The Taniguchi lands are in the North of Dogwood, bordering the Appalachians. Whilst it’s not uncommon for those lands to be attacked by demons, for months now though, the demon attacks have increased – in frequency and in quantity.
Not so long ago, the Comtesse Lorna Crowley, had employed more mercenaries to help patrol the Western border. Natsuki Taniguchi, Estate Manager for House Taniguchi had to employ, or contract, extra farm hands to get the crops out.
She’s been called to a farm right on the edge of their lands. Seems there’s been some problems with some of the equipment. Of course, she’s not without her trusty ‘shadow’.
The sower in question stands dormant in the field and the holder, Tristan Presswell, is talking to the part-elf.
“It was working yesterday, Miss Taniguchi. We got half field done. This morning though, it wouldn’t start and when we investigated, we found this.”
He opens a panel to the control mechanism, revealing a mess. Wires sprouting out of it, it’s been pulled out and not gently.
Natsuki sighs and shakes her head, thinking.
Baldur doesn’t much mind being a professional babysitter. Guard. Sorry. He might just giggle at being called a ‘shadow.’ While most days things really don’t consist of much action, the cyborg makes the most out of it, and actually seems to enjoy his duties regardless. After all, he’s got a job now, and anything is better than sitting around in a corner of a bar, being ignored.
Now farming is not his specialty. But being out here stirs some vague memories, although nothing concrete. It’s like sifting through smoke, grasping at a dream. Shaking his head, Baldur just moves over where Natsuki is speaking to Presswell.
“So what all’s going on?” he asks, his orange optics drifting towards the open panel that the holder had opened. He blinks. “Oh. Well…that don’t look good.”
Of those present, who’s been working in the fields, is Dice.
She’s been here only a short time, but she’s clearly enjoyed the physical labor. Sweat beads on her brow and her attention has been drawn to the goings ons. Brushing dark hair from her eyes, she turns to regard the other arrivals and their discussion. Observing. It’s what she does.
“More sabotage by the looks.” Natsu sighs again as Baldur joins her. That might be news for the Cyborg. More sabotage. “Did anyone see anything unusual, Tristan?” she thinks on that question “Or anything?” beat “and no, it’s not good Baldur. With the sowing delayed, and the increase in demon attacks, it’s going to affect our production.” Which has financial implications for the House and supply issues for the city in general.
Tristan looks at Baldur and gives the Cyborg a nod before turning his attention to Natsu again “Not that anyone’s spoken up.” He see’s Dice looking and beckons her over “You there, did you see anything after we closed down for the evening?”
Baldur might pick up that whilst Tristan is polite, he still exhibits the general unease that most Dogwood citizens have around D-Bee’s.
Of the damage to the machinery, both Baldur and Dice might also know that a fair amount of strength is required to pull that panel and cabling the way it is. With inspection it might be able to tell how it was done.
“More?” the cyborg echoes. Quite frankly, he hadn’t even known there’d been farming problems. …had he known the Taniguchis had farmland? He must have at least known that much. Maybe.
Tristan’s behavior’s nothing new to him, Baldur playing it off like it’s an everyday thing. Or just Thursday. Same ol’, same ol’. He steps closer to peer at the ruined machine as though he can even fathom what’s wrong with it, well, aside from the fact that there’s something that’s been ripped out of it. That makes him shudder just a little. After all, he’s mostly wires and stuff inside too, now.
As Tristan calls someone else over, the ‘borg lifts his head to look towards the woman he calls, briefly before looking back at the machinery. He’s no technical expert but he can tell when brute force has been applied.
“I didn’t see anything myself,” admits Dice, a little startled when she’s spoken to, but she recovers quickly enough.
“Lemme have a look…” She’s approaching, of course, to have a better look. To inspect it. She lets out a whistle at the damage.
And, of course, her highly specialized eyes are taking in the sight.
“Yes, more.” Natsu answers. “A harvester on another holding a few months ago. It might be coincidence but it seems strange.” She turns to look at Dice as the woman approaches.
“Dice, this is Miss Taniguchi. Estate Manager for Lady Taniguchi who owns these lands.” Tristan introduces them “and this is Baldur.” He turns to look at the machinery and then the other two again.
“Nice to meet you, Dice.” Natsu says pleasantly, even though she’s concerned by the damage. “What do you see?” That’s to both of them.
There’s points on the panel where it’s been pried opened, some might think it was multiple attempts but for those with the knowledge and perception, that might be something like fingers. Three perhaps, judging by those marks.
If it’s only a second, then it could be coincidence, that Baldur can concede. He strokes his metal chin with equally metal fingrs. “That the only piece of machinery on either property?” he asks.
When Dice has come over to be introduced properly, the cyborg gives the woman a nod and a two-fingered salute. “How do, ma’am?” He glances at Natsuki and then turns his attention back to the damaged harvester.
“I see a mess. What’s missing, exactly? Or is anything missing? Looks like someone ripped the thing open and gutted whatever it saw first. …unless the same bit’s missing that was taken out of the other machine.”
