The lines for the Arena queued up last night. Sure, gangers like the Skorpions can stroll in later and still get good vantage spots later, but the chum and the scrum have to line up and wait. Wait for each shuffling step forward into the arena. All the while listening to the go-gang music blaring over the loudspeakers since dawn.
Baskets of food and jugs of water inside the arena is the word on the street. Plenty. For everyone! The Fat Man's flexing his muscles, and the whole of Depot will see. They will see the bounty he provides, everyone will know that the United Front cannot dampen his spirits. Not even the Fippers can keep him down. The palace has not fallen. The Fat Man is unbowed. Depot is triumphant!Sierra
Horse has been assigned to help you travel to the Arena early, to handle sound checks and organizing your set from the VIP boxes where The Fat Man will arrive just before your big number. Fleece is traveling with your retinue, and you haven't had a moment alone since yesterday. Her eyes tell you she has something to say.
As you walk into the Arena through a back entrance, people in line see you and call out excitedly. Your name is known here, Sierra. People are talking about Sierra the Skinner, the greatest singer in DVFP. Seeing you here seals the deal, people at the back of the lines start making noise about moving up, nobody can possibly miss this.
The narrow hallways that wind under the stone bleachers above are dimly lit and Horse walks ahead, keeping folks clear. You hear the sound of folks frying and cooking food, the chatter of workers at their craft, and always the low hum of the crowd, just a few hundred feet deeper.
How are you dressed, Sierra?
What are your plans for the Arena, where are you singing?June
Your team's with you, June, you all were granted entrance into the Arena whenever you deemed necessary to keep an eye out for threats to The Fat Man or Sierra from The Feed. Rothschild's buzzed her head fresh, applied new paint, even got some new leather pants to look good for you. Bee Bee's carried some equipment at Missed's direction. Even Missed seems in good spirits, excited to be working, interested in this latest experiment.
Where have you set up, June?
Who are you keeping closest eye on?
My team and I, we got here pretty early, just when Sierra was settin' up, since that seemed like the first moment that there would be potential peril. I worked into the night after my strategy session with Sierra, tryin' to get a functionin' song-triggered, location-based Feed 'drop-box' built and programmed. There's goin' to be a lot of buzz when things get started, so that's goin' to be more do-able than, say, makin' a device that looks for feed interference.
Rothschild has my relayer, as has become the usual when we're doin' somethin' like this. She's the one likely to get proactively mixed up in some trouble, so I'd like to keep an eye on her that way. I've taken a moment to get a good feel for those new leather pants by tuckin' a hand in the back pocket of them and kissin' Roth 'good luck'.
Bee Bee is with me, I'm showin' her a few tricks of the trade and keepin' Missed and Roth free of any nannyin' duties. Not that they've not been good for it. Sometimes I catch myself lookin' at the girl and seein' the simple but profound differences that a week of proper care has made in her. Combed hair, clean face, evidence of rest and even a little bit of new flesh softenin' up the shape of her bony joints. She insists on doin' it all herself, too.
I've set up next to where all the power and tech is, settin' up the antenna and monitorin' The Fat Man's Arena gear for interference and sabotage. Sabotage that isn't mine, of course. I'm territorial.
that almost completely obscures my face, but I'm somehow recognized anyway.
Hoolies, it's zaridann out here. It's more people than I have ever seen in one place at once time since I have been to the DVFP. I stay near Horse and near Reese. In the chaos I grab Fleece's hand, keep her close. If I thought she would have listened,
I would have asked her to stay away...
The noise around the arena gets louder as the news spreads and I can hear them from the inside now. We make our way to through the underbelly of the arena and out into the pit.
I stand for a moment, motionless. Where once there was nothing but sand, blood,
and tire marks stand a raised stage - 15 feet high, impossible for someone to jump.
And there are mirrors angled all along the stage to catch both the light and my reflection - it's really quite derisann.
They are just lifting the white baby grand onto the stage - how they found one I have no idea idea. I have most of the set list picked - starting out with Applause, then sliding into your don't own me, then slipping in June and I's trigger song. After that I have some thoughts, but I have no idea what will happen after.
Horse leads us under the stage and into an area that will serve as my dressing room.
I ask Reese to guard the door and bring Fleece inside.
I turn away from the mirror and towards Fleece, putting my hand on hers and meeting her eyes. "Love, what is troubling you?"
I stand and wrap my hands around her stomach. "I can tell something is wrong. And if it's another threat on your life I am going to be inconsolable that you decided to come at all."
For some reason Cinch seems to enjoy Roth's reaction. "She's with me, it's all good," Cinch says as she elbows Mimi in the arm and slows a bit, "you know where I can find June Weaver?"
