Especially when their vehicles brought them around to the back side of the spaceport where all the third class citizens were. To be more accurate, it was the lack of Taianese presence that they felt, along with the number of cares they gave for them. As their vehicle stopped to back up into the cargo loading area, one of the shutters rolled up as the doors to the vehicle opened, swinging into the building and corralling them into its interior.
"Roll call," a bored looking woman flatly stated. Perhaps neither tall nor short, the black and white haired Tiger-caste woman plainly stared at them as they filed in. "Did you all make sure to pack your lunches?" she asked, voice utterly deadpan.
Trying to keep her eyes forward and focused on the individual who had begun the role-call, another apparent Tiger-caste woman who seemed to be the Commanding Officer of sorts in the situation Fu couldn't help but glance at the collection of Third-Class individuals that surrounded her. Twitching her tail with irritation Fu forced herself to wrap her tail around her calf the feeling of soft, warm, fur on her skin indicating that the loose socks she wore had once again fallen down further than she'd like. Trying to keep her mind off of her awkward outfit, wishing for the familiar comfort of a proper uniform, Fu settled for wondering just how she had ended up in this place herded like livestock among what she felt were common rif-raf. The thought briefly bolstered her morale, thinking of how she was better than those around her, but just as quickly her spirits sank as she realized that as an orphan, she was little better, and possibly even less valued than those she looked down upon. Even if she was fully Taianese.
Reaching down with care Fu lifted her light backpack containing little aside from a collection of inexpensive food options and a spare change of the awkward civilian clothing she'd been forced to acquire following her previous reassignment. Shrugging on the straps mindful of not jostling or inadvertently hitting those who crowded around her in the ad-hoc waiting area Fu refocused her eyes on the snowy Tiger-caste woman with the bored expression hoping that soon the familiar structure of military life would keep her mind from exploring less than pleasant avenues. Steeling herself for whatever may come Fu adopted a bright smile, relaxing somewhat as the effort of pretending to be happier slowly brightened her mood knowing that no matter what might come she'd do her best, as she'd always done.
She'd looked for the rooster woman but failed to find her among the crowd of third-class and regular uniforms. She considered the tiger-caste woman to be their actual commanding officer, and she immediately began to question whether coming here was a good idea. Sidelining that thought, she began to wonder what was going to happen to her now. She'd been forcefully introduced to combat already, and she didn't know what it had done to her. She wanted to be a medic but she had no idea if that was going to be her billet or not. For all she knew, she was going to be just another rank and file soldier.
She tried to calm herself down by crossing her arms and hugging herself quietly, blushing as she did so. She'd gone so far, but was never sure if going up in caste was going to help her at all. She wasn't sure if she could ever shake her primordial feelings. She once again forced her mind to calm down by squeezing herself a little tighter and told herself not to think such thoughts. For now, it worked.
It truly seemed like they were a bunch of riff-raff to be honest. Though the burly man in the business casual looked at least somewhat professional for an example, the blue haired young woman with the shirt that read 'Omega Milk' didn't help at all. On top of this, the stoic yet somehow bored look of the black and white haired Tiger gave off the distinct feeling that she did not want to be here with them either. Given how the Taianese tended to be racist though, that wasn't unex - there was suddenly a white feathered chicken strutting into the cargo offloading bay. It wasn't even a Dongwu by the looks of it. The chicken was just that. A plain, white feathered chicken that lazily made its way in, randomly pecking at bits it found on the ground. The Tiger there with them didn't seem to pay it any heed, though someone in their crowd did.
"Oh, hello chicken!" the girl with the 'Omega Milk' shirt began with a smile. "Did you get lost? You should come with me - I need eggs for breakfast!"
"Ara-ara," the chicken replied with an all too familiar voice. "You can have eggs for breakfast, but most certainly not mine!" its silky feminine tones added.
"Officer on deck!" the stoic Tiger shouted, right fist and open left hand smoothly coming together in the Taianese salute.
"Thank you Sif," the white chicken addressed her. Turning around, it looked at the crowd of new soldiers in front of it as the 'Omega Milk' girl stood like a statue with a dumb, open mouthed smile on her face. "So, how have you all been?" the talking poultry asked them. "I see some of you are as bright and cheery as ever," it took note, glancing at the blue haired girl again.
@Mike @Fian @Ham @Noodles @Eistheid @Immortal Cyan
The unexpected occurrence of the white feathered fowl speaking, followed by a pleasantly familiar shout allowed Fu to for the moment forget about her worries of how she had ended up in such a place, and why despite her history of being an obedient and competent soldier she had been exiled to the hinterlands and dumping grounds of the Empire. Straightening as she came to attention, mirroring in many ways the black and white haired Tiger-caste woman's salute Fu's heel came down with an unsatisfying soft thump though the motion was one of familiarity and comfort. Listening to their commanding officer speak Fu was able to relax into the familiar role of simply being a soldier at attention, her mind focusing to allow her simply to listen for a time while the nagging questions that nipped at the edges of her awareness could be ignored. For the moment it didn't matter that a commanding officer was using a chicken as a proxy to talk to them, nor did the many unknowns of just what sort of individual had chosen to take up the task of managing such a questionable collection of recruits. All that mattered for the moment was that a small sense of familiarity had been restored, and that soon she'd be getting orders which would provide the direction she needed to keep her mind off of the many questions which plagued her life.
His skin was pale, as pale as parchment, and his eyes were the deep crimson of carbuncles. He kept his expression neutral as he glanced over the tiny crew.
Riff-raff, in his opinion, might have been too much distinction for the disorganized rabble that comprised the ship's crew. Hao folded his fan and scanned the ship officers. Briefly, he had the suspicion that someone, somewhere, had set this up specifically to fail. Perhaps he would inquire about that later. For right now, Hao only puzzled it over.
