Alright, I'm going through all applicants now.
I'm measuring the quality of the applications, the characters themselves, and how I think the dynamic will work.
Applications are still open until I post the results sometime tomorrow, or later today, depending on whatever time it is for you. Although obviously, getting a new sheet would likely delay that time frame by a small amount
The initial acceptance period for applications is now closed, and these are the people who are getting in:
I want to thank everyone who submitted a character sheet. That my RP was even worth your time to look over is an honor, and I'm sorry that I couldn't take everyone.
I had a specific build for the team in mind when I started the RP and the characters accepted above best represent it.
To those whose characters didn't make the cut, don't get discouraged, your applications will still be kept in mind. You never know how the current team layout might change over the course of the story.
There's still a chance that a spot may open up, and those who presented their applications early on have a higher chance at getting a vacant spot than anyone who presents one later.
And I'm still accepting applications, but I must ask that they be presented as PMs from now on. If an application is posted in this thread past this point, it will be ignored.
For the rest of you, steel yourselves because the RP proper launches soon.
Prologue: The Children Rise
August 2nd, 2176
The City of Triumph, Ritheen, 1:31 PM: Local Time
The dusty winds blew through the streets, several merchants scrambled to secure some of their more flimsy wares before they got swept away. The wind died down after a few seconds, but the thin haze of dust that accompanied it got left in the air. The streets of Triumph always had that thin layer of dust and dirt in the air; it added to the overall grimy feel of the city.
A squad of The Baron's troops were crossing the market district. Eyes ahead, rifles in hand, they marched as a single unit and civilians gave them a wide berth. The squad wasn't just on a routine patrol, they had orders to report to their captain. Such orders were never a good sign, it usually meant someone was getting dumped on guard duty, or being forced to work customs.
A dirty man, dressed in rags approached the guards. Grabbing onto the shoulders of one, he began talking in a slurred voice.
"Please shir, d'yu have any coin to sperr," the man babbled on as he slowly slumped to the ground, clearly drunk off his ass. The guard shoved the beggar off him and onto the ground, as he rejoined the rest of his squad. The man clumsily scrambled to his feet and stumbled off to find someone who might give him the coin he desperately craved.
From his position at the guard station, Guard Captain Steven Simms looked down at the hustle and bustle on the filthy streets of Triumph. He looked over the latest reports he had been given as he downed a glass of brandy. Simms loathed his position at Triumph, being forced to play babysitter in the city of beggars wasn't his idea of fun.
Sure he got a few interesting calls every now and then: someone threatening to blow up the city's walls, reports of spies from the other nations being smuggled into the city limits, even a small zombie outbreak once, but most of the time his job consisted of breaking up bar fights and tracking down petty thieves.
Simms knew he deserved more, he was one of the most decorated soldiers in the force; he had led missions outside the walls, he served aboard The Baron's flying fortress. None of that seemed to matter now, now that he was being forced to play nanny in the asshole of the nation.
Simms lamented his lot in life as he poured another glass. He knew why he was being forced to stay in this shithole of city; it wasn't a punishment, despite feeling like one, no it was because of "the children".
The Children of Erebus, the mythical group of freedom fighters striking back against the tyranny of The Baron... or whatever it was they preached. Simms had trouble believing that the children existed. Oh, he was certain that there were small groups of people rebelling against the system, but that they were all part of the same movement, and that they've been fighting for over two decades now? That was the hard part to believe.
As the captain pressed the glass to his mouth, there was a knock at the door.
"Come in," the captain bellowed.
The squad of guards he had summoned was finally here. The men presented themselves before Simms and bowed their heads before the squad leader spoke,"You called for us, Captain?"
"I did," Simms responded, "There's been reports of a group of infected approaching on the western side. You boys have never gotten your feet wet, fighting against the uglies have you? Get up on the walls and take care of that filth; you'll get a feel for what we're up against."
"Yes, captain," the squad bowed their heads again, "You heard him, let's move out."
The squad left quickly and Simms was alone again. He took another sip of his brandy and looked out to the city, a sneer washing over his face.
In another part of the city, down on the street level, sat a small, dingy bar called GunShotz. In that bar sat a large man, and his even larger arm; he was downing shots until he couldn't see straight.
He placed the shot glass on the counter and tested himself.
Room's not spinning, I still know where I am, and nobody's died yet.
"Another round," the man said to the bartender, who eagerly obliged.
"Never seen someone pound 'em back like you before, Mr?" the bartender asked while handing his customer another glass.
"Joel," the man replied before drinking another shot.
"Mr... Joel. Your first name wouldn't happen to bil..."
"I get that a lot, and no, it's just Joel."
"Well, if there's anything else I can get'cha, let me know."
Joel nodded to the bartender and continued with his drinking, he still had a long way to go before he hit his target.
William was currently on site, working to bring down some old office building from before the infection had hit. The building had been left unattended for so long it was cheaper to just build something new rather than do patch and pray work before it inevitably fell over anyway.
"Alright people, remember this place ain't as stable as it was before. Be careful what you knock down and make sure you don't take out any supports. Place explosives on those and make sure you get a remote detonator in them." He shouted to the group before swinging his hammer to knock down one of the walls so that he could set a couple of charges on the two supports it connected. They were almost done getting the charges set up, the building was relatively small and the crew fairly large. He stood up to see a rookie about to hit a wall that was supporting a sagging section of another floor.
"No, stop newblood!" He shouted but the rookie had already knocked out the wall, luckily the newbie had just enough reflexes to avoid getting himself killed as a section of the above floor fell in, though rubble had pinned him. Another worker had been on the floor above and was holding onto the side though being helped up by other members of the crew.
