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Gathering Materials [2/3]

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@Zashiii @-Lilium- @danzilla3 @Mag


Won't you be, my neighbor?


 

ArtStation - Haze, Yulia Archer

Have you ever just gazed at the ever blue sky? Ponder the complexity of the clouds which twist and reach for the blackened edges of space. Do you feel the static in the air with every inhale; contemplating the storms that brew within the very atoms in your touch. The rush of everlasting freedom to be lost in the sky as one might be at sea; the high, the rush of knowing peace and imminent danger cup your very existence. The skyward pulled of Dove’s craft gave Noi a measure of peace and freedom from gravities shackles. Aside from the hum of the engines, the cabin was quiet; Noi sat in absolute silence as she worked to find their next task. The digital network of her mind turned and pulled at pixel strands of information. With her newly obtained talents, the woman had picked up yet another blade of use. Attaching her mind to the communications networks when they had entered Genesaris. Cutting through small holes and under firewalls she burrowed herself deep into the intelligence and markets.

Their next object popped up in her mental grasp in a matter of minutes, it appeared like a red string which she eagerly grabbed. Their next items were Tristine and Exalta, both of which could be bought or obtained through various means. Yet she knew of only one way she wanted to go about this plan. A small little device on the floor beside Dove. A digital wellspring of information built itself up beside Dove for observation and their landing destination. Each materials value was expensive in her eyes, all methods of obtaining both items seemed too long besides one. A traveling market caravan carried the materials across the landmarks territory.

Once the information was placed in the cockpit, Noi swiftly exited the network in order to seek out aid. With the two of them alone this task might prove to be difficult. A protected caravan which also carried various other goods was their target. The extra manpower would be appreciated; thus she slowly began putting out a small feed. The feed itself worked into the networks for people for hire.

‘Greetings,

You may call me Io. You are receiving this feed due to the skill set you require and the payouts worth. I need extra hands to secure a caravan bound for the market cities. It contains some things I want and the rest on the caravan will be yours respectfully so. While telling you the full details might minimize the responses; I feel inclined to let you know. This caravan is guarded by a hired group of mercenaries. The loot is worth the trouble no doubt but there may be a loss of life if not careful. We will be meeting at the Duprine Hotel.. Ask for Io and give them the assorted code at the bottom of this message. Each one is personalized to each recipient so I know who accepted. Thank you for your consideration.

Io.’

At the bottom of each feed for each recipient, a random six digit number was provided for them to memorize. As the feed ended Noi backed out of the network closing of all the holes she had left behind. With a slight exhale her body tingled in several extremities which had fallen asleep during her long process of work. She took her sweet time in stretching out her amply curved body to loosen up her muscles. Adjusting her tank top and short Noi gazed down at her bronzed flesh with a chuckle, her skin despite its soft appeal was scarred like no others. Many in the harem had perfect skin but Noi was not so lucky nor ladylike. She was born with great power and prowess to see combat, these few things were her ultimate joys of life.

“Dove my precious... I am going to get ready for when we land.” Noi’s voice carried over the digital hub that sat beside Dove. “I have a gift for you for when we land. I think you might like it.” Smirking the woman skittered from the cabin to her room in order to get ready. Bare feet met the cool metal floors as she skipped along in a rather cheerful mood. Joy was an emotion she was learning to embrace since her previous happenings; the simple emotion used to be foreign to her like her birth name until she encountered the Empire and Dove. Feelings used to be an utter luxury for the shinobi as she took her place among those in the harem. Lastly, her name had never been used for a shinobi’s identity is the always be unknown. Slender fingers caressed the black mess of hair atop her head. The monstrosity was contained inside of a rather thick bun. Alone elastic held the masses at bay from cascading down her shoulder and lower back.

Anticipation filled the air as the door to her quarters slid open, exposing the mechanical mess of a maker she was. Pieces of steel and kevlar lay around the room along with a pile of energy cores from several dismantled firearms and sidearms. Hanging from the ceiling in several chunks were the remains of the kataphracts arm which she had severed and stolen. Next several items in her workspace make her stop in her tracks. One was Dove’s present which crackled with life; the next was her new toys to bring and test out on this mission. Stepping around several piles of broken down equipment the woman clutched her new body armor plated suit. The armored suit was mixed with a bodysuit that covered from her neck down. There were several things different about the normal suits and her own. This piece of magitech armor was not just bulletproof, but the rest of the details were for show not for telling just yet. The hum of the suits power core coming to light brought her to attention. Stepping in feet first the suit began to attach itself to her body suit. A singular needle pushed itself into the nape of her neck with each connecting with her cortex. Next came the helmet which fully attaches to the suit but allowed her hair to hang free from the back. In a long ponytail, she began to braid it for future purposes.

