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[Open-M] Drake Oneir's Parts Unknown: Endless Dunes

#1
Over the past few weeks, Drake could feel the life and zest of urban depravity returning to Nippur like smoke returning to the lungs of someone trying to quit cigarettes. The people had been hungry to reinstate the nightlife and jubilance of the city, which was a sign of healthy community as far as the smuggler was concerned. When the populace was more inclined to hunker down and cover their heads on a nice evening, shit was pretty backed up.

Now, as Drake slugged back his third tumbler of Blue Flame Rum, he looked around with a pleasantly warm smile. The tables in the local cantina he had come to favor were all buzzing with patrons. There seemed to be a public consensus that no one was going to acknowledge the fact that all of Nippur's greatest warriors were on vacation in Dante's Abyss, right after putting the city back together. No...that couldn't possibly be a bad sign. Maybe it would have been better if Drake had been given any sort of authority before they all left, maybe he would feel better about the situation.

But, no, the CEO never gave a shit about the IT guy. To be very, very frank, Drake was scared shitless, which was why he was now getting handsomely plastered. The Rhythmless Grill was a good place for that, since the owners, staff, and bouncers were all members of the nomadic Fremen tribe. Well, barring Kagumoo, who was a Gerudo witch at work, and also a part-time dominatrix, from what Drake understood. The Grill was decorated in the skeletal remains of various desert creatures, all lit warmly by the flickering light of smokeless oil lamps. Large decanters and bottles of deeply nefarious, darkly colored liquors lined a granite steele that had been converted into a tap shelf. The local Dunes beer, gamey and stout, was cut here with a curious, sweet compound that the Fremen simply called 'Spice'.

For more hearty fair, there were biryanis, tagines of chicken, goat casseroles, roasted nuts, eggplant and squash dishes...really anything that was salty and fatty, and readily attainable in the arid agriculture of the Dunes. Drake loved all of it. Normally the stereo system played ambient yet assertive remixes of tribal drum and pipe songs, but the smuggler Prime was in the room for a taste of home. As such, the sandstone hall was currently echoing with a very loud remix that brought out something in the Nippurian nightlife that they had never felt before. Perhaps it was also the excessive libations in their bloodstreams, or the sense of jubilant, springtime safety, but there were definitely a few people making babies up against the wall in the room tonight. Kagumoo leaned heavily on the burnished ebony bar, letting her olive colored bosoms rest conspicuously close to the tip jar.

"Another one, Drakie?" she said in her husky, dry voice. A stray curl of shock-red hair was pulled back behind her pointed ear. Drake shook his head slowly, blowing out a breath of air that was probably somewhere around thirty-five proof.

"Nah sweetheart. Wha's m'tab?" Drake sighed, pulling out a heavy purse full of Gilgamesh's face. The golden coins spilled across the counter, and upon being informed of his dues, he pushed the requisite pile over to Kagumoo, and the rest of the pile towards the tip jar. It seemed like the witch wanted to chit chat, but Drake wasn't in the mood. Being a member of his generation, he signaled this by pulling out his Dataverse device and scrolling through social media.

Nippur's new social media site, BabbelON, was motoring along nicely. The Yandere kid was doing a good job on the technical end, working alongside with Monika and the rest of SW3. Tens of thousands of Gilgamesh's subjects had signed on to the website and lovingly spilled most of their live's most intimate secretes into Drake's servers. What the hell the Royal Guard planned on doing with it, Drake didn't know, but he was at least doing his damn job. That was more than New Babylon's bourgeoisie blood-athletes could claim. He should probably call Monika and check in, but it was still before five in the morning in Coruscant. What to do...
[Image: screen_shot_2018_02_16_at_4_33_57_pm_by_...c3dkog.png]
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#2
The smuggler's question was answered in short order, when with great suddenness, a very drunk Fremen girl sat down next to him and squinted at him intently with her solid blue eyes. Drake glanced over the edge of his datavice at her, his scraggly eyebrows piqued in modest curiosity.

