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The Market of Mystery! (IC)

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The Emerald Cities, South

March 21, 2020

Some time around Midnight


The cargo came in at night. They always did. There was something cloak and dagger about it all, but Frank Pulasky was being paid well enough that he didn’t see much reason to care about that. He was content to ship the big, black crates from the dockside warehouse to the little shop down on the corner next to Daniken and Arnold every night while ignoring the strange lights he saw in the sky just before every deliver and the way the stevedores seemed to never say anything. He just wanted to do his job.


Unfortunately for Frank, his partner Shawna was a little more curious.


“You ever wonder what’s in those crates?” Shawna said as she climbed into the passenger side of the cab, slamming the door shut behind her. “Hell, even what they’re made of? It’s definitely not wood. S’like… Some kinda weird… metal… glass… thing.”


Frank sighed to himself, gripping the wheel tightly. “Not really,” he replied, already wanting to leave the conversation.


“I mean, it’s all kinda weird,” Shawna said, freeing her little gas-station coffee cup from its holder and taking a sip. “You think this is all legal?”


Frank rolled his eyes as he turned the ignition, hearing the roar of the engine as the truck came to life. “Who friggin’ cares, Shawna? It’s not like we can pass up the money. Unless you suddenly won the lottery or somethin’, I’m gonna suggest you just be happy you got the work.”


Shawna sighed, leaning back in her chair. “I mean, if it is illegal,” she began to say, but Frank interrupted her.


“If it is illegal, then our legal defence is we didn’t know. We lose that defence if you keep bein’ nosy.”


Shawna frowned, but had no retort. Frank took that as a chance to start moving. He pulled out of the dock, and turned out into the road. For a while, everything was blissfully quiet. Until he heard something go bang in the freight box. He cursed, and Shawna looked behind her as if she would be able to see through the metal.


“We should probably check that,” Shawna said, frowning.


“...I mean, probably something just fell over,” Frank said, gritting his teeth.


“Which is bad, Frank,” Shawna said. “What if they get mad about broken goods?”


Frank sighed. This time, he was the one without a reply. He ground his teeth and grumbled some more, before pulling into an alleyway and slowing to a stop. He glared at Shawna. “Alright, we’ll make sure nothing’s broken, but you,” he said, pointing at her. “Are not going to do any snoopin’.”


Shawna rolled her eyes. “Got it.”


Frank left the truck in idle, and they both hopped out. Wheeling around to the back, the duo flung open the door to the freight box, and immediately, they were illuminated by a green light. One of the black crates had shattered, and nestled amongst the wreckage was a glowing green orb the size of a bowling ball. Frank cursed, the light almost blinding him, but Shawna was transfixed. She climbed inside, walking as though possessed towards the orb.


“What’re you doing?” Frank hissed.


“It’s calling to me,” Shawna replied, her voice an eerie monotone. She picked it up, staring at it for a moment, before turning around. Frank saw, to his horror, that her eyes were now glowing the same colour as the orb.


“Shawna?” Frank asked, stepping back away from the crate.


“Can you hear it, Frank?” she asked. “It’s alive. It’s talking to us. It’ll give us everything. We just… Gotta get it out of here.”


“I… think you should put it down, Shawna,” Frank said, climbing up into the box to try and take it from her.


“NO!” Shawna shrieked, and suddenly, a pair of beams erupted from her eyes, striking Frank directly in the chest. His eyes went wide, and he went sprawling as he gawped down at the two new, smoking holes in chest.


Shawna giggled evilly. “Yes. I see now. You’ll make me powerful. With you, I’ll conquer this c--”


She didn’t have time to finish her thought. Another beam came, but not from her. The pain was only momentary before she fell apart into dust, the green orb falling onto the bed of the trunk with a heavy clang.


Stepping out of the darkness and stowing his blaster pistol, Rojek sighed. “Humans are goddamned weak-willed,” he muttered to his partner. “Now we’re gonna hafta to drive the truck ourselves,” Rojek said.


His partner, Ageda, smirked at him. “And you didn’t want to tail them,” she said as she hefted the lifeless body of Frank into the back of the truck.


“I thought maybe at least something on this planet might not disappoint me for once,” Rojek spat as he kicked the orb. “Alright, let’s get this to the shop before we get in trouble.”


“Just gonna leave the car?” Ageda asked.


“Sure, why not,” Rojek said with a shrug. “We can just steal another one if we have to. Clunky pieces of crap are everywhere, here.”


Ageda giggled to herself, and climbed into the cab, and as she did, her appearance became that of Shawna. “Whatever you say, ‘Frank’.”


Rojek rolled his eyes as his appearance turned into Frank, and he climbed into the driver’s seat. “Friggin’ Earth.”


