I-No - Emotional Investment Points

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Description: Ramlethal is living in literal garbage because she's not handling freedom too well. I-No is living in figurative garbage for an arguably similar reason. Since the realm of possibilities has chosen a novel path, I-No decides to gamble on Rammy and see what happens. If nothing else, the sheer number of dumb things that could happen next should be amusing.

Central America was home to many colorful cities, colorful people, and colorful locales to explore. A feast for every sense, from the heavy, spicy bouquets of food stalls and stands, to the pleasing sounds of musicians noodling away in market squares. Accoustic guitar and horns blend away into the low rumble of voices, each murmur together turning into a cacophany that cannot be shouted over. Paved roads give way to dirt trails, and buildings smush together for prime real estate on lanes, spiderwebbed with alleyways.

It is life in the city, and for many, it is home.

For Ramlethal Valentine, it is a challenge. A specific challenge.

Spiderwebs of alleys accumulate what can be generously called 'fluids' were it not for the viscosity, a hot humidity not reflected on the autumn streets, where a breeze can roll through.

City animals paw through the garbage, but Ramlethal pays it little mind. She pays very little any mind at all, beneath her in contempt and consideration.

Instead, she pecks away at a phone's face, one hand cupping the back of the device, and another hoverhanding it with a prominent index finger, jamming into the screen with a 'tak tak tak' of fingernail on glass. She is clad in ill-fitting trackwear that doesn't match, a green jacket top and tan striped bottoms.

"This one is almost done." She intones neutrally, looking at the small battery icon with a sliver of red and a ! on the little display.

A ratty looking street dog barks at her, and she turns her head to stare at it.
The dog barks again.
Her stare intensifies, exerting her pressure upon the animal.
The street dog continues barking.


Moments later, Ramlethal exits the stinky alley, one hand still clawhanding the phone while she carries the barking street-dog tucked under her arm, moving towards the scent of food and the stalls of grilled meats.

The dog continues to bark intermittently, but cannot struggle out of Ramlethal's absolute grasp. It is just a dog.

Moments later, Ramlethal exits the stinky alley. Moments later, Ramlethal passes a familiar face leaning up against doorway.

There are many memorable things about I-No that are not present right now. She isn't carrying her eye-catching guitar, nor is she wearing her eye-catching hat or her eye-catching everything else. It's still hard to miss the eigengrau-black bob and the particular shade of her red lipstick on that particularly predatory curve of her lips.

After all, Ramlethal had plenty of time to memorize the face of the red witch while she was destroying Ramlethal's Gear army.

"Puta hostia, Rammy," says I-No, her voice a rasp that hints at recent throat abuse that probably came in liquid form. "I turn around for a fuckin' second and you've got a track suit and a little purse dog."

I-No's not-a-witch disguise consists of a pair of aggressively-cut red denim shorts, a matching red halter top trimmed in black, and a pair of cowboy boots in (you guessed it) red with (SURPRISE ROUND) gold-threaded patterns. Her statement accessories include a cross charm on a fine golden chain, and a leather belt sporting a huge buckle with the words MOTHER FUCKING TEXAS arranged around an relief of a middle finger. Despite still going hard on the eyeliner, she's wearing a pair of yellow-tinted sunglasses that make the eye makeup more of an act of ritual than a thing to be noticed.

I-No glances pointedly downward at the dog, which may have every disease it is possible for a dog to have and still be actively mean.

"You've got shit taste, by the way."

Ramlethal Valentine, most powerful of the Command Gears less Justice, is wearing stolen bits of tracksuit and barefoot. I-No, Known Wytch, destroyer of armies, and mortal foe is stylin' and profilin' in a fine ensemble with a novelty belt that would fit in with the less-than-crypticisms of Sol and Ky's own.

Even Ramlethal's flat gaze is critically hit with a twitch at the corner of her eyes, as she's addressed in I-No's particular way.

"I don't require a purse."
A moment's hanging pause, and then, as the Valentine realizes that statement requires more information input to make sense and comport with the implied - or, at least, anticipated - question. "The dog was too large for this clothing's pockets."

The logic is bulletproof.

"My taste functions adequately. I have no need of it, of course - food is useful only in its satisfaction of nutritional needs. ... However, it is more optimal for the food to be simple and filling than to be of lower quality."

