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Field Test (IC)

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"Getting yourself thrown in prison would be a very effective way to see her, Cricket," said Nocturne, arching an eyebrow, "except they're going to hide her down a deep dark hole so that her client - who is not getting his or her robots - doesn't show up to set an example. You have an orchid mantis...whatever that is. They have assassins, and corrupt guards, and probably a prison full of easily-paid goons. Turning on her client is the only leverage she has, and if I were her I'd think very hard about whether using it, or not using it, would have better odds."

 

She took another long sip of her smoothie. She was no longer tying to pretend that the taste didn't please her. "Or, maybe not. Maybe she's lucky and got a client who knows that the risk is the cost of doing business and won't miss a few million dollars of investment. Maybe she got a client too incompetent to manage it. You don't believe in safety tests and didn't kill yourself the moment you built that armor, so I suppose miracles are possible."

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Ryder laughed brightly. "See? You don't want anything bad to happen to me~!" he singsonged, sticking out his tongue at Nocturne. "But that's what I'm talking about! They've got all those people and what does that get them? Worried about who's going to sell them out or betray them. Sounds like a nightmare! Me? I've got friends and dreams." He put the rest of the brownie in his mouth and shrugged with his palms turned upward. "Friends are better! And you've got a new friend now, too. Deal with it!"

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"I don't have friends, Cricket, I have assets. You are an....acceptably competent fighter, and I assume an incompetent liar, all the better. I simply think it would be unfortunate if something happened to you before I decide what you can offer to pay off the significant debt you owe me."

 

More smoothie. "And it is a significant debt. You cost me proper vengeance." She was running out of smoothie. She was going to have to figure out where this 'Smoothie Shack' was, and when she could get smoothies without giving Ryder the satisfaction of finding out about it. "What they have is power, Cricket, and nobody with power lasts long if they don't watch their back for knives. That, I think, is why you're going to get yourself killed."

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Ryder stood up straight and gave an exaggerated salute, jutting his chin forward in mock seriousness. "Yes ma'am, Nocturne ma'am! Reporting for asset duty! I'm a tough guy who makes tough decisions in tough situations! Grr!" He held the pose and scowl for a moment then winked and relaxed. "You know what's great for dealing with back knives? Bug themed power armour. Also? Friends. Or 'assets' if you're more comfortable with that. I know you like giving things nicknames. Now have a brownie. It's much harder to be pessimistic when you have a brownie."

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The brownie looked good. "No, my stomach's much too full of smoothie," she said, setting the empty cup down, "and pessimism."

 

She folded her hands behind her back again, sizing Ryder up. She'd have liked to be taller, but in her short heels he had half an inch on her at most, and she could always get taller heels. "They can always make sharper knives, Cricket. Friends are good at helping with knives, supposedly," she allowed, reluctantly, "unless it's the friend doing the stabbing. Not everyone is a fountain of optimism."

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Ryder looked back at her with big, bright eyes that up close looked like they had flecks of hazel amidst the toffee brown. "How about this: you can trust that I'll never stab you in the back because then I'd be losing this debate. Or because I'm big naive dumb-dumb. And if I decide to trust you, that's just my problem." His grin was warm and sincere, a little too wide to be calculatedly photogenic, bringing back the subtle dimples and crinkling the corners of his eyes. "Also I deal with hungry people like everyday at the Smoothie Shack and I'm trying to think of a way to suggest you at least eat something after all the fighting and gravity stuff but without it sounding condescending or like I'm trying to poison you or anything."

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"I ate a smoothie," Nocturne pointed out, gesturing at the empty cup as if she needed some kind of proof. Sharp golden eyes flicked down to follow the gesture; they'd have been warm, if she smiled, which she didn't as a general policy. "You can't be so optimistic that there's nothing you wouldn't backstab for? To save enough lives? The recipe for the perfect brownie or smoothie?" She cocked her head, trying to size him up. "I assume you wouldn't do it for power, you don't seem to respect it much. Knowledge, maybe, you seem to like that well enough."

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