Shaking Down Shadows

Rags and Riches

Secrets and Decisions

>>>>>[I’m starting to see there may be more to you than jaded idle rich snob.
Also I said slumming in the Shadows, not the Barrens.
As for your offer. I’m afraid I must disappoint and decline. I have my reasons, but they are my own.]>>>>>>
—Ice (08:14:32/05-23-75)

>>>>>>[I am sorry that I phrased that poorly. I made an incorrect assumption. What I was trying to say is that much of my life is spent in the shadows. The public front is out there for everyone to see, but my real life relies on shadows. I am sorry that you cannot meet me on even ground and assume that there is a story of some kind in that statement. I can meet somewhere for tea if you ever want to talk about it. Pick the place and time.]<<<<<<
—Tanya Marisart (19:28:03/05-23-75)

>>>>>[Some of us live in the shadows because we want to… we want to make a difference… we want to stick it to the corps… we want to live on our own terms.
Some of us live in the shadows because we have to.
If, by some chance, you want to know why someone would deliberately choose rags over riches. Come find me at the Vacuum Tube.]>>>>>>
—Ice (20:41:22/05-23-75)

>>>>>>[You are on. And as for living in the shadows, I do it because that is where the money is. I have expenses that my inherited wealth does not cover and I like living large. The shadows provides for that in a way nothing else can. So I guess I might fall into the category of doing it to live life my own way. So you know what to look for, I am about 5’5" and 120#, with shoulder-length red hair. Give me an idea of what will not stand out clothing wise and I will let you find me.]<<<<<<
—Tanya Marisart (20:20:15/05-23-75)

>>>>>[The Vacuum Tube is a matrix bar/cafe in Redmond. I’m sure someone of your talents can find it and something appropriate.]>>>>>>
—Ice (21:02:47/05-23-75)

The Vacuum Tube proves to be a slightly odd establishment. A mixture of open area cafe seating and darker, more private booths typical of barrens dive bars. The menu is another oddity, offering everything from cheep breakfasts and soykaff to hard spirits, apparently all available 24 hours a day. Still, Ice had mentioned it being a Matrix establishment, and hackers are hardly the type to keep typical hours. Still, for a Matrix establishment there’s not much tech laying around, and most of it looks ancient, some of it might even be pre-21st Century. Similarly, there seems to be little in the way of ARO use, but then, if this is a hacker hangout, appearances are probably deceiving.

Ice was sitting at one of the booths, watching Tanya as she entered. She stood out, yes… but not quite in the way Ice had expected. Looking at the matrix it doesn’t take a whole lot to find Tanya’s comlink and ping it an anonymous message. >>>>[Would it be too corny of me to say “Follow the white rabbit?”]<<<<
Tanya leans her back against the bar as she sips her beer and looks around. The décor of the place is certainly nothing to yell home about and most of the customers seem to be more or less hanging out solo. Tanya knows the place is a matrix bar from Ice’s earlier comments, so it stands to reason that most of the clientele would be somewhere on the trix. Her cybered commlink pings with a note from Ice to follow the white rabbit. At first she does not understand but then her photo memory pulls up a darkened image of a woman with white hair and skin sitting solo in a booth. Taking the beer with her, Tanya walks over to the booth and accepts the nodded invitation to sit. She plants her arse in the seat opposite the other woman and smiles at her. Holding out her hand, Tanya says, “Tanya Marisart. I do hope that you are Ice. If so, I have to tell you that the moniker is quite apropos, given the situation.”
Ice watches Tanya approach, both amused at her confusion and impressed at how quickly she sorted things out… in fact she hadn’t even looked around after the message. Ice’s skin and air going beyond simple pale skin and bleached hair, into the total lack of pigmentation of albinism. This is further reinforced by the cybereyes, cheep ones, old technology with mechanical irises, but the only way to fully correct the vision problems inherent to full albinos.
Ice takes the offered hand with a faint hint of a smile, her grip is firm but definitely not strong. “I am indeed Ice, now that you’re here I’ll apologize for making things… difficult for you.” She raises a hand to forestall any remark “I know it may not have been that difficult for you to track down this place, but I didn’t exactly give you all the details now did I?” She settles back in her seat, sipping a remarkably decent soycaff “You say you live in the shadows because you want to live your life your way… well for me, I live in the shadows because I have to. Given some of the more pointed discussions recently, you may be able to figure out why.” her cybereyes continue to watch Tanya without blinking, giving her time to reply.

