“No it’s a ‘cool-brah’ tree, not a Cool-ah, tree. People used to call other people brah way back in the day.”
“So why call a tree ‘brah’?”
“It was a tree people used to meet at. In the evening. When it was cool. People liked the evening so much that ‘cool’ became a word for anything that was good.”
“I guess that makes sense, but what’s a ‘Bill-bong’?”
“Oh that? That’s one of those jumping slime creatures. They make a noise that sounds like ‘bill-bong’ when they jump and land.”
“I always thought it sounded more like ‘squick-splat’ but alright. Why would you camp by one?”
“I dunno, man. The ancients were a bit weird?”
Tavern conversation at it’s finest. It would perhaps not surprise anyone to find that knowledge of the Earth-That-Was before the Rifts has rather seriously degraded. It might horrify people from that past age, but after three hundred years of war, hordes of D-Bees and the return of magic the finer points of the lore of the Golden Age isn’t really a priority.
It does go to show you, though, that the people who have been working to keep the demons out of Dogwood’s Western Border are settling in a routine. You can tell. They’re bored enough to be talking about that in the tavern while they drink in between either sleeping or going out on patrol. That’s the life of most soldiers, mercenaries included. Drink. Sleep. Patrol. Repeat.
Maddy is an expert and efficient with her time. She likes to ‘Drink-Sleep-Patrol’ all at the same time! But that’s for later. Right now she is listening, entranced, to the coversation about trees, bills, bongs and brahs. “So they call boob-holsters after a tree?” she interjects, brow furrowed before shrugging. “Makes sense. They do cause wood.” A sip of her bright pink drink before she spots…Rose!!
“Hey!! Remember me?” Maddy waves violently at the other woman. And then, just in case she missed it, she whistles loudly. And then she sticks her fingers in her mouth to whistle even louder but she could never figure out how that worked and is now making rather muted noises but with lots of spit hitting the table.Once a jolly Clever Man, sat by a table top,
Under the influence of a beer or three.
And he muttered as he watched and listened the banter there,
“Every bloody one o’ them gets the old stories wrong…” Clancy says to no one in particular. His own people remember some of the old songs; tales of the Dreamtime survived the coming of the Rifts… largely because Clever Men and others suddenly found themselves able to //travel// to it on a whim. So did some of the other songs, passed down from generation to generation…
And now he finds himself sitting in a tabern, listening to folks chat about one such song… and wondering if it would be very bad for him to spell some ‘bill-bongs’ into the room to go ‘squick-splat’ in people’s beers…
Clancy is also up to his elbows in engine grease. He has been working. “Bridge is gonna love me…” he hums to a familiar old tune (familiar to him at least). “When she sees my tucker-bag…” He stops humming when he recognises Maddy’s voice. “Hey, g’day Tits!”
With a roar of an engine, a car pulls into a parking space out the front of the tavern. It sounds like it might have been travelling fast. If anyone cares to look out the windows, they’ll see a sleek, grey, sedan and a tall, dark haired woman getting out.
From inside, the sounds of car doors slamming can be heard and soon the tavern door opens, revealing Natsuki Taniguchi, Estate Manager for House Taniguchi. And she’s dressed impeccably in a navy blue pant suit.
She takes a moment to scan the room, taking in faces and nodding to those she knows. Catriona, Maddy and Clancy are amongst them. They might also wonder if she’s travelling alone.
It’s dangerous out on the road here, she really shouldn’t go alone.As if Wraith could forget Maddy. She double-takes, blinks, then offers a low laugh. Raising a hand and flashing a pale grin in greeting, she completes her journey to the bar, ordering herself a drink (cold and alcoholic; gotta focus on that) before raising it in salute to both Clancy and Natsuki… the gorgeous part-elf earning a rather surprised look, assessing gaze running over the out-of-place suit. “Mistress Manager,” she offers to the not-exactly-an-aristocrat.
The man who steps out of the car with her is none other than the Factor of Guild House Trent, a new ally of House Taniguchi from the Corporate Class in his usual fashion of a military cut shirt and vest with dark, red piped trousers and high riding boots. The boots are muddy. The man looks like he’s been working. Or at least moving around a lot.
