Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Ruby
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Ruby No One Cares

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Collab between @Sad Ogo and @Ruby

The call on the holo was brief, and hardly satisfying. The woman found herself standing in the hard glow of thin pillar lights; tubes of light affixed on metallic stands, each running off a battery that would last far longer than need required, giving a bright white light to the cavernous concrete surroundings filled with non-descript metallic surfaced desks holding various keyboards, cyberdecks, and the odd gun, shard, or coffee. The only other light came from the glow of the monitors mounted on the concrete walls above the desks. That's where her eyes rose once they recovered from the unsatisfactory call. Progress was being monitored from the cameras in the small North Watson warehouse. It was closer to the Arasaka Waterfront than she would have liked, but targets were targets, and deep down she knew she'd leap at Arasaka Tower itself if that's what the job called for.

Certainly, she'd done crazier shit in her lifetime.

"Where is Braddock?"

The netrunner had been in the underground den all last night and all morning; three day old growth on his dark skinned cheeks and chin as he rubbed at his face with his hands. Trying to rub away weariness, trying to rub away the soreness of staring at screens as long as his eyes did. "Not as far along as he should be. Dino said this guy checked out?"

Nix's question and subsequent turning back to read Eddie's reaction was as telling as the tone of his voice: Nix didn't think very highly of the solo Braddock. All Eddie could offer the man seated at the desk was a tiny roll of her shoulders and an even smaller smile, if you could call it that, "You know what I know, if you read Dino's notes on the guy."

"That's what the fuck I'm afraid of. Since V left and Dino moved in, we haven't had the manpower or time to properly vet all the Mercs banging down our doors for work. Emmerick does what he can, but...what the fuck. Right there."

Nix pointed to the top right hand monitor's camera feed. The back side of the warehouse, ground level. Braddock had gone in from the east, hopping to the roof and going in that way. The back ground-level had a door that was high in security, but it was often left unlocked so the gonks running the lifts and doing inventory for the cargo courier shop illegally acting as a pass-through and safehouse for Maelstrom stolen goods could slip out for a quick smoke, as smoking inside the warehouse wasn't a great idea. The unlocked door allowed for a figure to slip in, weapon drawn.

Eddie's face collapsed in momentary grief. "It's another fucking Merc." She was calling up the client within the moment, but this time, of all times, they didn't answer. Grief turned to steely-eyed resolve quick enough, "I'll send a message to Braddock. The client double-dipped the contract to another Fixer." Nix turned again, slower this time, his expression closer to shock than irritation. "No, I didn't know. No, I'm not thrilled about it, but I need that data."

"You need it, or the client does?"

Nix was too smart for his own good. The question just hung there, ignored, as Eddie watched Braddock hit the warehouse manager's office. "Why is he...the data we need is probably in the basement." A quick glance down to the holo told her Braddock hadn't responded, despite the camera in the office showing him looking down at his own holo.

The moment Braddock hit the warehouse manager's terminal, the video feed went black. Nix was cursing, angrily, before she could even ask, "Stupid fuck tripped an alarm. It'll take me a minute to find the port and track the remote access."

"Another netrunner from the other Fixer?"

Nix's hands blurred across the heavily modified Arasaka cyberdeck he'd brought for the job, his eyes blank as he saw data from an internalized feed, "...nah, I think this is a Maelstrom runner." Tense moments followed as Eddie allowed herself a sigh under her breath, followed by a darting of her eyes back to the monitors on the wall as Nix got the feed back up. "Fuck."

Braddock was on the top middle monitor, now on the first floor, hugging the wall just inside the stairwell, holding his right side and bleeding. "Set up a link with me."

"What? You serious?" Nix asked to the back of Eddie as she walked away to the elevator of their temporary underground lair, just in time to watch her check the M-76e Omaha and return it to its holster at the small of her back. "...alright. G’luck.”

The interior she emerged from below into was an old shuttered slurp shop, nothing left but old booths, counters, stools, and a thick layer of dust covering all of it. The night air of Night City hit her, warmer and thicker than it had any right, dense with the last remains of a dust storm. The fog clinging to Night City's streets had that orange-brown hue under ragged and abused Watson city street lights. Between buildings Eddie felt shadows glancing at her, though nothing in the back of her mind gave any danger signs--these were the shadows of the hungry and homeless--none of them dumb enough to see a mark in a woman wearing a padded black coat, tight black pants, and polished leather black boots with a slight heel.

The smarter ones would simply watch her walk, and just know better.

The warehouse was on a corner lot down the street and around the corner. It had a cement wall surrounding the warehouse yard, multiple bay doors along the front of the building, a side office entrance, and the second layer that housed the manager's office, a bathroom, and the cat-walk that went from the stairs to the manager's office, railed in with thin strips of aluminum and little more.

So far the job was going alright for Mac. Or at the very least not FUBAR like work involving Maelstrom had a tendency to do. He’d parked his truck a couple of blocks down from the warehouse, scouted a decent access point from across the street he knew wasn’t covered by the warehouse's numerous cameras and hopped a wall into the compound with no one the wiser.

From there he had to make his way past several armed sentries to get to the back entrance the workers left unlocked. He’d spent the past few days following several of the places non-gang affiliated denizens to the dive bars they liked to spend their wages at after work. After enough whiskey and small talk Mac was usually able to get at least a little something useful out of them.

Gang-bangers pissed the wage-workers off simply by being there and acting like they owned the place so it wasn’t hard to get them bitching. Didn’t take long to find one who’d been especially affronted by them. In this case it was an older bloke who’s nephew had been found with his gorilla-arms sawn off, hooked up and left to bleed out in a known Maelstrom controlled apartment block.

Just going into work and seeing them there was enough to get the man seething. The offer of a few eddies was more than enough for him to give over much needed specific intel on the warehouse, especially to a Solo who’d no doubt leave at least a couple of Maelstrom corpses behind.

Mac had already proven a good bet on the latter, using his kukri to slice through one neck, almost in its entirety and pierce through the back and into the heart of another gangster. The blood from the arterial spray spattered his face, arms and clothes, feeling hot on his skin in the early morn’ chill. He quickly dragged them out of sight, hiding them behind the many stacks in the compound. Thankfully he managed to avoid more sentries than he had to kill and continued on his way to the back entrance, getting there without any more trouble. Sheathing his blade and pulling his Overture, he slid open the door and crept inside.

Now all he had to do was make his way to the basement the old worker had mentioned the gangoons having completely taken over and find the tech-looking bullshit. The data was almost certainly where the regular employees, even the managers had apparently stopped being allowed to go. He ducked behind a stationary forklift and took a few seconds to look around, trying to spot the entrance to the basement. The place was mostly empty, with just a few Maelstrom assholes hanging around, just as Mac had hoped. The morning shift didn’t start for another hour and he hoped to be long gone by then, with only corpses and the lack of data proof of his being there.

His eyes suddenly caught movement in what he guessed was the manager's office, not that he had much experience identifying such in places like this. He watched through the glass windows as a barely visible shadow crept towards the room's computer. The way the figure moved Mac assumed they weren’t exactly a welcome entity here either. He had to hope that his assumption about the basement being the right location for the data was correct and this other asshole was wasting his time, otherwise Maxson was going to be pissed.

The figure in the office must have seriously fucked up whatever tech wizardary they were trying to pull off, because suddenly every Maelstrom in the place stopped what they were doing, pulled their various armaments and started towards the office.

“Come on out with ya hands heat free, raised high and maybe we’ll only put you in a coma!” One of the gangers shouted, his compatriots giggling at him as they slowly walked towards the office, weapons aimed at it. “Though we should probably flatline ya outta respect for ourselves. Such a shit netrunner trying to hit-”

The metal-faced speaker was interrupted by automatic fire coming from the other side of the office windows, several rounds catching the man to the left of him and leaving his chest wide open, a cavity where flesh used to be. Mac made a split-second, possibly gonk decision, raising his own iron and headshotting the former spokesman, turning his dome into twisted metal. The singing of automatic fire apparently drowned the bark of Mac’s own hand cannon out because the last Maelstrom asshole didn’t even glance in his direction, instead simply continuing toward the office and unloading his own Copperhead through its windows. Mac raised his revolver again, squeezing the trigger and blowing out at least one of the man's lungs.

On the other side of the warehouse double doors burst open, with four more Maelstrom pouring through. Three of them fired off handguns and SMG’s, this time at Mac. Deeming the forklift inefficient for this kind of sustained fire he dashed right, heading towards crates he could use as cover and the manager's office even further down. Popping out from behind the first crate he reached he shot one of the aggressors through the thigh, watching him tumble as more fire came through the office windows and splattered what was left of him on his friends. Mac damn near smiled, grateful that he hadn’t taken such a risk to save an ingrates life.

He used his new found comrades fire as a distraction whilst he moved down further towards the office, firing off rounds himself between crates. He was stopped in his tracks when he caught a blur of a person in the corner of his eye. Before he could even turn to fire on them he felt a blow to his stomach that completely toppled him, his breath caught in his chest and he felt like there was suddenly no more air to breathe in the world. It almost felt like the couple of times he’d caught bullets except there wasn’t the wet feeling of blood seeping out, or the searing-fire like pain inside him.

He tried to get to his feet but was lifted via the throat before he could, what little breath he had regained being choked out of him. He looked down the arm of a metal creature he imagined once resembled a woman. Her arms, legs and even face were now chrome. Raising his Overture up with great effort he shot her once in the stomach, once in the chest and finally aimed at what he guessed acted as her mouth. Before he could fire his third shot he was thrown, as if weightless across the room. Time seemed to slow down as he flew through the air, then suddenly go in fast-forward as he hit glass, going straight through and tumbling into a dark room.

“Fucking… Gorilla… Arms.” He panted between deep, struggling breaths.

“That’s one tough bitch, alright.” A male’s voice responded out of the darkness. The clanking sound of a magazine falling to the ground sounded as he slid another into place and once again took to firing out of the windows.

Mac slowly got to his feet, picking up his dropped Overture and pulling his Lexington. Glancing out of the window he saw even more enemies than before, now taking cover and firing sporadically into the manager's office. He ducked and looked around, noticing both that there was an entrance to some stairs in the office and that his fellow merc had been hit and was bleeding rather profusely from his side.

“It’s too fuckin’ open in here!” Mac shouted as he fired his Lexington, catching a ganger moving between cover several times. “I say we delta up those stairs, one of us holds the choke point while the other flanks these half-’borg cunts!”

The other merc simply nodded, gritting his teeth as he held his wound and fired out the window one-handed, moving across to the stairway door all the while. Mac quickly followed, providing further covering fire with his auto-pistol.

“Wish I had a mine or two.” Mac spoke under his breath, covering the door as the wounded man slowly made his way up the steps. He watched him reach the top and quickly went up after him.

“Alright. You hold here. Don’t let any of those fucks get up these stairs breathing… I’ll go out on the catwalk and see how many of them I can kill from above. We good?” Mac asked, slotting another few rounds into the Overture all the while.

“Good.” The man replied weakly, leaning against the wall and gripping his Saratoga tightly.

Mac nodded and headed straight out the door, crouching slightly to make himself a smaller target he headed towards the first bit of concealment he saw; a bunch of boxes stacked on the catwalk, either being taken to or from the office. Before he could reach them he clocked a couple of more Maelstrom coming out a door on the opposite side of the catwalk to him, both carrying shotguns.

He swiftly raised up his pistols and opened fire, the Overture barking aloud even over the rapid spitting of the Lexington. He caught both men alike in the narrow space, with numerous rounds from the auto-pistol hitting both of them and at least one from the heavy revolver blowing open one of the gangsters' heads. The victory was short lived however as the sound quickly drew the attention of those below and the catwalk was suddenly alight with the sparks of gunfire. Mac sprinted across it, diving into a doorway for cover as rounds barely missed his legs.

“Guess I’m going back around.” He mumbled to himself.

"None on the bottom floor?"

"No, they're holed up on the top floor."

Eddie walked into a side door, all eyes and attention on the two Mercs thoroughly fucking up a simple job. It was pretty easy, taking a few grenades from an inside pocket and tossing them at a few crowds. Maelstrom was geniuses like that, nicely grouping up so they could be taken out en masse. By the time of denotation Eddie was already right behind Madam Gorilla Arms, the last sound the gangoon would ever hear was a fully charged M-76e before Eddie blasted it right at the base of the skull where skull and spine met; it was a weak point for a lot of Borgs. The smell of cranial fluid and blood and coolant was immediate, but not nearly as quick as the next three shots from the Fixer.

The difference in true shooting ability wasn't just accuracy, but precision. A gifted shooter had both, and they had it with reflexes that could make a lightning bolt spark in jealousy. Forehead shots hit three fellow Maelstrom that turned at the sound and sight and smell of their lady boss getting her front faceplate blown clean off with a charged shot from the M-76e. Dead, dead, and dead. She presumed Braddock and Merc #2 could, probably, maybe, hold the rest as she all-but-casually strolled to the railed staircase hidden behind a stack of metal crates that led down into the basement of the warehouse.

For a job that had gone so quickly and horribly to complete shit Mac couldn’t deny that he was also getting pretty damn lucky. Just when he was pinned down and his only real option left was to go and fight his way back through the main warehouse some lady-solo that made the myths he’d heard about Morgan Blackhand seem believable came in and started absolutely fucking annihilating the remaining Maelstrom. He watched from the catwalk as near every ganger on the warehouse floor got turned to red smears. Mac hadn’t seen shit like it since watching a squad of S.A.S troops in action back in his Legionnaire days.

Of course this meant he wouldn’t be completing the job, which meant he wasn’t getting paid. Better unpaid than dead as a fucking doornail though, which is what he’d be in two seconds flat if he went up against that woman. Very quickly deciding against that, he instead tried to quietly make his way back along the platform and towards the other merc. Least he could do was try and drag his ass out of here. He’d likely saved his life, even if he had fucked up the job first.

Walking back into the stairway Mac found the merc slumped on the ground, still clutching his wound and breathing shallow.

“Fuck me mate, you’re not looking your best.” Mac spoke quickly, leaning down and pulling a Bounce Back MK 1 out of his jacket pocket. He took the cover off and jammed the syringe into the man's thigh, pressing down on the injector.

“The job’s a no-go. There’s a woman out there who makes us look like cuddly toys. It’s time to delta… Can you stand?”

There among even more crates and discarded, broken, lifts was the terminal she was looking for. Multiple screens on an aluminum frame, though no cyberdeck. So either the resident netrunner wasn't here, never was here very often, or it was a simple setup that didn't require a netrunner to baby-sit it. The big cyberdeck sized empty space at the edge of the table used as a desk for the setup, and the racks of servers on either side of the table itself, pointed at the netrunner in residence had ran at the first sound of danger.

Eddie plugged in her link, and was immediately greeted with a white light and the kind of heat that only came from being kissed by fire. Her lungs didn't have enough air to scream, her body dropping to one knee from it's standing position immediately and involuntarily. The voice came into her head just as quick.

It will be alright. They set a trap for the link, in your haste you failed to check. You will need to see a ripperdoc, you are not in immediate danger. The others are.

"...EDDIE, TALK TO ME MS. FIXER, C'MON..."

Wincing, blinking, ears ringing and vision filled with dancing spots as Nix’s voice finally started to bleed into her conscious mind, she managed words in a low, gritted, tone. "No need to yell, Nix, I'm here. Data downloaded. I'm fine."

"Fuck you mean you're fine? You might have just gotten hit with a--"

"I'm fine, relax. Monitor the other two." She nearly killed the comms link to the Netrunner, but she didn't want to be disrespectful. Nix muttered something the ringing and swaying vision made hard to concentrate on, maybe, something about a 'fucking freak'? She didn't care, she quickly decided, as she went back to her feet and tightened her grip on the M-76e to the point where her knuckles went ghost white.

Now she just wanted to kill something. If no more Maelstrom were left, she just might kill Braddock for being such a gonk. And a liar. She hated liars. She found the two Mercs at the bottom of the stairs. It took Eddie a few moments of studying Braddock to realize he wasn't going to make it. Her temper and the anger that fueled it became a little devil on her ear, whispering in her ear to just end him quickly, dramatically. The other voice was no devil, but it was no angel, belonging to the man with the easy smile and the dirty blonde hair, with a voice that always sounded so amused, so full of energy and joy.

"C'mon, Etta. That's not the Ranger girl I know..."

The kind of smile that only appeared at the corners of her lips pulled at her face, pulled her mind away from the anger. She never looked at the direction of the man's voice. He wasn't there. She lost him years ago, holding him as he died, bled out in her arms. "You," her glassy blue eyes blinked up at the mystery Merc, her voice softer than it had any right to be in that moment, in that place, "watch the front of the building. Yell if anyone else comes."

Mac stared into the woman’s blue eyes for a second, simply standing there dumbly, distracted by thoughts of possible actions in this scenario. His merc friend was barely standing, Mac doing more to hold him up than his own legs were. That alone told him the medicine hadn’t done much for him. He quickly realized his initial realization was the only correct one.

“Yes ma’am.” He spoke quietly, slowly lowering the man to the ground and leaning him against the wall. “Thanks for covering me mate. Won’t forget it.” Mac gently squeezed his shoulder before standing and taking his leave. On his way out he saw the pure carnage they’d left behind. Blood, bodies and spent ammo casings all over the place.

Her eyes stayed on the other Merc as he went off, gun in hand, breathing fast. That hint of a smile slid across her lips to become a full, gentle, sight as she holstered the M-76e and lowered her body in a crouch until she was face to face with Braddock, the dying man that rested on the last few steps of the stairs from the second floor to the main warehouse floor. "Sorry...didja get, the, uh..."

"Yeah," Eddie nodded, slowly, "Yeah, I did. It's okay, Braddock. I'll make sure Joe gets enough money to get out of Night City without you. She'll get a new start somewhere else. No one's hurting her in this city." The smile widened as Braddock began to do what dying mean do; come to terms. She could offer only last comforts and a light touch. When he used the last of his strength to ask if he'd get a drink at Afterlife, she was kind enough to lie to him. And she hated liars. She took the man's weapon, and the Militech dog-tags from his corpse.

She found the other Merc standing out front in the yard, head going back and forth along the wall and the gates. He turned when he heard steps, his eyes stuck on the sight of her with Braddock's M221 Saratoga in one hand, down by her side. Gone were any hint or kindness, gentleness, or forgiveness in the woman's blue eyes. "Who's your Fixer?"

“James Maxson… Ex-6th Street turned small-time fixer after gaining something of a rep in prison.”

"Do you know what your pay was supposed to be?"

“Two thousand eddies. I charge more for Maelstrom related work due to them being such annoying bags of shite.” Mac smirked. “May have to up my rates even further now, didn’t consider the embarrassment of being thrown through a window before.”

She watched but didn’t find any sign of exaggeration or lie on his features, or body language. And he was quite forthcoming about the Fixer, Maxson. A name Eddie filed away for later, after visiting Braddock’s partner, Joe, tonight.

“My name is Eddie, Afterlife Fixer. Who are you?”

“Huh. Your position explains your skill. Or vice versa... I’m the son of Kieran, of the Iceni clan, but since Kieran is dead along with most of my people and its ways, folk just call me Mac. Mac the merc.” His broken half-smile was the only indication of sadness behind the otherwise monotone-voiced words. “Thank you for saving my life, Eddie. I’m sorry I couldn’t help him more.” Mac nodded at the Saratoga in the woman’s hand.

“He was dishonest about what he could do, Mac, otherwise I never would have put him in this position, and he never would have died. I did warn him to be honest. First Merc I’ve lost since I’ve come to Night City. Hopefully my last for a long time.”

It was a sad, frustrating thing, to lose a Merc. It also left a trail that she would now have to clean up, starting with the person the dead man cared for. But for the living…the idea rolled quickly from her mind to her lips, with the certainty of instinct behind it, “I’ll pay you five thousand. You keep what happened tonight to yourself. You don’t answer the calls of Mr. Maxson, while he can make calls, anyway. You want work? Come to Afterlife, I’ll give the bouncers your name. Shouldn’t be hard, with the face…uh, ink. I’ll be in touch. Use the money to get ready for work, Mac, son of Kieran, clan of Iceni.”

“That’s very generous. I accept, gratefully.” Mac nodded, smirking at her with a certain amount of uncertainty. Jobs like this rarely ended on such high notes. As he watched her walk away his smile grew a little and he thought on what to do next... Ash. He should go check on her.

That hint of a smile on her unpainted lips returned at the last flourish of his name, and titles. A reminder of what life was like in Europe for the Edgerunner Etta Autry. Whatever it was that became of her, anyway. When she was out of earshot of the young Merc she told Nix to pack it up, they were done. Job done, data secured.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by vancexentan
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vancexentan Hawk of Endymion

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Food, and a soda...what would life be without the essentials that make up the necessities of human life? Certainly no life John wanted a part of, after all he was certainly better off than most of the dregs of society. Drugged out their minds, high on their own confidence, and very much unaware of their in morality. Those knuckle dragging pigs were probably no better off in a gutter than their own house. If one could not care for the body, if one could not care for their conduct, and how they present themselves then why bother even pretending to be human? At one point does that individual become an animal? That was the though running through the mind of John Brown as he ate his pancakes from the small dinner on a corner in Night City. A job was being lined up to take out some gangbanger or another by his handler. A fixer by the name of Clancy Ryan, an old networker for a Corpo industry that cut him in favor of some boss's kid. Now he spent most of his time with Clancy cleaning out the city's unwanted filth. A tiresome but needed ordeal. Hitmen may as well be cops with how many people wanted some roach killed with clean efficiency.

A sip of his soda, and a few bites of his pancakes was what John Brown decided to go with as he looked out the window his cold eyes covered by a pair of thing dark glasses that shadowed his eyes. He wondered if these people would care if someone next to them was shot dead? This modern world full of gadgets, and casual murder have made humanity rather...complacent. The majority only cared about the self not the neighbor and some not even the family. Still better than a machine. Always better than a machine. Better a sheep than a code set to follow the same instruction. The sheep could surprise you now and then...the machine just did what it was made to do. Still he supposed the shepards needed to work too. The online entities some portraying themselves as cute animated girls for the shut ins to gawk at. Some play video games, and others made music all of them the same at the end of the day. And even the Shepard were better than the Corpos. Arishoka...putrid metal fetishists the lot of them. So enamored with metal they have forgotten themselves. And even in decline they still clung their disgusting oil smeared hands on the edge of this rotted city. Regardless a bullet usually solved the problem of them at the end of the day. A waitress strolled up to him. She had some implants, and he wondered deeply if she even knew the level of failure she had achieved by modding herself out for convenances sake. The metal crudely pushed into flesh, the bone, and more. At what level was a human? "Would you like some more sir?" she asked him kindly with a smile. "Please, and thank you." he replied as he finished off his soda and went back to eatting his pancakes...could use more syrup.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by LetMeDoStuff
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LetMeDoStuff Bone Hurting Juice

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He'd been slumped in the corner stall for a while. What'd it been? An hour? Couldn't have been, he thought, the programme on the behind-the-bar TV still played the same show that started when he'd arrived. Things were just that slow, though, that those minutes dragged on endlessly. Time itself clawed its way through Night City with its nails in the tarmac. The seconds were split into drawn out intervals of glasses clinking, dishes stacking and cash registers exchanging eddies. Some people entered in and out, for cigarette breaks or to settle a verbal score they had with another customer, but things were generally as calm as they could be for a diner. He'd never been to place - except for that one time - and of all the places to eat in Watson, it surely was one of them. An unremarkable pixel on a large digital map of Night City. Couldn't get more humble than that. Across the walls were a few deface NUSA flags. Radio sets, leather seats - it had the budget works done to make it as aesthetically appealing for what was otherwise a very run-of-the-mill eatery. And he'd been staring at those damned knickknacks for a while. He started to wonder if he'd even arrived at the right place.