They still had a bit of time before Dove had to land the craft and they pushed their agenda to begin. For now, Noi sat in silence her milky white optics gazed out of the helmets screen before the HUB came to life. Everywhere she looked things became outlined as information was pulled from all sources magi tech or magic itself to understand what was before her. “It’s been a while since I’ve had to become so tech-reliant. I hope I do not get too used to this..” Noi feared to lose her physical edge to the world now that she’s picked up a much bigger role with the Dynasty. Fears and questions slowly began to bubble up from the once joyful smile.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Chappu

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More New Art on Behance

 

Sometimes the autonomy the Omagatoki were granted in choosing their own missions was almost paralyzing for Ben. Of course, he had always acted of his own accord even before joining the group; often wandering for hundreds of miles on a whim. But now his responsibilities in life went beyond simply deciding which bar he wanted to prop up for the night. He was now in service to the Datsuzoku Empire, and he was trusted by the Heika himself to advance the interests of his adopted country by whatever means necessary. So far this had taken the form of using his access to top secret intelligence to wipe out rebel cells and occasionally assassinate the odd politician who was becoming just a little too vocal in their opposition to the Empire. Now however, an interesting opportunity had presented itself.

While he had been on his way to Umbra to begin infiltration of the city, he had been contacted through a private channel with an offer to help acquire supplies from a caravan. He recognized the sender, and upon realizing that he would be helping the Empire, he had jumped at the chance. If he was honest, part of the reason he had so readily accepted the offer was because he still wasn't sure how he was going to go about collecting intelligence in Umbra. He had heard good things about the Bronte Academy; perhaps he would start there.

Now he walked through the doors of the Duprine Hotel, dressed in plain black pants, black boots, and a black tunic that strained against his muscular build. He asked for Io; and was then prompted to give the numerical code that had been at the bottom of his message. He recited the number, 666876, and was led to a room. It appeared that he was the first to arrive, so he settled in to wait. He was curious to see how the other agents of Datsuzoku who had initiated this mission would respond to his presence. Officially, the Omagatoki were only known to the Heika himself, and the organization did not officially exist. But it was also known that certain high ranking members of the Empire were aware of them. Either way, if any of them recognized the ring with the symbol for, "Zen" he wore, they would not draw undue attention to it. 

Edited by danzilla3

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c4b2269518f92de02d9f783f9eef229c.jpgKeanu Lark


On restless nights such as this, dreams of unforeseeable futures flutter relentlessly behind her pale lashes and wake her prematurely. So, during these twilight hours, she can be found staring longingly out of thick panes of glass. Wandering in the recollection of forgotten ideas and pondering whether or not they are still realistic.

Relaxed and laid back in the curvature of an ovular chair, she does just that. One hand lost to the bend of curled knees, while the other leaves its shapely imprint on the arm of her companion. Caught in his own dreamscape. Every so often, a freckled cheek will dip and turn. Scarlet eyes glowering with starlight as they gaze upon the sleeping man. Her perfect contrast. She does this as little as possible to keep from rousing or worrying him.  And more than likely to disguise the lack of things she can say to explain it all away.

Words do not convey as easily from her lips as they may for others. Instead, she finds an outlet in painting. Canvas being less demanding of her for displaying those emotions not so effortlessly expressed through verbal evocation. Bright colors overshadowed by deeply rich hues ignite the fiery luminescence of both imagined and fantastical celestial canopies. Stars and dust brought to life one stroke of a brush at a time. Every wall in the room-even the ceiling-boasts the correlations of her greatest joys and fears. Depicting tales now long since past and those left to be faced further on down their roads.

Slowly traveling eyes drift back beyond the fetters of glass, steel, and clouds in want of regaining something she thinks missing from the moment. The stars are disorienting, their sparkling alignments disorganized and their twinkles lacking. It isn’t until focus is reapplied that realization dawns, following the sudden and impertinent glow of sunlight as it peeks up over the horizon. Now she deigns to marvel...if she is really awake at all…

And she isn’t...


Dreams used to be wondrous and fantastical things to her, until they twisted into enchantingly nightmarish recalls of times now lost. The only issue faced at present is deciding on whether or not she is actually where she is. So, before the sun overtakes the horizon she checks her position among the stars. Fingers tracing invisible connective-lines between different constellations in order to pinpoint her position in reality.  

| What's on the agenda this morning? |

| Breakfast! |

| She wasn't asking you. |

| Break-fast, Emme. It's what fuels our engines for the day. |

/ She has a point. /

| I can't argue with either of you. Breakfast should come first, and while we eat David can share the intel he received. |

/ It isn't much, but it came with a six-digit iden-- /

| Breakfasssssst first, Daveeeed!! |

| I’m on it, I’m on it! |

| I’ll join you guys in a few minutes. |

Once disengaged from the group conversation Keanu cannot help but shake her head and laugh. Short faint laughter headed towards healing, that is what Emme would tell her. Since she had met up with Hiriwa and Emme after the disaster at the Alterion port, her sleep had been tenuous at best. Haunted by dreams and memories that fail to disappear when her eyes open. No fault of their making, but of her own. Unable to find it in herself to give up or let go of the people she can no longer see; she dreams of them. Of him.

Gusts of wind cause pearl tresses to cascade along a faintly freckled cheek. After a few moments of standing beside the open window, she turns away to the duties of the day. Fingertips brushing gently at the skin below her eyes to remove whatever black clouds may try to crescent beneath them. As promised, she emerges from her quarters and eventually meets with her team in the very humble dinette.

Lacking the ability to add expression to the tone in which he speaks, David is still able to inflect his words enough to get his point across.

/ As I was saying before being so abruptly cut off… Is that you received this encoded message, detailing a need for assistance. /

“Where is it supposed to take place?”

