The Ashlanders - Chapter 6: The Blind Man's Last Gambit (Closed, Started)

Dec 14, 2009
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"It's a little early to be keeping your rage in check, isn't it."

"Lily is a cheating slag." Allie pouted, crossing her arms over he chest as she slumped in her seat. "I dinnae why I play with her, I'm starting to think she don't even know the rules. Last time she said I couldn't go first because 'White going first is inherently racist', and then when I offered to swap, she was like 'So you're ashamed of your own people? Is that it?' and then stormed off, muttering something about 'blood traitors'."

Allie slumped further into her seat, almost falling off. "Everyone sucks."
 

The Funslinger

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"How's the package?"

"Broken arm and wet pants," Bryan replied. "So, basically fine. He'd be finer if he hadn't pulled a knife on me." Taking a swig from his hip flask, he lowered his voice. "Besides, we're bein' bad guys. They'da looked at me funny if he were still in mint condition."
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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When he was finished in the bathroom, The Gentleman dressed and then stepped back out in the the rest of his humble quarters. Now, what to do with the rest of his day?

Walking to the small table in the corner, The Gentleman leaned over the chessboard he had been given, and after a few moments, a black knight fell to the remaining white bishop. Playing himself, only making one move per day, he had managed to keep the game going for months.

"You're concentrating too hard." The Gentleman corrected her, smiling at her creased bow as the girl leaned over the chessboard. "It is a cerebral game, yes, but you'll never put all the pieces together if you force yourself to analyse them one by one. You have to get some distance, and see the whole board."

Pixie hadn't won a single game yet. It wasn't that she was particularly bad at chess... the Gentleman was just way too damn good. "I ain't got the best depth perception, ya' know," she pouted. "What's it like to win all the time? Does it ever get borin'?"

Prick.

"I wouldn't say that." the Gentleman answered. "However, sometime it takes a hard-won battle to remind me what I love about success."

"An' all this time I thought you were jus' pretendin'," she replied with a small grin. "What 'appens if I actually beat you? Does yer head explode 'er somethin'? Do I 'ave ta' become the new Gentleman?"

"I wouldn't know." The Gentleman grinned "If you want to find out, it's your move..."

With a sinister grin, Pixie slid a bishop across the board - taking a pawn and checking the Gentleman's king. "This would be yer favorite game," she remarked, her eye still glued to the board. "It rewards pragmatism. I reckon yer the type ta' sacrifice anythin' so long as you win in the end."

"Still preferable to those who would sacrifice everything for a lost cause." The Gentleman remarked, scratching his chin as he studied the board. "It may well be cold to see most people as a resource, but resources are valuable. I don't throw them away lightly. Everyone who takes up with me is well aware of where they stand. Love and loyalty, those are the true manipulators."

The Gentleman's Rook came to the rescue of his King. If Pixie wanted it back in her sights, she'd have to bring her Queen into play. If she was clever, she'd notice his Knight.

'If she is very clever, she'd do it anyway...'

"I reckon those words mean very little to you," she remarked. "Too much fuss, right? Coldhearted killers don' 'ave time fer that kinda nonsense."

Pixie's queen hopped across the board, checking the king once more. "Check."

"That tends to be the prevailing judgement." The Gentleman replied, frowning slightly as he took her Queen with his Knight. His King was in the clear, but it would be another move at least before he could get her in checkmate.

"How many fools lie dead in the ash, their bones forgotten, under the tattered remains of some flag?" He asked her. "How many have died for the affections of a loved one, for the only payment they receive to be not having to see that person forget them in a year? I do business. If anyone in my employ dies, they die as the result of a calculated risk they know they have taken, in pursuit of a worthwhile return..."

He sat back in his seat, smiling slightly. If nothing else, his questions were making it much harder for her to concentrate.

"A word to the wise, Meredith. Love does not conquer all. By all means, give your heart to whomever may take it, but before you do ask yourself... do you desire to die for them, or for them to die for you, because in time, one of those things will surely come to pass?"

"I'd die fer the boy without givin' it a second thought," she replied firmly, scanning over the board one last time before committing to her next move. The Gentleman's knight fell under the blade of her rook, and put his king in peril once again. "Check."

Looking up from the board, she frowned. "I only bother continuin' on because of him, ya' know," she said. "I reckon 'e's the only thin' keepin' me from becomin' somethin'... unseemly."

"Ah." The Gentleman answered "So that is why you keep the boy in such a dangerous borough, while you get into scrapes with increasingly vile characters. To protect him?"

