The Metro - Down And Out At The Gates Of Heaven

Game Master jemstone

Drawn together by a series of grisly crimes, a small band of truth-seekers find themselves facing the rise of a new, murderous subculture within their high-rise metropolitan home. Can they stop the burgeoning "Spill Killer" before it's too late?


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The San Francisco Metro.

Twenty-three million people, packed together in a massive super city; never sleeping, never resting; a constant, living exultation to the unending consumer cycle. The city reaches into the clouds, a pinnacle of engineering and scientific miracles. The towers and spires defy gravity, reaching up in a mockery of the ancient, decaying urban sprawls that once covered The Outside in a never-ending web of concrete and glass. The Metro holds itself aloft through science and power, using gravity and wind against themselves, strengthening the glittering spires with the very forces that seek to tear them down.

175 square kilometers of land lie buried beneath the colossal bulk of The Metro, the ruins of the Old Era lurk, hidden in the Sub Ways like catacombs, filled with the debris and dust of decades come and gone. The lowest of The Metro's strata, the Sub Ways are the last refuge of the cast-offs and dregs of the world. When not even The Rafters and DownTown will take you, when the world of MidTown is closed off, and UpTown is nothing but the subject of an anger-fueled vengeance dream, the Sub Ways are where you go.

These are the domains of brutal, cold survival. Air can defy your lungs, robbing you of oxygen in the blink of an eye. The Downtown Aqua Farms, supplying the world above with life-giving Krill, Algae, and clean water, exert immense pressure on the crumbling, decaying tunnels, which can come crashing down around you at the slightest noise. The Sub Ways are run by clans, coming together to survive, selling remnants of the Old Era and cast-off technology that somehow avoids the recycle bins. Where The Rafters are a mass of necessary ingenuity and the unrelenting repurposing of resources to keep the unemployed masses alive, the Sub Ways are a warren of desperation and mutual protection pacts. Gangs eke out small empires through force and the promise of a gentle hand for the faithful, for a time, before being overthrown and starting the cycle again. And there are things living down here. People go missing. Sometimes they come back, scared of their own shadow, aching for light.

Carrie "Carrie On" Mendez, stands, alone, on an old metal bridge. She's cold, despite the layers of thermal weave she's wearing. It's icy, down here: bone-chillingly cold, with the kind of dampness that cuts through a body's flesh and gets in to their blood. Nevertheless, she smiles, giving a two-finger victory wave at the small Gabby Gabby Livesream drone that even now hovers around her.

"Are we good?" she asks the drone, which beeps at her in response, a green light blinking to life. It wasn't easy getting a signal down here, but fifteen kilos of algae paste and a new filter for a water pump got her the use of a good, strong router just a short distance away at the Coleberg Camp. From there, it's a jump to another router at the Albertson's Corner, and then a third hop to the access tunnel that got her down here, at the corner of Jennings and Wallace, in The Rafters. She's got a friend, there, Cassidy, who's watching the door to the tunnel, bribing off the maintenance workers and anyone else who wants to mess with the equipment - small packages of food will do a lot in terms of keeping the curious moving along their way. Behold... the power of cheese.

Carrie On is a new breed of Social, here to prove to the rest of her Culture that she and the rest of her tiny breed have a right to cozy up with the Spillers and the Thrillers. Chillers mingle the two, merging the always-on lifestyles of the Spillers with the heart-pounding adrenaline rushes of the Thrillers. Chillers go in to the dark and nasty places, their night-vision goggles rigged to feed directly to their media apps, their drones giving them birds-eye views of strange and hidden places. Chillers go looking for ghosts and things that go bump in the night, searching out the urban legends of The Metro - the apocryphal God Bomb supposedly buried at the base of the city, a leftover "nuclear reset switch" from the Cybershock Era, just before The Metro was built. Or the Flipper Babies supposedly thrown out of their growth tanks at BioNetTek, let loose in the sluices and refresher pools leading to what's left of the bay. And sometimes, Chillers just want to go find a good, solid scare for their viewers: you can't beat a good, solid screamfest.

"Babies," Carrie smiles into the drone's pickup. She hefts a crowbar in her right hand. "Today, we are going to tear up the town! And by 'town,' I mean a whole bunch of warehouses buried down here in the nowhere lands, and by 'tear up' I mean take this crowbar and break open a whole bunch of doors and see what's down here."

A stream of likes and affirmations scroll across Carrie's augmented reality HUD, the tiny disks on her temples feeding a line of information across her vision.

"Hey, don't worry," she smiles, patting the outline of a handgun hidden under her coat. "I'm packing KeiKei Style. They're your Life Brand, don't forget!"

Carrie's drone follows her in to the dark as she descends down the ladder, flitting this way and that, getting all her best angles. The ladder creaks and groans, and more than once, Carrie nearly loses her grip, as the metal is slick with a coating of mold and slime. Eventually, she makes her way to the bottom, turns, and smiles at the camera.

