Description: At the bar in Zack Island's glitzy casino, Dr. Tran, /Real/ Real American Hero, drinks away his victory, an act more or less indistinguishable from drinking away his sorrows. He is pursued by one who knows of his defection from the Illuminati and is determined to recruit him to be used against them. Unfortunately, this one is Amy, who has learned a little too much and had a little too much fun today. There to restrain her is recent quasi-official inductee, Alma, who does his best. For various reasons, it is not enough. Ladies and gentlemen: the Order of Sacred Knights.
So this is what people call paradise.
Alma regards the interior of Zack Island's casino with the mild bemusement befitting of an open-minded innocent. His teacher Rose had brought him on board the cruise liner traveling here to attend to her needs before and after her formidable battle, and he had not known quite what to expect. The place is sensually overwhelming. Even he finds it difficult to endure the tumult while maintaining his self-possession for long, so he soon turned to painting to relieve the stress, and each work threatens to explode off the canvas with the intensity he has attempted to capture and express.
But the process, while it has removed him from the crowds, has relaxed him sufficiently such that when he heard his roommate Mimiru and heretic-hunting friend Amy were visiting the island, he took it upon himself to meet them. As it turned out, Amy -- looking a little more flushed than usual, to Alma's eye -- was seeking out someone of relevance to her organization. Given Alma's current involvement (whether he likes it or not), he elected to accompany her.
He is glad he's had time to gather himself beforehand.
The glitz and glamour of the casino cannot be overstated, though the massive windows overlooking the beach provide a somewhat soothing balance to the lights and sounds that surround the eager attendees. Near that gorgeous view, an elegant bar has been set up for those who wish to withdraw somewhat from the excessive cacophony. To be sure, there are other places to get drinks here. But supposedly the person they are seeking was recently spotted here.
"Do you see him?" Alma asks Amy, shifting his gaze away from the sensation overload to their side. He is dressed in white board shorts and boat shoes, a sleeveless zip-up cotton vest left unzipped. "The one you seek?"
She had explained it rather rapidly, so he hadn't quite caught it.
"Doctor ... who?"
SOME TIME AGO
SOMEWHERE THAT'S NOT THE BAR
Dr. Richard Tran is trying and failing to enjoy the satisfaction that comes with a tournament victory that he accomplished all by himself, with no help, completely alone, bravely outnumbered. Logically, that's the only way that could have happened, even if a weather balloon flew into some swamp gas and activated some kind of mass hallucinogen to make everybody /think/ he was in two places at once. But...
"But I seemed so...real. And I was so..." He glances downward, and immediately begins to frown like someone just told him his dear mother was carried away by giant mother-eating eagles. "...robust?"
ABOUT THIRTY SECONDS LATER
THE BAR % Tran has taken a full bottle of XXX ULTRABLACK ALCOHOL DRINK (warning: not intended for human consumption) from 100 percent fullness to approximately half without taking the time to breathe. "Hey. HEY! BARTENDER!" Which just means he has a full lungful of air to start being obnoxious immediately afterward. "Why do you just /assume/ that I'm drinking to forget, huh? Maybe I'm celebrating! I won my fight, you know!" The nearest bartender, who has said nothing, does nothing but presumably reflect on how there's no way they're being paid enough to deal with shit like this. "By myself! Me!"
Tran barely manages to hold in his ULTRABLACK, swallowing grimly before he allows himself to fall into a coughing fit.
The mysteries of this island have run deep, for Amy, but any dalliance with her innermost lusts has ended. The time to close on business has come, the time for duty to replace desire and the needs of the greater whole to outweigh selfish pleasure.
As the evening sets in, she's opted for attire more suitable to longevity in the shifting clime, clad in a deep violet gypsy top and loose, flowing beach skirt of midnight blue, material ebbing and flowing in slashed strips about long, toned legs reddened from the sun. The pale flesh of her cheeks is darkened too, concealing the telltale marks of her day's endeavours. Her hair has been pulled into a high ponytail, falling just against her upper back, a few artfully stray bangs left to frame her features. For all the emotion within, she seems... relaxed, calm, at peace with herself as stormy blue eyes scan the crowd. She's here for a purpose.
She WILL fulfill it.
Her teeth abruptly grit as she responds to Alma, and without thinking her hand darts out, cool fingertips resting upon the flesh of his arm. It's an intimate gesture, and insistent in its pressure; a dragging of trimmed nails mirroring an earlier action that may transmit in sensate motes to the psychic. She doesn't pause to consider it. She's already moving, finding her brisk, tomboyish stride easily in spite of the simple sandals upon her feet. She's not clad for battle, at all--
--but when she nears the rowdy doctor, she means to begin one, all the same.
Her voice is a hoarse bark, her usually clarion accent laboured with a surge of hateful, vengeful emotion. This was a mission of diplomacy or even mercy, a conversation to lead to an unknown eventuality, but that oceanic stare is a raging glare now, the fires of her soul stirring from embers to a blaze. She thrusts aside an innocent patron and all but dives toward the inimitable Doctor Tran, her arm outstretched to simply, bestially grab him by the throat and throw down her bodyweight into a brutal half-crouch, dragging him, slamming him into the floor of the casino bar.