William ran over with some other members of his section and helped get the boy out of the rubble that had fallen on top of him. He was alive but he would be going to the hospital most certainly. It was one of the unnecessary risks this job entailed, nobody was trained except for on the job and with so many people killed or injured in their work it was difficult to retain people. They didn't know how to spot danger and some of them weren't quick enough to avoid it when they fell into it.
The lack of any formal training or any real safety meant William was one of the lucky ones. He had done his best to make sure the newbloods had some idea of what they were doing as one of the experienced workers but he couldn't watch all of them twenty four seven and if he took them all aside to teach them then the job wouldn't get done on time and nobody who worked the job would get payed. None of them could afford that chance so while he did his best, plenty slipped through the cracks.
This is why I'm trying to fight back against that damnable Baron and his lackeys. He thought as the rest finished their work and left the building. They made sure everyone was out and the area was clear before William hit his detonator and the charges luckily went off without a hitch and the building fell in a fairly neat pile of rubble. This job wasn't important enough to have brought the camera for in his opinion, and all but the newest people there would have agreed.
Now it was just a matter of waiting to get paid for the job.
The dirt and grime of the city shouldn't have been surprising. It had gotten progressively worse as the journey east came to a stop. However, the fact that it was still filthy inside, even more so than the ruins she had left behind made Platinum feel a little better about her chances surviving inside Ritheen territory.
She made her way through the marketplace, her cloak and clothes combo concealing all but a foot of her hair. She kept her hands tucked into the pockets of her claimed jacket, her claws not an issue with the pockets worn away from years of neglect. She kept to the side alleys, trying not to draw any kind of attention. The scent of the air, on the other hand, told her that attention would be coming to her. A rather sizeable group of pure humans, at a steady pace.
Platinum ducked in behind one of the fabric stalls as the mass of testosterone headed on by. She peeked out to see the group of soldiers, smelling of the same odor that appeared when they came and destroyed her new found home. When they killed her friends and neighbors. When they took Derek away. She started to tense up in anger, but reminded herself that this was not the time, not the place, and not the proper ratio of soldiers to her to be causing any kind of ruckus. She remained out of sight until the strong stench passed by.
A sigh of relief escaped Platinum's dark grey lips as she started moving out of the marketplace. Her process was impeded by an obviously drunken man, looking worse for the wear than she was. He placed his hands on her shoulders, causing Platinum to shrink back and tilt her head back down to prevent him from getting a look under the hood.
"Scuse me thur, shir," he begged, "Ya could'n spur sum change fur a poor boy?"
The request irked Platinum, mostly due to the whole "shir" particle. But she was taught to be respectful, even to the most insulting of customers. "Sorry sweetheart, I've got nothing to spare," she informed him. "Although, I'll forgive you for calling me sir if you can point a traveller towards the entertainment district? Surely you know where that is?"
The man backed off Platinum, probably wanting to avoid a confrontation over his misperception of gender, and pointed in the opposite direction that the soldiers had marched. "Ish that way, ma'am. Sorry fur botherin' ya." He turned around and headed in the other direction, hoping to find a soul kind enough to get him a drink for the night.
Given a new heading, Platinum headed off the other way with the drunk's comments still swishing around in her head. Have I really lost that much off my curves that a hobo can't even tell I'm a woman? It can't be... no it's just got to be the jacket. Yeah, that's it. If I didn't have to wear this jacket, he'd be able to see my body and say it's still sexy...if it wasn't grey...fuck. I have to find someone who can help me find Derek...and who doesn't reek of booze. She kept walking at a brisk pace towards what she hoped was the entertainment district. There's got to be someone who will be willing to help, even if I have to stay as covered up as the Tuesday Girls at Ralph's.
The empty eyes of the skeleton stared back at Ilya as she rifled through the dead man's pockets inside his rusted, metal tomb. The vehicle didn't damage itself from the fall but the infected left their mark in the way the metal was scrapped and scarred. The rubber of the wheels were long scavenged for their value in the markets, a place Ilya dreaded going to. The colors would clog her vision, fill her senses with the unwanted, and force her to talk to the same people that despised her kind. At least in the wasteland, the only people she liked spending around her time with were the dead ones. They didn't discriminate, attack, or despise most simply because the dead couldn't; 10 years in the wastelands does that to a person.
Inside the man's pockets was nothing more than a few bullets, a homemade cigarette, and a small mirror. Ilya pried the metallic frame off of the mirror leaving only the glass fragments and even if a few of them remained, Ilya saw herself. She was crouched down with her back to a broken bridge between a chasm of earth that rays of sunlight shone through despite the dusty winds. She thought nothing of it.
Ilya got up and looked around for any lifeforms nearby and luckily there were none. She put the scrap metal and the bullets in her rucksack and walked on the dried riverbed that would lead her out and eventually onto the path to Triumph. On the way out, the gnawed bones of the dead crunched beneath her boots. A few moments later, Ilya was on the road to Triumph once again. The metal from her scavenging clinked with every step but soon was muffled out as an armored carrier chugged right past her and towards the gates of Triumph. The carrier looked a lot like the one she was on when her parents died and when she became a carrier.
As she got closer to the city, Ilya put on her gas mask. The guards let her in after questioning her about her business and if she was registered with the Baron of which she gave them the proper identification. Ilya went to her living quarters which was situated in a seedy part of the city but luckily it was near a number of merchant stalls were located and she also across the street from a guard station. She went into her cramped apartment and fetched her fold-out table.
In front of her apartment building she opened the table and dumped the scrap metal onto the table. The sight of scrap metal would be enough for some inventors or merchants to wander on by but Ilya wasn't just concerned about scraping out a living. She was watching the guard station and looked at their faces to see if she see the faces of the guards that killed Jace. One of them had to be his killer.
