Chapter 4: Bye Bye Blackbird

Ch1: Lullabye & Goodnight
Part 1

Early morning in the Redmond Barrens. Most of the dealers and deals done as junkies were holed up sleeping off their hit. Pro’s had quit for the night a few hours before. It was just too dangerous right now to be out if you couldn’t be sure of a John. The relative quiet of early morning in this neighborhood was broken only by trash, bottles rolling across the street and the occasional motor of the guys who had honest jobs hurrying to work. Even the usual sound of puking in alleyways was gone. Guys to tough to let anyone tell them what to do were too scared to carry on business as usual in the alleys.

There were no sirens yet. Hopefully that was a good sign. Hopefully whatever it was that had killed a dozen people by stringing them up with that awful smile on their face was done, or had moved on, or had finally met a gang meaner and tougher and had been killed. Murders happened all the time. But they generally happened for a reason. A ganger killing for his initiation, or revenge, or money. A dealer killed for their stash. A bad reaction to a new drug combo. Or caught cheating in a game. You know, a reason, any reason. But everyone had been hit, and no one was claiming the body count, and worse, there was JUST NO FRAGGIN REASON!

“C’maaaaaan T! I know you got SUMTHIN you can throw a trog, right?” Duck had been playing comm tag with his former manager for about a week now and had finally gotten through. Every so often, he liked to check back in with the funny little dwarf to see about bodyguard work or something like that, but so far that well had been dry. He was determined that this conversation would go differently, but the happy little voice on the other end had other intentions.

“Sorry there Slim, but I jus can’t give ya work I don’t have, right? After Chupa slotted us proper the way they did, you weren’t the only one left with your dick in the wind, boy.”

Duck frowned as he sat alone a bar booth at The Brickhouse, rolling up a fat spliff of zen. The dwarf continued, “I’ve got this trio of elf singers I’m trying something with right now. They sing like angels and all three of em are frakkin gorgeous, but they can’t dance for drek. Maybe in a couple months, they’ll be tour-worthy and I’ll have something I can throw your way, but right now, I’ve just got no use for you and your new partner.” He took a slight pause before adding with a shit eating grin, “Thought I remembered ya sayin ya weren’t gonna work with no breeders ever again, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, blow me, squish. Holler at ya later.” Duck ended the call and licked his spliff down the end, being careful not to tear the paper with his tusks as he did. He reached into his pocket for a lighter and blazed the little bomber up before taking a huge hit and holding it. He leaned back in his seat, threw his head back and blew out a huge cloud of smoke that instantly merged with the ever-present haze in this tiny little shit hole of a bar.

Awwwwwww man. Where the hell is ‘Rack? I’m gettin bored as fuck.

The skinny ork with the long ratty hair passed the time waiting on his friend by burning his little spliff down to ashes, all while browsing through articles on the matrix about a recent student protest against food pricing in the CAS earlier this week. He could feel the weight of his new Ingram pushing against his chest as he read. He didn’t like walking around with hardware on him, but he’d be damned if he was gonna leave a weapon this fine in the shitty drainpipe where he slept. He’d already lost a really nice crusader that way.

Red reclined on a mattress in her apartment, a pretty humble affair but on the upper end of what you might find in a neighborhood like this. At least it had indoor plumbing and a gate. She was leafing through an ARO detailing the day’s weather, stock prices, headlines… all neatly bundled up into a translucent red display made to resemble a traditional newspaper. An article about the recent macabre events in the neighborhood caught her eye, though it seemed the journalist on the case had left out the grisly details. With a flick of the wrist, she dismissed the ARO. The whole thing was sick. Probably some sort of fucking mage gone crazy or doing some sort of voodoo ritual or god knows what. If something seems too weird to be true there’s got to be magic involved somewhere, right?

The beeping microwave announcing breakfast broke her train of thought and pulled her out of bed. She pushed the gruesome thoughts comfortably to the back of her mind.

The late night passed into the early morning. What passed for sunlight in these slums drifted through a window, peeking into what could only be identified through memory as Arc’s room. The place was a bit of a mess, clothes strewn about along with bits of food containers and beer cans. Granted, the mess could have been a lot worse, but it was clear tidiness was not a high priority with this occupant. Speaking of, Arc remained fast asleep, her body sprawled out on her little bed, one leg hanging off the edge as she snored. The light seemed to stir the dust in the place, tickling her nose and causing her to wake up with a sneeze.


She sat up with a start, momentarily disoriented and causing a moment of panick. Hand darting under her pillow, her Predator came out in a flash, her aim shaky and darting about the room. Realizing she was safe, she let out a sigh and relaxed, scratching the back of her head as she stood up. Quickly dressing, she fitted the Predator at the small of her back under her jeans: the short human girl recalled the news reports of the killer and so she took to carrying that pistol with her at all times.

