The Bell Tolls - TBT Act 1 - Mutually Assured Construction

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Description: Scarlet Dahlia has been feigning a losing war against the Syndicate. Holding back on her counter-attacks against the Syndicate, she's been purposely sacrificing more and more ground in the war to lure Duke into taking even larger risks. In exchange, she's been expanding her web of influence, seeking to secure an arms ally against the Syndicate. Reaching out to Adelheid, she meets with the young man upon the Sky Noah to negotiate the terms. Not merely an alliance, after all; it is just business.

It's been a busy time for the Scarlet Dahlia. A number of interesting developments have been set into motion. There is, however, one more objective that only the shadowy leader of the Akatsuki-gumi can button up.

Requesting the meeting was the simple part. The meeting itself would take a few more steps of preparation. Dahlia's requested rendezvous was to begin at the Okushiri airport, based on an island just off the west coast of Hokkaido. The airstrip is short, and the airport building itself is tiny. And most importantly: A compliant staff, eager to forget all about the visit for a nominal surcharge.

News -- and graphic video footage -- of Dahlia's injury at the hands of Duke Burkoff was disseminated far and wide amongst the underground information channels. There should be no surprises to the "R" staffers who arrive to pick up the yakuza boss: they should be well apprised of the condition that binds her to a wheelchair. Despite the cast on her left leg, she's dressed for business -- a perfectly crisp jacket in black and white, over top of an elegant silk dress. One raven-black forelock spills free from a two-pinned hairbun, cascading down to conceal part of her face. The hairstyle is meant to distract some attention from the pink, striated furrows that mar her lower cheek and chin.

The Dahlia would greet the "R" landing party with a saccharine-sweet smile and cordial politeness. And yet, while she's good at small talk, she wouldn't abide it for long -- eager to get to work, after all.

With the aid of the motorized wheelchair, she'd be able to board the landing craft without the assistance of her guards, who would stay behind. This is a business meeting, after all -- there should be no need for guards among peers. Normally, Dahlia would be paranoid about this sort of thing -- but recent developments have bolstered her confidence levels.

Dahlia folds her hands across her lap, a beguiling smile on her face as she awaits her arrival upon the flagship of the "R" Organization.

Fortunately for Dahlia, other than simple pleasantries of greeting, the staff that arrive to escort Dahlia are content to leave the small talk alone. They do not seem like militant sorts. Two women. Sharp dressed, in hand tailored black pant-suits, with red ties. One is a redhead with wild hair, and the other raven haired, sporting a sharp, pristine bob. They introduce themselves as Hermione and Aya, and little else. Their only purpose is to be there to aid and assist Dahlia in her current condition.

But, truthfully, she doesn't need it. There is a ramp that is laid out for the wheelchair bound gang leader, and she'll find that accomodations are present for her to even have herself secured with safety belts along with her chair. In no time at all, the small private plane is taxiing itself onto a runway, and seconds later has taken to the skies for a short flight that carries them out over international waters.

No sooner than all hint of dry land leaves the horizon, there it is. A behemoth, dark and menacing, like a black cloud looming over the sea. Sky Noah. An airship the likes of which the world really doesn't see. Something from science fiction and comics more than common everyday life. It is a testament to the wealth and technology that the "R" organization has amassed for itself. This, of course, is the destination for the beautiful Scarlet Dahlia.

Upon landing, she is greeted as she comes down the ramp by a small contingent of armed guards, though this does not seem to be meant as any threatening gesture. They are lined up neatly, weapons presented in salute, to create a clear pathway for her directly across the tarmac and into the nearby door that leads directly into the observation deck. Aya and Hermione, of course, accompany Dahlia all the way, remaining at either side until they enter the deck proper.

Once inside, Dahlia is greeted by the sound of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata being played on the grand piano that dominates the entire side of the room that looks out over the sea below. Seated at the bench is the Bernstein darling, Rose, clad in a crimson silk dress, her flaxen hair spilling down over her shoulders in twin banana curls, and a jeweled tiara resting atop her head. Her crimson eyes are disinterested, set to the keys of the piano that she plays with the dextrous skill of a prodigy born, and not trained.

And there, standing in the center of the room, is the heir of "R" himself. The Prince of War. Adelheid Bernstein. Clad is a black tuxedo, old fashioned, with tails draping from the perfect black coat, and a black silk ribbon tied into a bow about his neck. His countenance is fair, with alabaster skin devoid of all blemish and wrinkle, and bright, vibrant eyes of blood red that alight when they fall on his guest. Soft, pliant lips of a rosepetal pink hue split over brilliant white teeth as he smiles, and raises white gloves hands in greeting.

"Our honored guest has arrived at last," he says, his voice a silvery light trill as he crosses the floor to meet her. "Welcome to the Sky Noah. I do so hope that you were treated well en route?"

Dahlia greets her travel companions with a cordial smile. It's true that she might -like- to engage in small talk -- particularly with the lovely ladies that greet her -- but indulging in her own pleasures is just not particularly conducive to business. Paranoia runs deep with Dahlia; she's cautious to avoid engaging at length without knowing how much would be reported to their boss. That -- as Lee Chaolan's words ring in her mind -- is just business.

That said, it's hard -not- to appreciate the lengths to which the "R" employees accommodate her condition. The securing of her wheelchair was enough to earn sincere appreciation from the crime boss, as she settles in for takeoff. She would decline any offers of drink though; again, paranoia runs deep.

As the mechanical bird vaults into the air, Dahlia's attention turns to the windows. As many times as she's been in the air, it never gets old watching the ground fall below the wings, individual features shrinking into model-scale miniature. It's enough to lift her spirits, despite the constant reminders that her fate is completely contingent on the whims of strangers. Occasional glances are spared for Hermione and Aya -- silent expressions of respect for their company on such a journey.

And before long.... the Sky Noah. While nothing on this trip really seems to have evoked a strong reaction from Dahlia, the impressive feat of engineering seems to raise the bar. And her eyebrows. To think that something so large could =fly=...

... That said, a burden is lifted from her as the plane settles within the hangar of the vessel. It's not terra firma, but it's close enough for the acrobat's honed sense of balance -- another testament to engineering excellence.

Her wheelchair makes its way down the ramp, precision servo motors raising only minimal sound. A pleasant smile alights upon her face once again, as she nods to the guards for the moment before their deferential gaze is turned aside. Such good toy soldiers these are...

She nods quietly to the music -- she might not recognize the tune, per se, but she can certainly appreciate the beauty of its player. A third charmingly beautiful woman -- a sign that, unlike many criminal organizations, "R" knows how to regard women properly. And, of course, there's Adelheid himself.

The first sight of her handsome host is disarming; a moment of indecision evidenced only by the momentary darkening of her cheeks and a flutter of eyelashes.

He just -would- have to be blond, wouldn't he?

The moment passes; her pleasantly surprised expression melting seamlessly into a warm smile as her wheelchair rolls up for the rendezvous. If the gentleman reaches for her hand, she would be sure to extend it to him.

"Naturally. Your staff has treated me like royalty, and have been nothing short of impeccable. And the journey itself... well, let me just say this ship is certainly a marvelous vessel. It must cost you a fortune to operate."

Her eyes twinkle with interest. She has so many things to talk about -- and yet, she has her priorities.

"It's a true pleasure to make your acquaintance, in person. Pictures and video just don't serve you justice."