"Wassup." he slurred.

She smiled widely, the breath tube of her stillsuit jiggling slightly as her ample dimples brushed against it.

"We want a song." she said assertively. Drake peered drunkenly past her at a small table of inebriated floozies, all dressed in the form-fitting leotards endemic to Fremen tribal lifestyle. Oh shit. And here he was without his dick.

...

...We'll get to that later. It was true, being that this was Drake's preferred watering hole, his reputation at the karaoke stand was something of a delightful facet of the local culture. He had mixed feelings about this. The smuggler really preferred to keep a low profile in all things, but no amount of pragmatism could suppress his love of attention. There was no other option.

He would have to publicly humiliate himself. With all the drunken grace of a functioning alcoholic, Oneir staggered his way onto he stage and grabbed the microphone with great authority. A few of the other regulars noticed him at this point, and a modest wave of applause echoed off of the walls. Kagumoo leaned against the wall with a wry smirk. Drake winked at her knowingly: she had that sort of intuition for mischief that all Gerudo shared. The smuggler cleared this throat and chose a song that did not deserve to be massacred, and began swaying back and forth as the opening strains of electronic keyboard filled the hall. An anticpatory silence oppressed the air as Drake took a breath. He proceeded to sing something completely off the top of his fucking head, and do it badly.

"Señor Douglas was born in 1974 in Mexico. Or was it Spain. They're both the same...and that's not very...very..." Drake trailed off, the alcohol bringing him clarity of emotional suicide for a brief moment. For the love of god.

"...very...funny." he slurred, allowing the refrain to take him for a few moments. The entire bar was silent. Drake began to sing(?) again.

"He was a piñata of sorts! A rainbow piñata of sorts. We all know that a piñata's blood is of candy." he said, pausing for gravitas.

"Many a day he would be cracked upside the head with a baseball bat, and children's birthday parties would eat him...Sí."

Another refrain. The air was still. He had to pee.

"But Señor Douglas was not ready to meet this fate." Drake shouted, holding up a finger for emphasis. "In fact, he had something up his...rainbow sleeve. And of course we know...what he's capable of. Sí." the inebriated jester cried, suddenly growing so animated that he fell over into a nearby chair. He kicked the damn thing off the small stage, his cybernetic legs reducing the furniture to its component timbers.

"Because that day, Señor Douglas was hung from a tree...as we know...his affirmation. His freedom!" Drake cried into the audient void. The garish pink lights glaring down on him highlighted a sweaty face as he began to gyrate his gaunt fame loathsomely. He let the escalating strains of Nancy Wilson's build-a-bear guitar licks do the talking for him. He softly asked the bar a question.

"When was it?"

There was a pause before Kagumoo shouted from the back of the bar.

"1974!"

Drake nodded vehemently.

"When was it?"

This time some more of the bar's patrons mumbled in response.

"1974."

"SEÑÑOOORRRRRR?!" Drake howled, pitching over backwards and entering a spasming sort of trance. More shitty guitar solos. More aimless thrashing.

"WHEN WAS IT?!" he pleaded from the floor, with all the urgency of a man asking after the condition of his mortally wounded wife.

"1974!" the crowd responded, growing more bold.

"WHEN. WAS. IT?!"

"1974!" the said, now shouting in reply. The music reached a fever pitch, and Drake remained silent as it passed, breathing very loudly into the microphone.

"When was it?" he asked, in a manner more akin to someone figuring out when a friend had been out to lunch. Before the crowd could respond, Drake slowly crawled off the stage, not entirely resembling a primordial fish dragging itself across a Devonian mudpit. He continued this until he crawled into the bathroom. Behind him, the bar erupted into furious applause.

God fucking dammit.
[Image: screen_shot_2018_02_16_at_4_33_57_pm_by_...c3dkog.png]
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#3
About an hour later, Drake shuffled out of the bathroom with his hood up and the edge of his cap tightly pulled down. Yeah it was kind of hard to pass off the whole 'one-arm' thing, but he was at least able to maintain a low-enough profile to escape the Rhythmless with only a few shouts for his attention. Following through on his desire to avoid additional human contact, Drake walked straight across the street and down one of Nippur's countless dark alleyways.