/ It states a caravan but does not entail the exact location of the caravan or what the contents that this Io wants, are. We are to meet this person at the Duprine Hotel in Genesaris and after some research, I’ve located it and marked it on our maps. /

“How long will it take us to get there?”

“How long before we can eat, is the better question?!”

David immediately sets his luminescent eyes on Hiriwa in a clear challenge of predatory assignment. Slipping from her chair she walks toward him and pokes the silver of his chest.

“You wanna piece o’ me Big Maaaan?!”

“Sit down and let him finish! If I thought for one moment you couldn’t escape, I would gag and tie you down to your own workbench!”

The smack of a door sounds, Emme pushing through it with a plate laden tray topped with an assortment of eggs, bacon, fruit, and drinks. Hiriwa doesn’t take long to straighten out in order to earn the provided meal.

“You got it, bossy lady!”

/ We’re already in the airspace over it. One quick dive and we’ll be on the ground in less than half an hour. /

Keanu looks from David to Hiriwa, assuring herself there will be no further interruption. The blonde clearly distracted by the food she’s gorging on, is left loudly chewing her meal and blinking back at her while shamelessly shrugging.

/ Your gear is waiting in the cargo bay. So, eat first and then we’ll go. /

“Alright...alright. I’ll be down after breakfast!” Keanu just smiles at the authoritative tone taken over her. Though it is his duty to care for and closely monitor her vitals, he is a constant reminder of happier days. Dead days… When she finishes the apple she was able to convince herself to eat, Keanu meets with David in the cargo hold and the journey begins.


| Do you read me? |

| Yes, we’ve got you. We’ll be your eyes in the sky darlin’. |

Outwardly she represents a young tourist; a thin black sweater over a red t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Goonies Never Say Die’ around a skull and crossbones that loosely rests over the hem of tightly fitted jeans from hip to ankle which hides beneath black mid-calf combat boots. Nothing too out of the ordinary. Inwardly, there is a tantamount of protective armaments layering her unseen flesh; the solid black coating of her Furyi suit.

Beside her, standing out in a very shiny manner is her cohort, partner, and best friend. The mechanical man, though a giant in respect to her more average size, adheres himself to her side as they enter and take in all that represents the Duprine Hotel, which doesn't appear to be anything new to either of them. And much like the man that entered some time before them, they engage the keeper of the keys at the check-in desk.

“We’re here to see a one...Io.”

“Do you have identification?”

“772935.”

“Thank you, now if you will follow that lady right there. Astor will escort you to where you need to be.” As soon as the man points in her direction the woman steps into view and waves gently for them to follow.

“Thanks.”

 

 

Edited by -Lilium-

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Since she had woken up, she hadn’t felt like being herself.

No, that wasn’t right: she never slept. But she still could dream as sleepers did. Even if stepping out of them was nothing more than ending an amusing daydream, they still had the whole of her psyche hostage to their unpredictable whims. She had “gone to sleep,” as it were, closing her eyes and shutting up the world elsewhere in favor of her own semi-delirious, deprived thoughts.

They had left her distressed. At least, as much as one might be during a lazy day on the beach. Distressed by boredom. The walls seem to close in to choke the life out of the still air. Part of it is purely scenery. She had lain here in this very chair, in this same cockpit, for sixteen hours now. Yes, flying again: the clouds drift by like swarms of unfathomably large fish, casting shadows even larger on the plains beneath that, although inevitably terminating, seem to promise to stretch on forever. These still, unmoving visages defy the truth of their own speed, two hundred miles per hour twenty degrees east-of-north toward the capital city of Umbra. Still nothing moved. The ground drifted by in quilted pattern, never quite repeating, but looking yet the same over and over again. The only break was Noi’s voice and occasional visitation over the previous hours.

She inspected her reflection, pressed cold against the window of the cockpit as if trapped in the mirror-sky. Sameness was what was at stake here, the risk of eternity. For people who wish it, the sun never sets. This particular woman did not wish it, but it was happening to her even as she watched. The same day played out by the same person, and although certain things were different — the circumstances, the location, the people — everything felt like an amalgamation of a few long-ago memories. She’s watched this film before. She acted in it, she directed it, and now she’s watching it for the twentieth time. There was no end, there hadn’t been a beginning; everything was a loop of what came before.

She hardly ever suffered from nostalgia.

The woman in the window was as blank as white paper. Even the texture of the clouds behind did nothing to distort her absolute plainness. It was not that she did not like what she saw there, but could anyone love the same thing they’ve seen for centuries? Frozen in time, the only thing that can change is one’s own opinion of novelty.

Something needed to change again.

Maybe it was her.


1NFdWvN.pngUmbra looms out of the rift in the clouds.

Alena is appraising herself in the mirror-window. She has a frumpy frown on her face as she adjusts the cloak; she doesn’t like the way it falls on her shoulders. There is something blocky and masculine about it, and although she does not care for the presence or absence of either of those traits normally, she feels a little girl in her heart sing to think of the day to come. Clearing her throat, she trills the voice, and what comes out is entirely too low for her liking. The pitch shifts upwards in increments, and she hums through about twenty or thirty bars of Ave Maria before she’s satisfied. Now for normal speech. She turns to the window once again, striking a pose:

“Oh, shit.” She feels like shouting all of a sudden. So she does. Whipping around, hands cupped around her mouth, in blatant disregard of the enclosed space of the plane. “WE’RE HERE!”

