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 Post subject: Tangled Webs
PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 1:56 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:12 pm
Posts: 24
Rat was extremely prompt in providing work. Once again Sphinx was
assured a cake mission and Rat seemed to take pains to make sure that
he was as good as his word. Sphinx found herself standing guard over
a robotics exhibition where the most trying thing was repeatedly
having to explain to Transformers and Biologics alike that no, she was
not one of the exhibits.

In the weeks and months to come Rat kept her steadily in work. It was
mostly guard duty and Sphinx's reputation seemed to hold all threats
at bay.

Until it didn't.

Afterward, there had been a discussion between her and Rat where she
had to reiterate that yes she really did mean she wouldn''t kill
anybody. No the situation on Nuit was completely different. Yes she
really did intend to deal with whoever she took down however she
pleased. No that would not include making them available to Rat for
even the gentlest questioning and if this was a problem, in future he
could adjust her pay accordingly or hire someone else.

Rat was once more at a loss until, as was his way, he spied an opportunity.

A couple jobs later, Sphinx found herself teaching non-lethal take
down techniques to a class of Terran corporate security goons. Soon
she was finding her usual guard jobs regularly interspersed with
combat seminars. Her broad and intimate knowledge of xenobiology made
her a valuable teacher.

Sphinx's latest job found her once more on bodyguard duty. She was on
the planet Sameleon and her 'client' was Para Patan, the hatchling
daughter of Governor Paradan Brinx.

Brinx was in charge of all of Kelto Province, a large, wealthy island
that was home to many Sameleon cities. She had been cracking down
hard on Sameleon's native criminal element. With a police force that
was rife with corruption, she had turned to off world mercenaries to
protect her and her family.

Though Sphinx's charge was a hatchling and only two years old she was
not a child. The Sameleons emerged from their eggs more or less
completely mentally developed and enjoyed a lengthy 'adolesence'
before assuming adulthood.

The Governor herself was beging guarded by Osric, one of her
colleagues in Rat's employ whom she'd worked with before. Osric was a
Transformer with a stag beast mode. He was strong, deadly and
professional, and while certainly possessed of a hunter's cunning
could not really be described as a bot of deep thought. Over the
course of their professional relationship he had made a number of
unsuccessful passes at the fuzor, assuring her of the significant and
varied physical pleasures that awaited her at his hands. His lack of
success in wooing her thus far did not appear to sour his opinion of
Sphinx any. After a refusal he would drop the subject and continue
on with thuggish companionability. When next they found themselves
working together, he would bluntly proposition her again.

Sphinx had been planetside for three days now. The job had thus far
been fairly easy. Behind the walls of the governor's compound Rat's
clients were almost completely safe. The two transformers were only
their as insurance. Osric had not even tried to seduce her yet.

The Fuzor was enjoying a spot of tea in the Governor's expansive
library when Para Patan marched in.

"I'd like to go to the market please." Though the young Sameleon said
this as if it were the most reasonable request in the world, Sphinx
could tell by the girl's half raised head crest and fidgeting feet
that she was anxious for her response.

Sphinx finished sipping her tea and put it aside. She ran her finger
down the page of her book and held her place with it. She looked up at
the Sameleon, who was dealing with having to wait for a response with
the graceful patience of any teenager.

It took only a few seconds of Sphinx watching her expectantly for Para
to realize what the transformer was waiting for. She sighed.

"Good morning, Sphinx."

"Good morning, Para. Where do you wish to go in the market?"

"Just..." she waved her hands vaguely. "Out. I've been cooped up
for days. I want to shop. I want to see some friends." She smiled
and bobbed her crest sweetly. "Paradan says I can go provided you
come with me. Pleeeeeeease?"

Sphinx indicated that she understood the request with a nod, and then
she reached up with her free hand to switch on her comm. She set it to
contact the Governer's secretary, which was almost as good as
contacting the Governor in terms of gathering information, but did not
come with the drawback of bringing Sphinx in direct contact with a
busy politician.

There had actually been an instant and positive connection between
Sphinx and Secretary Tular, which was notable as it rarely happened to
Sphinx. They had the same unhurried and relentlessly polite demeanor,
and had both heard of and enjoyed Milton. They communicated very
easily, in the way of people with similar moods and predilections.
They had, in fact, rather befuddled Osric on the first day when Sphinx
derived considerably more information about the situation in the room
they were about to enter from a brief hallway conversation with Tular
than was actually present in the words exchanged.

//Good morning, Secretary Tular,// Sphinx asked over the comm. //Did
Governor Brinx recently give Para permission to visit the market?//

//Good Morning Sphinx. She did, on the condition that you accompany her.//

Para Patan smiled victoriously.

