"Move away from the mayor!" Aegis announces, rising into the air. He doesn't make any threatening moves, none of them do, except for the one with the crossbows, who just... I know that bodytype. I know that stance, even. The way the legs are set apart. When I emerged from the locker, I began taking in details like I never had before. The vast, vast majority were about machines. What I could use, what I could break down, scavenge, improve! But some of those revelations were about living things. It was part of my understanding of Chaos, how it was intwined in living things. Recognizing body language was surface-level, compared to unlocking the mysteries of the universe.
In a way, I tried to stop looking at people too hard. Because when I did, I knew that they could be improved too. Not as easily of course, wetware is so delicate and messy, and generally icky. If I could just, turn people into machines, biology would be so much easier to work with!
But, long tangent on my own brilliance short, I knew that body language. I knew that body.
I grin savagely, and just about keep myself from outing Sophia right here and now. I drop the Egg Mobile close to the ground in a moment, and all of them back away in a hurry as I come close. I climb out of my seat and lean over my windshield, holding out a hand and giving my most dazzling smile, "You may call me Robotnik! As fellow parahumans trying to make the Bay a better place I do hope we can all get along." They're confused at first, but Aegis drops down. He's the oldest of the bunch, and therefore the leader, if I remember correctly. When I was younger it was considered a big deal in the news when Triumph grew out of being the leader of the Wards and moved on to the Protectorate proper.
"Aegis." he says, taking my hand. Shadow Stalker flinches a bit, expecting me to joy-buzz him, I suppose, and I know then that she recognizes me. That clinches it, groucho is getting an upgrade, first thing I do next. Costume too, "And in the future, descending on city hall in a flying saucer probably isn't the best way to get the Mayor to speak with you."
"Got his attention though." I say. "Though you don't need to introduce yourselves. Kid Win, Vista, Clockblocker, Gallant and-" I look at Sophia, "On the tip of my tongue... something starting with an S?" I ask.
"Shadow. Stalker." Sophia growls, "Don't you think we should arrest her anyway? She had to be breaking somelaw, pointing a tinker weapon at city hall and demanding to speak to the person in charge."
"We're not to escalate the situation. If- Robotnik?" Aegis glances at me, and I nod, I already like the sound of it, "-Is willing to leave without a fight, that's what the PRT wants."
"Well, that's what I want too. See you, Wards. Stalker." With that, I pass over both of my Badniks, gathering them up with the magnet, and take off back towards headquarters- and now that I have my Egg Mobile, and am already planning on how to build my Marvelous Mechanical Amusement Park, I think its about time I relocated operations from the sad little abandoned apartment.
I stopped over, had everyone load up into the wagon along with my couch/bed, and then took off into the sky, heading for the boat graveyard.
Technically it was "Lord's Port" but a year or so before I was born the place was already called the boat graveyard. It was one of Dad's favorite topics to rant about, along with the ferry. The whole sea commerce business started going down the drain after the rise of Leviathan. With a loss in business there were protests, some shipping companies tried to hold the place hostage, not letting other people into or out of the bay. Ships got stuck, dockworkers refused to get them unstuck, there was shooting and arresting and all kinds of nonsense. It reached its climax with someone bringing down a huge cargo ship, one bigger than most of the sky scrapers in the city, right on the mouth of the bay.
And now, it seemed, there just wasn't enough manpower to move it, or it'd be too expensive, or a hundred other reasons. No ferry, no shipping business, no entry by sea for a huge portion of the coast, and tons and tons and tons of metal no one was doing anything with!
Something for me to rectify.
I don't remember there being much gang activity down here. Some Merchants, some Empire, some ABB, but it wasn't anyone in particular's territory. I think I read something in the paper about Uber and Leet going down there to test out their tinker-tech occasionally, but I don't think their base was there or anything- and if it was, I'd evict them. I mean, there wasn't actually much there besides lots of partially-sunk rusting ships.
But for me? It was a smorgasbord! All the metal I could want! Glass, seats, steering wheels, instruments, engines, rudders, gears and propellers and plenty of other things.
I found a derelict boat that was almost completely out of the water, where the rust wasn't so bad. I unloaded the Badniks, moved my couch into what I think were the former living quarters- there were two empty bunk-bed frames there, anyway, and set about making a space for myself in the bowels of the ship. Electricity was an issue, but not one that a seagull or two inside an extractor wouldn't fix.
But more than that, I find myself troubled by the sheer scale I'm working with here. The Egg Mobile was the largest thing I've built, and I think it was close to the largest I could build with my current equipment. I needed some heavy-duty stuff if I was going to start building a real headquarters. Not to mention I didn't actually know what went into a proper lab? I could try to reproduce the lab at the Rig that Armsmaster let me use, but I'm not sure if that's the kind of lab I need. Armsmaster worked best with small stuff. His motorcycle the largest machine he's built, I think.