Fan Mei Xing stood amidst the formation of Third Class soldiers with a thoroughly indiscernible expression across her Taianese features. The intense and penetrating gaze of her yellow eyes was mirrored by the relaxed state of her nine tails, each of which were neatly groomed, combed, and shampooed in an effort to make them appear presentable. To say the least, her tails were a very high maintenance and distinctive part of her body. They were especially prone to getting dirty, and the fur was constantly getting snagged on things. However, when faced with the choice to have them cut off, Mei Xing refused to do so. After all, she didn’t consider herself to be an especially remarkable woman, and she wondered how people would see her without them.
Not to mention the fact that she could barely afford to have the procedure executed in the first place.
When prompted to do so, Mei Xing delivered her rank and full name in a gentle and professional tone. Her gaze briefly focused on the other individuals as they spoke their names as well, taking note of a woman directly next to her who possessed pointed cat-like ears and mildly Taianese-esque features, yet had the latent scent of a human. There was also an odd Second Class Tiger, who seemed woefully out of place amidst of the rabble of Third Class individuals such as herself and the majority of the other soldiers in the room.
For her part, Mei Xing was utterly quiet and disciplined. However, a few of her tails flickered when she heard the peculiarly sing-song voice of the Rooster woman who had presented her with the contract to enlist within the Imperial Military. However, when she came into view…
Mei felt the painful and unpleasant sensation of second hand embarrassment from the odd performance. Yet, at the same time, the potent urge to laugh nearly overwhelmed her restraint, which manifested across her features with an ephemeral smile that reverted back to a flat expression just as quickly as it had appeared. Then, Mei Xing refreshed her posture and executed a snappy salute, before returning to a relaxed posture when permission was granted to do so.
She twitched, slightly moving her feet to keep her balance, her posture iron-stiff and unmoving. She tried to listen for words but suddenly realized that she forgot to salute. She quickly slammed her hands together in salute but it was all in vain. As soon as her hands and arms moved, they shifted the duffel's contents further and tipped her back far. Her legs slipped back and she fell right where she was standing with a clunk, squeak, and a curse.
"Shàngděng Bīng Royama Dai." A voice rang out, doing its best to be louder than the cursing girl on the ground, "Doing quite well, Zhōngxiào!- Quite the reception you had waiting for us. We're all most honored to be here, I'm certain." The owner of the voice was an amber-eyed human woman dressed in a rather well-used looking labcoat over light blue scrubs that looked to be in at least slightly better condition- she most certainly looked out of place, but then again most amongst their group did with few exceptions. Dai offered a hand to the fallen woman without ever looking down while she waited for a response that she was either going to regret or would come back in good spirits. That was hardly the point of her loudness, however, she wasn't normally the type of person who enjoyed testing the limits of those who had recently acquired power over her (at least not quite so soon.)
Somehow, despite her rather questionable decision to make a racket, the woman's voice had a certain sureness to it- perhaps reassuring, perhaps not-so-much. Either way, Dai seemed to know what she was doing and that much, at least, was probably good.
"You're really talkative - this isn't normal!" the blue haired person remarked. "Are you demonically possessed or something? Do I need to do an exorcism? I'm Víz, the best priestess around, you know!" she puffed her chest out in pride.
"Help! Someone help!" the chicken cawed, flapping its wings about. "She's gonna do something weird to me!"
Closing the distance as quickly as she could, Fu was soon reaching out to firmly set her hand on the blue haired woman's shoulder. Squeezing gently, Fu pink camisole clad form overshadowed the self proclaimed priestess as she stood over a full foot taller than the buxom woman whose shoulder she had occupied. Leaning forward and completely overshadowing the shorter woman, Fu greeted her with a friendly smile her black furred ears wiggling cutely before Fu spoke in a sunny tone, "Miss, while I'm sure we'll all be interested in your skills as an accomplished priestess. I would very much appreciate it if for the moment you would put the chicken down. I'm sure she would be appreciative of being returned to the ground as well."
While Fu was fairly certain that she hated everything about being where she was, and who she had found herself saddled with, she found that she couldn't project malice upon the largely innocent people around her. They were after all, much like herself, were simply there to report to their next assignment with hopes of being able to see a brighter future. Keeping that thought in mind Fu hoped that the blue haired woman would cease in her attempts to molest the white chicken, which was somehow the avatar of their commanding officer, and allow them all to get on with their days. With any luck Fu hoped that sooner than later they'd all be settled in to their new assignment, whatever it was to be, instead of spending any more time than necessary standing around in what was effectively a holding pen.
“If you need something to help you keep your balance or just keep warm, you can grab onto one of my tails~ <3”
She could only hope that the clumsy feline wouldn’t feel creeped out.
"Put the strange chicken down?" Vis began, momentarily parroting Lin's words as she held on to the chicken by the legs, hugging it close. She was aghast with horror that someone would say something so heretical, and was already furtively glancing at the others for help. "B-but! Can't you feel it? There's a strange aura emanating from this chicken, like uh, the smell of deep fried chicken wafting off of chicken nuggets!" she shouted with a fury, stepping back from the cat eared young woman as she neared.
"That's not reassuring at all!" Sakamoto's voice shouted from the flapping chicken in Vis's arms. Seeing nobody else come to her aid, the woman then simply stuffed the flapping chicken under her 'Omega Milk' shirt, which quickly quieted it down. "This is so strange. It's a little darker in here, and now I'm feeling sleepy!" they heard the Sakamoto-chicken remark.
"Besides, there's no chicken!" Vis puffed her now far-overly-large chest up in defiance. Somehow, the strange woman was able to say this with a completely straight face. Even as she started to slowly glow at the edges with a radiant light. "There's no chicken at all, and I'm totally not planning anything, see! So stop bothering me!"
Even as all this happened however, the black and white Tiger woman that was overseeing all this just stared at them with a blank expression.
Her ears suddenly shot up when the nine-tail fox beside her spoke up with her offer. She somehow turned another shade of red and turned her head quickly to face her. She attempted to speak but just worked her jaw a few times before seeming to cave and submitted her left hand towards her as if scared to actually grab a hold of one of her tails.
