Before hitting the club we drop by Alex’s apartment building to interview Charlotte for our 7pm appointment with her. Charlotte is a 26-year old sculptor who lets us in to her apartment and immediately wants to get down to business with the interview. Her apartment is filled with sculptures of varying quality.
• Charlotte feels that she doesn’t know Alex very well personally but “pretty deeply” in an existential manner. He volunteered to be a sculpture model for her on several occasions and was one of her best subjects.
• She shows us her sculpture that was inspired by her work with Alex called “Bioroid adrift”. It depicts Alex in mid-stride yet his head is turned behind him while his head moves forwards, intending to convey a sense of conflict. She thinks this figure captures his “essence”.
• She feels that she connected with him on a different level and felt that his soul was deeply conflicted.
• She had several sessions with him, the last of which was about a month ago.
• They talk some during these sessions, on various topics. She felt like there was a deep spiritual connection with their conversation while at the same time conversed on his life, his plans, etc.
• Aleksy asks whether he’d mentioned leaving town or if there was somewhere Alex wanted to go. Charlotte didn’t recall any specific destination but she seemed to think he would skip town at some point as she felt like he had something he needed to do.
• Aleksy also wants to know if she’s done sculpting with her neighbors at all, which she said that she has.
• She knew that Sibyla and Alex had been having sex for a time. She also expressed some negative feelings [jealousy, I’ll bet] of Sibyla.
As we’ve, at that point, had our fill of existential BS we thank her and head to the nightclub.
At the nightclub we elect to wait in line like the common folk we are and get let in without issue. We hand in our weaponry at the door.
The club does indeed have a heavy bass beat that reverberates through our bodies, although our VII’s help tone out the extra noise. The club is a two-floor affair with private rooms up above and a dance floor down below. With AR turned on the club is a pretty happening place. As it turns out despite our drab appearance we don’t look horribly out of place, although we might stick out slightly. We split up to help cover the place. Along the way we also notice security cameras around the bar, watching things.
Spencer goes after Elias. He asks him for a Manhattan and five minutes of his time and gives him a large tip. He comes back with the manhattan and sits down at Spencer’s request. Spencer begins by indicating that Elias probably has noticed that one of his coworkers, Alex, hasn’t been in for quite awhile. Elias felt like he just left suddenly; they were going to work on music together (something they had just started recently) but they weren’t able to after Alex suddenly left. He doesn’t express very much care for Alex’s whereabouts or why he would suddenly leave but Elias does seem quite concerned with his own singing career. He wasn’t sure of anything odd going on the last night Alex was at work but says to talk to one of the other servers for info. Spencer asks about the manager and Elias says to ask the bartender where she is, he doesn’t know.
Aleksy flags down Aimee. He makes some small talk and then tries to order a martini with sentient olives. Aimee replies that they can put a sentient snack in a martini (a humanoid or perhaps a duck) but no sentient olives. Aleksy goes with the sentient snack and also asks for some kind of vegetable added. She returns a short time later. Aleksy indicates that it’s been awhile since he last visited and about a month ago saw someone named Alex here and wants to know if he’s still around. She indicates that he hasn’t been around for about a month and that he “just left me, I mean the bar”. Apparently Aleksy’s delivery was rather poor but Aimee is apparently rather dense and fails to pick up on the lie.
Aimee comes back a bit later and gives him another drink, on the house. She wants to know if he’s a cop, which Aleksy says he isn’t, and she wants to know whether he’s looking for Alex, which he says he is. Aimee indicates that she and Alex were dating. She expresses concern for his welfare and that she’s concerned for his safety. She shows Aleksy some videos from club security cameras that display Alex at work, periodically walking by a group of Asian men who have entered the bar. The men look his way periodically and it’s obvious that they’re watching Alex, keeping an eye on him. Aleksy shares out the feed to the rest of the group. Everyone can see that Alex is nervous in the video. However Spencer notices that Alex looks to be “forcing” his nervousness. Satori comes to the same conclusion. Another video shows the two men going into a private room that Alex walks into, stays in for five minutes and then leaves. Aimee indicates she hasn’t seen these men back in the bar since. We run facial recognition on the Asian men and begin researching it, analyzing the individuals and any audio on the clip.