“You’re sure.” He says as they’re entering. “That they’ll be here? My contacts indicate that Greywall is a pretty rough place so we’ll want to send people who… do rough…”
And then Catriona is greeting Natsuki. The slightly shorter man hasn’t had the pleasure and gives the pale redhead a polite nod. “Good afternoon, Miss.”
He glances to Natsuki. Where are the others she said would be here?
Maddy glances around after Clancy’s call – there’s someone here with the same name as her mech? How spooky is that! Not finding anyone with a helpful name tag, she instead waves over to Clancy. “Hey. Come join us. Bring your tucker-bag, I’d love to see it too.”
And then Maddy is blushing as the gorgeous Natsuki arrives. A sigh as she leans her elbows on the table, rests her chin on her hands and then flutters her eyelashes in her direction. “She’s so dreamy” she says to anyone that will listen…and a few who don’t. “Hey, Rose, come sit. Have you met Joey. Wait…you have. I remember.” That she remembers seems to surprise her.Clancy brightens — quite a bit — at the sight of Natsuki, and then looks somewhat crestfallen, just for a moment, at Trent. Ah, those pleasant memories of past meetings… Still, the grin is back within moments and he waves a greasy hand to them — wipes it on his pants — and waves again.
Alas, he hasn’t had time to clean up properly from his last job, so that will have to wait. He gets up from his seat, grabs his beer and heads on over. “What brings you lovely lot over ‘ere, eh?” he asks with a grin. “Wraith, Maddy…” To Natsuki he remarks, “Lookin’ gorgeous as ever, luv — uh, you too… Trent. Wanna beer?”
At least Jericho has stopped eyeing her when they drive anywhere. And stopped threatening to never let her drive again. So that’s something.
“Catriona. Do you know Mister Trent?” the part-elf inclines her head to redhead. “You’re one of the people I was hoping to see here. If you have a moment?” She asks politely, casting Jericho a sideways glance. “Patience, Mister Trent. They are here… as I thought they would be.” There’s a light teasing tone to her voice. The flirt is never far when Natsuki’s around and something about Jericho brings it out further.
Maybe it’s because he ignores it so much.
With Maddy inviting the others to join, Natsuki moves in that direction, smiling a little as she becomes the object for flirtation for the moment. “Maddy. I hope you’re settling in. And Mister Drover, why thank you. I hadn’t expected to see you here, but if you’ve all a moment, Mister Trent has a job he’d like done.”
Jericho of course, knows Maddy and Clancy and Nat really can’t help smirking at how the Drover and he met …
“May we have a seat?”Ah. Him. Jericho remembers Clancy. His CorSec remembers Clancy better. He was… behaving suspiciously the day he met Natsuki.
He got inspected. For contraband. Thoroughly. Very thoroughly.
Fortunately that’s not on the table today. “I don’t believe I have met Miss Catriona. Pleasure to meet you. I understand you are all at present employed by Miss Taniguchi?” Well, Clancy’s not but that may be about to change.
“For those of you who have not met me… or might not know, I represent one of the Dogwood Trading Guilds.” Actually he runs one of them but little technicalities are important. “We’ve been made aware of a… situation at an Outlier town called Greywall near the mountains that has potential to bear significantly on Dogwood’s western border. For… historical reasons, we can’t send people affiliated directly with anyone in Dogwood. Miss Taniguchi here suggested that she knew people who might be able to contract for it. For a fee.” That would be Clancy, Maddy and Cat, in case that wasn’t clear.
“It’s Factory Man too” Maddy grins at Trent before another sigh in Natsuki’s direction. “Not that you’re a fish-face, Rose” she sincerely adds for Wraith’s benefit. “I wouldn’t kick you out of bed for eating cake. Hell, if you had cake then I’d join you. But since I’d be in the bed anyway…would I be in the bed anyway? Hmm…oh…how’s your girlfriend? Did she like the…” Maddy wiggles her eyebrows. “…you know…the /articles/ we bought.” A gently nudge of the redhead…and then another.
