Lao really hated sleeping in cities. It wasn't because he disliked cities, as you might assume by the fact that he normally spent most of his time in the wilderness. No, Lao hated trying to sleep in the city for one simple reason: He wasn't allowed to pitch his tent anywhere. It was ridiculous, honestly. Most nights that Lao found himself unfortunately bedding down in town, he found himself forced to sleep on some freezing park bench, or similar. It was more than a little degrading, and more than once he had been woken by irritated police officers trying to run him off. (Not that they could actually stop him, mind you.)
But what was a guy to do? You gotta sleep, and sometimes you just don't have time to travel outside the city limits. And so, Lao found himself risking back pain on yet another public bench. It was good that he could keep himself warm with his ki, or he'd probably freeze to death. Lao wasn't exactly dressed warm, in his raggedy martial arts gi and no shoes. But he found himself unable to sleep all the same. He would have passed the time by laying back and gazing at the stars, but you couldn't even see the stars out here in the city. "... This sucks."
REST YOUR HEAD Pepper's PL: 12 | Ursa's PL: 36,000 | Items: None
It was the third day of her school break, and Pepper was utilizing the free time to its' greatest extent. Where normally she'd probably be asleep at this time to get her usual seven hours of sleep, opportunities had presented themselves in the midst of working on another garage product. Of course, her supplies were limited, and in a moment of frustration some important materials had run out amidst her spark of inspiration of creation. Nothing that a trip to a twenty-four-hour HARDWARE SHOP couldn't fix! She was a regular here, anyways... though that was during the day where most people were awake, not the night where mostly weirdos and half-awake deadline stricken students were going. Desperate times called for desperate measures, however, and with a look of tired determination Pepper exited the shop with two admittedly very heavy bags on each hand, both laden with various pieces of metal, wires, solder, and whole nine yards.
The weather in Satan City was still rather chilly this time of year, so there weren't many other people out and about besides a car or two passing by on occasion. Pepper herself was bundled up in a coat, scarf, and muffs... given that she was still pretty normal and couldn't just ignore environmental factors as all the super-strong people could. Which made it all the more worrying that she stumbled upon the sight of a man lying on a bench in tattered clothes. Homelessness was nowhere near as big a problem in modern society as it had been in the past, but that didn't mean it had been completely eradicated. "Hrmf!" Come her initially muffled voice, before Pepper fumbled with a few buttons to let her mouth pop out. "Hey!" She tried again. "It's pretty cold out here tonight, mister, I dunno if sleeping there would be the best idea."
Lao was a little startled to hear a voice call out to him from nearby. He hadn't even noticed them approach. Now who could be out at this time of night? As he sat up from his position huddled on the bench, Lao was mildly surprised to behold a teenage girl, all bundled up in warm clothes. Now that she mentioned it, it was pretty cold tonight. He had been keeping warm with ki, so he hadn't really noticed. But he was surprised that she approached him at all, most people on the street tended to avoid Lao, mistaking him for a homeless person. Which... technically, he was, thinking about it. He didn't usually think of his life in those terms, having chosen this lifestyle for himself, but the reality of the situation didn't much care for his justifications. The fact that he occasionally had to sleep on a bench didn't help matters.
Roused from his introspection by the need to explain himself, Lao stood up from his bench and regarded the girl in front of him. "Ahh, don't worry about me, lady. I can keep warm just fine, like this." As a way of explaining, Lao allowed his ki to flow forth from his body, surrounding himself with a bright, pure-white aura of flame-like energy. "Just as good as a warm blanket. No, really, I'll be fine. I appreciate the concern, though." As he let his aura die down, Lao scratched the back of his head awkwardly. He wasn't really used to the attention, and was a little embarrassed that this girl was worried for him. Hopefully she was satisfied with his little demonstration.
