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Yu-Gi-Oh! Annihilation

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Sunrise was less than an hour ago, making this prime time to move around in the depressed shanty town of Sandy Grove. Despite the name, it was far from a Grove, though sandy was absolutely an accurate description. Situated at the southern edge of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it bordered upon countless rolling hills of sand. The oldest who were in the area before The Collapse claim that these dunes were once the site of grasslands, or even incredible fruit orchards, but that time had long since passed.

The market was as bustling as the settlement of a few dozen could manage, with cactus fruit traded for scrap, scrap traded for insect meat, insect meat traded for pickled and dried fish, pickled and dried fish traded for water, water traded for cactus fruit, and any combination therein. Sandy Grove served and survived as a pit-stop for travelers, and several D-Rigs were visible on the outskirts, including an absolutely massive example at least 50 meters long in the far distance.

A woman of about 6 feet tall and medium-brown skin, adorned with intricate, seemingly custom-made armor, surveyed the crowds moving through the market from a position sitting atop the roof of a half-collapsed building, her eyes squinting with vague suspicion. Her hand rested on the hilt of a blade stowed at her side, rolling her fingers along the wrapped grip impatiently. ”Where…” after a few seconds she frowned slightly, furrowing her brow as she dismounted from her perch. Despite her size, her landing was graceful, a roll transitioning flawlessly back into a standing position as she entered the foot traffic.

OOC

Here we go @fuckers. While this may seem barebones, there is plenty more to Sandy Grove than immediately apparent. Make sure to establish what the fuck your character is doing here, maybe they are trying to establish a new home, or perhaps this is just a stop for the morning like it is for so many. If you have any questions, or want something from me to have in your post, hit me up and we can work it out there.

There will be an inciting incident soon, but I wanted to establish the setting a little bit first. Feel free to have your characters meet each other and interact, or don’t, whatever feels right.


 

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It was a good day for a trip. Lusine had managed to push herself out of bed, the joints were particularly sore this morning though, and began her prep. Eden was coming along, she knew the child was going to fuss a bit over it. They always did when she was following a lead that she couldn't quite explain. It wasn't that much of a problem, she needed to grab a few things, some scrap to patch up a few holes here and there, perhaps some more meat, considering she was running a tad low on that...

But really, it was more about finding that rare, rare oil now.

---

The two rode across the wastes in the upsized D-Rig Eden had designed, complete with Lusine's golf cart attached to the back. The road was overall bumpy, but the work the young scientist had put into the suspension seemed to pay off and make it a mostly smooth ride. It was a good thing too, the extra bumps would have been hell on her back.

“So… What was it we’re coming here for again, master? Olafoil?”

Lusine tapped her finger against the window for a moment, lost in thoughts of her own... Before she brought herself back to reality, “Close enough. It’s a rarity these days, useful in cooking. Times may be rough, but we still deserve nice things.”

“Mm, I suppose that’s fair enough. Still, seems a bit out of our way for it… Who even told you that Sandy Grove has any?”

There was a brief pause after that, a little cackle escaping her as she thought about what she was about to say. Eden's reactions to these never stopped amusing her, really. “Told me? Call it a hunch, even if we don’t find any there, who knows what we might find?”

A small sigh escaped the scientist as they drove towards the town, placing their chin on their left hand as they leaned against the window, “And the reason we brought your rig as well?”

She raised an eyebrow towards them briefly, glancing over as she tapped her walking stick against the floor of the vehicle, “Do you think I lived this long not being careful, child?” She just wouldn't mention that's exactly how she survived for so long. It wasn't relevant to the current topic at all, anyway.

“I’m not a child anymore, master!” Eden pouted, their cheeks puffing out, “I’ve been with you for nearly a decade and a half, you don’t have to keep calling me that.” Their hand tightened a bit on the wheel as the town came into sight, with the much larger rig on the distance drawing the driver’s eye, their head slooowly turning to look and stare at it. “Woooow… I wonder how many cores that baby takes…”

Lusine tossed her walking stick up a bit, catching it by the other end to give Eden a quick, though gentle, swat on the hand, “Pay attention to where you’re going. You can marvel at the sights once we’re parked.”

The sight was impressive, the towering rig caught the eyes of anyone passing by thanks to the barren landscape. That wasn’t the reason for being here, the all important goods were, the sights were just a secondary aspect. A bit of trading and dealing with others was an unfortunate necessity in this world, despite the risks that came with it.

”Well, do you want to stick together or split up, once we get to town?”

Another brief pause as she dropped the stick back down against her seat, a small hum escaping her, “Wait and see how busy it is once we’re closer. If there are too many people around, stick close. This sort of place can be dangerous when you aren’t mindful of a crowd, child.”

“I told you… Ugh, nevermind.”

---

After a bit of hassle getting out of the vehicle, along with collecting the box of goods Lusine had brought with her for trading purposes, the two of them had found themselves in the market area proper. The crowd wasn’t too dense, not compared to what Lusine was used to in past, but it was bad enough that she was keeping an eye on Eden as they went through their own tasks, whatever those might be... Or a total lack of them, depending on the day.

“Sooo… What kind of vendor would have this Olafoil? Someone with vegetables and fruit, someone with meat, or?”

She leaned against her walking stick as she took a small glance around, her eyes closing for a moment as she let out a tiny sigh, “There isn’t any here… We’ll just have to look elsewhere. It’s fine, it’s fine.” She waved her hand as she continued walking, motioning for Eden to follow, “We can stop around some stalls, find some scrap so we can have extra for repairs. I'm going to pick up a little extra meat... Anywhere you need to stop too.”

“... but I came all this way cause you had your hunch. I was just planning to explore near the house today.”

“Child, the hunch will lead us in the right direction. That doesn’t mean it’s here.” She waved her hand in the air again, humming lightly as she wiggled a finger, “Come along, we do need the materials anyway.”

Eden shot the older woman a look, but with the scarf over their mouth, she could only see so much of the younger person’s expression. However, from experience, she knew exactly what look she was given, before the youngster huffed and looked forward, adjusting the box in their arms. As they did, Lusine was scanning the crowd, her eyes settling on a strange, armored woman. She knew better to mess than with someone who was actively looking for someone or something, the way she was glancing through the crowd was a lot more focused than the general look Lusine had given.

“Fine. Lead the way, master.”

She nodded her head, turning herself to set their path away from the blade bearing lass, not too sharply to avoid attention, but enough to make sure they weren't directly in her line. One can never be too careful these days, after all.

Edited by Kazooie

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“So… What was it we’re coming here for again, master? Olafoil?”

The two rode across the wastes in the upsized D-Rig Eden had designed, complete with their master's golf cart attached to the back. The road was overall bumpy, but the work the young scientist had put into the suspension seemed to pay off and make it a mostly smooth ride. Good, their master was getting up in years and didn't need the stress.

Lusine tapped her finger against the window for a moment, “Close enough. It’s a rarity these days, useful in cooking. Times may be rough, but we still deserve nice things.”

“Mm, I suppose that’s fair enough. Still, seems a bit out of our way for it… Who even told you that Sandy Grove has any?”

There was a brief pause after that, a little cackle escaping her,Told me? Call it a hunch, even if we don’t find any there, who knows what we might find?”

A small sigh escaped the scientist as they drove towards the town, placing their chin on their left hand as they leaned against the window. Their master was usually right with these ‘hunches’, but they still didn’t sit quite right. The superstition was one thing, but this was another that they couldn’t even begin to process.

“And the reason we brought your rig as well?”

She raised an eyebrow towards them briefly, glancing over as she tapped her walking stick against the floor of the vehicle, “Do you think I lived this long not being careful, child?”

“I’m not a child anymore, master!” Eden pouted, their cheeks puffing out, “I’ve been with you for nearly a decade and a half, you don’t have to keep calling me that.” Their hand tightened a bit on the wheel as the town came into sight, with the much larger rig on the distance drawing the driver’s eye, their head slooowly turning to look and stare at it. “Woooow… I wonder how many cores that baby takes…”

Lusine tossed her walking stick up a bit, catching it by the other end to give Eden a quick, though gentle, swat on the hand, “Pay attention to where you’re going. You can marvel at the sights once we’re parked.”

Eden snapped back to the… road? Ahead of them, training their eyes forward at the smack, grumbling ever so softly. After clearing their voice, they spoke up again.

”Well, do you want to stick together or split up, once we get to town?”

Another brief pause as she dropped the stick back down against her seat, a small hum escaping her, “Wait and see how busy it is once we’re closer. If there are too many people around, stick close. This sort of place can be dangerous when you aren’t mindful of a crowd, child.”

“I told you… Ugh, nevermind.”

-----

Upon arriving at Sandy Grove, Eden quickly wrapped their scarf around their face, then hopped out of the rig to help their master out. They grabbed the box of goods that Lucine had brought to trade, then followed the older woman through the market, looking around through the crowd at all the stalls, but they didn't see anything too out of the ordinary. After a while, they spoke up,

“Sooo… What kind of vendor would have this Olafoil? Someone with vegetables and fruit, someone with meat, or?”

She leaned against her walking stick as she took a small glance around, her eyes closing for a moment as she let out a tiny sigh, “There isn’t any here… We’ll just have to look elsewhere. It’s fine, it’s fine.” She waved her hand as she continued walking, motioning for Eden to follow, “We can stop around some stalls, find some scrap so we can have extra for repairs. Anywhere you need to stop too.”

“... but I came all this way cause you had your hunch. I was just planning to explore near the house today.”

“Child, the hunch will lead us in the right direction. That doesn’t mean it’s here.” She waved her hand in the air again, humming lightly as she wiggled a finger, “Come along, we do need the materials anyway.”

Eden shot the older woman a look, but with the scarf over their mouth, she could only see so much of the younger person’s expression. However, from experience, she knew exactly what look she was given, before the youngster huffed and looked forward, adjusting the box in their arms.

Fine. Lead the way, master.”

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BGM

Sandy Grove...one of the sandiest places you could find here near the edge of Sierra Nevada....least that's how Mark saw it. Nothing but sand and the general market...full of an assortment of different types of individuals from all walks of life...selling insect meat and the like. That part to him still seemed a bit off and slightly strange, but it was life out here in the wastelands, anything went.

As for Mark himself, he was assisting a couple of merchants with moving some "junk" from their D-Rig to their stall. The merchants and himself got there about the same time, so he figured he see if they needed any help...though the conversation and attempt to work with them was an awkward experience for both parties to say the least. The stipulation they agreed on was that he could get to pick the pieces he wanted after everything was all said and done, which he was happily agreeable to. Besides, it would help him in the long run of getting things to barter and trade for things, or even fix up his D-Rig some more down the line.

Nevertheless, once he finished moving items to the merchant's stall, Mark took this as an opportunity to walk around the general market...hoping to catch any glimpse or inkling of any information on his father...and if that didn't work he'd at least be able to kill some time.

Eyes peeled Sheridan...you might be able to find some good supplies to send back home to mom... he thought, surveying the stalls that he could pass by, his eyes examining everything he could see at the present moment. But the young man was lost in thought and his focus with the different stalls, so it would be so simple for him to possibly bump into someone if he wasn't paying enough attention.

