[Pre-Episode Two] Appraisal


ISS Downrider
Cargo Bay
7 AM, Again

Dahlia walked into the cargo bay, clad in light grey pants and a matching sweatshirt and wiping away the haze of sleep from her eyes. She had gone from not having enough, to feeling like she had too much. A client was supposed to arrive in a few hours, and she had yet to really sort out the cargo bay for their arrival.

Inside the cargo bay stood the familiar sight of a, currently, particularly hard-working informant, dressed in his trademark outfit and with a skin glistening from exhaustion. He had gotten up early today as usual. On each of his shoulders he brought a box this time around, both overflowing with blank papers, notes, and a few books about Arcadian lore and legends. While most of the notes themselves were scribbled in black ink, the fallen books on the floor seemed to have numerous words highlighted in yellow marker, with arrows drawn out from them in red ink to the sides pointing to comments cross-referencing discrepancies and matches.

Though the boxes would weigh upwards of several dozen pounds, Keith was able to seemingly lift them at ease, stacking one on top of the other in the rearmost right corner of the cargo bay. His attention, however, was quickly shifted to the person just now walking in. ”Oh, hello there, captain,” his voice rang out. ”Have you come to visit?” the informant said with a slight smirk on his face, straightening out his back from his previous hunch.

Dahlia gave a half-wave as she paced into the main section of the bay, throwing the book of lists and receipts she carried on a nearby pile of pomegranate preserves. The blue-haired scholar looked over at the working informant, taken aback for a moment before remembering they were a part of the crew now. Soon, a smile spread across her face. “Morning. And… not quite, just came by to make sure everything was ready for this afternoon. I’d like to get back on track soon.”

The Captain's eyes swept across the bay, searching for anyone or anything out of place.

Little did she know the only thing immediately out of place was her communications. Taking advantage of an opportunity, like always, Caesar steps in by activating the line. “You really should be more careful with your networks. You don’t know who could be listening.” Right after saying this, he activated a small display terminal in the cargo bay, showing him in his ship, tossing around his revolver like a children’s toy.

Welcome to the Downrider by the way, stranger. I’d posit a question as to what you were doing here, but that’d just be rude of me. I’ll just chime in when necessary.

Keith turned around to face the display. ”Oh, it’s you. Think I’ve seen you ‘round a bit before, when cap’n Dahlia here gave a tour of the--” he paused abruptly, visibly cringing at the man’s lack of knowledge about gun safety, and yet deciding not to mention it. He cleared his throat. ”...Anyways, don’t believe I’ve gotten your name. In the meantime, you can call me…” The informant stretched out, hands locked behind his head as a few inaudible pops came from the joints of his neck. Inadvertently, this also caused him to show off a bit of the contents of his bandolier hidden behind the poncho - a few grenades, and a multitude of hypodermic needle darts. This man looked just about ready to fight on the front lines.

“...Ausse Avara. That’s my name, and information’s my game.” Keith glanced sideways towards Dahlia at his mention of his “name”. Hopefully she wouldn’t mind playing along - with bounty hunters in the crew and his head marked for death, the last thing he needed was a gun pointed directly at his face.

Dahlia squinted at the display, looking at Ausse briefly before returning to the man on the screen. At least it wasn’t her ship she had to worry about accumulating bullet holes in. “Not like we’ve got much to keep secret right now. Are you actually going to join us, or-” The Scholar stopped mid-sentence, looking back at the now blank panel. On Caesar’s end, his connection had been interrupted and rejected, but not by the ship's systems. It seemed like a watchful middle-man had slipped the implied scissors.

She sighed with a mix of annoyance and wonder, looking back at the well-armed informant. Fortunately for him, she was fully understanding- despite that little quip earlier. “He’s Caesar. He joined in last night but I think someone needs to keep an eye on him.”

Keith raised an eyebrow at the suddenly offline display. ”Seems like it. If he keeps that up he’s likely to shoot someone on accident.” Rubbing the nape of his neck, he turned his attention fully back to Dahlia. ”By the way, you mentioned expecting something this afternoon?”

Dahlia brought her chilled hands together with a clap, rubbing them together as she looked around the bay once more. ”Yes! I’ve got someone interested in a chunk of the technology we’re uncovering, a past buyer. Then I’ve got the mob set up to deliver some of the cut back to one of my funders, Mervius.”

After a moment of battling the poorly-warmed air in the room with friction, the scholar pointed the tips of her fingers down towards Keith. ”Mmmost of it. There’s some we’re keeping ahold of for now. You might want to check it out.” She gave a vague motion, not unlike the one she performed at the bar last night.

