Shadowrun

Shadowrun General => Fan fiction => Topic started by: Deadborder on (10:22:20/09-24-15)

Title: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (10:22:20/09-24-15)
Writing some background for my character because why not. This is the first part of... no idea. Until I stop.

-----

2074

"Welcome to Vendor Mammoth, my name is Ashley. How may I help you?"

The customer gave the red-haired Elf girl at the front of the store the barest minimum of acknowledgement, managing to miss both the strain in her voice and her obviously forced smile. Instead he headed into the store, losing sight of her quickly in among the shelves. For her part, Ashley spared them only the minimum of glance before returning her attention to the door.

A metahuman store greeter seemed like an incredibly anachronistic element in the 2070s, especially to a chain that primarily stocked cheaply made items designed for and marketed to those that couldn't afford better. However, there was actually a certain logic to it.

With the advent of Matrix 2.0 and AR, Vendor Mammoth had originally commissioned an entirely virtual store greeter, intended to guide them to the items they were after, notify them of current sales and other offers and above all else, provide an illusion that the company actually cared at all about them. And while it had been a great idea in theory, the actual application had been problematic.

The portability and accessibility of the new Matrix had resulted in Vendor Mammoth’s AR greeter being a frequent target, and not only for hackers. Pretty soon it seemed like every kid with a commlink was taking a shot at it, resulting in the store’s greeter spewing obscenities at shoppers as they entered. Or showing them Troll Porn. Or, even worse, advertising rival stores. And while there was every chance that this was less malice as it was boredom at play, there was clearly a problem.

Soon Vendor Mammoth stores nationwide were suffering from similar vandalism, and the head office wanted to know how to stop it. Their IT department ran the numbers on upgrading the hosts for every store, firewall improvements, new software, a better response team and other such changes needed to prevent this from happening, and found that the answer was more then a little on the expensive side. Vendor Mammoth’s board were not impressed, but they also wanted an end to their AI greeters directing customers to the nearest Kong-WalMart (or beaming them more Troll porn)

At the same time, some bright spark ran the numbers on each store hiring a few minimum wage metahumans to stand out the front and greet customers in person, and found that it was actually a lot cheaper then upgrading their systems. And so the decision was made to quietly retire the AR system while hiring a bunch of kids to perform an elementary task for them.

Besides preventing customers by being hit with a barrage of profanity as they entered the store, Vendor Mammoth found that there were several other benefits to this change. The first was that it generated a surprising amount of goodwill for the company. After all, they creating more jobs for young Metahumans, something that played well to the media. The second was the discovery that if there’s a cute young Elf standing at the front of your store, then people are more likely to step inside to buy something.

It was this series of events that had gotten Ashley her job at Vendor Mammoth, a task that required her to do nothing overly strenuous or demanding and as such, she thoroughly hated. She had no illusions as to what this was; a dead-end, minimum wage job that offered few benefits and had no avenues whatsoever for career advancement or doing contributing in any meaningful way beyond waving at customers and pretending that they were welcome and valued.

What it did provide her with was a cashflow, something that was vital to her future plans. And so, with each wave, each repetition of the canned greeting, each forced smile and each repetition of the specials of the day, she was crawling closer to her goal.

She did a few quick sums, counting down how long she still had to go on the day. It wasn’t just the urge to be out of there, of course. Ashley had plans for the night, not the least of which involved her second job, the one she actually lived for. That would not only get her more experience, but also would provide her with a much needed cash boost that would bring her that much closer to her goal.

And on that day when she got there, she would leave Vendor Mammoth, never to tread upon its ground again. She would burn her uniform, and laugh about it as she did. Ashley would die, and she would be reborn as the person she had wanted to be for so long.

It wouldn’t be her first ‘death’ either. “Ashley” didn’t have much of a life outside of Vendor Mammoth. In fact, she had about enough to pass the minimal checks that a discount store chain would perform on a minimum wage greeter who had no responsibilities beyond waving at customers and who’s job perks were an ill-fitting uniform and access to the lunch room. And, as such, getting rid of Ashley wouldn’t be that hard either.

All she needed to do now was keep at it.

-----

“Why on earth would you go with that?” Ashley asked herself as she scrolled though the file on her Commlinks’ screen. “I mean, cramming all those electronics and junk into a heavy pistol sounds like you’re asking for trouble.” Sighing to herself, she scrolled down the screen to the next weapon along. “Okay, so this looks a little more interesting…” She took a bite from her sandwich, a soul-deadening construct consisting of a slice of passable meat substitute and alleged cheese squeezed between two chunks of something that could be charitably called bread.

Right now she was in the lunch room in the back of Vendor Mammoth, a joyless cinderblock hellhole that was more akin to a sensory deprivation tank with a few company posters thrown in then anything else. Simple plastic chairs were functional enough to sit in but uncomfortable enough to suggest that you should get off your butt and get back to work, and were a great accompaniment to the obviously fake plastic plants that were the only other décor. There was a single trideo screen in the room, and its remote was firmly under the control of somebody further up the food chain then the kids.

The net result was that the lunch room atmosphere was usually one of isolated individuals hunched over their commlinks looking at whatever they thought they could get away with and trying to avoid any interaction with anyone else.

That suited Ashley just fine for several reasons. The first was that it gave her time to do research and reading in private, something that she got very little of otherwise. The few hours she had in each day that weren’t dedicated to making customers want to buy crappy brightly coloured and ill-fitting clothes were usually taken up by laying the groundwork for the next stage of her life, something that was very demanding to say the least. And that was before her admittedly intermittent second job, which ate up much of what was left.

The good news was thanks to the handful of people that she knew, Ashley had access to a lot of information that was far from public knowledge. While far from being privy to the innermost secrets of the Megas, she was still getting a very good idea of life on the shadowy side of Seattle, and what it entailed as well as what one would need to do in order to survive. That’s why she was currently reviewing guns and making her own mental notes on them.

“And then Ares will just bring out a new Predator next year and everyone will buy that instead,” she smirked to herself.

“Hey Ash. What are you looking at?”

That was enough to grab her attention, Ashley flicking away from an index of weapon reviews to something inane and pedestrian before glancing up from her commlink. Standing before her was Dennis, another employee who was about her age and worked on the checkouts. As near as she could tell, his primary life goals were to get lots of tattoos and work entry-level jobs until he found somebody richer then him to sponge off. Oh, and to hit on every woman around him.

And that was the other reason why she liked the quiet of the lunch room, because if she tried talking to any of her fellow employees she would probably end up hitting them instead. She couldn’t think of a single person that she’d miss when she left. In fact, she could think of more that she wouldn’t mind putting a bullet into herself.

“Funny cat videos.” She replied without a hint of interest. It was the default answer to the question, really. And definitely less likely to raise questions.

“Hey Ash, we finish at the same time this week,” he continued. “I was wondering if you wanted to go see that new Kaiju trid with me.”

She resisted the urge to say that what she really wanted to do was smash his knees with a baseball bat and then slam his fingers in a door, and instead looked down at her comm again. “I have a thing on tonight,” she replied instead, an answer that was actually true.

“Oh, well how about tomorrow?” He asked again, not missing a beat.

“Can’t. Have a thing on too.” Ashley replied, going back to the gun list. It was about to become relevant.

“Well, if you change your mind or your thing doesn’t happen, let me know.” He finished. “I’ll be here”

“Yes you will,” she muttered after he left. “But hopefully I won’t be for too much longer”
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (09:33:17/09-29-15)
The Run had gone to complete drek. And for Slicer, that was Wiz.

He and his team had been trying to get into a Fuchi research facility to steal the specs on some nova-hot new piece of ‘ware they were developing. Instead, security had been far tighter then expected, which should have left them all completely fragged. Instead his team were bringing the hurt to the corp goons, and hitting them hard.

A burst from Stomp's Kalashnikov put down another of the Fuchi guards, the man disappearing behind a barricade in a spray of red. The goon next to him tried to make a run for it, only to be cut down by a storm of gunfire from Stump's Rotordrones. Billy Blaster added to the noise, yelping out a high-pitched warcry as he opened up on another one of the stragglers, forcing them back.

"Any idea how long Normie needs?" Stump called over the communicator. "It's getting hot here." The Dwarf may have been running his drones from their getaway car, but he could still get a good idea of what was going on through their sensors.

Slicer shot a quick glance at the slumped form of Normalizer, their Decker. He was still jacked in to the Fuchi system, unconscious as his mind navigated the icons and constructs of the Matrix, searching for the all important paydata. "No clue, chummer. But he's still on the case"

The only reply from Stump was another grumble as his drones advanced, Stomper and Billy behind them.

Slicer was about ti join them when something caught his cybernetic eye; a hint of movement behind a row of desks. He could see enough to get a good idea of what was going on. "Fraggers are trying to flank us!" he yelled out, leaping across a table towards them as he figured what was going on. With Stomper and Billy tied up with the first squad, these hoop-suckers would have an easy shot at Normie while he was still Jacked in.

A sound plan, except that they wouldn't get the chance.

He surged towards them, augmented reflexes and muscles making him a blur of motion, faster then anyone could follow. His Uzi III spat fire, the bullets landing with deadly precision on the nearest of them. As he went down hard, one of his compatriots turned to face this new threat, opening fire with his own rifle.

He might as well have been standing still for all that it mattered. Slicer was already on the run, diving and rolling past a row of computers before he even fired. Instead of finding their mark, the bullets chewed into the wall, sending chunks of plastcrete flying. Smartlink-enhanced reactions made Slicer far more accurate, his return fire cutting into the guard before he could turn.

A third cane around the row, swinging at Slicer with his own knife. To him, it moved with an almost glacial slowness, one that was almost childishly easy to evade. In one fluid motion he simply ducked back before lashing out with his own cyber-spurs, slicing the guard's throat with ease, the man giving a short gurgle before hitting the floor.

Enhanced ears heard the sound of movement behind him. And then they picked up a sudden crackle of electricity and a short, sharp cry. Spinning around, guns at the ready, the first thing that he spied was a final guard, now lying on the floor and rather fatally singed. The second thing he spied was Jessie, winking at him. "Got your back, Chummer," she smirked. "Magic and chrome"

"What would I do without you?" He asked.

"Probably get your hoop fragged," She smiled back. "So let's get moving"

-----

The first thing Slicer saw as he woke up was the message on his Heads Up Display telling him that his Booster Reflexes were now three thousand, seven hundred and ninety two days past their last service and suggesting that he should get them checked now. He dismissed the warning with a grunt, which resulted in a polite bleep and a sharp sting of pain as the massive migraine made itself apparent. This didn’t even remotely surprise him; it was a part of his morning routine.

Wake up. Get alerts about how decrepit his cyberware was. Get hit by the hangover. Stagger to the bathroom of his tiny apartment. Throw up. Look in the mirror to wonder where it all went wrong. Repeat.

The upside to being an Elf was that, in theory, he looked the same today as he did twenty-something years ago when he was in his running prime. In practice, of course, it was another matter. His blonde hair was matted and disheveled, his skin gaunt and his eyes sunken, and the stubble on his chin was more beard then anything else. His eyes, on the other hand, looked perfectly clear. Of course, they were artificial, which meant that they had managed to age better than the rest of him.

He made his way to the kitchenette, opening the fridge to take a look at what was inside. An old soy pizza stared back at him, along with a mostly empty bottle of something that approximated beer. Grunting, he grabbed both of them, plopping the pizza down on the table and sighing. "Good morning, Slicer. Welcome to your so-called life". That's when he noticed the time on his HUD. "Eight thirty? I'm up early." He didn't remember much of the previous night beyond the fact that it largely involved drinking until the tiny hours and somehow managing to get to bed. "Mustn’t have gotten much sleep..."

Except that squinting at the grimy window told him that it was dark outside. "Late dawn? Heavy acid rain?" He muttered as he stood, heading out to take a look. No, there were neon lights on and, glancing up, a clear-ish sky. It was night. He'd missed the entire day. "Not bad." He sighed as he slumped back.

There was something bothering him, however, something that was only sort of related to the matter of the missing day. He had something he had to do today, something that he needed to prepare for. Something that had he woken up at two or three in the afternoon as per normal, he would have had a chance to get ready for. But he couldn't remember what it was that he should have been getting ready for, or, for that matter, what it was that he needed to do. "Okay, probably shouldn't have gotten completely blasted last night," he considered and then sighed. "Stuff it. Odd are, it's gone now."

He emptied the last of the alleged beer, only to be greeted with a loud pounding noise. Screwing up his eyes and concentrating he tried to dispel it, only to have the pounding not only continue, but intensify. "Damn it," he muttered. "Not the hangover speaking."

Analysis suggested that the pounding was coming from the door. From that, he was able to form a hypothesis that the source of the pounding was going to be from somebody on the other side of the door trying to get in. In theory, that meant that if he simply waited, it would go away. And so, he sat, quietly eating the miserable excuse for the pizza, waiting for whoever it was to give up and go away.

They didn't, and instead deiced to be louder and more forceful in their hammering. This only served to aggravate his already considerable headache, and made him realize that his plan wouldn't work. And, to make it worse, it meant that he couldn't venture outside to get more beer until they went away, which clearly wasn't going to happen if he continued to ignore them.

He was trapped. Damn it.

"Fine!" He called out, standing up and throwing his arms in the air. This resulted in a sharp pain in the lower back and shoulders and immediate regret. "This better be worth it, whoever you are!" He stormed over to the door, opening it with an angry slam.

He was immediately greeted by a stream of what he assumed were profanities in German. The source of which immediately reminded him of what it was he had to do today, as well as why his visitor was so obnoxiously insistent. The elven woman was instantly recognizable with her red hair, green eyes and the look of barely suppressed rage that he'd come to associate with her. "Crimson." He muttered, a mixture of surprise and apology in his voice. "I thought you were-"

She cut him off with more swearing in German. And that's when Slicer remembered another thing he'd forgotten in the form of his pants.

-----

The worst part if it all was that it wasn't the first time Crimson had seen Slicer naked. True, all of those moments had been ones when she had either pulled him out of bed while he was asleep or barged into his place while he was not yet ready for visitors, bur the point stood. So she stood in the filthy rat hole that was his apartment, fuming quietly as he got dressed and ready.

Her angry silence lasted whole seconds. "I said I’d be coming around here at eight thirty!" She called out.

"Yeah, yeah." Came Slicer's muttered reply.

"So how come you weren't ready?"

"Stuff"

"You didn't even have pants on!"

"I was busy!"

"You were asleep, weren't you?"

"No!"

"Oh come on! I've been up since six in the morning! I worked my day job, went back home, got my gun and then came back here! What's your excuse for being asleep all day?"

"Okay, I was drunk!" He shouted as she stepped out, dressed now in his tattered armour jacket and fatigues. "I got myself completely blasted and slept all day. Are you happy?"

"Not really," Crimson shot back. "You knew I'd be here today. We arranged this well in advance"

He sighed and shrugged. "I screwed up." It was a frank admission. "But you're still the drekhead that decided that I was going to be your mentor. So you gotta accept that."

"Yes, I chose a mentor who is a stumbling fall down drunk," Crimson admitted. "You got me there."

"Yeah." Slicer had a look of triumph on his face for whole seconds. "Wait a moment..."
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (08:09:20/11-12-15)
The Redmond Barrens were rarely quiet, even in the dead of night. The streets were usually just as lively after sundown as they were during the day, echoing with the sounds of life on the edge. More than just the usual hustle of day to day traffic, there was so much more that could be heard.

The roar of engines, the blare of music, raucous arguments, the distant wail of sirens, honking horns and, more often than anyone from Seattle's better districts would be comfortable with, the sounds of gunfire.

In among the cacophony that was Redmond, there was one rather odd noise. The irregular but at the same time almost rhythmic sound of wood striking wood, punctuated by cries and shouts. This odd sequence was coming from the roof of a run-down apartment block, one seemingly otherwise no different from the numerous others of its kind around it.

The source of the noise were a pair of figures, a man and a woman, both sporting the lithe and sleek forms of the Elven Metatype. They were dueling, using practice swords to practice their art, neither holding back as they fought. Their blows were deliberate and focused, ones that would be lethal save for their choice of weapon.

However, the execution of those actions was so very different between the pair of them. The man had a certain economy of motion, each stroke or parry very deliberate and measured for maximum impact or effect. Conversely, the woman was far less restrained, lashing out in a frenzy of motion, striking as fast and often as she could. On the surface, the man's patience and practice seemed to be winning out, allowing him to evade or block the woman's attacks while striking more 'killing' blows of his own. But at the same time, the woman seemed to have no lack of drive, and each time seemed to be inching the man further back, slowly turning the battle onto her terms.

-----

"Again!" Crimson shouted, her voice more enthusiastic than anyone who had 'died' as many times as she had so far tonight had any rights to be.

With a sigh, Slicer picked up his practice sword and once again faced off with his sparring partner. As always, she made the first move, a vicious, lunging blow filled with power and energy, one that he was hard-pressed to match. Their blades locked for a moment, allowing him a look into her eyes for just a second before they broke contact, each readying their next move. Even then, that was enough for him to see the fire in her eyes, that all-or-nothing, go-for-thre throat instinct that seemed to propel her forwards.

The pair of them were on the roof of his run-down apartment block in the Redmond Barrens, which had been converted into a makeshift target range. It was where the pair of them trained; Slicer doing the best he could to impart his years of knowledge and experience to her.

Twenty years ago, Slicer had been fast. Naturally good reflexes, honed by training and then augmented with then top of the line Cyberware made him superhumanly agile with reactions that were hard to match by anyone, through magic or tech. And even today, between atrophied skills, alcohol-dulled reflexes and Cyberware that was well past its used-by date, he still was capable of his moments when he could capture some of what he had once been.

And even then, there was something he had come to realize about his apprentice (or whatever she was). Even given that she was clearly inexperienced and still learning to fight, as well as the clear disadvantage that she had no Cyberware or other augmentations, Crimson was fast. Her reflexes and reactions were at the very edge of what an unaugmented Metahuman could do. She moved with a gymnast’s grace and mobility, and with hair-trigger reactions that had her go form standing still to a blur of motion in nothing flat.

In short, she was where he had been when he first started. In fact, the more they worked, the more he began to realize that she was something of a natural at this. It wasn’t just the reflexes and agility that had him impressed; it was the level of drive and fury that she displayed, a combination of an urge to excel and a desire to become the best she could be.

No, not an urge. A hunger. That was what he had accepted as they fought. Crimson didn't want this as much as she needed it. For whatever reason, this training and all that came with it was vital to her, and he could only imagine why. There were numerous reasons why someone would chose this lifestyle, but only a few would be as determined to do what she was planning, and pursue it with the same level of naked aggression. His attempts to discern just what it was had been somewhat rebuffed, leaving him with very few answers and maybe even more questions.

Of course, that only made him want to find out more. And maybe that was as much of a part of why he put up with her barging into his life and making demands of him, dragging him out of bed when he tried to retreat back into it and making him come up to the roof to teach her how to wave a sword or shoot a gun or whatever else. She gave him something, which was more then he'd had for longer then he cared to think about. Her motivation, whatever it was, had become his.

Oh sure, a cynic could point out that she was actually pretty hot in a crazy way while also being young enough to be his daughter (something that he regularly hoped he didn't have) as being his main interest in her. He'd have replied by saying that it's hard to feel that way about someone who's primary form of communication seemed to be angry shouts and who's preferred method of address was to make shrill demands. If there was any physical attraction, then her personality killed it dead.

A fact made even clearer by the sudden, sharp pain in his side as her training sword hit home. For a moment, Slicer stood there, shocked by what had just happened. For the first time since he'd started sword practice with her, Crimson had 'killed' him. And he couldn't even claim that he was drunk as an excuse.

He wasn't sure how he felt about that. Not that she gave him an option.

"Again!"

-----

As she pressed forward with her latest assault on Slicer’s defense, Crimson’s mood could only be described as elated. In all their training, she had never once ‘killed’ Slicer in a practice duel. She had come painfully close on several occasions, but only ever that. Oft times it had been her own fault; aggression and eagerness fuelling her desire for victory and letting it over-ride her sense, causing her to make some mistake that had cost her the match. Those times, Slicer had stopped to lecture her on just what she’d done wrong, each little bit of advice taken with grudging respect.

On other occasions, it had been Slicer who had turned the fight around. Many times he’d back-step or feint, pulling out a sudden reversal or unexpected move that would throw off her offence. On more than one occasion, her seeming victory had been him deliberately letting herself overextend as a way of teaching her a lesson. Those ones had been easier for her to accept on many ways, teaching her never to underestimate an opponent or never to assume a victory.

But now she was even more driven then before, riding high on elation and excitement with the knowledge that for the first time, she’d managed to get the better if her sensei. That in and of itself was enough to cut through the pain from numerous ‘killing’ blows, as well as the fatigue that ten hours at work followed by countless more on the roof had bought on. She’d barely given Slicer a chance to compose himself before she had called for another round, driving at him with a marked aggression fuelled by her hunger for another win.

She surged forward, her blows coming hard and fast as she used that energy and drive to its fullest. Each strike was accompanied by a screech that sounded less human as it did a predatory bird diving on its prey, a reflection of the fervor behind her offence. His response was purely defensive, moving fast enough to stop her strikes, but giving ground each time as they danced around the roof of the apartment building. Crimson was winning and she knew it; and given the way he was backpedalling, Slicer knew it too.

Their practice blades met with another loud retort, the pair of them pushed back a moment. Crimson seemingly recovered faster, coming around for another blow only to be met by a sudden, sharp hit to the ankle that caught her completely by surprise. The next thing she felt was the back of her had hitting the rooftop, pain shooting through her skull, shattering her focus for just an instant.

And in that instant Slicer was over her, blade pointed down at her.

“Your opponent will never fight fair,” He began as he put his weapon away, instead helping her up. “You got way too overconfident there, Crimson. Your whole offence was one giant opening that was screaming at me to exploit it”

“If I was wired you wouldn’t have had the chance,” She shot back, her tone somewhere between defiant and almost petulant. “I’m still only baseline here”

“And if you give an enemy an opening like that, then you won’t live long enough to get yourself wired up,” He replied, heading over to where he kept his water bottle. “Last I saw you still weren’t exactly flush with cash. Otherwise you wouldn’t be working a crappy day job"

She glared at him, her green eyes burning holes into the back of his skull. “I don’t see why we need to do this anyway. Do people really have sword fights on Runs?”

“More often than you’d think,” Slicer replied as he took a swig from his water bottle, then passed a second to her. Crimson opened it and took a small whiff before she sipped. “Trust me, there have been times when kenjitsu was the only thing that kept me alive.”

She looked doubtful but continued. “But-”

“And it’s not just about practicality,” Slicer cut her off. “You said you wanted to be a Street Samurai.”

“Yes,” She admitted

“This is a part of that, and I don’t just mean the physical skills,” He offered. “It’s also about focus and discipline, two things that you don’t exactly have a lot of, and yet will be vital to keeping yourself alive. Any idoiot can pick up a gun, a sword and some ‘ware and call himself a Runner. But if you really want to be somebody, a real Samurai and not just some cheap gun for hire, then you need this. It’s more than just a job, Crimson. It’s a tradition, a code of honour and above all else, a way of life.”

She wanted to say a million things back to him, but all of them stopped short of her mouth. Instead, she offered a small, perfunctory bow. “I am sorry. Forgive me, sensei”

Slicer nodded. “It’s okay. These things take time, and you have a lot to learn. Trust me, I have been where you are now”

“Were you…” Crimson paused a moment to collect her thoughts, and find the best way to say what wasa on her mind without making it sound completely insulting. “How was your training?”

There was an awkward silence, before Slicer gave a small, melancholy chuckle. “Sensei Kabuto was a very patient and forgiving man, and we’ll leave it at that.” He turned back to her. “Now you go and think about what we’ve done tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“It’s well into tomorrow already,” She finished with another bow. Internally, she was already processing what he had said, while at the same time trying not to think of just how awful another day at Vendor Mammoth would be.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Richtenstahl on (11:24:44/11-18-15)
Hey!
I really like the Story and look forward to more!
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (01:18:17/12-03-15)
Deep breath

Clam

Relax

Remember where you are and who you’re pretending to be

This is easy. You can do this


“Welcome to Vendor Mammoth, my name is Ashley. How can I help you?” The stock greeting had all its usual false cheer and enthusiasm, but a perceptive customer, one who’s assessment of her didn't just begin and end at ‘cute Elf girl’ would have noticed an edge to it, one that was at odds with the attempt to greet the customer, create a friendly atmosphere and encourage them to spend their hard earned money on cheaply made, low-quality products.

Those perceptive individuals might have observed just a hint of resentment, a touch that suggested that the cheer was just as superficial as everything else in the store. They would have been able to tell that her feelings towards the customer wasn’t just the usual bland indifference born of a greeting that was spoken not out of any desire to show them kindness but a requirement of her continued employment.

No, under all that was a degree of quiet anger and resentment, one that was ever so slowly and gradually eating away at the facade of the happy little Wageslave before them. It was a slow burn, one that increased ever so slightly with every forced smile, every moment of faux cheer, every meaningless insincere greeting. This perceptive customer would have eventually reached the conclusion that Ashley, the cute Elf greeter who’s primary asset was that it cost the company less to employ her then it did to program a hack-proof ARO agent was in fact a bomb just waiting to go off.

Of course, nobody ever did. People who shopped at Vendor Mammoth didn’t pay alternation to the lives o the Wageslaves they had to interact with, even if in the most minimal and begrudging of ways. No, they got in, bought whatever cheap, crappy little comforts they felt they needed to make their bland lives a little bit less awful and got out again as fast as they could. And so Ashley stood there and did her little act, pretending that she was happy to see them while they pretended they cared. And so on, and so forth for all eternity.

All the while, Crimson was also there, yelling, screaming, fighting the urge to punch the next customer in the face and then set fire to the entire store.

“Welcome to Vendor Mammoth, my name is Ashley. How can I help you?”

Ashley Redmond was just like the store she worked in. Bland, superficial and functional, but not much more behind that. As fake SINs went, it was good enough to work, with data that said that she was indeed a green-eyed, red-haired Caucasian female Elf, but beyond that it didn’t have that much meat. But at the same time, it was convenient. Ashley Redmond didn’t have a past, didn’t have corporate ties, didn’t have parents who were wondering where she was and didn’t have a juvenile record for assault, vandalism, breaking and entering and arson. On the other hand, Ashley Redmond didn’t break the knees of obnoxious co-workers with a baseball bat (Isle five; today only we have a ten percent sale off sporting goods!) Or tell her boss where to shove his suggestion that she work overtime this weekend because he just happened to have one of the store’s cameras trained not on the door but on her pert rear.

(Or the horrible things she wanted to do to the night manager who she knew was banging Shawnee the Night Shift Greeter Girl on the side who was employed primarily because it meant Vendor Mammoth could say ‘hey, we respect diversity, and we put an Ork as our to represent our diverse corporate identity, never mind the fact that she's only the greeter on the midnight till dawn shift and as soon as she’s done she and the Night Manager go off to have a performance review’)

Ashley smiled and did her job and was thankful that she had it, and that because of it she could go home to live in a bland apartment and eat bland soy food regularly and not have to worry about devil rats, acid rain, murder hobos or whatever else.

(The sad part was that in her mind, Scarlett Krieger, her birth name, sounded so much more exotic and dangerous and alluring. But Scarlett Krieger also bought with her a whole host of problems, which meant that she had to stay silent and let the ever so bland and dependable Ashley do the talking)

And so Ashley kept doing what she had to, each day counting down the minutes until she could leave the store and turn into who she really was. Crimson, dangerous, deadly, sexy and alluring Shadowrunner, the woman who didn’t answer to anybody, wasn’t anybody’s wageslave and could do what she wanted when she wanted and nobody was going to stop her at all.

Crimson was awesome. Crimson was amazing. Crimson was everything that Ashely wasn’t, and everything Scarlett had hoped to be. She liked being Crimson. And one day soon, she would be Crimson; not just some nights, not just when it was convenient, but all the fragging time

That thought took some edge off her voice, put a little more into her smile and just the tiniest hint of sunshine into her day. “Welcome to Vendor Mammoth, my name is Ashley. How can I help you?”

-----

“Hey Ash, you okay?”

