Shaking Down Shadows

A Con Gone Wrong
Calico shows her form

Calico and the large, muscular man circled in the fighting pit. He was easily 2 1/2 times her weight, yet it was his face that showed the frustration.

“You’re not gonna hit her, man.” said an observer, his voice full of a certainty that only angered the man further. “Nobody ever hits that chick.” The man attacked, intent on proving the peanut gallery wrong.

He swung furiously, each strike filled with devastating power. She bobbed to the side of a crippling right jab, then quickly ducked under the following left hook, exploiting the opening to hammer her fist into his well toned stomach. His fist rocketed downward to crush her crouching form, but she weaved lithely aside, bringing her small fist flying upwards to connect with his broad face in an uppercut that had every ounce of her small frame behind it. His head rocked back noticeably as the blow connected. Yes! She could see it in his eyes, he’d actually felt that one. As the big man shook off the minor but not negligible punch, Calico assessed her progress.

She’d been working on him for a few minutes now, and had begun to see evidence that her repeated blows to his head and stomach were beginning to have an effect. He had yet to hit her, and she intended to make sure it stayed that way. After all, she was exactly what he had seen when she’d originally approached him. A young girl, tiny compared to his large, muscular frame.

“50¥. To beat up a girl.” he had repeated incredulously when she’d proposed the wager ten minutes prior. She knew she could’ve gotten him to agree to a larger amount, but she didn’t want it to turn into a serious thing, with people looking very closely at it. After all, she was kind of cheating. Her reflexes were very good, but when she magically augmented her combat awareness, her ability to dodge incoming attacks became literally supernatural. She almost felt bad for the guy. She could see his every attack coming a mile away. When she had her spell up like this, mooks like these had no hope of ever laying a glove on hr—

Light exploded in her head as the huge fist collided with her untouched face, and she felt her body transformed into a gelatinous mass, flopping haphazardly onto the mat. The world blurred, and she could tell she was on the edge of unconsciousness.

“I’ll be damned”, said the onlooker in amazement, quickly turning to retreat as she shot him a withering, and no doubt swollen glare.

To lift her defeated spirits, Calico decided to go shopping. Not that she had much money. At least, not enough to buy what she REALLY wanted.

Second Skin. God, the mischief she could wreak with one of those. And since she’d started getting decent paying work, Calico just knew that she’d be able to afford one soon. In the meantime, she would entertain herself by compiling a list of “outfits” that she would keep on file once she got the coveted item.

Today’s outfit: A string bikini, for her Clueless Socialite Partygirl persona. She stepped into the boutique and wandered the aisles until she’d gathered the necessary components of her disguise. An appropriately tiny bikini, a cross necklace to prove that she was a good girl despite her actions to the contrary, and on a whim she grabbed a long lock of blonde hair, because Clueless Socialite seemed like she should be blonde.

Stepping into the dressing room with her items, she tried everything on, holding the blonde hair next to the bikini. “Not bad”, she thought, “not bad at all”. She’d always loved her figure, and it had served her well, in more ways than one. And once she got that outfit… the sky was truly the limit.

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.]<<<<<

Movin' up north.

The three comrades were jammed together in the front of the truck. A human male is driving, his sister in tightly fit in the middle and a male elf is sitting in the passenger seat, thumbing a data slate. “So, lemme get this straight, Drak. We packed up all our equipment, moved out of L.A., got a place in Seattle, and hauling all our stuff up there? Cause what? Some fixer told you they are making big bucks up there?” The girl asks out loud to the others. The elf pauses for a moment, finishing what he was reading on his slate. “Yep, that’s about the thick of it. Gotta a call saying something big is going on up north. Pulling in runners from all over the country. Seemed like something we can’t miss out on.” Drak replies. “So what?! We’re going somewhere no one knows us, we got no rep, no contacts, and I’m assuming, no savings?” the woman, Alexandra, says to Drak. “It’s gonna be worth it, Alex. We do some jobs here, make some bank, and haul back down to L.A. when it gets slow. At least if it gets crazy, we can bail and we got somewhere to hide out.” Alex sits back in silence, knowing that when Drak has a plan, they were going to be going along for the ride. Feeling the tension in the air, Drak breaks the silence, “When we make some money, we can buy some new rigs. You guys definitely need better ones that whats back there.” Alex knows what Drak was trying to do, “Oh, we better. And they better be novahot.” She replies with a small sarcastic tone in her voice. The two begin to “discuss” how hot this rig is gonna be. The brother thinks to himself out loud, but under his breath, “We should of left her in L.A., but noooooo, need us both.”

War Stories
A Deex Story

Jack leaned back in his chair and laughed. The beer in his hand dangerously close to tipping out it’s contents. “Damn, Deex. You are so full of shit. I know a fucking tale is coming when you’ve been drinking.”

Deex jst leaned back and took another sip of beer. A smile on his lips cause he knew the story was true. He gave Jack a smug look.

