Somewhere, someone beweeps their fate, troubling deaf Heaven with bootless cries, having fallen into disgrace with Fortune and Men's Eyes.
SCENE 1 – Old Town
There is the classical architecture of Petite-France, medieval half-timbered houses and baroque sandstone offices. The morning sky is overcast, sunlight diffused through the dense clouds – a couple waltzes by upon the lavish pavement, weaving by other travellers, lost to their own tune.
Utena Tenjou, aged 16, in her tan trenchcoat, calmly surveys her surroundings for any sign of Das Menchen's approaching. Her partner, Robin, is still inside the comforts of the Chevalier Hotel, likely searching up facets about the region on her finicky jeejah. As far as they're concerned, savouring the delights isn't their biggest priority, but the swift execution of whatever the fuck Timothy IV (their boss) needs them to do, which they don't know yet. Das Menchen will be telling them that shortly – the good German guy, as Timothy described him: rough and grizzly and cold-blooded vigour under his skin. He should be arriving around 8 minutes.
Utena ought to be learning Humanities in school, but her job's much more hands-on and it pays better than bagging groceries. In spite of her sultry demeanour, she doesn't think herself the cheerleader type. “Yawwwnn--!” She must confess though, this sort of life can get quite demanding. But as long as she gets her footsies and backsies afterward.. when they rub that tender spot it is bliss.
Robin Sena emerges from the hotel, aged 15, stoic as usual and walks over to where Utena's standing. She leans on the balustrade, where behind the blue roses bloom, and pulls out her pocket book of Daemonology. It's not just about Daemons, it also has Gothic romances, and Robin has been falling in love secretly with those tragic gentlemen who've tried to endure the allure of Succubi. It is something of a guilty pleasure for her. Shhh.
“Sheesh, you're bookwormy,” Utena goes, tapping feet. “You should get out more.”
“Hm.” Robin nudges her chin, holding book one-handed by the spine.
“You wanna know what I think, this is just so Timmy could get kicks out of us blowing off his enemies' asses. What, we've.. bumped two off this week, so far?”
“And this will make three.. or is he making us fetch his Sauerkraut takeout now?”
“Hm..” Robin licks her finger and turns a page.
“That is, if we don't nab some of the sausages in-between, hehe. I dunno. I think I'll like the food here, if our breakfast was anything to go by.”
“I liked the bread.”
“Yeah. Crunchy. Irresistibly so with the garlic flavouring, and once you've added the meat inside. Oh-- he's here. Robin!” Utena snaps her fingers.
Robin snaps to reality as she pockets away her book. A white van has arrived, with the label Plumbing Inc. on the sides, the driver's door open and Das Menchen slumbering towards them. It's almost surprising how the guy seems mundane as any other in his utilitywear, until you really catch the intensity in his eyes.
When they can just smell the Turkish Delight on his breath, he says to them, “You are Utena? You are Robin?” He has his hand out – Utena shakes it. “You may call me Monsieur Valken. Come in my van, I drive you to a good place.”
M. Valken slides the side door open, where inside you can see the seats by the sides, tangled nets enmeshed over the windows, surrounding the empty space in the middle – save for three worn toolboxes awaiting their duty. Once Utena and Robin seat themselves the best they could (it seems holding onto the nets must suffice as seatbelts), M. Valken ignites the van.
The ride is rough. Those pangs of acceleration M. Valken gives makes it feel like entering warp drive at every stop, and the rattling below – *titttuttititttutt*-- Robin realises she's clutching onto Utena.
“So how do you know Tim?” Utena asks, half-shouting over the noise.
“We've good friends,” M. Valken goes. “I met him during a fishing trip, I was throwing my speciality hook in the waters when it caught on one of the albatross birds – right in the eyes, and I said to one of my friends, 'Damn! That cocksucking scoundrel try to swindle me from my 200-pound tuna!' I nickname her Fishy.”
He veers the van into a cul-de-sac of tall, half-timbered residences, where he manoeuvres in-between into an alleyway, bump, and out into a street of more such residences; this village of peculiar arrangement, the shrubbery outgrown like vines from the windows, the overall idyllic charm especially impressionistic if under a clear blue sky – a paradise by any other name almost.
