Logs:Peeping Beeping Creepers
|Peeping Beeping Creepers|
Just a couple of beepers peepin' and creepin'.
<NYC> Grand Street Market - Lower East Side
This neighborhood fixture has stood at the corner of Essex and Grand for a long, long time. Though it has a name and even a proper sign which declares 'GRAND ST MARKET', to much of the neighborhood it is simply the bodega, as though there weren't 10,000 others like it throughout the City. It's open 24/7, but after midnight anyone who isn't a trusted regular has to ask for their purchases through the bulletproof glass service window. Business tends to be slow but steady most weekdays and extremely lively on Saturdays--almost as lively as the trade in community gossip at this underrated social hub.
The long counter extends back from the front door that opens onto the corner. Many of the more expensive small items, such as cigarettes, medications, and electronics, are sequestered there between the old-fashioned cash register and the late-night service window set into the outer wall. Farther along the counter, there is a food prep area that serves up coffee, soup, sandwiches, and a rotating menu of Dominican snacks. Between the end of the food service counter and the back wall, there is mounted a dry, crumbling cork board overflowing with event announcements, ads, and lost pet fliers and a slow but reliable ATM.
Beyond this, the rest of the respectably sized store is crammed with shelves and end caps and refrigerated display cases. It sells prepared foods, produce, groceries, home goods, alcohol, personal care products, toys, over-the-counter medications clothing, and a variety of Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Chinese specialty items. Interspersed with and crowding between these common household necessities are small luxuries and occasional startling whimsies. In addition to the human employees, the shop is staffed by Coquí and Sapo, the resident cats.
Spring has finally decided to be sprung here in the city and eveningtime finds the block lively. A rather skilled drummer keeps up an exuberant beat on a set of plastic buckets on the corner, an argument between two young women at the nearby bus stop looks to be nearly coming to blows (though they're not quite near enough for easy earshot with all the ambient noise, dedicated inspection would find the argument to be over whether or not Boba Fett was a Real Mandalorian), an enormous shaggy sheepdog-looking mutt is lying in the middle of the sidewalk to let a tiny corgi puppy nervously-excitedly greet him. Outside the Grand Street Market there is a usual complement of not-quite-customers come to maaaaybe grab a drink or a lottery ticket. Maybe. Mostly to catch up, gossip, enjoy the pleasant weather.
Slightly aside from the front door of the bodega, the stairs leading down to the basement storeroom are propped open; a steady trickle of people have been coming and going from there, too. Dressed in neatly tailored pinstripe slacks, a deep silvery-grey stand-collar button down, Mongrels vest worn open over top, Shane has perched himself on a railing adjacent to the storeroom door. He's got a cup of coffee in hand, his claws lightly stippling the cardboard heat sleeve. His head tilts just slightly, huge black eyes tipping up towards the sky. He slurps at his coffee loud, nods politely to a young man ushering a very small toddler carefully back up the steep basement steps. "The fuck's a real Mandalorian?" he finally asks.
Peter has *agonized* over the question of whether or not he ought to be wearing a mask, here. More than that: He's agonized over whether or not wondering whether or not he ought to be wearing a mask is, in fact, an incredibly silly thing to agonize over. Eventually, he gave up and went with a slightly over-sized blue collar shirt -- with only one side of it tucked in. The other side dangles over his pitch-black slacks like a wagging tongue.
A small sack-pack is strapped to his back. He's perched atop of the railing opposite Shane's, balancing himself thoughtlessly (and yet somehow, gracefully) on the tips of his toes. Either knee juts out to either side, his head bowed, his eyes firmly atop of the phone he has wedged between either leg. The posture looks equal-parts exhausting and fragile; like he could topple any moment. At Shane's question, Peter responds -- eyes still on the smartphone's screen -- with dramatic faux-reverence: "Mandalorian isn't a race. It's a Creed."
"What?" Shane's brows hike. His gills flutter briefly, and he squinches up an eye -- still tipped skyward. Slurps his coffee again. "So are they more like a space gang or a space religion?" One foot swings, the heel of his neatly polished saddle shoe clicking lightly against the railing. A flake of paint chips off, falls to the sidewalk. "Space cult?" His fingers snap, point. "Space pyramid scheme? I guess these things actually can have a lot of overlap."
