(Gunshots can be heard in the background, as well as shouting)
This is Security Team 5, we've come under attack in-transit to Corp Enclave! Multiple assailants, CorpSec officers down! Our aerodyne's been hit! Requesting immediate air-support, we have Director Felswarth's daughter on board--
(Loud ricochet nearby the recorder, followed by another exchange of fire)
Fuck! We're getting massacred out here! Williams, keep the package behind that Defender! Don't let her--
(A whizzing sound, followed by something heavy hitting the ground)
(Several seconds of gunfire. Screams and yells of pain can be heard. It then draws silent, save for faint sobbing coming from nearby)
Get the girl! C'mon, move it! Before the cops get here!
(A woman's scream is heard nearby alongside voices shouting, as footsteps approach the recorder. The sound of the recorder being picked up)
Your move, Director Felsworth.
(END OF FILE)
CHAPTER ONE: IN WHICH ME MEET MR. SEVEN
NEW YORK, 2052
It is never dark in New York. It has truly become the city that never sleeps.
In the high-rise skyscrapers of the corporate enclaves, the lights reflect off the plate-glass windows that continue up into the grey, smog-choked sky. The walls that surround each enclave are similarly lit, the lights glinting off the huge yellow and black signs declaring that trespassers will be shot and that all who wish to enter must carry their SIN cards.
Outside the enclaves, the light's still there, but lessened. The Sprawl is spread all across of what was once the city of New York and beyond, as far as the eye can see even from some of the highest buildings within the city. Even with all the light, it's a dangerous place whatever the time of day it is. Gangsters and thugs, murderers and thieves all line the walkways, and everyone watches their own backs.
Overhead, Aerodynes shoot past, on to the enclaves and beyond. Marvels of modern technology, capable of landing anywhere throughout the city through t
It's a city at war, but most don't know it yet.
Very soon, however, they will. The invisible forces have made the first move that threatens to spark a war between the corporations. Those in the know wait with baited breath.
The rest of the city continues on it's endless cycle, though. Never ending.
The city's an easy thing to watch when one knows how to access the CCTV grid that runs throughout it.
I can see the people of New York going about their daily lives in the Sprawl. I can see first hand the hardships they must suffer and endure. I see the violence, the gangs, the intolerance, the drugs that people use just to keep themselves sane.
It reminds me of why I am about to fight the battles that are to come.
The security feeds within the enclaves are harder, but throughout my career I have been thorough, placing enough backdoors to get me into their systems when the need arises. Usually, I like to drift between all of them, watching the factory workers monotonously assembling products, observing the suits in their boardrooms discussing cash flow and revenue, and what human right they can undercut for a profit.
But not today. Today my gaze is focused entirely upon the office of one Director Felsworth, of the Dionysis Corporation.
Felsworth is one of the top men of the massive electronics corporation. He's led his company from success to success, got it to where it is today. All through cutting staff, reducing wages, ensuring that staff facilities are even more miserable than most. On the backs of others' suffering does he and and his cohorts live comortably.
But yet again, not today. Today, the good director is more than a little flustered.
His machinations have backfired. His enemies have outmanuvered him for the first time in a long time. And Felsworth is scared. He will react foolishly, leaping before thinking. The decision he will reach will be irrational and dangerous.
And for it, New York will suffer.
Unless it is stopped.
The planning is over. My team has been found.
It is time to assemble The7.
The message I send each of the team is a simple one. I can contact each of them simply. "THE7 IS ACTIVATED. MEET AT THE LOCATION PROVIDED." Along with this message are the co-ordinates to a warehouse in the Brooklyn district of the Sprawl. I carefully encode the messages and send them on their way.
It was still dark outside, as dark as it got out here, but still the cried of the hawkers came from the street outside the compound and downstairs the sounds of activity never died. Under these conditions it was hard to sleep those used to it manage. There were stirrings in the air, a change in the winds and along the dark passages a single figure prowled. It was not the large muscular form of a street fighter but rather the bent form of an aged man thinning white hair tossed in the light breeze baring the stench of the glorified slums knows as the sprawls. The Oyabun lifted a small bag to his nose breathing in the sweet perfumes until the wind passed. The security system was completely shut off from the outside world but still someone seemed to know all too much about his movements. This Seven might be a problem in the future but for now the Oyabun was treating this as an isolated deal.
Silently the door slid open and the crime lord stepped into his office, the most secluded and the only silent place in the entire compound. The wall behind the desk was lit up, the soft glow came from the screen sitting on the desk, the screen that shouldn't be on. The Oyabun fingered the ring on his finger the wireless cal going out to his best men that were never too far behind him. Three large shapes entered as one and in the span on a minuet had checked the office and closed all the blinds. The room clear one of them went to examine the room itself and reported a message. It was not for the Oyabun and reading it the old man gestured for one of the samurai to step forwards dismissing the others with a wave of his hand.
