Digital Shorts

Digital Shorts

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A cyberpunk RP about a group of bounty hunters. The focus is on short stories and Character Development.

1,590 readers have visited Digital Shorts since Bosch created it.

Introduction

Hi everybody and Welcome to Digital Shorts, a cyberpunk RP.

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Before I tell you more about the setting I should tell you more about how this will work.

How the RP works.


My RP’s tend to focus on long posts and this one is no different. While I don’t have minimum or maximum word counts I’m looking for people who like to work on long posts. The reason for this is it offers the opportunity for character development as well as the opportunity to tell a short story in each post. To use a TV analogy, each post is an episode and the RP is a season. Hopefully things will become more clear as I explain what I have in mind.
In an effort to save your time I’ll outline a few of my inspirations for the RP so you can know where I’m coming from. Cowboy Beebop, Deus Ex, Blade Runner and the Works of William Gibson.


Cyberpunk is the word of the day.


Right so all my RPs follow the same basic format.

My Character is a quest giver. They give you a job and you write about how your character completes that job. It’s up to you whether the job is a success or failure. I have a lose plot for the RP but you guys can change it with your own actions. After you guys have posted the job I write an Epilogue explaining the outcomes and then I post more Jobs. Think of each job as a new short story that add together to create an arc.

I encourage you all to work with each other and work crossovers into you stories.


The RP is set on Mars in the year 2102 or to use the Darian Calendar the year 262. Your character will be an employee of Red Sand Investigations or RSI, more on them later. Though. First I’ll describe the History of the RP.

Timeline

2021- Nanotechnology comes of age and is introduced in many disparate fields from medical applications to fashion.

2025- Peak oil is reached and First World Countries are the hardest hit. War becomes increasingly bloody and desperate as global powers try to control the dwindling resources. Drilling and mining of previously protected areas begins.

2028- China becomes the world’s leading super power. However the communist party restricts personal freedoms and scientific research is focused on military technology.

2029- America’s infrastructure fails to adapt to new economic climate economy enters into a depression.

2030- European countries band together and create The European Central Government. Membership criteria is strict and most of the power rests with Germany, France and The United Kingdom. The social policy of the ECG is very right wing.

2032- After years of political turmoil Texas finally seceded leading to the start of the fragmentation of the United States.

2031- Creative use of Nanotechnology results in the creation of the Schafer Terraforming Programme designed by Gary Schafer.

2032- European Company Bauer Industries and Japanese company Chenmo sign the largest merger in corporate history. One of their projects is the Terraforming of Mars.

2039- The combination of Nanotechnology and Robotics leads to the creation of the first Muscle suits.

2043- Muscle suit technology is incorporated into the development of artificial limbs for veterans and victims of the Resource wars. In many ways these limbs are superior to natural ones. Interest in Human augmentation increases.

2045- Thirteen years after the merger BC Industries commences it’s long anticipated Red Skies Project. This is the Terraforming of Mars.

2046- Red Skies successfully land on Mars through the use of advanced technology the first atmosphere is created in a Martian Crater.

2047- Colonists leave Earth in their thousands as new colonies are set up around Mars. Most colonists become Miners.

2050- Using the massive profits made from the Red Skies project BC Industries fund research into M theory with a view to practical applications. Results come quickly and the First M-gate is created, near Earth.

2051- The Mars M-Gate is completed. The development is revolutionary as now travel between the two Planets takes hours days. New industries crop up thanks to ease for travel between the two locations.

2052- Fearing increased Governmental meddling in their research projects BC Industries moves their corporate Head Quarters to Mars along with their R&D departments. Other companies are quick to follow suit and Terraform their own craters.

2057- Artificial Intelligence is created by a scientist called Jacqueline Brady. While she receives credit for the breakthrough the science is owned by Applied Information Models a niche company. This single development makes the Company the second wealthiest on Mars almost overnight.

2060- The AI’s are combined with robotics technology to make the first thinking robots. These are christened Synthetics. While the first generation are crude things designed for manual labour, the newer models are almost indistinguishable from humans.

2063- Mars becomes more interested in their own development leaving Earth much to it’s own devices as M-Gate traffic becomes very one sided.

2065- After experiencing a massive period of growth the people of Mars become concerned with the influence the Companies have over their lives. This results in the creation of the Martian People’s Assembly or MPA. It’s a democratically elected body that oversees life on Mars. The creation of a Police force called the Mars Security Service (MSS) is another development, they perform a role similar to normal police forces. While many were surprised the companies gave up power so readily it became clear that that the companies still pull the strings through bribery or coercion. In reality the MSS is more of an oversight body of the various security companies on Mars.

2074- Iazu Incident. The Atmosphere ring on the Martian Crater city of Iazu suffers catastrophic failure and most of the city is exposed to actual surface conditions on Mars. Thousands die as sufficient safety protocols were not implemented.

2086- A long period of sustained growth on Mars is mirrored by Earth’s decline. However the divide between rich and poor on Mars is ever increasing leading to rises in criminality and terrorism. Earth has been at near constant war, countries in the traditional sense are no more and while there was no apocalypse the planet is dying from a thousand cuts.

2098- An M-Gate is constructed near Titan one of Jupiter’s Moons leading to another frontier akin the American Wild West, although the attire is more thermal clothing and snow shoes than Stetsons.

2102- The Events of Digital Shorts.


Ok so that’s a whistle stop tour of the History of Digital Shorts.

Next up descriptions of Mars, Earth and Titan.

Mars. This is your stereotypical Cyberpunk setting. High Tech and Low lives. There are glittering buildings, cool clubs and incredibly rich people in small places living alongside those in abject squalor. It’s basically the planet Capitalism made.

Power lies with the corporations while bodies like the MPA and Martian Security Service appear to provide some democratic functions the truth is they powerless. The MSS is a glorified Bounty notification service and MPA just argues while the corporations do what they want.

The Cities on Mars are all inside craters. The rim of these craters is surrounded by something called ad Atmosphere ring. The Atmo Rings pump Atmosphere into the crater thus allowing people to breathe. Leave a crater without a suit on though and you will expire quickly. Obviously the Atmo Rings are closely guarded as any damage done to them could result in an entire city asphyxiating as happened in the Iazu incident.

We will try to follow the Darian Calendar, which is a proposed Martian Calendar in the Darian Calendar days are called Sols, I feel this sound silly and I don’t think it would be adopted so a Day remains a day. If this becomes a pain in the ass though we’ll adapt.

Kaiser is one of the Largest cities on Mars and is home to the wealthy and the poor alike. The city is strongly segregated along economic lines. Relative deprivation is a problem here and as such crime figures are very high.

Iazu is sometimes called the Ghost City. It is the site of the Iazu Incident of 2074 in which the city’s Atmo ring failed. As safety procedures were not sufficiently enforced thousands asphyxiated when the Atmosphere in the city was blown away. In some cases the shelters designed for such an occurrence failed. Most of the survivors did so by getting to Ships designed for out of Atmo travel. The official count is is 80 percent of the City perished in the incident.

The city was rebuilt and is prosperous. It is home to more Corporations than any other city specialising in pretty much every area. Most of the Corporations are young and small. This means espionage is common in the City.

Cangwu is sometimes called the other electric city and is home to entertainment companies as well as the entertainment industry on Mars. It’s well known for its nightlife and is a popular destination for holiday makers from across the planet. Assuming you have cash.

Endeavour was the first city on Mars and is notable because of its history and also as it is the seat of the MPA as well as home to BC Industries. Compared to the other cities mentioned it is quite small however donations to the MPA from BC, other large companies and the City States keep it looking modern.

Earth.

What finished Earth off wasn’t a full scale nuclear war although there were limited nuclear exchanges during the resource wars. What finished Earth was a cycle of never ending war. To begin with Countries fought each other but as time wore on the Countries fell apart and evolved into civil wars and so on until everybody was just looking out for number one.
Earth Now has a Post Apocalyptic feel in most places. The Chinese Government was the last to go under and now Earth has no real leader just hundreds of thousands of warring groups fighting over whatever they can.

Earth is a violent and scary place for most Martians and those born there are viewed as murderous hicks by the citizens of Mars. There are few reasons to go to Earth and every reason to get off. Because of this immigration control is very tight.

Titan.

Titan is a frozen moon orbiting Jupiter, its rich in hydrocarbons which has attracted numerous mining operations. It’s home to many companies all out to dig a fortune out of the frozen landscape. Politically it’s just about the relationship between employee and employer, Trade Unions are common as are mysterious on the job accidents should workers demands become too much. The companies employ lots of security to protect from rival mining operations but also to keep their own workers in check.


Groups.


There are hundreds of thousands of groups in the Solar System. As time goes on I’ll add more here. If you have an idea let me know and I’ll gladly add it.

Red Sand Investigations

RSI is the company that employs your character. It’s CEO is a man called Frank Decker. Decker was born of Earth but got off the planet in his early twenties thanks to the Snakeheads, upon his arrival on Mars he found himself employed in a surface level mining operation that amounted to slave labour. Decker was able to escape and found himself in Iazu. With few skills but those he learned on Earth he joined a Private Military Company called Interceptor Solutions and quickly rose through the ranks. In time Decker also developed a tool box of negotiation and business skills not to mention a sizeable network of Contacts.

Decker is not one for settling down and never married, instead he poured his money into setting up RSI.

The RSI head (and only) office is in Kaiser city in the Food Production Quarter. In recent years the quarter has fallen into disrepair as the industry has dried up and imports from other cites became more common. The RSI building is a large converted Warehouse, Decker chose this as the building as the warehouse space doubles as a firing range and practice area for his Operatives as well as a store for the various weapons, tools and vehicles in the RSI cupboard.

It is also home to what Decker calls the Tech Support team. Each operative has their own support that guides them on missions. The support will be a secondary player character.

The RSI mainly takes bounties from the MSS as well as Companies that cannot afford their own in house security. The nature of the Business means RSI is often competing for bounties and contracts with other Recovery Agencies. Jobs can be as simple as recovering stolen property to as complicated as tracking down a Hacker.

Interceptor Solutions

Decker’s previous employer which is now a major competitor of RSI. It is owned by Alex Hanzo, a Martian Native and successful business woman. Despite the economic competition Hanzo and Decker have a business relationship built on respect so when their interests are not in direct competition with each other they have been known to cooperate.

Dynamo.

Another Rival Company noted for his ruthless pursuit of Bounties. They are relatively new but are well funded they do not extend professional courtesies to Recovery Agents from other Companies. While it is accepted that agents may frustrate each others attempts to recover a bounty there is a Gentleperson’s agreement that efforts stop short of causing death or permanent injury. Dynamo do not feel this way.

Dynamo and IS consider each other to be hostile and will engage lethally if they encounter each other. RSI has managed to keep out of the feud as Decker sees no profit in a war.

Martian Security Service.

The MSS was set up by the corporations as a method to keep the populace happy. The MSS is a public funded security force that in theory acts without fear or favour. In reality the majority of MSS funding comes from the Corporations and not the tax paid by citizens. The MSS is massively understaffed and overworked.

For this reason they are considered more of a Bounty notification service. They do investigate crimes but if they wish to arrest someone they will request the services of a company like RSI. It is very rare to see a MSS officer on patrol.

The Snakeheads.

This is a catch all term for the gangs that are involved in trafficking humans off earth to Mars. Decker has a very low opinion of them as he was one of their clients in the past. They are violent and very profit orientated so they dabble in many different forms of criminality.

Synthetics.

Synths are Robots that have limited AIs. Their intelligence and appearance varies from individual to individual.

In keeping with the idea of High Tech and Low Lives expect to see drug users, famous celebrities, corrupt business people and the like.

Technology.

Transport.

VTOL

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Most Transport is done via VTOL. A VTOL is a vertical Take Off And Landing Vehicle. These VTOLs are for personal transport.

Gates.

The gates are large structures that allow rapid transport across the solar system. There are gates at Titan, Earth and Mars and they work thanks to Kopplethorn Equation that requires an advanced to degree to understand. So let’s not dwell on it. A result of using the gate however is an effect of time dilation. While the trip seems to take around Ten Hours to those on it nearly a twenty hours will pass for those not on the trip. Regardless of how fast a craft is going when it enters the gate the length of time it takes to complete the trip is always the same. A craft will leave the gate at the same speed it entered but while travelling through the gate motion is not detectable.


Weapons.

They are pretty much what we have now except with a few new bells a whistles. Palm print scanners, Digital Ammo readouts and the like. Calibre sizes tend to be larger as well as so many people are augmented. 9mm for example is practically unheard of.

Lasers and all that kind of thing aren’t really what I would call Cyberpunk so they’re out.

The RSI need to take people alive as they have access to less lethal weapon like sticky round that discharge an electrical impulse when fired in an effort to bring down a target however Augmentations can be used to limit their effectiveness.

Disruptors are the last thing on our list. They are illegal often homemade weapons that are used against people with Augmentations. They don’t cause any damage but can brick Augmentations for a short period. Again it is possible to get shielding but it is expensive and bulky. Additionally the more augmentations someone has the more susceptible they are to disruptors if an augmentation is hit several times with a disruptor they can become permanently destroyed.

Augmentations.

So we’re going old school on this and getting an Augmentation means going blood and guts. You want a new arm you gotta ditch the old one. I’m willing to consider each one on a case by case basis. All Augs are made using robotic muscle grafted onto frames and as a result are totally artificial.

So long as it’s nothing crazy I’m pretty sure I’ll be cool with it.

The Net.

So we all know how the internet works and the Net in Digital Shorts is no different. How people interact with the Net is up to you. Some may prefer a matrix like situation while others may like a more traditional screen set up or maybe a mixture of the two where the net is displayed on augmented eyes. It’s your call.
The Net ubiquitous though and it has as many subcultures as it does today. It’s impossible for the people of Digital Shorts to imagine a world without it.


The CS.

So I need two CS from everyone who wants to write.

One CS for a Field Character and one CS for a Tech Support Character.

Tech Support use the Net to track down targets, they are skilled in the use of the Net.

Field characters are more physical and just apprehend the targets.

A fantastic example of such a relationship is in Deus Ex HR. You have Adam Jensen the Field Character and Pritchard the Tech Support. Neither can achieve their goals without the other.


Name-

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Augmentations-

History-

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Just be cool man.

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 4 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Frank Decker Character Portrait: Anna Hassan Character Portrait: Alex Hanzo

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#, as written by Bosch
Mars

Endeavour.

BC Industries Plaza.

53rd Floor


Jason Scammell quickly answered the call and a worried looking face was projected onto the large screen that dominated the far side of the wall of his office.

“Well?” He asked as he stubbed a cigarette out in an already brimming ash tray.

“We can’t find it. We think it made it off the island.”

“Impossible! We built it. Surely it must be covered in Goddamn trackers!

“It was, but they’ve all been deactivated.”

“Christ! This cannot be happening.” Scammell said as he sat down in the large chair behind his large desk. “If the board finds out...”

“They won’t. Pearce is hunting it as we speak. Besides this is Earth, Alaska no less. Where’s it going to go?.”

“I’m sorry Doctor but I’m not exactly filled with hope. How many men did it kill when escaping? How do you even know it’s still in Alaska? Siberia is closer. Are you sure it’s off the island?”

The large face looked ashen.

“Keep me posted. I can divert more resources to finding it but for now we keep this in house. Understand? This project must not leak.” Scammell continued.

“Yes, Director Scammell.”

The feed ended and was replaced by the Bauer Chenmo logo. Scammell sunk lower in his chair and lit another cigarette.

“Fuck.” He muttered.

#

Earth

Siberia

Gulf of Anadyr

Anadyr Estuary


The two raiders cautiously approached the still form lying in the sandy no man’s land between the Bearing Sea and the snow bank up the beach. He was dressed strangely in a dirty white smock and matching trousers lying face down in the sand.

“What do you think he is?” Milo asked.

“Cold.” Pavel answered simply.

They approached with their AN-94s raised and cautiously. Pavel kept scanning the horizon for any sign this might be a trap.

Milo finally poked the prone man with his rifle and the man didn’t move. He then kicked the body over and inspected him.

“I don’t think he’s from around here.” Milo said as he looked at the man’s features.

“Who knows could have died at sea and floated across the straight from China?”

“Wouldn’t he be more, you know, rotten?” Milo asked.

“Yeah he can’t have been dead long. Maybe the cold water stopped the decomposition process?” Pavel offered happy that the body wasn’t a trap.

Suddenly the body exploded into motion. A leg swept Pavel off his feet and he landed with a thud. Milo, failing to react quickly enough, caught a fist to groin followed by a rock to the face. Pavel was gathering his senses when his attacker leapt on him and pushed Milo’s cold Grach pistol under his chin.

The man spoke gibberish.

“I don’t understand!” Pavel cried.

“Where am I?” The man barked in perfect unaccented Russian.

“Anadyr.”

“How many are you?”

“Many they will kill you if you don’t let us go.”

The man lowered the pistol and fired once into Pavel’s shoulder.

“I can tell when you lie. How many are you?”

“Just me and him.” Pavel said nodding his head toward the unconscious Milo.

“Where is the nearest town? I need transport.”

“Around twenty miles west.”

Milo groaned. The man lifted the pistol and fired a round into the wounded man. He didn’t groan again.

“Twenty miles. Is it populated? Where is the nearest Port? I need to get to the M-Gates.

“Snakeheads run Anadyr if you have money they can get you out.”

“Thank you.” The man said simply before firing the pistol again this time ending Pavel’s life.

He stood and rooted through the men’s equipment before taking their clothes as his own. He then set off West.

#


Mars

Kaiser

RSI


Frank Decker rubbed some of the sleep out of his Blue Polaris model eyes and yawned loudly before opening the door to the ground floor of RSI. The place wasn’t exactly a hive of activity. The range didn’t seem to be in use but the quarter master, Jenks, was in his corner working on what looked like an Akita Assault rifle. He was about to go speak to Jenks when Rob appeared.

“Good Morning, Mr Decker.” The Synth said with an awkward smile while holding a tray containing cup of coffee and a slice of toast.

Decker kept walking towards Jenks while the Synth followed alongside.

“Morning Rob.”

“You coffee is ready sir.” Rob said in his odd accent that made him sound like a folk singer.

“I know, first, I’m going to speak Jenks.”

“That’s fine Mr Decker. It’s just your coffee is currently at optimal temperature and I am concerned that any delay will result in it becoming unpleasant to...”

“I understand Rob, I’ll take it in a minute.”

“Do so at your own risk, Mr Decker.”

Decker shook his head at the Synth, Rob was a Jeeves model Synth. Although attempts had been made to make the Synth less of a pain it was impossible to fix the core programming of the unit which was to do a good job for it’s owner.

“That butt kiss hassling you boss?” Jenks asked from the corner as he pointed the rifle at the Synth. “Just say the word.”

“He’s fine Jenks.” Decker said as he exaggerated the act of taking the coffee from the tray. “Thank you Rob.”

The Synth flashed another awkward smile before leaving the two men.

“You know they make ones now that don’t smile like serial killers?” Jenks said simply.

“I know but I’m nostalgic and he’s a great coffee maker.” Decker said taking a swig.

“So what brings a suit over to my office?” Jenks said setting the assault rifle down.

“It’s the Bulldog. Sights are screwed up.” Decker said as he produced a grey revolver from the holster beneath his jacket.

“Jesus you are nostalgic. I ain’t seen one of these in years.”

Jenks played with the sights for a moment.

“I don’t see a problem.” He said finally.

“No I meant the motion tracking.”

“No way you paid to have this wired with Motion?” Jenks said with disbelief on his face.

“It’s a good gun, lot of stopping power.”

“When you can hit what you aim for. Right to the range.”

The two men walked over to the range. Jenks set the Bulldog Revolver on the table and produced a dirty red tablet. He strung a wire from the tablet to the port behind Decker’s ear.

“Right. Select a moving target sequence.”

Decker played with the console on the range table then picked up his revolver.

The sequence started and Decker opened fire. All six shots hit.

“Ok so that was without tracking. You still got it. Engage tracking and increase speed.”

The targets flashed a lot faster this time and Decker only managed to hit two.

“Yeah it’s pulling to the left. You been fucking around with this?”

“I was learning.” Decker said simply.

“You should stick to easy stuff, leave the thinking to people like me.”

Jenks tinkered with his tablet.

“Ok go now.”

Decker rebooted the sequence, this time he hit six out of six.

“It’s easy when you know how.” Jenks said when he was done.

“Who’s upstairs.”

“You got one Keyboard Cowboy already here.”

“Anna?”

“You know it.”

Decker shook his head.

“We’ll have work today, make sure the equipment is good to go.”

#

Decker climbed the stairs to the Second floor of the RSI building. He passed a few offices that the Tech Support staff used and made his way to the end of the corridor to his own office. He stepped through and into the Office of Anna Hassan.

“Anna I thought you were taking the morning off?”

“Good morning to you to Frank.”

“A kid like you should be nursing a hangover on a Saturday morning not writing up Bounty reports. I can do that.”

She lifted a plastic bottle with a label that read Overhangover.

“Bah, Modern science confounding the traditions of the past. How do you know you had a good night if you don’t feel like crap the next day?”

Anna shrugged. “The pictures on the Net?”

Decker shook his head. “Ok what we got today?”

“Three new bounties.” She said as she used the motion controls on her desk to throw the screen she was looking at in her augmented eyes onto the screen behind Decker.

Anna walked around her desk and leaned on it beside Decker.

“We got Jessica Waylon, a cracker who is wanted DoA.” The screen was filled with an attractive looking woman who had minimal augmentation. “She’s actually pushing sixty.”

“Good Surgeon.” Decker said.

“Yeah I guess but you can see when they screwed up her... Never mind. Up next...”

She swiped her hand in front of her and the screen changed to the next Bounty.

“Joseph Khan. This one is for the MSS. He’s been implicated in the production of illegal drugs.”

“Illegal Drugs? Jesus they must be bad if the MSS is taking down a dealer.”

“Yeah you know Cangwu Slim?”

“Yeah the yuppies love it. Say all the stars use it.”

“Yeah well Kahn has been producing it on the cheap. A lot of wannabes are winding up dead.”

“I’m sure this has more to do with the actual producers getting pissed someone is ruining their brand than wannabes becoming neverweres.”

“Probably but Cangwu Slim is legal. Cangwrong Slim isn’t.”

“They want him alive?”

“Yeah, they reckon he’s part of a larger network.”

“Ok next.”

She motioned again and the screen came to the last job.

“Two for one?” Decker said as two images filled the screen.

“Yep. The Ramirez Brothers, couple of Ex Snakeheads off earth who decided to retire out on Mars and start hitting stores in Hades Kitchen.”

“Another one in Kaiser?”

“Yep it’s an MSS collar so don’t except too much green and they want one alive to face justice.”

“Or to be paraded in front of cameras.”

“Yeah like I said justice.” Anna said simply.

“Anyone else taking these bounties?”

“Dynamo are almost certainly but I don’t think Interceptor is going for it. Word has it they got something big going down.”

“Would be like Alex to play her cards close to her chest.” Decker said thoughtfully.

“Well you’d know all about being close to her chest.” Anna said with a smirk.

Decker shook his head. “You know Anna this isn’t a very professional working environment.”

“When was it?” Anna said as she returned to her seat.

Decker walked through the door opposite the one he entered through and entered his own office.

“Prep the reports and get them out to the teams.” He said before closing the door.

#

Bounties.

Keep Young and Beautiful if you want to be loved.

Target- Jessica Waylon.

Location- Iazu

Information- Don’t let the appearance fool you this woman is actually pushing sixty and not half as dumb as the blonde hair and ridiculous figure would have you believe. As you can probably tell this old lady is addicted to the knife and to finance all the work she sold out her employer Openwave. They’re based out of Iazu and are a small company that specialises in creating pieces of system architecture for larger companies. They are basically sub contractors. You know they build a little piece which is added to a lot of other little pieces by the client.

Anyway Waylon has been selling small System exploits for years to pay for her surgeries but she’s got her eye on retirement now so she went for one last big push. She over stretched though and got busted by Openwave security. They’re a small company so she was long gone before they could nab her. Whatever she made off with Openwave do not want getting out.

She seems to be selling on the black market so that might be a way to track her if you can find where she’s auctioning. It also looks like she had this plan in place for some time, it’s possible there’s a digital trail. In either case Openwave don’t really care about Waylon they just want you to recover the data. She may have stored it on the Net, on external storage or an internal Aug. I hope it’s not an internal Aug. That’ll get messy.

She shouldn’t pose much of a threat but she may have hired up a Merc. Her buyers are likely to be Keyboard Cowboys but just be aware the deal may go down in meat space. We have no reason to believe she has left Iazu but who knows where the investigation will take you.

The Bounty is to be returned to Openwave in Iazu.

Counterfeit.

Target- Joseph “Joe” Kahn.

Location- Kaiser, Juno Apartment building.

Information- Joe is scumbag operating out of the basement of the Juno Apartment Building in Kaiser. You’ve probably heard of the Juno it’s in the middle of the Q. Total dive and pretty much in the hands of the gangs now. A lot of scumbags lie low in there.

Joe is a chemist and he has hit on a formula that makes something similar to Cangwu Slim. The only difference with Joe’s product is it’s very likely to kill you, as is happening all across Kaiser. I guess people here like to pretend they’re just like the rich and famous in Cangwu. The MSS has put out a Bounty on him that has been inflated by the makers of Cangwu Slim who don’t like their name being linked to this illegal drug.
They want Joe alive but are offering a reduced reward if he dies. They also want the flow of drugs stopped. That means deleting the process for making the stuff and destroying his operation. Khan is linked to the Juno Raiders the group that controls the Building. Their main trade is offering rooms to criminals laying low. They are unlikely to welcome Recovery Agents in the area and a firefight would most likely result in death. For this reason subterfuge is the way to go.
Khan is a gang member so expect him to be augmented and well armed as will be every gang member in the place. He is also aware he is wanted on a murder ticket which means he’s going to ride the lightening if he’s taken, that means he’s not going to come along willingly. The trick here is to eliminate or retrieve Khan, delete his files and destroy the lab all without being detected.

The Bounty is to be taken to MSS central processing.

Brotherly Love.

Targets- Dingo Ramirez and Badger Ramirez.

Location- Hades Kitchen, Kaiser

Information- Colourful names eh? The Ramirez brothers are from Earth and are a pair of Ex snakeheads. They left the gang during one delivery and made Mars their home. They have worked for numerous gangs during their stay here acting in various roles. They’ve since branched out though and have been pulling armed robberies in Hades Kitchen. The MSS is facing heavy criticism from locals who want something done about it. So they issued a bounty for their arrest. Be aware these guys are heavily armed and used to violence. They will not hesitate to shoot their way out.

The Bounty only requires one alive which is a bit easier but these guys won’t go easily so you’ll need to be smart about capturing them.

Hades Kitchen is pretty deprived but it’s an honest enough area of the city. Just poor folks trying to make living, so try to avoid collateral damage.

The Target is to be delivered to the MSS central processing.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Anna Hassan Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Graham Case Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard

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Counterfeit

Mars

Kaiser

RSI


Marcus had a sore neck as it was aching from the previous night. He knew he didn’t have a comfortable sleep as he was apparently out cold and he slept on his neck in an awkward position. He thought it would do some good if he slapped a chill patch on his neck to cool it down for a bit.

He stumbled through the door and into the ground floor at the office, struggling to roll up his arm sleeves, while his lips were sealed tightly on a cig to keep it from falling out of his mouth. His eyes were half awake, and his ruffled hair needed a comb. Jenks was there along with the Jeeves model synth.

“Good morning, Mr. Sun,” Rob buzzed.

Marcus rolled his sleepy eyes and exhaled a cloud of smoke, “Mr. Sun was my dad.”

It was the morning tango, every morning Rob would come across and say the greeting, and Marcus would respond in kind.

“Jenks,” Marcus nodded to the operative as he was approaching the stairs.

“Marcus,” Jenks replied with a terse nod as well before he went back to cleaning his rifle.

“Anyone here yet besides you?” Marcus puffed, the ember intensified at the tip of his cig.

Jenks looked up at Marcus with a raised eyebrow, “Uh…everybody?”

Marcus stopped mid puff, “Making me feel bad much?”

“Overslept?”

“Somethin’ like that. I got some neck pain,” he began to rub the chill patch.

“I can take care of that,” Jenks smiled and cracked his knuckles.

“Uh, you know what…I think it’s…better now,” Marcus smiled.

Jenks laughed.

Marcus found Merek checking his equipment locker as he walked by. Marcus stopped in front of the Spectre as his callsign was known. There was a moment of silence between the two, Merek looked at him, somewhat lost. Marcus stared into the Eileens before he instantly switched on the schemes of his Gemini implants, which danced all over the color spectrum.