Ashley suddenly sat bolt-upright, glancing around. She was in the lunchroom, her commlink and half-eaten misery sandwich in front of her, and Dennis in front of that. “Yeah,” she shot back as she eyed him, wondering if he’d somehow added another tacky tattoo or piercing since yesterday. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Her tone was hallway between tired and accusational, but Dennis seemed to miss all of it

“You looked like you were asleep, that’s all,” he replied factually.

She quickly glanced down at her commlink, noticing that it was on the page of text she'd been reading when she apparently dozed off. Today it was a treatise on sword fighting techniques that Slicer had sent her, one that was apparently aimed at improving her skills. Clearly she’d found it to be that exciting. “I guess I did, huh. Mustn’t have slept well.”

Which was partially true. She hadn’t gotten back from training with Slicer until the tiny hours of the morning, and by then the adrenalin high of their sparring had definitely worn off and she was crashing fast. That had only given her a couple of hours sleep before she’d work up for her latest stay in the purgatory that was Vendor Mammoth.

“Something wrong, Ash? You seem to be sleeping badly a lot of late.”

“I’m fine,” she half snapped in reply. It wasn't like she was about to tell this idiot that the reason why she was sleeping so badly was because she was off learning to fight from a veteran Shadowrunner at night. She’d come so far to risk everything by even making a flippant remark about it. And as much as she wanted to stick it to Dennis about how much cooler she was then him for it, she didn’t want to risk it either.

Which, of course, made her days at Vendor Mammoth that much more irritating. Training with Slicer gave her that rush, that thrill of excitement and that tiniest hint of freedom, and she wanted so much more of it. And what she got instead was more of the same bland grinding drudgery.

“Okay then,” Dennis replied, either missing her obvious irritation or not caring at all. “Hey Ash, want to go see that new Kaiju movie tonight after work?”

No, I don’t you moron. How many times do I have to say no to you before you get the dammed hint?

“Sorry Dennis, I’ve got something on tonight.”

“Oh,” he was clearly crestfallen, but didn’t let it go. “You seem to have something on a lot, huh?”

“I’m a busy woman,” She replied. “Got a lot on.”

“Well, okay then…” He seemed lost a moment, as if he was finding something to say, some way to steer this back in a way that would work for him. “So what is it you do, Ash? Just wondering, that's all, given that it seems to take up so much of your spare time”

Don’t say what you want to. Remember, Ashley is the bland one. Ashley doesn’t punch people in the middle of the lunch room.

“Oh gee, is that the time, Dennis?" She hastily replied before scarfing down the last of her sandwich. “Lunch break’s over. Gotta get back to work.”

-----

By the time she’d left work, done some shopping of her own (Thankfully not at Vendor Mammoth) and gotten home to her apartment, Ashley was in a pretty filthy mood. The whole day had seemed to drag on forever, each second a yawning chasm of an eternity filled by repeating the same inane statement ad infinitum while answering the same few stupid customer enquiries (Yes, isle seven is between isle six and isle eight you retrograde moron) and pretending that she cared. If anything, it was the last part that was the most demanding.

And even then, her apartment was no real relief. Like everything else in Ashley’s life, it was functional and precious little else. Just large enough to be livable, with a bedroom, a general purpose living/kitchen area and something that could be generously described as a bathroom, it was an anonymous suite in an anonymous block in a passably decent part of Seattle. The furniture was comfortable enough, the water reliable, the electricity constant and the Matrix stable, so it was enough that a person could live there and not complain too much.

She hadn’t done much to make it her home either; when she’d moved in, her goal had always been for this to be temporary before she got something better off the bounty of her new life. This was just to tide her over until then. The result was that the apartment was as bland as possible; no real decoration beyond what was needed to make it livable; no personalization, no customization, nothing that really suggested its owner had any sort of life at all.

The sole exception was the wardrobe. Aside from a row of Vendor Mammoth uniforms, Ashley’s clothing was entirely mundane, even if a little focused on club ware. And as long as nobody found the one container she’d hidden in there and then opened it, the illusion of her as the boring little no-life wageslave would be maintained.

It was less that Ashley opened the door as she unlocked it and then kicked it the rest of the way. This opening aggression was followed by her storming into her apartment with her groceries in hand dumping them angrily in a pile on the single all-purpose table in the middle of the single all-purpose room. "Gaaaaahhhh..." She managed as she stood there in the middle of the room for a moment, hands clenched into fists, moth open in existential angst.

I want to hit something! She screamed to herself. Whatever it was, today's shift at Vendor Mammoth had been even more horrific and mind-numbing than usual, and it had definitely left its mark on her. I don't think I can last another day there, really. Every little bit of it was telling her how awful Ashely's life was, how bland and inane and soul-crushing it was, and how little it actually mattered.

And how much more amazing Crimson's life would be.

But to be Crimson, she needed to be Ashley for just a little bit longer. Focus. She rubbed her forehead, taking a deep breath as she tried to center herself. For a man who'd specialized in hitting hard and fast, making it less signature style as a way of life, Slicer had a surprising amount to say about the subject of focus and meditation and not just lashing out at the first convenient target.

That was something on her mind as she stomped into the small cubicle that was her bedroom. What was with all that anyway? She asked herself as she threw her jacket onto the bed, before loosening her horrible vomit-green Vendor Mammoth tie. First few training sessions were all meditating and sitting on my arse and contemplating stuff. Nothing about guns or swords or martial arts or anything.

Ashley pulled down the blinds over the postage-stamp sized window, blocking out some of the blaring neon lights that accounted for her minimal bedroom window view. Maybe he was just too drunk those days and didn’t want to do anything too abrupt, she mentally added as she opened the cupboard, quickly looking over what was inside, trying to figure what she wanted to wear that would be less awful then just sitting around in her ill-fitting, cheap uniform for the evening

Eyes briefly falling on that one hidden container at the bottom of the wardrobe... Later, she told herself. When the time is right.

Training under Slicer had been an interesting exercise in both learning and frustration. Even before she'd met him face to face, it was clear that he was just the sort of person she was after. It wasn't just that he was an experienced Shadowrunner who had been active since the 2050s and it wasn't just that he used cyberware extensively much like what she intended for herself to do, but rather the approach he took.

The first part of that was that he was an openly declared Street Samurai, that augmented warrior driven by a certain code of conduct and professionalism. That in and of itself held a lot of appeal for her, the ideal that she drove herself towards becoming. However, it was also the how of what he did that had caught her attention.

She'd seen footage of him, read details about him, poured over recounts of those fights he'd bene in and the runs he’d been on and loved every moment of it. He was fast, blindingly such. As near as she could tell, he was already naturally quick and agile before his augmentations. By all accounts, he was a gifted natural athlete who probably could have gone a long way legitimately if the circumstances were different.

That was just perfect for what she wanted. After all, Scarlett Krieger had been the star of her school’s athletic and gymnastics teams from a young age. It had also been about the only thing at school she had been any good at.

Slicer had boosted his reflexes and agility through various augmentations to an insane level. This made him blindingly fast, moving at a level that no metahuman could ever hope to match. It was an approach that played to her own strengths and her way of thinking; act fist, take out the other guy and don’t give them a chance to catch up with you. Live for the moment turned up to eleven, then turned up again though the miracles of technology.

And she loved it. Even accounting for age, injuries and the ravages of obsolete Cyberware, he was still amazingly fast, his motions incredibly fluid (or at least, most of the time). She'd learned so much from him so fast across a board range of disciplines. It wasn’t just weapons and combat training either; he'd drilled her on tactics, on technologies and a trillion other aspects of the Shadowrunner world, passing his experiences on to her while making her into what she wanted to be.

Held also provided her with datafiles to review, which she usually did at work during her lunch breaks. So whole everyone else was talking about last night's shows or what they did with their one day of weekend or making clumsy passes on each other, she was pouring over weapons specs or Cyberware or the best approaches for dealing with awakened opponents ("Geek the mage first," was what Slicer said. She'd smiled at the thought; after all, she'd be able to do it before the mage even knew what was going on)

Of course, that was the good days. The bad days were the ones where they did nothing but meditate or focus on all sorts of other stupid exercises that, to her mind, had nothing to do with anything. Or there were those days where he was just plain drunk. Those ones were the worst, which often resulted in her becoming even more angry and frustrated and likely to lash out at the first thing to catch her displeasure.

She flopped back on her bed, kicking off her shoes while not caring at all where they landed. Like every other part of her Vendor Mammoth uniform, they were cheap and uncomfortable, a means to an end and nothing else. And as frustrating as training with Slicer can be, she considered, it's so much better then working retail.

Ashely lay there for a second, glaring angrily at the ceiling as if it was somehow responsible for all her problems. "Screw it," she told herself. "Let's blow off some steam. Go to a club. Chase cute guys. That sort of stuff." Ashely sat up just a little bit, and then flopped back onto her bad. Okay, in a moment, she mentally added as she began to realize just how much that last frustrating day of pretending to be the world's mos boring Elf had taken out of her. Just a minute to relax and...

The buzzing of her commlink woke her up, Ashley sitting bolt-upright as she glanced around looking for it, only to find the thing lying on her bed next to her where she'd left it. Pickling it up, she quickly noticed two things. The first was that it was now half past eleven, and that her minute's nap had been anything but. The second, and probably more important, was that this wasn't the commlink that was buzzing.

It's the other one, she told herself with an almost childish glee, pouncing on her jacket and fishing the buzzing device from its pocket. This one was every bit as cheap and tacky as the one that Ashley used every day. The difference was who had it’s number.

“It’s me,” Slicer’s unmistakable voice began. “I have a job for you. Meet me at my place at the usual time tomorrow.” And that was it, him ending the call as soon as he’d told her all she needed to know.

“Yessssss!” Her response, on the other hand, was one of almost girlish glee. In her mind, that told her everything she needed to know; he’d decided that she was ready, and that it was time to put her talents to use.

She dashed back to the bedroom, pulling things out of the wardrobe in order to find that one box concealed within it. That was her secret, the small stash of clothing, weapons and other materials that she used for her second life. The one lived in the Shadows.

Tomorrow might be another day of misery for Ashley, but tomorrow night would be all Crimson’s.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Richtenstahl on (05:15:23/12-15-15)
OK, chummer: NOW you can't leave us hanging without more!
:-D
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (03:03:20/01-20-16)
The boardroom window exploded into a million shards, sending those inside ducking for cover. A moment later, a hail of gunfire poured in from a series of drones, shredding any unfortunate enough to be in their way. Cries of alarm went out form those inside, but were not matched by alerts from the building’s own systems; instead, the ARO displays remained focused on yearly profit graphs as if nothing was happening, while the soothing lighting was entirely at odds with the violence unfolding.

A single figure leaped in through the shattered window, moving with a blinding speed faster than any human being could even hope to follow, No sooner were they down then they were in motion, a black and red blur that darted across the room, weapons at the ready and primed to unleash hell upon anyone foolish enough to get in their way.

And somebody did; a single man, his eyes crackling with unearthly power as he stood, sun-like disks of energy building around his hands as he prepared to unleash the arcane mysteries he commanded upon the target. But already, the intruder was wise to him, spinning around and sending a single blade flying towards him. It hit the mage in the throat, the man issuing a single, sudden gurgle before reeling back, the lights in his eyes and hands flickering and burning out like a dying sun.

"Get them!" A desperate cry rang out across the room, two armed guards in thick, high-threat response armour charging forwards towards the attacker. Both of them opened up on the lone figure, their bullets flying towards it with deadly intent and lethal accuracy. But rather then cutting it down, both guards found themselves amazed as the attacker leaped towards them, twisting and turning in the air and dancing between the bullets. A single swing of their blade was the last thing both guards saw as it severed their heads, their corpses crashing to the ground like limp puppets.

Anyone in the room who wasn't stunned by what had just happened would have been able to get their first good look at the attacker during that one moment of precise, masterful swordsmanship. An Elven woman, their fiery red hair accentuated the form-fitting, provocatively cut black and red suit that provided their only physical protection from harm. Her savage beauty was almost terrifying in and of itself, the thought that this one creature could do so much all on her own with so little effort.

But the instant was just that, the woman again taking off as more guards entered the room, desperate to stop this attacker form fulfilling their deadly mission. They opened fire, their movements almost in slow motion compared to her predatory swiftness. As she ducked and weaved, her own gun spat back, the rounds sawing into one of the troopers in a deadly hail.

The second was luckier, darting aside and managing to find cover behind an overturned desk. A frightened executive screamed at him, the trooper quickly nodding back as he reached for his commlink. "This is the Boardroom. We need -" He stopped as the line filled up with noise, clearly cut off from the rest of the world. "No good. We're jammed."

"What do we do?!" The terrified executive screamed. "I don't want to die! Think of my bonuses!"

There was a brief look of anger on the trooper's face, but that just as quickly dissolved into shock as a bloodied blade emerged from his chest, run through the desk, his armour and his body, Just as quickly it disappeared, leaving him to briefly gurgle and collapse.

The executive screamed in terror as their attacker leaped over the table, a predator’s gleam in her piercing green eyes. "Please!" He screamed. "Spare me! I'll give you anything! Anything!". Her response was to simply bring down her blade in a perfect killing stroke.

Or rather it would have been had a second not blocked it, mere millimeters from the executive's neck. Before her stood a new figure, over two meters tall and clad in ornate, stylized red armour that spoke of tradition and prestige, a suit that could only be earned through the utmost skill and dedication. Empty dead chrome eyes reflected the man inside the armour, more man then machine, body and soul signed over to the company,

Red Samurai. The world's deadliest soldiers.

The Elf's challenge to this brazen challenge was to simply smirk, drawing back her blade, her eyes fixed on his. He responded in kind, his impassive face watching hers carefully, even though his movements carried an air of respect for this warrior who had been responsible for such a daring attack. In that moment, the pair of them may have been deadly enemies, ones who would have no option but to kill each other, but they also knew they were equals. There would be no surrender, no retreat and no mercy save for the quick release of a fast death,

She swung first, his response only barely meeting her attack in time. For a moment, their blades locked, the pair of them matching every fiber of their being, both natural and augmented. And then they broke, forced back before coming back at each other again for another blow.

To anyone watching (rather than doing the wise thing and hiding), the battle would have been too fast for the human eye to follow. Blades sang as they flew at each other, Each one of the two combatants fighting in their own style, so very different and yet so equally matched. The Red Samurai, for his part. was standing his ground, his stance solid and unwavering, each blow carefully calculated to make the most of his augmented strength and skill. His advances were aggressive and driven, powerful blows that were delivered with the utmost skill and precision.

By comparison, the Elf was a blur of motion, never saying in one spot as she ducked and weaved, leaping across the room to strike at her opponent. When she did, it was to make a quick, almost frenzied attack, lightning fast and yet incredibly precise. She danced around her opponent, her moves seemingly reckless but in fact each one of them carefully calculated to make the most of her superhuman reflexes and speed.

And for all that, the pair of them were yet to make a mark on the other. Each time one of them struck, the other would either block the blow with their own blade or manage to evade the attack, a testimony to their own sublime skill. Neither yielded ground, but at the same time, neither of them advanced, a stalemate of sorts created by two opponents who could match each other so superbly.

For all that, however, the Red Samurai had one advantage. Time was on his side; he could afford to stand here and duel with his enemy for as long as he wanted, simply because he wasn't alone. Each second that they kept fighting was a second that the security teams could use to get their systems back on line, to figure out what was going on and to send reinforcements to end the battle right there and then. By keeping this battle at a stalemate, he was effectively giving winning the battle, not for himself but for his corporate masters.

Even if the Elf didn't have the voice of her Rigger squawking inside her head, she was acutely aware of this inequality. And as much as she was enjoying the fight, putting herself up against one who so superbly matched her own abilities, she also knew that she had to end it now. At the same time, as long as she kpet fighting in such a conventional manner, she was not going to be able to do that. Instead, she needed to do something insane.

Good thing that insane was her specialty.

She darted forward, rolling under his next blow and then across the room, at first looking to disengage from the man. Every move she made suggested that she knew she was beaten and was looking for a way out, dashing towards the broken window with the Samurai in pursuit. And as he came after her, that was when she knew she had won.

Turning around, she broke into an open run, leaping onto a table, and then from there, bouncing off a wall with a cybernetically enhanced spring. She swung through the air, her body twisting and turning with unearthly grace, flying over the Samurai's outstretched blade as her own swung out in a deadly arc. There was just the briefest hint of resistance before she came down, landing in a flawless crouch that would have put even the greatest of gymnasts to shame.

For a moment, there was silence as the two combatants stood in place, frozen like statues. And then, ever so slowly, the Samurai's head slid away from his body, separated by a single, impossibly clean stroke. It hit the flow with a silence-shattering thud, one that seemed to almost drown out the clatter of his collapsing body moments later. And for her part, the Elf just smiled as she turned her attention back to her target.

Only two people were left alive in the room; the lone attacker and the terrified executive. The former simply stood there, silently watching, The latter had backed himself up to the shattered window, terror written all over his sweaty face as he desperately looked around. "Please!" he screamed to her, his voice more a screech then anything else. "I'll do anything! I'll give you anything! Just don't hurt me!"

"No chance, chummer," the Elf replied as she raised her pistol, leveling it with his head. "You of all people should know that this is just business. Consider your position... Terminated" Her pistol fired a single shot, the executive reeling back as blood spurted form his forehead in a gory display. His body tottered, then flopped over the shattered window plane, plunging to the street over a hundred stories below.

Sparing him barely a glance, the Elf tapped the side of her head. "Blaydez, this is Crimson," she spoke into her internal communicator. "Bring the chopper round. I want to be back in my penthouse and in the jacuzzi before the blood's dry"

-----

That was the thought running through Crimson's mind as she went through her day, the very image making the time seem to fly past. That was who she wanted to be, the (in)famous, elite Prime Runner who did the impossible on a daily basis, throwing herself into deadly battle with impeccable foes who would do anything to stop her from getting what she wanted. And then, at the end of the day, she would be able to lie back in luxury, reaping the rewards of exploits through a life of luxury and excess.

She wasn't there yet by any means. But tonight, she'd be taking the first real steps. It was in many ways the accumulation of all she had done since that fateful moment when she'd abandoned her past and set out on this course, but yet also merely just a tiny fraction of the overall voyage.

For now, however, she kept that hungry eagerness hidden behind the bland mask that was Ashley. She did the normal, boring and meaningless wageslave things that Ashley did, going through the motions as she mentally prepared herself for what was to come. N many ways, that distraction helped her with her day, taking the edge off the soul-crushing drudgery of it all. She greeted the customers, answered their enquiries, feigned politeness, brushed off Dennis' clumsy advances and everything else that came in her day, but this one was different to all the others.

There wasn't the usual, clenched teeth straining acceptance that came with her work day. She didn’t have that desire to explode, to punch customers in the face, smash Dennis head-fist into the table and then burn the store down that she always did. She didn't care how painful the day was, for it didn’t matter. In hours (Minutes! Seconds! She was mentally counting them off) she would be a real Shadowrunner, the one thing she really wanted to be.

Soon, ever so soon, Ashley, the world's most boring Elf would be dead. And then only Crimson, the elite runner who fought the corporations and did whatever she damn well wanted to, would take her place.

-----

Slicer had messaged her during the day, giving her a time and location for the meet that evening. She wasn't at all surprised to find that it was a bar; part because it was pretty much the traditional locale for Runners to meet Mister Johnson and get a job from them. And the other part was because it was Slicer, and she knew that he'd like to be close to a source of booze.

That wasn't entirely fair, she corrected herself. He's not always drunk.

That was something on her mind as she headed home, running through all that she needed to do in her head during the joyless bus ride back to her apartment. When she had first been put in contact with Slicer, she really didn't know what to expect. She’d been told that he was a 'veteran runner' who had been active since the early 2050s, but beyond that was anyone's guess.

The first clue she'd gotten as to what to expect was the address she'd been sent to; a run-down apartment block in the barrens, about as far from the ideal of the Prime Runner lifestyle as you could get while still having four walls and a roof. And it had been hard to reconcile the shabby, unshaven and hung-over man who answered the door with her image of what a Runner should have been. It looked like the only though he'd ever fought was a bottle, and the closest he'd ever been to an infiltration was getting into a bar after he'd been cut off. She’d been furious, and that close to leaving.

That had all changed when she'd seen him move, just the once. It was amazing. In a moment, the moan whom she'd dismissed as a stumbling drunk had been not just alive, but so amazingly fast as to be beyond anything she’d ever thought that a Metahuman could do. And in that instant, she saw what she wanted to be, and why she'd been directed to him. He had once been that good, that fast and that agile. He'd run in the shadows, done what she had dreamed of doing the way she dreamed of doing it. He had the skills she wanted to learn. And he could make it happen.

Thus she had persisted, putting up with the run down hellhole of an apartment that he lived in and all the filth that came with it. She'd also put up with his drinking as well as the time that she’d arrived for one of their training sessions either drunk or hung-over. It was not just because she needed him; his skills, his knowledge and expertise, his training and all else that came with it. That alone would have been enough to make her suck it up, swallow her pride and accept that her mentor lived in a reeking slum and occasionally forgot about his pants.

But above all else, it was because she envied him in her own little, stupid way. Slicer had lived his life his way, even if it hadn't worked out entirely as he had planned. He'd risked it all, put his life on the line and done what he wanted. He had never been beholden to a corporations' control over his life. He'd never held down a bland, soul-crushing job where he engaged in meaningless tasks simply to make enough to eat. And he'd never watched those around him numbly and comfortably accept their soul-crushing servitude in exchange for empty promises of security and comfort.

Slicer had never been Ashley. And she couldn't envy him more for that one thing.

And soon I won't be either, she finished as she got home, heading straight for her room and her secret stash. Inside it was her minimal collection of equipment for her Runner life, a smattering of things that she'd managed to discreetly acquire to support her goals. It wasn't much; certainly not the high-tech arsenal that she wanted, but it was also what she could still afford within her currently meager means.

The biggest gap, however, was still in the field of augmentations. Save for a Datajack, a piece of cyberware that was practically a requirement in the modern world, Ashley was still entirely unaugmented and baseline. That would of course have to change, but only in time. First she had to get there.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (03:03:52/01-20-16)
-----

Aside from her single pistol, Crimson had come entirely casually as per Slicer's instructions. Her training tracksuit with the hood up gave her a nice level of anonymity and being left alone as she headed for the bar. The rest of her gear was still at home, waiting for her to return to collect it and put it to use. She couldn't wait.

The bar itself was exactly what she had expected out of her mentor. Located in the Redmond barrens, not too far from his own apartment, it was below ground and run down, as shabby and dingy as everything else in his life. She could feel the eyes on her as she entered, knowing full well that there would be those around her sizing her up and deciding what to do with her. A part of her wanted somebody to just try so she could have a chance to put what she had learned to the test.

Rather, she kept her head down and kept it anonymous, discretely sliding into one of the back booths and doing her best not to think about the state of the seat. Slicer was there almost instantly, sliding into the booth with a level of grace that she almost never saw from him. And then she realised what it was that was so suddenly different about him; he was sober.

Wow, I guess this does mean a lot to him. It was a harsh statement, but it was also the only thing on her mind.

"Crimson," he began, leaning in to her. "Good to see you here. You ready?"

"Wouldn't have missed this for the world," she replied, more then a little bit of a grin on her face. She was trying to hide how eager she was for what was about to happen, and failing badly.

"That's the spirit," he nodded. "Now this is a guy I know, but I’m not going to be in control of the situation here. Rather, I want you to approach this with everything I taught you."

She nodded. "Be professional. Listen to what he has to say. Ask only the right questions. And always assume that Mister Johnson is going to screw you over."

There was a small smile from him, something that was rare enough. "That's the spirit."

"So what's it going to be?' She asked, an excitable eagerness creeping into her voice. "Raiding a corporate lab? Extracting some researcher? Sabotaging a new product?"

Slicer's reply wasn't what she expected. He laughed, even if briefly and dismissively. "Hold on there, kid," he managed, despite the glare she was giving him in reply. "You're just starting out and, despite my training and your eagerness, you're still far from ready for the big leagues. Johnsons don't hire at this level to fight Megas, not unless they're looking for a cannon-fodder team that they're not expecting to come back."

"But-"

"Listen, when I was where you are now, Sensei Kabuto was doing the same with me," Slicer continued. "It was a long time before I was fighting CorpSec goons while taking stabs at the megas. I had to work to get where I was too, and that included earning the cash to get all the cyber I needed."

Crimson wanted to say something here, but cut herself off, instead nodding and continuing to listen.

"Trust me, it will come, but in time. You've had a lot of perks that I didn't, and in many ways at least started out with more than I did. Plus when it happens, you get to take advantage of a lot of tech that I didn't have the chance to play with."

Crimson mentally wondered how long ago that had been, before coming to the conclusion that it would have been before she was born and then some. That put a lot of things in perspective. "Of course," she nodded "Sorry."

"Don’t worry about it." He continued. "Just focus on what I taught you and doing what you need to do. I'll be here, but I’ll be invisible too." Slicer gave a small nod. "He's coming. Game on, Crimson"

She flopped her hood down and sat up[ appreciably more as a third party entered the table. A middle aged man, overweight enough that it showed but not enough to hide the muscle still on his frame, joined them at the table, His dress said business casual to her, but the way he moved, the way he acted, everything was screaming that he wasn't just some random suit. The small nod he gave to Slicer only seemed to underscore that, sending her trying to figure a few things out.

Human. Looks to be in his late forties or early fifties. Definitely has been around the block a few times, she added, noting a scar on one hand and the hint of a tattoo under his sleeve. About Slicer's age too. Maybe they knew each other back in the day. That made sense, also giving her just a bit more confidence as she sat up, looking him in the eye.

"Crimson, is it?" He began. "Mister Johnson, a pleasure to met you."

"Likewise," she replied, a hint of satisfaction in her voice. "So then, what do you have for me?"

Johnson smiled. "Eager to get down to business. Good, I like that." He waved off a passing drinks waitress before continuing. "I'm looking to solve a little bit of a neighborhood problem, and I think you might be the one to do it for me."

Crimson nodded back, even if she did spare a small glance to Slicer. His response was impassive, like he wasn't there, leaving her effectively on her own. "What sort of problem?"

He leaned in, even as his eyes had done a discrete search of the bar and its patrons. That was enough to tell her that whatever was going on was immediate and, more to the point, a legitimate threat. Her heart raced at the thought that they could be in danger right here and now, risking being attacked or whatever else for whatever business they were about to engage in. And she loved it.

"Have you ever heard of the Demon Dogs?" He asked

"I can’t say that I have," She admitted.

"Not surprising, and no fault on your part," He continued. "They're a small gang, one that has traditionally flown below the radar, at least until recently."

There was a tiny part of Crimson that felt insulted at being handed such a seemingly small matter. But she stopped short of saying it, instead focusing on what Slicer had said about when he started out. "What changed?"

"Recently they've been stepping up their activities, and it's clear that they've got more income coming in," Johnson continued, his voice low. "The word is they've stepped up their presence in the drug trade, having sent their production into overdrive through a new facility. That's not just putting a lot of crap onto the streets, but it’s also giving them the resources to do a lot more."

"And you want it stopped," she finished.

"That’s right," Johnson agreed. "The new stuff they're pushing out is called Sparkle; sounds almost too cutesy to be true, but it is dangerous no less. They're pushing it onto new customers, going for the thrill of a completely new experience, and it seems to be working. Ideally, I'd like to see the flow of it stopped, but that's the problem. They have a new facility that's manufacturing it, but as yet, nobody's been able to find it."

"So you want me to find out where it is and then take it out," she concluded. "Thus cutting off their new source of income while also costing them whatever they've put into their new lab. Makes sense."

Johnson smiled. "Exactly."

Now it was her turn to smile. "So then, Mister Johnson, how badly do you want this place taken down? What's it worth to you, nuyen wise?"
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (02:46:39/02-24-16)
There were any number of things that Crimson had expected her first run to be like. Dull was not one of them, and yet, that was exactly how it felt right now. Every part of her wanted something to happen to take everything off script and liven things up a lot (or even just a bit) but so far, instead, things were pretty much going to plan to an annoying degree.

Slicer had told her once that a Run never went as expected and that there always was some twist, some unknown that would throw a spanner in the works and send things spiraling out of control. The secret, he'd explained was not trying to stop it from happening. That was impossible. Rather, it was to try and control the outcome and use it as best you could to turn things back to your advantage. It had made a strange amount of sense to her at the time and, as a bonus, he merely hungover when he said it, so there had to be some truth to his words.