"T-Thanks, I'm just lightheaded now." She seemed to shiver off and on, but managed to get a warm smile to form on her face. Her ears had gone back down to flat against her hair but she looked more comfortable than before. She looked back towards the confrontation occurring and was just more confused. Why is Sakamoto more of a chicken than she seemed normally and why does this Omega Milk girl want to do something weird to her?
Maintaining her defeated posture, Fu looked beseechingly toward the self proclaimed priestess and hoped that somewhere along side her self-assured nature there was the capacity for her to empathize with, and care for the well being of others. Tugging awkwardly at the hem of her cardigan, Fu waited for a response from the shorter woman with a sincere hope that within the next ten minutes she'd be acquainted with her bunk rather than standing in what amounted to an animal pen. Of course given the rumors of the capricious nature of the Imperial Castes, Fu had some doubts that even if things were to return to their previous path that there would be any rest for anyone...
The thought was almost enough to push Fu genuinely to tears as she gazed upon the buxom priestess.
However, that the second-class citizens, and even a few of the third class citizens, seemed not to recognize the dongwu as an individual person proved a bit daunting. Hao supposed that it meant the definition of people, at least for the lower classes, was mutable and very subjective. He had yet to discern whether anyone standing in front of him registered as people or not.
That thought surprised him, though only a little bit. His ‘people’ were refined, cerebral, and elegant. If he set any of these soldiers to the test, he doubted he would find a single one that would avoid disappointing him in some way, shape, or form. Their uniforms seemed to be the best thing about them.
Would have need to return to the Emperor and inform him that the experiment had been a failure, even before it had begun? And, what of the representative of the Empress, who was surely skulking about here somewhere? Had this foul-up been her doing? Possible, he felt, but he decided to withhold judgement.
But should he do anything?
He tapped his lips with the fan a few more times before deciding to commit himself. Gracefully, he floated into the room, almost seeming not to step at all, until he was beside Fu. He skimmed her over with his carbuncle-gem eyes, before motioning her to stand a bit taller.
Gently he said, “Be at ease.”
Then he pointed, his gesture as smooth as the synthetic silks he wore, to the ranking individual standing behind the chicken. “I have seen enough, for now. Please do not confuse them any longer. Place down the dongwu, please.”
"Ara, ara? A dongwu? Here? I don't recall having recruited one," the all-too-feminine sounding chicken remarked. "But I guess that's enough of that. I know what my ancestors feel like now," she admitted, distinctly winking at Hao. As the quiet white and black Tiger woman nearby began opening a suitcase however, the chicken strutted away from their little group, only to suddenly vanish in a cloud of steam. Where the chicken was, Sakamoto stood, back turned to them all, her tail feathers fanned out wide as she looked over her shoulder at them all with a playfully sly smirk. Of course, she was completely naked, but not for long as the Tiger promptly helped Sakamoto dress. Presented with a cheongsam and a kimono, the Rooster Form chose the latter. "Well, before we see you all to your quarters, any questions?" Sakamoto asked them all, wrapping herself in silk.
When Sakamoto made a mentioning of hiring a Dongwu, the next few moments were a blur. A loud CRASH sounded through the cargo port, as the Dongwu woman dropped the empty fuel cell. In very few strides, she cleared the distance between where she stood and Sakamoto. "I'm a Dongwu!" She shouted, waving her hands frantically. She was massive. bordering on 8 feet tall, her flamboyant pink and wild hair barely kept down by the maintenance ballcap she wore. She was a strange liger type, only with two large sabre teeth protruding from her muzzle. Her fur was goldish brown with faint pink stripes, and muscles were prominent with the sleeves to her maintenance jumpsuit rolled up, and Sakamoto barely came up to her waist when they were side to side.
"Damnit Jayden!" One of the men she had been standing with moments before shouted. "That cell costs more than you'd make in a lifetime you idiot! What're you doing!" He continued, taking a few steps towards the group. "I'm really sorry for the trouble, she's a bit of a ten ply let me tell you. Talking to her is like talking to a dial tone," He said looking up at Jayden. "Get the hell back over there and pray that cell isn't broken, or I'll make damned sure your ass ain't fed for the next month you got that!" He snapped, reaching behind him and pulling a stun baton out of its holster. "You know damn well I ain't afraid to use this girl..."
Jayden ignored him, dropping down to her knees, still taller than the 5' Sakamoto, holding her hands together. "Please... pretty please... I would rather do anything than stay on this dockyard for a moment longer... Anything! Please don't make me st-GAH!" She screamed, writhing as the man shocked her.
"They don't give a damn about you! Stop wasting their fucking time!" He shouted, poking her again, getting a yelp and a spasm from the girl, looking at Sakamoto. He took off his hat, holding it over his chest and bowing his head slightly. "I'm sorry Ma'am for the Dongwu. She just doesn't get it sometimes. I'll get her out of your hair, you just carry along your way and hopefully, we can all forget this ever happened, yeah?' He asked, never seeming to fully remove his attention from the writhing liger.
(( Sakamoto next to Jayden http://www.mrinitialman.com/OddsEnds/Si ... comp_in=10 ))
As the dragon-caste individual, Fu couldn't guess whether they emulated a gender or not, began speaking on the release of a dongwu from the effectively placated priesstess, Fu couldn't help but wonder if she'd missed something about the odd talking chicken that would have signified as much. Doing her best to keep her expression neutral Lin Fu reviewed the past few minutes and wondered what she could learn to better have insight into a future situation such as this. After all the dragon-caste individual being first-class indicated to her that they would likely have more insight and knowledge than she did.
The revelation of the chicken seeming to metamorphosize into the rooster-caste patron of the cage full of second and third caste individuals like some sort of smoke and mirrors trick left Fu with a kernel of doubt. According to the claim made by the chicken, and by extension their commanding officer, there had been no dongwu involved. Did this mean that she had been right to not make an assumption on the nature of the chicken? Had the dragon-caste representative been truly mistaken? Fu wondered at these questions as she watched the rooster-caste woman dress in her periphery before she turned to pose a new question to the crowd.
