Joining the Race: Alok’s Backstory

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« on: <09-30-13/1753:57> »
Alok grew up a SINer of the Algonkian-Manitou Council, Mohawk by birth, living close to Thunder Bay. At least, that’s what it says on his Native American Nation’s file. In practice, Alok grew up with his brother, Akash, in a log cabin somewhere North of Thunder Bay. Their mother and father died shortly after Alok was born, and his grandfather didn’t talk about them much. Akash just said that they had been wonderful, practical, and actually knew how to raise children. Of course, Akash was only 5 when they died in a car crash, so how he remembered all this was something of a mystery. In any case, Alok and—despite his protests—Akash were raised by Ajitabh, their grandfather, on a steady diet of mythology.

Once there had been a land called the United States of America. It had slaughtered many native peoples of the land, laying claims of ownership it had no right to enforce. And yet, native culture had been so far advanced in its social operations that those same states had based their political system on a model the Mohawk’s had helped to build: The Iroquois League. That, however, didn’t make them treat the native population any better. In fact, for years on end, the pink-skins kept calling natives Indians. They were too stupid to figure out that India existed on an entirely different continent, and they could not be bothered to learn the difference between any culture that was not their own.

Mohawks, however, were born hunters and warriors. They bid their time. The system the pink-skins were building was a system of corruptions destined to implode upon itself. (“And, if it is still around, that is because it is not finished its slow process of self-destruction,” grandfather would tell Akash as the boy rolled his eyes). Where the pink-skins saw fit to use the land as little more than a resource for financing shiny technological trinkets, the Mohawk knew how to live with the land. Sure enough, one day, the pink-skin world started to crumble on itself. The spirits got angry and started to talk to the world again. The inner natures of men became visible as they once had been. (“Oh,” muttered Akash, ironically, “is that why we were born elves?” Grandfather rolled his eyes; “that is a pink-skin word. We are not elves any more than we are Indians. We are simply born of a wolf-clan family line that is more at home in the woods, under the stars, than even most of our own kin. We are the Manitou.”) The three totems of the Mohawk tribe (bear, turtle, and wolf) regained their voice (“for those willing to listen,” grandfather would say, staring pointedly at Akash). Across what was now called America, natives finally rose in rebellion. That rebellion would never have stood a chance at victory without Mohawk warriors who stayed true to the old ways. And so, eventually, a new Iroquois League arose, the Alongkian-Manitou Council, and along with the other NANations they took back their land. (“Yes,” father would sigh at Akash, “once upon a time the Algonquian and Iroquois people had fought each other. But, that was as a result of meddling on the part of the French and the Dutch. Times have changed. Now, all of the natives are part of the NANation, and are not letting pink-skins manipulate us anymore.”)

And so Ajitabh would take the boys hunting, teach them how to track, survive on seasonal edibles when game was scarce, and kill a man with the tomahawk, knife, or bow. Alok tried to master every skill with glee. Akash complained that father was leaving them unprepared for the real world, refusing to even give them basic lessons on how to navigate the matrix. Ajitabh sighed, and said that it was the wolf, totem of their clan, that they should be listening to, not the matrix, totem of the pink-skins. Akash asked why the wolf was asking Ajitabh to teach them Okichitaw when that martial art was based on the fighting techniques of the Plains Cree. Ajitabh hit Akash. When the boy cried, Ajitabh said, “That is why.”

Then, one day, Ajitabh died. Akash was 17. Alok was 12. Child services came and put them both in the custody of the tribe. Bureaucracy ended up depositing them in Saskatoon, which was nothing like what Alok was used to. It was far more… Akash called it urban. The two of them were put in public school. Akash did well. He had been using his allowance to fool around with commlinks and learn how to navigate contemporary life for a few years before Ajitabh died. He was never going to be a hacker, but he knew how to use social media. Alok could track a man across the forest floor, but he grew dizzy trying to keep track of all the bright lights a commlink would throw across a pair of matrix-goggles.

