27th May 2020, 11:09 PM
Swing by Maria's

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Swing by Maria's
Kate covers the meal, and the three of you leave the "Old Fashioned" Burger Joint.

As you're walking out, Cici briefly pauses to watch the birds hanging out around the restaurant.

"Ravens?," you ask.

"Crows," answers Cici with a big smile. "You can tell 'cause of the tails--raven tails have more of a triangle shape. Oh, and there's five birds there--ravens like to travel in pairs. The sound they make is different, too, but that's tougher to notice."

Kate stuffs her hands in her pockets. "Hmph. Bebe's into birds, too."

"They're cute!," says Cici. "And they can go wherever they want, and all they gotta worry about is bird stuff. Crows can remember faces for years... they even hold grudges, and use little bird tools. Crows are neat!"


You wave at the crows before you all turn and head for the bus stop.

"Hey," you greet the bus. "You wouldn't know where Franklin is, would you?"

"He rode this morning," the bus replies. "I dropped him off at Maria's, but I haven't seen him since."

"We should swing by Maria's on the way to the junkyard," you suggest. "She knows Franklin--she might know where to find him."

"That's gonna be awkward," Kate comments with a smirk. "Hope she doesn't think it was me that tried to burn her store down."

The bus drops you off at Maria's. One of the windows adjacent to the door is boarded up; you walk inside, where Maria is in the middle of an argument with a uniformed officer. The officer is halfway through smoking a cigar, which seems to be the source of the argument.

"Do you understand what kind of equipment I use?!," Maria asks, already sounding thoroughly rankled. "You could blow this whole block to hell! Not to mention that this is a groCERY STORE, are you STUPID?!"

"Look, ma'am--" begins the cop, but

"You do not ma'am me!," Maria fires back. "I didn't hire you! We were robbed four times before, and we paid you to do what? Sit on your asses! You think I'm going to pay your department to solve this? I grow better detectives than you! I don't need you here, smoking nasty cigars in my GROCERY. STORE!"

The cop takes the cigar out of his mouth. He takes a loud sniff.

"Ms. Emperatriz, I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation. The arsonist failed once, they're awful likely to try again."

"And you are going to do what?," Maria asks. "You have never helped me. You are for-hire, and I am not hiring you or any of your pendejo squad just so you can barge in here and harass my customers like last time. No."

Kate, at last, can no longer help herself. "If you want people to pay you protection money, it helps to protect them first. I know you're NEW to this whole blue-line-mafia thing, but that's like... rule number one, dude."

The officer turns around, a gross smile pressing itself across his face.

"Well, well, well. Hello there, Ms. Halford. Makin' my job real easy today, huh?" He marches boldly up to the three of you. "Kate Halford, you're under arrest for inciting an arson--"

"WHAT!," shouts Kate, not even letting him finish.

"Like hell you are!," interjects Maria at roughly the same time.

The uniformed gentleman turns back to Maria. "Excuse me?"

"You're not arresting her!," proclaims Maria. "What did I JUST tell you? I'm not pressing charges against Kate Halford. She didn't do anything! Inciting an arson? Are you joking? Are you a funny jokes man now? Why don't you arrest the arsonist's parents, too! And the cave man who discovered fire! Everyone but the arsonist, because YOU don't know who that is!"

You're not sure how culturally insensitive vis a vis her accent it is to think the way she says arsonist is cute, but

"Ma'am--" He corrects himself before Maria can fire up again, "Ms. Emperatriz. We have reasonable suspicion that the perpetrator was at Ms. Halford's concert, and was driven into a frenzy by the general atmosphere--"

"That..." You swallow your nerves. You force the words out. "That's not how incitement works. ...You can't arrest someone for that, th-the word general alone precludes actus reus, for starters--"

He turns back to the three of you.

"Oh?" He forces a dry, obnoxious chuckle as he draws nearer. "You ladies here to tell me how the law works?" His smug grin widens. He shades his eyes with his hand, acting as though he's searching for something. "Well, I sure don't see no other cops here. Y'all must be confused--you don't get to tell me how to do MY job." He turns, and levels a gaze straight at Cici. "Y'all don't know what it's like to be real cops."

"Get the hell out of my store," demands Maria.

The police officer nonchalantly tosses his cigar onto the floor... and stomps it out.

You swear you can almost see Maria's hair rising into the sky. Her rage is palpable, building as quickly as her brain can process an act so brazen and childish.

He begins to walk past you toward the door--

but Cici sidesteps into his way.

She stares him down, her tone surprisingly calm. "I think you forgot your cigar, Officer Johnson."

He grins a much viler grin, locking eyes with Cici through his opaque shades. "I know they give you lab rats names--which one are you again? Figure ya must be that lib'ary girl, right? 'Cuz you got a pair on you... but don't think you're the cock o' the walk just 'cuz you don't work for the department anymore. The rest o' your brood still belong to us--might remember that next time you wanna run your mouth. ...Pretty sure they still make muzzles in y'all's size."

The silence that follows is a tense one.

You can feel your heart pounding in your ears.