“Nice to meet you, Ms. Taniguchi,” says Dice, politely, with a big old smile on her face. Like Ms. Taniguchi is the most interesting person in her whole world right now. But then she’s back to looking at the at the panel again and she reaches over to run her fingers over some of the marks. “I mean, I’m no expert or anything, but it looks like someone took a while to pry this off with their bare hands.”
“Hands or similar appendage…” Tristan says with a nod to Dice. “… that’s a lot of pressure required to pull that off. An average human wouldn’t be able to do it without some form of mechanical assistance. Nothing’s missing as far as I can tell, Baldur. This though, will take us a week or so to fix.”
Natsu sighs, brushing her hair back from her face and looks out towards the mountains “A week of not being able to sow means a lower yield. There’s only so long we have to get to the seed in the ground.” Looking back to Baldur, the part-elf considers “The harvester blew a relief valve. It had been rigged to do that. Again, nothing missing, just enough to cause delay and in that case, the Holder had been injured.”
“Not quite, Miss Taniguchi.” Tristan interrupts “I can replace the cabling if someone can interface with the computer and check the programming. The job won’t be pretty, but it will get us working again.” There’s an interface port right next to the panel.
“I’m afraid I can’t, Tristan and we don’t have a suitable programmer in the manor. I can ask Mister Trent if he might have someone or check in Dogwood proper.”
Baldur should notice the tracks to and from the equipment. He can make out Tristan’s. But there’s two other sets. One could be the driver, but who’s the other?
Baldur pokes at the grooves that had been made in the metal. Yeah, definitely not done by the average human. “Sabotage then?” Yes, Baldur, that had been said earlier. “Who’d do that though?” It didn’t seem to make much sense to him if it were part of the handiwork of Natsuki’s screwball admirer.
“Well don’t look at me,” he says as Tristan makes the suggestion. “I may look all metal but my brain’s all mush. Er, wait, that doesn’t sound right.” At least Natsuki would know what he means. When it comes to computers, Baldur knows squat. He probably types with two fingers, if he had to at all.
Optics continue to twitch this way and that as he looks at the mess, and as he glances down for any pieces that might’ve fallen from the machinery he does note the tracks. Glow flickering almost thoughtfully, it’s followed by a just as thoughtful hum as the cyborg kneels to study the ground.
“Who else usually comes by to check this equipment..?” he asks as he looks as far as he can follow the prints from his current perspective.
“All I can see,” agrees Dice, thoughtfully.
“There anything I can help with?” She asks, looking onwards and curious.
She begins thoughtfully chewing on her lip, though, and adds, “Why does the programming need to be checked? You think whoever did this did something to it?”
“I wasn’t.” Natsu smiles at Baldur and winks, that flirting nature of hers coming out “I know you just shoot things. How was it you put it, ‘pew pew’.” Oh no, he’s not going to live that down. “What are you seeing? And we don’t know who it could be. House rivalry, perhaps. It’s not obvious but it exists.” she asks quietly, noting his look to the ground.
“Just me and the driver.” Tristan answers the Cyborg “It was the driver that found it and I quarantined the equipment as soon as I was told.” Which means there’s been someone else come by. The tracks seem to follow the same path as the other two but they diverge a few feet from the shed. Baldur can see them, head past the sheds and around the back.
“When I rewire this, I’ll want to check that it’s working correctly. Normally a technician would run the diagnostics package but I don’t have the equipment. Why do you ask, Dice?”
“Curious,” says Dice. “I mean, I know I’m just a hand here, you know? But I still wonder about all this.” She scootches around to inspect it again, head tilting to the side. Inside, the gears are turning in ways both literal and metaphorical.
She knows she has the capacity to directly interface with it if it has a neural port, and she’s looking for what she assumes will be one. These people have been nice, but revealing her cybernetics gives her pause. She’s not quite there yet, even as she hunts the port.
GLEEEE! She’s been paying attention to him! If that was supposed to be a jab, Baldur obviously hasn’t thought of it that way. His eyes light up- or rather brighten since they’re already lit by default. “Damn right,” he says, finger-gunning at the air, one eye fading in and out in his approximation of a wink.
The cyborg looks back down at the tracks, slowly pushing himself up to stand again. Driver, Tristan, and question-mark. Slowly he begins to walk alongside the tracks he’s picked out, looking towards where they split off. If no one stops him, he’s probably going to end up going past the shed and far as he can.
The Taniguchi Captain might have something to say about Baldur walking off and leaving Natsu ‘alone’ but the part-elf doesn’t. She does smile though as his optics lighten and then ‘wink’ “Just so…” her voice fading as she watches him go.
Baldurs path takes him past the shed, across the ‘parking lot’ out the back right to the edge of it where there’s evidence of a hover vehicle, probably a cycle, taking off. Just from looking around, the Cyborg can tell, that whoever this was, was avoiding surveillance – and they seem to have done a good job of it. But what’s that … over there? Something glints in the sun, to the side of the track that these rustics call roads.
On the sower there’s a neural interface. Many of the technicians are cyborgs these days. Tristan goes to say something, but Natsuki holds a hand up “You seem to know your way around machinery, Dice. What is it you’re wondering?”