"You destructive, foul THING. I'm going to tear you apart, heathen *automaton*!!"
It comes out in a hiss that's almost loud enough to be a bellow, her lungs straining with the effort, her voice cracking and throat suddenly parched. If left to her own devices, if allowing the true extent of her carefully-reined, disciplined thoughts to emerge, she'll proceed to just tear this so-called 'thing' apart.
She could be so calm because she's not thinking. This is instinct. This is animal.
As far as Alma knows, this is how Amy greets everyone.
Thus it is that at first, upon being stilled by Amy's touch, Alma is silent, unmoving even as the Templar lunges at the boisterous man at the bar. The psychic approaches slowly, hands slipping into the pockets of his jumper as he curiously regards what has become a tussle on the floor.
But he finds the breath stolen from him as Amy's victim turns, his face revealed. Alma's fey features freeze, his eyes abruptly unfocusing, not even drawing a breath as that sudden vertigo hits him once again, an experience to which he never grows fully inured. He had told Aya that one never knows where one may find what one has lost, but to think that this would happen here, he is truly unpr e p a r e d
'So this is ... I see.'
The word bursts from Alma's lips without his conscious thought intervening. He feels himself move rather than wills it, watches as though from afar his hand raise to rest upon Amy's shoulder, not restraining her but applying the same light touch with which she stopped him moments ago.
"This man is not an enemy."
So rarely does Alma retain a coherent sense of what he ought to learn from his flashbacks. Mimiru, Aya, and Ayame all left him decidedly confused. But here, for the first time, he experiences a singular emotion that pierces through whatever separates him from these memories he's never had.
"... a good person."
Alma, looking down at Tran, offers the doctor the brightest, purest possible smile, one that reaches from the depths of his heart.
Dr. Tran is pretty sure that whatever people are shouting at is completely unrelated to himself or anything he could possibly be involved in at this point, especially since his explicit mission on this island is to A) take advantage of a tropical paradise and B) take maximum advantage of Zack's foolish 'Bottomless Bar for Bikinis' policy.
It should be noted that he's still wearing his battle (?) gear, being a hot pink bikini that tells anybody who's curious exactly where they can kiss, his traditional white doctoring coat, and a single flip-flop. Perhaps that makes it just the flop, sad and scared without its precious life partner.
He loses it immediately, because a /psychopath/ has just /ambushed/ him. The doctor doesn't really even get a chance to make a noise, because between the moment where he senses **killing intent** and reacts, she is already crushing his throat and he cannot breathe.
Instead, when hjs assailant's friend (probably just some manpretty arm-candy) decides that Tran is A-OK, he frantically gestures, pointing and thumbs-upping at Alma like his life depends on it. Which maybe it does, there's nothing like XXX ULTRABLACK to take the fight out of a man.
The Templar is not privy to any deep sensory impacts, to the ministrations of Fate or even the deep confidances of her God. The psychic resonance that assaults Alma is a mystery to her save that she's taken on faith that he possesses such power; and in a fleeting time she already trusts his judgement as she trusts her own. When his hand alights upon her shoulder, Amy swallows and unclenches her raised, quivering fist, the residual motes of the Dragon's Breath that have begun to emerge dissipating in a harmless puff before she can force their totality down this mechanical monstrosity's crushed windpipe. That's not to say she's pleased to be interrupted...
But rage dissipates with a gasp, as though she were released from some geas, her eyes shutting as she loosens her grip with a noticeable effort and throws her whitened digits aside. Her body is shaking, the passion of her purpose unable to leave her so readily-- it's been an intense, emotional day, even without the alcohol still pounding through her own system. She's not quite drunk, but she's... giddy. Lightheaded.
Her uncertainty is all due to Alma's intercession, however. Without him--
She doesn't move to stand as her next instinct screams, doesn't turn in guilt or shame and hide from what she has wrought. She's better than that, she has to be. If she can walk away from what she has, if she can *face* what she has on the terms that she's laid out, without regret, then she knows she can do this.
"I was told," she says, clearing her throat as it comes out in a near-croak, "That he wasn't a person at all. Even before I knew that--" Thought she knew that, she almost corrects, but resolves not to. She refuses to believe that she's so ill-reasoned in judgement that she's missed the thrust of all that's occurred. An action taken in rashness is one thing, but she DOES know that what she's been told is true. In every pore. As much as she accepts, now, that Alma's information is no different.
Shaking her head, she reaches down with both hands and grabs Tran by the shoulders, helping him sit upright before she stands and offers a single hand to get him the rest of the way through assistance rather than brute force. That hand is shaking.
"You are Richard Tran," she speaks clearly now, if with a faint waver, "Are you not?"
Alma waits patiently as Amy recovers herself. Her line of work must be quite stressful. Hopefully, as they pursue the vampire Eliza together, he will be able to ease some of that burden himself. At any rate, this man can breathe now, and so too can Alma, the aftereffects of the flashback which seized him passing. As his hand lifts from Amy's shoulder, the student of Rose takes a moment more to appraise the Templar's erstwhile victim.
