Dateline: December 30th 2050, 0900 Local Time
It’s the day before New Year’s Eve – 2050 is about to swing into 2051 – and for the first time in half a decade the closing party of the Ottoman Hotel’s Grey Auction will not be a big part of tomorrow’s festivities. The hotel is still a mess, while the massive orgy of destruction that prematurely ended the Auction yesterday, and its aftermath, are still lead items on every national and international news feed. Some news feeds say the mayhem was due to Umbra Corporation trying to use a backdoor it had installed in its cyberware to control the minds of many hotel guests. Others, and Umbra’s massive PR machine, blame everything on a zero-day exploit of Umbra’s software from the 23Enigma terrorist group. Umbra stock went into freefall yesterday, but today the mega-corporation issued a patch to fix the security hole and its stock is beginning to recover. Meanwhile, the police and every news crew in Night City are trying to find out which story is true.
The Lazarus Group, central to these events, has decided that discretion is the better part of valor. Having been paid at some of the money they hoped to earn and gotten some much-needed sleep, they’ve retired to explore their new base of operations – a dusty combined aircraft hanger and office space on the edge of the Buchanan Inner City Airport, a stone’s throw from Hartnell Hospital and the Kirk Park combat zone. Saxby sits in one of the office rooms, hunched over a bank of computers. Pieces of hardware are strewn about several desks. The click-click of a soldering iron heating up is the only noise heard. The rest of the team let themselves in by the hangar door. Hearing voices off in the distance, Saxby comms to the team. “Welcome home, guys. I’m in the back trying to get us some infrastructure. Make yourselves comfortable.”
Mac takes a look around the hangar, whistling, then clapping his hands to test the echo of the place, before picking up a nearby stone and chucking it at the back wall. Watching it fall woefully short, he smiles. Biggest damn building I’ve been in that wasn’t wholly owned by someone else. Beats the dusty old office I’ve got, if it is lacking in charm. Pacoy takes a long look around, then slowly nods. “It’ll take some work – Real work, but it’s a good investment. There’s a lot we can do here – not the least of which is cleaning. Pitbull stomps midway through the hangar and surveys it with a cigarette hanging from his lips. “This’ll definitely do. Just needs some home-y touches.” He growls almost to himself. Mac grins, “So, you want someone to go with you when you pick out curtains and drapes, Pitbull?” Not that I particularly dislike BDU prints, but there’s not a whole lot of camouflage you can do to a standing structure like this.
Pacoy makes a quick sketch in the dust with his fingers and muttering plans, mostly to ideas to himself, but loud enough for others to hear. “_Turn the storage room into a med-station, sheet metal into an armory…reviving can make a computer lab…offices for Pit and Mac…the shop can stay a shop…hmmm…with enough time and effort, we can section off a strip of the hangar bay and turn it into a simple range…_” Looking up from his sketches, Pacoy nods to the group “This place has real potential.”
Candy walks around the hanger, feeling naked without the Family beside him, testing the sheet-metal walls of the building, “I’d like to build a safe room at the least. We’ve got enemies and we’re pretty far from the Emir or my own turf. Just something as a roadblock till help can arrive. Hell, Umbra could be gunning for us as we speak.” Able is walking through the building, constructing a detailed schematic of the floorplan, identifying future locations for security cameras, alarm sensors, and other security features, and putting it all into a database to be shared across the team. As he enters the main hangar space once more, he nods to Pacoy. “Agreed. It has potential, but we need to perform some renovation work before it is truly suitable.” “A Safe-room… good idea, good idea….” Pacoy agrees.
“Is that you, Candy?” Saxby hops off his stool and grabs a stack of papers. He strolls down the hall and finds Candy in the main hangar. “Need you to sign the lease, boss.” Saxby flips open the stack of papers and points to a few ink X’s. “Here, here, and initial here. Remember, this is all under a proxy business, Pure Pride Personnel. I’m setting up the server now to route all of our calls to the Desi. Just have your people take a message or whatever, we’ll never get back to them.” He grins and flips through a few more pages. “One more John Hancock right here.”
Pitbull smiles at Mac’s words. “We ain’t getting’ anythin’ in pastels if that’s what yer askin’, Mac.” He grates, as he attempts an effeminate hand wave, only for it to look like he were trying to swat a fly with his wrist.
