That monster line was about to break the camel's back for Platinum. She was mentally calculating if she would even have a shot at gouging out that snail-licker's vocal cords, when suddenly she was knocked back. Not by the squad's gunfire, but by a close-range explosion. The force threw her back onto her ass. As the smoke cleared, she turned to see the blue-collar boys taking off, and she knew that without those boys swinging hammers, her chances of getting revenge on the baguette-stuffer would be slim to nil. So she followed after them, leaving the surrender monkey to curse in the background,
"BRING ME JOEL'S BODY, AND THE CARRIER BITCH... WE CAN STILL CLAIM A BOUNTY FOR HER HEAD!"
Least I got upgraded from creature.
The escaping party settled into a formation; workers in front, Platinum in the middle, and the cyborg, who she assumed was the aforementioned Joel in the rear, a shield having emerged from his cyborg arm. A couple bullets were still whizzing past, ricocheting off the walls in the alleyways. Platinum wanted to ask him what that nonsense was all about, but there would be time for that when there wasn't the threat of getting caught by a stray shot. So she kept pace with the workers up front.
"This way!" He shouted as the group turned down a few alleyways before he kicked open a door and lead the group through.
"Make sure the last one in shuts the door." He and his group had lead them to what had been an old maintenance tunnel, now largely in disuse. A light hum of electricity could be heard as they walked through, but the old pipes for water and gas lines were silent. Some teams of builders had been through and deemed them to be too old to be particularly useful.
"Hey Tom, you bring your flashlight with ya?" Was his question as the group began to walk into the pitch black tunnel. Tom replied with a yes and passed his light up for William to use.
"Thanks." With that he pressed the button and the way ahead was lit enough that those who needed to see would be able to. Dust clung to the walls and motes constantly danced and weaved through the light provided.
"Workers like us cleaned these tunnels out way back when they were puttin' up the wall. Found some of the old tunnels could lead under it and out the other side. Couldn't have some infected fall down a flight a stairs then crawl up another and fuck up this fair lady of a city you have all had the pleasure of seein' up the skirt of. So they sent us in to make sure they got collapsed in something resemblin' a safe way. Since then the dear leaders send us back down every once in a while to check our craftsmanship." He said for the two new members of the group.
"Even if the goons follow us down here, we know the tunnels better."
"Sorry..." Ilya said once more and left the pool of water. Her skin was still an odd color but at least it wasn't a dirty odd color. She dried herself off on the way to the lockers and once she arrived, Ilya quickly dressed herself. The entire situation had left her embarrassed and despite what the kind lady had said, Ilya felt like she left a mark albeit a very slight one. Ilya slipped on her clothes and her skin felt smoother and it ever was along with her hair which was now slightly straighter and didn't reek of the wasteland. Ilya parted her hair now that it actually had some weight in it and as a result it would block some of her vision.
Ilya saw Derrick outside, chatting it up with some guards who were not the same one that had seen her which was somewhat of a relief. Still, she paused before approaching him and watched Derrick interact with other people. Ilya came to wonder how a person like him. Despite his simple appearance, Ilya sensed something much more. Finally after a few moments, Ilya walked to Derrick.
"I'm done. D-do I look better?" Ilya asked.
In her previous life, Platinum would have abhorred the thought of heading down into the unknown, especially the dark, cramped unknown. However, tunnels had proven their worth getting to the outskirts of the ruins in quick order, and they were vital now.
"Even if the goons follow us down here, we know the tunnels better."
"Well, where are we going to go then?" she asked the cadre of men around her. "That jackass may have been a tool, but he had some pretty important and ugly colored clothes on. Is there anywhere these tunnels lead that can get us to a safe haven?"
Derrick and the guards turned as there was an explosion not too far off. It was somewhat disturbing to hear such things in the city, but Derrick was just happy that he saw nothing but people trying to make their way away from the mess rather than see the destruction. Bombs in a city were the worst kind of thing, and here next to the guards Derrick was relatively assured that he would have no problem with any individuals making their way aways. While he continued his small wait, he finally heard a familiar voice and question.
"I'm done. D-do I look better?"
Derrick turned and looked Ilya over. The guard had given him a somewhat amused look as he did so, but Derrick paid him little heed. He was thinking that Ilya was a partner with him, and probably figured more at this rate, but that was of no consequence. She looked...cleaner, which was actually much more of an improvement than he figured it could be. Though she still had a discolored look to her, her hair was no longer a disaster of sorts, and she didn't seem to be wearing half of the wastelands with her.
"Much better, actually. If I happened to have a dress or something you would probably pass it off easily enough. I might even know someone who could get you further than that." Derrick said with a fond grin of the memory.
"So, you ready to get moving? I imagine that we have a lot to discuss, and that you have much to say at our meeting." Derrick said, giving a small shrug and a nod to the guards as he said as much. He intended to be farther away from that bombing mess, and away from any potential "Search and Seizure" that could come into play.
Ilya nodded, in a very child-like manner. Even though she was in her early twenties, Ilya noticed she acted much younger around actual people but that made it harder for her to read people. In the wastelands there were two types of people that Ilya encountered and it was the kind that helped or the kind that hated.
Ilya followed close behind Derrick's shadow, remembering what he said even though that moment had passed. If he looked behind then he would catch Ilya mimicking his steps, his stature even though he was built much more differently than her. To others, it would be an attempt to mock them but Ilya is sincere, actually trying to walk like he does because in her reasoning, he knew what he was doing.
