The Concourse is one of the premier consumer experiences of on the Mid Atlantic Coast. It’s a place where nearly anything that may be had at all may be found for one price or another, and all of those trade and merchant guilds that make up the Dogwood Corporate class show off their latest and fanciest of wares. It’s almost possible to forget, in this massive pean to the acquisition of stuff how bleak the world outside it can be. Within it’s rather spacious confines, sumptuously maintained by the Enki Corporation and the Guilds, the very best technology hawks and advertises and guides visitors to places they need to go whilst men and women buy, sell and trade in via augmented reality and the intranet in some cases without ever setting foot in a store.
The vast array of wares draws a vast array of people for various purposes. Today it has drawn the Trent siblings apparently, who are on one of the higher levels of the ‘super-mall’ as someone from the bast might call it in one of the sections given over to advanced tech and weaponry.
“I really, really, really don’t want to shoot you, sir.” A weapons shop proprietor is saying.
“You wanted a demonstration, I promised to give you one. Go ahead. My sister probably won’t cut you in half if anything goes wrong…” The guild Trent factor says with a slight smirk.
“I can’t say how I’m grateful I am that you came with me, Baldur.” Natsuki’s voice floats across the area. “Without you, I would have had to carry all those bags on my own.” Jericho will recognise the tone. She’s teasing again – he might be wondering if she’s found someone to replace him.
It’s not long before she comes into view with her companion. And as anyone might have guessed, that companion might be festooned with bags. Seems Natsu’s had a lovely day shopping.
“Oh look. It’s Mister and Miss Trent.” She draws near just in time to catch the last of Jericho’s words and she blinks.
Natsuki could probably not have found any better baggage boy, short of Shiny, Mars’ glitterboy. As many bags as the cyborg is loaded with, Baldur isn’t too beleaguered by the woman’s purchases, at least for terms of weight. The most awkward part about it would be just having to walk without tripping over something. And he’d been so ecstatic when Natsuki had mentioned they’d be going to the Concourse, all for a little sightseeing, and he’d never been to the place before, at least, for what he could remember.
“Not a problem, Miss Taniguchi…! And…it’s not really like there was much choice. Your house captain might as well have eyes made of lasers.” At least it doesn’t seem like his mood’s been dampened terribly by the fate he’s found himself in.
“Who? Oh-” It takes him just a moment to plug names together with faces, or at least when it comes to Mister Trent. He’d wave, but his arms are kind of full.
Jericho is holding a small flat device in front of him that he has clearly just powered on though it doesn’t seem to be doing anything. The man behind the counter swallows, pulls out a small ceramic black laser pistol and aims right at Jericho’s chest. Then he fires.Jericho is holding a small flat device in front of him that he has clearly just powered on though it doesn’t seem to be doing anything. The man behind the counter swallows, pulls out a small ceramic black laser pistol and aims right at Jericho’s chest. Then he fires.
The air a foot in front of the hacker’s arm distorts like suddenly there’s a pane of very dirty glass there, and the laser beam just stops there. The proprietor’s jaw drops open.
“First in our line of portable, non cybernetic force fields. Designed for personal use and integration into most standard armors which I see you sell in this fine establishment. They’re expensive, yes, but the protection they provide – and their sales potential – is unrivaled.” That’s the dark haired woman next to Jericho, the one who looks remarkably like him.
Natsuki knows her name is Gabrielle. Baldur, of course, might not.
Neither of them have seen Nat or or mobile humanoid shopping cart yet but it’s only a matter of time before they do.
“The House Captain worries about me.” Natsuki says. Somewhere around here too, not obvious, are a couple of psi-stalkers. That had raised a few eyebrows back at the manor and they hadn’t let Natsu out of their sight. “Do you like your new hat?”
It’s a dapper thing, the one she just bought Baldur. The looks she got though, when she put it on his head.
Her eyes widen at the demonstration and then land on Jericho. Something Gabrielle said, just clicked. “I didn’t realise you were developing these, Mister Trent. Miss Trent. Perhaps you should drop by the Manor and see my Captain.” she says, drawing closer to the siblings. “Baldur, be a dear, and put our bags down over there. I’m sure you want to look at this too.”
