The Jury of Slaves

((Connecting from Favour the Road, Travel in Style......))

The ungainly figure of Fissure strode out of the NetSquare portal, his tattered yet concealing cloak guarding his features, followed close behind by a small group of equally obscured navis. For a time they walked in silence, the footsteps of the four smaller programs almost inaudible against the alternating clank and stomp of Fissure's wildly differing appendages. The streets of Netopia were unusually sparse for the time of day, possibly due to the recent threat from the nearby NetSquare portal. The shops, marts and massive malls still bustled with their braver customers, though the massive crowds that normally thronged around the website buildings were noticeably lacking.

Fissure and his small troupe traveled along grid-like roads, passing the preoccupied patrons who, with their heads down, were attempting to get their business done as soon as possible. After several quiet minutes of walking, Fissure turned into a small alleyway, covered by a long arch that extended down into the next street. He pulled the hood of his cloak off his elongated head, running large talon-fingers through his crimson hair. Leaning against the wall, he held out his upward facing hand towards his female followers. Three small, yellow arrows manifested above his palm, all pointing in roughly the same direction.

"Alright then, ladies."[b][/b] he said to them in a voice like shredding metal, "We're not too far from our intended targets. But before we run headlong into an ambush, i'd like to get to know you a little better."[b][/b]

Smiling his sickly smile at the assembled navis, he leaned against the alley's wall, contemplating a few microbes of rogue data clinging to his talons.
While it was wise of Fissure to try to communicate with his team before getting them involved in dangerous combat, he remembered the unfortunate fact that he'd only vaguely noticed while the girls were with Boss Oni: none of them could talk. The girls only stared back at him in silence. He remembered that he could use them to communicate with Boss Oni if he so desired, but in the end it was easier just to take a glance around at them to get acclimated. Moving their cloaks around a bit produced all he needed to know.

The tallest, most muscularly built of them wore a white cloak with a blue metal mask. He was a little bit uncertain what she looked like under the mask, but given her speechlessness, it might be a little bit eerie to see. Her only weapon was a short blade, sheathed behind her hips.

The second was a petite girl with a thinner frame, wearing a black cloak and red mask. Her weapon was not hard to discern: a quiver of arrows was strapped around her back, and she carried a short bow in one hand.

Fissure's third ninja had the best all around body of all of them, provided the preference was given towards full figures. She was dressed in a silver cloak and green mask. Her weapon was a long metal rod tipped with a green gem.

The fourth carried a similar weapon, although shorter and solid steel, like a scepter. Her mask was gold-colored and her robe was plain and gray. Her body was average, so far as it went.

It seemed logical that the blade wielding and arrow carrying ones were intended to be his offensive support, while the others were more oriented towards defense of some kind. He supposed their benefits would become more obvious in battle.
Fissure gazed at his silent entourage, sizing up their abilities from the equipment they wore.

"Quiet lot, aren't you?"[b][/b]

He looked down at his palm. The three yellow arrows pulsed rapidly to show their proximity to the targets. He closed his hand, furling the sharp talons inward, and turned to look at the ninjas.

"Alright then, listen up. Blade girl,"[b][/b] he addressed the navi with the sword strapped to her waist, "You wait here for a bit, then follow the plan. The rest of you, get on top of some of these buildings. I assume you can handle the battle from afar."[b][/b]

The navis with the staves quietly dispersed into neighboring alleyways. The one with the bow started to scale the building right next to them.

Fissure pulled his cloak tight around his body. With his unique figure, he collapsed his arms and legs until he was slightly smaller than the sword-wielder standing patiently to his side. With a flash of a grin, Fissure hobbled out onto the street, taking care to seem frail and harmless.


Out in the open, Fissure made his way through the waning groups of civilians. He moved in a tangent to the direction of his arrows, trying to spot his targets without revealing himself.
The ninjas obediently followed Fissure's orders; the blader stood put while the others dispersed.

The building was a cute place, some sort of eatery that seemed to serve net-replicated Netopian foods, mostly noodle dishes. More importantly, however, it was extremely busy. This was good from the standpoint of moving through a crowd covertly, but bad from the standpoint of witnesses to him doing anything corrupt. He had no real way of knowing which amongst the crowd were NP either.