"Who's that someone?" Ilya asked, remembering Derrick's remark about the dress and having someone "getting her further than that".
Soon Deschamps, Eli and the two courtesans were inside the Behari mansion. A suited man was waiting for them just inside the door: Sonia presumed him to be a butler of some sort, judging by his posture and demeanour. He consulted a small clipboard before speaking. "Ah, Mr Deschamps. You were not expected until later," he greeted the girls' client, keeping his gaze focused exclusively on the man. Sonia wondered why that was.
"Well, we're here now. No sense in arriving late and missing out on the entertainment," Deschamps answered with a grin and a short laugh. "Pray tell, my good man, where can we find the others who arrived before us?"
"In the Second Hall, this way." The butlerish person made a small note on his clipboard before turning and leading the way deeper into the mansion. Along the way, it was hard for Sonia to keep her mouth shut, instead of hanging open in awe. There was such extravagance throughout the place that she could probably have cut the purse of everyone she saw and no-one would have cared. Each time she caught herself staring she thought about what Sapphire would say to bring her attention to other matters. It seemed to work, but she couldn't help but gaze at some of the ostentation.
Soon the party of four could hear the sounds of clashing metal and cheering coming from the double-doors ahead of them. Lord Behari's servant pushed open the doors to reveal the Second Hall, and stepped to one side to close the doors behind them. Inside, the Hall was fitted to house some sort of pit-fighting arena. A large ring had been sunk into the center of the room, in which a pair of gladiators were sparring with sword and shield. Seats were arranged around tables, and a fair few groups were already present, talking amongst themselves and cheering when one fighter or the other dealt a powerful blow to his opponent.
Deschamps led the way to an empty table close to the front, just as one fighter disarmed the other and flicked his sword up to hover the tip an inch from his defeated opponent's throat. The crowd roared their approval, and Sonia could see money changing hands as she took a seat with her client, resting one hand on Deschamps' shoulder as she did so.
People are gambling on the fights, huh? Maybe... No, Miss Ruby, no stealing from unwitting gamblers... yet, she quickly told herself, allowing a smirk as she contemplated 'liberating' some unlucky man's winnings. Down in the pit, another gladiator had entered to challenge the winner of the previous fight: this one was armed with a trident and a weighted net.
Derrick paused for a moment in his step before carrying onward after the question. He had given some thought on Ilya pursuing the idea of who he was talking about, but even someone who seemed relatively unknown wasn't going to get trusted with that. Not unless it was necessary.
"Oh? Just a close friend of mine. She is really into styles and makeup and things of that nature. Could probably make you look otherworldly, because she is that good at it." Derrick casually explained, pausing for a moment near one of the more affluent districts.
"So, my turn to ask you something. What do you plan on doing now Ilya? I can't claim to know your destination or plan, and I imagine you don't exactly have one either. So, I was wondering if perhaps you would like to....adventure, I think is the best term. Of course, if you have other goals and things on your mind, that works as well."
He glanced at the more affluent area. It was somewhat why he wanted her to neaten up a bit. While she still wasn't exactly dressed up extremely well, she would go about passing most inspections for the time, and only the higher ups would really do any sneering at her if they did happen upon any of those. Besides, he was slightly intrigued by what this girl was capable of, and no better place to find out than slightly out of her element.
Joel kept his position at the rear, often glancing back, and keeping his ears open for the sound of footsteps.
"Well, where are we going to go then? That jackass may have been a tool, but he had some pretty important and ugly colored clothes on. Is there anywhere these tunnels lead that can get us to a safe haven?"
"Not likely, at least not in this city," Joel responded. "That guy in the mask was Claude Dupris, a pretty big name in the merc circle. Known ties to The Baron; he must be doing some freelance work for Mallone. He's probably heading back to report us to him now."
Joel continued to follow the group through the tunnels.
The two men that had split off saw -what they believed to be- one of their targets from the bar hiding behind a corner. They began firing shots in the scruffy looking man's direction, more to provoke him into coming out than anything else.
"There are always places to hide in this city. Just need to be willing to stay away from the nicer parts of town. So that's where we are headed. First though, take a good long look at the beautiful world of 'modern convenience'." He chuckled a bit as they entered the old subway system that ran under the city. As he pushed open the door leading from a maintenance tunnel a distinct echo was heard as he said those last two words. Not too far was an old subway train that William held the light up to. The window into the driver's portion of the train was broken and the front and inside of the pilots area had obviously been long ago stained with blood. A small pile of bones lay on the tracks just under the shattered window.
"Poor bastards, wonder if the people who had been on this train knew what was going on or if it was early enough on that they had no idea. Word of warning, don't disturb the bones. We learned long ago that bad luck comes to the fool who disturbs the resting place of the victims of the plague down here. Plenty of stories I could tell about some idiot thinking it was all superstition and moved one of the bones. Next thing ya know, they get caught up in some raid and thrown outside the walls or crushed in a collapse." His voice held absolutely no hint of jest as he said this. It was clear he meant every word. William walked around to the side where one set of passenger doors had already been opened, a white X marking it as cleared was on the side of the door. It let the men who had been originally sent down to clean out and collapse the tunnels had gone inside and checked it for any sign of undead.
