Beta stands outside the rear entrance to Hosef'Wa's store. They're getting awfully tired of this station. Frank (Samuel, rather) glares at the shifty-looking guys across the "road", and to his surprise, they seem to be startled by its intensity; they hurriedly go back to minding their own business. Clearing his throat, Samuel addresses the others in a low voice: "The faster we move, the less time anyone has to react."
Cole grunts in agreement. He's not entirely happy with Samuel at the moment, mostly because his foot is still pretty sore. How the hell does a janitor manage to avoid lifting boxes during his career, anyway?
"Remember, guys," Saoirse/Estelle whispers, as she begins leading the group, "we're with the Lavloxeri division of FMU, we're looking for the Minas Maniri to get Ms. Kaquyu Adopan, and the password is 'Dexin Ezagetxa'. Got that?"
"Thank you," Polaris (formerly Nilo) says politely, committing it to memory. Noticing that Cole is starting to lag behind, he asks, "Cole, are you able to move faster, or do you need assistance?"
"Nope, I'm fine, thanks," Cole grunts, limping. "It's getting better. It'll be back to normal in a few minutes, I think."
Samuel frowns. "Sorry for the foot, Cole. Should I take the package again before we arrive, so you have your hands free?"
But Cole shrugs and says nothing. He's actually feeling better about the new guy, Nilo - Polaris, rather - than he is about Samuel.
This alias thing is confusing.
Standing where they are, at the edge of what appears to be Feb Keshor's center of operations, Alpha decides to closely inspect their surroundings.
The dimly-lit room in which they stand is very large and fairly square: a little less than 20 meters across. There's one exit to the "west", two to the "east", and one to the "north". Feb Keshor previously exited through the northernmost exit on the east side of the room, and the REKT trio had originally entered through the door on the west. They now stand at the wall roughly SSW of center.
Most of the exits, they note, are double-wide corridors. The building may have been used as an office complex at some point (supported by the long rows of close-spaced doors visible in the northern hallway), and this may have been used as some sort of extravagant common area. Today, however... well, it's still
a common area, just a less extravagant one apart from size. There's a few old, ratty sofas in the center of the room, surrounding a couple of low tables, and atop one of these tables, the gear of 2-3 REKT members sits - and the suits appear to be spattered and smeared with some kind of alien blood.
The edges of the room also sport a good deal of once-lavish furniture and a number of standing-desk computer terminals. It's cheap tech - old non-holo models. A couple of the machines look like they're busted. There's also a few VR booths in the room as well - not the cutting edge skullplug systems that Tartarus Inc. has, unfortunately, but the normal "standing" version, utilizing gravitational fields and a moving floor to simulate walking and feedback. Two of the three machines are actually in use at the moment, and whatever games the players are enjoying seems to involve a lot of jumping. It looks pretty silly.
At the left edge of the room, three fysar and a bhezian stand idle near the doorway, deep in conversation. One of them seems to be keeping a subtle eye on the REKT inmates. (To be honest, it'd be pretty hard for them not
to be keeping an eye on them, considering fysar have eyes all the fukc over their heads). It's unclear how suspicious they are.
Across the room, on the north wall, a hiltorel lounges on a dirty couch, watching some kind of vid on the screen of a PDA: his face flashes with light.
Over about five meters to Alpha's east, Savoske (the peppy fysar girl) is still chatting up a rather disinterested bhezian, whom she seems positively enamored with. He either doesn't notice this fact, or doesn't care.
This comes to a total of eight alien individuals. Definitely too many to fight at once.
"This place looks like it was an office or somethin' before it became an alien shithole," Buck says quietly to Brom. "Big corpo buildings like these always have an emergency exit. Look for one o' them fire signs, might have a building plan." Then he scowls, noticing the bug near the west door. "Only problem is, one o' them bug-eyed creeps is lookin' at us."
Raising his voice so the suspicious-looking fysar by the western doorway can hear him, Buck calls out, "Hey, there some kind o' vendin' machine 'round here?" When that fails to generate a response, he adds, "You know... a thing you put tin in an' booze an' food comes out? You ain't got that here?"
The fysar hesitates, like he's considering his options, but then waves at Buck. "You follow me, I take you," he says. His voice sounds almost grudging. He says something to the other two aliens beside him, and they step aside for Buck.