But that didn't make thins job any more exciting. Going off the information she'd been given by Mister Johnson, she'd been able to find some of the Devil Dogs. They were a pretty ugly bunch, all human males who decided that tan coloured fatigues and red bandannas were their 'thing' and had chosen to confine their activities to a chunk of Redmond that nobody else was actively fighting over at the moment. Doubtless that was a low profile thing, as an up and coming gang that stepped on the wrong toes could easily find themselves crushed by those that didn't like the competition.

Crimson had been keeping a low profile. Lurking nearby or scurrying up to rooftops when needed, while using the same tracksuit look that had gotten her into the meet with Mister Johnson in the first place. It meant that she was nicely anonymous, and not liable to attract too much attention if she was noticed. For a while, she'd considered playing the 'corp brat'  act that she knew all too well and take a more direct approach, but realised it was probably going to just attract attention rather than divert it.

And so she waited, flitting between different groups as they milled about their business (Which mostly seemed to be drinking and comparing really ugly customized bikes that looked like they were thrown together from scrap) for hours on end. If anything, their most criminal activity is boredom she told herself, sighing quietly as she lurked on the decrepit balcony of a decrepit building, using the withered husks in a long-dead planter as cover. Couldn't somebody try a drive-by or something on these clowns already?

She was on the verge of giving it up and calling it a night (Which was pretty damning in and of itself. A Runner who needed to get some sleep because of their day job was about as lame as it got) when there finally was a semblance of activity. A battered Mitsubishi Runabout that looked to be more replacement parts than anything else pulled up to group, a pair of young human men in plain clothes getting out. Now it gets interesting, she considered as she took out the binoculars she'd borrowed from Slicer, watching the proceedings.

There was some discussion going on; she couldn’t hear any of it, but there was definitely an implication. The two plainclothes members (younger then the others, she noted. Possibly recruits) were handing over a pair of credsticks, while also indicating to something inside the car. Dealers who had just come back after emptying their supplies? she asked herself. They go plainclothes as to not draw attention to the gang, and that crapheap car is about as anonymous as it gets. I think I’m onto something here

Two of the 'uniformed' gangers got in, the car slowly pulling out from the curb and heading off. That was Crimson's cue, the Elf quickly dropping down from her perch to a nearby alley where she'd stashed her bike. Mounting up, she headed off after the car, finding catching up with it to be almost childishly easy. I bet my idle cruise is faster then it's flat out, she smirked as she threw a discrete AR tag on the vehicle so she could find it again in a hurry. One thing going for that junker; it blends in well with the other junkers around here. Compared to the Runabout, her own bike stood out in among the other nearby vehicles.

The battered car continued its slow, almost glacial pace for some thirty minutes through the ever increasingly decrepit streets of Redmond, managing to pick its way through thoroughfares that were often choked with debris or massive potholes. For her part, Crimson several times had to go around or pick other routes, relying on the massively out of date GridGuide maps to bring her back to the same course. She could immediately see one problem; as fast as her Mirage was, it was not well suited to what passed for roads around here.

On the upside, the drivers of the Runabout didn't seem to have noticed their tail. Maybe she was being discrete enough, or maybe they were just too embarrassed to be seen in such a god-awful car. Either way, by the time they pulled up in front of an apartment complex, they didn't seem to have any sort of welcoming committee ready for her. Instead, the pair of them simply climbed out, heading past an obvious armed lookout at the front before ducking inside.

I bet that’s the place, she assessed as she pulled the bike up around a corner, stashing it behind some debris. Continuing on foot, she turned her attention back to the structure to get some idea of what she was looking at. The first thing that come to her mind was that it was ugly; brutal slab sides with small windows and jutting boundaries that looked like they dated from the last century. Time, decay and its various inhabitants over the years had not helped either. The building was filthy, its lower portions covered in graffiti while many of its windows were smashed, boarded over or both. The top few floors on one side were opened up where part of the roof had apparently, collapsed, while there were places where shanties had been hastily tacked on to the structure.

Welcome to Redmond, Crimson winced as she searched around for a good vantage point. Not even Slicer would live in a place like this, she added, suddenly glad for the minimal if functional comforts that her day job at Vendor Mammoth allowed. That place is probably crawling with bugs and Devil Rats and whatever the hell else. Forget running water; finding something that even resembles water is going to be a hard task.

Crimson clambered up to the top of an abandoned storefront, taking out the binoculars that she'd managed to wrangle from Slicer's collection for this task. The front of the building didn't look immediately welcoming at the least. While she knew the front doors were at least functional, the presence of an armed lookout told her they were not going to be a viable way in. He's got an assault rifle, so he's going to also be insanely loud. Enough so that everybody knows what's going on. The ground floor windows were boarded up, while several of those on the second floor were open. Good place for people to hide and snipe. Front door is definitely out of the question

She relocated, hopping roof to roof as she headed further down the block, weaving her way through the mess of half-collapsed rusted roofs and the occasional yawning gap. Okay, natural Elf eyes do have their advantages, she noted, glad that there was something she was able to do without augmentation. Reaching the end of the block, Crimson settled in to another perch, now able to look at one side of the building. A few bikes, some garbage and other debris... The bikes were a rather eclectic collection, mostly older models that were sharing the tan and red colours that the gang seemed to prefer. Could have some use, but still not a way in.

A glance at her watch told Crimson just how long she'd been out there and, more to the point, just how little time she had before the start of her shift. I should just call it a night, go home and get even a couple of hours of sleep, but... There was that part of her that wanted to do something right here and now, make a move that would end all this quickly and get her past the crawling drag that this job had become. However, she also was aware tyhat she had no capacity to do this; her minimal equipment really only included what she needed locating and surveying the target, and not making any overtly hostile moves.

Any plan that starts with 'beat up a guard and take his gun so now I have a gun' is stupid, she reminded herself. It was a lesson she'd had drilled into her during her combat training with Slicer, while he'd been teaching her how to deal with armed opponents. "The first secret is to never be unarmed yourself," he'd explained. "And never relay on being able to safely confiscate a gun from your enemy. It could have safe firing triggers, it could be code or palm locked, it could have any number of other things going that you don't know about. And he's also not likely to want to give it up"

With a quiet sigh of resignation, she accepted this and moved on. Right, take a look at the back of the building and call it a night, she accepted, still more than a little disappointed at how long this was dragging on for. Her report back to Mister Johnson would likely end in a suggestion that she do even more recon, which was the last outcome she wanted form all of this. Be thorough if nothing else, so you don't need to waste so much time next time she noted as she clambered down off the roof and darted across the street, looking for a good place to hide.

The back of the building wasn't as easy to cover as the front, having only a narrow and rather refuse-choked alleyway between it and the next building across. Even then, the roofs of a row of tenement houses, most too far gone for anyone but the most desperate to consider, offered only an awkward partial view at the best of times, requiring her to slowly work her way along the row as she continued her assessment.

What had likely been a service entrance/fire exit was now covered by a single guard with a sub-machine gun, something that didn't offer that inviting of a start point. A crude camera setup supplanted his watch, and while Crimson wasn't sure if it actually worked, she also wasn't willing to take the risk. Otherwise there was a lack of ground-floor windows, even boarded up ones, which meant that the door with its attendant risks provided the only entrance from that side. Not looking good. They're making good use of what they have.

She was low on options and even lower on time, and couldn't see anything more that could be gained from watching the place any further at this point. Call it a night, cut my losses and go back to Mister Johnson I guess, she accepted. It wasn't easy to do; this was supposed to be her first run, her moment of glory when she became what she had wanted to be for so long, Instead it was this grubby mess of crawling around in old buildings for hours on end for no appreciable benefit. Going back empty handed was just twisting the knife, making the disappointment hurt that much more.

Crimson headed to the end of the row, aiming to clamber back down and then take the shortest route to where she'd stashed the bike in order to minimize her exposure while also shaving precious seconds off the time it took her to get away from here. It was as she was clambering down off the roof that something caught her eye, enough to give her pause. Most of the lower windows on the far side of the building had been boared up long ago. In among them, however, was one particularly decrepit third-story balcony, its railing long gone and part of its base crumbled away. This subsidence had caused the otherwise boarded door to shift on its base, exposing a triangle of blackness from within the apartment.

In other words, a potential way in.

That was enough to give her a small but appreciable smile. Not a total waste after all Crimson reassessed. Now she had something solid to go back with, and the beginnings of a plan.

-----

"Welcome to Vendor Mammoth, my name is... Ashley. How may I help you?"

She was trying to stifle a yawn as she spoke, and only just managing it. Her smile was weak, and her facade of false enthusiasm was instead marred by bleary-eyed exhaustion and slumped shoulders. Ashley had only gotten a few hours sleep before heading off to work, and it definitely showed. It had started off badly with her being a few minutes late (and the resultant angry glare from Shawnee who had been left to fill her spot rather than getting to go hoe and/or screw the night manager) and her own shift manager stopping to have a stern word about punctuality before she was allowed to start (And probably more than a little upset that prime shopping hours had started with an Ork out the front instead of a cute Elf as was supposed to happen)

At least her hair looked nice and her uniform was neat. Failing on those two fronts And thus creating a negative image for Vendor Mammoth in the eyes of its customers was an unforgiveable crime.

She was sleepwalking through the motions more so then usually. Most days it was a simple case of trying to pretend to be nice and generate fake enthusiasm for Vendor Mammoth's extensive range of crappy products, but today she was trying not to fall asleep on her feet and only dimly aware of her surroundings. The biggest single aid was that small bur appreciable change in temperature every time the door opened, a small jolt to remind her that somebody had entered the store and needed to be shown the obligatory, hollow, meaningless pleasantries that her job required.

It was only a short glacial epoch until lunch break, when she was allowed to retreat and, in theory, catch a bit of rest and recuperation. What she actually found herself doing was pouring over all the pictures she'd taken of the building on her commlink while supplanting her usual bland sandwich with several cans of Splode Energy Drink. What she'd found was that pictures taken on a cheap com in the middle of the night in a badly lit urban wasteland tended to come out as black blobs, which wasn't helping. She'd fired off a message to Slicer, if only to say that she'd found something and that so far she was still alive.

"Hey, Ashley, what are you looking at?"

She peered back to see Dennis hovering over her, his usual gormless smile on his face. Normally she'd have hit him with some put-down or tried to drive him off, but instead she found that she simply didn't have the energy to deal with someone who was more persistent and dumb than actually actively unlikeable. "Urban ruin photography," She managed, her reply punctuated by a yawn.

"Pretty crappy pictures," He noted. "Whoever took them clearly didn't know what he was doing."

She wanted to say something back, but couldn't manage it. "Probably"

"You okay. Ash?" He asked, having gone straight to familiarity probably because she hadn't swatted him away yet. "You look a little tired. Was it the thing you had on last night?"

She was genuinely surprised that he remembered her incredibly non-specific obvious hint to go away. "Yeah, totally," she managed. "And I probably should be getting an early night tonight too." There was a small beep from her commlink, indicating a reply.

Dennis looked like he was about to say something, when a bolt of realization struck him out of the blue. "Makes sense. Maybe some other night then."

"Sure, let's go with that," She finished with the same quality of fake smile she used for the customers.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (02:47:20/02-24-16)
A few commlink calls had seen her arrange a post-work meeting with Slicer, one that was a lot earlier than the usual sparring sessions. Those had started late, and instead gone on even further into the night, but this time he was pretty much asking to meet her straight after work. She'd had enough time to go home, change and head straight back out, and even that was more of convenience and vanity then any sense of timetable. You couldn’t get a bus to Slicer's place, and showing up in her Vendor Mammoth uniform would have been a massive mistake for so many reasons.

She'd knocked on the door fearing the worst and yet been so very surprised when it was answered. Slicer was unquestionably awake, sober, not even remotely hung over and even hand pants on. She was almost taken aback by this, but he seemed to be almost causal about it all, as if this was normal for him. "Thanks for coming on such short notice, Crimson," he began. "Come on in, we have a lot to talk about."

The apartment was its usual messy self, but for once he wasn't a part of the problem. "What's this all about?" She asked as she sat down in one of the clean (if still cracked) chairs. "It didn't sound super-urgent, even if your timetable was a little fast."

"Drink?" He asked, offering her a can of soft drink. She nodded and took it, and then was decently surprised when he took one himself before sitting. "Okay, so here's the deal, Crimson. Most runners have access to a network of contacts, a broad array of skills and practical experience. These things come together to support a run, especially in the legwork phase of it. Right now, no offence, but you’re lacking in most of those departments."

She wanted to argue, but it was futile. He had a good point, especially considering that he'd been doing this longer then she was alive. "All true. So what do you want from me?"

"You went out there and clearly found something," He explained. "So what I'm doing is supplementing your legwork by providing my own experience and knowledge to help you out and make the most of what you have so you can plan for the next stage."

"Yeah, that makes sense," she admitted.

"So tell us what you found," Slicer continued. "Don't leave anything out. Every detail, no matter how trivial, is important."

She went over everything from last night; the obvious dealers working out of the old Runabout, the handover, the trip back to the apparent hideout and the way she had followed them. She then described all she had seen there in as good as detail as she could manage, including her observation of a possible way in. Finally she described the forces she'd seen on-site, complete with their weapons and the other apparent security precautions.

"And all my pictures of it look like horrible black blobs," She finished, holding up her commlink.

"Not a problem. You got the address, right?"

She nodded, bringing up a map on her commlink. "Marked it so I could get back there again without tailing anyone."

"Perfect," he nodded, taking out his own comm. It was a bit worse for wear like everything else here, but surprisingly modern. Crimson was rather surprised that he’d have something so, well, new. "Give me a moment."

She waited while he worked, only to be rather surprised when he came back a minute later. "Two matrix crashes wiped out a lot of the property info on old Seattle," Slicer explained. "In fact, it’s the source of a lot of ongoing problems. But based on the address, this is what I found." He presented an image of an ugly, slab-sided block of a building. "That look like your place?"

"Only a lot younger, less filthy and less likely to collapse into rubble at a moment's notice, but yeah," She agreed, nodding to hm.

"The pictures about fifty years old and there's no floor plans or other hard property info left, but I can draw a lot of conclusions from that," Slicer continued. "Given its location and what you described, the place probably has little to no power. What they have is probably off generators and batteries, and is more likely case-by-case rather than building side. So expect a lot of dark and dank inside."

"And the Devil Dogs run the entire building?"

"Probably, but that's getting ahead of ourselves," he explained. "Other things worth noting is that while building proper is still reasonably structurally sound, its insides will likely be a mess. Expect walls to have been knocked in to expand apartments, holes in floors, hallways that have been blocked off and so on. You might have to go a long way around just to get between two nearby points."

"The stairs will be relatively clear, however, as they're the only good way up or down. The lifts probably haven't worked for ages, and even if they did have power you would be insane to try and use them. Downside is that the stairs are probably also watched, so you'll need to be careful or look out for alternate routes."

"Like, say, a part-callused floor?" Crimson asked.

"Exactly," Slicer nodded. "Opportunism is the name of the game here. You see an opening, you use it, specifically if it means you can keep going undetected. You want to stay off their radar for as long as possible, if entirely."

"Now as to the inhabitants, you are sort of right in that the Dogs run the place. Given that they're a small time gang, this is probably their clubhouse and base of operations, but not everyone in there is going to be one of them. Even when you discount initiates, dependants, gang girls or boys or whatever they're into or the like, you'll probably find that the majority of the population in there are poor, dirty and desperate people who want a roof over their head, something that passes for a meal and a regular supply of whatever hit gets then by."

Crimson almost said something there but instead stopped herself. Slicer was being insanely useful here, and she didn't want to blow it now. "So what, they're going to stay out of my way and not ask too many questions?"

"Pretty much. They probably all have to cough up some sort of regular protection money to the Dogs for the 'privilege' of living there and have been roughed up enough times to know what happens when they don't. So as long as you don’t threaten them or touch their stuff, you’ll be fine. Mess with what little they had and you'll probably be knifed for it."

"So they're not likely to be a threat," Crimson concluded.

"No, but the Dogs are," Slicer explained. "They're a small gang, which is good. Given their place on the totem pole, you're probably looking at few automatics and very little augmentation. I wouldn't be surprised if their boss thinks he's tough because he has a used cyberarm or something, but that's Going to be it. Obviously you'll want to avoid picking any fights with them, even if you see them being complete slots to the people in the building. The goal is to get in, mess up their drug production and get out."

"Which brings me to the real objective. Now I’m going to guess that their drug lab is on one of the lower floors of the building or even in the basement. Why do you think?"

Crimson stopped a moment, furrowing her brow in thought as options ran through her mind. Then it hit her, and it was obvious. "No lifts," she explained. "They need to move raw materials in and finished product out, and it's easiest if they don't need to lug it up and down the stairs all the time. Especially in a creaky old building that's clogged with crap."

"Exactly," Slicer nodded. "Convenience combined with laziness. Ideally they'd have it in a well-ventilated area, but the odds are they don't give a crap about whoever's cooking their stuff. You, on the other hand, will want a respirator so you don't need new lungs after this run."

"And what sort of precautions should I take when I trash it?"

"Ideally, being out of the building would be a great start," Slicer smirked, "because these sorts of things tend to go up easily and loudly."

"Sweet," She whistled. "So We have some idea of what I'm looking at and what ill be facing, and a vague approach for how to get in there. What's the next step?" She was becoming more and more eager by the second, almost itching for a chance to get in there and get the job done.

"First things first," Slicer cut her off. "You get a good night's sleep. I want you to be as fresh and ready for this as you can, because no offence kid, but you’ll need it,"
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Horsemen on (03:25:29/03-01-16)
It's been an interesting read.  I am looking forward to the next installment!
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (06:33:19/03-02-16)
Updates are irregular, but they will happen. Promise!
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Horsemen on (16:26:07/03-02-16)
Presumably you update after a game session and well that being the case, I know how irregular game nights can be.  It's all good.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (03:41:50/03-11-16)
Crimson had followed Slicer's advice. She’d returned home early, gotten a good night's sleep and been fully refreshed and awake when she got to work the next morning (even being a little early as a way to apologize for her tardiness the previous day). The day had actually seemed to fly past, as she spent her time running over everything she'd seen and done one more time, while trying to figure her own plans. Even the inevitable awkward lunch break conversation with Dennis had been a lot more bearable than usual.

Because when you're about to go off and do something questionably illegal to horrible people for money, the last thing you're worried about is the dropkick in the lunch room, she figured as she fired off her usual 'having a thing' excuse.

As soon as her shift was over, she was out the door and on the move. Within an hour she was at Slicer's apartment, moderately surprised to find her mentor awake, sober and ready two days in a row. "Great to see you, Crimson," he practically beamed as he let her in, offering her a bottle of water. "Shall we get down to business?"

"Please," she shot back. "I've been looking forward to this all day. There's only so long you can spend telling customers where to find toilet paper, baby food and commlink chargers before you want to murder somebody."

He gave a small, snorting laugh. "That's the spirit. I've put together a bit of a kit for you for just this purpose. And before you say anything, no it's not full of monowire, vibroblades, chameleon suits, milspec assault rifles or the like. That's well beyond what we’re doing here and, yes, my budget too." He placed a bag on the table and opened it up. "And by that I mean your budget. Don't get me wrong; I like you, but I can only go so far."

"So what's the deal, I have to pay you for all this?" She asked

"Figure that it's going to be an ongoing deduction from whatever you make," he explained as he unzipped the bag. "Until you get on your feet yourself. You’d be amazed how quickly the cash builds up once you're a regular runner, even after expenses." He shot a glance at her. "And how quickly it goes, especially once we start talking cyberware and other upgrades."

She couldn't help but glance around once again as Slicer said that, noting for not the first time just how shabby and decrepit his apartment was. All of a sudden, she couldn't help but wonder where his money had gone.

"First thing's first," Slicer offered as he began emptying out the bag. "Armoured vest. It's basic but it's functional, and could just save your life. Ideally, you'll never need it, but it's better to have it then not." She took the item in question, giving it a quick once-over. It was a bit large for her and had seen better days, but she could appreciate the functionality of it.

"Number two, a set of goggles with low-light and thermal options as well as zoom and record functions, because Elf eyes can only go so far," he continued. "I'll show you how to link them into both your commlink and your smartgun system-"

"-when I get one-" she added

"-well, yeah, but for now they'll be very useful. As said, it's going to be dark in there and having as many options available to you as possible will help."

The goggles were bulky and not in the slightest bit flattering, but she could see the value to them. "Check."

"Climbing rope and grapple hook. You said the best way in was through the third floor window, so you'll need a way to get to that. Find your vantage point and throw it over there, but make sure it’s secure before you go." He shot her a sideways glance. "I can assume you know how to climb up a rope"

"Star of my high school gymnastics team," Crimson shot back. She wasn't about to mention that it was about the only thing in high school she'd made any effort at and that her academic record was a complete trainwreck. But then, did Slicer even go to school?

"Now for the real trick," he continued as he produced a trio of small cylinders. "These are your basic high explosive grenades, and no, don't ask what I had to do to get these in a rush. I'm not the type to keep them lying around the house you know."

She put her hands up. "Don't ask, don't tell. Got it."

"We'll make a Runner of you yet," Slicer continued, an almost pleased tone in his voice. "You do remember how to use these, right?"

"Yes," She nodded, recalling his lessons again. A part of her training had involved use of dummy grenades, Slicer pointing out that it was more economical and far safer then training with the real thing. After she'd 'killed' herself with one, she had to agree.

"Your average drug lab is a highly volatile mic of repurposed equipment that's one strong tap away from blowing sky high," Slicer continued, "Especially for something as synthetic as Sparkle. One grenade near it will probably set the whole thing off in a massive fireball, which is why you don't want to be near it. Instead, we can once again tie them to your commlink so you can remote detonate them on command. They're not as good as your dedicated, purpose-designed explosives, true, but for what we want they'll do."

"Understood," she again nodded. "So why three?"

"Contingencies," Slicer stated. "We can't predict every last thing that will happen, so it helps to be prepared. You might need to fight your way out, blast a makeshift barricade or whatever else. That's not an invitation to blow the whole place up, by the way. It's still going to be full of more-or-less innocent people. If you come back with two grenades, then I'm happy."

"All makes sense."

"Respirator," Slicer continued as he produced the next item from the bag. "Because that place is going to be full of all sorts of stink, and that's before we get to the lab itself. It'll be producing a whole cocktail of unpleasantness, especially when it goes up. So if you don't want to get lung cancer or wind up high as a kite in the middle of a gunfight, then you’ll want this on. Combine it with the Goggles and you've got a good all-around level of safety protection, plus nobody will see your face, which is also a bonus"

That one struck her a moment. Her fantasy of Runner life had already taken enough blows. But a part of it was the whole idea of her identity, her being this mysterious, dashing but yet also recognizable individual. On the other hand, she also realized that there were perks to not being recognized inside a gang-run slum hellhole drug lab. "Sure," she finally nodded, even if with a bit of reluctance.

"And last but not last..." he produced something from the bag that she instantly recognized. A narrow-bladed sword, a slight curve present in its form that was obvious even inside its sheath. "A Katana, from my personal collection, because you never know when you might need to take out somebody quietly, or when you're in too close for guns." He looked down at the weapon and gave a small sigh. "Billy Blaster gave this to me as a birthday present. Now I give it to you, as a mark of a Street Samurai."

"Thank you," she bowed respectfully before accepting the blade. "I will treat it with the utmost respect." Internally she was somewhere between awed at both the gift Slicer had given her and the level of respect that clearly came with it, and the curiosity as to who the frag Billy Blaster was.

"Last thing," Slicer continued after giving her a moment. "Let's see your gun."

She nodded, dutifully handing over her weapon after putting down the Katana. Shed bought the gun herself for a mixture of personal protection and as a way of building up her won arsenal; it was intended to be the first step on the road to her glorious Shadowrunner career. Now as she offered it to Slicer, she couldn't help but feel a little self-aware.

"Colt America L36," He commented as he looked over it. "Near new, and I’d assume never fired outside of gun ranges and your own training with me." When she nodded, he continued. "Functional, serviceable and reliable. Not bad, and a good place to start. Though on a job like this, it's best if you never have to fire it." He handed the gun back to her. "One bit of advice though."

"What?" Crimson asked as she holstered the gun, her mind half on figuring out the most efficient way to carry her equipment.

"If you're cornered and there's no way out, you might want to consider saving that last bullet for yourself." Slicer finished, his tone unexpectedly grim.

Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (03:43:09/03-11-16)
She still had Slicer's heavy-handed warning on her mind as she rode through the Barrens, heading back to the building that was the Devil Dogs' apparent Hide-out and drug lab. As much as she’d wanted to put it aside, the implications in his statement was pretty clear, enough to dampen her enthusiasm for what she was doing. This was meant to be her big moment, the one where she finally became what she had wanted to be for so long. Instead she had that nagging feeling in her back of her mind, a sobering twinge that bought her back down to Earth.

The good news was that once she arrived at the derelict apartment block, even a quick examination of the area told her that nothing had apparently changed. Two guards, one front, one back, check. Questionably operational camera, check. Row of mismatched bikes in the same ugly tan, check. And my entrance, check. She'd headed up to the same vantage point as before, getting a better look at her way in while trying to find a good place to get to it from, when something had caught her ears. Holding her position, she waited and watched carefully, Wary for any sudden changes.

Movement caught her attention, her eyes coming to the front of the apartment. The battered Runabout from before was back, its trunk open as gang members began loading it up with crates full of fresh product. Looks like everything's going to schedule then, she assessed. No changes, no reason to think they're on alert or expecting to be invaded at any time. Good.

After finishing her lap to determine that everything was (more or less) as expected, Crimson worked her way around to the side of the building to find her entrance. That involved clambering across an already precipitous, halfway collapsed building up to its mostly gone roof, the perch alone just as dangerous as what she was planning next. No wonder people are willing to live in a hellhole like that, she observed as she sized up her approach. At least it's a roof over your head, if nothing else.

A still-standing upright seemed solid enough, not shifting at all when she pulled on it several times. Confident that it was what she needed, Crimson produced her climbing rope and grapple, tying it securely to the still-functional support. Sighting down the decaying balcony that was her target, she began slowly swinging the grapple, letting it gradually build momentum. It was just like gym class, only with slightly deadlier consequences of a slip-up.

No pressure.

She let fly with the grapple, the hook finding its mark and catching on the remaining railing of the decrepit balcony. Not willing to go over untested, Crimson gave the rope several hard pulls, the grapple barely shifting from its perch. Good. That's about as secure as it's going to be, she figured as she tightened up the line. Then, with more than a little apprehension, she pulled herself up onto the line, both hands gripped onto it with a deathly intensity as her legs wrapped around it as well.

The line held under her weight, with very little give despite the added mass that was being placed upon it. With the utmost care Crimson began to slowly shift forward, inching along the line, careful for every little shift and wiggle it gave as she moved. The process was excoriatingly slow, each motion made with the utmost care not to dislodge the line or upset her one precarious perch. Crawling over like she planned was a risk, but it was also a lot less so then approaching the building from the ground floor and hoping that nobody would be keeping an eye out for somebody trying just that.

Just so long as nobody looked up... The lack of lighting in this part of the Barrens would help disguise her presence, as would the dark, overcast night, but there would be no hiding her form anyone with low-light or thermal vision. Already she was thankful that the Devil Dogs were all humans, which meant that none of them would have any sort of naturally enhanced vision. Of course, that didn't rule out cyberware, optics or any number of other things. One step at a time...

Her eye were focused on the objective, looking out for any movement in the apartment or around it. Her ears were also alert to anything that was out of the ordinary, nearby or otherwise threatening, Rather, all she was getting for no was the background sounds of the Barrens, nicely distant from this particular stretch of bleakness. ASs calm as she was trying to be, she knew that her heart was racing, every nerve on fire as it was ready to explode into action at the slightest provocation or hint of danger.

Instead, she reached the end of her voyage, swinging off the rope and onto the balcony with a grace and ease of dismount that made it seem like the most natural thing in the world. She glanced back at the rope and hook, knowing that she had no alternative but to leave it there, and simply hoping that it would not be discovered in the meantime. Turning her attention, she instead carefully prided back the already loose board over the doorway, peering inside at the apartment.

