Hiro took a slow drag off his cigarette clenched between his lips, lifting his tired, dreary eyes towards the dull gray sky above the city and exhaling a thin wisp of acrid smoke that seemed to hang in the air, disappearing amidst the technicolor haze of neon lights and gigantic, holographic billboards reflecting off the glistening city streets, along with the reds and blues of the many police cruisers that flooded the scene. He looked down towards the bloody sheet before him, kneeling on the wet concrete to lift it away from the mangled figure. Immediately upon sight of the victim, his grizzled face twisted into a foul grimace.
The victim was female, possibly in her mid to late twenties, multiple lacerations spanning the entire length of her body from her head to her toes. Her cold, lifeless eyes stared at the detective, her once beautiful, dare he say, rapturous face frozen in her last moments of absolute horror. She lied splayed out in the open with nothing left to the imagination, her pale nude flesh only obscured by the layers of dry blood, her once shimmering blonde hair practically dyed crimson red. "Goddamn..." Hiro muttered inside himself. "Who would want to do something like this to a fine-looking broad like her?" A sick son of a bitch...that's who.
He left the body uncovered for a few moments, as if to soak in every gory detail and have it permanently etched into the unhallowed halls of his memories, the ones he dedicates to horrific crimes such as these, before eventually giving the go-ahead for the coroners to tag her and bag her. All the while, he winced at the sudden flashes from cameras taking photos of the scene. "Do we have an I.D. on the victim, Thorley?" Hiro inquired gravely to his partner.
Special Detective Emma Thorley turned to Hiro. "Not yet, Nishida." She replied frowning. "We asked everyone here if they knew her. Nobody's said a word. Looks like we got a Jane Doe on our hands. We tried looking for a photo I.D., driver's license...nothing. The victim was stripped of all her belongings before she was stabbed."
"I see." Said Hiro faintly with a somber expression. "We'll keep looking into it. I think our work's done here for now. Let's wrap it up and get back to the precinct." Stuffing his hands in the pockets of his long coat, he turned on his heels to leave towards his awaiting vehicle, trudging softly through the puddles collecting on the sidewalk. The rain was coming down in sheets now, soaking him in a damp, chilly layer.
"Detective." Emma stopped him, just as he was reaching for the handle of his door. He turned around slowly as the young woman briskly paced across the street towards him. "What is it?" He asked.
Emma sighed, taking a moment to collect her words before she spoke, "For all we know, this could have just been some random act of violence. She could have been some hooker from the red light district, you know? Some nameless broad at the wrong place and the wrong time."
Hiro shook his head, his eyes narrowing at his partner as he took one last drag off his cig and flicked it away. "No Emma, it isn't..." Gravely he uttered beneath his breath. "Nothing happens here randomly. There's a reason people die in Nova City, and I'm going to find out why."
"You're gonna drive yourself crazy if you keep thinking like this, Nishida." Emma chuckled, a rather cheeky smile curving her lips. "I'll admit, this city's a crapsack, but I doubt this has anything to do with some grand conspiracy. She probably just pissed off her pimp, and he took it out on her...the bastard." Her face soured at that last bit before retracting into a more pleasant expression. "Look, why don't you take a break? I'll wrap it up here."
"Thanks Em." Said Hiro in a sigh then climbed into his car, shutting the door and giving one last wave goodbye to Emma. He fired up the ignition, the engine coming to life in a thunderous roar. The light from the dashboard streamed through the haze reflecting off his face, as did the lights of the city cascading through the droplets collecting on his windshield. "But you're wrong. There is something going on in Nova City, and I aim to get to the bottom of it."
With that, he put his souped-up muscle car in gear and pulled onto the city streets, disappearing into the cold, dreary night along with the faint glow of his taillights.
Kate sat in her small one room apartment, it wasn’t much but it was what she could afford. But to be fair she didn’t want or need more. Getting quality ammo and food was more important to her then some fancy big apartment. It had a bed in one corner, a little kitchen and fridge in the other, there was a small table and a single chair. The last corner had a toilet and a sink and a shower. And that was about it. There was a single window over the table and the rest of the walls were lined with cabinets where she stored food and ammo, and a minimal amount of clothes.
She was by herself most of the time, there were a few people she knew in the city but to say they were friends was stretching it. She knew a few people at the bar around the street where she wandered into some times. There was the man and woman who ran the gun store a few blocks away and a few people who supplied her with some bounties, she never really knew who gave the hit orders, it always came from person to person till they finally reached her. She only took the ones she wanted though even if it would mean she wouldn’t get paid for a week. She wasn’t just going to kill a random person because somebody wanted him out of the way. But on the other hand she never said no to kill somebody who was a murderer or a rapist. Luck would have it the streets were full of them.
Kate had spent most of the night on the streets and she took a cold shower before getting ready for bed. She had learned to take cold showers years ago since she didn’t want to steam up her small apartment. After checking the 6 locks on the big iron door to her place she crawled into her bed naked, she hated clothes on as she slept.
Maggie woke up to the blaring sound of her alarm, Smacking the snooze button of her radio. Rolling over her bed, running her hand through her hair. “What time is it?” Checking the time, it was late evening. “Perfect time to get to work.”Slowly rolling out of bed started to get dressed. Turning on the TV so she could hear the detes on what is going on. Hearing a women being murdered on the street. Or local gangs that are killing each other for territory. “Same old story, guess I gotta see what’s really going on.” After Maggie got dressed, she made her way to the kitchen to make some breakfast. Making a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee.
Heading towards her computer, this deck was bought with the money she robbed from corporations. There were many monitors, computer towers, and other accessories to help her surf the web. Logging on, and while waiting she took a couple of spoonfuls of her cereal. Checking the Black Sun’s message board, reply to any messages she may have missed. Responding to an email from “Khorne” about a job for a hack job, The job sounded pretty decent but the money didn’t seem that good. Responding to another email from someone named “Prometheus” His offer seemed more enticing than Khorne’s offer. This person wants her and another hacker to help with breaking into a Biotechnica lab to steal some incriminating info. “Sounds dangerous, but the pay looks pretty good.” The pay for this job would be 8,000 €$, which would be more than enough for her to get the parts so she could fix her bot. Being given the instructions of where to meet for the deets, she quickly finished her breakfast and coffee.
After logging off her computer, she left her apartment and towards the garage. Getting into her van and driving off to the meeting spot. She is supposed to meet Mr.Who at the Bada Bing. Trying to keep her temper while driving on crowded roads. Listening to her favourite rock station, which is 96.1 Ritual FM. Parking her car, taking a moment to make sure her jalopy was locked and would not be stolen. Ignoring the catcalls from some Valentinos. Walking through the front door and towards the bar. “Hi, can I get a whiskey chaser.” Looking around the club for her contact. From what she was told in the email, she is looking for an Asian male wearing a black suit and a blue and grey bowtie.
It was a thunderous symposium of rain beating upon the shabby-genteel rooftops of Nova City's most notorious district, metal was drummed by a million tiny water droplets from the dark sky above the city of neon lights. Each drop creating a crescendo of water spattering up from the ocean of steel blurring the bright lights and muffled whines of sirens, it was a beautiful symphony.
It was amongst the sea of metal rooftops this symposium of lights and sounds was watched by two burning red eyes too far to be distinguished from the unmistakable reds and blues of the police cars, the flashing advertisements on holographic billboards and the haze of the dreary rain pouring from the heavens.
Sanguis crouched upon the overhang of a dingy old ramshackle apartment, abandoned ages ago it's own exterior growing red with rust unlike the other buildings surrounding it. The old overcoat hanging upon his shoulders grew damp, clinging to him slightly yet the downpour didn't cause him any plights; the water trickling off his clothing, sleek and made for the damp weather so typical to the city.
As the rain fell upon him, it flowed and dripped off his figure diluted and tinged a light crimson color as it washed away the blood. A thin smile played upon the pale lips of the murderer from beneath his mask of porcelain which was smeared red with the shape of a bloody handprint, it was petite and feminine with the slight mark of nails like faint claw marks running down Sanguis' mask. It was the blood of his latest victim, some useless skank from the Red Light District without a friend or a pimp to escort her; a ripe target for the mysterious masked murderer of Nova City.
Hiro's car pulled to a stop next to some beat-up old van that was in serious need of a tune-up, the bright headlights fading off into the dark as he killed the ignition and leaned back in his seat heaving a weary sigh. Try as he may ignore it, the images of the dead woman were forever recorded in his memory. Every minute detail he could recall in crystal clarity, every savage knife wound, every cut, and laceration. It reminded him of a murder he investigated a few years ago, the same method, except it was a male victim.
Nathan Gallagher was his name. Age 39. Some big-shot Corpo working for the Nova Corporation. Found stabbed to death in his penthouse apartment fifty-eight times. No witnesses. Blood everywhere.
Why this killer would target a Corpo first then some whore next however was beyond the detective's reasoning. There had to be some connection, he pondered, his brow furrowing as he stared directly out his windshield towards the dingy dive bar known as Bada Bing. A nondescript location only marked by the flickering, occasionally sparking, pink and red neon sign hanging over the entrance. Yet another dwarfed by the dominating presence of several skyscrapers looming over it, the most prominent being the diamond-shaped headquarters of the Nova Corporation. Its very height was like a middle finger raised towards God, Nishida thought, its glowing orange neon lining every corner contrasted by the black polished glass that encompassed its surfaces.
Hiro gazed at it for a moment or so, not in awe but a sense of bitter distaste.
"Detective Nishida?", the voice of Emma rang in his cochlear implant, slightly jarring him from being adrift in his wild ponderings.
"Go ahead, Thorley." He replied, almost in a hoarse whisper, punctuating his sentence with another bothersome exhale.
"We got the report back from the coroner's office. Victim was identified as Jenna Hayworth, age 27. Stabbed sixty-seven times. All her major organs ruptured. Turns out she wasn't a prostitute but a client. One of the girls identified her. I think her name was Sweetie or something. You know how those whores never use their real name."
"Yeah." Nishida returned, nodding by habit. "So what do you think this means, Em? Wrong place, wrong time?"
"Most likely, Hiro." Said Detective Thorley flatly. "Listen. I know you think this murder is somehow connected to Gallagher's. But that was years ago."