Her gaze remains fixed on the crimson orbs of Adelheid, but she's also paying close mind to the emotions all throughout the room. The subtle interplays of emotion between Adelheid and his sister, and between the two lovely ladies, can share much more about insight than might be possible otherwise. Information is a weapon, and to the psion, emotions are a goldmine.

"I do not mean to be rude, but... what is the agenda you have in mind for the day? There is much to discuss..."

As Dahlia approaches, the young man does, in fact, reach out to take her hand. He claps it gently within both of his own, treating it as if she were made out of fragile and precious china rather than the hearty stuff of flesh and bone. Lifting her hand, he bows at the waist to meet the back of her knuckle with a whispering brush of his lips.

"I'm pleased to hear that you've found us to be hospitable," he replies as he rises back up, only releasing her hand once he is fully aright once more. Her commentary about the Sky Noah has Adelheid blink long, dark lashes once, as he peers about the room. It seems that the sheer majesty of all that the Sky Noah is might have long ago worn off on him. He catches himself smiling, and giving a faint nod. "It is certainly an expensive endeavor. Yet, it affords us unequaled mobility, which is invaluable in our work."

His afixes that alizarin gaze back on to his guest, then. His youthful features are warm, and kind. He takes a moment to let his gaze wander, taking her in, before giving a nod of his head. "One could say the same for you. It's a shame that you feel fit to hide yourself behind your hair, though. You shouldn't be ashamed of those marks. They are a testament to your strength."

Adelheid, is something of an enigma, when it comes to his mind and emotions. If they were to be visualized, it would be as a deep, dark lake on a moonless night. The surface is placid and serene, as still as glass, but a bit cool. Diving below, one might sense that its depths are fathomless, though, stray too deep and one might touch on something stirring there, hot and putrid. Serpentine, coiling about in the hollow places within the boy's soul.

Rose, on the other hand, is perhaps the exact opposite. There is a festering darkness in her. An anger that never seems to dissipate completely, save for when her eyes fall on her brother. She also has a tinge of apprehension about their guest, and the way Adelheid plays so nice with her. The two companions, Aya and Hermione, seem rapt with attention on everything that goes on. A nervous excitement lingers about them like an aura of static electricity. They want to serve and to please, for the praise of the young man, and if not him, then for the praise of his even more aloof father.

"Oh, it's not rude at all. I thought we might sit, share a drink, and get right down to business. After all, if things go smoothly, there is a possibility that we... or more specifically, you... may have a very long day ahead of you, and I'd like to get that out of the way as soon as possible for your own sake."

He gestures to a small round table, not far from the piano where Rose still tinkers away so finely at the keys. Draped in a white tablecloth, it bears nothing but one seat, a single rose in a crystal vase, and a bucket of ice sporting a bottle of champagne with two wide tulip glasses.

It's clear that some level of enchantment is in play, for Dahlia certainly seems to be wrapped up in a spell when her hand is lifted to Adelheid's lips. Her smile bears nothing but sincerity; his calm, unassuming grace elevates her to a level she hadn't felt in quite some time. It's clear he was raised in refinement; it's obvious in each and every motion.

And, of course, the placid nature of his mind is a perfect reflection of a formal upbringing. The most terrifying leviathans can remain still as night, lurking just beneath the surface, to strike at a moment's notice. The Akatsuki leader understands the mentality, as she, too, cloaks her true intent behind formality and ritual.

At one point, her eyes shared the brown hue of oolong tea -- a color which embarassed her to the point that she'd needed to mask it behind blue lenses. With Adelheid's proximity, he would be able to notice the veins of amber in her irises, glimmering with latent energy as her chin dips in an agreeable nod. "I'm sure you're accustomed to the vessel, but for me, it's quite a first impression."

When her forelocks are mentioned, she can't help but lift her slender fingers up to draw back the curtain, momentarily revealing her scarred face.

"Flattery may just get you everywhere, sir -- but no, I agree with you. I'm trying out a new look -- perhaps this one will stick, and perhaps not."

A perplexed look crosses her face momentarily as Adelheid mentions the possibility of a long day. It passes, though, as she offers a diplomatic nod of her head to his suggestion. She steers her chair towards the small round table. She'll allow her host to take care of the bottle as he sees fit, keeping her options open for the moment.

She'd remained silent for her chair's journey -- allowing her to take in the spectacle of the expressions of opulence. But after much consideration, she lifts her gaze to Adelheid once again. "A long day, hmmm?" A coquettish smile follows, the hint of mischievousness in her tone. "Do you know something I don't?"

Adelheid notices those veins of honey hue in her eyes, and the way that they smolder, his focusing on them for only a moment, before wresting away for fear of staring. Curious, that. Just what kind of power is she hiding? For now, it doesn't matter. Their business is not one of exchange of personal strength, but of more temporal power.

"I assure you, my intent is not to flatter," Adelheid says, agreeably enough, moving with a grace that makes him seem to almost glide like a spectre to her side, and rests one hand on the back of her chair as she begins to move towards the table, accompanying her. "We Bernsteins hold great reverence for those who possess great strength and greater conviction. Those scars, in the eyes of those like us, are a thing of beauty and pride. They show that you have persevered through it all, and come out the other side forged in the fire of battle."

As they approach the table, Adelheid stays by her side, as if his mannerisms themselves might make up for his inability to get her chair for her. Only once she's situated does he move to the opposite side, and claim his own seat.

"Well, Dahlia, I am certain that we both know a great deal that the other doesn't. That is part of why we're here, isn't it? So that we might exchange ideas, and possibly walk away from this meeting as allies, having enriched one another's lives for it."

As he speaks, the wild haired Hermione approaches the table, setting each of the glasses before them, before uncorking the bottle. It does fizz and bubble, spilling over, but she has a towel draped over her arm to contain the mess made. After it dies down, she pours each glass three quarters full, before returning the bottle, corked once again, into the bucket of ice.

"For example, I know that your leg is... devastated. I know that such an injury could potentially take years to heal to an even half workable state. With multiple surgeries and bone grafts. Even with intense physical therapy, it is optimistic to hope for even regaining seventy-percent of the full functionality such a limb once had."

Here, Adelheid lifts his glass, leaning forward over the table so that she might, if she were so inclined, clink hers against it. "And I know that I have an alternative to that, which could not only give you your full function back, but even make you stronger, faster, and more durable for it."

Intent may differ, but words themselves can be recorded, and recalled at any time. Dahlia purses her lips as Adelheid downplays his words, pleased that she was able to bring light to his approach if nothing else.

"It's remarkable how much our views align on that point," she concedes, allowing her fingers to remain steepled in her lap. "Strength can be communicated in any number of ways. But so can appearances. Asymmetry, for instance, tends to connote a sense of honesty, of integrity. A frank understanding that reality is not as perfect as we might like it to be."

As she turns to favor Hermione with an appreciative smile, her forelock ruffles lightly from the motion. "And, as you know... every word carries meaning, both intentional and not. Even if you hadn't intended to flatter, I appreciate it all the same."

Dahlia listens carefully as Adelheid details her leg -- and the possible treatment which he offers. She raises her glass -- nodding again to Hermione -- and clinks it with Adelheid's. "An intriguing offer."

She considers for a moment, drawing the glass close. "I've heard similar numbers, yes. And while it may be a sign of 'strength' to show exactly how I persevere in the face of a vicious assault... it's surely less preferable than a leg that responds like it ought to."