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The day was dry, the smell was sour, and Ida von Hellebore was bored. She had been sitting at the edge of the market for the last twenty minutes, craning her neck to spy the massive D-Rig at the edge of the settlement. She was hoping to catch a glimpse of its owner of the massive beast, but so far had been unsuccessful. She adjusted the glasses over her eyes against the glare of the dawn sun, drawing her knees up to stretch sore legs. Today was the first day she wasn't going to spend behind the wheel of her own D-Rig in three days, and while the machine was unquestionably her pride and joy it played hell with one's ass after too long. Still. It had brought her here, and maybe this massive Rig held promise. 

It was only then that Ida caught sight of the armored woman. The 'Don't fuck with me' energy she exuded was strong, but Ida was immediately taken in by the armor she was wearing. It was exceptionally well-made, even from a distance she could tell. Far better than one could expect out here in the wasteland. To the point Ida felt a growing itch of curiosity.

She leaned in to her companion, her head conspiratorially lowered to mutter lowly. "Well would you look at that. THAT is a fine piece of armor she's got over there, eh Magpie?"

"Sure is. Won't find something like that just anywhere, that's for sure. Wouldn't mind something like that myself." 

"I see we are, as ever, joined in thought. Watch my back, if you would." She breezed forward, eyes zeroing in with renewed interest on this new specimen, Magpie shadowing behind her.

"Hello, miss? With the sword?" The tall, glasses-wearing form of Ida von Hellebore drew up level with the woman, looking with an appreciative eye at the armor she wore. "I couldn't help but notice the quality of your armor."

"You're a fan? It protects the important parts without too much heat, and I thought it looked nice. What more is there to want?" While her words were full of warmth, her face remained stern, refusing to look Ida in the eye as she looked up and down the girl who followed her, her eyes lingering on the point of Magpie's spear. "You, do you know how to use that, or is it just to scare people off?"

"Would you like to find out?" Magpie asked in return, eyes alight in anticipation of a new challenge.

"Don't tempt me. What do they call you?" The girl pushed past Ida so casually it almost didn't seem to be rude, as she approached Magpie, looking down at her to return the gaze.

"Magpie. That's what they called me in the colosseum, and I'm not really sure what I was called before then."

"Magpie? Fitting name for such a small bird, querrequerre."

A gentle hand descended on Magpie's shoulder. Not strong enough to hold her back if she decided she WAS being tempted to use the spear, just a silent request to hold off on it for now. "She may be small but she's been quite helpful to me ever since we ran into each other," she said warmly, smiling at the woman with unrelenting casualness. "You can call me Ida, miss. And what may we have the pleasure of calling you?"

"Mm?" The girl blinked, her attention brought back to Ida, though her posture was still very much directed toward Magpie, her hand once again on the hilt of her blade. "I'm Alliyma. And it will only be a pleasure if you keep on my good side."

"Oh, of course! Not our first time in one of these edge settlements, we've no aims for your bad side." Ida steepled her fingers, running her eyes over Alliyma's armor with a glint in her eye. "We were just curious if you made your armor yourself. The both of us are always in the market for good craftsmanship, for various reasons."

Alliyma rolled her eyes, "Come now, friend, my eyes are up here. I am not a crafter, and the one I got it from is well out of your range, both in distance and cost."

Ida waved a hand. "Distance, cost, all issues for Future Ida, Future Magpie. I must know, best to keep well-informed of opportunities for good quality in the event of an unexpected windfall, eh?" She gave a winning smile.

Ida's winning smile was met with Alliyma's winning frown, "He's dead. If you want, I will gladly draw you a map so you can trek six thousand miles to gawk at his corpse."

Ida's smile soon matched Alliyma's. Mostly. Ida couldn't develop an expression nearly as stony. "Well. Unfortunate, eh, Magpie? Unlike you, actually," she realized, looking back to Alliyma. "Six thousand miles? You must be as well-made as your armor, to make it so far in these times. Have you trekked here all the way from off-continent?" The sheen of curiosity was back now, back and brighter than before. 

"No, I rode a whale."

"You mean there's things living in the ocean big enough for people to ride them?" This, if one could believe it, was news to Magpie.

"You are as smart as your keeper aren't you, Little Bird?"

At being called Little Bird a second time, Magpie began to reach for her spear. "Peck at this 'little bird' again and she might be inclined to take your eyes, as birds do."

"Don't try to fly with a condor, querrequerre"

This time Ida didn't put the hand on Magpie's shoulder. She took a step back, taking in Alliyma more critically, not just focusing on her armor. "I will ask you one more question, then I'll leave you be, as you're clearly not inclined much to this." 

"What is it, Ima?"

Ida leaned closer, frowning in thought as she met Alliyma's eyes. If being called the wrong name bothered her, she didn't show it. "... Are you being sarcastic or did you actually ride a whale? I'd assume the former, but it's very hard for me to tell... and I'd love for a story that ludicrous to be fact." She grinned, but the welcoming air was gone now and she had a definitive wariness behind her glasses.

"I didn't ride a whale, no. I have a long road behind me."

"We should all be so lucky." Ida bowed her head swiftly, taking a step back to disengage. "A pleasure, Miss Alliyma. I wish you luck with your next six thousand." She split away, looking back and slowing up enough to make sure Magpie could catch up. 

"Shame she's so blasted prickly," she lamented, though quietly enough to where she was certain Alliyma couldn't hear her. "You know, Magpie, it's amazing to me how the end of the world came about and humanity as a whole decided they couldn't trust each other. It's blasted inconvenient, is what it is. Everyone has to prove they've the most bones of all concerned before they'll dare being helpful." 

She stopped, realizing Magpie wasn't listening. This was due to Magpie not being behind her. She turned back to see the girl was back aways, still near Alliyma. "Hmm. Well. Shit." Ida crossed her arms as she leaned back against a wall. Not impatiently, just expectantly, waiting to see where Magpie chose to take it next. Or Alliyma, if she was quicker on the draw, and in a drawing mood. 

Edited by Faytl

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Another beautiful morning in the wasteland! The blue sky above, the hot soil below, and one drop-dead gorgeous gladiator trying to make her dreams a reality. Today, the adventures of Magpie and Doctor Ida who she "worked for" brought them to a little town called Sandy Grove. If Magpie were being perfectly blunt, "Shoddy Grove" was more appropriate of a name. If nothing else, the colosseum she had once risked life and limb in was at least rather well built. Formerly some type of sports arena before the Zero-Reverse Collapse, if the rumors were to be believed. Much unlike this place. This was a post-collapse town if ever she'd seen one.

"Well would you look at that. THAT is a fine piece of armor she's got over there, eh Magpie?"

The good doctor had directed Magpie's attention to perhaps this town's only redeeming quality. A woman. Or, more specifically, the armor she was wearing.

"Sure is. Won't find something like that just anywhere, that's for sure. Wouldn't mind something like that myself."

Even a brief conversation with the woman wearing this finely-crafted armor, whose name Magpie had already forgotten, was enough to make it abundantly clearer that the armor, not the person wearing it, was the only redeeming factor of Shoddy Grove. She wanted the armor. Alas. There was a significant case of risk vs reward at play here. Armorlady was armored and armed, while Magpie had no armor to her name besides natural human grit. She did not favor those odds. If she were protected, Magpie would certainly not be against trying to get an upgrade off this woman's corpse, but such lovely thoughts would have to remain in the realm of thought alone.

With the only interesting thing about her likely out of Magpie's reach, she elected to leave the woman and her foul attitude alone. That meant all that remained was to see if there was anything else even mildly interesting about Shoddy Grove. She wasn't about to hold her breath over it.


Sandy Grove, the town was called. It seemed peaceful, at least. A nice place for Tatsu to take a break in her search for something worth bringing home. And perhaps get a lead on something interesting, if she was lucky. Based on the amount of D-Rigs parked on the outskirts of town, surely there were some travelers who had perhaps heard a story or two worth investigating. And so, once off her bike, Tatsu made for the best place to pick up hearsay and rumors. The market! It was small, but there was a special charm to small markets like this.

"Excuse me, maiden of the east!" Tatsu found herself stopped by a hand on her shoulder, belonging to a gruff and stout man, whose wiry face and body hair combined with his general body shape made him not dissimilar to a tumbleweed.

Though she wasn't proud to admit it, Tatsu did flinch when a hand was suddenly placed on her shoulder. This man looked like someone who had hopefully seen better days, though Tatsu dare not make such a remark out loud. That would, among other things, be incredibly rude. "Y, Yes? Is something the matter?"

The man grinned, showing off more empty spaces than he had teeth, "May I interest you in a curiosity found only on this side of the desert??" Fumbling around inside his ratty coat, the man quickly produced a stoppered bottle, holding it up to the light to display the sloshing liquid inside.

"What is it...?"

"Oil from a plant long since lost!" Removing the cork, the man took a sniff of the bottle's contents, smiling in ecstasy before replacing the cork. "Tears of the olive."

Ah. Olive oil. "From the long-lost olive, you say? Is it alright if I give it a sniff myself before making an offer?"

The man narrowed his eyes, clutching the bottle tightly so as not to lose it as he opened it once more and lifted it toward Tatsu's face. And Tatsu, for her part, pulled down the mask from her face enough to let her nose take in the smell of the oil unhindered. And in response, her face made a confused expression. This... wasn't olive oil. She'd know.

"I'm sorry sir, but how much did you pay for this?"

"Found it!"

"Oh, well that's fortunate indeed! But... I'm afraid this isn't olive oil. I'm not sure what exactly it is, but it's not that." Tenderly nudging the bottle back to its owner, Tatsu paused to think for a moment. "Although... if you want actual olive oil..."

The man snatched the bottle back, stowing it once again in the folds of his clothing, "As if a bumpkin like you would know!"

The nerve! If anything, he was the bumpkin here! "As a matter of fact I would know," Tatsu huffed, pulling her mask back up. "But if you don't want to hear me out I suppose that's your own business." It seemed olive oil was in high demand around here. That was good to know indeed! She wasn't about to say no to free information, so instead started back to her D-Rig. Suddenly, a most unexpected mission had come up as a result of this rather brusque tumbleweed of a man.

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Skelly

It had been a late night for Skelly. Any art form can be quite the endeavor, but Skelly's taxidermy creations required multiple full days of planning, sculpting, and carefully treating animal parts before even beginning final assembly. But, finally, her latest creation, a small recreation of one of the desert's sand otters in a half-dead state, was almost complete. All that was left was the eyes. Skelly turned to the small cabinet in Frankenstein's Lab with the glass eyes and began sorting through... but found she was out of the one type she needed. I did not expect running out so quickly she thought. She looked to her other supplies, finding that they were running out too. Looks like it's about time to head to Sandy Grove again. 