It's then that she notices that the broadcast light has gone off.

Officially, the autopsy report says that she fell, and broke her neck. When her contact at the Colberg Camp came to check on her, they found her at the base of the ladder. Her drone's batteries long dead, there was little to do but report it to MetroSec, send her body back up to MidTown, where she lived. Get it all on the record, reported and on paper, before anyone thought that it would be a good idea to report the Campers for murder. Make sure no one in MetroSec got it in their heads that maybe putting a boot on the lowest of the low was a thing to do.

That was three days ago. Three days of her followers mourning her death. Three days of them creating memorial groups, and holding online meetings, where they debate her greatest moments. Three days of them filtering out to find new celebrities to follow, new faces to worship.

This morning, Emily received a package, delivered anonymously, but with a specific courier request - whoever sent it insisted that BART be the one to deliver it.

Inside the package is an old, Cybershock Era memory card. The memory card is, anachronistically, new. Nothing Emily has will fit the card, nor even read it. The technology is outdated, archaic, and - for the most part - worthless in terms of today's storage methods and capacities.

The question is, now, what to do with it?

***

All players up, but specifically Emily and BART.


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

I laugh out loud when I see who is standing at the front desk with a delivery for me.

"He must be sooooo pissed," I think to myself before buzzing the door guy to say, "Send him up

Once I realize I can't actually confirm that my delivery is intact, I turn to BART and say, "Give me a minute to make sure my feed still has a few hours delay from this morning. Then you can come in without worrying about getting caught on camera. We're gonna need Avryl."

"Olive branch activated" I think as I check what my playlist for the day. Live feeds are great but if you can make it look live and give yourself breathing room it's even BETTER.

Then I message Avryl to ask if she has something that will read this ancient thing.


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

I try to give the busy-body my deadest dead-pan expression. I never wanted to see Emily Theora Carter again after I replaced her mobile kit. But since she recorded me throwing the original into the Bay, someone must have thought it would have been a real chuckle to give me this drop-off.

"I'd rather not wait around so Avy can confirm what I already know. You're package is fine and in tact. It was never opened or tampered with while it was in my care. And you'll forgive me if I don't exactly trust Miss Live-and-Direct to keep me off-camera."

"You're not my only drop-off today," I lie, "and I know you want me in your studio like a dose of the clap, so if it's all the same to you, just give me a good rating on the app, cut me my fee and I'm in the wind."


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

I resist the urge to roll my eyes and think "Olive branch status: FAIL".

Yeah, well, much as I'd love to send you on your way, this may be data relevant to MY job and I'm not paying for something without knowing if I can access it. So, pretend we've never met and provide the customer service you're known for.

I send a second message to Avryl that says that I will buy her a day's worth of caffeine or junk food if she can come ASAP.


Female Egghead (Freelancer)
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 1/2 | Bruises 20 | Willpower 21 | Perception 15

I wish sometimes I could stay in bed, but I know I can’t.

I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to work. That’s why I’m trying to finish up this coding job. It’s customizing and adapting the Ultra Unity Engine for this new game that’s “sure to be the next big hit”. I’ve heard that too many times from too many clients, but at least this one is promising to pay up front, and coding like this is fairly simple.

I’m 3/4 of the way there, when I get a message. Emily…she has a WHAT!?

She can’t be serious. Nobody uses that antique protocol anymore. ”Get serious, dear.

I go back to work, back into my zen mode. Code like this is easy. You don’t even need to write it all from scratch. If you’ve done enough coding, you had resources of your past to borrow against. Just use them like pieces of a puzzle, and what you can’t fill with that, you write—

Emily’s second message. Same thing, but with promises of caffeine or junk food. I look around my tiny cube and realize that my supply of both are rather low.

I text her back. I’ll be there. And I expect the good stuff when I arrive.

I grab up my coat, and all the essentials—including a bag of odds and ends, since I’ll probably have to make something to read that artifact.


To answer a question asked of me out of game about the memory card: It's an antiquated technology - a microSD memory card, with a "1.2tb" label on it, and is held in a frosted plastic case barely bigger than Emily's thumbnail. It is "old" in that it comes from well before the technology the PC's are using today was invented. It does, however, look like it was just taken out of its packaging. On a collector's market, this thing would be worth rather a lot of credits.


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

"Excellent!" I say then think wait I need to check the fridge. s@%#.

Then aloud "BART you'll be happy to know she's on her way. You'll be out of my evil clutches before you know it."

Then I jump on an app for food delivery so I don't have TWO angry guests after Avryl arrives. I order my standard Avryl bribe package to be delivered ASAP.


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

I just sit in her studio, giving her the dead-eyed stare of the SalaryMan(tm) floor model.


Avryl arrives at Emily's studio at The Hamilton Tower Block relatively quickly - public transit is a beautiful thing, especially when you know a few ways through the lines. Flashing your POS-ID at the door scanner shows that you're expected, and the security doors let you through.

