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Hera Prime The Township of Siren

Saarai

Lord of Bondage and Pain
Benefactor
as written by Ronin

The sun simmered low on the peaks of the western mountains, bathing Siren in the golden glow of dusk and staining the meridian with blood. Night was coming, and the people of the township were already preparing for the imminent dark. Men trotted through the doors of saloons and bars, picking out the stools they'd be sitting in for the next six hours. Women and children found their way off the rickety boardwalks trailing the general stores and made their way back to ramshackle homes. A pike-furred dog barked at an incoming caravan, wheels waking coagulating columns of dust and grit into the sandy sky.

It was a curious lot, the caravan. Merchants, mostly - some supply wagons for the stores, a few refugees from outlying villages. The poorer transports were drawn by mules and starving horses who shuffled nervously in the dirt and looked longingly at a water trough near one of the saloons. Some were motorized vehicles, their rust-iron hoods grumbling with the heat and fire and of their engines. Guards flanked the sides on makeshift two-wheelers, rifles lounging in their laps. They watched the parade trundle into Siren, thinking of the drinks they'd be having in a few hours' time.

Last of the caravan was a man in a long brown coat astride a metal cart led by a strong black horse. A drooping hat shadowed his face except his jaw, which was squared and stubbled with flecks of grey and white and brown. His lips were cracked and held in their purse a cold, half-smoked cigar. As he entered the town, his head lifted. He scanned along the boardwalk, eyes glinting cobalt beneath a veil of black.
 
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Tiko

Draconic Administrator/Mentor
Administrator
Mentor
Nexus GM
as written by Quinn

"Be quiet, Ike." A breathy voice called out, and the barking dog silenced, flattened its ears, and then approached the speaker, tail wagging from side to side. A hand reached out to pat Ike and the head, and pleased with the attention he had received, Ike turned tail and left the main street, passing the speaker and heading into the alley behind him. The speaker turned his head to follow the dog as it went, and then passed his gaze back over to the street, or more specifically, the last installment in the caravan that was currently passing through.

For a brief moment, the speaker's eyes met with the rider of the cart, and the speaker mistook them for his own, an electric shiver running down his spine, causing hair to stand on end. No, the rider of the cart's eyes were a darker blue, and the speaker's own, while lighter in shade, were also each encircled by a ring of black. When the initial shock of it wore off, the caravan had passed on and the speaker began walking along the boardwalk to catch up to it, matching his pace with the cart.

The speaker himself was only a seventeen year old boy, complexion pale and build lanky, with prominent cheekbones that gave his face a slightly sunken in look. Light bags hung under his eyes, while a band of faint freckles splashed across the bridge of his nose. His hair, a dark shade of strawberry blonde, was styled short and parted to the left. His shirt stuck to his skin, outlining a collarbone that jut out, and his jeans, while mostly faded by the elements, were also painted brown by dust.
 

Tiko

Draconic Administrator/Mentor
Administrator
Mentor
Nexus GM
as written by Script

To the side of the road, outside a local bar, a woman looked up from beneath her own wide-brimmed hat at the caravan. She was down on one knee beside a dusty, well-used motorcycle, putting the final few twists onto a bolt with a small spanner. Despite the obvious wear and tear on the vehicle, it was an imposing beast - broad and powerful, styled after a traditional cruiser.

The woman paused from her work on the engine to watch the caravan pass, idly weaving the small spanner between her fingers. Beneath the hat her hair, a deep chocolate brown, was tied into two lengthy braids that ran down over her shoulders to the middle of her chest. She wore the clothes of a traveller - or else someone who cared more for practicality than fashion - all coarse and shades of brown, down to the solid leather boots on her feet. The only splash of colour was a bright red neckerchief.

A pair of revolvers rested in holsters at her hip, along with a belt of ammo clusters. More unusually, several glass vials were tucked into her belt as well, though their contents was obscured from view by their pockets.

She watched the makeshift parade with idle interest. She took note of the caravan's occupants, and every detail that caught her eye. They were many, and varied. The woman in the passenger seat of the worn-out looking sedan had a bruise on her chest, mostly concealed by her blouse. The bruise matched that of a fist, and the way her posture leaned away from her husband in the driver's seat made it clear where the blow had come from.

One of the guards was missing a finger on his left hand. The bandages looked fresh - lost on the journey, then, or just before. He'd pay for it in accuracy if he had to actually use the weapon in his lap.

