Previously on BWB, everything went to shit. The party have lost everything: their ship, their budding crew, most of their equipment, and they've got the scars to prove it. To make matters worse, they're stuck on an Ark called Endriga, which is under quarantine in the wake of a foiled bioterror attack from the mysterious organization known as the Spurned. With barely anything to their names, the party are left to explore Endriga and try to find a way off it, if possible.
To blow off some steam from their predicament, the party have decided to sign themselves up for some holo-arena missions, in the hopes of earning some money in the process.
It doesn't take you long to find the holo-arena, being well signposted amidst the large, wide open streets of Endriga's upper city. The Vermillion Fountain, as it is known, is a large, dome-shaped building with several arch-shaped windows, making it resemble some sort of colosseum. It seems to be a popular destination, judging by the amount of advertising around it and the small queue you have to endure in order to enter. You notice a prominent ad near the entrance promoting the biannual Trial of Champions, with a 5000 florin reward promised to the winning team. The date listed is the day after tomorrow, with more details provided on inquiry.
The inside is quite luxurious and even decadent, a large, circular room with several alcoves and offshoot rooms. It is decorated in tones of red and gold, with a variety of lavish services being provided, including a bar area tended to by expensive-looking waiterbots painted to look like they're wearing tuxedos. There are also several screens around the room projecting what is currently happening in a holo-arena, usually fights of some sort or blinker races. There is also an area where you can place bets, as well as another for general inquiries, past which is a room labeled 'Contestants Only' covered by a red curtain. Finally, separate from the main atrium where you are now is a gambling hall, with seems to have a selection of slot machines, roulettes and other such games commonly found in casinos.
You notice that most of the clientele here are rather fancy and upscale, dressed in appropriately swanky gear. In your state, you ou stick out like a sore thumb among the various patrons, and some even give you looks of disdain.
Teal smiled in some seemingly twisted satisfaction upon seeing the upper crust react the way they did and addressed the team bolsteringly:
"Hah! Seems like we've hit a timing, guys. Imagine the queue if the quarantine was off"
Expecting Pyrite or one of the other normal-sized ponies of her party to take place in the queue, she does not move from her spot on the earth pony's back, for now.
Pyrite shuffles in place in the line, looking around a little. He's not too keen on the odd looks he and the others get, and rubs at his neck uncomfortably. >>695941
"Y-Yeah, I guess you're right. T-There's some luck left, yeah?"
The looks of disdain are given right back as Veta hobbles in, shaking out some pills and swallowing them without a drink.
"Alright, let's relax for a bit. Maybe making other people's day as shit as mine will help me feel a bit better."
Veta finds a place to sit for now, letting Pyrite do the line standing for now.
"Good grief…this is going to be murder to get used to."
With the off-beat metallic clanking of my back and fore hoofs sounding off, i head over to the inquiries area, cracking my neck as i enter.
"Been a while since i used a holo-arena, wonder if i still have that avatar o'mine."
Teal looks at the video projected and ponders about the skill level of the ones presented, comparing them with what was usually going through the mills of her hometown arena.>>695943
"Exactly! Gotta stay positive. When you have your leg being hacked away, you don't look at the geysering wound - you look for nearest element of surrounding that you can put one in an enemy with!">>695944
"Oh, you'll do wonders, Veta, I'm positive about that~. You have an artist's spirit. My theory is that it's why you're feeling so down most of the time. You just need a place to shine!">>695945
"Oooh! You have one at the ready!? That's superb! Say, what is it like?" - Teal asks, flying around Riky giddily, like a happy little breezie girl.
Veta looks at Teal like she's the biggest bullshit peddler she's ever seen.
"Yeah, sure, clearly the thing I went to a damn school for isn't where I shine. Why didn't I think of that? You're a friggin' genius…."
Teal doesn't let the Diamond Dog's negativity get her down.
"Oh, just wait and see. You may've been on the bad side of things lately, but holo-arena is where it's at. That and you don't have to worry about patching up your allies when it's over. Not to mention the "enemies" being fine afterwards too. It's meant to be fun, Veta!
Pyrite offers a bit of a giggle in response, before patting Teal's head- as lightly as the clumsy stallion can manage, of course.
"What, bein' in a holo-game?"
"Hmm.. a bit like one o'those cryo pods, get yerself hooked up t'the game and ye can move and fight like normal. There's some feedback t'things like bein hurt, but largely ye can keep goin like nothin' happened, at least 'till ye run out o'hitpoints."