The first thing that struck her was not anything that she could see, but rather what she smelt. A damp, fetid, rotting odour permeated the apartment, enough to make Crimson gag and reel back from the doorway. She quickly secured her respirator and goggles before taking another glance, this time wary for what horrors might lie within.

On a first inspection, the apartment appeared to be devoid of Metahuman life, but by no means was it empty. As she carefully stepped inside, Crimson became more aware of the source of the stench. Stacks of garbage, abandoned there and left to rot away filled the room, reeking of purification as they congealed into blobs of fetid waste.

Looking up, she could see where portions of the ceiling had given way, with at least one shattered pipe hanging down from the roof. Pooling water had worked with the waste to turn the apartment into a swamp, the floor squelching underfoot as she made her cautious way through the room, careful not to disturb anything lest it provoke other unseen horrors that were lurking below. Quietly, she was suddenly thankful for the tiny little hole in the wall that was Ashely's apartment. Compared to what she was picking through now, it was a palace. Even Slicer's rundown hellhole was better than this.

The apartment did still have a door, possibly maintained to simply contain the stench that was coming from within. Now she was cautiously prying it open, glancing outside to examine what she was stepping into. What she found was a hallway, dimly lit by a few, semi-functioning and flickering lights, with doorways leading off to other apartments. The walls were covered in graffiti and stains, with many of the latter best left unidentified. Portions of the floor were covered in debris, making the thoroughfare more of an obstacle course than a convenience.

But what she noticed the most was that there were people in the hallways, something that she wasn't quite ready for. A lone figure caught her eye, enough to have her duck back inside the apartment as she reconsidered her options, trying to think of what to do about them before she risked another glance out, trying to work out a more detailed threat assessment.

The figure was a human man, dressed in the ragged remnants of a once fine coat, his features dominated by wild, matted hair and a matching beard. His skin was blotchy and discolored, although some of that might have been an extensive mass of tattoos. But what struck her the most was the way that he was moving. The man was less walking as he was stumbling and lurching, like he was barely in control of his own body. He staggered forward a little, before hitting something in the hallway and collapsing into a tangled heap. There was silence, before a lout stream of near incoherent profanities escaped his mouth.

To her surprise, there was a reaction. One or two faces peered out from apartment doorways, only to just as quickly disappear with a surprising lack of interest. The ragged man, in the meantime, was left to stumble around in the debris, cursing to himself as he tried to pick himself up.

They don’t care, she realised. Slicer had said something to that effect in his briefing, but now she was seeing exactly what he meant. He's not messing with whatever they have, not directly threatening them and not entering their apartments. And as long as he does that, it doesn't matter if he's on whatever he's on and falling down in the hallways. They're not going to do anything to help him, but they won't stop him either. And in that self-preserving apathy, Crimson could see the advantages. As long as I don't break those rules, I can get through here and get to my objective.

Of course, that would all change when she got to the Devil Dogs themselves. She was under no illusions that they would have the same air of intentional indifference towards goings on. Rather, she suspected they were a key part of why the people in the building kept to themselves. Don't cause trouble, don't get a beating, don't lose what little stuff that you have.

She cautiously left the cesspit of an apartment she’d been hiding in, slowly making her way down the hall, doing her best to pick her way around the fallen derelict. Fir his part, he had managed to prop himself halfway up and offered her a few choice curses, but even a quick glare form her was enough to have him backing off, his tone dropping from hostile to a much quieter degree of mumble.  Rather, she watched her surroundings, taking in the details. Many of the apartments were missing their doors, while others had improvised coverings in their places. And at least one had scorch marks around an empty doorway.

The other thing that she noticed was a recurring pattern in the graffiti, where the 'Devil Dogs' (or sometimes 'Dogz', as if they weren't that clear on the matter) name had been splashed over something else. Given that there were more then a few bullet holes in the walls, she could only imagine that their takeover of the building had come at the expense of some prior owner. And the residents get a raw deal, no matter what.

As Slicer had suspected, the elevators were clearly long out of action. The doors to one of them were wedged shut, and covers in years of grime and graffiti tags. And the other was jammed half open, nothing but a yawning chasm of blackness within. The stairs were nearby and were at least somewhat free of debris, even if only out of convenience.

She paused at the top of the stairs, quietly leaning against the all and listening. Voices were coming up from below; a man and a woman talking about something, loud enough to be clearly heard, even if what they were saying wasn't that distinct. Sentries on the stairs? She considered. If that was the case, then she could be in trouble. Her plan hadn't called for her to go loud unless it was unavoidable, but given the situation, it seemed unavoidable. Not good.

"If you're looking for a good time, then you've come to the right place, hon." A cracking woman's voice spoke up from behind her. Crimson spun around with almost lighting speed, her hands reaching for her loaned Katana. Instead what she found was an immodestly dressed woman of indeterminable background, leaning against the open doorway of an apartment. Soft pink light spilled out from it, along with an air of perfume that was so thickly applied as to be pungent.

"But if you’re looking to get down them stairs, then I'd advise against it, cutie." The woman continued

Narrowing her eyes, Crimson cautiously approached the woman. "What do you mean?"

"Having the apartment by the stairs is a great spot to ply my trade, and a great spot to see what's going on," the woman explained. "It's hard for me to miss anything that goes on in here, and right now hon you stick out like a sore thumb."

Crimson was suddenly glancing around. "What do you mean?"

"You're clean, fer starters," the Woman continued. Now that she was a little closer. Crimson could see something to what she meant. While definitely nowhere near the same degree of filthy that the derelict in the hall had been, she still was clearly a while between washes, with blotchy patches on her exposed skin. Similarly, her face was surprisingly gaunt, suggesting that she wasn't unfamiliar with addiction herself. "And then there's the ears. As cute as they are, they stand out a lot."

"Are there no other Elves here?' She asked

"None that are open about it," the woman lazily replied. "The Devil Dogs got a real hating for anything that's not human. Drove out or killed anyone else who was living here when they took over the place. Pity too, 'cause it cost me a couple of good regulars."

Crimson quickly flipped up the good of her top, but it was more out of self-conscious concern then any real security. By this point, it was probably too little too late. "So do they guard the stairs or something?"

"Uh-huh. They don't give a devil rat's hoop about what happens above their floor as long as they get a take. But they like to check everyone coming or going to make sure that nobody’s messing with their crap. And trust me, hon, you don't want to be subject to their scrutiny."

Crimson could almost feel the last dregs of her Shadowrunner fantasy collapsing around her. She should have been wired to the nines and able to effortlessly cleave a path through these creeps. Instead here she was trying to beg info from a joygirl for how she could get by a pair of gutter-trash gangers.

She gave a small sigh of acceptance. "So what are you suggesting?"

"Well, I ain't gonna ask what business you have with the Dogs, but if it kicks them a little, then I'm for it." The woman glanced sideways at Crimson. "If you really wanna get down there, then there could be someone who would be willing to help. Go upstairs, apartment 417. Ask for Mister Healy, but be polite about it, as he's none too friendly at the moment."

Crimson glanced to the stairs, then nodded. "And what do you get out of this? Nobody does anything for nothing."

The woman gave a dry, cracking laugh. "Enlightened self-interest, ears. The Dogs are bas for my business, and I ain't got nowhere else to go. But if some of their Sparkle power happened to fall into your pockets and find its way back to me, then that wouldn’t hurt none either."
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (10:14:01/03-27-16)
The fourth floor looked every bit as run down and awful as the third, just with the mounds of waste and debris in a different arrangement. There also seemed to be less people active in the hallway, although Crimson had put her hood up just to be sure. It was only minimal protection against someone discovering that she didn't fit in here, but it was better than nothing.

Apartment 417 stood out for several reasons. The first was that the door had numbers on its font still, allowing her to actually identify it. The second was that even in the gloom of the poorly-lit hallway, she could see that it was appreciably cleaner than the others around it; the trash moved back from the entrance, the walls less grimy and so on. Mister Healy, whoever he was, Seemed to be doing pretty well fort himself compared to everyone else, which she suspected was key as to why she'd been directed to him specifically.

She apprehensively knocked on the door, listening carefully for whatever reaction came from within. Several tense seconds later, it opened to revel a battered, worn, middle-aged human on the other side, bleary eyes peering out from behind cracked glasses. "Mister Healy?"she asked

He quickly glanced at her. "Jesus Christ, get inside!" he snapped as he grabbed her and all but dragged her in, slamming the door behind him. No sooner was she in then Crimson was reaching for her katana, ready for the worst. "Wait," he quickly cut in "You're obviously not from here. I grabbed you for your own protection."

"You can tell?"

He nodded, almost sadly. "You're an Elf and you're openly carrying a weapon. Nobody who lives here would do either, lest they give our masters a reason for a beating - or worse."

"The Devil Dogs, you mean."

"Sadly, yes," Healy continued. "I can only assume that the reason why you are here is to do with them. Although I'd ask that since you're not form around here, how you did know my name and where I was?"

"A, uh, woman downstairs pointed me towards you."

"Of course she did," he chuckled a little as he headed towards the kitchenette. "Like everyone else here, she looks out only for herself, but in this case I can see her reasoning. I assume then your business in this hellhole involves the Dogs?"

Crimson glanced around, taking in the apartment before she replied. While still run down, with cracked and flaking walls and mismatched, salvaged furniture, it also was far cleaner and less wretched then those she had seen so far. "It does.," she continued, before deciding on a path of open honesty. "I was hired to disrupt their drug manufacturing."

That seemed to get a response. "If you want to hurt them then that would be the way to do it," he nodded. “Although I assume your employer didn’t mention that they were a gang of violent human supremacists?"

"No," she admitted.

"Which would explain at least some of hwy he sent an Elf in to do his work," Healy continued as he sat, a glass of water in hand. He hadn't offered her one, but a look at it told her that she might be better off without anyway. "When the Dogs took over this building, they started by either driving out or killing any Metahumans that lived here. My partner was one of them, lynched by them to make an example for simply being an Ork." He took a long, slow sip

"I’m sorry."

Healy sighed before continuing. "Before they took over, I helped keep this building running. I took care of the electricals, tried to keep the water flowing, all of that sort of thing. The Dogs kept me around because they knew I could be useful to them. They got me to redirect the power and water so it would suit them and their operations, and make sure that they'd have a good supply for whatever they needed." He looked up at her. "Which means, miss, that I know a few things about what they're doing and how they do it which could no doubt be very helpful to you."

"I'd very much appreciate whatever assistance you can give me," Crimson replied

Healy nodded, looking up at her,. "I didn't fight the Dogs after they took over because i was afraid. Despite what they did, I knew they would retaliate, either against me or those left here. As hellish as this building has become, it is our home. We can't leave, as most of us would have nowhere else to go, and many would not survive out on the streets. That's why, whatever you do, I need you to promise one thing before I tell you what you'll need to know."

"What?' She asked

"Obviously it's best for you and everyone else that you're not seen," He explained. "But at the same time, if you do something that’s loud and obvious, and more to the point, external, then they're going to Look outside to who did this, not within."

"Loud huh?" Crimson considered, a ghost of a smile on her face. "I think that can be arranged."

-----

To say that Healy had been a wealth of information was an understatement. He'd told her more in a few minutes about the building that her hours of recon had told her beforehand. He'd lived in the building for years, and in the process of looking after it had become privy to many of its secrets. Years of neglect and wear had indeed taken their toll on the structure, and parts of it were almost certainly dangerously unsafe. But now, thanks to him, she knew ways to exploit that very same decay

For example, the floor of Apartment 307 had collapsed some years ago, the resulting hole giving access to the floor below for anyone willing to risk dropping down into a rubble-strewn, unlit apartment. The Dogs hadn't done much to secure it, knowing that nobody else in the building had the skill or agility to do such, nor the courage to risk the drop and the uncertain conditions below.

On the other hand, Crimson had no such concerns. And even if Healy hadn't tipped her off to the room, she might have tried it anyway had she discovered it herself. Certainly compared to crawling over a rope to get into the building, this was child's play.

The room was pretty much as described; the door secured only by a sheet of board, and no effort at all made to cover up the yawning hole in the middle. The only illumination that came into the room was from the few dim lights left functioning outside, which should have turned the hole into a yawning pit of blackness with untold horrors lurking below. Instead, her natural Elven eyesight picked it out in the dimness, giving her a good idea of what she was looking at and the perils that it represented.

Easy, she told herself as she crouched by its rim, tugging at the remaining flooring to get some idea of its' strength. Confident that what was left was solid enough, she carefully lowered herself down, each move made with the utmost precision and care as not to dislodge any material that she was using to maintain her grip, wary for the slightest hint of give in the cracked concrete floor. And then came the big risk, dropping so that now her weight was entirely on her hands, her legs hanging down in freefall.

No fear, no hesitation, nothing. Instead she moved with a fluid grace, swinging out before releasing, using her momentum to propel herself across the room towards the far wall. And then she kicked off that, coming to the floor in an awkward but safe crouch, away from the accumulated debris that had fallen from the floor above. Easier then Ms Strakken's gymnastics class, she couldn't help but smirk as she stood. And without the pressure of her shouting at me all the way.

From what Healy had told her, the second floor was the Dogs' barracks, where they lived and slept. The ground floor was largely abandoned with the gang activates there focused on their armories and defenses against anyone getting inside that they didn’t want, including of course shaking down the residents as they came and went. It was the basement where the real action happened, the Dogs having set up their drug manufacturing down there in order to afford both their equipment and materials the best security.

Her plan for the second floor was two part. The first was to, quite literally, let sleeping Dogs lie. She was moving through the floor, slowly and carefully, ducking into doorways or behind debris piles or whatever else in order to provide herself whatever cover she could. Fortunately, due to the late hour, very few people were up and about, affording her the chance to get to her objective without detection. It was something she almost regretted; from all Healy had told her, she was almost itching to have a go at the Dogs more directly.

But that moment would come. For now, she had her objective to consider

Healy had told her of the other interesting feature of the floor, one that she now was approaching. A maintenance closet, the lock on its door was long gone, but the rest of it was more or less intact as expected. What lay inside, on the other hand, was a rats nest of cabling, the legacy of decades of bypasses, jury-rigging and other attempts to ensure the remaining functionality of the building’s power supply. While its source of electricity was a generator in the basement, this last set-up, as much of a mess as it was, also provided the flow of power throughout the building.

Healy had been key to ensuring its operability, which had made him indispensible to the Devil Dogs after their takeover. It also meant that he was able to tell her a few things about how the whole nightmare operated now, so far removed from it's original design. With the information she'd been given and a bit of work, she was able to locate one part of the mess, a single point of failure that, with the slightest bit of effort, could be urged to produce catastrophic results.

And within moments, the entire building was plunged into darkness. Save for what little light made it in from the outside, everything was dark. Within moments she heard the first shouts, which was her signal to move. Daring down the corridor, she ducked back into the half-collapsed apartment as cries of alarm and more then a few footfalls filled the air. And, as she listened from behind the doorway, her hand on her katana just in case, she could also hear the sounds of people tripping or stumbling in the debris-laden hallways, telling her what she needed to know.

One of the advantages of being an Elf was her natural low-light vision. The Devil Dogs, being entirely humans and mostly un-augmented Barrens rats at that, had no such inherent advantage. In the dark, they were reduced to groping around and trying their best not to kill themselves by falling over the wreckage that they lived in. "The fragging thing's blown again!" A woman cried out, the brief flashes of a torch clear from where Crimson was hiding. "Somebody go get the old man already!"

Their reactions told her a lot; they didn't think that this was an attack, rather a natural by-product of living in such a run-down and decrepit structure. Now in addition to being blinded, the Dogs were also distracted by trying to get affairs back in order, keeping them away from their critical operations that she was targeting. The basement, with no natural light to begin with, would be the worst off part of the building, and likely the Dogs would want to back off from their drug lab lest somebody accidentally trip over something vital in the darkness.

All she needed to do now was get her target and get out.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (10:14:20/03-27-16)
As near as Crimson could tell from what she was seeing and hearing, the reactions to the building going dark fell into two board categories. The first was that of the residents, which amounted to simply sitting tight and doing nothing and acting like this was all perfectly normal, which she strongly suspected it was anyway. Blackouts in here were probably a common occurrence, and at the very least it meant they had a building that could be blacked out to live in which was a small blessing.

The second and more noticeable was that of the Devil Dogs themselves. There was a lot of shouting and a lot of anger, with their members stomping up and down halls and yelling at one another to try and get the problem fixed as quickly as possible. There was also a lot of tripping and cursing, as it was clear that as predicted they were having a lot of trouble picking their way through the debris that clogged the hallways,

In other words, everything was going to plan.

She could still hear those same cries echoing as she shimmied her way down the elevator shaft, following the instructions she had been given as to the best way to go. It went without saying that the lifts themselves had long ago ceased functioning, but that didn’t stop them from providing her with access, even if after a fashion. The shaft itself reeked of refuse, having log ago become a communal midden for whatever waste that they could be bothered to haul off.

She reached the bottom, her feet landing with a sickening, soft squelch that spoke of whatever was underneath them. Trying not to think too hard about it (and glad that her respirator was firmly in place), she climbed out, squeezing her way through the gap in the basement level door and peering out into the murky darkness that lay beyond, taking what few details that her low-light vision was able to pick out.

Down here, Things were a bit cleaner, if only because fewer people ever came here. Most of it was bare concrete walls and stained floors, broken up by the occasional slowly accumulated puddle. The ceilings were crammed with pipes and cabling, no doubt heavily patched and only barely functional. Most importantly, the basement was currently lacking in signs of life. She could hear the spluttering of the generator, currently sending power to nowhere, as well as distant footfalls and echoing shouts of the Dogs as they tried to get the building back under control.

None the less, she was moving carefully and slowly, her pistol at the ready should she be discovered. It didn’t take long to find the drug lab; even with her mask on, she could feel her eyes watering from the chemical residue that hung heavily in the air, tainting all around it. Furtively sliding into the room probed her theory, an elaborate and unstable-looking mass of jury-rigged equipment occupying one side of it, along with several barrels and other materials used in the production and packaging. The only concession to safety was a clearly jury-rigged ventilation system, made from piping and a few old fans. All of it sat inert, cables snaking across the floor and up to the ceiling to draw from power that was currently cut off, but everything suggested it had been running until recently

She had no idea how the whole thing worked, even accounting for the fact that it was currently inert. What she did know was that it would explode, and that the chemicals in the room would probably fuel whatever conflagration resulted from her work. That was enough for her as she activated one of her grenades, setting it to remote detonation and then, carefully, placing it in the middle of the mess of piping that was the drug lab. Once it was in, she called up the grenade on her commlink, confirming that it was active.

Time to get out of here.

Crimson's plan was to be way from the basement floor at least before detonating. She figured that was a minimum safe distance, while also avoiding signal loss due to the building's structure and the utter lack of local grid infrastructure. The last thing she wanted was to have to come back for it, especially given that her window, once closed, would not open again easily.

It almost worked.

She heard a shout form behind her, a rough male voice, filled with anger. Glancing back she could make out the figure; heavy set, rough and clad in tattered street leathers. She could also see that there was the slightest glint to him, even here in the darkness. One arm was out of place, differently shaped to the other, far blockier then it should have been, suggesting that it was artificial. Likewise, there was something to his face, a little gleam in the darkness.

As she ducked around a corner, she quickly figured what it was. Cyber eyes. Which means that he can Probably see in the dark. Which means that he saw me.

As if to confirm her suspicion, a burst of automatic gunfire tore into the wall next to her, sending concrete chips flying, spattering against her skin and clothes. She let out an almost girlish cry of pain and fear as she broke into a run, trying to get away from this man who had made his intent as clear as possible. Her heart raced, the thump almost audible as she surged forwards, desperate to get away from the man and his murderous intent.

For all her training and all she thought she was ready, this was the real thing, She was under fire by a man who intended to kill her. This was life and death, and she had to think fast or die.

She quickly ducked around the corner, squeezing off a round form her pistol before ducking back, the sound of the shot reverberating in her ears as echoed around the confined concrete warren. This produced another burst of fire in reply, the shots hitting a nearby wall, away from where she was.

Okay, he's only got the loosest idea where I am. Gives me time. Her breath was coming in short ragged gasps as she tried to figure what to do. No. Can't sit. Can't wait. Giving him the advantage.

A plan formed in her mind, one that was almost certainly stupid, but the best she could think of at the time. She hit a button on her commlink's screen, breaking into a run as she did. She heard the beginning of a shout from the man, one that caused Crimson to preemptively wince as she knew what was coming next.

Instead, there was an explosion, one that cut off whatever the man had planned. Instead the sound echoed around the basement as her grenade went off on command from where she had nestled it in the middle of their apparatus. Her head rang with the noise, but she kept running forwards, one destination in mind. Reaching the jammed open doors, she leaped into the void, reaching out as-

The second explosion went off as her hands grabbed the ledge on the far side of the shaft, this one a lot louder than the first as something in the pile caught and went up. The force of the blast staggered Crimson, throwing her against the whit, her head ringing as she saw spots before her eyes, her ears filled with nothing but a loud, piercing ringing noise. For a moment, it felt like her grip would falter, sending her stumbling down into the dark debris-filled depths below.

And if whatever she landed on didn’t kill her, then she’d be vulnerable to her attacker. Crimson had no idea if he was still alive or whatever else might have happened, and she didn’t want to find out either.

Sweat pouring off her brow, she managed to hold her ground, even as her fingers were screaming bloody murder at her, every nerve in her body on fire. Slowly, painfully, she pulled herself up, struggling each step of the way to get away from the basement and towards her freedom.

-----

Crimson had no idea how long it took for her to crawl her way up the elevator shaft, and then pick her way through the still dark, refuse-strewn hallways. All she knew was that when she had made it back to her original entrance, finding her line still securely in place, the relief was palpable. She let out a loud sigh, born of a mixture of relief, pain and, of course, the tedium that was still ahead with the last crawl across the rope before she was completely away.

That felt like it took an eternity in and of itself, every muscle in her body aching by the time she'd made the long, painful crawl over. By the time she was over the other side and down, all Crimson wanted to do was crawl off and die. Instead, she carefully made her way back to where she’d stashed her mirage, glad to find the bike intact and apparently untouched.

Clambering on the bike she started it up, ready to get away and return to civilization, safety and her ever so inviting bed. But before she did, she reached for her commlink, calling up the same screen as before. Checking the reception, she pressed the button on the screen.

The sound of her second grenade going off under the Devil Dogs' bikes might have been muffled by it coming from the other side of the building, but it was still clearly audible no less. And then, in spite of all that she had been through, Crimson couldn't help but grin. “Loud enough for you, old man?”
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (08:25:15/03-31-16)
By the time she got home, Crimson had been glad that she didn't need to work in the morning. She should have been filled with an air of elation and triumph over her first successful Shadowrun, making that key step to the lifestyle that she had dreamed of for so long.

Instead she was cold, sore, tired, filthy, drenched with sweat and had the stench of the decrepit apartment complex sticking to her and her clothes. She wanted to simply crawl into bed and die, but also needed to find the energy to shower first, lest the stink manage to permeate even further into everything she owned. And even as warm and inviting as the shower was, blasting the grime away from her, she still felt more dead than alive by the time she emerged.

Even then there was one last duty to perform, one that she reluctantly went through as she placed a call on her Commlink. "Hey Slicer, it's Crimson," she began, her voice leaden with exhaustion. "I don; know if you're awake or sober or what, but I'm back, I accomplished the objective and I'm alive." The yawn at the end of the sentence did seem to undercut that last one a little. "Arrange a meet with the Johnson so we can wrap this whole mess up, okay?"

Ending the call she simply crawled into her bed, curling up into a tight ball as she almost immediately fell asleep.

-----

It wasn't until the early afternoon that Crimson woke, having slept far longer then she normally did. Even then, it was a slow and gradual emergence, rather than her usual snap awake and into action. She felt refreshed but not renewed, a heavy, clinging lethargy still drawing her down as she struggled to shrug off the last of the previous night's exertion, attempting to restore some sense of normality to her life.

You’re a runner now, she managed to assess. There is no normal.

As soon as she had enough awareness of her world, Crimson was checking her commlink for messages, driven by an urgent need to find out how this first run of hers had gone. In many ways, it represented her future, and she so very much wanted it to be declared a success, to know that she had a future in this very unique, very specialised line of work.

In many ways, all that she was working for had been balanced on what had happened last night, and the assessments of both Mister Johnson and Slicer were key to that. One of them was her employer, and she needed his approval in order to build her reputation and find more work. And she needed his payment to get to where she wanted to be.

At the same time, in many ways, Slicer's approval was more important. He was her mentor, the one who was teaching her the skills that she needed in order to make this all happen. If he didn't approve of her approach and chose to withdraw his support, then she was effectively finished. He’d out and told her that she still had a lot to learn, and that he would impart those skills as she needed them. This was doubly true of all the instruction he'd given her in various forms of combat; guns, blades, unarmed and so on. As much as he'd taught her now, she knew that once she was fired up with the augmentations she so craved, she’d need to effectively start over and re-learn how to move and respond with a body so far beyond human.

It was that one trait that had seen her introduced to him in the first place, after all.

And even beyond the combat training there was all the other things he provided. Contacts; information; equipment and so much more. She couldn't afford to lose all that, especially not now when she was so close.

There was one message on her commlink. With equal parts apprehension and eagerness she pressed the button, listening with baited breath.

"It's Slicer," the voicemail message began, the tone neutral. No disappointment, no anger, no wariness, nothing. "Johnson wants to meet. Same place, tonight, eight thirty."

She let ought the smallest sigh of relief. If nothing else, that was one hurdle passed, one less thing to worry about. Idiot, Crimson told herself as she clambered out of bed, heading again for the shower. You're probably worrying too much about nothing. The warm water was now far more refreshing then it had been last night, working with the rest she'd had to help clear her mind. Last night went great. You're just worried because you felt like drek once you got home.

Cleaned, refreshed and in a far better mood, she stepped out to dress, picking out something simple and straightforward that she could wear to the meet. Normally she would spend her one day off a week relaxing and enjoying herself, happy to be anything but Ashley the greeter girl and worlds’ most boring Elf. Today she was feeling driven and if anything even more determined than ever, and the more she thought about it, the more confident by the moment of the result of the previous night's run.

A quick scan of the newsfeeds over Breakfast/Lunch/Whatever didn't have anything that even came close to describing what had happened last night. Makes sense, she figured. Run down apartments in the Barrens don't rate as news. Even a quick check of the few Shadow sites that Slicer had introduced her to didn't really tell her anything. Probably too low a blip for anybody's radar, she added. I guess there's only one way to find out what had happened.

With most of the afternoon and some of the evening to spare before she was due at the met, Ashley hit the gym. Last night's Run had taught her a number of things, but one of the lessons had been about how much physical work she would be doing. Climbing, leaping, crawling and above all else, running for her life were likely to become common occurrences, and she needed to be ready for all of that. Augmentations can only carry you so far, after all, she considered. After I was done there, I was a mess. Good thing I didn't need to run after that last explosion. The thought of the Devil Dogs' collection of motorcycles, even as junky as they were, going up in flame did make her smile a little. Served that bunch of supremacist arseholes right.

Scarlett Krieger had been the star of her high school gymnastics team, and those skills had translated nicely to when she'd begun her training. In theory she also had a gym membership, bought explicitly to help her keep in shape and further hone her skills in the name of self-improvement and making her a better Runner (even in training). In practice, she'd rarely found the chance to use it, spending most of her waking hours at work, training with Slicer or, on those rare days off from both, going to a club and blowing off steam. Now she found it more useful than ever.

She focused her routine today on the more athletic and gymnastic options available; the climbing wall, ropes, balance and the like, followed by a long stint on the running machine, And while her ears were filled with her exercise mix piped directly from her commlik, Crimson's thoughts were still on the previous night’s run and all that had happened on it. Each exercise was in theory designed to hone her skills, indentifying what she would need to know more of and do more often based on what had happened before, building strength and endurance so that she wouldn't be caught short.

And yet, for all that, her mind kept swinging back to one singular point, Not the squalor that she had spent so long wading through, not the looks of desperation and fear she'd gotten from the residents she'd come in contact with, and not the all-pervading feeling of despair that had permeated the building. No, it was that one gang member who had come so close to killing her there and then. A two-bit Barrens rat with a used cyberarm and a junky machine pistol that was probably close to blowing up in his face.