Before the question could be answered, however, a sudden cacophony of falling equipment and rushing footsteps drew Fu's attention away from their rooster patron. Appearing in their midst was a mountain of an individual, one who by their own admission was in fact a dongwu, and through the scene that unfolded, was revealed to be one who was quite disaffected in their present circumstances. Once again Fu was left to think on how she could address the situation, the sound of the dongwu screaming as she was disciplined punctuating the thought. But while she had a desire to intervene on some excuse or another, and give a grace period for a decision to be made she knew that she had been ordered to stand down by a first-class. A dragon-caste no less. Twitching the tip of her tail, the only emotional outburst she allowed herself, Lin Fu stood by and once again waited to see what those above her in the chain of command would choose to do.
"Nǚshì," the man began, addressing her with the honorific, "Surely you - " Though Sakamoto did not frown, her gentle, smiling gaze held in it a deathly coldness from which he quickly fell quiet and stepped back from, averting his eyes to the floor. Only a fool would oppose a Taianese, and he was not a fool. More importantly?
Sakamoto was still waiting for answers.
"Please! I swear, I'll do anything!" She whined, looking between everyone, before looking up at the Rooster. "Please miss chicken lady... I don't want to be trapped on this dock anymore..."
"You should take her!" The labcoat wearing woman answered, as bold as ever, "She's big- clearly strong, and I don't know about you, but I'd rather her have to carry around some of the equipment we might need than someone little like myself have to do it. If there's one thing the Tainese could never be beaten at, it's genetical engineering. I mean look at her. Good job to whoever managed to do that. You're a smart woman, and I know that you know that taking this, er, girl along with us would be an excellent idea. She's a Dongwu- worst case scenario you drop her off at the next planet we find and leave her there." Dai suggested, "But you won't get to see just how helpful she could be if you don't give her a shot." The human woman finally shut up after that last note, content to stare at Sakamoto expectantly with crossed arms- like a mother waiting on a child.
"Yeah! What she said!"
She was obviously trying to sound in the loop, her beet red face showing the internal fight with anxiety she was going through. She froze up for a moment before letting the hand previously out for the Kitsune to start flailing around to find something to hold on to. After a moment of grabbing at air, it finally just quit and she wrapped it around her abdomen and attempted to appear absolutely fine. It was needless to say, the Catgirl had absolutely no idea what was going on but she still wanted to feel included.
"It sounds like you're going to have a new home now." The size difference between the two however, made that impression quite impossible given that the two of them were still eye to eye, even with the big woman kneeling and cowering behind the Rooster-woman. She then turned to the foreman, her words not unkind, "Simply forward to me the bill, and I'll do the rest." Looking at her crew members though, her eyes seemed to twinkle. "Well, I would hope that it would be clear that I do not expect too much military formality from you all," she began. "After all, I myself do not come from a military background, and am quite glad that soe of you are quite outspoken. Nonetheless, shall we?" Sakamoto gestured with a feathered hand.
"Yesss! Time to earn space monies!" Viz cheered, pumping her fist in excitement. "Once I have enough to buy a big ship, I'll exterminatus all those demons and heretics!" she innocently remarked, skipping along after the Rooster. "The Empire is so amazing!" the horribly out of place priestess in an Omega-Milk t-shirt sing-songed. Following Sakamoto however, it soon became even clearer that the path they took to the ship meant that they could not be seen by the 1st and 2nd Class public at large. Instead, the feathered woman lead them through the spaceport's machine shop, its fuel depot, and finally its pit crew area. Walking up through the umbilical pathway, Sakamoto lead them into the hangar of what was unmistakably a military vessel, fighters, shuttles and ground vehicles standing by.
Only, it was eerily quiet.
"Ah, here we are," she continued to walk. "Since I am keeping my complement of marines, all of you are technically extra personnel," Sakamoto began to explain, closing in towards one particular corner of the hangar, one step at a time. "That means, we've had to make do," she gestured at the field-barracks building set up in the hangar. "Sif? Make sure they get settled in and look after them. I'll be seeing to the finer details," the woman spoke to the Tiger-woman. "Dinner for you all is at 0800 hours. See you all there!~" Sakamoto beamed at them. As she left, the white haired Tiger woman simply looked at them all with an expressionless gaze that said many things in and of itself, mainly,
"I hate you all," or something along those lines, they could all imagine. She simply gestured towards the barracks with an upturned hand.
"I got top bunk!" Viz yelled out, rushing forward. Door sliding aside, a clean, simple barracks room with multiple bunk beds and lockers was revealed all, with a bathroom located in the back. There really wasn't much to say about it, other than the fact that it somehow felt very familiar. It almost felt like they had seen it before, perhaps in countless movies. The barracks were simply typical. "Hey, doesn't this place look rather average? I thought it'd look all future and stuff!" the blue haired woman observed from her top bunk.
She listened to the Chicken lady address them again, still quiet, her talking about dinner, and immediately tuned out. Then she watched everyone else start to get excited, and then one mildly disappointed regarding the averageness of the barracks. She just kept her head down, walking over to the back of the room and sitting down, her back in a corner. She wasn't blocking the way to the bathroom, but her size made it a reasonably tight fit. She didn't seem to mind, pulling the paper towel covered block out of her pocket.
It was a shiny dark green, and gelatinous by how it seemed to jiggle slightly. She took a small bite out of it frowning a little as she did. She would occasionally look up at everyone else, watching as they picked their bunks, but never for long. She got quarter the way through the "Bar" before wrapping it back up, putting it back in her pocket and pulling the beak of her cap down to get some rest.
Granted, it wouldn't be too horribly hard to just turn on her heel and walk the opposite direction of Sakamoto's group. Some of them seemed to be real space cadets, so it wouldn't be that hard. Royama decided against that, she was already there and not back in that dinky clinic she had come from.