Last Edit: Mar 26, 2020 16:37:24 GMT -6 by Lao: typos
"Oh, ki. Neat." Pepper noted, craning her head a bit. While it was a completely mundane subject to her by now, Lao might be surprised by this seemingly random girl's nonchalance about the surge of energy he had just sent forth, especially since Pepper clearly couldn't or wouldn't do the same thanks to her choice in clothing. "Still though, that doesn't exactly look like the most comfortable place to be resting. I tried sleeping on a bench once for completely unrelated reasons to yours, probably, and oh boy it was not a fun ride." Arms beginning to wobble under the weight of her purchases, Pepper huffed and set them down on the sidewalk. "Trying to haul bags of metal halfway across town is not a fun ride either, and I highly recommend that you don't do it. ...Well, you probably could, given that I'd assume your strength is increased due to your ki too, but still, who does that kind of thing for fun?"
A moment of silence passed before a literal lightbulb almost materialized straight above the girl's head. "I got an idea. How about you help me carry this stuff to my garage and in return, I'll make you like, a small lil' portable house thing for you. Probably better than any tents or stuff you'd have and for the most part, people won't even bat an eye. I mean, if a building is somewhere it's obviously supposed to be there right?" Though, the thought struck her that it may seem weird to casually invite a bench dweller over to one's own house. "Alternatively, the Crop Co. building isn't too far from here and probably has the stuff I'd need to make this happen anyway, and we'd both be safe because not only is it like a trusted company, but they have bits and bots and security cams everywhere." Yeah, that sounded a lot less suspicious in general. "I'll have to move my stuff later..." She grumbled silently. That'd be OK though since this would be her first foray into capsule shrinking tech, which would later become vital in designing URSA's suit form.
Ah, okay, she already knows about ki. Nice, that saves me an explanation. Lao was pretty relieved, to be honest. He didn't fully understand how ki really worked himself, so he was a little lost trying to explain it. "Yeah, it's not exactly my choice of bed either... but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, y'know? He was a little taken aback by her offer to "make him a portable house" in exchange for carrying what appeared to be bags full of scrap metal. But Lao's ears really perked up at the mention of Crop Co. "Crop Co, huh? You work there? Small world..." It felt like a lifetime ago, but Lao had worked at Crop Co, before he left it all behind to pursue martial arts... he remembered it as a pretty thankless, soul-sucking job, but Lao had just been a corporate peon at the time. But if the girl had access to the labs, then she might really be able to deliver on that offer of a "portable house"... Who was this girl, anyway?
Lao decided it was probably worth the trouble, and it's not like he had anything better to do at the moment anyway. And if there was anything Lao was capable of, it was carrying stuff. Stepping over to the containers of parts- junk, to Lao's eyes, but he wasn't technically inclined- he lifted them with apparently effortless ease. Evidently, Pepper was right to assume Lao's strength had been enhanced. He approached the girl, supplies in hand, ready to follow her to wherever they were going. "Say, what's your name, anyhow? I'm Lao."
"Nice," Pepper said as Lao hoisted the supplies up easily. "My arms were killing me!" As if it demonstrates, she rolled one around for a moment. "Anyways, yeah, I work there part-time currently while I'm trying to wrap up with the tail end of school." That in addition to many, many other things that Pepper would rather not get into with a stranger at the moment. "It isn't just charity either! I'm getting the chance to actively test capsule tech and get feedback from someone who will presumably use it a bunch. If you don't mind, text- er, or, write a letter or something about the results so I can fix anything that goes wrong. Worst case scenario is that it implodes, but even with you in it, you'd feel a slight stinging across your body." The research and groundwork here would be vital to perfecting her self-named 'Armor-lock' technique for the Plexbot upgrade to Ursa she'd get around to one day.
"Pepper!" She responded after Lao's own introduction, leading the taller man towards the industrial district. "So anyway, I was thinking something basic for it. After all, you'll be on the move a lot in all sorts of places, so I need to prepare for the weather, uneven terrain, climate, all that sort of stuff. Probably just like a basic capsule house but fortified for traveling." It was at least an interesting thought excercise, and one that better suited her for future work in the world's current leading enterprise in technology and aid relief... that she'd hopefully continue her tenure at after graduation. "Here we are." She stated, rustling in her jacket before pulling out a keycard and swiping it. A secretary at the front looked up, eyebrow-raising in a silent question as Lao and Pepper entered. "I'm just gonna be using one of the side shops for a bit, he's helping move some stuff across!" Pepper elbowed Lao, though it probably didn't feel like much. "Get a guest pass so they don't think you're trespassing."