You head over to the inquiries desk, tended to by a bubbly young mare with a white mane kept in a neat bun. Behind her, you can see a billboard keeping track of teams in the Trial of Champions, as well as a list of names. "Hi there!" she says cheerily. "What can I do for you? Here to sign up for the arena?"
Teal giggles at being pat mid-air, feeling her whole body go down a few breezie-meters as the patting occurs.
"We're gonna do great. We've hit the bottom, so now's the time to get back up!">>695950
"Yep~ Wondering what you portrayed your VR self as. Did you try different ones or did you go with what you first created? I heard a lot of ponies actually go with the latter."
Teal expects Risky to give her official stamp of approval and all that, but bristling with excitement she speaks up nonetheless:
"Yep! Get us a spot right there, girl! We're here to play and we're here to win!"
"Y-Yeah, I hope so. I didn't expect all 'a this t' go… B-But, maybe it'll start t' get better.">>695951
"Yupyup. How does this work?"
"I know what fun is. And it sure as hell won't be fun when I have to get back to real life. Before it was for two reason, but now I have a third," she retorts, lightly tapping her bum leg with her cane.>>695951
"Yeah, sure, why not."
"Hmm.. far as i can remember i went with meself as the player, not one fer fiddlin' with dials."
"That and, maybe i hoped some fan o'history recognized the once 'terror of open space'.">>695951
"Aye, that we are, four spots fer me and me crew." i reply
"And that's where prize money comes in! We'll have fun, win and get you such a nice replacement that you'll forget it's one in the first place!">>695954
Teal looks at Pyrite confidently, grinning:
"Oh, Pyrite. Did I ever lie to you?">>695956
"You sure are rocking the boat with the pirate theme, Risky - and I'll admit, if that's the what you've been meaning to get, it's not a bad way of handling it. Shifting between here and battles amng stars - striking the hearts of fans and real foes alike. Hell, maybe there's already someone at the audience remembering you and wishing you had come here today?"
"It's simple, really," she answers. "You sign up, then we create your virtual self. It can be what you look like now, or something else entirely. Then, we plug you into the VR state, and you're given a challenge to complete for real money. The challenges can be anything from team fights, to puzzle solving, clearing out a dungeon… Well, that's all there is to it really. We do have other services available here at the Vermillion Fountain, but this is the main attraction. We have the big tournament starting soon as well, but that might be a bit advanced if you're a beginner. The teams are of five as well, so if you're here as a group you'd need to find an extra person.">>695953>>695954>>695955>>695956
"Awesome!" She beams and digs in the desk for a moment, passing you each a datapad containing a bunch of legal jargon, requiring you to fill out all your details - name, signature, date and place of birth, current occupation, bank details, contact details, even your favorite color. "We're VERY thorough," the attendant explains. Risky and Teal, already being in the system, are not required to fill all this in.
After this step, the attendant, whose name is Capoeira, leads you through the red curtain and into the Contestants Only area. The room is panelled with fake wood decor with golden filigrees, making it look both ornate and somewhat tacky. There are many alcoves at regular intervals, each containing someone lying on a bed of some sort. They are all wearing elaborate headsets consisting of a rectangular visor, metal framework around the head, and wiring connecting to where the temples are, leading to a monitor nearby. "This is where the magic happens," Capoeira explains. "The unique headsets are what connect you to our virtual world. Please note that while you are in this state, you will be comatose in the real world, although sudden stimuli will disconnect you from the VR experience."
Capoeira then points out a strange, slightly sinister looking device at the far end of the room. It is a tall, white steel chamber, much like a fridge, but it reminds you more of a coffin. "This is where you, and all your relevant possessions, will be scanned in before starting your mission. If you wish to create a virtual persona, this step is not necessary. Would you like to appear as you are, or create a persona for yourselves?"
Veta gives an annoyed sigh.
"It doesn't matter how great the replacement is. It still isn't the original….">>695958
Veta has a slight silence as she fills the paperwork out, perhaps being used to filling out papers like this.
"Ugh, fine, I'll make one, if only because I hate looking in mirrors even more than before lately."
"Well, far as i know i should still have me old persona, right? Might as well keep it as is."
"As fer me weapons.."
grabbing my PEW with my claw from my back, i place the weapon into the chamber. "There we go, might as well update the old gear."
Teal flies off Pyrite, given he might need to take the procedure and addresses the whole party:
"Oh, I guess I should take this step to warn you, guys. I'm going in as someone you haven't met yet. Not many connect the two of us in the first place and I think I actually like it this way. Point is though, you might get surprised, so heads up on this one.">>695959
"Say that to Risky. She likes her legs like she likes her starships: mounted with deadly plasma."
