The Billion Credit Brain: A Miller & Mayfield Mystery

Started by Rory Mayfield, April 22, 2020, 09:46:42 AM

Rory Mayfield

April 22, 2020, 09:46:42 AM Last Edit: April 22, 2020, 10:08:02 AM by Rory Mayfield
Their mission completed, the crew of the Courtesan disbanded and the Miller clan scattered themselves across the Verse once more. Rory was heartbroken to part ways with the aunts and uncles he'd only just met. On the other hand, he was quite relieved to be rid of Sparrow after the tea incident, which Mason and him had agreed never to speak of again; if word of it had reached Marion's ears, she might no longer have been open to leaving Rory in Mason's care. As it stood, however, she allowed him to take some time off school and continue traveling with his father, since it seemed to be good for Rory's confidence and Mason's ego.

Their first job as a senior-junior duo came from one Dr. Ada Cheung, whose latest super-computer was to be unveiled at the TechnOSIRIS technology exposition on -- you guessed it -- Osiris. Unable to attend herself due to personal reasons and worried about a potential plot to steal her baby, the paranoid computer scientist had hired the two of them to go undercover at the event and keep an eye out for trouble.

And so the father and son found themselves in the bustling exhibition center on Osiris, trying to do their best to blend in with the inventors, investors and just plain old nerds (all of them on the wealthy side, of course, to be able to afford entry to the prestigious event). In his carefully ironed dress shirt and sweater vest, Rory wasn't dressed all that differently from how he usually did, save for a pair of ill-fitting horn-rimmed glasses which kept sliding down the bridge of his nose. He had to take a moment to push them back up every few minutes before continuing to gawk at the wonders around him.

"Oh, look! Over there!" Rory suddenly tugged at Mason's sleeve and pointed towards something -- a middle-aged man in a turtleneck walking past them. In his head he was doing it discreetly, but in reality the gesture was anything but. The boy scout seemed to already have forgotten what they were supposed to be doing at the exhibition center, and was treating the operation like one big field trip.

"That's Gideon Pritchard! The inventor of the transportation-scope communicator!" He looked up at Mason, beaming. "I can't believe I'm actually seeing him with my own eyes. Thanks for bringing me along, da-uhh-ctor Surnamé." He caught himself just in time, his gaze darting around to see if anyone had heard him.
Dialogue color: pink

Mason Miller

April 27, 2020, 11:58:00 AM #1 Last Edit: June 15, 2020, 08:44:04 AM by noseatbelts
"Hm yes Richard Galleon with the transponder, of course." Mason said, intently not listening to his son. His eyes were focused about the room, looking for potential security threats, finding the exits, looking for security, both guards and cameras, and- "Ah, there it is." -the bar. He bee-lined for the cloth covered table and put his elbows next to the sign that described the wares as being free, with gratuity requested. "Scotch. Double. Neat. Quickly." Mason, no idiot, slid a ten credit note to the bartender with a wink. You treat the bar staff well, they will return the favor. Especially at an open bar where they were instructed to under-serve at all costs.

A sip of the smoky elixir calmed his nerves and made his hand stop shaking. With a brat in tow, who managed to sigh with disappointment every time Mason pulled out his flask, the drinks were fewer and further between than he was accustomed to. No matter. This was an appropriate venue for him to be drinking. He was a guest and not the only one with glass in hand. Mason looked at his son, still a strange concept for him to grasp, and wondered how he had gotten into this mess.

Well, he knew how he had gotten into this, so he had to suppose his question was really why was he here and with under-age company no less. His cover was that of Professor John Surnamé, PhD, attending this TechnOsiris convention to be excited about science or something. Rory had all of those details and Mason was glad to let the boy do the talking when it came to their cover story. Mason had already forgotten Rory's cover name, but he did know the boy was masquerading as his assistant. Did doctors have assistants? Magicians have assistants. That can't be right.

It didn't matter. Mason didn't plan on partaking of the convention, only the amenities. He looked at Rory, who seemed pleased as punch just to be there, and sighed after another sip of his drink. "So who is it we're looking for again?"
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Rory Mayfield

June 13, 2020, 11:26:20 AM #2 Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 02:24:45 PM by Rory Mayfield
"Hm yes Richard Galleon with the transponder, of course."

