Crimson Dawn

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« on: <09-24-15/1022:20> »
Writing some background for my character because why not. This is the first part of... no idea. Until I stop.



"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”


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« Reply #1 on: <09-29-15/0933:17> »
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?"


"You didn't even have pants on!"

"I was busy!"

"You were asleep, weren't you?"


"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..."


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« Reply #2 on: <11-12-15/0809:20> »
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.



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.


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« Reply #3 on: <11-18-15/1124:44> »
I really like the Story and look forward to more!


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« Reply #4 on: <12-03-15/0118:17> »
Deep breath



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.


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« Reply #5 on: <12-15-15/0515:23> »
OK, chummer: NOW you can't leave us hanging without more!


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« Reply #6 on: <01-20-16/0303:20> »
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.


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« Reply #7 on: <01-20-16/0303:52> »

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."


"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?"


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« Reply #8 on: <02-24-16/0246:39> »
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.


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« Reply #9 on: <02-24-16/0247:20> »
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,"


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« Reply #10 on: <03-01-16/0325:29> »
It's been an interesting read.  I am looking forward to the next installment!
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« Reply #11 on: <03-02-16/0633:19> »
Updates are irregular, but they will happen. Promise!


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« Reply #12 on: <03-02-16/1626:07> »
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.
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« Reply #13 on: <03-11-16/0341:50> »
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.


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« Reply #14 on: <03-11-16/0343:09> »
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."