Tue May 28, 2019 3:20 pm
Sukava and Vynkor watch Ishmael idly, turning their heads to track him as he floats overhead, flailing like a cat in a bathtub. After he drifts over a low wall and beyond their immediate line of sight, Sukava turns to Vynkor and asks, "So, should we go inside?"
Vynk considers this for a moment. "I figure it'd be easier to get there unnoticed on the external hull... as long as we don't go in front of any windows."
Agreeing with this sentiment, Sukava follows Vynkor carefully across the hull, one mag-boot step at a time, in what is surely the slowest and most ponderous traveling either of them have done in a long, long time...
Frank pats Bob on the arm, trying to comfort him, but Bob shirks away grumpily. "Come on, Bob," Frank says, trying to console him. "I'm sure we'll find some ice cream for you somewhere, big guy!"
"No!" Bob grumps, wrenching his arm away. "Bob no like this place! Jimmy no like this place neither!"
The four inmates have stopped near the edge of Downtown's main boulevard - a long, wide, high-ceilinged corridor - roughly three stories high. The upper floors overhang the lowest shops, creating a veranda, with balconies and walkways leading into other shops and facilities on the higher floors - most of them abandoned. The ceiling itself is old, rusty, cobwebbed, and strewn with various pipes and structural beams. One section in particular looks like it's been exposed to a fire, with blackened soot covering the edges; a similar streak covers the upper shopfronts near it. All in all, this place was almost certainly never beautiful... although it probably used to look a lot nicer.
Up until this point, Fireteam Beta has been rushing around so fast that they haven't had a chance to get a good look at their surroundings. Now they stand almost captivated by the sights, the aliens, and the echoing cacophony of the busy mall - at least until a big, burly four-armed creature lumbers past them, casting a nasty look in their direction. It shakes them from their thoughts, and they start coming up with their plans.
"So," Frank begins hesitantly, poking at his PDA's map. "The comm station's here... the markets... the tanker, and merc central. The fastest way to the market cuts through the corner of the palace, though." Frank isn't sure whether it actually goes through the palace or over it, but he'd rather not assume the latter and be wrong. "Perhaps the long way around would be worth consideration?"
Saoirse, getting uncomfortably close, peers over Frank's shoulder. "Hmm... The shortest other route leads us through 'The Hole', which is 'dangerous to outsiders'."
Pitching in his two cents, Caleb agrees, "Yeah, I'm not too sure going through the Hole is a good idea. That just sounds like inviting an incident."
"Sounds like no ice cream," Bob adds, muttering. "No work, no ice cream. No good."
Caleb ignores this interruption. "Might as well head to the comms station first, as it's right here."
Everyone seems to agree on this plan, so they start listening again for the advertisement. During this time, several hiltorel individuals take note of them, eyeing them warily. The inmates do their very best to appear inconspicuous and as "normal" as possible - like they're waiting for someone. Bob continues to grump about ice cream, and is growing slowly more agitated. They came all this way and there's no ice cream? What kind of dirty aliens wouldn't even eat ice cream? It's absurd - heretical, even.
It feels like hours, but it's really only five or so minutes before they hear the advertisement again. In a flurry of haste, they start towards it - this takes them up one of the stairwells on the side of the plaza, past a number of abandoned shops with broken windows or welded-shut doors, and through a wide, doorless opening into a relatively busy area on the "second floor". "Welcome to Kelzzide's Communication Station!" an automated voice greets them grandly as they step over the threshold. But the area itself is so far from being grand that the greeting falls mostly flat.
It's a grimy area - dim and clearly hadn't been cleaned in a long time. The lights are a dim yellow-orange that cast dark shadows around corners and through the perforated metal ceiling above, which rattles as patrons walk across it, either going to or from one of the many holobooths in the multi-level room. It's not full 3d-holo, either - a better description would be 2.5d: it uses a small array of cameras directly in front of the user to imitate their face - but it only works from the front. If you view it from too far to the side, it begins to look extremely distorted. Many of the booths are closed - dark and taped over, or removed from the floor entirely. Still, the fact that something so advanced exists here feels... almost out of place, especially compared to the tech level in the rest of the station; it's a clear relic of Fuhodo's wealthier past.