"We go through this train, a cave in blocks the other track making this the only passage through. Then we continue down the tracks for a bit, there will be an old station. We didn't bother to board it up after we cleared the tunnels out. We'll leave this tomb there and then we'll be in the district for the poor and unwanted. From there you can either come back to our barracks with us, or go your own way. They'll be too busy checking the pleasure district for the lot of us for some time." William then climbed inside followed by one of the group of workers. They held out their hands and helped the rest of them up. Once they climbed up what must have been a horrible sight once upon a time met them.
Skeletons lay on the floors and in the seats, one of the skeletons had an old knife laying on the floor where in between its ribs. It was plainly obvious that people of all ages had died horribly here, with bones of various sizes laying in such a way that it is clear that they were left where they fell. Blood stains covered the walls, windows, and old dried pools were on the floor and seats.
"Take a good look, 9 more cars and all of them look about like this. From what we can tell the train was full when they got attacked, refugees from after or commuters from before, I don't know. Safe to say nobody made it off though." They walked through the train where the scene seemed to replay itself for the most part for each car. The details changed but the overall picture remained the same. This had been violent and terrible. William and his crew carefully walked around each and every skeleton making sure not to disturb the final resting place of so many people.
Once they were out they continued down the tracks until an old station platform could be seen with the aid of the flashlight.
"This is our station." Once again William and another crew member helped everyone up. The station had also obviously been hit hard, bodies littered the ground. Not nearly as many as had been on the train, the people here had obviously had plenty of time to run out of the station. The position of these skeletons could show as much. With many of the skulls showing they had been heading toward the old turnstiles and exit. They climbed over the turnstiles and continued up some flights of stairs flanked but long since out of service escalators. The remains of the dead followed them until they were in front of the old entrance into the public area of the subway.
"We have arrived." He said before walking out.
Of course, if you have other goals and things on your mind, that works as well."
Ilya thought for a moment, really thinking into whether or not she had plans coming out of "assassinating" the guard but there was none. She knew she was travelling down a one way street but all she had in store was getting out of the city as soon as he killed him and now that was gone too.
"No, I don't have any other plans." Ilya said, looking at Derrick first then panning to what he was looking out to as well. It looked something akin to her old home when she had one as a child. This was clearly the more affluent area and Ilya was sure the place looked much more pretty if she could see the colors of the flowers, or the walls, or even the streets that seemed to have increased in value on the way there. This kind of place certainly isn't the kind of place she was used to.
"What did you have in mind?" Ilya asked, wondering what he meant by "adventuring".
Derrick sat for a small bit, looking the girl over. She seemed to be remembering something. Or appreciating the artwork. Whatever the case, she did not seem to be completely lost in that vengeance as she first seemed. And if that were the case, then it wouldn't be too hard to teach her to do something else. Something that is more productive, and perhaps more helpful.
"I think you might be fine at learning a good trade. Doing a bit of travel, and dealing in the trading of goods, instead of just scrapping what you find. Of course, just depends on how interested you would be in such a thing. I understand if you feel you have a good survival thing going, or don't think it would work." Derrick said, seeming to just go over all the reasons she could have to not want to do this.
He almost grimaced, as there were a lot of those. However, might as well give it a shot, especially since he didn't really have anyone to assist him with his work over anything, and he couldn't think of someone he could help shape into a fine assistant than someone who knew how to scrounge already, and seemed to be...well, at least trusting for himself.
In one of the more lavish seats in the arena, a man sat watching the fight. He was sporting a coat clearly custom made, considering its sleeves were far too big for a normal man, with various bumps and ridges clearly meant to hide cybernetics. What's more, the size of the cybernetic arms made it appear as if his shoulders reached the height of his jaw, giving him a shape that made him seem bigger than he already was. What's more, he was a big fellow even without that added illusion. Pulling up a second chair to rest his legs, the observer noticed a second man walking over towards him.
The giant scoffed when the gladiator stopped his blade an inch from his enemy's throat. "This is why I hate pit fighting... the coliseums are always where the real fighters go..." He stretched as his new companion pulled up a chair.
"Oh come now. These two are some real up-and-comers. Can't have one killing the other." the smaller, fatter man said. His suit was a garish dark yellow, and he had a case full of cigars in his pocket, pulling one out and offering it to the giant.
"Stopped smoking..." the giant said. "So what exactly are you doing talking to me, shorty?" he said, knowing exactly what he was going to say.
"Well, you clearly seem bored here, Mr. Z. You don't mind if I call ya Mr. Z, do ya?" the small man said, getting far too close and acting far too friendly for the giant's taste. "So I was thinkin'... maybe you can step into the ring and give the people here a real good fight. I can put you against my finest talent. It'd be a real showstopper!"
The giant shrugged, a sleek robotic hand emerging from his sleeve. "I'm retired from gladiator fights. And yes, I do mind if you call me 'Mr. Z'. Zeras will do just fine. Maybe if we ever see each other again you can actually use my first name. Maybe." the shorter man tried to speak up, but the giant stopped him, pulling up more of his sleeve, revealing large, bulky machinery from below his wrist. "I don't fight because in there because the fun just isn't there anymore. I have a bit of an unfair advantage, as you can see. Plus, I'm here on business. Now either get a drink and pull up a chair or scram."
The fat man grumbled, but pulled up a chair, lighting up his cigar. "So what kinda business are you here for anyway?" he called over someone to get the pair some drinks.