It comes out harshly, and she winces. Speech too, must be adjusted.

She makes her way to the entryway to the cargo bay, which doubles as Noi’s playground, trying out different voices as she goes. “Noi, Noi, Noi.”

The woman in question is in the middle of dressing herself in what looked like a metal centipede inhabiting the spine of a suit of armor. Alena leans against the doorway. “Having fun? Noi. Or, Io. Whichever suits you. Whichever you feel like. Pleased to meetcha. I’m Alena today. Friend of Eleazar’s.” Noi knows what that means.

Alena runs her gloved fingers down the frame of the door, winks and slaps it right at the lock for emphasis. “It’s time to move. Get your things together, hey!” On that last word authority cracks; and the sullen, bored woman of old was sucked away into a bad memory. This face is one of slapdash grins and haphazard adventures.

Alena turns with a smirking sweep of her hair and disappears into the cockpit once again, and the plane banks into an angle down toward the shimmering capital.


They roar in on an aged, rusty pickup truck, which emerges from around the corner and smashes down the street on the limits of its suspension the whole way. Alena spins it to a screeching parallel park that just barely squeezes in between a headlight and a tail bumper, each of which are worth more than the whole of the truck taken together, maybe by two or three more times. They have the money to pay that, just-so-you-know, and the sort of maverick brazen disinclination to not do so should it come to blows. But it is easier to be courteous than discourteous, even if the latter is more convenient.

The swishing barrels in the bed of the truck may have something to do with her caution, too. “Noi. Howsabout you make sure our cargo is safe and secure?” A conspiratorial wink and she presses her finger to her lips. Keep it subtle, is the understood message. Nobody wants to look too closely.

The driver’s side door explodes open with a kick, and she emerges like she’s about to buy the place. “Wowzers! Nice place you booked.” The facade is gleaming and gold and that’s all she needs to see. Marble columns and so on mean money, and if anyone can be trusted to use money the right way, it’s the people trying to sell luxury as a product. Places like these handle money for a living. And what’s that good for if it can’t buy nice things?

Well, but she remembers why she’s here — because not all nice things can be bought. It’s an important distinction that divides the rich from the powerful.

Here is a place for the rich, but she is here on behalf of the powerful.

The interior is just as opulent as the exterior, but it’s not the room she wants. Noi still outside, Alena has to look at the map herself. A few seconds of squinting at the directory tells her that Conference 1030 is instead down the hall past the receptionist’s desk.

A large, suited body is waiting to step out from behind the desk. He offers an empty hand expectantly. “Hold. Identification?”

“Partner, we are the ID.” She hi-fives his outstretched hand, leaving him nonplussed, and struts right on past as if she’s done nothing wrong. Of course she hasn’t.

“Intruder — Astor —” He barks out as soon as his wits come back to him. He draws his weapon in tandem with the woman standing on the other side.

Before Alena moves three steps Astor is behind her, fist looking more and more like sparking metal as it comes up in an arc to snap her spine —

The appearance of the mythical “Io” through the doors freezes them both where they are.

“Come on, didn’t hear me straight?” Alena gives Noi a cheerful wave, fist-bumps a somewhat red-faced Astor still caught mid-stroke, and turns, calling over her shoulder to the shinobi. “Don’t take so long next time, darling.”


The door opens and the two of them walk in together. It isn’t much of an assembly, although who’s there already makes Alena want to bust out laughing.

“Could you be — could you be any less obvious?” She punches Ben right in the shoulder. They’ve never met; at least, Ben has never met her, and even if he had, he wouldn’t recognize the Imperial Tactician in the silly-girl costume she was playing at right now. She, however, knows the sort of people who bear that particular ring, knows exactly the name of the man who wears ZEN, and even if she hadn’t, the tactical black fabric which she now rolls between her gloved fingertips makes her think that a hyperactive baby with a good dose of imagination could’ve spotted him out in open daylight. “Why do you have to be so extra?”

Alena clears her throat, undoubles-over herself, and extends a handshake to each of Tin Man and Dorothy. “Hiya. Glad to see you could make it. Seems like not too many people these days want oodles of noodles of funding, huh?” She tilts her head, ostensibly at the vast room and the lack of applicants within. “Truth be told, I blame the hippy-crats in the Umbran Church. Always preaching about virtue and the afterlife, donation and asceticism and stuff, like a yacht isn’t gonna serve you there just fine. Bunch of socialists, if you ask me.”

She looks them up and down properly for the first time. “Er. You aren’t part of the Church, are you?”

They sure don’t look the part but disguises are fashionable these days.

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There are daya when the Mistress wonders why the head of an infamous crime syndicate must work as a mercenary for other criminal organizations. But then again, she would remember it was also her idea. The events at Last Chance nearly destroyed their cartel. Their resolute stance at neutrality was ridiculously broken by her predecessor, the Lady Blackhead. It was a large scale assault on Last Chance under the tyrant named Dredge. Months of careful planning boiled down to single failure. Bur she cannot blame the man for their army's shortcomings. It was also the cartel's mistake for putting a stop to the Lady's madness. Stricken with fervent infatuation, the madman woman threw everything she for Dredge's army. But theor efforts were rebuked by the defenders of Last Chance. She was not privy to what the other leader's of the Legion had planned but for the Mistress, the Legion had failed miserably. That was the last straw which prompted her to action. Risking everything she confronted the Lady, and took control over the cartel. 