He exhales quietly, brow furrowing faintly. Though Tran's face meant much to him, his name means nothing. Wherever these memories are emerging from, they are as discontinuous as they feel from the past he remembers. He was not a child when he met these people. He was a man like himself; no, he /was/ himself, but not this self. It is the only possibility he can conceive of, all that makes sense in accord with his intuitions, but he can in turn make no sense of it.
All he knows is his conviction, one which as always he trusts unconditionally, that Tran is -- was -- will be his dear friend.
"... Doctor Tran."
Again, that bright, warm smile, dazzlingly directed toward Tran.
"This man is, surely, a person."
He literally cannot stop smiling when he looks at Tran.
"In a bikini."
Is that helpful information?
There is something to be said for being a good sport about honest mistakes, forgiving those who have wronged you, and being the bigger man in times of interpersonal conflict.
Dr. Tran will probably never, ever, in this life or any other, say it.
The doctor instead roughly shakes off Amy's aid, awkwardly clawing his way up a stool as he returns to a standing position, refusing the help from his throat apparent mortal enemy. "Who the fuck isn't a person? Me, or the MAD CHOKER what CHOKES ALL THE TIME for NO REASON?" He gives the crazy dame a heaping helping of stinkeye, clearly in no state of mind to forgive OR forget.
And his attention shifts to the absurdly peaceful and happy man standing beside her, which irritates him in a whole new way that he's not sure he's ever experienced before. "And who the hell are you, anyway? Her handler or her boytoy?" He reaches for his bottle, finds it knocked over and spilled all over the bar, and /somehow/ visibly sours even further.
"Screw off, I don't care who you are, for you I'm not gonna be anybody but the anonymous stranger whose night you /successfully/ ruined beyond repair, you /assholes/."
Tran turns away, pauses, then adds, "God, stop smiling at me, I can /feel/ it."
Stress. It's not something Amy even considers, just willing herself to push through everything she confronts with her head high... because she has no choice, because who else is going to do it? It's a hideous amount of responsibility she piles upon her shoulders, and certainly - clearly - more than she can ever hope to handle alone, especially with indirect opposition from her own Order. But it's still not her mind. Close, though; she's convinced that Richard Tran IS the object of terrible stressors.
"Yes," she echoes Alma with a smile finally touching her lips that's neither dissonantly calm or blatantly forced. "Yes, he is. How do you know him, Alma?"
A glance to the psychic is accompanied by a small, almost unnoticeable verbal tic as she says his name. Like it catches in her throat. Clearing the apparent frog with a soft 'a-hem', she turns back to the purportedly-good Doctor in time to be subject to his vitriol. What stress he must be under. What pressure. At least, she thinks...
"*I'm* not smiling," she cuts in quickly, getting to her feet and folding her arms across her chest, the ruffles of her gypsy top rucking up around her torso and making her look - despite a solidly lean, muscular physique - actually appear rather small. "You're Doctor Richard Tran, and your employers are going to be wondering where you are. There's a duplicate walking around with your face and your name," she guesses that part - but it's only to be reasonably assumed, isn't it? "And until you turn back around and come with us, you're in more danger than anybody else. Whatever relationship you share with this man, we're the only hope you've got for avoiding any more ruined nights. I know you understand me. I know you can't be a total idiot."
She looks askance at Alma as she says that, the smile flittering back and her eyes rolling quickly heavenward (for his benefit) as if to say 'I'm trusting YOU on this'.
"Besides, I have a large expense account. How drunk do you NEED to get, Doctor?"
The question as to how Alma knows Tran would take a great deal of explaining, much of which he is unable to give. He had mentioned to Amy in the heat of their first encounter the mysterious flashbacks with which he struggles, the first person other than Rose to whom he has confessed this. But even given the friendship he feels toward Tran, perhaps now is not the time to get into such matters again. Moreover, Tran has also asked him a pressing question.
Alma blinks, though his smile does not falter, as his mind drifts into the recent past, reflecting. Scenes of him and Rose on the cruise liner and during their daily lives. Scattered memories of Eliza's sensuous bites, and a fairly strong memory of being stomped on by her at one point. Mimiru's various and unlimited teasing gestures and innuendo.
"I'm not sure what you mean, or where you'd get that impr--"
Meters away, a woman in a cocktail dress begins whooping with glee. "I've won, I've won the jackpot!" A bell rings somewhere and people politely applaud, and a casino attendant approaches to inform the woman to what she has attained. "What? Pole dancing!?" she replies, a little too loudly in the manner of one who has had a few too many cosmos. "Nooo~, I couldn't possibly. Buuuut--"
Whereupon her roving gaze settles on Alma, not too far away.
"You can make /him/ pole dance!"
Thus it is that Alma is interrupted by two suit-clad casino attendants placing their hands upon his shoulders, gently but firmly, and is gradually steered away. "Pardon me, but there must be some sort of mistake," he is explaining. "I am unfamiliar with the art of 'pole dance,' and surely would not perform to your patrons' satisfaction. A live display of painting might--" In the background, the woman continues to whoop, raising her glass.
Amy may be on her own for a little while.