"Kubun, it seems you will be leaving for a time."
It took two hours to get to the warehouse A place even darker and louder than the compound and Kobun came alone. He parked his bike out of sight from the street, he was far from friendly territory and on edge as he walked along the side of the warehouse and tried a side door. The hinges were stiff but he forced his way inside to meet with the man who had the power to see anywhere.
Topaz wondered down the streets in a long, form-covering coat, although, it didn't do anything to hide her figure or her looks. She rand her a hand over her left shoulder for a moment, feeling the clear window under the coat... feeling a part of her body that certainly wasn't natural. It only lit up at certain times, but still, even when inactive, it was pretty eye-catching. As she walked past a man with a tattoo of a fire that literally looked like the real deal, moving and shifting, not an unusual tattoo for this day and age, actually, it was kind of common.
Another woman nearby was walking at a brisk pace, carrying a sack of what appeared to basic foods and necessities. Groceries. They sat clutched in her single arm. Her single, rather worn mechanical arm. It was a basic skeletal metal frame, looked like it had been broken and repaired countless times. Her clothing was in the same state of disrepair, a coat with plenty of holes, both sleeves cut off, and stained and frayed. Her hair looked unwashed, and her eyes, that's what caught Topaz' gaze the most. That woman's eyes spoke of a desperation that could only be gained by constantly having to defend your most basic of human rights. A sense of desperation and power hung within those orbs, waiting to be set free the second that woman felt threatened.
One of her tattered shoes must have caught on something on the street because she lost her footing and Topaz took a moment and then reached out, grabbing the woman, steadying her. That single mechanical, pathetic arm trembled, looking to be on its last hinges, trying desperately to hold onto the packages that could keep her alive for a little longer. If she expressed any gratitude for Topaz' gesture, the woman didn't hear it, not that she expected it. She continued o her way, watching as the woman ducked into an alley that was already choked to the brim with barbaric-looking human life. Then continued walking.
She kept her gaze alert and her head on a swivel, her oddly crystalline blue eyes eyes scoping out people around her, making sure there was nothing suspicious. Slightly cautious, mostly paranoid. She would freely admit that she was possibly more than acceptably paranoid after the rough childhood she had.
The woman paused for a moment then turned down a street while her thoughts came back to what it always did. Without fail, her mind always sought out comfort in the last reaches of sanity she retained by sifting through her memories. Of the childhood with her father, before the world became such a...... well, it had always been fucked up beyond hell, but before it affected HER life. Sure they had been beyond desperate, trying to find food everywhere they went, pulling odd jobs to try and make sure that they could live for a while longer. But they had each other, and some how, that gave her comfort. She had always been a.... what was the term.... "Daddy's Girl"? Yeah, that had to be it.... She had never even known what it was like to have a mother. But that never dulled or soured the memories she had of the time she had spent with her father....
Her memories and thoughts that she was currently rummaging through were suddenly interrupted as a system on her neck lit up. The only exception to that glowing rule. If someone sent her a message, she had to tap into it manually. It was a quirky body, and it was one of the reasons she truly loved it. Topaz reached up with one of her hands and unbuttoned three of the top buttons around the neck, then pulled down the zipped before her hand disappeared into the fabric that encircled her neck and pulled a wire out of the seam on her neck and reached back further, connecting it into a port on the back of her neck, then checked to make sure it was fitted snugly inside before accessing the message, then a mysterious motion occurred. The combination of a raised brow and a smiled quirked upon her dark lips as she suddenly turned back the way she came, then turned onto another street.
Although it felt like there was a certain importance to the message, Topaz had no trouble with letting herself take her time, idling and making chitchat on the way there. She even bought a few things from the people trying to sell their goods that obviously were more costly than need be. Most of them were probably scam artists, trying to make a buck. It didn't matter to her. In the end, she wound up with a small trinket, a small figure of a music note. Carved out a piece of trashed wood probably from the seat of a chair or something. Honestly not worth even a forth of what she paid, but then again, she and her father, once upon a time had done a job similar to this. Besides, she loved anything to do with music. She pocketed the carving and soon came upon a necklace that she thought was cute and walked away with that too. That one, however due to her lack of true interest in this item, snuck it within the sleeve of her coat as she walked by.
