May 16, 2019 at 12:42 am #18762
Saturday Noon, October 1, 2078, Touristville, Redmond
It’s October 1st and the weather is starting to turn. It’s wet and blustery outside. You’re walking back to headquarters after lunch out at a noodle spot. Mato is not with you; he said he was going swimming and that he would be back for dinner. You’re unsure if Mato can actually float, what with his cyberlimbs and all, but presumably he can churn the water like a boat engine.
Lest you forget that you’re heavily in debt, your creditors start to ping you.
Bobby gets an anonymous note from a number he doesn’t recognize. <<@Bobby Your extended family is in need of you continued financial support. Please remit your payment when convenient. If inconvenient, send it all the same.>>
AM gets a note from Tom Jones <<@AM Hey, hope all is well. Send me my money or I’ll have to come up to Redmond. I HATE coming up to Redmond, which means that you’ll hate it too. No barter this time; my capo is breathing down my neck, capisce?>>
Jawsey’s reminder comes from Mr. Konstantinov. <<@Jawsey Дайте мне мои деньги.>> Short and to the point, like the Vory.
As you round the corner toward home, you find about 30 local merchants standing in a cluster in front of your HQ. They are shivering in the rain in a loose half-circle around someone. Drawing closer, you see that they are surrounding a Japanese human male in his mid-20s, dressed in what looks like a Scout’s Tux. The rain doesn’t seem to bother him at all, and he looks rather dashing in the tuxedo. He’s looking at a piece of electronic paper and reading off names. As each name is called, someone comes forward from the surrounding cluster to hand the man something. The speaker is outnumbered and seemingly unarmed, but it is the audience that looks afraid.
“Takashi-san, Lotus Rising Restaurant. ¥900.” The merchant comes forward and presents a credstick..
“Does anyone know where Miller-san went? You know how I hate house calls.” The Japanese man shakes his head sadly.
“You disappoint me, Theresa. I thought you knew better than to lie to me.” He wags a finger. Theresa retreats, her head bowed in shame.
He looks up and sees you nearby. He seems to know who you are. The rest of the audience, following his gaze, turns to look at you as well.
“Ah, Seattle Investigative Services. ¥1,800 nuyen.”
Conveniently, Mato wrote a memo about this just yesterday.Spoiler:
Ah, so Mato didn’t set enough aside, or the man is charging an exorbitant rate. Well this is awkward.May 16, 2019 at 11:26 am #18775
<<He doesn’t seem like the sort of man who will take well to being challenged publicly, but we should not agree to those payments. We could perhaps invite him in for tea? But when it comes to money, I can start negotiating and could probably bring it down some, but likely not as low as Mato suggested. Or we can take a much more militant stand and possibly get the payment lower, but also possibly get ourselves burned out of the house or beat up or whatever, depending on how well he takes to being challenged.>>May 16, 2019 at 4:55 pm #18791
<<We should find out who he is working for anyway. It’s news to me that we are in Yak territory.>>
Turning a baleful glare at the young guy, Bobby nods towards the door:
“You wanna get paid, you can get what you are due.
But not before you get that crowd away from here. That’s bad for business. And if we don’t do business, no-one gets paid.
When you are done come up for tea and cash.”Spoiler:May 16, 2019 at 5:04 pm #18792
AM has spent the last week establishing a magical lodge in their excuse for an office and apartment; it felt strange to build a holy place which was dedicated to harmony of nature, and to the wisdom of knowing one place as part of the wholeness. Pay tribute to the spirits that guide and protect the tribe as well as study and deepen their connection. Strange, but they did it nevertheless, mages needed a place to study, meditate pounder and conduct rituals and other magical activity.