Skelly's ancient looking RV, which looks like it has seen better days, slowly pulls into the town of Sandy Grove. Skelly herself was covered head to toe in cloth, goggle, mask, and bandage, having come down these roads many times before. It pays for someone something like her to be careful. As Skelly drives up, however, she notices a giant D-Rig sitting on the road. She gets out to examine it, removing her goggles to allow her glassy, blackened eyes to look closely at the rig to see if she could make out anything. No luck. The woman sighed and got back in her D-Rig, and drove up to town.


Skelly walked into Sandy Groove, keeping her usual distance and getting the usual side-eyed glances from people, of course. Some of them knew her, some of them didn't. She took out her usual case of mostly-covered corpse-sculptures from the back of her RV, taking a minute to look at the sideboards, which were a mix of rotten wood and bone. 

However, despite her mostly keeping her eyes in the depths of shadow, someone noticed Skelly's unusual features.

It was over in an instant, Skelly being grappled by a hand grabbing the cloth of her shirt and an ornate blade of obsidian being held to her neck. A female voice hissed from behind her "Your eyes. How'd that happen?"

A deep, primal fear coursed through Skelly's icy-cold veins, but she wouldn't let it show. Not with this much on the line.  "...dead men tell no tales, do they not?" she whispered in a steady, almost robotic voice.

"Elaborate."

"...how about we go somewhere a little more private and handle this like civilized people?" Skelly growled, her voice dripping with artificial venom and manufactured outrage.

"No." The woman pressed the blade lightly to Skelly's throat, the cut oozing dark ichor in place of blood. "Something about you is wrong, and you are going to tell me why. Now."

"You think that threatening me wants to make me tell you anything? Cute. What about your own... secret, that giant machine?" It was a bluff, of course. Skelly didn't know if this woman was connected at all to the giant duel rig out side town... but in these wastelands, every bit of leverage counts.

"The what?"

The bluff failed, as Skelly knew it likely would. "Ah, so that isn't yours then. Fine, as long as you let go of me, I can explain."

The intimidatingly armored woman released Skelly, pushing her forward and away a few feet, "Don't try anything, or you'll start losing limbs. These feathers were dyed with blood, but I wouldn't mind turning a few of them black with whatever fills your veins."

Skelly beckoned the woman to follow her as she walked off, and the woman followed, keeping just a far enough distance away to always be within arms reach. Soon enough the two found themselves out of earshot of town. Skelly turns to the stranger, and does the one thing she hates most... she takes off her hood and mask, revealing her pale, dead face for the world, her face lined with darkened veins and old wounds never quite healed.

The other woman startled back slightly, seemingly caught of guard by this. "How." 

Skelly didn't answer, her body held still as if a corpse held upright. With a grunt of fear and rage, the woman dashed forward, blitzing the immobile Skelly and pinning her limp against the wall, the blade once again at her throat, "I get it, you're dead, whatever. What. Brought. You. Back."

Skelly's body limped against the wall as she frantically thought of what to say. She's been wondering that question for years, about who she is and why she was brought back and how she was brought back and where she came from and-

"Last chance!" the woman screamed as she bashed Skelly's skull against the wall by her short hair. "What is the last thing you remember before dying??"

"I wish I knew. Why are you so angry?"

The woman's brow furrowed in confusion, Skelly's simple statement seemingly piercing deep. "You don't remember?"

"Not at all, asides from my name."

"Which is?"

"Mary Walker. Please, call me Skelly, and I apologize for my curtness"

The woman stared into Skelly's eyes for several long seconds, her rage piercing all the way through, before abruptly backing off, the ferocity dissolving as she resheathed her weapon. With a half-smirk, she extended as hand forward, "Pleasure to meet you, Mary. Alliyma."

Skelly cautiously shook Alliyma's hand. "Please, pardon my appearance... and the smell... and..."

"Trust me, I was prepared for worse. Now if you'll excuse me, I have business to attend to." Sprinting to the side, Alliyma jumped up off of a half-ruined metal container, catching the top of the wall with her fingertips and pulling herself up, quickly disappearing among the rooftops.

Skelly nods as she heads off before putting on her hood, goggles, and mask, and heads back to town to trade some of her taxidermy creations. Soon she makes it to her favorite glassblower, a young lad completely enthralled with his craft, and exchanged one of her smaller taxidermy insects for a renewed supply of eyes. Soon however, she began scanning the rooftops for Alliyma again.

Edited by FourEyesIsAFish

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When Tatsu returned to her bike, things were not as she had expected. The engine had been pried open, perhaps with a crowbar or similar tool, and the cores removed. Upon closer inspection, Tatsu found that her prized bottle of cooking oil from home had gone missing as well.

This could only have been a robbery! Tatsu was no stranger to some tactical... "apprehension of goods" herself, but these were clearly just common thugs! She was almost just as offended at their complete lack of subtlety as she was at the theft itself. Anyone with a functioning set of eyes could spot the tracks leading away from her bike. A set of tracks she wasted no time following, taking at least some care to brush the sand back over her footprints as she moved, unlike her robbers. The footprints led to tire tracks leading off into the wasteland. Pursuing that would be problematic, what with her own engine robbed of its cores.

"It's almost admirably bold," she mused to herself, suddenly at a bit of a loss on how to give pursuit.

A tall man, easily six and a half feet, with a wide brimmed metal hat and sunken facial features, dragged his feet from a nearby area of shade to standy beside Tatsu, "Looks like 'e come early today. Sorry ya had to get all caught up in this lil lady."

Aside from his gargantuan size, the first thing that stood out to Tatsu about this man was that he seemed aware of what was going on here. "Caught up in it? Are robberies like this common here?"

The man whistled through a gap in his teeth. Dental hygiene clearly wasn't a staple of Sandy Grove. "Ye, he comes by every once in a while to take the cores from whatever they can. 'pparently they're buildin somethin. I do my best to just stay outter 'is way, but it were fun watchin 'im tryin get inter that big 'ol rig up the hill. Gave up after a few minutes."

"If you know where he is, could you please point me in the right direction? I'm not asking you to help me get my things back of course, just to help me get there so I can handle it."

"He headed west, like every time. But like I said, he ripped the cores out of just about all these things, so I dunno how you'd go after 'em."

"It's certainly a conundrum. If it really ends up being my only option, I'll walk there if I have to, though I'd rather not." Tatsu turned her gaze back toward the dilapidated little town she had just walked out of. Perhaps that tumbleweed-looking man would be willing to help in exchange for some actual olive oil... if he were a better listener, at least. Not to mention he didn't seem like the type who could do her any good.

"Well, we ain't got any cores of our own here in Sandy Grove. Trust me, if we did, we'd be the hell outta here. You're welcome to try whatever, worst case scenario we get a few new citizens. I'd be careful about tryin duel this guy though, he's got one hell of a dragon he's used to beat people down."

"Unfortunately, I don't have much of a choice..."

Without warning, sirens began blaring from the large rig that sat upon the hill, lights scattered across it flashing haphazardly as the hatch located at its front opened up. A set of stairs extended down to the sand, and down walked a man, perhaps about 30 years old, wearing a heavy jacket that went down to his knees, and a tired, mildly annoyed expression. It took a few minutes, but eventually he trudged his way to Tatsu's position. "Looks like you're in a tough spot. Wanna make a deal?"

This felt sketchy. But for want of a better option… "I'll at least hear you out."

〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉〉

At the center of Sandy Grove, the same man who had approached Hojo Tatsu, stood atop a pile of junk. "Oi!" Unfortunately, his call for attention was met with less of a reaction than his mere presence there, which had at least drawn a few eyes. With a sigh, and a shrug toward Tatsu, who stood patiently at the foot of the trash heap, he reached into one of the deep pockets of his jacket, producing from it a compact flare gun, that seemed to be previously broken apart and now held together with duck tape and crossed fingers. He pointed it into the air, and fired off the pre-loaded shot.

Instead of sending a flare into the sky, the entire construction exploded within his hand, his skin luckily protected by the thick glove he wore. Fortunately, the sound produced was enough to gather attention from all those around. "Good morning, motherfuckers! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but y'all got your shit stolen! From my safe and cozy perch, I witnessed some asshole steal the cores from every last one of your rigs! He even took some kinda fancy oil from little miss Hojo here, from what I'm told." He held his breath for a few seconds, a smirk forming at the corner of his mouth as hysteria began to set in within the crowd, "but luckily, your new best friend Sid has an impenetrable fortress of a home, I'm sure you noticed it up the hill." Vaguely gesturing toward the enormous rig on the horizon, Sid beamed with pride. "I'll take all of you, and your busted rigs, to catch up with this POS, and one of you can duel him to get all the cores back! All I ask in return is the most valuable salvage you all have! A paltry price for the opportunity to leave this dump of a town." Hopping down from the trash pile, he addressed the crowd once more, "Your rigs should have enough residual power left to get them up into Behemoth's cargo bay. We leave in 20, be there or be stranded in this shit hole…" with a smile to one of the citizens of Sandy Grove, he placed his hand on their shoulder and nodded, "with all due respect."

OOC:

GET ON THE BIG RIG TO RESCUE YOUR CORES!


Each rig has maybe a mile left in it, so unless you want to live in Sandy Grove forever, this is basically your only option, at least that is immediately apparent. I doubt many will be particularly happy with Sid's extortionary offer, but any port in a storm, y'know?


 

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Ida watched patiently as Magpie lingered behind, but ended up nodding her head as she saw the girl wander off. Though it left Ida with the responsibility to defend herself if things went south, which Magpie was infinitely better at than she was, it also meant she didn't have the fallout of a scrap to wade through. Yet.

She dusted her hands off against each other, frowning. Now she had nobody to talk to about her gripes with Alliyma and her standoffishness. It was exactly this reason why she wasn't sad to see Holloword behind her. She'd fit in amongst the roughnecks there, and no mistake. Still though. For some reason she couldn't help getting along with Magpie far better than she had with types like Alliyma, and the girl was certainly closer to her in demeanor than she was to Ida. 

"One of the many mysteries of the wastes." She shrugged cheerily. She almost viewed befriending Magpie as an accomplishment. Few else could say they had that honor.

She swept a critical eye across the market, frowning. One unfortunate problem of her new nomad status: She didn't have access to nearly the same quality of materials as she had in Holloword. She had to sneak around and haggle tooth and nail, but at least she had been able to wrangle some things worth cobbling together. Not so out here. She doubted she could power a ten-watt bulb with the goods on display in the Grove, let alone a summon core.

"I had to leave right when I was finally starting to make good progress," she sighed, looking doubtfully over an amalgamation of metal that might once have been a chasis of some kind but was more likely some rusted-together clamps. 

It was then that her attention was pulled directly to the center of the square, where the hat-wearing man had called court. She initially ignored him, assuming he and his companion to be locals. Public address or somesuch. But it became abundantly clear that she was the target audience for the message. And her blood ran cold as she heard it.

The Link core that powered her rig was one thing. That was replaceable. But the non-functioning one, the one that she had spent years working on...

"Excuse me," she said briskly, darting through the crowd, trying to get a glimpse of Magpie. She thought she saw her for a second, waving her arm erratically as she rushed for the edge of town, where their rigs had been parked. She dimly caught word of the man offering to give them a ride to pursue, and she shouted out abruptly and loudly "I'll take you up on that, sir!" as she reached the edge of the square, already frantically increasing her pace to a run. 

