AdministratorJuly 24, 2020 at 9:05 am
Bobby grunted. True, he had killed – and not necessarily in self defense. Getting paid to do so… Well that wasn’t really the challenge was it? Having the Yakuza know you killed for them was much more of a problem. That’s how they got you for good.
“To be honest, I’m not a fan of that kind of work. Wetwork is for professionals that leave the country afterwards – or for chipheads with nothing left to lose. Revenge is a bitch in the Barrens. Not to mention we could lose our license. Better to leave it to the psychos.”
Bobby explained in unusual somber tone.
MemberJuly 24, 2020 at 2:37 pm
So Bobby refuses to wipe up some gangers for good money after he finishes his debt. Would he reach the same conclusion beforehand as well? AM was a bit surprised, but it was perhaps for the better. She had little to contribute to killing people, so the person that actually knows how to do so should decide. Besides, they made a lot today, and for a short while, she did not feel the regular tension and uncertainty of not knowing if she’ll make debt or not.
AM asks matter-of-factly “So Musai San, now that the alliance is signed – do you think that we can get what is left of the Brain Eaters to the alliance? Of course, if wiping them out was not part of the new policy. My point is that the Brain Eaters successfully provided reasonable matrix access and stable power before. Crimson Crush despite being more powerful are less tech-savvy, and so far did not fix our power. Do you think that such an arrangement could work? “
MemberJuly 24, 2020 at 2:49 pm
“Hm,” Andrew politely hums at the demurring. On the astral, he appears surprised and a bit disappointed.
“Well let us not become preoccupied on our failures, as even monkeys fall out of trees.” His tone is a little darker than it has been, before lightening. “We fall seven times, but we stand up eight. The future always holds more work to be done, but tomorrow’s winds will blow tomorrow. One day, one step.”
He toasts you, and then the food arrives. It seems that Andrew has splurged for the occasion, as there is actual meat on the table, including fish. The presentation of the food is somewhat lacking, likely due to the lighting conditions of the kitchen. The server delivering the food seems very apologetic. Andrew waves her off.
“Dumplings over flowers,” he tells her, indicating that he values substance over form. She gratefully retreats to the kitchen.
“Eat!” he implores as he serves you. “Please eat. Eaten alone, even sea bream loses its flavor.”
Andrew dishes food for himself and then sits. He slips into pleasant conversation and can speak easily about art, poetry, and music. He is a natural conversationalist, and transitions easily when AM inquires about the Brain Eaters.
“As an organization, I believe they are defunct. But as individuals, certainly, they have a technical expertise which is valuable. I believe we may engage with them as technicians, but not as providers of security. This will legitimize them, in a way, much as this agreement and its consequences will help legitimize Redmond in the eyes of many. It will no longer be a forgotten land, or a forgotten people. We should use them accordingly, and return services to the neighborhood as quickly as possible.”
MemberJuly 24, 2020 at 4:33 pm
AM compliments Andrew for the food, “You have a superb taste, Musai-San.”
she responds “I’ll see if I can find us a proper technical person then. Can I give them your number?”
She eats and enjoys the meal. She does not normally eat meat, but she will on this occasion out of respect for Andrew. It is not like she is a vegetarian from choice, she can’t afford meat, and people expect elves to be vegetarian anyhow. She allows herself to relax a little bit, and to make the atmosphere pleasant she tells Andrew about the recent exhibition she watched at Janet’s art gallery. Of course, never mentioning why she took the time and watch it, or the bombs she defused on that occasion.
- This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by gilga.
MemberJuly 24, 2020 at 5:28 pm
Andrew must be feeling magnanimous. “Yes, of course, Green-san. After all, dinner service is difficult for Takashi-san in the dark.”
He seems to be referring to the owner of the restaurant. He laughs at his little joke.
AdministratorJuly 25, 2020 at 5:48 am
Bobby helped himself to food and kept silent otherwise. He registered the irritation of Andrew.
‘That’s right pretty boy’ he thought ‘we aren’t desperate. And if we do this right, we won’t ever be beholden again.’