Dr. Tran is determined to ignore both this violent hussy and her pet cabana boy, no matter what it takes, with every ounce of willpower he possesses. Ultimately, as Amy concisely explains what horrible danger he is in from his (pffft) body double, it is no match for his near-pathological need to get the last word in any given conversation, especially when he's in a mood.
"OK, let me just set a couple of things straight here." He spins on his stool angrily, goes too far, and completes two full rotations before he manages to catch himself on the side of the bar, looking noticeably greener than previous. Undaunted, he presses on. "I don't know where you got the idea that I'm anything but freelance, and I certainly do not know who you are talking about because otherwise my threat level would get upgraded from 'Dirt Brown' to 'Platinum Goldsex'." He pauses here to drain the last sad dregs out of his booze bottle, presumably to combat his ever-increasing nausea.
"Also, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. I don't have some dumb duplicate or whatever, because that would be /crazy/, and I am not crazy. I am perfectly sane and that didn't happen because it couldn't happen, OK? OK." Not stupid, then; just in denial.
"And I don't need your /blood alcohol/ because the bikini bar is open all night and I get free drinks for these dumb fights."
The bartender interjects; "Actually, sir, I think you've already had enough for tonight."
Dr. Tran goes dead silent for a while, watching Alma get escorted off to perform his pole duty. He isn't sure to be happy the man is leaving, or even more upset that /complete strangers/ appear to want him to pole dance. Why him? Why not Dr. Tran???
Eventually, Tran comes to a decision. "I'm formally but begrudgingly declaring negotions open." He definitely looks the begrudging part. "I'll let you know when I hit my limit." That part is, almost certainly, a lie.
This... isn't going to be easy, but it's been a long time since anything was.
Amy isn't backing down from the bragadocious, intoxicated Doctor Tran any more than he from her, her arms remaining folded as she moves closer to the bar and then leans against it in a manner that's becoming all too habitual. Her dark hair settles about her face and shoulders, the high tail swishing slightly as she half-turns to watch the short, ill-tempered man spin himself nauseous. She waits patiently.
More or less. Her sandalled foot might tap a couple of times, but she listens anyway.
When he's done, she heaves a small sigh and then looks to the bartender, signalling for two of whatever this would-be ally inevitably orders. She's feeling brave, and she needs to down a few more drinks herself. It's been that kind of day.
"I got the idea from files that found their way into my hands from the organization I..." She glances toward Alma, a dark brow flicking up and back down. Her expression softens a touch. "*We* represent. Even if I hadn't, the fact that my friend here feels the way about you that he does..." She sketches a loose shrug. "That's enough. Whether you're crazy or not, a dangerous group has their eye on you, and attacks have occurred that are being ascribed *to* you. You can walk away whenever you desire, or we can help each other and maybe be a bit better for it. I'm not your enemy, Doctor..."
As if the Templar's evening needed the impact of any more bizarre surprises, the psychic is fingered and hauled away for a display he couldn't be less prepared for. She and Mimiru have found much common ground, and in time they could be an equal thorn in the side of the young, beautiful artist; but for now, Amy is focused upon this pivotal meeting and far too tired, too reflective to wish even playful ill upon Alma Towazu. She does register amusement with a gentle snort and a toss of her head, throwing him a smile of passing brightness as he's taken for his destined trial.
Her simple, murmured words, "God be with you..." carry with them all that she can give.
Make her proud, fair Alma. Make the Order proud. You can't do worse than Amy.
"So," the Templar turns back to Tran with a more casual mien, idly adjusting the lie of her top's loose fabric as she reaches for her drink, "The limit's when both of us pass out. Are we going to argue, or drink ourselves insensible until we confess our problems and bond over the irrepressible urge to vomit profusely?"
"Sorry, by the way. I screwed up. Your good health."
On principle, Dr. Tran refuses to make anything easy for anybody. Were you to ask him why, he would ask why you want to know, who sent you, and probably call you an idiot for reasons both real and imagined.
And that's /before/ he gets liquored up.
"BARKEEP! TRIPLE OMEGA LUNATIC BOMBS until we are both /dead/. You can't not serve her yet, right? Cuz she's still too sober? Haha, yeah, that's what I /thought/."
Ignoring the faceless bartender's protests that 'this drink doesn't exist' and 'you are clearly unwell', Tran turns his attention back to Amy, already prepared to give her the due time that her blood booze has purchased. Sort of. It sounds a lot like 'blah blah organization blah blah friend feels blah blah crazy dangerous blah people think you're attacking people, blah blah god let's get fucked up.' That's more or less the gist, right?
But the apology afterward actually catches him off-guard, and he responds like a reasonable adult human being, raising a shot glass of whatever ends up in front of him (who cares what) to Amy.
"You did. Fine. Bottoms up."
It goes down immediately, Tran grimaces, and slams the glass down. "OK, so let me get this straight. You and your club of beautiful people or whatever think someone who looks like me is attacking people, and you want me to help you help me. So, I've got one--two questions." The doctor looks deadly serious as he asks the first. "Does Zack Island even have any cops? I don't want to get arrested for any weird shit I didn't do, I can't handle prison, I've gotta be a free, like a sexy little bluebird."
He pauses, looking briefly confused, then finishes, "Also, if the person who says hi by choking me isn't my enemy, what are you?"