Mhm, and what would this technology be, perse? Can’t be anything more valuable than what I’ve got back here.” Caesar said, restarting the connection between them. His smug veneer lent to a more calm, relaxed smug as he holds his gun by the barrel, before tossing it into the air, and catching it in normal grip. Sooner or later he’d probably be cut off again, so he felt like he should get a word in or two while he was at it. “Also, had some time with the big boys, did you, Captain? I’d be more than willing to throw in a bit of my stash if it makes the job easier for you.

Dahlia swung her head around to look back at the monitor, only to find it blackened once more. ”What-” She started as her brows narrowed, before returning her gaze back to Keith. On Cesar’s end, the stream was interrupted yet again. Further reconnection lead to an… intangible error code.

Keith paid no more attention to the display this time around than a simple sideways look, rolling his eyes at Caesar's antics and sighing when the connection cut off once more. ”Maybe I should babysit when, if, I can - but I’m not his superior, and I doubt he’d listen to advice,” said the ex-sergeant, in a tone most likely carrying an underlying hint of disappointment..

”But, back to the topic at hand,” he started, quickly yet subtly looking both sides at the cargo bay’s numerous nearby storage containers. The informant would certainly seem shifty to any onlookers eavesdropping in on the conversation, though that was just a quirk he picked up along years of work. ”Could you possibly mean the Oakland Industries Overseer?”

Dahlia nodded, looking around the corner of one of the metal boxes piled about. ”Yeah… she's gone off somewhere in here.”

The Scholar snooped around, opening the doors to several storage containers around the bay. The answer came subtly, however, as she almost tripped over a power cord running from an auxiliary port of the ship's reactor. She brushed her hands together as she paced along the cable’s length, beckoning the informant over to a ribbed metal container resting by the entrance to engineering. She pried at the inset handles, pulling open the double doors slowly to reveal the contents inside.

Resting dormant inside the box was the unit in question, slumped against the left wall with their fan-like wings folded to the sides. The Overseer had a more distinctly feminine figure than other bits and pieces brought back had shown, but the pyramid-esque head, the wings- it was most certainly Oakland work. What was most striking however, were the materials used in its construction. The glassy black slits that formed their ‘eyes’ were set into a custom-fit faceplate of crisp white metal. Keith was no smith, but as the informant moved to inspect the robot more closely, he immediately recognized the foreign metal, wide-eyed.


The unit was indeed in one piece, battered and toughened a bit around the shoulders and chestplate, but nothing too bad. The black power cable laid strewn around their legs, connected to the exposed port set into their back with a series of alligator clips.

He stared at the unit for a few long moments, staggered, before shaking his head, snapping out of it. ”Sorry, it’s just…” Keith trailed off as he turned his head to face Dahlia, running his hand through his sandy blond hair to calm himself down before speaking up once more. "...Well, exactly as you told me. Still holding up, despite the damage. And, I must say, she's a work of art."

Dahlia gave a little ‘pffft’, folding her arms and looking out of the box towards the cargo bay entrance. ”Yeah, just wait till they open their mouth.” She was expecting her new hire to bust in at about any moment.

The informant directed his attention back around to the Overseer unit, slouching down to lightly poke the chassis with his right index finger, expecting some sort of reaction. He was greeted by a point-blank stare from the Overseer, who appeared to have lifted their limp head while he was turned. The glassy black slits looked almost through him, saying nothing at the moment.

Keith seemed to be somewhat uncomfortable to be at the receiving end of a blank, hollow stare. It certainly didn't bring back good memories from the battlefield. ”You say that, but…” He turned his head sideways at an angle to better examine the overseer’s own. ”Radio silence so far. Barely looks like she’s alive.”

Soon enough, two little pinpricks of green fire lit up behind those lenses. The Overseer spoke at normal volume but sounded off, almost fatigued. ”Says you.”

The entire machine shifted, pushing off the sides of the box to allow their arm enough room to knock the black cables loose from their terminals. The machine completely ignored Keith as they rolled their polygonal head to look elsewhere, but had overheard their earlier comments. Finally, someone with some appreciation. ”You've had several network intrusions, from the same individual.”

And using elementary methods probably won’t keep me out either, you know.” Caesar says, monitor flickering back on despite the previous two attempts to cut him off. “So, an Oakland model, hm? What kinda planet did you stumble onto that had one susceptible to being taken, much less in such a state as this?

He jumps forward for a moment in his chair, tossing his gun back in his holster only to pull out a key from his waist belt. “I thought one of those ‘overseers’ could really do a proper appraisal on the properties of one of these bad boys, considering.

The informant laid a hand on his forehead, thumb and middle fingers on both of his temples, massaging them briefly. ”So have we noticed.” He then looked toward Caesar, who would no doubt get his connection disrupted again sooner or later. "Well, through some research was I able to discern that something of Arcadian origin was hidden away within the forests of Loinia, and shared that information with your captain."