Until, of course, the man of the hour waltzed in. Conrad could spot the greyness on his head from a mile away. And the rattle of his cybernetic right arm, not to mention the chesty cough as he clambered into the room, limp and all. Right down to the thunderous stomp of his steel-capped boots, Conrad could practically sense his arrival as if it were his own flesh and blood. A bit far, so to speak, for a work colleague, but with the depths of Night City in which he'd gone to with him, it wasn't so hard to say he'd gotten a knack for having the elder at nose-sense.

Norman Reiner: so drained from the old NetWatch style that no one could even tell he once has the suave on his side. He clambered through the diner until he reached Conrad's table. He was about to get up to greet Norman, but he waved a hand and kept him locked to his seat. The formalities were to remain dead, he'd always say. For a second, it was just a silent back and forth between the two. Norman offered Conrad a cigarette, but he declined the offer. Conrad then offered Norman a drink, to which he eyed him back with a frown. A noiseless exchange of eyes and frowns did the talking until, in the eventual need to break the silence, the old man let out one large cough and chuckled to himself, extending a hand to shake. Conrad took up the gesture.


"How's it hangin', kid?" He let out that familiar crooked smile. Norman spoke with half a mouth, in that the left side did most of the annunciation whilst the right barely split ways when talking. Something of a shrapnel wound, or a blade slice. The story changed anytime someone asked. "You been cuttin' profits recently?"

"Barely." Conrad reached into his coat pocket, and drew out a little black flask. In one motion, he took a swig from it, and gulped up the last few drops left inside it. He turned to the glass of Bolshevik Vodka he'd ordered and left mostly untouched, save for a few early sips. Then, he took a second to adjust himself, before he leaned forward with a low-energy business manner. "So - what's the hitch you have?"

"The hitch?"

"You said you had a job for me, right?"

"Oh, that?" Norman sprung into a coarse blend of a coughing fit and laughter. He hit the metal palm against the table and wiped away a fake tear with his fleshy counterpart as he pulled himself together. The Solo hadn't quite gotten the picture yet, but he wasn't left in the dark for too long. "I just spitballed some crap; knew you wouldn't show if I didn't."

What little energy Conrad had in his expression soon began to trickle away. He had briefest idea that the setup was there, yet he'd failed to capitalise on doing anything about it. Whatever his schtick was, he wasn't too fond of Norman's little exposé. Of all the littlest things left in life, simple honesty had become a currency most sought after, more than any eddies that were in Night City. He fell back into his chair and faced the ceiling with sluggish eyes. Had it been anyone else, he'd have taken his leave then and there, but the sloppy entrance and slow arrival of Norman compelled him to stay a little longer, lest he felt any more sorry for his troubled entrance.

"Then what are you here for?"

"Can't a man check on his choom?" With his cyberarm, he pulled Conrad closer and, with the other hand, he gave him a hearty pat on the back, half smiles and all to compliment. His response was the usual bluntness, but with a little more venom stitched onto it.

"You're my business associate. My fixer. That's all there is to it."

"Ouch - cold. Who shit in your beer, man?" He cockeyed a grin and pulled his arms back. The leather groaned beneath his weight as he eyeballed the diner around them. Already, the room looked a little darker than it had before. Norman wasn't the least satisfied with the tone but it hadn't deterred him from his goal. He lifted a rigid finger and cleared out any gunk from under his eyes, before he returned his focus back to his old workmate. "I wanna see how you're doin'. I ain't seen you for anythin' other than short business in four months. You doin' good?"

"I'm doing good." He said, dull in tone and with a little yawn.

"Come now, I know you ain't."

"Then why ask?"

"If you'd've been honest then I'd've been happy." He spluttered out.

With greetings soured by the first minute, the two lingered around in limbo for a short while. The truth was that Conrad had done little to maintain what life he had in NetWatch. The people he knew, the ones he worked with, and the enemies he'd made - all of them seemed like another lifetime away. Familiar names came across as ancient pseudonyms for fictional people. That was the truth. He'd done himself little in the way of helping himself, and yet there he was still, fighting along as a Merc in Night City, in the coattails of Morgan Blackhand, of Johnny Silverhand, and of V. There were thousands of those just like him, those in worse circumstances and those in far better places, those that explored the lows he once roamed and those that reached heights that only legends could dream of. Norman hadn't done a damn thing wrong, he could say, but Conrad hadn't done a damned favour for him neither. The two had drifted yet still landed on the same shore eventually - in the Merc and Fixer life.

Norman had done as much as he could with the life he'd chosen to give Conrad something to hold onto. He truly had. Fuck, Conrad knew this himself. But he just couldn't lower his guard and bring him in as a friend. There were scars that never healed, and when a home is demolished, it can never feel the same, even if rebuilt.


"Look, kid, you're worrin' me a little. Not in the way that I think you'll get rattled on a street corner tomorrow, but just as where you're at - if that makes a lick of sense?" Norman was returned with a short sigh. It was likely the best he'd get. Still, he continued. If Conrad weren't to speak, he'd chatter until he did. And to his credit, it worked. "What's the endgame even at now?"

"I don't even know," Conrad finally let out, "maybe the answer will come soon."

"Jesus, kid, she really did a number on you..." Before Conrad could interject, he pressed onward. Any chance to dwell on the comment only gave time for disaster to breed. "Con' - just know that I'll always provide you with work, should you need it. Ain't no way a NetWatch kid of ours will walk this place alone, if I know 'em."

The two sipped on their drinks for a while, once Norman had ordered his own. Conrad took his vodka and poured it from the glass the diner had offered straight into his flask, for later-keepings. He was disappointed by the lack of a gig given to him that early afternoon but he couldn't have exactly chosen what he begged for. But then, Conrad took a step from the shell and posed a question toward his old colleague - and the surprise brandished a smile upon Norman's greyed face.

"Any word on Najee?" There wasn't much good news to bear, but the shift to querying for an old ally was beyond the norm for Conrad.

"All dust and echoes, kid. Don't worry, I'll be lettin' you know the moment somethin' comes up on my scopes." He then leaned forward and flickered out a cigarette, smoking it where he sat. He smiled that same old crooked smile and gave a guttural chuckle, winking at Conrad as he changed his tune. He dabbed the ash straight onto the table. The eye of a waitress caught his act but, upon seeing Norman, she withheld the desire to scold him. Then, he made for a sweet-tongue as he made for business talk. "Oh, Con', about that white lie I made to get you here..."

"What about it?"

"Might've lied about lying - I gotcha a gig. Another fixer to meet, just to vet and all that, y'hear?"

"You serious?"

"All true. Someone in the Afterlife. You might know her, you might not. But don't make a fool of yourself in front, might be big pay on the line, kid."
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Bazmund
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Bazmund Not a Doctor

Member Seen 2 days ago


A B B Y + C U P I D
A B B Y + C U P I D




Collab with @stitches



Valentine stood, hunched over his rifle, listening closely to the scavs behind the door. He could hear at least three of them talking, plus some footsteps further out in the shitty apartment they were holed up in - bare minimum, that made four of them, and if you could see four, you should assume there were eight, and prepare for twelve.

They weren’t prepared for twelve - but between them Abby and Valentine still stood a pretty good chance, and they retained the element of surprise. He patted himself down, sorting through his chest rig in his head - five spare magazines for the rifle, three spare for the pistol, aid kit from the fidelis bag he’d left in Abby’s van, zip ties, two stims and two airhypos, and lastly the dump pouch. It always felt incomplete - but without the map and compass he’d trained with it probably always would.

“Remember, we have two principals to protect - little guy with long hair, and a big girl with a shaved head. Both have Valentino tattoos and plenty of chrome - hopefully, they still do. They take priority just as soon as we make the scene safe.” He looked up at Abby, sleek Pifner pointed somewhere she wasn’t looking, her own chrome matte in the darkness. She nodded; always a little bit within the digisphere of their immediate surroundings; listening but not responding. Her silicone fingers hooked around the rim of her helmet, pulling it over her face and fixing her gloves.

It wasn’t like the Valentinos to go off on their own and get vulnerable without backup - but then again, Valentine seemed to spend much of his time around atypical sorts from their gang. Andreas had gotten in touch a day ago, let him know that a couple of their own had gone missing and were probably in trouble; tracing them wasn’t too hard, especially with the Valentinos putting everything to the side to get them back - but the Scavs were a problem, and there was no guarantee that the principals were still alive.

“Ready when you are. Give me a warning, then hack the door.”

Abby lifted her hand and turned her head in Valentine's direction. "Three, two, one, go-"

The door hissed open and Valentine ducked in first, rifle up and sights aligned. He was right, there were more than four.

The three who'd been talking got a split second to turn their heads before they were punctured neatly through the centre of them. Cupid flicked his rifle to fully automatic as the two who'd been pacing in the corner - probably eyeing eachother's cyber - realised just what was happening and went for their weapons.

The element of surprise and violence of action were the prayers and mantras that special forces lived by - and while Cupid had never really been properly special forces, he'd certainly gotten blasted drunk with them enough to remember.

Centre mass. Three shots. Each.

He could feel every vein in his body, every artery, stretching and recoiling under the pulse pressure of his excited, howling heart. Ears ringing, mind racing, hands still and silent and ready.

Cupid advanced into the room, moving straight to cover behind one of the load bearing pillars in the centre of the wide open kitchen-living room.

No Valentinos. But lots of doors.

"Abby, scan for scavs."

There was a door to the left of the entry hall - looked like a bathroom, thermal signature high, might be in use. "Left," Abby intoned dully as she pulled out her Heatblade and started it up. Another door across the room, to another corridor it looked like - cool air flowing from the gap at the bottom, visible both on Pifner and on Rubicon. Walk in fridge? Cyber suite? Ice room for the bodies? She started towards the cold signature first, but gave a cursory glance to the other doors. First was a little further ahead, again on the left - and it was glass, leading out to a balcony and the dirty sunshine of Night City. The other was on the right, labeled 'Dick's Room'.

There was shouting. Another three distinct voices at bare minimum. Cyber would be visible on the net - especially dirty cyber run by idiots like Scavs. Abby was uniquely experienced in fucking around with cheap, low quality equipment so the moment they got in range her fingers twitched. A UI popped up in her Pifner. She was able to connect to their augmentations and swarm them all with malware.

One by one, there were dull thumps and the shouting turned quiet.

"They're not dead," Abby elaborated offhandedly. "Go see if I got any of the hostages. I'll check their freezer."

"Keep your guard up. Not all scavs show up on the net." Cupid remarked equally offhandedly, as he drew his sidearm, flicking the safety on his rifle and swinging around to his back on its sling as he went for Dick's Room. Inside were two scavs - one sat at a terminal, twitching limply, and the other lying in bed, lost to the world on drugs.

Neither survived him.

Abby opened the door to the cold room and found that there were several, all down a long corridor. This was the sort of place that had been designed originally as very high density living space for the poor - at least seven total bedrooms, each designed to hold more than one person, all oriented around a shared communal space. Some of the bedrooms were still being used that way, but of the six that lined the corridor four of them had been turned into either people-fridges or rudimentary operating theatres.

Spotting the corridor were more disabled Scavs. Three of them. They writhed and clutched at their parts, some of them overheated and some of them knocked out with static inputs. This was where the Heatblade came in handy. There were too many doors to hide behind, too many corpses that may or may not be corpses; her blade steamed in the crisp air and buzzed as it slid through the meat and metal with ease. Abby always went for the neck when she could; she sliced through the spine and cooked the meat within.

Abby heard suppressed gunfire from behind her - Cupid, cleaning up. He was going to get whoever was left in the bathroom next, if there was anyone at all, and then join her. She started first with the operating theatres, migrating towards the familiar blips of medical equipment. If either of the hostages were in there, they wouldn't have much time at all.

She opened the first door - and found a young woman, naked on the slab, bleeding, with one arm and some of her lower left leg simply missing. The 'ripperdoc' was holding a gun and looking around blindly, pointing it at things that weren't there, illusions the malware was flooding his own Pifner with.

The woman wasn't the one they were looking for. But Valentine could save her anyway - it just had to occur to Abby that he would. She didn't need to waste a bullet here either; sprinting towards the scav she swung her blade in an arc and severed his hands off by the wrists with a sizzling zap, silencing his screaming by quickly jamming the blade into his head.

For a moment she stood and watched the crackling sparks. She flicked her radio on. "Got a lady here, first door on the left when you go in, no arm and a leg but she's breathing and bleeding," she spoke and headed out, trying the other operating rooms. She wasn't being paid to rescue that one.

Cupid came running, and they met in the corridor.

"They were using the bathroom to scrub cyber. Nothing belonging to our marks." He reported, advancing down the hallway with her to finish securing the site.

The next room was cold, but relatively empty. Three bath tubs filled with ice, AC turned down to fuck, and only one body - not one they recognised, but someone who was still intact, who had no visible cyber, and whose thermal signature read them as entirely deceased.
More importantly, no scavs.

"We're clear. Next."

Just as they reached for the door handle to the next freezer room, Abby felt her ICE tingle. There was a runner in there, and they were trying to hack her. She froze. She simply stopped moving as she checked to make sure nothing was compromised. This wasn't an unfamiliar sight for Valentine, but it did leave her vulnerable for those few seconds.

"Stay the fuck out! Get the fuck outta my house, Choom, or I'm gonna fuckin' eat you alive!" Came a voice from behind the door.

"If you can see him, ping the spot. Can't hack if you're dead."

Abby didn't respond, but a flickering humanoid outline cropped up in valentine's visuals behind the door.

Cupid took one deep breath, and booted the door in.

The hack ended to the beat of an automatic rifle, brought to finale with the sounds of a magazine changing.

Inside the fridge were another three bathtubs, stolen from ruins or bombed out apartments elsewhere in the city, each filled with water, ice, and a body. One empty and bloody, and two Valentinos.

All intact.

"Found our guys. Let's check the other rooms."

The rest of the flat was pretty much clear. One scav left, who'd balled themselves up and tried to hide underneath a bed that was more or less fixed to the floor - so not the most effective strategy. Abby was quick to kill him as she wandered the apartment checking for any survivors, flapping her hands as she checked any available surveillance as well as checking external feeds to the van.

"Abby," came the voice of Valentine, a little urgently, "I'm needed here, go get our marks out of the tub."

She jogged past him and back into the final room, sloshing the woman out of the ice water and dragging her to the nearest bed. Her arms whirred quietly under the strain; cyberaddicts do tire eventually but it takes more than some legwork and deadweight to sincerely hinder one with enough coordinated machinery to damn near replace the human body in its entirety. She wrapped her in the sheets, mechanically shunted her into the recovery position in an act of habit and grabbed some garish purple silk bedspread from another cramped compartment to wrap the man in.

Valentine set to work on the girl left on the operating table. The aid kit he had wasn't much but it had a couple of tourniquets that would buy him time. She was pale, blue around her lips and hands and feet and tongue, and wasn't bleeding fast - right now, that was a bad sign.

"Come to think of it, once you do, can you grab my bag from the van?"

"Yes," Abby called through the open doorway as she lugged the male mark down the corridor.

Oftentimes Abby had to make a deliberate, concerted effort to perform actions manually; just because she could turn on the TV and crank up the heating with her quickhacks after coming out of an ice bath of her own didn't mean she ought to do it for every little chore that'd require her to lift a finger. On the job, however, the world around her just seemed to crumple and give way. Doors slid open, lights turned on, cameras received interference and the back door to the van popped ajar as she sprinted out of the block. The heaters were already blasting warm air into the back by the time she'd roughly laid the first hostage inside. She closed and locked the van after slinging Valentine's kit over her shoulder and was back in a few precious seconds to much more carefully drop it off for the surgeon.

Valentine was already at work, running cold water through the hose the scavs had set up to wash bits off the ‘ware, rinsing her wounds, using the suction attached to their rudimentary table to remove debris and clear the site of bleeding.

“Ah, Abby, thank you darling.” He glanced up and muttered absent mindedly as she dropped the bag off. He took precious seconds away from his patient to unzip it and pull the trauma gear out - seconds that he more than earned back by clamping the largest arteries and preparing them for ligation, before getting a cannula in-situ and feeding her a full bag of saline, and another of blood replacement fluid. He wrapped the sphyg-band around her one good arm and checked the OLED display.

Pulse 148, BP 72/40, SpO2 83%. Unacceptable, but there was no oxygen to hand. Only one thing for it.

Valentine retrieved an airhypo and a stim injector from his rig, and jammed both into the side of her thigh on her intact leg. Blood pressure gradually started to rise, and she reflexively took a deep, agonised breath in as the drugs hit.

“Stim’ll kill the pain, hypo will… whatever the fuck those things even really do.” He muttered to himself, peeling the girl’s eyelids back. Her pupils were pinpoint - narrow as the ends of needles. Scavs had drugged her - but they’d not touch anyone else again.

Plenty of things could cause pupillary constriction like that, Valentine reasoned - plenty of things, one of which was much more common than the others.

He nodded.

It couldn’t hurt.

He went into the kit and retrieved a vial of pronaloxone - a next generation opiate antagonist drug, or NGOAD for short. This one was going through her IV, and getting followed right up with the next bag of fluids.

“Come on love.” More muttering from Valentine. “Come on.”

There was a decision to be made here. He could risk trying to preserve the limbs as much as possible - ideally pending reintegration of either her existing cyberware, or fresh parts - or he could do the smart thing and cut more out of her so he could close the wounds.

Abby did not need to make such difficult decisions, she only needed to run fast enough to keep two cold bodies from getting any colder. The female hostage was as tall as she was wide; far heavier than her male counterpart but still only capable of eliciting a pained grunt or exertion from the hacker without slowing her down too much. Her cybernetic limbs, though slender, were optimised for what they could do and she made short work of the heavy lifting, already out the door and in the van with the two hostages. Just like anything in Night City, cybernetics were just as much of a glittering veneer as they were a genuine asset. The organic shreds of her body shrieked with pain as the numb, metallic parts weighed heavy on the muscles that were left. It was a fatigue that wouldn't make her nonfunctional, not for hours if not days from now - those machines could keep going long before the fragility of the mind willed the amalgamation to slow down. Her heartbeat spiked and her shoulders shook as she sat in the driver's seat and checked the visual and audio feeds for the back of the van. Both hostages were breathing.

She didn't need to go back in. She wasted time if she did. Her Pifner lit up with panels in her mind, views of the street, of the apartment, the balcony, the operating room - and intermittently, unbidden, of recorded video footage displaying the moment she pierced that scav's Pifner with her Heatblade. She kept irritably switching that panel off and continued surveillance only for it to flicker back on again the moment she allowed her focus to falter. Seeking a more productive distraction, Abby got back on the radio. "You done yet?"

Valentine grunted back into the radio.

“Patient just woke up screaming and punched me right in the face. I love drug antidotes.” He remarked sarcastically. “Although in fairness, I did give her a stim first. I’m going to dress her wounds, pack our shit up, and come down to you as fast as.”

He drew his breath in sharply and looked back at the patient, who was scrabbling around on the surgical slab like a wild animal.

“Afternoon.” He bit his tongue as he stood up. He wasn’t about to tell Abby just how much of an asskicking that single punch had really been. “Name is Cupid, the scavs took out your cyber, we took out the scavs. I’m not here for you, but I’m going to save your life whether you like it or not. We do not have much time, and I’m going to have to carry you out, but those wounds need dressed first. Do you understand?”

Her eyes widened.

“I don’t have any cyber.”

Valentine’s heart dropped.

His hung his head - but only for a second.

“Well, that’s probably going to have to change too then. I’ll grab what I can from their stocks, and I’ll make sure you’re not left helpless when we’re done, ok? But I’ve got to finish with the wounds, and then we have got to leave. You’re awake because of stim, and an antidote to what they gave you - it won’t last, but you’re safe with us. Ok?”

She blinked, frozen in place.

“Ok.”

Valentine sprinted to one of the bedrooms and grabbed a blanket for the girl. He took care of her wounds, wrapped her up in it, and stuffed an arm and a leg from the scavs’ bathroom - that looked close enough to her proportions - into his bag.

He didn’t want to owe anyone favours, but what the fuck else was he gonna do?

“Abby, we’re on our way out. Time is eight minutes, thirty nine seconds. Ish. We might need Straid’s help with this girl. I’ll pay.”

"Are the cost of the repairs gonna outweigh how much we're making on this job?" Abby settled into the driver's seat and started to plot out the route.

“Doubt it. She didn’t have any of her own. They were just cutting her up for fun. I picked up spares, we’re gonna hope they fit - so Straid won’t charge his notorious ‘materiel fee’ at least. And I said I would pay. Your cut is safe.”

Then he dropped Andreas a text message.

420Cupid >//: Got both, plus a third victim. All stable. Bloody freezing. Taking to clinic, see you soon.

ESP4D4VRD3 >//: good shit. Scavs trouble?

420Cupid >//: Yes. We had fun.

ESP4D4VRD3 >//: u scare me. see u soon, love u




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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by BrutalBx
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BrutalBx

Member Seen 16 hrs ago







It was a simple transaction.

Left in their usual place by the Padre, Dead Kelley’s instructions for this gig were straightforward. No collateral. The rest of the details were whatever Kelley desired them to be. There was no need for discretion; no need for pomp and circumstance, end a life, a single life and close the contract. The eddies would be in his account before the end of the day. The snatching of a life; this did not weigh heavily on Kelley’s soul. He has made peace with himself and what his body did. His spirit was pure, his body a weapon. Life was but a dream.

It was a simple transaction.

For most, the heavily modified “Whisper” would feel weighty in the hands of somebody else. She was of course a Techtronika SPT32 Grad, a legitimate beast of a rifle. To Kelley, she was as light as a feather. He was perched in the window of the abandoned apartment; the entire floor was vacant due to what many believed a voodoo boys hit. The place was firebombed to fuck. Word on the street was that the target was some techie, Judy or something. Either way it didn’t matter, it made for the perfect crows nest for Kelley.

