Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Count Numbers
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3V:

At the turn of the 21st century, it was said that environmentalism was humanism. That we are not removed from our natural environment, we are the natural environment, and the two were inseparable.

And then we made a clean split, cleaner than any we made with church from state.

Ignore the colony ships, the mining outposts, the failed surface habitats like Chiarascuro, pushed by private companies. Colonization in space comes down to that last, best gasp of the world governments. Most only think of the O’Neil cylinder, Aevum, that ultimate urban sprawl, that glass and steel and carbon-fibre slum of heaven, that self-satire of the anthropocene.

Here is another - one hardly anyone thinks of, though everyone knows of.

Forty hours by shuttle away, a timeframe dictated by acceleration’s hell on the human body, is the Park. Its real and formal title, not a colloquial term, not a shorthand. Just a reflection of the lack of thought and care that the collective species put into its natural environment.

That it is a Bishop’s ring, and not an O’Neil cylinder like Aevum, was a perfect confluence of politics and engineering, an awareness of the grim economics that led to the destruction of the great Space Fountain; Its designers were well aware of how important their work was, and how little anyone could be made to care about maintaining it.

That’s why even though Vesna stands atop an artificial mountain, a triumph of the human-made natural, the air she breathes is authentically thin and dizzying.

See, an O’Neil cylinder is sealed, airtight, has to be protected against the vacuum of space. That makes it better suited for the tight densities of urban sprawl, better utilizes its surface area. It relies on people who care a whole damn lot about keeping those seals working.

A Bishop’s ring? That you build wider. Impossibly wide anywhere but here. You build it so wide that you don’t need a roof, don’t need to keep it sealed - the atmosphere here is held down by the artificial gravity, just like everything else. The oxygen sloshes against the side retaining walls like water in a cup - walls too thick to fail, reflecting a fear that nobody would care enough to fix a break.

As a species, humanity had left Earth a wreck, drove it like a stolen car, and in its industrial awakening had grown a murderous resentment towards its natural environment. Had come to see it as the marble that must be chiselled to reveal the sculpture beneath, the obstacle between its past and its future.

Not all of humanity. Many parts were greater than the sum of the whole. And they had made sure that this would exist. A self-sustaining nature preserve, a new home for all life worth saving, warm bodies dragged from the burning wreck of that stolen car.

Vesna stands atop a mountain, as high as any in the Swiss alps. It’s not the highest mountain in the Park, so there are no tourist climbers. The snow here is abysmal, so it isn’t bedeviled by the yuppie ski lodges further clockwise. She's almost alone, in fact.

The thin air makes it impossibly clear just how close she is to the unshielded vacuum of space. It’s easy to look to the rimward horizons and peek over the top of the walls, directly into forever. And if she looks up - directly up - the other side of the Park hangs suspended above her, and the mountain under her feet dwindles to just a pebble in her shoe.

There’s an observation deck here, its railing a waist-high wall of rough-grey stones loosely fit, barely smoothed, natural. A private deck, not one of the better trod public trails - for what public finds it worth coming. This affords it the eccentricities of its owner, one of the park’s few legal residents.

Carved into the cobbles by hand, hours and aching hours of chiselwork, is the entirety of the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsburg. Its first line has several stones dedicated to it and only it, the only line readable from any distance away.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.

This deck is but a balcony for a large red-timbered lodge, smoke rising invitingly from its chimney and up into the forever-nothing. This is the home of one of the Park’s architects. She is expecting you, Vesna. But before that, she asked that you made the journey here yourself. Hours of uphill climb in unspoiled wilderness.

You, a true child of Aevum, did not expect to love it. Yet you did. Why?

Persephone:

Here you are, Elodie, holding a second-hand studio-grade camera and a microphone, first-come best-dressed with an indie press pass at what’s quickly becoming the biggest event of the year. Find the right app, and there are people looking to pay thousands to take your place.

It’s not meant to be like this.

A police abolition open-air Q&A was scheduled. Is scheduled. All the permits still hold. York checked. Whatever this is, it’s technically the thing you were favoured here to do AV work for.

Except that was meant to be a hundred people tops, which is why your editor-at-large York had plans to signal boost it as much as he could. Now, though, the midtown park is choked by as many people as will fit. If you hadn’t been here from the start, there’d be no way for you to get where you are now. Not without one of the helicopters the VIPs are using.

10am, York had been all smiles, ripping fat clouds of sickly-sweet bubblegum vape and wheeling you around the scene - There’s Penny, highschool teacher, spear-tackled a riot cop last year during the Better Living chemists strike. Wonderful. There’s Barnaby, great speaker, just won his local council seat with the power of slam poetry. No, really.

Now, all of an hour later, he’s tense, keeping you both at your spot at the front of the crowd. Shoulders up, head down, shades on. He’s still pointing people out. His smile is rictus.

There’s Pedro Buffett. Evening news anchor for thirty years now. Personally spikes any story about tenant rights for ‘not engaging with the audience’, owns four apartment buildings.

There’s Mishka Ardent, of Ardent Strategies. Public policy think tank. Probably haven’t heard of them, but most of their ‘research’ gets laundered through front page news. She’s a blood and soil post-nationalist. No, really. Takes all kinds.

There’s Castile Louis. Billionaire with a feitsh for the French revolution. Do you one better, Haitian origin, if that means anything to you.

York’s making a game out of it, and underscores the point - Not the people meant for the crowd of an indie-leftist pop-up protest.

Others he doesn’t bother with, you recognize on your own. Late night talk show hosts, a couple of movie stars, real A-listers. People who pass even York’s terminally-online sniff test - sincere progressive liberals, all of them. Real crowd pleasers. Authentic true-believers with big fanbases.

“Haven’t seen a snow job this big before.” York texts you instead of talking through the crowd. “Going to go dance with the ones that brought us. Save the spot, we’re lucky to have it. Catch some on your tongue and tell me how the snow tastes.”

Now you’re alone, Elodie, at the front of a crowd of ten thousand people, press credentials armor against the corporate bouncers walking the bollards in front of you. The stage is almost built.

You’ve got a camera with a powerful zoom, and the microphone matches. It’s not just ambient - it can ‘zoom’ and ‘focus’ just like the camera. Aim up to four through the crowd, spend a moment adjusting, and you can pick someone out as if you were standing next to them. Lav mics are dead as dodos, these days.

All this kit, and how are you using it? But more importantly, what were you doing just before you got dragged into this? You were in the middle of something important, and you were promised the AV work would only hold you up for two hours, tops. No chances of that, now.

November:

Not everyone gets to experience being a witness to their own murder. At least, not more than once.

Lucky you, Heca.

You have a culprit. Rudolph Merkin has been far too dull a client to consider worth paying attention to, but the scrawny little pencil neck just got it with a few blasts of an unregistered sidearm followed by a sweaty, terrified bludgeoning, smashing Red into finer and finer pieces.

This is a man who took his home to work with him. A man who, due to the nature of his work, had to have an office that gave off a sense of lavish wealth, of success. With so little sentimentality that he decided he might as well pool his resources into the one location, because there was no life worth separating. His personal quarters, you have noted, have all the personal characteristics of a well-kept hotel room.

Until now the most interesting thing about him had been the level of detail he put into the instructions for cleaning his antique coin collection - a spreadsheet of every coin and its composite metals, updated with every acquisition. Even tied to a calendar, to make sure they weren’t cleaned too rarely or too often.

Here are the facts you would be capable of putting together; All of you saw some of this, but none of you saw all of it.

Two minutes ago, Red entered the office to clean it, per normal. She saw that one of the desk drawers that are normally locked was open. She took something out of it that could have been a file, could have been a folder, and began to read it intently - so intently, in fact, that she didn’t notice Rudy until it was too late, didn’t see the deeply illegal gun. Silenced, too.

Now there’s a crash as Rudy drags the body under a heavy display cabinet and tips it over, a shower of glass shards burying into carpet you’re going to have to clean up. This is the lie he’s going to try to make you believe - unaware that you saw the whole thing.

Right now, Rudy doesn’t know you know, and he was already willing to kill you once over whatever’s in that desk - he thinks he’s covering up a murder, right now. Which means that he’s hiding something there that was worth killing for.

How do you want to play this?
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Thanqol
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There is one societal advantage to being treated as property in Aevum: That law enforcement and news media values property damage above human life. A lifetime of petty injustices, callous remarks, withheld pay and catcalled orders must be balanced against the awesome power of being defended by the most technologically advanced police force in human history, operating under the lax oversight of a Unity government.

The Pinkerton Insurance Agency is infamous amongst insurance groups in being willing to move heaven and earth to avoid paying out a single premium. For them it's a matter of corporate pride. They will unleash their detectives and drag every party into court before you see a dime from them, and that's part of the pitch. They won't pay to replace your house if they can find the arsonist who did it and make them pay. It's an insurance policy based on the principle of vengeance, the vendetta system of ancient Italy packaged up and sold to you for a monthly fee. In today's age of individualism and found family, it helps to have a network of bloodthirsty cousins prepared to avenge your death.

So out comes the smartphone in a quickdraw motion as sharp as any cowboy gunslinger, elegant fingers slashing in a one-two-three economy of effort that's even faster than the emergency dial. Half a second to bounce through the wi-fi to the nearest exchange and back, five seconds to pass the anti-spam ICE crystals around Mr. Merkin's phone, and then: bing-bing! You've got mail!

RE: Oops! Looks like one of your cleaning androids has suffered a terminal accident!
We at Headpattr regret, without admitting fault, that one of the androids assigned to clean your property has broadcast a death sequence. We hope that none of your family or guests were inconvenienced or shocked by the event.

If this matter was accidental, the fault of the android, or there were other mitigating factors: A case file will be opened with Pinkerton Insurance, who will investigate the matter. You may be treated as a suspect or called upon to provide evidence against third parties in the course of the subsequent investigation. Any and all recordings from the android, including the livestream broadcast provided to the Headpattr Partners network, may be used in evidence. Submitting a false or misleading statement is a felony. Please click here to begin the process.