He felt tense and realized only now how much he longed to get up an meet with Tiko. It had been damn humiliating to come into this weasle’s office month after month to lay down a cred stick, having to wait in silence while he took his time to scan it and pull out the physical paper ledger (no electronic transfers – no electronic accounts to hack) and make that foul but equally desired checkmark, that Bobby was allowed to keep his knees for another month.
If anything, paying down the principal had become almost an obsession for Bobby. Not so much because of the absurdly high interest, but because he so loathed that smuck fragger’s face.
One reason he was gladly going to support AM to get out of her obligations too. Fragging parasites.
He had to restrain himself to not start fidgeting at the table. ‘Come on’ he tought, give us our damn money already.’
MemberJuly 25, 2020 at 6:27 am
AM responds with a grin “If this is what he can muster in the dark, I can’t wait to visit again once electricity is restored.”
MemberJuly 25, 2020 at 12:40 pm
The rest of the meal passes with little conversation of consequence. Andrew is in a good mood (except when the Spyders are mentioned, and the splinter faction of the Crimson Crush makes his eyes narrow darkly), so much so that AM thinks she has a commitment from him to address the neighborhood’s electrical and Matrix issues. It’s tough to say for certain, as he speaks obliquely, but he agrees that it’s a problem which should be addressed.
At the conclusion of the meal, Andrew produces three standard credsticks from the inner breast pocket of his suit jacket. He stands and presents them to you with an air of formality, including a 15-degree bow.
“I thank you for our continued friendship,” he says with something lacking perfect sincerity. “It is always a pleasure. We will see each other on Thursday, I believe.” You understand that he means the public roll call which happens on the 1st of each month.
After the conclusion of lunch, you are free to go about your business.
AdministratorJuly 25, 2020 at 3:41 pm
Bobby got up. “I’m going out for a fly- gotta clear my head before I close my ledger.”
And indeed, only minutes later, a peregrine falcon tore across the sky of Seattle. Bobby marveled at the feeling and was only too aware, that he had to keep in mind that he actually had to go back again for his appointment.
All his good cheer vanished as soon as he entered the laundromat that Tiko used as his front. Not that it wasn’t a well running business itself – clean clothes were still a sought after commodity, even in the poorer parts of the city. But the Tiošpaye were quite harsh masters, showing very little patience with… basically anything. So if you failed to pick up your clothes when the machine was done, chances were, you would go home without them.
Bobby felt the weight of the stick in his pocket. 20.000 he had gotten and by now he must have paid back double that and then some. He had to remind himself that it had been an investment – and one that had paid out for him.
Bobby moved through the rows of washing machines, directly for the door marked “janitor” and opened it, forgoing a knock. It was not necessary. As soon as he had entered the premises, Tiko had seen him on his cameras.
Tiko Nine Knives had earned his name the usual way – that is, the hard way. As far as Bobby knew, he had worked as an enforcer for over 20 years and was now enjoying this post as his retirement. Nine Knives were his method and his style to make people talk and/or shut up for good. He wore his greying hair still in a long braid that ran down his back. His leather like skin showed dozens of silvery scars as well as one large, ugly one that curved from the corner of his mouth to his left ear. His beady black eyes though could have belonged to one of the Mustelidae family.
“Bobby. I’m surprised. When you called me this morning I thought you were just drunk. Most of you suckers are when they say they are closing their ledger. Very few though have the money. So. Do you have my money?”
“Every goddamn Nuyen.” Bobby planted the stick right in front of Tiko.
Tiko didn’t show any inclination to take it though.
“Bobby. That’s not particularly polite, is it? We have such a good business relationship. Do you want to throw that away just like that? Tell you what: Take the money with you and enjoy it – you don’t have to pay your interest this month. See it as a favor for your diligent behavior.”
Bobby wanted kick him in the face. “What I owe you is on this stick. Take it and strike my name from your list. We are done.”
“Or what?” Tiko showed his front teeth, two of which were solid gold. “As long as you owe us, we determine if we are done with you and if your money is good enough.”