“Just because your life isn’t so interesting… What is it you do again? Stocking groceries at the stuffer shack? Gonna get lotsa ladies with that bit of info there, huh?”

Jack sputtered part of his beer. “Got me Carol though didn’t it.” And looks around for his wife rel quick. “And if she heard you telling those stories, I’d never get out of the house to see you again.” Jack leaned back in the chair. “Catching a bullet for some uppity rich chick, tracking down the latest bail jumper… No thanks. I think I’ll stick to my safe little piddly ante job.”

Deex just laughed, “You think your job is safe. I guess I never told you how I nearly got blown to pieces when I just went for a cup of coffee then, huh?”

Jack rolled his eyes, “You try to tell me that story again every time my job comes up man.”

Deex leaned back in the chair. “Just be glad it wasn’t at the store you work at, expecially on a day you worked.”

The day was miserable. Overcast and just dreery. Deex tucked his jacket a little tighter around his neck. The night had been long and cold. Deex coughed then cussed. He’d better not be coming down with something. He still had a job to do. The dirtbag he’d been tracking through the night had given him the slip.

Deex passed through the doors of the Stuffer Shack near where he’d lost the trail. It was time to get something to warm him up a bit. Soycaf would have to do. And it proably would hurt to grab some vitamins and something to ward off any crap that may be starting.

Deex was just slotting his credstick to pay when the man he’d be searching for passed through the door. Both men were startled for just a moment as recognition of the other hit them both.

The force of Deex’s arm slide pushing the pistol into the orc’s hand launched the cup of soycaf across the floor of the store. Deex had already rolled over the counter by the time the liquid hit the floor.

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, MARCUS, YOU DREKHEAD!” Deex yelled as he took aim at his prey.

It took longer for the situation to register with Marcus. By the time it hit the man what was going on, Marcus was already in the crosshairs of Deex’s pistol. Of course that didn’t stop Marcus from going for a pistol himself. The first shot hit Marcus just below the elbow of the arm that held the gun. The next shot hit Marcus in the hip.

Deex sidestepped around the counter, keeping Marcus in his sights the whole time. The whole situation had Deex’s attention, so it was somewhat of a surprise when the grenade cleared Marcus’s shoulder. The man a few feet behind Marcus had been behind the van that was parked next to the door when Deex spotted Marcus. Now the man was standing next to the van. A grenade held in each hand.

Marcus’s unknown partner laughed, “Nice shots, Bouny Hunter!”

The grenade rolled toward Deex. The orc had just enough time to roll back over the counter as it detonated. The blast sent Marcus stumbling back into the van. Shrapnel tearing at flesh that bullets had just torn open.

“You’re a fast bastard aren’t you Bounty Hunter. Here, have another.” The second grenade cleared the wrecked door and bounced over the counter.

This time Deex wasn’t as lucky and had barely cleared the door to the back when the blast went off.

The blast knocked the door off the hinges and into Deex sending him sprawling across the floor. It took a moment to clear the ringing form Deex’s ear. Just enough time to hear the squeal of tires as the two sped away.

Deex took another sip of beer. “Caught that bastard two days later. Of course, Marcus had been left to bleed out. Never found out how the two knew each other or what the grenade happy asshole was doing there.”

Breakfast at the Tube
Day int he life.

Dirty gold sunlight spilled through the cracks between the window boards, their path through the room clear to see from the sparkling motes of dust hanging in the air. A groan arose from the pile of patched blankets and torn pillows atop several cheep mattresses stacked on the concrete floor.

After another groan a pale head sporting a tangled mess of white hair pokes out of the pile. “Dreck, dusk already?” Ice took a moment to look around the room, the entirety of what she called ‘home’. Her nest of a bed was setup in a corner out of the worst of the drafts, Busted couches sat opposite a scavenged, repaired and horribly outdated trideo unit, not that she bothered with it much, even when she did have electricity, but owning some form of entertainment lead to less questions.

Dragging herself out of the bed Ice checks the schedule and finds she still has enough water ration for a shower, cold of course. Not that this place was legally part of any service, but any system can be subverted. Ice supposed some might be shocked at the idea, but for her, a hot shower was a luxury she has rarely had in her life. There was that time with Overwatch… but they’re gone now, I had to burn that bridge, that and all the others.

She was still shivering as she got back into her room from the communal bathroom. The place was a dive in every sense of the word, officially condemned, but the ‘landlord’ asked no questions so long as they got their payments. Ice didn’t think anyone living here had a SIN of any kind, she wouldn’t be surprised if there where others here like her, deliberately living off the system.

The fading sunlight was gone by the time she was dressed again, the lights of the night sprawl spilling through the cracks now. She looked at her small stash of nutra-paste and processed soy, grimacing as her stomach growled, having not eaten for at least 12 hours. Her fingers idly brush the secure credstick she carries. Hey, I made a deal, I have some extra creds. Why not get a decent meal for a change? She stands in the middle of the room, frowning as she thinks. On one hand a real meal would take a chunk out of her account, on the other, it could be an opportunity to get a line on some info. Yeah, I’ll go get breakfast at the Tube.