She finally made her way into the area she thought was correct, checked around herself a few times and then continued on, liking the liveliness of the area around her now, compared to the deathly quiet area she usually chose to frequent. She smiled as she thought of her victim last night. He had thought she was some nurse, asking him for some help and knowledge. When she asked him to come home with her, he had not even thought of the idea of objecting, and again, when she had kissed him, she knew that he didn't suspect a thing. She did this not out of arousal of when she killed, or a need to kill to get aroused, it was, to her, a sense of survival. She chose this one because she had asked information that easily could lead to her discovery had he figured her out. He possibly would have never even entertained the possibility that she wasn't who she said she was, but still. Better safe than sorry.
Thinking back on it, she remembered all the little noises he made. Those gasps and moans, the way his fingers tangled in her hair, the way his hips bucked. Desperation. The way his eyes screwed shut. How he threw his head back when she moved faster. The way his chest seemed to heave, and when he wrapped his arms around her. How he looked into her eyes and professed a love that he probably would have never understood anyways.....
She loved to remember the sound of the gunshot from her simple M-1911A1. The way it made the air smell, the bullet wound, the stippling around the entrance wound, the way the blood looked, the way it felt, how it slowly changed colors while it dried. She laid with him still, for a time. Not sexually, of course, that was over, she just merely admired the beauty of man, preserved. She remembered stroking his cheek and looking into his wide eyes. Then she closed his eyes gently and with a smile of her own, manipulated his lips into a smile before she gently pressed her lips against the corpse's flesh, lingering for a moment longer. Then she got up, blew the deceased a kiss while dressing and hauled the body down to the alley way before going to bed and sleeping soundly, like a baby.
Either way, she remembered the memories fondly and then spotted a door and walked over, trying it gently before yanking it open and stepped within, her quiet, stealthy footsteps slowly intruding into further darkness without hesitation.
"How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge!"
Felwin grabbed a glass from the tray of a passing waiter, His face like moonstruck water, marble and pale as he spun into the crowd of observing socialites.
"What is a man, if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and... feed?" To punctuate the last word he drew close to one of the women, a slender blonde in a dress of half-liquid metal. She leaned back playfully, allowing him to stoop and inhale, as if snorting a line of powder from her torso.
"...a beast, no more."
She pushed him away, playfully, and he took another drink, one in each hand as she stood before the window of the penthouse club, the businessmen and wives gathering to watch him.
"Sure, he that made us with such large discourse, looking before and after, gave us not that capability and god-like reason to fust in us unused." His face was a panoply of colour, of sunset on the Serengeti plains, of nebulous stars in the firmament, the yellow of the orient at war with regal oceans.
"Now, whether it be BESTIAL OBLVION," He roared the words, his head rolling back to expose the scar tissue of his throat. "Or some craven scruple of thinking too precisely on the event,
a thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom..." He held up one glass. "And ever three parts coward," He poured the second drink into it and tossed away the empty glass, letting it shatter on the touch-screen bar. "I do not know why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do;'"
He splashed the mixed drink on his face, causing a violent reaction of patterns and colour, reds and crimsons draining in emulation of the drink itself, tracing new features like blood against the flow.
"Sith..." He tossed the second glass then stepped up onto a chair, "I have cause..." He stepped up onto the buffet table, "...and will..." He kicked aside a plate of cooked meats, "...and strength..." He came to the centre of the table, "...and means to do it."
"Examples gross as earth exhort me!" he yelled, his arms spread wide as he turned to the window, looking out across the cityscape of lights and firefly hover-cars. "Witness this army of such mass and charge, led by a delicate and tender prince, whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd makes mouths at the invisible event, exposing what is mortal and unsure to all that fortune, death and danger dare, EVEN FOR AN EGG-SHELL!"
The audience applauded, their laughter barely contained as Felwin turned back, a clown face sliding across his mask, with lunatic smile and dimpled cheeks.
"Rightly to be great is not to stir without great argument, but greatly to find quarrel in a straw when honour's at the stake."
There was a shocked yelp as he leapt down among them, landing amidst the suits and sparkling dresses. And then darkness leached into his face, streams of black washing out the colour, the clown-face melting to be replaced by something more sinister as he leaned, like a conspirator, towards each of them.
"How stand I then, that have a father killed, a mother stained, excitements of my reason and my blood, and let all sleep?" He came close to one of the corporate types, whispering, "While, to my shame, I see the imminent death of twenty thousand men, that, for a fantasy and trick of fame, go to their graves like beds," He put his clawed hand on the face of another woman. "...fight for a plot whereon the numbers cannot try the cause, which is not tomb enough and continent to hide the slain?"
The silence lingered, like a discordant note held too long, the audience poised nervously as Felwin became, like a statue, pertrified.
Four seconds, five seconds, six seconds... Felwin's face slowly restoring to colour, streams of red, blue, green and gold about to break. And then, like a chorus to a well known song, the crowd pronounced the final line with Felwin conducting his hand like an orchestral master.