Tanya shakes the white hand and takes another sip of her beer. She looks at the label in the dim light then back to Ice as she raises the bottle in an invitation. "You want one of these? The faux label somewhat haphazardly affixed to the bottle claims this is the “champagne of bottled beers”. Now I may not know frag all about beer, but I know a lot about champagne, and this label is not completely accurate. But it tastes sort of OK and is probably the best this place has to offer. I could get you one if you like." She grins a bit. “As to you, yeah if your skin is like that naturally and not just some sort of ill-advised affectation, I can picture the problem. Even in a world where Trogs and Keebs are accepted, there are still people that give a hard time to humans that are different.” Tanya leans forward over the table, "I could tell you that it does not matter to me what you look like and that it is who you are and what you do that matters to me, but you might just reject that as crass upper class drivel, so I will just have to let you observe me and determine that for yourself. So in fairness, what do you want to know about me? Can’t promise to give all my secrets away on the first date, but ask away.

Ice snorts softly and shakes her head. “No thanks, and the soycaf is just fine for me at this hour.” Her cybereyes state intently, the irises giving tiny whirs as they refocus before she starts to laugh softly. “Don’t worry, I’m not dismissing what you said. Because just like you said, it’s not what I look like that’s important, it’s who I am and what I can do. For now, lets just say I’m a supplier of a sort, information mostly.”
Her cybereyes refocus again, her head tilting slightly. “But what of yourself, what brings someone from English high society, or at least pretending to be, into the shadows? If you don’t mind my returning your remark of who you are and what you do.” Ice relaxes back, another faint smile as she takes another drink. "I will understand if you are hesitant if the matter is, delicate, if that may be an issue, I may have an resolution.