A quick look at the local news grid flashed up a pollution warning. Glad I got the respirator. The thought was automatic as she started making preparation to leave. She grabbed her revolver, a Taurus Omni-6 that she’d had modified. It wasn’t the most powerful handgun on the market, but it was easy to conceal and adaptable, both good traits for personal defense. With practiced movements she straps the slide to her right forearm and opens the revolver’s cylinder Gel, Reg, Gel, Reg, Gel, Reg, good. Ammo Skip System isn’t showing any bugs or errors. The cylinder snaps back into place and the pistol is placed in the slide and concealed from view. Next was her armoured duster, again modified to protect against chemicals and stun weapons, as well as a couple of other tricks. Finally she grabbed her respirator and settled it over the lower half of her face before leaving her room and locking it.

As she starts to descend the stairs in the dark she thinks again about investing in a low-light system for her cyber eyes, the stairs are rickety and dangerous at the best of times, let alone when it’s dark and she can’t see. Still, she’s been up and down so many times she knows the steps to avoid, some because of noise, some because they’ll break at any time, a few because they’re simply not there any more.

Out on the street she shrugs the coat into a more comfortable position and starts walking the six blocks to the Vacuum Tube.

White Hat

Kumiho stepped back from his work bench, glancing down at his deck. The little box with the Orange and White hard case looked almost new, you wouldn’t have noticed the additions he added to it over the last two days. The additions or Mods were much needed though. After his last run, he took some serious heat at the end and his Deck was bricked in the process. He did a decent job fix her up once he was awake afterwards, but he realized that his nice little Hermes Chariot just wasn’t going to cut it next time he ran into that level of Ultraviolet. He couldn’t afford a newer, better model, even after the large sum he made on the job. But He could fix her up and modified her so she had a sharper edge on the matrix.

Once he was satisfied, Kumiho flicked her no. The little bar of indicator light lite up one by one – indicating that there was no problems. He then pulled on his AR gloves and made the programmed gesture that brought up the AR diagnostics HUD for the deck. He set the diagnostics in motion and while he waited for that to complete – he flicked opened his inbox to check his mail. He flicked open a few private messages from people in the know who “Might” have leads on one of his most recent inquiries. A lot of these were most likely dead ends, he would check each of them out one by one to be sure. Once he discovered the woman’s identity she would become one more piece to the puzzle to the secret of a man’s death and the Big Whys of the case.
Kumiho stopped after opening a new message that was under the heading: I need Help. This one was sent from a Victor R Trokosky – a freelance Graphic Designer who crafted Logos and interactive iconography. He read over the message twice before deciding to investigate further. Kumiho flicked back to the diagnostics HUD and waited until it was done. Then he swiped the HUD away and sat down in his comfortable heavy padded chair. After getting himself situated, he flicked the toggle on the deck and went still. He would appear to be asleep if it was not for the occasional movement of his fingers over the deck.

Kumiho find himself on his local grid in his usual ICON, a robbed scholar with a large Ink Brush, Fox Head, and 8 ethereal fox tails. With a wave of his Brush, Kumiho painted a symbol l before him in mid air. The Symbol appeared to be the symbol for Bridge. In the fabric of the matrix, this symbol transcended the Korean meaning, the deck feeding the matrix’s instructions through the imagery of the symbol. Before Kumiho appeared a Bridge upon which he stepped on to as soon as it appeared. Well it appeared that Kumiho was walking a ancient stone bridge made of ink and light – the matrix knew better and was in fact transporting his ICON to the Matrix Address Kumiho had gave it inside the imagery of the Korean symbol for bridge.

When Kumiho stepped off the bridge he appeared in a chat room that was sculpted to look like the interior of “Satire on False Perspective” by Willaim Hogarth; Kumiho’s ICON taking on the Forced Black and White of the Inked drawing. He was in fact standing upon the bridge in the background. If he looked to his right he could make out the comical gentlemen that was fishing on the bank in the foreground. On the bridge with him was a man whose ICON was done in the cubist movement made famous by Pablo Picasso. He bowed to the fellow in greeting saying,

“As requested I have come – I hope that my services can help you in your time of need.”

“Thank you for coming. A mutual friend of ours said that you would be able to help me and I hope she was correct.” He paused for a moment, his ICON going Static for a moment before he began.
“Some time ago I designed a Logo – a New one for my portfolio only and not for use for anyone or company. I think this was about 8 months ago. However, it had come to my attention that this Logo was being used as part of a Political campaign run by a Trudy Hart. Mrs. Hart is still currently using my logo in her campaign even though I have set her several cease and descess orders and that the case is now heading to court. I was informed by the corporate lawyer that represents Mrs. hart, that the case will be held up in court for the next 6 years and that I was just better off just allowing Mrs. Harts campaign the continued use of the logo. A logo they pointed out that I left on the Matrix, in a public place. They argue that I left it in the public and as such it has become Public Domain. The public place this appeared though was my person Gallery, where clients can view my work.”
Kumiho was sure that on the other side of the ICON, whose face like all faces on the matrix was passive, Victor R Trokosky was very emotional and in pain.
Victor R Trokosky continued, “I rather die then allow my work be stolen by heartless mumblers who sell themselves to the corporate elite and rubble the rest of us into the dirt. So I will wait my day in court knowing I have the right of this, but I cannot stand to let them use my art, my design to further their own desires. So I have decided that I will pay you 5,000 nuyen to make it so that no one can use that design ever again.”