Any news there?"
I push my way towards her, my body finding the space between us and filling it.
I gasp as her mouth find a particularly sensitive spot.
I overhear the exchange between Roth and Cinch and sidle on closer to it, waiting for Roth's reaction.
While I might have burned out my loathing of Mimi, the loss of feeling is likely not mutual. But maybe Cinch is askin' for Cinch's own purposes and that could be mighty interestin'.
I don't expect to be stealthy as I do this, per se, but it's possible we're on two different levels of arena at the moment.
"Fawn's are bad liars, unless it is bout how groshing their partner is in bed." I cant my hips towards her, eager to have her hands, her mouth on me. "Ooma,
this is quite a creative way of undressing me for my costume, but..." I feel her hand slip between my pants and my skin and a gasp. "Do we have time, love."
When her skillful hands start their work on my pants I bite my lip. A keening sound escapes my throat when her mouth kisses me, so close to where I need her most.
Tell me you love me.
My reply comes out in a horse whisper, fierce and needy. "I love you, Fleece. I love you so much it breaks my heart."
"That makes it nice and clear." I call over a balcony. I suppose if Mimi whips out a gun at me I can duck back, maybe even in time to keep my sweet face. "Cinch, what is it you need? I'm elbows deep in wire right now." I wave some wires before me to illustrate my point.
Ultimately, I trust Cinch and that's why I'm comfortable with this right now.
I fall to the floor gently and bring my lips to hers, tasting myself on her tongue, my hand slipping between her legs. Reaching out for her, finding her ready for me. I pull back from her mouth, breathless. "Tell me you love me."
I can feel my eyes fill with unshed tears, Fleece's words overwhelming me in this moment. I push forward and take her mouth with mine hoping my body can express all the powerful feelings of my love. My voice has left me, and I let my fingers and mouth talk for me. It's the only way I can think to communicate my love to Fleece and still be strong enough to make it on stage.
"'If you want something done, find someone who's busy.'" I wave a hand upward to invite them, then point out the stairs, not that either of them need it.
I walk up with Mimi up to join June. The air feels heavy and serious. I don't follow the feed as well as I should, but there's serious shiite goin' on here. And here we walk into the middle of it askin' for a favor. Maybe I'm owed a few... probably not.
"June Weaver, I know you're fuggin' busy as hell with this shiite goin' down," I say simply, helmet tucked up under my arm. "surprised we made it in here without dodgin' at least a few bullets, if I'm gonna be honest." I say as an expression of thanks. I figure at least part of that's on June's word.
"First... I made an... unwise promise to bring Mimi here to you... you're likely the only one can help her with her current troubles..." I raise an eye at Mimi, inviting her to speak for herself if she so desires.
This kind of finishes my part in this. My obligation. But I ain't about to drop her here. Our paths have tangled and merged... and I have to say I like how it feels.
Well, if now's the arrival of a sudden break and I'm tense as hell from everythin' goin' on anyway..I fish around inside of my jacket and find a cigarette to bring to light while Cinch and Mimi work their way up here.
"Security's probably got their minds on other things right now, Cinch." Maybe that's reassurin' to hear, maybe it isn't. I grin toothily around my cig.
I glance over at Mimi, and it turns into a longer look. Still hasn't replaced the arm, which is probably all to the good, keeps the anchor from being further worn and agitated. The less inflamed that stays, the better for her. I flex two fingers up to my mouth to steal away my smokin' prop and puff. "I guess word gets around. Mimi, do you want to be my very first clinical patient in this ole DVFP?"
I laugh, "I never cared too much for shootin, to be honest," I shrug my shoulders and try to keep this heavy moment light, "ain't never missed anything I didn't mean to miss."
But the truth is, she makes me fuggin' wanna drive. Wanna get out there and do shiite... I want her to see me.
I wait while Mimi says her piece. Afterwards I nod, even chuckle at the mood-lightening comments. "If it makes you feel any better, Mimi, Parcher died real ugly and I'm not even healed from it myself. I cooked you up pretty raw, and I haven't forgotten."
Mimi's crude bolt socket gets an appraisin' look from me. "I can rehabilitate that. It's raw as hell, and I may need Fleece's help to keep you alive durin' surgery, but fresh pinnin' and meshin' is possible."
"Since you're done with the Front and you have a promisin' new partnership, consider it a favor." I slip the cig back into my mouth and get back to tinkerin'.
Sierra comes up onto the stage, and the din of the crowd kills any conversation.
June, with her appearance, it's entirely likely that Gloriana might be taking an action soon. What do you do?