The worst part was that he couldn't get a peg on the skyscraper-outfitted girl that he was told to watch out for; she would certainly be his ticket to spotting the right party. He did, however, see a blond woman in armor leaning in front of a doorway with a fencing foil at her side. He couldn't get a good luck at her from such a distance, but she sure looked like some kind of guard. The clues would suggest a private party happening behind closed doors.

At this point, it was apparent that he'd have to deal with the guard somehow. A distraction might be useful or a disguise, depending on how vigilant and competent the guard was. He could even just walk up and ask.
The restaurant had a "business chain" feel to it, painted mostly white with the odd company logo and mascot colours. There were a few large windows, but he couldn't make out any features on the occupants inside.

If the targets were in there, he'd have to draw them out one way or the other. He couldn't simply march in, for that would be next to suicide. The contained space would allow them to focus their fire and he would lose the invaluable element of surprise, an element which would be vital to success. If they came outside however, the tables would turn and they would be right in the middle of his makeshift ambush.

They would also have to risk the lives of innocents to harm him, at least until the crowd inevitably fled. The precious moments they would be though were deliciously useful, and of course, Fissure himself had little qualms about harming a bystander or two.

He mentally jostled the small collection of explosives he owned, a malicious grin expanding beneath his dark shroud as he relished the chaos they would generate.

There would be some time before the officers came out themselves. Fissure positioned himself in an inconspicuous area across the street from the restaurant, biding his time and considered other possibilities.

So far, he knew there were at least three other officers with the Netpolice commander, including the door guard. They would pose little problem for him and his entourage, though there was always the possibility of "plainclothes" police and nearby backup arriving before he was done. So there was also a time issue. Fissure couldn't take too long to kidnap the targets as the area would end up swarming with netpolice reinforcements. Fortunately, with a little encouragement from a minibomb or two, the crowd would make that difficult for them. At least until he'd reached his quota.

Another issue would be vigilantes. If he was too obvious, some of the crowd might turn what meagre munitions they possessed on him. They would only be a nuisance though, and the danger would pale to what the netpolice's commander would be equipped with. Come to think of it...

Fissure opened the channel to his PET, finding his operator busy with psyching himself up for the battle to come. As timid as he was, Jim had an uncanny understanding to not think for himself, which at least stopped him from messing up Fissure's strategies with human error. His bovine attitude to battle became a boon rather than a besetment, and he didn't question any immoral decisions Fissure might suggest either.

The albino operator started when the little screen flicked on, interrupting whatever thoughts had been bouncing around his head.

<<Oh, hey. Uh. Is it time?>>, Jim asked, an abashed smile washing over his flustered face.

They were supposed to become entangled with a netpolice commander. If she got out on the street often, there was bound to be a video or two of her battling somewhere on the internet.

"No, not yet."[b][/b] Fissure replied, his voice screeching with all the likeness of a crashing helicopter. "See what information you can find on this "City" character. Anything is better than the nothing we currently have."[b][/b]

Jim visably relaxed, relieved that he hadn't done anything wrong yet.

<<Oh. Okay. I'll see what I can find.>>

"Please do."[b][/b], Fissure grated, terminating the connection.

Activating a small, private holographic terminal no bigger than his palm, he checked on the positions of his ninja allies in respect to the target area, making sure they were all properly positioned, with the two magic users flanking the archer. His back to a wall, he settled down to keep an eye on the Netopian eatery and wait for any new information from his human source.

It was always good to be cautious and come up with a plan. But sooner or later, he knew he would have to make a move.

He wouldn't wait much longer.
Jim's search quickly revealed that City was indeed part of the Netpolice... a special division known as The Brass Guard. Apparently, the group was a task force handpicked by BrassMan, a leader in Internal Affairs. The group used to consist of GangsaMan, City, and CarriageMan, although it was noted that CarriageMan had recently been terminated in the line of duty. City was marked for notable achievements in advancing the cause of NP/civilian relations; this was apparently BrassMan's criteria for choosing each of the members of his organization.

