2022-07-08: One Last Job

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<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    Peaceful, peaceful Kattelox!

    A wonderful bastion of tranquility and joy in the Great Isles; Kattelox seems to enjoy a terribly wonderful spate of absolutely nothing happening, outside of the occasional attack from the Bonne Family, the occasional thing emerging from out of the sprawling and complex Kattelox Ruins, that whole thing with the Sub-Gates and MegaMan Juno and...

    ...

    Well, the point is it's peaceful now! It's an oh, so wonderful sun-shiney day, so stereotypically beautiful even the birds are chirping! Children are playing football on the lawn outside the library, a man is walking his dog, a couple peels out of the Apple Market with fresh hot danishes in their hands, a suspicious brown getaway car races with one silver-haired girl at the steering wheel and three Servbots in tow.

    ...

    Eh?

    WEEEEEEE WOOOOOOOOO WEEEEEEEEEE WOOOOOOOO

    Oh no, the police sirens!

    Chaos erupts in the blink of an eye as the getaway car nearly upends itself drifting around a corner, taking out a fire hose as it goes. A terrified pedestrian dives away from the resulting geyser of water!

    "JUST"

    Three police cars are hot in pursuit, sirens flashing as one of the policemen lean out with a megaphone in his hands. "This is the police! Surrender now with your hands up!"

    "HOW"

    The getaway car is comically full of cash, and is shedding about 100 gella every second from fluttering bills whisking away in the wind. One of the Servbots is very busy swimming in the cash-filled backseat.

    "DID I"

    Bang! Bang! Bang! Oh no, the cops are opening fire! The getaway car serpentines, serpentines, serpentines! The left blinker is taken out! The horror! Now it can't signal properly!

    "END UP HERE"

    Lunata Croze is having a very very bad no good day.

    Well, there's a whole squadron of cops chasing a car full of cash, which looks ostensibly enough like a crime. And there's bystanders that might be hurt! The perfect situation for a Drifter to get involved in!

    On ...... the other hand, it involves Lunata, so there's probably something very sussy going on. No one's going to blame you if you stare at this situation and go 'nope, not getting involved' because there's probably a very stupid reason for all of this in the end.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    Those bystanders who are left confused and alarmed in the car's wake aren't even given a chance to catch their breath. There's a pressure in the air - then a blob of assorted pastel colours on top of a glint of bright white suddenly blasts through the space just above their heads. It's eerily noiseless except for the solid 'whumm' of rushing air and the dopplering "Sorry~! Coming through~! Please watch out~!".

    Shalune's cries suddenly end with an abrupt squawk as she misreads a turn; she's mostly relying for guidance based on the destruction left in the car's wake and the flutter of cash from behind it, but this isn't an exact science and she's not expecting a car to be able to somehow turn on a gella. She's forced to urgently duck as she finds herself flying right through a stall, and then scrabble at the shawl that's snagged onto her jacket and stuck half-covering her face as she emerges.

    "She's with them! Thief! Thief!" cries the elderly shopkeeper in the aftermath, and... well, it is kind of hard to tell if the person who is trailing the car so closely is chasing them or simply running interference for them. Even if there's a despairing "I'll pay for it later, I promise...!" left behind its own miniature path of carnage.

    Managing to dislodge it, Shalune is just in time to sweep upwards into a barrel roll, throwing her weight back on the Little Dipper to climb up and over a string of rooftops and then down back onto the road. It's a shortcut that gives her a chance to catch her breath, something she sorely needs - when she realises that her maneuver has placed her squarely between the getaway car and the line of police, looking frantically back over her shoulder as one locks onto her as well. "No, wait--"

    She sucks in a breath, and decides it's simply too late to worry about it. "--Lunie, I'm gonna kill you!" she yells forwards. "Or tell Jay! Whatever would be more effective!"

<Pose Tracker> Ashiya Khaimova has posed.

A sliding door to the Apple Market trundles open, and a very satisfied looking Beastfolk woman wanders through without a care in the world. In one hand she carries a milk tea with tapioca pearls, and the other, a bag of shopping. "Ah~h..." sighs Ashiya Khaimova, wearing a closed-eye expression of relaxed bliss. This is more like home. Paved roads, takeaways, libraries... yup. It's possible to live the good life even while stuck a bajillion light-years from home!

But what's that? The familiar sound of police sirens is approaching, and there's the telltale squeal of tortured tires! The rumbling of nervous bystanders, panicked shouts and whatnot plucks Ashiya from her boba-induced reverie. She stands behind a teenager who is wearing a sideways ballcap and holding a skateboard, perfectly still and silent in wonder as the first car--Lunie's car--zooooooms past in a cloud of fluttering Gella bills and Servbot cheers.

It's only once the ramshackle gaggle of police cars come roaring after that she has to take any kind of action.

"Hey, kid, look out!"

One of the Police cars is losing control, because the guy behind the wheel got tagged with an errant plate of spaghetti and can't see! He's spinning towards the crowd, who are scattering! Bollards are going flying, a store mascot's giant bobblehead is now sitting over the car's red & blue lights! Ashiya grabs the Skate Teen and hops about twelve feet into the air like it weren't no thing. She tosses him like a football into the safest place she can spot on close notice: through the open window of a bed mattress store. Right onto the memory foam mattress, yours for just 9,200 Gella.

"Phew... yup. Another good deed." the blue-themed Fellpool nods in satisfaction to herself even as she reaches the apex of her leap and falls back to terra firma. "Mmmm, mmmm. Good thing I was there." she has both arms folded, and her empty boba tea is falling into a trash can. "Someone could've gotten her." nod, nod, nod.

