@rosso: I'm down to continue in the Purge rp. Maybe with a lil Game of Thrones lvl time jump?
@noah_noble: I was planning on something along those lines anyway. The Purge kinda blindsided me, but I was looking to start steeping Valentina in the world again, and working that into Arthur and Walter and the rest...although I'll have to get over a certain level of my finnickyness because Nova houdini'd me.
Once upon a time the Strix's unprecedented rise to power had be mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Knightfalls. The Rooks. Bloodlines with powerful veins reaching back into the city's historical archives. The Bats. The Owls. But unlike their notable peers the Strix's improbable collapse had all but erased any trace of their influential achievements. The lengthy line of brothers and sisters had vanished in the aftermath of an alien incursion. The few who survived retreated into their own castles of isolated seclusion far from the unpredictable dangers of their home-born city. All but one.
Ishmael had remand behind in secret. As such, he had made few personal connections. But the one's he had, he was determined to strongly hold onto. Noah was one such connection. Though socially petulant, the two had managed to form a tight but unlikely bond. Regardless of their extreme and apposing upbringing, in the here and now, they were on that grind. Elevated players in Gothic's secret game of lawless thrones.
Y-3 Qasa High Black sneakers clung to the wall on the North side of the bar high above the graffiti and lamps. Defying gravity the Digital Death Note covertly stood in stylish and arrogant silence, extending outwards with his arms crossed as he waited. Trending black on black monochromatic techwear covered his slender but acrobatic frame, allowing him to seamlessly remain stashed in the shadowy abyss above, avoiding any unwanted attention from the barrel burning bums below. But he listened to what they had to say. For the most part. After all, street gossip was an underutilized commodity, and in the right hands was worth as much as gold.
His cell vibrated, causing a few curious glances to fired in his direction. But he was already gone. Now on the roof itself, elbow resting on his knee as he stood with one foot on the elevated brick trim around the area, the Phantomshell read the brief yet vital message.
'He's coming out. Follow him' it simply read.
(Pt.2 - in the Purge)
I knew it! What do you have against my men!? All they want to do is make the city a better place!
Although when you said what you said, I assumed you meant attacking Walter after Arthur left the penthouse.
They didnt protect their investment (you) and now you're all wounded and mind f'd. Who's taking care of the Black Market while you're...finding yourself? Nah son they messed up. They gotta pay
And you read my mind jus wait lol
@phantomshell: Nobody protected me! Not them, not San'Vun, not Grant Diaz and his goonies, nobody! In fact I got into this protecting everyone from San'Vun and the Yakuza's blackmail, and then protecting the Syndicate from Diaz and his crew.
Long live the prodigy, right? But the Black Market doesn't revolve around one girl. The invisible hand drives it. It existed before, and it will go on.
Ohhhh! I didn't know it'd be this soon when I'd have to fight with him!
Crime may have been down in Gothic City, but at the Bar with No Name business was brimming as usual. Quiet, but active. After all, the shadowrunners still needed a place to kick it and relax without fear of losing their heads.
For her part, Valentina had reestablished contact with her sometimes-handlers and given a partial account of the events. Confirming for them her stint in Grimmwald's captivity, she said almost nothing of the details, save that which tied into his attack on the city. She told them of the destruction at the Catholicon, teaming with Dr. Knightfall and taking down Grimmwald. Each word carefully chosen to omit the depth of their connection (or at least she hoped it was a connection) but mark the doctor as someone who'd helped one of theirs, and hopefully keep her out of Ragnarok's crosshairs.
She said nothing of the lavaliere. That was a secret for Valentina, and for Franklin. She could only hope Ashley would keep tight-lipped about it, but somehow doubted Knightfall would keep it from those in her inner circle. For the most part, however, Valentina wanted little more than to feel like things could go back to the way they were before she left for Madripoor. Maybe impossible, but at least they could try and build on the ashes.
However her network of contacts hadn't faltered, and now they were suggesting there was someone out there looking for her. A job, perhaps? Or a hero. In either case she'd have been hard-pressed to think of a more safe and secure place to meet than No Name. Reserving the upstairs VIP space for an hour, the Scarlet Shadowrunner helped herself to the bar and left instructions with Nora that whoever came looking for her should come right up to meet her.