At last, he brought his Queen into play, sweeping her rook aside... and leaving her King utterly exposed.

"I won't deny your... commitment is admirable." he added "But if you keep throwing yourself in harm's way for someone, sooner or later you will run out of moves. Perhaps you should consider a different strategy."

The Gentleman nodded to Cranston as the other man walked into the room.

"Oh, and I believe that's checkmate."

"Yeah, an' fuck you too," Pixie scoffed. "Hey Chromey, tag me out. Avenge me."

Cranston shook his head. "I've already beaten him once," he said, grinning. "That's enough for me."

"Pussy."

"I know how to pick my battles, Meredith. Might want to learn that one of these days."

Pixie rolled her eye. "Fuck y'all, always tryin' ta' lecture me via half-assed allusions and metaphors. I reckon I'd respond better to 'hey Pixie, stop bein' a dumb fuck'."

Cranston shrugged and looked to the Gentleman. "We're classier than that."

"I'm sure if we put our heads together we could draft a more eloquent version of the same." The Gentleman said as he stood up.

"I should be on my way." he told them "I may have a new lead."

"That so?" Pixie replied. "Someone finally find where ya' left yer humility?"

"That's a trail long cold I'm afraid." he answered "The contact has requested I come alone. The presence of more than one professional killer would make him uneasy. Cranston, old boy, keep an eye on the beacon I gave you. I'll activate mine if things go pear-shaped."

====================================================================================================================================

"Been ridin' in the back my whole life. Always gotta accommodate the ladies, I reckon."

"Damn straight." Sandra whooped, smiling for the first time in hours, before turning to Maria "Hey Doc, you awake?"

====================================================================================================================================

The ride to Boomhower had been a little tense so far. The Wolfguard and Eric's enforcers were not exactly a match made in heaven. The old Bejic troops had experience, but the Wolfguard had discipline, and getting either faction to respect the advantages of the other would be a challenge. Perhaps fighting side by side would cement that bond? For now, however, it was up to Katya and Eric to get them to Boomhower without any fights breaking out. It didn't help that some of Eric's men were visibly not fond of taking orders from a woman, and a former enemy at that. However, none were stupid enough to say anything to her face.

After getting in another workout session, inspecting the men and checking her own equipment for the fifth time, Katya joined Eric on the aft observation deck. Frostfall was just disappearing into the dusty haze behind them now.

"[When was the last time you left?]" she asked him.

====================================================================================================================================

"Harel!" Harry boomed as he hammered on Asad's door "Harel, get your arse out of bed and be quick about it! The Lady will be arriving soon, and you wouldn't want me to be the handsomest person at her welcoming committee would you?"

====================================================================================================================================

With morning came yet more trials for Amy, as she once more found herself leaning over a toilet bowl. She'd hand't drunk that much last night! What the hell was wrong with her lately?!

She only hoped it would pass soon. She couldn't afford to be the invalid of the crew all the time. She had a job to do today.

"Come on, get a grip!" she mumbled to herself.
 

Terratina.

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"Hey Doc, you awake?"

Maria roused from her state of half-slumber, stretched and yawned, "Just about. Ugh, crawler naps are horrible."

***​

"So the beat down didn't happen. Day's looking up, right?"

Jun only folded his arms deeper into his chest, "Not yet."
 

Fappy

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"Besides, we're bein' bad guys. They'da looked at me funny if he were still in mint condition."

?I was more concerned with his lucidity than anything else,? Tsubaki told him. ?He won?t be much use to us if he can?t speak to his son.? She sat down on the concrete floor and rested the back of her head against the wall. ?He might not look it, but Caputo?s content.? She nodded to the balding man across the room before taking a swig. ?Not that it should surprise you, but he?s not well regarded within the organization. These jobs we?ve been pulling? he sees our value.?

Tsubaki held the bottle to her lips and rocked her head back, chugging the remainder of her beer. With an exasperated sigh, she continued. ?He?s going to want to hold on to us as long as possible. Keep our aptitude on the downlow and take the credit for himself,? she explained, gritting her teeth. ?That complicates things. This op is way behind schedule, so if we?re going to get back on track we need to take matters into our own hands.?

She gave Bryan a serious look. ?Later tonight - after the Morello situation is wrapped up, I need you to do what you do best,? her eyes found Caputo?s slimy form once more. ?Do it quick. Do it quiet. And more importantly, make it look like it was someone on the outside. If Caputo goes down a higher-up will step in and evaluate. That?ll be our chance to move up.?