She takes a brief, barely nominal sip from the glass, closing her eyes as she samples the flavor. Nodding once more in approval, her eyelids lift once again. With a small smile, she lifts one eyebrow in interested fashion.

"But what could I offer in exchange for that, hmm...? You promise something far beyond the level of any of the doctors I spoke with. And all I have to place upon the table is my good will..."

She looks aside pointedly, tongue brushing across her lips for a thoughtful moment.

"Or perhaps you might be interested in a little project the Japanese government is now considering. As I understand it... the UN incursions have renewed discussions of a true Japanese military."

Dahlia rests back in her chair, lifting the glass for another sip. Her alluring gaze lifts once more to Adelheid. "It would further seem that... interest in local enterprises is waning. Your organization would have a very... unique... opportunity, should it be positioned properly."

Adelheid can only offer up a small smile of acknowledgement to Dahlia's commentary on words and intent, and the end result of his flattery. Of course words carry things both meant and not, and while he might not have been attempting to flatter, he is neither ashamed for having done so. While the woman before him may not reach the pinnacle of beauty that his darling Rose presents, she is a stunning woman, nonetheless, and her other attributes besides certain hold their own appeal.

Glass touches glass, and Adelheid draws his to his lips, pointedly taking a drink that is just beyond a sip. A signal, of course, to let her know that the drink is safe and free of poison or drugs. When she speaks, he listens, setting the glass back to the table so that he can focus solely on her. His eyes never stray from the erratic triangle they create between each of her eyes and her lips. He leans forward ever so slightly in his seat, and folds his hands before him, fingers entwined within one another. She has his attention.

After she finishes, Adelheid takes a few moments to mull over that small morsel she had offered. It makes sense, of course. The UN had all but invaded Japan, and that invasion led directly to the destruction that was unleashed by the Command Gear Justice. The NOL has come in since then, but that lot seemed to be, perhaps, less than ideal. Mostly focused on collecting magical trinkets and monsters to increase their own army, and with that base raid, perhaps less efficient than once believed. "R" as a whole, is still undecided on that group. But, should Japan go against its own post-war constitution to form an offensive, standing army in the place of the SDF, then they will not have the backing of the UN to provide armaments, and most any direct manufacturer that would want that UN money would refuse to sell. Japan isn't known for its gunsmiths.

His lips curl into a smile that dimples his cheeks, and his ruby eyes glisten as he lifts his brows.

"That is certainly interesting information. Something I will be certain to look into. Perhaps you might even be a good person to mediate and help negotiate a contract between our organization and the National Diet."

A pause.

"But, what I would want, in exchange for giving you a new and improved leg... is the Akatsuki," he states plainly, peering across the table at her with that honey sweet smile, and those warm, bright eyes. He does lift one hand, as if to ward off her immediate rejection. "I want you, and the Akatsuki, to align with us. Beyond your leg, it will be a mutually beneficial deal. You have connections and infrastructure in Japan. You have a war to fight against the Syndicate. We... have technology. Weapons. Enhancements. Weaponized enhancements. We want to sell those products in Japan. You have the means to do so. So, you buy your weapons from us. Exclusive rights. Then, you in turn, sell those weapons to whoever. Where they go once they leave our hands is of little consequence to us. But, in the meantime... you will be well armed and have an edge over the competition. You win. We win. There really isn't any downside to this."

Except for, possibly her pride. But Adelheid is doing all that he can to take the edge off and soften any blow to such a notion.

Dahlia spends a lot of time cultivating the perfect appearance whenever she can. Every detail is carefully considered and calculated for a very specific effect, not unlike her word choice. And the image she wanted to convey here was -- as Adelheid rightly identified -- strength. For while she has certainly invested a great deal of time into her physical capabilities, there will always be those more blessed with genetics than others.

While she had spoken, her hands had curled around the glass. But when Adelheid begins to answer, she mirrors his response, setting the glass upon the table. She can tell what he's about to say from his patient and measured demeanor alone -- that her guess was off the mark somehow. That it was less enticing than the prize he'd had in mind.

This, too, was calculated.

Rightly so -- as soon as the word 'Akatsuki' is mentioned, her expression hardens considerably. Her jaw tenses, lightly painted lips pressing into a firm line. The message is clear -- she'd rather not have the Akatsuki themselves on the table.

And yet, a single, upraised hand is enough to keep her from turning away entirely, as he begins to explain exactly what he means.

Her smile, though, does not return. Her brow furrows in frustration -- and she keeps her gaze locked upon his as she shakes her head slowly from side to side.

"We've both placed rather... attractive offers on the table. But I did not come here to barter my people's time committment for something only -I-, singular, can benefit from. I'm playing a longer game, see."

Dahlia languidly reaches over to nurse a sip from her glass before continuing. "Saying 'yes' to that would look rather selfish, hmm? No..."

Her brow relaxes, expression softening -- and still, the smile remains absent.

"Our need now is for a blockade of the ports of Southtown. You see, the Syndicate isn't my only problem -- it's that our conflict has allowed another party to swoop in amidst the confusion."

She seems like she might be about to say something else -- but holds up a hand. "But before I proceed further -- what sort of relationship do you have with the Black Dragon -- Kira Volkov?"

Adelheid takes note of every single tick of expression that comes from Dahlia. Every movement she makes. The way that she handles the glass, and the set of her brow. He even notes the way her pupils constrict when he mentions the Akatsuki. He may not have her capacity to read minds or emotions, but he may as well be just as adept at reading people. It is one strength he holds over his father. His father, and Rose in his likeness, are people who expect to be obeyed, and if they are not, they will force obediance. It is an approach that denies acknowledgement of the other party by forcing dominance over them. Adelheid is more finesse than that.

"Perhaps I have misspoke, or have made myself unclear. The offer is one that benefits your people every bit as much as it benefits you. You get your leg. The Akatsuki get advanced weapons, vehicles, and enhancements, through purchasing them through us. We offer a full range of the most cutting edge technology. We can have your brawlers throwing out chi blasts, or having the strength of ten men. We can provide armored assault vehicles years more advanced than anything that the Syndicate might get their hands on. Blockading ports can be the very least of your concerns with what we can provide."

He pauses, taking one look from side to side, before saying, "Look around you, Dahlia. You're sitting in an aircraft carrier that is hovering stationary a thousand feet over the ocean. If it isn't clear by now that we have the advantage when it comes to militarized engineering, then I am not certain how else I can present that to you. And in exchange, all I want is your exclusive business. You buy and equip your men only with our gear. When you sell your product on the market, it is our product that you are selling. No more crates of Chinese knock off AKs that fell off a truck. You become a franchise of "R". Nothing more. Nothing less. It is a good offer. A great one, even. We do not demand service. We do not demand time or loss of life. We only demand your business and your loyalty."

Adelheid is curious. So very curious. What was she holding back? When she mentions the Black Dragon and Kira Volkov, the young Prince only shrugs his broad shoulders under his tuxedo jacket, and takes another sip of his champagne.

"We are aware of them, but we have no relationship with them. Right now, they are little but a minor bit of competition. The name Kira Volkov is one I have heard of, but have not had the time, nor the concern to look into with any sort of real scrutiny. I understand that there is a new gambling den in Southtown, though. One run by them, if I am correct?"

The veins of amber in Dahlia's eyes pulse faintly as Adelheid clarifies his organization's position. She examines each word, every nuance. Adelheid is as a panther, weaving a wide circle around the traveler as she makes her way through, tightening the circle slowly but surely as he moves in for the kill. But that traveler would not have entered the jungle of negotiation without the means to defend herself.

