The sun's only been up for half an hour and the bazaar is in full swing. Merchants jockeying for position on blankets and small tables, some of them in tents that offer shade. Scrounged items from others, some stuff was on offer the previous day from a different merchant. Some crafted items, too, or forged things. Parts.
The place is loud, Hawkers, hagglers, arguers, singers, anyone and everyone begging for and demanding attention, some desperate to get enough to eat or drink for the day. It's not easy to navigate without hands touching, grabby thieves work this crowd. Best be wary.Cinch
You ended up spending the night here in Depot, right? Were you unable to find June, or did something distract you? Did you park at the garage or leave your vehicle... outside? How do you manage the crowd in the market?
Ahead you spot June, finally. What do you do?June
What's your area like, do you have a tent, a blanket, a table or what? What do you think about your neighbor merchants so far? Why did you stop selling here before, anyways, what went wrong?
Beckett took off this morning to check on Hackmobile and head out on a run. Did you send anything her way? What is for sale today?
You spot Cinch in the crowd as you scan it. What do you do?
I've got a pretty open tent set-up with a table inside. Today I've got a few ripe peppers, some green tomatoes, a few leaves of basil and a couple jugs of vinegar. The rest I've got to let time help me brew up - I need ingredients, too, so I'm happy to take in barter for that.
I'm sittin' on my stool, smoking and hawking whenever someone looks like they're shopping for food.
Really, I hate hawking like it was the Devil. All that shouting wears me right down, I can't stand it. That's what stops me from selling here, except when I'm desperate.
I sent Beckett off with the pickled peach peels to do with as she pleases.
I think one of my neighbors is workin' drunk, and the other one is loud, obnoxious. Feels like they're shouting the heartbeat after I start just to give me a scorchin'.
When I spot Cinch, I don't try to hide it or act the fool. I tip my hat when the lookin' is mutual. "C'mon in, Cinch."
Overnight? If I have to... I'm on the clock and that makes me restless as hell. But if June's not making herself obvious until morning then that's that. Maybe her class of establishment this night didn't match mine.
Car spends the night in garage, usually I'm comfortable leaving her out when I'm somewhere like the Irons where you kind of know everyone, but here, so many people come and go. Better kept under watchful eye. Anyway people at the garage are always the best people.
I manage the crowd just fine, I don't look like someone you want to mess with, I've found, at least when I'm armed for business. So usually I make my way just fine. Get my fair share of pricks being pricks, but this is life... as I remember saying to someone recently.
"June!" I answer her and hurry over, push past a few people on the way to the tent, use a hand to flip the flap as I enter. "Been all over the Irons lookin' for you! Just how'd you end up settin' out shop here in the Depot?"
Her stuff looks good as usual, though, and I'm already trying to figure out what Lether would like best. Vinegar? Or maybe something fresh.
I don't know what it is but Cinch feels like such a kid to me. I must have some nostalgic look on my face before I wipe it off and carry my end of the conversation.
"Sounds like a hassle. I set up shop like anyone else does in here, used some connections, scratched a back or two, narrowly avoided gettin' my guts pulled out by a Sand Snake.." I carry on and answer the words in the question.
"What were you after, then?"
"Pfft," I smile and shake my head, "thanks for clearing that up." But she does say something intriguing. "Sand snakes been riled up these days... nearly got snakebit myself..."
She's just uh... looking at me huh.
Not seeing another stool I crouch down on the other end of her table, fingertips gripping the edge for balance. My chin just barely not-touching the table so I can see her face.
"Okay... so I got an order of the vaguest... specificity to fill..." my eyes flicker back and forth from tomatoes to jar and back.
"Whatever..." I decide to use her actual name, "whatever June is selling... I'm supposed to bring along.... and I already fanged up the other half of the order... and I'm running late so I gotta make this one just right..."
Getting to the point.
"You know ol'Lether at the Truk Stop?" pretty obvious that Lether's partaken of her good before but I wonder if she'd remember him. "Any clue what the man likes in his luxury goods?"
I give her a curly-broad smirk - I know she knows I am not the picture of clarity. Et cetera. I like that we both enjoy the irony here. "Snakes aren't so bad if you watch yourself."
My eyes follow Cinch down as she rests her chin on my table. Not gettin' a stool for the customers now. My brow quirks up an' up as she goes through Lether's criteria. As a chemist, the man is voracious for things to melt down, react with..
"Sounds like you should buy everything and let Lether sort it out." I grin toothily. "But naw, if you want one thing: the vinegar. Two things: the vinegar and the basil. Good herbs are a treasure, and he wants a simple acid to titrate with. It's part of how he tests ingredients and mixes."