Saoirse has a question - but who should she ask? Scattered among the various patrons are a small handful of individuals that just might be staff - they wear a sort of uniform and carry toolkits about with them: short, bulbous-headed gray aliens. Something about them - whether it's their large heads, spindly arms, or deep eyes - feels unsettling.
A voice shakes them from their reverie. "Hello!" It comes from a desk on the left side of the room. As one, the inmates walk cautiously up to said desk, behind which stands a tall, glittery, snail-like alien. Orange-yellow light filters through his (or her) gelatinous body and delicate gossamer clothing, casting light like a myriad of tiny pastel rainbows. "Ahem," the creature vocalizes, shaking its head and making the feathery fronds about its face dance. Its voice sounds throaty; almost musical. "Welcome! May I assist you fine people?"
Bob steps forward immediately. "Where is ice cream? Give ice cream."
"I'm sorry," the alien says. "I don't understand your request. We only send messages here."
The big guy cracks his knuckles. "Bob good at sending messages too," he says as a threat, narrowing his eyes. The alien refuses to be baited and merely nods in understanding.
Frank and Caleb try to get Bob to shut up, while Saoirse nervously steps forward. "Hi, erm... so..." Her voice catches in her throat as she gets lost in the being's gentle eyes. "I, uh... aherm." The creature behind the desk - a plodus, if memory serves the inmates - watches patiently without making a sound.
While Saoirse stammers incomprehensibly, Frank is starting to feel more and more conspicuous. Although he doesn't actually notice anyone staring when he looks around, he can't shake the feeling that there are multiple sets of eyes watching his group suspiciously. He notices when the receptionist glances over at one of the other staff members; the feathery fronds about its face undulate rhythmically for a moment. As Frank watches out of the corner of his eye, the plodus's fellow employee makes a discreet hand motion as if in response and heads through a door at the back of the room.
Finally, the poor girl gets her thoughts together. "So, uh... That speaker outside... sorry, but uh... is that for real, or just shitty marketing? I mean, uh - not that your marketing is shitty - I'm just wondering if you're lying. Wait - I mean not you - I'm sure you're just an employee, but you know... if the store is lying. Wait! - I mean, uh, not lying, per se, but uh... oh, dear."
The plodus smiles wisely. "It's all right," it says soothingly. "If you're here, rather than at the cheaper communications labs in Merc Central, that most likely means you're here for our holobooth package. Kelzzide's Communication Station will instantly connect you to any connected holotell station you desire within the Arimia star cluster, for the low, low price of 450 plat - a better price than you will find anywhere else on the station. Additional charges may apply for lengthy holotells of course. If necessary, we will record your message and attempt to send it periodically until the recipient marks it as received, or until three months from the date of recording. We have additional packages that you may be interested in, if you would like to hear about them." The plodus inclines his head gently in askance.
Fireteam Alpha had just entered the station through a dark maintenance accessway beneath the Nemesis and was just about to start towards the docks when they noticed an alien figure some 200 meters in, working at the wall by the light of an electric lantern. Killshot quickly grabs his teammates and drags them to a halt, pointing at the individual, and mentally formulates a plan. Talking loudly, he says, "I'm beginning to think the information our contact provided may be faulty, Bill - that someone tipped Clooney and his goons off. Had we stuck with my hunches, we'd be collecting our payment by now!"
Billy the Butcher looks at Brom like he's lost his mind (which perhaps he has). "Who the fuc-" Suddenly it all clicks into place: Brom's just acting. "Oh, right! Clooney! Yeah, yeah, that piece 'o shit."
"What do you think about that fellow ahead? Do you think he might have seen our target?"