The more I think about it, research is a must. I give the Crabmeats the order to blast away one of the smaller boats, and enjoy the view as they riddle it with holes, making it into only so much scrap metal. Taking my toolbox to the raw metal, I begin the process of making myself a computer. If I can create a handful of sentient beings with less, I can create a simple operating system. I opened up a section of the Egg Mobile's dashboard and connected the processors to the Mobile's power, then built a little antenna for internet connectivity.
With that, I turn to the hive of genuine scum and pretend villainy that was Parahumans Online. I browsed quite a bit before I actually triggered, daydreaming about what I'd do if I woke up one day the next Alexandria. How naive, how foolish, I was back then. But after trying out being a Tinker, I wouldn't want to be anything else. If I ever felt the strange need to fly around under my own power and punch things, I could just build an Alexandria robot and transmit the copy's sensations to my brain! Ah, but that was for another day.
I consider going to my old account, but I think a new one was necessary.
I always have wanted one of those little <Verified Cape> things next to my name.
Spending some time prowling the internet, looking up the more local Capes and activity, I think what I'm looking for might actually be with the Merchants. I knew Skidmark as the leader of the gang, and was vaguely aware his girlfriend was a Cape as well. Squealer was a Tinker as well, and one with a specialty for gigantic vehicles. Huge, monstrous, ridiculous trucks. Most were simply reinforced, with weapons attached to them. But others were more clever. Explosive-launching, flying, wall-crawling. They tended not to last very long, but if I want to see what kind of lab I want, her place might be the one to check out.
Maybe I can bust up some merchants while I'm at it.
I do some quick work with some rubber and bit of my own hair- It was getting a bit long anyway -and make a better, bigger, fake nose, and a far more impressive fake mustache. I even put a small switch and a little radio inside it! If I tweak my nose just the right way, I can contact my minions without anyone being the wiser! That done, I'm ready to head out into the world.
Time to fight some crime and plagiarize off one of my fellow Tinkers.
I leave Moto Bug and Crabmeat One behind at the boat graveyard to guard my stuff, and then set out with Three and Four at my side to find Squealer.
The Merchants aren't considered to be as big a threat as the Azn Bad Boys and the Empire Eighty-Eight, and I can understand why. Lung is a hardy bastard who could fight an Endbringer by himself, Oni Lee was a teleporting assassin making the ABB pretty much untouchable. The E88 on the other hand mostly relied on numbers. They had over a dozen Capes, and the majority of them had extremely lethal or powerful abilities. Compared to those two, the Archer's Bridge Merchants were small-time. Skidmark had a useful ability that let him push things within a certain area, Mush was a garbage golem, and of course there was Squealer, who was about mid-level when it came to Tinkers.
But still, they had a following, and tended to keep out of trouble with the Protectorate and the other gangs, besides the occasional minor robbery and dealing and taking illegal drugs, they didn't do much. It was why no one had bothered to wipe them out. They were also based a bit too close to the docks for my liking. If they decided to expand, they'd be doing it into the grounds reserved for my park. Grinning, I flew into the merchant-run streets, and followed the gang signs.
Merchants spotting me usually turned and ran, only one trying to shoot me. Luckily, the Egg Mobile was a crack shot, releasing a Chaos energy packet at high speed and vaporizing the bullet mid-air. Patting my ride affectionately, I chased the armed one, who began screaming for back up.
With a little quick thinking, I had the Egg Mobile's magnet begin dragging scrap metal behind us, and flinging it to deflect incoming bullets. The Egg Mobile was sturdy, but I only had access to materials of so much quality when building it. A bullet might puncture the outer hull and damaging something delicate inside. I knew for a fact that if the underside of the Egg Mobile were to be repeatedly jostled by something moving fast enough and hitting hard enough that the entire thing might well begin to overheat and lost control of the magnets entirely. That, and I, personally, was not bulletproof. Another thing to add to the pile, I suppose.
I push into the heart of Merchant territory, and its not long before I hear a rumbling growl behind me. Slowly building up bigger and bigger, the form of Mush made itself known as he began wading through the non-Cape Merchants to get to me.
"Whau- AAAAGGH!" the Egg Mobile's CEP launcher took out a huge chunk of Mush's golem body, sending melted and burning trash flying. The fused debris apparently can't be manipulated as well as the smaller pieces, so he is forced to shed even more of his body before coming forward.
Three and Four open their claws, and their own smaller shots are flung into the fray, knocking him back, sending pieces of him flying. I smile evilly as Mush turns tail and begins to slither away, oozing with melted plastic and losing more and more parts by the second. I consider chasing him, but I don't care much. He's just a follower anyway, Skidmark and Squealer, those two are the real targets. It's not like any other gang in the city would be willing to take him in, and he can't do much damage on his own without the Protectorate coming down hard on him.
At this point, it seems I finally earned the attentions of my two targets. I hear the rumbling of a truck and I can practically smell the gasoline being boiled and guzzled by the inefficient monstrosity she brings to bear. The thing comes screaming down the street, accelerated by Skidmark's power- a glowing rainbow design stretched across a part of the road.
