Closed RP Work Ethics

This RP is currently closed.


[div][attr="style","position:relative;left:-181px;top:11px;width:150px;text-align:center;border-radius:15px;background-color:#393738;border:3px #8E3839 solid;color:#A4A09F;padding:8px;font-family:high tower text;"]THE CRYPTID

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Code by Illirica[/div][/div][div][googlefont="georgia"][attr="style","display:grid;grid-template-columns:16px auto 16px;grid-template-rows:16px auto 16px;grid-template-areas:'CornerTL Top CornerTR' 'Left Main Right' 'CornerBL Bottom CornerBR';background-color:#393738;padding:6px;border:1px #4b0101 solid;"]
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[div style="font-family:'georgia';"] said the sign. 12:05 AM, said his watch.

Four floors, red brick. Cryptid didn't know a thing about architecture, but it looked older. Looked unwashed. Cheap and unmaintained. Even at midnight, he walked right through the front doors and didn’t even get a nod from the receptionist. He put his mask on in the stairwell. He moved with purpose, only slowing on the second landing. He’d caught her scent downstairs, but he sift through the mildew and other things to keep track of it.

He followed it to the top floor, which in his experience was the worst place to be if she wanted to go anywhere in a hurry, but did have the benefit of being out of reach of anyone trying to come through a window.

The Cryptid now moved down the hall with a long but silent stride. For the fourth time since he’d found her case, he was trying to decide on his approach. Ms. Hoffman clearly knew she was in danger. She just lacked his paranoid, all-outcomes-possible mindset from years of running. Scary wasn’t going to be the right approach here. Softer, then. Voice of reason, force of comfort. Behind the safety of his mask, of course.

He stopped outside room 412. HIs nose told him she’d been in here – well, quite possibly for the whole week. With only a moment’s hesitation to gather himself, he reached out and rapped twice, clear and crisp.

“Amy Hoffman?”

Movement behind the door. A rustle of clothing. Floorboards creaking despite her attempts at silence. Then a pause as she looked through the peephole. More footsteps, rushed and quiet, back across the room. Confirmation she was in there, but no actual response. He sighed, softly, and then glanced back down the hall. No one else even seemed to be here. And the door looked flimsy enough.

He didn’t have time to waste. Crypted braced, and put his foot through the lock.

The plywood splintered and the door swung wildly inward. Cheap hotel, lousy security. There was more noise than he would have liked but it was too late to do anything about that as he dusted himself off and stepped through–

– and looked up to see Amy Hoffman shakily pointing a gun at him, knuckles white like she was clutching her last lifeline.

“Don’t move,” she hissed, “don’t you move.”

Cryptid raised his hands, palms outward but fingers closed. She didn’t need to see the claws yet. Beyond that, he obeyed. Her voice shook, as did her weapon. He could hear the component parts rattling together.

“Miss Hoffman, please. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m here to help.” His own voice had neither fear nor threat. “I just have a few questions. Please put the gun down.”

“Asking questions is what got me into this mess in the first place.”

“I know. And it took a lot of guts to ask them anyway. Your boss must’ve offered you a lot of money to keep it quiet.”

She actually laughed, a frantic titter. “You have no idea.”

There was a sheen of sweat on her brow. Dark circles under her eyes were the evidence of days without sleep.

“Integrity like that’s a rare thing, these days,” he continued. “I know you want to see him behind bars, and you want to go home. We can help each other here.”

He could tell she was thinking hard. A bead of sweat crawled her face. Cryptid’s eyes followed it, then met her eyes. He slowly shifted his weight and leaned forward in a slow step. Amy sucked in a little gasp. She didn’t pull the trigger. He took another step, hands still raised. She just watched him with wide eyes. Once again, it was a miracle she was still alive. If he’d wanted to make a quick $5000, he could’ve just stabbed her right there and she wouldn’t have even blinked.

Instead, he gently took the gun by its barrel, and her grip loosened. His eyes flickered down to the side of the weapon.

The safety was on.

Amy followed his gaze, and then she saw it, too. In a very small voice, she said, “oh.”

He took the gun the rest of the way from her hands. She was shaking like a leaf.

“Would you like to sit down?”

“Yeah.” She sank down onto the bed. “What do you want to know, Mister–”

“Cryptid.” He kept his voice soft and understanding, but didn’t sit down beside her. He was more comfortable on his feet. “I need to know what you found about Felix Vasquez. But don’t rush. We have time.”