"Just waiting for someone to come over to clear up some details on a job. Once that's done I can get to the job properly." the giant said, looking around the room. "Huh. Few big names here today. There's Rizola, guy who owns the biggest restaurant in the city. And he's talking to Kiffley, the local gun merchant. I got money saying they'll be working on getting some... less savory goods ready." He then pointed to another pair "And of course Howtzer's here with daddy's money. Spoiled brat... trying his luck with the bookie. I wonder which way he'll get shot down first: trying to get favorable odds in the fights or in the bedroom?" He then turned to another party-goer "Heh. Deschamp might be a bit annoying, but he does know how to pick'em." He said, gesturing to one of his companions "Check out the hips on that one. If she were a few years older, man..."
"What? You aren't going to try your luck?" the fat man smirked, elbowing the giant.
"Nah. He paid for'm. Plus, call me old-fashioned, but I never did stop seeing older guys parading around younger women we all know they paid for as a combination of arrogant and kinda creepy... If you want sex, just pay for sex, man..." the giant shrugged "Then again, maybe I'll be like that when I get old..."
"So... who exactly are you waiting for, anyway?" the fat man said, changing the topic. He was hoping the giant would be more willing to talk after some drinks.
"Just wait... he should be here in a minute or two. Just sit back and enjoy. Next fight's starting up soon. Program says it'll be a couple bare-knuckle brawlers. Always fun to watch if it isn't over in a few seconds..." the giant smirked, leaning back in the chairs.
"Okay, I'll do it." Ilya spit out not even a second after Derrick laid down his proposition. Ilya has always sought a way out of her current disposition but she simply didn't know how to but now she had the chance to and even if that meant her current way of life had to change then she would be fine with it. She felt like pinching herself because she thought it was a dream. All of this seemed like a dream, and a good one too. Ilya shakily put her hand out to Derrick. It was clean for the first time in a while and her skin looked odd but she felt it was right.
"My father used to do this every time he made a deal with someone. I think you're supposed to shake it, right? Y'know to 'seal the deal'..." Ilya felt something inside her, something akin to confidence but more bolder. It began to burn away at her shy demeanor like a growing flame to a wooden wall.
Sapphire sat down last, taking her place on Deschamps' other side and draping a pair of slender legs over his lap. She had a smile plastered on her face as she looked around the room. She recognized a lot of them, by direct or indirect association. A wink and kiss were reserved for the ones she was familiar with. Rich, powerful, influential... and a simple curling of her hair over her ear was enough of an introduction to the few she didn't know.
Martinez will be interested to know that Rizola and Kiffley are friendly with each other... Delicately, she plucked a glass of wine off a passing waitress, wrinkling her nose. All the hired help were women in skimpy uniforms, but they were just common sparrows. Good for one night, but that was it.
"Bet on the bald one." Sapphire whispered in Deschamps' ear, noticing Vaseer in the corner with someone who must be important. She made sure to catch their eye and blow a kiss. Vaseer was okay, but he didn't splurge often. What she normally went to him for was more information, less money.
"What? He's clearly losing-"
"His opponent has a bad knee. And he's about to realize that."
Deschamps did as she suggested, suspicious at first, but quickly doubling his money. It was a win-win situation: the more money she made him, the more he would give her, and the more he might hire her to go out to things like this. She giggled, snuggling up to her client.
"I bet you could have been quite the gladiator in your prime~" Of course it was a lie: Deschamps wasn't bad looking, or even particularly fat or out of shape, but a gladiator he was not. Still, the compliment served its purpose. If men loved anything more than sex, it would be praise. Deschamps, of course, ate it up, casually tugging on one of the straps of her dress, brushing it off her shoulder.
More guests started to arrive: the Fiedlers, a family with a monopoly on coal mining, the recently widowed Mr. Quinones, a top name in cybernetics, Mr. Allard, whom she suspected was some sort of contract killer... but all A-listers, nonetheless. Some of them had their own "escorts", but none from Sapphire and Ruby's place of employment.
Derrick couldn't help but laugh as Ilya seemed to get something in her. Some kind of fire or something that made her jump on his deal and then some. She stuck out her hand, apparently wanting to "seal the deal" on this whole arrangement he had almost thought up on the spot. However, he had no problem agreeing, and decided to just go along with it, even though deals with him tended to be written down so as to make sure he got all he wanted later. He shook her hand firmly, nodding as he did so.
"It is a deal then. You are going to help me, and in turn I'm going to help you get into this little...business. Now, you are probably somewhat curious as to what we are doing here..." Derrick began, releasing the handshake and turning his attention to back around them.
"Simply, I want you to tell me where you plan on going from here. I want to figure out what you know about selling and buying things, and see if you know what your first steps should be..." Derrick paused, looking Ilya over for a moment before deciding against this little checkup on her skills. "But first, I think we need to find you something a bit more covering. I imagine you are more than familiar with peoples...apprehension against dealing with those like yourself. So, lets get your appearance to something where they have a hard time telling both who or what you are..." And with that Derrick made his way back towards the merchant filled streets that he had started in before wandering into Ilya. It was as good a place as any to get clothes.
Ilya thought about what Derrick said about getting her bearings but once they arrived at the streets that were congested with all sorts of merchants, Ilya eyed the cloth materials laid out like strips of meat on a butcher's stall. Of course, it isn't necessary to get clothes that you didn't need but clothes provided a different kind sustenance. Ilya noted that these days, a person's cloth dictated who they were, who they align themselves with, and even who they prepare for. Ilya wore clothes for protection, to warn others who she was rather than who she is.
