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Zeo Grey
Meet the gang!
Wed Mar 17, 2010 10:40am
174.18.21.185

Sun dappled ocean water lapped gently against the white sand beaches that acted as a delicious buffer between the sea and the emerald jungle. The island was a paradise. One of the few remaining refuges of pristine nature untouched by the machination that covered most of the earth thanks to centuries of Man’s dominance.

Lina took a deep breath and tried to push all that to the side and focus on what was important. Namely the fact that her teacher was somewhere around her, hidden in the deep shadows of the jungle and undoubtedly filled with bad intentions. A gentle crackle of dried leaves sent her spinning around bringing her beam saber up in a perfect guard. It took less than a second for her to see it for the trap it was and even that was too long. With a sinister hiss an infuriatingly familiar blue blade blazed in the corner of her eye, close enough to cut a line of crimson in her cheek.

“Dead.” The blade pushed closer against her and Lina flinched back. “And pathetic.”

The would-be mercenary sheathed her yellow blade and nodded. “I didn’t react in time.” She couldn’t quite keep her frustration from bleeding into her tone. She had spent weeks enduring Zeo’s brutal training on barely any sleep and in constant pain at the Stomping Grounds and her focus had never wavered. Now she could barely remember how to hold her beam saber.

Zeo extinguished his blade and stowed it on his belt. “Forget it. You can’t think for shit and you’re wasting my time. Get out of here.”

Lina blinked. “Really?”

“Did I fucking stutter?”

She grinned and ducked her head. “No sir. Consider me gone.” She trotted towards the shore without a backwards glance leaving Zeo to the shadows and moist heat of the jungle.

Finding her duffel proved no problem. One of the first things Zeo had taught her was to always take care of her gear. She had been one of the first to gather her wits and luggage following the crash, much to the surprise of some of the veterans.

Only when her bikini was in her hands did Lina hesitate. It had taken less than four hours after her signing a standard mercenary contract for the facts of who she was to make their rounds through the Stomping Grounds. Apparently the Freelance Reploids were the chattiest killers in the Free Zone. No matter where she went taunts followed. Even worse were the cat calls.

In her previous life cat calls had meant business and even the faintest whistle was enough to get her walking like she was on a catwalk. That sort of instinctive habit was tough to quash and it had become something of a game to try and catch Lina while she was distracted and get that reaction from her.

“Fuck ‘em.” She snarled, shoving the bathing suit back into the duffel hard enough that she accidentally pounded her knuckles against the bulkhead through the canvas. Muttering curses Lina sucked her split knuckle and yanked out a much more conservative suit.

By the time she found the major group of Freelancers the volleyball game had finished to much applause. Now several of the more technologically capable mercenaries were cobbling together a massive grill. Axel, resplendent in a pair of painfully neon green trunks, presided over the task shouting instructions and cursing heatedly in Russian.

The sight was enough to make Lina stop and pay attention. Axel had been legendary among the working girls for two things. The first was that he never bought sex. Ever. In all the years he worked as an active Freelancer Axel Cossack had never once visited the brothel. The other thing that made him famous was his incredibly rugged build. He had near legendary status among the girls as being one of the most handsome and aesthetically pleasing mercenaries on the base.

A fact Lina could now firmly attest to.

Shaking her head Lina forced herself away. There was no time for those kinds of thoughts and besides, Axel had a reputation for being a bit of a playboy when it came to new female mercs.

“Oi!” The unfamiliar voice immediately raised Lina’s hackles and she dropped into an open hand stance.

A short reploid with black hair and sunglasses quirked an eyebrow then chuckled. “Jumpy aren’t ya?”

“Just careful.”

“You’re Zeo’s girl right? The one he’s training.”

Lina couldn’t help sounding defensive. “Maybe.”

“Cool.” The reploid grinned and held his hand out. “Name’s Shade. Me’n’Zeo go way back.”

“Uh-huh.”