Not all work could be dropped at her feet, sadly. While Nine Tails, Inc had certainly garnered a reputation within the world of shady deals and killers for hire, not everyone knew about their services and thus could not ask them explicitly to help. That’s why Mari occasionally had to pound the pavement, digitally speaking, checking forums and the usual areas for contracts that had not yet been snatched up. It was slow going, most of the listings were either blatant scams or honeypots. HireAHit was always a hit or miss, but one listing stuck out to her. Amy Hoffman, an average-looking woman that someone wanted dead. Not too badly, it seemed, judging by the low sum, at least by killer standards. Normally she’d just set up with a sniper rifle and call it a day, but then the little scrap of text at the bottom caught her eye. Extra payment for information extracted, now that was something more up her street. Or rather, up Spork’s.

Research was easy. The listing had been up for a week, Amy Hoffman’s social media went dark around the same time. It meant that she was still alive, but trying to hide. Mari liked a challenge. Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a challenge. Despite going dark on social media, there were several photos that showed her apartment complex, and considering she was probably unemployed at this point, she’d be set up somewhere seedy. Mari flicked through CCTV cameras, remarkably unsecured, looking for the car she’d seen in a Facebook post with the caption “new car!” with way too many heart emojis. Public cameras were remarkably unsecure, and there were a couple models the city used. She found the white Kia Soul on her fifth try, the camera about a block away from a cheap hotel called Sleep Inn. She called Spork over, they’d be excited at the prospect of a job.

Mari had booked them a room on the fourth floor, down the hall from Ms. Hoffman. Spork had been able to ask about their friend Amy who said she was staying here but didn’t say what room. Unfortunately, they only had rooms with one bed, which meant that Spork had been waggling their eyebrows at her for the past few hours, interspersed with quoting Dog of Wisdom 2. She’d managed to tune it partially out, focusing on ensuring her gear was ready. It wasn’t until she’d gotten most of her outfit on that she realized they had shifted. Was that….All-Star? But just with Dog of Wisdom sounds?

She couldn’t help cracking a smile and letting out a small chuckle. If they weren’t ridiculous, they wouldn’t be Spork. Mari turned to speak to them before she heard the sound of a crappy door splintering open. Shit. She gave a look to Spork before putting on her helmet, gun drawn, slipping out into the hallway. She wasn’t worried about the cameras, they were an outdated model that hadn’t worked for at least a decade. Kitsune moved softly and quickly towards the shattered door of Room 412, listening to the voice inside. Male, gruff. Good to know.

I need to know what you found about Felix Vasquez. But don’t rush. We have time.

“I’m afraid you really don’t.” A metallic voice spilled in from the hallway, rough and metallic, as Kitsune stepped through the doorway, over the shattered remains of the door. Her weapon was pointed not at the target, who seemed relatively harmless, but at the figure trying to take her bounty. Or worse, some wannabe hero.

“Shiba. Bite.”
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“-and really, only one bed? What will the neighbors think, Mari-on Berry?” Spork is sprawled on the bed, but their voice carries through Mari’s silence. When the nickname doesn’t earn even a half-hearted grumble, they realize she’s not listening and switch tactics.

“Bah bah bah bah. Baaah-bah bah.” They follow their previous cadence with the nonsense syllables, but she still isn’t listening. Rude. They sit up a bit with a rustle of fabric, and their helmet slides into their elbow as the bed dips. They’re already mostly dressed, and their gear is less complex than Mari’s constantly updated arsenal, so there isn’t anything to do but annoy her while they wait for something more exciting to happen.

Something like the sound of splintering wood and a bang from down the hallway. Spork sits bolt upright in an instant, dropping the bit cold and grabbing their helmet. A gesture from their right hand - pinky and thumb pressed together, then two taps from the middle - and Miku crackles to life with a quiet chime in their ear.

Mari’s already in motion, and they’re only a step behind, sliding the helmet on before they cross into the hallway. Their footsteps are a little heavier than hers, only because she eats like a bird and walks like a cat. Whatever. There isn’t any use for stealth once things really get going, and that’s where they excel. Once they reach the doorway, they loom behind their partner, projecting all the threatening vibes they can.

U-04, armed - handgun, 15 feet, 1 o’clock. T-03, unarmed, 20 feet, 12 o’clock. Alright.