"Definitely Space Gang. They're Space Bikers, basically. Instead of motorcycles, they've got, uh..." Peter looks up from his phone, at last; his brow crumples intently as he focuses on Shane's foot and where it clicks against the railing. The chip has spirals of paint running through it; like a preserved fossil record of all the paint-jobs it's gone through across the years. "...rocket-packs," he finishes. He rocks a little backward, to the point where it seems that he's clearly about to fall -- then slingshots forward, again. "Maybe it's a pyramid scheme, too. Like, you recruit more Mandalorians and get paid based on how much of that sweet beskar armor they sell."
"I always thought that Christianity was sort of like a pyramid scheme. Like, you totally get a sweet reward in heaven but only if you recruit more --" Shane has been lifting his cup for another slurp of coffee but this time he lowers it, undrunk. His head turns to the side, eyes locking on a nearby rooftop with a sudden sharply creased frown. There's nothing there -- at least nothing visible, at first. His eyes narrow all the same. His heel clicks at the railing again. "I bet B could make some of that," he switches tracks instead. "Armor shit. If the rest of the world ever starts having. Cons. Again. For, you know. Nerds."
"See, now, when I said that, Aunt May's friend told me that's *Devil-talk*," Peter muses, head slumping back down to examine his phone. His attention seems utterly divorced from any of the going-ons around them; he doesn't even seem to notice Shane's brief pause and glance to the rooftop high above. Some watch-dog he is! "B? What about me? I've *literally* already done that," Peter responds, feigning indignation. The fact that he obstinately refuses to lift his eyes from the phone doesn't help sell it, though. "Don't you --"
A small shiver runs up and down Peter's spine. The phone smoothly slides into his pocket; he's now looking Shane in the eyes, both hands sliding down to grip the railing and steady himself. "-- remember?" Peter finishes, before mangling the pronunciation of a phrase in Vietnamese: << Little danger. >>
"Please do you really expect me to keep your nerdery straight? I don't pay attention to what debauchery y'all get up to in those spaces." Over on the rooftop there's a shift of movement, now. An unnatural many-legged stalking that creeps up to the roof's edge. Positions itself in a corner, tilting one way and then another before rotating its oddly-jointed body slightly downwards toward the bodega. Shane's gills flutter, his eyes narrowing. The next time he lifts his coffee it's for a longer, slower sip, "You know what I remember," he says, oddly light despite the rapid whicker of his gills against his shirt, "is when B just made those cute fluffy little -- chirpy ball robots. Bumbled around. Snuggled each other. Everyone loved those."
Sniff. "I mean actual armor. Not that cosplay stuff." Peter's watching Shane closely, now. Picking up on details; the flutter of those gills, the narrowing of his eyes. Even the direction those eyes glance. Peter doesn't look back at the rooftop himself; he just continues to rock back and forth, still gripping the railing with both hands. At the mention of the snug-bots, Peter's expression tenses, ever-so-slightly; his brow crumples deeper, folding into several worried creases. "Oh. Yeah, right. I remember those things," Peter says. He rolls his shoulders back; the worry-folds smooth out as recognition dawns on him. "You remember how many of 'em he made?" One hand relinquishes its grip -- reaching over to tug at the opposite sleeve, ensuring the slender mechanism underneath is snugly in position.
"She." Shane's correction is automatic and offhand. "There was a small herd of them around our house but she sold them through Mako so I don't know, there's probably a ton just. Out there in the world. Having little robot families. Not too far above their heads a second spindly-legged figure has joined the first; it takes up a position on the side of a the building, very nearly just over the open basement door. Just -- waiting.
Shane's heels stop swinging. They catch on the bar, hooking there as his posture stills. "I mean," he continues, teeth pressed together and gills still fluttering, "they were never as popular as the hoverboards. But cute. -- Evening." This is more cheerful. Abruptly brighter as a young woman hurries by toward the open basement door. The spiders on the buildings rise up taller in unision as she approaches -- sink back lower a moment later, evidently unbothered by this one.
Peter's face darkens into an embarrassed blush at the correction -- but only briefly. Once the young woman arrives, he bobs back to give her extra space to step through -- opting for a polite (but awkward) smile and nod. When the distant spiders rise up... another shiver buzzes through him. Like a little electric bzzzt. Once she's gone, Peter swings forward and leans into the space where she just stepped through.