Just before he leaves, Buck glances pointedly at Yuuji and Brom, casting his eyes about the room as if to say "this is your chance!" Then, grinning at the fysar, Buck follows along. "Thank fukc someone knows how to treat their guests proper here!"
Yuuji and Brom have no clue what the hell Buck was expecting them to accomplish while he's gone.
"So, what now?" Yuuji whispers.
"I believe it'd be best if we use our current situation to investigate our job options," Brom says, thinking. "It may be some time before we get another chance to do so."
"That's hardly taking advantage of Buck's 'distraction'," Yuuji points out critically.
"I know, but I'm certain the computer terminal here will have something for us to go off of."
Over the course of the next 5-10 minutes, Brom uses the computer to search for information on Opalius, within the Aphenar system.
What he learns next will shock you! He learns this one trick that the FMU doesn't want you to know! He finds out what someone in your local area did to save a lot of money on taxes!
There's a lot of spam in the system, but he eventually finds what he's looking for.
Opalius is, supposedly, a "garden planet", but only by the most technical definitions. The surface gravity is an insane 1.82Gs - a bit uncomfortable even for humans - and the average surface temperature is a scorching 133 F (55 C), with a peak recorded temperature of a mindblowing 214 F (101 C). That's... a bit wild. Yes, azquad are notably acclimated to both high gravity and hot temperatures, so it kind of makes sense for them, but honestly, that's kind of pushing it. A planet hot enough to boil rain? That's pretty insane. Certainly explains why most of the lakes are near the poles.
The known flora are various bug species, and a race of semi-intelligent aliens that azquads have called skizza
, which seem to be what are attacking their colony, which is located nestled in a high-altitude mountain range. The skizzas themselves seem to be formidable creatures that evolved to survive in the planet's harsh environment, and have a harsh tribal (and cannibalistic) existence. Food is scarce, and they seem to largely feed on... well, each other, as well as "plants" that happen to grow near lava vents, that are, again, plants "only by the most technical definition". Opalius seems to have a knack for coming up with things that require you to append that phrase to things. Ballistic weaponry and melee combat seems to be the best bet for fighting skizzas, although plasma seems to work as well. Small-arms lasers seem to be mostly ineffective.
As to the colony itself, there is relatively little info. Brom can find the population count (roughly 3000), and the date of its founding (3139, 13 years ago), but that's about it. They must be making money somehow, but that info isn't available.
But that's all the info there really is. He tries looking up Mebasha, too, but oddly, the search results are suspiciously empty - almost like someone had deleted all references.
Around then, Feb Keshor comes back into the room, muttering something about the same Kinorvan from earlier. He takes a seat on the couch again, pulls out a PDA, and starts looking through it. It's hard to tell from the angle, but it looks like he's looking at pictures of ships and spaceship parts - as though he's doing it for fun, perhaps to calm himself down. He doesn't look very happy - at least, as far as something that looks like a mutated insect-thing with six eyes and sharp teeth actually can.
After leaving the marketplace, Beta travels through a long, wide tunnel towards the palaces.
The tunnel is lit only by flickering lights on the walls; the original lighting seems to have died a very long time ago - maybe a century ago or more. Back then, it might have served as a roadway for the wealthy, but today, it's in a pitiful state of decay. Occasional putrid piles of trash and garbage, smelling of corpses, litter the road on both sides, while unidentifiable alien vermin skitter among the refuse. The pillars supporting the ceiling above are covered in graffiti, as are the walls above the raised walkways on the sides of the road.
Every so often they pass exits on the side - dark stairways that go to unknown depths - and wonder what, if anything, might still be lurking there.
As they travel along, more than once they pass black smears and stains on the road - the dried bloody residue of gang wars fought over turf. They begin to notice scorch marks from fire or explosions, and bullet holes pockmarking the walls.
All of this gets worse the farther they go - and the tunnel is only a quarter of a kilometer long. If this says anything about the state of the palaces themselves, then the term "palaces" is a very deceptive misnomer. This place hardly feels like it could ever
have been owned by anyone wealthy - much less royalty. It's an aesthetic typical of gang-controlled environments... and all that's really missing are the burning barrels. But, on the other hand, perhaps fire isn't such a wise thing to have aboard a space station. The air seems to be low enough on oxygen as it is.