At Mari’s command, they push off the wall hard and lunge for U-04. Take out the bigger threat first, and then worry about the target. One gauntleted hand shoots out to get some kind of handhold in the person’s clothing, the other poised to snag the wrist of the hand holding the gun once they have an idea of the scale they’re working with here.

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[div][attr="style","position:relative;left:-181px;top:11px;width:150px;text-align:center;border-radius:15px;background-color:#393738;border:3px #8E3839 solid;color:#A4A09F;padding:8px;font-family:high tower text;"]THE CRYPTID

[img src="[URL][/URL]" style="width:150px;border-radius:15px;"]

[font color="#8E3839"]Code by Illirica[/font][/div][/div][div][googlefont="georgia"][attr="style","display:grid;grid-template-columns:16px auto 16px;grid-template-rows:16px auto 16px;grid-template-areas:'CornerTL Top CornerTR' 'Left Main Right' 'CornerBL Bottom CornerBR';background-color:#393738;padding:6px;border:1px #4b0101 solid;"]
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[div][attr="style","grid-area:Main;color:#A4A09F;padding:9px;"][div][attr="style","grid-area:Left;"][div style="font-family:'georgia';"][font size="3"]Just his luck. Could be his timing, but luck or karma were always easier to blame. He hadn’t heard footsteps or anything - that was sloppier than he usually was. Too much attention on the target, not enough on his own back. Then again - he knew he hadn’t been followed. And he hadn’t been here all that long. So the new arrival must’ve been waiting. Probably found her the same way Cryptid had.

Maybe he should’ve just made a quieter entrance.

There was just enough feedback from the metal voice to set Todd’s teeth on edge. His head turned to the door, blue eyes narrowed to take in the pair of unwelcome guests. Judging by apparent height and weight, the front one in red was a woman. The back one, in orange, was harder to tell. Red had a gun drawn. Orange seemed content to stand by and look menacing for a moment, hands empty. Both were trying too hard to intimidate.

It took more than a couple clowns in anime masks to throw him off, though, and the discomfort in his head made him feel more annoyed than scared of the pair. Even when outnumbered there’s a certain confidence that comes with being a recently fed predator.

Amy whimpered, reminding him and probably other interested parties that she was there, but before Cryptid could address her Red made a command, and Orange moved. Acting on reflex, he tossed the still-locked handgun aside on the bed and twisted to move his wrist, cover his torso, and drive an elbow into his assailant. His hands closed into fists to reveal the claws previously hidden between his fingers. He made a slash at the arm that reached for his clothes - his thinness worked in his favor here, and the Cryptid’s habit of wearing tighter layers - but the intent was more to bat the hand aside than actually puncture. These were professionals, after all, or something like it. The claws would only do damage if he really put an effort in, and right now he was content to keep to the defensive. He didn’t give them openings to hit him too hard, but he was technically in a good position, since Red couldn’t hit him with her firearm without going through Orange. Or, as she’d called them –

[font color="#FFFAFA"]“Shiba? Really, like Doge?”[/font] he asked with an unusual casualness, even with his full attention on defense against the assailant. Besides his monologue practice, his banter game was going to be rusty, and if this was actually a strong, silent type, they wouldn’t even care.

And while Todd braced and caught attacks, Amy had noticed the gun left within arm’s reach. With everyone’s attention on the man who came here to either save her or kill her, she reached slowly for the weapon, trying not to draw attention.[/font][/div][/div][/div][/div]

U-04, unarmed - is the only warning Spork gets before an elbow catches them in the gut. They grimace but continue reaching forward regardless, still looking to get the grapple.

There’s a terrible screech of metal on metal as claws scrape along their gauntlet, setting Spork’s teeth on edge. They grit their teeth against it and their opposite hand shoots out to catch their new dance partner’s wrist, drawing the scratched one back and turning their whole body into a high elbow jab aimed for the guy’s head.

Just like dancing. They brighten considerably when he catches the reference, perking up like a summer daisy even as they continue the spin into a step back and kick out a leg to try to trip him up.

“So scare, such wow.” Their voice comes out a low growl completely at odds with their words, followed by a half-threatening-chuckle half-interference-whine as the modulator tries and fails to translate their hyena laugh. They’ll have to get Mari to fix that later. “Do we get a name?”

