The Limit of Infinity
Chapter 1: In the Shadows of Giants
It was raining; like always. The water fell from the sky in a slow drizzle, blanketing the city below in a cloud of mist that never seemed to settle. To the natives of the urban-scape, it was a simple matter of life in Seattle. It rained, they carried umbrellas. It was windy and raining, they wore coats and carried umbrellas. It was a veritable hurricane, they wore coats and ignored the umbrellas. It was sunny and warm, they were on vacation somewhere far away. That was just nature of the city; were the only thing more common then rain was coffee, where corporations from around the world made their stand against each other, and where the shadows were longer and darker than anywhere on earth; bar none. It was a city of action, of competition and deceit, of pleasure and pain, of war hidden in peace, where impossible success and irredeemable failure were but a thin, almost imperceptible line apart.
And he hated every, last, part of it.
From his window on the highest floor of the massive corporate conclave, he could see the movement in the streets below. The city was a place of life, filled with obnoxious noise and neon lights. The lives of the people below were transparent for from this height, the world seemed a giant, inescapable, pattern. Within the crowd of peons, the world would seem as chaos, unmanageable and unknowable, but from above it was the quintessential of order. vendors were pedaling their goods - most of them legal - as they always did. Tourists and business men alike huddled in the cold rain, trying to reach their destinations.
The businessmen all knew their way, as they dispersed through the crowds following the fastest routes to their destinations, wherever their goals happened to be. The tourists were less fortunate. For reasons he never knew, the matrix nodes in the area seemed to feed the apparent chaos in the street - confusing maps and GPS systems within the area. Invariably, the crowds of tourists would gather, confused by their surroundings, none-willing to ask for directions. Even from this height, the man could make out the details of the events about to transpire. the crowd of tourists had grown large enough that, by some unspoken agreement among them, one of the lost vacationers would approach a vendor and ask for directions. Though he could not read their lips, for the distance from the ground was too great even for his augmented sight, he could read the conversation: the tourist would ask directions, the vendor would agree to tell them where to go if they bought some bizarre good in the make-shift bizarre. As if by clockwork, one of the tourists so far below stormed off, trying to find a more helpful vendor - never realizing the store-clerks had long since made a pact to scam the tourists, each offering the same deal.
Eventually one would surrender and buy a good or service, receive instructions, and wander off toward their destination - the crowd of their compatriots on their heels. The most interesting part of the exchange was that had they asked one of the drug peddlers upon the street corners or hidden in the alleyways, they would have received the information for considerably less nuyen - the dealers never benefited from having tourists scaring away their customers and risking law enforcement. Of course, in all the time he had been here, no one had ever thought to ask the sketchy looking men.
Drawing himself away from his window, the finely dressed business man returned to his desk and his warm beverage of some unknown mix. Pushing the endless AR files around so he could better grasp his work load, he returned to his scheming. Most of his projects were advancing according to schedule; a fact that improved his mood considerably, for each step brought him closer to his many goals. Soon, they would come to fruition, and he would be free from the hell-hole of a city. Free from Seattle, the Emerald City, where the only thing emerald was the nuyen.
Wulf sat at the bar in Satyr's Desire, awaiting his brother. His Ancient brethren was running behind, a unusual occurrence but not unheard of. What was strange was the bar itself was more densely populated then normally, and with people he had never seen before today - many of them clearly criminals of a dozen varieties. Still, it was not horribly uncommon for the bar to see new customers, and they had not started to drink their way through the alcohol reserves and weren't interfering with the "show", so it was a minor inconvenience at best.
Due too the sheer volume of people, Wulf had been forced from his preferred table to the bar itself. It was less then ideal, but at least the conversation was better than average. It was difficult to pick up on what was being said as a result of the cacophony in the watering hole, but what he could hear only intrigued him. The majority of the people seemed to be waiting for someone to arrive, but who this infamous individual was seemed to be a mystery to everyone involved, or at least a well kept secret.
After a half hour of waiting, just as Wulf was beginning to worry about his brother, the door to the bar opened. Expecting it to be his long awaited sibling, Wulf spun in his seat. Wulf never noticed that the entire room around him fell silent around him as the door opened, as the sense of anticipation exploded. Much to his disappointment, the man who entered was not his brother, but an Asian man in a jet-black suit. three features about the man stood out. First, the man was dressed to a T, in that way only the Japanese could maintain, the air of professionalism an element so foreign to the dive it seemed unreal. The second feature was his weapons. The man showed signs of significant augmentation to his eyes and the muscles beneath his suit coat seemed unnatural in shape. The distinctive bulge of a handgun was within his jacket, but this played second to the sheathed katana at his waist. Just from personal experience, Wulf knew that by wearing the sword at his belt, it served as more then an intimidation effect but as a real weapon. Wulf had no doubt the man knew his weapon well enough to use it. The final feature was the most obvious: the man was built like a bus. He towered over the vast majority of the people in the bar at a stunning six and a half feet tall.
The man, upon entering, scanned the room looking briefly at everyone in the room; frightening most of the people into turning their heads away. When he reached Wulf, hie eyes lingered for a moment longer then most. As he did, Wulf felt his lungs constrain in the involuntary reaction to intimidation of that scale. Finally, the man broke eye contact and continued his way around the room. When he had finished, he pivoted and exited without a word. A collective gasp of air was released as he left. Wulf, utterly confused, returned to his drink of choice. As he did, a notification appeared in his AR field of vision. It read: "Job Offer: Club Raven, 2 A.M. Tomorrow. Pay: 20K" All Wulf could do was whistle at the sum.
Today had not been Chromad's day. Yesterday and the day before had been little better. For you see, Chromad had accepted a job. It was supposed to be an easy one: Break into a Daltan Archive Securities, steal a few prototype skill-softs, and turn them over to the Mr. Johnson for a solid 2 grand pay day. The node was supposed to be poorly protected. It was supposed to be a get-in, get-out job. It was supposed to be minimal risk, minimal danger, and optimal profits - the best kind of job. Iris was wasn't going to know what hit them.