The open spaces of the Sioux reservation were replaced by wallpapers of the open and perhaps idealistic landscape. The furniture were rocks, and wood pulp, as well as natural earth that covered the floor. AM placed hidden speakers that played natural nature sounds repeatedly, these include water moving in a stream, and the birds singing as well as soft ambient lighting that mimicked natural light and the day/night cycle rather than the terrible neon lights that were cheaper. The lodge revolved on a small, but authentic Lakota tipi tent which they erected, AM always studied the arcane in a natural environment, and since they now lived in the Barrens she tried to at least build a place where connecting with the spirits would feel easier.
AM decorated their special tent with webs that she weaved herself, as a token of appreciation for her mentor, Iktomi. AM felt as if Iktomi blessed her, and she needed to show her respect by keeping their bond, and by paying tribute to the tradition that gave her so much. To the heritage that gave her a sense of peoplehood, even if her appearance and mixed blood made it harder to connect.
Establishing the lodge also meant painful compromises. First, they needed to select a room to it, the office was cramped with all of them, and there was no additional room to practice magic. AM’s room was also her Decker’s nest, and she had a large desk with her cyberdeck and some electronics, technical digital books, a trid projector, and some antennas in case their matrix connection failed. She was also her mother’s daughter, and technical skills were part of her heritage as well. It was a digital world after all, and everything was connected to the matrix, finding information, hacking equipment were tools of her new trade.
So AM invited Jawsey to her room and shrank her very little belonging making room to the more dominant male. It was hard, perhaps not as hard as if she had to share a room with Mato or Bobby – but she was female in a group of men, and Bobby still made her uncomfortable, his ex-military mannerisms were just too painful to observe. Though, AM had no specific problem with Bobby… He just reminded her of another soldier, one she wished to forget. Her shame, of how she failed to help a fellow tribesman, her lover, and future husband nonetheless when he was beaten to a pulp, not very far from death by his bigot brother.
That terrible brother could not look past her white skin and blonde hair. The way her lover spoke – he saw her as alien as well. She may see herself as a member, but the others see her as an outsider. Always an outsider. Even the one she loved, saw her like that. That realization struck AM like a dagger, and she felt alien as well. Unable to connect to Iktomi, or her ancestors and shut away from her magic despite extensive training.
She could not even cast the healing spell to save her lover from a long recovery time. Her shame was so great that she ended up as far from that place as possible. As far from Shamanism as possible, as far from magic as possible. That failure was stinging her every time Bobby was near.
Ironically, Bobby was blessed by her shapeshifting mentor. As a shapeshifter, and a man of subterfuge he was an embodiment of her mentor. It was classic Iktomi to torment her like that, to mock her, and mockery was not evil. It was to guide her, to show AM the folly of her ways.
AM struggles of being the only female in the gang, and of having no physical privacy. She finds solace in her decker’s nest, wired to her deck and skimming the matrix in hot sim, studying how to be a decker. She does not advance as fast as she wishes because establishing the lodge and instructing Jawsey draws her back to her magic, and her attention can only be at one place.
TJ’s message finds AM in the tipi tent, laying on her back – and missing the wild and open spaces of her previous life. It was a rare moment, and the novelty of their makeshift lodge along with the small speakers that played natural sound made it very helpful. She was studying a ritual, an ambitious one to complete her. An ally spirit, AM was not ready yet – but she could construct not merely a watcher, but an ally to look up for her, and to accompany Jawasy, and keep him safe. So AM was studying the idea – she could not conjure spirits, but she could create minor spirits. It was technically possible to construct a proper spirit that would allow her to better connect with Iktomi, but it was hard.
She texts TJ ripped apart from the arcane into the mundane. >> TJ, your capo will be pleased. I have the interest, and then some. Many thanks for mentioning my name when he needed some matrix skills. Part of the reason why you don’t need to hurt me. Don’t send me to Bellevue again, it would take me hours to find something proper to wear. We can go to that Ice-cream stand by the lake. I could really get out of Redmond for a while.May 16, 2019 at 5:55 pm #18796
TJ responds to AM in a battle of the initialed names: <<Sure, doll, but business before pleasure. Maybe tomorrow while the capo is at church, but the forecast is for this rain to continue. Maybe soykaf inside, rather than ice cream outside.>>
Outside, in the rain in front of HQ, the crowd visibly tenses at Bobby’s tone. The man only smiles.