There’s no question that the cyborg is absolutely beaming at that question. And his new hat. “I do!” he replies cheerfully, his glowing optics brightening. Maybe he looks ridiculous. Maybe not. He’d liked how the thing had looked, and despite his initial protests at getting anything, he’d been very pleased to have it.
“Hey wait, what are they-” Baldur begins to ask as he focuses back upon the Trents and what, hey why is that person aiming a weapon at the guy!!
It’s probably a fortunate thing that he’s bogged down with bags, otherwise the cyborg might have been sorely tempted to leap ‘to the rescue.’ Except that would be leaving Natsuki alone, which would be an entirely different dilemma. None of this happens thankfully, as something else happens rather than Jericho getting slotted by a laser beam. Baldur blinks.
“…whoa-ho!” His reaction, once he realizes what had happened, is entirely different. Or perhaps just more raw. But hey, that had been pretty cool. And Jer’s pretty gutsy to have willingly stood there to get shot at. Testament to the confidence of their product, he supposes.
“Huh? Oh, sure thing, ma’am.” He’s glad to have a break from carrying things, but he’s careful with setting them down. It might take a little bit just to untangle things here and there, but he joins Natsuki and the Trents in short order once he’s able to.
“Mister Trent. Miss…ss… Trent.” He nods to each.
It probably helps that Jericho has one of those force field emitters implanted in his right arm, though he doesn’t often talk about it. Natsuki’s seen him use it once or twice in hairy situations. This technology is based on that, so it’s not entirely new. But yes, very confident.
Gabrielle, Jericho and the shop proprietor all turn as Natsuki greets them and Baldur puts down her shopping. All of it. Which seems to be a lot. Dresses, hats, pens, paper. Actually a lot of it seems to be pens and paper, if Jericho doesn’t miss his guess. Really nice pens and paper.
“Hello Miss Taniguchi. Baldur. I don’t believe you’ve met my sister. This is Gabrielle Trent. She runs the Dogwood office and our Auditing department.” Which means she’s a spy. And a counterspy. And a very good one.
“I thought we agreed you would call me Natsuki…” Natsu says as helps Baldur divest himself of her shopping. Yes, there are a lot of pens and paper and art supplies. Far more than the dresses, hats and shoes that she’s bought.
Assured that her shopping is looked after, she goes to stand beside Jericho. Rather close actually. Of all things, she enjoys teasing the Factor, a lot. Not that she steps over any social boundary – not really. But she pushes them.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you again, Miss Trent. I trust your father is well? Do forgive my interruption, but I’m sure we’d be interested in your invention.”
For all her cool facade, Jericho will tell she’s tense. Maybe it’s just being in the Mall and the attitude she gets or … maybe she’s worried about Jarvin.
He’d never known anyone to have such a mighty need for paper and pens. It had been quite the experience. Also, paper in enough quantities does get a bit heavy.
“Nice to meet you,” Baldur replies as Jericho introduces his sister. He remains a respectful distance from Natsuki, however not nearly far enough that he can’t move to her aid should it come about, and the half-elf’s seen him do it to know firsthand. At least there aren’t any threats of runaway sowers here, but given her other…concerns, that seems to be the least of her worries.
With his hand freed he can adjust his hat, if just slightly, because he’s certain Natsuki’s otherwise placed it at just the angle it needs to be, and so long as it doesn’t fall off of his head, that’s all that matters. As she engages in conversation with Jericho, Baldur folds his hands behind him, watching. He could agree that it would be interesting to see that thing in action again. It’s a no-brainer how useful it would be in a shoot-out.
Gabrielle actually looks more at Baldur than Natsuki. “A Mark Five?” She says with some wonder in her voice as she walks on over to take a closer look. “Wow, this hardware is old. Solid too. Guild House Paltreth’s work if I’m not mistaken, or was before they were acquired twenty years ago. I didn’t think there were any original Mark Five’s left. I’m amazed you’ve managed to keep yourself running Mister… Baldur, was it?” She was paying attention when Jericho spoke.
“We’ve been developing these for a while.” Jericho explains both to Natsuki and the shop keep at once. “But this is the first model we’ve felt comfortable disconnecting from the power sources we usually hook it to, like, powered cyberware.”
“It’s impressive.” Natsu answers, glancing at Gabrielle as she’s distracted by the shiny, clothed, Cyborg. She’s certainly interested in how Baldur responds.