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Shiba followed her order, launching into an attack against their competition. Normally she’d remind them to stay quiet, but there was a certain persuasiveness that came from Shiba’s imposing figure and voice clashing with their manic personality. It worked especially well against those who’d never been in a violent situation before and needed a bit of a reminder of who was in control.

Speaking of whom, Kitsune caught Amy’s slow movement towards the gun. It was less a smooth, slow grab and more of a jerky red light/green light of inching her hand towards it. Kitsune’s hand shifted and the scent of burnt fabric wafted through the air. She turned to look at Amy, closing the distance between them. Halfway between the gun and her hand was a singed hole, about the size of a quarter, penetrating an inch into the mattress.

“Easy, doll. Luckily your hand wasn’t in the way.” Kitsune’s smirk was palpable, even through a mask and voice filter. “My partner and I just want to have a little chat, talk some things through, that’s all. You tell us what we need to know, you’ll never see us again.”

Was it cheesy? Of course. But it was better to play into expectations with people new to being threatened and interrogated. Either they followed the script or were deeply unsettled when it was flipped.
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[div][attr="style","position:relative;left:-181px;top:11px;width:150px;text-align:center;border-radius:15px;background-color:#393738;border:3px #8E3839 solid;color:#A4A09F;padding:8px;font-family:high tower text;"]THE CRYPTID

[img src="[URL][/URL]" style="width:150px;border-radius:15px;"]

[font color="#8E3839"]Code by Illirica[/font][/div][/div][div][googlefont="georgia"][attr="style","display:grid;grid-template-columns:16px auto 16px;grid-template-rows:16px auto 16px;grid-template-areas:'CornerTL Top CornerTR' 'Left Main Right' 'CornerBL Bottom CornerBR';background-color:#393738;padding:6px;border:1px #4b0101 solid;"]
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[div][attr="style","grid-area:Main;color:#A4A09F;padding:9px;"][div][attr="style","grid-area:Left;"][div style="font-family:'georgia';"][font size="3"]Oh, fuck, that was a bad sound. The man under the mask cringed as he felt like Shiba was putting knives into his brain through his ears. The metal on metal was bad, but familiar enough that he can sort it into a background kind of pain, making the bob and weave necessary to avoid the elbow to the head applicable even as he let the hand grab his wrist with the intent to turn it around into a throw –

And then came the horrific metal laugh, and he was caught off guard long enough for the foot to catch against his ankle and send his body almost sprawling before he caught his train of thought.

[font color="#FFFAFA"]“Cryptid’s fine.”[/font] His voice took on a little more of a serious edge as he thought fast and adjusted his grip in Shiba’s to drag them down to the ground with him. He counterbalanced his own light weight with a tug that was much stronger than most would guess. He turned the fall into a twist and tried to put Shiba under him, if only to buy a second, because he had to remember his primary reason for being here was –

Amy had gone completely still. Todd felt the stillness the way only a predator could, once he noticed. Red had started to move in as Shiba kept him busy. Not for the kill, but for…

Shit. Info. This was going to be messy. Whether Shiba came down with him or not – and they might just follow on their own, in which case he’d twist away from any attack. Either way, he’d bring his claws onto the hand still wrapped around his and try to stand.

[font color="#FFFAFA"]“Doll?”[/font] he spoke as he tried to catch his footing, now addressing the red one. [font color="#FFFAFA"]“What are you, a 40’s mobster. Fucking Doll.”[/font]

Amy went from staring at Red like a doe in the headlights, to looking at Cryptid. He’d just offered her the same thing, although he had managed to sweeten the deal with the promise of help. He also hadn’t attacked her when threatened. Was that a trap? Or was she just tired.

She was very, very tired.

Her mouth was very dry. Before Cryptid showed up, she’d been fine, and now there were three masked people in her hotel room, enacting or threatening violence on her or each other. Maybe she could just… sit here, and wait for them to figure it out?

[font color="#FFFAFA"]“Listen, Capone, last I checked it was first come first serve.”[/font] She blinked because she’d forgotten she wasn’t looking at the person with the laser, and was still watching Cryptid. [font color="#FFFAFA"]“I’d offer to share, but I’m more of a catch-and-release kind of guy. You know how it is.”[/font][/font][/div][/div][/div][/div]

Mans has a strong pulling arm, is all Spork thinks as they’re jolted forward. Really, brain? They hit the ground on their back, and a delighted smile finds its way onto their face as they realize what they have the opportunity to do.

