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Daven_OOC NPCRM #1

[Hack The Planet]Where's my gun?

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“Welcome, I am Heather Williams and this is the morning news. In India last night a five point five earthquake hit New Delhi. Authorities have confirmed twenty three dead and several hundred wounded. In Japan Sony has released its new cyberdeck. They are promising these new models can connect to the net almost anywhere. They are hoping to make this deck available worldwide within a month.

Russia and Ireland are continuing to experience attacks from the terrorist organization Street Corp. Although several recent raids have lead to the deaths of many well known members there is still no information on the identity of the leader of the group, a person who goes by the handle Republic. In the past week they have hit four security centers and two manufacturing plants. A recent statement was given to the press that they will not end their fight until the government puts strict restrictions on business within the two countries.

Here in America, Ford has announced they will soon be sending out invites to a private test of their new security system. They are promising this new system to be so efficient that it could mean the end of the constant police struggles with cyber zombies.

In local news, yesterday Chicago had two more bombings. Both of these hit well known corporate structures and has lead to many factories and work sites to be shut down for the day, while the police investigate the threat. Although most corporations have continued to remain silent about the now week long attack on their buildings, CEO John Doe of Doe Industries held a press conference earlier. We have this clip.”

The screen flickered away from the image of the middle aged woman and resolved on to a small press room. The man standing at the podium was well known to most of the city, for both the power he was obtaining among the corps and the government, and the fact he had only one arm and seemed to refuse prosthetics.

“Mr. Doe, how do you respond to the implication that the targets of these bombings were involved in illegal research?”

The man smiled patiently to the reporter and slightly shrugged. “For one thing I would say you must not think very highly of me if you believe they were and think I would admit it.” There was a chorus of chuckles through the room. “For the record, the sites that were hit were manufacturing plants and office buildings. The closest thing to illegal actions in these places was most likely people taking the improper amount of Advil during the day. These attacks are not being made against some evil entity in the world. They are attacks on the families and citizens of Chicago.”

“Why are you the only corporate representative willing to speak to the press?”

“My company is only one of many that have been hit. Right now we do not intend to give out information on the investigations, or what we know of the culprits. I am not here to hand out corporate information, but to reassure the employees of all of these companies that we are doing everything in our power to aid the police in bringing these criminals to justice.”

“What about the implication that these attacks are leading up to assassination attempts on many of the business leaders of this city including you?”

John Doe paused and looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he looked directly in to the camera.

“I grew up on the streets of this city. My neighbors were drug lords. My role models were biker gangs. If you think you have what it takes to take out John Doe, you know my office hours.”

“Stop.”

The television froze at the command. “Rewind a moment and play.”

”If you think you have what it takes to take out John Doe, you know my office hours.”

“Stop.” The older heavy set man in a police uniform leaned back in his chair and looked across the desk. “You think it’s a good idea to bait them? These attacks have been pretty professional. Not to mention I would think the last thing you would want to do is remind the larger companies of your origins. I thought you had a hard enough time getting respect Mr. Doe.”

Doe sighed, sitting in his chair with his head resting in his hand as he stared at the screen. “My brother, Bill, use to tell me every day he beat me up because if he wasn’t going to get my respect he would get my fear. These people are already quite clear they don’t respect the corps. So I figured I would take a page from my brother and go the other route. As to who I am and where I came from, I have enough PR people telling me what to say and what not to. I don’t listen to many of them Chief, forgive me if I don’t rank your advise on that matter highly.”

The police chief laughed and nodded. “If you say Mr. Doe, but you do value my opinion on crime.”

“That is why you are here sir.” Sitting up straight John Doe opened the pack of cigarettes on the desk and bumped it on the edge of the desk a couple times until on cigg came loose. Putting it up to his mouth he then dropped the pack and pressed a button on his console as a small lighter in the side of his chair flicked on. Taking a couple puffs he leaned back and looked to the Chief expectantly.

“Well from what we have determined the bombs were well made. Not military but certainly not street war quality either. We are starting to wonder if we are having terrorist threats right here in Chicago.”

“How are you ruling out some group of Cyberpunks hired by a rival corp?”

“That’s just it, the parts and the tactics speak to that kind of cohesiveness but the targets don’t. They are random. It does seem to be anti corp sentiment just on a level we have never seen here in Chicago. Currently we still have a short list of suspects that we are looking in to, but that list is running short.”