//Thank you.//

Sphinx sorted through the files she had on the Kelto-Tan marketplace,
the thriving center of culture and commerce in Kelto's capital
city--or so the informational pamphlet said. More useful were the
maps, which Sphinx took a minute to review, eyes spinning as she
thought.

After those few minutes, she closed her book and set it aside.

"When do you wish to leave?"

"Right away! I'll just get my sandals!" Para was off like a shot,
her leathery feet pitter-pattering on the mosaic floors.

The market was a bit of a bodyguard's nightmare. The many stalls and
shops created a twisting warren of crowded alleyways. The Sameleon's
were a physical people and amongst their own kind had little care or
concern for what other races termed 'personal space.' It was entirely
common for a shopkeeper to try and get someones attention with a hand
on the shoulder or to try and guide them bodily towards their wares
with a palm on the small of the back.

For a bot of conventional skills, the market would be too daunting to
risk. Sphinx however, was anything but conventional and she was being
payed very well.

As she made preparations to leave, her comm channel came to life with
Osric's voice. "Sphinx, you and the child are leaving the compound?"

Sphinx, whose only preparation had been studying the market maps and
making a comm. call, was waiting at the entrance to the compound. She
was in beast mode, since it disturbed people less, was faster, and put
her just below eye level with most Sameleons.

"Yes," she told Osric.

"Understood. Be careful." There was a brief pause that Sphinx had
come to recognize as the moment it took Osric to move from 'business
talk' to his latest pass. " When you return and the clients have gone
to bed in the safe room you should come to my room. I obtained a
Centauri stimulation wand on my last job. It is entirely compatible
with our systems. I have become quite proficient using it on myself
and am eager to now try is accompanied. I can assure you that its
effects in a practiced hand are... breathtaking."

"I am not going to have sex with you Osric," Sphinx said in an
entirely factual tone. She didn't mean to offend him, she wasn't
irritated, this was simply true.

"Not today." He agreed brightly. "See you when you get back."

As Sphinx finished her call, Para was walking up with a satchel slung
over one shoulder. The doors to the compound swung open, and the
Sameleon and the Transformer started the long walk down the hill to
the market.

As soon as they were out of sight of the compound walls, Para fished a
small metal case out of her bag. The case produced a cigarette, which
she lit and puffed on with an air of abject relief. After a moment
she looked up guiltily at Sphinx and pulled out the cigarette case
again. "Um... can you... or... uh... do you... " She proffered the
cigarettes and rattled them meaningfully.

"No thank you," Sphinx said.

Sphinx flexed her wings. They were glittering industriously in the
sunlight, and the road behind her looked like the floor of church. She
was always very easy to locate in a well lit place. It acted as a good
warning system for scaring off those who knew of her, but made
escaping from conflicts inconvenient at best.

Of course, that's why she arranged help. But hopefully none of these
things would be considerations in this trip.

---

Soon enough the pair had reached the market. Para quickly darted
ahead, ducking, bobbing and weaving through the crowd, effortlessly
avoiding outstretched arms and firmly planted feet. It was a common
way of working through the marketplace and the Sameleons took no issue
at brushing up against each other or gently pushing or prodding at
each other. It gave the market streets the appearance of a tunnel
full of snakes all writing around and on top of each other.

Sphinx's status as an offworlder afforded her a meager foot of
personal space which let her cut through the crowd more easily. The
hakwers still tried valiantly to draw her attention to their many fine
wares. Other offworlders dotted the crowd, standing out as tiny
islands of space.

The Transformer was easily able to keep pace with her charge but was
perhaps surprised and unnerved by the multitude of hands she now saw
brushing and pawing at her. A hand that seemed to be trying to guide
her towards a stall could suddenly produce a knife...

Sphinx kept directly behind Para, wings raised. Having her wings up
provided the double purpose of preventing her from inadvertently
maiming any of the comparatively delicate natives and also left them
hanging as gorgeous, constant threats to anything that seemed
threatening to the adolescent hatchling. They were like mobile,
beautiful guillotines. But there was still only so much she could
anticipate.

//Tell me as soon as you sense something,// she said quietly into her comm.

//Just keep watching the crowd,// a voice crackled quietly into her
ear. //I need you to sweep more. I'm not getting a whole sense of the
area.//

//I cannot look further to the sides. I will lose sight of Para, and
she is prone to darting.//

//This is why monocular vision is better.//

//For being hunted, yes. This is why I rarely permit myself to be hunted.//

//Fair.//

Sphinx continued to follow Para. Examining the crowd as she went.

Nothing untoward happened as the pair made their way through the
market, Para stopped to purchase another pair of sandals and then
finally coordinated a meeting with a group of her friends. They'd
found an out of the way corner to huddle and talk and pass around
cigarettes without being shoulder to shoulder with other market-goers.