The target today was some corpo cunt called Loudermilk. What he did didn’t really matter; if the name was written in the ledger, then they would be pushed into the next life sooner rather than later. Black Alice had left Kelley a few more details, typical of her. She liked to give her boys some incentive. Turns out that Loudermilk not only liked to steal from his corp but he also had a proclivity for kidnapping kids, doing unspeakable things to them and grafting ungodly cybernetics onto their poor bodies. He was the worst kind of fetishist. Kelley rarely took any kind of personal pleasure in his job but for this gonk, he would find joy in that.

Kelley had mapped out Loudermilk’s entire routine and had been waiting for days to line up that perfect shot. His enhanced eyes narrowed with his finger grazing the trigger. Loudermilk was parked by the edge of the water; some joy toy from JigJig on their knees with his little pecker in their mouth. It was all clockwork. One shot. One kill. In less than a second, Kelley had pulled back the trigger and Loudermilks brains and implants were sprayed across the windscreen of his car. The joy toy fell from the back seat onto the soaking wet ground, their face a crimson mass of blood and cybernetics, screaming as they hurried into the night.

”Target eliminated”

He broke down his rifle and placed it into the suitcase that he was carrying before departing the rooftop. Kelley climbed into the waiting Delemain cab. ”Afterlife, Del. And play me some Samurai would you?”

With the dulcet tones of Kerry Eurodyne and the powerful guitar of Johnny Silverhand serenading him; Kelley closed his eyes as his car set off on its journey. This was what he liked to refer to as his meditation. He looked back on the gig he had just done. Was there any way it could have been done better? Any way that it could’ve been cleaner or quicker? Not really but it was good to remind yourself that not everything you do was perfect. He thought back to his days in MaxTac and the events that led him to this point. He subconsciously reached for the wound on his neck, feeling the ruff, pattern on top of the scar tissue almost transported him back to that moment all those years ago.

The honking of a horn awoke the sniper from his trance; he had arrived at the Afterlife. It was time to collect payment.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Ezekiel
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coGM
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Ezekiel

Member Seen 1 day ago

S H I M A D A
S H I M A D A


Obligation
Obligation




There are such things as duty and obligation

Her duty had been to the Clan, to the Corporation.

Her obligation was to the murdered ghosts of her family.

--------------------------------------------------------------

“You’ve outdone yourself, Marshall.” The grin of approval dripped with grim promise, not for the initial target of the expression, but for the bounty provided on the evening, yet another in the long run of endless evenings in Night City.

“What can I say? Militech looks after allies and employees alike.” The grin was met with a rather more respectful nod. Around the pair bright lights shone and music blared, a sensory overload designed to entice and overwhelm. The Bodukkan Centre was the most prestigious performing arts centre on the West Coast, but those currently present weren’t so interested in the world famous Kabuki performances as they were simply revelling in one of the most exclusive settings in Night City.

The Kabuki performers were so committed to their art that each had undergone cosmetic and cybernetic work to allow them to appear as their time honoured roles at all times, the great princes, princesses and demons of Japanese mythology. People paid a fortune to watch them before. They paid more for their private attention. Until recently such a boon was something only the Kansaki family could bestow, usually for the sort of price which dealt in favours rather than eddies. The unspoken bond between the Kansaki Clan and Arasaka had been so widely known that it would be inaccurate to refer to it as secret, a bond that had been shattered both by the extermination of the Clan’s members and dealings in Night City and the collapse of much of Arasaka’s waning influence. Now the Bodukkan had changed from exclusive to simply ludicrously expensive.

The multi-tiered lobby and its various bars had been converted into a riotous display of colour and sound, for the limited time of the evening becoming the most desired night club in a city renowned for its many nightly escapes. Banners of silk descended from the ceiling through the central stairwell, performers turning and spinning across them in displays of grace and athleticism. While impressive, they were not performers from the centre itself, they were here to revel alongside the few outsiders permitted to join the end of show party. Each of the Kabuki were a work of art, graceful slender bodies in a crescendo of augmented colour, each securing yet further funding for their performance with the press of their forms against those willing to spend the eddies to be here.

“Never in doubt, but it’s always nice to see what you have to offer when you’re trying to impress.” Henry Renham had been a dedicated member of Yorinobu’s faction within Arasaka. He’d not cared much for the principles of the man, he’d simply been in it to make the most money in the least time. He’d certainly achieved that, helping to orchestrate the violence which had consumed the company, before jumping ship and avoiding the economic downturn most of ‘Saka were feeling right now. Militech needed someone to help orchestrate their takeover of the excess weight Arasaka was being forced to shed, to know what was dead weight and what was worth seizing. Renham was one of those men, vultures picking at the bones of a slaughtered whale. For the moment, he sat with a rather more long term employee of the company, Curt Tyfield, nominally Militech’s Night City Head of Onboarding. In reality, he was their bribe guy, and he was doing a good job of it. The pair sat in a booth beside one of the circle bars, watching the party like sharks over a shoal. The sparkling wine they shared carried a value above the city’s median salary and they barely took a sip.

Through the cascade of noise, colour and motion, Renham’s eyes finally honed in on something of interest. Slowly climbing the circular stairway blazed a note of red and gold among the sea of cooler colours. The woman was dressed as Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun and most sacred role among the Kabuki. As with many of the performers the outfit was a blend of their traditional costumes and clubwear. This woman’s lent towards the former, a fan of gold extending from her collar portrayed the rising sun, the long sweeping gown she wore alike to the ceremonial version of the outfit save for a few details, the most noteworthy of which for the man watching her being the plunging face of the dress, a display of decolletage that spoke far more of Night City then it did traditional Japan.

“Plump for a dancer.” The voice of the other man in the booth pulled Renham from his leering, shrugging only slightly in recognition. It was true enough, the rigorous Kabbuki performances forged slim athletic builds, what Renham could see of the woman’s form could certainly be considered athletic, but not alike with the petite forms around her.

“Probably self conscious then, perfect.” His grin returned, pushing to a sneer as he stood, adjusting his cufflinks as he did so. “See you on the other side.”

“Happy fucking.”

—-------------------------------

They had danced for longer than he had liked, the teasing obscuring silk of her gown rustling against him as they moved together. That had thrilled him though, the hunt was almost more important than the prize to him, and she seemed to have sussed that out soon enough. He’d have commended her intelligence had he no intention of becoming a long term supporter of the Kabukki. Clearly she was looking to secure her position in the troupe, a wealthy backer might be enough to fend off any criticism she might receive for having the ‘wrong physique.’ He’d happily take advantage and forget about her the next morning.

All that teasing ended how he knew it would, however, with a slamming door as she pulled him into the rest room, delicate hands dancing across his form as she spurred him onwards. She thudded back against the sink, hopping herself up to sit on the shelf of marble as her legs wrapped around him. The feel of her thighs was taught and firm, giving further clues as to the physique she concealed within the flowing gowns of silk, already his head lowering to where her gown resolutely failed to conceal the curves of her form.

She murmured something to him as his ear passed the plump press of her lips. He anticipated some sweet nothing in her mother tongue, he knew some Japanese after all, but the word was unfamiliar and her frowned, mumbling for her to repeat herself, like he cared what she had to say, as he continued his descent.

“Shin Kanzaki.”

“What?”

“My father’s name.”

Realisation didn’t dawn through the lust obscured mind of the man even as her legs tightened further, he remained dumbfounded as he felt something sharp dig around the shard port beside his ear. Confusion had barely turned to concern before his vision blurred and his world became pain.

Shimada twisted with her legs, sending them crashing to the ground. With the pull of a strap at her back the gown fell away from her, revealing the bodyglove beneath. Black with red accents, pulled down at the front to be invisible despite the gown she had worn. It was Arasaka made, the synthweave suit providing great connectivity between her, her implants, and weapons. In this case, with the shard-spike in her hands currently plunged into the writhing male’s skull, pulling every Militech code from him with little care for preserving the mind it was ripped from.

Between the convulses of his form he swore at her, calling her a thousand names she had no doubt heard before, mixed in were of course a deluge of threats, about the mistake she was making, how he was going to end her, how Militech were about to burn this place to the ground.

She didn’t need to explain to him, but she did anyway. His dear friend Curt was likely already dead. Militech was not welcome in Japantown, it had been their error to ever think otherwise. It would be months before Militech even knew they were dead. The centre hadn’t been funded by Arasaka for years without them having access to some of the best dataclones in the business. Everything they were was being copied and faked, just like what was happening to him now.

With a delicate touch, she eased the contact of the spike with his skull, allowing him just enough consciousness to behold her features smiling down above him from behind the mask of makeup, the vengeful smile of a Sun goddess.

“When the howling ghosts pull apart your soul, know that Shin’s daughter did her duty.” He didn’t manage another word, the chime in her ear denoting that the access codes had been successfully copied, with a push of augmented force, her palm drove the dataspike through the port and into his skull. It broke the instrument, but it also drove a short circuiting metal implement into the man’s brain. She wasn’t sure if it was the shock or the blow killing him, but when she left him, writing in dying spasms tangled in the silk of what had been her gown, she didn’t much care.

Duty and Obligation.

The Kabbuki had an obligation to her from the long years of her family’s support. She had a duty to protect them in turn, as the last of her family upon the continent. By the time Militech knew two of their own had perished, a fake data trail would lead back to a mugging not far from here. It was pretty impressive what you could do these days, with modified braindances.

She zipped up the front of her suit as she moved, sending an electrified shiver through her as the neural interface registered the greater connection, no longer interrupted by the span of bare cleavage. With a blink-command, a hood extended from the back of the body glove, concealing her features, as she pushed through a fire escape, out onto the exposed runways which allowed emergency descent from the higher levels of the performance centre. It had been raining, the metal gril of the walkway slick with the industrially tainted precipitation falling on the city. Her dexterity could account for it, but it didn’t have to, the texture of her bodyglove modifying on contact with the slick surface as she took hold of the rail, before swinging down to the next level, and the next. It was unnecessarily showy, but the kill had been easy and she needed some activity to burn away the feeling of an hour spent with the man’s hands on her. Her father’s killer.

Her victim.

With only a slight splash she landed in an alleyway, avoiding anything too foul smelling as a landing site, before carrying on, pressing a finger to her ear piece to begin a call.

“Wakako, this is Shimada, you can pass on to this ‘Eddie’ that I have the codes. The trail is cold for now, but the longer we wait it’s going to get hot pretty fast.” A voicemail, but she had no doubt the elderly woman would act on it. Normally a fixer wouldn’t pass on work to another fixer, but the Tyger Claws were another group with a duty to Kanzaki, and an obligation to her.

The second call she made picked up on the second ring.

“Hey Shim, how was the show?” The cheery voice of her housemate, Kelly, picked up.

“Oh, not bad, not quite as good as I expected though.”

“Shame, I knew you were looking forward to that for a while.”

“Oh well, I’m going to pick up dinner on the way home, want something? I’m feeling something greasy and terribly American.”
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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Going on the NCRT was like buying a lottery ticket.

Some days were crowded with mid-level corpos and commuters struggling to make it out from the city centers to the monolithic hab blocks. Some days were sparse whenever NCPD or MAX-TAC decided to do a district lockdown.

Today was annoyingly the former for Connie. The hydraulics in her left arm were becoming stiff from the firefights that she’d become involved in all week. The cramped moulded plastic seats in the mono-rail didn’t make things better. If she had a half a mind, she’d suspect that the city council was trying to prevent vagrants from sleeping on them if the automated security drones on the bus didn’t dispose of them first. The sun was smoldering red by the time she was five minutes away from the nearest stop in Watson. She was tired as fuck and wanted to get boozed up in her bed as soon as possible. Jone’s little gig had taken so much out of her that all she wanted was a good night’s rest that was followed up with an appetizer of sake.

Unfortunately, Night City had other plans. Muffled yelling and shouting filled the train car. Connie blearily opened one eye as she observed what was happening. The other passengers in the car began filing to the other side of the rail car, forming two crowds at the end. The newcomers were dressed in thick garish neo-kitsch jackets with diodes and canyons of circuitry running from head to toe and across their tanned cheeks. The smell of Pacifica’s briny waters was stuck to their glistening open chests which were entangled with gauche chained necklaces. Their chrome was Scandinavian quality and the iron was street level, nothing of a mil-spec quality that Connie saw in her TT days. They didn’t have the colors of the Valentinos or Tyger Claws on them. They were most likely a minor gang that rose up in the wake of the second Arasaka Tower Fire.

Please don’t look at me. Please don’t look at me.

They looked at her.

Shit.

Connie signed internally as she heard footsteps coming closer.

Couldn’t Night City just give her one hour where she didn’t have to kill someone?

“ Hey there, babe.”

One scav was leaning over, an acrid cologne of CHOO making Connie’s nose curl. He pushed his body close to Connie, pressing against her parka uncomfortably. His crew occupied the other side of the rail car. Most were just keeping silent to themselves, whilst a few others were egging him on. From this close, Connie could see the chipped jags of yellow teeth and blood-burst eyes that were the signs of synth-coke addiction. “ How’s ‘bout we get out of here and you be my output for the evening?”

“ Here’s an idea. Piss. Off, “ Connie hissed in disgust, desperately focusing her attention on the blurred skyline outside the window as the monorail cruised above the smoky streets. Hopefully, the druggie could take a hint and move on for his sake.

“ Aw, come on. Don’t be so shy. “ Connie’s fist, flesh and bone, clenched as fingers danced around her chin, making her skin crawl, as he wrenched her face forward to look at his own. “ Can’t we have a little fun - “

The scav then squealed and looked down at Connie’s fist, currently buried in his pants. 2000 newtons of force was currently pressing down around his crotch in a vice-like grip. In any other situation, this would have been considered some fucked up version of foreplay in her bathroom with someone she wanted to stuff it with. The scav tried to worm out of her grip as if he’d been caught in a mouse-trap. Meanwhile, Connie hadn’t even moved from her position, still sitting down as she stared daggers at him.

“ I can’t be an output if you don’t have any input, jackass,” Connie growled impatiently, squeezing harder as the scav’s face turned a cherry red, pointing his finger out at her face.

“ You bitch, I’ll -”

Wrong answer. A thought was all it took for the gangoon’s crotch to turn into a misshapen mess of mince meat. His lungs then proceeded to explore every pitch known to mankind. Eyes squinted in deleterious pain, the scav’s hands pawed in between his legs, frantically trying to fix what remained of his mangled manhood together. He eventually gave up, knees falling first, before his head slammed against the floor of the train.

She turned her head lazily over towards the other gangoons who were flicking out switchblades, batons, all the usual blinged crap that scavs carried.

“ I’ve got five minutes.” Connie cracked her neck, yawning. “ Try not to waste your time with me.”
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Bazmund
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Bazmund Not a Doctor

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A B B Y + C U P I D
A B B Y + C U P I D







'Doctor' Straid had, to his credit, a clean and mostly sterile operating theatre. He did his best with the materials on hand to keep it all as tidy as possible; and as a result, the wild esoteric pseudoreligious paraphernalia seeped out into the rest of his parlor in a big and gaudy way. This was one of the only buildings where you'd not only find an entire taxidermied skunk wearing a cheap pair of sunglasses and a plastic cigar, it's also one of the only places where such an object fitted seamlessly into the decor. He'd managed to make wooden veneer desks look outlandish somehow with his pyramid paperweights and LED strip lights. It was carpeted, and that carpet had been through more than all of his patients combined but the pattern was so nauseatingly complex that you hardly noticed the liquor stains, cigarette burns and blood spatters. Had it not been for the tinges of modernity here and there you could've ripped this entire office space from an ancient interior decorating magazine in the seventies, given it to a spiritual conspiracy theorist and told him to go buck wild with his imagination and ignore the budget and only somewhat managed to achieve the serendipitous balance between order, chaos and novelty lava lamps that Victor Straid's office had perfected.

In essence, it was the perfect place to get high in. And whilst the Ripperdoc himself scrubbed up and grabbed his scalpel, Abby was reclined in his chair with a bong in hand.

“He’d better take care of her.” Valentine - Cupid - John mumbled darkly, fishing for an actual cigarette before he joined Abby on the bong. “God. If he knows what’s good for him.” He oathed, before muttering something in Arabic that Abby couldn’t quite catch. A slow, growing bout of laughter echoed from Abby in the office and in part down in the operating theatre.

Abby had seen this before. Cupid was lightning in the field, fast and explosive, so much so that it almost - even if only almost - surprised her he wasn’t that augmented; he kept it when he was working too, that brilliant purpose, that motive force and keen edged mind - Valentine was one hell of a doctor, and he was outstanding for keeping his head on the task.

But he wasn’t one for waiting rooms.

Yes. Abby had seen this before. She knew its name even if she at least believed she was less familiar with it herself.

Fear. Doubt. Dread.

The wolf that devoured thought.

He drew a smoke out of the carton and stuck it numbly between his lips, clicking the matte plastic jetlighter once, twice, and thrice before lighting it.

"He better take care of her," she echoed mockingly. "You hear that, Vic?"

"My feelings are shot, and my day's ruined," crackled the Ripperdoc's voice in the office. He had a bit of a smoker's croak but the all-American drawl really shone through. The radio picked up on some ambient noise in the background as he prepped. "Lemme tell you something, sweetcheeks; nobody goes back to a shit Ripperdoc. It just doesn't happen! So you can rest assured she's gonna get the best-" there was a clicking sound as Victor presumably lifted one of the cybernetics and gave a disappointed hum, "-...the best cybernetics she can afford, and it'll be the cleanest, safest procedure she's been in since somebody pulled her out of her mama's snatch."

Valentine found his gaze drawn back to Abby as she sat up to take another bong rip, lazily filling the room with smoke and steam all at once whilst Straid continued: "Repeat business and word of mouth. That's what a bit of tender love n' iodine gets you."

“We love to hear it, Straid. Don’t forget I brought you the cyber. I’d hate to see my bill get inflated for no good reason.” Valentine glanced up at the presumed location of the speaker, scowling darkly through his cigarette smoke. The Ripperdoc clicked his tongue with affirmation.

“Poor girl didn’t do anything to deserve this.” He muttered as he returned to his brooding.

"She's safe now. More than safe - she's getting upgrades. Win-win all around." Steam curled out of Abby's mouth and nostrils as she spoke.

Valentine looked up at her. He'd felt this way a million times and it was never any different.

Every single time, he had to make the conscious decision to trust her on it.

"Alright. After this we're gonna get her something to eat, find her a place to stay for the night where she won't have to worry about more Scavs, and then in the morning we're gonna figure out who she's got that we can help her get back to."

"You know," Abby mused, taking another bong rip with the sort of nonchalant urgency that triggered a little warning in the back of Valentine's mind, "you keep up that charitable demeanor and she's going to expect you relieving her of some of those pesky extra kidneys soon too."

He smirked mirthlessly up at her, and chuffed in bemusement.

Then, he took a deep breath in. He held it. He released it. He shook his head at her as she made a great show of blowing the smoke from the bong.

"You don't have the body mass for that thing you know. Green out every time. Pass it here."

"That's not the weed," she wheezed and chuckled, passing the bong over to Valentine as she reclined back in the chair.

She was right. The myriad of machinery that kept Abby going was, to the parts that were still human, disabling in all sorts of different ways. She had her good days, more often she had her difficult ones; tired in ways Valentine couldn't begin to understand, distracted and confused by all the little things whirring around in her mind, restlessness from phantom limbs that she'd given up years ago. Marijuana made it easier to slip into the fleshy exhaustion of the human scraps left in her instead of using her cybernetics as crutches.

Compared to Abby, Valentine was hardcore on the bong. He packed the bowl densely, scraped some of the dusty oils from the base of his grinder on top of it, and went straight to work.

Glowing ember and burning coal, hot enough for the glow to show on Valentine's face.

He blew smoke.

He relaxed, and smiled.

"Now, that hit the spot. Bowl is empty, all yours."

"I thought I didn't have the body mass," Abby mumbled as she refilled the bowl. Her movements were too smooth, uncannily precise and strange. It took her a while to talk. Her fingers were twitching; deliberately getting rid of something only she could see. "We should've picked up more tech," she lamented, "could've pawned it off and made a profit."

Valentine shrugged as he lazed back in the chair, drifting down into the familiar hazy glow of a cannabis high.

"I figured if anyone was gonna, you would. You know what I'm like Abby, can't help myself in the moment - and once I had her, I quite literally did not have the space left for anything else."

"Yeah, I didn't…I dunno. Keep telling myself that I was focusing on the hostages," Abby acquiesced.

He looked back at the grinder, noting that it was now half empty.

He nodded, smirking appreciatively.

"In but a second, I shall grind more. As for you my dear, you can be responsible for your own sobriety and lack thereof. Body mass is your problem." He grinned like an idiot.

"At least one of you oughta' be sober enough to deal with her," Victor grumbled.

"Yeah, thank you, Straid." Valentine snarked.

Abby looked to Valentine pointedly; at least, she turned her face in his direction. Then there was this…difference in presence, a subconscious understanding that Abby wasn't really looking at him, that there was something else going on again.

"I destroyed that guy's Pifner." Abby tilted her head back with a frown.

Valentine raised his eyebrows at her.

"Yeah?" He left it open, an obvious invitation to continue.

"Yeah, it keeps replaying. Could'a…brought the whole head in, cut around the skull, power washed the brain out and boom. Easy money." Abby put the bong down. "But I didn't. I went out of my way to get rid of it. He was freaking out over stuff only he could see and I got angry and burnt a big fucking hole in it." She sighed. "Stupid-..."

"Hey." Came Valentine, reason cutting through the weed. "It's alright. Tell me more, Abby. Why'd it make you angry?"

"...Vic', I'm turning off the mics in here."

Straid sounded busy. The whine of a drill could be heard in the speakers as he reassured Abby with a demure "you do you, toots."

After a moment longer Abby sighed and settled back into the chair somewhat, staring at the ceiling. These sorts of talks never got easier; it took a conscious effort to participate and reciprocate, to confront instead of dismissing it, deleting the footage and moving on with her life. She knew it was part of the process. She didn't have to like it. "Because I'm the only fucker who's allowed a Pifner," she seethed. "That's my fuckin' tech. Nobody else should have to-... should live like that. Nobody else knows how to handle it like I do."

She reached her hands up and applied pressure onto the metal box. She felt the pressure applied evenly across the top half of her head. "Wish I had eyesockets to rub." She chuckled. "Crazy what your body misses when you get rid of it."

Valentine nodded.

"We both know nobody can really handle it, full stop. But actually I do know how you feel - my hand hasn't felt warmth in decades now. Neither heat nor cold - and you know me. Those things are important."

"It's just impulses. Just…little things that your meat wants. People should be able to overcome that sort of thing, we ought to be better than that by now." Her hand slid up her Pifner, leaning her weight into it and rubbing down her braids.

"Why?"