"You," I begin, then stand, "are a genius..." I wipety-slap my hands together twice like you do when you've figured something out. "Wrap'em up for the road then and let's settle."
I slide a jar of vinegar and a sizable sprig of basil together and offering up whatever jingle it was that Lether gave me to pass along for the goods. "Will this cover?"
"It's true." I humbly accept my praise as I wrap the basil up and then the vinegar.
Looking down at the jingle Lether passed onto Cinch for this, I give it a slow appraisal. Lether's clever and might try to say something cute with the contents, or pass off something fake. "Might do."
Curiosity tickles my ears and I consider before asking, "What has you sayin' the Snakes are riled up? I passed by a patchwork sedan and found..something of value left behind. Got let off after a bribe. Has there been more?"
Business feeling mostly done I finally remove my helmet and sling it over a shoulder by the strap.
"Yeah," I gesture towards the desert, "I picked up a couple strays... sedan you said? Smoked out good? Found a woman named Rufe and her kid," I smile as I think of the little scrapper. "They hit a snake trap, or got 'naded... something... I made nice and got 'em bargained free and she's starting up work at the Diamond."
I can't help but feel like I didn't learn enough about them, she slept through the trip and then it was a bit of a whirlwind once we arrived. I don't even know who she left behind at the wreck.
"That sound like the same wreck you saw? Car took a tumble."
"That so? It sounds exactly like the wreck I saw." I lean forward and prop an elbow on the table. "I'll need you to deliver something to Rufe soon, then."
I check the time - 7:27 blips into my vision. "What sort of hurry are you in?"
"Gotta be the same then, snakes only hunt when they're hungry," they don't cannibalize or anything. Just a figure of speech. "You find something'a hers?"
"Well..." run a hand through my hair, slightly moist with perspiration, "Lether probably expects me today... and you know the Iron's all blockaded, Ziggy's gang collecting tolls and I already bashed my way through once. Buuuut... I'll be headin' back there once things clear up... maybe 'fore that if I get lonesome."
"Mm. I found somethin' that was bein' transferred. Her job, basically. I promised Juice I'd finish it and get her share of the pay delivered to her."
I start packing my things up as Cinch talks, then stop in my motions when she mentions the blockade. "That woman is allergic to life, what in Sam Hill does she think she's gonna get except further losses and embarrassment? She never had the men to hold the area she claimed in the first place, an' if she focuses on Irons like this, Bordertown will slide right out from under her."
I nod-nod as she talks. Looks like there was more to Rufe than I thought...
(MC: What do I know about Juice?)
"Well you know how it works, put a thing in my hand and tell me it belongs somewhere... it's as good as there." I open a hand and hold it out as if to accept a parcel. Then smile and snap my fingers like all done.
I notice she's cleaning up, and mentions Ziggy's over reaching.
"Yeah making claims like this ain't gonna do her any good... she's gonna come'a copper if she tries to out-swindle Esco. Irons' is free dirt and'll always be."
Juice, aka Juju, is a courier. He used to have his own bike and sidecar, but the Ratcatchers took it from him. He didn't have enough jingle to replace his ride, so he bought passage to carry stuff. Usually high tech stuff. He rode with you once, hitched a ride west of Truk Stop middle of fuggin' nowhere, asked for a ride to Bordertown East.
Oh, Cinch, you recognize someone moving through the crowd. It's Mimi, that girl who tried to chase you down yesterday.
Looking where Cinch glances, you see Mimi, too. Headhunter for the United Front. Scorching fast biker. What's Mimi done to you before, and why do you hate her?
I smile at Cinch's salesmanship. "Then when I've gotten the goods, if you're still in Depot, it's a done deal. You can come with me if you're eager, but I gotta talk it out of the Fat Man.."
I trail off and scowl when I see Mimi's scorchin' face. It's enough that she drags people into Pitts to slave in the foundries there till they die, but for me, personally? I hate her because she tried to slip something in a drink of mine, probably to kidnap me. I made her take it instead, got her to her room and inked 'I'm a scorchbrained cookup' all over her.
I see June's reaction as I glance back, "Mimi," tense up and helmet back on. Hands-free. "Not my favorite ray of sunshine in the desert," I talk kind of sharply, "tried to run me down outside'a the 'Stop the other day..."
I keep an eye on her but try to help June with her cleanup, get everything together, especially my package for Lether.
As we clean up I quietly ask, "You know the Fat Man personal? If you need a favor you... probably don't want me along."