Ashiya returns to the ground, and landing from such a big leap would normally be no big deal, except she lands on the discarded skateboard and flails her arms wildly for balance because the solid ground she was hoping for, turned out to have wheels on it. One hand accidentally grabs the bumper of a police car and, well, one thing leads to another and now there's a woman in a leather jacket on a skateboard caught in the middle of the police car scrum.

"WHYYYYYYY" she screams at nobody in particular. I think this is basically a Sonic Adventure stage.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
In the building across the way from the Kattelox Central Bank there is a basement level office that is combining two normally unconnected business.

First, gardening topsoil. Why does anyone sell topsoil here? This is a small office, and the rents aren't low here, even for a dingy basement.

Second, Amusement Rack Balls. Which are apparently an exotic treasure from the far-off realms of Lunar, painted in exotic themes and consisting of a bunch of metal pins stuck into a fancifully painted back board, with a simple clockwork mechanism to track points when the balls drain out. Yes, Blackpearl Amusement Rack Balls will surely be the next big thing, if they can make them in any quantity (forthcoming; mostly, they're selling them to bar people.)

IN THE BACK ROOM, which is also thick with smoke and the smell of inexpensive restaurant foods, Margaret, the Black Pearl of Houndstooth, walks outwards, wearing her cheap purple blazer on her shoulders with the sleeves loose, a pair of tinted glasses keeping the sun off as she steps outside, flicking a cigarette's ash out of the stone stairway as she says to herself, "Just three more days and our -"

WEEEE WOOOOOOOOO WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WEEEEEEEEEEEEE WOOOOOOOOOOOO

"Plan to take," Margaret says.

"The."

She stares after the police cars. A 100-gella note flies forwards and lands on her forehead, plastering tightly against the smooth skin. A faint cross-vein throbs.

"HURRY," Margaret shouts backwards, bellowing really. "GET THE CAR AROUND! NOW! NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!!!"

SOON: A battered car, rented for deliveries of the amusement boards and still barely ballasted by sacks of mysterious soil which are falling out of the back trunk, erupts forwards.

DOLLIE, THE BEREAVED HEALER, is at the wheel, because for some reason her chronic despair has not kept her from being a heroic driver. This isn't where she wanted to be in her life, but

BANG BANG BANG, goes Margaret on the roof of the car. She is on the running board. "Get closer! I'll pop their tires with my sword!!"

it could be worse.

Another Hound of Hell has gotten out a butterfly net, which he is holding at the ready on the shotgun side seat, in case of cashfall.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    It had been a peaceful day.

    Turning her head as the sirens advance towards her location, Avril, iced tea cup in hand, has a front-row seat to the speeding car that zooms past, shedding bills as it flies ahead.

    "Was that not... Lunata?" And Servbots, to judge by the sound of the cheering. Oh, and there's the police cars, right on time. Avril watches almost placidly as one of them swerves (forming a helpful platform for the familiar form of a particular beastfolk woman, who rescues a member of the crowd it almost plowed into) and swivels about wildly before finally coming to a stop not far from her. It's a little damaged, but it should still work fine.

    Marching on over to the beleagured vehicle, she opens the door and helps the officer out (in their confusion and disorientation, they don't even put up a fight). Then she hands the officer her tea.

    "Take this," she commands, before steering them to one side as she -- after brushing aside some of the mess -- takes a seat at the wheel. "I will return this later."

    So... Avril says before closing the door and... taking off in a police car?!

    The mascot head rattles about the lights -- oh, how do these turn off again? -- as she floors it after Lunata's car.

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    WHOOSH

    Little Dipper goes past a stall and conveniently (?) accidentally (??) plucks a jacket and Shalune is now THIEF Amira. Oh, poor THIEF, we'll only know ye now as THIEF...

    "IT'S NOT MY FAULT," Lunata hollers at Shalune even as she spends her attention betwen driving, looking in both rear mirrors, stepping on the gas, and swerving and coming up with idiotic ideas to try to elude La Policia.

    Ashiya saves a Cool teen who's too Radical for himself and suddenly is put into a forced vehicle section, because now SHE'S the cool teen on the skateboard! She's on the coattails of the police! The police car that's hopefully not still got a plate of spaghetti in the driver's face!

    "Whoa! Look, there's a blue lady on a skateboard!" exclaims one of the Servbots, Servbot A. (It should be said that Servbots A, B and C are not associated with any of the 40 Servbots that belong to Miss Tron; in this sense, they can be considered rogue, deniable agents.)

    GOSH.

    What is it like when you stake out Central Bank for days with a cover company and everything and an undoubtedly foolproof plan and some white-haired moron with her three adorable mascots beat you to the punch?! Margaret knows.

    The amusement board rental car races onto the streets, an additional entrant on the exhilirating... exhilirating... 70 km/hour chase, at best. Look, Kattelox is built on a grid and there's lots of stuff on the way and people keep turning and spinning.

    Lunata nearly chokes as she stares at her rear mirror. "Margaret?!?!"

    "Our RIVAL is on the scene! Hooray, hooray!" Servbot B exclaims.

    The same cop car that nearly takes out a Cool teen comes to a stop (but that's okay, because there seems to be an infinite amount of them spawning to take care of those that've been knocked out of the race) in front of Avril. Avril helps the officer out, grants them some delicious tea...

    And there is a car in line with a TERRIFYING mascot head rattling about the lights! Its eyes are glowing red and blue! Oh, animatronic horror!

    "I've got thiiiiis."

    Servbot C -- the one with the empty, horrifying void of darkness in its eyes -- suddenly pops up from the hood of the getaway car with...

    !~ * ~ ENORMOUS BOMBS ~ * ~!