"There's a girl on Straid's slab getting a brand new arm and a leg, ones that are better than what she previously had. Why does she have to worry about infection, and phantom pain, and muscle damage? Why haven't we got rid of the itching and how tired you get dragging it around everywhere? Hasn't science progressed far enough to fix it?" Her fingers curled. "If not, I want out. Slap me in the Data Pool. Back to Plan A."

He shook his head.

"She has to worry about those things because it's a fact of life. It would be in the data pool too - it would just manifest in a different way. We are both human, and this is a part of that. We haven't overcome these obstacles because the implantation of cyberware - while remarkable and often incredibly useful medically too - is fundamentally at odds with our biology."

Valentine shrugged and reached for the bong.

"In essence because we were never meant to have it. Not that I'm complaining too much - but the facts remain."

"That's a real shame for the feelings of my biology, but I'm better than my monkey ancestors." She huffed. She waited. "I do get it. I know. It's just not…not what I wanted." She lifted her hand and spread her fingers, looking hard as the light pierced the synthetic skin silicone and showed the wiring underneath. "Fine line between looking forward to the possibility of having a flesh limb again and hating the limb I've got now. Especially since the flesh limb isn't a guarantee. If I keep thinking like this I'm gonna go mad."

Valentine's wistful smile faded. He reached out and gently took her hand, his palm on the back of it, interlacing their fingers - and he gave it a gentle squeeze.

"You," he began, "are doing so much better than I think you can appreciate. A fine line, yes - but we're all mad. We're also all still monkeys, it's not even our ancestors." He gave a grim chuckle, releasing her hand and passing the bong back. It seemed that he'd had more than twice as much as her - and yet he still felt sober.

The stoner's curse.

Abby took the bong as she refilled the bowl, lit it up and inhaled. "Speak for yourself," she snickered through the smoke. The office was gradually filling with a soupy haze, and the less distinct shapes that made up Abby's body put the bong back down on the desk as she slouched back fully into the reclining chair and lapsed into a comfortable silence.

"Nah. I have a license to speak for the human condition, I'm afraid. Quite literally."

He chuckled, and retook the bong for himself. Abby was at a good state - but there was a great deal more in store for him yet.

"Speaking of uh…nasty, monkey impulses," Abby flapped a hand. It wasn't entirely sure if she was dismissing more popups or just moving for the sake of moving, "where're you taking her to eat, and why's it Ichiban Noodle Bar, aside from the fact you're getting me some beef udon and a uh…six pack of gyozas?"

Valentine chuckled again.

"Right you are Abby. I think I decided to take her there because it's cheap as fuck, and Straid is about to do everything he can to render me positively skint."

"That's another impulse! He's the lion. It's his natural instinct to…to fuck other people over." Abby gesticulated with her newfound intellectualism. "You're goddamn right. We're all just filthy fucking animals."

"We are. But oh, don't get it twisted love, I am still an advocate of controlling one's impulses where it is possible and beneficial to do so. As a species we only grew to dominate earth because we were willing to cooperate - no, actually, not even cooperate, because we were willing to be genuinely altruistic."

The bong bubbled for a moment.

He paused, and spoke through smoke.

"Lions still have a pride. A group. Something they express genuine loyalty to, even if their basic cognition doesn't understand the concept of sacrifice for it. Straid has…" he paused.

He withdrew the bowl and finished the hit.

"Straid has clients at best. You might be the closest thing he has to a real friend, and he won't even give you a discount."

Abby started to giggle. "Hey, hey Victor, where's your pride?" She called out.

The radios clicked back on. "Not far from wherever I left my dignity," he crooned. It had the desired effect as the cyberaddict melted into her own amused little chuckles. "I'm almost done here Cupid, you got any clothes for her or am I just wrapping her back up in this sheet?"

"Yeah. I popped out just after she went under the general. Nothing special but it is what it is. We'll wrap her back up for now, let her wake up on her own, and make sure she knows they're for her." He replied. "I'm sure she'd prefer to put her own underwear on. Rather not be touched, and the like."

"You're the boss. Just send the rest of the eddies in and we're all kosher." the sound of clattering, running taps, movement and general business accompanied Straid's parting words. Abby remained slouched and smiling for a while longer before sloping up to her feet, staring at nothing in particular.

"I better head out," she decided. "Gotta get rid of the van…"

"You're not driving," Straid drawled as the office doors hissed open. "Christ almighty, I can't see three feet in here! What've you rascals done to my office?" That was the worst part; he sounded good-natured, light-hearted and easygoing. The glint of his shades hid the bloodshot, tired eyes beneath. He had suspenders on, a bombastic pink leather jacket, yellow tie and flare cut jeans. In a smooth, practiced motion he slicked some hair over his bald spot.

"I can't leave a hacked van inna-"

"You're not driving," Straid repeated - firm, decisive, indifferent to her excuses. He sauntered past Valentine, pushed his chair away from his desk, pulled out a sleek glass panel and tapped away as an invoice screen popped up. "You can watch your Jason what'shisface films-"

"Jason Islington," Abby corrected him.

"-yeah, him. Watch a couple those, eat your way through my mini fridge and wait for Cupid to pick you up." He slid the pad over to Valentine.

"You use the cyber I brought?" Valentine asked, before paying.

"You think I'd waste my own stock on some choom I'm never gonna see again?" Straid flashed his signature smile.

Valentine eyed him.

"Good man. That's what I pay for."

He tapped the pad, holding the eye contact, returning his own signature smile.

"Feel free to enjoy the rest of the weed, Abby. Straid can have some if he likes, since he's been such a gracious host and opened his fridge to us." Valentine mused, grabbing his backpack and wandering over to the spot he knew would have a cold beer for him.

Wordlessly past that point, he grabbed one, opened it on the edge of Straid's desk, took a swig, and left.



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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Ruby
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Ruby No One Cares

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"Hello."

The sound caught the woman mid-bite, startling her into momentary paralysis as her eyes slowly climbed from the holo-agent on the table next to her plate to the sight of the black slacks standing unsettlingly close to her little lunch table, and to her. The woman's pale green eyes ascended more up the black suited figure that surprised her with the kind of greeting that cut in like a dagger from a dark corner.

Those pale green eyes were still the size of saucers from the surprise as they finally locked onto the gaze of the person standing over her. The tone of the voice was sing-song, playful. The way those pale green eyes didn't immediately relax upon seeing the person's face was proof enough the face attached to that melodical voice didn't match the light, playful, tone.

A few large, likely slightly uncomfortable swallows of the ham-and-cheese-and-lettuce sandwich she had just bitten into before the voice interjected, and the woman finally got a chance to respond, "Uh, hi, I'm sorry...did you need something, or...does Frank need me?" The woman's voice was as full of puzzled curiosity as her large pale eyes. The eyeliner around the big pale green eyes was thin, subtle, and whatever the brand the quality of it whispered of mid-level makeup. Very expensive, for sure, but nothing special. Exactly the kind of makeup expected on an Administrative Assistant like the woman.

"Do I need something?" There it was, again; that playful ping-pong of tone and pitch from the suit, mixed with an action of deliberate and, to the woman just trying to scarf down her sandwich and enjoy a rare moment to herself during a truncated lunch break in an otherwise painfully long corporate work day, unsettling intent: the suited figure reached over and took hold of the top the back of a metal legged, rigid plastic chair at an adjacent small table in a low level employee cafeteria, and dragged it the three or so feet from it's designated table to the small circular table that the woman with her sandwhich was seated at.

The metal legs of the chair making the kind of metallic screech on polished floor that draw nearly every pair of eyes in the mid-sized cafeteria.

If the woman was uncomfortable before, she was now in low-grade anxiety attack mode. As if just now realizing how uncomfortable the woman was being made, the suited figure offered an exaggerated, awkward, ill-timed smile that would have looked more at home, more genuine, on a pre-teen girl embarrassed at the ruckus she made than the suited black haired woman that gave it to the woman who still managed to be holding the remains of the ham and cheese sandwich in her all but white knuckled hands, "Hiiii."

"...uh, hi." The woman wanted to look. This way, that way, every direction in which there were curious and nosy sets of eyes peeking in on the scene that was shattering the every day routine of the low-level cafeteria and the poor drones that used it as some kind of escape, some kind of refuge.

"...yes."

"Yes?"

"Yes, I do need something. Are you eating those?"

"I am, I was," the woman answered, blinking, even as the thin figered suited woman stole a few chips from the snack sized open bag of chips next to the sandwich. It broke something in the woman, the sandwich was set down and for the first time there was more than perplexed bewilderment to the woman with the mid-level makeup that probably cost an entire paycheck or the mid-level blouse and slacks that probably cost less, gussied up with a silk scarf tied and ruffled around her neck in a rather impressive creative fashion touch. Now, there was the barest hint of real irritation, "I'm sorry, if Frank needs me I'll be right up, I don't think my lunch is--"

The suit stole another chip, smiled big, and CRUNCHED on it, all while sitting so close to the woman that they could've been confused for best friends, co-conspirators, or two girls on a lunch date. "Frank's an asshole. Good for you, speaking up, getting a little irritated. Who am I, right?..."

The woman waited, but nothing came. The irritation just flamed higher in her pale green eyes, her back straightened, she quickly dismissed the holo-agent screen to dim dark deadness, "I didn't say anything about Frank, and I don't know WHO you are, maybe you should tell me because--"

"Sora, you're Emily? You help scheduling for procurement audits and transcribe results, along with helping process reimbursements of expenses? Work with Kathy, Zoe, and Teddy? The...snake, the slut, and the snark, as you call them? Worked here for three years? Got embarrassed by your ex-boyfriend at the Christmas party? Crazy we still pay for Christmas parties, right?"

This time as Sora snuck a chip, there was only fear flooding in those pale green eyes of Emily's. "I didn't...um, who are you?"

Sora's salty sour-and-cream flavored grin couldn't be helped; she liked Emily. "I already told you, Sora."

"What department?"

"Oh," Sora laughed, breathy, casual, care-free, "I don't have one of those....you white-knuckle that ham-and-cheese anymore and you'll send mayo flying out both ends."

Emily immediately went into the panic of recovery mode, of fixing it, of saving her job, her ass, both? Emily didn't seem to know. "I didn't call Frank anything, Ms. Sora, I promise. I'm really, um, I apologize if--"

Sora waved at her, took her now empty bag of chips, and rolled it up between the palms of her hands until it was nothing but a small ball of packaging trash left on the table. "Cool, I don't care. Frank IS an asshole, and the other three's labels seem rather appropriate. You're the quiet try-hard who's overlooked and underpaid...and THIS, Don't-fucking-call-me-Ms., Emily, is your lucky day...if you can perform."

"Perform?"

"Yes, I do need something. Do it for me, do it well, and you go home tonight with five times your yearly salary as an immediate bonus. Now...are you gonna finish that?" Pale green eyes regarded Sora for a long, long moment...before Emily rather matter-of-factly, performatively, finished the last bits of her ham-and-cheese, never once breaking eye contact with the suited, suddenly smiling, Sora. "I knew I liked you. Come with me."





She sounded the perfect cocktail mix of bored, and annoyed, "Holy shit, guys, take fucking longer to get to a meeting. Is this really how Night City Arasaka rolls?" The judgment, the disgust, none of it was far from the surface even if it could just as easily be laughed off and called 'a joke.' But then, the guys didn't seem to find it funny. They stopped as they approached the limo in the parking garage's Executive Level, at the woman with the sunglasses and the heels and the fancy neckware.

"Ummm," the tallest one gave a bitter, harsh, kind of sarcastic half-laugh as they approached the car. "Sorry. We just got the meeting pushed to us from Abernathy's office, I'm guessing at Michiko's authorization? Where is she?"

She smiled big, bright, and with enough air of superiority to float a blimp all the way to the top of Arasaka tower from the underground parking garage. "You just assumed she was going to be here? Yeah, sorry, Abernathy was a Night City based employee and the concern comes from the home branch. Her principle assistants and deputies were called for.......are the three of you not 'principle'? Or do you want to get in the car and stop wasting so much time?"

She didn't wait for a response. She just dipped her shoulders, ensured her heel wouldn't get caught on the bottom of the door, and got into the back of the Rayfield Limosuine, the kind of ride the three men staring wide-eyed at the woman with the attitude and the heels to match it and a subtle flair of eyeliner to command respect, not just eyes. They were quick to follow her, all three; Eric Walsh, a tall and broad-shouldered Night City native who survived the Abernathy purges before surviving Abernathy, herself. Close cut brown hair and a well groomed brown beard, black rimmed serious minded eyeglasses. He cut an impressive figure with a deep, authoritative voice.

He got to the car first of the three, but let the other two go first, exchanging looks and mouthing unspoken words to each other man as they got in and ignored the driver standing sentinel on the other side of the open door, awaiting for them to close it after them, like any good Arasaka Japanese attendant worth their salt. First in after the woman was Matt Suzuki; an engineer transferred to the working management group trying to clean up the mess of both the Tower assault and Mikoshi's bust, doing what he could to appear intimidating when he spent more time chasing Anders Hellman's shadow than Peter Pan going after his own shadowy image. He was typical engineer in personality, not bad, not great, definitely a bit up his ass, had been what Sora thought.

Crispin Urich was the pure money-man, the accountant that rubbed two eddies together and got eleven. He was a master of brutality and hated nothing more than he hated for Arasaka paying for a Christmas party on any level. Arrogant was a life pathway, his corner office a Princedom that was threatened only by the shifting foundations of Arasaka that was leaving it blind-sided. He had been part of the group that blamed Abernathy for much of what went wrong, if for no other reason than that was politically safer than blaming an Arasaka, even if everyone was pretty sure it was an Arasaka's fault.

He gave a lingering look to the driver, but stared harder at the woman already helping herself to a stiff drink in the limo. Urich was shorter than the other two, thinner than Walsh, but not as skinny as Suzuki, making it an odd fit when the three of them were pressed into each other on the bench seat opposite the woman's bucket seat. The driver closed the door behind them, quickly sliding into the driver's seat. The woman told her to drive with a hanging sigh, dulled eyes watching the men as if she was already tired of waiting for them to make the first move. The driver gave a quick, "Yes, Ma'am," from the open small front window leading to the front cab.

The woman with the Salon fresh cut and the black seamed hosed long legs that peeked out from the pencil skirt in the bucket seat took another sip, before Suzuki broke first, "Listen, Ma'am, the investigation is still ongoing as to the reasoning behind the attack, an--"

Ruby painted lips smirked at the lip of the Scotch glass, "You need an investigation to tell you self-preservation is a mother fucker?"

Walsh tried not to roll his eyes. He failed. "Due respect, c'mon, do we really buy the Merc was just out to save their life? They unleashed a freakin' AI on the Tower's systems that we're still scrubbing clean from quarantined systems. This takes time, I would think Japan's Devil-come-down-to-Night-City would know that, at least."

Her head tilted, another sip and the ghost of a smirk passed with the authentic whiskey, "The engram of Silverhand is problematic, but Mikoshi was at the heart of this issue, but not the largest lingering issue."

"Mikoshi, the engram...these were all errors of execution, not judgment," Urich allowed, carefully, measured, like he was watching market analysis in real time and divining where the currents would take Arasaka next, "surely you're not suggesting otherwise?"

"Mm, that's interesting. Focusing on what happened before and during the attack, not after."

Walsh gripped his left forearm with his right hand as he leaned forward in the seat, voice lowering, tone intensifying, "Abernathy left Arasaka exposed from within and without. Palace Intrigue left all of us, even up to Hellman, scrambling. We understand how these things usually work, heads roll, strict oversight is implemented to 'clean up' what's going on--"

The woman cut it off like it was her job, "--and you think that's what this is? Strict Oversight? Is that what Michiko has already provided?"

Walsh just stared, voice deadpanned, "She called you in for that, I assume, we're just trying to keep the plates spinning so they don't all go tumbling down. The biggest issue we have now is possible overreaction, no offense."

"Not MiliTech?"

Suzuki twitched. "You know something we don't? Do share."

All three of them were staring at her, now, and it...or the whiskey, kinda made her smile. The car came to a careful, smooth, stop. The door opened shortly after, the driver providing a black gloved hand to help the lady out as she finished her drink and left it on the small table in the limo. "The depth and breadth of what she knows that you don't, I'm told, would worry me more than anything if I was in your shoes."

The three followed, ignoring the driver's offer of a hand as they climbed out, staring confused first at the blonde, before blinking at where they were...at the very same spot of the very same Arasaka Tower parking garage they had started at. "She? You mean Michiko? The hell is this? Is Michiko playing some game by sending you? We're happy to play ball, but we're not going to get put on the chopping block for this shit. We dealt with Abernathy, we'll deal with anyone else to make Arasaka in NightCity survive you, MiliTech, whoever." Walsh sounded like he spoke for them all, but the other two's silences made that seem less absolute.

The blonde smiled as the driver closed the door behind them all, and got back into the driver's seat, "Oh, not me. My name is Emily, I'm just an administrative assistant. The person you're worried about and giving a talking to is driving away after hearing all of that, she; Sora. I'd say she got a pretty good read on all of you...doesn't seem like you got any kinda read on her, though. She's very nice. She bought me this new skirt suit, new hair style, and a nice bonus if I became her desk assistant during her time here. Need anything, let me know, I'm happy to help set up any appointments you may want with her, sirs!" Emily smiled sweet, big, and turned for the elevator.

The three didn't see, they were too busy staring at the limo driving away, before exploding in a hushed huddled discussion with each other.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Sad Ogo
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Sad Ogo

Member Seen 14 days ago



Mac drove through the streets of Rancho Coronado, one hand on the steering wheel of his Thornton, the other on the grip of the auto-pistol resting on his thigh. No part of Night City could accurately be described as safe, but this area was especially treacherous, even more so lately with the war between 6th Street and the Valentinos getting hotter every day. The war was part of the reason Mac had chosen to base himself deep within R.C for now. He figured if he kept his work to the city; mostly in Valentino and Maelstrom turf, it would be a lot less likely for loose ends and bullets to find their way into his home if home was where bangers belonging to the aforementioned groups couldn’t go without a serious fight.

Typically he didn’t much give a fuck about people with grudges trying to end him. It was a part of the merc life best accepted quickly and if they were going to try, best to get it done ASAP whilst he actually remembered what they wanted him dead for and whilst he was still quick on the trigger. He’d seen way too many poor bastards in prison get iced by some distant figure from their past who’s girl they’d fucked, cousin they’d killed or even people they’d just bullied a little too much as a youngen. Folk had long memories, short tempers and easy access to weaponry. All of which culminated in a historic high for revenge killings. That was just his typical standard though. Sometimes, like now, circumstances changed and he vastly preferred his hideout not to be fucked with.

He continued driving deeper into 6th Street turf, driving up a hill and into a neighborhood that was closed in by a dam. The further up the hill he got, the better the weaponry the bangers on the corners and on the rooftops seemed to be holding. He was now within one of the most defensible 6th Street territories in R.C. On corners and down alleys burnt out cars littered the place, with the occasional still burning vehicle lighting up the area. Illuminating the fact that every wall, roof, road and even the dam itself was covered with gang tags.

Finally he reached his destination and pulled into a driveway. Before him lay a 21st century style suburban house. Not the biggest nor nicest of abodes, but pretty damn far from the worst. He tucked his handgun back into its holster and picked up the plastic bag on his passenger side seat before stepping out of his vehicle to the sound of a high pitched whistle coming from the nearby corner. He’d been staying in the area long enough now to know 6th Street code by ear. The whistle he’d just heard indicated that he was a known entity in the area. Had he not been he knew he’d be ducking bullets in a few seconds, if not before he’d even gotten out of his truck. Wasn’t unlike these military-esq fucks to have snipers stationed on rooftops, ready to headshot any encroaching faction they deemed hostile.

With a brief yet almost friendly nod to the lookout posted on the corner on the opposite side of the street he turned around and walked into what currently passed as his home, the door hissing open to welcome him. He found pretty much the same scene he’d left a few hours earlier, except the young woman he’d left sleeping on the sofa was now laying awake.

“Not your blood, I hope?” She asked as if already knowing the answer, an English accent much the same as Mac’s clear in her words.

“Not this time, no.” He replied tiredly, moving to the sofa. She moved her legs, allowing him to sit.

He placed the plastic bag from the truck in her lap. “Got you a burger and fries from some hole in the wall joint in Watson. Let me know if it’s any good, I’m still trying to track down a decent meal in this shithole of a city.”

She stood from the sofa, momentarily placing the bag down on the coffee table before stretching, her arms going wide as she moved her hips from left to right to also straighten out her legs. Mac’s eyes fixated on the small of her back for a second or so longer than he was comfortable with, he pointedly tore them away as he felt them drifting lower, staring at whatever nonsense was on the T.V instead. He awkwardly scratched at his shadow of a mustache as his conscience criticized him, grateful when she picked up the bag and headed to the kitchen.

“With an endorsement like that, I’m sure it’ll be the best thing I’ve eaten in yonks.” She spoke dryly.

Returning not a minute later with a bowl of water and a roll of paper towels she seated herself back opposite him. “Let me see your face.”

He sighed but did as she asked, shifting enough that they were face to face. It felt off, weird and somehow almost wrong to appreciate her physically, but he couldn’t deny that she was beautiful.

He looked into steely gray eyes that were somehow warmer and more expressive than his own brown ones. Eyes that had seen and experienced so much of the same pain he had, but somehow hadn’t lost their warmth. He flinched as the warm, wet paper towel in her hand brushed against his cheek, softly at first, then with a little more effort. He almost chuckled as he watched her bite her lip, her expression becoming one of concentration.

“Are you proud of what you did in the P.L?”

“Fuck no!” Mac grimaced, pulling back slightly. Somewhat shocked at the suddenness of the question.

“What’s with the face ink then? You’re a merc, if you haven’t made enough to have them removed many times over, you should consider a career change… I wasn’t going to say anything, but they’re kinda ruining your only asset.” She spoke with a soft, disarming smirk. He raised his eyebrows in return, huffing and shaking his head slowly.

“What’s the point? Removing them won’t change anything I did. You don’t remove a scar and conveniently forget what hurt you in the first place. It’s still there, visible or not. Part of what makes you, you.” He replied, trying to keep frustration from his voice.

“I think you’re ignoring a lot of the psychology at play there, darling. Looking into the mirror every day and not immediately seeing a reminder of something you’re ashamed of would definitely have a positive impact on your general mental well-being.” She spoke whilst continuing to wipe blood off his cheeks.

He huffed again, this time slightly amused, the expression on his lips becoming less severe.

“Call it a moral decision then… I made a choice, many choices actually. I chose to do things every part of me knew were wrong, but for reasons I can live with. Be happy with even. I would make the same choices today in a heartbeat but that doesn’t mean they weren’t immoral, and I don’t get to just wipe them off and pretend I’m not the man who made them.”