Aimee also relates that a short time before the new year she walked by a door that the men and Alex were in; it sounded like they were having a very intense conversation. Aleksy asks and Aimee directs him to a backroom to meet with the manager.
Xenia (the Eros bioroid) is surrounded by horny men and isn’t easily approachable without prying them off with a crowbar. However after a short time she walks by the table Aleksy and Aimee are at. Aleksy is immediately caught up by her feminine powers of persuasion (and her pheremones—Crit Fail on his HT check) and loses all self-control. She stops by as she’s overheard the two of them talking about Alex. She also expresses concern for his well-being and wants to know if we’re going to find him. Aleksy, overpowered by chemical persuasion, wants desperately to get her somewhere private to tell her all about it. Satori, listening in on the conversation, realizes that Aleksy has fallen for it and is compromised at the moment; he sends a message over to Aleksy and Spencer informing them of this. Aleksy fails to instill the same desires in Xenia (failed Sex Appeal) however, who tries to stay on topic and continues to express concern about Alex. Spencer IM’s Xenia, introduces himself, and asks her to direct Aleksy to the backroom so they can talk to the manager and to “get him back on track.” She helpfully complies and during the walk of shame Aleksy’s head clears somewhat and he’s able to come down off the pheromones somewhat.
Aleksy and Spencer meet at the door to the back room, joined by IQ and virtual-Satori, to meet with Donna Ashton, the manager. She’s middle-aged, genefixed, decently attractive.
• She recognized that Jan 4th was about the last time he was in.
• His attendance was good and punctual.
• He was a great employee and performed his job well. He was extremely easy to manage – a feature of his bioroid type.
• Regarding the Asian men, she remarks she didn’t have much else in the way of footage beyond what we’ve already seen. Those men were regular visitors for the first month or so of his employment.
• She didn’t have much day-to-day contact.
• Periodic security issues at the club, nothing out of the ordinary. Spencer asks and Donna agrees to provide footage of the weapons check area – specifically during the times these men go through it. She indicates that it will take about half a day.
• Spencer asks about Elias and his relationship with the other servers. Donna indicates she doesn’t sense any malicious intent from him.
• Alex was not particularly nervous during the last week or so he was around, with the exception of what’s on the camera footage.
• IQ asks and Donna refuses to provide account numbers for Alex’s bank account.
• Spencer asks for identifying information from the Asians’ transactions when they purchased drinks. She indicated all of their transactions were handled with anonymous Islandia currency.
• Donna doesn’t have much idea why Alex left. Her personal opinion is that he’s either confused as to what he’s supposed to do or is running.
• Satori IMs Aleksy to find out if the private meeting rooms have video surveillance. Donna indicates they are indeed private, although monitored by a NAI that has its memory erased after five minutes and that it has certain triggers that cause it to alert employees. At her answers to this question everyone except Satori detect that she’s holding something back. Amy indicates that for the integrity of her “private” rooms nothing could be recorded. Spencer asks, “hypothetically” what might be recorded; Amy indicated that full audio and video might be “hypothetically” recorded.
• Satori asks about some kind of code of conduct for the club and whether it was violated during the recording. She indicates that five minutes before and after the malicious event would be recorded.
• IQ and Spencer try to diplomatically talk her into releasing the data she obviously is holding back but she doesn’t buy into it. We decide it’s time for Aleksy to play bad cop. He slams the desk, stands up abruptly and shouts that she’s holding back on us. Donna reveals that when an employee lingers in a room footage is tracked to allow monitoring of why they’re doing so, for the safety of the employee and the club. She indicated she can check to see if such footage was recorded for Alex.
