Shadowrun - Riverside

Awkward Party Chatter
Welcome to the Party (continued)

“Don’t do anything great if you can’t handle the congratulations.”

John Madden

Rival Sons – Keep on Swinging

It’s called a media blitz; that barrage of flashes that hit your retina and make your brain feel like you’re under attack, or the victim of a very unpleasant interrogation and you don’t know what lie to tell your interrogators. It makes you want to reach for a weapon, something to defend yourself, or close your eyes and wait for the flashing to stop.

When you see those celebrity pictures, where they look afraid, or stoned, or they’re just watching their feet? It’s not whatever is claimed by the headline attached to the image- it’s simple survival tactics. If you’re blinded by the flash of a hundred cameras or rotor-drones: watch your feet and make sure you don’t break your neck stepping over that cord or up onto that step.

The media attention is something that a publicity hound like Mindi Ysmiri lived for- free publicity attached to a massive event like this, especially if she could find some hook to get people’s attention. Mindi, a clever and pretty but somewhat less charismatic elf due to her nasally voice and mannerisms, made due by chasing around her ork muscle for the night like a dirty tusker. A tusker, for those of you having trouble connecting to Urban Dictionary’s AR Object, is a non-Ork who chases orks for sex. Racy enough to get people’s attention, but not enough to stain a reputation forever, and not enough to end up on the shitlist of all but the least desirable racist clients. For Fenton, this means moderately more action than senior prom.

Fenton has plenty to worry about too, though, and not just ending up on the cover of a gossip site that his mother reads. Security in this place is lock-down tight. There are UCAS military encircling the building, a favor someone called in, perhaps a high-up with the City of Seattle. There are private security surrounding anyone with money or sense, and the pyramid is crawling with Aztechnology guards, some of which are doubtless the more elite Jaguar guards- although you’ve heard that anyone who sees a Jaguar guard has a corporate hit on them until they draw their last breath.

Let’s hope that’s not true.

Rings of security guards meant to give the term ‘redundant’ a run for its money encircle the building, and since even t-birds and helicopters are forced to park on the pavement instead of the roof helipad, there’s plenty to go through while you ascend to the top.

Layering security like this had the unfortunate effect of making an already thorough search borderline rectal exam. Not that the UCAS guards had anything against orks, but if they didn’t pat you down painstakingly, the next ring of security guards would be even more careful, to make sure the UCAS boys and girls didn’t miss anything through inexperience. And if you somehow got through those two rings unmolested, the local security force, already pissed at having the other two groups breathing down their neck would give you the rectal search to end all rectal searches- lost items from [[Dunklezhan’s Will]] may have been found in there. They just want to be exhaustively methodical, and leave nothing to chance, to show that they don’t need these other tontos around making them look bad.

The last step before getting into the party is the final media blitz, drones hovering looking for images to keep the newshouds alive. Villalobos had allowed local Horizon stations to cover the event from the air, as long as they kept out of the way of the “Aztechnology Newz Crews,” which was no easy feat. On-site, all media was Aztechnology, except for one local station that had a connection with Shadow talent- Villalobos understood as well as anyone that you had to water the other plants.

Teddy and his group of friends are behind the standee that has event logos all over it, along with a dour Mayan and a million Aztechnology logos, as though someone else was hosting the event on top of their pyramid. After the initial mocking of official party guests is out of the way, Bilbo wanders off to a bathroom to clean the food he spit up all over himself, and Larry wanders off to trouble-shoot a problem one of the smaller drones caused by getting too close to the displacement field. This leaves Frank, his “brother,” alone at the party, and Sevette, the suspiciously armed limo driver who needed a sudden excuse to leave. Sevette looks between the remaining three of you, and nods.

Looking you over with an appraising eye, Sevette says “A funny spy? That’s a new one. Who are you, UCAS Intelligence?”

Frank nods, “That was my guess, too, although it seems a little on-the-nose. A little tradecraft goes a long way.” Frank dusts crumbs off of his hands, watching the crowd filtering into the party closely.

Sevette shrugs and examines Frank for a moment before saying “NAN intelligence? I’m curious why you’d need an insert at an Aztech event.”

“Shh- it’s a secret, but Aztech hasn’t been a member of the NAN in name only in my lifetime.” Frank says, pausing to take a swig of his Spanish-named beer that seems to have a Thunderbird on the side of the bottle that echoes with distant thunder- someone went to a hell of a lot of work for that ARO, and it’s on the side of the bottle.

Sevette smiles, a predatory look on her like a devil rat that found an unattended baby “Yeah, I’ve heard a story like that before.” Tir Tairngire, she had mentioned, was also a name-only member of the NAN- the kind that didn’t acknowledge Tribal Councils or pay dues anymore.

Their conversation trails off as the majority of the party guests arrive, trickling in as security lets them through. You have a funny quip about pap smears and rectal exams that hasn’t quite congealed by the time that Maria Villalobos presents herself and the party starts.

The top floor of the Mayan Temple is carved in reliefs glorifying bloody ritual sacrifice. You spend some time looking a dark stains on the stone, and trying to decide if it’s corrosion from acid rain or weathered bloodstains. The relief carvings have been updated, showing feathered serpents, great dragons, mages of incredible power, and spirits summoned back into the world. Inside the party, the atmosphere is quite different. A VR-J spins music and sensory information, currently pumping out LUST to anyone wearing a simrig- given the red-faced and vacant expressions of some of the guests, you take it they are. There are bartenders serving drinks without so much as a hint of a tip jar. Men and women in what you assume is traditional Mayan dress serve as waiters, both men and women topless and not afraid of it.

