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"Just Friends"


TheShammySocialist
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[b]1354 Hours, Local Time
Outskirts of Peshawar[/b]

The house had been quickly cleared by elements of the Royal Timuridian Mounted Constabulary’s Special Reaction Force (SRF), following on intelligence procured by a sting operation on some disaffected Pashtun tribal members. While the Timuridian government had been able to maintain fairly good relations with most of the Pashtun tribe, as they had a solid track record with those in Afghanistan, there were some who resented Timuridian rule. With Timuridian law overturning any hope of the imposition of Sharia law, some of the more conservative members of the Pashtun hoped to perpetrate attacks on the Timuridian government.

The sting operation, carried out with the usual Timuridian swiftness, had not gathered very much intelligence before the raid had been carried out by the RTMC’s SRF. While this may have not been the most wisest choice in the end, the sting operation had uncovered an attack on a RTMC station within the next forty-eight hours. There were possible intelligence that biological weapons could be in play, but with lives at stake, under Timuridian internal security doctrines, took precedent. The safe house had been cleared quickly, and five Pashtun tribesmen detained, one was killed when he opened fire when the SRF breached the front door.

The house had been cleared for investigation, and that was where Dr. Robyn Barker came in, a specialist in biological weapons, Robyn had been flown into Peshawar from the Timuridian National Military Hospital – East, at Kabul. While the RTMC had given her a briefing on the quick flight in, there was little information available, and she arrived on scene about fifteen minutes after the raid had successfully concluded. She stepped out of the RTMC Police Cruiser, her auburn hair drawn back into a tight bun, which stretched around a pencil that stuck out of it. She wore a pair of aviator sunglasses, which she took off to observe the scene; a number of masked, body-armored, and heavily-armed SRF members stood around, while investigators rushed about. A crowd of locals nearby had gathered, watching the proceedings, as uniformed RTMC and Peshawar local police forces cordoned off the area to provide security.

"Dr. Barker?" asked a man in a gray suit, walking towards her, and extending his hands, "Lead Detective Khan, RTMC Peshawar."

"Detective," nodded Robyn, her soft hand shaking his hand gently. "I got a briefing on the plane, didn’t give me much to work with though."

"Internal Security protocol dictated we take down the cell as fast as possible, with lives at stake, there was little we could do. Sorry we couldn't get you more to work on," responded Khan, heaving a sigh, and shrugging.

Robyn nodded, looking up at the three story building that had been raided, and the duo began to walk towards it, "And your insiders confirmed there could be biological weapons in play?"

"One of the boys here, the one in the body bag over there, has a biochemical engineering degree, worked as a research assistant for a little while at one of our Bioweapon Defense Labs over at Kandahar. Around the same time as he was laid off with a large number of other technicians, there were a few samples of Anthrax that went missing at that same lab," responded Khan quietly, giving Robyn a dark look.

"You think he's the one who perpetrated the 'Kandahar Scare'?" asked Robyn, giving a quizzical look. She was alluding to the internal scrambling of the government to find a few samples of anthrax that had gone missing about a year before.

"Its a distinct possibility, but who knows," replied Khan, as they stepped up the front stoop and through the broken hinges of the doorway.

"Any sign of chemical equipment around?" questioned Robyn of her escort, noting the pool of blood on the floor in one of the rooms, and signs of bullet damage to the old yellowed wallpaper.

"Basement has a set of chemical equipment, but we haven't touched anything, pretty clean," replied Khan, pointing at the door to their right.

"Then you'll find me there, thank you Detective Khan," responded Robyn, with a curt smile walking to the door and opening it.

A SRF officer nodded at her when she descended into the basement, a clean chemical set was on the table, looking as if it had been recently cleaned. There were boxes of equipment on the walls, a refrigerator on one end of the basement, and a personal bag on the other, next to where the officer stood. A computer sat in one corner, on top of a desk, which she immediately walked to, before turning to the SRF officer.

"Anything been moved since you got here?" she asked the SRF trooper.

"No ma'am, nothing, we kept everything where it is, we'd rather let you doctors do the poking around."

"Its been cleared for traps, right?"

"Yes, of course."

"Thank you," nodded Robyn, as she set her bag down near the stairs and moved around the room, peeking into the boxes, before going to the desk. She picked opened the unlocked drawers quickly, and pulled out a few of the note books, looking at them slowly. They were certainly writing about chemical reactions, but many were complex calculations, some very exquisite, and she put on her glasses and leaned against the table. She heard a rustling nearby but, being the very focused individual she was, her mind was on the notebook.

