Shaking Down Shadows

Pay Day Part Dieux

Monique finishes her small tea with a shallow sigh and gathers her things. Her errands in the area include stopping at a shop that specializes in teas, where she picks out the special blend that her mistress likes and arranges for it to be delivered to the flat. After that, the next stop is “Le Clerc”. The shop sign does not indicate what is sold inside, but its clientele does not need to ask. Francoise Le Clerc is a master crafter of high-end fine footware, and it is said in the circles that count that one only wears a pair of Le Clerc to anything of any significance. Monique enters the shop and her senses are immediately aware of the smells and sights of the owner’s goods.

She wanders about a bit, looking at what is new and what Lady Tanya might be interested in. A shop assistant waits patiently for her to look about and give an indication that she needs assistance, and will step forward when Monique turns to look for him. The young man gives a slight bow and asks in an English slightly accented by French if he may be of service. As Monique opens her mouth to reply, she is interrupted by a woman coming forward. In perfect French she berates the young man and sends him off to perform a chore. Turning to Monique she steps forward and busses both cheeks as the two speak in French.

“I am so very sorry, Miss Monique. The boy is new and does not know all of the special clients yet. And if he does not learn quickly, he will not be employed here long. Sometimes it is so difficult to find quality help any more.”

Monique will maintain a straight face through this as she knows that the woman is completely serious. She nods her head and replies, “I know how true that is, Madame Grevier. I am sure that you will have him trained in no time.”

“I am sure that you are here about Lady Marisart’s boots, but is there anything else I can personally assist you with?”

Monique nods, pointing to a pair of evening slippers. “There is, yes. I noticed these slippers when I entered the store. I am certain that my mistress has a dress that these would go perfectly with. Do you think it is possible to have Monsieur Le Clerc make a pair to fit?”

The woman’s eyes never leave Monique as she quietly nodes. “For Madame Marisart anything is possible. Come, sit and I will get your color swatches from the file while you examine the boots.”

The woman leads Monique to a small table and comfortable chair and departs for the back rooms where the clients keep color swatches of their clothes so that the shoes can match. A younger version of the woman appears from the rear with a longish box in her arms. Monique recognizes her and stands. Again the cheek busses as she says, “Sophie! So good to see you again. It is too long since we have had a nice tea and chat.”

“The young woman nods, happy to see her friend. “Yes, it has been far too long. But there is this responsibility plus the classes at university, and there is the part time I still do for Madame Harridan…….so many demands against one’s time.”

She places the box on the table and opens it as Monique resumes her seat. She pulls a small magnifying glass from a pocket of her dress and offers it to Monique, who takes it without a word. Monique begins to carefully examine the stitching on the over-the-knee length boots that Tanya has had made for her. The craftsmanship is extraordinary, as usual, but it would be considered a deep insult if one were to simply take the boots and shoes sold here without looking. The custom that wanders in from the street has been known to be guilty of just such an offense, but none of the regulars would dare make that mistake more than once.

The two girls exchange small talk about work and Monique listens carefully to what Sophie has to say about Mrs. Harridan, a woman renowned for her lavish parties and for her pearls. She asks pointed questions designed to elicit information that her mistress might find useful. As she finishes examining the boots, Monique places them back in the box with a slight nod, then asks about Paul. Sophie blushes and leans forward to say, “Oh Monique, he has asked me to marry him. I said yes.” She draws a small chain from inside the neck of her demure dress and shows an engagement ring. The pair giggle and look at the ring then Sophie tucks it away.

“You have not told your mother?”

“No, not yet. You know how she feels about Paul’s family. But I will have to say something soon as we want to get married when I finish my classes in the Spring.”

“Yes. You should tell her soon.” Monique opens her purse and draws out a cred stick. “I do not want to forget this, but Lady Tanya sends her regards and hopes that this will help pay for the last educational credits at university.”

Sophie’s hand takes the stick and grasps that of her friend. “Your employer has always been such a supporter. I don’t know how I would have gotten through the courses without her help.”

Monique smiles at her, then motions for her to put the stick away as the older woman arrives. She pats the box and says, “We will take these. Please have them delivered. Here is a stick to cover the charges.”

The senior clerk will pass the stick and box back to Sophie then turn to Monique, a selection of color swatches in her hand. She and Monique discuss the color of the dress that is to be matched and settle on the appropriate swatch. Sophie returns with the cred stick and Monique nods to both, receiving additional cheek busses before departing the exclusive shop. She contemplates her last stop of the day as she walks to the corner and waits for the number 15 bus.

One transfer later, she steps off the bus and looks up at a rather seedy-looking shop in the low-rent neighborhood of the Downtown district. The name on the shop door is supposed to be “Pyramid Properties”, although most of the letters are missing some detail and three have been completely scraped off by vandals. Lenny, the man that owns the company, is a washed up realtor that has managed to turn some older and mainly decrepit properties into emergency safehouses and last ditch bolt holes for various people who may need to lay low from time to time. He asks no questions, but has a strict set of rules for his “tenants”. Anyone breaking the rules is not welcome to use any of his properties in the future. Needless to say, he does not have many issues with people breaking his rules.

She enters the small office and goes to the counter. She is not surprised to find that no one is presently manning the office or that she can hear the moans usually associated with sexual activity coming from the rear room. It seems that the girl Lenny has on here has nothing but sex on her mind as she is always in the back with some local boy or another when Monique comes by. She presses the buzzer at the counter, then again before she hears someone cursing from the back and voices from two people.

A young woman comes to the front, straightening her blouse. She looks at Monique and frowns, “Oh it is you come again, is it.”

Monique looks at the woman and nods. “Here to make the holding payment for Rachael Adams.”

The clerk “Adams……Adams…….Rachael Adams? Let me see, now. Don’t seem to be able to see that……….”

Her words are interrupted as Monique slides some credits across the counter. “Oh yes. Here you are. Must have looked right past it the first time. Yes.”

The credits on the counter disappear in a manner that an accomplished pickpocket like Monique can appreciate. The other girl lifts a stick reader to the counter and Monique slides a cred stick in and has the amount deducted from it that is meant to hold open Tanya’s emergency bolt hole in her second name. As she does a young man comes out from the back. He leans against the wall and lights a cigarette, coughing as the smoke from the cheap brand he buys fills his lungs. He looks Monique up and down, leering at her in a thinly disguised manner that indicates his desire. Monique is no stranger to sex, but the look this man gives her every time she comes in gives her the creeps and leaves her feeling a bit unclean. She is very glad when the credit transaction is completed and she can replace the stick in her purse. As she turns to leave she looks at the young woman on the other side of the counter. “Thank you, again. And by the way, your blouse is buttoned crooked. Sloppy.”

The girl looks down and calls out some obscenities at Monique’s back as the French maid exits the shop chuckling to herself. Shaking off the eerie feeling she always gets from the realty office, she makes her way back to the bus stop and catches the first bus going her way. Several transfers later she arrives at the corner opposite the Gates Undersound Hotel. Debarking, she moves to the hotel and makes her way to suite U3A, her temporary home. She sighs as she enters the luxurious flat; payday can be such a bother, but she did get some information about Mrs. Harrid that she can update the current file with. The grand party that Sophie had mentioned might be a chance to make off with some of those pearls.

Lady Tanya will be pleased, and that is what is important to Monique Chevalier.

Pay Day
Looking to the Future

Monique stepped off the bus at the stop for Seattle’s Little China Town at just after 10AM. The main street was crowded with various Chinese shops, restaurants, and residences and there were many people on the street at this hour of the morning. Residents were going about the business of managing and serving the visitors, mingling with the people from Seattle as well as tourists from other sprawls, all looking for some sort of bargain……something different that they could take home. Restaurants, antique shops, clothiers, and others vied with taverns and drug dens for the Nuyen of the visitors.

Although nearly invisible to the common eye, the signs of the three main Triads operating within Seattle were evident to someone who knew what to look for, and Monique had made it a priority to learn about the people that employed her mistress. After all, someone had to look after Lady Tanya as the British noblewoman seemed a bit unwilling to take care of herself. Monique knew the signs and symbols of the Octagon Triad that had made use of Tanya’s specialized skills on a number of occasions in the last three years. She also knew the colors and symbols of the opposing Triads and knew enough to stay away from them. Even though neither she nor her employer were officially part of the Octagon, the relationship was a bit close and they were looked at with some distrust by both Yellow Lotus and the 88s.

Monique made her way down the street to her destination; a quiet and unassuming shop with a rather innocuous sign above the door proclaiming this to be “Xialin’s Antiques – Purveyors Of Fine Antiques From The Orient”. Opening the door, she passed into the well-lit shop, the small bell above the door announcing her entrance. Not that she needed any sort of announcement; the state-of-the-art security system had already alerted the inhabitants of her approach and the two large men near the door were ready for her.

She greeted both by name, using the few words of Chinese that she had picked up over the past couple of years. Both nodded, although they did not remove their eyes from her until the shop owner arrived. The beaded curtains separating the main shop from the rear slithered apart and Ni Ni Xiaolu stepped into the front of the shop. The beautiful Chinese woman moved to Monique and kissed her cheeks before saying in near-flawless French, "Monique, how nice to see you again. How are you and how is Lady Tanya?’

Monique tried to respond in what little Chinese she knew and fumbled badly. Ni Ni, gracious as ever, laughed and said, “Your pronunciation is getting better all the time. Just a bit more practice, I think. I was just sitting down to tea; would you like to join me?”

Monique laughs as well and nods, allowing the shop owner lead her through the beads into the rear of the shop. They passed through a small work area and a much larger storage area, both occupied by people working at cataloguing and caring for the various items that Ni Ni deemed fit to be displayed on her shelves. Finally reaching Ni Ni’s private suite, the two women sat down as a young girl of perhaps ten served them tea and sweets. The girl, Ying, remembers Monique and asks if she wants to see how much she has improved her palming skills. She entertains the pair for several minutes and waits for judgment. Monique claps and nods, actually impressed by the girl’s ability. She patiently shows the budding pickpocket and sneak thief where she could do better, demonstrating her own significant skill in liberating the unwitting of their small valuables.

