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Zeroth Post
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Zeroth
n e o - b a b y l o n :

s i n , s l e a z e ,

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t h e d e s o l a t i o n o f s o u l s


s e a t t l e , 2 0 5 0


シアトル
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The year is 2050. To some, Seattle is a paradise of free love, free money, and all the useless gizmo-tech that can be integrated into your smart condominium. To the rest, its a slum littered with excrement, used needles, and used condoms, washed away only by the perpetual rain. Unfortunately, the human filth never washes away into the sea. They are broke, lonely humans, working dead-end jobs for a boss that hates them, pushing them closer and closer to the edge every day, while the rich glutton in every pleasure of the flesh, every vice, and every bad thing that makes life feel good is catered to. With a simple “Alexa, order me the usual,” and he gets whatever his heart desires, delivered by drone, to his hole-in-the-wall coffin.


i n f o r m a t i o n













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C H A P T E R O N E T H E H U N T
__________________________________________________________
狩猟

f r i d a y
j a n u a r y 2 5 t h , 2 0 5 0


Good morning. The sun isn't shining, but you're awake. It's just below freezing, which means you had better wear a jacket. There's a charity luncheon downtown, if you're a Netter or someone accompanying a Netter. Or, Maybe you found a different way to be invited. Actually, maybe you aren't going at all because you've got better fish to fry 'cause you seriously can't pay. Also, in this congested city, there's way more happening then just a charity luncheon. But, in all honesty, it doesn't really matter because tonight is the night you've been waiting for, whether its for that ~fab-u-lous~ hook-up, just getting away from your trash bin of a job, making a downpayment on your new augmentation, or you're finally going to tell your boss you want a raise. Maybe its none of those, but whatever it is, it just feels like its going to be your night.


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N E K T A R I O S F I O N N & A D A M C R E L L
________________________________________________________________________________


Time: 4:30 AM - 5:30 AM
Location: Adam & Nektarios' Apartment, Boren Street
Interactions: Adam, Nektarios, Inu-tan, Tamago-tan, Annie's Secretary
Mentions: None
Equipment: N/A



" O n i i i i i - c h a a a a n ! ”


“It's time to wake up! You're gonna be late for wooooork!"
Standing above the scared man with lifeless eyes was a girl in a bright white and blue schoolgirl uniform. She had floppy dog ears and making puppy eyes at him, as usual.

"Alright Inu-tan. I'm up, I'm up!" The man was floating in a black, featureless room. he simply re-orientated himself to be standing. Inu-tan took out a little tablet and filled the walls with holographic screens. She rattled off the usual.

"You have five new messages! One from your boss and... the rest are ads, sorry. Today's going to be a freezing 35 degrees Fahrenheit, Pweaaase wear a jacket today! The time is currently 0430AM" Adam Crell preferred to sleep in the wired. His brain operated faster here, and the only noise was the kind he invited. Here, there was no outer world, just him, and his personal assistant/sister/daughter. Well worth the three months of pay he needed to save for her. After tending to his morning business, he jacked out.

Now he found himself back into meatspace, and in his meat. He slept in a military surplus Rigger Cocoon. Meant for drone operators who jacked into their drones directly. It was a bulletproof shell, a Faraday cage, and sensory deprivation tank all in one. With a satisfying woosh, the hermetic seal was broken, revealing a shabby, 500 square foot studio apartment. It was a coffin with only a single window looking at nothing, but it was... a place to rest your meat.

After Adam got reacquainted with the flesh, a the wolf girl stood besides him in augmented reality, now wearing yoga pants, a loose hoodie, and a whistle around her neck only he could hear. "Shake the atrophy away! You'll need to be in peak physical condition if you wanna protect that dragon lady! Hup-to! Hup-to! And so they begun their morning calisthenics. Adam suppressed his breathing as to not wake his only friend Nektarios up, but in the parallel world of AR, his now instructor and workout buddy could cheer him through the pain and exertion.

The mind and body duality imposed by being Combat Rigger was always tempting him to leave his body behind. The feeling of becoming the machine he was piloting, and being able to send your mind everywhere at once was more addicting than nova-coke for him. If he didn't have someone reminding him that he still had a corporeal form, he would have died long ago.

In the meantime, something a little bit different than that of his best friend's alarm style, Nektarios' morning intervention waz panelized by some sort of chirping optimism of unrealistic expectation and virtual forgiveness that went something like this:

“ O - h a i - y ō - z a i - m a s u ~ ”


“It is time to wake up, Nektarios-sama!” a chiming cybergirl, whistled over a solid, hologram projecting through the Wire's gray reality. All of it was triggered by a black electronic, hologrammed timer clock, nubbed and nursed with chips from ill-use. Age had given the augment a small glitch that flickered sporadically when she deviated through the plane's path and projected her programming sequence. Nonetheless, her large amethyst eyes blinked and cooed at him as a gentle, excited arm reached to nudge the warmth of her astral pixels onto his scruff meaty cheek, “Nek-tar-ios-saaamaa...!” Her tiny voice chimed over-and-over, jingling his name with a fresh bit of excitement each and every time. She was a pixelated pixie and more.

“Hnnitan...?” like a dry scraggly breath through his nostrils, his voice cussed inaudibly with all the annoyance and perplexity, leaning against invalid reasoning. The blunt attitude was more than likely a cause by his inevitable reliance on such a charming little doll and her overtly sparkling faux-personality. Each and every fucked up morning seemed to produce the same reaction from him, if not a worse one, and each and every morning, her nearly perfect complexion was nestling against his meat like a bitch in heat, begging for validity in her master's approval and happiness. If Nektarios was bloody honest, when all was said and done, he couldn't deny her form or tantalizing style of intellectual coding. She was programmed to be the way she was, and he'd be a damned liar if he said he didn't love her. It was a love-hate relationship. Call him a pervert or call him brokenhearted, but there was little consolation in anything he did without Tamago-tan.

Nah, man. Fuck it.

He had his younger, lone star mate, Adam, but there was only so much male camaraderie could do for one man's sanity. Fuck it, again. Who the fuck was he kidding? Adam was more messed up than he was, in more than one way. The guy barely had a backbone, and he meant that like as a friend, a comrade. The bastard wasted most of his nonworking life trapped in Silicon Valley, and he wasn't referencing the equally toxic city south of Seattle. Nektarios didn't judge, though. He loved the man, even if he was a dick about it. Soft love was for cybercoms. Real love, the tough stuff was where he put his true loyalty. He'd die for the boy, with or without warrant. He was hardly legalistic at this point in his middle aged life span and neither was Adam.

Enough about Adam, though. He had to wake his meaty self up, if not for his own fucking good but for the ever-so-lovely dragon lady. Nah, fuck the dragon lady. He'd wake up because Tamago-tan asked him, too. She was such a dream girl to him... Thoughts shifting... unlike his ex-wife. “Nektar-Nektar-Nek-tar-ios-saaamaa...!” Tamago-tan cheered through Nekatarios' thoughts before he could roll through another mental health trip of how he had been completely fucked over by the supposed-love of his life, who not only dumped his army ass for some old pig like a thirsty beggar on the side of the street eating sewer hot dogs, while he was off making dough for her and the family to eat like a proper human being, but she stole his son and daughter, his Goddamn fucking children, you know, his bloody motherfucking livelihood... and then she had the audacity to suck him dry like a hooker trying to keep her body from being dumped in Elliot Bay with only God knows how much mula in child pay- “Wakey! Wakey!”

“I'm up. I'm fucking up,” he grunted and turned his body militantly, knocked the augmented figure's mechanics off kilter. “Fuck it. Damnit." He didn't bother to apologize. He tithed enough for her to be pushed around worse than he was at work. She never minded in an angry manner because she was a good little girl like that, always congratulating his ass for having listened to him. She was a complete softie for him, even when he hated her with those long pink, loopty-loo pigtails.

“Eggs and bakey!” Tamago-tan continued and then balled her small hands like paws and playfully cheered the air in front of her.

Nektarios' own pale, calloused knuckles hit the stiffness of his metal coffin, opening the darkness. Built more on muscle than machine, he immediately began pumping his muscular body up-and-down with breathes inhaling towards the shoddy sleeping cocoon and exhaling towards the death bed's lid. All the while, Tamago-tan began cheering him on by counting his routine and complimenting his strength like an overly obsessed fangirl who never knew anyone but him, which was mostly true. She really would never know anyone but him. Her coding said so, and he chose her coding over the truth. To hell, she fawned over him like a slave to his celebrity whims. He couldn't ask for anything like that from the nagging leach in the next town over, hording his own kin from him. From his perspective, coding never failed unless some angsty teenage hacker with a degree in computer programming that mommy and daddy bought them was involved. Or... of course, if the code was a late night call that sounded awfully like his ex-wife cozying up to the receiver like: Please, keep me company at night, Henry-san, while my hard-boiled husband is putting his life on the line by fighting abroad for his company's sanctions with the Megacorp. Nnnnyan ~

No. She sounded way better. He killed himself every time he thought about the truth.

“Anata wa sore o suru koto ga dekimasu! Go, Nektahsan! You are soooo strong! Ooh! Ooh! Nektahsan! Ooouu ~ ! Shi! Go! Roku! Nana! Hachi!... Watashi wa anata o Kyu! totemo hokori ni omoimasu! I am so very proud of you! Juuku! Nijuu!... Nijuuichi!” The cybercoms girlish voice cheerfully counted his push-ups, interjecting coddles for coded gratification as her master/owner huffed and occasionally grumbled, growling something about if his roommate had woken up, yet. It didn't sound like Adam had, and damnit to hell, he better had, but fuck if he was getting old and was just hearing shit like the decrepit piece of junk living space that hosted them. Maybe his hearing would go sooner so he wouldn't have to listen to the CEO's bratty shrill command him around anymore. Who was he kidding? They'd drop his meatskin like his ex-wife did if he lost his hearing, and he needed the dough. Damn this metal prison. He looked over from his coffin to see Adam.

As if in cue, within the walk-in closet came a cacophony of servos whirling, bolts being pulled back, and start-up chirps. An obsolete humanoid servant, missing an arm and silicone flesh gracefully walked out and began prepping their morning soy-based gruel. From within sat the combat rigger, working on a combat drone while humming a lullaby. In AR, Inu-tan (in coveralls this time) held schematics, repair manuals, and presented diagnostic information. Their favorite firearms were disassembled, cleaned, and loaded half an hour ago.

"You should really be nicer to your robotic servants. They can feel pain you know, they just don't show it. There's enough vileness in the world. Anyway, go take a shower, I'm just about done with breakfast." Adam was quite the rigger. Through his fiber-optic datajack and command console, he could micromanage up to a dozen drones, and step into their aluminum and titanium bodies if the task required a human touch. He closed the top panel of the Nissan Roto-drone. He heaved it up to his face and said, with a coo, "All better. Now you can actually see."

"Boss lady wants us to take her to a fancy cafe today. Then we're to 'accompany' her to some ritzy charity luncheon. After that, she wants to unwind by snorting nova-coka off of a male stripper's abs at the Electric Rose again. Eat a light lunch." In AR, Adam pat the little head of his assistant and got dressed himself. It was gonna be another one of those days.

“Charity luncheon? Piss off. I've got enough volunteer work under my belt for the rest of my nine lives.” The one-armed robot clicked and clanked with clumsy motor skills as the large man took his share of grub. He finally relented to Adam's comment, rolling the man's coos from his own guilty conscious, “And, yeah, I'll remember that next time.” Years in the military taught him much differently, but then again, he knew the body transmissions came with a price. He'd seen the end equation of a fried user. It wasn't a pretty one by all means, but he still thought Adam was being sensitive. Still, he admitted defeat, “It's why I let you stick around, boy,” he shook his head, rubbing the morning shadow that stubbled his weathered face. His fingers trailed down his square chin as he squatted towards the ground, ignoring any thought to acknowledge Adam's own cybercom, Inu-tan, dressed for the occasion as always. Adam treated his machinery more like family than anything, and it was disturbing to say the least, not that Nektarios could wanted to call the kettle black.

His own cybercom had seen her fair share of let downs from him, which explained her glitches and the wear of the Wire attributed generous information and space for her. She never minded, though. It meant he was using her, and she was doing her job. Her perpetual approval and moral encouragement despite his cold-hearted meathead mentality ways was why he really liked her, and he'd be damned if he had to replace her.

Fine. F-it. Adam won Round One.

It's really too damned early for this.

Nektarios stalked across the room and wrapped his large hand around an oddly shaped metal-colored nob, bent and twisted from hard-use and illicit cleaning, scraped bits of locket and door frame as Nekatarios budged open the ratchet entrance to the bathroom himself to the toxic waste in front of him, and as the clanking of his own morning etiquette made its own chiming of feet against dusty, unkept cheap concrete exercised boarding, his cybercom, Tamago-tan, sprinkled his early morning grump with her usual humble optimism, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu ~ !” Her hands were clasped together in nimble, playful prayer, and her head was bowed, curly hair swaying back and forth. “It's okay, Nektarios-sama!” Her childish smile twinkled with her astral eyes with happiness to have added her own personality to the conversation, “... Now, go take a shower! She was standing next to him, and now playing with the length of her hair and tapping a finger to her plush cheek and making a wink, which turned into a nudge against his solid demeanor.