"Though, never could've imagined she and her trigger-happy crew would’ve encountered an intact Oakland unit - much less an overseer in full working order." He then frowned, motioning to the damaged parts of the robot's plating. "...before she was sent a virus, as with all the others so far. So they, of course, thought it a good idea to thrash an ancient technological marvel."

The Overseer stood to their full height, allowing the draped power cables to slide off onto the box floor. They peered down at the collection of people in their space, eyeing the newcomer who was just staring them down. It seems they knew a little more than just design. Dahlia looked over at the robot, then back to the panel. ”You've been locking them out?”

”Yes,” stated the overseer as they returned their gaze to the informant. The bundle of cable connected to their head yanked back, pulling out of its socket and letting their disembodied head float freely- just a few inches higher than Keith's own.

”I have a name. I am OSC-01, an Oakland Heavy Industries Overseer Model T.”

"Uh--" He moved a step back from the taller Oakland unit, trying to recreate a semblance of personal space between them. And then again did the issue of name arise. He'd have no problems giving his full, real name to the robot, but with Caesar and his smug still watching through the comms, that suddenly became risky. And so did he hesitate for a moment, before replying. "Ausse Avara. Mind if I address you by title?"

The Overseer looked down at the man, her eyes flattening as she picked up a more formal tone about it. ”Whatever works, Mister Avara.”

Dahlia stepped back into the box, looking at the Overseer. ”Well, thanks for looking out? That's Caesar,” she said, motioning a hand towards the monitor. ”He's joining our team, so I figure you can trust him--”

The scholar was interrupted as the Overseer’s head snapped upwards to look at her and the once again disconnected monitor. Almost inherently, their voice dropped with a more defensive tone. I don't.

OSC-01 leveled once more. ”They barged in here last night uninvited.” Before the conversation could set or the man dare reconnect, they looked back at ‘Avara’ and flipped the conversation. ”You mentioned an, “all the others?” What were they?”

Keith readjusted the desert scarf on his neck, loosening it a bit. He certainly didn’t expect the overseer’s sudden outburst. ”Oakland Industries Overseers. There were a few reconstruction attempts, but ultimately their remains were...” The informant sucked the air in between his clenched teeth, briefly avoiding eye contact. He seemed reluctant to finish that sentence. ”...unsalvageable.”

OSC-01 remained still, but tilted their head just a tad to the side. ”Anything… notable?”, she quipped. Dahlia stepped in to finish, eyeing the other contents of the box. ”You're the first functional model I've ever encountered. And the only one I've seen made of such high-end alloy.”

Caesar listened with intent, trying to understand the situation he had just stumbled into by his own will. “I get that a lot. Now, instead of flipping me the proverbial bird, how about we get a meeting done in person. The ship’s in autopilot anyway, so let’s just…
Caesar loaded a blue key into his revolver and fired it, opening a rift in the cargo bay and stepping through. “...slip right in. Now, go-on. I’ll be here.

”What.” The informant's mind took a few seconds to process what had just happened as Caesar stepped in through what appeared to be a wormhole tear in the fabric of spacetime, before stomping his foot to the ground. He pointed to the deranged gunman, accusingly. ”You’re just gonna go around pointing that thing everywhere as if it were a toy?!”

Dahlia peeled her hands away from the side of the metal cargo box, twisting around to look at the sudden intrusion. She rubbed a hand down her temples as the flash of light subsided, looking at Caesar. ”We have a goddamn door, you know.”

To her side, OSC-01 slowly stepped up. The heavy-footed robot stood at the mouth of the container, looking directly at Caesar with a judge-like gaze that said ‘unfinished business’. Their chin lifted, maintaining eyesight of that revolver he was swinging around like no-one's business. ”And a wise man would put that away, now.”

Oh, this? You seem to be mistaken to it's true function. If I haven't introduced you yet, I shall now.” Caesar pulls the gray key out of it's holster, and slots it to replace the blue key, which he straps back in. “This is the Veteran, the pinnacle of the war-smith's art. Not just a weapon, but a tool as well… But if you insist.” Caesar gives the robot an overconfident glare as he holsters the weapon, eager to get one more word in. “And yes, definitely unique to see a model of your type here, much less in such a compromising state.

”How could that be the pinnacle if I’m standing right here.” OSC-01 retorted quietly. The robot was, however, respectful of the compliance. Her head tilted to point towards Keith, though one eye remained steadfast on the new arrival. ”Shall you continue?”