The other girls whispered and pointed at Sphinx and fidgeted
nervously. Para detached herself from the clutch and looked up at the
Transformer. "Um... Sphinx. Do you think you could give us a little
space?"

Sphinx examined the small group impassively. Assuming none of these
young girls were murderers in disguise, she vastly preferred this
situation to having Para wandering through the masses. That was
assuming something, of course.

She took a step back. She was no longer hanging over Para, wings
raised like an impromptu chandelier, but she was within easy
wings-length of the group. Given the market chatter, it was reasonable
to assume she couldn't clearly hear what was being said.

The girls quickly took advantage of their sudden privacy to lean in
and begin sharing the deep dark secrets of teenagers. One girl
remained fixated on Sphinx, staring at her with her crest nearly flat
against her head. She said something urgently to the others who
seemed unconcerned and coaxed her attention away from Sphinx.

Sphinx's position was nearly ideal, Para had her back against a wall
and was protected by her huddle of friends. Sphinx had command of the
entranceway to the alley and was able to keep half an eye on the busy
market besides.

Half an eye was not enough to mark the slight disturbance in the busy
ebb and flow of the market but to Emanon's keen and nervous senses it
stood out like a camera flash.

Across the street, down another alleyway, a shopkeeper yelped as he
was pushed bodily deeper into his shop. It was a small detail on the
edge of Sphinx's peripheral vision and the Sameleon's assailant was
hidden by the crowd, but as Emanon snapped to focus, he saw a gunmetal
grey calf step into the store and the trailing edge of a faded black
scarf.

//Threat in the market. Alleyway across. Transformer.//

//Unsubtle.//

//Killing people is subtle?//

//It can be. Do we need to leave?//

//Is violent crime unusual here?//

//No.//

//Then not yet. It's not directed at us and not really out of the
ordinary. I've got something to lookout for though.//

Sphinx transformed, but remained crouched. She continued to watch.

The girls suddenly lapsed into silence as the magical talking animal
that had been following Para suddenly unfolded into a creature that
looked a mite more threatening.

Sphinx waited and watched, she was able to identify the shop that
Emanon had noticed but saw nothing further out of the ordinary.

"Sphinx is... is everything alright?" Para's voice quavered.

"There was violence on the other side of the street." Sphinx's voice
could never rightly be called soothing, but it was very calm. "It is
likely that it is unrelated to us. I am taking a precaution."

One of the girls hissed "I told you!" clearly louder then she
intended. A hush like death fell over the group.

After a moment Para spoke up nervously. "I think I'd like to go home now."

Across the street no further signs of danger had materialized.

Sphinx nodded. She stepped forward and the mass of girls scattered
like leaves. She picked up Para, so quickly and smoothly it
interrupted whatever objections might be levied at this act, and took
off.

---

Sphinx and Para were clear of the market and once more climbing the
hill to the compound when Para asked the Transformer a question.

"Um. Sphinx. How did you get this job?"

Sphinx had transformed back into Beast Mode and was padding alongside
Para. Emanon was still looking and listening in, keeping an eye and
ear open for danger.

"Your mother contacted a mercenary agency and requested a qualified
Transformer. I was contacted because I have a great deal of experience
protecting organic lifeforms..."

//Which is kind of ironic.// Emanon put in, imperceptibly to anyone but Sphinx.

"...and my reputation is suitably terrifying that most assassins will
refuse contracts on you, and to a lesser extent your mother, simply
because they know I am involved in protecting you."

They were nearly at the gates now. "Why is your reputation
terrifying?" Para looked up nervously at the bot.

"I imagine whatever your friend told you is more or less accurate."

"She had a... a sending... a... feeling? She said you'd put a shadow
over our house. That means bad things are going to happen... " Para
peered at Sphinx trying to see if she understood. She looked faintly
embarrassed. "It's a... thing." She added lamely.

Sphinx frowned.

"Precognition? How accurate an oracle is your friend?"

"I dunno." Para shuffled her feet. "She's a candidate but she
doesn't get the drugs yet. She was right about Barana's house burning
down... and she knew that Kala took the Offworlder's rings. She's
been wrong too though"

Sphinx was thoughtfully silent as they passed through the gates.

"I have been involved in prophesy before this," she told Para. "I have
a poor understanding of it. I do not wish to endanger your household
with my presence. That would be counter productive. But I do not wish
to create an imperfection in security by leaving unnecessarily and
forcing your mother to find a replacement. What would you recommend I
do?"