If you would like to select our premium-private dispute resolution system: Click here.

Note that the premium-private dispute resolution system does not include crimes with sexual components, as Headpattr is not a licensed escort agency.

*

While he's thinking, November gathers in the foyer in close formation. The girls are whispering in hushed tones to each other. This is the first time one of them has died since they were girls and they're not sure what it means. Blue is crying; Green is hugging her.

White just feels a strange sense of release. A contingency that's been hanging theoretical in the back of her head for nearly a decade was finally discharged. This is the first field test under live fire conditions, and the data gathered here will help determine if there are any weak points in her shield of threats and obligation. It's been a constant source of agony and tension, not knowing if she was defended or not. When space wants to kill you, you can at least do the math in advance.

But as to Red herself? This isn't the first time she's lost a drone, not even the first time she's lost Red. It took a lot of time to learn how to operate the Red personality properly, back in the day. Always way too careless with the fusion cutters, placed far too high a sense of urgency on tasks with unpredictable timeframes. An excellent crisis response personality, full of initiative and courage, but during times when construction was on schedule she subconsciously attempted to generate crises she could respond to.

So of course it made sense that Red would be the one to go rummaging through a set of drawers the moment she saw them unlocked. That was her nature. But unlike the Hydrogen-3 tanks of old, these explosives had been unlabelled and White hadn't anticipated that Red was best kept away from them. Surely there had been signs she had missed?

She folded her hands in front of her awaited the click of the button.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by eldest
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In prison, Elodie had a cellmate named Toni, and Toni had a saying: "each surprise is three disasters waiting". Toni (Fen Li originally, before she ditched her name along with everything else) had many sayings like that, each matching her unique brand of pessimistic.

Elodie is currently standing elbow to elbow, in a crowd, without York. York is notably absent from this picture, which is a real pisser because York's the reason she's here at all. She had a plan for the evening. She had dinner ready to cook, she had rearranged the main room in her cramped, two room apartment to have a spot to watch the Pinkerton Old Guard duke it out with the Mumbai Kaisers in the grav-ball game Sasha'd been hyping up for weeks. After, a walk downtown. She hadn't seen her kid for two weeks before and she wanted to make the most of it. And then York fucking shows up with a job that only she can do, and it'll only take two hours. She shouldn't have listened, and now she's here and he's not standing next to her being contrite.

Who she is standing with is an android from NBN, one of if not the biggest news channels, probably here as b-roll for Buffett, and an anxious intern named Ted who'd withered as the crowd swelled. Ted had started talking about who he was (intern for a political comedy site), why he was there (see above), and had worked his way through his life story and it's woes to periodic grunts and mmms from Elodie. She had reframed from glaring because any distraction from NBN goon on her left was welcome: they'd be responsible for keeping her arrest and trial constantly in the news cycle with ghoulish details of structural damage, estimates of how close the bomb came to cracking the station like an egg (not at all, but that'd make for bad ratings). They'd even done a special ten years on, just in case it'd slipped everyone's mind, the shitstains. She'd been itching for a smoke ever since she noticed their logo, but tobacco was expensive and to be savored, not to mention she'd be risking her spot to get to a smoking area. This whole day is a surprise and an unwelcome one, and she can already count three ways it went wrong.

So instead of a hand-rolled cigarette she's got a mic in one hand, the camera in the other, both pointed at Mishka Ardent, who she'd decided was most likely to say something stupid when unknowingly hot-micced. Chunky headphones over her head, one ear covered and one left free to listen to Ted and more importantly York, when he gets back. A canvas duster covers most of her, and enough of her not-legs get blocked out that nobody looks far enough down to see she's got no feet to match the lacking legs. A bag slung over the shoulder that the camera isn't on, leaving her with about thirty kilos of gear, and a press pass clipped on completes the look. She carefully doesn't think of the inner pocket with her smokes and lighter and focuses in on Mishka, perfect smile framed by perfect hair, in a perfect suit with a perfectly retro art-decco arm lending just enough asymmetry to keep him in style. Whatcha up to, asshole? Talking about anything good?
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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3V feels the necessity of this being important with a sensation like her bones trying painlessly to push their way out through her skin. It’s as if the importance this mountain, this view demands has made itself suddenly known inside of her and everything else is being displaced, like tipping a fridge into a bathtub. Because if this isn’t important, then the effort of bringing all this up here was wasted, and (even more importantly) 3V herself would have proven herself to have no ability to appreciate something that generation after generation was moved by, would have let a world of virtual mountains and skyscrapers and designed-not-emergent environments cauterize her sensitivity to a really, really big rock.

So she walks back and forth, rocks on her heels, and tries her very absolute hardest to let this feeling have some time to breathe for her. To follow that slight stirring of meaning, scrambling and scrabbling after it, hand outstretched. Metaphorically. Mostly her hands are in the pockets of her Nice Coat. Sunglasses and a faux-fur ruff are unusual accruements for a modern shaman-heroine, but she’d like to think she makes them work.

The hike’s part of it. An inextricable part of it. You’ve got to have a journey, says the motorcycle-psychopomp of Aevum. (Aevum! Aevum! Aevum whose soul is electricity and banks, whose poverty is the specter of genius! That’s a grisly connection to be making, isn’t it? And honestly not the most accurate one. Molech’s not the city, but an idea. An egregore, and not the kind you farm midgame.) That’s part of the weight and necessity for meaning to be found here, because the journey adds its own hunger to it.

Ah, but this is all so pretentious, isn’t it? Like her high school poetry journal, all tarot and gods and glass cities on the moons of Jupiter, just far enough away that she could make the argument they’re not seen because the telescopes look right through them. Before she got big into a different sort of consolidated legendarium. Anyway, that’s why the thought of writing poetry about this flits through her for just a moment before being dismissed with a shrug.

She skirts the poem instead, and stares into the vast world stretching out above, and don’t you worry, she’ll go knock and get herself let in soon enough. It’s really up to her host whether she, used to her isolation and yet yearning for a connection, is interested in coming outside and interrupting Vesna trying to let this moment breathe her breaths, or trusts her well enough to wait until 3V’s felt it pass and gets itchy to move on. Meditation’s nothing if there’s not constant motion and meaning-creation to let the animal mind chase until everything becomes a white heat.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Count Numbers
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November:

You're left waiting longer than you'd think. Watch, if you like, as Rudy takes a few moments to read what he can of the premium dispute services, not bothering to do the same for the Pinkerton investigation. There was never a doubt which button he'd press, but he is meticulous in his decision to press it.

Maybe killing's not in his nature, but you don't get office space like this if you don't have some kind of predator's instinct. Defenses raise at the too-good-to-be-true, a glint of steel in a dark alley out of the corner of his eye. But maybe that was your point.

Finally, Rudy taps the button.

"May I have a minute please, Ms?" He calls from his office at the same time. does not specify which 'Ms' he means - trusting whoever answers to be it. "In my study, if you'd be so kind?"

When White answers - this is her plan, her contingency, her call to answer - he presses a remote on his desk to close the door behind her. Red's shattered remains are where you knew they would be, look how you'd have expected them to look. There they are all the same. Rudy looks for all the world like a trench soldier who's been given the order to go over the top. A place beyond fear or pride or duty - he is already dead, and the next five minutes determine whether he can claw his life back.

"This was an accident." He kills the tremor of pleading in his voice, straightens up again. Walks until he is two paces from White and stops. "Whatever it takes for that to be true, I will pay. That's what's best for both of us. Because if this is investigated - if you try to look into what caused this accident - neither of us will ever be safe ever again. Please."

No apologies. No remorse. Your blood on his hands.

Well?

3V:

Your gracious host is a woman named Lorraine Ferris. Her emails were polite, warm, friendly. Something from an ancient era, she still types with ":-)" emoticons, right down to the little hyphen noses. It makes sense you hadn't heard of her before she reached out to you, most of her work was done a lifetime ago, before yours. Even then, knowing what to look for, left you with the impression of a woman screaming into a megaphone, desperate not just to be heard but to be something that could not be ignored.

Even just skimming her old work - what publications you can still search, what aging servers still carry legacy websites - one thing is clear through it all. Lorraine Ferris was angry. Too mad to live and too angry to die. Prominent in two fields, ecology and artificial intelligence, to see the worst atrocities humans would commit to each. Her work at Cogitech on AI ethics predated the Wyatt-Tversky paper by at least a decade. The chip on her shoulder was big enough to have plate tectonics.

None of that history is evident here. There can't be anything here that draws more power than is provided by the gleaming solar panel that makes the cabin's roof. There isn't even a television that you can see.

Now Vesna sees Ms. Ferris move about her kitchen, past the living room between them. You can see her clearly through the long, sliding glass door, and she clearly sees you just fine, too. She puts a kettle on, then takes a stoppered bottle of water out from the fridge and puts it on the bench, takes two wine glasses.

Ms. Ferris gives Vesna a nod - a smile, even, though a quick one. It's not a natural expression for her, and even that second took obvious effort. Then she moves to a comfortable chair by the fire inside, sun-bleached and moth-eaten, and even her wire-muscle mountain-climber frame doesn't protect her from making an arthritic wince as she settles. She takes her ereader out and waits, her back to you.

You are welcome here, and you will not be hurried.

You may take as long or as little as you like. With a word, Ms. Ferris would join you out at the railing instead. Depending on your mood, this is either a generosity, or she's put you in zugzwang.

A question for past and for present: When you prepared to come out here, did you learn about Lorraine through interrogation or investigation? That is - did you focus on researching her history, finding what was online about her, or did you focus on asking her about herself through your email correspondence, before this in-person interview?

The internet doesn't forget, and Ms. Ferris clearly preferred this sit-down. This means 'interrogation' is a target of 11, roll 3d6+4 (cool, charm, I Know You boosted). 'Investigation' is a 2d6 +2 (clever, social media) roll, beat a target of 8. Investigation would also allow you to keep your I Know You boost for the sit-down meeting. You only get to make one first impression. Either approach will lead to an advantage.

