Transmetropolitan CHAPTER 1: STORMFRONT

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Romdeaux, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. [align=center][​IMG][/align]


    [align=right]»PLAY♫:00. "Darren"[/align]

    "It was nine years ago... Yes.. Nine years to the day. That girl walked into my bar, ten years old, and shot me full in the head. No matter how hard you get shot, you don't forget something like that... Not in a million years.."

    "Old man, who the hell are you talking to?"

    She spoke with a voice about the consistency of pumice, with the vestiges of an old New York accent threatening to be apparent. She was tall, maybe five foot seven, with hair the color of pomegranate. Perhaps the most striking thing about the girl was the way she was strong-arming a man, nearly twice her size, into submission. She tied the man to a chair with relative ease and sauntered over the bar upon gagging him. She grabbed a whiskey glass from the end of the counter, it was scratched in a few places and could've been worse for wear, but if could talk it probably would have told you it didn't want to be. She shoved it at the elderly man behind the counter.

    "Scotch, on the rocks, sir. And put it on my tab!"

    "And I suppose you think that'll fool me into letting you drink, won't it? Listen here, E. We might be facing a world-wide catastrophic disaster for the hundredth year in a row, and you may be an incredibly skilled mercenary who doesn't take no for an answer. But you are nineteen years old and the affects of alcohol on your underdeveloped brain could be dangerous. Besides, it's my bar, and I don't serve minors."

    "You're a asshole, Darren, and someday, It'll come back and bite you in the butt! MARK MY WORDS, OLD MAN...MARK. MY. WORDS...."

    Eden marched proudly out the room as the finished her sentence. Out of the room and into the alley outside of the Lemon Pop club. The club used to be a rather exciting hangout for young people, but after the attacks on lower Manhattan, it eventually went out of business and fell into decay. 25 or so years ago, a middle aged man, who at the time was fairly important in the counter-movement against the netrunners, took refuge in its walls, and to this day, Darren Korb lives in the disestablished LP club. It was only 9 years ago that He met eden, at the time, a young girl trying to find her next meal. The man who offered that meal was a mob boss looking for the head of Mr. Korb. And so the story goes. What happened between shooting him and her coming to be his adopted daughter, who knows...

    [align=center]'Someday...this will all be behind us, won't it?'[/align]

    Location: Outside the Lemon Pop club
    Mood: Neutral

  2. [​IMG]

    The fuck?

    Jacob stared into the undescript source code of his query with narrowed eyes. He checked the file source again from hard media to verify but doing so only stated the obvious. The file was missing. He'd try another angle.

    This couldn't be right. He had just been working on the database earlier today, the file hadn't been moved and the information was too important to delete. If he couldn't access the information, the prospect of avoiding another pissed off client would be at the top of his to do list.

    All the same, nothing just disappears. Once again, the netrunner would try something else.

    Miner stared blankly into his interface with a deadened expression. This wasn't right at all.

    Had someone cracked his interface? That couldn't have been, there would have been flags. Furthermore the act of cracking a neural interface was akin to finding a needle in a pile of needless while inside hurricane. The brain didn't exactly function on binary code, because of it security often took care of itself.

    So what the hell was going on?

    Miner stared at the text scribbled against his display as the quality of the words began to blur and distort. His sense of tactile touch began to diminish and the world about him seemed to loose it's sheen. Details became foggy and the Netrunner could feel his mind attempting to force himself back to consciousness. Looking back to the screen, he was able to make out one final display message from the interface.

    Headjack woke in a cold sweat, his eyes still feeding information from the database he had seconds before thought lost. The heavy weight of helmet interface sat against his neck with all the appropriate wires feeding into his skull rather than the usual market standard. With the upgrades on his person, it wasn't a needed process as much as it was a nostalgic one. Doing such fed direct data to both the artificial and real eye.

    And like an idiot, he'd apparently fallen asleep again with it on. Dreams and sensory input to real situations are often finicky things.

    The sleep deprived Netrunner pulled the device from his cranium and tossed it against his bed. The helmet bounced atop the dusty mattress before rolling to a stop against the corner. Next to the sheets sat a tacky oak foot table that had been stacked with nothing but aluminum beer bottles of all sorts of makes. Most of which, cheep and synthetic brands of swill. Besides that, there wasn't much to the single bedroom apartment. Stacks of computer equipment, terminals and wire conversions were stacked against the walls in no particular order. Overlooking the bed, sat an open window that carried air in from the alley beyond. Glancing to the street beyond it, a dark train of thought ran through the edges of his mind.

    For a brief instant, he considered what it would be like to fly through that window.

    The dull hum of a police siren shook him from his thoughts and back to reality. Slowly the runner ran a hand over the stubble of his head and picked himself from his place against the wall. Glancing over the stockpile of empty bottles, a clear enough objective topped his bucket list. He needed a drink.

    Hell after that? He needed several.
  3. [align=center][​IMG]

    [align=right]»PLAY♫:16. Ocean #8[/align]

    Eden walked. Not so much to any particular place as much as to any place at all. She was bored, tired and alone. Though things like that could be said for almost anyone now, suffice it to say that the word "light-hearted" might as well be removed from the English language. That being said, she usually couldn't find time to worry about feelings, today was no exception. She and Darren weren't exactly running out of food, but the threat of Netrunners this close to the coast was starting to become more and more dangerous.

    "Hell's bells..."

    She might as well have been punching a hornet nest. The club was close enough to Netrunner territory as it was, the daily walks into enemy lines to patrol were pretty much insanity. Though, "enemy" is a harsh phrase. the Netrunners weren't evil, per se, they just had a different view on how the world should be used. Eden respected that, as much as one could. Being a girl had it's advantages though, even with the cultural grudge between them, most runners on the streets would stick with borderline abusive cat calls.

    "Up yours, Danny..."

    "Danny Boy" was an London native who'd really only come here at the whim of one of the more hardcore anarchists, Devilfish. Who had managed to convince a good majority of the English Netrunners to join his cause, to some extent anyway. Most of them in the district seemed to be more affixed to their computers than to revolution. This made it much easier to work with the bums lower in the ranks of their half-formed militia.