"Wha... what?! You're asking ME?!" Para squawked her crest
flattening out. "Uh... look... usually we just ignore Iska. She
doesn't get the drugs so she can't get really really accurate... I
mean... she's still wrong a lot of the time." Para looked around
nervously. "Look um... I think that if something bad is going to
happen... I'd... I'd rather have you here."

Sphinx's comm warbled to life with Osric's voice. "Back so soon?"

Sphinx turned off her comm.

"You know Iska, and are far more familiar with this practice of
predicting the future than I am. You are also prudent, and invested in
this situation," Sphinx said by way of explanation, since Para seemed
so startled. Then she considered for a moment more and nodded. "I
think I would rather be here as well. I would dislike leaving other
people to deal with whatever hypothetical shadows I am apparently
bringing."


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 Post subject: Re: Tangled Webs
PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:03 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:12 pm
Posts: 24
It was night, and Sphinx was on patrol. She was padding along the various hallways and covered balconies surrounding the safe room where Para and her mother slept. Osric was standing direct guard at the moment, and Sphinx was orbiting him, covering more ground so that one of them could arrive swiftly and intercept any perceived threats.

Nighttime in the Kelto Province was cool and quiet. Sphinx appreciated the peace most of the time, but now and then found it lonely. Emanon had finally run out of paranoid protective energy and was asleep somewhere else in the universe--through the port she used to communicate with him was still active. She would see Osric again inside of the next hour. She found herself looking forward to that. She didn't like solitary reflection time as much as she used to.

She turned and moved out onto a balcony. She leapt onto the top of a pillar, the upper end of one of the supports holding up the balcony, and examined the view for a moment, crystal eyes scanning up and down the wall for movement. Seeing nothing, she leaped back down and continued along the balcony.

A strange burst of static, barely there more then a second long warbled through the channel for the compound's private security.

Osric was on the comm almost immediately. "Sphinx, did you hear that?"

Without waiting for a reply, Osric's switched over to the Sameleon's channel. "This is Metal 1, all stations report in."

"Claw 1 reporting in."
"Claw 2 situation normal."
"Claw 3 situation normal."
"Claw 4 all clear."
" ... ... ... ... ... ... "
"Claw 6 reporting in."

The household security continued to rattle off their confirmations.

Sphinx leaped back onto the pillar and launched herself into the air. Banking and soaring to another balcony, flapping her wings but mostly using the momentum of her leap, and transforming as she touched down.

"I did." she answered Osric as the sound-off ended. "I am near Claw 5 and I am going to check on her."

Sphinx kept moving as she spoke--in through an open doorway, down a hall, and out onto the other side of the thin building. Out onto the balcony where, in all likeliness, a guard had just dozed off and dropped her comm.

The balcony was a small stone terrace on the ground floor of the compound. It overlooked the very steep hill on the west of the compound.

There was no sign of Claw 5.

//She's gone,// Sphinx sent over the comm, in text format now. She didn't want to speak out loud anymore. Then she turned to attend to the scene. Osric would decide what sort of security jargon this situation called for.

Sphinx scanned the area for any trace of movement. Then she collapsed back into Beast Mode, stepped to the still lit patch where the sentry once stood, and tried to pick up a scent.

//All stations go to condition 2// Osric's orders blinked along the bottom of her view. //Sphinx, any clues what happened to her?//

She HAD been here. Her smell was all over the balcony, but now it was gone, a wind off the ocean slowly blowing it thinner and thinner. Sphinx paced back and forth, trying to figure what had happened to the wayward Sameleon.

There. She caught a scent on the balustrade. It was more recent then the others and more strong. She must have been sitting on it or leaning on it or... sprawled over it.

Sphinx's looked carefully over the lip of the banister, cycling to a vision mode that would give her a more detailed view off the ground. About halfway down the hillside the ground had been disturbed. Something big had slid down into the scrub bushes below.

Something in the bushes reflected the moonlight.

//Yes. A moment.//

Sphinx jumped off the balcony, just fell for most of the way, and flared her wings at the end. She watched the glinting as she descended and investigated it on landing.

Pushing aside the scrub brush she found Claw 5. She was badly bruised and on the cold ground had quickly succumbed to unconsciousness from her injuries. Examining her more closely there did not appear to be any other signs of damage.

//She was attacked. She's unconscious. Something is inside.//

Sphinx started flying back up to the balcony. It was a much longer process, though she moved as quickly as she could. She was going straight up, and gravity was not so okay with that. By the time she made the ledge her wings were sore.

She transformed back into robot mode, and, well, didn't run, but entered speed-glide. She was headed back in the direction of the safe room, but that wasn't exactly her destination. She was very familiar with the layout of the house and there were a few hallways you had to pass through to get to the safe room. If she was lucky, whatever had just broken in wasn't familiar with the household, and she might be able to intercept it on the way. At least, if it was heading toward the safe room.