After the girl leaves, Ni Ni looks to Monique, “Thank you for helping. She is good and will be better. And you are a good teacher. If my sister had not died so young she would be teaching her daughter, and I know that Ying’s father appreciates your help, even if you are not Chinese and he cannot make himself tell you that in person.”

The pair drink tea and make small talk until they have finished. Ni Ni then places a small cred stick and a cred slotter on the table between them, saying "As usual, here is the payment. I think that Tanya will be pleased at what I was able to get for the jewelry she brought in. And I am to pass on that the Octagon is very pleased with the way she handled the Yellow Lotus jade. That embarrassment will set Yellow Lotus and Red Dragon relations behind for years. Already several middle managers for the Lotus have been “retired” and the stick contains an additional bonus above what was agreed upon earlier. She is getting a lot of attention within the higher ranks of the Octagon and should be getting additional offers soon."

Monique thanks the Chinese woman and pockets the cred stick without hesitation, blatantly ignoring the stick slotter. Ni Ni smiles and escorts the French woman back to the front shop and to the door, where she gives instructions to one of the guards to attend to Miss Monique until she gets back on the bus. The Triad guard nods and walks with Monique to the end of the street and patiently waits with her for the bus to come by. Monique gets in some much-needed practice in talking to the large man while he spends his time looking about to make sure that no one bothers his charge.

Once on the bus, Monique has some time to consider the relationship between her mistress and Ni Ni. The pair seem absolutely suited for each other, yet they do not seem to be in any hurry to take the step of living together. They have been lovers for at least two years now, with the beautiful Chinese woman being the most frequent visitor to Tanya’s bed of any of her acquaintances and Monique is sure that the two women are much more to each other than the casual fling. Monique shrugs her shoulders and turns her attention to her next task for pay day.

The young French woman changes buses several times and finally arrives in Renton. She walks through the streets unhindered, but she feels the eyes of many of the locals upon her. She is not dressed for the region and attracts attention like flies to honey. She is glad for the comfortable feel of the flic knife in its arm slide, a second one at the small of her back, and the third in the thigh sheath on her left leg. She makes her way to Hank’s street medical establishment. Actually, establishment is a rather large word to use to describe what Hank has. It is more like a squatter’s bin than a doctor’s office. He could have been a fine medical professional, but take pride in taking care of the poor and downtrodden of this near-blighted area.

The bear of a man that is Hank sees her enter the room that doubles for a waiting room and triage center. He smiles at her approach and rises from where he is looking at a man sitting in one really dilapidated chair that is clearly past its prime. He holds out his hand, engulfing Monique’s as he shakes it vigorously. “Welcome, welcome. And how are you and that nice woman you work for?”

Monique carefully flexes her fingers after the shake to be sure that all of them still work correctly. Removing a cred stick from her purse and handing it to the large man, she says, “She is quite well, Hank. We are both quite well, thank you. She told me to tell you that she will come personally next time, but that she is very busy today. She does send her regards and hopes that this will help you with procuring some of the herbs and preparations that you need.” Hank nods and takes the stick, putting it into a pocket of his overalls. “You thank her from the bottom of my heart and tell her that there will be those here that get medical attention because of her.” After spending a few more minutes at the makeshift clinic, Monique takes her leave, returning to the bus stop.

After a couple more transfers, Monique arrives at Capitol Hill. Walking to the old church, she steps inside. Her hand move involuntarily in the motions of the cross as she enters and walks down the aisle between the pews. She finds the somewhat enigmatic woman known as Our Lady Of Mercy in the garden outside the main building. How the pretty woman ended up in this place doing mercy work is a mystery that she does not share, but here she is. Like Hank, she rises from what she is doing and graciously receives the cred stick that Tanya regularly sends to her. “Please let Lady Tanya know how much I appreciate this gesture on her part. It is always a pleasure to see either of you.”

Monique replies that she is also grateful to be able to bring something to help. She does not remain long, as the church makes her a bit uncomfortable. Too, even though the woman dressed as a nun has never said anything, she does not really believe that the woman is really a nun and just being this close to the inside of a church is unsettling. She quickly leaves the church and walks back to the bus stop. She checks the time on her internal commlink and smiles; just enough time to go to the sweet shop she likes and pamper herself with some cocoa and French pastry before she has to set off to complete Lady Tanya’s little monthly deliveries.

Pay day can be so tiring.

Death in the Dark
A Maid's Adventure

Monique was enjoying a night out. She would be the first to tell anyone that she loved her job, that she had a tremendous respect for her employer, but she needed a bit of “me” time. Fortunately, Lady Tanya was generous with the days and evenings off. Tonight was special. She had been waiting for several weeks for the Grand Buddha to play a concert in Seattle. The Rock/Indie fusion group was the most successful band to tour the West Coast in years and they were in Seattle for two nights only. Her mistress had surprised her weeks earlier with a pair of tickets and Monique had asked one of her friends, Jimmy Barnes, to be her date for the night.

Everything went swimmingly. The concert was everything it was advertised to be. The warm up band was frenzied and good, working the crowd like the experts they were becoming and they had the audience on its feet. When the Grand Buddha came onstage the crowd screamed so loud that they could not begin their set for almost fifteen minutes. The band played for almost three hours straight; only taking two ten minute breaks. Monique and her date had been on their feet with everyone else, screaming and singing along with the most popular tunes of the day.

Mostly hoarse, but loving it, the two left the huge sports arena to walk to the bus stop. They were reliving some of the concert vibe when a light-colored step van raced up to them and screeched to a stop mere feet from them. The rear doors slammed open and two masked men jumped out; one armed with a pistol and the other a short barreled shotgun. The man with the pistol grabbed at Monique while the other covered Jimmy, who was braver than he was smart. Jimmy jumped at the men while calling out for help, but was no match for the man with the gun, who laid him low with one swipe with the shotgun. The thug aimed the gun at the prone and unconscious man but the other told him that the man was no threat and he needed help with the struggling Monique.

And he did. Monique used her superior agility to almost break free and was turning to run when a blow from behind felled her. She never felt the pain of being tossed into the van. She woke up tied to a chair in a dimly lit room. She pulled against her bonds, testing them, but they were not giving way. Her moans had garnered some attention and the door opened as three men entered the room, an Ork and two humans. The Ork cradled a shotgun and stood near the door while the humans walked up to her. One knelt behind her and tested the ropes, making sure that the knots were still good. The other held Monique’s Meta commlink in his hand. He sneered at Monique as he tossed it onto a wobbly table.

“Your whoring mistress cannot even give you a decent link. Why do you stay with her?”

Monique looked at the man, trying to come up with a plan that would save her life. “I owe her only what loyalty she pays for. Why have you done this?” Then her mind flashes to a vid story she had recently seen, one of Petra’s pieces. Several personal servants to high society figures had been kidnapped recently. Three had turned up dead after their employers had refused to pay any ransom. Putting a scared face on and fear in her voce, “What have I done to you?”

“You and your employer have taken from the poor and lived upon our backs for too long. She is a fragging whore and deserves the worst punishment that can be meted out to her. We will take what she prizes most; her money.”

With that, the man pulls a commlink from his pocket and makes a call. Tanya answers on the third ping and the man launches into a diatribe against the wealthy and rich but does not get far before Tanya breaks the connection. The man fumes, yelling at the link as if that would make any difference. The other human steps forward to calm him down and gets backhanded for his trouble. The man only calms down when he hears the Ork behind him laughing. When some additional invective is spewed at the Ork, he raises the shotgun as if to fire it, which seems to calm the man down.

Turning back to Monique, he snarls. “She had better stay on next time or you will suffer for it.” He calls again and leads off by telling Tanya that he has Monique. She asks for proof and the commlink is pushed into Monique’s face. “Tell her, bitch. Tell her that she pays or you die.”

Monique complies, a bit breathlessly, telling her employer that she is unharmed for now but that the three men seemed very serious. The man holding the link pulls it back and says, “Now do we have your attention?”

The Tanya that answers is a far different person; her tone of voice is contrite and faintly subservient as she asks what she needs to do. The man tells her how much he wants and tells her to stay be her comm and he would get back to her in three hours to tell her where to take the money. he tosses in the obligatory “Do not call the police or else” phrase and disconnects.

The man looks around at his companions. “Did I not tell you that this one would be the biggest yet. That whoring bitch has so much money that she passes out 100 credit tips as if it was water. This is the big score. All the research paid off, eh?”

The others grudgingly admitted that it certainly seemed so and sauntered out of the room, laughing at some secret joke. Monique mentally thumbed open her implanted commlink and contacted Tanya, who picked up on the first ping this time. “How are you, Monique?”

“I am well, but I am concerned about Jimmy. The last I saw he was unconscious on the street.”

“I will ask around the various hospitals he might have been taken to. Now as for you; do you know where you are?”

“No, milady. I was unconscious as well and only woke up here tied to a chair.”

“Hmmmm. Good thing I know an excellent decker. I will call Cora Lee in on this and we will find you. Keep the link open.”

The three hours passes faster than Monique had thought it would and the men come back into the room, taking up the same positions as before. The man with the commlink in his hand is actually smiling as her saunters up to the tied up woman. “Time to check in. She better be ready with the money.”

Monique allows a bit of panic to set onto her face as she says, “And what if she doesn’t pay?”

The man laughs and replies, “Then she gets you back in pieces.”

The Ork laughs, “After we has our fun with you, get it?”

He makes the connection and a subdued Tanya answers. “I need more time. Another hour, please?”

The man spits angrily into the link and brings up the pistol he is holding in his other hand. The Ork interrupts his action by saying, “Hey! Ask for more money. Let her buy the hour.”

“That is a good idea, Gond.” He turns back to the commlink and says, “OK. One hour is an added 10K Nuyen. Got it? And only this one time. The next time she dies.”