Still, he was fit, knew how to fight, and was fiercely nationalistic. By the time Alok was 19 he was enrolled in the Algonkian-Manitou Army.

Akash threw a fit: “You do realize that your entire belief system is a load of racist shit sold to you by the very ‘pink-skins’ you yak about, right? Didn’t you pay attention in school at all? Read some Rousseau. You have just bought into a huge load of ‘noble savage’ tripe that they sold you, just like grandpa.”

Alok didn’t buy it (at least not then): “Are you saying it is wrong to be proud of our people?” Akash: “No. I am saying you should pay attention to actual reality. What they did to us was wrong. Glorifying some past that is as much one of their narratives as one of ours, though, won’t help anybody. We are just another culture. It’s time to pay attention to reality, Alok.”

Alok: “Shamans can’t summon spirits in reality?”

Akash gave up. Alok went off to fight. The problem was, however, he wasn’t fighting for the Mohawk. Officially, Alok was one of the A-MA. His unique set of skills, learned stalking and training with his father, got him recognized as a potential ranger. By 26, he was running reconnaissance and special operations for the corporation. But, the corporation turned out to be literal term; it seemed like over half of his ops, even back in his infantry days, were in the employ of Aztechnology. At first, Alok didn’t mind. Akash had gravitated towards various leftist metatarian organizations. Akash had complained about the negative influence of Aztechnology on the tribes. Akash had claimed that the tribal elders were doing to their own people what grandfather’s U.S.A. had done to their forefathers. Alok had rolled his eyes. The tribal council needed an economy in order to operate in the world, didn’t it? Wasn’t Akash the one who had always asked Alok to live in reality? Akash drove Alok through the slums of Saskatoon that night and asked, “Isn’t this reality?”
As a member of the A-MA, Alok found himself frequently acting as a bodyguard and enforcer for the interests of Aztechnology. Of course, every job the tribal elders sent his platoon seemed to be the drek that Aztechnology didn’t want to deal with. Is this what it meant to be a Mohawk warrior? An indirect wage-slave treated exactly the way his grandfather had described native treatment at the hands of the U.S.A: like one of the SINless, fit only to be ordered around? After all, Alok didn’t have a corporate SIN, just a national one; nations, especially native ones, were never meant to be treated equally, Akash would sneer wryly.

 Then, as member of The Rangers, Alok found himself performing “counter-terrorist” activities against his own people: running reconnaissance against a group of eco-protestors; hunting down a saboteur who had bombed an Aztechnology lab, and then turning him over to the corporation upon acquisition; taking point on an assault against a group of native SINless thought to be responsible for harboring anti-corporate “militia”—who, Alok thought, didn’t seem nearly organized enough to call themselves by any term that read “mil”-anything. None of these people seemed like terrorists to him. From what he could tell, some had issues with Aztechnology, and the damage they felt it was dealing to the NANations, specifically the A-MC. That was starting to seem like a justifiable concern to Alok. Others seemed like regular criminals, out to make a nuyen, but not worthy of receiving the attention of the A-MA. Lonestar officers? Sure, maybe they ought to be looking into some of these folk. But, Alok was having trouble justifying why the A-MA was. Why were they protecting corporate interests instead of the interests of their people? 

A year and a half into his employ as a ranger, Alok rappelled down from a black-painted Nissan Hound a few clicks from a remote outpost between Thompson and Fort Albany. The place was a data-haven, supposedly for the A-MC, though Alok noticed Aztechnology logos on the security fence as he made his approach. This place was off the grid—not connected to the matrix. Information stored here could only be accessed by a direct wired connection. That was designed to keep it safe. Not tonight, though.