    There's a Bonne-style cartoon skull on them, with an enormous big fuse and everything. Servbot C throws! One, two, three!

    They're placed left, right and center with convenient gaps on the road. Eh? Isn't that really easy to dodge? Like a videogame obstacle...

_____________________________| QUICK TIME EVENT!!!|_____________________________
_         Bombs on the Left! Bombs on the Right! Bombs front and Centre!       _
_                                                                              _
_                                                                              _
_  Avril Vent Fleur, Ashiya Khaimova, Margaret, and Shalune Amira:             _
_  +qte/react <guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>   _
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Ashiya Khaimova takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Avril Vent Fleur takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Moderate Success! Shalune Amira takes 75 damage and gains 30 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Margaret takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
<Pose Tracker> Ashiya Khaimova has posed.

As the skateboard is not shaking itself apart at these kinds of prolonged speeds, someone ought to send a thank-you card or a box of donuts or something to the Kattlelox civil works team. That's some good pavement.

Maybe Ashiya was getting ready to drop speed and exit the scrum at the next corner, or something, but that plan changes after a (comedically dopplered) siren noise zooms past, with Avril taking the most recognizable police car in the entire pack and gunning it like there's a rally championship on the line. Her gaze follows in mild disbelief.

"Uh--did Rixia and I make friends with a cop...?" she wonders aloud, staring serenely despite rocketing down the road at highway speeds.

She remains staring in the same direction as Margaret's banged-up ride goes screaming past as well, straight towards... bombs!? Not knowing, of course, that Margaret and her crew are more dangerous than any mere cartoony explosive, Ashiya slaps both cheeks as if she weren't being hollered at by a bunch of stressed-out police to please God PLEASE get off the road--

"That person's in trouble... hey! Lady, it's dangerous here!" she hollers after Margaret's car to little effect. Soon realizing that she, too, will be in danger thanks to bombs, the legally distinct catgirl fidgets nervously as she picks up speed on the downhill. But wait! If the bombs are on the road, what if you just... get off the road?

Ashiya thus handplants on a police car hood and swerves to the road's edge, jumping onto the guardrail and just... going... past... the bombs. She ceases her lukewarm grind and lands back on four wheels. She reflects for a moment on the wildly careening form of Shalune and her oddball flying scooter.

"... everyone in this chase is so gonna die. Computer! Give me advice for helping out in a big messy car chase!"

Whipping out her smartphone, Ashiya looks down at the screen. But it's too hard to read the text on the screen while doing all this! She can only admire the computer-generated cartoon art of a capybara behind the steering wheel of a Morris Minor flying over a hill!

"Ah, heck..."

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    Shalune's single-minded plan is to try to force Lunata to stop the car, because she's a seasoned hand at how these things tend to go. She's entirely aware that if she lets this continue too long, there's going to be an whole parade after the getaway car, and for each extra car it's only going to take that much longer to explain everything and calm everyone down. Besides, this is Lunata we're talking about. Knowing she's at the wheel, Shalune is half-expecting the chase to include a stampede of farm animals, several Gears, a Guardian, and a cat on a skateboard or something just to cap the whole proceeding off.

    She barely has time to register a second car behind the first, the lack of police markings making it stand out slightly less than the person yelling on top of it. Her hand wavers over a big red button in her pocket, but-- even she can realise that carpeting the road in an oil slick is probably not the greatest idea right now. "M-Ma'am we have this all under control! It's okay!" she tries to yell in hopes of it doing anything at all, before the wiggling mascot of one police car pulling ahead nearly clips her in the back of the head.And the capstone to the chase has apparently decided to show up early, and Shalune stares in abject confusion as her mental rant trips over the actual reality of the situation. Stuck at the sight of the screaming woman being dragged along by one of the police cars and sheer dramatic momentum, she forgets to dodge one of the technicolour bombs until it bonks into her shoulder with an 'oof', followed by the metallic sound of metal clanking against metal as it falls into the bed of her scooter.

    Her brain still trying to catch up, Shalune can only stare at it with a solid look of :I on her face.



    The Little Dipper rockets out of the multicoloured cloud of smoke left in the blast's wake. Riding on top of it is Shalune no longer; with the rather battered shawl wrapped around her face for protection and its ripped and battered edge trailing behind her like a long scarf, it is instead Mysterious Rider X joining the chase! (Or that's what she hopes, at least. Once you're THIEF, you don't change your name so easily...)

    "YOU COULD JUST STOP ACCELERATING--" she still yells back, because Shalune is grounded enough to reach for a moment of common sense even in the middle of this much chaos.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    Anyone born in this century would have clued into the fact that this course of decisions was not, in fact, a particularly good set of decisions for someone to make.

    Avril... was born over five thousand years ago. While she mysteriously knows how to use a car like this (it's not like she's has the opportunity to try it in the last few years she's been awake) she does not know or understand the consequences of doing so. Without even realizing it, she has joined Lunata's cause--

    And all for the sake of catching up to her young acquaintance.

    Bombs fill the streets. The dented police car swerves hard -- left, right, center -- rocking up onto its wheels on either side before dropping with a clatter onto the pavement. Kudos to the streets department, indeed: she doesn't once encounter a pothole or even a patch of unevenness. The most distress her or her purloined vehicle encounter is the side to side shaking that the mascot head atop the car recieves -- sorry, that's not encounter, that's probably cause.

    After all, even just speeding ahead, the golden maneki neko head had a positively demonic look to it. Now it looks as if it's suffering from a catastrophic (ha) possession. The head rattles a full 360 degrees about--

    "Lunata!"

