 'stuck' in the Village, Ponsonby would be a good ally - if he is interested in leaving. However, I do not anticipate a problem leaving. "Well, nice to see you again, No. 2."
"Nice to have you here, No. 9."
I pick up my belongings. With my thumb, I hold the carnation and Trump under the Bowler. I fit the bowler into place with a tap, a perfect fit, and keep the rest 'under my hat'. My brolly has a good familiar feel, nothing like a couple feet of good quality steel in your hand. "Where do I find the tournament?"
"If you would like, I will walk you over."
"Please, don't bother. I will find my way."
"This place just takes care of itself. Just ask out loud your request, someone will respond to you. I'm just a custodian." Another word for warder.
By the way, do they allow Holidays here? Temporary leaves, of course."
"If you would like a Holiday, I recommend the other side of the island. The beach and stone boat is a big attraction. Take it on an extended cruise, if you like." He smiles at the jest.
"A cruise sounds nice. I think I will take a walk, maybe look up No. 17. Good day, No. 2."
"Be seeing you, No. 9. You too, No. 72."
"Perhaps, No. 2." I bow slightly, touch the rim of my bowler, and turn to depart.
As we leave the Green Dome, we stroll east to the Recreation Hall. I am curious about the electrical system in the Village and how difficult it would be to knock out the power. I bring up the Pattern to scan for surveillance equipment. I find one that is not functioning, a prop that appears functional. There are others nearby that are active. They are self contained, battery operated, and transmit to a receiving station. I extend my search to locate a receiving antenna. Oh ho! It is the Green Dome itself. It looks decorative, but it is a functioning receiving station. The power flow is from underground and the receiver is also underground.
I suspect that there is a large operating network underground. To affect anything more than the transmitters, I would have to go underground to 'see' the equipment. I will keep that in mind to investigate later, I plan to return. I can deactivate specific monitor transmitters, quite easily. They would appear as malfunctions, with no tampering. It is about time to make my move. James will be expecting something soon, it is best not to disappoint him. I am still missing my Trump deck and assorted belongings, including my Bentley. I would guess that Mother still has everything at the headquarters.
One last thing. I use my brolly to point at something of minor interest to Emma. I lightly tap her shoulder, the soft flesh at the base of the neck. I make mental contact with her to gain the familiarity we had during joined Trump contact. I force rapport and send waves of: 'relax', 'joy', and 'convince me you are Emma'.
She tenses, then relaxes under my ministrations. What have we here? As I suspected, this is 'not' the familiar mind of Emma Peel. She is a beautifully crafted replacement who followed Emma's career extensively. She has no idea where Emma is. She has instructions to: follow me, maintain my confidence, and learn more about me. She is even to be my concupiscent partner, if I desire it. Not that it hasn't crossed my mind a few thousand times, she is quite desirable by any man's standards. She is then report back to No. 2. It seems that I have caught James in fragrante delicto.
Before I release her, I remove any memories of my intrusion, she will think that her mind just wandered at the beauty of the woods surrounding the Village. She will also follow my instructions, completely. "As I was saying, Mrs. Peel. It is a beautiful day and I think I will take a stroll. Just to keep appearances up, you should enter the tournament. The exercise will do you some good and the walk will do me some good. If you see No. 17, tell him that I will see him when I get back from my stroll. I will see you later. Fair enough?"
"All right, Steed. I mean No. 9." She smiles and strolls to the Recreation Hall.
Much later. Now, I can plan my escape. I keep walking east on the road, into the woods between the mountains.
With the Pattern dancing prettily in my mind, I leave the road and disable any monitor I encounter. I 'desire' to find the real Emma, so we can get on with our excursion to Chaos. I shift Shadow slightly to the area that Emma should be. I immediately receive a Trump call. I open contact. "Yes?"
"Steed! You 'do' wait until the last minute and just 'look' at those clothes. Where have you been? I have been trying to reach you for hours. The coronation will start soon."
"Hello, Mother. I has held up and detained." The Village is Trump blocked! An interesting trick, I will have to remember that. "I was separated from Mrs. Peel and I was searching for her. I was then going to get our clothing."