She looked up, however, when she heard the SRF trooper, "the hell is this?" She took off her glasses and looked across the room at a light-bulb the trooper was holding up, at the moment, there seemed to be nothing that seemed peculiar, other then the dilemma of the trooper. He rotated it onto its side, and Robyn's eyes widened, as she could see some white powder fall into view inside the light-bulb.

"PUT THAT DOWN! NOW!" yelled Robyn, the trooper, startled from inquisitive thought, jumped at her sudden words.

His hand fumbled the bulb, he tried to recover it quickly, but the glass slipped through the gloved fingers of his hand, and went into mid-air. Robyn seemed to perceive time going slower as the bulb descended towards the floor, she rushed forward in a vain attempt to grab the bulb, but she knew it was too late. The bulb hit the floor with a resounding tinkle of breaking glass, and she stopped in mid stride, as the fine white powder kicked up into the air.

Robyn cursed in her head as the white powder spread into the air, her mind in overdrive, but she exhaled and ran to the foot of the stairs. Once she reached the bottom of the stairs and screamed at the top of her lungs, "BIO CONTAMINATION! BIO CONTAMINATION! CLEAR THE BUILDING NOW! EXIT IN THE BACK! NOW!"

"Oh my God! What is that crap!" yelled the now-panicking SRF trooper, as she tore his microphone receiver from its holster-pocket on the chest of his body-armor vest.

"This is Doctor Robyn Barker, we got a Code Blue contamination in the premises, requesting a detox area and suited scanning crew in here now. Close the premises and order all civilians back," she yelled into the radio. Her eyes met those of the SRF trooper, who looked at hers, a look of terror filling them.

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[b]1601 Hours, Local Time
Ashgabat[/b]

Sham Timur sat on the back portico of the Imperial Palace in Ashgabat, it had been a more milder day then usual, and traffic and the city noise was beginning to pick up as workers migrated home for supper. With the portico facing in a northeasterly direction, it was spared the heat of the afternoon sun. Ashgabat could have brutally hot temperatures any time of the year, and it got little rain, but he was used to it by now. He sighed as he took a sip of water from a glass next to him, feeling the cool liquid seemingly spread through his torso.

He set the report about foreign investment in Gwadar down with a sigh, and rubbed his face, then looked up at the cloudless blue sky above him. It had been a day of meetings with military commanders, economic advisers, and foreign affairs personnel, and it wasn't over; there was a dinner party with a bunch of corporate executives that night. He closed his eyes, he wasn't sleeping well lately, though he rarely slept well at all. Many a night had been spent looking out the window of his room, or even out here on the portico, many times he just fell asleep in a chair on the portico, waking up to the morning sun.

His eyes flicked over at his cell phone as it started a small jingle, and he sighed softly, and picked it up, flipping it open.

"Timur," he said softly, his eyes seeming to widen slowly.

"Was there any casualties?" Sham asked, sitting up the file that had been sitting halfway up his chest slid off and sent papers everywhere, he cursed into the phone.

"No, no, that wasn't," he grumbled, trying to gather up the papers, "That wasn't meant for you, Omar, I asked was there any casualties?"

"Wait, repeat that," he said, his hand stopped, and clenched, crumpling a few sheets of paper.

"Are they being sent to Kabul?"

"Okay, thank you, Omar, keep me posted," said Sham, finally getting up, and setting the file down. He then looked over at his personal bodyguard, Erich Beck, who had been enjoying a cup of coffee near the door to the portico, talking to one of the waiting staff.

"Mr. Beck, I need a car out to the airbase, as soon as you can make it happen," said Sham, as he walked over to him.

"I thought you had a dinner tonight sir?" asked Erich, raising an eyebrow at Sham, looking slightly confused.

"We have a situation in West Pakistan, I need a flight out as soon as you can organize it."

"It will be done, sir," nodded Erich, not asking anything else, and slipping out his phone, and speed-dialing a number.

"Thank you, I'll be ready when the motorcade gets here," said Sham, walking swiftly inside and upstairs.

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[b]14 Years Previous
London School of Economics[/b]

Houghton Street was the default center of the London School of Economics, a bustling focal point of activity for the University, full of energy and spirit. There were a couple coffee shops that lined the street, that were very popular with the students there. It was mid-morning, and students were filing through from and to classes, some were enjoying the warm weather, sitting on the benches or leaning against the walls of the narrow thoroughfare. One such group that had crowded one of the benches along the street was named the 'Dealers', a group known for their love of playing cards many times a week together. Sitting amongst the more informally dressed group, one of them stood out, wearing a formal white button up shirt, albeit without a tie, and cargo pants, his shoes were neatly kept as well.