Amy proves that it's possible to be a sanctimonious, judgemental bitch and still be a fundamentally decent person; it's a gift, and one she's used to wriggle out of more than one monstrous mess of a situation in recent memory. So far, so tiny-bit-better. It doesn't take a genius to surmise that Tran isn't going to sit there and listen to endless spiel about secretive Orders and cults and the need to uphold the honour and glory of the Lord by way of regular, decent people who have to be defended...
On the other hand, she can't shrug off Alma's reaction.
She can very empthatically shrug before downing Tran's non-existent concoction of alcohol mixed with alcohol mixed with MORE ALCOHOL, which is what she does, only stumbling to the tune of a single, throaty cough as it singes on the way down. Otherwise, she tanks it like a relative pro, but nobody ever won the night on their first drink. From this molehill, she has to make a mountain.
Thank God the Doctor is hammered already. She might just swing this. One thing at a time, she resolves, hearing out Tran's concerns with an occasional out-puff of her cheeks and a self-effacing half-grin. They're probably never going to be best buddies, but she can appreciate his abrasive honesty - there's a lot of otherwise compelling, enjoyable people who are sodding great liars, when it comes down to it.
"A police force? Not that I know of. If they have, that's something we can probably handle..." She tails off with a frown and a side-purse of full lips, setting a hand on the table in preparation for her next drink. She takes it without immediately dunking it, letting the foul aroma wash over her. Aptly-named, she decides. Fuck it. "I'm not married to order on principle. It's the end that justifies the means, not what any so-called authority tells me is the best way to proceed." It's spoken frankly, without rancour or bitterness. Just the way it is. "You get in trouble for any reason, because of me or not, and if we're working together that becomes *my* responsibility."
Glancing at Tran with stormy blue eyes, she clenches her jaw, and pounds the drink back. This time she doesn't even cough, just swallowing tightly and then exhaling hard.
"What is it they say? No man left behind." Not again. Her fist clenches on the empty glass, and she taps it on the bar to signal for another, catching the tender's eye. "Incidentally, I attacked you because I thought you were the tremendous metal wanker who assaulted a.. friend... of mine, and posed a threat to the *real you*. I might have become your enemy, and I still might if we go about this the wrong way, but right here and now yours is the only side that I'm on." She shrugs, lifting her refilled glass. "Clear enough?"
There is no doubt that Dr. Tran has a considerable head start, but he is a man among men, as renowned for his hearty constitution as his angelic temperment. Mostly according to him. In practice, after another shot of what he is pretty sure is literally antifreeze, it's pretty clear that it's getting to him.
"Ugh, god, this tastes like twice-burnt ass. Can't wait until I can't taste it. Gimme s'more." He drinks that one, too, paying as much attention to the ongoing conversation as he's able under the circumstances.
"Alright, good. Authority, phhhhblt." He raspberries loudly, thankfully not actually facing anybody as a cone of fine spit mist spills onto the bar. "I just got...got so sick of that shit, you know? It's like, the mission's done, right? Who cares about 'operational security' or 'collateral damage', s'all bullshit. Like, just lie about it, like you lie about everything else, right? Infinite money but noooo, we're too CHEAP to spend it on RESULTS. Bean counters. BEAN COUNTERS." Tran, getting excited, stands up on the stool (unsteadily) and shouts as loudly as he can.
Nobody echoes the sentiment, or acknowledges his presence. "Fuck 'em," he mumbles to himself as he does not so much sit as fall back onto his stool, and in turn the bar in front of him. He slumps onto it, turning his head to the side to enjoy the cool, only slightly alcohol-soaked surface and look back up at Amy at the same time.
"So why do you care? Those Illuminati fucks, YEAH I SAID IT YOU WANKERS I KNOW YOU'RE LISTENING SOMEHOW, they didn't want me anymore. What can Doctor Tran," he twirls his arm in imitation of a bow, voice dripping with sarcasm, "Do for you?"
Amy's not intending to get quite so blitzed as Alma's apparent bestest buddy, and the conversation takes - in the Templar's eyes - a turn for the alarming as he's suddenly exploding vehemently across the room. Literally. The spray of mist drenches the back of a waitress as she ducks desperately for cover. Her eyes roll in what amounts to *reasonably* good-natured humour, as it stands, as she's still taking a great deal on trust with the pretty young psychic. It's not until Tran's towering - well, sort of perching unimpressively - above her that the alarm bells really go off.
'O-kay' she phrases almost entirely mutely, dark brows raised with a measure of incredulity as the Doctor yells his defiance across the casino. People turn and look, one impressionable young woman faints into her husband's arms (he promptly drops her because men are useless) and... well, at that point, Amy is back to finding it amusing. It's really been that kind of day. She toasts Tran, holding her glass aloft and slamming it back with a renewed cringe as her throat starts to complain more strongly.
"Shit," she says bluntly as Tran flops back into his stool, shaking her head briskly and going for another glass herself. If you can't beat them...