But Dalton was just a front for someone much more powerful who did not take kindly to being robbed. And so, Chromad had gone to ground, hiding in the back of his van, in an abandoned building on Seattle's east side his "friend" Freddie used for "shipments". He had enough supplies to last a few days yet, and had little intention of showing his face until the heat had died down. With his safety compromised, all he could do was sit in front of his comm-link and fiddle with his freshly taken skill-softs (after all, what point was going to steal state-of-the-art software if you didn't at least keep a copy for your self).
He had scarcely made it through the first level of the encryption when he heard it; a sort of metal on metal clanking of the most unnatural variety. Before he could activate his "better listening" program however, the back of his van swung open, flooding the dark, metal box with artificial lights from the front of an unidentifiable vehicle.
Two men, their faces hidden by the back lighting, stood in the open doorway, each with one hand on one of the vans doors and another firmly gripping the unmistakable silhouettes of handguns. A third man, shorter then the two six foot monstrosities that doubled as guards and door stops, stood in the middle, his form obscured by the light behind him.
"Chromad-san. It has been a... most difficult task to find you." he said, his tone giving away his amusement, his accent and wording surrendering his Japanese origins. "I am quiet... how you say... impressed; it does not usually take quiet so... many resources to find a thief." he continued, the amusement in his tone continuing, only loosely covering the threats his presence implied. As the realization of his discovery began to set in, Chromad found himself paralyzed. As if to address the fear, the man continued his monologue. "Excuse me, I am being rude. My name is Tanaka-san... Mr... Johnson I believe you call it here." he continued, pausing to allow the information to settle in. "I have a request for you Chromad-san. Please meet me at Club Raven on NE 45th at 2 A.M. tomorrow morning. If you do not arrive, I will be... most worried. I may have to send someone to look for you." he finished, his tone shifting from amusement to absolute serious at the end.
Looking to the men beside him, he made a slight motion with his head, and the doors began to close. "Have a good evening Chromad-san." he said, his amusement returning. Just before the door closed, he made one final note. "Oh, and keep the software as a gift for your... cooperation."
The door slammed shut and Chromad needed new pants.
Taylor watched the steady downpour of rain in what seemed an endless forest through the moving window of a bus. She had stared at this scene for hours, the only breaks in it having come in the form of a pair of boarder crossing points between the UCAS and the Pueblo Corporate Council and the Pueblo Corporate Council and the Salish-Shidhe Council. To be honest, the rain was a new touch - having only started an hour prior. From the conversations of her fellow passengers, this seemed to be a sign they were getting close to their final destination - Seattle.
Taylor could not wait for it to be over. Being separated from the natural world was hard enough, but doing so in an uncomfortable chair, on a speeding metal can, for hours on end while watching either the same scene for hours or the slaughter of bugs on the windshield of dais metal can was a hell unto itself. She had briefly amused herself with a small spider she had encountered beside the seat, apparently drawn to her by some unnatural and well know power, but it proved to be an unintelligent being, unable to hold any form of conversation and thus she had returned to her forest watching with only the occasional contact withe the spider - now thorax deep in a fly it had snagged.
With little else to do, she returned to pondering her latest "assignment". A week ago, a short Japanese man had arrived in her and her "families" shamanic home in Chicago with an offer. He needed help on a job in Seattle. Payment of 20K, details to follow. The family had argued over the job for the next 3 days, one side speaking of how that much the money would help them, the other about how much the deal smelled of corp. Eventually, the need for money won out over their reservations, and she, as the groups face, was chosen to investigate the offer - and accepting if she saw fit. Of course, there in lay the problem: all she had was the name of a club, a time, and a date - Club Raven, 2 A.M., and tomorrow; not what needed to be done.
She would have continued to think about the growing questions, when the voice of the bus driver drew her from her thoughts. "Last Stop! Seattle Inter-City Transit!" he called out over the crowd. Having been dragged back to reality, she looked out the window to find the scene was radically different. The natural scenery of woods, hills, and mountains was gone - replaced with a concrete cityscape of industrial complexes and the cold, unnatural, and unforgiving glow of artificial lighting.
Taylor turned to leave, eager to be free from the confines of the bus, just in time to watch a young man, who had been on the bus far longer than she, crush the spider that had been her companion, entirely unaware the tiny life had been snuffed from existence.
She missed Chicago.
The message had come in on a private channel from the friend of a a friend of a friend. It had been simple - Job Offer at Club Raven, 2 A.M. tomorrow morning, 20K upon completion. The offer was standard enough - few clients came out and SAID who they worked for - it didn't help their bottom line and it only increased the client's risk. What was surprising, was the pay; nearly double the standard fee for even the most veteran runners on the most dangerous jobs. That meant one of two things: either the job was so time consuming, important, and dangerous it warranted the increased pay or he was dealing with someone with enough resources at his disposal it was worth the cost to "ensure cooperation."
Of course, they weren't exactly the most intelligent of Johnson's, or at least not the best informed. The club they had suggested for the meet was a well known runner's club. in other words: home turf. From what he knew, the club had been started by a former shadowrunner who made the big score and bought his way out of the game. Said runner was smart enough to know not to burn any of his former bridges, else they would burn him. So, he turned his ill-gotten gains into the club that runners could use as a front. That the club turned into a Seattle nightlife mainstay was just good luck.
As it was, the club had become a place where the runner community could live it up in relative comfort and get jobs where they had the negotiating advantage. For a Johnson to voluntarily meet at such a place was unheard of, and bordering on madness. He considered that the point of the Johnson's choice was to put the hired runners at ease, then turn the tables to great effect but he was unsure how that could be done at a place like Club Raven.
Still, the money was good and the job deserved at least recognition. Not to mention the club had the most alcohol on tap this side of the continent - it would be a shame to turn down such an invite.
Roberts, taking advantage of his augments, chose to be careful as he entered the club - early so as to get a drop on the Johnson should he need it; luck and preparedness and all that. Sneaking in as one of the working staff, he was shocked by what he saw - the club, the crown jewel of the Seattle nightlife and the runners Mecca was empty, save the bartenders, waitresses, and the dozen or so large Asian men in suits standing around a single pair of Asians; one built more like a vehicle then a person, the other shorter, eating some unknown meal, and all of them armed with handguns and swords.