Some of the clothes on the different stalls looked so nice that she feared that they would smudge if she breathed on them. Derrick's question still lingered in her mind but her color-less vision darted from each stall to the next as if the answers were there.
"Like I told you before I kind of used to sell things..." Ilya's eyes drifted to a scarf, that looked much like her own, embroidered with fancy stitching. "The better they looked, the more I asked for." Then she came upon a red hunting hat, its inside lined with fake fur. "It probably isn't the kind of trading you do..."
Ilya went over to a stall that sold different kinds of glasses both the seeing kind and the one for sun. There was a dirty mirror nearby that showed Ilya's reflection and that's when she noticed the first she had to cover up. Ilya went for the black sunglasses because no one had eyes like her and no one needed to know either.
"I guess this is a start." Ilya looked towards Derrick. His "aura" looked different, it looked darker through the lenses which was a predictable side-effect but she made it a point not to where it while actually out in the wild.
Vaseer finished his second glass, calling a server for more when someone else walked up to their table. "Ah, Chief. Come, come. We have a bit to discuss. I'll try and keep it quick." the giant said, getting friendly with the new guy. The slim man sat to the right of the giant, and the two started whispering to each other. Vaseer decided not to try his luck, sitting back and watching his men fight. It wasn't much longer at this point. One had thrown a hard left hook, knocking the other one doen for the third time, and he stayed down this time. Vaseer shook his head "Tsk tsk tsk... he's quite the wreck... might have to let him go soon..." he said as the winner walked out. The loser, however, stayed in the ring, wiping some blood from his mouth, looking up at the trio.
As soon as he looked up, the slim man walked away, patting the giant on the shoulder. "Hope you enjoy the festivities..." the slim man said. Vaseer decided to finally pipe up "So who was that? The guy you were waiting for?"
the giant nodded, leaning back in his chair, getting a little closer. "Yup. That was Chief Elmond. Good buddy of mine on the force. We were discussing a little bit of business. And I see the fight's ended. Looks like Mr. Rachnan didn't do too well..."
"Yeah, that bum knee of his has been costing him a few too many fights and... wait a minute. How did you know his name?" Vaseer said, curious as to how one of his fighters would know the giant.
"Because we talked a few days ago. And that "bum knee" had a bit of a different story behind it from his point of view. Says you've been working him and your other fighters too hard. Taking big chunks of their prize money. And they gotta pay medical expenses out of pocket. Nasty little combination. Sounds like the work of a lousy manager..." the giant said, putting his hand on Vaseer's shoulder.
"Is that so? That no-good rat thinks he can say shit like that after all that..." he was cut off by the giant. "Oh he wasn't the only one. Quite a few of your boys gathered up some money to ask a favor. Said they know your assistant'll treat'm a lot better than you did." he started squeezing the back of Vaseer's neck, his cold metal hand like a vice around his windpipe. "W-wait... Zeras... whadaya..." he said, his breathing a little harder.
"See, I just got busy discussing a few minor things for the job with the chief... mostly how the coroner is gonna call this one... seems that somebody had a little too much to drink." The giant said, ignoring Vaseer, his grip tightening. "And like I said, I prefer the Colosseum... much better safety standards..."
Vaseer started trying to pry the giant's hands off of his neck, then looked into the arena and saw the fighter smirking, watching the whole thing. "I normally don't take such a low-brow job, especially not for such little cash. But something about their plight spoke to me. Tugged a few of those cold metallic heartstrings I've got. Still, I'm more used to more... bombastic statements. At least I have an audience watching. Makes it that much more fun for me..."
Vaseer managed to gasp out. "I can... pay... more..." The giant shook his head "Now what kind of professional would I be if I screwed over my clients... I wouldn't have lasted as long as I did. Begging ain't gonna work..." suddenly the sound of machinery humming could be heard, and the various bits of machinery heated up. "Mista... Zeras... Wait..."
"Please, Vaseer... This is our last meeting... no need to be so formal..." he let go, but before Vaseer could try and run, the giant struck Vaseer's neck, and there was a loud 'CRACK'. "...Call me Ichabod."
He tipped the now dead Vaseer over the edge, and he fell face-first into the arena.
As the workers led the way through the underground, Platinum took in the wreckage of the prior peoples of the area. The blend of abandoned technology and dismembered bodies probably would have been too much for the brothel star. But for the Infected traveller? This was eerily like home. The tunnels in New Buffalo were conductive to all kinds of subterranean agriculture and travel. The rails that lined them were similar as well. And blood? There had been more than enough blood spilled by beasts and shambling beings that once looked as human as these skeletons. Platinum 2.0 looked as they passed by, not changing her expression. Awful lot of bodies in here. Can't believe people travelled like this.
The platform station was a bit of fresh air compared to the confining passageways they had to traverse. Still more bodies to pass by, but at least they were more spread out. As they came up the stairs, the rest of the layout became clearer. It was a large open area with a lot of glass walls lining the space, cordoning off disheveled piles of wood and metal racks. The floors were dirty but faint strips of pain could be seen. They were mostly worn away by time, but they tried their best to illuminate past paths. There were also more stairs leading upwards, to exits probably now buried by the city above it. The level they were on now though seemed almost like a guard's candy shop. There were explosives all over the place, and tables for the purpose of creating more. It didn't seem like home, but it sure seemed like a good place to start planning some revenge.
"Well, this certainly is an inviting place you have led us to," Platinum remarked. "I'm sure we can dynamite a few beds into the walls and hide out here, it'll be just like home."