"Why do I care?" She echoes the question even as the fourth, fifth? Sixth? She's already losing track, but the drink that's hitting her is hitting her when she's speaking, giving the words a rough, hoarse quality that does her grace no favours. "I care, Doctor Richard Tran-- should I call you Doctor, Tran, Richard, something else?" It's hitting her now, though the overall result is a lessening of judgement and a slight tendency to waffle, more than anything else. The former's probably going to be most important to the evening's events. "I care, because if they don't want something any more, it's usually valuable to them. Valuable..." She pauses, sniffs and shakes a stray bang from her eyes before knocking back another drink. "Valuable enough to hurt, kill, maim, lie-- set up... bugs..." She hadn't thought of that part, assuming Zack Island to be both neutral territory and somehow policed.
Which of course, she just declared it wasn't. Her brows knit.
"The point is, Doctor, you could be the most useless man to me, but if *they* want you then that's reason enough to bring you to my side." She's naturally saying 'my' now instead of 'our'. "Making their life harder makes mine easier, one way or another. What you can do for me..." She smiles, and takes drink number eight-ish, dropping the glass without ceremony onto the bartop afterward. It makes a loud bang, but doesn't break.
Amy leaves her hand raised, and clenches her fist. Tendrilous motes of mist come on demand, weaving around her knuckles and looping around her forearm.
"You're a fighter, aren't you? What you can do, is fight. Fight WITH us," her voice is getting louder now. The blasted man is infectious. "Fight AGAINST them. One way or another, all I need you to do is be muscle. Break things in the name of a greater good. If I tell you to hit it, hit it. Try not to be indiscriminate, and I can keep you in this--" She glances at her last empty glass, and then flicks it across to the other side of the bar. The after-taste is creeping up now, cloying and foul.
"This disgusting stuff. Or something better. I've got resources, Doctor. And we've all got enemies."
"I'm glad I was able to be of service."
Alma, cheeks flushed but expression otherwise characteristically composed, is walking back toward the bar with the casino attendants who had previously escorted him away. His top is missing and his board shorts have been low on his hips, waistband festooned with protruding Zack Dollars. Cheering, hoots and hollers echo in the background. The attendants look rather impressed.
"It is an unusual style of dance," the young psychic remarks, a bead of sweat dripping down from his golden hair, "but I believe I was able to intuit its essentials despite my lack of practice. I hope it sufficed as a 'jackpot'--"
He pauses as he hears Tran shouting furiously and sees him poised precariously upon a stool before dismounting, while Amy looks to toss back one of many drinks. Tilting his head slightly, Alma turns to nod farewell to the attendants as they disperse and then strolls over to his friends, who seem to be having a more or less serious conversation now, if one soaked in the equivalent of furniture polish. He is able, at least, to catch the tail end of Amy's words.
"Yes, Tran, fight with us!" Alma exclaims, beaming all over again as he looks over to his once and future friend. "Together, I feel-- why, I feel--"
Though his smile does not waver, his features soften.
"--like we could save the world."
As he delivers this line without a hint of self-consciousness, he pauses for a moment before looking over at his present friend, Amy, who is starting to look progressively more Tran, which is to say, sloshed. She also has an expression like she just swallowed turpentine. It may literally be that expression.
"Amy? Are you well?"
"This...why isn't this faster." Tran stares at his empty shot glass, not sure why it's empty even though he's been /immediately/ guzzling anything that goes into it. Who would even bother counting? "This is why I had the bottle, the bottle was what I wanted, I read on the internet that if you drink the whole thing in less than fifteen minutes and live, you win ten thousand dollars and a free stomach pump. S...s'the high life."
Unaware that he's already proving at least incidentally useful enough to make Amy realize what a horrifically dangerous place Zack Island is to the right (wrong?) people, the doctor just watches as Amy really gets into it, going into the whole recruitment speech, but through it all, only one thing /really/ sticks, one thing that resonates with his innermost soul, motivating him like almost nothing else could.
"YEAH, fuck 'em! Assholes think they can just dump me like it's nothing, like I'M nothing, well I've got news for them!" He sits up (after some minor effort maintaining his balance on his stool) and spreads his hands wide in front of him, like he can picture it in front of him. "Headline: Dr. Tran just really...really makes them.../sorry/! Yeah, that's...that's...fuck 'em! YEAH LET'S FIGHT!"
Tran pumps a fist triumphantly in the air, takes another shot with the other, and then turns to squint at Alma. "God, who the hell even are you? Have we met?" Some deep part of Tran puzzles over the mystery, and then his Illuminati training kicks in and he immediately puts it away so that he can never learn the terrible secret answer that will ultimately strip him of his sanity once and for all. "No, no I don't care, nevermind, don't answer that. And stop smiling and go away, adults are talking."
He turns back to Amy. "Oh, and uh...yeah, call me whatever you want, Doctor Dick, whatever, who gives a shit. Ain't gonna remember any of this in a couple hours."
Save the world.
It's an ambiguous goal, but it's absolutely one that resonates with the Templar, sober or rapidly-becoming-otherwise. Her stormy blue eyes, though a touch unfocused, roam to Alma and her chin lifts with that distinctive pride she wears so well and frequently. The glass in her hand is swirled idly, her fingertips dextrously twisting as she thoughtfully muses over the artist. A smile smears itself across her lips, and she raises her drink. A toast to Towazu, and it's knocked back with the others.