”You must have a very unusual business, Gaijin-san, if a large crowd of potential customers standing out front is considered ‘bad for business’.”
He smiles again, seemingly at ease. His aura reflects as much: he is calm and undisturbed. He looks strong and healthy, in the prime of his life. He has some cyberware affecting his nervous system – reflexes, most likely – along with minor muscle enhancements and some headware. A formidable opponent one-on-one, but he’s acting like you’re outnumbered, not him.
”You honor me with your invitation for tea, Gaijin-san. But, as I have recently expressed regarding Miller-san, I do not care for house calls, nor do I make exceptions. In the interests of transparency, I conduct my business out in the open for all to see.” He gestures to the surrounding crowd, as if they were an appreciative audience instead of cowering sheeple. ”This is our monthly ‘roll call’, our hallowed tradition as we publicly reaffirm our commitment to each other for another moon. Won’t you join us, please?”May 16, 2019 at 8:03 pm #18802
AM texts, >> The mall then..
Connecting to her link, she suddenly realizes about the chatter and shyly looks at the window. AM assenses the man for possible threats and then texts the team >> SIS I haven’t seen that suit in my life, what’s his story?Spoiler:
Something about that scene down their window does not sit well with her, why is the party at there place, and why don’t they know about it. She does not spend much time and takes a quick picture of the man for further study. Knowing that negotiations may be needed and that Bobby is not the best to represent them in this she hurries outside. In the stairs, she casts the improved charisma charm by mentioning, Iktomi’s silver tongue.Spoiler:
Once outside, she makes an “Aham” noise, and bows gently. ”It is a pleasure to meet you, but we have not been properly introduced.”. The message she goes tries to compliments Bobby’s attitude, but be as respectful and polite as she can manage, 1800 is too much and she needs to get it down to something more manageable. Perhaps even pay the man with a barter of services, toward that the man needs to understand that they are not sheep. She walks to the man and handles him their business card while bowing deeply and presenting it with both hands.Spoiler:May 17, 2019 at 12:31 am #18809
”Ah!” the man says when presented with AM’s business card. His electronic paper is folded and pocketed in a series of swift, practiced motions as he frees up his hands to accept AM’s card with both hands. He gives a 15-degree bow during the exchange, then carefully studies what is written on it.
”It is a pleasure to meet you, Green-san,” he says as he places the card in a small holder that looks specifically designed for business cards. He removes one of his own cards from the same holder – the holder is silver, or perhaps stainless steel, from the look of it – before putting it back in the breast pocket of his tuxedo. Then the process repeats itself in reverse as he presents his card with both hands and a slight bow to AM.
AM accepts the card and, like the man did, takes a moment to study it politely. The side he presented to her is covered in Japanese kanji; flipping it over, she sees the English version:
KATSUO “ANDREW” MUSAI
Small Business Ambassador
Redmond Chivalrous Organization
The card also includes his contact information.
The assembled crowd continues to act as an audience, seemingly uncomfortable with dispersing without being formally dismissed. They watch the exchange closely even as they shiver in the rain.May 17, 2019 at 1:21 am #18810
AM accepts the business card in the same manner ” It is a pleasure to meet you, Musai-san.” once the card exchanging ceremony is over she says ” I humbly ask that you give us the opportunity to consider our commitment to the neighborhood over a cup of tea. We are still very new in this neighborhood.”May 17, 2019 at 11:06 am #18822
The card at least confirmed that it wasn’t just a random weirdo pretending to be a Yak.