"Three floors ma'am, living space is above us." He said pointing upward to brighter lights.
"This is our company HQ. As demolitions workers we often need to build our own explosives and keep track of the jobs we've done. On that floor is also the stairs that lead out into the world. Should be safe here, enough gangs and crime that the cops tend to leave this part of the city to itself, which suits us just fine." He said as he walked over to one of the old tourist maps on a pin board and replaced a blue pin with a red one at the location of the work site they had finished up with that day.
"Also I don't think blowhard will be able to figure out who it was that had the explosives. Tens of demolitions companies in this city and enough "stolen" from the companies that find their way into the hands of the gangs that it coulda been anybody." He mused to himself.
"Oh and feel free to make yourselves at home." He said as an afterthought.
Joel quickly surveyed the place around him, making note of the path they took to get here.
Barely a few seconds after the invitation was extended, Joel turned his attention back towards the entrance. "This place looks secure enough," he said while starting to head back out, "hold out here for a while, while I go find Mallone and convince him to back off."
Sapphire was busy feeding Deschamps' strawberries dipped in alcoholic chocolate when there was a loud "CRACK". Someone screamed. By the time she turned around, all she saw was Vaseer's body falling into the arena. There was another crack when he hit the ground in front of the gladiator. More screams and chaos.
She stood up and looked around, finding no immediate suspects. Calmly and slowly, she looked over the edge. Yup, he was dead alright. A pretty bad start for this noble's party. "L-ladies, Gentlemen, please calm down!" The host quickly had the body removed while nervous chattering slowly filled the room. "Gadin! What is the meaning of this!?" Deschamps stood up, demanding answers from the noble.
"Calm down, Deschamps, I can assure you there is no danger. The guards have already been alerted. And you have your own, personal guard, don't you?"
Gadin Behari quickly did some damage control, while diverting attention to something... else. Infected. Even if they were behind bars, and in the sunken pit, they gave Sapphire shivers. There was an infected ape of some kind, whose roaring silenced the room. "I offer you a sneak peak of the next fight. May I present... Amon" The thing shrieked. It had patches of fur on its head and back, but its arms and chest were completely stripped. Blood and naked muscle rippled as it tried in vain to move the bars.
A heavy cover for the arena slowly lowered, turning it into a cage instead of an open pit. The latch to the cage was unlocked, and the thing was allowed to move out. It had a collar attached to it, no doubt some sort of fail-safe in case things got out of hand. "Now... let the bloodshed really begin!" he announced, releasing a few dozen attack dogs into the arena.
Derrick looked Ilya over, nodding as she found a pair of glasses to use to cover her eyes. It helped quite a bit more in her appearance than he wanted to admit, but that was besides the point. Now she just needed something better than the everyday clothes that he had for her, and she would be....well, ready to go around the town without any restrictions, or too many funny looks at least.
"Well, at least you know where to start. And it is a good start, I may add. Course, now that you have that covered, it may be better to go about and find something better than the clothes I handed ya. Not that I am knocking your choosing, of course. Just that you might want something a bit more...your style." Derrick said, looking around the stalls. Clothes, in their usual fashion, didn't usually cost much. Derrick wasn't too concerned about these costs for the girl, largely because at this point she was going to be selling things properly for him.
"I imagine you spotted a few things that looked like you wanted them? Just...let me see it before you toss it all on. Can't have you wearing bright green clothes with a red hat or anything like that."
"Oh and feel free to make yourselves at home."
"I might just take you gentlemen up on that offer," Platinum said. With Joel playing the running hero trying to go out and find the man who ordered the hit, Platinum was interested in the living quarters. It had been a week-long trek across the dusty wasteland, and that plus the introduction to Triumph in the bar would drain the batteries of even the most stalwart cyborg, let alone a still undeveloped carrier. "I doubt this place will be much like home, but it's still looking better than I've had lately."
Platinum made her way upstairs and quickly found the living quarters that the workman was referring to. There were a few beds scattered around what looked like a massive pile of boxes. As she explored a corner room, there was a kitchen, with an old relic decorating the vintage grill, advertising something called a "Quarter Pounder." The freezer nearby was well stocked, but the electricity alone would have been enough to satisfy Platinum. Her neighbors in New Buffalo had nowhere near the resources these workers had, and they had to make due without power. Just hearing the hum again, in a environment she could actually control, it was a comforting feeling. She flicked a nearby light switch on and off a couple times just to see the lights match her movements. She smiled as she made a note to come back and cook something up for a change.
As she moved to the other obvious doorway in the central sleeping room, she saw another throwback to a bygone age she never thought she'd have control over again: running water. Sinks, and toilets, so much more hygienic then the buckets and holes that were made due with on the plains. The only running water was from the sky. There was a lake not to far from the ruins but any water that could be taken from it was stagnant and foul, needing a good hour-long boiling before being fit for anything. She went to the tap and fiddled with it. The water that came out wasn't perfect, it had a bit of a tinny smell to it, but it wasn't brown and it didn't have blobs in it, and that was good enough. Platinum bent down to take a drink of it, and as she craned her head towards the spigot, that's when she saw the holiest of holies: the shower.
It had been some time since the carrier had any semblance of cleanliness. Not since the last rainfall in New Buffallo, which had to have been over a month ago, had she been stripped of the dirt and dust that had accumulated on her, and dyed her once-shimmering hair an ugly mottled light brown, and now here was a chance to fix that. To feel somewhat normal.