Her girlish charm and energy truly disgusted him, but he adored her like his own, nonetheless, especially in her current outfit. He may have been a buff buzzkill, but he always enjoyed her dressing all kawaii in pastel fairy kei clothing. She was a good accent for his monochrome blunt pistol style, always equipped near him at hand because he was the paranoid type and took no chances, even with good ol'Adam boy. There was no telling in today's society; and fuck, it would torture him to kill someone so close to him; but if he had no other choice, pulling the trigger was no hesitation. The military didn't have to teach him that, even if it did. Nektarios glanced at Adam, still coddling his mechanics and then he looked down at Tamago-tan, “Yeah, yeah,” his body slid through the opening and slammed the door shut, rattling shelf space in the less-then kitchenette.

There ain't nothing like cold - dirty cheap - purple - cyber-rain at four thirty in the bloody blue and gray morning.

Ain't nothing like it.

Okay, so it wasn't purple. It was more of a weird pale powdered color that reflected every bathroom just right so that it looked kind of like a thistle color. Electricity was weird like that, and it kind of reminded him of Tamago-tan's hazel, astral eyes that could turn their colors according to the background. They weren't quite like a chameleon, but it was close enough for intrigue. So yeah. Ain't nothing like it.

'Cept maybe Tamago-tan.

Sometime after Nektarios finished his business and dressed himself, the four went their way. Metal doors clanging open and closed. The robotic sound of Alexa’s voice wished them a good day and reminded them that It’s their choice, they always have a choice.” Inu-tan and Tamago-tan agreed with Alexa that the day would be good, but they were usually overly optimistic, just the way Alexa wanted them to be. The cybercoms wished Alexa Say-oh-nah-rah! as Adam and Nektarios thrusted their muscles down the metal stairway of their building (so much for the elevators working to the nth floor). Twitches of electronic eyes blinked at them from the cobwebbed corners, glistening with something. A stench clung to the walls. It didn't bother either. They were used to it by now, like watching two college aged girls snort nova coka off some Surplus -- probably an Untrainable desperate to stay alive. At least, he was getting paid for it, and so were they.

With Adam at the controls, automated and rusty, but somehow clean against the touch of Adam, the SkyNissan left it’s spot. Soon, it would be replaced with a much more luxurious model of TeslaMobile's as the two men escorted Annie the daughter of Nintendo's supposed CEO (no one was truly sure who the executive was, but this guy didn't mind the fame) for the day. The engine mumbled and gurgle a whir. It pushed itself from the gray ground, and just as it was entering the grid, a hologram of Inu-tan poked her nose into their conversation.

"Oni-san! Oni-san! It's a call from dragon lady's secretary! Do you wish to answer?" Her tail swished back and forth with anticipation. (She was wearing her school girl uniform, again.)

"Answer. What's she have to say this time?" Adam sighed, not bothering to look to at the pixelated Inu-Tan. The little wolf-girl held up a small digital medallion and a holographic profile of an Asian woman glared at Alex and Nektarios. She was wearing a white blouse. It was silky and stern. Her dark hair was pulled into a tight bun, styled on the side of her head. Her blush was contoured to make her look more Caucasian, but it held nothing against her tear drop eyes.

"Oh good. You're in your car..." She drew in an exaggerated sigh. "Just so you know, it's going to be six in the fucking morning before you know it." She barked. The men agreed with her, looking at each other for confirmation. "Do you know how far in advanced we had to reserve her breakfast? We almost had to higher a pair of fucking no-good low life netrunners to change the reservation list." Her tongue clicked with doubt. As far as she was concerned, they were lucky to even breathe the same valuable air as Annie. "I wouldn't expect you both to understand. You better hurry and get here fast. We're almost done styling Annie's hair for the charity luncheon this afternoon," again, she clicked her tongue with the same disgusted doubt. "And remember, This is not some game. This is Annie's life I'm talking about."

Nektarios crinkled his nose as he spoke to her, "I don't play around with people's lives, Ma'am." His voice was low and serious. "As a soldier, I've never nursed the idea of it. Doesn't suit well with me," he looked at Adam, "Or Adam. That's why we wanted this job. You can trust us."

The lady flared her nostrils and nodded her head in acknowledgement. "Don't - Be - late."

Inu-tan's medallion stopped projecting the secretary, and the Asian woman's face vanished. Inu-tan placed the medallian on the bowtie decorating her sailor collar and made a small shiver. "She's scaarrryyyy, oniii-saaannn!" the cybercom's hands were held up to her chest as her face made a painstakingly animated and scared look.

"It'll be alright, Inu-tan. You're safe with me," Adam consoled the wolf-girl. "If you stay in you carrier like a good girl, she won't even know you're there." His hand tapped a few buttons, as the vehicle went into auto-drive, and the grid picked up the Nissan's magnetic field.

"Yeah, yeah. What Adam said." Nektarios touched his pocket where Tamago-tan resided and let his attention gaze out of the window.

Neither of the men spoke to each other during the rest of the ride. They let their surroundings consume them: a tangle of plasticrete road and a dark fog with glows moving around in a strange rhythm. Those were the lights of the shops. If their windows were down, they would be able to hear the voices and other sounds emitting from the signs, billboards, and various advertisements trying to pull customers inside their venues. Around them, digital billboard screens went left and right, up and down, only making way for the digital street signs and traffic lights in the electric grid. It was a chaotic scene of nihilism with nothing but a hollow, lonely death at the end of it. If anyone told this to Adam and Nektarios, they wouldn't have batted an eye. They knew what this world was. It was any day, now they'd be replaced. Yesterday wasn't the day; and maybe today was; or maybe it would be tomorrow. Although, it wasn't right to think about those things, until they actually happened, and by then, it’d be too late. In the mean time, Inu-tan and Tamago-tan held the line.


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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Auz
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Avatar of Auz

Auz

Member Seen 27 days ago



Time: 10am
Location: JV’s Apartment, McClellan Street
Interactions: JV and Oshun
Mentions: N/A
Equipment: Standard Gear



Ding

Steam wafted out of the microwave as Oshun opened the door.

Homely subroutine enabled…
>Outside Temperature -2°C
>Inside Temperature 20°C and Steadily Rising
>Subject Shivered Upon Morning Activation
>Warm Beverage
Run//:Inviting_tune.exe


Humming, the android reached inside grabbing a hot cup of cocoa with both hands. Sat on the opposite side of the kitchen island, JV winced. Debate had long been waged over the past few decades about Cybercom sentience. The MegaCorps flat out denied it of course, chalking up any such thought to something just as absurd as pigs flying. Human rights groups, of all things, pointed to the androids claims of loneliness and heartbreak as true human emotion.

Both were wrong.

It was the little things, you see, that meant they weren’t quite human. The way they weren’t indecisive when choosing a place to eat or were never impractically lazy when deadlines were due. JV watched like a hawk as Oshun placed the mug in front of him. “Or the way they don’t stop to wonder what the burn of a hot cup feels like.” He thought. The android stopped humming for a moment as the corner of her lips curled up into a cute smile. They weren’t sentient, humans were just gullible and lonely.

Beep.

Another quick shiver engulfed JV as the wave of heat coming from the central unit turned off. Though the temperature of the room was now stable, he had sat too close to the vent. A coolness washed over his naked body, indicating that maybe it was time to don at least some small article of clothing. Leaving the island, the man moved across the studio apartment, sifting through a pile of washing that had been left beside the bed.

“They’re clean!” Yelled Oshun, beating JV to the punch right as he was about to smell test a pair of underwear. If it wasn’t the clothing, then something else in the apartment was stale. “Maybe the tank needs a clean.” He surmised, looking across at the terrarium of snakes. They were real, to most people's surprise, both expensive to buy and maintain but well worth it to the man. Of course, this meant they also made a real mess too.

Oshun’s attention hadn’t strayed from the kitchen as a naked man was nothing new. Fixated, she was too busy crafting the perfect omelette. Half an onion, perfectly sliced at 2.5 millimetres apart across the circumference. One small sized tomato, diced into 2 cubic millimetres pieces. Herbs, spices and shredded synthetic chicken breast, all whipped together with three eggs in a mixing bowl. Poured out into…

“A job’s come through.” The words left her mouth before she could even calculate the potential ramifications of their impact. An intentional change to her programming.

“And?” JV replied, moving across to the only window the apartment had.

Oshun paused for the slightest moment, appearing to stutter in her movement. Putting down the bowl her fists balled together tightly. “It’s from the Black Prophets.” Her mouth and vocal unit refused to comply.

Error…
>Nature of Message Possesses Significant Chance of Subject Risk
>78.8% and Climbing
>Conflict of Core Directive
>Conflict of Core Directive
Patch 4.6 Override
New Primary Directive Override
Play//: Message


“A VP, Mr. Endo, has asked you to deliver pizza to his daughter’s sweet sixteen birthday party. They’re paying a grand in creds.”

JV nodded, pulling back the blinds and looking up to the sky. Frost clung to the edges of the window as the clouds above bellowed with a dark and menacing look. Across the apartment, Oshun regained control. Leaving the kitchen, she skipped across the floor, hurrying over towards her owner. Words had an infinitesimally low percentage chance of persuasion, the man wasn’t in the habit of saying no to anyone in that wretched gang of his, even if it meant serious personal risk. Though she had always detected a level of hesitation that came with her touch.

Reaching out she placed a hand on his arm, softly wrapping her fingers around his bicep. JV turned and for a moment the two locked eyes. Oshun opened her mouth to speak but the man drew quicker. “Damballa has something to say.”

Biting her tongue, the man shrugged her off, leaving her standing alone. Looking down, she watched as her thumb grazed over her fingers, hoping to hold on to the last of the warmth from the touch of his skin as it evaporated. Defeated, the android ran a Sigh.exe, enabling a Mild_sulk subroutine as she dragged her feet all the way back to the kitchen. There, she opened the pantry, fishing out a bag of flour.

JV, on the other hand, headed over to the footlocker at the end of his bed, drawing a folded white sheet from in between a pile. Unfurling it on the floor in the middle of the living room, he bent down to smooth it flat while picking bits of lint off as he went along. Moving onto the fridge, Oshun retrieved a single white egg, lightly kicking the door closed as she spun around. Leaving the sheet, the man picked up the final ingredient, a blue-eyed lucy python from the terrarium. One of four snakes, its skin was white as snow with sky blue eyes. The reptile hissed in disappointment as the man dragged it away from the warmth of its infrared heated lamp.

Kneeling on the edge of the sheet, JV placed the snake next to him, giving his pet a quick pat on the head as it’s tongue flickered back and forth. Oshun appeared beside him, handing her owner the bag of flour which he poured into a pile in front of him. Followed up by the placing of the egg on top of the mound of powder, the android laid down in the centre of the sheet, glancing up one last time to see if she could catch JV’s eye. It was too late, they were firmly shut and a soft Haitian chant had begun to flow from his mouth.

‘Commune’ subroutine enabled…
>Damballa
Run//:Serpent.exe


Oshun’s hands clapped firmly together above her head. Her body began to shift subtly, as if a gentle wave moved through her. First from her hands, rippling down through to her torso, then to her hips and finally out her feet. She repeated this movement over and over while beside her JV continued with his incantation, his hands slowly rising from his knees as if they controlled the volume of his chants. The louder he got, the more his eyelids screwed shut, squeezing the life out of his eyelashes, feeling as if the motion threatened to pull them from their sockets. The android matched the raised tone with vigorous movement as together they escalated into a burgeoning crescendo.

“Damballa, koute mwen!”

A vicious roar escaped the man before he toppled over onto the floor, wet with exhaustion. Softness clasped his cheek as Oshun roused JV from his trance. “Is… Is today the day?” He panted. The android looked back at him, her lips pursed with a slight smile while sadness glistened in her eyes. “No.” Her voice dimmed. “Not today.”

Expressionless, the man nodded. Clamouring to his feet, he returned the snake to its habitat as Oshun cleared the floor. It was time to gear up.

Jeans. Top. Holsters. Revolver. Knife. Clips. Creps. JV donned his get-up, readying himself for the day. No one in the city paid a thousand creds to drop a cake at a birthday. No one in the city paid a notoriously fanatic gang for such a remedial task. It didn’t matter, whatever needed to be done, he’d do it. He was the sword, they were the arm.

Having cleared the living room, Oshun had returned to the stove, flipping the omelette and watching over the pan. Without warning, she shuttered noticeably, catching the corner of JV’s eye. “Those attempted manual overrides are getting stronger,” he thought, “Perhaps it’s time for a program re-modification?”

“What else was there?” He chided.

Oshun’s back straightened as if she’d been struck by lightning. Words fell out of her mouth instantly without restraint. “Something is different.”

JV raised an eyebrow. This was new. Moving across the room, he grabbed one of her arms, spinning her around towards him. “What is?”

“It’s… unclear,” she replied as her eyes darted from side to side. Her lips drew back to one side as her eyebrows furrowed. “Something about today or maybe it’s tonight. It’s just… different.”