"N-No, I guess ya haven't. I'll keep trustin' ya, Miss Teal." he says, attempting to ruffle her mane.>>695958
The stallion slowly fills out the datapad, down to the favorite color- blue! After finishing it up, he he looks over the mildly intimidating-looking device, and shrugs a little "I think I'll be fine with how I look, Miss. Jus' step on into it if I wanna look like me?"
"Someone we haven't met? Well, alright. I imagine you'll still recognize us, so it's no biggie!"
"Speakin of, that crash blew through the meetin time o'that mechanic, gonna have t'hunt 'im down again."
"I'm not gonna give up on that hoof cannon and no blasted ship crash'll get in me way!"
"Well good for Risky, but doesn't exactly help me out."
Pyrite doesn't do much more than request a shield for himself. Something akin to the old one!
"Atta, boy" - says Teal amiably, probably looking a little comically, having her mane ruffled by the giant stallion. She doesn't shy away from it though.>>695963
"I guess you are right in this regard. Maybe. Teehee.">>695965
"You've fit some awesome machinery in your arm and it seems to have been working wonders for you so far. Quite the reliable combat medic you are. Think of this as an opportunity to change for the better. Reckon you could do something even better with this one. I'll leave it to the salesponies to convince you with their wares though. If you're one to believe with your eyes only, you'll see in no time.">>695964
"That's the sprit!" - Teal seems happy that the captain is showing enthusiasm as well, pumping her foreleg up - "Nothing stopping us now!"
"Alright then, take a gander!" She hands you a datapad with a 3D rotating model of a pony on it. There are quite literally tens of thousands of options to choose from for your race, body type, colors, hairstyle, starting gear, personality, etcetera. After some tinkering, you manage to recreate yourself in-game, albeit with all your original limbs and no limp.>>695960
As you open the scanning chamber, you insert the PEW into a slot on one of the walls. Capoeira closes the door and inputs something on the monitor, and after a minute of whirring and bright white light shining through the cracks, she hands it back to you. "Here you go! It should come through on your persona now.">>695962
The interior of the scanning chamber is cold, bright white and uncomfortable. You are made to stand in a neutral T-pose while inside, which is made difficult by your prodigious size, and a white light passes over you from top to bottom and on all sides. On a monitor on the inside of the door, you see yourself being rendered in real time, eventually loading a perfect recreation of yourself.>>695966
At your request, Capoeira also loads in a shield for you to use, although it's not quite the same as your old one but close enough to be comfortable for you.>>695959>>695960>>695961>>695962
"Okay, final step." Capoeira takes each of you into a different chamber, hooking up a headset for each of you. It takes her a while to find one for a Breezie, but she manages to dig one up eventually from a dusty old closet.
"Okay, so since some of you have experience and some don't, there are two missions that I'd recommend for you here."
"First of all, there's a straightforward 2v2 fight. You'd be loaded into an arena, split into teams and made to duke it out. The last one standing wins for their team, and gets 500 florins. The other team… doesn't. Great for trying out VR for the first time, really. Helps you get used to it."
The other option is quite fun. It's a heavy combat simulation. Your mission would be to get into a manor belonging to a mob boss. He would be heavily guarded, and your mission would be to take him out of the picture. If you manage to complete the mission by killing the target, it's 120 florins for each of you. If you kidnap him and fight your way back out though, it's 150 each."
Pyrite whinnies uncomfortably through the entirety of the process, but doesn't struggle much.
He listens to both of the options, and hums a little bit at the second one "I think I like that one more. I dunno if I wanna beat m' friends up, virtual 'r no."
"I don't really mind eiher" - Teal respons to the attendant and her teammates alike - "I'll go with what you guys prefer."
"Well now, that first option's quite the proposition! five hundred florins fer scrapping with the crew? Sounds interesting.">>695965
"And with no sign o'brimstone, actually winnable! What do ye think, Veta? fer old times' sake?"
Veta has an odd look on her face, as if there is a conflict of emotions vying for who gets to be on the surface, as she stares at the VR avatar of herself.
"Whatever is fine….">>695971
Veta can't help but finally laugh at that little bit.
"Sure, why the hell not."
Teal seems intrigued by this development.
"So… do you mean to compete against each other or rather team up against me and Pyrite here?">>695969
"There is a reason why VR is used by soldiers to train in this way with one another, Pyrite. Getting to see things from another perspective lets you see the strengths and weaknesses of your allies better. It's a valuable lesson. One that you can employ later on when the need to protect them really comes."
"Oh… I guess that makes sense. A-And, it doen't actually hurt them none, right? It's all harmless stuff?" he asks, tapping his hooves together a little "And, I wouldn't mind bein' paired with you."