“Woo, woo, woo, woo,” Marcus jested with a smile, his head bobbing, and his eyes blinking variations of colors afforded by the Gemini model.

“Comon’ man, why so serious?” he lightly jabbed the older man in the shoulder with his fist before he continued on walking and puffing.

“What happened to the smoke free environment?” a familiar voice called out.

“If you don’t like it, go get some lung augs,” Marcus turned to see a familiar face, “Oh it’s you blondie.”

Sami appeared as she shut her locker. She rolled her eyes slightly annoyed, “I have a name you know, and boss doesn’t like the smoke.”

“So turn on the filters.”

Sami looked to Merek to say something; the man just replied with a shrug.

“Put it out, we have some new jobs posted, and I want to finish them quickly,” Sami stated.

“Alright, calm down newbie; just give me some time to wake up.” Marcus puffed a last one, suffocated the embers with his shoe, and headed for the stairs.

“I’ll be waiting,” she said in a sarcastic sing-song voice.

Marcus could tell the girl was excited. This would make it her third or fourth job going solo in the field; he couldn’t remember.

-

Marcus continued along the second floor and reached the lunch room; the coffee maker was already finished with its brew. He shuffled over, poured himself a mug, and proceeded to take a sip.

The sip was followed by him spitting into the disposal drain, “Augh, shit. Okay who the fuck did the brew today?”

Graham stepped in with his mug; he was drinking casually, “Jeeves, boss likes his brews.”

“I don’t,” Marcus paused for a moment.

He glanced toward the vending machine, a thought crept in.

He approached the vending machine and slid his currency card across the scanner before selecting a bottle of M9 on the haptic pad. M9 was a premier brand of soft drink that started its life with medical purposes in mind. The refreshing effects turned the drink into a popular beverage, spawning a series composing a variety of flavors. The drink slid out before him, strawberry, freshly chilled and probably carbonated. He pressed the stay tab which was followed by a soft pop. Then he poured the carbonated sweet drink into his coffee. The two liquids mixed, the reaction was evident in the fizzing.

“What are you doing?” Graham asked as Marcus tossed the empty beverage can into a waste receptacle.

“Waking up,” then he quaffed the drink down.

He paused for a moment to let the drink settle, and then he shook his head in one full rotation like a wild dog.

“Let’s go to work,” Marcus said in a calm tone with relaxed demeanor.

He accessed the net and remotely activated his music player.

“Feelin’ Alright” by Joe Cocker started playing on full volume from his desk space, blasted so everyone down the hall could hear. Marcus had modified the file so that the fading out at the conclusion of the song was altered to allow for a continuous loop. It was an oldie, but definitely a goodie that Marcus had started to enjoy.

He grooved down the hall to his desk while Graham shook his head as he followed behind.

Just as Marcus was about to sit down he saw the boss lady step out of her office. Her head was cocked to the side with a certain look on her face. She said something that was not audible, not because of the music, but because she was mouthing the words. Marcus immediately dropped the music by fifteen decibels, a point where the music was only heard in his area. The boss lady sighed, shook her head, and went back inside.

Anna had started petitioning Decker for permission to soundproof her room ever since Marcus started working at RSI. The boss man didn't care much for his antics, as far as Marcus knew; he might have even welcomed it. Decker had said that she could do so, but had added that he felt no harm to having some music being played once in a while.

Or rather, every day.

“By the way, who is Merek’s techie?”

Graham peered from his area, “Hmm?”

“I asked ‘who is Merek’s techie?’ The guy’s been around for about a year now, and we haven’t seen his support person. Does he even have one?”

“Yeah, he does. His name’s Ryia. He doesn’t hang out here due to a chronic infectious disease that relapses from time to time. At least that’s what Anna said.”

“Really?”

“Mmhm. He stays plugged into the Net 24/7, I hear he’s going to go full-on.”

“That’s…wow,” Marcus was speechless for a brief moment before he refocused himself at his work.

It was a time for work not idle chatter and gossip.

“Okay what do we have today?”

His face glistened with the cyan glow of the holograms. He darted from panel to panel on the screen with his eyes until he reached the board that he wanted.

[From Anna Hassan]

The file was labeled ‘Counterfeit.’

He accessed the file and began reading, “Joseph Kahn, Juno Apartment Building, in the middle of the Q…”

“Anything?” a somewhat annoying voice interrupted his thoughts; it was Sami.

“I’m still doing some digging,” he replied.

“What’s the job?”

“We need to take down some guy named Joe Kahn. He’s been making bootleg Cangwu Slim. DoA, but you know the rules, dead is reduced. You’ll find him in the Juno Apartment Building, middle of the Q. We also gotta waste his files so that some other dope head won’t come along and try cooking. Oh, and trash the place.”

“Sounds like the usual, alright I’m on it.”

Marcus raised an eyebrow as if Sami was there in person beside him, “What would you know about the usual? Newbie?”

“Uh, a bit more than you. I’m a recovery agent.”

Marcus couldn’t really say anything.

”You know, I think that Graham guy is kinda cute.”

“What am I? Your girlfriend? I think you just said that on the main channel by the way," his eyes zipped to Graham, who was busy at his own console.

“Oh my god! What? Are you serious? Why didn’t you say something?”

“How was I supposed to know what you were going to say?” Marcus nonchalantly continued tapping away on the haptic interface, he knew Sami couldn't see him smiling.

He imagined her cheeks reddening as he tried suppressing his urge to laugh.

“Oh my god! Hey…wait a minute…oh you’re an asshole.

Marcus burst out laughing, “Consider that a warning. Next time you spill your beans, be sure you check your channel.”

”Fuck you.”

He stopped laughing and exhaled contentedly, “Let me access some feeds to find you a stakeout point.”

A map of the complexes was overlaid by blue markers that identified rooftop positions closest to the target’s apartment. He immediately tagged the file to Sami.

“Alright, take a look at those. The place is run by Juno Raiders. They’ll probably welcome you with guns.”

”Guns?”

Marcus sighed, he had been with her for a couple of months, and he learned that she had never used a firearm before. And situations that involved guns were not her strong suit, as it went against her personal philosophy which prohibited killing.

“Relax alright, I’m not gonna throw you in there. You’re gonna need to go spy mode on the guy. Can you do that blondie?”

”And how am I supposed to do that?”

Marcus shrugged, “Find something sexy.”

There was no response.

“His apartment is on the top floor, the twelfth,” Marcus had entered the apartment’s records.

“Can’t find any MSS drones in the area that I can proxy link into…” Marcus mumbled, “Looks like I’m going blind.”

At the same time he was inside the MSS database, which gave access to all contractor services like RSI, Interceptor, and so forth. He then shifted to a query for a ‘Joseph Kahn’ inside the archive. The name came up with a bounty sign blinking across his face in red, along with a full profile. The physical details were probably updated weeks ago. They managed to get a lead recently on his location. He had a number of aliases...Khan, Kahn, Papa Joe, Smokin' Joe, Iosef, Yusef.

“Kahn or Khan…really no difference…”

”Anything of relevance…please?”

-

Food Production Quarter

The quarter was marked by skyscrapers that stood in the ranges of ten to twenty stories high with plexi-glass windows. Most of the quarter looked like a slum hive with the exception of the middle of the quarter where most of the towers and hydro-farms were located.

The hydro-farms were incredible feats of engineering and agriculture, being only one sixth the size of the entire quarter, the farms practically fed the population of an area twelve times its size. The crops in the hydro-farms were bathed in nutrient rich compounds. They sat directly within chambers that received the right amount of the sun’s photons to allow them to grow.

The middle of the quarter was also marked off by holo-boards that were still advertising, unlike the other rundown panels that nobody bothered to repair. The sky of the dome was set to what would have been a normal sunny day on Earth before the place turned into a toxic hole covered by a blood orange sky that was the result of burning fossil fuels, or peak oil.

Sami made her way to the top of a tower that stood in the middle of the apartment complexes. It was probably among the tallest, standing at about fifteen stories. She perched from above and rolled the ocular goggles resting on her head down to her eyes, zooming in toward the Juno building that was diagonally across from the building she was on.

“You said twelfth floor right?” she tapped her communique.

“Yep. You’re lookin’ for a guy standing five feet eleven, maybe six feet. He’s got tear drop tats falling from his left eye; apparently, they’re glow in the dark.”

”He’s got dark brown skin and a mustache. He looks like he’s been packing some pounds, probably stuffing his face on Kaiser Wieners. His augments are both of his arms. You brought a pulse gun like I told you right?”

“What else would I bring?”

”Good point. And the ‘bug’?”

“That too.”

”Alright. His room is on the south west side of the building, last one down the hall. See it?”

“I think so. He’s got some plants baking in the sun…”

”Probably some Cangwrong cookin’ there too. See any openings?”

“Nope…nothing.”

”Give me a moment.”

Silence followed on the comm. Sami felt a gently breeze brush her face.

About five minutes later, she noticed some movement from where Kahn’s dwelling was. The balcony door slid open, and a man stepped out, apparently winded. The agent zoomed in to see the man wipe sweat from his head and exhale.

The man had dark skin as well as the mustache, spot on. He did pack on couple of pounds as compared to his profile mug shots.

”What about now?”

“Yeah. Target identified. What did you do?”

Sami saw Kahn fanning himself with his bionic hand, as he leaned against the railing, letting the air take him.

”Thermostat control. Call me your guardian angel.”

“Alright, I’m goin’ for it. Closing comm.”

She knew like Marcus knew that whenever she was doing her thing, she needed complete focus. Because on one occasion Marcus had chimed in unexpectedly, jarring her thoughts that almost sent her plummeting to a space in between two buildings as she was trying to track a perp. She had been lucky enough to catch herself in time. The scolding that followed ensured that Marcus would not interrupt her when she said ‘closing comm.’

Sami zoomed out of her goggles and looked for a way to reach the building. She searched for a feasible pass. Each of the apartment buildings were built fairly close to one another, which was expected when it came to urban development on Mars. Tightly packed and going up were the buzz words for buildings in order to spare as much land as possible for other uses. And it was very likely that the corporations had a hand in the planning of residential spaces for the masses.

Sami began to run toward the building on her right.

She vaulted across the gap between two buildings; the distance was short, as she landed on both feet in a crouched position on the roof.

A single exhale.

Tracing a path before her in her mind, she continued darting across the roof of the same building. In moments like these, it was just her and the world around her. No one else.

She felt in complete control of her body. Her breaths were the only thing she heard as she maintained focus.

She took a single breath just as she bridged a gap larger than the one before. Her feet landed on the vertical surface below, while her hands gripped a ledge above her.

Her right foot almost slipped. She gasped, realizing that she needed to act or she would lose momentum. In one smooth motion, she swung herself over the ledge, exerting the full strength of her arms.

She paused to exhale and reassess her momentary, and she would add literal, slip. At times like these, Sami was glad that she opted out of a heeled suit.

Her view returned to her destination, the balcony with the open door.

Two buildings closer now, she thought.

She slid down the roof that angled from the balcony she stood on. The smooth plexiglass panels provided little to no friction against her suit.

She landed on an uncovered balcony as her toes crawled along the walkway just several windows away from Kahn’s little condo in the slums.

Then she leapt down from the platform, landing directly on a pair of industrial pipes silently against the swift swoosh of the nearby maglev train that signaled the morning commute.

From there she tip toed along the pipe before she was a quarter of the distance from the building in front of her. She leapt, propelled by one foot, as the other grappled onto the ledge while her hands gripped the rail. Then she vaulted over, pivoting with one hand gripping the rail.

She was careful to avoid disturbing the residents by accidentally knocking something over.

She maintained firm control of herself as she faced Kahn’s balcony from the one she stood at.

In one quick motion, she crouched on the ledge of the balcony and sprung forward toward Kahn’s balcony. She jumped, her feet kicking nothing but the air below, trying to push her forward. Following a somersault, she landed on both of her feet as she craned her neck into the interior of the target’s apartment.

The place looked like a self-contained and independent operation; at least it appeared to be the case to the new recruit. There were caches of pills everywhere; the guy even had several chemical set ups with beakers and burners.

A couple of assault weapons, contraband, were littered on the floor. The MSS had placed a ban on high powered weapons in civilian hands. The only entities that were reserved the right to own and use such weapons were private military contractors, and the MSS. The term ‘private military contractors’ was a loose one, but corporations, mercenaries and bounty hunters were technically covered.

Corporations had private armies and security guards who were allowed to use such armaments. And although mercenaries worked defensively like corporation guards, they weren’t exclusive to any one corporation. Bounty hunters pretty much did the dirty work for the MSS.

Any other groups outside the umbrella were technically civilians in possession of these weapons, and therefore were breaking the law. Of course, bounty hunters could only be in so many places at one time to track criminals down.

Since you don’t have any perception augs, always turn on your goggles before you enter a place. HRV will keep newbies like you from getting roasted.

Sami remembered those words by Alessa. The older woman was an experienced fighter, and did well in the business. She was very much an informal mentor as Merek was. Both dropped advice every now and then outside of the range and practice zone.

She did not want to get roasted. The hyper reality vision was very much like an X-ray view of the entire apartment. The view went through entire walls, but only for a limited distance.

She gave the area one quick run through, sweeping through it with her HRV before she identified the target on her goggles as the one, and only, giant white blob in the middle of the digital violet render of the world before her.

The man was inside what appeared to be the lavatory. He was sitting on the toilet, taking his time with what appeared to be a magazine. She turned off the HRV.

The pulse gun was unholstered with a click, as she stepped through the bedraggled quarters that her quarry had chosen as his place of rest.

“Alright I’m in,” she whispered as she re-activated the comm.

Marcus buzzed over, ”Okay, lock the door. You don’t want any of his buddies to come help when he starts screaming for it. They’re all pretty good neighbors from what I hear.”

Sami nodded, as it made sense, walking past the bags filled with blue and yellow pills to the only exit in the cramped apartment.

Just as she was about to reach the door, she heard the sound of a flush and another door sliding open to her left.

She was startled to see Kahn’s face, tripping on a misplaced bottle. Up close she could see in detail the tear drop tattoos and mustache were definitely on his dark skin, if the word thug had an image, he would be it.

“What the…” Kahn opened his mouth as Sami fell backward.

Kahn tried to cover himself with his arms as the blue pulse washed over him in rippling waves that were visible to the naked eye for about five seconds.

His augments suddenly felt like they were giant bricks attached to his shoulders, and he flopped to the ground as his augs dragged him.

“Agh shit!” he landed on his stomach with a metallic thud as his arms clanged roughly against the floor like deadweight next to Sami, who breathed a sigh of relief.

“Hey who the fuck are you? Help! Help!” Kahn strained his neck as he tried pull himself up, but his shoulders were pretty much locked to the ground.

Sami searched frantically around the run down place until she found a bag of pills and gagged his mouth with it to temporarily silence him.

His muffled cries were met by a “Shut up.”

That didn’t stop him.

If you’re trying to keep the guy alive, but he’s annoying the crap out of you well, do this.

Merek’s words.

But that was pretty obvious in itself. The image went through her head of his demonstration.

Sami proceeded to smack the guy across the face with a swift kick that knocked him out. After she holstered the pulse gun, she exhaled and stood there, unsure of how to proceed.

“Okay, the guy’s pretty much out of it. Now what?”

”Good. Look for a tablet or something. He’s probably got the formula tucked away somewhere either on a personal file or on the Net.”

“Wait, if it’s on the Net, then how I supposed to find it?” she wandered through the apartment, rummaging for a device.

”Which is precisely the reason why I’m the brains…and you’re…whatever you are.”

“Get on with it,” Sami said, slightly annoyed, as she entered the bedroom.

She found the thin transparent tablet lying on top of the guy’s dresser along with his socks and a porno magazine. It seemed as though he had memorized the formula by heart and did not need it anymore for the actual cooking. Sami, for her part, was disgusted by the mag. He was probably reading the same filth while on the toilet when she turned on the HRV.

”The bug. Place it on top of a screen on the device. I’ll take care of the rest. Can you say ‘what would I ever do without you?’”

Sami sighed, “Ugh, you are so vain.”

She produced the ‘bug’ from one of her pockets. It was a small black device about the size of a fingertip. Despite its size, Marcus prided himself on the little toy; it was probably one of the most sophisticated weapons in his hacking arsenal.

She placed the bug on top of the tablet’s screen, “Alright. Bug planted.”

Perfectly straight lines of green immediately began to spread from the ‘bug’. The lines glowed as they spread, but stopped expanding after they reached about five centimeters in length. The glow continued and pervaded the transparent panel to bathe her hand in the eerie light.

“Whoa what-”

”Relax.”

Sami stood there, watching the bug glow. She had no idea, or no complete idea, as to what was going on. Then she remembered she had to trash the place. Damn, she thought, as she returned to the living room. She stared into the face of the mess, piles and piles of drugs in plastic bags and other containers.

”Alright all of the data and files have been wiped clean, but just in case...”

Sami understood. She retrieved the bug and placed it back into one of her pockets before flinging the tablet against a wall, the flat transparent device smashed to bits. It was probably one of the less durable models.

”’Atta girl.” Marcus had heard the glass shattering over the comm.

“How do I get rid of the rest?”

”Flush it down the toilet. I don’t know, go to town on the place. Maybe he has a vac somewhere.”

“A guy like this? He probably doesn’t even wash his clothes, let alone have a vac,” she stepped over Kahn’s body, grabbing several bags before entering the restroom.

She tore them open and let them pour into the toilet; the pills were buoyed by the water. It took several trips before every single plastic bag, container, and box was emptied of the stuff. She took one of the assault weapons and proceeded to smash apart the chemistry set up with the weapon’s stock, shards of glass shattered and fell to the ground in disparate shards. Liquids that were already in the beakers stained the carpet when they spilled.

She only made the mess worse, but she did her job. That’s all that mattered.

“Well, it’s the best I could do. Now what?”

”Alright, now take the guy to MSS Central Processing.”

“What?!”

There was silence on the other end before Marcus finally spoke, ”What?”

“You didn’t tell me that?”

”I thought you already knew… ‘Sides, I sent you the whole notice.”

“Well how the hell am I supposed to carry this fatass?”

”Oh.”

“Shit. Forgot about logistics.”


Sami could hear him chuckle on the other end.

”Well you could always…you know…kill him? And then get out.”

“No. Absolutely not. I haven’t killed anyone, and I’m not gonna start now. Damn it. You didn’t tell me that. If I knew, I probably would have…god I don’t even know how I would have gotten him out.”

”Well there’s nothing I can do now. Bounty’s DoA. Comon’ just get rid of him and get out, you did your job.”

Sami remained silent as she stared at the unconscious man. She had never killed anyone before. She stared at his back, as he was flopped on the floor. Was this going to be her first victim?

”What? You want to start a gunfight in the apartments? ‘Cause that’s what’s gonna happen if I call the MSS to show up on gang turf. Weigh it. One man dies…or twenty. Your call.”

Sami was silent still. She exhaled, somewhat torn. If she had to kill a man, give her a gun at least; it was a quicker way of handling things. She paced about, unsure what to do. She felt as though she had to get out of there, but she hadn’t finished the job.

She heard a sigh over the comm, ”I’m just fuckin’ with you blondie. I radioed the MSS to send a pick up team. That’s your ticket out. Bring the guy up to the roof; there should be an access way right outside his room.”

Sami closed her eyes as relief washed over her. She looked at the guy; he was probably heavy without the augmentations alone.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she opened the door and peered down the hallway to make sure no one was around.

Druggies and raiders usually operated in the night. They spent the day cooking or sleeping. She had to be sure though, in case she was caught off guard by a raider.

“You know, sooner or later you’re gonna have to kill. It’s a kill or be killed world out there. I’m just lookin’ out for you.”

“Have you ever killed someone before?”

She knew he had not, and she was not expecting an answer from him.

”Just get him onto the roof.”

She sighed, and proceeded to grab the guy by his bionic arms. Even though she was physically weaker in comparison to the other recovery agents, her muscle suit partially made up for the disparity.

Sami dragged the unconscious man out the door, pulling him toward the stairs. At times like these she would have preferred a lift. Unfortunately, in older run-down apartment complexes, the only lifts were the ones in the middle of the building for easy access by residents.

Meanwhile, obscure roof entrances were taken care of by stairs. Perhaps that was a safety measure, one of the oldest of its kind, as even lifts might accidentally malfunction for any number of reasons during an emergency situation.

In fact, that proved true as months ago, an apartment fire broke out on the sixth floor of an eight story, new model apartment, killing all the residents on the top three floors as they tried to exit the building via the lifts. The lifts failed to work, trapping residents in the suffocating smoke. Thirty three souls perished according to the investigators; they added that the lifts failed to work due to the power source being cut off and the machines therefore jammed.

Sami proceeded to pull the man up the stairs, but his weight and the steps resisted her efforts. She finally reached the roof entrance, where the door was locked via keypad.

“Another snag. The roof is locked.”

”The bug, put it on a screen.”

Sami retrieved the bug from her pocket and did as he told. Again the green lines formed on the keypad’s screen, sort of like branches or vines growing on a tree.

Within seconds, the red light that signaled a locked entrance switched into a lime green. Sami took the bug, and pressed the open key on the pad, the door hissed open.

The door then sealed shut behind them as Sami’s shadow loomed over the unconscious man on the roof. She looked around for any transport coming toward her amid all the other personal civilian transports buzzing about in the skyways.

Then she spotted one larger than the others, and it came toward her. She noted the dark grey coat and the large initials MSS painted on the side. The MSS agents waved at her from the open cabin doors, and she waved back.

The VTOL patrol unit’s nacelles turned vertical just above her, and it proceeded to descend with a hushed drone. The transport kept a position about one or two feet from the roof, hovering quietly.

The two officers stepped down and checked the unconscious man. One of the two officers pulled out a palm device and identified his face.

“Yep. That’s him.”

He pressed his ear communicator piece, “We got him. We got papa Joe-”

He turned to Sami who replied, “RSI.”

“Thanks to RSI,” he smiled.

The two officers helped Sami lug the guy aboard. She climbed in after them and took a seat, latching herself in with a U-shaped restraint bar.

“You tucked in tight miss?” said the pilot from the cockpit.

“Yeah,” she nodded, as the ocular goggles retracted above her hairline.

The transport dusted off, the thrusters whipping the wind as it ascended.

”Status newbie?”

“I’m hitching a ride with these guys. I’ll probably take a cab once I’m out of MSS Processing.”

”Copy that. All in a good day’s work, blondie. Over and out.”

Sami shook her head, her light scoff melted into a smile as the comm terminated.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Graham Case Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova

0.00 INK

Image


Mars
Kaiser
RSI - Tech Support


"Promise you'll be gentle Case, I'm sensitive there," A voice cooed with an edge of a Slavic accent. An exaggerated sigh answered and replied, "Don't make this weird, 'Lessa. Now come on and take a seat." Alessa simply chuckled and took a step off the wall she was leaning against, moving forward and taking a seat on Graham's desk. She then ran her hand through her brunette hair, lifting a tuft up from around her right ear and revealing a port sitting behind the lobe. Graham then produced a cord from the console on his desk. Notably he let her jack herself in.

"So tell me the problem again," Graham asked, fingers a blur as they danced across the holographic keyboard.

"problems," Alessa corrected. If the man was to be rooting around her augs, she wanted to make damn sure he knew what he was looking for. "The vision in my right eye is lagging a split second behind the other, and I think my hearing is dropping."

"Mhm. What about your arm?"

"Apart from not being real, it's fine," she answered above the rhythmic tapping of Graham's fingers. He made no other sound-- but that tapping, and Alessa had to ask, "Dammit Case, you know they have augs so you won't have to do that right? With your money, I'm sure you could afford it," She said, with a subtle edge of venom behind her tone.

"I could, but it's not the same," Graham said, a grin playing at his lips, "Call me old-fashioned."

"You're old-fashioned."

Graham paused his tapping and shook his head, he should have saw that one coming. Ignoring that comment, he continued with what he was doing, pulling up all the information on Alessa's Augs on his console. "The good news it that it's not a hardware problem."

"Slava Bogu, good, I don't have the money to replace them," She said, slipping into a bit of Slavic.

"Maybe you would if you didn't drink it all away?" Graham asked rhetorically. He couldn't see the furrowed brows of the woman sitting in front of him. "I still don't know how in the hell you managed to get so screwed with the interest on your augs. Did you even read the contract?"

"Look, spend a few years without an arm or an eye, see how much you care about the fine print," She replied defensively. But perhaps it wouldn't have hurt to maybe give it a once over after all.

Graham shook his head back and forth, but let the subject drop, using his hands to navigate through the information on the console. "Anyway, it's nothing a defragmentation on the systems in your eye won't fix," he said, pulling up a system image of her AxiSci model eye. "Still, the eye'll go dark for approximately seven minutes... Ready?"

"Do it." She said, closing the lid over her right eye.

"As for your ear-- well you just had your settings turned too low." A settings bar appeared on the screen, and with a flick of Graham's wrist, it was reset to the default settings. "You haven't been playing with them, have you?"

"I was drunk."

"Of course you were." Graham said with a shake of his head, though a light grin playing at the corner of his mouth. "Well, that should do it. How's the ear now?"

Alessa plugged the left ear with a pinky and gave a listen. She could hear the dull footsteps around them, the shutting of doors, muffled voices from other employees, and even the constant whirr of technology nipping at her artificial eardrums. "Good, it doesn't sound like I'm trying to hear everything from under a blanket now."

A chuckle came from Graham as he swiped all the information of the ear off the screen, as if shooing it away, leaving only the information about Alessa's eye "Say while we wait for your eye to defragment, we do some actual work?"

Alessa had already stood and made her way to the corner of the room where the coffee machine sat, the wire behind her ear stretching across the office. She was kind of glad that Graham had upped the length since their last diagnostic. She poured herself a cup and took a drink of the pitch black liquid, before making a face. "Case, has anyone told you your coffee tastes like ass?"

Graham simply sighed as he rubbed his chin with his hand. "Only you 'Lessa, every morning," he said as his hands danced, drawing information out of the company server and throwing it on the wall. "It's my coffee anyway, go to the lunch room if you don't like it."

Alessa only scoffed as she crossed back across the office, coming to a stop behind Graham. "That's a long walk with this thing plugged into my head," She said, leaning over his shoulder to get a better look at the screen.

"Sounds like a personal problem then. Add it to the list?"

"Yep."

The pair then grew silent as Graham worked on bringing the available jobs up on screen and Alessa watched with one eye open. He brought up the first two jobs, both of which Alessa turned down. It wasn't until Graham pulled up the last job that Alessa displayed some interest.

"Next on the list is another MSS job, Dingo and Badger Ramirez. Brothers," Graham began.

"Creative names," Alessa scoffed, blinking her right eye and noting it was still dark.

"Former Snakeheads. They decided to strike out on their own after a delivery to Mars. They've popped in and out of various gangs since, never staying in one place for long," Graham gleaned from the information given.

Alessa chuckled and spoke, "Just trying to find their place in the world. Such is life."

"Worlds, we're not on Earth any more," Graham shrugged, "Seems like the brothers have been pulling armed robberies in Hades' Kitchen... Hey... isn't that where--"

She cut him off before he could finish his sentence, answering the question in the process. "Yep, home. Knew those names were familiar, they've been fucking around my home. Never had the balls to rob me personally, but they're pissing off the locals." She then nodded, "It's in familiar territory and I really need the money. I'll take it."

Graham smiled and nodded, and wrote up an acceptance message and sent it to Anna for confirmation. As he did, Alessa finished off her coffee and took a seat back on Graham's desk. "Debt collectors knocking on the door again?" He jokingly asked.

"Shut up and see if my eye's fixed already," she answered.





Mars
Kaiser
Hades' Kitchen


After a stop at Jenks' for ammunition, Alessa was on the same route she took home every day. Hades' Kitchen was only a short hop and skip away from the RSI offices, and in a manner of hours, she chimed in through her communicators, "I'm here Case, Hades' Kitchen... Home sweet home, dirt and grime all. Talk to me,"

"Not much to say sadly. They're thugs, they keep things pretty low-key. I can feed you the robbery details, but don't expect much more than moral support from me," he replied.

"So I'm doing this the hard way?"

"Unless one of them pops on the Net and broadcasts his location, yeah. Even if I search through the Net usage from around the area, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. There's a lot of people that use the Net, 'Lessa. The best I can do is monitor the channels until something pops up. I'm sending you the details not, I suggest starting at one of the stores they robbed, see what you can find out."

Alessa sighed, it sounded like that was the best she was gonna get for the time being. "I'll do it, it's better than nothing."

"How's your eye? and hearing?" He asked while he sent the information.