There’s one woman, moving through the crowd, a spotlight following her. She’s the star, the lady of the hour, the boss.

Even those of you not familiar with Ms Villalobos firsthand know of her reputation. She’s a Thunderbird Shaman, and Thunderbird Shamans are infamous for carrying grudges. No slight is too small to be repaid, and no slight gets overlooked. Now that this woman has power in addition to connections, she’s a very good friend to have. It also means that everyone at the party will be on their best possible behavior- no one wants to draw her ire.

As Villalobos descends the stone steps to the center of the party, you get the feeling that she has a long and self-congratulatory monologue planned, but as she comes down the steps and begins her trademark speaking tone (to and not with), there’s a sputter and the spotlight shuts off. Across the room, as the VR-J music sputters to a stop, another spotlight grows, this time on a tiny ancient woman surrounded by large and angry-looking trolls. A quick count makes it thirteen trolls, some of them with chains wrapped around fists for extra damage on what would already be one hell of a punch, others decked out with military gear and cyberware, and still others wearing the pseudo-intellectual trappings of magicians, with feathers and wood of foci as only mages accessorize. Suddenly, it dawns on you, and you do a quick headcount- yup, thirteen.

There was a rumor going around- a street legend, a story about thirteen trolls. Some versions of the story name them bothers, some versions say they’re a gang of old friends, but the stories always agree- thirteen trolls, all using the call sign Jurassic. These guys have gone through hell and back, and have the scars to prove it. Thirteen trolls named Jurassic, and all to protect this little old lady.

“Maria, I was ever so insulted not to get an invitation to your party,” the old woman cackles, her voice carrying throughout the party which is now at a dead hush. Either she’s miked and this is part of the show, or she’s wasting magic to throw her voice- either way, she’s putting a lot of effort into this entrance. Against a vengeful slitch like Maria Villalobos, a thunderbird shaman (the nicest of thunderbird Shamans aren’t forgive any slight against them), who has built a reputation on not taking drek from anyone and paying back anything people think they can get away with tenfold, that’s the target of his grandstanding. This drek is serious.

Villalobos, not known for her sweet temperament at the best of times, is a livid thunderhead. Her words come out harsh, forced, and cold, Ixchel, you old nochtli. Do you dare to interrupt my Tlanextli, or are you jealous that your xoco is become Xipil?”

You understand less than half of that, but Villalobos’ gesture to grab the old woman and cut her throat is simple enough to understand.

Ixchel,’ responds with one word as the jaguar guard move in to take her. “Xiuhtonal,” is all she says, but it must be some sort of command for ‘stand down,’ because the guards step back from her and move toward the walls. Ixchel waits for the guards to take their posts, watching rage and astonishment work its way across the younger woman’s face. “Do you think your impertinence could go so long without being rewarded? He was my cousin, Maria, and because of your indiscretions, I have been allowed to take you for reeducation.”

From the scream of despair that Maria lets out and the look of triumph on the old woman’s face, you don’t think this includes remedial classes and a test at the end of the year. In desperation, Maria screams “What are you fools standing there for—get her!”

It’s not clear if she means her guests or the jaguar guards, but there’s a moment’s hesitation before the blonde biker guy from earlier pushes his way through to the front of the crowd, backed by fifteen of his own men, all wearing the leather cutout jacket of the Sons, Anarchists from Tacoma that are known to be heavy hitters, although they won’t be wearing much in the way of firepower at the moment.

Ixchel just smiles, and gestures. A group of Aztlan bikers, known as Mayans walk in, holding weapons and smiling; no prizes for guessing how they got past security, since most of them are still stripping off the security uniforms as they gather between Ixchel and the Sons.

Frank, standing off to Ray’s left, says “This is Candlestick Maker; Butcher and Baker are in position, looking for Go/No Go on the Extraction.”

And then things hit the fan.

<roll>

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Welcome to the Party

Welcome to the Party (Part I)

“One should always play fairly when one has the winning cards.”
- Oscar Wilde

 photo Aztech-Pyramid_zps3f537c61.png

Wolfman – Woman

One thousand, four hundred, and seventy steps; that’s how many back-breaking steep stone steps climb from the bottom of the stone pyramid on the Aztechnology Seattle site to the very top, where the fixer’s party is.

A view 676 feet off of the ground is nothing to sneer at, seventy-two feet taller than the Seattle Space Needle, Seattle’s defining landmark. There was no need to take the stairs, of course. The stone stairs, and indeed most of the stonework of the zigguraut were just vanity pieces so that Aztech executives could feel good about themselves embracing their cultural heritage.

The rest of the building, the lower levels, the foundations and parking garage- all modern; just this façade exists on the front of the building, no one ever was meant to use them, except maybe on Aztlan bank holidays and whenever the Jaguars win the World Jai Alai championship. Inside, people are using escalators and elevators, and even drone taxis to fly between levels. And here you are, puffing like a chimney, working on the one thousands, four hundredth, and sixty-ninth step.

Why are you here? You’ve asked yourself the question before, you’ll probably ask it again.

It could be because of Gabbie or Mindy. It could be because you need the work, or because you owe favors. But really, you’re here because of her.