Hiro grimaced in reply, "Doesn't make a difference, Emma. Same method used. Same knife pattern. Either we're dealing with a serial killer or something else. I'm gonna talk to this Sweetie later."
"Right, just don't get carried away." Thorley sternly advised him. "Where are you anyway?"
"At the Bada-Bing." Said Nishida.
Emma chuckled through the transponder in his ear, "Drinking away your troubles again, Mr. Samurai? Doesn't that go against your warrior code?"
"Fuck off, Thorley." Nishida snickered in return. "Why don't you stop by? We can have a few."
"Sorry, can't." Said Thorley. "Staying in tonight with my girlfriend. Maybe some other time, okay?"
"Right." Hiro responded a tad disappointed. "I forgot you were into the ladies. Oh well. Can't blame me for trying, right?"
"Whatever you say, Nishida. Just don't get too drunk you can't come into work tomorrow."
"No promises. Later."
And with that, Hiro hung up, taking a moment to collect himself before getting out of his car and slamming the door shut. Turning his collar up to the cold mist, he slowly trudged across the street through the puddles and heavy traffic, then shoved his way through the throngs of people inside until he was at the bar, plopping down on a barstool beside a much younger woman with a wild-looking haircut. "I'll take a scotch on the rocks." He hollered to the bartender over the booming music and the rancorous chatter of the bar patrons.
While he waited for his drink, his eyes trailed over to the woman at his left. Judging by her look, Hiro could discern she was here for a reason other than to get blackout drunk like the rest of these idiots. Immediately, yet subtly, he set his scanner in motion, only for...
///NO FACIAL RECOGNITION DATA AVAILABLE///
"Interesting..." Hiro pondered to himself, his eyebrow raising slightly. "A ghost in the system..."
Calmly having herself seated on an operation table, Suzy awaited the medtech preparing his stuffs to begin the surgical maintenance on her. She knew that the man who owned this workshop had his knacks in this trade. A VIP appointment had been made, especially for this young woman, allowing Suzy to personally meet the cyber-surgeon face to face, and for him to directly treat the delicate stuffs Suzy had inside her. The cybernetics implants Suzy had herself embedded were some serious stuffs, a perfect grade of high rarity. It required a person of special skills to take care of its maintenance.
Having all the set of her cybernetic implants inside her stomach cavity, Suzy had her shirt raised to allow some parts of her midriff exposed. The porcelain skin she had on the surface of her abdomen looked so human, unless for the interface socket on her navel and some neon indicators that looked like a pair of colorful beauty spots beside it. Suzy had never thought to ever put any cybernetic implants to augment her physical performance. She loved the natural aesthetics of her body, sculpted from the disciplined routine of exercise, dieting, and beauty cares. The mechanical part Suzy had was closer to a necessity rather than purpose.
“You’re ready?” Gecko asked, the medtech who owned this workshop and all the equipment inside it.
Without any words nor delay, Suzy’s abdominal implant received her own brain signal that demanded it to expose its inner part. The sequence was quite complicated, but it had a resemblance as if a flower bud bloomed out of her navel. Some exposed internal parts jutted out around the center of Suzy’s midriff, along with a hollowed cavity of her stomach where her implants were positioned. Gecko followed, with him flexing the mechanical fingers of his right hand. Soon enough, each of his fingers got separated from the digits, transforming into mechanical apparatus of micro-sized scalpels, clamps, graspers, and many other things necessary for a surgery connected to his hand through tendril-like cables. The medtech quickly utilized those gadgets to operate on Suzy’s abdominal implants in unison.
“Gasp! Uuuh!” Suzy let her groan of agony among the twitches and shudders her muscles made, reacting to the apparatus being inserted to her.
“Hold on, princess, you’re the one asking me not to apply any anaesthesis… do you need something to hold or bite?”
“You’re also the one who gave me an idea of keeping your nerve ends intact with all these implants.”
“I said, be quiet, just do your maintenance, ouch!”
“Just a little bit more, it seems that no replacement of component is necessary, they’re still fine… I like the way you keep your body fat percentage under control, princess, some people would possibly got their fat clumping around their delicate cyberwares.”
“I don’t know if that’s a compliment.”
“Hardware check done” said Gecko as he retracted the tendril-like cable from Suzy’s cybernetic implants. The young woman’s abdomen returned to as it was before, with the cavity closing and the jutting out parts retracted inside. The spots around Suzy’s umbilical socket turned on, indicating that the operating system of her cyberware had just booted up. “Now it’s for the firmware check, this might tickle a bit, princess” said Gecko as he plugged a cable pin into Suzy’s umbilical socket. Suzy twitched, reacting to the ticklish sensation when the Gecko pushed his the cable plug, then relaxed herself as the monitor beside her showed a diagnosis run for her system. “Seems fine, no reports for runtime error, no bad sector, and reasonable amount of computing resource utilization… you’re still good for action.” Gecko then finished the sequence and plugged the cable out of Suzy’s umbilical port.
“Thanks, Gecko,” said Suzy as she exhaled, relieved that the process was finally concluded.
“It’s always my pleasure to help you, princess… anyway, I guess we can move on to your other request.”
“Now you’re the fixer.” Suzy said as she lowered her shirt to cover her exposed part and stepped down from the operating table.
“As much as I can, well look at this, you might find this one interesting, Suzy.”
Suzy looked at the holographic monitor Gecko showed her. There was a dossier of what looked like to be a man who had been heavily modified in cybernetics. “Praying Mantis… a mercenary?” Suzy asked as she scanned the profile.
“A soloist, an assassin for hire.”
“You’re sure he’s connected to the Conglomerate?”
“Well, I hired some net-runners and they managed to pluck this dossier from the lawmen’s database; we found this interesting fella under the case handled by this particular Hiro Nishida, though he lacked the necessary data to profile him; and what the detective had missed, I found a way to discover it.”
“You infiltrated what?”
“I have my confidence the people I hired are not that sloppy, these lawmen won’t be able to track them to us.”
“That’s relaxing, I don’t want to directly get in conflict with the local enforcers.”
“You can always settle down like me, open a business firm with less risk.”
“You know I can’t do that, as long as this Conglomerate still have their grasp in this city.”
“To each their own, princess, as always.”
“I like to have you as my ally, Gecko, thanks… now there’s this Praying Mantis I need to take care about, and this lawman officer Hiro Nishida who might notice if this person would suddenly be gone.”
The grey skies that had rolled in had brought rain, almost enough of it to drown out the ever bustling noises of Nova City, almost. It was days like this she loved to spend all day on the balcony of the studio she rented. Living above the place she worked had its benefits, especially in one of the city's most notorious districts. It was a small place and unlike what she was used to in the past, but it was comfortable. She preferred it over the glitz and glamour of the various luxury hotels, the only thing she missed was sharing the room with someone. Sharing rooms with her sister were what made the places they stayed bearable and it was the only quality time she felt she could spend with her only kin.
In this city, good moments are rare which meant take what you can get. Leigh stared out into almost night colored sky as she let her mind drift while the rain droplets berated the uncovered areas of the building landing on the metal and making a soft clanking noise. She closed her eyes and took in all the sounds, the roaring of the cars that drove by, the sound of the neighbors tv that could heard from across the way talking about a woman who had been murdered. Nothing ever stayed peaceful for too long and it was hard to stay surprised at any violent crimes in Nova. At least the shop was closed for the day. The murder somewhat stayed on her mind as she continued to let her thoughts drift, yet to someone who lived here, it seemed like nothing to worry about. It was most likely gang related, the various gangs were always at each other's throats. It was always disputes over territory.
Paying for her drink, she took a few sips while scanning the area for her handler. At first not find anyone that would fit the description in the email. Finding she was being stared at by someone, turning her head to glare at the japanese american man looking at her. “Whatcha lookin at..” She said with a grimace, She had strange feeling coming from this man. She assumed he was a corpo or worst case scenario a cop. So she would have to make her leave quickly. Finishing the content of her drink, before walking away from the bar. Noticing a man wearing the exact outfit mentioned in the email. Walking over towards the booth, sitting in front of the man. “Hell is empty And all the devils are here.” He nodded his head before responding, “Follow me to a private booth.” And with that, the man walked away from the booth. Maggie followed suit making sure she was not being followed. Walking with the well-dressed man into the booth, with the man shutting the door behind them. “So can you give me the deets on the job? What is security like? Who else is gonna be with me on the job?”
The man smiled folding one leg over the other, “You will be meeting the rest of the team tonight, they will be arriving shortly. There will be one more netrunner that will help you break into the building, and you will be escorted by two mercs.” This sounded to Maggie like it was going to be quite dangerous. But stealing from a multi-billion-dollar company was never a piece of cake. “The security is going to be very tight, which is why I need you and another well-known runner that could break down their wall.” Well she had come to meet this guy, so she could not back out of the job now. “And what kind of info are we getting that they would put heavy security to protect it?” The man shook his head, “I’m not going to discuss that just yet, only when the others come.” When the others did come, they were given further information on the job.
Maggie soon left the booth with the other net runner, someone named "Lilith Cutburn" which Maggie assume was not her real name. But hackers like them had to keep their identities hidden from the public. The two were walking out of the club and towards Maggie's van, The other runner wanted to discuss how they could get through the building's security.
Hiro paid no mind to the woman's threatening stare nor the displeasure in her tone, as he slowly turned away and took a sip of his scotch while she whisked herself away from him. He was more perplexed as to how his facial recognition software didn't recognize her whatsoever. That's when the answer hit him like a bolt of lightning from a clear blue sky. "It's because she has no file. She's a runner." It made sense why this woman was acting so standoffish around him. Perhaps she already knew he was a cop. That, or she just had her suspicions of him. Nevertheless, she caught Hiro's attention the moment he scanned her. Now he was the suspicious one.
Carefully observing her as she made her way across the bar towards a darkened booth in the corner, Hiro downed the last swallow of his scotch and rose from his seat, making sure to keep his distance from her. By now, the bar was a packed house, people drinking, dancing, possibly partaking of some illicit substances or making shady deals in the shadows, the constant thudding and booming of loud electronic music with lots of bass. It was all an irritant to the detective, but it served its purpose in masking his presence.