The Hamilton Tower Block extends, like most of the towers of The Metro, deep into the lower levels of DownTown, making it a structural tower that numerous roads, platforms, walkways, and inter-tower supports connect to. At this part of MidTown, that means it's surrounded by wide, curving promenades chock full of pedestrians and market carts, milling about in a well-orchestrated chaos. A few meters below the promenades, well-protected motorways enable three lanes of one-way motor traffic, where one- and two-seater electric cars - easily rented, short range vehicles referred to as Hoppers - roll smoothly along on computer-controlled courses, taking their passengers wherever they need to go for a few credits an hour. Above the promenades, Skycars - and the occasional Airboard - carve through the air, delivering their private passengers to specialized landing zones throughout the various city towers. Keeping the city safe, a highly distributed network of smart drones - the wide, disc-shaped Vespa4 Air Safety Drones - move on a constant patrol to intercept debris from crashed skycars... and the ever-possible body of a jumper from some far height high above.

As Avryl enters the hallway leading to Emily's door, a delivery employee from OMG Eats, a fully-owned and operated subsidiary of Online Marketplace Galleria smiles and enters the elevator that Avryl's just vacated. She wears the trademark OMG Eats hat, which contains an AR code, a small symbol that Avryl's augmented reality view picks up. A series of small ads pop up in Avryl's view, showing her all the ads and meal deals on today's rotation that she might be interested in.

It would seem that the food Emily ordered literally arrived just in time.

I'll save you some time and presume that you get right to (a) eating, and (b) looking at the card.

Avryl, the memory card is nothing you can really do anything with. You need a very specific generation of interface plug for this thing. At one time, they were common, as the flavor of "smart phone" that they plugged in to was ubiquitous. But that was a long time ago, and the need for expansion-bay based storage media is long gone.

You'll actually have to come up with either one of those phones, or a card reader that worked with one of them.

Maybe Emily or BART know someone who owns or can get their hands on one?


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

I start desperately looking for Zerin's contact information before BART goes from shooting daggers with his eyes to throwing real ones.


Emily Theora Carter wrote:
I start desperately looking for Zerin's contact information before BART goes from shooting daggers with his eyes to throwing real ones.

It's in your AR Pack's contact list, right there under "T" for "Taro," and cross-referenced with "Collects useless junk" and "Fixes things," as well as "Maybe should put BART in touch with her because she's good at her job."

According to Zerin's PERSONE data, her shop's open, currently. It's about a ten minute jaunt if you grab a Ryde.IT cab.


Rouser Flashback
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 8 | SPD (Run) 80 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 35 | Willpower 15 | Perception 17

Zerin's shop is in what used to be, in another technological phase, in another economy, a booming area. It's not quite yet urban decay, too walled in by the Metro over all, but it's time will come. Now space is comparatively cheap, overcrowded, and dingy. The building stands out in its size as a single block of space, not subdivided into smaller and smaller residences, but a plain slab of a building with heavy shutters that can be pulled down over large bay doors, one of which is rolled open, sounds of air tools and metal on metal audible from the outside.

There's ample space for a cab to disgorge a passenger, as long as the passenger isn't too picky about the state of their shoes. This area of town clearly gets overlooked on regular street cleaning.


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The Ryde.IT cab that picks Avryl, BART, and Emily up for the trip to Zerin's is a slick, black Skycar with the traditional Ryde.IT logo emblazoned on the hood and rear doors. Your driver is a fairly typical Joe Public type, a sort of heads-down work-a-day cabbie who spends the 10km trip through the skylanes into DownTown talking about the latest set of Get On That Thrill competition broadcasts.

Checking Emily's Reputation, 2d6 + 5 (Joe Public) + 1 (MidTowners): 2d6 + 6 ⇒ (5, 6) + 6 = 17

Reputation Stuff:

So, one of the key things in The Metro (and Power Core in general), is Reputation. Reputation is not only a method by which people can recognize you for who you are and what you've done, but it's also a resource. You can spend points of Reputation as a tool - using it to intimidate, or coerce, or impress - gaining advantages by doing so. Reputation can be a boon when you're trying to get a member of Joe Public to help you out when you're on the run from some folks who are hungry for your grisly demise. Reputation can be a pain in the rear when someone with a grudge recognizes you. Using Reputation as a resource results in the temporary reduction of your value with a particular Culture or Crowd, and as that happens in the game, we'll talk about it.

"You're that Emily Carter, aren't you?" he remarks. "You did that thing on the Base Jump Flash Team, ya? That was some messed up stuff, ya, all them folks doping up like that. How you gotta go and juice up for what's supposed to be an amateur sport? I tell you what, if I were running that..."

