((83 — Sandsnake))
July 2nd, 802 AT.
Zebra looked out the window of the tram and sighed. Between the assassination of the Inner Chamber Council and Barret’s declaration of martial law shortly thereafter, the whole city was in a state of pandemonium. The streets below were full of rioting, and smoke rose here and there throughout the city.
Three days had passed since Kasby had stalked off to track down Jaz, and none of the rest of the crew had seen him. Of course, Barret had kept them busy, with hours upon hours of extensive debriefing. Her people had squeezed out every drop of information on Face and the Devourer Swarm the crew had.
Now, for the first time since their arrival, they were being allowed to leave the citadel. Certainly, they’d been given nice enough housing quarters atop the spire, but Barret had made it quite clear she didn’t trust them.
That morning Barret had informed them that one of the defensive platforms on the outer spires had been taken over by a group of rioters and dissenters, and she was sending them to get it back. She made it quite clear that the platform itself—and its massive gun emplacements—was considerably more important than the lives of any of the people inside, as far as she was concerned.
“Remind me why we care about this?” asked Zebra sourly.
Giraffe shrugged. “It’s not like we had much of a choice. She just kind of shoved us onto the tram.”
“I don’t like being a conscript!” said Goat.
Zebra nodded. “Me neither.”
“I’ve got a feeling we’re going to wind up joining those rebel-types,” Goat said hopefully.
“Yes, joining the group of unknowns and making an enemy of that woman is an excellent idea,” Zebra replied.
“Who wouldn’t get behind it?” Giraffe asked sarcastically.
“I didn’t say it was smart,” Goat said. “But we already don’t like her, right? We’re half-way to being enemies!”
“The other half being the part where she wants to get rid of us once she’s doing using us. I’d like to avoid that part, thanks.” Zebra didn’t even bother using a sarcastic tone at this point.
“In any case,” Goat said. “Let’s talk to them first. See why they’re trying to take things into their own hands."
Zebra shrugged and looked back out at the scenery, clearly losing interest. The tram car was taking them up along the edge of one of the three enormous crystal spires that formed the basis of the city. At this point they were high enough that there were no more buildings, just bare crystal. Up ahead, directly atop the peak, was a large building, heavily armored, with numerous large gun emplacements sticking out all over it.
((84 — Judgement))
The tram slid into the dock with a hiss of air and a whirr of gears. The door slid open, and a hail of bullets whizzed into the ground just outside it.
“Guys!” Goat called. “We don’t want to fight!”
“They have really big guns,” Giraffe said, crouching next to her chair.
Zebra shifted position, making sure none of her was directly in front of the door. “Which is why we’d prefer not to fight.”
Goat frowned, and watched as a woman strode out onto the platform. She was large and well-built, with a bandana tied around her otherwise-bare head, and a very big gun held in her one arm, braced against her chest. Two men and a young teen girl followed her out, all clutching similarly large weaponry, and all pointing them at the entrance to the tram.
Goat started to exit the tram, just as she the woman spoke loudly. "Don't let me catch one'a you movin' a muscle." To emphasize her point, she fired the gun a few times at the ground in front of Goat’s feet. “Ah! Nope!”
Goat disappeared. “Whaaaa!” he declared, from several yards in the air.
The woman looked up and scowled. She made a small hand gesture and the three people behind her immediately opened fire at Goat. The boy attempted to dodge, while falling. This was not particularly easy, nor successful. One of the bullets tore through his upper right arm, and another grazed his thigh. His landing was similarly unpleasant, as he thudded onto the top of the tram car with all the grace of a falling brick. “Aaaaargh!” he expressed, pain running through his system.
The woman growled at Zebra and Giraffe. "I say don't move, I mean don't move. I'm not fuckin' around here, kiddies."
“Wasn’t plannin’ on movin’, but thanks for the info,” Giraffe replied.
“Yeah, you got it,” said Zebra, raising two fingers in a mocking sort of salute.