June may be able to tell that there's a little history there by my expression. And it's not just me wondering if Mimi's seen us.
"Sounds like just the sort of thing she likes.." Now I'm in a quandry - if I take down everything, Mimi's more likely to spot us, but if I leave any of it here it will definitely get stolen.
Scorch it, I'm not aimin' for a fight but there's two of us and one of her. I keep breaking the shop down.
I keep my voice low, both because of Mimi and because this could be a risky topic. "Thank you for the warning. I've worked with him once-twice, only. I wouldn't call it knowin' him personal-like. Cagey fella. Bad blood between you two?"
Sounds like you're Acting Under Fire to avoid Mimi here. Let's see some dice.
Acting Under Fire: (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 6, 2. Total: 9)
So, you have a few choices here. You can leave your stuff behind and get out scott-free (1 barter), or duck out and leave Cinch to deal with Mimi.
What do you do?
I wave Cinch off of what's remaining, mostly the fabric and posts and the table..sheetfire. "C'mon, leave it."
Losing 1 Barter.
You head out of the market quick quick, giving Mimi the slip (and probably a bunch of her UF friends, because let's face it, they aren't called United Front because they're a bunch of individualists and loners, right?)
You have to duck a few awnings and step around some tent stakes, and both of you end up walking between the huge arena and the Fat Man's wholesaler. The wholesaler is where the choice goods are sold, electronics, food, entertainment, people, you name it. The arena isn't open to the public, but warriors are practicing and things are being set up. Cinch, what's your involvement with the autoduels that happen in there on special nights?
What do you do?
Kinda exciting, right?
This place brings back memories. Few months after coming here I got talked into driving this autoduel rig one night for team Skorpion. Was a team thing, driver and fetcher up in the back... they had these long poles with flags and you had to drive close so fetcher can grab 'em and toss 'em in your teams goal, basically a steel oil drum with a colorful rim, like spears.
Thing is, of course, the other teams are trying to stop you. It was a "non-lethal" warm-up to the main event but still, this one fetcher got dismounted and run over dead... and one of the drivers got smashed up when they got forced into the wall... it could get brutal.
It was actually... pretty fun and we did well! Had a short career of a few months but when my team wanted to move on to live fire main events I backed out... you never get used to that, remember?
I watch curiously through the fence as we walk past, eyes out to see if any of ol' team Skorpion are still at it.
You're able to look straight into the arena floor as you walk by. They open the doors for folks to come in and watch the chum learn to fight, which is rarely well attended. You spot Ace in there, watching the chum, her shotgun over her shoulder. June, what have you done for Ace lately?
This is Ace:
Ace is a weird case for me. She'd had a bad roll-over and lost her nerve to get into a vehicle and bust heads. She was sittin' out fights and close to washin' out.
I don't have a clue where she heard I could help her in the way I did, but I made good jingle plantin' the suggestion in her head that she HAD to climb in, HAD to follow through, or else. I guess she likes pressure..I told her she'd probably get worse and not better for my involvement. Still went through with it.
Maybe trainin' suits her better?
"Heya Ace!" I pause at the open gate and call to her, hand raised in greeting. It's been over a year already, "still out there kickin' ass, huh?"
Looks like she's lost an eye along the way... crash, maybe. Or shot. Shudder.
"I like the new look!"
"Didn't know you two were friendly. Autoduel tomorrow night, Stazie."
Smile at June, didn't know they were so familiar either, and take a few steps out onto the arena floor amid a wave of nostalgia.
"Yeah! Ace, June and I are friendly enough," I take a turn, taking in the arena. "Skorpions in the main event? Doin' all right then huh?"
She looks better than she did last time. My hands are taken, so I don't wave back. "Ace! I've been around. You'll probably see a little more of me for a while."
"Cinch's good for business." I say, leaning myself in a doorframe, listening while these two catch up.
June, how much cyber is there in DVFP? Obvious stuff.
Mimi's got that arm of hers, I've seen a couple hands, a leg or two. Not too unusual, seein' a metal limb.
An eye? I've only seen one of those fully replaced, and it was on a fipper. Hell, my own eyes only have a cosmetic mesh. All the visible cyber I've seen on prisoners is crude, non-computing, and non-sensory.
I let out a long, low whistle to show I'm impressed. "Just like you should be. You get that done, I wanna see it, alright?"
"Yeah I'll prolly be visitin' June 'round here time and time off..." I wish I didn't have to get this delivery going. Would be fun to stick around for the show.
