The Morningbrook Estate is a rather grand name for a rather simple kind of place. Nestled in the foothills of Dogwood’s western border, tucked away in a small valley it is a rest stop and race track. And when we say ‘track’ here we mean some old stretches of pre-Rifts tarmac connected by well worn dirt and gravel paths. It’s an ideal place for honing driving skills in friendly and not so friendly competitions for which reason it is used extensively by the Transporters Guild who pays the local Morningbrook family a fair amount in gold and goods regularly to pretend it doesn’t exist.The Morningbrook Estate is a rather grand name for a rather simple kind of place. Nestled in the foothills of Dogwood’s western border, tucked away in a small valley it is a rest stop and race track. And when we say ‘track’ here we mean some old stretches of pre-Rifts tarmac connected by well worn dirt and gravel paths. It’s an ideal place for honing driving skills in friendly and not so friendly competitions for which reason it is used extensively by the Transporters Guild who pays the local Morningbrook family a fair amount in gold and goods regularly to pretend it doesn’t exist.
Recently it’s been rather busy since the Transporters guild leadership sent out it’s ‘shelter in place’ directive, ordering the Guild to cease operations for the time being. Of course ‘cease operations’ means different things to different people and the net effect of the directive has been to reduce rather than completely eliminate Transporter activity.
So it’s not surprising that people are still doing business here. Outside clients who know of the place stop by to see if the proprietor – a man named ‘Amos’ – has leads on good drivers or recently acquired ‘goods’ of various unusual and only occasionally questionably legal types.
Today the race track is buzzing as the ‘Three Amigos’ – three of the top drivers and baffoons in the Guild – settle an ongoing argument.
Having been ‘grounded’ in the area, Stella Bridger has really only traveled about to either get her truck repaired and refuled, or to secure lodgings. This damned ‘shelter in place’ directive is eating up what little spare income she had, to the point that she’s going to have to either contribute to the proverbial swap meet of goods and funds going on at the Morningbrook track, or she’s going to have to rely on the hospitality and generosity of others. And that just rankles.
Having heard that the Triad of Bad Decision Making were going to be here, Stella has tries to set herself as far OUT of the way as possible. Especially since she’s finding herself wondering how Clancy’s doing out in the middle of nowhere with only Apanie and his familiars for company.
What brings Natsuki to Morningbrook Estate is anyones guess. All that she said is she was going for a drive and asked a certain Cyborg if he might like to join her. She hadn’t let him drive, but had dropped some hints that he might get to do that. In that sporty little sedan of hers, that’s been repaired.
The tall, dark skinned, part-elf is wandering through the swap meet, looking at the wares on offer and keeping an eye on that race track.
Baldur is probably one of the few who actually seem to enjoy Natsuki’s driving. It might be because he’s had nothing to compare to, and the fact that he’s a seventy-year old cyborg.
It feels like it’s been a while since he’s accompanied her, and whether or not it’s meant to be as a bodyguard, he’ll do his part accordingly. Right now he’s just curious and his attention drifts everywhere as he tries to look at everything. He’s not particularly sure what the half-elf is looking for, here, so he can’t really help too much in that department, but he has noticed her eyeing the track. Maybe they’ll have a look there eventually?
The whining on the track gets louder. Well it’s really more of a buzzing. Fusion powered engines are strange things. Still the rally is impressive and the terrible trio has garnered a lot of watchers. If Stella isn’t one of them, well that’s understandable. She’s one of the less likely to be impressed by their admittedly very good driving skills.
That whine though is interrupted by another of a different kind entirely. A trio of military grade sky cycles overflies the race track and turns toward the buildings that house the watering hole and flea market. It turns heads to be sure. As they descend those who know something of Dogwood heraldry may note the colors and insignia of Guild House Trent. And may further note that the leader of the flight seems to be none other than the Guild’s Factor. Jericho Trent.
Said Factor makes his way into the ‘bar’ area, clearly looking for someone. It won’t take Stella long to figure out who that is…
Looking up at the sounds overhead, Stella mutters a faint curse to herself when she sees the sky cycles. Quickly scooping up her sidearm and locking her truck, she strides briskly toward the bar area, using her height to cover the distance quickly. Hopefully she won’t get there too much later than people from Guild House Trent.
Seriously? What the hell are they doing here? Do they WANT to get killed over some rotgut hooch? She hasn’t noticed Natsuki and Baldur’s presence yet, or she would already know why the Trent people are here.
“See anything you like?” Natsu asks Baldur as they wander through the swap meet, making their way to the ‘bar’ area themselves. There’s all sorts of things here, but nothing has seemed to grab the part-elf’s attention.
Making the veranda of the ‘bar’ area just as the hover cycles arrive, Natsu turns to watch the flight arrive. “Well, look who it is.” It’s certainly not hard to find her. She’s not only tall, she’s with a Cyborg in clothing and probably a hat.