I-No narrows her eyes. She leaves them narrowed for the rest of Ramlethal's explanations, because the Command Gear's logic never really gives her a time to recover from the first wtf. Eventually, the red witch inhales, rolls her eyes away, exhales, and then pushes off from the wall.

"I didn't mean, fuckin'... mouth taste, or whatever. Figurative taste."

She reaches out and tugs at Ramlethal's sleeve.

"/This/ looks like it's made out of recycled milk cartons, so great job of saving the goddamn environment." She lets it go, only to point at the dog. "/That/ looks like it's gonna give you every flavor of lyme disease. Shit, that's efficiency too, isn't it?"

I-No turns and starts walking down the street. "Come on, kid. You're not instinctively trying to sword murder my ass so we may as well have a fuckin' bonding moment."

WITCH FACT: Ramlethal is a little taller than I-No. I-No is still definitely gonna call her kid repeatedly.

Narrowed eyes meet empty drillstare, whose intensity is borne not out of direct attention or some reactive drive to match up, but because of Ramlethal's incredible pressure.

The DiseaseMutt (TM) is seemingly immune to this power not because it is a being of ultimate martial power, but because it is brain damaged in addition to bearing every single possible disease a dog can carry. The brain damage is most likely caused by all the diseases, a very succinct path from A to B.

I-No is most likely heavily resistant because of her almost undoubtable incredible migrane at dealing with Ramlethal, if not the magic power of hard rock.

Or, even more likely, holding the fond memory of beating an epic amount of ass the last time they ran into each other.

The tug on her the tracksuit's sleeve causes the dog to begin scrabbling, flopping back and forth in Rammy's sure grip and slobbering all over, smearing dog-juice all about like a modern art painting. Did you know a dog's mouth is super sanitary? Did you know that in this case that's a hollow blessing, pumped with lie-filling?

"Environmental awareness is not a mission priori-" Rammy begins, I-No continues to bulldoze her with Hot Takes and Wordular Facts. "I am not succeptible to human diseases." She attempts, but it's quiet - above a murmur, but below her normal flat affect.

Being dragged along, though, she stumbles once, having to catch herself on thin air with a curl of her foot. "You are not attacking me. I don't have a current reason to attack you. Should I? The buttocks is a low-priority target - the head or chest would be more ideal."

I-No didn't want to resort to physically dragging Ramlethal along, but she knows sometimes the products of bajillion-dollar general intelligence projects using unrestricted human experimentation are the dumbest things on the planet. She'll wrist-drag if she needs to, which handily keeps her arm away from Biteslob the Plague Hound.

The red witch takes Ramlethal down to the end of theside street where it feeds into a larger avenue, which at this hour is mostly dominated by foot traffic and pop-up stalls. She pauses at the corner, turning partially around to give Ramlethal a sly look. Her voice becomes an agreeable purr.

"Low priority, huh? So Rammy likes the T more than the A?" She briefly tugs at the neckline of her top, enough to expose some black lace but nothing more interesting than that. "Important intel for my shadowy masters."

Someone in the crowd of walkers whistles sharply. I-No snaps her gaze back out, shouting with immediate viciousness: "¿Te gusta lo que ves, pendejo?"

No return challenge. I-No stares into the crowd for a tense moment longer, and then her expression melts into a softer, pleasant neutrality as she continues dragging Ramlethal along down the avenue. They blend into the flow of traffic, enjoying a healthy buffer bubble from other people because of their ensemble act of 'probably-rich foreign lady dragging along diseased street child and her pet sentient pile of mange.'

"I'm taking you to a cafe so you can shove greasy food in your upper sin-hole while we have a conversation. Hell, I'll join you, because I've got a hangover and someone shot me in the tits with lightning the other day. Anyone ever shoot you in the tits with lightning, Rammy?"

It's hard to say which is more socialized - Ramlethal, or the quadrupedal embodiment of garbage tucked under her arm. The dog, at least, can be contained. Ramlethal, however, can be led by her nose - or appropriate limb. I-No finds resistance after the initial yank, playing tug-of-war with the Valentine's impulse to exert active stabilizing force against any and all comers, gravity and physics be damned.

But I-No is insistent, and Ramlethal has no strong reason to resist beyond being contrary. Spite, however, requires emotional investment, and currently her one (1) Emotional Investment point is currently allocated to Biteslob The Dogplague.