That should not have happened, she kept telling herself. I am better then that.

Her chosen path meant that she would be in the line of fire once again. Next time would be different, however. I will not run. I will not be afraid. I will be ready. He and his kind will not beat me again.

-----

By the time she was heading to the meeting, any traces of doubt had been swept from her mind, Crimson felt confident that her run had been a success, and that her concerns had merely been a by-product of the fear from her near brush with death. And as much as she was playing it casual as per Slicer's instructions; her hood up and her hands in her pockets as she walked into the seedy bar, in her head she was striding confidently, a triumphant warrior headed to her victory celebration.

Slicer was already there when she reached the booth, the older Elf nodding to her as she sat down next to him. Two glasses were on the table waiting for her; one with what appeared to be at least passably clear water by an empty seat, the other with a clearly thicker, amber liquor before him. "I got your message," he offered to her. "Glad to know you're alive." There was a certain small satisfaction to his voice, one that suggested just a hint of pride in her own success or, at least, survival.

Or maybe it's validating yourself, she mentally added. Because if I succeed, that means you succeed through me.

"Now let's see what mister Jonson has to say," Slicer continued before taking a sip from his glass. She eyed her own briefly, but decided against touching whatever was inside. "Now I'm not going to say that we are on shaky ground here. Johnsons like proof of deed, and from what you told me, that's going to be a bit slim on your end." She started to say something, but he raised his hand, cutting her off.

"Just go through what happened, explain the situation and be ready to back up your words however you can. And give it all the conviction in the world that what you're saying actually happened. If you believe it, then he's more likely to believe it too." Slicer took a large slug from his glass, emptying it. "No runner ever got paid for saying 'just because' and hoping everybody would be okay with it."

Crimson kept her mouth shut, simply nodding and accepting what he said. Me, I have all the confidence in the world, she considered, even though there was some

Slicer looked like he was about to add something else, but the arrival of the Johnson cut him off. The man seemed confident enough in his swagger; the three glasses he placed on the table along with a bottle of whiskey seemed to add to that air. Without saying a word, he poured out three measures, taking one of the glasses himself. "To the returning victor," He offered raising his glass.

Crimson blinked a moment, but a sideways glance at Slicer showed her that he was already taking his glass, so she just as quickly did the same, the three of them quickly tossing back. The liquor was strong, seemingly burning her throat as it went down, enough to cause her to splutter an instant.

"So then," Johnson continued. "You did the deed and got out alive. Tell me exactly what happened."

Crimson started off with how she had first seen the dealers working in the Entertainment District, and used them to backtrack to their headquarters. From there, she quickly moved on, explaining her recon and the assessment of the site and the preparations that the Devil Dogs had taken. As she continued her narrative, she did deviate ever so slightly but significantly from the truth, leaving Healy's involvement out of it before moving on to the final assault on the lab itself and her escape.

"And while I di not get a chance to verify the destruction of the lab, the larger secondary explosion would seem to indicate that it was indeed destroyed," She concluded. "Besides which, with the near complete lack of lighting, the best I would have gotten from my commlink would have been just as insubstantial." She glanced at Slicer a moment before she continued. "But I can offer you something else."

"And that is?" The Johnson asked.

She placed her commlink on the table, a single image clear on its screen. "The Devil Dogs' motorcycle rank after I let off a grenade underneath it," Crimson explained, more than a little confidence in her voice. "Consider it a target of opportunity, a way to further weaken them."

There was a long, tense silence as Mister Johnson was clearly considering all that she had said, as well as his own next move. "Well, you showed initiative. I like that," he finally spoke, Crimson hanging off each word. "And clearly you did hurt them. My people on the street tell me that the few who were out and about all suddenly up and vanished early this morning; in fact, about the same time that you were in there. Funny how that works."

He poured himself another glass before he continued. "Added to that, they say that here's been no signs of them on the streets since. Almost like they had just suffered a massive setback and lost something vital to them, and were trying to figure their next move." He took a swig form his glass

"Funny that," Crimson considered

"I'm also going to assume that there were no complications, given that you're here alive and from the looks of things in one piece."

"Sort of," Crimson admitted. 'See, it turns out that the Devil Dogs also are a bunch of nasty Human supremacists. It was the sort of thing that me, as an Elf should have known before I went in there."

Johnson nodded. "Call it an intelligence failure. It'll happen time to time in your line of work, and you need to be able to run with them. But the secret is that you worked with it and still came out ahead, which means that you're clearly smart enough not to let it stop you," He nodded and smiled. "So I’m going to call this a job well done," Johnson finished, placing a Credstick on the table. "And hopefully, this is the start of a profitable working relationship." He stood, nodding to the pair of them as he left.

Crimson took the credstick, looking over it with a strange feeling of satisfaction. It was real, here and in her hand, the payment for her first ever Shadowrun. This is my life now, she realized. And while it's not everything I ever wanted, it's a start along the way.

She turned to Slicer, who's neutral expression suddenly exploded into a fantastic grin. "Congratulations, Crimson," He began, a level of enthusiasm and excitement in his voice that she didn't think she had ever heard before. "You did it. You're a Runner."

"Technically, yeah, I guess I am," she managed, her hands excitedly fumbling with the end of her ponytail, her voice filled with an almost girlish glee. "I mean, I still have a lot more to learn and I want to get all those augments which I'll need to do more work to earn the money for and all but..." She wanted to shout it out, which probably wouldn't go well with the dour, sullen air of the bar. "Yeah. I'm in all right."

"So then," Slicer continued, filling up fresh shots for both of them. "What are you going to do now that you're a proper Shadowrunner?" He raised his glass, leaning a little closer to them as he did.

"Well..." She grinned and then raised a finger. "Immediately? I'm going to blow this joint and find a good club in a good part of town and party till dawn. This is my moment, Slicer. I'm going to make the most of it," She stood, the smile on her face impossible to hide. "See you tomorrow night, Slicer..." She turned to leave then stopped. "Actually, make it the one after that. I'm going to be totally blasted by the time I'm done"

"Sure, um, okay. See you then," Slicer managed, speaking mostly to the retreating back of her head. And then, once she was gone, he visibly slumped a little before swigging the shot he'd poured for her.

-----

Even though she was operating on only a few hours of sleep, Ashley was bright and alert for her day at Vendor Mammoth. The club she'd been to had been fantastic, and a great way to cap off the last few days; blowing off steam, having a great time, unwinding and, as the most dramatic change from her run, letting herself be seen rather than having to hide in the shadows and stay out of sight.

And so she'd reveled in it, enjoying the feeling of freedom that came with this new life that she was now committed to. She'd danced, she'd drunken overpriced cocktails and she'd flirted with a couple of cute Elf guys (which, even if spending the night with them wasn't logistically viable was still a fun thing to do) and even more intriguingly, she would have sworn that there were some people at the back of the club who were discreetly talking with a suit.

Or in other words, Shadowrunners meeting their Johnson.

That in and of itself had made her night that much more exciting, her knowing what they were doing and that she had, in effect, done it too. She could see herself in their place, meting the Johnson before heading off for a dangerous, exciting, action-filled run against some Corp target. It was an image she loved, one that was in many ways even more exciting that the tattooed, mohawked guy she was currently dancing with.

She’d crawled home, collapsed into bed and gotten a couple of hours in before waking for work. Supplementing her breakfast with a few cans of energy drink, she'd rushed out the door to hit the floor on time and filled with a level of fake enthusiasm that she hadn't had in ages. With each hollow, meaningless greeting that Ashely gave out, Crimson was also there behind it, knowing full well that her day was here, and it was her life she was living.

As she sat in the lunchroom, she was still high on the buzz from last night, happily humming to herself as she read over the latest batch of information from Slicer. In this case, it was on augmentations, those modifications and enchantments that she so badly craved in order to make her Shadowrunner dream complete. And whereas in past she'd be looking at the prices and fretting, this time round she was seeing Opportunities, things that were within her grasp.

"Hey Ash, what are you looking at?"

She glanced back to see Dennis lurking behind her as he always did, that same 'hopeful idiot' look on his face that he allways wore.

She sighed. "Bleeding edge cyberware designed to turn even the most ordinary of people into an unstoppable killing machine"

"Ha, that's a good one, Ash," He smiled. "Say, I was wondering if you wanted to-"

"No, Dennis, I don’t want to see a movie with you, not now, not ever," she simply replied without even taking eyes off her commlink screen. "And do me a favour and never ask me again, or else I'll tell the shift manager about how you snap pictures of the fat-bottomed Milfs shopping here and then trade them with your buddies."

There was an awkward silence. "Well... Okay. See you around... Sometime... Then. I'll go... Stuff."

"Yeah, you do that," She finished, listening for the sounds of him leaving. All the while, she had the most amazingly self-satisfied smirk on her face.

And inside, Crimson was cheering in triumph.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (04:40:07/04-25-16)
Jimmy the Knife knew that he was destined for the big time. He was a made man, a big player in the GIanelli family, one who commanded respect already, even at such a tender and young age. And while he was still on the up and up, everybody knew that he was going places. It was just a matter of time, they said; one day soon he was going to get charge of one of their big operations in Pullyup, and then he'd be set for life.

Right now, however, his glorious future wasn't what was occupying his mind in the middle of the packed Redmond club. What had occupied his attention was a gorgeous, red-haired Elf girl whose dress clung to her in all the right places. He'd spied her on the dance floor and hadn’t been able to take her eyes off her since, instead watching her every move and the way that the shapes under that dress moved with her.

And then she'd become aware of it, which seemed to spur her on even more. She'd worked her way through the crowd, slowly, deliberately, taking her time to better build up the excitement before finally the two of them were dancing together. She hadn't said a word, but she didn't need to either. Rather, he could see it from the hungry look in her eyes, that eagerness to show off for him and him alone.

It was the power. He projected it, she was drawn to it. He had it, she wanted it, and that was all there was to it. That very thought was almost as enticing as she was, enough to keep him grinning as she'd danced with him, swinging and gyrating with an intense energy that he knew was for his benefit alone.

And when she'd gotten close for an instant, whispering about one of the club's private rooms, he knew what was coming next.

He'd followed her, happily watching the way her hips swayed under the hem of her tiny skirt, his mind imagining what it would be like to peel her out of that dress and savor what lay within. Even when she ducked into the room ahead of him, he was still thinking about it, a massive grin plastered on his face as he shut the door behind him.

He was so distracted by the thought that he wasn't even aware of the length of metal pipe she was swinging at him until it collided with his gut, doubling him over with an explosive burst of pain that drove the wind from him. A second blow sent him to the floor, the Elf girl looming over her with his makeshift weapon in hand.

"What-" he began, only to feel a sickening, sharp pain as the pipe smashed into his knee, crushing it with bone-shattering force. Several more blows served to test the soundproofing of the room, Jimmy crying out each time until the pain finally ended. He rolled around on the floor, clutching his devastated leg as she simply stood over him, tossing the weapon aside.

"Tusker Tony says hi," She simply finished before stepping out of the room, leaving him to his agony.

-----

Even though the Redmond club had been far from the best in the city, it still was light years ahead of the dingy bar that Crimson was now sitting in. It had been a bit under a day since her targeted attack, enough time for her to make contact with her Johnson and let him know that the job was done. He'd arranged to meet her here as per normal to discuss the Run's outcome and, of course, payment

So she sat and waited, dressed in her usual low-key street ware (Although after what she'd done, she was now even more amused by the notion of a 'club dress'), patiently waiting for the two men to arrive, her mind fixed on something else. She’d run the numbers through her commlink, which had come back to tell her that, after this run, she'd be at a key point in her plan. One step closer to the dream, Crimson.

Slicer arrived at her table, placing a bottle on the table as he sat next to her, interrupting her train of thought. "Well, you're in once piece which is a good start," he smirked as he poured out a glass.

"Was there any doubt?" Crimson shot back, her voice full of confidence. The last two months’ worth of Runs, even as low key as they were, had done a lot to dismiss those lingering concerns and fears she'd been fretting over after her excursion to the Devil Dogs' lair. Now not only was she fully committed to this lifestyle, but she was also enjoying every last little moment of it.

"Well, we'll see what Mister Johnson has to say about that," Slicer simply replied as he took a swig from his glass. "Though I'm imagining that he's going to be pretty happy with the result. He's liked what you've done for him so far."

"It's my combination of charm, wit, devastating good looks, cheerful personality and lightning-fast reflexes honed to perfection that does it," she jokingly replied. "I am, after all, a dead sexy killing machine."

"That's the spirit," Slicer grinned. "You know, you sound a lot like me when I was your age."

She raised her brow at that last comment, but didn’t say a thing as the Johnson arrived. She'd been working primarily for this one weather-beaten, tattooed man since she'd started Running, having been introduced by Slicer. And while she still didn't know the full story, she'd gotten the distinct impression that the two of them shared a past. "I heard that Jimmy the Knife had a rather nasty accident last night," the man began.

"That he did," she replied with no small pride. "A very specific, knee-shattering accident."

"And I also heard that now he's screaming blue murder at Tusker Tony, and the pair of them are at each other's throats," the Johnson continued. "Two of Jimmy's boys took some shots at Tony's car, if you can believe it."

"Oh, I'm sure I can"

"All of which means that you did your job perfectly," The Johnson finished with no small degree of satisfaction. "Well done, as always," He placed a credstick on the table, sliding it over to her.

"Thank you," she replied, taking the Credstick with an almost hungry pounce. "And I hope that we can keep on working together."

"Well that- " The Johnson began, but was cut off by a small beep in his ear. "You’ll have to excuse me. Things are in motion." He nodded to the pair of them before standing, heading out of the bar.

Slicer finished off his drink then poured himself another one. "Well he seemed to be happy," he enthusiastically offered before taking another sip. "To your success," he added.

"Thanks, but you played your part as well."

"True. Call it a collaborative effort then," he accepted. "So what say we have a little celebratory drink?"

"I'd love to, but I got a whole bunch of stuff that I need to get done," Crimson replied. "Including arranging for some work." She tapped the side of her head, next to her eye.

"Oh, is it that time already?"

"That it is," she grinned. "Which means that I'm going to be on the bench for a bit, but after that you’ll need to step up the training."

"Of course," He nodded

"Look forward to it!" Crimson beamed. "See you later"

Without waiting, she'd turned and left the bar. Behind her, Slicer simply sighed and refilled his glass.

-----

In her short career thus far as a Shadowrunner, Crimson had come to expect a lot of things out of meeting spots. Even then, this one struck her as being odd, but not because it was unusual in any way. If anything, it was because it wasn’t odd at all; a bland twenty-four hour Soycaf Cafe in downtown that featured functional plastic decor, cheap carpeting and staff who seemed to be about as thrilled with their jobs as Ashely was with hers.

On the other hand, it suited the man she was here to meet just fine. If her Fixer had a distinctive feature, it would simply be how bland and nondescript he was. Everything about him was boring and missialbe; average height, unremarkable looks, brown eyes, brown hair... It was like he was the 'default' option on some Vid game's character creation screen.

He simply sat down opposite her, dressed in his functional coat and hat. "Good to see you," he simply began. "I'd hate for all the work that my associates put into this to go to waste."

Functional as ever, she considered as she nodded to the Fixer. "So give me the low-down."

He produced a small data chip from his coat pocket, handing it over to her. "Kaitlyn Vermelho. Elf female, age twenty-four, UCAS national. The details are all in there, but it has what you need."

"Including the licences?"

The fixer nodded. "Vehicle, firearm including concealed carry and Cyberware as requested," he simply explained. "Everything you need."

"Perfect," she replied, handing over a credstick. The fake SIN was a massive investment of money, but would also be vital to building her new life. While Ashley Redmond had enough of an identity to get her a boring, minimum age day job, she wouldn't begin to stand up under any sort of scrutiny. This one, on the other hand, was just what she needed. It meant that she could legally walk around while being a hardwired killing machine and had enjoy background to stand up to all but the most determined of scrutiny. With it, she could run in the shadows, and yet maintain a semblance of a life that could be used to shield her from recriminations.

And bury Ashley while I'm at it, she added.

"And the other thing?"

"Booked in, as per request," the Fixer noted. "It was not easy to do either, given the... exacting nature of your requirements, but I found somebody capable of doing what you want to the specifications you gave." If those specifications had caused him any trouble, then he didn't show it, instead keeping his voice perfectly calm and measured throughout. "I've sent the details to your account. Naturally, I will rely on you to be discrete."

"Thank you," Crimson nodded. "I've included the fee we discussed in that payment."

"Good," he finished. "Again, it's a pleasure doing business with you," he added, even if his voice didn't suggest it at all.

She smiled back, letting him go as she instead concentrated her eyes on the data chip. One step closer, Crimson told herself, a small smile on her face as she appreciated just how close that dream actually was. A few months ago, it had seemed like she would never make it. Now she was on the threshold, and from here, there was no other way but forward.

All she had to do was make some major, irreversible, life-changing decisions along the way. Her fixer had just provided her with the means to do it.

-----

After two meetings and with a long day of work ahead of her, not to mention the task of familiarizing herself with her new SIN and the life that came with it, the logical thing for Crimson to do would have been to get an early night. What she had instead done was go to a club (one where she hadn’t just smashed the knees of a mob heavy, of course) and have a great time before finally more-or-less stumbling home in the tiny hours of the morning.

But yet she was ready to go on time as per every other working day. She quickly rolled out of bed, showered, dressed and grabbed her breakfast (A nutritionally fulfilling and bland as all hell breakfast bar and a can of Spolde) while quickly checking the morning newsfeeds for anything that might relate to her last run. This last part was vital for two reasons; the first was to see the reactions or responses to whatever it was she had done, the second was to see if her face had come up in relation to anything. After all, bring publicly identified was a great way to kill her career before it began.

There was one deviation from her routine this morning as she quickly looped back to the bedroom. "Hey!" she called out, yanking the sheets off her bed and the naked Elven man still asleep under them. "Wakey wakey!" She prodded him hard in the back, getting him to stir and roll over.

"Wha..." He began, bleary eyed.

"Look, last night was awesome and all, but I got to go to work," She quickly snapped. "So I'm going to have to kick you out, sorry."

"Uh, okay," he mumbled. "So-"

"I'll call you, okay?" She shot back. "Now get your hoop out of here, and be discrete about it too. Boring suburbanites don't take well to strange men with tattoos and mohawks walking around their apartment buildings and tend to call the cops on them"

He glanced around before looking up at her. "Um, can I?"

"Geez, I saw it all last night," Crimson sighed in reply as she turned to give him a modicum of privacy. "Just hurry up, okay?"

Despite that delay, Ashley made it to work earlier than usual, striding into Vendor Mammoth with a confident step that seemed entirely out of place. Most days she entered the store with a slump-shouldered feeling of resignation, knowing full well that she was in for another ten hours of soul-crushing monotony as she tried to fake being nice in exchange for a pitifully small salary. It wasn't an attitude that stood out, simply because it was the way most of the staff approached the store.

"Hey, morning Ashley," Shawnee began as she passed her at the door. The Ork girl was near the end of her shift and looked worn out. "You're looking rather chipper today."

"Got some good news," Ashley replied with a confident smirk. "Something that's going to make a big difference to my life."

"Glad to hear," Shawnee nodded, sounding something that approached genuinely upbeat.

"And thanks," Ashely finished. "Because in some ways, you made it all possible."

She blinked. "I did?"

"Yep. See you later!" She finished as she turned, striding confidently to the backrooms of the store, a specific target in mind.

Mitch Williamson wasn't hard to find. The Night Shift manager was where he always was at this time of morning, waiting by his office so that he could see Shawnee for another 'private coaching' session. Ashely had no idea what the connection was between the two, and wasn't sure if she wanted to know either. Mitch was an unappealing, middle-aged man with thinning hair who’s wife had left him after a bitter divorce that he'd lost out on big time, a fact that he needed to let everybody know about even if they didn't want to. Nobody in the store seemed to actually like him (Shawnee aside), but because he was related to somebody higher in the food chain, they couldn't get rid of him either.

But that did make him useful in other ways.

"Mister Williamson," Ashely began, acting her usual, bland self. "I was wondering if you could do me a favour?"

"And what would that be, Redmond?" He asked, clearly distracted as his eyes were on the floor, and a specific employee.

"I was hoping that you could approve two weeks leave for me, effective next Monday."

He turned to look at her. "I'm sorry, Ashely, but I can't do that. We can't give you that much time off at such short notice. It'd play hell with the rosters and we'd need to get a temporary greeter. And besides, you should be speaking to your shift manager, not me."

"Well yeah, I know, but I thought you might be able to do it for me," She replied. "After all, you gave Shawnee two weeks off at short notice last month." Ashely patted her belly to emphasize the point.

Williamson visibly flinched at her, nervously looking around as sweat beaded his brow. "Of course, yes, well, I'll get on that right away, Ashely. Yes. Excuse me." Clearly flustered, he headed off, head glancing around to see if anyone else was watching.

And behind him, Crimson crept to the surface for a moment, spreading a triumphant grin on Ashley's face.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (04:40:57/04-25-16)
Slicer would have been reluctant to call what was going in a party, but he was having a lot of fun regardless. The members of his old team had met in a bar, obstinately for a few drinks and a catch-up. Instead, it had turned into the five of them sharing jokes, talking about their past runs and bragging about their various exploits along the way. And, inevitably, the conversation had turned to the current big thing going on in his life.

“Aw just admit it,” Stomper began, winking at Slicer with his good eye. “That girls’ pretty hot for a Dandelion Muncher. You’re not just looking at her as a student!” The Ork laughed, taking another chug from his bottle before sitting back on his chair. He glanced over again and grinned, the expression made somewhat lopsided by the missing right side of his head that let it trail off into a bloody ruin of torn flesh and splintered bone.

“That’s not fair and you know it,” Normie replied, a bottle of cider in hand. “Slicer’s a pro, and if he sees her as a student, then that’s all there is to it.” The Decker’s blackened, scorched arm raised the bottle to his face, even if his lips were locked in a permanent grimace, his eyes wedged wide open in perpetual shock. “And I think he’s doing a great job with her.”

“Aw come on, we all know Slicer's got an eye for the Elf chicks,” Stumps cut in, his dismembered arm clutching his favorite stein. “The instant he sees a cute girl with pointy ears, he’s locked onto her like a drone set to kill. Well, save for that one time in that club…” The burned stump at the end of the limb moved in a way that suggested a shrug.

“What can I say?” Slicer cut in with a self-depreciating laugh. “He did fill out that dress nicely." He took another swig from his beer

“And he did have such a tight little ass,” Billy Blaster added, his bloated, grey finger poking Slicer in the shoulder. “And trust me, I’d know”

“See?” Slicer pointed at Billy. “He’s a total horn dog who’ll jump anything that comes near him, regardless of sex, metatype or whatever else”

“Trust me, guys,” Billy grinned through ragged, torn lips. “You haven’t lived until an Oni-”

“Too much information!” Normie cut back, crossing his legs to make the point then shaking his head. Several small whisps of smoke escaped from the flaking skin before he continued. “But really, I think that Slicer’s doing a great job with her. She’s definitely come a long way since he first met her.”

“Yeah, so when do we get to meet little miss protégé?” Stomper asked, leaning forward so that Slicer could get a good look at the mush that was once his brain. “I mean, obviously she’s never gonna be on the team, but still, I’d like to see what she can do.”

“Same here,” Billy agreed, trying his best to meet Slicer’s gaze without having any eyes left. “Besides, if Slicer’s not gonna go after her, then hey! More for the bad boy of Rock and Running, am I right?”

“Damn right, chummer.” Stumps’ hand gave Billy a thumbs-up. “Just like the good old days. I can’t think how many times we had to pull you out of someone’s bed so we could get to the run.”

“That’d be why I had his communicator tagged, remember,” Normie pointed out. “So if we had no clue where you were, we could try to find you through the Matrix at least”. His scorched-black finger tapped the molten, fused mess that had once been a datajack in his forehead.

“Remember the time that Stumps sent in the drones to get him out of bed?” Stomper laughed

“Or when we found out that he was sleeping with that Johnson’s wife?” Slicer added. “And we had to go to insane lengths to keep that from him?”

“Good Johnson is hard to find,” Billy shot back. “You gotta treat ‘em well, or else they’ll frag you in the hoop”

“And you gotta treat their wives better, right?” Stumps somehow laughed, despite not having a head or torso

“Good times, huh guys?” Slicer shook his head. “I mean, I know it’s been a while, but it’s really great to have you all together like this. Remember the good old days, huh?”

“Oh yeah,” Billy half nodded, half lolled in his chair. “Good times.”

“Though…” Normie spoke up, “I mean, it’s not really all of us. We really should invite Jessie to these things too.”

There was a short, tense silence. “Way to kill the mood, Chummer,” Stomper spat out of the remaining side of his mouth.

“Yeah,” Billy gave an eyeless glare at the scorched Decker. “You know why she’s not here.”

“Sorry,” He sheepishly admitted. “Wasn’t thinking, that’s all.”

“It’s fine,” Slicer finished. “Besides which, you know how it goes. Never bring a girl to a blokes’ night, am I right?” That bought a chorus of cheers from the team. “Though Normie? You’re buying the next round”

-----

Slicer sat up in bed, ignoring the usual storm of warnings coming from his Cyberware, instead massaging his temples. Half of it was trying to fight his way through the inevitable hangover, but the bigger concern was the images still lodged in his mind, those of his one-time ream-mates as he had last seen them.

And now he was associating those images with somebody else, the girl that he was doing everything to help get into the dame lifestyle that had left so many of his friends dead.

"Ghost, Slicer," he muttered to himself. "What the hell are you doing?"
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (03:37:28/05-06-16)
The address that Crimson's fixer had given her was, at first glance, entirely unremarkable. The Belleview neighborhood was a nice, anonymous, middle-class one, filled largely with corp wageslaves living their boring corp wageslave lives; certainly it was a far cry from the Barrens neighborhoods where she’d so far spent the majority of her Shadowrunner career. Save for a discrete codelock on the door, the storefront looked like any other in the suburban strip mall she was currently strolling through.

The whole thing was rather missable, but if a person knew what to look for, they’d also see that there was something inside that somebody wanted people to keep away from. Not that it bothered Crimson at all as she pressed the button on the intercom. "Name and business?" The curt, clearly artificial voice on the other end began.

"Kaitlyn Vermelho. I have an appointment." A flick of her commlink sent the code her Fixer had provided to the system.

After a tense silence, the voice replied. "Come in," accompanied by a quick buzz of the door unlocking. Crimson quickly slipped inside, the door shutting behind her as she headed down the stairs inside. The stairwell was dimly lit but also tidy, ending at another clearly sealed door at the end.

That door also opened in response to some signal from within, Crimson stepping through and into something vastly different to what she expected. On the other side of the door was an almost shockingly clean and modern looking facility, lots of gleaming white accompanying displays and minimal but none the less spotless furnishings. To Crimson, this looked more like the corporate medical facility in which she'd gotten her datajack installed than anything else.

A middle-aged man entered the room, dressed in a neat lab coat, his features more ruggedly handsome then the look one normally associated with a doctor. "Kaitlyn Vermelho," he began, extending his hand. "Doctor Samuel Kendall. A pleasure to meet you."

She shook his hand, finding the grip to be surprisingly strong; like everything else, it was completely defying her expectations. "Likewise. You come very highly recommended, Doctor Kendall."

"I pride myself on the quality of my work," he explained as he led her over to a display. "And please forgive the security. I have a lot of valuable equipment here in my surgery, and so I do need to protect it against theft or, for that matter, demands that I install it while at gunpoint. I know that it seems excessive, but given that you've seen my catalogue, I'm sure that you understand."

She nodded, well aware of what he apparently had stocked and how grossly illegal much of it was. Kendall's lab had the equipment and resources to build the exact augmentation package she had been looking for, one that would transform her form someone who, while nearing Olympian caliber, was still a normal Metahuman to something that was so much more. "I assume then you got the spec that I sent you?" True, it was her fixer that had sent the spec, but the point stood.

He nodded, bringing up a display with an itemized list of components. "It's extensive and, if you don't mind my saying, rather expensive. I gathered, however, that you were not here for all of that right now."

