Mon Jul 08, 2019 3:11 pm
After Squigg leaves, Buck shrugs and continues eating his food. It's not much more than a snack, but it's the best food he's had in a long time - and that's an understatement. Between mouthfuls, he asks, "Did that asshole really drag us here just to waste our time?" He pauses and shovels some more of the cheese into his mouth, then continues with a note of sarcasm, "Talkin' bout the 'power of friendship' and tryin' to get us to be his fetchin' boys? If he wants this tin taken somewhere, he knows where he can stuff it!"
Brom agrees with this sentiment. "Yes, this sort of work is beneath us - beneath me! I'm a marksman, not an errand boy!"
"Deliverin' chump change, like I ain't got nothin' better to do," Buck mutters, taking a ravenous bite of skahilla. A thought occurs, and he narrows his eyes suspiciously: "Squigg! ...Don't that remind you of somethin'? Sounds an awful lot like 'squid' if you ask me."
Ignoring this last, Brom sighs. "Were we to take his cash without completing the job, he could report us to the authorities for having stolen his money. Let's get this menial task out of the way, and then we can go off and find ourselves a real job."
At that moment, the bar door opens; loud sounds of fighting emanate - shouts and gunshots - before Ishmael and Yuuji duck frantically back inside, and the doors close. Buck cranes his neck around to look. Upon seeing the pair, he says in annoyance, "The hell did they do now? I swear, with squadmates like these, we dun' need enemies to be in danger!"
But Yuuji and Ishmael don't hear him; they're too busy collecting themselves. They maneuver to their previous table, Yuuji trying to calm his nerves. His hands are shaking, but he tries to make it less noticeable. That was a lot closer of a call than he's comfortable with.
"By the Lord's grace, those people are insane," Ishmael says disapprovingly as he takes a seat. "What do we do now, Yuuji?"
"Well, first off," Yuuji begins, in a voice louder than he'd intended. He quiets himself, takes a breath, and starts over. "First off, we won't go out there until the explosions and screams die down. Our two genius colleagues were working on securing us a proper job with some 'Squigg' guy. As he's left now, we could check on Killshot and..." he snorts, "Terminator, and see how much they fucked it up."
Ishmael acknowledges this calmly. "That's reasonable. However, we've also been granted knowledge of that kraakweed shipment out there. I wonder if there is a way to use it to our advantage."
This suggestion does not sit well with Yuuji. "We could maybe gain some favors with the peacekeepers, but they'd mess us up as well. The stuff itself would probably get us more trouble than it's worth."
"The pull of hidden treasure is hard to resist, though," Ishmael sighs, a bit reluctant to let it slip from his fingers. "But aye, let us see what Buck and Broom got themselves into.
And so, Ishmael and Yuuji get up from their table and head over to the other two REKT members, who are right in the middle of an intense conversation, discussing how Ishmael seems to be incapable of staying out of trouble.
"Though it pains me to say this, perhaps we should let them tag along," Killshot is saying reluctantly, in a hushed voice.
"I ain't no babysitter," Terminator grumbles.
"Noodleboy clearly has little-to-no concept of stealth. I could probably teach him if he'd listen."
Terminator sighs, rubbing his chin. "If I'm goin' to have to go on missions with Mr. Noodle, might as well teach him to be less annoying. The other guy, though, he's - Shhh, here they come," he hisses, motioning from Killshot to cut the chatter.
"Hey guys," Yuuji says in a lighthearted tone. "Did you manage to scare Squigg away and let us almost get killed within earshot?"
The conversation has hardly started, and it's already too much for Terminator. He glowers, and states in an animated (if subdued) voice: "We know you for a total o' five minutes, n' you've done nothin' but piss my contact off, piss Conley off, piss me off, n' apparently piss some alien off outside enough that they want you dead! Seriously now - you've some kind o' proof you're on our side?"
Killshot interrupts. "You'll have to excuse Bill," he apologizes. "He's still angered over certain previous interactions, and I can't really blame him. We've had a falling out, but I for one am willing to overlook that to insure the safety of my allies."