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

Bennie had a slow morning. After a shower and a nice breakfast with Whiskey and Millie, he took a call on the bridge - ensuring their contact would be ready for them in Paradiso. After giving the Maidens some time to rouse themselves, he checked his watch and figured it was time to get things rolling. ?Rise an? shine,? he announced through the ship?s PA system. His voice was even smoother than usual. ?I want everyone on the bridge in twenty. We?ve got some money to move.?

He preferred to keep things short and simple.

A sullen Sprout wandered onto the bridge not but a minute later. He was already in the neighborhood, it seemed. ?You okay, kid?? the big man asked, leaning forward in the captain?s chair.

The boy nodded. ?It?s nuthin?,? he said. ?Jus? a long night.?

?You?re heading up this op, you know. If you need to take a day off, I--?

?No, it?s okay,? Sprout interrupted him. ?It?ll pass.?

The captain simply nodded. He knew how the kid felt. The wound was still so fresh. No matter how far he?d come, Bennie couldn?t expect Sprout to simply swallow his grief and move on like he had. There were others before Pixie. His sister. His father. His heart was far more calloused than the boy?s.

Sprout would get to that point some day. For better or worse.
 

Dogmatic99

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"Everyone sucks."

"Aw, everyone but you, that's right." Gale pouted as she gave Allie a stiff armed pat on the head. Pat-pat-pat. Apparently someone was going through their terrible ten's or however old Allie was again.

"Hey, Allie, there's something I want to talk to you about-"

"Rise an' shine, I want everyone on the bridge in twenty. We've got some money to move."

"Why do you have the worst possible timing?" Gale cursed at the PA speaker in the top corner of the room. Couldn't folks let a lady bite the bullet without pressing her for time on top? Freakin' rude. now that'd gotten Gale all flustered up. She didn't know how Allie was even going to take the news or her offer and then there was-

'Whatever. It wasn't going to be right away anyway.' She still had her cut to get after all.

Gale quickly composed herself and tried to salvage it. "After the job do you wanna go do something? We should be owed some shore leave after all this I reckon." She could butter Allie up there instead.
=====================================================
"[When was the last time you left?]"

["Me? Ooooh must have been something like... ten years ago maybe? I think it was about that much. Just on business obviously, I'm not going to make this kind of trip for social calls. Those bitches can come to me."]

Erik gave a little grunt as he turned his shoulders and heard a satisfying crack as he loosened himself up. Once the trip had really gotten going he'd found his way over the the viewing windows and stayed there. He wasn't like Florian, fooling himself into thinking there was any natural beauty here in the northern ash wastes but Erik had to admit that watching the lighter storms send the frosted ash swirling around was pretty mesmerizing in its way. He always wondered if those occasional lightning strikes left pretty glowing marks on the ground.

["You know once upon a time I thought I'd gotten away from here. Thought I'd left this place in my dust."] He meant his days back in glittering Paradiso. Back when Erik was going to be an educated kind of man and make a fancy life for himself. As well as finally breaking away from his north-dirt family. ["It was silly of me to think that'd work out though. She suck you back, the old girl, one way or another."] He smiled wistfully, thinking of the old boys that sank Frostfall's claws into him for her.

He'd never regret it. But he'd always wonder how things might have been. Human nature, Erik guessed.
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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["Paradiso?"] Katya cocked an eyebrow ["Don't tell me you ever got dressed up like a proper Southern dandy?!"]

It wasn't a term that translated very well into her native tongue, but like many things Katya wrestled it into submission.

["Lucky for some, I suppose. Boykov or Bejic, no-one ever takes me anywhere nice..."]

She turned back to the view, watching the storm crackle its way across the sky. Right now, nothing but a thin film of glass separated them from doom, but was that really any different anywhere they went? Even without all the war, crime and depravity, how humanity had ever clung on to life out here was beyond her understanding.

["We do seem to take it with us, wherever we go."] she said.

====================================================================================================================================

"I want everyone on the bridge in twenty. We've got some money to move."

Amy lifted her head up out of the toilet bowl and rolled her eyes.

"I'll be there in five..." she mumbled to thin air, before gingerly getting to her feet, flushing away the evidence, and making her way to the sink to get herself cleaned up.

By the time she got to the bridge she had managed to put a brave face on it. It was a good thing she was pale at the best of times.

"Morning Captain." she said, instantly clocking the atmosphere in the room, before taking her place beside Axel. She wasn't going to make a meal out of anything, but all the same she subtly and silently took his hand in hers.

