A week or so ago something //happened// in Richmond. The Vesper army moved in and shortly there after it decamped from it’s position near the Dogwood border and disperesed back to civillian life. While this has left a lot of questions on the Dogwood side of the James River, it has considerable eased tensions. The powers that be in the Transporters guild have lifted the ‘shelter in place’ edict and resumed normal operations.
This is good news. Nearly as good news as the release of Guild House Dacia’s new ‘Sandero’ hovercar. And at a Guild Stopover in a hidden little valley in the Western side of Dogwood, there’s a celebration on.
Jacob Vale is in the middle of having a stiff drink. “You have to admit, mates, that Sandero’s pretty good looking.” Presently it’s being raced. Well a trio fo them are anyway, around an improvised race track. Something that always happens whenever you combine ego with engines. Which is the definition of a guild stopover.Stella has never before had such mixed feelings about having a ‘shelter in place’ edict lifted. Every time before, it was a sensation of relief and the desire to put the place she’d been tied to in the rear view mirror as quickly as possible. This time… well, she wanted that like every time before, but at the same time she couldn’t help but have this nagging doubt that it’d solve her problems with those damned driverless pumas robot things. In fact, she was pretty damned sure it would only make matters worse.
Is that why the cyborg came with her?
Seated within earshot of Jacob but not at the same table, Bridge takes a small, measured swallow of her own drink. That nagging doubt just won’t go away. And she’s learning to hate it.
Even Baldur needs a break from dawdling about the Taniguchi holdings. If he had things his way, he wouldn’t leave unless he had specific orders, and even though Natsuki’s stalker problems had been taken care of, the cyborg still took his duties as her perhaps unofficial bodyguard quite seriously. In fact, the only reason he’s here now is probably because it //was// an order. Well, at least Stella’s company is one he doesn’t mind, and he’d heard something about racing? Blame Natsuki for his growing love of speeding vehicles.
News about tensions between Vesper and Dogwood lessening have certainly made him feel better overall, at least. Things had just been too close to another war, and that had not been something Baldur had looked forward to. He knows how terrible the last one was. That’s a point far from his mind as can be, at the moment, as he sits there but a seat removed from Stella. He’s holding an empty mug that matches none of the ones here. Brought it himself. He doesn’t feel left out, this way.
Orange optics watch the track and the odd vehicle speeding along it. “Ever drive one of those, Bridge?” he asks idly, going through the motions of taking a swig of his imaginary drink.
“Yes.” says the floppy eared spaniel who’s standing at the end of the table, looking at Vale “I keep telling you the, Sandero is the best car of our era and it looks good to boot.” He’s wearing a rather loud, geometrically patterned shirt and green cardigan and taupe baggy trousers. It … looks like he got dressed in the dark.
There’s a whuffling sound as he looks out to the track “Think Clark is going to finish this race, in one piece, Bridge?” Yes he’s noticed the Transporter sitting over there with her shiny friend. “What do you know about the woman driving one of the others? Hear she’s a bit of speed demon and terrifies most of her passengers.”
Crunch. There’s a couple of the cars coming together. Not hard but enough to trade some paint. Over a radio in front of Jacob and the spaniel there’s a loud ‘Bloody hell! Maniac!”
One piece? Maybe. There’s a few laps left in the race. Unfortunately one of the racers is maked, white clad mystery driver called ‘The Stinger’.
Jacob snorts. “Whos the boyfriend, Bridge?” He gestures to Baldur. It’s a tease, but it’s also Vale prying a bit on why Baldur is so frequently seen in her company.
“One piece, yes. But I wouldn’t put money down on the car he’s driving,” Bridge replies to Barnabas in the garish outfit. One of the reasons she’s not out there racing herself is the presence of The Stinger. She knows better than to even try to race with that Transporter around, so she doesn’t. And on top of that, she can’t be sure her Dogwood history wouldn’t come out if she did. While some Transporters — like Jacob, Barnabas, and Clark — couldn’t care less about her past, there are others that would likely raise a big stink about it, and she really don’t want to deal with that.
At Vale’s indelicate question she snorts back in clear mockery of the shorter man. Yes, she’s taller than Jacob. “He’s my beard, Vale. Better than battery powered toys.” Maybe that’ll shut the annoying little man up for at least, oh, thirty seconds or so.
“Ooh!” the cyborg winces, watching the race in morbid fascination. It’s hard to tell if he’s really bothered by the close call or if the near collision had just upped his interest.
