Mia Dunham strolls through Market town, interested in the stalls, and what’s being sold. Apparently she travels ready for the unexpected. She has a tank top and cargo pants, but over that are a lot of pieces that look like body armor. She has a sturdy backpack as well. Likewise she carries a big, heavy-looking pistol on her hip. So it’s probably no surprise that her eye would be drawn to a place like Buy the Bye. From behind is visible a metallic chrome centipede-looking thing stuck to her spine. It bends and twists when she moves.
Sure she’s on a mission, but a girl has to take time to shop. Outside she had been showing the white crystal in her hand to any odd stall merchant she could get the attention of, asking if they could identify it. She’s probably gonna ask whoever’s running this place too, but she hasn’t gotten to it yet, and is just rolling the crystal between her fingers.
Leo stares at the pad of paper set before him on the cafe table, a pencil tapping in a slow idle manner as he ponders whatever it is he’s looking at. He doesn’t do the market, not really, he doesn’t need to. Stalls are for people who’ve not set themselves up yet, don’t have a name to themselves, Leo on the other hand has both a name an a store front… really it’s a converted warehouse and is therefore somewhat massive, but still. That said, you get raw materials and interesting things in the market form time to time and everyone enjoys a lunch break.
He mutters under his breath and sketches a few more things out hesitantly in the leather bound book. Then frowns. Then scribbles something out, “Fuck.” he states plainly in disgust.
The old lady running the stall nearest Mia seems to be peddling a million and a half odd little assorted bits of crystal, gemstones, regular stones, basically mineral deposits of any kind, her stall, a converted and opened wagon, fairly glittering with hanging pendants, bracelets, raw and polished stones, bits of shiny left and right almost blinding in their numbers… if perhaps not their quality.
Not finding the proprietor within, Mia definitely doesn’t want to get accused of something while wandering around inside someone’s place of business. Returning to the stalls of Market Town, she spies the woman with all the dangling jewelry and glances at her work briefly before holding up the crystal between thumb and forefinger. “Scuse me ma’am, you know anybody who knows how to read these?”
The old woman glances up and eyes Mia before turning to spit a wad of brownish liquid into the gutter and reaches up to wipe a bit from her chin with the back of a hand, “Euclid! You useless sack of horse shit!” Leo doesn’t bother looking up from his paper, “I told you I’m not buying any of your bullshit charms you dried up old hag, go piss around with a tourist!” there’s a feeling of regularity between their banter, and the old woman’s lips part showing slightly stained gums and a wad of chew tucked against one. “Go ask ‘im.” she says, jerking her chin at the small behatted man at the cafe table, “He might help ya. Might shoot you too.” she shrugs, “Life’s a risk.”
Seemingly impatient even before the woman began to speak, Mia is doubly in a hurry to finish with her given her grossness. “Great, hi, hey,” Mia says to Leo, in a mix of twitchy-hyper, and enough self-awareness to know she has to manage some level of diplomacy to pull this off.
Her explanation comes out in a stream, “Leo, is it? I’m Mia Dunham, Dunham’s Designs, from Dogwood. Came across this tidbit and figured someone in Vesper would know which end is up. I need to know what you can tell me about this thing.” She takes a breath and takes a shot at smiling at the end.
Leo holds up a gloved finger as he continues to stare at his pad of paper for a long moment after she’s done talking and then his pencil scratches out an intricate arcane glyph based in a sort impossible geometry that makes the eyes slightly crossed to look directly at. Then he slowly turns his head to look up at Mia, his expression bland and bored and oddly boyish, “So you looking for a consult or an expert?” he asks curiously, not yet looking at what she’s carrying so much as her herself.
“Maybe both?” Mia says, frowning at the crystal between her fingers. “I’m not totally sure what this thing is even for. But I heard it’s some kinda magical tech. And I’m more a /tech/ tech person. You know? Although, I thought I might ask Buy the Bye about an upgrade while I’m here. Is the owner ever around?”
