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Literally 1984 by Jorjor Well

Most Recent Posts

Watson | A return to the Afterlife...

It'd been several days - maybe more - since he'd talked to Eddie. How that conversation ended was almost a wisp in the winds to Conrad. He thought for a while before he was out of it, staring at the ceiling for thirty or so minutes before regaining a bit of himself. Then, nothing else. He went to the streets, and spent the night in the nearest motel that cost the least. And from there, he went back to how things were - laying low. He hadn't much money to his name as he held his tongue for the bigger job to start. He knew it wouldn't have been too far off into the future, the planning was already in motion behind the curtains. The local gigs were also snatched up far quicker than he could roster them. That was the main downside to the new age of the merc - everyone had their finger in the pie before he could take out his fork. But of course, those who rushed came out with burnt fingers.

Of course, something came up on the holo at the turn of the morn. It had the basics of a legitimate message: light but decent enough encryption, addressing Conrad by detail and keeping most of the actual details of the event on the low. He couldn't remember who sent the message, but they called him to the Afterlife. At first, Conrad was a little less enthusiastic about the day. It wasn't because of the job beginning, in fact it got him out of bed earlier than ever. But he was sceptical about a few things: namely those he'd work with. Mercs weren't like professional soldiers or private detective agencies, where many were similar by design but differed in the small steps they took on great journeys. No - this was Merc life. In a way, each merc was their own brand. They were the service they provided, barely ever part of a grander cohesive force. Each person had their own unique flair that made them stand out compared to the merc beside them, and barely any were alike. At least with gangs, he knew that two tyger claw henchmen were at least identifiable. But any merc, they didn't just look different, they acted all in their own manners.

Eddie must've already handpicked her own dossier with incredible scrutiny. Most Fixers didn't, if the job were as highly-profiled as the one in question. Yet he still had his hand in his pockets, not wanting to clean them until he felt a little less on edge in a large team. He told himself that they'd never earn his trust. No such thing existed anymore. But, mercs don't choose they teams in situations like those. He was there to make money, but a small part of him sparked a little intrigue in the people he was working with.

Later that day, Conrad arrived at the Afterlife, almost as unceremoniously as he'd always had. The door frisk was as it always had. He felt as if he were walking into another job, where after the payment was set and the objectives were met, he'd be forgotten once more. He wasn't the next legendary merc, and he knew that he'd never be, because to do so meant to care. He arrived at a stool almost as aimlessly as he felt, but at least he had the mild security that it was one 'Eddie' that had her hands on the steering wheel. He didn't order a drink. Claire gave him a friendly nod, but she was already too busy to attend straight to him. He half-smiled to her and lifted up his flask for her to see, and she accepted to call to focus on others. Eventually, Claire returned and pointed toward 'The Crypt', the drone of music speaking for them. He nodded, took his coat and flask, and wandered deep into the Crypt.
'E D D I E'


Collab'd with @Ruby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Con’, right?”

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

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

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

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

“Something like that?”

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

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

“When did you last turn up?”

“Three months, probably.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Guess we have something in common.” He quietly thought to himself.

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

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

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

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

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

"The hitch?"

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

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

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

"Then what are you here for?"

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

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

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

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

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

"Then why ask?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What about it?"

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

"You serious?"

"All true. Someone in the Afterlife. You might know her, you might not. But don't make a fool of yourself in front, might be big pay on the line, kid."
I'm gonna put my interest in here! Missed the interest check but I'll check this out now.

Will work on a CS in the coming days!
<Snipped quote by LetMeDoStuff>

That was a successful attempt at lightening the mood.

Either way, escalation over; I will admit that my threat to bring in the mods over perceived bullying was a mistake, and I am sorry.

That said, I will continue to stand by my statements that I am following IRL history as well, and that as long as I don't try gobbling up the Ottomans again, I do have a free-ish hand.

Add that to the fact that Pagemaster, instead of saying "we might bombard you if you become too strong; here are ways to de-escalate without invalidating your nation idea", jumped straight to bombardment, and you can see how I felt bullied.

Bold of you to assume Sir Sidney Smith is de-escalation

@Yam I Am What rp is this I forgot to read the og post
@LetMeDoStuff Stuffywuffykins youw heww! Wooking fowawd to pwaying wiff youwu!

It matters not if France occupies the British landscapes, for there is but one man who does the job

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