Releasing her, JV doubled back, opening a locker in the storage contraption that sat above his bed. Slinging the strap connected to his assault rifle over his shoulder, he grabbed his trench coat from the edge of the bed, covering up all of his weapons as he slipped it on.

“Please,” Oshun beckoned as desperation dripped from her voice, seemingly tugging at his coat. “You said it yourself.” JV shrugged, heading for the door. “It’s unclear. It could mean anything, good or bad.”

Plating up the food, the android shuddered as clothing digitally pixelated onto her body. “No.” The man held up a strong, stern finger. “Your unit stays, the tank needs changing.” Shifting his point from her to the terrarium, then back to her, his chin dipped towards his body with his whole head cocking to the side.

“Stay.” A stern warning.

She nodded and JV left without so much as a glance toward the now cold cup of cocoa, or the ready made omelette with baguette sat next to it. The door slammed shut as the androids' shoulders dropped. “Bye.” She whispered.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Lucky
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Avatar of Lucky

Lucky Claims Medic

Member Seen 12 days ago


Time: (?), 0832
Location: (?), August Body Shop
Interactions: Schyler, Paige, Noel
Mentions: N/A
Equipment: Office Casual


Cold.

The first time Bailey slipped on nitrile gloves professionally. Cooler than room temp when she first put them on, focusing intently on every small detail from the instructor. Her palms were not sweaty at first, but the gloves stuck to her skin instantly. Lead Domestic Emergency Medical Technician Lincoln gave step-by-step instructions as if none of the recruits had ever observed first aid being applied or at least watched a virtudoc. Plasma suture kit, biogel hemostatic agents, tactical trauma surgical kits. The items splayed out in organized manner on the table before her. The augmented reality lens made it seem as though she were a lone student with her mentor, interfacing directly with a singular neural link. True reality, she stood as one of two dozen aspiring field medics in a half-empty room, LDEMT Lincoln nowhere to be seen without the lens.

Hope, inspiration, passion. Distant memories of pleasing her demanding parents while also serving her country and saving lives. The virtual instructor takes a trained hold on the trauma kit before him, inviting holographic bodies of nondescript virtue. That was the first lie. No movement, silence in a sterile environment, no realization of impending death in the victim's patient's expression. With prompting, Bailey took her first step toward mending the physical damage of the hardlight body. The façade of operating on digital lives lasted only a week before dolls made their way to the tables, no AR to suppress the formaldehyde. Paid volunteers who will receive cold hard credits for their bodies to be fixed of their government-inflicted contract injuries.


Cold!

One year of intense emergency medical response training by the AutoAmerican Army. Three years of field service, applying her learning and resources and experience and energy into keeping semi-robotic comrades alive enough to lob their weak flesh and gray matter back into the fray. Many that return look to be less of themselves, magnified by her augmentations as they are less human when they rejoin the fight than they left the last. Decimated muscles are completely replaced by actuators, cables hook up to their hearts, carbon fiber 3d models patch the splintered skulls. Recycling losses.

"I've been saying cold, dammit!"

Schyler's exclamation and jerking of her head to the side forced Bailey's hand tool out of her mouth. Bullet-riddled soldier bodies in various states of agony and incapacitation were replaced by the quiet din of the August Body Shop. CR-Pop group Xióngmāo Medved played from a neon pink retro-styled radio, its volume lowered with the intensity of Bailey's tool lessening.

"C'mon, you're about to freeze my throat. You tryna put me out of a job?" A woman, slightly younger than Bailey, laid upon the augmentation table before Bailey. A doll that's known the doc for years, relying on low prices and discretion since their first meeting. Bright blue eyes scan the operator, an expression of concern with no minor part of annoyance.

"I wasn't kidding when I said it will get really cold," she answers apathetically. "Unlike most implants, you need cryo injections to keep from overheating and melting your esophagus from the inside-out. Didn't you read your Songbird Maintenance notes?" Bailey leaned away in her backless stool, observing her patient-client. A neutral expression to some, resting bitch face to others, keeping a deceptively keen eye for side-effects. Bio-metrics scrolled through her vision, connected to the bio-monitor within Schyler.

"Yeah, well, is there any way to make it not hurt as much?"

"Besides making it... not cold? No." One end of Bailey's lips curled into a sadistic smile, squeezing the trigger of her tool a few times to blast cryo particles into the air.

"Fine, then let's get it over with. Still don't understand why you don't let me go under for these check-ups." The girl lied back onto the reclined seat, fidgeting slightly to get as comfortable as she can on the plastifoam seat. She opened her mouth wide expectantly, squeezing her eyes shut in anticipation.

The cryo-injector buzzed, and spinning like clockwork, folded into the length of her forearm. "Actually, we're all done. You made it through the worst and last bit. Grats." The augmentationist kicked the floor, sending herself and the stool flying across the small office to her desk, a practiced effort as her jack disconnected from the augmenting booth and whipped irresponsibly into her wrist. Before Schyler could say another word, Bailey looked over her shoulder to the patient-client.

"And yes, same as usual. I look forward to your payments every Thursday." Turning her attention to the PC on her desk, she immediately tuned into its files and messages. "Paige will see you out.

With the mention of her name, a young girl of similar features to Bailey appeared in the pneumatic doorway. "Come with me, please! How was your visit?" "Yeah, yeah..." The two of them exited the office, leaving Bailey alone briefly. And brief it was. As soon as the android form left the area, a holographic version of Paige appeared behind the augmentationist, attempting to look over her shoulder.

"She's really nice! You've known each other for a long time, do you think--" The child-like cybercom looked excitedly at Bailey, barely paying heed to the work or messages onscreen.

"No, Paige. As a professional and personal moral, I don't date patient-clients." Bailey eyed the girl, barely adjusting her orientation to show how serious she was about not entertaining such thoughts. With a light sigh, Paige pixelized and Bailey was alone again. As alone as one can be with an omnipresent virtual companion. Reaching to the screen, the doc swiped and tapped away until a courtesy reminder from Alexa chimed in for the charity luncheon. Surplus don't hold luncheons. Augmentationists like Bailey were expected to accept the invitation, if not out of self-interest. Reputation and networking is built at events like that, and Bailey would be remiss to decline.

In a few hours, huh? Gotta make sure to wear something appropriate. She looked down at her attire. Spatters of blood and oil mixed in her surgical apron. The hiss of her office doors opening caused her to turn around in her stool, concurrently hearing Paige's voice in her head. "Noel here to see you. Their regular appointment." As per her personality programming, a girlish giggle was overheard with the words and Bailey gives her best retail smile to the regular.

"Mornin', Noel. How you feeling today?"
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by PatientBean
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Avatar of PatientBean

PatientBean Bringer of Chaos and Tacos

Member Seen 9 hrs ago



Time: 7:32 P.M.
Location: Seattle Airport, The Atrium
Interactions: Mr. Smith, Watson, Airport Staff, Mysterious Figure
Mentions: N/A
Equipment: Stun Gun, Shock Baton, Cyberware




Incoming Message
Incoming Message


101000111100101010010101010

Loading………

Loading……..


Mr. Smith: th0rn_r0se. Got a job for ya. Pay is 1k. There’s a risk though. More than the standard security measures. The client desires a package delivered to The Atrium. Payment will be transferred upon pick-up and confirmed contents. The package is a set of golf clubs at the Airport. Obviously, they aren’t really golf clubs, but the client refused to share what it is exactly. Please confirm or deny interest.

CONFIRMED

Mr: Smith: Thought it would interest you. Please take care of this quickly. The package is expected to be there for a few hours before being moved elsewhere. I will ping you the coordinates of the package when you get close. Do try to be unseen. Security is tight enough there.

_Conection Terminated_




It wasn’t a standard job she did, but beggars couldn’t be choosers. Often she did corpo hacking and rigging, data retrieval, and a few destruction jobs, but typically she got into a system and got out. This one would require more precision. The airport was public and high security. This would mean she would have to plan accordingly.

Persephone jacked into her personal system. She would need to pull some things to make this job easier. She inserted the memory chip into the chip reader on the back of her neck before scouring the net. First, blueprints to the airport. It wouldn’t be anything fancy, but it would allow her to find entrances and exits that were not common knowledge. She found that easily enough. Security records were another matter. Airport security was all managed in-house, meaning if something triggered, they would know and beef it up, expecting the worst.
Persephone cracked her knuckles before she dove into the system. Once she was inside, she activated her St3alth hack. Once she was reasonably sure she was not seen, she connected to their servers. She noticed, oddly enough, a trace. It was almost undetectable. It was professional work.

“Someone was there recently”

She heard Watson in her ear. A reliable source if there ever was one. Watson proved invaluable to her investigations and efforts, though he often chewed her ear off over the morality of it.

“Yeah, but who? It was clearly a professional. The average Netter wouldn’t be able to see that unless they knew what to look for.”

“If it's a professional that hacked into airport security. It’s for one of two reasons. Either there is going to be an attack at the airport. Which would be incredibly foolish. Or….”

“They wanted to know security details to avoid detection. Which means I’m not the only one sneaking into the airport tonight.”

“Do you suppose this person is after the package also?”

“Hard to say, but I wouldn’t doubt it.”

“This already seemed sketchy at first, but now even more so.”

“Thanks, Dad. If I want more advice on right versus wrong, I’ll know who to pester.”

She couldn’t see Watson but she knew he rolled his eyes before disappearing.

She downloaded the data she needed on her memory chip. She disengaged from the hack, making sure any trace of her was gone or invisible. Just in case the other hacker got in to double-check their work.

She thought about options. Normally she would gear up and prepare to sneak in, but this might require a personal touch.




“Can I help you ma’am?”

Persephone, dressed to the nines in a skintight black dress that edged above her thighs. Her hair was down, flowing behind her like a cape. She wore thick sunshades despite being indoors (had to sell it somehow). She exemplified money on image alone. She tried to exude an air of “I’m more important than you”. Clearly the airport worker was buying it.

“As I just told you, I left my McCamerack Handbag in the waiting lounge. It costs more than you make in an hour and I will not be held up any longer! If some common thief didn’t pilfer it, perhaps some good samaritan turned it in. I demand you bring a security officer here right this minute to check.” The man looked flummoxed but did not move. “Now!” At her screech, he opened a comm call “Yeah, I need a security officer to the front desk ASAP.” He hung up and put on a customer service smile. She almost felt bad.

A few minutes later and she saw the uniform of the security personnel. He looked like he wanted to be anywhere else, which was perfect for her. She noted he eyed her up and down. “Yeah get a good look buddy. Enjoy it while you can.”

“What seems to be the problem?” He directed the question to the airport worker, but Persephone quickly swooped in. “I left my handbag in the waiting lounge outside of terminal Z32 flight coming in from Tokyo. It is a VERY expensive handbag that I am sure people manhandled to no end. I demand it be returned to me and be compensated for wasting my time!”

The security officer glanced at the airport worker as if to say “Do you believe this chick?” He sighed, “All right ma’am. Let me call the department and see…” before he could get the rest of his statement out, Persephone spoke up, “Let me stop you right there. I don’t trust anyone in this establishment not to manhandle my property. I demand you walk me over to your little security station and let me collect my property there. That way, if I see any damages, I know who to charge directly.”

The security officer looked aghast. “Ma’am, we don’t allow civilians back there.” Persephone didn’t budge. “Well make an exception this time or so help me I will reach up the corpo ladder and demand amends so wild you will be lucky if you get to clean the lavatories in this place, let alone manage security anymore. Do I make myself clear?”

This was a big risk. She could easily be whisked away, arrested, thrown out. But she read the security log. She knew exactly who this man is. 15 long, unappreciated years in security working at this airport, dealing with all manner of people. No raise, no promotion. He had to be sick of it and sick of dealing with people like her.

“Fine. Follow me, but stick close.”

Persephone followed, her heels clicking on the airport ground as they walked to the security office. Many people passed them by, all at varying levels of stress. The officer slid his security chip and opened the door. He stepped in first (rude not to hold the door open for a lady). He began to walk over to his station. As per the logs, he was the only one set to work in the office itself. The other officers would be patrolling around. “Ok, what did you say the handbag looked like?”

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzt

That was the last sound the man heard before jolts of electricity surged through his body as he slumped to the floor. Persephone put the stun baton back into the purse she was carrying. “Sorry, buddy. But you deserve a nap. 15 years and no promotion? I would quit.”

There were no cameras in the office itself, thankfully (though in hindsight, concerning). She wasn’t strong enough to move the officer to a decent hiding place, so she had to move quickly. She skirted around the desks and through the door that led to the back hallways outside of traditional airport traffic. The package was located nearby the baggage being unloaded. Persephone moved quickly and quietly, though she cursed herself at wearing heels. It was hard to be stealthy and look fashionable, it seemed.

She heard a door unlock and she moved to the side, listening. She peeked around the corner and saw a security officer, a young woman, let out a curse as she pulled up her comm. Speaking on the phone, the woman walked back and forth, shouting at some poor person on the other end that he needed to get his rear in gear and step up with parenting their child since she was the sole breadwinner. “Girls get it done,” she thought to herself. Though she also hoped girls got it done quicker than this. Persephone was about to pull out her baton again before the woman hung up and entered the same door she had just appeared from. Persephone took the opportunity to move down the hallway.