Another hype page detailed some of City's abilities. Apparently, her theme was urbanization and urban living. Her specialty was given as high speed movement. It didn't seem like a terribly reliable source though.

Interestingly enough, her birthday was also listed on the website and matched the exact date at the present moment Fissure was taking the mission.

The guard in front of the party room yawned lazily, then shook her blond curls. "Ah, not all partz of Netopia are ze same, no? I could go for ze open-faced roast beef... with a side of au jus... oh, I'm nearly drooling!"[font=French Script MT][/font] she muttered to herself in a strange accent.
So, the restaurant was being commandeered to serve as a birthday celebration. It'd be up to Fissure to make sure it's one birthday she'd not soon forget.

The first obstacle was going to be getting past the guard at the door. Although she might appear unfocused and lethargic, Fissure had been warned not to underestimate City, and that warning extended to her choice of staff. He would have to take care not to be caught unawares by whatever canny personas his foes concealed themselves behind.

Or she may just be a bored, and hungry, police officer. All the better then.

Gathering his cloak around him, Fissure hobbled across the street towards the restaurant, keeping his body roughly waist-high. The crowd flowed around him, everyone preoccupied by their own business to mind anyone else. If there were any plainclothes officers nearby, the shoppers provided a good screen to blend in with.

His shuffling gait got him to the front window of the restaurant. A variety of figures were clustered inside, attending to whatever the birthday party had provided as entertainment. Fissure couldn't tell if any of them would be from this so-called "Brass Guard", though City herself should be easily recognisable thanks to the photo Jim had provided. He just needed to get through the door, for a moment at least.

"'Ere then. I were gon't have m'dinner 'ere."

Fissure turned to the blonde bouncer in the guise of an elderly civilian, tempering his outragiously grating vocals to a merely irritating rasp.

"Whas goin' on then? Somb'dy get kilt?"
"Eh... no. I will bring you au courant! Zis is a party for ze Brass Guard, you know zem?"[font=French Script MT][/font] the woman asked, pointing her fencing blade around in a haphazard fashion as she talked. She seemed to be the type that expressed themselves a lot with their hands. "BrassMan and zat redcoat use zem to perform all sorts of Internal Affairs tasks. Zey're not so special. Right now, it'z a party of honor. Isn't zat odd? Seems like a weird time for it,"[font=French Script MT][/font] she murmured. It could have something to do with the termination of CarriageMan, which had been mentioned earlier.

"Well, at any rate, I'm just here to provide some extra security. I've been bumped down to zis ever since a recent failure. Gotta make ze time, eh?"[font=French Script MT][/font] she sighed, letting her arms hang at her sides. "I just don't see why I can't be in zere at ze party too... I just want a little amuse-bouche! Ze are so cruel!"[font=French Script MT][/font]
Despite having made himself shorter than usual, Fissure had to manoeuvre several times to avoid being decapitated by the guard's flailing weapon.

The Brass Guard. A collection of elite netpolice officers with the task of seeking and destroying corruption and villainy within the ranks of their organisation. They'd have to be a tough bunch to make that work, a theory supported by Boss Oni's warning. CarriageMan, the one who had allegedly been deleted in the call of duty would definitely cause some tension within such a tight-knit group. Perhaps this party was an effort to get these inquisitors to move on from their loss. Or perhaps things were rather more complicated than Fissure suspected.

"Sound t'me like ye been gv'n th'wrong end've a red hot poker." Fissure chuckled to the door guard. She seemed to be buying his old man routine. "If y'like, we c'd'ave a party of our own, right out here."

Fissure's grin gleamed within the folds of his dark cloak. A quick e-mail to his new companions initiated his strategy.

From across the street, the blade-wielding courtesan emerged out of the shade of the discreet alleyway. Striding into the crowd, the ninja followed Fissure's orders by assaulting the nearest civilian with the sharp side of her suddenly unsheathed sabre and taking them hostage. An act that was sure to distract the door guard from anything Fissure's little old connoisseur might perpetrate.
"Sacrebleu, zat ninja belongz to ze notorious criminal, Oni! Sauve qui peut!"[font=French Script MT][/font] the guard exclaimed, apparently not realizing that the perpetrator was in any way related to Fissure himself. Running forward, she unleashed her fencer's blade and stared down the SP. "You've got zome nerve, eh? Where is ze fat bastard, hm? How can he even hide himzelf?"[font=French Script MT][/font]

The SP, of course, did not answer her. It just continued to serve Fissure wordlessly, subduing the baffled hostage, an unremarkable, green standard navi.