    "Whadda you want, sister? Lookin' for a good time?"

    "Not with any of your shiny metal asses. I'm looking for someone who's supposed to live in these dumps. All I know is that people call him 'Jack' or something like it. I can't find any trace of him on the net and I'm getting some good hardware out of the deal. IF I can get him..."

    "Ain't a guy like that around 'ere. And what makes you think we'd tell you anyhow?"

    Eden glared at the men and turned back mainland, Convinced that these worker's had no idea where the queen was. Truth be told, she'd been on the hunt for this guy for a few weeks now. Eden originally found out from a few locals that apparently some big deal had gone sour, and now The 'Mannager', a too-big-for-his-boots tech bootlegger wanted someone bad. Push came to shove and she needed some new gizmos. Now she's passively hunting someone who can only be described as a ghost. Impossible to track, find, or follow. That was, until a few hours ago. She'd been scanning local networks and found something unusual, someone had been making some pretty hefty changes to a network database, and a lot of them. Most Netrunners in these parts were content with interfacing with computers and watching 3D pornography. It took some serious dedication to actually WORK with this kind of technology. Someone out there was doing something, she didn't know what, but chances are that it would lead to something.

    [align=center]'On the trail...'[/align]

    Location: Outside Netrunner territory, Upper East Side
    Mood: Neutral


  4. The stale air of the apartment complex caught the netrunner's senses as he stepped into the stairwell. The low brim of a ball cap concealing his features in a subtle fashion. Through the thin excuses for walls, the echoes of the outside city could be faintly distinguished. The bickering bout of a young couple upstairs, the low hum of passing traffic, the repetition of a jackhammer violating sound ordinances several blocks down, The occasional gunshot of a misspoken argument. The lot of which came together in a symphony that exposed the qualities which created a living city. Or perhaps a dying one, considering the circumstances.

    The complex wasn't exactly fancy. Two single room apartments sat on each neglected floor, plagued by all manners of grime and cobwebs. An effective use of space considering the high price of land this far into the city. Passing down from the second floor, Jacob stepped around the supple frame of a robed woman sitting against the stairwell. The shoulder of the gown slipped to one side, revealing the ivory color of the lass's shoulder. Following the cloth revealed an empty sleeve, the product of a chop-shop job gone bad. It was one of the downfalls of using street docs in the area. Sometimes, you'd get what you'd paid for and component rejection wasn't pretty. All the same, the woman held herself well with a lit cigarette in her free hand and all the comforts of home beneath the cloth. "You're up early honey..." She spoke in a practiced whisper that had been milked for its allure. "Hot date?"

    "Just business." Miner replied, tipping his hat to the girl who returned the gesture with a wink.

    The woman appraised the netrunner for a moment with a half-smile before speaking once more. "Got some time before my next client comes in. That 'business' of yours have a flexible time frame?"

    Jacob tsked and shook his head, turning back to the woman as he stepped down the stairs in reverse. "What no romantic dinner by candlelight?" The netrunner teased with a wide grin beneath the brim of his hat, "I hope you treat your clients better than you treat me."

    The woman chuckled to herself over the continued banter, a cat and mouse game played over months of passing. "You have no idea baby." She spoke softly as Headjack continued his way down the stairs. "No idea..."

    It had become a common exchange between the two, and one Miner had come to enjoy. Human interaction had grown rare as of late. Between the contracts, coding, and covering tracks, Jacob had been less of a man and more of a traveling ghost. Paranoia kept him isolated, reserved and often curious. More than anything however, it kept him alive. Passing by the nymph's door every so often was some of the few times the man got to engage in what could be considered real conversation. A good deal considering it didn't cost him a penny.

    Conversation wasn't the only reason he stuck to the Upper East side. While there was something in today's world to be said to the tune of nostalgia, security tended to bring home a higher yield. Truth be told, the motives as to why he stuck to a single room apartment in the slums of a questionable district had more to do with ease of access. Access to the city, its consumers and the archaic street camera system that ran up and down the district. Back when the area used to be a popular dive used by drunks and tourists, a wireless infrastructure of cameras had been set to provide a thin veil of security. After the attacks on lower Manhattan, people didn't so often have the free coin to waste on nostalgia. The clubs wore down, the markets evolved but the cameras were kept in order. They always were. We've all read Orwell and each of us knows the value of big brother in a time of economic collapse. The fact that the system ran on an archaic hardware of 25 years though... well.

    That made it exploitable...


    As the netrunner walked down the final flight of stairs, he glanced over the potential of wandering eyes along his intended path. While rent-a-cops in this area were almost unheard of, the more apparent hazard usually marched to the drum of a different manner. Gangs, agents, Narcs and the occasional junkie made for headaches in this neck of the woods. Unlike the cops who could be bribed or blackmailed, around here the monsters under the bed tended to bite. Surveying the landscape, Jacob defined the path of least resistance and stepped out of the door.

    It had been four days since the last time he had left his room, and the glare of streetlights made the man squint with his biological eye. Out here, the sounds of the city lacked the distant hue the carried from within the building. A few feet down from the door, a huddled mass of children sat next to a barrel fire fueled by discarded trash. As Jacob stepped past the lot, he handed out a hand which was in turn palmed by one of the children. A transfer of credits, a practiced gesture. While not a needed one, it kept the tykes from making grabs at his pockets and his name protected against wandering ears. Money well spent as far as he was concerned. Unlike usual transfers of this manner, the child's hand this time was not empty.

    Jacob felt the square outline of a memory card in his grasp as the hand off was made. A nod was given to the child who returned it in kind. Making his path along the battered street, Miner slipped the device into a slot along the curve of his wrist. As he did, a familiar flash of text danced over the surface of his artificial eye.

    The package was a simple message, only a few kilobytes in size and easily digested. Because of the nature of the transfer, the prospect of encoding wasn't needed and the conversing parties could speak uninhibited by wandering eyes. Usually this sort of exchange marked the possibility of new business with a wary client. In this case however, the message was one of warning.

