MEANWHILE IN ITALY
A Gunslinger Girl fanfiction, based on works by Yu Aida.
Special thanks to Kiskaloo|Kara & Michele and Professor Voodoo|Marisa & Elio and Genco for the loan of their characters… I hope I can do them justice.
CH01– Meanwhile, in Italy
"Is it for your daughter?"
Danilo Olivetti looked down at the black garment in his hands. Fuck, he hadn't thought that far...
"Yes, yes it is," he returned, with what he hoped was enough conviction to make it sound genuine.
The sales girl smiled. "Well, you have far better taste than most parents do. It is a bit dark though, only really meant as a base... the trend this season is looking to be to throw some colour into a girl's winter wardrobe, maybe some reds or yellows... you could even go pastels if bright colours are not her thing."
Danilo looked again at the opaque, loose fitting poncho, and decided to ignore the advice. After half an hour clicking around in an unsure and futile search of the internet, the handler-in-waiting had given up and gone to Priscilla: apparently the go-to girl for all things women's fashion at his new job. Her words had pre-empted what he had just been told for the second time today, but after a brief argument over what he was actually in search of she had been able to tell him what he should be asking for and write out a list of stores to try. That had eventually lead him here, the last stop in a quiet part of old Rome, and so far the pretty intelligence analyst's suggestions had been to a greater or lesser extent: right on the money.
"No, this will suit her just fine... I'll take three."
The shop assistant paused, apparently torn between querying what she perceived as a poor decision and the prospect of an easy sale behind her severe, squared-off fringe.
Eventually however the promise of a nice fat commission won out. "Of course, do you know what size she is?"
"Yes, same as this."
Assuming of course the Medical Engineers had told him the correct dimensions.
Flicking through the racks until she found two more tops in the same sizing, the girl collected all three identical items and headed for the reclaimed wood counter and Apple laptop which served as the store's till.
"Well keep the receipt anyway, if they don't fit you can always bring them back. Cash or credit?"
The store clerk ran up his purchase and, as he paused trying to remember the pin for the new Agency credit card, folded each garment neatly to slip them together into a stiff-sided, recycled brown paper bag, eventually placing the receipt atop the fabric. Taking a moment to hand back her customer's card, she lifted the bag so that its sides would stay vertical and hold the contents in place before sliding it across the counter top, keeping it erect by the handles.
"I hope your daughter likes them."
Nodding his thanks the man took his purchase and headed for the exit, the girl looking contemplatively after him as the door swung shut with a tinkle of the bell above it.
Probably shouldn't be too surprised: shaved head, black suit, black shirt, black tie and black shoes with a black trench coat draped over one arm; not a lot of room for variety and colour there.
Shrugging, she reached for a well-thumbed Wallpaper*, dropping it open at a random page in the hopes of finding something to amuse her until the next customer showed up.
Outside, Danilo stopped to slip on a pair of dark tea-shades, breathing in crisp late autumn air, and looked up and down the narrow Rome alley in which he stood. The sun didn't quite reach this deep in between the buildings, and the passage remained the realm of cheap electronics stores, back garages and others whom could not afford the overheads of a main-street window. Why anyone would come down here in search of fashion he couldn't fathom, even Priscilla had referred to it as "out of the way and not really my thing... but they might stock what you're looking for."
Across the way though a small coffee bar had sprung up, guarded by a battered single speed bicycle leaning outside its open roller door, whilst from the shop next to it small, carefully painted miniatures glared aggressively out from their shelves. His eye rested on those for a second: the 'manual', he had been given suggested some sort of hobby to help tune fine motor skills… he dismissed the thought: not for the small fortune those things cost.
At least, by Rome standards, it had been reasonably easy to find a park here, even if that was right on an intersection. Walking quickly to a black, five-door Honda Civic, its Perspex snout inches from the back of the next car in the hope of fitting it all in before the corner, he hit the central locking and slung open a rear door, dumping his purchase amongst the other bags already there. Pausing, the new agent did a quick count: two sets of GP boots from the disposal in generic shopping bags; four equally plain carry-alls in that recycled-plastic weave stuff which was supposed to save the planet or something, full of leggings, underwear, socks, PT gear and other basics from a cheap outlet store; a black nylon duffel, still in its wrapping, and a few other packages containing the accoutrements of life, the type which were never thought of until they weren't there.
