Hedion 03

Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-10-29 18:31:41
Tora's back on the clock when Tanakta returns. They walk side by side out the opposite door, through the entry hall, and into the necessarily small but immaculate Kesh gardens.

Tanakta takes a deliberately slow, measured pace next to Tora, as if he's both admiring the estate and deep in contemplation.

"You needn't be so nervous. I may be dangerous, but I'm not a sadistic man, and my interest on this world is...decidedly not you. At least not in the way you seem to fear."

Something in Angel's voice or body language connects with Tora enough for the Expansion agent to offer Tanakta a small patch she produces from somewhere in that gray dress. "My brother's obsession with games is entertaining enough, but I think we're past that. The antidote," she offers.

Angel nods softly, placing it on his inner arm. "Thank you. Your brother seems...too clever for his own good. And quite proud of it. Like some other people I know."

He sighs softly while they walk. "I've no patience for it."

"Like I said, it can be entertaining enough," Tora replies, "but head games and political conversation are not my strong points. What are you here for, anyway? The money, the elaborate construction plans... surely the Throne's elite do not want for resources?" Angel fortifies his mental bulwarks for the expected onrush of artificial compelling guilt, but the urge to reveal the truth doesn't come. The antidote works fast.

He chuckles, sitting down on one of the low benches looking over the small garden. "No, its not about the resources. But consider for a moment the scope of the project. The kind of money involved draws all kinds - men who fancy themselves self-made moguls, the nobility - and a project of this complexity spans from them all the way to dirty, uneducated laborers sinking support beams into the ground. It's not a bad way to extend feelers through an entire planet...and see what gets uncovered in the dust it kicks up."

Tora nods in agreement with Tanakta's logic. "Did you know what you were getting into when you came to Hedion? Everyone knows what lies under the dust here can eat you. I sometimes wonder if maybe there are just too many people on this planet for it to have any semblance of order." She permits herself a small laugh. "I suppose that is why you're here," Tora says.

"If I didn't care to fight against long odds, I should have switched careers a long time ago."

Tora's reply is unexpected. "Have you killed men? I don't mean had men killed, I imagine everyone's done that, but done the deed personally?"

It takes Tanakta by surprise, and he takes a moment before nodding. "I have. More probably than anyone really should." He sighs, looking back out at the garden. "But I vastly prefer not to. There are some who find it enjoyable, I suppose. I never have."

"Murder is also not my strong suit," Tora agrees, then looks out through the dangling, wispy branches of a Whiirr-fern planted amongst orange Aikoran sunpetals. "Such a dichotomy," she muses. "Two different species growing indoors on a world neither call home. Listen to it; the noise of the arcology, the heartbeat of its generators and the whine of its atmo. You can hear people in the sound sometimes, although you'd be hard-pressed to see anyone from this garden. I guess I'm saying I like things that are out of place. It's what Expansion is, really, what drew me to it. It's pushing building blocks around and seeing what remains afterwards. The idea of rebellion is, I admit, fascinating to me on a scientific level."

"Ah. And that would explain the little...disagreement...between your answer and your brothers. The idea of pushing the building blocks around and seeing what remains afterward. What's created. What has been...put back into place?"

Tora smiles. "Yes. Sometimes a forest needs to burn to clear the ground, but tell that to the trees and see if they agree with you. No, Mr. Ruggedly Handsome Killer Throne agent, I am content to keep such thoughts to theory, not practice."

"And what if it is not a fire, but merely clearing away the brush and rot and fallen logs that choke the trees from growing in the first place?"

He smiles at the complement, then fixes her with a somewhat serious expression.

"And what if I were the Ruggedly Handsome Killer agent of...another party. One who trained in places you've never heard of."

"If you were," Tora narrows her eyes at Tanakta but maintains her smile, "I might say fire can be pretty." Her face runs through a few odd looks as she runs trains of thought through her head. Her next words lose the flirting tone. "But then that's the Expansion in me talking. The selfish part of me would remind me that a rebellion is why I'm stuck here with my brother instead of enjoying a prestigious assignment on Whiirr or even back on Lor. It would remind me that the trade restrictions and travel embargos made necessary by continued terrorist attacks continue to pick at my family's livelihood and the livelihoods of our vassals. It would remind me that the need for supplemental income has driven us to consider... your... rectenna...your rectenna..." Tora trails off. She'd been trying to piece the puzzle together using the wrong pieces and she can't hide the glow of realization as she swaps one little piece and it all clicks.