Bobby replied calmer than he though himself capable of: “Tiko. I know you are used to deal with loser drunks that need an advance to their paycheck. I’m not one of them. I’m part of a team. A damn good one. One of them is an ork who cut of his own limbs and replaced them with metal – just like that because he could and wanted to. The other is a shaman that whistles up the meanest spirits you can’t imagine. The third one is a spell slinger and a hacker. She can fry you and your toys at the same time.
We have connections to all the gangs and the Yakuza now. Some of them even owe us a few favors. You mess with me, you mess with all those who count on me.
So I say again, take the goddamn money, close my ledger and we part as… well not friends but at least not enemies. Keep up this drek, and I’ll personally level your operation.
They call you Nine Knives, but they call me Mad Cat – do you really wanna find out if you can take nine lives with nine knives without missing once?
Because that’s what’s waiting for you if you don’t stop trying to alter a deal that I have honored to the last dot. Don’t try me.”
Tiko seemed to be taken aback, but only for a split second. Then his usual arrogant self reasserted itself. “Sheesh, Bobby, you should get laid more often – quite a bit of pent up stuff you have there. Can’t take a fragging joke. You want to pay for your ledger, you get it.”
Finally, he took the credstick and put it into the reading device. Bobby saw in his eyes that he hadn’t done himself any favors by getting into Tiko’s face like that, but he didn’t care. There was always someone he’d piss off. At least this time he could enjoy the fact.
Tiko took out the ledger, set his last checkmark, signed off on it and laid it on the ancient photocopier that stood beside his desk. The paper felt hot as Bobby snatched the copy.
“We are done. And just so you know, you are no longer a welcomed customer here. And I’ll make sure no-one else will lend you anything anymore. You just burned that bridge. Have a nice rest of your live – however long it will be.”
Bobby shrugged and stuffed the copy into his pants.
“Same to you, man, same to you.”
He felt a particularly bad itch on his back as he walked out, but resisted the urge to look if Tiko had taken out one of his throwing knives.
Back on the streets, Bobby did not stay around – he moved as fast as he could without looking as if he was running to get out of that particularly area, before he had to make good on his threat after all.
MemberJuly 25, 2020 at 6:36 pm
AM nods and bows her respected 30-degree bow. Their relationship moved toward equality when Andrew hired them to the funhouse, but as long as they pay him for protection, he gets the bigger bow. Even if he may be friendly in private, AM understands her role in that relationship and does her best to show the proper respect. Besides, she can feel Iktomi laughs harder the more polite she behaves. That Spirit sure likes deception, and AM fears that if she ever becomes less enjoyable to watch then she would feel Iktom’s plots in the victim’s role.
Subterfuge, like getting paid for conflicting jobs is the way out of her debt, and since AM joined the agency she cleared about half her debt in just a few months despite the insane interest rate. Yet, AM is thankful for Jimmy for giving her the loan. After all, she wanted to be a decker – and her job is very dangerous. Perhaps if Jimmy knew that she disables explosives, and mess up with the plans of dragons, and dabbles in gang politics, he would kick his interest even higher or simply refuse her. Her job at the SIS does not appear that dangerous at a first glance, perhaps Jimmy even feels that he is ripping her off. AM thinks she gets a reasonable interest considering she may die due to numerous reasons. Still, you had to risk everything to get ahead in this world, and she had to prove that she is worthy of success after beings such a coward at Sioux.
She mentally texts the person that actually deals with her, Jimmy only met her when he approved the loan. @TJ>> Let’s meet tomorrow, I am making a large downpayment as little Erika is making some cash. I’ll buy you some ice cream, or coffee or something if you feel like chatting. I wanted to ask a bit about recent events. Ping me when you are free.
Since Bobby leaves, she tells Jawsey, “That was a good day, and I can cut a chunk of the debt I took to buy the Erika. By the way, Andrew permitted me to find people to fix the electricity. It might be worth a try to see if any of your Brain eater friends is a brain. It would give them protection from the Crimson Crush, and let them stay in the hood in case they have secret ambitions. Perhaps even give us some eyes and ears in that organization in case they turn against us.