Slowly, Dahlia raises her slender fingers to her forelock once more. Her nails rake through the raven-black tendrils, emphasizing the sweeping, sinuous curves of her Ainu heritage -- a coarseness long admired by those cursed with perfectly straight hair. It seems an idle affectation as she listens.

She nods back slowly, the lack of a relationship with the Dragoons seeming to meet her approval. And then her fingers sweep back, raking across her ear. When she withdraws her hand, cupped within her palm is a simple fountain pen. An idle curl of her fingers sends the pen twirling about her thumb.

Another idle distraction, to ease a calculating mind.

Her nostrils flare, as she speaks with clinical precision. "Your technology is undoubtedly impressive, I can't argue with that. The offer is an enticing one, Adelheid. but it is not one I can accept as stated." Eyebrows arch, as friendly, amiable warmth is allowed into her voice. "Perhaps you might think me insane. But I'd only be insane to accept, for 'R' is not the only game in town. Walking through the 'R' door closes others irrevocably."

She smiles.
It is not pleasant.

Dahlia withdraws a tablet computer from a compartment in her wheelchair. The spinning fountain pen stills, just long enough for the Akatsuki leader to press a few icons and slide the tablet over to Adelheid. On the screen is an iconic representation of a number of shoreside locations around Southtown. As the pen spins into motion again, she continues. Her predatory smile is replaced with a thin, neutral line.

"Let us reframe the negotiation. With Akatsuki less as an affiliate of yours -- and more as a simple customer."

The pen abruptly stops -- caught firmly between her thumb and index finger. She takes a breath, gaze dropping to Adelheid's chin for a moment in deliberation. A moment's hesitation... and she continues.

"The leg does not help me win a war. Focusing on it robs me of resources I would rather divert elsewhere. So, first, let's table that, hmm?"

She shifts uncomfortably in her wheelchair.
She swallows a gulp of air.
"For the next eight to ten weeks, I need to be able to control shipping traffic. Around Southtown, around Yokohama. Volkov will find there's a price to doing business here." The pen begins to twirl once more; a distraction seeking to test the limits of Adelheid's focus upon her face. "My men have no naval experience. Accepting your offer would place them at the helms of ships they know nothing about. Surely the technology you promise is advanced enough to steer itself, but without the tactics to -position- those ships, Akatsuki would find itself indebted to you for the simple crime of not knowing shit about seamanship."

Dahlia bares her teeth in a feral smile, drawing in her breath.
"Can you see why this gives me pause, now?"
Again, her smile fades away, as her eyebrows lower in consternation. Her fingers and thumb press gingerly against the fountain pen.

"Conversely, what I need are the means to carry out this task. That is the only goal I have -- and the only one I want to discuss. What can 'R' do for me in this department -- manpower? Staffing? And what will it cost? I'm not above opening a checkbook for you today."

And now... she presents a genuinely -pleasant- smile.

Adelheid doesn't flinch from the flaring pulse of amber within those eyes, nor does his ruby eyed stare wander from them for even a moment, save for the natural blink here and there. He might be an intense young man, but he's no Hannibal Lecter. His face betrays nothing. It is a mask of porcelain flesh, unmarred by blemish or by impatience. He only remains the picture of hospitality, pleasant and warm, with that lingering smile still creating pockets of shadow in his cheeks.

Were she to focus herself to the task of delving back into those deep, dark, cold depths of his mind, she might hear a sibilant whispering echoing throughout. Unintelligible, but unmistakable. Colder than him, but carrying with it a detached sense of rage. It seems urging. Encouraging. Prompting. But still those placid waters remain still and peaceful.

It is uncertain if Adelheid even notices the pen. As her nostrils flare, there is the slightest lifting of one of those thin, arched brows, but nothing more. He listens to her speak, and he doesn't interrupt with his own thoughts or opinions. He simply nods, keeping his attention solely on her eyes and lips, taking in her words, and that wane smile she puts on. It is only when she slides over the tablet that he finally breaks that rapt attention, and diverts it to the screen. He takes it up, examining what she has presented to him.

And at last, when she comes to the conclusion of her point, he returns his gaze to her, setting the tablet back onto the table, and sliding it across to rest before her.

"I want it to be clear that "R" has no intention of establishing any sort of affiliation with the Akatsuki beyond that of a paying customer. Our demand is nothing more than that. We sell, you buy. The only stipulation is that you only buy from us. Outside of that, we have no interest in involving ourselves with the affairs of the Akatsuki."

A pause, and for the first time, Adelheid's smile fades, becoming a thoughtful scowl that replaces the dimples in his cheeks with a tiny crinkle above that button nose that only serves to make him seem more youthful and boyish in nature. His lips draw taut and thin, and he makes a clicking sound of his tongue against the back of his teeth, before releasing a soft, nearly silent sigh.

"I'm afraid that means that manpower and staffing... is strictly off of the table. "R" provides weapons, but we are not a mercenary organization. I understand your predicament, and I do want to help in what ways we can. Considering the level of skill your men possess... or the lack thereof in this particular instance, as it stands... I believe that drones are the best solution to meet your needs. The beauty of drones is that literally a child can use them effectively. Anyone who has ever picked up a video game can pilot a drone to provide airstrike support."

His eyes tick down to the tablet, and then back up, leveling to meet her gaze once more. "I cannot speak as to what doors might be closed irrevocably should you decide to do business with us, Dahlia, but I will say this much towards that end... Anyone that would do such a thing is an absolute fool, and you would be better served not trying to step through those doors. As for the leg... No. A leg won't help you win a war. But you... You will win a war. Having you back up and in the fight, first hand will do more for your effort than drones or blockades. It will inspire your people, raise their morale, and... frankly, put you back on the battlefield where you belong and where you will make the most difference."

Now, Adelheid, for the first time, leans back in his seat. His elbows rest on the arms of the high backed, ornately carved chair of cherrywood and velvet. White gloves hands raise, fingers folding between one another to rest his knuckles just beneath his nose, as he peers across at her with a calculated look.

"Agree to the terms of exclusivity. It does nothing more than what you said. It establishes the customer-supplier relationship that you seek, without obligated you or your people to us in any other way than that. I can unload a shipment of fifty predator drones for you by tonight. You have been scanned since you have entered this room. We have taken all of your biometric data, and specifically, have measured your leg extensively for its dimensions. Currently the shell for a prosthetic is being printed, and I have a surgical team prepped and waiting in our medical ba for your acceptance. You can walk out of here tonight with everything that you need and more. All you have to do is agree."

With that, Adelheid makes a slight gesture, lifting one pointer finger up. This prompts Aya, the suited woman with the short, dark hair to come sauntering over with her own tablet. She places it before Dahlia on the table. The screen displays the combat specs for subsonic predator combat drones, equipped with autocanons and guided missiles. Video shows operators sitting at computerized workstations controlling drones on a screen with literal X-Box controllers, while silently laughing and conversing amongst one another as if they were having a lan party.

"Fifty should provide you with plenty of firepower to control the shore for the amount of time you need. As a signing bonus, we'll only charge you for thirty. The leg, should you agree, is little more than a gift from us to you, in order to help establish a relationship of trust and camaraderie. We here at "R" do respect you, Dahlia. And we respect organizations like yours, as well as respect your autonomy. We hope that you will accept this invitation to do business with us."