“It was an—AAAAYYGRH—reflex!” yelled Goat.
“Now then,” the woman said flatly. “What exactly do you three think you’re doing up here?”
“Well,” Giraffe said, frowning. “We were wondering WHY exactly you were up here?”
The woman rolled her eyes. "We're up here 'cause the bigshots on the spire are getting themselves killed. We obviously can't trust anyone down there not to be a fuckin' demon."
Goat managed to wriggle his way up to a sitting position atop the tram car, despite the pain. “We were planning on talking peacefully!” He winced, one hand on his leg and the other on his shoulder, pressing on the wound. They were far from life-threatening, but they sure hurt a lot. “Hell, I was thinking we might even join you!”
"Yeh? Joinin' us? We're not some prettyboy club for you and your friends to just waltz in and join."
“That’s fine!” Goat shouted. “‘Cause now that I’ve got a bullet in my awesome leg, I don’t really like you anymore! ARGH!”
"Fine by me. We don't give a flyin' fuck 'bout anybody but us. We're gonna stay up 'ere, and shoot any blasted demons that try to come near us. Fuck th' rest of the city, they're on their own."
Giraffe leaned back against the chair she was sitting in front of. “Just wondering, how or what do you eat up here?”
"We brough' plenty a' foodstuffs. A few cratefuls on our way up,” the woman said defensively. The three behind her exchanged significant glances, but said nothing.
“Right, ‘cause you starving would just be bad,” Giraffe said sarcastically.
The woman took a step towards Giraffe, gesturing with her gun. "I don' think I asked for your advice, y' little punk."
“I don’t think I was giving it,” she bit back.
“On closer inspection,” Goat chimed in from atop the tram car. “There isn’t actually a bullet in my leg. My arm hurts like a bitch, though.” He glanced pointedly in the direction of the tower in the center of the city.
The woman rolled her eyes, catching the hint. “Lemme guess. Barret sent you.”
“Yeah,” said Goat. “But, her being a jerk, we’re not really here on her behalf.”
Giraffe nodded. “We’re jerks on our own time.”
“Jerk. Putting it lightly. Psychotic bitch is closer to it.” The young-looking girl took a step forward and reached for the woman's shoulder, but the man standing next to her caught her arm and pushed it down.
“Anyway,” Goat said. “I’ve got some advice. If you wanna disregard it, and get gobbled up by the—nngh—Devourer Swarm, fine by me.” He sat forward. “The demons that are coming eat everything. Including, but not limited to, what you fire at them. So these guns will pretty much just be good shooting down people like us who want to help you.”
“And why, exactly, should I believe you? Bullets did the trick on you just fine, seems like.”
“Well, that just proves I’m not a demon, doesn’t it? Also, ow.”
Giraffe stood up slowly, trying to look as nonthreatening as possible. “See, either you can shoot and kill or harm us and then die, or you can have us help you and maybe not die. Your choice.”
“We can be pretty helpful,” Goat added.
The woman shook her head slowly and unambiguously. “We’re not particularly interested in your help.”
Giraffe shrugged. “If you say so. Your dead corpse.”
“Pity,” Zebra said quietly. “I was so looking forward to getting to know you.”
“Now then.” The woman pointed the gun at them. “Are you leaving via tram or via gravity? Because it doesn’t particularly matter to me.”
Giraffe glanced to Zebra. “Tram good with you?”
“Really, it’s up to you,” Zebra replied. “I’m not even sure why I was sent on this mission.”
“Guys, gravity means falling,” Goat said from the tram’s roof.
“Well!” Giraffe said. “As much as I hate the trams, I was never a fan of falling.”
“Delightful,” the woman said. Without bothering to wait for Goat to get off the top, she shot the lever controlling the tram. The piece of metal snapped off in a blur of sparks, and the tram began to roll back down the way it came, away from the rebels and back towards the center of the city.