Only half listening to the transporters around them and their comments, he does happen to look over just as Jacob makes his inquiry of him. His jaw opens, but Stella’s got an answer for the guy which has him shut it again with a faint *tink* of metal.
There’s a very feminine chuckle through the radio accompanied by “So I’ve been told … you should ask my passengers sometime.” Clarks car might not get through in one piece but neither might the womans. Not that she sounds all that worried. The engine roars, as much as a fusion engine can roar, and the car heads into a slide round the next corner, hot on the tail of Clark and then drawing parallel to his left, edging him out just a little as the cars make their exit. She might not hold that advantage, but she’s plucky and reckless.
Well behind the Stinger. Well maybe. Maybe they’ve been lapped already.
“Oy. That’s not very nice, Vale…” The spaniel opines and whuffles again as Stella answers, his jaw dropping open adding to the already confused look he has. “Uhhh. Hi. I’m Barnabas … ” the ill dressed D-Bee says “I suppose you’re pleased the ‘shelter in place’ has been lifted Bridge? You always have so much work.”
There’s another whuffle and barely audible “… better than battery powered toys. Gotta remember that.”
“That’s a pretty big beard Bridger. Are you compensating for something?” Leave it to the irritating little Vale – lover of sports-hovercars – to have a comeback even for that. Of course at some point Baldur may just tell him to shut up. And then he might. One does not argue with a full conversion cyborg.
Unless you’re in, like, an assault bot or something.
There’s a small commotion at the front of the bar/race track observation post. It looks like several Guild Trent CorSec soldiers have come in. Their weapons are at least slung and not pointed but it’s getting a lot of looks.
Clark lets out an audible growl on the radio and goes for a very, very risky cut in on one of the Dacias which will either wind him up with an overtake… or a spinout. Coinflip with Clark which it is.
“No,” Bridge quips back at Vale before taking another sip of her drink. “He just takes up less room in my truck than the toys did. And he’s useful in a fight.” Do you really want to keep this banter up, Jacob? She can snark until the race is over if need be. But inwardly, she’s hoping that Baldur will speak up for himself and maybe say something even more scandalous to shut them up.
The arrival of the Guild Trent soldiers most decidedly catches her attention, but she makes a point of NOT reacting visibly. Either she doesn’t want them to notice her, or she doesn’t want to tip off that she might recognize one or two of them. It’s kind of a tossup at the moment, even in her own mind.
If Baldur still had flesh and blood, he’d probably be blushing something fierce right now. He fakes a cough, chuckling dryly as his optics flick between those seated around them. “Methinks Vale might be jealous is all,” he says, twirling the empty mug around a finger. “Name’s Baldur, by th’ way. Now, what say we all enjoy the rest of this race, hm?”
Even as he looks back in that direction, it’s the appearance of the familiar Corsec soldiers that draws his attention. The cyborg tilts his head, curious.
Barnabas whuffles again and if it’s possible, flushes under his peach coloured fur. It’s an interesting effect it has on the Spaniel. “Oh come on, Bridge. You’ll give a bloke a complex. Have a heart…” At least he rallies as he clips Vale up the back of his head. “Be.Nice.Vale.” beat “Pleased to meet you Baldur. Are you car fan?” Yeah, he’s trying to change the subject.
Clarks chuckle doesn’t get a corresponding response from the other Dacia and for a moment, it looks like Clarks Dacia is going to clip it. It certainly doesn’t look the driver is going to yield as the little hover car surges forward and then slows abruptly, tipping up onto its nose – giving the impression its going to flip … before settling and speeding up again.
Clark has the line again and she’s lost valuable ground in avoiding him. “Do you really want to play dirty?” comes the challenge.
Out from the middle of the group of soldiers comes the familiar figure of Jericho Trent. He’s got a pistol and a vibro sword belted at his side and otherwise looks like he’s been out and about. He motions to his people who universally go to get a drink. Drinks appear to be popular at this point in time.
Between the arriving soldiers and Baldur and Barnabas, Vale does quiet down and pay a bit more attention to his drink.
“Dirty is the only way to play. POWAAAAAAAAAAAH!” Clark stamps on the throttle and shoots himself forward, but the rear end of that hover gets a bit squirrley when he does and that is going to chost him some speed.