And so on, with the conversation eventually turning in to how far this section of DownTown has fallen since the folks at CeTek pulled their industrial center from the area and moved it over a few quads. He's sure something else will come along – it's not likely that an unused industrial foundation will stay empty for long – but for now, the sphere of recession in this section is growing, as more and more people are running out of local jobs, needing to search farther and farther afield to bring in the credits.

Eventually, though, the ride is over Emily, knock 10km off of your Ryde.IT voucher, if you would be so kind, and the three of you are deposited in front of Zerin's shop. It's a "Ground Floor" unit, opening out on to a Pedestrian Walkway. A thin division strip separates the Ped-Path from a dual-lane Moto-way, where a few one- and two-seater vehicles zip along their way to wherever their passengers are trying to go, electric motors pushing them quietly down the road.

The ads and AR-HUD items floating around this area are typical DownTown fare: want-ads, job offers for day labor from MidTown, advertisements for specialized training on the Aqua Farm Floater Colonies, and the like. A small crowd of street vendors and other Joe Public types looking for work begin to descend upon your group, but quickly give up when they see that you're walking purposely toward Zerin's shop. From the back of the shop, the sound of an air hammer rings out across the Ped-Path. A disaffected, incredibly bored teenage girl - a Flashback by the looks of her pin-and-patch covered black vat-leather jacket, once shiny and new, but now dingy, cracked, and well-worn, as well as her retro-throwback hairstyle and clothes, stands behind the counter at the front of the shop. She's reviewing something on a hardscreen, but pushes it aside when you walk in.

In a dazzling display of Knowing When Something Is Up, the girl simply smiles and taps her fingers over a space in the air in front of her, obviously interacting with her AR-HUD.

"Hey, Bosslady," she says to the room, contacting Zerin in the back. "There's some folks here to see you."

***

All players up.


Female Egghead (Freelancer)
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 1/2 | Bruises 20 | Willpower 21 | Perception 15

Avryl makes a bit of a grimace as she steps on who-knows-what on the way to Zerin’s workshop. Even after all these years, she still doesn’t like coming to DownTown, and she still feels like an outsider even in MidTown.

One look at the shop’s interior does little initially to reassure her. ”Are you sure about this, Emily? The artifact we’re looking for is rather…obscure.”


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11
Avryl wrote:
Are you sure about this, Emily? The artifact we’re looking for is rather…obscure

I reply, "I'm sure this will help us get on the right path. If Zerin doesn't have the right reader, she's the SECOND most likely person in my contacts list to know where to find one. You were first because I didn't realize how old this thing was."


Rouser Flashback
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 8 | SPD (Run) 80 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 35 | Willpower 15 | Perception 17

There is a sharp tang of metal and oil in the air, a back taste of melted plastic. The woman that comes out of the back, wiping grease off her hands, matches the place, the wear and tear of the years along with the relics of technology's growth showing. The cybernetics of her leg and arm aren't disguised, once-cutting edge experimental military tech now pushing obsolescence.

When she sees Emily she stops with a mild grimace. "What, here for another Inspiration piece? 'Where are they now?'"


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

I laugh and reply "Nope... well maybe eventually... but not today. Probably not today... I have an old data card and no way to read it. I went the egghead route and struck out. So I've got my fingers crossed you can help us out. I need to verify the data is readable so I can pay him, I use my thumb to point at BART and send him on his way."

"What's that old meme? Help us Zerin Taro, you're our only hope?"


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

I smile and walk over to the nice, grease-spattered lady and extend a hand. "Hi. I'm Bart. Nice to meet you."


Female Egghead (Freelancer)
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 1/2 | Bruises 20 | Willpower 21 | Perception 15

It seems we're introducing ourselves now. I should probably join in. "Avryl Grimaldi, ma'am. And what Ms. Carter has yet to explain is that we need a specific piece of Old era technology to read this data card—a smartphone, actually."


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

Emily nods and says, "Yeah, what she said."


Rouser Flashback
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 8 | SPD (Run) 80 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 35 | Willpower 15 | Perception 17

Zerin shakes B.A.R.T.'s hand, mechanical hand meeting that of the podbody's. She gives the hand a slight twist, looking at the workmanship of it reflexively, and nods slightly.

She makes a "hrmpf" noise, thinking about what they said.

"Can I see it? Smartphones had a few different types of data cards."


The memory card is as described: a 1.2tb Micro-SD card, typically used in all manner of off-brand smartphones. It uses a type of plastic common to the late-evolution stage of case- and container- plastics, and while recyclable, is nothing like the easily (and, indeed, mandatory) reusable plastics of the Metro Era. At 1.2 Terabytes, it would have been a large amount of storage space, at the time.

Zerin's technical knowledge is enough to know that a card, like this, which appears to be fresh out of the packaging and therefore new, would be worth several thousand credits on the collector's market.

However, since there's a (very) small wear scratch on the back of the card, it's definitely been inserted in to a device of some kind.

It's been used at least once.

Zerin, you don't have a reader that will work on this.