And if it was heading anywhere else, she really didn't care about it.

Osric's reply was instant. //All Stations Condition 3!//

As she tore through the hallways Sphinx flew past startled looking Samoleon's but she made it to the entrance way to the safe room unopposed.

Osric was already on his feet, preparing the large slug throwing rifle that was his preferred weapon.

//Metal 2 has the ball. I'm going on sweep.//

He turned and tapped the status display on the safe room and addressed Sphinx directly. //No one has come by and I've still got two green lights. You can check on them if you like but I wouldn't open that door without a damn good reason.//

The door to the safe room was the only way in or out. The hallway leading to it was well lit and Sphinx was now sharing guard duty with two Sameleon guards. Anyone trying to get in was going to have got get past Sphinx.

That was, assuming they weren't being attacked by ghosts, magicians, Ifrit, or some other inconvenience of reality that science had yet to take into account. Sphinx sheathed one of her swords to punch the communication password into the hardwired comm unit by the door, sending a much gentler alarm trill to the inhabitants of the safe room.

"Governer Brinx?"

//What's going on?//

"There is an intruder in the compound. I need you to give me verbal confirmation that you are safe every three minutes. And to tell me if you see or hear anything strange."

//Understood. Para also knows both the safe and distress code words. Brinx out.//

Sphinx waited, scanning the steady stream of data that was coming in. Both Brinx and the guards were checking in every three minutes. Osric was silent but his vitals were displayed on her screen and indicated he was still conscious and moving. The security console in front of the safe room showed no motion sensors had been tripped and the cameras only showed the guards nervously moving about, the sudden tension erasing the threat of torpor.

Suddenly a voice hissed nevrously over the comm.

"This is Claw 2, I've got movement in Quad 1, Section 1. I need orders. Repeat I need..."

"Relax Claw 2, this is Metal 1. I see him. Alright everyone we've got someone in a blur harness... I'm guessing it's a Cybertronian. Not picking up any energy weapons. Claw's 8 through 12, I want you to move in on Section 1 and... " Osric abruptly lapsed into silence. "Belay that. I want everyone out of Quad 1 now. Right now. Claw 2 that means... damnit. Claw 2 is down! I'm going silent."

Osric's voice cut out and almost immediatly a line of text flashed on Sphinx's screen.

//Sphinx, you are to guard the safe room and under NO condition move from where you are. Understood?//

//Yes.//

Tha was odd of Osric. Sphinx couldn't imagine any situation where she would willingly leave her post. The only person on this planet she could be compelled to rush out and rescue was Para, and that was by definition unnecessary.

Sphinx had knelt and crossed her swords in front of her in a rather deceptively restful position. She rested, focused, and enjoyed the excitement.


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 Post subject: Re: Tangled Webs
PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:14 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:12 pm
Posts: 24
The excitement consisted mostly of waiting. The various Sameleon's continued to check in and Osric remained silent, now on the hunt.

The tense waiting was broken when a pair of guards dragged a third groaning Sameleon up to the security desk, leaving a trail of black Sameleon ichor on the ground. Sphinx recognized the wounded guard as Claw 2.

One of the standing guards retrieved the medical kit from behind the security desk and started tending to his wounds.

"He stabbed me... with a sword... can you believe that?" Claw 2 complained, What kind of science fictiony transforming space robot fights with a sword instead of a gun?"

The man tending him blanched and cleared his throat, looking meaningfully at the weapons in front of Sphinx. Claw 2's crest flattened. "Sorry M'am."

From elsewhere in the compound, the sharp report of Osric's rifle rang out.

Sphinx was staring at the wounded Sameleon with a strange, closed expression. It looked like...maybe she was offended? The guard started to apologize again, but choked on the words when Sphinx stood and was beside him in one smooth, whip-quick motion.

"Move," she instructed the attending guard, and leaned down to examine the prone Sameleon's wounds. Slash mark. Long blade. Slanted point. Non-fatal wounds. She'd taught him how to do that. She tapped her comm and sent Osric a waiting-message, the kind programmed to only appear when he wasn't engaging in active combat. Getting pop-ups while trying to aim was just...bad.

//Osric, I have identified our intruder. I am going to alter our defeses accordingly. He is strictly close combat and poorly armored to deal with magnitized bullets. You may also consider a spray weapon, when away from the natives.//

She flipped her comm to a different channel.