Kumiho thought this through for a moment before replying.
“I can do this but I will need something more than the payment to complete the task you have set at my feet. I would guess that they stole the design from your gallery, copying its code and transferring ti elsewhere. I will need access to the original Logo on your Gallery in order to make your revenge stick as firmly as possible. Id this possible?”

Without hesitation, Victor R Trokosky agreed to these terms and handed Kumiho a small sketch book. In the matrix this appeared to be a small sketch book, but when Kumiho’s ICON took it from Victor R Trokosky’s ICON it transferred not only the Imagery of the sketch book but also the Info and funds that the sketch book represented.

Kumiho logged off and was one again back at his place. Once again he started to pull items up in AR. First he checked over the contains of the sketch book that Victor R Trokosky handed. Kumiho transferred the Nuyen to his account and then looked over the other data. With the key to the original File in hand Kumiho began running a search for all the locations, hosts, ads, etc that Victor R Trokosky’s Logo were currently posted. The deck would be at this for a time and while he waited he began to type the code he would need in a Note app.
This is what a a noble knight of the information super highway is all about, he thought to himself. Righting the wrongs and removing the darkness that cloaked the truth from sight.

One week later, Kumiho was back online after the long and painstaking process of writing the code he needed to pull this Next trick off without a bang. He had already visited the original Logo that was on Victor R Trokosky’s gallery. Now he was standing, with one Key hanging from his belt, in side the host for Mrs. Hart’s Campaign. A little snooping around had confirmed what Kumiho had suspected. When the hacker who was paid to take the Logo had cloned it he had also cloned the address it originated from in its code. Kumiho saved that little tidbit to send to Victor R Trokosky later. However, he also found that each image was linked to the one on the Campaign host so that the other would update if any changes were made to the one on this host. Kumiho smiled to himself – this made what he was about to do much easier. He looked around the host’s iconography and nearly laughed as well. Mrs. hart’s campaign manager was being cheap. This host was only one step up from being pixilated; almost not even an Ultraviolet. he approached a simple Know Bot that was the Host’s menu. The thing just smiled a lot and blinked at him – waiting for some kind of question or command. Kumiho ignored the little guy and walked to his back, Then with his Ink Brush scrolled the Korean words for Ownership on the little guys back. This caused the fellow to glitch slightly for a moment before returning back to normal. As Kumiho came back to the face the guys front he now carried three keys on his belt.
“Excuse me, my dear fellow, can you update the Campaign Logo with this”, Kumiho handed the Know bot a little orb, the size of a golf ball, that glowed green . The know bot took it without reply and swiftly went off to carry out its orders.

Kumiho smiled on the other end of his ICON and then logged off.

With in a few days word was buzzing all across the matrix about the humiliation of Mrs. Hart’s campaign. It seems that someone, some how had reprogrammed Mrs. Harts Campaign Logo so that it showed a variety of lewd imagery that some suspected reflected the candidates personality better than the previous logo. It also seemed that the “Bug” keep cropping up, even after they reset the Logo back to its original state. Even a Hard Reboot of the Logo would do it. Kumiho know that the reason for this was because the keep rebooting just the Campaign Host’s Logo and not all of them. It would take a hard reboot of over two hundred separate (yet linked) representations of the logo. Otherwise, the they would just reinfect each other. Victor R Trokosky, on the other hand, was quoted in saying that it seemed that some kind denizen of the Matrix must of heard of his plight and took justice into his own hand.

Growing Up Henway - Part Three
Henway Back Story

Manhattan Lower East Side 2073

The big bike roared through the streets of lower Manhattan, a deep throated rumble that announced the arrival of its rider in the same way that a medieval herald announced an entrant to the court of the king. Gang members on corners glanced up as the bike wound its way from Pitt Street to Delancey, then south along Clinton to Madison Street. Every couple of blocks the colors changed, but Henway wasn’t concerned with them. He wasn’t wearing his Pitt Street Bulls colors, and everyone knew that he was working for the Russians these days. Whatever beef another gang might have with the Bulls, if his size and reputation didn’t deter them, it wasn’t worth risking the wrath of the Vory to cause him any problems.

Hopping the curb, he cut along the wide, crumbling sidewalk between the run down tenements, past an aging bakery and a chiphead who stared blankly at the wall on the other side of the Henry Street Settlement, oblivious to the Harley and everything else around him. Coming to a stop next to the Vladeck Houses, he killed the engine and swung his massive frame off of the bike, the heavy duty shocks groaning in relief. The bike looked small when next to his nine foot height and nearly nine hundred pounds, and he wasn’t done growing yet. With a nod to the guards outside the building, he ducked his head to get through the doorway, not for the first time wondering why they couldn’t build them any bigger.