====================================================================================================================================

"Ugh, crawler naps are horrible."

"Don't be so quick to knock 'em." Sandra told her "You haven't seen where you'll be sleeping tonight..."

Greenhill was actually quite a large dome... in a manner of speaking. However, it was mostly comprised of agricultural land, held together by three small, ramshackle towns connected by dirt roads. It might have even been called 'quaint' if not for the generally disrepair of... well everything. If there had ever been an Ivory Tower here, it was long gone. No noble family held sway over the people here. Who would bother to?

"Home sweet home." Sandra muttered, as their crawler moved up to the main checkpoint. "Greenhill folks aren't exactly used to strangers. Just... smile a nod a lot."
 

The Funslinger

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"Later tonight - after the Morello situation is wrapped up, I need you to do what you do best," Tsubaki said.

Bryan grinned. "But what I do ain't very nice." He'd always wanted to say that.

"Do it quick. Do it quiet. And more importantly, make it look like it was someone on the outside. If Caputo goes down a higher-up will step in and evaluate. That'll be our chance to move up."

"How Machiavellian of ya," he said, taking another nip from his flask. "I'll do it tonight, but I'll head out now. Got prep work to do."

=========================================================

The previous night...

"It's time for your debriefing, Ms. Fifer."

"Well, if you insist," Whiskey said as her weight was taken out from under her. As Bennie carried her along, she busied herself kissing his neck and undoing the buttons on his shirt. Then she paused. "One more thing, and I swear I'll drop it. It ain't just about Allie living up to her potential. She could do a lot of harm to the world if she wanted to. I don't know about you, but after all the shit I've seen, I don't think I trust anyone besides Jake to show her what's what. To make sure her genius doesn't stop her from being a good person."

With her piece said, she went back to Bennie's buttons.
 
Dec 14, 2009
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"Aw, everyone but you, that's right."

"Yer everyone but me." Allie mumbled through her pout.

"Rise an' shine, I want everyone on the bridge in twenty. We've got some money to move."

The girl winced as the annoying man's voiced echoed through the canteen. It was time for her to get her orders. If her orders meant staying on the ship and doing nothing, because Bennie sucked.

"After the job do you wanna go do something? We should be owed some shore leave after all this I reckon."

Allie looked up at Gale, her eyes lighting up a tad. "Yeah? Like... like, the beach in Paradiso? That could be fun! We could go swimming, I dinnae know how ta swim, but how hard can it be? I can make a toaster sentient, not drowning should be easy!" She grinned. "And ice cream!"

---------------------------

Lilith sauntered onto the bridge, slice of toast in her mouth as she straddled a seat at one of the command consoles, draping her arms over the back of the chair. Nibbling on the toast, her attention on Bennie and Sprout.

"You're heading up this op, you know. If you need to take a day off, I--"

"No, it's okay, It'll pass."


The woman gently sighed through her nose, so today was going to be one of those days. They were fewer and far between nowadays, but every so often, he'd fall into a little slump. Not that she could blame him, Lilith had a fair share of shitty days too, but she could generally push through them. Sprout usually needed a little help.

'Maybe it's too soon to leave afterall?'

No, she had made up her mind, she couldn't look for excuses, she had to be committed to this one hundred percent, it wouldn't be fair on Florian to keep messing him around with false promises.

That didn't stop her with being anxious about telling the boy she was leaving after this job.

'One step at a time, just get through telling Bennie for now.'

"Welaaaax, Spowt." Lilith said with a mouthful of toast before swallowing. "Everyone knows I'll be pulling the strings, you're just there to look pretty." Lilith took another large bite of toast. "Unlesh we fuck it up big time, then you're compwetely in charge and I had nothin' to do with it." She narrowed her eyes as she grinned at the boy.

--------------------------------

Asad jolted awake as what sounded like a tank was attempting to smash through his door, when remnants of the previous night hit him in all its fucking glory.

"Oh god..." The man croaked as he slowly raised his hand to his head, his mouth was dryer than Lombardi's ****, and he was pretty sure he'd never wanted anything more in his entire life than the glass of water he clumsily reached for on the bedside table.

"Harel, get your arse out of bed and be quick about it! The Lady will be arriving soon, and you wouldn't want me to be the handsomest person at her welcoming committee would you?"

"Please stop..." He whimpered as Harry continued to punch the shit out of his door. Downing the glass of water with desperate speed, the Commander groaned as he made his way across the room and to the door, his head throbbing. Opening the door, he winced as the light of the outside world burned his eyes.