She didn't look too terribly enthused with having to sleep in bunks- but she also didnt appear to be surprised, "If you fall from the top bunk, I'm not helping you." The human woman warned the group, although it was mainly directed at Viz and her over the top excitement, "They're not going to use anything fancy on us, and if they do it won't be in our living area. This is probably about the best you can expect for a long while."
"Completely baseless, that's what it is! See if I heal you up if you fall out of your bed!" she then stuck her tongue out at the doctor. Looking around them all, she accusingly pointed, "And why are there so many sub-humans here?" Vis began. "I get the Taianese are cool enough to think they're some master-race, but what gives with the rest of you?" Though Vis was quite pretty, it seemed that whatever was in the self-proclaimed priestess's head was not. "I mean, look at that dumb looking cat-person with the big buck-teeth and pink mane! She's just eating some weird thing!" she began, before shifting targets. "And then there's this person, with all those tails! Aren't kitsune total sluts or something? Not to mention that other girl with the cat ears and tail. She looks sorta Taianese, but she keeps going 'Nyaa' and stuff," Vis went on with her tirade, jabbing another finger at Kikyo. "Who says that? The person standing over there with the white and black hair who's trying not to laugh at you all probably is real, and same with the girl who wanted my chicken for herself. They sure don't say 'nyaa' and stuff!"
"You're all a mess, but if you listen to me, the great and merciful Vis, I'll be sure to lead you all to greatness!" she declared. Hearing this, the officer watching over them, Sif, fought back a smug smile.
Taking note of their surroundings and sparing a glance for the Tiger-caste woman who had been assigned their mute minder, Fu's eyes fell on the tent style barracks before her and felt her spirits sink at the sight. She had been hoping for standard quarters, something which in hindsight she realized she had been unlikely to get given her present company. Displeased that she would be forced to bunk in something little better than what the Empire had set up for the Wangdiao Colonies refugees despite being a quasi-official part of the Dìguó Jūnshì sent mixed messages that she didn't want to dwell on.
Ignoring the questions and observations being made of their rudimentary unit, Fu tucked her her bag under her chosen bunk before sitting on the mattress tiredly. Having chosen bunk below the short buxom priestess, in a mixed gesture of being there to keep an eye on the eccentric woman and sparing the others of her companionship, Fu's gaze drifted across the room to where the dongwu had settled. Twitching the tip of her tail Fu noted that the unfortunate last-minute recruit was unlikely to integrate well if they kept their behavior up before looking away. Pulling off her cardigan, Fu bundled it up and set it aside before slipping out of her shoes and slumping over onto her bunk taking what rest she could after days on her feet.
Laying in bed, Fu's ears wiggled and swiveled about to better listen to the group wondering what sort of answers the self-proclaimed priestess would get, and to a lesser extend whether she'd have to get up again soon.
Kikyo then took her duffel and shouldered it, walking to one of the bunks farthest from the priestess. She hooked her bag to one of the bedposts for the upper bunk. She was still hot, and her eyes showed this. It would take a fair amount of time for her to cool down. She may not be in a Taianese body, but what she had was something that she cared very much about and would not let someone's faulty religions insult what was left of her former life.
She found her way back to the group just as they entered the hangar, her tails swishing with relief as she strode into the ship and assumed her place in the group next to the catgirl. Having lived in a pod apartment since she arrived in Piyapon, Mei was not unimpressed by them in the slightest. She ignored the callous gaze of the white haired Tiger woman, and gave Sakamoto a shy wave as the Rooster turned to leave, ever grateful for the opportunity that she had presented to her.
“Do you want to bunk together Kik-” Mei spoke to Kikyo, not managing to finish her sentence as the vitriol behind the priestess’s racist rant cut deep into the cheerful atmosphere of the barracks. For her part, Mei remained completely silent and passive, but the simmering rage in the catgirl’s features was not lost on her perception. She stood next to Kikyo in support as the suddenly fearless woman rebuked the priestess. Mei crossed her arms under her ample bosom, and gave the priestess an intense stare of her own.
When Kikyo was done, Mei silently followed her towards a bunk near the end of the hangar, and then turned to her as she placed her own duffel bag on the bunk under Kikyo. “I...I think I want to hang out with you…” Mei said as a shy smile crossed her features. “Would you mind if I did that?”
"What did you say you dumb heathen?" she began, angrily aghast at her audacity. "Hmph! I'm great and merciful so I'll forgive you for being too dumb to see my greatness if you apologize, and even if you don't, I - being so magnanimous - will at least grant you forgiveness for being a weeb!' she declared, hand proudly placed upon her Omega Milk shirt. As the blue haired priestess triumphantly declared this though, the Taianese-looking woman stepped outside for a moment before bringing in a pair of boxes which she began opening up.
"In all fairness, Èrděng Bīng Viz has a point regarding your intelligence," The black and white haired Tiger-formed woman spoke, her words stoically flat and plain as she began assembling some sort of shoulder height scaffold. "As she had already implied, she will be acting as one source of combat-medical intervention, with Doctor Dai being another." Calm and steady, the seemingly Taianese woman attached a small, doll sized elevator to the side, making the whole thing look like a very sturdy and well made prop for a particularly large mecha model. "If I were in your situation, I would consider apologizing given your expected working relationship." By that point, the woman had opened the other box, and pulled out what looked like a doll house. One with immaculate attention to detail and handcrafted quality to its exterior. Even the plants seemed to be alive. "That, however, is just me. I wouldn't use my authority as your commanding officer to force you to do so." At that point, the Tiger-form woman then stepped into the scaffold, only to shimmer and vanish as the hologram of herself collapsed.
In her place was a power armor. One which suddenly had a long cylinder protrude out from under the armored plates at the base of its neck, opening up to reveal the same exact person they were speaking with moments ago. Only tiny. Small. Like a doll. Stepping out of the cockpit, she casually walked across the scaffold and stepped into the elevator car, music began to play as she descended.