The guards at the gate were dead. That was to be expected. Alok’s unit had received an emergency response signal—attack in progress. Choovio and Hassun, two of his squad mates, crept behind him in full combat armor, all three moving through the shadows cast by the metal portables interspersed between the perimeter fence and the two story main compound. To his right, a radio tower covered in blinking red lights dominated his peripheral vision. Movement, by the compound’s front door. Slight. Someone trying to stay hidden. A surviving guard employed by Aztechnology? If so, he probably made quite a bit more per year than Alok.

“Radio the Aztechnology frequency and ask all of their employees to identify themselves, quickly,” Hassun called over their ops-channel.

No identification. Not a surviving guard. One of the “terrorist” team. Alok raised his Ak-97, silenced, and put a couple of rounds through the target. He would have preferred to use a bow. Automatics are great for big firefights, but he still preferred his grandfather’s tools for silent wetwork. Still, protocols were protocols. Hassun and Choovio moved through the two large double steel doors, stepping over the body of an orc: shrouded in dark camo cloth; was that a feather in its hair? No time to look. Hassun and Choovio moved down a left-branching hallway.

Alok caught the faint trace of a boot print to his right. He caught Choovio’s attention, motioned right, and received a curt nod for his efforts. They split up. Somewhere behind him Alok heard gunfire. Up ahead the doors to various office spaces were all closed. One of them, however, was not pressed flush against the frame. Someone had opened it recently. They had closed it, but not locked it, like all the other doors in the hallway. Alok’s fingers wrapped against the circular doorknob and pushed it inward: small room; wooden desk; a wage-slave’s inane posters on the walls—something involving a hanging cat; the desk had ports in it. Alok had seen the like before. A code-slinger could use those ports to direct connect to the haven’s mainframe. Gun barrel moving like a deadly keel through tension at least as thick as water, Alok moved forward, around the desk. There was something underneath it. Not something, someone.

He was about to pull the trigger when the figure moved a little, moaned. Its body had been completely limp, like someone sleeping, like the dead. Then it came back to life, necromantically expelled from the matrix back into the waking world. It saw Alok’s gun barrel and froze. Alok saw its haircut. Correction, her haircut, he realized, as her face poked out from the shadows under the desk: a black Mohawk; feathers in it; tribal symbol for someone going to war. It was a match for his own. Under her left cheekbone there was a small wolf-paw tattoo. She had dark auburn skin.

“Well, chummer, you going to pull that trigger?” She sneered. Her finger’s ruffled nervously over a small rectangular object: her deck.

“Wolf clan, Mohawk?” Alok heard himself saying.

“What is it to you?”

“What the hell are you doing here? You’re drekking tribal interests!”

“…you really believe that?”

 The furious exchange went still; Alok said nothing; The sound of synth-pop hitting an unexpected fermata.

“Do you have any idea how much toxic shit these people are dumping on our land?” she pressed.

   “Get the fuck out of here,” Alok motioned.

She was about to rise from under the table, but Choovio’s form filled the doorframe. “Anything?” he asked.

Another fermata.

“No. All clear.” Alok moved away from the desk and walked out of the room.

Choovio nodded, following, surfing Alok’s wake.

“I never even got a chance to get a clear look at what she was wearing,” Alok thought to himself.
The next few months were chaos. Whoever she was, she had used the opportunity Alok gave her; she had gotten out of there alive. She had gotten out of there with something that Aztechnology didn’t want to share. The term SINless terrorist got thrown around a lot in the next few weeks. So did a term “runner,” which Alok was not intimately familiar with. He thought he had heard Ashak use the term once or twice before. Anyway, Alok knew better than to label her a terrorist or a runner; she was a wolf-clan Mohawk.
« Last Edit: <10-02-13/1549:00> by Cyber-Dave »


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« Reply #1 on: <09-30-13/1754:30> »
After about a month, they started to accuse the team of helping her escape. Everyone was put under watch. In the end, the hammer came down on Hassun. Apparently, he had a sister who was incarcerated for “running.” Hassun swore he was innocent, and unconnected to her crimes. They never found any proof of his guilt. They fired him anyway. They probably would have fired Alok too. He spent 37 hours locked in a gunmetal grey room, staring at a one-way mirror, being questioned by different Aztechnology and A-MA officials. It turns out Akash had written some questionable essays while in university. If Akash wasn’t already living south of A-MC territory, somewhere in the United Canadian and American Sates, they probably would have dragged him in too. Alok ended up quitting in a fit of rage. He just walked out. They let him go. They must have been hoping he would lead them to… her. Alok didn’t even know her name.