"Who knocks that loudly?! Let me die in peace!" He quickly glanced down at himself, realising he was still in last nights clothes. "How the shit are you up and about this early?" Asad asked Harry, somehow irrationally annoyed that the man wasn't feeling as bad as he was.
 

Terratina.

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"Don't be so quick to knock 'em. You haven't seen where you'll be sleeping tonight..."

"Can't be that--" Maria began as she rose out of the crawler and glanced at her surroundings. The dilapidation stared back. A little dangling sign stated WELCOM O EEN ILL as creaked in the faint breeze. The noise was already getting on Maria's nerves. All it needed was a little oil and a little but, judging by the state of rusted relics around the place, Greenhill might've been called The Dome Which Care Forgot instead and nobody would've batted an eyelid.

'And just think of the results of living in such squalor!'

Maria frowned, "This place needs a lot more than a doctor..."
 

Fappy

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Sprout offered Amy a half-hearted smile when she entered the room. When she took his hand, he noticed hers was warm and clammy. Poor girl probably had one hell of a hangover.

"Welaaaax, Spowt. Everyone knows I'll be pulling the strings, you're just there to look pretty," Lilith said.

He chuckled at that.

"Unlesh we fuck it up big time, then you're compwetely in charge and I had nothin' to do with it."

"I don' reckon things'll go south," the boy replied. "We've worked with these folks before. Should be an' easy in-an'-out."

Bennie nodded. "You may be right, but the job ain't done yet. Until then, I expect y'all to stay frosty," he explained, casting his gaze around the room. No doubt those few already gathered on the bridge knew they had some part to play in today's job. They were among Bennie's A-team, if there were such a thing.

If the Maidens still had Valkyries, these guys would be among them.

"I'll go over the details once the others show up," he said.

They better hurry their asses up.

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

"I'll do it tonight, but I'll head out now. Got prep work to do."

Tsubaki nodded and saw him off.

A short time later she found Jun and Mal tending to their weapons near the back of the warehouse. Once inside the small room, Tsubaki closed the door behind her and began searching the room for bugs.

Just in case.

"You're in luck," the soldier muttered as she checked the underside of a nearby lamp. "I won't be reporting you to Caputo." After checking several more spots she was confident the room was clean. "I evaluated the situation and I think we're finally in a good position to move to the next phase without raising suspicion. I just gave Bryan the order..."

Her voice was cold and distant as she continued. "Caputo will be dead come dawn," she said. "If things go according to plan, we won't need to keep hitting the blue to maintain our cover. Our deeds will speak for themselves." She looked at Jun. "I expect everyone to go cold turkey as soon as I give the order. If you can't handle that, don't keep it to yourself. This shit is made to keep you hooked. Needing help is expected. It doesn't mean you're weak."

She wasn't sure if she was saying this for Jun's sake or her own.

"Everyone got that?"
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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"How the shit are you up and about this early?"

"Officer training at Sherwood is a treatment for taking one's ale." Harry replied chirpily, taking care to hold his breath as he breezed past Asad into the man's apartment. "'Any man who falls behind' and all that. I'm surprised they don't cover that one in Feroxi, or perhaps you're just in need of re-acclimation..."

Harry wasted no time. In a matter of seconds, the toaster was on and oil was sizzling in the frying pan.

"I've got breakfast. You get in the shower." he said, rummaging around in Asad's fridge for bacon, eggs and orange juice.

====================================================================================================================================

"This place needs a lot more than a doctor..."

"You kiddin'?" Sandra said out of the side of her mouth. "Even bandits don't come round here to raid no more. Not worth the fuel or the ammo. All the organised crime is 'in house', if you catch my drift."

As quick as slipping into an old shirt, Sandra switched to a broad, country-girl smile as the Deputy Marshall approached the side of their vehicle.

"Hey, little lady." the Deputy attempted to walk the walk, despite being old enough to shave by four years tops. "What brings you folks out here."

"Family reunion." Sandra replied. "The West Greenhill Burnhaus' are expectin' me."

"Oh." the wind was taken out of the boys sails a little. "Well, I'm sorry to here that ma'am."

"No need, an' I ain't nobody's 'ma'am'." Sandra said with a smile. "Thought we'd make ourselves useful aroun' here while we're stayin'. Miss err... Aberforth here's a mighty fine doctor, an' we got plenty of supplies to spare."

