Troublesome Tails (Tyr)

Aug 4, 2018
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Somewhere in the UK
#1
L4: Starseeker Flagship Tantra. Briefing Room [REDACTED].
0600 hours
~12 hours after 'Brazen Challenge'


Operation 'Brazen Challenge', as Aurora had ended up nicknaming it, had gone off without a hitch. Directory forces had been provoked and destroyed with minor damage, an enemy ace had been killed, and the retrieval of her machine would allow them to gain greater insight into Earth's technology. The only hitch came with the pilot. She'd expressed certain... opinions during her trip back, and the goal of this debriefing was as much to calm her down before she spoke to anyone public as it was to discuss the operation itself. She'd had the room cleared in preparation, sitting in the only chair across from a disabled holographic table in preparation for the subject's arrival.

Which was predictably loud, brutal and somewhat childish.

Kath stormed into the post-mission briefing, slamming the door aside when it didn't open fast enough for her. It whined pitifully as it tried to close behind her, the mechanism damaged beyond repair by the sheer force of the impact. She didn't even bother waiting for the alien woman sitting at the table in front of her to say anything, starting to rant as soon as she was fully inside.

"Your stupid bioroids are busted! I had her right where I wanted her, and those jerks opened fire on their own!"



L4 Colony
1600 hours


While a full-on celebration was rightfully considered a waste of both time and money, the returning Valsione and what remained of its opponent had been temporarily put on display in a public space on one of the L4 Colonies. A valiant and pristine Valsion standing next to a ruined R-Gun - although some tweaking of the truth had been done, with the outer armour being replaced to sell the impression of an unstoppable colonial military.

Katherine was one of many who would have bought that fantasy hook, line and sinker before; but being on the other side of it had a way of changing her perspective. Removing the battle damage cheapened the victory in her mind, took something important away that couldn't quite be put back. Not that anyone else seemed to notice. Why should she be mad after a victory like that? None of them understood. And yet, she couldn't tear herself away from the minor celebration technically being thrown in her name.

So she lurked near the mechs, occasionally biting into a meat snack whose contents were best not thought about. Kath hadn't bothered with her usual suit of armour this time, but it would be easy to draw the dots as to who she was from anything more than a cursory glance. This continued for a couple of minutes, then something unusual drew her eye. The flash of a... tail? Ears? Colonial engineering allowed for convincing fakes, but those seemed real. She followed, outright pushing her way through the crowd to catch a closer look.
 
Aug 25, 2018
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#2
It was curiosity - both personal and professional - that had led Laura to attend the display of the latest victory one of the Colonies' newly minted heroes had achieved. To compensate for her height she was watching the celebration from atop a small food stand. The man behind the stand had looked at her oddly when she had climbed atop it but hadn't protested it. By her measure it had only given him more customers.

The machine put on display was unfamiliar to her - though that was hardly telling, as most of them were - though the pristine condition of the Valsion next to it had her shaking her head. It would've been better to leave some superficial surface scratches unattended instead of repairing and cleaning everything - or if none had existed to make some. That would've given a better image of an easily achieved victory.

If this was an outright parade it would've been different, but as it was some would suspect they were hiding the damage. Though considering the state of the crowd around her, maybe that was a baseless assumption.

She took a slurp from the strawed drink she was holding. It would've been easy, she decided, her eyes following the Valsion's pilot as she lurked near the mechas, to make an attempt on Katherine's life if she was so inclined. The crowd would panic if such an attempt was made and panic was so easily turned to fear and hate.

But no, that was behind her now. Reflection was gone, only Laura remained. The last daughter of Maake.

Her curiosity sated, Laura was about to leave the crowd behind her when she saw Katherine beginning to unsubtly move towards her. But wh- ah, of course. Her tail and ears.

Well, she had planned to make a contact with the heroes of the Colony. This was an unexpected boon, but one she would take. Giving a wink to the victorious pilot, Laura rose to her feet and with a flick of her tail, leapt down from atop the food stand. Once in the middle of the crowd she began to walk away from the mechas while hiding a grin. It had been a while since someone had followed her like this. With a small twitch of her ear, she turned towards the exit with least people in it.

It would be best if their conversation was away from the masses. Quickly drinking the last drops of her drink she threw her empty cup to the air when she had reached the exit, heading for a cafe nearby.

