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”Fine.” Astrid growled beneath the fabric of her headgear, ”But if it comes to that, I’m a lousy shot, so consider yourselves warned.” she slid a magazine into her rifle, going for hollow points to mitigate ricochets and unwanted penetration. ”Why thank you, captain. Hours of unpaid work rack up like mad, but a compliment is always welcome.”

Once thrust into the mill that was the street, she mostly focused on making sure everything that was in her pockets stayed there, especially the pad with the mission critical DNA scanner. Its silence brought peace to her mind as she pondered with just how big a chunk of sodium chloride should she take the slugman’s claim of ‘Best bar in the galaxy’ It turned out a shovel wouldn’t have been anywhere near enough.

Fortunately, the fabric of her headwear blocked some of the stench, but even a diluted whiff of the bar’s ‘charm’ made her realize just how fragile spacers - used to controlled conditions like low exposure to electromagnetic radiation and air filtered almost to sterility - like her were. At least artificial gravity was a thing, otherwise she’d probably be dying due to a weakened heart and being crushed by local gravity right about now.

But she wasn’t entirely out of her element. Shady people and smuggling was something she was familiar with to a certain degree. Leaving the people part to someone more suited to it, she tried her best to see around the taller patrons, looking for tell-tale signs of mechanics: Stained or burned-through clothing, coveralls, utility patches- There. Male with burns on his hands and a 28 mm nut wrench and a screwdriver hanging from his belt. Common practice among gearheads who couldn’t get their hands - or whatever equivalent - on proper weapons for one reason or another. Not that anyone would argue about it with a screwdriver through their palm or a wrench the size of a human forearm flying at their face. He was yhei. Great. ”Five credits say Tony will be the first to get anywhere with this.” she uttered to the crew, wondering how Rendyl was supposed to talk to others. Sure, she could communicate in a way, but that could present a bit of an obstacle if their goal was to keep a somewhat low profile. Astrid made her way to the frogman, again checking the DNA scanner while trying to string together a line of bullshit to get the lizardman talking along the way. ”Ouch.” she didn’t bother to pull a sympathetic face on account of the shemagh, ”How’d one of the high and mighty yhei engineers get coolant burns? Let me guess: GX series coolant regulation valve not standing up to advertising?” She never would’ve thought that time her own ship tried to kill her would be useful someday. ”Could use a replacement myself while I'm stuck here. You wouldn't happen to know a good place for parts, would you? Prices in the core systems are blody insane.”
As someone who’s spent all but a few days of her life on a ship, her skin, not used to sunlight beyond UV lamps, required some extra precautions, especially on a furnace of a planet like this. As such, Astrid was covered head to toe, mostly following the captain’s example, but replaced the scarf with a shemagh wrapped around her head. Having found no reliable weather forecast, she grabbed some goggles in case of a dust storm and kept them in a pocket for now.

”Embarrass you? Would we ever?” Astrid raised an eyebrow, the only expression discernible through her outfit, ”Such as by getting off-your-face drunk with booze provided by our criminal-in-chief? No thanks, I think there’s been enough of that for a star’s lifetime or two, or ten.” She stepped off the ramp, marvelling at the desert around them. Not as pretty as nebulae and ice belts, and certainly in need of manual environmental controls, but planets had their charm. Until she made the mistake of looking up. With no static reference, the moving clouds fooled her brain into thinking she was tipping over, making her stumble into whoever was standing next to her in an attempt to counter the perceived motion. ”Woah, sorry! Don’t look at the clouds.”

”And who says we can’t?” Astrid thought aloud about Josk’s complaining, ”Orders are to take him alive, yes, but accidents happen. What are they gonna do if he eats a stray shot or hits his head on a table?” she offered with a shrug, ”Can’t give us two death sentences, can they?” she watched Aamra with the corner of her eye, not sure how their warden might react. Given the council’s interest in Rendyl, a psychic, and now a shapeshifter, that dark corner of her mind where all the paranoid and insane neurons gathered was working overtime, cooking up batshit theories ranging from a fucked-up freakshow to a black-ops strike squad. Unfortunately, she had no idea where to begin either. Besides maybe a place to get cheap used parts, she was completely out of her element.
Present and (uncharacteristically) patient.
No more drinking, ever, she promised herself. At least not whatever the cap was serving, that stuff was ghastly. Probably illegal at least on some worlds. And if it wasn’t, then someone somewhere wasn’t doing their job. Usually, Astrid would be listening to music or recorded lectures as she worked when they weren’t being hounded by rodents or other rabble, but now even the background noise of the ship was getting more and more irritating with each passing minute. As such, she retrieved a noise cancelling headset normally used when working with power tools in enclosed spaces from the workshop, bringing her some peace and quiet with the exception of her nearly muted earpiece that fortunately fit underneath the protective cup. Both the pilot’s delayed response and sour mood brought some laughter into the engineering bay. ’Never would’ve guessed I would hear her of all people complaining about drugs.’ the engineer thought with a grin.