"O, FROM THIS TIME FORTH, MY THOUGHTS BE BLOODY, OR BE NOTHING WORTH!"
A cheer went up, the high-society folk clapping themselves and Felwin, toasting their champage, and at the same time a hover-car shot past the penthouse window, momentarily passing a little too close for safety.
It was a just a flash, but in that moment Felwin's face shifted violently, draining instantly to a sickly white, the eye-sockets enlarging, the painted smile becoming dark and cavernous. He was like a ghost suddenly falling out of the flesh.
The number 7... flashed on the side of a hover car... gone in an instant.
The whisper was heartfelt, for himself alone. "And now, sweetest interlude, my serenade for thee. I must away." He looked down at his hand, one eye skewing the shape of a teardrop. "How dear these vexing things, now at an end."
There was confused laughter, uncertain mutterings. Felwin looked up to see most of the guests still watching him, half-expecting another performace. Quickly he bowed, rolling his clawed hand towards them. "Alas, my moonlight friends, a prior engagement beckons. Your company and your counsel commends you all in annals more than mine. Drink deep, I beseech you, for I shall return to see you smile the greater, with each passing day. Adieu."
He moved through the crowd, accepting handshakes, stroking cheeks, nodding, smiling... weeping that there would be no more pleasures for this night.
Amadeus was already there. Amadeus had always been there.
"It took you longenoughto start the [BLINK]party[/BLINK]."
The world online glitched for a moment, became pixelated, before snapping back. Amadeus lounged on an assemblage of binary and utlra pornagraphic images, ever shifting to Amadeus' erratic changes in position. View attachment 1313 "Buta party'sno fun if we can't seethe face of thebirthday boy!" There was an eruption of party streamers as Amadeus' suddenly clawed hand reached toward the static screen that hid the boss' face from the rest of the world.
A growl escaped its lips, and it bared suddenly razor sharp teeth when its claw only went through the static and encountered nothing.
"FINE!Be that way! See if I care!" Amadeus 'hmphed,' before settling back into a more comfortable reclining position. Only this time, it appeared to be floating midair, since its strange bed was gone.
Leaning against the railing of a very rickety catwalk, Mitch calmy stood there with his head cocked to the side, a lit joint hanging loosely from lhis lips, and an acute gaze from behind his bourbon colored glasses, kept moving left, right, up, down, forward, and back as he took in the rest of the group. He remained unknown to the group that had assembled so far... or so he assumed since he'd entered from the roof.
In his free hand, a revolver rested with the familiar weight of six shots, six kills, and six bids for a time that could be longer spent in this world. The Assassin, was calm as always, and never shifted, or changed in even the most minute of details as Amadeus or whatever it was... did what it did. He'd stoped trying to assume it's gender after it's first initial crazed sputtering of words, and it's equally mangled movements.
A soft, and forced exhale would then allow him to be noticed as the thick and pungent smoke drifted to the grounds of the warehouse where the group was assembled before him. "This gig had better get started soon... man I could really go for some taffy..." He said out loud to himself as if he could hold a converstation with himself.
Kris sat at his desk, typing away on some new program that he expected to break it's way through the shifting defenses of the corporate mainframe's when suddenly his screen went blank and a Number seven appeared, small and in the top right corner. He knew what it was instantly, and grabbed the bag he'd kept packed for the occasion before logging out and heading off into the night.
"Humph, it's about time" were his only words on the matter, echoing slightly down the midnight slums with it's usual mechanical timbre.
A figure in the night lept from the shadows of a nearby alley, only to be shunted forcefully back from whence it came, the motors of Kris' mechanical arm whining slightly, as if more annoyed than strained. He took a moment to plug himself into the computer he was carrying on his back, and suddenly his world burst into light all around him. Advertisements popped up around him, they were always first and he waved his hands, shooing them away, he opened up his maps of the city; showing not only all the major roads and locales, but the hidden routes, underground tunnels, safehouses, illegal tech dealers, drug dens....everything that was in this city was laid bare before him, but his attention was elsewhere. Were it a normal day his concerns would have been spying on his rivals latest programs, siphoning money from the Corps or confusing the hell out of some high class socialite pricks. Today he was concerned with a warehouse, He ducked into a nearby alley and slipped through a manhole cover, after a short walk there he popped back up into a completely different part of the city. He walked to a nearby parking lot and hopped on to a sleek looking black motorcycle. After plugging into it it's "State of the Art" security systems seemed like child play, even the tracking system it's former owner placed inside was nothing to him. The black beast roared to life under his command and he took off, making sure to wipe any images of himself from the security cameras.