Mac chuckles, he’s enjoying himself today. “Oh hey, Pac – if Pitbull and I are going to have offices, does that mean we get to hire a leggy secretary?” His eyes dart around the place still, sussing out it’s potential, and fall on Pitbull, where he bursts out into a fit of laughter, clutching at his sides. “Thanks bo, I needed that.” “Well, I don’t want to see Worm in a skirt, and I’d be creeped out to see Able download Leggy Secretary 2.0, so I think we’d better!” Pacoy grins at Mac
Candy looks over the papers, “Saxby, what are your thoughts? Firefight with Umbra a day ago, in the territory of the most powerful man in the city and in his personal headquarters. Hell, the Bey had a private army. Do you feel safe here?” Candy taps a waterman against the papers in a steady rhythm. Saxby shrugs and looks around. “I haven’t felt safe since I joined. But I guess that’s not why we’re in this business.” Candy lays the papers and the pen on a cheap folding chair, “My job here is to manage risk and maximize profit. It is pretty much why I’m here.”
Mac thinks to himself – A secretary who could keep the chaff out of my business sounded good. If her legs stretched from here to the back wall of the hangar, that’d be better, but I never was a man who was too fussy. He strolls over towards the open hangar doors and looks around the neighborhood. Kid could have found us a bit more desirable location. Wonder what the neighbors are like. Never have had good neighbors, not since Mrs. Wince died those years back. “How do you even hire a secretary anyway?” He wonders aloud.
Saxby looks over to Mac. “You don’t. You install one.” He grins then turns back to Candy. “The less people that know about this place, the better. As far as the Edgerunners are concerned, we’re on a slow boat to China right about now. This is a legitimate business that just so happens to not have any customers or employees.” Able nods to Saxby. “A computerized secretary would seem appropriate. If we want to go up-scale, a replicant could be purchased, but for our purposes a simple vid or holo display running a secretary AI would be acceptable.” “Why would we bother with a replicant? I’d sooner give a person a job than hire a construct. Plenty of good people in this city looking for honest work.” Mac looks at Able quizzically.
Mac grins. Poor kid – I don’t think he’s ever had a proper go with a broad. Might be experienced on the net, but not so much elsewhere. “Kind of hard to make profits appear from nowhere. And I do tend to keep some regular clients – I guess I could just hire a secretary to man my old office…” Shame – I had just gotten the dust properly distributed in one of the corners. She’d probably go and clean it up. Wouldn’t be around to appreciate her anyway, so what’s the point?
Saxby chuckles. “Oh, the records will show plenty of profits. Just don’t try to spend it. It’s just a mirror of Candy’s personal account.” He stops. “On second thought, hey, we’re all getting expense accounts!” He nudges Candy with his elbow. Pitbull smiles at the idea of having a secretary in his office, then wonders what he would actually need a secretary for…
Candy sits in the folding chair, now that Pit is waving the paperwork around happily, “I’d not worry much about baking the books. I have plenty of liquid assets I could launder through this organization to legitimize it to the Fed, if that’s really a worry.” Saxby shakes his head. “You’re missing the point. This isn’t a guest house and we’re not open for business.”
Able frowns at Mac. “We don’t have honest work to give them.” “If they were looking for Honest, I think they’d give us a pass!” Pacoy points out.
Several of the team, who have set up web crawlers for news related to their recent activities, get a ping – the breaking news is that Valerie Aldridge, VP of Umbra Night City, has been arrested by her corporation for possible extradition to the Night City authorities. The charges are that she colluded with 23 Enigma to give them the day-zero exploit that allowed them to take over the minds of several people with Umbra implants.
Candy shakes his head, “Hardly, it’s rare that an employer meets face to face with temp staff. It’s all done by a third party contractor, of which I would be the face. We would appear completely legit. Hell, the Emir and myself have kept our cartels largely on the up and up. Not a word about the Emir as a crime boss on the news, a hotelier and businessman in the imports business is the up and up. I see no reason this could not be the same.”
Second Ping: Night City authorities are looking for the 23Enigma hacker who left electronic traces of his work in the implants of Augustin Hashaway and Mr. Choppa, the latter of whom was killed at the Ottoman Hotel yesterday.
“I agree Mac. I’ve yet to see any program match a man in actual thought. I wouldn’t trust a machine that wasn’t man-operated with my toilet, let alone my life.” Pitbull growls to Mac as he takes another hard drag off of his cigarette.
“So, as I was saying about keeping this place an absolute secret…” Saxby posts the second article to the team’s HUD. “That’s me.” Pitbull pauses. “And me. Kinda pumped him full’o lead back there…”
Mac blinks a few times. “You left a signature? You didn’t get out clean?” He whistles. In my business, if I left tracks like that, I’d be eating a lead pipe before the week was out. Able frowns at the news. “That isn’t good. You need to be more careful about leaving traces of your hacks in the future – it wouldn’t do to get arrested for this.”
