Even in the deepest part of winter Gran’s has to have regular deliveries of food supplies for their customers. And, being one of the most respected establishments in Vesper, it’s in the best interest of the Transporters Guild to make sure the place gets their food orders delivered on time. For the past few years at least, that task has been Stella Bridger’s responsibility, and it’s one she doesn’t shirk. The ‘hold in place’ order a few months back honestly rankled, and now that they’re free to move again, she’s making damned sure that Gran’s produce deliveries arrive when they’re supposed to.
It’s mid-morning and the bitter chill that settled in overnight has finally started to lift. A great beast of a black pickup truck with a covered bed pulls in around the backside of Gran’s, where the main kitchen doors can be found. Putting the truck into park, Stella looks around before pushing her door open and stepping out onto the mostly slushy ground.
The closer they’d gotten to Vesper, the quiet and more sullen Stella’s passenger had gotten. He’s never been to the city, and despite how many years has passed between the last great conflict between it and Dogwood, for someone like Baldur, it’s not something so easily forgotten.
It takes a moment before he opens the door of his side and gets out, heavy, booted feet landing on the melty snow. From head to toe there’s nothing unusual about him. He’s dressed in regular outdoor gear and leathers of the armor variety. He’s even got a long duster on, brown and beaten that it might have had a previous owner, with definite weight to it as it flaps heavily only with the most obvious movements. A broad-brimmed hat covers his head.
It’s his face that’s the unusual thing, if one gets past the glowing orange of his eyes. His face is metal in its entirety, and it goes well beyond the neck.
Those orange optics sweep his surroundings before he nudges the door of the truck closed and steps around, closer to where Stella is.
Jeshua is in the kitchen doing what she does best there: dishes. She’s still not reliable for anything more than chopping or peeling, or carting things from here to there. If it’s a pot of soup that needs stirring, she’s your girl.. unless she gets distracted. Let’s face it, stirring soup is boring, and well, bubbling away like that, it kinda looks like it’s already stirring itself? It’s just simpler if she’s more closely supervised, or.. does dishes.
So dishes it is.
Until the truck pulls up. That she’s also good at: helping unload. Wiping her hands off on her pants, Jesh calls out, “Delivery’s here.” Though it’s always a crapshoot if others are around. And really, she’s not yelling it. It’s a break in the routine of sudsy water or wiping tables. Hands dried, she makes to the door, to help rig it open for the awaiting delivery.
It’s cold in Vesper now, Winter’s grip can certainly be felt and this morning, Gran’s is full. There’s a number of patrons who look worse for wear, but that’s as much because of last nights festivities as anything. Over in the corner there’s a serpent link D-Bee whose forked tongue flickers out towards a bubbling green concoction on the table, there’s stream rolling from the mug. Well, it looks like steam. A quick glance around the dining room reveals more of the patrons with the drink and the elder McClennan delivering more to tables.
Gran’s patented hangover cure. Some might say the cure is worse than the symptons – but only until the symptons are gone.
As Stella arrives, so does a tall, stern looking, blonde with giant grey/black wings furled tightly against her back. She’s not in her gleaming silver armour at the moment, just leggings, a tunic and a long, warm, jacket. She looks worn and tired and she’s talking to a Centaur in a Justicar’s uniform, the looks on their faces says they’re discussing something serious. “I know the incidents are increasing, Lieutenant.” comes the blondes words “But since our last raid, I we haven’t found much.”
“Hello Stella,” the blonde answers as the woman exits the cab. Her eyes light on the shiny, clothes wearing robot “Who’s your friend?”
When you’ve been making your living as a temp worker with an expected on-the-job expectancy of anywhere from a few shifts to a few weeks, you’re doing all sorts of things. A room at Gran’s Tion might technically have, but he’s been all over Vesper, Dogwood, and even in the outlying agencies to do the Job Of The Day so he hasn’t actually taken up Slaine’s offer from the other day.
It’s bitterly cold day, colder than even the deepest parts of the underground caverns that Tion is used to. Fortunately, he has on more clothes now than some hides and a loincloth, so it’s just a mild inconvenience. Still he’d like to warm up, especially since he and the rest of the crew just got laid off on a previous delivery to Grans with another truck and another firm. Instead of taking the insulting company ride back to the agency HQ, he’s just going to stay here.