Beta eventually reaches the end of the tunnel, emerging into a taller, grander area, reminiscent of a courtyard or park with a curving roundabout in the center. It's in even worse shape than the road behind them, and largely dark but for floodlights shining down from the highest balconies around them, but it must've looked beautiful in the distant past: The ceiling would have sported lovely light fixtures, glittering and gold. Roads branch outwards in the four cardinal directions, and the buildings lining these roads were adorned with intricate and aesthetically pleasing architecture, tall windows, and luxuriant balconies, replete with lovely hanging vines. A beautiful stone fountain in the center of the courtyard once beckoned lovingly: a human woman sitting side-legged on a little stool, her arm outstretched in a welcoming gesture. Statues ringed the little roundabout - figures of men striking classic poses.
Of course none of this is quite the same anymore. The light fixtures were long since knocked down for scrap. The fountain is dry and lifeless, covered with crude red scrawling in a jagged alien script, and its lady has been destroyed: her head is gone, as is most of her outstretched arm. All that's left of the hanging vines on the balconies are shriveled woody cores - and only those too far out of reach to be easily scavenged for cheap fuel. The statues have collapsed - or, more accurately, been toppled at some point in the distant past, and they lie in huge pieces on and near the roundabout. Even the balconies show signs of fire. Makeshift barricades dot the roadway, facing the entrance to the tunnel - all tall enough to provide some form of cover - but these look newer (if cruder) than everything else, almost as if the current inhabitants are wary of visitors.
Nilo's eyes dart about the "courtyard" area, scanning for a potential ambush - but he sees no one except his allies and the three aliens present. If an ambush is planned, the perpetrators would have to be well-hidden. Hopefully that isn't likely.
But it's at this moment that one of said inhabitants makes himself known. He pops himself out from behind cover on one of the lower balconies, aiming a weapon's barrel straight at the four "mercenaries", and shouts something in an alien language: "Niba larbiin! Iin!
" He's a fysar, much the shopkeeper Kiibar and his grandson Maki. This one, however, looks considerably less friendly. He looks like he's already had a bad day, and doesn't look like he wants to deal with anyone's shit. He's also wearing something that looks like laughably crude body armor.
The four inmates glance at each other. None of them have a clue what "niba larbiin iin
" even means.
Caleb really hopes the alien speaks Standard. He calls out: "Dexin Ezagetxa! We're with the FMU!"
The alien up on the balcony disappears, chattering on a comm channel as he enters the building behind him.
But for what feels like a long time, nobody shows up. If they're actually planning an ambush, they're certainly giving the REKT inmates a lot of time to prepare.
Caleb shifts the crate uncomfortably in his arms, and Frank, noticing, anxiously asks, "Do you need your hands free?" He figures that perhaps Caleb could be better at negotiation.
As before, Caleb says nothing. He doesn't seem to be in the mood for talking to Frank.
But Caleb is saved from having to say anything anyway, because at that moment, a couple fysar show up - seemingly from nowhere - and approach the inmates, walking side by side. They seem... well... stoned. "Hey, you wanta talk, eh?" one asks, while the other just chuckles to himself and stares at his hands, walking in a strange, stilted manner. "Maybe you tell us why you come-a Minas Maniri? FMU? We work somethin' out, get a cut maybe, an' -"
" someone shouts.
The fysars seem particularly startled and turn around swiftly, regarding the approaching bhezian with what looks like apprehension. "Iill kifes kekra kivae afon koni
!" the talky one says, waving his arms about. The other continues to stare lovingly at his hands. "Kika kifes mitito
Minas Maniri manen. Kika enabi kibbiih
"Vaka kika iin
?" the bhezian muses. This particular specimen looks particularly ugly, with bulging eyes and a mottled gray-brown color. He looks stronger than most, and is fairly well-armed and armored. "Vaka vika mivas ifar kosaba
The coherent fysar nods emphatically, while the other one giggles and licks his fingers.
The bhezian seems pleased. "Aran iivasi kokirta jalan akarti hetti kako hasi kebooh, aroko okarto
" He walks closer to the REKT crew, his assault weapon in hand but pointed downwards. In Galactic Standard: "So, you are FMU? You have dealings with the Minas Maniri?" He eyes the crate in Caleb's hands; Caleb senses the taint of greed in his stare. "You've come to make the trade, perhaps?"
