A Discrete Analysis

Tales from days past, from days of Paragon City go here. This is a reminder of where we've been.

A Discrete Analysis

Postby Static Bolter » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:42 am

Originally posted by the Subtractor: June 25th, 2009

(For the interested, a write up of Subby's investigation into Anne's disappearance. It's long, and there's more. There's also some horrible maths references/stuff. Be warned))

The sound of boots squelching in mud was accompanied by a faint crackle of electricity in the rain-filled air. A man spoke, the frustration evident in his soft voice.
“Where are they? People can’t just disappear. There’s nowhere for them to have gone! Find them!”
The crackle of the electricity intensified as he spoke, and the air seemed to grow more intense. There was a murmur of assent from some other voices, and the feeling of intensity receded along with the crackling of the air. Footsteps sounded again, squelching through the mud, getting fainter as the people causing them moved away.
Some time passed since the man with the soft voice had moved away from the lakeside. A pigeon landed on the mud where he had been standing, and started pecking the ground for a worm. A noise from closer to the lake startled the bird, causing it to fly away as a large man in casual clothes and a large horned helmet climbed up the steep bank he’d been hiding near. He quickly brushed his clothes off as he scanned the surrounding area.
“Looks good. You can come out now.”
As Subtractor spoke, a soft tendril of mist leaked from under his leather coat and began coiling on the ground. More tendrils soon joined it, combining to form the general size and shape of a human. The last of the tendrils escaped Subtractor’s coat as he removed it from his shoulders. The mist suddenly solidified and shattered with a soft chime, revealing a naked woman. Subtractor swiftly offered her his coat, which she took, despite it being much too big for her.
“Ma’am, you didn’t have to do that. You could have hidden just as well as I.”
“Maybe, Eric, but I would have gotten dirty. You don’t want me getting dirty, do you?”
“No ma’am. Next time though, I’d appreciate a little warning, just so that I can collect your clothes after you convert.”
“Transform, sugar.”
“Of course, ma’am. Shall we get out of the rain, and maybe get you some clothes?”
The pair walked through the rain and mud until they reached the nearest road. From there, they moved to a nearby apartment building. As they neared it, the woman grabbed Subtractor’s arm, hanging off it as though she were a two-bit whore. Entering the lobby, the two drew glances from those inside, with the receptionist staring at them as his hand moved towards a nondescript button. The woman gestured at him and a flash of recognition crossed his face. His hand moved back to where it had been, flicking through a newspaper. The pair entered the elevator, the woman still clutching Subtractor’s arm as she softly pressed a floor button.
The elevator’s doors closed, and Subtractor disengaged himself from the woman’s grasp.
“Was that really necessary? I doubt we fooled anyone.”
“Eric, Eric, appearances are everything. This way, people will remember us, but for the wrong reasons.”
A small noise, possibly of acceptance, possibly of disgust, came from Subtractor’s helmet. Just then, the woman whirled and punched the emergency stop, before turning back to him, anger clear on her face.
“What the hell is wrong with you, Eric? You come to me for help, after all this time, knowing full well what the consequences would be! And with this...this fucking helmet! I can’t even slap you, you stupid, stupid man!”
Subtractor stood there, patiently waiting for her to finish yelling at him and get the elevator going again.
“I mean, I can’t even tell what you’re thinking! I can’t see your stupid, ugly face anymore! Who the hell do you think you are, Eric?”
To punctuate her last point, she jabbed a finger into his chest twice. Before she could do it a third time, Subtractor caught her gently by the wrist, and softly spoke.
“Ma’am, can we have this conversation in a more private place? I don’t want anyone overhearing.”
Obviously still angry, but understanding the need for privacy, the women disengaged the emergency stop, and pressed a completely different floor button than before. Subtractor opted not to say anything as the lift jolted and began climbing once more.
It was only a quick walk from the elevator to her front door, but he made sure it was clear of people anyway. He couldn’t be too cautious. Once she unlocked her apartment, they entered to a scene of decadence. Vibrant colours, large sofas and pillows piled too high to estimate their number. The woman headed straight for the bar as Subtractor carefully locked the door.
“This is private. You didn’t manage to tell me why you wanted to talk to me before Lorenzo and his band of fools saw us. You’ll tell me now.”
“Why don’t you get dry and put some of your own clothes on first, Lauren?”
“Now, Eric. Make it convincing.”
