"Luego, boludo!" A pair of richly dressed girls called cheerfully, steps jangling as an assortment of shiny metal bands around their ankles clacked together with every step.
Locke smirked, but didn't respond to the parting jab as Ash and Mai split off, giggling as they ducked into an alley. Mai's scales, the transparent skin-like kind, glittered as she passed under a neon light, while Ash's black cat tail curled playfully as he watched them go. He'd long grown used to the quirky physiology of his friends and former coworkers, he didn't even think twice about it anymore, except maybe a pang of longing when he missed his fangs, he'd just had them for so long not having them was unnerving.
At his side another girl, dressed like Locke himself was in dark, baggy clothes, gave him an awkward smile. Her name was Jana, only barely old enough to be employed by the Glitters properly, and today had been her first day. "C'mon," he said lightly, "let's find a vendor in the square and I'll buy you lunch." Her smile became a bit more genuine as she nodded silently.
The baggy wardrobe had been his idea; first timers were eased into the business, so her first shift was only half of the normal schedule, which meant she'd probably end up walking alone in the cold at the busiest time of day. Not the moment to be caught in a skimpy Glitters uniform in the kind of neighborhood she came from, so when Jemma gave him a call to take care of the fresh recruit he couldn't in good conscience turn her down. So, under his advice, Jana had come prepared with a change of warm clothes, a knife in her back pocket, and all the necessary nick-knacks he'd found useful himself when he was just starting out.
He led her through the crowd confidently, long used to the rush of Takari Square, to a little fire-escape poking off one of the alleys. It led to what was essentially an out-door bar... if you wanted to be generous. There were only four seats, one of which was claimed by an extremely tired looking old woman probably on her lunch break, and behind the scuffed metal tabletop was a hallway and a closet - or rather the closet was actually a mini-kitchen with all the fittings, but it looked like a closet anyways. The man behind the counter was just as old as the other customer, but he was spry in a way that few were at that age, rising from his stool eagerly as soon as Locke and Jana came into view.
"Mr. Mbege!" Locke greeted with forced cheer - the man was annoyingly friendly, but he made good take-out at least.
"Hey there Locke!" Mr. Mbege returned, practically glowing. He wasn't sure if that was from the overhead light being far too bright or if he was just that energetic. "Who's your new friend?!"
A quick glance confirmed that Jana didn't want to be stuck conversing with the guy any more than Locke did. He resolved wo make it as quick and painless as possible; "Mr. Mbege, this is Jana. Jane, Mr. Mbege." He quickly introduced, and then continued before the stall-owner could continue. "She's had a bit of a long day today, so we're just going to get something quick so she can get home, yeah?"
Mr. Mbege was already nodding, dreads flying from his enthusiastic understanding. "Wiped out already are ya? I know how that is! When I was your age it was always go-go-go, run myself ragged by noon and then fresh as a daisy by midnight with nothing to do!" The man was already puttering over to his closet- or kitchen-set, whatever, and was stashing miscellaneous food stuffs into little shiny take-out boxes that were mostly foil with stringy handles. "The usual for the both of ya, aye Locke?"
"Er, right. Thanks, Mr. Mbege." Jana watched on silently, torn between interest and exhaustion. Then she remembered her manners and chimed in softly: "Yes, thank you Mr. Mbege."
He went on in a mostly incoherent babble all the while, waving off their niceties and speaking about something or other that neither of them could follow. In short order they were trooping back down the fire escape to ground level and were immediately assaulted by the bustle of the square all over again.
Jana was just starting to open up to him, commiserating via complaints about the day dragging on, when something... unusual happened. There was a sound like a roar, and then everything seemed to twist.
Dull whiteness faded and converged several times before Locke jerked into true awareness, mind plagued by uncertain visions. Around him was chaos, a cacophony of motion and noise that didn't match quite right with his previous recollections of this place.
Is... I'm in Takari Square? Right, with Jana- where's Jana?
Fire, rubble, ash, and bodies. He did not like the implications of that mix. "Ja-" he coughed, voice rough and dry. He cleared it and tried again, "Jana?" He called, climbing to his feet and dusting off the worst of the dirt on his face.
Something else exploded, several somethings probably, and Locke was knocked on his ass once again, tripping over a brick of concrete. Only when he hit the ground and the world snapped back into focus did he realize how blurry everything had become. "Jana?!" He called again, climbing to his feet, "What the fuck?" Everything was rapidly descending into total anarchy, and the advance of soldiers and mechs definitely didn't help. He had just realized that said soldiers were attacking the victims instead of helping when a glowing blur of silver let out a war-cry he was too far away to understand and charged the armed men. It only seemed to heighten the madness.
Then he saw Jana. Just out of the corner of his eye, looking disheveled but fine. He cried her name out again and hopped over a piece of twisted metal to reach her. "Jana! Are you alright?! We've gotta get you to Jemma-" and then he touched her, just a tap on her arm to guide her away, and he recognized whatever he was touching wasn't Jana. Then, poof... Like a bubble bursting she was gone, and Locke stared at his hands in bemusement as he felt a weird tension fade from his mind. Strange, because he hadn't noticed it before. He turned, looking around utterly lost. What was that, if not Jana? Why did it... break?
"LOCKE!" A voice called from behind him, high pitched and afraid. He spun, shocked from his confusion, and then paled. Jana was running to him, trying to at least, her legs were bleeding and trembling, and trio of large soldier-types were charging after her. Locke froze, trying to assess, but it was already to late. The man in the lead swiped with a baton and caught the young girl at the base of her skull. Something snapped loudly, and Jana fell forward with a gurgle and a wet croak.
The men's eyes rose from her fallen form to stare directly at Locke. "Fuck." He swore, and turned to run, and immediately tripped and fell flat on his face. A steady litany of curses spilled from his lips as he hastily scrambled to his feet and darted for cover. Unfortunately the only close way out of the square was now blocked by violent soldiers, so his cover was only found further in. A whistle of something flew right past his head just as he dove, maybe it was nothing, or maybe it was a fucking gunshot. Locke took no chances and twisted around another piece of concrete only to come face to face with another corpse.
This one is one of theirs at least, he thought vindictively. A man in soldier's gear with a clear hole in his helmet. Locke didn't think twice about snatching the man's gun and darting past without a single pitying thought. Faintly he could hear shouting back the way he'd come from, and a peak out of his hiding spot confirmed that the trio that had fired at him were distracted by something else. Taking his lucky break while he had it he sprinted across the square towards where he saw a devastated statue and a few people hunkered down- scratch that, a couple people hunkered down and one person dying if not already dead. Seeing that none of them were in the uniform of the dickheads killing everyone he started cursing under his breath again as he advanced steadily towards them. By now he had ascended from being afraid to being well and truly pissed. "Anybody know what the fuck is happening?" He asked tightly, interrupting something about windows, tone sharp and hasty from adrenaline.
He was already taking in the scene and was pretty sure nobody but the meatheads beating everyone down knew anything. He could hope he was wrong at least, and if not? Hello meat shields.