Caleb wants to get this over with; these guys put a bad taste in his mouth. He responds to the bhezian's question cautiously. "We've got a deal from the Lavloxeri group. It'll probably have to go through Minas Maniri's leader. Maybe we should talk about the details somewhere more private?"
The name "Lavloxeri" seems to ring a bell; the bhezian seems slightly disappointed, as though he was hoping it was someone else. "Ahh... Yes, it is not good to talk on the streets," he agrees. "Come, I will take you inside." He says something quietly to the two fysar - it's just a bit too quiet to hear - and then motions for the inmates to follow, while the two goons run on ahead. "I'm Ses. The boss will want your names..."
After the hiltorel gangster leaves for medical supplies, Sukava sighs loudly. "Wouldn't this be a great
time to try an escape, huh?
But Vynkor isn't so sure, and examines the "chain" connecting her shackles. It's not a chain at all - just a thickly-woven mesh, same as most manacles in 3152. There's nothing particularly interesting about it. The room is similarly uninteresting, being completely empty. One has to wonder why they didn't just put them in here to begin with. It's brighter, though - there's actually a light fixture embedded in the ceiling. So... at least that's something.
Sukava notices that there's dust on the floor, as well as rectangular dust-free patches. That means that until very recently, there were crates in this room, and they cleared it out today specifically to house the prisoners.
But neither inmate really seems to feel like talking; they're both pretty tired from their ordeal already. They remain on the floor where the guards placed them, silent, eyes closed - listening and waiting.Eventually, they hear the telltale swish-pat of hiltorel footsteps in the hallways outside. It sounds like Irado is finally coming back with his tranquilizers and splints.
Vynkor gestures to Sukava with her fingers, pointing at the door and then sliding her finger across her throat.
Sukava understands: Kill the guard when he enters. "Fine," she mouths silently, and gets to her feet, taking up a position beside the door.
The footsteps stop, and moments later, the door unlocks with a click; Irado pushes his way inside. "Okay, I got the medical supp -"
But his words are cut short as Sukava leaps at him, knocking him into the wall; her fingers close around his throat. Irado panics, gasping, trying to get away, his small, toothy mouth distorted in fear. His tentacles curl around Sukava's legs and trip her, pulling both of them to the floor, but Sukava never loses her grip around his soft, delicate neck.
Vynkor raises herself onto one elbow. "Need any help?"
Struggling with her quarry as he whips its tentacles about, Marina shakes her head. A malicious grin traces a path across her face. "No, I got this." She wraps her legs around Irado's body, forcing herself past his flailing arms to keep a tight hold on his throat. He reaches for the pistol at his waist and tries to fire; Marina lets go with one of her hands and keeps his arm held away from her; the plasma shots leave a few scorch marks on the walls and ceiling before Marina manages to shake the weapon from the squid's grip - by twisting Irado's arm so that he shoots his own tentacles. He tries to shout in pain, but it comes out as a hoarse, strangled whisper.
Vynkor eyes the weapon as it clatters to the floor, skittering to the corner. "Dibs on the plasma," she whispers, crawling over to take it.
It takes a couple minutes, but gradually, Irado succumbs to Marina's superior strength; his body falls limp in her arms.
"He's dead," Marina confirms, dropping the gangster to the ground. "Very therapeutic." Gingerly, she checks the screaming welts on her sides and back from where his tentacles flicked her. Nothing appears to be bleeding, at least.
Plasma pistol already in hand, Vynkor crawls over to Irado's corpse and loots his keyring, a medpack, some medigoo, and a pack of four mystery syringes. The medpack seems to contain bandages, medical tape, and a splint. The medigoo is the same foul-smelling orange stuff from earlier, but it probably can't hurt to bring it along.
Meanwhile, Sukava has managed to find a (well-worn) combat knife on the corpse, and is busy trying to cut the manacles off. It doesn't work; if anything, grinding the knife against the cable only dulls the blade. That's no problem, however: although it takes Vynkor a bit to find the correct keycard, she finally manages to free the both of them in a more conventional fashion.
"Magical," Sukava croons, searching Irado's corpse. "Strangled a fucka, took his stuff. So what now?" Finding a commbox hooked to the guard's belt, she detaches it and holds it up. "Hey, Vynk - you think they'll pay us at the ship for a comm portal to the enemy network?"