//Claw 3, 6, and 8. I need you all to move up to the rooves of your buildings and re-align the spotlights to trace outlines of the courtyards and cover the other rooftops. Claw 1, 2 and 9, move into fast patrols in pairs. Claw 4, go to the armory and reequip yourselves with TEL Flashlights, light grenades, and...//

Sphinx struggled for a moment to remember the name of the weapon she had been shown on her first day there. Some sort of native, ritual weapon that had been adjusted with modern tehcnology. It was no use. There were too many hyphens.

//...the blue things. With the sticks. Coordinate with the other Claws and distribute. The intruder is using non-lethal force. If you see anything moving that isn't glowing, tag it.//

She flipped her comm again.

//Tular, wake up. Does the household have a backup generator?//

//No.//

//Our power is probably going to go out very soon. I need the lights not to go out.//

There was no response. Sphinx took that as a good sign of busywork, and not an indication that Relic had actually come to take out the Governer's secretary.

Around her the lizard-like Sameleon's sprang into action, pairing off, hurrying to the roofs and re-equipping themselves. Spotlights turned on and swung around illuminating the area she indicated.

An urgent message from Osric flashed at the bottom of her screen.

//Are you and me going to have a problem when I take him down?//

//You are aware of my contract.//

After the incident with the knife-point psudo-hostage situation, Sphinx had made the terms of said contract explicitly clear to Osric. Anyone she was personally responsible for apprehending was hers. If Osric "took someone down", she had a long history of not interfering.

//Why are you concerned?//

//Because I don't want to have to shoot you to take him back to the boss and collect the bounty. I'm glad we have an understanding. Stay where you are.//

Another gunshot echoed over the palace.

Sphinx dropped the comm with Osric. She crouched back into her resting-but-deadly pose, but her eyes were spinning like little tops inside of her head. The other guards watched her curiously as she ended her conversation with Osric, but quickly went back to monitoring the hallway.

//Sphinx.//

Sphinx touched her neck. //Yes Tular.//

//Our power strip was set to deactivate. I have stopped it.//

//Mmm.//

There was a pause.

//Something is wrong,// said Tular.

Sphinx's ears went suddenly up and alert. //Is there a problem with the lights?//

//The power is fine. I meant with you. You think that something is wrong.//

//Ah. Yes.//

//Is the Governer safe?//

//Yes.//

There was another pause. Another shot rang out. Tular made a quiet, thoughtful noise. A sort of "Mmm," only softer and drier because it was a tiny reptile producing the sound instead of a giant, techno-organic mammal. And then Sphinx realized that no one had ever understood her so entirely, not Emanon, not Emerald, and certainly not Relic, as Tular did right now.

Tular cleared her throat. It was a small mannerism of hers. Not exactly a cough, a sort of minuscule "ahem" she made sometimes when she was preparing to speak. Sphinx had accurately identified it on her first meeting with Tular as the herald of some outrageous line of sarcasm, or an outright lie.

//I am not entierly sure I have successfully blocked the deactivation.//

//Ah?//

//I would speak to you further, but I must go check on it.//

//Thank you.//

Tular dropped the connection. Five seconds later, the lights went out.

Relic thrived in the shadows. While the guards were now armed with flashlights, kwanda rods, and light grenades the assassin must have expected at least some of that if he'd planned to spend any length of time inside the compound. Relic might be fragile, but for him the darkness would be as good as the thickest armor.

Sphinx had done all she could for him. If he tried to get to the clients he would be in for a fight but the Fuzor couldn't really believe that they were his target. He knew that she was at least a match for him but then there was Osric as well. On top of that the safe room was all but impregnable. The assassin could never hope to make it through them and the doors alone. He'd need help and probably explosives. Neither of those were Relic's style. If Sphinx knew one thing about Relic it was the he worked quickly, quietly and alone.

The Fuzor had just turned to rally the startled guards when an impressive explosion lit up the night sky.

//Oh my god. They've destroyed the main gate. There's two... no three squads storming in! Metal 1 I need orders. Metal 1 I need... // The transmission cut off in a burst of static.

Hover skiffs buzzed overhead, shining spotlights down into the many open courtyards of the governor's compound. An amplified voice blarred from the circling craft.

[[This is Commander Panaka of the People's Liberation Army, this is a legal and costitutional act of revolution. Lay down your weapons and surrender and you will not be harmed. Resist and we will not hesitate to use deadly force!]]

From elsewhere in the compound gunfire errupted. The three Sameleon guards standing with Sphinx looked at each other anxiously. Two of them abruptly dropped their weapons and fled into the darkness. The third swore and drew his.

"You traitors!" He fired blindly down the dark hallway they had run.

"Hmm," said Sphinx, watching the guards run down the darkened hallways.

She turned and pressed the comm button to communicate with the inside of the safe room.