Everything in a negotiation is a calculated step. Each volley, one hand in a poker game of wits and mettle. If Dahlia's emotions are to be trusted, then she exudes the aura of someone trapped in a situation she can't escape, compelled by powers she cannot control. As if she were a subordinate of a greater power, rather than the leader of a vast criminal network -- information that flies in the face of the intelligence which has surely crossed Adelheid's desk.

She may not be able to read the mind of someone as strong of will as Adelheid. But she has dealt with people in similar positions. Not as handsome as he. Not with as much technological wizardry as he. But with the same sort of sneering condescension.

And, like a hawk, she watches every response, every tell. She arches an eyebrow, at his thoughtful scowl. And she begins to shuffle her pawns off her mental model of the negotiation, maintaining an amicable smile as he begins to restate his terms -- and his mocking condescension towards whichever trading partner she supposedly has.

Even if -- at least from one point of view -- said trading partner is about to get thrown to the curb.

Her smile grows a bit lopsided with the mention that she'd already been scanned. No doubt that's par for the course, to ensure no weapons were brought onboard -- other than the batteries in the powered wheelchair, perhaps. But still, with that sly smile, she seems... impressed that Adelheid -mentioned- the scan, at any rate. She's pleased at how eager Adelheid is to keep the deal sweetened for her.

She lifts up the tablet as it is offered, perusing the specifications. She nods with approval -- her youthful Akatsuki already have a leg up on their former Syndicate compatriots when it comes to technology, and having 'R' tech in their hands would just make them that much more potent.

She sets the tablet down.
And the pen spins about her thumb in three quick, controlled revolutions.

Clearing her throat, and allowing the smile to fall from her lips, she shifts weight onto her elbows planted firmly in her chair's armrests. She repeats, with deliberate precision: "'The only stipulation is that you only buy from us. Outside of that, we have no interest in involving ourselves with the affairs of the Akatsuki.'"

The pen is raised, shadowing an upraised index finger. "The only negotiation here is on the initial drone offering." She gestures an open hand at the tablet. "It's charming of you to offer the leg, but the bottom line's what I'm interested in, and thirty..." The hand wavers from side to side. "Forget about the leg in exchange for dropping the price to twenty-five drones. Akatsuki will buy exclusively from the 'R' Organization moving forward, with no further interference in our inner workings. Do we have a deal?"

Adelheid does pick up on that aura she presents. It both confuses and intrigues him, though if the boy has anything going for him, it is a nearly perfect poker face. The truth is, he doesn't trust it. He doesn't trust that Dahlia might be put in any position that would have her be under anyone's thumb. Not with the way she has gone through negotiating this deal. Not with all of the intel "R" has gathered on her. He's left only, then, to guess that she is putting on a ruse in order to play up a sense of vulnerability due to the hit her and her organization has taken during the course of this war.

And then she goes and tries to negotiate out of the leg, which was being offered as a gift.

This does make Adelheid turn his face, peering at her out of the corner of narrowed eyes, still behind his folded hands. There is really no reason on earth for her to have done that. Especially not to shave off a bit more of the cost of the drones.

"What I said was accurate, Dahlia."

He pauses, and lowers his hands to the arms of the chair, loosely curling his fingers around the edge of it. His eyes, for once, drift down, and away from her, and again his brow furrows as he thinks of the best way to express his current thoughts. "You see, I could very well offer more. We could very well offer to staff and man an entire fleet of ships for you. To send our special forces in to Southtown and eliminate the entire Syndicate forces, as well as Kira Volkov for you. It would not tax "R" greatly to do these things."

He looks up once again, fixating his crimson eyed stare on hers with an intensity, but there is also something else there. Compassion? Perhaps.

"But, this organization is, in the end, the arm of my father. Should "R" be incited to devote resources to assisting you with your war, for my father, the price would be no less than total assimilation. Akatsuki would become nothing more than a sub-branch of our organization. You would be beholden to him for everything. He would accept no less. My father has a very different way of doing business than I do. I need to make this very clear. You have given a bit of yourself away here. You've been treating this exchange as a game of chess, which naturally, puts us in opposition with one another. I, on the other hand, am not here to play games. I am here to cement allies and promote trade. I saw in your situation a very unique opportunity. One where I could present our services in such a way that the relationship could be fully mutually beneficial. As such, I came to this table with terms meant to be agreeable, because our goals dovetail perfectly. We have a chance for a state of symbiosis. I truly believe that such a relationship can only be built if both parties are willing to put aside self-interest and distrust."

"Make no mistake, Dahlia. Everything I have done here, from the offer, to the refusal of more services, has been in the effort to do nothing more than to aid you and protect the interests of the Akatsuki."

He shrugs his shoulders, looking for a moment, at the pen, and then back to her. "With all of that in mind, my first instinct is to feel insulted by the rejection of my gift. I offer to have you back on your feet within days. Only the mad would turn down such a thing. The mad, or someone who is trying to play an angle. Shaving off the cost of five more drones? That isn't a fair trade, and you're too shrewd not to know that. The price of the drones is a one time offer that is already beyond generous. Again, I had only wanted to establish a relationship built on trust and mutual interest. It will not be lowered any further, though I will put the misgivings I feel aside, and forget about the leg. Are you willing to pay for thirty, or is this negotiation over? If so, we will simply part ways with no hostility. No harm will come to you, and we will deliver you safely back to the airfield that we picked you up from."

Dahlia has her reasons.

The breaking of gaze is enough of a sign that Dahlia's negotiating tactics seem to be working their way under the young man's skin. And that state of frustration is where the psion operates best -- not on the level playing field of neutral emotions, but the perilous realm of barely-composed restraint.

Compassion -- she can understand that. She can see in Adelheid's ruby gaze that he, like she, is attempting to make the best out of constraints beyond direct control. She's negotiated with many before -- and the words might be seen as a threatening lecture, as a promise of later fire and brimstone. Rugal Bernstein -- man of whispered legends, who might have remained cloaked in shadow if not for the worldwide broadcasts of World Warrior. When Adelheid speaks of the man's overbearing approach, she knows full well what that entails.

But there's something particularly charming about the young man before her. An earnest, conflicted reaction that she feels she can rely upon. He appeals to emotion, and yet it is not cheap and sleazy like a used car salesman, but sincere concern for her well-being -- and he was not ignoring her requests at all.

If he's lying about that -- he's a damn good liar.

"'Shrewd.'" The word is repeated, sampled as if it were the wine sparkling in the glass before her -- with the downcast look, the narrowed eyelids, the flaring of nostrils to match. Intentional projection, as she mulls the word over.

The hesitation lasts only a moment, before her amber-tinged eyes swivel back up to meet Adelheid -- with a chastened half-frown. "Forgive my indiscretion. Both our organizations deal extensively with parties who are -not- to be trusted. But you, Adelheid...? You are a wise and canny businessman -- daresay 'shrewd' -- and one who I'd certainly love to make arrangements with in the future.

Hollow words, perhaps -- but sincere ones. She could have debated the notion of what constitutes a 'gift,' but she decided against it -- as it would only weaken her position further. Dahlia sits upright, swiveling her chair to tilt her right shoulder towards Adelheid. "The price of thirty drones is quite the bargain for your consideration."

She extends her right hand to Adelheid, with a broad smile.

"We have a deal."