The four-armed dark elf watches the robot and the winged-woman enter the tavern with wan interest, more interested in this cup of tea, until the keywords ‘incident’, ‘increasing’, and ‘raid’ catch his attention. He doesn’t show it on his face, but they have his undivided attention.
Stella nods to Baldur, then watches as Jeshua props open the kitchen doors before turning to start helping with the unloading. She looks at the winged woman and the centaur for a moment before nodding a hello to them as well. “Ardul, Baldur.” She looks at the robot-faced man then. “Baldur, Ardul and one of Vesper’s most respected Justicars.” Not exactly the most subtle way to admit that she doesn’t know or remember the centaur’s name, but she’s never really been known for having prim and proper manners anyway.
Unzipping the waist-length jacket she’s wearing to fend off the winter chill, she steps around to open the tailgate of the truck, revealing a smaller than usual delivery that’s at least half citrus fruit.
Doesn’t seem like there’s much more to be said. Baldur glances over at the girl that opens up the doors for them, giving her a nod before he looks towards the person that Stella addresses. The glow of his optics flicker but the winged woman doesn’t strike him as anyone familiar. The encounter across the river had been yet at some distance and a good while ago that any finer details he might’ve gleaned haven’t quite stuck in his memory.
“Hey,” he says tersely by way of greeting, turning to follow Stella to start with unloading. He’ll pick up a crate with ease and step inside with it. “Where you want these, ma’am?”
Jeshua is pretty sure she’s not the ma’am in question, but still, it’s amusing. Even if it’s coming from a robot. It takes all kinds, right? But the order is pretty sparse looking, and that’s got the girl crinkling up her nose at it. It’s not really her problem, but still, it’s not likely to make anyone happy. Though the fruit looks nice.
“Baldur,” she repeats, tagging the name into her brain. Pointing over towards a cleared space where the orders usually go until itemized and put away. “You can put the stuff there.”
Really, she should be shivering in the cold, with the door open like that, but that’s just one of the peculiarities about her, she just doesn’t seem to notice the cold quite as much as other people do. “Can I get anyone anything for after it’s all unloaded?”
A waft of citrus and sugar enters Tion’s nose even from across the room, and his mood immediately picks up. Is that fruit? Ooo, if that’s going to the establishment, he’s going to try to buy some, Tion thinks. Of course, Tion has only been on RIFTS Earth during the winter months, so is unaware just how abundant fruit is in the new era.
And there’s that name again. Justicar. He’s inherently wary of state security forces despite his title, but he’s heard nothing but good things about them for a change. Not even a ‘they do more good than evil’, just straight-up good. His attention goes fully to Ardul now.
“Baldur. Ardul Trasinger and this is Leuitenant Otmin.” Ardul says, inclining her head towards the Centaur nods, grunting his greeting and bending a look on the blonde. “I’ll leave it in your hands then but we need to get it sorted and soon.”
The stern blonde just nods and reaches for one of the crates, hefting it with almost as much ease as the android, turning to take the items into the kitchen before taking her ease. “A mug of klah, if you will Jeshua.” the winged woman answers “And whatever Gran has for a lunch special. I’ll be rolling out again this afternoon. Another patrol.” Maybe with her Wolfen companion.
Crossing the street is a small otter-like D-Bee, it’s scurrying to and fro. When it see’s the assembled group, particularly the blonde and the centaur it cringes and literally rolls into a ball, chittering pitifully and trembling.
Her introduction duties complete (in her own mind, anyway), Stella hefts a crate of oranges alongside Baldur and Ardul. With their help the truck is empty in just the one trip. She locks the vehicle and moves to join the others inside, but the otter-like D-Bee catches her attention and she turns to go check on the small individual. It’s probably not a good idea to curl up outside, especially not if it’s in the middle of the walkway.
If the otter-like being doesn’t respond to her presence, she’ll pick up the trembling ball of otter and set it gently on the entry stoop of Gran’s where it’ll at least be sheltered and out of the way. Then she finally follows the others into the dining room and pulls the gloves off of her hands, looking to Otmin and Ardul silently.
He’s just trying to be polite. It’s the least he can do, being around here. The whole place just sets him on edge and he’s not entirely sure that it’s merely because of what happened over seventy years ago. No, it’s something else, a feeling that’s crawled under his metal plating and he doesn’t like it all one bit.