Apparently the Arcadians can’t define a hill from a valley if you’re the pinnacle of anything.” Caesar walked around Osco, as to identify the model, and observe its construction. ”Good thing I don’t rend judgement from their clammy hands,”, the robot scolded reflectively. “Your swansong is but a sparrow’s cry to my falcon’s screech.” He then suddenly turns to Keith, and asks; “Did I ask for a Gun safety PSA by the way? I know my own weapons you coward.

Suddenly, the door to the bay opened. A dirty, grimy mechanic walked through the door, clearly awoken from sleep, and bored from lack of work. “So uh… What the hell is going on in here?” And from the lack of anything exciting, it was Reman. The Overseer gave out a rather humored hum upon noting Squall's entry.

Upon seeing the mechanic, Caesar gripped the side of his jacket tightly, and turned to the intruding buffoon. His pure smug expression shifts to one of smug and hatred. “Just who I wanted to show up today. Great.” He says through clenched teeth. Letting go of his grimace, he follows up with; “Anyway, we were just having a quick little conversation. Nothing you need to involve yourself with.

Keith seemed to ignore OSC-01’s inquiry for the moment, having shifted his attention entirely toward the smug madman. "Yeah, I'm a coward indeed, if that's what actual veterans are called nowadays." The informant was determined to stand his ground, crossing his arms to stare at Caesar through squinted eyes. "You call that peashooter a warfare masterpiece as if it were a competition, neglecting to acknowledge that there is no military victory but pyrrhic."

OSC-01’s head switched between targets again and again as the situation started to crumble, and so did Dahlia. The Overseer found themselves again eyeing the gunman as Squall approached, taking a mental note of their expression. The gaze, the change in tone.

The arrival of the newcomer went completely unnoticed by the ex-sergeant throughout his rant as he continued to argue. ”Your utter ignorance and lack of humility derive from the fact you have never witnessed the horrors of the battlefield firsthand,” he paused, jabbing a finger in Caesar’s direction. "albeit I doubt it that any kind of lesson you'd learn would get through that thick skull of yours."

Dahlia burst forward, putting herself between the informant, the robot, and Caesar. "HOLD UP, hold up. There’s not need to get accusive here." She held up her hand, looking around to everyone now in the circle, eyeing Caesar as he tried to send the mechanic away. "We’ve still got a lot of work to do, and we could use Reman's help. I know some of us have had it rough, but I’m not paying you all to stand around and bicker."

OSC-01 wasn’t being monetarily paid at all, but they slowly nodded. Their eyes remained shifting between the others, however.

S- Sorry, what's going on? Is there something I missed?” Reman asked, clearly confused and oblivious to the man right in front of him. Despite his confusion, he deposited his bag of tools in the cargo bay, and took a seat.

”I understand, and apologize for my rudeness.” Despite Keith’s agreement, he wasn’t exactly being paid, either. Nevertheless, he looked around the cargo bay for a brief second, before his eyes settled on the seated mechanic. ”Oh. You must be Reman. I also apologize for not having noticed your entrance.”

The informant then switched over to maintaining eye contact with OSC-01, finally responding to their earlier prompt. "The other Overseer units looked a little like you, and yet, not quite.” He scratched his chin before continuing. ”You're one of a kind - unique in both your construction, and that you were found in such an immaculate state. How and why is that?"

OSC-01’s pale mask looked over at Reman briefly as he deposited his tools, before it spun around straight with her body. The robot was taken aback by the question, though it was one she was expecting a long time coming. With such a less-than-trustworthy audience lingering around, she wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that.

A moment of pondering later, they started with the basics. ”Overseers are a common model produced by Oakland Industries to undertake menial tasks and be assigned management positions. Overseers commonly exist on a second-tier basis of knowledge, capable of intelligent thought- but not burdened by such concepts like emotion or self-interest.”

The robot looked up at the sound of scribbling, which belonged to Dahlia. After a barrage of speedy quoting, Dahlia looked up, raising an eyebrow. ”That is good information, but something tells me most Overseers aren’t designed to accommodate concealed remote glaives, nor weighed down in ancient tank armor.

The Overseer’s green eyes squinted, a bit annoyed at how attentive their host was at times. For now though, they remained sil-
”And you’re on the books for asking us for help, with a personal endeavor.”

OSC-01 sighed very, very quietly, shooting a rotating glare at each person in the room, before landing back at the two inquisitors in front of her. After a solid period of silence, they continued, dropping their tone. ”...I was a specialty model, made to accommodate a new wave of knowledge engineering. By design, I served to guard a charge.”

Is that why we found you in that tomb though? I would have thought that if you were still employed that’d be a violation of duty though…

OSC-01 fell silent, bowing their head ever so slightly.