- - - - - - - 

Ida could see where her engine had been pried apart already on the amalgamation of construction machines that was her rig. She didn't need to check, she could see the summon core was gone. Magpie's too, parked in the shadow of her own. But she was hastening to the cabin, wanting to find the compartment where she-

There was a pile of scrap metal and broken glass next to her rig. She came to a dead stop, slowly kneeling down to pick up what had been left of her great experiment. The rushing of blood in her ears very suddenly intensified, already fast from her hurried run to the outskirts here. She turned it over in her hands slowly one way, then the other. Her expression very gradually hardened. She rose slowly, her eyes peering up towards the Behemoth.

- - - - - - -

"Thank you for giving us a chance to reclaim our cores," Ida said softly to the man who owned the great rig as she walked into it, the first of several from among the town. "Do you think something this big will be sufficient to catch... up..." She looked around the large cargo hold, raising an eyebrow. She was impressed, despite herself. The interior of the rig looked more like a transport machine than a dueling vehicle. Sharply organized, spaced efficiently with benches along the side. She had already been told her rig wouldn't be able to fit inside, as it was by far the largest. She had towed Magpie's here, and had left it outside for the girl to drive in herself, her own hitched to the back by a winch and chain the driver of the great machine had provided. She noted that the man seemed to travel alone, or at least with very few companions. She had to wonder who all the space was for.

"An impressive machine," she said softly, wandering through the cargo bay to the bridge up front. "I'd be surprised if you could manage to power it without at least two summon co-" Her words caught in her throat as she came upon the bridge and saw the energy field that sat in the middle of it. More importantly, the single core that sat within.

It was unlike any piece of machinery she had seen before. The size of a beach ball, hovering within the energy field and rotating slowly. A hexagonal bulk of dark metal, glowing yellow circuitry visible with several red wires connected around it. And a swooshing, glowing symbol on the topmost face.

"What is this?" she asked in awe, slowly wandering around the core. She had beaten everyone else to the bridge, so there was nobody to answer her. She sat dumbly in a copilot's seat, looking at the strange core in utter fascination. Until she felt the weight of her own attempt in her hands. It felt a paltry thing next to the mystery core, and she felt even stupider than her rig getting broken into and her life's work being shattered already had. 

She slumped in her copilot seat, waiting anxiously for departure, turning her head to look out the dusty windshield. Somewhere, he was out there. And as long as she had Magpie at her back, she was confident he would pay. She waited, looking over her shoulder, raising a hand to get her companion's attention. The hand was visibly trembling, the ruined core prototype clearly visible in her other one. She couldn't help stealing glances at the floating core.

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Skelly

Skelly meandered throughout the town of Sandy Grove, seemingly searching for someone in the chaos. Eventually, she finds who she's looking for: the armored warrior Alliyma, who was found stomping toward her large, rover-like D-rig. Two gaping holes have been pried in the rig's hull where two summon cores used to be. 

Skelly slowly walked over to the warrior and gently said, “Hey…”

Alliyma slammed her fist on a button at the bottom of the cockpit, the glass enclosure rising with the sound of pneumatics to allow access to the driver's seat. "What."

“…it looks like we’re stuck here for a bit”

"A few minutes. Then we kill the asshole responsible and I'm on my way."

“…I say we don’t kill him. Could just disable their cores and leave 'em to the desert to die."

"Don't be stupid. We are in no position to dish out petty karmic justice when so many lives are at stake." Pulling herself up into her D-Rig, she pressed a button within, the canopy slowly closing, "I recommend you get your rig in that 'Behemoth' soon, or you'll be left behind. I have a little bird to check on."


Skelly walked over to the Frankenstein's Lab... and immediately saw the hood opened and the Synchro Core that had one sat there gone. She opened the door to the interior of the cabin... and saw her stuff rummaged through. For a minute, she panicked... but luckily nothing was stolen.

With nothing left to do, Skelly drove to the behemoth, turned her duel rig off, and took out her deck. She took out one card in particular, a purple-bordered card with a chimeric wolf roaring as the art.

"Hopefully this goes well, Indy. Hopefully it goes well..."

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"Good morning, motherfuckers! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but y'all got your shit stolen! From my safe and cozy perch, I witnessed some asshole steal the cores from every last one of your rigs!"

Mark couldn't believe his ears when this Sid individual shouted this out to those here. His day immediately got worse and after helping that group out earlier...no good deed goes unpunished. Luckily, Sid said he'd be helpful and get everyone up to speed to catch up to whatever moron stole from them...but at a cost...naturally. The most valuable salvage that they had would be given basically as payment/tribute to Sid for his help.

Of course...naturally, when I get some good stuff here...I have to immediately give it away. Mark cursed under his breath. On his back he had a few pieces and parts of random junk tied nicely to allow for carrying. But that was the least of his worries. Immediately, he made his way towards his D-Rig, the Nighthawk. Wasn't hard to miss it in a place like this...it was a giant one wheeled motorcycle. Upon arrival, he noticed right there and then...his two cores were gone. Both the Pendulum and Fusion Core...no longer inserted in the motorcycle's frame and being. ....damnit....


The Nighthawk made it's way up to the Behemoth, and immediately into the cargo bay. Once that was done, Mark hoisted the junk and scraps he collected just today on his back and made his way to find Sid. The moment he did, he began to approach the man who seemed to be in his thirties. Right...this meant he had to bargain and talk to this guy...social interaction like this...fantastic.

With a clearing of his throat, Mark made himself known to Sid. "E-Excuse me...Sid?" he said, stuttering at first. He then proceeded to shuffle the junk off his back and put it down in front him. "....t-thank you for allowing me to get my c-cores back...that said, this is my payment as you requested...it's h-honestly not a lot...or much at all..."

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Posted (edited)

With the end of Sid's speech, there were a multitude of reactions. Some were disbelief, there were some people who were outright accepting it. Of course there was explosive outrage, but Lusine didn't show those. She adjusted for a moment, standing up straighter as she let her cane tap against the ground slightly as she turned to Eden.

“Come child. I have a problem to take care of.”

Lusine’s cane stomped against the ground as the older woman motioned for Eden to follow along behind her, her secured goods held in hand as she hummed and made her way towards their ride there. Sure enough, her rig had the cores pried them from as she examined it, and she was sure Eden’s was the same, whether she asked them or not.

Indeed, the examination seemed to be going much the same way. She let her hand twirl her cane as she slowly stood up straight, a scowl on the elder’s face, “...I suppose what he said was true. No core left, correct?”

“From the looks of things, yeah… Stripped clean. We could probably make it a couple miles at most on any of these.”

She clicked her tongue for a moment, “We have no choice then, we go with the extortionist. We should still be able to get to the rig out in the distance…" Lusine trailed off a tiny bit as she mumbled to herself, “Show no sign of it, child. But be prepared for that conman to turn on us. It’s very likely that he was working with the thief and they plan to try and get more from us. He may be just an opportunist, but you should always prepare for the worst.”

“I don’t need you to tell me that. I’ve been out on my own plenty, you know.”

She waved her hand in the air, “Never hurts to have a refresher, now let’s get going. I need to get my things back.”

The ride there was quiet. Lusine wasn’t in a talking mood, if the way she was tapping her fingers against the window was in any indication, she was deep in thought at the moment. There was a moment where she muttered some choice words underneath her breath, waiting for them to finally get there.

Once they arrived, she dropped herself down to the ground without hesitation, her previous care having been discarded for the moment as she collected a few important things from the vehicle, just in case she needed to take care of business personally. She stretched herself slowly, standing up as she started to march away from their vehicles and deeper inside of the large rig that the man had been so proud of. She let her cane tap against the floor idly, making her way towards the main room of the machine. She tapped her foot for a moment, taking a glance around the inner workings of the giant rig. This would definitely be more to Eden's interests than her own, but it did mean she was able to get an idea on where the exits where, any important spots that were obvious... Whether it was important for her to keep track or not, she felt the need to do it all the same.

Edited by Kazooie

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Truly, Shoddy Grove was even worse off than Magpie had feared. While she had expected there to be nothing to do in a place like this, she hadn't expected there to be nothing to do. The overabundance of droll nothing was so dire that she had resorted to drawing pictures in the sand to stave off the beast of boredom. No goodies worth haggling for, no sights to see, not even a fight to be picked, what with the only person who looked like a worthy opponent having the distinct advantage of wearing armor. If she had known this collection of hovels would be so dull and worthless, Magpie would have just stayed in her buggy and gotten herself some beauty sleep.

"Oi!"

Mm? Turning her attention from the crude likeness of a fellow gladiator she'd been drawing in the sand, Magpie looked at perhaps the only interesting thing this town had to offer that wasn't wearing body armor. A man, with some sort of firearm that seemed to be in awful condition. It even exploded directly in his hand! At least this presentation was interesting.

"Good morning, motherfuckers! I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but y'all got your shit stolen! From my safe and cozy perch, I witnessed some asshole steal the cores from every last one of your rigs! He even took some kinda fancy oil from little miss Hojo here, from what I'm told."

You witnessed WHAT!?

Her core? Magpie's fusion core, the very thing that kept the second love of her life running? Stolen by some common rank-and-file thief? Oh no. This would not do at all. It was just passing curiosity at first, but for the rest of his little speech, this Sid fellow had Magpie's undivided attention. "Be there in 20" he said. She'd do him one better.

When she returned to her D-Rig, the external damage was obvious, and the fusion core inside was conspicuously gone, just as Sid had said. She'd have to get Ida to patch that up later. There wasn't much point in taking stock for if any of her other belongings had been taken. If anything else was taken, she'd get it all back soon enough. With a bit of help, she loaded the buggy up into Sid's frankly impressive monster of a rig. Quite impressive indeed. She almost considered the idea of upscaling her own vehicle, but that would surely affect how it handled. No thanks.

"So, our core thief," Magpie started, addressing the man who had so generously offered a way to get her core back. "What else do you know about him?"

"Ha!" Sid scoffed, chewing on a piece of jerky of suspect origin, "Fuck you, I don't know shit."

"...alright, then." Rude! A simple "nothing" would have sufficed. Well, in the meantime, Magpie wanted to see what else this D-Rig had in store. For the most part, it was most certainly a D-Rig like any other she'd seen before, aside from its exceptional scale. Until she found the core. It was... well, it was unlike any other core she'd seen before. What was it? How did it work? This was a question for Ida. If anyone besides rude Sid would know, it would be her. And if she didn't know, surely she'd be even more curious about it than Magpie was.

But that was a question she'd ask later. Encountering Ida during her exploration was just a happy accident. She was waving her hand? Opting for Magpie's attention? Poor timing. Magpie kept her attention firmly on the lands ahead.

"Not right now, Ida. I'm working."