The woman sat down at the booth, speaking to some male, Asian, possibly in his mid to late thirties. Was he a corpo, Hiro thought. Maybe he was a fixer. Nevertheless, Hiro trained his eyes on the man, zooming in on his face and activating the scan. Soon, his entire interface lit up with a plethora of info.
"So he's a corpo." Hiro mused, his hand reaching up to delicately stroke his rather broad chin. "Yamagata. They're a Japanese corporation that's been trying to gain a foothold in Nova City for years, but the other corps won't let them. Supposedly they're connected to the Yakuza. Not that I would know." The woman and Kazuma eventually stood up, making their way further towards the back of the club in the VIP section. Hiro hurried to follow them but made certain to keep his distance lest he raise any more suspicion. He started to push through the throngs of people again when another young lady bumped into him, obviously under the influence of some strong alcohol...or possibly drugs.
" *hic* Hey there, handsome! You wanna dance?" She slurred, her eyes loopy and languidly staring into Hiro's. He could practically smell the booze on her breath.
"Not right now." Coldly the detective replied, shoving the drunk woman back into the crowd as he resumed tailing the corpo and the other woman.
"Hmph! Asshole!" She cursed at him audibly, yet Hiro could hardly hear her over the blasting music and buzzing chatter of the bar. He was more focused on finding out just what this Yamagata employee was up to hiring a netrunner.
Once they reached the VIP lounge, Kazuma quickly shut the door. "Damn it!" Hiro muttered to himself. He knew how these places were built, the security measures put into place to keep nosy detectives like him out. There was no way his optical implants could see through the wall, nor would his cochlear implant be able to eavesdrop on any conversations. He sighed, leaning against the wall with a bothered expression marring his rugged face. "Guess I'll have to do this the old fashioned way." Hiro blinked once, opening up another window in his AR interface. Hastily, he input the commands through his cerebral processor and waited. It wasn't long his ears was filled with Thorley's voice.
"Yeah Nishida? What is it?"
Hiro elaborated, "I may have a lead on something, Emma."
"Really?" Said Emma slightly intrigued. "Is it about Hayworth?"
"Probably." Replied Hiro with a small grimace. "There's a corpo here talking to some netrunner. Scanner identified him as Kazuma Kobayashi. He works for Yamagata."
"Is that so." Emma hummed over the line. "I know Yamagata and Nova Corp have had it out for each other ever since they established an office in the city, but what the hell does this have to do with our murder victim, Hiro?"
"I don't know." Hiro sighed. "But probably more than I'm thinking. If a Yamagata employee is hiring a netrunner, then chances are they're planning some big hack. Did you find anything else on Miss Hayworth? Her affiliations, friends, relatives?"
"Yeah, sure I did Samurai." Scoffed Emma. Hiro could feel her rolling her eyes on the other end. "All while I was between Nancy's legs."
"Spare me the details, Em." Hiro muttered in reply. "I could care less about you and your girlfriend getting it on. Just meet me here. I'm gonna find out what Yamagata's up to."
"If we go snooping around in corpo business, you and me are gonna end up dead." Said Emma sternly. "Or fired. Which is worse, but fuck it. I'll see you there."
"Right. Tell Nancy I said hello." He smirked to himself as he hung up, just as the door swung open and the woman and her corpo stepped out. "Shit!" Hiro cursed under his breath, trying his damndest yet again to avoid suspicion. It didn't take Hiro long to notice stumbling his way was the blonde from before. Immediately he grabbed her by her wrist, eliciting a surprised yelp from her has he pulled her close. "Come here!" He whispered hastily, propping her against the wall and covering her with his body. "Act like you love me, alright?"
"W-what?!" She stammered in shock, her eyes widened. "Fuck off!" Suddenly her knee violently connected with Hiro's crotch, forcing the detective to his knees. The blonde scoffed at him, her middle finger extended firmly in his grimacing face. "You had your chance, dickhead!" She turned swiftly on her heels then stormed off, leaving Hiro on the floor to nurse his wounded pride...and his junk.
"Ugh...bitch!" Hiro muttered through clenched teeth, slowly staggering to a standing position despite the constant throbbing from his pelvic area. "If one my kids ends up being retarded, I'll know it's because of you." Taking a deep breath inward, the detective collected himself then resumed following Kazuma and the runner.
.... The thing is, Princess, I believe that you need to think bigger than executing your vendetta against them. They embody the Prime Mover of the current world affairs, they are the pillars of the world's order. You might see the people whom you want to put into your personal justice as being reachable within this city, but remember that this city is technically the capital of the world itself. Nova Corps build our homes, Yamagata furnish them, and there's almost no electronics without Zenith planting the backdoor firmware inside each one of them. Bematech feed us and even have patents for those who were born through artificial insemination or those with any genetic modifications. The CHOOH2 that powers our electricity, factories, and vehicles has been monopolized by the RusOil or Nova's subsidiary. Moreover, if you think toppling them is a good idea, remember that your guns might have Milicor's name on it. Hell, even one would buy them using Zenith's crypto, maybe through the credits provided by Yamagata or even Nova.
Those corporates I mentioned, they have some particular entities who own their portion of stocks, enough to give them voice for any directive decisions. About these entities, the net-runners I hired managed to track them into a single group of cabals, the Conglomerate. Whoever leads this syndicate is the true sovereign of Nova City, or even the world, at least one among the powerful. They have been keeping these companies exist and feud against each other in rivalry to preserve the masquerade that one would never notice their existence or agenda. The public would never know or even recognize this Conglomerate.
Who do you think guided these big companies, which not long ago almost went into collapse because of the hubris their leaders made? Who do you think the money circulated, the capitals that were granted to them which these companies used to raise from their financial graveyard? Who had such vision of uniting all these companies and drove the steer-wheel of the behemoth? Why do you think I figured this all?
Well, Princess, your father once led this Conglomerate, and those people who usurped him even now still think that you were supposed to inherit all his possessions. You might want to get away from the game of conundrum he had been playing and live a peaceful life with your own pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, it appears that your destiny won't agree with that, and please remember that your father did not play that game because he wanted to. He got involved because it was necessary, it was either him moving the pieces or the circumstance would move the pieces against him, and that is what you need to set in mind to face all these....
Suzy stopped the recording that she had a habit of playing it before she took her rest for the day. Sitting on her feet and leaning on a wall, that young woman stared beyond the window inside a secluded apartment, a vantage point that viewed toward the night skyline of Nova City. The skyscrapers were bright with neon illuminations on their facade, rivaling the glimmering lights from vehicles and street markings below. Donned only with her simple underwear, the cold flow from the air conditioner fan grazed Suzy's exposed skin, bruised and wounded, putting the weight on the terror that filled her heart. She tried to calm down herself from the shock with the repeated long and deep breathing, the window glass got periodically blurred with the haze coming from her exhales, sometimes with a series of cough.
Suzy then looked at the holographic projection she had been keeping turned on. She had spent her day focusing herself on the project she believed to be burdened upon her. Gecko had provided her the necessary intel for the possible key people of the Conglomerate, a looming threat was meant to come. Among the nodes showing the photographs and the names that were connected to each other, one particular figure was put into focus. An entry had been typed under the record identifying a contract assassin with the name Praying Mantis: "knows Suzy's residence".
The assault had happened a couple of hours ago.
Suzy had just finished showering when the assassin invaded her apartment. Exposed without any forms of protection, the young woman had to fight him empty-handed. She managed to disarm the assassin’s silenced gun, though some bullets were able to graze her skin as she dodged them and one of them penetrated her shoulder. With such injury, Suzy still managed to fight the assassin in hand to hand combat. She intercepted his punches and landed several knee and elbow strikes against his torso. Suzy directed her counterattacks that the assassin was pushed toward the window. Ultimately, the young woman jumped and pinned the assassin’s neck between her thighs. With the momentum she still had from her jump, Suzy spun and threw her assailant toward the window. The glass broke and the Praying Mantis fell from the height.
That was when Suzy noticed that the assassin was not alone. Suzy had only time to take her night robe before she noticed a squad of armed men rappelled down the building and entered the broken window. She immediately ran toward the door and escaped her apartment, followed the ricocheting bullets coming out of the submachineguns fired toward her. She was lucky that her compact Agent device and motorcycle key was inside the pocket of her robe. Suzy immediately ran toward the basement and reached her cruiser motorcycle. The engine roared and the young woman rode away from the building, barefooted, without helmet, wearing only a thin sheet of her night robe.
“Gecko, Gecko! I’m being attacked! Gecko-”
Suzy’s call was interrupted as she noticed from the rear-view mirrors the helicopter that followed her. The pair of sensitive eyes behind the glasses-shaped Agent device noticed the machine gun that was pointed toward her direction. Suzy throttled up just as the barrage of bullets burst out of the gun and hit the road surface behind her. Indeed, immediately taking the highway was a bad choice. With each barrage of shooting, Suzy swayed her cruiser beautifully to evade the streams of bullets. However, the vacant space of the highway would soon end. Suzy noticed the traffic jam in the distance, beyond the curving platform.
Suzy immediately made a full throttle and forced the engine piston to work more, then quickly changed the gear. Her cruiser made a quick wheelie as she directed it toward the highway rim, Suzy jumped away with her motorcycle out of the highway to the road below. The bump was hard, but the suspension of Suzy’s cruiser was enough to dampen the shock. She managed to slip between the building and make herself invisible for the chasing helicopter. The deep sound of her cruiser’s engine was stealthy enough among the tall building that dispersed the wave. Suzy began to notice the cold wind that blasted her skin, covered only in the thin fabric of her night robe. The pain of her wound felt more intense, it was hard for her to focus on her destination.
“Gecko… please respond…”
“I noticed, Princess, I’m tracking you, what the hell happened? Who attacked you?”
Suzy eventually succumbed to her pain. The only thing she could think was to press the brake and decelerate her cruiser as much as possible. In that quiet street, close to where Gecko was, Suzy’s cruiser went astray toward the sidewalk and tumbled. The rider got thrown several feet away, bumped, and rolled on the hard surface, unconscious.
The hours passed.