She reached her destination. She listened at the door and didn't hear anyone. She opened it slowly before the door itself was yanked. Caught by surprise, she didn't realize a person was in front of her until whoever it was grabbed her neck and flung her across the room.

She hit the wall with a thud, her augmented skin taking the brunt of the damage, though it still hurt. Persephone groaned as she stood up, seeing who it was that attacked her.

The figure in front of her was wearing all black. She saw augments all over their body, covering their legs, arms, and torso. They appeared to be more machine than man, which was saying something given augmentations. "Who the hell are you?" she asked, though it came out more hoarse than anything due to her throat being recently squeezed."

"That's on a need-to-know basis. I assume you are after the parcel too?" As the figure spoke, their voice was a mix of masculine and syntax. It was like their voicebox was processing the words through a computer. Whatever the hell this thing was, it wasn't fully human.

"That's also need-to-know, but good news. You made the cut. Yeah, that's my payload." The figure let out a metallic laugh. It would have been scary any other time, but she was more pissed off now. "Too late then. Should have gotten hear sooner. What passes for security here is pitiful." He nodded his head in the direction of the opposite side of the room. Persephone glanced over and saw the red stains on the floor. It took her a moment to process what she saw, but it was a mangle of bodies. Most donning security uniforms, but some had on what looked like coveralls. Airport workers.

Innocents.

"You killed them?" she asked, though she knew the answer. "They got in my way."

"What's so important about a set of golf clubs?"

"I think we both know it's more than that. My benefactor is paying some decent cred to receive this."

Persephone pulled out her gun, locked it, and aimed it at the figure's head. "You aren't leaving with it."

The figure laughed again. "I already killed plenty. What's one more?"

At that threat, the figure pounced forward, reaching out. Persephone fired off two shots, the figure dodged and she dove to the right to avoid any grab or tackle. She ducked behind the tracks that moved the baggage. She crawled along the ground, attempting to hear his footsteps. She felt eyes on her and glanced up. The figure was mounted on the ceiling. "Surprise!" He launched at her, hitting her hard. She raised her gun, but the figure was quick, knocking it out of her hand. He lifted her up by the throat again and she felt their fingers slowly inch closed. "Shame hacker. I always hate killing the pretty ones. Any last words?"

Persephone felt her vision darken slowly. She clutched at his arm, but only gripped metal. She reached to her side. She felt her hand wrap around a cool, metal object.

"Yeah..... fuck... you.."

With what strength she could muster, she dug her stun baton into the figure's neck and jolted it. The figure convulsed, releasing his grip. She fell to the floor, but her baton still dug into the figure's neck and shoulder. All she could hear was buzzing as electricity surged through him. She took some deep breaths, gathering her strength again, before grabbing hold of the baton and kicking the figure back. It landed with a thud on the ground, twitching slightly.

She considered finishing it off but thought there was too much blood spilled already (if it even had blood inside of it).

Instead, she grabbed the gold clubs. "You better be worth it."




Persephone rubbed her neck as she checked her comm. She had arrived at the atrium about a half hour ago. She left the airport quickly. She heard sirens as she got out. There to clean up the mess. If the figure was still there, would they be able to take it in? Was it alive still?

She would worry about that another day. For now, she needed to be paid. Her comm buzzed and she read the message. "Drop point under the southeastern bench. We are watching." She glanced around, though she knew it was foolish. She made her way over to the bench in question, depositing the clubs underneath it. She waited a few minutes before she got up and walked away.

As soon as she got on the tram, she heard her phone ding. $1k deposited into her account.

Her comm buzzed again.

"Client was pleased to receive package with minimal damage. I assume it all went well?"

She could have told him about the figure. About his attack. His killings. He would hear about it on the news. He would ask questions she wouldn't answer and then he would move on. After all, he made his money. As far as he was concerned, it was done and over.

"It was a walk in the park."
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Hidden 2 mos ago 1 mo ago Post by False Prophet
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False Prophet Perfidious

Member Seen 8 hrs ago


Time: 7:45 A.M. - 9:15 A.M.
Loc: D’alessio Penthouse - The road to Bell Street Park, somewhere
@: N/A
Interactions: King Tal, Edward
Equipment: Several bags of dice, gummy bears, and a portable toolkit




Toby was awoken not five seconds ago, barely slumped upright in the nest of pillows and blankets that was his bed. A figure stood at his doorway and was saying…something. They registered as words, but the kid was far too dazed to try and comprehend any of it. He merely squinted at the sudden light, slack-jawed. With an unamused groan of pure misery, he half-fell and half-rolled into his covers, burying his face in them in the process. FInally, something clicked. Language became coherent again.

“Bud, get up. We’ve gotta be out of here by 9 latest.”

But why? He was supposed to leave for school at 8- Oh, this wasn’t for school, huh? His frazzled mind managed to finally recall that today was FRIDAY, and his dad had some dumb luncheon that he had to go to as well, because… Hell if he knew why. Toby peeled his face from the bed and looked at whoever was in his doorway. It was his dad. He wasn't used to his father waking him up for anything. Usually that was King Tal’s job. Where was Tal, anyway? Wherever the cybercom was and why his father was there were questions that would be answered later, as the man vanished from view after seeing that his son was awake.

Toby slipped off of the mattress, as we would any other day. His sandy-blonde hair, which was curly enough to form short ringlets on a good day, was taking a form more akin to a bird’s nest. Despite wearing an oversized graphic tee and a pair of plaid PJ pants, he immediately shivered after leaving the warm confines of his bed. Ugh…if only he could sleep for a bit longer. It was warm and he was still tired... Maybe staying up and playing Wrath of the Vale Hunter with Noah was a bad idea. What? He’d pre-ordered the game about three months ago. Of course, he was going to stay up all night once it was available for download. Anyway, he retreated from standing on the frigid tile floor to the small carpet by a nightstand. His VR headset was haphazardly laying on its surface. He’d plug that in later…A knock at the door interrupted his morning thoughts.

“Come in,” Toby answered through a yawn that felt like it was going to make his jaw fall right out of skull.

King Talgorthus The Great, or just King Tal, was behind the door. The pane of lightweight metal slid into the wall as the cybercom entered. While some people enjoyed human-like or animal cybercom companions, Toby had one modeled after his favorite D&D character, a dragonborn fighter by the same name. The android had the face of a dragon, covered in plates of lustrous, gold-hued metal to mimic scales. The rest of his body was built to mimic heavy armor with the traditional look of the olden days, but with a more modern twist. It was flexible, lighter, and stronger than any steel alloy used in the past. Because of these design choices, King Tal clinged and clanged from place-to-place while making only half the noise a knight from the Middle Ages would.

“Good morning, sir,” the dragon greeted. He bowed deeply in the presence of his owner. King Tal’s voice had the guttural texture expected of a dragon, along with a hint of an English accent.

Toby gave a grin that made his eyes almost scrunch closed. The pudginess of his face was only accentuated by this action and his lack of visible front teeth. "Tal! What's up?"

"It's 7:45 AM, the temperature is 35° Fahrenheit, and the weather calls for scattered showers throughout the day. You have 1 new message from Noah Fraiser." With that, a hologram screen projected from King Tal’s chest to display a written message from Noah that read: hey dumbass is it game day today?

“Shit!” Toby had completely forgotten about that. Yes, today was supposed to be gameday for the Robotics Club Campaign. Of course, he was the designated Dungeon Master. Games started right after school, usually in Dr. Peterson’s room. “Uh, tell him yeah.”

One small problem: he was going to miss most if not all of school because of his dad’s stupid event. To make matters worse, the cybercom handed his owner a neatly folded pile of clothes. It was a suit, deep navy in color. Looking at it made Toby’s nose wrinkle.

“I’m not wearing that,” he blurted out.

“Your father stated there was a dress code.”

“Son of a bitch. Okay.” With disdain, the boy took the suit and plunged his free hand into a dresser drawer to grab whatever else he needed. “See ya, King.”

The dragonborn bowed as Toby vanished into his own private bathroom. The space inside rivaled that of some of the apartments that the Surplus lived in. It had two sinks, a shower (with a bench in it!), and a jacuzzi tub that was largely unused. An empty terrarium lay within its porcelain depths. It belonged to a long dead pet. Toby grabbed a toothbrush and shoved it into his mouth before starting up the shower.

8:15 A.M.


“Toby, put your teeth back in!”

“Son of a bitch,” the kid grumbled with his heavy lisp.

“Language.”

“Sorry-”

His small, yet round hand swiped at the marble countertop to snatch up a pair of shiny white teeth. He bet he was the only kid in the entire city who had to wear dentures like some wrinkly grandma. He wore a simple, partial denture for his central incisors because he was still waiting for his adult teeth to come in. His dad said he looked goofy without a full set of chompers, so he’d been pretty much forced to wear them since he was about seven. The kid popped in his faux teeth, clicked them into place, and went back to focusing on the video King Tal was projecting. It was a news report about an accident at the airport. Apparently, there were several casualties. Wild.

The feeling of having a suit, albeit perfectly fitted to him, along with constantly having his dad tell him what to do was putting Toby into one of his moods. There was also the matter that he had to gel his hair down to “style it”. He perched his dark green beanie atop his hair in an act of defiance, along with pulling at the collar of the powder blue button-up he had on underneath the blazer. There rested a bowtie- a real one. He wished it was a clip-on, but noooo. What was even more irritating about it was the fact that he had to tie it himself. It took him far too many tries than he would’ve liked to admit. He reached for the half-eaten croissant sandwich that was lying on a plate next to a glass of OJ. Despite having food-safe dentures, Toby still bit and chewed with the corner of his mouth. Force of habit.

“No hats,” D’alessio senior chided before walking into another room to grab something. Probably a dumb briefcase for his dumb job.

“I’m EATING!”

9:15 A.M.


Toby, King, his father, and Ella (another cybercom that was essentially a maid) were all piling into a car together. Toby opted to seat himself by King Tal and as far away from his father as possible. Edwards wasn’t driving, anyway. They were netters, so naturally they had their own chauffeur. He actually found it a bit funny, seeing that once on the main streets, all vehicles pretty much drove themselves.

“You used to love coming to these events with me.”

Toby fought the urge to roll his eyes at the broken silence. “When I was like five. I have school now.”

“School, really, Tobes? You barely got a C on your last Language Arts test.”

“I’m telling you; Mrs. Rofella is conspiring against me to bring down my GPA! I studied- I swear.”

Toby huffed and then rested his chin in a hand. He had positioned himself in his seat to get a full view out of the window so he could stare out of it and into the cityscape. Really, he wasn’t admiring the view. Instead, he was giving his old man a wicked side-eye by staring down the reflection of the back of his head. No, he didn’t study for the stupid Language Arts test, but he wasn’t lying about Mrs. Rofella disliking him. He knew what an adverb was, and he knew how pronouns worked, he just couldn’t be bothered to answer the essay questions. He had a campaign to write! On that topic, he was supposed to run a session with the robotics club this afternoon in Homeroom.

“What time will it be over? I’m supposed to have club today.”

“You really want to go to school today, huh?”

“I guess…”

Toby didn’t like school all that much, but he liked club and he liked his friends. It beat staying at home with his dad after this breakfast…lunch…brunch…luncheon thing was over. He didn’t care for the semantics of the event, so long as he got fed. That croissant wasn’t going to hold him off forever. He’d stashed a pack of gummy bears in his pocket, but those were for later. He hoped his dad would cave and let him go back whenever it was all over. His dad was always the type to let things slide. Even now he'd stopped bugging Toby over the beanie he wore to cover his slicked back hair.
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by False Prophet
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False Prophet Perfidious

Member Seen 8 hrs ago


Time: 1:18 A.M. - 10:00 A.M.
Loc: Vordaunt Residence -> Dolly’s Apt.
@: N/A
Interactions: Blossom, Nigel Vordaunt
Equipment: HEDD



Dolly couldn’t feel anything. It was great. A smile pulled at his lips and his head was lolling as he swayed slightly in place. It was fine. This was fine. He couldn’t really think if he tried, but that was okay. At that moment, everything felt okay. Dolly stumbled forward and almost fell, but he was quickly caught by a pair of arms that didn’t belong to him. They were Nigel’s. Standing in front of him was a taller, older man with grizzling hair. His expression was neutral, almost a bit stern.

“You should probably go home,” he remarked while tilting his head.

Dolly gave a small giggle as he tried to regain his footing. "Yeah…”

The young man wasn’t particularly concerned about what was happening or what would happen. He just continued to smile stupidly with flushed cheeks and half-lidded eyes. He seemingly melted into Nigel as he was hoisted into his arms. He usually hated being carried, but he couldn't summon the willpower to do anything other than lie there. He was utterly exhausted. How could he not be? He hadn't slept properly in days. This was actually the most relaxed he'd felt in a good while.

