5621/Dead Man's Panopticon

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Dead Man's Panopticon
Date of Scene: 02 January 2018
Location: Contaminated Flatlands
Synopsis: Pending. Submitting logs because nobody has been.
Cast of Characters: 1124, 1132, All-Seeing Eye, Starbound Flotilla, Sir Gawain, 1129, Staren

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Thorns is a strange place, even at first glance. It could practically not be a further cry from the ancient frescoes of Whitewall, the queer mountain halls of Gethamane, the ancient overgrown grandeur of Denandsor, or any other place. That said, strange places are sort of the bread and butter of Creation. There would be no reason for an Elite to visit an unimportant village, and so it is probably inevitable that each new destination in turn will have something unique and probably difficult in wait for them.

    As far as status goes, Multiversals have already run the mill of the great majority of nation-states with significant access to the legacy of the First Age. Thorns is at least better representative of Creation's state as a whole. Though it was apparently once a wealthy, artisan-governed city, with lovely housing, landscaping, and civil engineering, it is quite firmly rooted in the age of flagstone roads, timber and plaster walls, and banners in place of signage. The city is surrounded by an extremely square and unremarkable wall, only nominally there for defense, as it doesn't seem like the city was ever heavily militarized; at least, until it fell.

    Even arriving through relatively near Warpgate, very close to the inland sea to the west that Thorns' docks brushes up against, anyone can see that the land here is /different/, for hundreds of miles all around. The sun's light is weak and faded for no good reason, and the sky seems to almost flicker uneasy shades of grey and pale blue, as if it can't make up its mind what time of day it is. The soil underfoot is stale and dusty, kicking up like clouds of chalk, and the grass is sparse and cracked. Few trees bear any significant foliage, and plants are stunted and gnarled. No animals can be seen or heard save those that feed on corpses, like the rats and crows, and the air is stagnant and oddly chilling in a way that even the non-magically inclined can feel.

    To a couple who had briefly been to the Underworld before, it should be somewhat familiar. It's a frayed sort of uneasy twilight state between that and Creation, without the life of the latter of the strange, dead etherealness of the former. It's a sad, quiet, desolate kind of place, where even the sea is black, glassy, and near-silent, save for the creak of moored ships and the shuffle of dead footsteps.

    Thick black smoke belches high over the city walls, from the northwest quarter of the city, clearly industrial in nature. The opposite southeast appears to be residential in nature, but appears to be by far the poorest and most decrepit district, where the buzz of flies and the creak of rotting timbers is audible even just meandering outside the walls. The northeast and southwest between the two extremes are better off, being mercantile and bureaucratic quarters respectively, though the center of the city is clearly where the true wealth and power is, judging by the veritable palace of black marble and glass that rises over the rest of the city. It looks as if it may have once fit in with the quasi-rustic facade, but now gleams with a heavily remodeled, sterile kind of austerity.

    There are actually any number of approaches here. There are gates in all four cardinal directions with nothing close to the fortifications or tough guards of previous places, clearly allowing traffic in as any city would. The walls themselves are also scarcely defended from sneaks, and the docks are so busy that someone could get lost in them instantly. A number of storm drains seem to lead from the coast into the city's shallowest waterworks, though they somehow seem like they could be more dangerous than just waltzing right in. There are certainly sounds of ordinary day-to-day activity from inside, however strained and tense they are. It's a distinctly uneasy kind of air, with the feeling of a colossal, horrible elephant in the room, beneath the thin coat of paint of a working social order.

    This is a place that is easier for a belligerent to enter than it is a citizen to leave.

Kyoko Takada (1132) has posed:
    Having been contracted for appropriate remuneration, Alpha-39 arrives. She's equipped "lightly" again, which means a minimum of explosives, long-range reconnaissance gear, and literally-long guns. The minimum is rarely zero, but people wear cloaks when it's cold in some parts of some worlds, and things that keep cold rain or snow off also tend to be good for hiding what you're carrying. She will still, to many eyes, likely look suspicious. This suspicion is predicated on being spotted. She will attempt to avoid that.
    She walks along the wall, mentally marking weaknesses, and then makes her way over and in, picking a spot that pushes as close as possible to as tall a building as possible to partially hide the motion. Alternate entrances occurred to her, but underground pipes are great places to lay traps, which she'll have an easier time noticing if she looks for those from inside.
    Presently, she gets to work on that, trying to match up possible entrance points she noticed from outside to where they end up inside, working out a mental map for both infil and exfiltration, all while avoiding notice as much as possible. She can do a pretty good "crumpled beggar" impression.

All-Seeing Eye has posed:
It is a cold wind that blows across the soft features of All-Seeing Eye's face. He's prepared for it, meeting the weather with an insulated black trench coat and a grey turtleneck tucked into form-fitting slacks, with matching gloves and an ushanka atop his head. The cut of the clothes and their utilitarian nature suggests it's government-issued, as do the noticeably bare spots on the shoulders and the front of the ushanka where emblems or patches might be applied. Completing the ensemble is his expression: uncharacteristically grave.

     His lips are settled into a frown as cold as the air around him, his golden eyes sharp as the spindly branches of barren trees that jut accusingly into the air. There are many things to learn here, two of which are vital to the continued survival of his nation. But more than that, the very existence of this place is an insult. It is an insult to life, to Essence, and, most heretically of all, to the integrity of Autochthon's design. The longer this insult is allowed to stand, the more people will begin to accept it. And that, in itself, is unacceptable.

     He vaults over the wall with a dispassionate frown, turning in midair to land quietly upon his feet. Standing up straight, the exalt snaps the lapels of his trenchcoat. These government winter clothes are utilitarian--but one can make even standard issue clothing look good, with effort. Eye pulls the collar upwards to conceal his neck and the sides of his face. There's no time to rendezvous with the others. This is an intelligence mission, after all, not a social calling.

     The Exalt walks briskly into a spot between two buildings, peering out from the shadow of the awning. Into his hand crawls the Mobile Sensory Drone, standing alert on articulated tendrils. From the shadows, he waits for a guard to appear, holding the drone in his hand. As soon as he sees what appears to be an officer of the Underworld's law, he'll wait for them to pass, step out from the shadows, and follow them, before attempting to get their attention.

     "Excuse me!~ I need some help, if you don't mind..." His voice is vibrant, full of music--utterly unlike the average citizen.

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
"This is a blight of unspeakable magnitude and unforgivable intensity."
"Floran agree with fishface for once. Sssun... Not helping Floran."
"Worried. The place feels like a corpse of a land..."
"Aye, ought to be fitting for our work then."
"We scouting on the subtle then?"
"Mh. But not respectfully. I don't care, as long as they're not tipped off."