Tanya sputters a thanks and promises to have the entire amount ready in an hour. The men laugh again as their leader disconnects the call and clasps the Ork across the shoulder. “Gond getting smart. I like that idea.”

nearly an hour passes after the men leave when Monique spots a shadow at the open widow. Tanya slips in and quietly moves over to cut the bonds, freeing her maid from the chair. She whispers, “Cora Lee was able to get a fix on you. Are you hurt?”

Monique whispers back, “Mostly my pride. Got taken by rookies. It seems to be only the three of them out for the big score. The boss is a nutcase if I have ever seen one; there is an Ork with a shotgun and one other. I think the last one is the guy who does the research. They knew right where I would be and who you are. And they have done this before. They killed those three girls whose employers did not pay.”

She pauses, “Jimmy?”

“Jimmy is fine. Bump on the head and I dare say he could use some TLC from his girlfriend. He will be out of hospital tomorrow and you can ask him yourself.”

A noise from the other room brought a finger to Tanya’s lips. “Shhh. I will be over here. Let’s make sure that this stops here.”

Tanya moves over to the far wall, hidden in the shadows. The three men enter the room, but this time the Ork moves closer with the others, smiling and licking his lips in anticipation of having his fun with the human before killing her. The leader once again raises the comm to make contact when everything begins to go haywire on him. A slight snick and the second human grabs at his neck before collapsing. The leader stares stupidly at his fallen companion, but the Ork reacts a bit faster, starting to bring his shotgun up. The look of shock on his face is priceless as the thin, almost invisible line of a monofilament whip lashes around his arm. The whip is one of the most fearsome melee weapons made and in the hands of a skilled user it can cut through flesh and muscle and bone like a knife through butter, even Ork flesh and muscle and bone.

The Ork stares at his twitching forearm on the floor holding the shotgun as what remains of his arm spurts blood from the severed artery. He gurgles something unintelligible in Or’Zet before collapsing in a spreading pool of blood. The leader is completely stunned by the shock of seeing this and stands still, staring at the severed arm and the Ork, providing a perfect target for Tanya. The whip lashes out again, this time wrapping about the neck of the leader and pulling tight. The man’s severed head flopped several feet from the falling body.

Tanya moves over to nudge a toe at the two dead men, careful not to step in the blood pooling around them. Neither moves so she and Monique lift the darted and unconscious man into the chair and tie him into it. A search of this room and the next reveals recordings of their prior kidnappings, including the rapes and murders of the unfortunate girls who had died. Each of the three men figured prominently in all of the recordings, and only the three. Tanya took the bound man’s silenced pistol and held it to his chest before firing three rounds into his heart. She placed the pistol in the hand of the headless leader and pulled the trigger again, sending three additional rounds into the sitting man’s body.

She took the recording of Monique’s kidnapping and left the rest in a pile on the table and motioned for her maid to recover her Meta link. Next, Tanya opened a comm to Petra. “Hey. It is me. You want the scoop on the maid killers? You should come quickly to the address I am linking to you now. Do not wait too long or someone else will find this first. Vids tell the story and it was all wrapped up by a Good Samaritan. Love ya. Ta”

With that Tanta and Monique left by the window and climbed down the fire escape to the Mirage and left the scene of death.

Coin is Coin
The Triad is not sooooo bad.

The comm came on while Tanya was in the shower. The tag line on her cybered link indicated that it was Fu Chien, an Octagon fixer that called on her from time to time. That he was calling at this time of the morning meant that he thought it was important, so Tanya ought to think it was important. Mentally thumbing the link to active she responded to the Triad man’s summons. She used his native language which always seemed to please him.

“Yes, Fu Chien, how may I help you?”

The Triad fixer responded, “Your Chinese is getting better all the time. Perhaps some day you will come in and be fully integrated into the Octagon.”

Tanya laughed, “Perhaps some day, Fu Chien, but I like my independence at this time. Again, how can I help you?”

“We are in need of your particular skills. Can you be at 1427 Argo street at eleven this morning? You will be briefed when you arrive.”

Tanya brings up a map of Seattle and punches in the coordinates. The name Blended Spoon popped up, apparently some sort of eatery. “Yes, I can make that meeting. I hope that the food is passable.”

Fu Chien rings off with a chuckle and Tanya finishes her shower. Stepping out, she dries off and moves into her bedroom, where Monique has already laid out her clothes for the morning. Hanging up the towel, Tanya calls out to her maid in French, “Change in plans, Monique. I have been offered a meet at some low class restaurant and will need to dress down a bit from what I originally planned. What do you recommend?”

After some back and forth, the day’s attire is agreed upon. Monique carefully hangs up the rejects and brings out clothes better suited to the area of the sprawl the Blended Spoon sits in. While eating the breakfast provided by the hotel’s excellent kitchens, Tanya pulls up the area of the meet and looks at the grid guide maps of the area. A quick escape is probably not going to be required, but in Tanya’s estimation the time you do not plan for it is the time you will need it. Satisfied that the area had several routes she could use, she closes the programs and calls up the restaurant to place a lunch order and check on parking restrictions. The menu options make her wonder if the place is better than its location would indicate.

The British woman arrives at the meeting site a quarter hour early. Parking her Mirage in the lot near the restaurant, she looks around as she walks slowly to the restaurant. Entering, Tanya finds herself pleasantly surprised by the neat and orderly décor and the rapidity with which the hostess approaches her to see to her needs. Looking around, Tanya spots the contact. Mei Lin. She has never learned the contact’s full name, or if Mei Lin was even her real name. The woman was always brusque and only gave out enough information as necessary before leaving.

The Triad briefer nods and Tanya tells the hostess that she is expected and makes her way to Mei Lin’s table. She sits and Mei Lin waits for the waitress to bring water before beginning the briefing. She places a slim folder and a medium-sized box on the table in front of Tanya and says, “You will go to the location described in the instructions and replace the described item with the one in this box. The contact code for success is included in the instructions. There is no contact code for failure. Your customary fee is pre-approved, along with a bonus that is dependent on success. I have no answers to any of your questions. Everything you need is in the instructions. As always, you will burn the documents after reading them.”

Mei Lin allows herself to grimace at the thief. “On a personal note, I do not see why we are using you, but that is not my decision.” Rising, the slight woman leaves the restaurant with out another word. The waitress come to the table. “Dining alone, then are we?”

Tanya laughs. “So it would seem, yes. I called earlier and placed an order for Tanya.” The waitress nods and disappears into the kitchen, returning shortly with the meal. “Lucky you. You are not one of our regulars; how did you know it was our specialty?” Tanya smiles and taps her forehead before digging in. The food is very good and the waitress is attentive. Even though the restaurant fills up at noon, the young woman seems to be able to balance all of the orders with spending personal time with each customer. As Tanya slots her credstick in the receiver presented for payment, she says, “You have a rare gift for a waitress, or practically anyone. I hope that you go far in this world.” She leaves a hefty tip with the girl and gives her a card with her comm code and instructions for her to call her if she ever wanted to move on to something else.

After arriving back home, Tanya takes the packet and the box into the suite’s fourth bedroom, which she has converted into a small private workroom and planning station. She calls Monique in as she opens both instruction folder and box. Both women look at a small jade statue carefully packed in the box then turn their attention to the instructions. An hour later, Tanya understands why the Octagon is using her on this one. The job is to replace an surprisingly valuable statue with a flawed fake. The fake would pass normal examination, but an expert would see the flaws quickly. The target is a mid-level player in the Yellow Lotus, a rival Triad and perhaps the strongest one in Seattle. Tanya looks at her maid and friend, “Well, we won’t be able to ask for Octagon assistance on this one. Pull up anything we have on this guy and where he lives while I scan these blueprints.”

By early evening they know about all they are going to know. The timing of the theft is set to coincide with a visit to the Triad man by an influential member of the Red Dragon, the original parent Triad. There has been bad blood for years between the Yellow Lotus of Seattle and the Red Dragon of the homeland. The visit was an attempt by the Yellow Lotus to get back in the good graces of the organization that had once tried to exterminate them. The Lotus man was inordinately proud of his collection of jade statues and the original of the one on Tanya’s work table was his prize. He was sure to show it off to the Red Dragon representative who is an expert in Ming Dynasty jades. The resulting insult and embarrassment when the forgery was found out could set the negotiations back years, if not rekindling open hostilities between the Triads. Tanya nods at the plan’s concept and boldness. She also nods at their decision to use the British thief instead of one of their own people.

The pair meticulously plan out the operation over the next three days, determining the equipment needed and how best to break into the vault. The instructions from the Octagon were explicit in requiring that the intrusion and the theft be seamless and invisible. That meant no noisy explosions and that no alarms be set off. Fortunately, the packet contained extremely detailed descriptions of the various alarms that Tanya would have to bypass to get to and into the vault. The final step of actually breaching the protections guarding the statues would be up to Tanya’s expertise, but everything else was covered. Maybe.

Tanya had been in such situations before and had learned to look deep into information provided her about alarms. In this case, however, everything seemed straight. She would be prepared to find out differently, of course. The mantra she lived by was to always have a Plan B or C as a back up.

The initial execution of the plan was flawless. Tanya had provided herself with forged identification as one of the tenants of the building and just walked in. The bored security man was intent on an Urban Brawl match and barely even looked at the document. Tanya took the elevator to the floor three levels above that of the Lotus man and opened the door to an apartment that she knew was vacant after calling the day before asking about leases on that particular side of the building. She moved to the window and opened it, looking out at the ground fifty floors below. Her interest was not on the view of the sprawl, but on the Lotus apartment almost directly below her.

Putting on her specially reinforced rappelling gloves to protect her hands, she secured her microwire rope to a stanchion near the window, she arranged her gear and checked everything one last time before moving to the window and slipping out. Descending to the Lotus man’s level, she pauses, bringing out a scanner. She had contacted a friend who was wiz with a deck and had arranged for her to cut the auto alarms on the window. On cue the red light turned green and Tanya breathed a silent thanks to Cora Lee before opening the window and passing the invisible barrier across it. She quietly moved into the room after securing the wire and changing into gloves better suited for the next bit of work and approached the closet. The back wall of the large walk-in concealed the door to the vault and Tanya moved to it, running her hands along the edge and tripping the catch.