    She's rolled down the window, one hand still on the wheel.

    "Whatever are you doing? You must stop!"

    Avril... isn't stopping either, though.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
MARGARET

feels her ear twitch as her name is spoken. Did someone...?

She looks up and glances over into the car that they are passing and winks and air-kisses at what turns out to be Ashiya, who she has decided was

A. totally looking at her
B. calling her name
C. probably some kind of a mark

and therefore deserving of a ~hot kiss~ through the air.

Dollie, meanwhile, gazes ahead with stone-dead eyes as the bombs are thrown. She knows what they are and she suddenly veers left -

"Agh! Goddess!" Margaret says, getting up on the roof.

- HARD right -

Margaret hooks one toe into the opposite windows and nearly loses her grip on Steel's Kiss II, which she does not quite do, because fortunately that would have sent it flying directly at the nearby mascot head!

And then -- back into the lane!

Before settling into a speed perfectly matching the speedlimit.

Carve it into your soul! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyRVlFzIWXw

Something rockets forwards! Margaret, settling herself, watches the Little Dipper and then leans forwards (making the guy with the money catching net scream at the unexpected presence of his boss) to tap on the windshield and look at Dollie. "Do the opposite of what she said! Hit the go faster pedal!"

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    It's true, having a blue cat on a skateboard tailing your bumper is kinda stressful, these poor cops just aren't paid for this kind of high-stress situation. Maybe Ashiya should switch to a police car driven by someone with a face and name? Or she could ask the cop what their name is, but it might be hard to remember...

    Zip, zip, zip! Ashe grinds on the guardrail! Perfect dodge! Amazing!

    Her smartphone entertains with the image of a capybara in a classic car. How wonderful! We can admire it later.

    Shalune is, indeed, an old hand at this, and instinctively knows that this chase is going to get more wacky before it stops. Margaret is distracting her from cutting it off at the pass, though, and to be fair, at this point everyone is probably running away from Avril's terrifying maneki-neko mascot rather than chasing Lunata. It's debatable, anyway.

    But Shalune is... gone! In her place is a rumoured rider only barely whispered in the midnight circuits, scarf fluttering in the winds as she leaves those she races in her vapours!

    "SOMEONE CUT THE BRAKES," Lunata exclaims frantically to not-Shalune, as Servbot B whistles and carelessly tosses a switchblade out of the car. Hopefully that doesn't hit someone!

    Avril swerves hard, expertly! It's a good thing Kattelox has marvelous infrastructure! They're side by side for a moment, and Lunata stares frozen in fear as she gawks at Avril, gawks at the maneki-neko, then back at her--

    "ME?! What're you doing, Avril?! You're going to bring a curse on all of us with that thing! Get it away from me! Uwaaaaaaah!!"

    The Fear, it seems, has spurred her on to summon additional speed. Uh oh.

    Meanwhile, Margaret mistakes who shouted her name which results in air smooches, but it's okay, no one's here to be a teen and jealous. The Black Pearl soon finds out what it means to be clinging on the roof as Dollie swerves, and miraculously settles in this Car Chase that's Obeying the Speed Limit.

    They go faster! Faster!

    But, oh, Mysterious Rider X? Did you think something as trivial as BOMBS is going to be the capstone to the chase? Naive, Rider, naive! Lunata takes another turn and--

    "AAAAAH that's the gate!"

    --the getaway car busts west past a toll gate and zooms straight into the marina, Lake Jyun in plain sight. She immediately swerves to avoid two tradies carrying a large translucent pane of glass and boosting off a suspiciously ramp-shaped support vehicle and landing--

    "ooh, boat!" exclaims Servbot A.

    --on a boat. One of Wily's Boats, in fact.

    "My boats!" exclaims Wily, who is in no way associated with Dr. Wily. He's a respectable gentleman with a boat rental service, for people who want to enjoy the lake!

    The getaway car zooms off on the boat, deeper into the lake! A lovey-dovey couple yelps as they paddle for dear life away from the impromptu car-motorboat combo! The Unidentified Mysterious Animal (U.M.A.) of the Lake rises, before shrieking for dear life to avoid a frontal collision, never to be seen again. Did anyone have a photo of that?!

    Your task this time, then, is to form some kind of water-worthy craft out of what you have now! Just remember the principles of moto-- er, I mean... activating a speedy boat. You have to power up until just the right time, and then... GO!

_____________________________| QUICK TIME EVENT!!!|_____________________________
_                     Motorboats Sound Dirty No Matter What                    _
_                                                                              _
_                                                                              _
_  Avril Vent Fleur, Ashiya Khaimova, Margaret, and Shalune Amira:             _
_  +qte/react <guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>   _
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Avril Vent Fleur takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Moderate Success! Margaret takes 75 damage and gains 30 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: FAILURE! Ashiya Khaimova takes 147 damage and gains 60 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Low Success! Shalune Amira takes 109 damage and gains 45 FP!
<Pose Tracker> Ashiya Khaimova has posed.

When not windmilling her arms to maintain balance or ducking under signposts, Ashiya stops to squint in disbelief as the banged-up vehicle belonging to Margaret (a station wagon, perchance?) yields a mysterious stranger who climbs out of the window and blows her a kiss through the air.

"... eh?"

Ashiya's head cranes to the side gently, and the visible smooch (it's like a fireball but made of lipstick smudge) flies past her and into the distance. She instead tries to motion with her hands suggesting they slow down, but, well. It just looks like more flailing. "Are you crazy?! Get back in the car, lady! Pull the brakes!"