Broken and beaten, the cartel had started the painstaking process of restructuring. Right now they had to start building connections. The one the Lady Blackhead had all turned their back on the cartel after her fiasco with that Dredge.

And then came that feed. It was a job offer from an anonymous employer. The Mistress found the offer interesting, and somewhat relishing. It reminded her of the days back when she was still a lowly operator working questionable jobs for the cartel. Interesting as its sounds, its anonymity would warrant suspicioun. Bold as she is, the Mistress still proceeded with caution and brought with her a tagalong, her subordinate Khaki. 

__________

"Are you sure about this, Middy?" Khaki blurted out after a while. The odd pair just had a long trip to reach the meeting location and are now standing before the front door. However, for some reason her tagalong chose this moment as the right time to question their task. 

Pinching the bridge of her nose in annoyance, the woman called Middy let out an exasperated sigh. "Khaki, please. Let's just get this over with. Our crazy antics during that run with Ms. Blink almost cost us the job."

At her words, Khaki reluctantly closed her mouth, her teeth clanging rather loudly. As good as the short woman is, Khaki still lacked the proper demeanor for professional work. But that was why Middy brough her here, as protection and to expose the girl to other professionals of their trade.

"And, Khaki stop using my name in public. Just call me the Mistress Blackhead or  the Mistress."

With a defeated nod, the girl followed the Mistress as they passed through the entrace to the Duprine Hotel. They were quite the pair with their almost patching black long coats with the taller Mistress Blackhead taking the lead with her duffel bag , while the shorter one, Khaki, followed close behind the Mistress, unperturbed the rather large guitar case she slung over her tiny shoulder. 

From there, the Mistress had to ask for this "Io" person, much to her anmoyance. Even through her scowl, they still asked her for the six digit number and with impatience platered on her face, the Mistress barked the blasted digits. A few more heated outbursts from the Mstress and soon the two were lead inside another room. There were aleady the other hired mercenaries inside and the Mistress presumed they were the last. She figured they had not been too late as the others are still going over their introductions. Grim-faced she led Khaki to the nearby wall where the pair waited for their employer to address the group.

 

 

 

Edited by Zashiii

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"Welcome to the Heist."


Chapter I: The Briefing |\{}/|

A fickle smile had crossed Io's lips beneath the helm upon her head, gazing at Alena with ease she admired Dove's ability to carry out a new persona with ease. For this Heist she was known as Io, taking over the lead for the case it was on her that all responsibility would seem to land. Finishing up her preparations the woman quickly grabbed a large suitcase and Alena's new gunblade. Their exit from the craft was swift as was their transit to the Duprine Hotel which loomed with immense grandeur. Before Alena got out of the truck Io had placed the gunblade within the woman's grasp before moving to secure the barrels. "Well aren't you just an energetic fireball today Alena! Feeling good about the mission to come?" Io asked but it was to no avail for Alena had gone on far ahead of her to the meeting point. A shake of the head was all the other could muster as the back of the truck was set down and covered with a hard top to prevent prying eyes. Then sliding into the driver's seat she parked the vehicle closer to the parking garage where the shade would take over. It made sense to park the truck with other vehicles to prevent suspicious eyes and noisy customers.  Once the task was complete Io sauntered in at a high pace to catch up with Alena. Pushing through the door she had arrived just in time to see Astor about to take a clobbering swing at Alena. A fatal mistake that many did not really realize till it was too late. A simple wave dispelled the uneasy air from the guards at the desk. 

"Thank you for your service, I am just glad I arrived when I did.." Io said as she approached the desk, sliding in both of their numbers the security guards bowed their heads in understanding. Reaching out she patted Astor's shoulder with a firm hand. "A second later and I would have had to patch you up.," Io said in a rather chilling voice that sent shivers down their spines. As their entered the room together Io's HUD cam to life scanning over the guests who were first to arrive. The first was an associate of the Emperor who she had heard a bit about when it came to trading words with the Emperor about employees and military might. It made sense that at least one might have shown up to the task at hand, another trusted trooper added to the web of mayhem. The next pair was the humanoid and the AI in the exo-suit. Scanning them over their communication line was on an encrypted channel to provide a safe line for communications. The desire to find out who was on the other end bubbled ever so slightly, yet she would resist the urge to ruin the other team's privacy. After all, it was Io who called them here, surely they had something to gain as did she and so long as this mutual task was at hand she need not be noisy. Gazing around the room she placed her suitcase down with ease next to Alena before taking her place at the front of the room. 

"Greetings I--" She was cut off as the door opened once more to bring in the people from the Matrix. Blacked figures against an ill picked cream color of a wallpaper. Gesturing with her left hand for them to be seated the woman waited until everything was all set. Reaching down to the conference table she pressed a single button locking the door. "Now.. I assume we are all here. We will begin the briefing. If you have others listening in on this conversation for information and your future extraction, please have them switch to my HUD network." Io said lightly with a quick sway of her hand, pixelated screens formed upon the table as the lights dimmed down. Io would give them all a few minutes to get comfortable before she began the breakdown.