Gecko found Suzy lying on the sidewalk, wounded, almost naked, and fell unconscious. He immediately brought her away to a hidden place. The apartment where Suzy hid herself was enough for two people to live, though it was not as decent as the one she had previously. The wounds she got had been taken care beneath the bandage and synthetic stem-cell regenerator. Though sometimes the pain returned, as of right at this moment when Suzy let her groan escaped her throat and allowed her back to bump onto the soft surface of the bed on where she was sitting.
“Suzy…” Gecko came inside the bedroom cube and tended his guess. “It’s over now, you’re safe here, your cruiser too, if you wonder…” he tried to calm Suzy, but she did not respond beyond keeping her breathing noticeable. “Your cybergear… that really helped you, considering how you were able to fend off the attack” Gecko then put his hand on Suzy’s abdomen, right above her navel. “Though these gears might need to be checked, but that can wait.” Those words from Gecko were responded with a simple nod from Suzy. The tech-man then tried to calm Suzy further with a little massage on her forehead.
“Thank you, Gecko…” said Suzy weakly, almost inaudible.
Maggie had her meeting with the other hacker, they had come up with a plan on how they would be able to get into the lab and passed all that security. Their part of the plan was then explained to the others, everyone seemed to be in agreement about what was going to happen. The crew arrived in front of the lab a few hours later, driving a few feet away from the loading docks of the lab. “So are you sure this is gonna work? I don’t wanna get fried because you two can’t hack through their security?” The other merc spoke up after a few moments of dead silence. This merc was dressed in a black trenchcoat, matching black pants and boots. Sporting a blonde military-style haircut, and armed with a large assault rifle. “We can break it, it’s gonna be child’s play.” Maggie said rolling her eyes at his comment. “Let’s stop arguing and get the job done.” The driver merc spoke up with a foul look on his face. The group got out of the van, heading towards large metal doors. Maggie pulled out her cyberdeck, disabling the cameras. Lilith the other hacker was opening the docking area doors for the group to enter. The gang moved from inside the docking bay to further inside the facility. The group moved slowly between rooms, Maggie and Lilith hacking the turrets and cameras inside, while the mercs silently any roaming night guards.
“This should be the server room.” The level-headed merc scanned the area before the door, using his enhanced hearing to check if anyone was approaching. “Open that door, and when you two are in there make sure to get as much info as possible. As soon as the door opened, the two hackers made their way inside. Maggie started hacking into a server, while Lilith was hacking another server in the corner of the room. Maggie was surprised by what information she was getting. Something called E13, she didn’t know what this was. But knew it didn’t sound good. It sounded quite ominous, but the information about this project would give her a lot of eurodollars. So she didn’t care how it would affect other people. The money was her main focus for completing this job. The mercs were occasionally peeking out of the server room, checking for any incoming guards. Maggie could see there was a more secure lock on further files on E13. “Lilith, I’m gonna need your help with getting through this wall.” Lilith came over towards Maggie, connecting her cyberdeck to the sever. The two work together to fight the security trying to stop them.
The only sound that permeated the dark alleyway was the sound of police sirens bouncing off the closely distanced walls of the dingy apartment buildings and the patter of rain against the cracked and faded pavement, the footfall of Sanguis' boots muted in the din of noise around him.
The glow of his blood red eyes pierced the inky darkness of the alley, adjusting their optical filters for the lack of light. Briefly they flashed as both red pinpoints darted here and there, ensuring he was alone Sanguis shoved a hand into the pocket of his overcoat pulling out an old burner phone that he flipped open and dialed.
It rang once, twice then a click followed the third dial tone "The songbird no longer sings," beneath the mask his voice was a low rasp, hints of an accent in it's lilt too faint to discern in the torrent rain filling the alley with it's near monotonous beat against the metal rooftops of the slums "You know how to find me, this time no tricks." with a snap the old phone clasped shut, then like dropping a piece of trash on the ground Sanguis let it fall to the ground before him.
It was easily replaceable, even better it made finding his location impossible to pinpoint exactly thus as he walked forward Sanguis drove the heel of his boot into the phone destroying it with a twist of his leg. Sanguis wasn't sloppy, he wasn't an amateur murderer but a trained killer an artist of his craft. In a matter of seconds the assassin found the handle of his motor vehicle, a red Nazaré motorbike that hummed to life as it's rider hopped onto the slick leather seat and with a twist of the bikes handles he disappeared into the night.
(learning to format by example - if it looks like I'm confused about how to do this, that's because I am!)
Is there something going on in Nova City?
Mira is enjoying, or suffering, one of those extended periods of idleness that being on call for Milicor sometimes offers her. When it rains, it pours, but this is shaping up to be a week off. Not from her other job - audience retention is an insatiable demand - but it's as close as she gets. And yet - and yet... is this just boredom? Is it unease? The stream is just half an hour out. What's biting her? She stands atop the tallest building she knows how to scale in the Harwood district, an empty establishment that might've once been government property - a library, maybe, but no longer recognizable, its insides gutted by the locals, the rest never demolished after all these years. A bat's nest. "User alert." "Yes, Faraday?" "Affirmative." "User alert." "Yes- what is the alert?" "Reminder: high volumes of emergency sirens are a reliable sign of potential danger." ...is that it? She tunes in to the background noise of police sirens. Her home in Sendero was typically pretty quiet - beyond it, she's always understood that there's supposed to be crime around every corner. She has heard them pretty much continuously since she got here tonight. Is that normal? She can't remember - she's been through this district a few times before, but she can't remember what it's supposed to sound like. She takes her sniper scope out of her jacket pocket. The rifle is packed away elsewhere, but she never leaves home without the scope. Lights. There's a cluster of police lights, reflecting off the rain and the rooftops not so far off. She primes her legs to start jumping. This might need a look. A sunny green countryside. Rolling hills interspersed with trees. Grazing animals of an era soon to leave living memory. From the boughs of the furthest tree, a flare of light. A glint of a scope. Chat starts the countdown from 60. Scattered all over the world, the bored and lonely grab drinks and snacks and settle in. "Hey, guys. Got a surpriiise for you todayy." Mira slowly uncovers her eyes, giving everyone a live feed of the alley's cement. "First you gotta guess what it is. Two hints: I don't have my rifle, and I'm keeping all my clothes on. Go." 10,000 viewers sitting behind her eyes set to their usual work being stupid, wrong, creepy, and occasionally perceptive. Foodstream? Urban exploration? Is she taking her clothes off? And that emote they haven't stopped using since she added it - her own viewer count in her rifle's crosshairs. "Come on, you guys can do it. This one's really, really easy. You always jump at the most ridiculous ideas. Think of something crazy." A murder scene. "Murder's right!" She looks up and at the scene she's been smelling up close for the past minute and a half. She just missed the last of the investigation as they trucked the body away - nothing left but white tape, yellow tape, and a slow red current headed downhill. "Faraday and I are right on the heels of the cops, investigating what looks like a dead hooker. Didn't get a look at her face, but we had a glimpse of the rest of her - does anybody know a hot blonde? If you do, sorry, she's probably dead." O_O that's a lot of blood! Was this your work? Who did it? Where is this? Are you blonde? Oh no my gf is hot "Wasn't me, and I'm not telling where we are just yet. We're gonna play detective together. Now, I don't know anything about blood spatters - I just make them for a living - but doesn't this look extra violent to you all? Not a shooting, right?" So it goes: another routine murder for the police, another hit of blood money for Pink Dot, another life washing away into the sewers of dystopia. But is it that simple? Mira chatters away; the chat froths and babbles like the water. All the while, she swears she's missing something else. The sirens are gone, the streets are clear, but her senses are still on edge. Maybe something beyond sight, sound, smell. She's feeling... something else. There is something going on in Nova City.
Hiro eventually stumbled his way out of the crowded bar and into the parking lot despite the constant throbbing from where that spiteful bitch kneed him directly between his legs. A good shot it was but not enough to disable him completely. It didn't take him long to reach his car, but as he slipped his hand into his coat pocket, he noticed there was something missing. "Where's my keys?" He wondered aloud to nobody but himself, his brow furrowing as frustration and dismay overtook his face. "Where the fuck are my goddamn keys?" His nostrils flared as he turned back towards the bar, thinking one of those drunk pricks in there picked them right out of his pockets, but just as he started in that direction once more, a shrill whistle, followed by a familiar voice caught him off-guard.
"Looking for these?"
Hiro whirled around, locking eyes with the smarmy look of the blonde twirling his car keys around on her index finger while she leaned up against his cruiser nonchalantly. "You know, for a cop, you sure are dull.", she snickered, her lips curled into a teasing smirk.
"I oughta cuff you for stealing my keys." Hiro growled snatching them off of her finger. Then he whisked her away from his vehicle with a wave of his hand, throwing open the driver side door and climbing in. Before he could shut the door however, she reached over and grabbed it.
"I bet you'd like that, wouldn't you?", She resumed in her playful yet somewhat spiteful tone. Hiro looked at her confused. "Having me handcuffed? Leaving me vulnerable to whatever you wanna do to me? I mean you did try to force yourself on me earlier." She grinned raising an eyebrow at the detective.
"That was just so I didn't blow my cover.", Gruffly Hiro remarked, attempting to close the door again despite her firm grip on it. "Besides, you were the one forcing yourself on me earlier, so let go."
"Heh, well it was a pretty stupid cover, if you ask me." She snorted shaking her head. "Why are you here anyway?" She glowered at him inquisitively. "I mean, I know you're a cop."
"Detective." Hiro firmly corrected her, momentarily cutting her off.
"Right...a detective." She continued, issuing an eyeroll towards Hiro's not so subtle hostility. "So what is it you're doing here?"
Hiro sighed bitterly, feeling as though he could bash his head against the steering wheel. "If you must know, I was here for a drink." He answered as calmly as he could muster himself to be despite her getting on his every-fucking nerve.
Unfortunately for him, she resumed her inquiring, seemingly with no intention of leaving him in peace, "Until you saw that girl, the one with the spiky hair?"
"Which one?" Hiro replied.
"You know which one." She answered back. "Her name's Mags by the way, but don't tell her I told you. She's a...well...she's helped me with some things in the past. Things I couldn't do by myself."