Tonight’s soirée is throw by, for, and in behalf of Maria Villalobos, a distant cousin of the executive shareholder of the Aztechnology corporation. You don’t know much about Villalobos- she was a mid-level fixer within the company, an executive with a name, training, and ambition, and she’s finally been promoted to VP of Structural Analysis and Logistics. That boring worthless title means that Ms. Villalobos is moving up from corporate fixer to Mr Johnson, and so she’s throwing herself this little party.

The top floor of the Mayan Temple is carved in reliefs glorifying bloody ritual sacrifice. You spend some time looking a dark stains on the stone, and trying to decide if it’s corrosion from acid rain or weathered bloodstains. The relief carvings have been updated, showing feathered serpents, great dragons, mages of incredible power, and spirits summoned back into the world. Inside the party, the atmosphere is quite different. A VR-J spins music and sensory information, currently pumping out LUST to anyone wearing a simrig- given the red-faced and vacant expressions of some of the guests, you take it they are. There are bartenders serving drinks without so much as a hint of a tip jar. Men and women in what you assume is traditional Mayan dress serve as waiters, both men and women topless and not afraid of it.

There’s one woman, moving through the crowd, a spotlight following her. She’s the star, the lady of the hour, the boss.

Even those of you not familiar with Ms Villalobos firsthand know of her reputation. She’s a Thunderbird Shaman, and Thunderbird Shamans are infamous for carrying grudges. No slight is too small to be repaid, and no slight gets overlooked. Now that this woman has power in addition to connections, she’s a very good friend to have. It also means that everyone at the party will be on their best possible behavior- no one wants to draw her ire.

Villalobos even called in a favor to have a news crew her from KSAF. The roadie looks a little out of shape, red-faced and puffing away like he walked up the stone steps instead of taking the elevator, but that would just be stupid. There are a few infamous runners here- that guy with the high cheekbones and the dark trenchcoat all buckled up? That’s Clerick, and he’ll shoot your face off. See that blond guy with the goatee out by the bar, with all the girls hanging on him? That’s Jax, and he’s in with the Anarchists- gun runners who oppose the Mayans (Villalobos’ personal gang and delivery boys), and he’s here as a sign of respect. There’s a guy in his underwear with pants wrapped around his head, messing with a gadget and talking about the dangers of static electricity to anyone close. Judging by the expanding circle around him, he’s probably had enough caffeine to kill a lab rat. Off on the other side of the party, there’s a serious looking customer covered with scars. He doesn’t want to be here, and he doesn’t care who knows it, but there’s only one man on the street with a cyberarm that damaged, and it’s that nut who carries around a monofilament whip in his middle finger- his way of saying ‘fuck you’ to all his enemies. There’s an albino wearing red and leather, caressing twin pistols and a sword that practically hums with magical energy. And elf and a human in one corner hold drinks but don’t drink from them- they politely carry on conversation and watch everyone else in the place like hawks.

Aside from the notables, basically everyone in Seattle who can’t afford to piss off Villalobos is here, including you. Welcome to the party.

Welcome to the Party (Part II, Teddy’s Story)

It was good that he got to the base camp early. The van and its assortment of newscast gear was only ‘nearish’ to starting point at the bottom of the steps leading up to the top of the pyramid. Security was tight, overlapping, and virtually worthless. The first line of defence, Aztechnology’s own: spent all sorts of time inspecting the lining of the boxes I was bringing in. They chem-sniffed, x-rayed, and physically poked the nu-foam packing material as if the devil himself were hiding inside. After that: I was vetted by no less than three completely separate security forces. On top of general security, Maria Villalobos had her personal bodyguard give me a cursory once over. They re-matched my name to the ID to a database and passed me over. Apparently I didn’t look too threatening to them, or they were confident the security before them did their job. Then there was the mayoral candidate, and his flock of government security, They actually went out of their way to be nice to me because I was ‘press-related’. Finally: Errant Knight had their welcome party with a bunch of steely-eyed killers discreetly taking notes of ‘who showed up to the shadow-party’ for reference later. Throughout all of those inspections no one even glanced at the street-line special dumped in my pocket. Most of the security guys had a rifle, a sword, and a side-arm open carried, but a fair number of passer-by’s were openly armed.

Naturally Gabbie, my boss, was nowhere to be seen. She would show up later, probably having her makeup done in the elevator ride up to the top. Those were the perks of being the boss I suppose. There were a good thousand workers milling about the bottom of the pyramid; most of them were carrying decorations, magnetic rain dispersal units, or food and alcohol fit for a king. Nearly all of them were too busy trying to look busy, or discreetly attempting keep their grass skirts (part of the bare chest slave outfit) tastefully arranged so as to stave off the chilly Seattle atmosphere. I guess no one ever told the directors that the atmosphere that made those outfits popular was several thousand miles kilometres to the equator.

The cameras, backup cameras, lighting, backup lighting, batteries, and backup batteries were each technological marvels, the very best that only the premier news agencies could use… which made them sleek, elegant, and feather light. But there were a lot of them. Add in the weight of protective cases preventing damage from acid rain and the occasional drop off the side of a pyramid; and you’ve got a hot mess to lug up the side of a rain slick torture dome. Surprisingly there were a number of joggers who, despite the rain, took their lunch break jogging up the side. They passed me on the way up, and a half hour later, they passed me again on the way down. I exchanged brief pleasantries with them, but mostly I tried to keep the boxes out of their way. Again in the early evening there was a group of joggers making the run up the side. One of them: a lady who was also in the afternoon group, actually stopped to talk to me.