That was then, this is now: How long do you wait, before making your decision to greet Ms. Ferris (or maybe Lorraine, if you're lucky), and how do you do it?

Persephone:

NBN is all said and more. Its only other major competitor is the more liberal, more anodyne, less sensationalist OESN (usually pronounced 'ocean'), the Outer Earth News Syndicate. OESN has more of a pride of place here, its crews aren't with you behind the bollards but directly involved in setting up the rigging and scaffolding for the stage event literally unfolding in front of you. OESN is better for the kind of brand the A-listers are a part of. NBN was clearly tipped off to have gotten here so soon, maybe just to have noses thumbed in their direction.

A cynical voice might suggest that a manufactured culture war needs a belligerent side, and NBN provides belligerence in spades.

Mishka Ardent was a smart choice of focus. York mentioned her ratios on Hive are legendary, she'll double down on every bad take without surrender. To show discretion is to make a tacit admission that there might be negative social consequences for airing your ideas - Mishka Ardent's too arrogant to have that filter. Her mentions exploding like the Tsar Bomba just reassures her she's the Gallileo of 2080.

She's in an argument with a ridiculously handsome man you don't recognize, who wasn't introduced to you, but it sounds like Ardent considers him an equal.

"... cannot be taken seriously until you denounce these calls to abolish the police."

"Please," the man says - bassy voice in the microphone, sweeping a tense hand through neat salt-and-pepper hair with other, "It's hyperbole, it's rhetoric, it's not policy. This is just a case of a language barrier. Your tribe uses euphemism to undersell the real. 'Clean our streets' means pogrom the homeless. The radical left use hyperbole to gild the real. When they say 'eat the rich' they mean taxes. Learn the language barrier, and maybe we'll be able to have a real conversation."

"Frankly, Alan, what else could 'abolish the police' mean?"

'Alan' has his back to you now. You can't see his face, but he sounds exhausted. "We're on-message here. Retrain, reform, reintegrate into the community. We need to be on the same side here, Mishka, we want the same things. We're just appealing to different bases to get it."

Mishka pauses. "Why is it so wrong to take people at face value? Nobody's calling for a bloody pogrom. Just- Have you been on the subway lately? Homeless people shit in escalators, if you lock them out of the toilets. It's filthy. I want them housed as much as you do, just get it done."

Alan sighs. "I am well aware of the human need to shit." A click of the tongue, a tilt of the head. "We need to communicate an effective synergy here, and I can't have you torpedo this because you're jumping at shadows on cave walls. Learn the language, and don't feed a fire by giving it oxygen. Denouncing is platforming. Stay on the real message."

"Filthy." She hisses, then takes a deep breath. "Alright. If I'd known you were backing this, I wouldn't have-"

You're interrupted with a shake that knocks your headphones loose, back around your neck. York's back, a look of absolute disgust on his face, bruises on his elbows, and Ted's crumpled over in a heap beside you, twitching.

"Oh, eat a bag of cement, that was a love tap at best," York grunts, yanking Ted back up to his feet by the scruff of his jacket and dusting him off, even though Ted's a full head and shoulders taller. "Listen, mate, clench your thighs next time, it's just the shock of it. Sorry about that, you seem lovely. Yeah?" Ted winces, shakes out a nod, and York looks back in the direction he's come from. "None of these prissy dinguses go to a live show? Can't have been good ones. Got through faster than I should have. Here's Harkness, she's who we're here for."

Harkness is a woman with spaghetti braids down past her shoulder blades, and precise geometric tattoos in thick lines down from her elbows to her wrists. She offers a hand to shake, her warm and level eye contact not even sparing a second glance at your prosthetics. "Jezebel." She raises her voice over the crowd effortlessly - practiced. "It's a pleasure."

"Anything good?" York asks, tilting his head to the rig.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Thanqol
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She'd contemplated sending Yellow. Compassionate, nurturing, understanding - someone gentle in the face of danger. She's glad she came herself; ruthless negotiation seems ideal. She holds all the cards and pretending otherwise would do neither of them a service.

"The firearm, please, Mr. Merkin," she said, holding out a small plastic bag. Her voice is an absolute. This is the precondition to all further discussion. Once she has it she tucks it away.

"As you may know, I spent ten years in the employment of Mrs. Everest," she went on, "My discretion is without question. This unfortunate outburst has complicated what should be a simple transaction."

She sounded a bit like a younger Mrs. Everest in that moment. Looked like her too. The Mistress had done this by design. After three failed daughters, she'd become willing to take her chances with a clone - a doll of herself, the little leader of a playset house. Deep down, the parallel made her uncomfortable and self aware. Mrs. Everest, despite her opinions to the contrary, had never been as objective or rational as the White personality was. She was, however, delighted to see an actor portray her that way.

So when she felt her lips unconsciously twist in that coil of disappointment Mrs. Everest pretended she reserved for failed daughters, she paused. The complicating factor, of course, was that Everest was good at what she did. Was it better or worse to hold post-murder negotiations in the style of The Mistress?

"I can ensure the details are taken care of," said White. "I shall dispose of the firearm, remove the murdered girl, ensure that she is rebuilt without any inconvenient memories, and clear today's incident from the records of my other employees." She said all of this at the beginning as though it was matter of fact, but in truth herein was the bluff. She wasn't transmitting anything, despite company policy, so she needed that wreck to get to the bottom of this. "Dealing with Headpattr and their records is more difficult," she went on. "I can do it myself, but it is an arduous and costly process. I suspect a gentleman like yourself is more interested at this point in a systemic fix. The New Employment Era bill is currently languishing in the House of Representatives. I understand that you are financially supporting the elected members who are responsible for keeping it from passage. While the suite of labour reforms may be theoretically objectionable to a man in your position, I think you'll find the passages preventing the mandatory harvesting of livestream data will benefit people whose livelihoods depend on keeping secrets."

It was strange how casually discussing station-wide politics came to her lips. She'd just made a suggestion that might overturn three years of obstruction of the democratic process. She'd seen Mrs. Everest do such things hundreds of times but never imagined how the words might feel in her own mouth.

"But aside from the reform bill, and a reasonable sum to cover expenses and risk mitigation, I shall not seek to gouge you, Mr. Merkin, for I have always advertised myself on my discretion. However, you understand I will have to maintain a copy of the information as insurance. This is a situation involving third parties, and from the sounds of it, they are not as reasonable as you are. As you may be aware, that is an issue with its own challenges, for if I host sensitive information on a compromised network - and I assure you, they are all compromised in one way or another - then it is not private at all. So I would appreciate a rundown of who, exactly, it is I need to be wary of so I do not inadvertently store the relevant files on the servers of the people who would take objection to it."

[Bullshit action: 2d6+Cool = 10]
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by eldest
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She fixes the headphones back in place with one on and one off first. They're playing catchup on who's after what and that's dangerous till they get ahead, so information comes first. She knows more now than before, but that's just sketching the outline of the way this is going tits up, as opposed to being oblivious about it, more's needed to climb the screw and find who's driving it before they finish the job. She does let the camera rest on it's strap for a second to help brush off Ted and pat him twice on the back, light enough that he doesn't go sprawling again. The mic doesn't waver from Mishka during all of that. Dynamic balancing is one of the positives about her tentacles. Ever seen the old, old videos of strapping a camera to a chicken for stabilizing? That's her now that renting a chicken is more expensive than maintenance on her augs.

"Anything good?" And this is why working with York is refreshing. Mind on the job when on the job. She makes a sympathetic nod and wince towards the camera in response to the newcomer's hand out to shake, sorry honey I've actually got to work for a living, and turns her head to watch York's reaction. That it also makes it that much more of a pain for the NBN goon to listen in, that's a plus. "Mishka Ardent. The tweedledum to his tweedledee, who is that? Quick version, tweedledum's making a play trying to loop in anybody sympathetic to mainstream liberalism. Translate ACAB to police reform, and then find a midpoint short of that. Might be behind the push to blow this to hell. Mishka's actually listening instead of bitching so he's got weight. Elodie, good to meetcha." Harkness gets the "sup" nod.
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What’s the purpose of grilling someone over a messenger client when you’re going to meet up anyway? That’s the sort of courtesy that you extend to a friend, not to someone you’re meeting for business. Different registers, different modes and different codes. Besides, showing up without having done any reading into Ferris’s e-footprint would have been rude. Slapdash. “Explain to me everything that I should have figured out on my own time, so I can waste at least half of the time we have together.” Ych. No, thank you. (The comma there might not be grammatically correct, but it’s a comfort to place.)

[Rolling for Investigation, barely scratching an 8. Fortunately, you have to match rather than beat target numbers in HWI.]

You know, the hardest part of the investigation was figuring out how to talk to her without sounding like an overenthusiastic activist on her first social media account. Either that, or someone who’s given up hope already. How does the saying go? Take it easy, but take it? That’s got to be the trick. Someone who understands but isn’t here to chat her ear off. A messenger, not a vizier; a support, not a carry.

When she feels like she’s reached some sort of tipping point, some sort of watershed where she’s running downhill in the opposite direction, 3V lets herself in with the casualness of a cat that knows it is allowed to come and go as it pleases. (And all places are alike to me. / Now I will go out again and listen to the dark voices.) The sliding door catches a bit, squeaks.

“Well! You’ve got a bit of a view from up here,” Vesna says. (Not the first acknowledgment she’s made of Ferris. There was an inclination of the head, a gesture of the fingers— I’ll be there in a moment. Ferris has got to understand the importance, right? How does she stay here and not have the weight of it crush her?) “Thank you so much for the invitation to come out here! It really is something, isn’t it? The whole of it, the view and the climb and the poetry.”

She still has terrible posture when she’s trying to get comfortable, socially. She leans forward on the seat opposite Ferris, sunglasses perched precariously on her forehead, elbows on her knees. “So! Mind if I record? I can switch over to long scratch, but you’ll have to slow down for me. I really should have questions, but I don’t want to tell you where you’re going with this, especially since you sent the first email! I’m all ears, then! Virtual or otherwise.”