However, Reputation Check, 2d6 + 2 (Flashbacks) + 2 (Gangs): 2d6 + 4 ⇒ (2, 4) + 4 = 10, you're pretty sure you can get the right parts, but it's going to require you do some trading with a Neopunk you've rubbed elbows with (in the bad way) from time to time...

His name's Jagger, and he tends to linger around Recycle Yards, looking for new and exciting scrap to trade with certain unsavory elements in order to convince them to sabotage MetroPD and MetroPower operations.


I had a nice spoiler addition for the post detailing what goes on at Recycle Yards, but the boards ate it with a "backtracked too far" message. I'll tack it on to another post at an appropriate time.


Rouser Flashback
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 8 | SPD (Run) 80 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 35 | Willpower 15 | Perception 17

Zerin looks at the chip and whistles softly and mutters under their breath. "Damn, where did you come from?"

They then frown, looking down at the chip, pretty sure that they don't have the right type of reader, but not really wanting to go to the most likely source. "I'm not sure if I have what's needed... but let me check to be sure."

A quick inventory query turns up nothing. A quick check of the odd corners and things that might have been overlooked turns up nothing. They swear under their breath before coming back to the front and the waiting folks.

"I got nothing. We can try someone at the Recycle Yards... but he and I don't really get along, and he might not offer a deal you're willing to pay."


Female Egghead (Freelancer)
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 1/2 | Bruises 20 | Willpower 21 | Perception 15

Avryl turned to Emily. "Well, sounds like the ball's in your court, dear. What do you want to do next?"


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

Emily sighs and says, "I'm gonna be so pissed if this chip is empty or just has fan porn on it. But I need to know and well, pay BART. I'm sure I can find a way to butter Zerin's contact up... maybe we'll get lucky and he's a fan..."

"Zerin, can you make the introductions? Or should I reach out to him on my own?"


Rouser Flashback
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 8 | SPD (Run) 80 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 35 | Willpower 15 | Perception 17

Zerin looks Emily over, and all her high end/high fashion accessories.

"Nah, if you're gonna go slumming with Neopunks you might as well have a guide." Zerin shakes her head. "Particularly looking so upper city."


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

"Works for me. Can we head there now? I really need to finish this up so I can release BART back into the wild."


It's easy enough for Zerin to check Jagger's PERSONE data and find out that he's currently hanging out in a dock-side transfer station, where a Floater Colony barge is offloading thousands of kilos of material for the Recycle Yards.

Recycling Trivia In The Metro:

There are lots of different ways to recycle things in The Metro, ranging from large-scale shredding of plastics and metals for re-use, down to individual item programs.

The most common recycling takes the form of a package-level program, where anything that comes in a package is marked with one of two symbols - a steaming bowl (often called a "noodle bowl" because the steam tends to look like noodles), or an Old Era style fuel pump - embossed or printed on the package in at least one location.

Practically all containers or packaging are made from bioplastics, starch-based cardboards, and other similar materials. Packages marked with the fuel pump logo can be treated with a fairly simple chemical bath that breaks the package down into a paste that can be mixed with just about any form of refined alcohol and used as a moderately efficient fuel source. While the primary use of this fuel paste is supposed to be for things like keeping plasma furnaces burning to safely dispose of biological waste (the kind that can't normally be recycled itself), a good number of folks out in the Floaters, or down in The Rafters and Sub Ways use it to keep themselves warm and cook their food. The paste keeps through most environmental conditions, resists water, and when you dry it out enough, can be powdered or mixed with a bonding agent to make easily carried pellets, cakes, or logs. The GM will neither confirm nor deny that it's also an easy component in back-alley garage explosives.

Packages with the noodle bowl marking can be shredded and similarly turned into a starchy, viscous liquid that's used as a base in a good many simple-prep foods, such as Corny Bites and Krysp brand crunchies. It's supposed to be manufactured and processed at the Recycle Yards, where it's then to be shipped off to various neighborhood fabrication centers so that it can be mixed with other ingredients, shaped into either food or more packaging, and then re-sold. Of course, since many people know the way to turn the packages into their liquid form, there's a side-market in getting it to the hands of those same folk in DownTown. The liquid is known on the street as "Syrup," and is regularly used as a food supplement, poured over Corny Bites, Krysp, as well as rice, noodles... you name it. It smells and tastes like stale potatoes, but it's loaded with calories, and you can add food coloring to it so that it doesn't look like you're eating snot. Pretty much every food cart and snack vendor in the lowest parts of DownTown has their own house-blend Syrup, and add it fairly liberally to the usually nutrient-deficient (but calorie-dense) foods they serve.

The group pile in to Zerin's "truck" (really a long-bed two-seater Hopper, rigged for low-velocity seating in the back - it can carry up to six additional passengers in the bed safely, but don't take it over 40kph) and arrive there in about ten minutes.

Feel free to have any discussions you want to have while you're on the way.