The lanky Prime wasn't too far from his garage, but he debated on whether or not he should actually go home for the night. He checked his Datavice and clucked his tongue. Monika still wouldn't be getting up for another few hours. Yandere Lover would be even later than that. Reaching into his bottomless man-satchel, Drake plugged an unlit cigarette between dry lips and exhaled softly. The night air had already become brittle and cold. High desert climates like the Dunes had little in the way ambient moisture to hold the day's heat; a fact which now encouraged Drake to zip up the front of his usually loose jacket.

Despite the ambient light of the streetlamps and residential oil lights, the sky overhead still glittered handsomely with an array of static, dead stars. Without even really intending to, Drake tapped his fingers together in the sequence required to call his Ibis Skybike. A few seconds later, and the slick, bullet-shaped vehicle slid to a whining halt at the streetside entrance of the alley. Its black cockpit carapace slid open with nary a sound, waiting for its jockey to climb aboard. The smuggler did so with practiced, acrobatic efficiency. With a small hiss-thump, Drake's bionic legs kicked him up into the cool air with a slow somersault, allowing him to land in the saddle perfectly. The maneuver would have been murder on his balls, had he still possessed them.


...Anyway...


Drake cranked the Ibis' accelerator, pulling out into the street with the repulsors on minimum output. Didn't want to go blowing sand into everyone's face, now. A few beeps and bips, and the Skybike was set to auto-cruise, allowing the smuggler to browse ONN for potential leads and threats. Aside from the latest, mostly banal, news from Dante's Abyss, the biggest piece of gossip seemed to be the promotion of some EPD Prime. Whatever. Next. His half-addled mind turned to the Blue Flame Rum that he had been guzzling down, and a quick searched produced the welcome news that the last of Nebula's strongholds had been shut down. The Imperial navy was going to busy mopping up the stragglers for a long time, but it was at least an improvement.

What else...

Most of the rest of the Omniverse seemed quiet. A few blurbs here and there about some new jackass antihero stomping their way around Camelot. Princess Guu turning herself in for the theft of a star piece...eh. Nothing that really Gilgered his Mesh. Although, he did remember at this point that some local pushers owed him an explanation which hadn't been delivered yet...which meant Drake owed them a visit.

Oh did I forget to mention the part where Drake had been working to cultivate an underground drug trade between Nippur and Coruscant? Yeah that was a thing he'd been working on since the Cult of Tiamat had their head cut off. Naturally, the enterprising young Prime had inserted himself in its place...something which the Chaos cult had seemed to take just as much in stride as a bandit raid or the sudden resurgence of their most hated monarch. It's probably a pretty interesting story, but Drake has things to do in the now, so we're not going to worry about it.

But here's basically how it played out. The Followers of Tiamat used opium as their primary source of income for funding their protection and loan rackets. The hardy plant did pretty well in the irrigated sections of Nippur, crammed in alongside other cash crops like cotton and saffron. But, this being the Omniverse, the poor little Nippur gang had no idea that the poppy latex could be refined down into more potent forms. No, no that was the sort of thing that the gangs of Westside specialized in. The OTHER great thing about Coruscant, at least in this smuggler's opinion, was the utterly insane number of high-class restaurants situated in the cozy strata of Tiers 1 through 3. Those fuckers BREATHED saffron, which worked out pretty well.

Now, of course, the laws of Coruscant were even more unstable than those of Nippur, in that any jackass in vanilla turtleshell could tell you to prolapse your ass in the name of Palpatine at a moment's notice. However, drugs tended to not really be a Tier 1 problem, the gates to which were also the main highways into The City. Even better, Carrefore tended to be a...how should we say...bit of a Casa Blanca scenario for the upper crust of the Empire. Sure as shit it wasn't Vegas (yet), but the well-to-do bourgeoisie from The City liked to spend time there being charmed by the quaint, village atmosphere, while still feeling safe as clanking chicken walkers stumbled past.