She stepped over to the shower, kicking her shoes off to the side. She wiggled her toes as they tasted the open air, and her claws made clacking noises on the tile. A reminder that despite what the scenario seemed, this wasn't her old normal, and would likely never be. She sighed as she took her cloak off, and moved onto the outer layer of her clothes, till she was down to the tank top and shorts she had picked up during a rummaging trip. She shook her hair loose, dust flying off of it. She she turned on the red tap and felt the warm water begin to pour out of the shower head, she grinned, her slightly sharpened teeth showing. She quickly cast off the rest of her clothes and moved under the tap, relishing the thought of having her body looking the best it could be for the first time in a good while.
"Can't have you wearing bright green clothes with a red hat or anything like that."
"Alright." Ilya said, listening closely to Derrick because he was the sole reason why she actually can buy clothes although the clothes in the wasteland were free but much more dirty. Ilya nodded and looked to the other stalls as Derrick paid off the merchant for the sunglasses. Ilya bounced back and forth to each stall, looking for what would work and... what wouldn't. Long dresses were a no-no, and so were a number of shoes that were raised at the heel which she found strange so she stuck to the bare essentials once more even with Derrick paying for it. She never thought she go on a "shopping spree". It was a term that she sometimes heard but often in stories of a bygone era or associated with the extremely rich.
Ilya's pants were fine as they were for they covered up her bruised and odd-colored skin. Next was her top which she got a military-style jacket, with plenty of pockets for her scavenging, in a plain color so she wouldn't stick out that much. She couldn't tell what the color was but the fact that it didn't stick out made it a plus. It would get hot but it was nothing she wasn't used to and people wouldn't see her skin. Now the tricky part was her face. Normally she would let her hair down to cover it up so that people wouldn't immediately see her odd skin color but according to Derrick, that made her stick her out more.
Her face was a tricky part though. Usually her hair masked her face but that seemed to not work in a place like this not to mention the length of her hair which had far gone down her back. Ilya was trying to find a solution for this until her eyes drifted to Derrick's short sword.
"Derrick, I think I need to cut my hair."
William leaned against the wall next to the door leading into the bathroom. Looking away from the closed door.
"Hopefully our humble home is to your liking. We try to keep it nice but we weren't exactly expecting any guests." He said loud enough for the carrier to hear. The rest of his group had already spread out, one of them had put on some music while others had grabbed beer from the fridge and begun to talk and joke. Since this part of town would be safe enough for them there was no reason to act as if they needed to hide. Those who weren't scared enough of the area of town the station sat in were superstitious about entering the old subway station. Besides, the gangs in this area tended not to mess with them, the small demolitions company could be a cheap way of getting explosives or work if they wanted some space cleared out.
"Also feel free to find a bed ya like. As workers we get to pick through and refurbish a lot of crap that got left behind. All of the beds are clean and I'm sure you'll find one of them comfortable. The trunk at the foot of whichever one you pick can hold whatever you don't want to sleep in. Also feel free to any drinks we got, it won't be the best but it should do ya." He said.
"Hopefully our humble home is to your liking."
Platinum's reverie was halted when she heard the voice from the doorway, but the fact that the door was closer eased her back into the bliss that the warm water had created. As the man explained the accoutrements that the base had, sheb nodded her head.
"Hey, it's better than the ruins," she told him, life returning to her voice as the dirt washed away. "This is the first time I've seen running water in three years. I'm not going to be complaining about the accommodations. Just, can you make sure there's a towel or something out there? I didn't bother looking before I jumped in here. I was just...a little excited seeing an actual shower again."
A drink wouldn't be too bad either. Jake's garbage bag wine was pretty foul, but that was all the alcohol we had. Be nice to have something not flavored with old packages of ketchup.
"We all know the feeling. I'll find one for ya but there should be some in there, but it can't hurt." He walked over to a storefront that had been converted into an ad hoc laundromat for the group. With electricity and first dibs on old technology they'd been able to have a decent standard of living compared to most of the commoners. Perks that came with risking your life on a daily basis and going where nobody else wanted to.
He grabbed a clean and folded towel before walking into the bathroom and placed the towel nearby the occupied shower stall. He made sure not to look in her direction even though there was a curtain preventing him from looking even if he wanted to.
"There ya go, feel free to take your time. We scavenged our fair share of industrial water heaters, so you won't be in any danger of running out of hot water any time soon. Also don't worry I didn't look. Also soap and shampoo should be in there if you need it." With that he turned and walked back out.
As Derrick looked over the things Ilya got, he couldn't help but be somewhat impressed with all the choices that she was making. Most of it was rather neutrally colored, and also tended to be well prepared for carrying things. Pockets, simple....and covered her up rather nicely. As they continued onward, it seemed that she finally had a thought about...something. It was then that she brought up something very simple.
"Derrick, I think I need to cut my hair."
He looked her over for a moment, wondering what exactly she should do with her hair. It was rather...long actually. As she seemed to look at his short sword. He knew what she was planning, but drawing a blade in a merchant market was a good way to attract attention. While he wasn't one to....usually cut other people's hair, his blade was easily sharp enough to cut her hair with a bit of precision, though if she wanted something fancy she was going to have to find a very particular hair dresser to work on her. Not many willing to work with the infected, so it wasn't as if he could just take her to a place to get it done.