    Mouthy little bastard. Hard to imagine the correspondence came from a 9 year old. I wonder if Bob Dylan ever considered something like this when he wrote The Times They are A-changin'.

    Opening back up the feed from the camera systems in the district, the netrunner attempted to make a match from the description. Red heads were a dying breed after all and while exceptions did exist, it couldn't be terribly hard to track one down fitting the demographic. If someone had managed to track him to the region, a move might not be out of the question in the not so distant future. If he needed to bounce, there was a bug out bag in a locker on the edge of the district that he could grab in a pinch. Regardless of anything however, he needed to find this girl and figure out her intentions. While not the violent type, it wasn't out of the question that the female might need to be silenced prior to the move.

    A shame considering. This was the longest he'd been in one place in quite a long time and he had become accustomed to the location. Regardless of anything, the drink would have to wait. Before the netrunner stepped outside the parameters of his apartment's wireless signal, he made one final precaution before starting a hunt of his own.

    It wouldn't be enough to dust the building, but it would sure make a mess of anyone attempting to sneak into the place uninvited. He had tried to make a point of localizing the explosive yield to just the floor he lived on but due to the nature of the device he couldn't exactly test it. He hoped his neighbor downstairs wouldn't be entertaining any guests if it did happen to trigger. The PR of an intended bombing might reduce her overall customer base. Still, precautions had to be taken in this line of work. It was nothing personal.

    Pawn to king three. The game began.​
  5. [align=center][​IMG]

    [align=right]»PLAY♫:No. 0724FGARK[/align]

    Eden was in the middle of a very tense area of New York, and pretty okay with the way things were going. Neutral territory was a specific area set up in central park, it is currently the only place for hours where anyone can go without fear of getting raped. About 200 armed volunteers protect the area from anyone who decides to break the ceasefire. It is home to several thousand families, cramped together in shanty towns, as well as a large market where people can buy food that hasn't been irradiated. Another use for this market is the sale of proprietary electronics, both biological and mechanical. That is what Eden came here for.

    "Silver, a Ten-Zero-One, please."

    She spelled out the numbers with her hands, fully aware that "Silver", the local computer electronics dealer from Kendachi couldn't understand a word of English. The man was about four feet tall and had characteristic silver hair, artificially dyed and tied in a sleek ponytail. He must have been about a thousand years old, but he held his own nevertheless.


    Eden signed another self-taught sign for 'Thank You' and moved off with her new 12-core. Lately the bounty hunting business had been getting pretty hairy, and it never did anyone any harm to have a little more processing power. In addition to the ones she already had, this would be the third out-board processor she's connected to her computer. This made the whole set up much larger and clunkier than some might like, but it allowed for some pretty speedy computing, which made cracking passwords and finding rogue netrunners a much easier process. Before heading back to install her new gadget, however, Eden made a detour towards Manhattan. She picked up a small bit of food at a local vendor, offering up some alcohol as a trade. She had a habit of carrying straight booze on her at any time, considering it was a rare find outside of Europe, and being in the know with The local clubs had that as an upside. She stopped on the edge of a large stone plinth, overlooking the ocean. Towering above her was a monument to everything wrong with the world.

    [align=center]'God bless...'[/align]

    Location: Neutral territory, Upper East Side
    Mood: Expensive


  6. Finding a Redheaded woman in a slum was surprisingly less work than the Netrunner had thought it'd be. One of the problems with dealing in visual media is the inability to digitally isolate the things you needed by key word or phrase. If he had obtained a picture through his informant, he could feed the image to the security display and cross reference facial recognition across the entire network. Considering the circumstances however, such a thing wasn't possible. As a result, he was forced to scroll through the feeds by hand... relatively speaking. Even running four inputs at once, each at 16 times their normal play back speed, the process was arduous. Just when Jacob had begun to consider the scope of the task, it seemed to fall right into his lap. Sure enough a Red head with a healthy frame and hair to her back passed along the road none the wiser. Apparently the Tykes weren't playing some half brained joke this time. He couldn't make out the eye color from this angle, but the match was close enough for government work.

    Headjack minimized the feeds from the other cameras set over his display and focused intently on the one. Occasionally the woman would stop and ask something to one of the chummers along the street. They'd banter back and forth before she'd head off into a random direction to repeat the process. The entire lot of Netrunner territory was basically back alleys and slums, but the lass kept to the main roads. If someone was shadowing her, they were good enough to not to establish a patterned trailing procedure. For all practical intents and purposes, the woman seemed to be here alone. If such was the case, this ginger was either bat shit or brainless. In this end of the city, the pair often sided together awful close. All it'd take would be an itchy crew of opportunist street thugs chances are and no one would see her again. Considering the time frame, it was surprising no one had done so already.

    As the netrunner began to synchronize his steps with the woman, the gap between the pair grew closer. Headjack kept to the ends of the streets as to keep as much distance as possible in play. The woman would pass along an ancient bus stop that hadn't been used in centuries before turning down a side road. Seconds later, the netrunner would pass that same bus stop. It was a cat and mouse game where the requirements of visual stimulus were outdated. Each time the female stopped to question another, the faces of both parties were recorded and segmented into an allocation of their own. No pattern seemed to arise in her actions, but it was possible another go over of the information would reveal one. Even if shifting over an hour of visual media wasn't an ideal way to spend an afternoon.

    What Miner hadn't expected was when the woman shifted from this end of the Upper East Side and moved towards central park. Neutral territory was touchy grounds. Roaming security patrols, armed volunteers and a little to non existent amount tech outside the street lamps that dotted the place at night. The grounds had seen it's share of wear but it was one of the only open locations in the city and people tried to keep it that way.

    Even if it was a perfectly good waste of a few hundred acres.