Xiandra would have been unrecognizable from her last meeting with Valentina; she had done away with her alien armor, and now showed her face plainly. The only possible clue to her identity would be her tightly-braided hair, which had always been visible behind her masked helmet. She'd acquired Earth clothing for this meeting: black biker boots, jeans, a white tanktop, and a black leather jacket (and despite her overall disdain for humanity in general, she had to grudgingly admit that the look was growing on her), and the only weapons she'd brought were five of her electrified throwing stars, concealed in an inner pocket of the jacket. She was here to talk, not fight, but her own life had taught her that violence was often indifferent to intention.
She was ushered into the VIP area without question or incident, and it was not difficult to spot the woman she had come here to meet; Valentina sat at the bar, looking for all appearances as though she was simply relaxing after a day's business. Had Xi not known better, she would have considered the other woman careless, but their encounter had taught her that the red-haired warrior was not one to take security for granted.
She strode right up to the bar beside her, and seated herself, her movements smooth and almost serpentine. "Has the spear been serving you well?"
The Faraday shield encasing the upstairs area ensured that not only would all communications within No Name's VIP remain between the two; it also meant Valentina couldn't do much but twiddle her thumbs, get a buzz and wait for her company to show up. She didn't worry much, though. There were apparently no windows upstairs and only one entryway into the area. She'd know exactly when Xiandra arrived.
She was nursing a vibrant colored cocktail whipped up by the only other presence in the room - a young man whose sole reason for being present in these private meetings was his gift for mixology. Valentina spun lazily as the door unlatched and Xiandra walked in. Had her father's conditioning not been what it was, the Ephemeran's entire persona would've gone over her head. But while he was ruthless, Sorabella was effective. Analysis was virtually automatic. She'd unconsciously measured Xiandra's gait and body language and matched it with the woman she'd fought in the warehouse. At roughly the same time her thinking mind caught up and recalled just what "the spear" was.
"Oh, that." She turned her eyes back toward her drink and shrugged impassively. "I'm sure it would've. Some asshole destroyed it. Didn't get much use. So," she said, laying the drink down and suddenly her entire demeanor was as sharp and serious as that of a businesswoman, "why you lookin' for me?"
The other's demeanor proved to be as malleable as her combat ability, shifting without warning from an almost careless nonchalance to a laser-like focus in the blink of an eye. It was beginning to appear as though speaking with her would be almost as enjoyable, and challenging, as fighting her was. Almost.
Xi's eyes stayed fixed on Val, a casual but definitive wave of her hand warning off the barkeep when he approached to inquire as to whether she would like a drink. Her own demeanor did not change; only the omnipresent intensity of her gaze gave any clue that her casual body language was intended to deceive any who might be watching. This was the other's world, the other's territory, after all; any hunter would be remiss to not assume that the other would ensure that every precaution was taken, every advantage hers.
"Unfortunate." Xi's voice was heavily accented, though that accent would be difficult to place for any who had not traveled beyond their homeworld. "Of course, weapons can be replaced. You survived the destruction, so that becomes another victory for you. And I am looking for you because I will not be the first to do so, and the others will not be seeking conversation." The primary Imperium agent on this world, the one who had summoned her here in the first place, had taken a close interest in the most recent war for the urban battleground known as Gothic City. The huntress had been able to learn much of why the battle had been waged, and was well aware of what her superior suspected lay behind the outbreak of violence. "...especially if you managed to find a weapon far more powerful than my spear."
"Survived a lot more than that." She scoffed. For most in the city, that night was Hell. For Valentina, it was freedom. That night she'd liberated herself from something far worse that she'd endured for far longer, and gotten a measure of what she believed to be clarity on where she stood with Doctor Knightfall.
"And what if I did? Unless you were born in a jungle somewhere, spear's pretty basic. Even one that can compact itself like that. I deal with 'more powerful' than that every day. Say more," she said, somewhere between inviting and demanding. Her response was deliberately open-ended to avoid showing any part of her hand.
Unless you were born in a jungle somewhere...