The path they take to the mass of people on the major thouroughfare has her quickfooting to keep up, her long hair swaying unkemptly around her shoulders, just in time to nearly Ram-lethal her nose into I-No's back. She handles stopping short by arresting her momentum and hanging in mid-air, frozen in mid-pratfall as she looks at the Wytch's sly smirk. "I enjoy... Neither."

There's an emptiness beyond the normal automatonic response. Two words, and then a simple abortion of further sentencing. Her eyes fall down, her feet re-alighting on the ground silently as she figures out physics once more.

Biteslob barks violently at the heckler, and then yaps a few times for good measure, before drooling all over Ramlethal's track jacket as it headlolls limply. It understands swearword badtongues and is all to ready to join in counter-heckling in its own way, for its limited intelligence is focused on tolerating abuse and rooting around in the garbage.

"A cafe would be... acceptable. I will accept conversation if you accept 'the bill'."
Another eyefall. "I do not... money. Stealing regularly attracts attention, attention attracts bounty-hunters, and bounty-hunters create need for money. It is tiring."

There's a toothiness to her lips as she breaks out in a slasher smile. "But bounty-hunters also carry money, so it can be positive."

At 'being shot in the tits with lightning', the slasher smile dies, and is replaced with a far-off contemplative look. Oh, yeah, Raiden. "Yes."

"Yeah, I'll pay, and I won't even be mad if you don't put out."

I-No precariously ignores where she's walking to look back at Ramlethal when the other woman begins to elaborate on her money problems (and solutions!). The slasher smile prompts her to choke on a laugh to stifle it, resulting in an amused look and an unladylike snort.

"Holy shit," she mutters, looking ahead again.

The red witch brings them into the open door of a corner building that leads immediately to a tiled room filled with a bar and tables. There's a smattering of occupied seats since the post-lunch rush is done and after-work drinks haven't started, which allows the person behind the bar to immediately step out and start yelling at I-No while gesturing at Ramlethal, Biteslob the Barking Tragedy, and both of them together as a unit.

Because they are a unit now. Carrying a dog for blocks is like pet marriage.

I-No, for her part, begins yelling back without hesitation. The two of them have an aggressive, pattering conversation in Spanish that dies down when the bartender begins to look like I-No has reminded him of something stupid he did in eighth grade. Her witch powers probably do not allow her to actually know something stupid he did in the eighth grade, but her bitch powers can definitely put an expression just like that on someone's face.

I-No turns back to Ramlethal, using both hands to push the other woman by the shoulders. "Move. You can keep your garbage golem of a canine on the side patio."

The bartender yells again when I-No pushes Ramlethal between the tables toward the patio exit rather than taking her around and avoiding the guests, but I-No says something in reply that makes a nearby woman spit up part of her drink.

The side patio is on the other side of the building, fenced off from the sidewalk by a demure wrought iron fence. I-No continues pushing until they're down at the end, whereupon she finally collapses into a chair at a two-seater table. She leans back enough that her chair goes up on two legs.

"So," she announces, using a louder tone to get attention. "Paint me a picture of what the fuck is up with you, Rammy, because from where I'm sitting it seems like Metal Gear Waifu got volcanic shanked, and then you decided to set your sights low and claim Disney princessdom over a fuckin' sewer."

There's a menu on the table. Choices.

'... and won't even be mad if you don't put out'
"Understood." is the toneless answer from Disney's The Princess and the Fangs.

Ramlethal watches passively as the (human) owner of the cafe begins shouting their head off at Biteslob, Health Code Violation and Ramlethal. Her eyes whisk left to right, first quickly, checking exits, targets, and potential threats. Then, slowly, right to left, this time analyzing. The air begins to thicken around her. Her power becomes tangible, and the air starts to smell like green apple marker, an undertone from the heavy grease from the stovetops covered in grilling meat.

And I-No takes her by the wrist again, dragging her through the cafe to the side patio and flopping into a chair before raising it to a jaunty sitting angle.

This releases the hand that had been holding the phone the entire time, allowing Ramlethal a moment, while her (il)legal guardian wasn't in total control of her limbs, to sneak some screen time.