Angel nods. "And now I believe, the Lady is up to speed."

In truth, he's impressed with how quickly she got the idea, once gently nudged in the right direction. He looks at her, eyes going to her jewels. "And so I'm up to speed, mind telling me in addition to whatever holdout weapons you've got on you, exactly how many listening devices are picking this up?"

He puts her hand on her thigh - or more accurately, about a full centimeter in the air above it. "And if there is somewhere we can go where your ever-so-clever brother can draw his own conclusions about what we're...up to."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-10-29 18:32:35

"Some damn issue always comes up," Haralin says. "So, specifics. The rectenna project is key to our goals on Hedion, financially and otherwise." He smiles. "Mostly otherwise. Projects like this attract all kinds, businessmen like you and I, selfish predators like Quorona, and reprobates like Saloma and the Iyuzo. We're looking to...clear the underbrush, so to speak."

Reno nods and pulls himself away from the traffic-filled vista. "And what will sprout up once the ground is laid bare?"

"A much more stable and profitable ecosystem," Haralin says. "But first, a little chaos is needed. Something to condemn our obstacles to the Arena or worse. An act of sabotage, for example." He gives Reno a look, one that says this isn't just idle speculation. "Something small to the planned rectenna upgrade, for example. Just enough to shake people up, without putting the project off schedule. There are ways that an interested party in your position could make it happen as to throw suspicion on the other local suppliers."

Reno's eyes gleam like a tiger spotting a sick moose in the flock. "How does sabotaging a shady Expansion project result in, say, Quon Quorona eating a spear in the Arena?"

Haralin feels the drugs tug at his mind, and rides the compulsion to sell Reno on the plan. "The project will be hooked up to the grid and live. You know what effects even the briefest interruption in power flow will have," Haralin says. "They'll feel it in their accounts all the way to Napai, and that makes it an intentional act of sabotage against the Imperium."

Reno dismisses the normally impressive but now cacophonous traffic with a grimace and walks back inside into the adjoining chamber, a small, tidy stentor's office. "That's a fine line between irony and suspicious convenience, is it not?" he asks Haralin. "There just happens to be an Arena right there in which to place the people who are accused of sabotaging it? Let's take Saloma for an example. Why would he sabotage his own power base? Because as much as I would not mind the Quoronas or Iyuzo running afoul of the Throne's fair and impartial justice," Reno says with a grin, "It is the Steward who allows the undergrowth to choke the trees, to use your original analogy."

"The answer to the second question takes care of the first," Haralin says. "The Steward is enforcing our decomissioning of the Array 11 site in favor of the test rectenna, and will be aiding us in fomenting dissent and rebellion at the mesa under the cover of allowing a Turai pacification of the mesa's inhabitants and rebellious Kansat officers. If the Steward is found to be overstepping his boundries and abusing his power, conclusively linking Saloma to the revolution and his use of power to massacre civilians that he set up, it would be enough to put him in the Arena along with the Quorona and Iyuzo for treason."

Reno's eyes flash again - the tiger has brought down the moose. "I suppose things could fall that way if so pushed. There are too many old sayings about gambling and opportunity, so I'll skip the rhetoric. You chose the right man for this." Greed haunts Reno's eyes, the yearning for things long-desired and long out of reach giving the noble an aura of excitement that is at odds with his cool demeanor.

"Right now, what's needed most is to push the Quoronas and Saloma toward feeling the need to sabotage the project and really crack down on not only the civilians of Array 11, but the Kansat, respectively," Haralin says. "For the Quoronas, the degree of competition needed should be easy to generate through your siblings. Gorlan and Tora can push Quon and Tealni to feel the need to lash out at you, and the rectenna project provides a way to do that; once people know you're involved, we can take it from there and get them to make that leap. As for Saloma, simply disrupting his drug supply and pushing him closer to the edge, while problems appear at the work site, that should drive him towards abusing the workers and abusing the Kansat. Throw that remass on the fire of their little revolution."