“First time up the wall?” she didn’t even seem out of breath.

“I made my boss mad.” Was all I managed between gasps.

“You’re lucky, if you worked at Aztechnology and made your boss mad, they would transfer you back to Azland, and the walk up the pyramids there does not end in a buffet.” Her Spanish accent was nearly undetectable.

“Didn’t I see you running this thing with the lunch crowd?”

“Did I not see you about twenty steps further down when I was here with the lunch crowd? I think you were taking a brake then too.”

“Well, I don’t run this thing twice a day; normally when I carry these bags, it’s all of twenty feet from van to stage.”

“Three.”

“Three?”

“Three times a day. You were not here for breakfast.”

“I may be here for breakfast tomorrow: want me to save you anything from the buffet?”

She laughed at that.

“Assuming your boss doesn’t have you sacrificed at the top?”

“That is the hope, yes. Teddy, Teddy Valiant” I extended my hand.

“Xitllali” it rolled off of her tongue like a song.

“I tell you Teddy, Normally I only do weight runs on weekends, but I will carry your bags for as long as you can keep up with me.”

“A gentleman would be hard pressed to let a lady carry his bags… so if you see us approaching a gentleman: be prepared for looks of disgust from him. You’ve got a deal.”

Even with the combined advantages of her being slowed by carrying the bulky cases, the awesome view running behind her provided, and the fear of having to carry the bags if I fell too far behind it was a near thing to keep up with her. And by that: I mean that it was her third time up the mountain today, and I think she was being extremely patient with me. At the top we exchanged contact information, and I promised to run with her tomorrow morning, minus the luggage. Well, she gave me her contact information, which I drew in sweat on the dry side of the luggage from where I wheezed from a collapsed position. Same thing really.

The party was getting organized around my supine form, and about an hour before it started I was rested enough to go set up the news broadcast station. My legs shook so bad that I had to sit after each light I set up, but I was putting the finishing touches on the last one when Gabbie showed up. She was going for the blonde look, with a black leather miniskirt. My guess: probably giving the outfit a test run before attempting anything major with it at the urban brawl showdown.

“Really Teddy? You set up here?” she looked around with a sneer on her face.

“It’s the spot they gave me.” I replied from my seat on a pile of cases, too exhausted to even stand up. My pain at least seemed to give her a smug satisfaction. Bugsby better appreciate the effort I’m putting in for him.

“I hate being next to the rain repellent systems. You stay dry, but the feedback causes earrings, necklaces, and hair barrettes to float like you are in space.”

Her makeup artist started gluing down the necklaces and adding a protective layer of hairspray to keep everything in place.

“You look terrible Teddy. Try to stay out of the shot okay? And find an unprotected space where it’s still raining to wash out some of that sweat.”

That was as much of a dismissal as I was going to get until cleanup commenced. I wandered over to the bar and asked the slave-boy there for water.

“Ni tlakatl tlen nochi ueli” he said.

My Spanish was okay, but none of those words meant anything to me. “Uno Agua Por Favor” [one water please] my accent made him cringe, but he at least gave me a bottle of water.

Rather than attempting conversation with the brain-washed Aztec bartender, I wandered over to some folk that were more my style. The majority of the setup crew were already dismissed, but there were a few brave souls hiding under the framework, smoking and stealing half-eaten treats from the returning waiters. Using my ‘invite’ I commandeered a whole tray of what seemed to be corn-wrapped tamales of some sort and set down among them tray and all.

At first, they were hesitant, I suppose they thought I was going to kick them out: but after sharing some food without bite-marks in it they seemed to welcome me readily enough. I met Larry, who wired up the rain repellent systems. Apparently it was quite a feat to get the water to be diverted ‘not just away’ but: into the ‘blood pool draining systems’ already in place. They kept him on-hand in case something broke and people started getting wet. He was hiding out with his brother Frank; who had never been to one of these things before and tagged along as an ‘assistant’. Also in our group was a limo driver named Sevette, who had been given strict orders to go get her fair as soon as his wife showed up, a drunk dwarf who called himself “Bilbo” and a tall quiet elf who claimed to be there for the food and homelessness, but steely eyes combined with a hidden but large pistol told me she had other reasons for hanging out. I was the only one among them with a valid pass. The food disappeared soon enough and I passed off the empty plate to a passing waiter.

I bummed a cigarette off of Bilbo, but passed it off to Frank when I discovered it wasn’t just tobacco inside. We started playing the “Make conversations” game, where we made up words for the people that were talking whose conversations we couldn’t hear. Well, most of us anyways. The elf seemed to be reading lips or something.

Me in a high-pitched voice, and a forced southern accent: “I do declare Mr. Darcy! If you pour one more drink into me I will just fall right out of this dress!”

Sevette took the ork in a tux with an eyepiece/monocle, playing it up with a forced tenor “I only want to eat your babies! Raaarrr!”

My southern bell returned: “Their six fathers will be quite put out with that!”

Frank chimed in as a waiter approached “Excuse me sir: I challenge you to pick which of these sushi rolls I stuffed down my trousers only moments ago.”

Mr. Ork looked thoughtfully at the arranged fish before selecting one and making a show of taking a slightly too dainty bite out of what should have been a single-bite ordure.

Frank added: “you have chosen… poorly.”

This caused Bilbo to laugh so loudly that several nearby guests peered into the shadows of the framework.