"That is how you turn the tables in a runners club" was his only passing thought.
Clay sat at a table in a strip club, his feet on the table, sweat dripping from his brow. It had been a long couple of weeks during which he had recieved few jobs. It wasn't anything he had done, just a minor conflict between the Mafia and the Yak's. The Yakuza had decided to expand the lower east side, and were pushing Ewa for collection money. The Mafia, not to be out done, had offered Ewa a smiliar deal. So, logicly, he accepted neither, and the turf war nearly exploded in the tap room of his bar. As such, Clay had aided Ewa as best he could, keeping the two groups at bay by playing them against each other. It had all worked out in the end, with Ewa becoming a sort of neutral ground for the two, but it had cost clay two and a half weeks of pay that he needed.
So, In an attempt to stay out of the poor house and not survive entierly on Stuffer Shack brand, cost-cutter flavored, pre-packaged meals, he had begun his job hunting. Ewa, busy making repairs, had offere little help in the matter, but had forwarded him what info he could. After a solid day of looking through the ads (most of which were obviosu Lonestar traps), he found the diamond he was looking for. Buried on a jack-point serverm was a rumor that somebody powerful was looking to hire a group of runners for a big job - and was willing to pay a lot of money to get it done. At first he dismissed it as nothing but rumor, but later in his search, he found reference to it again, this time with more credible sources backing it up.
the message was simply to show up at Satyr's Desire for the pre-interview, then the choice candidates would be picked for the job. It was a strange way of doing things, one that screamed of either really big job for a really big corp or a really obviosu trap for a really stupid runner. In the end, the 20K upon completion was enough to convince him to check it out. After all, he couls always say he was there "by chance" - not that that would ever happen. As a result, he was sitting in the most crowded bar he had been in since Ewa had offered three for one night - with at least three dozen runners of all shapes and sizes sitting and enjoying the strip show. On which note: Troll strippers should be illegal.
It was while trying to rid his memory of half naked trolls that the man entered. He was hardly the most subtle of Johnsons - looking more Orc tha human by his build and more Yakuza then corp Johnson - but he made the message clear; if he said yes, he meant yes and if he said no, he meant get the hell out. from his waist hung a samurai sword and from his jacket hung a hand-gun. His build showed he knew how to use both with skill rivaling the best in the biz, and his professional attire while looking around screamed: "I'm from *insert Japan Corp here*, don't fuck with me." as he glanced, he occasionally stopped to look at someone longer, but inveriably, they all looked away and lost the chance at the job.
When he reached Clay, he stopped. Clay, realizing the game, just stared back with all the job hunger he could muster, until the man broke his gaze and moved on. He did this another few times, then left through the door - never a word being said. For a moment, he thought he had been tricked - there was no communication, no information, nothing - just what appeared to be a judging process. Then, the message appeared; "Job Offer: Club Raven, 2 A.M. Tomorrow. Pay: 20K"
"Perfect" he thought with a smile.
Sebastian just laid there, his body resting but his mind unquestionably active. His breathing was steady, controlled by years of practice. By instinct, he timed his breathing; one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one... on through eternity unless broken by some event. And so he lay resting on a roof in the rain, his eye scanning the crowd for the tell tale sign of his target through the scope of his rifle.
As the seconds became minutes and the minutes became an hour, Sebastian wondered if his mark would show. He didn't know much of the target. The Johnson had said she would have an umbrella, covered with a special powder that luminescent when seen through the proper lens - such as the scope he had been given for the job. This left him with the boring task of sitting on a roof top, waiting for the illusive target. Still, the job payed at least 5K nuyen - not bad for an "honest" days work.
Then, his comm-link flashed in his AR he had received a message. He pulled his scope up closer to his eye, trying to find the target, to confirm he had the time to check the message. He did. while keeping on eye on the scope, he told the device to display the message. It read: "Club Raven, 2 A.M., 20K payment upon completion". Though it was a simple message, it worried him. Not the message itself, that was fairly standard for his career choice, but that it was delivered directly to his comm-link from someone he did not know. If anything was dangerous for an assassin, or shadowrunner, it was having less than complete information.
He had little time to ponder his position however, for the unmistakable glow of green appeared on the street below him - coming from a blotch of color atop an umbrella. The women, an elf dressed in a business suit, carrying a small case of materials, had exited a nearby business building with a small entourage of fellow business men and women - all seemingly headed for lunch if the jovial laughter proved anything. As Sebastian watched, he came to understand the reason she was to die. She shared glances with a human beside her, happily enjoying his company. He reciprocated. She wore a wedding band. He did not. Jealousy: the oldest reason to kill in the book.
Sebastian lined up the shot, returned his breathing to normal, and pulled the trigger. he had disappeared from the roof top before the screams reached him. He hid the gun in a vent, wiping it free of finger prints before doing so. It only took him a minute before he was in normal clothing on the street below, blending into the crowd in the way only thieves and assassins could, the chaos of the shot providing the perfect cover.
"Now: time to find out who at Club Raven knows me." he thought, disappearing into the crowd, minutes before Lonestar arrived.
Nik found himself on his back, breathing heavily, but satisfied in the extreme. Master Mandrake had started teaching him a new spell last week, so he was practicing. As with most spells Nathanial had tried to teach him, the meaning had been bogged down in minutia and technical details - the amount of copper needed, the correct proportion of mandrake root to wolfs-bane, and the timing required to minimize backlash. Nik never fully grasped the hermetic theory of magic - it always seemed to scientific for magic, depending on endless series calculations and ratios and arcane theories to do tasks that even the most basic of the other traditions could grasp. He understood why it made sense to some: Ordering the chaotic of nature made it more controlled and provided a foundation for the more advanced spells; but that was little help in convincing him of it's correctness - would it not make more sense to flow with the chaotic nature of magic then fight it with order?