"Really?" Said Hiro slightly intrigued. Slowly he climbed out of his vehicle closing the door behind him. Once more the rain was pouring down upon his head, as though God or whoever above was dumping a bucket of ice cold water from the heavens on him. Nevertheless, the detective merely turned up his collar and resumed questioning her, "Like what?"
The blonde shrugged her shoulders softly giggling, "Well I mean I know my way around a Fender Strat and a bottle of Jack, but I'm practically brainless when it comes to computers. Mags on the other hand, well, you could say she was born with it. She cracks databases like they were safes." She paused a moment, her smile gradually fading, transitioning towards a more concerned expression as she lifted her face towards the detective. "Is she in some kind of trouble?"
Hiro was about to answer until he saw over the woman's shoulder a vehicle fast approaching, the phosphorous glow of headlights beaming directly into his eyes nearly frying his optical implants. He grimaced and turned away quickly, unaware the car that pulled to a stop behind his belonged to his partner Emma, at least until she turned off the ignition, thus killing those blinding high beams.
"Sorry I'm late, Nishida." Emma apologized climbing out of her vehicle and slamming the door shut, her thick combat boots splashing through the puddles as she moseyed over towards Hiro and the blonde. "We got another call, some shootout at an appartment. Lots of bodies, but none we could identify. My guess is it was a gang hit gone south." She glanced at the blonde woman then to Hiro, her brow wrinkling. "I thought you didn't like whores."
"Uh, beg your pardon?" Quipped the blonde cutting her eyes at Emma. "I'm not a whore, lady. I'm Nina Smith."
"Who?" Asked Hiro looking at Nina puzzled. "I scanned your face earlier. Our database has no file on you."
"So are you some kind of crook, Nina?" Emma joined in, scowling at the blonde with a firm hand placed upon her hip. "What is it you do? Are you a merc? A runner maybe?"
"I was getting to that. Jeez." Nina huffed rolling her eyes at Emma while reaching into the small breast pocket of her teal leather jacket. Afterwards, she held out her hand to Hiro. "Maybe this will explain things."
Hiro looked down and saw nestled in her palm a tiny microchip, his eyes narrowing on Nina's beaming face suspiciously. "That's a braindance chip." He responded firmly. "So you deal in that shit?"
"It's not gonna fry your brain, Columbo." Nina assured him, nudging the chip in Hiro's face despite his apparent displeasure towards it. "Just put it in. You'll see."
"I wouldn't do it, Hiro." Said Emma hesitantly shaking her head. "Who knows what she's laced that thing with. It could have a goddamn worm on it for all we know."
Nina turned to the other detective, stating boldly with her arms crossed under her breasts, "If I was gonna kill him, I'd have done it with a gun or a knife. I'm telling you both, it's totally harmless."
"Fine." Hiro returned snatching the chip from Nina's hand and issuing a stern glare. "But if that thing fries me, my partner is gonna blow your pretty little ass away."
"You're fucking right I'm gonna." Added Emma giving a threatening stare of her own, her hand now resting on the handle of her gun at her side. "Go ahead, Nishida. Plug it in and let's see what's on it."
"Alright." Hiro nodded. Reaching back behind his head, he slid the tiny chip into the slot embedded at the top of his spine. Immediately upon installation, his vision went blank. A startup screen with glowing magenta text and a status bar soon greeted him. Intently, Hiro watched as the little percentage above the bar ticked upward
The percentage eventually reached 100%, where upon completion what met Hiro's eyes...was some sort of concert, except it was viewed from someone standing on the stage. The pounding of the drums rattled his eardrums with resonating vibrations, as did the screaming guitars and synth riffs. He then heard the singer's voice, realizing he was viewing everything through her eyes...Nina's eyes. As the song ended, Hiro ejected the chip and handed it back to Nina, his vision slowly adjusting back to his current reality. "So you're a rocker, huh?" He said with a small amount of impression. "Let me guess. You spoke out against the corpos, and now they got a bounty on your head. Correct?"
"You could say that." Nina answered with a frown. "I had Mags scrub my file so I would be harder to track, but hell, in this city everyone knows everyone." She paused, exhaling a weary sigh as she looked down at her slightly muddied boots fidgeting on the wet asphalt, before looking up once more at Nishida. "I'm just gonna be blunt with you, detective. I know Maggie's involved in some deep shit. That guy who hired her, he's a corpo. I think he works for Yamagata or something."
"Yeah, I got that already." Nodded Hiro. "That's why we need to talk to Mags. She might be getting involved in some business that may or may not be connected to a murder we're investigating."
"Wait." Said Nina, her face wrought with apprehension as she lost all color, leaving only a milky white complexion. "There was a murder? Who?"
"A young woman." Emma responded flatly. "Probably the same age as you. Her name's Jenna Hayworth." She then looked at Hiro. "Hiro, we don't have time to fuck around with her. We need to get to Mags before she's tagged and bagged."
Hiro turned to reply but paused momentarily. "Tell you what, Em." He said as he reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a slightly crumpled pack of Seven Star Cigarettes, clenching one between his lips then lighting it and taking a drag. A thin wisp of smoke trailed from his lips as he resumed, "You go tail the netrunner. I've got a date in the Venus District. Remember?"
"Oh, right." Replied Emma with a cheeky grin. "Little Miss Sweetie. Just remember to wear protection." A sly wink she gave before turning around and heading back to her car. "If I find anything new from Maggie, I'll let you know."
"Hey, hold up!" Nina hollered after Emma, racing to the woman before she got in her vehicle. "I'm coming with you."
"W-what?" Emma stammered, glancing at the blonde puzzled. "Like hell you are, rocker girl. This is official police business. Besides, your scrawny ass will just get in the way."
Nina wasn't having none of it though as she grabbed Emma's door firmly before the woman could shut it getting in her car. "Maggie's my friend, okay police lady?" The blonde proclaimed issuing Emma a determined look in her eyes. "I'm not going to let her get killed by a bunch of greedy corpos!"
Emma stared at Nina blankly for a moment then to her steering wheel, vigorously chewing at her bottom lip in a brief bout of silence, only to be broken up by her relenting sigh, "Goddammit... fine. Get your ass in the car, Blondie!" She said motioning towards the passenger seat.
Nina nodded quickly and hurried over to the side, jumping in as Emma threw it in reverse and peeled out of the parking lot, nearly running down some poor pedestrian who had to leap out of the way.
Hiro laughed to himself quietly having watched the bizarre scene unfold. Then, he climbed into his own vehicle and drove away.
It didn't take long for Nina to identify Maggie's van while they were driving on the road. Emma pulled in behind it but stayed back far enough so as not to incur any suspicion from the driver or whoever else might be inside. As the van began to pick up speed, so did she while still keeping her distance tailing the vehicle. Soon, the van came to a stop outside what appeared to be a fairly large facility. Emma pulled her car underneath an overpass just a few blocks nearby, killing the ignition and gazing out the windshield towards the towering skyscraper lit in bright teal neon. "Oh shit." She muttered.
"What is it?" Nina asked, glancing over at Emma with a worried look in her eyes.
Emma replied gravely, "This is a BemaTech facility. Whatever your little netrunner friend is getting into, it has to be some serious shit."
"Then let's go, dammit!" Said Nina hastily unbuckling her seatbelt. She was about to bolt from the vehicle before Emma grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back in.
"Wait a damn minute, will you?" She chided the blonde. Nina flopped back into her seat, eliciting a huff of warm air from her nostrils. Emma kept her eyes trained on the van. Before too long, the woman in question emerged along with another female and a few heavily armed males, mercs by the looks of them Emma assumed. "Alright, they're on the move. Let's go." Emma was the first to get out of the car, followed by Nina closing the door carefully behind her. "Here, take this." Emma said, quickly sliding over the roof of her car to Nina a compact nine millimeter pistol. Nina grabbed the pistol off the roof giving a curt nod back, "Gee, thanks."
"You know how to use one of those?" Emma asked of her.
Nina smirked in response, racking the slide and ejecting the magazine in smooth succession. After checking that the mag was full, she popped it back into the well and released the slide lock, flipping the safety off and handling the weapon expertly with two hands. "That answer your question?" She quipped dryly.
"Yeah, I believe so." Said Emma with a nod. She then unholstered her own sidearm, a .44 revolver which she cocked back the hammer and took into her leather gloved hands. "Alright, let's move out, but be quiet. Follow my lead."
Carefully but as hastily as they could, the women made their way across the street towards the facility, every once in a while taking cover behind the concrete pillars and shrubbery outside. They skulked their way around the building towards the back, making sure to avoid the ever watchful eye of security cameras and motion sensors and other security countermeasures these buildings were sure to have installed. Emma always wondered why these corpos would go to such great lengths in the name of security, as if they all had some dirty secret to keep hidden. Maybe her partner Nishida was right about them, how far their greed and corruption stemmed in Nova City, perhaps even far beyond. As the duo rounded the corner, Emma couldn't help but feel something was amiss. There were no guards stationed at the loading docks. In fact, there were no personnel at all present. She knew it was late at night, but even so, there had to be someone on the clock to look after this place. That was when she noticed the bodies laying near the rear entrance.
Nina took one look at the limp figures, immediately her hand going to her mouth to stifle her frightened yelp into a frail squeak.
"Shhh!" Emma turned with a finger pressed to her lips, a firm glare shot towards the blonde. "Keep it down!" She whispered sharply under her breath. "You'll set the whole fucking facility off."
"But you're a cop." Nina murmured in reply, a bewildered expression upon her face. "What would the corpos do to you?"
Emma sighed, "Let's just say cops and corpos don't really get along, aside from them selling us guns and kevlar. It's a long story."
"Guess I'll hear it some other time." Said Nina with a shrug. She looked over the bodies once more, "What do you think happened to them?"
Emma knelt down, placing her two fingers against one of their necks. Sure enough, no pulse. "My guess is those mercs took care of them." She answered blunt. "They were professionals too, no cheap guns for hire. These corpses are practically clean. I can hardly see any bullet wounds on them." She rose to her feet, clutching her revolver firmly. "Let's keep moving. We need to find your friend before she trips some alarm and alerts the corps. After that, well..." She paused, a grave look overtaking her delicate features. "Let's just hope you shoot as good as you claim."