"Well, if you want to use this to cut your hair, we first of all need to go somewhere else...and second of all, how short do you want it...exactly?" Derrick asked, continuing his walk along with her. "And very good choices, by the way. Suitable, and well suited to your...well, style. Very businesslike."
"And very good choices, by the way. Suitable, and well suited to your...well, style. Very businesslike."
"Adapt and survive, right?" Ilya said, eyeing the crowd for any "inspiration" for how short her hair should be. Some people in the crowd wore their hair short to the shoulders while others didn't have any hair on their head at all. While that seemed practical, she found it too uncomfortable for all her hair to get cut off. But what seemed to be the norm was short hair at the shoulders so that seemed the best choice.
"I think I should get something short. To here." Ilya put a hand on her bony shoulders, shaped in a straight line. "Everything under... gone." She ran her fingers through her hair feeling them for what was most likely the last time.
Platinum turned to look for the aforementioned toiletries, and found them resting on a shelf nearby. Looks like decent quality at least. She had figured out how to work the shampoo into her hair without gouging herself on her claws a while ago, and though she did prick herself a couple times the process came back to her. "Thanks!" she shouted out to the man outside. "If you want to leave a drink outside the door, I'll grab it on my way out. It would be greatly appreciated."
William couldn't help but laugh as he heard the request.
"You got it lady." He shouted back as he walked over to the fridge and pulled out two of the better beers. He opened one of them on the counter and took a drink before grabbing the second. Rather than leave it outside the door he brought it in and set it down just far enough from the towel that grabbing it wouldn't risk knocking it over.
"I left your beer closed and set it next to your towel. Both will be waiting for ya when ya finish. Rare to have a guest who actually has some manners here, nice change of pace I'll admit." He had made sure not to look in the direction of the stall as he both came in and went back out.
"I think I should get something short. To here."
Derrick looked at where she put her hand, and nodded. A short haired style. As proper as she wanted to be, he could guess. As he ventured to the familiar alleyway, which he had purposefully made his way back to upon finding that Ilya was done with her shopping, he stopped at his locker and turned around. He took the time to look the mostly changed girl over, noting that with all the changes, the clean clothes and hair, and all that she seemed to have neatened up, she looked halfway respectable, and nearly ready to go walking about and selling a few things. Learning the ropes, handing things out, meeting people and contacts. Today was a very interesting day, and one that seemed to have changed the pace of...well, a lot of things. Maybe he would try this whole 'enterprise merchant' thing out, and maybe set up a base somewhere.
Right. Settling down. Nice one Derrick. The thought drifted sarcastically across, and he decided that it was time to focus on the task at hand. Chopping some hair.
"Well, alright then. I guess its time to chop off a few...inches of your hair then. You all set? Cause you know once I cut it, it isn't going to be back to that length for a long time. So if you want a little longer, that's fine." Derrick advised, unsheathing his blade to accent the point.
With a haircut, she'll almost seem....well, relatively average, actually. At least she knew how to cover herself up properly, and got it all for a relatively simple price. As long as she doesn't just burn all those clothes, this little investment venture is actually halfway alright.
Sonia flinched visibly at the loud crack and the body falling into the arena. Unlike Sapphire, however, she did not get up from her place near her client. She had no desire to get involved in whatever it was that was going on. The man who had been dropped into the pit was likely dead: the thought made her feel ill.
"L-ladies, gentlemen, please calm down!" Behari, their host, was already on the scene to calm his guests.
"Gadin! What is the meaning of this?!" Deschamps had risen to his feet, the girls temporarily forgotten. It was the perfect opportunity, while he was distracted, to sneak a hand into his pocket and lightly lift a coin or two from his person... they were in plain sight, though, and Deschamps had drawn attention to himself by calling out. So Sonia kept her hands to herself for now.
"Calm down, Deschamps, I can assure you there is no danger. The guards have already been alerted. And you have your own personal guard, don't you?" Already something in a cage was being lowered into the arena... just glancing at the creature made Sonia's stomach shift a little. "I offer you a sneak peak of the next fight. May I present... Amon!"
Was it infected? Probably. Sonia shuddered at the idea of being in the same room as something carrying the infection. The smell coming off of it was horrendous. Then barks and growls could be heard... Behari had given the order to release dogs into the arena. The combat had turned to bloodsport, rather than warmup fights. Sonia didn't need the cry to begin the fight to figure that out.
As the infected beast and the attack dogs began to lay into each other, the younger courtesan clamped her mouth shut and tried to avoid looking at the arena. She couldn't stop the sickening sounds, though. Deschamps, however, was looking on approvingly, his attention divided primarily between the pit fight and Sapphire.
Is this her first blood match?
Sapphire thought for a second. Ruby had only been a courtesan for what... a year? Less? While Sapphire didn't shrink away from the opportunity to attend one, it wasn't exactly her cup of tea. She took out a white handkerchief to cover her mouth. Even if the pit was deep, she wasn't going to risk that 1 in a million shot of a drop flying up there. Sapphire watched for a few minutes before finally snapping her fingers at Ruby.
"Ruby, get us a glass of wine from a fresh bottle? The help here is ridiculously slow." She waved. It wasn't so much a move to help Ruby as it was to help herself. The last thing she needed was for Ruby to start throwing up everywhere. Bile and vomit went a long way to discourage clients from tipping. "Ask for a bottle of something light, maybe a bottle of sparkling Rosé champagne?" she looked at Deschamps for approval, but he hadn't even heard her. "Well, go on." Sapphire motioned.