She continued cleaning the blood streaks off his face, warm water spilling down his cheeks. “Fair enough…” She said, matter of factly. “But I forgive you. Mac Sean and Michael forgive you. Nic Alys is damn near eternally grateful… You’re her hero. Only person left to forgive the choices you made for us is you.”

“I’ll forgive myself when I forget myself.” He quoted.

“Your da was a prick. You couldn’t take after him if you tried, so don’t.” The warmth left her voice for the first time.

“Sorry.” He spoke, nodding apologetically. “For what it’s worth, your new face addition didn’t ruin anything… You’re still the prettiest girl I ever saw in the isles.” He smiled at her, his face as close as he could get to charming, which wasn’t close.

She laughed hard, letting her ball of paper towel drop into the bowl of water. “Fuckin’ please. Just cause ol’ lady Nuala isn’t here to grandmother us, doesn’t mean you have to take up the role for her.”

Mac laughed with her, laying his now clean face back and letting out a refreshingly deep breath.

“You going to tell me what happened to your face?”

“Maybe…” She said simply.

“The cunt who did it. They breathing?” He asked.

She once again started laughing, almost as hard as she was previously. “The fuck you think?”
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Hellion
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Hellion Nulla Dies / Sine Linea

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[ :::: 21:30 | Harmony Church | Little China | Watson District :::: ]

--------------------

“If you don’t mind me asking, how long have you been here?”

There was a pause from the older woman, who placed a gentle hand on the head of the little girl curled up fast asleep next to her on the dusty and scuffed hardwood floor. Judging by the momentary twitching of her petite frame, most likely dreaming of a much better place than their current setting.

“Too long.” She sighed, glancing over the disheveled interior of the old church from their vantage point at the foot of the altar. The woman, pushing close to forty, dark lines under tired eyes, and wearing layers of second-hand clothing to keep out the chill that loomed in the air like an apparition, stared blankly across the expanse of the dimly lit inner sanctuary before reeling her thoughts in. Shoulder-length brown hair covered part of her face where she’d tried to hide a bruised cheek. “But it’s all we have for now.” She swallowed, her throat parched from the dry, stale air. “It’s just a shame the city had to come to this. Bastards roam the streets, the rich get richer, and everyone else…well they wither away to be forgotten.”

“Isn’t that the truth.” The younger of the two women nodded, her voice was kept low enough to combat the immense acoustics of the open room, not wanting the exchange of words between the two to carry any further than needed. “You and your daughter shouldn’t be living like this.” She shook her head. “No one should have to live in filth.”

“Look miss, I appreciate your stance on the matter-” The older one broke eye contact briefly to check on her slumbering offspring, running fingers through the girl’s dark, wavy hair. “But please don’t feel like we need to be your charity case either. We can manage. I only want what’s best for this one.”

“Of course. And please, call me ‘Q’.” The other nodded, allowing a warm smile to stretch across her lips. “And I don’t see you and your daughter as some ‘charity case’, but rather hope for the future of this city. It was a dream that Bug had, and I hope to carry that dream for her as long as I can, with the tools and resources I have at my disposal.”

The older woman cracked a smile and nodded, wiping a tear that welled up before making its way down a single cheek. As if by impulse, she reached to take the hand of the younger woman in her own, only to be reminded too quickly that there was no skin-to-skin purchase, but rather the momentary disruption of the holographic projection emanating from the podium just above their heads. Her appearance, however, shrouded in the guise of a hooded figure dressed head-to-toe in simple and unremarkable black and dark grays; the upper half of her visage obscured by the dense shadow of the hood. Q simply cocked her head, the woman’s gesture more significant than she expected.

“I’m sor-” She choked on the words momentarily, trying to hold back her own emotions. “I’m sorry I can’t be there in person.”

“It’s fine.” The woman retracted her hands, seeming a bit embarrassed. “T-Bug was a good friend to the cause, and we really do appreciate what you’re doing to help, as well as keeping her precious spirit alive.”

And alive was exactly what Qiara had hoped for after so much time had passed since her friend T-Bug was zeroed while on a job for the fixer, Dex. And while the man’s own death didn’t bring her friend back, at least there seemed some poetic justice, as karma was a bitch no matter who you were.

One of the lesser known things about Bug was that she had a heart for Night City’s less fortunate -especially women and children- and did what she could for various shelters and programs that facilitated the fight against poverty, domestic violence, and the failing foster care system. A cause that really hit home for Qiara, and a fight she hoped to continue on; for her city and for her friend.

“Look, I gotta go.” Q sighed as proximity alerts were sending flares from various unauthorized transmission packets. “This network isn’t as secure as it once was and I’d rather not push our luck.”

“Understood. Thank you again.”

And with that, Qiara jacked out of the network, allowing her consciousness to slowly return to where she had physically been the whole time: her Heywood apartment. As she had done a million times prior, the girl keyed in the correct protocols to back out of the system so as to not fry her brain in the process of disconnecting from such complex systems. And when things settled enough, she lifted the HUD visor from her head, and removed a few of the multicolored insulated connectors from small serial port holes just behind her ear and neck. This process was about as old and stale as any routine could get, but better to play it safe than be a cocky and (eventually) dead runner, assuming that you’re impervious to the unpredictabilities of the Net.

No one is. T-Bug knew that.

It had only been a few days, and being on medical leave from her position at NightCorp sucked, mainly because she really had no idea how long the term would last. Was it up to her when it ended, or merely a thumbprint from her physician, clearing her for active duty once again with the corporation? Sure, her position, salary, and corporate access would be kept secured until her reinstatement, but she felt a void deep down, as though she needed to be needed. Somewhere. Although, she was at least relieved her medical benefits and Trauma Team privileges were kept intact, something of which was paramount in her ongoing condition regarding cyberware rejection. An irony really, having to maintain a certain lifestyle and career choice using technology that could just as easily end her life, or send her mind over the edge where many in her line of work don’t return.

The nature of the game.

However, no matter where she spent her Net time, by the end of the day, Qiara was mentally exhausted, and only wished to crawl into a warm, bubbly tub for the rest of the evening. And so a routine it was, to keep herself at the top of the game each day, jacking in and out of various datapools and fortresses, updating and rewriting programs, and continuing her search for her grandmother’s missing data, all while having very little in the way of a social life. But why? She didn’t need the company of strangers to occupy her mind when she had the virtual world as a sufficient -and frankly, safer- alternative to dealing with people face-to-face. Friends she had, maybe more than expected, but most were also just as introverted as she, and used the Net as not only an escape from the emotional drain of the real world, but a social platform as well, meeting like-minded others for a night out on the town, or perhaps to feed a particular sexual need that would never surface in the physical realm.

Either way, she was ready to end her day as she slowly stood up from the powered wheelchair, a piece of equipment she’d been mostly confined to since the accident years ago. The cybernetic implants fused and networked to the nerves, bones, and muscles of her lower extremities did most of the work, allowing her to use her legs for a few hours at a time as any normal person would before the need for anti-rejection medication was needed. A huge drawback due to a very rare genetic makeup, but a life she had no choice but to adjust to if she wanted to continue on.

Taking a few steps toward the window, she opened the blinds only to realize that it was raining, something that was tough to hear with the entire building itself being very well insulated from noise and the elements. Qiara loved the rain though, her eyes flicking from the countless droplets running down the glass to the neon cityscape engulfed in a shroud of wet and cold. Perhaps the rain was good for NightCity, as it washed away the waste from moments prior, even if only for a little while.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Mao Mao
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Mao Mao Sheriff of Pure Hearts (They/Them)

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BLUEJAY
Lizzie's Bar, Watson
A Private Session (feat. @Ruby)


Braindance editing was something else entirely foreign for someone that partially studied the technology. It was not like modifying the mass-produced braindances for a clientele. So much information to digest all at once—sensations, sights, smells, sounds, and tastes. And working on pornographic material heightened those senses to the extreme. The pleasure of being loved in that fashion was incredibly addictive, even for an experienced sex worker. Fortunately, it didn't take much to get accustomed to the raw porno BDs from Jig-Jig Street and associates to the Mox.

Silvain Cellier De Roos was in the midst of your average one-night stand at a dingy motel room. An unfaithful husband tied to the messy bedroom while his mistress rummaged through a barrel bag for the right plaything from the client. When she pulled out the discipline and whipped the motel desk hard, the cheating spouse was instantly excited and eager for the night. And yet, he wasn't unable to stop thinking about his cherished and naive wife back home in Rancho Coronado. There was a sense of dread for violating the sacred vows made over a decade ago.

On the other hand, the mistress was furious with the man after learning of his married life two weeks ago. She wanted to tell his wife the truth and confront him about his infidelity. But he had the eddies to spare upon his "naughty lass." And it paid for the monthly rent at the megabuilding, not to mention enough to pay for groceries before the next paycheck. So, for now, she planned on taking out her anger on the bastard with the whip until she bled him dry of money. Only then will she act—even if it means losing a wealthy client.

Those were some of the sensations that Silvain underwent constantly whenever he was working for the Mox. And while fascinating to listen to and analyze for days, most customers weren't psychologists nor wanted to be reminded of relationship troubles. That's why braindance editors are sought after—to maintain the illusion of bliss. Or to preserve the heinous deeds upon others for the extreme braindances that sickos treasure. For Silvain, it was just another day of dealing with raw materials for a decent wage.

It took a few to remove all of the "unpleasant thoughts" and enhance certain ones in the memory. But before Silvain could've finished it, a familiar voice called out his name and followed by loud banging on the metal double door. He carefully exited out of the memory, making sure to save his progress, and took off the BD Wreath. And with enough time for Marina Galanili, Silvain's only confidante in the Mox, to make her presence known. Her polished olive skin and brown formal french braided hair (with hints of light caramel) definitely signaled that she was ready for her shift.

Marina leaned on the desk with a sarcastic smirk. "Did I barge in at the right moment?"

"Just your standard religious roleplay between some troubled souls." Silvain sarcastically remarked as he made his way towards the desk, looking for his pack of smokes. "But I'm guessing you didn't come all this way to learn that."

Marina reached into her pockets and pulled out a sterling silver lighter, placing it in front of him. "There's a customer that requested you in one of the private lounges."

"Didn't you tell them that I was unavailable?" Silvain asked right when he found the pack and pulled out two cigarettes. Marina took one of them and lit it relatively fast with the lighter.

"He's apparently a big tipper. Has eddies that we can't afford to turn away." Marina replied while fetching the ashtray for the other side of the desk before taking a puff of the cigarette. "Susie Q would've interrupted your session herself if I wasn't around the dressing room."

Silvain took his time with the other cigarette to prepare himself for his other job. He sighed and then stubbed the cigarette against the ashtray. "Alright, I will entertain him. Is it alright if I freshen up with your things?"

"Of course, dear." Marina smiled and placed her hand on his shoulder. "Just make sure that everything's back in its place when you're done."

Silvain smiled back and made his way out of that dimmed basement. The brightening lights for the dressing room caught him off-guard initially. But he made his way to Marina's corner of the makeup stand. Getting freshened up didn't take too long for Silvain since he wasn't doing anything intense today. Just a spray (or two) of fancy Italian perfume and adjustments to his hair to look somewhat messy was enough to get the customer's full attention. And when he was almost done, he received a text from Marina:

oh one more thing. customer's name is eddie.
make us rich love! c:

It didn’t take long to get to the lounge from the dressing room given how close they were to each other. Silvain didn’t know much about the customer other than his name and wealth, but he still took some time to prepare. Even known he handled wealthy intoxicated customers before, they were easily satisfied and willing to give out big tips if given a good enough performance. At the door, he made sure to correct any obvious imperfections before making his grand entrance to impress the client.

Upon entering the private room, Silvain instantly noticed the customer was a white blonde woman dressed up like a suit. The way she was waiting for him to show made Silvain uncomfortable, which was impressive given the kind of shit he was used to by now. Still, he managed to keep his cool in front of the customer. It didn’t help that she was just staring at him without saying or doing anything. So, it was clear that Silvain had to be the one to break the ice. And that was what he did while getting ready to stand his ground—with force if required.

“Umm, hi there… Think you might be in the wrong room.” Silvain rubbed the back of his neck while maintaining a rather awkward smile. “I can have someone help you out, miss…”

Eddie found herself smiling at the young man's discomfort, the kind of smile that rose like the morning star across the plain of her smooth and undecorated pale lips, giving them a warmth they just wouldn't have had otherwise. There were times that Eddie genuinely forgot that her appearance could unsettle and intimidate; especially wearing a dark grey pants suit with simple matching button-up blouse that hugged every curve she had, a dim 'sheen' to the bleeding edge material. A useful tool for the jobs she had spent her life working at, but not something she spent time reveling in. When those lips parted and the smile rolled off her lips, the tone that followed it was just as warm.

"I thought the point of Lizzie's was that you didn't have to be too nervous about who you met in a private booth?" She didn't await the answer, it was just a curiosity; Night City wasn't her city. Prague and Vienna were more her style. Brows raised as her eyes widened from their steely gaze of before, softening the features on her face as she went from an overly comfortable lean back in the booth's seat to scootching forward, sitting taller and leaning just ever-so forward as she took a quick and hard sip of the synth-Scotch before continuing, "My name is 'Eddie', although it isn't really, but as far as Night City is concerned...yeah, I'm Eddie. I'm the new resident Fixer at Afterlife along with Dino Dinovic, if you've ever heard of him?"

She imagined he had. Everyone knew Dino, that was the main reason V had left the main Fixer spot of Afterlife to him. At first Eddie considered the stand-offish nature of Silvain might be misplaced, but then Eddie recalled just how dangerous she was, and in all the ways she was. She had allowed herself to be 'weaponized' as Eddie, Night City Fixer, and with that came a certain required understanding people wouldn't always love being in a room alone with you.

It didn't seem to affect her.

"I need a Brain Dance edited. It needs to be seamless and able to fool AI. I reached out to the woman who used to inhabit the basement you do now, Judy, and she mentioned I should check with the new 'basement dweller' of Lizzie's. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but I need someone without any corporate ties for this. If you can pull it off, we'll have further business to discuss...as for payment, well, there's a reason they call me 'Eddie.'"

Silvain chuckled at her request while concealing his skepticism of the newest fixer at Night City. It wasn’t the first time that he heard of fresh fixers that either end fading into nothingness or disappointing the wrong person. But he was concerned about how she managed to obtain so much information on the previous editor. There was a moment that Silvain considered just calling over the other Moxes to deal with ‘Eddie.’ And yet, he was too curious about the offer to let her go.

“You make it sound so simple. I need more dets than that.”

"Nothing about Night City is simple, except the brutality of it."

She stood slowly, as not to alarm the man, the grey-blue eyes of the Fixer never leaving his own as she made her way casually around the small table, toward the door, and inches from him. The tone remained constant, and only the volume of her voice lowering. "Sorry, Silvain, but with the amount of eddies attached to this and the risk on all sides it has to be like this: in or out, right now, right here. Take the job, you'll get your details. Don't, and I walk out and you never have to worry about meeting me in closed quarters again. You decide."

The only difference in her eyes, this time, was the look of true sorrow she wasn't afraid to show him.

Silvain looked away for the woman and then, without any hesitation, responded. “I suppose there isn’t any law nor restraint in ‘this seething cauldron of vice and depravity’ of a city… Okay, when’s the deadline?”

Her answer was a simple, small, rueful smile. The implication? Now.

“And the price?” Silvain asked directly without the bullshit. “Tricking a corpo AI with an edited BD isn’t as easy as you think. Not to mention the lack of info makes my job a lot more demanding.”

They were so close, now, that the very break of rhythm in her breathing was audible to Silvain as he mentioned not knowing what it took to trick an AI. Her eyes lifted up in quiet calculation, to the left for a heartbeat before rolling to the right, and once again falling right back down to center on his gaze, "Twenty-thousand. Half upfront, half upon completion. More for later jobs if it works out."

Eddie knew it was a big number for a BD edit, even a demanding one. Trauma Team Gold was 18,000eb for a year's coverage, without the corporate discount. If the job went south, if it came back to Silvain's door, he'd need more than Trauma Team Gold to save his skin. Fair price. And she imagined 'Lizzie' would want her cut, given it was her basement.

"If you're interested in future jobs, anyway," a slight rise in the pitch of her voice, as she considered the reality that the jobs she offered might get too hot for Silvain, and he might decline, even where no other Merc in the city would. "A runner will deliver the BD and have all the details you could want. Thanks for the time, stay safe."

Her hand reached past him, the door opened, and she walked out. Something about the bar gave her the creeps.

Silvain made his way over to the couch and took a seat in order to process everything that just happened. It wasn’t anything like he dealt with before since moving to Night City. Hell, even his previous occupations were never as tense. There wasn’t much he could’ve done now except wait for the runner to arrive whenever. But first, he needed to calm down with a few inhales of that delightful happy puffs—a drug that provided instant tranquility and delight (thus the play on words of happy pills). All he needed to do was simply get the inhaler from his jacket pocket and then get ready to breathe in the wonder drug.


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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by LetMeDoStuff
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LetMeDoStuff Bone Hurting Juice

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E D D I E
'E D D I E'

&



Collab'd with @Ruby



The Afterlife had a strange smell. Long gone were the medical grade cleaner and the chemicals of corpse preservation and autopsy. The air had a decidedly metallic taste if you really focused and tried to determine just what it was your brain was interpreting. The rest of the main area of Afterlife was the smell of sweat, perfumes and colognes, alcohol and drugs, and the occasional bloody Merc laid out on a pool table or across booth seating as one of their mates did the best they could with First Aid.

The Crypt of Afterlife had no such crowd-sourced scents. It was metal, and the heavy hanging auroma of whatever incense Eddie had burning in the ancient brass incense burners that hung on either end of the run from the ceiling; this week had been sandalwood. Eddie sat back in an office chair that sat between a waist height medical cabinet with glass stainless steel encased doors and long used as a desk, the top adorned with three monitors, a few keyboards, an encrypted datapad, and numerous holo-agents Eddie used for clients, Mercs, informants, and more. Her back was to the makeshift desk, her feet resting high on an old repurposed autopsy table.

She'd come directly from Lizzie's, the only difference in attire being the grey blazer was now opened, exposing the black tanktop underneath--and the fact she had changed her shoes to old black combat boots that looked like she had spent some time in the Badlands. Standing to her right was the resident Netrunner of Afterlife, Nix, 'resplendent' in orange netrunner suit, puffer vest, and old camo pants. Seated on the edge of the old stainless steel autopsy table next to her booted feet was Dino, gold chains, leather vest, black denim; ever the Rockerboy turned Merc turned Fixer.

Dino pressed the holo-agent again, replaying the message for the third time, the voice with the cracked veneer and craggy edges weathered by age and the never-ending heartbreak of Night City filling the metallic and incense filled air: "Hey, dame, little birdie been tellin' me you need someone. I got a guy - knows shit with the Net, worked with him a-plenty. Conrad; ol' reliable. And this choom ain't no psycho. A mood killer at most, but he sure as hell ain't no psycho. Catch your interest? I got details I can share if need be."

"Dame," was the word that finally broke the silence that followed the message, a word echoed from the message as Eddie's voice repeated it like a curiosity to hold up and examine.

The silence that followed the word invited Nix to shift his weight from the left to his right, and perk a brow when he gave a small shrug, "I mean, I think it's the old man's way of showing some kind of respect."

"Who speaks like that?" Dino wondered aloud, apparently to the other two. It was Nix who answered.

"The elderly who think we're in film grained black and white."

Eddie sighed, loudly, dramatically "Film noir was more simple than Night City. Would that we were dolls and dames and fellas...what about the little bird?" Hard edged blue eyes shot up to Dino Dinovic, causing the Rockerboy to smile.

"Hey, I've been doing what I can to help you, Eddie. Part of what I do best is network, put a little word out for my fellow Afterlife Fixer. You've got a big job, I know you've been trying to find the right team, you never know, y'know? Dino knows Night City and the people in it."

Eddie's blue eyes just stared at the charismatic Rockerboy. "Just so long as you understand the dangers."

"How can I? I don't know the job, not that I'm trying to pry, I'm just sayin'..."

Dino smiled more, shrugging at her. Of course he wanted to know details. Dino always wanted details on everything, it's the personality tick Eddie had to imagine that led him from going from Rockerboy to Merc, and from Merc to Fixer. It's what made him a good Fixer. He wasn't afraid to ask around, talk, and if he heard something he wasn't afraid to take a chance--that was how he met V, according to Dino. He just cold called the Merc, hearing they were beginning to move into Corpo Plaza at the time.

"The deets," she finally allowed in a dull tone that was either slightly amused, bemused, or a bit of both, "Dino, are that if there's a single loose end for this job left behind then everyone that's even looked at it, touched it, will be garroted with that loose end." The Mercs in the city seemed to underestimate what the corporations were truly capable of. She didn't. She'd seen their best. Even in the Crypt of Afterlife she was haunted by the woman's jasmine and nicotine scent so strongly it was like Sora stood right next to her, instead of Nix and Dino. A heavy breath in, and out, forced a softer expression on the Night City outsider, "I understand your point, Dino, and I appreciate the help. But this...why do you think he uses the word psycho twice? What do we know about this Norman Reiner outside what I've already read?"

Nix took in a sharp inhale, no doubt glad to be moving on with the subject at hand, "Crazy, maybe the good kind, maybe the bad kind, but definitely missing a few processors."

"Fixer with a very particular niche, gets reliable enough results without causing too many waves. Paranoid, but, eh, that just means safety in our business," Dino punctuated his point with a chuckle, "The Merc, Conrad? Not much. Same background as Norman, both former NetWatch. You had run-ins with NetWatch?"

Her eyes fixated across the room, her mind and eyes playing scenes of Downtown Dallas, and the Data Pool Massacre of Hamburg. "...yeah, mixed bag, that group. No wonder he used psycho twice as a disclaimer. Nix?"

"I mean...I doubt Norman vouches for him if he's shit. I've never heard Norman vouch for anyone, let alone do it prompted by just 'word around the streets', so. I've heard he's a capable enough Merc, sort of a twist on the old Solo-Netrunner type."

Eddie's head tilted to the side, as she weighed Norman and Conrad, and NetWatch. "It'd be nice to have one of those, considering the other Netrunner I have my sights on...Dino, wanna do more talking and get this Conrad into Afterlife?"

Dino chuckled louder, still, as he slid off the edge of the old autopsy table and nodded slow for dramatic effect, "Hell, if he's a Merc in Night City and doesn't want to answer the call of an Afterlife meeting, he ain't worth shit anyway. I'll let Claire and Emmerick know to expect him. Where you want to meet him? Down here in the Crypt? Private booth?"

A quick shake of Eddie's head and she removed her feet from the edge of the autopsy table, "Nope, just give us a booth on the main floor in a corner. I'll be up there in a few. We'll do this cartel style; Blue Glass, tequila, and just the two of us."