Subtractor sighed. “There’s a missing girl, she...”
Lauren cut him off. “This is Paragon, sugar. I hate to break it to you, but girls go missing here all the time. Believe me, I know.”
“She’s a young girl.”
“Aren’t they all? People like the young ones, you know.”
“Not the sort of young you’re thinking of. She’s a child.”
“Ah. Not too many that steal children, if that’s what you’re thinking. Sure she didn’t just wonder off or something?”
“I’m sure. She’s gone missing along with some other children and the parents of those children.”
“Well, that’s tragic, Eric. Real tragic. I’m not the police, you know.”
“I know. The authorities aren’t coming up with much, if anything at all. I checked with some of my other resources, and it seems as though there wasn’t much information coming from the general area at the time.”
“I see. I think I know what you want, Eric. This is going to cost you, you know.”
“I’m aware. Can you help?”
“Give me the details and a few minutes. I’ll see what I can do.”
Subtractor handed her a piece of paper with the names of the people who disappeared, as well as brief descriptions and the address of the apartment building where they’d gone missing on it. Lauren stood up and slipped the coat off as she walked to her bedroom. A resigned sigh emanated from Subtractor’s helmet as he picked up the coat, brushed some dirt off the bottom of it, and shrugged it on. He looked up and caught a glance of bare flesh as the door to Lauren’s bedroom closed. Sighing again, he looked around and eventually found a place to sit on a sofa which would have minimal impact on the mountains of pillows and assorted things strewn about the place. As he sat there, he went over his calculations in his head. He’d been right about where Lauren would be at the right time, which inferred that her routine hadn’t shifted much, if at all, from the last time he’d seen her. Her decision to abandon her clothing and convert into her mist meant that she still trusted him enough to be safe near him, and her actions in the elevator meant that her attitude hadn’t changed much. This was much better than he’d expected, as it eliminated most of the uncertainty variables from his equations, and the point where she’d turned from sarcastic to helpful when he was telling her the problem indicated not only a willingness to help, but a portion of concern on her part about Anne’s fate. Another quick run-through of the calculations, this time adjusted for how long it was taking her to change, with several alternate values for what sort of clothes she might be wearing when she emerged from her room, indicated that she’d help as best as she could, as long as she didn’t come out wearing one of her business suits. He sighed again. This was why he didn’t like coming to her for help, despite her excellent ability to find and control information. He couldn’t help but manipulate her like this, and ensure the best mathematical outcome. He owed her more than to manoeuvre his friend like this.
She was taking a while. That was a good sign, for now. To keep himself occupied, Subtractor went through several calculations in his head. He’d had to decide on the lake as a hiding place too quickly, and had miscalculated. It would have been far more efficient to have run further into the jumble of buildings they called Steel Canyon, and lose their pursuers like that. Still, he’d chosen the optimal route to the lake, and Lauren’s conversion into her mist had optimised it even further. The only negative was that he couldn’t rearrange himself and her at the same time. He’d have had to have rearranged himself first, then her, and that was far from efficient, considering how close Lorenzo had been. He reassigned a value to the lake, noting that while a good place to hide, it wasn’t the best. A quick look at his watch assured him that Lauren hadn’t exceeded the threshold for positive returns on her changing time.
Some more calculations, based around what he knew of the local gang activities passed through Subtractor’s mind. He knew that Lauren had contacts with the Outcasts, and they had the highest probability of being in the area at the time when Kit had dropped Anne off, and when the disappearance had apparently occurred. It was why he had come to see her, after all. More calculations ran through his head. It was very likely that any Outcasts in the area were friendly towards Lauren, who had her junior girls work among them on occasion. Subtractor frowned. That didn’t explain Lorenzo and his group. It was understandable that they’d be hostile towards a hero, but Lauren as well? A few more calculations factored Lorenzo into his equations. The man was fairly ordinary for the boss of a small Outcast group, from what he recalled. Nothing special, apart from an ability to be patient. Subtractor snapped his gloved hands, quickly reassigned a variable and tilted his helmet to the side as he ran through a calculation. All of a sudden, he straightened in his seat and cursed. Lorenzo was outside.
---