Saxby holds up his hand. “It’s a signature, relax. Only about 50 police departments around the world are looking for me. I only bring it up to caution you against turning this place into a clubhouse or a playpen.”
Pitbull shrugs. “If I remember the Sax Man correctly, he’s been Zeroed. They couldn’t trace him back to anything if they tried.” Pitbull grunts as he exhales a gust of smoke that plumes into a fog through the hangar’s dust. Saxby points at Pitbull. “Exactly. They’re not going to find me, and presumably, none of you will turn state’s evidence. Secretaries, on the other hand, and any other working class heroes we decide to bring on, will be.”
Candy tilts his head and seems distracted but says, “It, Lazarus Group, needs to be profitable, very profitable, and that’s only achieved with word of mouth. Be that on the above board channels or on the street. Either way those looking for you will find you.” Able agrees, “Just because they don’t know who he is, doesn’t mean they can’t figure it out. If his signature is all over everything Lazarus gets involved in, it won’t take the smartest detective in the world to make a connection.”
A third ping hits everyone’s web crawlers: the Ottoman Incident continues to have repercussions throughout the political and corporate worlds. Alongside Umbra’s Icefire, the CEO of Tuphana has been replaced by his board and the Chairman of Night City has announced his intention to retire, triggering an early election there. A video shot by bemused onlookers of a massive orgy at the nightclub on the Ottoman’s upper floors is being blamed for both exits.
Saxby shakes his head at the news. “It’s a signature. Plenty of police have warrants out for the White Lion. The trick is not being found.” He turns back to Candy. “Which is why, no, it doesn’t have to be profitable or even noticed at all.” Pacoy raises an eyebrow, Isn’t a Signature by definition being noticed? He sighs. We need a game plan: what is on the plate for Lazarus now?” “I think we can fend anything short of a regiment of National or Corps with this place, after we get it up and goin’. Sax’ll be fine for now.” Pitbull grates as he exhales another smoke/dust cloud.
Mac shakes his head. “You could take everything about my identity away from me, and you could still track me down by checking the size of my shoes and how I walked.” Not as easy as asking for a name, but it’s a step in the right direction, heh. He looks out again at the bits of Night City that they can see from the hangar.
Candyman leans back into an unpadded aluminum chair with a dangerous creak, “Really, its not an issue of being know anymore. Eventually everything gets found out – its about profit. Everyone knows who the Bey really is, if they want to know, but its not profitable to do anything with that knowledge. If the danger or cost outweigh the rewards – that’s when you get left alone. We need to be known to get business – and this place needs to be a fortress to make targeting us too expensive in time and manpower.” Saxby puts his palm over his face then sighs. “OK, well, we can play homemaker with this place, and then buy another safe house. Candy, I’m gonna need your credit number again. Actually, no I wont…”.
Mac nods, “I like it, Candy. Risk and reward. I can’t really run a detective agency without my name on the door someplace. It’s usually a waiting game for me, until some broad with firebrand hair and a shape like an hourglass comes rapping on my door in her hour of need. But she has to know where to come first.”
Candy cranes his neck around to face Pitbull, “Friend, I don’t think we really have that many soldiers in here. We don’t even know when next Able’s friend is going to waltz into his head. I’d hardly say we’re up to that challenge without some help. Hell I’d hardly say Mac, Pacoy, or myself are who you want at your back in a throwdown – don’t even want the kid” Candy hooks a thumb at Saxby, “next to ya in the pisser. More like have to babysit him. We’ve got two real soldiers between you and the General, and the General is loyal to Rossum first, not us.”
Mac looks at Candy, his eyes narrowing slightly. “Look, pal. I take care of my own when the cards are down. That includes you, like it or not, everyone in here, even the kid. I’ve already had my chest caved in once for you lot, and I barely knew you then.” I’ll be damned if I didn’t think about leaving when that happened though. Took me a month to recover. “I’ve been shot at six times as often since joining Lazarus than I’d find myself shot at in a year doing detective work. I might not be a soldier, but I’d think I’ve been a pretty damn good friend.” Mac crosses his arms and looks out across the sky, watching vehicles trace vapor trails like ants sandwiched between two panes of glass. Saxby looks sympathetically towards Mac, nodding along in agreement.
Ping Four: The Bey on News24/7 being interviewed by Robyn Curia herself – “Robyn, I can say honestly that if it were not for the Lazarus Group I wouldn’t have any hotel left at all, and I’ve told the Chief of Police this too. There is no way they were complicit in the 23Enigma attack.”