“Erm, yeah. Got it,” he says, nodding at Jeshua as he realizes she’s directed him to a place, and he goes to set down the crate before turning to be out of Ardul’s way. He looks out towards what seems to be the common area of the…what is this? An inn? Looks like it might be a tavern-inn or something. There’s a brief look towards the dark elf who’s come by by the doorway. Wow, you come make a delivery and the whole town’s out to see it? But then he’s heard that grown goods aren’t very common out this way. Otherwise Stella wouldn’t be making runs like these. Not that he’s here solely for that reason either.
Jeshua has been where Tion is – the whole wary of state security. She’s still not over her fear of those in authority, but she’s come to accept some small few as safe, and Ardul fits into that category. Enough that the girl isn’t jumpy around the Justicar any longer. “Klah,” she repeats, and offers, “There’s a stew? Think it used to be a bird.” Which is to say that Jeshua didn’t pay that much attention when it was being made, or when she was told what the special was on this cold, blustery winter day.
Perfect food for warming up, and filling empty bellies. And even better for using up wrinkly vegetables – nobody cares what they look like when they’ve been simmering in a pot of delicious broth that’s been thickened up.
The delivery in and safe, Jesh lets someone else tend to unstoppering the door, and does a quick mental tally of heads to get the number of mugs and bowls she’s going to need. There are a lot of them by her reckoning.
Tion can’t help but feel a little frustrated that Ardul and the centaur were apparently talking about the incident as a passing remark. If it is an ongoing concern, looks like they’re not going to be sharing that information. So, the secondmost thing on his mind.
Turning his tea mug over on the saucer to indicate he’s finished, he heads up to Jeshua and Baldur and gives them a nod. “Good afternoon to you. I see you are with… the Transportation Guild? I’m not quite up to date on the employment laws, but, I am wondering if you or your organization has work… I’d like something a bit more steady.:
As Stella goes to pick up the Otter it skitters around, trembling and chittering as it does. It takes her a bit to actually the poor thing and when she does, it looks at her with big liquid eyes. It’s incoherent with fear. All around her can tell that.
Otmin gives Ardul a look and collects the poor thing. “Another one for the Restorium, Ardul. This is getting out of hand.”
Tion might be frustrated that the blonde and centaur are talking about this out of hand, but he’s likely heard of the spate of illnesses that has been hitting some of the local D-Bee communities. There’s been whispers around town about communities that rage out, some of the occupants ending up in the restorium.
Ardul just nods and lets out a sigh. “We’re going back out this afternoon. We’ll find something.” she answers before turning her attention to the others.
A young man, dressed in strangely light clothing for this chill jogs up to the main entrance of Grans, his breath fogging out in a white cloud. It seems he’s fighting the cold with exercise, semi-successfully. Unaware of the goings on of those working on the delivery at the back entrance of Grans, he steps inside, and begins looking around for where he might get either warm, or a quick meal. Preferably both.
The dark elf’s attention shifts from Jeshu and Baldur to Ardul’s. “Wait, ma’am, before you leave… what have you found so far?”
Stella regards the two as they sound like they know what’s going on with the otter. But, she doesn’t ask as she’s got enough going on lately with what she’s been roped into over in Taniguchi lands. Also because another person in the room asked the question on her mind before she could. She glances over at the man who asked, then steps out of the way to let Ardul answer him while she sees what Baldur’s up to.
Knowing that the full-body cyborg likely finds Vesper unsettling and seeing him standing there are not the same, so she tugs on his coat sleeve to make him sit down already. “Are you able to process organic fuel sources?” she asks him in a very low, near-whisper.
Overwhelmed, much? Baldur is, although it’s just him being super on edge. He’s in unfamiliar territory and there’s magic all around in some form or another, and he’s not sure how he knows, only that he knows, and it’s not setting him at ease one bit. Not that he can take personal fault for that.
He looks awkwardly at Tion, wondering why the guy’s talking to him before he actually processes the question and shakes his head. “Oh naw, me, I’m just bummin’ a ride with her,” he says as he jerks his head at Stella. Which is more or less true, aside from being additional security, not that he thinks Stella needs it.
He’s tugged over by Stella with something of a start, his arm jerking back in reflex, but after a blink or two he settles into an empty chair, his weight setting it to creak. “Nope. Eh, don’t worry about me. Just get me an empty mug, but if they won’t give us one, I’ve got my own.”
Jeshua lines up mugs and bowls, but is certain to get Ardul and the centaur theirs first, a mug with a lid for the klah, and a similar mug without a lid, of stew, a spoon stuck in. “Just bring them back when you can?”
