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[6E] Dome Sweet Home IC

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[ Early Evening, Monday November 13th, 2079; Seattle Opera House, 800 North Taylor Avenue, Downtown Seattle]

Feather sighed in annoyance, he’d been about to silence his ‘link in order to enjoy the performance but there were a few moments to deal with Watcher’s request.  He doubted many of the runners he knew to be available would be interested in the kind of work that was on offer but there were some that were principled enough, or desperate enough, to bite.

He composed a quick message and after doing a quick search through his database fired it to four individuals that looked promising.  If any of them declined there were two more possibilities but scrambling a temporary team together was a delicate business and he knew that they reflected on his reputation so best to go with first choice if possible.

> Hoi. There’s a work opportunity, couple of days’ worth probably. Remuneration might not be high but apart from the warm fuzzy feeling of doing good there are some solid contact opportunities in this one.  It’s not a corporate deal, the J has his own handle, Watcher, he’s at the Downfall in Redmond this evening <Profile attached>.  If you’re interested go and hear what he has to say, I’ve arranged a meet at around 21:00.  If you’re not let me know so I can get a replacement.
> Feather

[Early Evening, Monday November 13th, 2079; Downfall, Redmond, Seattle Metroplex]

Well Feather was putting the word out, hopefully someone would turn up.  Watcher began to pull together the info he’d need to supply the prospective runners whilst he absentmindedly ordered another drink and some soy snacks.  A brief intro to his son and the urban tribe he lead.  Their living accommodation <file> and the perceived threat to them… looking over it there wasn’t much to go on, it would have to do…



Viktor glanced at the AR notification from Feather between mouthfuls of falafel.
"Work. Low rate in exchange for connects. Civvie. "Watcher". Where have I seen that face before..."

The dwarf kept on chewing, and closed his eyes to focus as he searched his mind for clues. 1
"The Fre∑dom tribe raid... Some researcher got caught up in that mess, ended up in a coma. Could be the same guy. Intriguing. Most intriguing." Something from Feather's message tugged at his consciousness. "Wait. Downfall, in Redmond? Drek..."

Viktor cleared away the tray and threw away the rubbish while he pulled up his mapsoft in AR.

"70-80 kilometers to the north end of the Barrens. That's going to be at least 150 nuyen just to get there by taxicab." He weighed the comfort of a direct ride over the cheaper options, then glanced at his account balance again. "Bus it is; better get going if I want to get there in time."

As he began gathering his gear he compiled a brief response to Feather.
> Interested. On my way.

The dwarf slipped various tools and equipment into the pockets of his jumpsuit, checking them off his mental checklist one item at a time. "Bug scanner, credsticks, ah the medkit of course. Tag eraser, and tool kit." As an afterthought, he added a second reply to the fixer while he put on his go-bag.
> Oh. And thank you.

On his way out the door he latched the arm slide holding his pistol under the jumpsuit sleeve on his left arm, then donned the heavy lined coat he usually wore outside; the acid rain had been particularly foul these last few months. He once more checked the video feed from the hallway outside his front door to ensure no one was waiting to jump him, and once he was satisfied he wouldn't run into anyone he headed downstairs. He made it to the front door of his building before he realized he had forgotten to check the weather.

"Blast it, more rain" he exhaled through gritted teeth. Viktor adjusted the collar on his coat and ran the few meters down the road to the nearest bus stop. Fortunately, the gangs had left this one alone and it provided a modicum of protection from the rain while he waited. Still, it had been built to accommodate humans and orks, and with the rain coming in somewhat horizontal he wasn't completely sheltered from the elements.

"Ah, the wonders of living as a dwarf in a human-centric society." The sarcasm in the muttered statement was as acidic as the rain.

Viktor wiped the wetness from his brow and scalp before it could do any real damage. He would need to change lines in Auburn, to the Tacoma-Everett line, so he pulled up a browse program and keyed in search parameters for Watcher. 2 Within minutes he had found the connection he was looking for; Alex Smart, the Seattle University alum gone cold for three years before resurfacing.

"Another time" he thought to himself, wondering what the real story there was. The screamsheets just spoke of a corporate raid on so-called 'decker gangs', and 'a local anthropologist' ending up in a coma as a result, and scuttlebutt on the usual rumour sites weren't much better.

The trip to Auburn and then onto Everett was thankfully uneventful, besides the rain fouling his mood as much as it did the streets. After the change of bus lines and with another 40 minutes left on his trip, Viktor pulled out a tool kit from his pocket and released one of his microdrones. The little insect drone would keep watch over him as he sunk into the seat and slipped into VR.

[2045 hours local, Monday November 13th, 2079; Downfall, Redmond, Seattle Metroplex]
NE 175th St and 140th Ave NE was a blessed quarter block from the nearest bus stop, and Viktor hurried along the street dodging scurrying rats and spillwater pouring down from the nearby gutters. He had barely managed to avoid getting drenched when a particularly burly ork had ridden by on a big hog of a bike, splashing water all over the sidewalk.

Finally, the door to Downfall loomed ahead of him; he gently pulled it open and slipped inside. While he would never be able to actively hide in the real world, one benefit of being a dwarf was being casually overlooked. He'd configured his deck for stealth 3, and seeing the number of icons in the bar told him he wasn't alone in being cautious. Some quick tweaks to his deck's attributes and a few more icons revealed themselves. 4

"Ah, there you are." He chuckled; some of these script-kiddies were about as obvious as an ostrich with it's head in the sand.