But Vynkor's mouth is too full of medical tape to reply, as she's presently trying to affix the splint and bandages.
Sukava grins and continues looting, retrieving a cheaply-made assault rifle (with associated ammo), a grenade, and a pouch containing 73 plat.
Vynkor finishes up with the bandages. She's wasted all her tape, but she did finally get the splint to hold still. It's a good job. "They might not give us anything for the radio, but we should get our shit back first. Bastards stole more than a shitty radio." She heads over to the corpse to loot whatever's left. "Also, our ships are parked in hard vacuum, so we'll need our suits anyway."
"Need to single out another guard, then," Sukava says decidedly. "Get some more weapons. You ready to go?"
"Just a minute." Vynkor removes the squid's belt and puts it on herself, putting the fish strips into one of the pouches Then she tries to shimmy into the (relatively tight) squid vest. She finds the armor to be a bit constricting (especially in the chest area) and it has four
arm holes... but other than all that, it fits, technically. "Okay, I'm ready. Let's do the thing."
Nodding, Sukava motions for Vynk to take the lead, and the two inmates skulk quietly out of their cell. They make an odd pair - clothed only in undergarments, save for Vynkor wearing a belt and hiltorel armor vest, while Sukava's arms are hilariously full of gear: two half-naked kleptomaniac nutjobs. Sukava could probably be storing her stuff, but Vynkor had to hog all the clothing for herself. That makes Vynkor the only one actually armed, holding her plasma pistol in one hand.
Needless to say, this is going to be very interesting.
As Buck and the fysar wander through the complex, Buck takes careful note of his surroundings. In the halls, at least, there do indeed seem to be something akin to security cameras mounted here and there on the ceilings - he hadn't actually noticed them before, possibly because he thought they were old light fixtures. They're little circular plates, dark and glassy. They don't appear to be wired in - they must be wireless, and attached adhesively. Perhaps not entirely wise (much easier to hack), but then, this place was clearly never designed to be a real base for militarized operations.
"Must get borin'," Buck says, "just sittin' around with a gun the whole day. You ever get any action 'round here? We've had three fights since we've come onto this damn station, an' that's just in the 'nicer' hoods! Well... whatever passes for 'nice' here, anyways."
The fysar huffs. "Nah, what? 'Sittin' around'? We captured a whole shipment of black flake from the docks yesterday. Rebirth's trying to get in on the drug business. Can't have that, so we went in and... well, we took it. That's why there's crates everywhere. Is good stuff, too - had some myself. We'll keep a little and sell the rest - pay people off, buy better gear..."
Buck nods, only half-listening. He's begun to notice that a lot of people here seem uneasy, as though they're some kind of racial tension - although obviously that's not the case, as there's bhezians, fysar, and even a few squids hanging around all over - many of them sorting through boxes. But there are also a disturbing number of arguments taking place, and some people seem loath to talk to each other. This isn't a big ol' happy fun-and-games gang. Buck's been in rough enough spots in his lifetime to be able to tell when something's amiss, and something is definitely
amiss here. In fact, he'd go as far as to guess that if the gang hadn't captured the shipment of black flake, the mood might be a lot worse.
"Here. Get your stuff," the fysar says, folding his scrawny arms in front of himself and leaning against the wall, next to an old vending machine.
Vending machines are one of the few things that truly go beyond the confines of culture. No matter where you go, you can always find them. This one is wider than it is tall (and that's saying something); it has glowing lights behind the glass, curving along various "tracks"; the lights slowly cycle through a rainbow of colors and light up the (somewhat depleted) offbrand contents. By modern standards, it's a pretty slummy machine, but that's what you get for going to a backworld shithole.
And - praise fukc - there's beer. Cheap beer, sure, but any beer is good beer. There's chips, too - but unfortunately it's all printed in some alien script - something jagged-looking. Fysar, maybe - looks like something those bugs would write. There's pictures on the bags - one of them shows a skahilla. Buck supposes it's better than nothing, and inserts two two-plat chips into the slot at the top (as per the picture instructions painted next to the slot). Then he taps the glass - first in front of the beer, and then in front of the chips. On the first tap, lights illuminate his selection, as if asking "are you sure?" and on the second, conveyors carry it to the slot at the bottom. In moments, he's holding his beer and chips.