He won’t tell if she won’t. That doesn’t even seem to be on his mind at the moment as Baldur follows his metaphorical nose, wandering after the tracks and out back. “Huh,” he comments to no one in particular as he looks around where the tracks had led. Tracks don’t simply vanished unless someone can fly, but there’s traces of displaced dirt if one knows where to look.
“Guess that’s a bust….” he sighs as his optics scan the rest of the area. Catching that gleam of something by the road, the cyborg gravitates towards it like a crow to a shiny new trinket.
“Hellooo~ What have we here?”
“…uh huh,” says Dice after a moment.
“Well, that’s interesting,” she muses.
“Only a little bit, you know. I don’t know too much but I did get some enhancements back a few years, so…” She rubs her wrist and places her hand over the neural interface port.
“Shhhh,” she tells the lady.
Baldur finds a piece of armour, might be piece of a gauntlet judging by the size. It’s dark and matte, the sun must have been just at the right angle for it to glint like that. As he turns it over in his hand, it has something embossed on it. If he has the memory, it looks similar to a House Thorpes sigil, but there are subtle differences to it.
Natsu and Tristan quiet as Dice ‘shushes’ them. It amuses Natsu to be shushed like that and clearly Dice is doing something.
It takes a moment for the neural interface to respond, first a tendril connects with Dice’s and ‘handshakes’. Once done, the computer in the sower sparks to life and Dice can see everything. The diagnostics are just there, and when she accesses they show her the wiring and the components that aren’t responding.
She’ll be able to work with Tristan to repair this but it’s going to take a few hours.
“Well, I never…” says Tristan, staring at Dice “Looks like you just got a promotion.”
“Eh,” says Dice.
“I don’t really need one. I like the work I do, but I can help out if you need to be. Just don’t let on, eh?”
She’s a nice enough sort. Last thing she wants is more attention, though.
“Oi,” she adds, “this is gonna take foreeeever.”
“Hmmm…..” The cyborg’s knelt down to pick up the piece, dusting it off a bit although it doesn’t seem to need it. He tilts it this way and that, optics flickering lowly as he studies the marking upon it. Whatever it might have tickled of his memory, it doesn’t quite catch, but he’s sure it has to do with nobility at the very least. And it sure doesn’t match anything he’s seen at the Taniguchi house.
Rising up, Baldur heads back towards the others with his prize, ‘whistling’ tunelessly like he’d just gone on a random stroll. He might as well have, but it seems that the others are still working at that contraption.
“Ooh, you got it to work?” he spouts as he sees Dice at the panel. He hadn’t pegged her to be a computery type. Then he looks at Natsuki, and as though remembering just what he’d set off for in the first place, he steps closer to her, holding up the armor piece.
“Tracks stopped at the lot around back. Looks like someone had transportation waiting. Found this nearby. Doesn’t seem like something that should be lying around, and it didn’t look like it had been there very long.”
“How long?” Natsu looks at Tristan at Dice’s exclamation “And tell anyone, what, Dice?” Natsu has a selective memory. Anyone who knows the rumours about her will know that. She certainly doesn’t kiss and tell, unlike some of her lovers.
“We can have operational by the end of the day, Miss Taniguchi.” The holder answers. “So not too long but I’ll need Dice for all that time.”
“Do what you must, then. There’s a bonus for her for the extra work – that we don’t she does.”
Baldur’s return has the part-elf looking in his direction and frown marring her brow as she takes the piece from him. “The sigil’s familiar, but not exact. I … need to look into it. Could be someone trying to cause problems for more than one House.” Beat “Was there anything else Holder Presswell?”
“No, Miss Taniguchi. I’ll report by the end of the day.”
“Very good then. Baldur, with me. We’ve got some work today. And …” dark eyes rest of the dark skinned woman “… thank you again. What you are will be forgotten.”
That … sounds strange.
“What? I miss something?” Baldur blinks, glancing between the three. He supposes it’s business between Natsuki and Dice, and since his employer is hinting that something will remain under wraps, the cyborg doesn’t try to follow-up.
He does however nod as Natsuki puts forth the possibility of an intentional framing. “Could be. And really, who just goes and loses that specific sort of piece of armor? I mean, if they were wearing it, it’d be a pretty obvious thing to go missing. And if they weren’t, well! Why bother lugging it all around?” Sloppy, sloppy job if it were truly a soldier’s.
Giving Natsuki a salute, he nods and waits for her to head along, but not without a wave at Presswell and Dice. “Good luck with that.”
“Naw, nothing at all,” says Dice, casually, as her hand remains over the neural interface port.
“Heh,” she says.
“It’s no problem, really,” she adds, with a big old smile on her face.
“Maybe.” Natsu murmurs to Baldur, “We’ll talk in the car on the way back.” With a nod to the other two, she turns on her heel and leads them back to where she parked.
It won’t be long before that sleek, sporty, sedan of hers is tooling out of there in spray of gravel.
Maybe Baldur won’t be as … concerned … about Natsu as some of her other passengers are.
Someone's messing around with harvesters in the Taniguchi farmlands. ...not the soul kind.
May 25, 2410