"Correct," Crimson nodded. "I thought that I'd start with the eyes, and move on from there."

"A good idea, actually," Kendall agreed. "While on theory there's nothing stopping one form simply getting everything installed in one big go, it's actually easier on the metahuman body to do things one bit at a time and give you the opportunity to recover and adapt." He glanced back at the screen. "Especially given how extensive some of this work is going to be."

And the fact that I'm still paying this off one bit at a time, she added. Her financial reserves amounted to Scarlett Krieger’s life savings, as well as the college fund her parents had set aside for her. Those were supplemented by the money she was making off her low-end runs for Slicer's contact as well as what little of Ashely's income she could spare. Two of those could be replenished over time, but the first two were one-offs, things that would not be easily replaced.

"So let's take a look at them," Kendall bought up the specifications from the list. "Full visual, low-light and thermographic, zoom functions, recording, wireless link, VDNI, smartgun compatibility," he rattled off features, breaking down into the full-blown technical specifications, much of which were going over her head, but she nodded to anyway. "And customized to look as natural as possible,"

"Vanity, I admit," she nodded

"No need to be ashamed," He simply shrugged off. "The cyberware customization industry alone is massive. You wouldn't believe the sort of requests I get for case-mods alone. Besides, it's different tastes for different people."

He glanced back to her. "Besides, if you don't mind my saying, you have beautiful eyes already. So why not get new ones that match them?"

"Why not indeed?" she replied, aware that she was blushing. "If I’m going to have the best cyberware I can get, it should look good."

"That's the spirit," Kendall replied. "Too many people just want functionality out of their cyberware and other augmentations. While there's a certain logic to that, I like to think that if you’re paying for that level of performance, you might as well get something that looks good and makes you feel good about it in the process." He glanced at the list. "What you have there, Ms Vermelho, pretty much amounts to the cyberware equivalent of a Supercar. So why shouldn't it look as good as it drives, so to speak?"

"In short, why not be a dead sexy killing machine?" Crimson replied.

"Exactly," Kendall finished. "So then, shall we get started?"

-----

"Okay, Crimson," Slicer began as he peered at her. "I gotta admit, those new eyes of yours are pretty wiz." He was squinting at her new eyes, looking back and forth between them as he seemed to study them in minute detail.

"But of course," she beamed. "The doc did a fantastic job."

"I'll say..." he continued to glance at them. "In my day, the options were basically little more than blank chromed lenses. Customisation amounted to what colour the chrome was."

"Progress, huh?" She simply shrugged, mentally wondering about just how awful the Cyberware must have been back then. To her mind, it was closing on sticks and rocks as valid options. "And they run just as good as they look, trust me."

That had been the amazing part to her. Crimson had found she’d adapted to her new eyes and their expanded capabilities quickly enough, learning how to use them and alternate between modes and different functions. What had really surprised her, however, was how much better they were then her own natural eyesight. Whole she'd always thought that her vision was good, plus her natural Elven low-light vision being a nice little advantage, it felt like she was blind before now.

It had also made her even more acutely aware of what she still had in store, the potential that lay before her. If one simple upgrade could do all this (the second most popular piece of Cyberware in the world, Doctor Kendall had told her), then she could only barely imagine what she would be capable of once she had everything else that she wanted. She would be stronger, faster, tougher, better than before.

Her eyes had been opened, both figuratively and literally.

"I still have a week off from work," Crimson continued. "So I figure that we should take as much advantage of it as possible and step up the training. You said that there was a lot more that was waiting on me getting my first round of augmentations, so here we go. Lay it on me."

"Sure you're okay?" He asked back, more than a hint of concern creeping into his voice. "After all, you did just replace a portion of your body with artificial machinery. That's no small thing."

Her response was a dismissive shrug. "I feel fine. In fact, if anything, I feel better then how I did before. After all, now I got all these amazing options on my eyes, and I can feed them data straight from my Commlink and stuff like that, which is going to be a lot of use. Personally, I'm almost like 'why the hell didn't I do this before?'"

Slicer seemed to slump a moment then stood up. "Well, if you're that determined, then I suppose that we might as well make the most of it. And since you've got the first of your 'ware, we might as well start with teaching you ways to use it to the best advantage."

"Cool. I can't wait," she replied with an almost hungry grin. "So what's the plan?"

"Let me make a call," Slicer replied as he headed back to his bedroom. "Be with you in a minute."

She shrugged as he left, taking her time to look around the blasted mess that was his living room and kitchenette. It had always struck her just how little he had; mostly some clearly used and threadbare furniture that had seen better days, old appliances and electronics that barely worked and precious little else. In many ways, his life was as bare and minimal as Ashley's. The biggest differences was that hers was meant to be temporary, while this was clearly the way he'd lived for years.

That and Ashley's hole in the wall is so much cleaner, she mentally added. It was clear that Slicer, for what little he owned, didn't really take much care of it either.

"Okay, we're good," He cut into her thoughts as he returned. "Meet me downstairs with your bike. We're going in a field trip." It was only as he was speaking that she noticed the Ingram Smartgun strapped to his hip.

That was interesting in and of itself to her. For the most part, their training hadn't strayed too far from Slicer's apartment. Much of her combat training, for example, had amounted to sparring on the roof of the building. Other things, like sneaking, infiltration, marksmanship or the like had been practiced nearby, in vacant lots, abandoned parks or otherwise abandoned structures that were all too easily found in this part of Redmond. But again, all of that had been just her and him, one-to-one and within easy walking distance of his home. This, however, was something very different, and she was very eager to find out exactly what he was planning.

As she mounted up on her Mirage, the distinctive rumbling sound of an internal combustion engine caught her ears. Turning to its source, she saw Slicer rounding the corner, mounted on the back of a clearly older-looking but no less sleek and obviously powerful motorcycle. "That," she began, more then a little admiration in her voice, "is a really cool old bike."

He shot a glare back at her as he pulled up alongside, the higher riding position of his bike obvious compared to her Mirage. "This is a Yamaha Rapier," he replied, no small hint of pride in his voice. "It was the bike to own."

"Was," She smirked. "I bet my Mirage would run rings around it."

"Careful, kid," he grinned, "I might take you up on that."

"Well if I knew where we were going, I'd race you there and we'd see"

"That," he replied with clear amusement, "is a lesson for another day. For now, jsut try to keep up."
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (03:38:08/05-06-16)
Their destination turned out to be another run-down row of shops deeper into Redmond. The fronts were just as indistinguishable as any others; sealed up, filthy and covered in graffiti, but that didn't seem to be what Slicer was after. Rather he wheeled the pair of them around to the back of the row, pulling his bike up next to one doorway. A quick glance told Crimson that this one was a lot more rugged then the others, clearly armoured to discourage intrusion.

Nice place, she thought. Though now I am intrigued.

The door opened inwards, the pair of them stepping inside to the store before it shut behind them. The first thing that Crimson spotted was the room's only other occupant, a burly, grizzled Ork who sported numerous tattoos and a bandanna, and right now was clearly casting a critical eye over her. Everything about him suggested tow things; the first was that he was no stranger to action, and the second was that his acceptance of her being her was entirely based on who she was with and not on who she was herself.

The second thing that struck her was the content of the room. The numerous shelves and racks were packed with a wide assortment of weapons, mostly (but not exclusively) firearms. Even a quick inspection suggested a broad  array ranging from pistols through to assault rifles and even machine guns and other heavy weapons. All of a sudden the need for security became a lot more apparent, as it was clear to her that a place like this would be a prime target for raiding by Barrens gangs looking for firepower. Plus I'd imagine that a lot of these are grossly illegal, she mentally added, recongising some designs from the information Slicer had fed her. Just keeping some of these here constitutes a crime.

It was that last thought that bought a small smile to her face. Here I am in a black-market weapons store, she considered. Oh yeah, I've made it.

"I take it this is the kid you were talking about?" The Ork finally spoke up, his voice rough and guttural, more than a hint of disapproval colouring the tone

"That she is," He nodded. "Mitch, this is Crimson."

"Crimson huh?" He stepped past Slicer, stopping right in front of her. Even though he wasn't too much taller than he was, Mitch was far boarder and more solid, with arms that were probably as thick as her torso. "So Crimson, from what Slicer tells me, you're just starting out. What sort of weapon were you thinking of being your primary?"

She cocked her head, figuring that the Ork was testing her, measuring her based entirely on her response. "Well, I was looking at assault rifles as my main ranged option," she explained. "It's the combination of long range and hitting power that the class offers. You can outrange most other small arms and the drop-off in hitting power over a distance isn't as severe while still offering decent penetration. Plus the long barrels provide a lot of good options for mounts that you don't get on smaller weapons."

Mitch's toothy, craggy face twisted into something that resembled a grin. "Good answer, and exactly what I wanted to hear," he replied as he headed off across the floor. Not sure what she was supposed to do, Crimson followed after him. "Now Slicer there prefers submachine guns which, for my mind, is a great way to sell yourself short."

"They suit the way I fight, Mitch. You know that," Slicer shot back, sounding almost defensive.

"Keep telling yourself that," The Ork laughed as he picked a rifle off a rack. "I assume you've got the gear to run a smartlink."

"Of course," Crimson replied, the confidence returning to her voice.

"Good girl," Mitch nodded as he turned, a weapon in his hand. "AK-97. Most common assault rifle in the sixth world, and something that even an idiot kid can operate."  He handed her the rifle, Crimson accepting it and even giving it a bit of a heft. "I'll get you the Smartlink codes as well."

"What is this?" She asked, glancing back to Slicer

"I thought he just told you," Slicer replied, almost insultingly. "Seriously, Crimson, this is your new gun. Obviously you're going to need to pay for it, but if you're going to start with assault rifles, then you might as well start at the easiest place to be."

"Not going for something more..." she flailed with her free hand. "Advanced? More then just 'functional' or 'adequate'? Not made in a third-world hellhole by trained chimps?"

"Giving an Ares Alpha or a Raiden to an amateur is a waste of a good rifle," Mitch called from across the store. "No offence, kid."

It was hard not to take it as a face-kickingly obvious insult, but Crimson did her best to simply nod and accept  the logic of what he said. "I guess so," she managed, raising the rifle and sighting down the barrel. Her sights fell on Slicer, who simply raised a brow.

"You truly got a live one there, Slicer," Mitch continued, walking past Crimson as she lowered the gun. With a shake of the head, the Ork opened up a metal door in one wall. "Follow me, kid. You got a lot to learn." He walked through the door, turning and heading down a flight of narrow concrete stairs. With nothing better to do, and figuring that this had been a part of the plan all along, she simply followed him down.

They arrived in what had probably started life as the store's basement back when it was a legitimate business in a legitimate part of town, but had since been considerably expanded by knocking into the basement next to it. The whole thing was rendered in drab, grey, utilitarian concrete, making it look more like a bunker then anything else. Lockers dominated one wall, while an old table and chairs provided the sole furnishings.

What did catch her attention was the dived midway down the room, a waist-high concrete barrier that effectively sealed off the far end. At the furthest reach of the room were a number of all with targets painted on them and all riddled with bullets. "Your own shooting range," Crimson nodded to Mitch. "Got a 'try before you buy' policy going or something?"

"Helps me maintain my reputation as a dealer of quality weapons," Mitch grunted back. "Besides, it's a great way to come and blow off a little steam at the end of the day." The Ork lumbered over to one of the lockers, taking out several clips before handing them to her. "These are on the house because Slicer's an old Chummer of mine. You look like you could use the practice."

"I'm not a kid, you know," Crimson shot back

"Not saying you are, but I'm also betting that you've never actually fired an Assault Rifle either." Mitch simply answered, his tone more or less neutral. "And while I have no doubt that Slicer's taught you a lot - I mean, you're at least holding it right and have an elementary grasp of how to sight - that’s still no match for real experience. Don't want to go out into the field with a weapon you know nothing about and all that crap."

"A Smartlink can only carry me so far," Crimson nodded

"Ayup," Mitch nodded. "The moment you're relying on it is the moment you're dead. It won't be there all the time either. A Decker could cut it off, or some damned Techno could just out and brick the thing without you even knowing."

That one gave her a moment’s pause. She'd heard of Technomancers, but didn't actually know much about them. The general media portrayal suggested that each and every one of them was a walking threat to society, able to access all your secrets and destroy the Matrix with a thought. While Crimson was willing to dismiss that as the Corps scaremongering in order to make a profit, the other stories she'd heard, whispers in the Shadows that Slicer had exposed her to, did suggest there was more to them that most were unaware of.

She briefly considered what it would be like to work alongside one, before snapping back to the task at hand.

Mitch stepped her through the basics; setting up the link, verifying it was working, loading and checking the rifle and the like, until after what seemed like hours she was finally ready to actually take a shot. After donning a worn set of safety goggles, complete with ear protection, she was lined up at the target, the rifle raised and leveled, her new cyber-eyes peering down its length. The Smartlink was feeding her data, the ARO displays painting a neat bulls-eye on the target while constantly correcting for her movement.

She fired, the rifle spitting a single round with a surprisingly loud and sharp retort even through her earphones, while the weapon bucked and kicked back in to her shoulder. Even braced as she was, it still staggered her, the kick of the rifle far more then the pistols she'd used so far.

"That's the other thing I should mention," Mitch cut in. "The more powerful the gun, the more the recoil. Just you wait until you start firing full-auto." He held up his commlink for a moment, then turned to her, a grin spreading across his tusked jaw. "Still, not bad for a first time." He showed her the commlink, a picture of the Dummy with a glowing red point on its torso clear. "You actually hit it, which is more then many others manage."

Slicer nodded at her, then turned back to Mitch. "Told you she was good." He smiled at Crimson. "How are you feeling?"

"Great!" She was positively beaming now. It was hard not to, that first shot feeling less like a single squeeze of the trigger as it did like an amazing leap forwards. "I mean, it’s going to take a bit of learning, but yeah. I think I’ve got this already."

"Well let's get you started," Slicer nodded, picking up a set of safety goggles as well. "I'm going to be right here alongside you and coaching you every step of the way." The older Elf drew the weapon from his hip, connecting a cable to its back before checking it over.

Curious, she couldn't help but peer at the weapon, tilting her head to get a better look at it. "What?" He enquired

"I've been meaning to ask for a while," she continued, "Why do all your guns have cords coming out from them?" She waved her finger in the air, tracing the connection between the gun and the Datajack on Slicer's forehead, before being interrupted by a round of raucous laughter from Mitch.

"Kid making you feel old yet?" The Ork chuckled.

"Very funny," Slicer shot back, glaring at him.

"Hey, have fun you two," Mitch finished. "I'm going back upstairs to actually run my business. If you need anything, just shout." With that, he turned and headed out of the room, shaking his head as he went.

"What?" Crimson asked. "What did I do?"

"You still got a lot to learn," Was all Slicer could manage, as clearly flustered as he was. "Come on, let's get started."

They spent about an hour working at the firing range, with Slicer talking her through how to fire the AK, its different fire modes and how they were used, the different ways to control it and other such matters. Her accuracy had been only so-so, especially when she felt like she was fighting the kick from the rifle, But had begun to improve over time.

He'd explained that she had the skill, she just needed to hone it, and had been constantly upbeat as he encouraged her. Pointing out that she was achieving all this using a cheap, crappy rifle of likely dubious quality control had actually helped, telling her that she could achieve so much more. Already she was imagining what she'd be able to do with something better, a thought that was serving to encourage her even more.

Slicer had stepped up to the range several times himself, getting her to watch what he was doing and how he was doing it. While he was using a different class of weapon to her, she could see the theory there and how his demonstration was helping.

What had then amazed her was just how accurate he was, even when firing at full auto on one of the targets, or even, in one case, walking fire between two of them (The back wall had enough holes in it that he’d probably figured a few more wouldn't matter). His stance was steady, his aim constant and his grouping tight when he wanted it to be, with very little wasted effort or ammunition.

That's where I want to be, she told herself, more than a little admiration in her voice. As much as Slicer had tried her patience with his drinking and other problems, this was one of those moments where she saw glimpses of what he was really capable of. He must have been a nightmare in action, she considered. Fast, accurate and deadly.

Exactly what she wanted to be.

Slicer holstered the Ingram, rubbing the back of his neck and wincing just a little as he did. "That's a pretty good work-out for one day," he spoke up, stretching a little which seemed to produce even more wincing. "I'm going to head upstairs and sort out s few things with Mitch. Can you clean up here and then I'll see you up there."

Crimson nodded, letting him go off to do whatever he needed to do while she went though the steps. The say had been educational in any number of ways, and while she knew her shoulder would be as sore as all hell in the morning, every part of it was worth it. Just a little bit closer, she reminded herself as she finished up, the rifle now on her back. Better get used to that too.

She trudged back up the stairs, stopping short of the top as she heard Mitch and Slicer's voices coming from outside. "I'm just saying that they're not ready, that's all," Slicer offered, more then a hint of impatience in his tone. That was enough to stop her in her tracks, a sudden feeling of panic rising in her mind.

Wait, does he mean me? Everything told her that she'd been doing well so far, and she'd been on plenty of his low-key 'runs' by now. So what am I not ready for?

Mitch angrily shot back, completely throwing her train of thought. "And you're saying that brat of yours is?"

"That's different," Slicer protested. "They've already got skill and they’re getting the experience."

"And growing up in the Barrens doesn't count, right?" Mitch spat. "He's been fighting all his dammed life. Or does that not count because she's a damned Elf, and thus better than him."

"Oh for Ghost's..." Slicer snapped. "He's a kid!"

"And so's she," Mitch finished. "You owe me, Slicer. You said you'd do this."

There was a tense pause, then Slicer finally spoke up. "Fine. But whatever happens, it’s not on me."

What the hell is going on? Crimson asked herself. She had a horrible feeling that she had just walked in on something that she wasn't meant to know. And while it turned out it wasn't her they were arguing about, she was still related to whatever big issue that actually was the problem.

"You done down there?" Slicer yelled out.

"Coming!" She managed with a jump, doing her best to act like she had no idea what was going on as she stepped into the room. Even then, it was impossible to avoid Mitch's angry glare. No less, she turned and nodded to the Ork. "Thank you very much for this"

His reply was a slow nod. "Take care of yourself, Kid. You got a lot to learn."
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: The Anchorite on (23:32:41/05-22-16)
Nice read! Looking forward to more.

And the plot thickens... :)
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (05:04:21/06-06-16)
Slicer had called Ashely while she was at work (Staff weren't allowed to use Commlinks while on the floor except for work purposes), leaving behind a rather short and almost erse message for her to meet him at his place that evening. While that wasn't unusual in and of itself, what had struck her was the way he was handling it. Usually he gave her more notice, and usually his approach was more suggesting or asking then the almost demanding tone she was getting here.

None the less she was still eager to go. It wasn't just that every little bit helped bring her further and further into the world of the Shadows and the life she so craved that id it. It was the fact that, at the same time, every little step made Ashley's life seem just that extra bit more unbearably bland and dull. With nights filled with action, violence, excitement and danger, a day of telling customers where to find toilet paper and about this week's sale on Soy Chips seemed even more banal then ever.

The only thing that she could think of was the argument between him and Mitch at the store, and if that was a part of it. While she couldn't say for sure, the implication was that she was the source of their disagreement or, at the very least, a part of it. However, if she was hoping for some explanation when she got there, it quickly became clear that none would be offered.

"Good, you’re here," Slicer began as he opened the door. She could immediately tell that something was afoot, given that he was awake, sober and dressed all at once, and clearly itching to go. "I've sent you an app on your Commlink. Install it and we'll be on our way." Almost immediately he vanished back into his bedroom, leaving her to look over the information she'd received.


Training Laser. Supply your own Pew Pew noises
The app in question was listed as a weapon training simulator. A quick inspection told Crimson that it was designed to register 'hits' from simulated weaponry on the user, allowing them to engage in mock combat. "Okay, so we're going for more gun training, right?" She asked, turning to Slicer as he re-entered, carrying a pair of rifles. She could immediately tell that these weren't real weapons given that the barrels ended in some sort of emitter, which seemed to confirm her suspicions.

"That's right," he simply replied. "Now let's get going. We have a lot of work to do."

With little else offered in the way of instruction or explanation, the pair of them rode across the Barrens, heading through parts of Redmond that Crimson had never seen before.  This part was more industrial then residential, but the levels of decay and neglect remained the same. Long tows of burned out and abandoned buildings dominated the streets, although often she could see fleeting signs of life from within them.

The pair of them pulled up by one compound, a shell of a squat, ugly building that had clearly been partially burned. Long links of rusted and broken chain fence served as an ineffectual barricade, leaving just an expanse of cracked concrete between them and the building itself. "Let's get started," Slicer simply began as he handed her one of the training weapons.

"Wait a moment," She shot back. "What is this place, and what are we doing here?"

Slicer looked away am moment, his fist clenching and unclenching several times as he seemed to mutter something to himself. When he finally turned back, he seemed to be more than a little exasperated. "What it was doesn't matter anymore," he finally spoke up. "Right now this is your new training ground."

"Being honest, ki- Crimson, so far the jobs you've been doing have been all low-key and low-visibility," he continued, not really giving her a chance to ask questions. "Gangs, street thugs, small things like that. And that's nice and all, but you still have a lot more to learn. You told me yourself that you've never been in a real firefight, and the few times you've actually fired your gun was all about running away and taking defensive shots."

"So you're going to fix that," Crimson shot back.

"Right," Slicer continued. "So imagine this is some corp compound. You need to get at something inside. There's a central server room that has some junk in it; take something from there and get back out, and you';ve finished your 'Run'. I'm going to be playing the part of the security team that 's going to try and frag you to stop you from getting at the objective. Last to die wins, got that?"

In her mind, Crimson could already see a number of inequalities to the situation. Slicer was more experienced then her; after all, he'd been a runner longer then she had been alive. And even if he was just using simulated weaponry, his augmentations would give him so many advantages over her that it was almost comical. But despite all that, there was a part of her that relished the challenge to see just how good she was getting, and if there was some way that she could beat her sensei.

"Makes sense," she finished. "You better prepare yourself to get fragged."

Slicer muttered something, then turned away. "I'm heading inside. Give me five minutes, and then you're coming in."

"Understood," Crimson replied, letting him go. As soon as he was off, she began walking around the compound itself, looking over the area and taking in the details. Outside there wasn't much to see. The building itself had been ugly enough to begin with, but now that it was covered in graffiti and grime, it was even less appealing. The few windows she could find long smashed or bordered up, but more annoying was a lack of doors. The front had been well and truly sealed, while the rear loading bay was largely blocked by the rusting hulk of an industrial dumpster.


In the Barrens, this is an obstacle, handy cover, your team
getaway and somebody's home. Possibly all at once
The hulk of a delivery van lying in one corner of the compound only added to the ambiance. And while said van had several bullet holes in it, the truth was that around here, those could have come from anything

In the end, she found only one usable entrance, a small service door that she presumed that Slicer had gone in through. A check of the time told her that his five minutes were up. Okay, old man, let's see just how good you really are,  she told herself as she slipped through the door, her training rifle at the ready.

The interior of the building was just as unappealing as the outside. Back in its heyday it had obviously been designed for function over looks, with stark, bare concrete floors and walls dominated by equipment panels. Many of those had since been knocked loose or pried away, leaving tangled messes of wiring to spill out, or simply gaping holes where whatever valuable contents inside had been stripped out. And while there were no overt signs of the fire damage that she'd seen from outside, it was possible that had been contained to one part of the building.

Warily, she stepped through into the next room, one whose function had long since been obliterated by the ravages of time, damage and predation. All that was left now were a few scraps of furniture and more gaping holes in the wall where equipment had been. Scanning around the room while cycling through her still-new range of visual options didn't immediately alert Crimson to any signs of her mentor-turned opponent, rather suggesting that the room was clear save for her.

As she approached the next door, something did catch her eye. Even with her enhanced vision it was difficult to see in the darkness of the unlit room, but it was still enough to catch her eye, making her want to investigate closer. There was something on the wall by the door, something other then just grime or wrecked equipment. As she got closer, running her gloved hand over it, Crimson could tell what it was.

Bullet holes. A nice, neat row of them, probably all coming from the same burst of the same automatic weapon. I wonder how long these have been here, she considered, which made her wonder even more about this place. What was it? Some sort of corp research facility? That in turn was making her wonder about how Slicer knew it, and why he'd chosen it for this exercise. Had he been here before? I mean, he could have been on a run that was targeting this place and-

A loud beep from her Commlink interrupted her train of thought. And then a huge red 'DEAD' flashed up on her augmented vision. "What the-" Crimson spun around to see Slicer behind her, the blond Elf raising his training rifle as he entered through the same door she came in through.

"You got distracted," he simply replied, his tone stern no less. "It was too easy a shot to pass up. Do that in a real fight and you'll be dead."

"Right," Crimson nodded with a small sigh, angry at herself for such an obvious mistake. Her commlink chirping to tell her that it had reset and she was now 'alive' again did little to alleviate her mood.

"Okay, let's get back up and try it again," Slicer finished as the pair of them headed back outside.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (05:05:32/06-06-16)
On her second attempt, Crimson had 'died' in the same room. She'd been smart enough not to get overly fixated on the bullet holes, and had instead headed to the same door she'd been intending to use before she had allowed herself to become distracted. This had worked right up until she'd opened the door, only to have Slicer snipe her from behind cover on the other side.

The third try had seen her go the other way in the initial hallway, looping around instead through a much more cluttered and heavily trashed lab. For a moment she thought that she was onto something, before Slicer had popped up from behind some debris and 'nailed' her with a burst of fire.

For her fourth attempt, Crimson had tried something different. This time she'd taken her time to clamber over the dumpster and into the wreckage of the loading dock rather than using the same, sadly familiar service entrance. She'd been slowly and carefully picking her way through the debris, keeping low and moving as quietly as she could, cybereyes peeled for any signs of her 'opponent'. When she made it through the room unharmed, she was convinced that she'd gotten past Slicer, and had already turned the situation around.

He'd 'shot' her the instant she stepped out into the next room.

And so it had gone for several more tries, each and every one of them ending with Crimson 'dead' after an embarrassingly short run. Only once had she managed to actually get a shot off, and that had been a clean miss. Slicer's reply had been a lot more accurate.

"Oh for frag's sake!" She shouted as her Commlink registered another 'death', adding to the already crushingly one-sided score.

Slicer stepped out from behind the gutted server he'd been using as cover. "You’re getting there," he offered. "This was your best time yet"

"This scenario sucks, you know that? Wouldn't I normally have a partner with me?" She shot back. "Or at the very least have the floor plans thanks to my team's Decker doing the legwork."

"Your Decker could frag up and get the wrong plans, or get booted out of their system," Slicer explained. "You got to learn to cope with these sorts of things."

"And my team? I'd be fragging stupid to go into a corp facility on your own."

"Some times you gotta run with it," Slicer continued. "Like your partner bought it on the way in, or got hopped up on Madballs and fell off his bike on the way there. Take your lumps and work with it"

"You know, that's not really fair of you," Crimson protested, the beep of the Commlink resetting not really helping her mood.

"Life's not fair," Slicer spat. "Corpsec goons won't play fair when it’s their lives on the line. MCT Zero Zones won't play fair when they use lethal force their first option. The Lone Star sniper won't play fair when he pops the head off the guy next to you."

It was a bare-faced acknowledgement of reality, but that didn't mean that it didn't sting. "So how am I meant to get up to dealing with that sort of crap when you won't even give me a chance to get the easy stuff?" Crimson snapped. "Yeah, I gotta work my way up to that, I get it. But it can't happen if you’re still keeping me on the damned ground floor."

For am moment, it seemed like Slicer was ready to explode, a tense ball of fury about to be unleashed. Instead, he seemed to stop himself, taking a deep breath. "Fine. You don’t want to put in the hard work, I get it. You're free to go any time, and I won't stop you. Maybe you'll find somebody else who's willing to put up with you and teach you the way you want."

"But I am teaching you lessons that I never learned myself," Slicer continued. "You're learning things here that I had to find out the hard way, things that I would have loved to know before I got my hoop handed to me. Things aren't always going to go your way, and all sorts of drek will happen, and your run will get clusterfragged so many ways that you can't believe it even before the first shot is fired. Sou need to be able to deal with that, do you understand?"