"Actually, it's Gideon Pri– oh." Rory's enthusiasm deflated as he watched his father make a beeline for the bar. His rational mind understood full well that drinking was just one of those bad habits some adults picked up and had a hard time shaking, but there was a part of him that wondered if there could be more to it, a nagging voice that surmised Mason had to be constantly buzzed in order to tolerate his son's presence. Rory tried to shush that voice and joined his father at the table just as he finished ordering his drink.

"Anything for you, Sir?" The bartender turned to Rory, who froze like a deer in headlights. That's right. The person he was pretending to be, graduate student Maury Renfield, was an adult. He looked at the bartender, then at his father, then back at the bartender. If Shay was in his position, he'd probably order a drink and down it in one gulp as a cào-you-dad move. It would be a great way to give his father a taste of his own medicine, and there would be nothing Mason could do about it without risking compromising their cover. Really, this was the perfect opportunity for some long overdue teenage rebellion, a chance to stand up and do something wild and unpredictable–

"No, thank you, I'm under... uh, under doctor's orders not to have any alcohol. Because of my medication. For my, uh, for my generalized anxiety disorder. You know, since alcohol is a nervous system depressant, so it could– oh..."

The bartender had already turned his attention away, and Rory fell silent. He turned to his father and tried to muster up an air of nonchalance.

"So who is it we're looking for again?"

"Right." Rory was happy to get back to business. He looked around, making sure nobody was listening in, then leaned closer to Mason and lowered his voice. "Dr. Cheung's protege, Edison Knox, is presenting her invention on her behalf. She wants us to keep an eye on the computer, and him– he doesn't know about us. We're supposed to keep our mission a secret from everybody, including Knox. So the less we interact with the people here, the– oh. Oh!"

Rory's eyes suddenly widened and became fixed on something behind Mason's shoulder, and he gave his father a frantic nudge. The turtlenecked man from earlier was approaching them, flanked by two men in suits.

"I'm sorry." His voice was surprisingly deep for a man of his skinny build, with enunciation so crisp it had a certain robotic but not entirely unpleasant quality to it. "I could not help but overhear your partner bring up my name earlier. I'm afraid I have something of a narcissistic streak– an occupational hazard of being an innovator. I don't believe we've met, Mr..."

Gideon Pritchard extended a spindly hand for Mason to shake. Rory pushed up his glasses.
Dialogue color: pink

Mason Miller

June 15, 2020, 09:24:34 AM #3 Last Edit: June 15, 2020, 09:26:40 AM by noseatbelts
Mason sipped his drink and looked at the kid as the mission was explained. "Dr. Cheung's-" Dr. Cheung was their employer? Mason honestly couldn't recall their name, though it had a tinge of familiarity. "-protege Edison Knox, is presenting her invention on her behalf. Dr. Cheung is a woman? That rang a bell. A bit mousy, if he thought on it. Good hips, though. Perky- "She wants us to keep an eye on the computer-" The invention is a computer, got it. "-and him– he doesn't know about us." She doesn't trust her assistant. Interesting. "We're supposed to keep our mission a secret from everybody, including Knox. So the less we interact with the people here-" Not a problem at all. This was going to be easy. A proverbial cake walk. Mason stopped listening to Rory long enough to miss that he had stopped talking altogether. Instead he took to scanning the crowd and looking at all the techie scientists. Sure, they had their uses and Mason couldn't deny that the lot of them all made more money than he did, but he'd shagged more people so Mason reckoned he had won out. "What a bunch of swots and boffins." He said, turning back to Rory with a smirk.

Of course he found what appeared to be the King of the Boffins standing before him. A nebbish fellow with what Mason could guess to be the weakest handshake on Osiris (and they hadn't even clasped hands yet) whose identity Mason had not a clue. But, ever the professional, Mason rolled with the punches. "Doctor Surnamé, PhD. John Surnamé." Mason took the man's hand - confirmed he had the grip of a tea doily - and stood there waiting for Pritchard to leave. Which he didn't.

Fine. "And you are?" Mason finally asked after a protracted silence, to which Pritchard seemed slightly offended.

"Gideon Pritchard." He said with expectation in his voice.

Mason didn't follow. "Charmed." He said with a tight smile, and turned to escape the conversation.