"Well, they'll be lot's of folks out West glad to here that ma-I mean Miss Burnhaus." The Deputy answered, recovering as gracefuly as he could, before his attention turned to Tallahassee. "An' may I ask, who's the gentleman?"

"Oh don't mind Slim." Sandra waved him off. We just needed some help shifting the supplies, an' in case Dr Aberforth would be in need of a nurse. May we be on our way?"

"Certainly, Miss." the man said, before his expression darkened. "When you get up to West Greenhill, you should stop in on Sheriff Cooley. There's been trouble out that way lately. The Sheriff will explain, but it ain't the wisest thing for a young lady, or a Burnhaus at that, to be ridin' round town with no escort an' a crawler full of medicine."
 

Dogmatic99

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Gale couldn't help but smile as Allie's little face lit up at the thought of having a fancy beach getaway, hey, if their haul was as good as everyone said they could probably afford the full VIP treatment. She had to admit it'd be nice to

"-I can make a toaster sentient, not drowning should be easy!"

'She says that about everything she makes, I don't think she knows what it means.' Ah well.

"And ice cream!"

"Well that part just goes without saying!" Gale scoffed. "Come on, the sooner we let Bennie start the job the sooner we can get our beach on." And with that hey were off to the bridge.
======================================================
["We do seem to take it with us, wherever we go."]

["Fuckin' literally this time, the best way to do it."] Erik smirked.

He lifted his arms over his head for a bit, stretching out the stiffness that had crept its way into his joints, he got a few satisfying pops for his trouble. Back in the shady political planning phase of this whole thing he'd been so reluctant to go ahead with it. He'd just felt so tired at the thought of it all and the war for home was only a freshly healed wound. But that was past Erik, he'd had some time to get himself together now and calm his thinking and present day Erik was pumped for what lay ahead.

The wildfire energy his crew were bringing to it was proving infectious. Many of them were the kind of man who couldn't live without a fight now, they'd been a part of the gang life for too long and it was clear that peace couldn't keep them content for too long. Erik wasn't one of them, no sir, he wasn't some mindless punk... but he'd learned to appreciate a good fight. He had a natural talent for it and there was something very satisfying about embracing that skill. The desk life had proven more boring than he remembered, even more so after living the hussar life and this time they didn't have any of that tear jerking inner conflict of fighting former friends.

Now he got to break the skulls of some foreign assholes who'd made themselves his clear cut enemy and he'd get to play the conquering hero while he was at it. Yeah, that was how you went out on a high note.

And OUT he was getting. Proud as he was, Erik wasn't fool enough to deny that he was playing at a young man's game. Decades of the life had taken their tole and he couldn't honestly say how much longer he had in the field. So this time he'd retire on his own terms. Get out of the fighting, get out of the legal work... and enjoy the mountain of ill gotten carbon he'd amassed as an obscenely wealthy private citizen. Like a real man!

And maybe those shitheads at the agency would get it together and he could find himself someone to share it with properly.

["Well hey, Captain, maybe we can all go somewhere nice after. Have a big party holiday to celebrate our victory."]
===========================================
Mal was in the back of the warehouse, cleaning her gear. It always paid to be prepared and she didn't need an excuse to try and escape the grease stink that filled the place.

It was a pretty pleasant silence for the most part until their commanding officer got on the scene to explain how things were gunna go. It sounded like they were finally going to start taking charge of things here. Though Mal still couldn't stomach the mood swings Tsubaki was throwing around. She'd started the day as a stone cold power ***** and one drive by later she was fussing around them like a mother goose.

Maybe it was down to the blue. Maybe things would improve once they got off the stuff. Probably not though.

"Everyone got that?"

"Yes, Ma'am." Mal said plainly before turning back to her gun.
 
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"Nooo, come on in." Asad mumbled under his breath as he closed the door.

"I've got breakfast. You get in the shower."

Asad blinked a few times, but he certainly wasn't going to argue with the idea of a good breakfast, bacon was exactly what he needed right now.

"Umm, okay." He shuffled across the apartment. "Thanks man." He grumbled, scratching the back of his head as he entered the bathroom.
 

Terratina.

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"Everyone got that?"

Jun glared back at her. Tsubaki was lucky that his weapons were currently in pieces, shoving empty threats down his throat like that. Smug ****. Still, Jun had to wonder if she know what she was doing or not; whether she was out to step on Jun's toes or simply was just very, very clumsy.

He grabbed a cleaning rod and began work on a rifle barrel before he replied, "Yes ma'am. No more messing around."

