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Marcus Sun

The Tiger

0 · 794 views · located in Digital Shorts

a character in “Digital Shorts”, as played by VindicatedPurpose


This artwork is not my property. All credit goes to Jungshan at deviantArt.

Aydio's Deltitnu - Retrotation

Name – Sun Tian/Marcus Sun (Soon)

Age – 28

Appearance –

At first glance, Marcus looks like a very rough shod person. He appears as though he would be the bounty and not the bounty hunter. He keeps his raven black hair unkempt and long. This adds to his disheveled look. He seems to never be able to find time to cut it. When it comes to his beard and mustache, he shaves occasionally, but it seems as though he forgets to do even that from time to time.

He stands at approximately 5 feet 9 inches. He’s not too extreme in his muscle mass as he weighs in at approximately 73.3 kilos or 162 pounds depending on which measurement system one uses. His skin is of a pale sand tone and his almond shaped eyes are dark brown due to his Asian heritage. His lips are slightly downturned on his rounded face.

When it comes to his attire, he doesn’t care much for keeping it together. He gets by on most days with a casual jacket, sweater, or long coat and maybe some sunglasses. Others at RSI won't see him in a muscle suit very often unless it is an emergency.

Augmentations –

His eyes have a pair of Gemini Model 8.7 implants used for synchronizing with devices and Net access. He also enjoys the color schemes, preferring the emerald scheme.

His only other augmentation is the artificial heart, Cardia Class V, which pretty much keeps him alive. Ever since the age of 13, or rather since his first operation, he's had to change it only once. It is probably the single reason why he is still alive today, as his defective organ heart would have killed him years ago. Despite this, he also knows that this heart is still susceptible to an unintentional disruptor blast that could end his life fairly quickly, so he knows he is still mortal.

He's been thinking about other augmentations, but for now he's content.

History –

Marcus was born in Endeavour, Mars, in 2074 to Sun Zhao and Grace Cheng.

He was the younger of two children. He has an older brother, David.

His parents had moved to Mars in 2065 to relocate when their company moved. They both worked for an LLC called Wan Shin Systems, WSS for short, that specialized in artificial intelligence and synth tech. It was also a subsidiary of the conglomerate known as BC Industries.

His parents developed a relationship around 2068, and their union was formalized in 2071. In that same year, Grace was pregnant with their first child, David.

Three years later Marcus was born.

Marcus grew up with a relatively comfortable childhood and spent most of his time toying with technology. An accident at the age of 13, when he collapsed in the middle of class, revealed that he had a congenital heart defect that could only be solved by a heart transplant or an artificial heart augmentation. The surgery replaced his defective heart with an augmentation due to a ban on organ transplants. The MPA with the support of the corporations had effectively shut down the illegal organ trafficking which had spread from Earth.

Marcus himself cared less about formal education, though, because it was in an underdeveloped urban district of Endeavour that was flashy on the outside, but all mud and grime beneath. He was not meant for the system, and the system was not meant for him. He was more interested in the workings of the Net and technology perhaps because his parents had imbued him with a sense of wonder. Unlike his parents, however, Marcus was more interested in the application of technology outside of the corporations as he was less interested in climbing the corporate ladder. Technology, like information, was a right, not a privilege in his mind.

He dropped out at 17 and never finished his studies at Tyrrhenium Academy unlike his brother David who had aspirations to enter the medical field due to the emerging need for doctors.

Regardless, he found odd jobs throughout the planet. At 19, he began bulking up while working for a mining guild called Neiro Resources and made a small sum of money to take care of himself as he continued to study software, artificial intelligence, and the Net during his down time. His parents were still belligerent toward Marcus for not continuing his studies. They said that had he continued his studies, perhaps he would have continued in their footsteps and rose further up the ladder. Marcus, however, shrugged it off as his thick skin began to develop.

By 22, Marcus began to work for a startup IT security firm called Coldwell Security that was located in Iazu. He started out as a junior specialist as he was still learning. It wasn't until Marcus turned 25 that he was moved to a red team or tiger team, whose purpose was to penetrate other companies' systems to improve their security.

However, the company was bought by a larger corporation, Fuse Enterprises, and the heads of Coldwell were replaced. The new order began to move CS toward less ethical practices. In fact, Marcus moved from a white hat hacker to a corporate spy against his will. His paycheck was on the line, and for somebody of his education level he knew that he didn't have much of a choice. His main accomplishment, or rather deed, was ending a corporate merger. He contributed by hacking into an encrypted data nexus and stealing some files. Had the merger been successful, though, Fuse would have been knocked out of business in Iazu.

Life turned increasingly dangerous as he sank deeper into the corporate wars and paranoia crept in due to retaliations from competing firms. In fact, he nearly lost his life in one incident as a corporate assassin took him out with a disruptor. The assassin had done his research and dug deep into Marcus's past to find the heart augmentation. Marcus nearly died from asphyxiation had it not been for the quick efforts of the MSS.

Those events, coupled with childhood ideas about the freedom of technology and information made Marcus realize he had to get out of the corporate system, but that was where most of the money was at.

Luckily, the bounty hunting business had a boon whether it was because of the rise in crime or because of under the table deals did not matter as he found a job with a startup company called Red Sand Investigations at 27. He was of better use at a desk job with his skills as a hacker and intel gatherer than out in the field with a vulnerable heart.

His first partner so far has been Sami Rouvelle.

So begins...

Marcus Sun's Story


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Anna Hassan Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard Character Portrait: Graham Case
Tag Characters » Add to Arc »

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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?”


“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.”


“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.”


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?”


”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-”


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.”


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?”


“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.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Ryia Hawkins Character Portrait: Mr. Eckhard
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if you want to be loved



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.


"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."




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.


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.




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."



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."


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.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle
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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.


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…”


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?”


”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.”


”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.


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.”


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.


Characters Present

Character Portrait: Marcus Sun Character Portrait: Sami Rouvelle Character Portrait: Alessa Sikova Character Portrait: Graham Case
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[co-written with Homesick_Angel]


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.


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, " 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.


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 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"

"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.