The journey to Triumph had been an interesting one, to Sonia at least. Travelling outside of Baronstadt was a rarity for her. Of course, it was for business purposes: her client, Mr. Deschamps, was taking her and Cybille - otherwise referred to as Sapphire - to a party in Triumph as his guests. So Sonia had found herself sitting with Deschamps' arm around her shoulders for half of the journey. It was a little difficult to keep him occupied and maintain a hold of the bag with which Cybille had entrusted her for the duration of the trip.
For the duration of the journey, Sonia had worn a simple dress with little adornment, coloured to match her nickname of Ruby. Inside the bag was evening wear for both girls, much more suited to their role as escorts.
Upon arrival in the city, Deschamps and a personal guard had led the way to a privately owned vehicle, which drove the group to a restaurant: the party wasn't scheduled to begin until sometime in the evening. Deschamps requested a table, and the three were led up to a balcony overlooking the street below. There the older man ordered a drink and lay down on one of the elongated seats that were available. On cue, Sonia produced a fan from her satchel, opened it and began generating a hint of a breeze for him. Deschamps had expected this of her during the trip, and she had obliged.
It wasn't long before Deschamps was in the midst of a nap. Once he was asleep, Sonia closed her fan and turned to Cybille with a look of relief on her face. She wasn't too keen on being hired by clients who were clearly older than her. It made her a little uncomfortable, but she did not often say no to a larger payment than normal.
"So... Miss Sapphire, how is your, ah... more than regular client these days?" she asked quietly to spark up a conversation, a cheeky smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
Getting into Triumph had been relatively simple: just show the guards a sack full of bloody meat that she wanted to trade and claim total ignorance any time they questioned her about anything incriminating. The questions always lasted only as long as the guards could be bothered, and Hope's schedule was far more open than theirs.
Now that she was inside, the first thing she wanted to do was sell the meat in that sack. It had been 'collected' a full day ago, and it was swiftly losing that blood red quality that the marketplace liked so much. If she was going to get anything out of it other than a ticket into Triumph, she'd have to move quick.
The marketplace was simultaneously one of Hope's favorite and least favorite parts of the city. On the one hand, it smelled absolutely amazing. How could it not, what with all the meat, cheese, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables and spices getting sold. The place was a banquet for the nose. Just too bad it was also a dentist's office for the ears. Hope would never, ever understand how people put up with that kind of racket. Voluntarily, no less. Some even had the gall to call it pleasant. Oh well. Hope just set off for the nearest butcher and hoped he didn't have a particularly booming voice.
She'd been right in thinking time was nearly up, as the man drove a hard bargain for what he called "non-competitive" meat. Hope finally got him to buy the damn stuff after suggesting he buy it for his own family at a discount. Even merchants have to eat, and they'll be damned if they're buying at the competition or draining their own premium stock. Hope had learned this trick a few years ago, and it had served her well so far.
Now for the other 'sale' she'd be making today. That one would have to be made in a far less pleasant, well-lit or hygienic part of town. The only direction Hope had gotten was "exit pleasure district out the north, third alleyway on your right, ask for Muffins".
... Muffins? Seriously? God, drugdealers these days.
Anyway, with a small but honestly-earned bit of cash in her backpack, Hope set off for the pleasure district to acquire just the opposite.
"No. That is not acceptable, and I will not be doing that. Not now, not ever."
In the marketplace, Derrick was in no mood for the man who was attempting to get him to buy some foolish trinkets that were obviously falsely made. To his eyes, they couldn't be more obvious to be worth nearly nothing, and not even worth anything that he held onto. He prided his goods for their quality, as he wasn't the kind of merchant that could afford a horrid reputation about his goods in the first place.
"If you do not get moving, I am going to make you move. Stop wasting my time, and go have someone else buy your junk." The man was obviously annoyed that he could not get rid of the useless items, and then moved onward, hoping to sell them to another less fortunate merchant. As he looked over the goods he had left, he realized that he had actually done rather well that day, needing to take nothing back to the small warehouse he had here. He rose, closing up the things he had nearby and getting rid of the few useless clothes and items to the few random poor individuals in the area. He was charitable sometimes, because it lightened the load, and seemed to provide some assistance to his reputation.
As he finally cleaned everything up, he proceeded out of the markets. While business of the public kind was done, he was much more interested in his...personal business which had come to the city as well. Perhaps he could catch her wandering about, and maybe make plans...not that it mattered, of course. As he made his way past the crowds, he would be happier when both he and her were out of this city. It was crowded, violent, and at times very...complex. But, business called them both here, and he couldn't be happier to know that he was at least here for her.
Hope made her way to the Pleasure District, following the trail of perfume and heartbroken drunks (and the streetsigns).
The city gradually got a little seedier with every step, the streets just a little more spattered with blooddrops, the air just a little thicker with perfumes of varying quality and smokes of varying legality.
On her way she passed by a few merchant stalls either not fortunate or not reliable enough to have a place on the main marketplace. The meats were just that little bit greener, the wines just that little bit sourer. Walking past a table covered in scrap-metal, Hope finally caught sight of the Pleasure District itself.
Even during this daytime, hot pink neon glared harshly in her eyes and women of loose loins cooed passers-by with lingering looks and cleavage-revealing bends and stretches. As was often the case with Hope in such places, the entire place seemed all too eager to pretend she didn't exist; the few hookers who might be willing to entertain fellow ladies were invariably dissuaded when the harsh neon light reflected off Hope's metal legs, and the clientele didn't even so much as look at her when they had professional tarts to ogle.
Hope was perfectly capable of understanding why people did all this, but that didn't mean she had to appreciate it.
She had come into the district from the western side and was now approaching the northern edge of the place. Passing by the last brothel of the block (a dingy little place called (S)Quickies with a large sign proudly reading "One for the road.") Hope counted the alleyways on her right. The entrance to the third was very narrow, to the point where Hope suspected the two adjoining buildings had once just been connected, but then one day someone said "We need a place to put the dumpsters." and they knocked down about 3 feet of wall between the two places. Slipping through, Hope walked to the end of the alley and turned right, where a trapdoor leading down into a basement was guarded by a tall but lanky white man with an Italian accent.