“M-Mr. Cryptid-san, what are you-” They can’t continue the bit, the screech of metal on metal catching their attention again as he claws at their hand. Their grip only tightens, their other arm coming up in an attempt to knock his hand away.

When he starts to stand they kick a leg up, attempting to catch him in the groin. Spork never said they’d play nice.

“Capone, that’s a new one! You think it’s a compliment, Kitsune?” Their voice is chipper behind the mask and growly outside of it. They tug hard on his wrist as their leg comes back down, finally releasing him as they make an attempt to flip themself up and back onto their feet, to get themself between him and Mari again. Kitsune. Whatever.

They really couldn’t care less about the politics at play here. Whatever information the target has is valuable, sure, but they aren’t in this for the money.

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Kitsune groaned internally as Spork did what Spork was best at. Maybe she should have told them to keep quiet, though. They barked back at her as the vigilante, Cryptid he called himself, continued their back and forth. Of course the one person who they had to encounter during all this would be able to match Shiba's energy.

"Doubt it." Kitsune growled as Shiba got back to their feet. They were wild and reckless, but Kitsune knew that they'd always put themselves between her and danger. And in this case, Cryptid was more of a danger than he let on. She knew that Shiba's enhancements were still operating at 100%, she'd have received a notification if something was wrong with them. Yet Cryptid seemed to be able to hold his own. Fucking metas. She knew she was being hypocritical, but their tendency towards vigilantism made her job harder. Not that she minded when they were involved, it usually paid more. But they had a nasty habit of showing up in the middle of things, and Mari liked to know how many pieces were in the puzzle before she got halfway through putting it together.

She regarded Cryptid for a moment, the air in the room growing tense as the vigilante, assassins, and target all faced each other off. Dammit, things were gonna get messy. Normally she tried to avoid it. She knew she wouldn't hear the end of it from Spork.

"I do know how it is. We've caught her, now you release." Kitsune growled before barking out another order. "Shiba, block!" She exploded into action, closing the short distance between herself and the target. Kitsune looped her arm up and through Amy's, wrapping it around her shoulder to keep her close as she shoved the still warm tip of the gun against the target's forehead. "Now, why don't you tell us about your former employer before we make tomorrow hell for housekeeping?" Kitsune's voice rasped through the mask, a metallic sound that slid up the spine.
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Always wear a cup, gentlemen.

Todd had learned that one pretty early. The people he hunted didn’t tend to play nice. To be fair, neither did he – his do minimum harm policy really didn’t go farther than literal bloodshed. Not that he could get a hit that mattered in on Shiba. Now a direct hit down there still did hurt, but it wasn’t fully incapacitating. It slowed him down enough for Shiba to catch their balance. If he’d really wanted to, he had a split second to take them and hold onto them, maybe propose an exchange.

Unfortunately, Shiba wouldn’t be a helpless hostage, and Cryptid really didn’t want to keep something that chaotic close to his vital organs, even through the coat and Kevlar. So he let them get up, exaggerating how badly he’d been staggered. If he gave the wrong impressions, maybe they’d misjudge him.

This was a bad situation all around. Amy wasn’t going to survive this, not unless the mercs massively fucked up and gave him the right opening. And then, even if she talked, Cryptid was a dead man walking. Tonight, tomorrow after they’d turned in for the bounty on Amy, next week. He had good instincts for survival, but they weren’t prey instincts. What he really wanted was to lay into the two other predators in the room. Something about the right thing to do. Something about territory. All things in balance.

But then Amy would just die, without a word about what she’d learned.

So he put his hands up, like a naive rookie, like he trusted they wouldn’t kill Amy if he didn’t intervene. He caught her eye, and he knew she saw the guilt in the darkness there, because her breathing slowed down.

Most people panicked, when they thought they were going to die. Todd had experienced that feeling himself, and had inflicted it on others. But in Amy’s eyes there was a tiredness, like a rabbit chased too long. After this there would only be more running, anyway.

Maybe she could do some good with her last few minutes.

Tears, more tears, ran down her cheeks. She exhaled a shaky breath, eyes closed. The heat of the weapon against her temple kept her from collapsing completely. Would they leave her alone for a while if she fainted, or would they break her ribs or something?

That gave her an idea, although it was probably as bad an idea as… most of the rest of the last week. Worst case, she decided, she’d die. That was bad. She’d never see her mom again, never –

No, no, she couldn’t break down now. Another deep breath, deep breaths, Amy, just like in therapy. She could do this. Maybe she could help even if she died. She’d made her own problems when she dug into Vasquez. She might as well make sure the fight went through, to the end.