    The Starbound Flotilla look like a bunch of real weirdos. Humans are only the majority here, thankfully not the only thing, and so a weird monkey man, or some kind of fish person, are things that won't stand out too badly. Albert's the one leading the way today; they've bribed their way into port, and swapped out their usual outfits for something a little more ragged, but not /too/ ragged; Moonfin's managed to tailor a set of eastern-ish outfits and then sort of smash them in a garbage can several times until they look just good enough that they'll fit in with the veneer of functional positivity. Seft will just have to settle for looking like a weirdo who wears a knightly helmet often.

    Albert pushes through the streets towards the industrial sectors. "Science. Best tool for oppressors like this." Albert says. "Get an advantage in knowledge, gives you an advantage in resources. Advantage in resources gives you power over the people." He's heading towards industrial areas, from the look of it, hoping to locate structures that seem large and extremely active, without too heavy a guard. "Get it any way you can. Citizen experimentation. Theft. Doesn't matter. If this city's unique, it has a local edge. Home grown." He's clutching his Matter Manipulator, stocked quite full of some far more subversive gear than he's used to carrying. "Locate the industry, you'll find the products of the science. Find where that's done, you'll find the knowledge. Trace it. Find the source."

    "Burn it out."

    The six subverters have split up. They're not moving as a group; Albert has demanded they avoid arousing suspicion by looking like they know each other, so they coordinate an approach to the industrial area that's split up, taking multiple routes, with a singular purpose, hopefully well able to converge opnce they find a valid target for Albert's plan.

Sir Gawain has posed:
Sir Gawain is wearing a suit. It's a nice suit, black with a gold tie, and probably doesn't fit at all. The Knight of the Sun is approaching from the westgate, trying to move straight into the city as if he has business to be there. Gawain's first thing to do would be to ask someone who looks local for directions, 'trying to find someone who would be able to answer questions in Thorns, can you direct me to them?'. His voice is gentle, and a knightly nature just feels as part of his speech and nature, as he smiles softly. He's going to find out things his way - and that means no deception.

Miari (1129) has posed:
Miari's not the stealthiest person in the world. And she's somewhat terrified of going anywhere NEAR a Shadowland ruled outright by a Deathlord. There might be Abyssals about in the populace doing his bidding and she'd never spot them!

    Which is why she's decided to come with a very, VERY good cover. Miari strolls into town in a large wooden cart pulled by a team of INCREDIBLY nervous horses. They don't like being in the Shadowland and would leave if they could, but they're all strapped up and being managed by an equally-nervous driver who has to periodically coax them with nibbles of food and the sort.

    There's nothing terribly special about the wagon, but the smell of strange herbs and brews does waft from it down the streets, and it bears a number of symbols in multiple languages advertising its medical purpose. Old Realm glyphs spelling out ancient formal prayers to various gods of disease, recovery, and prosperity rotate on prayer wheels mounted to the sides.

    And it's headed straight for wherever the locals handling intake would direct a merchant peddling medicines and treatments for common ails would go.

    Miari's seated up with the driver, looking about on the streets with growing concern.

    "The disease here must be something fierce," She mumbles to nobody. Her driver just shivers with a new case of the nerves at this, and so she quickly adds, "You have nothing to worry about with me around!"

Staren has posed:
    Staren rides along in the wagon. He's dressed in Creation-style clothes -- coat, tunic, trousers, boots -- to blend in. Presumably feline features aren't THAT weird. If they really are, he'll just use his human form instead. "Where did you find this guy, anyway?" he asks, regarding the driver.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Oddly, for being talked up a nexus of evil and doom, the guards on duty seem to be almost entirely for show. Uniformly, they are mortal men (and some women) with completely non-magical, albeit well-forged, arms and armour. The style of their gear isn't what you'd expect to find the Hell Guards of Baby Eater Fortress wearing, but it's only a few notches away, and none of them look proud to be wearing the black livery. In fact, they all look like they'd rather not be at their posts at all. They're there because it's normal. Cities have guards. Guards man walls and gates. They are probably functionally useless though. Why? Most probably because nobody would be suicidal enough to seriously attack Thorns in the first place. Gate guards aren't the real discouragement here.

    So, Kyoko has an easy time scaling the wall. It was once finely crafted, but the banners have been stripped down, the arches and walkways are in disrepair, and the mortar is chipped and fading now, making for plenty of footholds. The guards are spaced out and inattentive, making it easy to slip past. Descending is even easier, almost unnervingly so. From a high vantage, she gets a decent visual layout of the city, organized quite literally into four neat quarters, split by the cardinal main roads. At this height, she can see not only the main keep of black marble, but two other buildings of note: what appears to be an almost post-modern amphitheater that is clearly recent construction, and at the far end, an equally new prison. Entries to the waterways are frequent, mostly in the form of relatively modern(ish) grates and covers, with a rudimentary sewer system and industrial drainage. The place is rustic, but was not uncivilized.

    Eye has about as trivial of a time as getting over the wall, and swiftly finds a pair of guards patrolling the street (none of them seem to go alone). They both look as listless and tired as those outside, though slightly less resentful of being posted, for being able to at least move. They look pretty much identical with how little of their faces are exposed by honest to god mook helmets (it's almost like the designer was trying), so it's hard to tell who answers him with: "What is it? I'm a guard, not a tour guide, so it better not be directions."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    The docks are a bit stranger. Arriving there is fairly easy as well, but it's done amongst a mishmash of poor workers and affluent tradesmen, both quiet and hurried in vague unease or even shame about being here. The latter seem to be treated quite favourably and politely by professional bureaucrats at the water's edge, which helps take the urgency off the fact that the planks are swarming with the walking dead, blue and ashen faced, hauling backbreaking loads of cargo without a sound of complaint, and directed by men who barely look any more alive. Everyone here has their own reasons to make berth, part of no organize trade effort or established route at all. With the Flotilla, and especially Gawain, going through any checkpoints, they actually receive very attentive and pleasant treatment, blatantly able to get away with fake names if they so choose.

    The industrial northwest corner appears to be part manufacturing and part sale, with almost all the goods from the docks being funneled straight to it. There are actually a number of rather /pretty/ shops, with well-stocked fronts and pleasant greeters, but in a decided forced, North Korea-ish way; stilted like a dollhouse, and almost certainly out of the price range of actual citizens. The factories themselves are clearly built up over the past few years, having their original facades overrun with black iron smokestacks and gears, and bridged with cobwebs of pipes and scaffolding.

    It isn't immediately clear what goes on here, but cursory inspection indicates that almost all of it is currently being used as various foundries for war efforts. Even here, the dead toil away in great numbers, hauling ingots and tools, casting molten metal in conditions that would be flagrantly unsafe for human workers, and doing menial work such as forge fueling. Arms and armour are being produced by the truckload, as well as components for siege engines, but they're very ordinary. It's certain sections of the quarter, where more exotic cargo is handed off, where the real action appears to be at, where very specific artisans with more developed workshops appear to be importing great stores of some charcoal black ore and large stockpiles of . . . bone?