“I’m settling in fine” Maddy assures Natsuki, “This chair is very comfy. Do I look uncomfortable?” She wriggles around a bit before changing her posture to be even more relaxed. “Don’t know if you can have the seat though. They don’t belong to me. I just own what I put on it.” And then Jericho is talking about grey dogs and wooden walls and boarded up people and Maddy may be zoning out a bit. But it did sounds like a job. “I’m in!” She leans over to whisper to Wraith. “What did I just agree to? Is it violent?” That last question asked hopefully.“Someone needs ta lay off the coff — ,” Clancy starts to say, then is apparently distracted by something on his arm, and glares at the face of a thylacine on the back of his hand. “Actually, now that I think about it, that’s not a bad question — is it violent?” He tries not to sound too hopeful, and folds his arms across his chest, beer in hand.
“What’s the pay, too?”
No. Not Clancy’s seat. Not today. That was CorSec anyway.
Natsuki sits, giving Maddy a polite look for the sigh. It’s not the first time, or the last, that a woman has found her … attractive. Nat just doesn’t lean that way, so to speak.
As Jericho starts speaking, she gives him a glance, becoming serious. The flirtacious nature falls away revealing the reason her cousin had called her to service. She can be a little intense.
“Outliers are people, humans and D-Bee’s, that live outside Dogwood or Vesper law. Which is fine, as they don’t live within our borders. But, when times get tough they’ve been known to send raiding parties to both areas. They can be rough and tumble, so yes, Maddy, it might be violent.”
“Simply put, Catriona, Outliers have preyed on Dogwood and Dogwood has responded with force in the past. Anyone associated with Dogwood would be … ill received. And this is a matter of the upmost importance.”
Clancy’s arms draw the part-elfs eyes and she smiles slightly. She’s not sure what the tattooes are, but she //did// see the eyes glow when they were in Richmond. “We will pay twenty percent above the going rate for this type of work. The currency will be Dogwood Crowns or Gems. As you prefer.” With the way the ‘money market’ works in Rifts Earth, either are tradeable everywhere. Crowns come in Gold, Silver and Copper, after all.“Violent? Very likely yes. I’m just not sure against who yet…”
The factor takes a deep breath and runs a hand through his hair. “As Miss Taniguchi mentions, Dogwood has a sometimes antagonistic relationship with the communities outside our borders. Sometimes they trade with us, sometimes they raid us. However, my Guild is looking to trade with them – since they tend to be more tractable when they think they can get what they want without risking their lives. We’ve heard that people are disappearing in Greywall. Not horribly unusual, sadly but no bodies have been found. That’s the rumor anyway. Other rumors say that this isn’t the first community that’s happened to and some of them are utterly empty now. We need someone to go check it out and solve the problem if indeed there is one.”
There’s a short pause. “However, because the Dogwood Armored Cavalry – that’d be the knights – shot their town to hell five years ago after they got particularly bold in their raiding they’re not likely to be welcoming, say, Corporate Soldiers or Miss Taniguchi’s bannermen. Hence you three.”
“So the Outlier people need help but we can’t come from Dogwood because they don’t like it when dogs have wood.” Maddy considers this and nods. “Yeah, I can understand that. It gets really annoying when they’re on your legs and, you know what they do, and you’re trying to walk down the street and look cool and impress some cutie but it’s just not happening.” Is Clancy angry at his arm? Weirdo.
“Ooh…sounds spooky” Maddy grins about the disappearing villagers. “I say it’s demons. It’s always demons. Or circus midgets. Those guys are the /worst/. So when do we go take a look? My Tits should be ready to go. We can pick up Val-ley Girl on the way if you like, Rose.”“Bein’ cranky with Dogwood… what’re the odds?” Clancy makes a dig at the city-state, but subsequent snort at his own comment might suggest he is merely teasing. “Pay sounds good…” It is also true having some allies among the Outliers can be rather advantageous, even for himself.
“Alroight, you got yerselves a Joey — erm, mechanic, or whatever. Me. Pouch ‘n all. Could do with a good run…” he says that last bit with another quick glance at his arm, and goes back to drinking his beer. When he sets the bottle down, he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand… unknowingly leaving a smear of engine grease across his face.