He pondered these thoughts for a long while, more to give his mind something to do while he recovered from the latest batch of magical backlash. The spell he had been practicing was difficult, requiring constant attention, and focus bordering on the obscene. He pondered the problems with hermetic magic more to distract him from his fears that the spell, like so many before, would escape him for months until it had finally worked its way into muscle memory - a task the required such an expenditure of effort as to make it useless.
His ponderings regarding the nature of magic would have continued indefinitely, until the his mind and body were prepared to try again, when they were put to an end by an outside force - a ringing sound from his Comm-link. The comm-link rested on a chair a good ten meters from his resting place in the center of his masters dojo like training room. He considered getting up to grab the offending device, but chose to let it go to voice mail. He knew who it was - only a handful of people had that number; the one who was calling, his master who was busy teaching a class at the moment, his friend Dexter who was currently enjoying a well earned Hawaiian vacation, and his father who wouldn't call him if the world was ending. Process of elimination determined it had to be Kodiak - likely calling for some aid regarding Lonestar on some job she was about to pull - nothing that couldn't wait twenty minutes for him to regain his stamina.
After the better part of a half hour, he worked up the strength to crawl his way to the chair and another twenty minutes later, he had acquired the strength to grab the comm-link. Fiddling with the mechanisms, he played back the recording, expecting a question on some strange aspect of Lonestar security. "Hey Nik, favor." came the synthesized voice of Kodiak. Nik readied himself for the question, betting it would be on security routines of the 107th or some topic like it. "I got a job request from one of my old contacts," she said, her voice unreadable. it was never a good sign when she started to give an explanation. "but I already accepted another job from one of Warlock's old Johnsons. I was hoping you could take it for me." she asked, the sound of begging in her artificial voice. "Not much on it, but the pay's damned good and I don't want to burn a contact willing to drop 20K on a job." she finished.
Attached to the message as a time and place - 2 o'clock tomorrow morning at Club Raven. Nik didn't much care for these kind of blind jobs - information kept you alive after all, but she was right about the money; never burn a client willing to pay that much unless they tried to kill you. Nik made his way to the door, grabbing his coat to protect him from Seattle's drizzle, and sent a quick note to Mandrake telling him there was "an emergency at work" - his usual excuse for shadowrunning.
Nolan waited on the bus impatiently, eager to reach Seattle and discover what happened to his brother. It had only been a few days since Lonestar arrived at his doorstep, informing him of his brother's demise. At first he found it hard to believe, that it had to be some trick by Lonestar to some yet unknown end. To some extent he still believed Andrew to be safe and sound in some Lonestar prison, working on some top secret project; it was easier to believe that then the alternative. Whatever the truth, only one thing was certain: he needed to go to Seattle - either to find his brother and rescue him or find his killer and... He left the thought hanging, not really sure what he would do. Andrew was a runner - he knew the risks, but none of that precluded revenge.
Lacking anything better to do, he alternated between staring out the window and his fellow passengers. The weather was switched in rapid succession between wrathful storm and slow drizzle. It was hardly the best weather on earth, but it was at least endurable; not to mention fitting his mood. The bus was fairly empty. A few elderly passengers held the front seats, a small group of young adults - approximately college age - had laid claim to the back of the bus, making crude remarks whenever they could. He and a few other single passengers sat in the space between - the others being a pair who seemed wrapped up in each other and a young women who seemed to be taking even time enthralled by the weather outside and distracted by what appeared to be a spider - another traveler, all be it an unknowing one.
Glancing out the window, he could see the city's glow over the hills. It had been this way for about an hour, the lights promising an end to the travel in the near future, then denying and delaying them with yet another hill. This time however, he could make out the tips of the tallest skyscrapers and even the needle of the sky needle. Shortly, the hills would give way to the cityscape. Soon his hunt would begin. Already he had his first clue - a Mr. Johnson on of his contacts back home had made arrangements with. The agreement had been simple; the Johnson had a job that he needed done and had access to information on Seattle he needed to begin his search. With any luck, the mutually beneficial relationship would bloom into what he needed - the name of his brothers killer.
The only aspect of the arrangement that worried him was the lack of information. The Johnson had only given him an address and a time - 2 A.M. at Club Raven that morning. Nolan didn't like the idea of walking onto a meet blind, especially in the city his brother had met his fate in, but he had little choice - the Johnson was his only lead and he would be damned if he missed his opportunity.
"Last Stop! Seattle Inter-City Transit!" the driver called, fatigue in his voice. It was understandable, the man had been driving cross country all day and looked in need of a nice, long, deep sleep. Standing, he grabbed his gear and made to leave the bus. While exiting, he caught a slight glare from the women he had seen staring at the spider. He could not think of something he had done to offend her so he hurried off the bus, unperturbed. He never noticed he had stepped on the aforementioned spider. "Time to get started." he said, shifting his baggage and walking down the busy streets toward the meeting.
Venaticus sat in his office, bored. It was an exceedingly quiet day, which bordered on painful for a being of high speed programming. He had already finished every case he had been given this week; a pair of adultery cases wherein all parties had been cheating on each other and the enthralling mystery of the disappeared Akita - who had jumped from the window of a 39th floor apartment in a high rise and was promptly used in some rather interesting culinary experiments. He had sent home his assistant, a young dwarven women, seeing no reason to keep her around while he waited in boredom. He considered downloading himself into the Matrix to find a sermon regarding a Greek deity, but decided against it - if someone did arrive, it would be difficult to explain his entirely metallic body.
This left him alone in his office, fiddling with the lightning bolt medallion he wore around his neck. Eventually, he decided to download some news into his node. It wasn't as good as full immersion, but it was better then no stimulation. He started the daily news (currently focusing on the sudden death of an elven women downtown)
That's when he heard it - a knocking on his office door. For a moment he thought it was Claire, his assistant, returning for some item she had forgotten, but upon further thought, he realized that she would have just entered, requiring no permission to enter the building. Curious, and hoping for an interesting case, he sent a signal to the door to unlock, and called out. "Come in." The door swung open, and his day was better. The woman who entered was tall, standing only an inch or so shorter then he. She was dressed in a long Chinese dress that were he human would have been quite attractive, hugging her in, as the organic beings said, "all the right places". The woman herself was clearly of Asian decent, though of which nation escaped his knowledge base as she had deactivated her SIN. She carried with her a small purse and more notably a pair of machetes connected by a single rope. A talisman hung from her neck in the shape of the Japanese Kanji for "spirit", glowing with the distinctive glow of magic.