"What do you want?" he asked plainly, hands down by a holster but fingers luckily firmly still.
"I'm here to see Muffins."
The two of them looked at each other for a moment before they both burst out in laughter at the ridiculousness of that name.
"Goddammit, Steve, it's not funny!" came a voice from the basement, "Just shut up and get her the hell in here!"
The man led Hope down the stairs, still snickering, as more of Muffins his swearing rose up to greet them.
The basement was rather large, with many doors leading off to rooms Hope very much not cared to enter. Instead she just followed Steve (Stefano to his friends) down the main corridor to what seemed the main room of the nest. She could hear two people arguing in the distance.
"I figure it's an inhalant... You have to huff it, you know?"
"No dumbass, you don't huff this shit. You freebase it."
"Runner's here." said Steve, as he and Hope entered the room proper, and the two arguing men quickly turned around, one of them nonchalantly dropping a coat over the table they were huddled around. The one on the left (whom for the moment Hope assumed was Muffins) stepped forward slightly and asked, "You the chick Barry sent?"
The man was unshaven, in his early twenties, wore a suit that went out of fashion before zombies did and had that same gleam in his eyes that Hope had seen in so many other dealers: a look that said "I really honestly just want to shoot up until I pass out and the only thing stopping me is the risk of overdosing".
"Yup." replied Hope, "I talked to him in Baronstadt and he asked me to get you this stuff before the month was out."
"Stuff?" replied the man, picking lint off the shoulder of a suit that seemed to consist entirely of lint, "I don't see any stuff here. Do you?"
Ugh, this was always the tricky part. Hope avoided showing her clients exactly how she smuggled their stuff whenever she could, so that if they ever got busted they wouldn't be able to spill it and get her caught as well.
"I've got it with me, but if you want it I'm gonna need a bathroom or something first."
The man seemed momentarily confused.
"How does that work, if ya don' mind my asking? I mean, if it's up there then a) ew, and b) how's it gonna get out when your booty is less organic than my brother's "all-natural" mashed fried squirrel bits?"
"A lady never tells. And no, it's not 'up there'." Hope said, suppressing an overwhelming urge to sigh. She really didn't feel like explaining how the remnants of her digestive system worked to a dime-a-dozen druggie who referred to a stranger's ass as 'booty'.
"I just don't like other people spying on me and the way I do business. Now, do you have a toilet here, yes or no?"
The man gave her his best stink-eye for a moment. It was alright, but not nearly as intimidating as his actual stink.
Finally, he said, "Steve, show her to the can."
Steve led Hope around a few corners until they got to a pair of wooden doors covered in graffiti.
"Word of advice," said Steve, as Hope put her hand on the doorknob, "I don't know what you're gonna do in there but free tip: don't try to actually use the toilet."
When Hope entered, she understood why. The exact state of that toilet will not be described here, as any attempt to do so left the writer huddled under his desk in the fetal position, but suffice it to say that Hope was grateful the brown, brick-sized package was quickly and easily produced, and she was in and out within about 20 seconds.
Back in the main room, she held up the package for all to see, but did not hand it over just yet.
"Do you have the money?" she asked, one eye darting across the room to check for guns.
"Relax, chick. We want just as little fuss as you do. I've got it right here. See?"
A bundle of slightly ratty bills flopped in his hands. Slowly, the two exchanged their respective goods and then quickly, they both began to check them. Hope quickly counted her money, as the dealer opened the package and examined the contents.
"Alright, looks good." they both said at the same time.
"Will that be all?" said the man, pleased to have a deal go down without involving cops, guns or cops with guns.
"Actually," replied Hope, "There is one thing I'd like to ask."
"... Muffins? Really?"
"Oh shut the fuck up." was all Muffins said in reply, as Steve showed Hope the way out again.
William had just finished getting paid along with the others. His experience didn't matter, they all got paid the same amount but work was always coming in somewhere, whether it was clearing space for buildings or walls as the population grew their work remained steady. He decided to go home and at least get rid of his tools, helmet, and mask before heading back out. He had stocked up on food from the last job so his supply of fresh food was good enough that he didn't necessarily need to go to market for a little while. Instead he figured he would reward himself along with many others in his line of work by going to one of the taverns in the pleasure district.
He started walking the streets listening for the telltale signs that the demolitions workers were using that bar for the night. He knew to listen for the loud stories and laughter from stories of buildings brought down or some idiot who had smashed a wall only to get a face full of water from a pipe that had clogged over the years. He kept his hammer however, as safe as the city was you could never tell what would happen next. So to be on the safe side he kept it hefted over one shoulder as he walked.
It'll be nice to have something to eat from someone who actually knows how to cook with a bit of good booze. He thought as he continued his search.
The scavengers, merchants, and beggars came and went as she continued to watch the guard station. Numerous guards came and went but none were the face of Jace's killers. There were four of them and one of them showed his face before he left. His face was a long, unshaven face with blue eyes, and light hair. He was the one who shot Jace first and the one that made the decision to leave. Ilya could never forget such a face especially because of her memory. The wound still seemed fresh in her mind.
But then she saw his face. He left the guard station alone and with a look of boredom. The man must have been on break because he lacked a rifle and most combat gear that the regular guards wore. The man was in a hurry because even as he left he batted an eye towards Ila and didn't recognize her but that mostly because of her gas mask. He went down the street and Ilya packed up. She placed the table in a hole in the wall and walked to keep an eye on the man. He was alone which was the best part but she worried that if he looked back he would notice a figure following him so Ilya stuck close to the shadows, hoping he wouldn't notice.