That's why Dolly willingly let Nigel spike his drink. He wasn't sure what was in that quarter-full whiskey glass given to him, but it took the edge off-- especially after his little nova-coke binge early that night back at the venue. It was worth whatever would ensue, as he wouldn't remember it, anyway. And that was fine. That was okay. At least he had convinced himself it was. He was a proper junkie, pretty much willing to do anything for his next fix. It was getting quite hard to keep his head up. The tips of his fingers that hung limply from his arm were tingling slightly. That meant it was working. The world was a lot fuzzier here.

Nigel wasn't escorting the little musician to a car that would chauffeur him back to his apartment. Not yet anyway. He carried him deeper into his residence, where the lights were dim, and the music was soft.

9:00 A.M.


Mornings were designated for mood crashes. From the second he opened his pale eyes, the pit in his stomach opened. It felt like all of his organs had fallen into it. Simultaneously, the overwhelming urge to vomit hit him like a truck. He shivered at the sensation of saliva welling up in his throat. The taste of his own mouth was nauseating. He had to go do something about that… If it wasn’t for his physiological hangover symptoms, he probably wouldn’t have crawled out from his bed for another two hours. Dolly rolled over from the comfort of his warm blankets and dragged himself to the closest trash can. He didn’t have the willpower to make it to the bathroom. While running a dainty hand through his hair to hold it back, he proceeded to empty the contents of his stomach into it. His body shuddered rather violently again- well, maybe not. Any mildly exaggerated action could be “violent” in the context of his frail body. It was disgusting. And he was also getting cold while kneeling on the floor.

And yet he stayed on the floor, completely still and silent. The only noise he made was in an effort to keep his own snot from dribbling out of his nose. Although he was almost always on the verge of tears, that wasn’t the reasoning behind his little sniffle. It was like a timer. Silence. Sniffle. Silence. Sniffle. Rinse and repeat. In actuality, his nasal passages were irritated. He gently rubbed the fleshy bit of his nose. It was a little pink and stung a bit. This was what he got for spending his night snorting nova-coke. Just another nasty little habit of his. Add it to the pile. He…needed a second. He was debating whether or not he’d sit there, go back to bed, or take a shower.

His brooding was interrupted by the rhythmic steps of a pink cybercom- his cybercom. She was a rather cute thing, modeled after a bunny like some sort of cyborg plushie. She extended a mechanical, pink paw towards its owner and offered him a water bottle. When Dolly looked up at the rabbit android, it became abundantly clear that he needed to go rot under a shower of hot water for a while. Rather reproachfully, he took the bottle and raised it to his lips. Blossom, the little robot, always made him think of Nigel. After all, he was the one that purchased her. Everything seemed to loop back to Nigel. God, he hated Nigel. Sometimes he felt like he could still feel the older man’s hands on his hips. It was mostly forgotten, but the events of what had taken place at the Vordaunt Residence were floating hazily in his head somewhere. Finally, it registered that he had somehow gotten back to his apartment. This was alright with him. Dolly tilted his head back and swallowed a few mouthfuls of water. Maybe it'd help him resist the urge to throw up again.

With some help from his bed frame, Dolly managed to pull himself off of the floor. The cool tile was sapping away his body heat, along with his will to live. He passed the water bottle back to his cybercom and then stifled a yawn. He was still tired. He must've slept…almost six hours? That was actually a record. He was lucky if he caught even four consecutive hours of shuteye. Another reason he'd been threatened with being replaced by a fuckin' robotic clone. Back on the topic of robots… He cast a glance back at Blossom.

"Rabbit, time?"

If it wasn't clear that he didn't like her, it was now. He'd never called her by her proper name. Ever. She was just Rabbit, sometimes with The added to the front of her title. Blossom also had no proper voice. She was fitted with some of the highest quality speakers available in her upright ears, but those were for playing music (mostly). She could, if needed, use text-to-speech, but Dolly never had any use for such a function. She trotted up to the human, her cartoonish eyes flickering away. The screen that made up her face now displayed a few lines of text. He paused to read it.

"Mkay," Dolly mumbled and then gently shooed her away. 9 A.M. It should be raining again. No new messages from Hiro. Seven unread from Buck. 417 suspected spam. Whatever. He padded into his apartment's cramped bathroom- it wasn't too bad for him, as he was short and skinny. It was pretty much perfect for his size. That didn't mean he was very fond of it, though. His mood further dropped when he finally got a look in the mirror. as he saw the marks staining his white skin. Deep purple spots, some mauve and tinged with pink, littered his neck. A parting gift from his boss. He only ever had one rule: no marks. Of course, the rules didn't apply to a man like Nigel. Dolly watched eyes turn glossy and he quickly looked away. He needed to turn on the shower tap. So that was exactly what he focused on doing.

Silent crying was an art he'd mastered thanks to the same man. Dolly wouldn't even cry audibly in the privacy of his own home anymore. He wasn't some stupid crybaby. In fact, he didn't even think he had a good reason to be upset. Marks fade! He had makeup! It was fine! He was fucking fine! Nigel hadn't even hurt him this time, so this was better than usual. His vision blurred momentarily before he felt a tear roll down his cheek. Goddammit, stop crying. Stop crying. He swallowed thickly, removing the curled index finger that he was not-so-gently biting in an effort to stay quiet. This was fine. He was fine. He hurriedly dropped his clothes, which consisted of a white tank top and light pink undershorts. He didn't remember changing into this, which meant it was probably Nigel who did it before sending him home. Christ.

The sound of the pattering hot water masked that his breathing had gone funny. Dolly hopped inside, sighing as he felt the warm droplets wash away the tears cascading down his face. His shoulders slumped as he managed to relax, but only after a shiver ran down his spine. He was probably going to take a while, which was whatever. To hell with utility bills, Nigel would pay for them. The rising steam soothed his nose, thankfully. The irritation combined with the congestion brought from sobbing forced him to resort to mouth breathing. It made him feel stupid. Sleeping with his boss made him feel stupider. Everything else made him feel like one of the stupidest morons to grace this bitch of an earth. The thought alone made himself suppress a pained whimper. He loathed his self-awareness.

Dolly's time in the shower switched between looping thoughts about how much of an idiot he was, and what color he should temporarily dye his hair for the next show. It helped calm him down before he inevitably made himself cry again. Blue. He liked the color blue. A few streaks of powder blue would provide good contrast, as most of his wardrobe was pink. He was getting a bit tired of it. He wanted to get the stuff that glows under blacklights, as his natural hair color (or lack of it) shined brightly under them if he used the right hairspray. When he exited the shower, the reddening in his face had mostly faded. Although, the whites of his eyes were still a pinkish hue.

10 A.M.


By the time he was dried, dressed, and finishing his makeup, an hour had passed. He would've liked to go back to bed, but that would have proved to be redundant- sooner or later, he was probably going to be summoned to do something, whether it be an interview, meet-n-greet, or a PR stunt. Instead of resting, he put on one of the most oversized jackets he had (it was a shade of bright pink that matched his cybercom) and sipped on an energy drink. It tasted like battery acid and cough syrup, but it was one of those things he was used to. Breakfast consisted of caffeine, aspirin, and a leftover Chinese takeout. He shooed Blossom away every time she tried to hand him his water bottle again. He was very short with her, as he was adamant about not needing her help. Sure, his head was throbbing, and his muscles ached, but he was just fine. Maybe if he kept telling himself this, it’d come true.

Dolly finally relented to the rabbit’s fussing, but this was only because he needed something. After snatching the bottle, he plopped himself onto his bedside and called over to the android, his elbow resting on his knee as he supported his chin in his palm.

“Rabbit, I need to send a message to Hiro- a private message, for Hiro only.”

The cybercom approached and let out a soft chim to signify she was recording.

“Hey, so…” Dolly mumbled. He inhaled sharply to try and regain himself. “I just wanted to ask if you wanted to meet up at Happy Noodle again. I know we already went, but…I dunno, I’m just bored. End message.”

The phrase “I dunno, I’m just bored” was Dolly code for “I really need some help right now”. Hiro knew that, and he was probably the only one fluent in such a cipher. Dolly was never really honest around Blossom. He was stupid, but not stupid. Nigel had remote access to her, which meant he could go through all of his messages, history, and even spy on him in real time. He stopped caring about the privacy violations long ago. Dolly let out a sputtering sigh that made the locks of hair in his face fly forward momentarily. And now he would wait for a response. It could be minutes. It could be hours. Hell, maybe even days. Hiro was an elusive and busy guy. Honestly...Dolly didn't know that much about his personal life.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by miztli
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miztli perpetually nervous

Member Seen 1 day ago




T I M E : 6:00 AM - 9:45 AM
L O C A T I O N : Alex's apartment, 14th Ave S | In transit toward Bell Street Park
I N T E R A C T I O N S : Fuzz + NPCs
M E N T I O N S : N/A
E Q U I P M E N T : Light body armor | Fuzz


0600

In a dimly lit one-room apartment off 14th stirred a cyber K9 unit from its rest sequence. When its owner wasn't in his regular place, it scanned the room for a familiar heat signature, only to find him curled into the gap between the bed & tower server. The breathing pattern of the figure told Fuzz that he was still sleeping, but his form was dressed & his hair damp, dripping onto the pages of a ☒̵̡͈͇̗̟̳̯͉̏͛̏̿͝ͅ☒̴̢̹͓̪̗̜̬̪͎͉͂͐͝ͅ☒̴̢̼̜̞͉̠̬̼̲̱͍̉☒̸̧͙͎̱̙͇̘̟͍̥̰̮͐̽̉͑̂̒̏̑̎͂͛ in his lap at a rate of .34 droplets/second.

Located: Cyber K9 Handler C-232.

As a cybercom, Fuzz had an awaiting morning sequence to carry out, but it seemed like his owner had gotten a head start. Estimating the amount of time taken to shower & dress himself, it seemed Fuzz had 16 minutes to itself before needing to wake Alex to keep him on schedule.

At this realization, Fuzz nuzzled its way into its owner's lap.

Alarm in 960 seconds.
Entering sleep mode.

"Alright son, in a second you're gonna read out what's there for me," said an aging human, dressed in office wear. He pointed to an ID card hanging of the neck of the taller human beside him. The older one approached, "K9, register your owner."

At the prompt, the taller of the two took the other's place & announced, "Cyber K9 Handler C-232: Alejandro Cuesta." He hesitated a bit, eye darting up & back down to the ID as he spoke.

Registering Cyber K9 Handler C-232.
Status: Active K9.

Suddenly, he'd been given access to latent functions reserved for active units. The UI became filled with extra information, like the heartrates of the two humans & the estimations of the two's state of minds. One: Leaning forward, drawn brows, clenched jaw... Nervous. The other: half-lidded, leaned back, arms crossed... Apathetic. Voice box hummed, "... I am Alejandro Cuesta's Cyber K9."

"Alright, register aliases."

"Oh uh, Alex works."

"Hello, Alex works."

"God dammit," The mechanic fussed & nudged Alejandro out of the way, "Gimme a sec."


6:23 AM

Alejandro woke when the lump of leather stirred in his lap for the second time. His offline systems would have him reposition himself every 10 minutes to prevent something like components shifting, Alejandro recalled someone saying at work.
For a moment, he stayed like that, soaking in the low sun. He'd idly pet Fuzz & lament the probable crinkling of the book he'd been reading. No doubt was it ruined under the shifting weight of the big loaf &, as he'd come to realize, the dripping his hair contributed earlier that morning. He'd gotten up around 5 for whatever reason that day; nothing wrong with starting the day an hour early, he figured.
Accepting the loss with a huff, Alejandro gave his dog a firm pat, "C'mon bud, get up."

Soft whirring filled the silence of the morning. With a robotic whine, Fuzz roused to give a big stretch across Alejandro's chest; if it weren't for the armor he'd accidentally fallen asleep in, the scuffed up paws would have definitely left a scratch. From the amount of walking his little body's done, the leather of his limbs were already beginning to wear off & show metal. The reminding sight made Alejandro's heart twist.

Another pat. "Feeling okay? You didn't wake me up today. Maybe... we should get you checked out?" At the suggestion, the dog shook his head at an almost concerning speed. He jumped up onto the newly made bed — from before he fell back asleep — & gave a fiery bark toward the blinds, leaving a singe on a couple.

"Uh! No sir. Bad!" With a huff, Alejandro got to his feet to fan away the smoke with the paperback — a trashy pay-per-word romance novel whose title wasn't really worth mentioning. Alarm averted, he smacked his hand against the book, directing the sound at Fuzz with a frown, "Bad dog. What the hell?"

"System diagnostics come back tolerable," came from Fuzz's speaker in that apathetic, Starsoft David voice. One of these days Alejandro would get around to downloading something more fitting... One day.

"Tolerable is setting us on fire?!"

Another fuel-expelling bark. Alejandro threw his hands up, "¡Ya! I get it." Fuzz nodded, walking a couple circles before plopping down on the bed with a satisfied gruff. Alejandro wished he'd gotten that extra hour of sleep after all, feeling his eyes roll at the sight.