"Greetings... You may call me Io. Before we get into names and getting to know one another I'd like to personally thank you all for coming." Io bowed her head lighting in gratitude for their attendance. "Now we will be hitting a guarded caravan on its way to a private buyer, the same buyer is the one who established the mercenaries to protect their investment. I hope none of you are opposed to killing while on the job, it is likely they will fire back. The chosen method of travel is by land, the buyer has chosen a route that goes through thicker parts of the jungle and very few spaces of flat land. Which means our guests are feeling comfortable that they will see any ambush coming with this open spots... Which also means they feel comfortable enough to trust themselves to the wilds without another plan. The carrier of the cargo itself is a large truck carrying four trailers worth of goods, the troops will be posted on and or inside of each container."  Io broke down what the truck looked like with a digital model of it on the center of the table. A large truck with a mix of wheels and tank treads for multi-terrain use. The containers all had small shuttle gaps making it easy to move from one interior to the next. 

"We hit fast, we hit hard.. We hit first.." Io smirked lightly making out an X on the first segment of the jungle trails. "With us, we have high explosive and corrosive content that will serve as the initiation to the situation. We will be picking up an extra set of wheels to pincer the truck upon meeting this point. There is no doubt that the truck has been re-outfitted with its own defense system that the mercenaries will use against us before we breach the doors. Wheels up in three hours with some luck and hopeful team bonding prior we can get this mission done with ease." Io looked them all in the face one at a time before stepping back from the table leaving the pixeled screens and route up on the table. 

"Welcome to the Heist."

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What an interesting little group this enterprise had managed to attract. A young woman and her large robot companion, two women, one of whom was clearly in charge of the other one, and most annoyingly of all, some brat in a costume who couldn't seem to keep herself from commenting on his choice of attire. As the shorter girl rolled the fabric of his shirt between her fingers, he realized that he recognized her scent. He had never seen her before, but he knew she had been present several of the times he had talked with the Emperor. That would explain why she knew who he was, but did nothing to diminish his irritation at her antics. Despite this, he had to admire the girls guts. If she truly knew who he was, then she also knew that he was technically obliged to kill her for the scene she had just made. For now though, he would hold off, both because he sensed she was likely important to the Empire, and because of a certain amusement.

"Look who's talking," Ben grunted, yanking his shirt out of her hands, "I'd have to light myself on fire and run screaming through a drug lab before I could draw half as much attention as that outfit you've got on."

Finally the woman named Io walked into the room, bringing with her another familiar scent from his time in Datsuzoku. It seemed he was in familiar and mysterious company all at the same time. Io wasted no time in explaining the job they were here to do, hitting a caravan and relieving it of its goods. Nothing that the Omagatoki hadn't done plenty of times before. If everyone did their job, and all went mostly according to plan, it promised to be an easy job. After finishing her briefing, she told them to reassemble in three hours, advising them to bond in the meantime.

"Well in that case, I think I'll go hit the hotel bar. If anyone wants to join me, I'll buy the first round."

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With some time between their arrival and that of Alena and Io’s, Keanu and David continue to engage in the conversation currently undertaken via the mental pathway.

| After going through this expense report, I dare say there will be any left for shopping. |

| You don’t need any more dresses than David needs polish, Emme. |

/ I don't polish that often. This is an unfair- /

| I am not listening to a metal hunk of junk! |

/ Your behavior as of late has been nothing short of extremely uncalled for! /

| Stop, they’re here. |

|/ …[insert collective silence here]… /|

Keanu’s eyes roll in momentary annoyance as they shift in Alena’s direction as she is the first on the scene. And they two take part in watching the couple of pals who appear to know one another, engage in friendly banter before the attention is readjusted in their direction.

Formal introductions proceeding from there, sort of. What unnerves her poker-faced gaze is the young woman’s appearance. It is found lacking in truth, even though the colors of her hair and clothing are saturated in sensational charisma. The impeccably enjoyable height of her voice paired with the obvious statemented question of their origin makes Keanu smile. Somehow feeling Alena already knows the answers they are about to produce.

It does not disarm her but instead intrigues her as to who this Alena might really be. Tinman doesn’t make a move, his only response being, “Hello, Miss.”

Dorothy’s words are just as gracefully empty and short ended, “No, we’re not[part of the church].”

Io’s appearance cuts this conversation even shorter. Her words cutting to the nitty-gritty before another set of people enter the room. Stopping Io cold, before abruptly continuing onward in her explanation of the heist.

| We’re going to dip out, hit us up when you are ready. | Emme’s want to exclude herself from an unknown network, fair enough. Keanu disconnects the line in order to listen to Io’s plan, comfortable with having only David at her side to interpret her thoughts.

Once Io finishes divulging the details, Keanu extends a verbal hand. “We may not need to use too many explosives. Just on the doors. With a decent enough distraction, if we could separate some of the guards and other portions of the caravan from the true target, we may be able to isolate within a kinetic dome.”  Her voice, smooth and calm comes from a place of experience as she divulges the applicable information into a detailed format for better understanding. “David and I can create a barrier around the vehicle, once in the barrier, there won’t be any getting out or in, the harder anyone hits it, the stronger the barrier will get until it is removed. If we can separate it from the rest of the caravan, anyone on the outside can keep them busy while those on the inside can get the loot they’re looking for. Hopefully with minimal loss of life. But once the barrier is down, we would need to be ready to leave.” As anyone might guess, the caravan’s retaliation will be unfriendly at best.