As the door clicked open, she turned her eyes to opening the now-visible vault. She had been prepared for the complexity of the system and was almost disappointed that the actual vault was an older model that did not include some of the more recent tech improvements. She carefully accessed the locking mechanism with her various devices and ran through the complex and almost boring time while waiting for the tech to do its job. The vault popped open with a soft snick and she went in. Various examples of the finest jade art produced during the Ming Dynasty covered the shelves of the vault, but pride of place was given to seven statues that were the sole occupants of the central shelf. Tanya’s second mantra was to never take more than what she was paid for when she was working for others, but she was sorely tempted this time.

Shaking her head to clear it, she took the fake statue from a pouch at her hip and swapped it for the original. Just at that moment her internal link pinged with the arranged warning from Monique, who was stationed in a building across the wide street from the suite. The single ping meant that someone was moving her way from the next room. Glad that it had not been the double ping of an immediate threat, Tanya moved to exit the vault. She had just closed the hidden door when she got two pings on her comm, meaning that someone was about to enter the room she was in. “Time for plan D,” she told herself, looking around. The floor length frocks on the left side of the closet provided scant concealment, but were the best available. Tanya slipped between the frocks and spread herself against the far wall. The closet door opened and she could hear two sets of footsteps on the carpeted floor. Her hand dropped to the dart pistol at her side, thinking, “Frag the instructions if it means the difference in getting caught and escaping.”

The steps went all the way to the hidden door and stopped. She could hear the man engage the catch and work the various combinations of the door. She spared a glance between to expensive frocks and saw the face of the Lotus man as he finished the procedure and opened the vault. He turned away from the door, telling his companion that she was about to see some of the most valuable pieces of artwork not in a museum. The young woman giggled and placed her hand on the man’s shoulder, clearly implying that she was as interested in the jade as he was. She waited for the pair to enter the vault and then listened to the woman exclaim in appropriate tones how amazed she was. After a bit of quiet and some more giggles, Tanya heard the clear sounds that indicated that the relationship inside the vault had moved to the next level.

Shaking her head, she quietly moved to the end of the closet, still shielded from the occupants of the vault. The woman inside was clearly one of the noisy ones and Tanya used her cries to cover her movement back to the outer room. She moved to the window and checked to be sure that the scanner light was still green before donning her rappelling gloves again and sliding out. She used the microwire to climb back to the vacant suite, picked up all of her things, and made sure that anything she had touched was wiped clean. She left the suite and the building with one seriously expensive trinket. She commed Monique to let her know that all was good and that she could go home. She also commed Cora Lee to thank her for the timely hack and to set up a meet for later.

Following the instruction protocol, she messaged the contact and was immediately relayed to another contact, who gave her instructions on where to meet. Tanya traded the statue for her pay and the bonus. Leaving the rendezvous point, she smiled at the stack of credits that had just been deposited into one of her accounts and called Cora Lee to confirm the meet. “Bring out the bubbly and warm the bed dear. We definitely have something to celebrate.”

Sayōnara, Big Red
A Redline origins story

Isobe Eiko sat perched over her Ares Desert Strike, cybereye glowing dimly through the length of its scope. A kevlar compound hood patterned with the style of the Japanese imperial emblem kept the chill northwestern rain from hitting her face as a self-assured voice crackled in her ear.

“Seventy-three seconds, Aichi Two. Still quiet?”

“Hai,” she replied sub vocally. She lifted her crimson-colored cheek from the Desert Strike to gaze at the neon-drenched street below her with her own eyes, or rather, Renraku’s. As she rose through the ranks of the megacorp, facing and overcoming each misogynist-chauvinist-traditionalist-metatype-loathing hurdle that presented itself, she became more a part of Renraku, and Renraku of her.

Sekigaisen gazō Y-3k cybereyes, select sound filtering augmented ears, noise -filtering datajack, state of the art wired reflexes, and a pair of expertly installed synthetic arms; a small but luxurious apartment in one of the corp’s arcologies; a small fleet of Yamaha Rapiers and Hyundai Tōnichis. All this was provided for her, at the price of her flawless execution of each mission assigned to her. That, and her unfaltering loyalty until death.

Eiko had no retirement plans. She was good – maybe even great. No Renraku suit would have bothered to read her portfolio otherwise. But she was mortal, and after seeing everything from ritual-sacrificing Aztechnology magi detonating an entire squad of red samurai from the inside out, to a milspec-armored shadowrunner crushing her spotter’s body flat without effort, she didn’t wonder if she’d die in the field. She wondered when.

She wondered but did not worry. Back home in Japan, her family was safe from the madness of the world. Whatever gruesome fate found her, they would always be taken care of. That was all that mattered.

Gimu, duty. Chūsei, loyalty. Meiyo, Honor. And most important to her – more than any other – kazoku. Family.

Eiko did not voice such sentiments, however. To do so would be to declare a cause higher than her employer. Higher than Renraku. And that, Renraku did not abide.

The calm voice of her handler sounded in her ears again. “Good, Aichi Two. Aichi One, status.”

Silence over the squad’s VOIP. Eiko glanced at the comm strapped to her forearm, tapping at it to bring up the other shooter’s perspective. Normally, she’d see their view duplicated, transferable to a floating HUD window in AR; wind speed and direction, distance to target, RFID-tagged elements and more. All were absent.

All she saw was the flutter of hack-induced distortion and an unmoving hand.

“Nitōgunsō-san,” she called back to her handler, “Aichi One possibly incap’d. Advise.”

The next voice to speak was Wabbajaki, the team’s eccentric decker who communicated in what she could best describe as energized, rapid fire chirps.

“Drek. Drek-u drek. Hai, Aichi One bricked and might be flatlined. Looking for an enemy decker in proximity. Network still okay. I think. Hai.”

Even with one of the two shooters down, the mission could still be completed. Halo, the team’s rigger, functioned as emergency back up. A duo of drones would be flying across the plex skyline now en route to the first shooter’s spot.

“Halo, report,” the handler commanded simply, sounding as excited as if he were commenting on a trid re-run.

“Eyes on Aichi One – he’s fragged. I’m directing units now to pick up his spot,” the young rigger replied.

“Good. Aichi Two, white objective will be in sight shortly. Report when set to shoot.”

“Understood, Nitōgunsō-san.” She returned her view to the rifle’s scope, consciously taking and releasing a breath as she settled into her firing poise. She tapped at her commlink with a free hand, bringing the perspective of one of Halo’s drones into focus with her left eye as the right peered down range.

Eleven blocks away, two north, nine east. The motorcade was following precisely the route described in the briefing, internalized in her mind until she knew it as well as the floor of her arcology.

“Halo reporting friendly support on black objective overwatch. I’m taking over for Aichi One. Black objective coming into view now.”

“Eyes on black objective,” the handler echoed calmly. “White objective, status.”

Isobe Eiko’s heart began thudding as her target rolled into view. A black-painted Ares Roadmaster, flanked in front and behind by twin GMC Nocturnes, cruised through traffic signals one-by-one, each flickering to green obediently in time to allow the group to continue unhindered.

“Aichi Two has visual on white objective. Sighting now.” The smartlink adjusted in miliseconds as she followed the Roadmaster’s passenger seat with her reticule, compensating for an 8 kilometre per hour east wind and 1.104 centimetre per hour rainfall rate.

700 meters. 675. 650.

She coaxed the safety off with a thumb, her eye unblinking as she fixated on where a thirty-seven year-old, Japanese-American, 89.2 kilogram pound man would be sitting behind the tinted, thermal-interfering bullet resistant glass.

“Aichi Two is lined up,” she declared evenly, allowing the entirety of her consciousness to filter through her rifle’s view. The drone’s perspective in her left eye departed. The cold Seattle rain no longer fell on her form. She was no longer Isobe Eiko, no longer an Oni or even a woman. She was an Ares Desert Strike loaded with two armor piercing discarding sabot rounds. Rounds which would soon be ejected at over a kilometre per second at a target 603.4 meters away.

Her handler spoke again. “The white crane sleeps. Wabbajaki, execute catch on white objective on my mark. Three. Two. One. Now.”

The Roadmaster squealed to a stop in the middle of the street, the Nocturne behind it jerking left to avoid a rear-ending. The Roadmaster’s lights flickered first, then died completely. As Eiko peered at the unmoving vehicle, the anti-thermal wind shield’s programming dissipated from top to bottom like a sheet of rain before going offline.

The distinct head and shoulder forms of metahumans burst into view through the glass. The figure in the passenger seat was shoving at his door, fighting against the lock that refused to release.

NOW, Aichi Two,” the voice in her ears commanded.

She squeezed the trigger. At one kilogram of pressure a red bead appeared on the glass in front of the man. At 2 kilograms an APDS round fired from the muzzle of an unseen Ares Desert Strike, impacting the Roadmaster’s wind shield.

As her target flailed in response to the crack of a bullet splintering the glass an arm’s reach in front of him, Eiko’s trigger hand flew to the bolt of her rifle. The second round pulled from its seating and with another fluid motion locked into the rifle’s chamber.

She squeezed the trigger a second time. 603.4 meters. Red dot. Shot.

The windshield crumpled inward as another APDS round speared the first down its center, sending bullet fragments cascading into the panicked man.

She pulled the bolt back with her right hand and pushed an explosive round directly into the chamber with her left. As her right hand re-locked the bolt, her left flicked a switch to adjust her smartlink for explosive ammunition use. AR indicators whirred as she tilted her rifle accordingly and fired a third round.

The passenger’s side windshield shattered as a high explosive detonation caved out a hole the size of a fist in line with the passenger’s chest. The Ares Desert Strike sounded 1.9 seconds later for a final time, sending a hollow point bullet through the window’s gap and into her target’s chest.

Four shots sent down range in 6.7 seconds and a mortally-wounded Yakuza boss later, Isobe Eiko took in a deep breath.

“White objective fragged,” she exhaled, eyes still trained on the the flurry of activity as one of the accompanying GMC Nocturnes sputtered to a start down the street.