“That’s funny, I spoke to the mayor earlier today and he assured me your department was following some solid leads. I assumed you had told him that.”

The police chief snorted and shook his head. “The mayor pays me to do my job and tell him what he needs to tell the press. You pay me enough for the truth, and the truth is we have no idea what’s going on out there. Right now we are almost down to waiting for the next bombing and hope it tells us something new.”

“How comforting to see our tax dollars hard at work. Alright, call me if you come up with anything concrete.” John turned the back of his chair to face the rest of the office and focused on one of his computer terminals. He liked the man, they had grown up together and it wasn’t always easy to dismiss him like some hourly employee, but he also didn’t know who was watching and had to keep up appearances. He listened as his old friend stood up and left room. Waited until he was sure that he was on the elevator before turning his chair back around and hitting the intercom.

“Ms. Nickels, I need to you gather some people together for me, I haven’t lost my faith in the police but it feels like the game is well underway and I haven’t put my pieces in to play yet.”

Click to reveal..
People are free at this point to be doing whatever they wish. Currently each character is either employed, or is a contractor to Doe Industries. Any means that would be normally used to contact you if you are the latter is used to deliver the message that you are being called to a meeting with Mr. Doe himself that evening. For now if your character is still not finalized you can go ahead and post, it will be a bit before we get to any rolls. If anyone wants to be doing anything together that is fine also, this is to get things going and people can feel free to have some post of how they go about their day leading up to the meeting.

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In a dingy Street apartment, a young with ratty black hair and blue jeans sat motionless in his worn chair, the only evidence that he wasn't dead or in a coma being the cyberdeck to which he was jacked into. Mentally in cyberspace, his avatar of an cloaked man with gauntlet-covered hands advanced away from the smoldering and wrecked data fortress of a minor corporation that produced cars and trucks in Chicago.

This was a fair portion of their operational data now non-existent, which would set them back for a while. Leaving Doe Industries space to make a march on their competitors as DI expanded into the auto industry. Gakusha had taken the time to memorize some extra information on disgruntled employees... but he would hold onto that for now, and try to sell it off to Doe Industries for extra.

Then, the meat world faded in, as Gakusha left the Net. It was back to Shinji Marasaki now, who unplugged himself, though he missed the siren song of the electronic battlefield. And while he fetched some leftover pre-pack (better than it being kibble, though that would soon be what was left) once again he faced the irony of having surrendered enough to the euro-buck deficit to work for a corporation.

Even for Doe Industries. Even as an independent 'contractor.' Shinji had did his share of Edgerunner jobs and own work for himself, but more and more it seemed the living he was making came from Doe.

A higher and higher percentage each month. He'd done the math quickly. And to top off the irony- The walking oxymoron, she who has ideals though a corp executive, Doe Industries' representative in my dealing with them-

The flashing light showed from the old phone system that he did have a message. Shinji played it and listened to the mixture of accented Russian and pure bitch orders, calling him to a meeting with John Doe of all people. Petrovin-dono, if you wanted to hire me permanently, just ask it. I would say no... but still...

Well, on the bright side, Gakusha had more work, and more payments inbound, and a meeting with the CEO? This was something. Although...

Word on the Street had being bouncing about the bombings, and Shinji had heard of the CEO's bravado on live news. Is he going to use me to back up his bluster? I hope not.

Neverthless, he made doubly sure for when he left that he had his .357 loaded and ready, scant as it would be.

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Fix

The smell of burnt Choo cut sharply through the normal smog hanging over Chicago. Engines revved as a nearly nude exotic held an ancient flag in her arms, ready to lower it at his signal.

Fix surveyed the souped-up vehicles for a moment, wanting one for himself, wanting to get behind the wheel again and prove once again that he was the best driver in Chicago. A crackle from the hand commo in his suitcoat pocket interrupted his musings and he gave the exotic the signal.

The flag dropped and the cars were off with a roar and flash of nitro, except for one that seemed to die on the spot, evoking jeers from the crowd. Fix refused to let even the corner of his mouth twitch, though. Being asked to judge the gang's drag race was partly a mark of respect, partly an insult. They knew he didn't have wheels himself.

Still, the fact that they'd settled on him for this affair showed that he had solid contacts in another gang, and that was worth more than his old set of wheels. So, he was happy to do them a favor. This one wasn't too likely to get him shot.

The crackle of static on his pocket commo interrupted his self-satisfied musings again. It wasn't conveniently placed, but the convenient spots were reserved for his hidden Armalite 44's. The Enertix was worn openly in its holster, so the pocket commo had to make do with being stuffed into the backpack.