    Regardless of anything, pretty soon Miner's improvised set of extra eyes would come to an end. Had she seen him? That couldn't be possible as they were rarely ever on the same street. Gal didn't look augmented and any sense of paranoia she might have been sporting was diminished considering how visible she was in the open. It was possible the woman might had given up the search but that possibility was questionable. Finding the ginger was just to simple. Moving outside the territory could be a lure of sorts. A means to pull the netrunner from his comfort zone and make him vulnerable. All the same, she'd have to be stupid to start shooting in the Neutral zone. The both of them would be turned to Swiss before anything was drawn. Jacob was sure his record was clean as far as general authorities went. Even if he was brought in for questioning, the only thing they'd find on his false identification would be a few paid off tickets. Reluctantly, Miner closed the distance to keep the Girl's hair within eye shot. The prospect of breaking off was tempting, but he needed something more tangible if he had to find the woman in the future.

    The road into central park was a hub of sorts, bringing into play all manners street merchants that dotted the path. They weren't allowed too far into the park grounds, but the prospect of free trade without the worry of street thugs was too good to pass up. Small fees were paid to various organizations of the city who would in turn provide benefits, equipment and training to the volunteers that kept armed eyes on the grounds. It was a sort of private security co op run for and by the people. A tiny slice of civilization in a chaotic world. When the ginger decided to stop at the stand of one of the merchants, Miner shifted to one side of the street and pretended to make a phone call.

    The merchant in question was a man who looked like he should have died a decade and a half ago. Wrinkles cut into his face as if they were set there with a farm plow. The pair talked for a brief instant before the woman pointed at something and credits were exchanged. From the look of the old man as he moved to retrieve the item, you'd think he'd might break. It took him a moment before he returned back with a brick of an out-board processor. From the size it looked like a 12 core, but he'd have to get closer to really verify. Decent enough system overall, but it got a rap on the net for letting off a fair decent amount of heat. Even though the prospect was ridiculous, people joked that if it ever got bogged down by spam and viruses, you could still use it as an electric grill. Failing that, you could always drop it on someone.

    All the same though, Miner now had an in. With eyes on the processor, all he'd really need to do would be to come back to the vendor at a later time and bribe him for his sales records. If he kept VIN numbers on any equipment bought and sold, the hardware could be tracked to an ISP. He'd have to come back, but the vendor wasn't going anywhere. Unless of course he died between then and now...

    To an oncoming viewer, the netrunner probably probably looked like some manner of anal business man. Stopping every so many feet to make another phone call to a potential client. The reality probably wasn't far from the truth. The female in question stopped at a food vendor and bartered for a bite. What exchanged hands however caught the netrunner's eye. He couldn't be sure from the distance, but it looked like the gal just passed along booze as tradestock. It was here that curiosity got the better of him and the courier broke off from his trail. Slowly, Miner placed a pair of gloves on his hands and made his way up to the vendor. "Good Morning!" the man began with a smile as he approached the stand.

    "Or something like it." Miner replied with a smile of his own, all the while activating the recording feature of his augmented eye and paying very close attention to the placement of the man's hands. "I'd like to purchase something from you if I may."

    "Of course!" The man had an accent of sorts that the netrunner couldn't quite distinguish. Possibly Germanic of some form or another. "What can I get you?"

    Miner was on a time frame now, so he skipped the small talk. "A red head just came up through here and handed you a bottle of sorts. I'd like to buy it from you."

    The stout man's eyebrows narrowed for a moment as he looked Jacob up and down. "I do not know what you're on about bud."

    Jacob's smile widened at one end at the man's attempt at a fib. Customer loyalty perhaps? Who knows. One way or another, it didn't really matter. Most things had a price tag these days. "I figured as much might be the case," The netrunner replied opening a transaction application off his phone and punching in a few numbers. "I was hoping this might be able to jog your memory."

    The vendor glanced down at the screen for a moment and his eyes widened. "Oh that bottle..." he replied taking the phone in hand and connecting it to his accounting terminal to finalize the transaction. Shortly following the man moved to the back of his stall and removed an amber bottle from behind one of the shelves. Scotch, and not the synthetic crap that tasted like it was distilled from motor oil. How on earth did that woman managed to get her paws on something like that? The stout merchant trotted back with his thumb and fingers placed around the bottle's label on each end. The man handed over the glass treasure with a smile. "This what you're looking for?"

    Miner carefully took the bottle at the awkward angle of it's base with a gloved hand. As the man released his grip on the booze, the slight outline of a fingerprint was left on the surface of the glass. It's a little considered fact, but prints stick to bottles pretty well so long as the surface isn't marred or cleaned. The netrunner wasn't a forensics specialist, but he knew enough about the process to determine that the merchant's own print was a double helix. It was a long shot, but it had a better chance of a match to the woman than blindly following her into a trap. "You sir are a gentleman and a scholar." The runner replied as he fished out a plastic bag from his coat pocket and slipped the bottle into it's folds. "A pleasure doing business."

    The merchant's eyes grew cold as he looked upon the man with bewildered sense that he might have found himself in something he'd rather have not. "You a cop?" he replied with a sense of worry about his voice. "Is nothing about bartering that's illegal. I run respectable business."

    Miner laughed and shook his head. It had been a while since he'd been asked that, but it hadn't been a first. If such was the case, the Manhattan Five O had drastically reduced their standards. "No no... I just take my drinking very seriously." Miner gave one final grin before making his way back to the Computer merchant passed not long before. If he rushed, he might be able to track back down the girl along the way but it wasn't worth the effort. After all, he had everything he needed right here.


    Miner stepped back into the single bedroom with a small bag of groceries in hand. Cornstarch and clear tape taking up the bulk of the content. Moving over to the rarely used desk in the corner of the room, the netrunner cleared off a space and removed the plastic bound bottle from the pocket of his coat. Getting a hold of the bottle was an easier task than a copy of the near dead vendor's sale's log. The man couldn't speak a lick of english and it didn't help that he had some issues with the prospect of handing over information of the style. Like everyone else in neutral territory, they were there because they wanted to avoid the drama of any potential under the table conflicts. All the same, a wired net translator rigged through his phone and the appearance of a fairly deep pocket book loosened the old man's tongue. Truth be told if miner had to keep this up, he'd need to start contracting again to build back up his coffers. The value of hard currency was about as flighty as a mid life crisis these days with the economy the way it was. As a result it was never a smart idea to keep too many resources in one basket. Just made you all the more vulnerable.