As they talk, the air ripples around them. Jericho will recognise that sensation. Both he and Natsu have experienced it before.
A bright slash forms in the air a few feet from Natsu, between her and Baldur and a man steps out, energy crackling around his form. His eyes are wild, he’s unkempt. The man points a wand at the shopkeep and mutters a word, sending a bolt of energy right at the poor souls chest knocking him back as it hits.
“Jarvin …” Natsu breaths as the wand is aimed at Jericho next.
Clearly the cyborg hadn’t expected to be the subject of interest, and while he loves attention, he’s understandably apprehensive about someone rattling specs off on him. “Heeey. I’m not that ol- well okay, yeah. Guess I have been around for…quite a while enough.” The name means little to him so far as he can recall, either yet another detail that’s managed to slip through the sieve of his memories, or something that had never been a part of whatever information had been divulged to him regarding his then new metal frame. Actually…he hadn’t really been told a whole lot, but he doubted he would have remembered it at the time anyway.
“Might be some still running around somewhere, if any of my unit’s still functional. Really can’t say that I know for sure.” He thinks at least a few had been recycled for parts, the ones who hadn’t made it upon their dispatch in the war. But that too was decades long gone.
He’d taken care of himself as best he could, especially after the place he’d initially been recommended to go for tune-ups was suddenly found torched to the ground one day. At least his model had been built fairly sturdy from the get-go. It might seem that he’s more embarrassed about how little he knows about his own make and functions as he mostly lets Gabrielle prattle on, stealing a glance towards Natsuki that might just read ‘help?’
Something weird happens instead, and for a moment the cyborg’s not sure if his optics have just chosen a terrible time to fritz out on him. What follows is something that had no place occurring here. People don’t just step out of midair. People don’t just send people flying with a word and a wave of a stick. Baldur’s eyes flare, fixated upon the back of the man who’s just destroyed their peaceful outing. Natsuki’s naming him doesn’t seem to have any more or less of an effect as the cyborg’s already moving to intercept. He lunges, arms brought around to grapple for the man, grabbing at that wand-wielding arm.
One might almost think it scripted for how synchronized the timing between the two siblings is as they both draw sidearms and head for opposite sides of ‘Jarvin’, though the elder and male of the two does grab at Natsuki to pull her away. Both start to fire as opportunity presents itself but with the cyborg moving in to grapple those shots have to be taken carefully.
Around them the sound of weapons fire has shoppers gasping and scattering. It can only be so long before Enki CorSec – the Baron’s private army – comes running. Whether or not they get there in time to do anything is another question.
It’s interesting that Jarvin has chosen now to act. In a busy mall where the CorSec can respond quickly. Maybe he’s mad or maybe he’s crafty like a fox.
Baldur manages to knock the wand arm wide, sending an arc of magic energy smashing into a wall and leaving a hole. Jarvin turning and trying to avoid the Cyborg, slipping through Baldur’s fingers for the moment, knocking a display stand in front of the metal man.
Gabrielle gets a line on Jarvin and the shot is taken, only to have an energy field blossom around the figure and block it.
Just before Jericho grabs at Natsu, Jarvin cackles maniacally, tossing a small brass coloured box at her feet. It starts to glow, getting brighter every moment, as another slash starts to appear in the air.
Normally Baldur would have resorted to his guns as soon as a threat presented itself. The only thing that kept him from acting as such was the fact that Jarvin had imposed himself between the cyborg and Natsuki. He’d managed to keep enough presence of mind to refrain from putting his charge at risk.
The poor display’s paid little heed, but a minor obstacle when the real problem was yet uncontained, a clothed, metal arm swinging to knock it aside. Now pistols have found their way into his hands, tracking Jarvin and not without squeezing off a few shots of his own. Intermittent fire of old-fashioned bullets and rounds of ion shots, but if they’re met with that energy field, Baldur won’t waste too many of them. Besides, Jarvin’s just brought something else into play.
