Description: With the presence of Violet Systems mingling with the rival Yakuza under Honoka, Duke makes the daring decision to join the King of Fighters. But in order to fight, he will need a teammate of qualifying skill, as well as... other talents.
The Southtown Syndicate was relatively quiet.
Certainly, there was activity. A few skirmishes, a couple of stores being bombed out, and a few people dropped off at hospitals with a smile and a nod from your friendly neighborhood Yakuza. But which Yakuza was part of the situation. After the collapse of the Yamaguchi-gumi, nearly half of the gang left to join the rival branch, while the remainder were absorbed into the Syndicate. The Empress ruled over those traitors, and the officers of the Southtown Syndicate would not tolerate rivals. The grounds were in place for a war...
Except, of course, for the Shadow Council.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, as it was. A new Syndicate, a higher syndicate, had moved in place, enforcing a cold war between the two gangs. A vicious cold war, with one side eager to secure itself, the other eager to consume the other. With any cold war, naturally, the need for third party contractors were just as important as ever. Neutral agents, acting on behalf of their gangs, enough for plausible deniability, enough for results.
One such contact was Nagase.
The message would come while she was busy with whatever, maybe programming, maybe practicing her ninjutsu, maybe hacking Pepper Spangles Adventure to reskin Raizo into a certain Syndicate officer. She would be receiving a discrete notice to meet with the Syndicate at Duke's office in the business district of Southtown. There would be a dress code, as always, and it was expected to be ignored, as always. The details of the meeting were simple. And yet, the content may be part of a new business opportunity for the ninja.
The best answer to the question 'What is Nagase up to today?' is 'all of the above'. It's true that making subtle changes to the Pepper Spangles Adventure was one of her idle pastimes, ever since she was introduced to it during her earlier excursion to Violet Systems' secured facility. A little modification here, a little reskinning there, a complete sassy AI rewrite triggered only during certain days of the month -- a little mischief to keep the maintainers busy.
Ninjutsu, though, has dominated her #goals list for the past few weeks, all thanks to an embarassing loss to Mai Shiranui on the open streets of the Southtown Mall. So her lightly tanned skin is exhibiting a bit more muscle definition than the last time Duke had seen her; a physical change made obvious by her current attire.
Nagase is dressed to kill. Her flame-orange hair is styled back, as usual, with two shuriken-star earrings in place. But her off-the-shoulder dress, rather than the unholy blending of synthetics and natural fibers, is comprised of body-hugging velour in solid white. Sleeves trail out to her arms, starting off tight near the bicep, and flowing out to baggy near the wrist, only barely concealing the Battle Disc Systme gauntlets. The expanse of form-fitting white is interrupted by a brief expanse of dark purple leggings before resuming below knee-level in a pair of boots. Dress code? This is a black tie affair? Pssh, whatever, women can defy whatever dress code you set up and look -damn- good in the process.
As the elevator doors slide open, Nagase extends one yellow-gloved finger to the rim of her eyeglasses. The current time flashes into view for a moment, a fact noted by a pursing of her purple-tinted lips, and then a languid stride forward.
The diminutive fireball steps into the office, keeping her emotion restrained for the moment, as if she weren't trying to impress the executive with her couture. She hasn't forgotten the outbursts her employer is well known for. But she's also not going to outright -yield- to him, either.
"Good evening!" Her voice is clear and crisp, but not -overly- buoyant. Just enough to punctuate the very simple fact that Nagase has arrived.
"I'm here as ordered. What'ch... What do you have for me, boss?"
Nagase arrival was a little surprising, for being so direct.
Duke swivels around his chair, upon the arrival of the ninja. The crime boss was clad in his red and black suit, the Syndicate lieutenant the edge of his own fashion. And yet, so much was normal. Was was less normal was what was in his hands. A V-Gage, purple and silver, was in both hands. The machine was not wired to Duke right now, though that was the least. It was a bit uncharacteristic, for the crime boss to hold a video game system. Though on closer inspection, it wasn't even the commercial model. The 'Educator' line.