Having a lightweight D-Rig, getting Tatsu's bike loaded up was a simple task, so much so that she had elected to simply push the thing along instead of using up what little fuel remained. The issue of what to pay with still hung over her head. Technically, her most valuable thing short of the D-Rig itself was probably the olive oil. But she wasn't about to just give that away, even if the alternative was being stranded in Sandy Grove. There was a handful of others who had answered the offer Sid had given out, which definitely made Tatsu more confident in the odds of getting her core and oil back. Mostly women, the more she looked around.

Weird.

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A scrappy one with a scarred face and grey eyes approached Sid, a pack of garbage in tow "E-Excuse me...Sid?" he seemed nervous, but sure enough dropped all the junk as his would-be savior's feet "...t-thank you for allowing me to get my c-cores back...that said, this is my payment as you requested...it's h-honestly not a lot...or much at all..."

Sid cocked an eyebrow up before looking down at what had been gathered, kicking it with his steel-plated boot, grinning at the clamor produced. "This will work great, yeah. Good work." Sid clapped his hand onto Mark's shoulder, rolling up his oversized sleeve to reveal several heavily damaged digital watches, each displaying a different time if anything at all, "Pleasure doing business, now I think it's time we got going." Slamming his fist onto a large button on the wall, the cargo bay closed, locking everyone and their rigs within.

It didn’t take long for Sid to make his way to the top of the maze-like passageway, finding himself at the bridge of his rig. His brow raised briefly at the fact that a few had already found their way to this point on their own. A decently-sized group had already congregated, staring at the Iron Core that powered his rig. “Weird, right? I have been doing this salvage biz for a while and I haven’t seen anything like it, before or since.” Without paying anywhere near the same reverence toward the artifact, he walked past the group, flicking the hat of the scarved one as he went.

“Let’s get down to business, shall we? It will be easier to get rich with more than just a single working rig, so we have to get your engines back.”


The Behemoth moved through the badlands at a far greater pace than its appearance would suggest, the Iron Core suspended within humming and whirring sporadically. Casually leaning against the throttle, Sid faced away from the windshield and toward the rest, addressing them with a far less than professional tone, “Alright fuckers, little Miss Skelly here says she has a trick to be able to beat our culprit in a turbo duel without the synchro core that was stolen from her rig, so she is getting the duelist’s seat on this one. Once the guy is beaten, his rig will be disabled, making capture easy for a group as big as ours.” With a vague gesture to a slightly elevated platform with a full window view, he made room for Skelly to step up. With their pursuer in sight, driving what appeared to be a slick race car stylized like a white dragon, Skelly took stage.

Skelly looks at her hand carefully, then carefully grabs one of the cards and sets it down, with a small, teal, ooze-like person with small, dot-like eyes popping into being nearby. She then sets down another card, with a frankenstein-like mixture of girl and wolf similarly popping into existence, with Skelly subtly scratching her behind the ear. She whispers “Alright you two, let’s do this.”

The driver of the other vehicle seemed completely unfazed by their opponent’s actions, starting their turn by immediately activating a spell card, displayed to the spectators and Skelly alike as Chaos Form. A blue-eyed, white dragon that would have been recognizable at a glance a few long decades ago appeared, before promptly shattering and being replaced by the empowered Blue-Eyes Chaos Dragon, which gave a ferocious roar. Yet again, the core thief activated Chaos Form, as a ghostly image of the sacrificed dragon appeared, then shattered, this time being replaced by the enormous Blue-Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon.

Skelly watches in horror as the Dragons sped towards the Behemoth, with her getting knocked back as Stitchwolf and Virus Kid’s projections shatter into bits. Her body lays still, motionless on the ground, before jerking up, tears leaking out from under her goggles. I… I couldn’t…” Stitchwolf’s projection flickers back into existence long enough to give a slight hug to Skelly before fading again. “I failed you Indy. I’m sorry.”

DUEL END - WINNER: ???

The Iron Core let out a series of deafening clangs as the entire Behemoth shook from the impact. All of its occupants could feel it starting to decelerate, knowing that in the next few seconds the enemy would pull away, escaping to potentially never be seen again. Along with the noises coming from the core, however, the entire group heard what almost sounded like footsteps on the roof above them. Alliyma, who had remained silent in a corner of the room since boarding, was the first to ask: “Where did the Little Bird go?”

Navigating the guts of this thing was a chore in its own way. How could anyone bear owning a giant heap of metal like this? But with enough looking around, Magpie found what she was looking for. Roof access. She might have stopped to admire the view from up here had she the time, but free time could come later. Right now, she glanced down at the thief's D-Rig. Enclosed cockpit. Lovely. And as the larger of those two dragons struck, only slightly knocking Magpie off her balance, the behemoth began to slow down. Was it stopping?

Why was that?

Well, it wasn't her problem if something broke in there.

Magpie always hated enclosed rigs. The wind in her face was one of the best parts of driving, and it made stabbing people much harder. She'd have to work around that, but right now she had to get on that thing. And so, Magpie took a few steps back, and then with a running start, leapt off the behemoth's roof, aimed at the other vehicle. As she descended, Magpie lifted up her spear over her head, and once she was in swinging range of the D-Rig's roof, she thrust the weapon downward. By the combined forces of gravity and her own personal effort, the head of the spear punched a hole in the roof. Not quite deep enough to hit the driver, but that was nothing Magpie couldn't fix by pulling the spear back out then slamming it back down through the hole.

Upon pulling her spear out a second time, its blade was pleasantly coated in red.

Stab once more.

Once more.

Satisfied with her work, Magpie leaped from the rig, landing upon the dusty ground as the vehicle spun out, kicked itself up into a roll, and tumbled for several seconds, eventually reaching a state of rest upside-down and crunched on most sides, a trail of blood painting the ground, having seeped through the hole in the rig’s roof. A few seconds later, the Behemoth slowly rolled up to a lazy stop beside Magpie, smoke billowing from various ports situated across it.

Staring down at the scene through the window, Sid’s jaw dropped. “I… I guess that does the trick…”
 

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Lusine wasn't a slouch. The fact that a member of their group was missing did not go unnoticed by the old bat, more than anything it amused her. She didn't know what the whippersnapper was planning, but she had no doubt that it would be entertaining. She whistled gently to herself, tapping her cane against the floor a bit as the rest of their group watched the one-turn of decimation that happened, a tiny hum escaping her.

This "Skelly" needed some practice... Is what she wanted to say, but honestly, sometimes you just get unlucky in life. For every close game that had tension, there was a person out there winning through a low effort strategy like that one. She wasn't eager to reassure the girl... But she wasn't going to rub it in. If someone else tried to give her shit, maybe Lusine would defend her for a moment.

But only a moment.

She was much more interested in what the missing child had gotten into.

---

She whistled gently to herself as she approached a window, her cane tapping against the ground gently each time as she chuckled softly to herself. "What a resourceful girl..." She whispered underneath her breath, keeping her voice low as she glanced at the bloody spear that Magpie was holding, a small smile on her face. She might not have been able to deal the killing blow herself, which was disappointing, but at least their little target wasn't going to cause them any more trouble.

She would have loved to ask him a question or two, but instead, she would have to deal with them just getting their cores back, what a pity.

“I… I guess that does the trick…”

Lusine laughed, she didn't mean to, but the fact that he sounded so shocked just caught her off guard. This was the world now, wasn't it? She was certain there were more of that girl's out there than Eden's. She waved her hand in the air gently before speaking, "As much as I would've liked to question the rat there... The problem has been solved. I would like to get my things back now." She turned, hardly waiting for anyone else to start moving as she took the lead towards the exit of the rig, pausing briefly to tug Eden by the scarf, whispering to them...

And then she made her way out of the rig. She wasn't the fastest, but she had plenty of reason to get down there, beyond just getting back her stolen cores. With both hands on her cane as she landed on the ground, she stomped it down with a thud against the dirt as she walked towards Magpie, grinning at the girl, "Wonderful work. Would've done it myself if I was a few years younger."

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"This will work great, yeah. Good work. Pleasure doing business, now I think it's time we got going."

Mark noticed the arm full of heavily damaged digital watches that was clasped on his shoulder. It was strange...a bunch of digital watches all displaying a different time and they were all heavily damaged. Why even have them if they were that damaged? He supposed that everyone had their hobbies and favorite things...digital watches, broken or otherwise, were obviously Sid's favorite. But like that, he was back to square one with his haul...nothing...hell, not even his cores.

Once it's all over...I'll just try again... he thought, feeling the Behemoth taking it's moment to finally head off after the culprit.


What...did he...witness...?

This seemed so strange to witness, and yet, he also expected something like this to happen...somehow. A Turbo Duel broke out...then again, it seemed far less like a Turbo Duel and more like a slaughter, in every sense of the word. The Duelist in question, an individual named "Skelly", barely had any chance to make a move aside from summoning two strange monsters before her opponent and the culprit of thievery summoned Blue-Eyes Chaos MAX Dragon. Now Mark had not seen something like this up close and personal in a Turbo Duel before, but he knew one of those "old school" cards and it's support anywhere...who wouldn't? But this dragon practically made mince meat of the two monsters and won flawlessly.

Of course, anyone would've thought that would've been completely it...end of story and officially back to square one...except, Mark watched the next part unfold and still couldn't believe his eyes. A young girl...with a spear...and just annihilated the culprit. Survival of the fittest, he guessed...

“I… I guess that does the trick…”

"J-Jeez..." he muttered, just standing there in awe of what happened. Reminder...if I ever deal with her...do not get on her bad side.

"As much as I would've liked to question the rat there... The problem has been solved. I would like to get my things back now."

It was a good point from the elderly woman, the stuff needed to be returned...and he needed his cores back. Mark took this chance, the moment she and the others began to exit the Behemoth, make a dash to where the wreckage was in order to grab his cores: Fusion and Pendulum. Once he had those, he could fix up the Nighthawk and get things squared away. "Um...t-thanks..." he spoke up, directing this towards the young girl.

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Another job well done... or so Magpie would have liked to say. Truth be told, calling this a job was a bit generous. It was barely even satisfying. It was the same dull, only faintly enjoyable yet ultimately nothing-like feeling one might feel from hunting a wild animal. No battle to the death to revel in, no ringing and clashing of steel, she didn't even know what her target looked like! But it was necessary. The audacity to tear open her D-Rig and steal the core from inside could only be answered with death.

Sitting atop the flipped D-Rig, balancing herself atop one of its tires, Magpie gave a smile and wave to the approaching group. She had even received praise for her work. As she should have. In particular, she eyed Sid. The man who demanded her most valuable salvage in exchange for getting her core back. Did she have a surprise for him!

“Sid. I present to you my most valuable salvage. A full… mostly intact D-Rig! It’s a bit banged up but it still has…” Tapping various parts of the vehicle with her spear, she listed off “Wheels. Doors. Suspension. And a frame. And if you don’t like it you can just break it down for its parts. What a deal!”

Sid's eye lit up, almost hungrily, looking at the rig upon which the girl sat. "Beautiful." Grabbing his collar and straightening it out, he gestured toward Ida in the distance, "Ay! Glasses! Use that ugly hunk of junk of yours to haul this thing into Behemoth!" Pausing, he amended his statement, "if the core looks to still be working, leave it out here. I don't need more of that nonsense."