"Oh." She sighs sounding rather disgusted.
"I was hoping to bring her to Chaos, she hasn't seen the 'good' side of Chaos. She has only seen the rim side. Also, my Trump deck has been mislaid."
"There is no time. We can look for her 'after' the coronation. You must come now! I have the clothing here. Where have you been and why have you been ignoring my Trump calls?"
"It's a long story."
"Never mind, then. We only have half an hour. Are you ready?" She sounds very anxious to get started.
There are no monitors observing me. It will appear that I just walked into the woods and vanished. "Then bring me through, Mother." I reach through, take her hand, and step forward. I am greeted by a bevy of people. They are staring at me, looking at my clothing.
"What happened to your clothes?" She sounds horrified.
"I said it is a long story." Damn.
Suehprom is there and looks rather dapper, the first time he is dressed better than I. Of course, he points it out to me. "Steed, you look rather shabby." Suehprom is the type of guy who kicks a man when he is down. How the mighty have fallen.
"I ran into a slight problem, my clothes were replaced, with these."
"You can explain it on the way, hurry, this way." Mother leads us to a dressing room. Suehprom and Morganth are following, not to miss anything. Modesty be damned, in a semi-private room, Mother is hurriedly stripping my clothes off, emptying my pockets, and holds out a Trump. Opening contact, she sends the clothes to what appears to be an incinerator. I 'knew' that the clothes were a poor quality, but she holds them away, with her finger tips, like they were contaminated with some virulent disease.
Then she dresses me in the new costume, ignoring my protests. I have flashbacks of my childhood, when she was around and dressing me. I have been dressing myself for over fifty years and now she treats me like it was only yesterday and I've forgotten how. 
Maybe the Village isn't so bad after all. Soon, it is over and mercifully so. If Suehprom laughs any louder, I will kill him. At least Morganth is stifling his mirth. Mother is more anxious than usual and tends to other tasks after giving me a tsk tsk.
I examine her handiwork in the mirror. Not bad, except that I see the eight year old boy in the mirror with the same costume I had then. Bloody hell! I thought that it looked 'too' familiar in design.
First chance I get, I want my old clothes back!
We are ready and we walk to the ceremony. The festivities have a medieval flavor, in an expansive area. Flora, Suehprom, Morganth, and I move along the throng of people to our assigned places. Most of the crème de la crème are here. There are sections set aside for delegates from Amber, Rebma, Kashfa, and from the Golden Circle Treaty states. The section for delegates from Amber is very near the throne. I see King Rinaldo, Luke, with the Kashfa retinue. We wave and smile to each other, I will find out what Random agreed to soon. We take our seats and now we wait.
It is hard to estimate how many thousands of people there are in attendance, moving to take their seats. I should say thousands of beings. Many Chaosians are attending in their alternate forms; demonic and animal. The assortment of costumes, or lack there of, are astounding. I regret not having Emma with me, to enjoy the proceedings. I will only be able to project the mental images later.
There is massive excitement among the crowd, anticipating the event; as well as massive boredom, waiting for it to begin. The crowd is settling down as the sky changes hue, signaling the start of the ceremony. In the distance, I hear the tinkling sounds of magical wind chimes, that rapidly moves through the crowd like a wave. An impressive assortment of magical effects are coordinated for our enjoyment; sights, sounds, smells, and subtle tactile sensations.
The procession begins, starting a long period of pomp and circumstance. Merlin and his retinue take their positions near the throne. My adopted Chaosian family are all in attendance and they show their respects to the surrounding visiting dignitaries. This involves hand shaking and other greetings (based upon various customs). Lucky me, to be in the center of the activity.
When Merlin takes his position, an elder of Chaos produces a scroll and begins a long litany that begins: "The Houses of Chaos have joined as one to testify that Merlin (son of Dara and Lord Sawall) is the duly appointed and rightful King of Chaos. Assembled guests, you have the honor of witnessing this historic event..." He then goes on for an interminable amount of time. The crown is offered and placed on his head, a robe if place on his shoulders, and a serpent scepter is handed to him. More and more ceremonial rites are performed. I would swear that Flora is swooning with excitement. To me, it becomes tiresome quickly. 
