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The woman looked between the other two men, opened her mouth to talk and then closed it again. She really didn't know what Rua had wanted to get out of this--not that it was necessarily a bad idea--just that she wasn't going to make it worse on purpose.

---

Bavish smiled with a small amount of satisfaction at that, turning into his much smaller but still pleasant office. Taking a seat at his desk, the man folded his thick fingers together and nodded slightly.

"The Lions have plenty of work, as I'm sure Peer enjoyed revealing to you. You may know already, but we have three major departments within our organization. Peer heads the Intelligence department, Hemmingworth deals with all things military related, and Texya chairs the Finance world. She also runs the entire organization, actually.

"So pick your poison. Security, exploration, intelligence? We even have clerical work, if you really want--pay's not great, though. For first time contracts, we don't offer anything above a Gamma level, but the menu is diverse enough."

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"I knew you'd see it from my point of view eventually," Rua said, clearly amused. He moved back from the door and pulled the other chair to him, turning it around and straddling it. "We're looking for some hotshot in Cher Plek, guy by the name of Kasdim-Ur. Know anything about him?"

"What, you gonna kill him for havin' an opinion? Either way I don't know shit. Satisfied?" Rua merely leveled a glare at him, and Droge sighed. "I'll take that as a no. Fine, I'll look into it but I make no promises. Cher Plek's full of weirdos, ya know?"

"Thank you. We'll come back when you have something for us," Rua said, getting back up from the chair to leave for real.

"How would you know if and when I have something?" Droge asked. "Hey, for that matter how do you know where to find me every fucking time?"

"I know people," Rua said, then nodded to Terrel. "Terrel knows people, right here in Rogueport. We'll know."

===


"Yes, they do," Fille confirmed with a nod of her head. "Of course, that's where we'll need to watch out for each other the most. Lot of unsavory people there."

Rogueport's black market had plenty of rare goods, both for the NPCs and for the players of the game. Rare goods meant guards and thieves alike. But it was marginally safer in the daytime than it was at night. She flipped the arrow in her hand until the arrowhead pointed down, and with two fingers slid it up the wide sleeve of her shirt to hide it. "Let's get going then. Maybe we can grab a bite to eat on the way there, no?"


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Terrel waited an extra moment to be sure the conversation was truly over before turning for the door. Before she left, though, she gave this Droge fellow--more of a rat, really--another nasty look and a rude gesture. After getting outside, though, she turned back to Rua, eying the building without much satisfaction.

"How long do you want to wait for this guy? I mean, not like we're in a huge hurry, but with Rogueport it's not 'if' but 'when.' The longer we're here, the more likely we're gunna get slammed. Do you really think he's going to find anything we haven't?"

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"Droge? Oh, he'll find something, alright," the swordsman assured Terrel as they left his shack. He was confident on the matter. "Droge's the kind of guy that survives by keeping his ears to the ground and staying away from any kind of danger. A direct confrontation of any kind's his weak point and the bane of his existence."

He shrugged. "And for that reason, his information network's top notch. If there's any truth to Kasdim-Ur, there's a good chance he'll find it. Or at least give us some clues to work with."

Edited by RisingDragon on June 23, 2014 at 0:12:41


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Sera laughed lightly as she headed towards the distant markets. "Probably shouldn't trust the food here. But I'm starving . . .so yeah, food sounds good."

As her boots glided gently along the wooden docks, guitar thumping gently against her back with every step, she mused if she should ask Fille---well, what was the worst that could happen, Fille would leave her?

"So. Why do you carry the arrows around, instead of a knife?" She asked curiously, turning her head halfways to gaze to her companion.

______

Bekka threw back her head and groaned. "Oh gods, you use levels for contracts?"

Even her armored companion seemed amused by that. His tone lighter, even through the distorted speaker of his armor. "What do you have in security work for us lowly first-timers?"

Edited by Ajax on June 29, 2014 at 4:24:57

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"People don't expect to be stabbed by an arrow," Fille said matter-of-factly as she walked beside Sera. She had a grin on her face, as if remembering something amusing. "Plus, they have a little more reach than most concealable knives."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
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Sera shrugged once. "But arrows break with relative ease. Ever tried a long-knife?" She asked conversationally, taking comfort in the fact that Fille was at least smiling.