"Surnamé? Would I know your work?"

Mason sighed and closed his eyes and for a brief moment considered just walking away. From Pritchard. The mission. Rory. Osiris. Life. And then he opened his eyes again and sipped his drink. "I don't know, what do you think-" Mason looked at Rory and realized he didn't know the lad's cover name. Quick, think, what does Rory rhyme with? "Maury? Would he know my work?"
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Rory Mayfield

"I don't know, what do you think... Maury? Would he know my work?"

"Oh, right!" Rory, who had been utterly star-struck by Pritchard, snapped back to reality and straightened his posture. He took a step forward and launched into a carefully memorized pitch. "Dr. Surnamé wrote his dissertation on the theoretical applications of long-range capacitors in intraplanetary transportation. His thesis statement--"

"Fascinating." Pritchard's gaze never left Mason's face, and the almost uncanny precision of his enunciation made it difficult to gauge the legitimacy of his alleged fascination. Rory's shoulders slumped. "I'm afraid I am not familiar with your work, then, but it sounds like it might be relevant to my latest project. Would you mind summarizing for me?" 

"Well," Rory took a deep breath and tried again.  "Dr. Surnamés thesis statement--"

"With all due respect, I would prefer to discuss the matter with Dr. Surnamé himself," Pritchard cut him off again, still not bothering to even glance in the lowly assistant's direction. Rory's chest tightened. He had suggested Mason take on the role of someone other than a doctor, perhaps a rich eccentric who liked collecting shiny gadgets for the novelty of it without really understanding the technology behind them. Not that he believed his father wouldn't be able to convincingly play a person with a PhD (although if he was perfectly honest with himself, that's exactly what he believed), he'd just figured it would save both of them a lot of trouble.

Alas, Mason had either been too enamored with the academic title to heed his son's words or, more likely, he hadn't really paid attention to them. Back on the bedside table of their hotel room, there were two brick-like folders going over the life stories of their cover identities in painstaking detail, dutifully composed and compiled by the younger Miller-née-Mayfield. They included a summary of Dr. Surnamé's fake thesis, but now that Rory thought about it, he wasn't sure if he'd even seen his father crack his open.

Well, at least he remembers our pseudonyms...
Dialogue color: pink

Mason Miller

Mason didn't much like this Pritchard fellow. Sure, Rory could be a bit of a... well, he was just a kid and nobody deserved to be condescended to. In his days in the service, Mason had always despised men like Pritchard. So firmly up their own arse they couldn't see when they were being a pest. "Thank you, Maury. But I've got it." But did he though? Mason lapsed into silence, as if struggling for words. He stared at Pritchard with veiled contempt. Innovator he had called himself. Bollocks to that. "As I'm sure you're aware, travel between planets is costly, not only in credits and manpower, but also in energy. Batteries die before they get where they're going. And monitoring them is even more of a hassle. The capacitors I'm developing, more of a theory really, will recycle that expended energy via a complicated apparatus I've been playing with for a few years now. I won't bore you with the details but it's very exciting and I have several interested investors. You should look for it to be published in the Journal in the next month." He didn't specify which journal. Hell, Mason didn't know of a specific one but there was always a journal. Take that you speccy twat.

Yes. Mason had read the materials Rory had prepared for him. And he had been impressed by them. Of course, he would never tell the lad that. Stiff upper lip or some equally ridiculous idiom came to mind. He remembered when he was a young man and trying to impress his father. The unfazeable Commodore. He shuddered to think of it.

"Of course recycling relays would be a boon to the transport industry, but I'm not convinced it's a viable solution. I'm sorry. Which Journal did you say?" Pritchard narrowed his eyes, suspicious.

"That's why I'm the one developing it, mate." Mason glanced at Rory over the edge of his scotch glass, which was getting dangerously low. He felt pride for the kid. That was quickly swallowed down with the rest of the whisky. "Maury. Be a lad and get us a refill." He gave Pritchard a look about interns. "You know what. I'll accompany you. Can't get good help these days, can you Prickard? Ta." Miller and son left the good doctor floundering.
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Rory Mayfield

October 20, 2020, 08:09:40 AM #6 Last Edit: October 20, 2020, 08:11:40 AM by Rory Mayfield
Rory followed Mason's monologue in stunned silence, too blindsided by the fact that he had actually read his notes to detect the venom buried between the lines. His mouth was still hanging agape when Mason turned around and began leading him away from the site of the confrontation.