"This-" she angrily began, only to stop herself dead. This is about what happened with him and Mitch, she acknowledged. But that's something I wasn't meant to know. It's his business, not mine. Instead, she simply nodded. "Yes, sensei." She bowed to him again, biting back her own anger and frustration under a simple acknowledgement of his experience and seniority. On the surface, she seemed accepting, even though she was ready for the worst.

Slicer gave her a simple nod back. "Oaky, one last try and then I think we're done for the night. I want you to think about all we've covered so far, and what you can take away from that."

"Sure," Crimson nodded. "I... Yeah."

The pair of them headed back outside, walking in a tense silence as they did. Even with what she had guessed, Crimson could still see that there was something eating at Slicer, but she was so very reluctant to probe at it. In many ways, this felt like the single most trying moment yet in their working relationship. Every other time so far, it had come down to one of two things.

The first and in many ways, the easiest to deal with was the prior times she'd gotten frustrated or angry during her training, which was in turn usually because he was consistently beating her. In those cases, she had needed to step back, take a breath and clam down while Slicer repeated that this was all a part of the process and also mentioned the times his own Sensei had beaten him senseless or the like (Form what she had gathered, Sensei Kabuto had done nothing but beat Slicer like an unruly stepchild). Those were in many ways easier for her to deal with.

And then there were those times when she'd arrived for a training session only to find him drunk, hung-over, clearly in no condition to start or, on a couple of occasions, naked. In those cases she'd often lashed out at him, while Slicer had cringingly admitted his own mistake and done his best to make up for it. And even when he had a raging headache or had needed to throw up a couple of times first, he'd still been willing to keep going and teach her whatever lesson he'd planned for her.

This time was different, and she still couldn't quite figure why. She had never seen him get that angry at her, even though, by her own admission, she'd been whiney and petulant with him before in past about other matters. And that was something that bothered her, but she knew that she couldn't really ask without risk of making the situation even worse.

Instead she tried to distract herself by thinking about what he'd said and how to apply it. Slicer was more experienced, knew the layout better, had a head start and could take his time to find the perfect spot to 'kill' her from. He was holding all the advantages, and there was little she could do to overcome those.

"You ready?" he asked her.

Crimson glanced over the derelict building one more time. "I guess so."

"Last round for the night," Slicer reminded her. "Give it your best shot."

"Same deal as always?"

"Yep. Give me five and then you come in after me and we'll see what happens." He nodded before turning back to the building. "See you inside."

Slicer began to walk away from her, headed for the same service entrance. Crimson waited until he was halfway there before raising her rifle and drawing a bead on him, her Smartlink lining up a clean shot on his back. "Bang" she whispered as she squeezed the trigger, with a hit registering on her HUD a moment later.

Slicer stopped in his tracks, and then turned around. For a moment, his face was unreadable, his expression neutral. And then, all he could so was shake his head and smirk. "So, Crimson, what was the lesson you learned there?" He asked as he walked back to her.

"You said that the enemy wouldn't play fair," She replied. "So I thought, why should I have to as well? Rather than playing by your rules, I took control of the fight."

"Well done," Slicer finished. "You saw an opening and you exploited it for all it was worth. We'll make a great runner out of you yet."

-----

For all that Slicer had said, there were a few things sticking in Crimson's mind that were only slightly related but none the less seemed to be screaming for attention, It wasn't until she'd been packing away her gear once she got back home that it finally clicked when she saw the Katana he'd lent her months ago. At the time he'd mentioned that it was a gift from somebody he used to know, and she had no idea who that was.

The thought was bothering her all through the morning at Vendor Mammoth, lending an even more insubstantial then normal quality to her greetings. It wasn't until she got to her lunch break that she remembered the name and instantly started fossicking through the Matrix for more. Even then, she was somewhat surprised by what she turned up.

Billy Blaster (Born Billy Krabowski) had been a rocker in the early 2050s, and a quite literal one-hit wonder. Neon Dreams of Shadowed Streets had very briefly gotten to the number one spot on several charts, earning him a small about of fame. That had then evaporated when his second single had been savaged by the critics, and everything after that barely rated a mention. In fact, the only other two things he found on him after that had nothing at all to do with his music career.

The first was an arrest over an incident in a high-class hotel involving Billy, a Joyboy, a goat and a suitcase full of Novacocke. The second came several years later, and regarded the discovery of Billy's dead body in his apartment. He’d apparently died a week previously of a (probably inevitable) overdose, and more to the point, nobody had noticed until somebody complained about the smell.

So Slicer knew some druggie rocker, Crimson considered. I wonder what was the connection?
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Horsemen on (22:54:43/06-10-16)
Interesting read.  Thank you for continuing to post these.
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (02:29:41/07-14-16)
Every time Ashely clocked off at Vendor Mammoth, it was with no small sense of relief. It meant that once again she had escaped the purgatory of idiot customers, idiot workmates, piped muzak and constant looped safety announcements of the latest alleged bargains for the day, and that she would be free to live her life a little for the next few hours. Or, at least, until she next stepped back through the gates of hell itself to live out her endless torment of greeting customers with a false smile.

What made today's release feel even more like a blessing was a message from Slicer on her comm, arranging a meet for tomorrow night. What was unusual was that he was asking her to come to the same detract facility that she'd been training at before. Maybe he's just skipping a step, she considered as she sent back a reply, indicating that she'd be there.

And so, one very boring day later, Crimson arrived at the site in question, her mind racing with the possibilities of what could be there. Even then, what she found was quite unexpected. Slicer was there, but his Rapier was now parked next to a row of other racing bikes. With him were a half dozen humans, male and female, and what a rather awkward-looking Elven man. Each of them were dressed in biker leathers, adorned with red and white stripes and each carrying one of the training rifles.

"Good to see you," Slicer began as he approached, leaving the others by their cycles for the moment. As he approached, she couldn't help but notice that not only did he have one of the training rifles on his back, but there was a bottle in hand.

"What's with the crowd?" She asked, nodding over to the assemblage.

"Those are the Redline Riders, a local gang," he explained. "Their leader and I go way back, which is why they're here tonight." He took another swig from his bottle and then indicated to the rifle on his shoulder. "They're going to be your OpFor."

"Op... ppsing force?" Crimson asked, trying to figure logical alternatives for what he meant. None came to mind.

"Got it in one," he continued. "One man does not make a good simulation of a corporate security team. But a half-dozen of them definitely does."

She could see the logic to that. "Dare I ask how much this is costing you?"

Slicer shrugged it off. "I'm paying them in booze"

"Funny that," Crimson muttered before continuing. "Okay, so what's to stop me from getting murdered by seven-to-one odds?"

"Because," Slicer began before pausing to finish his bottle. "You won't be going in there alone. You said it wouldn't make sense for you to be working alone, and I agree entirely with that. So you'll have me at your back."

That was enough to grab her attention. While she'd fought against Slicer plenty of times in innumerable different ways, she'd never once fought alongside him. In all their sparring and practice battles and whatever else, she'd definitely got a good impression of his skill and capabilities, and the degree to which he dwarfed her own. After all, it was those same capabilities that had bought her to him in the first place, fuelled by that desire to be able to do what he could. "Oh, wow." it was the best she could manage, so massively underwhelming a response given the circumstances.

I'm fighting alongside a veteran Shadowrunner, she mentally added. It was all she could do to stop herself from squealing like a giddy schoolgirl.

"Before you get too excited, I will have most of my augmentations turned off," he continued. "That's for two reasons, the first is that I don't want to steal the spotlight form you, Crimson. As good as you are right now, you’re still pretty baseline."

She nodded. "No, I can understand that." The footage she'd seen of Slicer in action had been amazing. In motion he was a constant, fluid blur, moving with lightning speed and agility. He’d hit his opponents before they could even react, dance between bullets and do everything at a speed that seemed to defy reason. Compared to him, and as naturally good as she was, she might as well be standing still.

And yet, she could have sworn there was something else in what he was saying. She wasn't sure, what, but it almost felt like relief. Putting that aside, she went back to the matter at hand. "And the second?"

Slicer smirked. "I want to give those poor fraggers a chance."

-----

Despite his avowed preference for Submachine guns, Slicer seemed to have no problems at all with the training rifle. As the pair of them stalked towards the derelict building's loading dock, he seemed to be more comfortable with it then she was with hers. "This is your Run, Crimson," he whispered as the pair of them ducked down behind the lip of the dock. "You take the lead, and I'll be right behind you."

She nodded back in a quiet reply before quickly peeking over the ledge. The back seemed to be quiet, with nothing there save for the same jumble of discarded boxes that had been there the last time she was here. Confident that the dock was empty, she nodded to Slicer before quickly scampering up over the ledge and into the building itself, picking her way through the tangled debris. A quick glance told her that Slicer was right behind her, the veteran Samurai's weapon at the ready.

The hallway outside the dock was clear, with no sign of the Redlines. Either they weren't aware of the loading dock's vulnerability, or they had immediately expected her to come in through the service entrance. Same mistake I made before, Crimson quietly observed, before glancing back at Slicer again. She wanted to give him a 'see, I'm learning' as if to refute his angry claims from the previous session, but instead kept her mouth shut.

Instead she sent a silent "Clear" to him through her commlink before continuing, working her way through the ruined facility. Remembering the layout form the last time she was there, Crimson turned towards the service entrance, keeping low as she crept through the building.

"What are you doing?" Slicer silently sent back.

"Insurance." She replied as she stopped by one doorway, pressing her back to the wall. A trio of Redlines were ahead, just around the corner, impatiently waiting by a doorway while muttering to each other. "See?"

"I do," he replied. "Which means that we should-"

Crimson was in motion before he could even finish his reply, a quick "Back me up" being the only warning she gave of what was about to happen. She all but surged forwards, levelling her rifle before opening up with a quick 'burst' of simulated fire. Three quick beeps confirmed that all of the 'guards' were dead, which produced a lot of angry shouting and swearing from the gangers.

"What the hell was that?' Slicer sent to her.

"Taking care of them before they come after us," She shot back. "Now let's move!" She broke into a run as she headed past her, Slicer having a moment to figure out what he was going to do before he took off after her.

"The others will know by now," Slicer warned. "Either they'll hear the noise or one of the 'dead' guards will message them"

"Bring it," was her only reply as the pair of them darted through the hallways, the sounds of shouting echoing throughout the building now.

The pair of them powered through several rooms that continued little more then burned garbage before they stopped, Crimson again putting her back to the wall. "So what's the plan now, boss?" Slicer silently sent. And while the message was soundless, she could easily hear the disproving 'tone' in it.

"Simple. We frag them, then get the goods."

"Brilliant idea," Slicer shot back. "Figured what you'll do now that you've alerted everyone in the building?"

"Who cares? They come, we frag them. Simple"

She heard running feet up ahead, accompanied by hurriedly shouted exchanges. "Okay, back me up here!" She simply sent before ducking around the corner, opening fire on the pair of Redlines heading towards her before just as quickly ducking back. Several loud expletives suggested she'd hit one of them, her commlink verifying the suspicion. "Ready?"

"Sure, why not?" Slicer simply replied. "We're committed now. Might as well make this as loud as possible."

She grinned back. "Awesome. Let's rock this place"

------

The rest of the 'Run' had been rather impressively one-sided. Between them, Crimson and Slicer had 'killed' all of the Redlines, with the other team having only had the chance to fire a handful of 'shots', none of which had made their mark. They'd reached the server room, recovering the burnt out husk of a drive before heading out, Crimson pausing to take a moment to wave to some of the dead bodies as she went.

As soon as they were outside, she pumped her fist in the air, cheering. "Yeah! I'd call that a huge success! We geeked the enemy security force, got the thing and didn't even break a sweat!" She glanced again at the long-dead device. "Call fake Mister Johnson, so we can get out fake nuyen."

Slicer's only reply was a tired sigh, followed by him tapping a few things into his commlink. Then, without ceremony, he simply headed over to his bike, opening up the cooler that was next to it. "So how about it?' Crimson continued. "Are we an amazing team or what?"

"What the hell was that?" He asked as he opened a beer, taking a huge swig form it as he waited for Crimson's reply.

"What the hell was what?" She shrugged. "We fragged those guys and got the thing. Easy."

"We didn't need to take them all out," He simply replied. "That first attack alerted everyone in the damned building, making our job a lot harder. We could have snuck past most, if not all of them, gotten the thing and possibly not even had to pick a single fragging fight along the way."

"That only happened because those gangers were shouting all over the place," Crimson dismissively replied. "Dead bodies wouldn't make that much noise." Behind her the aforementioned dead bodies were now filing out of the building, heading back towards their bikes. She didn't spare them a second glance.

"Biomonitors!" Slicer spat. "Their controllers are going to notice when those send out panic signals. It might as well be the same thing. You frag one guard, you're going to put the whole damned place on alert."

"So I fight my way through them," she shrugged. "Easy."

"Guards, maybe." Slicer countered. "What about drones? Guard Critters? Wage Mages? Or if they call for a fragging HTR team? What do you do then?"

Crimson shrugged. "Worry about it when it happens," she shot back. "I'm building myself up to be a wired killing machine like you, remember? They won’t be able to touch me."

"Yeah, and what are you going to do before then?" Slicer countered. "You’re still baseline, Crimson, and as raw as all hell. And you're not going to always have a veteran Sam at your back. Nor are you going to be working with people who are as naturally skilled as you are. You try that crap and you'll be dead, you hear me?" His tone had gone from statement all the way to obvious anger with remarkable speed.

"Hey, it worked," was all she replied. "You gotta give me that."

He looked like he was about to explode, but didn’t. Instead, he gave a simple "Hold on, I need to take this," as he picked up his Commlink. Almost immediately, he turned away from her, trying not to be overheard and failing miserably. After glancing over the Redlines to see that she wouldn't be interrupted - not likely given that two of them were using the opportunity to make out while the others were getting into the drinks - she headed a bit closer to Slicer to try and get some idea of what he was saying.

"No, she'll be ready," he offered. "You called me in the middle of training. What the frag else do you want?" He was pacing as he spoke, clearly agitated. "No, I can't make it right now. I don't care if you say he's ready, we do this when I say we do this." He tilted away from the commlink, as if he was trying not to listen to the reply.

"You have a good teacher," A voice interrupted Crimson's attempted espionage.

She swung around, trying to reach for a pistol which wasn't there. Behind her was the awkward looking Elf, giving her a small nod. "Well yeah," she agreed with a nod. "Slicer's been a Runner since forever, and he knows what he's talking about."

"It's not just that," he countered. "I mean, that is good and all, but we both know the truth. No offence to less fortunate comrades, but the only worthy mentor an Elf can have is another Elf."

Hoo boy, Crimson considered, trying not to roll her eyes. "That's an interesting position to take mister..."

"Outrun," he replied with a small bow. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Crimson."

"Yeah," she replied without much conviction. Up close, she was definitely beginning to have some doubts. He was about her height and more heavily built then the normal Elf. And while it could have been within the normal range for an Elf, everything seemed to be a little... off.

"But surely you can see my reasoning," Outrun continued. "I mean, who else but another Elf can understand our natural grace? And then, who else could bring that same grace to its fullest potential?"

"Who else indeed," she replied, still more interested in what Slicer was saying then Outrun. Right now, her mentor was walking further away, and while she couldn't catch all of what he was saying the raised tone of his voice was telling her that it was not going well.

"Truly, you are doubly blessed," he continued. "To have received all the wondrous gifts of our race and then have somebody so well placed to bring them to fruition"

So he's a creepy poser, Crimson considered as she continued glancing over at Slicer.

"And I must say, Crimson, that even by the wondrous standards of our race, you are very impressive. You have a rare talent, to be naturally possessed of such abilities," he continued. "In fact, I dare say your abilities are matched only by your beauty."

Correction, a creepy poser who’s trying to hit on me, she added, trying not to wince too visibly. "Hey it's been great talking to you, but I need to have a word with the boss. Training and all that." Before Outrun had even had a chance to reply she'd turned away, heading back to Slicer. By chance, he had just finished his call by the time she got to him. "Everything okay there?"

"Sure, great," he replied in a way that made it clear that it wasn't even remotely the case. He finished off his beer, simply dumping the bottle before stalking over to the gang. "Okay, the lot of you get back in there and get back to being fake guards. And this time try not to be so ass-useless at it." With more than a little rumbling the Redlines did as asked, many of them carrying their drinks along with their rifles.

"A chance to face you again sounds most enticing," Outrun added with a flourish as he passed her. "Until then, farewell."

Crimson barely suppressed a shudder as the poser joined the others, heading into the derelict building.

"So what's the plan?" She asked Slicer once the last of them had headed in.

"This time?' He replied. "This time you take it seriously and stop treating the whole thing like a fragging video game, got it?"

"I-" she began, and stopped. Whatever's going in is really getting under his skin, she considered. So much so that he was ready to walk away last time. That was enough to make her reconsider her next words. "Sure, I got it. Let's go"

Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (01:01:27/10-07-16)
The sounds of gunfire and the sprays of chipped cement from stray shots might have only been ARO objects, but they definitely were adding to the urgency of the situation. "Got two behind that wall ahead," she sent to Slicer, indicating towards a row of broken cement halfway across the vacant lot. "Possibly a third."

"Understood," Slicer nodded. "They're between us and the exit too."

"Where's my damned drone support?" Crimson replied as she glanced over at both her partner and Outrun who was squatting behind the same wall as the pair of them.

"I guess the company sees me as too valuable to lose," Outrun commented. "Despite the magnificent work you've done so far in extracting me. Clearly you have a talent for this, my lady."

"Slicer, hit him if he talks again," she muttered. "I got to get us out of this mess"

She'd suspected something was amiss when Outrun immediately volunteered to be the target for their mock extraction. It quickly became apparent that his main goal was to use it as an excuse to get close her and let her man-handle him as they tried to get him to their exit. The rest of the Redlines that Slicer had rented to act as guards were lacking in accuracy and coordination, true, but more than made up for it with volumes of enthusiastic sprayfire.

"Maybe we could just use him as bait?" She suggested

"Johnson wants him back alive, remember?" Slicer replied. "If he gets his hoop shot off, he's worth nothing"

"Point-" Crimson conceded, only to be cut off by another burst of simulated fire. "Okay, I have a plan. On the count of three, I'm going to do something stupid. When I do, I want you to rush Toolbag there to the van."

"Roger that," Slicer nodded, one hand on his rifle, the other firmly planted on Outrun's shoulder.

"One," Crimson began, readying her rifle. "Two. Three." As soon as the last word was out of her moth, she leaped into action, taking off with an almost frantic bust of speed. Leaving the safety of their cover, she sprinted across a short gap of open ground, firing seemingly random shots from her training rifle as she went. And then, second later, she ducked down behind an old dumpster, vanishing from sight. It was only an instant later that she emerged, opening up again on the enemy team.

Slicer took the signal, grabbing Outrun and pushing him forward into a run, his training rifle balanced on the ganger's shoulder. With the 'security' team distracted by Crimson's risky push, he was able to make it all the way to the mostly collapsed chain-link fence and then to the rusty Volkswagen Superkombi van on the other side. Shoving Outrun into the van (perhaps a little rougher then he needed to,) he leaped into the front seat.

"Target's in the bag," he sent back to her. "Now get the hell out of there!"

Crimson sent off a quick affirmative before opening up again, emptying the last of her virtual clip into where the two guards were hiding. A satisfying 'beep' told her one of them was down, which was all the incentive she needed. Breaking cover, she sprinted across the last few meters of cracked concrete towards the old van, ducking behind it and then all but leaping into the passenger seat. "Floor it!" she shouted to Slicer, more a joke then anything else. Half because getting to the van was the end of the exercise, and half because she was pretty sure the old wreck couldn’t outrun a fat kid on a scooter.

"And we’re good," Slicer finished as he climbed out of the van, heading back to help Outrun to his feet. "Good work there."

"Thanks," Crimson nodded. "Was a bit rough, mostly having to lug the dead weight around, but I think it worked. Still would be great if we had some drones or something."

"Not every Runner team will have everything," he pointed out. "Sometimes you have to go with what you've got. I mean, it's not like you can just put out a help wanted ad in the newsfax or the like."

"Do what now?"

Slicer sighed a little. "Never mind. Anyway, you had better get going. I'm going to need you back here tomorrow for another round."

"What the frag?" Crimson asked as she handed over her training rifle. "You've been running me ragged. Between you and the day job, I've barely got time to... Well, anything really."

"You want to learn to be a Runner, you gotta work for it," Slicer replied. "And it's not like the lifestyle will get easier. There will be jobs you have to work for days or weeks before you get them done. Or there will be those times when you're on the run for whatever reason and can't afford to rest. If you're not ready for that, then-"

"I get it," Crimson nodded. "And thanks. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow."

"I'll send you the details," he finished. "Just be ready"

-----

"Welcome to Vendor Mammoth, my name is Ashely. How may I help you?"

It was her personal mantra, the one thing she kept repeating. It was ingrained into her thoughts at a level that was instinctive, to the point that she didn't need to think about it at all.

In some ways, to Crimson, it meant that Ashley had succeeded fantastically at being a fake life. She was so bland, so dull, so insubstantial that she didn't need to put any effort into pretending to be her at all. Smile, greet customers, repeat. Easy. Anyone could do it.

As she continued her routine, she couldn't help but think about what she'd been learning in the last few days, examining the Vendor Mammoth store in ways that she wouldn't have before. Use the aisles for cover. Displays could also be useful for some soft cover, but wouldn't last too long under fire. Her eyes roamed past the front of the store. Check-outs would also be some good hard cover, and security might be distracted by scurrying customers and staff.

Valuables are kept in the cash office, which also has direct access to the store's mainframe and Matrix host, she mentally continued. To get there you need to get into the rear area and upstairs, which also means getting past the lunchroom. Back dock has plenty of places to hide, but odds are there's going to be at least one disgruntled Troll back there at all times who might feel like picking a fight for the sake of it.

Front door is a good exit, but would put you onto the street where there will be cops. Loading Dock is good for if you had to get something large out and you had a van on standby. Emergency fire exit is also good as both an in or an out, but sneaking in there you’d probably be spotted by somebody on their smoke break.

She thought over the scenario again. Of course, why anybody would be attacking Vendor Mammoth is another matter. That sort of thing only happens in Stuffer Shacks.

Now the thought was lodged in her head and refused to go away, even as she greeted another customer. So why would somebody do a run against Vendor Mammoth anyway? She considered. Maybe somebody here is actually a fugitive lying low. Or maybe after a botched extraction, some bit of new tech was accidently shipped here. Or there's some backdoor in the store's host that allows access to some other system, or maybe could allow them to attack the Vendor Mammoth head office directly.

She glanced outside, seeing how the heavy rain was keeping the traffic away from the store, before letting her eyes roam across the floor again. None of the staff are likely to be a threat, and unless there’s some random psycho in among the shoppers that day, they wouldn't be a worry either, she considered. The Loss Prevention Officer would call for backup as is procedure, so you'd need to jam his comms as well as knock out any other immediate lines the store could use to call for help.

Already the battle of Vendor Mammoth was turning into a surprisingly complicated affair.

-----

For Slicer, some mornings were better than others. This one was proving to be especially bad.

The first thing that came to mind when he woke up was pain. Every joint in his body burned, tracing fiery lines of intense agony across his body and into his spine. Even just trying to shift in bed produced a series of short, sharp spikes, grunts issuing forth as he tried to move enough to get up. The messages before his eyes weren't telling him anything especially bad beyond the usual warnings of how far his ware was beyond its last service date, but everything else was telling him that something was wrong.

Too much running around, old man, he muttered to himself as he managed to swing out his feet, sitting up as his body protested very loudly about every little action he was taking. Ghost, I didn't even have most of the 'ware switched on. Must be raining or something. He bent down to grab a pair of boxers, only to be rewarded by more sharp shocks running down his spine. Grunting to himself, he managed to pull them on before he stood, one hand on his back. Peeling aside the battered blinds, he peered out the grimy window and then slowly, carefully shook his head. Pissing on down. Might as well call the brat and cancel for tonight. I'm not going to be in any state to do anything anyway.

He limped towards the kitchen, taking each step as slowly and carefully as he could before finally stopping by the fridge. Taking a beer bottle, one of the few things that was left inside, he started back towards his room. I should swing by the doc's, see if they have some more meds. These ones just aren't cutting it. The first sip of beer, however, did bring some relief, the cool liquid seeming to drive back the pain building in his head.

He was most of the way back to his room when he heard his commlink going off. "Okay, okay, I’m coming already. Hold your fragging horses." He discreetly hoped it was Crimson so he could reschedule ahead of time and save himself the bother. As soon as he picked up the commlink, however, he could feel the pain coming back, hard.

"Mitch," he began his tone wary, "This isn't-"

"You keep saying that, dandelion muncher," Mitch growled back. "Well guess what, chummer. It's a good time now. We're making this happen."

"Are you out of your slotting mind?" Slicer spat, feeling the pain migrating its way up his spine. "I've said we're not ready."

"Well we're ready now," Mitch shot back. "And while you’ve been fragging around with Injun Joe and waking up drunk, me, Baz, Gaz and Vik have actually been doing all the damned hard work. Now you said that damned kid would be good for this, Slicer. So they're ready now."

"I said that they're not ready, Mitch. None of them are." Slicer countered. "Chip truth-"

"And I say they are. So your little slot had better be there, chummer, or else our deal is off," Mitch growled.

"Look, Mitch, if this is about what happened to your dad-"

"It’s not just that, Slicer," Mitch continued, a simmering anger clear in his voice that immediately made Slicer regret his words, "It’s about you failing to live up to anything you've said ever. It's about you honoring your deals by spending your time flat-out drunk and making excuses. It's about all the times you say it won't happen again, and then it does. I'm calling it in, Chummer."

Slicer swore under his breath. "Right, I got it. I'll let her know."

"I'm sending you the meet details. Make sure she's there." Mitch finished before closing the connection. A moment later, a new message popped up on his commlink. Looking at it, he let loose another stream of silent profanities before draining his bottle in a single gulp.

Well, we're fragged now, he considered as he placed another call. "Crimson, this is Slicer. Change of plans."
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (00:24:11/10-14-16)
It was drizzling when Crimson reached the arranged meet, the thick clouds and rain making the blinking neon signs and bright lights of the Tourist district seem even brighter. As he'd suggested she was travelling light, carrying only her concealed pistol for the moment. She parked her bike and headed towards their meeting spot, a grimy storefront several doors down from a club,

Even as she approached, Crimson could tell that there was something wrong with Slicer. The older Elf was glancing around, as if he was waiting for something and not in a good way. His mood, his stance, his entire look said that he was nervous and anticipatory, like he was expecting disaster at any moment. When she approached, he turned to face her, but not without sparing a backwards glance across the street.

"So what's up?" She asked, her tone almost impatient.

He turned to face her, wincing as he did. "I'll make this simple, kid," he replied. "In a moment, you're going to head into that club. Once in there, you'll be contacted by a Johnson. He'll be lining you up with a team that he's put together to do a job for him." His tone was wary, each word pronounced slowly and clearly to ensure that there was no chance of misunderstanding.

And compared to his clear caution, her reply was one of almost childish glee. "A team and a real run from a real Johnson?" She beamed. "Fragging awesome. This is it, the big leagues. What I've wanted for ages." She glanced back at the club, ready to head in there on that alone.

"Wait a moment," he spoke up, his caution a clear contrast to her enthusiasm. "You need to know what you're getting yourself into. These are people who you don't know. Everyone's going to have their own agenda, their own goals and their own plan. They're not going to follow you just for the sake of it, and likely each and every one of them will have their own idea of what they think is the best plan to follow. You're going to have to figure out how to work with them if you want to succeed. Otherwise you're going to get yourself killed."

"Yeah, no offence but you sound like a lame team-building vid at work," Crimson dismissively replied. "I got this."

For a moment Slicer looked like he was about to turn away or shout or something. There was a flurry of movement, as if every part of his body was tensing up. And then he stopped, relaxing, his hands open. "Just be careful, that’s all"

"It's cool. I'll be okay," she reassured him. You sound like my mother, Crimson mentally added. I know what I'm doing.

"I can't be with you in there, and obviously not on the run," he finished. "Just remember what I've taught you."
 