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Fille pursed her lips, rolling her eyes upward, in a manner that clearly said that she'd already thought of the idea. "Can't hide a long knife on me anywhere," she pointed out. "My arrows are a lot less noticeable until I stab someone with them."

She glanced over at Sera while she let her arrow slip pinions down into her hand, then swiped it up until the tip was in front of the bard's nose.

"Plus if I swing this around fast enough people think it's just a switch anyway," she said, her accent betraying her mischievousness as she pulled the arrow back and slid it up her sleeve.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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"Fine, but is he quick? If he's going to take two or three weeks to deliver..." Terrel trailed off, not wanting to talk too openly about her anxiety to fly the coop here. It was still Rogueport and it was still dangerous, which gave her all the more desire to hurry this thing up.

---

"Mostly a liability and compensation thing," Bavish said in response to Bekka's reaction. "There were lawsuits when people claimed they weren't adequately warned of the dangers on some contracts. But, let's see what we have."

The man's thick fingers keyed in a few different things, filtering the contract database on his terminal to show the proper hazard level and sub-type. After a few moments, he displayed the data on the larger screen for them all to see.

"These ones marked in blue?" he pointed at the screen, "we've been getting tons of them in the last twenty-four hours since that stunt Oracle pulled in Minervum. Everyone and their mother thinks they've got a great lead on where the next 'Arcanum Relic' is, but half of them are urbanites who couldn't kill a small spider on their own. Demand's high and the work's easy enough, so we're going to make a killing off of these. It helps that everyone believes they'll rule our sorry-souls once they find what they're looking for.

"Think you'd be up for it? They're all across the map, though the more dangerous ones obviously restrict some zones."

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"Probably not that long, no," Rua said with a shake of his head. "He's in the area we want him to search, so it'd take a week at the most. Still, we should probably find something else to do in the meantime."

He glanced towards the hill leading out of the shantytown, with Relayia following his gaze. "We can check out that ruin, if there's nothing else you need to do in this dump."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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"Well..." Terrel began slowly, scratching at the back of her head. "If I'm going to be sticking around here, then I'm gunna have to work. The guys from last night seemed to think that as long as I'm in town they can blackmail me into doing whatever they feel like." She frowned, her voice losing her typical belligerent edge for the second time in only a few minutes. She didn't much care for being anyone's servant.

"You can come if you want, or you can go do something else in the mean time. Not sure what they're going to try and get me to do, next."

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"From the sounds of things, we're safer elsewhere," Rua decided, shaking his head once more. "Besides, if we're gonna find this Kasdim-Ur guy, we might as well make the most of what we've got.

"I don't know about your fighting capabilities but I'm confident about my abilities," he told her, gesturing to his sword. "We should get what we need for the trek and head on out of here."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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"Droge'll still do it for us, even if we're not around to twist his arm, then?" Terrel asked, not entirely convinced but wanting to be. After last night, leaving sounded perfect. Well, almost perfect... The jungles weren't much better, but they were going to have to face those eventually.

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"Yeah, he'll do it," he confirmed for her. "He'll bitch and moan about it, but he'll do it. It's not like we don't reward him, on top of not ratting him out to the authorities."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Sera's feet continued to glide across the wooden planks, every so often the feint waft of sea-salt managed to overpower the fish and remind her that there was actually water nearby, and in fact. . right below her. She never been overly fond of the water, to tell the truth. But facing her fears had always been something her mother had drilled into her, and by now the smell only brought the welcome respite of no stinky fish for a few precious seconds.

"I suppose each girl's got her bag of tricks." She said with a small laugh. "I'll sing, you can stab. If the singing doesn't work, I suppose I'll stab too."


_____

Bekka's eyes darted back and forth across the screen. Almost tentatively, she reached out her her right hand and ran it across George's fingered glove. Her heart almost leapt into her throat as the once simple gesture, done since she'd first met him, a skinny blue-eyed boy with slender fingers . . .as it wasn't rejected. She'd not been sure. George had always been there, for Duff and her. And yes, Lancy too. But her steady rock, she'd admittedly left in a bit of a pickle.