Nina gave a brief nod in reply, and with that, the women continued further into the facility. Just as Emma figured, more bodies met their cautious approach through the halls. Emma had to admit, she was impressed by how quickly and quietly the mercs mopped up the place. She had to figure Maggie and that other netrunner were already in the server room by now. At least that's where she assumed they were going. Turning a corner, she immediately spotted the muzzle of a Milicor assault rifle poking out from behind a wall. "Fuck! Stay down!" She quickly ordered to Nina, using her other hand to shove the blonde back against the wall.
Nina gasped stumbling backwards, fumbling her gun in her hands before she caught it and grasped it tight. "Jesus! What the fuck?" She hissed at Emma, a slight hitch in her breath as she glared daggers at the woman. "You scared me! What is it?"
"Trouble up ahead." Replied Emma, carefully peeking her head out from behind the wall to get a better look at the mercs. "Looks like two, no, three men. Heavily armed, 7.62 rounds, possibly with FMJs. That's some nice Milicor hardware they got." And with that nice hardware they could shred both her and the blonde to pieces. Emma cursed her luck. Between the high profile mercs and the netrunners tapping into a heavily guarded facility, she knew there had to be more at stake than just some data grab. She readied herself mentally, taking in calm, deep breaths as slowly she slid her finger into the trigger well of her gun and prepared to open fire at any given moment.
Maggie along with Lilith was hacking into the server, Maggie was having some trouble with fighting the ICE programs with some Attacker programs. Lilith was providing help by using Defender programs to help from Maggie’s brain getting fried. Maggie’s avatar in the system was moving lower down levels of the server. Collecting more information and downloading it on her deck. The more information she was downloading and skimming over, the more she was intrigued by what Project E13 was. Nevertheless, she was on the clock and needed to get the information and leave. In the lower levels of the server space, Maggie collected the last of the information. She was sure that their employer was going to pay them handsomely.
The blonde-haired merc was pacing around the room outside of the server room, scanning the room while keeping his rifle at the ready. Not noticed the police just yet. “Are you two done? I have a feeling we’re not alone.” The other merc soon joined him, leaving the two hackers to be alone. “Not yet we need to download the rest of the data.” Maggie yelled out making her presence known to the cops. The level-headed merc noticed something on the other side of the room, although he chalked it up to his mind playing tricks on him. Maggie and Lilith soon came out of the server room, “We got the info, now let’s get the hell out of here before the cops come.” And with that, the group headed back towards the loading docks.
"Shit, they're almost done!" Nina frantically whispered to Emma upon hearing Maggie's voice call out. "What do we do, Emma?"
Emma couldn't find a response, nervously watching the group as they began to pull out from the servers. Finally, she made her decision. "Fuck it! Let's go!" Quickly she darted from her cover, raising her revolver towards Maggie's gang, shouting as loud as she could, "Nova City Police! Drop your fucking weapons, now!"
Nina soon joined her, albeit timidly shuffling out from behind the wall with her pistol trained on the group as well. "O-oh uh...what's up, Mags?" She giggled softly, her porcelain cheeks glowing a neon shade of fuchsia. "Look, I know this is totally embarrassing right now, but if you could just...you know...tell your crew to drop their guns, that would be cool."
"Better let me handle this, Lita Ford." Emma quipped, keeping her eyes firmly fixed on the group. "You heard what I said, assholes! Drop the weapons now and put your hands behind your heads! Move it! You too, script kiddie!" Emma aimed her gun at Maggie while barking out orders, "On the ground! Now!"
Meanwhile, Hiro's car came to a stop outside the Venus District. Typical of a Friday night the entire place was packed, sidewalks and streets crowded with eager young men, and even some women, standing outside the litany of sordid establishments as they ogled licentiously at the merchandise on display, all bathed in hues of vibrant crimson and magenta emanating from the blinking and flashing neon signs and larger than life holograms of strippers and working girls dancing ever so sensually to lure their lecherous clientele into their webs.
Hiro sat in his vehicle for a moment, merely taking in the scenery with a perturbed look in his eyes. The whole thing just reminded him of what he endured as a child, the very hell his drug addicted mother dragged him through when she got involved with this place. Not to mention how it took her life. Hiro grimaced at the sight of signs loudly proclaiming: "GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS!" "PEEP SHOW!" "LIVE NUDES!" "VR PLEASURE DOMES!" It all just made the detective sick to his stomach.
"This better be worth it." Internally he sighed, preparing himself before stepping out of his car and slamming the door shut. Flicking away his cig, the detective shoved his hands into the pockets of his coat and trudged across the street, momentarily spooked by some idiot in a corvette speeding past him. Hiro grit his teeth and shook his head, then he continued along until he was right in the thick of the crowd. A few elbow bumps and scrutinizing gazes later and he was ambling through the entrance of a bordello, immediately his nostrils assaulted by the smell of sex, sleaze, and too much perfume and cigar smoke.
He glanced about the room, noticing all the women either lounging about in various states of undress or tending to clients. His gaze soon came upon an African-American man in a darkly lit booth, wearing a gaudy looking fur coat and a pair of rose-tinted aviators. On each side of him on the velvet couch he lounged across were two rather striking Asian girls, one of them languidly staring up at the man and stroking his bare chest.
Hiro didn't even have to scan him to know who he was.
"Must be a dream come true for you, Big V." Nishida scoffed as he approached the pimp. "All these lovely ladies at your beckoned call."
Victor took a drag off the thick cigar between his lips, blowing a puff of acrid smoke Hiro's way before flicking ashes onto the burgundy carpet. "I thought I told your chief we payed up this month, Nishida." He bitterly proclaimed. "So why you come down here fuckin' with me, huh?
"Relax, Victor." Replied Nishida. "I'm not here to extort you or your girls. I came here to speak to one of them. I believe her name is Sweetie."
"Oh, is that so?" Said Victor intriguingly, tilting his shades down a little to reveal his luminous cybernetic eyes. "You here about that girl that was murdered, aren't you? Yeah, Hayworth her name. Jenna Hayworth. She fooled around with Sweetie a couple of times. I even watched 'em get down and dirty once." A rather lewd grin parted the pimp's lips, followed by a snicker. "Sure, you can talk to her...for usual fee."
"Hmph! Now you're the one extorting me." Hiro retorted, reaching into his coat pocket and fishing out his wallet. "Here." Coldly, he slapped a few bills on the table in front of Victor, his eyes narrowed in disdain.
"Then we have a deal, my man." Victor laughed, reaching out his large, muscular hand to shake Hiro's. He then hollered towards the back of the bordello. "Hey yo, Sweetie! Get your fine ass out here and see to this man, bitch!"
Upon his call, Sweetie emerged from behind the draped red velvet curtains, garbed only in a silk Japanese kimono that was left partly open to give a generous peek at her unmentionables. Her sparkling, sapphire eyes fell upon Hiro in a languid gaze, her plump lips curling into a decadent smirk. ~"Well well..."~ She purred placing a hand on her perfectly round hip and giving Hiro a brief look over. ~"You're certainly easy on the eyes. Here for a little action, hunny?"~
Hiro cocked his eyebrow, briefly scanning the woman up and down. He noticed the slight indentions in her bare legs, indicating some sort of cybernetics. His brow furrowed with a suspecting look towards her. "You're not a human, are you Sweetie?" The detective inquired, though the answer was obvious to him.
Sweetie batted her eyelashes and giggled softly in reply, ~"What gave it away, sugar?"~ Her smooth, sultry voice. It sounded like a melody to the detective, more akin to a siren's sweet, seductive song luring men to their unfortunate demise. Thankfully, he was able to block such melodies out and ignore her lustful advances. ~"It doesn't matter."~ Cooed Sweetie as she approached him, casually slipping one of her dainty hands up and down his chest while the other played with his black tie. ~"Soon, you'll find out I'm more woman than you could ever dream"~
"Thanks, but no thanks Sweetie." Callously the detective responded, pushing Sweetie away with a brief nudge.
He watched as the cyberdoll stumbled backwards, a mix of bewilderment and disappointment momentarily on her synthetic face before she collected herself and resumed her sensual demeanor. ~"What's the matter, baby?"~ Sweetie snickered with a teasing grin. ~"You're not queer, are you?"~
"No, I'm not." Bluntly Nishida replied readjusting his coat and tie. "I'm not here for pleasure." Then he flashed his badge. "Special Detective Hiro Nishida. I'm here to speak to you about Jenna Hayworth."
Sweetie froze immediately, her face twisting into a grim expression. ~"Not here."~ She whispered in the detective's ear, her slender fingers wrapping around his hand grasping tight. Nervously she glanced over her shoulder at Victor, the pimp eyeing her closely with a suspicious glare over his shades. ~"Follow me."~ Without another word, Sweetie pulled Hiro away behind the curtains, then down the hall to one of the available rooms.
Maggie froze for a moment watching the two policewomen pointing guns at her. It is not uncommon for police to be pointing guns in her direction. But usually, they were not so close that she could smell the lead from the barrel. “There’s four of us and two of you, and we got the heavy fire to turn you into a paste.” The blonde-haired merc spoke up with a confident grin. “If you wanna get turned into swiss cheese, by all means keep running your mouth,” Lilith spoke up while rolling her eyes. Maggie meanwhile was silent, using her netdeck to save the information about E13 in her cybernetic brain. Slowly putting down her deck on the floor, slowly raising her hands behind her head. The level-headed merc did the same, knowing that he could escape easier from jail than in a coffin. “Just put your hands up kiddo, don’t wanna see the reaper do ya?” This and having the two police officers pointing their guns at him, was enough for him to surrender.
Maggie waited for the policewomen to put the cuffs on her, she knew as well that she would be able to beat this and walk free. She had enough eddies to bribe the commissioner and to also help Lilith walk. As she was being escorted to the police car with Lilith, Maggie leaned her over towards her. “Alice has taken the red pill, her mind is expanding.” Whispering to her while being shoved into the cruiser. This was code in the hacker world for someone who has information in their cybernetic brain. Lilith nodded her head, the plan was if the group walked free they were going to give the information to their employer. Or at the very least just herself and one of the mercs. She hoped that the older and wiser merc would be able to get out of this without being behind bars.