Having left Fuzz to nap, Alejandro stood in front of the mirror with a set head tilt & frown. He unbuckled & unzipped parts of his armor to soothe out his nap lines and then, like clockwork, he dressed himself. Smoothing out his sleeves & lapel, he considered the vision in the mirror.
The state of himself was... in Fuzz's words, tolerable. The neck of his armor stuck out past both the button-up & suit collar. The edges of his armor's velcro & zippers showed through the beige suit a bit oddly. There was an ink stain on the right wrist from last week's event. Dry cleaning was expensive, alright?
His hair had dried wrong, most noticeably, though he supposed the suit would offset that. A part of him considered jumping into the shower again, but he had a report to turn in before heading into that luncheon. Bad hair day, then; adds character.

"Ready?" He asked when he turned back around to face his now-drooling cyber dog. Fuel was getting all over his sheets. He'd have to clean that up this afternoon. That thought made him just wanna head out sooner, so with a tug on Fuzz's handle, they did.


9:31 AM

Knock knock.

"Got your report. Would've given you the afternoon, but good on you getting this in."

"Oh. Morning, chief," Alejandro swiveled to face the stout middle-aged man who'd stepped up to the desk he'd been occupying that morning - not assigned to him... yet. He tugged at his sleeve's trim & averted his eyes, "Yeah well, got up early so you know. Actually, I'm just heading out."

"Don't let me keep you," The chief's eyes wandered the little semi-cubicle, with Alejandro's following, before finally landing down at Fuzz. He must've noticed the paws, because he then mused, "Wanna leave it here? The maintenance guys could reskin it while you're out."

Alejandro pursed his lips in thought, watching Fuzz stifle a reaction; acting out here would mean a definite visit to maintenance. "Uh, maybe later. The, uh, kids like seeing him. Er, it." Did kids attend luncheons? Alejandro didn't even know.

"Hrm..." The chief's gaze darted between the two, before nodding, "Good thinkin'." He rested his hand on the desk's divider, stepping out before halting.

"And Alex?"

"Yeah?"

"Fix the mop."

"Uh — Yes sir."

In a stern voice, the chief added, "You're the department's face today. Look like it."

Alejandro felt his face fall when the chief took his leave. That last part wasn't as honorable as the chief's tone had implied it to be. Part of his duties as a new firemen was, evidently, playing fireman dress up whenever events called for it. Stuff like setting up recruitment booths at schools or attending these kinds of charity luncheons on behalf of the department. It couldn't really be helped; the other guys handled calls, while newbies were left with the chores.

Alejandro combed a hand through his "mop" — bit rude, really. It was short. More like a broom, than a mop — before landing his hand over his mouth, feeling at the downturned corners of his lips. Alejandro grimaced. The effects were lasting less & less these days. He reached a hand into the crossbody bag he'd strapped across Fuzz's back.

Pill popped, Alejandro slumped. He melted a bit into his chair, a calmness settling into features. The chief's voice echoed internally: Look like it. From his side, Fuzz gave a whine & nuzzled into a limp hand.



9:38 AM

The commute was to be around 7 minutes. From his readings, Alejandro recalled it having been doubled some 30 years ago without today's advancements in transportation.
It'd be 9:45 when they arrived; an exact 15 minutes before the event started. Perfectly early enough to settle into whatever table the organizers set him up with. Luckily, he thought, he didn't have to carry those hologram pop-up banners with him, like he did at booths. He just had to show up, eat, chat with department sponsors if they recognized him, & go home; Chief had said he would've given him the afternoon off, after all. Surely that still stood.

When he could, Alejandro avoided heading north. He didn't know; wasn't his scene or something like that. Halfway into the trip, when the bus made a stop, he remembered why.

Net U. As though he knew, Fuzz plopped his head into Ale's lap. Alejandro pet him, more for himself rather than the pup. Like a cruel joke, memories of school came to the forefront. When he'd been called into the counsellors, urging him to take a chance. That there were talks of Net making exceptions. That his grades were more than enough to be considered. That with a couple more extra curriculars, he'd have a good chance at candidacy. That —

Without a second thought, he reached into Fuzz's bag, tugging at the dog's handles when he pulled away.

Peace. The rest of the ride went smoothly after that. Great, even. Maybe, if he was lucky, he'd catch sight of the Needle before heading in. A mechanical whine.
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Auz
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Auz

Member Seen 27 days ago



Time: 11am
Location: Giovanni's Pizza, 95th and Sandpoint
Interactions: Mysterious Stranger, JV and Oshun
Mentions: N/A
Equipment: Standard Gear




“95th and Sand Point.”

The driver laughed at him. A sharp, swift cackle that sent his head snapping backwards.

“You want me to take you that far North Side?” He laughed again. “You must be outta your damn mind.”

JV, less amused, leaned deeper through the cab window. “I can handle myself just fine.” He rumbled, opening one side of his trenchcoat and gesturing towards his revolver.

The cabbie’s head bobbed up and down like a buoy at sea. “Oh yeah, I’m sure your 10ft, bulletproof, mean muggin ass can my man, but I ain’t talkin’ bout you.” His hand dropped from the wheel, sticking out a thumb towards himself. “But this guy right here has got a life, one that he’d like to keep.”

Grunting as he pulled back from the window, JV thrust his coat closed. That was the second cab to turn away his business. Maybe that’s what he got for being cheap, trying to take human operated road only cabs like all the other broke people in the city. Muck from the tires kicked up as the car sped off. Freezing rain started to fall. The man’s fists tightened, he didn’t like the idea of crawling back to anyone but time was wasting and the decision not to wear more layers was exacerbating his sour mood.

“Oshun?” Even his thoughts came out as if he were speaking through gritted teeth. “Get me an AutoCab.” A car beeped from above the road, throwing on an indicator and making its way down. Odd. Usually she appeared in person, or well, digitally in-person. Was she mad at him? Or letting him cool off steam?

JV shook the thought loose as he entered the back of the cab. The man was on the job, who cared what the program thought. Leaning towards the empty front seat, old habits, JV directed. “Nine-” The car jerked forward, practically throwing the man against the back of the cab. A small screen on the back of the empty drivers seat lit up as a woman’s face, white as porcelain, appeared. “Good morning sir, we thank you for choosing AutoCab as your riding service today. Is this appearance to your liking?” Her lips were full, pouting with a matte red lipstick as her head tilted from side to side. Despite her oriental appearance her eyes were unnaturally wide, clearly meant to mimic an anime character.

“Sure.” He replied, shifting around in the seat to mould his own groove. “Whatever.”

“Excellent, Sir.” The image on screen zoomed out with the figure curtsying and clapping before returning to the characters face. “Our ride North will take approximately 35 minutes as traffic is considered to be ‘heavy’. Your Cybercom has already given us your destination and your preferred ridealong interaction. Please enjoy ‘general cab chatter’.”

“Huh? No?”

“Crazy weather we’re having today right, sir? Can’t believe traffic is backed up all the way to-”

Ok. She was mad.

“Just apologise to her.” A little voice from inside beseeched. JV’s hand clutched his face, squeezing it tightly as a deep exhale caught the back of his throat. Even his conscience worked against him, dubbing Oshun’s voice, torturing him. “And what about this job? Aren’t you the least bit curious as to-”. “Gah! Mute!” He snapped, causing the figure on screen to nod in compliance, dissipating into blackness. “Everything just fuckin’ shut up.”

Rain tapped on the glass as the rest of the cab held its breath in silence. A familiar sting nipped at the base of his skull. Slithering up like a snake from his spine, the feeling crawled past the cerebellum towards his frontal lobe. His hands tingled as his veins itched. His blood boiled, yearning, begging. It was only one call away. One call and he didn’t have to feel anything anymore, he could take so much it would override the detoxifier and-

“It’s ok, I’m here.”

JV’s hand dropped from his face as his head turned. There sat Oshun, smiling as her cybernetic etchings glowed a luminous, calming amber. Her hand hovered over his leg, phasing through as the cab jerked in a turn. JV slumped as his head flopped back into the headrest. He sharply inhaled as if about to speak but turned to look out the window instead. His way of saying ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’.

The cab dipped, parking on the side of the road, dinging as it reached its destination. “Keep it circling above, ready for a quick pickup.” JV said as he climbed out. Jammed together between an old timey barbershop and a dilapidated tattoo parlour sat Giovanni's Pizza. Its neon sign buzzed and flickered above the door with several letters failing to light up. “Vanni’s izza ay?” the man chuckled, turning towards his Cybercom.

“Was that an actual joke?” Oshun shot back, her hand lightly slapping the side of her cheek as a faux surprised look washed over her face. JV smirked, shaking his head. He deserved that. “5 o’clock.” She whispered, her voice suddenly becoming strained with intensity. Whipping around, he noticed several figures across the cracked and broken plasticrete road with all but one standing in the shadow of an alleyway.

Under the dim light of the neon glow, a slender, punk dressed young man stood with his eyes unmistakably bearing down on JV. The Haitian’s hand disappeared into his coat, widening his stance as he did so. A telegraphed warning. On the opposite side of the road, the man backed slowly off into the darkness of the alley, all of the figures evaporating along with him. “I don’t like this.” Oshun groaned.

“Since when is this worse than normal?” He replied, turning to head into the shop. Pushing the door open a tired, worn out digital voice welcomed him. “Benvenuto!” The pudgy Italian looking hologram flickered as it spun a virtual pizza into the air. The restaurant had an old world feel to it; diner red booths, a counter plastered with cracked and peeling vinyl, sneeze guards covering empty ingredient dishes and a silver clad kitchen in the back. Clearly, the register was the newest item in the place and even that was an outdated Cyber model. It was a homage to a world that perhaps was a simpler time, an accolade that would almost make anyone feel at ease, well, except for the decapitated body in the centre of the room.

Gore bled from the body's neck, spurting over the ground and pooling at the feet of an android. The thing had no skin, it’s body was just a twisted concoction of metal and wiring, a beast built with no love lost. Its face had been painted crimson, skeletal in appearance with ferocious fangs instead of teeth. Unmistakably inhuman. Light glinted off a katana held in the thing's right hand as drops of blood dripped from its razor sharp edge onto the floor.

Off to the Cybercoms side sat a man in a sharp looking suit. He was poised on a wooden chair with his hands clapped together as if he were watching a play. Bald and bearded, he was clearly of oriental descent with a giant dragon tattoo etched into the side of his head. A large scar formed a line that ran from his forehead to his cheek, leaving the eye in the centre that separated it blind. Looking over at JV, the man smiled devilishly. “It’s too bad you walked in.”

Electricity from the katana crackled to life, searing off the remaining blood as the Cybercoms stance changed in an instant. Drawing the sword to its hip with both hands, the android pointed the tip towards JV and charged.

Instinctually, the Haitian’s hand had dropped to the grip of his revolver from the first sight of the blood and was now whipping out the handgun. “Three shots, don’t empty it.”

Bang, bang, bang.

Alas, this was no western and hip fire was inaccurate even at the best of times. Two shots glanced, with the third missing completely. The Cybercom was on him, closing the gap and thrusting the sword out with both hands. Luckily, JV was faster, side stepping the thrust and pushing the android off balance. It wasn’t enough to knock the thing over but it was enough to gain a single moment. Bullets weren’t the only thing in the man's arsenal as he had simultaneously been hacking the target.

Hacking Target…
Hacking Target…

>Success!
>Quickhack Select:
>Sonic Shock
Run//: Sonic_shock.exe


The android jolted, frying in perceived pain before dropping to the floor, incapacitated. Flinging out his arm, JV aimed down the barrel towards the man in the chair.

“I’m just here for the pizza. Hand it over or I'll kill you.”

With his bottom lip upturned, the stranger glared back in disdain. His eyes flickered back and forth between JV and his downed Cybercom before narrowing with a sense of contemplation. The Haitian was unflinching in his stance with his triggerfinger ready to pop off at a moment's notice. Tension swelled across the room like a cloud of poisonous gas until finally, the seated man let out a sharp, forceful exhale from his nose, dismissively smiling.

“No.” His voice was deep and yet somewhat smooth. “You be a fool to shoot me.” The sentence was thick with accent as a half smirk grimaced his face. His blind eye shifted, rolling around in his head, darting back and forth.

“He’s calculating scenario outcomes.” The voice of Oshun whispered from somewhere in the ether. “If you’re going to shoot, now would be the time.”

Standing, the man continued. “My death will haunt your every move, JV.” The Haitians name lingered in the air, sounding as if that word alone had been said robotically. “Something about today, or maybe it’s tonight. It’s just… different.” Damballa’s prediction echoed through JV’s thoughts, gently tugging like strings of curiosity. Pulling just enough to stay his wrath.

Ignoring the threat of the gun the stranger continued to stir. With a hand gripped around his opposing wrist, he appeared to loosen it, causing his hand to disappear and be replaced with a sharpened sword. The metal arm flexed back and forth, limbering up for a fight. “I’ve business here. We make a deal. I don’t kill you, but you work for me now. Be a Samurai’s friend,” he shrugged, “Then, pizza is yours.”

Ah, the Samurai’s. Aunt Nettie’s favourite group of degenerate mercs. Bootlickers with lucrative contracts that paid by the bucket load. “Heh,” JV chuckled, “Sure, so long as it don’t mess with the Prophet’s business, what do I care?” The Haitian‘s gun dipped, lowering it from a potential headshot to a torso. “Hand me whatever the pizza actually is and then call when you’ve got a job.”