"I wouldn't say that I am wise or canny," Adelheid confesses. In truth, he believes that his earnest, honorable nature just may be the very weakness that his father defines it as. In this deal with the Akatsuki, Adelheid sees a chance to prove that his way of thinking can, in fact, be successful and profitable. It is both a test to prove it to himself as well as his father. "Like I said, I just saw a unique opportunity where we could strike up a deal where neither party is put in a position of obligation to the other, and no party is taking advantage of the other. Some would call it folly. A weakness to give up advantage. I think that it could lead to stronger, more reliable professional relationships, built on mutual respect and loyalty."

If he takes offense at the accusation of being shrewd, it doesn't register outwardly, nor is there any flux in the aura of cool, comforting serenity that he projects. As Dahlia turns to offer her hand, Adelheid rises from his seat. In his left, he takes up his glass of champagne, as he strides around the small, circular table between them with that unearthly sense of fluid grace. She had previously compared him to a stalking panther. His movements certainly would reflect such a notion. Sinuously, the Alabaster Prince leans, and sits on the table just before his wheelchair bound companion.

"Then it is certainly a pleasure to do business with you, and the Akatsuki, Dahlia. I look forward to a long and prosperous relationship, serving all of your arming needs," he says in a voice that is warm and sweet like molten honey spilling from his tongue. He reaches out, taking her offered hand within his own with a grasp that is completely opposite of how he had greeted her. Where before, he had held her hand as if she were made of something fragile and precious, and brushed a whispering kiss to her knuckles, this time Adelheid's grip is firm without being overbearing. There is neither the need for dominance, nor the patronizing care of being gentle in that shake. He shakes her hand as an equal.

"If you would like to inspect the merchandise before we ship it, I would be happy to give you a brief tour of the armory. You can also shop about for any other small arms and tactical equipment that we have for sale to add to your order. If there is anything in particular that you might be interested in, or were curious about, do not hesitate to ask. Aya and Hermione will be happy to assist you with such things, and if by some stroke of impossible luck we do not have what you are looking for, I am certain that we can procure it for you within a reasonable time frame."

Releasing her hand, Adelheid lifts his glass of champagne, taking another sip from the chilled, bubbly drink, before resting it on the thigh of those perfectly pressed trousers. His rosepetal lips part with a broad, bright grin, as he adds, "Or, if you're satisfied, for now, with only the drones, we can put all business aside. You are a guest, and I'd love to exercise my hospitality. I'm happy to entertain you for as long as you please. You need only ask."

This offer comes with a sudden discordant jarring sound from the piano keys, ringing out loudly and deeply with a sense of dread. Adelheid casts a quick glance to where his darling sister sits at the piano, and his beautiful twin returns with an icy glare from her own baleful red eyes. Putting on a thin smile that barely disguises a sneer, the young Bernstein heiress gives a soft, but terse, "Excuse me. A nervous tick. I think I have been playing for too long. I must give my hands a rest!"

No one calls themselves "wise" or "canny" unless they're aiming to prove otherwise. But really, Dahlia has no reason to mention this in conversation with a soon-to-be-business partner.

Far from antagonizing Adelheid, her cheeks dimple into an agreeable smile. "In all honesty, I wish -more- influential people would adopt your attitude towards business. It's refreshing to come across someone with such a positive outlook." Perhaps Dahlia may be following a Machiavellan ideal of keeping one's friends close and one's potential opposition closer? But... it's equally possible that her attempt to finagle a 'gift' into a 'discount' was a mischaracterization of the Bernstein scion's approach -- a harder power play, more suitable and necessary for dealing with his father.

At any rate, Dahlia's not giving any indications that she wants anything but the best working relationship with the 'R' Organization. The handshake is an essential skill for modern business. As with many things, Dahlia is a master of the art: she provides just as much pressure as her new partner, not an ounce more or an ounce less. "I appreciate your strives to accomodate me. Akatsuki is a small fish in a big sea, and as you rightly noted -- autonomy is a key feature that I'd like to maintain."

The businesswoman smiles broadly, though remains quiet as Adelheid lays out viable possibilities for the rest of her time aboard the Sky Noah. And when he releases her hand, she takes the opportunity to mirror his grasp for the glass, lifting her own for a sip.

She starts to respond with the measured calm that has typified much of the conversation thus far. ... But it's hard to -not- respond when Rose slams her fingers down onto the keys like that. Dahlia might not know the song that well, but she's pretty sure that's not where the fortissimo part is.

Drawing in her breath, she keeps her eyes fixed upon Adelheid as the sound resonates throughout the chamber. Only when Rose speaks does Dahlia's gaze drift over to address her -- as if the sound itself was nothing more than a normal part of the airship's operation.

"Quite all right, ma'am," she offers with a tolerant smile.

Her gaze lifts back to meet Adelheid's, as she curls the glass upon her thigh in similar fashion to his. "It would seem like a shame to let your kind offer go to waste. I -would- like to look around for a little while, if that's alright with you and..."

She looks down at her glass, fixing it upon the reflection for a moment.

"But where are my manners...?"

Her gaze lifts back to Rose -- as she raises her voice just enough to be heard politely. "Would it be alright with you if I were to borrow Adelheid for a while? I promise not to take up too much of your time."

Sugar and spice, and everything nice.

"By all means. I am not my brother's keeper, after all," is the reply offered to Dahlia from Rose, spoken in a tone of voice that holds barely contained derision as the ruby eyed Princess looks to her sibling. "He is a free man, able to... entertain... whomever he so chooses. Besides, I have an appointment to get a massage from a rather lovely Brazilian masseur. Ciao!"

Rose rises from the bench behind the piano, gathering the volumnous skirts of her vibrant red dress about her, and moves with all the same grace and poise that Adelheid has, as she exits via an automatic door tht leads deeper into the ship. Trailing behind her is a small, juvenile black panther, following like a loyal kitten. It gives one look back over its shoulder with bright, impossibly green eyes, before it exits the room, the doors sliding closed behind it. This leaves Adelheid and Dahlia with only Aya and Hermione to keep them company.

Adelheid has remained silent and still, watching his sister as she takes her leave. While his demure smile never fades, it does seem that those delicate features cast in ivory have taken on some intangible quality of hardness. A tension built around the edges of his eyes, and a hardness not present before in the set of his jaw. This subtle display of frustration all but melts away as Adelheid turns his attention back to Dahlia, and when he offers her a smile, it is as gentle and serene as any before.

"I am grateful for your compliment. I think that, as more people of the new generation move into positions to have influence, tired of the way things have been done up until now, we just may see more of an approach like mine come about. We can only hope. But, let's put business aside for now. I'd be more than delighted to show you around," Adel says, as he slips from the table back onto his mirror polished black shoes. One last lift of his glass, and he empties its contents with one last draw. He sets the emptied tulip aside on the table, and motions towards the same door his sister had just exited by. "You will have to excuse me, of course, if some areas are off limits. Specifically certain areas where we conduct research and development, as well as our engine rooms. Proprietary information and all of that. But we do have all the luxury and amenities of a modern vacation cruise. Pools, gyms, a dining hall with an all star compliment of chefs. Anything at all you could want, we have right here on Sky Noah. We even have lounges and arcades, for the crew and staff to socialize and blow off steam."

He reaches out, gracing Dahlia's shoulder with a brushing, achingly light touch, coupled with another of those vibrant smiles that seem to light up his face with youthful brilliance. "Or we can just drop down to the lower decks where we keep the "shop", so to speak. Really, this time has been set aside for you, so however you wish to spend it, I am yours to command."