The man looked back once and Ilya nearly dodged out of his view but she knew that any sudden movement would be noticed immediately so she stood still. The man's eyes scanned over her and he continued on his way. He was anxious and the glow from the neon signs couldn't mask it. Ilya didn't immediately notice it, but soon the air was different and it smelt odd. It smelt like the perfumes her mother used to wear except more extreme. She then began to see the women outside, displaying themselves for the men to see. Ilya saw them at the windows, the corners, and the doors. This was their district and entertainment was their way to survive. She was no different from them except for the fact that they were in the city while she was in the wasteland for most of the time. That was when she saw him look right at her.
She ducked into the nearest alleyway, nearly bumping into someone as they left.
"Sorry..." Ilya said as she walked back further into the alleyway, hoping the man wouldn't come let alone see her.
Neon. Platinum had forgotten exactly how bright it was. She'd lived amongst the glowing billboards for so long, it seemed impossible that it would get the better of her senses, but three plus years in the ruins would remove anyone's immunity to the glaring adverts. She had to pull the hood of her cloak further down over her face to try and shield it, but it didn't do much for her. Not even a block into the entertainment district and it was already too much. I got to get off the streets. I have to get somewhere I can just wait an try to adjust back to it.
Doing her best to look around with the limited visibility that she allowed herself to keep her looks hidden, she looked for a suitable place to duck into. A brothel was not on the top of her list, and a place with a name like S(Quickies) could not be trusted to offer safe relief from her current problems. After a few seconds of searching, she decided on what appeared to be a sort of dive bar called GunShotz. It'll have to do.
As she entered the bar, the relative dingyness was a welcome respite for Platinum's eyes. The bar seemed empty, not surprising given the apparent time of day, and there weren't many options to work for info...or cash for that matter. Platinum could not partake in the main goal of being in a bar, with absolutely no money on offer back in New Buffalo. She slightly lifted her hood up to scan for any potential targets, a nice trick from her working days for trying to scope out which patron would be in the most giving mood.
The large man in the corner pounding back shot after shot, the last one just hitting his lips looked like a good shot. The empty glasses in front of him indicated that he had been at it already and would be more likely to give. The rather large mechanical arm indicated that he wouldn't get many looks from other women interested in the "au natural" experience. Finally the fact that he was still sitting up indicated that he would actually be able to hear what she had to say instead of passing out, or merely slobbering over her body.
Platinum slowly made her way over to the table where the man sat, trying to be as sultry as her outfit would allow. It was hard to sway hips with thick pants and a jacket, but she would give it a shot. She sidled up to the man in the booth, careful not to get too close lest he think he had an instant catch or discover that there was some discoloration. "Hey there stranger," she cooed. "Not much fun drinking by yourself in a place like this, is it? How about you buy me a drink? Then we can see what kind of fun we can have?" It disgusted Platinum to have to slink back in that style of talking, but it was a method that got results. Derek would understand if it got her closer to his whereabouts.
As Derrick continued to move through the streets, he figured the alleyway was the fastest route to getting out of this crowded area. While it was intended to avoid running into people, it seemed to apparently have the opposite effect, as he neared the end of one of the alleys he was nearly ran into by someone wearing a gas mask. Derrick couldn't help but immediately be suspicious of the somewhat...odd looking character. Upon a closer than quick glance, it was obvious she had not gotten through the world untouched. She had an infection on her, and while Derrick had worked with some individuals before, he knew nothing of this one, and stepped to the side.
"Sorry? Something going on?" Derrick asked, curious. While it wasn't exactly in his nature to be concerned about others, he found it payed to give some attention to random people in a rush. Opportunities, especially of the business (and at times better living) areas of his living. Glancing out of the alley, he noted...guards. Or at least a guard station of sorts. He gave her another glance, finding it...peculiar for such an individual to be so close to a place where those with guns would have no problem shooting someone like herself.
Otherwise, he couldn't note anything obvious.
Sapphire hated going outside city walls.
Not that you could tell. She was giggling and flirting with the much older Deschamps, who had one arm around Ruby, and one hand inching up Sapphire's thigh. She draped her legs over his lap, the blue silk of her dress spilling over his fingers.
When the gates of Triumph closed behind them, she breathed a sigh of relief. Triumph wasn't her favorite city: it was dirty, poor, and trashy. At least today's benefactor decided that they would wait for the evening in a restaurant far above the brown smog of the city. They ate, they drank, and it wasn't long before Deschamps retired to a couch. He rested his head on Sapphire's lap, while Ruby fanned him into slumber.
Sapphire laughed, holding her hand in front of her mouth to muffle the sound. Ruby was, all in all, inexperienced. She preferred lovers, not clients. Men who were young and passionate, handsome, romantic... It wasn't exactly the kind of person who hired companions, she kept trying to tell her.
"So... Miss Sapphire, how is your, ah... more than regular client these days?"
"Get that cheeky smile off your face, Ruby" Sapphire grinned. One year had passed since she met her 'more than regular client', and still she hadn't told Ruby much about it. Didn't stop her from being nosy, though. "And he's fine." She took a sip of wine as her understudy tried to pry more info out of her.
"Aw, come on... spill the details."
"A lady never tells."
"Why not? I've seen him around a couple of times, and I know he doesn't visit to see anyone else."
"I should hope not. If he had, there would be some trouble."
It was ironic. Her whole job was being unfaithful. The courtesan smiled. "Maybe I should introduce you sometime."
After bidding Tony farewell (and heeding his warning to never visit Muffins' brother's snackbar) Hope made her way back onto the streets. The last thing on her to-do list now as to get some new powercells for her cybernetics, the shortage of which had prompted this entire trip in the first place.
Not far from the alleyway was a self-proclaimed "curio shop" that very obviously was just someone re-selling shit they found in landfills but it was as good a place as any to start looking. If nothing else, whatever they had there would be cheap.