The strangers face twisted, conjuring up a wicked grin. Mechanical sounds from his arm whirred as the blade disappeared. “Wise choice, JV.” Dusting off his suit, the Samurai took in a deep breath, rolling his head around before looking towards the ceiling. “Pizza is all yours.” He exhaled as his arm widely gestured towards the back of the store. Still wary of the man, JV glanced across the counter and into the kitchen, spotting what looked like a stack of pizzas in the back. Snapping his attention back to the stranger, he watched as the man slowly edged his way around the Haitain, slithering out the front door like the snake he was.

“Phew.” Relief escaped JV as he brought sleeve to brow, wiping a few beads of sweat from his forehead. “Next time, we enter in the back way.”

Oshun pixelated into view, her face heaving with disappointment. “So you’re a Corpo and a gang member now?”

JV smiled, taking the opportunity to reload his gun. “You’re the one always telling me to ‘branch out’.”

The Cybercom sighed in frustration as the Haitian moved behind the counter. Blood was strewn across the floor, from pools of the stuff to violent splashes up the wall. Bodies of men in suits and kitchen hands had been left where they dropped, all decapitated. “Oh god.” Oshun whispered as JV looked ahead. There, in the corner of the room, floated a stack of pizza boxes, held in some kind of holographic warming device. Reaching them, the man thumbed his way down the pile finding the name ‘Endo’ written on the side of three of them. JV’s shoulders dipped in relief as he parted the stack, grabbing the prize with his hand.

Warping across to JV’s side, Oshun poked her head around the man’s shoulder like a cat. “Aren’t you curious as to what’s in them?” The Haitian scoffed, “I think we’ve had enough trouble for one day. Call the cab back down, let’s get these pizzas delivered.”
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Mole
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Mole Fuka-Eri

Member Seen 16 hrs ago



C H A R I T Y L U N C H E O N
________________________________________________________________________________


Time: 11:00 AM - 12:10 AM
Location: Elliot Bay




The luncheon was featured in a large electronic bubble floating above Elliot Bay. The water was wearing a projection with sparkling lights that made it a dazzling spectacle with the occasional flare of some iridescent flare-rain display. Rarely did the bay make such an appearance.

Inside the holographic bubble was an extravagant dining hall of floating cybernetic tables. The tables had a fresh whiteness all over them. The screens displaying on the table tops adorned placemats, silverware, fancy plates, and frilly napkins folded into swans. There was a centerpiece on each table — a genetically modified floral arrangement that changed colors with the general ambiance.

Faux-trees with plastiglass trunks stood at various locations around the hall, giving a glitzy, clean, earthy feel. Whatever that meant. Inside the trunks was an iridescent art of wires and sparks. The trees were wearing plastiglass leaves like gems, and decorating those gems were ornamental fruit with a scent of rose and lavender and something else to relax the attendees sponsor for the event.

A little ways from the dining hall was a side area of large tea cups with tables in the middle. The tea cups spun around in a synchronized style, and many attendees were enjoying a drink on these tilting devices. Each tea cup was fashioned to some sort of decadence. They were all transparent and bejeweled with an arrangement of prosperous subtly glowing flowers and gold articulating various angles and oddities to each particular ride. Rides were not for free.

Around the inside perimeter of the bubble were oblong floating tables that housed various expensive items calculated for a silent auction. Net runners were at work to guarantee Mr. So-So his gadget and Ms. What’s-her-face that emerald necklace, but no one would dare mention it.

Some Surplus magician dressed in an eccentric suit of patches and class was helping form a small crowd for those uninterested in the auction. He was making a dizzying display of tips and tricks with his cybernetics and augmentations. He was probably being underpaid, as a charitable contribution, but at least he was being paid and smiling. He was accepting tips for the charity.

Opposite of the Surplus magician was a Cybercom band. They were playing some jazz-type music. Occasionally, the music would get hip and off-beat and experimental, but mostly, it tried to stay with generically pre-AutoAmerica tunes. No one crowded around the band. People merely walked by and had a slight acknowledgement. The band blended into the backdrop nicely.

Cybercoms in eccentrically old-fashioned servant outfits decorated the place as servers who held various hors d'oeuvres, like sushi, tempura, and sparkling beverages with a glow.

Enforcers made themselves known. Bodyguards graced the dining hall like the decadent ornaments on the plastiglass trees. It was obviously a place with high society people, and any scum who somehow got invited was not allowed to get away with blinking out of turn. The hanging chandeliers, dripping electronic jewels, were only an extra pair of eyes to maintain this peaceful architecture of a social event.

Below the bubble were small blimps that made periodic trips from the ground and to the entrance of the bubble. At the launching ramp, security was tight, with invitation and barcode scanning, as well as identity matchers. It was a meticulous process, but the entry managed to only hold a minimal line at most, with multiple blimps making their take-off at the same time. Table numbers were assigned at check-in, catered through the attendees’ barcodes. Proper attire was also required, but word on the street, they were taking a lackadaisical approach with the Surplus.

The stage of the luncheon began with everyone mingling and networking. The Surplus were somehow merged with the the Netters. Whether they actually spoke to each other was up for discretion, but the news was adamant to make sure everyone looked like they were having fun.

About one hour into the luncheon, a delightful bell ring was heard. A woman wearing a small, pink flouncy dress with a darker bow at the waist. old-fashion bell from antique pre-AutoAmerica. Her pink lips were in a smile as she spoke, “The Silent Auction is closed! Please, everyone, go to your tables and enjoy our special menu before we invite our guest speakers to make themselves known!” Her voice was just as perky as her candy sweet smile.

Attendees of the luncheon began shuffling towards their tables. The Cybercom waiteresses came bringing salads and filling drink orders. Coffee? Sugar? Creamer? Oh, I’m sorry, I will go bring the tea, right away. Obviously, this place was too posh for Surplus, and they should be counting their blessings and how much they’re willing to donate to make up for what the charity was spending to seat them. It doesn’t always make sense how these volunteer organizations run, but they seem to make money and help those in need.

"I can't believe you wore s Chanel el~bee~dee to a luncheon." Bianca scoffed as she sipped on her mimosa, steaming with mind-rain dry ice. She pulled the drink from her lips, and a small touch of colored moisture clung to the glass. She shook her head and decided to change the subject towards Nekatrios and Adam, "I also can't believe you still have human body guards," she said and motioned towards her cybercom. He looked like he belonged at the Luncheon, unlike Adam and Nektarios. They seemed like actors playing their part and trying to ignore the conversation.

“They’re only temp~or~ra~ry,” Annie said. She giggled a little at the thought of getting a new anything. “Besides, my father’s old fashioned. He says it’s the way of Nintendo, to keep things classy. Besides, I’m not the one wearing last year’s Miu Miu collection. Just grow up and wear Prada, already. Like, what the hey?” Annie smirked.

The two young women continued their banter before finally settling on taking a MetaTok hologram picture, taken by Bianca’s Cybercom. They both agreed it looked way better than the official photobooth the Luncheon had to offer, despite not having the Luncheon's retro-vibes. Not soon afterwards, the two Asians took their seats alongside their three bodyguards. Their plastic perfect smiles filtered through the rest of their table's guests.

Annie put her mimosa on the table as she took a seat next to Alejandro. "Wow, a Book Burner!" She looked at him as if he was a piece in the museum. Bianca made a small comment about how small he was compared to the ones she saw on MetaTok, but both agreed he was adorable. However, he to~ta~lly was not as adorable as the cute little middle schooler, also known as Executive D'alessio's son. Oh, and they remembered the days when they would accompany their fathers to these types of things. Now we go at them a~lone.

They greeted Edward D’alessio with their own twenty year-old flirty ways. Who knows? Maybe, they would get lucky. He was still a bachelor, afterall. Plus, his son was like so, so ad~or~able. I mean, just look at his baby cheeks! Soo~ooo, cute!

The last person they greeted was August "Bailey" Hawkins. "It's sooo cute that you came, being a Surplus, and all." Annie started. It was obvious they looked at each guest as some random bystander who should appreciate the fact that they are being graced by their presence -- aside from Mr. D’alessio and his son, of course.

Bianca was too busy sizing-up Bailey to really tsay anything. What was she wearing? Annie's little black dress definitely was needed to offset some of the Surplus fashion sense. She hadn't thought about that until, now. In fact, she had avoided all the Surplus at the event to the best of her ability. Why was there one at her table? Instead of saying anything to Bailey, Bianca looked at her Cybercom. He was dressed to the nines, not unlike Adam and Nektarios, who were being completely ignored as usual. "Trent," she toyed with his tie, "MetaTok a gram of us all," She would edit the Surplus out later.

"As you wish, Bianca." Trent stood from his seat and made a small bow. He acted like one of those JPN-22 Boyfriends-For-Rent. He removed his tie pin, a Starsoft gadget. It opened several layers of itself to look like some cute hologram camera, shaped like a Hello Kitty silhouette. "Say sushi," his head tilted to the side in anticipation for everyone's faces to align to a faux-cheeriness.

In all, it was clear these two bad bitches were going to try to conduct the table and not let anyone take the spotlight from them.
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by PatientBean
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Avatar of PatientBean

PatientBean Bringer of Chaos and Tacos

Member Seen 9 hrs ago



Time: 9:24 A.M.
Location: Giovanni's Pizza Place
Interactions: Mr. Endo, Watson, Enemy NetRunners
Mentions: N/A
Equipment: Stun Gun, Shock Baton, Cyberware




"So we are doing work for the Mafia now?"

Watson stood as Persephone crouched down, eyeing the spot ahead of her. His concern was not unwarranted. She did not expect this when she accepted the job. But then again, one didn't reject a job offer from Mr. Endo. "It'll be fine. I'll be in and out of their system with no one the wiser."

"You getting caught wasn't what I was concerned about though we certainly can add it to the list. I was mainly referring to doing a job for a known crime family."

"You find me someone in this city that doesn't have some criminal element to them and I will eat by Cyberdeck."

Watson blew out some air in frustration because he knew she had a point. "He could have at least told you before we came here. Imagine if you were some other NetRunner who doesn't plan. Walking into a mafia hideout. They would disappear and no one would think about them ever again."

Persephone hid a shudder she felt. How many people walked through this city and then were gone? No one looking for them. No one remembering them. The city just eating them up whole. She could have easily been one of them had she continued along her route as a child. Before Grandma Zhai took her in, formed her, shaped her. "I am not your run-of-the-mill NetRunner though. And this job is easy."

"Walk me through it all again."




Yesterday

Incoming Message
Incoming Message


101000111100101010010101010

Loading………

Loading……..


th0rn_r0se,

Your reputation precedes you. I have heard much of your work and I am intrigued. I believe I have a job for you. One you will be well compensated for. An easy job as it stands. I need you to wipe security footage and make it look like an average workday. Simple job. The location is Giovanni's Pizza Place, 95th and Sandpoint. I encourage you to not ask questions as I will not give answers. Suffice to say it is a job that needs doing and you are the right person for it. I advise caution, though I am sure I need not warn an experienced NetRunner like yourself. Once it is done, please confirm with me and I will process payment immediately.

Best of luck.


_Conection Terminated_




Present

Persephone accepted the job immediately. It wasn't like she was in a place to reject work. And to have a job from someone well-known like Mr. Endo was big. If she did good, other jobs could open up to her. Connections made. If her reputation could be built up like that she could get a job that could set her up for life if she chose.

Not that she would. This was her life.

"Well be careful. If anyone in there catches you in their system, that's it. Even if you run you will be marked. The mafia doesn't play around."

Persephone waved him off, but inside she knew he was right. There was risk involved here.

The pizza place itself was unassuming, which was perfect for a crime organization. Granted, what crime organization had a building that wasn't unassuming? It wasn't like they rented neon billboards to broadcast their shady dealings, though that would be a nice change of pace. However, a scan of the building itself showed her an intense net system with high security. She didn't see any guards at the door or in the window, but she was sure there would be security detailing inside. Which called for stealth.

The plan was this. From a quick scan, she was able to locate the main hub at the top. It would most likely be heavily guarded, both inside and within. She could handle the Net security easily, but she didn't know if she could tangle with armed mafia guards.

If she could remote hack, that would be preferable, but the system was set up so you could only get in via the access point. Which means she had to go inside. Walking in through the front door this early would be stupid. Not only did she not look like your average consumer, but they weren't open yet and wouldn't be for a little over an hour yet. She noted an access point on the roof and that was going to be here way in.

"I'm going to need you to be an extra set of eyes when I'm inside. I can handle the cybersecurity just fine, but I can't do much if someone walks in and sees me." Watson nodded, but didn't say anything. She knew he would watch over her.

"Let's go wipe some security then."




Getting to the roof was easier than she expected. There weren't many people around and walking at this hour, though there were some street walkers and sidewalk sleepers, though they often kept to themselves. Best not to call attention to yourself unless you wanted to be picked up and whisked off to who knows where. As she climbed up, she made note of the cameras on the outside. Once she wiped it, she would disappear also, though she did her best to remain unseen.