    The merchant had come into contact with the device about a month prior through a second hand source. Someone had used it for trade stock apparently for a cyberdeck. The item was made by ZoCom, which was pretty much a subtle way to say it was manufactured by Zetatech and licensed under a different name. The bad news was it seemed the item had been on the second hand market for quite some time. The good news was the netrunner now knew both the serial number of the device and the exact time it was sold. One of the nice things about second hand vendors is more often than not, their sales aren't traced especially when payments were made in barter stock. It also just so happened that ZoCom sported a fairly spot on customer service line, being it a sub branch of the corporate computer giant..

    Miner removed a net barrier from his pile of equipment laying against the wall and set it on the desk. Two chords were connected into the device which fed into a slot onto both slots on his phone as well as the main line into his skull. Routing through a proxy server, he connected himself to the Zetatech database. He'd have to play this carefully but it wasn't as if he was breaking into a particularly sensitive branch of the corporation.

    It was a relatively simple process and so long as I didn't start routing around poking things half hazard like, I wouldn't draw much attention. It wasn't at all an uncommon practice for people to work Customer Service calls from home. Overhead became a write off and the company could run a wider branch of employees using less funds to house them. It also gave the excuse to monitor service members and sell personality demographics to data think tanks like Infocomp. The netrunner set the proxy on his phone line to a designated point prestablished on the other end of the city and dialed the ZoCom service line. It rang twice before the automated service line answered. After pressing through several options, the calm voice of a woman sounded over the line. "ZoCom Customer service Branch, this is Kathy. How can I help you today?"


    "Yes sorry about that," Miner replied snapping back to reality as the data that shot across his display HUD matched that of the agent performing his own service call., "I need to report a stolen 12 Core Out-board processor"

    "I'm sorry to hear that sir. Do you know when the device went missing by chance?"

    "Yes I do. Got mugged about 11 AM this morning."

    "I'm sorry to hear that sir. Do you have the Serial Identification Number for the Out-Board Processor?"

    Miner referenced back to the accounting log of the old merchant he had bought earlier that day. Slowly the Netrunner read off the identifier. "EO6WKK4-975-E8O2C Looks like." As soon as he read off the number, a trace protocol flashed in the corner of the Agent's screen. As it was, the customer service rep couldn't give personal information out over the phone, but in this circumstance she didn't have to.

    "Let me see what I can bring up... Do you have an insurance plan with us sir?"


  7. play:
    Show Spoiler

    Connection: Terminated

    Apro smiled after reading the E-net News headlines, the front page having the title "Petrochem Payroll System Crashed by Terrorist." He quickly glanced over a list of acceptable upgrades to his hardware, specifically a 4 core expansion driver for his Palm PC and an ZOS10 compatibility patch chip for his lacing, he marked them both down on a white board next to his desk terminal, before standing from the desk. He stretched and walked around his rundown little apartment right before he was thrown to his feet by the rumble of a passing Metrocar up above.


    Must be the last car of the day....' He thought as he splashed some water onto his hair, wetting it just to make it a bit more manageable as he fingercombed it the way he wanted it, hanging over his face in an unkempt manner instead of wildly sticking up and out. Piercing electric blue eyes peered at a limited wardrobe, mostly black shirts, black pants, black sneakers, black jackets, a few grey shirts, and a white jacket. He chose a loose fitted grey shirt synthetic weave and a black hooded jacket, black sneakers and dark styled camo cargo pants.


    His home lay in the underground, where the old tunnels and underground storefronts had been converted to living quarters and marketlines due overcrowding, the inhabitants of this place called it Undertown. Apro looked around as he left his Apartment, a habit he'd developed due to certain dangers all who lived in Undertwon faced.
    His eyes caught a teenager running towards him, a boy he recognized as Ayana's courier, a kid name Harrelson. Harrelson stopped as he reached a closer proximity to Apro, and though winded began to speak.

    "She's lookin' for you man, says she needs you topside for something big."
    He said through stilted deep breaths, Apro only looked at him coldly.

    "Can't...gotta party already lined up tonight, Harry, she's gonna have to hire someone else tonight, give her these," He paused digging a couple credit chits out of his pockets and handed them to Harrelson, "and tell her I'm sorry."

    Harrelson only nodded but had a somewhat scared look on his face, but all the same took off back to Ayana's car. Apro lit a cigarette and headed towards the exit to Topside, but while he saw where he was going he was on the network, flashing through pages of emails directly in his eyes.
    One caught his eye, it was one that he had bookmarked the day before, it was from a contact of his in the know for one of the gangs around town, apparently selling hacked Spinal fluid on the black market to the people suffering from nuero-rot, sick business ventures like this made Apro shiver.

    He closed his emails after pressing the accept button letting his contact know he'd investigate the claims of spine hackers along the coast. Taking an extended drag of his cigarette, he'd reached the Topside, he heard thunder not far off, and felt droplets hit his forehead, it would rain soon, and he had a ways to walk before he reached his stakeout location. Upper east coast was a weird place for people to hack spines, but it was money to Apro, money meant food, weed and cigarettes, his three main needs.


    Walking passed the Lemon Pop and at this point finishing his cigarette which he simply tossed onto the road, he received a priority letter, the job he pulled crashing Petrochem's payroll system had earned him recognition it seemed, as he had a bit of a bounty on him, 3000 credits to bring in the culprit alive, no reward dead.

    "Guess they didn't like feeling the mode..... Wonder who's desperate enough to try to make me feel it...."
    He mumbled to himself as he continued to walk the slowly emptying streets, the lull in foot traffic for the hour it took for the Graveyard shifters to start the bustle and hustle back up again.

    "I hate stakeout jobs...."
  8. Veronica made her way through the winding streets of New York, her eyes searching those around her. Her face was hidden by the shadow cast by the cowl draped over her red hair. Her plasma whip was strapped neatly to her hip for easy access. The place was crawling with netrunners, as expected. This was their territory, after all. She was here on business, however. She'd been charged with the nasty job of killing one of the netrunners who had been causing Militech quite a lot of grief as of late. She didn't know who he was, but she did know she wasn't the only one going after some netrunners.