“What happens next,” M. Valken continues, “it may be sounding ridiculous, but listen well anyway. I saw dear Timothy come with his boat and he saw the poor birdie acting a seizure over water.. he crawled down and, he made tsk-tsk sounds like tendering to a son's boo-boo, and pulled out my hook. The birdie wasn't going to make it though, so he grabbed out his rifle and shot the animal down its backside. Boom. Like that. Such a pity, and then.. we saw Fishy coming to the surface, it must've been the blood, and I struggled, and.. Gods be damned, I got my Fishy! Father Fucking Fantastic!”
From what view the van offers her, Robin glimpses the passing sights, a maelstrom of images flickering by into her focus before regressing into indistinguishable blurs. The sturdy tower, and the bridge over the meditative river, and another tower to signify an end. Utena's chatter with M. Valken just brushes over her awareness, irrelevant and soothing as background music could be. What's inside these toolboxes? Does Das Menchen really take plumbing jobs? Or plumbing jobs? Why are there three of them?
“Wow,” Utena exclaims, “you must be really proud of yourselves, I bet.”
“Ohh.. you know. I split money half an' half with Tim, we took photos..” M. Valken scratches his nose. “Fishy now rests peace and sound in my office. Ever since, we go fishing every now and then when M. Timmy comes visiting.”
“But Tim isn't here, is he?”
“So what are we really here for then? Another clean-up?”
“I tell you when we arrive.”
“Why not here?” Utena asks.
“Because the job is fairly difficult to explain adequately without proper visual assistance. I have PowerPoint all prepared, you just stay nice and calm until we get there.”
“Well, you can at least sum it up in a sentence, right?”
“It involves multiple stages, quite complicated, I need to also tell you the background information – lengthy in its own right.” (Jeez.) “Let's say, Timmy needs you to bump that guy.. and that guy, and that guy, all in the correct order and on the right time. It is a matter of polityczny. Erm, what's word.. political.”
This piques Robin out of her daze. “Assassinations?” she asks.
“Kinda like that.” Truly, it must be a complicated matter. M. Valken looks at them in the mirror. They're dumbfounded! “Hey, you girls are cleaners, no big deal! It's just one step up from your usual.”
Utena actually is growing very excited at the prospect, as you might see from her cheeks flushing. She's passed her driver's preliminaries and now she's about to handle the rouge Chevrolet-- harnessing all its 270 horsepowers (compared with the dinky 1.7 L flat-four of her family's hand-me-down coupe). Except – that slightest ache holding her back: it could go so fast she'd lose control, before she knows it. “Politics, what do you mean, like in those elections?”
“Strasbourg is one of the European Union's strongholds,” Robin goes. “They hold general assembly every two months to discuss issues, current and upcoming.”
“Is that it?” Utena asks.
M. Valken visibly nods in the mirror, and he brings the van to a crawl up along the driveway, and presses a button on the dashboard. Ahead the garage door pulls open. “This is it, we've arrived.” Once he hauls the van inside, he tells them to grab the toolboxes (they're heavy!) and follow him close.
It is a house close to the Inner City, to the north overlooking the Prater, a house that, large, dark and imposing, is a fantastic museum in encountering. The long rococo halls, giddy with plush and whorled designs in gold, are peopled with Roman fragments, white and disassociated; a runner's leg, the chilly half-turned head of a matron struck at the bosom, the blind bold sockets of the eyes given a pupil by every shifting shadow so that what they look upon is an act of the light.
They rest in the great dark Salon room – it is of roasted hazelnut. Over the burning fireplace rests impressive copies of the Medici shield and, beside them, Fishy the Giant Tuna is well-preserved under glass, her mouth gaping open and expecting to sing Falsetto tunes any moment. Three massive pianos sprawl over the thick dragon's-blood pile of rugs from Madrid.
Utena and Robin place the heavy toolboxes by one of the couches, then seat themselves, Robin clutching onto one of the pillows. Phew.
“How do you take your Tea?” M. Valken asks them. “Sugar? With some creme?”
Utena: “Sugar, no creme.”
Robin: “I'll have both.”
M. Valken must have given some invisible signal, because suddenly a door has opened and his personal butler comes out and immediately has both teas on tray, preferences considered. Robin wonders what would have happened if she'd said, “I'll have coffee instead.” Maybe another door would have opened and another butler would have come out.
Now M. Valken gets to his desk and clicks a button on a remote. The fire dims, and a large projection screen scrolls down from the heavens. The screen lights up with the presentation – tentatively titled 'Das Plan.'