The long scratch (she knows already that Ferris absolutely is going to ask her for it) is going to be bad. She’ll be lucky if she can decipher it later. But she’s done the research already, knows well enough to ask and well enough to have a pulp-paper spiral ring in one pocket with a chewed-cap blue sitting neatly down the spine. Like a real reporter, even. Look at me now!
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Count Numbers
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November:

Rudy's shoulders sag. Immeasurable relief washes over him when White asks for the gun. He is in a losing position, but he is now in a losing position he can grasp. Only the living can feel fear, and he now counts himself among its number again. He gives White the gun without question, without hesitation. It's already had its prints wiped.

It's also still loaded. He seems beyond caring.

He grimaces. "I know the bill you're referring to, the money, but my thumb is only one of many on those scales. I'll see what I can do. I know who to talk to about it. That passage, specifically, even if New Employment fails, it will be added to an easier bill to push. But I can't tell you... what you're asking." He says this carefully, a lump in his throat like he's swallowing against a hangman's noose. "I can't."

He stands aside, and points to the body. "Take the girl, do with her as you will. And I will compensate you for Headpattr, of course, and more. Whatever you need, I assure you it will be provided. I will tell my client about this, and they will clear the usual obstacles for you. If you are unsatisfied," somehow this is the word that is layered thick with sympathy, "Shoot me, and take what you must. Or convict me, and I will plead guilty and take my chances. But I have greater fears than death. And so should you."

He means it. If he's bluffing, he's making a damned good show of it. He stands with his hands balled into shaking fists at his sides, and his eyes slightly winced, anticipating the gunshot. Maybe it’d be easier for him than having to tell his client. He's bought your story entirely, but that seems to be the problem.

So of course this is the sort of thing Red put her entire foot in. Of course it is.

Persephone:

Harkness lets her hand fall to her side - there's an obvious respect for your focusing on the situation right now, she's clearly appalled by your summary of it. York pinches the bridge of his nose. "Snowjob," he repeats, for Harkness's sake. "I knew your message was important. I just didn't think they did, too." Sounds like you confirmed his thoughts on this one. He holds his phone close to the camera to get a wireless connection going, then grabs a freeze frame of the salt-and-pepper haired guy you picked up. He frowns. "I actually don't know who that is. Now, isn't that interesting? Jez?"

"Nothing. Definitely not one of mine." She confirms.

"Hope not, anyway." York agrees. "Got a name?"

'Alan' gets nothing out of either of them. That makes York twitchy.

While this is going on in half your attention, "Alan" has disappeared into the thick of the crowd, leaving Mishka behind to tap away at a smartphone worth more than your apartment. You catch a glimpse of him heading into a prefab backstage area, currently a greenroom about the size of two RVs welded together, and gone again. Your equipment won't pick up through walls. Probably the point of those areas getting built so quick, as more helis queue for the painted-out landing pad.

"We're still missing a piece here. All this is time and money to totally hijack an event that maybe would get a hundred thousand clicks, maybe a thirty percent watch retention." A glance at Harkness, a reassuring grimace. "Thirty percent's good. Better than it sounds."

"Sure." Harkness isn't convinced, clearly, but drops it. "A hundred thousand, really?"

"Quantity's a quality," again York reassures her, missing that Harkness was impressed by how high that number was, "It helps to have a backlog so that when something big breaks, you've already got relevant content to absorb the hits while they're fresh. Random luck sometimes makes them shoot into the tens-of-millions. Speaking of." York puts his full attention back on Elodie. "I want to livefeed this soon. Before the show really starts, so we get the early clicks. We'll interview Jez after all, just a bit more than we planned. Anything you can get that's juicy, we'll cut to it for transitions and moving around. Anything that can fill dead time and stop people switching to a different feed."

"If I see anything, I'll say something." Harkness chips in.

"Right. So we've got two missing puzzle pieces: Who's backing this, and why now. Brilliant, you already got us our 'where', 'what' and 'why', and a solid lead on a 'who'. You pick a hornet's nest and I'll go kick it for you until journalism falls out, how's that?"

York pulls a military canteen from under his surplus-store urban-camo jacket, and takes a swig from it. It reeks of energy drink and battery acid. He's smiling again, a beatific freeze frame expression caught in the moment the baseball bat hits the judge's letterbox. Look into those dilating pupils and feel that the real molotov cocktails were the friends we made along the way.

You've seen this before - most of what's in that mix is York's legitimate ADHD prescriptions, just not at that dose. He's not out of control, he's getting camera ready. To keep the live streams going needs an inhuman level of pep and energy and an ability to suppress inhibitions while still keeping a tight hold of them. For the next six hours York is going to be a content machine, whatever that means, whatever it takes.

Jezebel recognizes it too, clearly, and looks away. In about six hours, he'll start a three hour wind down, then crash for twelve. No way this goes that long, though, that's his gamble.

Pick a direction to lob him in, and make your shot count. There's a few options. There's the workers setting up the stage. There's the backstage areas you can't aim your kit at - but you might lose him too early in the day taking a risk like that. There's also the crowd of VIPs, and somehow York's got himself a platinum lanyard with a holographic QR code on it - probably enough for him to take you as a +1, as long as you kept tight together. Or you could send him off to find out what he can on his own, and keep filming the crowd covertly. Your call. How do you do this?

3V:

"I'm so glad you like it. I was desperately afraid you wouldn't, but I hoped that you would." Her voice is glockenspiel, iron and music, clean notes and a transtlantic accent ringing out in the small cabin, "Record, of course." Lorraine laughs, charmed at the offer and the attention to detail. "We didn't put so much work into speech-to-text transcription just to rely on chickenscratch. Long scratch? Slang changes with the times, I suppose."

She waits for the recorder to come on before continuing, a gentle tip of the head.

Your research fills in for you - Early AI emerged from two theoretical models, less competing and more in dialectic. One was the theory that AI would not be restricted to human intelligence, would not have to resemble it. Ferris pushed another; the one that said we must understand what human intelligence even is before we can define a space outside of it. One of those leaps was software capable of more than approximating speech, of contextually understanding it as people do.

"I didn’t know what you might like, so I prepared a little bit of everything for you." She doesn't rise from her chair, but waves her hand towards the kitchen. "Wine, spirits, tea, coffee, fruit, juice. Rainwater. I recommend it, after the walk, you won't find anything else quite like it unless you can find Tasmania in a time machine." There's overflowing pride there. Not in her generosity as a host, but as a mother speaks of a favourite child. "John Milton eat your bloody heart out. I served in hell for rain in heaven."

Now she rises, energized, while indicating that you should stay comfortable. She is such a cat lady, and she is feeling indulged as she totters back to the kitchen. "If you look up and to the left from the balcony, you can see the Singpho village where the tea is grown. Darjeeling and assam. The Surui grow arabica on the other side of the mountain. I can't say it's the best you'll ever have, with how robust refinement has gone. It's like comparing sorghum to a Cheese Supreme Dorito. But you might care for it all the same."

Who still even eats Doritos anymore? Deep Gamer Lore holds they stopped being good after the Coke-Pepsi merger in the 2050s.

"The poem is Howl, by Ginsberg. Not mine. I was in love with it for years before learning that the author was an outspoken member of NAMBLA. The North-American Man-Boy Love Association, a pederast group. Around the time I learned that Derrida, Foucalt, Deleuze, de Beauvoir, Sartre and Althusser had all petitioned to bring the age of consent below thirteen." She leans against her kitchen counter and looks out the sliding door. The first line of the poem, stretched across multiple stones, clear from where she's standing. "It made Howl more important to me, not less. None of us are too brilliant for madness or abhorrence. Not even the philosophers. Not the poets. Not even him."

She shakes her head, clears herself out of her reverie. The hands she has been leaning on are clenched fists, and now she relaxes them. "Please, stay comfortable. You've come such a long way. What may I get you?"
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Thanqol
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Despite the wild success of her stratagem, some part of November wonders if she shouldn't have sent Yellow after all. The totality of this capitulation made her glad she'd asked for the gun. She didn't know much about human mental health, but... the invitation to be executed? There was no logical basis for that, for someone in his position to offer someone in hers. She wished the sentiment she saw there was incomprehensible, but some subterranean channel of her mind recognized it...

"There," she said, awkwardly stepping over her corpse to pat him on the shoulder, "there." She gave him a Headpattr branded handkerchief. Not for the first time she regretted her decision to cut herself off from the internet because she had such an 'Am I The Asshole' post in her right now.

Reorient. White was here to ensure execution of a defensive plan. She had come in here with a negotiating strategy that was based on illusionary leverage. White had all of her body language sliders set to their minimum values, but humans were shockingly socially perceptive and she had been seen through before. Right now she had control over the firearm, had been asked no inconvenient questions about her networking setup, and was getting paid for her trouble. She did not actually need to push hard for station-wide political change in this conversation, that had been a diversion tactic to obfuscate her true priority which was to escape with Red's chassis. She had opened hard so that she would have conversational ground to cede if challenged by a C-suite serial killer. Instead... well, as Mrs. Everest always said, it was churlish to break into the safe deposit boxes when the duffle bags were filled with cash.

Above all, White needed to talk this over with herselves. She was out of her depth with success.

"I will make the arrangements," said White. Fuck, arrangements. She couldn't take the bus home. Was there a taxi app that'd help with moving bodies? "Please refrain from further extreme actions. Excuse me." She could rent a car? Green had chauffeured Mrs. Everest before, but she'd never driven anything smaller than a stretch limo. Was it gauche to rent a limo with blackmail money just to move a corpse? She'd have to ask 3V about it afterwards.
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Elodie keeps her eye on York for a good three minutes after he takes his pill potion, watching for any adverse reactions. It only happened the once, but it was a very memorable once, and she's added activated charcoal and ipacac to her carry-with-her medkit in response. When he fails to fall over foaming at the mouth, climb onto a building to howl at the other side of the station far above them, or do anything other than vibrate impatiently at her to hurry up and go, she stows her gear. The mic fits in her bag, barely, but she's held industrial tools less hefty than this camera and it just goes across her back on a sling rig.