The blank, powerless black glass plate fills her with ---

Nothing. She tosses the phone lightly over the balcony. "Empty."

Then, hand free, she snaps her fingers and twists her wrist, the gesture tearing her black familiar into reality from nowhere. She points at the dog. The familiar shakes its head. She points at the dog firmly. The familiar shakes its head even more violently. Her hand snakes up to seize the familiar, pressing the flying mouth towards Biteslob, Heir To Swamp Thing.

The black familiar inverts in on itself to get away from carrying the dog with its teeth, disappearing in a pop entirely similar to pac-man touching a ghost and dying.

So she just puts the dog down on the ground, its legs flailing about as it senses freedom. As soon as diseased paws scratch the concrete floor of the patio it begins to move, before Ramlethal pulls off her top (since covered in sticky dog juice and slobber) and tosses it on top of the animal (revealing her belt-kini top, which remains unchanged from the last time I-No saw her).

Biteslob immediately intuits that since it is now Dark, it is nighttime, and faceplants in the concrete, tail wagging from under the polyester.

Ramlethal sits down, finding a handi-nap on the table to squeegie down her hands. "I am listening." She answers as she does so, meticulously applying alcoholic napkin to the crevasses and surfaces of her hand with a sole deliberation. "For another sound. Like the one that filled me near the end of the previous mission. Battle is too loud to be listening - so avoiding combat when possible is optimal."

"An additional garbage human-approximate person in this locale is not out of place. My physical features also match the people of the region." Except for her CREAM WHITE ANIME HAIR, her gigantic anime leggyness, and her absurd and perfectly athletic build.

As the menu comes, she starts pointing, and speaking in rather good (if task-oriented) Spanish. Oh she knows what you said. It just wasn't important. "This. This. Two of this. One of these. A bowl, two spoons. Two of each of these." Is the summary of her order, adding an "Extra sauce, with everything." at the end.

I-No drops her gaze to Ramlethal's chest after the other woman pulls off her tracksuit top and reveals the next-gen UN tactical war gear known as 'beltkini.' She weakly lifts her left shoulder because this shrug is for no one, and then reaches up to remove her yellow sunglasses and drop them onto the table. The shade of the sunglasses were inhibiting an inhuman strangeness in her eyes: they change colors between numerous vibrant hues based on the direction from which they are observed. It may have been hard to notice during all the murdering going on in Hokkaido at the time.

Biteslob becomes Nightslob, and I-No does not give him a further thought for now.

But Ramlethal is going on again. I-No leans forward in her chair, the front two legs clicking as she sets them on the pavement again. She presses toward the table, supporting her weight with her forearms. Her eyes narrow. Gears turn in her head. Some of the Gears are Ramlethal. I-No is just about to open her mouth to speak when the waiter comes by, and so she exhales a short noise of disgust and settles back into her chair again.

The onslaught of Rammythoughts turns out to continue in the food phase of the discussion. I-No cranes her neck to get a better angle on what all the other woman is jabbing her stabby-fingers at. (I-No knows the stabby well.) The waiter eventually leaves, which means it's time for I-No to share all the thoughts that have been getting backed up while waiting.

"And you've just been living off of pocket money you picked up off corpses," says I-No. She makes a clicking noise with her tongue against the side of her teeth. "If Princess Garbageland is gonna eat like a goddamn garbage /disposal/ then this humble traveling bard recommends she get her dumpster truck of an ass to Southtown, where she can offer to physically degrade herself on live television in exchange for fight money."

I-No doesn't wait for a response, pausing only briefly enough to signal a topic change.

"Look, you don't know this, but we go way back. You're acting real fuckin' weird right now, even for a military-industrial triumph in applied ganguro technology. So, in the interest of our long and intimate relationship, I need you to tell me what sound you're listening for."

Ramlethal wears the foot equivalant of pretty bicep wraps, three belts, and a pair of shorts as a regular outfit. The hat and the cape are 'accessory' and 'freaky wearable mouth' respectively, and only count on days we're being generous. She has little shame even if she's aware of the gazes upon her. Even if she wore the latest in high impact tactical outerwear, she also had the power to do so.

And, spite required Emotional Investment points.