Unlike most of the others at the table, he was quiet, just listening to their conversations, only speaking up every so often. His dark blond hair and blue eyes, and soft expression just looked on with slight interest, as one of the males described drawing two straights in a card game a few nights previous. He took a sip of his coffee and finally looked away from the group, watching the droves of people pass by, his eyes flicked over at a trio of girls who walked by. One caught him looking, and gave him a slight smile, and he smiled back, going slightly crimson, cursing himself in his head for getting caught staring. Looking at his watch, he noted the time, and stood up, whilst grabbing his bag.

"Got lecture guys, I'm off," he nodded.

There was a course of "Catch ya later's" and "See you laddie," as he turned to walk away, he was waving when he ran into felt his body bump against that of another. He heard a cry and the sound of papers scattering as he whirled his head, an auburn haired girl, a pretty one at that, giving him a sour and desperate look. She was dressed in a nice sweater and blouse, with short heels and a knee length skirt to top off the ensemble, but the expression on her face was one of disbelief.

"Bloody-, why don't you watch where you're going, kiddo," she snapped at him, as she bent down to start grabbing her papers.

"I'm very sorry, [i]mea culpa[/i]," he said, quickly getting down on a knee to recover some of her papers with her. "Was just giving my friends a good bye," he mumbled, quickly.

"Giving your fri-," she started, then she exhaled quickly, then said slowly, "I've got a lecture to give in five minutes, and you just mismatched all my notes, forgive my crassness."

"I apologize," he said, softly, giving her a smile, handing her the papers, "Here, I'm really sorry."

"Thank you," she said, testily, but gave him a nod, and a quick yet grim smile. "You look rather young for a university student," she said, with a surprised look.

"I'm in my first year," he said, with a proud look. "Chemistry?" he noted, looking at some of the equations he remembered that were on her notes.

"That's right, biochemistry, I'm here to give a small lecture on bioweapon proliferation," she nodded, curtly, as she stuffed her notes back in her folder. "Now, if you'll excuse me," she said, pushing past him none-too-friendly.

"Can I buy you a coffee?" he blurted out, as she pushed past him, and she stopped.

"What?" she said, with an eyebrow cocked skyward.

"Can I buy you a coffee?" he repeated, and upon seeing her incredulous "I mean, not now, but maybe later on?"

"You're rather forward," she said hastily, with narrowed eyes.

"Well, its standard manners from where I come from, to indulge a person you may have wrong with food or drink," he said, with a shrug.

"That's cute, I really have to get going," she said, taking a few steps. She turned to look at him, with a small smile, one that wasn't so grim, "Uncommon Grounds, noon. What's your name, kiddo?"

Seeming to be struck by her acceptance of the invitation, he stuttered out, "Ish- Ishmael, Ishmael Dawkins."

"Ishmael?" she said with a cocked eyebrow, she grinned, then said, "I expect that coffee at noon, Ishmael."

"What's your name?" called back Ishmael.

"Robyn, Robyn Barker," she responded, before disappearing into the crowd.

"Robyn," he whispered, and then repeated again, "Robyn."

[center][b]*** *** ***[/b][/center]

Sham's lips uttered 'Robyn' as he looked out the window of the helicopter as it crossed over the rolling hills of northwest Afghanistan, it had been a long time since he had heard that name. He closed his eyes, and sighed, too long, for the first time in a long time had he felt anxious, nervous, and maybe even scared. He could still remember that flowing auburn hair as clear as yesterday, it seemed like just yesterday they had been gathering up her papers on Houghton Street. He looked back out into the growing darkness, as the Griffon Heavy Helicopter tore through the growing night sky, and for the first time in a long time, he made a wish when he spotted the first star that graced the evening dusk.

Edited by TheShammySocialist
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[b][OOC: As promised in the "Fall of Tamerlane" thread, I'd use this RP to explain the reason why Sham Timur withdraws from the throne. Enjoy.][/b]

[b]Timuridian National Military Hospital
Kabul
1914 Hours, Local Time[/b]

The helicopter set down heavily on the landing zone on one of the pads that were scattered across the roof of the hospital, a number of personnel ducked down as the helicopter made the landing. There was a small detachment of the Kheshigs there, who brought their weapons up to 'present arms' when the side door opened. The Amir crouched as he stepped out of the door, and then walked down onto the platform, stooped a little bit as the helicopter blades whirled above him. One doctor, and a duo of nurses stepped forward quickly, to greet the Amir, bowing their heads both out of respect for the monarch, and the blades of the helicopter.