"Fear not, I have a good idea of what my role entails," Reno replies.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-10-29 18:33:15

Tora rests her less-ornamented hand (meaning Angel can still glimpse part of a fingernail here and there) on Angel's and fiddles with her necklace and the big Death Star earrings. She leads Angel inside the estate again, this time to a lived-in suite of rooms, ever affecting the role of flirtatious playmate with her movements. A wave of her hand summons up a faint hint of white noise as they enter. Tora saves one last disapproving look for the burly guard stationed just outside the suite. Angel frowns; the guard's posture and grim features suggest a man who does not interact with polite company.

"Mbushivata's somewhat overprotective," Tora explains, "but worry not. He'll remain outside the privacy screens. As for my jewelry... they're quite ingenious, are they not?" Tora preens at her fingers. "Digital weapons, designed by Sherloq Jokaero of Grinncanne arcology. Soltoxin venom from... the saglapi, I believe. Nonlethal, although I suppose these tiny things have indeed led men to their deaths." She stops reminiscing over past indiscretions and looks Angel in the eyes, "You are playing a dangerous game, Fayetteville," she laughs. "But then I am a Kesh, and we like games."

"They are ingenious." He eyes them critically, their nature incorporated into the rapidly more complicated tactical situation. "And yes, it is a dangerous game. But I was telling you the truth - if I didn't like fighting about long odds, I should have changed lines of work a long time ago."

He sighs, sitting down again, this time on an overstuffed, somewhat gaudy chair in her...sitting room? Jesus, what had that idiot Davis gotten him into?

"And please don't call me Fayetteville - never did like the place. My name is Angel. Although your ever so poetical media settled on 'The Killing Wind'. Which I admit does have a bit of a ring to it."

"Ha!" Tora laughs in disbelief. "First our Emperor, then a Tainted Talon of whatsit, I don't remember the full title. Who will you be nex-" and then Tora Kesh shuts up for a full minute.

"Holy shit," she whispers at last. "Holy shit, you really are. And... and Haralin is Garrett Davis, the... the Smiling... something or other. Smiling Smiley Smilecake." She's giggling hysterically, partially from surprise, partially from her inability to remember the most wanted people across hundreds of planets. "You are here to set a most beautiful forest fire, aren't you?"

"That we are." Angel smiles, the expression genuine. "Still want to keep your interest...theoretical?"

He gives the noblewoman a rogueish grin, appealing to her more adventurous spirit. "Or would you like to see the homeworld with your own eyes?"

The woman looks torn. "Yes," Tora says like it's obvious. "But my brothers... What is Reno actually agreeing to?"

"Past that privacy screen and the things you know...Reno is agreeing to the exactly the kind of things he tends to agree to, with exactly the kind of people he tends to agree to things with."

Angel's already given her enough to hang him with - and, well, sunball everyone. A certain conversation regarding his paygrade comes to mind. But the woman needs to know the truth, and needs to know her potential part in it.

"I will give you two promises. The first is that we're here to make Hedion a better, freer place - a place where what's under the dust doesn't just grind down and devour anything it pleases. The second is that we take care of our own."

Tora considers Angel's words and finally admits, "I haven't shot you or screamed for Mbushivata or dropped the screens and called Kansat, so I suppose you have your answer already. I'll do what I can."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-10-29 23:25:51
The Kansat skimmers break formation as the team's luxury skimmer glides into the smoke-filled transit tunnel and down a tributary. Segal Iyuzo's hab takes up half an entire hab-block level on Akis' upper west spire. It might be visible from space, considering the vast amounts of gaudy spotlighting and holographics dancing around its balcony levels. The traffic around it is heavy and confusing - it's clearly a happening scene. More confused looks from a handful of Iyuzo thugs and newly-arrived guests follow the blast-holed, windowless, battered rental skimmer as Luis glides it in for a landing on Segal's gaping parking dock. The onlookers continue to gape as what would be a motley crew anywhere gets out of the shell-shocked vehicle and heads for the entrance. Segal's henchmen clearly have been told about Zaef and his entourage; they offer no resistance nor do they check weapons as the team takes the short trip from the parking dock and into...