Bobby nodded at the proceedings but couldn’t stop himself from answering the guy’s rethorical question:
“We are no Mom-and-Pop store. People coming to us value discretion and privacy. They seldomly enjoy picking their way through a mob. So either you dispers them from our property or I’ll do.”May 18, 2019 at 9:46 am #18876
Jawsey had been a bit slow in approaching the man. Part just from circumstances — he’d wanted to take time to assense him, and he was making a bit of a show of leaning hard on his cane which had made navigating the crowd more challenging. Part had been calculation, as he trusted the others to take care of preliminaries, and it seemed best to let the man make his opening statements without Jawsey needing to address those directly.
Reaching the centre he gave a quick bow to Musai-san, one of acknowledgement but not so much of deference. He greeted him in fairly passable Japanese “Watashi wa anata ni aisatsu suru, Musai-san.” But then he switched back to English, since this was as much for his teamates and the crowd as for the gangster.
“As you say, it is important to have a harmonious neighborhood, where we know each other, protect each other, and respect agreements. We are fortunate to have someone who understands such things taking care of this area. Many apologies for not having coming looking for you yet, we certainly anticipated getting to know you but we have barely finished arranging the furniture and had not yet properly gotten to know the neighbours. It is most considerate” — he left tiny pauses around the word to show how it was chosen carefully– “of you to arrange this gathering to be so convenient to us this month. I assure that in the future we will be ready to come to you where and when it is more convenient for you.” He certainly hoped that the implication of ‘don’t do this on our doorstep a second time’ came through.
“Certainly we will contribute toward the protection of the neighbourhood, and will be happy to be seen doing so. But for this one time please come in for tea once you are completed here, it would be disrespectful of us not to offer hospitality to a new business partner and I would hope you would not leave us showing a lack of respect. And on a practical note, not knowing of this meeting today we aren’t carrying large amounts of nuyen around with us, we can arrange that matter while you enjoy some tea.”May 20, 2019 at 4:01 pm #18987
Andrew’s smile doesn’t falter, but his eyes do get a bit hard at Bobby’s insistence.
”These people are under my protection,” he says with a newly cool tone. ”No harm will come to them without my say-so.”
But, either to diffuse the situation or to continue the conversation in private, he turn turns to the crowd to dismiss them. ”Friends, our business here is concluded. I look forward to another month of our continued productive relationship. I will see you again at noon on Tuesday, November 1st.”
The crowd begins to disperse. Some look on curiously, but most are cold and wet and want to get back indoors.
”Your Japanese is very good,” the man tells Jawsey. ”And your manners do you great credit,” he says to AM, turning to face her. His eyes dart up and its clear he’s registered that both are elves.
”You have golden tongues, with words as sweet as honey. Your points are compelling and well-received, both in terms of building a harmonious relationship, but also from a practical standpoint. Very well, I accept your invitation. Please, lead the way.”
AM shows him the way inside. Bringing up the rear, Bobby’s powers of perception notice the man appraising your offices. Outside, he seems to take note of the maglocks, the cameras, and the visible sensors; inside, he pays attention to the decor too, perhaps judging your financial status.
Once you have gathered inside the conference room, and after tea has been served (with Jawsey’s best understanding of an informal tea ceremony) and introductions completed, Andrew initiates the conversation once again.
”Perhaps you are wonder what services are rendered in exchange for your monthly contribution to our neighborhood organization. A reasonable question. We provide a neighborhood watch, of sorts, one that is more reliable and more responsive than our friends in the Knight-Errant offices near the District Hall. We endeavor to prevent harm to you or your property, or – in the unfortunate event that harm comes to pass – then justice and recompense from the perpetrators. We also offer dispute resolution services, especially between community members. Should you feel that you have been wronged by one of your neighbors, we can arbitrate the situation independently and fairly. The neighborhood respects our decisions.”
There’s a bit of sharpness in that last comment. He seems supremely self-assured.
”Other services are available too. For example, we offer banking services, should you find that the traditional banks close their doors to you, either metaphorically or literally. Should you need a loan, we may be able to accommodate you. If you struggle with some of the taxes and financial oversight imposed by the Seattle and UCAS governments, we can provide accountants and advisers who are skilled in such matters.