Without saying a word, Yuuji pulls out his PDA, navigates to his User ID file, and holds it over for Terminator to check it. It's signed by the Tartarus and everything. Terminator peers close, looking at it almost blankly, and finally waves it away hastily with a hiss. "A'ight, you still ain't off the hook for pissin' my contact off, though. Next time, be careful with that clapper o' yers, n' there dun' need to be no problems."
Ishmael and Yuuji take a seat across the table, and Killshot breaks the awkward silence, explaining the job that Squigg gave them. "Our contact, being the competent fellow that he is, has tasked us with delivering a sum of money to pay off a debt. This is a precursory task designed to ensure that we can be trusted. Standard procedure for this line of work," he adds quickly. "After that, we will be provided a mission that pays hi-plat, thus completing our original goal."
Nodding, Ishmael says, "All right, we'll follow you for a bit. With the fighting outside, it is better to stick together regardless of the past grievances."
On hearing about the fighting, Terminator gives a drawn-out sigh, staring dejectedly into his empty glass. Some more of that Arachrine ale would not be amiss right now. "All right, how many and who?"
"Two gangs of what used to be four, and five gangsters," Yuuji details carefully. "They don't like each other. There's also a squad of peacekeepers. Dunno how many of those there were. A couple o' thugs were already mushed by the time we got back in here, and judging by the noises, there's more mush now."
"Magnificent," Killshot says flatly, getting up from his seat. "I'll lead you to safety, then. Try not to do anything that might attract attention. In fact, try your best to avoid being seen at all." Saying this, he scoops Squigg's money off the table and puts it safely away.
And with that - everyone files out of the bar - except Ishmael. He's decided to stick around and wait to see if the coast is clear, and in the meantime, he tries to read Mebasha's mind. This is actually a success - mostly. Mebasha's thoughts are calm as he mentally sorts through his options. From reading his mind, you couldn't even tell that he was even fighting anymore - although he clearly is, given the noise in the alley. He does not seem convinced that the peacekeepers are actually peacekeepers, and seems to be more interested in cleaning up the mess and getting after his former "colleague" than anything else - although he's keeping a mental image of Yuuji and Ishmael in his mind for if they meet again.
And that's when Ishmael hears it. "I sense you," a voice rumbles. The source is impossible to locate; Ishmael hastily withdraws his psi probing from Mebasha's mind, thinking it might be Mebasha, but no, the thoughts continue: "Know now that you are marked."
Outside in the hallway, Killshot and Terminator take the lead, with Yuuji clustered close behind in their shadows. The alley is spattered with blood and scorchmarks, and there are no less than four dead aliens lying nearby - as well as a mighty hulk of a man, seemingly delirious. He rocks back and forth in his underwear, drooling and cooing to himself. He's covered in gunshot wounds - both plasma and bullet - but doesn't seem to care, or even notice. The group collectively decides not to mess with him, and try to take a wide path around him as they turn right, hoping to avoid the conflict between the thugs and the peacekeepers.
Unfortunately, Terminator is terrible at being stealthy, and the surviving thugs ringing Mebasha (a nasty four-armed bipedal lizardlike creature) notice him (and by extension, the rest of the group) almost immediately. Shouts break out; they seem to debate whether to shoot at the little group - as they've almost finished eliminating the peacekeepers, who are beginning to retreat.
"We're just mercenaries!" Killshot calls out loudly. "We don't want to be part of your fight!"
Billy the Butcher chimes in behind him with a loud hiccup, swaying and struggling to keep his balance. "We're just here to drink the sights! Er, sight the drinks! ...Or something," he calls out in as drunk a manner as possible. This is of course an act. (Well... mostly.)
Mebasha seems to be swayed, not recognizing the loud, hammy humans, and redirects his goons to refocus fire on the peacekeepers, telling them the three mercs are of no consequence.
Immediately, Killshot motions to his allies to rush to the opposite end of the hallway - away from the central hub. Yuuji is fastest, and soon ends up taking the lead himself, getting to the junction at the end of the hallway first, while Terminator lags behind, panting and trying to keep up. He looks back and sees Mebasha's group move closer to the entrance of the Last Ponderance. It was a narrow escape.