She entered, greeted the shopkeeper, side-stepped a man trying to pawn a live armadillo and set about rummaging through the various bins and drawers available. After a few minutes of searching and discarding, she sighed in frustration. Nothing. Not a sausage.
With no better idea than to just ask the shopkeeper for directions she did just that, idly scratching the chin of the newly-pawned armadillo. But as he was telling her the quickest route to the local tech-corner, she noticed a large antique mirror hanging behind him. There were several large cracks in it, but Hope could see herself just fine and truth be told, she'd looked better. The tan on her arms was made to look several shades darker than it actually was due to the mud, dust, sand and general wasteland-filth covering them. I need a wash, she reluctantly admitted to herself.
Outside the cities Hope usually made due with the occasional splash from a pond or stream but that only got her so far. Every now and then actual washing was required. Still, she had some money to spare, what with the recent profits and all so it wasn't like she couldn't afford it.
Following the shopkeeper's instructions, it only took Hope a few minutes to find a store carrying her particular brand of cells. They ate through most of the money she'd made with the smuggling-run but not all, and there was still a little left over from the sold meat too. Plenty for a good wash.
Her legs humming appreciatively with a fresh pair of power-cells, Hope again asked directions, this time to a bath-house. While the cybernetics in her legs were water-proof, bathing or showering did have a nasty habit of soaking the bullets in the sniper-rifle, rendering them essentially useless for a few hours. As such, Hope had long since picked up the habit of just washing with a cloth and a bucket of hot water.
Only problem with that? Hotel rooms don't come with buckets. Which is why Hope usually resorted to bath-houses for this kind of thing.
She was told that the only bath-houses in the city were in the wealthier part of town, near some restaurants that had very little in common with that of Muffins' brother. It made sense, she supposed. For anybody who couldn't afford it there was always that old standby, the gutter.
Still, Hope felt like spoiling herself a little. She set off for the bath-houses, eager to indulge herself in way she didn't get to very often.
"Sorry? Something going on?"
Ilya looked back once more after hearing the man speak to her. She had to say something, she had to get away. The man looked better off by his clothes and perhaps he had a way out. There was a moment before Ilya spoke mostly because speaking to people wasn't exactly her forte but this was an emergency.
"Please... c-c-can you hide me?" Ilya stuttered out. She could hear someone else's footsteps grow closer. Her breathing grew more as her heart beat against her chest. Whoever this man was, she had to get out.
Shot glass in hand, Joel gave the woman a quick glance. "Sorry sweetie," he said before downing the next gulp, "I'm only buyin' for one today." He picked up another shot before tossing another glance her way, "I might be up for some fun after I'm finished, though," he pounded back the amber colored drink and let out a sharp exhale as the burn hit his throat.
"Please... c-c-can you hide me?"
At that point, Derrick considered just letting the girl go. It wasn't exactly in his nature to just start saving random people, as his business usually did better when he picked up after the problems of others had seen their conclusion. However...he noted with another look that this particular woman looked...poorly. She was likely sick, or worse. Which meant her lot in life was already doomed as she walked the streets. With a small sigh, he stepped back towards the girl, and gave her a light push.
"Slouch. Be a little shorter than me. Stay in front of me. There is an alleyway to the right, very narrow. You will turn in there, and I will follow. Go." Derrick whispered quickly, figuring that if he was going to do this, he might as well act quickly. He was a little bigger than her, meaning the most he had to worry about was the height, and the turn. He would just have to stay to the right then.
This is either horribly stupid, or the best fast plan I've ever had.
William met up with his friends and coworkers outside of a bar, they had chosen a quiet and lightly filled place, a guy and one of the higher end courtesans were inside. He was too busy with his friends to notice much else than the general makeup of those in the bar as they entered and found a large table. They all ordered the medium range beer the bar had on tap, it was a cause for celebration after all, but at the same time they needed to stretch their funds as best they could as working class. Their table immediately began to break into song, stories, and laughter. These were the times the he remembered just why he loved the city. As the table broke into a drinking song he joined in.
Ilya hunched her shoulders further and followed what the man told her. She kept her head down, hoping the guards wouldn't see past her hood and her cloak immediately. Her heart beat faster as she got closer to the guard up ahead and like the man said, she turned into the alleyway to the right. All she could do was hope that the guard wouldn't think nothing of it and also that he wouldn't punish the kind man for helping her get to safety. Ilya damned herself in her mind because she not only put herself in risk but also someone else. She was pathetic in her mind but another thing came to thought and it was the fact that Ilya know owed the man something.
Derrick couldn't help but let out a small sigh as he turned to follow the girl into the alley. It had worked, against all the stupid, insane, and bad ideas he had before, this was one he wasn't sure if it would do anything. But it had worked, and they were now clear. Asking him to turn about in the alley was somewhat difficult, and he obscured any kind of clear view here. And, it would take them some small distance away from the post, which was more than good enough for him.
"There....you should be safer now..." Derrick muttered quietly. "Now, if you want to remain safer, you probably are going to need...some different clothes. Anything in particular...?"
He found himself being very...charitable to this woman, but quickly figured that he would be unlikely to see his usual lady that day, and besides...this girl seemed to have had a rather rough time as it was. In any case, he kept on walking to be sure that it was far away from the guards, and in a location where he wouldn't be too bothered by people around him.
"Maybe I should introduce you sometime."
"Maybe. It'd be nice to have a proper introduction," Sonia answered, falling silent soon afterwards. Briefly she entertained the idea of finding someone like that herself. But that was unlikely: her clientele of choice didn't lend itself to the long term. Many of her preferred demographic were entering adulthood, like herself: they were sometimes interested in experimenting, or just wanted a night's worth of pleasurable company.