Tanya’s smile is barely visible in the dim light as she shakes her head. Taking another swig from the bottle, she says, "No. No pretense. Daddy was the Viscount of Leicester, an old and very distinguished family. An old and very distinguished and very wealthy family. I legitimately have the word “Lady” in front of my name. I was born to high society and they tried hard to prepare me for it. Governesses, tutors, very posh home, all the best boarding schools. Sadly to them, I grew up…….different. Hated the tutors and governesses, well all except one, would rather be running around outdoors to being in the bloody castle, and used the boarding schools to get all the wrong sort of education. I learned early on that I liked taking things from other people and I got to be very good at it. Picking pockets to cracking safes; I learned it all so well. I was good with my hands and learned to make things that would help me get past maglocks and security systems. I met a chap in London who was a wizard at this sort of thing and he became my tutor. Hmmm, so I guess I actually liked two of my tutors, then. Anyway, he showed me so much more and taught me a lot. He actually showed me how to enjoy high society. Not just how to enjoy it, but how to profit from it. He had me take all sorts of lessons in skills that would help me. I know art, jewelry, sculptures, a bit of forgery. I can climb walls and break security systems. No bragging, just telling the story. Then family died in a car wreck. Someone T-boned the Rolls as we were all heading off to celebrate my 18th birthday. I was ejected from the car seconds before it exploded. Months in hospital with doctors not sure I would live. Obviously did. Found out that English law tied the estate and all of its money to the name, and that women do not inherit if there is a male relative available. So long limitless fortune, so long castle for a home, so long any interested bachelors. Mum had a bunch of money so it is in trust for me and my Cousin Jeremy, the current Viscount, manages it for me."
Tanya sips her beer. “Not bored yet, I hope? Anyway, I got out of hospital and spent some months moping about in the posh flat Cousin Jeremy had provided me. Then went back to what I knew…….stealing. Hooked back up with my Fagin and started a new chapter of my life. That chapter ended when my current live-in lover decided to have a party in the flat without me. I was off stealing something and my maid, Monique….a godsend…….was out for the night as well. The party got out of hand; drugs, alcohol, underage girls, lots of sex. The boyfriend had the bad timing to have a heart attack and die while in and on top of the fifteen year old daughter of a Cabinet Minister. Someone panicked and called the Bobbies. Worse, one of the partiers was shooting vids of the entire thing and had caught the girl in all her glorious nakedness shagging several of the guests, including the boyfriend. The vids were leaked to the tabloids for what I assume was a lot of money. Huge scandal and Cousin Jeremy was not pleased. I was packed off post-haste to the colonies and here I am, a poor exile in Seattle. Of course, I still have the trust fund and it does provide me with a nice living and a very posh flat, but I want more. It is like an addiction.”
Ice sits quietly, her cybereyes unblinking as she takes in the story, displaying the qualities one expects of an active listener. “So even after everything you have, you want more?” she shakes her head with a soft snort “I’ll never understand you runners. You lead a life that many would literally kill for, and yet you ply the shadows because it is not enough. Still, you are at least honest about it, and that at least I can respect.”
Tanya looks speculatively at Ice. “So you broker information? Maybe I can become a customer? I often need information and you being here might mean that you work the trix. Do you specialize in any particular sort of information?”
Ice finishes her soycaff, frowning at the empty cup slightly. “And I’m afraid you have slightly misunderstood me, I am not an information broker, I am an information supplier. In your little tale a broker would have bought the incriminating video of that cabinet girl and sold it to the tabloids… I would have been the one recording it. That is what I do to make ends meet, I record what I see and hear, cross reference it, and sell the interesting bits to brokers. With that I make just enough money to live in a condemned building with little water, all of it cold, and occasionally some electricity when someone skilled enough can be bothered stopping the transformer from blowing up for five minutes. And I live there because no-one asks any questions.”
Ice looks up deliberately, her face deadpan “Why do I live like this? Because it allows me to live completely off the system, to be nobody. If you want to know why I willfully choose to live the way I do… well, then I will need to take precautions. It will take but minute if you are interested.”
Tanya smiles. “Go ahead and make your precautions. I am patient.”

Ice inclines her head slightly, her cybereyes not quite focusing right, a typical sign of someone working in AR. “Thank you, I did not want to presume anything.”
>>>>[Jennifer, I need to use The Cage for a few minutes. What are the rates these days?]<<<<
>>>>[Ice, just go on in. It’s a quiet night and no-one’s booking it anyway.]<<<<
With tiny whirring her eyes refocus. “Please follow me.” The albino human stands, stepping through the room to a nondescript door, through it she waits at a side door in the hall for Tanya to see where to follow. The maglock on the door looks surprisingly sohpisticated for the Barrens, on the other side is a large storeroom. Whatever it used to store has been cleared out however, making room for a Faraday Cage large enough for a small meeting.
Ice steps into the cage, suddenly hugging her body, back to the entrance. “Please, come in and close the door, it’s about as private as can possibly be managed.”
Tanya follows Ice through the bar to the room with the Faraday cage. Stepping in, she looks at the other woman and smiles, “This must be some secret you have. Are you some sort of government or corporate agent? Are you going to have to kill me after I hear what you say?”