A dozen other details registered, before she forced herself to look away and back to her work. She couldn't be worrying about every shipment of fools to wander into town. The last man on the caravan caught her attention despite her best efforts. He was different to the rest of them. Something about the way he held himself, a combination of posture and the placement of his hands. He was ready to go for his weapon at a moment's notice, despite his body language suggesting he was relaxed. Like it was as natural a reflex as blinking.

It wasn't often she saw his type here. She'd have to hope he didn't intend to cause trouble.
 

Tiko

Draconic Administrator/Mentor
Administrator
Mentor
Nexus GM
as written by Sokka

Korbin Jumped down from a truck, this wasn't his first time in Siren. He'd been to Hera Prime on numerous jobs, just recently he dropped off a shipment of rifles and grenades. He surveyed the scene before he swaggered across the road in the direction of the bar his long coat adjusting slightly as he walked. As it moved one might have caught the sight of the pistols holstered on either hip. He tipped his hat to the woman in the red neckerchief, before disappearing into the bar.
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A man exited a store as the Caravan pulled into Siren. He held a helmet at his waist and donned full armor. A pair of pistols were holstered on either hip and a small number of other weapons were displayed. The man leaned against the building as he watched the smuggler walk towards the bar. He had run a few jobs in the past with the man though he didn't particularly care for the man. However his gaze was drawn to the other arrivals scanning the crowd for anything or anyone that might peak his interest. One never knew who might be looking to hide out in these parts, maybe he would recognize a face later that had a price on their head.
 

Tiko

Draconic Administrator/Mentor
Administrator
Mentor
Nexus GM
as written by Saarai

"I found them!" A man shouted, hobbling quickly into town. His clothing was tattered, his fair skin burned from the sun. "I found them! The ones Crowley's after!" He shouted, hobbling towards an armored man standing outside of a tavern.

"Let's go! Let's collect that bounty." He said to the armored man, "I don't hunt people. I hunt game." The hunter told the other man, "They're criminals. Real bad people. They did this to me. Robbed me of all my possessions."

The man ranted and raved about the evil thieves, his story growing more grandiose with each telling to each person. It was more likely that he picked a fight and lost.

But, the bounty was real. Elias Crowley, an enigmatic old man, a respected man, had issued a bounty on a group of evil mercenaries lead by a woman with a strange accent and a dark complexion.

There were even pictures floating around of her to avoid confusion.

"And, I heard they eat children." The man continued, hoping to sell bounty hunters, mercenaries, or anyone on the idea of the bounty.

"It is a decent payday. More than usual." A bounty hunter said to one of his comrades as they passed by the caravan, "Call the others. We'll take the bounty and cut this idiot out. Leave him for the Sirens." The other bounty hunter said.
 

Tiko

Draconic Administrator/Mentor
Administrator
Mentor
Nexus GM
as written by Ronin and Quinn

The town of Siren was alive with activity, and the stranger saw many things. He watched the smuggler from their caravan jump down from his wagon and saunter towards the bar with a strange familiarity, as if he'd done it dozens of times before. He saw the armored figure exit the store, gaze flashing instantly to the pistols at his hips and the various weaponry arrayed on his person. His attention followed the boardwalk to the figure of a young woman fixing her bike. He looked first to the filled holsters on her belt and their distance from her hands before passing over the strange pouches her waist.

He pulled his cart alongside an alleyway near one of the saloons, not far from the youth. If the stranger overheard the nervous chatter of the latest bounty, he seemed not to notice.

"Hile, boy," his smooth, oiled voice carried easily to the blonde-haired youth, "come here, for your father's sake."

____

The youth's eyes flicked from the commotion in the street back to the man that had addressed him. For a moment, he only stared back at him, his face remaining expressionless while his eyes searched the man's face for any form of ill intent. The youth had an almost supernatural feel for that nature of other people, and had learned to trust himself when it came to it. Finding none, and deeming the man's voice inviting enough, the youth kept his face clear of any expression and approached, taking a step down from the boardwalk and closing the distance between the two.

The stranger looked up from his wagon and watched two of the armored hunters saunter away, metalclad feet pounding on the boardwalk. He looked back to the youth - voice quiet, soothing.

"Where do the men drink around here, soh?" he asked, "the bad men."