”If your tastes or needs turn toward more entertainment, we have a great many services that we can provide discretely and at reasonable rates, from pleasures of the mind to pleasures of the flesh. One need only inquire.”
He smiles and opens his hands, as if to conclude his pitch. There is a hard edge in his voice that suggests that questions would not be entirely welcome. He sips some tea as he waits for his credstick.May 21, 2019 at 1:20 pm #19016
“Heh.” Bobby replied. “And a fine service it is. We get it. Taxes are unavoidable and we don’t want any trouble.
Thing is: At that rate our newly opened business will file for insolvency within two months.
My colleagues can explain it better than I, but what you see here is the result of all of getting deep into the red.”
May 21, 2019 at 1:43 pm #19020
- This reply was modified 2 months ago by Jack_Spade.
“Musai-san, I admit that your ‘tax’ rates have me a bit puzzled. A restaurant was asked for 900. It has many clients — some of them inevitably trouble. It cannot so easily move if it finds the local taxes excessive. And it is one of many similar businesses in this area. Meanwhile we are asked for twice as much. We have relatively few clients, and they wish to be discrete so are not apt to make work for you. While we have started to get some word of mouth happening, we can work out of a house essentially anywhere, or out of a small office and live elsewhere. If the taxes here are high enough, then our overall costs may be lower at an address that appeals to more customers. And we add a new type of business to this area, one which is potentially useful to you one day, and one that could possibly help attract other new businesses.”
“I do understand that you have a business, and wish to maximize your revenue.” Jawsey was glad he’d not totally tuned out Mato’s explanations of their finances, as certain terms leaped to his lips, despite being things he’d never have thought of a few weeks ago. “However 1800 seems so high for the nature of our business I can only conclude that it was a test, to see if we understood the ways of the world well enough to have a chance to be a long term cash cow, or whether we should simply be drained of as much as possible before our inevitable failure. While it is early days so it is hard to be certain of our long term revenue stream, I can assure you that so far things are very promising for our continued operations, provided that we manage our expenses reasonably. Mato could explain all of that in more detail if you require. I’m sure that for a long-term resident of this area, which enriches the variety around here, you would have a more reasonable number in mind.”
Jawsey leaned back, reasonably satisfied. There was no doubt that the man was a wolf, but he did not strike Jawsey as the sort to feast now only to starve later. Hopefully he’d be willing to work with them.May 21, 2019 at 5:42 pm #19038
AM made sure to serve herbal tea to all participants, and then sat and listened intently. She waited for people to express themselves before she added her angel. Jawsei was direct and to the point as usual, but limiting the discussion to numbers was a trap. There were better ways to pay the taxes than with money. Money was tight, came irregularly and in odd intervals but they had plenty of time, and a talent that was useful to other criminal syndicates that invoked their services, and invested real money in their business success. Barter could be more beneficial for both sides, she assumed. Or at least help Mr. Musai to feel more flexible knowing that the firm may prove useful for his organization.
”There is also the question of utilizing the resources of the neighborhood in a good way. We are short on liquidity, but we provide an extraordinary service when conventional methods fail. SIS offers a diverse skill set, that includes technological, magical, social, and physical methods of getting things done. There is more than one way that we can contribute to the community, and I see the potential for a mutually beneficial relationship.”
May 21, 2019 at 6:50 pm #19046
- This reply was modified 2 months ago by Gilga. Reason: some typos
Andrew grudgingly nods to some of the points being raised.
”Yes, a restaurant has many customers, but also many competitors. They are a low margin business, are they not? Whereas yourselves, your competitors are few and your costs are only what it takes to house, clothe, and feed yourselves. You are, comparatively, a high margin business.
”You and I are both aware that taxes eat into that margin, but are we so certain that there are lower cost alternatives available? Not just in terms of rent, but holistically in terms of overall security. I understand that Glow City is quite affordable. Hmm?”
He gives you a look that dares you to move to Glow City.
