AN: A little more light-hearted than Onyx After, this series is inspired in equal part by reading BlueGreenApples' Cyberpunk!universe fics, specifically her awesome portrayal of Tenten as a and in "Technopath", and by playing some Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction on the PS3. This isn't going to be very epic, or very deep, but I hope it'll be a fun little romp.
And it gives me the chance to outfit Tenten with (among other things) thermonuclear hand grenades, electrified energy whips, isokinetic energy cannons, and disco balls. And that's just the beginning!
"Hand me that hydro-spanner, will you?" came a disembodied voice from underneath a disorderly-looking heap of metallic parts that may have once been (but it would require quite the imagination to see it) a rocket-cyke. The lower body of what seemed to be a human female - save for the long, switch-topped tail wrapped around the waist - protruded from beneath in, laying on the faintly-glowing square surface of a repulsor-sled. A very grubby hand that was attached to an equally grubby arm appeared from the shadows of the disreputable heap of disassembled vehicle parts, palm open.
When no hydro-spanner smacked into the open palm as requested, the hand clenched into a fist, then joined the other in bracing against the edge of the main engine block, tensing, and pushing against it so the repulsor-sled she was laying on slid frictionlessly out from under the cyke.
The upper half of the body was thus revealed: a slim frame in a sleeveless black tunic that matched the color of the baggy, many-pocketed utility pants she was wearing. The clothes, made of self-repairing Xwi'i underarmor, woven from the silken filaments of monstrous spider-webs harvested (at great cost and danger) on the fifth and seventh moons of the planet Xwi'i, were as clean as the golden-toned skin was dirt-oil-and-other-messy-things-smeared, the faint striping characteristic of the Yongbax race invisible underneath.
A face equally smeared with the detritus of mechanical work was further maligned by an uncharacteristic scowl on the incongruously delicate features, over-sized, fuzzy rounded ears that had more than once been compared to Earth animals such as tigers, panthers and bears now pressed flat into her skull with irritation. Large dark eyes were fixed in an irritated glare at a green-and-black warbot floating nearby, observing a Cantillian flutterflie perched on its robotic finger.
"LEE!" she bellowed. "The HYDRO-SPANNER?!"
The warbot jumped, the sudden motion frightening off the shy little insect, as he warbled, "Aye, Tenten - I mean captain! Don't worry! I'll - ooof!" came the most undigital reply as the warbot tripped over a spare crate of ammunition. He toppled, windmilled his long arms, and then caught himself and somersaulted back to his feet in a feat of acrobatics most organics would not have thought robotics capable of.
Tenten watched him in mingled exasperation and affection. When she'd found the old-model warbot (no hover-pods, or rocket packs, or retractable wings, even) she'd initially thought to tear it apart and sell it for scrap metal. Having accidentally activated it, however, she soon found herself unwilling - perhaps even unable - to think of the gregarious robot as something so crass as potential credits. He'd become - overeager, unbearably happy, disgustingly cheerful and unrealistically idealistic thing he was -the closest thing to a friend Tenten had ever had. Although he was an old model, he'd never been activated before, and with nothing in his memory banks his approach to the universe was very like a young child's. She suspected that someone was testing a new AI system in him, because even with all its faults he was closer to true sentience than many advanced robots she'd seen. She'd never seen a warbot get DRUNK, for example.
His unit designation was Rapid Operation Crusher/Killer: Law Enforcement Edition (R.O.C.K: L.E.E ) which was the most ill-fitting name for a robot she'd ever seen. In that he always seemed to move much faster than he ought, and that he went into worried fits whenever she found the need to 'bend' certain laws and regulations, he fit his name. The rest of the time, he was the complete opposite - especially that ridiculous Crusher/Killer part. He was staunchly against unnecessary violence (though, for an older version warbot, he was quite capable of inflicting it if he found it necessary) which most people who knew Tenten found hilarious. He'd even refused Tenten's offers to retro-fit him with more advanced weaponry, stating he would stick to what he knew.
Exasperating thing, Tenten thought as she watched him jog back with a whole toolbox in his arms - but the thought was, as ever, tinged with real fondness.
"Finally," she sighed, grabbing the correct tool from the box Lee offered her, and reimmersing herself in the busy details of modifying a rocket-cyke with a tetra-thruster for that extra kick she needed when running from the Emperor's Taxmen. (A unit more feared than his Imperial Guard.)
Tenten was engaged in a very trying bit of crosswiring when a yell from Lee made her jump and bang her head on the underside of the cyke chassis. Rubbing her hand over her hair, cursing quietly in a particularly obscene patois of galactic trade-tongues that made up the speech of the pirates from the Nudac Asteroid Belt, she crawled out from under the cyke ready to do some damage. Lee, dancing impatiently in palce, saw this, and immeidately held up a large flatvid screen as if in protection.
"Message, Tenten!" he squeaked. "ALPHA-priority message for you on the comm-net!"
Tenten was sufficiently distracted by that news to forego throwing her trusty wrench at Lee's head, like she'd planned to. She pressed her hand against the cool transglass of the flatvid, letting the built-in biometrics system confirm her DNA pattern and release the high-priority message. An ALPHA-priority message? The encryption and security for those things was prohibitively expensive - most people said you were better off sending whatever you wanted to send by personal courier rather than an ALPHA message. She wondered who...
"Well, if it isn't my favorite bounty hunter," greeted a pale blonde Jayd'thi on the screen.
"Ino Yamanaka," Tenten replied in her flattest voice, tail-fur bristling and ears pressed flat against her head until they were almost hidden in her dark hair. "How'd you get this number?"
Ino waved a languid long-fingered hand. "Oh, here and there, darling - here and there. Let's not waste time on such trifles, all right?" She fixed Tenten with a suddenly intense gaze, pupil-less blue eyes like the lenses of a laser. "I've got a job for you."
Immediately Tenten felt her tail bristle even further. Ino Yamanaka was what could be loosely called a 'fixer' - though she, as ever, defied description and classification. She took jobs, gave them out to agents worthy of her trust, or did them herself; she gathered, stole, disseminated and made up information; she was the locus-point of a galaxy-wide web of informants, clients, agents and bounty hunters and if she didn't have a finger in the pie you were interested in, she certainly knew someone who did.
The Jayd'thi, like Tenten, were mostly humanoid in appearance, but their paler, ethereal beauty and their considerable psychic gifts made them seem more like the legends of Light Elves of that race's history. They even had pointed ears.
'And,' Tenten thought, as she gazed at Ino's platinum-and-ivory beauty on the screen, 'I always get very very nervous dealing with them.'
"Tell me, Yongbax," Ino purred, setting her pointed chin on her palm. "You ever heard of the Gladiatorial Fights?"