You're not sure who's going to lose their cool first: you, Maria, or--

just kidding it's definitely Kate

The next several seconds are a blur; you and Cici's attentions shift quickly from Officer Johnson,

to trying to keep Kate from stabbing Officer Johnson.

"YOU WANNA ARREST ME?!," she screams, rapidly overpowering you to try and pull the switchblade from her pocket. "Kate, no! Not today!" "I'LL GIVE YOU A REASON TO ARREST ME, MOTHERFUCKER!" Cici tries to help you restrain her, but Kate's... slippery. Maria hops the counter, rushing over to assist; by the time all three of you have convinced Kate not to shank a cop, Officer Johnson has made a casual (but expedient) exit from the store.

Police in "oldschool" uniforms are typically contracted to the city, state, or mayor themselves; they otherwise exist in a nebulous area outside technical employment. It makes the nature of their responsibilities--and their limits--a lot more vague, legally speaking. While you've not had too much experience with the police, you have done some reading about legal shit, and what cops can and can't do... in theory.

In theory this whole incident should get Officer Johnson fired, but you're not that naive.

You know MondolGroup has its own cops, but you haven't seen any other police forces around here. Addersfield had a few different police stations, each with their own uniforms, all competing with one another for the business of the public. Usually, one police company will cover crimes in particular parts of town, or dig out a niche dealing with specific types of crime. If there's no real competition... well, you get shitty service. That's just capitalism.

"I'm sorry about that," Maria says. "I swear, I am not just constantly having arguments in the middle of the store."

Maria's dad begins to dispute it, but decides now is not the time.

"What can I do for you?," she asks.

You're still catching your breath. Just outside, Cici is trying to calm down Kate (and by that, you mean Cici physically carried her out of the store to get some air while Kate flailed and shouted).

"We're looking for Franklin," you tell her.

Maria inquires further. "Is he okay...?"

"Oh, yeah," you nod, "we just need to ask him a few questions."

Maria squints. "What kind of questions? ...Did he do something?"


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Rate this comic:

average rating: 5

27th May 2020, 11:24 PM
"He made a video game, and we're researching it." We don't have to go into occult stuff-- creating video-game-related content IS our job, after all. If we want, though, we can hint that it's a *weird* and *interesting* video game. If she questions why Cici and Kate are helping, well, they both have a day off and we're having a girls' day out investigating interesting things X3 (and we can possibly invite her out on the next girls' day out if she wants to come)
27th May 2020, 11:48 PM
28th May 2020, 1:07 AM
I give my +1 to this as well.
28th May 2020, 7:45 AM
28th May 2020, 8:01 AM
+1, we should take a bit of a breather to calm down, that was intense.
28th May 2020, 10:20 AM
+1. We still have enough of a mundane cover story to seek out Franklin. No reason to pull other civilians into our magical world of dream-horrors, unless absolutely necessary.
28th May 2020, 11:34 AM
Lunar Waffles
+1 maybe just say we need his help? i think shes being protective of Franklin? (bet feds have been trying to hunt him down for years)
28th May 2020, 12:27 PM
+1. But, regarding how to spin it: Let Player go full Nerd-mode. Quite aside from the fact that we don't want to come across as "after him" for whatever, being "the adorably geeky new girl" will better serve us than being "the dead-serious new girl trying to unearth secrets."

That I, personally, like to think of her as adorably geeky does not factor into this recommendation.

At all.
28th May 2020, 4:06 PM
Re: BJBlack's idea, absolutely. Like, the game he made is legit an important piece of gaming history and I'm sure it was influential on other game designs that came later, and I bet Plaire can wax nerdy on that XD

Actually, we might as well ACTUALLY make a video on this game. That would be good content for our channel and help bring in some cash. Videos on game history are fascinating.
27th May 2020, 11:24 PM
...More like WE did something and want some advice from a fellow who might have weird advice for weird people doing weird things.
27th May 2020, 11:25 PM
Well, he kinda did make that game console in The Back Room. That's kinda neat, and as a nerd we are quite interested in video games.
27th May 2020, 11:28 PM
We don't think so atleast?
More likely we bring the trouble to him on accidentI think.
27th May 2020, 11:28 PM
"No, no, he didn't do anything. We just heard he used to be a game programmer and I make internet videos about games."
27th May 2020, 11:36 PM
28th May 2020, 6:58 AM
27th May 2020, 11:29 PM
I don't have anything insightful to say, just.. fuck pigs.
27th May 2020, 11:36 PM
28th May 2020, 12:05 AM
Nothing bad, jut had some questions regarding something he designed.
28th May 2020, 12:09 AM
Let Kate shank a cop.

Damn, wasn't fast enough.
28th May 2020, 1:07 AM
I would prefer we didn't get involved in anything we couldn't deal with just yet.
28th May 2020, 10:18 AM
*taps forehead*

If we're going to be shanking anyone, we have to make sure we keep ourselves safe afterwards, which means: (A) make it look like an accidental shanking so other cops don't come looking or at least don't come looking for us, or (B) be situated with enough social/tactical/magical power that other cops can be 'persuaded' that pursuing an investigation over a tragic one-time shanking is 'disadvantageous' to any longer-term plans they might have.