Able highlights an article on the Tuphana and Chairman replacements, sending them to the others. “I wouldn’t count on us defending this place just yet; Umbra’s already in positions of influence with the next most-likely heads of Tuphana and the Night City Council. They didn’t use the Ottoman incident just as a test-bed or to go against the Bey – the planners of the attack were looking at more than just that.”
Pitbull grunts, “Y’kiddin’ Candy? I think all of us have proven that we can kill someone with our expertise, and those that haven’t… Well, I could run you guys through some soldier training?” as he stubs out his smoke and drags out another to light.
Mac snorts. “You think you’re getting me running through some tires?” He flips through the news stories on his pocketwatch. “The Bey’s just given us a great bit of PR there, if we cared to capitalize on it. Professional troubleshooters, problem solvers. I mean, that’s a hell of an endorsement.” I’d love for that kind of endorsement in my personal job, but people typically like to stay quiet about my involvement. Pacoy listens to the news-feeds, “Good news is Lazarus is getting free PR from the Bey right now, Bad news is Bey is kinda flaunting us in Umbra’s face at the same time, not overtly, but it’s there.”
Candy shrugs, “We can hold our own sure, but we’ve never been the target of anything. We’ve caught the runoff aggression with DreamCorp and now with the Bey. They hacked his staff – not us. We’ve been lucky so far, but our names out now. We can’t expect to pick off the flanks of the enemies any longer – they are gonna be gunning right for us.” Saxby crosses his arms over his chest and looks expectantly at Candy. “So, what do you suggest, dear leader?” “*WOOAH* there, Junior: isn’t the whole point of this venture that Candy isn’t our leader?” Pacoy asks.
Pitbull lights his cigarette, then stares at the team. “Only question is, will this hangar be ready enough to torture an Umbra VP? I know a recipe involving rock-salt, lemon juice, and grain alcohol, that doubles as torture aids and good drink. Boy’s and I called it the Trench Margarita.” Pitbull smiles, through his omnipresent cloud of smoke.
Looking at Pitbull, Mac smiles. “You’ll have to make that for me sometime, barkeep. But if you try to torture me with it, you and I are going to have words, yahear?” “The rock salt might count as torture to drink around, I’d think. But it’s pretty good if your squad’s outta beer.” Pitbull growls with a smile.
Saxby turns to Pacoy. “OK, fair enough. Does anyone else have any input besides ’we’re all going to die because we’re awful’? I’m sure everyone would be interested.” Laying his hands in his lap, Candy looks down, “Don’t really know. I’m not the leader here, I’m just a voice, one our employees might find more becoming. I just worry that we will be under prepared, that we are striking out a bit far from the power bases of our allies. We could use they Grey or even territory in the Shambles, or best of all somewhere in the shadow of the Bey. I just feel we are leaving ourselves wide open. We’ve shown ourselves as costly to the Corps, how long till they take us out, how long till hitting us directly is more cost efficient?” “We can start setting this place up,” Pacoy answers, “Divide up space, clean house, bring over basic equipment.” Saxby nods at Pacoy. “Now that sounds like a plan.”
“Maybe we should weaponize. I know this is comin’ from the guy who already is, but we got the money, we can find the expertise, I know a guy, y’know, we could be battle-prepared in under two months, unless you want some cybernetic preparation.” Pitbull shrugs through a puff of smoke. Candy traces a finger along the monoblade, ever present at his hip now, “How long till your friend comes back Pitts, this place going to be ready?” Mac looks at Pitbull, his eyes scanning across the hangar floor, seeing spent shell casings and blood everywhere briefly before shutting his eyes, waiting for his friend to speak.
Mac looks from Pitbull to Saxby. “I’m not planning on dying here, or anywhere, for that matter.” He looks towards Pacoy. “Once we have our house settled, then things get easier to see. What we can do, what we can’t handle.” He looks at Candy. “We make sure that they can’t take us out. Make ourselves valuable to them, or get some juice on them that goes public if they come after us.”
Able leans against the wall as he ponders Candy’s question. “We should try and keep a lower profile; a public feud with Umbra, or any of the other large corporations, won’t do us much good. If it’s known that we are anti-corporation, we won’t find very many willing clients.” Mac nods towards Able. “That’s the other way – make it seem that we’re a non-target. I don’t have beef with the way the Corps do things – just Rossum’s drawn my ire is all. I’ve rarely turned down a client before, unless I knew something smelled fishy.” Or they had it in for their sweet little wife – those berks got what was coming to them. “I could get behind seeming Corp friendly, no doubt Rossum will not hire us and keep our secret at the same time,” Candy gives a nod at Able, “but it would give us the perfect opportunity to get inside their defenses and hit them hard when the time is right.” Candy gives a weak smile as he continues to stare at his lap.