Even if Dahlia -weren't- able to sense emotions, it wouldn't be difficult to pick out the dissonance between Rose's words and her true feelings. Dahlia treats the exchange just as any other little dispute between brother and sister -- by pretending she heard nothing awry at all. If Rose wants to make up an excuse to get out of the room, well -- it's none of her business.

Her right hand remains lightly curled around her glass. Dahlia relaxes: the very picture of comfort as she lounges against her seatback. Her left hand raises in an elegant wave: "That sounds lovely! Enjoy yourself..."

As Rose and the panther stride out of the room, Dahlia allows her left hand to settle back to her lap. With the slightest movement, her grasp settles about her pen. She allows her focus to drift lazily around the room, spinning her pen around her thumb and her index finger as if the zephyrs of emotions themselves are blowing the item about. Such wonderfully strong passions hidden beneath a veneer of presenatability -- Dahlia notes that the rich and powerful always have the most -interesting- ways of approaching problems.

The moment of introspective silence is mercifully short, as Adelheid slips down from the table. When he drains his glass, Dahlia raises her glass for another sip -- though, in her case, the glass is still half full. Tilting her head to the side, she asks quietly, "... Might I take this with me?" She'd rather not let it go to waste, but she'd rather not follow in her people's footsteps when it comes to copious alcohol consumption. And besides -- she's sure that a staff capable of keeping a magnificent airship can deal with cleaning up after a shattered wine glass, should such an accident occur. Asking is just a deferential courtesy.

Dahlia's gaze locks back onto Adelheid's as he states an end to business. In the Akatsuki leader's mind, that's just a formality of course -- any meeting is rife with opportunities to learn more. Her forelock flutters to either side as she nods with agreement. "Of course."

But he might notice her pupils contracting as he mentions the luxury, and amenities, of a modern vacation cruise.
Why did he have to mention that?
The pen spins more quickly about her thumb.
'Pools, gyms, a dining hall...'
Her smile fades, as she lowers her gaze to the pen in her hand.

'Anything at all you could want...'

The thought of -enjoyment- right now...
The memory of a cruise ship...
The excitement she feigned...
All in order to bait a trap...

A hand shakes her shoulder. The pen stops abruptly as Dahlia focuses her gaze upon it. Thumb and forefinger pinch it tightly, her knuckles growing white in an instant. A vein on her forehead pulses.

Her shoulder is tense -- as solid as a brick wall.

And then... with one intake of breath... the tension is gone. Muscles relax. Blood begins to pump normally again. And she can once more hear the sound of his voice as it was meant to be heard.

The pen is stashed into a pocket on her wheelchair. And Dahlia looks back up to Adelheid with a beguiling smile.

"That sounds great. I'd like to see the merchandise. And maybe I'll find something else to add to the order, as you suggested."

The very picture of control.

A glance is spared to Aya, and another to Hermione, before she turns back up to Adelheid. Bright and sunny-eyed, she segues: "By all means, lead the way...?"

Adelheid is a very astute young man. He notes the shift in Dahlia's demeanor. The way her pupils become pinpricks of darkness in her eyes. The way her face shifts. The speed with which she spins her pen now, and the tension that fills her body. All of it is observed, connected to the words spoken just prior, about the attractions she might enjoy while a guest aboard Sky Noah. Curious that. Something that he would desire to dig deeper into, should he have the opportunity. He wholly doubts that any sane person has any reason to have such a recoiling reaction to the prospect of recreational fun. There is more to that. Something he's certain must be very interesting.

But for now, Adelheid ignores it, as if he hadn't noticed it at all. His touch does linger, just a bit longer than he had initially intended, in order to give her shoulder a kneading squeeze, before he retracts it.

"Of course, you're more than welcome to bring your drink. If you'd like, I could have someone bring the bottle, in the event that you find yourself empty."

He leads her out of the observation room, and into the corridor of the lower deck where they are currently located. Like twin shadows, Aya and Hermione follow behind, silent save for the clacking of their very proper heels on the flooring. Together, the four of them reach the portal to a cargo elevator, where Adelheid presses the button to call the carriage.

"Now, I will say that we have gathered a lot of information about the activities and habits of the Akatsuki, and with a particular interest in you, in preparation for this deal. I will admit that I find you a bit fascinating. I feel you're a very interesting person, and that there is a lot to you that I will never know by reading a file," the Prince of War states, his features placid and passive as he stares at the light that hangs over the elevator doors, awaiting the ding to signal that they will open. "So, with that in mind, I have decided that I will take on the responsibility of handling your account myself. Normally, this would be assigned to one of "R's" skillful sales representatives, and our avenues of discourse would be limited to only the most important business, such as contract negotiations and the like. I'm hoping that through this, we can establish a rapport with one another, and learn about each other in a manner that extends beyond the business relationship."


Adelheid steps aside as the doors slide open, both vertically and horizontally, with a hiss of hydraulics. A sweeping gesture of his hand, and the young man seems the very picture of class, head bowed, in his perfect tux, allowing the lady to move in before he follows.

"I will also admit that while I have an idea of the Akatsuki's finances, I'm still uncertain of how far they are able to stretch them, and how far you might want to invest. "R" can provide more than vehicles, drones, and small arms weaponry. We have cybernetic enhancement suites on offer. Some of those suites are fully integrated, so that the user's natural aptitudes are able to be used with, and through the cybernetics themselves. We have cracked the code with manipulation of Chi, so far, and with a proper test subject, we may just come to a swift resolution to psycho power, as well. We are also looking into developing fully autonomous humanoid drones. Androids, if you will, to add to one's troops. Should you find yourself interested in any of these other services, just let me know what kind of budget we're looking at, and I would be happy to give you an honest and open consultation."

Normally, one would expect a woman of Dahlia's stature to have a secure grip on her personal issues before entering into a delicate negotiation. It remains to be seen which of the telling signs is truth, and which is merely concocted as a red herring, left out on the table for Adelheid's observation. Perhaps, though... Dahlia might not be as impeccably precise as she seems to think.

As Adelheid's touch is withdrawn, her left eyebrow raises a fraction of a centimeter. The light squeeze -- a gesture of familiarity that she quickly writes off as a cultural quirk. That's all the attention she gives it for the moment.

Her slender fingers curl lightly about the stem of the tulip glass as she takes in the sights. "Wonderful," is her response, "I'll be fine without the bottle." She leans back into the chair, gently nudging the joystick forward to drive her wheelchair in pursuit of her able-bodied host.

Her eyes pass along the corridor with measured wonder, taking in what sights she can as they become available. Dahlia can't help but smile to some degree, upon hearing about Adelheid's exhaustive preparations. "I appreciate the personal touch, Adelheid... Hmm. ... Or is there another name you would prefer?" She might have gone with 'Mr. Bernstein', but something about the way this young man speaks about his father caused her to question that tack.

The elevator dings. The doors hiss open. And Dahlia rolls inside, spinning the wheelchair around so as to face the exit door.

"Mm... I'll need to consult the family leaders to get a broader picture of our finances. Suffice to say, I'm not a numbers person - there are 'people' for that." With the slightest hint of a smirk, Dahlia reaches for her drink. Surely, she'll need to involve her financial advisor in the future negotiations. Taking one more sip, she savors the flavor for a good few moments before settling the glass back upon her thigh. "The drones will be enough for now. But I'd be a fool to pass up the opportunity to research more... creative approaches to end the conflict."