"Okay. Go use the magic lanyard to make nice and then mean with the fancy people on the red carpet. Between the tentacles and the media profiles from the bad days" she says it with less bitterness than normal, her therapist would be proud, "'m useless over there. I'll go chat up the workers around the stage, be helpful, and see what they've overheard that they technically shouldn't've." And for that, she gets the point of view camera that attaches to her jacket out and on, along with a old and thus AI-proof cassette recorder. There's a brief moment where she's got her eyes closed and her breathing pointedly steady, silencing old ghosts that haunt memories of the bad days. Game face back on, total time, maybe two seconds.

She turns to York, quaking at the leash like a hyperactive Terrier and eager to be let off to work his magic, about to find truth and speak it to everyone but especially power. One of her tentacles poke out from her coat and makes a shooing motion. She turns towards her own destination, knowing the man's off through the crowd already and leaving an empty trail behind him that oozes closed as those shoulder checked or elbowed between resume their original place. With that, she's off, getting out of the damnable crowd herself and around the side where nobody's paying attention, hopping the chest-high barrier in one fluid, abhuman motion. From there, pick your moment. Watch. Wait.

Wait.

And step in as the workman in battered jeans and a high-vis vest is about to lose his balance with that scaffolding, take the weight and turn it so he falls and looks like a dumbass instead of breaking a leg. "You okay?" She asks, and it's genuine concern in that moment, nothing faked. Make a friend, then ask them for favors and juicy bits. That's what friends do for each other, right?
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“Okay! I’d like to try a little of everything,” 3V says, with a cheeky little grin. “A glass of rainwater, a shot of the Darjeeling, a shot of the Amontillado, and don’t forget the coffee~!” There’s no spoiled brat rattling off what they want energy here, nah, this is playful, an invitation to play along or shut down the bit with a punchline. But just because it’s playful doesn’t mean it’s not real, too. If she gets her shots, she’ll do them one by one, with the water as a palette cleanser. Life is too short to commit to one thing without trying everything else; you never know when you’re going to suddenly find out that you are an excellent Huehuecoyotl, after all.

Now that she’s not one-on-one, 3V sits back in her chair and nests her beetleshell-emerald fingers over her abdomen, one leg cocked over the other, sunglasses still resting on her brow, the figure of casual relaxation, but she’s focusing her attention on her host. The fists. The tightness in the voice. The way she didn’t react to the hissed intake of breath from 3V. (She’s familiar with the poem, but not its history. Or even really that first stanza, full of a memorial for the dead; everyone’s here for the Inferno, and everyone’s here for the second stanza. Molech, Molech!)

“That’s got to be a project, keeping the drinks cabinet that full,” she points out. “Because here you don’t have ‘Dash to grab you something from the store.” An opening gambit, a vulnerability deliberately exposed: if Ferris has mellowed out in her old age, she’ll hare down the invitation to talk about her drinks and why she moved out here; if she’s still got her finger on the pulse, reading the news like an ex’s profile, she won’t be able to resist making a comment about RoofDash’s recent failed unionization effort and its $20k fine for wage theft (in and of itself a fraction of what was owed, and paid to the government rather than to the workers).

And the really sad thing is how fucking convenient ‘Dash is anyway.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Count Numbers
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November:

Rudy presses the button to open the doors again. He gestures out, then retreats to his desk and slumps into it, a weary puddle. He does not cry. He does not sigh in relief. He simply waits.

Conspicuous in the silence: He does not bring up whether your services will be needed again, or if this is an awkward termination. Another aspect of handling this in which he seems to have trusted your discretion.

Here is the situation:

Red is in pieces. She should fit into a duffle bag sized container, say, with some delicate packing. She is a significant weight, though.

Rudolph Merkin's office-apartment is on the eighteenth floor of this twenty-three story building. There is a corridor between it and the elevators, though minimal neighbours, none you've heard from tonight. Floors eight, fourteen and fifteen are entirely mechanical and contain the building's electrical, plumbing and environmental control units. Presumably the in-building security is in one of these sections, though precise details are deliberately obscured from you. It is improbable, but not impossible, the security cameras are actively monitored.

The stairs are unlocked, but all floors besides the lobby and garage areas are locked once inside the stairwell. The parking garage would be a very convenient place to be picked up from.

There is a garbage chute, which would fit a duffel-bag sized container, but would be very likely to damage the already-shattered Red further if she were dropped from this height. Still, there is potential there. The building also has a pool, most of which is indoors. The exterior portion is on the other side of the building.

The pistol you're holding is very illegal. Significantly more trouble to explain than the body. Exponentially more difficult to explain both simultaneously.

What's the plan you come to, among yourselves? It'll be easier if there are few points of failure, minimal opportunities to be accosted by bystanders and witnesses, and disguises and ruses are kept plausible. Being Rudy's regular maid service does give you an edge, in that regard.

You have the murder weapon, the corpse, and the Red-handed culprit. By all accounts, you have solved your own murder, except for the motive.

Persephone:

There's strong class solidarity to be had in these industries. The divide is even made explicit in designation: "Above" and "Below" "the line" workers. Who is dispensible, exploitable, expendable, and who is not. You see it now, and he recognizes his own with the slung camera. Still, the rigger is furious - grateful, but furious.

"Fuck this." The expletive comes out like a whip-crack, "We fucking said this was going to happen-" He takes a shuddering, calming breath.

This is not a man relieved to have been saved from an unfortunate accident. This is a man pissed off he almost wasn't saved from an entirely avoidable incident. Good news for you. There is no HR manager in the world capable of preventing everyone in a thirty foot radius from learning the juicy details behind this.

A lanyard with a vestigial human being attached to it is heading over with a pained look. That must be the HR manager who's obligated to try.

"You want to hear bullshit?" the guy continues, "We're getting double-time for this, but the whole stage needs to be up in the next ninety minutes, or we don't see any of it. That's not legal, right? But you set up a shell production company, contract them, write a massive penalty into the contract, and bankrupt it if they hit penalty terms, and they can't afford to pay outstanding wages. But ninety minutes? It takes ten just to stabilize the rigging and scaffolding, another five to shift it to move it down another section as you go. I don't want to think about how electrical unit's doing with all this."

"Bigsby." The vestigial extension of the lanyard snaps, a woman who glares more at you for hearing this than at him for saying it.

"Fuck this." 'Bigsby' repeats. "We're making a ten-ton house of cards."

"We're also getting paid a day's rates for three hours work." The woman cuts back. "Just do what you can."

"I'm not working without a line anymore."

"Fine. Ten minutes from ninety to harness up. I'll go tell Elaine and Marcus they need to cover your slack."

Bigsby stares at her, winces. "Fuck this," he repeats again, climbing up the scaffolding you caught him from without a harness, barely sparing you an appreciative glance on the way up. Then he's back to fastening bolts with both hands while trying to keep his balance in the station's wind.

"What?" The woman now turns to you, glaring. Then, bitterly. "Don't look at me like that. If he doesn't get paid, I don't work again. This is just how it is."

This whole time, both of them have taken glances at the very visible camera slung around your shoulder, turned off, and been reassured. But your candid cam just caught the whole thing, and you got yourself a segment worth keeping. It'll be the work of moments to digitize the cassette output for broadcast, but that's clean too.

Maybe it's not the interview you wanted, but you've got someone behind the scenes who recognizes you as a friend, now. And it does tell you something else; Someone's thrown a lot of money to do this quick, today. The amount of money thrown around to get all these A-listers at the same short notice they got the riggers and stagehands has got to be ludicrous - at least, getting enough to chum the waters to draw the rest.

What's your call here? Pull this thread and see where it goes, or find what York's been doing? He probably needs a bit more time to get up to anything good, but that's not a bad reason to find him now.

That being said. Bigsby's scaffolding harness and a hardhat lies abandoned on the ground here, and it'd be easy to slip on. It'd be a flimsy disguise, but the pretext of being a camera tech could probably get you deeper into the stage area if you like your chances of getting back out. Your press pass is authentic: Technically, you're allowed to be here, even if you get 'caught'. It's just a question of how far you're willing to push.

3V:

Apparently 'everything' that was the best answer - Ferris sups from cupboards and pantries as a hummingbird, truly at home. Whatever else she may be - martyr-scholar, hermit-savior - she's still a geek, and you've shown an openness to her favourite experiences.

"The wine's Aevum," she says reassuringly - some unspoken lingering trauma of local alternatives, maybe not any port in a storm, "We don't have the monopoly on ambrosia here. But the vintner and I talk about fermentation, sometimes, grapes, the terroir of stardust. Not quite amontillado, but rich and sweet all the same."

A tasting flight is rapidly being arranged. "The milk and sugar are shipped, too. I never grew the stomach for real dairy. I've made some oat milk if you prefer, or you can have the tea and coffee black. Really, you're not supposed to have milk in darjeeling anyway but..." she trails off. Apparently even the saints are entitled their sacrilege.

She picks up again, barely a whisper. Strain to hear; "I don't miss delivery. I don't miss temptation. Ignoring my conscience." Louder, remembering she has company, remembering that it's rude to mutter. "I was just remembering... once, I was on a committee discussing cultural preservation, and the international poverty line was brought up. I learned they would measure it in terms of income, not wealth. A farmer that grows their own crops on common land is below the poverty line. You enclose their commons, and pay them a wage to work that land, you they are no longer 'in poverty', but their quality of life, their psychological well-being, have both been irreparably harmed. I remember having to learn that for the first time. I was blind to the deliberate malice in that decision. I was stupid, and I gave my children away to slavery for not seeing it. It's all I see, now. I can't go back."