“Thank you Catriona. I knew I could rely on you. If Valeska is available, she’ll be paid as well.” The Estate Manager glances around the table “It is very important to us, that your mission be successful.” Natsuki adds, Maddy’s comments drawing the ghost of a smile from her, which turns to a sharp laugh as Clancy speaks “Yes, Mister Drover. What are the odds?”
Gesturing to Jericho and indicating the briefcase that she bought in. “If you’d show them the maps of the area and given them the down payment, please Mister Trent?” If nothing else, she’s generous. Or is it Jericho that’s generous?
The grease smear of Clancy’s face has Nat’s eye twitching, just a little… and takes a cloth from her pocket, handing it over to the man “Uh, you’ve something on your face…”“There is onnnnne thing…” Jericho produces a folded map. It’s professionally done by these days standards which is to say the distances represented on it are roughly accurate, though it’s not anything like maps used to be in the Golden Age.
“You’ll want this, I suspect, since I don’t know if any of you have been to Greywall. I’ve circled it in red ink…” You know, just in case the person who winds up with it can’t read. Maddy he suspects can. Cat and Clancy he’s not sure about.
Off from the left a pair of cyborg mercenaries are still talking. “So what’s a Swag-Man?”
“Uh, I think they were guys who wore their hats backwards and walked around with their pants around their knees because the pockets were stuffed foll of heavy valuables. They called it ‘swag’.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Pretty sure. I read it somewhere. I can read you know.”
“Uh huh. So why would he be jolly?”
“Well think about it. You got a wonderful breeze if your pants are down at your knees.”
rOf course, reading doesn’t always gaurentee accurate knowledge either.
“Any questions for me?” Jericho is trying so hard to ignore those cyborgs right now.
Maddy glances over at Clancy at Natsuki’s comment. “Oh, yeah, you do, Joey. It’s pretty damn ugly.” Her eyes narrow as she studies his face. “Actually, Gorgeous, I think that’s just his nose.” Maddy reaches out to tweak it before nodding. “Yeah, it’s just his nose.”
“Ooh…maps!” Maddy turns her excited attention to the paper with the red circle. “So Greywall has a big red wall around it? That didn’t work very well” she observes before giving Catriona a pat on the back to prevent choking. She asks good questions so best keep her alive.“I — ? What — ? Hey, that IS my nose!”
Clancy had been about to thank Suki, when Maddy had intervened, and now he uses the cloth to scrub vigorously at his face — getting most of the engine grease off, but ruining the cloth. “I don’ go around tweaking yer Tits now, do I?”
He… may have said that just a tinsy-wincy bit too loudly. The Drover looks down at the cloth and then at Suki and gives her an ‘I’m… sorry, I think it’s knackered’ expression. “Thanks luv,” says he with a look of chagrin. “Been workin’ all day. Uh, mind if I keep this?” His attention shifts to Maddy and he lets out a sigh. “The red line just tells you where the grey wall thingy is… Sounds familiar too. Innerestin’.”
Of course the reason they’re being sent is at the end of the day they’re expendable. Their lose won’t impact his Guild nor Natsuki’s House. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want them to succeed. He’s just got other things he needs to handle in the mean time and will need every resource he can lay his hands on.
“Thank you Mister Trent.” Natsuki places three small bags of coins on the table, one for each of them. “This is a down payment for the work. I expect you will have some expenses to get ready and I don’t want you to be out of pocket. The balance will be paid when you return from Greywall.” Nat’s going to leave the explaining of the map to Maddy, to the others. They’re going to have to work with her.
It’s also a good thing that Nasuki has seen Maddy get out of her robot wearing a nightdress and big pink fluffy slippers exclaiming something about her Tits… loudly. Clancy’s words just a snort.
“Keep it, Mister Drover.” She’d expected she wouldn’t want it back.
“If there’s nothing else? Mister Trent and I have other appointments to attend to.” Yes, it’s evening but they’re busy.
“Catriona, always a pleasure. Mister Drover, Maddy.” she nods to each in turn, and unfolds from the chair, waiting for Jericho to lead their way out.
When an Estate Manager from a Noble House and a Guild House Factor turn up in a Dogwood Tavern, you can be sure they mean business.
February 04, 2410