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Miari is pretty much immediately directed to the same district for the purposes of selling medicine. She is subject to no search, and almost no checks whatsoever, with barely so much as a temporary staying fee, as they appear to clearly be eager for her business. Even the barest examination of the living who walk the streets indicates they could surely use the medicine, as pale and hollow-cheeked as they are, blatantly malnourished to varying degrees and some showing early signs of illness, but none cast her so much as a glance. It's only rich visitors and some kind of . . . local upper crust, perhaps. A small class of aristocrats across a massive wealth gap, perusing the stores like teens at a shopping mall, oblivious or indifferent to the forced smiles and empty chitchat as they have their run of the place. Those are the ones Miari is most likely to get interest from.

    Gawain is shortly directed to an office at the southwest side of town, where the streets are better kept and obviously better geared to visitors, where a transit center staffed by overworked and exceptionally timid pencil pushers cottons to him instantly, latching onto his friendly aura in such a way that they go desperately out of their way to answer any of his questions, eager to keep him around for as long as possible. Partway into his Q&A however, one of them will come from the back room, holding a velvet-wrapped box. The blank expression on his face is different from the dead eyes of his peers, as if he were having some kind of disassociative episode or partial seizure. He dully informs Gawain that "his package has arrived" and "to notify his companions that their items have been accounted for", then thanks him for his time, pushes the box into his hands, and dreamily toddles off. Nobody else seems to pay much attention.

Sir Gawain has posed:
While Gawain has a chance to ask some questions, he does so. "What is it like living here?" "What are important rules about Thorns that I need to know as a visitor?" "How's the food and where is good to go?" "Who is in charge and how can I get an audience with an official?" "Can I do anything to make your day better?" The last one being just out of politeness and the fact that they look like they're having a bad day.

Before he decide if he wants to ask any more questions, though, a man comes out with a box and a message. Gawain tips his head politely and thanks him, as he glances at the package. He never requested a package...but there must be a reason for it, right? "Are you okay, sir? You look sort of off!"

After shouting out to the man and getting his questions answered, Gawain moves away from the front desk briefly, towards somewhere quieter, so that he can open his package and see what's inside, carelly removing the package because he's not the type to tear presents on Christmas.

Staren has posed:
    Staren looks around from the cart. Soon noticing "...The workers aren't coming. Do they think it's snake oil, or just assume they cant afford it? They're the ones who need it..." He lowers his voice, while leaning in to whisper to Miari. "And any rebel leader is probably a member of the downtrodden, right?"

All-Seeing Eye has posed:
Damn. No directions? That was the route he was going to go, too. Well, he might still be able to salvage this. First, a frown, pushing out his bottom lip to quiver in an expert pout. "Oh," he says, his words dripping with sweetness. "That's a shame." His pout curls into a coy smile, and he takes a step closer, putting a gloved finger finger gently upon the guard's chestplate. His golden eyes fixate on the darkened space beneath the guard's mook helmet, the space where he figures the eyes are.

     Hopefully, he's diverted the guard's attention with this display. "It's awfully cold here, and I was hoping you'd know a place where two friends might, um... warm up." A musical giggle is strategically deployed to hide the gentle clicking of the Mobile Sensory Drone's tendrils as the drone hides itself in the guard's armor. Eye glances down the guard's armored form, slowly, and when his eyes come back up they practically smolder.

     Regardless of the guard's reaction, that should do it--but he can't just walk off, or it'll look suspicious. And besides, it's almost guaranteed his overtures have stolen this guard's heart. Time is of the essence, sure, but he can bask in the admiration for a few seconds or two.

Kyoko Takada (1132) has posed:
    Alpha-39 is better used to abandoned ruins than crowded, half-dead cities, but a lot of the same principles of stealth apply, and she's gotten more experience with being near groups of living humanoids since Unification. She makes do, aided in great part by how apathetic the guard force is, and how listless the majority of the populace. She can do listless. And if she's half a face in the crowd, maybe the haves will ignore another have-not.
    As she walks, she keeps an eye out, ignoring any suspiciously jutting, triangular wooden frames perching birds high atop buildings as too obvious even in a city as uncaring as this one, but more interested in anything low to the ground that seems like it either has or *could* take one underground. She's looking for evidence of tampering, necessarily hidden, on any of these grates, or even basement doors, that might have served as an entrance to a hiding area. Away from foot traffic, but close enough to where people spend their time, that's the best bet. You don't want to take long walks to get a safehouse every day.
    A place that was used as a hiding-hole in the past, but has since been busted by these secret police she's heard of will still do as a starting point. Walking by one of those should at least be more obvious than a place that's managed to evade discovery until her arrival.
    Failing that, she'll force her way into the sewers. She gives it 50/50 on being full of filth, or on being mostly-full of filth and slightly full of traps.

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
"Floran sssee bone!"
"Ugh. Disgusting. What could be crafted from such materials?"
"Got plenty of skill putting it into work, too. Got to be some solid intel."
"Determined. If it's any backbone of this awful place, we should trace it."
"Aye, and see if it's any value."
"Focus. Trace what you can. Find what you can't. We know what to do."

    The Flotilla descends upon the industrial area with all force. The corpses hard at work are given a wide berth, mostly because of the dangerous conditions and partially because Seft doesn't like the concept, but they converge far more towards the artisans. Albert's strongly expecting to get a tail if he draws a lot of Secret Police sorts of attention by being a very new person, wandering in, and then wandering back out. So he makes sure to work hard with the rest of the Flotilla on obfuscating their intentions; he has them rest and pretend to be warming up near vents, poke around trash even though there'll be nothing to find, and other suchlike that should make sure the oppressive aspects can't pick up on him, the way rebels in the Apex Rebellion have avoided the attention of Big Ape monitoring.

    This might not even be /necessary/, but it won't be too much of a delay. He and his fellows soon converge upon the ores and bones where they're being shipped in, trying to gauge how much they're guarded, find any signs of where they've been traded and where they've gone through. Signs of postage and origin, that sort of thing. They have a very specific set of rules and methods established by Apex freedom fighters, which they consistently use for acts of investigation:

    Method one, examine the method of delivery. If there are return addresses, names, or other clues, that's a success, but if not, go to method two. Method two, examine protection. If something's a state secret, then the guards are likely dedicated purely to those state secrets, and following them as they change shifts will give you a lead. If method 2 doesn't work, go to method three, more commonly known as the most common last resort. Method three is to actively perform an act of secret arson, get some distance, and see who else /besides/ emergency fire responders comes running when they hear their exotic, important things are burning. Then follow them.