None of it however was apparently going to make a girl presentable in public, but with this last stop having rectified that, it was time to turn for home... or at least what currently passed for home. There were one or two other items of clothing he would need before the fratello became operational, but those would be special order and he'd need a cyborg first, lest he have to get them replaced due to bad measurements.
So at least until tomorrow then.
Shrugging, Danilo threw his own folded trench atop the bags and swapped doors to drop into the car's drivers' seat where two tiers of dashboard stared blankly back at him from behind cheap plastic.
And speaking of things getting ready for replacement…
Twisting the key, the handler-to-be fired his car's little four cylinder engine into life and turned for the autostrada south out of town.
"…the Blackers sent through another data packet as well. It's still being decrypted but they appear to have moved on to Ankara."
"…and only God knows where else in between."
Quirking a polite smile at her commander's comment, Chief Lorenzo's steward stood up again from where she had been collecting empty espresso cups, taking the opportunity to also cast a surreptitious glance at the crystal whiskey decanter placed behind his desk. It was difficult to tell now with Alboreto occasionally helping himself to the supply, but her charge seemed to be going easier on the stuff.
Picking up the last small cup, Tea placed it on a silver service and withdrew silently as the Chief looked up at the woman across the woodwork from him. "Do we have anyone to start dealing with that?"
Seated in one of the leather armchairs opposite, Ferro Milani flicked to the next page of her notebook. "Not right at this minute… Priscilla says she has a new analyst whom might be able to be spared in a week or two; young, but also apparently quite talented. She's assigned him some low-level inter-departmental decryption work for the time being until she can get a better feel for his capability. Once he's finished on that, if she's happy with his performance, his next task will be this latest data dump… and at least Blacker and Monique are switched on enough to pick out any really critical errors he might make and double check his work."
"I can't see Monique liking that idea."
"Probably not, but what she doesn't know won't hurt her… and I doubt either of them would be particularly happy with option B: which is palming it off to Public Safety to assess."
Lorenzo nodded slowly. "Point taken. In that case I'm happy with Priscilla's suggestion for the time being … however, before she puts him onto working operational data, I would like her to come and brief me on his progress. The Blackers may be the best able to do their own intelligence assessment, but they're also the fratello we can least afford to make mistakes with."
"Yes sir, I'll pass it along." Scribbling a note for herself, Ferro looked again at the book, "That's about it for today, except that Olivetti's cyborg is being activated tomorrow morning; though I think the medical staff will be here shortly to brief you on that and ask for the final green light themselves."
The Chief looked at his computer's clock. "In about twenty minutes, yes. Has he decided on a name for her yet?"
The support manager rustled more pages. "C. Raych , according to what I have here."
"What does the 'C' stand for?"
"I don't know, and Olivetti is not letting on either yet… though Bianchi said he was quite insistent about it."
Honestly, would it kill them to number the rooms?
Walking along the row of identical looking doors, Danilo counted off how many he had passed since reaching the top of the stair. It had taken awhile to track down a bunking plan for the cyborg warehouse; and having finally found his way through the Agency's electronic filing system he'd made sure to email the Ferro woman the document ensuring it was up to date. With her somewhat curt guarantee it was, the man felt confident enough to give the door at his destination a quick rap, shifting the two bundles of bags he carried a little before swinging it open.
If he was wrong, at least it would now be someone else's fault.
Inside, an Asian-featured girl stood hurriedly from where she had been sat cleaning a DSG-1 sniper rifle, on the room's obviously unoccupied second bed.
"Good evening Sir!"
Pausing, Danilo took in what lay before him. The room was a reasonable size allowing a comfortable gap between two separate beds, and furnished in mirror image: the two beds, two desks, two wardrobes, two desk lamps. There however the similarities ended. While the side of the room the cyborg had been working in contained agency standard Laminex, MDF and hardwood hand-me-downs, the other was much more plush and obviously selected by someone who could afford to spend a few extra Euro. While he was no expert, none of what was there looked cheap: the bed's mattress appearing thicker and softer; the work desk topped by a small Apple laptop and the shelves beside it stuffed with books. At the bed's other end deep, frosted glass front wardrobes stood, bending around in an L shape to the door, their tops scraping the ceiling to give their owner plenty of storage. Some of the creep was even starting to encroach across the room, a low media unit topped by another row of books and a few magazines between the two tall windows, a couple of beanbags scattered in front of it.