Sham saluted the Kheshigs, who immediately snapped their weapons to their sides, standing at ease, before turning to the doctor and nurses.

"Your Highness, I'm Colonel-Doctor Desh Philippi, head of bioweapons defense research," called out the doctor, offering his hand to the Amir, who took it and shook it firmly.

"Well met Doctor," said Sham, as they quickly began walking towards an exit from the roof.

"I wasn't aware that you and Doctor Barker had a close relationship," said Desh, "I apologize, I would have called you sooner."

"We're just old friends, doctor, we met in college, haven't seen each other in a long time, its quite alright," responded Sham, walking swiftly across the roof. "I didn't even know she was in the country, to be honest."

They made their way to a stairwell, and began quickly descending the steps, Beck had caught up to them, and was walking right behind the group. They made their way down to the fourth level, and Sham stepped out of the stairwell into the hospital. It was cold, and it certainly smelled like a hospital, sterilized, the cool air made Sham feel himself break out in Goosebumps. They made their way through a few corridors, before becoming to one marked "Biological Cases", and they walked steadily inside through the doors.

There were a few doctors standing near a nurses' station, talking with some nurses, and they bowed when the Amir approached, and Desh nodded. "Your highness, these are Doctors Edwards, Stettinus, and Ergov," said Desh, pointing out each of them. All of them nodded when their names were said, all were looking rather grim.

The Amir exchanged handshakes with all three men, with a nod, then said, "How is she doing?"

Edwards and Ergov exchanged glances, and Stettinus' face did not get any brighter; Ergov responded, "Not well, I'm afraid, we haven't encountered this Anthrax strain before, its weaponized."

"How did this happen?" asked Sham, looking at Desh.

"It looks like we found out who was part of the Kandahar Incident, inadvertently, of course. Doctor Barker was investigating the scene of the sting operation, a guard accidentally dropped a light bulb filled with white powder. White powder turned out to be weaponized Anthrax, which has been chemically refined and developed, there were no antidotes found on the premises," replied Desh, heaving a sigh.

"So you're saying that she inhaled a fatal dose?"

"Yes sir, we do not know the exact particulars, but its obvious that the Anthrax has settled in her lungs, she's having trouble breathing, in and out of consciousness. We've given her pain medicine, that's the best we can do," replied Edwards.

Sham closed his eyes, and breathed softly, before opening them again, "How long?"

"We don't know, sir, maybe forty-eight hours, that is the best guess we have," responded Desh, folding his arms slowly.

"I would like to see her."

"Of course," responded Desh, nodding, and leading the Amir down the hall slowly. He stopped at the door of one of the rooms, whose curtains were drawn back.

Sham looked in, and saw Robyn laying on the half-reclined bed, her eyes closed, the faint 'beep' of the heart rate monitor sounded every couple seconds, its spike going lazily up and down. Her auburn hair was scattered about her head, she looked very peaceful, Sham noted, as he looked in on his old friend. She was clothed in a hospital gown, and the covers of the hospital bed extended up to about the middle of her torso, she appeared unconscious. He hadn't seen her in so many years, it was like time stopped as he looked in on her, and he remembered once again.

[center][b]*** *** ***[/b][/center]

[b]14 Years Previous[/b]

Uncommon Grounds was your typical run-of-the-mill college coffee shop, lots of comfy couches and chairs, as well as high seats at the counter and spread out at high tables about the shop. There was an unlit fireplace on one wall of the establishment, where Ishmael Dawkins had established himself, reading the morning edition of the [i]Times[/i]. He was distracted, however, and looked up whenever the bell on the door jingled, which was a lot, seeing as it was approaching noon. He half-expected Robyn not to show up, and when it reached noon, he was nervous; he had to say that she had something that was special about her.

At 12:01, the door jingled, and he looked up, seeing her walk in tentatively, and look around, she noticed him, and smiled politely, and walked over to him.

"Mr. [i]Ishmael[/i] Dawkins, I presume?" she grinned, she accentuated his first name, making him blush. His first name was rather unique, he had to admit, and it made him embarrassed whenever it was said in anymore more than a normal fashion.