The people who paid to spend time with Sonia were almost always older than her, though only by a few years. She enjoyed entertaining younger clients as opposed to the older men who hired the other girls. If she was lucky, Deschamps would focus more on Cybille than herself: Miss Sapphire seemed far more comfortable working with him than she was. That thought turned Sonia's attention to the upcoming event they were to attend.
"Hmm... I wonder if there'll be any potential clients at this party we're going to," she mused. "Who knows. Maybe we'll get lucky."
"Sorry sweetie, I'm only buyin' for one today."
Apparently her sweet talking needed some work. With no assets to flaunt, it was clear Platinum was going to be facing an uphill battle to get anything off this guy.
"I might be up for some fun after I'm finished, though."
This was a bit of a pickup, but still meant that first, there would be no money coming immediately and second, he might be expecting action before payment, and even a cyborg could still have no qualms about turning her in.
"Aw come on, hun. Can't you help a poor travelling girl out?" she asked him trying to play on the heartstrings. A couple of the girls did that at the brothels, relying on pity for a bit extra cash, with the "my daddy didn't love me" sob stories. Of course, having an actual story did help. She dropped her head down, letting the hood full cover her face, both for emotional effect and to make sure that he couldn't actually see her face. "I'm trying to catch up with a friend of mine who might have passed through here. If you can't buy me a drink, the least you can do is toss me a couple dollars to help me on my way. Had a hell of a time getting here. Girl can't trust anyone out on the open grounds any more. Took me for everything. I'm just down on my luck, is all. What do you say? You got some space in that big strong heart of yours to care for a struggling girl like me?"
Joel let out a small, sardonic chuckle, "If you think associating with me will end your struggles, you're sorely mistaken. Why don't you go try begging in the market district, I'm sure there's plenty o' people there who'd be willing to help you out."
The doors to the outside opened again, and a cloud of dust from the streets spread across the room. A group of three, gruff looking men entered and took a seat at a table in the back; their collective gaze was focused on the two at the bar.
"Speaking of struggles," Joel muttered under his breath as he caught a glimpse of the three newcomers. He lightly tapped one of his robotic fingers on the bar, gesturing for another round; the bartender nodded and ducked under the counter to grab the booze. Without any sudden movements, or breaking his line of sight to the bar, Joel subtly drew his hand down to his waist and unclipped his pistol holster. The bartender stood up again and began pouring another round of shots, "Leave the bottle," Joel requested, and the bartender obliged, placing the almost empty bottle on the counter.
Joel then reached into his pocket and took out a small pile of coins, placing them in front of the woman. "Take this and get the hell out of here and as far away from me as you can," his voice was hushed as he spoke, "Now."
"We already have a client, my dear." Sapphire noted wryly, combing her fingers briefly through Deschamps' salt and pepper hair. "The reason we're paid is so that we don't run off with the first charming man who catches our attentions." She ordered a glass of wine, on her client's tab of course, sitting back and enjoying the view of the city below. "If you're in a mood to have some fun, why not try our escort as a target?" She nodded towards Deschamps' bodyguard with a flip of her hair.
"I'm sure he won't mind. Go on, let's see how you do."
"If you think associating with me will end your struggles, you're sorely mistaken. Why don't you go try begging in the market district, I'm sure there's plenty o' people there who'd be willing to help you out."
Platinum was offended. She was about to protest the insinuation that this man had made on what she was fit to do when a dirty stench in the air grabbed her immediate attention. It smelled of sweat and testosterone, and her presumptions were confirmed as a trio of larger men entered the little dive and took a seat near the back. They were staring at the two of them with narrow eyes. Great. What do they want? I'm sorry boys, you look poor as hell...just like that other batch over there. Jeez I picked a real winner of a bar here.
Her attention was drawn back to the man beside her by the sound of coins plinking down on the bar.
"Take this and get the hell out of here and as far away from me as you can. Now."
She looked down, but there wasn't much to speak of in the meagre pile presented to her. What? Barely enough for a decent night's sleep here. He's gotta be hiding something...maybe it's related to those gentlemen back there. She looked back at her left to the man, a new smell coming from him. The smell of gunpowder, released by the unclipped holster on his side. "You really worried about those brutes back there?" she said softly and slyly. "You're the one with the gun, big boy. I don't think you have to worry about them unless they are real stupid. Now come on, that bit of peace and mind's gotta be worth a little something more."
"Now, if you want to remain safer, you probably are going to need...some different clothes. Anything in particular...?"
Ilya looked down and saw her dirty clothes. She's always had these clothes for as long as she could remember and the possibility of getting new clothes was always something out of her reach.
"I...don't have a lot of money." Ilya squeaked out. "Plus you-you've already done much for me already."
Ilya sighed, taking in account how much she owed this stranger and whether he was expecting something back or he was doing this out of kindness; a resource so hard to find these days. Soon the gas mask didn't seemed hotter and she removed it, showing the man her face. It was a final test of the man's kindness for Ilya. A look at Ilya's face and it wasn't hard not to see that she was a carrier but they were the only ones there at the moment and she has the documentation to allow her stay but people like those guards couldn't care less.
"Plus you-you've already done much for me already."
Derrick couldn't help but roll his eyes. This was probably why he decided to toss aside charity work of any kind a long time ago. However, he figured this could be one of his 'adventure' stories that no one would ever believe, and decided to keep going with it Besides, the small locker he kept here for his small time dealings would hold something a little...cleaner at least. However, he then saw the girl take off the gas mask that she had been wearing for...paranoia, he had assumed. Seems his assumption wasn't too far from the truth as he saw her features. A Carrier. While he wasn't exactly a stranger to such individuals, he was versed in their risks. However, for now he was reasonably sure that he wasn't in too much risk. Giving her a small shrug, he couldn't help but give a half smile.