It was somewhat amusing, watching as the accented navi began to try to talk down the assailant. Fissure knew good and well that no amount of negotiation or hostility would make the puppet release its hostage until he himself instructed it to. Still, the officer kept trying.

The door was unguarded now, but for whatever reason, the Brass Guard's members had not come out to check on the situation. Surely he'd gotten the right door? Whatever the case, nobody came out.

With all the panic, however, he might be able to slip in under the cover of seeking shelter or escape. He may also be able to use the hostage to lure them out somehow. Numerous options were still left open, but blending into the crowd was becoming increasingly less of one. The crowd was thinning out rapidly as most right-minded patrons flooded to the nearest exit for escape.
The guard took the bait, as expected, and would most likely be distracted for some time. The doorway was now clear to access, along with a variety of excuses to do so. It all seemed to be going exceptionally well. Too well, in fact. Something was nagging at the back of Fissure's digital cortex. This guard seemed to be far too incompetent to really be guarding something. Granted, the netpolice were commonly interpreted as being bumbling and obnoxiously straightforward but even they had a devious streak. How had the enlightened Boss Oni come across his tactical information? The guard also appeared to recognise his deadly consort and who it worked for, something Fissure hadn't quite anticipated.

Perhaps this was not all an elaborate trap. Perhaps the guard was a new recruit with a poor posting. He doubted his constabular foes would allow civilians to be near the firing zone, but some of their number may very well resort to such tactics. If it was all an act, and this was going to be some sort of deadly ambush, Fissure would not allow himself to fall prey.

"Jim. The minibombs. Now."[b][/b], he surreptitiously commanded from his operator.

Whilst waiting for his arsenal to appear, Fissure composed and sent a quick text message to the blade-wielding ninja, an order to dispose of the hostage and assault the babbling guard. It was its own fault for not realising it could simply jack-out at any time. Now if the whole thing was a charade, the guard would be far too occupied to act otherwise.

He turned his attention to the door, around the same time that a pair of circular, navy-coloured spheres wordlessly appeared in the palms of his taloned hands, hidden underneath his dark cloak.

"Time to crash the party."[b][/b] he chuckled jovially.

Using the back of his hand, Fissure activated the small switch, half-way up the digital portal, to see if the restaurant's door would open.

-----Fissure's Actions-----

(1) Open the door

--((!TURN SPLICE!))--
The scene Fissure encountered as he opened the door was probably far from what he had imagined he'd encounter. It looked like, sure enough, there may have been an ambush waiting for someone at some point, but whoever it had been designed to trap had turned the tables on them. Three standard NP navis were strewn around, leaking data everywhere; one of their frames was flickering, indicating that the very navi core within their emblem may have been smashed.

Another navi, garbed in strange armor consisting of many hanging, differently-sized wooden bars, looked up at Fissure with alarmed eyes. Before he could do anything, however, his eyes lulled back closed and his head fell with a small, wooden clack against the floor.

The most important feature of the room, besides the navis lying around, was probably the giant hole left in its back wall. The hole was somewhat larger than he would expect an average navi's body to be; he could only guess that someone or something had smashed through it.

Wherever his intended target was supposed to be, she'd already gone in pursuit, been carried away, jacked out, been deleted... something. She wasn't here.

The guard from earlier finally seemed to understand that Fissure was controlling the puppets and came behind him, pointing her sword. Before she could attack, she got a look at the room, causing her to drop her stance. "Ze coup de théâtre?! What has happened?"[font=French Script MT][/font] she gasped, covering her mouth with one hand.