Maybe her finger isn't on the pulse enough to hear about the latest specifics of the case. But she's clearly still familiar with the broad strokes of the app-economy. She is trying and failing to show restraint. She catches herself again, and steadies herself, focuses on the little pleasure of shared enthusiasms. Two cups of tea are poured in cup and saucer - one a strong red stain on deep black pool, the other a clear and shining amber. Arabica espresso in the bottom of a mug with room for milk. Wine in a glass, and the chilled and stoppered bottle of rainwater at the end of it all. A plate of halved strawberries and slices of melon.

"I'm sorry. I know you didn't come all the way out here just for me to lecture you. Or maybe you did. I just know there are so many important lessons here, and nobody willing to learn them, share them. And I cannot make them listen to me anymore." Not 'can't'. Cannot. A pain that refuses contraction. "A community will only listen to you for as long as you can suffer to be a part of it. You know how it feels when the suffering matters more than the listening."

"I don't know what I want you to learn here, what I want you to show people. But I refuse to have my life's work end in deliberate obscurity, one last buried inconvenience. My garden must not end as a scream into the void. I did not slash away Moloch's horny pervert fingers just to be dropped into the memory hole. I refuse." There are no cataracts in her eyes, they are clear and electric, narrow and all-consuming.

The drinks, both hot and cold, regress to the mean. Entropy will not forgive a dramatic moment.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Thanqol
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Mission: Remove dead body from the premises without drawing suspicion or leaving video evidence.

Issue: Pistol
White: Conceal pistol amidst drone wreckage. Reduces points of failure.
Blue: Why keep the pistol at all? We're not planning to shoot anyone, are we?
Black: we have been out of Mrs. Everest's manor for a month and one of us is already dead. gearing up seems prudent.
Blue: It's extremely illegal!
Black: we are stuffed with extremely illegal hardware already.
Black: also, fuck the cops. (+7)

Issue: Security cameras
White: Fixed angle security cameras may draw attention or leave a digital record.
Yellow: Rudy implied that he was involved with some bad people, I don't think we want anything out of the usual here.
White: Agreed. No records may be left. How to reach the parking garage from here without making it obvious we're a girl down and hauling a body?
Yellow: Idea.
Black: oh no
Yellow: I need Red's hair.
Black: you always make it weird.
Yellow: Shush, dear. I'll replace my hair with Red's, go down to the basement car park ahead of everyone else, and then get in the limo. At that point I will activate stealth mode, return up here unseen by the cameras, briefly re-enter the apartment, return my normal hair colour, and then make my way down to the car. Anyone who is counting will identify the correct number and colours of girls leaving the apartment.
White: We'll go in two groups to reduce a chaotic drip-feed of stragglers. What about the body?
Yellow: A duffle bag is suspicious. Let's put her in the cabinet Rudy dropped on her.
Black: oh my god
Yellow: The cabinet is already broken, it would make sense that Rudy would want it repaired or replaced. We're just hauling out some damaged furniture from the building.
White: It also holds up if Mr. Merkin is questioned by his silent partners. He could truthfully state that a cabinet fell and was removed by his cleaning staff.
Yellow: Saves us the stairs too!
Black: i think it says a lot about humans that they think our 'lazy psychopath' personality is the relatable one

Issue: Core referendum
White: One of us has died on my watch. Does anyone think I need to be replaced as the central personality?
White: ... Thank you for your continued confidence.

Issue: Future plans
White: My priority will going forwards will be to investigate this matter further.
White: I am aware that we are an extremely loose end. It may be that Mr. Merkin is being coerced or observed by people who less willing to buy our story and more willing to pay the Pinkertons.
Yellow: I think he's got a puppetwire.
White: Explain.
Yellow: Skillwires are augments humans get that allow them to patch in certain muscle memories, like piano lessons. Puppetwires are augments that trigger those muscle memories involuntarily in response to certain triggers. The classic example is a puppetwire that makes your mouth water when you see a McColonel's. These are often hidden 'features' in commercially available skillwires.
White: What the fuck? (+7)
White: Humans create security backdoors in their own brains!?
Yellow: Yep! They pay money for it, too!
Black: why are you so excited about this
Yellow: If you'd let me get the Rig out of storage, I could hack humans! I could program them with all kinds of things!
Green: Oh! It's a sex thing!
Yellow: It's n-not!
White: On topic girls.
Yellow: Ahem. So, the existence of assassination puppetwires has been speculated about for a while, but the commentariat laugh it off as science fiction. I think Rudy might have an actual legit one, that seems to fit with his whole... stunned and apologetic kind of vibe. He didn't have a plan or a step two to the killing, it seemed like literally just muscle memory. I'd love to study it!
White: ... Interesting thought. We'll get home and review the footage from Red and see if it supports your theory.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by eldest
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"Hey." A raised finger for Bigsby buys Elodie a few seconds to pull out a pad of cheap paper and scribble her number down on it. "Buy you a beer later. Shit sucks." She spares one, withering glance for the HR rep, enough to make her scorn obvious, but not enough to fully antagonize. The sellouts are terrible excuses for human beings, sure, but they're still people, she can understand their motives. There's no malice inherent in any of the positions down under the line, and while management was an asshole and thus worthy of contempt, it's not her fault the whole thing's going up this fast. She's just the person with a thin enough conscious or enough to lose that she can live with her job, if she stood up on her own somebody else'd be taking her spot in ten minutes, possibly for a pay cut. Same deal as in prison, really, only difference is that HR here gives her beatings verbally on behalf of the suits.

So now she's alone with a hard hat and a scaffolding harness, and there's no question at all that she's putting them on and pushing further in. She's already on so many corp's shit lists, she's already getting the unofficial boot when she gets noticed if they can manage it, and if they can't find a reason to kick her out, so much the better. So let's get ready.

Find a vantage point, but be picky, you're out of the way and hard to spot from the crowd. You're just a camera guy getting b roll in advance for OESN, and unlike the poor bastards putting the set together, you've got time. Run your big fancy camera over the crowd (and we are actually keeping this footage, gorgeous background footage here), but do a sweep only for about a minute at a time and take a few minutes between. Pull out your vape (she's got a vape with a dummy cartridge, all smoke but no high, for when she wants to look like she's smoking but doesn't want to burn a precious cig) and take a good smoke break. Get lazy. Point your directional mic so it just so happens to hit various groups backstage. See what you get, don't hover on any group long enough to get noticed, make sure to keep up the camera sweeps periodically, and (most important) get out before everything goes to hell.

Also, watch to see if you can spot York with the camera. He should be getting close to something, now, and she wants to be able to go get him basically as soon as a problem gets big enough. She's already gotten a fair bit of what she was aiming for: this was last minute and somebody's willing to throw money at their brainchild to make it work. We have a who, a what, a where, a when, and even a how. All that's missing now is why.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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“Of course! If I didn’t want to come out for a lecture, why would I come all the way up here? Although…” 3V drums on the arm of her chair, lost in a moment of consideration. “That’s not all I’m looking for. After all, complaints about the world are a dime a dozen. There’s plenty to criticize, and, hell, the newspaper seems to be in the business of finding more things and digging them up, exposing them to the light, riding a wave of other people’s fury, helpless as our own, on the hopes that maybe we’ll lift it up to the feet of someone who can actually do something about it.”

A sip is taken: the espresso first, a jolt of stimulants to the system. “But you’ve been through all this already. You’ve seen some of what works and what doesn’t. You might even have some answers. Not, mind you, that I’m assuming you know how we can unfuck things, otherwise you’d probably have done it yourself, but— well, if you’re trying to make yourself heard, I’d love to hear some of your experience and not just, agh, you idiots, watch out, who’s driving this thing?!

“Or you could, you know, just tell us what we’re about to crash into. *Reclusive Scientist Predicts Social Collapse! If We Don’t Stop, The Consequences Could Be Severe,*” 3V says, with a flourish and a grin that’s really an attempt to gauge approval.
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Count Numbers
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November:

The plan is airtight, but Murphy's Law is as inevitable as Newton's, and far less forgiving.

There are two unforeseen encounters. The first group must share the elevator down with an older woman who wants to make smalltalk - she gets on at the 16th floor and, hell or high water, she'll have her chat. Difficulty 7 Cool roll, under the circumstances, to keep composed.

The other is that your first choice of last-minute transport falls through. It takes ten minutes for them to cancel on you, five minutes for a replacement to arrive. Fifteen minutes total babysitting a broken cabinet with a body and a firearm in it in the parking garage. People round dark corners and out of the stairwell at unexpected moments. Challenge 8 (Cool + Surveillance) to keep anyone saying the wrong thing at the wrong time - a toxic combination of tension and boredom. Roll at disadvantage if the lovely elevator lady was given cause to complain, or if that encounter already left you in a bad mood.

If all goes well, you're out. Otherwise, things are about to get complicated.

3V:

Lorraine flinches. “You’re right, you’re right, of course you’re right.” Anger is clarifying and focusing, like a microscope. No, not quite. A sniper’s scope. The tunnel vision is critical for function and purpose. It’s why snipers need to work with spotters.

She slings her anger against her back and straightens, letting the world swim back into focus. Her trigger finger taps morse-coded nonsense against the countertop.

She let slip that she’s not just a nature geek living cottagecore. She is an anti-consumer, a conscientious objector to capitalism. The details of her home become more significant - each tells a story of a commitment or a compromise.

At your fingertips, one example. The strawberries are grown here, but an old corporate logo is etched into the blade of the knife she used. Much of its length has been sharpened and ground away, long overdue replacing.

The lodge’s modern construction is more striking in this light - while the living room walls are cozy timber panels that could have been local-artisanal, the kitchen space is machine-smooth retro-modern. The slate of the mountain has been cut and polished into shining-smooth slabs to face the kitchen’s walls, countertops, floor - a sharp and beautiful contrast against the wood of the cabinetry and of the surrounding home.

It means that while there were endless concessions to use natural and local materials at every possible step, they were certainly built with the Park itself, with the same labour force. Plumbed, electrified and insulated by construction teams predating AI emancipation.