She blinked repeatedly, to make sure that her eye was still in working order, and once satisfied replied. "It's fine, whatever you did did the trick. The ear's fine too."

"Good. Data incoming, check out your tablet. I'll keep tabs on your status here and contact you if anything comes up. Good luck, and good hunting," Graham finished, ceasing contact with his last word.

With that, Alessa dipped into the leather messenger bag she carried on her shoulder and slipped out a rough beaten black tab. Her fingers slid across the foggy scratched surface, summoning it to life. In the corner of the screen a light flashed, and when she pressed it the map of Hades' Kitchen appeared, with a few brightly colored circles indicating the robberies. A frustrated sigh escaped her lips as she flicked through the information. The nearest robbery was a convenience store only a few blocks away. It was a start, at the very least. Killing the screen, she slipped the tablet back into her bag and swapped it out for a rubber band. She pulled her hair back and out of her eyes, tying it up into a bun and wrapping the band around it to keep it's shape. She was on a job now, best to keep it out of the way.

The store wasn't difficult to find, as it was one that Alessa came to on occasion for home items-- if she could call the tiny flat she lived in home. The store owner gave her the robbers' descriptions-- though she already had them in her tablet. Apparently, they were decent sized men, both standing somewhere around six foot, maybe a touch over. Wild brown eyes, even wilder brown hair cut in a strange fashion. One had a short mohawk while the other was cropped close to his head with stars cut into it. Alessa simply frowned to herself. Stupid thugs, they had no notion of subtility. Made her job that much easier in the end though. She bought a pack of cigarettes from the store, and took her exit, popping one into her mouth as she did.

She stood outside the store, tablet in hand and matching information up. Apparently, Dingo was the one with the mohawk, and Badger with the shapes. Along with the funny hair, they both had augs-- but who didn't in this day and age? Dingo had his entire left leg swapped out, while Badger was with only one real arm, as the right was also traded in. Alessa grimaced in thought, why the hell would someone willingly trade in their body parts for fake ones. Taking a drag on the smoke, she killed the power and slipped it back into her bag, walking off in the direction the store keep saw the brothers run after the robbery.

After a few more stops in other stores, she was no closer to finding them than when she started. But she wasn't the one to give up on her target. She'd stay out all day and night, if she needed to. She was finding these thugs. Fortunately, she needn't have to wait that long.

"Good news and bad news," Graham chimed through on her communicator.

Alessa never hesitated in her step, and kept moving forward, taking the cigarette out of her mouth as she spoke, "Yeah?"

"Good news, I found the Ramirez troupe. Bad news? They're right in the middle of an armed robbery."

"That makes it simple, where?" Alessa asked, sticking the cigarette back in her mouth and picking up the pace.

"Kaiser Ministop, I've got them on vid now. I'll remotely lock the doors until you get there," He said, and she could already hear his fingers working at his desktop.

"Don't," she demanded and the fingers stopped. "If you do, they might kill the shop keep in an attempt to escape."

"That's... Heroic," Graham noted with a surprised tone. In fact, he sounded like he didn't even think of the possibility of the store keep getting injured.

"Not quite, they die, and there goes a chunk of my paycheck," Alessa said, coming up on the store in question. The streets around it were oddly empty, perhaps due to the fact the people not wanting to get wrapped up in the robbery. There were no sounds other than a ruckus coming from the storefront. It sounded like Graham's intel was solid, and thankfully she was close enough to arrive before they made their exit. "Any suggestions?" Alessa asked as she came to a stop beside the store-- well out of sight of the brothers. She took the cigarette out of her mouth and flicked it into the ground. Even from where she stood, she could hear them shouting their demands at the storekeeper. She then drew her firearm from it's holster from under her coat.

There was a pause before Graham chimed in, "... Not really?" He said, totally unsure. He didn't deal with the criminals, all he did was feed Alessa data and information, she was the soldier, the tactics were up to her. But soon the point was rendered moot, "Dammit, they're leaving."

"Good," She calmly said, entirely at odds with Graham's rushed tone. Afterward, she killed the contact and listened. She pushed herself up against the corner of the store, and patiently waited. The sound of the door being slammed opened was followed by the patter of heavy footfalls in her direction. They continued to do her job for her, it sounded like. She waited until the footsteps were close, then jumped out from the corner, putting her directly in the path of one of the brothers. Surprise lit his face up like a Christmas tree, but was soon replaced by pain as she fired three rounds into his left kneecap. No blood came from the wound, only a mechanical grinding down and a shower of sparks-- Dingo.

Acting quickly, she wrapped her arm around his neck, taking a step back throwing him off balance even further, and fired another shot at the other man, hitting him squarely in the right arm, sparking as the round entered the fake limb-- Badger. A quick glance confirmed what she believed, both Dingo and Badger dropped their guns in the chaos. She kicked Dingo's gun away and then looked up at the other brother. His eyes mirrored his brother's, filled with surprise soon replaced with anger. As he reached for his gun on the ground, she shifted further behind Dingo, obscuring all of her body, leaving only a single eye peering at the man to give him a harder target to hit.

"Going somewhere?" She asked.

"Shoot her! Shoot her, shoot her, shoot her!" The man in her arms yelled as he squirmed. The squirming stopped when she fired another round into his artificial leg, causing another shower of sparks.

"I wouldn't, you'd just hit your dear old brother instead," She said, giving Dingo a little tap to the temple to show how little she was playing. "But that's just me. I only need one of you alive, and I don't much care which one it is," She said darkly.

"I'll kill you!" Badger screamed, but hesitated in reaching for his gun.

"I doubt that," She replied, taking the gun from Dingo's temple and firing toward Badger's gun. That had the intended effect as Badger withdrew his hand.

"The fuck do you want? Is it the cash? Take it and leave us the fuck alone," Dingo said, attempting at some sort of bargain. And if Alessa was a lesser person, she might have considered it. Alas, all of her years in an Earthland military unit had drilled loyalty in her very core, and she wasn't about to betray the RSI or even Decker like that.

Returning the pistol back to Dingo's temple, she spoke, "This will go one of two ways-- either of which is fine by me. I'm either taking the both of you to the MSS... Or just one, I'll let you decide which one." There was a moment of silence between the brothers, and in that moment Alessa confirmed what she had suspected. The Ramirez brother's cared for each other, and they were unwilling to sacrifice the other. In that moment, Alessa finally knew for sure that her plan had worked. She felt the weight against her arm slacken, and watched as Badger's shoulder's hitched.

"Promise you'll take us both in alive?" Badger pleaded.

Internally, Alessa let herself mentally exhale. Externally, she didn't move staying firmly behind Dingo with an iron hard grip. "Wise choice. I won't hurt you-- anymore than I already have anyway-- unless you give me a reason to. Understand? You so much as try to run and bang! The other is dead. You try and get cute, same thing. Am I perfectly clear?" She threatened. They said nothing and only responded by nodding their heads in afirmative. Removing the gun from Dingo for only a moment, she dipped into a pocket and threw a pair of handcuffs at Badger. "Put those on-- Slowly," She demanded.

As he slipped the cuffs on, Alessa loosened the grip on Dingo, but kept the gun pointed at him to slip another pair of cuffs on him. She forced them against the wall of the store, her gun always pointed at one of them as she worked to clean the scene up. She policed the weapons they dropped and allowed the storekeep to collect the dropped bag of cash as she spoke to Graham over her communicator.

"Case, contact the MSS and get me the nearest VTOL." She asked, now standing in front of the Ramirez brothers, pistol at the ready.

"On it. You only needed one, you know?"

"Think of it as a bonus," She replied.

"Well, whatever. It was still damn impressive, watched the whole thing on a corner camera."

She looked up and located the camera Graham was talking about. She then proceeded to flip the bird at the camera, smirking all the while. Alessa then indicated with her gun for the Rameriz brothers to get to their feet. "Come on, up on your feet and Remember what I said," She warned. As they got to their feet, she picked one to stand behind, grabbing his cuffs and pointing the gun at the other while she waited for the VTOL's location.

"Well, that was rude. There's a VTOL waiting at 42nd Apollo. Hurry on home now,"

"Copy that, and Case? Have a cold beer waiting for me."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins

0.00 INK

KEEP YOUNG & BEAUTIFUL
if you want to be loved


Mars

Cangwu

Ivarest Apartments


Iazu, the place of Merek Eckhard's birth. Not to mention Ry, born two years after Merek at the Iazu General Hospital. Today would be a return visit, as the target they had taken was rumored to be there. Many of the former Iazu returned once the city was back up and running; years after the incident. Neither of the RSI employees cared to rejoin their old stomping grounds, the sky there a reminder of the failing atmosphere. It was easy to forget how hostile Mars would be without the atmo-tech, sitting safe underneath a protective canopy.

Hot water, almost to the point of scalding, sprayed across Merek's back from the shower head. He turned to face the nozzle, leaning his head down into the stream. Water engulfed his hair, dripping down his face, the stream and hydrated environment made breathing a much more pleasurable experience. Hair damp, he lathered it with a shampoo claiming to have actual Martian minerals in it.

Merek finished shampooing and rinsed again, stepping out of the shower. Air streams hit him from the sides of the walls. Grabbing a towel, he used it to expedite the drying process, walking out of the bathroom through the common area in the nude. Ry was on the couch, engrossed in the net. He wasn't fully jacked in, but he might as well have been with the glazed look in his eyes. The mouth cover he wore much of the time was not on, no coughing symptoms had shown themselves recently. Ryia having a contagious disease was a risk at times for Eckhard, but the risk was one he willingly underwent. They were brothers in all but blood. He passed Ry and entered his room on the far side of the apartment.

Ivarest Apartments, a location for those who wanted to go unnoticed. On the outside it appeared to be an abandoned church in one of the more destitute areas of Cangwu. Cangwu was a place of extravagance, not leaving much room for religion. There were certainly plenty of cults for each vice strewn about the neon lit streets. People passed the church without much thought, unaware that inside the building had been retrofitted to fit 10 apartments. Most of the occupants of Ivarest kept to themselves. Their neighbor was a dominatrix of sorts, occasionally they got to hear her flogging and cutting Johns, all the while yelling at them about their small penis and how stupid they were. It was and entertaining auditory display.

Before dressing, Merek extended each 5" blade from his elbows, sharpening them with the electric sharpener inlaid in the wall next to his sleeping chamber. Next he donned his clothes: leather pants, combat boots, long-sleeved fishnet tee, and a purple hooded sweatshirt. He grabbed one of his headgear pieces, the one with the skull on the front. It would stay off until he arrived in Iazu, but once gametime started, it would go on and stay on unless he needed to appear as a citizen. After throwing a bit of gel in his hair and spiking it up, Merek was good to go.

He walked back out into the living room, sleek, gray and blue surfaces lined the walls and ceiling. Ry was no longer on the couch, apparently awoken from his conscious slumber by Merek. The floor had tiling with a spiral pattern, starting wide at the edges of the room, and coming to a swirling close at the center where the net hardjack lay. Wifi access through augmentation was ideal for quick access, but Ry had the hardjack because a direct connection gave you the ultimate speed and processing, a head-jack at the base of the skull. Though Merek was far more augmented than Ry, he had no interest in regularly shoving a piece of tech in and out of his head on a daily basis. The thought made him cringe.

Fiber optic lighting adorned the walls, criss-crossing in a grid along the room's borders in a white-blue shade. Merek sat in the spot Ry had vacated, turning on the general feed. A Martian politician was currently on trial for taking bribes. It was hilarious to watch his peers tear him apart, as the world secretly knew almost all of them took bribes as well. If you got caught and couldn't cover your ass, you went down in flames on Mars. Ryia entered the room from the kitchen, two mugs in his grasp. He passed one to Merek as he sat on the sofa with him.

"Protein?" Merek asked.

"A multivitamin blend with proteins, amino acids, and all the balanced ingredients needed to fuel a modern Martian." Ry took a drink with a smirk, his half-balaclava pulled down from his mouth, hanging from his neck. He was in the noncontagious phase of his disease, but he kept the cover handy. Typically he had a 10 to 15 minute warning window as symptoms would begin to show the contagious mode coming. It became apparent with a light fever, chest pain, weakness, and limited appetite. All in all an enjoyable time!

"Ry, when you're noncontagious you should go into the office sometime, work at a terminal. Why have co-workers with no co-op? I'm starting to actually warm up to a few of them."

"Oh, so you might say more than three words to them someday?"

"Come on, you know how it is. We're cynical, paranoid bastards. It takes a bit of time to let someone in." Unless it was a random hook-up at a Cangwu Club that is. Merek took a deep swig of the drink, tasting of apricots. Ry knew that Merek preferred physical food, but on a busy day like today, getting a quick, healthy cocktail was an apt solution to saving time.

"I found an interesting fact about target Jessie Waylan that seems to be held back from the general public." Ry liked teasing details he dug out of the net instead of coming right out with them. He had woken Merek earlier that morning with the mission details, but he was ignored as The Spectre went back to sleep.

"Oh?"

"Well, in addition to her thrice operated fake tits, and the rest of the cosmetic bullshit, she has an augmented vagina. I don't know all the details but I imagine she can contract and extend muscle there on a conscious basis."

"Really? I don't fancy the idea of someone digging in my nether regions." Some people took augmentation too far. Had Merek not been a ward of Godiva Corp growing up, he may not have partaken in any augmentation. A product of the culture he was raised in, he had been forced under the knife to a certain degree.

"Her whole vaginal wall, fully augmented! That must be pretty damn crazy. In addition to trying to get her through the black market, I've got a string of clubs she has been seen at on the security cameras I hacked into. The feed was limited but her face popped up at a couple." While Cangwu specialized in the party life, it did not mean the other cities were bereft of it. Merek had gone back to his home city before, but he was so young when Godiva tore him from his parents, that he hardly even had time to form nostalgia. Many of the other surviving Godiva Corp children had returned and did live there. A couple of visits may be in order if he had the time after the mission.

Finishing the drink, Merek stood up from the couch. "Time to stop by RSI and gear up, keep on the feed and we'll stay in touch."

"Why not keep your RSI gear here?"

"And be a total shut-in? I think not."

Mars

Kaiser

RSI


Eckhard had strode into RSI HQ without notice, walking into the locker room to get his gear. Killing people was an option at all times in his duties, but he preferred to go nonlethal. All the nonlethal gear was kept here, because if he was on personal business, you could bet there would be blood. As he dug around and holstered his tazer, one of the techs walked up to him. Marcus was a hard man to read, and a bit of a goofball to boot. He reminded Eckhard of Jules, who died from chem-poisoning back in the Godiva labs as a child.

Eckhard sized him up with his eyes, unsure of what to expect.

“Woo, woo, woo, woo,” the man sounded like a carnival alarm, jerking his head around as his eyes changed color.

“Comon’ man, why so serious?” Merek felt the jab in the shoulder, fighting the old augment programming to immediately grab the tech's arm. He knew Marcus was kidding around, but he was getting into game mode. The blonde agent, Sami, entered the room. She and Marcus had a good rapport from what he had observed. Merek was surprised to find out she had was from Earth. Eckhard was actually one of the only Martian agents of RSI in active rotation. Sami also had no augmentations, causing him to wonder what that would feel like. He rubbed his wholly augmented arm as he looked at her natural figure, then turned back to his locker.

Marcus had left the room, leaving him alone with the girl. He jumped, grabbing a bar on the ceiling, and did a set of pull-ups to test the lubricant in his augmented joints. They were supposed to self-maintain, but after one incident where his leg had locked up a few years back, Merek made sure to test everything before field work. His legs checked out, jogging to RSI HQ from the VTOL on arrival. "Happy hunting Sami," he called out as he left, walking by her. He was more and more conscious of the fact that he needed to make more of an effort with these people. He had heard some of the whispers around RSI. A damn fine agent but weird. Merek was weird, but in a good way. Right now some of his team viewed him as a bad weird.

Mars

The Net


Ry hovered in the air six inches above the ground in his kimono, white and pink cherry blossom petals scattered throughout the grove. The Hawkin's roots traced back to Earth's Japan, these Japanese trees represented the fragility and beauty of life. He didn't know about that significance, but they sure were pretty.

A human figure slowly approached from the east, a black mass of smoothness. No eyes, fingers, toes, or any details shaped the being. It was a body masked.

"You really need to work on that customization Joe. You can be anything on here." In a flashy show, one of Ry's arms turned into a serpent, flowing loosely from his torso. Joseph Schlager was one of the surviving children of Godiva along with Merek and Ry. The experiments had caused Schalger to lose all body hair, all of it from head to toe. He was a bit prickly about his appearance.

"I full aug on the net for enhanced performance, not for showing off." The voice emanated from the figure.

Ry floated over to the black mass, arm returning to natural shape. "Did you get me the codes?" He had already hacked into the general Iazu camera feeds to get a pattern recognition for Jessica Waylan's face, but he wanted into more. Joe worked for shadowy figures in the underworld back in Iazu, people who forced their thugs to go under the knife for augs, many times they were cheap. With the right codes a tech could hack right into someone's eyes.

A black hand reached out with a file. Ry grabbed the file and watched as it sank into his hand as though in quicksand. The data burst in his mind in a kaleidascope of numbers.

"Thanks Joe." Schlager was already gone, never one for idle chatter.

Mars

Iazu

Slums


Merek had stepped of a VTOL fifteen minutes ago, preferring to walk through the world of human wreckage that laid about in the Iazu slums. He imagined the ground beneath his feet at this moment holding piles of bones and bodily remains decades ago, all doomed to asphyxiation from the atmo failure. Dingy buildings and drab colors, the place could be mistaken for Earth from the photos he had seen.

"Anything, Ry?"

"I'm cycling through these eyes. A whole lot of nothing so far. There are no lack of thugs with cheap gear in the area." There had been a posting in the underbelly of the net about a data sale. It was left vague, but with the not so cryptic hint of, "With the new wave approaching, welcome all data with open arms . . .", blah blah blah. The message had open and wave in it, almost having to be a connection to Open Wave.

"I'm in." He was looking through a man's eyes sitting at a bench. The visuals were great but it was only a sight jacking, no audio to be found. Around him were other benches, filled with men dressed in drab gray and black colors. Well, one in the corner had a neon green jump suit and a crystal cane. "What an attention whore." He muttered.

"What was that Ry?"

"Nothing, just some up-jumped pimp." What was of real note was on the stage in front of them, a hooded figure with locks of blonde hair flowing from out under. A burly black man stood next to her, menacing with his shotgun hanging over his shoulder. He appeared to have an augmented head, as half his face was encased in a silver metal.

"I can't confirm identity yet but this may be our girl. Four blocks east of your current location, the room is down a stairwell off of Anderson Synthfabs." The hooded figure turned to face the crowd, but the man whose eyes he had jacked into turned to face the man sitting next to him, looking into a weathered face with a long scar down one cheek. The face leaned in close. They must be whispering to one another Ry assumed.

Merek was silent, and patient, as he always was when Ryia did the groundwork. The eyes turned back to the woman on stage as she dropped her hood. It looked like it was Jessica Waylon. Similar height, similar weight, and the face was about spot on. Ry strained to make out her lips as they moved. "Time to . . . . the goods." Auction the goods? Sell the goods? It didn't matter, it was go time.

"Our girl is there. Move on in and position."

A ping sounded in Ry's ears, one of his alarms had set off. He backed out of the man's head, pulling open the alarm file. A camera outside one of Iazu's clubs had caught the imaging pattern he set off. Jessica Waylon was entering right now, with another burly figure. This guy looked a bit more fit than the black man.

Merek was on a fast walk, halfway toward the target location. Ry jacked back into the man's eyes as a stun blast shot from a bench, hitting the black man in the chest and knocking him backward. A tall, slender female with red hair leapt on stage, turning to face the crowd with what looked to be one of the largest disruptors Ry had ever seen. He whistled at it, and noted the giant D emblazoned on the front of her shirt.

The mob dispersed, no doubt confident they could take Red, but since most of them were augmented to some extent they didn't want to find out the power of that disruptor. His eyes were still watching as the blonde figure was yelling out some explanation, and ripped synthetic skin from her face. It wasn't Waylon of course, it was a surrogate.

"Fall back Merek, make for the Chino Club. Two miles Northwest, you might want to put those legs to use because Dynamo is on this hunt as well."

"What the hell happened in there?"

"It doesn't matter right now, make for the club."

Mars

Iazu

Chino Club


Eckhard finished his sprint, coming to a stop halfway down the street from Chino. His running had attracted some stares, so he slipped into an alley, dumping his hooded sweatshirt in a bin. He took his mask off and folded it up, placing it in his pocket. Circling back around into the street again from another location, he started walking toward the club. The fishnet tee would fit in just fine. His torso was sleek with sweat from the jog up, heart rate finally going down as he approached the doors of Chino.

The bouncer was in an argument with a couple as Merek slipped past him through the door. He walked by the hostess and the coat booth, entering the main floor. It was a large, expansive room swirling with lights and energy. The bar was nearest to the door with the rest of the room a gigantic, multi-leveled dance floor. The first was ground level, with the next three feet up on a small set of stairs. Another five or six dance floors varied in level as their turf's cycled through different neon colors. False fireworks and starlight shined from above, the ceiling high like an auditorium.

"In the club now."

"I see that. We don't know if she has been alerted to the deal going bad. I listened in on Dynamo's comms, that red headed girl is pretty pissed off the target had a patsy. They didn't recover the data, so it is either with Jessica or hidden digitally somewhere. Given their stance on interpersonal relations with other collections agencies, we want to make this quick in case they slip back into the camera feed. Frank wouldn't like us getting RSI into the war between Dynamo and SI." They were bound to become involved at some point, but Merek was likely the worst to start the clash. Where other agents may show restraint to stem damages, he would not.

Ry couldn't hack into all these random civs eyes, it was up to Merek to scope the floors and find her.

"You focus on outside threats for me, I'll focus on getting this bitch and her merc."

To look natural Merek danced his way across the room, grabbing a drink off a waiter's tray as he passed, sipping it. He let the beat of the music take over his body's sways and thrusts. A buxom brunette approached him, moving in unison. She turned her back to him and writhed against his navel, pressing her ass back into his groin. His hands slid over her hips followed with a slight thrust, parting while her eyes were occupied elsewhere. He managed to lose her in the crowd, catching a glimpse of her searching for him.

He glimpsed Jessica Waylon on the third floor up from the bar, a pulsing purple floor below her white skirt. No lack of dance suitors in her area, Merek moved closer. Waylon's bodyguard leaned against the wall with shades over his eyes, standing next to a door labelled "PRIVATE" in bold, neon green.

"Those doors are private rooms for guests to use. If you can get Waylon inside, that's a start Merek."

Two men were vying for her attention; a young, skinny tan fellow and a middle-aged man with a receding hairline, but in good shape. Jessica had the two of them dancing with each other. Merek slowly made his way over, not wanting to catch the attention of the guard by moving too quick. He was within earshot over the dance music now.

"I tell you what boys. If you two kiss, I'll take you both in that room back there and we'll have a grand time!" She was almost yelling it, words slurring from the vodka tonic in her hand, certainly not the first drink she had consumed in Chino on this day. Like Face reddening and tensed with hostility, the middle aged guy backed off. "I'm not into that shit." Waylon dismissed him quickly with her eyes. Sensing an opportunity, Merek slid inbetween the two males as the angry one began to storm off, angling his face in toward the tan man's face, lips touching. Locking his lips onto the man's lower lip, he swept his tongue over it, inviting him in. Eager, the man tried to take the french kiss further but Merek pulled back. He offered up a teasing smile to Waylon, practically ignoring the guy.

Jessica applauded, slopping some of her drink on the floor. "Well come on!" She walked to the door and opened it, likely having it reserved, and whispered in the guard's ear. He nodded and gave both of her suitors a lingering glare.

"I think he's trying to scare you Merek. By the way, I thought you weren't into that either?"

"I'm not, but you do what you have to do to complete the mission."

Inside the room, the beats and flows from the dance floor could hardly be heard, noise suppression in the walls. Merek was third in, Jessica's back still facing them as she swayed her way toward a plush, round bed at the end of the room with a sofa next to it. Two quick hits to the back of the suitor's head sent him deep into an unconscious state. Quickly he closed the distance between himself and Waylon right as she turned, eyes widening.

His hand closed over her mouth, the other clamping her wrist with the drink so it couldn't be thrown. "Jessica Waylon. I'm here to collect the data you took from Openwave. This can end without you having a scratch, or it can get ugly for that fabricated face of yours." The door opened behind him, she must have told the guard to check in frequently. Merek socked her in the gut, doubling her over, and turned to face the man. Door shut behind the guard, he pulled out a silenced Beretta from his inner jacket. One round sizzled past his face, clipping his ear. The second sailed wide over his head as he slightly crouched, then pounced toward the man.

As they came into contact Merek extended the blade from his right elbow, stabbing it into the man's gun arm, pinning it to the wall. The man lost his grip on the weapon. Needing to move quick, he headbutted the guard, fleshy nose exploding in a red mist. Blood got into Merek's eyes, but they were designed to work under those conditions. A few knees to the body and the guard was done for the time. This was no high dollar merc. A merc could be found on any street corner, it took research to get quality. Research or a small fortune that is.

Merek scooped the gun out of the air before it fell, leaving the man in a pile against the wall. A quick one-eighty degree turn revealed Waylon laid out on the bed, digging into her honey pot. She certainly couldn't be pleasuring herself given the situation. Merek was slightly confused until she pulled a small weapon out, firing a three-round burst at him. Her gun had no silencer, and the rounds tore through high through the door out into the dance floor. Eyes and hands coming together through his internal aug, he fired a shot into one of her hands, gun falling from her grip.

In a second he was on top of her. "Your deal went South. You can either cough it up to me, or let Dynamo find you. Newflash by the way, Dynamo will kill you. I don't have to." All this time Ry was silent, knowing that Merek preferred action with no voices in his head, unless there was an unknown threat. Being held down not killing her will, she spit up into his face. Half of it came back down onto her own cheek.

"Gunshots reported to the MSS. No casualties, the bullets went high. You've got security on you in 20 seconds."

On a hunch, Merek roughly dug one hand into her vaginal cavity, no time for easing in. She screamed, likely a bit of pain and pleasure, though he assumed a bit more of the former given his bedside manner.

"15 seconds."

Moving his fingers deftly around he found an inner wall lining, likely to a compartment where her tiny little gun had come from. He punched his fingers through it and grasped a small data drive, ripping his hand out of her in a sloppy smack. He let her go, as she bundled up in the fetal position, groaning.

"Sorry love, but if you manage to stay out of prison and alive, I'm sure you have the money to repair that." There was a chance it wasn't what he needed, but he didn't have the time to consider otherwise.

"3 seconds!"
One hand dripping with blood, fluid, and a data drive and the other his RSI badge, he greeted the club's security force. "Gentleman," One of them was a female,"And lady," He nodded to her, "RSI collection agency. A bounty has been placed on this woman, a Jessica Waylon. She dug into the honey jar a few times too many." The group stared at him, stun batons in hand, itching for an excuse to try and beat him half to death.

"It will all check out if you net search it real quick. Besides, I've got to get moving before any of my competitors show up." He slipped the data drive into his pocket, flicking his hand clean onto the shag carpet floor. "Send his medical bill to RSI and I will gladly cover it," He said, pointing to the tan man, who upon closer expectation had likely slipped into the club with a fake ID.

"As for that prick, well, it is a job risk he took." The guard was getting back up to his feet, then made a move to attack Eckhard. The club security found what they needed and started to beat and stun the guy into oblivion. One of the guards wasn't joining in, it looked like he was on the net.

"You check out; free to go." Merek slid past him and made for the exit.

"A VTOL can ship you to Openwave, unless you want to jog. 77th and Metcalfe, they're holding for pedestrians for five minutes."

"I'll go retrieve my hoodie and make it there."

Mars

VTOL Transport

Returning to Cangwu


He had delivered the package to Openwave. Ry called the MSS, who were there waiting at the entrance. It was likely a good move because Red had been there. The Dynamo agent may have tried to ambush him if she thought he was delivering the goods and the MSS weren't there. Merek wished he had his mask in place when he met her, now she could recognize him out and about. It had checked out, the data file was what they needed. The MSS had Waylon in custody, interrogating her to make sure no backup files were uploaded on the net or stored in any other orifices. Merek stared out the VTOL window up into the sky at the moon Phobos, setting to the East. As he thought back on the beating he dished out to the merc guard, he remembered the tazer he had packed. Old ways die hard.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Frank Decker Character Portrait: Anna Hassan Character Portrait: Alex Hanzo

0.00 INK

#, as written by Bosch
Earth

England

Birmingham


The Snakehead called Mr Singh looked the man up and down before spitting out the chewing tobacco. He the leaned over his desk and attempted to interlace his augmented fingers. With a bit of effort he finally did so. The man standing in front of Singh knew this signified that wherever the Snakehead had received the augmentations was of poor quality. Every Snakehead wanted strength but when it came to fine motor skills their Augmentations often fell short.