...My goodness, there are a lot of hookers in here.

Segal isn't as classy as Khalkiota, but for tonight he might have matched their budget. There's the same stink of weapons-grade pharma and the same feeling that you're literally in over your pay grade, but the pharmastink is edgier, less manicured, and the aura of wealth is a desperate thing. You spot a few familiar faces from Khalkiota; a few of Segal's entourage linger here and there, but Segal himself, with Mohawk and Tor close by, are gathered with the bulk of the partygoers in the rear of the spacious and open ballroom. Beyond that, an indoor pool has been drained, fenced off, and surrounded by a series of small risers. A raucous shout goes up from the crowd as something final happens inside the pool. Zaef especially gets a sinking feeling as he enters, then someone recognizes him.

The second roar follows close on the heels of the first and is even louder - and it's for Zaef.
skullandscythe 2010-10-30 00:08:56
Zaef tries hard not to curse out loud. Having a horde of fans clamoring about is bad enough; giving them liquor and drugs is worse, and a makeshift Arena on top of it all is a recipe for disaster. He might not even get to talk business before getting tossed into the pit-and it will happen, most likely. Zaef has remained one of the most popular Arena gladiators for the past decade, and if it's something diehard fans love, it's a return from retirement.

Nevertheless, Zaef crosses the ballroom confidently, a smirk on his face. After all, if tonight goes well, it could be the most fun he's had in a while...
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-11-01 17:05:54
The commotion at Zaef and his handlers' arrival filters over to Segal and the Iyuzo scion saunters over to meet Zaef near a sonic pillar blasting some off-kilter grind. The music's unfamiliar to everyone but Zaef and Arketta, but at least the volume serves as a form of privacy. Segal's wearing a smooth green tunic with a matching high-collared half-robe. The gold trim and strips of lamellar make him look like a villainous Flash Gordon ripoff. Mohawk wears a mesh vest and combat pants, while Tor opts for a stylish (for the crowd) simple red jumpsuit that makes him look like either a janitor or a death row inmate.

"I am glad you are able to join us," Segal shouts over the grind-beats. "I have some acquaintances in the Kansat who informed me you had some trouble on the way here. I would not be surprised if it is Kohan making trouble out of a fit of jealous pique. It sounds like his style." Segal notices Zakest, resplendent in his recovery mask. "I admire your dedication to revelry, sir!" he exclaims.
skullandscythe 2010-11-01 20:52:25
"I am glad to be here," Zaef responds loudly. "Kohan's attack took us by surprise, and there is much to see here that can help alleviate our stress."

As he says this last part, his eyes drift lazily over a passing serving-girl, and he reaches out as she passes by-and takes a drink off her tray.

Zaef's eyes light up at his softly glowing selection. "Haven't had a Shady Dormin in ages," he says as he takes a swig.
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-11-01 21:01:12
Kesh Estate

Reno and Haralin return to the main floor and the more commonly used chambers of the estate. Reno shakes his head, smiling at Tanakta and Tora's conspicuous absense. "I admire my dear sister's ability to seize the moment," Reno comments. "I do hope we haven't caused you any... entanglements with your man."

Haralin shakes his head. "Please, I find that the occasional extra-fidelious tryst livens up the bedroom. Perhaps the two of them may find time to pursue things further tomorrow, in between Tora's provocations of Tealni and Tanakta's duties?"

Reno shakes his head. "I'm her brother, not her master. It may prove a useful line of communication. You and I should perhaps keep our direct contact to a minimum after tonight."


Angel replies, "True, you haven't called for help, but its better to hear things from someone's lips. Inaction and actually doing things are...different." He looks at her for a moment, thinking. "What about your other brother, Gorlan?"

"Gorlan? He's too preoccupied with finding ways around shipping restrictions to be a rebel. Besides, of the three of us he's probably the most stable. You don't have to worry about Gorlan - he would never betray family - but I think anyone would be hard-pressed to convince him to risk his position and his life," Tora explains. "He isn't one for causes. Besides, now that I'm willing to help you and your friend is no doubt convincing Reno of the same, Gorlan isn't going to go against us even if he was so inclined."

"True, although I suspect you and Reno are agreeing for entirely different reasons. Still, stable is good. Stable can be worked with," Angel comments.