Cautiously, the Butcher shakes his head. "Maybe we should give 'im some tin to keep 'im quiet?" He glances about, taking in the surroundings, just in case of a firefight. The tunnel they're in, dug straight through the rock, is layered with rows of thick, insulated electrical cabling, and some pipes that might be carrying some kind of hydraulic fluid. Moving those massive robotic clamps can't be an easy task, after all, so it rather makes sense - but unfortunately, it also means that the passage is cramped to begin with. There aren't any places to hide - but there also aren't any places to find cover, either.
"You know, Bill," Killshot says slowly, "that sort of thinking makes you a joy to work with. Always were the cautious type... and it never hurts to be cautious. Let's approach the fellow, and see what we can do."
The group approaches the lone alien cautiously, hands hovering gently near their holsters, just in case. Killshot is prepared to go for his pistol, the Butcher for his baton, and Hammerhead for his laser pistol. As they approach, they discern that the figure is most definitely an alien - a short one with a particularly wide, ugly head ringed with eyes and sparsely spaced bristle-like hairs - he literally has eyes on (or near, at least) the back of his head, and even despite facing away, he sees the figures as they approach, and grows tense. He chatters something out in an alien language, revealing a mouthful of row upon row of wild, fanglike teeth: "Horii! Kakiih jalan af sifin tonko hake? Kikash efol fyssiki!"
The Butcher is visibly disturbed by this display, and grinds his teeth uncomfortably. Killshot, on the other hand, takes charge and responds - in Galactic Standard. "Excuse me! We're here hunting a criminal."
"...eh?" The creature picks up a wrench as the mercenaries close the gap and come to a stop, seemingly nervous around these unexpected visitors. "hun-ting crim-ee-nal?" The accent is so thick it scarcely sounds like Galactic.
Billy Butcher nods, trying to fight his instincts to shoot the damn monster as he explains, "Yeah, 'e's about... yay high," holding his hand at about 1.8 meters from the ground. "Skinny feller, brown hair I think, 'n' has one of them fancy, tidied-up inner worl'er beards. He's always talkin' like he jus' dun run a mile, heard it sounds kinda annoying." He's describing Frank, of course. The Butcher still hasn't quite settled his score with the man, after all. "Very dangerous! He's wanted for, uh... um. Terrorism, war crimes, robbin' banks, murder, arson, and, uh... jaywalking, too." The Butcher shudders at the thought of whatever heinous act that could be, and then shudders again at the heinous appearance of the alien - comical though it is. "You'd be doin' the galaxy a favor if you'd help us find this evil miscretin!" (Perhaps he meant "miscreant", but then, the alien probably wouldn't have understood either way.)
"Iba!" The engineer says, clearly wracking his brain for words in Galactic. "Ah... no. Ro - I, ah, I ... ay-lone here, look at power." He points his wrench at the fixture embedded in the wall - some kind of transformer panel. "No see crim-ee-nal... here. This place no go. You not can be here!" His beady eyes "telescope" outwards as he peers suspiciously at the mercenaries, giving the appearance that some kind of worm is trying to burst through the surface from inside. It is extremely unsettling, especially to the Butcher, whose hand creeps slightly closer to his baton. "I need tell... hmm. Ro binahii anuira ifar tvanir tifoso. Ikavab hekara krabini..." the alien mutters, reaching for a button-covered panel on the wall next to him.
"The criminal we're hunting is believed to be fairly dangerous, and we don't want word of our presence here to get out." Killshot says hastily. He pulls out the 200-plat stack from earlier out of the pouch at his waist. "I'm prepared to pay 200 plat if you'll keep quiet about seeing us. What do you say?"
The alien hesitates for a moment, seeming very reluctant; his beady eyes move from the wall panel, to the plat, to the inmates, to the guns in their holsters. The Butcher's has already closed around the handle of his baton. Finally, the alien sighs, reaches forward, and takes the plat with a slight grin. It looks hideous in the lanternlight. "I no see you. Never did, shisci?" The mechanic pockets the plat, and nearly turns back to his work when he suddenly asks, "What is name? To dan-ger-ous crim-ee-nal?"