"Eh?" Viz blinked, utterly confused.
"And you." The blue haired priestess was next, "Maybe don't make a whole room of people hate you on your first day with them. Generally, people don't enjoy being insulted. Especially by a so-called 'priestess' wearing a shirt that says 'Omega Milk' on it. If you have something that might come across as rude- no matter how true you think it may be- keep it to your damn self or worse things than falling out of your bunk could happen. Keep in mind who you're living with. The lot of us are second and third class citizens- the latter of which often have a lot less to lose than you."
The human woman let out a long, exasperated sigh and relaxed her body, "Just try to be civil, yeah? We're all in here together."
It was only at this point that she heard the music from the elevator which made her ears stand ramrod straight. He blinked dumbfoundedly at the sudden doll house, having missed all of it. She spoke only loud enough that Mei and anyone close to them would here. "What in Chiharu's name is going on here. What kind of army is this?" She shook her head and quietly began trying to get comfortable, in doing so biting at one of her nails anxiously.
Upon directly seeing the accommodations afforded to the first class soldiers, Mei felt like a second class citizen. The walk of shame through the pit area hadn’t been enough initially, but this was. She wondered if all of the first class soldiers had accommodations that amounted to full scale houses, but the size of the ship didn’t seem to make that possible. Or did it?
“Also, don’t bite your nails, honey.” Mei spoke in an oddly motherly fashion when she spotted the catgirl chowing down at her fingers. “You have the most beautiful nails on the entire ship, dear!” She added cheerfully.
"I find it weird, how a group of people who are all considered equally worthless to Taipan, are arguing with each other over who is somehow worth more," She said, her voice unsure but it carried thanks to her size. She pointed at the priestess. "You're worthless..." She said, turning to the Kitsune and the Neko. "You two are worthless." She then looked at everyone, except for the Tiger Classes. "You're all worthless. The only one who Taipan cares about is them," She said, finally acknowledging the tigers. "If anyone is in charge, it's them, and the easiest way to get through the day is to just bow your head and say yes ma'am. I don't want to get in trouble, but I know if anyone in here pisses off the Taipan citizens, then we are likely all going to get the shit, and I don't want that. So why can't we just stop shouting?" She asked.
"But it's not my fault that they're like that though!" Aqua loudly pouted, jabbing her finger at the others as she replied to Royama. Despite the hostile gesture, she was lazily laying on her side like a princess and looked like she couldn't decide on whether or not to be lazy, or angry. "Besides, the path to self improvement begins with being humble and looking at one's own flaws," Viz seemed to recite from memory. Her following outlandish statements made that dubious however. "Also, what's wrong with Omega Milk brand milk? It's fortified with those things you call vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids! What kind of doctor wouldn't appreciate Omega Milk, huh?" the blue haired priestess arrogantly replied. "Poor child," she condescendingly continued, "You must be angry you didn't drink enough as a child. But if you apologize to the heavens and ask for forgiveness, I'll share some of mine with you," Viz smiled, the image of a saint.
Albeit a lazy one that was lounging atop her bed.
"The big boobed muscle-tiger is correct," Sif finally spoke up a few moments later, her voice as calm and emotionless as always. "The young tiger cub desperately attempting to sleep through this squalor upon her bunk and myself will be the most prominent members of this squad," she began to explain. "I am already the commanding officer, while she is most likely to be promoted quickly, and laden with the horrifying responsibility of caring for you all as well," the tiny tiger added, her face completely deadpan. "Though I will likely have a compatriot to share this terror with, it would seem that this will be an exceedingly daunting task, as some of you - " Sif loudly cleared her throat, the noise terribly jarring considering her flat words, " - cannot deduce the purpose behind our group despite the myriad of clues that Lady Sakamoto has so graciously laid out for us." Turning off the water hose, the six inch tall woman turned her cold eyes on them all.
"Well? Can any of you guess as to what she has in store for us all?"
"Wouldn't want to spoil it for those who have not figured it out yet. Wouldn't be very fun if you just gave it away. That's like spoiling the end of a mystery novel." Royama joked as she sprawled out across her bed, "Keep in mind that this isn't a standard military squad. Sakamoto has made her relatively 'lax' stance on our continued existence on her ship. We're here to show that we aren't worthless or lesser- so if we fuck up all it does is prove what the Tainese already think they know. We could be a lot worse off, however, given Sakamoto's personal image isn't really at stake here. If anything they'll just view her as an eccentric. The best thing we can do is try to make the best out of what could be an excellent situation."
The small human woman began to take off her labcoat, shifting from side to side in her bunk as she continued to speak, "I think it's important that we all make it known why we're here- what we have to contribute. I'm a doctor, If you get sick or hurt you'll be happy to have me around. How about you, cat girl? What are you good at?"
"I was a lot of things, but I did explosives and heavy guns the most. Yet for some reason everything comes back here." She broadly moved one arm around, probably meaning Tai Pan as a whole, while she redid her shirt tail. Her eyes were somewhat solemn, but it seemed she had gotten used to speaking about it as she didn't change her stance too much afterwards. She barely even left room for any comments before looking to the only person she even thought would end up a friend, the Kitsune.
"What about you, nine-tails?"
“Me?! Uhhh...ummm…” Mei exclaimed in as she placed a hand over her mouth in evident surprised at being directly addressed. “I uhh...I’m good at….uhhh...finding stuff, umm...things, places, and people.” Mei answered nervously. “I’m not a bad shot with a rifle, as well but uhhh...that’s not very special I guess.” The kitsune swallowed and looked to the multiple sets of eyes staring at her.
“Who uhh...wants to go next?”