Leo quirks a brow, “Both.” he says, repeating her and eyeing for a long moment before sighing and flipping his little book closed and using a foot to kick out the chair across from him at his little cafe table, “Grab some pine and let’s see whacha got.” he says, holding out a gloved hand expectantly. A glance at it without any close scrutiny and he nods, “Basic flawed quartz,” he says, “most likely a storage crystal of some kind, nothing important or two powerful though, the flaws would mean it couldn’t contain power safely. Information?” he says with a shrug, “Maybe a trickle of power from a left over battery. I can take a closer look if you want.” he offers, “Where’s ya get it?” he asks reaching up to tap the side of his bowler hat with a fingertip which apparently causes a series of lenses to drop down from inside it to cover one of his eyes like a telescoping jewelers scope.
Then, almost as an after thought he taps the apron like vest on his chest where a name is burned into the leather right in the center, hard to see amid the soot and grime, ‘Buy The Bye’.
Mia nods at the apron, filing that away, and leans forward to look at the crystal when he studies it, completely interested in his explanation. It might not be her flavor of science, but that doesn’t mean she shies away from new information. “That crystal is property of the Grove family in Dogwood, so I’ll need it back at some point. But they said it would have some data I need to bridge the gap in a project I’m working on for them.”
Sitting down, Mia removes her backpack and draws out a notebook. Setting it flat on the table between them, she flips it open revealing laminated paper pages, the paper of which had been burned before being laminated. The contents of the pages is in code though. “The data is supposed to help me decode this mess.”
Leo is peering into the quartz with his odd ocular device, so maybe it’s just part of the process that causes him to go as still as a corpse as she talks. Maybe it requires a fine eye and a steady hand to see what all it is he’s exactly looking for. He slowly turns his head, eyeing her intently, one of said eyes has grown to MASSIVE proportions behind the lens however, making it hard for him not to look ridiculous. “I’m sorry.” he says calmly. “What did you say?”
With all that magnification, Leo can probably even see the nearly microscopic cybernetic work inside Mia’s iris, opening and closing for fine, close up work. She meets his gaze levelly, and says, “I’m working on a project to decode this,” she repeats, tapping the open pages between the two of them. “It was damaged in a fire, I’m told.”
The fingers of one hand drum lightly on the table top as he peer into her eyes, his gaze darting back and forth from one to the other and for a breath of time there’s a tension of imminent violence in the air, that sort of feeling one might get before they’re attacked… Except he’s a tiny little scientist man covered in soot and utterly ridiculous looking. “A fire.” he says before his expression cracks into a grin dispelling the entire feeling, he shakes his head slightly, “In a town like Dogwood? I thought they’d long ago found using materials that could be flammable was just not posh enough, somehow beneath them.” his tone pokes a bit of fun at Dogwood with clear underlining hints of true dislike. The two towns clearly do not get along. “Fires and codes for a family named Graves. One might think you have a thing with danger Miss Dunham.” he returns to inspecting the crystal intently.
“Well, I’m not averse to risk, if that’s what you mean,” Mia says. Something about her manner says she picked up on the potential danger, and simply leaned into it with a ‘what will be, will be’ mentality. And the danger itself was not off-putting for her.
“And hey, plenty of us plebeians still live the way we have to. It’s not /all/ rich tits up there, just like I’m pretty sure not /every/one down here is boning demons in their spare time.” She shrugs and grins. “I’m a tech geek. Have been all my life. Now I find out magic is real? I got no problem with that. And no problem with wizards.”
“Honestly, it sounds pretty fucking cool. I just can’t wrap my brain around how you guys work. So I’m hoping we can come to a working arrangement. Maybe something on the regular. You help me. I help you. I run a shop like yours up in Dogwood. Only better.” Mia winks to take the sting out of her joke about the shop. Friendly banter.
“Hey, I’ll try anything twice,” Mia says, leaning back in her cafe chair, and putting her boots up on the unoccupied chair at their table. She nods along with his explanation and doesn’t seem to have any problem processing the concept of an offline storage device. “Yeah, most likely a fire.”