Oblivious to the rain pouring down around him, Lorenzo stared up at the windows of the apartment building. One of them was the whore’s. He’d never been up there, let alone in the foyer, but he knew that she lived up there, and it was where she’d taken the hero. He hadn’t been fooled by her pretending like he was a proper paying customer. The hero was looking for information, probably about the recent changes in what he’d had his gang doing. He’d always thought that he was running a risk, but he’d never though a hero would take interest. A snarl crossed his face and tiny arcs of lightning shot between his fingers. His boys edged away from him, careful not to let their cowardly behaviour show too much. He didn’t care, as long as they feared him more than anyone else. He’d just have to find out what this hero knew, and dispose of him before he told anyone. He’d have to kill the whore as well. That was a shame, she was apparently quite a number, according to some of his boys. He’d wait until the hero left, then he could have a little fun before getting a name from the whore.
---
The door to Lauren’s bedroom swung open, and she emerged, clothed in a simple pair of jeans and a tank top. She raised an eyebrow at Subtractor’s presence at the window, but chose to say nothing about it. The man could explain himself if it was so important. She cleared her throat, to which he glanced at his watch and nodded slightly. Well, he could keep his strange little habits. She dived onto one of the large piles of pillows, and smiled at him.
“You’re in luck, you know. There were a few people I know who know people who were around at the times you mentioned. I’ve got them asking around, subtly.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry for getting you involved in this.”
“Sugar, I was already involved with these guys, remember?”
“You know, I can stop all of this. I can get you away from this life and you can do something normal.”
“Normal? Normal’s boring. Besides, you’d take me away and I’d just come back. I’m high class, Eric. I pick and choose, and I get a lot of money for it.”
The man stood silent for a while, and Lauren wondered if she’d gone too far. She was about to say something when her phone rang. She picked it up, listened, thanked the caller, and hung up.
“Well, it looks like I’ve got something for you. Some guys my girls know were in the area and saw your mother and her little girl around. Said that they were followed.”
“There’s more. What is it?”
“Price first, sugar. Pay up.”
He sighed in resignation, as he seemed to do a lot around her, and handed her another piece of paper with his phone number and an address on it. She giggled softly.
“Now, no changing numbers or moving house, ok? I’m going to come around personally and fix your apartment up a little, then we’ll see how the girls like it, ok?”
A small shake of that ridiculous helmet indicated he thought it was a bad idea. She didn’t care, it’d be fun, and the man needed some female attention.
“Good. The men who followed your mother and her little girl were plain. Very plain, if you catch my drift. You might also be interested to know that they hung around outside the apartment you mentioned for three hours after they tailed your mother and her little girl there. Now, no one saw the mother leave, but she wouldn’t have hung around that long.”
---
Subtractor stood still for a moment, quickly assigning variables to the information and inserting it into his main calculation. A quick run through to make sure it worked properly, and he was satisfied. Just as expected, a kidnapping, and not unprofessional. Not coincidental either, but very much targeted. This would not be very reassuring for Kit. Seeing Lauren eying him oddly, he tilted his helmet towards her somewhat.
“Thanks for this. Can I get you to take something to my father for me?”
“Of course. He’s still at the same place, right?”
“He is. Give me a moment.”
He quickly pulled a piece of paper from his coat and wrote a quick letter out to the Androgyne. He regretted not being able to tell eir in person, but he had some things to deal with before he could leave Steel Canyon. After he’d finished writing, he pulled out an envelope with a name already written on it, and sealed the letter inside before handing it to Lauren.
“Wait a little while before you deliver that. There are some gentlemen standing out in the rain who would object to your safe passage.”
“Ah, Eric. Always looking out for your high school sweetheart. Don’t strain anything, sugar. Remember, I’ll be round to redecorate soon.”
Subtractor let another resigned sigh pass his lips. He knew that she liked the sound of them, and they caused her to act more favourably towards him, as well as allowing him some leeway in certain matters. He’d calculated a far more expensive payment if he hadn’t sighed as he had. The smile on her lips at his sigh said it all really.
“Catch you round, Lauren.”
“I’ll make sure of it, Eric.”
With that, Subtractor left her apartment and took the lift to the roof. He had some matters to take care of, on the street far below him.
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Static Bolter
 