Pitbull clears his throat and says, , unable to hide his Cheshire grin, “I recently got word from Carlos that he had struck some nerves when he had taken off. He had apparently just up and left field duty to come after me. Carlos estimates that he’s going to be locked in the red tape for twice or three times the estimated time so… We got from two to four months if I counted right.” Candy looks up at Pitbull with an honest smile on his face, “I’m glad for that – I want us to be more than ready for that bastard.” Pitbull shrugs before folding his smoking arm over his other arm. “It may be Sensei Syndrome- y’know, the little part of the student’s brain that tells him he can’t beat the man who trained him- telling me that we might have more than we’ve bargained for with Wilson.” Pitbull growls as he runs a finger over one of his still healing stitches.
Pacoy thumbs around in the paper work Saxby brought over until he finds the basic floor plans of the Hangar. Every one in agreement with the Big Picture? “Wire Shop” can be all around “Shop” – tools, machining, bots, everything we need. Receiving can be the computer lab, Parts Room feed both, turn Scarp Metal into our Armory – Pitts friend can help there – and Storage into a trauma center – the rest is personal space we can deal with later, right? We can get cleaning and have this place reasonable in a few weeks, coming up with company mission and agreed by-laws as we bring it up and running” Saxby nods and steps over to Pacoy. Leaning over his shoulder, he flips a page. “There are utility tunnels in the executive suites that lead to the main hangar. Supposed to be for access to the water mains and whatnot, but they’re also perfect escape routes to our safe room.” Candy nods and takes the papers from Saxby again, “I’m on board, it seems safe enough with the direction towards the Corps and the grace period we have in regards to Pit’s teacher from hell.” With that Candy pens his name to the lease.
Mac nods. “Not liking the idea of needing a trauma center, but I could see it being necessary. Escape routes are nice… Hey, where are we going to park our vehicles? I’ve got a bid out on a vintage cycle, and I’d like to keep it out of the rain if possible. There room in that floorplan for a garage?” “Well Security is a given, as are automated killbots, we have plenty of space to get creative.” Pacoy points out. Saxby stands up straight and looks around. “Security is good, but I’ll remind you, if we’re being attacked, we’ve made a series of horrible mistakes along the way. No one should know we’re here. Ever.”
Candyman’s comms ping with an incoming call – it’s Jacob The Juice. “Mr. C? The Emir would like for you to go downtown and make a statement to the cops. It’s all arranged with the Chief – just you as representative of Lazarus and no-one’s coming after any of your people for anything they may have done while saving the Emir’s ass.”
Able nods at Pacoy’s plan, then points to a few areas on the map. “We can install security cameras here, here, and here, and put in a sensor grid. A camera cluster here and here, on the outside, would be good as well. I’d also like a feed into the airport’s radar station. I’ll leave armaments to Pitbull’s man.” Mac looks at where Able marks the map with the sensors. “That’s all well and good if they make it in or near. I’ll see about making friends with the locals, see if they’ll keep an eye keen for us as well.”
Pacoy sighs, “Saxby, I don’t think you are on the same page: Everyone but you is talking about making this Lazarus HQ – an office to get jobs and run our stuff. We all have private hidey-holes if we need to disappear.” “Mine’s an abandoned hospital in the Cargoes for instance.” Pitbull adds to Pacoy’s point. Mac taps Pitbull on the arm, “Wasn’t that where Wilson found you? You sure that’s safe anymore, Pits? If you need, you can always swing by my place. Not too many people feel like messing with the mob, y’know?” Saxby throws up his hands. “OK, hang a sign out front. No more lectures about my signatures though.”
Mac thinks for a second, “Pitbull, when Wilson comes to ‘round the mountain, where did you want to be at high noon? Here at the O.K. Corral?" "Feelin’ a bit like Marid today there, Mac?" Pitbull bursts into guffaws, but quickly sobers back into seriousness. “I’d rather have some legit back up, like you guys. He may be tough, just hoping he’s not tougher than the six of us.”
Candy gets up from the seat and walks over to Saxby, “I’m planning to get a PolyFace installed ASAP, can’t drag Desiderium into any enemies this operation makes, or the other way around. Might be a good idea for you – I could introduce you to Elsbeth Vano in her more professional capacity. I’ve had all my work done through her.” Pitbull turns to Saxby. “As for some field experience, I could see if my frie- eh, fuggit- Stick has anything for you and then show you how to use it.” Pitbull says to Saxby. “And Mac, I would’ve already if you were, so yer good.”