Ancient… Tank… Armor?” Caesar thought about that sentence, and considered the possibility of Gamma’s- No, that couldn’t possibly be it. Gamma had those locked away for testing, they were one of the few things he had on that shelf he didn’t have time to test extensively. “Do you mean the shell she’s in right now?

Yeah, I think so, but there’s not too much I remember from that encounter…” He flashed quickly back to the pain he felt by getting speared in the back, before saying. “Due to reasons.

Keith was attentive to the captain’s and overseer’s every word, taking mental notes to add the newly acquired information to his archives later - including the part about “concealed remote glaives”, which Dahlia had neglected to specifically mention during their last meeting in The Blind Vulture. Being a specialty model and, confirmed by their own words, OSC-01 likely knew much more than the average overseer about Arcadia than the informant had previously hoped.

Returning from staring into the nothingness, deep in thought, he inquired. ”What is it that you were guarding, exactly? And do you recall anything being told to you about as to why?”

The Overseer remained silent for some time, pinging the thought around their mind and assessing the potential dangers. She didn't really know these people, or their connections.

OSC-01 continued their steady gaze, but over time it started to move elsewhere, before cutting out completely. Their voice lowered, reflecting some sort of… discomfort. ”I was a bodyguard for a high-ranking official, a long time ago. When they passed of age, I moved on to become a royal guard for the reconstruction committee.”

Dahlia piqued up, her tucked lips showing how much she wished she brought her book for this. Her voice rose up, filled with reignited curiosity for the morning. "Fooor the Republic?"

OSC-01’s head seized for a moment, before returning smoothly to its default positioning. Those little green semi-circles of fire returned in a flare. "New Incipere. The Grand Republic was right where it needed to be," she stated brazenly.

The informant paced around in circles with his chin rested on clenched fingers, gazing down at the floor all the while. Even though Keith was possibly one of the most well-informed within his rather expansive network of underground connections, the fact remained he was still awfully unknowledgeable when it came to Arcadia. ”New Incipere?”, he asked, shifting focus back to the overseer and urging them to continue.

OSC-01 gazed at Keith, switching back to the others from time to time. Their voice seemed disconnected, as if they were reading from a script. ”New Incipere was the nation that grew out of the Grand Republic’s ashes. It was founded by The Faceless Baron.” The robot’s voice trailed off, before a green eye landed on Dahlia- who was having a very hard time trying to hide their excitement.

”I know that name, I’ve got a whole portfolio of stories referencing a baron. I’ve got them all over in a book in my quartersIcangograbitcouldyouconfirmsomethings?”

As if to add on to the overall panic of the overseer, Reman asked; “So, may we… See it? I’d be interested in taking a look at whatever info you’ve got, if you’re willing to share.” Reman stands up, and walks over to the overseer. “In return, I do have something of my own that I recently ‘remembered’. Your info for mine?

Caesar eyed Reman out of his peripheral vision, as if he knew exactly what he was talking about.

Do you remember the armor that I showed up in when we all came to your resting place? It’s the result of a scientist’s greatest work, and greatest failure.” Cautiously, he presented his key to the overseer, as if to try to pique interest. “This is its result.

OSC-01’s metal cranium drifted briefly, taken away by an almost involuntary relapse of thoughts and ingrained memories. It was as if their perception of time, of the world, had slowed to a crawl. Dust hung in the air as the group’s bickering and questioning became more like an intense game of statues.

She found herself at a loss of words for once. There was much to say and much she could do, but she didn’t know these people, she didn’t trust these people. One green eye cast back out to the group.

When a thought came close to escaping that weave, a singing flash of yellow brought her back to her senses. An almost overextended precept brought her continued attention back to the less trustworthy members of the gathering, and the gun on one’s hip,. All manners of red flags were in the area as little predictive lines and possibilities spread out to cover the potential threat.

A little more time had passed in those last moments than Osco had hoped. They came back to reality, looking at Dahlia and the others as a good chunk of the conversation had been saved in the background. For the first time, they had stumbled. What?

The informant was stuck with his arms crossed and tapping his foot in annoyance, waiting for it to be over. It looked like someone had to be the voice of reason one more time. While he was also excited to hear about New Incipere and The Faceless Baron, the group would get nowhere by shooting a barrage of questions, one after another, without even allowing the previous to be answered. It was clearly taking its toll on the overseer.

”Calm down. You’re overloading the overseer with endless questioning.”

After a moment, the Overseer brought themselves together again, reorienting their head. Dahlia nodded and took a few deep breaths, repeating the more important question again slowly. ”I asked if it was alright for you to come along and read over some stories I’ve collected, which might be about this Baron.”