Fishing out the commo took a second while the cars roared on by. He wasn't going to antagonize anyone by using discussing business during the race, but it wouldn't hurt to send the 'Busy now, but I'll get back to you' signal. Only prospective clients knew the frequency to this commo, and Fix was always glad to do someone a little favor.

Returning his attention to the race, he saw the driver of the ill-fated car pause from working under the hood long enough to flip Fix off. Now, Fix did chuckle openly. He gestured to the waiting salvage boys who stripped the broken car down to its frame. That was the forfeit for bringing a lemon to a drag race.

The exotic at the finish line dropped her flag, and the race was over. The winning Brainiac now owed Fix a solid for taking out his rival out of the race, the salvage boys were happy, and Fix had gained status with the gang. It had been a rewarding five minutes.

Standing up, he nodded farewell and slung the backpack over his kevlar Armani sportcoat, secured the nylon helmet over his neat, purple-striped hair, and switched off his race car tattoo. After checking to ensure that the gas mask in the pocket of his cargo pants was working, he went over to charm the furry exotic into giving him a ride. The call over his commo had been from Doe Industries, a corp that Fix halfway respected.

Smart money said that this had something to do with the recent bombings. Fix wasn't sure that he really wanted to get involved yet, but this was an opportunity to establish himself as something of a mover on the streets. At the worst, he figured, he'd say no and walk away knowing a little more than he had before. At best, he'd walk away richer and knowing a lot more.

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Martina awoke all at once and flicked her eyes around. Her body ached. There was a sour taste in her mouth. She was naked under the threadbare blanket, and she had no idea where she was.

Then the naked man sleeping next to her shifted, and it started coming back to her. She put a hand to her temple and stifled a chuckle at herself. Under the covers she stretched her legs and wiggled her toes to get the kinks out. A couple of joints popped, and even though the ache magnified, there was a kind of warmth to it too; a delicious sore muscle throbbing like after a workout, or a very vigorous massage.

She glanced at the guy curled up on his side beside her and stifled another laugh. Very very vigorous, even. She had no recollection of his name...wasn't even sure she'd ever asked. It was the tats that had gotten her attention, now on full display on the canvas of his back. A raging dragon in red and black fighting a rampant ki-rin in green and gold. Dragon motifs were fucking everywhere, but that notion of a war on one's skin...fighting eternally between good and evil...that had been kind of cool. She reached over to touch them, but stopped herself. This would be a whole lot less awkward if he didn't wake up.

So Martina carefully slid her legs around off the bed, then carefully pushed the blanket off. Her clothes were still on the floor where they'd fallen. It was with some thanks that she picked up her panties and noted that they hadn't been ripped off. Mr.Tattoo either wasn't strong enough, or hadn't been quite too far gone to just yank, and for that she was grateful. The rest of her clothes quickly followed; black sport bra, white tank top (that had a stain on it she was pretty sure hadn't been there before), olive cargo pants, her nice black 'I can't believe it's not leather' vest and of course, her long coat and shoes.

As she dressed Martina checked out Mr. Tattoo's pad. It was a bit of a hole, though truth be told not much worse than her own. Cracks in the walls here and there, chill in the air bespoke a nonfunctional heater. Bedsprings flat, stains in the sink and bathtub.

Yep, a real catch, this guy. Momma Vega would be proud of her little angel.

She glanced again at her generous host before creeping stealthily into the bathroom to get a look at her face before she left. Her hair still showed some magenta at the tips of her forelocks and had grown brown at the roots, but most of it was still that light yellow blonde she taken a fancy to after realizing that the bright artificial color thing was not as hot as she'd thought. Her eyeshadow had all but rubbed off, either on the pillow or on Tattoo, but her eyeliner was giving her a bit of an emo look without it. Half of her face was livid red, probably from pressing into the not-soft pillow most of the night.

The water made the pipes whine, and she hastily turned it off. Just enough to wet some toilet paper and get that eyeliner off. She had enough left over to dab away the pink smear on the side of her mouth that was all that remained of her lipstick. Last things for last, Martina then produced a little plastic bottle from the inside pocket of her coat, popped one of the pills inside into her mouth, and swallowed it dry. Then, grimacing, she ran a little more water into her mouth, swished, and spat. She knew enough not to drink tap water in a stranger's place. The morning-after pill tasted like ass, but it was cheaper than an implant. Besides, she didn't like the idea of doctors with knives and surgical lasers getting all up into her U. Arms, legs, sure that was fine...that was just muscle and bone and ligament. But she still had enough vestigial Catholic upbringing left in her to feel like the place babies came from was somehow special.