"Well, last time we fought it was against each other.. got me good then.. but aye, i can work with veta, all good practice, after all."
"Possibly. Sounds pretty fun, to me."
"Looks like brawl it is then!"
You get yourselves settled and strap on the headsets. You feel a small jolt from the wires connecting to your temple area, but apart from that no discomfort, apart from not being able to see just yet. You hear Capoeira flitting about getting everything ready.
"Teams set, personas pre-loaded. Just need to choose a map. Hmmm… Ooh! I know! You'll like this one!" She taps something into a datapad.
"Okay, all set. I'll just go over the safety procedures. Please keep your limbs, tails and/or wings inside the chamber at all times. If at any time during the simulation you become disoriented… well, there's nothing we can do about it. Hmm… Nothing we really need to worry about as far as allergies go. Alright! Let's do it!"
You hear some beeps and boops, followed by a whirring sound. Capoeira giggles giddily. "Here we go! Activating simulation in 3… 2… 1." You hear the clunk of a lever being pulled, and you feel a sudden jolt.
The next thing you know, you find yourselves standing on a white sandy beach straight out of a postcard, with lush palm trees, crystal clear waters and some tourist-y huts nearby as well. Looking down at yourselves, you find yourselves much as you are, only with slight differences. Risky has her eye, horn and leg back, and Veta has both her arms and no limp. The most drastic difference is the pony standing where Teal should be; instead of the Breezie you know, there stands a deep purple Saddle Arabian mare, holding a kite-shaped bracer and wearing a glowing necklace of some sort.
Risky and Veta are standing on one team, while Pyrite and "Teal" (VR name: Jalila) are on the other team. This is indicated by a glowing blue icon above the teammates' heads, only visible to allies.
"Okay, start whenever you're ready!" Capoeira's voice booms out from seemingly nowhere. "Take a moment to adjust if you have to. Remember, you're on camera!"
Veta looks at her limbs, giving herself a moment to bend her good leg and clench a fist with her now non-mechanical arms. She smirks a bit, then looks over at Teal and Pyrite.
"Alright, so who you wanna take out first?"
looking back at my still mostly intact avatar, i feel a pang of regret at the memory before facing the two, pulling my PEW free with my magic.
"Aha! Well now, best t'start things off right!"
swinging my PEW to overcharge, i arc a beam of energy across the both of them!
[1d10] Overcharge 2, Pyrite/Jalila>>695978
"Ye already know what pyrite can do, so go fer the other one! Somethin' tells me we're in fer a surprise with her."Roll #1 7 = 7
Pyrite wiggles around uneasily inside the chamber uneasily as they get it set up, and lets out a loud yelp when he's jolted by, well… something!
When he comes top, he looks around the arena with a bit of surprise. His surprise only grows when he finally sees… a Saddle Arabian? It takes him a few moments, before he says "…T-Teal? That's you, right?">>695979
"A-Already? C-C'mon now!" he shouts, shoving Teal Drop out of the way to soak the blast himself.>Protect (Instant, Automatic) on Jalila
He rushes towards Risky, shouting "S-Sorry!" at the top of his lungs, before slamming into her like a werecking ball>Slam: [1d10] (Crits on 8+)Roll #1 7 = 7
>Pic related is Teal, just w/o wings. In case you haven't checked it out on her sheet.>>695974>>695975>>695976
"Sure thing. Let's give that a shot" - Teal grins in anticipation as she hears the affirmation of the in-party rumble.>>695977
Teal, now as Jalila takes a little trot around and stretches, checking out the coordination of her VR self. Takes a glance at her party members as they ogle her in a new fashion as well.
"Looking good, Pyrite… so, Risky, Veta, you ready to take a hard beating? Something tells me the audience is gonna enjoy the show tonight"
She takes a moment to check her equipment manifestations and uses her catalyst, in this case a necklace, to bring forth some ammo for herself and Pyrite alike.
"Now, let's have fun, shall we~?"
>Gotten Rust's approval to roll for preparations now, before the actual fight starts, as rolling for homing magic/arabian alchemy/healing bonds would take a long time now and an immeasurable time when I'm equipping the whole party.
>Hence, just rolling what happens before the fight now, as critfails can be healed with healing bonds regardless.
First success homing magic/arabian alchemy on Pyrite.
Second success base homing magic on Jalila.
Second success arabian alchemy homing magic on Jalila (yes, it's not affected by recharge)
Then, leaving off with healing bonds potion.