They drove off into the night, leaving nothing but a small pile of ash. Before anyone found or saw them, Rojek and Ageda were long gone.

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The ash would not go undisturbed for long. Soon, a solitary figure before it, glowing white eyes from the darkness under a blue baseball cap scanning the area. The pile of ash was small, but it was there, in the middle of the street. It would be gone soon, wind and time doing its thing, but before that, Rebellion had found it.


He stood above the ash. It wasn't meant to be here, it wasn't supposed to be here. Someone would need to have burned something to leave the ash behind, someone would need to have burned it fast, and it would have needed to be a certain size to leave a pile of ash like this behind, still not taken by the wind, but he hadn't seen any fire. Even then, fire would have left some marks beyond the ash, and there was nothing.


Rebellion bent into a crouch, tracing the ash with his fingers. It felt... off. It was a weird feeling. A strange sensation. It was just ash, after all, but he couldn't shake it.


This was all wrong for the city's patterns. Ash shouldn't be here.


So, he looked. There had to be something here. Anything, any kind of clue that could lead him to what had caused this. Tracks on the ground, feelings of heat... noises in the distance. 


It couldn't have been here for long. The ash wouldn't last long. It was a mystery. One that he wanted to solve.

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"Citizen of Earth! Be not alarmed! I am B'Ka, of the Star Knights, and I come in search of dangerous criminals!" A thunderous, modulated voice boomed behind him.


A giant brass minotaur stepped out of the shadows, eyes glaring with some unearthly light! They towered over Rebellion, with fists as large around as his own head, and a huge pair of curving horns arcing above a long, fearsome face! With heavy steps, the metal creature approached, hunched slightly and looking closely at the creeping conspirator and his newfound evidence of foul play. Between the thuds of powerful hooves Elliot heard a low, deep snuffling noise. Coming to a halt a few feet from the human, the imposing figure looked up and down the road, the light of its eyes glaring through the still night. Bending down,  until their head was inches above the ground, Elliot heard a series of quick, sharp sniffles sandwiched between a noise like sliding metal. On hands and knees, the creature crawled back and forth across the round, finally going in a circle around the dust pile.


Placing both titanic fist on their hips, the figure identified as B'Ka growled "Passer-by, are you aware of any smuggling on this planet? Originating from outer space? Citizens of Coalition space, armed with weapons capable of this level of carnage," he(?) indicated the sad mound, "are believed to be active in this area committing such crimes!"

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Floating down from the sky, a woman wearing navy blue pants adorned with a belt and thigh holster, sturdy boots reaching up halfway her shins, and a brown leather half-jacket landed on the sidewalk near the local and Star Knight.  As she stepped towards the pair, her Caucasian skin began to ripple and shift to the dull yellow of her preferred form.  Her mildly pointed ears sticking through the suddenly shortened black hair as her violet irises, sitting in a sea of black sclera, roved over the scene.


"B'Ka, I'm with the Praetorians, they call me Hazmat.  With all due respect, can we take this discussion with the local out of the middle of the street?"

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The ash was out of place, to be sure. Nowhere around could produce this volume of ash or would have any reason to. But in the ash, there were no answers. Nothing that could tell Rebellion what had happened here. Only that it was wrong, and it needed more investigation. The alleyway similarly provided nothing to him. The city that seemed to normally be so generous with its information was now cold and silent.


For B'ka, things were more obvious. The smell of diesel, a fuel used by more primitive, self-destructive species, hung in the air, and wide, fat tire tracks had marked the pavement, the smell of rubber thick in his nose. Unfortunately, heading out into the street, the smell of diesel and its sister gasoline became too prevalent to discern a direction, and the tire tracks disappeared on the darker, sturdier asphalt of the road. However, B'ka now had at least one lead - his prey was big, heavy, and used diesel.

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Rebellion looked up at the minotaur. The alien minotaur. One thing wasn't enough, was it? It couldn't be just an alien or a minotaur, no. It had to be both. AlienMinotaur. Because of course. And there was another one. She looked human, but her skin turned yellow. Could be human, could just be powers, but the way this Hazmat spoke? No, probably not.


Rebellion reached into his jacket, pulled out a small notebook, quickly writing a few lines with a pen attached to it.


"Right." He stretched his arm out, closed the book and placed it back into his jacket. "B'ka, and Hazmat? From... Coalition Space and the Praetorians? And alien smugglers with heavy weapons? Nothing I know of. Wouldn't surprise me if it happened here." He paused, took a deep breath.




"Can you track them?"

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"Our actions are just, Praetorian Hazmat whom I am well acquainted with! None but the wicked would have grounds to oppose them, or cause to fear them!" B'Ka declared firmly. Looking up and down the street he added "Anyway there's nobody out this time of night in a sleepy town like this, we're fine."