The look exchanged between Nix and Dino almost made Eddie smirk. Cartel style. Just another clue as to who, and what, this 'Eddie' they found themselves working so closely with had been, or still was. "Right," Dino said, impulsive reaction more than true response, "I'll get it setup. Thanks again for helping with the Badlands thing, I owe you. Nix...get some sleep, man."

"Fuck you, Dino. You too, Eddie."

"Why me?," she asked, as she stood and shed the blazer completely, resting on the back of the office chair.

"Principle."

It just made her smirk all the more as Nix almost showed the smile he kept locked away on his way out. She liked Nix, she saw why Rogue had liked him, too. Dino seemed to be a stranger bedfellow for Nix than she was, no doubt thanks to his prior working relationship with Rogue. Rockerboys didn't exactly seem to be Nix's comfort zone, a feeling Eddie could appreciate. She had never met one she cared for in a fight, although even she'd admit Dino was easy to work with, so long as he stopped taking liberties and chances with her jobs.

Elsewhere in Night City, sat beneath a pitched cloth roof outside a run-down bar, Conrad received a blip on the holo. It’d been a day or so’s waiting since he’d had his run in with Norman, but considering what little he knew of the gig, he didn’t exactly expect the express ticket to the front seat. Not to mention, he had no idea how far-detached from these new fixers he was. He’d kept his contacts close thus far, so any new arrival was always a slow process.

But that blip on the holo came in with the briefest of messages. Straight to the point, all business. Seemed about right for Conrad. It read: "Hey! Heard about you, I'm Dino, swing by Afterlife. Fixer wants to meet you and chat over a potential gig."

The Afterlife, he thought back to his trips there. Merc Capital of Night City. All the connections that were needed, and where all the hapless romantics of the merc life came together to drool over having a drink named after them. Standard practice for a job with so much on the line. All that mattered was the end goal. Maybe that was what Conrad missed - some form of desire to get a drink named after him. Then again, he wasn’t so sure if that was his style, whatever that style had become.

There wasn’t any need to respond. They had him by the leash, just like any other merc. Afterlife meant business. Of course, it wasn't his first time walking into the emerald den, but he sure as hell hadn’t made a huge score there bar a few decent gigs. They knew he was on his way, and he did so after he had the leisure of finishing his tasteless coffee.

By the time he’d reached the gates to envy, where the neon signpost blared Afterlife, he’d been walking in the rain for sometime. His coat was heavy, but he made an effort to leave his woes at the door. One step at a time, he descended into the valley of legends and deadmen until he reached the door. The bodyguard - Emmerick, Conrad had once heard his name was - stood with a sharp glare as he approached. He probably recognised him, but it made it easier to test the waters.

“Con’, right?”


“That’s right. Here to see a Fixer. Dino called me in.” He kept it strict and straight, all to ensure he didn’t rustle feathers in nests he didn’t belong in. And truly, he still felt a little out of place, but he was only at the front door.

“Just checking.” He checked over something for a brief second, before opening the door for him. As Conrad meandered past him, he gave one last instruction. “Might wanna wait at the bar. Takes a minute, y’know.”

Soon enough, he found one of the many empty stools before the great table, where legends sat, drank and killed - mostly their livers - for a shot at the top shelf. He pressed himself in and dug his fingertips into his eyes, barely clearing the tired bags from the worn out expression. He sighed. It was to be just a few minutes of waiting, but god they felt like years. At the very least, conversation would’ve sped it up, and it did.

“Been a while since you’ve shown your face.” In came the friendly face that every Night City merc knew - Claire strolled over to where he sat and smirked. “Been busy?”


“Something like that?”

“Liven up a little. You’re back, and I heard Eddie had it for you.” She cleaned herself a fresh glass and put it down on the counter before him. “You want something to prepare?” Conrad raised a flat palm and shook his head, before he reached into his pocket and pulled out his flask. She looked visibly disappointed in him, though more so ironically than out of any genuinity. “Forgot you were a cheapskate.”

“Just don’t want to waste what I have now.” He took his swig and let his eyes drift around the bar. Then, he sighed a little. “Anything change since I last came?”

“When did you last turn up?”

“Three months, probably.”

“Well,” she started, “good chunk of fresh meat dead, few failed heists, few successful ones, the odd gang scuffle and a one-time fight over a game of pool. Same old, really.”

The first sign that Eddie had hit the main floor of Afterlife was the music. The moment the screaming rage metal song of Conrad's entrance ended, the next tune started lower and darker, the remnants of post-punk creeping through the airwaves of Afterlife as Joy Division slinked through eardrums and the backgrounds of hushed deals and louder conversations.

And she turned around and took me by the hand and said, "I've lost control again."

The second, and last, was the voice that sounded from behind him and over his shoulder, just inches from him, carried with the scent of sandalwood and the faintest hint of lavender. The voice was a register deeper than most women, smooth as glass with a tone that suggested issuing commands was second nature, "Two glasses, Centzon 100 Especial from the top shelf."

When Conrad turned to peek, the pale blue eyes of Eddie were already staring into his until Claire had both glasses poured and awaiting on the bar, when they then shifted to Claire and something suspiciously close to a grin cropped towards the very corners of her pale red lips. "Blue Glass, both, leave the Centzon."

Claire visibly balked from the very price of the bottle being left for a moment before sighing, and reaching under the bar. The blue powder was added to each drink, and each glass given a swirl to intermingle hallucinogenic narcotic with the tequila she'd first had served to her from a Mexican Coyote Boss as she took the seat across from him, moving the dead man out of the seat, as the still hot barrels were fixed on her. With a casual care, Eddie slid the glass closest to Conrad over in front him, taking the other glass for herself, and the bottle by the neck as she turned from the bar. "C'mon, Conrad, vamos a dar una vuelta."

She settled in a corner booth, the weight of eyes and fate heavy upon the pair.

Conrad had obviously followed, but his eyes were less on Eddie than they were on the rest of the Afterlife. He was observant, on anything other than what she did, and he’d let it get the better of his judgment. She led the steps along the dancefloor whilst he trod in the outlines of her shoes. Eventually, he ended up in the same booth as she had, drink in hand, and sat beside her.


“‘Suppose I’m one of your guys…” He pulled his coat in under the table and leant back into the cushioning of the seat. From the way she dressed and carried herself, he couldn’t see anything but a fixer in her skin. She had the stage presence and prestige to remind those like Conrad of just how far down the food chain they were. If anything, he was expecting her to be unimpressed with what he had, but the conversation had only just begun.

She found herself smiling, bigger and easier than usual, and raising her glass a few feet above the table. "Suppose we drink, first."


“You’re the boss.” He brought the glass to his eyes, looked at it, shrugged and drank about half the glass, far more carelessly than he should’ve. Either way, it tasted as he imagined: bitter, like most glasses.

Over indulgences had soured whatever semblance of fine-tuned taste he had for drinks, but he preferred it that way. It kept it dangerously bland.


“I assume you know so much about me already…?”

The glass was downed fast, hard, and then rested in her right hand as her right below kept it up, dangling from the well groomed and highly polished but unpainted short nails of her right hand. Her head stayed down, her eyes closed, as a long, silent, breath was exhaled. After nearly a minute of 'alone time', her head cocked to the left, then the right, before squaring up center and her eyes climbed high enough to find Conrad's gaze.

The base of the glass hit the table gently, as her hands busied themselves with grabbing for the bottle, opening it, and starting the pour for the second round of the wildly overpriced tequila. A sniff, a darting of her blue eyes to a nearby table that lasted a few seconds too long, and hues of purple and blue began brightly at the corners of her vision, where Jackson used to test her peripheral vision for fights on the old Farm.

Her shoulders shrugged barely a shrug, a simple tiny little roll. When her blue eyes returned to him, the answer vocalized, "Some. Birth country, names of immediate family, married once, former NetWatch, and the opinions of some Mercs and Fixers--oh, and you're not a psycho. Twice, in the same sentence, so, hey, guess you're not a psycho."

She raised the glass to that, and downed Round Two.

Of course, the way she drank outdid any pacing he made, but it didn’t quite intimidate him. He’d drink his drink in his own time, he told himself internally, and he finished the first glass as she began to fill up her second. He met her eyes and sort of just let them lay there for a while, feeling just that littlest kick from his drink.


“Norman likes to be thorough.” Though truthfully, he winced at the mentioning of a marriage. Once. Potentially as it would be. He looked away, but then looked back at her gaze. “Can only hope you’ve heard good things. You need to talk résumé? Portfolios? Or are you looking for something else?”

Like they were the final two at the final table of a poker tournament, she let her eyes catch it all. This was his first time doing this, but at least he realized it was no race. The mention of 'marriage' prompted a reaction he'd hidden, and quick--fair enough, she knew how that went. A casual look back at the table nearest them when she went for the bottle to refill her glass brought to her the image of all four ghosts. The Techie, the Runner, the Solo, and the Ex-Husband. She looked back to Conrad, some mix of hallucination and fear dancing in her pale blue eyes.

That same cold sweat she felt when she flew off the European continent. The same unending anxiety that the hunter was just behind her, that she'd find her. That Etta would want the woman to find her. The third glass was poured, and Eddie spent a moment just breathing and staring. It was great tequila, not very good. Amazing. There was no alcohol burn, barely any after taste. It was clean.

Eddie almost missed the searing burn, right about now, as blues and purples turned white light and golden sparkles that narrowed her eyes, just slightly.

"You've worked for the Afterlife before, that says either Rogue or V, hopefully not Dead Dex. That's your resume, given what I've heard about you, who I've heard it from--and I don't mean Norman. The rest of the professional part I'll have to see for myself. If you want, if you're up to it. We already have a netrunner lined up, so we need someone who can carry iron and do some netrunning in person, the other one is...let's call them the 'guy on the phone' type. So talk, or ask questions."

Her brows perked to accentuate the end of her sentence, as she went for the third glass.

A few minutes into the conversation, and two gulps into his second glass, he felt his head spin a little. It was more of a headache, a familiar sort of buzz that he disliked more than anything else, but he kept talking whilst the lights gently began to spin ahead of him.

And Eddie had summarized him better than he could. He’d done his work, and he’d done it for whoever had needed him. He was as normal as they came, maybe even a little less interesting as the blandest of mercs, but he seemed to be the guy she needed, as per the apt description. He shifted in his seat and faced her more closely.


“And - say, who else is on the op? I can netrun and gun - my niche, in fact, with those quickhacks, but the team is who will be watching my back…” He drifted between words as he blinked a few times. He felt a little uncomfortable when he looked at her, though not so much visibly, as if he saw a double entendre of a being, disguised as someone he’d known long ago. “Forgive me…but I have to be straight; what’s the post-gig plan? We cut profits and split, or am I going to get bullets in the back?”

He was taken aback by his own crude and rude questioning, but then again, it was all of what he had to think about. Each gig was another chance for him to be played. It pained him to go down the route once more, but when there were no other ways, he simply made do with the best fixers on offer. Though one thing for certain was that the drinks he was having weren’t the best to accept.

A sip from a half empty third glass as she did the quick, spotty, math with eyes bouncing this way and that with each person counted in her head. "Six, maybe seven. A few with netrunning experience, a few with medical experience, a few with pure combat experience, maybe a tech. They're all middle-road Mercs like yourself; skilled, with some experience, but no hotshots or legends. All potential to be more. Client and I have our reasons for that preference. The job is a series of gigs, not just one and done. That's a lot of people and a lot of time together, so 'bullet in the back' is a nigh-logistical impossibility. I'm very good at what I do. I've lost one Merc since I was in this city as a Fixer, and that was because he lied to me about what he could do."

Joey's tears filled her ears as an echo of that death, the sight of the woman holding her face as she cried, and tried to comprehend the amount of money and the ticket Eddie had just given her. She'd kept her word to Braddock, the woman was now long gone out of Night City, and away from NUSA territory. The shitty MegaBuilding apartment, the sight of Braddock's clothes still hanging in the closet.

There was nothing in her blue eyes but crystal clear intent as she looked back to his face, to his eyes, "If any one of the Mercs on this team betrays anyone else, or puts any of us in danger, I will put them down cold. Personally. So the end-game should be you each get paid very large sums, and you all go your own ways, laying low for a while."


“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he huffed as the weight of his headache left him to lean into the seat more, “even on solid promises I want to remain cautious. Guess you won’t have to worry about me doing anything.”

The lights began to flash brighter and to dim faster than he could count. Things span and the kaleidoscope of visuals churned at his head. He should’ve known the drink wasn’t what she ordered but he made his best effort to keep talking, though by all measures when he looked back into her eyes, there was that little uncertainty about it all.

“Sounds like an impressive track record then. Guess I’m in safe hands, contractually, save for the actual work to do.” There were visions of something cold at the back of his mind, something dirty and rotten like Night City had been to him. It only brightened those neon lights surrounding him but by god did he feel sick because of it. But he held himself together. Just about. “So, what about you? What’s there to you that’s safe to tell? I won’t pry.”

That, to her ears, almost sounded like a shame. “What, exactly, do you want to know?”

“I don’t particularly want to know anything,” he raised a hand to his face and lulled back into his seat further, “just thought you didn’t want to sit in silence for a while.”

Eddie swirled the glass, considered for a short moment, and then smiled as she settled into another long sip, and the subsequent silence.

The way she did so left Conrad at the very least satisfied. Of all the outcomes, and with the dazzling headaches and growing, numbing sensation of Blue Glass, he couldn’t have found a better way to finish the vetting process, ignoring the spiked drink. With his eyes to the ceiling and his head resting sluggish in his seat, he let out one last sigh, blended with the smallest of reciprocated smiles.


“Guess we have something in common.” He quietly thought to himself.
Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Bork Lazer
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Bork Lazer Chomping Time

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“ THIS IS THE KABUKI SUB-DISTRICT, WATSON. TRANSFER IS AVALIABLE TO 6A, 6B and 6D. PLEASE STAND CLEAR OF THE CLOSING DOORS, PLEASE.”

Connie rubbed her knuckles tenderly, not even noticing NCRT security wading past the doors, hollering for everyone to get down and provide identification. Whilst everyone was busy handing out their identification papers and jacking in the local netrunner to verify themselves, Connie was tussling through the pockets of one of the gangoons that she had laid out on the floor along with the other dozen or so around her who were either unconscious, in pain or a combination of both.

“ Didn’t think of you for a vulture, Zhang,” A cocky voice rang out, causing Connie to pause mid-looting and look up. The cop was burly, enormous shoulders hunched together like a log and with arms that looked almost freakish. Connie would’ve mistaken him for an Animal if it wasn’t for the laminated NCPD badge pinned on the ironed lapels of his work uniform. His eyes were mismatched, one a Kiroshi optic whilst the other was a solid ball of gold, velvet red kanji inlaid where the pupil would be located.

“ Being picky doesn’t pay bills, Frank,” Connie mused, standing up to go. However, Frank wasn’t going to have any of that, crossing his arms, and looking at her expectantly as if she’d graffitied her school principal's aerodyne. “Look, nothing serious aside from a few epidurals and the guy whose nuts I crushed. Besides, good opportunity for you to get them singing while the paras hook them on benzo.”
“ Connie.., ” Frank palmed his face in embarrassment “ I can’t keep covering for you in post-ops everytime you get into an incident. I get you’re still angry about how TT treated you but it’s been 2 years. Maybe, it’s time to move on?”

Connie’s face became granite at the mention of her prior employer. Frank bit his lip, recognising a lost argument, before pulling on Connie’s shoulder and pushing her out the door of the carriage.

“ Listen, I appreciate what you did for all of us in the department when you were a senior in TT. All of us do, but do this one more time….”

“ What?” Connie asked, hostility in her voice. “ Or you’ll call MAX-TAC on me? Ask me to sign up with the crazies?”

Frank’s eyes widened, a hurt frown on his chapped lips. His fingers drummed the sides of one of the aluminum poles, unsure of what to say to his friend.

“ Stay out of trouble, Connie.”

The train doors shut and the security-holo tape sprouted from the station platform before Connie could get the last word in. The barrier of yellow warning signs and spastic red markers mirrored off Connie’s parka as security bots began ushering the general public out of the way. Connie waited until the platform was devoid of any onlookers before making her way out of the busy station. She looked down at the scratches and flecks of dried blood that crusted the polymer coating of her right prosthetic arm. Rainwater would be pissed off about the damage she’d done to the polymer coating but the guy was naturally more pissed off ever since Bucks got iced earlier in the year.

A light drizzle began to overtake Night City, her boots impacting the slick asphalt. Some took out parasols and others made their way for the cover to not let their 1000 eddie digs get ruined by a storm. Beads of rain ran down the hood of her refractive parka. The skyscrapers and concrete jungle of Night City seem to soften in the rain, almost forming an abstract painting in the sheets of gray that poured down from the gloomy skies above. Connie hunched up her shoulders, moving from alley to alley and taking care to avoid the look of any stalkers or roving gangoons.

It was a good solid half hour of walking before she made it onto the ground floor of Yaiba. It was not the tallest skyscraper in Kabuki but it was a well hidden secret amongst edgerunners who frequented the area. The lower ground floors were commercial, a few start-ups and stores here and there who were taking advantage of the low rent offered by developers. The cracks of the concrete told of the building’s history, well before the Time of the Red, and the 2030 corporate architecture had been swallowed in a colorful tide of Watson’s street artists.

Connie entered the elevator, entering in a specific combination of buttons that would seem random to anyone else who would happen to be in the elevator with her. The light over her blinked for a moment before the floor beneath her jolted and began ascending. The clear window in the elevator offered her a clear view of Watson. She could see the coast of Pacfica, the beams of light streaming out from the center of the Corpo-Plaza into the aether and the scarred expanse of the Bad Lands beyond.

The elevator dinged and she walked out into Regina’s office. The fixer never seem to take a break. Everyday, Connie would find the former WRS news jockey parked on a chair with a thermos full of recaf on her table and her eyes glued to multiple monitors displaying news feed across all of NC, the Euro Theatre and the Pacific Rim.

“ Back early.” Regina remarked, not even blinking at Connie’s disheveled, soaked appearance. “ You got the mark?”

“ Part of him, “ Connie dipped into her pocket and flicked

“ Ah.” Regina shook her head in mild disappointment as Connie hid her bangs too late to hide the grievous red cut that ran on her cheek. “ You should get that looked at.”

“ I’ll glue it.” Connie’s thumb scratched her palm nervously, trying to judge Regina’s passive expression. Was she mad? Angry? Unbothered by the fact that Connie disobeyed her instructions? “ You got any more gigs to give me, boss?”

“ I do. However - “ Regina froze Connie’s excitement with that single-eyed glare of hers. “ I’m not sure if I should give it to you.” The issue isn’t how you handled this job. It’s the fact that this isn’t sustainable. Look at you, Connie. How long have we known each other?”

“ One year,” Connie admitted.

“ One year. You’ve been slummin’ up more contracts than any other merc, all just to make sure you’re staying on the right side of the line. I only know one another choom who had the same type of ethic you had. They only had six months left to live. What’s your excuse?”

Connie looked down, away from Regina’s penetrating stare as the weight of her left prosthetic felt heavy. As much as she hated to admit it, Regina had a point. She wasn’t bought, forced or coerced into joining Trauma Team International. If she was angry about being axed, what did she have to cry about? Plenty of corpos were dropped off when the stock price fell or their floor was on the verge of bankruptcy.

“ I needed structure in my life. TT gave me structure. This is the only way to have it.”

The two continued staring at each other for 30 seconds before Regina balked and rolled to the other side of her desk, snatching a data sheet to give to Connie.

“ Well, hopefully, this is the last gig that I give you. I got a tip off from a contact in the Afterlife. Fixer there’s doing a headhunt for mercs. Someone with your skill set would stick out from the crowd. You’ve spent most of your life saving other lives, Connie. I’d reckon it’s about time you start focusing on saving yours.”
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Hellion
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Hellion Nulla Dies / Sine Linea

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..
.....
collab with
@Ruby

.........

Early mornings in Night City meant you could actually hear beyond the typical chaotic noises of people and industry; past the thick residue of a society choking on its own vomit. And even in a place such as that, sunrises still had the tendency to elicit feelings of a rebirth, whether for the city itself, or the people trying to make a living within its many folds.

Qiara stood on the balcony of her fifteenth floor Heywood apartment, steaming cup of coffee in hand, and dressed in nothing but a long, black tee which hit about mid-thigh, and a simple rainbow graphic of a retro and distressed “Apple” branding on the chest. The shirt had been one of her favorite pieces of clothing, being a gift from her father, Lucian, back when she first began exploring her chosen profession. One of the few reminders of a time before the accident, when life just felt simpler and made sense. The cold breeze felt good on her fair skin, and disheveled dark hair, which seemed to rarely see a brush these days. But what did it matter? She had been out of work for almost two weeks, and while she wasn’t hurting for eddies due to a fair savings account, the anxiety of not having a steady stream of solid work or income couldn’t be ignored for long. Fuck this medical leave…

The light of the new dawn peeked from behind the massive cityscape, between the cluster of corporate-owned skyscrapers and atmospheric congestion. “Today is the day, then?” She whispered to herself with eyes closed, as though her words would be carried off with the passing wind into an unknown realm of opportunity.

Perhaps.

It was late morning by the time an unexpected encrypted holo-call came through, which used a set of datakeys she had not seen in quite some time, but a sequence which bore a resemblance to a known contact. After a few seconds of unraveling the string, she noticed the call was coming from someone she had not heard from in a couple of years.

“Hello Nix.” She gave the slightly distorted holographic upper body of the dark-skinned Netrunner a half smile. “Long time.”

“Indeed.” The other nodded in agreement, still sporting his signature round shades that felt like they’d gone out of style ages ago. “I won’t take up much of your time, Q, but there’s someone you might want to meet who has access to intel regarding a certain person of interest that no one else in Night City has managed to gain.”

The woman arched an eyebrow, knowing who this “person of interest” Nix spoke of was, but at the same time curious as to who would be on his radar. And while she doesn’t quite trust the Netrunner, Qiara also knows he has proven legit on past dealings, and his intel and instinct about certain contacts and data has allowed him to stay at the top of his game for years, especially matters concerning the Old Net.

“Alright, I’ll bite.” Q couldn’t help it really. She had been looking for her grandmother -Vivian Rhyne- for several years, hitting one deadend after another. “Can this contact be trusted? Have you worked with them before? Who are they?”

There was a few seconds of silence from Nix, mostly avoiding the barrage of questions that seemed irrelevant considering the source. “Someone who can help.” He finally responded.

“Fine.” She sighed, not wanting to get caught up in twenty questions with a guy who barely spoke in full sentences to begin with. “Send me the deets.”

“No need, choom. They’re waiting in the lobby.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Qiara’s heart jumped a few beats and she almost lost a handle on the orange juice she’d been nursing for awhile, spilling a bit on her desk in the excitement. “Please tell me you’re fucking around?”

Nix was silent.