His eyes adjusted to the low light conditions of the building automatically and a grin creased his face. He could definitely get used to the upgrades that the Vory had provided, even if he was indebted to them as a result. He passed several other armed metahumans as he moved down the hallway until he arrived at his destination. He subvocalized an inquiry via his commlink, and he felt a sense of satisfaction as he watched one of the guards receive instructions to allow him to pass.

“Henway, is good to see you.” Vasily rose from his chair and came around the desk, motioning the troll to a large chair that was suited to his metatype. Henway sat, inclining his head towards the others present. He knew most by reputation. Lighting a black cigarette, the Russian also sat as Henway settled into his chair. “Your recovery is going well? No complications?”

Henway nodded in response. “It’s all wiz, Vas. Doing good, ready to work.”

“Excellent, because we have a job that where your strength and abilities will be an asset. I believe you know everyone here, they are the team we have assembled. The window of opportunity for this is narrow, and I will brief you as to your role and responsibilities.” Vasily took a drag from his cigarette, watching Henway as he exhaled and noticing the troll staring at the floor. “You are well, yes? You hear what I am telling you?”

The troll looked up and responded in a low voice, a rumbling growl. “I scan. Wut’s da job?”

Vasily smiles and leans forward. “Good. We have an investment in you, my friend, and want to make sure that we all benefit from that investment.” The implication was clear. He owed them. “There is a shipment that we wish to intercept from the docks. The Triads believe that they will receive this shipment, but we will be making certain that they are disappointed.” Motioning with his hand towards the three men on the couch and ork who was standing behind them, he continued. “Viktor will provide Matrix cover and disable any security that might be problematic and Sergei will drive the truck. Vlad will deal with any threats of a magical nature and you and Andrei will provide muscle should it be required. If all goes well your presence will have been unnecessary, but it is best to go in prepared.”

Henway looked up, nodding. “Got it. Anything gets in da way, I frag it.”

“You understand precisely.” He nods to the ork, who passes a large duffel to the troll. “I believe that you are familiar with these weapons, but be sure to inspect them on the way to the waterfront. Do as Viktor says as if the orders came directly from me.”

Henway pushed himself out of the chair and slung the duffel over his shoulder with an ease that caused the others to blink in surprise. It was easy to forget how strong he was.

Four hours later, the truck was being unloaded at a warehouse in Brooklyn. Vasily frowned slightly as he looked at Andrei, then turned his head to the mage. “He will live?”

Vlad responded in a quiet voice. “Da. Henway put down the guards and then carried Andrei out over one shoulder while covering our escape with the shipment. Their firepower wasn’t enough to slow him down.”

Vasily smiled and turned to Henway. “Well done. I expected no less from you.”

Henway shrugged. “Dat’s what ya pay me for, right?”

“Indeed it is,” relied the Russian, “Indeed it is.”

Growing Up Henway - Part Two
Henway Back Story

Manhattan Lower East Side 2071

A light rain painted the streets of Manhattan, the chill in the air hinting at the winter that was right around the corner. Traffic was light but steady, and the few pedestrians on the street walk with shoulders hunched against the chill. In this neighborhood you kept your eyes down so that you offered no challenge to the local gangs, but tried to stay aware enough that you didn’t walk into any problems that were best avoided.

Standing under the awning of an abandoned factory, the massive form of a troll youth lurks, doing his best to stay dry. His eyes are up, alert, monitoring both traffic and pedestrians. Confident in his gang colors, he knows that this is his patch of the pavement, the turf of the Pitt Street Bulls. The back of his jacket proudly displays the image of a snarling dog wearing a spiked collar, as did the group of youths nearby.

His eyes narrow slightly as a car turns off of Houston Street and onto Pitt, slowing to a stop in front of the gangers. One of the kids approaches the car and speaks briefly with the passenger and an exchange takes place. He nods and moves away from the car, then flashes two fingers to Henway who nods to one of the other kids who ducks into the shadows briefly before moving to the car and handing off a small packet. The car immediately moves off. Just biz.

He wakes to the sounds of commotion. His eyes pick up several people moving through the squat where he and several other members of the gang live, and he can hear the excitement tinged with fear in the voices that have disturbed his slumber. Hauling himself to his feet, he grabs his jacket and growls, “What the frag is going on?”

One of the youths, human with a smear of blood along the left side of his face, responds quickly, the high pitched voice grating on his ears. “Dem slots from Columbia Street hit our corner. I think they geeked Red, and I took off to get help,” he gasps.

Henway looks down at the ganger, frowning. “What about de others? You just slot off and left ’em out dere?” He shakes his head slowly, the shadow of his curling horns swaying across the wall as he leans over and picks up his shotgun. “Dat ain’t right, you gots ta stand by yer own.” Without another word he ducks his head to clear the doorway and lumbers down the stairs, followed by the other members of the gang.