“The black crane sleeps,” her handler declared hastily. “Wabbajaki, black objective now. Mark. Three. Two. One. Go.” A short pause. “Halo, execute black.”

Eiko brought one of the rigger’s drones into view just in time to see small arms fire reaching up from the streets below. One of the drone’s twin rotors sheered off following a burst and the craft tottered sideways. Like a wounded bird, it struggled to maintain altitude before slamming into a ferricrete pillar to the nearby highway.

The expired drone’s twin raced towards the team’s second target, another black Roadmaster. But this one revved its engine, peeling away from the scene as the drone began pursuit.

“Oh! Oh ie, ie! Lost my marks, working to get back, working!” the decker screeched into the team’s VOIP.

“Aichi Two, get mobile immediately,” Nitōgunsō ordered, a sharpness cleaving through previous calm.

Looping the rifle’s sling around her torso, she sprinted to her motorcycle, its engine revving before her tacsuitted rear had landed in its seat. Her right wrist torqued the handlebar as her left hand pulled her datajack chord from beneath her hood. The Yamaha’s engine made an exuberant cry that echoed through the parking garage. Eiko jacked in and leaned into the first turn, wrist squeezing again just as the bike’s front wheel hit the corner’s apex.

Eiko’s blood pulsed in her veins with a trogg rock blast and her body seathed napalm. The perspective of Halo’s drone popped into her peripherary once more, showing the second Roadmaster roaring through the near-empty streets of midnight Tacoma.

“Halo, stay with black objective. Wabbajaki, I still need black immobilized. Get it done or find the enemy decker. Aichi Two, pick up the pace.”

Eiko gasped as she went hot sim, her bike aligning with the street’s center lines. Streetlights became stretched blurs and vehicles turned into vague shapes as she picked up speed. She flicked the bike left as it raced through a red light, nearly clipping a wage slave commuting to graveyard shift. Her tires screamed as they fought for traction through surface water and fetid Tacoma aroma oil, but she continued like a bolt towards the second Roadmaster.

She looked to her right as two more red lights went ignored. The Roadmaster was veering through light traffic wildly, but maintaining a respectable pace considering its bulk. Halo’s drone was visible whirring overhead, firing bursts at the Roadmaster’s tires and engine block.

As her bike approached a third intersection, she closed a hand around her rear brake and cut right. The bike’s tail swung out and she jerked her wrist to accelerate, spinning the rear tire with a whining squelch before it gained purchase and launched Eiko into a sharp turn.

In a flash, she was racing alongside the Roadmaster, a wide-eyed elf looking down at her from the driver’s seat. Eiko reached for her machine pistol, but started as the Roadmaster’s driver spun the wheel in her direction, swerving into her path.

She pushed left milliseconds too slow, the Roadmaster’s side crashing against her Rapier. Its front wheel pushed out left, threatening to send her head first into asphalt at 160 kilometers per hour. With an intake of breath she managed to correct, the bike snaking back and forth before aiming straight down the street again.

The Roadmaster gained distance on her as her Rapier struggled to climb back up to speed, and as she gripped the accelerator more tightly its engine yelled a choking cough. She began closing in on the Roadmaster, but felt her bike’s pain from the collision; she wouldn’t keep up much longer.

A long burst from Halo’s drone tore through one of the Roadmaster’s tires, rubber exploding like shrapnel into the night air. The tire’s rim sent showers of sparks behind the vehicle as its driver struggled to maintain control of the 2.5 ton monstrosity.

Eiko readied her Fianchetti Military 100 and pulled alongside the Roadmaster a second time. As the driver’s head darted her direction and he began to swing out at her again, she leveled the pistol and squeezed its trigger, pouring a full magazine’s worth of rounds into the driver’s door and window.

The driver spasmed and collapsed against the wheel, sending the Roadmaster careening into a light pole. The explosive crunch of aluminum and steel rang out in the street as the vehicle came to an abrupt stop.

“All units, close in on black objective. Target vulnerable,” Nitōgunsō rattled over the team’s VOIP.

Eiko swung her Rapier to a stop, dismounting it and tugging her datajack free as she loaded a second magazine into her pistol. She approached the Roadmaster from its front, gun leveled at the passenger side. A dazed but thoroughly augmented Yakuza burst from the vehicle’s right rear, leveling a sub-machine gun at her and sending rounds ricocheting against the pavement at her feet.

She dove behind a car parked across the intersection from the Yakuza, lifting her Fianchetti over its hood to blind fire in hopes of suppressing them. More Yaks poured out from the Roadmaster in various states of post-impact haze, and Eiko was forced to hunch down as bullets thudded into her cover.

Figures began sprinting from the vehicle to encircle her, and she cursed herself at the idea of dying in such a foolish way, crowded behind soft cover at the mercy of her foe.

Then Halo’s voice sounded in her ears, “I got you, Redline! Fakkāzu o shinimasu!” A fully automatic burst from Halo’s drone ripped one of the Yakuza down and left a second in a heap of mangled kevlar and sizzling skin.

The rigger screamed a desperate, zealous war cry and a high-pitched whirr sounded over Eiko’s head. She peered over the car’s hood in time to see the drone plummet full speed into a third Yakuza. The gangster crushed into the asphalt with a scream, unmoving.

The handler’s voice again commanded Eiko into motion. “Aichi Two, you are the only unit on site. Get to black objective, take him out, then get out.”

The distant howl of sirens from state route 161 was audible as Eiko steeled herself, flicking on her pistol’s laser sight. She peeked once towards the Roadmaster, unable to pierce its mostly intact windshield with her cybereyes. She saw no movement.

With a final breath, she burst into a sprint towards the corner of a building next to the Roadmaster for cover. Just as she crossed into the center of the street, a red-suited form pushed out from the back of the smoking vehicle. Eiko reached outwards to dive behind the building, then cried out as white hot pain suffocated her body.

What felt likes hundreds of shot pellets impacted her, sending her sprawling just around the corner of the building. A second cloud of ricocheting lead showered the sidewalk next to her. Eiko mustered a shallow breath and held her stomach, blood pooling over her fingers. Her stomach twisted at the sensation of shot smoldering in and beneath her skin.

“Come out, cowardly dog,” the Yakuza bellowed in Japanese from around the corner. “However many you there are, I will jam this shotgun down every one of your sickly throats until you know to beg me to mercy!”

Eiko blinked through the pain searing her body, eyes searching around for her Fianchetti. She spotted it in the street, in the open, surely within view of the Yakuza. In her state, she had no hope of retrieving the gun before receiving a last, final blast from the shotgun. She pulled a thin syringe from her belt, twisting its cap free with her teeth before stabbing her inner thigh with it.

The mission was a disaster. Years of training. Months of gathering intel and cautiouslly unraveling the mystery of who it was that had stolen a critical contacts dossier from a local Sato, a Renraku Mr. Johnson. But after hearing the Yakuza yell, recognizing the voice she’d heard before, she realized there had been no theft. Only betrayal.

“Masanori Fukunaga,” she managed back, doing her best to maintain an even voice through the pain. “Internal Affairs Officer, Seattle Prefecture, Tacoma District. The one tasked with bringing traitors into the light…himself the greatest betrayer.”

The bulky man’s laugh carried through the street, audible over the sirens that crossed the nearby overpass, headed towards the site of the first Roadmaster’s end.

“Spoken like a true corp drone to your last, Renraku no meinu.” The man’s footsteps clattered down the sidewalk, and the telltale click of shotgun shells being loaded accompanied them. “If only you had let me leave, I’d have been wealthy, and you, alive. But now, well…”

The walking grew closer still. Eiko’s head swam with pain, her body aflame with the sickly burning of a gunshot wound. She waited for the drug to lift her from her haze, to give her the chance to survive. But it wasn’t coming. There would be no chance.

The Yakuza rounded the corner, slowly at first, then with confidence upon seeing the unarmed, critically wounded Oni. He chortled sadistically and approached until he towered over Eiko, leveling the muzzle of the shotgun to her chest.

“You die for nothing, akumajo. You mean nothing to them. None of us do. You will be a memory your family wishes to forget; a failed, horn-headed freak.”

He spat at her face, snorting with contempt. “And I will be free, and never again bow to any spineless, mindless corporate cow so long as my name is Masanori-”

His diatribe was cut short in a raining shower of blood. For a moment, his form shuddered yet stood upright, shotgun trembling in uneasy hands before falling heavily into Redwire’s lap. The man’s head and upper torso split evenly in two, and he fell to the side in a heap. One last shuddering twitch followed by stillness indicated his passing.

Behind where the traitor had loomed, an older man stood stoutly, framed in a downward slicing pose he had apparently landed in from above. With a sneer, he extended a sleeved arm to his blood-soaked katana, wiping it clean.

“Nitōgunsō-san,” she muttered, seeing him as though he was distant.

He slowly looked from the blade to the woman. “Isobe Eiko,” he stated coldly. He considered her for a moment before shaking his head; a gentle, sure movement.

“I have misplaced my faith. I had hoped for much from you. I believed you could amount to something. I opened doors for you, showed you through them. And now, this.”

He looked towards the wreckage of the Roadmaster, then to the fallen man’s corpse beside him. “This massacre. This embarrassment.” He looked back at her, snorting as his voiced raised. “You embarrass me with this ineptitude. You embarrass Renraku, Isobe.”

Redwire’s face flushed red, her lip trembling. “Nitōgunsō-san, I…I did all that I could. I would never-”

He cut her off with a wave of the hand and a sneer. “No, there is nothing for you to say. No excuses to make. You and your peers have failed, and there are no others to blame.” The man leaned over Fukunaga’s distended corpse, reaching into his pocket to retrieve the man’s commlink.

Eiko spoke again, desperation creeping into her tone. “Nitōgunsō-san. I understand there will be consequences. I will face them. But my family – they have done nothing to deserve this. They should not be punished on behalf of me.”

The man did not immediately respond, the gleam of the commlink’s screen in his hand lighting his face. His eyes searched a line of text that gave him pause before he pocketed the device into the inside of his coat, shaking his head.