"I," she declares, drawing and releasing a heavy breath as she plunks the glass down onto the counter. "Would love to know what goes in that head of yours." Planting her hands on the bar, only half-observing Tran's delirious battlerant from the corner of her eye, and nodding along because... well, she's getting in the right mindset to agree with anything, now. Did we mention the day? It's been one. It really has.
The bartender, knowing a goldmine when he sees one at least, has already refilled the Templar's glass. She holds up a finger to Alma, turns on her heel - actually quite gracefully, apparently unlike some people she's still ambulatory even when rapidly sloshed - and grabs the fresh, horrible drink. "Doctor Dick?" She pauses to echo, arching a brow at Tran, "I'm going to hold you to do that. Unofficially. Officially, I... officially I'm going to squire ALL of you, and I'll be in charge. It's my right."
It's uttered with conviction, and then a big slushy smile as she turns to Alma.
"And it's all of our right to fight! To save the world! Before off I go to burn in Hell *forever*." She's suddenly aggressive at the last, tearing it off like a hunk of stale bread and spitting it out like a moldy one. Moving on swiftly, because - as Tran says - who cares? - she thrusts the glass toward Alma. "Drink, Alma To-- Two-- Tozawu. Drink."
Oh, and herself, effectively crushing the glass between his chest and hers.
She grins up at him, nose wrinkling and freckles glowing through flushed skin.
"Drink! To saving the world, and each other!"
Alma opens his mouth.
Tran, in the name of his already tenuous SAN score, turns away.
Alma closes his mouth.
This allows him just enough time to witness his being toasted by Amy, to which he responds with a somewhat more subdued -- that is, reasonable -- smile, his eyes gentle. "I am always happy to share," he replies, which is true if his recent 'sharing' up on the pole is any indication, "though I do not always express myself best through words." He does speak carefully and earnestly, but art and battle will always be his preferred modes of communication. Communication which is more intimate, more sensuous, more raw. It does not get any more intimate, sensuous, and raw than art.
He blinks as he hears he is to be 'squired.' Alma considers this for a moment, pausing, before raising a finger in the universal symbol of one who has a profound question.
"Is that like being a boytoy?"
But perhaps such mysteries must remain unplumbed, for Alma's words have proved unexpected inspirational for the currently impressonable Templar, swept away by her own formidable passions. Whatever has occurred, it is clear to Alma that Amy has had a full and lively day, and her adventures seem to be catching up to her. His smile softens at her pronouncements.
"Heaven or hell, this world is our battlefield for now."
He finds himself oddly pleased by this. In this life, training under Rose and studying painting, he has avoided such adversarial language, but for all its inherent violence, it deeply appeals to him. He is called back to his fight with Athena, to the surging energy of the crowd, to, transcending it all, their personal connection. This world is a battlefield. Even the thought of the darkness lurking within it does not frighten him now, as he is in this moment. Nothing could--
Alma looks down, wide-eyed, at the woman pressed up against him in a charming state of intoxication, his gaze drifting to the beverage. The smell is profoundly offensive, and typically he avoids such tinctures, but at the nature of her toast, it is almost impossible to refuse. Besides, he likes these two very much.
"Very well, then. To saving the world--"
Smiling again, he takes the drink--
"--and each other."
--and downs it.
Alma's face grows very still.
The smile is brave, at first, one who is too polite to show his disgust. It twitches failing at the edges, but valiantly holds. Then, however, it begins to seem frozen, his eyes glazing over as Amy presumably continues to lean against his chest. His cheeks grow very pale, then bright red, then very pale again. Slowly, very slowly, he looks down at Amy.
"Save me," he rasps, eyes watering.
Such lofty goals of worldly salvation; Dr. Tran's just drunk enough right now to actually buy into it a little bit maybe. He is not, however, drunk enough to continue to fail to piece together just who exactly Amy is and what organization she's representing. "Wooooooo, squires!" He is drunk enough not to care anymore. Internalizing rapidly shifting allegiance is an activity for when he's sober, and if Dr. Tran has his druthers that's not going to be until well after he's off this island that he already hates a little bit. (it's too.../nice/) "Wooooo, hell! Wooo, drinking, I guarantee this shit'll wipe the smile off your stupid face, Alma...what was it? Totowazu?"
Tran freezes, as memory, confusing and fragmented, begins to rebound every which way inside his skull. The name seems to echo, growing larger and longer with every repetition, powerful in force but too shattered to truly be understood, growing more and more cacophonous until it seems like the doctor's head is going to /explode/. And just as suddenly it's gone, a single memory coalescing into sickening clarity, like he's actually /there/, a silent observer to his own actions.
AN UNFATHOMABLE DISTANCE IN TIME AND SPACE AWAY
Dr. Tran rides a hot dog cart off a roof, screaming one man's name the entire way down to the pavement below.
Tran stares blankly into empty space, drooling on himself for a solid ten seconds. Slowly, mechanically, he takes another drink when prompted. That, combined with the sight of this mysterious young man trying a taste for himself, is all it takes for a grim smile to return to Dr. Tran's lips.
"What the hell. Boytoy, chokebitch, the whole goddamn world. I'll drink to all of you owing my ass." He does not seem to realize that he has /already/ drank to that.