"Shoot straight, Conserve ammo and never deal with a dragon," Crimson nodded with a small smile. "See you"

She headed into the club, getting by the cursory weapon check with ease. As soon as she was inside, she was assaulted by the electronic music, while coloured lights played across the darkened room in an almost random fashion. The room was dominated by its dance floor, itself a writing mass of Metahumanity dancing to the oversaturated beat. Yeah, it’s passible, she considered as she eyed up the crowd. Many of them struck her as being about her age with overly flashy clothes and to-neat hair, suggesting that this club's key crowd was the corp kid demographic. I've seen better though.

Crimson took a seat overlooking the dance floor, casting her eyes around for anyone who seemed to be out of place or could be a potential member of her team. Nothing did immediately catch her attention, even if her eyes did wander to a cute (but clearly dumb as a bag of rocks) young Elven man on the dance floor. Focus. You're here on a job. She pulled her eyes off him (and how tight his pants were) to again cast around.

One, human man with a definitely not corp-issue mohawk was at the end of the bar, chatting up some vapid blonde sitting next to him. Score one, she considered as she continued to look around. Nothing else was immediately grabbing her attention, however, with nobody else who struck her as not being a part of the dumb cashed-up corp kid crowd. Slicer would have eyeballed every threat in the place by now, she told herself. Either that or gotten completely trashed at the bar.

She had been there for about fifteen minutes, her attention alternating between the mohawk guy and the young Elf as she waited for the next step of the job to begin. Her study was interrupted by a beep from her commlink, a simple message appearing on screen. Room 12, upstairs. Five minutes. A quick glance told her that the mohawked man had also just received a message. Now to see if it was the same one.

The club's upper level was mostly about discrete rooms where one could meet others without any chance of being watched. As Crimson had expected, the blue-mohawked man was waiting outside twelve when she arrived. Up close, he was not exactly impressive; slim with long, gangly limbs, he seemed to be mostly made of knees and elbows. "Hoi," he began, glancing towards her as she approached. "You here for the Room Twelve meet?"

"Just like you," she simply replied.

A grin spread across his face, one that was making a brave attempt at excluding confidence. "Name's Protip," he explained. "With a zero. Nova-hot code slinger."

Sure you are, she told herself. "Crimson. I bring the big guns."

"Wiz," he beamed, obviously eyeing her. She very much doubted it was trying to get an assessment of her physical capabilities or combat skills. "Though I'm guessing we're not the only members of this crew."

"Probably not," she agreed, nodding to the end of the hallway. A scruffy Dwarf clad in a tattered coat was waiting by the stairs, trying his best to look unobtrusive. Instead it was having the opposite effect, making him stand out even more. How did he even get into the club in the first place, she wondered, considering its preferred clientele. Maybe somebody knew he was here for the meet.

The Dwarf could tell that she'd eyeballed him, quickly realising that it was pointless to try and play low key. Instead he cautiously approached the pair of them, his eyes darting around as he stepped past each door. What's he expecting, that he's going to be attacked at any moment? Crimson asked herself. Ghost, if this guy's a part of our team, we could be screwed. First sign of danger and I be he'll scurry for cover.

Might as well make an effort. She stepped over to the Dwarf, who seemed to jump just a bit. "Here for the Room Twelve meet, right?" She began. "Name's Crimson, that's Protip," she explained.

"Scav," the Dwarf replied, his eyes glancing over her in a way that was less checking her out as it was checking if she wasn’t carrying a concealed gun or about to murder him. "Yeah, I am."

"Wiz," she managed with her best fake enthusiasm, a level that Ashley would have been proud of. "Guess that makes three of us."

"Four, Chummers," a heavy, growly voice countered. Spinning around, Crimson was ready to go for her concealed pistol for an instant. Protip just stood there, gawking, while Scav ducked behind the decker.

Before the three of them was a massive Ork, heavily muscled and clad in sleeveless leathers. His left arm was adorned with a maze of bright tattoos, while his right was replaced with a very obvious, chrome Cyberarm. Narrow black eyes and a shaved and tattooed head only accentuated the package. "Name's Krusher. I guess you sorry lot are the fraggers what are running with me."

Crimson immediately wanted to leap on him and rip his throat out just for that. Protip also seemed to sense that in her as she tensed, the skinny Hunan backing off from the pair of them only to bump against Scav. Fortunately, the sound of an opening door and another voice coming from within did seem to defuse the tension.

"I am so glad the four of you could make it," a slow, steady man's voice replied from within. "Please, come in and take a seat."

Crimson shot Krusher a single angry glance before she turned around, taking the lead in stepping inside to meet their would-be employer. The small room was dominated by a single figure a middle-aged Ork man wearing a sharp suit, one that did little to hide the muscles on his frame. While nowhere near as big as Krusher, the suited man still loomed large over everyone else present, both in height and bulk. She took a seat, the others filing in behind her. There seemed to be a brief flash of recognition between the two Orks as Krusher sat, but neither seemed to comment.

"Allow me to introduce myself," he began. "My name is Mister Johnson. I have called your all here for a very specific job."

Her commlink reported an incoming message form him, one that she accepted. Immediately, new AROs began popping up on her cybereyes. From the looks of it, at the very least, Protip was seeing the same. Conversely, Scav seemed to just shrink a little more. "This is Holdfast security Solutions, a Seattle-Based security firm that provides security to numerous clients. In recent years, they have expanded and now have offices in the Mainland UCAS as well, even if their headquarters are here."

"My Client-" he pronounced the capitol in 'client' very clearly - "has taken exception to some of their operational practices, and therefore has tasked me with disrupting their operations. Your objectives then will be threefold. The first is to get into their Headquarters and damage their operational capabilities. I want this to both hamper them, but also to make them look band and show that they are unable to protect their own people and thus cost them the confidence of their clients."

"The second step is to acquire their client data," he continued. "They keep complete lists of everyone who they have contracts and agreements with, and that data could be very valuable to my employers. It is our understanding that their main datstore is kept securely in their main office, and thus will need to be physically accessed."

"The third is to send them a very key strong message," he finished ass the image of a human man popped up on the ARO. Middle aged with short-clipped hair, his demeanour was stern and humourless, his features dominated by narrow eyes. "This is Kyle Bannerman, recently promoted to the head of Seattle Operations. My client would like him extracted and rendered to their custody. If that is not possible, then he is to be eliminated."

Johnson sat back in his chair a moment. "Are there any questions?"

Crimson had a million of them. But right now, she also didn't care at all. This is it, she told herself, brimming with excitement. My first real run with my first real team against a corp target. This is going to be awesome. It was what she had wanted for so long, and made everything she had done previously seem like a child playing games. I can't wait.

And even if she'd given the slightest attention to Slicer's concerns beyond brushing them off, she didn't care at all.

Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (20:20:56/01-09-17)
Crimson had never made it clear why she only ever met her fixer after hours. Telling him that it was because she didn’t get long enough on her lunch break just simply sounded so earth-shatteringly lame that she could barely bring herself to admit it. So whenever she was at the bland downtown Soycaf shop buying bland Soycaf, it was always well after dark. Fortunately, the place was open twenty-four hours to accommodate customer needs to get something better than Stuffer Shack, which gave her some flexibility.

Even though this was the heart of safe, bland, sanitised corporate downtown, she couldn't help but glance around as she waited for him to arrive. Maybe it was Slicer's training getting to her, but it was something she was more and more feeling the need to do. Size up the place, look for threats and make sure there was nobody about to geek you. It sounded paranoid, bit that sort of thinking had kept him alive for decades in a business that tended towards a short life expectancy.

Nothing was immediately registering to her as dangerous. The only thing that really struck her was one Asian man who was hiding at the back of a booth where he'd be as unobtrusive as possible. Even then, it was less because he looked dangerous, and more because she was beginning to realise that he'd been there every time she'd been in, just moving from booth to booth. Does he live here or something?

Her observations were interrupted as her fixer joined her, sitting down at the opposite seat in her booth. "A pleasure to see you again," he began, even if his tone was more business like then his words.

"Likewise," she nodded, shifting a little to ensure that her jacket was closed up. She was wearing still wearing her Vendor Mammoth uniform under that, having not had the time to go home and change before the meeting. It was hard not to feel a little self-conscious.

"I have the information you were interested in," he continued, giving her a small nod. "Of course, I have no idea why you want it, but I can take some very good guesses."

She discretely slid a credstick across the table. He took it, and a moment later, her commlink beeped. "It's all there," he continued, "but I’ll give you the low-down. Your man is a former Lone Star HRT officer who left the force and used some contacts he made along the way to set up his little enterprise. He was a skilled marksman, and had been involved in several incidents where he came into direct contact with Runners. The simple fact that he's alive should tell you that he knows what he's doing."

"Definitely," Crimson replied, her mind already running through ideas of how to disable him. Long range isn't going to work, given his skills. Could get Scav to magic him I suppose, but... It was becoming clearer to her that one of their team had the skills best suited to taking him out. That bought a smile to her lips.

"He lives in a nice little estate in Belleview, one that is full of rent-a-cops," he continued. "Yes, Irony, I know. Most of his working hours are either spent on-site or with clients."

"So I need to get his schedule and look for a weakness," Crimson considered. "Makes sense."

The fixer nodded. "I’m sure that you'll figure something out," he finished as he stood. "As always, a pleasure doing business with you."

-----

The next night was their big meet where they would plan the Run. Krusher had given them an address where he claimed that they could meet discretely without any risk of being seen or overheard; given that the location was a warehouse in Redmond, Crimson had to wonder how it was that he had access to the place.

The location wasn't that bad by Redmond standards, admittedly low as they were. Crimson had been the apparent first to arrive, giving it a quick once-over as she approached. A shabby old warehouse had loomed out of the drizzle, its exterior drab and grimy but also looking like it was structurally sound. And while there were no obvious signs of security, she was beginning to wonder how it was that Krusher had access to the place.

Doesn't look like a gang squat, she told herself, looking for the obvious signs that she'd learned in the last few months. No lookouts, no tags, nothing that immediately gives it any identity at all. And yet, the building was also clearly secure, making her wonder even more who owned it. She stopped her bike, leaning it against the side of the building as she waited there, lurking half in shadow. It wasn't that she was expecting trouble, but she would be ready for it no less.


A battered, power-blue Ford Americar pulled up a few minutes later, the lanky form of Protip clambering out of it. Unlike her, the young Decker seemed to be almost casual in his approach. "Hoi Crimson," he began as he stepped towards her, waving as if greeting a friend.

"Hey," she replied with a small nod, her tone noncommittal.

"Interesting place for a meet, huh chummer?" he continued as he looked around. "I wonder why here?"

"Not sure. It's not like it’s an obvious gang hideout. Maybe somebody's front."

"Huh..." He looked around, tapping his comink as he did. "Well it belongs to somebody. The whole place is wired with alarms and sensors. Obviously somebody owns what's in there."

"Not Krusher," Crimson murmured. The burly Ork hadn't struck her as smart enough to spell alarm, let alone install one.

"You think?' Protip asked, glancing around. "Maybe it’s his gang or whatever. He looked like the gang type."

You sound more like a corp kid then I do, she considered. Does your mom know you're doing this?

A rustle from around the corner caught both their attention, Crimson spinning around and drawing her pistol with lightning speed. Behind her, Protip was fumbling with his own gun as she got ready for the worst. A small figure appeared, clad in a filthy coat. Beady eyes peering out from behind a thick black beard.

"Scav!" Protip beamed, clearly relieved. "When did you get here?"

"Been here for ages," The Dwarf muttered. "I was scoping out the place. Making sure it was safe. Making sure you were who you said you were."

"Sure thing, paranoid crazyface," Crimson shook her head. "So Protip's matrix, I'm guns and presumably Krusher is handicrafts and knitwear. What do you bring to this little show?"

"Magic," he replied, his voice barely a whisper as if he was afraid of who was listening. "Bit of firepower. Bit of healing. Sensing. That sort of thing."

"Wiz!" Protip all but beamed. "Looks like we got all our bases covered."

"Yeah, seems that way," Crimson nodded. "So I was thinking about what the Johnson wants and the best way to get it. I got us some info on our target we can use."

Protip nodded. "I did a bit of Matrix-fu myself, all slidin' into their host and being all cool and invisible like. I got us the goods, and all we need to do now is make them work for us." He was beaming now, clearly either very confident of his skills or, at least, doing a passable job of acting it. "We got this made, Red."

Gee, such an original nickname, she considered, but played along for the sake of it. "Right, all we need now is for big ugly to get here and we can throw our plan at him," she nodded. "So I was thinking that the best thing to do would be to extract Bannerman while he's on the move so we can pull him out while his security is at its weakest. So, like, if you could hack his car or something, then me and Krusher could move in and pull him out of it."

"That is so Wiz," he beamed. "I love it."

"Yeah, sounds great," Scav muttered, glancing around.

"I guess the big issue is the order that we do things," Protip considered. "Do we extract him first or will that put them on alert? Or do we hit the site first, but that might scare Bannerman and make him harder to get too..."

A loud roar, followed by a heavy rumbling cut off both of them, both Crimson and Protip turning as a new player entered their little drama. What they saw was anything but discrete or low-key; a chromed, skull-festooned Harley Scorpion rumbling towards them, Krusher leaning back in the massive chopper's seat. The Ork pulled up next to the Americar, stopping the bike and climbing off it with a slowness that had to be deliberate before reaching around to grab something from the other side. It was only as he turned back to the three of them that they saw what it was; a massive battle axe with an engraved skull on the hilt.

"Nice car," Krusher rumbled as he glanced at Protip's vehicle. "Your mom know you’re borrowing it?"

"I, um..." Protip stammered.

"Okay, girls," Krusher continued "The real man's here. Let's get this party started."

Before either of them could say anything in reply, he lumbered past them, slapping his meat hand onto a panel by the warehouse door. There were a few audible clicks, and it swung open. With a grunt, he stepped through, leaving Crimson and Protip (and Scav, who seemed to have resumed his hiding) to glance at each other. "Well you coming or what?" The bulky Ork bellowed form within.

Fine, Crimson stepped inside, the others following behind her. The interior of the warehouse was surprisingly clean and well-lit, with secure packing crates neatly stacked around the walls. "And don't touch nothing" Krusher growled as he headed towards a table in the middle of the room. Crimson wasn't about to, even if a part of her wanted to ask who these crates really belonged to. Because they sure as hell aren't yours, chummer, she considered. Maybe whoever's paying for this run.

"So!" Protip beamed as he stepped up to the table, taking out his commlink. An ARO image append in Crimson's vision, displaying a floating 3D map of the Holdfast compound. "Holdfast is into security, so that means they're going to have covered all their bases when it comes to protecting their own turf. They have cameras and other sensors all over the place and sensors in the fence for starters. Add to that, they have drones and paracritters on site to provide more active defence, as well as their own human security staff."

"As for our target, Bannerman commutes between there and his comfy home in Bellview each day," Crimson continued. "That is, when he's not off greeting clients or on business trips or whatever else."

"Huh," Krusher snorted. "Well then, we all know what we got to do."

"Oh, definitely," Protip nodded. "See, Crimson and I were thinking we could nab him when he's on the way and-"

"Screw that," Krusher spat. "We take him when we hit the compound. We trash the place, get the data and grab the suit all in the one go."

"That's... Insane." Crimson snapped. "It’s going to be hard enough getting in and out of there as it is. With the entire place on alert and our dragging him with us, we're going to be slowed down and an easy target."

"Then we use him as a shield. They ain't gonna fire on their own boss."

"And what if some ass besides that he wants a quick promotion?" She continued. "Your plan is insane!"

"We're going with my plan!" He bellowed as he slammed the axe into the table, imbedding the blade in the surface. "Any of you slots want to argue?"

"Not me!' Protip squeaked. "Brilliant plan. I love it."

"Sounds good," Scav quickly added.

"And how about you, Elf girl?" He leered. "You gonna go with my plan? Or are you to scared?"

"Of course not!" She snapped back before she could even think about what she was saying. "I can handle whatever they have. You should be worried that I’m just going to leave you behind." A moment later, her brain caught up to her mouth, but Crimson realised that it was already too late.

The Ork gave a deep, guttural laugh. "Okay then, we got ourselves a plan." He grinned, his mouth twisting around his pronounced tusks. "So let's make it work."

------


"You seem to be off your game tonight" Slicer said as he stood, practice Katana at the ready.

"I’m fine," Crimson replied, even if her voice said otherwise. "Can we just go already?"

The two of them were on the roof of his apartment, dummy weapons at the ready. They had been sparring for half the night, with Slicer holding a distinct advantage so far.

"Fine," He narrowed his eyes, shifting his stance ever so slightly. Crimson was on him in a moment, exploding in a furious blur of motion, lashing out in a fast-paced offense. Her speed was impressive given how close to baseline she still was, and her skill not inconsiderable, but Slicer still had the advantage of raw experience. Within moments he had found a gap in her attack, tripping her and sending her sprawling to the roof.

"You sure you’re okay?" He asked.

"Again!" She snapped as she leapt to her feet. Slicer's knees were killing him, but he figured that by now she must be just one big bruise.

He sighed a little and began, advancing on her this time. Crimson managed to block his first strike, pushing him back just a little. He knew that she was using whatever augmentations she had now, while he was still holding back. Even then, she was clearly angry and driven about something.

"Tell me what it is," he continued as he ducked past another swipe before replying with one of his own. "If something's wrong, then you should tell me now. Worst is you eat a few more bruises from me; out on a run, CorpSec won’t care about what's on your mind."

She grunted as she made a few more swings, Slicer stepping around each of them. Her form was getting wilder now, more aggressive but very loose and sloppy. "Fine," she spat between sweeps. "It’s that fragging team of drekehads you set me up with, sensei. What the hell were you thinking?"

Dodge. Parry. Weave. "What do you mean?" He asked, his tone clear as he ducked back again, trying to ignore the sharp, shooting pain from the base of his spine.

Thrust. Sweep. Stab. "Oh come on, you must be blind if you didn't see it yourself!" She spat out. "The decker’s a kid who thinks he's the hottest thing on the matrix. The shaman is afraid of everything and is pants-crappingly paranoid. And the Ork-"

Parry. Block. Riposte. "The Ork?"

Recoil. Swing. Advance. "He's loudmouth bully who thinks he can get his own way because he's bigger than everyone else and is going to get us all killed."

Block. Hold. Stand firm. "This is the truth of life as a Runner, Crimson." He continued as he held back her attack, their blades locked together. "You rarely get to pick your team. If you're a big name prime runner, then maybe you get lucky. Otherwise, you have to work with what you get."

"What, like you?"

"Hardly." He held his ground, ignoring the screaming pain in his joints. "My first team came together by luck and happenstance. I made them work, but it was not easy." He lashed out with a quick kick, one that caught her off-balance and knocked Crimson back.

She rolled with it, flipping and springing back to her feet, charging forwards. Slicer only just ducked past her. "Knowing what they can and cannot do," he explained. "Knowing their limits and my own. And then being ready to work with them." His reply sailed through the air, missing Crimson by an infinitesimal amount.

His student swung back, her blow more focused and tighter than it had been in past. He blocked it, but not easily either. "A true Samurai is not just a warrior, but a warlord. A leader of men, a tactician and a planner," he continued.

"So even if they are a bunch of mindless jerks, they are my mindless jerks," she continued as they broke contact, both of them stepping back, blades at the ready.

"Exactly. In this life you don't choose your team. But if you are lucky, you can still work with them." He raised his blade, but did not move for the moment. "Do you understand?"

"Hai, sensei," Crimson nodded.

"Good," He finished. "Now, let's see what you can do without that occupying your thoughts."
Title: Re: Crimson Dawn
Post by: Deadborder on (22:44:22/01-09-17)
"Welcome on board, Mister Dart. Your seats are on the left, near the front of the cabin." The hostess offered with a voice full of fake warmth and sincerity.

The blond Elven man simply nodded to her and offered a quick thanks as he took his seat on board the Federated-Boeing Commuter, glancing out the window once he was in. Outside was a typically dreary evening at Sea-Tac airport, the tarmac busy with the bustle of operations. Service vehicles and drones buzzed around, tending to the various aircraft and their needs.

"How's it looking out there, Mister Dart?" An Elven woman began as she sat down next to him. Her black hair was a contrast to his blond, but like him, she was dressed in professional casual attire, much like everyone else on the flight.

He glanced out the window again, noting the two men, a human and a Dwarf, heading towards the Commuter. "It's looking good, Ms Dart," he shot back with a small smile. "Especially the flight crew." Moments later the pair of them also entered the cabin, having a short discussion with the hostess before heading into the Commuter's cockpit.

"Well that’s good to hear, mister Dart," she offered. "It's good to know that our flight will be in the hands of such professionals."

"Speaking of..." he trailed off as he nodded again to the door and the next two passengers entering. A middle-aged Japanese couple, both crisply dressed as if they were heading to a board meeting, rather than the corporate retreat that was the flight's destination. He barely acknowledged the hostess before the pair of them headed to their seats near the back.

"There's Doctor Nakamura, right on schedule" the Elven man spoke. "And i can only presume that apparition with him was his wife."

"Did you see the look she gave us as she entered?" The woman replied. "Like we should be ashamed to be stealing her oxygen or something."

"If she knew her pilot was a Dwarf, she'd probably demand that he be replaced," he joked. “Hold on a moment..." Two more men entered the cabin, another pair of Japanese sararimen dressed in near-identical off-the-rack suits.

"Renraku security, masters of being bleedingly obvious," the woman shook her head. "But also expected for a top-flight AI researcher."

"No big deal, we included them in the plan," he shrugged as the pair of them took up seats across the aisle from the Nakamuras. "Stick to the plan, and be ready for the worst."

The woman smiled. "And when it happens?"

He raised a brow in reply. "It's me. You know what happens next."

It was another five minutes before the tilt-rotor craft took to the air, banking slightly before taking up a steady cruising altitude. Below them was the blinking neon web of the Seattle metroplex, the bright lights of the Sprawl clear even through the drizzle. The airspace around them was packed with all manner of other craft, from small utility helicopters to powerful LAVs, each one of them assigned to their own carefully directed flight planes. Even one of them out of place could put the whole city's airspace into chaos.

Inside the cabin was comfortably dull, with the Elven couple either quietly talking or sparing small glances around at their fellow passengers. "Nakamura looks bored out of his skull," The woman offered. "And the Hag looks mortified. Most importantly the goons don't seem to be at all perturbed."

"Good," he replied as he glanced out the window again. The lights were thinning as the craft was heading north of the city, towards its intended destination. "Things are going to get hot soon, so be ready."

"Aren't I always?" She smirked.

"It’s what I love about you," he replied. "Okay, consider this go time." The commuter banked again, beginning to slowly and carefully descend. "Sooner or later, they're going to notice."

She looked over them again. Sure enough, the two obvious security guards did seem to be a lot more alert now, the pair of them glancing around their cabin before looking to each other. Neither spoke, but it was obvious that they were concerned about what was going on. "The chickens are restless," she quietly commented. "Nakamura Is getting fidgety too."

"Of course he is," the blond man replied as he pulled a pair of gloves out of his jacket pocket, putting them on. He flexed his fingers, and then looked back. "I'll take lefty, you take mister right."

One of the goons was just getting to his feet, but even then he had no time to anticipate or react to what happened. The blond Elven man leaped out of his seat and over his partner, landing in the aisle with the speed of a predatory bird and the grace of an Olympic gymnast. Another bound saw him launch himself towards the first man, who seemed to be moving in slow motion by comparison.

His outstretched hands reached the man's face, a sudden crackle of electricity erupting on contact. His body shuddered as the shock gloves did their work, the surge of power stunning him and sending him crashing to the floor.

The second man turned towards his fallen partner, only to be hit in the face by a brilliant bolt of blue-white energy. He reeled under the impact, slamming back into his seat, every bit as unconscious as his partner.

Glancing black, the blond Elf nodded to the black haired one before standing. "Can I have your attention, please!" He called out in the middle of the isle. "This flight is now under our control. We will be landing shortly and taking what we came for. If the rest of you play nice and don't do anything stupid, then none of you will be harmed."

"If course, before you reach for a Panicbutton or try any amateur heroics, do bear in mind that there's only one person here that we need alive. So if you’re not them, I strongly advise sitting down and staying quiet, and you'll get to walk away from this with nothing but some mild inconvenience."

That wasn't entirely true. Doctor Nakamura was their target, but his wife had been listed as 'extract if possible'. No doubt the employer wanted to use her as leverage to ensure his cooperation. Me, I'd want to be as far from her as possible, he considered as he looked at the pair of them. Nakamura did look more than a little afraid for his life, trying to make himself look as small and unobtrusive as possible in his seat after reaching the conclusion that he was, indeed, the target of this whole operation.

Conversely, his wife looked mortified at the idea that she might have to come into contact with filthy Metahumans. Just wait till she reaches the rendezvous... he told himself with a smirk.

The next fifteen minutes were mercifully quiet and uneventful as the Commuter headed towards its new destination. Zip-ties, makeshift gags and a couple of Stunbolts for good measure had kept the two security goons quiet and secured, and the rest of the passengers had followed his advice to play nice. None the less, the two Elves had kept watch over the cabin all the way. With one of them clearly being awakened and the other obviously wired, they made an intimidating presence on their own.

The craft landed with barely a bump, the whine of its engines coming to a slow halt as they powered down. "Okay, folks, we're going to be offloading our priority passengers," he began as he headed down the aisle. "The rest of you remain seated until we are done, and then feel free to move around the cabin. We'll leave a distress beacon running for you and I’m sure somebody will be along for you sooner or later."

"Ohm and just in case you get any ideas, bear in mind that there are armed Runners waiting to meet us," the woman added, almost casually.

The cockpit door opened, a pair of figures stepping out. The first was a Dwarf, decidedly scruffy in spite of his crisp airline pilot's uniform. Behind him was a human man, his uniform seemingly too big for his gangly frame. "Everything go well out here?" The human asked.

"Frakking brilliant," the Elf replied. "Not one problem at all. You two?"

"Not to rush you, but we've been getting a few questions form Sea-Tac air traffic control," The Dwarf replied. "I think they noticed how far off-course we got."

"Figures," the Elf finished. "Okay, Stumps, Normie, you get outside and Make sure everything's good. We'll be along in a moment.” He headed down the aisle as the pair of them exited the craft, a sudden gust of cold, wet air accompanying them.

"Doctor Nakamura," he began. "I strongly suggest that you and your lovely wife come with us right now. You're getting off this plane one way or another, so you might as well do it in the way that results in the least bruising." He placed a hand on her shoulder to prove the point.

"Unhand me, you barbarian," she hissed back in heavily accented English.

"See..." the Elf sighed as he all but pulled her out of the seat, his augmented strength making it practically effortless. "This is why we can’t have nice things. So, ignoring the shrill harpy, Doctor Nakamura, are you going to come peacefully or not?" A trio of blades extended from his wrist, hovering right next to his wife’s face.

"I..." he looked around, his face full of fear. No doubt he was considering all his options, balancing loyalty to Renraku against an uncertain future and the thought of what these clearly violent and dangerous people were going to do otherwise. "I will," he finally finished as he stood, offering no resistance as he left the seat and was escorted off the plane.

Outside was dark and starkly cold, made even worse by the driving rain. The weather only added to the desolate feel of the area; a small strip of land with few signs of civilisation to be found outside of the Commuter itself. A GMC Bulldog van waited by the side of the plane, seemingly guarded by a bulky Ork with an assault rifle in hand. "Youse coming or what?" he barked.

"Sorry about that. Had a problem with a reluctant passenger," the Elf replied as he stepped out, all but shoving Ms Nakamura at the Ork. "She's all yours, Stomp."

The woman looked positively aghast at the huge figure, stepping back and stammering a moment, before Suddenly exploding into a burst of high speed Japanese. "What did she just say?" He asked.

"You're better off not knowing," the Elven woman replied as she walked past the pair of them, climbing into the van.

"ooh, lippy," the Ork finished with a toothy grin, before all but throwing Ms Nakamura into the van. Looking around for am moment, Doctor Nakamura simply gave a resigned sigh and climbed in after them. "You really know how to pick the winners, Slicer," Stomp added.

"Always," he grinned. "So let’s get the hell out of here, Chummer. Sooner or later, somebody’s going to come looking for them."

"Can they have her?" The Ork asked, eyeing the Japanese woman.

"Tempting," Slicer replied. "Very tempting."