    Let's hope methods one or two will produce fruit as Starbound begins an investigation.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    The mousy bureaucrat, i.e. another form of desk slave, eagerly and nervously informs Gawain that Thorns is a growing city of commerce and a burgeoning power in the River Provinc, and that it is an exciting place to be and start up business, as well as having an avant garde culture that openly pays respect to something called an 'Ancestor Faith' without interference or oppression from the Realm. He pitches it like a salesman, and doesn't sound as convincing as he could be. Important rules seem to be downplayed a lot, mostly coming down to basic stuff one would assume in terms of not causing trouble, save that visitors aren't to take citizens with them without documentation, and to stay out of the city waterways for being 'extremely unsafe'. He almost robotically recommends the south and northwest quarters for entertainment and food respectively, probably being the designated 'actually kept presentable for tourists' areas.

    The question about who is in charge gets a long pause and a boggled stare however, and it's quite a while before the timid man can stammer out "W-w-why our benevolent lord Winters of course! The one who liberated Thorns from the grasp of the Realm and brought it out of poverty in the wake of the war!" It's the least convincing thing he's said so far. "A-and audience so soon would be very difficult to arrange, especially directly, since the city's master frequently has business on 'the other side', but surely something with the court can be arranged if you have serious diplomatic business!"

    The deliveryman Gawain tries to engage shambles off as if lost in a dream, without even so much as noticing him calling after him, never mind responding. When he opens the box, he finds a set of near-identical rings of slightly different sizes, made of highly polished iron and set with jewels of black quartz with the smokey impression of eyes within them. A note is attached, in familiarly spidery yet elegant script. They radiate a constant, low level of magic.

    "I haven't lead you astray so far, have I? ~ V."

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Prowling the streets, A-39 first quickly finds out that basically all major intersections feature either or both lavish sorts of shrines covered in funeral offerings, or else black iron statues of a masked man in various heroic or pious poses, erected at major crossings. Unlike most places anyone would actually want to be, these are heavily frequented, and draw most of the people on the street to them.

    The second thing she finds is that it doesn't take A-39 long to find signs of use of some of the city's waterway entries. A grate with waring around screws that have clearly been remove and reinserted many times. An iron 'manhole' covered in scratches around its edge. Those kinds of things account for almost one in four of possibly entries, and none of them appear to be well-guarded. They aren't /blatantly/ obvious, but real secret police who were paying actual attention should definitely have noticed at some point. She kind of has her pick, assuming most, if not all, have been busted at some point already.

    She is only partly right about the sewers. They're dramatically less filthy than she would expect because they just don't seem to get much use these days. They're largely overgrown with dark, oily vegetation and crawling, slightly squirming moss, where oversized furry things she might hope are rats and spiders make a habit out of leaving as soon as she shows up. Down here it is especially cold, unrealistically freezing compared to the streets above. Her breath fogs, but there isn't even the slightest layer of frost on the wet walls. Producing any sort of light, the resulting shadows seem to angle in distinctly unnatural ways, and it is exceedingly rare to actually find any ladder or maintenance way for cleaning use. Most of them she could find are already broken or boarded up, if not deliberately sabotaged.

    There are actually traps, but rather than being set up by the authorities to catch intruders, they appear to be set up by total amateurs to catch the authorities. Tripwires that are almost insultingly obvious, can alarms that are near-rudely childish. Poorly covered pits. The works. They look like the works of rebellious teens playing at resistance rather than actually coordinated rebels, but that means at least /someone/ uses these places as a ways of sneakily getting around town in defiance of curfew. For her, tracks in the moss and pulsing fungus aren't too hard to follow, but despite being a flat and level arrangement under a square city, they always seem to go . . . downhill. Somehow. That shouldn't be possible.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    The guard stuck with Eye seems to be having a completely different time of it. He is caught hilariously, practically adorably, off guard, in the kind of way that advertises that he hasn't had any kind of positive human interaction in a long time, and doesn't know what to do about it. He helplessly stutters while trying to figure out how someone should even react in this situation, completely failing to notice the bug being planted on him, before his companion a ways off notices he's fallen behind and comes back to urgently drag him away, fearful of being thought of as slacking. He shoots the Alchemical a sour look for holding them up, having no idea that his partner has been wired.

    Going further into the industrial quarter, the Flotilla are becoming dangerous stranded from the others. The men at their work stations, when they even bother to look up, mostly watch them with nervous expressions that scream 'if you're going to cause trouble do it for someone else, not me', before silently going back to work. It isn't the zombies they seem to be nervous about, but the occasional presence of some other form of walking corpse. Rather, well-preserved corpses in fine clothes or sturdy armour, given too much of a semblence of life to be crudely animated by basic Necromancy. They're clearly dead, but have enough animating intelligence and then some to monitor progress, keep records, occasionally interrogate workshops, and frequently haul and guard crates of supplies. It seems like the /walking dead/ are the actual bosses here, wholly comprising taskmasters and overseers.

    Aside from the same statues and shrines A-39 is running into, the Flotilla quickly notice discrepancies in the deliveries. While many definitely come from the docks themselves, they mostly contain exotic oils, herbs, and ores for complex but mundane alloys, as well as odd stones, clearly meant as /part/ of the forging process, but not the bulk. Etched bones, unidentifiable black ore, and various grades of obsidian seem to be big exports, as well as many small trinkets and tokens of black jade for some unknown purpose. These, however, seem to be coming from inside the city. They are shipped from the palace itself. Somehow. It makes zero sense.

Miari (1129) has posed:
Well this isn't what Miari was expecting! She sets up shop in the advertised district, but only gets rich nobles roaming around. Who she deals with fairly, daring to undercut even Guild prices on Age-Staving Cordial and Seven Bounties Paste to as low as 70% of local Guild Prices with some haggling. They're not the ones she's going for though, and she's sure that anyone who looks healthy and well-off HERE is in fact the enemy.

    IN-between sales and examinations, she answers Staren with an exasperated heave of breath. "Most likely. Though, perhaps some good-natured nobles are taking dangerous risks playing a double game. You can never be sure what a man does outside the public eye." She's left chintapping when sales start dwindling down.

    "Perhaps we should start just... roaming the streets and seeing if anyone approaches? Or find the slums. There have to be slums somewhere."

    Sooner or later, one of the rich folk who's just passing by does catch her eye. One who has NOT approached her cart and isn't even looking her way. She reaches out with the cold power of the Principle of Hierarchy, eyes briefly narrowing with razor precision as the untraceable power lances into the person's mind... and probes with an unstated question. 'What know you of resistance to the Mask of Winters?'