At the question of if he could follow the presumed trail, the self-proclaimed Star Knight hesitated a moment. "Y....yes! No doubt about it, random unaffiliated citizen whom I deeply hope is not a lüré set by my quarry, as that'd be just kinda jonked! Where my own senses may lose the scent in this miniature maze of...ms, my armor, powered by the Star Stone itself, is more than sufficient! However, as we seem to be partners in this quest, Praetorian Hazmat, whom as aforestated is well familiar to me and not a total stranger I am desperate to impress, tell me: how would you track a vehicle such as these? The one we seek is large, heavy, has a four-contact wheel system, uses high-friction gripping material on the wheels and uses a diesel motor, like the ones on our farms. The farms. Where I'm not from."


If it was possible to sweat through armor, Star Knight B'Ka would have.

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"You'd be surprised Sri B'Ka," the, currently, yellow alien said. 


Hazmat, having limited interactions with any Star Knights since her getting free of the Metamind, was unsure of their exact capabilities.  After a moment she said, "Still, it isn't like we can ask around for witnesses.  Now, my own tracking abilities are limited at best but if you can have your armor give you a rough estimation of size, I'd start with getting into the air and comparing that against what's in the street traffic."


Turning to Rebellion she added, "Can you keep up with two beings with the ability to fly?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Dropping onto all fours, the Defender of Space snuffled busily in a loose semi-circle around the epicentere of the ash remnants. Without raising up, he scuttled back and forth along the road, long, rough rongue rasping at the asphalt, nodding as the pieces fell into place. 


"It's a multi-ton...mostly steel...some kind of sap paste...all right!" Hopping back to his feet, Squire B'Ka turned to Hazmat, the faceplate over his bristly snout rectractsd to show his big brown eyes and toothy smile. 


"It's about two metras shoulder-to-shoulder, five nose-to-tail, found some flecks of a red pigment. Uses a diesel engine and fossilized plants for fuel, but what'd really set it apart is whatever they used to dust that Terran." B'Ka pointed at the pile. "I can rewire the armor to track energy signatures, screenin' for ones they don't use 'round here. Uh," he scratched his nose, frowning deeply, "it'll probably hurt, but this is for the innocents of Terra! Can't back down from a li'l pulse!"


At the prospect of Rebellion joining them, the astrobull looked horrified. "Hazmat, the guy's clearly not with their law enforcement! We can't drag some little thing like that into somethin' like this! what if he gets hurt? That'd be on us!"

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On 3/27/2020 at 4:25 PM, Ari said:

The one we seek is large, heavy, has a four-contact wheel system, uses high-friction gripping material on the wheels and uses a diesel motor...


"We just call that a truck. Plenty of them around." His comment was as short and deadpan as the rest of his responses had been. 


On 3/27/2020 at 10:07 PM, Azuth65 said:

"Can you keep up with two beings with the ability to fly?"


Rebellion was about to reply, but paused when B'Ka dropped down on to all fours and started smelling at the ash. Yeah. Alright. One way to get clues. He launched into a longer explanation, which just confirmed the thing as a truck, but the point about the weapons were interesting, at least. Unusual energy, here in Emerald? Of course. Not like the place didn't have weird things going all around.


11 hours ago, Ari said:

Hazmat, the guy's clearly not with their law enforcement! We can't drag some little thing like that into somethin' like this! what if he gets hurt? That'd be on us!"


"Can't trust the law. They're either paid off, stupid or being walled by the others. This is Emerald City. This is my city. If aliens are operating here, then the people in power knows. Go to the law, you'll end up in a trap." He stared at the bull. This was weird, even for Rebellion. Aliens, ash, a bull man, another alien, but, it was a mystery. It was a clue. He could not pass up this opportunity. "Can't fly, but will keep up. Keep close, and I'll guide you." He looked them over again. "Looks like you'll need it." 


Who profited from aliens operating in Emerald City? 


The conspiracy, of course. It was just a question of how. And how he could piss them off by ruining their profits.

Edited by RocketLord
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"Fun," she replied to Rebellion, equally short and deadpan.  "Look, I fly a small freighter that's, due to some credit shortfalls, is in need of repair.  Terran vehicles are not exactly in my skillset."


Hazmat paced briefly, 'Plying tract, I just wanted to scoop up some tract for the handful of humans on CoVic, make a tidy bit of credits and try and install some engines on the Viherci that don't short out after just two cycles in hyperpsace...' she thought to herself. 


Stopping she turned to the Star Knight, "I'm willing to take the risk.  Besides, he strikes me as the type unlikely to take 'no' for an answer."

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