“Their fate is not mine to decide; it is the same as any other failed agent’s: nothingness. After tonight, you will no longer be Renraku. You will have never been Renraku. There will be no Isobe Eiko; there will be no Isobe family. And there will be no failure tonight.”

The Roadmaster had begun to burn steadily, and the man’s gaze hung on the dancing flames as he concluded, lowly, stoically, “That is how it must be. Your failure cannot be allowed to harm Renraku. You understand. You are loyal.” He nodded to himself, “Despite your failure.”

Hearing no response, he looked down at his katana, gripping it with both hands and turning to the woman. “It will be a clean death, Iso-”

He turned not to a cowering woman, but to a shotgun raised at him. He stared at the quivering barrel for a time, smirking humorlessly at it before eying her. “You dishonor yourself with such a gesture. There is no other way, Isobe. You must die.”

“My family,” she stated darkly, stubbornness infusing her shivering, pained voice with subtle menacing. “They must be cared for, Nitōgunsō-san. Please.”

With a dismissive snort, he again assumed the pose Eiko had seen him in when he cut apart Fukunaga. Raising the katana with unfaltering calm, he simply offered, “There is no other way. Lower your head, Isobe. It will be clean.”

The katana raised higher, reaching a peak and pausing before the man let out a deep, faintly mournful cry.

The katana fell. But it did not meet flesh.

The man stared down at Eiko, unmoving at first, and shuffled a foot back to catch himself as he swayed. He stared down at his chest, or rather, where his chest had been, before looking back to her.

“Fumeiyo,” he gasped out, falling to his knees. He swayed once more, his eyes becoming glassy as his suit began to soak with red. “Fumeiyo…” he repeated one last time before falling to his side.

Fumeiyo. Dishonor.

Isobe Eiko stared at at the body of the man who had brought her up through Renraku. She let the smoking shotgun fall to her side before pushing herself up along the building’s wall. Despite her injuries, resolution took over from within. The unwavering fire from inside that had never darkened, had never failed her; had always been there for her.

“Kazoku,” she corrected as she collected the commlink from his suit jacket. She mounted her still-running motorcycle with a grunt, leaning forward heavily. “Family.”

What she had done – what she had always done – she did for family. She would not let this failure lead to their suffering. However she could, she would do whatever it took to give them a good life. A safe life. A life away from Renraku.

Her datajack slid into its familiar home in the Yamaha Rapier. It, like her, was tired; wounded and spent. But as she sped away from the scene and into the night, it did not fail her.

It took time. She had never ran in the shadows; had never touched them. But within the hour, she approached the flickering green cross, indicating the location of a ‘street doc’ she had managed to track down. It didn’t matter that all she had to offer was corp scrip – the look on the woman’s face said it was more than she had seen in a life time.

Her surprise did not alleviate when the Renraku agent repeated the operation to be done: remove every piece of ware from the body. Be quick about it – tear it out if need be – but get it done. Destroy it all; no way for them to follow her. Replace it all with new ware.

They told her it would need at least a week for the new ware to take, but she insisted she be gone as soon as possible. No more than two days after the fiasco that was described in headlines with the likes of, “JAPANESE CRIME RING IN-FIGHTING: NEW BOSS IN SOUTH SEATTLE?” and, “YAK’S TO BLAME FOR TUMBLE IN TACOMACOULD THEY COME TO YOUR PLEX NEXT?

Isobe ‘Redline’ Eiko mounted a new Hyundai Rapier. As new as she could find, anyway; she was learning quickly that nothing from the streets came firsthand.

Her new arms felt stiff, every movement feeling like she was pushing through quicksand. A fiery, throbbing pain radiated through her skull as her new datajack plugged into the bike. The doctor assured her they had given her every kind and as much as possible of every painkiller that wouldn’t send her immediately into a coma. But drek was an insufficient descriptor to reflect her condition.

Drek ware. Drek weaponry. SINless. Hunted by one of the greatest forces metahumanity had ever known.

She revved the bike and let it carry her away east, far from Tacoma or downtown, from arcologies and megacorps. She didn’t stop until she hit the great divide, where highrise condos gave way to the polluted, chaotic sprawl of the Barrens. She had the name of a fixer and little else to go on, but it didn’t bother her. Not the risk, not the pain; nothing mattered. Only one thing ever did.


By that time a week later she was home in Japan. It had taken serious convincing to persuade a Johnson that what she knew was worth the effort of extracting a family of four from a Renraku arcology on its home turf, and she didn’t like the sensation of “shadowrunning.” She had become the betrayer, the low-life criminal Renraku abhorred.

But as she cradled a cup of tea alongside her mother, father and younger siblings in their new apartment in Auburn, she didn’t care. No corp mottos, tenets or tradition. Just her and her family in the shadows. It wouldn’t be easy; it might be the hardest thing she’d ever do. Yet, in a way, it was all she had ever done.

She wouldn’t fail them.

The Dry Cleaning
A Maid's Day Out

Monique Chevalier walked the short distance to the public transport stop near the hotel. After a couple of years in Seattle she had learned that the transport system could take one almost anywhere. Sometimes she spent her day off just riding from place to place. She was almost completely anonymous on a bus, mingling with the other people going about their business. Most of the people she met on the bus were completely naïve, believing that there was little more to life than slaving for minimal wages and raising a family.

Monique allowed herself a moment of reflection during the ride. She knew differently. Her street-slum upbringing had taught her that families basically sucked. Her mother had never been able to even remember the name of the man who had fathered Monique and the current boyfriend had taken to either beating Monique or taking her to his bed when the mother was passed out or too drugged to care. She had run away to London as a teen and honed her pickpocketing skills to a high degree. Being found by the noble Lady Marisart had been a godsend. Something clicked between the two of them, something hard to describe. There was a deep friendship between the two, and trust.

Monique shook her head as she came to her stop and descended to the pavement. She entered the dry cleaner establishment that she had found while exploring the city. No one else could do the special touches she had come to expect. Going in, she was greeted as a familiar customer by the owner, who never seemed to find it odd that the girl would come personally to pay for the cleaning but then have the clothes delivered.

The errand complete, Monique allowed herself a treat at the nearby cafeteria. She had three loyalties: The mistress who had saved her from a life on the streets, France as a country, and French pastries. This cafeteria served the best pastries she had tasted outside of Paris and she was a frequent customer. As she finished her morning treat, she noticed a handsome businessman pass the window. Her trained eye noticed the bulge of a wallet and the shape of several credsticks. She covered her bill and left the café, following the man as an exercise, observing his actions and seeing if she could work out a plan to get the wallet.

Sometimes fate steps in to assist the deserving, and Monique must have been deserving this morning. The man stopped at the entrance to an apartment building, embracing the young woman who came out to meet him. A quick pass and the man never even knew the wallet was taken as he fumbled with the young woman’s chest. The poor guy would probably be very embarrassed in trouble when he realized he could not pay for the girl’s services, but Monique would be long gone by then. She quickly stripped the wallet of its cash and wiped it clean before discarding it.

All in all a fruitful morning.

A Night's Work

The two women strolled arm in arm from the parking lot towards the entrance of Dante’s Inferno. The line of glittering social elites waiting to get in was already stretching around the corner of the popular club. Tanya Marisart leaned over to her Chinese companion, Ni Ni Xiaolu, and whispered to her as the pair headed to the entrance for guests with special passes. They could feel the stares of those in the long line and could imagine what was being said about them. Tanya had spent enough time in similar lines to know that people were wondering who they were and how they rated special passes.

Two huge trolls stood guard at the red-roped special entrance. Tanya stepped up to one, offering her right wrist as she said, “Hello, Henry, Giles. Beautiful night.” The Troll named Henry nodded as his companion stared at the beautiful women, looking them up and down. Tanya knew the stare had nothing to do with desire and everything to do with security as the Troll’s specialized cyber eyes scanned them for weapons. Tanya twirled and her already very short skirt rode up almost to the point of displaying her underwear. “Does it look like I have any weapons?” Giles looked at her, finished with his scan. “No, Lady Marisart, but I have to do it.” He turns and nods to Henry, who speaks into the air in front of him. “Lady Tanya Marisart and companion Ni Ni Xiaolu are cleared to enter.”

The Troll moves the rope aside and waves the women on. The wave as they pass through and walk up the slight incline to the entrance to the club. Dante’s Inferno was the hottest club in Seattle right now, despite its naysayers, and the number of people inside gave testimony to that. The women snagged drinks from a passing waiter, sipping at them as they began trolling. They already knew many of the people here and frequently stopped to chat. The club caters to the best and brightest, and the wealthiest of Seattle’s upper class. The clientele here was all about the best; best dressed, best hair, best jewelry.

It was the latter that Tanya and her friend were interested in. Tanya knew a lot about jewelry, but could not hold a candle to the knowledge that Ni Ni had. The Chinese woman kept her arm on Tanya’s and used her fingers to tap in a pre-arranged code. Lots of no’s and a few maybe’s later, she finally tapped out yes. They were talking with an older woman who was escorted by a way-too-young man who was very interested in Tanya’s exposed cleavage. The woman’s necklace had caught Ni Ni’s eye. After excusing themselves, the women moved a short distance away before separating, Tanya staying to watch the target and Ni Ni moving back to the bar. The older woman drug her companion to the dance floor and Tanya followed, walking up to a man who appeared to be flying solo.

“Care to dance?” She asked. It turned out that the man was very willing and took her onto the floor. The music was Latin and Tanya allowed her body to move to the Salsa beat, at times flinging her skirt up and then moving in to cling to her dance partner. The man was smiling as if he felt he was going to get lucky later as he caught and twirled the woman who had picked him from the crowd. Tanya maneuvered the pair to be next to the target and her partner. Tanya grimaced at the woman’s choice of frock. It was certainly posh and had probably cost a fortune, but it was completely wrong for her. As Tanya danced, she considered her options for getting the necklace, or if it even seemed possible.