The rest she lines up and sets out in the common area for the others to have at as they will.
Tion nods at both Stella and Baldur as they go down to sit somewhere else and talk, inwardly cursing himself at following the dictates of an advertisement so easy. That darn newspaper made it seem like all you had to do to get a proper job was march up to the person in charge, give a gamely smile, and ask. … oh, well, if it wasn’t that easy in his world why should it be, here?
His thoughts go back to the various outbreaks hitting the communities. He’s… not part of them, as even the elves and dark elves who made it here act very differently from his own people. But all the same, it is a concern, even if there’s no conscious cause behind them. Prayer with the Shadow Dragon hasn’t really illuminated things; it’s either a curse or targeted infection judging by its spread. If only he had a lead…
“What we know…” Ardul starts to Braed as the Centaur heads off. “Is that remote communities of D-Bee’s are being infected with some form of nanites designed to ‘control’ the creature when they’re activated.” The stern look on her face, gets sterner if possible “They’re a variant of a defunct project from my world of many years ago. A project I thought had been abandoned and the science teams disbanded. But they’re here and they’ve been modified with Wolfen tech.”
“According to Doctor Felipe Corazon at the Restorium, it seems that discrete communities of D-Bee’s, normally those who have a high ‘prey’ instinct, are affected. Some communities are wiped out though some survive.” The blonde shakes her head “I’m a soldier, not a doctor, so I’m not sure of the exact details. Perhaps you could seek the Doctor out and speak to him about those details.” Her? She’s going hunting to see whether she can trace the source of the infections.
Taking the mugs that Jeshua sets out, the blonde regards the woman “Have you given any more thought to the training I offered?” She really is all soldier. Stern, disciplined … but not unkind.
Gran bustles up as Stella and Baldur sits “Thank ye, Miss Bridger, Mister Baldur for delivering the goods. We missed ye while ye were gone. Harvest looks like it was light this time….”
With a nod to Baldur, Stella goes to claim a mug and bowl for herself. As she does so, she stops by Jeshua. “Could I get an empty mug, please?” Then she’s back just as Gran approaches, and she nods to the innkeeper. “I got as much as the budget allowed.” She probably fenagled a bit more, even, but she won’t admit to that aloud. “Early frost made the carrot yield a bit thin. I tried for as much greenhouse as I could, but price point’s much higher.” Oh, and also, “Gran, this is Baldur. He’s been riding with me for a bit here.” And that reminds her of the question that Tion tossed out a bit ago and she missed answering because of the deal with the otter D-Bee.
“Hey, you said something about wanting work in the Guild?” she asks toward the dark elf.
Eventually, Braed manages to find his way to a seat in the dining room, with a meal on the table in front of him. He quickly begins to dig in, not a part of the various conversations either here or in the kitchen area. Tion, however, gets a look of recognition and he offers a slight wave to the mutant elf.
Tion is lost in thought as he tries to figure out a way to continue his investigation after Ardul dropped those juicy tidbits. Without an organization and only a motive and target and method… well, that’s usually way more than he usually gets, so there’s no point in whining. “Guess I’ll just have to do the usual; work my way up the criminal food chain.” he muses in a tone louder than he meant. Mid-level thugs have a way of keeping tabs on the others, even those in rival organizations.
Braed gets a polite nod at the brief recognition, though Stella re-opening the previous topic catches his attention. “I did indeed.” Hopefully the available job will not require piloting a vehicle and it’ll just be manual labor. Anyone can move boxes or take inventory… but driving? A mere carriage was a once-a-year sight in his homework. Please don’t say driving. “Something that will get me out and about the various urban areas.” Tion is amazed at how readily some of the larger organizations let in licensed truck drivers… and their cargo. Definitely a great way to get ‘in’, even if it means abusing the trust of his employers somewhat.
An empty mug? Sure. Jesh can do that. She’s quick to fetch an empty one for Stella without asking why, though she does look puzzled. And, of course there’s still the dishes to tend to. But she’s more wont to trot after Ardul right this second, wanting to ask a few questions about some training. The dishes will still be waiting when she gets back. It shouldn’t take too long, right? Right? There’ll just be more of them.
Baldur’s only half-listening to the chatter, telling himself inwardly that it’s just a tavern like anywhere else. Nicer than anywhere else, even, he can tell that much. He might even say it’s warm and cozy, but that doesn’t make him feel any more or less at ease even as he forces himself to sit looking not nearly so uptight.