A trail of thrown dirt led away from the hole, off into the distance. If he followed it, he might be able to figure out what had happened and possibly relocate his original target. On the other hand, the guard was likely going to pursue him and there was a chance City would be nowhere around. It might be more efficient to defend himself now or find a new capture target, although pickings were now limited to the slower-to-exit restaurant staff and the female NP guard. Unless that navi in the wooden armor was also a woman... but that didn't seem likely, judging by the figure's physical build.
Expecting a crowd of occupied party goers, Fissure was momentarily thrown by the deadly fallout of some kind of horrific battle which had occurred within the homely restaurant.

"Well... Drat."[b][/b]

His targets were nowhere to be found. If they hadn't been deleted outright, they must have gone with City through the muddy tunnel in the back wall of the establishment. Concealing the minibombs inside his black cloak in one hand, Fissure opened the other to check on his palm arrows and confirm his suspicions.

With the counter-ambush foiled, Fissure once more sent a message to his mercenary partners, ordering a regroup at his position. At least now City wouldn't be expecting him, and she'd most likely be preoccupied with this new aggressor.

From behind, a heavily accented shriek interrupted Fissure's musings, reminding him of his previous predicament. He held up a taloned hand towards the blade-wielding ninja, who had dumped its hostage and had been advancing slowly towards the beleaguered guard. Time was running out, and if he wanted to catch up with City and her precious entourage he didn't have time to waste with a scuffle that, however short, would no doubt undermine his effectiveness in any near-future conflict. He'd have to be rid of her quickly and painlessly.

After releasing a low, screeching sigh, Fissure turned to the blonde guard.

"Listen here, Curly."[b][/b] Fissure's voice grated sourly through clenched, grinning teeth, "As you have correctly assumed, I represent the Net-Mafia in this tragic business. I am here in search of an extremely arrogant navi who is guilty of daring to bring harm to my beloved Teksqp Family. Recently, we caught wind of an attempt on the life of your employer, City, an M.O. which fits my target's recent actions. As you can see from in there,"[b][/b] he paused, gesturing with his free hand at the carnage inside the restaurant, "it seems I was too late. Your boss is most likely in pursuit of my prey, and I intend to do the same."[b][/b]

He softened his voice a little. "If you let me, I will follow your employer and put an end to this miserable prick before it can cause any further harm. But I would suggest you do otherwise."[b][/b] Fissure pointed again at the cowering civilians and the gradually fading images of the dead officers. "These people need someone they can count on. They need a trusted lieutenant of the Brass Guard. They need you."[b][/b] Fissure nodded at the armed guard, gazing directly into her wary eyes. "You'd do yourself, your badge and your associates honour by tending to the injured, protecting the innocent and calling for back-up. Trust me, they need you more than City does."[b][/b]

With that, he turned to enter the eatery, but paused in the doorway.

"We're not all monsters, as you might have been led to believe."[b][/b] he added, "We're just... different."[b][/b]

"You have a few zings confused, monsieur,"[font=French Script MT][/font] the navi protested, apparently dead set on conversing despite the dire situation. "I'm not part of ze Brass Guard. My being here, zis is nozing but a favor! How did zis even happen...?"[font=French Script MT][/font] she muttered, clutching her fists at her side. "Just what happened here!?"[font=French Script MT][/font]

She didn't seem like she was going to listen, but her defeatist attitude also made it seem like she wouldn't try to stop him. Slowly, she moved over to one of the injured NP officers and began tending to him as best she could. He noticed that she skipped over the most battered looking ones; it was likely that she'd seen his core had already been broken. "Yes, well, maybe you all are not so bad. But we are not all so good eizer. Some of us are incapable of being so and some of us just have ozzer ideas. Don't expect your intentions to cause anyone to turn a blind eye upon you,"[font=French Script MT][/font] she muttered cryptically, keeping her back turned to Fissure.

Boss Oni's ninja squad joined Fissure as he moved back into the restaurant. The scene was still covered in debris from the panic, but it was surprising that more had not been upset by the battle in that enclosed room earlier. Nobody was left inside the diner itself.

Fissure would have to go through the hole in the room he just walked out of to capture whoever had left the mess, not to mention the only remaining trace of his original target.
The guard didn't seem all that convinced by Fissure's outragious lie, and he hadn't really expected her to, but nevertheless she seemed willing to let him pass without much fuss. Her last comment had an unnerving tone that suggested something more to her, a hidden element laying beneath that ditsy persona.