The fysar smiles in faint approval at Buck's choice. "You done?"
Buck nods. "I ain't orderin' no dessert from this thing, so I'd say so."
As the two begin to head back, Buck puts the bag of chips under his arm and cracks open the beer, taking a good mouthful. It's a tall can, and while not the best he's ever had, it certainly beats drinking out of beakers in the research lab back on the Nemesis. Doesn't beat the Arachrine ale, though. "Rebirth," he muses. "That's the squids from the planet below, right? The ones tryin' to pretend they're just honest folk, scrapin' by?"
The fysar makes a hissing sound. "Kap'shik
squids think we can 'make peace' with United Galactic and the rest of the human merva
. Claim they want to 'go back to their roots' or some shit. They talk pretty, but you ask me, they want power. They think getting UG on their side'll get 'em that power."
Buck chuckles. "Sounds 'bout right. The ones that act nice an' innocent have the most shit they're tryin' to hide."
"Every time," the fysar agrees.
"There was this one feller I knew - ran a charity, gave medical supplies to hospitals for free," Buck says, taking another sip. "Everyone called him a hero an' good citizen of the community. I remember that smug bastard, givin' rousin' speeches 'bout the power o' good an' charity an' all." He chuckles again. "What most folks didn't know is that it was all just a ploy. Used those supplies to smuggle in smack - hell, I think it might have been Black Flake, too. Used some kind o' weird mix o' chemicals, n' dissolved the stuff in it. Nobody at customs suspected anythin', n' once the stuff reached the planet, they'd do some fancy science crap to evaporate it, n' voila - the stuff's there, n' one one's the wiser. It was actually pretty smart - until some idiot mixed the crates up, n' the product ended up bein' given to actual hospitals. As you think, that ended that gig."
"Can't trust nobody that calls 'emselves an altruist," the bug mutters.
Buck agrees. "I swear, after meetin' all the people I did, I trust an honest thief much more than some fancy speakin' do-gooder any day o' the week."
"Same. But we're back," Buck's new "friend" says, pointing a spindly arm towards the doorway. "After you."
Back with the rest of his group, Brom, Buck, and Yuuji exchange the information they've uncovered, and Buck says he's going to try something.
Cautiously, Buck turns towards the wall while Brom and Yuuji stand behind him (blocking anyone's view of him), and uses his PDA to hack into those on the table with the REKT gear, one after the next. The hacks are clean, neat, and silent - textbook perfection. Buck's able to check to see the recent messages (again, oddly, one blank message from Buck's PDA each), and tell who they belong to: Sukava and Vynkor. Just to be safe, he wipes their drives clean. Without the TartarusOS, they're basically expensive paperweights now. In case they end up having to leave all of it behind, at least now nobody will learn anything.
Sukava and Vynkor tiptoe through the hallways (barefoot, of course), trying to find a lone guard. There's not much in the way of patrols down here, but on occasion they do find themselves having to double back through the labyrinthine corridors to avoid detection by the pairs of guards roaming the halls - either on patrol or just wandering (it's hard to tell - the guards seem chatty). They're both fairly stealthy, and everything down here is poorly-lit - it's easy to sneak about.
Getting out of here will be a different matter entirely, though.
Gradually, working their way through the corridors, Sukava and Vynkor get a bit closer to what feels like civilized territory - the hallways are a bit wider here, and much longer instead of winding around.
But they never find a solitary guard roaming about, and they still have no idea how to leave.
Eventually, Vynkor pulls Sukava into a shadowed alcove off the side of one of the main hallways. "I don't think we're going to get out of here just wandering around," she whispers, "and all the guards are in pairs. This 'get more weapons' plan isn't working."
Sukava snorts, "You have any better ideas?" She shifts her assorted goods cautiously in her arms, trying to keep from dropping anything. The risk of accidentally dropping something is actually fairly high, with all the shit she's carrying. She's actually kind of wondering why Vynkor took all the clothes, leaving her without any place to store anything. If she dropped anything by accident, it would alert everyone in the area to their position immediately.
Beta follows the bhezian, "Ses", and gives him their names - or, rather, gives him their aliases. Although they are directly unaware, it's an exceedingly good thing that they thought up those aliases: Ses actually knew the names "Saoirse", "Caleb", and especially the notorious "Frank the Janitor", alleged to have massacred entire stations doing what he apparently calls "taking out the trash". Granted, Ses is some ways down the grapevine, but word travels fast.