The dockside area, well and truly DownTown, reeks of the cold, damp smell of salt water and wet, rime-encrusted concrete. The barge is laden with hundreds of compressor cubes - storage containers with built-in pressure panels that pack their contents into a firm, solid cube of junk weighing roughly a metric ton each - most of which are marked with the logos of various corporations, showing that they've been earmarked for reclamation and use by companies like Calibr8 and KeiKei Style.

Jagger is currently engaged in a heated debate with the barge manager, pointing animatedly at a single, unmarked compressor cube. The barge manager eventually puts his foot down, and Jagger makes several expletive-laden statements we can't repeat here on the forums, finally handing over a HARDCA$H card to the smiling barge manager.

Jagger makes a quick call on his AR, talking to someone in rapid-fire Korean before he notices you all standing nearby. He ends the call, waving his hand in the typical "Hang Up" motion. He shifts to a guarded stance for a moment, until he notices Zerin standing near the truck, at which point he relaxes.

"You come all the way down here to see me, Taro?" he smirks. "Y'could'a just called, yah?"

He scratches at the patchy stubble along his jaw, thinking for a moment.

"Unless you got something you don't want on the airwaves? That your story, gaucho?"


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

Through this entire debacle, from Emily's office to Zerin's, BART has remained stoically deadpan and silent, with his only real motion or show of humanity being introducing himself to Zerin. With every set-back or new wrinkle, he just rolls his eyes and follows along, occasionally with a mumbled "Never going to get f%$#ing paid."


As two of our players are currently having a family emergency, we will suspend the one-post-per-week minimum until they return.


Rouser Flashback
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 8 | SPD (Run) 80 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 35 | Willpower 15 | Perception 17
Jagger wrote:

"You come all the way down here to see me, Taro?" he smirks. "Y'could'a just called, yah?"

He scratches at the patchy stubble along his jaw, thinking for a moment.

"Unless you got something you don't want on the airwaves? That your story, gaucho?"

"Like I'd come down to see your pretty face if I could avoid it." Taro snarks at Jagger. "Nah, looking for some hardware that I don't have in my shop, and so a shopping trip seemed in order.


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

Emily pipes in with, "We're looking for something that can read an old data card. Something called a MicroSD card. Or parts that Zerin can use to make a card reader. Can you help us out?"


Jagger's eyes flit back and forth between Emily and Zerin, and his left eyebrow tics up for a brief moment.

Reputation Check, 2d6 + 1 (Downtowners): 2d6 + 1 ⇒ (5, 3) + 1 = 9

Jagger's reputation check isn't enough to recognize anything about Emily - he doesn't run in many of the same Crowds she does, and has nothing in terms of Rep with the Socials.

"Yeah, okay, Miss Face. I'll do that for ya, easy price."

He smiles and taps a few points in space, interacting with his AR HUD.

"I got six of those, one's in a locker near here," he grins, pointing at Avryl. "I give you dainties the code, and you give me your private PERSONE, yeah? Because life? Is short. And you? Are hot. What you say?"


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14
Atomic Rocket Games wrote:

Jagger's eyes flit back and forth between Emily and Zerin, and his left eyebrow tics up for a brief moment.

"Yeah, okay, Miss Face. I'll do that for ya, easy price."

Because, of course he will. Note to self. Next time, get the money up front. I don't know what I'm losing more of, time or brain cells.

Quote:
"I got six of those, one's in a locker near here," he grins, pointing at Avryl. "I give you dainties the code, and you give me your private PERSONE, yeah? Because life? Is short. And you? Are hot. What you say?"

Great, this guy's as slick as road-rash and twice as appealing and I've used up about all my patience with this garbage. If I don't get paid, in full and sharp, I'm writing today off. She can call it a favor or add it to my tab or whatever she wants but boredom is my kryptonite and I forgot my lead-lined jammies.

"You have ten more minutes of my time, Ms. Thing. Then we'll just call it a professional courtesy, I'll call it a loss and jog on."


Female Egghead (Freelancer)
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 1/2 | Bruises 20 | Willpower 21 | Perception 15

I'm completely caught offguard, not really wanting to be this far into downtown in the first place. It feels as if I'm suddenly cornered. "I…I um…"

What a quandary! If I brush him off, the story ends here. Then again, it's not my story now, is it? I'd only have to lose one important contact, and…

Oh, grow up, silly girl. I'm just giving him my PERSONE, not stripping naked and boffing him right on the spot.

I reach into my frock coat and pull out one of my signature PERSONE cards, prepared/resigned to hand it over. "Would this be a bad time to mention that some people consider me 'high maintenance'?"

Hopefully the wry smile reveals that I'm at least half joking…


Jagger smirks, taking the small plastic slip from Avryl's hand and holding it up between the index and middle fingers of his left hand. A small line of light flashes inside the card as it scans through his AR, and he tucks it away inside his coat.

"Zerin didn't tell you? Jagger is the best maintenance man there is," he laughs. "Call you later, gorgeous girl."