And yes, that dilettante clientele included some of the most skilled and utterly foppish restaurateurs in Coruscant's culinary game. You bet your ass these dandies would be more than happy to pay a pretty penny for some fresh, rare Nippurian Saffron. Would the eager little fucks ever guess that the 'compost-friendly' boxes that the saffron was packed in were actually molded from dried poppy latex? Nah. Bring your fuckin' camera crew to the bazaar and pick up some of that Nippurian Saffron on tape. Boom. A drug handoff, right there on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

All of this, of course, was still in its very nascent stages, which is why Drake was a little more twitchy than usual. He had shipped the first duffel of opium and saffron to his Tiamat contacts in Carrefore over two weeks ago, and hadn't heard back on their progress for the latex shaping process. Cursory browsing of the municipal sheriff records indicated that they hadn't been taken in. Looks like Dr. Pariah was going to have to make a house call.

As if having already anticpated his intentions, the Ibis had made its way out onto the Royal Palisade, the central superstreet that lead directly from Nippur's main gates to the outer walls of Gilgamesh's palace. Drake hungrily took the accelerator of the Skybike in a single, weathered hand and cranked it hard. A whirling, gusting plume of dust and sand fanned into the orange dusk of the Babylonian night, accompanied by the banshee wail of repulsor turbines. The polished, streamlined form of the Ibis rocketed off into the darkness beyond the main gates in under a few seconds, its only traces left an echoing wine and rapidly shrinking tail lights...
[Image: screen_shot_2018_02_16_at_4_33_57_pm_by_...c3dkog.png]
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#4
[Continued from Water In Dry Places]

Talos stays sitting in an alleyway surrounded by a murder scene for far longer than is prudent.

The smell of blood reminds him that he is hungry, but that it not a conscionable option, so he sits and examines the laugh-lines around the edge of the dead-man's mouth.

"Well," he says softly, eventually. "I suppose that went better than with Lucita."

Speaking requires breathing, which he had not bothered with since Jaclyn left. As he inhales he breathes in the heady smell of saffron and poppy. He turns to look at the charred remains of the duffel bag. All that is left of the drug run are a few curls of saffron in the dirt and the bottle of opium in Talos' hands.

"I wonder what this story is," Talos murmurs. Unlike his erstwhile companion, he does not consider drug use, production, or distribution acts deserving of punishment. In his experience their regulation has more to do with controlling the people that use them than keeping people safe. He is perhaps biased, as most of his politics on the subject were acquired at Woodstock while heavily under the influence of multiple illegal drugs.

"You were clearly being smuggled," he says to the opium bottle in his hand. "But not very effectively, as all it took to find you was a rummage. And why were there so many different kinds of you in that bag? I saw tablets, powder, and I think a few intact poppies. A drug runner's pouch is not usually such a grab-bag."

Talos sorts through the objects he'd pulled out of his patient's pockets. In his earlier fervor to find something useful, he'd missed what they actually were.

He finds some omnilium, which he leaves on the ground. He finds a lighter and a pack of gum. He finds a yellow zip-lock bag containing tacky brown sheets of various thicknesses and shades, numbered meticulously one to twelve. He keeps that because it is a mystery. He finds a cellphone--an old one that folds open and closed.

He flips through the cellphone's history. He finds that it has made one call, and received one call, both from the same number.

It occurs to him that he should leave the grisly murder scene before he is found and, understandably, arrested.

He is not inclined to return to the streets of Carrefore. So Talos reverts to their natural form and uses their considerable height and reach to clamber from a crate, to a windowsill, to a rooftop.

They run along a few houses and make a modest leap to another street before finding a concealing overhang to lurk in.