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    These supplies are always carried by zombies and overseen by at least four intelligent corpse guards, and where they are given over, the mortal staff always seems to encompass at least two learned men who busy themselves with books, tinkering, and jewelcraft, in amongst the swarthy smiths who hammer and fold the black ore, their apprentices furiously polishing rough cuts and grinds, and others mixing reagents and carving down bones. It's really difficult to tell what they're doing with them, but it largely seems to be following some sort of assembly of . . . armour designs? It's . . . not entirely unlike the advanced armour seen in Lookshy, albeit with an incredibly macabre bent. There's also /no way/ it's ever going to be issued to the largely useless mortals of Thorns, but then who else is going to wear it? There's far too much of it to be intended for a handful of Deathknights.

    Miari increasingly begins to see that the nobles she gets are anything but. None of them strike her as old blood or court-refined. All of them are, at best, 'new money'; largely youths intoxicated with their windfall, with no courtly experience at all. They've clearly been well-treated and well-fed, but there's no way they're real professionals. Lackeys, probably. Sycophants of actually important figures. Traitors to their families who have turned a blind eye on the suffering of their fellow citizens to live in luxury. Perhaps a few of them have done so /for/ their family, but they conceal it well with careless facades.

    In amongst them are actually a significant number of Guild traders, as well as merchants of other stripes. They don't seem to be here for normal goods though, instead buying curiosities that Miari actually wouldn't recognize, even with all of her ancient knowledge. They're overwhelmingly strange plants and animal parts she's never seen before, and extremely minor artifacts of black jade and crystal, of designs she is unfamiliar with.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Miari's examination of a weak and unguarded mind finds that it is also a nervous and drug-addled one, mildly intoxicated with the leftovers of a particular binge to forget guilt and worry alike. This one seems to indicate that a resistance is actually well known, practically an open secret, responsible for no insignificant amount of theft, commercial sabotage, and even arson, but against whom the lord of the city makes little move against, and who are largely kept in check by something called 'the Thornguard'. This one's brother apparently defected rather than join him in toadying up to the Autocrat's court, and claims to have met someone called 'Silken Laughter'. Someone who is surrounded by fanciful tales of being some kind of prince or merchant lord who can get his hands on anything, and who /apparently/ once dueled a Deathknight to a standstill. The man doesn't seem to believe his brother's fanciful tales.

Sir Gawain has posed:
Gawain's not usually one to doubt. But when one's nature is 'I don't actually believe this' and 'I seem scared', Gawain can't help but worry. He smiles sympathetically, and then nods. "Thank you very much! How can I repay your assistance?" He's moving to grab his wallet, briefly, to give him a tip.

After that, Gawain moves to put on one of the rings. He scans to see which one would fit his ring finger before moving to slide it on. If it can be magically attuned to, he does so.

Kyoko Takada (1132) has posed:
    On the one hand, this feels really weird, and very disturbingly magical. On the other hand, someone who is absolute garbage at setting traps went this way. If they're trying to throw people off by appearing incompetent, that's off-set badly by the weird magical effects going on. Alpha-39 is ambivalent, but ultimately presses forward, avoiding the tripwires while leaving them intact. After a short distance, she takes and lights a small flare from her pack, tossing it forward to briefly light the way, and incidentally to track the arc against where she understoods "down" should be. It'll burn long enough for her to catch up and toss it several more times, if nothing suspiciously leaps at or away from it for here to be on guard over.

All-Seeing Eye has posed:
At having caught the guard unawares, Eye's face alights with clear amorous intent. The other guard turning to face him with a sour look will catch the tail end of him playing with his hair and smiling. Upon having this look leveled at him, he puts on a disappointed frown. When the two guards walk off, that frown shifts into a satisfied, smug smirk. Turning to dip into an alley, the next part of his surveillance is more covert.

     The drone peeks through the guard's armor, staying motionless so as not to attract attention to itself. From its vantage point, Eye has the drone looking for anything like a barracks. If there are guards, that means there's a schedule. And if there's a schedule, that means he can figure out who's going to be where, and when. If he has that knowledge, he could then use one of the guards to get into a restricted area.

     Then again, he could always just keep piggybacking this guard and see where the drone goes. If it doesn't look like the guard's going to a barracks, he'll just keep the drone trained on him and see what comes of it.

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
    The Flotilla have identified two things: An unusual ore, and an unusual class of enforcers, overseers, and direct handlers of a secret military project. This is all Albert needs. "Break. Heading to Sun unit. I'll try to direct a dead drop."
    "Do you really think Gawain can do that spy shit, man?"
    "No. Star Three, head to high ground. Start ore scanning. Squad, work to assist." Albert heads off, wandering the streets almost aimlessly away from the area, trying to examine the passage of those around him with keener eyes than most. He's looking out and around, specifically, for those particular preserved guards, trying to see if any are nearby, and if they're going to or from particular consistent places that may be a target of future raiding.

    "Uneasy. Alright, heading there!" Seft says, and begins moving to residential, looking to find a structure that nobody especially cares about enforcing anything for, heading through and to the top of it, and then setting up one of her big ore scanners! She's gotta look for that strange black ore... With a scanner specifically suited to locating odd ores, it should be relatively easy to view the flow and concentration of it in the city. Hopefully they can find a better spot to set things up in secret later, but others are scouting matters like that from the sound of it.

    Albert's the one who heads towards Sir Gawain and sees if he can walk the knight through doing a dead drop to prevent drawing attention from mysterious, baleful forces no doubt observing them. Albert's paranoid has yet to be proven to be warranted, but maybe that's just what the SECRET ABYSSAL CONSPIRACIES want him to think. Assuming the rings don't cause Gawain's head to explode or something, and assuming Gawain's willing to handle the dead drop process, Albert will hopefully have some for the Flotilla and will be able to work on scouting the lead he hopes Seft will be able to find soon.

    Throw enough things at the wall and something's gotta stick, right?

Miari (1129) has posed:
Miari flashes back to full awareness after getting several visions and taking time to interpret what she sees. And it's enough to leave her twisting her lips about in puzzled fashion. This is very good information, but how to press forward with it?

    "I suppose I should seek out anyone who's older but not TOO well-dressed," she murmurs to Staren, hoping he'll pick up on this.

    Regardless, she has had enough of talking to the young, affluent, completely foppish would-be Nobles. These young pups have no idea what they're doing, half of them!

    And that angers her. Not that seeing Immaculate adherents back in power is what she wants, either...

    A little grouchy, she leaves the cart to Staren and heads over to some other merchants shops to peruse the wares with her new minor fortune and pick up all sorts of whatevers and listen to gossip. Perhaps find someone else worth mind-invading with that question....

Staren has posed:
    "Why would they approach us, though?" Staren asks. "It's not like we're advertising ourselves as rebels... and if we're not, and even if we were, why would they trust us? It's not like we have a sign over our heads saying 'PCs here, to solve all your problems, give us all your quests!' If we did, the bad guys would know to attack us too..."