Ramlethal tucks her alcoholic napkin back in its package like one would pack a smoking cob pipe, deliberately with her thumb, watching I-No's fascinating eyes cycle colors, adjusting her angle in a potentially amusing crane-and-stop that reminds of the mechanical adjustment of a precision tool. "I considered that. However, being on a public or privately broadcast medium would draw unwanted attention." She continues to adjust her head, though her tone drops throatily. "I would slaughter them all, of course, but it would be so tiring."

Rotating her neck from a left cant all the way back to a right cant, a lock falls over her mouth, which she blows on childishly to clear from her face. Her tone returns to her flat, business drone. "And Southtown has numerous UN agents watching it. I have not made a decision on my disposition."

"And I don't want it made for me."

The food begins arriving, and Ramlethal answers over the clink of plates. "I heard my Mother whisper to me. It was a song. You are a musician - did you hear the same song?"

The food arrives in heaping quantities, the first flight a large tray of street tacos filled with only the simplest and most direct of ingredients. Two piping hot and slightly greasy small soft taco corn tortillas, dry-doughy in texture, topped with a small mountain of chopped grilled steak, darkened amber chunks of perfectly toasted grilled chicken, long flush tan strips of fried pork dripping with juice, succulent shrimp browned on both faces, and chunks of grilled whitefish. Each is covered with glistening silver-white chunks of onion and tiny leaves of heat-wilting cilantro, and topped with an erupting volcano flow of appropriate rich fiery-red salsa or zesty verde sauce. An entire lime sits chopped into wedges in the center.

The UN fashion advisors were a very special department.

I-No immediately plays with Ramlethal's inquisitiveness about her eyes. She rolls her head around in a circle while keeping her gaze locked, which makes the ride through the colors both faster and more unpredictable. The witch grins toothily for a moment, but it fades quickly enough as Ramlethal keeps talking.

She looks ready to argue with Ramlethal more on the subject of Southtown shenanigans, but soon there's a waiter coming and she briefly contents herself with a scoff while she lolls her head backward. I-No stares up at the sky while the plates come clinking out onto the table. It smells good, but she's got something else she needs to look at right now.

Tnk. tnk. tnk. The burble of refilled water. I-No looks into the cloudless blue and squints. Her multi-hued irises drift from color to color.

//I heard my Mother --//

The red witch drops her head back to pierce Ramlethal with her weird-eyed glare. The corner of her mouth is turned up in a mild snarl, but there's too much bemusement in the rest of her expression for it to be truly aggressive.

And the food continues to pile up. I-No doesn't look at it. It's Ramlethal's turn to be the sky to her eyes.

"Mother..." she all but growls.

The waiter walks off. I-No maintains eye contact. A breeze drifts across the patio, enough to tousle hair but not much else. Impermanent. I-No's scowl deepens by fractions.

She wrinkles her nose. Finally, finally, she glances down at the food. Her expression fades away.

"Fuck, fine," she says. "That looks good. I'm taking half credit for picking the place."

I-No plucks a butterflied shrimp from one of the tacos, popping it into her mouth, tail and all. She chews with an initial crunch, which shuts her up for a second. Not long enough to interrupt, because I-No has mastered the art of talking with her mouth full.

"Okay, sure. I'm the musician," she says, picking up a lime. She gives it a cruel and messy squeeze, and then gestures at Ramlethal with the spent corpse. Lime corpse, sure, but it sounds metal.

"Hum a few bars for me. I've got a good ear for beats I've heard before."

Ramlethal's testing of I-No's eye-ffects, and I-No playing with Ramlethal's playing with it, creates an odd game from the outside: two strange women doing bird-things with their necks. Floop floop turn floop, crane sloop, doop doop.

Ramlethal's expression remains flat, her lips in a cool, unstretched line. Her eyes, however, flit with an expressive widening as they move over the food, and eager fingers begin to collect the little wrapped bundles of oral indulgence.

She is about to jam half of the meat-heaped morsel into her sharktoothed mouth before she's asked a very specific question.

Torn between deferment of pleasure, and trying to bear out what had become an important star within her tiny heart, Ramlethal, with a taco hovering in her hands, closes her eyes, and draws a breath in through her nose.

When she begins humming, it is a quiet thing, soulful in a way the Valentine never is, dripped with a melody that flutters along the scale like a math equasion in crystal notes.