After a moment Shade lowered his hand and chuckled. “I see you’re picking up his charm as well.”

“Everyone I meet either wants to fuck me or make fun of me.”

“Well… I wouldn’t be adverse to the first but I’m certainly not here about that.” Shade hooked his thumbs in the elastic waistband of his trunks. “I just wanted to meet you. Not many people I know can convince Zeo to do something he doesn’t want to.”

Lina blushed slightly. “So I’ve gathered.”

Shade grinned and Lina was surprised to see nothing but general good will in the expression. “C’mon. I’ll introduce you around. It’s always a good thing to have a few fellows to count on when the going gets tough.”

“Didn’t know mercs cared that much about each other.”

“Oh we don’t on the whole. But I’m gonna introduce you to the few that do.”

The first of whom turned out to be a familiar figure. Cylecks was exactly as Lina had imagined him to be from observing him in the Bar. A complete white knight who acted far too serious. He was one of the only Freelancers dressed in full armor aside from Kail who Lina was doing her best to avoid entirely.

“You’re Zeo’s apprentice?”

Lina nodded. “You’d be Cylecks. I’ve heard of you.”

The ex-Repliforce bot nodded and shook her hand. “If Zeo gives you too much flak you come find me and I’ll set ‘im straight.”

Lina bit back laughter. “Like you did your assassin girlfriend?”

Shade cackled. “Now that’s a burn!”

Her satisfaction was short-lived as a look of real pain flashed across Cylecks’ face.

“Sorry. That was uncalled for.”

He managed a grimacing sort of half-smile. “Nah. It’s good to be kept humble.”

“So… What can you guys tell me about Zeo?”

Shade and Cylecks exchanged a subtle glance then Shade shrugged. “What d’you wanna know?”

“Everything.”

Zeo made his way deeper in the jungle. The island was a paradise and he hated it. Everything was green and living but there was an undercurrent of something sinister that set his nerves on edge.

A sibilant whisper filtered almost inaudibly through his mind. A flicker of cold spread from the core of his being as the Dark Energy at his core began swirling in on itself. Reacting to the underlying atmosphere of the island.

Snarling a curse Zeo pulled a bent and battered cigar from his belt and lit it. Inhaling deeply he headed for the beach in search of booze. That always helped.

Behind him glittering eyes blinked then disappeared into the shadows as a powerful figure pushed soundlessly back into the dense jungle foliage.

Lina pushed a water-heavy palm frond aside and grimaced as luke-warm water splashed down her arm and shoulder.

“Why are we doing this again?”

“I saw a pirate ship.” Shade explained slowly, as though to a retard, “pirate ships equal pirate treasure. D’you know what the price of gold is right now?”

“No.”

“It’s a lot.”

Lina muttered several unpleasant things under her breath. “It had better be.” After neatly deflecting all the questions she asked Cylecks claimed he had business to take care of with Demios and Shade bid him farewell before Lina could object.

From there he had introduced her to a couple other mercenaries including a ranger-model with the unfortunate luck to be named Cocker.

Cocker it soon appeared was a frequent collaborator in Shade’s various schemes and so when Shade told him about the pirate ship he’d discovered it took no convincing at all for the young ranger to finish off his beer and gather his rifle up for a little jungle exploring.

Lina had tried to keep herself out of the absurd venture. She really had. But Shade had hinted that he might be more willing to talk about Zeo without Cylecks around. She’d swallowed it hook line and sinker. Looking back it had been a rather poor decision.

“Holy shit!”

Lina looked up from the gargantuan snake slithering across the feeble trail to see what Cocker was shouting about. The sight of the pirate ship took her breath away. How it had gotten where it was she couldn’t guess but the ancient ship was locked upright by the jungle and partially overgrown. A hot breeze limply stirred the Jolly Roger still affixed to the mast head after so many centuries. It looked like something pulled straight from Treasure Island.

Shade looked from the ship to Cocker to Lina with smug satisfaction.

“Told ya.”

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