[1d10+2]Roll #1 8 + 2 = 10
/ Roll #2 6 + 2 = 8
/ Roll #3 1 + 2 = 3
/ Roll #4 1 + 2 = 3
/ Roll #5 5 + 2 = 7
/ Roll #6 10 + 2 = 12
To sum up:
Pyrite gets 5 homing magic shots to attack with.
Teal gets 3 and 2.
"Alright then, work for me." She opens up her VR inventory menu, using some starting currency/starter materials/her credit card to purchase the stupidest, most idiotic cosmetic she could.
>Cast Mold to 'make' a Ugandan Knuckles head and put on her avatar to try and make Pyrite and Teal distracted via laughter
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
"Oh, that is, Pyrite~. Like what you see?"
She chuckles, then commands the summoned magical energy projectiles to go over to Pyrite.
"Here. I'm allowed to have my teammates partake in it. Quite the piecing together that took, but I felt pretty good about it so far. When you feel like attacking them, just think, wishing for them to attack. It'll do the trick."
Seeing neither her captain nor the medic waste time in getting to them, she shifts swiftly to a battle stance, yelling:
"Here they come. Brace yourself!"
That being said, she commands all the magical projectiles to strike Risky, while she rushes forward, charging Veta with her shield.
>Homing Magic attack on Risky, instant
>Basic meelee weapon attack on Veta
[1d10]Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
/ Roll #2 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #3 6 + 2 = 8
/ Roll #4 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #5 10 + 2 = 12
/ Roll #6 5 = 5
"W-Well, uhm… y-yeah? Ya look really pretty, Miss Teal. N-Not that ya don't normally!" He says, flustering nervously. He takes a chance to look over the floating orbs curiously, listening to the best of his ability and trying to take it all in. "S-So, think of it, an' it works, right? Works f'r me!"
The PEW shakes violently in your hooves before unleashing a bolt of plasma at your opponents. Pyrite jumps in the way, taking the blow for his teammate. He takes heavy damage, but is not deterred. In retaliation, he charges into you, knocking you off your feet. You quickly pick yourself up, ready to keep fighting, but take the full brunt of a magic missile volley.>>695980
The bolt of plasma hits you mid-charge, but you power through it and ram into your captain, bowling her over. Rattled by the attack, Risky gets back up, only to get taken down by a barrage of magic missiles from Jalila.>>695981>>695984
After conjuring yourself and Pyrite some floating orbs, you unleash them in a barrage at Risky, felling her.>>695983
You try to pull up something ridiculous to wear, but only end up giving your persona a vaguely disturbing horse mask that is clearly meant to look like Celestia, but looks more like the Sun Princess after suffering a stroke.
>Risky is at 0/4>Jalila is at 6/5>Veta is at 5/5>Pyrite is at 0/4, holding due to Protect
Seeing Risky go down, Veta puts her Diamond Dog digging to use as she digs into the virtual arena. Digging under Pyrite, she tries to yank him half-way into the ground, just to try and inconvenience him.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
After the pummeling from a barrage of arcane missiles, i try and get myself back up.
"Ye blasted madmare! What kind o'persona is
[1d10] RecoverRoll #1 10 = 10
Pyrite knocks Risky off of her hooves, staggering a little at the end of his charge, but remaining standing nonetheless. He whirls to Veta, trying to ignore the plasma burns on his shield, chest, and arm, before pouncing on Veta and trying to catch the diamond dog in a headlock… which looks pretty silly as an earth pony, honestly.>Grapple: [1d10+1]>Homing Magic (Instant): [1d10], [1d10]Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
/ Roll #3 4 = 4
"Nice going, Pyrite! Taking the blow like a hero~"
Jalila swishes her tail, staying behind Pyrite and clutches her amulet with her free hoof:
"Now, let me return the favour, shall I? Care for a healing touch, big guy?"
>Expending the Arabian Alchemy Healing Bonds on Pyrite, instant automatic
Having rejuvenated her trustful steed, the elegant Saddle Arabian calls forth another volley:
>Arabian Alchemy Homing Magic
"That was a great shot, Risky, if I ever saw one. I see you're not fazed though? Good~ Give it your all, girl."Roll #1 9 + 2 = 11
Pyrite tries to focus a couple of the orbs on Veta, mumbling a quick "S-Sorry, sorry."
You dig into the sand, popping out in front of Pyrite. Before you can do anything to him, he grabs you and puts you in a powerful headlock.>>695988
You eeffortlessly pull yourself back up, shrugging off the blow and readying yourself to keep fighting. You feel as if you could do this all day.>>695989
Your homing magic shots go wide, but you manage to grab Veta as she pops out of the ground, putting her in a headlock.>>695990
You summon 5 more magic orbs to surround you in a neat little arc.