Venaticus stood, as was the expected of P.I.'s (at least as far as the all the trids were concerned) and offered her a chair. "Can I help you Ms...?" he asked, letting the question hang such that she might surrender her name. She thought about the question for a moment, before finally settling on an answer. "Tanaka." If he were human, he would have recoiled at the name, knowing how dangerous a name it was. Tanaka was Japanese. It translated best to English as "Johnson". To most this would seem inconsequential, but in the shadows it gave meaning; that he had a job offer, but it would be more dangerous then adultery or dog-napping. She remained standing, despite his offer, and continued to speak. "My employer. Mr. Johnson, would like to meet you tomorrow morning at Club Raven. He understands you are... uniquely qualified for finding information we need - specifically on computers of NeoNET make.
Venaticus remained cool and collected the way only a computer could. the woman merely smiled and continued her request. "The time of the meeting is 2 in the morning... please arrive promptly. You will of course be compensated quiet well to the sum of 20K Nuyen. Regardless of your decision, my employer will act with... discretion regarding your... condition." she finished, he double speak interrupted by the occasional smile that belayed the danger hidden in her eyes. "We await your presence." she said, before excusing herself and walking back out through the still open door. Venaticus made to chase her, but by the time he had arrived in the street, she had vanished into the crowd, like a specter.
Avalanche lay in a park in Seattle below a park bench, enjoying the feel of the dry grass. It was raining outside and, while he didn't mind the feeling of rain, he was waiting for Artemis who had made his feelings on the "smell of wet dog" clear some time ago. It was a Wednesday, or at least he thought it was - the human way of counting time never made perfect sense to him; years, months, and days all seemed simple enough, but the arbitrariness of the week always seemed stupid. Either way it was unusual, Artemis usually met with him on Fridays when the rest of the meta-humans were out partying and not hanging out in parks. Strangely, he had chosen to meet using their dead drop system, rather than just give him the information. He must have had nee of a job, but what was needed had not been mentioned.
So there he was; under a bench, in the rain, eating a freshly caught squirrel, and waiting for his friend to arrive. This was hardly the first time something like this had happened; surprise jobs came up all the time in Seattle, but it was rare for Avalanche to be needed for them. He wondered if that meant he was "moving up" in the shadows, but dismissed the thoughts as speculative at best. Besides - he had a small, warm, dry crevice in the park, an abundance of small mammals the meta-humans never missed, and the beginnings of a small pack in the form of his elven contact - what more could a wolf ask for? As he waited, he watched the crowd, hoping to catch a glimpse of his ally before he arrived. Because of this vigilance, he happened to see an unknown man arrive at the bench under which he sat. The man was indistinct, hidden by a brown overcoat and umbrella, but even through the rain, he could smell a combination of strange chemicals and metal that unsettled him.
The man seated himself on the bench and waited, as if expecting someone to arrive. Avalanche wasn't exactly sure what to make of the man who lacked any fear of the wolf beneath him, so he remained still in the uneasy, unconsciously agreed upon truce. Another ten minutes passed before the familiar smell of Artemis arrived, tired as if from running.
"Sorry I'm late." the elf said, taking a seat next to the obscured individual. The man turned to Artemis, almost mechanically, and spoke, his voice deep and booming. "I was expecting the runner, not you again. This meeting is over..." he started to say, rising from his seat. Artemis paled slightly, then grabbed the man roughly by the shoulder. He seemed to regret the action immediately, as from under the hood, a glowing glare appeared, the humanoid sign the shifter had seen on the man. Artemis stumbled over his words for a second before responding. "Avalanche can hear you. He just prefers to keep his identity hidden. I'm sure you, and at the very least your employer, can understand that." he offered in haste.
For a moment, the man continued to glare, deciding what he should do. A few rapid eye movements confirmed he was speaking with someone else over a link. a few seconds later, the man spoke again. "Be at Club Raven at 2 A.M. if you want the job." he said before reopening his umbrella. As he turned to leave, he stopped and stared at the wolf, as if judging him, for a long moment, then continued his turn and walked away. A minute later all that remained of him was the scent of industrial chemicals and the fear he had put in Artemis. Turning to his faithful companion, Artemis spoke up. "Sorry about that... wasn't anything else I could do - said he needed to speak to you directly. Avalanche... We need this job - my other partners haven't fared well lately, and this is the biggest job we've had in weeks. Please accept and do your best." he offered. As Avalanche finally got a closer look at the man, he looked unwell - rings around his eyes, his fair a mess, and his beard only half shaven. "I need you to do this."
"Clear!" Doc yelled as he slammed the paddles of a defibrillator into the chest of a patient. As he did, the man's breathing returned, all be it with a slight jolt. The man looked around a little, dazed, before turning weakly to the doctor and saying "All I wanted was a cyber-eye. Why did you need to shock me?", the anger in his voice buried by pain, but shown by the glare coming from his new cybernetic eyes.
"Everyone's a critic" Doc thought, as he returned his medical equipment to the bag. With a sigh, he started to answer the mans stupid question. "Sometimes, bodies reject new implants. That's the reason we gave you a bottle of medicine to take for a week, which I assume you sold for what, 100 Nuyen? What every you did, you didn't take it so your body went into shock. I needed to get the blood flowing again and, funny thing, that's what a defibrillator is for." he finished, zipping up the bag of medicine. "I'd suggest taking some pain killers for the next week. Normally I would give them to you, but you would sell them anyway." he finished heading for the door. Just before he closed the door, he decided to give a reminder. "Oh, and remember, you don't pay me, I repossess the eye." Doc heard a loud groan as the door behind him slammed shut.