The half-pint woman had finished mending the damaged door and the blown apart corridor and was now sitting on the floor of her humble little kingdom with the top of her overalls tied around her waist by its sleeves and her back resting against the cold walls. Astrid didn’t know what was in the cocktail they were issued, some apparently despite their protest, and she was certain she couldn’t pronounce half of it even if she knew, but it worked quite fast as neither her head nor guts were trying to kill her anymore, at least not as strenuously as before. Feeling confident she could focus on intangible things such as numbers and planning ahead, she reached for her datapad and started flicking through the ship’s service logs. ”Tango, Can you show me how many times has each turret fired since last refit?” she asked.
”Affirmative. We’ve achieved 87.6% overall accuracy in the last engagement.”
The woman rubbed her forehead when the numbers pertaining to each turret appeared on her datapad, ”Next time we dock, swap out barrels.” she added to the maintenance planner with a groan. ”Oh, and Tango?” she remembered, ”If you notice someone with a gray tank top with a dime-sized hole burned in the right side or black, grease-stained gloves, send them my way when they’ve got a minute, will you?” Yeah, no more Tu'veerian bourbon and while she was at it, no more strip poker either.

The Admiral’s transmission jostled her out of her focus, making the day look miserable again just as life was starting to look up. ”Theme tunes, bloody comic book villains.” the engineer all but spat, zipping up her coverall. ”Closest my foot, how do you make Admiral without grasping the concept of ‘Rest and Refit’? Keep her going while I’m gone, Tango.” she grumbled to herself on her way to the briefing room.

The latter. Small, thin, winged Humans.
Hi, great to have you. There'll be more information in the OOC proper (once we figure out how to make it look less like homework and more like something that's supposed to be fun) but if you have any questions now we'll be happy to answer.
What are we waiting for? General IRL stuff or something/someone specific?
Once she was in the clear and back in her own skin, she retraced her path back, stopping by the donut shop she passed earlier as she almost surely wouldn’t be back in time for the hotel’s breakfast. A few hours after her foray into the Starlight apartment complex, Tamara was back in her hotel room with her feet on the table and a donut in her hand, finishing up the Charity donations misappropriation story and getting it ready to be filed. She tried to imagine the expression on Mr. Church’s face when the guard told him someone’s made off with such question-raising pictures, and the image warmed her heart. Those photos alone could’ve caused quite the headache, but combined with the materials her colleague originally working on this had gathered over the past eight months before gallbladder surgery complications put him out of work, she imagined the fallout from this would be much worse. Even if it would be at least a week before the story got published, she couldn’t think of any excuse Church could cook up that would hold any water. Human beings generally did not take kindly to someone messing with their money.

With this sudden, though far from unwelcome bit of work out of the way, she could redirect her focus back to the reason she was back in this city. Of course finding Parahumans and getting them to talk to her to get their side of things wouldn’t be as easy as opening a shitty lock and getting past a blinded mall cop, since parahumans were all either in a para camp, blissfully unaware of their state or hiding it like she was. Sure, there was the Church of Para, but if even half of what she could dig up about it was true, she’d feel safer punching a bear while wrapped in bacon than intentionally contacting that group.

Fortunately, there were other vectors of approach. She opened a different browser with several recent articles related to parahumans. Increase in funding for para camps, a couple of muggings and robberies, a blown up donut shop… Unfortunately, it wasn’t much to go on, and spread out all across the city. With a sigh, she opened another tab, looking for rental vehicles. Probably a motorbike to get through heavy traffic more easily. She turned the TV on to provide some background noise, currently showing some wannabe comedy so awful one could sprain forehead muscles from cringing.

Minutes later, the room fell into silence. At first she thought the programme interruption was due to a malfunction or an emergency broadcast, but then the same happened to her computer. ”Co do cholery?” Tam jumped in her seat when the voice spoke, standing up as quickly as she was able to and turned around to face the empty room. To placate her panic, she started a full system scan with her laptop’s antivirus, switched off the TV, retrieved her equipment, sidearm and backpack from the bedroom and headed out, double-checking that the door was locked. She had places to be and questions to ask. As always, she stopped by the reception desk to greet the person working there. The hotel employees thought she was just being nice. They’d be surprised if they knew.
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