The input is merely an offer, a gesture of good faith in her and David’s part to assist in their heist. Although it is for compensation, Keanu’s hope is to separate as many outside people from the caravan in order to keep them alive, rather than wanting to kill them.

Ben's grunting temporarily distracts her thought process; something about the bar and drinks. When was the last time she had had a drink? Liquor at that?

/ It has been a very long time. /

| That’s a good thing. No reason to start now. |

Even if she can function after drinking it, she doesn’t deem it fit, as it does not hold up to her standards. To allow something to defile her bloodstream and deter her ability to think analytically or critically due to being in an inebriated state goes against her nature.

| Maybe after this is done and we get back home. My dad once told me that drinking with strangers may be fun, but that it’s also a very dangerous practice. |

/ A wise man indeed. /

 


 

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Men and women always keep like company, slaves and masters and equals like themselves. (Why old wisdom is passed through genealogy, and why power consolidates). Although she had never met them she had watched the Omatagoki from afar, and they always worked thus, sharing traits alike however different they may have been in origin and personality. Brazen, frightful, confident in their supreme swagger. Fearing nothing because they were the ones to be feared. Koji’s dogs wouldn’t be his if they didn’t have a little bite and a good helping of possession.

Dove should have been infuriated, but Alena only giggled in response. She twirled before Ben, showing off the flaring cloak and the shiny clasps. “Why, thank you! Attention keeps the complexion smooth, don’tcha see. But see, little one, some of us are meant to show. And others — “ she jabbed a gloved finger into the man’s chest, “ — are meant to hide.” She spun around again and scrunched up her expression, reciting old wisdoms: “From each, his ability; to each, his desert. Render from thyself the capacity for the duties rendered upon thee.”

“Who said that?” She squished a thoughtful finger into her cheek. “Probably some commies from Bronte Academy or somesuch. But it sure sounds nice, doesn’t it? Hold on; listen up!”

Io came and gave her whole practiced spiel. At the very end, Alena chimed in. “Now listen here y’all. We’ve got a great plan. Lots of booms and kachows and that kinda fun! Good weekend fun. Family fun. We’re all family here, aren’t we?” She looked around at strange, hostile faces leering back at her, each more lethal than the previous. “Well, we’d better be by the time we hit the road. Things will be bonkers hard if we don’t have trust going on here.” The woman pointed an accusatory finger at Ben. “You, I know you. Enough of you, anyway. So you two fellas in the back — “ Here, another finger at Middy and Khaki “— we’re gonna have a nice long talk you and me. Best start thinking ‘bout what your favorite animal is, and why it’s ducks.”

She laughed uproariously, and slapped the desk once or twice. “Now here’s the real deal. Wondering what we’re gunning for? It’s Exalta. We all know what that is? Big shinies? Sparkly crystals? Kind of thing my ex-wife would kill for? Good, good. That’s what we’re after. Help yourself to the stuff in the other three, but that’s ours. But don’t ask me why. Lady’s got her secrets, you know. Rude to ask.” She winked and put a finger to her lips. “Just so you know what to look out for.”

“Now, Doroth — uh.” She paused. “Keanu. Right? Right. That’s a great plan, Keanu. If you could really do that, be real fine. It’s a real touch-and-go affair and you know, in the old days, pirates weren’t really much for killing people. They had a code to them, honorable fellas. And we’re a piratical bunch, if you fancy thinking like that. If it’s a distraction you want, though…” She grinned wide. “We’ve got that in the trunk, no worries. Just be careful kicking your feet around while we drive.”

“Now, if it’s drinking you like then I’ll indulge you,” she called to Ben, “but if you don’t like it, let’s play darts.”

She held an elbow out, awaiting Io to take it. “Regardless, we booked the nice places for a reason. No reason not to have fun before the real fun, eh?”

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A drink? Khaki's mouth began to metaphorically drool at the subject. It had been long time since she had a good drink. Damn too long. Her hand was already inside her coat pocket, fishing for her handy dandy flask of spirits only to remember the Mistress took all her booze away. The Mistress said it for her own good. Cold turkey was supposed to be good but Khaki only felt suffering. Surely there is nothing with drinking on the job but the Mistress would always scold her and now Khaki is sad. 

The Mistress was silent through out the whole ordeal. What is she thinking? Is she sleeping on the job? Khaki tried hard to understand her but the Mistress was always a great mystery. Well she can sleep all she want. Khaki would take the initiative.

"A drink?" Khaki would say, her round eyes almost pleading, "Pick me. Pick me." Like the little girl she is, her were hands were already stretched out before her making weird grabby motions. "Booze! Booze!"

On the corner of her eyes, she would peer back at the Mistress waiting for her reaction. Khaki prayed in her heart that the Mistress will relent. She had no qualms with falling on her knees to beg if she could just get a drop of booze. A drink. A drink was all this poor girl wanted.

"Very well, Khaki. You may drink."

Khaki's eyes lit up as she heard the Mistress' words. She could not believe it but she was happy that she was granted permission. But it seemed the Mistress had more to say. Grinning widely, Khaki listened as the Mistress went forward to greet the others.