Doc continued to pass through doorways until he reached the streets. It was raining again - like it always did in this god forsaken city. He reached into his medical bag and withdrew an umbrella, opened it, and walked into the storm. He had other tasks to attend to: Don Leonardo had called, informing him that someone wanted to hire Doc for an important run. It had been some time since he had freelanced; Don had always tried to keep the young witch doctor on a short leash when it came to outsiders. This time however, someone had called in a favor on the powerful man, granting him an exception. He didn't know much at this point, Even Don Leonardo claimed ignorance regarding the details of the job. All he knew was a contact wanted to meet him outside the city park to tell him the location of the meet. That the Johnson was unwilling to let Don Leonardo know the same information poke well of the job and infuriated the don to know end.
It took him the better part of half an hour to reach the city park, the sun setting behind the clouds as he arrived. He was early and he knew it, so he grabbed a seat at the nearest fountain and waited. Around him, a dozen people consumed alcohol and cigarettes like they were dying that evening - which given their rate of consumption, was not impossible. He hated the smell, but dealt with it - he had little other choice. It was another hour before the contact appeared - wrapped in a long, brown overcoat and hidden from full view by a hat a little too large for his monstrous frame. The man entered the area from the park, his umbrella drawn in the rain. He marched directly to Doc, and sat next to him, still obscured by his clothing. It took less then a minute for Doc to smell it - the man was a user. Kali if he had to guess, the combat drug of choice on the streets. It smelled... purer then he was used to, likely a specialty cocktail used for powerful enhancement. Doc hated his type.
"Doctor; it's good to see you. And on time - far better then my last client. I am here representing Mr. Johnson. The pay is 20K nuyen upon completion. If you are interested, be at Club Raven at 2 A.M. Details will be explained there." the man feed out, mechanically. As he sat there, he reached into his pocket and withdrew a piece of bread, tearing it up and tossing it at the small flock of birds ducking away from the rain within a few low lying trees. they seemed more interested in dry warmth then the bread however, and ignored the gesture. He seemed annoyed by it, but it was hard to read with his face covered by his hat and coat collar. "Now, if you will excuse me, I have other business to deal with." the man finished, making his way back into the park, through a different entrance this time.
Nova sat in a debris ridden, derelict building in silence, Mr. Suit too busy with a matrix search to be bothered talking to the young magical prodigy. As it stood, Nova was busy entertaining herself by watching a small furry creature - Mr. Suit had called it a Devilrat - run around the room, looking for some food. She had tried to draw it over, offering it a battery, but the creature had ignored the gesture. She wondered why it was being so rude, but otherwise didn't much care - Mr. Suit was all the company she would ever need.
Mr. Suit had hopped on the Matrix about an hour ago, saying he needed to look something up. She hadn't wanted him to go, she was always lonely when he left, but he claimed it necessary to "meet his goals" as the voice had put it. She didn't quite understand what the "Matrix" was, but Mr. Suit had described it as a place where hundreds of millions of people were talking with hundreds of millions of other people. It sounded almost magical, and she wished she could go - she could hardly believe that many people existed, much less imagine holding a conversation with them, but Mr. Suit had said she could never use it - the magic she was holding wouldn't allow it. It seemed highly unfair, but Mr. Suit had claimed that life was often unfair that way.
So, all Nova could do was sit there and watch the Devilrats kill each other- which they promptly did - and wait for Mr. Suit to return. She had been in the slum of Seattle for several days. It had been only a month and a half since she and Mr. Suit broke free of the facility they had spent their lives in. The company who made them had fallen to pieces, destroyed by the combined power of several corporate court. Mr. Suit had said their resources had been drained and distributed by the court, leaving a shell of the former corp, but Nova hardly understood what that meant - only that the key to Mr. Suits body was among the assets drained.
It was several hours later, that the A.I. returned. "Take me to Club Raven." he said, almost on the brink of an order. Nova didn't like it when Mr. Suit talked to her that way, but she liked it when he spoke at all, so she listened, exiting the building. She drew many looks from the people on the streets, but she ignored them - they weren't Mr. Suit after all. She did have a question however. "Mr. Suit, Why are we going to a... club? Is there something there you need? Will it help you get your body back? What happens to me when you get your body back? Where is..." she continued to ask questions, Mr. suit mostly ignoring the inquiries. Finally, when the questions came to a halt, he started to answer them.
"There is a meeting at the club. It is related to my interest." he offered, no emotion in his voice. Nova wished Mr. Suit would say more, but he resisted further inquires. She hated when he did that; ignoring her. She had experienced being ignored all her life - she did not want to repeat it with her sole friend. As they walked the dark, dirty streets of the Seattle slums, Nova found herself feeling hungry. It was a relatively new sensation for her now that the company had stopped feeding her, so it had taken her a while to figure out what it meant. reaching down by a sewer, she grabbed a small Devilrat, screaming in protest, and drained it of the magic and heat it contained, then dropped it to the ground. It shattered. Satiated, she continued to the so called "Club Raven"
Charlie woke with a start, his head pounding, and his comm-link ringing. It had been a long night, and he had not slept nearly long enough. Taking a moment to glance at the clock, it shocked him to discover that only four hours had passed since he had fallen asleep. He considered not taking the call, but after glancing at the number he knew he had little choice in the matter. It was Sami, and she could be so clingy when she wanted to be. Also: she bordered on the insane. Rolling slightly in bed, he reached over and grabbed his comm-link from the shelf, peeling the arms of one of the twins he had spent the night with off his chest. After grabbing the device, he laid back in bed and answered the device with a sub-vocal "Yes, Sami?". The response was both instantaneous and explosive. "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN!" she yelled, causing the charismatic former lawyer to cringe.