Suddenly the music changed and Tanya smiled broadly as she realized that the club was going to do half her work for her. The new song was from an extremely popular new artist and the dancing that usually accompanied it was nearly as frenetic as the beat. The people on the floor began throwing their arms up in the air and lowering them as the tempo picked up and the lights above the dance floor began to flicker in time to the music. Tanya used the motions of the people near her to hide her quick movement. The necklace was released from the neck, dropping into Tanya’s left hand. She lowered the treasure and used a silent mental command to open a small concealed compartment in her right arm, placing the necklace safely inside.

From there she deftly maneuvered her partner away in the crowd, staying for several more songs before begging mercy. The man laughed and escorted her to the refreshment tables, then asked her if she wanted some fresh air. The cool evening breeze was welcome after the heat of the dance floor and they walked into the rooftop gardens. Movement and soft laughter indicated that they were not the only ones out there and they had to look about for a place in the garden that would afford them a modicum of privacy. Tanya allowed the man his sense of good fortune; after all, he had been unwittingly very helpful. Her low moans punctuated his thrusts until release.

Straightening her clothes she left the man, never getting or giving a name or comm code. The tan line on his ring finger indicated that he would probably not be looking for more than this anonymous encounter and she certainly wanted nothing more from him. She proceeded to the exit, passing the bar and signaling to Ni Ni, who came over and took her arm. The pair left the club, waving to the Trolls as they did, and headed to the parking lot and Tanya’s racing Mirage. Tanya slid onto the bike and turned it on, pleased at the purr of the powerful engine. Ni Ni climbed on behind and put her arms around her friend’s waist. As Tanya moved the bike out of the lot and onto the busy street, Ni Ni said, “Let’s get that thing back to your place so I can get a better look at it while you shower off whatever man you were with, then some Champaign to celebrate.” Tanya smiled and nodded, knowing that the celebration would not end with the drinks.

The game
Anyone can be played

Raiden straitened his jacket and smiled at his handson reflection. His long black hair draped over the shoulders of his top notch suit. For the billionth time he whispered ‘I love my job’

The Mall was nice even by Tir standards. Its every angle crafted to sooth and relax, an ecosystem of beautiful creatures thrived in the indoor gardens between shops and restaurants. But even in place where everything was lit, shadows found a way.

His contact was late, which too be expected most days but with the clean and perfec nature of this place it out him on edge. A moment before he stood and called it a figure walked up and smiled coolly.

“Mr Idris? Mr Corrota will see you now.” The women was short for an elf, dressed in flowing white and smiling with the perpetual calm of someone who’s spent fifty years in the service industry and plans to do it a while longer.

Still her news was another reason to be on edge. Corrota had said to meet someplace public, now he was changing the terms at the last minute, oddly savvy for a midrange lab tech.

Still the job counted on getting in a room with Corrota and if nothing else, that seemed like it was still the plan.

He followed the women through a door into the access isles between the stores, the behind them, down three floors which put them underground and into an office that seemed in every way typical. Another bad sign.

Sitting at the desk was another elf, he had a squarish jaw, was wearing a black coat and smiled as they entered, appearing pleased to see them. Raiden had never seen Corotta in person, but as the man behind the desk stood to shake his hand any chance that this might be him vanished.

He was at least three inches shorter them the mark, wearing lifts in his shoes to counter it, he was happy, and Corotta was here under duress, as they shook hands the mans grip was firm, his movements easy and totally controlled. Another agent.

“Nice to finally meet you Mr Idris. We met at the embassy last January, is that right?”

Corotta had met the real mr Idris in December and they both knew it. The agent was testing him.

“December, I think it was, you were wearing that new tail piece from Zoe.”

In truth he had no idea what Corotta had worn, but the Zoe tailcoat would have been at the end of its time and just the sort of thing a lab manager might still think was cool.

“Right, quite an evening.” Said the other agent, lying badly.

So he was a spy with more physical training then social. Probably a military background. That didn’t narrow it down much. No obvious cyberware, but the confidence of a man used to being better then others. Probably another adept. Still didn’t narrow it much, he knew of seven elven adepts in the Tir network with military history.

“Buisness though, I understand you were interested in one of the projects I’m working on.”

Raiden noted ‘one of’ with some interest. As far as he knew there had only been the one.

“All of them, actually, (what am I missing) particularly (what am I missing!)…”

THERE! The jaw was to square, once he was looking for it every sign was visible. The raised cheekbones, altered eyes, the false ears. This guy wasn’t just posing as Corotta, he was posing as an elf. Only one elf poser the Tir used often, Mayes Beluer, ex-military. He also had a wife named…

“…Maria.” Mayer’s face froze, clearly hiding the fact he’s been startled.


“I believe you were Telling me about your 3422 staffers (your home adress) your three prototypes (kids) and your military contract.”

Mayer’s face could have been plastic, he might as well have thrown himself on the desk and begged. Instead he leaned back a little and reached for something under the desk saying “I think I have the paperwork on that right-” he glanced down to grab the weapon for barely a second. When his eyes rose he was staring down a silencer and a comms jammer.

“Listen and they live, don’t and they die.”

Realization came to quickly to Mayer’s. He wasn’t a piece in the game anymore, he was a pawn.

Raiden pocketed the jammer and hauled Mayer’s up by the coller, steering him out of the room with one hand and keeping te pistol against his kidney with the other, their bodies blocking any idle view of the weapon.

“How many? How long?” He said, keeping his voice low.

“Two HTR Teams, sixty second from alert.” Replied Mayer’s. He might be a bad spy, but so far he was a decent hostage.

Raiden started counting. Three seconds since the jammer, fifty seven till the HTR.

“Kitchen, left or right?”

Mayer’s stared to question but got a shove and answered “two lefts, then right.”

Raiden walked him along into a large lunch room, a few people were eating in one corner but paid them no mind as they made a beeline for the sink. Raiden pushed Mayer’s into a chair and started rummaging through the cleaners under the sink.

“How did you bust me?” he asked pulling out what he needed.

“If you live, my family lives, your not going to kill your laverage over something you could learn on your own.”

“Not as useless as you seem.”

40 seconds. He started mixing the chemicals together in a pair of plastic bottles.

Thirty seconds.

“Fastest way out?”

“Back door into the sewer s covered, jumping off the roof is the only way. It’s teo stories and slanted, you can slide if your lucky.”

Twenty seconds.

They pushed up the stairs though a few alarmed looking people, subtly was no long as important with the window of escape closing.

They made ground floor and were half way to the next staircase when the HTR came into view.

Raiden leaned into his prisoner, summoning up the Mana and letting it carry his words deep into Mayer’s psychy “get them” and he obeyed.

Raiden didn’t wait to see what happened next. He darted up to the roof, dropping the bottles I the landing. He sprinted to the edge and jumped as he heard his chemical cocktails explode.

He landed hard, dusted himself off and joined the concerned crowd commenting on the blast and troops and all. He shut off the Jammer and called his handler.

“Knight to bishop, I need-”

“Sorry wolf, word just came in. Your burned. Good luck.”

And his girlfriend hung up without another word.

The Trouble with Solo Work

Calico gripped the wadded up bedsheet in her hands tightly as she strode purposefully down the street, the night breeze whipping her hair playfully. She hoped she’d be able to find a pawn shop open this late; she was eager to unencumber herself of her loot as quickly as possible. As she walked she allowed her mind to wander, replaying the evening’s events in her head, and smiling with satisfaction.

The Scumbag of the Week had been a real gem, a pretty boy haughtily showing off all the trinkets and opulence his daddy’s wealth could buy him. She’d ooo’d and ahhh’d dutifully, mentally selecting the most portable items of value for later. After the brief tour, which she supposed was meant to leave her starry eyed, he’d launched into his pitch. A real smooth talker, this one.

“Why don’t you slip into something a little more… naked?”, he’d said with a confident grin. Good grief, had this really worked for him in the past? She’d put on her best faux scandalized look.

“But I hardly know you …”, she’d whispered shyly. He’d given her a long look, and finally sighed with impatience.

“Look, normally I’d be willing to do this whole back-and-forth thing, but let’s be honest. You’re a street girl. You’d probably be sleeping in the gutter tonight if it weren’t for me. I would say that entitles me to some… compensation. It’s just how the world works, sweetheart.”

“Ok.”, she’d breathed as she glided towards him, head down as if defeated. She’d pressed herself against him and looked up into his face, her hand stroking his cheek. “Except …”

And she’d slammed a nice, heavy Punch spell right into his stupid, smug face.

It had knocked him out cold. And while it WAS satisfying to drop them without even the beginnings of a fight, it did deprive her of seeing the look on their faces, which was priiiiceless.

She snapped out of her reverie as the pawn shop came into view, the short, middle aged shopkeeper busily locking up for the night. She put on her patented pouty face, “My PPF!” she dubbed it with an inward smile, and hurried forward.

“Sir? Sir …” she began.

“Closed.” he replied brusquely without turning around.

“But …”, she protested innocently, dropping her makeshift bag on the pavement and stepping closer to place her hand on his arm, “I just have a few things …” He turned to face her and his hard expression softened upon seeing her innocent, pleading face. “My landlord says if I don’t pay my rent tonight I’ll be out on the street! I promise, it’ll be really quick. Pleeease?”

As she exited the pawn shop, once more unencumbered and a little bit richer, she started to consider where she’d be sleeping this evening when her comm began ringing, and she quickly answered.

“Hoi, little miss!”, came the familiar voice of Manny, her fixer extraordinaire. “Up to no good this evening?”

“You know me well, sir”, she quipped in response.

“I want to hear all about it, later. Right now I’ve got a little job for you. Unless you’re too busy having tea with Lofwyr, of course.”

“That’s next week.” she said with a sardonic grin.

“Excellent. I’ll send you the info now, standard encryption. And …. sooner is better.”

“How about now? Is now soon enough?”

“That’s why you’re my star. There may be more qualified operatives out there, but nobody gives better results for Johnsons on a budget.”

“Thanks, Manny,” she said, rolling her eyes, “you really know how to make a girl feel special.”

“It’s one of my many talents. Contact me when the package is delivered.”