OSC-01 straightened, folding their wings in front of them properly as they worked to cover up that slip. One eye cut back down to look at Dahlia. ”One day. We still have a deal, Miss Morgan. Then, it’s all yours.”

Gotcha. I’m still not sure what’s going on around here though most of the time. I think the only information I’d really be useful for is stuff I already know.” Reman put the key away, picked up his tools, and opened the door to leave. “I gotta get back to work. I still haven’t properly integrated the cloaking device I built yet. It’s still a big old hunk of metal.” He took his leave with a rush of air through the door, leaving the biker the only one with a key remaining in the room.

Caesar however, still a bit stubborn, muttered under his breath, and turned back to the group. “I guess we could look over some novel of yours if it would get us anywhere…

Dahlia backed up a little bit, turning her nose up a bit in light disappointment from being let down. ”Of course,” she stated, ”I’m holding you to that too, though.” Osco, meanwhile, had their attention turned elsewhere. She noted the change in expression from the odd one out as Reman departed.

At the mention of a cloaking device, the informant brought his left arm from underneath his poncho, to briefly ponder over his own. Its shape, composition, weight, flaws… It was a prototype he had bought off the black market, for lack of a better name. It had served him well so far, but as Keith stared intently at the blank screen, he wondered if it could be perfected.

Just as fast as he was entranced by his thoughts did he snap out of it, hiding his arm under the cover of the poncho once more. "So did you tell me about an engineer back at the bar, captain. Seems like it'd be beneficial to take a trip to engineering later." The informant turned his head and his gaze from Dahlia to the Overseer, stretching his neck to the sides while at it. ”Last question for now, I suppose. You mentioned working as a guard for New Incipere, and were found dormant within a sanctum in Loinia. What exactly were you doing there?”

The Overseer tracked Reman with one eye as they made their way out of the room, trying to use the event as a method to escape the question. After a while though, a green eye cut over to the Informant. It seemed they wouldn’t leave without an answer. The robot straightened up, bringing the tips of their wings to rest just barely against the floor of the bay. ”Waiting to rust or be reclaimed. Whatever came first,” the robot admitted coldly.

OSC-01 gazed at Dahlia once more, their more formal tone resurfacing. ”I have a few old charts of this sector, one of the few from my time. If I may, I’d like to install it in your navigation.”

Dahlia clapped her hands together, albeit still a little off-put by the robot's quieter remarks. It seemed like she was a tinge bit annoyed. Still, it would certainly be a useful addition, especially if it meant taking a closer look on what had already been colonized. ”That sounds wonderful.”

The Scholar started to pace towards the cargo bay door as she continued. ”And I’ll go make sure all my stories are ready for when you’re done. I’ll be back in five.”

Mhm. And what else will we find at these places? Anything of interest?” The biker relaxed and returned to his usual cocky demeanor, looking at the overseer as if to obtain additional info.

Caesar takes out his blue key and ejects the steel one, pushing the blue key into the holster of the gun. “If so, tell me so I can make a quick buck or two selling cheaper blueprints.

Keith took Caesar’s question at face value, although decided to stare him down through narrowed eyes before interjecting. "If you want information, you'll have to wait like the rest of the crew, I presume," he said in a monotone voice. The informant then directed his stare lower, toward the man’s holstered gun he was previously playing with. ”Don’t you have anything more important to do?”

The Overseer huffed, audibly humored. They remained in their little spot, but propped themselves up by the dark grey tips of their folded wings. ”I could ask the same of you, Mister Avara.”

The informant was caught off-guard, but not exactly surprised. As he attempted to stifle a chuckle, a small, genuine smile spread across his face, though short-lived. ”Of course. It’s just I’ve a few things better discussed in private, if you wouldn’t mind.”

The Overseer didn’t change their gaze for the man. ”Perhaps.”

Mhm. Perhaps I should leave you to it then in a moment. Know that my arsenal is open to you at any time you need it.” Caesar took out the gun, and fired it to one open section of the ship, the bullet slowing down and widening to make a portal back to his ship. “And when you have a chance, hit me up for whatever deal Reman has for you as well. I have info on that one too.

The Overseer didn’t take lightly to the redrawing of the weapon, an obvious sight for the informant at her side. The ancient guardian pulled their wingtips off the ground, pacing towards the leaving man with an untapped reservoir of swiftness that had yet to be channeled today. Their footfalls were only announced by a tight clinking of something rolling around in that empty cavity on their back, but they drew no weapon. Instead, their left wingtip split open to reveal their more practical hand, two fingers of which landed on the shoulder of the departing Caesar.

”Before you leave, might we have a word?" the robot inquired, allowing their other free hand to rest above their metal sternum before continuing. ”A bit of… heart to core?”