Instead, Alok went up to his father’s shack. He spent a few months there. He lived off the land, eating actual meat and wild edibles instead of the soy-drek they sold in the city sprawls. One day, The Wolf started talking to him. At first, Alok thought he had eaten some bad mushrooms. Maybe, that first time, he had. Anyway, the ephemeral avatar of his people kept saying something that sounded a little like what his brother would preach: “Don’t look to the past for answers, look to yourself. Don’t look to organizations for a place, look to your people.” His brother wasn’t right about everything, though. The old ways, or at least the ways their grandfather had taught him, were Alok’s strength. The lessons he had learned in the A-MA also helped.

Aztechnology must have grown impatient waiting for Alok’s bank account to fill up with illicit nuyen earned by letting a terrorist escape. One day, while eating rabbit on the shack’s wooden porch, he heard the sounds of a Nissan Hound’s rotors moving in. Alok grabbed a black duffle-bag filled with what few possessions he had kept for himself: a bow; some arrows; an AK-97; a bit of ammunition; a combat knife; a tactical tomahawk—the weapon that had come to signify his people for him. His brother had laughed about the way Alok idolized the weapon before: “You do realize it is made of ‘pink-skin’ metal, right?” The new world was a bucket of scrambled eggs. Had there been chickens here before Columbus had landed? Alok realized he didn’t even know. Forget it. You could pick out what you needed, he decided. Right now, he needed to be quiet. Right now, he needed to remember all of his grandfather’s lessons, or else he was going to be leaving here in Aztechnology’s custody… that is if they would let him leave at all.

Alok began to move through the underbrush in the surrounding forest. A couple of times he heard the sounds of troop movements. Each time, Alok redirected. Finally, pressed against the deep bank of a nearby stream, standing knee deep in water that was freezing his tibia, Alok found himself at the edge of their human net. There was one last soldier to get by. He could hear him moving about on the land somewhere above the overhang he was hiding under. Alok’s fingers gripped the tree-roots poking out of the bank’s earthen wall, and he clawed his way upwards. Mounting over the obstacle, he found himself faced with humus of dry leaves. There was nowhere to go but forward. With each step, he thought a twig would break. With each step, he thought the leaves would give him away. He could sense—not see—a wolf padding along beside him. His grandfather’s lessons seemed to gather along with the anima of his people, the soul of the wolf, and dull the sounds that each of his steps ought to have made. Then, up ahead of him, a soldier, in full body armor, stepped into view from behind tree. His armor’s shoulder was emblazoned with the stylized, jade idol face that signified Aztechnology. The soldier’s back was to Alok.

The soldier pressed against an ear-bud with his index finger and said, “Nope. All clear on this end… nothing all night.”

That was the last mistake he made. The wolf growled. Alok’s steel tooth slammed, with supernatural force, into a weak point in the armor on the soldier’s neck. Alok could feel the wolf guiding his arms, making them it’s jaws. Blood spurted from between the chiseled point of Alok’s combat knife and the soldier’s flesh as Alok twisted the blade and jerked it free. It was the first time Alok had felt right about killing somebody.