Then they dial the number in the cellphone.
"To live in this world you must be able to do three things:

To love what is mortal;

To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

And, when the time comes to let it go,

To let it go." – Mary Oliver
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#5
By the time Oneir started to receive the phone call, he was already passing The Town with No Name on the Dunes freeway that stretched all the way from Carrefore to Nippur. Granted, it was a freeway in a strictly relative sense; more literally it was a somewhat consistent dirt road about thirty feet across. Still, it was better than the usual roughage and dune rims that Drake had to kick the Ibis over. The smuggler loved a good stunt exhibition just as much as any ex-spacer, but fifty times in a row to get between two points in the Dunes did sometimes become a bit arduous.

A small ringing noise issued forth from the speakers within the Ibis' sealed cockpit, abruptly cutting off the jovial singing of Louis Prima. It was coming from Scootz, his lab contact in Carrefore. Awfully interesting timing, there. Drake kept his eyes on the road ahead, illuminated in sharp white contrast by the Skybike's blinding LED headlights. He gently swerved the Ibis to avoid bits of debris or potholes as they flashed by like flirtatious ghosts in the dead of desert night, and adjusted the tone of his voice to one of calm congeniality.

"Hello Scootz, this is Pariah. I was just thinking about you." Drake said in a soft, lilting tone. He had never met he narcotic chemist in person, so he was going to try and maintain his persona of a conniving, small time Nippur physician as long as possible. Drake was, of course, also aware that the call could be tapped or, perhaps, that he was not talking to Scootz. When dealing in this sort of arena, however, every move was calculated, and the responding voice told Drake quite a bit as a result.

"Ah. No. This is not Scootz, I'm afraid. Tall chap, fair skin? Tattoo across his left jaw?" the voice said. It had an odd, thrumming quality to it. Throaty in a way that reminded Drake of talking to someone with voice distortion. It didn't sound like voice distortion, however. Whoever they were, they were certainly polite.

"Could've been. What's he look like now?" Drake queried, trying to suppress an surprising jolt of anger. Vigilante. Had to be. Goddamit.

"Well, much the same, aside from a structurally superfluous hole in his ribcage. Not my doing, though I did my best to help. Wrong place and time, and all the rest of it." the voice sighed, sounded every bit as weary as Drake. A long moment passed before the smuggler responded. This was because he was tracing the location of the call using the Ibis' onboard guidance software. Bugging many thousands of dollars worth of narcotics with a beaconed burner phone was just good business, after all.

"And you found his phone...?"

"In his pocket, where else? I figured someone should be notified."

"You're in Carrefore, currently?"

"Indeed."

"We should meet up. I'll need to...see his body." Drake said with a certain note of finality. Bishop to E-Four. How might the dusky-voiced stranger respond?
[Image: screen_shot_2018_02_16_at_4_33_57_pm_by_...c3dkog.png]
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#6
During the conversation with the deliciously mysterious "Pariah" (Code names are fun! Talos will have to come up with one for themself.) Talos lies down on the roof. This is partially to conceal themselves from people looking up, partially because they are tired, and mostly so that they can look up at the stars.

They hesitate when the probably-a-crime-lord requests that they retrieve and transport a dead body to a meeting with him. Jaclyn would probably not approve, but Talos is feeling put out with her and disinclined to be lawful.

Besides, Talos indirectly caused this poor drug runner's entire gang to be decimated. A little corpse retrieval is the least they can do to make up for that.

"That is a reasonable sort of request for the closest equivalent to next-of-kin to make," they decide audibly. "You should be aware, the fragrant bag he carried was incinerated. In case that changes your desires."

Talos does not think it will. If Pariah had wanted the duffel he would have mentioned that and not hoped it would come packaged with the body, but they figure it is kind to quash misplaced hope before it festers into expectation.

There is a pause. Talos can hear the distant interference of wind whipping over the other man's speaker, and the silent sound of a migraine blossoming.

"Great," the migraine is now audible in his voice. "No, that doesn't change things."

"Very well," Talos says. "May I take the liberty of selecting the location?"

"If I can set the time."