Shortly after Yuuji reaches the corner, he sees none other than Kwari Kiikro, the azquad, frantically trying to hotwire a locked door to open. Loose wires dangle freely from the wall. He glances up on seeing the inmate approach, and recognizes him immediately. "You," he mutters, following it up with a string of curses in some other language. "You caused this," he growls, pulling his blaster from its holster.
Yuuji reaches for his sword, but he isn't fast enough.
Just as Kwari is about to fire, Terminator and Killshot round the corner behind their teammate. Kwari is taken aback and seems to realize quickly that he's outnumbered and (grudgingly) lowers his weapon, turning back to the door. Terminator has some experience with this sort of thing and can tell the guy has some skill - but not as much as he thinks he does. He offers no advice, though, and the trio continues down the dim, dirty corridor at a jog, hoping to eventually, somehow, make their way downtown.
It's at this moment that the group realizes... Ishmael is missing.
"This went unexpectedly fast," Frank mutters at Almina, who is waiting expectantly for them to surrender their weapons to the guards. "Do they know where we're from?"
She pauses and shakes her head. "No, they just know you're with me," she says quietly. "It's not their business."
Caleb frowns. He doesn't much like the idea of relinquishing his weapons. "You sure we can't keep something? I'm not very comfortable giving up all of my guns. My electrorifle is nonlethal," he offers hopefully.
Almina hesitates, glancing over the weapon. Finally, she says, "Well... Okay... you can keep that if you really need to, but you have to understand that it's considered a sign of mistrust and disrespect. My family will probably be a little more hostile to you, but I'll try to speak up where I can to make sure they know it's non-lethal. Just... make sure you don't have it out, okay?" She seems uncomfortable with this arrangement, but she's willing to let it go.
This response makes Frank even more uncomfortable. "Are you sure this is safe for... us, and also for you?"
"I mean, it's as safe as it could be," she offers with a nervous smile. "My uncle wouldn't hurt you without a good reason, unless something has changed." This response does not make Frank feel any better about his chances of getting out of this without taking a dirt nap. This only makes the three inmates even more uncomfortable with giving up their weapons.
The guards nearby fortunately seem patient enough, waiting calmly for the weapons to be relinquished - even despite the continued breaches of etiquette, which Saoirse continues making. She shuts off and unplugs her PSI pack, still not quite used to the feeling of the jacks. She adds, "If this is all a trap... I'll be cross from the afterlife, or something."
Almina frowns, seeming mildly irritated, and takes the gear, passing it to a guard. Then Saoirse hands over her battlestaff as well.
Frank is doing the same with his crossbow and sword, and although he acts calm and collected, someone with a keen eye could tell he seems quite alarmed. "I'll need that back later," he says anxiously to a guard, as the hiltorel gentleman takes the sword delicately. The man seems taken aback by its appearance, realizing it's of hiltorel make, and casts a curious eye in Frank's direction... but ultimately says nothing. He takes the bundle of weapons through a door over to the side as Saoirse makes a halting attempt to explain that her bagpipes are not, in fact, some form of particularly exotic weaponry. Even despite having lots of "barrels" waving all over the place. Fortunately, the guards seem to accept it without a demonstration, and there is no further trouble. In fact, they don't even mention the rocket boots.
Caleb, on the other hand, is having a lot of trouble giving up the rest of his gear. His plasma rifle, laser pistol, and gauss shotgun he gives up without hesitation, but he's not entirely keen on parting with his electrorifle. "Are you sure it's safe?" he finally asks Almina, electrorifle cradled in hand. "I mean, if you really don't think we'll be harmed, and it'd make that bad an impression...." His words trail off.
Almina, seeming strained, is giving him a piercing glare. "Yes, it's safe," the girl says flatly. "I invited you. That makes you guests." She seems quite fed up with the constant "are you sure he's not going to shoot us" questions, and her patience is beginning to wear a little thin. Caleb notices this at least, and reluctantly gives up his last weapon to a guard, who takes it and stores it safely in the side room with the others.