In the other room, Tattoo muttered something in Japanese and rolled over. Time to go. Martina checked her guns. Both were where they should be, and the clips were full. Excellent. Now she just had to figure out where she was, and how to get back home.

It was about twenty minutes later that she got the e-gram; her little wrist data displayer beeping at her to let her know. Walking down the street, finishing off the hot dog she'd bought from a stand to counter the sudden ravenous hunger-attack that'd hit, she pulled up the message.

To Martina Vega

From Domenick Petrovska, Contracted Human Resources, Doe Industries

Good morning, Ms Vega. Due to your record of contracted employment with Doe Industries, the CEO, John Doe himself, would like to speak with you regarding an exciting (and completely confidential as per previous arrangements) opportunity for contracting with Doe Industries. Please come to the following address at the noted date for a personal debriefing by John Doe.

Business or business-casual attire suggested. Please note firearms and edged weapons will be checked before entry is permitted.

Marty scanned the bottom, containing the address and date, then re-read the message body. Well now...an appointment with the CEO of Doe. She fantasized for a moment about waking up in THAT bed, then snapped out of it and composed a reply.

To Dom

From Marty

I'll be there.

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"They've all been contacted?" The man was pacing, and Nadia knew it wasn't just from the coffee cooling on his desk.

"Yes, though not all of them have returned an answer so far." Her crisp business suit and no-nonsense attitude suited the room, but she herself stood deferentially between the pacing man and the door. She kept her head down, more to hide her small smile than because she thought she should. "You're going to wear the carpet out, Mr. Doe. Well, the new carpet."

"Oh-huh, what? Wear-proof carpeting this time, Nadia. Just for you." Years of association still hadn't taught her when he was being serious or just dry. He stopped at the desk and glanced over the dossiers of the team he was putting together. "There's been enough. Are you ready for this?"

Her full-black eyes flicked upward, the small smile still in place. "Are you asking if I know what I'm doing or if I'll be able to handle them?" She clasped her hands behind her back, the slight shift moved her from a demure business manager to her family's daughter. "Your pardon, but I've been waiting years for this. I have a troupe of siblings that can't be less trouble than than those..." she made a sharp wave to the desk. "And I've been behind a desk for too long. I understand why, but it will be good, to move and play the games like when I was little. I just hope they're up to your expectations, хозяин."

"So do I," he rubbed his temple with his hand, eyes still roving over the files. "Show them in once they arrive, Nadia."

"As you wish, Mr. Doe."

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Kai rewound the clip and hit the play button again.

“What about the implication that these attacks are leading up to assassination attempts on many of the business leaders of this city including you?”

John Doe paused and looked thoughtful for a moment. Then he looked directly in to the camera.

“I grew up on the streets of this city. My neighbors were drug lords. My role models were biker gangs. If you think you have what it takes to take out John Doe, you know my office hours.”

"Gutsy, dude."

Kai stood up with a grin, tossing the remote on the cheap beige motel comforter and stretching his arms up over his head. He could feel the metal of the zippers in his shirt move across his chest, and the slight flex of muscles and skin against polyester. A couple twists of his upper body, and then he reached up and gave his neck a sharp twist to each side, emitting a loud series of pops in the process. Then he grabbed his laptop and slid it closer, glancing at the email he'd received one last time before snapping it shut and slipping it into his messenger bag. He slung the bag over his shoulders, and the headed for the door and his meeting with Mr. Doe.

In truth, he didn't really know much about John Doe. He'd been working for Doe Industries about a month - Chicago wasn't quite on the other side of the country from his home city of Honolulu, but it was pretty damned close, and that was where he wanted to be right now. He'd gotten the job because his wallet had been running on the flat-ass side of broke, but it was only one of several he'd held over the last several years, earning him enough to see him through for a bit, then picking up and moving on, in pursuit of the next lead on his folks' location. Seemed like they were all rumors so far, but you never knew when the next rumor was gonna prove useful, or when the one he chose to ignore would be the one that would be a big break. But he had to admit that he was pretty fuckin' curious as to what the head of Doe Industries wanted with him. He hoped it wasn't something that was gonna run him out of town - he hadn't been here long enough yet to follow up on any of his intel. But he sure wasn't gonna pass up the chance to indulge his curiosity either. As he made his way to the building, he mulled over the recent bombings, and wondered if this summons had anything to do with them. Of course, that only made him more curious about the reason for the invitation - he didn't know jack shit about the bombings. More corporate espionage probably, and if it didn't involve Akamu Pharmaceuticals, he really didn't give a rat's ass. But here he was, at Doe Industries, being summoned by the big dude himself.