Dressed, the girl didn’t bother checking herself in the mirror. She darted through her doorway, making a stop to the toilet, and moved to her kitchen and living space…which mirrored her bedroom in terms of tidiness. Haphazardly throwing a breakfast of soypaste in the microwave and setting her soykaf pot to boil, she rubbed her eyes as the mechanisms in them whirred, recalibrating to begin the day.

While she waited, Arc pulled up her commlink feed, flipping through the spam articles before checking out the news. More deaths following the pattern, talk of gang involvement…

“Oh hey, make men unable to resist you with all new Eau de Cyanide, the newest in perfume lines from Horizon Industries! Pfft~”

Frustrated, she pulled up a trid of last night’s combat biking as she ate and drank her breakfast blandly, scratching at itches and brushing stray hairs from her eyes. In midbite, she blinked twice, as if just remembering something before rolling her eyes and slamming her cup down. “I still got that Growler with the camshaft that needed tuning by today…FRAAAAAAAG!”

Slumping back in her seat dejectedly, she planted a palm to her forehead with an audible slap. Sighing, she finished her meal and stepped through her side door to get to work.

Two hours later, she was deep into the job. The sounds of a socket wrench clicking could be heard coming from Arc‘s garage-slash-’shop’, as she was hard at work on the motorcycle she had temporarily forgotten about. The place smelled of engines and she loved it. Shelves of tools, chemicals, and parts scattered about. Sporting well-loved and stained coveralls, the human’s hair was tied back with goggles covering her eyes, their image feed providing her with guides and measurements as she adjusted and tuned the bike. A cigarette, lit and burning slowly, hung from the corner of her mouth as she worked, squatting down to get a close look with each turn. She was smiling, humming idly as her morning pressed on, the back of her mind idly wondering how to spend her evening, as she had no jobs lined up after the Growler.

Khali’s comm buzzed insistently and finally woke her up.

“Whozat?” She muttered groggily before realizing it was the alarm she set to wake her at 10am. She flinched as the movement reminded her of the bruise on her left side. She rolled out of bed and checked it in her hand mirror. There was a monstrous purple and yellow mass the size of a softball floating just above the ribs. Nails’ job wasn’t as easy as the elf had promised, but Khali’s armor stopped the bullets that caught her in the side from penetrating. A predatory smile spread across her face, Amatuers were using hollow points, expecting us to be unarmored.

She threw on an old robe and opened the door to her room. The door was a luxury in this place and she was always reminded of that fact when she passed the bunks and open doorways of the other residents. She muttered sleepy greetings to her neighbors on the way to the communal bathroom at the end of the hall. After making use of the facilities, she returned to her room, pulled her wet hair back, and relaxed into her morning Carromeleg kata. After spending some time trying to work the soreness from her side, she strapped on her armor jacket, her weapons, and put on her coat. Khali locked her room, then headed toward the ground floor. On her way, she tossed some of the soycandies she kept in her coat pockets to the building’s kids.

At least they seem to be coming around, she thought, appreciating the children’s acceptance of an honest bribe. Her neighbors were still… ‘adjusting’ to Khali‘s self-appointed title of guardian angel. The folks with honest jobs seemed to be the least bothered. While they didn’t exactly trust her, they seemed to appreciate the idea of a guard dog hanging around the building while they couldn’t be home with their families. Khali stepped out onto the street, and looked around. Noting that nothing seemed out of place, she headed down to the Stuffer Shack at the end of the block. She grabbed soykaf and something resembling a muffin and ate while sifting through her commlink’s newsfeeds. One of the first articles she found was on the local serial killer. No new bodies at least. And no one in my pack.

Khali stopped herself from snarling, thinking about the killer coming into her territory. She turned her attention to her messages and found it empty. Drek, no jobs. She wasn’t hurting for cash, but she also couldn’t stand being idle. She fired off a quick message to Red:

}}MESSAGE: Bored. Let me know if you have a line on any work.

She walked back up the block and checked one of Rabbit’s dead drops, a loose bolt on a lamppost. She found a scrawled note that read, “Noon. Big Sky.”

That kid must have trashed her comm again. But at least she’s got something for me.

She killed an hour checking out the surrounding streets and watching for unfamiliar faces before her impatience got the better of her. She walked west a couple of blocks and found the abandoned building she was looking for. She climbed the fire escape to get to the third floor and waited there in a courtyard. She didn’t know how Rabbit chose her spots, but she had a talent for naming them. She pulled her coat a little tighter around her as she waited for the elven girl to show up.