  • * *

Patches, the completely normal and thoroughly harmless calico housecat prowled around the periphery of the estate, having had no difficulty slipping between the iron bars of the front gate. She wore an inconspicuous matte black metal collar with tiny runes carved into it. It was roughly the size of a bracelet, and it fastened with magnets that were easily strong enough to keep it clasped, but would release if her neck were to suddenly expand to the size of, say, a 19 year old girl. It was difficult, but not impossible, for her to put on without opposable thumbs, and doing so always reminded her how much she used to take those little appendages for granted.

Two guards, Patches noted, one in front, one in back. But they were Centurion, and that meant there would be a backup team of another 2-4 inside. Still, it could’ve been worse; Centurion charged an exorbitant fee for magical security, and anyone willing and able to pay it could usually do better with one of their competitors. She wondered idly if Manny had known this when he’d chosen her. Magical security caused her problems, and if there was any, she might find herself in a tight spot, possibly with little or no warning. Fortune favors the bold, she told herself, and put the thought out of her mind.

First, to get inside. Only one guard at the front door, ok. She sauntered toward him, mentally channeling the magical energy she required. When he saw her, he was impassive for a moment, and then her spell took hold.

“Theeere you are.” he said, eyeing her with mild exasperation. “I don’t know how you got out, but you need to stay inside. The last thing I need is to get my ass chewed because the boss’ frickin cat ran off.” She scurried over to the door and looked up at him expectantly, waiting for him to open it, which he did. She hurried inside, and he closed the door behind her.

Now to find the item. She crept slowly through the lower floor of the large house, hearing the low murmur of several voices apparently playing cards further back. That would be the backup team, best to stay clear of them, harmless kitty cat or not. Seeing a room to her right that looked promising, she quickly darted through the door, which was slightly ajar.

Library. Jackpot. Deciding she needed some privacy, she leaned all of her weight against the door and pushed. With a bit of effort, she managed to get the door closed, stopping just shy of needing to reach the handle, which was roughly 10 miles up at the moment. Turning to look at the rows of ancient, actual paper books, she scanned the titles. And there it was. Two thirds of the way up. Of course.

“Well, you didn’t think you were going to drag it out of here in your teeth, did you Callie?” she thought to herself. “Time for some streaking, I guess”. She dropped her shapechange spell and became a naked girl on her hands and knees, in a stranger’s house. She suddenly wondered if perhaps she hadn’t thought this through very well.

Realizing the danger, as well as embarrassment, that would result from being discovered in this state, she quickly snapped her bracelet on her wrist and stood, removing the book from the shelf. A Treatise On The Migratory Patterns Of North American Geese. Jesus. Still unable to comprehend why anyone would go to such lengths to get such a ridiculous book, Callie shook her head in disgust. Idiots with money to burn. Whatever, no time to worry about that now.

Time to get out. Unable to come up with any other options on short notice, and feeling uncomfortably exposed, she decided that she would just have to go through that guard by the front door. Who knew, maybe they would think he was crazy when he recounted what had happened. She hurriedly cast a spell to bolster her combat awareness, and steeled herself.

She cracked the door slightly, listening carefully to see if anyone was wandering nearby. Everyone seemed to be right where she had left them a few moments ago. Clutching the book tightly to her chest, she slowly crept out into the foyer, stopping by the front door. She carefully set the book down, and gathered more magical energy. This time she placed a magical sonic barrier by the door, ensuring it would encompass several meters in all directions. This one she felt; it sapped her of some energy, but not too badly. And now, as long as she or her adversary didn’t step outside the barrier, the rest of them would remain blissfully unaware of whatever ruckus she raised. She opened the door.

The look on his face was spectacular. She almost wished she had cybereyes so she could capture it for posterity.

“Help!” she cried, rushing towards him. His utter confusion and consternation gave her plenty of time to touch him, which was all she needed to do. The magical punch slammed into him, flinging him backwards. But this was no pretty boy. He didn’t go down like a sack of potatoes, though he did look thoroughly shaken.

He clearly still had absolutely no idea what the hell was going on, but after that punch, he HAD figured out that it was bad. The gun was coming out. But she was faster, though just barely. She hit him hard with a ranged version of the punch, and that one did the job, crumpling him in a heap. Not interested in standing around naked any longer than she absolutely had to, she quickly stepped back inside, grabbed up the book, and crept quickly off into the night.

  • * *

She entered Hank’s home without knocking, as she always did. Two wounded gangers lay on cots in his living room. They must have been REALLY messed up when they’d come here if Hank hadn’t been able to patch them up.

“You need any help here?” she asked as he came into the room, her eyes darting meaningfully at the wounded figures. He smiled sympathetically, seeing the fatigue in her eyes.

“Naw, Kitten … I got it.”

“Good!” she said, and walked heavily into a spare room, the one she had used when she had stayed with him years before. No sooner had she entered the room than she collapsed on the bed. After retrieving her clothes and delivering the package, she had caught a cab directly here, dozing sporadically on the ride. She was tired, too tired to sleep with one eye open as she normally did out in the cruel world. But here she was safe, here she could ….

She passed out.

A Night Out

Mother stared at themselves in the vanity mirror. they turned their face to each side looking at their wide ebony lips and nose. They tried to do their makeup and ignore the sound of arguing from the living room. They applied deep purple eyeshadow color matched to their gown over freshly plucked eyebrows. They rearranged their dreads. Mother looked at their room in their “new” apartment the size of their old walk in closet and sighed. They admired the armoire behind them they had levitated away on the way out of their last run.

“You are all the same. Come in and just take what you want.” shouted a high voice in the livingroom.

“I don’t know where you put it but I know I wouldn’t touch it!” said someone in a lower voice with a nasal whine.

“Don’t make me come out there yall.” said Mother applying foundation.

The voices in the living room raised and Mother stood up. They took a gun out of a drawer and pulled the clip out. Seeing it was loaded, they put the clip back in.

“What in the hell is going on in here?” asked Mother throwing open the door and chambering a round in her pistol.

Nigel and Terry stood in the livingroom of Mother’s small apartment. It was filled with things from the various people living in it in shifts. Things were stacked in organizers from floor to ceiling as neat as possible given the circumstances.

“There’s no need for violence.” said Nigel a blond blue eyed former Telestrian executive in an expensive grey suit.

Mother pulled up her dress and put the gun in a holster on her thigh. Adjusting the holster she smoothed her dress out.

“He started it!” shouted Terry pointing at Nigel.

Terry was a relatively short full figured androgynous latin orc with a beard and a high voice. Ze wore a studded leather armor jacket covered in Anarchy patches, a pink triangle, jeans, and black leather boots.

“That is simply not correct.” said Nigel placing his arms akimbo.

“Out with it. I ain’t got much time before my date.” said Mother.

“How can you speak of dates at time like this? The PLA is routed, our assets have been seized, Tir ghosts are right now searching for us…”

“Exactly. They seized our assets so someone has to get out there and make us some money.” said Mother.

“You don’t mean…” said Nigel.

“What are yall arguin about?” asked Mother cutting him off.

“He took our grenades. We need those for the tincans when we rally tonight.” said Terry.

“Terry the grenades are under the sink. I moved them because they were sitting in the middle of the floor. Also I don’t think you have thought this through. Fire bombing random cops is just going to bring more heat down on our cause.” said Mother.

“Animals.” said Nigel.

“Nobody asked you.” said Terry going under the sink. She pulled out a small box of grenades and put some in her purse.

Everyone jumped as Mother received a comm call.

“It’s just Jeezus.” said Mother answering.

A thin latino man in an armored jacket, jeans, and a duffel bag came in.

“Hola Jeezus.” said Mother smiling. They frowned “You’re not wearing the suit I bought you.” said Mother.

“It’s Hay-soos. It’s right here. I didn’t feel comfortable…” said Jesus.

“Go in the bathroom and put it on so I can get a look at you sweety.” said Mother.

Jesus frowned but complied.

“I’m going to motor.” said Terry. “Sorry about causing a ruckus.”

“No doubt.” said Mother.

“It is forgotten.” said Nigel.

“Wasn’t talking to you.” said terry walking out.

“You have changed so much Malcom.” said Nigel.

“I told you not to call me that.” said Mother.

“My apologies. Must you associate with these ruffians? They will only get you arrested or worse.” said Nigel.

“When I came out…when I left…when we were all compromised and on the run…they took me in. I’d be on the street if it weren’t for them.” said Mother.

“How do I look?” asked Jesus coming out of the bathroom in a purple suit.

“Handsome.” said Mother.

Jesus led Mother by the hand up to the hostess.

“reservation for Rubens, Reynaldo.” said Jesus.

“Right this way Mr Rubens.” said the hostess leading them through a velvet curtain.

“May I take your coat?” she asked smiling.

Jesus backed up a step shaking his head. He clutched his overcoat to himself.

Walking past a table with a silver haired gentleman and a young women in a low backed dress.

“That’s Mr Well’s, our target.” said Mother into their subvocal mic.

Jesus nodded his cold eyes playing over the older gentleman, the young trophy wife or mistress and the two body guards standing nearby. The guards scanned the room pausing to stare at the two of them.

Mother blew them a kiss and they looked away.

“Your table is right here.” said the hostess.

“I’m just going to powder my nose.” said Mother heading to the women’s restroom.

“Uh…me too.” said Jesus awkwardly.

They saw a woman in the restroom applying lipstick who frowned at them. The woman turned and left and Mother pulled a pipebomb out of their purse and a fuck you note and set it on the counter. Chuckling to themself they walked out. Collecting Jesus’ arm they led him back through the restaurant.

A woman screamed running in terror from the restroom.

Mother and Jesus stopped abreast of the two body guards near Mr Well’s table. The guards stared at the back of the restaurant hands reaching for their weapons.

Jesus pulled a short barrel shotgun from under his coat and shot one of the bodyguards. His armor took the impact but he went down unconscious.

The other went for his gun but Mother raised their hand and laid him out with a stunbolt.

“Mr Wells is it? May I see your commlink?” asked Mother smiling.


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