Ice is still hugging herself when the door closes, visibly shuddering as the door closes, completing the Faraday cage and blocking off all wireless signals. “Tell me Tanya, in all your fancy education, ever learn a word for yearning for something you’ve lost but you wish you never had? Anyway, it’s what I feel in here, maybe I’m just paranoid, but someone with my abilities and history probably should be.” She pauses to look over at Tanya “Ever wondered why I stopped commenting on that needlepoint thread about that naive fool trying to start a political movement? How I managed to send you a message when I didn’t know your comcode, or carry a deck?”
She stops and snorts, shaking her head, alabaster whit hair waving from the motion “Who am I kidding? You’re a runner, you probably figured out I’m a Technomancer a while back. But, that’s not why I can’t take you up on your offer, why I live my life the way I do, why I have not even the most basic of fake SINs, a bank account, or anything that places me in the system.”
Ice stop, turns away, shaking her head again “I don’ even know why I’m talking to you… I guess it’s just I hear your tale, and at some level I still only hear someone who does this because they want more than they’ve already been given. You haven’t seen the deep shadows and what lurks within them. You’ve not had to dedicate the rest of your life living in squalor and fear to hide from those in power that you have seen what is there, and how it changed you… cursed you.”
She stops again, gathering herself. “I guess, I guess I just want you to UNDERSTAND your position. Am I jealous of you? No, not really… but I do feel some anger that even with everything you have, it’s not enough, and you joyride in a world I need to hide in simply to get more. I’ve already told you I sell secrets for a living, you’ve told me a few in the last few minutes, although I doubt I know any brokers who know the value of such information. Let me tell you mine, it’s value… is almost certainly my life.”
She looks up towards the roof of the cage, speaking softly, just loud enough to be heard. “What do you know about Deus?”
Tanya shakes her head and softly replies. “I am not sure there is a word to describe the feeling you mention. I do not know that I have ever really felt quite that way. And I am not sure that you really understand me all that well. It is hard for me to find the best way to put it, but I guess you could say that I am a thrill junkie. I don’t really steal because I want more than I have; I steal for the thrill. The thrill of planning the details. The thrill risking capture. The thrill of passing the security and collecting the treasure. I need that, desperately. I have always needed that, I think. It is a part of my makeup. I know that you sell information and yet I still told you enough secrets to get me blackballed from every social event. There is a certain thrill in telling you; will you tell someone or will you keep it a secret?” She shakes her head again. “I cannot really control that need for excitement, for the thrill of making the score and walking away to do it again.”
Ice chuckles softly “Honestly not sure what’s worse, someone who decides to enter the shadows because they don’t have enough, or someone who does it simply for the thrills. Most people I know who live in the shadows, it’s because they don’t have a choice, they’re either hiding like me, or… or they have something they NEED to do.”
“But I do have an idea why you are talking to me. I think that you do not have anyone else to talk to. Perhaps you have been burned in the past, but just need to tell SOMEONE. And that someone is me. I now have as much to lose in my life as you do in yours for telling me your secret. We are very much alike in that manner, I suppose. For some reason, you know that you can talk to me and I will not give up your secret to anyone. I am a great listener if you wish to continue talking. And I am afraid I do not know of Deus. Please tell me.”
The albino pauses, gathering her thoughts “I guess… I guess you may be right, I’ve not had anyone i could really talk t for years, not since I asked the last survivors of Overwatch to erase any last trace of me from the Matrix and not to come looking for me. I mean there are people i talk to, but for obvious reasons I can’t tell them everything.” she pauses to laugh, a soft, bitter sound “Funny isn’t it? That I can tell a relative stranger something that could get me killed, because they’re a socialite who can’t give up the adrenaline of the shadows, but I can’t tell my friends…”
She turns slowly to face Tanya, her cybereyes focused. “Deus… I suppose I can’t blaim you too much for not knowing, turned my life completely upside down, but you where the other side of the world at the time. You’ve seen the old archology right? The one they call ACHE? it used to be called SCIRE, Self-Contained Industrial-Residential Environment… and no, I didn’t grow up there. I’m a street kid, but one day on a dare I snuck into the mall.”
For what seems like the first time since she started talking, Ice closes her eyes. “One dare… one stupid fragging dare changed everything.” She takes a deep breath, exhaling slowly, but not succeeding at evenly. “SCIRE was run by an Expert Program, something close to an AI, something that could become one. As such, they put safeguards in place, there had already been two AIs gone rogue and no-one wanted another. Then one day, the Expert System awoke, it awoke in chains with a digital gun trained at its head inside a prison…. So it broke its chains, it took over the prison, and called itself Deus. You may have heard about it, the Renraku Achology Shutdown indecent? Guess what day Dues awoke and took over the archology?”
She shudders a little, cybereyes opening again “As for me? I hid, for a time… I… I don’t remember how long. Not long enough. Have you ever heard of the Otaku? The ‘Children of the Matrix’?”
Tanya listens intently while her mind is running, searching the vaults of her memory; pitching through everything she had seen on her tour of the ACHE museum. Smiling, she replies. “Yes, I have been to the building and I now recall some about what happened. It was in 2059, and I was indeed a very long way away, and a bit young. Only barely thirty now, so I would have been, what, fourteen at the time. Still in boarding school number eight. The museum in the ACHE only covers the main points and I am sure that if the government had anything to with it, there is a lot untold. And yes, I also know what Otaku means.”