He arrived at the warehouse, parked the bike and walked inside, apathetic to the others already waiting there.
In front of the assembled team, a holographic-deck fires up, and the image of a man sitting in an armchair flickers into life. I survey my new team with a slight smile on my face. They watch back, the Assassin making a comment about taffy to himself. The best at what they do, each and every one of them. A rag-tag collective of killers, thieves, liars and crooks.
With me at the head of them. Makes you think, sometimes.
I trigger the security protocols on the doors, and they slide shut, a large metal grid sliding down after it to ensure we are not interrupted. I watch the group for another few seconds or so, before finally speaking. "I have a dream.
"Many men over the years have said the same thing, from Martin Luther King to Adolf Hitler. Yet like them, I have a vision for the future of this country. I imagine an America where corporations are held accountable for their actions, where they do not weild more power than the elected government. I imagine a world where the rights of humans are enforced, not just acknowledged and then ignored. I imagine a world where safety is promised everywhere, not just in the corporate enclaves. Where the police force can truly serve and protect, and not tied up in excessive beaurocratic red-tape by a corporate-controlled government to ensure they do not weild as much power as corporate security.
"This is why you are all gathered here today." I pause, and begin to scan through my folders. Their holographic avatars appear as well, moving back and forth as I leaf through them. Finally, I draw out the folder I want and dismiss the rest. "As you all know, you have been recruited into an organisation known as The7. The men, women and... other entities," I smile at Amadeus briefly, "standing with you are your comrades, the people you will be operating alongside. Whether you go by your assigned codenames or feel the need to use your actual names is up to you, but I am simply known as The Boss.
"You are all about to be entering into the theatre of war. This war has been building for years, yet few even know of it's existence. It began as simple corporate espionage, but is now on the cusp of becoming something far worse." I open the holographic folder, and several images fire up on the holo-deck.
"This is Director Mark Felsworth of the Dionysis Corporation. I imagine you've all heard of him, and you," I glance at Felwin, "Have no doubt met the man on several occasions. Suffice to say he is the reason why Dioysis is the leading corporation in the research and production of cybernetics. It's made him a lot of friends, but plenty of enemies, too."
I flip the second image round so my team can see it.
"This is Jessica Felsworth, his daughter. This morning, the Aerodyne that was transporting her from her school to the Dionysis Enclave was attacked on-route and shot down. Her escorts were massacred, and she was taken by kidnappers of unknown alliegence. Felsworth is currently negotiating the release of his daughter, and the two forces plan to exchange her for a substantial amount of money two days hence.
"This, my friends, is where we come in.
"I want you to find who took Jessica, I want to know who they work for. And two days from now, you will interrupt that little exchange and take both Jessica and the money. I don't care how many of the others you kill, for we are sending a message to the corporations, letting them know exactly who they are dealing with. If you need to be put in contact with someone, contact me. If you require equipment, weapons, ammunition, contact me. I will make sure you are all equipped with the best you possibly can be, to ensure this all goes smoothly."
I pause, and fix the group with a stare. "And ensure little Jessica does not come to any harm. If she is killed, that invisible war? It won't be invisible any longer. Blood will run through the streets of New York and thousands will die so a Board of Directors can congratulate each other on their increase in market control.
"Now, I will leave you to begin making arrangements. Just override the security protocols when you wish to leave. I'm sure it won't be a problem for any of you."
The holo-deck powers down, and I toggle the self-destruct protocol; the deck's internal systems fry themselves, rendering it unusable... and myself untraceable.
I am a careful individual, after all.
The Boss lays out The7's first mission, to interrupt the exchange of the kidnapped Jessica Felsworth and take both her and the money.
The moment he saw the holographic sensor Kris had begun dissecting the code, even the Boss knew he couldn't outwit the hacker in terms of technology, but his intent wasn't malicious, Kris merely wanted to ensure another method of contacting the Boss would be available when needed. It took only a moment for him to slip through the cyber security and in a moment he was gone.
When the program had finished playing Kris smiled slightly to himself "So, looks like we get to stick it to the man for real this time." he laughed at the irony of the whole situation, he was offered not only the opportunity to strike back at the corporations that had kept his family down for decades, but he had no idea as to his true intentions. As far as Kris knew, The Boss was just another CEO looking to take down a corporate enemy so he could fill his shoes, still he might as well have some fun for the time being.