Her piece said Lin Fu shuffled over and flopped back onto her face having taken note of the position of the more talkative members of their unit toward the far end of the makeshift barracks putting them about as far as they could get from the buxom self-proclaimed priestess. This was unsurprising and provided a small echo of comfort in knowing that her sacrifice of taking the bunk beneath the priestess hadn't been misjudged and that she had in fact spared someone in the unit who likely would not have wanted to be in her place. She was glad that a shadow of a unit was forming in the wake of Doctor Royama's suggestion despite the somewhat divisive comments made, as well as appreciative of the dongwu Jayden's perspective on things though in a way her observations were only somewhat correct. After all Lin Fu had found herself assigned to a unit of Third-Class citizens in spite of what she was and where she had served previously and unlike their adorably tiny commanding officer she hadn't come pre-packaged with additional responsibility and prestige.
Thinking on this and examining the new angle of thought Lin Fu felt her spirits sink and the urge to cry welled up within her. Choking the feeling Fu instead nuzzled her face into her pillow trying to take what comfort she could in the relative softness as she did her best to not think about how a fairly good soldier could end up in her present situation effectively cast out of the Empire and mixed in seemingly without care among the unwanted.
"Oh, oh, oh!" the blue haired priestess excitedly began, a lightbulb flickering on in her head. "Is this where we all introduce ourselves properly?" she excitedly sat up in her top bunk, legs dangling into Lin's view should the tiger have opened her eyes. It seemed that the young woman had completely forgotten that she had already introduced herself already. "Though you might think I'm just another priestess, the truth is that I have a super secret identity!" she happily declared. "Sakamoto has hired me, Vis, the - WHAAAA!" A tiny watering can had clonked off her head before spilling its contents onto her white shirt. "Why'd you do that?! I wasn't doing anything wrong!" Vis frantically began as Sif plainly stared at her. "D-don't, don't give me that look!" the young woman pouted, her eyes beginning to water as the tiny tiger woman continued to expressionlessly stare. "I mean it!" Sniffling, Vis got back into her bunk and curled up, both her and Lin doing their best to shut out the world around them.
"You are all very special," Sif plainly stated. The watering can was somehow in her hand again as she moved on to the tiny banzai tree in her yard.
The next few days perhaps went by too quickly.
Interestingly enough, the Taianese on board the ship were all polite and very helpful, going out of their way to assist all the members of their squad, minus Lin and Sif, who they were just polite to. After training, they'd help to clean and maintain their weapons and equipment, nevermind that it was last-gen or older. The Taianese even went out of their way to make room for them whenever they came to the mess hall of the ship as well, making sure to even wipe down the surfaces before they sat down. They even gave them first picks at the fresh food, nevermind that the Taianese preferred that sort of stuff over what their food replicators could make. And of course, Vis got alcohol too, to which she'd happily start performing all sorts of surprisingly entertaining party tricks in return. The Taianese crew members even helped to provide Fan with some great hair-care products for her tails while whasing Jayden, brushing her mane and telling her that she was a pretty girl, and a good girl, from which the Dongwu just emerged as they were summoned into the armory.
Donning their skin tight bodysuits and pod-like laser rifles - the suits a bit more bulky, the rifles with a few more parts and wires exposed - Sif quickly ushered them into their assigned dropship.
"It would seem that we are about to face our first combat deployment," the white haired Tigress noted. Though full sized and apparently wearing the Tianshi power armor's helmet guns atop her head along with the knuckle dusters over her bodysuit, they knew it was all an illusion. But even then, she brushed a few stray strands of hair aside. "Do any of you have any pre-briefing words?" she flatly asked them all.
The catgirl had a few words to say, and showed so by holding up her hand and giving a polite sounding clearing-of-the-throat noise. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are soldiers. An auxiliary, and quite low on the totem pole, but we are soldiers. We may all have come from backgrounds that are as colorful as the rainbows that come from summer rains, but we are soldiers. We all know why we are here, we are gunning to show that even us scum and lowlifes of the lower class have our uses and our rights. We are soldiers, but we are also Taianese. Taianese. And that makes up for something. Let's kick some ass."
She spoke quite well for how anxious she was, but five years of hell had taught her to suppress her feelings when the shooting was about to begin. She didn't care if anyone listened, at the end of it all it was more a pep talk for her than anyone else. She held her rifle close to her and pulled her hand into a salute, a dated one but still one. Giving her rifle one last look over before going quiet to listen to the brief.
Her bodysuit fit her perfectly, and for armor that was meant to be worn in combat, it accentuated her figure in a manner that very much retained the feminine shape of her form, in spite of the few protruding wires and the relative bulkiness of the suit. Although the bulk of the suit made it feel heavy whenever she needed to carry it by hand, while wearing it, the suit felt lighter than she had expected, and it allowed her to retain almost all of her athleticism, speed, and strength.
After Kikyo’s speech, Mei could not help but to shed a few tears at how much of a leader the seemingly shy catgirl had become. To say the least, Kikyo was almost a role model for Mei, but the kitsune hoped to distinguish herself among the ranks in a different way. Leadership was a skill that Mei knew she would never become competent in, and as such, she sought to foster the other traits of her character, such as her bravery, willingness to sacrifice, and her indomitable will.
“Thank you, Kikyo.” Mei spoke softly, with a shy smile crossing her features. “Your leadership is an inspiration to us all.”
She looked over the suit she was jammed into. She was a bit bigger than they had anticipated, and it was tight! She felt like it was going to burst at any second, and it was leaving nothing to the imagination. Then again, she got a kick out of that. If there was anything she could be proud of, it was her body. That was at least still hers. "So, uh... Y'all want me to shoot things, right?" She asked, looking at the laser rifle. It was small in her hands, and she felt awkward holding the thing. "I hate to sound... Uh... Ungrateful, but do you have a bigger gun? I feel scrunched up holding this one..."
This type of suit was nothing new, the kitsune brushing her singular bushy tail against a wall anxiously, allowing her weapon to swing by her side from one hand. Being out of the spotlight was something she could get used to, a luxury in times past.
As far as the Dongwu knew, she was one of the more chance arrivals to the crew and hence hadn't meshed as easily as the others might have. That and the past only consisted of looking after number one, reserved as she had been trained to be.