I take a step closer to her, lower my voice slightly, little more earnest, "real glad to hear you're makin' it big, Ace... but you know, I can't complain. I'm doin' alright on the road, beat the devil 'round and got out in one piece, right? But yeah... miss you guys and the old rig sometimes."
I can't help show a little pride as she talks about my vehicle.
"Tank?" that makes her sound slow, "I'll tell you how, Ace. You sell your mg and targeting system for upgraded power matrices, horsepower, and mil-spec active kinetic dampers, don't ask me where I got those... best in the place, I reckon."
The car was armed once. I decided I'd rather run free than stand and fight.
"But ok... you know I don't name my car. It's part of me... don't need no other name."
I look at June, like... amirite?
She looks at you, June, "You got any whack-a-do you could use on those a-holes, June? It isn't exactly illegal, since nobody's ever illegalized it."
As you three keep talking, a trainer wearing a uni like Ace's is putting a dozen scrubs in piecemeal armor through their paces by breaking them off into pairs to mock fight. June, you recognize a scrappy one called Rothschild? How do you know them?
I glace over at Stazie as she justifies her car's existence a little bit. "Hmm, I think language tends to fail when self and other blur. If you're not careful the car might name you, girl."
Ace's blunt offer makes me straighten my back and chuckle briefly. "You got a UFer tied to a chair somewhere? Then maybe we'll talk."
Rothschild..I guess seein' her here in the arena means she's done scavengin'? Which is a shame because she was damn good at it, very precise. Willin' to seek out rare things. We made out a bit in Bordertown once, but she spooked on me.
June makes a good point, and I answer, "more than a few
of Ziggy's crew out there calling me 'that choob in the car' right about now, I reckon." I grin and shrug, doesn't bother me none.
Ace is asking for... help though? That makes me step up, ready to announce that as a terrible idea... but June isn't going for it.
"Ace, you up against somethin' you can't handle square?" on the edge of teasing, but it's a real concern, too. It's a dangerous game. You don't usually know exactly who, or what you're going to face in advance, either.
She exhales through her nose, "I thought Beckett was going to sign up, but then she said she had a business to run. Not like there isn't some jingle in it. We win, we take two a head. But she declined. Said she had somebody to come home to or somesuch."
When Ace clarifies with me I make a little non-shrug with a nonchalant face, like 'I said what I said'. Doesn't quite sound like they'll have the scratch for it. 'Course, I would 'whammy' Mimi for cheap as free.
I've gotta poker face when she drops Beckett's name..'come home to', gives me an awkward feeling. Guess I woulda yelled at her for signin' up for this gig, though.
"I don't get any 'killer instinct' offa Beckett, but I know she'd roll in an arena with UF for play-play. Tell you what, I've got a thing but I'll try to make myself available and show for your Poles and Flags event. I'll put my finger in the dish if I can. No promises."
Cinch, is it true that Beckett doesn't have any "killer instinct"? A lone driver who goes out into the wastes and survives, is she just lucky, or have you heard any stories about her "killer instinct"?
Mimi huh? Poles and flags?
Beckett has some kinda debt she's working off, hard. She's been taking risky jobs, high paying but... stuff you wouldn't want on your resume. No wonder she's not up for the event. Probably dealing with people you don't want to say no to... wonder if there's anything I could do for her....
"Oh yeah? June are you gettin' in on this?" not one to be left out of some good clean fun and a chance to get a few licks in at Mimi when she's least expecting, "if you need a driver, Ace. Lemme take care of my delivery and I'll be back in three shakes... I still remember a trick or two. Just uh... don't put my name on the docket."
As far as I'm aware, there isn't a docket.
I can't help but laugh. "I'm gonna be in the seats if I make it, Stazie, I don't have the arms to haul a flag around. Not a fan of the taste of my own blood, either, you know?"
I push away from the wall I've been leanin' on and wave to Ace. I get one last look at Rothschild past Ace's shoulder. "Good catchin' up with you, Ace. Stazie, if you're driving this, then I won't keep you. Wish me luck."
June, how close is 208 to you?
My brow rises up..sheetfire, she's really doin' it. "I'm in 220 as of last night."
I smile in excited expectation. This'll be a rush.
"Hey June, you up for a ride-along? Or... uh... you got something important to take care of here, don'tcha?"
Either way, I need to get my delivery squared away, then I'm free to 'play'.
"Thanks for the offer, but you're right, I'll be stayin' here. Safe drivin', now." I wave to miss cop car and start on my way.
I'll drop my things off and pick up the implant before headin' to where I can maybe see the Fat Man.