Xi smirked at this. While she hadn't been born in a jungle, per se, she'd spent so much of what passed as her youth in one that she may as well have. In some ways, the Sauroid jungle was more her mother than her biological mother had been, for all that she remembered her.
"A rock is as basic as it gets," she answered with a shrug. "It can still cave in a skull, in a strong enough hand. Do I need to say more, though? If I'm right, you already know what I'm talking about, and if I'm wrong, nothing I'd say about it will make any sense. Either way, you've earned my respect, and the respect of a hunter is worth something."
Reaching into her jacket pocket, she produced a item that in some ways resembled a medical auto-injector, albeit one designed by someone with a an aesthetic that was both advanced and more than a bit twisted. It contained a fluid of such a bright green color that it almost seemed to possess a luminescence. "If you keep picking fights with offworlders, you're going to need this."
@xiandra: The implication hadn't gone over her head. But compared to some of the other things she'd experienced lately, the idea of extraterrestrials seemed...tame, by comparison. Still made her feel small, compounding everything she'd been exposed to since fleeing Madripoor, but at least aliens followed natural laws. The same couldn't be said for some of her other exposures. And, to say that (assuming this bitch wasn't crazy) she'd gone up against one and more than held her own was in her mind a deserving point of pride. In fact, it deserved a drink. She threw her head back and emptied the glass in front of her before calling for another, through some apparently coded hand signals.
Valentina turned the device over in her hands, examining it, though her eyes periodically moved back to the huntress every couple of seconds. She tapped it on the bar, held it near her ear while shaking it, and looked at it again with casually raised brow. "What? Off-worlders going to give me diabetes? Offworlder AIDS or something?"
Xi made a sound that was half snort and half chuckle at the humorous bravado. "Maybe. If they do, though, that will cure you. It's synthetic Eristian plasma. It'll heighten your awareness and give you a mild sense of euphoria plus a massive adrenaline spike, but those are just the side effects. It will also dramatically increase your body's ability to heal for a matter of hours, depending on how badly injured you are."
She pushed herself up off her seat, and began to head for the exit. "Don't let you victories go to your head," she called out over her shoulder. "If I'm right about you, you're likely to become the target of some of the most dangerous...things in existence, and they generally don't fight as cleanly as I do."
@xiandra: "Wait a minute," Valentina called, rising herself and dropping a hand onto Xiandra's shoulder—fully aware yet not apparently concerned about the potential implications of the gesture. "Give a strange...thing, and I'm just supposed to take your word for it? Don't even know what side you're playing. That a threat or an offer for aid?"
Xi stopped as the hand fell upon her shoulder. Though an observer wouldn't have been able to detect any shift in her physical demeanor, Val would have been able to feel the steel-coil muscles tensing beneath her grip, ready to snap into violent action, if warranted. The only action she took, however, was a glance at the hand on her shoulder, followed by a glance at its owner. "You don't have to take anything, my word or my gift," she answered with a noncommittal shrug. "I came here to honor a victorious foe, and that's done, now. Whether or not you take it, use it, or survive what's coming is up to you, now. If you do, maybe the Great Hunt will lead our paths to cross again. Who knows?"
@xiandra: "Now I know. You're doing it on purpose." Valentina smirked, and her eyes flared. She was standing between true gamesmanship and genuine annoyance, but that was the game itself. Composure. Actively relaxed, her hand remained on the woman's shoulder, no more or less firm than before. "Playing cryptic...You want more, want me to want more. Well?" she said, nodding back toward the bar, "Lemme buy you a drink, ask my questions. I wanna see how true your 'honor' is."
Xi's expression remained flat as her gaze flicked briefly back to the bar before returning to rest on Valencia's eyes. To challenge a Sauroid's honor was an act akin to challenging them to a fight to the death, but despite having picked up many of their mannerisms from her long years among them, the Ephemeran had never entirely lost touch of where she had come from. Still, it was a jab, and one that begged to be returned in kind. "Ask me a question," she responded with a smirk of her own, "and I'll use that to judge whether you're as worth drinking with as you are fighting."