He arrives at the corner, noting two members of the gang down and not moving, two others stepping out of the shadows. His rage is palpable, and the other gangers keep as clear from him as they can. He glances up at the sound of running feet and nods to the ork leading another group to the corner. “Hoi, Sticks,” calls out one of the other gangers to their leader. “We got trouble. What’re we gonna do?”

Sticks nods to Henway. “Let’s deal with it. We let this go, it won’t stop til they push us off our blocks.”

The troll youth nods in response. “Dey gonna bleed. Make ’em tink twice before dey come back dis way.” Without another word he stalks to the corner and heads up Stanton Street.

Sticks catches up to him. “Smart move. They’ll be watching Houston and Rivington, won’t expect us to hit them from here. You can boost us over the wall then climb over behind us.” The troll nods to the ork but remains silent, confirmation unnecessary. He knows what he’s going to do.

Ten minutes later the group looks out across Columbia to the rundown apartment block where the Columbia Street gang is known to squat. A glance in both directions shows groups at the corners to the north and south, both groups looking towards Pitt Street in anticipation of retaliation. Henway nods towards Sticks, then towards the group at the corner of Rivington Street to the south. “We go dis way. I see Stain, dis was probably his idea. Tryin’ ta make his rep outta us.”

The Bulls make their way to the south, hugging the side of the building and keeping out of sight as they approach the other gang. He knows they have the other gang slightly outnumbered, but he also knows that this needs to go fast or they are likely to get hit by reinforcements coming up behind them. The other gang’s focus remains in the other direction until he is within arm’s reach of the slender elf who is directing the Columbia Street crew. He watches the elf’s eyes widen as he reaches out and grabs him by the throat, lifting him off the ground. He smiles as he rams the barrel of his shotgun into the kid’s mouth as he starts to call out a warning. He watches the blood and brain matter spray out of the pack of the elf’s head and onto the faces of the other gangers behind him as he pulls the trigger, then heaves the twitching corpse into them as the rest of his gang charges forward. The sound of Sticks’ nunchaku buzzes through the air as they impact the head of another member of the Columbia Street crew, and the fight is on.

It’s over in less than a minute. At least five of the other gang’s members are dead, three more on the ground twitching. A couple of the Bulls are cut, and the sounds of alarm rise behind them. “Time ta go,” he mutters as he backs around the corner, watching until the last of his chums pass him before turning and joining them. They don’t stop until they are back on Pitt Street. Home. Just biz.

Babysitting Gig
A milk run

Mother Read Tanya’s text again.

Tall blond corp kid. This is a milk run. Babysit the exec for the night while he goes slumming. Meet him at La Faim. Tell him the eagle has landed. Don’t look at me the Johnson came up with that.

It was a Vampire poser bar. A lot of pale kids in fetish wear. In the basement was a full on dungeon. This was going to be fun. Thought Mother with a mental eyeroll.

The corp kid stood out as being the only one with a tan and wearing a suit in a shade other than black. He wore a grey suit with a red tie. He smiled a shit eating grin and offered his hand.

“Are you the johnson?” asked Mother.

“What’s the code word?” asked the corp kid.

“The eagle has landed. You the Johnson?” asked Mother.

“Yeah. Yeah. I am.” Said the kid.

“Half up front.” Said Mother.

The kid threw a credstick on the table and it almost slid off. Mother slotted it and transferred the funds to her account.

“What can I do for you?” asked Mother.
“Why don’t you sit down. Have a drink on me.” Said Mr Johnson.

Mother side and sat down.

“I’ll have a Seattle Sunrise.” Said Mother to the waitress wearing only a synth leather harness.

“You come here often?” asked Mother.

“Did you bring a gun?” asked Mr Johnson.

“I’m a mage but yeah. Why?” asked Mother.

“How’d you get it through security. They took mine.” Said Mr Johnson.

“I’m a mage. I left it in the car. If you want someone in this bar dead it’s going to cost extra and I would recommend you not being here at the time.” Said Mother.

“No. No. I just want to…learn." said Mr Johnson.

“Oh. You’re one of those. You watch the Trids and think I want to do that right sugar? Leave the running to the professionals.” said Mother standing.

“You started somewhere right? and I found you.” said Mr Johnson.

“I walked into the shadows because I had to. Very few do it becaus they think this would be fun darling. Those end up dead real quick.” said Mother.

“Why’d you…what was it? Walk into the shadows?” asked Mr Johnson.

“You aren’t paying me enough for the long version. Short version honey is I didn’t have a whole lot of options. Now why do you want to leave your cushy exec life for a hard one in the shadows” said Mother.

“They…they killed my dad. They said it was a botched extraction but I don’t believe it. He told me he was scared…that he found out something by accident. I…I just can’t work for the people…” said Mr Johnson looking away.

“It’s okay honey. I get you. Can’t you get a team to put you in another corp?” asked Mother.