>Risky is at 5/3>Jalila is at 6/5>Veta is at 3/5, grappled>Pyrite is at 0/4, holding due to Protect
Pyrite lets out a relieved-sounding whinny as the healing magic spreads over his body. He flushes a bit more from all the sweet talk, and would shuffle around and kick the floor were he not busy putting a dog in a headlock. "T-Thank ya kindly, Miss Teal."
The stallion, without much of a way to use his shield this close up, just opts for haphazardly chuck Veta at Risky, and letting off a couple more homing bolts, one at Risky and one at Veta.>Dogging the Captain with Veta: [1d10+1] (+1 Grapple)>Homing Bolt (Instant): [1d10] Veta, [1d10] Risky
>Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
/ Roll #3 3 = 3
"A polished one for sure. I'm glad you appreciate it~"
Jalila eyes Risky, seeing her back and ready. Her eyelids close a little as she extends her hood forward, commanding the first two bolts to attack her… but the three remaining ones freeze in mid-way to the unicorn. One could see the look of content, yet intrigued pondering. Instead, the three remaining shots turn towards Veta, as Jalila comes slowly closer to Risky.
"Now, I could have sent all that your way… but I don't feel like it. I don't feel like staying behind Pyrite's back this time either. You can see that in plenty action movies and it's rarely appealing. Let's do it like the big girls do, shall we~?
And having said, that, instead of charging another volley, she lunges forward to grapple Risky!
>Homing Magic, instant, 2 shots on Risky, 3 on Veta.
Grapple on Risky
[1d10]Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
/ Roll #2 6 + 2 = 8
/ Roll #3 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #4 9 + 2 = 11
/ Roll #5 10 + 2 = 12
/ Roll #6 6 = 6
"Tch, think ye can just shove me over, eh? Fine then, try t'hit me!"
Galloping forward to meet you, i extend my hoof's talons and leap forward for a hook!
[1d10] MeleeRoll #1 8 + 2 = 10
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
Veta tries to roll her weight around so her and Pyrite just keep rolling around on the ground so neither of them get hit and, hopefully, regain dominance in the grapple.
>>695996>forgot to roll
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
You throw Veta at Risky, sending both of them toppling into each other like bowling pins. One of your shots goes wide, but the other hits Veta as well, leaving a smoking mark.>>695994
Risky and Veta crash into each other, courtesy of Pyrite. While they're down, you restrain the captain while unleashing another barrage of missiles into them both.>>695995
You pull out your talons, only to be greeted with the full brunt of Veta to the face. You barely even feel the flurry of missiles firing on you both.>>695996
You only find yourself soaring through the air, colliding headfirst with your captain. The barrage of magic missiles doesn't help much either.
>Risky is at 0/2>Jalila is at 6/5>Veta is at 0/3>Pyrite is at 9/5
It's a sad state of affairs you're in. One Golden Company job has led to another, which has led you to finding yourself on an Ark called Endriga. You would have left the Ark well behind you by now, were it not for a snag: recently, the terrorist organization called the Spurned attempted to launch a bioterror attack by releasing a deadly virus into Endriga's population. The plan was foiled, but unfortunately for you and all other prospective spacers, a strict quarantine has been put in place, with all major spaceports on the Ark being shut down and a blockade being set up around the Ark for its own protection. No one can get in or out, yourself included.
You are in Endriga's upper city, the most affluent part of the Ark. You know that the lower city is a lawless dump, ruled by unruly mobs and gangs, while the undercity, at the very bottom of the Ark, is even worse. Currently, you find yourself in a fancy Chineighse restaurant called Happy Garden. According to a Golden Company mission you have taken, you must deliver a data package to a high profile celebrity: Astral Echo, a well known singer-songwriter renowned for her eccentricity and for her network of connections. The message said simply to rendezvous at Happy Garden and await contact from "Ronsin and Adalbert", who will know who you are.
Happy Garden is a rather upscale, expensive restaurant. It has traditional Chineighse decor, with red and gold designs and neon dragon motifs on many of the panels. Many of the typical waiterbots, rectangular, hovering contraptions with tubular arm appendages, have also been decorated in traditional colors. There are tanks of fresh fish and lobster on display, presumably for the carnivorous, and a holoscreen on one wall quietly displaying the local news, currently discussing the aftermath of the foiled bioterror attack. The customers here seem rather fancy, making you stick out somewhat.