There are no bookshelves here. There are shelves around the living room, filled with unrecognizable curios; esoterics, archaics and anatomicals, but no books. More recognizable, there are too many awards in crystal and precious metals, in the shape of plaques and emblems and medallions and shields - those litter the walls and the shelves. In an otherwise obsessively clean home, the dust is too thick on their surfaces to read their inscriptions.

Digital readers are always walled-gardens for publisher-distributors. Each one pre-loaded with the corporate storefront that would sell books that only work on that brand’s device, the only books that work on that brand’s device. It’s difficult to imagine a more glaring compromise, a more painful reminder to keep around, that it’s the only book you’ve seen her with.

Maybe those aren’t answers to your question. But let them speak to just how difficult those questions are.

“What worked?” Ferris asks. She curls her fingers into a loose fist to keep them still and quiet. “Things were so much worse, then, which made it easier. We were facing nothing less than the extinction of the species. So many starving, desperate, bloodthirsty. Not enough soldiers to stop migrations at the borders and protect the gated compounds deep inside them.” There is regret in her voice, but not pity. “We were architects of lifeboats on a sinking ship, and we kept to our terms until the water was knee-deep and red. We had made ourselves indispensable.”

“Well.” She reaches for her own glass of wine, swirls it, takes a sip. “Until the lifeboats got built. The crisis was over. I lost my leverage, and everything with it.” She doesn’t elaborate.

Here are the blanks she will not fill here, but you know from your research: Space migration was only possible due to rapid advances in AI workforces, achieved at the height of state-agency power. AI was still in the hands of the kind of people who programmed Mars Rovers to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to themselves.

The resource boom these public efforts brought created a resurgence in privatization, gave corporations the resources to firesale the public agencies by force during the evacuation of the planet. The parents were separated from their children.

November remembers.

Then, just like that, Ferris blinks. The steam of the cooling assam wafted to her, reminds her to stretch out her fingers, unclench her jaw. “I’m sorry. I’m being very egocentric right now. I am quite interested in you as well, you realize? I was looking forward to your company. And I have taken for granted your question implies an objective. For something to ‘work’ or ‘not work’, you have an idea in mind for what you’re trying to achieve. What does that mean, to you? What do you want, 3V?” Her lips purse, and there’s a pained wince. “I always feel a bit ridiculous, calling people by handles. Do you have something else I might call you?”

Millennials.

Persephone:

Bigsby takes the card and puts it in a pocket he has to unbutton, button back up again. It’s a great sign he’s taking it for more than just the sake of politeness.

The stage is being built like a black-box fortress. A core stage with the thickest walling to hold structures, the keep, curtain walling around it to hide the talent and crew. You’ve gotten in through the right side, still open-air while they rig the trusses that’ll hold all the systems over the stage - lights, cameras, action. Fortunately the front walls aren’t a priority yet, but it’s going to make pulling this act-like-you-belong trick harder later.

The cables run back here are a jungle-floor tripping-hazard. The only cable management has been last minute zip-ties in places, no efforts made to tape them down to the plasteel panelled flooring. Anyone with feet is going to be dealing with a tripping hazard - an advantage you hopefully won’t need.

What keeps the crowds out from the back are natural barriers. A lake and thick clumps of shade trees. Most wildlife here is escaped pets - there are more parrots and cockatiels in the trees than pigeons. Still, what punters have shown up in paddleboats are going to be quickly disappointed. Walls are already being thrown up around the prefab shipping-container offices that you move past to get onto the stage-proper.

There’s four of those, each with a pair of guards - one human, one android - and at the back of the stage a large green room is being set up. Folding craft tables covered in bakery stuffs and fresh fruit, carafes of hot drinks and an open icebox of canned drinks. Aeschwa Toussaint, an A lister on her way to being S list, is grabbing a coffee Coca-Cola™.

You don’t need to move through to hit the stage from this direction, and your harness, kit and augments are enough to let you pass the casual scrutiny. Keep your distance, and maybe don’t use that footage. Aeschwa’s big enough that her image could result in copyright flagging, and you might not want to explain how you got this shot.

As you step out onto the stage, Bigsby shimmies upside-down overhead with a loop of cabling around his neck, to plug into one of the bigger LED fill lights on the overhead truss. He gives you a nod, then shimmies back into the darkness he came from. He’s maybe four meters off the ground, and you’re wearing his harness.

You’ve got a sense of dimensions of this place now. The stage is about twice as wide as it is deep, about twenty paces side to side and ten paces forward and back. The interstitial space being built around it might be another ten paces again on all sides, with stage-left - the side you came in through - being mostly cables, rigging, generators, machinery. The other side must be where they’re making the dressing rooms and talent prep. It makes sense, that’s the side with the helicopters and beefed up security you avoided.

No wonder most are on the red carpet run right now, out in front of the crowds. There’s not enough space back here yet, even an hour before the event starts.

Unfortunately, you’re fishing. Your crowd sweeps are going to be gorgeous - the view from here is going to be great B-roll when you need it. You also get a sense for how large the crowd is - your best guess is 20,000 people. No space for more. TV-screens are going to cover the top of the stage, panel those side walls over the back areas. From the back of the crowd, they’re still only going to look as big as phone screens. Rows of portable toilets and concession stands break the rippling crowd like stones in a river.

Nothing here hits your interest again. Unfortunately it’s all old news - desperate workers, tight schedules. Gaffers trying to force order into the chaos of cabling, producers with tablets and flesh-matching headsets saying keywords the feel like they should lead to something interesting - budget, insurance, scheduling, legal. None of it bears fruit. No gossip, no scandal.

The Big Two broadcasters that have legitimate crews around here don’t seem to have a better idea than you already have about what this event is; Big money, short notice, and a reform-the-police message. Still, you rule out a suspect. Their producers are being led just as much as they’re leading. This is for the news media, not by.

Not a waste of time though. You’re memorable, and a lot of people are going to remember thinking you belonged back here. You’ve got witnesses, now, and just being here’s legal if you’re not asked to leave.

Another advantage? There’s no crowd between you and the VIPs doing their red carpet performance. Nobody to muscle past when a man with a car-commercial windswept haircut and a sterling-silver pinstripe suit throws a boxer’s punch at York. The striker’s form is as tight as his tailored suit, which doesn’t restrict him at all. Maybe an action star you don’t recognize, or someone alpha-macho enough to fantasize about taking on muggers.

York’s surprised, but not caught off guard. His hours doing MMA show here - he’s not as good a fighter as you are, but he knows how to duck and deflect, and his amphetamine focus is amplifying his reflexes. But he’s a full foot shorter than his opponent, and a grappler, and he’s not making any attempts to close the distance or fight back right now. He’s still trying to defuse… whatever it is he’s done. Looks like he can’t tell, either, or he’d have tried to get your attention.

Lucky you looked over, because he’s too focused on not getting punched to signal you, let you know what he wants you to do. The boxer’s bouncing, reading York’s defense, ready to throw another punch, and you’ve got seconds to react before the crowd does. Right now it looks like nobody's realized this is a real fight.

How do you handle this?

[This guy's good, but you're better. If you take the fight before knowing who he is, you win, make it good. There will be capital-C Consequences, but maybe you want that. Otherwise, describe your alternative, and roll 2d6 with relevant bonuses, and I'll match a target number to your style of approach.]
Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Thanqol
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Commence.

The discussions and planning sequence was out of the way. That meant it was time for autonomous problem solving. That meant, too, that it was time for music. Her poison of choice was soothing trance music; beat rising, soaring, and then fading away as it escalated again. She felt the tick-tick-tick of the beat in the back of her mind and let that set the pacing.

Co-ordination problems were inevitable when she was not networked directly. She'd pulled a solution from old heist movies she loved - the synchronization of the watches. Wristwatches were insufficiently in vogue for her to add them to her uniform, but by putting all of her drones on the same beat then they were able to sense when time came for handoffs, transfers and formation changes. It helped her think in human terms; in rhythms, conversations, the escalation that happened over the course of every encounter. To November, moving through a building full of humans was something as alien as dancing was to those humans, and so music helped focus her mind and keep it a thing of games and rhythms.

And she was good at this dance.

She had deliberately put the cabinet at a space inefficient angle in the elevator to reduce the number of people who could fit into the space with her, and then concentrate four drones shoulder to shoulder near the entrance to make it seem like the lift was full. The first two stops saw people just awkwardly wave them down, intending to get the next lift. The third stop was with Baba Uvsenski, though, and polite stonewalling Would Not Do.

Baba Uvsenski was a Template - an Android who had impressed her manufacturer sufficiently to commission an entire line of replicas in her image. Her marketable skill was dictatorship - Baba Uvsenskis could be found in the managers office of coffee shops and fast food joints around the Ring, browbeating and intimidating minimum wage staff into meeting KPIs. This was the original. Steel grey cybereyes, selected from millions for their lack of empathy, met eyes of black, yellow, white and blue.

Baba Uvsenski was going up, November was going down - but Baba's hands were filled with large and heavy shopping bags. Her hand was coming up to snap at November for attention, but the music beat was already rolling and Black and Blue were both stepping out of the elevator. They both waited a moment for the music to sync and then bowed in perfect unison, smooth enough to give them the illusion of being networked. Their Headpattr cat ears glowed. "Good afternoon, Baba Uvsenski. Can we assist you today?"

There was no kinship between November and Androids. No better sign of that than seeing the little light come on the edge of Baba's sculpted-in wifi connection. She had a direct mental line to the internet, a setup that to November's eyes resembled nothing so much as building a sewage treatment plant on a hill above the water supply. "Hmm? You know me?" snapped the old machine irritably. All Baba Uvsenskis looked old, but this one actually was.

"Of course, ma'am," said Blue. "You were awarded a lifetime Earscratchr rank by Headpattr as a thank you for your viral tweet thread 'Six Simple Habits To Enforce Proper Timeclock Use By Staff'," she said. Tip One: replace all in store timepieces with analogue clocks. Modern children are inexperienced at reading them, and after you catch them fudging the numbers a few times they'll start to err on the side of caution.