“And there’s Miss Bridger.” she tries to catch the Transporter’s attention, if only to nod in greeting.
Miss Natsuki gave him that hat. Why wouldn’t he be wearing it?
Baldur has to laugh as Natsuki asks if he’s seen anything he likes. “I don’t know about anything I’d /like/, but there’s a whole lotta stuff to see.” He might actually prefer shopping at the Concourse, but he’s an odd ‘borg.
The sound that makes itself known is quick to draw his attention, different as it is from the pre-established hum of the racetrack. Orange optics ticking upwards, Baldur looks on, zooming in upon the sky cycles as they make their approach.
“Huh. Were we s’pposed to be meeting with him out here?” he asks, because it’s news to him. It takes him a moment to get his vision back to normal parameters as Natsuki mentions seeing Bridger, that span of time enough for him to click the name with a face.
Jericho glances over to Bridge and smiles a somewhat thin smile. “Afternoon, Miss Bridger. Sounds like a spirited race out there. I trust everything’s okay with your truck?” It had some… cat problems.
A quick glance under those skycycles reveals the missile pods at the back and the dual heavy canon barrels running along the undercarriage. Which suggests that this wasn’t a quick social visit. Likely they were out patrolling.
“Miss Taniguchi. Baldur. Hello. I trust you caught the news about the incident on the James?”
They may not have but what an incident. The Vesper Army moved out of camp earleir in the week and deployed near Richmond. There was a clash between them and a Dogwood Armored Infantry patrol along the river a few hours ago. A small one which didn’t escalate but it’s got a lot of folks on edge.
“Miss Bridger, I’m glad you’re here. You haven’t been sending us holocalls, have you?”
What a very odd question…
Bridge slows as she steps into the bar area, and in doing so she can see Natsuki also arriving. The nod in greeting is returned, even if she is still apparently on high alert. Official types don’t always get the most welcoming treatment around here.
At Jericho’s question, Stella answers after a brief hesitation. “It’s…fine.” Cat problems. Pfft. Wait, what? “Holocalls? No. Why would I do th…” She sighs, and looks about THIS close to clapping one hand to her forehead. But still, she repeats, “No, I myself have not been placing holocalls.”
“No. I was not.” Natsuki answers Baldur “If I was, I would have said.” Which doesn’t answer why she’s here. “Jeri— Mister Trent.” the part-elf offers the Factor a smile before her dark eyes land on the flight and she frowns.
“We heard there was an incident, yes, but the details have been lacking. Baldur and I have been travelling for most of the morning. It sounds like things have been tense.”
“Holocalls? To you?” she asks curiously, looking to Bridge. She’d lay odds that it wasn’t Bridge, but they originated from … something she has.
As the Factor approaches, Baldur greets him with a nod and a touch to the brim of his hat. “Factor,” he says before his optics flicker in a blink. “What Miss Taniguchi said. Anything more that you’ve said just now is news to us.” He seems to frown, somehow. “Wouldn’t be the first incident. Hope things are kept together,” he mutters. The last time, someone had been trying to instigate them against each other. What with news of soulless in Richmond, that probably doesn’t serve to help with the tension between sides.
The cyborg glances at the transporter as she’s questioned, but he has no idea as to any significance of the subject there.
“It is the first one that resulted in fatalities.” Jericho says rather grimly. The two armies are too close. The last time this happened was seventy years ago and it went poorly in general. With whatever’s going on in Richmond, it’s a bad time even by those standards.
In response to Stella’s question, the Factor produces a holo recording device that comes up with what is quite clearly Stella’s image. “This is Station Central to anyone receiving. The code is Gamma X-Ray Victor Victor Niner Zulu. Mobile operations are not possible. Romeo Tango Bravo. Repeat. Romeo Tango Bravo.”
The image fades and Jericho glances about. “That has been beamed on a tightly modulated radio frequency in the direction of Taniguchi lands for the past two hours. Frankly I can’t make heads or tails of the message, but I can tell you that it’s coming from the mountains. Deep in the mountains.”
The mountains? Again? Bridge can only sigh. She knows exactly what’s causing this, though is lacking any ideas on how to stop it, other than going out to those damned mountains with every last exploding object she can load onto whatever transport can handle that journey.
But, for now: “There are at least a dozen Transporters here that can vouch for my having been here since shortly after sunrise.” She does look as Jericho squarely, hoping he gets a clue and figures out what she’s not willing to say aloud here in the middle of this bar area.
Natsuki shakes her head at the news out of Richmond. “We’ll likely have orders to have our bannermen on standby.” she says quietly. But her attention is all on the recordings.
That it’s Miss Bridger who’s image is interposed there, has the part-elfs eyebrows rising. “Miss Bridger has a device that has been trying to connect to our Puma, among other things.” She explains quietly to Baldur. “The last time it did, it seemed to try to connect to a central location somewhere. Unfortunately, none of us know what it means.”
“Perhaps we should take this to that room over there. It will give us some privacy.” The suggestion made, she leads the way, expecting people to follow.