But that was getting him off track. Too many conspiracy theories in one day was sure to ruin your head, and the only cure for that was to advance with reckless abandon.

Fissure plodded past the pile of glitchy corpses and paused to look down at the odd pinecone-like figure on the ground. He assumed it belonged to whoever had attacked his targets, perhaps a weapon or SP of some sort. Best he moved on before it exploded.

Fissure nodded curtly to the guard and, attendants in tow, stepped through the broken wall into the dubiously unsupported tunnel. They made haste, so as to avoid the chance of the entire passageway collapsing on top of them.
Continuing through the broken wall and over the equally ruined plot of land, just behind the restaurant, Fissure and his followers walked the path left by the one that had attacked the NP. It seemed as though at one point the area had been host to several business establishments, but now what was left consisted of abandoned buildings. Eventually, the trail led him into an area that had once been an outdoor theater; the area was enclosed on three sides with a giant screen at its opening.

"You gonna shoot me with that thing? You're just from the Department of Internal Affairs, right? Don't make me laugh!"[font=rockwell][/font] a voice rang out, so butch it was barely recognizable as a woman's. "Killing one of your guys is like stomping a bug for me! It's like doing the world a favor! It's a better place without you jackasses crawling around."[font=rockwell][/font]

"You're a criminal, plain and simple! There's nothing you could say that will justify CarriageMan's death to us!" another female voice cried out in response.

"That's just the thing: I don't care about justifying it to you or anyone. When you're like me, killing is so simple you don't even think about it! Your guy? Wrong place, wrong time. I eat chumps like that for breakfast, sometimes literally. If you wanna not die in this net so long as I'm around, you gotta be a lot tougher than that pretty boy,"[font=rockwell][/font] the other woman responded in a lackadaisical way.

As Fissure rounded the side of the bleachers, he began to identify the two women. The first was a tremendous, brown-skinned woman with a physique so barbarian in size and muscle girth that she might as well be a man. She was dressed in golden armor and a dark brown bodysuit, complete with a red bullfighter's cape over one arm. The horns on her helmet, along with a swishing bull tail and hooved boots, made it clear what her motif was supposed to be. It seemed likely she was responsible for the destroyed wall from earlier.

The one she was talking to was a tall woman in a red coat, like the old Netopian soldiers used to wear, with a white, X-shaped bandolier across her chest and shoulders. Her hair was brown with a glamorous, silky texture, although it was held in a rather unflattering bun with a short tail. A tall black hat upon her head completed the red-coat image, along with the giant, knife-edged musket she held armed in her white-gloved hands. Her proportions were glamorous to the point that if he couldn't find the "City" he was looking for, she might make a nice replacement.

On that note, City was nowhere in sight, at least at this angle. At this point, his options were either to stay silent, speak up, or intervene. There was, of course, a fourth option: he could get away from what was likely to be a very dangerous battle.
Fissure halted his troupe at the side of the theatre screen to study the scene before him. From the conversation between the two navis, Fissure began to piece together an idea of their identities. There was simply no mistaking the larger of the two. Rumours abounded of the fateful conflict in NetFrica that had resulted in the death of the Brass Guard's beloved Carriageman, the one responsible, by common opinion, was this burly woman. He recalled her name being Bullrun from the Bloodhound Family. As a mafia member she was theoretically on his side, but the Families were a fickle bunch, and he'd be more surprised if she helped him than crush him into the ground out of spite.

Of the other person in the party, Fissure couldn't quite recognise. He could tell she probably wasn't a fan of the mafia, most likely netpolice from the conversation. Though not as imposing as Bullrun, she would nevertheless have a few nasty tricks up her crimson sleeves if she believed she had a chance against the brutal Bloodhound.

There was no sign of City or her supposed bodyguards. The information he had been provided with was now of no use. If he couldn't locate them, he would have to make do with this Netopian soldier. There was also the matter of the thing made of wooden bars back at the restaurant. It didn't seem like it belonged to either of the ladies in the theatre. Perhaps there was another navi lurking about somewhere.