Talos sits up and scans the skyline.

"The roof of the blue house in the shadow of the golden-domed mosque," they choose. It is nice and open and rife with escape routes and they could trace a clear roof-path from here to there.

There is a pause as Pariah is probably translating Talos' flowery description into coordinates.

"Okay. Sure. In two hours."

Two hours was not yet dawn, so that suits Talos fine. They conclude the call with cautious goodbyes.

Talos begins to tuck the phone into their breast pocket. The lizard already occupying it snorts irritably at them.

----

When Talos returns to the crime scene, it is swarming with Stormtroopers.

Three are standing guard. One is off to the side talking on a communicator. Talos exhales irritably.

They eavesdrop on the Stormtropper on the comm, and discover that a cleanup crew in en-route.

Talos spends the fifteen minutes it takes the crew to arrive weaving a replacement corpse out of omnilium. They know what the body looks like. They know exactly what the body looks like.

The cleanup crew arrives and starts bagging and loading bodies into a truck. When they finish that, they start spraying down the alley, erasing the blood. They are focused on their job, and the Stormtroopers are watching the street.

Masked into a hazy figure of mottled gray, Talos jumps quickly and lightly from the roof to the trucktop, and slinks Alien-like into the truck. Switching out the body takes a few careful, tense minutes, and then they leave they way they came.

Cradling Scootz for the second time that night, Talos starts to make their way over rooftops to the rendezvous site.

As they run and leap, they let their Mask sweep into a long, concealing coat and a slanted hat that obscures their features. They make their face recognizably human, but keep their voice, since they used it on the phone. They also keep their height, since they're weary of stooping and when you're going to meet a probably-a-crime-lord, it is apt to be a little intimidating.
"To live in this world you must be able to do three things:

To love what is mortal;

To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

And, when the time comes to let it go,

To let it go." – Mary Oliver
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#7
The sound was largely indistinguishable from the background vibrations of the Carrefore nightlife. Trundling diesel engines buzzing in and out of the Coruscant portal to the West (or at least what passed for West), countless voices all whispering surreptitious nothings about everything, and the midnight chorus of frogs squatting in the irrigation ditches all blended together into a persistent echo. Still, after some time, a shrill, reverberating whine did begin to distinguish itself from the rest of the panoply. It bounced off of the low, stucco walls of Carrefore, its echoes stretching out like the horn of a distant train.

Talos was certainly no stranger to the audible irreverence of super-charged motors in the urban night, but it set him on edge nonetheless. The cresting revs of turbined engines indicated that the source was closing at startling speed. When the echoes consolidated into a distinct howl, even the agile vampire was slightly startled as a large, black vehicle of some kind roared up to the rooftop. It was approximately the size of a compact car, but stretched thin. It had all the appearance of a bulbous, black bullet, winking with high-tech sensor arrays and the flickering blue light of repulsion exhaust. Flashy, certainly enough, to be the chosen conveyance of a drug lord.

The sky bike hovered there for a moment, before drifting slightly over the cusp of the roof. A small wave of engine wash ruffled the labels of Quinn's jacket as the seamless cockpit slid forward and up with a sexy hiss. The figure that emerged and hopped down to the gravel-strewn terrace was less imposing than Talos had been expecting. Drake kept his hood up, but the vampire's sharp eyes could discern the scarred, gaunt skin...the tired eyes, and of course, the utter lack of a right arm. This 'Pariah' was neither tall nor short, flashy nor demure. Someone who could be easily lost in a crowd, and in memory.

Drake's left hand twitched, and the Ibis slid off into the urban landscape once more, blending intuitively with the light stream of traffic by use of its own onboard guidance. The unlit cigarette pinched between Drakes lips was now soggy, and summarily discarded down the shaft of an air conditioning vent. The previous un-silence of the night resumed.