After ten or so seconds, Ramlethal stops, opens her eyes, and half-grunts. "Like that."
Then she jams the whole taco in her mouth because she's a fucking animal.

I-No slows her chewing as she waits to see what Ramlethal will do. She stops entirely when she sees that tell -- not the breathing through the nose, but the action before that, the little motions of her muscles along her exposed torso, the expanding of her lungs, and of course finally the sound.

The melody wanders. I-No commits it to memory easily, because music has always come easily to her. It isn't the kind of thing you play to get someone's attention, she immediately realizes. It's something you play when you already have it.

Like that, Ramlethal says. I-No swallows. Ramlethal shoves an entire fuckin' taco piled high with meat from every nearby biome. I-No doesn't seem to care.

"That's fucked up, Rammy," she says. The witch tosses the lime aside and reaches forward to wrap her puffy taco more tightly. Some meat escapes, but it doesn't really matter in the scheme of things. It's only a deferment of the established order.

"You're gonna have to walk me through how someone getting sassy with babby's first scales put you in contact with the mothership."

"It is efficient." Ramlethal replies flatly, in apparent response to 'that's fucked up, Rammy'.

Because Ramlethal thinks it's the taco that I-No is talking about. It's not, Rammy. Don't be dense.

The waitress comes back, as Ramlethal goes for another taco, this time joining I-No in crushing the life out of innocent lime corpses and pouring nature's sour blessing upon her chopped bundle of savory joy.

The plates that are bussed here include a trio of flautas, crispy flour shells crammed full of melting cheese and meat, crunchily steaming under an egregious pile of fresh chunky guacamole, with a small dollop of shining sour cream stuffed onto the plate. A mid-sized soup bowl simmers a barbacoa stew with large dime-sized floating grease bubbles - so you know it's AUTHENTICO - and two spoons placed alongisde on the plate the bowl sits on.

Ramlethal pops her index finger, then her middle, then thumb into her mouth in sequence, licking off the digits with a vigor to prepare for the next offerings.

"It was like there was a door, inside of me. I did not know of it, or where it led, before that moment. But, it opened a bit, and there was the song. And... wind. A breeze, fresh. Spring-like. It was... not unpleasant."

I-No chomps down on her taco. She shrugs at Ramlethal's response while she chews, evidently willing to let the possible misunderstanding ride. There is a pleasantly simple moment of silence while the two eat that isn't filled with plot-tense aura flaring. By the time the waitress comes back, I-No has finished her taco and is picking up pieces of stray meat (but thankfully not stray meat, the menu's too pricey) to pop into her mouth.

"Definitely gonna need a drink for this one," she says, raising her finger to get the woman's attention so that she can finally bust into the alcohol. It was a bad idea waiting for a later interlude.

The waitress goes off, leaving I-No to consider Ramlethal anew. The witch leans onto her elbows while the other woman licks her fingers.

"Music and a door and a Spring breeze. This shit is conceptually all over the place. What makes you think this was something significant and not you stroking out for a second because you were getting your ass kicked by the Animal Liberation Front?"

Alcohol. A poison or panacea of choice. Unfortunately, Tecate or Corona Extras probably aren't the speed that I-No is looking for. Maybe they have some bottom-shelf tequila available for daytime drinking, if I-No lacks all shame.

It's likely.

"Music. A door. A sensation, like a gentle breeze." Ramlethal repeats. "I know it is significant, because I felt it. Not like an emotion, but an experience. I knew of failure and the pain of loss, the ways that pain can be beaten into you. I know of power, of the coursing of energy begging to burst free at my whim. This was neither."

"Pain comes from without. Power comes from within. The door was on the inside. The music filled my mind, not my ears. The breeze brushed my skin from my bones."

I-No doesn't lack shame. Shame lacks I-No.

Don't think about it too hard.

I-No fishes for a fork that's still hidden in her napkin, and then pulls the plate over so she can get at some of this good nasty nasty. For a woman with a permanent hangover, anything greasy enough to stop her body from considering all alcohol-related terrors is good by her.

"Real fuckin' poetic," she says. Crunch goes a flauta. She dives the fork into the guacamole next, preferring that to the sour cream because Ramlethal wouldn't appreciate the sex jokes possible there.