Oh well.. let's see what this shit is all about.

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As each entered the main building they were asked to wait by a receptionist. The lobby was rather small and had a dozen seats in it. There were no fountains or paintings, instead just a white washed room. Three elevators were against the far wall. Once they all arrived the receptionist directed them to the middle elevator. Once inside they saw only the open and close door buttons and the phone for communication none of the buttons for the buildings twenty seven floors were present. The doors closed and a camera came out over the door. A voice came on over speakers built in to the elevator.

"Just relax. There are two security check points before you reach the top floor and see Mr. Doe. First will be a identity check to verify you are expected. The second will be at the security station on the twenty second floor where you will relinquish all weapons or ammunition for weapons that are built in. Any arguments and we gas the shaft and disarm you will you are asleep."

The elevator started moving. It clearly felt slower then most elevators and as they passed each floor a light passed through that was clearly a scan of some sort.

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"More security than a nuclear weapon transfer."

Marty snorted. "It's actually kind of flattering when you think about it."

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Digit's hands were blurs in the air as the soldering iron lightly touched strategic spots on the circuitboard she was working on. The coffin cubicle was cramped, and she had to leave the door open so she wouldn't be overwhelmed with toxic fumes, but it was out of the way and no one asked any questions.

She seemed strangely out of place, her face the kind of pretty you'd expect at a suburban sprawl, while her body showed the tenacious agility of a street survivor. Here and there scars marked where she had been careless or unlucky, and each was elaborated upon with a tribal pattern. Her hair was a mess, sweat dripping across her back, but right now she was the happiest girl in the world.

She ran her tongue lovingly across the black box with its rounded edges and its proud SatsuGama logo disguised in the light playing on its shiny black surface, tasting its mechanical perfection and the marvel of its nanometer-precise engineering. She sighed longingly, like a jilted lover, and unfastened the small clips that held the container closed to place the circuits and wiring she had been preparing.

As she finished placing the last of the circuitboards in its featureless black casing, the tintillating sensation of data streaming into her connection jack woke her out of her trance. With a gasp, she grasped mentally at the signal, causing the small terminal pad discarded casually at her feet to display its message in monochrome.

============

ID-transfer code: 1743745

Contact Carrier: Pass

Security Override: Pass

Display Code: Mono

$%^((&*^%$##^&( ))(*^%$$(&%$^^ *, 452$%UKHE$%*Wh gfa%%@@((@^@(#),

...$%&bYGD54$& DH SADHF3 65 3bjdc aw9 %%&@HAK:D5d 6sdsfWDSD%S A2j222rbeawdhaal

^&JKMjjkm %&*B34 ^%&njjnnJJ PI{}|: #& khfJFDSilef(&*(&SDS.

End message.

Decoding available. Proceed Y/N?

_Y.

============

She went over the message two or three times in her mind. She didn't much like formalities or meetings, much less when it involved big-shots. But the big-shots paid the bills, and they paid well, so she figured it was all kinds of unavoidable.

And this particular big-shot had been extremely kind in providing assistance in her endeavours to avoid detection by the local enforcement officers, so she felt obliged to repay it in kind by showing up as requested - business casual.

If the Machine Gods were willing, she thought to herself, I will find some passable black clothes in this mess...

Looked like she would be busy tonight.

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Gakusha waited in the elevators.. security was damn well tight... but he doubted John Doe was going to willingly pay the price of his challenge. "You, Doe-sama, have balls indeed. You're also lucky to have the money to put where your mouth is."