As you wait, the restaurant doors slide open, and a pair of Diamond Dogs walk in. They are almost identical in every aspect, save for their hats and metal gauntlets: one's hat is black while the other's is white, and one ears a gauntlet on their left while the other wears it on the right. After scanning the clientele, the two focus on you and nod silently in greeting, making their way over to your table. "Miss Ahln, I presume?" one of them asks.
Carrie trots about, somewhat awkward in such an upscale setting, but none the less keeping her composure. This is buisness, no social norms are keeping her from one more job on a path to get out of here and back on her quest.
"You presume correctly. And you must be Ronsin? Or Adalbert. I really can't tell."
She says this somewhat smugly, desperate to loosen the tension of this affair a bit.
"I'm Ronsin," the one who greeted you replies.
"And I'm Adalbert. Charmed, ma'am."
The twins take off their hats and sit down at your table. One of the waiterbots hovers over to you after a moment, handing you and the two Dogs datapads with the menu on it, consisting of typical Chineighse food, although described to make it sound much more fancy than it really is. The drinks too are standard fare for a restaurant: alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and other such things besides. The waiterbot silently places water glasses along with a bottle before floating off. Seems you only have to select your preferences on the menu for it to be processed.
"So, with introductions out of the way, let's talk business," one of the Dogs says. Even with their introductions, you can't tell who's who. The other reaches into a satchel and pulls out a smaller datapad. "Here's the datapad that needs to be delivered to miss Echo. It's for her eyes only, so don't activate it. What's on it isn't your concern. All you have to do is get it to her."
"Of course," the other says, "there is a catch. As impressive as that Pseumion bit of tech of yours is, this ain't gonna be an easy in-and-out courier job. Else we woulda done it ourselves."
The Dogs look around to make sure no one's looking, then lean in conspiratorially. "This is urgent, miss Ahln. Our employer, he has eyes and ears out there in the stars. And he's heard the Spurned are gonna be on the move soon. The foiled attack, that was meant to be step 1. There's gonna be another attack soon. We don't know where, and we don't know when, but we do have a hunch."
"Unfortunately, miss Echo's a hard mare to reach. Fortunately, she's on Endriga right now. She's going to be doing a concert within a month. Some big charity ball event. What better place for those scumbags to strike?"
"Which is where you come in,"the other Dog says while his twin puts in an order. "Or rather, the team you'll be needin'. We've… run into some Company members here on Endriga that'll be able to help out. You'll need a team to make sure miss Echo makes it out of that concert hall alive. Now, we can get one of y'all tickets into the concert, but our hands are tied as for the rest of 'em. Try and meet miss Echo before the show, if you can, and give her this datapad. Then stick around, make sure nothing happens to her."
"You'll be paid, of course. Our boss is generous like that. And, we can get you transport off of this rock, if you don't want to stick around here. Which I imagine you won't. We're spacers too, you see. We've got places to be as well."
"So, what do you say?" Ronsin asks, or maybe it's Adalbert. "You in?"
As soon as Carrie is handed the datapad she is entranced with it, it's nothing like what she saw in her sheltered life in Pseumion. More up to date. Or less. hard to tell.
She responds firstly on their comment about her Pseumion history.
"Rare that someone recognizes a Pseu piece. Rarer that you find one outside of a bunker. If you boys don't mind, how'd you know so quick? Done your research on me?"
She says, knowing well that she isn't going to do this with a simple nod. She'll take all the info she can get. Use every resource as well as she can.
She then responds to the urgency.
"Sounds like it must be. Considering how much intel you just dropped on me. Can't say I know this Echo girl well. But I'm sure I'll be able to pick her out. The famous have a tendency to be attention grabbing."
Finally, she responds to the concept of this team.
"A team? I generally work alone. Just needed to turn jobs as fast as possible, never bought into comradely or whatever. Though the way you describe it, doesn't seem possible to do this alone."
Her eyes light up at the offer of transport away from here.
"See, you two get it. We've all got places to be, ponies to find, guns to steal. What's the point of an infinite universe if you stay in one place?"
She smiles, a rare, genuine smile.
"I'm in. I look forward to a lasting relationship with the Golden Company"
She says, glad she read those books on how to act at a job interview.
"Could say we have," one of them replies. "Like I said, the boss has eyes and ears. And his ears have ears, for that matter."
In response to your query about Echo, one of them types away on a datapad, bringing up an image to show you. It displays a young bat pony performing on a stage, wearing a strange, colorful set of robes that make her look almost alien. Eerie, visceral images are projected behind her, giving her an unearthly atmosphere. "Like you said. Ain't hard to miss." He then shows you another photo of her out of costume, giving the camera a disapproving glare. It looks like a paparazzi shot. She has a medium blue coat, a lilac mane and intense green eyes. "If you spot her off the stage. Tell her who sent you, and she'll know what to do."