If that was meant to intimidate or otherwise affect the youth, he showed no sign of it and just kept looking on with those curious, hungry eyes of his. After a moment of internal contemplation, he nodded towards the bar with the woman and the motorcycle out front of it.

The stranger's eyes followed the youth's nod. Once again he glanced over the woman working on her bike before looking at the saloon-style doors leading into the tavern. Cigar smoke was already wafting out of it.

The youth, pleased that the stranger had understood his direction, spoke.

"It's a bit munted, and there's no dunny, but the drink is cheap and hard, or so I hear, and if it's company you desire, I hear they can room you up de facto."

His accent was one that required a keen ear, as he spoke fast and the words blurred together between the first and last syllables spoken. His eyebrows raised, but his mouth remained a straight, thin line, as if he knew the stranger had caught his drift, knowing local slang or not.

The stranger looked at the youth. He gave him a slow nod - not in affirmation of the listed vices, but with a quiet sort of respect.

"You keep your eyes open. That will get you far." He reached into his belt and retrieved a .40 caliber round forged of pure silver. "This is yours, if you run into that tavern and tell me if there's a woman there. Dark skin. Speaks with an accent you wouldn't recognize."

The youth's eyes scanned the bullet, recognized its worth, then turned their gaze up to the man in an understanding glance. But he wasn't an idiot, and wouldn't potentially risk his life for free.

"She dangerous?"

The stranger's eyes glimmered. "Very. That's why you go softly in there. Don't make a show of looking around. Be searching for something specific - a friend you have, a girl you know. You're a local. Use that as your cover." His fingers flexed. The silver round danced between his fingers. "Do you you think you can do that, soh? Speak honest, now."

"Ae." He said without hesitation, catching himself after and responding once more in English. "Yes."

He was confident in his ability to blend in, even if he bore more than one way to stand out against other Sirens. His eyes followed the bullet for a while more before tearing away and landing on the entrance to the tavern. He spoke one last time without looking back at the man.

"And if I find teesa?" Her.

"You remember where she's sitting, what she's doing, who she's sitting next to and whatever weapons she seems to have on her," the stranger replied. "And then you come back out and tell me."

Easy.

The youth nodded, intent on getting his reward, and set towards the tavern. As he neared, he passed by the woman outside fixing up her motorcycle, but paid no mind as he continued past her. He stopped at the bat-wing doors, looked past them and into the bar before he took a breath and stepped in.
 

Tiko

Draconic Administrator/Mentor
Administrator
Mentor
Nexus GM
as written by Sokka, Saarai, Script, and Calcos

Varsin watching what was going on with little interest, until the Man hobbled into town. The promise of a pay day was enough to catch his ear. However the popularity this job was getting was a downside.

Walking toward the man and the other bounty hunters he spoke. "I haven't been on planet very long what's so special about these criminals, and how high is the price on their heads?" Varsin asked.

____

"High enough." One of the bounty hunters told Varsin, "If Crowley wants someone's head, he is paying top dollar for it." The other said, "Enough for us four to split it." The wounded man added.

He had to keep himself part of the conversation if he expected to gain something. "I ran into them last night. I can lead you all there."

____

Varsin turned to the kid he seemed to ignore the other mercenaries. "How many were there?" He asked.

He didn't like sharing the job with locals but even he knew he had limits there were just some jobs that the Mandalorian couldn't do on his own.

____

"I counted about five." The wounded man told Varsin, "Heavily armed. Armored. I couldn't handle them on my own." He added, "They're evil, we need to get rid of them before they hurt anyone else. Like, now."

He was anxious to get the job done. Or to at least get his revenge.

____

The twin suns of Hera Prime had fallen by the time Benedict spotted Siren, "Land!" He shouted, pointing at the town as he slowed his bike down to a crawl. "We'll put ourselves up somewhere for awhile and then head out." He told the others.

"Unfortunately, that will be with or without Mulan." He added, "And we can get you some water before you die on us." Benedict said to Alanna, "If what we know about this planet is true, be ready to get into a fight or three."

____

"I used to work security at the shittiest most fucked up bar in Westeria," Alanna remarked with a shrug, "It's still pretty much force of habit to be ready for- no, to expect a fight or three on any given day."

She grinned. "Doubt this place can do much worse than some of that clientele."