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The suit was a two-button slate-colored Boston Collection with a faint charcoal pin-stripe pattern. Lalo wore it open, with no tie. The shirt was Arturo Calle, bright white Egyptian cotton with the collar unbuttoned just enough to show off the smooth tanned skin beneath it. His watch was a NuovoRey Nocturne. It had cost almost as much as the down payment for his apartment in Cambridge, but looking at it now, turning his hand to ensure that it was seated the perfect distance between wrist and shirt cuff, seeing the awesome new shine of its shatter-proof face-plate—steel blue to match the color of his manicure—Lalo knew it had been worth every credit. Dress to impress. He told himself, wetting his upper lip with the tip of his tongue, as he checked his reflection in the polished steel interior of the elevator. For the hundredth time that day, Lalo passed his long nails delicately over his hair. Tightly braided corn-rows went from light blue to dark purple stripes, forming a gradient design on Lalo’s head. Having confirmed the neat sharp rows were still perfect, he straightened up, slipped his EarSonics into his ears and bobbed his carefully styled head to ‘Ley de la Jungla’.

He waited dutifully for the security scans to run, following the prompts that asked him to look into the camera and press his finger into the DNA scanner. He felt the small poke as it drew a drop of blood. Identity confirmed: Manolo Piedra.

“That’s right, Papi.” Lalo smiled. It was not the first time he’d done ‘consulting work’ for Mr. Doe. With any luck, it wouldn’t be the last. One more check-point later, and several pounds lighter, the elevator hissed quietly open on the top floor. Lalo’s bright blue sneakers squeaked across the marble tile as he sauntered out.

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It took about twenty minutes for the elevator to make it to the second check point. Once they were disarmed it took about thirty seconds for it to reach the top floor. The doors opened up to a large reception area. The entire east wall was just large windows looking out over the city. Two tables were set up with a dozen chairs around them and several more chairs rested against the wall opposite the windows. A small desk sat against the far wall next to the only door out of the room. Behind the desk a middle aged woman typed on a keyboard without even looking up. As people exited the elevator the woman paused a moment to motion to the chairs.

"Mr. Doe will see you when all have arrived."

After those instructions were given she went back to typing. About an hour later all had made it through the elevator and the woman pressed a button on the desk. A moment later she smiled to those gathered in the room. "Mr. Doe is ready for you, go on in."

The door lead in to a large office that had a long table able to seat thirty people. It also had a large desk with fourteen chairs in front of it, one of which was currently occupied by a woman. Just like the reception area one wall was made of windows looking out over Chicago. The other walls in the room had notable areas where they slid out to reveal what was most likely televisions, drink bars, other amenities, and possibly security. Behind the large desk sitting in a high back chair sat John Doe.

For the most part the man in his late twenties looked average. Some would probably find him attractive while others simply wouldn't. He had short black hair that simply fell evenly on his head. His eyes were a very common brown that did not seem to give away much about the thoughts behind them. He wore a cheap grey suit that most at his level of authority would probably be embarrassed to be seen in. The one thing about him that often drew attention was his left shoulder which merely ended about a half inch down, no arm connected to it. Especially as the owner and CEO of a technology company it seemed very out of place for him to not have a prosthetic of some kind. What was even more out of place is there was no visible sign of him having any cyberware at all.

As they entered the room he gave them a smile that did not seem to touch the corners of his mouth, it was a polite and professional smile, nothing more. He motioned to the chairs in front of his desk and waited for everyone to have a seat.

"Thank you for coming on such short notice. Before we get started I want to make the rules clear to all of you. You have been called here so that I can offer you a job. If you take it and succeed there will be more work afterwards. I am not in the business of employing mercenaries or paying third party cyberpunks for task. You will be registered as employees of Doe industries. You will be assigned to the new efficiency department of my security detail and will answer directly to me. Your pay will be based off the level of success you have in your task, and while employed any living requirement you have will be covered by this company, assuming the company deems it a reasonable cost.

If anyone would like to bow out now you have that option, any questions?"

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Fix

Fix wasn't really fond of waiting. He spent as much time as he could driving fast cars, after all. But this Doe guy had sent business his way in the past, so he tried to think of it as being paid to do nothing. He tried not to look at the security in the room, or wonder how easy it would be to bypass it. He tried not to wonder what type of car Mr. Doe drove.

Although not exactly dressed for a meeting in a classy board-room with a senior CEO, Fix had been sitting quietly, politely attentive. He had even refrained from resting his combat boots on the clean-looking tables and chairs. He froze, however, as the implications of Doe's words sunk in.

He thought this guy was worthy of enough respect to come to a meeting. He wasn't sure that giving up his freedom to a CEO who might be on the short-list for a body bag was a smart idea, though. He needed to know more. Didn't CEO types tend to frown on their employees drag-racing with the gangs? Or fixing said races? Or maybe accidentally finding unlocked, abandoned cars? Also, what exactly, would a guy who wouldn't even spring to get himself another arm consider reasonable living expenses?