Whatever, Nagase is billable.
"I have this fascinating machine, Nagase." The crime boss rumbles. "It is all the rage, as I understand. And it is being released into the schools across the country... including certain schools." Duke furrows his brows. "I do not understand why these toys are so popular, nor do I understand why they are being brought into schools. What I do understand, however, is that my rivals are using these machines, and they must be doing it to gain greater power. I do not like this machine, Nagase." He places it on his desk, leaning over it.
"But what do you understand about it?"
When she first walks in, Nagase narrows her eyes at the device in Duke's hands. She knows damn well what it is, having spent some time with Brandon figuring it out, and then later 'acquiring' a system to sandbox around with. But whenever Duke gives her attention, her gaze darts back to meet his eyes, the faintest sliver of a smile slipping onto her face.
"Well, it's... got some pretty cool games. Gamers these days always want the latest, most cutting-edge game consoles, and it's no slouch." She crosses her arms behind her back, as if she's reading a book report to the class. "Graphics and sound are pretty intense, especially combined with the motion tracking. But..."
She rocks back onto her heels, that smile growing just a bit more. "Well, Lee Chaolan's kind of an ass? He's suckering people into buying these things with the promise of the best gaming experience on the planet, and turning right around and sucking the chi right out of the gamers. So, your answer is: It's a freakin' chi battery. Gonna guess that the plan's got -something- to do with this whole ComBot operation he's got running."
Nagase rocks back onto the balls of her feet, moistening her lips. She knows Duke well enough by now to keep her reports short and simple.
Honestly he didn't do it for games.
He wanted it to check his email and use the Discord feature to network with Mr. Big. As Nagase continues on the features of the V-Gage, his eyelids lower. By the time she reaches Graphics and Sounds, Duke clearly is lost. His brow furrows, as his temper rises, Nagase continuing to use a tone that he was not only unfamilar with, but even hostile.
And then she says Lee is an ass.
Duke nods knowingly, as he reaches behind the desk. "So it wasn't an assassination attempt." Duke places the remains of a second, commercial V-Gage on the desk. The device was absolutely gutted, the interior pulsing with heaving violet energy... but otherwise inert. There was blood on the device. Duke's expression remains a glower. "I remember what the HitBit did when I used it in my fight with Ryu. If it was designed to track my chi, it would be overloaded. If it was designed to sap my power..." He shakes his head at it. "I am concerned, Nagase, about what Lee Chaolan is up to."
"What is your opinion on it, Nagase?"
Nagase is glad she kept her description short. Even moreso once she sees the blood on the second device that he retrieves from behind the desk. The fingers of her right hand twitch behind her back, and telemetry appears faintly upon her eyeglasses as Duke speaks.
"No assassination attempt, but I can guess he might be seeing how much this thing can hold. Or how much you liked Haruna Downhill Racer."
Nagase glances askance for a moment -- come to think of it, maybe -that's- why Violet was chatting people up there the year prior.
Her aside completed, she refocuses her amber-lensed eyes upon Duke and continues quietly -- "Never mind what you were doing, just... just out of curiosity, how long did it take to overload it?"
The tech-ninja draws in her breath -- making sure to keep a steady distance between her and the boss-man -- and explains, "Folks who don't know much about chi would buy the marketing pitch -- the V-Gage uses super-special batteries that can only be refilled at a service center. Folks like you and me... yeah. We'd be bringing it back with a full tank, and Violet Systems or whoever they're contracting to would have enough juice to throw a few dozen fireballs or whatever."
She inclines her head downward. "Combine with the collected HitBit data, mix with those clunky ComBots from last year, and boom, you gotch'erself a fully-functional Duke-bot or Nagase-bot. Just not as handsome or pretty."
Nagase brings her hands forward again, extending her index fingers to mimic a picture frame. "What do -I- think? I think he's got the subtlety of a rodeo bull set loose in a china shop. Genius in a way, but kinda dumb still? But he's -giving- this chi technology away to the winner of that King of Fighters gig. So if it's not for profit, why would he build this?"