"So let's call it a religious experience. Plenty of people have those when they're looking a weirdly muscular hawk in the eyes and thinking they're gonna die. You're missing the part where this results in a viable character motivation. Did the music tell you to go rub yourself in garbage so the UN wouldn't want you back? You know all that jacking off over being of superior construction to humans means that they can just tell you to hold your breath while they dunk you in bleach."

Ramlethal tilts her head back at the 'poetic' line, staring down her nose at I-No, but doesn't drop some cliche automaton weapon murder grill line like 'poetry is useless' or some other Weaponized Illuminati UN Garbage Child hot line. It, instead, merely adds to a mildly tense air punctuated by crunching flauta. An explosion of gooey, greasy cheese and chunks of succuluent stray meats.

No, Nightslob, not THAT kind of stray.

"You are free to dismiss it. It is the privelege of the victor to decide." She decides upon, and her chin drops back to a slight tuck so she can focus on food and 'pleasant' conversation. Her hands come up, and her chair creaks as she goes for the barbacoa stew, pulling a large and heat-steaming chunk of beef out of the angry red liquid whose pain brings a different sort of pleasure.

"Justice told us to follow our own wishes. I am free. In this liberation, I decided to be left alone to listen."

"The garbage was not the end chosen, but a means. It is unpleasant but necessary. Would you rather I remand myself to Howard Enterprises, of Bernstein's flying fortress, to place a massive and weaponized organization between myself and the UN? It would come with responsibilities. Responsibilities were not listening."

The sentence flows, from cause and effect, punctuated by the gentle tinking of spoon on bowl. "But from then to now, there was nothing more to hear."

I-No's eyes flash when Ramlethal tilts her head back. Literally flash, because I-No isn't normal. It's an unspoken challenge -- one that is sublimated by the metaphysically complicated existence of flautas.

I-No bites down. Cronch. Cronchcronchcronch.

The witch sinks back into her chair, leaving her food half-touched while Ramlethal talks. She gives a wolfish grin as Ramlethal justifies her lack of responsibility. She lets the younger woman eat for a moment. It's the kind of existence that garbage might enjoy if garbage was treated well.

Eventually, though: "I'm going to let you in on something, Rammy. I'll slide open my own door slowly, since that seems to get you hot. Conspiracy robots must love conspiracies."

I-No nods toward the entrance to the restaurant, down on the other end of the patio.

"The waitress will come back with my drink five seconds after I finish talking. She's gonna catch the toe of her shoe on the ground and trip, but she'll catch herself. Then she'll apologize, drop off my drink, and leave in a hurry."

I-No pointedly stops talking, shutting her mouth and staring at Ramlethal. One, two, three, four...


The waitress rounds the corner. She gets halfway to the table before glancing down at the semi-limp form of Nightslob the Once and Future Biteslob, which means she falls short of her next step and catches her toe on the pavement. She stumbles -- but a quick step catches her, which brings her to the side of the table. The waitress sets down I-No's lowball glass, murmurs an apology, and hurries off. I-No doesn't stop watching at Ramlethal through all of this, no matter if Ramlethal turns away at any point.

"Anyway," she says, after the waitress is gone. The witch picks up her drink and lifts it to her lips, though not to drink but to smell. It burns her nostrils. I-No lowers the glass, looking across the table at Ramlethal through half-lidded eyes.

"You're fucking up, Rammy. I heard some contractions earlier in your fancy moe robot girl talk. You /don't/ need a purse. You /don't/ see a reason to fight me. You /don't/ want decisions made for you."

I-No tilts her head, mouthing numbers, then nods. "Yeah, got 'em. You're a real negative bitch today. Feels great to tell society to fuck off when it'd rather you be doing something, huh?"

I-No gestures with her glass at Ramlethal, extending her pointer finger.

"But you're a kinky fuck and you're hoping for someone compelling to tell you what to do anyway."

Eyes clash. The air thrums with restrained threat. Witch and Valentine lock their full attention on each other.

And then flautas happen.


I-No slouches in her chair and Ramlethal goes back to scooping fiery beef soup into her mouth. She doesn't spoon it into a bowl and then eat from the bowl, no, she is a vile creature and eats straight from the source. It is an act of micro-dominance.

Or nobody ever programmed in manners into their killer super-Gear. I-No makes predictions, and of all the possible responses, the Valentine only favors this with a direly quirked cream-white brow.