Welcome to the Party (Part III, Fenton’s Story)

Chatter is that this thing is so over the top they’re even gonna’ have live tridcast on the K-Drek network or whoever it is that’s shiny these days. That’s gonna’ make it harder to not get silhouetted tonight.

Then there’s the mind numbing amount of security that will be there. What corp is gonna’ invite runners into their house and not max out every security precaution, quintuple the guards and maybe even hire every runner who isn’t on the guest list as a reaction force?

Oh, and the cops.

You know they’re gonna’ watch who goes to the ‘runner party. Sit right by the front door taking bios of every chummer who janders in. Only make sense. If my enemies wanted to line up in front of me for a parade I’d let them. I wonder how many of the wage-slave servers will have Knight scrip in their pockets for DNA samples that didn’t end up in the incinerator. That begs the question: How many hackers are gonna’ be leaving tracers in guests’ comms? It might almost be easier to stroll in wearing nothing more than neon nanites.
Maybe then they’d pay less attention that way….

…I can’t believe I’m doing this. I didn’t realize I was getting this—
(High pitched, nasally voice interrupts his train of thought: "So I said, “Oh, yeah I can!” and she was like…)
—desperate…

Remember, she’s your mask. Don’t scowl! Stop that. Play nice. Let her attract attention. I’m just the arm candy. Keep her mouth running full speed and nobody will even notice me. Then I can approach potential contacts on my terms.

The pilot says we’re here. She’s expecting me to get her door for her? Play nice, frag it. And now we can play “Name That Sec Force”…

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Get a C.L.U.E.

There are stories that we laugh about- and then there are C.L.U.E. files. They were collected by a GM known as Karen (who has since hung up her GMing hat), and they’re a fun read, if you have time:

http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/gaming/shadowrun/clue-files.html

http://web.archive.org/web/20051215105711/archive.dumpshock.com/CLUE/

They’re the best example I’ve ever read of what NOT to do in Shadowrun. Enjoy!

- Matt
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Just a Job...
Introduction - Gary's Character

I hate the rain. The smell. How it brings back up everything that you had hoped the last rain would wash away. We send all that pollution up to the sky or down the drain because we don’t want it. And what does the rain do? Just bring it right back to us and shove it anywhere the water can flow. Like into my apartment. Well, it did until last week when we had 2 gloriously consecutive days of sun and I had that handful of plaster I traded for. That’s one of the things I miss most about the Army. Maybe we didn’t spend much time in barracks, but when we did they were clean and dry. I hope that plaster finished setting before the rain came back. I’ll try to check it after my shift. That reminds me. I better get cleaned up before it starts in two hours….

….It can be tough trying to find that middle ground between victim and hunter when you are nearly 2 full meters of ork. Ok, so I’m built more compact than the average ork, but most humans don’t look close enough to notice that distinction. Make sure the under-armor is concealed. Be sure I don’t automatically put military creases when I iron my uniform. Maybe iron a wrinkle into the shirt instead of out. Need to look clumsy not careless. Baton on my hip. Make sure I have my ‘Dick Castle’ commlink and ID instead of the other to keep the cover active….

…“Good morning, Mr. Cho. How’s the family?” At least this time he responded. Being waved away is better than being ignored. “Ok, Mr. Cho, well you have a good day, too. Thanks. See you later.” Keep moving. Mall security is definitely not the most glamorous job. Of course, since I want to keep a low profile glamorous is not my best choice.
“Drek.” Now how do I warn off those gangers without making a big production or turning it into a fight? They seem to be paying too much attention to that corp slummer and the cred stick he’s using to impress his too cute ‘companion’. If I stay near him they’ll just pick a new target. What I want is for them to leave….
I know. I need a drink. Something sticky with a lid that doesn’t fit right. There we go. A SLAMMER! cola should fit the bill. Just gotta’ make this quick….
…Seriously?! $6 for a small?! So much for my employee discount. Alright. This shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s been used in trid since trid was flat. What was it they called it back then? Sin…sinner…sinenema…I don’t remember. Here we go….
Struggle with my lid….
Fumble the drink…..
Spill it on them…“Oh, my…I’m so sorry. Look at them mess I’ve made. Here, let me clean that up.” Remove that pistol in his waistband…..“No, sir, I’m not trying to get kinky with you. I’m trying to help you. Sir, there’s no need for that kind of language in a family place like this. Let me just help you. Don’t get upset, sir. I’m just trying to clean up the mess I made.”
Don’t make any direct eye contact…..“Here, sir, I’ve got a couple more napkins.”
Be too dumb to notice them staring you down…..“Ok, sir, well I hope this won’t ruin your feelings about our fine mall. Thank you for your business. Have a great day, sir.”
Go about my way….

Another ‘exciting’ day at work. Now to get a work out in before I get…(his commlink flashes in his view to get his attention)..“Who’s calling this number? Hello? Oh. Hi, Mindy. How’s business? What? No, I’m still not interested in babysitting crooked corp execs who want to go slumming for the thrill of watching their guards beatdown on random gangers. Wait. Mr. Yakamoto said what? How did he even know we work together? Drek! I can’t pay the full amount that soon. I’m barely able to cover the weekly vig so it doesn’t get me killed. Fine. I’ll go to this thing tonight. No, It’s not a date. It’s work. Yes, I’m sure we’ll see each other there. No, it’s not a…”
She hung up. I need to find a way to make some change to calm Mr. Yakamoto. Even a low profile isn’t protection from the Yakuza when you owe them money. What time did that invite say….