The inmates say it's everything, but nevertheless, a couple guards come over and give them a brisk, non-invasive pat-down, as though checking to make sure they don't have any pistols or daggers hidden anywhere. When they finish, they give each other and Almina a nod. She nods back in understanding, and waves for the inmates to follow with her two left hands. "Come," she orders, and Fireteam Beta follows her through a door at the far end of the room.
The hallways through Big Daneelo's building seem clean, if sparsely decorated. It's a lot different from the rest of the station. It feels better-kept - but still quite old. In fact, it feels older and more "worn" than most other places they've been... even despite being so well maintained. As they continue on, staring at the back of Almina's fluttering lavender shirt, the inmates notice that she seems to stand a little shorter here - almost as though she's suddenly less confident. When they pass various hiltorel and plodii individuals in the hallway, Almina ducks her head slightly in respectful greeting. Saoirse doesn't quite catch on, but Caleb and Frank start imitating Almina's gestures.
"So, when was it that you saw him last?" Frank finally whispers, hoping it sounds like he's making small talk.
Almina looks back over her shoulder. She's brightened back up some, and gives him a pleasant smile. "Oh, not that long ago," she says lightly. "Somewhere close to a week, but not more than that. Danee is always really busy. Oh - his study is coming up now, on the right." She proceeds to lead the inmates down yet another hallway.
Near the end of this corridor, two guards stand watch, decked out in very expensive gear. "Almina," one of them says in recognition. The girl speaks to him briefly, and he nods, tapping a series of buttons on his wrist. The door behind him slides to the side. Almina glances back and motions for the inmates to follow, and they do so. As they pass the guards, they give the trio a very stern glare - almost hostile. The inmates, for their part, choose to pretend it didn't happen.
By Fuhodo standards, Big Daneelo's study is lovely. Well-designed furniture, numerous statues, and pleasant lighting sets an elegant mood. Extravagant pieces of artwork adorn the walls - clearly, Big Daneelo is something of an art collector. He seems to be fairly technological as well, judging by the large multi-screen computer display that sits to one side of his wide, semicircular desk, which itself is elevated from the lower area of the floor (where the inmates now stand) by a gentle slope. And of course, the man himself is seated in his chair - a particularly wide, "round" plodus, dressed in formal attire. Of course, this may only be the second plodus the inmates have really taken the time to examine in-person, so they may not have much to judge by.
A gray-skinned alien - a bhezian - stands directly to the right of Big Daneelo's desk, facing the door, but he does not speak. Big Daneelo is busy conversing with another alien, who happens to be standing directly in front of his desk. Whatever the proceedings may be related to, they seem tense. Big Daneelo has a very commanding air when he speaks - one that almost demands respect. The person standing in front of it seems to be giving it - reluctantly, however; almost out of fear.
Before the inmates have time to make fools out of themselves, Almina pulls them abruptly to the right and has them sit down on a bench beside her. It's comfortable, at least, but when the inmates try to ask questions, she hisses at them softly in warning and puts a finger to her lips. Thus, the inmates (and Almina) wait silently for the other alien's audience to end. It finally does, and he exits the room without trouble.
"Almina," the bhezian calls out in a disinterested monotone.
As she gets to her feet, Almina motions very strongly for the inmates to stay put, and even gives them a glare to make sure they get the message. They certainly do.
"'Mina!" Big Daneelo greets her warmly, stepping back from the desk. Almina bypasses the bhezian on the side and gives her uncle a hug. After they finish, Big Daneelo says, "'Mina, calon orase soposar lelesa melepas. Pasa mablit memo polevo?" It's not hiltorel, but some other language. Almina responds in kind, and the inmates sit awkwardly and watch the whole affair as the two proceed through a conversation. Big Daneelo and his niece act almost as though they've forgotten anyone else is in the room. The pair chatter on for a number of minutes, and then, just as the inmates are starting to feel a bit anxious, Almina turns around and gestures at them. Big Daneelo cranes his "neck" slightly, as though to get a better view, and then turns back to Almina. He says something that sounds quite stern. She replies, and they talk back and forth for a moment. The air of warmness and joviality has completely vanished, and the inmates are beginning to fidget nervously. This isn't helped when Big Daneelo reaches over and presses a button on his desk with one of his slender arms, saying something over a comm channel. He talks to Almina again, briefly, and she waves them up to his desk.
The fireteam obediently rises and walks forward in a group, stopping where they had seen the alien with the previous audience stand. It seems the thing to do.
Big Daneelo examines them for a moment, stepping cautiously, deliberately, back into the semicircle of his desk. Finally, at length, he speaks... in a language they aren't familiar with. The inmates glance at each other - is he not aware that they don't speak anything other than Galactic? They're just about to mention it when the bhezian standing beside the desk begins translating. This seems to be his purpose. "Welcome to my home," he translates. "My niece says she found you in the northside warehouse district - a dangerous place to be, especially in your shoes. You are part of the crew of the Tartarus ship that crashed on our planet Nanyej, no? I'm sure you have questions... and I do as well."
The inmates stand quietly for a moment, glancing at each other. A dozen questions rush through their minds - the foremost of which is whether it was okay to speak. With a good deal of hesitation, Frank decides to test this. He begins with a deep bow, praying that it's the appropriate thing to do, and then speaks. "We are grateful that you receive us like this." The bhezian begins translating without hesitation.
Caleb jumps in. "I'm Caleb, this is Frank, and this," he points, "is Saoirse."
Frank nods, trying to gauge Big Daneelo's expression. Unfortunately, the featherlike fronds on his wide face do little to reveal his thoughts. "Our ship, the Nemesis lifted off the planet's surface not long after the crash. We don't know much about the crash. Actually, we...," he says hesitantly. Is it okay to mention cryotech? Probably best not to. "We were... put under... at the time that it happened. We only woke up during the last hours before... leaving the planet." Probably best not to mention Huhoba either. "The Nemesis is currently docked for resupply and repairs. We were tasked with -"
Big Daneelo interrupts with a rumble, waving one of his arms to silence them. He looks displeased. The bhezian translates. "I know all this. You are wasting my time. I know about the cryotech, and I know about Huhoba Qitsit. I am not pleased with your actions. You've disrupted the political balance on my station."
Taking advantage of Big Daneelo's short silence, Caleb speaks. "We knew the situation on-station was... tense, to say the least, but we never had any hard info on what was going on."
The big plodus looks insulted by the interruption, but as Caleb's words are translated to him, his expression grows... well, slightly less stern. "I have more pressing business waiting on this, so I'll be blunt. The balance has always been delicate. The station is kept afloat by a combination of gas mining from the inner giants and by virtue of being a mercenary and pirate hub. The miners and traders side with Rebirth, and an equal number side with the Fuhodo Mercenary Union, an offshoot of the Outer World League. If the scales tip one way or the other, a bloody civil war will start. Both sides want it. It means they control the station themselves, and exploit what's left of the economy. I'm aware you know all of this already, but it bears repeating because -" and here there's a pause. "Because for some reason you thought it would be a good idea to disrupt that balance."
The inmates look at each other, not understanding what Big Daneelo means. Finally, Frank says, "I'm not sure how our actions could really impact things... It sounds like the balance was already skewed beforehand."
"It was not," comes the sharp denial. "I have been very careful to see to that. The arrival of the Nemesis united the independents against you. Your advanced squads started firefights in the hangar, as I've already learned from another of you, and then you - your little group - permitted one of your own to be captured and killed by the Fuhodo Mercenary Union. They will make an example out of him, and the independents will join their side. All my work will be for nothing. You've started a civil war."
As these words sink in, it slowly dawns on the surviving trio that if what he's saying is true... Bob is dead.
Back in Vynkor and Sukava's neck of the woods, the fysar continues repeating his untranslatable phrase.
"Galactic standard, please!" Vynkor calls out. She hopes this will make it obvious that she can't speak his language.