"I've been waiting for HOURS for you to come get me! Don't tell me you are with Clarissa again, cause if you are I will murder that bitch!" she yelled beginning he rant. Taking a moment, he turned to the women next to him, still sleeping silently, and checked their SINs - Lindsey and Lisa. Returning to the call, he responded. "I can assure you I am not with Clarissa." cutting the rant off at about the point where she was speaking about what to do with the body of Clarissa. There was a long pause as the words registered, followed by Sami continuing her rant unabated. Charlie could only sigh - he had mentioned insanity. When a calm came in the storm of anger, Charlie finally managed to make his comment. "Sami, I need to go. I'll speak to you later." She started to yell again, but he cut her off, ending the call. She tried to reconnect with him several more times, but he ignored them - clingy and insane. Still, the *wink wink nudge nudge* was great.
He laid back down, ready to get some more sleep, when a knock came at his door. He tried to ignore it, desiring sleep more then anything else, but the knocking continued endlessly. For a moment, he wondered if Sami had tracked him to the small apartment he used for "excursions", but dismissed the idea as unlikely. Crawling out from between his partners, Charlie grabbed a bath robe and donned it then opened the door. "Can I help you." he said in a half conscious stupor, not really looking at who it was. Then, he got a good look at who was at his door. It was a good look.
"Mr. Marlowe. My name is Ms. Tanaka." she said, a smile on her face. She stood there, her hands on her hips, in a Chinese dress that clung to her body as though a second set of skin. And Charlie was confused; had he made an appointment for today? - If he had it certainly wasn't made with her - he would have remembered the dress. "Please come..." he started to say, before remembering the room was otherwise occupied. "...with me down stairs." he finished, leading her back down the hall of the apartment complex toward a common room the tenets had set up. Being the faux-gentleman that he was, he offered her a chair. "So, what can I do for you?" he said, getting as close as he could.
"Mr. Marlowe, I represent a client who has a job offer for you." she continued, ignoring his advances. It took him a moment to realize the what she said, but when he did, he sighed in annoyance - why did all the pretty girls have to be working for someone, trying to get him to do a job; did they just know how well it worked? "The payment is 20K nuyen upon completion, if you are interested, please arrive at club Raven at 2 A.M. tomorrow morning." After finishing her message, she stood and began walked off. Charlie watched her go - he liked watching her go. When she finally disappeared, much to his disappointment, a few questions popped into his head: Who was the Johnson? What was the job? Why were they paying a 5th his annual salary for it? Of course one final question rang in his mind, perhaps more important then the rest.
"Who is Clarissa?"
Darren shifted the stolen car into a higher gear, pushing it faster through the city streets, dodging cars left and right. He loved the freedom of driving, pushing the machine to its limits. As he drove, the worries of the world seemed to fade behind him - the most notably of his concerns being the dozen or so lonestar officers on his tail. He didn't understand why they were so concerned with him, he was only going 70 mph in a 30mph zone, in a stolen car, carrying 50 kilos of cartel drugs - it was hardly the worst offense he had ever done.
As he speed on, he looked for a way out. He considered pulling into a parking garage, ditching the car, and making the getaway, but the cartel would hardly enjoy loosing so much drug profit. He thought about taking it off road, but his car was hardly equipped for such conditions - it was a roadster not an ATV. That left him with only one option, dodge the cops until he could cross the border and out of their jurisdiction. That was the best part about living in Seattle - the limited area lonestar had to work with. Glancing behind him, he saw the number of vehicles had decreased, many having been lost in the traffic behind them. For a moment, he thought he would get away with the job without needing to leave the city, then the spot light appeared above him and he knew the jig was up - he needed to get to get out of town asap.
He raced through the streets, pushing every ounce of speed he could get from the car, running it into the red to escape the law. He dodged road blocks, pushed through them, and booked it every chance he could. He broke every rule of the road he knew and even some of his own rules of running, utilizing every trick he had, just to make it to the border. He could almost see the border when it happened. After the better part of half an hour, the worst came to pass - the front driver side tire burst, never designed for this level of work. It would never have happened were it his vehicle, his tires were far better designed. Still, there was nothing for it - he was done for. The words "game over" appeared over his field of vision as the lonestar goons reached him.
Turning off the gaming device, Darren threw the offending device across the room and relaxed on the couch. He knew he was a better driver then the simsense game suggested. He had only picked up the game because it had claimed to be "the most realistic representation of shadow driving ever made." If this were true, he mourned the state of modern simsense. He should have expected it to be a horrible game, it was called Grand Theft Auto XXXXVII - Shadowdriver v6 - how could it be good? Still, as they shared a name, he felt obligated to try it; and he was unimpressed. First, the response time for lonestar was all wrong - on their best day they could never muster more then half a dozen cars and maybe a chopper. Second, if that tire was going to burst, it should have happened far sooner. Finally, any self respecting runner would never just steal a car - that's just HOW to draw lonestar attention. If this was what future runners were growing up on, lonestar had it made in a few years.
He would have continued his rant for several more minutes, but it was disrupted by the ring of his comm-link. For a moment, he thought it was his game resetting, but the ringing quickly became recognizable as his ringtone. Getting up from the couch with a groan, he reached over, grabbed the mini-computer, and opened the link. "Hello? Can I help you?" He asked, not recognizing the comm-link number. "Mr. Hayhurst, my named is Mr. Johnson. I have a job for you. If you are interested, please come to Club Raven at 2 A.M. tomorrow morning. Payment is 20K nuyen upon completion." The clearly male voice said. "If you are interested, please arrive promptly." He finished, then the call disconnected.
"Coffee, black." he said to the waitress while sitting in one of Seattle's famous coffee shops. Merchant had a penchant for real coffee - it was one of the reasons the two had first met; they both enjoyed the finer things life had to offer. "Double shot espresso." Edge said when the baresta turned to him. Following their orders, Merchant sent an AR credit transfer to pay for the drinks, while Edge grabbed a seat. At some point, the meeting for coffee in the Seaside Cafe had become a weekly event for the them and one of the few chances either of them had to simply enjoy the world around them. It also served the function of allowing them to exchange information as needed. They linked their comm-links sub-vocally, to allow them to discuss their "business" privately.