Although it's not likely Tran would care even if he did.
Even in her increasingly sorry state, Amy has the conviction and the passion at her core. She watches Alma with shining eyes and a bright, glossy smile that's almost too real to *be* real - like a gaudy, amateurish statue in the most emphatically devout countryside church. Halfway between saint and martyr, mother and maid, the only legitimately anointed knight in the room bobs her head in a deep, enthusiastic nod. In a more composed state she wouldn't be acting vastly differently, in terms of the actions she takes... but the way she takes them, like a child who can't believe anything but the absolute best in spite of all the horror, all the pain...
In this way, she might never be more sincere.
With the glass removed from between Alma and she, the Templar is leaning fully on his torso now, until halfway through his grimacing display it occurs to her that this probably isn't helping. "Oh!" She exclaims quickly, smile failing in brief concern then coming back in full force as he gasps his plea. Amy considers it for only a moment, and then reaches up with strangely-adroit dexterity to gently, insistently remove the glass from his fingers. It's slid onto the bar, where the display is somewhat ruined as it wobbles this way and that, then topples, and she leans back in.
"Always," she says, in what's intended to be a whisper but comes out hard, almost brusque, a completely adamant and bold sound that comes from the heart. Then she's on the tips of her toes, sandals struggling to remain on with the pressure as she rises up and plants a somewhat sloppy kiss-- right on the tip of his nose. "Shhh," she hushes him, stroking his cheek on the way back down, only then teetering in imbalance.
"Forever. No matter how tall you are, Alma Towazu."
She gets it right that time by failing to think at all, her hand lingering briefly on his chest before it slips away. She turns abruptly, facing Tran with a new kind of emphatic certainty pouring from her lips.
"Bollocks!" She enthuses, the crisp and generally-formal tone every bit as watery and clumsy as her impulsive, salvation-bestowing smooch. Slapping a hand on the bar, she grabs up her own, refilled glass and thrusts it toward the Doctor.
"Doctor Dick, we'll owe each other, but I'm in charge of the booze."
Drawing herself up proudly with the last, she drains the glass and smacks her lips as if attempting to actually savour the taste. Then her lips twist, dark brows furrowing at a sharp incline as the reality of her situation strikes. The room spins.
Knight Officer Amy Johnson, youngest and bravest of the Knights Templar, lets the glass fall to bounce across the casino carpet, grabs the back of her stool and doubles over with a noisy retching. At least she chose wisely when it came to her hair; the ponytail keeps it from her face, allowing her to drench the space before the bar with foul-smelling liquid and bile whilst still remaining passably pretty.
Heaven or hell? If you're pretty, it shouldn't matter.
The future may be bright, but tomorrow morning is going to SUCK.
Alma, in the midst of transitioning from 'eyes watering' to 'actually crying,' though still unable to decide whether he should flush or pale, opens his mouth.
Amy kisses him wetly on the nose and shushes him.
Alma closes his mouth.
Summoning his resolve and praying for divine intervention to interrupt his urge to immediately expunge what he has quaffed from his body, the pole-dancing prince stands still for some long moments, careful not to imbalance the equillibrium that is keeping him upchuck-free. Amy's hand slides off his chest, and he feels a tinge of regret.
The pressure was a little helpful, actually.
It might have been more than that, but he's in no state to consider it, not that he ever is. While Tran continues manfully not thinking about inconvenient things, Amy womanfully strides forth to do battle once again-- and is promptly felled, prettily hurling everywhere. Slowly, carefully, Alma walks over to the bar, one ginger step at a time, like one pacing through broken glass.
"You were right, Tran."
His tone is serious, almost grim.
"The drink wiped the smile off my stupid face."
No matter what this rogue doctor says or does, Alma has been endowed with the faith that Tran is made to be a knight. Perhaps it will be that belief that makes the difference, a will that has transcended time. It is impossible to say. There are limits even to Alma's faith.
"Please," he manages, before collapsing face-first on the bar.
Tran watches warily as Boytoy continues to prove himself as a paragon of his trade, seemingly effortlessly attracting Amy's attention. The doctor is content to let that happen, as it serves the purpose of keeping the mysterious young man occupied while he drinks to forget, harder than ever before. As a bonus, it appears that Alma is /totally miserable/, which serves as an effective, if not entirely explicable bouy to the doctor's spirits.
And speaking of spirits, he soon gets to watch Amy expunge a significant portion of her night's debauchery, and with that comes another faint feeling of happiness. Dr. Tran, for the second time since he's been on this island paradise, has won. He is a /winner/.
Then he /smells/ the vomit, and it's too much. He hurls all over the already grossly abused bar, a big gross pile of what could easily pass as radioactive waste for all of the green glowing it is doing. Exhausted, he sways, attempting to wipe his mouth clean and only smearing it. He struggles to remain concious, exerting as much willpower as he can. (No no no no nononononoooooooo...)
It's not there for him.
Doctor Dick snores peacefully, uncaring of how /completely disgusting/ this sudden nap is.
Log created on 18:46:52 02/05/2015 by Alma, and last modified on 02:13:05 02/06/2015.