Saxby nods. “I suppose I could stand for a little firearms training.” He pulls out his pistol and brandishes it recklessly. “Pretty sure I’m decent with this though.” He wags it at Pitbull. Mac winces and ducks down. “Saxby, don’t you remember the LAST time you were waving that around? I thought I got shot dead!” Able frowns at Saxby, nearly moving to push the kid’s arm down. “You truly need some firearm safety training, Saxby.” Pitbull snatches the gun out of Saxby’s hand and turns it over in his hand. " Scorpia… Cheap plastic… smart gun electronics, that’s good… seen little use… This, Sax Man, is the type of gun that’ll be the death of you. It will misfire in heart beat. I’m hooking ya up with somethin’ real, ‘cause this’ll be more likely to kill you." Pitbull says as he hands the pistol butt first back to Saxby. Saxby grips the gun clumsily and shoves it back into his shoulder holster. “Yeah, I guess. It was cheap, though.” Candy lets out a laugh, “When did I hire you Pits, hawking guns like a pro!”
“I think we all need some Saxby safety training.” Mac grumbles under his breath. “Say, how much are we putting in for this? I don’t even know how much this place runs a month. I’m happy enough to put in fair shares with you lot – I still have to put some aside to help out pay off some debts and maybe invest in a bike for myself.” He looks pointedly at Able. Saxby looks at Mac. “Well, as of right now, it’s all on Candy’s credit. I suppose we could help him out some with the rent and all that.” He flips through a few pages of the paperwork. “Here it is. About two grand a month, give or take. And that includes utilities.” Mac thinks about it, “I’d want to pay Candy off. I want an equal stake in this with all of you. Why not 15k a piece? That covers the rent and some upgrade costs for this year.” Mac doesn’t flinch as the math rolls around in his head.
Candy gives Saxby a questioning look, “Well the lease is in my name White Lion. I think 15k sounds good, will keep a roof over our heads and leave plenty left over to improve security and even a little nest egg for snacks/entertainment. Plus its a small enough investment – I’m sure we’ll make it back up in before the years out.” “15K shouldn’t be a problem, that’ll still leave us with a budget to get things up and running, as well as leaving me capital to get some toys cranked out.” Pacoy agrees. Saxby nods innocently. “Right, just the lease…” He silently clears the cache on his neural cpu.
Able nods. “Fifteen thousand sounds fine. We should also allocate a portion of our future proceeds to the Lazarus Group itself, rather than split evenly to the team members, in order to pay for continuous operating costs and combined costs.” “Makes sense to me, rather than someone coming around with their hands out every month.” Mac flicks some numbers around on his pocketwatch before ejecting a credit chip and holding it out. “See, this is where a secretary would be useful. Someone to handle the finances so we don’t have to.” Pitbull grimaces, as he nods. Shot to the wallet, but small price for this, right?
“Just think of it as a money tree, or buying a better paying job, well worth it” Candy says as he roots around in some leftover boxes from the last tenants looking for some celebratory booze. Saxby takes the credit chit from Mac and runs his fingers over it, silently depositing his own share to it. He passes it on around the group.
Suddenly, there’s a knock at the sally-port door inset into the larger hangar doors. Pacoy raises an eyebrow and looks at Sax “Expecting company?” “…did anyone order takeaway?” Mac looks confused, casting his eye towards the door. Able frowns as he makes his way to the door, his face shifting into a neutral-looking older gentleman and Pitbull slams a credit chip on the table as he racks Reaper and stalks over to answer the door.
After a few seconds the knock comes again, harder this time. Pacoy calmly draws his prowler and steps out of direct line of the doorway. After a moments thought, he activates a Pinbot. Able holds his hand out to Pitbull, asking him to hold off just a bit. He steps up to the door and opens it, looking out at the source of the disturbance. Pitbull steps backwards but keeps his Reaper in his grip
Able opens the door just as Wormie leans towards it and yells at the top of his voice, right in Able‘s face, “Open the fucking door, guys! It’s me. I put a bug in the AV and i know you’re in there and there’s been no shooting so…” Able leans out and grabs Wormie, throwing him into the room. “Quiet. We just bought this place; there’s no need to have complaints about the noise just yet.” Mac blinks, visibly relaxing, "…him? I had wondered where he’d gone off to. “…did you bring any booze with you?” I really need to start carrying a flask like I used to.