Hours had passed since Hiro first made contact with Sweetie, and now he was stirring awake, lying beside her in what could only be described as a heavily disheveled bed. Incessantly his head pounded, a soft groan escaping his lips as he turned over on his back and stared bleary-eyed at the large mirror on the ceiling above, reflecting his immodestly covered figure and that of the cyberdoll to his right. Speaking of, the detective glanced over at the joytoy laying on her side, her rather pertinent endowments rising and falling gracefully with every silent breath she took in and exhaled. The tousled crimson sheets half-covering her more or less accentuated her voluptuous, nude body, a rather pleased smile near permanently etched across her sumptuous lips as she slumbered.
"How the hell did this happen?" Hiro mused to himself weakly, trying his damndest to recover the last bit of his memories. Faintly, he could remember bits and pieces of what happened, at least the conversation he had with the hooker before...well...this.
Hiro closed the door behind them and locked it as soon as he was sure nobody else was lurking about. He then turned and faced the cyberdoll as she sat down on the edge of the bed, looking up at him with those same fearful eyes, eyes that told Hiro she knew more than what she should. It was impressive to the detective, honestly how real they were making these toys of carnal pleasure.
Reaching into his coat pocket, he fished out another cigarette, clenching it in his mouth and lighting it with a flick of his lighter, then taking a slow drag off of it before resuming the interrogation. Usually, he'd have his partner Emma do all the grilling since she had a more persuasive nature. He guessed that was the perks of being an ex-NAE Marine. However, he assumed she was busy, her and the rocker chick, with tailing that group of netrunners. Nevertheless, he continued.
"Tell me everything you know, Sweetie. Don't skip a single detail."
Sweetie bit her lip, a brief glimpse away from the detective as she curled up her shoulders to her neck. There was a sliver of tense silence between the two before she responded, her eyes still brimming with apprehension as she turned to face Hiro. ~"You want to know about Jenna, right?"~ She whispered.
"That's the reason I'm here, isn't it?" Gruffly the detective replied, exhaling a wisp of smoke. "Tell me about her. What was your relationship like with her, aside from courtesan and client?"
~"We just had sex. That was all."~ Sweetie answered with a shrug, albeit a tad defensive. ~"She was going through a rough patch with her boyfriend and wanted to play a little. I didn't know she'd be a repeat customer honestly, but she paid good and she fucked good. So what?"~
Hiro's brow furrowed at Sweetie. "I think there was something more between you two." He added while crossing his arms over his chest, a suspicious glimmer in his eyes towards the cyberdoll. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have been so torn up over her death, nor would you be acting so strange."
~"I...I..."~ Sweetie stammered, practically gnawing at her lip until it would hypothetically turn red. She averted her eyes from the detective once more.
"Answer me, Sweetie." Said Hiro. Pushing himself off the wall he was leaning against, he slowly shuffled across the room and sat down beside her on the bed. Still, she refused to make any eye contact with him. Nishida resumed, "Did you or did you not have a romantic relationship with Jenna Hayworth?"
~"I...I..."~ There was a hint of sadness to the cyberdoll's voice as she continued to stutter, finally bursting into what Hiro could only assume from her lack of tears...as a fit of sobbing. Sweetie threw herself at him full force, burying her face deep into his broad shoulder, her voice muffled by his coat, ~"Yes! It's true, detective! I did love her!"~
"O-oh..." Hiro mumbled, taken aback a little by her sudden bout of despair. All he could think to do at this moment was wrap a comforting arm around her shoulder and let her cry into his. "It's uh...it's okay, Sweetie." Weakly he muttered, setting his hand gently on her trembling shoulder. "I'm...I'm sorry."
Sweetie lifted herself from his shoulder, silently sniffling as she dried her eyes. ~"She was my angel, Detective Nishida."~ She resumed, her quavering voice rasp with tears as she looked at Hiro. ~"She was the only person in this goddamn world that made me feel like a real woman, not some cheap whore or a pimp's plaything. I tried my best to warn her...but it was too late."~
Hiro's eyebrow rose slightly. "Too late for what?" He asked, staring at her quizzically. "Do you know who killed her, Sweetie?"
Sweetie nodded back, answering with a sharp edge in her tone, ~"If I did, detective, I would gladly kill them myself."~ However, her voice softened to her accustomed sadness afterward, her lips curling into a sullen frown. ~"But no...I don't. All I know is Big V was the one who set up the hit."~
"Hmm, I thought so." Returned Nishida. "He acted awful sketchy when I requested to speak with you. How did you find out?"
~"It was yesterday."~ Said Sweetie. ~"I overheard him speaking to someone while I was with a client. I heard him say Jenna's name."~
"What else did he say?" Hiro continued to question her. "Do you know who he hired? Was it a merc? A solo?"
~"I don't know."~ Sweetie shook her head. ~"I just know he knew about Jenna's involvement with Yamagata. There was a scientist she worked with there a while back. I think her name was Caroline."~
"Caroline Cadmus." Hiro finished with a suspecting grimace. "I remember her case. She was found dead in an industrial waste dump about a year ago, stabbed eighty-nine times. Her body was found stripped naked with no I.D. The same as Hayworth. Could it be..." He paused momentarily, his mind racing now as gradually he was beginning to piece everything together. So adrift was he in thought that it startled him when the cyberdoll rested her head once more against his shoulder.
~" Detective..."~ Softly she murmured slipping her frail hand across his muscular chest, only to reach up and caress his firm jaw. She looked at Nishida with something else in her eyes now, a languid, longing gaze deep into his own eyes. ~"I don't want to be alone tonight. I'm afraid if Victor finds out what I told you, well...he'll kill me. Please...stay with me."~
Hiro turned and gave her a confused look. However, there was no time to respond before she grabbed him, locking her lips with his and kissing him deeply. Her arms ensnared him as they both fell back into the plush mattress, bathed in the sultry glow of red neon.
And sure enough, that's what led to Hiro sleeping with her. Something he wasn't proud to admit due to his displeasure towards prostitutes, but still...it was a hell of a night for him. Hiro soon began straggling out of bed to look for his clothes, the light shuffle of his movements, unfortunately, eliciting a hushed, incoherent whisper from the joytoy, gently turning over and greeting the detective with a soft, sleepy smile, again her glimmering eyes gazing at him longingly as he got dressed in the dim red light of the room.
A sigh exhaled, Hiro nodded pulling up his pants and zipping them up. He then slipped his shirt sleeves over his arms and began buttoning it up. "I have to." He replied blunt.
Sweetie sighed and sat up, her arms encircling him from behind, a tender embrace with her lips leaving tender little kisses up and down the back of his neck. ~"Please, don't go."~ She begged him, not even budging once to let Hiro free. ~"I feel much safer with you here."~
Hiro sighed again, turning around to look into her eyes with a somber frown, a soft kiss planted upon her beautiful, supple lips. "I know." He answered her quietly. "But I have work to do." Carefully he untangled himself from her, letting her arms slip from his waist as she lied down again, still those ever seductive eyes gazing at him.
~"You know, detective..."~ Said Sweetie just as Hiro was reaching for the doorknob. Hiro stopped and turned around. ~"There was something I forgot to add...about Jenna."~
"What is it?" Hiro inquired.
Sweetie resumed, a brief sigh punctuating the beginning of her sentence, ~"Before she died, Jenna told me about a project she and Cadmus had worked on. It had something to do with synthetic humanoids, kind of like me but more...well...advanced. I believe she said it was called E13."~
"Is that so?" Replied the detective, quite astounded by her answer. "And this 'E13' project. Why would it be so important to have both Cadmus and Hayworth killed over it?"
~"Who knows."~ Sweetie answered with a light shrug. She got up out of bed, slipping on the silk kimono she was wearing earlier and tying it securely around her waist. ~"All I know is my Jenna and Cadmus were both Yamagata employees. So it was likely them who did it."~
"Wait a minute." Hiro muttered confused, his dark eyes narrowing on the cyberdoll's face. "You said it was your pimp Victor who set up the hit. Are you telling me some fixer like him is working for the corpos?"
~"Not exactly, sugar."~ Said Sweetie. ~"But he may as well be. Victor only cares about money, and if the corpos offered him a fat check to kill my Jenna, then chances are they'll pay him again for another ill favor."~
"And he'll probably use the same guy he used for the last job." Hiro added gravely. "I'm gonna find this son of a bitch and put an end to him before he kills more innocent people." He started to reach for the door again but paused turning his head toward Sweetie. "So...when can I see you again?"
Sweetie smiled at the detective, albeit with a hint of sadness to her voice as she replied, ~"I don't know if I'll be around much longer, Detective Nishida. Now that I've told you everything, I'm almost certain Victor will have me killed. Still..."~ Wrapping her arms around his shoulders, she leaned forward with a gentle peck of her lips to his, staring deeply into his eyes with a lover's ardor. ~"I will never forget this night we shared. You're by far the most amazing man I've given myself to. Please...if I survive this....will you come back to me?"~
"I..." Hiro uttered with slight hesitance to his words, relenting with a deep and woeful sigh. "I can't make any promises, Sweetie...I'm sorry." And with that, Hiro pulled himself away from her arms reluctantly, leaving the heartbroken doll all alone....leaving her to a possible grisly fate at the hands of her greedy, lecherous pimp. Of course, Hiro's own heart was beginning to ache, yet he fought against all urges to turn back around, to burst through that door and take that beautiful woman once more as his own.
Flipping up the collar of his coat around his face and shoving his hands firmly into his pockets, the embittered detective once more stepped out into the cold drizzle, stamping through puddles collecting on the sidewalks and the glistening city streets until he was at the driver side door of his car. As he fished his keys out from his coat pocket, he took one last look towards the bordello a block away.
There she was in the rose tinted window staring back at him, briefly before she drew the thick velvet curtains shut, cutting herself away from him...possibly forever...
“Alice has taken the red pill, her mind is expanding.”