How fortunate to find one so vacant when the colony was as overcrowded as it was. Though its proximity to the showcase was an explanation for it she supposed.
 
Aug 4, 2018
232
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16
Somewhere in the UK
#3
"...And I'm not working with them again unless I get some sort of override!"

Aurora took a deep breath, her previous misgivings returning in earnest as Katherine ranted on and on. She'd been legitimately impressed by the mission results, and was willing to ignore or brush off most of the girl's... "Quirks" if she kept up that level of performance. But this was a step too far.

"I was going to congratulate you on a job well done. But it's become clear that certain issues need to be addressed. Both with the threat assessments of the Bioroids assigned to your command, and your.. response to their failure. Why don't we take the mission logs and review them, to see what the units were thinking at the time?"

If by some twist of fate Katherine had been right, then whatever flaw had been brought to the surface could be addressed. But in the infinitely more likely situation that she was wrong, it would be a dose of humility - and possibly a way to lessen her anger by promising some kind of 'Fix'.

"Fine. Bring it up. Let's see what made them crap out."

===

Kath made eye contact with the mysterious fox, hesitating for a second after the girl winked at her and vanished into the crowd. While it was clearly an invitation, she'd expected... disinterest. Maybe a nod or a frown. But that little voice of caution in her head wasn’t about to slow her down now - it never had before.

She made her way towards the entrance the Fox had gone through, ignoring the curious glances and complaints from people she’d pushed past before having her path blocked by a bioroid.

“Kathryn Marsh. If you wish to leave the proceedings, an escort will be provided. This unit is available.”

Kath scowled, stepping up and trying to push it aside. It refused to budge however, forcing her to shift track.

"Piss off, robot. Go back to watching the crowd and I dunno... try not to kill anyone?"

“Ensuring your safety is part of our directives. An escort is necessary.”

“It isn’t. Get out of my way and stay out of my way. That’s an order.”

The bioroid visibly hesitated before replying, it’s internal directives conflicting as it tried to process a resolution. After a moment it stepped aside, head bowed as it finally allowed her to leave.

“...Those terms are acceptable. A unit will follow you from a distance. Have a nice day.”

Kath replied with a rude gesture, following the Fox out of the crowd and into the cafe she'd picked out without so much as a glance behind her. There was a single Bioroid following as promised, the impassive mask only hiding it's gaze in the theoretical sense. Anyone with a brain would know exactly what it was focused on, although for now it limited itself to lurking at a distance.

She took a deep breath before actually entering it - that girl wasn't who she was angry at. "Starseeker Combine"'s upper ranks and their robots were. So she rolled her eyes internally and hooked the leg on one of the chairs with her foot, yanking it back a bit before settling herself down opposite the Fox.

"So what does some foxy lady want with me? I was curious for a closer look, but then you started leading me on."

Kath leaned back in the chair, putting it on two legs and using the table for balance purposes.

"Go ahead. Spit it out~"
 
Aug 25, 2018
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#4
Laura gave Kath a puzzled look. "What do you mean? You were the one violently pushing through the masses to get to me - which by the way is very unbecoming of a heroic icon - and as I don't want to be a circus attraction I left for a more silent environment. Really, I'm the one that should be asking that considering the scene that you were making."

She grinned at her. "I'm just an innocent tourist using her long overdue vacation in this overcrowded and busy place, and I don't appreciate being bullrushed, much less being called something like 'foxy lady' and then treated like I'm in an interrogation. So tell me. What does Kathryn Marsh, one of the newly minted heroes of the Colonies wants to do with little old me?"
 
Aug 4, 2018
232
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16
Somewhere in the UK
#5
Bullrushed? Seriously?

"I mean... you winked at me. I saw it."

Kath tilts her head to one side. She hadn't been that aggressive. Had she? She tried to defend herself, but as soon as the words left her mouth realized how aggressive they were. Not that they were wrong, but.. still. Impressions. Best not to scare the fox off by going too far. Least not until she'd gotten something equivalent to a feel.

"Right. Sorry. Honestly, I just wanted to see if the ears were real. Something cute to take my mind off all this bullshit with aliens and politics. I get that they bailed us out during that whole space monster mess, but they don't have to be so fucking smug and self-righteous about it."
 