He flicks his fingers through the air, and a ping goes off on Zerin's AR HUD.

"There's the X-Y-Z and the passcode," Jagger tells you all. "The reader's in a black tote box on the... Third? Third shelf on the left, I think. Tell you what, you just take the whole box. Nothin' in there I need. But don't touch anything else. I got a good inventory system."

With that, Jagger turns back to the compressor cube, waving you off.

"Now andale. I got a loader comin' down here in five. You don't want to be here for that."

Jagger pauses, then turns back to look at BART.

"Hey, Salaryman. That's a factory stock, ain't it, gaucho? You still got all the parts in the maintenance kit? I know a guy, pay you real good for the dermal patch iron."


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

Emily says "Thank you SO much" to Jagger while patting Avryl on the shoulder. A very meaningful pat.

Emily is barely suppressing the urge to squeal, while jumping up and down and clapping.

Then she turns to BART and says, "How much for you grab the reader out of the locker and meet us back at Zerin's? I'll pay you for your extra time and send you on your way. And next time someone wants you to deliver something to me, outsource it."


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

About time.

"Double my fee should cover all this traipsing around town. And, for the record, I wasn't given a name, just an address. I didn't know you were the client until you opened the door.

I turn to Zerin and give my widest salesman smile. "Nice tech lady, please ping me with the coordinates for the package and our delivery instructions as provided by the sender?"

I turn on my heel and head out of the shop, turning on my delivery subsystems as I go. "See you in a hot minute, Avy. Jagger, I'll be in touch about the derm iron."

Once I'm out the door, I take off. A good run will clear my head.

If the route takes me over flat ground and it's not just somewhere in Jagger's scrapyard, I'll break out the skates in the shoes to cover ground as quickly as I can. If it's just coordinates in the yard, I'm just going to move as quickly and safely as I can to get it.


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

Emily sighs.

"This has not helped my standing with him AT ALL has it?"


Female Egghead (Freelancer)
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 1/2 | Bruises 20 | Willpower 21 | Perception 15

I turn to her with a sympathetic grin. "At least he agreed to to do it. Who knows? In the meantime, perhaps we should consider relocating back to Zerin's place? We don't want to stay in the way, right?"


The locker on Jagger's map is twenty minutes away on the skates, requiring BART to take a number of ramps, pedestrian paths, and two flying walkways over one of the four-lane utility highways that riddle the dockside areas of DownTown. The storage locker is part of a larger facility, three thousand units, all neatly stacked and ordered in climate controlled bliss. The units are all accessed by three-meter wide walkways, which themselves abut a wide, open area in the center aisle of the facility. The ten floors of the facility are lit by thousands of LED panels, the beams cutting through the otherwise dim, shadowy building like shafts of light through the ceiling of a cathedral.

All of which, of course, is marred by the stained, faded graffiti that covers much of the surfaces here on the upper levels of the building, where the cleaners rarely bother to spend much time.

Reputation Check, 2d6 + 2 (Joe Public) + 2 (Gangs): 2d6 + 4 ⇒ (6, 6) + 4 = 16

Bart just rolled two 6's on 2d6, meaning he got a Critical Success. He gets to roll another 2d6 and add them to his result!

Critical Success! 16 + 2d6: 16 + 2d6 ⇒ 16 + (5, 3) = 24

Most of the gang signs and tags on this floor don't exist any more, and some of them? Never did. The signs aren't in any recognizable pattern. They're a clever set of false-flags and misdirections, set up by someone to make people nervous, get them moving to and from their units quickly.

Making sure they don't linger.

The locker in question is slathered in graffiti and tags, and opens to the code on the first try. It's a two-by-five meter standard locker, lined with shelves on the side walls and along the back. Hinged, pull-down shelves are racked and stored on the ceiling, as well.

On the third shelf on the left, the black plastic tote box sits right where Jagger said it would be. The box is marked "Catatonia Proxy," and is wedged between "Dementia Underbridge" and "Camellia Foresight."

Perception Check, 2d6+14: 2d6 + 14 ⇒ (4, 6) + 14 = 24

As you reach for the tote, intending to just grab it and go, you notice a slight smudge in the dust along the shelf, indicating that the box has been moved.

Recently.

Looking along the shelf, there's a very clear line of dustless surface, as though someone had dragged their finger along the shelf until coming to just the right spot. There are two small, dustless impressions on the lid of "Catatonia Proxy," the kind that a finger would make when tapping the lid.

The box itself is sealed with vacuum tape, which hasn't been tampered with.

But it's definitely been moved.

*****

The rest of the group arrives back at Zerin's shop, without incident. Zerin's assistant, Pinn, is just closing up. She's chatting animatedly with her child, and pauses when the group arrives. After a few waved greetings, she clocks out and steps out on to the street, skates popping out of the bottoms of her boots. In a few quick strides, she's off for the night, still talking about whether or not the night's dinner will be pizza or pho.