Jericho makes his way over to Stella and Baldur and company, tugging off gloves as he does. “That’s the new Dacia Sandero, isn’t it. Gods those things are fast. Hello Bridger. Baldur. Taking in the sights are we?”
Stella offers Barnabas a slight nod in thanks for trying to get his companion to shut the hell up already, even if it was the arrival of the CorSec soldiers that finally did the truck. At least he was trying to change the subject.
And, well, so much for seeming anonymous. Bridge looks up at Trent when he approaches and says hello. “It is. Fast, yes, but unstable at really high speeds unless you plan on going in a straight line forever. Sometimes not even then.” As Clark just demonstrated. She gestures slightly to invite Jericho to have a seat.
“Just taking a break before getting another job. Catching up with other Transporters.” Though really, she could have done without Vale’s smart mouth today. She just hopes that Baldur and Barnabas both aren’t permanently traumatized.
Huh, so the factor’s here after all. Baldur gives no indication of noticing, watching just a moment longer before he returns his attention back to the track. He shrugs at Barnabas, taking his time in responding to the question. “Eh, getting there? My employer’s introduced me to ’em.” She’s even teaching him how to drive!
“Whu-oh,” the cyborg comments, watching as the new model begins to fishtail. When Jericho finally makes his presence to them known, Baldur raises his empty mug in something of a salute. “Factor,” he says, nodding. “It’s a nice change of pace, I guess. So what brings you out here?”
“It’s not all about POWAH…” the female voice over the radio should sound familiar. “… it’s how you use what you’ve got…” The little Dacia shoots forward as Clarks car fishtails and catches him into the next corner. This time, the car doesn’t slow, ‘drifting’ as much as a hover car can, edging forward, on the inside line, trying to push Clarks car out. “… sometimes less is more … ”
She might not do it, but the finish line is just up ahead. It’s a gutsy move that might finish them both, given Clarks need to win at all costs.
“Factor Trent.” Barnabas nods to Jericho and shoves another drink at Vale, least he say something more. To Baldur, the Spaniel cants his head “I hope he introduced you to something good. Lots of rubbish out there. Particularly by Guild House Leyland.”
“Leyland makes good heavy haulers. They’re rotten at anything else.” Jericho agrees as he takes a seat next to Vale. His brow quirks at hearing the familiar voice on the radio. Yes, of course she’s here. And racing.
Clark hauls the wheel against the female racer but winds up spinning out at the last moment. He’ll get razzed about that later no doubt as he comes to a rest about ten feet short of the finish line.
“The Sander might have let him down there.” Vale observs.
“Mmm.” Jericho grunts. “In answer to your question though, I’m here to hire.”
Stella looks at Trent at his mention of hiring but doesn’t get that alert expression and posture that she’s seen Barnabas adopt so many times at the mention of a job. She figures the Factor has seen quite enough of her lately and is looking to hire someone else for a change. It’s not good to work for the same client too often anway. It starts to smack of exclusivity, and there are clauses in the Transporter code discouraging that.
She takes another small sip of her drink and waits to see how the others react to Trent’s offer.
Baldur hehs at Barnabas. “I’m still new at this. Names’re beyond me. The one I’ve rid in ain’t no hauler though.” He seems to perk up a bit as he hears the radio chatter, his optics once again glancing towards the track as the race looks to be drawing to an end.
“Hoo, that was a show!” Well, at least someone’s impressed. He’s never got to watch a race from start to finish before, give him a break. Smoothly tipping his mug up as though to take a drink like any other person here, he looks at Jericho as the Factor speaks of his business here. “Huh, that right.”
The little Dacia is hit as Clark hauls the wheel, it starts to spin but the driver manages to save it – loosing valuable speed in the process. As the car settles again, she stomps the accelerator and darts over the finish line, pulling to a stop in the right area. “Like I said, size doesn’t matter. It’s what you do with it.” she taunts.
Of course, the Stinger is already there, standing with his arms folded just looking at the other cars.
After a moment, the drivers door opens and the driver slides on out, removing her helmet as she straightens – revealing slightly pointed ears attached to an asiatic woman.
Natsuki Taniguchi. Of course she was racing. She’s been eyeing the Dacia for a while.
When she joins the group, she’s smiling broadly and her eyes are bright. She clearly enjoyed that. “Mister Trent, I hadn’t expected to see you here today.”