So Amy talked. She talked about how she’d found the error – she thought it was an error – in the accounts, how she’d reviewed all the accounts as a result to make sense, how she’d found the embezzlement, how she’d told someone above her and they’d told her not to put her nose in it. She didn’t give her manager’s name. She wasn’t stupid – all the time, anyways.

She went calmly through the legal and document complexities, without actually expanding on what the accounting words meant. They went over Todd’s head, at least, not that she knew that. Time. She needed time, so did he. And he’d remember some of this.

Then came the realization of the money laundering. Amy might be ditzy, but she was a good accountant, and she’d found what she was looking for. Like an idiot she’d gone straight to Vasquez without thinking. He offered her money. She turned it down and threatened to go to the man above him.

Nobody threatened Leo and got away with it. She found out she was fired the next day. She’d left quietly, because she had the night to realize how stupid she’d been. She had papers. She didn’t say where they were, just said she had proof. She saw Cryptid’s eyes sweep over the room, taking note that she didn’t have a laptop on the desk or even an overnight bag. The gears were turning. Only a few options, really, she just needed to figure out what else.

She skimmed the part where she’d panicked and scurried off. The gun was legally hers. She’d done exactly what Todd had suspected, found the hotel the same way he had, parked the car what she thought was just far enough away.

Not enough.

“And that’s everything I know,” she lied, although by the time she did, her voice had finally stopped shaking. Occasionally her body would shudder involuntarily as the adrenaline seeped out with the words.

It wouldn’t take Todd’s ears to hear the lie. He’d been able to find more just with a cursory search of what she might know, but it was a good overview for someone in a hostage situation. Maybe she just expected to just die, now. Cryptid had been busy listening as a matter of courtesy and curiosity. And maybe there’d be a small mercy for her.

But there was a tension in his shoulders, because if that was it, then they wouldn’t be here. His eyes shifted over to Shiba, a subtle tension in his shoulders and stance. He could move fast enough to intercept, even from this distance. He could take a hell of a hit. That’d leave Kitsune/Red, but they weren’t the muscle itching for violence.

He just needed to be fast enough to notice, and move fast enough to catch them.

Once they’re back on their feet, Spork takes up their usual position: between Mari and danger. They hardly even need the order, though they know it makes her feel better to give it. Something about showing a chain of command, making people underestimate them.

U-04, armed - claws, uninjured, Miku helpfully reports. Damn, they haven’t been able to land a solid hit on the guy yet. Maybe Mari’ll let them break out the big guns. Or they can just do it anyways, if they feel like it.

They’ve had a surprisingly long time to catch their breath. They don’t really believe that standing in front of Mari with their arms held up like a goalie is intimidating enough to make Cryptid-Bibtid back off, and they’re very confused until they realize the target’s talking. They’d tuned her out automatically. Whoops. Good thing they aren’t in charge of note-taking.

With the mystery solved, they tune her back out and keep their attention on Miku’s reports of Cryptid’s movements. They’ve got their priorities, and number one is getting themself and Mari out of this alive. Their hand drifts slowly to their thigh, and the baton holstered there. They click the latch open as subtly as they can.

When the lady is done yammering, Spork tilts their head at Cryptid’s approximate position. “As much as I love the attention, show’s over. Do you wanna scram, or should I get ready to rrrrumble?”

They’re half hoping he chooses the latter. They keep their hand on the hilt of the baton but delay actually drawing it. They don’t know if the business is actually done. All they know is that the longer he hangs around the more they’ll have to deal with Mari being pissy about ‘information leaks’ and ‘minimized risks’ and so on and so forth.


Kitsune's face was both a literal and figurative mask of disinterest as Cryptid backed off and Amy began singing. It was surprising how effectively a gun to the head loosened a target's lips. She wasn't fully paying attention, the incriminating evidence slipping into a recording device located within her helmet, while simultaneously being streamed to a laptop she had set up for this sort of thing. Metadata was as incriminating as a confession for anyone who thought to look, and Mari knew she'd have to scrub it before she could obsess over it.