I smile as she grabs me, "partners, huh?" Then she lets go and I reach out to slap her on the shoulder again.
Sierra, then, comes up on stage. She takes all attention, and I'm not about to fight that.
Maybe I notice the concern on June's face... I'm gonna be ready for whatever. I glance at Mimi, try and catch her with a nod, and a silent hand-sign from the arena... be ready.
There's some concern, yes, but right now I'm all business.
I hurry to finish makin' the antenna connections, take off my hat and start attachin' the magnetic leads I've installed in the antenna controls to the beads perched on my scalp. I figure if I'm goin' to expose me and mine to risk like this, I may as well do it in what's already a very high-risk environment.
"It's goin' to be a banner day, Mimi." I say in response to her comment about the crowds, as I prepare to deploy the solution I workshopped yesterday.
I smile, nod my head and let myself get drawn into the music a bit. Yeah, those words mean more than most people here know.
Sierra's grown, and to my regret I haven't had much to do with it... maybe I gave her a little push, long ago.
One could forget one is in hell just now... this kinda rocks.
The device keys into the "viewpoint" of many eyes, hence the use of your trigger song. You activate it, and it uses the perception of each member of your team, filtered by Bee Bee. This allows you to Open Your Brain into the Feed, and see what does not want to be see. Let's see how you can pull this off, June.
Opening my Brain; (Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 12)
Marking XP: (5)
I'm grateful to have done some 'workshoppin'' with KikiLala on this whole maneuver, since it puts pressure on Bee Bee and my team. I wanted to be prepared to relieve and monitor that pressure, even while I'm here monitoring Feed scans in real time, lookin' at my own traffic for signs of bein' made
The crowd's engagement with Sierra's set list makes me smile. The silent foreboding of the current song sets a mood of revelation as I hunt the code that brings these House interlopers into my exile. I'm'on getchu, Glori.
And it's goin' be fun.
I weave through the perceptions of my team, monitorin' the thousand and more eyes here in the area, watchin' the IDed and anonymous traffic filter through cameras and routers. So many hungry eyes, asking for more to see here.
But I'm not a fan of bein' on display, either. And I'll show them what it's like.
With all these eyes, the fetters of the black-hole device are shredded. You spot fuzzy humanoid figures among the crowd, a dozen of them. It's as if they're wearing cloaks, hoods drawn, and not only is the Feed invisible to them, people seem to move out of their way without even realizing it. They are null fields, the blind spot in the lizard brains of the crowd.
Of the squad of null-men, they seem to be in strategic spots to cover the maximum space on the arena floor, organized, militarily precise. Except one, a tall figure, this one is moving closer, ever closer towards Sierra. Like a fly drawn to honey, they are slipping through the throng, just under you now, June.
What do you do?
Cinch, you're enjoying this moment of heaven, then blink, and you see the arena from a half dozen different angles. They're like an overlay, almost like bifocals. You can squint and see through your eyes, or jump behind the eyes of others. One of those pairs of eyes sees you, looking right at you. It's Mimi. You don't hear thoughts, nothing like that, but it's about the weirdest thing you've experienced in a while.
What do you do?
"Holy shiite..." this is weird. I blink and hit myself on the side of the head like something's malfunctioned.
For a while it's just a crazy ride... but Mimi's seein' this too? June?
This is what June did... why? Why am i seein' this too? Is something happening? Something important.... must be.
I try to settle down and get control of this insanity... I don't like bein' in a ride I'm not steering.
Hopefully my team doesn't do anythin' silly with their ability to 'see'..not yet at least. These null-men are castin' a net. What they aren't doin' is protectin' each other. Still, with the right spec, they're not fools for thinkin' they don't have to..
I let my own connection to the Feed via the antenna's strength deepen now that I know the program is workin'. Like bein' unclad against a storm again, but with a harpoon to hand. Splittin' my mind in blood and thunder, the ethereal traffic of attention, interest, content and production floodin' through.
In another day I might have felt a great temptation to use this clear, piercin' opportunity to catch up on the outside. But no, today the outside catches up with us.
I do what I can to clarify the image of Gloriana, our tall guest pulled like a magnet towards our little performin' star..to make her clear to the feed, a hypertextual part of the viewin' experience. Embellished. I dump a bunch of dirty laundry behind the cut. The kind you can only get from the source, here in this prison and scraped from memories.
You feel the Feed react in shock at the pop-ups. A hundred confirmations rush in, a thousand more "Me Toos" and "I knew its" and re-shares flood. The world comes rushing to the latest, greatest tragedy, and nobody loves anything more than a fall from a great height. She is ruined. This is more than enough to have her sacked. No more sub-warden. No more House favor.