But ho ho ho, 'tis just a merry jest. Ho ho, what a lark to talk about causing physical harm to a corrupt goon in a uniform, which we would never do. Ho ho.

28th May 2020, 1:02 AM
Oh no! Sorry if we gave a bad impression. We just heard he used to do video games and Plaire does in fact make vidya game videos for a living.
28th May 2020, 2:28 AM
Admit we're a nerd, and we played a video game he's made. We're kind of amazed since he didn't look like a programmer, and also want to ask him a bit about it. Assure her we're not looking to give him trouble.
... Well, unless he's actually a jackass cop in disguise, because then Kate might shank him. But that seems unlikely.
28th May 2020, 7:05 AM
28th May 2020, 2:50 AM
"Questions about a videogame he made."
This isn't even technically a lie, and Plaire is good at convincingly telling stuff.
28th May 2020, 7:05 AM
28th May 2020, 8:54 AM
We should also spend a bit of time getting to know Maria. Maybe she could be a dream accomplice one day?
28th May 2020, 1:13 PM
Come to think of it, shouldn't it be a little harder to get info from the bus? She's just dropping personal customer data like it's nothing.

I'll admit I didn't read the Privacy Policy when I signed up, I just checked the box saying I read it and agreed to the terms. Like a normal person who doesn't want to waste an hour reading legalese. But I kinda feel like a basic clause, "We won't divulge information about your usage of the Chariot Mass Transit system to third parties without your express consent, or a warrant issued by the local jurisdiction," would be in there.

When we get targeted by evil cultists, it will be helpful if their attempts at tracking us down meet with more difficulty than our attempt to track Franklin down.

Just sayin'.
28th May 2020, 1:30 PM
Don't worry, the bus is firmly on our side because her "Attitude Regarding the System" has been turned to a strong 7:

28th May 2020, 3:02 PM
That explains why she can ignore policies for our benefit, but now our secrets are only as safe as Cherry's judgement of character is sound.

Obviously, she won't blurt out our address to the gang of thugs in red-and-black cloaks that take out ceremonial daggers and lick them to make sure they're sharp. But if someone unarmed and alone boards the bus wearing a "The First Lie" t-shirt, saying he's looking for Plaire Stevens, that doesn't preclude him from being an enemy intent on infiltration and sabotage.

Seeing as she's just a bus, she probably isn't equipped with spy-craft caliber lie detectors and facial/body language analytical routines. A bus's sensory, cognitive, and language abilities simply don't need to be that high. Hell, she was made by a capitalist company, and a fairly prominent feature of capitalism in this setting is cutting corners.

It would also make sense in setting for a capitalist company to actually make a super-spy city bus, to gather all that information on their customers. They take the data and analyze it, then optimize advertising on the bus for maximum ad conversion, hence optimal profit (and probably sell the demographic analyses too, when the price is right). Then, when someone sets Attitude Regarding The System to 7, then yes, we could trust her to tell the Bad Guys that we live down in The Mines, but drop off visiting Good Guys on our front step.

(By the way, whenever Kate shifts into a genre of music where it makes sense, Super Spy City Bus would make a good band name.)

That would be a coherent scenario... but to take it as true right now jumps to a conclusion beyond what the information we have now justifies.

In the exact opposite direction, it's also been stated that Cherry might have sensors that she herself doesn't know about. That raises the scary questions of what sensors, and who gets that data? Suppose she's just a friendly face slapped on a malevolent entity, and she doesn't even know it?
28th May 2020, 3:49 PM
I would enjoy a sidequest where we expunge the malevolent entity, leaving only the friendly face, come to think of it.
28th May 2020, 1:55 PM
Inb4 THEY'RE the ones attempting to start the fire in order to drum up business and serve Mondol's interests on top of that.

I don't know if we'll have the time to, but we should ask if there's anything we can do to help.
28th May 2020, 2:34 PM
28th May 2020, 3:14 PM
+1, take the next step down the arson investigation sidequest.
28th May 2020, 2:04 PM
Just to underline how Officer Johnson is an ignorant son of a bitch... When Maria said, "I'm not pressing charges against Kate Halford," if he had known his shit, he could have told her she doesn't make that decision. Prosecution of crimes (at least in my country, which is nominally the basis for "The States") is done at the discretion of the attorney general, not the victims of the crime. The most the victims can do is file suit for civil damages, or not. They have literally no say about pressing criminal charges.

But Officer Johnson replies with another attempt to convince her.

Either prosecution doesn't work like that in The States (and let me just say that, if so, it is a better system than ours), or this is just one more way that he's talking out of his ass.

Anyway, Kate's mostly safe from arrest for now. Unless she's caught in a criminal act, it's really hard to arrest her without an arrest warrant (which I bet Officer Johnson would have mentioned, if he had one).
28th May 2020, 7:11 PM
I kinda feel like Officer Dick, sorry, "Officer Johnson," is going to target Kate and/or Kate's mom, probably when Cici isn't around, and probably with backup. I don't know what to suggest to protect them though, aside from forewarning them of the possibility.
20th Jun 2020, 8:36 PM
Kate can start a 'shank a 'cop' service and make it look like the vampire of a mayor did it with the right type of stiletto.