“Mister Vincent you look well!” Mr Singh said as the pale man entered his cluttered office.

“Thank you, your surgeon was very capable.” Vincent said as he sat down in the chair opposite Singh.

“Now we can discuss the rest of the payment?”

Vincent lifted the duffle bag he had brought into the room and set it on the Snakehead’s desk. The bag was full of augmentations, weapons and tech salvaged from Anadyr. After killing Milo and Pavel he had travelled to Anadyr and finished off the rest of the raiders. He killed most of them stealthily and by the time they realised he was there he’d already killed most of the group. When he had finished he picked up a wood axe and claimed their augs and weapons as his own. He then took a VTOL and got out of Siberia.

“I trust this should cover it?”

Mr Singh was smiling wide and showing his blackened teeth as he inspected the equipment.

“Yes this should do well... as a first payment.”

“No. This is all you get Singh.”

“That’s not how...”

“I killed the people who owned those augmentations. I am not the normal desperate person trying to get off earth. You are paid.”

He’d travelled to Birmingham as it was a Snakehead operated port where he could change his face and get an identity. He’d chosen the name Vincent Mishin on a whim when the Snakehead, Mr Singh, has requested a name for his new identity.

“I see but my bosses...”

“I don’t care Singh. What I want to know is when you sold me out?”

“I don’t know what you’re...”

Vincent moved rapidly and threw the large table aside, sending the duffle bag and its contents clattering to the floor, before grabbing Singh by the neck and thrusting him against the wall. He produced a silenced pistol and pressed it against Singh’s nose.

“Don’t bother trying to ping outside for help. Your men are dead as is the surgeon. When did you contact BC?”

“I don’t know what you’re...”

Vincent shook his head and lowered the weapon. He fired twice striking Singh in the leg.

The man cried in pain and Vincent let him drop.

“You’re lying. I need to know how long I have to prepare.”

“I called about three hours ago. They are coming here now. You were supposed to still be under, nobody would have gotten hurt.”

“I underwent the surgery without anaesthesia.”

“How?” Singh said.

“Did you bother to create new records for me?” Vincent continued ignoring Singh’s question.

“Yes of course!”

“More lies.” Vincent said sadly as he raised the Pistol and fired again this time striking Singh’s gut. “I always know.”

“No I didn’t, no point.” Singh groaned through gritted teeth.

“Alright I need the password for your system.”

“Flatlander Woman.” Singh said and Vincent knew he wasn’t lying.

“Thank you.”

Vincent raised the pistol and shot Singh in the head.

He then accessed the console.

#

Mars

Endeavour.

BC Industries Plaza.

53rd Floor


Jason Scammell stared at the large screen displayed on his wall watching static. Until a few moments ago it had been a direct feed to BC security operative Hani Pearce’s ocular augmentations. Pearce had been deployed along with a team of twenty contractors. Now all had either been killed or incapacitated. They had failed to recover the escapee and Scammell’s best lead was now cold.

Scammell knew the operation was blown as soon as the team entered Singh’s office. The place was empty but the bomb didn’t detonate until the team got to the back office and found the bodies. The escapee knew they would be watching.

“Tell me we got something off the net.” Scammell said finally.

“We’re going through Singh’s Net activity but it’s too well obscured. Near as we can tell he spent just over an hour looking at news wires. However over that hour Singh became an expert on hiding hacks. The News wire stuff is just placeholders we have no idea what he was actually doing.” Was the response from the team on St Lawrence Island, the facility the escape had happened at.

“He was giving himself an identity. Do we have an image of him after the surgery?”

“No, the surgeon and Singh were both dead. Augs tore out of anyone who would have seen him.”

“Great. I need all your files on this, we’ll run this from Mars. I also want the project ended, burn the subjects. If one can escape the rest can too. I also want a full report on the positive findings of the research, I going to need something good to tell the board.”
“All files on Project Blue Jay are now on your server.” The Tech at St Lawrence informed him.

Scammell sighed and ended the conversation.

Scammell then closed the feed from the team, they were of no use now, and opened the files he had received on Project Blue Jay. He went to the files about Subject 47, the escapee. The file photo showed a man of Asian descent and Scammell couldn’t help but wonder what he looked like now and what he had planned for BC.

#

Mars

Kaiser

RSI


Anna Hassan smiled as she pinged the last report on to Decker. Decker was more of a bottom line kind of guy and would just be happy that expenses didn’t exceed profit. She remembered how angry he’d been after one job when the repairs to a VTOL had totalled more than the bounty. When reading reports he was content to just read Anna’s brief synopsis but on this occasion she has requested he read the report in full as she knew the strangeness of it would appeal to him.

Hassan then closed her system and cricked her neck. It had been a slow but long week, The team had done well but Interceptor and Dynamo had become embroiled in an extended gun fight in Endeavour over a bounty. She had taken a pass on the contract as she knew it would be trouble. The money was too good and would attract too much competition. She’d heard through the Grapevine that Interceptor had made the capture but Dynamo had bounced them. One gunfight later and the bounty was dead along with both SI agents and three from Dynamo. Decker had called it a draw considering Dynamo outnumbered them.

Anna however had raised the more obvious concern a war was brewing and RSI would eventually be forced to get involved. Anna believed it would be most prudent for RSI to get involved early so they could manage things on their own terms. Decker still wanted to remain out of it but he could see he had little choice and that Anna was correct.

That was why Decker was meeting with Alex Hanzo, owner of Interceptor Solutions. Anna knew there was some history there but now the relationship was purely business. It didn’t stop Anna giving Decker a hard time though. She packed away her things from her desk and made her way out of the office.

#

Mars

Iazu

Adeyemi’s Bar


When Decker arrived Alex was already sitting at a table with a thin glass of wine sitting in front of her. Decker pushed open the door to Adeyemi’s and made his way towards her table.

“Just a second Frank.” A voice said behind him and Decker slowly turned to see a burly looking man sitting in the corner by the door. It was a good position that allowed him to see everyone who entered the bar before they saw him.

“Hauser. Didn’t know Alex was bringing you out on a walk.”

“Funny stuff. You packing?”

“Yep.” Frank said with a shrug.

“Gonna have to ask you to...”

“Don’t bother. It’s not gonna happen.”

“Then you best just turn yourself around and fuck off.”

“Witty as always, I can tell you spent a while coming up with that one.”

Decker was aware their conversation was gathering some attention which was exactly what Alex would want to avoid. Decker had worked with Hauser back when both had worked at Interceptor. Hauser had always been a brute force player, no finesse. That’s why Decker had never invited him to RSI. The two had always had a rivalry that stemmed from Decker’s being from Earth.

“He’s fine Arnold.” Alex said from her spot at the bar.

Hauser coldly eyed Decker who let a smile play across his face. “Down boy.” He mouthed before stepping past the larger man and approaching Alex’s table.

“Evening.” Decker said as he sat down opposite her. “You eating?”

“No.” Alex said icily.

“I’m getting some Potjiekos.”

“I though you wanted to talk business.”

Decker nodded as he pressed on the screen embedded in the table and placed his order. The small candle sitting between them flickered as he moved. “I do, I just don’t think we should do that on an empty stomach. What are you drinking ?”

“Mariner. Don’t bother, we won’t be talking long.”

“I’m getting a beer.”

Alex sighed and Frank stopped pressing the console.

“Look Alex, I’m not messing with you. I haven’t eaten. I want to talk about Dynamo. I heard about the job and we both know that was bullshit. We don’t work that way, I want to help.”

“So you’ve finally taken your head out of your ass?”

Decker smiled lightly. “You’re started to sound like Anna.”

“She was obviously a good hire then.”

“So is that why Hauser on guard duty?”

“They know I won’t stand for my people getting murdered while doing their jobs. It’s Dynamo’s style to go for the pre-emptive strike.”

Decker glanced back at Hauser shrugged before returning his attention to Alex. So what’s your plan? How can RSI help?”

“Well it would be nice if your people started putting assholes in body bags.”

“We’re not that kind of outfit Alex. My people decide how they want to do it, They’re not assassins.”

“Rich coming from you.”

Decker shrugged again. “It is how it is.”

“How Zen of you. You told that to the purpose built assassin you employ?”

“Eckhard?” Frank said trying to hide his surprise. “Everybody chooses their own path Alex, what we were doesn’t always dictate what we are.”
A Synth waiter approached the table and placed a beer and a glass of wine on the table. Alex and Decker fell silent while it went about its work. It nodded and returned to its position behind the bar.
“And keep your crackers outta my personnel files.” Decker said with more of a pout than he had intended.

“If you keep yours outta mine.” Alex said as she lifted the glass to her lips.

“Alright, enough dancing around. What do you need?”

“Hopefully nothing. Interceptor is handling the situation. All I need to know is if I have your trust to do what needs to be done. RSI, Dynamo and Interceptor are the three operating at this level. The smaller companies will like what I tell them to like and the bigger ones couldn’t care less.”

“Ok so what you’re saying is you just want to make sure the other big fish in our rather small pond are ok with you making a move on another fish.”

“Jesus, you still love over extending metaphors.”

Decker ignored the jab. “Yeah RSI won’t have any problems with that. I can’t say we’ll start capping Dynamo operatives in the street but we can throw a few spanners in the works.”

“Do it. I’ll have my people talk to your people.”

The Synth returned with Decker’s Potjiekos and placed it on the table next to him. It then placed a spoon beside the plate.

“Is that everything sir?”

Decker didn’t have a chance to finish because the glass window in the front of the building smashed as small black cylinders flew into the restaurant. Decker’s augmented eyes were able to detect two percussion grenades and a disruptor grenade. They adapted their settings to deal with the sudden change in circumstances before Decker was even fully conscious of what was happening.

A red warning message flashed across his field of view warning him that a Disruptor grenade was about to detonate. Although Decker had invested heavily in countermeasures Disruptors where something he truly feared. With his right hand he flipped the table and pulled Alex as close to him as possible while with his other he reached out, grabbed the Synth waiter and dragged it between himself and the grenade.

It detonated and Decker’s eyes flickered for a second before returning to normal. The Synth went gone limp in Decker’s grasp and he dropped it before pulling out his Bulldog Revolver and getting into a crouch.

He looked over at Hauser who was nowhere to be seen.

“Fuck.” He muttered. “Behind the bar.”

He stood and grabbed Alex by her black blazer and half dragged her across the room. He turned and saw two men in black combat suits enter through the broken window. Decker fired twice forcing the men to duck but they quickly returned fire with their automatic weapons.

Decker quickly sent out and emergency ping to RSI and hoped someone was at least close enough to the office to be in a position to help.

Thinking quickly he grabbed a bottle from behind the bar and poked his head above the bar. He spied a lit candle sitting at a table near where one of the men was in cover before ducking down behind the bar again before another salvo came. Using the motion tracking software Decker lobbed the bottle over the bar and it landed with a smash beside the candle.

Decker heard a whump noise as the booze caught fire, It was swiftly followed by a scream. He then poked out the side of the bar and saw one of his attackers was on fire thrashing wildly in the middle of the restaurant having abandoned his cover. Decker fired two rounds and both found the man’s skull. He couldn’t take credit however he was fully trusting his augmentations now.

“Decker move!” Anna said via the communication augmentation. While Decker had been occupied she’d synched them. He turned around and saw she’d opened a door to the kitchen.

Decker scrambled towards the door that Alex was holding open and the pair crashed into the kitchen. Decker kicked the door closed and quickly got to his feet. He couldn’t see a way to defend the space so he turned and looked for another exit. Anna was standing by a gas cooker which she was toying with.

“Gotta be a back exit!” Decker said as he moved towards a door in the rear of the kitchen. He was about to kick the door open when Alex stopped him.

“Two on the other side.” She said before marking the targets and sending them to Decker. He saw two silhouettes added to his HUD. Alex was sharing what her Augs could see with him. Neither form was moving which meant the lag wouldn’t be an issue. Decker raised his revolver and fired two more rounds through the wall and into the heads of the waiting assassins.

He then kicked open the door and stepped into the alleyway behind the restaurant. A man and woman lay in puddles of blood. Unlike the other two they were dressed casually. The man was reaching for a pistol but Decker fired his last round into the man’s chest. He then produced a speed loader and reloaded his weapon.

“Decker it’s Anna what the hell is going on your heart rate is...”

“ I’m with Hanzo we’re being attacked. No idea how many, I need an exit.”

“Damn. We don’t have any air assets in Iazu.” Anna answered.

“Just find an exit!”

“On it.”

“Frank my people are telling me to go this way.” Alex said as she pointed down the alley.

“Fine.” Decker said as he followed Alex down the alley.

A few seconds later a loud explosion came from the restaurant as the kitchen erupted out into the alley.

“So predictable.” Alex muttered. Then Decker understood why she had been messing with the cooker, she knew the remaining Dynamo operative would toss a flash bang before entering the kitchen. She had used the gas to create the bomb the agent then detonated himself.

“Smart.” Decker muuttered

“What was that?” Anna asked via the communications augment.

“Explosion. Get us out of here.”

“Wait stop moving!” Anna cried.

“What?”

“They’ve set up a kill zone at the end of the alley. You’re moving straight towards it.”

“What, Alex’s people are telling her... fuck.” Decker said as he realised what Anna was telling him meant.

“Yep.” Anna said as Decker ran forward and grabbed Alex by the arm.

“We gotta go this way.” Decker said but Alex pulled against him.

“But Mags is...”

“Trying to kill you. Where’s Hauser?”

Alex looked like she was considering something for a long moment before nodding and following Decker in the opposite direction.

“Ok good Frank keep going. Dyanmo have a drone in the air tracking you, so they know you’ve turned ar... aaaand their VTOL has just taken off from the kill zone.” Anna informed

“Can you stop them?” Frank said as his augmented legs propelled him forward.

“Yeah just a second.”

Decker could hear the VTOL somewhere above them. No doubt something nasty was taking aim at them.

He saw glint in the sky in front of him which quickly grew into a dynamo drone as it approached at great speed. It screeched overhead before impacting the VTOL. Decker didn’t look back he just kept running.

“Direct hit to one engine. From the chatter it sounds like they’re going down.”

An explosion erupted somewhere behind Decker. “Think they landed. You got an exit?” He said.

“Monorail station one block north.”

#

Mars

Kaiser

RSI


Anna Hassan had never actually met Alex Hanzo but she had spent so long hacking Interceptor files she felt she had some kind of bond with the woman. At least Hanzo had been nice, Anna had never seen Decker as furious as when she stalked into his office.

He had recalled the entire team as he believed Dynamo could try again.

“You got a serious friggin problem on your end Alex. Hauser was always a dick but switching teams?” Decker said after he had finally calmed down. He was standing in his office with Anna Hassan and Alex Hanzo.

“I’ve alerted Interceptor personnel they’ve got Mags in custody and they are actively hunting for Hauser. It was only a those two in on it.”

“Can you be sure of that?” Frank asked.

“Of course.”

“Next time you might want to do a bit more vetting on who you choose for bodyguards.”

“Frank this changes nothing. Interceptor is still going to take care of Dynamo. If we need you we’ll get in touch.” She stopped talking and her eyes went slack for a second, she was receiving some kind of message.
“My people are here to get me. They need clearance to land on the roof.”

#

After a tense goodbye that saw armed RSI Personnel staring across the VTOL pad on top of the building at armed SI Personnel. Decker and Anna returned to her office.

“I want to know everything that’s going on with Dynamo and Interceptor. Go through their files and find out what the hell is going on here.” Decker asked Anna.

“I wouldn’t be so sure that was Dynamo.” Anna said after a breath.

“What?” Frank asked.

“The MSS feed is stating all those involved with the hit where independents. None of them where ever employed by Dynamo or Interceptor.”

“Except Hauser.” Frank said “Besides that’s the MSS they could find their ass the dark with six augmented hands.”

“You don’t know he was involved Frank. You’re taking his absence as guilt. For all you know he could have been abducted. I’ve reviewed the recording from your Augs. When the shooting started you weren’t too worried about his safety, it’s inconclusive what happened to him.”

“I...”

“It’s fine Frank, you chose the person you like, Hauser just wasn’t that person.”

“Fuck you really think Hauser was pinched by Dynamo or these contractors?” Frank said before shaking his head. “The man was a prick but nobody... We need answers.”

“You know I wanted to get involved in this thing and strengthen our position but I don’t think things are as cut and dry.” Anna said with a frown.

“I know. I want to speak to Mags.”

“Mags?”

“Mags is Alex Hanzo’s you. She was the one who lead us towards the kill zone.”

“So she’s a PA?”

“I don’t need a PA. You’re not a PA.”

“Sure Frank.” Anna said rolling her eyes. “So what’s the plan? You want to snatch this Mags person from wherever Interceptor have her held?”

“Yeah, but it’s gonna have to be black. I mean like the night, Alex cannot know it was us.”

“Oh intrigue! Joy.” Anna deadpanned.

“What other jobs we got this week?”

Anna used the motion controls to display a BOLO on the large wall screen. A picture of a very handsome man filled the top right corner. The name read Charlie Lewis.

“So what’s pretty boy’s story?”

“He’s a Cat burglar who specialises in Casinos.” Anna said reading off her notes.

“What could he steal from a casino?”

“I know I was shocked too. Everything is digital however the stuff people wear to go to the classier establishments is not. Jewels, fancy tech you know.”

“So he steals from the patrons of the casinos?”

“Bingo, although I have it on good authority he has plumbed a few Digital Vaults in his time.”

“I guess the Casinos want to keep that quiet.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Ok who’s next?” Frank said.

“You’re not going to like this one.”

“Try me.”

Anna used the motion controls to display another bounty.

A heavily augmented strong looking woman filled the screen. Her name read Carla Reynolds.

“She’s an Arms dealer who primarily trades in disruptors. The MSS contacted us directly with this one.”

“Always happy to help the local constabulary. Hate disruptors though.”

“Reynolds is attending a very small arms fair where she is going to be selling her goods. The MSS have no interest in getting in the way of the fair. Doubt they could afford the bounties if that became open season. They want Reynolds because she’s selling Disruptors. Apparently one of her cripple makers was involved in the murder of an MSS officer. The cops are crying out for blood and their brass wants someone to take the fall. The Arms Dealer is as good as it gets.”

“So what’s the catch?”

“The Arms Fair is taking place of the surface. Outside of an Atmo ring.”

“Ah I remember that. A few years back, when they still did these things in cities some gang steam rolled one of ‘em and made off with a ton of loot.”

“Yep not a great day to be an Arms Dealer.”

“Ok sounds good. Prepare the briefs and keep me informed.” Decker said as he walked out of Anna’s office and into his own.

Anna turned to her own console and began to prepare the mission briefs.

Jobs.

High Roller.


Target- Charlie Lewis

Location- Golden Mile, Cangwu.

Information- This is Mr Charlie Lewis and Mr Charlie Lewis is a Cat Burglar who specialises in Hot Prowls. For those not in the know a Hot Prowl is a robbery that takes place while people are about. They’re often asleep at the time. What makes Mr Lewis notorious is he does this in casinos. High class casinos. He steals whatever he can get his hands on but more often than not he does one big score and then goes quiet for sometimes years at a time.

He is currently believed to be active in Cangwu’s Golden Mile. The Golden Mile is a strip of the finest Casinos the city has to offer. It’s very exclusive and entry doesn’t come cheap. Most of the Casinos have agreed to allow Bounty Hunters into their casinos but you’ll need ID and the security goons will most likely blow your cover before you get started. You know how rent a cops are, all has beens and never wheres.

All seems pretty cool, sip a few cocktails and bust a pretty boy. Trouble is the picture above is around two years old and Lewis changes his appearance for each cycle of robbery. The only reason Casino security knows that’s him is they lifted DNA from one of his robberies. So he could be anyone at this point.

While Charlie does steal physical objects he’s also been known to pocket Creds by accessing the digital Vaults of casinos. The Digital Vaults are kept separate from the Net are normally just a simple storage device. Charlie is able to access the devices by bypassing physical security and connects the digital vault to the net. He then strips the Vault of just enough so as not to arouse suspicion or trigger any alarms. By the time the first casino realises they’ve been hit he’s done three more.

This guy almost certainly has outside help and may even be part of a gang so be aware. He’s very professional and is very slippery. He may not fight but he will do his best to get away.

Charlie and accomplices are to be brought to the Rising Sun Casino and handed over a security officer called Mr Graves. It’s a Red Dragon owned place so don’t hang around. You will then receive payment.

The Bazaar

Target- Carla Reynolds


Location- Aeolis Mons, 5.08°S 137.85°E


Information- Arms Fairs, Hard Suits and Disruptors. What’s there not to like?

Carla Reynolds is wanted by the MSS because one of the disruptors she sells was involved in the murder of MSS Detective Rico Thompson. Det. Thompson was hit with a disruptor before being murdered by an unknown assailant. The MSS predictably had a shit fit, this is first cop to die in the line of duty in almost ten years, that’s because people like you take the actual risks. Nevertheless they want someone to pay for this. The disruptor used has been traced back Carla which means she’s in the noose for this one. MSS are paying big money for her too.

So Carla is an Arms Trader who trades primarily in disruptors. Apparently she is something of a savant when it comes to bypassing shielding. Speak to Jenks I think he some examples of her work. Before she discovered this skill Carla was a Gang Girl. I don’t mean this in moll kind of way, she’s got rap sheet with career highlights such as armed robbery, assault and dealing of prohibited biological agents. She knows her way around the underworld.

Carla is attending an arms fair near Aeolis Mons, so there’s no Atmo Ring, that means Hardsuits. They hold these Fair’s out here to avoid attracting gang attention. There was an incident a few years ago where a few Gangs teamed up and hit one of these things. They made off like bandits, which is what I guess they were, you know what I mean. Well the Red Dragons did the best though. It was their plan and they pulled a Judas on their allies and became the best armed gang on Mars.

We only need Reynolds but the other arms dealers will not like one of their own getting pinched so when you move make it quick or make it stealthy. You don’t want a fire fight out there either a hole in your hard suit you’re done.

Just the facts Ma’am.

Target- Margaret “Mags” Borodzicz


Location- Interceptor Solutions holding area, Iazu.


Information- For a kick off I don’t know if the location is accurate, this one is kind of last minute thing. As you probably know Frank and Alex Hanzo, CEO of Interceptor Solutions, narrowly avoided being assassinated yesterday evening. It’s why RSI is on full alert today.

Frank knows that Mags was involved and wants to speak to her about the attack. He also believes that a SI operative called Arnold Hauser was involved with the betrayal but there’s no evidence of that. Frank doesn’t believe the SI is secure and wants to move Mags into our custody. As you can imagine SI would never go for that.

Which is how we arrive at this mission. Your team is to locate Mags and bring her to an apartment Frank has rented in Endeavour. There are to be no fatalities on this mission, violence to SI personnel is to be minimised and all connection to RSI is to be minimised. That means you cannot be captured or killed, back off if it gets too hot.

SI personnel will not hesitate to gun you down and they are as well trained and armed as we are so keep you head on a swivel.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Graham Case Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova

0.00 INK

Image



Mars
Kaiser
RSI - Gun Range


"Hold it tighter Case, else I'm going to be the one picking your nose off the floor," The Slavic voice warned. "This isn't one of your VR games, the Panther has some bite." Having enough of Graham's posture, she hopped off the range bar and took a hold of his arms. She pressed his elbows in, locking them in place, and straightened the limb. Pressing her face against his shoulder, she lined his arm up with the target down range. "There," She said, satisfied, and taking a seat back onto the bar.

"... That was awkward," Graham said, giving Alessa a raised brow for her troubles. She never had a problem touching people, that was for sure. Though the stare only last for a moment, as he returned his gaze back down range, his arms thoroughly locked, and hands interlaced over the pistol's grip

"Shut up and shoot the damn thing-- and no cheating. Augs take all the sport out of the shot," She replied with an almost bored tone.

Graham gave one last sigh before he aimed down the sights. Only a moment passed before a shot range out through the range. Alessa tilted her head and closed her eyes, subtly shaking her head in disappointment. "What? I hit it!" He quickly defended himself.

Silently and without looking, Alessa pressed the button beside her, and summoned the target closer to the pair. Once it had arrived, only then did she venture a look. It was just as she thought-- he hit the thing, but it was wide right from the center. "Barely," She monotoned. "I heard it. You squeezed it off too fast. Took no time to aim, and fired when you were still in the middle of a breath. Augs got you spoiled. They do all the hard work for you." Her voice lined with disappointment.

Once again, Graham let a sigh slip past his lips. He sat the Panther back down on the bar and rubbed his temples, trying to ignore Jenks' chuckling nearby. "Which is why you're the field agent. If we ever get a bounty for a synth-- then I'm your man."

"Yeah, Case the AI guy. I know, we're partners remember?" She said with a quick upturn of lip.

Graham shrugged humble and glanced at the Panther laying on the bar. "Hey 'Lessa. Why that gun? You know there's bigger calibers out there, right? Some can even stop a fully Augged man in his tracks."

"Like Decker's Bulldog?" She inquired, letting her head loll back.

"A bit old fashioned, but yeah."

"Case," Alessa began, a grin forming at her lips. "Hadn't anyone told you it's not the size of your piece, but how you use it."

"You're making this weird again, 'Lessa..." He uttered through a shake of his head.

That managed a chuckle. Once she got the laugh out of her system, she reached down and picked the Panther up and ejected the magazine, ensuring it was empty. No way was she giving Graham a full mag, bullets were expensive. "The point being..." She said, as she began to field strip the pistol. "It doesn't matter how big a weapon is if you can't hit a damn thing with it."

"But I did hit it," He defended himself again.

"Maybe. It's an arm shot at best. But what if that arm was augmented, and not one of those cheap ones like mine?" She paused her work for a moment to tap the black leather glove on her right hand. She never showed the hand under the glove to anyone, not even Case. "Then you've just seriously pissed someone off." Then it was her turn to sigh, procuring a oil rag from along the bar. "You've got to be accurate. You've got to be fast, and you've got to be efficient. The Panther has twelve rounds to the Bulldog's six, not to mention the better fire rate. And with those twelve I'm willing to bet I could wreak double the havoc he could." She paused for a moment before staring through him. "And Case? I better not find out you told him I said that. Else it's your ass I'm going to wreak havoc on."

Graham brushed the threat off like he did all of them, and spoke again, "But that's why we use Augs."

"And that's why they use disruptors," She countered deftly. "And that is why I taught myself to shoot with my left hand."

"Did you really?" He asked, more impressed than anything.

Having finished with her field strip, Alessa sought to show rather than tell. She slid a single round into a magazine, and forced it into the pistol. Never leaving her seat, she wielded it with her left hand, and closed her right eye as she aimed down the range. Her arm was straight as an arrow, her breathing even and on her next inhale she fired. She ejected the magazine as Graham brought the target up to them.

He looked at the piece of paper and studied her handiwork. The shot was to the left-- about a few centimeters to the left to be exact. Far closer than he'd managed with both of his eyes and hands. "Impressive."

"Have your arm and eye blown out-- you'll learn some things." She said with a dark smile. "You owe me a bottle of whiskey for the demonstration. You know the kind I like."

Graham opened his mouth to refuse her before he shut it again. Where was the use? "Phobos Black Label?

"Phobos Black Label. Now how about we do some work?"

"Sure. Got your tablet on you?"

Alessa didn't bother with a yes, instead reaching for her messenger bag nearby. She rifled through the bag, retrieving the black scratched tablet and handed it to Graham.

He looked at the tablet with an raised eyebrow and shake of his head. "It's... Seen better days," He said quite simply.

She responded with a bored look and a shrug. "It was cheap," She explained.

"Clearly." Nevertheless, Graham's fingers began their dance across the screen, drawing the tablet to life and making it sing in a way that Alessa never could. In a matter of moments, Graham was already tapped into the RSI's network, and pulling up the available jobs. An intrigued coo followed as he sat the tablet onto the bar for Alessa to see. "We've got an official one. From the bossman himself."

"No shit? What's it about?" She said, hovering over the tablet.

"Remember that meeting him and Ms. Hanzo had?"

"The one that went fucked? Yeah?"

"Turns out the boss wants the girl Interceptor caught. 'Moved to our custody' the report says. Basically we're supposed to steal this woman. There's to be no fatalities, violence to SI is to be minimized." As he spoke, Graham crossed his arms and tilted his head a bit.