AdministratorJuly 26, 2020 at 4:51 am
When Bobby returned home, he did so with two parcels. One contained the special trode set he had wanted for a long time – the other contained a new certified cred stick.
Scribbling a note on a piece of tape, Bobby placed it prominently on AM’s workbench, so she would immediately see it. The note read:
“No-interest loan to help with your downpayments. BW”
MemberJuly 26, 2020 at 4:05 pm
When AM finds the credstick, she freezes. How much money is there?
She checks 4,000. She grows pale; it is a lot of money. She breathes slowly, trying to relax. Bear taught her to relax before risking a painful drain. She succeeds in not screaming or doing something extreme, but she cannot be peaceful. No amount of Yoga and breathing exercises would give her that.
He offers an interest-free loan – he is not stupid – what does he want in return? Can I give up such a gift? I should, but can I? I am one screwup from physical harm. I lose sleep worrying about what would happen next. I need all the help I can get.
Should I give in to him? Bobby would not hurt me… Wait is he romantically interested? Should I sleep with him? If I take this money, will he make me his bitch. Can I ever refuse him when I owe him so much? How far would I go? He never gave me that kind of attention before. Still, it is a small fortune, and we only know each other for a few months. What else can it be? Can he be that generous? Altruist? He does not look the type. What is the catch, gosh – I am so clueless I have no idea what he wants of me.
So many thoughts, so much paranoia, and she feel so weak. Worshiping Iktomi, she can appreciate the irony of the transition. She is never allowed to be content; the moment she feels comfortable, something changes. There she was, an independent, strong woman making it on her own in the big city. Dealing with crimelords and dragons and surviving. The moment later, she’ll need to please two different masters. She profoundly owes Bobby, and she cannot figure out how he can give her such a large pile of money when he knows the risks.
In a rare moment of bravery, AM takes the credstick and goes to Bobby’s room. Her face red, but she keeps the tears inside. She is not going to take the money, and then have fate crush her when she least expects it. If she is going to be owing to Bobby so much, she should know his terms when the two still equal. She knocks on his door, and it feels forever until he opens. AM enters Bobby’s room and closes the door behind her. She holds the credstick, and waves it, drawing a step closer to the imposing man. She speaks quietly not to make a scene, they do not have much privacy in that house.
“Bobby… Why? Why do you give me a loan? You know that I owe stupid amounts of money for the cyberdeck I use. Anything you give me, I will pay Jimmy, and it will disappear quicker than a dose of Bliss at a party. You may never see this money again. Why do you do that? What is it that you ask of me in return? ”
AdministratorJuly 26, 2020 at 4:50 pm
Bobby looked up in surprise: “I told you that already, didn’t I? You blow stupid amounts of money on interest every month. I know because I had to do so too until this afternoon. As long as that lender of yours has his hooks in you, you can’t work at full capacity – worse, we are forced to take any job – no matter how bad – to make ends meet. I want that to stop.
We have a great thing going on here. SIS runs now on all cylinders – people are getting interested in us. Great opportunity, but also increased risk.
If you get a visit from your loan shark because you are behind on payments, what do we do? Let them repossess your kneecaps? Sell our car? I don’t fragging think so.
You are part of my pack, so I’m looking out for you – just as you are looking out for me. Doesn’t mean I gift that money to you. I expect you to repay me once you are free from the loan shark. Difference is, I’m not interested in interest. I already invested 500 for a shot up boy so his father could take him to DocWaggon – and he’s paying me back 20 Nuyen every week.
Why do you think I’d do something like that for a stranger but not for a coworker I’m trusting my life to on a daily basis? Get real AM – you need cash to keep the electronic gizmos running and to upgrade them. You can’t do that if your debt is eating you alive.
I know you – you’ll work your butt off to pay your loanshark back. And you’ll do it all again to pay me my money back as well. And once you are giving me my money, it will be enough for me to get some sweet ass ki-focus. Because those 4k are just the beginning. I’m investing my profits into you. And once you are out from that debt, we’ll do the same for Jawsey and maybe Mato too, although I think he is there already anyway.