"Can't get good help these days, can you Prickard? Ta."

"It's actually Prit-- oh," Rory looked up at his father, realization dawning on him. "I get it."

Rory had never really bought into the phrase "you should never meet your heroes", namely because he thought his heroes were legitimately awesome and he simply couldn't imagine them not living up to his expectations. What he hadn't considered was the possibility of your heroes making you feel vanishingly small just by being aware of how much better than you they were. For some reason, he found himself think back to Aaron Estevez and sophomore year. Aaron was a kid in his biology class who, despite what his athletic proclivities might have led you to believe, was actually a whiz in the subject, earning the respect of the teachers -- and Rory. Sure, Aaron was a track star, over six feet tall, something of a heart-throb among the students and in a completely different tier of the pecking order than Rory, but he'd still figured their apparent shared interest in the natural sciences would have been enough to strike up a friendship.

It hadn't been. Much humiliation had ensued. The less said about that, the better. But Rory hadn't had a father to stand up for him when Aaron Estevez had laughed in his face. And he hadn't expected to have one when Gideon Pritchard turned his nose up at him, not really. But here they were. As the two got further away from the fallen idol, Rory's gaze remained fixed on Mason's face, his stunned expression slowly turning into one of gratitude.

"You read the file." His voice radiated the awe of a child who couldn't believe his absentee father had finally shown up to his big game. Then his professional perfectionism kicked in. "What do you think? Do you think I went overboard with the backstory? At first I thought the part about Dr. Surnamé's divorce would hit too close to home, but then I remembered that you and mom were never actually married..."

They came to a halt, and Rory glanced over his shoulder to where they'd left Pritchard's entourage. The man had turned his back to them, seemingly eager to leave the encounter behind him as soon as possible. The whole exchange was probably water off a duck's back for someone as distinguished as him, but somewhat to his shock, Rory found himself hoping there was at least a little embarrassment mixed in with his haughtiness.

"He really was being a bit of a prick, wasn't he?" The words were spoken quietly, carefully, like he was testing the ice of not being entirely civil.
Dialogue color: pink

Mason Miller

Mason smiled. Maybe the apple fell closer than he had assumed. Still though, an empty glass needed filled. He was fairly sure he had read that somewhere. "Another." He said to the barkeep, who looked at him strangely. Mason didn't realize it was a different person from before, but that hardly mattered. He rolled his eyes. "Scotch double." He turned to regard his son. Still a strange thought. "So I think-"

"Blended or single?" The bartender returned.

Mason gave him a look. "Single." As if the answer should have been obvious.

The bartender nodded.

"We need to narrow down-"

"We have three single malt varieties, sir."

Mason sighed. "Go on, then." Better safe than sorry.

"We have a 15 year from the lowlands of New Melbourne." Mason made a face. "There is also a variety from Sihnon, an excellent 12 year; very peaty, touch of smoke." Mason considered it. "The third is a label from Dyton Colony. 12 year like the last, but far smoother. It's from a small distillery called-"

"Molinder." Said with the bartender. It was his father's label. Of course. Named for the Gaelic origins of their surname, Mason hated that it was his preferred whisky. "That." Mason looked at Rory and reconsidered. "Make that two." The bartender nodded dutifully and went to fulfill the order. "Now that we have a moment. I believe there are three suspects. Prickard, obviously a jealous academic. Dr. Cheung herself. And Edison Knox. Of course there could be an unknown third party dark horse situation but-" The drinks arrived and Mason pushed one towards Rory. "-That rarely happens. Chin chin." At Rory's hesitance, Mason softened and stopped his sip. "If you'd like to meet your grandfather, this is much better than the real thing."
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Rory Mayfield

Rory stared at the glass on the counter in stunned silence as if Mason had just thrown a live grenade in front of him. Was this a trap? He was underage. His father had to know that, right? He cast an uncertain glance in his direction. Then again, he let a lot of details slip his mind.

"If you'd like to meet your grandfather, this is much better than the real thing."