So much time is spent on caring for the welfare of others, that the radical cat does not pay attention to what lies ahead! The skateboard, having wheels with a diameter somewhere between 60-65mm, is ill-equipped to traverse even a mild roadside kerb. So when Ashiya careens into an elevated bus-stop kerb, the skateboard comes to a complete halt but she keeps going.

In a parabolic arc, the young lady flies up, up, up... and down, down, down into the basket of a hot-air balloon bobbing over the lake. Why was it there, you ask?

A banner flies from the once-unmanned balloon basket.

                 ANNUAL KATTLELOX SKATE AND SURF TOURNAMENT TODAY!!!

Because it's clearly the season for these kind of games, that's why.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    There is no way that Avril is going the speed limit. It is in fact arguable that she doesn't know what a speed limit is.

    "Miss Ashe! Is that you?" Avril calls out, spotting a familiar figure grinding on the guardrail. "I had not expected-- please, the girl in that car is an acquaintance of mine! We must stop her!"

    Is Avril speaking as a cop (??????) or as a friend, in this moment? For all Ashiya knows, that strange lady who helped out Rixia is also in hot pursuit.

    If in, as the mascot head that continues to rattle about the top of the car, illuminated from beneath with flashing red and blue lights, distressing hot pursuit.

    "What...? A curse?"

    Did... Avril not notice?

    "Is there something the matter with this vehicle?"

    Yes. But the mascot head just rattles right on around again. How grotesque!

    "Oh... is that not the gate?"

    At least Lunata's already busted through it. Taking the wheel with both hands again, she swerves out of the way of a set of oncoming obstacles (not today, horrible goose) and screeches sharply towards a recently-dredged ramp for boats entering the water. The cop car sails into the air, the terrifying mascot head taking flight not long behind it...!

    Avril, spotting the water below, opens the door and leaps into the void.

    SPLOOOOSH

    That was the car hitting the water, not her. Avril, against the odds, lands neatly in a swan boat that had drifted away from the docks but a few minutes before. "Oh, I see," Avril remarks mildly, rearranging herself on the seat. "I wonder if I might not be able to bring the engine around?" It might take her a moment to do so (with a hairpin) but manage it she does, and more besides. A little tweak, here, there--

    It's not a swanboat now. It's a swan motorboat. A swan powerboat.

    "Lunata!"

    But what's happened to the mascot head? What evil will it subject the world to now? That... is up to you.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    The mysterious and lightly smoking figure does her best to recover from her slip-up, gunning the Little Dipper forwards. She's been left behind the line of police, and that's the last position she wants to be in as someone who is trying to simultaneously protect and stop Lunata - when it comes to her particular brand of currently scatterbrained logic, she only thing she's sure about is that it's probably better if she gets to the other Lunie first.

    That just means she gets front row seats when she looks up to meet the chilling stare that sweeps across her, as the almost-torn giant mascot head twists around to threaten her away. It's not often that Shalune actually screams, and especially not at this sort of speed; there's a noise that might be a pitch-perfect 'kyaa' were it not for the 'urk' that immediately follows it as she nearly swallows her tongue and instinctively wrenches the controls to one side.

    She crashes back into the other car that's part of the chase, rebounding off its side and very nearly catching Margaret in the process as she fumbles the controls. "--s--sorry!" she blurts automatically, too polite to do anything else before she realises what's happening and perks up. "No, wait! Don't go faster! We've only got like two blocks before we all hit the lake--"

    They all hit the lake.

    One of the only rules the Little Dipper seems to have involves water. Shalune's more or less figured out that her scooter works by maintaining a fixed height above the ground and that water messes with that, but even leaving aside the fact that the inventor has to work out the rules of her own inventions, it sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. Shalune squawks again as the scooter stops dead all of a sudden, throwing her over the handlebars and down into the water; she grabs for whatever she can nearby, but can't stop herself from splashing down into the water, lost in spray.

    There's a low rumble that suddenly echoes across the lake; is it a sea monster, or a dangerous Reploid from the underground ruins? A swell of water precedes it breaching the surface but-- no, it's just an incredibly bedraggled Shalune on top of the surfboard she grabbed on the way down. "You're not even using the car anymore! You could just-- get-- out!" she tries in sulking desperation, before deciding that if you can't beat them, you might as well join them.

    The noise peaks as the rocket booter she's submerged underwater starts to fire on full cylinders. It turns out it isn't the sound of Shalune's pout made manifest - it's the creaking of a sail put under extreme stress mixed with the boom of water as a surfboard suddenly starts going at a speed far beyond what it's intended for.

    There's no time to pay attention to anything behind her... which is unfortunate, because it means she misses the presence of several surfers yelling about someone taking off with the tournament prize. For better or worse their voices - and thankfully, nothing else - get drowned out by the sheet of water she leaves in her wake.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

The blown kiss smacks against a wall, leaving a faint but discernible violet imprint there. It may later inspire someone. Who knows.

"Don't listen to her!" Margaret orders. "Do NOT pull the brakes!"

As the Hounds of Hell approach Mr. Wily's Boat Rental, Margaret shouts out "Curses!" because it looks as if the thief is going to get away! (Ashiya, meanwhile, goes flying, and Margaret says with a gesticulation of her sword, 'see? See?')

But they have an issue. Even as a cop car sails overhead, the guy who has the money catching net is negotiating with Wily, who seems to be driving a hard bargain given the amount of money they have. Even as Dollie gets out of the car (and properly locks it up because she Respects her Property) Margaret marches forwards and interrupts the negotiation with "Yes, whatever, we'll take it."

And what is "it"?

'Thunder--'
'-- Road!'

"It" is nothing more than a PADDLE WHEEL BOAT...

A PEDAL POWERED PADDLE WHEEL BOAT...