She nods encouragingly with the mention of chi manipulation. The suggestion that Dahlia could possibly procure test subjects with psychic potential is not lost upon her, though she seemingly brushes the lead aside entirely with a question dressed up as a statement. "I do wonder how your autonomous humanoids stack up to the Combots from Violet Systems. There were... numerous shortcomings and I'm curious to see how your offerings compare."

The fingers of both hands lace around the stem of the glass, as her thumbs press lightly against the relatively cool underside of the tulip's blossom, as the elevator tracks close to its destination.

"Show me what you have -- and I'll be sure to keep it in mind as our campaign in Southtown progresses."

"Adelheid is perfectly fine. I want us to be friends, Dahlia. There's no need to stand on formality here," Adelheid replies, as he steps into the carriage beside her. Their two silent companions saunter their way in, as well, filing off to either side and just behind each of the two leading actors on this stage, though Aya does take a moment to depress the button that will take them below the decks, where the cargo is stored. "As for the personal touch, as I said, you fascinate me. I had heard through the usual channels about everything going on between the Syndicate and Akatsuki, so of course I investigated to see where "R" might be the most useful in bringing about a swift and decisive end to the chaos in South Town. It was pretty early on that I decided that you would be, perhaps, the better horse to back."

A pause, and Adelheid's soft, glossy pink lips arc with a wide, closed smile. "Duke is an easy man to understand. He wears most of who he is on his sleeve. He is direct, and brutal in his methods, if not efficient. You, on the other hand, seem to be more subtle. I cannot help but think that you are the more dangerous of the two, despite the outcome of your recent battle. Duke is a bear. A bear gets hungry, and it lumbers about wreaking havoc and devouring everything in its way. You, on the other hand... You're more of a margay, I imagine. A margay, if you don't know, is a smaller wild cat. It looks rather adorable. Almost housecat like. But it's the kind of predator that lures its prey in by imitating the panicked cries of a baby. It is a patient creature. One willing to play a long game. Cunning and resourceful."

Now, Adelheid turns his head, still smiling, to cast that ruby gaze back on to the wheelchair bound woman at his side. "I first heard the cries of the margay when I was a small child, on an expedition that my father led into the Amazon rainforest to quell some rebels that were trying to overthrow the regime that we had put into power. As we were camping out, I heard it crying, and it sounded like a dying child. I had thought to run out into the dark forest to try to save some kid, but my father stopped me. He told me about the cat's methods, and from that point on, I had to know everything about them."

The elevator arrives at its destination, halting in that strange lurching way that almost gives one that butterfly feeling in the pit of their gut, but never quite reaches it, like some built up climax denied. The doors open, again with that soft hissing sound. Again, the ever mindful Adelheid steps to the side of the door, gesturing for his guest to exit before himself. The cargo hold is a vast thing that doesn't resemble a cargo hold at all. Everything is neat and organized, with clear divisions marked with signs, and directions to areas posted on support beams with detailed floor maps. It is well lit, though the lighting is that oppressively sterile shade of white-blue that comes from cool neon lighting, casting everything in that haze of hospital shades and hues. Display racks dominate every station as well, revealing each and every type of weapon that they have available, from swords to assault rifles, to the far more exotic weaponry that belongs in the realm of sci-fi. There are even rows of hanging husks of humanoid, robotic shells made of glistening metal and glossy plastics, like lifeless marionettes.

"We saw the failings of Violet Systems Combots, and the successes in other models, and are learning from both to create something far, far more capable in the field. While we are not trying to create some sort of one-man-army type super soldier android, we do want capable combatants that are able to act autonomously within given perimeters, and function as needed to help support and bolster frontline troops numbers and give an edge. This will allow us to both make the models realistically affordable, and also set realistic design goals for ourselves to achieve an outcome that is beneficial for our clientele."

As they talk, he's leading her back, further from the rows of rifles and grenades and missiles. Past mounted artillery and anti-aircraft guns. And there, on the precipice of a sea of various types of vehicles, from armored APVs to simple Hummers, is a lot just filled with mid-sized aerial drones. Glistening white, shaped like fighter jets devoid of cockpits. Silent and still and yet seeming so threatening just by their very existence.

"And here we are..."

'I want us to be friends' is such a charming, innocent statement -- might Dahlia have used the same approach to broker trust if the roles were reversed? The thought amuses her as she settles in for the elevator ride, nodding to Aya and Hermione if they happen to look her way.

Adelheid is, of course, going to continue receiving the lion's share of the Akatsuki advisor's attention. A knowing grin is her response to the assessment of Duke's personality -- though his choice of animal does draw a pinched smile. "I've been compared to many animals, but never a margay..." she blurts out with amusement. Though her expression does soften as she hears more about this remarkable beast and its cunning mindgames.

"I hope the similarities end there," remarks Dahlia with narrowed eyes and a sly grin -- not wanting to be so gauche as to spell out her concerns about Adelheid acting against his father's wishes. It -is- a concern, of course, that he could just annul the contract altogether, and claim dominion over the Akatsuki.

Of course, in Dahlia's mind, he'd be welcome to -try-...

Dahlia rolls out as soon as the elevator door provides access. For a moment, her face lights with almost childlike glee at the neon lighting. As if this were a showroom rather than a station for potential deployment. Granted, if they wanted to stack -more- hardware in here they certainly could... but the effect is much more awe-inspiring this way, she considers.

Dahlia reaches into another pocket on her wheelchair, drawing out a pair of cotton gloves. She rolls past the swords, taking a look at the assault rifles. One cotton-sheathed hand reaches out for the grip of the nearest rifle. Placing the stock to her shoulder, she tests the weight and balance -- though not enough to actually aim. "I know only the barest bit about firearms," she explains, returning the weapon to the rack without further inspection.

She seems to approach the androids with similar detachment -- touching and prodding in order to sate her curiosity towards the advanced composite materials and little more. "Shock troops, yes... much easier to control, that way. I like being able to move my pawns one-by-one."

She takes another long, languid sip from her glass before turning attention to the artillery, the anti-aircraft guns, and the vehicles. She seems much less -personally- invested in those. Though at this point, she leans over to Hermione with a conspiratorial volume. Not as if Adelheid couldn't hear -- but more so that she's giving them attention and not totally ignoring their presence. "Mm... I'd probably need to get some datasheets on the hardware here -- demonstration videos, if possible -- to share with my strategy team. Regrettably, I don't have much of a head for that sort of thing, though I can definitely appreciate the craftsmanship. Would one of you be able to help me with that?" No sense in Dahlia being any ruder than she has to be.

And, at long last... the promised drones. She's had the opportunity to see her own unarmed surveillance drones before, but these...? An air force, miniscule in size but not lethal potential. She carves a wide circle around the display drone, gently draining the contents from the glass as she goes. The tail rotors -- silent and powerful. The glass is emptied -- and she holds it out for Aya to pluck away at her convenience.

But now as she comes around to the front, one hand rises up to trace along the sleek contours, the dynamic profiles. She breaks into a broad smile, baring her teeth.

"Saving the best for last, of course.... Adelheid, I do think I'll be enjoying these the most of all."

She completes her circuit, pivoting the chair to face the drone from the front. Folding her arms comfortably across one another, she offers a content chuckle.

"You managed to bring me... -exactly- what I was searching for."

Log created on 09:47:46 07/06/2018 by Honoka, and last modified on 13:14:36 07/11/2018.