An exasperated chuckle escaped Alessa's lips as she spoke, "sounds like it needs finesse that we don't have Case. It sounds like an Eckhard or a Rouvelle mission."

"And not a Sikova one?" Graham chuckled. Moving on he read off the next mission. "A casino job? Nabbing a cat burglar."

"The last place I need to be is in a casino Case," She denied.

Nodding, he tapped the tablet, pulling up the next job. Eyebrows rose in unison as both Graham and Alessa read over the mission details. "Well?" Graham asked.

"That sounds like a Sikova job. Take it, I've got to see Jenks about some Jellybeans." She said, hopping off the bar and heading toward the man in question.




Mars
Aeolis Mons
5.08°S 137.85°E


"Rigs, don't you dare drop that crate, or the creds'll come out your goddamned ass." A woman barked. She was wreathed in a hardsuit, gray scratched metal alloy encasing her in a shell. Around her shoulders was an orange mantle. Orange was a stupid color for someone like her to wear to wear, she knew this. But she was outside the Atmo-rings, surrounded by a number of like-minded criminal-- most of which wanted her goods. So she wore the orange to stand out from all the other hardsuits, so if someone wanted to buy from her, they'd have no problem finding her.

"Dammit Carla, get off my ass!" The man carrying the crate barked back. "This shit's heavy!"

"That's the idea. We're selling that shit, so the more we got, the more we get." Through the amber faceplate, an older woman's face sat framed against the backlight. She looked to be in her late thirties, but with technology the way it was, who even knew her real age? Short blonde hair sat perched upon her crown, cut short in a pixy fashion. Electric blue eyes sat in her sockets, which were organic and completely hers. It would be stupid for her to augment herself when she worked so closely with disruptors.

Carla followed Rigs all the way to the booth she had set up at this fair. She let herself smile a little at the whole image of it. The whole thing was very official-like with the booths set up in rows, tables lined with the best hardware found in the underworld. In an hour or so, Various dealers would be extolling the virtues of their goods and trying their best to sell their own weapons to an array of buyers. It almost made her forget that what they were doing was highly illicit. Almost. They came to a stop at a long table, where Rigs sat the crate down and popped the top.

Rigs then left to no doubt retrieve the rest of the crates, leaving the Carla to lay out and organize the weaponry. Was followed next was a whirlwind of activity as she sat about her work, pulling disruptors of all shapes and sizes out of the crate and laying them out on the table. There were small handheld one to be used at close ranges, ones to be used at a longer range. Anything and everything to shut down augments of any kinds soon found their ways to her table-- with many more laying in wait in crates behind her.

"That it?" Rigs asked, watching as Carla put the finishing touches on her booth. Rigs was a large man looming a whole foot over Carla. The augments he had in both arms and legs didn't hurt. His faceplate was a purple color, though the bearded face laying within wasn't obscured in the slightest. A strong jaw culminated in the wide chin and low cheekbones cemented his place as her bodyguard and occasional mule.

"Yeah. Place should start to get busy soon. Street hoods, professional gangs-- the whole works. Time to earn our keep," He said, giving the man a toothy grin before gently punching him in the chest.

Rigs simply smile and shook his head. "Hope I don't have to crush someone like last time."

"Hey. Sticky fingers thought he could get away with it, you showed 'em otherwise. Still impressed you could run that fast," She said turning around and standing behind the table. "Well, don't just stand there. Start hawking."

It wasn't long before customers started to file in from all over. Carla explained the inner workings of her weaponry time and time again, always giving enough information, but never too much. She repeated statistics of the amount of Augs found in both the bounty companies and the MSS. "My weaponry only has a one percent chance of sterility." She explained to one individual, the fact causing Rigs to roll his eyes. At one point, one customer requested a demonstration, and with no hesitation she picked the disruptor up and fired it off at Rigs-- suddenly causing him to fall forward all his limbs went limp. "And look," She pointed out over Rigs' cussing. "No damage to his hardsuit."

"Goddammit Carla! Fuckin' warn me next time!" He barked as the paralysis wore off, and the customer went happily along his way with his new Excelsior model Disruptor. It was nearing the end of the day, where most of the buyers were tapering off and even some of the vendors were beginning to pack up.

"Yeah, but where's the fun in that?" She teased. "Hush and help me pack this shit up-- it shouldn't be near as heavy now you big baby." That's when she felt something on her chest. Something slammed into her with enough force to push her backward and cause her to stumble. "What the fuck?" She asked as she put placed a hand where whatever it was had struck her. When she pulled it back she saw it to be some sort of blue gelatinous fluid, with metallic flakes sprinkled inside for good measure. "Oh shit-- Rigs!" She managed before the electric shock kicked in. It had enough voltage to immediately lock her body up and force her to the ground in a crumpled mess of pain.

The last thing she heard before she was forced into the dull lullaby of unconsciousness was the shot ripping through the hostile Martian air.




Earlier...
2,051 Meters Away...


"Got eyes yet Case?"

The communicator embedded in her ear came alive with the sound of Graham's voice, tinged with a hint of frustration. "No, are you sure you didn't drop the thing?"

Alessa simply sighed and responded, "No Case, I think I would remember dropping a camera." She said, tapping the instrument beside her. The instrument she referred to was something of Graham's own make. A lightweight camera connected to a mechanical tripod, with wires connecting to an external battery. Another wire connected to Alessa's tablet nearby, to enable connectivity to net. "I'm going to need a spotter today." She said, giving a slight rap to the camera. Percussive patience always worked.

Case was silent on the other side, and Alessa didn't press him for anymore. He did his best techno-wizardry when she wasn't chatting into his ear. And that silent payed off moments later as the camera whirred to life beside her. "I've got a feed. Wind speed, gravity, distance, everything's green."

"And you sure the lens won't give away our position?"

Nonreflective materials, same as your scope. We are effectively invisible. Anything happened?"

"No, not much. It's still early, they're still setting up stalls and putting out their goods. Our target's not made her appearance yet," Alessa said, sightinig down the scope of her rifle. The charcoal face plate of her hardsuit lit up with a myriad of information-- namely of Carla Reynolds' image. Though she missed the feeling of the scope to her naked eye, the hardsuit more than made up for it with it's ability to relay information to her.

Alessa had set up in the foothills of Aeolis Mons, giving her a good vantage point on the arms fair. She'd been lifted in via VTOL a few kilometers out and hiked her way to her overwatch position. Her hardsuit was colored and patterned in the same way that the Martian ground was, as well as having a tarp thrown over both her and Graham's camera. She was still roughly two kilometers away from the fair, a decent distance even for her rifle. "When we get ready to take the shot Case, I'm relying on your information," she said. He had the tools on his end to calculate the bullet drop on his end-- this wasn't Earth she was shooting on, everything was different. Gravity's effect on the bullet, the shifting winds, even the Coriolis effect, that would be all on him.

"I've got the program up and running. Whenever we're set, the shot won't miss. Programmed it myself," He said, his voice lined with an edge of pride.

Alessa chuckled in response and nodded, "Sound's good. If we do miss, it's coming out of your paycheck."

"It won't," he said confidently

"That's what I like to hear. Now eyes open, we've got work to do."

Time slowly slipped away as both Alessa and Graham kept watch on the arm's fair awaiting their target. An hour later, Graham was the one to speak first. "There she is," He said, sending a live feed to Alessa's face plate. Sure enough, as soon as she turned to give Alessa a better look into her helmet, the face that sat there matched the image she'd seen. "Gunmetal suit, orange mantle-- makes our job easier," He said as her range popped up on screen along with the feed.

"I've got her sighted. See that fellow behind her? Willing to be the crate he's carrying has her toys in it?"

"I'd rather not. I'll get the program up and--" Before he could finish his sentence, Alessa spoke up and cut him off.

"Case. Patience, if we take the shot now, the entire arms fair will be firing everything they got in this general direction. I'd rather not take that chance on getting nicked. We wait until the fair starts to wind down," She said, the experience in her voice overuling any objections Graham may have had.

"Okay, I'll keep it running in the background. Whenever you need it, it's ready," He said, and at that moment a red dot appeared in her helmet. As she looked down the scope, she lined the red dot up with the center of the crosshair-- lighting the dot green as she did.

"Thanks," She said, taking the scope off the dot and returned back to Carla.

Hours passed with Alessa intently watching their target. She was the model of calm patience, she never stirred, never moved, and never even yawned. Graham could do nothing but marvel at the level of patience and discipline she was displaying. Already he had to stand up and walk a few laps around his desk.

"Case, you there?" She suddenly asked.

"Always. Is it time?"

"Mhm, looks like they're getting ready to head out. On my count," She said, lining the sights up with the red dot again.

"Program's running, distance 2,052 meters. Wind speed, drop, everything's accounted for. When you're ready."

"Three, two, one... Firing," Alessa gentle squeezed the trigger, causing the rifle to exploded to life. In a single fluid movement, Alessa worked the bolt, ejecting the spent cartridge and loading another from the magazine. She watched through the scope and waited for the hit.

"Target struck. You sure your Jellybean'll work for this distance?"

Alessa didn't respond at first, opting instead to watch the round take effect. The round was a conductive-gelatin based projectile she had nicknamed the Jellybean, encapsulated by a skin of plastic that explodes on impact. Inside the gelatin were hundreds of of flakes of shaved metal to aid in the conduction of electricity, amplifying the volts running through the material. It had enough shock to pacify any ordinary humans, but unfortunately had less of an impact on augged individuals. Fortunately Carla was completely unaugmented. She watched as he target collapsed into a heap.

"There's your answer," she said, sounding rushed. "Case, paint me targets.

"On it, just rinse and repeat," He said. The first target was the man who had carried Carla's crates. Alessa squeezed the trigger again, sending another round the two-thousand and something meters down range. He was moving to assist Carla, and to ensure that their target stayed there he too was pacified-- far more violently. The rounds she were using now were lethal-- the only one she really needed alive was Carla, and thus only the first round had been a Jellybean. Alessa's scope had already switched targets by the time the man was struck in spout of crimson nor did she watch him slump over the table and throwing the disruptors into the Martian dirt.

By then, confusion and panic had set in on what remained of the arms fair. Those who sought to grab a weapon and fire in the direction of the gunshot were put down, but those who decided to escape instead were left to do so. Though far less than what it was, there still remained more people than she had bullets. Still, her rifle spat bullet after bullet in a savage symphony. In the end she only had to waste a magazine and some rounds before the arms dealers got the picture, grabbing what they could of their merchandise and escaping into the Martian wilderness as they could. Still, she was patient. She didn't immediately rise to her feet, nor did she congratulate Case on a job well done. She scanned the the remnants of the fair for half-an-hour just to be sure.

Once she was satisfied, she called out to Case, "Targets neutralized. Everything seems quiet. Give the MSS the Coordinates for target pick up, I'll start heading that way," She said, as she began to police her casing, and pack up Graham's camera. She stood like a ghost rising up from the dirt, her burlap cloak whipping in the Martian wind. Her rifle was slung around her chest, tight in her grip. She wasn't going to let her guard down until after she returned to the RSI offices. She was worried there might have still be stragglers. So she began her slow decent down the foothills of Aeolis Mons.

"MSS are en route 'Lessa, you should meet them there. Patching into your suit camera," He said, killing the feed and power to the camera and reviving the one on her suit. "What's the damage?" He asked.

"Aside from the target, twelve casualties, and seven warning shots. The rest grabbed their shit and scattered."

Graham was quiet for a time before speaking again, "A lot of people for just one woman."

"Maybe... But sooner or later they would have bit it too, either by us, another bounty group, or a gang raid. You don't get into that business with a great life expectancy."

"Fair enough."

They were quiet for the rest of Alessa's trek, and by the time she descended the rest of the way down the mountain, the tell-tale sounds of a VTOL descended into the valley. She looked up just in time to see the VTOL pass overhead and head toward the former arms fair. Another twenty minutes saw Alessa meeting with the MSS. One of the officers spoke up, "Red Sands?"

"Mhm. Alessa Sikova-- Case?"

"Sending credentials."

The officer looked away for a moment before returning gaze, apparently getting what he needed. "You check out. Good work here, maybe this'll get some of the guns off the streets," The officer said. "And good job nailing that bitch," Another one spoke up, "Thompson was a good man. He deserved this much."

Alessa nodded absent-mindly, as something in the Martian dust garnered her attention. She knelt and brushed the dirt off it and was greeted by a weapon of some sort. She picked it up in her hand and turned it over, noting the make. It wasn't a conventional weapon-- a disruptor. It was a small version, with a pistol like shape. She tucked it into her hardsuit as the Officer watched and asked, "A souvenir?"

"Something like that," She replied. She knew a person who would like it. Whatever her reasoning was for not killing, Sami could use a better disruptor for the bounties with augments.

"We're finishing up here, you can wait in the VTOL until exfil," The officer said, hooking a thumb backward.

Alessa nodded in agreement and headed toward it, "Case, send a report to Hassan. Mission complete, and I'm on my way home."

"On it. You enjoy the view now," Graham said, chuckling as he spoke.

Alessa paused and threw a glance around her at the Martian landscape. She lingered on it for a moment before shaking her head, "Red isn't my favorite of colors," She said, hopping into the VTOL.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Marcus Sun

0.00 INK

Kaiser

Residential District

Quad 34 Apartments


“How’s dad?”

His tone was dry.

The apartment’s light fixtures were turned off, with the exception of the light in the hallway. The only thing that could be seen was the fountain of lights that came from the outside world in the form of holo-boards and other advertisement screens. They painted the shadow of a man seated in an S-chair against the backdrop which was the chrome kitchen interior.

The man pressed a button on a tablet that he had in his lap. Blinds spilled over the plexiglass wall with a silent hum, muting the outside world, leaving the man to his tablet. Even the brightness settings of the device had been turned down low. Darkness encapsulated him, but not the ember of his cigarette.

“He’s doing fine,” a voice replied over a communique receiver.

“How’s the practice?” Marcus asked the voice as he reclined.

“Doing pretty well, I figure it will keep me in Cangwu a year or two, municipal subsidies and all that.”

Marcus affirmed with an absent minded mumble.

“What about you? What have you been doing?”

Marcus rubbed his forehead as he leaned on his right elbow which sat on the chair’s armrest.

“Stuff. You know, with computers and other things.”

“Yeah? Who do you work for?” the voice inquired.

“Small start-up firm, not really well-known yet. You probably don’t know about them,” Marcus answered.

“You know, we could always use another person. Don’t think of it as a-“

“No it’s fine.”

There was a brief pause during which Marcus exhaled some smoke before he continued, “I’m a bit settled in right now.”

Another pause.

“Hmm. Are you gonna be home next month?”

Marcus was silent.

“I don’t know. I’m getting pretty busy.”

“Hmm,” there was a pause, “Alright, I got to go, Michelle’s calling me.”

“Tell her I said hi.”

“I’ll be sure to. I’ll talk to you sometime.”

“You too, David.”

Marcus turned off the receiver and sat there for a moment. He watched the outside world’s lights flicker as blotches against the blinds, but their intensity had been toned down. He stared at the tablet; the clock readout was “1:25 A.M.”. He rubbed both of his eyes and massaged his stubble before he finally decided to stand up. He stepped into the kitchen with a lowball glass that was half empty of alcohol in one hand, and the tablet in the other. He approached the disposal drain and emptied what remained in the glass and left it on the counter. The foyer lights clicked off.



Cangwu

Residential District

Upper East Side


“That’s the plan,” Charlie Lewis finished.

“You…want to knock over six casinos?” another voice laced with skepticism called out.

The mansion was dimmed, as the group of thieves was gathered around a central hologram that projected the information and details of the plan. Numbers and words all organized neatly, and floating before them in mid-air. The windows were sealed off by metal blinds. Each person there was skilled in a particular field; some would say that all of those present were natural born con-artists.

Their ringleader was Charles, or Charlie Lewis as he preferred to be known. The man had high cheekbones, and slicked back blonde hair driven from his widow’s peak. His eyes were green, and they twinkled on his perfectly tanned face. Whether this was a running disguise, one of many that he has had to don over the years, or how he actually looked, none of those present knew. All they cared for was the bold plan that he had brought forth before them. They had all known each other for a long time, worked together on many good cons, but this was something different.

“Pretty much,” Lewis replied.

“You’re gonna need like ten, maybe fifteen guys doing a combination of cons,” said a woman.

Lewis remained quiet, as though he were letting the thought sink into his brain. Rather it was not Lewis who needed to wrap his brain around the notion, but everyone else.

“That’s the reason why you’re all here,” he said.

After a brief pause, one of the men reclining in a seat voiced his decision, “I’m in,”

The rest followed suit.



High Roller

“When that perfect hand comes along…”


RSI

Sami sprinted at him and threw a left jab that just avoided Jenks’ cheek, which was followed by a front kick that the veteran also swept aside and dodged. She followed up with a right cross, hoping to unbalance him. Jenks caught her attack at the wrist and wheeled around to lock Sami’s elbow behind her, rendering her immobile.

He let her loose, “You still lack focus, Sami. And it’s gonna bite you in the ass one day if you’re not careful.”

She nodded, it was training time. Talking was for when she wasn’t training or out tailing a bounty.

This time she led with a front kick that forced Jenks to lean backward, before he recoiled with a straight punch. Sami crouched and proceeded to deliver a punch to Jenks’ mid-section, followed by a left hand uppercut that barely grazed his face. She then threw another swift kick, followed by two more.

Jenks caught the third and unbalanced her.

She fell to the floor in the training complex, exhausted by the morning training. A four hour, daily regimen, beginning at six, that included plenty of cardio, kickboxing, and reflex training. They were meant to focus on her legs, which was where her strength was.

“You’ve got some good legs for a non-aug. Did you have any professional training?”

“No, just plenty of running and dancing through the streets,” Sami replied as she squirted some water from her bottle.

Jenks smirked.

“Your upper body needs work. I think you should add lifting and boxing to the routine,” he said as he walked away, but he turned around to add, “Or losing your arms and getting augs.”

She gave him a look, “I’ve been thinking about that, but I don’t know yet.”

Jenks smiled, “Lots of benefits, especially in this business. At the same time, lots of pain in the ass. I gotta get guys like Marcus to check my systems out from time to time. Lubricant, lubricant, lubricant,” he tossed his towel into the bin.

“And guys like Marcus…” he shook his head, feigning disgust.

Sami snickered.

“Other downsides are you’re pretty much numb there, losing your sense of touch, and being able to grasp things.”

“Trust me, you have no idea how lucky you are for a person with no augs living in a world where everyone’s got somethin’. You’re probably the most human out of all of us here.”

Sami took another drink from the bottle as Jenks left.

Marcus walked in.

“Overslept much?” Sami asked.

Marcus slid past her with no answer, which drew a raised eyebrow from Sami.

His mind was elsewhere.




”Hey are you alright?”

“What?”

”You came in and didn’t say anything.”

“I overslept.”

”Didn’t look like that to me.”

“What are you- focus, Sami.”

She chalked that up among the few times that Marcus had ever called her by her actual name. Something was different about him, no wisecracks, no laughs, and no jokes. Something was wrong, but she could not put her finger on it. Maybe nothing was wrong, she thought as she suited up. Marcus had always been bipolar, in the metaphorical sense. Hard to read, but they barely knew each other as far as their business relationship was concerned.

As far she as knew, she simply shrugged it off, maybe he had an epiphany about respecting her. She was amazed by the strange flights of fancy that her mind came up with from time to time.

Whatever the reason, he was right about one thing, she had to focus.

“Fine,” she said, “What’s the job today?”





Marcus cocked his neck to one side before repeating the procedure to the other side. The pops were expected as he skipped about the words that flowed across the screen. He was doing a variety of things, among them was checking the news before he opened the brief that Anna sent him.

Man Falls To Death Out of VTOL

Heiress Yvon Brust Announces Plans For Luxury Resort in Endeavour

Cost of Neural Augs Rising

Immigration Battle in the MPA Continues

Eclipse of Binary Stars in System 486 Beta Carinae

Each one of them was a sign of the times, times that would take more than politicking alone to correct, if there was something to correct that was. Apparently, safety harnesses and U-shaped restraining bars were still not enough to keep people from still falling out of VTOLs. It probably helped if they bothered to close the cabin hatches, Marcus thought.

The cost of neural augs caught Marcus’ attention in particular. He had thought about getting an upgrade himself. He knew he was no digital wiz, especially compared to the other tech juggernauts at RSI. After all he was just a security hacker, a tiger, they called him. Eight-bit fangs, and stripes of blue flowing code. That was years ago, years that felt like eternity. He was someone different now.

Everyone was busy working at their desk or in their personalized control center, managing their field person. Marcus checked the listings, and there was only one job left, slim pickings. The early bird gets the worm, and in his case, he was never early to have a choice. Or perhaps he chose to be late.

“High Roller?”

His eyebrows jumped, interesting. Anna always had a habit of giving her little briefs clever titles as if she had been destined to be a writer, but instead settled for a job as a PA. That or some omniscient and witty being managed the brief titles for her.

He scanned the profile, orange blurs sprinted revolutions around his pupil.

Marcus cleared his throat, “Target name, Charlie Lewis. He’s a cat burglar.”

”Ooh, interesting.”

Marcus continued, “Specializes in Hot Prowls.”

Marcus took the silence on her end as a sign that she did not know what a Hot Prowl was.

“Meaning, he could be on a maglev cabin with thirty other people, and he would be swiping all of their credits without them knowing it,” Marcus scratched his chin.

“The thing is, he does this in casinos, which makes him a genuine con-man, and a very good one at that.”

”How so?”

“He’s been on the list for a long time. He’s like a ghost because he’s always using disguises and surgeries to mask his prints, according to their guesses.”

”Go on.”

“Definitely a professional and it’s very likely that he’s got people in the background as well.”

”Alright, send me the details, I’m gonna slip in and tag him.”

“Actually…”

”Hmm? What is it?”

“I’ve got another idea. We should try something different,” Marcus turned off the communique on his end and abruptly left his desk, but not before taking a transparent tablet with him.




Minutes later he was on the ground floor, sitting cross legged on a mat while Sami slammed her fists into a punching bag.

“According to Hanna…” Marcus tacked on the H whenever he said Anna’s name to tease her, just one more thing to irritate the chief of support operators, “The guy has a pattern where he makes one big strike before he slips away unnoticed and lays low for a time. And they think this is going to be it. If he gets out, this will be the last we see of him until he resurfaces again.”

“So where is he now?” Sami said, wiping the accumulated beads of sweat from her forehead with a towel.

Marcus looked up from his tablet, “The Golden Mile. A long strip of the finest casinos in Cangwu, and maybe all of Mars, from what I heard. Even as we speak, he might be hitting them now.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Sami ceased her punches and ran to suit up.

“Hold on a bit. You can’t just walk into a casino in your suit, that’s just gonna to give you away.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t have any augs. I’m pretty much useless without my suit, unless you have a better idea.”

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Marcus would have normally smiled when he said this.

He tapped some keys on his tablet, “Jenks, is the thing ready?”

“Yeah,” the agent’s voice came from the tablet.

Minutes later, after Sami had suited up, Jenks came from the armory with a small black device in hand, a flat plate, 3 inches long, and 2 inches wide, with diagonal corners. Marcus nodded to Jenks, who placed the object right on Sami’s suit.

“What is this?”

Marcus tapped a key on his tablet, and instantly pixels began to form all around her. She watched in perplexity as they replicated all over her suit. As the lines of code flipped over, a different skin seemed to emerge and adorn her.

“What…”

In one moment, there was a suit of black poly carbon plating covering her from neck to feet. In the next, all of that disappeared, leaving behind a teal, one shoulder dress made of silk that ran the length of her body, enhancing her natural curves. Her gauntlets were replaced by her bare arms, with glowing bracelets around her wrists. Her neck guard had transformed into what appeared to be a necklace.

Marcus simply stared on after fist bumping Jenks, who nodded with approval. Once the transformation had finished, Jenks left the two of them in the armory.

“Oh my god, what is this?” she reached to cover herself.

“Careful now, you don’t want to disrupt that,” Marcus said, “Any hard touch will disrupt the field for a few seconds.”

She stared at him.

“What? You’ve never worn a dress before?” a snide grin curved on his lips.

Her stare remained, “What is this.”

“This isn’t going to be your usual mission, seeing as how you can’t waltz in there with your body suit and hope to catch a thief. One, I might add, that is as slippery as this guy.”

Her stare turned into a glare.

“The reason for the dress, is…simple. You’re going to a casino, or maybe casinos. You need to look the part. If I may say so, not too bad,” Marcus paused before finishing, “Blondie.”

“Façade Cinq is the prototype device that Jenks just put on your suit. It’s currently in development at Haut Logiciel. Weeks ago, a friend of mine called me and asked if they could test the thing. I thought it could be useful so I kept it around for them.”

Marcus saw that she was still adjusting, as though her eyes were lying to her, “Relax, the Cinq just projects a virtual render around you that is undetectable by the human eye.”

“What about augs?” she asked.

“That’s what we’re going to test. And so far…I,” he cleared his throat, “Don’t see any of your suit.”

He had to admit that he was taken aback by her appearance in the dress. It was definitely different.

“Okay,” she breathed a long sigh, “Anything else?”

“Our guy’s a runner without any augs. You could probably get the jump on him and tag him before he gets out of the starting gate. You won’t need much else…aside from maybe a clutch bag…” Marcus scratched his chin, “And maybe some credits to bet with.”

“What is that going to do?”

“Remember what I said, look the part. No guy is gonna shy away from…” he gestured toward her, “Except for that one guy who’s busy trying to bust the virtual vaults.”

Marcus lifted the tablet to her face, “This image, is two years old. The closest lead we have to him is a DNA imprint, but these days that’s just as reliable as the picture. Now, I could just sit back here and keep a tab on you, but I realized that I’ve never been to Cangwu.”




Cangwu

Golden Mile


Marcus sat on a bench outside the strip of casinos, tablet in one hand, and a street vended corndog in the other. Black shades covered his augmented eyes.

“Alright, the first place is…”




”Olympia Crown Casino.”

“Got it,” Sami said as she walked through the entrance, her eyes peeled for any suspicious activity. The place was a hive of activity, as was all casinos. Tuxedoes and dresses everywhere, it was definitely high class. The ceilings were decorated with ornaments and chandeliers of post-modern design.

”You should probably get a drink. I recommend Vermillion on the rocks.”

“Drinking, on the job? Sorry my name isn’t Marcus Sun.”

There was a brief pause on the other end, which meant a victory for Sami, ”That actually wasn’t bad, you been practicing? Anyway, I’m going through their security feeds. Find a table; you look like a bimbo just standing there.”

“A real wonder why you’re still single,” she went to the open bar, and requested some Vermillion.

The bartender served her a sizzling red drink on ice cubes in a cocktail glass. Sami took the drink and leaned against the counter, watching the crowd play.

”Nothing, I’m not finding any DNA matches. I’m gonna check the other casinos.”

“Take your time,” Sami took a sip of the drink, it was sweet and sour, but leaning heavily toward the sour.

The sizzle was like that of a carbonated drink, however, unlike sodas, the sizzle was stronger than the average soda fizz and it lasted longer. The bubbling and sparkling crackled in her mouth as she drank it. Alcoholic drinks were nothing new to her; she’d been drinking them since 17.

”Wait, I got something. Ditch the glass, he’s at the Fenghuang.”

“Just as I was about to enjoy myself,” Sami left the glass on the plate of a cocktail waitress who wandered past her.

Sami descended to the lower levels, and used the underground tube system that connected all the casinos and resorts together.




The Fenghuang

The baccarat table was full as a man found the last seat. He had a smooth jaw, clean shaven. His close cropped hair was black with a touch of gray, while crow’s feet flanked his blue eyes flecked with grey. He had a certain charm about him that drew the eyes of the ladies and men at the table, and those of the casino security guards. The house dealt the cards, which had the trademark design of the Fenghuang casino.

Every day there was a hacker at a slot machine, ready to crack the safe and let the credits fall into his card. Unfortunately, the casinos put a cap on the creds that a slot machine spit out. The casinos put their money on the card tables. Compared to the slots, the tables had higher prizes, but smaller odds of winning that could not be altered by a hacker. Playing cards required real skill, something that had long disappeared. Nowadays, people relied on pre-downloaded manuals and stat cards that laced their visual augs. Even that wasn’t enough to beat chance itself. Baccarat in particular was purely based on chance, players could not make any choices, as they were stuck with the hand they were dealt.

Everyone at the table was busy playing with their chips as they waited for Lewis’ move. He smiled to everyone calmly, and placed his bet.

The house revealed his three cards, which totaled eight. The other five bettors had seven, five, six, five, and six, respectively.

“I guess that means I win,” Lewis said, as he flipped over his three cards, which totaled nine.