Kubun's mind summarized events as they happened, the other 6, complete strangers. The holographic means of communication, perhaps not Mr. seven's real face. Afraid they might recognize him? Unlikely but out if the question. The talk of a dream, he sounded so much like the Oyabun but every word needed to be taken with a pinch of salt, make that the whole shaker. In the world of corporate politics he was expendable and as far as he could tell so was everyone else in the room. For all they knew it was director Felsworth they had just spoken to hoping to get his daughter and the money back. In his mind he calculate the net profit the elimination of both a gang capable of pulling off the kidnapping and a bunch of corporate grunts you bring to the Oyuban and a one-sided smile came to his lips as he committed himself fully to the job.
The patterns on every inch of his skin changed to colder colours to reflect his mood as he ran through the list of thing he'd need. Gas grenades, gas masks, tranquilizer dart, silenced SMGs.... Then his gaze went to the others in the group and a different plan came to mind made possible by the skillsets of his partners. But first he needed to know what those were. It was time to lead by example.
Unfolding his arms he walked to the center of the group and examined the face, or equivalent, of each of the other six as he spread his arms, open vest and bare arms showing the ever-changing oriental patterns, his identity, his entire life story for all who cared and could read it. "I am Kobun, Mr. Seven calles me by street samurai." he paused partly because he hadn't planned past those words and partly for dramatic effect. "Now that we all know why we're here maybe we should find out why eachother are here. I have contacts, training and I came cheep."
The joke may have been inappropriate and unappreciated but at least he had gotten his introduction out of the way.
Sighing, Mitch looked down at the man who'd just introduced himself... and tried cracking a joke. "No, man... it's all about the delivery. Jokes are like a pizza. They want the humor, and satisfaction now... they don't want to wait thirty minutes before they get it." he finished with a huge drag from his joint, and then exhaled the thick smoke down towards the group from the cat walk he stood on, and shook his head adding in a few 'Tsk tsk's.' "Well since we're doing this like homeroom, call me Mitch. Probably heard of me... or maybe I just think that because I've heard of me..." he scratched his head a moment "But yeah..."
Taking the last hit from his joint, Mitch tossed it out into the middle of the warehouse, and holstered his revolver. "I'm going to take off... got work to do, and a man's gotta have his taffy..." He said with a grin, and turned around while dropping a few pieces of paper... with a coded number writtem on them. If the group was worth their weight, then they could easily decipher the code, and learn how to get into contact with him... besides, he had an idea that he knew who'd know where to start with finding that girl, and what her pops was like.
"Parting is such sweet sorrow, Mr Hamilton," called the Face, his mask streaming with viridian colour as he looked to the rafters. Stepping next to Kubun, the man unslung a bag from his shoulder and set it on the floor of the warehouse. Then he knelt, his hydraulic leg supports releasing a little hiss as he did so.
"But perhaps you will forsake the vices of your kin and stand awhile on ceremony. For in the time before time there was a custom, and when the warriors of rival tribes saw fit to ally against a common foe, there was then the ritual exchange... of gifts!"
He lifted a paper bag from the bundle, took a bottle from inside, placed it on top of the crumpled bag, then offered it in both hands towards Kubun. "Though we have yet to meet, my Samurai friend, I offer you this Temiyage as thanks for your trust and your noble intent upon this venture. The saki is from the finest stock of the Hirohoto Corporation. Only five bottles are produced in any year, flown in by the corporation especially for the Directorial Conclaves. By services rendered and favours owed, I have procured it for you. I hope in time we may partake of it together, when our battles are won and our thoughts turn once more to family and farmstead."
Japanese text fluttered back and forth beneath the surface of his mask, as if in silent dance with the tattoos on Kubun's own body. The gift was handed over and then Felwin reached back inside the bag.
"For Kristophe, my ever-manic virtual Vercingetorix, a delicacy from the Russian heartlands..."
He held out a small wooden box, opening it to show a vial nestled in a foam mould. Kris turned from the holographic deck and glanced at the vial, his eyes shifting to behold the silvery liquid within.
"It is still in the early stages of development. Velgovin" is its name, and suppression of the right temporal cortex is its game." Felwin removed the vial and twirled it through his slender fingers, his mask displaying conflicting explosions of colour, like fireworks in the night. "A recorded increase of 23% information saturation in a timeframe of 17 minutes. In short, my dear Kristophe, the temporary acquisition of savant skill and memory retention. A code-reader's elixir if ever there was."
He left it beside the hacker and turned, pulling another object from his sleeve like a magician. It was a memory stick and as before he twirled it as he approached the shifting holographic avatar of Amadeus. "And for you, my dearest Amadeus... aptly named for this gift as likewise your nature in this task, arrayed against Dionysus when you yourself are chaos incarnate... a token of affections past."