Aug 25, 2018
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#6
"I'm not some animal at a zoo for you to gawk at, no matter how famous you are here!" Despite the seemingly indignant and insulted tone Laura was grinning at Kath, clearly not insulted in the slightest. "But of course I winked at you when you were already charging at me, I don't like having conversations in public."

The snow white tail appeared from below the table, waving at Kath before disappearing again. "So, are they real enough for you? Just remember, you can watch but you can not touch. I may pity you for still not realizing that you can not get away from politics anymore but no one touches my fur without explicit permission, and certainly not someone who hasn't even bothered to ask my name!"

The tail appeared in Kath's vision again, Laura bringing it to her cheek and nuzzling her fur, caressing it with her hand. "Mmm, so soft." Sighing with contentment she opened her eyes to look at Kath. "I'm Laura Woodweaver by the way, thank you for asking. Mercenary on a vacation, from the Deucalion Duet." She supplied blandly, never pausing with her ministration. "Pleasure to meet you. And no, I won't let you touch them now either."

Laura closed her eyes in content, a thoroughly pleased smile on her face as she waited for Kath to say something. It was clear that if she was a cat Laura would be purring right now.
 
Aug 4, 2018
232
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16
Somewhere in the UK
#7
"...Call me Kath. Everyone else does."

Kath's eyes followed the tail, Laura's taunting making her look like a child someone had stolen a toy from. She leaned onto the table and rested her chin on her hands, frowning momentarily - but quickly shifting to a smile when an important fact presented itself to her. The fox was a Mercenary.

"If you're a merc, does that mean I can pay you to let me?"

While her tone made it clear she was at least partially making a joke, her smile made it a little uncertain all the same.

"So is this some sort of advertising thingy? Wag your tail, wiggle your ears, try to talk your way into a colony contract? Because... well, it's kinda working. But there's all these stupid regulations as well, and that's before the bloody aliens poke their heads in and try to object. You'll need more than a pretty face for them."
 
Aug 25, 2018
116
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#8
The tail dropped sharply, Laura leveling an annoyed look at Kath. "The word you're looking for there is a whore, not a mercenary. And I haven't slept or seduced my way to contracts! My current vocation may not be as glamorous as being a hero of an overcrowded metal can floating in space but I still won't let you sit here and insult it - and more importantly my skills - to my face."

She sighed tiredly. "Besides, what part of a vacation do you fail to understand? I am here on a vacation, not on a hunt for work. Though I am open for business proposals if they interest me."

She pointed a finger towards the ceiling, and with nary a word a fire was lit on top of the fingertip. A small, tiny fire. It looked like any fire one could find dancing atop a candle, just that it was hovering above a fingertip instead. And that it was a bright blue in color.

Even so, an intense heat radiated from it. It was something extremely uncomfortable to be so close to, even across the table, but Laura seemed entirely unaffected, idly resting her head on the palm of her other hand. She also ignored the rapid heating of the table.

"I assure you, I do not need to sleep my way to a job." Despite the pointed words she smiled sweetly at Kath, letting the fire disappear. The next words were cheerful and bright. "But luckily you did not insinuate any of that, isn't that right?"
 
Aug 4, 2018
232
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16
Somewhere in the UK
#9
"Christ, fox. It was a joke. A joke!"

Kath jerks her head back nervously at the sight of the flame, pushing her chair back a few inches as well. Apparently fate had decided that the first time she went out in public without any armor, she'd run into a magic kitsune with a poor sense of humour. Terrific.

"A-Anyway, uh... what do you do, then? Are you the information gathering sort, or do I pay for you to make someone I don't like spontaneously combust in their living room? Cause I might need someone to look into something for- hang on."

The Heiress looks like she's about to give some sort of proposal, but frowns and stops suddenly as she notices something over Laura's shoulder. One of the Bioroids from the celebration had followed her as promised, and apparently Laura lighting a fire had been enough to cause it to draw closer. Kath leans over, gesturing for it to shoo like one would a wild animal.

"Piss off, bot. This doesn't concern you!"
 
Aug 25, 2018
116
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#10
"Oh, well that's fine then!" Laura reassured her. "I just wanted to make my point that i don't need to sleep my way to a job clearer. It was never my intention to scare you I'm so sorry." She apologized insincerely, blinking rapidly at her. "Here, I'll even give you advice free of charge to make amends. People usually don't like people doubting their skills. And more importantly, don't call me a 'fox' again. It is quite insulting to one of my kind. Would you like being called a monkey?"