”Charles, we cracked Montriëste, Perseid Jewel, The Caracao, and Ares’ Palace already.”

Lewis immediately departed the table, “Good job, I managed to pick up a couple thousand creds here and there. What about you Axel?”

A reply came from the person named Axel, ”It’s a good day to be a thief.”

Lewis chuckled, “I can drink to that.”

He promptly took a tall glass purple drink from a cocktail waitress that passed by before he disappeared into the dim-lit and crowded dance floor where the laser lights were spurting while the drums and bass shook the floor.

The two casino guards that were tailing him stopped as they met the dance floor.




“Alright I’m at the Fenghuang, where is he?” Sami said over the comm.

”Okay he’s heading toward the…wait, fuck, I lost him. He’s definitely wearing a disguise, so he won’t be looking like the picture. Look for a guy with grayish hair standing at maybe 5’11 or 6.”

“How did you lose him?” she wandered through the crowd, trying not to let anyone or anything touch her suit, otherwise it would disrupt the render.

”Wait, I got a lock on him. He’s at a blackjack table, your three o’clock.”

Sami immediately headed in that direction, passing by the slot machines, cocktail waiters, and gamblers.

”He’s got exchanges with some people, we know that. He’s obviously got a group of people watching over him, and another group wandering around like him, going on prowls. And so far, no activity on any of the digital vaults, either it hasn’t gone down yet, or these guys are real pros.”

“Well, let’s hope he’ll speak when we nab him,” she finally reached Lewis’ table.

She thought about how she would approach him, perhaps she would cruise in nonchalantly and pretend she was interested in him. Or perhaps she would find a seat opposite of him, and bet big. After-all, Marcus had siphoned some casino money for her to lose and use. This huge elaborate plan was all Marcus’s idea; they should have just gotten a taser to shock the guy. The only problem with that was, the casino security wouldn’t have let her inside in the first place. And even if they did, once the guy was out cold, they would swoop in and steal her bounty. It was better to lure him outside of the casinos, and thus outside of their jurisdiction.

However, neither of those two possibilities happened, instead she stumbled and nearly tripped. Lewis was about to lend a hand, but she caught herself in time to prevent him from disrupting the Cinq.

“Thank you,” she smiled modestly, as she looked into his face, she could feel her cheeks warming. He definitely looked different from the profile picture which showed a man maybe her age, possibly even younger, with blonde hair and a tanned face.

She was blushing, perhaps she was falling for a criminal’s charms.

The simple fantasy was abruptly killed by Marcus laughing on the other end, ”Oh my god, that was the best entrance I have ever seen. Bravo.”

But at least she succeeded in getting Lewis’ attention as he introduced himself.

“Allen, Allen Pierce,” he smiled, she knew he was using an alias.

Sami stuttered for a bit, “Uhm, Karla Dominique.”

“You had a bit of a fall there; can I get you a drink?”

“Certainly,” Sami returned the smile.

”Good job, now reel him in.”

“So what’s a pretty lady like you doing here?” Lewis tossed his cards in to fold.

“Oh, just trying to better my luck.”

“Well, I’ve been winning a lot, stick with me, I’m sure your luck’s about to change.”

He gestured to a waitress, “Two Green Dumondes please.”

They had been playing for about a couple minutes until Lewis stood up, “Excuse me as I head to the gentlemen’s room.”

“Don’t take too long,” Sami did her best to toy with him.

At that moment she realized she had not worn any makeup, she took leave from the table a bit.

“There’s one thing you guys forgot. Makeup.”

”Hmm. Well. The way it’s going right now, seems like you didn’t need any to begin with. Anyway he’s in the restroom alright. Also, try not to forget the fake name you gave yourself.”

She sighed, “I don’t get paid enough to do this.”




Men’s Restroom

Lewis whistled while pissing, until his communique opened.

”Charles, we just finished cracking the Olympia Crown. We’re starting on the Fenghuang.”

“Got it, take your time,” he washed his hands in the sink, and checked his face for any blemishes or disfigurations before he placed his hands into the air dryer tunnel, nine seconds later he was out the door.

Thirty seconds later he was back at the table next to Karla. As he tried to reach around her waist, she kept his hand away, which only roused him.

Just as he was about to go for it, ”Charlie, get the fuck out of there! She’s a bounty hunter.”

“What?” he said aloud.

“What?” Sami turned to him.

He paused to recompose himself, “I need to step out and take a call, I’ll be back in a bit.”

He wanted to lean in and steal a kiss before he ran, but Sami steered his lips away with her finger.

”Odd. Wait…wait a minute. Fuck, he’s trying to run!”

Sami jumped from the table and tailed him through the crowd. She pursued him until she ran straight into two big muscled guys. She could guess that they were casino security.

“Can we have a look at your I.D. ma’am?” the man to her left said.

”Oh come-the-fuck-on. He’s getting away.”

“I know right,” Sami replied.

“What? What was that?” the man to her right asked.

“Oh, no that wasn’t, I didn’t mean-“

“Ma’am we’re gonna need you to come with us.”

Sami sighed, “Look I’m a bounty hunter working for RSI. I’m trying to catch a guy named Charlie Lewis. Now you guys can either let me do my job, or be fired because you’re letting him slip out of your casino with millions of creds, right now.” Sami tried to put on the most threatening voice to back up her bluff.

The two guards looked at each other, before they returned to her, “I.D.”

”Blondie you better hurry up, he’s about...fuck…”

She dug through her little clutch bag for her bounty hunter card.

“Here, hurry the fuck up!” she demanded.

“Yo, this is Warner, we got a bounty hunter here, I’m-“ before Warner could finish his sentence, Sami nailed him in the throat with a punch and swiped the card from his hand.

She bolted, pursued by the other guard, who was much slower than her.

“Alright where is he?” Sami said, the dress disappeared once she threw the punch. The pixels glitched and went on and off, people stared from all directions. She slid past them as they tried to avoid her.

“Marcus?” she called.

No answer.




Just Outside Fenghuang Casino

Charlie Lewis ran as fast as his augmented legs had taken him. From what he could tell, he managed to lose the girl, who he thought he would have gotten into bed with. Unfortunately, his current circumstances did not allow him to indulge in such fantasies.

Marcus on the other hand, intercepted Lewis as the thief was running in his direction.

“Hey hold i-“ Marcus was caught off guard as he felt a pain rip through his left cheek, which disoriented him a bit.

The unexpected assault was followed by successive knees to his ribs, stomach, and possibly even his kidneys that sent him doubled over.

Before long, Lewis had disappeared into the myriad of peoples on the Golden Mile.

Two minutes later Sami arrived outside to find Marcus clutching his midsection.

“Oh my god,” she gasped.

He was bleeding a bit from his mouth, and there was a red bruise just below his left eye.

“Are you alright?” she knelt beside him.

Marcus nodded as he let his head recline against the wall with a long exhale.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Alex Hanzo Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins

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Cangwu

Ivarest Apartments

Night


Merek was asleep in his secure pod, ambient music resembling waterfalls and chirping birds played at a low volume. His eyes shot open as he received an emergency call on his internal aug comm, a number only a few knew. The inside of the pod was pitch black, so even with his eyes open, he could tell no difference. A check on the data trace showed the caller to be Joseph Schlager, Ry and Merek's ever vigilant friend from the underworld. He accepted the call.

"Merek?" Schlager was always matter of fact with no emotion.

"Yeah Schlage, what's up?"

"Did you happen to attack a member of Godiva recently? Perhaps one you used to have a certain . . . attachment too?" Merek paused, Joseph knew her name was Mizaki Gono. He was fairly certain that he could trust Schlager, but one never knew how far a man would bend to exist in the underworld.

"I don't know what you're talking about." There was a short pause on Joseph's end as he contemplated the evasiveness.

"Regardless, Godiva Corp. had an attack on one of their executives. I'll assume you remember Her." Of course Merek remembered the woman, and he had been the one who accosted her, finding a pre-teen boy in her bedroom red and sweaty, as naked as the day he was born. Gono liked to rape little boys. To top it off, she was a hermaphrodite, which led to even sicker abuse and confusion for a child. "They investigated all pathways and came up with placing the blame on one of Us, the surviving Godiva Children. Don't be surprised if net searches start going out on you and Ry, they want to keep tabs on us."

"Just tabs?"

"We'll have to wait and see. When you are a company as powerful as them looking to rise all the time, eliminating loose strings from the past can only tighten your security. When the Martian Government first found out about us, it ensured we got out. Time has passed and people don't care too much anymore. Iazu is back up and running, why drag up ghosts of the past? Just a tip. And don't forget one day, I may have a favor to ask of you." Schlager hung up.
Academi had left him alone for years, shortly after trying to assassinate him, they went through a change in leadership. There were still a few mercs who would try to kill him on sight, but nothing he couldn't handle. Sneaking into the executives house had been mildy challenging and he left no trail, he hadn't accounted for the paranoia of Godiva Corp.
-------
Ryia woke up in a cold sweat, reaching out into the air above him, fingertips hitting a glass encasing. He slept inside a tube that had a climate simulator, this way he could adjust it to help with his condition. It also meant that he didn't have to worry about having a coughing fit while in bed and spreading airborne pathogens. There was never a one-hundred-percent guarantee that his mouth cover would stay in place.

He had dreamed of Iazu. Ry was really too young to remember anything, but in his recurring nightmare, Godiva mercs scoured the land his family owned. Doing the history he had found that his father, Dearl Hawkins, was an upstart computer tech. He was trying to start his own company out of their storage space. Speculation at the time of the Iazu Incident was that Dearl could be the next big thing for cybertech. Godiva shot his father down outside the home, then ripped him from his mothers arms inside the house, as he reached out to her. Then a montage of the experiments that had been done on him played. At the end, it came back to an image of his mother, reaching out to him. Then he awoke.

Harsh coughing followed his awakening, leaving him short on breath. Blood had flaked out into the glass of the chamber and onto his clothing. Ry grabbed sanitation wipes that he always had nearby, cleaning the mess up. Then he got out of bed, stripped off the cheap robe, and exited their apartment with some kerosene and a projectile lighter. Walking to the alley behind the church, he found a dump bin, tossed the robe inside, and burned it. The cough had not been too severe, it was a lighter one. It would get worse in the coming hours. Working with his disease is something he had accomplished before, but he always feared it would be a liability.

Maybe he would have to talk Merek into getting a new tech. He had tried once before, and Merek had none of it. If there ever came a time where he had a coughing fit and Merek almost died because of it . . . he could never forgive himself. Under those conditions, he would finish the suicide attempt he tried as a teenager. Realizing he forgot to bring a mouth cover out, he rushed back into the church and into his apartment.

Eckhard, as they called him in the Red Sands HQ, wanted Ry to go in and work with some of the other techs for once. It certainly wouldn't be today. Entering the apartment, Merek was waiting for him. The living area glowed a pale forest green for the fiber optic lighting.

"Schlager called me. Godiva did some digging and is blaming one of their former wards for the accident." Merek's eyes were heavy, only halfway through his sleep. "No guarantee they want to off us but we'll have to keep an eye out."
"I warned you about pulling that stunt you did, putting the knife to her throat! It would have been better to have ended her then and there for the things she did to you. To me. To all of us." Ryia grabbed one of his spare covers out of a drawer in the kitchen table, wrapping it around his lower face in time before the next coughing fit started.

Merek took the disease symptoms easy, he was used to seeing his friend cough up his own blood. "Well, we might still have to do that. This mission today, it i big time. Frank is counting on me here."

"Then go get your fucking sleep, I could pull an all nighter and still op on the net, you're the hunk of meat that does the heavy lifting." Merek didn't argue, trotting off into his room. Ryia returned to his room, rummaging in his nightstand for the pills he took. The drugs suppressed his tuberculosis, but the persistent viral strain still got out on occasion.

Iazu

Slums - Likely Target Coordinates


The coordinates for the mission came down from the boss-man himself, though there was no guarantee that they were correct. Frank did not give much away, only that he had been attacked by forces and the target may have some answers. The fact that a rival, but friendly, apprehension company currently held custody of the target was a complicating factor. No one dead, and minimal harm. This was the sort of mission that Academi would scoff at one of their trained killers taking on. They would go in guns blazing, even if it meant taking a limb off the target. If they could still speak, all was well! Eckhard crouched in an alley across from the building, lighting a cigarette under the cover of his hand.

What's up Merek? Trapped in your own thoughts again?

Hard to describe it as "trapped," when someone elses' voice is inside with me though, hmm? How are you feeling? Is it bad this time? Merek was referring to his tuberculosis.

Never better! I feel as right as the Iazu Atmo Ring right about now. They both had a little laugh at that to break the tension. From what Merek had described to Ry, this mission was penultimate to Red Sands Investigations immediate future. Merek had never belonged to an organization that he felt was doing the right thing until he had joined RSI. He didn't want to disappoint Frank.

Crouched in the alleyway across from his target building, Merek inhaled Red Sands brand smokes from deep into his lungs. The company was no relation to RSI of course, with a planet full of red sands, the phrase was popular. He crouched next to a disposal bin. A synthetic arm lay half out, robot thrown inside like a hunk of junk. Its headpiece was battered and crushed in resemblance of a tin can. Someone seemed to have treated it like a spouse they were angry at, and they could get away with it; Synth's were not considered people. He took another drag on the cigarette.

You know that shit will kill you Mere.

If an atmo ring can fail, what's the point of being so careful? Merek did not smoke too often, but this mission had him a little stressed. They were back in Iazu, one could say the two of them took a special interest in missions that were located there. He crushed the cigarette up and put it in his pocket. No DNA could be left behind.
Sami Rouvelle was on standby with a VTOL nearby. She was capable of much more than being a driver, but Eckhard had needed someone to drive that he didn't have to worry about talking. That meant almost anyone from RSI, and Sami was the agent he had muttered words to most frequently. She insisted on being a part of the comm-line for the mission, but they kept her at bay.

Iazu

Inside Building Coordinates


Dyson walked down his hall, on a routine patrol. He was bored, walking back and forth, forth and back. Several guards were in this building. He didn't even recognize half of them, the team must have been thrown together quick. Some tough guys were on the second floor, higher level guards. Still, not the best the company had to offer. Rumors were that they were holding one of their own employees hostage, maybe a turncoat, but he was too low on the totem pole to have any real information.

A thump sounded above him. He looked up and around, seeing nothing.

"Time for a break, I'm starting to imagine things here." He and Thomas in the next corridor were waiting to be replaced by a couple of the guys so they could eat. The building was in the Iazu dumps, the odds of anyone finding it, let alone breaking in, were low in his estimation. The rest of the guards seemed to agree, leaving a skeleton crew in the hall. Everyone was sure the outside team would alert them first if a snatch was attempted. He walked past the part of the hall where he had heard the noise. Five paces later her felt a sharp sting in the back of his neck, falling to his face on the ground.

Merek was hanging out of the ceiling from the ventilation shaft, one hand still holding firm. The other held a tranquilizer pistol. He scanned the hall for cameras, seeing one in the far corner. Dropping from the vent in a silent crouch, he drew another weapon. Disruptors weren't made to only target augments, as Eckhard carefully aimed a red laser into the lens of the camera, effectively cutting off two minutes prior recording and the next two minutes. The only way of detection was if someone had been watching live. It was a chance he would have to take.

"While I was busting my ass finding a way into this ventilation, did you find me the blueprints?"

No answer from Ry. He was either taking his time or hacking out his liver.

"What the fuck Ry? I don't have all day here!

Hang on Merek, just hang on a second. Yes, I have them! A friend of mine who is obsessed with the Iazu buildings no longer under use since the Incident had a ton of files. I had to sift through. Merek moved down the hall, peeking around the corner. A second guard was coming his way, with another camera at the far corner of the hall.

I need some ideas here on what room to check. There were tons of doors.

Well, it is a three story building, but the top is an attic with a low roof, I doubt Mags will be there. Both weapons were now hooked back on his utility belt. Ry uploaded the schematic blueprint of the building into their comm link, all through data. His internal aug computed it, giving him a general feel for the structure of the building.

If she is even here in the first place.

Lets assume she is. The building used to be a small apartment complex. The first floor is one-room apartments. The second floor is a little more extravagant. If you're going to have a guest in here, forced or willingly, why not use the presidential room? Well it was actually the super's room but you get where I'm going." Merek picked the baton out of the fallen guards belt, rapping it on the wall to draw the other guards attention.

His augmented ears allowed him to hear the man's footfalls as he slowly approached the corner. Merek hugged the wall as closely as he could. The second man turned the corner, seeing his fallen comrade first. He rushed in to check on his health, catching a glimpse of Merek right as he passed.

A little bit of brute force was necessary here. Merek didn't go for a technical move, he reached his left arm out, gripping the far side of the man's neck and pulling him into a headlock. They struggled, hitting into the wall. Luckily the distance was only a few inches so it wasn't too loud. He gripped his hands together, transitioning the headlock into a bulldog choke. The man gurgled and gasped for a few seconds until he lost consciousness. Merek held on to the choke a bit too long to ensure he was out, but not long enough to deprive the man's brain of oxygen. He shot the second guard with a tranquilizer in case he planned on making a quick recovery, sheathing it back behind his right side.

"Past that second guard is one of the stairwells. Merek grabbed the tech disruptor, ready to spring into action.

"But," Ry chimed in again, "I would recommend the dilapidated elevator shaft."

"Who the hell puts an elevator in a two story building?"

"Three stories Mere, three. It was for the rolling tables to carry food from the gourmet kitchen up. Who the hell wants to carry plates and trays when you can take the whole damn thing in one go?"

Sounds like a bunch of spoiled assholes lived here to me. He leaned out from the corner again, aiming the laser at the camera down the hall. After disabling it he waited a few moments, satisfied that there was no response yet.
Inching his way down the hall, he heard sounds of laughter and conversation. It sounded like a large group of men and women, well over 5 people. He was closing in at the end of the hall. Straight across from him was the door to the stairwell. On the left sat the elevator shaft, while a pair of double doors sat on the right with the sign, "KITCHEN," in empty glass tubing. Must have ran out of juice. Merek thought.

Pausing by the double doors, he glanced in the right window pane of the door. The guards were using the room as its original intended use, they were splayed about a couple of dusty old tables, chinese takeout littering the room. Entering the ventilation system he had to sneak past approximately 12 guards outside. Taking out these two in the halls, he must have lucked out on his timing, because from the looks of it each hall would hold at least 4 or 5 at a time.

That is the thing about the working man, they'll take long breaks if they think they can get away with it. "You see what I see Ry?" Of course he already knew the answer.

"Get in that damn shaft before they finish their chow mein."

Ducking low enough to be below the door windows, he strafed over to the elevator. Getting a bit of leverage with both hands into the door, he started tugging. Even for his slightly enhanced strenght, it was a tough pull. A pop noise sounded through the air as he broke the seal that had formed for 20 or so years. One of the guards must have told a hell of a joke, because roaring laughter sounded at the same time. Merek stepped into the elevator, full of dust and mold, shutting the door as best he could. There was a slight crack, it wouldn't close completely. Hopefully none of those guards had augmented eyes.

Quickly, he opened the hatch of the elevator and climbed on top, grabbing the cables and shimmying toward the second floor. When he reached the right height, he jumped toward the door, fingertips holding on to the edges of the outside border. Now came the hard part.

Nothing I can do if there are guards in here, I'm going to have to go all out.

Do what you have to do, Frank just doesn't want anyone knowing who is doing the taking. They're going to know when they lose their goods." Eckhard opened the elevator door, but this one wasn't as forgiving. A long, screeching noise lit through the shaft. He could only imagine how loud it must have been in the hallway. Giving in to indiscretion, he wrenched it open.

Four guards were staring him down, from the direction of the "presidential room. A large man, half-muscle half-fat, stood at the forefront. All of them held stun batons, as well as weapons at their belts. It seemed like lethality wasn't a priority for them. Behind fatty stood a short-female with a pink mohawk. A Martian-baked skin tan man, a horrendous look that turned your skin into pleather, stood on the other side. Behind those three stood an imposing figure at nearly seven feet.

"Holy shit Merek. Can you do this without killing anyone?"

Only one way to find out. He had not reloaded the tranq gun. It was top of the line, and as such, it was quality over quantity. It only held four shots too a clip. Two had been expended on the first floor. This team of guards seemed a bit more clued in than the ones below, without speaking they started moving in.

"They must all be on an internal aug line."

[i]"Quiet Ry."
He had to make this quick, the guards from below could be well on their way.
Merek walked toward them, baring his fists to give the impression he was about to brawl. Mohawk smiled at him, seemingly in pleasure at the idea of fisticuffs. He used his heightened speed to quickly draw the tranq gun from the small of his right back. In quick succession he shot Sun-Tan Man and Mohawk, both dropping to the ground. The Fat Man seemed unfazed, still walking forward. Merek took three lunging steps toward him, then stepped into a superman punch, cracking the man in the jaw. He stumbled backward, stunned, and slipped to a knee. A roundhouse kick to the jaw stunned him further, but he was still rising. The Tall Man started striding toward them.

In reaction to the Tall Man, Merek lunged back several feet, grabbing for a tranq clip and quickly reloading. He fired all four shots into the Fat Man. The quality of the chemical he was sure of, but a man that big could take one hell of a dose. The large man managed to take a couple of steps toward him before his eyes rolled back and he fell to the ground in a heap, rattling the floor and shaking the walls. His baton fell out of his grip, rolling toward Eckhard.

He managed to grab the baton and bring it in close right as the Tall Man moved in with a left straight that he avoided, the man was a southpaw. Merek bobbed and weaved past two more jabs, then felt a solid hook collide into his gut. He brought the baton up into the Tall Man's neck, pulling the trigger. A jolt of energy hit the man and knocked him back an inch, but a straight left came right down the pipe, smashing into Merek's left eye socket. There was a crunched as his orbital bone gave way and his vision was clouded with blood. His nervous system let a bit of morphine out into his blood to calm the pain the instance the break was detected.

This guy definitely had a strength augment.

Sliding through his legs, Merek rolled and picked up Mohawk's baton, pressing both up to full charge. Noting this, the Tall Man reached for the firearm at his side. Closing the distance between them as quickly as possible, he stepped into the Tall Man before his hand even made contact with the handle of the weapon, blasting him with both batons in the chest. The man whimpered and Merek drove him toward the elevator shaft, knocking him off into the black space. Hell, it was only a one story drop. An augment should survive that just fine.

Yells could be heard from the floor below. A door slammed against a wall from the direction of the stairwell, likely the first level door.

"Move quick Mere."

"Get Sami to move a little closer Ry, half the distance! I'd like her six blocks here to the Northwest, in run-down park."

"Done, she is moving. " As they spoke he ran toward the stairwell door with the industrial strength batons, sliding them in the outward facing doorhandles. The batons would likely buy him an extra 10 seconds. He turned and sprinted across the hall toward the room, never bothering to check for the cameras since stealth time was up. Merek was masked enough to avoid being identified on clip.

After reloading the tranq gun with the third of four clips, Merek sprinted toward the presidential door, drop-kicking it
with both feet. Whatever locks may have been in place shattered and the door broke off all its hinges but the top one, dangling in place.

The hard part of the job must have been over, because the target Mags sat in a wooden chair in the center of the room. Her mouth was covered in tape, skirt hiked up so high he could see the crotch of her black laced teddy under her outerwear. The girl didn't seem to get outside much by how pale her inner thighs were. She definitely didn't hang out with the Sun-Tan Man. The target stared at him through a pair of glasses.

"Target confirmed Ry." An unecessary comment with Ry in on his feed, but it felt fulfilling nonetheless.

It was a trend for some to wear glasses for show, something set in the 22nd Century by some obnoxious sport athletes. While some people still let their eyesight go with no augs and needed real prescriptions, the target seemed to be in great health. There was a window three paces behind her chair, boarded up with planks of wood. "Now that is old school." They must have moved the target quickly, no time to weld the room shut quite yet. His augmentations could take the strain of a two story drop no problem, breaking through the planks would rough him up a bit, but it was nothing that a little RSI maintenance couldn't fix.

The rest of the room was a large mass darker than black. There appeared to be a side door that likely housed a full-sized restroom. To the right, a small kitchen with inset appliances in the walls. He already passed what he took for the master bedroom back by the front door. The living room had a mass of furniture housed under plastic covers, likely luxurious pieces. A bit of fur stuck out under one of the covers. The only uncovered piece was a small wooden table with a suitcase on it. Mags started struggling with her bonds, attempting to speak through the tape.

Hang on one sec, 'bout to have a freaking attack here. Ry cut the line audio during his coughing.

"Lets make this easy Mags." Merek steadily aimed the tranq at her and shot, the dart piercing her high in the left breast. A rustle sounded to the left, in the peripheral of his vison he saw the wallpaper move in the shape of a human.
Ry came back in on the other line, DOWN MEREK!. He was a bit too late. Merek held no anger toward him, this mission was in a dark zone, the net couldn't help much beyond plain research.

A disruptor blast momentarily deafened him, flowing through every fiber of his being. Having only been disrupted a few times, it was exceedingly painful. Merek screamed as all his joints, bones, and muscle were set afire. His brain felt like it was about to melt as he fell on his back. The shape stood over him, camo-cloak switching to off. He recognized the figuret as Frank's friend Alex, and why the mission was supposed to be carried out undetected made a hell of a lot of more sense.

"Don't worry yourself, you'll recover in seconds. Unfortunately, you appeared to have riled the whole house up." Alex checked on Mags, ensuring she was out. While Merek was stunned, she ripped his mask up, taking a quick look at his face to ensure she knew who she was speaking to. She dropped it back into place as he felt his muscles begin to recover, but still incapable of movement. Whatever kind of disruptor this was didn't do any damage it seemed, but it was an inhibitor of some sort.

"Frank will join me against Dynamo sooner or later. I think that him getting ahold of Mags will expedite this process. Maybe Dynamo weren't even behind it. The point is, whatever information Frank gets out of Mags will get him involved in the game. That, and other than myself, I trust him to do right by what he finds." Or so I hope, he heard her whisper to herself. She placed her heel on his chest, looking down at him and reaching a hand out to help him up. Alex timed it perfectly as he felt well enough to reach out and take her offer, standing on his feet.

"You do NOT tell Frank I know that he has Mags. He needs to think this mission went off without anyone clued in to who did it. If I brutally tortured my own girl, traitor or not, it looks bad on the inside. People can lose morale. If she is taken elsewhere my employees can hold out hope that she didn't sell us out, and that she has been taken away to be silenced or used as a pawn by Dynamo. I'll spin it however I can." Alex exchanged the disruptor for a pistol, talking quickly as they both heard the crack of the batons he had placed snap. He attempted to contact Ry but his comm aug was down.

"I have to make it look real." She stepped back behind him a few feet, giving him space. Merek didn't question what that mean, tearing Mags from the chair and throwing her over his left shoulder. Screaming guards were hurtling down the hall as he turned his head and saw Alex clubbed herself in the face with an object, blood bursting out her lip.

"Get the hell out of here." She said, seemingly able to yell with a whisper. Eckhard drove himself into the thick window and boards, breaking through it in a waterfall of glass and splinters. Alex fired twice at him, bullets tearing through the shoulder opposite Mags. He could hear the rumbling footsteps of men enterting the room as he vaulted out. More blasts of gunfire flew out into the night over his head. It seemed like an eternity, but he came down to the street, landing on his left foot, right knee, and right fist. Pain shot up through his right arm up to the gunshot wounds, body kicking more morphine in as the fall rattled him enough for the eye pain to resurge. The rest of his body absorbed the trauma relatively well. A few gun shots littered the ground around his feet as he rose, Another one tearing across his right thigh in a burning flesh wound.

He sprinted away, a slow sprint for him. If he ran too quickly it would be easier for outside eyes to determine what augment had visited this night. Once he was far enough from the building, he turned into a side alley and went full on speed, zig-zagging through the maze of dark corridors and neon lighting.

Cangwu

Ivarest Apartments


Ry had been unable to reach Merek for almost two minutes now. He double and triple checked his gear around the sofa, checking for malfunctions, ignoring what he knew was a disruptor blast that had hit his agent. A few tears trickled down his face, it could only mean his friend had been caught. His mind turned to death as a result instead of capture. Another coughing fit set in, an ounce of blood projected from his mouth into the face cover. Closing his eyes in mental and physical pain, Ry slammed his fists into the coffee table.

He received a call from the other line; Sami. Ry hadn't bothered telling her the comm link had went out.

"I got Merek and the target. He looks frickin' battered...mask is still intact. He needs medical attention. Why didn't you let me know he was out?"

"Sorry, I had some technical difficulties. Merek's line was buzzing back in.