Looking back to the room's sole occupant, a bit of information was thrown up in the back of the man's head. "You must be Pagani's cyborg."
"Yes, I'm Kara Deleroux, Michele's my handler."
Internally, Danilo suppressed a scowl at the tacked-on second name. "I'm Danilo Olivetti, my cyborg will be rooming with you from tomorrow, I don't know if you were informed or not. I just needed to drop her things; don't let me keep you from what you were doing."
"Oh it's not urgent, Michele just says my rifle should be cleaned before he returns it to the armoury."
Well that at least he could approve of.
Turning his back on Kara, the man extracted a small knife from one pocket and started cutting the tags from what he had purchased, stashing each garment in an old wooden wardrobe which had assumedly been left by some past tenant.
"You know you really should wash those first."
"Let know C. Raych, she can wash them if she wants."
Turning to tear open another bag, Danilo eyed the room again. "Your handler bought all this for you?"
From where she had moved to one of the beanbags, Kara beamed. "Yes, he says I should be comfortable when staying here, though sometimes he lets me stay at his apartment in Milan too…"
Danilo was suddenly glad he hadn't been drinking anything, just managing to turn his cough of surprise into a non-committal grunt; he was going to need to find this Pagani to get the handler's side of the story. From what he had read or heard, any cyborg was as likely to talk up her relationship with her handler... at least he hoped that was the case.
"…and sometimes…" the girl's voice trailed off as her current companion turned his back to her again, and out of sight and out of mind the cyborg went back to cleaning her rifle, eyes however remaining on what was unpacked for her new roommate.
She was just starting to fit the DSG's components into its waterproof case as Danilo dumped one set of clothes and pair of black boots into the plain duffle bag he had bought.
"I'm sure I don't need to tell you not to touch anything."
With which he was gone, leaving Kara suddenly slightly apprehensive about what time with this man traipsing in and out may hold.
Out in the hall, Danilo glanced at his watch; if he was quick he should have just enough time to drop past his room and make it to the armoury before the front desk's evening closing time. Picking up the pace, the new agent made his way back to the stairs and down, past two younger cyborgs whom stood aside politely to let him through, more the behaviour he had been expecting to see, back to ground level.
"Who was that? A new handler?"
Beside her red-headed companion, the neatly dressed brunette of the pair shook her head, setting her bob-cut swaying. "I don't know Mari."
"Well, he came from up on the Second Gen floor, come on, we'll see if someone up there knows."
Dashing up the stairs, her short haired friend following more sedately behind, 'Mari' made it quickly to the building's second level, pausing to scan the hall. While there was still room for more girls on the first floor occupied by the Gen 1s someone, somewhere along the line, had decided to separate the second generation of cyborgs out. At the end of the day, it had probably been the right thing to do; if only to prevent crowding of the ablutions.
The rooms here were more modern in their fitout: gyprock and suspended ceilings lining more ancient architecture; and preventing a curious cyborg from investigating suspended trusses and air-conditioning ducts and protecting it from damage. Further up the hall, one of the doors had been left ajar, letting a thin strip of light break out across hard-wearing carpet. As the short haired girl arrived, her companion pointed at it.
"Lets try Kara's room."
Moving to knock on the door and poke her head around it, Mari found Kara standing in front of the room's spare wardrobe, now open, contemplating its interior.
"Oh hi Marisa, Henrietta."
The Asian featured Gen 2 motioned at the wardrobe, as from outside floated the sound of a four cylinder engine starting, before thrumming away accompanied by the sound of tyres crunching on gravel. "Apparently I'm getting a new roommate, her handler just came past to drop off her things."
"Ha! I was right! Did you get a name?"
"Danilo Olivetti… I think his cyborg's name was Raych."