____

The closer they got to the town, the more people Benedict could see coming to get a look at the visitors. Men and women, some armored, many armed, watching him and his team.

"I take it they don't like tourists." Benedict joked, waving to people as they entered the town. He would be lying if he said that the eyes on him didn't make him nervous.

He didn't know who he was dealing with. Hera Prime wasn't exactly a place the Invictus visited often or got postcards from.

____

"I can't blame them," Alanna remarked, "I imagine in a town like this, strangers means trouble. Especially strangers carrying guns."

She glanced around at the various buildings. "I suppose it would be too much to hope for a cosy Bed and Breakfast place, wouldn't it?"

____

The ship touched down about half a mile outside of Siren, a storm of sand billowing out in every direction, the Wings of Destiny's engines conjuring up the thick cloud like a bumbling tomb raider waking a long-slumbering lich king. When the choking particles finally subsided, the whirring of the loading ramp's descent reverberated through the metal walls of the cargo hold. For the umpteenth and final time, Thalgan Vash made his way down the steep incline, his boots procuring a hard, metallic clang with each footstep. In each of his hands, he carried a hefty metal case, either of them loaded down with his equipment; armor, weapons, rations and everything else.

He was dressed in a tattered black duster, beneath which he wore a simple white button-up shirt and boot-cut jeans, a pair of western-style boots covering his feet. His head was covered with a wide-brimmed hat, with a faded tan shemagh draped around his mouth. Finally, he carried in a holster his S-101 slugthrower pistol; a trusty, revolving handgun that was perfectly suited for the environment he found himself in.

As soon as the mercenary's feet touched the sand, he eased the metal cases onto the ground, moving ahead of them as to give the ship clearance. The loading ramp whirred to life again, climbing up and out of reach before nestling into its air-locked position. Thalgan stepped back further and further, covering his eyes with his right arm as the Wings ascended, the air that the engine pushed around rushing outward. It was all Thalgan could do to keep his feet planted and remain standing with the gale force that sought to ground him whipping about. With his free hand, Thalgan offered a wave as the ship turned, giving the pilot inside one final goodbye.

Arrora offered only a pained look in return, one the mercenary would never see.

And suddenly, the ship zoomed off, past the limits of the horizon, his clothing blown backward as the wind rushed by, trailing the ship's path and leaving him behind, just as she was doing now. He sighed, sauntering over to his belongings and taking a seat on one of the bulky trunks, staring in the direction he knew Siren to be. "Kinda wish I had taken to smoking right about now," he said in a vain attempt to cheer himself up.

____

"Cosy? Yeah, right." Benedict said, bringing his bike to a stop near what appeared to be a bar. "You can always count on the local watering holes for a static resting place." He told his team, tossing the bag of Invictus insignias towards a pile of garbage not far from him.

The people in the town diversified deeper in, all manner of people, many not Human, called Siren home. They were rough types. Armored, tattooed, and carrying their own guns.

They were still watching the newcomers. It was time to break the ice.

"Anyone know where I can get a nice fajita around here?" Benedict asked, "What's a fajita?" A woman asked loudly, "I actually don't know how to answer that..." Benedict admitted.

____

Varsin nodded to the kid. He could do it but...it was risky.

"Five of them,heavily armed, where were they exactly?" He asked. He wasn't going to decide until he knew what the hell he was getting himself into.

____

"Fajitas? Really? I don't know what you expected. Food here is probably based off of the local wildlife." Alanna shook her head. The thing she'd shot earlier had not looked tasty. "How about a drink? I'm pretty sure alcohol must be universal."

____

"They're in a cave. It's not far from here." The man told Varsin, directing his attention towards the newcomers. "You! You look in need of opportunity." He said, approaching Benedict as he was heading for the bar. "What?" Benedict asked, "Bounties to be claimed. Big ones. All set by Elias Crowley."

"I know that name." Benedict told Alanna, "I can't place it, but I know it." He said, "Who's the bounty on again?" He asked.

"Evil terrorists and marauders. Five of them with nice weaponry. No match for you. No match for all of us if we go together."

____

"One man's evil terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," Alanna pointed out, "You're going to have to be more specific."

Not that she thought they had time to waste on bounty hunting, but if Benedict recognised the name, perhaps it would be pertinent to find out who he was after in greater detail.