Fix returned Doe's professional smile with a polite one of his own. "Mr. Doe" he started, as politely as he could, "You're dangling quite a carrot in front of us. Assuming we're interested, what are your expectations regarding off-duty activities? I'm also assuming there will be non-disclosure agreements and other precautions the company will take. I'd want to know what those are before I agree to anything."

Figuring he might as well lay the big issue on the table, Fix added, "There would also seem to be a certain amount of risk in publicly signing up with a guy who practically invited terrorists to send him to the body shop, and I'm guessing that it will be up to your 'new efficiency department' to make sure they don't. Obviously, you require both discretion and loyalty from those employees."

"I'm sure you've prepared for this meeting, Mr. Doe," Fix continued, "Why is it that you think we would trade our freedom and attempt such a risky task for eurobucks. I doubt you'd want to rely on people who could be bought so cheaply. Is there something else you think will motivate us?"

Despite his words, Fix wasn't averse to a little risk so long as the payoff was commensurate. The big question here was one of trust. Fix wasn't going to work for anyone who would implant a bomb in his head, and he was equally sure that Doe wasn't going to trust his life to people he didn't think he could rely on. If the trust question was adequately resolved, however, he figured he'd probably sign up.

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Doe lifted his eyebrow slightly. It was not often he heard someone ask for motivation beyond money. It was good that he was a man who often prepared for many situations. He certainly had motivation to apply. Pressing a few buttons that seemed to be built in to the desk and only lit when they were touched he turned everyone's attention to the wall. Three large sections slid up and revealed monitors. Pictures started to appear on them, pictures of some very famous punks in the world.

"One-shot, Ricochet, Virus, Hammer, Harlequin, Priest, Chopper, and I am assuming you recognize the others. These are considered to be some of the best in their professions. Not even some of the Mega corps would lightly consider crossing them."

John Doe gave a slight pause to let the line up sink in to all those gathered. Not even the woman in the room who was already employed by him knew this information.

"Every person on those screens, is dead. Over the last two months someone has been assassinating them. Anywhere in the world, it seems at anytime they please. Their have been two connections. The first is a message, recovered from most of the scenes."

Clicking on the side of his chair a image appeared on a screen of a burned out piece of a trailer. It was blackened and charred but you could still make out the clear words "No more Cyberpunks!"

"The second connection is what brings us back to the current situation. All of them were killed by bombs. Bombs that my sources tell me are the same kind as are being used here in Chicago. I believe the same group is behind both acts. If they are, eventually they will be coming for all of you, and my self as well. Your motivation would be to go after them first, and I am sure you all can agree doing that with the backing of a corporation would give you a bit of an advantage.

As to your off duty activities, I only care about what gets traced back to my company. If you get caught doing something illegal wearing a company shirt, you might not want to get out of prison. If nothing you do comes back to me, it is none of my concern."

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Digit liked the gamble proposed by Doe - but she couldn't repress the odd feeling that having more targets closer together would only make the bombers consider it much more appealing to strike fast and against all.

On the other hand, if they managed to defuse the situation, eliminate the bombers, there'd be quite the payoff. She licked her lips at the prospect of enough money to get out of any of her problems. Her mind then turned to serious matters.

"So it's a three-fold scheme - prevent lethal bombings, confirm who the bombers are and why they are doing this, and then eliminate the threat in a way that leaves as little trace back home as possible."

The ideas of assassins using bombs intrigued her greatly. She knew things about bombs, and they had to be set up just right, and were hard to move or manufacture without great risk. And above all, you had to not give a damn if someone else died in the fire...

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Marty listened, sitting back in her chair with her arms on the armrests and legs apart as if she were at home watching an episode of ElbowSmash! and cheering on the victor. She was far from stupid, and the whole situation seemed off kilter.

Then it clicked.

"These previous victims," she said, indicating the famous men and women the bombs had killed. "Were they employed by you when they died?" She grinned and added, "Don't worry about scaring us off. I'm just trying to get a handle on how this got personal for you."

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John chuckled at the question. It was a good one to ask.

"Two of them were, though their assignments at the time of their death had nothing to do with this. They were in Night City looking in to some things for me when the floor of the hotel they were staying at was blown up.