Only 5 minutes, and after Duke read a particularly offensive Facebook post involving the Liberal party in Japan.
Duke did not even know what Haruna Downhill Racer was. THe joke escapes him from the plucky young girl. As she continues to explain, though, he nods firmly. Nagase's understanding was... expertise. Duke strokes his beard, staring at the ninja with burning yellow eyes. "Lee Chaolan... acts like he is being bold and daring, but hides his true motives behind his audacity. Whatever he is up to... I will play his game."
"And he will not enjoy it."
Duke rises in his chair. "The Southtown Syndicate once had a reputation for tournaments. The King of Fighters will be no exception. I will be joining the tournament as part of the Syndicate Team. If Lee Chaolan wishes to give away the keys to his most powerful secrets, then I will rip them from his hands." Duke strides across the room, each step coming with a boom. Comes to a stop before Nagase. "And if he tries any funny business? I will break his spine over my knee." Looking down at Nagase with a sneer, he states very firmly, as he stares into her eyes. "Your mission, Nagase, on behalf of the Syndicate,"
"Is to be my partner."
Nagase always was intimidated by Duke's mannerisms. He selects his words as carefully as he might choose a fine wine from a private cellar, delivering the fewest words with the greatest impact. Her jaw is set -- God forbid this decapitee ever give her a piece of information he considers trivial.
But, hey, she can respond with the idea of Duke waiting him out. It's not like the big man fears death, after all! She nods slowly in agreement, taking care to not overstep the bounds of respect. ... And when the mountain of a man quakes his footsteps over to her, the young ninjette's eyes follow his -- until he's right on top of her.
She wants to step back.
It's not terror that keeps her rooted in place -- terror would mean shadowstepping away.
It's curiosity, for how he intends to play the game.
Partner, he says. The 'Syndicate Team' is a bit... brash for a team name, she thinks. Maybe a bit too obvious? She doesn't voice that thought though, nor does she smile. But she does breathe a sigh of relief.
And then a mild wince, at the stifling heat of standing so close to Duke.
"I mean, yes, I accept the mission!" Though, at the end of her words, her pitch rises slightly, as if to inquire if there anything else without the audacity of actually voicing the thought.
"You should be honored."
Duke's arrogance comes in full force, as he refuses to step back. Those damnable yellow eyes were deadlocked below. "My organization has vast resources for these sorts of things. The options I have for teammates are... certainly not lacking, though ultimately unimportant in terms of simple fighting. I am easily capable of fighting the strongest alone." The crime boss lowered his head down, almost daring Nagase to object. And yet, he finally steps away from her, circling her like a shark. "My companion should have different talents."
"Talents that I am comfortable you share."
Duke brings his hand up, his index finger pinched to his thumb. "Lee Chaolan will be laying a trap for the champion, or any participant that does not bemuse him. And his traps will be tied to his damnable robots. I will need someone familiar with the technology, or can become familiar with the technology, in order to negate any surprises he will pull on us. I lack experts who are both competent in fighting and technology; it is a rare niche indeed. But." Duke stops his circling, turning towards Nagase to glower down at her again. "I notice you did not attempt to negotiate the terms of your mission, Nagase."
"I would imagine you would request a special price for such an important mission."
Nagase understands Duke enough to know that his presence all but -demands- that he get in the face of his subordinates. Her attire was a conscious attempt to play to Duke's ego; likewise, she's pretty much committed to standing completely still before him, whether he's glaring down at her, or pacing around her like a hungry lion. Still, there's an current of -primal- terror flowing through her -- enough to cause beads of perspiration to trickle down her forehead.
... Though, she does take notice that Duke is making an effort to play up her unique skills and talents. As Duke paces around her, she takes the moment to unlock her jaw, take a breather, and come to grips with the idea that... he's pretty much saying she's the only person for the job. The only person he would trust to both -fight alongside him- and -deal with the robots-.