"Well he never said anything formally, her name just sort of came out in passing, but I assume that was it."
Squeezing through the door, the two younger girls looked past their sister to also contemplate the wardrobe's contents.
"That's a lot of black," intoned Marisa finally.
"Does Raych like black?"
"Don't know, but her handler was wearing a lot of it… don't touch!" With the last words, Kara reached out to push Henrietta's hand downward, "Mr. Olivetti said not to touch."
"So you're just going to stand here and look at it?"
"Well… he didn't say anything about not doing that."
"Boooooring… come on 'Etta, lets go see if Allison's around."
As the two ducked again out of her room, Kara returned her attention to what lay before her. Marisa had been right: there was a lot of black; in fact it was all black, as if someone were determined to spend the remainder of their lives prepared to attend a funeral. Still, for having appeared so cold and disinterested in what she, Kara, had had to say, Danilo seemed to have gone to a lot of effort to make sure his own girl would have everything she needed on the first day.
Maybe she didn't have quite so much to worry about after all.
Feeling a little guilty for having pried, she shut the wardrobe and looked over at her desk to where her homework from the day's classes had been neatly stacked…
History, math, English… Yay.
Crunching to a halt in the armoury/shooting range car park, Danilo picked up a small, plastic tool case and nylon bag from the passenger seat and, locking the vehicle, made his way down into the building's semi-sunken depths. Even with its low profile, the bunker-like structure had not been difficult to find; aided by the time he had spent memorising the compound layout… there was no way known he was going to get caught out blundering around like some rookie.
Opening the door, he was met with harsh, fluorescent lighting, accompanied by the faint whiff of cordite and gun oil. This was better; this he was far more at home with than high-streets and fashion stores.
From one of the doors leading off the front room came faint sounds of weapons fire, muffled behind heavy concrete and wood. Ignoring them for the time being however, Danilo made his way instead to the armoury counter.
"Danilo Olivetti, I had a message to say my order had arrived?"
The clerk behind the counter nodded but said nothing for a minute whilst he searched through his computer.
"Olivetti… ah yes, it has," there was another quick pause, "I understand these are to become your fratello's personal sidearms?"
Rather than present a ready clipboard, that response produced another flurry of mouse clicks, leaving the handler-in-waiting to stand by, drumming his fingers pointedly on the bench top. On the far wall, a couple of coats had been hung; waiting to keep their owners warm in the cooling autumn evening outside, and he took the moment to add his own to the collection.
Eventually the buzz of a cheap inkjet printer cut its way through the space, bouncing off hard surfaces, drowning out the low noise of the TV set above the coat rack. Attaching the first page to a clipboard as it completed, the clerk slid it over to Danilo with a pen. "I'm going to need to get you to fill out one of these for each firearm, but you may as well get started while I retrieve the things from the back."
"There's only the two?"
"Yes, I'm afraid your carbines and shotgun are proving slightly more problematic."
As he said it, the second form finished printing, and he took the moment to hand it over before slipping out the small office's door.
Left to his own devices, the room's only other occupant looked around, before heading to a long plastic bench bolted hard against the rear wall; no point in cluttering up the counter for others whom may wish to use it. Sitting down with a reasonable degree of comfort and leaning back against the cool concrete wall, he set about filling in the information which would secure his fratello their everyday firearms.
For an organisation which rode the very edge of the medical-science and bio-engineering envelope this all was… rather low-tech. The actual medical branch facility had seemed a bit more on the money for what he had been expecting but... pens, paper and an inkjet printer… used to replicate a poor quality scan someone had taken? Even some of the Guardia's systems had been more up to date.
The first form had just been completed, and set aside to be copied from, when the door to the range opened, briefly releasing the crack and bang of weapons fire, along with two people; one tall and slightly gaunt, the other female with long, golden hair tied up into twin tails. The latter was wearing a classically cut three-piece suit, and eyed Danilo suspiciously as her companion lifted their coats down, saying something quietly as hers was handed over. The man however shook his head a little in reply, and stepped over to where the new-hire was seated, holding out a hand.
"You are new here? Victor Hillshire."
"The detective," he took the proffered hand, "Danilo Olivetti."