Returning his focus back to Magpie, he put a hand to his chin, "You know, you seem to know your way around a fight. Interested in employment as a bodyguard?"

“Already employed.” Magpie hoisted her spear up to grab it closer to the business end, and pointed it at Ida. “She keeps my D-Rig nice and in good shape, and I stab things that give us trouble while we both pursue a mutual interest. What, have you got a better offer or something?”

With a shrug, he gestured toward the Behemoth, "Free house." Not waiting for her to respond to the offer, he turned on his heel, snapping his fingers at Ida as he passed, pointing back at the wrecked rig.

At the back of said rig, the armored woman from earlier, Alliyma, was using her blade to jimmy open the trunk of the vehicle. With a concerted press of her weapon within the seam, the hatch broke open, dumping the stolen cores onto the ground. Picking up a pair of cores, one golden and resembling a sun with a face, and the other silvery blue with the appearance of a matching personified moon, she shouted up to the one responsible for stopping the vehicle, "Querrequerre, one of these yours?"

Magpie turned to ascertain what all armored Alliyma had acquired. An abundance of active cores in acceptable states. And among the array, her own. Hopping down from her perch atop the “salvaged” D-Rig, Magpie picked up one of the two fusion cores from the pile. “This one. Those two you’ve got there sure are fancy though. Custom-made, like your armor?”

"Once upon a time." Alliyma showed very little emotion, once again looking Magpie up and down, now in the light of the girl's recent ultra-violent actions, "That was… quite the performance, Little Bird."

“Oh that? That was nothing. Just a bit of stabbing at someone who’s clearly never had a weapon pointed at them. If it’s a performance you’re after, you should have seen me at my old job.” Turning to empty space and pointing her spear at a foe that wasn’t there, she enthusiastically shouted “Lower the gates! When they said that, it was just two people and one circular arena, plus the audience cheering them on. Not a single person in the crowd was rooting for me in my first match, can you believe that!? The nerve! Everyone was rooting for uh… what was his name… Auren? Or… something like that. This was his spear, actually! Just between you, me, and the sky, I’ve been putting this thing to much better use than he ever did. But the point is, that’s a performance. This is just casual stabbing, what I just did.”

"Oh?" A slight bite of her lip, her eyes narrowing in thought, "I wonder if you can use that core as well as you use your more mundane weapon? I suppose that remains to be seen, for as long as we may be traveling in the same convoy." Alliyma rolled her shoulders, eliciting a series of pops, before slinging her cores over her back and walking back toward the Behemoth, letting out a shout to whomever it may concern, "Whomever can put these back in my rig can share my dinner. It's red meat."


Tatsu watched the whole thing. It wasn't the first time she'd watch someone kill someone else - far from it - but something was different this time. In her experience, men killed each other for honor, or for land, or even just to survive. It was all for a greater purpose. And while getting stolen D-Rig cores back seemed as valid a reason as one could hope - especially if the alternative was being stuck in Sandy Grove of all places - that wasn't the sort of vibe Tatsu got from the violent stabbing she'd just witnessed. The perpetrator seemed more like somebody who would kill just for the sake of it. There were those sorts of people everywhere to be sure, but Tatsu would be lying if she said she'd ever met one in person.

She made a mental note to keep a wide berth from that pink-haired girl. Killing just wasn't in her nature, but if it came to blows and one of them had to die...

Anyway, the important thing was that the thief had been stopped. Tatsu wasted no time stepping out of Sid's vehicle, perusing the cores another armed women had spilled out from the busted-up D-Rig. Finding the ones belonging to her D-Rig wasn't difficult in the slightest. The way they were built was distinctly different from the rest. Not as much as that sun and moon pair, but still enough that it was easy to pick them out in a pile. With her cores retrieved, Tatsu peered into the windows of the thief's car. There was something else important. Her olive oil.

Which she did find!

...in a saddening state. The bottle was shattered, and its contents spilled all over the inside of the car. It must have happened when the car spun out. Damn. It seemed unlikely she'd be able to find more in this land, too. Just another motivation to find some sort of useful tech to bring back home ASAP, then. Meanwhile, Sid had offered this pink avatar of violence a security job of all things? That sounded a lot like keeping your house secure by installing a self-destruct button.

Speaking of Sid. There was that core of his. Unlike anything she'd seen, that's for sure. Did he make it himself? Only one way to find out.

"Um, excuse me, Sid. With all of... that, taken care of, I'd meant to ask. That core in your D-Rig. What exactly is it?"

"Do I look like someone who would know? It is some kinda fancy battery, and it lets me avoid collecting more of them."

"I see..." Now that. That sounded useful! This core warranted further investigation. For now, though, there was the matter of getting her own cores re-installed. She was no D-Rig expert, but she could at least do that much by herself.

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Ida eventually found her way over to Magpie as the Behemoth got under way, trundling out after the core theft. She raised up her own ruined project for Magpie to see. 

"Yes, you are working," she acknowledged. Her voice had none of her usual cheer, and her face was deathly grim as she looked out the same window as Magpie. "Just felt like giving you a little extra motivation." She flicker her gaze over the girl. "You've had one hell of a life, Magpie, so I don't think it's fair of me to ask this of you... but I can't help but be on the same page as you on this matter." She could already tell what Magpie was thinking. Not that it was hard. "I know you're good to take care of it." She didn't tell Magpie to be careful, she didn't tell her to be safe. There was utter confidence in the look she gave the girl. Respect for what she was capable of. 

"Of course I'm good to take care of it." Not taking her eyes off her target - her prey - Magpie smirked "I wouldn't be here if I couldn't handle some cowardly thief. I bet he isn't even armed!"

Ida smiled, still with a grim aura to it that wasn't her usual demeanor. "He probably will be," she said carelessly as she turned back to walk to the front of the Behemoth. It was clear from her tone that she didn't consider the fact anything to worry about.

 

Ida strode from the Behemoth with a grim determination. She stalked towards the smoldering wreck on the ground, and the triumphant spear-holding girl atop it. She couldn't help a grin as Magpie triumphantly offered the rig as salvage to Sid. "Knows how to get things done, doesn't she?" she asked in response to Lusine.

Sid soured it momentarily when he called for her D-Rig. She pushed her glasses up over her eyes, the sunlight glinting off of them harshly as she gave him a fierce grin. "Ugly? MY rig? Bold talk for the owner of a box with wheels. My machine is BEAUTIFUL." But she didn't fight the request, rushing forward to the pile of cores and fishing out her Link core. She also took the time to grab Magpie's, raising it to gesture at her companion with a grin. 

"Take some time to relax after a job well-done," she called up to her. "I'll have your core reinstalled the second I've dragged this bastard into the Behemoth. YOU get priority." She lowered her voice conspiratorially, waggling her eyebrows as she sauntered over to her rig, grabbing the tow hook off its spot on the Behemoth where it had been dragged: "You know, us staying on with him for a time might not be the worst idea. Did you see that core of his? It could be the start of a brand-new breakthrough! A blessing in disguise, perhaps-"

She stopped, tow hook in hand, staring down at the rig. The white racing-style car was battered and dented, if largely in one piece. She hadn't been watching during the actual duel itself; She had been waiting for Magpie to swoop in. But now that she looked at it closely-

"Hell," she muttered, slamming the hook into the rig's bumper and rushing toward her own. She tossed the cores into the seat beside her, relying on the dregs of power left in her engine to get the rig into the 'box with wheels.' It would do for a rush job, and Ida was suddenly very interested in rushing. "Magpie, get inside the Behemoth," she called, in a voice that Magpie wouldn't be at all used to: Unquestionably an order. And worried. "We have to get out of here. Yesterday."

 

"We have to get out of here," she declared as the rogue rig dropped onto the Behemoth's floor, hook swinging loose and detaching as Ida turned her own off, standing and leaning out her door to address the group inside the Behemoth as a whole. "Reinstalling our cores will take time, time we don't have. Sid, how fast does this thing move?" She was all business now. "I have no idea what the specs on your core are but it looks capable of some serious power. We need to get away from here long enough to reinstall our cores, then scatter."

"Why?" Sid frowned, raising an eyebrow, "I'm not sure if you looked in there, but this guy isn't going to be causing us any more problems."

"You'd be surprised." Ida jumped down from her rig and kicked irritably at the door of the rig. "I recognize the rig. He's one of the outriders of Holloword. And unless they greatly overestimated his abilities he probably has friends. Close by. They don't mess around."

"I hope you don't think this huge thing is disappearing into the night. The tracks alone are enough that we would just be followed. If someone comes, we can just throw your pet at them and I'm sure things will resolve themselves." Pausing for a moment, Sid narrowed his eyes, trying to get a read on Ida, "Besides, you all owe me treasure still. Maybe that Hollow Ward is a good place to look?"

Ida visibly bristled, clearly flinching at the suggestion. She pushed her glasses up her nose swiftly, voice tight. "Fact that Magpie netted you an entire rig aside, have you not heard of Holloword?" She pronounced it slowly, making clear it was a single word. "It's one of the worst places you can find in the Wasteland, take it from me. You try to roll in for treasure and they'll strip you of your strange core and anything else they feel like taking and leave you to wither in the dust." And ruin my life's work while they're at it, she thought bitterly as she caught sight of her shattered project behind Sid. She had an uncomfortable memory of being ridden down by a colossal machine, but with Magpie in place of her. She shook her head, walking up to Sid and lowering her voice.

"This is a bad idea, Sid. I speak from experience. Magpie's killed one of their own. They won't take that lying down. Just give us the time we need to reinstall the cores. I at least owe Magpie that."

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Aside from the core being interesting upon entry, Eden sat with a confused, mouth-agape expression for most of the ride and the following conflict... Not that anyone could see it through the scarf. They were just bewildered by the group of ruffians that they and Lusine had landed in. Sure, the town had some people who was less than savory, but this was beyond the pale. A murderbird, a "zombie" that they would need to study, the extortionist, not to mention Alliyma, who kept shooting them dirty looks, even when Lusine left their side. What was her deal, anyway?

Once it slowed a bit, Lusine tugged them close and whispered, earning a nod from Eden. As the elderly woman wandered off, Eden took a deep breath. This was not a great place to be, but maybe once everything was said and done it would be worth it. Besides, they had their cores back, Eden just had to retrieve them. But first...

"Let's see, should be... ah, here we go." they muttered to themselves as they ripped the core from the ruined rig of the blue-eyes player, examining it. A second ritual core. Perhaps this would be able to accelerate their research. Of course, the rest of the rig was... below average. This was a regular core thief in the area? And they had all been fooled by it? Preposterous. Hopping down with the core in tow, seemingly no one paying them much mind, they wandered off, just before the barbaric girl with the spear began to brag about the rig.

"Beautiful." Grabbing his collar and straightening it out, Sid gestured toward Ida in the distance, "Ay! Glasses! Use that ugly hunk of junk of yours to haul this thing into Behemoth!" Pausing, he amended his statement, "if the core looks to still be working, leave it out here. I don't need more of that nonsense."