Angel stands, smiling down at the grey clad woman, offering her a hand up. "It'll take some time - have to bring my companion up to speed, but I'll be in touch. Unless he and Reno have hatched some other scheme, what do you say about meeting me at..." he thinks for a moment, before settling on something "Silverlight Skimmer Rental. Fast skimmers and pretty girls are as good a cover as any. Say an hour before sunset?"

Tora takes Angel's hand and rises to meet him. "I shall see you then," she replies. Her eyes twinkle with that gleam one gets when engaging in delightful naughtiness, but she manages to hide it during their winding walk back to the main dining chamber.


"Agreed," Haralin says. "When can I expect the Steward's supply to be curtailed and your siblings' influence to start? This whole arrangement is very delicate, as I'm sure you know, timing is everything."

"I would ask how much time I have to set things in motion," Reno responds. "The more time I have, the subtler the machinations. We wouldn't want to be crass about something this delicate."

"The Quoronas are already on edge, so the slightest push should be enough," Haralin says. "Don't worry, we have that part handled. We just need the outsider perturbation that Tora and Gorlan can provide. Simply being seen consorting with Tanakta and my second, Zakest Nasa, might be enough. Tomorrow, perhaps? And I'm sure you have any number of excuses ready for interrupting the Steward's bowl supply for when you need to yank on his chain." He smiles at the mental image.

"You want him on edge but without direction," Reno confirms. "I'll confer with Tora and Gorlan and we will begin the game anew."

"And with your siblings, as always, discretion is the key. I'd prefer to keep my name out of this as much as possible, even with them. Throne agents, or Expansion dropchiefs, can't exactly go around deposing regimes, yes?"

"No, they cannot," Reno agrees.
Gatac 2010-11-01 21:18:21
Swao's eyes dart between Segal and Zaef. The car chase has left him in a bad mood, and his hands are on his weapon, though he's not carrying it very aggressively.

"What is your brother's deal, Segal?" Swao asks bluntly. "Does he seriously believe that we'll be easier to deal with after he tried to have us killed? Between his attempt on our lives and Keji's more than blunt approach at what was supposed to be a private meeting with your courier, I'm starting to wonder if I have maybe left your brothers with the impression that I enjoy being fucked with."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-11-01 21:35:04
"Good, good!" Segal nods along with Zaef as he samples the concoction. "Samal," Segal acknowledges Swao with a respectful nod. "I don't think Kohan plans on dealing with your people except at the end of a stinger. Perhaps he's taken umbrage at not being approached for the project for which you so wisely came to me. Possibly he's simply content in denying me - or even Keji - a significant prize in the form of your Arena expansion." His expression darkens as he considers Swao's second point. "I however did not send a courier," he says, honestly confused. "My only missive since last we spoke was to invite you here tonight. Keji, you said?" Segal's face flashes in barely-concealed rage. He struggles to keep his composure and, with a slug of a similar drink to Zaef's glowing tumbler, continues. "I will handle Keji in the best way I know how - snatch what he desires from his grasp." He addresses Swao, Haaj, Zakest, and Zaef alike. "Tell Arakuna that I will be happy to provide funding for his project, with the stipulation that my brothers have no part of it. As for Kohan, my contacts within Akis' Kansat will keep watch for further plots. I am truly sorry you ran afoul of my would-be usurpers, but do not let that stop you from enjoying yourself here tonight! Please!" Segal spins to Zaef again, and this time a short-barreled inhaler's in his hand. "Follow your Shady Dormin with this and your nerves will positively dance!"

As Segal turns to introduce Zaef to his drug of choice, Mohawk steps away outside the sound system's immediate radius to make a call - and Swao's helmet vox lights up. *Samal,* Mohawk's voice is muffled through the double blasting of actual music overlaid on the slight lagged response from Mohawk's vox. *Are you and Utari free to talk your kind of business in front of the eyejob?* Mohawk refers to Zakest.
Gatac 2010-11-01 22:10:02
*He knows what will happen if he gets in my way,* Swao voxes back. *But I see what you mean. He might be tempted to run to the Dropchief if he hears too much.*
skullandscythe 2010-11-01 22:16:00
Zaef's empty hand trembles slightly.