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Just Another Tuesday...
Introduction - Teddy Valentine

Tuesday started out like most of my days. I woke up in my room, not to an alarm, but to something even more reliable. The morning silence of the ghetto was shattered by the sound of conflict. Like most mornings; my routine always started out by listening to my married roommates fighting over whose turn it was to get up and make breakfast.

By my count it was Eddie’s turn. Dolores was extolling Eddie to remember the eggs she made yesterday. I remembered the eggs. The soot from their fire was still staining the wall behind the stove. Apparently Eddie remembered the eggs too. Normally he would forget; but this time he remembers. So, as a change from the usual argument, this time his reasoning is that because breakfast was burned to carbon before anyone could bite into them, they don’t count as her turn; she’s got to do it right this time, etcetera, etcetera.

Really: if you wanted to eat something other than burned eggs, I don’t know why you’d try so hard to get her to make something. The lady has many skills. She delivered second-rate chow to the local degenerates at the derailed boxcar pretending as a diner down the way about 10 hours a day. But there was a reason she served the food and didn’t cook it there.

By my estimation, the argument had about ten minutes before it spilled into the living room and one or the other of them tried to involve me.

I pulled on my rumpled business suit quickly. The west wall of the apartment was wet through-and-through, meaning rain outside was soaking through the rotten woodwork. It would be a day like most in Seattle, wet and dreary. I threw on my lined coat and hat over the top. It wasn’t cold enough to wedge myself into the form-fitting suit, and even with burned eggs for breakfast I still somehow managed to pack on a few pounds, so it wasn’t so much form fitting as form restricting right now.

The familiar weight of a street line special was weighing down the right coat pocket. I almost took it out. It was a worthless firearm. Even with the stick-n-shock ammo I found for it, all I was going to do with that heater was piss someone off and get myself in worse trouble… but still, sometimes it was better to have something rather than nothing.

The argument was heating up to the ‘everyone knows’ portion of the exchanges. “Everyone knows that if you burn it, it don’t count”, versus “everyone knows that if you don’t like what’s made then it makes no difference”

That was my two minute warning. It was time to get out of dodge. I would meet up with both of them at the diner later. They’d end up there anyways. Preferably; I’d be able to do so without having to decide another argument for them.

I kicked open the door. The swollen wood distorts the frame enough that it won’t open any other way. I do it as quietly as possibly; which is to say not at all. Luckily, the loving couple’s shouts seem to cover up my commotion, and they don’t even notice my departure.

I’m two steps out the door and pulling my collar up to keep out the rain when my comlink rings. I check to make sure it’s not my brother or his girl before I answer it. Nope, even worse: It’s my boss.

I debate letting it go to voicemail, but remember that I promised my bookie: Bugsby that I’d at least try to make a payment this week.

“Valiant.” I answer as professionally as I can.

The woman on the other end is as nice as a ghoul dipped in nitro-glycerine.

“Oh, now you are answering your phone huh? How nice for you. I’m calling to tell you that you are fired.”

Hmm… did I miss too many phone calls? Better play it safe.

“Fired huh? That’s too bad Gabbie. I was just on my way to drop off those Urban Brawl Thunderdome tickets I told you about.” I let that hang in the air. “I even got a backstage pass so you could try to interview what’s his name? Thug… something?”

“You know I’ve been trying to get an interview with Doug the Thug for a month you bastard!”

That I did.

“And, you know that he doesn’t do interviews.”

I knew that too.

“And yet, my friend in the field said that he has a sweet spot for blondes in leather miniskirts.” I suppose it might be true. I didn’t know any Ork brawler to ever say no to a blonde in a miniskirt.

“So, what are you proposing Valiant?”

“Well, I guess I do owe you the tickets anyways; I’ll give them to you even though I’m fired.” She was a sucker for the pity-play.

“I’m not going to fall victim to your pity-play you worthless slime-ball!”

Yes she was.

I shrugged deep enough that she probably heard it through the phone. “I wouldn’t ask you to be. I simply am a man that does his best to pay his debts. I owe you for the thing with the bees.” I did not. That debt was paid long ago, and many times over.

“You do remember that I’m not a blonde.”

Hook, line, and sinker.

“When has a little thing like hair color ever stopped you?”

She was thinking how to get around the preamble obstacles now. I was golden.

“I don’t even think I own a mini-skirt.”

She was probably wearing one right now. I didn’t even bother to respond.

“Do you think it would work?”

“Stranger things have happened. Listen, I’m about ten minutes out; I’ll drop them off if you tell security not to kick my butt when I walk through the door okay?”

“Okay Valiant. I’ll see you in ten.”

I dialled up one of my hacker friends, Digital Diva.

“Diva! It’s Teddy! I need a favor.”

Her avatar popped, unasked into my field of vision. Today she was a vixen. Like, an actual deer; only with wires for antlers. I thought about telling her that only boy deer had antlers, but it was a nice effect and she probably worked hard on it, so I let it pass.

“Deer Teddy. What have you found yourself in now?” Puns today huh? I could work with that.

“Well, you know I only call you when I have something fawn planned.”

Her avatar buried her head in shame.

“Is that the best you can do? I hope you didn’t rack your brain too hard for that one.”

“Buck up; its early still, I’ll probably get better.”

She at least laughed at that one. A pity laugh, perhaps, but a laugh none-the-less.