We leave the club.
In the morning Satori finishes his research, as does IQ. We get a data burst from the nightclub as well containing encrypted footage of Alex and the two Asian men in the private room. Spencer also gets his footage of the security check station. The two men drop off fairly standard-model, uninteresting electrolasers and go into the club.
IQ finishes looking at security footage of the train station in Quebec and Cincinnati but gets nothing of interest besides Alex showing up in Quebec and walking away from the station in Cincinnati. Cincinnati is one of the poorest areas in the US, a fourth wave city that’s fairly grimy compared to some other modern cities we’ve been to. It doesn’t have the same amount of AI’s and cybershell activities . A number of emancipated bioriods are present in the city as well. Really there’s no good reason to go there.
As for the private room footage we all sit down to examine it together. Spencer and IQ notice that the Asian men show indications of subservience from their body language. The audio of the conversation is scrambled somehow; Spencer realizes that some kind of white noise generation device is being used here. Their lips are visible only occasionally in the video due to poor camera placement. IQ and Silvie try and download a lip-reading program to get what they can out of the video. Silvie just barely fails making anything out but IQ is able to pick out a few phrases like “Cincinnati” and, otherwise, it seems like they might even be using some kind of code in their speech. Satori also determines that, psychologically, his speech patterns look to be different than expected, although that could be chalked up to being in a different social role in this conversation. It almost seems like he’s giving orders.
Spencer submits information to his FBI contact to see what they might know about this. They indicate that a DNA sequence is required for them to get any information. Hunter agrees to go back to the Pulse and go over the private room with forensics equipment. He expects to return in about six hours.
We also go over video records in the train station for images of the Asian men; we find they arrived about two days earlier in Cincinnati.
IQ transmits himself ahead of the group to Cincinnati and rents a techspider to go do stuff. Spencer orders a very nice Close Assault Weapon to loan to Carlos until he can get some money to pay for his own weaponry. He has it shipped to Cincinnati; it should arrive in about two days.
Sometime during our movements around town we notice we’re being followed by a mixed race man in a hoodie. We notice him while on our way to the train station to go to Cincinnati, about ten minutes out. We elect to get off at the next stop and go have lunch somewhere. Spencer asks Silvie to find a place with outdoor seating nearby the stop we just got off at. He gets off the train at the same time, hanging around nearby at a coffee shop when we stop for lunch. Aleksy and Satori go over to the same area and go talk to him, confronting him. He unfortunately isn’t very talkative but decides to leave the area after being confronted. Spencer, based on his appearance and mannerisms, thinks he’s part of some kind of criminal element. Satori mentions Cincinnati, and the man thanks him for the information before walking away.
During the train ride Satori looks up the stalker and finds a minor criminal record of some varied offenses, nothing too horrible; he seems like a small-time player.
Spencer’s knowledge of streetwise indicates that the Maple Syndicate has a large operation in Cincinnati as a smuggling/distribution/minifacturing center.
We continue on to Cincinnati and get hotel reservations. IQ works to acquire CC video footage of Alex leaving the train station to see if that generates a lead. IQ makes a list of the hotels in the area and begins asking around for people of Alex’s description.
Satori researches video clips or images that would be available of either the Asian guys or Alex in Cincinnati, which takes the better part of the day.
Spencer’s FBI contact gets back to him that evening. Ho Teng Su and Lai Tao are the two Asians, listed as possible triad or tong members. They were arrested in China as young men but not at all after. Unfortunately there isn’t any other information about those two available.
Spencer contacts a small-time underworld member named Johnny Sledge who is involved in the minifacturing racket. He talks to him about illicit goods, trying to feel out whether there are certain classes of goods that have flooded the black market, or whether there have been any substantial changes that coincided with Alex’s arrival. Unfortunately this dealer hasn’t heard of any developments in that regard and is suspicious of Spencer’s inquiries.