    He looks around as Miari secretly does her thing. "Hmm? Uh, sure..." He sets a few fly-size camera drones loose to explore, one keeping watch over Miari.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    A-39 is relatively unhindered by going deeper into the sewer system. Despite going distinctly downhill, the water flow continues to go uphill, which becomes pointedly more obvious the further she wanders. Regardless of which direction she takes at each juncture, it always seems to take her further inwards and downwards, as if she is being intentionally guided. The flare occasionally reveals more amateurish traps, but those quickly disappear past a point where the gradient becomes incredibly noticeable, and the light starts to flicker unnaturally.

    On the flare's last toss, it hits something with a metallic clang, and bounces off. Coming to rest on the damp floor, it illuminates a badly rusted and corroded street sign, of blatantly and jarringly 21st century made, covered in a patina of filth, but with recognizable kanji script indicating several directions in modern Japanese. Beyond it, the cobblestones begin to morph into grimy tiles caked in hundreds of muddy shoeprints. Barely visible beyond that, there is the rusted out hulk of a subway train, clearly far too wide for these narrow corridors, on a rail that doesn't match up with anything. It might be the dying flare playing tricks on her eyes, but as it last gutters out, she could swear she can spot a crowd back there, silently waiting for their train.

    Instinctively, she can feel so many levels of nope that it takes no familiarity with anything at all to get the general impression that this isn't supposed to be here and going that particular way is probably a very bad idea.

    The drone that All-Seeing Eye saddles the guard with goes undiscovered, largely due to his flustering and his partner's urgency to drag him along to the point in their patrol route they should be at, before a 'nemissary' spots them slacking off. He appears to be quite adamant that they finish before nightfall, when 'the court adjourns'. The barracks also seem to be relatively close to the northwest quarter, split across the road that divides it from the east, but they don't head directly there. Instead, they are tasked with going to docks, and overseeing zombie work crews bringing in some massive crate the size of a small elephant, wrapped in what must be a hundred pounds of black chains to keep it shut. Even dozens of the undead stagger under its weight.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Elsewhere, to put it simply, when Gawain puts his ring on (a perfect fit) and attunes to it, he sees the other half of Thorns; the city not as it appears, but the city as it is. As if a visual filter is suddenly laid over his eyes, the flickering and uncertain grey of the sky resolves into a steady darkness, pale blue lamps appear from nowhere, lining the street, and the shrines now exude powerful, foggy auras of whispering white mist. In amongst the people of the streets, in alarmingly large numbers, walk the dead. Not the undead, or the living dead. The dead dead. Ghosts. Pale, long-fingered phantoms in refined garb, drifting the paths in such a way that they phase right through citizens without either noticing.

    They aren't just normally dematerialized ghosts. Someone would have seen them by now. They flat out aren't physically present. Gawain is seeing a sliver of the actual Underworld; the dark mirror of Thorns that exists in that dead place where time is broken and the wheel of reincarnation refuses to turn. Looking about where they're coming from, they appear to be a trickle leaving the grand palace, where hundreds, if not /thousands/ of white shapes swarm. If a court is being adjourned, it is a court of the dead, making decisions in lieu of the useless flesh and blood fops that flit their jade about the streets. The ones he passes by don't notice him (after all, he's in Creation), but their urgent and impatient whispers seem to indicate that they have plans for when night falls, involving favoured parts of the city, or specific citizens they intend to 'drop in on', some of whom apparently owe debts, but others who are apparently (less maliciously) their own family.

    Many sound bored. Many sound excited. Many sound actively nasty. Some amongst them are on business. He can identify those ghosts by their identical masks, and they speak with no one, instead positioning themselves at obvious vantages of surveillance, where they can watch dematerialized when the sun sets. Silent, invisible spectres who follow the people who live here, invading their homes through locked doors and shuttered windows, while the dead who live here reap the true spoils of the Mask of Winters' rule, having no need of basic necessities the mortal population lacks, and being free to roam the streets of a bustling Shadowland, ripe with forced prayers to the dead that provide them Essence, to soak up the emotions of the living, and perhaps do worse.

    There's no doubt that at the fast-approaching sunset, the great mass of ghosts will leave the palace and descend upon the streets, making their own markets, their own entertainment, and taking the roads and paths for themselves, as the city's 'real' residents. It would seem, in fact, that the number of ghosts outnumbers the living by far. If he cares to check out any of the shrines, he can see most of the offerings left at them slowly rematerializing as pale duplicates, creating 'grave copies' of the intact item after it has been burnt, which the ghosts eagerly take as some form of tax. Food wasted by the living for the dead to enjoy the taste of, amongst other things.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Of course, the Flotilla, Albert first, will eventually see the same thing. The secret, spectral panopticon that exists under their noses and outside of their senses, just before the city comes 'alive' at night with those who truly enjoy living here. Those who still tarry with the industrial sector see the other sides of the preserved corpses, in that all of them are 'piloted' by an inhabitant ghost, wearing the flesh form to walk about during the day, reinforcing the idea that the dead are objective class superiors to the living. It may be quite possible that they don't /go/ anywhere, but shed their worn corpses for the day, most likely somewhere in the palace complex considering how it swarms with spirits.

    Setting up the ore scanner gets a signature without an issue; the residentials are a ghetto few people care to scour. Seft will immediately confirm that the odd ore stands out compared to all the mundane alloys being made, and is definitely not one of Creation's five magical materials either. It's something of an exotic oddity that definitely isn't from Creation itself, almost certainly imported from the Underworld, and thus shipped here from 'inside' the city limits.

    This may be why the authorities here don't seem to care about what a resistance might do to the supplies and infrastructure within Thorns, barely putting in a token effort to stop them. It only inconveniences the living guards. All of the city's /true/ infrastructure has been built up on the other side; the Mask of Winters' home turf. Nearer the city center, they can catch brief, uncertain flickers of something incredibly large looming over the city, easily dwarfing the already grand palace under its colossal shadow. It's not just 'a bigger and more impressive palace', whatever that nebulous silhouette that refuses to fully resolve is. It's /multiple/ times taller than a modern skyscraper.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Miari's browsing finds that the merchants are more genuinely enthusiastic than most. After all, they probably get to /keep/ a fraction of the money they made. According to her suspicions, much of what they sell is along the lines of what would find in a typical city, but directly native to Shadowlands and possibly the Underworld itself. Unrecognizable herbs, tinctures, cordials, and teas are sold en masse, as well as locally unfamiliar prayer strips and ancestor cult incenses and paraphernalia with mild levels of enchantment. A great deal of tiny curios and small artifacts are wrought of black jade, onyx, cold iron, and even trace quantities of soulsteel, and are near-impossible to make heads or tails of. Knowing what any of this is or does would require familiarity with Underworld culture, trade, and artifice as recent as the past fifty years.