"You act as if I need the money. I'm giving you clothes, not a rifle." Derrick said, adjusting his own coat as he did so. "Besides, we can just say that you owe me one later. A lot less stressful for you, right?" He began hoping he had something back at the small locker he left here. Since this town was better known for less than well off individuals, he dared not keep much more than simple things here, clothes being one of them.
"You got a name? Calling you 'girl' doesn't exactly roll off the tongue." Derrick said wryly.
The bath-houses were among the larger and cleaner buildings of the city, and probably among the older ones too judging from the architecture. The guards and clerk standing at the entrance began glaring at Hope when she was 50 feet away and kept on doing it right until she was at the counter.
"Can I help you, ma'am?" asked the clerk, a very heavily implied "away from here" dangling off the end of the question. Hope supposed this was his default attitude to seeing the dirty and downtrodden and she wasted no time in judging him for it.
She pulled out a small stack of bills and laid it on the counter. "Entry for one." she said. The only language these people understood was business, so business was all they got out of her.
The clerk eyeballed her and the money for a good 10 seconds, hoping his stink-eye would turn her off the idea. Finally he accepted the money, but held each individual bill against a UV light to check for watermarks. He seemed genuinely disappointed when each turned out to be legit.
"You may proceed. Thank you for your business." he forced himself to say, the way one would thank a cook after he force-fed you 3 roadkill pigeons and insisted it was haute cuisine.
The inside of the bath-house was a world away from the hustle and bustle outside. Here the air was heavy and moist, warm with steam in the air and a faint hint of lemon and mint hanging around the nostrils. The walls were all tile, reflecting each voice and footstep resonantly, and the light here was soft and inviting, not harsh and blinding.
After disposing of her gear and clothing in a locker, Hope wrapped a towel around herself and went into the main bath area. A sea of bodies rose to meet her, and most turned her way to stare at her cybernetic legs, awkwardly poking out underneath the towel. She ignored their stares and just-loud-enough-for-everyone-to-hear whispers, but it took some effort.
In the back were smaller rooms meant for 4 or 5 people each, and Hope found one that was completely empty. She pulled the curtain closed to get rid of the staring, but knew that if someone else wanted in here as well, she couldn't stop them. Private booths were more expensive, and while she was spoiling herself, she wasn't gonna shell out that kind of money.
She removed the towel, washed her face and hair with cold water, then sat down next to a steaming bath of hot water and began to wash the rest of her body.
A deep sigh escaped from somewhere inside her as the tension dissipated from her body like the steam from the water.
"If you're in a mood to have some fun, why not try our escort as a target? I'm sure he won't mind. Go on, let's see how you do."
That wasn't quite what Sonia had meant: she had been referring to the future when she had spoken. Perhaps there would be the opportunity to charm someone at the party, if Deschamps were to let the girls mingle. Nonetheless, Sapphire's challenge was an opportunity in itself: real-world practice of what Sonia had learned so far.
"Alright..." she answered as she got up, adjusting her outfit a little to better suit the task. Cautiously, she sidled up to Deschamps' bodyguard, who was leaning up against a wall with folded arms and looking out at the other diners in the restaurant. He didn't notice Sonia approach... or perhaps he did, and paid no heed to the apprentice courtesan. Either way, Sonia stepped up. Don't place yourself at arm's length. Get closer to your target; often they'll welcome the attention, she remembered Cybille saying.
Soon she was standing next to the bodyguard, hands clasped in what she thought was a slightly shy look. "Hey there." The guard ignored her completely, not even paying attention when Sonia tilted her head to one side to get a look at his expression. Clearly he didn't care for the attention of a girl who had been hired by his employer. Dismissing him as a lost cause, Sonia returned to her seat, giving Sapphire a shrug of her shoulders and a, "Well, I tried," as she sat down.
Joel offered up a silent glare at the woman in response. The three men got up from the table, their heavy feet were heard hitting the floor as they stood up and walked on over to the bar. The presumed leader of the trio leaned on the bar, next to the hooded woman; he was a wiry man in a dark brown long coat, with a patchy goatee and a shit-eating grin on his face, and on him was the peculiar stench of garbage mixed with fresh blood.
"Well what've we got here?" He said while eyeing the woman's figure, "Slumming it with the Triumph girls now, Joel? Thought you had better taste than that."
"They seem fine enough for you," Joel replied, while turning the bar stool around to face his would-be foes.
The man only offered a slightly unnerving toothy smile in response to that. He placed his hand on the woman's shoulder and began tracing his fingers down her back, "Why don't you get lost, hot tits. This ain't no place for you," the man stated with an obnoxious level of confidence. His fingers trailed off before reaching her lower back and he strolled over to the other two members of his posse, who were situated in front of Joel.
"What the hell do you want, Larry?!" Joel asked, his tone of voice indicating annoyance more than anything else.
"It's not Larry anymore, it's Scorpion! Ever since I went into business for myself," Scorpion proclaimed, while drawing a pistol from inside his coat; the other two did the same. "And it's not about what I want, it's about what my employer wants, and he wants you to pay... in coin or blood." Scorpion and his men pointed their guns at Joel.
William saw the men pull guns out in the bar and while still singing smacked one of his own group on the shoulder and pointed to the men with weapons. They all looked and saw, it wasn't the first time some crap had broken out in a bar so they knew what to do. They weren't about to have their night ruined by some idiots with a grudge. As his group picked up the volume of the singing to cover him, he stopped and grabbed his hammer before walking up behind the men.
Once in range he hefted it up and swung it into the man on his right. He didn't particularly care how much damage he would do. The hammer landed and knocked the man off his feet.
"Always some bunch of idiot like you trying to ruin another person's good time." As soon as he had hit the man his group was up and ready to fight as well. Far as they were concerned the night had just gotten a bit more fun.