Once at the top, Persephone did a scan of the building. As expected, she detected people walking around, some sitting inside offices, some patrolling the halls, some downstairs in the restaurant part, getting the day ready. Did they actually sell pizza?

She got to her entry point and slowly slid it open, listening for anything. Once she was sure it was clear, she slid in.

The hallway was dark, lit only by a few dingy lights and a neon sign for the pizza place. She crept along the wall, listening for footsteps. She didn't want to take anyone down, it would be that much harder to hide the body. Plus if patrols disappeared, that alerted the whole place.

She heard someone coming down so she ducked into a small alcove. Thankfully her suit made it easier. She watched as a heavily armed man walked by. Decked out with cybernetics and a pretty mean-looking gun. This group didn't mess around. If she didn't know any better, security seemed beefed up. Did something happen? She made a mental note to herself.

Once it was safe, she moved quickly, but still quietly. She got to the room with the net hub. She slid the door open, ducked inside, and shut it. She locked the door too, only as a precaution. The hub room itself was smaller than she anticipated, but it was meant for one person to go in. A chair was set up, but she would already be exposed. Watson came up again. "Ok I am going to deck in. Keep a look out and ping me if anyone is trying to get in. I'd rather not fight my way out of here, but I will do so if need me." Watson looked concerned, but he kept his mouth shut. She opened her connection and slotted in. Closing her eyes, she felt herself connect and, eventually, go inside.

She always felt at home in the NetSpace. This was where she shined. Calling up her tools, she sent a St3alth hack. It would, at least, make it harder to detect her. She moved forward and was hit instantly with a Firewall. She got to work, hacking into the system. The first one went down easily, though she noticed a few more came up. The closer she got inside, the more security there would be. Something buzzed and she felt a presence.

She quickly ran forward as a blast hit beside her. She looked up to see a figure there. Another NetRunner inside. Where was he slotted in? "Hacker alert. Increase security level!" she heard him scream. If the security level got raised, she would be in deep trouble. She sent out her P0ison hack towards the other runner, hacking into his system. Once established, it slowly crept its way through the user's health. She shot her own blast at the man as he moved over. She continued forward, shooting another blast. The runner sent one back and the blasts collided. She had to get rid of him quickly. If she could take him out he would disconnect and be knocked out back in the real world. Enough time for her to grab what she needed and jack out.

The runner jumped down and in front of her, unleashing a torrent of blows. She jumped back, sending a wave, knocking the man over. She took the opportunity to jump on top of him and knock him out. Hopefully, he stayed that way.

The firewalls remained up as she hacked her way through three of them before she found some files. Her mental note came back up and she scanned for the security footage for the day Mr. Endo asked for. She sent her R3tri3ve hack and quickly grabbed it, clearing it after she was done. If anyone looked, they would see a perfectly average day at the pizza place.

She wanted to see the footage herself but figured it would be best to get out now. She made her way back as she felt another presence. The glanced at the first runner, who was still down. Another one was around. She ran to her exit point, feeling another presence come up. She didn't look back, but she could tell they were looking for her. Once at her exit point she looked to see three figures all running toward her, sending out blasts and shots. She could also feel one of them attempting to hack her. She jacked out without hesitation.

Once out, she quickly saved the file into her Memory Chip before she got up. "We need to go now." She unlocked the door and slid into the hallway. She made it back to the rooftop and closed the access point. She slid down the wall and sighed in relief. She was, more or less, safe now.

She opened her chip and slotted it in to view it. She was dying of curiosity. The footage started normally. People going about their business. And then....a figure. A woman, by the looks of it. From what Pesephone saw, the woman looked like she meant business. A hardened figure, though beautiful. Her posture read determination and, sure enough, chaos ensued. The woman held her own. Persephone noted the use of hacks, the skill required to go into a known mafia location and get out unscathed. She shut the footage down and saved it again. Why did Mr. Endo need this erased? Was he working for the mafia? Possibly. Either way, it might be nice to hold on to this data. In case she ever needed a leg up, whether against the mafia or even this mysterious woman.




Persephone made it back to her place, falling on the couch. She rested a few minutes before she sat up and sent a message to Mr. Endo, confirming the job was done. She saved the footage in her own personal stash, along with the many other potential revenge files she saved over the years. She had one for many people she ran across. Hell, she even had one for Mr. Smith should he ever decide to screw her over. She hated it and loved it at the same time. You could only ever trust yourself and even that wasn't a 100% guarantee.

She may have just made more enemies, but she would just add them to the list of the growing number of people in this city who wouldn't mind if she died.
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Hidden 1 mo ago Post by False Prophet
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Avatar of False Prophet

False Prophet Perfidious

Member Seen 8 hrs ago


Time: 10:30 A.M. - 12:15 P.M.
Loc: Elliot Bay
@: @Mole @miztli @Lucky
Interactions: King Tal, Edward D’alessio, Annie & Bianca, Bailey, Alejandro
Equipment: Several bags of dice, gummy bears, and a portable toolkit



10:30 AM


Right on the dot. Punctual. Perfect. That was what was expected of the Netters. The car ride and subsequent blimp ride were uneventful. When Toby stepped foot into the magnificent bubble hosting the event, it was a bit sparse on people- of course it would be. From what Toby understood, his father had to show up early to prepare for a speech. He caught onto this by overhearing a voice call (or bits of it). In his personal opinion, unprepared speeches were the best kinds. They were always from the heart. If there was one thing he'd ever learned from Dungeon Mastering for the past three years, it was that nothing ever went as planned. Sometimes it was irritating to deal with, but there was usually some value in the chaos. There was no chaos here, though. In this dome, the prim and proper atmosphere of high society reigned supreme. There was no room for error. Despite having grown up like this, even he found it suffocating.

Or maybe that was his bowtie. He subtly tugged at it but didn't dare remove it. That would be rude. Even he wasn't immune to embarrassment. Sort of. After checking in and joining the well-mannered frivolity, he kept the dark green beanie atop his head. There were several buttons and pins, some animated, of game emblems and Nintendo characters. The beanie was going to stay on the entire time if he could help it- just to spite his dad. Also, he wasn't too enthusiastic about his new hairstyle. Although it was mildly tamed, the dusty gold ringlets were still trying to fight gravity. Why not just cut his hair? Because he liked how it wiggled when he shook his head. It was his most recognizable feature- or was it his freckles?

People were beginning to filter into the party. The decor, as always, was forgettably dazzling. These things blended together in his brain. One fancy thing after another. Toby had better things to focus on. He longed to sit down somewhere and type away at his campaign notes, unfortunately, his father kept dragging him around to exchange unenthusiastic hellos with his fellow members of high society. He couldn’t remember half of these people if he tried. It was all Senior Executive This and Chief Advisor That. Business stuff. Gross. They were all the same type of person that all asked him the same questions. How old are you? Twelve. What grade are you in? Seventh. What’s your favorite subject? Science. Not like anybody asking ACTUALLY cared. It was all just formalities, or a gateway to start speaking about how great they are and what their life was like. And that’s why these gatherings always ate Toby up from the inside.

11:00 A.M.


Toby’s respite came in the form of the Silent Auction. His father wished to participate, and even he had enough emotional intelligence to recognize that such an activity would bore his little son to death. So long as he was accompanied by King Tal, Toby was finally permitted to go run off and do whatever it was children did to have fun. His father sent him off with a small word of advice: “Stay on your best behavior, Tobes.”

Best behavior, my ass!

It was a rebellious thought that Toby had no true desire to act upon. He didn’t have it in his heart to cause any lasting trouble towards anybody. Even with his gaggle of tween besties, they generally stayed in line- even with Marylin, who was more of the rowdy and rebellious type. He wished her, Noah, and Yu were here. It'd stave off the boredom. But alas…they were summoned to be with the people, mingling in school instead of a fancy luncheon (as if their private school was any less elitist). Toby stopped to get a look at the Surplus performer. Compared to everything else he could look at, this was by far the most interesting thing in the room.

"Hey, King, record."

The cybercom focused its attention towards the performer. A blinking red dot in the center of the dragon's left eye signified that it was recording. The entire ordeal was rather doglike- but that was how the world functioned. The Surplus begged for scraps of money from the Netters. Toby was too focused trying to decipher the tricks, though. Was it sleight of hand? Holograms? Both? It was on the table. The mechanical hands of the performer were quick and laser accurate. This was far too complicated for a "regular" human to accomplish on their own. Would he get any cool augments when he got older? He was on the fence about it. Yeah, they were super sweet, but that usually meant getting a body part lopped off. He'd had enough surgeries already!

"Send that to The Bitch Hunters."

The Bitch Hunters was a group chat consisting of all of his aforementioned best friends. Toby was, obviously, phenomenal at nicknames. The Bitch Hunters was a reference to his last campaign and it sorta...stuck. It was a play on the witch-hunting theme and teenage vulgarity.



Toby was worrying about it. Technically, he still hadn’t begged his father to let him leave early. He’d get to that eventually, right?

12:00 PM


Oh boy, FOOD. With the help of his clunky headphones and the internet access provided by Tal, Toby barely noticed the hour tick by. He pulled the headphones (which matched his at-home gaming rig) and trotted over towards the meticulously decorated tables. The swan napkins were so unnecessary- but they were cute. They only lived to die, as pretty soon the fabric water fowls would be unfolded, effectively killing them, and their remains would be used to wipe up the messes of human existence. It was a sad way to treat a corpse. But there were no corpses here. Hopefully. (That’d be very awkward.) Like everything else regarding the Netters, their existence was artificial. Birds aside, Toby was one of the last to be seated at the table. Naturally, he had to scoot past several attendees, including another woman with several augments and brightly colored hair.

“My bad, sorry- cool hair,” he apologized to Bailey as he accidentally bumped into her chair. He didn’t recognize her. He sat himself next to his father, who was currently having a few polite words between two younger women he didn’t know very well.

Toby wouldn't really catch on to why his dad was always flocked with women. Bianca and Annie were far from the first to lay their eyes upon the man. The semantics of romance were beyond Toby. Indeed, the senior Da'lessio was a rich bachelor, and he was only 40 years old. With his wealth and status, of course people wanted a piece of the pie. Edward seemed a bit out of his element. He was far from awkward, but he was distant. Regardless, he raised glasses and exchanged plenty of handshakes with anybody who spoke to him. He did the very same with Bianca and Annie.

He’d ordered himself a helping of the more breakfast-based meals. He had a personal goal to try any and every variety of French Toast he could find. Why? Because why not. So far his favorite was the kind he ordered from Moe’s Diner- It was a giant little place themed off of a romanticized 1950’s pre-AutoAmerica. Apparently the waitress cybercoms delivered food on roller skates- but Toby didn’t know that. He’d only ever ordered from the menu online. Delivery was the safest option. The mention of a book burner made Toby swivel in his chair, disturbing his train of thought about all-day breakfast. Really? Here? COOL. He’d never seen one up close before. They were like real-life paladins- sorta? His green eyes fell upon Alejandro, but they widened with surprise when they caught sight of his K9 Cybercom.

"Your dog is badass! What's the PSI on that thing?" Toby blurted this out without thinking. His dad gave him a look. Oops. Holding out a polite hand to shake, he quickly corrected his behavior by introducing himself. "Hi. My name’s Toby D’alessio. What’s yours?"

Toby was a kid and still not completely corrupted by classism. In fact, he didn’t fully understand the weight his surname carried. He spoke with the Surplus because they tended to look more unique than Mr. & Mrs. Perfect with their identical suits and dresses, all styled with the same amount of creativity used to draft an algebra PowerPoint. The only reason anybody bought them was because the price tags screamed "I'm Money!". This was why Toby stuck with his beanie that screamed "I Like Video Games!" After all, games were more important to a 12-year-old boy than money. For once, he was actually enthusiastic about making small-talk with a stranger.

12:15 P.M.


The banquet went silent as Edward D’alessio, who had a microphone clipped to the lapel of his blazer, stood up and raised a glass of some kind of sparkling liquid Toby was unfamiliar with. Ah, it must be time for his speech.

“Before we begin, if I may have your attention,” his father started, “I would like to raise a toast towards all of you in attendance. Friends, acquaintances,” his eyes fell upon Toby for a moment, “family. Sincerely, thank you for making this event a reality. And to our sponsors, donators, and supporters, I thank you personally with all that I am.”

“Twelve years ago, I was blessed with my son, Toby. A parent wishes nothing but the best for their children, and I am no different. But my son was born with Cleidocranial Dysplasia, a bone disorder that affects the development of skeletal tissue. With the exception of resequencing the genetic structure, there is no known cure… However, he successfully received clavicle implants last September- and it was all with the help of people like you. I am truly grateful for the opportunities presented thanks to charities such as these. My son can now stand tall and smile amongst his peers. May you all continue to bring light into the lives of those around us.”

He was neither standing tall nor smiling. Toby pulled the seam of his green beanie lower and lower as he shrunk into his chair. This was utterly humiliating. Even if his gaze was transfixed on the floor, he could feel the stares of strangers boring into him. Eugh. The way his father played up his condition made him feel…gross. Really, it wasn’t that bad- funny, even. If this ended up in the news, he’d be the laughing stock of the entire academy!
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