Wormie stumbles then rights himself, “Klono’s balls! Yeah, I brought some booze, Mac.” He pulls out a bottle of malt whisky. “Liberated from the Ottoman’s casino bar. I was there when the shit hit the fan…ummm…following somebody…” He tails off for a bit, then, brightly, “So then I helped myself to this and some jewelry from a couple of women who were necking in a corridor and didn’t even notice me!” Pitbull lets his Reaper fall on it’s strap as he whisks Wormwood by the shoulder to the desk with the rest of the team. “Good, good. The whole gang’s here. Sax Man- Wormy. Wormy- Sax man.” Saxby nods courteously. “Nice to meet you, um, Wormy.” Wormie nods back, “Sax-man. I hear you did good fixing Marid. Nice job.”
Able’s face shifts back to the norm as he leans back against the wall, next to the door. Wormwood does a double take, “Shit, Able – it’s you!”
“Hey, Wormie! Just in time to pony up some cash!” Pacoy grins. Mac laughs, “Decorum, Pacoy! You don’t just hit someone up for money without having a drink with them first. Gotta have a little class and tact with it.” Wormwood laughs and hands Mac the bottle. “Pony up, for what? You lose Cabrini Grean at the tables, Pacoy?”
Candy grabs the liquor and takes a naked swig, “So Wormie, following someone, I saw on the news that the acolyte who socked you in the face ran into some trouble after you last left us. Seems a guardian angel is out visiting fear and torment upon those who wrong you?” Pitbull laughs. “I dunno. Maybe this guy is that guardian angel. Just joking. I don’t think Wormie quite has it in ’im.” Pitbull punctuates with another laugh. Wormwood’s face goes calm and still in an instant as he turns to Candyman. “It was great Art, and she was physically unhurt. How’s your body count, Mr C?” Pitbull freezes as he hears him. “Whut?” He grunts dumbly.
Pacoy, obvious, is still talking about home improvements. "We need a bit of compromising – we have two offices and seven partners… I see Mac as having the most need Lazarus-wise for an office, and I’m fine, but do the rest of you time-share, or do we cut into hanger space?” Pacoy asks the group. Mac takes a sip from the bottle before passing it to Pacoy. “I’m fine working out of wherever. We can always cut into the hangar space a bit. Not like we’ve got any planes…” He trails off as he listens to Candy and Wormie walking. Pitbull turns to Wormwood, really wondering if he would do that. I mean, he’s creepy, but not that creepy right?_
Candy shrugs and returns cold eyes, “I killed a woman yesterday, a Corp, first time I’ve killed anyone in cold blood since the early days of Desiderium. Countless others have been put to death at my word – great number more on the docket. Just frustrating that it was connected to Amon Zero, no harm though, just leave my people alone.” There’s a moment, then Wormwood laughs, “You’re a smug, arrogant and hypocritical son of a bitch, Candyman. I like that about you. Don’t talk around it, we’re all making Art in our own way and great Art never came from an untwisted soul. Embrace that, it frees you.”
“Offices are pretty spacious, too – If you don’t mind, there’s no reason two or three decent sized desks can’t go into one office.” Pacoy points out, trying to separate himself from the Candy-Wormie debate.
Pitbull puts his hand on Wormwood’s shoulder and turns him around. “The news bump I read said that she was psychologically tortured. By you?” Pitbull growls darkly. “Hi Pitbull, killed any sensie stars today?” retorts Wormwood.
Mac looks at Pacoy, stammering. “Y-yeah… maybe… if you need office space for… blueprints…? Blueprints are a thing you jive to, right? We can split one of the offices… er…” Mac finagles the bottle and takes a deeper swig, letting the conversation around him store itself to be processed later, when he has time to think.
Pitbull frowns, then smiles. “Fuggit. I got too much blood on-mah-hands to really judge ya. Just… Don’t become a murderer. I kill because that’s my profession, not necessarily because I enjoy it. We cool?” Able frowns at this entire line of conversation between Candyman and Wormwood; an avowed and wanted sexual criminal isn’t exactly likely to help things run smoothly. Wormwood pouts at Pitbull, “Murder? Where would be the Art in that? Any fool can murder!”
Candy waves it away, “Leave it alone Pitbull, I know the girl in passing, she’s just a princess looking for some pity and a handout. She’s fine – even grew up a little from the experience. Hell of a lot worse things to happen to a person in this world than the soft touch danger games that Wormie plays at. Que sera, sera.”
Pitbull laughs loudly, and pats Wormwood on the shoulder. “That’s a good boy!” He roars, as he walks his way over to Mac and Pacoy. “Relax, Candy! Like I said, too much blood!” It’s not blood I’m worried about, that’s the job, but Wormie is just creepy_ Pacoy thinks as he smiles and nods to Pit.