And to wrap her fingers around one single finger of his armored, rough digit suddenly meant the world. Though it also had a practical application, truth be told. She softly murmured a few of the names of the contracts to herself, gauging his movement when she read them aloud.

When his finger twitched, she nodded. He'd always moved his fingers when he was thinking about something familiar. She pointed to the glowing dot in Cher Plek. "Korin and Stamarians don't really scare us. We'll take that one, if there are no objections."

Edited by Ajax on July 2, 2014 at 5:56:37

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Fille giggled along with her. "Well, let's hope we won't have to stab too many people here," she said, looking around. "We don't want to draw too much attention to ourselves."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Sera nodded, eyes sweeping the area again, they'd not drawn too much attention. But then, she had as of yet heard not a single other voice raised in song here, away from the docks. Oh the sailors would sometimes give a rowdy chorus. But not once so far had she heard a single other bard give voice to the songs on their mind. Drawing attention was something she almost had to do, to further her goal.

But surely Fille had to know that . . . "Well," she said jokingly. "Stabbing people seems the norm around here. My singing. Not so much."

A glimpse of a brightly colored cloth later and she had turned, her feet now moving with purpose towards a stall in the distance, a green and orange flag fluttering gayly in the wind. The mark of the current mayor. The puppet himself apparently had a hand in that stall. And just maybe, the stall owner had a direction for her that was more accurate than "somewhere in the market."

Edited by Ajax on July 3, 2014 at 4:04:59

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Terrel nodded simply, willing to trust Rua with this one. Not like she had much choice, though--he pretty much had all the cards to himself. "Where next, then? Leaving town's bound to be tricky, if I remember right. Most people who want to leave on something besides a boat tend to be foreigners and adventurers, and they get caught up in all that ruckus as you might well suspect. Might need to think of something."

---

The White Lion chuckled a bit under his breath at that, filtering out the results to include only the Cher Plek contracts now. "Lot more there than just Korin and Stamarians, I'm afraid, but we do run contracts with the former from time to time. Not too many down there that don't hit at least Beta level, though, but we'll find you something worthwhile all the same..." He trailed off, perusing the list keenly.

"Ah, how about this one," he said after a moment, pulling it up on the screen fully. "The Architects are looking for a supplementary force to keep watch and guard areas. Way they are, though, you won't hardly need to worry about the wild-life, just maybe the occasional player who doesn't know what he's doing. We can promise pay for up to four of your men, including yourself, on the mission, and if you want to bring more and split the cut more ways then that's your call. We'll be sending four more Lions with you either way."

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Rua grimaced at that, crossing his arms over his chest and staring up at the hill, but not really seeing it. Relayia started looking about as he thought.

"You know this dump better than I do," Rua said to his companion. "D'you know the ratio of NPCs to players here?"

===


"Isn't that the mayor's colors over there?" Fille asked, also taking note of the stall. "That's curious. I don't think I've ever seen a leader's colors in a market."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Bekka laughed brightly at that. "I hope your boys are vaguely competent? Or do you pay us extra to make sure they don't die?"

As to the mission itself. She needed the entire team, and the short one . . .Duff's stowaway, Bec. The money wasn't terribly an issue, when it came to splitting it. No, she was more interested in why George wanted to go there.

_____

Sera nodded, speaking quickly before they approached the stall, a surprisingly well-made one, selling mostly scarves, hats and other accessories of dubious makes. "They are. Mayor's a businessman and a bit of a shark, from what I've heard. Time to see how much his employees know."

With a bright smile she approached the stall, staffed by a young, clean-shaven man and a gruff looking swordsman with the look of hired help. She ran her hand along one of the scarves, "How many of these do you have? More than two, I hope." She smiled mischievously to the man.

The guard, for his part, continued with his gruff Schtick, not paying the two women much mind, his eyes dismissing their feminine forms and hunting for what he considered more dangerous targets. The salesman, however. Smiled wolfishly, running a hand through his greasy, reddish hair. "That depends how much you're paying . . .and what you need them for."