Jun sighed, he had to admit that Tsubaki's words did have truth in them.
***​
Maria smirked. Making sure she was just out of earshot of any of the locals, she remarked, "Dr Aberforth? Did I get to put on a fancy accent as well?"
 

Fappy

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"Dr Aberforth? Did I get to put on a fancy accent as well?"

?Fancy ain?t the first word that comes ta? mind fer me, darlin?,? Tal whispered back. ?Don? reckon this town ?as a god damn clue what that word even means. Reminds me of home, to be honest.?

What a way to spend my vacation time, the cowboy lamented.

At least he got to spend it with two babes.

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

Twenty minutes passed before the final Maiden reached the bridge. Not record-breaking time by any means, but it was pretty damn early. Bennie could sympathize.

The big man hushed the crowd as they settled in and began pacing before them. ?Your vacation hasn?t started yet. We still have a job to do,? he scolded. ?Twenty minutes? Maybe wait until you have the carbon in your pocket before getting blackout drunk.?

He could afford to be a hypocrite every now and then.

?Most of you will stay here on standby or help coordinate things with me and Ms. Fifer,? he continued. ?Sprout, Gale, Jesse and Cam, you?re Gold team. Lilith and Amy, you?re Black team. Gold team is scheduled to meet up with our contact in?? Bennie quickly checked his watch. ?Eleven hours. We have the bills packed up in four cases. One case per operative. You?re to meet Mr. Vanzant at the Dust Palace and things will likely move up to his private penthouse from there. It?s a rough neighborhood, but he owns it and we?ve done business there before. Stay cool and everything should go smoothly.?

The Captain signaled for Whiskey to give the Maidens their cases. ?He?s going to want to count the bills, shouldn?t take long. That said, make sure he weighs the carbon before he hands it over,? he explained before grabbing an electronic scale off the console nearby and handing it to Gale. ?We?ll use our own hardware so he can?t screw us. Gale?s got more bargaining experience than half the ship combined. Sprout, you let her do the talking. Otherwise, you?re in-charge of the operation with Cam acting as a chaperone.?

?Got it,? Sprout chirped.

Cam gave the boy a small grin.

?Black Team?s got things a bit easier,? Bennie said. ?You two will stay in a nearby hotel coordinating the operation with Gold Team. You?re there to hold the fort, but first and foremost, I need y?all to act as first responders in case shit hits the fan. Once they have the carbon they?ll meet you back at home base, lay low for the night, and leave the city together in the morning. Any questions??

*************************************************************************************************************************************************

From the moment they landed Elizabeth couldn?t find a second to catch her breath. The sudden flurry of questions, requests and status updates was enough to make her head spin. The rather lax voyage to Yuteni quickly faded into a distant, romanticized memory. There were no cocktails in her future, just more work.

Logistics wasn?t really covered all that well in her sister?s magnum opus. Turns out that?s a huge deal.

Go figure.

After evaluating their living conditions, Elizabeth signed off on the temporary barracks for the northern soldiers. They would need to be well rested and well fed if they were to siege of dome, after all.

?Perfect,? Piper remarked as she signed her name on the memo. ?Now, I suppose you should meet with the new advisers. There will be plenty of time for paperwork later tonight.?

?There?s always time for paperwork,? Liz whined. ?Is Mr. Canton still in the ICU??

Piper nodded. ?He?s still in rough shape, but he?ll live.?

?Good,? the girl replied. ?Have Mr. Miller and Mr. Trejo wait in my office.?

?How long should they expect to wait??

Elizabeth shrugged. ?Send Harry too,? she added. ?He can entertain them at the very least. He may have some insight to share about ships once I get into it with Mr. Miller as well.?

?Very well, M?Lady. Do you know how to get to Eddie?s room??

A sudden knock sounded from the door, eliciting an excited smile from the young noble. ?Commander Harel knows the way.?
 
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"Any questions?"

"Oooh, oooooooh!" Lilith's arms shot up as she waved at the Captain urgently. "Request that Black Team is renamed to Team Ethnically Inaccurate!" The woman took a bite of her toast. "Alsho, requeshting mini bar an' room shervish privilegesh!"

As far as missions went, this one was looking to be pretty bog standard. She wasn't sure how she felt about that, she didn't want her last foray to be this boring and safe.

'Who knows, maybe things will go tits up and you can save the day.'

-----------------------

Allie frowned, crossing her arms over her chest as she felt a major case of the sulks coming on. Bennie was really serious about her not going out any more.

'We'll see about that...'