Gloriana, lit by pop-ups and text filters, she ignores it, her eyes only on Sierra. Her Sierra. She bends her knees, then leaps up into the air. Jet boots fire and the force carries her up towards the stage. She's still somewhat obfuscated, but The Fat Man has given orders. Snipers start taking aim.
At the same time, the null men are scrambling to protect Gloriana, desperate to hold onto their jobs, their paycheck, some of them perhaps their sense of duty. They start aiming at the snipers.
Motley, you see Motley push through the crowd at the base of the stage, and he mashes past a guard, over a guardrail, and he's climbing up to Sierra. What's he trying to do here? What crazy plan has he hatched. You see members of the Crue amid the crowd, too, trying to incite the crowd, firing into the air, bringing things to as much chaos, as much cover for their man, as they can.
What do you do?
June, you feel the pull, the tension of the leash, but Sierra lets it go. Everyone around you, save Roth, Reese and Becks are transfixed.
Cinch, you're wrapped in Sierra's net, her act is awe inspiring. It is perfection and peace and wonder.
How is it that the most awesome moments of my life have happened here. In a few short years spend in this place, I've lived more than all those years on the other side of the wall.
I don't fight it, I'm all eyes, all ears, and I let my heart be carried into this crazy spectacle.
As time goes by, I expect I'll be grateful that I was spared the choice of whether to be a part of this thing... essentially a choreographed assassination, isn't it? Well... that won't be clear to me for some time, and as far as I can tell my hands, for one, remain clean...
But the world won't miss that woman. Not one bit.
What do you do?
Fuggin'.. jet boots?? When I cast that choice against the sheer risk of comin' here to collect her girl in the middle of all of this, it looks..sensible. Game for the task.
"I see you, Roth. I can't explain it, but it's happened before.." And I would be lyin' if I said it didn't make me sweat. I'm still mainlined to the antenna, monitorin' traffic..I'm sure the deed is done but I want to keep this up as long as possible, so it's preserved and spread.
Still, I am here, my team is here, Claire is here..they need me. They need me to think.
"Hurry, get up to the closest null-man, strip his gear, and get away. Then we'll see if Beckett and Reese need help gettin' Sierra the fug out of here." When she's done mesmerizin' the crowd, all hell's gonna break loose. We got to be ready to diddy mao, usin' all the opportunity we can.
Cinch and June, it's obvious Sierra's living on borrowed time here. Any moment and the spell will be broken. What do you so?
I've pushed my Feed connection up against the circumstances here as hard as I can. I can get another antenna; might take another year. Might take less. Might not matter. I pull off the leads between me and the antenna and hustle my own self, pushin' through the crowd as best I can.
That's one of the twelve null-folk out of the picture, more or less. I head for another and wonder if a brain transfixed this way is easier for me to yoke..or harder.
"Roth, keep what you can and run."
When I make it to the null-person closest to me, I practically have to hold onto them to keep from losin' my balance. I toss their gun away (in case I fug this all up) and reach a bare hand over to clasp their face and seethe into their mind. "What's her exit plan, puddin' head?"
Direct-Brain Whispering: (Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 12)
Marking XP: (1)
My head's starin' to clear, the gunfire out there erupts... June is doin' her freakyweridthing and I got somewhere I'd rather be.
"Mimi!" I whistle to get her attention if she's still in a daze, "shiite like this goes down, someone gonna need to bug out somewhere... let's make sure it happens!"
Throw my helmet back on my head and head for the door... bring the car 'round and be ready, with Mimi, to cover Sierra if Glori starts her fuggers shootin' or maybe get June gone... this could go a lot of ways.
Well, shit. Another gunship. One I won't have the blessed opportunity to miss seein'. Gotta run through my options here..
Cinch is here. With luck her ride is close. Somehow she and Mimi and two other people could, with a miracle, drive out of here.
When Sierra runs out of time, Fat Man's snipers will surely try to cap Gloriana, probably riskin' shots at Motley. So the helicopter will naturally need to pacify the area. Nothin' stoppin' them from that if Glori is alive either. Gotta be real about this.
Where are Motley's bikes? This is goin' to happen too fast.
I think over the maps I saw in the security fella's mind. I need the direction that the chopper will be arrivin' from, and to put it in the right hands. I hoof it to Missed, plan formin' up.
Sierra covers herself and the world slams back into reality, people looking around, some screaming in exaltation, others trying to get back to what they're doing. You hear gunfire above, and people in the stadium floor react with panic. Sierra's leaving the stage and someone screams the Fat Man's gone.