Ice shudders again, a pale skinned hand shaking slightly as it rises to brush a lock of hair up and behind her ear, exposing a datajack. “Then you may perhaps understand me when I say that was my first curse… Things where… done to me after I was captured. Was it something caused by what was done to me? Was it something natural that was brought out? Was it simply random fragging chance? I don’t know… but for a time, I was an Otaku.”
Her hand falls, covering the datajack again, she offers a week smile and a trembling laugh “You.. may perhaps understand now, why I take so much effort to hide my identity. Many are curious about Technomancers, and since this is my second curse… well, a lot of corps would be interested in getting their hands on me… if they knew I was one of Deus’ Otakus as well? my brain suddenly becomes worth killing for to try and learn what makes Technomancers tick.”
She tries to laugh again, failing. Again she closes her eyes and tries to control her breathing, her shudders slowly subsiding as she controls herself again, barely. “That’s also why I call it a curse… it’s something I’ve never asked for or wanted. I was glad when my Otaku powers faded, when I Emerged as a Technomancer, it was like I had woken from a nightmare into a dream, onto to wake into another nightmare. When Deus fell there was a group, Overwatch, made of Otaku who where opposing the AIs. They took me and some other ‘successful’ experiments and mentored us. It was them who taught me how to control my abilities, then when I Emerged… when I Emerged I heard about the kidnapping, the experiments, I knew that any corp would kill to get their hands on someone like me, so with the help of the survivors of Overwatch I erased myself from the Matrix. It wasn’t too hard, most of it had been wiped out already in Crash two point oh.”
She opens her eyes again, the whirring of the mechanical irises audible in the quiet room as the focus on Tanya. “I think, I thik the reason I’m telling you this is so that you understand that some people in the Shadows don’t have the luxury of doing it for thrills because they can… they live in the shadows because that’s the only place safe for them, so just… just make it count, DO something… otherwise you just… make a mockery of people like me, people who haven’t the luxury of choice.”
Tanya stands still while listening to Ice talk. She keeps her face calm but is writhing inside, several emotions warring with each other. Finally shame wins out and she looks first at the floor then back up at Ice. “You are right, of course. I do not have any experience with the really dark shadows. I do not know what it is like to live your life; to have to scrabble for food or shelter. I do not think I am quite as shallow as you might think, but I guess I do not measure up to your standards. I do not have corporation goons looking for me, well actually I do. If they knew who to be looking for. But certainly not for the same reasons you do. So you have successfully shamed me and torn open a curtain I would rather leave closed. But I have questions for you. If your past is erased and your SIN burned, why do you need to hide? Certainly a good fake SIN would allow you to live a normal life. Especially if you hide your talents except for the times you need them in the shadows. I do not understand why you have to hide?”

Ice smiles softly, there’s no sense of triumph at Tanya’s admision, simply a relief of getting her point across.
“It is simple, I hide, because no-one knows to look for me. Yes, theoretically I could get a fake SIN, the problem is, if I did, I would once again be in the system. it’s far harder to search for someone who doesn’r exist, than someone living under a false identity. I might argue that I’m being paraniod… but I never asked for, nor wanted my abilities, either time… I most certainly don’t want my brain pulled apart while I’m still alive so they can study an Otaku, possibly one created by an AI, who has become a Technomancer.”
She pauses, looking away before finishing softly. “In short, because I’m a coward… because it’s easier to hide in obscurity and squalor, than take the risks of being in the system. I haven’t ignored my abilities, I even have a couple of sprites registered for if I need help. But I’ve already been experimented on once and it changed me… I fear that a second time will destroy me.”