Being desperately peddled by people with *personal acceleration magic*.

Margaret is hanging onto the ducky neck of the front, waving her sword forwards. "GET BACK HERE" she bellows at Lunata's ship-car. She has quite a lead, but the Ducky of Hell seems to be making a lot better time than you would expect.

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    CRASH! Ashiya's skateboard meets it end on the end many low-clearance devices like skateboards are wont to suffer: a particularly high kerb. The incredible clearance she achieves, as she lands on a hot air balloon, though, is nothing short of commendable. Is there someone else in there?

    "They've got air superiority!" Servbot B exclaims.

    It's true that it's difficult to go at the speed limit when you're the Ice Queen. Ice physics are always associated with careening out of control, you know. Slippery slopes are always described as something you can't come back from. Slick and smooth... and yet, snow always grinds people to a halt.

    Isn't that strange?

    "YES a curse!" Lunata exclaims, before they part and Avril ends up on a swan powerboat. It's less cursed than the maneki-neko, which mysteriously floats along the lake (don't pollute! keep our lakes clean!), but what is its fate, in the end?

    It's fine, Mysterious Rider X, we're all terrified... it's just far, far too scary. Shalune ends up bouncing in a manner not terribly dissimilar to getting bounced off the kerb, however (see: Ashiya), and she lands into water! Oh no! Is that the end of Shalune?! Is she disqualified from the race?!

    No, oh--

    Um. Hm. It's a surfboard. With rockets. And sails! I like the cut of that jib. That's what that phrase means, mm mm. "Listen to you?! Where'd you even get rockets on that thing?!" Lunata complains, unaware about the surfing tournament happening. Well, when you surf, you're liable to get your stuff turfed.

    Even as Wily drives a hard bargain ("do you even get how hard it is to service boats out here?!") on the guy with the net, Dollie respects the rules of proper parking as the cop cars pile up behind her, and then...

    Paddle wheel boat.

    Paddle wheel boat!

    Thunder Road is impressive, however, and suddenly Dollie and Margaret are within spitting distance of the car-boat. It's over! They're going to get caught! "I can't go faster!" Lunata exclaims, as everyone closes in, and pauses.

    "Why do I feel something missing?"

    Lunata stares down at where her katana -- with the Medium of Death -- has suddenly become a katana-shaped blank space with dotted lines around it. She lifts her head up.

    Servbot C is standing at full height (Full Height: 0.63 sharls) with a katana roughly twice its height, hilt clamped tightly onto his C-shaped hand. Within it, the Original Artifical Medium of Death glows...!

    "HOW"

    Servbot C's dead eyes stare into the abyss of death...!

    "GIVE THAT BACK"

    Servbot C raises the katana, which glows with a fearsome dark power!!

    "THAT'S MY GIMMIIIIIIIICK"

    The skies above Lake Jyun darken. Thunder clashes, lightning strikes in the distance; the waters become brackish and muddy, and rise, rise... the figure of Ge Ramda rises from the depths, lifting the boat (and car) up as it tries to make an aerial getaway!

    "Don't betray meeeee!!"

    Ge Ramda throws some sick black-and-red scythes towards the pursuing vehicles, which may be deadly. There's too many to simply dodge! You'll have to gird through the whole thing, weave in for an opening, and...

    -= ONLY TRUST YOUR FISTS =-
    police will never help you

_____________________________| QUICK TIME EVENT!!!|_____________________________
_      Gee Shalune How Come You Always Guess How These Things Go Perfectly     _
_                                                                              _
_                                                                              _
_  Avril Vent Fleur, Ashiya Khaimova, Margaret, and Shalune Amira:             _
_  +qte/react <guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>/<guard/evade/charge>   _
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Low Success! Shalune Amira takes 113 damage and gains 45 FP!
GS: Shalune Amira enters CONDITION GREEN!!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Avril Vent Fleur takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Ashiya Khaimova takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
GS: Healthy! For entering Condition Green, Ashiya Khaimova receives 100 temporary hit points.
GS: Ashiya Khaimova enters CONDITION GREEN!!
QTE!!! Challenge Result: Full Success! Margaret takes 0 damage and gains 15 FP!
<Pose Tracker> Ashiya Khaimova has posed.

Avril kindly asked for her help, but Ashiya could not deliver! Not immediately, anyway, given her trajectory. So if we rewind a little, to where the girl with the tail is trying her hardest to prolong her combo infinitely with a grind...

"Oh, that's a friend of yours? Got it! I'll figure somethin' out!" Ashe gives Avril the thumbs up. And then immediately hits the kerb.

With a record scratch, we return to the present.

Ashiya leans out of the hot-air balloon basket, astonished to be conscious and in one piece still, and peeks down at the chaos unfurling below. She's technically safe up here, and doesn't even have to share the ride with anyone! But Avril is a nice girl and she did promise she'd try to help, after all! "What a mess..." she mumbles, as the folks in hot pursuit crash into the lake in their many varied forms of transport.

"Let's see, she's in that car... which is the one causin' all the ruckus... so if I figure somethin' out to stop that one, I guess that'll put an end to this mess?"

This contemplative moment is interrupted by a sudden turn of stormy weather. Ashiya misses the telltale sign of a cute widdle curry-rice-serving-robot wielding the ultimate death katana, but you don't need to see the cause to feel out the effect. "E--ehhhhh~?" she whines, as a sudden squall starts flinging the basket around. Her airborne ride no longer feels quite so safe.

"These folks go way too hard... oh well! Time to go!" there's a stinging smack as the young swordswoman slaps both cheeks again. Focus! She quickly slashes the rope fastening the ANNUAL KATTLELOX SKATE AND SURF TOURNAMENT TODAY!!! banner to the balloon basket, then grabs hold of the banner with both hands and--leaps--!!