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Re: A Discrete Analysis

Postby Static Bolter » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:44 am

Originally posted by the Subtractor: June 26th, 2009

((Part two is a little shorter, and more of an intermission. Part three will be up after I actually finish it.))

It had happened so fast, Lorenzo thought groggily to himself as he was shoved into the back of the police van. They’d just been standing around, waiting for the hero to leave when the idiot had jumped off the roof of the building and landed in the middle of his boys, sending them flying. Then he’d pulled the axe off his back and ran straight at him. A quick look at the strange rubber handcuffs on his wrists reminded him of the massive stream of lightning he’d hit the hero with, only to see him shrug it off and slam the flat of his axe into his side. It still hurt, and Lorenzo knew that he’d be heading for the hospital section of the Zig for a while. It was a shame. The hero had quickly questioned him before the cops showed up, and he hadn’t asked anything about the smuggling or even the events involving the Tsoo. Just some things about a kidnapped girl and why his boys had been hanging out around where the whore was. He’d left Lorenzo with a strong warning to stay away from the whore. If he got out of the Zig, Lorenzo would heed that warning. Neither of them knew about what he’d been doing, so that was fine by him. Who cared if they wanted to spend their lives finding some kid? He’d better things to do than get in the way of heroes like that.
---
Lauren watched Eric deal with Lorenzo and his gang from her window. It was hard to make out the details, but he had them all down long before the police turned up and arrested the Outcasts. She nodded to herself before fetching a coat from her room, placing the envelope inside it and leaving her apartment.
A quick walk to a bus stop, then a boring bus ride left her at the university. It had been a while since she’d been here, but nothing really changed. She shortly found herself in Eric’s dad’s office, watching him scribbling something on a whiteboard. She cleared her throat softly, but the man seemed completely preoccupied with whatever he was working out.
“Professor Hansk?”
Without looking, he waved at his desk with his free arm. “Just leave the assignment on my desk. Make sure it’s got your name on it.”
“Frank!”
The use of his name caused the professor to peer at her. It took him a moment or two before recognition shined in his eyes.
“Ah, Lauren! I haven’t seen you for a while. Please, have a seat, there’s a coffee maker somewhere. I’ll be with you shortly, I just need to finish this calculation.”
“I just wanted to give you this envelope, Frank. Eric gave it to me, and said that you should hold onto it for a friend of his.”
“Oh, ok. Leave it on the desk, then. Don’t mix it up with the assignments, though.”
Lauren placed the envelope on the centre of the professor’s desk, making sure it was nowhere near a stack of unmarked assignments. She made to leave, but turned before she walked to the door.
“Frank, you do know Eric has a helmet stuck on his head, don’t you?”
There was silence for a moment as the professor quickly finished the step of the calculation he was on.
“Of course, of course. He’s been coming around rather regularly. All the calculations have been made, he just needs to get some scans from the hospital for us to be sure.”
“That’s...good to know. Catch you round, Frank.”
Lauren left the office as the professor went back to his whiteboard and continued on with whatever he was doing. She’d never been one for maths beyond high school.
---
Subtractor went back to his apartment after overseeing the arrests earlier. He needed to be more cautious, lest that sort of thing happen again. He was supposed to be keeping a low profile, and not getting noticed. Arresting a gang of Outcasts in broad daylight was not going to help that. Sighing as he opened his apartment door, he calculated that the optimal time to remain covert would be at least one day. He hated waiting, considering that Kit’s child was still out there, with whoever had taken her, but it couldn’t be helped. He’d have to rely on Lauren to deliver the letter, and the Androgyne to pick it up.
As he filled Pythagoras’ food bowl, he thought about what he could do to be more subtle. He couldn’t change the fact that he had a massive horned helmet on his head, not yet. He could see about a more covert shield and axe, though. He’d seen the Vanguard use some interesting ones that looked very much suited to stealth. A quick calculation later, and he nodded. He’d definitely have to pay the Vanguard a visit later. For now, though, he might as well watch some movies and sleep.
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