//Governor Brinx, there seems to the a coup at the door.//

There was a heavy pause. //Well... then I expect you to do what you've been hired to do and protect my daughter.//

The Governor sounded unsurprised, even resigned. Clearly she had information that she had not deigned to share.

The patter of leathery feet signaled the appearance of a pair of heavily armed and armored Sameleon's from around the corner. Head mounted flashlights glared at the Governor's two remaining protectors. "Oh shards. Get Metal Team 1 up here we've got one of the Transformers. Drop your weapons and you will not be..."

The guard with Sphinx didn't give his foe a chance to finish. Three shots from his side arm panged harmlessly off the rebel's armor.

The two rebels did not hesitate to reply in kind. The heavy machine rifles they were carrying roared and a storm of metal slugs riddled the guard's body with bullets. He was thrown back off of his feet and into the wall. After one burst the rebel's guns fell silent and the guard fell to the floor, leaving a black smear of ichor on the wall behind him.

The rebels then turned their weapons on Sphinx. "Drop your weapons and you will not be harmed." The one who spoke sounded distinctly less sure of himself. Sphinx's frame afforded her at least as much protection as his armor did him.


Sphinx noted the other guard's death, but did not stop speaking on the comm.

"If you think that they will kill her, open the door and I will attempt to remove her from this place," she told Brinx. "Otherwise, we should surrender. I cannot defend this door against an army."


"Drop your weapons and you will not be harmed."

"One moment please."

Sphinx stepped away from the comm. She knelt and put her swords on the ground. She watched the guard until his crest arced slightly, relaxing. She shifted her feet and launched herself at him.

It took the guards precious seconds to go from their relief at her compliance to responding to her attack. Her wings flipped up in front of her as one of the weapons barked bullets toward her and she barreled wings first into the firing rebel. His armor protected him for the most part against her lacerating feathers, but she flexed her wing as she hit him and send him flying to the side, into the wall. He slumped to the ground. These were delicate creatures, by Sphinx's measures.

His companion had recovered by now and took advantage of the gap in her defenses that opened up when she attacked with her wings. Sphinx took a couple of slugs to her chest and shoulder before swatting his rifle out of his hand. Then she simply picked him up, clamped his arms behind his back with one of her hands, and carried him back to the doorway. She returned to the comm.

"I have dealt with two of the rebels. This may impact my ability to surrender. Have you made a decision?"

There was a strained silence, the sound of pounding feet came from further down the hallway. No doubt it was the ominous sounding 'Metal Team.'

//We're coming out. Get her to her fathers. They're on the Verdis Colony.// The door unlocked noisily and whoosed open. Brinx emerged with a pistol at the ready, her daughter cowering behind her. "You'll have to get to the spaceport."

As soon as Brinx said she was coming out, Sphinx started disabling the other guard. She unfastened his helmet, slipped a long, thin dagger into her hand, and slid it carefully into the back of his neck. He was conveniently rigid with fear, so triggering the point that made him go limp and unconscious was fairly easy. She was depositing him on the floor as Brinx emerged.

"I presume they will expect that. Beast mode."

Brinx nodded shortly. Sphinx moved quickly to Para.

"Climb on my back. Now."

Para obeyed with trembling, mechanical movements. She fit actually quite perfectly in the nook behind Sphinx's head and in front of her wings. And she knew how to get there without cutting herself. They had previously gone over the fact that this might have to happen.

As Para climbed on, Sphinx sent a comm. message to Tular. Without waiting for a response, she sent a coded signal through the port she had still open inside of her neural net. A passcode that made an alarm go off somewhere else in the universe.

//Rats shouldn't sleep.//

Emanon was with her almost instantly. She couldn't tell from his voice whether he had actually been asleep. He went from unconcious to alert so quickly.

//What's up?//

//The compound has been taken by rebels and I need to get Para to the spaceport.//

There was a pause of a few nanoseconds, which is a long time over this kind of communication.

//Taken by rebels?//

//Indeed.//

//I was gone for like, two hours.//

//I get into such trouble when you are not with me.//

//No kidding. Well, at least this is just simple, dudes with gun trouble. Not idiots with swords trouble.//

//Mmm.//

"Hold on very tightly," Sphinx told Para.

"Ka."

Sphinx launched herself down the hall. There were no side passages, so she had no choice but to head directly toward whatever Transformer the rebels had hired to deal with her.

She kind of hoped they had hired two, and that the first one was still busy being chased by Osric. She also kind of hoped that wasn't the case. She forced herself to focus on the crisis at hand.


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 Post subject: Re: Tangled Webs
PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2009 2:15 pm 

Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 4:12 pm
Posts: 24
Sphinx flared her wings to slow her descent and deposited Tular on the hillock as gently as she could. She circled once more and landed gracefully. Prama elected not to dismount. She wasn't exactly clinging to Sphinx's neck anymore, but she had a very firm grip.