With a patient sigh Mia carefully unclips her holster, but draws the gun slowly, so no one things she’s on the attack. When it’s out and one’s freaking out, she sets it on the table and begins dismantling it. “Leo, I am in town for as long as that takes to defragment. I can pay for your time, and if you let me I’d like to help out. But I don’t want to get in your way either. I just enjoy a good puzzle.”
It’s Vesper, no one begrudges a weapon… drawn or otherwise so long as it’s not shooting. It’s hard to police that sort of thing when a significant portion of your population can shoot fireballs from wriggly fingertips and bolts of lightning from-well, whatever the hell they used to case the spell really. “You want help with that too?” he asks, nodding nonchalantly at the collection of laminated burnt pages she showed him earlier, “Anything Dogwood’s into, I’m into. If they’re making improvements on things then I wanna crack at making better ones. Got a reputation to maintain. Could be we’re mutually beneficial?”
“Well now you’re talking,” Mia says, brightening up. The gun is dismantled without much attention on her part, but it does receive her care. Each piece is set out and organized just so, neat and tidy, everything in its place, and a place for every thing. “Mutual benefit is exactly what I was getting at,” she says with a grin.
“Solving the puzzle is what’s important. I’ve never said no to having an assis- having some assistance,” she says, correcting herself. She’s not back in her old lab. She’s not famous. She doesn’t have interns lined up out the door, begging for a shot to work with her. She sticks her hand out across the table and asks, “We got a deal?”
Leo’s smirk remains firmly in place as she speaks and he reaches out with his left hand to shake her hand in a reverse like grip that he makes look natural no matter how awkward it feels. A single firm shake and he releases hers, “We got a deal so long as you don’t let anyone else take a crack this until I’ve exhausted my chances.” he lets the white crystal roll across his palm idly, “And we’ll see what we can figure out in my lab say…” he glances up at the sky judging time, “Tomorrow?”
“That’s perfect,” Mia says with a satisfied grin. She looks like she just won a contest for something, but it’s not clear what that was. After the handshake she just needs a few seconds to reassemble the firearm she brought. Her movements are quick, precise and confident, until she finally holsters the weapon again.
Standing up, Mia says, “I’ll come by after breakfast.”
Leo nods his head at that, watching her reassemble the weapon with competent motions, “Done and done.” he says, watching her stand. He holds the crystal up between his thumb and forefinger, “Don’t forget your bauble,” he says, handing it back to her with a slow careful motion as if suddenly afraid it might break, “and don’t forget it tomorrow.” he offers another grin, “Have a good one.” and then uses a gloved fingertip to touch the brim of his bowler in good bye.
As Mia makes her leave and disappears into the crowd he counts to 100 before letting a long slow breath escapse his lips, iron bands that seem to have been squeezing his lungs slowly loosening. “I know I know.” he hisses under his breath to no one as his fingers curl into fists so tight the leather that covers them groans in protest. “No!” he whispers harshly to thin air, “We don’t kill her.” pause. “Because she could be useful! There is to much we don’t know, to much /I/ don’t know. She could be an agent, a patsy, this could all be kismet or karmic punishment. To many unknowns all around, to many questions, no source of answers save the woman. So… we don’t kill her. Not yet.” his shirt near the forearm seems to darken of it’s own accord and a wisp of smoke rises from it. He clamps a gloved hand down on the cloth, “Stopit!” another hiss, “I need a clear mind and you’re not helping! I need to cool down, I have to /think/.” he stands up suddenly from his table and tosses down a few coins without looking at their total before turning to go and heading up the street away from the Market and towards his own shop/lab at the edge of Glowtown, his expression troubled. “Maybe this is my chance…” he vanishes into the crowd speaking in nonsensical half statements and muttering to himself. Not all that unusual a thing in Vesper, and even less unusual for the notoriously eccentric weaponsmith.
Mia, seeking help discovering the secrets of a damaged crystal, finds herself unintentionally working with Vesper's most notoriously unbalanced weaponsmith.
December 02, 2409