And what would that be about, hm? What should we waste further time on before we get to the actual location that you sent us to?” Caesar puts away the Veteran, and looks to the robot behind him. “Tell me.

OSC-01 gave a quiet hum, looking eye to eye with the man before casting their gaze down for a moment. Their voice picked up a more raw tone of sincerity. "Truth be told, I don’t know how long I’ll be with this crew. Or you for that matter. So I’d like to set things straight between us, for the better, yes?”

Caesar looked to the mechanical bird in front of him, intrigued but clearly in the mindset to prepare to be intimidated. “I’m listening. What data do you have for me?” He knew this machine was onto him, but also didn’t have the leverage to kick him out of the crew directly. At this point he thought he had the upper hand.

The robot slightly rested their hand on Caesar’s left shoulder, returning their gaze. ”Good,” they started, glancing briefly towards the empty door leading out of the bay. Their tone dropped from sincere to downright authoritative. ”Then let's begin.

With a jolt, Osco ushered whatever strength still laid dormant in their heavy frame, pushing their left arm up- along with the smug gunman. They forced the man up against the neighboring cargo container with a loud clang, pinning his right arm against the cold metal side by the bicep. ”I’ve met many men with that same gaze of yours.” she said, looking head on with those glassy black eyes. ”And every one of them lead to a lot of regret- for everyone involved.” Leaning forwards with their natural weight, they kept Caesar there, hand out of reach of his holster.

As the informant watched the exchange with intent, he was left to wonder if he should step in to prevent things from getting ugly - Keith didn’t like Caesar’s face, either, but did not want anyone to be hurt on his watch. He assumed somewhat of a running stance, legs ready to spring him forward at the sight of a fight. In hindsight, it definitely looked silly.

The green eyes of the guardbot flared up again, falling into angled semicircles that peered on. ”So while we’re here, I’m going to keep an eye on you. And we’ll all get along fine.” OSC-01’s head rolled to the side just a bit. Have we reached an understanding?

Not to be intimidated by some prissy metal bird, but not wanting to jeopardize his mission he had worked for, Caesar’s reply was a more stern tone of voice then he had ever previously been heard saying before. “Alright, there’s not really a way I can truly keep away from your visage. I’ll keep that in mind.” He started to pry his arm off the wall, as OSC-01’s vice-like grip released. He walked through the portal he had opened, before it closed shut behind him.

Keith visibly relaxed as the gunman left back to his ship, but then shot a concerned glare at OSC-01. ”Was that entirely necessary?” Not waiting for an answer, the informant dropped to his knees and then collapsed backwards on the floor on the cargo bay, exhaling a slow, deep breath, with his arms splayed to his sides. ”Playing the informant is exhausting,” he said, albeit to no one but himself.

The Overseer stood there for a moment longer, waiting until the silver portal was fully closed and gone before slowly retracting their hands into folded wings once more. Their head turned just a smidge to the side, just enough to have the informant in their peripheral vision. ”If it wasn’t, I would not have done it.”

Their gaze returned to the point where the portal once was. ”Still, he doesn’t seem like a man that would take a lesson.”

”He certainly doesn’t seem to be in good terms with… anyone, really. Seems to particularly dislike that mechanic though - Reman, I think?” Keith opened his eyes, briefly staring at the ceiling before looking up at the overseer from the floor. The informant would have seemed to be a completely different person from before since the dispersing of the crowd, acting significantly more laid-back.

The ex-sergeant pushed himself up from the ground into a sitting position, before perking up once more. ”Oh, that’s right, didn’t you mention it that Caesar broke in here last night? What was that about, looking for something?”

The Overseer turned around on the tips of their feet, before resting again. ”He just came in through the door looking for the captain. Not even a knock.”

The apparently still well and strong robot paced slowly back to the little cubbyhole of a box they had claimed home, stalling for a moment. Then, they simply leaned back and let the wall of the box support them. ”Took one of the defective bots in here for a joyride, too.” They chose, however, to gloss over their own adventure in the middle of the night.

He nodded in acknowledgement. ”Sounds like he was never taught good manners as a child,” he said, beginning to trail off while staring blankly at the wall. There was a long pause before Keith decided to speak again, swerving the conversation in a different direction. ”By the way, I lied to you earlier. I apologize, but it was a necessity, considering the guest.”

The informant picked himself up from the ground fully back onto his feet, walking towards OSC-01’s container and extending his arm for a handshake. ”Keith Argyris Sylva. Figured if I want your trust, you should have mine as well.”

The robot lifted their head up a tad upon hearing the news. It soon dropped again as they gave a short chortle. ”That’s understandable. We all have our masks.”