"Difficulties might be an understatement. But...Merek and the target are alive at least." Sami spoke across the comm.

One second Sami. She seemed frustrated but let him go without any more hassle.

He activated Mere's line, putting Sami on hold. "Ry, does Sami know the comms went black?"

"I didn't have time to tell her, I was too busy thinking you were dead. It had been an emotional reaction, one he realized could have actually lead to Merek's death. Sami would be fully capable of attempting a rescue."[/i]

"Good. Don't mention it."

"Anything you want to let me in on?"

"I will say that this is the one time not working through HQ benefits us. Later." Ry wasn't used to the silent treatment. Something had gone horribly wrong in that building.

Setting

Characters Present

No characters tagged in this post!

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#, as written by Bosch
Mars.

Endeavour.

The Pale Blue Dot.


The club was throbbing as Nami Kano made her way though the packed and humid crowd. She felt the bass from the speakers move across her skin while the Cangwu Slim moved through her body. She loved coming to the PBD as it was the only place she felt a connection to other people. A real connection, a human connection that existed in the place augs, the net and tech could never touch.

The place where a smile and touch still meant something.

She felt eyes on her and enjoyed the attention, normally people didn’t give her second look. She was a programmer for BC and usually dressed very demurely. The weekend was her only chance to be who she wanted to be and what she wanted to be was a predator.

She didn’t notice him at first, he was standing by the bar sipping a tall glass of something green. He wasn’t dressed like anyone else in the place, he was a little too formal. A little too straight laced for the PBD. He seemed to be just watching the crowd and not paying close attention to anyone in particular. His eyes lazily drifted across the room and landed on Nami for a second before continuing on.

Nami felt like she had been slapped. No second glance, not even a lingering appreciative stare. She watched as the man turned faced the bar. Abruptly a very muscular man stood in front of her blocking her view.

“Hey, wanna dance?”

Nami looked up at the man and saw his drunken grin. He wasn’t attractive and was sweating from the exertion of dancing. She shrugged and started sway in time to the music all the same though. She got lost in the music for a period and the only thing that pulled her back was a sideways glance at the bar while her head rested on the muscular man’s shoulder. The man at the bar was watching again.

He caught her eye and nodded almost imperceptibly in her direction.

She perceived it though, it excited her that in a room full of people she was the only one to see the gesture. It felt like a secret bond. Nami pushed herself away from the muscular man. She fluttered her hand in a wave and walked away. The guy didn’t seem too worried as he just turned around and kept dancing.

The man’s face was severe in its beauty, thin and angular. He wasn’t visibly auged but Nami knew that meant nothing. Nami approached the bar and stood beside the tall man. He didn’t acknowledge her so she played along.

“Evening. What can I get fo...”

“A Ventro.” Nami said to the Synth bar tender who nodded and set about making the drink. “With ice!” She called after the Synth you gave her a salute to show she had heard her.

She returned seconds later and set the drink in front of Nami.

Nami paid and turned around, the man was watching the dancers again. They were silent in the din of the club for a moment.

“I like to watch them dance.” He said finally.

“Most people go to clubs to dance, not watch.” Nami said.

“I know, but most people don’t dance well.”

“Then why watch?”

“Because every so often someone comes along who’s good and it’s worth it.” He nodded in the direction of a man near the middle of the dance floor who was spinning and flipping in time to the music. “That man is good.”

Nami looked towards the man and had to agree he moved well even if it was enhanced with augmentations.

“So what did you see when you where watching me dance?”

“Who says I was watching you?”

Nami had blundered into a verbal trap and felt her cheeks redden. Her pale skin meant she did this at the drop of a hat.

The man looked at her with a pair of large brown eyes and smiled before returning his attention to the dance floor.

“I saw... I saw that you were one of the few people who actually touched their partner. You wrapped your arms around that man. Most people don’t do that. The people that do though are still dancing together. You left your partner easily. I guess that shows you didn’t know him.”

“I didn’t.”

“The way you danced though implied you did. I’d say you work a very impersonal job so you come to places like this where you can connect with people in a physical way in a safe place.” He nodded towards the bouncers at the entrance of the club.

Nami processed for a second before speaking. “So what are you... a dance psychiatrist?”

The man smiled. “No I just work an impersonal job so I come to places like this to connect with people. Takes one to know one.”

The man took a sip of his drink and as he set it down Nami pulled him into a kiss.

“Do you want to get out of here?”

“Sure.” The man replied with a smile.

They made their way out of the PBD and onto the streets of Endeavour. The man hailed a VTOL and they bundled in.

“I’m Nami.” Nami said as she pulled him into another kiss.

“I’m Vincent.” Vincent said as he pulled away after.

#

Mars,

Endeavour,

Coleman Tenement Building,

Room 134.


Frank was standing in the middle of the small apartment waiting for the arrival of Eckhard and Mags. Apparently the mission had been successful but Eckhard had woken the neighbourhood. Decker was concerned that Eckhard had been made but Anna had been in contact with Ry who assured her there had been a simple technical fault and nothing more.

A knock at the door pulled Frank out of his thoughts. He pulled out his revolver and approached the door. His Augmented eyes pinged that Eckhard was on the other side of the door. He opened the door and Eckhard silently entered. He dropped Mags gently in the middle of the room before turning to Decker.

“No problems?” Decker asked.

Eckhard just shook his head.

“Good. You’re off the clock now, I can deal with this.”

Eckhard shrugged and left the room. He closed the door behind him as Frank pulled on a simple balaclava and woke Mags.

Frank wasn’t going hurt her. He’d been on the receiving end of that sort of thing and it turned his stomach. The Balaclava was simply a prop. Mags slowly awoke and immediately began screaming.

After a long moment Frank was able to calm her. He offered food and water. After Mags had eaten she finally started to speak.

“I didn’t think you’d come for me.”

“Lose end.” Frank said going with it.

“Why though, I don’t know anything and I wouldn’t have said anything if I did.” Mags said dejectedly.

“Hauser has gone to ground and we need to find him.”

“He’s just a Merc not a Terran, he got his money so odds are he’s getting as far away from Hanzo as possible.”

Decker winced under the mask. Mags had used the word Terran. A Terran was a member of Earth First. A terrorist organisation that sought to force Mars into providing more aid to Earth or allowing open borders between the two planets.

“The plan failed though. Hanzo lives which means Hauser doesn’t get paid.”

Mags let her head drop. “I don’t know where he is.”

“That’s ok. Why’d you target Hanzo?”

“I... you don’t know?”

Decker smiled and pulled off the balaclava.

“No I don’t.”

“Decker?!”

“Yeah, Mags it’s me. Here’s the deal. I got you admitting to terrorism here, I could turn you over to the MSS and get a real fat bounty, however if I do that the boys in blue won’t be as nice as me, they’ll make a lot of small busts off you info and finally stick a needle in your arm. I guarantee it.”

“You’re from Earth how can you...”

“You ever been to Earth?”

“No I...”

“Yeah thought not. It’s shit hole populated entirely by feral people. My people. Trust me when I say they would eat you alive.”

“So I shouldn’t help them because they’ve been disadvantaged? Not everyone can murder their way off world Frank.”

Frank smirked. “I’m not saying don’t help them. I’m saying your cause nearly introduced my face to a bullet. That makes me upset. I want to know why. Now I’m not egotistical enough to think you wanted me dead so why did you want Hanzo dead?”

“I’m not going to tell you, I’ll....”

“Stop just stop. You got three options here Mags. Tell me, Go to the MSS or I send RSI round to the nearest member of Earth First and have them do a job. I’ll make real sure EF knows the intel came from you.”

“And if I tell you?”

“You’ve seen my file Mags. You know I’ll play ball.”

Mags took a deep breath. “Alex took a contract... on Earth. It’s guarding some research facility, that’s all I know. So that made Interceptor a legit target to hit, Martian PMCs shouldn’t be interfering with Earth’s interests.”

“So the Terrans put a hit notice on her for that?”

“Yeah. All did was supply intel on your meeting and help Hauser.”

“And attempt to guide Alex and me into your gun line.”

Mags looked at the ground. “What are you going to do with me?”

Decker stroked his chin for a long second before contacting Anna on his communicator augment.

“Anna I need an MSS pick up. We have a member of Earth First here.”

Mags’ head fell into her hands.

#

The MSS arrived and picked up Mags. As soon as they left Decker pinged Alex Hanzo.

“What is Interceptor doing on Earth?” Frank said by way of introducing himself.

“So you took Mags?”

“Yeah and I’m glad I did. Interceptor is considered a legit target by Earth First now Alex and no doubt Mags has passed on a hell of a lot more information than our lunch meeting.”

“We’re fine Frank.”

“Really because from where I’m sitting it looks like Earth First and Dynamo are gunning for you. You can’t fight on Two front Alex.”

“I can handle it Frank. Mars is all sown up for PMCs and Earth is an emerging market. It’s a lot more stable than it used to be.”

Decker snorted a laugh. “Stable? It’s rickety as fuck and you it.”

“That’s always been your problem Frank. You play it too safe.”

“There’s taking risks and then there’s being stupid. What’s the contract on Earth?”

Alex sighed.

“It’s complicated.”

“Well explain it then.”

“Interceptor provides limited personnel for some Bauer-Chenmo locations on Earth. We were subcontracted by Wōden.”

“Locations? You mean Black sites?”

“I don’t know. Like I said we were subcontracted and Wōden runs the show. Our people do security and the occasional snatch mission, it’s a basic security deal.”

“Well it’s put you on Earth First’s radar.”

“We know. What did you find from Mags?”

“Hauser was in it for the cash, Mags was a true believer though. I handed her over to the MSS.”

“Really? I thought you’d... nevermind.”

“She’s a terrorist Alex, I’m sure the MSS will have better questions for her than we do.”

“I had no idea you were such a boy scout.”

“People change.”

“So she give you a location?”

“No, all her meets where digital. Double Blind Sec-Protocols as well.” Decker sighed.

“Send us the data we can...”

“Not a chance, Interceptor is compromised. RSI is going to take point of this.”

“Oh my hero. I’m sure the bounty on Terrans has nothing to do with it?”

“People don’t change that much Alex.”

#

Mars,

Cangwu,

Jade Moon Casino.


Trent Singh watched the security video that featured a man being chased though The Fenghuang Casino. Singh was the manager of the Fenghuang and a prominent member of the Green Dragons. What had occurred in his casino was something of an embarrassment but it had to be passed up the line.

He sighed and prepared to make contact with his boss.

#


Mars

Kaiser

RSI


“So what we got Anna.” Decker asked from his desk.

“Alessa and Case caught their bounty. Pretty neat operation to be honest. She dropped a hell of a lot of people with ‘jellybean’ rounds.”

“Being on the business end of one of those sucks, pretty funny if you’re pulling the trigger though.”

“Yeah Reynolds was still KO’d when the MSS lifted her.”

“Nice.”

“Sami and Marcus had a different story. Lewis escaped and Marcus took a bit of a beating.”

“Marcus?”

“According to the report he went to provide onsite support.”

“On site support eh? Casino Holiday on the RSI cred more like. Crafty little bastard.”

“No bounty on that one and you know how Eckhard’s job went.”

“Good. We’re still going over Mags data what’s keeping the business afloat this week?”

“Its a good one we got a big contract for some BG work and a gambler who welched on his bets.”

“Get the Data to the teams.”

#

Mars

Endeavour.

BC Industries Plaza.

15th Floor


Nami walked unsteadily as she was still feeling the effects of a weekend of excess and sat behind her desk. Her fingers danced across her desk and pulled up the information she had been working on the previous Friday. That’s when Vincent’s programme kicked in.

It was a simple enough piece of software to which he’d made some changes. The concept was simple and went back to the earliest days of computing.

Key logging software.

Vincent was able to pull information from every digital motion Nami made. Her position as a programmer at BC made her key strokes of great interest to the man the severe face.

For now he had to play a waiting game until he enough information to put the rest of his plan into action.

#


Jobs.


The Bodyguards



Principal- Timo Glock

Location- Titan.

Information- Timo Glock is a representative from the Asa Corp Mining conglomerate. He’s a suit plain and simple who rarely has occasion to go to an actual mine. The more aware among you however will know that not everything has been a barrel of laughs on Titan. The Asa Corp workers are attempting to unionise and the corporation doesn’t want that. This situation has lead to riots, the sabotage of company equipment and culminated in the murder of one Manager followed by security personnel firing into a crowd of rioters. Their casualties are currently unknown.

The current situation is the workers are in control of all Asa Corp’s ports save one. Asa Corp has requested help from other mining concerns on Titan who predictably told them to get bent. The vultures are already circling, Timo Glock is their last hope to settle this dispute.

Glock is a noted negotiator who has been used in disputes of this nature before. In a way he’s not dissimilar to a Merc or Bounty Hunter except he wears a suit and uses a stylus not a gun. He’s been hired by Asa to negotiate with the Workers on their behalf. Apparently he’s a pretty cool customer and has been to Earth frequently to settle this kind of dispute. Asa Corp offered him his own protection detail but he refused as he believes the presence of more Security personnel on Titan would be a very bad move.

He’s not an idiot though and understands that if he can’t talk his way out he’ll need someone to shoot their way out for him. That’s where you come in. He requires field and intelligence operatives to accompany him to Titan and watch his back while he conducts negotiations. Support staff will also have to travel to Titan as FTL comms have been knocked offline and as mentioned the other companies are not playing ball. Support staff will remain in orbit of Titan while the ground team are dropped to the surface by VTOL and brought to Asa Corp property. Most of which is under the control of the Workers save the management buildings which are controlled by the Security staff and management personnel. You will be dropped to the roof of the building by the VTOL which will then return to orbit.

Then it’s up to Glock and the workers what happens next. Our Client is Timo Glock we have no responsibility to Asa Corp. Therefore Glock always takes priority over their personnel and equipment however Glock is employed by Asa and would obviously prefer that collateral damage be avoided.

You will be transported to Titan via M gate. The vessel you are using is a Bluebird class Cargo Transport which will be piloted by Jenks. It’s a rental so try to return it in one piece. A RSI VTOL will be used for transport between the Bluebird and the surface.

It is highly recommended drones are used to keep an eye on the situation from the sky but as this is a mining outfit expect a lot of the action to take place under ground.

My Kingdom For a Horse.


Target- Benny Zidane

Location- Iazu

Information- Benny Zidane has a weakness for the horses. He’s something of a legend when it comes to the Virtual Nags and has been known to win and lose thousands of Creds in a single day. After a hot streak Benny felt qualified to make the leap to the real thing where he met even more success.

Until he didn’t.

Benny got in deep and deep is a relative term. To the kinds of people who can afford bet on and race real horses deep is very deep indeed. I’m pretty sure we’re talking Red Dragons here but I’m not sure which clan. In any case Benny is to be apprehended alive and delivered to a mysterious lady by the name of Ms Chow. That’s all we have about the contact.

Benny is a gambler through and through so he’s probably wired with some probability augs but they only work for basic probabilistic questions related to gambling games and probably won’t factor into the capture in anyway. He does have a weakness for Augs though so expect him to be somewhat jacked. He’s still a geeky gambler though under all that metal though.

His entourage isn’t. Benny also likes to spend his money of friends and the amount of cash Benny has been throwing around town has bought him many tough friends and female admirers. These people will be the problem as if you get between them and their pay day odds are you’re going to have a scrap on your hands.

This was an open contract so be aware Dynamo and Interceptor will most likely have people on this job as it’s an easy payday.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Graham Case Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova

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[co-written with Homesick_Angel]

Image



Mars
Kaiser Port
Bluebird class Cargo Transport


"You know the worst part about this particular job?" Graham asked aloud, partially hidden by a table full of portable desktops. Somewhere underneath the table Graham lay, connecting cords, wiring desktops, and making sure that their connections were good.

"Your constant complaining?" Alessa asked sarcastically, her fingers dancing through the sensitive innards of an assault rifle she had requistioned. It was an unfamilar rifle, she had to field strip and clean it to make absolutely certain that the insides were clearn, else run the risk of it jamming at a time when it really shouldn't. In the end, a clean gun might save all of their asses. It wasn't like in the cities of Mars where her Panther was enough to shut down any thugs, nor was it outside the Atmo-rings where a long-range sniper rifle was needed. Here, she was planning on sticking right next to their client, and personally ensure that he lived through this job if things turned sour.

A blonde head popped over the lip of the table and stared at her for a time before answering, "It's dragging everything we need onboard, and then it's the set up, and then it's synchronising with everyone-- and then when it's all over and the job's done, it's shutting everything down and dragging it back off the ship." Hazel eyes regarded her for one second more before they disappeared below the table again. Not only was he setting up his work station, but Marcus's as well, as he was off getting a check-up in the ship's infirmary. "Whatever, Marcus can set up his own personal preferences when he gets back," He continued to gripe.

"Look at it this way, Case. At least you have something to do for the trip," She said, slamming a component back into the rifle. The M-gate was monster of physics equations with words that Alessa didn't even know how to pronounce, much less know their meaning. All she really knew is they flew into one gate and ten hours later they pop out another one, while twenty hours elapsed outside. It was simplier if she tried not thinking about it too much.

Both Graham and Alessa was within the Cargo bay of a Bluebird class Transport. While Bluebird brings to mind the images of graceful feathery creatures dancing through the air effortlessly, the Bluebird was decidely not it's namesake unless you decided to paint it blue. It was a cargo transport with emphasis on the transport. The defenses were minimal, the speed was lacking-- but it did have enough room to fit a VTOL in the Cargo. Alessa brushed her hair back with a gloved hand and looked at the vehicle nearby. Graham had decided to take a corner of the bay for the Support team, so the VTOL was within sight at all times.

"So you see, the situation there is very...delicate. It would have escalated had Asa sent some of their personnel with me. The workers have their gripes," Timo Glock strolled in with Jenks beside him.

Timo was indeed a suit as Anna had professed. Although, these days, suits of anykind were more skin tight, and bows were out of fashion, for practical reasons, and to some extent sartorial ones. The man was of middle height, there was nothing extraordinary about him. However, it was possible that the man known as the "Negotiator" knew that, and he used it to his advantage.

Jenks, for his part, was in a grey skin tight suit, ready to slip into a chunk of armor if necessary, but he figured his augmentations worked pretty well.

"Again, thank you so much for doing this."

"No problem, Mr. Glock, it's what we do at RSI," Jenks glanced over at the pair, Graham and Alessa, letting a short and sly smile slip by. Brand positioning, if all went well, Timo Glock and Asa could add RSI onto their list of contacts.

"Do you think it would be necessary for...well, heavy weapons?" Jenks asked, "I understand that they're a bit disgruntled given the current situation."

Timo let a sigh escape, "Quite so," he calmly replied, "It would be best not to aggravate them, there have been multiple times in history when ambassadors or envoys have been killed for no reason. All the guns in the world wouldn't be able to save us. At your discretion, sir."

Jenks nodded before following up with another "Do you know what you're expecting?"

The negotiator shook his head, "No. They mean business. And I intend to do business with them."

Jenks nodded once more, it was a good enough answer for him. They continued to converse as they entered the winding corridor that led to the bridge, leaving the two RSI operatives to themselves. Privacy eluded Graham and Alessa as Sami exited a nearby corridor, the metal blast door hissed to a close behind her.

"Hey guys, need any help?" Sami spotted Graham working on some wires while Alessa was managing her rifle, or perhaps fondling it.

Sami expected as much from one of the best marksmen, or markswomen that RSI had to field.

"No," Alessa answered simply. "This is something I have to do myself," Not that she didn't trust the woman, but if the weapon misfired, then it would be on her head and her head alone. "See if Graham has anything for you, or at least take his attention off of complaining," she said, never taking her eyes off the rifle.

At the mention of his name, Graham's head popped up from under the table. He took a moment to register what was being asked, "Oh! Hey Sami. Yeah, you got your goggles on you? We can go ahead and sych them with the desktops. I want a visual feed so we can see what you see in the field-- and we'll link up your communicator while we're at it."

"Hmm, oh yeah," she immediately unlatched one of her suit's waist compartments holding her goggles.

And she walked over to the tech and handed it to him, letting him manage all the tech components as she admired his work. She wished she could half the things that they did, but then again, she enjoyed being a field operative for a reason.

Graham then hefted himself into a nearby chair, and his fingers began tapping away at the console. As he tapped, he tried to make small-talk. "So what do you think about Mister Timo?"

"Not much," she said absentmindedly.

She hadn't really read up much on his profile, and at first glance he was everything Anna said he would be.

His eyes turned toward the blast doors Jenks and Timo had left though and then shrugged. "He reminds me of my dad, honestly. Maybe it's just the suit, but he's a business man too. Though you wouldn't see my dad setting foot on Titan unless he absolutely needed to," He said.

He picked up her goggles and began the syncing process, a few more button presses and an image appeared on the desktop in front of him. He put her goggles in front of his face and looked through them at Sami, noting the mirror image on his desktop. Nodding his approval, he turned around and spoke into the communicator, an echo reverberating back through the console.

He turned around with a frown and handed the goggles back. "The volume is too low, and there's a bit of reverb going on. But it's nothing I can't fix," he finished, wiping the image from screen. He would pull it back up when he needed it. "It's all good, now I won't have to do it later," he said with a nod.

His attention then drifted back to Timo and his thoughts on him. "He might seem stiff-- but he's clever. You don't do what he does for long without being sharp as a tack. A lot of people in our work don't like to negotiate and a suit can be just as dangerous as a soldier," he said, pointing at the nearby Alessa.

"And it's our job to make sure he stays sharp," Alessa spoke up, finally looking away from her rifle. The weapon was once again fully operational and put together.

"I'm going to be glued to his shoulder while the negotiations are taking place, Rouvelle. What do you plan on doing?" She asked, leaning the rifle up against the nearby wall.

Sami gave a good look at the woman, she seemed as though she was ready for war, and here Sami was in the dockingbay unarmed. She simply had not unpacked her belongings in her habitation unit, a dank little cell like space for sleep. She looked back at Graham, he had made some good points. They made sense to her because that was who she was, and she was never a killer.

"Honestly," she returned to Alessa, "I don't know yet. I don't even know why the bossman wanted me," she paused,"Me and Marcus here."

Her partner was in the infirmary, it was one among many trips that he had taken ever since what happened in Cangwu. The physicians said he had some heavy internal bleeding, but it didn't appear so when she found him sitting in an alley with just a bit of blood under his lip.

She would often look at Marcus and wonder why he wasn't the field operative instead, he could take a punch, she was sure of that. Of course, whatever it was, they slipped up. He was not dead at least, one of the few pieces of good news.

"So besides guarding the guy, what's going on here?"

"Who knows?" Alessa said with a shrug, "He's got to be paying a hefty price for the boss to send us on this little field trip," she said with a small grin.

Graham glanced at her and then back to Sami, "She's not wrong, we've got access to some serious hardware for this mission. The Bluebird, the VTOL, we've even got access to some drones in the area. It could be that Timo's just covering his bases, or maybe he knows something we don't. Let's hope it's not the latter," He said, leaning back against his chair.

"But," Alessa provided, "Glock's the one paying, so our first and only concern is him and his safety."

"Yeah, but it doesn't hurt to be a little curious," he said, leaning forward back onto the desktop. A few keystrokes later and he was brought the information he was looking for. "Titan's main occupation is mining, so the bulk of the company is underground. You're to be dropped on the roof of the Asa office's, but where the meeting's being held... That's something only Mister Timo knows."

"But if I were the workers, then I'd push for the meeting to be in the mines. That's their home turf, and they know it-- we don't. And with the companys' short leash on their workers, I'd want every possible advantage on my side," Alessa said.

"This is all conjecture, of course. It could be a simple cut and dry talk in the end," Graham reminded.

"You make it sound like there's going to be a firefight," Sami looked at Alessa.

Old habits die hard, she guessed.

"I mean, he's nothing more than a negotiator, right?" she asked.

"That doesn't necessarily mean that this is going to go according to his plan," another voice interjected.

Sami turned to catch Marcus coming in from another corridor. His bruises had subsided, he had a stitch bandage just below his left eye where Charlie Lewis had clocked him the week before. All other wounds were in his torso, covered from the eye by a black jacket.

"Marcus?"

He looked at her with a pair of odd eyes, "What?"

He had not changed, "So what did the doctor say?" Sami piped, eager for the news as ever.

"He says," he paused and cleared his throat, "That it's okay for me to walk, but that I should not over-exert myself," he ended his certain tone with a pause that went hand in hand with a certain look aimed at Sami.

"You make it sound like I fell out of a VTOL," he snapped, "Anyway...is everything good to go? When are we leaving port?"

Sami exhaled and shook her head, she knew for sure he had not changed.

The blast door leading to the bridge slid open with the crunch of Jenks' boots, the team looked at him.

"Now," his lips moved, but no sound came as he waved them in his direction.




Bridge

Jenks was at the front, managing the navigation console. Before joining RSI, he previously worked as a ship pilot and navigator for merchant freighters. It was either that or security detail, both of which he became proficient and useful enough for Decker to accept him.

Timo stood near the central table, which was a giant holographic panel with net access that bathed his face in a cyan glow. The techs were at their respective consoles with their field operatives beside them. Jenks set the ship on a suitable cruising vector toward the M-Gate, where the ship's credentials would be scanned before it was allowed through the stream. Then he stood up and joined Timo at the central table, where he tapped the interface and brought up the files Anna had sent them. The table immediately beamed to life, a giant three-dimensional box of pixels composed of light was formed by the table's projectors. Most cargo transports were not has sophisicated as this one. The Bluebird was not the newest, but it was fairly modern, by about one and half years. The newer models had sleeker interiors, all the wires and hubs completely covered by plating for aesthetic purposes more than anything.

The four sides of the box lit up with screens showing news reports and feeds, and a stock ticker rolling ceaseless at the bottom edge. Volume was muted though.

Alessa nudged Graham's shoulder and pointed out a name on the stock ticker, causing the man to grin to himself, "I see it, AI Models gained five points. Dad ought to be happy about that."

Sami watched the space from the side viewport, having never been on an interplanetary ship before in her life except once in her childhood, when she could not remember a thing. Now she was old enough to appreciate the glittering jewels that sat against the great drape that was a mix of ebony and velvet swirls. Sami quickly joined the two men at the table after she had enough time to contemplate the stars. Marcus swiveled around in his chair after he had finished adjusting his console's settings to suit his personal tastes.

"Alright, Mr. Glock, you have the floor," Jenks folded his arms.

"Right, um, so I'm sure you all have read the briefs. But let's freshen up a bit. Asa Corporation," he paused, "Is one of the largest mining conglomerates based in Mars with one of the largest mining operations in Titan."

Glock pressed a key on the table, and the screens immediately shifted to logos of Asa Corp. followed by a montage relating to the company, from short clips of the CEO and other executives supposedly touring mines to promotional advertisements.

"They have a lot to lose. Partially, I think fault lies with my superiors, they don't really understand conditions on Titan, and I would be lying if I claimed to know what it was like. Of course, this analysis is a story for another time."

"Asa doesn't really want to...how do I put this...lose," he exhaled slightly.

"The workers are probably dead-set on unionizing if they don't get what they want," he paused before continuing, "But then again, they could probably do so and get away with much more from Asa based on our current straits."

"I'm sure you're aware that they took over all of Asa Corp's ports, save one. Nevertheless, the operation has effectively shut down, which has taken a drain on Asa Corp assets. While the board of executives is trying to manage the situation back on Mars, the managerial and security staff of the Titan operation is holed up within their management offices, waiting for a reply from headquarters. They're probably surviving off of rats and other things that I do not wish to imagine. I kid though. They're armed, which would technically be against the law back on Mars, but Titan has a different set of rules."

The screens then faded out of the Asa Corp. montage and went to news footage of miners on strike with multiple headlines as Glock pressed another key before he continued.

"So far the situation has been, in a word...tense. Other corporations with operations in the sector such as Hybari Group and the Galilean Resources Combine are already licking their fangs and ready to pounce."

"It sounds like you've got a lot riding on this," Sami stated.

The negotiator nodded solemnly, "It's possible that the workers have already started arming themselves. And if I...if the negotiations fail...then this might become one of the largest mining strike or riot since the 2074 Iazu Strike. Workers were denied leave to grieve for the loss of loved ones."

"Just damned inhumane," Marcus muttered and shook his head, which drew a glance from Sami.

He knew what it was like, he used to be a miner on Mars, but he was under the employ of Neiro Resources. They treated their workers with some respect, at least compared to what he heard of Titan based operations.

"The landscape is full of mines, and the towns are full of miners. I suggest you be careful," his aims went to the women, "I can't make any guarantees aside from you'll get paid if I manage to get out of there alive, which is all I ask from you. The contract, which I hammered out myself with your boss Mr. Decker, stipulates that payment will be received upon my safe return to Mars. I'll try my best not to rile them, and I hope you do the same."