"Evenin'." Drake intoned, casually scanning the rooftop. There was no indication of a posse nor monitoring. His HUD wasn't detecting any presence of tracking signals, aside from the one planted in the burner phone. To that extent, it wasn't detecting any heat sources from the Mysterious Stranger either. Red flags, yes, but Drake was an old hand at long odds.

"Cold night." Drake continued, scratching his nose idly. Without waiting for invitation, the smuggler strode up to the tastefully arranged corpse called Scootz and knelt down slightly. The stupid fuck. Walking around at night with the supply bag was not what Drake had meant when he had told the chemist 'be fucking careful with this shit.' Oh well. The skinny man reached his hand into his dimensional man-bag and withdrew a small, dull grey canister. Drake toggled the arming primer and shoved it crudely into Scootz' chest cavity. Talos watched with interest.

"Yes, I suppose it is. Were you two...close?" Quinn asked, circling around the procedure to get a better look. A thin skin of silvery liquid began to spread out from the device and coat the entirety of the dead man's body. Some strange, post-mortem medicine? Jaclyn had said that anything was possible in the Omniverse, after all. Drake stood up and watched as the nano-mesh crawled over the chemist's face.

"Business partners. I suppose you picked up on that." the smuggler murmured. He held his hand back, motioning for Talos to give the body a wide berth. Another twitch of the fingers, and Scootz burst into a conflagration of heat and sparks. A few seconds later, and the only thing remaining of the body was a few hunks of bone-shaped charcoal. Talos let out a barely perceptible sigh. Of course. A small click from his left notified him that there was now a small, green handgun being trained on him. It flickered with green light, and issued a dog-whistle whine of power.

"You didn't tell me this meeting was going to be monitored." Drake said through grit teeth. Quinn was honestly taken aback.

"Monitored? From where? Who is watching?" he stuttered, glancing around in spite of himself. The gun twitched upwards for a moment, indicating Talos' pocket. The upper half of the lizard was peeking out of his hiding spot, tasting the suddenly warm air with interest. A mild breeze caressed the scene, bathing it in thick silence. Monitored. Lizard.

Drake was grinning like the devil. He then proceeded to laugh uproariously and tuck the keening derringer back into his bag. His singular hand extended in a shake.

"What's up fam, my name's Drake. Who're you?" he asked. It was with such sudden joviality that Talos could swear it was a split personality. As with everything else, this was a tactical move on Drake's part. Was this guy an edgelord? Vigilante? Good samaritan? Kick the nest and see what falls out.
[Image: screen_shot_2018_02_16_at_4_33_57_pm_by_...c3dkog.png]
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#8
Talos was going to have to start warning people not to explode tiny fires around them. Vampires, which were statistically proven to be one of the most flammable things in the White Wolf universe, did not respond well to sudden fires. Drake didn't see, occupied as the man was on the correct execution of his technology, but Talos jumped a full foot back when the body erupted into flame.

Talos' subsequent stuttering was less due to fear of being watched, which would have been unsurprising given the context, or of being shot, which didn't generally work as expected (Weird future-guns notwithstanding.). They were distracted, self-soothing themself away from Rotschreck, the blinding red fear of fire, because fleeing the roof in terror would be a shame after going through all this trouble to meet Pariah.

Not Pariah, Drake. Fetching corpses apparently puts you on first name, or at least next-code-name, basis with probably-a-crime-lords.

The joviality was odd. A man was dead. And the sudden switch from being held at gunpoint to a handshake and a grin was enough to give Talos conversational whiplash. 

And that was what it was clearly intended to do. The 'joke' with the lizard. Sudden changes in tone. Someone was prodding. Talos didn't have the energy to duel, so they turtled into reserved politeness. They did shake the hand. They did not know what a 'fam' was.

"Quinn," they said, which was the usual name for this form. "Good evening. For somewhat personal reasons, I am interested in learning what Scootz and his companions were doing in the city."