Edited by Ajax on July 8, 2014 at 2:21:17

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"Rogueport's pretty popular, all things considered," Terrel said slowly, remembering her own surprise when realizing this bustling slum was actually filled to the brim with real people. Things might be different, though, now that some folks were really in danger in this game. "Maybe five NPCs for every player? Dunno, most people mask that here to blend in with the NPCs. Not so much like Minervum where everyone's just got the thing over there head at all times. Why?"

---

"Just because it's not as dangerous as it could get, doesn't mean we take our staffing lightly. Hemmingsworth is a mean nut, but most his people respect him for a reason. These boys are used to working with sub-contracts like yourself too, so if you respect the chain of command, everything should go easy." Bavish keyed in the last couple of things and rose, extending a hand towards Bekka and then George, if she accepted it first.

"Contract starts in two hours, but travel will be arranged for you and your team. I'm assuming they're all coming? You're C.O. is a man named Parks. He's been with us for some time. Any questions?"

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Bekka and George each shook his hand back firmly, George taking care not to hurt the man with his half-metallic grip. A slender smile later and . . no, he was preempting her, again. George spoke in her place, having the eternally uncanny ability to speak just before she was about to. "No need to arrange for travel, in our regards. We have our own means of transport."

That was the unspoken worry she'd immediately had, and apparently George shared. This job could go bad, or these Lions could be simply delivering them into a trap, ludicrous as that might seem. She'd met plenty of adversaries with overcomplicated plans to ensnare or kill her. And the gunship she had was at least a vague means of protection. Ensuring if it was a trap, at the very least, that it would not be entirely one-sided.

"Our gunship." She added on simply. "No extra charge for a bit of extra force. What do you say?"

Edited by Ajax on July 8, 2014 at 2:20:11

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Rua smirked at Terrel's description of the population. Then we'll meet more NPCs than players. That's fine by me," he told the thief. "Let's go get what we need. I know how we can get out of here without too much trouble."

===


"Now, now, there's no need to pry, is there?" Fille asked, her accented voice turning flirty. She propped her arms on the table as she leaned against it towards the shopkeeper. With her arms placed as they were, and the shirt she was wearing, the other player was giving the man a rather generous view of her cleavage. "A lady needs to have her secrets, don't you think?"


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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The salesman cast an appreciative gaze. "Well," he answered easily, eyes dragging slowly from Fille's cleavage up to her face. "I'm a curious man. Who works for curious, curious men." Behind him, the guard snorted derisively, but didn't say anything else. Undeterred, the salesman continued with a broader smile. "So . . . how many scarves we talking, oh secretive beauties?"

Sera kept her smile warm, inwardly pondering the ease with with Fille had pulled off the move. Not that she was against it, by any means. But she had just met the woman, and at first glance, hadn't thought she would behave as such. "Oh . . .a good fifty or so. We're starting a guild. Thought these scarves would be marvelous to mark us out, haven't seen colors like them in any other stall."

At that, the Salesman's face fell for a moment, curiosity and worry in his gaze. He remained silent for a few extreme, precious seconds.

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He was looking up again. That was no good. Fille shifted her stance where she leaned on the table, subtly squishing her breasts together to draw his attention back to them. She wasn't much of a fan of this tactic, but she knew it was useful and knew it would work--with any luck, this guy would have a difficult time remembering their faces because he had been too busy memorizing every detail of her bosom.

"It's a bit much, I know," she said sympathetically, shifting again. "We've got a lot to buy, so we were hoping you'd be kind enough to give us a little discount... not too much of one, of course, we'd hate to cause your employer too much trouble."

Best not to push their luck too far, though.


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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Predictably, his eyes dropped low again, admiring her form. Clearly his attention struggling to keep up with both women and their very different patterns. "Guilds . .. colors. Dis--" finally he latched onto something he could work with. "Discounts!" He said, a bit too cheerfully, once again the sure salesman. "Not a worry, little ladies. Discounts are our specialty. Especially if you're buying in bulk."