    She tapped her ear, where the cybernetic chip was carefully placed. Everything around her became digital, expanding and moving around as she chose. She blinked, and what she was seeing quickly changed to her latest intel. The netrunner she was looking for went by the name of Consect. She had no idea why; the name didn't even seem to have anything to do with netrunners. But it was who she was looking for.

    So, with a disgruntled sigh, she approached a man who looked all but happy to see her coming.
    "I'm looking for Consect. Know him?" she asked bluntly and the man didn't seem to recognize the name. He shrugged. "Never heard of him. Look, I don't want any trouble and you're clearly looking for it. So, please, go bother someone else with your questions," he answered gruffly, which only irritated Veronica.

    She sighed, a headache beginning to form on the edges of her skull. She needed a break. So she headed for neutral territory, deciding it best to try her luck there instead of around all the netrunners. Her pace was natural but slowly quickening in speed. She felt like the man was still watching her and she didn't like it. She'd never been able to shake the feeling that someone was watching her, but this time it was more apparent.

    She was only able to let out a breath when she finally stepped onto neutral territory. She took her plasma whip and stuffed it into her satchel. No need to arouse suspicion. Not yet.

  9. Intro track:
    Show Spoiler

    He'd been staking out the docks for two hours now, drenched head to toe from the heavy rain.....He'd seen nothing. He sat atop the maze of Trailer Crates that had probably been waiting to be transported since before the last war, keeping an eye on the actual piers and near the road leading back up mainland. 'Ridiculous' he thought as he pulled a fresh cigarette out and lit it, doing his best to shield it from the water, to only a marginal victory over nature's seemingly inconsolable sobbing. He checked through his emails, an email from Ayana had popped up in his inbox, seeing it made him roll his eyes, no doubt her expressing her displeasure over his refusal of her job, most likely with expletives used every other word. He'd deal with that later face to face, he felt this one was more important.


    Drawing from his cigarette, he was about ready to pack it in, until a noise drew his attention, not a scream, nor the scrape of metal, but the telltale sign he'd missed the attack. He rolled to the other side of the massive crate, and upon looking down he saw he was right, a figure bathed in shadows and visual distortion from the rainfall was stooped over the body of a woman, her shirt noticeably ripped down the middle in the back, her skin slashed open, her blood being mixed into a messy scene on the drenched concrete. The figure was indeed extracting the fluid from her spinal cord, and the suspicions of Zerv were true, this guy had a labkit on him to turn the stolen fluids into a blackmarket Neuro-Rot treatment.

    "Not tonight....." He muttered, grabbing his pistol setting the emitter battery discharger at 1200 watts, questionably enough to take out an armored truck given a large enough bolt of slag. He took aim, straight for the leg, no reason to kill nor keep him intact enough to get away, the whirr of the charge up started, then the buzz of the discharge came along with the sizzling noise of the molten slag rocketing into the killer's leg. He'd walk again, but not anytime soon. He dropped down, and inspected the kit and the body.

    "Gotta say I'm a bit more turbed now that you're down for the count, though what you've done here?" He said pointing at the mess. "This is DIS-turbing, that's cool though, cause you're moded." He said sarcastically as he called the Hammers to come take this psycho away.

    "What right do you got to put me away, kid?! All I'm doin is helpin the sick.!" He screamed. Apro was unimpressed.

    "Look, I'm all for helping the sick, but why mode the healthy to do it? why not raid hospitals or something, use the spinal fluid they take everyday to make your rot cure." He said, his eyes darting towards the sounds of the sirens.
    "Gotta Run, you sit tight there, buddy." he said with a chuckle, before darting off into the night.

    Quickly moving back to the city streets, he opened up a call line to Zerv, who answered almost immediately.

    "What's good boyah?" (boy with a softer oy sound) He said, "You check out dat spinehacker shit?"

    Apro smirked, "Yeah crashed that mode, you were right, he was synthesizing the drugs right there by the body."

    "Told you dat shit was sick."

    "Yeah, not as whelming as I thought it'd be though, so how much did I earn doing this little gig for you?" He asked, lighting yet another new cigarette as he came back to the entrance of Undertown, heading down the steps and slipping into a seedy bar called the Gutrot.


    "20,000 Global creds, boyah, how's that sound?"
    Zerv replied, a bit cheerful the racket was shut down.

    "20K Globals? Yeah that's getting me more traught than I have been in a while. Wire it to my chitbox, man, I gotta go, lemme know when you got another gig for me. Apro out." He said shutting his link off as he sat at the bar, the bartender immediately just handing him a black bag, 5 big bottles of Rum and 3 cartons of smokes, to which Apro put a 5 Hundred Credit chits down on the table, pointing to the noodle bar, the bartender giving a thumbs up to him as he took the money.

    He grabbed a go-box and got a about 15 teriyaki chicken sticks with a side of pork fried rice and pork lo mein, his favorite dish, he knew most of it was synthetic, but a shit was something he didn't give about that, to him it was delicious. It wasn't long before he stepped back into his apartment and shed the soaked clothes after he put his booze smokes and chow down on the kitchen counter. He grabbed a pair of black pants that were a very light material, and just wore those with a grey tank top as he grabbed a bottle of the rum and a chicken stick, taking a sip after every bite.


    Having finished eating, with 5 sticks and a good bit of rice in the fridge, he was sat at his desk playing an old shooter game on an equally aged computer, his lips curled around a blunt, eyes bloodshot, a bottle of rum half gone, this would the rest of his day, playing video games drunk and high till he decided to crash out for the night, the whole time a song from the 1980's playing over his speakers.

    Outro track:
    Show Spoiler


  10. The angle on the outboard processor turned up nothing but loose ends. As Headjack feared, the device had been cracked to be an autonomous system probably as soon as it hit the open market. Any means of tracing an ISN back to the source using the device's Serial were about as likely as catching a falling satellite with a baseball mitt. On the plus side ZoComp now had the device blacklisted on a handful of registries. That however was nothing more than saying if the woman got caught with the system in hand it'd turn up a flag and she'd be taken in for questioning. So long as the lass could produce a receipt or a transaction slip it wouldn't serve as anything more than an inconvenience. C'est la vi. More fish in the sea as the saying goes.