"No thank you, Segal. I need to relax right now, and stims will not help me do that."
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-11-01 22:38:53
Segal palms the stim and smiles. "You'll have to see the miniature I've set up in my old quint pool," the Iyuzo says. "Arena, I mean. Purely Seventh Dynasty style; close-quarters, muscle-powered weapons only, no obstacles, no escape. I believe there's quite the betting pool going, you could win some lats if you turn your trained eye to picking fighters." Segal continues with small talk, and Zaef wonders why don't they move out of the music. Then he realizes Segal's waiting on something - probably Mohawk - and it's probably due to Zakest being here. Segal must want to talk business and doesn't know if Zakest is a rat for Haralin or if he's as disgruntled as the rest of them are.

*Then this will have to do,* is Mohawk's response. He makes a good show of taking an offsite vox. *There's something come up that Segal could use an outside hand in, especially a hand with some measure of authority. There's a Faxom-Io suit who's trying to move hot product without going through Iyuzo import services,* Mohawk explains. *Segal needs him dissuaded. Problem is, this guy's canny enough to have cottoned to our usuals. We need a new face and you've just fallen into our laps. It's fortuitous, and we're willing to pay well for that serendipity. Are you interested?*
skullandscythe 2010-11-02 03:20:27
Zaef takes a sip, eyes flickering towards Zakest for a moment. "Really now." He stares at the large window at the far side of the ballroom for a little bit before turning back to Segal. "I suppose I could, but it seems to me I could make more by fighting myself. Where do I change?"
Gatac 2010-11-02 07:54:55
*No problem,* Swao replies. *After all, I've made a career out of being a hired thug. How...harshly...do you want him told off?*
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-11-02 12:23:16
Swao sees Mohawk keep abreast of the conversation between Zaef and Segal, and when Mohawk notices Zaef suggest participation, he takes the opportunity to vox back to Swao, *That's enough over vox. Just follow Zaef and Segal to the prefight area and leave a Turai or two with the eyejob out here.*

Mohawk returns and places a hand on Segal's shoulder to get his attention. Segal nods, then turns back to Zaef. "Wonderful! We have a space set aside on the second floor. Shall we retire from the crowd?"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-11-02 20:57:52
Luis and Arketta remain on the main floor and make their way to the risers around the makeshift Arena while the rest of the party follows Mohawk and Segal up a glittering staircase adorned with torches on the bannisters and into a small suite of rooms that have been cleared out for use as changing and warmup rooms by Segal's various pit fighters. Right now, the largest of the suite's chambers is empty save for some padded mats, a mirror, and a rack with practice weaponry.

"Mohawk's informed me that you're receptive to my offer of side work," Segal says. The henchman's name actually is Mohawk? you think in response. It's weird, but then Luis killed a pilot named after an entry-level Toyota. Imperials have weird names.

"This Faxom-Io grease-in-the-wheels is named Gorlan Kesh," Segal continues. "For whatever reason, he is trying to import restricted genemods through the recent trade embargos. That alone is not my concern, but Mr. Kesh has made the mistake of attempting this without taking advantage of the Iyuzo clan's customs and import services. He's proven quite able to elude my usual resources for tasks such as this, so I am asking you, relative newcomers to Hedion, to make an example of him. I care not whether this example is fatal to Kesh as long as it's something that a kauka can't simply grow back. If you should find an opportunity to strike at his Cyllan supplier as well, all the better." Segal's clearly pissed off that Kesh has managed to bypass whatever stranglehold the Iyuzo have on quasi-legal shipping.


Tor, Segal's other prize henchman, is handling MC duties for the Arena. Luis and Arketta reach a fine vantage point just as the two fighters half-slide, half-climb down into the drained quint pool. Both are young men wearing very little in the way of pants, each bodypainted in different colors (blue and yellow), and each armed with a simple whip. Their eyes, though - it's obvious they're jacked up on some kind of drug cocktail. Their pupils are dilated and bloodshot, and their weapon hands twitch in pent-up excitement.

