Log Title: Mask Off
Summary: Royal and Naoko track down DJ Shatterstack
IC Date: Thu Mar 21 19:55, 2381
OOC Date: Thu Mar 21 19:55, 2019
Related Logs: None



"Bollocks. Wing tips are horrid for foot chases."

* * *

The assignment of Naoko to the Longbow Taskforce was completely without ceremony. In fact, it was quite literally a throwaway line from Tanaka as they left the Panama Rose, then a sudden dump of files into her digital inbox on her next shift. What a great honour - a whole bunch of extra work for a Meth, when there's a bucketload of organic damage cases waiting to be solved with regular people.

Add to that, Tanaka gave her the order to cooperate fully with one Dante Taylor, aka Royal, aka a ponce in a suit playing private investigator.

She's been asked to meet said ponce in the Neon District, in an area known for black market and off-brand electronics. The police have a lead on DJ Shatterstack - the masked DJ who inspired a cadre of followers at Club Charon. She appeared shortly after approximately 200 hackers and techs received a threat in the form of a shattered stack on a chain on their doors and in their mailboxes. Because humans are macabre, several copycats sprung up, along with the DJ herself. She disappeared from her set at the club a few weeks ago, and the police have been trying to track her down ever since.

It's pretty easy to spot the man she's there to meet. Royal is far too well-dressed to be this close to the ground. He's wearing a neat black suit with a salmon pink pocket square, and brown wingtips. Over that is a double-breasted wool coat that he wears open, and he's wearing black leather gloves.

* * *

"No wonder they call you Royal," Naoko quips as she approaches his side. She sips from a throwaway cup of coffee. "You're dressed like you're still trying to be one."

One would presume entering the sort of life he has, he's given up any claim. Or any intention on it, at least. Playing investigator was a far cry away from playing prince.

Then again, playing cop was supposed to be a far cry away from helping occasionally criminals, too.

Sip ended too soon from either a scalding thought or the liquid itself, Naoko only blinks as she half-turns her head toward Royal, offering out her right hand for a shake. "Lieutenant Perez, BCPD."

* * *

"I am still one, last I checked. Hello. Dante Taylor, Duke of Cumberland. And also, private investigator," he sounds about as fancy as he's dressed. He shakes her hand. "But you can call me Royal." His ONI information is broadcasting the basics, which indicates yes, he is indeed still a Duke, and also a member of the Guild of Professional Private Investigators at a rank of 1 - which is the bottom rung.

"So. You're probably wondering why you're saddled with me, ay? Well, I've friends in the club circuit and a manager told me that a masked DJ with long nails had been trying to book a gig at her place. They're finishing their interview presently. If all goes well, you and I will be able to intercept and investigate our mystery spinner."

* * *

"So I've arrived just in time." Naoko deduces with what could pass for joyful enthusiasm were it not for the permanent dryness to her voice. She gives a slight shake of her head, looking ahead to the establishment he's facing them toward.

"On a more serious note, I don't doubt for a moment combining the number of doors you can open with the doors I can open won't be helpful in the long run." The remark is said lightly enough, swirling the coffee in her cup. "As … interesting as this arrangement might be." Hardly a beat passes before she shifts gears, "They planning on passing you any information as it comes up in their interview, or are we starting from scratch?"

* * *

"Yes, this is…when we agreed to meet, wasn't it?" Royal's ONI flickers, suggesting he's checking the time. Then he smiles a bit awkwardly.

"Well, I suppose that depends," he says in response to her question about information. "If this is indeed our DJ, then my friend would be happy to cooperate with the investigation. But if it isn't, or if we can't confirm that it is indeed her, well, my friend may be less inclined."

* * *

The forced attempt at humor has gone poorly, but Naoko remains unshaken. Her eyes stay focused on the club in particular, even if she turns her head just slightly toward Royal. "Do you have an idea how long this meeting of their should likely take?" And just for a moment, her gaze does flick in his direction. "How long before we should become concerned?" Given the subject matter of the case, she's not inclined to leave it to chance that the DJ could slip away… assuming it was the one they were looking for.