    What did turn up interesting though was the fingerprint. A shot in the dark at first turned lucrative as the digging ensued. The print was isolated from the vendor's almost immediately having picked it out off the bat and tracking where the man had placed his hands in the transfer. His information was discarded to an "Other" cache in the off chance he'd be needed in the future. As it was, that wasn't terribly likely. Headjack was no detective, but he understood basic evidence collection procedures on an amature basis. Cotton balls had been soaked in a baking soda solution overnight to create a makeshift medium of which to apply superglue to static prints. When applied to superglue, the balls react chemically and burn off the glue into a gas form which in turn comes to rest on oily residue. The great thing about glass in applications like this is that it holds prints remarkably well so long as they're not smudged or cleaned. After that it only took an airtight environment fashioned from tape and plastic wrap to cote the mercenary's print to a collectible point. A bit archaic, but it did the job.

    Hacking Infocomp's citizen registry database? That was harder. It took 18 hours of fishing about in the web to find a loosely encrypted employee login. The company operated applications of the state, and as such had to abide by certain levels of operational security in order to remain in business. One of which was quarterly password changes among all certified employees. Nothing short of an annoyance when you're intention is to pull information illegally with as little trace as possible. Fortunately the employee registry of Infocomp's site sported quite a bit of open source information on it's staff. A partial listing of notable figures had been provided on the site and listed in case of contact. Isolating names gave Miner the ability to trace specific Social Identification Numbers based on the individual. From there, it was just an application of Murphy's law. With a password selection that flighty, it was only a matter of time before someone got fed up and recorded something they could remember. The ever famous 1,2,3,4,5 password joke, or the use of SINs for login codes hadn't been lost on the current century. It didn't matter how advanced things got, there was always a market on human stupidity.

    After that it was just a matter of establishing parameters. A handful of proxy servers had long since been established as remote uplinks to the net by the runner. It took time to do, but it was one of the few ways you could cover your ISN these days from being traced. To an observer, the logins would show as sprouting up from netcafes, libraries and public access points. A bitch of leg work, but invaluable in the long run. Remaining invisible was a chore but not something Jacob intended to give up just yet.

    One by one, the netrunner jumped from proxy server to proxy server attempting SIN based pass codes on listed employee logins. As soon as one was tried and failed, the name was discarded and the remote uplink powered down. Following that, Miner would open a new proxy and start the whole process a new. It took 18 mind numbingly boring hours before the netrunner got a hit on the village idiot.

    A groan of long overdue satisfaction sounded in the netrunner's throat as he was given access to the registry. If he had a name and the woman was a convicted criminal of some sort, the trace would have been a breeze. As it was however, the only thing he had was a fingerprint and those were protected under various act from open source listings.

    Headjack scanned in the print into the database and waited for the listing to match. As the screen flashed back, seven partial matches came up positive to the age bracket. Only one of them however was a redhead. The kicker was, she'd been dead for a minute. Eden Taggart, Deceased, New York City, Age of passing: 16. Interesting...

    The photo was a few years dated but it was enough of a match from the pictures saved to the netrunner's neural cache. It was still a shot in the dark considering the end of a lead, but at least now the direction was dimly lit rather than blackened. If the woman was listed as being dead, she was likely operating on either a complete lack of SIN, a stolen one or a faked one. All the same, a name was better than nothing. Wouldn't be a proper hunt without some semblance of a challenge.

    Seeing the lead to it's end brought light to a new issue. While the tides of the cat and mouse game had shifted, they were still in the potential mercenary's favor. It was possible that the only thing she had on Miner was his name and a rough guess of his area of operation but that wasn't for certain. If the woman was better informed than she had initially let on or the whole play through the Netrunner district was a guise, then this location was compromised. It was a shortcoming in this line of work, one can never get too attached to a place of business.

    Headjack took one last look around his apartment and began packing up a small bag of essentials. Clothes, personal supplies and various hard media that couldn't be sacrificed were shoved unceremoniously in a backpack. He went over a mental list in his mind to verify anything he'd have otherwise left behind. This time he wouldn't be coming back. Before leaving, one final message was sent out to the tykes. His information network scattered about the district.

    The message sent almost as soon as it was drafted, and no reply was received. After all, they knew better. Headjack slowly made his way out of the apartment and into the stairwell of the complex, locking the door behind him. He took one more moment to triple check his steps before starting down the stairs. Like clockwork, the familiar face of a woman came into view as he rounded the next floor down. "Burning the midnight candle at both ends I see," The woman replied with a small smile. Pressed in her hand was a mug of tea held in her only existing arm. The same gown from before sat low on one shoulder as it had from before like the last time they had spoken.

    "It's better than simply burning." Headjack replied returning her smile. Even though the pair hadn't so much as exchanged names, he'd miss the passing exchanges. "Between clients?"

    "Look at you all interested in my business," the woman's eyes gave a wink as she spoke, clearly teasing, "Not hardly. Days like this I just come out to sit and think. Every so often I dream up a story or two that strikes my fancy."

    "Anything with a happy ending?"

    "Always love; but lets be honest, people don't stick around to hear fairy tales these days."
    The statement was more a matter of fact than one of sadness.

    "Call me old fashioned, but I could go for a fairy tale about now,"
    a cheshire smirk tugged at the edge of the Netrunner's face. "Could I interest you in a drink?"

    The woman's response held the same teasing tone it had before,"I have a drink."

    "Then can I interest you in something slightly more appropriate than hot water?"

    "I don't suppose it's entirely out of the question." The smirk was returned as the woman stretched back her only arm and lounged back against the stairs. As she did the collar of her gown slipped down her arm just enough to reveal the connection joint of a prosthetic from a time before. Whether it had been forcibly stolen or if the woman was the result of augmentation rejection was anyone's guess. Regardless, it did nothing to take away from either her appearance or the way of which she held herself.