He nodded to Jenks and took a step back.

Alessa let her head lilt to the side as she spoke, "We're the bodyguards, you're the negotiator. Don't worry about us irritating them, you're the only one who's going to be speaking." She wasn't being paid to speak, only to make sure he didn't end up riddled with bullets. "I'm going to be right beside you during most of the talks and if things sound like they're starting to turn sour, we'll leave. We don't want to shoot our way out unless we absolutely have to."

"And I'll moniter the area around the offices via drones in the air." Graham added, "We'll also have a direct line to both of our field agents if anything unusual turns up. With luck, we'll have four sets of eyes on the meeting at all times."

"Why do you get to use the drones?" Marcus angled his head at Graham.

Sami scoffed, "Why does it matter who gets to use the drones?"

"Uh, it certainly matters. It matters very much. One man can't handle all of those drones," he fired back before he turned to Graham, "Don't be greedy."

"... I meant we?" Graham offered tentatively, before chuckling smoothly. Everyone wanted to play with the new toys.

Jenks shaking his head did not boost the negotiator's confidence much after Alessa mentioned the 'shoot their way out' scenario, the possibility of which seemed to increase steadily.

"I apologize, Mr. Glock, he's just normally like this, but you can trust in his professionalism."

Mr. Glock gave a hesitant nod.

Then the news feeds, which were live feeds, switched to a new story. The tagline of which was, 'Six Cangwu Casinos Pilfered."

As soon as he saw this, Marcus exhaled a 'son of a bitch' to all the synth newscasters.

"You'll get the bastard," Graham whispered to Marcus.

Marcus replied with a flippant sideways glance.

Alessa followed up by painting a grin on her face and giving her best it'll be fine shrug. "It's what you're paying us for. We have to consider all the possibilities, no matter how unsavory. It may all turn out fine, and all this planning was just excess. Either way, it's better to be overprepared than under."

"Alright, plan is simple, Sami, Alessa, you guys are with me on the ground. I'll be piloting the VTOL. Can I trust you boys to keep this ship intact while we're gone?" Jenks' eyes went from Marcus to Graham before resting on Marcus.




The jump through the Martian gate terminal to the Titan gate terminal was a tricky one. Ships had never been lost in M-gate travel, but there was always a first in a world that seemed unbound, or rather, unexplained by the laws of physics. Nevertheless, time remained the same on the Bluebird cargo transport, and ten hours would be the estimated travel time within the field, but with twenty hours elapsing in real space.

There were few things to do on a cargo ship. Sleep, eat, and wait.

Marcus, for one, was snoozing away in his compartment, still resting the bruises and internal bleeding he had incurred from the previous bounty.

Timo had retired to his quarters, resting his mind for a longer journey up ahead. The struggle in a coming heated negotiation required as much.

Jenks was in the cargo bay checking his equipment and the Penguin LT-82 VTOL transport that he would later pilot.

Sami found herself in the bridge sitting with her legs outstretched over one of the terminals, half-awake. All she could see out of the viewport was pure blackness, she had never been in space before. The void seemed to frighten her, it was something unnatural and hard to understand. She was more familiar with skyscrapers, run down slums, holo boards, drinks, maglev and tube trains. Now, she had no interest in the starless night, but she found the bridge soothing to sleep in. The silent hums, the whispering whirs, and the intervaled beeps all synchronized into a dull, yet pleasant digital lullaby.

She was nearly about to drool had the nearby blast door not hiss open. Jenks stepped in with a mug, he seemed to be lax. He looked like he just came out of the shower, he was in a loose fitting jumpsuit, not like his earlier combat vest. Sami's eyes flitted to alertness, but Jenks signaled her to continue sleeping with a wave of his hand. By that point, she was already awake. Jenks sat in the chair closest to the forward viewport. No stars, just the glowing terminals.

He took a solitary sip.

"Is that beer?" Sami asked, pulling herself up to a sitting position.

"God no. I'm not Marcus."

They both laughed.

"Couldn't sleep?"

Jenks managed a mild smile, "I don't know, can't really tell if it's day or night," he thumbed toward the view port.

He continued, "Imagine if we never get out of this...place."

"I'd rather not," Sami reclined again.

"So how's Marcus?"

"He's...a dumbass."

"What happened?"

She sighed, "I don't know. I guess we were unprepared. We...I guess I should say he found out the hard way that our target had augmented legs."

Jenks's surprise was capped by a slight gaping mouth.

"He's fine though, they fixed him up. It wasn't too bad, but the guy slipped out of our hands."

Jenks nodded and sipped.

Sami yawned, "So how long before we reach Titan?"

Jenks checked the monitor, "We've got another four hours," he took another sip.




"Red Sand Investigation," Jenks spoke through the comm.

There was a long pause on the other end as the group sat patiently waiting in the bridge.

The orbital space station revolved around Titan with a central space elevator connected to a planetary platform located outside the capital city atmo ring.

"Alright you are clear for entry. Enjoy your time on Titan."

The cargo transport cruised to a point of stationary orbit above the moon, one that was assigned by an AI onboard the M-Gate control station.

"Alright everyone suit up," as Jenks said this, Graham retched over his screen.

"That is not pretty," Marcus grimaced, all across the board the reaction was the same.

Graham fell over clutching his sides. The entire episode ended with Jenks and Marcus carrying the unconscious tech to his quarters. Alessa looked visibly distraught from what Sami could tell.

"Hey he's gonna be alright, what happened?"

She was verbally responseless as she shook her head and shrugged.

Minutes later, the men came back, Jenks' face was grave.

"I don't think he'll be joining us," he turned to Marcus, "I guess you're gonna be our eyes and ears."

Marcus nodded. With Graham out of commission for the time being, he was left with managing all the screens, a task that would require more focus than he would have liked. All they had to do was get this guy out safely, and they could get paid. That was all that mattered, it would not be too hard.

"Okay, let's hope everything works out," Jenks turned to Glock.

Minutes later, Marcus saw the VTOL transport descend onto Titan from one of the cameras located on the side of the ship. Once it was out of sight his fingers raced across the haptic interface, he was activating the surveillance drones that were stowed aboard the transport.

The screen was then divided into eight smaller screens, four of which were devoted to the drones, the other four were monitoring those onboard the ship.




"The signal seems to be fine, drones activated. I've sent the coordinates of the Asa Corp headquarters to your console. I'll keep the comm closed for now."

"Copy that," Jenks said, switching off a button in the cockpit. Then he activated the ship's announcement system, "Alright, we'll be touching down on the roof of the main offices in five minutes. From there, everybody knows what they need to do."

Minutes later the VTOL thrusts whipped the air around the landing pad as it touched down. Several armed guards in full black combat vests were waiting for them. It seemed the situation had gotten very tense. Jenks stayed back while Sami, Alessa, and Glock made their way with a security detail to a tube that would send them to the core of the management offices.

"We apologize that Mr. Praxus could not personally greet you," one of the security guards told them, trying to make small talk.

Orek Praxus was the director for Asa Corporation mining operations on Titan. Beyond that, Timo Glock did not know much more about the man. They had a few correspondences, mainly Timo giving him advice and tempoary solutions on how to deal with the disgruntled workers.

They entered the tube and would not see the artificial rays of sunlight for a good five minutes as the tube transported them at a speed of mach 1. The doors slid open upon their arrival within an atrium that served as the lobby of the office building. Their clicking steps on the black marble floor were met by the director as he exited his office. He was a tall man, vain, pompous, the archetypical image of a corporate bureaucrat. Sami and Alessa stood at a distance as Timo and the director talked while the guards dispersed to their stations. The office building looked like a fort under siege given the number of armed guards that Sami spotted on the inside.

Add that to the number of guards that Marcus scoped out on the outside via the eyes on the drones and they could conclude that it truly was a tense situation.

Timo, Alessa, and Praxus disappeared into a conference room leaving Sami to do whatever she wanted such as wandering the premises, which she did.

The few pieces of flora that adorned the interior of the sleek and sterile management environment were fed by automated streams of water that were connected directly to a fountain of water. She danced around until she exited the building and walked around outside. That was where all the commotion was. A large crowd of workers, waving holoboards with the usual signs, 'Down With Asa!', 'No Union, No Miners!', 'Stop Digging Into Our Wages!', and then there were a few that were radical, which was subjective, like "Go Drill Yourself!."

They clearly outnumbered the guards, but they had not broken into the compound yet probably because they were cowed by the automatic weapons in the hands of the security.

"Psst, Sami," her comm buzzed.

"Marcus? What is it?"

"I did some snooping at several of the closest surface mining sites. The miners are packing heat, most likely illegal. Not sure who's supplying them, not like it matters, but if negotiations break down, be ready to get the hell out of there."

"Got it. Anything else?"

"No, I'll keep you posted."




An Hour Later

She was unsure what it was, but as soon as Marcus rang in yelling, she knew she had to run. The voices clashed over the comm for dominance.

"Where's Timo?" asked one voice.

"I got him! Is the VTOL ready?" another replied.

"Yeah, engines are starting. Sami where are you?"

Was that Alessa? No, that was Jenks, he was the pilot.

"I'm on the third floor of the building with the landing pad. I'll be there in five, no, wait, seven minutes maybe."

"Alright good," the storm of voices had finally calmed as Jenks sighed, "Son of a bitch. What...happened?"

"She fired a couple of shots." That was Marcus.

"Yeah, I did, but that was after they fired. We were fucking lucky to get out of there alive."

"What about the director and the managers?" Jenks asked.

"Oh them? They're fucking dead. The miners killed everybody. Like I said before, we were lucky to get out alive."

Alessa said that with a certain nonchalance that was calming yet disturbing all the same. Maybe it was the kind of demeanor one had when they were running for their lives while trying to figure a way out of a corner full of barbed wires, or maybe it was the comm.

"I don't know who started it-"

"If I may," that was...Glock?

He remained calm. Sami supposed that was natural for him as he was a negotiator, and situations like these were almost his lifeblood. If he had any ounce of fear he kept it well hidden with the way he dispatched his message.

"I believe it was Director Praxus. From the moment I laid eyes on the man, I knew we were in for trouble. I honestly tried my best, but I think the miners were already gone by the time we got here," he sighed, "Oh well, Asa Corp's a large company, one operation on Titan wouldn't mean much to them."

"How can you be so sure?" Sami felt an urge of curiosity behind his line of thought.

"They're Asa. One of the largest. In a couple of years, if we moved to another moon, they'd probably be the first ones on it," Marcus answered.

"Precisely," Timo confirmed.

"But what about the guards and other workers?"

Timo sighed, "Let's just..." he paused, "I don't know."




It was going to be another ten hour trip back to Mars, but at least they were alive and were going to get paid Sami thought as she boarded the VTOL. The ship dusted off, leaving behind the towers of stainless glass windows flecked with silver.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins

0.00 INK

Iazu

Monsoon Cuisine


Merek chewed a piece of chicken tiki masala, an Indian inspired dish from back on Earth. The place was rather tasty altogether. It was midafternoon and they had the buffet running. Everything had a ton of spice in it, giving a kickstart to his system.

You're never going to believe this Merek.

What's up? He scooped up plain white rice with the masala sauce, putting it in his mouth. One of the far overlooked benefits of an internal aug was that eating and talking came from different places. It made multitasking convenient.

An easy payday just got easier. Merek had been chilling in Iazu, laying low for Ry to get a bead on their target. Benny Z was to be delivered to Miss Chow. It sounded simple enough.

How's that?

He has quite a little entourage. Apparently one of his girls wanted exclusive rights to him and he threw her out on the street. She is giving up his location for 10% of the take.

Fuck that, get the location and we'll stiff her. He knew Ry could find a crack somewhere and locate Ben, it was a matter of time.

Merek. She already gave the location up to Dynamo and they took the deal, funds transferred up front. I tried cracking the comm but it was rather well protected, one of their pros must be signing up for this one. Take the deal or lose it. Now that was a complication, Merek thought. He couldn't let Dynamo get the jump.

Alright . . . send the damn money from the slush fund, I imagine Interceptor will be on the run for it soon as well, then this little bitch makes out with what is really 30% for no work.

Smart girl if you ask me.

Merek smirked. She was greedy, that's for damn sure.
------------
Benny was running the table. Texas Hold'em poker was the game, 10,000 credit buy in was the stake for each man. Winner takes 40k; loser doubles their money with 20k. It started with six of them, he'd taken two out already an hour and a half in. His chip stack dwarfed the competition. Taking into account his internal augs that helped with variables and probability, and you could give the 40k to him already. It was a nice, lower-stakes friendly game of poker among fellow scumbags.

The game was taking place in the Kennison family basement. It was a high class neighborhood, the Kennison's were money launderers and accountants. Gambling without a license was illegal, as well as the drugs at the table.

"Come here girl!" Benny called out to one of his two female companions on the side. Natasha came swaying over, wide hips bouncing side to side. When she reached him he threw her torso on top the table lightly, spanking her on the ass. She yelped in delight and he squeezed hard.

"Before the next hand, who wants to do a line of Vizz off Nat here?" None of the guys seemed to mine. He lined up the Vizz, one hell of a stimulant, on her lower back and ass. They all took turns snorting and turned back to the game. Benny sent Nat back with a kiss and thumbed her nose.

Gretchen had been his favorite, despite her horrible name. She was the youngest of them all, barely legal if he recalled right. The girl had fallen for him and gave an ultimatum before they came in the Kennison house. If she couldn't have him to herself, she was out.

Well, the bitch was out. Benny laughed, wondering what she was doing after getting thrown out on the street. Other than the players and their ladies, the rest of the players' entrouages were waiting out in the first room. Hell, there was something like a total of 14 bodyguards chilling. The two losers sat at the bar off to the side, chatting with Donald Kennison, heir to the family throne if his ancient father ever died. Rumor was Ted Kennison had a state of the art longevity aug that helped keep the body running.

The dealer dealt the next hand. Benny got pocket aces, the odds went through the roof. Time to take someone else out.
------------------
Merek pulled up in a taxi, money transferring to the cabbie as he got out, down the street from the Kennison household. As he started strolling toward the family home, another taxi pulled up. Out of it stepped a long-legged, graceful redhead.
The same one that had watched him pull a bounty a few months back, leaving the threat of a future meeting. She saw him as she got out of the vehicle, smiling. Luckily she did not have her gigantic disruptor with her. After the disaster that happened at his last mission, the last thing he wanted was a nerve-rattling blast to his augs.

"Fancy meeting you here." Her hand was at her hip, caressing the holster of her weapon.

Merek smiled at her. "You know I'm quicker than you."

Her eyes twinkled back at him, "Quicker maybe, but more accurate? Maybe we should find out?" Neither of them brought an arsenal to this job. Both had small caliber handguns, different versions of grenades and flashbangs, as well as some melee weapons. She had a damn mace hanging from her belt. He had brought a collapsable metal rod with him.

A third vehicle showed up, dropping another figure off. He was a thinner man, hair graying at the temples. He only half stepped out of the vehicle, waiting.

The woman from Dynamo turned to him, "Who the hell are you with?"

"Interceptor Solutions. Name is Wyatt."

"Well fuck me." Merek said.

He and the woman prepared to draw on each other and fire, until Wyatt raised a hand, meter still running on the taxi. "I have a proposal."

They turned to him.

"We all have the same tip. Who the hell knows if some smaller collection agency may head here too. There's 60k of unlicensed gambling money in their right now, if Gretchen is to be believed. The payday from Ms. Chow is what, 25k? We all help each other, one of us gets to take the perp in, the other two get money from the table. All three parties win."

"You think this wildcat is going to take that deal?" Merek interjected. A long pause followed.

"I think I can take that deal. I get the Chow delivery though." She frowned, "And I get 3k or so from the poker take. Just to be fair." Astute, the Dynamo girl didn't want to be shorted on any end.

"And how the hell don't we know you're going to just shoot us in the back? You work for Dynamo after all." Merek shot at her.

Wyatt brows went taught, waiting for her response.

"Boys, I march to the beat of my own drum. Dynamo is damn lucky to have me, and if they want to keep it that way, I can do what I want."

What is going on here Merek? Pretty risky if you ask me.

Ry, I don't think I'll be needing much more from you on this. Keep my head empty unless it is an emergency.
-------------------------------------
Carl sat on the plush sofa, sipping at his Long Island. Martian Soccer was on TV. The bodyguards had placed bets on the game, no lack of gambling anywhere on the premises. He was here as a guard for Mr. Martin Kasdale, a B movie actor in Martian cinema. He had once been A-List until his drug abuse sent him down to B-level, now he enjoyed having a guard to crush the paparazzi.

Then he saw the object come flying through the air down into the middle of the room.

Most of the hooligans stared at it in curiosity. Carl had served in the Martian Militia, graduating with high honors. It was a fucking stun bomb, one that assaulted the ears and eyes with a bright flash and one hell of a concussion blast. He dove over the back of the sofa, covering his ears as it went off. Even with his ears protected his ears were ringing.

He rose, seeing half of the guys collapsed to the ground, others dazed. One of the serving girls was caught in the middle of the blast, unconscious on the ground. A small man turned to him and smiled from the stairway, obviously having an aug that helped him resist the blast. Then his smile dropped as three figures descended down the stairs.

If only one of them had come down the room, they would have gotten swarmed, even with the flash bang. A lot of the guards had risen, though weakened, but the figures mowed through them. A female had a large mace in her hands, clubbing men unconcious or liquidating their knees. The thin guy of the group, who looked like anyone's grandpa, shot tranq darts into as many guards as he could in rapid succession. The third figure hopped down the stairs with a mask that had a skull painted on it, catching the small man in the face with a rod, splitting his nose and sending him into the carpet.

The Kennison's had taken all their firearms and locked them up. Carl, he had other plans. He pressed a button on the outside of his left calf, as a crater sized hole opened up on his thigh. The pistol inside was something of his own creation, holding a toxin inside that would seize the heart up.

Halfway through the crowd of men, with bones shattering and skin shredding, the last half were less affected by the blast. All the men could do was earn their money and hopefully give their employers enough time to flee out the back door. The guy who had been sitting next to him, Orson, landed a solid hook to the thin man's face, knocking him over a chair. The skull faced figure brought the rod up between Orson's legs, likley bursting a testicle from the horrendous roar that came out.

Carl raised the pistol and fired, hitting the red-headed woman in the chest. He saw the skull turn to him, and in what he swore was less than a second he was staring right into the man's gray, lifeless eyes. A blade had pierced him through the chest. Carl looked down and saw the enemy's elbow digging deep into his chest. The man drew the blade out and Carl fell to the ground, bleeding out.
----------------------------------
After stabbing the bearded man through the heart, Merek turned to see a man bringing his foot down toward the female's face in a stomp. He drew his pistol and blew the man's foot off, a spray of blood showering her face and the ground below as the target fell to the ground, clutching his leg. They had been going non-lethal through this mission, the bearded man broke that pact. The remaining men surrendered, falling to their knees and placing their hands on their head.

Wyatt looked to the door, "The target!"

"You go." Merek walked over to the woman, seeing her face contort in pain as her chest spasmed.

"What are you doing man? Dynamo isn't beyond killing us for one cred. She knew the risks."

"Get the fucking target Wyatt, what the hell are you waiting for." The cycle of violence had to stop somewhere. He saw Wyatt run into the next room, his tranq gun going off. Merek grabbed the woman by the back of the head, rising it off the ground and putting his face in front of hers.

"If your internal aug is giving you any information, now would be the time to let me know if I can help you."

"Ov . . . . ose."

"What?"

"Over . . . dose." He grabbed the gun from the dead man's hand, checking the rounds out. It looked like they were laced with drugs inside. An overdose. He smiled down at her. "This isn't 100% to work, but I might be able to save you." He reached into his utility belt for one of his adrenaline refills, stabbing the needle down into her heart, releasing the rush.
She seized up again and he held her down. One of the men who had surrendered ran for the door, Merek let him go. The rest of the guys who weren't too beaten to get up on their own kept running.

The guy on the floor, bleeding out of his footless leg, called out. "You going to help me too man?"

"Go fuck yourself." The Dynamo agent seemed to be recovering.

Merek rose, joining Wyatt in the next room. A face he recognized as the owner of the home, Donald Kennison, sat at the table, tranquilized along with a few others.

"A few of them made it out the back exit, Benny Z nowhere to be found. Chalk it up as a loss, we'll get another shot at him." Wyatt reloaded his weapon. "The girl dead?"

"I think she'll be okay." Through the backdoor was a long hallway, leading to a staircase that went up into the backyard. There were a few doors to rooms before the stairs.

"Wyatt, come here." The older man joined him in the hall.

"Benny Z is a gambler by heart, and he knows the odds. But, he still gets into deep shit betting when he wouldn't. That means he likes to go against the odds."

"And?"

"Odds are we would come running out here and chasing whatever fucks ran out the back door. A gambling man might be in one of these bedrooms." Footsteps sounded behind them, as the Dynamo agent was back on her feet, though visibly worn.

"Kick these doors down then." She said.

Benny Z was in the third room they checked, clenching a woman's mouth so hard to keep her quiet it appeared as if he suffocated her.

Merek turned to the woman, "All yours."

"Please guys, I've got 60k in winnings out there, it is yours if you let me go."

Wyatt chuckled. "It is already ours son." He shot the man with the tranquilizer, nodding to the woman. He went and retrieved his take, leaving.

Merek watched her try to lift the man over her shoulder, but she was too exhausted. "Need some help with that?" She glared back.

He helped her by carrying the guy to the transport her tech had waiting for her outside. Similarly, Ry had one waiting for him.

"Don't expect me to say thanks."

"Damn, that's fucked up." He laughed at her stubborness, "At least a name?"

"Claire." She threw the body into the back of the vehicle. "But, at least I won't kill you in the future. Plus, Red Sands is okay in my book." She stared off in the direction that Wyatt's transport had gone. "I would have let you die, you know."
He let it sink in for her. "I'm a killer, have been all my life. I'd say I know damn well better than you how to kill." Claire offered no argument. "But giving life, now that is a real thrill. Killing deadens me, ironically enough." He walked over to his transport, hearing her rush up behind him.

Merek turned quickly, anticipating an attack. She laughed. "Take this." It was the brown bag that held her 5k from the gambling fund. She found a nonverbal way to say thanks.

Claire left in her transport as Merek got into his, motioning the pilot to fly him back to Cangwu.

What was that? Got a little romance brewing?

I'm not the romantic type Ry. If I ever do have a serious relationship, it would have to be with someone from the same lifestyle. I can't see myself dating a businesswoman or a single mom. He thought about it a moment. She reminds me of what a grown up Eron would look like.

Eron was one of the first children who died in the Godiva experients, also a red-head.

You and that redhead weakness. That woman is dangerous.

Look at my dossier and tell me that Interceptor and Dynamo don't think the same thing of me.

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View All » Add Character » 12 Characters to follow in this universe

Character Portrait: Frank Decker
Character Portrait: Anna Hassan
Character Portrait: Alex Hanzo
Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle
Character Portrait: Marcus Sun
Character Portrait: Graham Case
Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova
Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard
Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins
Character Portrait: Arnold Hauser
Character Portrait: Vincent Mishin

Newest

Character Portrait: Vincent Mishin
Vincent Mishin

The Escapee

Character Portrait: Arnold Hauser
Arnold Hauser

The Rogue

Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins
Ryia Hawkins

The Unsound

Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard
Mr. Eckhard

The Spectre

Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova
Alessa Sikova

The Sniper

Character Portrait: Graham Case
Graham Case

The Tech

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun
Marcus Sun

The Tiger

Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle
Sami Rouvelle

The Runner

Character Portrait: Alex Hanzo
Alex Hanzo

The Competition

Character Portrait: Anna Hassan
Anna Hassan

The Brains

Trending

Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle
Sami Rouvelle

The Runner

Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard
Mr. Eckhard

The Spectre

Character Portrait: Alex Hanzo
Alex Hanzo

The Competition

Character Portrait: Vincent Mishin
Vincent Mishin

The Escapee

Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins
Ryia Hawkins

The Unsound

Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova
Alessa Sikova

The Sniper

Character Portrait: Arnold Hauser
Arnold Hauser

The Rogue

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun
Marcus Sun

The Tiger

Character Portrait: Graham Case
Graham Case

The Tech

Character Portrait: Anna Hassan
Anna Hassan

The Brains

Most Followed

Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard
Mr. Eckhard

The Spectre

Character Portrait: Frank Decker
Frank Decker

The Boss

Character Portrait: Vincent Mishin
Vincent Mishin

The Escapee

Character Portrait: Graham Case
Graham Case

The Tech

Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova
Alessa Sikova

The Sniper

Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins
Ryia Hawkins

The Unsound

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun
Marcus Sun

The Tiger

Character Portrait: Anna Hassan
Anna Hassan

The Brains

Character Portrait: Arnold Hauser
Arnold Hauser

The Rogue

Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle
Sami Rouvelle

The Runner


Fullscreen Chat » Create Topic » Digital Shorts: Out of Character

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Most recent OOC posts in Digital Shorts

Re: Digital Shorts

We could do that, the posts and collab mission, but we can't get more people involved. Bosch is the GM, he controls the character sheet submissions.

Re: Digital Shorts

Damn.

It isn't even showing in my outbox.

It said, 'Lets do a non-mission post for our characters. Then do a collab mission. Try to get move people involved?"

Re: Digital Shorts

Did not receive your pm.

Re: Digital Shorts

Yep PM in your box.

Re: Digital Shorts

Alright, well that's it then. If it's alright with Bosch, I'm going to continue this where we left off, or reboot it. Doesn't matter. I can't let an idea like this die. Gringo, you said you had no problem with continuing it, then let's go ahead and do so.

Re: Digital Shorts

Hi guys sorry for going dark for so long. To be honest the whole thing kind of slipped my mind. I'm not going to bore you all with details but I can't see me running the RP anymore, I just don't have the time to GM these days and any time I do it dosen't last long.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic I reckon this will be my last RP for a while. I just can't seem to make it work. Please feel free to do what you want with the RP, be it quitting or re floating. This is a really good way to run RPs I just don't have the time to do it, like I used to.

Good luck guys in any case,

Re: Digital Shorts

I have no problem continuing the story on. Did you send him a PM? I can try.

Re: Digital Shorts

That's cool man. I look forward to a collab with you. Liked the post, I guess we can chalk Claire up on the recurring NPCs list. My only concern at the moment is that Bosch has been absent for nearly 3 weeks.

Re: Digital Shorts

Truth time: I never got started on my post at all until right when I made that OOC post.

I had a bit of writers block the past month along with a ton of personal crap [almost lost my job]. You putting a post up did give me the mojo I needed to throw something out. Its on the short side and rushed but that's the way I have to be sometime.

I still had plans to do something off-mission with my guy but I don't want to hold it up anymore than it has been. That post may still come, but may wait longer now. I'm up for a collab next by the way, I think that will help force me to make time for it this round.

Re: Digital Shorts

Now that yours is up I'll be sure to have mine up tonight or tomorrow. I've been having to help my mom move to a new apartment.

Re: Digital Shorts

Alright, posted. I took the easy way out, I guess.

Re: Digital Shorts

Sounds good. I don't want to sound like a broken record so I won't mention when mine will be posted. I'm always around though.

The problem is I've been mid-shift lately. Not enough time in the morning, then I get home and want to relax. While writing can be relaxing, it does take energy.

Re: Digital Shorts

Seems like the situation's bogged down a bit.

Homesick's been gone for...I don't know, maybe a week? So I've been pretty much hanging, if not left hanging. If I don't get any updates on their situation, I think I'll just write the rest of the thing alone and post it with credits to Homesick.

Re: Digital Shorts

I hope to get mine up tomorrow. Work is work.

I'm just glad we're all on the same page here.

Re: Digital Shorts

Aye, my free time has been eaten by the midterm monster.

Re: Digital Shorts

No we're collaborating on The Bodyguard. It's just things have been hectic as of late, so we haven't made as much headway as we would have wanted since we started.

Re: Digital Shorts

A bit late for this I suppose, but I am assuming you two are not collaborating since Vin was busy, are one of us doing a side story only?

It will be awkward if two of us are writing for the same mission, lol. I can scrap and do my own thing, otherwise, I am tackling the one I mentioned.

Re: Digital Shorts

And I should be able to pop back into the write in the next day or so and kick Alessa off.

Re: Digital Shorts

I can probably have mine in midnight on Wednesday, optimistically.

Re: Digital Shorts

No worries folks. I think we're all a little overloaded at the moment. So long as we check in on the OCC from time to time so I know the RP isn't dead I want to keep moving.