Seizing the sliver of a moment in which Xiandra was just as concerned with the offer and her own verbal retort as she was the woman beside her, Valentina wove her body around the Ephemeran's so she'd be standing square-on with her chest, applying a harmlessly light—mostly teasing—press on the shoulder before removing her hand.
Her lips curled up at the edges, showing just a hint of white. She already had several in mind, and had already made up her mind which answers to each she would believe. But for the love of the game..."Hell of a loop, no? I can't be sure you'll answer me truthfully if I do ask you any questions. So swear it to me, and let's play."
Alright then, Xi mused, if the game is to continue...
She crossed her arms over her own chest as Val faced her, her own smirk mitigating the defensiveness of the gesture. "Still seeking to provoke me? If you really don't believe me, what will my swearing anything do? Why ask me any questions at all, if you're so suspicious? Hmm...I'm starting to think that you want to trust me, in spite of yourself. Dangerous ground...but fine. I won't promise to answer every question, but the ones I do answer, I swear by."
"Ha! Trust? Not at all. But trusting someone and believing their words are not always the same thing." She shrugged innocently. "I was only..." What is the English phrase...?"Taking your piss." Still, though she wore the Cheshire Cat's grin, Xiandra's remark stung a little, because some barely conscious part of her mind understood it was partly true. She had no specific desire for the huntress but she wanted someone to trust, though that very thing was against her nature. She cursed Grimmwald again in her mind, hoping and imagining Strix was doing something terrible with his soul.
"What are you?" she asked bluntly. "You look human but you're...weird. You talk about 'offworlders,' weird 'plasma,' the 'Great Hunt,' so either there's a weird religion behind it, or you're something else."
"Semantics," Xi answered with a shrug. Her nonchalance notwithstanding, she was secretly growing intrigued. It wasn't often she engaged in any extended conversation; her lifestyle often amounted to extreme lengths of time alone in the various alien wildernesses that dotted the inhabited galaxies. To have someone genuinely interested in learning about her was even rarer, unless it was someone seeking to kill her...which she still couldn't discount, here. Still, it was a nice change. If nothing else, it was an opportunity for her to learn some things, and that appeased her pragmatic nature.
"Weird?" She pursed her lips, hiding the grin she almost reflexively flashed. "I could take offense to that and give you a bland answer, such as that I'm a warrior and a hunter, and that would be honest enough. But I'll show a little good faith. I am originally from Ephemera, a world far from your own. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it; it's only been about a generation since we learned that other planets existed."
@xiandra: "Simple enough," Valentina said with a shrug. "Alien from far away space planet no one's heard of, like...Star Wars." But looks a lot like us. This was the kind of answer she'd pre-decided she would believe if she heard it, though as she spoke aloud and pondered the implication it sounded more like the huntress was making a joke of her in return. Valentina thought back to the lavaliere, reminding herself that there were stranger things out there than extraterrestrials, and convinced herself that it didn't matter whether the woman "from Ephemera" was telling the truth. And maybe it never would. She started reaching to the inside of her jacket pocket just before, as though stricken by a sudden internal revelation, she stopped.
"Please," she offered, gesturing toward the bar, "let us sit. The least you could do is tell me about this 'Great Hunt.' If it's going to be the cause of our paths crossing again, at least I might know what it is. And, if you were so inclined, the name of my recurring acquaintance."
See? I put the aback back.
Xi glanced back at their seats at the bar, and with another shrug resumed her place, her face neutral. "The Great Hunt is the life of all hunters," she began, speaking a bit haltingly, as though she was a fish attempting to explain water. "From our first gasping breath to our last, we're reaching for what we want or need. You get nothing without at least some effort, and the strongest efforts are where your trophies come from. And I'm Xiandra. I'm sure the name means nothing to you, but mention it around a Sauroid camp, and you'll get some attention. Might be good or bad attention, but you'll have it," she accentuated this last statement with a chuckle.
"Oh," she said, expression suddenly appearing glum. "It's...just life. I thought there might've been something more, but you're only wishing you get to try to kill me again." But then, almost as soon as it dropped, she smiled again as though truly unfazed. "How bad do I have to beat you for your 'honor' to dictate you owe me a bigger favor than alien steroids? There any part of the Great Hunt that says you owe me your life?"
