As she left the brightly glowing world of the Museum's event for the much more bland hidden interior of the building, she knew she was leaving a world of many cameras and eyes for one where there were surprisingly few security measures, and most of those were mere formalities. Aashe knew she was safe from detection within the first ten feet of hallway so she gave herself time for her eyes to adjust to the relative darkness, while she removed her heels and hiked up the train of her dress up to keep it out of her way.
By the time she was done fixing her outfit, she could see the pan of the cameras. Barefoot and silent, she ran forward, following the blind spots, slipping through the camera shadows. Her heart raced in her chest, a Cheshire Cat grin crossing her features. It would all be over soon. 20 minutes... She'd either be caught... or she'd be free.
She made it to the far side of the hall, and pushed the door open just wide enough to get her body through. She let the door close behind her as quickly as she could, trusting that she had timed it right so that when the camera panned back around, the door would look as though it had always been closed.
Four floors down, the basement where she had hidden her gear was waiting for her. She slid down the railing of the stairs, hopping off at each landing - unable to contain her excitement. Though it was decidedly childish to slide down the railing, she couldn't help it. She didn't feel like acting like an adult (or even a professional thief, for that matter) tonight was for fun, and fun was what she would have. She could navigate the underbelly of the Museum with her eyes closed. She'd spent two weeks coming to the museum as a janitor, staying late, memorizing each corner, each face.
It was surprisingly easy to sneak into the ranks, she'd been relatively invisible to the rest of the crew, keeping her head down, and her shoulders hunched forward. She'd given a sizable bribe to one of the actual cleaning crew, using her access cards, and cleaning on her route. The woman was paid as normal, and Aashe got access to the Museum. She'd been careful to conceal her likeness to the janitor - not wanting to leave a trail. The cleaning woman actually thought Aashe was a man.
Once in the basement cleaning closet, she unearthed the gear she'd been hiding down there. A suit (complete with thrusters), a welding torch, a larger backpack, a small collection of manual lock picks, a power drill, a crowbar, a few smoke bombs, and her gun. It took her a few minutes to slip out of her dress, and into the lightly armored suit. She folded her dress and set it into the backpack, along with her shoes and evening bag. She would leave nothing behind.
The basement had access stairs to multiple areas in the museum, and had less guards than the display areas. All the same, she engaged her Omni Tool's cloaking device, and began the jog to the far end of the basement. Given a more legal purpose for being there, Aashe could have lived in the basement beneath the Museum. All around her were works of art displayed in raw, sub optimal lighting, frames in need of restoration, some just sitting on the floor. Art, all around her... all of the beauty, none of the pretension. There was something glorious about seeing a treasure trove such as this one. This was Shangri La, El Dorado, Shambhala...
She found the access hallway to the display hall she was looking for, and with a last longing look behind her - she began to climb taking the stairs two at a time. As her feet touched the floor for the Earth Artists display, she felt her heart rate quicken. Her senses went on overdrive, as though she could see, hear, and smell everything more clearly. The aged scent of old oil paints, the dryness of the climate controlled air, the ionization process that made the whole museum feel of ozone, and gave everything the sense of being unnaturally clean. She rounded the corner, and came face to face with her prey...
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee. A Rembrandt painting, stolen in 1990 from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, recovered only 10 years ago. Now, ready to go missing again... That was the funny thing about stealing art, in a lot of ways, it only made the art more valuable. People loved a good story. When, inevitably, this painting was recovered - either from Aashe's collection, or from whoever purchased it from her (much later in life) the next Museum to own it would have a curator who spoke of it's theft here, tonight... and magnificent recovery. People would remember it...
Aashe stared at the painting a moment, taking in the sublime display they had arranged for it. Perfect lighting, perfect height, a bench at the perfect sitting distance from it - the best to admire the subtle light and brush strokes of the master Rembrandt. She silently hated this perfection to art. Art was nothing if not imperfection, and should be displayed with warmth, and love.
There were four safety measures she had to attend to... The first; the painting was locked to the wall with a heavy wire, a wire that - once severed - would trigger the second mechanism; the whole hall bracing into an impenetrable lock down mode (the whole process taking approximately 60 seconds). The third was to prevent the canvas from being cut out of the frame, the whole back of the frame was covered in sheet metal, and that metal also provided the fourth security measure, in that it made the frame to heavy to carry with ease.
She took a breath, and looked at her watch. All of the docents and guards should be chasing out the last of the party goers now, on the other side of the museum. She pulled the welding torch from her pack, and kicked it on with a heavy hiss. She paused, taking a few deep breaths, centering herself. Once she started, this was it, she was running until she was safe. With an easy grin, and a steady hand - she raised the welding torch, and melted the heavy wire that kept the painting to the wall. All at once, the painting fell, filling the room with the clang of a resounding thud. The lighting in the museum kicked off, replaced with the emergency red, and the klaxon alarm blared, indicating that her area was going into lock down.
Aashe turned off the welding torch and tossed it back in her pack. She shoved one shoulder through the pack's strap before grabbing the frame with both hands, digging her fingers into the wood as hard as she could. She positioned both feet against the floor, and engaged the thrusters. The frame caught at the end of her arms, and nearly pulled her arms from their sockets with the weight, but adrenaline gave her the power to continue to hold tight. She'd pay for this later though. She flew straight toward the glass ceiling above. The ceiling was slowly, but efficiently being covered by large sheets of metal, to prevent escape. The museum had (wrongly) assumed that anyone who wanted to escape through the ceiling would need to climb up, and wouldn't have thrusters. She aimed for the ever closing slit in the metal, straightening her head up so the very top of her armor would slam the glass first, it was made to disperse the blow, when hit from that angle.