    Miner reached into his coat and removed a credit chip between the fingers of his augmented hand. Slowly he outstretched his hand and offered her the currency. "Tell you what. Why you go get drinks from one of the vendors down the way and I'll set up a spot on the roof. You can tell me one of your stories and we can watch the sun come up."

    The woman's head rocked back with laughter at the mention, leaving the credit chip in hand suspended for the while. "What is this Casablanka? I bet you tell that to all the girls."

    "Only the cute one's,"
    Miner's grin widened, "You coming or not?"

    An appraising gaze sat in the eye of the woman as she weighed both ends of the Netrunner's offer. A long pause sat between the two as she seemed to play out both branches to their completion inside her mind. Weighing the end results with a nod she reached up and took the chip from between Jacob's fingers. "Alright I'll bite. What'll you have?"

    "Surprise me."
    Jacob replied with a smile.

    The woman have a cheshire grin of her own and hopped down the stairs. Making her exit at the bottom of the passage with the resounding click of the door. Truth be told there was more on that card then chump change for a couple of drinks. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough to get the girl back on her feet in a new spot. A fresh start with no strings attached. Maybe she'd use it. Maybe not. In any case, Miner wouldn't be around long enough to see it to completion. The netrunner glanced back to his apartment and connected his neural interface to the wireless uplink of his security system.

    Headjack breathed out a sigh as he stepped down the last of the stairs. Passing through the door calmly, he turned down the street and lowered the brim of his ball cap over his eyes. The motion of brushing off the cold and huddling beneath his jacket further concealed his features as the collar shifted up slightly. Half way down the street, an unmistakable sound echoed through the district.


    The autopsy report would record the listing as a fractured gas line triggered with an electric spark. Just like that, Headjack erased himself from history once more...

  11. Show Spoiler

    Apro had been passed out for a few hours now, from a combination of natural sleep, and his drinking and smoking. However today, his day would be starting rather early, as he was jolted awake by a pounding at his door and voice telling him to open up. Apro looked around and shook his head, he needed something to alleviate his hangover, and he turned to a joint nicely rolled and waiting for him in his cigarette pack.

    "OPEN UP APRO! Jesus!" The voice he heard called again muffled by the door.

    "I Heard the first time, Harrelson, I'm comin', damn!" He replied with a pained groan putting his sunglasses on as he rubbed his forehead and lit his joint. The door opened to Harrelson with a massive cloud of smoke being blown in his face.

    "What's so damn important you gotta mode my sleep at...."
    He said and irritated, groggy tone in his voice. Upon seeing the clock, he turned back to Harrelson and now his voice held the signs of being pissed. "11 AM? DUDE? SERIOUSLY?! I just crashed out a few hours ago!" He exclaimed, taking another long drag of the whacky tobaccy, this time intentionally blowing the smoke in his face.

    Harrelson coughed after accidentally breathing in some of the smoke. "SHE wants to see you asap, man, she's not happy you weren't there last night." He said, he was nervous, Apro could tell the guy was trying to conceal his stutter.

    Apro buried his forehead into his free palm leaning against his doorway using his elbow, and he took another long drag, only this time he was kind enough not to shotgun the guy with another blast of smoke.
    "Fine," He started dryly, "I'll go over there, go on do whatever you do, bro....." He finished, and half heartedly swung the door closed.

    "Ughhhhh this isn't gonna be a fun game....." He mumbled, sliding on a black shirt made of a mesh-like material but wasn't transparent at all, he slid on a pair of black pants made of the same stuff, and grabbed a pair of sandals instead of his usual sneakers, it was going to be a lazy day after he took the heat from Ayana.

    He finished his joint quickly as he grabbed a couple of his left over chicken sticks and some of the rice and shoveled it down. He then grabbed a bottle of rum to take with him, and he walked out the door.


    Walking down 'Main Street' which was simply just an unused rail way converted to a walkway, he took note of a few new faces he'd never seen before, though to be fair, he wasn't usually awake during the day. He quickly found himself in Ayana's playhouse, a cyber dungeon filled with outdated tech, drugs, stacks of money, old VR games, one that she happened to be playing as he entered, she never had him knock, perks of having the queenbitch of Undertown as a date.


    "You rang?" He said, tapping the bottom of his bottle against her door frame.

    Ayana lifted her VR visor, and Apro could already see the ire in her eyes, "You, were a very bad boy last night!" She said, her voice bathed with irritation with a seductive smokyness. She was about the same height as he was, with snow white hair, and glowing blue eyes, blue lipstick, skin that was of a light grey like somebody had dropped a tiny drop of black paint into a shot glass of white paint and painted her porcelain smooth skin.

    "I was?" He queried, his eyebrow raised over the frame of his shades.

    "Yes, you weren't there when I needed you, babe, so now you'll have to let me punish you."
    She replied, her fingers pulling the zipper to her VR synchrosuit down as the tone of her voice gave away more than her actual words.

    "Uhhhh, I thought you were mad at me, babe....." He said with confusion in his tone, handing her the bottle, which she almost immediately brought to her lips chugging a good bit before pushing him up against the wall. Pinning him, she brought the bottle to his lips and he drank from it, and as the bottle became empty she tossed it away and plunged her tongue down his throat. After a minute or two she pulled her lips away, taking his lip with her teeth, whispering, "Oh I am, furious in fact, and You're about to take all the heat now...." Then she threw him to her bed, and she closed the door.

    A couple hours later, Apro emerged from her apartment, her voice calling out, "Don't let me down again, baby!" His neck was covered in bites outlined in blue lipstick, and as he returned to his own home, immediately lit up both a blunt and a cigarette
    . "That nanoborg certainly, he he he, certainly is wild...." He mumbled to himself as he started up his computer checking his emails through his neural net link, he found nothing interesting, one of his proxy servers topside got moded, he noticed, 'guess someone was on the trail of the Petrochem crasher', he thought, chuckling as smoke billowed from his lips. "Ahhhh back to gaming...." He said to no one, as he was alone in his apartment, just him the smoke and his games. "Note to self, piss Ayana off more often...." He stated to his recorder, adding a bit of a lighthearted chuckle as he exhaled smoke.