Part of the reason all of you were called is because the targets of these attacks have been famous, or infamous. Who ever is behind this is trying to prove they can take out the elite. Those in this room are not the elite, or even the elite in Chicago. My hope is for the time being you will be under these peoples radar. Like putting your third string up before your second in the hopes the other team will underestimate them."

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When no more questions came he leaned back in the chair. Reaching in to his pocket he pulled out a pack of Camel Slims and deftly flicked the top off, bumping the pack until a filter was up high enough for him to grab it with his lips. Lighting the cigarette he took a couple puffs and looked at his line up.

"Well, no one has turned down the job, that is encouraging. Now here is the good news. I am not sending you after an unknown number of people, with unknown resources, and a still mostly unknown agenda. At least not yet, you have to prove to me your worth that kind of investment. Lets start with something easier."

As if on cue, many assumed it was, the phone rang. Doe put a finger to his lips then took another drag before pressing the button for speaker phone. "John Doe, president of Doe Industries here."

"Mr. Doe, this is Teresa Mackels with Ford security, I am calling in response to your letter."

"Ms. Mackels, what is your companies response?" Something in his tone had become slightly less business like. Everyone could hear the distaste he felt for the representative on the other end of the line.

"Although Ford has enjoyed a healthy relationship with Doe Industries over the last four years, we do not feel it is in our best interest to invite you to our test. We know you have been hoping for a different answer and my superiors are most apologetic that they could not give you one. There are a limited number of spots available and..." The woman paused, clearly trying to figure out a polite way to deliver a impolite message. John didn't seem to feel the need to hear it though.

"They don't think the builder of motorcycles and net hubs has any business at the curtain lifting event of a new security system?"

There was a moment of silence before the return, she was clearly growing uncomfortable. "Something to those lines Mr. Doe. I was authorized to assure you that due to the profitable agreements we have had in the past, the company is planning its next large product to be something that Doe Industries can play a big part in."

"Thank you for that assurance Ms. Mackels. Have a nice day." Tapping the button again he ended the call. He sighed as he put out his cigarette in the ash tray. "Ford is planning on putting some of the richest Dictators, Executives, and Terrorist in to the same room and show off their new "security system". No one in this city has gotten an invite. I want to know what it is before their demonstration.

Sadly the last two I sent out for information became targets before they could get me anything concrete. All I have is an area of large factories and warehouses in New York, nothing enough to pin point where it is. I also know that it is not a security system but a weapon of some kind."

Looking around the room he decided perhaps see what his money was getting him. "So, if I were to tell you all to discover what it is, where it is, and bring me back hard evidence, how might you go about it?"

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Digit put her index finger to her lower lip in thought. Such thought experiments were entertaining, but somehow you'd always be left with a loose end.

"In theory, if only a few are invited that means corporate hubbub will finger them soon enough. The best bet would be to get close to one of the Ford people involved in the project or one of the people who will be attending. Dictators and Terrorists are even closer-lipped than corporates by default, and much harder to reach."

She turned her eyes to the wall, as if reading an imaginary screen.

"An employee would be preferable, because it might get you more information beforehand, where the attendees would only receive a location very late. However, it's pretty likely the employees are heavily screened and selected for discipline. You'd need to find out any secret weakness or vice to exploit."

"Their computer system will most likely be very secure, but a proper sniffer bugging said employee might get the required access to the system once someone's gotten close enough."

Digit tapped her chin and cocked her head to the right.

"Another avenue of information would be the security and mobility detail. You don't showcase a weapon in a warehouse, so it has to be moved. This is a low-profile stealth job if possible, but still there would be a lot of security on standby. It might be they enlisted a few 'expendable employees' to bring along a fake device. An obvious ruse, but it might give hints as to the real deal."

Then her eyes lit up and her smile grew into a big grin.

"A really nice tactic for this kind of things is using the underground rumor mill - spreading rumors that their device will be swept away by a few 'punks hired by a rival or two.

If we can manage to access their system or get close to an employee, we might be able to follow the currents in their organization to see where their attention is diverted, indicating where the device is. Would be perfect if we could actually use real ones for bait - any of the displayed victims of bomb attacks not known to be dead in the criminal circuit yet, by any chance?"

Her grin was positively impish as Digit considered the possibilities.

"But of course - the first order of the day would be to see whether it's really Ford who has the device. If they cover up the weapon as a security device, why not cover up the real corporation testing and displaying the weapon by using the name of Ford? Big names prevent small fish from trying their luck, protecting a much smaller R&D division and keeping it in obscurity."

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