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