She noted, but paid almost no mind to the "Sauroid camp." It didn't seem the kind of thing that'd likely be a concern in her own personal circles.
This time, the alien huntress couldn't help but laugh at Val's response. "Is life on this planet really so depressing that it makes you feel this way? But to answer your question, a defeat only earns recognition from the defeated. My life, at least..." she momentarily trailed off, a distant and somewhat melancholy look briefly darkening her features, "...already belongs to another."
@xiandra: "'On this planet'"—her voice was dripping sarcasm—"life is depressing, period." Again she shrugged. "Shikata ga nai. Can't be helped. The world is cruel, and it's home."
She read Xiandra's expression. Her own life's experience, as she'd become increasingly aware lately, seemed to be characterized by a series of successive "ownerships" and, as cold as she often was, it was hard not to feel classless at the suggestion coming from herself, even as something of a joke. "Well, regardless, it never hurts to have one less person after your life. Forget debts and who owes what. If someone could free you from this person who your life belongs to, would that...do anything for you?"
"I've only been studying humans for a short time," Xi responded, her posture growing more relaxed even as her gaze continued to warily flit about the room, "and I have developed some respect for you. You are clearly a warlike species, but confined to a single planet, you've inevitably taken to butchering yourselves. I've seen it on other worlds. All you need is a clear, external threat to unite you, and that day will come, trust me."
She lapsed into an awkward moment of silence before actually responding to Val's inquiry. "Not really, no...I'm bound by honor, not coercion. You really can't force any decent hunter to do something they would refuse to do; they'll just drop off the grid and disappear."
Valentina bristled at Xiandra's foreboding assertion. Pursing her lips, watching more closely then her body language to determine if it was a merely a prediction, or a threatening warning. With no certainty just yet, she dropped it, and made a few gestures at the bartender, who began mixing her next drink at once. Can't be helped, she repeated once more in her mind.
"So. This vial. This really alien steroids, not poison?"
Xi smirked, the corners of her mouth turning up. "I told you what it was. I wasn't lying then, and I'm not now. Besides, look at it this way: when the time comes to use it, you'd likely be a dead woman anyways, poison or no. Biggest risk of using it is a tendency to forget that you're still mortal flesh and bone, and it's going to wear off. Oh, and for at least a day after using it, it's going to be virtually impossible to get drunk. So there's that."
Valentina just stared. "You and I...see things very differently." Quickly forcing a laugh, though, to keep the atmosphere from getting too heavy. She sipped her drink. "It makes a difference because if someone else is killing me, I don't want you to be the one who gets to claimcredit.
"Still, sounds...interesting." A heavy euphemism. "What about risk of addiction?"
"That would be no credit to me," Xi replied, with an emphatic shake of her braid-adorned head. "My kills are earned through skill, not underhanded cowardice. As far as addiction goes, if you aren't already addicted to being alive and whole, then your planet must be even more depressing than you say. But no, there's no possibility of becoming chemically addicted to this. Psychologically, maybe, because who wouldn't get used to the idea of enhanced healing? I don't think one does would do that to you, though."
You say "cowardice." I say "a well-executed plan," Valentina thought, and looked pleased with herself for having the thought. It was a satisfactory answer, almost boringly so. She still didn't entirely trust it, but it was the right answer. Maybe there was someone she could test it on.
Absently, she stirred her drink. "This is...new for me. I never thought I - or anyone else - would say this, but I'm no good to drink with tonight. It's not me, it's just...some things have happened and I'm not presently predisposed to fun. You can get outta here," she said, motioning absently toward the door.
"Oh, can I?" Xi smirked as she replied. "I wasn't aware I was being detained." Her face became serious as she pushed herself back to her feet, however. "Just don't think I've been lying about any of this. If your recent scuffle was caused by what I think it was caused, your planet's about to get a lot less lonely, and you'll probably wind up having to deal with it, one way or another. That does of plasma will help, but it's not going to guarantee victory, or even survival. Only way to guarantee that is to find another piece of floating space rock to call home."
Without ceremony, she headed for the exit.
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