“I need tickets to that Urban Brawl Thunderdome thing tomorrow.”

Now a more serious laugh.

“Those have been sold out for ages. You can’t find hyde nor hair of them anywhere.”

“Yea, I guess to have a shot at finding some I’d have to know some super talented forger. Especially if I wanted a buck-stage pass.”

“You can fur-get-it. It would take me hours to make those.”

“If I needed the tickets now, but you could make them real later, would that work? I’d doe you a big favour…”

“Oh Teddy, I can never say no to you. I’ll get my people on it. You do owe me though.”

I laughed. “You know I’d never hide from a debt.”

She signed off with “Don’t you fur get it.”

I stopped by the lucky panda coffee stand on my way to Redlight Newscast’s local office and grabbed a half-dozen fresh cups, and a Nu-foam carrying box. I did my best to keep the recyclable (and thus instantly disentegrateable in rain) cups from wayward drops by hiding them under my coat. Stepping through the front doors set off the usual alarms.

“Mr. Valiant, You’ve been fired. You can’t come in here at all, and walking in with a gun was a no-no, even when you worked here.” That was Glen, a cast-off from Loanstar when Erant Knight took over. His current job was lobby security for my employer.

“Glen, I brought your coffee. And my worthless gun is in my pocket, where it’s always been. And always will be with any luck. I’m just dropping off some stuff for Gabbie. Call her, she’ll tell you it’s on the up-and-up.”

A tense moment passed before he lowered his gun, followed by less tense moments spent exchanging pleasantries over fresh coffee while we waited, then we were friends again as I was given the go-ahead to get up to her office.

I handed another cup of coffee to Dianne, Gabbie’s under-appreciated secretary.

“Two sugars, because you are sweet.”

“Don’t fraternize with him, he’s fired.” Gabbie called from the office.

Dianne still took the coffee with a smile though.

I felt my comlink buzz with the electronic transfer of what looked like two tickets, and a backstage pass to boot. Right in time.

I pulled up Gabbie’s link information, and handed over a physical cup of coffee along with the digitally signed passes.

“One pack of nutra-sweet, a shot of half-soy-crème, and a dash of caramel for good measure. Oh, and the tickets. Naturally.”

She looked at the coffee and tickets sceptically. “These aren’t fakes like last time are they?”

Probably not: last time was one of the few times that Digital Diva’s goods didn’t pan out. These would be fine.

“Course not. That was a fluke. And the coffee is as real as it gets.” It was as fake as the pass of course. I couldn’t afford real coffee.

She sipped her coffee, regarding me coyly over the top of the cup.

“You know, if you hadn’t just been fired; I would have had a job for you tonight.”

“Really?” sometimes I wondered who was playing who with these exchanges. Other times I had no doubt that she was a master manipulator.

“Yea. And to boot: It’s a lot of work to find someone else I hate enough to make carry all that luggage up and down those steps.”

“Steps huh?” I asked tentatively.

“Lots of steps. Top floor of the Aztechnology mall.”

“I suppose the elevator would be out of the question.”

She laughed. “Wouldn’t want you to bump into anyone famous and get them dirty… No, it would be the back steps. And there would be lots of equipment. Some ner-do-well fixer is throwing himself a party and inviting a bunch of famous people to make him self feel good.”

I nodded, acknowledging her wisdom. Well played.

“Too bad I’m fired. That would be quite the punishment for missing your calls.”

She slid a company pass across her glass desk. I grabbed it before it landed in my lap.

“Wish I didn’t fire bobby last week. He would have been perfect for this work. Now I’m stuck with only you.”

I smiled. She won this one.

“Aztechnology mall tonight huh? I’ll be there.”

“This doesn’t mean you are re-hired. This is probationary only. Don’t confuse my current poor selection of staff with any future promises for work.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” I stood and moved to take the last cup of coffee, I normally got one for Jake, the security decker of the building.

She knocked my hand away.

“Leave it, I’ve got a meeting with another cretin, and a little coffee will make him more amiable to my requests.”

“Yes madam.” I’d still stop to talk to Jake. Even without coffee he was good company.

I got halfway to Jake’s office when my comlink rang again. It was a busy day. I answered it without looking.

“Valentine”

“Hey, it’s Trainwreck; I need to call in a favor pronto Omne.” He sounded panicked.

“Calm down, what’s going on?” Trainwreck was a friend in the underground railroad, and he was not one to panic easily.

“Can you meet me at boxcars in ten? I don’t want to talk on the phone.”

He was a paranoid sort usually, but this was above and beyond, even for him.

“I don’t think I can make it in ten, even running; I can do fifteen, unless you need me there bad enough to pay for a cab.”

He hesitated before answering. He was actually thinking of paying for my cab to get there faster. “No, less digital trail the better. Just hurry.” Huh, this must be something major. He wasn’t even worried about the money.

I wasn’t the running sort. And running in the rain was dangerous even for people in good shape. I did manage a jog though. At least most of the way I jogged, I did stop for a breather a couple of times. But I made it in just under fifteen minutes. My breath would catch up with me in about an hour probably. I stumbled into the boxcars diner.

Dolores was already serving the usual selection of miscreants. Angelo was seated in his usual spot, as was Eddie; the three of them were deep in a conversation held at shouting volume about where the best vacation spot was. Looking tired and more paranoid than usual Trainwreck was huddled quietly in the only booth the greasy spoon had available. I waved to Dolores, who didn’t stop arguing to acknowledge my entrance, although she did wave back.