With a roll of their eyes, they headed back into the rig. They still had to pay a ransom, and this core sure wasn't that according to what he said. All the better for them. However, as they headed in, their ear caught a conversation between the barbarian and Alliyma.

"Whomever can put these back in my rig can share my dinner. It's red meat."

People still ate red meat? Even with how scarce animals were in this day and age? Insect meat was one thing, they were a menace, but... There were so many more efficient ways to use animals than that. Eden began to turn to avoid them entirely, as getting that woman's rig working was none of their concern. But... if the animal was already dead...

"I can fix it easily. But... can I get you to share the meat with someone else?"

Alliyma frowned slightly harder than her default, her eyebrows raised, "You're a curiosity. Why would you want to give away something so valuable?"

There it was, that scowl again. Well, they had expected it.

"My master was a young adult when the world became... this. She probably has nostalgia for red meat, so I am sure she would enjoy it more than I would. After all, I don't think she's had any since then."

As if by cue, Alliyma's frown was replaced by a gentle smile, "Of course. Those who come before us are deserving of reverence. Get my ride working and your master will have my portion as well."

"Excellent, I am sure she'll be pleased. Hand me the core, and I will get right on that."

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Sid dragged his feet up the steps of the Behemoth, dreading the loss of this much free labor as the one in glasses had gotten spooked and insisted they high-tail and part ways as soon as humanly, or whatever-that-Skelly-girl-wasly, possible. Only two of them had paid tribute! Just because one of those tributes was particularly substantial didn’t make any difference. Reaching the bridge, Sid rose an eyebrow as he looked at his rig’s unique core, a grin slowly forming upon his face.

”Sorry kids, looks like The Behemoth is gonna be stuck here for the night! Sid couldn’t help but hide his elation at the ability to retain his indentured servants. ”The loss earlier hit the Iron Core hard, and based on my intuition we are gonna be stuck here at least for twelve, maybe eighteen hours! Not to mention, all but two of you still owe me, and I expect you all to pay out. You have seen this beast chase down one thief already.” Tossing what appeared to be an ornately carved chair out onto the dust, he followed it up with a glass bottle, stoppered with a burning piece of cloth. Upon impact, the glass shattered, and the chair was engulfed in flame. ”Time to set up camp!

 


 

Though one would never guess based on the weather, it was presently winter in the wasteland, and nightfall came quick. Sid had managed to keep the fire going through use of various objects ranging from junk to things others would likely consider treasures. Whatever system the junk collector known as Sid used to assign value to objects, it was completely lost upon those seeking to understand. The group had gotten the cores reinstalled within their rigs, some with help and others on their own, and were now chewing on their meal for the night. For most, it was biscuits and other dry, grain-based rations that Sid had produced from a drawer within his rig and shared without any request for compensation, though the elderly woman among them was eating what appeared to be a large portion of salted red meat, that the armored girl had roasted over the fire. 

For quite a while, the group was silent, either still reeling from the display of violence earlier, or simply untrusting of those that surrounded them. Ever the gracious host, Sid broke the silence, ”So, what is the craziest thing y’all have seen out here in the wasteland? With a group this big I am sure we could share some really wild stories!” Met with still more silence, Sid tapped his forehead a few times with a petrified chunk of something that likely once resembled a baguette, Sid snapped and provided his own example, ”Actually, a few days ago I saw a group of rigs that were giving off smoke. They didn’t notice me since the Behemoth had its stealth field up, but it was the weirdest shit. Seriously, pillars of smoke coming up from each one, just like from our campfire here! My theory is that those fuckers got cold, and set fires in the backs of their rigs just to heat themselves up!” 

"That certainly sounds odd... But far from the strangest thing in the wasteland. After all, we deal with giant insects, patches of extra dead land, cores buried in the ground for some reason, and..."  Eden's voice trailed off a bit as their eyes glanced to Skelly for the briefest of moments, "You get the picture. I would be curious to study these so-called campfire vehicles, though." 

Alliyma suddenly perked up, razor focus being leveled at Eden, "What do you mean ''extra dead"? Where?" 

"Ah, places. I found it 15 or so years ago... maybe a bit more. I had no sense of direction, so I couldn't give you more exact information." 

"I see. This whole place is dead, but to think a part may be even worse off..."  Alliyma looked contemplatively into the fire, her tone growing somber, "it greatly concerns me. Where I am from, there is still life. More than you could imagine. Lush jungles and colorful birds. It's all beautiful, really."

"Ah, the same holds up for my home too,"  Tatsu commented. "Not everything is perfect back home, but when I left Japan to come here, I was shocked at how desolate everything seemed! Your home sounds lovely though. I'd love to travel there sometime, conditions permitting." 

Sid yawned, tossing a rock into the fire, stirring it and causing a large flare, "I don't see the difference. At least we can get around easy without a ton of trees in the way, and there is more than enough to survive on if you know where to look." 

A voice of agreement from Magpie. "Exactly. It's not like it's hard to get what you need around here. And if just finding basic stuff turns out to be too difficult for you, the wasteland has a way of weeding out the weak." 

Alliyma lowered her brow, "Don't be stupid, Querrequerre. There is more than just weak and strong. Do you intend to eat off the dusty ground for each day of the rest of your life?" 

"Of course not! I want the old world back just as much as anyone, but it would defeat the whole point if I died before that dream became a reality." 

Scoffing, Alliyma poked at the fire with the tip of her blade, "If you think there is any chance at getting that world back without big changes, you are more of a fool than I thought. That town we were all in is the largest I have seen since I entered the wasteland, and it was hardly scraping by. From what I have heard, the bigger settlements are somehow even worse off."  Her tone turned sour as her hand clenched around the grip of her weapon, her knuckles turning white, "I came up here to figure out why everything is dying, but from what I have seen it is the least of the problems." 

”Oh! Speaking of big towns, glasses here is going to lead us to some Hollow World place she knows of, where we will be able to make bank! I’m excited, what about you guys?” as difficult as it was for his words to be understood through the mouthful of food, he said them with complete confidence, despite how directly they had contradicted what Ida had told him before.

Edited by (E=mc²)

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Lusine let out a tiny sigh, of course they weren't going anywhere... Realistically, it didn't matter that much, it would take some time for Eden to reinstall the cores into their vehicles, and even if they got it done in a reasonable time, it would still be a while before they would be off. That meant they were, indeed, going to have to camp out here with the others now. She wasn't entirely happy about this, it did mean she was going to have to pay attention to that little killer, just in case she pulled anything else…

But overall, Lusine supposed things could be worse. They got the cores back, which was the important thing, and it didn't seem like Sid was going to turn on them at the moment. That meant... Camping. It wasn't her favorite thing, but she accepted she'd be doing that when she left her little shack behind.

Eden had managed to scrounge up some red meat from their host, which was certainly in Lusine’s interests. The state of the world had made good quality meat rather rare these days, she wasn’t about to pass up an opportunity to indulge…

Lusine tapped her fingers against her leg for a moment as she listened to the others recounting their own experiences, a small mumble escaping her, "The pessimistic way to view those smoking rigs would be that they were on their last legs… As for the rest of it, this world is probably doomed.”

The elderly woman took a bite of the salted meat, savoring the taste for a brief moment.

"No doubt,” Ida added, pensively clanging a tool against the hull of her D-Rig. She was the lone member of the group still hunched over her work at the outskirts of the fire, her work made more difficult by the chill and her lack of proximity to the heat. "Though I aim to avoid our own doom, in the immediate, at least." She leveled the wrench she was holding across the fire at Sid, scowling as she wiped at a smudge on her glasses. "I agreed to provide you salvage, not to follow you into the death trap that is Holloword. If you think I’m walking you lot into that hellhole you’ve got another thing coming." She let out a frustrated sigh. "I can try my hand at fixing the rig Magpie won for you, at the very least, that’s something I can offer… The rig she and this one won, I should say," she amended, gesturing with the tool in Skelly’s direction.

"No, no, directions will be sufficient. I don't need that pile of junk working when I've already got the Behemoth," Sid was dismissive at best of the offer, "what you so scared of there, glasses?"

A few moments where the only sound consisted of the bangs of Ida’s tinkering dragged on before she frustratedly tossed the wrench aside, turning back to the fire to sweep her eyes over the gathering, her eyes obscured behind the reflection of the fire as she finally set her sights on Sid. "You’re really not from around here, are you." It was a statement, not a question, and Ida walked back to the fire, taking a seat between Magpie and Skelly as she pulled her gloves off. 

"Why the fuck do you think you have the right to ask me where I am from when we have a ninja and some kind of warrior princess in our company"

Alliyma was on her feet in an instant, her hand on the hilt of her blade, "The hell you just call me??"

"Something I’d take as a compliment, personally," Ida intoned with a deadpan voice. She adjusted her glasses as she went on:

"Holloword is dedicated to the excavation of the city it was before the collapse. It’s named for a series of massive letters they found, just sitting eroded on the hillside. Couple looked to be missing, so they took what they had, named the place Holloword. It’s a great big excavation, dedicated to reconstructing the past… Ostensibly."

She leaned back. "Your worth in Holloword is based purely upon the worth of your salvage. You do all the digging and all of it goes to the higher-ups… to their leader Hav, in particular. And you’re lucky to get a crumb of bread in exchange for it. Salvage is your money, salvage is your food, salvage is your bed, salvage is your life." The light glinted off her glasses to expose the scathing look she was giving Sid from behind them. "No wonder you’re so excited by the idea of the place," she said grimly.

"So what you're saying… is this Hav guy is sitting on a mountain of stuff." Despite Ida's best attempt, a fire had been lit within Sid. "We go in, knock down the king of the hill, take what we want, and live a life of luxury."

Ida barked out a laugh, though it was clearly still laced with her dark mood. "Sure, sure… just beat Hav, nice and easy," she scoffed derisively. "Not like he got where he is by being the meanest bastard around. He’ll rip that weirdo core out of your rig, bash you in the teeth with it, and leave you to the vultures. If you’re lucky. You’re completely impossible." She turned away from Sid, leaning over to Magpie and muttering low, under her breath. "The second we have an opportunity, we need to get away from this man. He can get himself killed all he likes, but I do not intend to join him." She straightened, looking beside her to where Skelly sat, and then Lusine. "I don’t suppose anyone here has more sense than our extortionist savior here?" she asked sardonically.

Lusine had stayed quiet for the majority of the conversation, her gaze drifting towards the sky as she let out a soft chuckle, “...When I was younger, I would have killed to visit Holloword. It was an amazing place, before the collapse. There was more to do there than the majority of the country…”

It was easy to assume that she had been lost in her memories alone, but she turned her head back towards Ida, “Now, you are correct. It’s become a disaster, and I would heavily advise against heading there. A few travelers leaving the area had visited my home in the past and they did not have kind things to say about Holloword. If you want to steal from them, you’ll have your work cut out for you.”

"Ida," Alliyma spoke again for the first time since her outburst, her face somber as she stared into the fire, "how many people are starving there?"