Sera grinned, playing the happy-go-lucky guild-builder for all it was worth. "Oh, could you? Thank you. We're hoping to open up shop in town, find some friends. If---" she gave just the briefest of hesitations, hoping between her fast-talking and Fille's distraction they could keep him off-balance enough to get answers. "If we paid you a bit more, maybe you could tell us about some of the powers in town? I hear the Mayor's a pretty good friend to have."

"I . . ." The Salesman's eyes took on a bit of a frantic look, his head snapping back and forth between Fille's chest and Sera's smile like a pinball. "Discounts. Yes." He finally managed.

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"So what's the plan?" Terrel asked, not much wanting to be in the dark on this one.

---

"Of course," Bavish said easily. "You'll want our codes to leave the Core on the most direct route, though. We'll have them sent to your ship. But once you leave this place, we cannot give you passage back. The gift your friend Luir offered you was a great one indeed; we do not have the means of replicating it I'm afraid. If this mission goes favorably for everyone and you want more work, you'll work through our auxiliary stations. Do we have an accord?"

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"Let's hurry back. The longer we're out here, the more that could go wrong." Bec said to Duff; whether he noticed Duff's momentary slip or not, he didn't express it. Bec began a quick pace back towards the ship, the floating box in tow. Not quite a run, but enough that they'd make fairly quick time.

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"We'll just intimidate our way past any guards we see," Rua said in a dismissive manner. "I know just what to say. Getting back inside Rogueport might prove to be difficult but that's days from now."

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Fille smiled deviously. Jackpot.

"Oh, thank you," Fille said in a simpering tone, her accent getting a bit more noticeable. She shifted again to emphasize her bust. "Any help you can give us would be very much appreciated."


"Why do you care that I care that you care enough to care that I care for caring?" "Conversation isn't your strong point, is it?"
"I worship the supreme comrade Cossack!"
"OugharagarraaahhHHH: When 'Ow' just won't cut it."
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CAPCOM: We put the "No" in Innovation.

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Bekka nodded once. "Don't worry, Bavish me boy." An odd accent, much like Duff's, finally peaking through. "We'll see what we can see. If it's beneficial for both parties, I'm sure we'll continue our relationship."

A few moments later and they were seeing themselves out, Bekka moving swiftly as her mind raced. To her side, George spoke simply. "You sounded very official. Like Ma."

Her only answer to "That" particular piece of commentary was to speed up more. Intent on returning to the gunship berth.

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The salesman couldn't handle it anymore, he really couldn't. This was all madness. "Discounts." He repeated once more before doing what any lower-level employee did in such a situation as this. Kicking it up the chain. "You should. . .talk to my boss, he can . .. get you" he couldn't take his eyes off of Fille or her impressive form. "Get you. Discounts. The colors are ours, the Mayor's, I mean. He's my boss. Uh."

Behind him, the guard seemed to be laughing, his own eyes studiously avoiding anything but Fille's face. And yet, he didn't seem ready to kick them out or force them away. In fact, the big man merely pointed towards fluttering flags, each bearing the distinctive colors of their own stall. "Follow the flags on those poles." He rumbled. "They have access to the warehouse near the center of the market. You want fifty scarves, they can get you some there."

The Salesman nodded with almost pathetic thanks. For her own part, Sera grinned brightly. "Thank you. We'll be sure to mention you when we buy the scarves." A moment later she was heading for the nearest flagpole, following the line of them spread throughout the market. AT the very least, they had a specific direction now.


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By the time Duff and Bec got back to the gunship. Bekka and George were already waiting for them. Duff grinned, "Oi, how was the Lion's den? We got da guns."

Bekka nodded to he and his short companion. Walking up to them and shifting her weight to one side, resting on her hip. "We're going to need them. We have a job, hopefully it'll net us some info." And here she paused. "Bec. . that's your name, aye? It's mercenary work, so it's dangerous, and I don't trust these Lion's further than I could throw 'em. But out of the group, you and I know the most about this world. There's a bunk on the gunship for you, if you want it." She offered with a simple smile.

Duff smirked to his fellow mercenary, already guessing Bec's answer, but wanting to hear it from the short man himself.