He has no idea what the box is for, but between that laugh and its glowing, the conclusion reached is that it can’t possibly be good. The cyborg resets his targets, firing at the box to try knocking it closed or away as he moves for Natsuki, pushing that hyperagility into gear. If he can get to her in time, move in front of her if not push her out of the way…
Jericho hisses as the energy field springs into being. Might be magic, or technomagic. Or he might have gotten help from one of Guild House Trent’s competitors. There are one or two out there that advanced. Of course they’ll not find out if they can’t catch him…
The factor takes aim, his very subtle cyberware calculating the shot as he tries to angle for the best one. He’s likely only going to get one shot. Luckily Gabrielle has the ‘keep him pinned or at least distracted bit’ part covered, taking a shot every time she can even if they do nothing. Hopefully it’s at least a threat.
The slash of light glows forming a portal in front of Jericho and Natsu. A portal that starts to expand over the part-elf and her companion, if he doesn’t move out of the way.
Baldur’s shot does knock the box, closer to the pair. Natsu starts to disappears into the slash of light, just as the Cyborg makes her side.
Jarvin is pinned by down by Gabrielle’s shots. Trading shots of his own from the wand. He snarls ferally, turning to Jericho “I’ve got her now … ” Just as a tall, hairless man enters the store and the fray. The magic doesn’t seem to bother him … if anything, he’s smiling broadly.
Okay, that wasn’t working. And with bullets expended, Baldur holsters it, relying on the one that he doesn’t have to consistently reload. He’s not thinking about magical or technical properties. If it could all be solved with a well-aimed blast, then that’d be good enough for him.
It’s not all mindless slaughter here. There’s only one potential target and his current objective’s more protective than search and destroy. That objective seems to be quickly failing.
At least the Trents are still fighting as they can. Gabrielle’s skill with a gun is impressive, as is her brother’s, but these aren’t things that Baldur even considers. It’s not in his current mindset. Even the panic at seeing his charge start to vanish into the portal is muted. It’s all act and react. There’s no time for emotions. It’s like there’s a disconnect that’s been triggered. He hasn’t yet noticed the other man that’s arrived.
Without hesitation, the cyborg throws his free hand after Natsuki, right into that portal if he must, but if there may be any consequences to be had, he’s neither aware nor seems to be overly concerned about it at the moment.
Jericho finds his shot. Right at the shoulder. As the psi-stalker – a figure he actually recognizes – charges in he signals with a gesture to his sister to stop shooting and sights in on Jarvin’s shoulder. This shot might not kill him but it might make him let go of Natsuki or at least spin him enough for the cyborg and the psi-stalker to beat him to a pulp.
It all happens so quickly.
As Baldur reaches into portal, it dims and dims some more. Starting to close around his hand. It’s like the magic is simply unable to work. Natsu’s fingers close around his hand though and he can pull her free. He’s just going to have to be quick. That portal is closing faster now.
The Psi-Stalker, Vos, smiles gleefully as he lays into Jarvin with fists and one of Gabrielles shots gets through the field. So it was likely magic, not something tech based. Whether Jarvin’s a mage or not, they simply don’t know but that doesn’t matter for the moment. Jericho’s shot is well timed and pierces Jarvin’s shoulder, spinning the man towards the Factor.
“You think you’ve won…” he snarls at Jericho as Vos knocks him to the ground “… this isn’t over …” Jericho can get a hit or two in, if he wants.
He can feel the pressure of Natsuki’s grasp, and as the portal hesitates to close completely, it’s not a chance Baldur will waste. He pulls her towards him, dropping his other gun so he has both hands free to haul the half-elf clear, backing off with her to put as much distance from the spacial anomaly as he can.
It’s only once that’s done that he registers the Psi-Stalker. While the cyborg remains tensed, he remains protectively beside Natsuki while the others continue to bring down Jarvin. One hand still hasn’t let her go, as though afraid to open that chance that she’d be magically snatched away again. He still hasn’t said a word ever since the assault began, and when Jarvin falls from the combined efforts of Jericho and Vos, Baldur brings up his other hand, wrist folding down to reveal the muzzle of the blaster built into his forearm, training it upon the man down on the ground. That’s…probably a bit more power than in the guns he carries, and he gives no indication whether he’s just meaning to keep the threat in check or actually try blowing this guy’s head off.
Jericho rises from his crouch as Vos goes to work. He has no illusions about whether or not this is a fight Vos can win. He is a paragon of psi-stalkers and anyway hired exactly for this purpose. Hopefully he won’t be too disappointed with the fight.