Fully unaware of their true identities, Ses leads the group back behind one of the fallen statues, where the inmates discover a tunnel, bored at an angle directly past the pretty tiled plates of the roundabout's sidewalk. Apparently there are holes like this all over the courtyard; it would be an excellent spot to ambush someone. Beta is fairly pleased to not have been on the receiving end of such an ambush - not that such an ambush is likely. You'd have to be pretty stupid to let yourself get caught in an ambush like that, after all.
Beneath the courtyard, a maze of tunnels stretches through the rock - down, down, down. The walls are marked at intervals with gang symbols and red spray-painted arrows, all pointing back the way they came. Ses doesn't seem to be paying much attention to these; he seems to know the tunnels by heart, and leads the inmates through, one corridor at a time, until eventually the tunnel breaks into the side of a building - or a basement, perhaps, given how deep they are. And it's certainly pretty deep in the asteroid, although the inmates are uncertain by this point exactly how far they've come, thanks to the winding paths.
Following along behind Ses, the group walks through one more hallway and turns the corner, and finally Ses seems to have reached his destination. It's a fairly small room, perhaps only a few meters across, and contains a couple tables and a number of crates.
The inmates notices that one of the crates, atop a table, is open; it appears to be filled with dusty soot-colored flakes of something that looks vaguely like flat gravel, but glossy and black. A fysar is standing beside the crate, giggling as he struggles to tip the heavy box onto its side, perhaps hoping to spill the contents onto the tabletop. But Ses rebukes him sharply. "Hey, stop that! Ikova!
What are you trying to do? You'll get the dust everywhere in here! Ishana bira kronor hikri!
We would all be kthite
The fysar stops, but giggles again, mumbling something about how that might not be such a bad thing.
Caleb is a bit on edge - he's dealt with a lot of drug addicts in his time in the military, and doesn't particularly want to have to again. How the hell did we end up in this situation again?
he asks himself, but he doesn't have an answer.
Ses laughs at the fysar's mumbling, not seeming to disagree, but indicates that the boss might not see things the same way they do. Then he turns to the "FMU mercenaries", looking them over. "All right, I'll need any weapons you have before I send you in. You can put them on that other table over in the back corner, and -" Then he stops short; a slight mechanical whirring sound emanates from within the crate Cole carries. Ses's interest seems to be piqued even further by this; he tilts his head to the side and examines it intently. "So that's not
drugs... what's in the crate, then?"
Lifting the box slightly to emphasize it, Caleb says, "There's a small combat robot in there - a gift from the FMU to help smooth things along here. We'll show your boss how to use it."
The young bhezian's eyes widen slightly. "Combat robot? May I see?" He seems excited and eager - growing up in a dirty shithole like this, the kid probably hasn't seen anything like it before in his life.
After weighing the pros and cons for a moment, Caleb decides that showing Ses the bot might be an easy avenue into his good graces - especially if he's already a little high. "I guess it couldn't hurt. Just a quick look, though." Holding the crate tightly, Cole pries off the lid and lifts it a little, letting Ses take a peek.
Ses's face lights up, and he makes a rapturous, breathy sound as he gazes at it. "Selitixo seznardis
," he whispers. "So cool. That's some good tech."
Behind Cole, the infamous Frank the Janitor makes an attempt to play his syringes off as drugs. Ironically, despite it being the infamous Frank the Janitor, Ses waves him off with a gesture that clearly means "yeah, yeah, whatever, it's cool" and keeps staring at the spiderbot, until Cole slowly lowers the lid.
"No demonstrations," Caleb says firmly. "It needs to be in top shape for your boss."
Ses is positively glowing. ...Metaphorically, of course. He's probably in his mid teens (relative to human mental maturity) and the spiderbot is like something from another galaxy to him. His eyes still lingering on the crate, he pulls a radio from his waist and speaks into it. Horii
, Kinorvan, kralara minah vikiri vasa kikabon mookakna
? Okna vavik liika safika
?" After a few moments, the inmates hear a voice - it sounds fysarian - that says something short, seemingly to the point. Ses acknowledges and turns to the "FMU mercs" as he puts the radio back. "Kinorvan will talk to you. He wants to see you immediately. And me, too," he finishes, heading towards a doorway on the right. "Just come this way, I'll give the guards a heads-up. Turn left, and then take the first door on your left. Go right through to the end."