She closes her mouth, banishing the slight, self-satisfied smile that had appeared for an instant, just before her face comes back into the view of Duke's arc of travel. Drawing in her breath, she nods quietly to each of the points, turning her gaze to Duke as soon as it becomes comfortable for her forward-faced pose.
Why -didn't- she negotiate?
There is no hint of sass, or the predatory glint which she might exhibit to one of her peers. Her tone: completely even and measured, as she falls back onto her ninja training.
A heartbeat elapses.
"I am comfortable in my talents, as they regard our target in specific. I am certain that I'm every bit as good as you've told me. And as neither of us will want to inconvenience the other unduly..."
Fingers fly across the surface of a credit-card-sized LCD display she withdraws from her sleeve. And a fairly large -- but not impossibly so -- number appears on the screen.
"... If you wanted to treat this like a one-shot mission rather than a long-term partnership, this would cover it."
"A long-term partnership..."
There is a silence there, a long pause from the crime boss, as he looks over the LCD display, as he mulls over something. The last thing he mentioned? The overall project? His expression was only a scowl. He was considering, calculating carefully. His yellow eyes were breaking from her eyes, inspecting her carefully. And then he nods his head.
"Yes, yes, I will treat this as a one shot mission."
"The payment is acceptable." Duke nods, as he approaches the desk. Immediately, he begins to scrawl on a contract by the V-Gage. "I will prepare the contract as needed, and then, the registration. I hope not to be disappointed by you, Nagase. As I recall, you participated in the last tournament. I watched you lose to a child." He looks up from the contract, clutching it in his hands.
"Do you need anything else from me?"
Nagase's jaw is set, as she stands resolute against Duke's careful considerations. She had already prepared for several possible outcomes of this meeting -- her math is sound, her numbers are commensurate with whatever Duke could feasibly ask of her. There's no way he could shoot her down outright -- though he could back her off 10% without a huge fallout to her long-term budget. And the long-term partnership -would- be better...
And then he announces his decision.
In her mind, she's jumping for joy. A negotiation that -works-, and that doesn't make her feel like she lowballed the figures. She might just be getting better at this after all...
Wait, he's still talking. The ninjette's eyes focus upon Duke in his new location, as her Battle Disc System provides a close-up of the contract he's signing. Her jaw... slackens, though, when he mentions the possibility of disappoint. When he alludes to losing to a child.
... She stops herself from insisting that she didn't -lose- to Ayame, she'd stood aside, and beside, the miko had -won- Rumble.
She stops herself because he was talking about Haru, the high school student.
Crimson floods into her cheeks as she sets her jaw once more, chin lowering as she clenches her fists together. An excuse starts to work its way up her throat, but its progress is interrupted by Duke's followup question.
At which point, the excuse becomes moot.
A moment of thought.
A forcible expulsion of air from her lips.
An answer, slackened control causing a slight flutter in her voice.
"Nothing I can think of now, sir."
She bows from the waist, as an afterthought.
Duke glowers at her, arms crossed. The messages were mixed. Balanced between abusive, and constructive. Duke, the crime boss, had a specific purpose for the ninja. He felt that as the tournament continued... the need for a ninja like Nagase would become significantly more important. Especially, in the most unlikely of outcomes, if the team was eliminated. Duke turns his back to Nagase, motioning his hand away. "You are dismissed for now. I will handle the affairs of this team... to an extent. Do not go too far, though." Duke
Duke glowers at her, arms crossed. The messages were mixed. Balanced between abusive, and constructive. Duke, the crime boss, had a specific purpose for the ninja. He felt that as the tournament continued... the need for a ninja like Nagase would become significantly more important. Especially, in the most unlikely of outcomes, if the team was eliminated. Duke turns his back to Nagase, motioning his hand away. "You are dismissed for now. I will handle the affairs of this team... to an extent. Do not go too far, though." Duke turns, as he flares up with chi energy, the crimson violet force rippling through his suit.
"I may have further need for you."
Log created on 12:15:46 07/26/2017 by Duke, and last modified on 16:49:00 08/07/2017.