There’s a nod at Gran as the old woman comes over, and he even manages to tip his hat a bit once Stella introduces him. “Gran, like the place. This all your’s?” he asks.
When Jeshua comes back with the empty mug, Baldur offers her a thanks as he takes it. There, something to hold. Now he feels a tiny bit better.
Braed finishes off his meal quickly, then leans back in his seat with a satisfied sigh. Its not long before he is rubbing his arms, however-even in the relatively warm Gran’s, he isn’t exactly dressed for winter, and the warmth of exercise is long gone. He seems likely to get up and start moving soon, though Baldur gets his attention briefly. A bit odd to see something quite so technologically advanced in Vesper, though odd is relative, growing up here.
He pushes himself up off of the table, then moves over to where Tion sits, breaking into the conversation with a bit of an apologetic look. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught your name, but you seemed to know Slaine last night, or her friends, I think. Do you know how I’d get in contact? The Satyr has stabilized, but we don’t have the expertise to cure him of the homunculous.”
Braed gets both a sideways glance, then Tion’s full attention, then a standing up to give him a neck bow. “It’s Tion. And I know her only in passing. I do know that she comes here very frequently, so if you stick around it should only be a matter of time.”
Stella watches Baldur and is glad to see that he’s settled a bit with his empty mug. For her own part, she starts in on the stew, because it’s good. Also, it gives the elf and the tall young man a chance to catch up or whatever.
“Remember what’s next on our docket, Baldur?” She knows, but she’s checking to see if he’s been keeping track as well.
As though it would do any good, Baldur tugs his hat down a bit more over his face. Times like this he wishes he’d kept his hood, but then he couldn’t wear both that and the nice hat Natsuki got him. Or maybe he could, and just wedge it down over his big metal noggin.
Despite there being nothing in his mug, the cyborg goes through the motions as though he’s one of the many here at Gran’s, enjoying a drink and the atmosphere. Both of those things are mostly a lie, but in most any bar he likes sitting and listening, and has always felt it more awkward to do so without a drink- even an imaginary one, in hand.
“Huh?” He glances over at Stella again, shaking his head. “I um… think it was something about a wine place. Or was it fish.”
“Ah, thanks. Braed, if you didn’t catch it.” Tattoos abound over much of his exposed skin below the neck, complex patterns that might give a feeling of order to those knowledgeable about the arcane. He returns the nod, then smiles in a friendly, practiced manner. “Thanks, I’ll keep an eye out for her. I don’t have much time, though…always more injured at the clinic, then daily training. If you see her, send her my way? Heis Lester’s clinic here in Vesper.”
Stella finishes her stew and sets the bowl aside, looking at Baldur with a faint hint of amusement. The elf didn’t follow up on her question, so she’s guessing he had more pressing matters and will possibly ask again another time. She of course can’t help but wonder if he’s congnizent enough in his driving to have asked.
“Close. The wine place has sold some of their barrels to the fishmongers to preserve their catches. We’ll be moving them to the wharf.” Sometime today. There’s no real hurry as the wintertime is called the slow time of year for a very good reason.
He was kinda right! Baldur nods to himself as Stella clarifies, glad for something to divert his attention towards. “OOoh, got it.” Not that he’s terribly eager to do things either way, but at least if he’s helping the transporter, he’ll have something to do and keep himself preoccupied until they need to go again.
“Guess you’ve been here a lot, huh?” Stella seems familiar enough with the proprietor at least.
With the dark elf going about his business, and Braed’s meal being done, he has no more business in Grans. He gives a friendly nod to those near him, then begins walking towards the main entrance with an energetic step.
Bridge nods after the tattooed man who is woefully underdressed for this weather, then takes a quick slug of the beverage in the mug. “Yeah. Been running Gran’s produce for at least five years now. We’d better get going. Don’t want to drive on the black ice around the wharf after dark.”
Braed has left.
“All right,” the cyborg replies, setting his own mug down as he pushes out his chair to stand. He follows Stella’s look after Braed, emitting a snort. “Huh. Kids these days,” he shrugs. Fixing his hat as though it had a chance to fall out of place, he nods at the woman. “Let’s go.”
Some partied too hard and now nurse hangovers in the warmth of Gran's inn. Others come for the warmth itself, for news, for deliveries and good food.
January 01, 2411