-----------------------

Asad would never admit it, but the breakfast Harry had made him was delicious. Paired with his shower, they had both perked him up and made him look mildly presentable, although his eyes were still slightly bloodshot. None of that could compare to how excited he was to see Elizabeth however, he always found himself worrying about her when he wasn't in her presence. Leftover anxiety from Feroxi, no doubt.

The Commander had washed up well, hair slicked back, beard trimmed neatly. Wearing his military uniform and peacoat, he straightened his back as he knocked on the door to the meeting room, waiting a few moments before entering.

A smile curled his lips as Elizabeth was the first person his eyes fell on. "My Lady." He stood to attention slightly, hands behind his back as he bowed his head gently. "Captain Russo." He nodded at the older woman.

"How is Frostfall these days? I trust you return with good news?"
 

NinjaDeathSlap

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["Well hey, Captain, maybe we can all go somewhere nice after. Have a big party holiday to celebrate our victory."]

Katya gave Erik a sideways look, sizing him up, and smirked a little.

"[Sounds like a plan.]" she said "[I imagine we've both had our troubles finding good matches for dance partners in our time.]"

=======================================================================================================================================

"Dr Aberforth? Did I get to put on a fancy accent as well?"

Sandra sighed, furrowing her brow.

"I doubt you could imitate the local vernacular if you tried." she told her "Just try to sound official, they'll respect that. Oh, and if you have to hand out meds to anyone, make sure you explain the instructions clear as day. Ain't a lot of folk around here who can read."

She pressed harder on the throttle as their crawler trundled down the road. She was worried by what the Marshall said. While she'd kept in touch with most of her family, she hadn't actually been home in years. What is something had happened that everyone had been too proud, or scared, to tell her?

'Dammit Pops, what kinda mess did you leave them in now?'

"Reminds me of home, to be honest."

"Can't be many places as... unique as Greenhill." Sandra replied over her shoulder "Where you from exactly? Not sure I ever asked."

====================================================================================================================================

"Any questions?"

Amy shook her head.

"Nice and easy Captain." she said, though she was likely drowned out by Lilith's response.

"Alsho, requeshting mini bar an' room shervish privilegesh!"

Amy facepalmed.

"Dammit Lil." she giggled "One of these days you have to learn the benefits of asking forgiveness rather than permission."

========================================================================================================

Harry, now immaculately groomed and dressed for the occasion of the day, bid his armed escort a cheerful farewell when he arrived at Elizabeth's office. Upon entering, he discovered that Jake and Trejo were already present.

"Rather like being sent to the headmistresses office isn't it." he mused, taking a seat beside Jake. "I wonder what we've done?"
 

Fappy

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"Alsho, requeshting mini bar an' room shervish privilegesh!"

Bennie cocked an eyebrow.

"One of these days you have to learn the benefits of asking forgiveness rather than permission."

?Unfortunately I don?t think you?ll find either of those,? he told them. ?The area you?ll be staying in is ?low-key?. Pretty minimalist. People laying low don?t typical splurge on late night pizza deliveries.? He shook his head and chuckled. ?Any serious questions??

**********************************************************************************************************************************************

"Where you from exactly? Not sure I ever asked."

?Boomhower,? the cowboy replied. ?Same neighborhood as Pixie, actually. Didn? meet ?er in person ?til she was on ?er way outta there though. I had a bit of a rep back then? an unsavory one, I reckon. I was one of the first people she came lookin? for when she was buildin? her crew.?

*********************************************************************************************************************************************

"I wonder what we've done?"

Trejo grinned. ?Sneakin? whiskey into school, maybe,? he said as he pulled a flask out of his jacket pocket. After taking a quick swig he tossed it to Harry. ?You weren?t one of the gringos that saved me an? my men, eh? Too pretty for that kinda thing.? He made a fluttering noise and flapped his hands at his sides. ?You a flyboy??

********************************************************************************************************************************************

Just as soon as Asad had greeted them, Elizabeth was on her feet and going in for the hug. She buried her cheek into his chest and squeezed him tight around the back.

"How is Frostfall these days? I trust you return with good news?"

?It?s still cold,? Piper promised him. ?Things went rather well, all things considered.?

Elizabeth released the larger man from her hold and looked up at him with a more subtle grin. ?Florian and his troops are on there way as we speak. They?re committed to the cause,? she narrowed her eyes. ?You didn?t doubt me, did you Commander??

Her tone was dangerous? well, about as dangerous as could be expected from a one-hundred pound teenager.