Laura gave little indication of caring about the bioroid, but there was something about her that perhaps told Kath that she was ready to strike at a moment's notice. She tilted her head to the side, thinking about Kath's question.

"Weeell, that depends on whether you're asking about the Deucalion Duet or me specifically. The Deucalion Duet is a pair of super robots and their pilots that can be hired at some very affordable prices for what you'd get with it, to use in any hot, steamy giant robot on giant robot action." She went to take something out from her clothes...and failed. Laura sighed. "Damn it, I knew I forgot something, I forgot to take my handouts with me. I guess you'll just have to settle for that little speech instead." She shrugged, leveling a very deadpan stare at Kath.

"As for yours truly? Well, I've been trained in myriad of different things. Sabotage is my specialty but I guess I could also do assassinations or information gathering. Of course, this is under the assumption that whatever you offer interests me enough to do it. After all, the word 'vacation' tends to mean that I don't work during it."
 
Aug 4, 2018
232
0
16
Somewhere in the UK
#11
Laura had scared Kath enough that the last comment she made came accross like a threat, and while she was still unconsciously backing up.. this was exactly the sort of crazy that might be useful. She took a deep breath before making her pitch, an idea interrupting it midway that she'd likely come to regret later. While her cocky facade had returned from before, there was still a little quiver of fear beneath - kept strong by the idea that she was talking with someone who could kill her at any moment.

"Okay, uh... Laura. This whole investigation thing is a bit more long-term anyway, and I'd hate to interrupt your vacation. So how about I help cover some of your expenses on it as a pre-payment of sorts? So long as you help me out after it'll be fine, and my name'll get you places that money wouldn't as it is."

One or two more gestures got the Bioroid to leave as well, and while she didn't think it had sniffed anything out, having footage of what she'd just discussed on record could prove awkward later.

"Besides, if a bunch of family money just vanishes down a foxhole I'll have to answer a whole bunch of awkward questions. Being able to say I spent some of it on 'Entertainment' gives me an excuse and enough receipts to only get yelled at. Less if you come up with some good-quality dirt, but that's more a retroactive 'I told you so' than anything I can say in the heat of the argument."
 
Aug 25, 2018
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#12
"Did you know that you've been backing away from me for quite a while by now?" Laura pointed out, clearly amused by it. The blue fire appeared to dance over her forefinger once more, though the heat wasn't nearly as intense. She was just about to start drawing something to the table's surface when the fire disappeared.

She didn't want to cover the expenses that paying for the damages would bring. Gods but did doing only one thing at a time suck, it was so boring. How did people live like this?

"Well, I'll at least hear you out. You seem insistent enough on the matter that you'd just hire some bottom of the barrel cannon fodder otherwise. We can talk more about the payment and other details once I know what it is that you're even asking of me. If I decide to accept. That Bioroid should be far away now so go on." Laura urged Kath as she studied her nails.
 
Aug 4, 2018
232
0
16
Somewhere in the UK
#13
"I-It's kinda hot around you right now."

Laura's comment was enough to make Kath go still, although after a second of contemplation she leaned forward to glance over the Foxgirl's shoulder. Once she was satisfied the Bioroid was gone she continued - finally going through with her 'pitch'. A few tremors leaked into her voice, but this was something she could do - just a pitch. To someone who might light her on fire if she said the wrong thing.

Okay, maybe not just a pitch.

"I'm... ninety percent sure the Combine have a bunch of skeletons in their closet. They've got me doing some sort of 'command' role but it took a whole lot of yelling for my boss to show me any data from the Bioroids I was supposed to be commanding. They're supposed to be our 'allies' in this whole thing, but all we've done is sit up here and space and do sweet fuck-all."

Kath started gesturing as her pitch descended into a rant, going from simple air quotes to gesturing wildly by the halfway point.

"Something funky's going on, and they're not telling us about it. And right now I'm pretty sure it involves using us as cannon fodder. Having someone who isn't going to be instantly noticed missing poking around in their dirty closets and secure locations might give enough information for someone smart to work out their plan. If it's innocuous stuff, whatever. Money down the drain. But if they're doing bad shit, I want to know before bioroids are beating down doors or blowing up colonies. Y'get me?"