* * *

"I asked my friend to keep the interview going until half-past to make sure we would be in place before it ended. I haven't heard from my friend, so I don't think we've missed her." Royal positions himself just around the corner from the glowing neon sign that indicates a club called Vinyl. Hard to tell in this district whether that refers to the ancient recording medium, or what a lot of counterculture clothes are made out of.

It's a narrow entrance and looks like it goes down a staircase to the no doubt dark, sweaty, packed dance floor below. It will be hours yet before anyone starts lining up, and the block itself is relatively quiet. Down here on the ground though, it's almost perpetually hazy-dark, if not completely dark save for the neon glow.

There's movement from the stairway as a figure emerges. It's a curvy woman in a black tank top, a silver bomber jacket and ankle cropped pants. Her hands are dug in her pocket. The oddest part is that she's wearing a scatter mask - a device that shifts different patterns and pieces of faces in order to throw off facial recognition.

"I can't be certain that's her. The club was dark," he murmurs to Naoko. "And her hands in her pockets so I can't see the nails."

* * *

She's picked up that Royal must have seen this woman in person previously, but she doesn't appear confident he'll make a positive ID given the description. A woman's nails could change easily. "It's a woman walking out of a club that's closed, what more do you want?" And not to mention… the mask. "If that wasn't clue enough, deliberately masking her identity ought to be." Naoko doesn't bother with a last sip of her drink, she's already on the move, tossing the cup into the trashbin stationed just by the corner. Thankfully, it hits the rim and falls right in.

She looks over her shoulder back at him, brow ticking upward. "Are you coming or no?" Because she's heading that way regardless.

* * *

"Usually I'm the one charging into situations," says Royal as he ends up only a half a step or two behind Naoko. The tall, well-dressed man falls into step behind Naoko. It seems he's going to let her take the lead.

The masked woman doesn't look like she realizes she's being approached, She starts to walk casually down the street, hands still deep in her pockets.

* * *

Naoko tips her head to the side, biting back an amused comment under a short exhale as he falls in with her. She's a little straightforward when it comes to active investigations: chase your leads, and nail them down when you find them before someone else does it for you. As a result, her eyes are locked on the woman's form as she makes her way down the block, ONI flashing as she pings a request to track the woman.

The scatter mask can only do so much when she's broadcasting what the rest of her looks like in the request. Or at least, that's the excuse she'll use later when cursing out her tech lead if somehow the masked woman manages to slip away.

Her steps are light but quick, intending to make up the difference between them. Once she's only a few yards away, her voice lilts politely away from her. "Excuse me?" she asks, like she's trying to let the woman know she's dropped something instead of trying to get her to stop for some questioning.

* * *

"I don't want any," says the woman as she casts a look over her shoulders and starts walking more quickly and purposefully away from the two of them.
"Well, good, because we're not selling anything. We're just looking to have a word." Royal continues in step just behind Naoko. "We're big fans. You played Club Charon the other night, didn't you?"

The woman makes a huffing sound and then her movement away turns more purposfully trying to avoid them. She turns a corner, then breaks into a run a step or two later. She's bolting towards an open air market.

* * *

"Great," Naoko mutters, not at all derisively. If she's taking off at the mention of the club, all the better for them. Her footfalls are heavier as she heads for the corner … and when she sees the sprinting form taking off for the market, she does her best to memorize the clothing she wears, the shape of her body. Her shoes, in particular, the hardest part about her to change on the fly.

If she hits that market and takes off the mask as an attempt to blend in, Naoko would need to remember every detail she could.

"Hope you're good on your feet," is all she says before taking off after her, arms pumping by her side.

* * *

"Bollocks," mutters Royal. "Wing tips are horrid for foot chases." And so are well-tailored pants, but he's going to give it a go. Fortunately, he's got long legs to make up for it.