“They’re all the same.” said Mr Johnson.

“Ain’t that the truth darling. Ok. You really want to run the shadows you need a Fixer. Your jobs are usually going to be only as good as your fixer but starting out you won’t get good jobs. With your corp background you’ll probably get some good gigs as an inside man pretending you belong, you could probably walk right in and BS your way where you don’t belong. Can you shoot a gun?” asked Mother.

Mr Johnson nodded.

“I’ll give you the commcode of a guy I have heard of that might be a good fit for you. Mention my name. But first the only way to learn how to run is to do it.” said Mother standing up.

“Where are we going?” asked Mr Johnson.

“On a shadowrun.” said Mother.

Mother put the address in the barrens in grid guide. She also messaged Terr0r and asked her to go on matrix overwatch.

“This is what I call a milk run. The Pink lodge is an initiation group but it is also somewhat like a gang. It polices certain areas. These Humanis Policlub thugs have put together a clubhouse in the barrens.” said Mother.

“The barrens?” asked Mr Johnson wide eyed.

“Yes. You want to run you are going to go to some real hell holes. It’s not all martini’s and high society like on the trid sugar.” said Mother smiling.

They pulled up to a run down apartment buildign with two blond white men out front in body armor with assault rifles.

“Now the barrens is filled with metahumans like me but a lot of orks and trolls. So a humanis clubhouse would be short lived anyway but the pink lodge especially hates them and wants to send a message. All you have to do is watch my back honey.” said Mother.

Mr Johnson nodded.

“And don’t get killed.” said Mother.

Mother got a message. Are you sure you don’t want back up? There’s 20 guys with assault rifles.

I got this. sent Mother.

“Now any team needs at the least a mage, a decker, and someone handy with a gun. You also need someone who is smooth talker but that can be one of the first three. I’m going to disguise myself and you are going to say something to get us in.” said Mother casting an illusion of a grungy human male.

“What?” asked Mr Johnson.

“Just say something to get us in. I’ll do the rest sugar.” said Mother.

Mother and Mr Johnson walked up to the guards out front.

“Get fragged wageslave. We don’t sell drugs here.” said one.

“I’m here to see the boss.” said Mr Johnson with a tremble in his voice.

“This one doesn’t hear too good.” said the second guard.

“You’re boss wants to see me.” said Mr Johnson.

“Why would he want to see you cupcake?” asked the first one.

“I…he.” said Mr Johnson.

“Can your shit. You take us to the boss or after I beat your ass he will. if he wanted you to know his biz he’d tell you.” said Mother in a male voice.

“Tell the boss we got some wageslave and his bodyguard to see him.” said One.

Two radioed it in and waved them in.

“Youre…a man?” asked Mr Johnson as they walked up the creaking staircase.

“I’m all woman. I’m an actress sugar. I play many parts.” said Mother in her usual feminine voice.

“You’re doing ok but never break character. Never admit the con. You play it all the way out even when the lead flyes.” said Mother.

Mr Johnson looked pale and fidgited.

“What do I say?” asked Mr Johnson.

“Just stall him. Tell him what he wants to hear. It’s all acting. If you pretend something and hint at things people will believe it if you sell it.” said Mother.

They came to the top of the stairs to two men guarding a door. The men waved them in. A man in body armor holding a pistol sat behind a desk. Two men stood behind him holding assault rifles.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” asked the man.

“I represent a number of parties that are interested in backing your enterprise.” said Mr Johnson.

“Who the hell are you? You stroll in here without an invite and you’ve heard of me have you? You don’t know me.” said the boss.

Mr Johnson looked to Mother. Mother gestured for him to go on checking her commlink.

“The people I represent have heard of you…”

“Theodore Wheeler Sir.” said Mother in her man voice.


“Teddy. We know more than you think. The people I represent can’t be seen supporting your cause. Hence they sent me. But it’s not without strings.” said Mr Johnson.

“Ogun lend me the strength.” said Mother under her breath.

“Of course not. I’m listening…” said Teddy just as a manabolt hit him in the face taking him down.

Mr Johnson just stared.

Mother leapt over the table and punched both the guards nocking them uncoscious.

“Cover the door.” said Mother pulling a pink spray can out of he rtrenchcoat pocket.

The door opened and Mr Johnson fired a few shots through it.

“Get down!” shouted mother as assault rifles cut the door in half. Mr Johnson lay on the floor firing back.

Mother Painted a pink anarchy symbol the sign of the pink lodge on the wall.

“Let’s go.” said Mother grabbing Mr Johnson and jumping out the window. the ground rushed up at them and Mother cast levitate at the last second. Mother’s car pulled up by itself and they both jumped in.

“See. A milk run.” said Mother.

“I…I…” said Mr Johnson.

“Rethinking life in the shadows?” asked Mother.