“Of course you’re not.” She sighed, quickly pulling up camera feeds to the ground floor lobby, front entry, and parking garage. A smartly dressed woman in white attire was sitting in one of the many chairs that lined the elevator walls in the main lobby.

“How did she get-” The woman stopped herself, knowing full well how this stranger gained access. “Forget it. I just wish there could have been more advanced warning.”

“Mhm.” Nix nodded, rubbing the bridge of his nose where his sunglasses sat. “Prob’ly don’t wanna keep her waiting.” Nix said in a matter-of-fact tone. “Anyway, I’m out. Just be cool.” And with that, the call ended and the holo image dissipated into digital dust.

“Great.”



She took less than five minutes to change into something appropriate enough for an initial meeting with someone she had never spoken to in her life. Which meant at least a nice ivory blouse with lace sleeves, a pair of black jeans, and dark close-toed wedges. Her short hair was manageable, she figured, not the typical wind-blown mess she was accustomed to, but more tamed. As the elevator doors opened into the lobby, Qiara let go of a breath she’d been holding pretty much the whole way down. She moved her powered wheelchair out onto the freshly polished marble floor, the rubber tires making a bit of a squeak as they turned slightly to face the blonde woman in the very well-tailored pant suit.

“Hi.” She smiled, her fingers on the chair’s control console a bit fidgety. “I-um, was told you wanted to see me?”

Waiting hadn’t been the difficult part for Eddie. She wasn’t fond of this arrangement; there was a reason she had taken the alias she had when she arrived in Night City. People wanted a leg up in the crushing life that was society and culture of 2077. It wasn’t great deeds, it wasn’t great works, it wasn’t how virtuous you were, or how many lives you affected for the better that meant anything in 2077. It was money, eddies, and that was the cleanest way to operate as a Fixer that she knew.

Trading information and favors could be a dangerous game. At its very core it made Eddie anxious, this entire situation she found herself in. She had spoken with the client about it, but the client was brief and dismissive.

“I don’t have the information,” she had told the client, close to stubborn.

For the first time ever, the client sounded almost…confused at her. I do. It will be given to you at the appropriate time. For now, secure her efforts in the overlying goal. The data she seeks is located in remnants of the Old Net, we know where, we know how to get to it, it is complete as it can be. I recruited you to manage this effort, Etta Elizabeth Autry, you will do what is necessary.

She might as well have been Dorothy, trying to argue with the Wizard of Oz, for all the good it did her. The information was sent over, she went over some of it with Nix, who was fascinated by it. That was a plus, he was too distracted to realize just what he was really looking at; payment. All Nix knew was that it was a window into the kind of data fortress people in 2077 were arguing about whether it even still existed, or not.

Or if it had ever existed, in truth, in the first place. Oh, she now knew and had known before, it existed. She wasn’t so sure about the story of it’s creation, let alone how it maintained through the years, but for sure it existed. White seemed appropriate for the meeting, even though it was Heywood, and somehow white and luxury seemed more apropos to Charter Hill than Heywood, but her initial instinct was something she typically followed, so white it was.

The entire pants suit was ballistic silk, thick with an almost sand silk quality to it, but supple and shimmery in the light of the lobby. Getting in hadn’t been that difficult, Nix offered help, but she preferred to do it herself. If she gave up on her Edgerunner skills, they might decay, and that was the quickest path to death in her mind.

Her top was sleeveless, and her shoulders were touched with a slight chill, but it would do no good to show it as Nix gave her the word that he had talked to the woman, so eyes would be on Eddie now. She stood when the elevator hummed to life, arms laced behind her back casually, left hand holding her right wrist, a faint smile frozen on her red painted lips and brows perked just enough to express openness and warmth on a wavelength distinctive to body language.

She thought back to Alice at seeing the chair, to highschool, to Pine Trees and the giggle fits of girls. The memory was brief, and so far away she had to remind herself that, yes, that had once long ago been her life. Very, very long ago.

“A source at NightCorp told me one of their best netrunners was on long term medical leave. Thought they might need some work. Given your merc-like history as a netrunner in the past, it inspired the idea you might want a job. This will be a very involved job, and last longer than the average kleptopunk gig…but the payment is ample, and in your case, unique. In addition to monetary, I offer information on where to find and how to access the digitized psyche of your paternal grandmother.”

Blunt cards on the proverbial table.

“I can give a few minutes, if you want to think it over,” through the entire speech, the smile remained frozen; neither diminishing, nor growing, so much as a shade on the ruby red painted and glossed lips of the Fixer. Never did she so much as move, or take her eyes off the woman’s line of sight.

And as it turned out, she thought…the doing of the meeting and proposal was, in fact, worse than the actual dread of doing it when she spoke to the client.

A few minutes…wow, that’s generous. Qiara mused, although said nothing for a few moments, as the woman’s words swirled around in her head, and the promise of information to her grandmother’s data could not be overlooked. How much did this person actually know? Maybe she had some ties to NightCorp, or perhaps has done contractual work for them in the past. Or maybe still is? The endless questions came at lightning speed, giving her neural implants a run for their money in the process, and causing a bit of anxiety to well up. But, the young woman simply smiled in response to the other who stood patiently awaiting.

“I accept.” She said rather flatly, surprising herself at such a prompt response to a job offer she barely knew anything about, but appealing to the curiosity within regardless. However, she needed some assurance of that carrot dangling from the string.

“Under one condition, though.” She caught herself biting her lip out of nervousness. Unsure if this was even the right time to ask. “Do you at least have a single shred of proof to your claims of information regarding Vivian Rhyne?” Eh, yeah, that sounded a lot less confrontational in her head. “I mean…I’d like to know that you’re good on your word, considering the key stipulation of this agreement weighs heavily on such information.”

“Alt Cunningham helped her escape to a Ghost City. I could tell you where, and you could be distracted trying to get to her yourself, but my contact is absolute beyond certain you’re not unlocking the right doors without being the best Netrunner there ever was, or will be…and I could really use you not distracted while my life and the lives of others will depend on you being at the very top of your game, so let’s just say you’re not getting to her without the map, the keys, and a little help.”

Eddie’s smile had vanished, a right eyebrow curiously perking above the left instead, “Fair?”

“Fair.”
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Apollosarcher
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"Hey Bea! Heard from Wakako you got yourself into the frying pan with the Tyger Claws while I was out of town. Maybe next time don't fuck with people who know where you live?" Teased Duston as he cruised across the desert having gotten in comms range about twenty minutes ago his first call was to 8ug8ear a good friend of his. As he listened to the Netrunner grumble a moment before giving her answer, Dusty reaching down adjust volume then pushing up into fourth gear as he watched the long straight road ahead.

The Clydesdale cruised onward hovering around eighty miles per hour as he looked around the rather interior of his supped up ride. The racing style wheel had the GPS up on it giving him directions as he rear camera's on the center console sweeping for any other cars or trucks sweeping from the cool low blue lights of the interior. His pistol sat in the side seat as the back seat had a massive freeze laid across filled with goodies from his folks up country. The low rumble of the engine mixing with the noises of the call as the two old friends caught up.

"You've missed a lot Rhodes, kinda for the better if you ask me. We've had a lot of shit go down in the city. Speaking of work, you're gonna have a hard time when you get back. Rogue's not running the show at Afterlife anymore, and the other fixers are all to their eyes in new Mercs. But you've got a talent and more importantly cred to back it, even if you are only a part time Solo." The Netrunner teased lounging as she spoke with him. "Speaking of loses... Jackie and T-bug didn't survive the shit that went down."

"Fuck... Well shit, I'll have to drop the steak by Mama Welles. I'm sure she'll make a meal worth me hauling it down for the guy, I know he always complained about not having real food..." Dusty tugged one of cigarettes out the pack setting it in his mouth then fighting the light which refused to spark. "Speaking of treats, I brought you a couple of whole chickens. Mom wanted to send me with a couple of live ones so you could have eggs. I shut that shit down quick, Netrunner's ain't got no business trying to raise chickens... Granted could also hook into the see how well it fried." He teased, thinking of the dangers of the Net as the sparker finally caught he was able to light his smoke.

"Yeah pretty sure apartment has a no pet rule... I thought about getting cat but... Worried it might go for my face while I'm on the job." She spoke sighing as she listened to the hum from his engine as Duston drove along. "What were you bringing T-Bug? Must be something good, you never had anything bad to say about her." She spoke with a fond memories of sitting around talking with Duston about his jobs, she enjoyed having a friend who didn't ask much about her work as he understood even less. Dusty was more hardware than soft, she appreciated he never pretended to know more than he did about Netrunning or software. "And how was working on the farm?"

"T-Bug? ...Coffee, I got a friend in Metacorp, got a real fresh coffee beans workaholic she is I figured she'd love to have some of the good stuff." He spoke softly taking a long drag ashes falling onto thick leather jacket, he didn't care much right now it was a lot to take in and it hurt to think some of the faces he'd hope to see wouldn't be there. "As for farm life... Herd got bigger, our statics have been doing a real bang up job. Harvest is looking real promising, we're hoping for a big one this year means if all goes well they won't need the money I'll be making and can save it up for next year or spend it on something... Maybe finally get myself a bike... Or new gun?" He spoke the usual first thing a Nomad thought about spending spare cash on.

"How about a new outfit? Maybe something from this century? You look like an cowboy flick Choom." 8ug8ear teased him as gave a laugh at her little taunting, she'd always complained about how much he stood out. He was always quick to point out Netrunner's didn't fair much better their bodysuits made them easy enough to spot even if they tried to cover them up. Taking a look out the window he sighed seeing dust clouds starting to approach from the rear.

"Listen, I got the data on my jobs and reports on them from NCPD an Corps as well. Push it to Claire an have her drop that to the fixers, remind'em just cause I'm part time don't mean I can't do a damn good job. I gotta cut our little chat short, Raffen coming up on my ass and I got put'er in gear and stand on it." He spoke as the vehicles began to form up. "I'll be in the city inside of six hours, let my favorite fixers know I'll take what they got to give legal or illegal. Also, don't go grabbing anymore Tygers by the tail Bea."

"Fine, fine. Don't let those Raffen Shiv ruin my food cow punk." She spoke as she hung up, Dusty finished his cigarette as they closed in about five hundred meters out now he exhaled the smoke through his nose as flicked the music on, something to focus on other than what he was gonna do to the Raffen. He could see it clearly, two trucks and three bikes Wraiths by the look of them looking for easy pickings, they wouldn't find it here. As the bikes moved in on him he reached down slowly, letting them creep up if he'd started to speed away they would have pulled guns. As they started to come along either side, he spun the wheel yank the brake as the car careened left hard swiping into the pair closing on either side smashing their bikes underneath as the armored plated hull of the Clydesdale smacked into the woefully prepared bikes.

Coming to a stop pointed at the remaining bike he released the brake, slamming it down into first the remaining reaching for his iron as the engine snarled like a horse about to charge. Slamming his foot down hard, rammed head on into the biker still who was fumbling with his SMG when he and the bike were sucked underneath the car as both trucks swerved stopping as the guys in back moved to hop out and take aim seeing their bikes had just dispatched so quickly. Before led could start flying Dusty tossed it into reverse as lowered the window yanking his lever gun off his back he leaned out. Letting lead fly as he kept the heavily armored front of his car pointed towards the now stopped trucking his foot pressed down hard as he tore away in reverse letting bullet clanking off the trucks and off his hood as he suddenly pulled back he yanked the wheel hard to the right.

The car spun around he slammed it down into first yet again roaring away, the trucks now lighter on personal began rip after him. Shutting the window he listened to the hollers and cries of the Wraith as he wound up the engine it screamed out a cry as the Clydesdale began zoom further and further along the horizon. Trucks were great for work and such, but sports cars with the right tuning could outrun them all day long, figuring the best thing to do was to sit up near top speed for an hour or two, make sure he was well beyond any of their friends up ahead.




"Howdy Jim! How's the wife and kids?" Duston spoke as the city bound cowboy took a seat in the in the darkened room of the border crossing agents inspection room. Sighing as he looked over Dusty returning yet again, smiling at him he couldn't help but offer him a hand to shake as James shook his head he really shouldn't get this chummy with a Nomad but here he fucking was again about to sit down and let him through. "Bet Maddie's shot up again an Daniel must be getting ready for high school?"

"They are doing fine, your paper work is in order just checking to see if you had any items you hadn't declared." He asked with a knowingly raising an eyebrow as he turned the light to face more own towards the table. A large and sizeable bottle was placed on the table, as Duston grinned happily at him. Proper whiskey, Firewater as it came to be known among Nomad clans it wasn't some swill you could get in a bar you had to know someone and that meant the bottles had value. Especially from the better brewers, fortunately for James Dusty's Clan were pretty damn good brewers.

"Well if that's you were carrying excess and it is a gift... I think you can head on through." The customs officers smiled shaking his head before adding. "And Dusty? Don't cause any fucking trouble, I don't need anyone wondering why I am always on shift when I see your name go through processing." He spoke turning around heading to lock up his prize as he stretched a moment, while the Cowboy picked up his guns he watched the custom car head on out into night city a couple more bottles of this stuff sold in the right place would put his kids through college. That was worth letting one friendly Nomad through once and awhile... Right?

As the Clydesdale made it's way into the city, Duston found himself in traffic so he lit up a smoke and leaned back taking a long deep breath. "Never gonna be home... But damn is it hard to quit you gorgeous." He spoke looking up the neon lights and metallic gleam of Night City smiling to himself. He programmed in his stops first go see Wakako, then over to Afterlife for a couple of drinks maybe pass out in one of the backrooms. Finally head over to see Mama Welles, then to his place across the bridge from Heywood in Pacifica, get the place spruced up chase off any squatters. After that get ready for work call around about jobs and Netrunner, anyone working without getting chipped needed a damn good Netrunner watching them, plenty a person with human eyes couldn't see these days.
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Ruby
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The cigarette lit in a brief orange blaze of butane lighter as she shouldered her way through the threshold of the Jig-Jig Street NCART platform. The immediate exhale was the heaviest and freshest of the entire cigarette; it was pure fire and chemically laced tobacco. The chemicals were largely filtered by her internalized systems, and the tobacco was one of the few things Sora found herself grateful about regarding NUSA's existence. A few looks were tossed in her direction, but she had waited until she was outside the designated no-smoking section of the platform and surrounding station itself--so the looks bothered her as little as ants passing in front of her as she walked in the direction of the market.

The main drag of the market changed, over time, but not enough. Though the names of the businesses changed, their purposes hadn't since she spent more time than she would have liked in the area as Danger Girl duties had required her. Being back in Night City was a nuisance, but at least it was the familiar kind of nuisance. The irritants weren't fresh and mysterious, even the signage was largely the same; blue and pink hearts, BD lounges, Joytoys in cramped, tiny sex clubs, and rent by the hour 'hotels' there were little more than fuck cubbies stained with sweat and blood and cum. A Joytoy tried to approach, but Sora's vision stayed transfixed, the thousand-yard gaze that saw through and past people, not at them. Even the vocally aggressive were walked past like they didn't matter.

The ground was cracked painted cement, the walls of the market seeming to lean overhead, like they might just collapse in on it all, as signs and cables and unofficial and unapproved add-ons to buildings were crowded into an already claustrophobic location. The pachinko parlor was still passed the slurp shop, now manned by a different cook than she recalled, around the corner, over the foot bridge spanning the small drainage ditch now protected by a metallic grating, and across from a window front of black mannequins modeling bondage suits and strap-ons. A plastic red chair was just outside the door, the same beat up old public terminal that had been there the last time Sora was still on the other side of the doorway.

It was in a back corner of Jig-Jig Market, the other buildings alongside it had no entrance, not that they needed to be--they were all just extensions of the same pachinko parlor. They were all property of the 'Fixer' that Sora had come to see: Wakako Okada. Okada had been wary around her even back during the Danger Girl days, but that had more to do with the connective tissue between Danger Girl and Arasaka, of which there had been precious few, than anything Sora had done...until one of the Danger Girl clients complaints led to the doorstep of one of Okada's sons. The favor Sora had done for the old woman, even then, hadn't gone forgotten by either party. The son still lived, still thrived in their little gang.

Sora had simply satisfied the client's thirst for revenge and need for safety in other words, with the blood of others, and a simple warning to Okada's involved son.

Even in the height of the afternoon the interior of the pachinko parlor was dark, moody, as if the negative energy of the past and current deeds of it's proprietress infected the very air of the place. The sounds were classic pachinko, and like every classic pachinko parlor Sora had ever been in, including the ones she would cut through as short-cuts on her walk home from school as a teen schoolgirl, were heavy with cigarette smoke with walls yellowed by it. Sora hadn't begun smoking cigarettes then, but even now she could smell it's toxic light-grey suffocation like she was still the same fresh-faced teenage schoolgirl from her past.

These walls were metallic, hued blue with neon, the floor black and white checkered tile also shaded blue with the blue neon strip under the gaming counter at the back of the parlor, under a wide advertisement screen, manned by a Tyger Claw. Sora never seemed to look at him, but she noted every line on his face, the way he favored his left side, the likelihood of which weapons he had on him, and a general guesstimate on just how capable he was as a combatant. Instead she stopped at an empty machine between two glass walls separating the empty machine from two occupied machines, and reached into her blazer pocket to retrieve some tokens she still had from the parlor dating back to her last visit, black spots of dried blood still on the token from that last visit.

She played the rigged game for a few minutes before the man behind the gaming counter disappeared. He needed to because the cameras got nothing but a dark blue from Sora's image. Where some optics blurred faces with surveillance blocking lenses, Sora's cyberware went farther, on more technical levels. She might as well had been a blurry wraith to optical surveillance systems. Sora began the count the moment the man behind the counter disappeared. He came back to his seat behind the counter after four minutes and eleven seconds.

The old woman wasted no time. The man behind the counter announced the parlor would close in five minutes. There was a sound of discontent by an old spotted man, but the rest of those at the machines just gathered their tokens, and left then and there. They knew the reputation of the parlor, and weren't going to end up dead because of Tyger Claw business. Sora stayed where she was, never looking up. Just token, game buttons, and wait for the screen to give her the cheated result of the loss. Sora got a win, just to keep her on the line, shortly before the five minute mark hit and the man behind the counter saw the last patron out, and locked the door behind them.

The old woman had been standing in the back doorway for a few minutes, staring a hole at the Arasaka operative.

"Sora Hayami. How is it you haven't aged a day in thirty years?"

Sora's response was no more than a shrug. After the win, she was straight back to back consecutive losses. She allowed a small sigh, putting the cigarette out on the cheap little aluminum ashtray that sat on the machine near it's buttons. "Your games are still rigged."

"They most certainly are not."

Sora stopped, and her head finally turned towards the woman, "I'm doing the math in my head with each turn, Okada. You never did know when not to lie to me." When she moved her body on the padded synth-leather stool, updated since the last time Sora was here, to follow her head in facing the old woman, the man behind the counter now standing sentinel at the front door tensed. The old Fixer shot him a look, Sora smirked.

"You can leave, Ryuin. She'd kill us both without breaking a sweat if she was here for that."

He left, but Sora didn't move, "Who says I won't?"

"Why would you?"

Sora's head nodded, her eyes dropped, and a deeper kind of sigh slipping past her lips, "Wakako, did you think we wouldn't know? Takemura. V. Hanako was kidnapped because of you."

The old Fixer remained steel-faced, stubborn, emotionless. "I can't say I know what you mean, Sora."

"I see your anger towards us never waivered...where's the sword?"

The old Fixer shrugged, "Not here. I gave it away a while ago."

Some of part of what Wakako said wasn't true, Sora was sure of it, but somehow Sora doubted the part about the sword being gone wasn't a lie; that was just how Sora's luck had been with good blades lately. "That's a shame. I liked that sword."

"If you're here to kill me, th--"

"--don't, don't do that," it wasn't anger, it wasn't a reaction of pride, it was...boredom. Sora was just plain tired of the same old dances, the same old dares, the same old attitudes. "Where is she, Wakako?"

The Fixer was, as far as Sora could tell, genuinely confused, "Who?"

"I know she's in town. I know she's active, in some way, and I will tear this city apart down to the irradiated bedrock to find her. So, Okada..."

"...I really don't k--"

Sora's eyes dropped, her eyelids shutting hard, tight, angry. Her fists shook so hard Sora didn't even realize they were clinched until she pushed off the pachinko machine she sat at and stood, unclenching her fists and regaining her composure. "Fine. You don't know enough to know, I'm honestly a little disappointed. So then let's discuss this betrayal."

"I am not an Arasaka pawn, Sora."

"Your precious children are, all of the little Tyger kittens. Should I go visit them, instead?"

The hidden anger filled the creases and wrinkles and spots of the old woman's face at the threat to her children, and grandchildren. Sora hadn't threatened her grandchildren, but Wakako knew the danger Sora Hayami represented better than most. "Do not bring them into this. I did what Fixers do, would you murder every person who touched anything V touched?"

"I would burn the city just to watch it burn, Okada, and you know this."

Wakako's head tilted right, then left, as her mind worked over the problem before her. "I did what I had to do, Takemura represented a connection I could not ignore cultivating, and V...a Fixer that neglects opportunities to put top Mercs in their debt are not successful Fixers for long, Sora, I know you do not understand this world. If I had the sword, I would give it to you, but I do not. When you were operating out of Night City last, you had an associate named Jonathan. A Nomad."

This time, it was Sora's turn to look slightly confused. "I remember. I liked him. He didn't die because of me."

Wakako let out a low breath, something close to frustration, her old slender shoulders deflating, "I don't mean to suggest you did, last I heard he had children and ran away with the Aldecaldos. This was months ago. I mean to suggest, however, that there is another Nomad that recently came looking for work. His name is Dusty. Perhaps history repeats itself in this case? If I recall, that is how you met Jonathan."

Sora's face had lost all the life and passion it had held when demanding an answer on Etta Autry. The former spy and lover was in Night City, but Wakako didn't know anything that could help with the limited information Sora had on the subject. Instead she just looked bored again, retrieving the lighter and a cigarette, putting the cigarette butt between her lips and staring at Wakako as she sparked the light, and took the first, freshest, drag to light the cigarette and start the smoke.

"How do you look like you haven't aged in thirty years and yet smoke those things? I had to give them up decades ago."

Sora never answered, just pocketed the lighter in the same blazer front pocket the tokens were retrieved from, and exhaled a tendril of pale gray cigarette smoke in the blue and pink neon tinted darkly lit parlor. "Sure, Okada, send me the Nomad. Why not. Betray Arasaka like that again, threaten the safety of Michiko, and, well...you know exactly what I'll do."
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Connie couldn’t tell whether it was day or night by the time she made it back to her apartment unit safely. Evenings and mornings were blended together for TTI medics until they became one and the same. Only a schedule of mandated corpo melatonin formulas and caffeine allowed her to maintain the inhuman circadian cycle required for a TTI operative. Without her corporate pills, Connie’s body ached and screamed, every muscle pleading with her to go to sleep. Her heart pounded like a drum in her head and her bones were jelly. Only pure spite towards Regina’s sympathy kept her awake as she walked in the hallways of the sparse Mega-Building. The vendors were busy wheeling away their carts to take a rest before tomorrow’s hustle and a couple of reefers were puffing out hoops in an abandoned ice rink. Her heavy footsteps echoed through the concrete halls as she tried to recollect her apartment number.