What the devil is that? In the distance, I hear a commotion; definitely 'not' special effects. I have been in enough battles to recognize the sounds. We are under attack, at least Chaos is under attack. The ceremony is continuing, regardless of the distant battle. Flora pulls Blazer through a Trump contact. Blazer, here?
Between Merlin and the crowd, I hear the all too familiar sound of grinding engines. Not the best place for the TARDIS to materialize. The Doctor better be on his best behavior in Chaos. The TARDIS door is facing the crowd, away from Merlin.
Suehprom calls out to Merlin. "It's the TARDIS, it belongs to the Doctor."
Merlin calls back. "Get it out of here."
"I don't know how to do that."
"He's 'your' friend."
Suehprom turns to Mother. "Flora, the person who controls that device is an evil man. He is probably here to disrupt the ceremony. Well, he has done that."
Guards surround the TARDIS with an assortment of exotic weapons. The door swings open and someone charges out of the TARDIS. His speed and agility give him away. Even if he is solid black, carrying what appears to be that ebony Chaos blade; it is unmistakably Creed. By some unknown form of magic, it is now completely dark.
I bring up the Pattern to see through the darkness. My Pattern awareness chose that time to go wonky. There must be some powerful Logrus or Pattern user, blocking Pattern in Chaos. I am unable to see or track Creed's progress, much less anyone else.
Back from the dead; Creed, the deadly Chaos lord who fell into the Abyss. It was presumed that he perished in the Abyss or is still falling. As I recall, no one was eager to rescue him from the Abyss. I wasn't eager after I found out that he was the person responsible for beheading Coral and taking the Jewel of Judgment. Something always troubled me about that. After Smiling Jenny left with the Jewel, Creed wanted nothing more to do with the Jewel. He definitely had nothing to gain from trying to kill Coral. At the time many people, like myself, wanted Creed punished for his reprehensible act. I later gave him the benefit of the doubt. First, there were enough people claiming blood vengeance upon him. Second, Ty'igas were actively taking people over trying to take the Jewel to the Abyss.
I suspect that Creed was taken over by a Ty'iga at the time, like I was when I was trapped in the Jewel. For all I know, some innocents may have been killed by the Ty'iga who inhabited my body on the way to the Abyss. That doesn't mean I am responsible, but some may think so; not knowing about the Ty'iga.
I withdraw my blade from my cane, purely a defensive measure.
Suehprom is calling out for someone to block the blue box. Slim chance at that, he would cut down anyone who was in the way.
Shortly, the lights come back with a blinding flash. I shade my eyes, until I can see again. When normal sight returned, the TARDIS is still there and the door is closed. Creed is nowhere to be seen. I turn to see that Merlin has a prisoner, Eric. Splendid! Hopefully, they can do something to take him out of action permanently. At least, he is subdued and secured.
Suehprom, as always, is on top of things. "Creed is back in the TARDIS. Was that the black sword he was carrying?" Realization sinks in. Not again!
Kat calls out near Merlin. "We have to get out of here, he can kill us all with that machine! He has the black sword, he can cut through the Eye of Harmony again."
When did Kat get here? Morganth points out, what I consider to be the merely obvious. "It doesn't matter. He could kill us wherever we are, if he pulls that same trick."
Merlin calls out. "If this is going to cause a problem, then we can simply get rid of it. We have enough mages to send it to the Abyss and drop it in."
Everyone seems agreeable to that solution. Morganth volunteers to help.
Kat casts a spell and the black blade appears in her hands. She touches it to the ground, not use to the weight of a sword. It doesn't cut through, it is an ordinary sword painted black. A decoy, which is fortunate. Creed can't use it on the Eye of Harmony.
Another spell is cast and the TARDIS is teleported away.
I sheathe my blade. I kept my Pattern awareness active for a bit longer. The party may not be over yet. Pity, I don't have my snuff box.

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R. Cal Westray, Jr.
Copyright © 2001 [Westray.org].
All rights reserved.
Revised: October 23, 2007 .