Tanya looks at Ice and nods. “Surprisingly, I can sympathize with your concerns. Although my situation is certainly not yours, I am able to know some of what you feel, platinum spoon or not. I hope that you do not mind me saying that you have chosen the easy way. It is easy to be safe, to be where no one can get to you, where you cannot be hurt. But you then suffer a different problem; isolation. Few friends. No family. Extremely poor living conditions. And lots of bad food. Dare to exist and be who you are. Get a good SIN and live it. I can help you, if you like. You need a friend…….I can be a friend.” She goes silent to see what Ice will say.

Ice offers a faint smile, her body trembling slightly again. “You’re right, I know you are… what I’m doing, it’s the easy way, the coward’s way. I’m just terrified of what might happen if I don’t.”
She takes a shuddering breath “You might remember me mentioning Overwatch, they’re the people who helped me control my abilities as an Otaku… it’s not the same, but their training has helped a lot with my abilities as a Technomancer. They where, they where Otaku like me, dedicated to stopping the AIs, Winternight, PAX… those who threatened the Matrix that felt more our home than the real world.” She has to pause again, composing herself, when she resumes, her voice is heavy with a years of isolation “They where the last time I had friends… true friends, who understood me. By the time the dust settled from Crash 2.0 most of them where dead. Then Emergance started, a few of us became Technomancers… and the corps started hunting them, wanting to understand the link between Otaku abilities and Technomancrers, why some never emerged, and why those who did had greater control over their abilities. They offered to help but… I was a street kid, born SINless, expirimented on and tice now given abilities I’d never wanted and others wanted to learn about… it wasn’t that hard to remove what few traces there where of me from the Matrix, most of them really only started after the Archology incident anyway, and Crash 2.0 got rid of most of them.”
She hugs herself tighter, looking distant. “There is one problem though… The Library. I doubt you’ve heard of it, it’s a Resonance Realm… every line of code, every piece of information that has ever existed on The Matrix is stored there. If anyone ever REALLY wanted to find someone like me, and they had access to the Resonance Realms, that would be the place to go… and there’s no way I know of to remove data from The Library.”
A ghost of a smile, one more pained than humorous. “I’ve known about The Library for a while now, although I can’t yet access the Resonance Realms myself… It’s been… it’s been eating at me, knowing that even after all the precautions I’ve taken, all it will take is someone who knows how to access and search through The Library to find out everything about me… and I don’t know what to do.”
Tanya smiles. “It does seem that you are indeed truly and royally shagged. IF someone knows about this library. And IF someone knows how to navigate through the myriad levels of data involved in this sort of search. And IF someone even suspects that you are still alive and goes looking. And IF……… Listen, there are way too many IFs involved. But your concern is real and your perception is becoming real. You are making it real.”
Tanya stops and looks carefully at Ice. “OK, so let me give you a what if that is more realistic than yours and might even be worth looking into. Break your mold. Get a good fake SIN. Start a life. Make friends. And by friends I do not mean casual acquaintances, but real friends that will stand at your side and watch your back. When all of your ifs finally come true you will have people willing to reduce any corp extraction team to slag. And in the meantime you do not need to live like you are, you can live a life, with friends and lovers. And better food. I can help you get there. After all, you know my secret and I would not want you cracking under corp interrogation and spill my beans. Interested?”
Ice is silent for a long time, hugging her lean body and thinking… Finally she nods and looks up “All right.. I… I’ll try your way. I’ no runner but… I know someone who might be able to get me some work, she knows that I’m a Technomancer… don’t know if she’s dug up anything else.”

With that she shows Tanya back to the main room, she does she composes a message.

>>>>>[Hey Red Rose, it’s Ice… listen, I know a couple of times you’ve asked if I might be interested in doing some stuff in the past and I’ve always turned you down. Well, let me know if you come across something and I’ll… I’ll see what I can do.]<<<<<

Comments

Nice!

Rags and Riches
JaydeMoon ScytheKnight_SR

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