He picked a booth at random and settled in, and ordered a cheap, non-soy based synthetic bourbon from the disinterested waiter. "Let's see what we're working with" he thought to himself, digging the bug scanner out of one pocket. 4

A few more icons had been revealed as a result of his cursory scan, including a stealth tag that looked like it was sitting in someone's drink. "Mental note, check drinks for tags from now on..." he thought to himself as he eyed the glass in front of him. He had left one of the Gnats on the door just outside the entrance, up high and out of the rain, keeping an eye on the street just outside Downfall. The weather was making it hard to see to clearly using the tiny drone's camera sensor, so he loaded up a clearsight soft to improve the feed. He then launched a second and third drone and used them to leapfrog through the room, looking for Mr Johnson, aka Watcher.

"Who watches the Watcher," he smiled to himself slyly. "Who watches, indeed." 6 With all of his usual prep out of the way, he settled in to wait.

1 Memory Test (Local News): "Watcher": 13d6t5 5
2Matrix Search: "Watcher", "Fre∑dom tribe", "Seattle University": 15d6t5 5
3Running Silent: 14d6t5 8
4Matrix Perception: 15d6t5 3
5Matrix Perception (Bug Scanner): 17d6t5 4
6Perception: 13d6t5 3


There were a few things from his old life that Tipperman hadn’t been able to give up, and taking this job would give him a chance to use all three of them: his coat, his Ingram, and his customized Harley.  “You know Princess, I said I was working again to help get you better care, and this job offer says it doesn’t pay so great.  So should pass, right?  But I gotta say, after I got Inga and Bella all cleaned and oiled and my coat all brushed down, I’m feeling all ‘Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work I go.’  I guess my brain doesn’t work well enough to know better anymore or something?  What I’m saying is that I’m going out for the evening.  I’ll be back with some supplies later tonight, but then I might be gone for a bit and you are going to have to take care of the place, OK?”

Elga smiled vacantly and Tipperman worried that his words had passed by entirely, but then she replied “’Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her: but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play.’” And after a moment added “My rates double after midnight.” 

Tipperman was fairly certain that the first had been a quote from one philosopher or another – he’d given up looking them up after recognizing her pattern – but the second sounded like a memory of something she used to say.  A clue to who she may have been in the past, but he found himself not wanting to think what sort of work would have inspired a line like that.  “OK, sounds like the communication was received.”

Half an hour later he rolled up the door at the ‘back’ end of the shipping container, then rolled out on Bella.  The bike had been re-build multiple times over the years, first to fit a dwarf, then because of various damaging incidents.  Each time it had ended up being just a little more fitted to him, until now being back on her felt like pulling on a tailored suit.  He patted his smartgun in its holster on the bike frame and muttered “Shouldn’t be any business for you tonight, Inga, but you never know around here.”  Then he made his way through Renton, going fast enough to discourage interactions, but slow enough to manage with his reduced skills.

Finally he arrived at the location, circled it once to look for any problems going on, then parked.  He latched his helmet to the bike, transferred Inga to his hip, then pulled his fedora out of the storage big and pulled that firmly down over his head.  Once he made sure his bike was locked up securely he walked around to the side, gathered up a shredded tire and carried it to the dumpster around back.  “Fragging lazy asses”.  Then finally he marched into the bar.

Inside the door he paused for a few seconds to give anyone who wanted to a chance to get any short jokes out of their system while he scanned the place for the Johnson.  When nobody decided to make their night more bruised, Tipperman went up to the bar before going to the Johnson, and ordered a bourbon. 

Make that four things from his old life he hadn’t been able to give up.

Omen hadn't finished his next drink before he received a message back from Sandra: <<Might be something for you. No corporate, but chances to get to meet a few local influencers. Take it or leave it.>>

'Great' he thought, 'a bunch of tough young ones crazy coons.' He sighed. If he was honest, he had to admit that he fit both categories in some way. And it would probably be better than to stay here and run out of money.
So he released his info to the would be Johnson and soon received his invite.
"Might as well get going then." He paid up and left - only to reenter a similar establishment about an hour later.

When he found the Johnson, he nodded and took a seat with the others.
"Hi there. What's up."

[21:00 ish, Monday November 13th, 2079; Downfall, Redmond, Seattle Metroplex]

Watcher studied the runners as they approached him, weighing up their manner, dress and any visible weaponry.  For his part he was of that indeterminate age between forty and fifty with neatly trimmed greying hair and goatee.  His casual dress was probably better quality than normally graced the Downfall, slightly outdated Furba jacket and shirt, his only concession to fashion being a pair of platinum rings in his left ear.  All in all pretty average, were it not for the metallic cyberhand that rippled unnaturally as he toyed with a ‘link stylus.

“Thank you for coming.  You can call me Watcher, or Mr Johnson if you prefer.  Don’t worry, we can talk here, nothing I’m going to say is particularly sensitive.  I understand from Feather that you are all in the market for employment, and I asked him to stipulate that rewards won’t necessarily be solely financial, so I presume as you are here that that is acceptable in principle?  We can come back to that once you’ve heard my pitch.”

He paused to bring out a small projection unit attached to his ‘link.

“My son is an urban tribal leader here in Redmond…they are based out of a former retirement village north of Touristville. They haven’t given themselves any fancy titles, they are just the tribe to anyone in the area.  They’ve been operating peacefully enough with their neighbours in the last few years and even have a market supplying surplus fresh food back to the area.  But there are two new players in the district, gangs, and for some reason tensions are on the rise and the tribe look like they are going to get squeezed in the middle of a turf war.

I want to avoid that, quite how I leave to you if you take the job.  One additional wrinkle, my son and I don’t exactly get on, so when you talk to him for gods’ sake don’t mention my name.  Tell him Beth sent you and all should be well, but he’s a proud bastard so you may need to convince him to let you help at all.”




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