She grunted as the glass shattered against her armor, raining shards down into the gallery below. She angled her feet to get her to the roof just as the escape measures locked down over the window she just passed through.
She had 5 minutes until they figured out where she was, and could make it to her. She set the frame down metal side up, and pulled out her tools. The one weakness in backing the frame with metal was that they didn't want to hurt the frame or painting too much. The screws that ran through to the frame were often just normal screws.
She worked quickly, the drill moving from one screw to the other. As soon as one was free, she'd pull it off and toss it aside and go straight to the next one. Finally, the metal was loose. She put her heel against it, and shoved it off hard, listening to it smack against the roof and reverberate there. She pulled the frame and the painting up, bracing it against a nearby wall.
The frame was of little purpose to her, but she hated the idea of cutting the painting. As swiftly as she could, with one of her lock picks, she yanked the staples out of the frame, until the painting itself was free. She then rolled the painting up, holding it lovingly in one hand.
"STOP!" A guard yelled behind her. She turned to see how many were coming. Five. She was flattered. Inclining her head in a bit of a nod, she waved at them before turning to run. She was glad for her helmet, which obscured her face from their eyes. She knew they wouldn't want to shoot her, they were too afraid of putting a bullet through the canvas. They'd want to get close, stun her...
She leapt from the roof, the thrusters kicking on, propelling her to the next rooftop. She had a shuttle waiting for her just outside of an access port four buildings over. She needed to use the thrusters sparingly as she only had so much fuel, so between rooftop jumps, she ran like her life depended on it. She could see the port above her now, but she wanted to be straight underneath it, to give herself the maximum thruster time.
The port was built into the roof of the station, intended as a way to service the plexiglass dome that allowed the natural light, and view of the stars in. Getting to the roof directly below the access port, she put both feet straight together, and engaged the Thrusters on full. She shot upward, hoping momentum would carry her where the thrusters might not. She was not disappointed. Her free hand caught hold of the ladder rung that was four up from the bottom. Enough room for her to place her feet on the lowest rung, and make it easy to climb.
Once she was in the tube, she kicked the lever for the emergency door to close the tube off from the dome. She didn't want to accidentally decompress the station, after all.
She set the painting on the access door she just shut, and grabbed her crowbar, shoving it into the panel for the exterior door. She pried the door for the panel free, letting it swing open. She slipped her small hand in, finding the cable that would trick the Exterior door to open. Taking a second to wrap her other hand back around the painting, she yanked the cable hard, then pulled both arms in toward her body. The port door opened swiftly, and as the decompression happened in the tube, she was pulled free, ejected into space, looking down at the station below.
She watched the station grow smaller for a second, before looking up toward the shuttle.
"Jarvis." She said into her suit's microphone. "I'm just outside, go ahead and open the shuttle bay door."
"Was the mission successful, Ma'am?"
"In more ways than one, Jarvis. I loved the Angels over Stars exhibit."
"I know it was on your must-see list of events, Ma'am. It is good that you got a chance to experience the exhibit first hand."
"I agree." She twisted her body around, so she approached the shuttle feet first. Her boots magnetized on contact, and she started to walk along the underside of the shuttle to the now open bay door. She let herself in and closed the door behind her. "I'm in Jarvis, go ahead and start repressurization. It's time to go home."
"Course is set, Ma'am. The Eris is waiting for you just on the other side of the Relay, per your request."
The Rec Room felt surprisingly empty without the pool table, but the rest of the repair work had gone very well. Though she lamented the loss of such a glorious pool table, Aashe was pleased to note that the pool table had not only missed her, but had missed her favorite painting.
She stood for a long time in the room, leaning against the poker table, staring at the Rembrandt. In the relative low lighting of the Rec Room, the storm around the ship looked ever more ominous. The crew in this painting were afraid, they had no recourse but to ask the divine to save them - and judging by the light breaking on the left hand side of the painting, the divine was coming to their rescue, but it was not over yet.
There was something about it that pleased her...
Aashe thought about it - perhaps her joy with it today was the knowledge that there would be no gods to save the Eris, no one to calm the storm. Lucky though Aashe felt she was - she hated leaving things to luck, or gods. She rather jokingly prayed to the God of Thieves, but only because it amused her. Somehow, somewhere over the last few days Aashe found that she wasn't worried anymore. And she had a sneaking suspicion that she could trace the genesis of her newfound confidence to a single moment, bathed in sunset.
All the same, they were a good crew (if tense) full of good people (mostly) and Aashe had no doubt that with their help the Eris would come out in one piece (more or less).
"Aashe?" Eri's voice came through the comm.
"I'm here, Eri." Aashe said, then cleared her throat. Introspection had made her voice weak.
"We're ready to go. Illium just cleared us." Eri sounded a little tired herself, Aashe made a mental note to see if the woman wanted tea or whiskey during the flight.
"I'm on my way." Aashe replied.
Aashe pushed herself off the table, and walked over to the Rembrandt,. Her fingers stretched out, longing to touch the paint, but knowing the oils in her hands would do the painting no good. Instead, she touched the frame gently, stroking her fingers over the intricate scrollwork on the gilded wood. She turned away from the painting, her fingertips lingering as she started to walk, in the manner she often used when touching something (or someone) for which she had strong feelings.
Without a backward glance, Aashe sped up her gait, moving with purpose toward the cockpit, and toward the mission - willing to face the storm head on.
The Storm on the Sea of Galilee (Part Two)
Blog entry posted by CoyoteLovely, May 14, 2012.