Ida frowned, rolling her eyes up to the stars as she thought about it. ... Twenty thousand? Thirty? It’s the biggest settlement in this part of the wasteland, it draws people who wish it was…" she gestured to Lusine, sighing. "... the way it used to be, like flies to a light. Hell, the population might even reach into the hundred-thousands, I can’t say for sure."

"They would be better off without their taskmaster?"

Ida let out a long, reedy sigh. "Magpie, tell me: Am I wearing a sign on my forehead that reads ‘Please Interpret Everything I Say In A Way Opposite to My Point?’ You’re both impossible." Alliyma's silent response appeared pained, but Ida didn't seem to notice as she turned towards Skelly, raising an eyebrow as she took in the warped skin around the young girl’s eyes.

"I’m so sorry to ask only now, are you alright? I think in the kerfuffle we forgot you took a strong hit in that duel, while dueling for everyone’s benefit. I suppose we all owe you our thanks, a Holloword outrider is not an easy thing to stand against. And even if you didn’t win, you provided a critical distraction for Magpie here."

The direct question caused Skelly to jolt upright from her previous slouch. “Oh yes, I’m ok. Thank you for the kind words. Losing that duel in that manner… really put a damper on my spirits, in a way. I’m not exactly sure how to move forward from here, seeing as I couldn’t even compete with that deck…” Thoughts of Chaos Max rushing at her fill her mind.

“Don’t think too much on it. The matchup was simply unfavorable,” Eden added on, “And it’s not as if you had many cores to work with.”

"I'd be worried about dueling a Holloword duelist WITH a summon core," Ida added on by way of agreement.

Lusine waved her hand in the air, “As far as losses go, that was a fairly tame one. Your opponent had a lucky opening and was able to capitalize on it due to your disadvantage. Child, if you let this get to you, you’ll never make it to where you need to go.”

Skelly slouched forward, her bones cracking slightly. “I suppose so. But… I simply have no idea how I can move forward knowing that such a loss could be waiting in any moment.” The shrouded wanderer fell silent for a long pause before saying under her breath, “I wish I knew how to improve my deck from here…”

Words dripping with frustration, spoken through clenched teeth interrupted the present conversation, "Why… am I… the only one worried about those people?" Alliyma had her hands on her knees as she sat with her back hunched slightly forward, contrary to her typical perfect posture. "Is that really what this place is like? Escape if you can and leave behind those who can't?"

Ida hissed in a breath as she turned back to Alliyma, steely-eyed behind the glasses. "It's not that simple." Her words were blunt, simple, and dropped with the brutality of a guillotine. "I would love to do something about it, would love to have some way to help those back there. But it takes a hell of a lot more than one woman with a conscience to change a place like Holloword, Miss Alliyma. I couldn't and neither can you. That's the fact of it, none of us are happy with it, but all of us have to live with it."

Ida cut herself off there, and there was a horrid silence that followed her words for four seconds that felt like forever before she rose abruptly and walked briskly back to where her rig was parked. The sounds of banging rose again, a touch louder than previously. Her face was turned away from the group and set in a grim frown. Alliyma similarly rose to her feet, kicking the dirt before storming off in the direction of her own rig.

"So," Sid's attitude was seemingly unfazed by the gravity of the discussion, "anyone else got any fun wasteland stories?"

“I’m only here because Master was looking for something she referred to as Olafoil. Is that fun enough?” Eden sighed, crossing their arms as they looked towards Alliyma stamping off, “Otherwise, being a relative hermit is nice.”

Lusine let out a tiny chuckle, “Oh please, you got to see the village, and we’re here now, aren’t we? You can have all the adventure you want now, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be heading back right away.”

"Um…not to derail what conversation we did have…" Mark finally spoke up, most likely surprising everyone if they forgot the young man was there. He glanced at the group, before feeling that jittery feeling he usually felt when talking in social situations. He hated that. "H-Have any of you…s-s-seen or heard the n-name Sheridan i-in your travels…? I-I’m looking for someone with that s-surname…"

“Unfortunately, no.” Skelly curtly replied. After a few seconds, she sighed and asked the group in her soft but cold voice, “Do any of you ever feel like your monsters are… actual things outside of our battles? With personalities and such? Or is it just my bit of insanity in these wastes?”

"I-I see…" Mark sighed, a little disappointed in the one answer he got initially, that and it ended up being a dud. "A-As…as far as the monsters…" he cleared his throat. "...I'm really unsure…" It was a weird question to be asked in general, but then again, Mark wasn't 100% in tune with something like that. At the same time, his gears shifted to a different topic...this time turning to Sid. "Sid...earlier...y-you mentioned...the Behemoth having a stealth field. How did you even acquire such a device...? Even more...how is that even possible??"
 

Edited by Blake
happy to assist sonic =)

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Ida had mentioned that name again. Holloword. When she'd first mentioned it as being where that core thief was from, Magpie had assumed it was some clan or another of bandits and brigands. But as Ida went on to elaborate, it seemed it was much more than that. A whole city, dedicated to making things the way they were! In theory, anyway. Maybe Ida's description was meant to draw people away from wanting to pay it a visit, but the more Magpie listened, the more she wanted to see this place for herself. Or rather, the more she needed to go there.

"Your worth in Holloword is based purely upon the worth of your salvage. You do all the digging and all of it goes to the higher-ups… to their leader Hav, in particular. And you’re lucky to get a crumb of bread in exchange for it. Salvage is your money, salvage is your food, salvage is your bed, salvage is your life."

Constant labor in exchange for glorified table scraps. It wasn't even a job where you could gain some degree of fame and glory, like killing people in the pit. It was just salvage and digging. And with the dread Ida seemed to have toward Holloword, this Hav character was certainly not lacking in resources dug up by everyone else. Large civilian population, then. Probably knows their way around their tools. All the sharp and pointy bits included.

"Not like he got where he is by being the meanest bastard around. He’ll rip that weirdo core out of your rig, bash you in the teeth with it, and leave you to the vultures. If you’re lucky."

He must be armed himself. And have lots of guys with guns protecting him. Definitely not a one-man job. She hated to admit it, but she'd probably have to rely on that warrior princess for help.

“Now, you are correct. It’s become a disaster, and I would heavily advise against heading there. A few travelers leaving the area had visited my home in the past and they did not have kind things to say about Holloword. If you want to steal from them, you’ll have your work cut out for you.”

Well, it's a good thing I'm not a thief, then.

"Ida, how many people are starving there?"

"... Twenty thousand? Thirty? It’s the biggest settlement in this part of the wasteland, it draws people who wish it was… the way it used to be, like flies to a light. Hell, the population might even reach into the hundred-thousands, I can’t say for sure."

The hundred-thousands! Definitely a large civilian population! More people than there are bullets, maybe? With that many people in one place, I can only think of one reason the place is a disaster...

"They would be better off without their taskmaster?"

"Why… am I… the only one worried about those people? Is that really what this place is like? Escape if you can and leave behind those who can't?"

"I would love to do something about it, would love to have some way to help those back there. But it takes a hell of a lot more than one woman with a conscience to change a place like Holloword, Miss Alliyma. I couldn't and neither can you. That's the fact of it, none of us are happy with it, but all of us have to live with it."

More than one, indeed...

Magpie watched as Alliyma stormed off from the meeting. She had a plan, and the warrior princess was a central part of it. Unceremoniously slipping away from the group herself, Magpie took off in Alliyma's direction. She seemed to already be in a sour mood, so it was best to get straight to business.

"How tough is that armor? If you were, say for example, invading the base of an oppressive taskmaster, and he had men with guns, would the bullets break your armor?"

Avoiding direct eye contact, Alliyma thought for a moment, stretching her shoulders slightly, "I know it can repel small arms fire like nothing. Anything that can pierce through an armored rig could probably do me in, but those are easy enough to avoid. Why do you ask?"

"We have a common interest. I'm not going to pretend I'm some bleeding heart that cares about others, but I do care about people like Hav. Getting rid of him should go a long way to helping the little people, but we're going to need a lot more than just us." Eyes alight in anticipation, Magpie then made her intentions perfectly clear.

"I want to train the masses of Holloword to use their tools as weapons, and kill Hav in a revolution that will finally let them build the lives they believed in."

"I doubt your keeper would be on board with such an ambitious plan."

"That's her problem. I'm not asking if she wants in; I'm asking if you do. You seem more the 'proper warrior' type with formal training and all that, which I'm not. Somebody has to know how to instruct these people to fight, and how to organize groups in the size we'd need to pull this off. And I can't do that, and I also can't kill Hav without help from somebody that can."

"Throwing the masses at his ivory tower is just making them into cannon fodder. I won't be able to train them to the point they could solve this problem themselves."

"Training them at all is good enough. Even if we can't throw them directly at Hav, having an armed and trained majority at your back is far better than just two people who can do a bit of stabbing. We can figure out how to best put that manpower to use later. However we get there, killing Hav is the only way to really set these people free, so are you in or not?"

"Of course I am, Little Bird."

"Fantastic." Satisfied with her recruitment efforts, Magpie finally returned to the group, sitting beside Ida and leaning over toward her so-called "keeper", as Alliyma had described her.

"I know D-Rigs are your field of expertise, but how well can you work with smaller things? Like, say, basic tools doled out by an oppressive taskmaster so people can labor for whatever table scraps he deigns to hand out? Could you turn them into viable weapons? For killing people?"

Ida turned to give Mapgie one long, baffled blink. "What?"

"Weapons! If I gave you something like a pickaxe or a shovel, could you turn them into weapons?"

"Yeeees," Ida said slowly, eyebrow raised. "It's obviously not my area of expertise, as you said, but it doesn't take too much effort to make something that can punch through metal punch through fl-"

She stopped abruptly, having finally processed the word salad of Magpie's question. "Magpie," she hissed, trying to remain unheard as she turned away from the fire, placing her back to the others to try and muffle her voice. "Holloword is just another arena, but bigger, crueller, and with even fewer rules in your favor. Sid's not thought this through, it's suicide!"

"I'm changing the rules," Magpie replied in an equally hushed tone. "You said it yourself, there's maybe hundreds of thousands of people there. We're going to train them, arm them, and then start a revolution! We help those otherwise-defenseless commonfolk fight back, kill Hav in the chaos, do a bit of extra clean-up, and Holloword finally gets to be what the people want. Alliyma over there is on board. We have a mobile base, an instructor for the would-be fighters, yours truly, we just need better gear for the little people."

"Alliyma? The woman you were ready to stab full of holes a few hours ago?"

"We have a common interest. She wants to set them free, I want to kill the taskmaster, both of those things involve a very dead Hav."

Ida sighed. "It sounds so simple in the first minutes of it, doesn't it, Magpie? It always does." She reached out a hand to the girl's shoulder. "You're young and you've survived so much, you feel invincible, like everything is a limitless possibility before you... Some ways are a waste of time. Trust me on that."

She pulled back, shaking her head as she removed her glasses to clean them with an oil-stained rag. "I can't, Magpie. For so many reasons."

"Then stay behind. Forcing you to go would make me no better than Hav, but I'm still going to Holloword, setting the stage to tear him down, then dying my spear red with his insides."

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