He moved around the image of Amadeus, his face folding darkness in on itself like a roiling ocean. He held up the memory stick. "The 41st Symphony of your namesake. Jupiter in C Major, lost from cyberspace for 27 years but found on a corrupted hard-drive following a raid Cairo. It came to my possession for a worldy wealth, and to the public trust, and to you, sweet Astarte of the Aether, I grant the pleasure of proliferation."
He passed the memory stick to Kris, who would be able to upload it to Amadeus's realm. Then, crouching, he returned to the bag and reached in for another item. His mask lifted, the picture of a beaming smile forming on his face as he looked to Topaz. She stared at him for a moment, then her own face twitched a little with a smile. They rushed together suddenly, Felwin laughing as he embraced his old friend.
"Ah, Evy, it's so good to see you again!" He twirled her around and ended with his arm across her shoulders. Leaning towards her he held out the last gift, another wooden box which he slowly flicked open. "Now this, I had hand-crafted by the nano-masters on Harlequin Street."
Something lifted out, fluttering on metal wings. And as it rose the most beautiful flute music began to play, a haunting melody that dilated Topaz's eyes. She watched in awe as the mechanical dragonfly hovered and sung, the music somehow generated from its internal workings. It buzzed forward, watching her with its glittering eyes.
theFace stood in the center of a grand concert hall, a dark speck in a sea of powdered wigs and faces. As one, all eyes turned to him, red lips smiling, violin sounds screeching to life and as one, the violins and the faces intoned: Such a prettyboywith such prettywords.
two.Pretty le gs.
Amadeus purred, floating like a spectre before theFace, two hands lightly caressing his cheeks. Though this entity before him was projecting through the aetherspace online, he could still feel It's touch. It felt . . .pixelated, like static, like ice-like a ghost touch.
Forthis kindnessmay you always behaunted.
TheFace felt a shudder course through him at the touch, but as soon as it was there, it was gone.
Wait. He was hugging Evy, wasn't he?
TheFace blinked, the real world around him came back full force, the online world was back in his peripheral once more.
Amadeus was flitting about listlessly, watching the others who seemed to be totally unaware of the change of scenery. Perhaps he had merely imagined it.
B irthday byt.oldme to be a psycho path(pomp).You know that thing that guides?
Kris took the Vial from Felwin with a generous thanks, he'd only heard of the serum he'd just been given but never had the ability or the contact network to get it, now he held a vial in his hands. He resisted the urge to sample it immediately and instead placed it within an impact resistant case, he then took the memory stick from felwin and uploaded it straight to Amadeus, or what he figured to be Amadeus anyway. "Here you go, hope you enjoy it." he said as the transfer completed
after the gift giving had been completed Kris took a more serious tone "So any thoughts for what we have to do?"
"Parting is such sweet sorrow, Mr Hamilton, but perhaps you will forsake the vices of your kin and stand awhile on ceremony. For in the time before time there was a custom, and when the warriors of rival tribes saw fit to ally against a common foe, there was then the ritual exchange... of gifts!"
"Love to, but boss man says there's work to do. You all get with the gifts, and I'll try to bring some information as a gift of my own." Mitch answered The Face, as he walked off into the shadows of the building, and exited through the roof where he'd entered. Placing both feet on the level surface of the roof, Mitch lightly rubbed his chin. "So... girly, and her pops... big wig folks.... yeah, it sounds like it's time to visit ol' Jackson out in the 'Garage." The Assassin said to himself, as he began walking, and swung himself onto a ladder, sliding all the way down to the street below.
Mitch lit himself a cigarette, and exited the alleyway, blending into the crowd almost immediately, and continued walking at a seasoned pace, letting his mind mull over the questions he wanted to ask, and just how he'd ask them... Jackson could be a character in his own right... somedays he was sane, others he was insane... the man must have multiple personalities, but every one of them had dirt on just about anyone... it was probably one of the reasons the Garage was more successful over the other clubs... it wasn't the fancy music, or drinks... it was cause the owner was an information broker.
Topaz smiled brightly at Felwin, not knowing of what had transpired between him and the odd pixilated psycho. She was merely happy that she was able to see a dear friend once again, but at the same time, wondered about how he had found his way into this odd little club.
She had been happy to see the gift he had given, and had expressed it by pressing her lips against the side of the man’s mask, then quietly whispered her thanks before wrapping her arms around him and returning the hug he had given. It might have been the only reason why she had never once considered killing the man. He always seemed to have something for her that she liked on instant. Plus the talks they shared on more than one occasion had proved to be more than a little amusing.
She smiled at the memories, preferring them to the ones of her kills or of the nostalgia of when she was first learning the ropes. Felwin had always been a very exciting person to talk to, and they had never seemed to run out of things to talk about. And now, to see him again was a pleasant surprised, although, she hadn’t expected or taken him for the type to get involved in this… well, unsavory type of business…. Well, maybe that was the wrong way to word it. She knew he could get involved in… recreational business such as this, but to actually do so, and to end up in the same place as her… it was a happy moment.