And besides: I’m not living a particularly healthy livestyle. One day I’ll get my stupid ass shot down or trodden on and that will be that. Lot’s of cash in my name won’t help me then. Better to spend it now on something productive.”
Bobby ended, still looking confused at AM. Why did she look like she was mad or sad? Sometimes he missed understanding social cues like other people. But that was the price he paid for being closer to the animal side…
MemberJuly 26, 2020 at 5:15 pm
Jawsey would normally feel invigorated by the dance of politenss and double meanings, but today it is just irritating. He thinks that he still manages to be polite, even occasionally entertaining, but he doubts that anyone would call it is his best engagement.
But finally it is time to get paid, bow and mouth his respects, and then get out of Redmond for a bit. He returns to their building only long enough to pack up his weapons, then he hires an independent ‘taxi’ to drive him to where mass transit runs more reliably. Then he takes himself to a mid-price hotel, takes a long, hot, shower, pops a few analgesics for the state of his back, and then crawls into the big, warm, comfortable bed.
He finally thinks to send a message to the others telling him what he has done, and that he’ll be back tomorrow to talk future plans, then puts his link aside.
It is only as he is drifting off that he realizes that he needs to go pay off some of his debt very quickly if he doesn’t want to get hit with another month of interest. “Tomorrow” he promises himself.
MemberJuly 27, 2020 at 4:44 am
AM listens and breaks when Bobby mentions her as a pack “I am your pack?” she says, surprised, tearing. “Nobody has ever said that to me, I do not deserve it.” she explains, “I am only half Sioux, Shaman Bear named me Maka as if my I have no mother but mother earth. I am orphan to him, and they would accept me only if I never mention anything about science or technology, or oppressive “Anglo” culture to them.
She pauses, To make things worse, out of all the Sioux spirits. I emulate the Destroyer. When most sensible Sioux try to avoid Iktomi. I have a strong connection with Iktomi, I am not just praising him and planting spiderwebs all over the lodge. Iktomi knows my heart, and he makes me pay for any weakness. Misfortune follows me wherever I show weakness, and I am not as strong as you imagine.
I was about to get married to a Sioux traditionalist. I loved him, and part of the reason I got to develop my talents was to make myself less of an Anglo and more Sioux for him, for his family, so that they’ll accept me.
She breaths Bobby, you should have seen their disappointment when I failed to understand the Sioux ways. I had to forget a lifetime of rational scientific thinking and learn modesty. It was so hard, but I did it for myself and for a respected place in my new family.
When Bear’s report noticed them that I am a Shaman and that I follow Iktomi, they wouldn’t have it. They cut me off, and Luta and I planned to run off to Seattle to live together. Away from all the prejudice, and burning judgment, out of their reach.
AM’s voice is broken, and she feels small and hopeless.“Bobby, I put on a brave face, but I live here in shame for my cowardice and betreyal
Luta’s brother Tashunka caught us; he was a soldier, a Wildcat. We barely saw him normally because he was working all the time, but he took on a vacation to break us apart. Getting rid of Iktomi and myself was important enough to drop anything and go back home.
We ran away when we learned he was coming. We had a fake SIN already, and we were in the wilderness on the way to meet a coyote. He caught us nevertheless, and Luta tried to protect me; he faced his brother bravely despite not knowing how to fight. Tashunka hit him and did not stop when Luta was down.
She looks at Bobby and says [color red]I could have helped him, Bobby, and there is no excuse. I had a gun, and I knew how to use it. I had a few spells that could do *something*, but I ran away.
I got here, alone. In grief and I was already in debt because I had to pay for Luta, which never showed up. I am in a shitty place, Bobby, but I progressed a lot. I could never finish that debt with my skillset. I could no longer do magic; Not after what happened, I wanted nothing with my heritage. I and had no other skills that could support that kind of debt. There was nothing I knew how to do that could pay that kind of interest, so I had to borrow even more and reinvent myself as a hacker. Jimmy warned me that taking more money from him would get me killed. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I wanted to do it, and I wanted to hope for freedom, even if it kills me.