"If a fight breaks out, then yeah, you'll need a team to sort the mess out," says the other. "It's almost certain the Spurned will try something at the gig."
As you accept, the two return the smile at the same time. "We knew you'd come around, ma'am. Now then, as for the team, we have a couple of fellow mercs in mind."
On the same datapad, he brings up a group of four profiles, showing an image of someone with some details on them.
The first one shows a fierce-looking pegasus mare with a tan coat and a red mane. She has a robotic arm, and is leering at the camera. It looks like a mugshot.
>Name: Risky Hooves
>Age: Unknown, believed early to mid-40s
>Company mercenary for: 6 months
>Previous occupation: Pirate
>Criminal record: Extensive
>Threat level: High
The next one shows a diminutive Breezie with a dark red coat. She looks friendly, but intense.
>Name: Teal Drop, alias Jalila
>Age: Unknown, believed early 30s
>Company mercenary for: 6 months
>Previous occupation: Freelancer merc.
>Criminal record: Moderate
>Threat level: Very high
The third is a mean female Diamond Dog in a lab coat, with a pair of robotic forearms. She is giving the camera a withering glare.
>Company mercenary for: 6 months
>Previous occupation: Physician
>Criminal record: None
>Threat level: Low
The last one is an abnormally large earth pony with a big goofy grin, wearing what looks like riot armor. He looks completely out of his element in the lineup.
>Company mercenary for: 6 months
>Previous occupation: Ark Guardian
>Criminal record: None
>Threat level: Low
"As you mighta guessed," says Adalbert, "these fellas all joined up about the same time. Been on quite the adventures from what we've heard. Really been through the wringer, especially recently." He and Ronsin exchange a look. "They're here on Endriga now. Not really sure where, but we do know that they got released from hospital today. I'd suggest trying with the holo-arena or the Company base if you're gonna go track 'em down now."
"Say," one of them asks, "ain't you gonna order anything? Heard the food here's pretty good. It's on us this time."
She chuckles at the offer.
"Maybe, what do you suggest?"
She says this, a bit aloof in the thoughts of this upper crust of Endriga. It's nothing like she's seen before. With this job maybe being a way into a contact that would be a huge help towards finding her loves, things are looking up. Again, Carrie smiles.
"Well, if you're paying I suppose I'll stay."
They look at each other. "Can't go wrong with a good stir fry I suppose." He shrugs. "Up to you really."
"One other thing. We're trying to look out for the mercs here. We've done 'em wrong in the past. Was just business, but our hands were tied. You know how it goes. I think it'd be best not to namedrop us when you find 'em. Might not like us pokin' in their business."
"So, as for the pay. Like I said, we've got a way to get you and the others outta here. Thing is, it ain't gonna be easy either. It'll require some elbow grease from everyone involved, I reckon. So, let's talk about money for now. For this job, we're considering about 800 for each of you. Open to negotiation though. They've done right by our boss in the past, so he owes 'em one. What do you say to that price?"
"Also," the other Dog adds. "If you have any other questions, now's the time. We're countin' on you to relay all this to the rest of your team."
"I'll ask the waitress."
She says, a little unaware of how high scale dining works.
"I don't have any questions, sirs. I'd like to get this job done and continue our mutually beneficial relationship as soon as possible."
Ronsin blinks in confusion. "You just have to select what you want on the menu, ma'am. Ain't rocket science."
"Well, on to a more personal matter…"
Adalbert reaches into the satchel again and pulls out another datapad, pausing to check again that no one's listening in. "We got some news you might be interested in. 'Bout Pseumion. Looks like they're gonna be moving warehouses soon." He shows you a long list of scheduled flights, highlighting one. A cargo ship called the Karaboudjan
is scheduled to arrive at a place called Kafrene Station, in the middle of an asteroid belt. It looks like a very remote location, ideal for Pseumion to conduct their experiments. Pulling up a list of other locations the Karaboudjan
has been to, you start to notice a pattern as you recognize some of the names: they are all Arks where you know Pseumion to have outposts. "They're on the move," says Ronsin. "Might be plannin' something big. We ain't gonna get involved, but if you're still up for that big heist of yours, this might be a good chance. Once you and the gang get out of here, you might want to consider hitting this ship up. Might be somethin' worth looting, if you can get to 'em. I understand you don't have much love for those Pseumion bastards, so this could be an opportunity for you." He hands you the datapad with the Karaboudjan
's routes. "Here, you can hold on to this. Consider it a token of good will."