Fwoop! The banner billows upwards as it catches the wind, and now Ashiya sails downwards towards the fleeing Lunata And Everyone Else, parachuting in at... uh... actually, that's still too fast. However, maybe fast is also good, because it means there's a lot of distance between her and the balloon which is subsequently hit by a magical evil scythe, and flies away sputtering. Prrrrrrrbt!

In the cartoony panic, her tail is now a propeller.

<Pose Tracker> Shalune Amira has posed.

    "No I really think you should hit the--" is as far as Shalune managed to get in replying to Margaret before she was forcibly evicted from her ride; it hangs motionless in the air without her, having come to a pinpoint stop and somehow radiating an air of smugness for good measure.

    Down below, a soaked Shalune pitches through the water. "Rockets are kind of my thing?! I know it's been a while, but it's not like I gave up on them!" she insists back at a yell. "Every now and then I gotta just go and do a rocket! Sound familiar?" she blurts.

    What she's doing is anything but an exact science - she's basically just crouched on the surfboard and doing the overpowered equivalent of holding a desk fan in the water - and her initial idea of holding onto a maneuverable sail for balance is not the best one she's ever had. The surfboard lurches back and forth across the water as she fights to stay steady, and it's really only the excessive speed that's keeping her on par with everyone else.

    Her hair starts to rise on the back of her neck when she hears the first crackle of thunder, though not nearly as much as when she casts around to try to check the situation and spots the diminuitive figure raising the katana. Shalune trusts Lunata implicitly, even with the power of the Guardian of Death. A Servbot, on the other hand... she's probably place a 50-50 on it being a small ball of murderous intent.

    She's headed right for the darkening swell of water, the bulk of Ge Ramda's possibly-spectral body, and redoubles her grip on the sail. Something primal tells her this is absolutely not the time to fall in, but she doesn't trust herself to be able to fully avoid the array of scythes suddenly sliding through the air - never mind get up to where Lunata and the car are rapidly gaining height on Ge Ramda's shoulder.

    Sucking in a breath, Shalune tugs the remnants of the destroyed shawl over her face-- and covers her eyes with it. If she can't see, she can't question what the hell she's doing, and if she can't question what the hell she's doing she can't tell herself this is a stupid idea that couldn't possibly work. And if she can't tell herself that, then it'll all be fine.

    It's Lunie rules.

    The rocket-powered craft pitches upwards and sideways as it hits the mass of Ge Ramda's arm, and she hangs on for dear life as it lifts into the air - then twists the booster to go with the motion, as the board begins to grind up the length of skeletal arm. She's not sure if this is going to mark her for death. "Sorry!" she says again, politeness circuits too wired in. "I just. I just needed a hand!" Definitely death.

<Pose Tracker> Avril Vent Fleur has posed.

    "Thank you!" Avril calls back to Ashe, in those few moments before she hits a kerb. Even Avril can be given to wince at a sight like that.

    "A curse--?!"

    There is (mercifully?) no time to interrogate the matter of the curse further, not when Avril's own car splits from Lunata's and then hits a ramp. While it's true that she evacuated before anything became dire, it's still probably a good thing that she'd rolled the window down earlier.

    (Did she... in fact, drive 'her' police car into the lake...?)

    The maneki-neko head drifts alone, forgotten. Abandoned. But not gone. No, not yet.

    "Lunata, please, you must stop!" Avril calls out again, motoring on ahead (maybe a little far ahead, which forces her to circle back).

    But there is something amiss.

    "Is... something calling out to my Medium?" Avril asks aloud, glancing down at the octagonal plate in her lap as the swan powerboat putt-putts to a slower drift. "Could it be--"

    She lifts her head. There, above Lunata--

    "No! You cannot!"

    Oh, but Servbot C can.

    The lake darkens. The water roils. The sky grows grim with the haze of death...!

    Light glitters in the air about Avril and her boat. They're small crystals of ice, seeds that will bloom into sharp flowers to best deflect the scythes as she gets her boat back up to speed.

    She'll need speed, in a moment.

    Gliding through the brackish waters as if she were astride a clipper ship, Avril rises to her feet, the wind catching her hair.

    In her hands is the Sea Medium, shining bright. This Medium has many an awesome power, but among them is a power most fearsome.

    The power of... Jump.

    "Lunata!"

    Avril rushes ahead alright. She leaps into the air, hurtling herself for the boated car as it itself rises up.

<Pose Tracker> Margaret has posed.

 
paddle paddle paddle paddle paddle

"This really isn't how I expected to spend this afternoon," comments Hound of Hell #31 (the one with the net). "A lot about this situation feels weirdly familiar. It's why I'm starting to question my position in life."

Dollie, who is the one with her hand on the tiller, reaches up to adjust the little red hair clip that was keeping her hair out of her face. She scratches the red port-wine stain on her face. "Aye," she answers #31, "I get that too sometimes, but mostly I think you should just kind of work with it, Jeck, it's the kind of thing that grates you if you think too much about it."

Margaret grins piratically as she raises up Steel's Kiss II and then the boat gets closer, closer yet. Her eyes turn towards -- Servbot C?

Other things are happening. Dollie's head turns as she looks towards the incoming Ashiya, and while Dollie does not have any way to distinctly or directly to attack her with her magic, she does have a wrist catapult, which she brings out to plink at -

Dollie pauses and looks at the elastic-and-metal widget, because she hadn't even fired it yet.

