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I'm not as smart as I think

Apparently a few of you are anxious to hear how yesterday's Special Mission went. Sorry it's taken me a whole 16 hours to get you this update :)

We were told, via the blog, that there was a special mission going down last night at 7pm. The object was to pick up a package at the Powell Street BART station and deliver it to a location to be disclosed upon pickup of the package. Any player still in the game was eligible. The caveat was that the "Mustache Army" - a group of special assassins working for the Mustache Commander (the guy who gave us our original dossiers) - would be watching for players picking up the package. Once out of the safe zone of the BART station, one could be squirted by a Mustache Army person and taken out of the special mission. This would not take them out of the game.

The other danger in running the special mission was that your own assassin could be around looking for you and could get you once you were no longer safe.

The reward for completing the mission would be two bottles of "fine liquor", private audience with the Commander, and help from the Shadow Government in one's current assignment. I was really interested in that last item. Since I'm leaving town tomorrow for the weekend, I'm pretty much out of time to get my kill attempt in for this week, so I'm all but eliminated at this point.

A plan was quickly hatched, and was carried out with perfection: I rode my scooter over to the Montgomery station, which is right near vespaden's office and is one stop away from Powell. I handed my scooter and helmet over to Paul and quickly descended in to the station, where I was safe (all BART stations and trains are safe zones). I took BART over to the Powell station, arriving at about 6:35. I took the elevator up and made a quick survey of the upper level before heading back down to the lower level. I now knew which escalator was closest to the pickup point and the various escapes from the station, including my planned route.

At seven, I took the escalator back up to the upper level. I quickly noticed several characters milling around, wearing fake mustaches. These were the Mustache Army. I avoided eye contact and found the Mustache Commander's assistant, who was to be handing out the packages with drop off instructions.

I casually walked past her and mumbled, "Do you have something for me?" as I strolled around the corner of the kiosk she was standing near and stood behind her. Without looking at me, she pulled a large cardboard tube from her bag and handed it back to me. I grabbed it and headed straight to a somewhat deserted stairwell, where I stashed it halfway down my pants and under my jacket. It was incredibly uncomfortable.

I then walked rather casually back through the station, avoiding eye contact with anyone, through the turnstiles, and back down to the trains. I looked around during the minute or two that I waited for the next train to verify I hadn't been followed, and stayed on my toes as I boarded towards the back of the train.

The ride to Montgomery was quick and it seemed like I was home free. As soon as the train arrived, I exited and walked briskly to the top. I took the escalator to the street. As planned, Paul was at the top of the escalator, my idling scooter on the sidewalk right next to it. At the top, he handed me my helmet and then stood in front of the exit to block any possible chasers.

In one graceful motion, I donned my helmet, jumped on my bike, and flew off the sidewalk and down the street. I was safe. Time to see where to take this thing.

I rode a few blocks away and found a lighted spot to inspect the tube. The riddle written on the side said:

Though its name speaks of kings
inside no royalty dwells

Next to its fake antiquity
youth and science triumphs

The arch of swans that keep the lions at Bay
casts a fruitful Shadow

I had no idea.

I quickly called Paul, but he'd already hopped on BART and was on his way home. I called my friend Jose, who knows San Francisco very well, but he didn't know. He suggested the Ritz hotel, which has lions in its logo. It was worth a shot. I rode over there and asked the valet if there were lions and swans but he said there weren't. He read the riddle and suggested the Embarcadero. I quickly rode over there in the rain, down to the ferry building before deciding this probably wasn't right.

I called everyone I could think of. I finally got Paul on the phone but he didn't know. purple_b didn't know either. Both vowed to keep thinking and searching while I frantically made phone calls. I avoided calling cjc, as she had been recruited for the Mustache Army and seeking her help would have been cheating. She finally called me at about 8 to see if I wanted to meet up to help with another mission.

"I'm still trying to figure out where to take this fucking thing!"

She informed me that the destination was the Palace of Fine Arts, but I was too late. Everyone had left. I was screwed.

The riddle was to be interpreted as follows:
The name that speaks of kings is the Palace.
The fake antiquity refers to the "Roman ruin" design of the Palace, which was built in 1915 for the Panama Pacific Internation Exposition.
Youth and science refer to the Exploratorium, a science museum located next door.
The arches are the Roman style rotunda.
The swans are the 24 million or so swans that live there.
The lions at Bay refers to the corner of Lyon and Bay streets, which I assume was the drop point.

I rode over to the Palace, just so I could say I went there and completed the mission, even if I was too late. I then went home and emailed the Supreme Commander to let him know I had his package and ask if he'd still like it delivered or if he'd like it destroyed.

Muchos gracias to vespaden and the recently deceased purple_b for their frantic research. Barry eventually figured the riddle out and called me with the answer, as I stood quietly admiring the lighted Palace and listening to the geese squawking.



( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 1st, 2005 07:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm a bit overeager about all this stuff, huh? It's just really exciting and you write it out well! The Palace of Fine Arts totally makes sense once you say it, but I don't know that I would have gotten it in your pressure-filled setting.
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC)
Dude! What are we gonna do when it's over? What will I do to deter myself from working??
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:13 pm (UTC)
I was totally thinking that this morning. What the hell? You better think of something or I swear I'm going to stop paying all that good money subscribing to read this blog!
Dec. 1st, 2005 07:59 pm (UTC)
AW MAN. As soon as I read the poem I knew were it was. (Although I thought briefly about that place with the giant metal lion statues out front, I can't remember where/what it is.)

That you did all this on a scooter makes me want to have like 5,000 or so of your children.
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:05 pm (UTC)
Damn! I had no earthly idea. I'd been to the Palace a couple of times, but I don't think I remembered that it was actually called that, nor did I remember the street names or anything. Phooey.

My Rally has been a key factor in Streetwars. It's the perfect assassin vehicle. I can chase people down on it, evade people in traffic, ride it on the sidewalk if I have to, park it wherever I need to, etc.. No assassin should be without a good vintage Vespa.

5,000 is far too many children, although it would be interesting to single-handedly increase the percentage of American children with the first name of "Elvis".
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:22 pm (UTC)
Rally! YAY! I could totally see it as the perfect vehicle for this. Small and quick and just damned cool. ;) Was it the '74? Or did you sell that? I can't remember. The Rally is my favorite model, with the 180SS a close second. I LOVE the trapezoid headsets and the giant ass.

Not that I'm smart or anything, I just had an experience there last time I was in SF that was similar to the first half of the riddle: the BF and I rented scooters and ended up accidentally circling around the PFA a couple of times before stopping to check it out. "Why is it called 'The Palace?' Did royalty live here? I see no palace." "But there are Roman columns! Look!" "Those are FAKE Roman columns." We then discussed the scene in "The Rock."

Dec. 1st, 2005 08:57 pm (UTC)
I currently have two '74 Rallys, one of which is being sold soon, and one which is my daily driver/assassination vehicle. I love me some Rally.

I like the SS180 a lot too. It was one of the first models I ever saw, in the video for Depeche Mode "Behind the Wheel". Heh.

Dec. 1st, 2005 09:22 pm (UTC)
Maaaan, I had to exersize SO MUCH SELF CONTROL not to buy a '77 Rally that came around recently, even though there are already two '76 Rallys in the garage. BUT one of them is in about a hojillion pieces. Why buy scooter parts when you can just buy more scooters?!?!

The very first Vespa I ever saw was a white P when I lived in Orange County (a.k.a. TEH O.C.) in '89. I thought it was the COOLEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED, and honestly like from then on anytime I thought about what I would be like as a grown-up, I was tooling around on a Vespa. Maybe one of these days I'll actually be a grown-up.
Dec. 1st, 2005 09:39 pm (UTC)
I have to exercise that kind of self-control every day around here. There are cheap scooters on Craig's List all the time. Paul's always trying to get me to buy some crazy rusted out deathtrap. We're up to six bikes at our house at the moment. Ugh.

Between Depeche Mode and Fine Young Cannibals videos in '89/'90, and my senior year girlfriend's roommate's P200 with sidecar in '91, I had little to no chance of not becoming a scooterist. I got my first P in '92 and wore my red gown as I rode it to my high school graduation.
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:58 pm (UTC)
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, too bad it didn't work out... As I was walking home I was thinking of the Legion of Honor, but you must have been driving when I called. I didn't think of the Palace of Fine Arts, but I actually think I would have realized that's what it was if I actually saw the riddle rather than have you read it to me. Oh well, nice try anyway...
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:56 pm (UTC)
you totally need my number... the first and second line of the poem totally gave it away for me!!! could be because I was just there... dammit!
Dec. 1st, 2005 08:58 pm (UTC)
Damn damn damn! I need more San Francisco expert friends!
Dec. 1st, 2005 09:05 pm (UTC)
Yeah, man, next time you have a riddle about famous SF landmarks in some insane water-gun assassin city-wide game, WE ARE SO THERE FOR YOU!!
Dec. 1st, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
I cant belive Barry didnt get it right away! he was there with me!!!
Dec. 1st, 2005 09:34 pm (UTC)
Well, not much could be expected from him at that moment, as he was something of a broken man.
Dec. 4th, 2005 07:14 pm (UTC)
Dude, I hate to say it but even I got that riddle from the first couple of lines. I don't even life in SF, but that place sprung to mind immediately (and more importantly long before I read the rest of the post) but I reckon that it is a bit of a long shot to dial Amsterdam when you have a wealth of info and local wisdom there at your disposal.

But then again, never underestimate the Fountain of Useless Knowledge.
Dec. 5th, 2005 06:23 am (UTC)
I call it luck. There are a ton of places in this town with "Palace" in the name. The first place I thought of was Cow Palace, but that doesn't make much sense I guess.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )