NATION

PASSWORD

undercities - a cyberpunk thread - ft/pmt (private)

For all of your non-Nationstates related roleplaying needs!
User avatar
Forest State
Senator
 
Posts: 4330
Founded: Aug 23, 2016
Capitalist Paradise

undercities - a cyberpunk thread - ft/pmt (private)

Postby Forest State » Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:18 am

Image



It’s 2097, and this isn’t the world that you’re used to… The integrated financial systems of the modern world have led even some of the harshest rivals towards banding together into international superstates, pooling their resources to fund a space race which has put mankind into the stars and unlocked new wealth back home. Wars are either fought by smaller regional groups representing local interests, or at a large scale, pitting many nations against many nations. And those in control of the profits seem to control everything - megacorporations, shadow factions, and others fight each other openly for a number of things, all of them linked to the control of the society below. Amid this, various cyberpunks at the street level work to move up themselves, at a dangerous time when clashes from the shadows can change the outcome of everything…



If you couldn’t tell from the title, this is the thread for a closed cyberpunk RP of mine… Only invited players may post on this thread.


Last edited by Forest State on Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
i'm the bad guy... duh.

for: the anime right
anti: catgirls & people who step on snek

User avatar
Forest State
Senator
 
Posts: 4330
Founded: Aug 23, 2016
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Forest State » Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:19 am




Image




S1E1
“LET THE GAME BEGIN”

Singapore, the finest city of the Union of Southeast Asian Nations (USEAN), is home to many freelance cyberpunks, mercenaries, and criminals all looking to make a buck and earn a living the hard way… As well as a number of international corporations and other factions battling it out through proxy and through covert action. Within this web of intrigue emerges a new game of cat and mouse deeper than many of the other minor proxy conflicts going on within the city’s borders.





March 10th, 2097
Singapore, Union of Southeast Asian Nations
Collaborative post between Forest State and Durmatagno



Singapore… A city of dreams, a city of early demise and unmarked graves. The kind of place where you could make it big… Or end up on the wrong side of some corporate conflict and get taken out before ever becoming prominent. Aside from being the capital of the Union of Southeast Asion Nations, the city was the most developed and one of the ones with the largest markets, both legitimate and illegal. It wasn’t hard to find anything for sale here here - whether that was a private jet or the services of a professional mercenary. And because of this status, it was the center for many of Asia’s crossborder corporate conflicts, a crossroads at which a number of places met and firms from all over the region and all over the world in general converged and made plans with and against each other.

The city was also home to quite a lot of people that were just trying to make it - not everyone was involved in big business, and not everyone was an executive with a foreign sports car. Some were still trying to work their way up to that level. Some, on the other hand, were just trying to do something with themselves without getting involved in the rat race of moving up through some large corporation in the hopes of one day getting a nice car, a nice house, and a nice family. The mercenaries, criminals, hackers, and others who were doing things outside of any of the conventional means, risking life or freedom in exchange for rewards which would bring far quicker progress.

Jazmine Essex wasn’t entirely sure where she was in that equation. She was far from the most successful person but she had already made it to a degree when she had been born into Essex Industries, and yet the company she kept with her was decidedly grimier, as was her choice in jobs. She wasn’t doing this because she had to, but at the same time, while she rode around in a somewhat costly black coupe, there was a rifle in the back of her car that indicated she was serious about this work. About this… Mercenary abroad thing. Coming from the U.K. and being set up for a comfortable life, she had no reason to be here looking for jobs and the like.

But that wasn’t to say she wasn’t interested in making a name for herself on her own merits. And she was definitely interested in getting income that didn’t come from the company. It was a long way to go for it, sure, but affording the travel wasn’t hard for someone like her… She was out to get her own things, but as long as she had the other resources, she had figured she might as well put them to use.

Image
The hustle and bustle of Singapore.
It had been a couple of weeks since Jazmine and her best friend, Victoria, had moved into an apartment not far from downtown Singapore. They hadn’t yet broken into the ‘work’ that Jazmine spoke of - it took a bit of reputation to get hired after all - but what they did have in front of them was a possible lead to it, or at least something that looked like one…

The hard drive. The hard drive that was painfully encrypted, making things more complicated for them as they pondered the contents of it and what exactly could be on such an expensive device that had been found by one of them rather than given. The original owner was… Unknown. What did they know? That this was the same type that would be used by a large corporation or a military or a government - not by the ordinary person.

And less than three full weeks since moving into Singapore, one of these devices had fallen into their hands. It was the kind of thing that could ‘make’ a pair of new cyberpunks if they were able to get the information off of it… The kind of thing that could provide both profit and rep. They didn’t have to tell anyone that they had just found the hard drive after all. Though, there was a certain feeling that there was a hidden situation under the hood of things, that was hard to see now.

“So you found this… On the street?” Jazmine asked, keeping her eyes ahead of her on the road and keeping one hand on the steering wheel, navigating through traffic to look for the one street they wanted. The one where they might be able to get some help with this thing, though there was a chance this place that she’d researched would fail too. She knew what the story was with things… But she didn’t know if she believed it entirely yet.

“Yes, though I...honestly I’m a tad wary it's a trap of some kind, but yes.”

Victoria responded from the passenger seat. She’d prefer to be behind the wheel, but it was Jazmine’s car so Jazmine got to drive it, Victoria preferred her bike anyway. Much like Jazmine Victoria had been born to success, a wealthy family, plenty of support, and so on. Also like Jazmine she had chosen a different path for herself than what they wanted of her, and after befriending Jazmine, ahd come with her to Singapore. Victoria wasn’t one hundred percent confident her decision had been the right one, but now that she had made it, she was going to stick to it. She wasn’t the kind of person to back down from a decision or her word. Victoria had been startled when she’d found the hard drive in question on the street. She’d assumed at first it was damaged and abandoned, but a cursory check had confirmed it was intact and still held some kind of data. Jazmine had more connections than Victoria, who tended to be a little asocial, so she’d gone to Jazmine. This could be the break they were looking for.

“It’s just not the kind of thing that anyone sane would just leave lying around, it worries me somewhat.”

“It’s a chaotic city… People lose things,” Jazmine said as she continued, approaching the location within the dense downtown area where she estimated they could get some help with the thing. “Question is whether anything valuable is on here or not, but judging from the make of it…”

“Something like this, just based on what the encryption is, is something no one should ever lose. It’s like cops throwing out a gun during a murder case, or at least that’s what it feels like. My gut says whoever lose this is in trouble, or it was planted there, and I’m not sure I want to dwell on the second thought.”

“Well, keep your gun on you in case there is some trouble here…” Jazmine continued, eventually pulling the car to the curb once they had reached the right place - didn’t seem that assuming, but they were in front of a computer shop which had neon signs in the front window advertising a variety of other services. “From what I looked at, this is one of the places with the best chance of actually getting the thing unlocked. Come on,” she added, unlocking the car doors and climbing out with the hard drive in hand, moving towards the front entrance of the somewhat small shop, most of the front of the building being made of a large glass window while a larger apartment towered over the first couple of floors, which made up the place they were actually heading into.

“The pump or the SMG? Haven’t gotten a smaller piece yet.”

Victoria asked as she moved round to the back of the car to choose, she could take either one really, but the SMG did less...screaming than the shotgun did. She really needed to get a pistol, but she had prioritized the weapons she was more comfortable with. Probably something to do with her size, but she wasn’t sure. Either way, she only had bigger weapons, though nothing quite as...massive as what Jazmine toted around. She mused for a second before grabbing the SMG, not as loud, more accurate, and more her personal favorite anyway. She joined Jazmine without Jazmine having gotten to answer, and slung the SMG onto her back.

“Either one… Know where you are,” Jazmine said, pushing her way through the door. And her words were meant in the sense that, well, this was Singapore. The city was advanced and luxurious in some ways but the position as the most notable city in the USEAN also came with increased crime rates, international corporate conflicts, and other things that were a result largely of it being a crossroads to a number of destinations. It was the kind of place where keeping a weapon even when out and around downtown was a generally good idea for someone involved in their kind of life… And anyone that would happen to be around it.

The shop floor itself wasn’t the largest, there were some of the basic products one might expect, and further back across from the front door on the other side of the main room there was a front desk with someone standing behind it. “I’m looking for Jeremy Chou,” Jazmine said towards that desk once they had entered, getting the attention of the worker. “Would he be here right now?”

“In the back,” the front desk worker said, moving to find the person that Jazmine had just mentioned. She stood and watched for a moment before she waved towards Victoria, following afterwards - seemingly insistent on getting to see this person rather than waiting for him to come to the front.

The back of the building was a bit larger than the front floor, although it was more crowded - computers and computer parts stacked around on tables, different tools lying around while not in use, and one of the walls was the home of a large set of displays, none of them showing anything important for now as a lone engineer sat at a table in front, working on a laptop on some difficult project and not paying much attention to the newcomers until the worker from the front placed a hand on his shoulder to get his attention. “Visitors looking for you…”

Image
The workspace of a disorganized engineer…
“I heard from some good sources that you might be able to decrypt this,” Jazmine started off, getting right to the point and placing the hard drive down on the table next to the laptop. “Found it on the street, but as you can see from the model it’s a rather hard one to get into… There’s still some kind of data on it, too. We just don’t know what, obviously. But you know… This is the kind of one they’d put something valuable on.”

Victoria followed quietly behind Jazmine, eyes glancing over the equipment around her. She knew the basics of using most everything she could see at a glance, could easily have learned to crack open the hard drive if she had desired. Instead she preferred a more...hands on approach. Machinery and weapons were her realms, this was just a path she had chosen to avoid, perhaps to spite her mother. She smiled at that thought, but kept quiet for now, Jazmine was better at getting what they needed in this situation, Victoria opening her mouth would probably only make things worse.

The young man, Jeremy, took the hard drive and examined it for a moment before saying anything, looking over the details of the parts and the hard casing, and then setting it down once again. “This isn’t the kind of thing I want to get my hands on… Already done enough jobs like this for sketchy types, they always end up getting other people dragged into their business…”

“Yeah, but we don’t even know where this is from and we can pay more than the usual,” Jazmine said in reply, not discouraged by the early rejection. Money usually talked, after all, and they were in the part of town where one could get someone to do just about any kind of job for the right price. They just had to find the price.

“This isn’t the kind of thing that gets left out in the open usually,” Jeremy continued, plugging it into the laptop to take a look at the level of encryption the drive had. Just from a first glance, however, it didn’t look like it was going to be opened without serious computing power as well as a lot of time compared to a regular job. It was debatable whether it could even be done here. “And based on what I’m seeing here, this looks more corporate in nature than civilian… Don’t even know if I have the right setup here to get it open.”

“But you might be able to?”

“Well… There’s a lot of things that might be possible, doesn’t make them the likeliest outcomes,” Jeremy stated, unplugging the hard drive after taking a look at the hardware information for it and the information on the encryption. “Whoever put something on here is using it to carry around a lot of information and they’ve made it very hard to get that out without having the right passwords. Multiple ones, actually. Even if I take this job, it’s not going to be as quick as you’re probably hoping if you want to see the results right now.”

“And…” the Singaporean added, letting his voice trail off for a moment. “I believe from what I can see here that there might be some kind of tracking device on here,” he continued, pointing to a specific spot on the casing. “I don’t think this is an actual part of the casing, you see. Someone placed this there… Potentially.”

“Hmmm,” muttered Jazmine, a hand moving to her chin as she contemplated the situation.

“It’s just another reason I don’t even want to touch this thing…”

Jazmine, however, wasn’t completely put off from the idea of finding out what they had on their hands here. She turned slightly, facing Victoria as she lowered her hand. “Any ideas on what we should do with it, knowing this stuff?”

“Probably possible to remove the tracking device, but it’d be simpler to simply find someone with the resources and means to hide it to sell it to. Getting the information off it is going to be difficult, and who knows who’ll come after us while we’re waiting. I say we find someone to sell it to that will want to keep in contact with us for more jobs in the future.”

Victoria’s bad feeling was growing worse at the mention of a tracking device. She doubted the case itself had the power to transmit, but once it was plugged in. Then again, there was a sure fire way to block pretty much all transmissions, in or out, without them being wired into something.

“Could also try to crack it in a setup with a faraday cage surrounding literally everything used in the process. No signals in or out, a clunky endeavor but one that will stop the chip tracker from transmitting any information.”

“Bit late for that,” Jazmine muttered, looking back to the device and considering whether or not it had transmitted anything so far. It was hard to know… Though processors and the like were small enough these days that there was a chance it could transmit with its own power supply rather than needing an external source like being plugged into a computer. “I guess it’s a good idea if we decide to move the thing somewhere else.”

The conversation was interrupted, however, by the worker from the front desk returning to the room with further news from the front of the store. “Y’know, a couple sketchy looking people just walked in, seems like they’re looking for you two that came in with the hard drive… They’re fuckin’ freelancers of some kind, at least I think… Little too informal to be corporate but they’re both strapped, big fuckin’ guns…”

“Your call Jazmine, definitely already tracked us. I knew this was a fucking trap.”

Victoria wasn’t particularly itching for a fight, not without literally no armor against bigger guns, but if she got the drop on them she might, might be able to take them both out before they could fire back. She wasn’t counting on it though, thankfully her PM90 was good at high rates of fire. Question was if they wanted to even fight these guys.

“I can maybe take them both if I have to, but I’d need to get them both before they can fire back, or really learn much of anything.”

“Whatever you guys are going to do, figure it out-”

They didn’t have much time to figure out anything as the door leading to the back was thrown open by a sudden kick, two figures rushing in, one of them with a full sized rifle and the other one wielding a bullpup submachine gun with a red dot sight… The dot ending up on Victoria while the other one positioned her rifle towards Jazmine. The two figures rushed in quickly, aided by the close quarters of the tight environment which was marked with tables and equipment. Of course, once these new attackers had stopped moving, it was possible to get a better look at them.

The one with the rifle had short black hair and was of an indistinguishable ethnicity, indicating that she was potentially colonial born rather than born here on Earth - in space, ethnic groups from Earth tended to blend together after all, as new colonial identities formed a couple of generations into colonization. She wore a jacket which didn’t look like it was part of any uniform, showing she was likely some kind of freelancer rather than working for a corporation… The other girl was dressed somewhat in a similar style but still had her own style, a dragon mask covering up a lot of her face, and she was significantly shorter… Still just as threatening, however, and holding her gun like someone that knew how to kill.

“Hands where I can fucking see them!” the young woman with the rifle said to the room in general, shifting the aim of her rifle once she was sure that Jazmine wasn’t armed - her own rifle was larger than any of the ones in the room right now but it had been left in the back of the coupe, and wouldn’t have been useful in these close quarters anyway.

Victoria didn’t have much choice, she’d get shot before she could bring her SMG to bear anyway. She raised her hands, multi-colored eyes studying their attackers. Whether or not this had been a trap was moot, they’d been drawn into some kind of trouble. And while Jazmine didn’t have a weapon of her own, she also complied as well as the two others in the room who had no stake in this and had been unprepared, no weapons in the room for them to use. This typically wasn’t a dangerous job, after all.

“I don’t want to deal with the complications of someone dying today,” the woman with the rifle said, lowering it slightly once she was sure that there wasn’t going to be an immediate attack. She seemed satisfied to leave her partner to cover the room with her SMG, as she spotted the hard drive and walked over to the table where it was located, picking it up and quickly stuffing it on the inside of her jacket. “I just want this… None of you have released the contents inside, have you?”

The question had been asked to the room generally, but the two civilians weren’t saying anything, and Jazmine simply stood still, not one to talk in this situation either and potentially make things worse.

“Didn’t even get to start cracking the encryption so...no, we haven’t even seen what’s on it let alone released it.”

Victoria said with everyone else being quiet. Strangely Victoria wasn’t all that afraid, more cautious. Maybe it was the nature of their opponents words, and maybe it was because they hadn’t even started cracking the first layer of encryption, let alone anything further beneath it. That and she’d readied herself for this moment from the second she’d decided to be a merc. If you were going to shoot people you had to be prepared to get shot yourself.

“And for our trouble, why don’t you put some cash on the ground?” demanded the shorter of the pair, the one with the sharper and less calm voice… She still had the red dot on Victoria’s chest and she seemed like the more likely of the two to actually shoot, considering her seemingly more amped up voice and the fact that her finger was twitching on the trigger as she spoke.

“Only got about two hundred on me, back left pocket.”

Victoria said, moving her left hand slowly to get it. It was the same direction she’d swing the SMG around to use from her back if she had the inclination, she was left handed after all. She pulled out her wallet, and tossed the cash on the ground at the girl’s feet, or as close as she could manage without looking like she was trying to distract them.

“Don’t walk around with a lot on me.”

“But you came here in a car like-” the girl had started to speak towards Victoria, suspicious that she had perhaps not given anything, as she moved forward and quickly took the money off the ground, returning to her original position with the gun leveled. She was, however, cut off when Jazmine spoke, freezing in her tracks.

Image
Masked up.
“Van? I’d recognize your voice anywhere…” Jazmine said, causing the girl to whirl around and level the SMG at her instead.

“Shut the fuck up, will you?” she replied, her finger once again on the trigger…

Although Jazmine didn’t seem intimidated by it in the slightest, moving forward even with the gun pointed at her. “That is you-”

“If you take one step closer I’m going to blast you-”

“What are you doing in Singapore?” Jazmine asked, reaching for the girl’s mask and pulling it up and off to reveal a blonde head of hair underneath, cut somewhat short. As well as a face that had a number of different feelings written on it at the moment, ranging from surprise to anger… And as Jazmine did it, the barrel of the gun was practically pressed into her, but she didn’t treat it like much of a threat regardless, to the astonishment of the woman with the rifle.

“You fucking know them?” she asked, turning her rifle in Jazmine’s direction before lowering it, teeth gritted as she looked over the scene and considered moving away right now - they had limited time, but it seemed like there was an entirely different situation going on right now.

“No… NO!” the girl with the SMG replied, reaching and snatching her mask back from Jazmine, lowering the weapon. “Let’s get the fuck out of here, alright?”

“Not until I know what the fuck’s going on,” her partner replied with a shake of the head. “Can’t be with you if you’re going to be tweakin’ over this shit while we’re on the move…”

“Jazmine? Explain?”

Victoria chimed in though she didn’t make any moves. Jazmine knew the girl, but the girl didn’t want it known that Jazmine knew her. Lovers gone bad? Sisters, however unlikely? Ex partners? Victoria couldn’t guess, what she did know was that this was not how she expected today to go. She had suspected some danger around the hard drive like this, but it had taken an unexpected turn.

“It’s… Kind of a story…” Jazmine said sheepishly as her eyes shifted to Victoria, the other girl standing around with wide eyes, not looking like she wanted to go into it at the moment. “And I don’t think she really wants to see me right now…”

“I really don’t,” growled the other girl, her grip increasing on the SMG.

“The short version is… This is Van-”

“I said I don’t want to talk!” she said, cutting Jazmine off as she pointed the gun towards the ceiling, firing off a burst of shots to get her point across. “Fuck you, Hester, I’m out of here,” she continued, spinning back in the direction of the door as the other woman, the one with the rifle, followed after her as she quickly pushed through the doorway to leave the back of the shop.

“Don’t… Don’t just let them leave,” Jazmine said towards Victoria, pausing as she made her way to the doorway herself despite the danger presented. “I still need to talk to that girl…”

“What the hell did you do to her Jazmine?”

Victoria said as she crossed her arms. If this was going to cause them more trouble in the future, she needed to know. If there was anything you could say about Victoria, it was that she was curious, to a fault. Now though, now she had a reason to pry, and Jazmine had answers she needed to give. Whatever the hell that was, it could have gotten someone killed if she hadn’t decided to shoot into the ceiling instead of a person. She’d pay for tha damage for the guy, keep this place on their good side, but she was going to need to know what the hell all of this was about.

“She’s one of my best friends from London but the last time I saw her was when she got on a rocket back to Destine and went off the grid three years ago… If you want to know anything more, you’re going to have to come with me,” Jazmine said, pushing her way through the door and chasing after the quick moving… Mercenaries that had been in the same room just before.

Victoria sighed, and punched a desk, bruising her hand. She hated being left in the dark, and chasing them seemed risky. She looked at the other two in the room and gestured at the ceiling.

“I’ll be back with money to fix that later.”

Before she took off after Jazmine, not wanting to leave her best friend to be killed or disappear. Plus she really wanted to know what was going on, and why she shouldn’t just go back to their apartment. Once they were out of the building, it was possible to spot where the mercenaries had went - they were still on the street rather than having gotten into their vehicle, a high performance SUV which looked like it was geared for this kind of fast paced work.

And furthermore, they were arguing, speaking with each other instead of getting into the vehicle, presumably about what had just happened.

“You know…” Jazmine started, stopping in her tracks as she kept her eyes on the two - the blonde girl was in the middle of putting her mask on once again. “She’d probably still be my friend but I changed a lot in high school and well… It also didn’t really help that you became more of a thing,” she continued, letting out a slight sigh.

“Uhhh….me?”

Victoria questioned. She knew she and Jazmine were close, but she didn’t see how she had gotten between these two. That said, she preferred not to deal with people in general if she could avoid it, preferring fighting or working to talking. Then again, fighting could be called working for her. She raised an eyebrow questioningly at Jazmine saying she had become more of a thing. Until she was eighteen she hadn’t gotten to spend much time in London, that was when she had finally moved there to get away from her own family.

“Imagine me practically joined at the hip with a best friend and then imagine how I changed in high school and that best friend feeling left behind, and now imagine me finding someone else to text and talk to all the time and someone else to give my attention to when you happened to be in town,” Jazmine said quickly. “And the end result of all that is that you get this… We had a fight about it. But I didn’t think I would see her again. Like I said, she said she was going back to Destine because she didn’t have good friends here on Earth anymore…”

“So what was the bigger factor? You changing, or me taking up your time? Because it sounds to me almost like she was crushing on you, and felt rejected when you focused on me instead.”

Victoria stated, completely ignorant of some of the irony buried in her words. She looked over at the short blonde girl and shook her head. It wasn’t all Jazmine’s fault, people had falling outs, but holy shit did it sound like it was a mess Victoria didn’t want to be apart of, and yet, already was. Willingly or not.

“I don’t know… She left suddenly, and that was three years ago, I didn’t think I was going to see her again. And she didn’t think she was going to see me again either from the way she was surprised… It’s just… Something that shouldn’t have happened but happened anyway,” Jazmine said, starting to approach but pausing again. “And now I don’t know if I’ll see her after this…”

“Then go talk to her, might be your last chance for who knows how long.”

Image
Is the woman in pink a savior or something else?
Jazmine didn’t say anything else yet, instead choosing to run after the two figures that were debating something next to the SUV on the sidewalk. “Van… Just hear me out with this… I’m sorry for how things happened before-”

“You pushed me away!” the girl, Van, replied, spinning around to face Jazmine.

“And I didn’t mean to!”

“You still did it!”

“I didn’t think you were going to leave the planet before I could fix anything! Or not answer my calls when you were back in Destine!”

There was a long silence, as both of them looked at each other, before the third member of the group interjected to stop the delay. “Look, whatever you two have to figure out… Now isn’t the right time, we still have to get back to Expanse if we’re going to finish this job, and we should already be headed there by now…” she said, gesturing with her rifle towards the SUV. “If you don’t want to come… I’m leaving without you and you can find your way back on your own.”

“You’re the one that stopped us in the first place to ask about this,” Van complained to her partner, looking towards the SUV. “I wanted to get out of here from the moment she recognized me-”

“Because I can hardly work with you if you might snap-”

She turned, spinning around and spotting a pair of vehicles turning onto the street, slowing down as the passengers prepared to get out. “Son of a bitch,” she muttered, quickly recognizing them and the corporate logo that was on the side of them - the SUVs themselves were navy blue, but the logo on the side was in white and it belonged to a specific company… XR Telecommunications. Also known as a relatively big name in providing telecom services to many of the major cities around here and to the USEAN controlled space territories out in places like Destine. “That’s corporate…”

Moving around to the side, the one with the rifle was quick to climb into the front of the vehicle while Van climbed into the passenger seat, the vehicle starting to pull off before stopping as the driver said something. “If you don’t want these two to die… Get them inside,” she said, bringing the SUV back around to the curb not far from Victoria, with Jazmine following closely.

“I’m sure you both heard that… You have about two seconds to make a call,” Van said from the passenger side, looking to the two who were standing on the sidewalk. “Those guys are going to think you’re with us… And they probably watched us following you here. So basically, you’re already fucked.”

Victoria got into the back of the SUV and slung her PM90 off her shoulder. There was no way in hell this wasn’t going to be a chase, and if it was a chase there was a good chance it’d be a gunfight. If there was one thing you could count on the PM90 to do, it was shred through armor even if it didn’t do a lot of damage after getting through.

“Jazmine, get the hell in here!”

It didn’t take long for Jazmine to climb into the back as the SUV started moving again before she could even close the door. Seconds after the fact, the first gunshots struck the area around them, the other two SUVs pursuing as they picked up speed and moved in the opposite direction, warning lights lighting up behind them and distinct sirens sounding… They’d messed with important people, or rather, they had inadvertently associated themselves with people who had messed up with them. And now, they were being treated the same way.

“Where are we even going?” Jazmine asked, placing a hand on the door to stabilize herself as they sped through the streets, most likely over the legal limit and just aiming to not hit anything for the moment… The vehicle had quick acceleration and tight handling, she’d give it that much credit.

“To the underground levels… There’s some places around there we might be able to use to lose these motherfuckers,” the driver of the SUV said without looking back. “But I think I’m the one that deserves to ask these questions… Who the fuck are you two in the first place?”

“Jazmine… Essex,” said Jazmine, putting her hands up innocently. “I’m just in Singapore working on becoming a freelance mercenary and then… This happened. And I know Van from when I lived in London, but I haven’t seen her for three years.”

“Victoria Fawn, from LA originally, here with Jazmine to be a merc. First I’m hearing about all this, when I lived in London I was mostly working as a mechanic.”

Victoria held on to her seat as the SUV moved, PM90 ready. If the driver wanted her to, she could turn it on their pursuers. Doubted she could get through the panels, maybe the glass, most likely just get to the tires with a good burst. Would get them off their tail at least.

“The name’s Hester,” the driver said, still keeping her eyes on the road and moving her hands rapidly as she navigated what traffic there was. They were lucky that it wasn’t rush hour, or they would find themselves with less options for getting out of here. “And my partner is Evangeline… Otherwise known as Van, as you’ve probably heard from Jazmine already. That hard drive was something that was supposed to be delivered in person by XR. With the kind of thing it is, they didn’t want to transmit it over the internet… But we took it from ‘em and now they’ve been after us, the first battle of which was when it ended up getting ditched by me so it could be picked up… And then you came in.”

“Called it, thing was a fucking trap, just not a trap for us.”

Victoria said as she glanced sideways at Jazmine. She looked round behind them at the cars chasing them.

“You need to get enough shielding around that thing so it can’t transmit, faraday cage, enough concrete, something.”

Victoria called out as she flipped the safety on her PM90 off entirely, though careful not to put her finger on the trigger so one rough bump didn’t cause a misfire.

“The tracking device on it is my own… How do you think I was able to track it down after some random people from the street picked it up?” remarked Hester. “It was something I thought of ahead of time… The heat was on us heavy so I figured stay away from the ports and lay low for a little and then grab it again and get out of here and hand it over to the client. Would have worked nicely too if they didn’t have a track on us while we followed you two to get it back and get out… Of course, maybe if there wasn’t a delay, we would have been fine,” she added, referring to the drama between Jazmine and Van.

Image
On the way underground.
“Whatever the case, I can try taking out their tires if you want them off our tail. If there’s one thing this thing is good for, it’s shredding armor, and a good burst might be able to take out a tire.”

“Don’t put anything outside the car… Not if you’re smart, anyway. They’re not just going to take the damage without firing back and there’s more of them than there are us,” Hester said with a slight sigh. “But I’m leading them somewhere they won’t be able to follow us once we leave the SUV,” she added, turning onto the road leading into a descending tunnel, which would take them to the undercity that was fittingly constructed underground for the purposes of maximizing the small area of the island. They couldn’t expand outwards, but they could still expand vertically.

She stepped on the gas once they were in the tunnel and out of traffic, pushing the vehicle to the limits while their pursuers did the same behind them in slightly worse vehicles, falling a bit further behind as the more upgraded SUV gained speed without the risk of running into another car at the moment. “You two might not be able to go right back to your usual life, though… They’re going to have a lot of fuckin’ eyes on this place once we get there.”

“Was kind of expecting things to go to hell once we saw what I found on the street. Not precisely this of course, but hell.”

Victoria seemed to have little problem with maintaining her balance in the suped up SUV, she loved that it was upgraded the way it was. She wanted to pop the hood and see what exactly they’d done to it. For now though her eyes were fixed on their pursuers.

“Was worried the whole time that the thing was a trap or a lure, soon as the tracker was found we were screwed. Should have put it in a cage to begin with, but hindsight is twenty twenty.”

They continued to descend, neither Jazmine nor Van speaking to each other during the trip before they came out on a long stretch of elevated road, the undercity on either side of them in a considerably more dense and packed manner as they showed up here, likely still violating traffic laws in the process… There were usually more important things for the police to worry about, however, and that was the least of their worries with the corporate soldiers behind them. Hester turned off the overpass at the first chance, dodging a couple of cars which had come close to them, and then stepping on the gas again as they approached a large pyramid in the distance which was made of many small apartments in a brutalist style. “When we get out… You two are going to have to stick with me closely,” Hester stated. “Because I’m not stopping for anyone once we’re on foot.”

Image
The undercity.
“Got it.”

Victoria said simply. She’d never bothered to buckle in, a crash at this speed and with those guys behind them, it wouldn’t matter much. She glanced over at Jazmine who’d been strangely quiet through all this, and resolved to talk to her about this shit later. For now though, evading corporate hounds was the on the agenda, and it was a pressing matter.

The SUV was brought to a stop rather abruptly, Hester hopping out first followed by Van, who was clutching her SMG and spun around on her heel to fire off a couple of bursts at the approaching corporate vehicles, shattering the glass on one of the SUVs and and denting the other in numerous places. “Go!” she shouted, as Jazmine and Victoria also climbed out, and Hester was leading the group towards the main entrance of the towering pyramid structure that they had approached.

There were a number of glass doors, but when one pushed through them, they’d find themselves in an area that somewhat resembled the floor of an open market or shopping mall. “There’s a lot of floors to this place, this ground one is busy enough that it might be a start in losing them!” Hester shouted back to the others. “Follow after my lead,” she continued while rushing into the crowds of people that weren’t aware of the chaos and were moving around to the various stores and kiosks set up on the ground floor of this building, where people presumably lived in massive number on the mid to upper floors.

Image
The interior of the pyramid.
Victoria lowered her head and shoulders, it wasn’t a natural way to run, but given her large size she was easier to spot in crowds, even as massive a crowd as this. She kept as close to Hester as she could. If this turned into a proper shootout, she was going to be a big obvious target, and she’d rather not get shot without firing back. Eventually she’d get that chance, but for now it was time to run. She silently cursed to herself, kicking herself over having picked up that hard drive in the first place now that she could plainly see and feel the effects of having touched the thing.

Of course, there were a lot of people in here and there had been a short delay between them entering and the XR soldiers coming in, which meant they had a slight head start for getting to safety. By the time the corporate team was kicking doors in and moving in with their guns out, the group had already disappeared into the many people, which now forced their enemy into a blind pursuit… One that allowed the group to cross towards the edge of the lobby floor before being spotted, where Hester pressed an elevator button and let out a sigh of relief as the doors to the thing actually opened up without making them wait forever.

“Everyone in, and fast,” she said, pressing the button to close the doors and head up once they were inside. “I have a place here we can set up in for now until the heat goes down… They’ll search, but they’re limited to searching the hallways and the other public areas. Getting out later is going to be a challenge but… Immediate safety and not losing the hard drive is the most important thing.”

“Never. Should. Have. Touched. The. Thing.”

Victoria reiterated, mostly talking to herself at this point. If they had money and resources it would be a different matter, but this was going to be a bitch to deal with. Victoria was separated from her bike, her shotgun, and basically all her stuff. If Hester had a place to duck she probably had stuff for herself and maybe Van, not Jazmine and Victoria.

“Whatever the fuck they have on that thing they’re desperate to keep from leaking, valuable at least, even if it’s screwed us.”

“I don’t know all the specifics but it’s some kind of weapon that destroys networks. It can get out of hand under some circumstances and it’s not entirely under control which is why they’re only transmitting it offline. There’s a closed network here where XR was experimenting with it and this build was supposed to be sent back to higher ups. As you can see, our job was to intercept it and deliver it to another client based on Destine,” Hester explained the best she could as the elevator moved up. “It’s a dangerous job… Also a very competitive one that we got to first. And we’ll have a good payout when this is all said and done because of it.”

The elevator doors opened up, bringing them into another crowded corridor which presumably would lead them to where the apartments were actually located. “I know it’s not the ideal situation,” Hester added, a hint of regret in her voice for how things had turned out. “But I will get us out of this… Know that it’s a fact.”
i'm the bad guy... duh.

for: the anime right
anti: catgirls & people who step on snek

User avatar
Durmatagno
Negotiator
 
Posts: 7115
Founded: Oct 10, 2011
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Durmatagno » Thu Feb 27, 2020 7:48 am




Image




S1E2
“THE GAME BEGINS PT. 2”

Following the car chase of the earlier night, it becomes more and more apparent that getting out of the Singaporean undercity will be an easier said than done task… Leaving two veterans and two newcomers stuck together in a confined area thanks to that simple fact.





March 10th, 2097
Singapore, Union of Southeast Asian Nations
Collaborative post between Forest State and Durmatagno



The apartment itself wasn’t large - none of the ones around here were. It seemed like the purpose of the pyramid was cramming a lot of people into a small space in concrete living quarters, and that kind of brutalist design was exactly what the group got as they entered the place and took a look around… The furnishings were somewhat plain, too. Only basic furniture, and a number of boxes sitting around, the entire place seeming like it hadn’t been touched in a bit.

“This is a reserve place of mine,” Hester stated as they entered, taking a look around and moving to check some of the different boxes which were sitting there. “This is uhhh… Weapons and ammunition. At least some of these boxes are. There should be a couple others with food but it’s all instant. Should be the type that never goes out of date, though. Now that we seem to have thrown them off our trail, I have to make contact with my associates back on Expanse… And maybe with a couple others I know are in this area because of the current… Job that some of us decided to undertake. I’ll see about getting us out of here in due time, for now, you can all have a look around…”

Victoria looked around and decided to just find somewhere to sit down. Once she was settled down, she rubbed her neck with her hand and looked up at the ceiling. There went her plans for the night, not that they’d been anything major, but even she, asocial as she was, liked to get out from time to time. She was going to be stuck here, probably for at least a day, maybe more, with someone she didn’t know, another person she didn’t know but was actively angry at her, and Jazmine who was...Jazmine. Like Jazmine as she did, Jazmine could be a handful sometimes, and tight confines like this would prove taxing when Victoria had almost nothing to do to relax. She had some smokes, a few joints, and maybe a pill or two, but she hated being idle, but that was what was in store for her here.

As the group settled in, Hester took out a phone and checked the connection before she raised it to speak, starting to go over the situation with… Someone. It was hard to tell exactly who - she wasn’t saying much about who she was connected with, though Van presumably knew the full truth behind it. “I’m in Singapore still… I have the hard drive… XR’s everywhere and I’m at a backup place, slight complications…” she started, leaving gaps for someone else to speak on the other end of the line. Her voice faded, though, as she walked off into the other room, the one that had a single bed.

While Van, on the other hand, simply remained across the room from Victoria, not coming near her or bothering to look at her too much, keeping her distance for now. From her past experience, she wasn’t the biggest fan of her. And especially wasn’t of the idea of having her around in close quarters like this, now that they had to share a small apartment for an indeterminate amount of time.

The final member of the group, Jazmine, looked between everyone before she moved to settle near Victoria, not saying anything herself yet but keeping closer to her rather than the… Former friend that she still had no idea how to approach, considering how their first interaction after seeing each other again had went. That was to say, it hadn’t gone well.

“You’re going to have to figure out how to talk to her eventually you know, especially given that we don’t know how long we’ll be stuck in close quarters.”

Victoria said quietly as she opened up the pack she kept in her pocket. It was mostly full, but what cigarettes she had smoked had been replaced by joints. She pulled out a cigarette and put it in her mouth, though she didn’t light it just yet, watching Jazmine as she spoke. She was friends with Jazmine, but the whole Van situation was something beyond her, the only other person she’d call herself close to was her sister Weiss, who was studying to become a doctor at Harvard. This decision had angered their shared Aunt and Uncle almost as much as Victoria moving to London had. She didn’t smile at this thought like she normally would, the tension in the room was palpable, and she didn’t know what was worse. The tension between Jazmine and Van, or Van’s ire directed at Victoria.

“And say what? I don’t even know how to approach her… I thought that us being friends was dead and done for… Last time I saw her was three years ago and she was supposedly going back to Destine for good,” Jazmine remarked, letting out a brief sigh - an uncharacteristic moment where she didn’t know what she was doing with a social situation. “And now she shows up out of the blue and she’s… Different than how I left her.”

“And so are you, hell I’m different from when you first met me, let alone from my high school years. I didn’t say it’d be easy, or that you’d say the right thing, just that you’re going to need to figure it out at some point.”

Victoria still kept her voice low as she lit her cigarette, taking a good drag of the thing before continuing.

“People change Jazmine, friends drift apart and back together, or come to hate each other, sometimes for frankly ridiculous reasons. It’s part of why I prefer cars, you know why they’ve changed. Either someone did it to them or it broke, it’s far more predictable.”

“So what’s the point of talking to her again if she hates me?” Jazmine questioned, looking back over in the direction of the short mercenary, who was wandering the small kitchen area on the other side of the apartment. “Based on how she acted earlier… It seems like it’s just going to make things worse than if I didn’t say anything at all. Or if I hadn’t followed her out at all.”

“I could be wrong but...I’m not entirely sure she does hate you, it feels more like it...hurts to be around you. She remembers how the two of you used to be, what you had together, and then the new you here with me is a constant reminder those days are gone. Maybe she does hate you, or maybe she still cares enough that she struggles to do anything but push you away. I dunno, you know I’m not amazing with people, but if she hated you she could have just shot you in the shop, instead she got frustrated, shot the ceiling, and stormed out.”

“You make it sound like we were lovers or something… But I guess we were close… And then we weren’t,” Jazmine said, a hand moving to her temple in frustration. “I also know that… I pushed her away a bit, maybe when I shouldn’t have. I’m pretty sure a lot of this is on me for how I handled things back then…”

“Mmm.”

Was all Victoria said to the lovers comment as she enjoyed her smoke, taking it slow. They were going to be here awhile after all. She looked at Jazmine and said simply but sternly.

“Jazmine, everyone makes mistakes, you can either run from them, learn from them, or pretend they never happened. You can’t do the first, we’re already stuck here, the third has already been thrown out. I don’t know if you can even change anything anymore, but you know you messed up. It’s a start, from there you can try. Maybe give her some time for the adrenaline to wear down from the chase though if you do decide to talk to her.”

“Guess I don’t have a lot of options on my plate,” Jazmine admitted, sighing before she rested her head against Victoria’s shoulder, her hand moving to rest on her abs. “It is helpful to hear someone else tell me what I’ve been thinking I need to do… But for once I don’t know if I have the courage for it. I mean, I’m good with most people but Van isn’t… Most people.”

“Jazmine, we were just involved in a car chase with corporate muscle after being held up in a shady computer shop. If you can make it through that, you can make it through this, though you might need to mellow out a little first.”

Victoria was a tad startled by the hand on her abs, less so by the head on her shoulder, though it still felt wrong given the tension. Or rather, it should feel wrong, but instead it was soothing for her. She ignored that for now, focusing on helping her friend, and hopefully helping avoid a meltdown. She took another drag before saying something else.

“Sit down and talk with her, this place probably has a bar, get a drink, grab something to eat, something to help cut the tension and make it easier to talk. You may never have a better chance than this to talk to her, may never get another chance if you don’t make the shot now.”

“I’ll try to find the chance,” Jazmine settled, resting still in her current position… Taking a deep breath in and out as she accepted what she had to do, and caressing Victoria with her hand slightly. “You know, thanks for helping with this and all… Especially after I got us into it in the first place by going after her back there.”

“We were already involved, I wouldn’t doubt the corporate thugs had their eyes on us before we went in given how quick they showed up. It was just a matter of being stuck with them or with Hester and Van.”

Victoria exhaled slowly, staring up at the ceiling, she’d knew she’d be in messes like this eventually when she’d chosen this life, but fate had bad timing. She only went out once or twice a week, and she’d been planning to go to a bar and have some fun tonight. Part of why she had what she had on her to begin with. She could still go drinking if she was inclined, but at this point she wasn’t sure anymore.

“Besides, I’d expect the same help from you if things turned sour between me and Weiss, or if Winter showed her face. I’d need someone to center or back me as needed to talk to them.”

“Right…” Jazmine said, before not speaking for a moment, just relaxing into the feeling of being close to her best friend for now. Her current best friend, anyway. She glanced to the side and could see Van watching them out of her peripheral vision, not the happiest about the scene in front of her but also not saying anything about it, instead keeping up the awkward standoff that had started earlier between the two. “Also… If, you know… Van did like me… I mean like like me… Would that make a problem for you or something?”

Victoria was caught completely off guard by this last question. It wasn’t an angle she had considered, or wanted to consider. It wasn’t even something she had dwelled on without this tension dredging it up. She took a moment to try and figure out an answer, but nothing came to mind that wasn’t rambling and odd. She took a long drag and exhaled slowly once more, buying herself a little time to think.

“I uh...don’t uh...don’t think so, I’m...used to how you are by now.”

Victoria’s words were chosen carefully to try and not reveal the complex mix of emotions stirring inside her. A subtle blush, likely unnoticeable to those that didn’t know her, paired with her heartbeat speeding up despite her best attempts to calm herself, spread to her face even as she spoke.

“You’re...unique like that.”

“I’m promiscuous, you mean… You can say it,” Jazmine chuckled briefly, shifting ever closer to Victoria after noticing the shift in her, especially from her voice. She was good at picking these things up in regular people, let alone her best friend. “And I know you’re used to it… But I felt I should ask since well, dealing with my… Former friend is a bigger deal than getting around with random people I’ve met.”

“Okay yes, I was...trying to be diplomatic. Doesn’t mean you aren’t unique though...besides-.”

Victoria stopped to take another puff, the ashes collecting on one of her boots this whole time. It was fine, they were for rough work anyway, a bit of ash wouldn’t hurt them.

“You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t try to reconnect with her and find out.”

Victoria chose to focus on the things that didn’t make her feel twisted up, and confused inside. She didn’t like not knowing what she wanted, and in the end she chose to keep being supportive instead of acting jealous or envious. She wasn’t sure which, the answer of that would clear up a lot of what she was feeling to, something she wasn’t familiar with.

Except, Jazmine seemed perfectly content to apply a bit of pressure to the situation and get further answers on what she was curious about now that it seemed like they were on the subject… She turned herself around quickly, so she was straddling Victoria instead of sitting next to her, a curious and hard to read expression on her face. “You know… Since you know about my tendencies, I’ve always wondered…” she started, her tone soft. “Why haven’t you done it with me before?”

Victoria’s eyes went wide, but with her head fixed on the ceiling she was thankful they couldn’t be seen. It was a question she’d often asked herself, and while she had...excused, none of them really held water. Nothing other than they just...hadn’t. She knew that answer alone probably wouldn’t satisfy Jazmine’s curiosity and questions, so she rephrased it the best she could.

“I um...not entirely sure. Never really had the chance I guess. You always had someone else, or I was out that night...or working on something. Just never came up.”

“Is that really your answer?” Jazmine asked… Finding it a bit hard to believe considering how they had been friends with each other for years and had hung out plenty during that time span. She… Couldn’t exactly believe that they had just never found a time.

“Kinda? I can’t think of a specific instance where it wasn’t something else. Even when I lived in London I didn’t get to see you as often as I would have liked, worked long hours to keep my own place. We haven’t been here long, and while we’ve been here I’ve been keeping myself busy. Simplest answer is that yeah, not really having the chance, mostly because I work a tad much.”

Victoria took a minute to answer, enjoying her cigarette as she considered her answer and Jazmine’s own disbelief. She wasn’t really sure why they’d never ended up in bed together, but it was the best answer she had. Maybe it was because she...well, because Victoria wanted something more, and wasn’t sure if Jazmine did. Knowing what she wanted, she didn’t want to sleep with her and start expecting that something more.

“Well… I have to be honest, if you were anyone else I would say that’s pathetic… But I know you aren’t a people person,” Jazmine said with a small chuckle, leaning in to rest her head against Victoria once again. “So I guess you do have an excuse that you can’t just get rid of that easily… Guess I’m just a little disappointed, really.”

“Disappointed? So you are interested in me then?”

Victoria was slightly surprised, it seemed to be a running theme for the night, though she continued to keep her voice low and her eyes on the ceiling. She shouldn’t be, Jazmine was quite promiscuous, in her own words. Victoria on the other hand wasn’t. Not from lack of desire so much as lack of time. While they were excuses, her keeping herself as busy as she did was a real thing she did to herself. Some nights she didn’t even sleep, because of work anyway. She had general problems sleeping separate from that.

“Shouldn’t be surprised, but then like you said...we never have done it.”

“Guess it can’t be helped, then,” Jazmine said with a light sigh, pushing herself up and off Victoria and taking a couple of steps back but stopping, folding her arms as she looked down at her, perhaps disappointed in the way the conversation had gone or perhaps not happy about the excuses Victoria had given her. “Anyway… I’m going to head out and see what’s around this place… If we’re going to be stuck here, we might as well not be stuck in one room the whole time.”

“Alright.”

Victoria said, hiding her disappointment that Jazmine was no longer cuddling her. Still, it had been a good talk. Maybe it’d go somewhere in the future, maybe not. Victoria dared not hope it would, for she could never predict how things would go. Not when she was involved anyway. She finished her cigarette, and after extinguishing the embers, tucked the butt back into the pack. She’d throw it away properly later. Had she disappointed Jazmine? She didn’t think so, but she had a feeling she had. Maybe Jazmine had wanted her to make a move. Was too late for now, besides it’d be...exceedingly awkward with Van stuck in such close proximity.
When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough. - Maurice Maeterlinck

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. - Washington Irving

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get. - Confucius

User avatar
Lunas Legion
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 29845
Founded: Jan 21, 2013
Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Lunas Legion » Fri Feb 28, 2020 1:37 pm




Image




S1E3
“FREELANCERS”

In the reaches of space, the mercenary game is just as competitive as it is back in the largest megacities on Earth… And on Destine, the most prosperous of the planets colonized by humans, a new plot between the Free Destinian Faction, the Middle Eastern Federation, and the United States of North America is growing.





March 12th, 2097
New Worlds International Spaceport, Expanse, North American Sector, Destine
Collaborative post between Forest State and Lunas Legion



The final frontier - perhaps the most untamed place that humanity currently inhabited. Expansion beyond the solar system had happened with the invention of the faster than light drive, and humanity had spread and scattered among the stars to set up both within Earth’s own system and on select other planets which were close enough to Earth’s design to support similar life. Destine was possibly the most fitting example of that type of planet, and in some ways, it was the new version of the wild west of old.

It was home to people of practically every spacefaring nation, and even some private groups which had staked their claims on the surface of this new world, and the cities here at times towered even over the ones back on Earth… There were no past constraints limiting advancement. Cities were constructed entirely using the latest technologies without having to worry about integration with an existing urban environment. Colonies expanded rapidly as resources were poured into them and resources came back to Earth to eventually end up reinvested in them. To those watching the cultural shifts of the world, it was notable that Destine was the place to be for the most hip and modern… From celebrities to the lowest levels of influencers.

Sure, Earth had plenty of iconic sights still, and far more people lived there than in the budding colonies. But it didn’t have the same kind of inherent appeal to it that a new world did. It was precisely because Earth had history behind it that it was less exciting than Destine, and some of the other premier destinations for settlers.

But in the middle of the rush for colonization of space, one thing hadn’t quite caught up as much… The rule of law. This place was very much still the wild west. Corporations did fight on Earth too, but here, they had less restrictions than ever as the limited security forces on Destine and other colonies focused on the more important tasks… And furthermore, there was far more intrigue than just their conflicts going on. Nations and private individuals handled their disputes openly or through proxies, criminals tried to assert dominance over their chosen markets, and ordinary disputes between citizens were often left to be handled through private means rather than through the authority of the police and security forces.

The wild west out here was the perfect environment for an operative looking for a check, and willing to do whatever it took to earn one.

“There’s the ship…” said Shun Yorukaze, gesturing in the direction of a freight vessel which was on the ground at the spaceport, taking up one of the many parking spots in the massive complex that stretched on for much longer than a regular airport would - it was like that, of course, because each vessel was massive compared to a plane. At least the ones like this, that were handling freight coming in and out of Earth.

But according to the client, the National Security Bureau of the United States of North America, this light freighter in specific was being used for… Dangerous purposes, by the Free Destinian Faction. The group of people that wanted to see the colonies stand on their own rather than rely on support from Earth, and who’d do anything to accomplish that goal. According to them, Destine had enough resources to support itself, and they were right about that - which was one of the reasons the authorities around here were committed to doing whatever it took to take the group down wherever they appeared.

Including hiring mercenaries of a particular kind when something like this needed to be done… Something that the regular authorities couldn’t do themselves due to legal restrictions and the like.

“Going to go around and look for a back door,” Shun stated, looking over her shoulder at her current partner in the field, Fraser Tenley, and giving a quick gesture forwards through the pedestrians and towards the vessel itself. “Don’t want to kick up too much attention busting through the front door… Follow and watch my back. These guys… Are decent at getting the jump. Usually.”

With that, she accelerated, pushing her way past a couple of pedestrians that just happened to be walking along the spaceport parking area, some of them stopping as she moved and looking to see who had just brushed by them - those who had stopped would be pushed out of the way again by a second rushing figure as Fraser ran behind her, pistol out in contrast with the bare hands that Shun herself had… She had a shotgun on her back but hadn’t gone to it yet, deciding that her reactions would be quicker and her attacks just as lethal this way.

It went without saying that she wasn’t an ordinary mercenary.

The first of the FDF members was encountered behind the freighter, and was joined by an accomplice who was carrying a box that was likely filled with the kind of contraband that the two mercenaries were looking for here - weapons… But the encounter didn’t last long before the first attack from Shun flew, directed at the lead man out of the two, the one that had a rifle in hand and had immediately raised it upon her sudden appearance… Wasn’t unusual to see rifles and the like around here, there were plenty of security types working for the protection of clients, but the rugged clothing of the man and the general demeanor fit everything that Shun knew about the FDF from what the National Security Bureau had informed her.

So, she held nothing back.

Her arm whipped back in a violent gesture, and seconds later, the man was clutching his chest where a knife had impacted it - not a physical knife, however. In reality, there was no solid object there, but rather, psionic energy had been propelled in the form of one, powered by Shun’s control of her own chi… The internal power that everyone had but only some people were able to master and use properly. She was one of the ones that had the natural compatability to do so and hadn’t given up when it came to learning the skill that, for most regular people, just wasn’t worth putting in the effort to use. Most people didn’t end up in situations like this after all.

Shun, however, had mastered this ability to deadly ends. Her psionic knife put her opponent on his knees, and she whipped with her other arm… Painting the ground red by separating the rebel’s head from his shoulders with a whip made of the same energy, which dissolved as soon as it had served its purpose and completed the attack. The energy returned to her for further use as she kicked over the body and broke into a run, chasing after the second figure who, immediately after the death of his comrade, had dropped the sealed crate and ran… Not quickly enough to escape the second psionic knife which was hurled by the mercenary chi manipulator, the object of bright golden energy burying itself between the man’s shoulders from behind before Shun extended her hand to call it back and allowed the energy to return to her as she ran up to grab the man from behind.

“Shun! Behind!” shoute Fraser, but by the time she was turning around to see what was there, there were a pair of loud bangs and flashes in the night as her partner fired two rounds off and caught another FDF member in the back, who had been aiming at her with a rifle - this one wearing a black mask that covered his face.

“That’s why I love you, Fraser,” Shun remarked, sliding low to the ground and reaching for the collar of the man she’d downed with the knife, pulling him up a bit and demanding answers. “Where’s the FDF getting their weapons from, eh?”

“I don’t fuckin’ know-”

“Wrong answer…” Shun replied, slamming the rebel’s face into the ground to knock him unconscious before whirling around in the direction of the doorway. Fact of the matter was, there was a chance this man really didn’t know anything. If she wanted answers for sure, she had a higher chance of getting them by finding someone of a higher rank than just one of the foot soldiers that had been carrying cargo.

Focusing in and enhancing her senses using her chi, Shun could hear footsteps approaching from off in another part of the vessel… And she reached for the shotgun on her back, raising it up and looking off to the side briefly at her partner, who was getting into a firm stance near the door with his pistol, ready to fire away if the need called for it. “At least two more on the way. Coming in fast,” Shun warned.

Shifting her focus back to the immediate, she made a hard step forward and sprung into the path of the enemy while they were coming at her, peering down the sight and taking the first shot before either of the two could fire on her… The soldier that was hit was sent flying back into the hallway, landing with a thud and ceasing movement, while the other one thought it was a good idea to challenge Shun in close combat… A definite mistake on his part. His swing was blocked expertly, and Shun’s grip on his arm only grew stronger before she wrenched it, and gave it a chi-enhanced yank across his body to dislocate it from the socket.

“You going to say something about where these weapons are from?” she asked, while her opponent was still off balance, having dropped his gun too.

“S-Some Afghan… That had big discounts,” this soldier said, more willing to talk to save his own skin. It was enough to get Shun to stop thrashing him for a moment at least, instead getting her attention because of the revelation of one of the parties involved in this.

“You don’t have any more details than that?” she asked, still holding onto the arm of the soldier before shifting her grip so she had him by the collar.

“Not the one that makes the decisions…” the man said in choked out words.

Shun replied by slamming him against the vessel, knocking him unconscious before gesturing to her assistant. “Fraser, throw some handcuffs on that guy and leave him here… We’ll bring him with us on the way out and see if the deck jockeys back at the office can get any more out of him than we can,” she said, before raising her shotgun again and taking a step towards the ramp leading inside the freighter. “I’m going to head into the ship.”

“Aye,” said Fraser, moving to comply with her order while Shun ran into the vessel itself, muttering to herself.

“Afghan, huh…” she said under her breath, contemplating what the answers she had received from the man could mean for the mission. “So the Middle East Federation might be in on it, too…

Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. One of the spacefaring superstates that had settled here on Destine along with the others, but not the one that was expected to be supporting FDF forces here in the North American sector. After all, supporting such movements was a recipe to end up on the receiving end of them - the FDF was, after all, in favor of an independent Destine entirely… The American sector just happened to be one of their main targets.

It seemed she had taken out most of the crew of the vessel, as there were no footsteps other than her own while she moved deeper into the metal hallways, which left her a clean path to keep heading forward towards the bridge. Once she was there, she immediately moved to access the computer system, her hands flying across the keyboard quickly to move through some of the menus before she reached into her pocket for a portable hard drive, plugging it into the main terminal.

She had a thing or two she wanted to track now that she was aware of the faulty encryption employed by rebel forces which weren’t nearly as experienced in cybersecurity as their professional counterparts. For someone like her, that made breaking into the vessel’s computer system a matter of quickly passing through a few barriers with just some rapid lines of code that took her around them entirely. If the security had been better, she likely wouldn’t have been able to get in without external equipment.

“I’m in the computer system,” she called out over her shoulder to Fraser, turning around to see that the footsteps coming from the entrance did indeed belong to her partner rather than another enemy. “I’m going to get the location data from the flight computer and the communications data, too. It should show us if there’s any inconsistencies in where the ship came from and where the official papers say it came from… And might give us an important location.”

“You think the MEF is the one helping the rebels?” questioned Fraser as he entered the bridge also, brushing his long hair out of his face in the process - Fraser was in fact, quite often confused for the other sex thanks to his somewhat unusual appearance, of which that was one aspect. “You know, the weapons they use seem American…”

“Just a tactic to avoid detection. There’s a lot of North American guns on the market, sometimes it’s better to circulate those instead of tying things back to a specific region by using specific weapons. If the FDF started shooting with Iranian guns we’d know they were tied into this, but the ones in charge of this stuff are too smart to let something like that happen. If they shoot with American arms on the other hand, we don’t know who the one that gave ‘em the guns is,” Shun explained while she watched the progress advance for the download… They would be able to leave soon, but it wasn’t exactly a small undertaking downloading all of the black box data from a large vessel like this.

“As for the MEF, though…” Shun continued, more unsure about whether or not they were the ones behind this. It wasn’t the kind of thing she could tell just with instinct, like a lot of other things. “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be too surprised. It would be a bold move for them but you know, this is Destine. It’s the wild west… Winner take all kinda moves hardly surprise me if we’re being honest.”

She looked at the progress bar as it continued to creep forward, until the transfer of data was complete and she pulled the hard drive back and stuffed it in her pocket once again, looking back to her partner. “The NSB will be happy with these findings… Ring ‘em up now, tell them we’ve done the job and we’re on our way to drop off the data and the prisoner that might have some info, as soon as we get the stuff in the boxes photographed. Let’s see if the weapons around here give any clue about who sent them, eh?”

Fraser nodded, moving to start opening the boxes of weapons and ammunition and other supplies that was presumably set to be delivered to various locations which acted as FDF guerilla strongholds - not here, but further out in self sufficient settlements which acted as fully functional towns but lacked access to space thanks to not having the infrastructure and thanks to their seclusion. The deliveries were smuggled in through places like this… And they had intercepted a big one.

As they began going through the weapons however, Shun couldn’t help but feel like this wasn’t just going to be a one off… No, it seemed like there was something big happening that they were near the center of. Regardless of the source, it wasn’t every day the FDF brought in enough guns and ammo to take a settlement. Presumably, this was some kind of specific plan.

“You know, Fraser,” Shun said, standing up as she opened one of the crates, looking down at the AR style rifle parts that were inside. “Feels like the Destinian Faction’s getting pretty uppity with this…”

She paused, picking up one of the receivers and turning it around in her hand, looking for details on where it had been made, if there even were any… Of course, she couldn’t find anything. They weren’t stupid enough to leave tracks, even if she did look down on the intelligence of anyone rebelling against a prosperous system simply for the sake of independence.

“And there’s a lot of money to be made in stopping a crisis like this one…” she concluded. That was, perhaps, her main motivation. Unlike people, money tended to not fail one’s expectations, and couldn’t betray. Couldn’t mistreat. It was a tool that simply allowed someone to improve their life. While people, on the other hand, were much more complex… Despite money being called the root of all evil, people were far more hurtful too.

It was the reason Shun chased profit before other goals such as fighting for the flag of a nation or for some personal ideal, and it just so happened that in this case, she smelled as much profit as she ever had…



There were some who were active in the field and some who handled things behind the scenes - Hong Zhou, the ‘agent’ that connected some of the most feared mercenaries and contractors on Expanse with their clients, was firmly in the latter category rather than the former… Her office looked more like one that belonged to a regular businessperson, books neatly organized along the wall and a desk sitting at the end of it in pristine condition, made from Destinian wood and shined perfectly to reflect at the person that was looking at it.

Hong herself was quite well kempt, her black hair trimmed low in a way that gave her a slightly serious and austere look, the kind of look that helped one to be taken seriously when working in a competitive field like this, and her clothing consisting of a blue traditional Chinese dress which had been imported from an authentic source back on Earth - the real deal, not a cheap imitation that could be found within the markets on the streets of Expanse or one of its undercities. In her hand was one of the few signs of unprofessionalism the agent had - a glass with some brandy poured in it… It helped with getting through the work.

There was a reason she was dressed like this for work, of course. This wasn’t one of the days when she did her job from behind a computer screen, but rather one where she was meeting with someone in specific. A couple of different people were supposed to show up here… Not because they had a deal with her but because they were already her clients and she had decided it was a good idea to introduce them to each other. One of them needed to move up in the mercenary game after getting the attention of an esteemed agent such as Hong, and the other one was looking for further help after catching wind of some big game jobs that were about to hit the market, from the government nonetheless… They were some of the most exclusive jobs out there, extended only to her client perhaps because of her client’s skill in chi manipulation and her record in using it in combat.

First, however, Hong would welcome the less experienced one to her office, and glanced down at the clock to notice that it was about time for her to arrive. She had a thing or two to go over before the more experienced and more dangerous one showed up… Because sometimes, the most skilled ones were also the hardest to handle, as the agent had learned personally.

Zara didn’t consider herself a very nervous person, but she couldn’t stop herself from feeling the butterflies rise in her stomach as she made her way down the corridor, looking for the one office in particular she was headed for. A quick glance down at her wrist revealed she wasn’t running late, not yet, at least, but she quickened her pace as best as she could regardless.

First impressions were very important in her line of work, and being late was most certainly not a good first impression. If you couldn’t even keep on time, how reliable were you? And in a profession where reliability was one of the most important things, well… Being late wouldn’t be good.

Eventually she found the office in question and stopped outside, pausing for a moment to adjust her white skirt, straightening her matching blazer and brushing her hair out of her eyes before reaching forwards and knocking politely on the door.

“The door’s open,” Hong called out from behind her desk, keeping her eyes on it as she took a sip from her glass. When Zara entered, she’d gesture for her to sit down across from her - there were two chairs. For now, only one of them would be filled as Hong went over the things she needed to tell the newcomer. “I assume you’re still down for the jobs that I’ve talked about and you haven’t… Gotten cold feet as a beginner,” she added, eyes examining Zara’s posture and body language.

“A few nerves are understandable, I hope.” Zara said, stepping into the room and shutting the door behind her, quickly stepping across the room and sliding smoothly into the chair opposite Hong, briefly fiddling with her skirt as she sat down. “If I wasn’t still up for it I wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

“Right… Well, I don’t have all day before the other client shows up, so I guess I should get into it. You’re working with Shun Yorukaze, one of the finest names on my client list, on a series of jobs that, from what Sun told me, will be directed against the Free Destinian Faction and potentially their other backers from this planet and Earth that supply them with arms and funding,” Hong stated, setting the glass down for a moment. “But obviously, I don’t have the details of these jobs because they’re government related and the government is a bit more tight with info than most employers. I’ll also assume that you’re comfortable in getting involved with this, government grey ops that are… A large rabbit hole to go down. With some good factors. Some bad factors. More danger down the line, perhaps… Good payouts, but not necessarily the best. But there’s the bonus of being above the law to an extent… I should stop myself there, I’m sure you already get the point without me writing a book on the matter.”

“I can fill in the blanks, yes.” Zara said, nodding. “And I’m fine with that, I’m sure I’ll encounter this type of work eventually. Sometimes it’s best to learn by jumping in the deep end, either you learn quickly or I suppose you die rather quickly.”

“And the other mercenary that you’re working with isn’t a usual one. I’ve already told you this, but Shun is a chi manipulator. Powerful at that. She’s not that old but still has a lot of experience under her belt… A lot more than you, definitely. She’s also, however…” Hong started, her voice trailing off while she looked for the proper word. “Unconventional. Asocial, too. Not in the sense that she doesn’t talk to people, because she does, and some have even called her charismatic, but she’s not the most socially adjusted person so to speak. She prefers going down her own path… It’s her way or the highway. As you can see, that may cause some problems with someone from a more normal background like you, that’s expected to work closely with her for the upcoming tasks…”

“So it’d be best to keep my head down as it were most likely, go along with what she says which is most likely far better than anything I could come up with regardless given our differences in terms of experience.” Zara said, nodding once again. She was far less experienced than most of the mercenaries out there, so it wouldn’t be much different to what she was intending to do regardless. “Any other advice you can give me about, well, making this work?”

“You should probably know that Shun isn’t very interested in working with anyone else at the moment… I believe she’s only accepting the idea of working with you because, according to her from what she’s told me directly, you’re cute… Keep it in the back of your mind, I suppose,” said Hong, chuckling briefly as she finished off her cup of brandy. “You are dealing with somewhat of a notorious casanova too, by the way, in case you didn’t know that yet.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.” Zara said, not really entirely sure what to make of the fact that she was only being chosen because she looked cute. “But thanks for telling me. It… Probably would’ve been a bit of an unpleasant surprise not to know in advance.”

“You can deal with that, can’t you?” questioned Hong, raising an eyebrow as she once again examined the client sitting across from her. “I don’t believe Shun is exactly a quiet person about things like this, too.”

“I’m sure I’ll figure something out with her, yes.” Zara nodded again. “If I can’t, well, I don’t think I’ll be long for this line of work if I can’t handle a casanova, as you put it, who thinks I’m cute.”

“We’ll see how you do with this, then… She should be coming about now,” said Hong, looking to the door, and listening for the sound of footsteps before someone came down the hallway and stepped inside the office - Shun herself, wearing the usual attire of a dark jacket and a pair of shades, the latter of which she took off after entering.

“Not in the mood for this, boss, you know I don’t do people things…” Shun said, stopping once she was inside the office and scanning it with her eyes, looking to the left and right and then down. “So I’d like to get it over with and meet the chick already. Suppose this would be her.”

“This is her indeed…” said Hong, gesturing towards Zara. “You may wish to introduce yourself now.”

“I’m Zara.” Zara said, not moving from where she was sitting quite yet. She wasn’t stupid enough to assume this would be anyone but Shun. “I assume you’d much rather skip over all the pleasantries and get on with discussing the job, yes?”

“Depends on what you believe there is to discuss about it,” Shun said, throwing Zara’s question back in her face, frowning slightly. “I wasn’t under the impression I had to discuss anything.”

“You don’t have to, but it would be quite helpful if I knew exactly what it entailed prior to me actually helping you with it.” Zara said. “If you don’t want to, I guess that’s fine too and I can just follow your instructions from here onwards.”

Shun paused, a frown still on her face. “We know there’s arms coming in to the Destinian Faction from an Afghan arms trader that I believe may be connected to the MEF… This information has been delivered to the National Security Bureau and the next jobs are going to come from their end. I don’t have all the details of what those jobs are, but that’s the general direction we’re headed in… We’ll get more details when we need them. Are you happy?”

“Very, thank you.” Zara said, nodding gratefully. “It’s appreciated, but if there’s nothing else you want to talk about, then…” Zara let her voice trail off.

“Can’t say I’m impressed so far…” Shun said, either towards Zara herself or Hong - it was hard to tell. She looked back down towards Zara, letting out a slight sigh. “You know, when I heard there was someone else promising that I should work with, I didn’t think that it would be… Some rich girl.”

“I haven’t exactly had a chance to show what I can do, to be fair.” Zara said, standing up and brushing herself down as she stood. “Unless there’s anything else you’d like to say-” She said, nodding towards Hong. “I think I need to show you personally that I’m not just some rich girl playing at being mercenary with family money.”

“Look, just… Be a pretty face and don’t get in my way, and we’ll see what your skills are in due time,” sighed Shun, her eyes narrowed slightly. “You don’t have much of a resume to prove what you’re telling me, I think. So just don’t do anything that’s going to put both of us in a bad spot…”

“If you want me to be a pretty face and not get in your way, then I can do that.” Zara said, face slightly downcast from Shun’s dismissal of her. “I can’t prove it to you, as you’ve said, so I’ll have to show it instead. And if that means simply not getting in your way at first and looking nice then it means doing that.”

“If you have something more to put on the table, you have a chance right now to make your case…” pointed out Shun, folding her arms. “Otherwise, I’m just calling it as I see it. I did ask for serious help for these next jobs after all, not… This.”

“You’re probably right, if I’m being honest with myself.” Zara admitted. “You’re by far the more experienced of the pair of us at this type of thing. There’s no case I can make with words to prove you’re not right in calling it as you see it, as I said the only way I can do that is action and by doing what you need of me to the best of my admittedly limited capabilities.”

“Appease me and I’ll be in a better mood about the whole thing… Maybe,” Shun said, stepping forward and putting her hands on Zara’s shoulders from behind, massaging them. “You aren’t going to let that pretty face go to waste, are you?”

“I said I’d do what you need of me, didn’t I?” Zara said, cocking her head to one side and looking back towards Shun. “If that’s one thing you need it’s one thing you need from me. I’m not drawing dividing lines through my own words.”

“Oh? And you’re willing to prove that?” Shun said, shifting and moving to pull Zara up, and pressing into her from behind once she was out of the seat so that she was against the desk where Hong was sitting behind… “Maybe I should have some faith that you’re something more than a rich girl looking for an expensive adrenaline rush with all this…”

“I am.” Zara said firmly, blushing slightly as she was picked up. She was far from the largest person in the world, and it wasn’t a fact she liked being reminded of by being so easily picked up.

Shun seemed at least somewhat interested now, running a single finger along the back of Zara’s neck slightly, before she allowed more of her hand to rest on it, squeezing ever so slightly. “I suppose those are acceptable terms… If only you call me ‘teacher’ when you cry out,” she added with a smirk, leaning in closer, her other hand resting on Zara’s leg.

“Um… Okay?” Zara blinked, confused and blushing even more as Shun rested a hand on her stocking-covered leg, not entirely sure what to make of this whole situation but playing along regardless. She had to, given what she’d said earlier.

“Well, it’s good that you two are getting along then,” Hong said, looking at the scene in front of her with a slight amusement, but mostly happy that she had managed to set up a… Working situation even when one side was hardly experienced and the other side didn’t believe in that side’s ability due to that fact. It was an odd pairing for sure, but she believed she was a good enough coordinator of talent to set up working teams even in situations like this… Where even both team members didn’t believe it would work.

Of course, the jobs ahead weren’t exactly easy ones, and if the Middle Eastern Federation really was involved, it would add another layer of difficulty and complexity.

But that was why it was being taken on by her clients… Some of the best around. And for better or worse, not scared of anything, let alone the chance of being drawn into an international crisis with major consequences for Destine and for multiple countries.
Last edited by Lunas Legion on Fri Feb 28, 2020 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Last edited by William Slim Wed Dec 14 1970 10:35 pm, edited 35 times in total.

Confirmed member of Kyloominati, Destroyers of Worlds Membership can be applied for here

User avatar
Forest State
Senator
 
Posts: 4330
Founded: Aug 23, 2016
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Forest State » Sat Feb 29, 2020 2:09 am




Image




S1E4
“THE GAME BEGINS PT. 3”

Days into the back and forth game of cat and mouse in Singapore, a risky plan has been created to escape the grasp of XR Telecom and their soldiers…





March 12th, 2097
Singapore, Union of Southeast Asian Nations
Collaborative post between Forest State and Durmatagno



A pair of days had passed and there was only so much time that one group of people could spend in one small apartment before moving out and getting back to the real world… But planning to get out and actually getting out were two different things. There was a plan in place, of course, but there were multiple variables. Multiple places where it could go wrong… As was always the case when going up against a corporation like this that had more manpower, more guns, and could saturate the area with their own mercenary soldiers to make an escape attempt harder.

After getting some of their items back to them through the inventive use of couriers delivering things on foot, the plan called for them to leave the pyramid and get back into the undercity itself, and eventually Singapore itself, with the help of someone that Hester had reluctantly called here… Supposedly a rival who she could call in a favor from. They’d have a window where the car was waiting for them in the parking complex that wasn’t far from the apartments, a multi level one which was a maze to navigate at that. Calling it a parking garage and comparing it to a regular one would be an understatement. First, however, they would have to navigate their way to that place in the first place, and avoid getting caught out in the public areas by the enemy security forces that were surely lurking.

There was no time to put it off, however. The car was already on the way, the plan needed to be in motion right now if they wanted to have a chance, and if they failed this… There wasn’t any telling when they would have another good chance to get out of here. Standing by the doorway of the apartment with her rifle in hand, Hester made sure they were aware of that.

“We’ve got one shot here, and one window…” she said, looking over the others. “Our contact isn’t going to come by twice and doesn’t want to get in trouble for this. I’m assuming you’re all aware of how important it is that we make it to the parking area, get to the car, and get the hell out of here…”

“Of course.”

Victoria said simply as she made sure both her shotgun and the PM80 she used were loaded and ready to go. Tight confines like this the shotgun would be useful, but it was a backup. Like it’s predecessor some hundred years before, the PM80 was well known for shredding body armor, even if it did lest soft tissue damage. Considering that they were up against corporate mooks, Victoria wanted to make sure she could get through their armor as often as possible.

“I’m fully loaded, and ready to go whenever everyone else.”

“Ready as well,” Jazmine said, her own rifle on her shoulder… And from there, Hester waved them forward as she threw her own bag onto her back and pushed her way through the door, stepping into the hallway and moving at a brisk pace in the direction they had come from when they first entered the place… As soon as they reached one of the areas with heavy traffic, of course, Hester expected them to be spotted by the corporate forces that were after them. For now, though, they were moving through the hallway without trouble.

“I believe we’ll have to cross through the shopping area and then we’ll find the parking one,” she added. They hadn’t laid this place out in a way that made it easy to access all of it. There were certain things to carry someone around quicker, such as monorail style transportation systems, but right now… Those weren’t exactly safe. It’d be a matter of stopping the system entirely or cornering the end point, and they would quickly find themselves in a bad position.

After navigating the maze of hallways and escaping it successfully, they emerged on one of the upper levels of the ‘mall’ area… On a large walkway which ran on for quite a long distance, another such walkway running along the other wall and platforms connecting the two of them in some places while in others, there was simply a railing and then a straight drop many stories down to the ground. In other words, it was laid out like the average mall, but on a massive scale, and they were higher up in the air than most malls extended… With the small but still existent risk of falling if they weren’t careful.

“Let’s move,” Hester said, waving to the group one more time. “We cross over to the other side via that bridge and we should be closer to the parking than we are now… I hope. I’m going off vague ideas for now…”

“It’s like these places are designed to be confusing on purpose.”

Victoria muttered as she followed behind Hester. The downside of her current loadout was that it was all medium to short range, lacking the distance of her...comrades. Comrades worked for now, how long that lasted was another question. She was ready to fire at any targets she could reasonably hit, but she wasn’t going to pepper targets well out of her effective range. No point other than maybe suppression. If Weiss could see her now...she’d be yelling at Victoria for not being well prepared.

As they moved through the pedestrians that were going about their everyday lives without a clue about the drama that was unfolding around them, Hester and Van were sure to keep their eyes facing opposite directions, something that helped in watching for any attack… For now, they were safe. Their presence was somewhat subtle among all the people here, but as they moved as a group, they would surely attract attention eventually.

“It’s too quiet at this point…” muttered Van, her SMG kept close as she walked behind the other two in the group while Hester took the front, ready to guard against any attack from the rear.

“We can get to the parking through this department store… Better cover, too,” Hester pointed out, as they crossed onto the other side of the Pyramid, pointing out the entrance to the massive department store that spanned multiple levels and was located strategically next to the parking. “Dunno how easy to navigate it’ll be, though-”

“Contact,” hissed Van, waving towards a sight behind her, a small team that was moving on the side they’d just crossed from on a walkway one level above them - armed and clad in black, evidence that they were from some kind of security team… And most likely, XR’s security rather than any that was neutral towards them. “Move! Get into the store, I’ll catch up with the rest of you in a minute,” she shouted with a gesture towards the entrance, turning once again and raising her SMG, letting off a couple of bursts of careful fire and shredding the glass that made up part of the barrier.

Victoria moved into the department store. She wasn’t sure how much she trusted Van, but she’d been doing this kind of work longer than Victoria had. She had her own SMG readied, incase of any contact inside the store, but kept her finger off the trigger. Didn’t want to shoot the wrong person, that’d waste her ammo and draw attention to them even faster. Hester was the one with the contact, so Victoria would keep following her, though on the way by she put a reassuring hand on Jazmine’s shoulder for a moment.

“I’ll be fine, worry about you…” Jazmine said with a chuckle as she also followed, taking the contact with the enemy as a chance to pull her rifle off her shoulder and hold it in her hands in case she needed to take a shot from range. She wasn’t equipped so much for close combat but they never knew what danger they might run into that warranted shooting from afar.

Just outside the entrance, Van kept the security team back with a few more bursts from her SMG before she dropped the empty magazine, started to reload, and turned and ran into the building with the others, as Hester was already ahead of her by some margin… She pushed her way around displays, through crowds of people, to make it back to them as she picked up a faster pace… But she could hear some disruptions coming from the store that weren’t exactly from her section of it or the part that the others were in.

“They’re in here, too!” she called out, close enough to the others that they could hear her even right now through all the others. “Coming from towards the back…”

The crowd was helping them for now, as it put some separation between them and the corporate soldiers, but that advantage wouldn’t last forever. Especially as the crowd dispersed thanks to the incoming rush of men from the front entrance, each of them well armed… And from the sound that Van could hear, there was a drone getting up in the air too, four rotors carrying it towards them as she pointed her gun up and sprayed unsuccessfully at it.

“There’s a fuckin’ drone in here too…” Hester pointed out to Jazmine and Victoria. “Keep your heads down, and remember, the displays are natural cover.”

“Just let me know when to shoot something!”

Victoria could only keep her head down so far, her size was a disadvantage here. She wanted to turn her SMG on the drone, she had a better chance than anything besides Jazmine at getting through the armor, but Hester seemed to want to avoid firing. Victoria couldn’t entirely fault her, it’d get them shot back at sooner, but her trigger finger waS itching at this point. She wasn’t bloodthirsty, but even her blood boiled in a fight. And so far it’d only been running. Running that made sense, but still only running. Victoria wasn’t going to push it though, given their situation they’d have to fire at something eventually, and she’d get her fill.

“Fire when you can see the details of their uniforms… Don’t waste shots,” Hester said, peeking around a clothes display and pointing her gun up at the drone, firing off a burst which hit it, tearing one of the rotors off and causing the thing to go spinning out of control… And crashing in the middle of some other sector of the store after a rapid descent during the final part of its flight. But the drone was only one worry.

“Bunch of them coming up on us right now,” said Van, joining the rest of them as bullets hit around her heels, her speed and dexterity being the only things keeping her from getting shot as she went on the move and joined the others before sliding dow for cover behind the base of the same clothes display that Hester was standing next to. “At least five.

“Right… Fire back if you want, we’re going to have to get on the move and get out of here before they send in even more numbers, though,” Hester said towards Victoria, not moving from her position herself. “Most we can do here is thin them out a bit, they have the numbers advantage by a lot.”

Victoria dashed from one display on her path to the next, letting out a burst with her SaMG, catching one of the goons in the leg, possibly shredding his knee. Regardless, he went down, and wouldn’t be of much help chasing them down. She gestured for Jazmine to make the dash as she let out a second, unaimed burst, keeping the four still on their feet pinned long enough to let Jazmine through without getting shot.

The other side still had numbers on them, though… Enough numbers that even as a few of the lightly armored soldiers went down, more of them were almost immediately ready to replace them, the department store becoming the new place where these forces were converging on one location. Soon enough, the department store floor would start to fill with smoke, the corporate forces putting on masks with respirators as they continued…

“Whatever that is will most likely put you out,” Hester warned, leaping away from the display which was now being covered by the thin layer of white smoke… And she grabbed Victoria by the arm in the process, gesturing to the other end of the building. “Only way we’re getting out of this one in tact is beating it to the exit…”

Victoria growled and moved away from the smoke, at least what she could, and made a mad dash for the door. She fired another burst on the move, tagging a guy in the arm, but she didn’t think it got through the armor, just bruising him. Still it forced him and two others back behind cover for a moment, giving Victoria a moment without bullets trying to catch her. She felt shrapnel from the tile hit her leg, and enough pain to know it had bruised her, though her jeans had stopped it from cutting her open. Thankfully it hadn’t been a bullet or she’d either need to be dragged out, or left behind.

The appearance of the smoke didn’t just present a danger, it also made it hard for both sides to see, which was a saving grace for the group that was running for the other side of the building and the exit. Hester was on the phone by now trying to identify just where her contact was in the multi level parking area as they passed through a pair of large sliding doors and entered the concrete maze that made up that part of the building, but it seemed they would now have to move quickly and cover some ground before they found the spot they were looking for.

As Hester led the group away from the doorway where any enemy force would likely emerge from, she finally pocketed her phone once again and sighed as she looked back to the others. “Contact isn’t going to come any closer than the floor above us. The stairs are right here… Not taking the risk of using the elevator and getting shot as soon as the doors open,” she said, turning to start up the stairs. “Van, cover the rear again.”

Victoria just nodded and kept moving. She had gotten her shots in, few as they were, and just wanted out of here for now. Eventually she might have a chance for a real fight, but for now she was just after breathing room. Maybe a drink, or a nap after this was all done. She wasn’t entirely sure, though one idea did itch at the back of her mind. She pushed it aside for now, she’d have time to dwell on such thoughts once they were out of this place.

They didn’t seem to be pursued through to the parking area… Though Hester had the theory that it wasn’t because they had escaped but because they had simply passed into the territory being covered by another team of soldiers. They wouldn’t be able to say they had escaped until they were in the car and managed to make it out… “Get behind cover…” she said, waving the others to move in between two rows of cars, where there was a decent amount of protection from being seen once they crouched low. “I’ll let Alta know we’re on this level now…”

With luck, their ride could come pick them up from this spot.

Though, there was a chance they weren’t alone here and they would come under attack before that could even happen. “That’s the sound of fucking boots…” muttered Van, listening to the echoes from further in the large structure. One advantage of the environment was that it wasn’t hard to hear any moderately loud noise. And it did sound like boots coming towards them…

Although, when she dangerously raised her head up and looked in the direction it was coming from, she didn’t see a team of soldiers that was occupied with them rather than one that was occupied with a prisoner, marching someone off in some unknown direction, at least one rifle pointed at the young woman’s back. “Hmmm… Check it out,” whispered Van, ducking back down between the rows of cars, unseen. “We’re not the only ones in trouble around here.”

Cecile had tears of terror in her eyes as the soldiers pushed her along. This wasn’t right, why was she at gunpoint? She’d been here on vacation from her family’s home in Rennes. She’d decided to stop at this pyramid to take some pictures, do some shopping, and generally see just how different such a place was from the quietish life back home. She stumbled when they jabbed their rifles into her back. Falling to the ground before hurriedly trying to get back to her feet.

“Don’t fucking move a muscle then… Unless you want them to start looking our way instead,” said Hester, in the same low tone as Van, looking across at her partner as she looked over her submachine gun. “Don’t even think of using that gun right now…”

Van was silent for a moment… Contemplating her decision in this situation, and struggling with coming to a decision as she listened, pushing her head up one more time and looking over the cars and towards the scene that was playing out. “Your electronics… On the ground!” demanded one of the lead soldiers. So that was what it was about - events like these tended to have a media blackout, depending on just how powerful one of the belligerent sides was. There would be pictures of the event in general, for sure, and those around would vaguely know that it happened… But things like specific videos and images of a fight like this were at times severely restricted. And it appeared XR was one of those companies that enforced their blackouts with extreme force.

Cecile pulled out a fairly expensive phone, a good camera, dropping them on the ground. Flinching slightly at the sound of them clattering to the floor, though they seemed to be decently tough. A bruise was on her face, apparently she’d already tried talking back once, and had been hit for it, or maybe she’d had a similar fall somewhere else. It didn’t matter, she was just a terrified tourist, unsure of what to do besides comply. She wasn’t even sure that was a good idea, but she had few other options. Victoria meanwhile watched Van out of the corner of her eye, and tightened her grip quietly on her own SMG. She felt as though, for one reason or another, things were going to get loud. It didn’t matter why, once it happened it happened, and she’d be ready to shoot.

The camera was quickly kicked by a metal boot… Shattering it to pieces while the phone was confiscated, another one of the three soldiers moving to search for the remnants of a memory card - probably their main orders here. To make sure that detailed footage or pictures of the incident in the shopping area and of the combat operation in general was destroyed. However, it didn’t seem the girl on the receiving end was going to get off that easily… As the lead solder pulled out a pistol. “I’ll call base on what to do with the prisoner…”

But the answer was most likely death, and they all knew that. Asking for orders was simply delaying the inevitable, a precaution rather than a genuine question.

“I’m on the move,” Van announced, slipping out from between the cars… To the chagrin of Hester.

“Fucking idiot…” Hester muttered, but it wasn’t enough to keep their stealth from being broken only seconds after Van had moved from the cover, as she popped up from behind another car and squeezed down on the trigger of the SMG, catching the lead soldier in the group through the mask.

There were panicked statements from the others. “What the fuck?”

“Contact, over there-” the second of the soldiers started, before being hit by… Something. Was hard to tell what. There had been a flash of gold, the sound of numerous impacts, and then the man’s armor was shredded - it hadn’t been a bullet but Van did have her arm outstretched in the direction of the group of soldiers.

“You goddamn idiot…” Hester continued, clenching a fist as she fumed in frustration, raising her rifle up in preparation for the inevitable wave of soldiers that would show up thanks to this. She did indeed hear more footsteps now that they had given a pinpoint location to target, coming from the floors above them and below them. There were more than just this one team within the complex after all, and right now, most of the footsteps around here weren’t friendly.

Except, on this floor, there only seemed to be one soldier left, and that only lasted so long… Bullets from that one soldier’s rifle filled the side of the car Van was hiding behind, but she quickly put on a burst of speed and popped out from the side again, leveling her SMG straight at her target and riddling her opponent with bullets until he dropped. “If you don’t want to get caught up by the next wave, you’re going to have to come here…” she said towards the girl who had narrowly survived the encounter.

“Good fucking job giving our position to all of them, dumbass!” Hester shouted at Van as she pushed herself to her feet, no longer seeing the point of stealth or hiding when probably the enemy’s entire presence here was moving on them as they spoke thanks to the sound of the gunshots and the sudden attack from VAN.

Cecile scrambled across the ground to hide near her savior. She didn’t know what those thugs were going to do with her after they’d finished destroying her things, but she didn’t want to think about it. Cecile crouched behind the car next to Van, hands covering her head as she did her best to stay down and away from the bullets and golden flashes. Victoria on the other hand leveled her PM80 in a direction without clear line of sight, guessing it’d be a good place for more mooks to come at them. If any showed their faces she’d pull the trigger, but she really just wanted their ride to get here.

There were gunshots… But from the floor above them. And the sound of an engine revving. Seemed like their ride wasn’t far away but it was going through some technical difficulty that the owner of the vehicle had hoped to not have to experience. In the meantime, it seemed that Hester wasn’t exactly willing to leave the decision from Van, making her disapproval known once again once she didn’t get a reply from her previous comment. “You really got the whole squad laughing with that stunt of yours,” she said sarcastically. “And now I’m going to get fucking chewed out by Alta since she’s getting shot at because of this shit.”

“It’s already happened,” Van said in reply, her arms narrowed.

“Between this and your little friend problems before, maybe I should stop considering you a fucking reliable partner,” Hester snapped, watching out for enemies on the horizon as she waited for their ride to show up… More gunshots. But it seemed like it was close enough. “There’s not a place for altruism as a mercenary…”

As she spoke, the sound of acceleration grew louder before decreasing, the shadowy structure suddenly lit up by the bright headlights of someone that wanted to be seen… Someone that pulled up just behind Hester. “Get the fuck in…” she muttered, taking the passenger side for herself and climbing inside the red car, the driver looking out the side window and observing the others that would soon join them on the way out.

Victoria kept her SMG readied but backed toward the car, making sure that Jazmine got in before she did, and sat down next to her. Cecile scrambled in, shaking and terrified, but having no other choice, if she stayed other soldiers would kill her or something just as bad. She shivered in her seat, eyes fixed on the ground. She didn’t know what to think of any of this, right now just sort of wondering how the hell her vacation had turned out so...wrong.

Van was the last one inside, bullets flying as the car was identified as an easy target by the security forces that were showing up on this floor, as the driver sped off just as the door was closed finally and everyone was crammed in the back, not even with a seatbelt in the case of Van. “If I knew this favor was going to be like this I wouldn’t have come here…” muttered their driver, Alta, while Hester was silent in the passenger seat rather than saying anything.

They weren’t out the woods yet however, as they rapidly descended the levels and headed for the street level exit which was surely going to be blocked off in some way… Getting out of here was going to be a complicated task at every step and that was easily apparent by now. “Go ahead and make yourselves comfortable, because we could be at this for a bit if we don’t lose them right away…” their driver said.

Victoria stayed quiet, but tilted her head to rest it against Jazmine when the chase would allow. Things were cramped back here, but she was going to do the best she could to make herself comfortable. Cecile meanwhile was just trying to block it all out and pretend as though nothing was happening. An escapist last ditch effort to hope this was a nightmare and not reality, though deep down she knew that this had really happened and there was no changing it.

Soon enough, the garage exit was coming up, and the street was in view… But there was still a team of soldiers set up there. “Motherfucker,” cursed the driver, as she kept her head down at the level of the steering wheel, attempting to avoid the gunshots that were crashing into the windshield, causing break lines to appear in some sections… And then she accelerated, and the car smashed through the soldiers and the barrier they had set up, surviving the impact and continuing on as she yanked the steering to the left at the last minute, taking them on a path for one of the hardest neighborhoods in the undercity… However, that also made it one of the best places to hide thanks to the lack of ease in getting there by the corporate authorities.

“Looks like we made it out of this one…” Jazmine said rather calmly, her rifle hardly fitting in the car. “I don’t hear anything behind us for once…”

“We’ll be out of the woods when we reach the drop off location,” Hester said simply, letting out a brief sigh as she rested back in her seat and finally put no pressure on herself to act as the leader of the group, instead taking some downtime and closing her eyes during this moment of peace that they didn’t always get in spots like this.

Victoria closed her eyes and continued leaning gently against Jazmine. She didn’t know how long this trip was gonna take, but she was going to rest and relax while she could. She was tempted to start smoking, but decided against it, it could wait for now. Cecile meanwhile hugged herself as her breathing finally started to calm. Now that she wasn’t getting shot at she could take stock, and calm down enough to think clearly, though it’d take some yet.



The red car came to a stop… And they were at their destination. “Thanks for nothing, Hester…” Alta said, before accelerating away quickly and spraying water in their faces in the process as she finished dropping them off in front of the place they had been headed to - one that was buried deeper into the undercity, in a no go area for many of the security forces such as the one they had a problem with now. In other words, this place was dangerous enough that they had some more breathing room because few people wanted to come all the way down here to deal with them.

The location they were left standing in front of was an inn… Which was decent enough conditions compared to the small apartment they had come from, even if it wasn’t more than a three star kind of place probably.

“This is it…” said Hester, starting towards the door. “The place we’re staying. I know a few people with connections around here, we can stay until we figure out how we’re going to get to the spaceport and head to Destine. Preferably two groups of us will be sleeping in pairs so I guess you all can figure that out, I’m going to head to the front and get the rooms.”

And then they were inside - there wasn’t anything impressive about this inn, of course, but it was a reminder that civilization still existed even if they had been removed from it for the past few days while stuck in a concrete cube with little to do… It made a three star or so place like this look like a six star hotel in comparison, and it seemed the rooms would be larger too.

Victoria glanced around before looking at Jazmine. With how things were with Van it wasn’t a good idea to bunk them together, so she shrugged and said.

“We’ll take a room together, right Jazmine?”

Cecile meanwhile just stood to the side quietly. Unsure of what to do, but knowing that leaving this group now would be exceedingly dangerous for her health. This did not look like a part of town she wanted to be alone in.

“Mmm,” Jazmine said, barely nodding but acknowledging what Victoria had said. Perhaps a bit indignant at the last time they had been in close proximity with each other and how it had turned out.

On the other hand, Cecile would find herself approached by Van, who wasn’t in the best of moods but laid things out for her as clear as possible. “There’s only three of us excluding them… So you’re either with me or her,” she said, gesturing to Hester, who was at the front desk. “And she doesn’t want company.”

Cecile just nodded and took a step closer to Van. If she was going to have to stick with Van, she was going to stick close. Victoria meanwhile frowned while Jazmine wasn’t looking, sighing internally. Yep, she’d messed up back in the apartment, but she still stood by her decision in the long run. Short run...maybe not so much.

“Rooms are ready,” Hester said flatly, handing out one of the keys to Van and the other one to Victoria before she started off towards the hallway herself, sulking to an extent and not saying anything to any of the others just yet… It seemed like no one in the group was particularly happy at the moment, perhaps more unhappy than they were at the apartment before despite the worse conditions there, but they couldn’t split at this point. They were out of one bad situation and off the radar of their opponent for now… But regardless of that, there was still a hell of a long way to go before they reached Destine again.

And it just so happened that their path there was near impossible to predict…
i'm the bad guy... duh.

for: the anime right
anti: catgirls & people who step on snek

User avatar
Lunas Legion
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 29845
Founded: Jan 21, 2013
Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Lunas Legion » Sat Feb 29, 2020 8:37 am




Image




S1E5
“RAT IN A CAGE”

The National Security Bureau of the United States of North America is responsible for handling all manner of threats - on Earth and in the star colonies. The Expanse branch of this organization has quite the task on its hands, with rumors of MEF involvement in the Free Destinian Faction…





March 15th, 2097
National Security Bureau Building, Expanse, North American Sector, Destine
Collaborative post between Forest State and Lunas Legion



It wasn’t a particularly nice conference room, Gabriella reflected, as she sat alone at the end of the table. The view out the windows wasn’t particularly nice, just more cityscape and not even a good view of it given they weren’t high enough to properly look over it. Otherwise it was just… Dull, really. She tapped her fingers against the table impatiently, her nails clicking against it the only sound in the otherwise silent room as she waited for the mercenary she was meeting to arrive.

Shun would, of course, turn up. She was professional at things like this even if her behavior outside of her job was very much unprofessional more often than not, and she was somewhat surprised to see that the other person in the room wasn’t all that much older than her despite working here with the NSB… As she entered the conference room on one of the mid level floors of the quite brutalist NSB Building in downtown Expanse - though downtown didn’t mean much when there were so many interconnected urban areas around here - she offered a wave and quickly realized she was probably dealing with an intern.

Someone further down the latter, another cog in the machine, a rat in a cage, whatever someone wanted to call it… Seemed the spooks hadn’t deemed this meeting important enough to send someone who had information outside of what they both already knew. Though Shun had investigated these things on the scene, while the girl was likely getting her information from the briefings of the NSB that had probably been forwarded to her for this meeting. Whatever the case, she wasn’t bad looking, and Shun couldn’t resist taking a pass at her as she sat down.

She was a casanova, after all - and those with more experience working with her in the NSB were already familiar with that.

Image
Gabriella Sara Bianchi-Costa.
“Well, hello beautiful,” she said, getting comfortable at the table as she sat down. “I have to admit, I half expected to see some generic spook type here… Instead I get a rather pleasant sight.”

“Although complements are appreciated, we do sadly actually have something to do I’m afraid.” Gabriella said, smiling as she briefly looked Shun up and down before turning her attention back to the folder sitting on the table. “But you will be getting to see quite a lot of me since I’ve been named as your… Handler for operations and will be the liaison between you and the NSB.”

“Since when have I needed a handler? I handle myself. I’ve already got a team and I just brought on another person to make sure I can get the jobs done,” Shun questioned, letting out a slight sigh as she rested back in her seat. “Granted, it doesn’t seem too bad working with a pretty face but… I’ve never been one for the whole, you know, nine to five work thing where you take orders from a boss or something. All my employers are aware of that about me.”

“Handler’s more of the technical name for it, I’m not going to be micromanaging you or something.” Gabriella shook her head. “Essentially I’m going to be the one who passes everything the NSB wants you to do to you, and relaying everything you find out in the field back up the chain. If you need something specific from the NSB for whatever reason, you ask me and I’ll do my best to see that you get it.” Gabriella paused, sliding the file over towards Shun. “Details about your next assignment are in there, and since I’ve managed not to introduce myself thus far, I’m Gabriella.”

“Shun Yorukaze,” Shun said to introduce herself as she took the file, taking a look through it for a moment before setting it down on the table once again, realizing that it was largely what she knew. She had been the one to find the links in the first place, after all. “Mmmm, FDF planning bigger activities, the MEF supporting them, Afghan arms traders and urban attack plots… It’s all the usual for me. You know, the real interesting part of this meeting is you, Gabriella. Now that’s something actually new and interesting to me…”

Gabriella blushed, looking down at the table, not entirely sure how to deal with this situation. “I wouldn’t say I’m that interesting really…” Gabriella said, looking back up at Shun. “You’re the hardened mercenary, I’m just a low-level NSB agent and not even someone who’s had an opportunity to properly go into the field.”

“Not everyone has to be the most experienced or anything, you know,” Shun said with a slight smile. “And hey, I just have different interests than a lot of the people around here - I’m not the type to figure things out with meetings and spreadsheets and stuff. I’m better when you put me on the ground and tell me to get to the objective. I’m good at figuring it out that way, but up here…”

She paused, looking around before her eyes settled on Gabriella once again. “I’d like to say my best trait is my charm. That said, you’re still pretty charming yourself, high rank or not.”

“One does her best.” Gabriella said, cocking her head slightly to one side. “There’s things you can figure out on the ground, but some things need all that other stuff, as boring and unglamourous as it may get at times. I do believe we’re, officially at least, done here, but if you want to stay for a bit I wouldn’t mind since it would be a good idea to get to know the person I’m handling better. I don’t think anyone else is supposed to be using this room for anything for a while.”

“I don’t mind spending some more time with you - I mean, I kind of fall for people easy,” Shun said, chuckling and suggesting that it was perhaps a joke… But one that had at least a little bit of truth to it. “Then again, if you aren’t interested…” she added, letting her voice trail off, leaving the statement open ended for Gabriella to confirm or deny. She was interested in seeing where this would go.

“Why wouldn’t I be interested, hmm?” Gabriella said, smirking and leaning forwards. “It’s rather unprofessional of me to get involved with someone I’m handling, but, well, I won’t tell if you don’t.”

“I tend to be the kind of person that has my own unique interpretation of the rules… Important lesson for life. They don’t really give a shit, if you’re good,” Shun stated confidently. And it was true to an extent, at least for her, but then again, there was nothing normal about her. She had a skillset that not a lot of people did, being near the pinnacle when it came to enhancing her combat abilities with chi.

There was a lingering moment of awkwardness for her because of her own standards - her personal rule. Never get too close to people. Avoid close relationships like poison. And yet, that rule didn’t discourage her entirely from having fun. From messing around, going into things where she didn’t give up too much of herself - the worst thing she could do, from experience, was give up her heart and put too much faith in someone…

She supposed this was fine by those standards then, since she’d hardly said anything about herself and it was just a case of taking interest in someone who worked with her but she might not necessarily see later. So, she made a decision.

Standing up, Shun moved her way over to Gabriella before placing her hands on the side of her face, leaning down towards the shorter girl and beginning to make out with her then and there, going with the momentum of the conversation rather than stop and ask more questions or otherwise hold things up with anything else… Because if it was going in this direction, what reason did she have to stop it? It wasn’t like it was permanent, and she was having fun right now…

Gabriella’s eyes widened in surprise for a brief moment before she pushed her lips into Shun’s, shutting her eyes and taking a risk for once. It was easier if she didn’t have to look, and only had the feeling of their lips pressing together as she pushed her body up against Shun’s.

It was some way to end the ‘meeting,’ with thousands of people still moving about the building around them, only separated from them by one pair of closed doors… There was an inherent risk with that situation, of course. But sometimes, the best moments required a slight bit of uncertainty first.
Last edited by William Slim Wed Dec 14 1970 10:35 pm, edited 35 times in total.

Confirmed member of Kyloominati, Destroyers of Worlds Membership can be applied for here

User avatar
Durmatagno
Negotiator
 
Posts: 7115
Founded: Oct 10, 2011
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Durmatagno » Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:46 am




Image




S1E6
“THE TOUR”

Upon arriving on Destine, the group of newcomers receives a look into the mercenary group known as the Temple…





March 20th, 2097
30 km north of Expanse, North American Sector, Destine
Collaborative post between Forest State and Durmatagno



After a period of trying to get off of the planet, first by heading up from the undercity and then by heading out of Singapore and to a safer spaceport in Vladivostok, the group of mercenaries had made the journey… From Earth to Destine. Lightyears away, it was a very different planet both in the layout of it and in the society that had sprung up from the colonies here - but for Van and Hester, it was the place they called home… Regardless of what their actual origins were. That wasn’t known by the rest of the group, but it was known that they both lived in this place.

On the other hand, for the other members of the group, Destine might as well have been the wild west, an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people and a strange style of buildings, a strange style of cities too for that matter… There was plenty recognizable - some of the same things that were features on Earth were features here. The megacorporations, the instability that happened sometimes, the shadow conflicts… Things they were becoming rapidly involved with. But one could say that out here, it was much less restrained. Further removed from the origin nations, the colonies here were less controlled by authorities, something that bled through into every area of society in one way or another, from the unique building styles to the fact that more of the law enforcement here was private rather than attached to any country.

Destine was also, of course, where the mercenaries were based, and where they had shown up to Singapore from. Their home would be the place where Jazmine and Victoria stayed for the next days - until they decided on their next move. They had options on their hands. Go their separate ways and leave this behind… Or stay there, and become further immersed in this life. If they picked the former option, though, they would be on their own when it came to dealing with any complications from their… Adventure in Singapore. Surely, the enemies they had made there wouldn’t remove them from their radar that easily, after only days has passed.

“This is home,” Hester said, as she drove their SUV through a set of gates and turned onto a side road which led into a garage… Apparently. It was more accurate to call it a vehicle bay. The entire place that they were staying in, it was massive… It wasn’t just a base, but an entire compound, multiple smaller buildings extending out of the main one, and the entire area taking up enough space that it might as well have been a small self supporting town of its own rather than one installation. It was impressive, the kind of thing that was usually constructed by a large corporation, not an independent group of mercenaries.

When Hester climbed out and was followed by the others, it also became apparent their vehicle bay wasn’t just a regular garage - there were rows of vehicles within, and it was more like a shrunken down parking garage. “I suppose you should all follow me,” Hester said, waving to the others as Van moved up to her side, saying nothing. “And I’ll leave it up to someone better at it than me to explain everything about what this is.”

Victoria looked around as she climbed out of the vehicle. Stretching, she nodded and moved to follow Hester. The ride over, including the flight, had been somewhat...active, and she was fairly sore. She was looking forward to a bit of a break, though she didn’t mind the feeling. It was catharsis incarnate, but even she needed rest from time to time. Cecile stayed quietly behind the others, still wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to just try boliting before she had gotten onto the ship but...she was here now, there was no changing that, and she had attached herself to Van to survive.

“Place is pretty big.”

Victoria commented, there was bigger somewhere, there was always bigger somewhere, but Victoria wanted to note that she appreciated the scale of what was before her.

“A lot has gone into making it this way,” Hester said simply as she walked in the front, keeping her head down but otherwise leading them through the massive vehicle bay and further into the building, exiting through a set of glass doors and stepping into a hallway that was taking them… Somewhere. She brought them up a flight of stairs, kept walking, and soon enough the wall on the right side would turn to glass and they could see that they had entered a third level, the open area that the glass was overlooking seemingly being not fully used yet… Although there were a few people around, and a few places that looked like they provided services - food, for one, and some other shops. It was almost like a mall… And yet they were in a private base right now rather than a shopping mall or a public area.

Continuing on, Hester was leading them deep into the building and took them up another few flights of stairs, bringing them out on another level with yet another long and clean looking hallway, this one with no glass to look out at the surrounding area… She walked through one of the doorways at the end of it, bringing them into a different kind of room altogether. Extending in front of them as they entered was a notable red carpet, contrasting with the white of much of the room, and with the wooden accents and highlights in many places, and just beyond that there was a seat that was more like a throne… A young woman with silverish hair placed atop it, one leg crossed over the other.

“So this is what Hester brought in…” she said, shifting in her seat and looking all of them over. She seemed to be with the mercenaries, too. Not just because of the location, but because of her general attire and demeanor, which seemed to communicate… Power.

Victoria kept quiet and kept her back straight and her eyes forward. She didn’t say anything, she could feel that this was someone at least in charge of Hester, how high up she was was a different matter. Still put her in power over even those she’d already met, Victoria didn’t want to make any slip ups around her. Cecile meanwhile kept her eyes fixed on the floor, she shouldn’t be here, but she had no choice. She didn’t want to attract attention. Victoria’s multicolored eyes were steady even now, but she was being careful to not look like she was sizing the boss up, seeing what she was like.

“I assume you all know nothing about this,” said the woman up front, looking from member to member, waiting for an answer with her arms folded as the two more experienced mercenaries didn’t say anything, keeping to themselves for now and just watching the interaction between the apparent leader and the newcomers.

“Pretty much next to nothing. Just that you guys are mercs.”

Victoria kept her answers short and concise, though she did spare a glance to Jazmine to try and gauge how she was reacting to all this. Victoria wasn’t sure of much when it came to the personality of the boss before her, so she was going to step lightly, and hope it didn’t screw her. Some bosses responded well to confidence, others to meekness, Victoria was keeping herself calm, collected, and imposing, but not exuding domination or challenge. It was an act she had grown used to when competing for hookups, but on a more dangerous, and more high stakes level now.

“Correct. Not just any mercs, however… I suppose I should tell you the background now that you’ve survived long enough to make it here in the first place. This group is known as the Temple. It is… Not a mercenary company, but a collective. Jobs come in, from some of the greatest sources thanks to our contacts and connections, and certain members choose to take them… A part of the profit goes back into building up the collective. There’s no marching orders, so to speak. No assigned jobs. No official guidance. But if someone wants to surround themselves with the best… I believe there’s no better place,” the woman continued.

She paused before adding a bit more information. “My name is Verity Kendall, and as you might be able to tell, I’m the leader around here. The decisions about who ends up in this group are in my hands. It’s not a democracy, but I’ve earned my position through proving myself and through overpowering my opposition for the control that I asked for. So tell me… What is it about you three that I should favor you because of?”

“Well...I’m a quick learner with a knack for machines, both designing and building or repairing them, but more importantly for you I’m a decent fighter, though with room for improvement considering my lack of experience compared to older mercs.”

Victoria had her own answer after a moment. She wanted to put more emphasis on her intelligence and the skills therin, but they weren’t as valuable for mercenaries. To some extent everyone needed engineers and mechanics, even in the field, but her ability to fight was what made her valuable and not a liability. She looked over at Jazmine to see what she would say, thinking it best each individual would say. Cecile was starting to sweat a little in the back, she had nothing to provide these kinds of people. No skills that would allow her to join, she wasn’t sure she even had what it took to get those skills.

Jazmine, on the other hand, was more confident - probably because she was already more used to talking to people about her abilities and such. “I’m a skilled sniper, able to strike from long distance using marksman rifles or anti-material rifles. Additionally, I have a basic knowledge of hacking and I consider myself to be an expert in the social realm.”

She smiled slightly after speaking, before looking to the sides at the others and then back to Verity, wondering just how this would turn out for all of them.

Cecile spoke next, keeping her eyes and voice low.

“I’m a quick learner but...that’s about it, I don’t have any choice about being here. I...I suppose I’m fast and flexible, could be useful with training.”

Cecile’s only real skills related to art and acting, she had no abilities she could conceive of that would be useful to this kind of group. In time she could be useful, but she needed time. She also needed to keep Van happy with her, but that was a different concern entirely.

Verity’s reaction was hard to read, though when she set her eyes on Cecile she seemed perhaps disappointed in the skillset that she brought with her. “Oh? All the time and expense for training is going to fall on us?” she said, reaching to her side and drawing a dagger from a sheath, making a notable noise of the weapon being drawn as she started to twirl it in her right hand absentmindedly, light glistening slightly off the blade as she did so.

“I-I have access to money. These guys stopped some corporate soldiers from shooting me for taking pictures, I-I didn’t have much choice but to come along.”

Cecile was clearly terrified of Verity, though she made no attempt to hide. It wouldn’t help her, and she didn’t shrink further back, that wouldn’t save her if Verity decided she needed to be dead. Cecile was just hoping she could survive her long enough to actually be useful, she looked at Van out of the corner of her eye and looked at the ground, a blush of embarrassment settling in her cheeks.

“And I c-can provide...relief to people.”

Verity stopped twirling the knife, holding it still and looking into the reflection, the rest of the room silent as she pondered the matter and decided just how she was going to respond here - knowing that she held their fate effectively in her hands. This entire place was under her command, after all. “Fair enough…” she settled - though, it still meant Cecile would be far below the others in terms of training in almost anything. Not a good position to be in.

Looking them over, Verity posed another question of her own. “And I assume I would be correct in thinking that all of you are looking for a spot within this organization, while knowing fully that your hand won’t be held while you work here…”

“Yes, we understand.”

Victoria answered with a quiet nod from behind her coming from Cecile. Victoria was no stranger to street fights, she was quite good in a fight already actually, but to survive was teamwork, and there was always room for improvement. Victoria believed that no skill was ever truly mastered, there would always be improvement, but she knew that things wouldn’t be easy here. That made it all the sweeter to her, she relished challenge, it was part of why she had left home, to get away from the handouts from her family.

“Then I suppose the matter is settled,” Verity said, gesturing to Hester. “Take them to their rooms, then… On the level that has empty space.”

Hester simply nodded without saying anything more, gesturing for the others to follow after her as she started out of the room and was quickly followed by Van, seemingly more tense ever since they’d come back and ever since they’d come to this spot in specific. It lasted even after she stepped out, but she wasn’t exactly in the mood to say anything about it as she led the group to an elevator… It was only a short trip up, a couple of floors actually, and they ended up in another corridor where Hester showed the right way to go.

“Your rooms are… Well, any of the ones in this hallway that don’t have names on them already. I’ll get your keys and stuff sorted today, they aren’t locked for now…” Hester said once they had reached a specific point where the names on the doors ceased to exist, leaving them with a row of empty rooms. “You’re going to want to get your stuff in there before I take you to meet a couple important people around here.”

“Not like we have much stuff.”

Victoria chose a room as she said that to put her stuff in. Once that was sorted she stepped back out into the hall and stretched, seh had been tense the entire time they’d been talking to Verity. Cecile chose a room, but all she had was a few changes of clothes, so it didn’t take them long. She kept quiet, but stuck slightly closer to Van than any of the others, worrying looking like she was trying to get away would provoke her wrath again.

Jazmine placed her own bag inside her room, and when they were done, Hester guided them back to the elevator and pressed a button to head down to the ground floor, where she made her way through another glass-windowed corridor before letting the group out at what looked like an open training area. There were targets for shooting set up, but when it wasn’t being used for that, it seemed like it was an open space for training in melee combat as well as unarmed combat - a sign indicated that it wasn’t far from a gym, either.

“The training area… One of them, anyway. Since you’re new here, I’m making one of our better trainers aware of that. Someone is going to have to help bring all of you up to speed in a few areas if you don’t want to lag behind the group,” she explained, looking around before a brown haired girl in a sporty outfit emerged from one of the side rooms into the open area, seeing what the visit was about.

“Yuka Asanuma,” Hester said in introduction, gesturing to her. “The one that’s set to instruct you in melee and hand to hand. Van will be handling firearms, on the other hand. Yuka-hime, these are your newest students… I don’t think they know anything with this kind of stuff yet, so you’re in for the long haul with them.”


“Oh? Is that true?” Yuka asked, raising an eyebrow and looking over the group as they emerged into the open training area.

“I know some basics for hand to hand, but only what would get you by in a bar or street fight, nothing fancy.”

Victoria said with a ashamed nod. Despite her size she wasn’t as strong as she looked, though she was pretty tough, and had a quick mind. Cecile looked down and spoke quietly.

“I’ve never fought someone before at all.”

She looked up at Yuka, while Victoria looked over to see what if anything Jazmine was going to say.

“I can shoot guns… But I haven’t done much for hand to hand,” Jazmine admitted, scratching her hair awkwardly. And… It didn’t seem to be the best answer for their teacher.

“Oh,” she said, looking down as she realized that she had a lot of work on her hands with this group. “Well, I guess that’s why Hester told you to come to me, then. I’m probably going to have to work on a bunch of things, your conditioning and fitness included, but I’m sure you all will be able to keep up with the best of us at the end.”

She seemed to have a positive attitude about it at least. “Especially you… The tall one, that is. You look like you could do a lot on the ground if you bulk up a bit and use that size more to your advantage. Of course, it’s useful for kickboxing and stuff too, but I imagine the higher ups don’t want me to get off track… That is, clinch fighting and taking enemies down would be more useful of a skill for you.”

“You’re the expert, most fights I’ve been in were solved either by just a few good punches, or one of my guns. Spent more time learning about engines than fighting, guess it’s time to invest in fighting.”

Victoria said with a nod. She didn’t know this one’s temperament either, and clinch fighting did sound useful. Besides, it might be nice to bulk up a bit more, might be useful when it came to girls that weren’t already into her like Jazmine was.

“And uh…” Yuka turned to face the other members of the group. “I guess I’m going to have to put you guys through the whole process. Since you’re starting from nothing. But I’ll figure something out for the both of you.”

“I think I’m too top heavy for hand to hand, anyway…” muttered Jazmine, her head cast down.

“You can still learn some things,” she said, before stepping in front of Cecile. “And I expect you to have an easier time with it than her.”

“I’m flexible and faster than I look.”

Cecile said with a quiet voice, though at this point it was more because she didn’t want to strain it after the damage she’d done screaming. She wasn’t terrified of this one the way she had been the boss lady they’d met. Still, she couldn’t help but still worry about what was going to happen to her.

Getting the attention of the group once again, Hester pointed to a hallway. “The dedicated firing range is further down that hallway… Like I said, Van will be handling firearms training-”

“And know that I hate all of you. If you fail my lessons, I might just shoot you,” Van interjected - a sarcastic reply, though the sentiment behind it wasn’t exactly fake.

“I think if there’s nothing else here…” started Hester. “We can get to the last important person that you newcomers need to meet.”

Victoria kept quiet at the Van comment, she knew to watch her back with Van. Cecile meanwhile wasn’t as worried about getting shot as other punishments, and nodded fearfully with her eyes locked on Van. She wasn’t sure how or when she’d fail, but she knew she had to avoid it as long as possible. Else Van give her another demonstration. Jazmine, on the other hand, simply looked to her former best friend but didn’t say anything, following Hester when she started off again.

The final room they were led to was also on the ground floor and was rather dark, the majority of the light coming from the many monitors that were set up within. “The control room for… Electronics and intelligence operations,” Hester stated plainly. “The place where you call when you need reports, need help with electronic warfare related matters in the field, the place responsible for writing your intel… Headed by Ophelia Park.”

The head of the department seemed to be in right now, and was busy typing at a coding console displayed on one of the main monitors, but looked over without stopping once the others had entered. Van in specific seemed to have some connection to her. “How’s it going, bitch?” she asked as she stepped inside the room fully, leaving the others behind.

“Perfectly fine… Did you bring me my present, bitch?” Ophelia replied, stopping her coding to briefly embrace Van after her arrival.

“I was just trying to survive out there…” Van admitted, her voice softer - and the two of them started talking, but it was hard to hear exactly what they were saying.

“I believe you all should also have at least a basic level of skill in computer hacking… It will be useful at various times. Even if you aren’t able to do something like break into an enemy network and track them through their devices, there’s… Smaller uses. Getting drones away from you, hacking into electronic locks, and things along those lines,” Hester stated. “I’m sure Ophelia here can spare the time to pass on some of her knowledge.”

Victoria nodded, deciding to ignore what Van was talking about and doing. Van would never like her, and while she had no issues with Van herself as of yet, there was no changing that. Cecile listened quietly, with her eyes on the ground, nodding at what Hester was saying. She was curious as to what Ophelia was to Van, but she knew better than to ask. If they thought it important that she know, they would tell her.

Jazmine simply watched the scene in front of her, pausing somewhat before looking to the side, and Victoria. “I guess…” she started in a lower voice while she waited for Van to finish talking to her friend. “That’s the one who replaced me?”

Possibly. At the very least Van has some kind of affection for her, though with the bitch being thrown around, Van didn’t strike me as the type.[i]”

Victoria kept her voice quiet. While Jazmine’s personal leanings were well known, them being a proper thing was not. As far as anyone else here knew, for however long it lasted, they were still just friends. Victoria didn’t think it’d last to long, Jazmine was prolific, and Victoria herself...well she didn’t mind putting on a show for the right people. Still, it was just for now, Victoria would have to talk specifics with Jazmine later.

“She doesn’t mean that as an insult,” Jazmine remarked, having spent enough time around Van to know. “She just says bitch a lot in general. I guess I just never realized it would be painful to see her with another best friend, really…”

“[i]Well I’m not going anywhere at least, though I can’t promise you’ll have the only taste.


Victoria couldn’t help the comment, both to reassure Jazmine about Victoria sticking around, and teasing her ever so slightly. There wasn’t anything Victoria could change about what had happened between Jazmine and Van, she’d already done what she could to try and get Jazmine to talk to her. Things were probably never going to get better than strained between them, but she hoped to help with the at least.

“What, you already have plans or something?” Jazmine asked with a raised eyebrow, her eyes still settled on Van, who had slid onto the same seat as Opehlia and was speaking to her as she looked at the computer screen.

“Not specifically but there’s a lot of people here, but I’ll always be a call away if you need me.”

By now, Van was moving back towards the group, and Hester looked to the rest of them as they were rejoined by their other member. “I think I’ve covered all the places you’ll need to go for training in the next couple of weeks, there’s a few other places but you can probably find them on your own… I suppose this is the time when I turn you loose and tell you to look around and do whatever you need to do to get settled in. I understand it’s a big jump,” she commented.

Victoria nodded at the return to the group conversation. She’d explore once she got the chance, but she didn’t know who to and who not to avoid yet. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to start meeting the others, and making some friends. First she’d stop by her room and unpack best she could, not that she had much. She’d had to leave her bike and everything relating to it in Singapore, including the custom parts she almost had ready. That made her legitimately sad, but she could start over eventually, the time would come for her to have a bike again.

As she went to her room, however, she would find herself approached by another person - she had silvery hair almost like Verity did, but she was shorter, and her form looked like she had put more work into being attractive than being athletic… Of course, compared to Victoria, she was much shorter than she was even next to Verity. And she was very intently looking for Victoria, as she blocked her path. “Hello, you’re, um… One of the new ones around here, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Just got here, name’s Victoria.”

Victoria noticed the hair of course, but the eyes were different from Verity’s. Not just the color, but they weren’t cold, almost piercing the way Verity’s were. They had a different hunger to them, one that struck Victoria as familiar, but she couldn’t place how. She looked down at the girl, and put her hands in her pockets while she waited for the response.

“My uh, name’s Imogen, and I wanted to finish showing you around,” the girl said, looking up at her due to the large height difference between the two of them. She smiled, showing perfectly white teeth. “Though, I don’t think you noticed me before in the room with my sister…”

“She sorta demands attention but uh, sure, I don’t mind having someone show me around.”

Victoria smiled at the girl. She wasn’t entirely sure what the girl wanted, but there was no harm in letting her show Victoria around. Worst came to it she’d just come back to her room and leave the girl alone, but a tour of place besides the three training areas was nice. Seemed this girl was nicer than Hester, though that wasn’t difficult. Still, Victoria understood some of Hester’s frustration having them tag along.

“Where to first?”

“Well… There is a bar around here, actually,” the girl said after pausing for a moment, flashing another smile before she gestured in the direction of down the hallway, turning on her heels to start down there… Without saying another word, leaving the rest of the information for Victoria to find out on her own.

Victoria fell into step behind Imogen happily. The prospect of a bar had her perking up, she hadn’t had a drink since this whole mess started, and if anywhere had more smokes, there was a chance they were there. She only had a few left, and no joints at that. Again, she’d had to leave most of her stash behind, though it didn’t bother her the way the bike did.

“What’s this bar serve?”

Some bars exclusively carried local brews, others only high end, she’d heard rumors of whiskey or wine only bars, but never saw one herself. She hoped this one had some variety though.

“Anything you can find in USEAN, North America, or the Middle Eastern Federation… And some local drinks made from the alien plant life around here,” said Imogen as she led the way, taking them back down towards the second level of the compound. “This isn’t an ordinary group… We like to live better than that.”

“Nice to know where it is at least, Van took my cash, and I don’t know if my cards will work. My sister may have frozen the accounts because I haven’t talked to her in awhile.”

Victoria said with a sigh, there were other reasons the accounts could be frozen, one of which is making an enemy of a corp, though whether they’d bother was another matter. She sighed, she had to start over a second time, and this time it wasn’t entirely by choice the way it had been the first time. She shrugged it off, could be worse, she could have no skills to make more money.

“That won’t be a problem,” said Imogen, reaching for money - she seemed to pull it out of nowhere despite the complete lack of pockets on her outfit - and counting what she had before she passed some back to Victoria… About a thousand dollars in total. “You don’t have to make a big deal out of it… I can get more from Verity whenever I want, you know.”

“I…”

Victoria was dumbfounded for a moment, at least in part because her mind had gone to where Imogen had been keeping that money.

“Ahem, I’ll uh...make it up to you somehow eventually. I know, not a big deal, but I’ll find something I can do for you.”

Victoria put the money in her wallet and put that back in her pocket, her front pocket where she could keep good track of it. Seemed being the bosses sister had some perks, but Victoria wasn’t going to pry, instead she smiled.

“Might try some of the local stuff, only ever had Earth native alcohols.”

“It’s not like anything you’ve had before, but I believe your mind will jump to the conclusion that it’s sweet tasting because the structure is… Similar enough to your sugar. In some ways, anyway,” Imogen said, explaining the difference between the two. There was indeed a bar on the second level, which they’d arrive at - not busy for now, though there were a few people there, and it was decently decorated with mostly a wooden design style and rather new and modern furnishings. LIke most of the things within this compound. “This is it.”

There was a bar counter but she walked past it, instead heading to the spot where there were more isolated booths, choosing one a bit further back and sitting down. “This spot should be good,” she said, before smirking. “So I can get to know you without anyone else listening,” she added on at the end.

Victoria took a seat after looking around. Her old place had been a wooden style too, but something older. More Victoria, but modernized. It’d been a nice place, got richer clientele in, richer clientele with more freaky requests. She smiled at that thought before turning her attention back to Imogen.

“Nice place, reminds me of my old haunt, though this place is more modern.”

“Everything around here’s modern. Only the best for us,” chuckled Imogen, looking Victoria up and down before glancing down at the menu. “Guess since you don’t know the local stuff, I should order for you… You looking to get kind of wasted or totally wasted today?”

“I don’t have to deal with hangovers, so either works for me.”

Victoria looked around as she said that, she was lucky, her little gift wasn’t cybernetics but some genetic quirk. She was also a much heavier drinker than she looked, which was already fairly high given her size, and endurance.

“Depends on how early I’ll have to be up tomorrow really, alcohol is one of the only things that knocks me out on a regular basis eventually. Always had trouble sleeping.”

“I’ll surprise you, then,” Imogen said, getting up and heading to make an order, leaving Victoria there for the moment. Seemed like they would be here for a while, and like they wouldn’t be doing much else on this day considering Imogen’s comments about getting wasted… But she hadn’t been lying when she had said she’d show Victoria around. It just so happened to be this side of the place that she was showing her, rather than the more functional spots that had already been shown by Hester.
Last edited by Durmatagno on Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough. - Maurice Maeterlinck

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. - Washington Irving

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get. - Confucius

User avatar
Lunas Legion
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 29845
Founded: Jan 21, 2013
Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Lunas Legion » Wed Mar 04, 2020 11:09 am




Image




S1E7
“RAT TRAP”

Following the discovery of Middle Eastern Federation aid for the Free Destinian Faction, the National Security Bureau of the United States of North America has dispatched a mercenary team to deal with the first stage in ridding Expanse of their influence - taking out or capturing their agents on the ground. The first of these tasks sends the team into a trendy part of downtown…





March 20th, 2097
New Manhattan District, Expanse, North American Sector, Destine
Collaborative post between Forest State and Lunas Legion



The New Manhattan District of Expanse was named for the place back on Earth, the bureau of New York City, and it sure lived up to it - like most of the city in Expanse, some of the most common buildings to find here were towering skyscrapers, there was always construction going on seemingly, as these buildings were expanded and as they were maintained, and the streets were narrow with a combination of busy and constantly traveled ones and side streets which were just as thin and led to… Various adventurous locations, that ensured someone couldn’t get bored here if they had the energy to get up and walk.

While the original Manhattan perhaps had a reputation of being part of the ‘establishment’ rather than new money, New Manhattan was very much on the other end of the spectrum as a place where the trendy crowd flocked and where investors were continually plotting out new buildings - and private security forces waged land wars, fighting with landowners to push them away and gain the land needed for the next architectural wonders of the future. In a place like this where all of the city was covered, after all, putting up new things meant buying out and getting rid of the old… It could be a brutal game, one that Shun herself had toyed with getting involved with in the past. There was a lot of money to be made in chasing someone out of their own home.

Image
A busy part of town…
As they moved through the city streets in Shun’s black muscle car, however, she shifted her attention away from her musings about her previous work in the area and began looking for their actual destination - the Dutch Tulip cafe, a place with a clientele that was trendier than even the average for this area, the kind of place where one expected to see startup CEOs from the biotechnology industry and young coders and marketers looking to make it in the corporate world, the ones who were still young enough to complain about the last generation and had largely just gotten out of college.

But that wasn’t what they were headed there looking for. They were headed there looking for a foreign spy. In specific, Jafer Al-Azim, the agent of the Middle Eastern Federation that according to investigation by NSB intelligence, was meeting with two suspected operatives of the FDF here today. If they could capture Al-Aziz… It would deal a blow to the enemy effort and it would allow them to find out more information about just where these weapons were coming from.

“This is Yorukaze… Arriving on the site,” said Shun, parking the car across the street, further down the road from where the building actually was. She was speaking, of course, into her phone and towards their ‘handler,’ Gabriella. “Parking further down the road. About to begin the walk up to the place… Has the second team arrived in the vicinity yet?”

She climbed out as she posed the question, gesturing for Zara to get out also - and she went over her things quickly, touching the inside of her jacket to make sure the pistol was in place. The shotgun would have to remain in the car. There was no way to conceal it properly, and the element of surprise was important here… Hence wearing nondescript regular clothes instead of any uniforms which would give them away as a mercenary squad. Especially one connected with the NSB of all employers.

“Second team should be arriving within a minute.” Gabriella said in reply as Zara climbed out of the passenger side of the car, briefly brushing herself down as she looked around. She’d lived in New Manhattan for maybe a week or two before she moved elsewhere, the rent simply being too expensive long-term even for someone like her, but it didn’t seem to have changed a bit.

“Going silent, then. I’ll… Report in soon,” said Shun to Gabriella, before pocketing her phone and switching her attention to Zara. “As for you, you’re going to be the first one to head into the building. Get in there, do a quick sweep with your eyes and tell me if you can see anyone resembling our target, or the Destinian Faction associates, and then keep moving and find a table. Preferably near the window. Understood? I’ll be in after you.”

Zara said nothing, simply nodding and breathing out before starting to walk over towards the building, glancing to either side as she crossed the road to distract herself. The key thing was to act like this was perfectly normal, so as not to tip anyone off about this entire operation pre-emptively. She entered the building, still silent as she looked around, supposedly looking for a table but actually looking for what Shun had said to look for before quickly moving for an open table after spotting one by the window.

As she entered the building, Zara would spot one man that appeared to meet the profile they had been told about earlier, heading to a table by the window next to the street - and the man wasn’t coming far from her. No one in this place was far from anyone else. There was a kitchen area and a counter for ordering, a narrow walkway, and then there was the seating on two sides opposite of it… And nothing else in the small and hip little restaurant. The place only had the essentials, no large extra spaces and no breathing room. All of this meant that Al-Azim was walking right towards Zara, almost facing her down even, while heading to one of the open window tables.

Zara turned to look out the window, resting her hands on the table in front of her. It was the easiest and most convenient way to look in the otherwise too-small restaurant, so she could just watch the street outside while avoiding looking at their target since that would just make him overly suspicious. After a few seconds, she pulled her phone out of her jacket pocket, deciding that calling Shun would be far too risky given how small the restaurant was but a simple text in the briefest possible manner would be fine.

The text back, of course, told her to stay where she was… A few minutes passed before Shun moved on her own, headed for the same entrance Zara had come through, though their looks and mannerisms were different enough that it didn’t seem like they were working together as part of some kind of operation - the vibe that they were trying to avoid. Not looking towards the suspect, Shun sat down across from Zara, turning her attention towards her partner and away from the peripheral conversations at the tables around them, about coding work and about the dramas of city dweller life.

“We’ll wait here for a minute… And make an order, while we wait for the other team to look around the perimeter and ensure there’s no… Other assets of the Middle Eastern Intelligence Service,” said Shun, speaking lowly, leaning in almost to avoid the table behind from hearing. She reached for her own phone again… Sending a text to Gabriella after a moment that was relaying the same instructions for the second of the two teams deployed into the area.

It was perhaps unneeded - but it was better safe than sorry. These games between intelligence agencies tended to have multiple layers. And having the upper hand wasn’t always permanent. “Also, we have to wait for the two FDF members to show up… Orders to kill, and all,” she added to Zara.

“I can head up and get us coffee.” Zara offered, leaning back in her seat and looking towards Shun, phone resting face-down on the table. It was something to do while they waited, and with things like this there was no way to tell exactly how long that was going to be. Depended how paranoid their mark was being today to a degree.

“Go ahead,” said Shun, waving Zara towards the counter while she set her eyes on the billboards and bright lights outside the window, on the street - they ran at all hours of the day, even when it was the middle of the day and they hardly had any notable visible effect. “Hopefully, by the time you’re back the other team is moving to do their job…”



“Still not seeing anyone particularly dodgy…” Lisa commented from the passenger’s side of the car as they sat parked by the side of the road, Sara sitting in the driver’s seat on her phone, flicking through security camera feeds from the various cameras scattered throughout the local area. Unlike Zara and Shun, they were slightly too conspicuous to simply walk into somewhere without drawing attention, and so instead they were doing their job from the relative anonymity of their car through security cameras, and in Lisa’s case, simply watching the street outside.

They’d find another vehicle pulling up on the street across from the cafe, however, a white truck in which two individuals in track suits climbed out and moved to open up the back - perhaps not members of the MEIS, but they appeared Middle Eastern in origin, and in these circumstances that was enough to warrant a closer look… They could be civilians, of course, but there was also a chance that they weren’t. A chance that they were with the hostile intelligence agency that this entire operation was working against.

“Have a truck pulling up outside, text the others, they might be able to see it.” Lisa said, keeping her attention focused on the back of the truck while Sara flicked her phone off from the security camera feeds, instead her hands dancing across the screen as she texted Shun. It might not be what they were looking for, given it was a truck which could just be delivering something, but it was better to play it safe with things like this.

Image
The operatives Lisa and Sara.
The orders from Shun were simple… To look into it. The exact way they accomplished that goal didn’t particularly matter at the moment. Regardless, though, it was something that needed to be looked into…

“Can you get the truck’s plate?” Sara asked, leaning over. “I can’t see it from here.”

“I can’t either, but I’ll go look I guess. You going to see what you can find on it?” Lisa asked, opening the car’s door and sliding herself around so she was sitting half-inside, half-outside but not getting out quite yet.

“Yeah.” Sara nodded. “Just go for a walk up to the end, turn around a corner and text it back to me.”

Lisa nodded back, stepping out of the car and shutting it behind her as she walked across the street, aiming to see the truck’s plates as she passed it. They might not give them anything at all, but it would also give her a chance to overhear something as she passed even if they didn’t get anything on the plates. Unless they were speaking in a language she didn’t understand, but she didn’t exactly need to speak the language to see if they were doing anything that wasn’t just a food delivery or something for one of the building’s businesses.

The spoken language seemed enough like Persian and rather than making a delivery, the two men were standing around near the back of the truck, engaged in a full conversation - the subject, of course, would be unknown to the non-Persian speaking Lisa, but it did seem like they were at the least paying more attention to whatever they were talking about out here than making any delivery. Additionally, the van was completely unmarked, the plates local but everything else about it nondescript… If they were with a company, it wasn’t a flashy one by any means.

Lisa stopped, turning to lean her back against the wall as she held up her phone. Local plates and the plain white paint made it seem like a rental to her, and given their complete and utter lack of enthusiasm to get the job over and done with as quickly as humanly possible she doubted they were delivering anything. She could be completely wrong on all counts, of course, as she texted what she’d seen back to Sara but the weight of evidence was in favour of them being the MEIS agents they were looking for, but Lisa wanted something confirmatory before they moved in. If they picked the wrong targets they screwed over this entire operation.

Upon further inspection there was at least one more peculiarity with the setup which was that there weren’t… Many things in the back. Rather, the back of the truck seemingly only had one large piece of cargo to deliver, a crate rather than the stacked boxes that would be more usual to find somewhere like this. Was it damning evidence? No, but it was another thing that showed how strange the entire situation was compared to a regular delivery.
Lisa quickly turned her attention back to her phone. It was too many coincidences all at the same time for her liking. A rented delivery truck by her own estimates, without markings, with only a single large piece of cargo in the back. Hell, neither of the two men hadn’t even gone inside to say they were here to deliver something. She shot a text back to Sara, saying that the MEIS agents they were looking for were almost certainly on site, trusting her to send it on to Shun and Gabriella. It could get messy given they’d brought in two seperate teams, not used to cooperation, for this operation.



“Fuck…”

Shun lowered her phone and looked back to Zara after getting the news, and she tapped her jacket one more time ensuring the pistol was where she thought it as before she looked from side to side in a quick sweep of the room, preparing to act soon. “MEIS is also outside,” she informed Zara in a low tone. “It looks like we’re going to have to make this happen faster than we were thinking… Before the FDF guys even show up, either, unless we want them to outmaneuver us…”

Image
Something about to go down.
“Yeah.” Zara said, her voice nearing a whisper as she gave a small nod. “Hopefully the other team can handle the MEIS…”

Looking at the time on her phone one more time and seeing where they were on the projected schedule, Shun quickly put it away before standing up. “Let’s move,” she said to Zara, drawing her pistol and stepping into the aisle, pointing it in the direction of the table where Al-Azim was seated and waiting for his associates from the FDF to show up. “Under the authority of the National Security Bureau, you are under arrest! Hands in the air, NOW!”

The Arab agent tried to move into the aisle himself and take advantage of the sudden rush of commotion to get away from the scene, but Shun kept her pistol pointed at him and was able to track him through the crowd as she pushed someone out of the way and started after him, panting with sudden exertion as she navigated around pedestrians and kept the pistol in the air the whole way, a shot surely lined up in case she needed to take it…

“Last warning, stop moving and put your hands in the air immediately!” she shouted out, and she didn’t intend to give any more warnings if this one didn’t work - while the NSB wanted a capture, they did have authorization to kill, and she wasn’t going to miss out on both thanks to chasing the former too hard. If they had to take out the suspect… She wasn’t afraid to do so.

That, and the gun pointed, seemed to do enough to stop the agent in his tracks, and Al-Azim froze where he was before putting his hands up just as Shun had ordered… “Zara, get this guy in handcuffs, I’m moving outside to see if I see anything about the other group that was reported to us…”

“Right.” Zara gave a curt nod as she slid her pistol back into its hip holster, hidden beneath her jacket while pulling out a pair of handcuffs out with her other hand as she moved towards Al-Azim, handcuffs held out towards him. “Cuff yourself, behind your back.” She said, holding them out, not intending to get any closer than she had to. People could do stupid things when backed into a corner.

The man sighed, complying with the orders, having lost the chance to bolt ever since Shun had managed to chase him down - Shun, meanwhile, was currently stepping outside of the building and looking for the site where there were supposedly two more MEIS operatives… The ones that were being observed by Lisa and Sara. However, those two would already have dropped the pretense of conversation after the sudden chaos coming from the cafe… Wasn’t hard to see what was happening through the glass windows around the small building, and the two men found themselves rushing for the front of the van to get back in, as if the operation had been aborted. But if they were allowed to leave… It would mean the cargo in the back remained a mystery.

Lisa only had her pistol on her, but she drew it regardless, gripping it tightly with both hands as she aimed at the wheels at the back of the truck, firing three shots and hoping to shoot them out. Sara, meanwhile, lunged into the back of their car, hands quickly grasping onto her long rifle as she maneuvered it between the front seats before climbing out, lining herself up for a shot over the front of her car at the wheels on the other side before pulling the trigger.

The first burst of shots hit the mark, the van not stopping because of it but wobbling as one of the back wheels was hit, the driver pulling the wheel to one direction to keep the thing from going out of control, and the second shot, the one that was a single shot instead of a burst, would hit with just as much accuracy… As the van went out of control thanks to that, picking up speed with the driver putting a foot on the gas but veering off in one direction thanks to the damage done to either of the tires on that side… Though, now the truck simply represented an incoming death wish, as it barreled towards Sara…

Sara yelped, all but throwing herself to the side away from her car, attempting to throw herself out of the way of the oncoming truck as Lisa could only look on with horror as she started to dash over, pistol held ready to shoot anyone that emerged from the truck. The truck narrowly missed Sara as it continued on its path of destruction… And slammed into the wall of a nearby building which was in the path, one next to the cafe, a local bank… The wall of the building was enough to stop the truck from coming inside and wrecking it, but it did leave a dent and the wall stopped the truck where it was, forcing both of the men inside to jump out of it in a last attempt to get out of the area… Right as Shun appeared on the edge of the scene, having shown up to give some kind of support and give better odds to her own side.

Lisa opened fire as soon as she saw the men getting out of the truck, levelling her pistol and firing off three shots towards him as Sara fumbled for her own pistol from a thigh holster from where she was sprawled over on the ground, her rifle dropped a short distance behind her, managing to get it out and firing off a single shot at the only man she could actually see. Lisa managed to land exactly one of the three shots that she fired, the other two hitting the wreck of the truck harmlessly, but that was enough to deal with an opponent that wasn’t wearing any body armor… It was unknown if the enemy was dead yet but at the least it caused the hostile operative to slump down against the truck and collapse immediately.

The second man was more lucky however as the one bullet fired at him missed the mark and left him to run off into an alleyway - but not before stopping, taking a risk and giving the mercenaries more time to respond by stopping to fire back, taking out a pistol from the waistband of the casual outfit and firing off a burst at Sara while backing away… At least one round of which would connect with the target unlike Sara’s original attack.

Sara let out a muffled grunt of pain as she felt the bullet hit her in the shoulder, but she didn’t really feel the pain through the adrenaline pumping through her system as she fired back through bleary, fuzzy vision while Lisa moved round to the other side of the truck, firing a few speculative shots after the retreating figure. These shots would also miss however as the target bobbed and weaved through the alleyway… But they hadn’t completely lost their chance of stopping everyone on the enemy side.

“Focus on securing the cargo,” said Shun, pushing her way into the fight and jumping up into the air, allowing wings of chi energy to carry her as she moved over the buildings themselves and started to come down on a trajectory where she would be set to land in the alley. It was child’s play really to take out one person that was only armed with a pistol, but that was for her - the average person in this field didn’t have the chi advantages that she did. There was… A reason why she was considered a special talent around these parts.

Landing on her feet, Shun blasted a number of chi shards forward as soon as the energy returned to her, hoping to catch the last member of the enemy group in the back - and she did just that, filling the man up with shards and dropping him almost as soon as the other member of their group had been taken out after getting out of the chaos. “Target down…” Shun muttered, before running back in the direction of the others in the group. “I’ve eliminated the last member of that group. We’re going to want to see what was being moved, or rather, wait for police to take it in. I know I’m not going to take the risk of opening it.”

“None of our business, as far as I’m concerned.” Lisa said, kneeling down beside the injured Sara and looking over her wound while Zara stood by the back of the truck, having marched Al-Azim out of the restaurant at gunpoint and keeping an eye on him just in case he felt like making a run for it.

“Wouldn’t put it past them to trap it.” Zara said, nodding as she looked over towards Shun. “But they shouldn’t take too long to get here if Gabriella’s done her job and informed them.”

Shun, on the other hand, was reaching for her phone already and informing Gabriella of the situation. “Job seems to be done. Al-Azim is in our captivity, two MEIS agents killed in action when they attempted to flee the scene in the van that the second team reported… The cargo is secure, I imagine EOD can have a look at it and then it can be shipped off to the NSB to examine. Only thing wrong is that the FDF never showed up because things kicked off too soon. Think they got scared off, but meh… Can’t win all of them.”

“Best to not get greedy.” Gabriella said, voice slightly distorted by the phone. “You handled the main job, I’ll call it in so the scene can be secured and our two dead men can be confirmed as MEIS agents. Good job.”

“Let me know if you want to come down to the scene and have lunch at a New Manhattan high rise restaurant since we’re already down in this area,” Shun flirted over the line now that she was able to shift away from mission mode to an extent, having already finished with everything they needed to do. “On me, even.”

“I’m not about to pass up celebrating a successful op, I’ll be down once I’ve handed all this on up the food chain in terms of immediate reports.” Gabriella said, slightly amused. “See you in… Maybe half an hour or so?”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Shun, ending the call there before she moved over to her assistant, Zara, giving her a slap on the shoulder. “You know, you didn’t have to do a ton, but I suppose I can give you some credit for not fucking up the mission or anything. Don’t get too full of yourself, though.”

“I didn’t really do that much.” Zara admitted, leaning back against the back of the truck. “You probably could’ve handled it fine without me.”

“I needed you to handle the arrest so I could go outside quicker and not have to hang back and watch a prisoner - and it turns out I needed to use my… Gifts, to take out the last member of that group of hostiles,” shrugged Shun, admitting that it wasn’t exactly a one person job even if Zara’s role wasn’t significant. And then, she leaned in and cupped her face in her hands before pressing a kiss to her lips - it was in her casanova nature to mess around with many while making true connections with few, and to not care about insignificant things such as the fact that she had essentially just agreed to a date with Gabriella…

She had just done an important job, anyway. Wasn’t like anyone could condemn her for a bit of fun in celebration of a decisive success.

Zara blushed, any response she might have thought up drowned out by a tide of confused feelings and responses as Shun kissed her on the lips. She wasn’t exactly used to sudden displays of affection like this.

“Uh, sorry to interrupt, but… Do you mind if we borrow your car, Shun?” Lisa asked, having finished patching up Sara’s wound. “Ours kinda got a bit destroyed-” She gave a vague wave towards the truck and the mildly mangled wreck of their own car in front. “Zara can drive us back to somewhere where we can get a ride and then drive it back here after.”

Shun still had her hands on Zara as she glanced to see what the disturbance was about, before reaching into her jacket and finding the keys to her muscle car, tossing them over her shoulder to the two other operatives. “No problem… Though I guess that makes the next half an hour quite boring for me,” she stated, looking back to Zara, slightly annoyed at the fact that she had been robbed of the chance to lock lips with her assistant further.

“We can always keep you company until Gabs shows up.” Sara offered as Lisa caught the keys in her hands. “Keeping the scene secure and all that and doing the handover properly, making sure that the MEIS doesn’t show up to clean up the scene.”

“Yeah, I’m sure that will look good on the reports… Attention to detail and all that,” said Shun… Before she hit the limit of her attention span for the current conversation, turning her attention back to her assistant, her casanova side intent on going at it as much as she could for the next half hour with Zara before Gabriella showed up, now that her professional side was… Left with a lack of important tasks.

Sara rolled her eyes, turning her attention away from Shun and the obvious display of affection and settling down next to Lisa and looking down at her patched-up shoulder while Zara wasn’t even able to get a sound out before Shun’s attentions were back on her, her face turning a shade of pale crimson in embarrassment.

They would have to get back to work again eventually but that time didn’t seem to be right now, after the Free Destinian Front had failed to show up, and all of the MEIS agents in the area had either been captured or killed for resisting… Which meant right now, the only thing left was some relaxation.

And there were few better places to do that than some of the locales within the decadent Expanse, even in, as paradoxical as it sounded, the bustling metropolis of New Manhattan…
Last edited by William Slim Wed Dec 14 1970 10:35 pm, edited 35 times in total.

Confirmed member of Kyloominati, Destroyers of Worlds Membership can be applied for here

User avatar
Durmatagno
Negotiator
 
Posts: 7115
Founded: Oct 10, 2011
Left-Leaning College State

Postby Durmatagno » Thu Mar 05, 2020 1:07 pm




Image




S1E8
“SPACEWALK”

Whispers around the compound indicate that major work could be coming soon for the mercenaries of the Temple, but before those plans can reach the newest members of the organization, a rather different type of training is a need…





March 25th, 2097
30 km north of Expanse, North American Sector, Destine
Collaborative post between Forest State and Durmatagno



It had been some days since the initial arrival of the newest group of recruits to the Temple, and their training had of course begun to bring them up to speed with the more developed skills of many of their counterparts who had already been with the organization - the training was of course starting somewhat basic with hand to hand skills and firearms skills forming the basics of what was being instructed, while more advanced things were supposedly further down the line… Amid these lessons, some basic hacking ones from Ophelia had been added to round out what was being taught, and now, they were moving on to something else entirely…

The lesson in this case brought them into a hangar-like area, near the back of the massive facility in a place they wouldn’t have been taken to in the tours thanks to the distance and the fact that it wasn’t immediately relevant to the things they’d been shown before. However, it was one of the largest parts of the building, and there appeared to be a retractable roof for that matter. Around them were… Vehicles of a different kind than the smaller cars and trucks from the garage they had arrived in, and among them, were things such as carts with parts and ammunition, showing that this was also some kind of servicing area in addition to being a hangar.

It was clear the lesson today wasn’t a regular one.

“Space is one of the most important areas of combat,” said Yuka, standing in front of the group of students as they looked on at her and Van. “Additionally, it’s going to be important to some of our operations in the near future… This is the reason why you recruits are being brought on this trip, where we intend to transit our way all the way to the outer stretches of the colonial sphere, to the independent moon of Tarashi. In the process… You’ll get some experience with space walking as we make a stop at the wreck of a container ship and teach you the basics of it.”

“That’s the first thing set to happen on this trip… If you don’t want to be at a disadvantage to everyone else, you’ll pick it up quickly,” Van added, more short with her patience than her counterpart. “I would assume that all of you at least know how to put the equipment on, but I don’t know if I should have that much faith.”

Victoria thought she could figure it out, but she’d never done it before. Nothing similar at least, she’d never had a reason to leave Earth before all this started, let alone put on a suit for a walk. Still, she was smart, and generally knew how seals and such things fit together and worked. It might take her some trial and error, but given a little time she could figure it out. Cecile on the other hand wasn’t so sure she could manage it. Her training had only just started, and compared even to her other ‘recruits’, she was frail and inexperienced. Still, she wasn’t stupid, and she was very, very flexible, she’d find a way, though she hoped not to have to ask for help, lest she incure Van’s wrath again.

Jazmine, of course, had limited knowledge from never having done it before - though she didn’t say anything because she was somewhat aware enough of it to have a rough understanding already. Still, limited experience wouldn’t keep any of them out of this exercise. It was important enough apparently to put them through it even when their training had only recently started.

“Along the wall of the room to my left, you can find the suits and change into them… And report back to here,” Yuka said, gesturing in the direction of a doorway. “We’re departing within the next hour or so if everything happens on time…”

With nothing else, Victoria turned to the indicated room and moved inside. All she knew was that there was an outer suit and then an inner suit, figuring out how to get it all on was going to be another task. Cecile followed behind her, determined to watch someone that seemed confident put on the suit and mimic what they did. Victoria took a bit to get into the suit, but after awhile she figured it out and trudged back into the main room. Cecile mimicked what Victoria did, and while it took her slightly longer, she eventually got it, though the suit was a tad heavy for her underdeveloped frame, it wasn’t as bad as she had imagined, and made her way back into the main room.

Jazmine didn’t have too much trouble getting the orange suit on herself, pulling it on and then triggering the mechanism which sealed it, bringing it closer to her form in the process - it wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world but there were far worse options in that area, and the wide transparent face shield in the front provided fairly good vision even with the helmet which enclosed the entire head. As the group emerged from the changing room, Yuka turned to them once again and looked them over.

“Everything looks about right…” she said, looking between each of them and then settling her eyes on the vessel that was apparently being prepared to head into space. Not a large one, just a dropship, big enough to carry a group of people but not like the actual corvettes and frigates that made up higher weight classes. “I suppose since you’ve shown you can properly use the equipment, you can head on board the dropship now.”

Victoria was tempted to say something like ‘yes ma’am’, but she didn’t think she could say it without sounding sarcastic. She nodded and climbed on board, finding a place for herself as she watched Cecile and Jazmine do the same. Victoria was still adjusting to her new life here on Destine, but it wasn’t a bad one so far. She didn’t mind the challenge of the training, she had Jazmine, and things were getting more interesting with the new people she’d been meeting. Cecile kept herself away from the other two best she could, not risking prompting Van’s ire by looking like she was trying to hide or flee.

The doors weren’t shut behind them yet, they still had some further preparations to make before taking off. As they entered, they would get a good view of the inside of the dropship, and the long corridor that made up the central walkway leading to the front where the control center was. There were metal benches on either side of that main aisle, and storage compartments, and in some places there were racks and the like for holding weapons… The vehicle was designed for function and not just comfort. There were a few other spots, like where the engines were and some of the other machinery behind the vehicle’s mechanisms, but those weren’t in sight for the group that was entering right now.

“Space, huh…” muttered Jazmine, before looking to Victoria, raising an eyebrow. “What do you think of going on a spacewalk of all the things they could have did for training? Seems a bit much to throw us right into that, or am I thinking more of it than I should?”

“Excited honestly. Always wanted to, but never had a reason to, and I’m not a sightseeing type most of the time, though there are some exceptions. As for the training...well if it’s going to be an important skill soon, might as well get us ready while they’re having to train us in general, save time in the long run I suppose.”

“This suit is… Tight in a few areas,” Jazmine said, biting her lip as a slight blush spread across her face when she moved around and sat down in the space suit, along one of the metal benches. “I also don’t know how I’m going to do when they need us to… Be athletic and not just sit around and snipe. That’s, you know, my thing really.”

“You need some more flexibility when it comes to fighting, but I imagine it’s to give them options. You can’t be deployed only as a sniper, I can’t be deployed only as a engineer or mechanic, and so forth. Likely they’ll favor the best person available for the job, but they have a lot of teams and people to deal with.”

Victoria tried to ignore the tightness about the spacesuit, she was well aware of it, though not in the same areas that would ‘bother’ Jazmine. She also avoided staring at the moment, as it would only make things worse for herself in the short term.

As they prepared to take off, Van entered the vessel, moving over to Cecile shortly after she did so. “You managed to get it on?” she asked, looking at her with slight suspicion and examining the suit to, well, make sure that it was actually worn properly.

“Y-yes, was a little tricky but I figured it out.”

Cecile said with a nod. She had mimicked Victoria, and while she hadn’t been as fast, or efficient, she had gotten the suit on correctly. She wasn't a stranger to getting into tight, uncomfortable outfits, her gymnastic days had helped with that much. She let Van inspect the suit without worry, it had sealed correctly this time, though she would have to worry in the future that she forgot steps if she wasn’t around people she could mimic till she had it memorized.

Van looked around, expecting to find something wrong, but she saw that everything was as it should be. “I’m surprised,” she said simply… Though she patted Cecile on the head, probably the most affection she’d shown all day, before she moved off to the front of the vessel to continue with the preparations for taking off. Wouldn’t be long now before they were in the air seemingly, and then, on the way to space and this destination that they had been told about…

Cecile allowed herself a smile, and the smallest of blushes at the head pat. Relishing the moment of praise from the usually overbearing Van. She’d ride that high till the training itself kept her busy and focused on something else. Really at the moment she was most focused on trying to get her body in shape, compared to even Jazmine she was quite below what a merc should be, and while Van had other expectations, Cecile wanted to get in shape to.

The other member of the crew, Yuka, showed up shortly after Van did, and shut the doors behind her by pressing a button on the wall - and as they sealed themselves closed and locked, it became clear that they were really doing this, that they were really going out and heading into space where they would have an experiment in spacewalking not much longer after… Days ago, they would have called it a stretch, but now, it was exactly what they were doing.



Some time after they had already departed, they were gaining on the location where their little exercise was actually happening… A freight vessel which had been wrecked in combat during skirmishes between multiple factions. The vessel, a container ship, of course still had valuable parts and one of the reasons for the space walk was to asses if stripping those parts was even worth it - and if the place was secure or not, which was something of a concern on the drifting juggernaut of a vessel. By now, Yuka and Van had their own suits on… And Van indicated that they should be getting their weapons, too.

“You’re going to want to be armed during this,” she stated, moving out of the control area and picking up her SMG from the rack on the wall that it had been resting on. “There’s a chance we’re not the only ones there… It’s abandoned, of course, but there may be scavengers on board. Of course, if that happens, there’s no one up there stopping us from blowin’ ‘em away without a strict RoE…”

Victoria picked up her own PM80, comforted by the familiar shape and weight of the SMG. She made sure it was in good shape before nodding, and turning back to their instructor-commander, waiting to see what they were doing next. Cecile meanwhile was afraid to even touch the guns, having only recently fired one at all, still she picked up an SMG of her own, better to spray and pray if it came down to it. She wasn’t horrible with them so far, much to her surprise she was surprisingly average with them considering her lack of experience.

Image
Debris.
By now, the field of wreckage was in view, and it was just a matter of navigating through it until they were in the right spot to make the actual entry to the wreck. Yuka brought the vessel forwards, through the field of debris, and cut the thrust… Allowing gravity to carry it forward for some distance before she pulled back on the main power level, reversing the thrust and helping the dropship come to a stop a safe distance away from the much, much larger wreck of the container ship.

“Here we are…” Yuka announced from the front. “You can put on the thruster packs now. You’re going to need them for the short ‘flight’ across to the container ship. One of you will also have to grab the laser cutter… Depending on what we run into, we may need it to get entry into some areas if there’s still remaining locked doors.”

Victoria opted to grab the laser cutter. Her gun wasn’t that heavy, and she was strong enough to support lugging it around. She knew Jazmine could do it, but it would tire Cecile in time, especially if the derelict had anywhere with working power. Of course if they remained in zero-gravity the whole time it wouldn’t matter. Cecile looked down at her gun while this was all going on, knowing only enough to keep her finger off the trigger, and how to make it shoot. That was better than nothing she supposed, she wouldn’t accidentally shoot someone. With that both of them started putting on their thruster packs, Victoria calling out when she was done.

“Ready!”

Jazmine had her rifle despite the awkward size of it for using it in close quarters - she wasn’t quite an expert at using another type of weapon yet, and so she’d take her chances with using the anti material rifle like a marksman weapon. At that point, Yuka was leading all five of them to a place that was closed off but rather important to what they were doing - the airlock. She pressed a button to open the door, stepping inside and waiting for the others before pressing another button on the inside to seal it again before the door behind them shut and prepared them for the vacuum of space.

“Here we go… Doors opening in five… Four… Three… Two…” stearted Yuka, pressing something else on the control panel. “One.”

The doors leading to the outside opened up, and the five would start out in space… And now, it was their job to navigate to the wreck they were already looking at, as it loomed largely in the background.

Neither Victoria or Cecile had any clue what they were doing, but they knew the thruster packs would be key. Cecile fixed her eyes on Van to watch what she did, while Victoria moved her eyes between Yuka and Jazmine, both trying to learn and keep an eye on her friend. Weightlessness took time to adapt to, time none of them had had, so Victoria tumbled a little bit before correcting herself, while Cecile kept herself from flailing, using movies as reference to think it would just make her tumble worse. Eventually she righted herself, and returned her gaze to Van. Both of them mimicked the actions of the person they were observing.

There was, of course, only one direction in which the thruster could fire - and there was the key to movement when using it. It only sent the user forwards, meaning the challenge was manipulating one’s body and momentum to move forwards in the right direction by angling and changing where the thruster was facing… Easy to learn, hard to master. They would need further practice with it, but doing this was a start. And Van and Yuka were already knowledgeable in it.

The two who knew what they were doing helped lead the way as they moved towards the topside of the wreck - which was where they would likely find a real entrance.Vi It was far easier to enter that way than to cut through the side or enter through a breach and navigate until they found themselves in a hallway. “How are you keeping up?” Yuka asked all of them, her voice transmitted over a connection inside of each of the helmets. “We’re going to enter from the top side of the deck. We’re about three quarters of the way there.”

“I’m doing alright, going to take some getting used to though.”

Victoria said. Surprisingly, of everyone, it was Cecile that was likely doing the best of the newbies. Her quick reactions, and acrobatically trained body adapted easily to the zero G environment, and while there was still a learning curve to get over, she was doing better than Victoria. She actually allowed herself a small smile at being able to pick this up, it meant that even for merc stuff she wasn’t entirely hopeless.

Once they had arrived near the top part of the deck, there was a visible hatch which could probably be opened to lead inside, into the actual hallways and corridors of the vessel… Yuka brought herself to a stop in front of it, and Van did the same thing, the former gesturing to Victoria and pointing to the hatch. “Need this open,” she said, guessing that it would be locked. “Can use the laser cutter for that, I think there’s a lock on it.”

Victoria nodded and made her way forward. Planting herself for stability, she pulled up the laser cutter, and carefully opened up the hatch, same way she would cut metal while working on vehicles, just with heavier equipment and thicker metal. Once it was open, she moved aside to let the people that actually knew what they were doing in this environment inside the ship first. Cecile patiently waited her turn to enter from the back.

Van was the first one in, heading in head first and then leveling herself out after she had cut the power to the thruster, heading down a shaft and then hitting the ground in a dark hallway with a thud, landing on her feet and taking a tentative few steps forward as she raised her SMG, reaching down to switch on a flashlight attachment that she had brought for this. “Clear so far, down here!” she shouted out, before Yuka followed her similarly… And she started walking off down the hallway while Yuka followed her, and then Jazmine was the next one down, repeating the same motion but moving somewhat slower thanks to the fact that she had never done this before.

Cecile moved in after Jazmine, repeating the motion she had watched from the others. Clumsier than the first two, but slightly faster than Jazmine. Cecile was just happy to have found something she was half decent at for a newcomer. Victoria brought up the rear, as her height would let her see and fire over Cecile if needed while Cecile wouldn’t be able to do the same with Victoria. Victoria disliked the zero G environment, but that was partially because she enjoy the feeling of sharp high speed turns and the wind on her face when she was riding her bike. This was devoid of anything even close, and felt alien to Victoria.

The flashlight on the SMG lit up a hallway which had seen some better times, although the structure was stable for now it seemed. “We’re headed for the central control room, to have a look at if it’s able to function and display the detailed map of the facilities and damages…” said Van, creeping forward with the gun still raised in the air. “And if there’s anyone else in this place… Hopefully we run into them early. Better that than get hit with ‘em later.”

Jazmine continued after falling back to Victoria, still getting used to moving without the effects of gravity to keep her grounded to the floor. “You think we’re going to run into anything?” she asked in a quiet voice, shutting off the microphone inside the helmet for now and speaking just to Victoria. “I don’t know about getting in a fight in these close quarters…”

“Mmm.”

Victoria shut off her own mic before responding, though she kept her eyes peeled as she stayed behind the leaders. She had a really annoying itch on her nose, but couldn’t spare the time to figure out how to scratch it. She knew old earth astronauts had velcro inside the helmets to do it.

“Populated planet, decent chance there’s someone else here. Whether or not they’ll fight us is a different question. If it comes down to a fight, back up, I’ll keep you covered. This thing was built for tight spaces like this.”

Victoria gestured with the PM80 as she spoke, though she was still ready to fire or dodge, best she could in this environment, if shit kicked off.

Van kept leading in the front, though traversing the massive vessel wasn’t something that was instant. It dwarfed the size of the dropship, which also meant there was a larger chance that there was another vessel nearby and they had just missed it - and that the crew were currently on board this one right now for scavenging purposes, just like the group from the Temple. The hallways, though, seemed like they hadn’t seen use for a long time… Relatively, anyway. The vessel wasn’t that old. Had apparently been wrecked as part of a corporate conflict, however, when things came to blows in the depths of space.

They reached a door at the end of the hallway, and Van stopped instead of turning and continuing to either the left or the right. “Should take us up to the command room on the bridge… At least if my guess about where we are in relation to the superstructure is right,” Van stated. “Victoria, you can cut this open… I think it’s an elevator, so you’ll have to cut the top off, also, if there’s even anything in the shaft right now. Cecile, you can go up first… I feel like watching.”

Victoria moved forward to get the door open. She was glad Van actually talked to her like a normal person and didn’t just scorn her for being near, even if she likely wanted to. Cecile muttered something along the lines of ‘Alright’ before moving forward to wait for Victoria to get it open. Once the path was clear, Cecile moved up into the shaft, going for the ladder to launch herself upward and save her thruster pack.

Van was into the shaft next and then Yuka was, both of them following somewhat closely after Cecile, until the point where they had traversed it successfully and all three of them were nearing the top… But there was nowhere else to go, as the elevator itself was stopped at the top of the shaft, blocking their way. Momentum carried Van into it, but she placed her hands upwards and allowed them to absorb her speed, slowing herself down as she settled. “Need another cut, Victoria. And then the doors.”

Victoria launched herself up, but stopped before cutting, and moved to the edges. She knew many elevators were magnetically locked, which allowed them to move, if the power was still triggerable for this elevator, a bad cut could trigger it and bring it down. She frowned for a moment, as the mechanics and engineering were fairly different to what she had studied, before finding a decent spot to cut open, just in case. She moved through as if they wanted to keep heading up she’d have to cut there, or get the elevator doors themselves open. Cecile just watched, curious as to what Victoria was doing, but not caring enough to actually ask.

Van pulled herself through the gap behind Victoria, turning to face her and the door as she waited for her to cut through that, while Yuka waited just below and prepared to pull herself as soon as it was done… Her rifle at the ready in the event that they ran into anything on the other side, though it was impossible to say just how likely or unlikely that actually was.

Victoria started cutting through the door, and moved back out of the way the moment it was through. If there was anything on the other side, she’d just be in the way till she could get her SMG ready and the laser cutter put away. Cecile in the meantime pulled herself up and back behind Van, peering through the fresh hole to see what was in the corridor beyond the elevator.

As they entered the next corridor, Jazmine coming up in the rear with her longer ranged weapon, there were voices off in the distance… The evidence they were looking for that there was someone else here, multiple people for that matter. Van held up a hand indicating they shouldn’t say anything, as she pushed off the wall and accelerated forwards, SMG at the ready still as they were faced with another hallway to take them to the central control room, according to the signs.

“After me…” she said into her helmet microphone as a whisper, grasping the wall and pushing off again once she had turned the corner down what was maybe the last corridor.

Cecile took the initiative to move after Van, she was the next shortest of everyone here, so in the cramped conditions if a fight broke out the people behind them would be able to fire. With her moving forward, Victoria waited a moment before moving after Cecile, her PM80 readied. Victoria hoped to avoid an unnecessary fight, but wasn’t sure they would with Van at the front. Also couldn’t guarantee the potential enemies wouldn’t do the same the group was spotted by them. A fight was likely unavoidable, but Victoria could pray for peace and be ready for war. She looked back to check on Jazmine as she moved.

Further down, the final doorway leading to the control room was open, and the voices grew closer… Seemingly speaking Chinese or some kind of other Asian language, maybe Thai, or Vietnamese - either way, they were definitely another group and there were definitely more than one of these others within the room. Van shifted and touched off the ground to slow down her speed as she moved towards that room, but she didn’t have to make it to the entrance of the room herself because the first of the scavengers showed themselves first, a similar space suit to their own appearing in the doorway toting a rifle…

The one to shoot first, of course, was Van with her SMG, which she raised and pulled the trigger for the full thirteen round burst, spraying rather than aiming to hit precisely before even finding out if the other side was hostile - based on the weapon, she could assume the answer was yes. She hit with six shots out of the burst, shredding through the spacesuit as she riddled the chest of that particular scavenger with gunshots and sent the body flying backwards from the momentum of the bullets changing the direction in which the body was moving… Still, there were at least two more scavengers from what they could hear, and Van tapped her thruster to slow down as she approached the door, placing a hand on the doorway and pushing off to stop herself, choosing to press herself against the wall instead of entering just yet and potentially entering a kill zone.

“They’re here alright…” she muttered over her microphone. “Heard two more… At least.”

Cecile floated over and pressed herself against the opposite door. Her breathing was starting to get fast at the sound of actual combat. She could still remember the corporate soldiers, and how close she’d come to execution. She wasn’t sure she was ready for shooting a person, but she did her best to stay put. She had to be useful, she had to be useful. Victoria floated up and pressed herself against the ceiling. One advantage of a zero G environment was that she could do this, though there was limited space still given her height, it would give them three people that could use the doorway as cover.

Not sure I’m ready for this.”

Cecile whispered mostly to herself, though Van and maybe Victoria likely could hear it given their relative close proximity.

“Can’t hesitate around here,” Van said, still pressing herself against the wall while Yuka gripped her rifle with one hand and with the other hand drew the wakizashi that was at her side, sliding along the wall near Van. “Remember… They won’t hesitate to kill you if they get the chance.”

They didn’t seem to have a clear plan just yet but Jazmine was bringing herself to a standstill and staring through the thermal scope of her rifle, taking a deep breath and waiting for something to come into view, silent on the comms for now while she focused on doing her job as the long ranged shooter of the group… Van released her grip, allowing herself to drift… Slowly. She wasn’t going to rush through this.

“I know, I know, doesn’t mean I’m ready…”

Cecile had those very thoughts running through her head as Van verbalized them. She was shaking, but she stayed against the wall. She didn’t try to run, and she didn’t burst out of cover like some action hero. She was focusing on calming her breathing, which was slowly working. Victoria watched Jazmine as they waited, soon as they could press forward she was going to use her PM80. It dawned on her how bad for spacesuits her chosen weapon was, given it’s penchant for tearing up armor, which even a basic spacesuit would qualify as because of the things needed to shield one from space.

“Yuka… Let’s rock,” Van muttered, accelerating with a sudden burst of the thruster pack as she rushed into the control room suddenly, taking an upward vector in an attempt to avoid an attack form one of the two confirmed voices she’d heard within - she pointed her SMG at the first one she saw when she spun back around towards the doorway as she flew backwards towards the front of the room from momentum, and she held down the trigger for a ten round burst, shredding through another spacesuit and causing another hostile to slam against the wall in the zero gravity environment… A Thai chick apparently, based on the quick assessment Van made from what she could see underneath the face shield. There was still another figure in the room, however, and there was another bright muzzle flash and series of gunshots as fire was returned at her…

At least one bullet should have hit her but she kept out of the way, still drifting and changing her course subtly to make herself harder to hit, as Yuka rushed into the control center and spun to face that second enemy, a Chinese man with an assault rifle in hand… They fired at each other at about the same time, but Yuka was the more accurate one as she one handed the gun without worrying about weight, shifting her body to compensate for the kickback, while her opponent sent a three round burst over her shoulder at about the same time as he was hit, sending the body drifting slowly… “Don’t see anything else…” announced Van. “Clear for now. Don’t know where their ship is, though…”

Cecile moved into the room after the bullets stopped flying, quietly thankful she didn’t have to shoot at a person just yet, though the floating bodies were still making her a little sick, she could handle it for now. She looked around after getting in while Victoria drifted into the room, and found a safe place to plant herself, keeping her eyes and ears focused on the entrance they had just used. She didn’t see any others to the room, but she wasn’t sure. Still, only one known entrance, might as well keep it covered while the others investigated the room.

Van accelerated back down to the ground and landed on her feet, drifting over to one of the central computers… “This thing is going to be a bitch to get running, if it’s even possible to do it,” she said, taking a look at it. She wasn’t like Ophelia when it came to working with computers, but she knew enough basics to take advantage of loose security. It was just something that was useful enough for the job to learn, in a world where everything was connected by technology. She attempted to power the main console up, and was met with flickering displays lighting up - she started to enter commands on the keyboard in front of her, and while it brought her to some kind of login page, the technology behind it wasn’t all that advanced and Van returned to entering commands, bypassing the screen altogether and looking through the ship’s menus… Or what was functional, anyway.

“Looks like a lot of the systems aren’t past salvaging condition,” Van said, looking at a map of the different systems and rooms. It was color coded. Green for the ones in working condition, yellow for the ones damaged or otherwise inoperable, and red for the ones that had been destroyed entirely… But many of the important ones such as the engines and the hangar and the like were only yellow rather than red. “Seems to have been destroyed more by hull damage than systems damage…”

“Mmm,” muttered Yuka, pulling up next to Van, looking at the map for herself. “Didn’t realize there was even a hangar here… Makes me wonder if they got here through that room.”

“We didn’t spot it because the entrance is on the front side… I’m going to see if I can get the life support running… And get the exposed parts of the vessel closed off. Should be able to control every working doorway in the thing from this panel, it’s fairly automated,” Van replied, typing more commands at the console. It seemed beyond her skill level, however, because she would only receive back error messages when she tried to put in that command in specific.

Image
A console within the wreck…
“I can try to bypass the command prompt and trigger the power through the wires, no guarantee it’ll work, but I can give it a shot.”

Victoria offered. She knew Van didn’t like her, but she was going to put being useful over avoiding possible confrontation. The Moved over and popped the panel underneath the console, examining the wires for a moment. Reaching inside, she fiddled with some of the wiring, watching reach one responded when getting an error as Van tried to command the life support. Locating what she thought would be the right one, she stripped it, wired it to a different path, and gestured for Van to send the command again. Error or no, the power was going to go through the wires to turn on the life support, though remote control was likely disabled.

“Didn’t need your help, but okay,” Van complained, typing at the console and sending the command through with a sigh, looking up at the display again to see if the result would be any different.

It would work, if barely, any control over the system beyond powering it on and off was disabled with the improvised pathway, but it worked. Life support would come back online, though Victoria couldn’t attest to what state it was actually in. Pushing back, she allowed herself a smile at getting this correct, a trick she’d used to bypass car computers in the past, though on a more complicated machine.

“Least it’s online.”

Victoria moved away to let Van do whatever else she was going to do while Cecile watched, curious to see what exactly Van did. She’d never messed with computers much before getting here, not beyond some art programs.

With the areas that were affected by space being sealed off effectively, and the life support system powering up once again, the antigravity systems triggered and they were soon touching the ground again rather than floating, as… Normal operations were restored. The map of the systems had shown that one as being one of the working ones, after all. “We’ll take a quick break because it’s going to be a lot of walking to do…” Van announced to the others. “And then we’ll investigate the hanger. If there is another dropship in here, it’s probably in good condition and it would be worth bringing it back. The scavengers had to get here somehow, after all. If you want to take a look around or regain some energy or something along those lines, this is the time.”

Cecile decided to collect the weapons of the once floating bodies they had created. She didn’t know how needed the move was, but extra weaponry always seemed a good idea, plus she could say she contributed something by hauling the things back. Victoria moved back out into the hall, weapon ready, to see what was in the accessible rooms nearest to them, though she was going to be careful not to wander too far away. Could be other people lurking nearby that were waiting to ambush them.

Jazmine was already moving towards Victoria once the break was announced, however, and she had ideas of her own already. “Come on, let’s move around a bit…” she said. And she didn’t wait, grabbing Victoria by the wrist and practically dragging her away, heading further into the hallway and into one of the side rooms that were off to the side a bit further back.

Once they were more alone, Victoria shut her mic off to prevent her broadcasting her voice, and arched an eyebrow at Jazmine, she crossed her arms. She didn’t know what had gotten into Jazmine at the moment, but she was going to find out.

“What are you doing?”

“Wellllll,” Jazmine said, stretching the word out as she looked up at Victoria expectantly, a slight blush on her face at the moment. “You know this space suit keeps rubbing… Uh…” she said, shifting uncomfortably, her voice trailing off. “And it’s uh… A little problem…”

“We don’t have long but uh...I’ll help.”

Victoria replied, a blush spreading to her face before she stepped forward. She wasn’t quite sure why Jazmine was risking this, but then again it was Jazmine. Her self control wasn’t great at the best of times, seemed it had cracked in the situation. Jazmine just smirked a little, pressing the button to release the pressure from her space suit.

Fortunately, these weren’t the kind that took forever to get in and out of…



After determining that it was time to make the long walk across, Van had made the decision that she and Cecile would head for the hangar while Yuka and the others hung back for now rather than sending everyone to check out something that might not bring any results - and the walk was indeed long. Ships of this class were designed to carry a lot of things, and to do that, they needed a lot of space. The hangar was all the way on the other side of the vessel which made it a bit of a challenge to get all the way over there, but they were nearly there at this point, and hadn’t heard anything yet.

“Is space what you expected?” Van asked, breaking the silence - her voice was softer for once… It was often angry, or strained, like she was about to snap at any moment… But this was perhaps the one calm she had. Not the down time like this, but the missions like these. The intensity of the situations a mercenary was put in, maybe, allowed her to focus on something other than her problem. And there was a difference in how she sounded here and how she often sounded back home. The latter, of course, was angstier than she was now, out in the field. “It’s… Something compared to small city life back on Earth, isn’t it?”

“Wasn’t what I expected at all, but then...I kept to myself for the most part. Focused on school, and work. Never expected to leave Earth, let alone go on a space walk.”

Cecile responded quietly, her voice seemed to just be a naturally soft and quiet one. She wanted to scratch her head, both a nervous tick and a legitimate itch, but the suit prevented that. She looked down at the gun in her hands, still unfamiliar to her, a weight she may never adapt to. She didn’t know if she could actually shoot someone, but she had no reason not to try, and many reasons to do it.

“I traveled through space for the first time when I was young… Alone. I was sent there from Expanse for private school, because my parents wanted me to experience both worlds… Destine and Earth. I lived on Earth for years, it’s where I met Jazmine. But then… Things happened and I ended up traveling back - but I didn’t spacewalk until I was with the Temple. Almost had my suit penetrated, too… But I stabbed through the face shield of my opponent and watched them suffocate, instead. It was a combat mission, of course. Breaching a vessel and taking a VIP,” Van said, speaking somewhat slowly as she recalled things, still keeping a steady pace while moving through the corridor, the end of it in sight in the distance by now. “Back then, I still didn’t have much fear for it, either… But running through the slums in Expanse does that to a person.”

“Very different from me. At least suits have multiple seals, one breach isn’t a death sentence, just...painful and risky.

Cecile sounded glad that Van hadn’t had her suit penetrated, the kind of pain, even just partial exposure, isn’t a pain Cecile would wish on anyone. Parts of space could be freezing, or extremely hot, so what kind of burn, including radiation burns, was completely in the air. Cecile looked down at the gun in her hands.

“Still not sure I’m ready to actually shoot someone, though I won’t know for sure till I try.”

“When it comes to this field, your gun is what keeps you alive and what makes you your money,” Van said as they kept going. “If you can’t shoot someone… You may as well have better chances of success just finding your way back home and going there. Because no matter what you specialize in… With this kind of thing, you live with the gun and die with the gun at the end of the day.”

“I said I don’t know if I was ready, not that I couldn’t do it.”

Being ready to shoot someone, and being able were different. So was being willing. If the need came to it, Cecile could and would shoot someone, she just didn’t know how she was going to handle killing a person. She’d only even started learning weapons recently, shooting a target was much different than shooting at a living, breathing person.

“If I wasn’t going to at least try, I wouldn’t have even loaded the gun.”

“We get into another fight and you’ll have to pick it up fast…” warned Van as they reached the end of the corridor, overlooking the hangar… There were some ships in there that seemed older in nature, not the one they were looking for, but what caught her eye and caused her to immediately start down the set of stairs that led to the ground level of the hangar was the sight of a dropship not unlike the one they were using themselves - except, it was white, which contrasted with the greys seen elsewhere in the vessel and in the hangar. This was apparently an unrelated vessel, probably the one the scavengers had arrived with. “Up there… Have the feeling that’s what we’re looking for.”

“How we going to approach?”

Cecile asked, unsure of how to do this. She tightened her grip on the SMG, unsure of herself. She wasn’t a killer, not yet, and she’d only ever run from fights before this. Now though, now she had very little choice. She took a deep breath to steady herself, hoping to just stay calm enough to not be a problem for Van.

“Moving to this side and then around the back and to the other side, should make it hard for anyone to get the jump on us without us seeing and then I’m breaching the left side entrance,” said Van, not breaking her stride as she spoke, not wanting to waste a second in the event that one of the scavengers had heard their voices and movements from within the dropship. She went in roughly the pattern that she had just spoken about, but she didn’t see anyone outside as she came around on the left side. It left her with an electronically locked door to enter the dropship once she was on that side, and she replied to it by firing into the lock… And once breaking the circuitry caused it to break open, she pulled herself into the vehicle and found herself in between the cockpit and a cabin area, the latter separated by a door. She waved to Cecile to come after her.

Still, she didn’t intend to wait to begin the actual action, as she pressed herself against the wall and moved against it to get to the door, tentatively pulling it open… And the move was met by bullets, but they weren’t fired at her in specific, but rather at the spot where someone would be if they were coming through the doorway. She’d have to time this properly… But she also couldn’t afford to wait too long. Finally making her decision, and spinning, Van opened up the doorway and rushed in, firing as soon as she was able to, but she missed the middle of the aisle narrowly and dove for cover behind one of the seats on either side of the dropship… As the other side fired back.

A burst of four simply hit the metal seat instead of her, the rounds either doing nothing or deflecting awkwardly, which gave Van a second chance… She wasn’t going to pass on it. Spinning out of her cover, she fired off one more blast, this one a larger one at the full 13 shots she could reasonably fire in one attack… All of them hit, and unlike the earlier bullets in zero gravity which sent their victims flying, these ones simply made the opponent twitch and drop to the ground as two other figures emerged but showed immediately that they had given up on fighting and potentially having the same fight their ally just had, indicating this by raising their hands.

Cecile moved in not yet knowing they had surrendered, but skidded to a halt as soon as she saw them with raised hands and no weapons. Cecile kept her gun on them, not really knowing what to do. Van was the one in charge here, the one that knew how to do this. She sighed with silent relief that she didn’t have to try shooting someone yet, not with every time she was readied to try, Van or Van and Yuka took out all the targets.

“Your little scavenging party is done,” said Van, moving forward and keeping her SMG trained on the pair in front of her, moving closer to examine them more specifically. One of the scavengers looked like the rest of them did, someone from USEAN most likely, the other one was a bit more peculiar… A bit more European in appearance, the sole member of the group that Van had spotted who was like that. “Either of you going to tell me what you’re doing here? Eh? Start talking, I’ve still got enough bullets for both of you.”

“I owe people some money, was given to the crew to help them on missions to pay off my debt.”

The girl said, keeping her hands raised. Cecile focused her SMG on the one that wasn’t talking. She tightened her grip on it again, no longer shaking the way she had started to when she thought she was about to be in an active fight. Cecile listened to the words, but said nothing, she had her own mixed feelings about Van, and didn’t know how Van would respond to that.

Van simply responded by unloading another three rounds and blasting through the face shield of the man standing next to the woman speaking, as if it were nothing… “And your debt is ours now, isn’t it? I mean, if no one from the other side makes it out…” she said, training her SMG on the girl again, her voice calm - though there was a hint of sharpness, and the erraticness that was needed to quickly shoot someone as she had.

Catharine nodded quickly, flinching at the gunshot into her crewmate. They hadn’t exactly been nice to her, but they hadn’t tormented her either. She wasn’t glad to see them dead. Still she had a debt, and if it was being transferred by force, it was being transferred. She’d make the most of it.

“Alright, my debt belongs to you guys now.”

“With that being said, if you try to short us on what the amount that debt actually is…” said Van, gesturing with her SMG to make a point as she also backed up slightly and waved for Catharine to follow her off of the vessel, towards the open doorway. “Well, that wouldn’t be a fun time for you.”

“Couple hundred thousand, gambling debt and loans. Don’t know how much I got left exactly, last I knew was around three hundred grand, maybe three fifty.”

“You can pay seven fifty since I’m going to assume you’re lying,” Van said casually while she climbed out of the vessel, jumping to the ground before she switched on the microphone and sent a brief message to the rest of the team. “Yuka, gather the others up and get them down here to the hangar… We’ve secured a find, we can move out soon but we’ve got something for you to fly back here…”

“Greeat.”

Catharine let out an exasperated sigh, from one debt owner to another. Well she’d be in debt for a while to come regardless, so for now she was going to have to just make do. Cecile moved Catharine to make her sit in a seat, and gathered the weapons she could see, like she had on the bridge. She’d be keeping an eye on the new girl, didn’t want her bolting or trying to take the shuttle.

They had a little bit of waiting now while they waited for the rest of the group to show up, at which point Van made her way over to Cecile and placed a hand on her shoulder, taking one more look around the massive room they were within. “Well, kid, I think you did alright today,” she said, shrugging slightly. “I may not always be the nicest in what I say… But progress is progress. I’ll make sure to tell Verity that you didn’t look like the weakling we brought in earlier.”

“....thanks Van, I’m doing my best.”

Cecile knew it was high praise coming from Van, especially given how nervous and tense she’d been the whole mission. Still, she appreciated it, a rare moment of warmth from Van, two no...three times in one day. Cecile didn’t expect it to show again anytime soon, so she was going to hold onto these moments to help keep her sane.

“Me, Hester, Verity, Yuka n’em, we’re all just trying to do our best… ‘Cept for Yuka, she’s always on top.” mused Van. “Guess you’re not that far off from most of us that ain’t her.”

With that she moved to walk back towards the shuttle, not elaborating further on her comments. They still had a bit of waiting time before the others showed up but soon enough they would be done with this exercise, and on their way to their actual destination where they supposedly had some high profile work to handle. For now, there was a slightly longer period of calm before the storm…
When we lose one we love, our bitterest tears are called forth by the memory of hours when we loved not enough. - Maurice Maeterlinck

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love. - Washington Irving

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get. - Confucius

User avatar
Forest State
Senator
 
Posts: 4330
Founded: Aug 23, 2016
Capitalist Paradise

Postby Forest State » Mon Mar 09, 2020 1:06 am




Image




S1E9
“FREE KINGDOM”

The Free Kingdom of Masatahara is one of the peripheral states that exists outside of the reach of Earth and its governments and corporations - established originally by Japanese settlers and funded by the corporate world, the colony took on a life of its own and its geographic distance aided it in becoming separate from the outside world. However, for the past 20 years, the planet of Masatahara has been held by a Republic while the Free Kingdom has withdrawn to the planet’s moon, Tarashi… After a trip through space, the mercenaries of the Temple are set to visit the latter.





March 26th, 2097
Kamcho, Tarashi, Free Kingdom of Masatahara
Collaborative post between Forest State and Durmatagno



It took some time for the trip to finish… But eventually, the crew from the Temple had arrived despite their small vessel, the sight of the moon Tarashi ahead of them once they emerged from the faster than light jump, the world in front of them larger than what most people imagined when they heard that it was a moon… It was a sight to see. It wasn’t to say that not a lot of people lived here, but the place hadn’t been touched as much as Earth and didn’t even have as many major colonies as somewhere like Destine, giving the reddish surface of the moon a different look to it as they made their approach from space.

It was enough to warrant gathering around and taking a look from the front of the shuttle, although not all of the crew were here. A few of them had went back to deliver the other shuttle to Destine, that had been captured on the freighter wreck - the ones that were left would be checking in first and meeting up with the others later.

However, they did have an actual task to get to beyond admiring the natural scene in front of them… Eventually, they’d break through the atmosphere of the moon that they’d been observing, en route to land within the capital city of this place, Kamcho. Though, few on this moon would acknowledge that it was a capital city - it was only the interim one, the government based here until the actual one could be restored with the restoration of royalist rule on the planet which was visible off in the distance, Masatahara. The planet that their hosts had picked up their name from, despite being based here, on Tarashi.

“Landing within the next ten minutes,” Yuka alerted those within the shuttle, stepping out from within the control chamber at the front after setting up the autopilot to handle the landing for them. “Soon enough, you’ll all get a taste of what my hometown is like… Well, at least if you count this place my hometown, and not my hometown on Masatahara.”

“Going to have to find out the full story of what happened out here eventually, not something I ever heard of back on earth.”

Victoria commented from where she was watching. She’d take her seat reluctantly after some time. While it wasn’t as enjoyable as the wind in her face and hair, the view from a ship might make it worth it to learn to fly one. Not that she had a lot of choice, she was going to be getting close with a shuttle once they got back to Destine, and she’d be lying if she said she wasn’t looking forward to it. She muttered something under her breath as she prepared for landing, it was inaudible, but it was something about her Japanese being rusty.

“My people used to rule both of these worlds… Today, the larger of the two is owned by traitors to the cause. It’s the reason we’re landing on Tarashi instead of Masatahara,” Yuka said as a brief explanation - the situation was a bit more complicated but it could be roughly summed up that way, though her perspective was colored by coming from this world rather than the other one she had just referenced. “Hopefully, things will be changing soon… Twentyish years on from the original shift.”

They were in the progress of touching down as she spoke, and they would have a view out the front windows of a crowded spaceport with peculiar architecture - marble and different stones where one would expect to see metal or concrete structures… An entirely different looking kind of place compared to the spaceport on Destine where many of the crew had traveled at points in the past. “And, if everything goes according to plan, we should be helping out with that and getting paid good money for it, too,” Yuka added to her original statement, smiling slightly. “Even Tarashi alone is a wealthy place, they say.”

“Well every world has it’s riches, what matters is the people and how they use it.”

Victoria commented, even the most barren of worlds had something that could generate money, even if it was just tourism or greenhouse farms. Of course, richer worlds would always get a leg up. She liked the sound of the money to come, but was more curious to see how conflicts so far from earth and the corporations worked. What kind of things could they throw at each other for instance, what tactics. Maybe she should actually study tactics before thinking about that, but she was curious.

“Gonna warn you now, my Japanese is rusty as hell, haven’t had to use it in couple of years.”

“We don’t quite speak Japanese here…” Yuka warned, chuckling to herself slightly as the shuttle touched down with a slight thud, skids having deployed during the landing process automatically. “We speak Masago. Similar enough, but there’s been enough time for… Some things to diverge a bit.”

She pressed a button to open the side door, a ramp extending after there was a hissing sound of pressure being released, and then the mechanical whirring of the door mechanism triggering and the heavy door being pulled back. “But… I suspect I’ll be able to get you through whatever interactions you need.”

“Well gotta start somewhere, it at least gives me something to work with, but it sounds like I’m going to have to learn Masago itself eventually.”

Victoria said as she got herself out of her seat, and stretched. She disliked cramped spaces, though it wasn’t quite claustrophobia. One of the few things she could thank her Aunt for was getting her over claustrophobia while she was still young. In the end she was still uncomfortable in tight spaces, part of why she rode a bike, but she no longer feared them or freaked out. Victoria waited, Yuka was their leader and guide here, on top of being a trainer for them.

Yuka was the first one to step off the shuttle, heading down the ramp and onto the tarmac of the spaceport… Where they would find that they already had some arrangements waiting for them - there was a dark car waiting on the apron with the doors open in waiting, and around it… It seemed the military was out. Mainly men in dark coats, the color of the coats a notable maroon shade, with capes around their shoulders which went lower… Each one of them held an assault rifle, too, and they had military style caps. They were lined up on the way to the car, and they stood at attention as Yuka started walking by, rifles pointed up on a perfectly measured out angle that had almost certainly been practiced.

Image
The ride for the day.
It appeared she was more important around this place than she had let on back on Destine.

Victoria’s theory about the hime honorific with Yuka was thrown out the window at the sight of people standing at attention for her. She followed behind giving Yuka a decent lead, admiring the maroon color of the coats. Darker reds had always been among her favorite colors. She wanted to ask just how important Yuka was around here, but decided to wait till there were less prying eyes, they might get offended depending on her status.

Jazmine followed after the other two members of the group and Yuka was soon in the back of the car, waiting for Victoria and Jazmine to follow her inside before she gave instructions to the driver… In her own native language, which had an odd sound to it, recognizable as Japanese but not quite with the same words - almost like Japanese with a heavy accent, in a way. “I hope the entrance hasn’t intimidated you,” Yuka remarked as they got moving. “Word… Probably got down through the levels that I was coming home today.”

“Intimidated? No. Has my curiosity piqued, yes.”

Victoria answered honestly, looking over to see what Jazmine thought. She’d been quiet so far, but then she tended to be quiet in general, at least when she wasn’t after something in particular. Victoria tapped her fingers against her knee idly, she didn’t take well to not doing something, it tended to get her antsy. Was part of why she also tended to overwork herself if someone wasn’t around to keep an eye on her.

“In what way?” Yuka asked as Jazmine remained quiet - they were headed past more military types and towards one of the main roads, but they had to exit the spaceport complex first to do so… And it was fairly large, the usual concrete sights of a spaceport like this added to by the stone and marble constructions that were dotted around the place, ranging from square shaped buildings to dominating towers which drew in the eye from both the ground and from the sky.

“Exactly how important you are around here. Hime implies someone of noble or even royal blood, back on Destine I assumed you just had a lot of influence but not the blood, as is sometimes seen on Earth. I see I’m wrong at least there, but how high up you are is another question.”

“You’re speaking to the second princess of the Free Kingdom of Masatahara,” Yuka said simply, not sounding like she was making too big a deal of it, even though she knew that it would likely be a shocking revelation for Victoria… She only knew Yuka as a trainer, after all. “I just prefer to be a bit active and pursue our goals through other ways than just sitting around and well… You know, doing the usual princess things. Would rather learn to fight than spent all my time with public appearances and diplomacy.”

Victoria spent a minute or two processing that she was speaking to a princess. She chose her next words carefully, though Yuka did seem more relaxed than most rich people Victoria had met, Victoria wanted to be careful not to offend her.

“Sounds similar to why I left home, just instead of anything as major as royal duties, it was closer to the expectations of a rich family with their hands in many tech and aerospace industries. I enjoy working with machines, but I wanted to do it on my own terms, that and my Aunt would have an aneurysm if she found out I was a merc. I’m half tempted to tell her just for that reason.”

“It’s good to keep bonds with family… Better when they support what you’re doing. At the same time, sometimes you can’t truly find yourself and do your job the best you can if you don’t take some time to find yourself,” Yuka mused, placing a hand on her chin as she thought about it. “Know thyself, and all that… Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.”

“Nothing so philosophical for me. One mother abandoned me at birth and I don’t even know her name, the other I’ve only seen when she comes to visit her sister, and I’m not even sure she named me. My Aunt and Uncle are controlling, and have extremely high expectations. ‘Don’t wear black Victoria, it clashes with your eyes, here put these contacts in they’ll hide the heterocromia, you need to dye your hair, you stand out, a true Fawn would never wear jeans, throw them away.’ So on and so forth. My Family in England and France weren’t so bad, but at home basically the only person I ever liked was my little sister.”

“You may end up wishing later that you’re on better terms with more of them… Perhaps when things get tough. But then again, I’ve always had a family that recognizes my ambition, and has a purpose for it,” Yuka said with a shrug, looking out the window as they passed through the area between the spaceport and the palace, elaborate architecture and old style pagodas blending together in close proximity with one another as they went through an area that was a combination of green and concrete, of old and new. “Sometimes, you just have to find your own way to meet expectations…”

“I do care for my sister, was sending her money when I could to help her through Harvard, but for the time being I’m a tad strapped. Rest of the family I just don’t like much, but I’ll give my Aunt this, she does her best for all the kids her sister leaves around the place, even if most of them weren’t raised by her.”

Victoria shrugged as she spoke, and then looked over at Jazmine, a small blush and smile coming to her face.

“Besides, I’ve found a few people whose expectations I value more.”

“Fair enough… Though I do believe that you never know when family is going to be… Important. Even if it’s further down the line when you have kids of your own. I suppose that’s just something that’s stuck with me from growing up somewhere like his, where it’s something people care about,” Yuka pointed out.

Jazmine just rolled her eyes ever so slightly. “This conversation is boring, are we ever going to get to something more… Fun, around here?”

“In due time…” Yuka said. “But our operation in this case might not be on Tarashi itself, by the way.”

“Well we still need to find out what that operation even is, but it sounds like it’s going to be something to do with Masatahara.”

Victoria noted, moving past the family crap. She had only one family member she liked at the moment, and it didn’t seem likely for it to change anytime soon. Still, she couldn’t deny that Yuka would have a point if she was talking to most other people, Victoria just wasn’t most other people.

“Though Jazmine, if it isn’t on Tarashi, you might have time to have that fun before we leave.”

“Still stuck here for days…” Jazmine remarked, as they neared the palace buildings themselves - it wasn’t just one building but a fairly large complex of them, with multiple structures and sprawling courtyards and towers that could be spotted far off from the road. Now that they were on their way towards it, only a minute or two from pulling up, the walls around the place and the plants which spilled over them were also increasingly visible… Soon enough, the driver turned and they were headed through one of the gates, the walls behind them now as they went straight up the main road leading into the palace, approaching the main building.

The vehicle came to a stop in front of the building and Yuka was the first one out, her eyes traveling upwards as she looked over the front of the palace and then turned her eyes upwards towards the many upper floors. “We’re here,” she stated calmly. “You’re going to want to stick close to me, this isn’t the kind of place you want to wander around and get lost in.”

“Got it.”

Victoria hadn’t planned to wonder off, but now she was going to be extra careful not to. Seemed as if trouble would come looking for her if she did, and she wasn’t interested in dealing with that at the moment. She stretched again once she was out of the car, enjoying the freedom for a moment, even if she was just going to get back to hallways and rooms. Though given Yuka’s own height, if it wasn’t abnormal, the place wouldn’t be too cramped for her.

As they walked up the steps of the palace, the doors were pulled open for them - which was good, because it wasn’t exactly easy for one person to get them open considering they were about twelve feet high and made from heavy material. Once they were inside, there was a main area of sorts that had high ceilings, some kind of expensive stone as flooring, and a number of statues and pieces of art decorating the walls… And it was huge, sort of like the main terminal of an airport or another similar type of structure. Yuka however didn’t seem bothered by this, considering how she was used to it, and she led Victoria and Jazmine through the decently crowded place without trouble, the crowd… Naturally parting when she walked by, different people stopping and doing double takes and taking note of how she was indeed back on the planet, which apparently was news around here.

They had to take a couple of flights of stairs before they were actually at the place where she said they would be staying. “I’ve arranged for you two to stay in this room,” she said, gesturing to a doorway once they had reached it, with double doors that were surrounded by a frame of limestone. “You’ll find that it’s larger than what you have back at the Temple and that it’s usually used for diplomats and envoys and the like. I’ll also have one of my servants posted outside the door, if you need anything or if you need someone to come and get me,” she continued, pushing the doorways open to reveal the sight of the room, which was indeed everything she had said, and looked like it might as well have been from an expensive five star hotel. Even looked like there was a hot tub inside the main room.

“Wow, haven’t stayed anywhere this nice since I spent a week with my family in England.”

It was perhaps nicer, hard to tell, that’d been the week before she’d moved to London and stayed connected with Jazmine. Victoria looked around at everything, it was nicer, not by a ton, but if this was what diplomats got then she balked at the idea of seeing a royal room. Her family's best equated to what they gave diplomats and envoys. Well they did own an entire moon, and used to own another planet, they had to have serious money.

“Stay here till you need us I presume?”

“I’ll let you know when you can come upstairs for a rather… Well organized dinner,” said Yuka. “Should be in a couple of hours. I believe that afterwards, we’ll get the first word of exactly what the plans are for what we’re doing here soon. Though we’ll have to go over it again when the others get back from Destine.”

“Aright, sounds good.”

Victoria moved further into the room to explore what the rest of the space away from this main area was like. She expected a...rather nice bed or beds, she was unsure at this point. She also wanted to find somewhere to dump her stuff. She dreaded a formal dinner, she quite disliked the things, but she’d be on her best behavior, if at the very least not to embarass Yuka.



The dinner itself had been held further up within the halls of the palace, where the surroundings weren’t that different than they were everywhere else - though it was hard to deny that there was something special about the place, perhaps it was the orange lighting that was bright enough to illuminate everything but dark enough to cast a glow over the area too, or perhaps it was the intricate designs that could be seen on the trim of the walls or on the pieces of art that were in the room itself… And of course, the guest list helped to make this seem like it was an event.

It wasn’t everyday that most people found themselves dining with a King and a Queen, let alone other members of a royal family, as well as dignitaries… For some time, too.

It was a couple of hours before Yuka was dismissed to get to work on what she had come here for in the first place - even if it seemed like it at times, she wasn’t just here for fun. She had work to do, and that involved Jazmine and Victoria also. “Alright, you two can come with me,” she said after she had stood up, making her way to the back of the room, looking over her shoulder for them. “We’re going to head down to one of the planning rooms and take a look at what’s in store for us in the next couple of days.”

Victoria had managed to remember the training back home for formal dinners, and avoided making a fool of herself, though she came close to a few faux pas, she had avoided embarrassing herself and Yuka. For now at least, she stood up and followed Yuka quietly, knowing just how bored Jazmine must be. Even planning would only be so much for her, Victoria hoped she wouldn’t cause any trouble while they were here...almost as much as she hoped she wouldn’t cause any trouble.

They’d have to head down another couple of floors, before they came to another decently sized hall, but this one wasn’t for dining. Rather, there were tables laid out near the walls and in the middle of the room and the walls had screens on them, indicating a more strategic purpose to the place… The inner tables had computers, while some of the outer ones seemed to have other things such as documents or maps. In one corner of the room, there was a more modern holographic table which displayed a map projected above it, and there was already someone standing there.

“General…” Yuka said, getting the attention of the young man in a black outfit with a maroon cloak, who turned to face the new group fairly quickly.

“Victoria, Jazmine, this is General Hayao Fujio of the Crimson Guards Force. One of the elite wings of our nation’s military. Additionally, a noble such as myself,” she said, before looking back to her counterpart, and bowing slightly. “Hayao-san, these two are my… Fellow mercenaries. Newer in the ranks of our organization but capable enough.”

“And the rest of the ones that were expected… What happened to them?” the General questioned.

“Held up by having to deliver something back to Destine… They’ll be here tomorrow and I’ll go over the info again with them,” Yuka pointed out, walking over in the direction of the holographic table.

Victoria hung back to stay behind Yuka as she followed her. She disliked such formal environments and such, but she could tolerate them for the sake of money and her own friend. Yuka wasn’t formal around the Temple, so Victoria could only assume and hope it wouldn’t offend her there, though here it seemed right to give her the respect of her station lest Victoria anger other members of the family.

Hayao walked back to the table with Yuka, and input a command to show a map of the city they were going to be operating in - though they didn’t have the context for just what they were doing yet. “Ayukawa Resources and Management, also known as ARM, is the largest corporation within the traitor Republic of Masatahara…” the General began, and it appeared one of the buildings being shown on the map was a corporate headquarters of theirs. “As the name might suggest, a lot of the work that this company does is in the business of extracting and processing resources. There’s a lot of money to be made in that business… And it’s brought them hand in hand with the treacherous government in charge of the planet of Masatahara. Together, both the company and the country have expanded their reach. The plans that we’re making today are aimed at curbing that expansion and sending waves through the company.”

Pressing a few more buttons on the table, Hayao caused the holographic image to zoom in and show a cutaway of part of the headquarters building. “The leader of the company knows that there’s a price on his head and tends to stay out of the public limelight because of it… But someone has to be the face at public events like the one that’s going to be held this week to attract investors. In this case, that’s the Vice Chairman of ARM, Chokei Godahana. At this upcoming event, Godahana is expected to speak and unveil several new projects that ARM is working on… The Crimson Guards have devised a plan to get in the way of that.”

“An attack on this event using a specialized team trained in small unit tactics will be key. The Crimson Guards will provide you with holographic disguises and false identities to get in with your equipment under the guise of being with the event staff… Once in, you’ll have to change into your combat equipment and make your way to the floor of the event, which should be located approximately here,” Hayao continued, pointing to a large central room which had room for hundreds of tables and chairs and was used for large galas and presentations and the like. “One team will take to the floor while a second team heads here, to the balcony approximately three floors up. Between both teams, at least one of you should have a clean chance to eliminate the target… We have also been informed that Godahana’s wife and daughter, Kimuko and Arisa, are both set to be in attendance - consider them to be secondary targets to the primary one.”

There was a brief pause, before Hayao concluded. “Of course, once the job is done, the place will be on lockdown… You’ll have to ditch your gear and use the holograms to aid in your escape, while a local royalist resistance cell causes trouble around the premises and deflects the attention. They’ll suspect them to be behind everything… And not so much a few people that look like they’re legitimate attendees. A vessel will already be awaiting you at the spaceport when you finish up the operation. And as for the incentive… I believe the one hundred thousand dollars after the mission for each member of the team should be enough motivation to take on a dangerous and high stakes job like this.”

“Any word on what the security will actually be like, gear they’re using for instance?”

Victoria asked perhaps the most important question that came to ming, given everything else that was covered here. The hundred grand was pretty good incentive, with that kind of money she could get a hoverbike and start tinkering around with it. The prospect nearly had her drooling, though she kept it under control because of the professional environment.

“Expect military style equipment… Heavy armor and assault rifles. Your saving grace, however, is that there’s more attendees than guards. By a large margin, thanks to the size of the event… Avoid having too many run ins with security. It’s not an impossible task, as they have a lot to cover.”

“Right, I’ll keep it in mind.”

Victoria said with a nod. She would need armor piercing rounds to go with her PM80, assuming she got to use it, if she engaged the guards at all. She hoped to avoid it as much as possible. Probably some AP and hollowpoint if she could help it, hollowpoints were useful for such an assassination.

“Your own equipment will be designed to mask your identity and allow the incident to be pinned on the local resistance cell, which will claim responsibility following it… Regardless of who claims responsibility, though, a success in this case will be a severe disruption to the economy of the traitor Republic as well as the operations of their largest corporation,” Hayao said, before returning the map to the overall one of the city they were set to operate in - Utara. “If there’s no further questions or objections… The Guards will continue with the preparation, which right now means procuring the equipment.”

Jazmine and Yuka would, of course, stay silent - the rewards on the table here were enough to warrant a few risks.

Victoria shook her head, her only concern had been addressed. Even if she didn’t end up with her preferred weapon, she was confident they’d be given the equipment to proceed. After all, the royals here wanted this to succeed as much as Victoria wanted to get paid. She could practically feel her hands on the bike now. She had to force it out of her mind, lest things become awkward for her should someone notice.

The conversation between the princess and the General continued - though the other mercenaries wouldn’t get to hear the rest of it, as it switched to their native language, and the distance between the sound of Japanese and the altered version of it that was spoken here was… Great enough that it would be hard to pick out the meaning of what was being said. Something about royal politics.

After a few more moments, however, the conversation was over, for real this time, and Hayao gave a salute to Yuka before turning and marching out of the room… Leaving Yuka with just her mercenary allies. “You’re going to want to think about getting some rest right now,” she stated, turning back to them. “The actual operation is this week… Before it happens, you’re going to practice it in a simulated killhouse designed with the actual floor plan. Don’t think you’re going to just head off to the assignment without getting ready some more.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Victoria said with a nod. Running through it simulated would be a really damn good way to prepare the team. She wasn’t sure how well she’d do, but she could hope she played a good hand. If only to keep Yuka from regretting bringing her and Jazmine in on this mission. Victoria personally probably needed to familiarize herself with more weapons than she had, but she still favored her PM80 anytime she could use it.
i'm the bad guy... duh.

for: the anime right
anti: catgirls & people who step on snek

User avatar
Lunas Legion
Postmaster of the Fleet
 
Posts: 29845
Founded: Jan 21, 2013
Psychotic Dictatorship

Postby Lunas Legion » Mon Mar 09, 2020 1:04 pm




Image




S1E10
“FOXHUNT”

Following a public battle in downtown Expanse, the clash between the National Security Bureau and the Free Destinian Front is heating up and the stakes are increasing… And after uncovering more elements in the previous plot, the NSB has once again assigned a hard task to a team of mostly contractors, with the lives of plenty of ordinary people on the line in this shadow battle between the United States of North America and the Middle Eastern Federation… The objective? Find the terrorist.





March 20th, 2097
South of Downtown, Expanse, North American Sector, Destine
Collaborative post between Forest State and Lunas Legion



For Shun Yorukaze, being alone may as well have been her natural state. It was an example of, perhaps, the porcupine’s dilemma. Her proverbial quills tended to push people away, as charismatic as she could be - because for every charismatic moment she had, there was also one where she let her intensity bleed through, where she allowed her true personality to show a bit too much and her competitive nature to decide her actions without regard for other factors that some people cared about. Things like the reputation of others, the usual standards and norms, and the things like that.

At first, it had bothered her. It would bother anybody to get close to a number of people over the years only to end up pushed to the side after they spent a bit more time around you - they always told her the same things, too… They liked her, but she was too violent. Too ready to punch someone in the jaw for something that she should have just talked to them about. Too independent, and unwilling to just listen to the authority figures on whatever. Too… Rough around the edges. Willing to go to war for a friend or a lover but not willing to speak with soft words and dampen her own personality for them. Despite her own loyalty… There were few people that returned it to her.

Hardly anyone that she was really close to outside of a basic working relationship, really. Shun Yorukaze had never been blessed with a large collection of friends, had never really had somewhere else to turn when things weren’t going great, and had never been able to rely on someone without being let down… Even when it came to family, things were strained by the fact that she’d taken this more dangerous route with her life instead of going into a normal field like everyone else.

Why can’t you go to college? Why can’t you get a stable job like the rest of us? The questions were asked often enough. She had memorized all of them at this point, and sometimes, at times like this, she thought back on them and wondered if things would be better off if she just went with what they wanted. At the very least, if she just… Conformed a bit more, she would probably have less worries.

But less happiness, too. She wasn’t cut out for that kind of thing.

Still, it didn’t stop the doubt from stirring in her mind as she sat at the bar counter in the apartment that had been provided by the National Security Bureau - she was living with the rest of the team that she was working with for now, but they were sleeping right now and she was the one that was up, staring into a half empty glass of whiskey at some late hour that she’d possibly regret staying up until later on.

She was on this team with a couple of people that she worked well with, but the fact of the matter was… She was still alone. And it was by her own choice this time. Because with her past experiences, she had learned one thing - being pushed away inevitably hurt more when one expected a different outcome. So these days… She accepted the inevitable and she didn’t get too attached.

Even if this specific job was testing her limits. Even if she knew deep down that it was best to do her work, have her fun, and move on.

They seemed to have chemistry, they seemed to work well together, there was possibly a connection between them in… More than just work. She could say that about both of her partners in the field, actually. But at the end of the day… What was the point in pursuing it if it would end up like everything else?

And if everything ended one way, why would she assume this was going to be any different.

Letting out a sigh, Shun downed the rest of the Whiskey. She needed it… Because at times like these when she was reflecting on just how close and how far she was from having the kind of connections she’d seen from other people.

Remember, Shun… You have no reason to think that they aren’t like the others… And no reason to think they won’t just take your heart and tear it up when they feel like it… So just have your fun, and get the hell out before they show you why you have this rule…



Today was the day when they were receiving new information from the Bureau about the case that they had just looked into before - the one where a shootout with MEIS agents had happened in the middle of the city, and a mysterious package had been intercepted before it could be handed off… And yet, Shun was dreary in terms of mood, lingering longer than usual when getting ready to head out and show up at the office to get the info that they had been waiting for. It took her a little bit longer to make coffee in the morning, and a little bit longer to get dressed and pull on her jacket after only getting a few hours of sleep.

It was somewhat understandable. Most people wouldn’t run as well as she was running now on a couple of hours of rest. Most also wouldn’t keep up performance while battling the same feelings that she did… For her faults, she was at least good at putting things to the side and moving on to get the job done.

“Gabriella, Zara, we have to head to the office soon…” she called further into the apartment, as she stood near the doorway herself, pulling on her usual red sneakers after tucking her pistol into her jacket and pulling her hood up, casting a slight shadow over her face. They really did have to leave soon… The NSB wasn’t the kind of job that was fond of employees showing up late, even if they weren’t true employees in the usual sense of the word and were working as contractors, with the exception of Gabriella.

“I was going to remind you, but you seemed comfortable enough here.” Gabriella said, rising smoothly from where she’d been sitting on a couch in another room and and moving out into the hallway, joining Shun by the doorway and slipping on a pair of black heels, followed by her jacket. “But we shouldn’t be in any danger of being late-”

Whatever Gabriella was going to say was cut off as a rather panicked looking Zara all but skidded to a halt next to them, pushing past Gabriella to grab her own jacket before putting on her own white heeled boots. Unlike Gabriella, being as small as she was, she needed the extra height. It was hard to look like a serious mercenary when you had to look up at someone.

“We’re going to be late?” Zara said, panicked, calming down as Gabriella gave her a withering look.

“No.” Gabriella rolled her eyes. “And Shun’s driving I assume, so there’s no way we’ll be late unless traffic is an absolute abomination.”

“Maybe… Maybe not,” Shun said, stepping out of the door with that, her hands in her pockets as she made her way to the elevator and waited for the others. They were soon enough walking into the parking lot next to the building, and she unlocked her dark muscle car and climbed inside, revving the engine briefly before pulling out of the lot and heading forwards towards the imposing building of the office which would be a decently lengthed trip in the direction of downtown - the distance wasn’t too far, of course, but the traffic in Expanse was rarely ever that great.

She was silent for the first part of the ride, keeping her eyes closed and her mouth shut, but that only lasted for so long before she said something. “So… What new info do you even see us finding out?”

“Not entirely sure.” Gabriella admitted from the back, Zara having grabbed the passenger seat. “Whatever is in that box is most likely the next clue to the puzzle, but even I’m absolutely in the dark as to what they had in there or what they might want it for.”
“It’s… Probably not weapons, or if it is a weapon, it’s, um, one big one.” Zara said from the passenger seat, shifting around slightly. “I didn’t get to see the box itself, but one box means one item. It might be a component for a bigger weapon, spare parts for something they acquired from another source…” Zara shrugged. “I’m just as clueless as Gabriella is.”

Image
Into the heart of downtown…
“Suppose we’ll have the chance to find out soon enough…”


Shun stopped the car once they had pulled up in the parking lot of the office, and the entrance wasn’t far from them now. She started the walk up to it, making it up all the steps before heading into the building itself and passing through the inner receptions area without a hint of hesitation - while it may have been enough to cause her to have a bit of pause before, she was more used to it after doing it multiple times since taking this new job. This time, though, they had something more important than usual in store.

It was a quick trip up the elevator and they’d arrive on one of the higher mid tier levels, only a short walk down the hallway from where they would meet their contact… The office and the name on it indicated that it belonged to a Mia Adamsen. Pushing the door open, Shun stepped inside to find the typical things one would find in the office of a high ranking member of the NSB - powerful computer on the desk, window view in the background, expensive looking bookshelves with an array of different books located on them…

“I believe you’re the team of contractors that I’m supposed to meet with… My name is Mia. Have a seat,” the agent told all three of the team members who had just entered, moving her laptop to the side once they were inside of the office.

“I’d introduce myself, but I have the feeling you know all our names already.” Gabriella said as she slid into one of the seats opposite Mia, Zara hesitating for a second before taking one next to Gabriella, looking more uncomfortable in the environment than Gabriella did.

“I do…” Mia continued, before starting to get into the information. “I’m also familiar with the most recent case that you were involved in. Ever since the completion of that operation against the MEIS, our analysts have been working on getting to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding it and what the package you recovered means in the grand scheme of things - it turns out the package contained explosives… A large amount of them. From what we were able to piece together from recovered information, the intention was for these to go to Myron Meier, one of the two members of the Free Destinian Faction that was supposed to show up at the cafe but abandoned the plot due to the fighting breaking out early. If the package had gotten through…”

She let her words trail off for effect, looking between the three that were sitting across from her. “It would have resulted in a major terrorist attack against the Expanse Stock Exchange, the largest on Destine and of course one of the main symbols of our skyline. Like I said, this attack would have had major consequences, aside from causing a lot of casualties… Don’t celebrate for foiling it just yet, however. The Destinian Faction still has their foreign backer, and Meier is still out there thanks to evading the team that was supposed to take him out previously… You guys. It’s reasonable to assume that with this plot being foiled but the main perpetrators getting off freely and getting a heads up to scrub their presence, another attack could be in the works…”

Mia stretched, before leaning forward again and resting her elbow against the table. “And the MEIS and the Destinian Faction will know to be more careful in their planning. If you want to finish the job, you have to finish Meier also. Which involves finding Meier, and doing something about any potential new plans before they can happen… The MEIS is likely still involved - the Middle Eastern Federation has little stake in Destine while their rivals have very much. It costs them little to subvert our presence on this planet by aiding the FDF, and they would gain tremendously from an FDF victory… I have inside word that based on the findings from your first operation, the higher ups within the NSB are going to come out publicly and accuse the Federation of being involved in the foiled plot - but while we have a degree of evidence, people believe what they want to hear unless we manage to find a smoking gun.”

She paused, before concluding, and turning her attention to her laptop. “It doesn’t matter if the bomb was being delivered by MEIS agents - since we can’t prove a hundred percent that they were behind it, they’ll claim that it’s just a ‘coincidence’ that it was Persians that you ran into rather than anyone else… Doesn’t matter how perfect of a coincidence it is, we didn’t get enough evidence to make them stop supporting this. And that’s the dangerous part… If they’re willing to target the Exchange, they’re willing to target anywhere in this city - or out of it, for that matter.”

“Which means, for now at least, we’re stuck being reactive rather than proactive.” Gabriella said, leaning back in her chair. “We need to both deal with Meier, and if possible provide solid proof of the MEIS’ involvement. I assume the two dead bodies won’t provide that proof, being either independent contractors or agents under sufficiently deep identities that we can’t prove they were MEIS agents?”

“They might have MEIS fingerprints all over them but there’s not enough there to prevent it from being ruled off as regular criminal activity… Even if there’s a motive and some signs pointing to the MEIS and the FDF working together, their narrative is going to be that this is simply the black market working and that the ethnicity of the perps didn’t matter… Even though this is far from the only piece of evidence we have. But it’s harder to sway the public with signals intelligence than it is with catching someone red handed, so to speak,” Mia said with a sigh.

“We need that metaphorical smoking gun of yours, I guess.” Zara said, finally speaking up. “But the, um, Meier side is likely the… Slightly easier one to handle, the um, hard part is just finding him.”

“Meier is off the grid at the moment - we can only piece together things based on recovered info from doing apartment searches in the wake of recovering info from the two slain MEIS agents. That’s also how we found out Meier’s identity… And after searching what we could, we know a few things. Meier seems to be based further away from the urban roots of the FDF and the urban culture of the North American Sector in general, instead being based out of the smaller settlement of Fair Springs… On the northern edge of the sector. You’ll have to do your own investigating here, because the lead is too new for the NSB to have any information to pass down. Consider it your primary objective, because until you find Meier, you can’t do anything about any plans of him and his cell,” Mia continued. “The settlement itself, however, is a different kind of life from Expanse… More small town and people actually know each other. Make too much of a wave, and the word will spread about the feds being in town faster than a wildfire.”

“Depending how much Meier is dug in then, that might be a job for myself alone for terms of recon.” Gabriella said, glancing between Shun and Zara. “I’m the only one that hasn’t been seen involved in the previous operation, and although we did arrest everyone involved, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s photos of it and those involved on our end floating around on social media if Meier cared enough to look. Disguises are, of course, always a possibility, dyeing hair and contacts and the like, but best not to risk it.”

“And what are you going to do if you end up having to fight? If anything goes wrong?” Shun questioned, raising an eyebrow at Gabriella’s proposal. “Since you aren’t up to the same combat skill as myself… Neither of you are.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t be nearby, just not in the town itself.” Gabriella said, turning towards Shun. “The other option is we don’t go in person at all initially, but we handle this electronically, use what surveillance within the town cross-referenced with housing records and the like to pin down wherever Meier is hiding.”

“You don’t have time to search house by house with records and there’s restrictions on when you can wiretap and when you can’t… We don’t need a political firestorm on our hands on top of the current situation,” Mia warned. “But as I said, the town is somewhat close knit… If you’re good enough with people, you might be able to narrow down the suspects quite a lot by getting the right information from the right people. Just don’t let them know that you’re in town, or we have more problems on our hands…”

“Going in in person it is then.” Gabriella said, not seeming too reluctant about it. “I’ll need a reason to be there, obviously, I need a reason to talk to people in the first place, nothing sets a small town on edge like someone coming in from out of town and asking questions out of nowhere. But that’s something that can be handled closer to the time. I don’t think we’ll need the second team on this, but they might be good to keep in reserve just in case.”

“Your team has the authority to make decisions on what personnel you want to bring… And you can speak to myself if you need any further assets. I’ll see what I’m able to do as far as securing whatever it is you need for this,” Mia stated, typing at her laptop once again. “You will, however, have to move quickly… Meier has already been completely off the radar since you interrupted his planned meeting with the MEIS. The longer you wait, the higher the chances are of the next attack happening - or of our target heading over the border and disappearing entirely due to the heat.”

“Of course.” Gabriella nodded. “Would you prefer Meier captured or killed, given the choice? Killing is far easier, obviously, but if there’s no risk of escape in capturing him would you prefer that?”

“The status is wanted, dead or alive,” Mia said calmly. “While having the target alive would present the chance to get more information… You have the authorization to kill if you believe it’s necessary - you might not get a chance to make a clean capture, after all.”

“Very well.” Gabriella nodded again. “It’ll depend on what the situation on the ground is like. I may have some requisitions from you in the near future, mostly optical surveillance gear so we can keep an eye on the town from a distance when one of us isn’t in the town proper in case Meier decides to make an unexpectedly early dash for it or otherwise pokes his head outside.”

“I’ll see to it that the paperwork for the requests gets to the people that it needs to, and that the gear gets there as fast as it can…” said Mia, sitting back in the seat and letting out a brief sigh. “The reward for this job, for those of you that were brought in from the outside, will be fifty thousand per person… The payday is hopefully enough of a motivator to hurry with this. You should be deploying tomorrow, considering you’re already behind schedule…”

“We should probably hurry then.” Gabriella said, standing up. “Fortunately we shouldn’t need it immediately, I’ll need to do some in person recon and brief the other team on the mission, although they’ll likely be doing overwatch on the town itself.”

“Then I believe that’s everything… Good luck with the operation. A lot of people are depending on it,” Mia concluded, shifting her eyes back to the laptop. She had sent out the team, and now the only thing she could do was wait for the results… Along with the rest of the NSB, which had put its faith in an exceptional individual, and was now in a situation where they would really see just how well placed that faith actually was…
Last edited by William Slim Wed Dec 14 1970 10:35 pm, edited 35 times in total.

Confirmed member of Kyloominati, Destroyers of Worlds Membership can be applied for here


Advertisement

Remove ads

Return to Portal to the Multiverse

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Absolon-7, Beutarch, Google [Bot], Gordano and Lysandus, Imperialisium, Tact, TENNOHEIKA BANZAI NIHON

Advertisement

Remove ads