"Oh...alright." Rory's voice was small and squeaky and his hand slightly shaky as he lifted the glass. The only time he'd had alcohol was when Marion let him have half a glass of wine at Christmas. The Allied Star Scouts were very strict about not allowing any drinking at camp, and that was about where his social life outside school ended. In a way, he was thankful to avoid teenage parties and all the drama that seemed to come with them. Never in his life had he expected to be peer pressured into drinking by an adult, let alone a parent.

"Ch-cheers." Rory started to take a cautious sip, then the urge to impress his father got the best of him and he changed the sip into a full-blown chug half-way through the motion. The result was him letting out a choking sound and almost sputtering out his drink as his taste buds were suddenly invaded by the unfamiliar and, to be honest, vile sensation. He tried to remain stoic, but he was helpless against the involuntary reaction of his body. He could feel his face twist into a grimace so violent it was almost painful. Were those tears forming in his eyes? It tastes like burning.

"Oh. Wow." He put his glass down and cleared his throat. "That's very good!"

Without so much as glancing in Mason's direction, Rory acted as if he hadn't just pulled the boozy equivalent of a toddler eating his first lemon and proceeded to promptly change the topic.

"Right. Suspects. Well... if it's a rival company who wants to get their hands on Dr. Cheung's invention, they could hire anyone to do the actual stealing, couldn't they?"

Rory looked around, his gaze bouncing from visitor to visitor before landing on the bartender and then, when the man raised a curious eyebrow, swiftly becoming fixed on the glass in front of him. He frowned, going through the details of the case in his head. What had ultimately prompted Dr. Cheung to contact them and hire them to watch her invention had been the threatening anonymous messages she'd started receiving after refusing multiple purchase offers. It all seemed straightforward enough. And yet...

"You know, if I was planning a heist, I don't think I would send any threats ahead of time." He glanced at Mason, suddenly straightening his posture and pushing up his costume glasses. "Not that I've ever stolen anything, or even thought about stealing anything. There was this one time when Shay-- er, a friend of mine pinched a pack of chewing gum from the shop. But I tried to make it right, I went there the next week and tried to pay for the gum but the clerk wouldn't take my credits because I wasn't actually buying anything as far as he could tell, and I tried to explain it to him but he didn't get it, so I eventually had to give up and I still owe the shop for that chewing gum. Or I guess Shay does-- my friend. My friend does."

Rory could feel a warm flush creep up his neck as he realized he was rambling about something completely unrelated to the case and possibly incriminating his best friend for shoplifting. Panicking, he did the first thing that popped into his head, which was to take another swig of his drink. He wasn't any more prepared this time.

"Oh, this is strong stuff." He turned his face away from Mason, trying in vain to hide his pained expression.
Dialogue color: pink

Mason Miller

Mason chuckled. "That's the same reaction your grandfather gives me." He downed his own drink with a grimace. It was strong stuff, certainly so. But years of abuse had left Mason's own throat and tongue quite calloused. He caught the bartender. "Another round." Rory's face seemed to want to turn to purple and Mason empathized with the poor lad. Mason had had a scapegoat as a young man looking to test the limits his parents and society had placed upon him. Wulfstan. Of course, his adopted brother was not a figment of imagination like this "Shay" clearly was but Mason was proud the boy was trying new things- scotch, petty larceny- were they really so different? "Ginger ale. And I don't give a damn where it comes from."

After a moment, or whenever Rory collected himself, whichever came first, Mason said, "I agree." With what, Mason? "Your assessment. I agree that it seems unlikely someone will steal it, for just the reasons you stated. Good work, apprentice." Mason picked up his drink when it arrived and motioned for Rory to follow him. "Come. Let's go meet Dr. Cheung, shall we?" Mason led the way through the convention hall, though he didn't really have more than a gut instinct to guide their path. Surely they would find something.

Or something would find them. A passerby, a doughy fellow in a sweater vest with thick rimmed glasses (not really an uncommon look around the event) bumped into Mason. Hard. Or he would have done, had Mason not seen it coming and sidestepped the oaf. Unfortunately the man's trajectory took him directly into Rory's. "Oops..." Mason said, stifling a laugh as he not so much rushed but nearly forgot and figured he might as well help his son back to his feet.

Then, Mason got a good look at the dork and his face jogged his memory. Edison Knox!
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

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