Wormie walks away from Pitbull, grabs the whiskey and swigs, then turns again. “Anyhow, I’ve started a new and grand project with Emmy. We’re documenting – and I mean completely – everything she gets done to her by me, from both our POVs and as if observed from a clinical point of detachment. It’s going to be a sensie, and we may have a producer interested in buying it. It’s taking up all my spare time.” Saxby assures himself he’ll feel really, really bad when he eventually pirates that sensie and trades it for a new stick of RAM. Wormie looks around, “So, what is this place?”
“So… what do you think we set Pitbull up in a suit in the second office, Pacoy?” Mac’s demeanor seems visibly strained, as though he is doing everything in his power to avoid thinking about the conversation that’s just happened. “Pit could use a place to work hang that’s a step up from a dead hospital, that’s for sure, but Candy and Wormie might expect a place for their investment as well – and Wormie if he ponies up.” Pacoy points out to Mac.
Candyman draws himself up and makes one of his statements, “In the end, Worm is not really that creepy. Able has a half dozen souls locked up in his mind and that mind is not his own. I, honestly, plan to give up this mortal coil to lead Desiderium as a Ghost within the next five years. It’s simply too dangerous to the Jihad if I die in its infancy. I’m sure many of you would find that odd. We all have our incongruities.” Candy seems pleased by the little insanities within everything. “We’re all odd. Really, were Edgerunners.” (Saxby makes a mental note of Candyman’s future as a ghost, calculating the price it might fetch.)
Pitbull nods at Mac and Pacoy. “I think the stuff I may need to do would be better for a private area. Some of the stuff that might need doing, probably shouldn’t be able to be seen.” Pitbull growls, as he motions for Wormwood to pass the whiskey. Mac sighs, giving up his brief vision of Pitbull in a business suit. “Don’t worry – there’ll be space for that, and we’ll make it sound proof, to boot.” Because if it’s going to happen, I’m sure as hell not going to be listening to it.
Pitbull’s brows furrow at Candy‘s speech. “Did I just do that thing where I walk in to the ass end of a conversation?”
Wormie raises a hand, “Hang on, someone explain the reason we’re all in this old warehouse and why I should ‘pony up’, please?” Candy sighs, “Well, Pitbull had to put down one of my guests. This is to clear the air and get some room to grow. I’ll be helping with finding jobs and talking to clients. It could be a bit off-putting to some clients when they went into an armed camp to talk business, granted some liked it.”
Pitbull turns around. “We’re separating Lazarus from Desiderium and setting up an office here. Wormie, could you pass the whiskey?” Mac looks towards Wormwood. “This is the proposed Lazarus Headquarters – a place to work, a place to play, a job and chance to earn some pay. We’ve ponied up $15k to cover rent and expenses, and Pacoy and I were trying to figure out how to divvy up the offices.”
Wormie shrugs, “OK, I’m in.” He pulls out a sheaf of pre-paid chips and counts out fifteen of them. “Who gets these? Candy? But I don’t need an office – just a room with a pool table and good coffee.” Mac grins. “See, another reason to get a secretary! A Virtual Receptionist can’t make coffee worth a damn!” Candy takes the chips, “I’ve got the lease and I’m going to finish the paper work with the bank this afternoon. Good to have you onboard, another set of guns makes me feel better.”
Mac muses aloud, “I have to say, I used to think this old saying was a curse, but now that I’ve met you lot, I don’t think it quite works as a curse. ‘May you live in interesting times.’ It’s certainly gotten a ton more interesting since I signed on, and I only ever rarely regret it.” He smiles, saluting with the whiskey before passing it off and pouring over the plans, marking up the blueprints with his pen.
Pitbull snags up the whisky before plopping into a chair, pondering his new moral dilemma. _Is my job… an “evil” one? He just as quickly shrugs it off. Whatever. Killing is my business and I need a drink. He thinks to himself as he gulps down a generous amount of whiskey.
Wormwood gets a little smirk on his face, glancing over the team – his gaze settling for a moment on Mac. “One last thing. You remember Chacon, that DreamCorp chick? Well, I ran into her while I was setting up my sensie with Emmy. She said she had something for you, something out-of-town. She wants you to call her, Candy. And she gave me this to whet your appetite.” Wormwood pulls a flimsy from his pocket, a small 6×8 hard-copy photograph. On the back is one word – Omaha.
On the front… well, the front speaks for itself.
Session Closed. Mission Ends.