The waitress comes, five seconds past. She trips, places the drink, apologizes as portended, and leaves.

The brow drops, though there's an air of satisfied 'impressed-ness' radiating from the chocolate girl. "Accurate." She rumbles.

Adjusting in her chair for the first time under the rather wilting noticing of her flaws, Ramlethal looks away, her chin turning down and away, her bangs tumbling down to curtain the corner of her eyes. "It's--"

The critical hit launches into a natural air combo of verbal smackdown. "It is easier to deny and avoid. It is easier to hide and wonder and think. Simpler. The mission was simple. Doing what I was told was simple. Necessary. Expected. Demanded. What I was made for, purpose. Now Justice is gone, and she took away my purpose."

Her arms cross tightly, her long legs coming up to brace against her elbows, so she can rest her cheek on her knees. "Selfish. I do not have those things. It was never given to me. There was only the mission. But her last words take even that away from me."

Ramlethal shudders quietly, her body tensing and untensing, having been verbally picked apart. "This is the nothing that remains. Alleys and stealing and... dogs."


I-No's smile widens.

It is a fleeting gloat. I-No busies herself with her drink, which involves pounding half of it in a greedy gulp, exhaling hard, and then running her tongue across the length of her lips.

Meanwhile, Ramlethal looks for some verbal solidity. I-No doesn't contest it -- at least not immediately. Even when Ramlethal goes quiet to rearrange herself into the charmingly and contradictorily vulnerable posture of curling up in her chair, I-No lets the easy sass target just float on by unmolested.

Ramlethal shudders. The sharpness leaves I-No's expression, but a woman as cruel as she cannot help but look cold. It is easy to imagine the judgment in her as she looks impassively upon the Command Gear whose marshaled forces consist solely of a dog who by now has more insulting nicknames than teeth.

"You're right," says the witch. "There's nothing left. As long as you remember that, everything comes easy."

There's that breeze again. Funny how it knows when someone needs to feel cold, isn't it?

I-No sighs, loudly, abruptly, and so inelegantly that it's arguably more like an annoyed vocalization. She pounds the rest of her drink and, in a single motion, slams the glass down on the table and stands up.

"Alright, kiddo," she says. "Let's get out of here."

The witch reaches down the front of her top. This lecherous moment swiftly results in her pulling out a wad of cash, showing that sex does sell. She drops the bills onto the table without bothering to count them -- or stack them, really, as they flutter down to scatter across both food and tabletop.

"I'm taking you to Southtown. Don't argue with me, I have all the best ideas." I-No scoops up her sunglasses and slides them back onto her face. The yellow hue once more hides the coruscant madness of her irises.

"I'm gonna teach you how to disguise yourself and flaunt the government by being too good at making money for the right people. You've got exactly one plane ride to decide a cover name better than Thrustdeath Truelove or we're going with that."

Ramlethal is far too busy being the worst living weapon ever created by the UN (in this specific moment, there are still many a garbage living weapon in the aggregate, but since the camera is on Ramlethal Valentine, the winner is her) to bring up more verbal parries or just-defends.

There's a twitch when I-No, who, so far, has a perfect track record in A) Victory and B) Predictions uses her victor's privelege to confirm 'yes, there's nothing left', and it carries from her shoulders through her fingers. I-No celebrates with a toast to her own inebriation.

There's a creak as Ramlethal's chair scoots out from under her, with her arms not moving from around her legs, and her body not moving. She does, however, speak. "Is that where money comes from? Normally I pull it from pockets."

Even in the tonelessness, there's a soft sigh and the shake of her hair to perhaps, potentially, in a strange alternate universe make that 'a joke'.

Ramlethal rights herself from being balled up mid-air by letting her legs dangle down to tickle the ground with her toes, balancing just the fore of her foot. "I am uncertain that the 'right' people exist. However, money is good."

Ramlethal floats over, bending down to collect Bundleslob the Never Getting On A Plane, complete with befouled track jacket shell.

"What is wrong with that name?"

"Absolutely nothing," says I-No, heading back toward the door that leads into the restaurant and, beyond it, the street and planes and Southtown.

"Be sure to wave the mutt at the bartender to send a message."

Log created on 19:32:16 10/11/2018 by I-No, and last modified on 15:17:02 10/13/2018.