"Welcome our warriors!" Tor shouts. "In the blue corner, sentenced to fight here tonight for his life and his honor, the thief, the betrayer, the accused: Ryno Larot!" There's more applause than you'd expect for someone with the introduction you just heard. Maybe the crowd's just being polite. "In the yellow corner, fighting for his life and his honor, the accuser, Spyx Narasian!" Again, quite a lot of applause, and you almost miss Tor shouting "Place your bets!"
Admiral Duck Sauce 2010-11-02 21:04:35
Kesh estate

Davis and Angel part company with the Keshes without further incident and take their rental skimmer back to find Swao and the others are still at the Iyuzo celebration. Davis settles into the back of the rented skimmer while Angel flies them back towards the mesa.

"Sorry about having to put you on the spot like that, Angel," Davis says. "It wasn't my intention to force you into that kind of a position."

Angel chuckles softly. "Well, I've gone and talked Tora into considering switching teams. Serves you right."

Davis nods. Whatever cocktail of pharmaceuticals Reno doped him with are still coursing through his system, and he feels an immense tug to pry deeper that catches him by surprise. "Which is she, Angel?" Davis catches himself and slaps his hands on his thighs. "Fucking drugs. Shit."

The Delta sniper gives him a puzzled look. "You want to elaborate on that a bit?"

"Is she an asset, or not?" Davis asks, the drugs still pulling at his emotions. "Because that's something to know going forwards. Assets, you use and leave. If she's not, then that's something that we can work with, too. You know that I'm okay with the second option," he says with a smile. "Don't need to answer now, but if you're not sure if she is an asset or not, don't make the mistake of treating her like one."

The drugs - the drugs are not good for Davis. They obliterate the thin vineer that hides the spook side of him. Angel frowns slightly, leaning back in the rented skimmer.

"Funny. So far I've just been treating them as people."

"Oh, yeah, they're people too," Davis says. "But you don't go back for an asset. You don't risk the team for an asset. If it comes down to it, and you want us to go back for her, that's something that we can do, but it's good to know before, yeah?"

"Regardless, not a conversation I'm going to have with you until whatever it is they gave you gets pee'd out."

Davis nods. "Yeah, I wouldn't talk about this with me when I'm like this, either."

An uncomfortable pause settles into the skimmer.

"So!" Davis says. "Go ahead. I'm sure you've got something you want to ask, trying to take advantage of me when I'm in this state," he says with a grin.

Angel chuckles. "Tempting. Very tempting. The sheer number of ways to fuck with you are endless. Between being a goddamned spook, your unspeakably hot wife..."

The Delta shakes his head. "But I'll ask one that's less likely to end in gunfire or thrown dishware. Does it ever get to you? The planning I mean - you've got 18 balls in the air, you ever afraid you'll drop them all?"

"If I stop to think about it, fuck yeah," Davis says. "That's the trick with doing this. You make a plan, and then try to keep things within that plan as much as you can. Shit comes up, you analyze, think and adjust, and keep moving. Don't worry about what could be, think about what is, what was and what could be." Davis crosses his legs. "The mistake that people make is thinking that there's only a few ways to the right outcome. As long as you're moving in the right direction, things turn out pretty well most of the time. I mean, look at Ngawai. Look at Swims-the-Black. We met them, didn't know who they were, but we rolled with them, I went with my gut and shit turned out all right. That's how it was with Tora, yeah?"

"It was, but you do this more than me. Anyway, she seems receptive - I think she knows her brother is a bit of a scumbag, she's bored, and well - we offer something that engages her on an intellectual level."

Davis nods. "Good. That's why I wanted you to come along, Angel, why I wanted you as my bodyguard cover on this mission. Hugh, Luis, they're good talkers in their own way, but you're the only other one that I know can talk to people in a way that I can't. You're straight, so straight that everyone picks up on it, and they respond in kind. Tora's afraid, alone, and used to hiding whatever it is that makes her sympathetic to us, she wouldn't respond to me. But you were exactly what she needs to hear. Exactly who she needs to talk to."

"Big risk you took though, relying on my instincts. The Brass...if you still gave a shit about them, would have pitched a fit, and I'm not sure they would have been wrong."