Transcendance Initiated
Calico's visitor

Patches the housecat entered the dingy apartment through the open skylight, hopping down to the strategically placed bookshelf, then to the dresser, then the bed. Her close companion, Mr. Kitty sauntered into the room to greet her. She allowed him to nuzzle her for several moments before her exhaustion got the better of her, and she dropped her spell, wanting nothing more than to relax her body and her mind. It had been a very long night, after all. As she shifted from Patches back to Calico, she stretched luxuriously across her wonderful, shitty new bed. The mattress was lumpy, and there’d been stains that she had quickly covered with the cheap sheets she’d bought from the Stuffer Shack. But it was hers. No more sleeping in gutters, no more trolling for “benefactors”. Well, not out of absolute necessity, anyway. She now had her very own apartment, with hot (usually) and cold running water, locking doors, electricity … the works.

“Isn’t it fabulous, Mr. Kitty?” she asked her obscenely fluffy, snow white feline companion as he bounded up to join her on the mattress. He pranced onto her stomach, arching his back appreciatively as she stroked his soft fur. “And it’s all ours. Yes, I think things are just gonna get better for us, you just wait.” Mr. Kitty purred his agreement. She laid her head back and closed her eyes, feeling the warm embrace of sleep beginning to creep slowly over her.

“You see the rewards your actions bring, but you are blind to the new risks that come with them”, observed the refined, latin voice to her right. She lifted her head up, and pulled her elbows back to prop herself up, regarding Mr. Kitty questioningly as he sat majestically on her dresser, his tail swishing lightly back and forth. “You have thus far had very few true challenges in your life,” he continued telepathically, “and therefore have had just as few failures. But you are now entering a time when your abilities will be sorely tested. You must prepare.”

Calico sat upright. She’d known some shamans who spoke with their guiding spirits almost daily, or claimed they did. But the Cat Spirit (she wondered if that was what he was even called) had only ever directly spoken to her a handful of times, and each time had been a pivotal moment in her life. Suddenly her fatigue was gone.

“Prepare how?” she asked, her voice filled with earnest attention. For several moments Mr. Kitty sat quietly, silently regarding her as she waited for whatever wisdom he would impart. Finally, he spoke without speaking, and his words filled her mind once more.

“You must seek the unfindable, learn the unknowable …. master the untameable.” Long moments passed as she waited for him to continue.

“Well ….. umm …. huh?” she stammered, having not even the beginnings of a clue as to what the fuck he was talking about. Even though Mr. Kitty was incapable of smiling, Calico telepathically felt his amusement radiating from him.

“You desire understanding, but understanding originates from the mind.” he explained cryptically. “What you must seek is beyond the mind and its constructs. It is the essence of what Is, and therefore transcends the mind.”

“But …. I don’t understand …” she protested in frustration, which was compounded by Mr. Kitty’s renewed aura of patronizing enjoyment at her struggle.

“And you must stop trying.”, he told her. “You cannot understand. You can only Know.”

Suddenly Calico was destroyed. Her existance had been obliterated, and yet her consciousness …. persisted. She had no senses, no sight, smell, or hearing. And yet she was utterly and completely aware of her surroundings in a way that went so far beyond what she’d known all her life, so much deeper, so much more fundamental, as to render her old definitions meaningless. Upon considering the word “definitions”, Calico laughed uncontrollably at the ridiculously inadequate nature of it, of all words. They were nothing more than the coat of paint that comprised the outer skin, the mere framework of something infinitely more complex and wonderful. She had been given the gift of Ultimate Knowing, and her life would undergo truly cataclysmic changes—

Calico sat up in bed, suddenly awake. It was cold, and she’d fallen asleep without covering herself, as her bare goosebumped flesh attested. She’d been dreaming …. something. Mr. Kitty regarded her curiously from the foot of the bed, offering a soft, questioning meow as she stared at him. And then she remembered.

The force of the loss hit her like a blow to the chest, and she mentally scrambled to reinhabit that place. But she was only able to catch the edges of it as it receded irretrievably into the void. For a moment she lamented its departure, but suddenly realized that it hadn’t been a complete loss. She knew what she had to do know.

She had to become a magical Initiate.

In her mind, the Cat Spirit smiled once more at her before following her dream into the nothingness. Had it been Cat? Or her imagination?

“Is there a difference?” Cat asked from Nowhere, and then it was Calico’s turn to experience a knowing amusement.


Calico parsed through the enormous electronic document which expounded, from myriad different angles and approaches, on the mysteries of magical initiation. There was more information here than she could ever need, and some of it even seemed to contradict itself. She knew that when she found the path that was right for her, she would know it. It would jump up and grab her, and from there it would just flow. Maybe not easily, but naturally. But this felt like homework, and she had always hate hate hated homework. She was digging through a mountain of string, seeking the one string that would lead her where she wanted, where she needed to go. It was beyond frustrating. It was torture.

FUUUUUCK!!!” she bellowed involuntarily, standing and pitching a dirty glass with all her strength against the wall. It shattered loudly, and Mr. Kitty bolted from the room in sheer terror. She slumped back into her seat. This was going to suck.


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