The densely packed market is full of crowded, ramshackle booths. It's a market of both legitimate and illegitimate goods, which means many of them are meant to be broken down in a hurry. That means they're also not laid out with any particular care, which makes it a rabbit's warren. The woman knew just where to bolt to, so she must know the neighbourhood. Naoko does get a lock on her with her ONI, which means even if she loses sight of her for a moment, it will track. Most, but not all the patrons of the market are broadcasting their basic ONI information. Their quarry, quite obviously, is not - which makes it a bit easier to keep a fix on her, ironically.

* * *

With that small advantage, however slight, she's able to focus on optimizing the best path through the area rather than keeping her eyes constantly glued on the woman's figure. It lets her cut corners — leaping over goods spread out on a blanket instead of going around the setup entirely. She twists her slender form sideways to help her dart between passerby. The last thing she wants to do is draw too much attention to herself, cause a panic where other ONI might flicker out of sight.

God, she hopes she and Royal are on the same page there.

* * *

"Scuse me, pardon me! Oh, those look like lovely melons. Pardon, sorry..sorry…" Royal's starting to fall behind, because well, he's not a cop, and he's not been in the PI game very long. He's really more of an investigator than the type to chase down a suspect. As evidenced by the conversations he's having with people as he jostles by instead of just barreling through.

The DJ is not as fast as Naoko even if she knows the ground better. She's only a few feet behind as the woman barrels down an alleyway. But when Naoko rounds the corner, she'll hear the familiar whine of a Sunjet powering up. The woman in the scatter mask holds the weapon up, long nailed finger hovering over the trigger, face scattered by the hood. She's breathing heavily.

* * *

Fast as she is, she's being put through her paces as well. When Naoko's hands climb in the air by her side as she looks the scattermask down, her chest heaves and her coat sways with each breath as it hangs with her arms. There's the traces of a grin on her face as she shakes her head, taking in an extra-deep breath so she sounds confident and calm as she tells the woman, "Just want to chat." As usual, her badge is clipped to the belt of her slacks, gleaming dimly in whatever light is diffused down the alley.

"You're jumpy — you think you could be in danger — I could help." Naoko ends the assertion with an involuntary sighlike sound from the deep breath she takes in. "Just want to chat, so I can." she repeats for emphasis.

* * *

The DJ keeps the quivering muzzle of the Sunjet fixed on Naoko. Her exhalations puffs out and pulls in the scattermask. It's easy to imagine her eyes wide and afraid beyond the thin fabric. "I talk to a fucking cop and they'll fucking kill me." There's clearly enough light in the alleyway for her to make out the badge.

After all the apologies, and all the fumbling, and a bit of slipping in cooking grease, Royal finally makes it past the alley. He darts around the corner and skids a bit forward.

What happens next happens in a kind of slow motion. There's a twitch from the DJ at the flicker of movement, and a swing of her weapon from Naoko to the tall figure that comes running onto the scene. Her finger, which was not trigger-disciplined along the body of the weapon, twitches, which fires a blast of energy that shoots through the air with a blaze of light that gives the weapon its name. It strikes Royal in the shoulder with enough force to spin him and drop him bodily to the ground.

* * *

Naoko can hear Royal before she sees him, and she barely sees him out of the corner of her eye before the woman in the scattermask reacts. There's not enough time to speak to stop her, not even enough time to put herself in the way of the shot.

There is, however, enough time for Naoko to draw her sidearm. It's crisp, well-practiced, and she stands with squared shoulders as she fires twice dead center at the DJ.

The zip of the shots as they fly end in a crackle, a burst of stored electric charge dispersing over the woman's body thanks to the stunrounds fired. Less concerned about Royal being dragged off than the woman, Naoko wastes no time in rushing over to the DJ's form as she crumples, kicking her weapon away. Should she look up at the gun being pointed down at her, she'll see an indicator light on its side has shifted from yellow to red. Live rounds now.

"I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist now." Naoko informs her deadpan. If the woman isn't still in a jittered shock, she'll order her: "Mask off."

* * *

The DJ is clearly not trained with the weapon, nor does she have neurachem, because she's not able to re-aim her weapon before Naoko shoots her with stunrounds. She convulses and drops to her knees, losing grip on her Sunjet that drops by the cop's feet. She continues to convulse on the ground, hands quaking as the hooded head looks up at the indicator light on the side of the weapon. One hand lifts, then the other pulls off the hood.