    Most of what the merchants can assure her of are that the things that look like intensely ornate, wrought iron coins, set with black quarts studs, are quite legitimate currency that is accepted by the ghostly patrons of the Shadowland, and that many are eager to exchange jade for them.

    Staren's drones don't have much to watch, save the odd comings and goings of the corpse-elite frequently checking stalls as the sun starts to set and probably shaking them down for their cut. It might be that some will come for Miari and demand a full registry of goods sold at this rate. The young 'noble' she had invaded earlier seems distinctly shaken, and quickly trundles back to the palace, muttering something about someone called 'Wisdom Whispered' and how 'he must know'.

Sir Gawain has posed:
Gawain blinks a few times after he sees it. It's probably sort of odd to the people at the desk, but Gawain just smiles, tips his head, and heads for the door. He moves to slowly head towards an alleyway nearby, placing the rings in the nearest hidey hole he can find before broadcasting the location to the others so they can pick theirs up. From there, Gawain starts moving around the ghosts. Can any of them seem to see him? What are they saying? What can he learn from walking among them?

Kyoko Takada (1132) has posed:
    When the flare gutters out, the barrel-mounted flashlight comes on, and Alpha-39 will find whether that sign is still visible with what is hopefully (but increasingly uncertainly) a more solid beam. The small, cloaked soldier swings her weapon to the left and right, backing up with the kind of nervousness she can hardly remember experiencing in the past, determinedly withdrawing in the path of greatest resistance: uphill.
    What she sees here is absolutely not a thing that can exist. There are several possibilities she can think of for how this happened, but none of them result in a conclusion that isn't "get the fuck out." If it remains that nothing animate is coming after her, she turns fully, slings her gun, swaps to a head-mount for her light, and sets to running and climbing. Uphill, downstream, away from the product of either her own hallucinations or something reading her memories.

All-Seeing Eye has posed:
Would an eyeball, crawling around of its own volition, be out of place in a city where the dead work alongside the living? Probably not--but there's no need to leave things to chance. When the guards pass by the barracks, Eye figures having the drone scuttle across the street in broad daylight is too risky. Rather than move the drone, he keeps it trained on the guard. This means he has to keep within operational distance, which involves the occasional brisk shuffle to the next nearest alley.

     When he's finally able to get settled in, though, his patience pays off--moreso than it already has, in fact. In addition to some information about the goings-on in town, there's also this delicious little not-so-little crate. Now, he's no metallurgist, but black metal, in his experience, is either wrought iron, the result of paint, or soulsteel. Just the sheer amount of chains in and of itself is cause for inspection, but if they're soulsteel, it means whatever is in there is not meant under any circumstances to be let out except by whoever or whatever has the key.

     So, naturally, Eye indulges his curiosity. The drone's vision zooms in, attempting to pierce the massive crate and peer inside it from its vantage point in the guard's armor. Magical materials will obfuscate the drone's vision, but even the presence of those is telling in some way.

     The radio chatter begins to concern him. The security protocols are nowhere near as efficient as Claslat's, but they are present all the same. Sweeps, patrols, the occasional check for contraband. Hopefully, his assistance won't be needed to undo any mistakes. This lead is too promising.

Staren has posed:
    Staren's... honestly not sure what he expected. This wasn't the mission he was most suited to, but when the opportunity arose curiousity demanded he at least come look.

    Hopefully if they end up in the land of the dead, satisfaction will indeed bring him back.

    He doesn't feel that satisfied, though.

    Now, his eyes regularly watch the crowd for approaching corpse-elite. He doesn't expect to stand up to their scrutiny at all, so he'll let the others know as soon as one is headed his way.

    He does have one other curious thought, though: This is a city with a lot of people. But what about animals? Where are the pets and pests? He glances over his drone feeds, curious if he sees any.

Miari (1129) has posed:
Well, the good news is that Miari had been keeping registry. Of things both bought and sold. And she's made sure to buy a bit of BASICALLY EVERYTHING shiny that she can with her sums from the medicine sales. Or atleast seems capable of producing it out of nearly thin air if she hadn't been. Whichever the case, she doubts it's going to be double-checked in time to matter!

    But she's not selling under the name Caeleen Miari. She is listed as 'Karina of Drual', which if double-checked harkens back to a nation far, far far under the shadow of Mount Matagalapa.

    What good is a list of how much Seven Bounties Paste and Age-Staving Cordial she sold going to do them, she has to wonder.

    She, really, upon hearing what the muttering and shaken man's words contain when he passes by again, decides that trailing after him is much more interesting.

    That's when, freakily enough, Miari pulls a hood up over her face and traipses after him...

    And a second Miari sticks her head out of the wagon from behind some curtains and asks Staren, "Any luck?"

    How the hell...

Starbound Flotilla has posed:
"This is bad."
"Woooh, never heard big Al over there being scared."
"Please, George. Mr. Petrov, what is the problem?"
"Arms production for ghosts. Something is wrong."
"Aye, why so much on this side and not the other?"
"Worried. Do you mean that this could be secretly intending open war?"
"Aye, wouldn't it be? They've the perfect place to hide the resources."
"Need to get /to/ other place."
"Something massive being hidden. Know that armor goes there, ore comes from it."
"Hopeful. I have the scan of the ore lines!"
"We follow that then."

    Gawain successfully manages the dead drop. And Albert practically loses his mind. Now being able to properly see the secret police and the constant surveillance that he was so used to under the rule of Big Ape, his whole body becomes saturated in tension and stress, sweating and for a moment possibly even seeming like he's going to just start having a rage-aligned panic attack in the middle of the street. It takes some time for him to calm his own traumatized emotions down into a reasonable state, and by then he gets Seft's data.

    Okay. Focus. Albert sets off to try to find where most of the ore is being sent through to this side. His bet has to be that that would be exactly where to most easily cross over at night, or at the very least it's going to be a very relevant spot for finding out more about Thorns, and subsequently burning down some part of its schemes' backbone.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    When A-39 raises her flashlight beam, she finds the sign is still right there in front of her. If any details have changed, it is that it seems somewhat significantly closer, as do the tiles beyond it. Whether that rough assurance of reality is soothing or disquieting is up to her. Retreating might be wise if it really is advancing forward. It is thankfully an exfiltration that goes unimpeded, save dodging the same traps that she did on the way in here. No wonder they're allowed to get away with such trash work. The guards probably don't even come down here at all, if tunnels can turn into /that/. If the resistance really does use these underways, they must do so along a very specific and probably very secret route to a more stable region, or at least one that doesn't brush the surface of the ocean of madness deep below the other world.