"You'll regret messing with us bitch!" I hear a male voice scream from inside, followed by a nearly deafening fog-horn. The truck seems normal, more-or-less, until you realize that every single tire was adorned with steel studs. The road behind them was practically undrivable as they tore down towards me. It's not really suited towards fighting me, but I suppose she just grabbed whatever was available. I hit the elevation switch and dart up into the air, letting the thing pass below me. I activated the magnet, and the Egg Mobile shredded the roof from the truck as it dashed by.
I turn the Egg Mobile to keep my eye on them, and I'm pleasantly surprised when the truck, rather than slamming into a building it couldn't have possibly slowed down enough to swerve around, instead climbed it. The front of the truck rose up in a way remniscent of a catterpillar reaching for a leaf above it, and studded wheels met wall. The acceleration alone pushed the truck upwards further, and I heard a female cackling laugh as the thing swerved. She began driving along the fronts of the dilapidated apartment buildings of the street, aiming to ram me again. In a relatively cramped street like this, her vehicle was surprisingly mobile.
But I was more mobile.
Better yet, I had more weapons at my disposal. Turning the Egg Mobile, I fire a CEP into the wall of a building in front of them, ripping open the wall in a burst of crackling green light. Unable to swerve in time, the truck dips into the vertical pothole, and is sent off-kilter. The front of the truck, now lower than the back wheels, dug further into the wall, and the caterpillar-esque ability to bend worked against it, sending the whole machine into a kind of loop that smashed itself against the wall. The wheels lost contact, and the entire thing fell to the street, bringing the building down with it.
"Ohohoho!" I laugh, hovering lower to them, "Good show! Good show!" the magnet takes hold, and while the entire thing is a bit more than the Egg Mobile can straight-up lift into the air, I can at least tug it in the right direction and convince the Egg Mobile to play around with the insides of the Tinker truck. Try to get its wheels spinning at least so it could dig itself out of the pile.
Freeing the truck enough to my satisfaction, I have the Egg Mobile shred the metal frame of the truck's cockpit, prying it open. As a result, both Skidmark and Squealer are sent flying by some kind of ejection seat.
Skidmark creates another of his glowing acceleration zones as he hits the tar, allowing both to slide a bit instead of scraping when they land.
"What the fuck?" he barked, "What the hell did you do? What do you want? You think you can just come here into my territory and throw your ass around you mustached fuck?!"
"Ohohoho! I think I've done exactly that!" I throw my hands into the air, "I think I in fact have you at my mercy!"
"No you don't." he said, grinning, and in the next moments his zone disappears, only for a new one to expand across the road in front of him, under me-
Up, up, up- no! To the side, I need to-
The glow changed color, and the Egg Mobile was sent spinning through the air. "Damn it!" I hit the gas and have the hovercraft swerve hard to avoid being sent into the wall of another building. I didn't know that he could affect things in the air above his zone!
Luckily, it seemed he couldn't expand it after already setting it down. Now that I shifted out of the zone, I aimed the CEP at the ground in front of their feet and fired. The two were caught in the shockwave, but not the burst of energy itself. The two were sent sprawling, and I quickly lowered close to the ground. "Three, Skidmark! Four, Squealer!" I ordered, "Claws around the wrists!"
The Crabmeats fling themselves from the Egg Mobile's cockpits, skittering across the scarred road, and shoving both villains onto their sides. Crabmeats secured their claws around their wrists, and I climbed out of my vehicle, grabbing Squealer and hauling her to her feet.
"Lemme go, asshole!" she growled.
"Do you want to know what's locked around your wrist?" Crabmeat Four goes a step further, his metal legs gripping Squealer's back, "I call them Crabmeats, cause they look like cute little crabs. But another name I considered was 'Shellblaster' or something like that. Inside their claws are weapons just like the one I used to blow open a hole in that building. Less powerful, of course, but at this range... a tinker ain't worth anything without her hands, no?"
"What the hell do you want?" Skidmark muttered, "Money? Territory?"
"Oh! I should grab everything you have, shouldn't I! But no, in this case I'm here because I'm a Tinker, but I'm woefully uninformed. I don't even have a lab. These creations, while brilliant, are but shadows before what I will make in the future." I say, "But to do that, I need to see what kind of equipment you have."
"You want to steal my lab?!"
"Perhaps. Mostly I just want to see it. The fact that taking out the two of you will make this city a better place is just a bonus."
"Look, you don't know what you're talking about." Skidmark begins, "Without a proper leader, the Merchants'll just run ragged, you know? Do you want the Empire to control another quarter of this damn city, huh? I'm a stabilizing influence, is what I am!"
"I am! Besides- I can't go to jail again, I'm already down my three strikes, you send me to the Protectorate assholes, I'm birdcaged. You want to do that to me, bitch, you want that shit on your conscience?"
"Skid's a good guy, really!" Squealer says, "Look, if you let us go, I'll show you my lab, you take whatever shit you want. We forget this bullshit ever happened, I mean, for god's sake, you're just a kid, you can't do that to a guy, can you?"
I look between the two, and give their words the consideration they're due.