Was it 876…..892…..no, I think it was…..

Her fingers pawed the biometric sensors of a door and it slid open. Stumbling into her room, her sleep-deprivation and punch-drunk state combined to form a potent clumsy cocktail as her hips slammed into the countertop. Bottles of synthol fell onto the ground with dull clinks as she navigated her way through sheer instinct to the bathroom. Her apartment had been a mess ever since she moved in. Bullet shells and cigarette butts were scattered like ants on the apartment floor, her boots crunching them underfoot as she strode forth.

As she splashed warm water on her face, she could already hear ma ma telling her how unclean her room was. How she wasn’t eating enough. That she needed to find a real corpo job instead of working as some back alley mercenary. She guffawed at the thought. If only she saw what being a TT medic really was like. Some merc jobs were easily more stomached than the type of grisly shit she heard employees pulled in companies like Biotechnica or Militech. Her naive self made the mistake of thinking that TTI was different and where did it get her now? Living from contract to contract in a shitty overpriced apartment was hardly the ideal of the American Dream that every newscaster seemed to hump to.

The TT uniform was off in a series of swift practiced motions as she shimmied out of it. With both her hands on the rim of the sink, Connie looked at herself. A stitch of bruises ran up her belly up to the middle of her breasts. Her fingers traced a tiny one, dark and purple, over her heart. The tenderness brought back the memory of how she earned that one five days agao, when a Tsunami nekomata nearly cored through her upper lung. The ablative kevlar plate on her uniform managed to deflect it.Her mind continued to fill in the blanks, as she opened the mirror cupboard. She ignored the sharp peaks of stinging pain as she sutured back in a stitch that she had torn open during her fight on the train.

Possible subdural hematoma…….bruising for five days……….superficial frontal cuts……..sprained wrist…..all in all, not bad, Connie

The in-built receiver in her mirror began to ring quietly. Connie recognized the number. Her fingers hovered briefly over the green ‘ACCEPT’ button, unsure, before pressing it.

“ Mom.”

“ Hui Liang….” Her mother’s pursed countenance could be heard through the receiver. Her voice carried a sharp edge to it as she continued speaking. “ ……Are you well?”

“ Yeah,” Connie lied, grinding her teeth to muffle the yelp of pain as she pulled a shard of glass out of her shoulder. “ ….Sorry if I haven’t called you enough. I’ve been busy at work -”

“ Connie, Frank told me about today. How could you not tell me that you’ve been fired from Trauma Team International for six months!”

“ It’s not like I was fired. I was…” Connie stumbled as she searched for the exact bullshit excuse her supervisor told her. “....put on reserve.”

“ And getting involved with the underworld of Night City? We raised you to be a responsible, law abiding individual, not associate yourself with brigands and hooligans - “

“ Well, I’m dealing with it. O-” Connie yelped as she applied too much pressure on a shell she was pulling out.

“ What was that?”

“ Nothing. Nothing.” Connie palmed one hand over her eye in frustration before replying back. “ Is there anything else you’re here to complain about, ma ma?”

“ It’s your father, Hui Liang.” The softness in her mother’s voice made her skin tingle in fear of the next words.

“ He’s dead.”
Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Ruby
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"Start from the top," Eddie sighed, the Crypt ran cold and heavy with the scent of and smoke of sage, the hot black coffee in the black and bronze cup steaming as she took another sip. Of the four present, only Nix was at the main monitor, datapad in hand. With a flick of his wrist, they indeed started, Crispin and Dino settled in the center of the room on stools. Eddie stood, leaning her ass against the edge of what had once been used as an autopsy table.

The woman's image came up, first; her last official headshots for Trauma Team identification, as well as video captures from all over town. "First up, Connie Zhu. Her official status with Trauma Team is a bit murky, but it seems they've moved on and are just processing the departure according to their stricter than most corporate guidelines for termination. Father recently died, mother still alive, lives in a MegaBuilding. Seems to be in something of a spiral going off recent vid captures, but she is capable."

"She doesn't know we're watching her?"

Nix's mouth tightened as his head gave a quick shake to Dino's question. "No, she is one of the ones on this list that Eddie has not reached out to. But it's fair to say she needs the money and the resources. If accepted to this job, Eddie can make sure she gets every last bit of resources Trauma Team has cut her off from back into her life. That, plus the overwhelming financial reward, seems a good bet. Whether she's a team player, not my department, that's all you, Ed."

Eddie sipped at the black coffee with a touch of synthhoney, and shrugged.

"Right. Next up: John Brown." Brown's image came up, as well as a picture of a recent kill from a vid capture and a picture of the man looking downright peaceful in a diner. "A Militech trained killer, no other way to put this. No longer works with them, and it wasn't the most ideal of separations. This is a blunt instrument who may very well enjoy the Armory the job provides. He's an insight into Militech, and that's helpful enough, although Eddie has her Militech moles. Couldn't hurt. This seems black and white; Brown digs cash for kills, and we offer both the kills and more cash than anyone else. Record suggests a decent team player. Also, Dino, another one we haven't reached out to yet."

"That's you, Dino, if you don't mind?" Eddie asked, eyes shooting over to the other resident Afterlife Fixer.

Dino gave a wry crooked lips smile, and nodded with arms crossed over his chest, "Yep, I got you, I'll reach out to both and tell them job of the lifetime, come to Afterlife at such-and-such time."

"These two Eddie's worked with before, John Valentine and Abby Etienne. These also two work as a team, and frequent a Ripperdoc we know well enough in Straid."

"I asked him," the large Solo with the ocular cyberware broke in with his light accent, Crispin Weyland, interjected, "Says they're likely to agree and they're pretty good. Wanted to tell me why they'd be good for Afterlife, I said nothing more."

Dino chuckled, "Professional to a fault, Squama."

"I can see why he pushes them," Eddie said before another sip, her eyes on Nix. Nix brought up their images, although there was some hesitation in the man as he redistributed his weight between feet and brought in air with a heavy sound.

"Yeah, well, Etienne is slightly concerning despite your endorsement. Might be V.B. connections, Valentine is another former Trauma Team with Euro military experience beyond that. I did talk to your guy from Brussels, Eddie, and the military service was good. Seemed Trauma Team was a stake out for a different kind of life because of a wife and wanting a family...obviously that worked out for shit, but he's got skill if you're saying so, and Etienne is legit good in a number of facets, so that's a positive."

"Couple?"

Nix shrugged at Dinovic's question. "I dunno, hard to tell in this city, especially among Mercs who's an output, but I wouldn't rule it out. Think that overcomplicates it?"

Dino's answer was to turn his head, and look at Eddie.

Blue eyes widened, and Eddie smiled into her coffee for a second, her voice sounding the slight amusement she felt, "No. If their Ripperdoc is hyping them for an Afterlife gig, and if I didn't notice a problem before, I just have to doubt it will become one. People like to talk about that kind of thing," and she knew it, too, as word had gotten around about Etta and James, married Mercs that complicated their hiring status to far too many corpo Euro fixers at the time. "So yeah, I'll send them a message. The others are like these two, we've all met?"

"Yep," Nix brought up images for Conrad, Silvain, Qiara, and Mac. "Let's start with the Netrunner. She's corpo, NightCorp. Why they put her on the open market like they have, I don't know. She's paranoid, she's careful, she hates all of us before she's even met us--"

"--but I'm so charming--"

"--and she doesn't give a shit, Dino. But, and I say this with some expertise in the field, she's very good at the sort of deep Netrunning you'll want her to do. She uses other tricks to be present, but her physical situation...she's be a holo-presence, a ghost in their machines, and not much else. That's probably not a bad thing. Silvain is a tech and I'm...actually impressed with their work."

To a solo of renown like Crispin Weyland, what mattered more was, "Do they fight?"

"No idea. Eddie?"

She shrugged, "Is 'Bluejay' a solo like you, Squama? No. Can they handle some fireteam work if they're mixed in with some of the others? Yeah."

The dark skinned solo seemed less than warmed by the information, but it didn't stop Nix from rolling on, "Conrad. NetWatch. Fuck that, but Eddie...well. We all witnessed the madness of a Blue Glass job interview, didn't we? Claire mentioned he held himself pretty well considering Emmerick had to help him up the stairs, and he never noticed you left the table? Wow. Skilled, comes with a reference we've discussed before, and Eddie seems confident in him. A frontline, in the shit, Runner to go along with the deeper system attacks and monitoring of Qiara. It's actually a pretty good team if it works out. The last one..."

"Yeah," Eddie put the now empty coffee cup down, "former Clan, Euro military of a sort, prison. Turns out that blank spot in his timeline was time spent with a group that were Raffen Shiv. Not true Wraiths, but a group that started very much going down that line. There is a location in Rancho, there is someone present in their life, though I didn't pry that much, and it seems they bounced on the Shiv when they realized the kind of group they really were."

"Just curious, Fixer to Fixer, what about the Sixth Street 'Fixer' who sent him on your job?"

Eddie just snickered, "He, uh...he won't be doing anymore jobs in an area that isn't directly Sixth Street controlled anymore."

Dino's eyes widened, lips curled at the corners, head nodded, tone sounding as surprised as his face looked, "Interesting. I'm just shocked he can still offer any jobs after you visited him. Sure on this guy? He seems like a lightweight."

"Maybe he is, maybe he's seen more shit in Europe than we can quantify here in the Afterlife. Maybe it's just a gut feeling on my part, either way, he's in. I'll send him a message, Dino. Tonight, 10PM? Right here, in the Crypt? Have Emmerick and Claire tell them to head down as they arrive?"

"Sounds good. Need any thing concerning this?"

"No, thank you, Dino."

The Fixer tipped an invisible cap, stood from the stool, and made his way out. Once the door closed, Nix's discomfort came forward. "I've looked at the details on this job, I poked around a little at this warehouse we've got setup for it...this some serious fucking shit, Eddie. Rogue never touched anything like this. I know Crispin is stone cold, hell he stormed Arasaka with Rogue and V, I KNOW he's batshit insane. Are you sure about this? You know exactly what you're getting into? What they're getting into?"

There was no hesitation, no pause for thought, nothing but a stare from the blue eyes of the Fixer. "Yeah, Nix. I appreciate what you've done, and I'm not cutting you out of it. Qiara and Conrad aren't as trusted as you, I'll still need you in support just like I will Crispin. Just like I will the Nomad, and the Yakuza. Rogue didn't do something like this, but she stormed Arasaka on little more than a whim. This is planned, we're being careful as we can be, and if it blows up, then it blows up on all of Night City, not just the Afterlife. Dino went to make the calls, I'm gonna send messages to the rest. Be here at 10. You will, the both of you, make enough money to buy your own Afterlife after this so long as nothing fucks this up, so let's not fuck this up, chooms."

And me, she thought, I'll buy a chance to escape.
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"Do you think he's a mole?..." For some reason, a reason she would never understand, the young woman lowered her voice to a whisper and leaned closer to her from the leather chair adjacent to the couch, "they do that kind of thing? They do, right?"

The young woman once too scared to do much more than apologize for nothing the first time they met was now sharing thoughts of espionage and conspiracies of the streets and the Corps that towered over them. Sora's response was a loud, loud, draw on a straw from a suddenly empty cup and the kind of look that could make Enstein feel like a fucking idiot.

"No, I don't think he's a mole. Would Wakako Okada try to plant a mole on me using an edgerunner of her own recommendation?"

Suddenly Emily looked less certain, withdrawing the few inches she had leaned forward just moments ago. "I guess not?...but like, why not?"

"You do know I'm more lethal than an entire small army of armed men, right?"

Emily's dark blonde brows furrowed, and her back shot up in straight-edged posture. "Are you serious?"

"Oh, yeah."

Sora didn't have to look to see the complex math going on in the blonde's pale green eyes. Am I safe? Just how dangerous is more dangerous than a 'small army of armed men'? She wouldn't hurt me, right? She'd just fire me, right? "You're safe, Emily. You're amusing, you're well meaning, relatively bright, and I like the way you look from behind when you bend at the waist." The young woman's face went from relief to shock and an uncertainty about the words she'd just heard in the beat of a heart, but Sora ignored it, stomping right past the moment, "If Wakako wanted to set a mole, she wouldn't be so obvious. Because obvious would be easily seen through and exposed, which would just make me angry, and after the warning I gave her...there's a reason the woman has outlasted every husband she's ever had, and it's not dumb luck."

"That makes sense. So this guy...this," Emily shot a look down at the datapad with a tilted look, "...Duston Rhodes...wow, Dusty Roads. If ever there was a Nomad name, right?"

Sora blinked, paused, and looked up at Emily as blank as an empty wall. "...huh, yeah."

The young woman blushed, even if for only a beat, "Not a mole? Can he be trusted?"

"I don't even trust you, why would I trust him?"

There was unexplained silence as Sora looked back down at the spreadsheets she studied, she didn't expect Emily to just stare at her in silence. "You can, you know? If you're that dangerous, that means being the only person in this building this close to you, I'm in some vague level of danger? That's fine. I accept that. You've already done more for me than anyone else in this company, ever, so you can trust me." But when the depth of emotion in the young woman's voice came through, Sora looked back up, but she wasn't done. Her green eyes danced, anxious, uneasy, up and down and back to Sora's brown-black eyes. "Do you have me followed?"

"No. I followed you last night. I stalked you the day before I approached you. I've been inside your apartment."

It hit Emily by surprise, but she didn't look shocked. She didn't look scared. Her green eyes just stared at Sora's with a new found intensity. "You can trust me. I don't have anything to hide...did you stalk him?"

"Rhodes?"

"Yes."

Sora's head gave a casual, little shake, as she unfolded her legs from underneath her body on the large leather couch and gave a lazy stretch in full black and white suit, long black hair reflecting the ambient light of the office, "No. I just found out about him. Nomads aren't office workers. I saw his car, I saw him, from vid footage stolen from NCPD servers. He's done it all, the legal, illegal, even driven celebs around. He moves around a lot. Seeing old contacts, getting his face seen, looking for work."

"Why wouldn't he want to work for you? I mean, you're both Arasaka and a big deal in Arasaka?...also what celebs?"

Her palms rested flat on the small of her back, and lightly pushed, the sound of a few pops and cracks sounding loud in the side lounge of the office. Again, Sora felt herself shrug. "He probably will, even the danger I represent is less important than a high level Arasaka contact for a 'Family' man. That kind of contact is worth more than Eddies to a Nomad family. He likely didn't find out it was an option until I had Wakako send him the message, and had you send the follow up appointment request to his phone. And...I don't know, the famous kind?"

"Is he dangerous?"

Sora's eyes narrowed, just a little, as her head tilted down and looked at the young woman. A hard, analytical, look. "He's an edgerunner. Yes, he's dangerous. Is he as dangerous as I am? No. Highly, highly doubtful."

Emily looked less than sure in that moment, pale green eyes flickering down, and back up again at Sora's applied gaze. "Do you like hurting people?"

"...sometimes," she said gently, lips in a faint warm smile.

Emily moved on quickly, tucking a strand of darkened blonde hair behind her ear, and going right back into the serious office worker, "I looked up the other name. James Vander...heiden, hayden? It's a hard name to pronounce--"

"--Vander-HYE-den."

Emily stared up again, the expression writ plain across her high glossed and artfully make-up applied face: Oh. You're kidding me. The tone wasn't quite as heavy as the look, some level of fear of Sora or unease about offering any real amount of sass to her new boss kept the young woman holding back, but there was enough trace elements to recognize, "So you've heard the name before. Yeah, him. So he's Canadian, or, well, was. He's dead."

"I knew he was dead, some people blame me for killing him."

"Did you?"

Sora sighed, deeply, as she retreated from the lounge section of the office back towards the office. Back towards the pack of cigarettes. With a light and a deep inhale, and lighter exhale, Sora's voice deepened from cigarette smoke finally voiced, "Depends. It was a rapid deteriorating orbit for both of us. Had I not been chasing, he wouldn't have died. Had they been better, had a little more luck, they would have survived. The other one survived, though I never did find her by the time I woke up after splash down. So was it my fault?" The sigh, this time, was much smaller and hidden in the act of the exhale of smoke, "Depends who you ask."

"...so, Canadian, worked for PetroChem as a Special Operator. Security. His record is pretty impressive. He disappeared from Canada, though he was still an active employee at that time. No real explanation as to what happened, Intel thinks it was inter-PetroChem politics he ran from. Shows up in Europe as a mercenary. There's a German marriage license, some work in Russia, then Europe again and shortly after that he's placed on an Arasaka-Europe watch list. I'm guessing that's when you come in?"

"Shortly after, but more-or-less. Any family?"

"None alive."

That, Sora thought, was deeply disappointing. "The other name?"

"The Republic of Texas responded with a non-response. I did like you said and used your clearance level to push them, but the Republic of Texas--"

"--doesn't care, yeah. Go figure, a bunch of Texans are the most stubborn and independent minded government left on the planet. They make Neo-Soviets look open-fisted, and make the Chinese seem trusted. Did they at least acknowledge the existence?"

"Uh...I have it, here," Emily shuffled a few datapads, and picked up her phone to read the screen, "they said, 'The Republic of Texas Attorney General's Office cannot comment on any entities, operations, or subjects that may, or may not be, included in the records sealed under the Sealed Records Act, Republic of Texas Congress. We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause our Arasaka friends."

"She exists, but we can't say she exists, and we can't say she exists because all facets of her existence have been sealed and classified. Great. But, hey, they called us pals. Cool. Thanks for trying, anyway...he's here."

Emily stood up, confused, "Can you...see through the door, or...nevermind. Should I go?"

"Yeah, invite him in."

Emily's heels were the only sound in the office as she walked across at a hurried clip, reaching the heavy office doors and slipping her slender frame in between door and frame so she minimized how much of the office was viewed as she exited. The blonde with the shoulder length, straight, salon styled dark blonde hair and the salon styled makeup in the white synthsilk blouse and leather black skirt, with black stockings and heels to match, smiled at the security escort before looking up at the man's face.

"Mr. Rhodes? Go ahead in."

She held the door open, and closed it behind him, as Sora leaned back against the front of her desk, staring at him, one arm over her chest, the other bringing the cigarette to her lips for another heavy drag, the modified Techtronika SPT32 Grad Power Sniper Rifle laid across the desk next to a cup of tea, a pack of cigarettes, a lighter, a computer terminal, and a few sheathed katanas.

Night City dazzled behind her, the entire back wall of the highly positioned office in Arasaka Tower floor-to-ceiling windows with an impressive view. She was little more than a silhouette with a tiny orange cigarette glowed face between his eyes, and the view.

"Hello, Mr. Rhodes. I trust you enjoyed the walk up." It was a rare thing, a walk from the front door of Arasaka Tower to the Senior Executive Level office suites. Few edgerunners had ever made the walk, the last one? V, maybe. "I seek a driver that I don't need to watch over my back around, which excludes everyone else that works in this building. Interested?"

Duston had just finishing rolling his own cigarette in the hallway. He hadn't been their long the call had come after he'd finished dropping off his smuggled goods. Cute little thing stepped out as the tall and well muscled Merc lit it before he stepped in.

Following towards the view he took a breath looking over the city. He couldn't understand how people saw this as beautiful. "If you want exclusive around the clock service its a heavy contract. But, it comes with the best driver and service next to Delamain. I don't talk about my clients work and I do all the service and technical work on the vehicles myself." He explained tipping the stetson to look into her eyes directly.

"Impressive rifle by the way... Now before we hash out our contract. You ask what you need from me. I know you did your homework, suits always do. But you ain't all corpo so you ask me the things that a file can't tell you. I'll give you that brutal Nomad honesty were all known for." He was to the point and focused, a small smile on his lips as smoke trailed out with it. Fresh real tobacco scent too as he leaned against the wall not sitting.

He cut a clean figure, a deep brown duster hung over a flannel button up shirt and a pair of white washed blue jeans. On his head a stetson of similar deep brown like that of fresh soil. "So basics, Contract, details, and all stay secret... I work for you, not Arasaka." He made the distinction himself which meant he knew something about her at least. He'd done homework too it seemed, even if he didn't have her resources.

"So... How long’s the gig and what all do I need to plan for? Picking you up in mornings? Safe houses? Gunfights? I gotta know to plan for expenses." He spoke after the assistant had left finally moving to sit.

"Have you ever fought a top tier Arasaka Ninja?"

"Top tier? No. I don't deal in 'big leagues' affairs. I move things, I do odd jobs between farm work, and I don't piss off people who got armies under their command. As for if I've gone up against more than common Arasaka goons. Yes. I'll leave it at that, I don't know what separates one ninja from another. So I can't comment on your definition." He reached into his jacket producing a flask taking a long drink.

"That a problem?"

"We're in true hell when the Nomads start litigating meanings and side-stepping questions. You're not from Texas, are you?" She flicked the cigarette after the wry joke, grey ash fluttering to the pristine waxed and treated maple hardwood floor. "Fair enough…gun fights? Maybe. Picking me up in the morning?"

Sora chuckled with her next exhale, entirely amused by the mental image. "My schedule isn't so standard. How long is the gig? Until my job is done, or I'm done with you, whichever comes first. The pay is sensational. You'd be a body man; whatever odd request. Mostly driving, waiting. I used a Nomad for this last time I was in town. Aldecaldo. Wakako recommended you because she arranged the odd marriage that was between that Aldecaldo and myself," and because she was trying to save her life. "I'm odd for a Corpo. I prefer to work outside the established procedure and policies of the corporate culture, but my job is my priority…I wouldn't recommend interfering with my function. Any more questions? Or do you want to tell me your special retainer fee now so we can get going?"

"Right, well two things. One my ride isn't gunned up, its armored so shooting starts we aren't focusing on shooting back. Two, no I'm from a traveling clan range across the Northeast to Midwest, sometimes further out. Texas isn't really my thing..." He spoke sitting on the table looking over at her again.

"If you wanna get to work I'm on the clock when you need. But I am more than a driver, not saying you need it but I can help anyway you need. Your paying I'm working however you want letter of the contract doesn't mean I stop." A Merc with a work ethic a strange thing but not bad. "That said, if things get crazy I'll stay with ya but I will speak my mind. You're the boss but I ain't the quiet type." He explained letting his ashes fall of his duster from his cig.

"Other than that happy to work. You seem like a right peach for a corpo killer." Chuckled Dusty as reached into his jacket for a flask.

"Let's pay Little China a visit, then, I've got a medical appointment that needs keeping."
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