”No. I must conclude that you, as adroit business people, have identified this neighborhood as the optimal balance of affordability and security. After all, were your circumstances better, you would be elsewhere.” He gives a look to Bobby, as his point about being in the red reinforced Andrew’s position instead of Bobby’s.
Andrew runs his tongue over the front of his teeth at the mention of a test. Perhaps it is his ‘tell’, the indication that a point has landed close to the mark. He catches himself doing it and quickly tries to change the subject.
”Mato-san? Is he the bzzzt bzzzt bzzzt?” He moves his arms up and down mechanically while making a buzzing noise, perhaps indicating a robot. Then he juts his lower jaw out, extending his canine teeth past his upper lip, perhaps approximating Mato’s orkish features. Andrew gives a look that expresses doubt that someone of that nature could explain financial matters in more detail.
”To Green-san‘s point, Takashi-san of Lotus Rising Restaurant does pay less, but also provides more that is unaccounted for. He honors my organization when he hosts me and my associates, and in exchange he receives a discounted rate. If a similar arrangement interests you, we may discuss the possibility. As Green-san says, it is clear that you are individuals of talent, of unusual potential.
”So, shall we come to an agreement that satisfies your needs for liquidity? Shall we say half and half, hmm?”May 22, 2019 at 9:02 am #19061
AM smiles in response but shakes her hand ”You are correct to point our high margins, we need but a few jobs per month to make ends meet. However, establishing a business like ours requires expensive equipment and there is plenty of capital invested in our little operation. My cyberdeck alone cost me an arm and a leg to acquire, and as you may know, loans need to be repaid one way or the other.
The problem with a business like ours is not that we do not make enough when we do work. The problem is that nobody guarantees that there will be enough work to make ends meet. We have expenses and without liquidity – we may go out of business due to a slow month. So currency is limited, any amount that we pay you further complicates our situation.
Might I be bold, and suggest 600 as a token of contribution? I will be honored to provide you the extra 1200 nuyen as a discount for hiring us. We both get what we want, you get high revenue business and we get increased chances to keep our business afloat. “May 22, 2019 at 1:48 pm #19080
Andrew sits up a little straighter in his chair. ”A cyberdeck?” he asks, somewhat incredulously. ”May I see it?”
His estimation of you seems to have changed. You couldn’t say if his opinion or better or worse, but it’s different. His tongue runs over his teeth again.
”Very well,” he says after a moment of consideration. ”¥600 per month, cash, with the understanding that the remainder will be provided for in occasional favors and services.” He holds up a hand to preempt any objections. ”Nothing too distasteful, I assure you. We are, after all, a chivalrous organization.” He smiles the type of smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.
”One month from now, on the first of the month, I will do roll call. I will call out ¥1,800 for Seattle Investigative Services, but our understanding is that you will deliver a credstick for ¥600 instead. Public perceptions are important, you see. Do we have an agreement?” He looks around the table for assent.May 22, 2019 at 2:43 pm #19086
<<Being useful to the local ganglords seems like a worthwhile investment. Much though I hate an additional debt, no matter what they call it. In short, I vote yes>>May 22, 2019 at 3:33 pm #19092
<<I’m with you on that.>>
Bobby shrugged: “Can’t say no to that very well, can we?”
He stood up and went to the laundry/his room to retreive a cheap, grubby cred stick with his part of the money.
He made sure to present it with both hands – despite it looking like an old chew toy. Hard to carry cash while being a cat.
May 22, 2019 at 4:08 pm #19094
- This reply was modified 1 month ago by Jack_Spade.
“I think we have agreement as to a way forward. Numbers and method are both acceptable to us. We thank you for your consideration and willingness to work to a harmonious solution with us.” Jawsey’s cheeks hurt a bit from keeping his face straight while uttering such pleasantries, but it seemed to be getting easier with practice.
When Bobby came back with his share, Jawsey spun it “In the future we will provide a single payment, but this time it is perhaps important to show that we are each supporting this by paying directly. I will return with my share shortly.“
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