"Miss Robyn Barker," he said, with a embarrassed blush, standing up as she approached. "You may call me Mr. Clumsy if you like, I might prefer it over [i]Ishmael[/i]."

She chuckled lightly, before saying, "Large espresso."

"Right down to business, aren't we?"

"After giving a lecture, I need my coffee, then I [i]might[/i] be more pleasant."

He nodded, with a grin, and walked up to the queue at the counter, sighing softly. He looked over at her sitting on the couch, looking at her notes, she had put on reading glasses, which made her look even more attractive, or so he thought anyways. As he looked at her, she looked up suddenly, and caught him watching her, and she smiled very slightly, then went back to reviewing some notes. He finally made it up to the counter, and put in their order, and handed the clerk his due. After a couple minutes, he was on his way back to the table with two cups of steaming coffee, he set one down in front of Robyn.

"I apologize if I was rude earlier, I was, well, under a schedule," said Robyn, softly, looking up at Ishmael.

"No no no, [i]mea culpa[/i], I was the one being a clumsy idiot, not looking where I was going on a crowded street," he said, holding up his hand, before sinking into the couch across from Robyn.

"I [i]could[/i] have been more watchful of what I was saying," she insisted, shutting her notebook, and picking up the espresso. "You dress much differently then your friends do, Ishmael," she noted, looking at him.

"How do mean?"

"Well, they look like a bunch of teenagers, you look like you just got back from the CEO's office," Robyn answered, with a grin.

"Well, I've always dressed a bit formerly, just my upbringing, I guess," said Ishmael, with a shrug.

"You seem like you cherish your upbringing a lot, I assume you're an international student?"

He nodded, "I am from the Timuridian Republic."

"Ah, Central Asia, you don't look Central Asian," she said, with a cocked eyebrow.

"My mother is from the United Kingdom, but she is mostly Russian," Ishmael responded. "She also blessed me with this name, sadly."

"I think its a rather nice name, very unique," she commented, with a grin. "So what were you doing hanging out with that group."

"We're the 'Dealers'," he responded, with a grin.

Robyn looked unimpressed, "'Dealers'? You lot sound like a bloody drug syndicate," she chuckled, taking a sip of her espresso.

"We're just prolific card players," he responded, with a small chuckle. "And you can call me 'Sham', that's what they call me."

"'Sham'? Why do they call you that?" she asked, then said with a teasing smile, "I still think [i]Ishmael[/i] is much better name!" She enjoyed watching him go crimson when she said that, and he took a sip of coffee.

"They call me 'Sham', because I have an unreadable poker face and game, they always think I'm going somewhere else with the game, and I go the other, ergo, I'm a 'sham' or a 'fake', if you will," he nodded. "I take it you're not a first year?"

"Heavens no, I'm in my third year over at the London College of Science, biochemistry," she nodded, with a smile, proudly. "Speaking of which, I don't have much time, I need to get back to campus, I have class in less than an hour, it was a pleasure talking to you, [i]Sham[/i]."

"Oh, I apologize if I kept you," he nodded, standing up as she did.

"No, not at all, I rather enjoyed talking with you, thank you for the coffee."

"Robyn, would you-," he started, biting his lip, and she looked at him.

"Yes?"

"Would you mind doing the honor of going to dinner with me?"

"I said it before, [i]Sham[/i], and I'll say it again, you are very forward with your requests."

"Well, I'm-," he started, clearing his throat, "I'm due to attend a dinner, which I have no date for, would you do me the honor of attending with me? Please?"

"Do you always bump into older women in an effort to dine with them?"

"No, of cours-," he started, before she smiled at him, and he stopped, knowing she was joking.

"I'll think about it, Mr. Dawkins," she said, before tearing out a piece of paper, and scribbling a note down, and handing it to him. "That's my number, call me tonight about it, after I have some time to think about it," she said, with a smile. "Now, I've not much time... [i]time...[/i] [i]time...[/i].

[center][b]*** *** ***[/b][/center]

"Time...," uttered Sham, quietly, under his breath.

"Sir? Everything alright?" asked Desh, eying the monarch curiously.

Sham nodded, his eyes not leaving Robyn's face, as he looked in on her, she seemed to stir a little. Suddenly, her eyes opened slowly, and she shifted very slightly, slowly looking out into the hallway. Their eyes met for the first time in fourteen years, and he saw her eyes seem to widen from tired look they had initially had. He saw her mouth slowly, [i]Sham[/i].

Edited by TheShammySocialist
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