Sphinx and Tular looked back towards the spaceport. It was still burning. They could see tiny black dots swarming around it. They were probably emergency response ships. Or armed troops combing the wreckage for signs of Prama's corpse. Or both.

"Is there another method by which we may deliver Prama to her fathers?" Sphinx asked.

"Yes," said Tular, crossing her arms and examining the distant chaos with an expression that could really only be described as perturbed. "But by the time we access it they will be waiting for us at the Verdis Colony."

"This seems excessive."

"We are only two generations out of a monarchy. And Prama was bred to be a leader. She will eventually be a powerful contender for governorship, and is unlikely to be sympathetic to the issues of the current administration."

Sphinx nodded. "Do we have other options?"

"There are islands controlled by Brinx's political allies."

"Mmm," Sphinx said. She had limited experience with having political allies, but as she understood it, they generally weren't useful in a crisis. "I assume our antagonists are aware of all of them."

"Most likely. The question would be whether Prama herself would be more valuable than good relations with the current administration of the Kelto Province."

They stood and watched the spaceport burn for a few minutes. Sphinx tucked her wings back so that they didn't reflect the moonlight and reveal their location.

"However," continued Tular. "I expect that, inside of a week, there will be no island on this planet where she will be both free and safe."

"There is more than this planet," said Sphinx.

Tular nodded slowly.

"What would you prefer to do, Prama?" Sphinx asked, turning her head slightly.

"Survive," said Prama.

Sphinx paused for a moment, eyes whirling in thought.

"That is a legitimate request," she said.

Sphinx and Tular glanced at each other, something passed between them: an unspoken agreement on the most sensible course of action.

"A companion of mine owns a ship," said Sphinx. "He does not keep it at the spaceport. I have a key to it."

Tular tilted her head and looked directly at Sphinx, as she did when she had not understood the entirety of the subtext behind the Transformer's words and tone of voice.

"There is more to that than trust," she said.

"I believe the implication was that I should feel free to come in and have sex with him at any time."

"Ah."

"We can take it to the colony on Freyon. You can leave me there and continue on."

Prama's grip around Sphinx's neck tightened.

"You will not be accompanying us further?" asked Tular, voicing Prama's concern in a far more composed, though still slightly troubled voice.

"Technically, my contract expired when the sponsoring government ceased to exist," said Sphinx, flexing her neck slightly so that Prama was not making her jewelry dig in unfomfortably. "More relevantly, I am very noticeable and recognizable. I would be a liability to you in any attempt to hide."

Tular looked pensive for a moment, then reached into the sling-bag she was carrying. Sphinx watched with interest. During the last hour, the tiny secretary had produced a steady stream of miracles from her Samolean equivalent of a purse, ranging from passports, to clearance cards, to grenades. Now, she produced what appeared to be a light, hastily folded harness. Three strips of shimmering fabric all centering on a small neural net interface. Sphinx recognized it as a very advanced piece of stealth technology, called a blur harness. She frowned.

"Where did you get that?"

"The gentleman with the cloak. After he told me where you were."

"You neglected to mention that part of the exchange."

"I had intended to, but the roof exploded."

"Mmm. Prama, get off for a moment."

Prama clambered off, watching Sphinx nervously, a little possessively. Sphinx transformed, sending flickers of reflected moonlight dancing over the ground around them. She took the harness, slid the straps around her arms and back, and pressed the device's interface into the port at her clavical. She faded from view. Ripples in the air gave faint signs of her passage, but they were almost imperceptable in the dark. Sphinx pressed it again and was visible again.

"There is a Maximal station six quadrents distant from here," said Sphinx. "I know an engineer who can improve this to the extent that it will allow me to move undetected in most situations."

"You're coming then?" Prama said anxiously.

"Yes. You do not want to die."

She paused and her eyes whirled slowly. Tular and Prama didn't say anything. Even Prama had the sense that something important was happening, that there was some esoteric significance to what Sphinx was saying. It is possible that Tular understood more than that, but hard to say how much. Sphinx wasn't looking at either of them, but staring off at the distant, smoldering remains of the spaceport.

"That is a choice," she said, nodding as if she had just understood something. "You have the right to make that choice."

She paused again.

"I will need to send in a report to my contractor."

And the moment was over.

---------------------------

To: Message Port 42001234/Mousetrap
From: SOURCE BLOCKED

I have fulfilled the terms of my employment. In their execution, I requisitioned a number of Osric's possessions. Please reimburse him out of my pay and hold the rest.

I have involved myself in an independently aquired long term contract and will not be avalible for the foreseeable future.

Respectfully,
Sphinx


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