"It seems we have a plan and I, the Mistress, have no problems with it. And it won't be bad to indulge in a little round of drinking once in a while"

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The people were rather receptive in her mind. They were more than willing to get together and drink for the most part, if they weren’t Alena had given them little choice. Koji’s dog seemed as if he were feeling the taunting pressure of Alena’s jests, as one might say she was hitting close to home. Their duty required them to kill those who blew their cover, but at the same time Noi doubted the man had the ability to do so. Turning to gaze as the Mistress Black and her companion there was a warm sensation that touched her cheek. Her attention however was mainly wrapped up in Keanu’s suggestion of a kinetic barrier that would easily subdue and make maintaining the caravan easy as pie. The pirate thought process appearled to her greatly as it did Alena. There was no need to spill blood without requirement, their products would do the blood spilling for them when the wars came. 

“Let us work on incorporating this idea, along with something explosive. Why not some contained fireworks for them to see?!” Io shifted her weight to her back foot before smirking beneath the helmet. “Please stay together, you may not have to drink but some chemistry is needed.” She presses the matter once more, before stepping off to the side to get towards the main door once more. “I will join you once I have done my own preparations. Alena please take care of them and be kind.” Giving a warning sidewards expression Io left the room with haste to go to her room for the time being.

 

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The hotel bar was a charmingly rustic, reminding Ben of many a town watering hole that he had passed through in his life. If one looked hard enough though, it was clear that this was still just a replication of the real thing. The place was far cleaner for one thing, and all the wooden surfaces had been polished to within an inch of their lives. Booze was plentiful, and of higher quality than the swill that he had downed in some taverns over the years. All in all, he quite liked it; as it had the charm of a town pub, even if the rough edges that gave such places their character were missing. He returned to the table they had secured with a tray full of alcohol and set it down before taking a seat themselves. Grabbing a pint glass and downing it in one pull, he then turned his attention to Alena.

"What do you see when you look at me? I'll tell you what most people see; a thug. A man accustomed to violence, and willing to do violence upon others for the right amount of coin. So that's the image I cultivate. When you conform to their expectations, people tend not to give you a second glance."

Ben took another glass of beer, glad that he had bought plenty, and had the bartender on standby, "To put it another way, you say we are meant to hide, but we are allowed to be seen. We just can't be known."

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Family… Even in acknowledgment of the forum taken on by an agreement to converge with these unknowns… Keanu cannot deign to believe it a family. Thoughts that remain silent behind the clarity of her sight to keep from perpetuating unnecessary discord among them. Eliciting a simple smile instead to cover the mess being born in mind, Kenau revels in the capacity for knowledge Io and Alena have. The formulated creativity displayed is openly admired.

/ What is it? /

| I haven’t quite figured it out yet. |

Presentation over and the exchange of ideas passed leaves they two to follow behind in distant proximity. Inward conversations depicting several possible outcomes to the plan at hand. Not to quell nerves or harsh realities, but to formulate instances where different actions may need to be taken. It continues until they reach the bar. Elegance resounds in the clinking of glasses off to the right by a couple leaned in fairly close to one another. The man brushes the hair from the woman’s cheek depositing it behind her ear while she whispers and laughs so gently in response it resembles the flick of a butterflies wing.

A simple glance tells an assumed story but a lengthy one describes much deeper interest. David and Keanu disregard it after the formal first, believing it inconsequential. As it has nothing to do with either of them. Like a frequent flier, she attends the smooth surface of the bar by placing her hands against the counter to displace weight. Sitting on a very comfortably cushioned and backed leather stool. Once adorned to it she leans toward the counter taking up a drink menu as if interested in what could be nestled within the bound pages. If only to pass the time while her cohorts engage themselves in alcohol and merriment.

David, rather than take up space directs himself away from the bar proper in order to observe and glean the prospects that they will be working with. Leaving his partner to fend for herself as far as socialization goes.

“This one actually doesn’t look half bad…a Creamy Brandy Alexander.” Under the breath and self-proclaimed. Details beneath the picture describe it as decadent, warm even if frozen, and sweet.

 


 

Edited by -Lilium-

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"Drink  Drink."

The little girl chanted under her breath. She was simply excited to once more indulge in the pleasure of the flesh, to dine in bliss with her one true love, the spirits. Wiping the dribbling drool off her face, Khaki fidgeted on her seat beside the Mistress. Her eyes seemed to swing to and fro, between Ben's servig tray and the disapproving look on the Mistress' face. But Khaki is s good girl. She is mature enough to hold it in until Ben has reached the table. Licking her lips, the little girl impatiently waited for inevitable.

What do you see when you look at me? I'll tell you what most people see; a thug. A man accustomed to violence, and willing to do violence upon others for the right amount of coin. So that's the image I cultivate. When you conform to their expectations, people tend not to give you a second glance."

Emptying down her share within monents of contact, Khaki gave a rather loud burp. She can feel it now the alcohol, the heat rising within her. She missed this sensation yet she can't help but regard the man named Ben. The large muscular man reminded her of a bear. Espscially with alll those hair. Chuckling she drunkenly winked at the man hoping to catch his attention.

Peering from the corner of her eyes, Khaki could see the Mistress maintaining her silence. Perhaps, the Mistress is sleeping? Or is she smitten bu the cuddly bear of a man in front of them women? Khaki's eye's seemed to sparkle as her hand reached for the Mistress' share of alcohol.

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