"Yeah yeah, just don't bump your pretty little head there sweetheart. Watch it now." Emma carefully yet callously shoved the hacker into the back of her cruiser before slamming the door shut in the girl's face and climbing in herself. Then she reached for her radio on the dash, just as her ride-along for the night Nina was settling in on the passenger side, a rather perturbed look plastered on her face as she glanced at Maggie in the backseat through the rearview mirror. The young rockstar's brow furrowed a bit. Something was off with Mags she thought. It was as though she had no memory of Nina. She even confused the blonde for being another policewoman, despite Nina knowing her for years.
"Dispatch, this is Thorley. I got four idiots in custody right now. Need you to send over a unit to the address I'm forwarding, over. Yeah, caught 'em trying to break into some BemaTech facility in Sendero. Looks like a couple of runners and some mercs. These guys were packing some heavy firepower too. No pushovers. Yeah, I'll send you the coordinates. Well don't get your thong in a twist! I'm working on it, shit! Yeah, I know about that shooting at the apartments. I've got some guys already combing the place. Nishida? Fuck, last I heard, he was headed over to the Venus District for a little R&R, if you catch my drift. Yeah, I'll contact him too. Alright. Over and out."
Emma squelched the mic shortly after and hung up the radio, glancing in the rearview mirror at the two perps behind her, their hands bound with zipties since she forgot to carry her cuffs with her unfortunately. She smirked at their irritated faces glaring back at her in the mirror, snickering to the two netrunners, "You girls just get nice and cozy. We've got a long ride back to the precinct. If you think once of trying to get out of those zips, I won't think twice of splattering your brains all over that back windshield. So just sit back and relax." And with that, Emma slammed her foot down on the gas pedal, sending the cruiser violently careening out of the parking lot and speeding down the road in a blur of reds and blues.
While Emma was focused on the road ahead, Nina unlatched her safety belt and turned around in her seat to get a better look at Maggie in her recently dumbfounded state. "Hey Mags. It's me, Nina. Don't you remember?" Softly Nina whispered to the hacker, at least hoping to elicit some response from her. "Look, if you're mad about me snitching on you, I'm sorry. What was I to do? Let you and your guys get killed? Besides, the cops kinda knew already." Nervously she tittered and scratched the back of her head, her cheeks reddening slightly with an awkward grin across her face. "I uh...just want you to know I did this to protect you. It's not worth it, risking your life over money. And, well...I guess I'm sorry."
"Forget it, Blondie." Emma quipped while making a sharp left turn at an intersection, rudely cutting off some man on a bike who cursed at her and flipped her the bird. "Let little miss Script Kiddie back there sulk because she got busted, her and her friend there. They're damn lucky it was us and not some cybered up psychos with katanas and AR-46 assault rifles. Otherwise, we'd be taking them to the morgue instead of the precinct." A sharp glare she shot towards Maggie in the rearview, muttering, "When are you kids gonna learn? You go fucking around with corpos, sooner or later, they're gonna fuck you...hard! And that's without any lube."
"I think you made your point, Angel Cop." Nina grumbled rolling her eyes and sitting back down in her seat, fastening her seatbelt again. "What I don't get is why Maggie was hired by a Yamagata corpo to break into BemaTech. They don't have anything to do with what those guys are peddling. I mean, it's not like BemaTech's going into the cybernetics market anytime...are they?" She gave Emma an odd stare.
"Hell, who knows." Emma shrugged keeping her eyes fixed on the road, every once in a while glancing in the mirror at Maggie and Lilith. "These corps have been playing a dangerous game for a very long time, and innocent people are getting caught in the crossfire. It makes me sick, how they toy with people's lives, use them as pawns in some game of chess, and to what end? Power? It's not like they control every goddamn thing in this city. Electronics, the news, the fuel we put in our cars, the food we eat, the fucking cybernetics we put in our bodies. Chances are some corporation's name is slapped right on the side of it. Even the guns we use are made by a corporation. We're nothing to them but puppets, fucking slaves."
"Wow." Nina whistled astounded towards Emma's short outburst. "Never thought I'd hear a cop badmouthing the corpos. You must have a real bone to pick with them, huh Emma?"
"Listen, Joan Jett." Emma responded, heaving a troubled sigh from her lungs. A stark contrast to her reckless abandon earlier tearing up the road, she gently pressed her foot down on the brake pedal, bringing the cruiser to a steady halt at a red light. She resumed her conversation with Nina, all while keeping a vigilant eye on the other vehicles stopped beside her. "The only reason I'm a cop is because I want to keep people safe. It has nothing to do with the rich bastards who sign my checks. They can all go to Hell as far as I'm concerned. My point is they ruin lives for profit, profit and control. Take Suzy Chen for instance."
"Who?" Inquired Nina raising her eyebrow lightly. "Yeah, I don't know who that is."
"It was a case Nishida and I worked a few years back. Emma replied rather blunt. "Poor girl had her guts blown out by some prick who shot himself afterwards. Anyhow, we did some digging on her and found out she and her family were in deep. We're talking the exact definition of corporate warfare. There was blackmail, phony lawsuits, assassinations, you name it. And here was this sweet young girl caught right in the middle of it. I don't know what's happened to her. Hell, I don't even know if she's still alive. If there's anything corpos hate, it's loose ends."
"So what did you do about it?" Asked Nina, her lips curling downward into a more somber expression to match her soft tone of voice.
Emma returned bitterly, a dry huff of air flaring her nostrils, "Nothing... We couldn't do a goddamn thing about it. Somehow the corps who hired the assassin got to our witnesses. Soon, evidence started disappearing, people refused to speak to us. We didn't have a shred that could stand up in court. Even so, none of us knew who these bastards were, this...Conglomerate. They're like the fucking boogeyman or something, lurking in the shadows, always watching your every move. If you ask me, I think they're the real owners of this city. Maybe even the whole damn world. The corps are their puppets, just as we are the puppets of the corps. And the more I think of it....the more it scares the ever living shit out of me. Power corrupts men, and many will do whatever is necessary to keep a hold on it."
"Jesus, Em..." Nina uttered a tad shaken. Her eyes were as wide as saucers once Emma finished her venomous diatribe. "When you put it that way, it's almost like we're already losing."
"Nah, I wouldn't say that." Emma chuckled. "You see, the thing about people is you can only control them for so long, before they start wising up to all your bullshit you're feeding them. Sooner or later, the same thing's gonna happen to this Conglomerate. People are gonna get tired of being shoved around and played with like dolls. They'll fight back. You can guarantee this city will become a fucking battleground. Until that day, I say we just lay low."
Emma looked up at the traffic light again. Was this thing ever going to fucking change, she thought.
"See, this is what I'm always talking about. You there, chatbot, you're the problem. Mods, get him already. No one's here to read yet another Nova-" Mira trails off. Her phone is ringing. She checks the screen, reads "Contractor," and her mood gets a little worse. "Ad break." Her lenses retract. She's alone in the alley again. "Hey-hey?" "NCS947." A synthesized voice slowly reads out her ID number in the Milicor Operations Division. She sighs. "That's me." "Verification code." "85700909." "Message drop. Grid coordinates NC 1991, 743. Requires decryption key. Will provide upon acknowledgement." "Faraday, record the following code as 'Decryption Key.'" Talking to Milicor can be exhausting.
Behind a pile of garbage bags, Mira finds her drop: a thumb drive in a plastic bag. Plug it into her phone, have Faraday connect to the phone. Such a lot of work. "Contents encrypted." "Use Decryption Key to decrypt it." "Processing. Contents decrypted. One text document." "Read it to me." "Warning: unauthorized viewing or photography of this document is a class 2-" She rolls her eyes, her patience nearly dry. "Faraday, skip this paragraph."
"Operative NCS947: Your services are urgently required in your current sector. 40% advance payment has been sent to your account. Briefing pursuant: Unknown operatives, presumed independent, have recently been reported in armed conflict with security forces wearing identification from the Bematech Corporation in an unknown structure at NC 1440, 311. Police response has apprehended the operatives - as of time of writing, cruiser is currently enroute to precinct at NC 742, 521. Objectives pursuant: Identify objective of independent operatives. Identify purpose of presumed Bematech facility. Report any further information regarding the conflict or the facility. Minimize personal and MDI involvement according to SOP, with allowance for freeing independent operatives from custody if necessary. Videocall booth at NC 1439, 314 is reserved until 500 hours local time for post-action report. Local Regulator cells have been notified of imminent operation and limited cooperation can be expected. Per usual, do not expect extensive help in conflict with police. Post-script: Mira, we're serious about non-interference for this one. From where I'm sitting, this looks bigger than I can tell you. Don't get seen any more than you absofuckinglutely have to, and follow false flag protocols if you slip up. To be clear: if you get this traced to us, you're on your own with police, Bema, and whoever else you piss off. Go gentle as you can. Lt. Brave, MDI Operations, Senior Handler. Message ends."
Mira's annoyance fades away entirely about midway through. There's no space for it. She quietly ends the ad break, checks the ammo in her handgun, and starts making plans. "Guys, I might have to end the stream soon," she whispers, her thoughts elsewhere: over a thousand Milicor coordinate blocks away. When it rains, it pours.
Maggie gave Emma the dirtiest look as she was sitting in the back of the cruiser, scratching her nose with her middle finger. Making a not very subtle response to Emma’s comments. She was not going to let Emma disrespect her, “Keep talking pig, I’m gonna fuck up your life when I get out..” She thought with a noticeable scold on her face. Her attention turned towards Nina, “You betrayed my trust when you ratted us out, your just another pig to me.” The young woman grimaced at Nina. “This was a big job, something that could’ve helped feed a lot of hungry mouths. Or helping the community.” She would have given most of the reward money to the poor, only taking a small amount for herself. “I ain’t gonna be forgiving ya anytime soon, so don’t even try by pestering me for forgiveness.” Turning her head to face the window, watching the buildings whizzing by as the cruiser sped down the road. Ignoring Nina’s comment, not wanting to hear her smarmy comments. It doesn’t matter who the employer was, if the money was good she was going to take the job.
Her head turned back to peer over towards Emma, A few years ago the two were hackers working together to take down corrupt cops and corpos skimming money. When she found out she quit being a hacker and became a cop, Maggie was furious. Even more furious when Emma ratted out her friends. Judas was the name that came to mind every time she saw Emma.