Her large, fuzzy yellow years stood at attention, twitching and swivelling. Another tell that she was nervous about whatever they were going to find once the ship touched down. Luckily, she'd managed to kept out of conversation up till now, though she expected that to change imminently.
"Hm. Interesting choice of words," Sif remarked towards Kikyo's words, her voice flat and plain as it always was. "Your squadmate is correct however," she began, acknowledging Royama with a glance. "You are not Taianese, and even the young Lin Fu and I are Second Class Citizens, not first," the black and white haired Tiger pointed out to them. "More importantly, you should have all noted the 'kind' treatment you have all received at the hands of those in the First Class, save myself and Lin Fu." Sif made sure to air-quote 'kind' with her heavily armored hands. "It would seem you do not understand their Far East based culture. To be concise, they are giving insult by treating you all like babies. Needless to say, I would hope that you all prove yourselves in this mission." At that, the side doors of the dropship slid open as they sailed through the pristine air, the forcefields keeping them safely inside.
"Home sweet home!" The blue haired priestess smiled, running up to the side as she placed her hands against the invisible fields. "It looks like we're at the outskirts of one of the kingdoms, that's for sure!" Down below, they could see idyllic countryside and rolling shires pass by, the people down below looking tiny as bugs. While some stopped working on their primitive farms and simply gawked, others ran into the safety of their rustic homes or leaped onto horse or wagon to flee. "Hehe! I bet I can spit on them! Ptooie! AHHHHH! IT'S ON MY FACE!" she cried out in tears.
"As you can see, this is not the typical world in the Empire, and is technologically primitive, being comparable to Earth's European continent during the 15th century," Sif explained to them. "What is peculiar however, is that this world is one of the few that harbors large quantities of this reality bending phenomena known as 'magic'." The black and white Tiger narrowed her ears as great horns were bellowed down below as the inhabitants tried warning the other townsfolk. "That aside, we are here because the local nobility has noted that a number of mercenaries and adventurers have vanished in the nearby forest and have requested our aid. The civilians are unaware of their new citizenship, as well as these disappearances due to their inferior communication methods." Looking at Jayden, she added, "Collateral damage is acceptable, but is to be minimized where possible." Pointing to the munitions at the back of the dropship, she instructed the tall Dongwu, "Take extra charges for the underbarrel plasma packet launcher, and fill your pack with both those and standard munitions." She looked to Royama next. "Keep to the rear of the formation. I expect your handheld scanner and advanced medical equipment in your pack to be useful should the priestess fail."
"Hey! I'm an Archpriestess, you hear?! It's the highest order of - " As the dropship touched down, jarring them enough to shut her up, Sif quickly gave her orders.
"Helmets on. Fan out in standard formation and secure a perimeter." Activating their helmets, the collars they war spewed forth black poly-alloy that quickly consumed their heads before forming into a hardened shell, the world vanishing from sight, only to reappear to them a moment later as their hair was swept back and into the rear of the protective shell. Those with more hair like Jayden however, had it swept back and coated black. Overhead, they could all hear the quiet drone of the other dropships soaring past to parts unknown while the fields underfoot stretched out and ended in front of them all as the forest began. Green trees stood vibrant and tall as birds happily chirped away, oblivious or uncaring to the relatively quiet Taianese vehicle. Off in the distance, a pristine, gorgeous lake could be seen stretching out as several boats went about, their occupants fishing. On the shore closest to them all, several armed and armored men were gathering water, and sighting the squad, quickly packed up and went into their end of the forest.
"First test. What do you all think we should do first?" Sif's deadpan voice questioned them all.
Then the question was offered. What did they do? It was a good question, she certainly didn't have the answer to it. She looked around, seeing the men with swords and shields wandering off, thinking about why they were here, and pointing to where the men with weapons went. "Maybe we should try to talk to them? They look like the type of people you said were vanishing here," She offered, shouldering her weapon. "I mean, we can't exactly shoot the thing doing this if we don't know what or where the thing is!"
Topia, Wangdiao Colonies
"Keep up, Kikyo!" the Shouwei Sergeant warned, "We need you up here." The burning city was quiet, too quiet for its own good. They'd been forced from their previous camp by what looked like blackcoats and someone in an environmental suit. They'd taken Junko, Hiram, Rusuko, and Maryanne in the night She didn't know why they were taken, no one did. It frightened her. With Rusuko was gone, she was having to lug around her carbine in addition to her backpack. She'd never shot anyone, she never wanted to.
The setting sun didn't help with vision. The Sergeant's stained white uniform was becoming harder and harder to see. Just when he was about disappear, a bright light arced over a highrise and painted the street with blueish-white light. The Sergeant dove for cover but a ball of fire took his place instead. She ran into a alley to get out of the light as a black dropship loitered over looking for prey. The Catgirl turned another corner at slammed into something, something that grunted and fell with her. Her face went pale as the light began to shine on a black-colored uniform.
She went for Rusuko's rifle but wasn't fast enough to beat the figure's fist. He struck her in the jaw and slammed her against a wall at her back. She felt her hand touch something vaguely gun-like and brought it to her shoulder. Her finger snatched the trigger as the report of a foreign made battle rifle coming alive rang out, muted by a squelch of viscera and the drone of engines. The figure contorted and fell still. His eyes locked with hers as he collapsed onto her, muffling her scream. She dropped the rifle to push him off and bolted for where the Sergeant had disappeared to, hoping that he'd survived the dropship's fire.
Kikyo coughed and felt a shiver go up her spine. She'd began to lightly sweat and for once she was happy to be concealed in armor. She pointed towards them with the end of her weapon, automatically getting a bead on the lead figure. Her finger stayed away from the trigger however, hre head turning towards Sif emotionlessly without her weapon even falling. "If anything, I think we need to keep our element of surprise. Who knows what this 'thing' is that is taking these people. For all we know they work for them."