“Are you okay Natsuki? Baldur?” He holsters his weapon. Gabrielle still has hers out and pointed but she’s not shooting anymore. Both of them now ignore Jarvin and that’s deliberate. He’s an artist. He thrives on the attention. So they’re not giving him any.
“Enki CorSec should be here in a moment.”
Vos does his job well and Jarvin is barely conscious. “You want that I should keep him alive?” he asks Jericho and then Natsuki as she’s pulled free. “This one is demon-tainted. I can taste it. Good eating, but there’s not much left of him.” Him, the man. “He’s just a husk for whatever was riding him.”
Natsu shudders as the portal blinks shut just as Baldur pulls her clear. “Ttthank you, Baldur. That was ….” Natsu’s wide eyed, dazed and trembling. And she doesn’t finish that sentence. “What happened to the portal? I.. I’ll be ok… Thank you. Are you Mister Trent, Miss Trent?” And where’s the poor store keeper?
For the moment, Vos gets a blank look, the part-elf not registering what he’s asking or saying. “I … think you should go, Vos.” That’s right isn’t it? Does she really want to explain what a psi-stalker was doing here? There’s enough questions to answer as it is.
Baldur still doesn’t stand down, at least not until he finds himself being addressed. The blazing glow of his optics flickers, winking in and out in a blink before he looks at the others. Lowering his arm, his wrist snaps back up, secured back into proper position with a few flicks.
“I’m fine,” he says distractedly, looking from Jericho to Natsuki. He rests a hand hesitantly upon her shoulder. The look on her face isn’t one he’d ever thought to see, and now that he has, he’s made up his mind that he doesn’t ever want it to be revisited.
Jericho’s saved him the trouble of asking if Natsuki’s all right as she’s already replying, and it’s about the best response one can hope for, given what had just happened. Baldur continues to look around, as though trying to catch up with things himself. “Portal? Huh?” It feels like he’s playing some kiddy memory match game. “-wait, who’s this guy?” he asks as he peers at the Psi-Stalker. His mind’s just everywhere right now.
“An obsessed artist. Let’s leave it at that for now. Vos you’re fine. Leave him alive. It’s probably temporary for him at any rate. Enki Corporation won’t take kindly to something like this. Go get something nice at one of the weapon shops on me.”
Psi stalkers like guns. Or at least warriors from the mountains do, that Jericho remembers. And technically he isn’t the one selling them.
“You’ll want to lodge a report, I’m guessing Natsuki?”
“My stalker.” Natsu says quietly, covering Baldur’s hand with her own for the moment. “I’ll explain the rest later. Maybe.”
Jericho’s offer to pay for the gun has her eyebrow rising. “Thank you, Vos. We’ll join you later, I’ll speak with CorSec and that will take a while.”
Straightening, meeting Jericho’s eyes, she nods slowly. “I will. I expect I’ll be a while in doing so. If you choose to make a statement, you’ll need to stay.” Glancing up at her Cyborg bodyguard “I don’t suppose I’ll convince to head back to the manor with a message? I’m sure Mister Trent, if he stays, will take good care of me.”
She’s rattled and it shows.
He’d been asking more about the Psi-Stalker, but then perhaps it doesn’t help that they are two stalkers present. Jericho’s mentioning helps to at least clarify that the guy they’ve brought down is the one who had been giving Natsuki so much grievance. Knowing that, Baldur wishes he’d have gone and shot the guy like he’d told his new employer back when she’d explained to him about the situation.
Looking around as if to finally take in the mess that remains in the wake of things, he notices his gun on the floor, which seems to puzzle him as he stoops down to pick it up. It’s deposited into its holster as he looks at Natsuki again. “…if it’s all the same to you, I think I’d rather stick around for a little longer,” he says. While he’s not doubting Jericho’s ability to take care of the half-elf, Baldur would feel better seeing her calmed down at least. He’d be easier persuaded to run that message then.
“CorSec will want to take his statement anyway.” Jericho says to Nat. “Speaking of which, here they come.” Decked out in the black and gold of the Enki Corporation. They look sharp. They also look well trained and deadly.
And to Jericho they look like the start of a long afternoon.
“Why don’t you go meet our next client, Gabby…” The factor tosses the shielding device to his sister. “I may be a while.”
So much for a pleasant shopping day at the mall. Natsuki's stalker takes a more direct approach and meets things head-on.
June 11, 2410
The Concourse, Dogwood