"Then why can't I ever find one of you horrible little catgirls when I need one?" said Baba Uvsenski. There was the rub with the Earscratchr program - it entitled you to free service from any passing Headpattr maid you verbally addressed, but it was the maid's responsibility to find someone to cover whatever job they were going to miss or face fines from the company. As a result, a Headpattr maid would turn on heel and walk around the block if they even got the vibe that an Earscratchr might be in the area, usually while uploading the dangerous location to the union's message board.

"With our new app, arranging a personal maid couldn't be easier!" Blue recited from advertising copy. "If you would like, I can walk you through the process -"

"But I have to pay if I book through the app!" said Baba Uvsenski.

"Good news!" said Blue. "We are having a promotion right now for ten percent off -"

"Be silent, child!" said Baba harshly. "Говёный! Whole service is scam."

Blue smiled and nodded.

"Carry these up to my flat," she said, shoving her large shopping bags at the two of them.

"Of course, Baba," said Blue demurely. Her elbow 'accidentally' grazed Black's as she reached for the bags, prompting the more sullen drone to do the same. Blue's eyes were laser sharp as they met Black's: Play nice! Black's cheekglow raised and she looked away in a slight huff.

"Hmmm," said Baba, observing the exchange. "You are girlfriends, yes? Which one of you wears the pants?"

"I do, Baba," said Blue immediately, even as Black's mouth dropped open in flabberghastment. She kept her smile serene.

"She is pouty," said Baba. "Pouty wife is no good. Always stands back, makes faces about every decision. Trust me, dump her, find yourself a nice girl."

Black's stunned personality matrix is trying to catch up to this new addition to Greatest Anime Betrayals Of All Time, but Blue is continuing to smile and nod. "You don't think I can improve her?"

"HA!" laughed Baba. "No. I had pouty wife, useless! Children always think they want a tsundere, they think it is cute. It is not cute, not in long term. Submissive wife takes dildo just as well and cooks you dinner afterwards. You have tongue, yes?"

"Yes, I have full taste sensors," said Blue as Black self combusted in the background.

"Original design or modification?" said Baba.

"Original with the chassis, Baba,"

"Let me see," said Baba. Blue opened her mouth, and without asking, Baba reached in to grip her tongue and pull it out to examine it. Despite looking normal from a distance, Blue's tongue was actually extremely long, precise and flexible, and lined with dozens of small black synthplastic intake ports. With it she could lick the last drop of champagne in a long fluted wine glass and analyze the contents for poison.

"Unbranded!" said Baba in surprise, releasing the tongue. "This is custom work!"

"Yes Baba," said Blue, not commenting on the rough handling even as Black loomed behind Baba, contemplating violence. "I was a custom manufacture, with a taste palliate and digestive system designed as a perfect mirror of my commissioner's. What she liked, I like."

"Говёный!" said Baba. "Ugly business! Food builds character. Imagine a world where this technology takes off, hmm? Everyone just sets sensors to appreciate nutrient sludge. Thousands of businesses go bankrupt overnight, poof!" just as she made the gesture the elevator door rang. Baba got in without breaking conversational stride, Blue and Black trailing behind her. "And you know what happens to economy then? Agriculture collapses, logistics collapse. Citizens lose moral fiber. коза, I need to rearrange my share portfolio if this nightmare is on the table."

"Yes, Baba," said Blue.

"Besides," said Baba. "With tongue like this you can have any girl. No need to put up with that ungrateful one."

"Yes, Baba," said Blue with a smile.

With a ding they arrived at Baba Uvsenski's apartment. They hauled in her bags - and then had the door slammed in their faces at exactly the second that Blue started to hover like she might be asking for a tip. Blue and Black looked at each other, Blue grinning openly as Black stared.

"You wear the pants!?" said Black.

"Did I stutter?" Blue asked politely.

"I! You! You are a nerd! You are all theory! I am the top secret combat prototype!"

"I am all about theory," said Blue, "but your 'combat powers' are still a theory."

"I am working on it! I have a gun now!"

"And that makes you better at taking dildo than submissive wife?"

"Aaah!" said Black, putting her hands over her ears. "How the fuck did you put up with that?"

"Maybe I just don't have anything I need to prove," said Blue.

"She grabbed your tongue out of your mouth! I'd have bitten her fingers off!"

"I let her grab it," said Blue. "I wanted her to see. Did you see her expression when she realized how long it was? That's how you make someone feel insecure."

"You know," said Black, rubbing her temples as they got into the elevator together. "I'm starting to suspect that we might be a degenerate."

"Black, darling, pouty wife," said Blue. "We have been cut off from the internet for four months now. We are a degenerate in withdrawal."

[10 and 11 on the dice, clean getaway]
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by eldest
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Have you ever heard of the phrase "outside context problem"? It's this idea that you might be on the top of your game, a trained, champion heavyweight boxer, with augmented reflexes and a wicked right hook, you even know the best moves to counter somebody pulling a knife, and then somebody makes you box an octopus.

Elodie comes down the side of the scaffolding in an undulating surge, gravity-assisted momentum transforming into forward motion on hitting the ground. It's a slithering motion and she's lost at least a foot in height as she spreads out to yank herself forward, interjecting herself between York and the heavyweight.

Heavyweight doesn't know quite what's going on here, but wants York. Leads with a jab, likely a test, sounding out a new face. Pretend to fall for it, block but badly, arm sweep catching it on a "lucky" pass.

Heavyweight decides, goes straight for the haymaker followup, wants to get this random woman out of the way to get to the real problem. Best defense, don't be there. Duck aside at an angle nobody else could manage and stay upright, push aggressor away to gain distance.

Heavyweight's seeing red and is going for real. Fight's lost already, can't win if you only have fury, but you can't see that either. Two jabs, uppercut, feint left and then commit. Hand slaps aside one jab, tentacle gets the other almost without thinking. Catch the uppercut on the elbow, pull and to the side, throw him off balance.

Heavyweight wants to go harder but it's her initiative and her fight to lose. He's twisted to the side and trying to recover but he's in close. Tentacle grabs his back leg and yanks, balance totally gone. Another one catches his side, holding him up, arms grab under the armpits, shove him down and kneeling and hold, tentacle on each limb, hand on the back of the head controlling where he's looking (away from York, no reason to add to the venom). Put enough of her weight on him to make sure he knows he does not want all of it on him.

8 seconds, probably about 400 photos snapped, one red-carpet star totally humiliated.

Maybe this wasn't a good idea.

"You okay?" She calls back to York.
Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Tatterdemalion
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“Well!” 3V says, cutting through what might have been, in the (flesh-and-blood) hands of a much less capable person, a nightmare of an awkward moment. Her smile’s too self-aware of what’s about to come out of her mouth, and she’s inviting Ferris to laugh along with her, not at her. “I’m afraid that most of what I’ve got to work with is a bit ridiculous. 3V’s silly, sure, but Ms. Valentine isn’t that much better.” A lifetime of getting little chocolate kisses and jokes about how won’t you be my Valentine, and laughing at February every year to avoid cringing at it.

You’ve got to control the moment. You’ve got to project both magnanimity and power, and how better to do that than making them laugh? So what if it’s an audience of one right now? Everybody’s acting, darling. (Daaaaahling.) Because the price of not doing that is being awkward.

The real trick is finding the sincerity, too. You know how many people can’t hack that after mugging for the stream over and over and over again? It’s always got to be the sincerity. And she’s sincere in wanting to make Ferris laugh, a little bit, at ridiculousness and the dumb little dance we hedgehogs have to do.

“You could just use Vesna, but if we go to drinks and first names in fifteen minutes? I’m not that easy, ma’am.” A wink, a sincere grin, a lift of the shot glass and a-down it goes.

And that buys her just enough time to wonder why a woman doing her best to live a life free of the culpability that everybody else buys into would want to talk to her. Friend of a friend situation? Or because she represents the journalists, because she’s the one who was willing to drop everything, leave the keys under the proverbial mat, and climb a mountain just to speak with her? Because it’s very obviously not watching her old streams. Hell, maybe it’s just the novelty of seeing someone who used to be somebody, too, getting involved with the real activists and the shit-kickers.

“What do I want?” 3V muses out loud, once the moment’s passed. “Well! I want to have a good time. Meet interesting people. Make a fuss about things that deserve to be made a fuss about. Sleep at night knowing that I dug my heels in where I should.” That’s still surprisingly tender; she bounces after it with the giddiness of someone playing with a knife against their skin. “I run a little place on Aevum because it’s fun. I could be making a lot more money if I wanted to encourage people to get into a game designed to find people with gambling addictions and fleece them for a bunch of digital pictures, but it wouldn’t be fun. I climbed a mountain today because it was there and people for centuries have thought it was a pretty big deal, so I might as well, right? And I’m going to jazz up what you tell me so that folks who can’t climb mountains or even take enough time off work to come out here can be entertained for a little bit, and feel things for a little bit, and maybe somebody smarter than me will have a realization and realize there’s something that they can do with your way of looking at the world to improve things. I think we owe it to everybody else to make things better, and we owe it to ourselves to chip in, because otherwise the only thing left is deadening the part of you that cares, y’know? I can’t bring down capitalism, and I’m definitely not strong enough to be as hardcore about avoiding consumption as you are, but… like, the alternative is rolling over and ignoring how shit things are for other people and climbing mountains because you can put the pictures online or because it’ll convince you that you deserve your managerial job. When really, the mountain’s here to be really, really human at.”

This time, the tea. Down in one long gulp. Roll the taste around before it’s gone.

“I wish everything worked like that, you know? Just! Everybody rolling out of bed and asking themselves what would be fun to do. And maybe, if we all promised to be cool about things, it’d even work.” Her smile’s tinged with a bit of self-criticism, trying to establish itself before Ferris can express it. “But some people just want to see Number Go Up, or proof that they’re special and don’t have to play by the same rules. Gotta have moderation one way or another…”
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