"So, did you find out what happened to my shipment?" Merchant started. To most it was an innocent question, but ti Edge it was something of an inside joke. Several years ago, Edge had done, or rather tried to do, Merchant a solid. Merchant was supposed to deliver a package of... merchandise to Merchant from one of Merchants out of town contacts. It had gone fairly well, until Lonstar had raided the ship carrying the weapons. He had been forced to use the entire supply of weapons and ammo to take out the goons, and sinking the ship in the process. When Merchant found out, he was enraged and demanded Edge get a submersible and retrieve the guns. As it was, Edge had little desire to get the guns back - besides that they had surely rusted through by this point. "Next week" he replied, as was the conclusion of their joke.
"Fine. Anything else this week?" Merchant continued, sipping from his drink. Edge thought the question over for a few minutes. "I think Ambiance needs a shipment of Ares IV's delivered to his shop next week - a dozen or so runners need them" he said, relaying the information to the weapons trader as he had been asked through his network. "Soap also wants to know if you have need of an early 2000's era RPG Launcher. He found one while cleaning house the other day, and needs to be rid of it." he finished, draining some of the warm fluid from his coffee mug. Merchant seemed to think the statements over for a few moments, considering each proposal as though it were a matter of life and death. This was a convinenet way to look at it as that was precisely what it was.
If he handed over the Ares IV's, they would be out of circulation from his circle, preventing potential future sales and risking the lives of his current contacts. Fortuitously, he suffered from no shortage of them and it was a good way to settle a number of debts be owed his fellow weapons dealer. "Let him know they are on the way; through the usual channel." Next came the matter of the RPG. It was hardly a useless item - even old heavy weapons went for a high price on the streets. Of course, there was lots of danger when it came to moving those kinds of weapons, and he didn't have a buyer for it yet. "Ask Soap to hold it for me for a while; I'll need to find a buyer before I can take the risk." Merchant finished, the same moment he finished his coffee. Thinking it over, Edge sent the information out, then made one final comment. "If that's it, then I'll take my leave." he said, finishing his own beverage.
"Actually, there is one other item." Merchant added in haste. He had a look on his face that seemed a mixture of both fear and avarice. "I got word through the network that someone is looking to hire you for a job. All I know is the Payment is substantial - 20K nuyen if the figure I got was right; and the meeting is with Mr. Johnson is at 2 A.M. tomorrow morning at Club Raven" he added. "If it pans out, be sure to cut me in on it - you owe me for all the... coffee." he finished with a smirk. Edge hadn't really expected someone to go through Merchant to give him a job, much less a well paying one, but it made for a better day. "Tell you what: it pans out, I'll get that sub and get you your guns." Edge said, returning the smirk, before leaving the shop and heading home, a small tip on the table for the barestas.
Cross stood in an upclass resturant, next to his employeer, as the most undredressed person in the room, a look of utter bordom on his face. When he had accepted the bodyguard job from the mid-level NeoNET executive, he had hoped it would be more exciting. Most bodyguard jobs were as most executives only hired outsiders when they couldn't trust their own corporate security or whne they needed to shore up their staff for something big. But this man, this Adam Vougner, appered to only hire him for show. The man was in some intense negotiations with a another corp executive from some little (relativly speaking) A-corp called Kilmer Data Solutions, about a buyout deal. The deal was all but complete, lacking only the final signature of Mr. Kilmer (the executive they were meeting) for the process to be complete.
The only reason he had been hired, was that Mr. Kilmer was putting up a fight - apparently he didn't approve the buyout. Shame for him, because NeoNET didn't appear to be taking any prisoners this evening. "Mr. Kilmer, please understand; we only want to help bring Kilmer Data Solutions to its full potential, by bringing it into the NeoNET family." Vougner offered, having made similar claims several times that evening.Of course, "bringing it to full potential" meant locking Mr. Kilmer out of the business, and with NeoNET's reputation, the cost of the merger would all be on Mr. Kilmer. they were going to take his company and put him in the poor house; everyone at the table knew it. But Cross couldn't complain, that was why he had a job. He was there to show Mr. Kilmer that if he didn't sign, his body would be found out to sea and his company would still be NeoNET property.
Unfortunitly, Mr. Vougner had decided to make the two most annoying choices he could have made. First, he continued to try diplomacy, ignoring the obvious source of intimidation next to him, despite the fact the approch hadn't worked, continued to not work, and would never work. It would be hours before Vougner figured out what would need to be done, and it was driving Cross insane. The second mistake, was that Mr. Vougner seemed to believe his bodyguards were waiters, completely disregarding the half dozen men dressed in varying levels of armorment as nothing more then stage props at best. It was infuriating, but at least it payed well - a full 2 grand. "Mr. Cross: Would you be so kind as to get me another wine please." Vougner said, drawing Cross out of his shortcoming internal rant.
"Right." he offered with a shrug. At least it was better then standing around watching the disaster of a meeting continue. He started by making his way to the bathroom - standing there for hours on end had left him with a need for the facilities there. He walked through the door, and to the first urinal. A second later, another man entered, taking the second urinal. Cross thought about commenting on how people always seemed to take the urinal next to him, regardless of how many there were, when his thoughts were cut off by the man. "Mr. Cross. I had been hoping to speak with you privatly." Cross turned to the man, hearing his name. The man was tall - resembling a vehicle more then a man, in part do to some significant modifications to his form - the cyber limbs the most obvious. He was clearly Japanese, given away by the balck suit and the Katana on his belt.
"My employeer has a job offer for you; one that should be considerably more interesting then your current... assignment. I suspect it also pays much better, ten times as much if my information is correct." he continued. Cross almost took a step back at the figure, but resisted the urge. The man did however step back, and made his way to the sink, activating the device to wash his hands. "If you are interested, arrive at Club Raven tomorrow morning at 2 A.M. Please be Prompt, Mr. Johnson does not like to wait." the man finished and exited the mens room. Cross, quick to recover, made chase, but upon exiting the room could not see the man, despite his distinctive build. How people that size managed to be stealthy never ceased to amaze. a new job offer in hand, Cross made his way to the bar, and got his current employeer his new drink, a bit happier then he ahd been.