Feel free to chat among yourselves until BART shows up.


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

Can I record video or take stills with my Observer optics package OR my AR? The answer will determine my course of action from this point.


Your AR pack acts exactly like every science fiction Smart Phone you've ever seen or heard of, which gives it the ability to take video stills. Your stock Mechbody eyes do not have that ability, although you can purchase upgrade options for the eyes at a later point, if you'd like.


Female Egghead (Freelancer)
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 1/2 | Bruises 20 | Willpower 21 | Perception 15

Back at Zerin's shop…

"What have I gotten myself into," Avryl almost moans. "I haven't dated anyone in…well…damn. Nothing's happened since I called it quits on my fiancé—which I was perfectly content with, thank you very much. Now I've given my PERSONE chit to a complete stranger.

"What was I thinking!? This chip of yours better be something, Emily. I don't care for total strangers barging into my life all of the sudden. I mean…does he even know, let alone like, classical music? Bowie? Mercury? Puddles?"

It's fairly clear the poor girl needs to vent.


Female, Social, (Spiller) Human
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 5 | SPD (Run) 50 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 25 | Willpower 18 | Perception 11

"Avyril, I really appreciate that you gave it to him though. The harder it is for us to get into that damned chip the more curious I get!"" Emily says with a grimace.

"I'm so sorry. I never expected this level of a fiasco. No matter what happens though I can spin this into a good story, even without live footage. So I will totally share ad revenue.


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

Before I touch anything, I'm taking a high res, time-stamped, geo-tagged shot of Jagger's gear with my AR and sending it to Avy right now with a note that says 'Tell Jagger he's got mice. Like ASAP.'

With the obvious signs of shadiness going on, I'm going to open the black tote and check that there's a card-reader in it and not, like, a human heart of something. Once I've confirmed I've got what we need, I'll head off.

If there's no card reader in the tote or, worse, something horrific in it, I'm going to ask Avy to get me Jagger's info so I can confirm information with him and sitting tight until I hear back from him.


The vacuum tape has an application date marker on it that shows it's been sealed for at least three months (judging by the red marker on the tape, at least). Opening it is easy - you just pull a tab, the tape releases the vacuum, and rapidly shrivels into a tangled mass of fragile black plastic.

The tote contains the card reader, still in its box. Unlike the packaging on the old SD Card, this box is battered and dingy, yellowed cardboard where there was once a stark white box emblazoned with a blue, stylized globe logo. The sealing tape discs on the box flaps are yellowed and brittle, ready to simply flake away at the first sign of pressure. The reader inside the box is a little over 5cm wide by 9cm tall.

Additional items in the tote include:

* A small stack of magazines, sealed in a plastic magazine box. The top magazine is some kind of quarterly knitters journal, the bottom is a tech-fanciers guide, talking about something called "baseboarding."

* A bright pink handheld LED flashlight, with a squeeze-powered generator in the handle. It's labeled as waterproof to 50 meters, and apparently works as something called a "USB Charger."

* An Olympic Handbook from the OE, regarding regulations changes in judging for Women's Soccer.

* A 5kg box of assorted screws.

* A first-gen set of ICARUS-compatible AR-Buds. Their static-field dermal adhesive pads are spongy and in dire need of replacement, and they're about three times the size of current models, connected as a pair via a cable that you think is supposed to wrap around the back of your head.

There's nothing else in the tote.

I'll give the folks back at Zerin's shop two more rounds of conversation before BART shows up.


Rouser Flashback
Attributes:
INIT 6 | SPD (Base) 8 | SPD (Run) 80 | TGH/RES 2/2 | Bruises 35 | Willpower 15 | Perception 17
Avryl Grimaldi wrote:

Back at Zerin's shop…

"What have I gotten myself into," Avryl almost moans. "I haven't dated anyone in…well…damn. Nothing's happened since I called it quits on my fiancé—which I was perfectly content with, thank you very much. Now I've given my PERSONE chit to a complete stranger.

"What was I thinking!? This chip of yours better be something, Emily. I don't care for total strangers barging into my life all of the sudden. I mean…does he even know, let alone like, classical music? Bowie? Mercury? Puddles?"

Zerin snorts, amused.

"You coulda haggled. If he doesn't know your jams, think of it as a project to educate him some. I wouldn't expect too much from him, but hey, maybe he'll surprise everyone."

She doesn't sound like she's convinced that's a high probability, but who knows.


Male Puppeteer (Podbaby) Post-Human
Attributes:
INIT 5 | SPD (Base) 8/12 | SPD (Run) 80/120 | TGH/RES 5/2 | Bruises NA | Willpower 18 | Perception 14

"Well, at least there's no human organ trafficking going on."

I grab the card reader, re-seal the tote, put the tote back in the locker, close the locker back up, make sure it's locked again and then make my way back to Zerin's spot.

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