"That's because they're looking at what your file says, not who you are. I grew up learning how to judge people for who they are, and I know that your instincts are solid. You care about what happens to these people, and you're so often the outside observer looking in that you know how to read what people need to hear and how to say it," Davis says. "And you're a solid, stand-up guy. You didn't reduce Tora to an asset or no, she's a person, and that's good. I try not to make that distinction myself. Like with Ngawai, like with Swims-the-Black, like with Arketta. I have to look at people like that for this mission, though, that's why you talked to her. I needed someone that could just talk to her, as another human being, someone who could be concerned about her. All of that is why I already know the answer to that question. Yeah?"

"Fair. Scary as hell, but fair. While we're on the topic, and before we get shot in some gutter - I set up a meet with her tomorrow at sundown. She's pretty sure of Gorlan's...stability, and you've worked on her brother. Anything specific you want out of it?"

"Right now, just his tacit approval would be good. He doesn't need to do anything, it'd just be good to have him on our side when shit really starts flying," Davis says.

"And from her?"

"Just her help in keeping an eye on her brother for the moment. I don't want to put her in any danger until we absolutely have to. She talks to you in a public place, we make sure the Quoronas see it, and Luis plays off of that to push them over the edge into sabotage," Davis says. "At least, that's the idea. I don't think I have to tell you this, but don't sweat the difference between what you're told you should be doing and what I'm asking you to do. I wouldn't be asking if I didn't think you couldn't do it. There's a reason why Tora chose you to open up to. Just do what you think you need to do for her and Gorlan if you need to change things up, and I'll back your play. All right?"

"Deal." Angel thinks for a moment, before cracking a grin. "Think that shit will be out of your system before the next appointment?"

"Think so," Davis says. "Don't feel it quite so bad. And Angel?" Davis grins along with Angel. "If you're wondering about a good first step with Tora, I think that maybe something simple from Narsai would be a good start. Appeal to her love of the new."

"You have something in mind? We didn't carry much through, what with our cover as your apparently gay Inquitorial circus act."

"Maybe teach her a few words in English. Take it from me, the 'sexy foreign accent' thing plays just as well with Imperials as it does with Narsai'i," Davis says. His smile communicates exactly how successful it was with Ngawai.

"Not a bad idea. Although maybe we won't start with cities in North Carolina."


As they coast over the solar array, Davis and Angel note the presence of several temporary structures, likely work-habs for survey teams or architecture crews. It's hard to say who they belong to yet, but given the players in motion it's probably Saloma pulling their strings at the moment. The rectenna itself is dark, presumably collateral damage in whatever kind of ruckus the Steward is working on raising in the coming days. There's no activity now, although the scene looks set for quite the commotion tomorrow.

With the rental on its way back, the two men pack their gear and disguises for the coming excursion without waking Arlana or Ody. One has to get up early if one wants to meet with secretive underground leaders like Maq.

Davis figured that they'd have to find their way down into the underbelly of Akis sooner or later, and spent most of the shopping trip earlier in the day buying clothes for disguises for Angel and himself while Luis was at the cybersurgery. Plenty of fancy Imperial garb is bulky and loose enough to hide a full set of Turai armor underneath, so they were spoiling for choice in that department. Davis settled on a constantly-undulating velvet-like smartsuit, with colors that shifted according to some complex mathematical construct, that hung loosely enough to look normal over armor, while Angel's chosen garb was more rigidly defined, in more ways than one. All geometric angles and sharp lines, Angel looked like an accident in a CGI-rendering experiment, down to the flesh-tones on the outfit that changed to match his own, making him look like an extremely low-poly version of a severely deformed, almost-naked version of himself. A matching cloak hood was seamlessly melded with Davis' outfit, perfect for covering a Turai helm when rendered transparent, while Angel's was more like a fake hairpiece, styled after Playstation 1-era anime models, all spikes and unnatural angles.

The two men finish putting on and activating their clothing, and both wait for the gap in the Kansat patrols before jogging across the village, protected from the skimmer by the darkened and shut down Array 11 dish, and wait at the taxi pad for the anonymously paid-for drone skimmer to pick them up.
Gatac 2010-11-02 22:03:51
"Kesh," Swao repeats, feigning partial ignorance. "I've heard that name flying around before. Anyone I should know? And who's his cyllan supplier?"