Alok got away. For the first few weeks, Alok slowly made his way southward on foot. He crossed into the UCAS. His brother, Akash, was living in Seattle—bartending, or some such. Initially, Alok was afraid to re-enter civilization. He was sure there was a warrant out for his arrest. When he finally bought some goods at a convenience store along a highway, after being unable to find decent consumables in the environment, he got some strange looks. Days worth of forest grime had not made him an endearing sight. The clerk must have hit a security alert because, as Alok was leaving the store, a Lonestar cruiser pulled up. But, after a few minutes of asking Alok questions, learning that Alok was heading off to see his brother in Seattle, and running Alok’s SIN, the officer was appeased. There was no warrant out for his arrest. The op at his grandfather’s shack must have been off-book. The death was never reported. The lonestar detail never even asked Alok to open his bag. When their intercom buzzed with another incoming call, the officer speaking to Alok spurted a quick, “Welcome to the UCAS. Stay out of trouble.” Alok gave a curt nod and watched the cruiser speed off onto the highway on-ramp. His muscle memory stopped twitching, stopped urging his fist to wrap around the hilt of the combat knife hidden under his travel stained military jacket.

When a thumb and a good deal of walking finally got Alok to Seatle, he went off to find Club Penumbra. He had no idea where Akash lived. His old commlink had disappeared somewhere in the commotion of his escape from Aztechnology’s clutches. He hadn’t even realized until he was most of the way to Seattle. While he managed to buy a new commlink along the way, purchasing the cheapest model he could find, all of his old contact numbers were gone. But, the name of Akash’s place of employment was effectively blazoned into Alok’s grey matter by his hippocampus.

Club Penumbra was distinctly retro in style. Outside, a bright neon sign was lit up above a pair of doors designed to resemble the gunmetal grey airlock of a space-station. Inside, the floor was a roughly even, but still pockmarked, simulacrum of the moon’s surface. A large crater formed a sunken-in-dance floor in the bar’s central area. The walls were painted black, and all the furniture, including the main bar, was designed to look like debris on the moon’s surface. Trideo screens, laser lights, and matrix objects made the entire place move with virtual scenery. The décor looked like something from a pic set 30 years ago. Meanwhile, the bar was filled with an odd assortment of figures. For some intuitive reason that Alok couldn’t quite explain, logically, they reminded him of the Mohawk woman he had seen at the Aztechnology data haven. It wasn’t her thin frame, or the technology she had hooked up to a data-jack behind her ear, though there were plenty of those types in the room as well. Many of the patrons were of a different sort altogether, with muscular arms reminiscent of those Alok bore himself, and a particular gait that seemed to suggest violence with its smooth, self-assured, swaggering grace. A quick query of the bartender earned him an odd look, and knowledge that Ashak would be at work in a few hours.

Alok stepped out for a smoke. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw a wolf run by a shop across the street. His head snapped to attention: nothing there, but city sprawl; old newspapers blowing to the drafts of rising sewer steam; drunk couples walking down the sidewalk; cars rushing by in aleatory patterns; a tattoo shop. “Fuck it,” he thought. He was covered in dermal ink delineating old connections to the A-MA Rangers, A-MC national pride, and Mohawk tribal mythology. Maybe it was time to get a tattoo that actually signified something about himself, about his people in praxis. When he finally met his brother, and secured a couch to sleep on, a wolf-paw neatly marked the skin under his left cheekbone. Now all he had to figure out was how to use his skill-set to make money, and maybe repay Aztechnology for their kindness in the process...
« Last Edit: <10-07-13/2051:48> by Cyber-Dave »


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« Reply #2 on: <10-01-13/0842:09> »
Wow, I liked it, a lot. Both the charakter and the story.
Would be nice to read more of him.
Keep on running, chummer!


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« Reply #3 on: <10-01-13/1133:49> »


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« Reply #4 on: <10-07-13/1606:19> »
Well written and well paced... Certainly worth the read... Would be happy to read more :)
Its not the victors who write the history books, its the suvivors


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« Reply #5 on: <10-07-13/2056:34> »
Thanks Hellion! If I can find the time, maybe I will write a few session recaps in short story form.


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« Reply #6 on: <06-11-15/1228:01> »
Very nice piece! Love the setting and the way you describe things! I too would love to read more of that story!