So she's working there part-time as a student? That explains things. Lao had thought she looked a little young to be a full-timer. Still, it was pretty impressive that she apparently impressed somebody enough to get a sweet gig like that right outta school. Pepper must be quite the technician, despite her age. Well, looks can be deceiving, after all. "Well, it's nice ta meetcha, Pepper. So... I'm basically signin' up to be yer guinea pig?" Lao accompanied the remark with a smirk, but continued. "Not that I'm complainin'. Sleepin' in a tent the last three years really did a number on my back, y'know? All the trainin' in the world can't prepare ya for uncomfortable sleepin' conditions." It wasn't as though Lao hadn't considered purchasing a capsule house himself in the past, but the cost had always been a bit out of his league, especially with no steady source of income. Getting one for free, even a slightly experimental version, was a hell of a deal in Lao's eyes. As they approached their destination, Lao couldn't help but get the sweats a little. This wasn't even close to the same place he had worked, so it's not like there was any chance of anybody recognizing him. Still, seeing the place that was his last connection to the life he had thrown away was a bit of a tense experience.
Entering a Crop Co branch was pretty surreal for Lao. Even halfway across the world, the clean, modern look was unmistakable. He spent a few moments just taking in the atmosphere before being shocked back to reality by Pepper nudging him. "Huh? Oh- right, yeah. Hold on a sec." After a short, awkward conversation with the person at the desk, Lao returned with a shiny new guest pass pinned to the front of his gi. "Alright, good to go. Where we headed?"
"Just one of the smaller prefab shops," Pepper said idly, strolling down the immaculate and white-lit halls with expertise. "It shouldn't be terribly hard to just get a basic house set up, though future modifications and intricate stuff you might wanna attach is going to have to be custom-built into the foundation, meaning it'd have to be taken to a specialty bench." Capsule tech was a staple nowadays in any industry that even remotely dabbled in compact or mobile goods and services, given the cost and ease of implementing it. Figuring out how the basis worked so she could apply it to a sentient robot and specifically form a suit over a literal capsule would be the challenging part of this experiment, but hopefully building an abode from the ground up would give Pepper plenty of experience in intimately working with what she had available. Stopping at a door, Pepper glanced up at a light overhead that was currently green.
Lao could see that the walls were transparent but obviously soundproofed, as the two adjacent shops were currently in use by other people, both of which were already hard at work with power tools yet no noise escaped. "Gotta make sure no one was using this one and running to the restroom." Pepper explained, pointing to the light-up top. "That lets you know if someone's checked-in or not." Swiping her card once more, the light switched to a deep red as she held the door open. "Go ahead and set the stuff down on the center table and unpack it so I can sort the stuff. I'm gonna run and get some capsule tech from the parts storage so we can actually make this whole thing work. Don't leave or the door will lock you out since you don't have a card and guest passes don't let you enter or occupy employee workshops."
Lao didn't really understand what exactly she was talking about, but it seemed as though this would be a pretty simple job for the industrious Pepper. As she went on about the procedures down in the labs, Lao waved a hand dismissively. "Yeah yeah, don't worry, I know how this works. Just do yer thing." Lao had never worked down in the labs at his old office, but he had spent more than enough time fetching more important people coffee to understand the procedures around here. As Pepper left to get yet more parts, Lao set himself to his extremely important task of... unpacking these bags full of crap.
Rifling through the containers, Lao quickly realized that he actually knew what most of these were. Well, not directly, it's not like he could name any of them. But this wasn't actually so different from the kind of stuff he usually ended up doing at his old job. Sorting parts for technicians who didn't feel like doing it themselves was a pretty routine task for Lao back in the day, so he knew how to lay these out in a way that was organized enough not to get one fired. Finally, his part-unpacking skills would come in handy. Almost working on autopilot, Lao unpacked the bags full of parts and did his best to lay them out in a reasonably organized way. When he was done, Lao was pretty proud of the results. "Well... that should make things at least a little easier to find." Plus, it had killed five minutes Lao would have otherwise just spent staring at the ceiling.
Last Edit: Apr 3, 2020 13:28:39 GMT -6 by Lao: typos