Bobby, my misery is by my actions and poor decisions. You do not need to go down with me. That money can make you stronger or give you many moments of escapism and joy. I am not the woman you think I am not a warrior like you, I watched my lover beaten up, and I froze, and when I regained my composure I ran Bobby, I did not fire my pistol, I did not cast a spell. I ran away as far as I could and never returned. I disappointed anyone that ever loved me, Bobby. I call myself Maka as if my mother is dead, I left her to be with Luta, and I left him as well. My father is the only one still talking to me.
She extends her hand with the credstick, shaken and ashamed. Face red with tears and says Do you still want to give me the money? I’ll never mention it, I promise. It is a lot to take in.
AdministratorJuly 27, 2020 at 11:29 am
Bobby barked a laugh: “You think just because you are broken, you are unworthy of the pack?
Damn, frag the Anglos and frag the Sioux. You know who I follow? Hunger! Beast! Or maybe even Wendigo! I don’t know for sure myself. But that never stopped anyone else from passing judgement, because in their mind they had all the answers.
And while we are at it: Look at Jawsey and his cane and those pathetic spirits he used to call. Those are getting stronger by the way – just as you do. Or Mato and his ultra macho insecurities – he’s also getting better.
And you know why? Because we are a team, a pack, that shores up each other’s weaknesses and teach each other new tricks.
You failed to murder your brother in law? Congratulations, you are not a murderer – unlike him. Or if a Wildcat even would have let you live after you attacked him. Seriously, with customers like that you have to make sure that they don’t get up again after your first hit.
Yesterday you hung around with some of the most violent bastards you can find in a 100 mile radius. Seems to me you have found courage by now.
Keep the money and leave to me if I find you worthy of it.”
MemberJuly 28, 2020 at 2:48 am
“You are not your totem Bobby, you are opinionated, and kind, and strong. Evil spirits will give you more strength but you choose how to channel their power. “
She sighs I never wanted to kill him, but I could use the invisibility spell, or levitate him. I could fall on my knees and beg him to stop, promising to never show my face in the Sioux again. I relived these events many times thinking about every possible action, but it all happened so fast.
I will not fail you, Bobby, you had my back yesterday, you made me brave. She extends her hands to embrace Bobby, whispering I will do anything for you Bobby, You give me hope.
- This reply was modified 2 weeks, 3 days ago by gilga.
AdministratorJuly 28, 2020 at 4:32 am
Bobby was clearly uncomfortable with getting hugged. Still, he endured it, although his muscles involuntarily tensed.
“You aren’t the same person you were back then. You decide everyday anew who you are through the choices you make today.”
He paused as he realized the implications of the last sentence:
“Anything? Well… I really would like to have a sandwich now.”
MemberJuly 28, 2020 at 6:29 am
Thank you she says, she cannot understand, or even imagine someone just giving her something of value. People trade, they exchange favors, they don’t just loan money interest-free. Do they? It is a huge help, and you are unlike anyone else I met. She let’s Bobby go eventually after a long moment. Suddenly aware of herself, and what she just offered, and what Bobby made of it. I’ll go make you a Sandwich then. she says with a grin. AM feels better about herself, and as she departs for the kitchen. She is amused that “a sandwich” is all he asks for when AM offers to “do anything”. She feels like she can trust Bobby, but wonders if she is not attractive enough for him. “Perhaps I cry too much…”
As AM makes her way to the kitchen, she realizes that there is just no category she can place Bobby in. He is not like anyone else she encountered, he does not try to exploit her and her weakness. He wants what is best for her and is willing to risk his hard-earned money because her problems are also his own. Perhaps that is what “packs” feel like, perhaps AM is too individualist to understand that. Perhaps she expects the worst out of people, but expecting more terrifies her to no end, knowing how vicious life is. Feeling deep in her heart, that good things may change and twist at any moment.
“Don’t think about it. All this money will be meaningless once you pay off the debt, and it would be meaningless if you get yourself killed.” she tries to convince herself. AM actually makes a Sandwich which they have limited possibilities, as there is no electricity and so no cheese or anything that need to be kept cool. On the other hand, he returned from the wilderness so it is not like he is going to object to some peanut butter and jelly or whatever she finds in their kitchen.
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