    Aside from obviously the chains, nothing overtly magical seems to be plating the inside of the cargo crate All-Seeing Eye wishes too spy on, instead covered in a thin layer of steel and then lead. What is inside is difficult to make out anyways, not because of inteference, but because it seems to be crammed in so tightly that he can't make much sense of it. What he can tell is that it involves a lot of bodyparts, and very very large ones, with a great amount of mechanical material crudely implanted into it in such a way that it is half preserve flesh and half rivets and iron. It's difficult to tell if they're all just jumbled in there, or if they belong to some kind of intact, dormant monstrosity.

    Staren's reconnaissance finds that there is actually a complete and total absence of animals here, save the occasional circling scavenger bird and cloud of flies. Nobody keeps pets here. Nobody grows a garden here. The people themselves seem pale and sickly in a way that goes beyond just being underfed and overworked. Come to think of it, he can barely see any children at all either. It seems like the pervasive aura of the Shadowland doesn't tolerate smaller, weaker forms of life over the long term.

    The 'corpse elite' do actually show up. They do check Miari's registry. And she actually /has/ one. Huh. Even the borderline enforcers of Thorns seem to cotton to foreign business though, no doubt on orders of whatever they have closes to 'the party' here, and charge her only a nominal fee, roughly 3% of what she'd earned. They don't care to actually screen any of her goods or previous sales either. Considering what those 'nobles' were on, they probably don't care what it is they buy.

Bloody Revelations (1124) has posed:
    Following the shipments of ore is a difficult proposition for Albert. There was only so much left to deliver for the day, and he's left basically following what tracks he can from the last of them. They take him almost outside of Thorns entirely, but not quite. It might be sensible that they come across the border during the night, when entering or leaving a Shadowland strands one in the Underworld, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It's the palace itself, or rather, somewhere under it. It has to be, since after thorough checking, there's no other way to come from the southeast to the northwest except through its doors. The warping of reality that A-39 had encountered underground may very well be intentional; something that the Mask of Winters is casually exploiting on his own terms.

    Speaking of nightfall and being stranded, the group has precious little time to avoid that. Though their meanderings for the day have been largely overlooked by apathetic or desperate mortals, the streets will soon be swarming with beings of at least modest Essence, many of whom are clearly trained spies. Furthermore, while Gawain is testing his ring, finding that the ghosts cannot (yet) perceive him at all, he eventually spots a very non-ghostly shape moving by the light of the ghastly lanterns; a human figure clad in banded mail of soulsteel and black leather, probably no older than 17 at most, and surprisingly handsome for his age.

    He awaits at a junction next to an enormous statue of who is, in all probability, his liege lord, until another two figures join him, a woman about his age trying as hard as possible to look 'goth', black lip paint and all, and then a much more serious and probably worry-worthy figure a foot taller than the both of them, broad-chested, square-jawed, grizzled and scarred, and his only item of soulsteel being the gargantuan axe across his back. There's no mistaking them for one of the Mask's Abyssal Circles, probably a newbie and an apprentice under one of his trained and veteran agents. I won't be long until the two of them can see one another, and they will probably have a vested interest in flagging Multiversals down and causing trouble; moreso than ghosts having their way with a night on the town.

Staren has posed:
    No animals. He'll make sure to pass that along to Finna (he suspects she may be in the Watch.) Then again, maybe she already knows? Also, of more immediate use: Turning into a cat to blend in won't work. Good to know.

    Fortunately, Miari #2 reveals herself before the corpse elite show up. Staren is startled by her sudden appearance, but isn't actually surprised she can duplicate herself. "No. Sheesh, why didn't you tell me you left one of yourself here??" He smiles politely if a bit nervously as Sales Tax is collected. Or is it value-added tax if they didn't charge the customers for it? He doesn't remember stuff like that, his only experience in conventional business is as a mechanic, not a merchant.

    Staren looks nervously at the setting sun. But Miari surely has a way to get them out and knows what she's doing, right?

Kyoko Takada (1132) has posed:
    Alpha-39 slows her efforts as the incline returns to normal, which means she still speeds up, but has an easier time going. She gets back to the entrance, again leaving the traps as she found them. Taking some deep breaths, she takes a look around with her light before switching it off, adjusting her equipment to be less conspicuous under the cloak, and makes her way back up and out. She's done with her scouting, but getting spooked by impossible things is no excuse for leaving obvious tracks, so the grate goes back on, and she resumes her exfiltration in much the same way she came in, but with fewer exploratory detours.
    Any other intel will have to come from someone else. She's not hanging around to get one of the rings, though she did ask for one to be saved for her. She'll figure out later whether she trusts the mystery gift or "Vee" enough to put it on, and whether it's worth it to come back and do that.

All-Seeing Eye has posed:
Everyone else seems to be talking about leaving. But All-Seeing Eye isn't, and with good reason. A soul like Gawain's would undoubtedly make him stick out in the worst possible way. A soul like All-Seeing Eye's, however, might be a different story. And his construction, being primarily of Soulsteel, would make him stick out in the /best/ possible way.

     He'll be spending the night here, and if anyone asks, he'll ever-so-smugly inform them that he is Pained Confessions Screamed into the Shadows, here to prevent an effort to destabilize the Mask of Winters. That shouldn't be necessary, though. His primary focus is finding where that crate is going to be kept--'they have a box of body parts and crude cybernetics' is hardly good intel if there's not a location to go along with it.

     The Exalt waits for the undead laborers to move the crate, skulking through the streets with one hell of a cover story prepared. This is how he's gonna spend the night. Hopefully, it works.

Miari (1129) has posed:
"You didn't ask, kitty-boy!" says this Miari, who seems much more chipper and teasy than... basically, the entire city put together. Certainly a bit different than the greenette's usually semi-cynical, off-putting, perhaps even downright prudish manner otherwise. Maybe she stuffed some of the more positive qualities in this clone? Is that a thing she can do?

    Who knows. Adorjan is weird.

    "And I don't know what I'm doing running off like that. Wasn't told! Just to keep track of things here. So how does that work?!" There are sparkles in this girl's eyes. Almost.

    Real-Miari, meanwhile, her typical scowly self, is still stalking the noble. While the sun sets. She purses her lips at the distant, dim setting sun... and flinches.

    This should be her time to shine. But she is neither a Twilight Caste, or in a place the living and the light of day hold power. "Well, that's fine... I'll do this my way."

Staren has posed:
    Staren rolls his eyes at the 'you didn't ask' line. When she confesses she's not in contact with herself, though, he grows concerned. "Wait, are YOU the one on the radio? Are you saying we're completely out of touch with part of you??? And... Why'd you have to be TOLD orders? Shouldn't you have just remembered planning to have one of you here and one of you there when you split? Or does it not work that way? Why are you so... happy?"