And just like that, Ses is gone. The inmates are left alone in the little room except for Mr. Stratosphere over there in the corner, still internally debating the pros and cons of getting so high he suffers a mild case of braindeath.
Before they leave the room, they debate on what they should leave on the table, and what weapons they should keep. Caleb is a very strong proponent for leaving all weaponry, while Saoirse points out that if you weigh best-case vs worse-case scenarios, it's safer to take weapons along, just in case.
Eventually they reach a sort of compromise: everyone will leave at least one item. Frank, grimacing, leaves behind his crossbow and sword, but keeps the crossbow's syringe-bolts (that actually look pretty much like regular bolts). Caleb leaves behind his plasma rifle, gauss shotgun, and electrorifle, but keeps his laser pistol concealed in a pouch at his waist. Saoirse reluctantly leaves her battlestaff, but keeps her PSI pack, and Nilo declines to leave anything at all.
"At least we won't be completely unarmed," Frank whispers. "And if they want drugs, these bolts of mine will knock them down like nothing they've ever had before."
"A world such as this makes many otherwise unsavory things very appealing, Samuel," Nilo says sagely. "Do not be so hasty to judge them."
The four inmates exit the little room through the doorway on the east - the one that Ses walked through - into a larger hallway that curves up a flight of stairs to the left, and into a long, dark corridor, sparsely lit and lined with boxes and crates.
"The first d-door on our left," Saoirse reminds them; it's not long before they reach said door, entering a very tall chamber.
As they take their first steps into the room, a floodlight perched on a next-floor platform nearby swivels towards them, nearly blinding them. It's a few seconds before their eyes can adjust to the glare - and they immediately think they see some kind of alien octopus floating near some scuffed crates on the left side of the room. A closer look reveals it's simply graffiti on a wall. There seems to be a lot of graffiti covering the walls of this place, actually. It may once have been some kind of storage or maintenance area, but it's unclear what it's used for at this point, other than a nice place to stick boxes they don't have room for elsewhere.
"What's with the light? It's so bright," Frank complains, trying to shield his eyes.
Nilo motions low for them to keep moving. "It's nothing. They're just trying to spook us."
"Yeah," Caleb agrees quietly, following after Nilo. "It's an aggressive gang tactic. They put us on edge so they get the upper hand in negotiations. So... where am I taking this crate?"
"There's a door at the far end," Saoirse says, indicating a doorway at the far end of the chamber.
Silently, the inmates walk through the chamber, noting as they go the pipes and tanks over on their right, and the metal walkway one story up spanning the width of the room. A single fysar walks quietly across, weapon in hand, watching the inmates closely as they pass below.
After traversing a short, red-lit hallway, the inmates enter the final chamber: a misshapen room roughly 10 meters across, dimly lit with red-painted wall lights, two hovering hiltorel podlights, and a large holocomputer through a doorway at the rear. It's densely cluttered with tables, chairs, and crates - some crates open, others not - and the air boasts a faint scent of black flake. In fact, at more than one of the tables, various gangsters seem to be sorting through the flake and checking its quality - the sort of activities one might do if it had only recently arrived. There's a total of about six individuals in the room, not counting Ses and (presumably) Kinorvan, and one of them is currently engaged in a VR session over in the corner - not the high-tech Tartarus variety, but the more standard goggles-and-physical-feedback, walking-in-place type. He seems to be having a good time.
The inmates stand just inside the door, wondering what they're supposed to do, when Kinorvan notices them and steps forward. "Welcome, brothers from Lavloxeri. I am Kinorvan, leader of the Minas Maniri." He smiles broadly, revealing a haphazard mouthful of sharp teeth that would horrify a human dentist. He's pretty tall for a fysar, and in stronger/bulkier than any of the others Beta has yet encountered. "Ses indicated you're here to make a trade, yes? Sit down," Kinorvan offers, stepping back and gesturing at a setpiece coffee table/sofa/armchair ensemble. "Put the crate on the table, let's have a look. What is it you came for?"
The inmates hesitate for a moment. If they sit down, and this escalates to combat, they'll be easier targets before they can get to their feet. On the other hand, refusing could stir up some apprehension.