They wanted to know who they had gotten killed. Talos had informed Drake of the situation, and given him an opportunity to dispose of evidence. How much information was that worth?
"To live in this world you must be able to do three things:

To love what is mortal;

To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

And, when the time comes to let it go,

To let it go." – Mary Oliver
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#9
Drake did not respond immediately. He never responded immediately. Just as he suspected, the man's hand was as cold as ice. There were a few conclusions that the smuggler could jump to at this point, but he restrained himself. Data acquisition was his specialty. The time to process it was not at cusp. 

"Product research. I'm trying to establish a middle market for botanicals in Carrefore." Drake said, perfectly aware that Quinn knew the botanicals in question were narcotics. Well. The opium was, anyway. The saffron was profitable too, in its own way. It was another lateral move to see where the stranger would step.

Talos nodded. "And how many employees did you have in you R&D department, here? And were any of them heterochromatic?"

That was the most distinctive feature Talos remembered of the man who had murdered them the night before. One brown eye, one light hazel. Jaclyn had killed four men in the alley--that murderer, Scootz, and two others, both carrying the strange, futuristic guns.

"Scootz was a subcontractor. He had one dumbass friend who helped around his shop. Any more than that, he didn't tell me. Also..." Drake said, trailing off. He was trying to remember the exact condition Quinn was referring to. It certainly didn't align with any details Drake knew about Scootz and his friend. "...No." he concluded.

"I see," Talos looked down at the mound of ashes that used to be a subcontractor. They did not think that an opium chemist (Their current best guess for Scootz's profession.) would be desperate enough to knife random people in alleys for change. That sounded, on reflection, like the act of a desperate addict. So Talos had recognized their murderer talking to a dealer, and inadvertently set Jaclyn on everyone.

The story fell into place. They weren't sure they begrudged Jaclyn her conclusions about the sordid little affair. They'd have to think about it.

"I believe Scootz may have had more than one dumbass friend. Or at least client," they said out loud.

Then they sighed and reached under their slanted hat to rub the bridge of their nose. They knew they were not playing the part of this tall, looming mask effectively. They didn't have the energy, and honestly, Drake was clearly too sensible to necessitate that.

"How is your night going?" they ask Drake.

"Sobering up. Did some karaoke earlier. Nice little Fremen join with a Gerudo waitress. Thinking about ditching the botanicals altogether. You heard of this Spice stuff? Melange? Fremens love it. Might be a market...just need to find where they get the damn stuff." Drake said. This, now, was shifting the conversation into the personal bubble of Quinn's intelligence. Was this brooding tricorn a Dunes native? Perhaps they were a little Babby Prime who didn't know when to leave well enough alone?

The brooding tricorn stared at him for a long moment, reaching an almost Drake-level pause before responding.

Then they responded by turning around, taking off their hat, and shaking it while yelling at the sky.

"YOU ARE WEIRD. YOU ARE VERY WEIRD. YOU ARE A VERY WEIRD CROSS OVER EPISODE OF EVERYTHING."

Their arms dropped to their sides. They took a few deep breaths. They put their hat back on, fixed it into its customary slant, and turned back to Drake.

"You may wish to be cautious about unleashing a drug that causes prescience," they said in their normal voice.

"Prime then." Drake responded, flashing Quinn a knowing smile.

"I will be subtle when the world stops being absurd," they said grumpily, crossing their arms. "Also I would like to know where karaoke is."

Drake stared at Quinn for a moment, sizing him up. He nodded, as if finally deciding something about the man. A ponderous thumb scratched idly at the tuft of beard on Drake's chin. This Quinn guy was a very fresh Prime indeed. Sharp, too. Guns and muscles were all well and good, but Drake was an ally of the clever. This guy? This guy was clever. Decent sense of humor too.

"The Rhythmless Grille, over in Nippur. It's starting to catch on in the bar district. There's probably some around here too..." Drake said in an amiable tone. He flipped out his Datavice and began scrolling around the local map, searching for Karaoke joints that were still operating at 4 AM, Dunes time.
"To live in this world you must be able to do three things:

To love what is mortal;

To hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;

And, when the time comes to let it go,

To let it go." – Mary Oliver
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