The other man looked slightly taken aback, but quickly recovered. "Ah, our new handler…"
"You've heard of me?"
"…a few things here and there, this is Triela."
Danilo glanced at the girl he'd heard referred to as 'The Princess'… so this was one of the first generation girls he was supposed to be replacing. His attention however focused back on the handler and, realising nothing more was going to be said, the man continued in his German accented Italian.
"I haven't seen you around much."
"No, most of my time has been spent with the medical department trying to get my cyborg squared away before activation. They're an intelligent enough group down there, but sometimes need to be given information two or three times before catching on to what you're telling them, so it seemed easier to just keep an eye on there from up close."
I'm sure Bianchi loved that.
Not rising to the bait however, Hilshire put on an expression of polite enquiry. "So when is your girl scheduled to be activated?"
"8am tomorrow… I was actually just down here to pick up our firearms."
"Well in that case, we shall let you get on with it, have a good evening."
Beside the German, his cyborg looked up at the new handler, "It was a pleasure to meet you."
The pleasantry though somehow never seemed to reach her eyes.
Listening to their shoes tap away toward the exit, Danilo sat down to finish filling out his second form and, five minutes later, carried both up to the armoury window.
The clerk had returned by now. Scanning the neatly printed information, he lifted two identical plastic boxes up, placing them between himself and his customer. "It's unusual to see a handler picking up a new weapon on arrival, most tend to bring what they're comfortable with across from their last employer."
Lifting one box down, Olivetti unclipped its lid to inspect the pleasingly formed plastic firearm inside. "No, we had Berettas in the Guardia, but there's nothing wrong with trying something different: particularly when what you were working with before was essentially out-dated technology."
"Don't go saying that to the 1911 fans."
"They're welcome to them; I've never understood the attraction, let alone the attempts to keep their damn paperweights relevant."
"Well, lucky for you they seem to be more an American obsession anyway… but the fact still stands that things like the Beretta and Hi Power are still serving people and organisations just fine the world over. If it ain't broke…"
"That just means someone didn't want to spend the time and money to find something better and do it properly." Closing the lid, Danilo glanced across the countertop. "What is the standard firearm here anyway?"
That brought a little tsk but no further comment. "I'll be wanting four hundred rounds of 9mm as well."
Shrugging, the clerk produced another form, this one pre-printed, sliding it across the countertop, before turning to step out of the office again. Filling it out quickly (the information really didn't change wherever you went, it was just a matter of figuring out in what order the little spaces to put it in were arranged), the ex-Guardia man gave the second box's contents a brief once over before the clerk returned, swapping what he carried for the form.
Content with what was written there, he looked over at the future handler. "Did you need ear and eye protection?"
That was met with a shake of the head as the nylon bag was lifted into vision. "No, I've got my own."
"Well then, the range is yours."
Donning an expensive set of electronic ear protectors and shooting glasses, Danilo left the nylon bag beneath where his coat hung. On inspection, his were a little scuffed around the edges, but an identical, shiny new set now resided in the bottom of his cyborg's wardrobe, ready for her use. It had been tempting to take them for himself and leave her the hand me downs, but that thought had been quickly shaken free: everyone deserved to have at least one issue of nice, freshly minted kit.
Finding an empty lane near the door, he left one of the guns with a stack of targets on the bench back against the rear wall. Opening the case he had enjoyed less time to inspect, he pulled one of the magazines from dense, protective foam rubber. For a moment he held it up to the light before, content it was visually alright, starting to load 9mm FMJ rounds into its open top. Around him, the indoor range still had a few users on it, including another fratello, but that was ok: it was evening now and they would be likely to have started to empty out as well by the time he was ready to start loosing rounds.
One magazine full, he started on the next. Four hundred rounds should be enough to check his factory-fresh gun was working alright and zero the sights; not to mention that he would need to be back here tomorrow with , and it would do no good to be unfamiliar with what he was trying to train her on.
Finishing the second mag, Danilo Olivetti picked up the pistol he had chosen for his fratello to give it its own visual inspection, and slipped the freshly loaded magazine into its grip. Running out a target he lifted the gun, staring through its odd, trapezoidal sights.
And to that end, there was no time like the present.