"I always thought the hoverboards were way cooler," he confesses, before adding: "I'm still kinda surprised she didn't try combining them. Hover-bots. Something like that. Oh, yeah -- that reminds me. Y'ever hear of adverserial image patching?"
"Some of the bots fly? That's like combining them, right. She has little. Drones." Shane shrugs a shoulder. He lowers the coffee cup to his knee, his other leg bouncing. Restless. Jittery. His gills are slowly pressing back down as the bots settle back onto their haunches. "Uh -- probably not? Maybe? Only if one of you nerds has told me about adversarial image patching? I have no idea what that is, though. Does it make robots fly? I'll be more excited if it makes 'em explode."
Peter swings backward, then -- with a roll of his shoulders and a surprisingly elegant twist of his torso -- slings the sack-pack off his back and around to his front. One arm slings beneath it, cradling it. The other hand sinks down into the pack itself, rummaging through the contents: "Kind... of? Explode, I mean. Basically, neural-nets use all sorts of optimizations to achieve fast results. Like, if you make one to sort hats by color? It'll learn to look at the brightest spot on a hat to figure out the color -- rather than the whole hat. 'Cuz that's faster."
Peter continues rummaging. Rummage, rummage. Finally, he comes across whatever it was that he was looking for -- a pink laminated folder. He holds it in his mouth, muffling his voice as he closes the sack-pack and re-slings it behind him: "Ooh ahhhsihahhy, iih..." Once his hands are free, he plucks the folder out of his mouth and opens it, starting over: "So basically, an adversarial image patch..." He opens the folder up. Inside are several pages of *extremely* bright holographic stickers, each consisting of a vivid, psychedelic pattern. "...are -- to use a technical term -- *super-friggin'* bright spots."
Shane finally hops down off the railing. He skirts around the open basement trap door, fetching up against the opposite rail beside Peter and reaching to pluck a page of the stickers. "So this is like robocop-specific makeup. Just explosion for their brains. Put this on and the robots are like, this is why you gotta take humans swimming on the first date." He's wiggling the page absently back and forth, watching light shimmer off the bright swirls of color. His brows dip together, uncertain. "But we don't even know who's gonna show up here, it's not like we can ask all of our clients to --" This sentence cuts off halfway. His eyes start to lift but don't quite make it up; he stops short of actually looking toward the quiescent spiders perched currently motionless on the rooftops. Just watches the shimmering stickers. "They're not here for our clients."
Peter scoots over to give Shane room. The sheet of stickers are easily removed; each sticker has a label beneath it consisting of a series of numbers, intended to classify them via codes referenced on a table somewhere else in the folder. Some are as large as a stamp, some twice as large. "Right. Although, I don't actually -- I mean... if you don't know which neural-net they started with, it's all but impossible to tell what the 'make-up' will make you look like. Just that they'll *see* it." As Shane waggles the page, Peter scoots closer, leaning over the dapperly-dressed shark to examine the images. Prismatic colors swirl across each.
Peter turns back to his own pad, peeling off one of the stickers at random. Stamp-sized. He reaches over for Shane's coffee cup -- brow furrowing: "They -- aren't? Then who?" he asks, even as he affixes the sticker to the cup.
"But we do know. Well, not us, but I mean. We know someone who knows." Shane peels off a sticker of his own, holding it up thoughtfully on the end of a claw. "I don't imagine they are? I mean, they've been here. We've been here. They haven't cared about anyone who's coming or going." His sticker, he places lightly on Peter's cheek. Tips his head to the side, nodding with some satisfaction. "It's not like when the pigs show up just to shut us down or the gestapo roll in from ICE to terrify half our people." Now he does squint back up toward one of the robots, still unmoving where it hangs against the wall. "If I had to guess I'd say Ion or Leo, but Lord fucking knows where either of them are."
"...yeah. I should ask -- I don't know if whoever's deploying them now might have altered the algorithm at some point, but she'd at least know what..." Peter lets the comment taper off as the sticker is applied to his cheek. Again, his face briefly darkens with the heat of his blush. "Maybe they just want to let us know they're watching, too." When Shane turns to look at one of the sentinels, Peter finally gives in to temptation -- shooting it a look. "Hopefully, safe," he mumbles.
And with that -- he plucks up Shane's now-stickered, near-empty mug, reels it back -- and *flings* it at the rooftop where the sentinels are perched.
Maybe they'll mistake it for one of their own.