The fysar on the ledge hesitates for a moment, and then shouts once more, "Niba larbiin! Iin!" This time, however, he adds a sentence in what sounds like a different language: "Santsereng kaqomil! Saka!" Clearly, while he gets that they don't speak his language, he doesn't speak Galactic either.
Sukava is getting impatient though. She starts shouting, taking great pains to space and enunciate her words. "WE," she taps her chest, "WORK THERE," she points at the main entrance, "YOU TOASTED WORM!" She takes a step forwards towards the entrance; this causes the Fysar to tense up. He waves his gun at her meaningfully, shouting in a stream of angry-shouting chatter. He waves his gun again, points it back at Sukava, and then bares his teeth and yells wordlessly. He seems to be trying to get something across, but... he's not doing a very good job of it.
Then again, neither is Sukava. In a quiet aside, she says, "Vynk, what's the frog saying?"
Vynkor shrugs. "Can't understand a word. But I have an idea. You have that plasma ball thing, right? Fysar have sensitive eyes. If you blind him with your fireballs, we -"
But it becomes abundantly clear that Sukava stopped paying attention after the first sentence. "Let's go, Vynk!" she calls out, and grabs Vynkor by the arm, dragging her backwards as she walks towards the far exit of the courtyard.
"Okay, this works too," Vynkor says in worried resignation.
Together, the pair "casually" strolls across the courtyard, ignoring the Fysar's antics. I mean, they got this far - why stop now?
But the alien on the balcony doesn't like this in the slightest. In fact, he starts shouting louder, and finally fires a burst of bullets at the ground in front of them. They ricochet off the metallic surface with a familiar sound... that Sukava and Vynkor don't even hear because they're ducking into cover. The monkey-bug-thing up on the balcony is now screeching angrily like a monkey-bug-thing, and he (or she) fires a couple rounds after them for good measure - perhaps not intended to hit, but more as a warning.
Crouched behind the midsection of a fallen statue, Sukava takes out her CRISP and starts warming it up.
Vynkor reflects on how this is exactly the outcome she expected. "I liked my plan better," she grumbles.
"If you don't kill it yourself, I'll boost up there and turn him into frog salad," Sukava says reassuringly.
Her companion pulls out her plasma rifle. "I don't know if you've ever even met a Fysar, but, uh, watch out for the biting." With this said, Vynk fires a few salvos at the Fysar, who stops shouting and immediately takes cover out of view. Every single shot misses.
Sukava smirks at this, and leaps to her feet, boosting up to the balcony with her CRISP whirling - two bright orange fireballs spin rapidly about her in a delicate orbital pattern. It looks mesmerizing - but Vynkor isn't really looking at the display. Rather, she's looking at the various other Fysar heads that have started popping up like gophers all around the courtyard. Further inspection reveals that they are both angry, and armed. But Sukava isn't paying any attention to this. Rather, she's fully focused on the "frog". On seeing that the guy has ducked into cover, she pulls out her electron sword instead. It flickers brilliantly in the dim lighting.
However, upon arriving, she finds that her quarry has completely vanished - possibly through a nearby doorway. Grumbling, very unhappy, and irritated, Sukava flies back down to Vynkor and lands gently on her feet. She's about to speak, but Vynkor silences her and gestures around them. It's at this point that Sukava finally see the - how many, nine? Eleven? Possibly as many as fourteen new fysar enemies have popped up, and they look very unhappy.
Sukava's sword crackles with energy. If it could speak, it might say something like, "Well now, I have to admit. This isn't entirely an unexpected turn of events. What else would you expect if you wandered into gang territory, and then tried to pick a fight with a gang member - and on their home turf, no less? This is less-than-excellent news for the two of you, seeing as you'll both likely die at this point, but fortunately it won't mean much for me. I'll simply find a new owner to fight for and things will be just fine and dandy. If I'm lucky, the next one might have a little more sentience than the two of you seem to possess!" But unfortunately, the sword does not possess sentience, so it can do little more than crackle in quiet anticipation.