“I’m here to hire your audience away, I’m afraid.” Jericho says to Natsuki. “Convoy duty. I’ve got some trade routes that I need staffed to outlier settlements. Need drivers and trucks. Weapons are preferable. We’ll have CorSec escorts.” Ah, that makes sense. Now that the potential for war is over Jericho intends to make as much use of the Guild as he can while he brings his own resources online.
Of course Stella and Baldur will probably still be going with him on a different expedition, so there’s that as well.
Bridge looks completely unsurprised at seeing that the female driver turns out to be Natsuki. Maybe she knew the whole time? Tough to say. She merely looks at Trent as he explains what he’s wanting to hire for, then glances over toward Barnabas and Vale to see if they’re looking interested. She hopes so. That’s exactly the kind of run that they would have a difficult time screwing up. Of course, Clark goes along that possibility increases considerably, but not so much that the routes would be compromised. They’re nothing if not professional Transporters, despite being pikeys from time to time.
“I can take a route if you need, Trent, but…” But she suspects he’ll want her on a different job. One involving self-piloting robots.
“You’re gonna teach me to drive like that, right?” Baldur asks Natsuki, hoisting his empty mug by way of greeting. Well, that might answer a few things in regards to who’s got him interested in cars. Lowering his mug again, he gives a shrug as he looks in Jericho’s direction. “At least he waited until the race was done.”
He wonders if any of Stella’s friends will take for the offer the Factor proposes. Hopefully they don’t think Stell’s trying to get off the hook with her vague response, but they //did// have other things to see to. Giant robo-pumas to punch in the nose, that sorta thing.
“Not my audience, Jericho…” Natsuki smirks at the Factor but raises her brows at his words. “I see. It’s a good idea and we’ll need more if my route with Vos works out. Hello Miss Bridger.” beat “I //am// teaching you to drive like that, Baldur. It’s the only way I know how to drive. I’m glad you liked it. It’s a pity I just bought a new car, the Dacia is a nice little ride.” Stella gets a look from the part-elf “We’ll be needing you for that other job we discussed, Miss Bridger.”
It’s possible that others have heard the rumours about her and the Factors father, that they appear to be a ‘serious item’. Yet, here she is, flirting with Jericho and calling him by name.
She smiles at Vale and Barnabos. “Don’t be too hard on your friend. I just got him to … overextend himself…” she grins a little and glances over to the other Dacia.
Barnabas colours under his fur again and whuffles a little before focussing on Jericho “Work? Convoys? Count me in, Factor Trent. I can supply references if you want.” What type of references the Spaniel could produce might be questionable.
“References won’t be necessary. Your guild membership is reference enough.” Jericho raises his voice a little. “Anyone wishing to hire on with Guild House Trent can contact us at our factory on Taniguchi lands. Pay’s good. Work will be steady. Danger will be… present. The routes are outside dogwood borders.”
The factor glances at Natsuki. Other than that, the drinks are what he came for. A short break in the patrol pattern.
Stella nods to Natsuki, as that ‘other job’ is exactly what she was expecting to hear. Good to know they didn’t leave her sounding like she didn’t want a job. That also doesn’t go over well. It either means that taking jobs from House Trent have negative connotations, or that Stella herself has a problem with the House. Neither of which is true, of course.
When Barnabas offers to take a route with Jericho, she gives the Factor a very small nod. The Spaniel might have strange taste in compatriots (just like he does in clothes), but he’s a steady and reliable Transporter when on the job. And really, that’s what matters.
Baldur simply grins, somehow, at Natsuki’s response. Look Jericho, someone who actually //enjoys// Natsu’s driving! Maybe it’s because he hasn’t had that much experience with anyone else’s driving to figure that such speeds are probably not the most optimal for some people. That and he just thinks it’s fun. Hurtling around a track at breakneck speeds? Oh yeah. THRILLING.
He pushes around his empty mug as the conversation about the transporter job resumes. Well, at least it seems like Jericho will have his volunteers.
“I do believe the Factor is asking me to have a drink with him…” Natsuki is rather incorrigible and she’s on a bit of a high after that drive. Baldur’s grin gets returned, as the part-elf moves to Jericho side “The Dacia’s down there, Baldur, perhaps the Stinger will take you for a spin and give you some lessons.” The strange helmeted being seems to do that and Natsu has no doubt that he’ll drive fast enough to impress the Cyborg.
“Shall we then, Jericho?” At least today, Natsu’s up to her old tricks.