The woman beneath has medium-length, tightly curled dark hair, warm skin and makeup that was once impeccable. It's now streaked with either watery eyes from the taser or tears of fear and adrenaline. Once the hood is off, Naoko can force a police override to turn on her basic ONI information. The readout lists her as Michelle Gaines, no criminal record, which is actually odd for a Grounder. Most people who live on the Ground have a petty theft or a minor violation or two on their record. It's a way to survive. Her address is listed only a few blocks from the market, which explains how she knows the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, Royal is lying on the alleyway, a hole burnt right through his jacket and into his shoulder. He rolls over onto his back and blood pools along his arm. His ONI flickers, but not by his own doing. A priority ambulance is automatically called when his vitals indicate injury. Unlike many in Bay City, he's going to receive prompt care. Even the middle class tend to bleed out and replace their sleeves rather than get rushed to the hospital.

* * *

Well, her record won't be clean much longer. "BCPD, you're under arrest for organic damage." is as much as Naoko says before rolling Michelle onto her back, handcuffing her shaking hands together. She gets the woman into a sitting position and against the wall even while her ONI flashes. She's disciplined, filing the correct codes with subvocal commands as she sets the DJ aside.

Shots fired. Organic damage. Medical support required. Suspect detained. Requesting patrolcar.

Naoko's finally got the wind back in her when she turns to Royal. Already, she can hear the sound of the ambulance, which brings a furrow to her brow. His status dawns on her only a moment later, tension slacking in her shoulders before she rushes over to his side finally. Fuck. She'd let a royal get shot.

"First time we meet and it's going to cause an international fucking crisis. You're a piece of work, Taylor." Naoko curses at him as she crouches by his side. She's not much of a medic, but she knows the basic rule: keep pressure on a wound. Her jacket's swung off, white blouse pulled up over her head instead of fussing with anything but the top button. She stands in a dark undershirt as she presses her balled shirt into his wound, eyes darting to his. "You stay awake or I'm not giving you access to those case files, damn what anyone else says." Like her boss, for instance.

She might be serious, or it might just be her bedside manner.

* * *

Royal laughs. It's definitely an 'I'm going into shock' laugh and not 'you're so funny, Naoko' (sorry.) "I really liked this suit." He tries to move, but her pressure on the wound and the sudden shoot of pain makes him flop back down. "Ah, god, I really thought this day couldn't possibly…" he grunts. "Ahhhh bloody hell." The Sunjet doesn't have its name just because of the pretty flare. There's burned flesh around the wound, which actually cauterized it a bit in some places and made it worse in others.

The ambulance beats the patrol car there. It's sleek and shiny, clearly dropped from the higher levels, falling like a stone into a dark lake until it touches the ground. Efficient, white-uniformed men and women - four in total, emerge with a gurney.

A patrol car that looks far more worn than the ambulance lands a few minutes later, with a pair of beat cops. It won't be long before there's a detective - perhaps Tanaka himself, to secure the scene. It says something about the neighbourhood that it's the arrival of the sleek ambulance and not the shots fired that draws the attention of the night marked residents.

Meanwhile, Michelle slumps against the wall, tears still streaming down her face. She smacks her head back against the wall and struggles a moment, but then gives up and sits there, dejected.

* * *

"Well, live through it, so you buy another." Naoko's glib advice is spoken without attempting to disguise just how nasty she thought the shot to his shoulder was. Just a few more inches off, and well…

The rush of the ambulance draws her attention up, even as she keeps her now-red shirt pressed firmly into the wound. She has no argument for them when they come to collect their quarry — they look every bit as official as she'd expect. She takes a step back from him, her palms pink. She has half a mind to wipe them against her slacks, and ends up swiping them across her abdomen anyway.

It's looking back at Michelle that gives her any consolation about the way the evening's went. They've definitely got the girl who calls herself DJ Shatterstack.

What stories will she tell once they get her back to the precinct?