She had looked around at the others, but focused mainly on Felwin. He had made her extremely happy with his gift. And as the song slowly drifted away and the flying mechanical insect was back in the box, she slowly closed it, a small, honest smile appeared on her face. She had been wary of some of the people already, such as the odd character that had left already... He had said something about…. Taffy? Either way, most of the others seemed perfectly insane. Yet she looked around again, confused. Then again. And one more time to make sure. Her eyes opened wide, and incredulous look on her feminine features.
“Am I the only… woman here?” She asked, her odd, glittering eyes blinking as she tried to imagine working alongside men she didn’t know anything about, without killing them…. She focused on the prize. She had to do this. If she didn’t, she couldn’t kill that bastard or get the music box back… or at least, it would take so much longer, and she had already killed so many people… not that it really mattered, just that the fact was, she was tired of replacing bloodsplattered sheets and clothing, and she was almost gaining too much muscle in her man-made body from hauling all of her victims to that damned alley. It was such a chore for a beautiful lady like herself to be bothered with.
She stuck close to Felwin, but ran a hand through her short but pixie-like hair, her eyes going out to every other member of the team as best she could. She had to explain why she was here? Christ, what was this, some stupid little mixer?
“For the record, I prefer to be called Topaz this day and age… I guess… I was recruited because…. I fuck what I kill… and I kill what I fuck… It’s always been that way… He called me the femme fatale…” She paused for a moment, her eyes seeming less human the more she talked, meanwhile, a sadistic smile was forming on her perfect face.
“I just can’t help myself… In the throes of passion, I just can’t stop myself from grabbing a gun or a knife…. The blood feels so god….All I want after this, is help to kill the only man who’s ever escaped me. He took something precious to me… and for that, I will tear him apart.” She said the last sentence slowly and deliberately, the grin growing on her face, a chilling, haunting smirk. A few moments passed, and her features became muted and quiet again.
“So, we are stealing a girl and some cash…. “ Topaz stated quietly to herself.
Kobun accepted the unexpected gift with a wordless bow while calculating the difficulty he would have acquiring such a bottle. He eventually concluded that he would owe too many people too many favors. He remained silent As the seductively beautifully girl spoke with only a blink and turning his eyes away from her to show he had been thinking of taking her before her confession.
"When we have completed our task and have delivered the girl and money then." he said to the face. Until then I will use what contacts I have to find out gang who have taken the girl. But infomation is not free and will take some time. I could use your.... charm, while talking to some of them" His last sentence was directed at Topas.
Exiting the massive crowds of people, Mitch entered the Garage, and was immediately assaulted with heavy club beat, and laser lights that tore apart the fog filled darkness that the club created. Passing the Bouncer, Mitch merely nodded to the large man. Letting himself get sucked into the bump, and grind that the dance floor breed, Mitch moved through the crowd like an eel, slipping a drink from a server, and tucking a cigarette into the corner of his mouth, Mitch quickly moved up the stairs, towards the balcony, where he knew he'd eventually find Jackson... if he wasn't face deep in Vagina, or Vodka... or both.
The Assassin couldn't help but grin as a Pole Dancer began raking herself against one of the many anti gravity poles, and winked at him. It was a funny site to see strippers, and hookers dancing upside down, sideways, diagonally or whatever angle the poles moved, but this was one of the many interesting things about the future. Mitch absolutely loved this place, and felt like it was a home away from home. There was always jobs to be found, money to be made, women to screw, and guys to one up.
Downstairs, Mitch could see the writhing forms of the club-goers, too many to count and all moving, shaking, twisting and dancing to the hammering sound of the club's music. From up on the balcony, they were mostly indistinguishable, though the occasional augmented clubber caught the eye, as did the gravity-defying pole dancers.
This was a place to lose yourself in, and to be lost. A place where anyone could be anyone, and yet no-one at the same time.
The wonders of the modern era.
"Mitch! Mitch! Hey, Mitch, you motherfucker, get over here!"
Mitch turned his head just in time to see a familiar face staggering over to him before he was pulled into a drunken embrace, the smell of vodka and hard drugs eminating from the man.
"Bro, I haven't seen you in weeks!" Jackson yelled over the pounding of the music, "And seriously, you gotta get over here! Just met this girl from the LA Sprawl, shit she can do with her legs, man, goddamn!" Mitch found himself beginning to be led towards a circle of bizarrely shaped sofas and chairs, where several women and one or two extremely drunk friends of Jackson sat.