“You say it was transmitting to our lands? Was there any response?”
So much for keeping things together. Baldur falls silent as Jericho mentions that there had been casualties. No, he does not want to have to go through a repeat of seventy years ago, and nor does he wish anyone else to have to either.
He’s only half listening as the conversation continues around him, at least until Natsuki directly addresses him in explanation. He looks again towards the holorecording, head canting slightly. “Where’d this…device come from?” he asks as he starts after the half-elf. “It just started two hours ago, you said?” That’s to Jericho. Frankly, he has no idea where he’s going with this.
“From a scrap heap in Fairbrook, north of the Kingdom.” The Factor tilts his head toward one of the more private rooms. “And it’s been with her ever since. Apparently she can’t get rid of it…”
Jericho starts walking. He knows Stella doesn’t want to discuss her part of this too much out here. Fortunately with Nat’s question, they don’t have to. “Oddly, yes. A signal started broadcasting in what sounded a lot like morse code. Static bursts, really. Not much more than that. It took us a while to pin it down at the Factory.” He pauses. “It was coming from your cousin’s bunker.”
Stella is only too glad to take this to a more private room. And the moment they’re all in there, she leans against the nearest convenient table and scrubs her face with her hands, muttering a few choice invectives as she does so.
“The damned thing latched on to me there and it’s been a nuisance ever since. Do you have a recording of those static bursts?” She pulls the offending little object out of a pocket on her trousers — because if she leaves it behind anywhere, it just reappears on her person anyway — and sets it on the table she’s leaning against.
“I’m about ready to take a tire iron to it.” She’s just not sure if doing so will make it try to fry her brain in the process.
“I suspect Baldur, that the communication is being sent to… ” Natsuki starts but Jericho confirms her concerns. “That. I believe it is trying to communicate with our Puma. There’s something about them. The Pumas, that is. My Grandfather used to tell tales that there were five of them. We know where two are. Ours, House Taniguchi’s and Lord Saltzpyre’s. We saw a third recently but it was operating remotely, I believe.”
“So whatever is in the mountains, Station Central, made contact with Lady Zelda’s Puma and activated something. I hope the damn thing is still there. I don’t care to explain to my cousin why it’s not.”
“And somehow, it’s using Miss Bridgers image to send out the holobroadcast. How did that happen?”
The part-elf glances at Jericho as she settles by his side.
For someone who’s a walking piece of tech, Baldur’s understanding of it is basic at best. After all, he doesn’t even quite know how all his own systems work, much less what all he’s got equipped. It hadn’t been his idea, after all. Things involving military issues are more up his alley. He listens though, his attention now tuned into this development as it seems more palatable than the prospect of more conflicts with Vesper.
“Sounded like, or was it actually morse code?” he asks. He supposes it’s not too unusual a possibility. “So what supposedly happened to the Pumas? The remaining ones? And what’s happened that’s set off all…this?”
Looking down at the device that Stella sets on the table, the cyborg peers at it curiously. “It’s such an innocent looking thing, in’t it?”
“No one knows. Some people debate whether they were even real.” Jericho’s done some research on the topic. “The story comes from the Dark Age. Five valiant knights served the kingdom with five ‘bots of incredible power and slew many enemies. That kind of thing.”
“I don’t know why it’s using Miss Bridger’s image. I have a theory that it has something to do with that piece of scrap right there.” He nods to Stella’s keepsake. “I think I have a way to test it but it’s going to require time and involves some considerable risk. It miiiight be good to have an escort along.” Baldur gets a meaningful look. “Since I plan to broadcast an answer. And I have no idea what’s going to answer.”
“That’s what Grandfather said.” Natsuki says quietly “I wish I listened more closely. Maybe Grandmother will know…” She could visit her Grandmother, couldn’t she?
“Broadcast an answer? I suppose…” she doesn’t sound convinced. “I would rather like to keep it away from our farm lands, if we can. We’re already tight on the harvest this year.” Baldur does get a look for a part-elf “Mister Baldur, we shall require your services, again.”
If he’d heard the story before, then it’s one of the things that have long since filtered out of his already strained memories. It’s kind of exciting to think that there’s something of a legend resurfacing, although it is under uncertain circumstances.
Baldur blinks, glancing from Jericho to Natsuki and back and forth again. “Oh. Um. Yeah! Sure! ‘s what I’m here for, right?” he says, once he picks up on that cue. Maybe not the most reassuring reaction, but he’s sincere in his response.
“That’s why we’re going to do it beyond the border. Hence the wanting Mister Baldur around.” Jericho glances over at the cyborg and then to Stella. “Which we’ll do soon. Miss Bridger I’ll be in contact. Mister Baldur. Miss Taniguchi.” With that he turns and heads back toward the sky cycles to return to his patrol.
Jericho makes some inquiries about a strange code that's been recently transmitted towards the Taniguchi lands.
July 02, 2410