The target didn't confess any names, but simply stated that the information had been reported to someone above her, most likely her manager. Kitsune had no intention of turning over the audio logs, and the client would almost certainly be satisfied with a gunpoint confession. Her attention flicked to the other two in the room, two coiled springs that were compressed almost as far as they could go. Both were ready to pounce, and Shiba had flipped open the latch on their baton. They were itching for violence, and Mari knew it was coming. Especially since Cryptid wasn't going to like what came next.

"Thank you for your cooperation." The raspy voice crooned to Amy, the pressure from the gun to her temple remaining. She had worked with Spork on several phrases for specific actions, but some of them were general purpose. The command Kitsune gave was one such phrase.

"Shiba, go loud." Kitsune growled almost satisfactorily as she squeezed the trigger, waiting for all hell to break loose.
The mercenaries were amateurs.

Amateurs, or purely violent. The one, Cryptid would believe – they were here as guard and attack dog only, based on the way they carried themself and moved. Shiba between him and not the hostage, but Kitsune. That meant that there was a loyalty there, or maybe just good money. But the attitude and interaction spoke to at least a degree of friendship. He couldn’t get a good enough bead on Kitsune to figure out if she had a better plan than this, or if she really was just here for the kill and the money that came with it.

What he did know was that his name would be on the list they brought back to Leo, and he’d have a bigger target than before.

Whatever their reason, they had what they wanted. There was a tension, a tone in Kitsune’s voice even through the warped vocoder in the helmet. Todd felt it, and felt the tension start to spread into him with the five words. There was no way he was going to make it to Amy in time. Both the human and predator halves in his mind knew that, felt it on instinct and drew logical conclusion. There was neither the space in the tiny room, nor the time with the gun pressed to Amy’s temple. And to throw himself at the three of them without any chance was just to throw his body onto a living weapon.

In the buildup, he could have bolted. Cryptid could’ve run, should have, too, as Shiba gave him the space, their focus on protecting Kitsune. There was room between him and the door. But he was still focused on Amy’s eyes. And as Kitsune gave her order, there was enough space for him to see that look in them. That look of prey, coming to terms with what they were. Coming to terms with the end.

Amy’s eyes closed, but Todd held them until they did. It was the closest thing he could to offering an apology.


The tension in Cryptid’s muscles would be visible, palpable. The near-pleasure in Kitsune’s tone only brought it on faster, held him tighter as he made a decision.

–go loud.

There was enough space for Cryptid to move between Shiba and the door, and he was fast, with long legs that ate up space and dexterity enough to avoid catching a wall. He exploded into action the second the command was given. What it meant, specifically, didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to be allowed to run, because he was a witness. He didn’t want to run, really, as the waft of burned flesh caught him in the motion. But he couldn’t stay in the close confines of the room. Between Shiba’s strength and Kitsune’s gun, he’d be dead. It might be ‘dead soon,’ and not ‘dead immediately,’ but unless he ran at some point, there wouldn’t be any running left to do.

If he ran now, he was in control. He didn’t have anything to lose but his life here, or at least significant body mobility, so it would be believable that he’d choose now as the time to cut if he was smart. But there was also something about Shiba – something that said, whether or not they were given a command, they would chase. And if Todd was fast enough, he could lure them into a position where he wouldn’t be quite so cornered.

It was as good a plan as he was going to make in his circumstances.

So he bolted, fast as his legs would take him, into the hall, and he made for the stairs.

Mari gives them an order. Mari shoots the hostage. Miku beeps insistently in their ear, spouting real-time updates as Cryptid bolts.

Spork takes three thundering steps as though to give chase, but their mind whirls all the while. They stop in the doorway, their hands catching the wall on either side with enough force to rattle free some dust from atop the doorframe. It’s traitorous to their orders, to the persona of the loyal attack dog, the muscle to Mari’s brains.

But they have their own perfectly capable brain. They don’t have a dog in this fight. Mari is safe. The job is done. Trying to chase someone with only Miku’s updates and their own mental map always gives them a headache.

If they had working eyes, they’d watch him go. As it is, they turn back to the room. They see no need to prompt Miku to keep informing them how much distance is opening between them and U-04. Once he’s out of range it’ll stop.

They click the latch shut on their baton, muscles still shivering involuntarily as the built-up adrenaline continues to course through their system. They’ll have to hit the gym tonight.

“We should go before the neighbors get too curious.”

Somehow, even through the filter, their voice sounds tired. They move to the window and punch it open. They’re sure Mari has a dozen escape routes planned, but they can’t be bothered to remember them. They can carve their own path.