”Mine is one worn to avoid death’s gaze, I’m afraid. Can’t go giving the more trigger-happy of the crew any funny ideas.” He gave a worried chuckle, rubbing the nape of his neck with his one free hand while awkwardly maintaining his right arm outstretched. ”Ever since I deserted, I’ve had to stick to that fake name. Aside from you, only the captain knows.”

The robot leaned their head back, bringing their wingtips up to their chest. They kept an eye on the hand from time to time, fully knowing it’s existence. ”I don’t know if I should consider it bold, warming, or silly to put me on that same level. We did meet just a few minutes ago."

”A major factor is that you are unlikely to be interested in whatever reward you could be offered by my bounty.” The informant withdrew his right arm for the moment, clasping both of his hands behind his back and presenting his chest defenseless as a display of trust. ”This would be a safe risk to take, then. But if I’m wrong, there's nothing stopping you from killing me here and now.”

OSC-01 hummed. ”I can respect that.” Their head remained fixed at the man and the wall for some time, before it started to fall away. ”...I don't condone murder. I know that can be a bit hard to believe with…”

The Overseer brought her wings up to eye level, only to snap them downwards. The four longest primary ‘feathers’ unfurled and extended halfway into a set of polearms, the sharp black blades of which stopped mere millimeters off the ground. ”These,” she started, beginning to fold the glaives once more, ”But in my service I tried to avoid any of it. There are some men and women who deserve death, but it’s never a pleasure."

The robot looked back up at the man, recalling the argument they had posed Caesar earlier. ”I’m sure you of all people would understand that.”

Keith let out a breath which he was unaware of having been holding in. He decided to, in turn, drop his travel poncho to the ground, exposing fully his bandolier, the vest underneath, and the revolver holstered on his hip. ”I was supposed to be a great military officer, following the steps of my uncle. But I was never able to be an emotionless trained killer, one who thinks of the enemy as nothing more than a target.”

The ex-sergeant grabbed hold of one of the few grenades on his bandolier and began to stare at it, rolling it around in his hand and analyzing its overall composition, recollecting memories of his service. ”One might be a teacher. The other might have a loving family awaiting their return. The pilot might have a passion for baking. It’s these precious little memories that get lost on the battlefield.”

After a few seconds spent in silence, his arm dropped to the side, still clutching the grenade in his hand. He looked back up to the overseer with a solemn smile, and continued. ”That is why I decided to desert, and haven’t looked back since.”

The Overseer remained in place for quite some time, resting one wing under their chin in thought. They weren’t expecting a life story at the moment, and normally would have been quite disinterested. However, there were notes of heavy familiarity across the story, a connection. But none of it echoed harder than the last few words. Deserter. She’d frown, if it was possible. After a while, she spoke again, trying to make light of it. ”If only I could call my exit as altruistic.”

Amidst that tangled neural web of precepts and blockades was something burning, but they weren’t sure if they were ready. Instead, the Overseer straightened up once more, pulling away from the wall and leveling themselves. ”Isn’t it about time you got back to helping the captain? They’ll be here any minute, I suppose.”

Keith momentarily closed his eyes shut and put the grenade back where it belonged. ”She doesn’t currently need my help, in particular. Besides,” he said, stopping shortly to point to an assortment of crates piled on the rearmost left corner, where a trail of loose papers led to. ”I’m still moving.”

The robot closed their eyes, standing their ground. ”Just so long as you don’t move into my box, Keith.” they spoke with an edge of wit as they stepped back against the container wall. She then allowed herself to slide down from standing into a resting sit.

”Of course. I’m currently making my new office in a previously empty storage room.” The informant walked a few steps forward towards the door of the cargo bay, ready to resume the trail back and forth between The Blind Vulture and the ISS Downrider, before stopping short and looking back at the overseer. ”And, please don’t use my real name around the rest of the crew.”

OSC-01 nodded with a hum on confirmation, looking to the empty void of the cargo container for a moment. They had stashed their personal black case there along with a plethora of materials that would not be missed beneath them. After a few exaggerated ticks of contemplation, they looked back out of the box to catch ‘Ausse’ right before they fell behind the door frame. ”Once we’re done with this deal between me and the captain,” she started, beckoning the man back a little bit to quiet down. ”Feel free to come back for a chat. Just call me… Tara.”

They paused for a moment, washed over in an immediate regret. Their green glare honed in on the informant once more, with a look not unlike that she gave Caesar. Out of earshot.

The informant gave a nervous laugh upon notice of the sudden change in tone, but earnestly agreed with a nod. He awkwardly approached the container, bending down to pick back up the poncho he’d almost entirely forgotten and fastening it around his shoulders. ”It’s a deal, then, Tara.”
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