Jeck (NOT Jack - but this guy's actual name is Jeck, while Jack was using an alias - anyway don't ask Dollie about this part, True Believers) is looking around, having not grabbed a weapon of any kind on their way out. He sees a rocket and shouts out, "Hey! Be careful! Cash ain't worth your life!!" (Dollie, in frame with him, makes a sort of hand-wobble motion.)

But the sky is growing grimmer...

"We shouldn't be out this stormy," Dollie warns. "Mam?"

Ge Ramda appears.

Margaret's eyes glint in frustration in the gathering storm. "Alright then," she says, "you jumped-up local idol, if you're going to get in my way like this, I've had enough! It's time for me to teach you a new emotion - the feeling of those who stand against me - a little something I like to call..."

("Can you swim?" Dollie asks Jeck. "No." "Me neither, not really." "I wish I'd learned." "Yeah, I mean, yeah")

"MAR-REGRET," Margaret concludes, before ERUPTING off the front of the paddle boat, hard enough to make it wobble.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZYAPgPH9hsI

WEAVE! SWOOP! The ring on her hand glows with a subtle chiming motion as she swerves against scything barrages!

TWIST! FLIP! Narrow avoidance sends a few stray strands of black hair that Margaret didn't care for anyway!

GUARD! BRACE! Margaret, faced with a space with no way out, brings up Steel's Kiss II in screaming white spark deflections, bulling through two last scythes before she, tumbling at a poor angle for a final impact, concludes with a great kick towards that effigy of the Guardian of Death...!!

<Pose Tracker> Lunata Croze has posed.

    Ashiya decides to abandon safety in the skies and help people out. She's so nice! Rixia's going to... not remember that, because she's not even here (and she doesn't even remember half the things that she's present for.) Will stopping the car stop this mess? It's debatable, given the car is ontop of the boat is ontop of the reaper. But it's worth a shot!

    Fwoop, Ashiya grabs hold of the banner and leaps, tailcoptering iiiiin...!!

    "Cat incoming!!" Servbot B shouts. A pause. "Balloon casualty!!"

    Alas, that poor hot air balloon will never rise again... ... well, until it's repaired, at least. But that's still kind of a casualty in these proceedings.

    "I really thought you gave up on them! It kind of became a tiring gimmick for a while, because you'd be like, 'with rockets'! to every single thing we did!" Lunata shouts in disbelief to Shalune.

    A pause, and then she adds: "That sounds dirty, though." Why does everything sound dirty right now?!

    Shalune employs the power of deniability, wrapping her eyes to blind herself to the truth and therefore any kind of responsibility for all this! It sort of works, as the rocket craft crashes and Shalune clings tight to poor Ge Ramda's arm, who definitely looks confused about what's happening.

    "Lunie's incoming!!" Servbot B shouts.

    Lunata turns towards Avril to protest, "That's not me misusing the power for once!!" by the time her swan powerboat putters into place. Darkness grows in the lake, but Avril is a light within that darkness! She speeds through, and she's aimed towards the car in specific!

    "Avril's incoming!!" Servbot B shouts.

    Number 31 -- Jeck -- succumbs to the ponderance of whether this is how they'd like to spend their life; it's truly an affliction that plagues us all. Dollie is pretty encouraging, however, as the boat comes closer, closer...! Margaret's been waiting to use Steel's Kiss this entire scene!

    Ge Ramda is... a local idol?! Well, in the sense that she's from Filgaia and is revered as an idol, certainly, but... ah, to misunderstand for a moment and imagine that the Impure Queen was an idol for her people... perhaps we'll yet delve into that past.

    margaret erupts off the front of the boat, and in a series of QTEs-- swerve! Twist! And... kiiiiiiiiiiiiiick!!

    "Margaret's incoming!!" Servbot B shouts a third time.

    There is an enormous and loud clash as Ge Ramda is struck directly in the skull, and she writhes in pain! Her form begins to disrupt and Servbot C -- who doesn't actually have that much power -- flails and can't manage to keep the Material summon intact! The stormy darkness fades, and suddenly--

    Suddenly all eight of them are faced with the realisation that they're on a car-boat in mid air with nothing to hold them up.

    *PEWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW*

    CRASH!

    The car-boat lands in front of... a beautiful new seafront property that promises to be a new fusion cuisine joint, with terrace seating and views of the lake! A sign says 'PURCHASED'.

    A moustachio'd man looks down at the car-boat and waves at the Servbot. "There you are! She's all yours, folks!"

    Servbot A emerges out of the pool of cash inside the car and exclaims, "Hooray! We're here!"

    Lunata looks up from where she's ended up under the boat. "... what?"

    "Thanks for driving us to the bank to take our mortgage out, Miss Lunie!" Servbot B cheers, waving a piece of paper for a deed of ownership with a bright red stamp that reads 'APPROVED'. "Here's your cash, sir!"

    Magically, the bills fit into a giant bag with double dollar signs, and the moustached man walks off, cheerfully, as he tosses the keys to the Servbot.

    "Now we can start our new life!"

    Lunata slumps her head back. "What about the bombs??"

    "Oh, you know how it is, when you get a bit nervous about being chased by the cops and you just happen to have bombs on hand, tee-hee..."

    "Tee-hee my butt!!"

    ...

    ...

    But where did Servbot C end up? Somewhere on the other side of Lake Jyun, Avril's Maneki-Neko drifts up to the shores. Servbot C gazes down upon it, its unearthly, all-consuming jet black gaze staring back to the red and blue blinking gaze of the beckoning cat...

    TO BE CONTINUED--

    Lunata grabs hold of the 'to be continued' sign and tosses it into a nearby recycling bin. "No, never again. NEVER again!"