Prisoners become panicked animals. Shoving and pushing, more gunfire. The sound of rotors from a helicopter coming in low and fast.
June, Motley's bikes are outside, the gang had to walk in here. Rothschild is slipping a null-man cloak on and trying to get up to you. She knows you can see her, hopes nobody else can.
Cinch, Mimi follows you towards the outside. Let's see you Act Under Fire to diddy mao to your car.
What do you do?
I reach out to Roth as she catches up to me, glad that she's just this void in people's senses that they jostle around. It looks conspicuous to me, but it's probably natural as breathin' to the people around us. "We've got to find Missed and get some high ground. I got a plan! It's no masterpiece, we get one shot, but it's somethin'!"
Acting under fire: Cool+2
(Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 11)
June, Rothschild fights her way up to you on the upper deck. Missed grabs up Bee Bee to put the girl up sitting on her neck, and you crutch your way like a salmon swimming upstream. You stagger and fall a couple times, a rip in your pants to show for the effort, but then Rothschild's there, helping you back up. By sheer honery will, you're up top, with hundreds of folks fleeing under you, the shadow of the big-ass chopper gives you a moment of shade as it arrives.
What do you do?
I exhale a long breath and grip the wheel in both hands. Adjusting my fingers to get it just so. "I figure either we help shake up this shiite right or we're in for early release," I glance back at Mimi and grin. "let's just do what we can..."
I seal the cabin with a whrrrr-hisss, wondering if I can deploy some countermeasures for that chopper. Get in the feed and fugg with its eyes or something...
"We ain't lettin' June Weaver of the hook so easy," a wait a bit, let the people get clear before we roll in. It's a few moments of relative calm before whatever storm's coming.
Once it's clear we roll inside.
I can feel the little bristles of Cinch's remote start for her car over the Feed, it's a good omen, even while some panicked fugger steps on me. Bless Roth, I'd be fugged without her.
Ahh, I see what that is. We're still connected via resonance with the antenna. I'll take it while I can, Cinch is a girl whose help I could use right now. Between her drivin' skills and her fipper implants..who knows.
"Cinch..I hope you can hear this, I think 'tween you and me we can make this turn out alright.." I keep her looped into what I'm doin' and seein' in useful measure.
Shadowed by the chopper with Missed, Roth and Bee Bee, I lay out the plan. "Awright, here's what I got!" I sneak the relayer from Roth - I always know where it is, like a finger of mine. "Them null-men guns got a grenade launcher underneath? Missed, you shoot this tricky device o'mine where the pilot can see it. I snag a fipper freq from Cinch. I hack the pilot or the chopper, whichever weakens first." After that I dunno.
I grin frightenin' wide. "Cocky, crazy, might even work."
She's in my head huh? Hijacking the feed... fine by me.
"Anything you need, June Weaver," I concentrate on the broken siglans from the feed between us. If she's chin-deep in a river of information then I'm standing up to my ankles... I know it's out there but I'm gonna need her to guide me.
It's a gunboat, a serious gunboat. Big enough for missiles, a minigun, targeting lasers, the works. Twin rotors and the thing's already running hot, the whine of the minigun spinning is a terrifying sound that sends waves of screams across the panicked crowd.
There are some, mostly Crue and Fat Man's guards, taking aim at the chopper, but they might as well be spitting at it for all their bullets will do.
June, I need you to Act Under Fire here for Missed's shot along with you being able to establish contact. Cinch, if you want to throw some help here with targeting, feel free to roll.
Acting Under Fire: (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 10)
Helping June Weaver
(Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 12)
What do you do?
A whole team on top of the twelve in the crowd. Must be a lot of room in that boat or these null-men scattered around are gettin' left to dangle.
There's still a lot of people left in the arena, both on the ground and in the upper decks. I feel my way through their perceptions, anxieties, little internal plans to move this leg and that arm and this finger too on the right signal, pausin' my attention on the one with a steady grip on a control yoke. I could go crude and force their hands down, slam the whole operation into the dirt.
Might be smart, wouldn't be right. Oh not because 'oh them poor fippers have famblies think of the children' but the arena's fulla people who are not 100% here to murder, and altogether too many of my friends. Not sure where Sierra is at in all this.
Into the pilot's mind, I'll slide this false knowledge; "Your orders have changed - you need to fly to the wall to put down an opportunistic attack from Saint Anger. Hurry before the wall is compromised."
Rolling Weird: (Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 12)
Marking XP (2)
Around you, the null men are retreating, this must be some part of an exit plan. Gloriana's obviously dead, their mission's a failure.