____

"We'll check it out, but we won't commit for now." Benedict told the man, he didn't trust him much. He didn't trust anyone that wasn't part of his team, really. But, he recognized the name he'd heard and it was worth following up on. There were no such things as coincidences in the kind of work that was being done.

"Crowley's a good man." A nearby mercenary told Benedict, "Better than good, some say. I think the general consensus is that he's the last best hope for this hellhole." He continued.

"Hellhole? I was thinking of retiring here." One of the Invictus soldiers joked. The mercenary, armored from head to toe, just stood silently. They didn't think the joke was funny.

"Tough crowd." Benedict said to Alanna.

____

He strode into town feeling more exhausted than he had predicted; the combined efforts of heat and weight had served dutifully to wear him down on the long walk into the town's borders. Still, at least this place was somewhere somewhat familiar, a place he could lay low until he was needed again.

The "pleasant" sights and smells that glimmered in his eyes and wafted through the air created an atmosphere of belonging to people such as himself, -lowlifes, vagabonds and rogues- the town offering a warm, (an understatement, given the climate) inviting embrace for the mercenary.

He'd make the most of it.

____

Varsin nodded, "This Crowley does he make good on his offers? I don't want to be stiffed by some backwater bankrupt kingpin." Varsin said as if remembering some past experience.

____

"Real man of the people, eh?" Alanna shrugged her shoulders. "I'd be asking what the agenda is, myself, but then I'm not particularly confident in the integrity of my fellow man."

She shot Benedict a look then, raising her eyebrow. "I don't know what you were expecting from the 'haha, you live in squalor' angle."

____

"Crowley hasn't done wrong by us yet." A mercenary told Alanna and Varsin, "Some of the people around him? Not quite as noble." He added, "Words for another time." The other said, turning his attention to Benedict. "I like his plan, make sure this isn't a trick and then go from there."

"So, are we gonna posse up or what?" Benedict asked, "What's a posse?" A man asked, "They speak English, but not our English. Idioms and puns are going to be hard." Benedict said with a sigh.

____

He found himself in one of the local watering holes, his cargo settled beside the booth he had sought refuge in, his eyes casting attentive glaces about the room from beneath the brim of his hat, scanning faces and movement. He overheard several conversations at once, some on the subject of drug dealing, others on assassination, and even some in the more mundane realm of robbery. This place was a regular den of criminals, and he felt right at home among them. Still, he wasn't here looking for some big score or to join up with any raiding parties. He'd been told to come here and wait.

So he waited.

____

Varisn tapped a gloved finger idly on the hilt of one of his holstered pistols. He could pass on this though, there probably wasn't much harm in joining up. It wasn't like he had any jobs lined up at the moment.

"Alright I'm in." Varsin said.

____

"I dunno, should we be going off galvanting while we're waiting for Mulan?" Alanna asked, before pausing to think. "How'd she get that nickname anyways?"

____

Benedict gave Alanna's words some thought. She was right about leaving, they had orders from Mulan to stay put. But, their other orders were to find their people. They had a possible lead.

"Bryce, come with me and Alanna. The rest of you wait for Mulan." Benedict ordered the Invictus, "You got it. We'll give you two hours before we worry." One of them responded, gesturing towards the tavern. "We'll be inside."

The man who had brought up the information on the bounty moved to join the two armored mercenaries nearby. Mostly because they looked to be the toughest. They were shields if anything went wrong.

"Let's go." One of them said, he and his partner heading for a pair of ATVs. "You heard the man." Benedict said to Alanna and Bryce, heading for the bike he rode in on. Bryce followed behind him to ride with the Invictus soldier.

"The name's kind of racist. We call her Mulan because she's Chinese, a soldier, and mostly because she's Chinese." Benedict finally answered.

____

Waiting was going to pay off for Thalgan. That became more clear when thenewcomers to the town entered the same den of criminals the mercenary was in. They looked experienced, but they were too clean, morally and physically, to be anything more than corporate mercenaries.

And then came a familiar face for all involved. Clad in a black duster and his wide-brimmed hat was John Izumi, the sound of his spurs against the wooden floor attracted brief glances in his direction. The eyes hidden beneath his opaque frames obscuring exactly where he was looking.

"It's him. He's here." One of the clean mercenaries said, doing his best to pretend that he didn't know the man who entered as he walked towards a booth.

His tell was blatant, but it was still early enough in the game to bluff.
 
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