I took a seat next to Trainwreck and whispered as loud as it took to be heard over their clamorous shouts of: “No, It’s Tahiti!! It Guam! Hawaii is the best!!”

“What’s the problem ‘wreck?”

He glanced feverously around the car, looking for ninjas or somesuch before answering “I got burned by a client. A big client.”

Getting burned was nothing new for a smuggler. Sometimes your goods got jacked en-route by the competition, sometimes the property you were moving had kink-trackers that told big brother exactly where and how you moved things that didn’t want to be seen. Burning a route was expensive, and if it was a route that your smuggler buddies also used; it could get you black listed. Still; neither of those things should have been un-manageable for trainwreck. He’d been in the business long enough to know how to mend-fences with his cohorts even if a major pipeline got kinked up.

I decided to keep it simple.

“How can I help?” I didn’t need to know what exactly his problem was, and it would help his paranoia if I just offered help without wanting to know the details.

“I still have the package. I need to off-load it.”

I guess I could do that for him. I knew a fence or two that would happily move hot goods if the margins were right.

“Done. Where is it my friend?”

“She is in my trunk.”

Now, sometimes people feminize things. Riggers in particular seem to love naming their vehicles and calling them ‘my girl’ or some-such. Something about how he said: ‘she’ though, made me think this wasn’t the case here.

Dolores brought some eggs on toast and set it in front of me, causing a pause in our conversation. I thanked her and waited until she was a polite distance before resuming the conversation.

“So, She’s in your trunk?”

He filled in the details quickly

“She was running away, her father is some high mucky-muck and had a pack of T-birds waiting at the border crossing. I got away, but in the wrong direction. She’s got too much heat on her, and her father made me, meaning I can’t move her. I’m lucky I got her here to the diner.”

So much for the wisdom of volunteering in advance. Oh well. A friend in need was a friend in deed. I tossed a couple of wet bills on the table. Dolores loved paper money, so I paid with it whenever I found some.

Train-wreck’s ride, a hover-car with beat-up ablative armor; was parked taking up two spaces in the parking lot. Luckily most of the clientele here were destitute, and so it was the only car in the lot, making double-parking a non-issue. I walked up and knocked on the trunk.

It took a couple of moments before the trunk opened, revealing a too young and too skinny sino girl with haggard hair and dark circles under her eyes. She looked ready to cry.

“It’s alright madam, I’m here to help. We can’t move you out of town right now, but I’ve got some friends you can stay with for the time being.”

At that she actually did start to cry.

Now, despite what poor opinion you may have of the ghetto, dragging a crying teenager down the street will garner you all sorts of unwanted attention. And if that teenager has rich friends, and no shoes, and an overprotective father who’s actively looking for her; doing so will get you noticed in about two seconds.

First things first. It took a couple of tries to get her to calm down and come with me. We got as far as the thrift shop before she started to shiver. Her designer shorts and tank-top weren’t doing her any favors in the rain.

I helped her paw through the donation box to find some warmer clothes, hopefully some without tracking devices in them if my hunch was correct, and politely turned my back so she could change in the alleyway.

I dropped her designer threads down the closest manhole cover and walked her the couple blocks to my favourite drycleaner.

Press & Smell drycleaner is the home and lively hood of a sweet dwarf lady named Pookie. I once saved her family from a fate worse than death, and so they are friendly towards me and mine. Luckily for me, and my un-named teenager, theirs was a labour intensive business, and an extra set of hands would be welcomed for a couple of days.

All I had to do was walk in the door, and one of Pookie’s daughters, Teresa I think, was pouring hot soup into bowls hastily pressed into our hands extolling us to stay warm and dry, as if such a thing is even possible in Seattle.

I briefly explained how my ‘friend’ needed a place to stay that was out of sight for no more than a week, and Pookie showed up from the back room as if by magic. She took the teenager by the elbow and started explaining what her duties would be and how to work the cleaning press, and how nice girls should stay away from trouble. I was two spoonfuls away from finishing my soup when Pookie made her way back to the front of the store, to scold me for getting involved in trouble.

“You are a good man Mr. Valiant.” Worst scolding ever.

“Yea, you keep telling me that. Thanks for helping me out with this. Anything I can do for you while I’m here?”

“No, no, you do so much already. Would you like a new suit? I don’t think this man is coming for it. He’s three weeks late. It’s nearly your size. I could fix it up for you.”

“Yea, I could use some new threads…”

A half-hour later I paid for the suit and left. She told me I didn’t have to, but I did anyways. I also paid in advance to have my other suit cleaned. They were good people, and could use the business. I didn’t have much pocket money, but they could use it more than me.

I walked to the closest working bus station. It would probably take me the rest of the day to get to Aztechnology’s mall. And if Gabbie was half as mad as she was pretending to be, I would be carrying heavy equipment up and down steps for the remainder of the night.
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Old Things Become New

After some discussion (and much sound of crickets here), the venue was decided as email, that is, play-by-email.

The first couple starts were a resounding success, and I’ve decided to record the efforts here, for my own enjoyment and the edification of others.

I’ll copy down the Shadowrun History “And It Came To Pass…” to the wiki here, and post people’s messages as adventures so that everyone can get in on the action. I might even get creative and post their characters!

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It begins...
The hassle of coordinating across state lines by text message becomes too much...

Something will go here

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