Fissure, with ninjas in tow, strode into the theatre, climbed the bleachers perpendicular to those already present, and took a seat near the top. They were bound to be noticed sooner or later anyway, and Fissure wanted a better view to analyse the situation despite any danger that may throw his way. Getting a clearer showing of the imminent scrap was a delicious bonus.

Should anyone inquire as to his purpose, he would wave it off with an ear-numbingly casual "Oh, don't mind us. We're just here for the show." [b][/b]

That would be a temporary solution at best though.

He couldn't help feeling he was about to become a part of the proceedings.
As Fissure and his ladies took their place, Bullrun watched him scale the bleachers with an amused grin. "If you're strolling up there with a big smile like that on your face, you're either crazy or you're on my side. Or both!"[font=rockwell][/font] Bullrun greeted him, placing one hand on her hip. The musket-carrying navi turned, facing up towards Fissure with a scowl. "What's brought you to this place, huh?"[font=rockwell][/font]

"So, you're another criminal, then?! I don't mind arresting the both of you," the red-coat threatened them; in a tell-tale gesture, however, she immediately turned her attention back to Bullrun. It was clear that she wasn't regarding Fissure as the same sort of threat.

"Those are Oni's baby dolls, aren't they? Did you steal them? Fat jackass could use a little slapping around,"[font=rockwell][/font] she cackled, imagining what the look on the Teksqp ranking officer's face would be if he realized somebody made off with his slaves. "But no, seriously, why are you here? Next answer's important. Tells me how many graves to start digging out with my hooves."[font=rockwell][/font]

"Think carefully, stranger. The next answer might also align you with the lowest form of scum," the woman in red continued, speaking in a distinct central Netopian accent. "Anyone who associates with that woman is an enemy of the law itself."

Still no sign of City.
Fissure's shrieking laughter peeled the paint from the steps around him.

"Oh, what a delicious decision! Should I side with a law enforcer I barely know, yet has the guts to stand up to a brutish warmonger who's quite capable of manslaughter of the highest degree? Or does my future pair me with the aforementioned cop killer who would most likely destroy every inch of my programming than ask for aid?"[b][/b]

The invigorated, serpentine navi leered down at the duo from on high.

"To answer your questions, I was loaned these 'dolls' from Boss Oni who has tasked me with, lets say, opening a dialogue with City, one of the Brass Guard. I heard she was in the area."[b][/b] A black, serrated, iron tongue lashed out of his teeth, screeching against his steely grin.

"You ladies wouldn't happen to have seen her, by any chance?"[b][/b]
"You won't lay a hand on her," the woman in red answered Fissure, still not lowering her gun from where she had its sights trained on Bullrun.

"Yeah, that ship's sailed. Bayonet over here made her run with her tail between her legs as soon as I showed up! She complied too, just like a good little police girl ought to. Guess she had some cold feet after seeing what I did to that xylophone guy, huh? Or maybe she was still thinking about old Horse Ass?"[font=rockwell][/font] Bullrun taunted, her grin widening beneath the golden ring of her helmet's nose.

Bayonet did not respond, but lowered her eyebrows with a distasteful frown. "I won't waste words on you. On the other hand, intruder, your purpose is still unclear," she called out, still not turning to face him. "If you're with that man, however, I can only assume your purpose here is criminal."

"She's got a point, Smiley. Come on, be more specific! What does that fatass have you doing? It could be anything, after all; I don't think I'd trust that guy's legs to let him get up and walk to the fridge!"[font=rockwell][/font] the golden-armored woman cackled. "What does Oni care about that little police girl for?"[font=rockwell][/font]

Bayonet smiled, raising her eyebrows as if suddenly pleased. "Please choose your side quickly, though. I don't think Ms. Bullrun's going to be able to listen much longer."

"Me? Hahaha, what? What the heck are you talkin' about, sister? Did you see what I did to your Tinfoil Guard in there?"[font=rockwell][/font] Bullrun responded in disbelief. "What've you got on me, huh?"[font=rockwell][/font]

"Something I'm fairly certain you don't have on me."

It was impossible to tell what was making Bayonet feel so suddenly comfortable with the situation.