Ishmael resigns himself to the FSM's guidance. What will happen, will happen. This is simply a test of character and judgment, the same as any other. There isn't anything he can do until he lands, anyway... and it doesn't look like it will be that long until it happens.
From this angle, Fuhodo shows its age quite plainly. Although the station glitters with windows, most of them are dark and abandoned. The hull is patched over haphazardly in places - dull metal speckles the station, welded to patches of even duller metal, welded to patches of duller metal still - possibly the result of small meteor impacts. The station smells sharply of an operation that wasn't intended to last beyond its completion, and wasn't planned well from the beginning.
Up ahead, the tall, cold shape of Merc Central looms: an elongated cylinder with various walkway tubes protruding from the sides, and an uneven upper roof that looks like it has been structurally expanded time and time again. From the look of it, he's going to just miss one of the protruding walkways and splat onto the extruding wall behind it. This, of course, is not acceptable; going at this velocity, it would probably hurt a fair deal - not to mention that he would almost certainly rebound from it and fall slowly to the asteroid surface below. From there, without any metal surfaces to hold onto, getting back would take forever - possibly longer than he has. "FSM helps those that help themselves," Ishmael breathes, and readies his plasma lashes, gripping them in his hands. They uncoil themselves under his light grip, rolling and flicking outwards gently into space in resposne to his will.
As the walkway drifts close enough, Ishmael whips one of his lashes outwards, coiling the tip tightly around a protruding pipe, and gives it a solid yank; it comes loose and twists at an angle, but nevertheless his momentum changes sharply, sending him curving around the pivot point in an arc and sloping him towards the asteroid's surface on one side, free of the buildings. With his second lash, he grabs onto a think antenna on the tunnel's edge, immediately releasing the first; he curves down, around, and under the walkway at ever-increasing speeds as he tugs himself along. It's starting to get a little dangerous. The ground below him turns from asteroid to sky as he swings back around, flying upside-down with Merc Station ahead of him - and with one final lash and strong tug he jerks himself down towards a lower rooftop. It's going to be a rough landing at this speed, he knows; he curls up and braces himself for the rolling impact. Be the meatball... be the meatball.
Moments later, he touches down on the rooftop with a resounding thud that can almost certainly be heard within, tumbling and rolling. He flips his whips outwards, and at the slightest sensation of a tug he coils the ends tight around the nearest protrusion, and his little trip comes to an abrupt stop.
The priest lays still for a moment, panting. It's been a long time since he's exerted himself quite like that - perhaps too many bowls of ramen. But it's no matter. A little shakily, he lumbers to his feet and looks around.
This little rooftop is almost completely in shadow from Nanyej, the star, with the docks blocking the light from above. He seems to be standing on a private landing pad. There are several other terraces with landing pads lower down; one of these contains a small fighter craft. It is peaceful out here, at least. There are windows on the wall nearby at eye level; even from this distance, Ishmael can make out the shape of people moving around within, possibly sitting at a table. It might be a bar or pub, for all he knows.
There's a hatch on one corner of the rooftop, although it looks like it might be a little difficult to open. Further down, on the next terrace step, there seems to be an actual airlock entrance. It seems to be an easier path - or could be, depending on whether it's guarded. There are options, if nothing else. The FSM provides.
Then, out of the corner of his eye, he spots a suited figure approaching him cautiously, weapon at the ready. Things could be about to get interesting...
After a painfully long expedition across the surface of Fuhodo - during which, repeatedly, they almost lost their footing and floated off the rooftops, and at least twice were almost sighted by patrolling ships - Vynkor and Sukava arrive at their destination: the palaces.
This is where they realize they've made a terrible mistake: The palaces are entirely underground. There's actually no way to enter them from up here. The two inmates are understandably frustrated at this. So much for trying to enter through a back door.
It actually makes sense, though, in retrospect. If the palaces were supposed to be a well-guarded area, why would you want there to be easy access points from the outside? Nevertheless, the two women are going to have to come up with some other way in.