There were perks to adopting modern technology as opposed to staying with the old ways from before magic, from before even computers. Maybe it was true that they could just no longer live without such requirements. But this wasn’t technology used to replace the old ways that were so proven and so effective, this was technology covering it’s shortfalls. Old style leather harnesses replaced with kevlar laced fabrics. High tensile belt rigs with extended pouches for equipment. And body armour that could resist both blade, bow, and bullet all in one without offering a weighted payload that removed mobility altogether. The modern ability to disrupt his physical pattern from spying eyes with the use of flaps and disruptive camouflage patterns that appeared as little more than a fashion statement written in black on grey, a perfectly matched shade of colour designed to be no darker than the enviroment around it in the middle of the night.

He was kitted up and ready to go; the room was dark. His eyes were closed, waiting. A near imperceptible sound of cold, dead metal being lightly dragged across fabric and Arachnid‘s eyes snapped open to take in the source, a figure in the dark, armed with a blade of similar length of his own, low slung and silently moving. Arachnid’s right hand dropped to the left of his hip, gripping the engraved hilt of the first of his two personal blades. He drew it in a long and arcing sweep, an act that brought about recoil in Arachnid‘s wrist when it was swiftly deflected downwards. He spun with the deflection, his blade sweeping into the air, but the other man Ducke dunder it. Only the barest of light glinting off the lethal edge warned him of the counter-strike coming his way. He stepped in to parry and reach out with a brutal left handed hookshot across the offender’s face, receiving a soft grunt of pain from the surprised attacker turned victim.

The punch was followed by the continued rotation of his body to deliver a sidelong kick to the middle of the man’s swordarm, pushing through to connect solidly with his torso. The man flew into a wall, hitting his head and the heavy thump of a body striking the floor was the end to the engagement. Muscle memory nearly had Arachnid’s sword finishing the downed opponent, but he held back with a conscious effort, instead swinging the blade up in a half spin for the correct orientation and sheathing it without a further sound. Then the lights came on bright, almost blinding him.

The attacker, now subdued, was laying on the ground trying to make the stars stop. He was young, almost the same age as when Arachnid had started all this… and the same age when he’d first had his behind handed to him in much the same manner. Turning on a heel casually, Arachnid bowed to those spectating the educational, and incidentally entertaining, training fights. In the dark, the exercise specifically taught a lesson everyone needed to learn at some point or another in their careers. ‘No matter how good you are, there is someone who will turn the tables’.

He tried not to think of the four missing faces from the crowd, victims of the bastard ripping up the people just trying to survive, just trying to make their lives better. There were no borders for this man. None of his clan, White Serenity, be they in the blacks of an owl hunting prey for money to survive or the ‘formal’ whites he wore now. Innocents, gang members, his own extended street family as it were. No one seemed to be safe. Were White Serenity actually a ‘ninja clan’, or were they just blowhards? Not knowing was part of the magic to the outside world.

A nod from one of the older faces signaled that he was granted permission to leave. He smiled, lowering a hand to help his fallen ‘foe’ stand, yanking him back onto his feet. Arachnid dropped into a low bow and then strode from the room, knowing that, for another day, his instincts would remain safe from dulling. Used to be, he felt safe enough in this neighborhood to ditch all but his taser, tucked in his beltline hidden beneath his shirt. Now, he had to show that he wasn’t afraid to defend himself. Taser, dual blades, and the military style dropleg holding the handgun visible to any would be assailant.

He lifted an earbud to his right ear, adjusting the tiny dial with a finger while reaching into another pocket to dial up the commlink. Duck’s speed dial was easily entered without removing the commlink. Listening to the musical tones of the outdialed call, he noted the crackling of static. His commlink was just barely in range of the grid, like everything else in this place he was proud to call home. Everything they needed, they had through hard work. He waited a moment for Duck to answer.

“Give me three guesses as to where you are?”

Duck was halfway done with his spliff and tallying his paltry assets when Arachnid called. He loaded up his persona, a nasty looking little green goblin dressed in a “90’s thug tupac” style, and responded with it instead of his meat voice. He didn’t want to scream over the music.

}}Duck SEND MESSAGE Arachnid
}}MESSAGE: Shiiiiiiit, Fam! Mawfucker only need one guess, but the greedy ass breeder gon come askin for three.

The persona smiled wide, showing off his rows of tiny razor sharp teeth and long purple tongue.

}}Duck SEND MESSAGE Arachnid
}}MESSAGE: You all done wit trainin and shit? Need to come through and meet with a mug, wiz? I’ll be here all night, Omae.

Red was halfway through the bowl of microwaved soy noodles, the blandness spiced up a little by the simmed flavor packet that came in the styrofoam container, when her commlink buzzed. She scrolled through her planner, reaffirming what she already knew before shooting a message back to Khali.

}}MESSAGE: Wish I could say I did. Business has been pretty slow as of late. If I pick up any leads I’ll be sure to give you the heads up, though.

Khali saw the response and frowned. Of course. New day, same drek.

She sent a quick reply.

}}MESSAGE: Null sweat. Later.

Red nodded, but her interest was a little piqued. She sents another quick message to the enigmatic Nicole, the fixer who kept to the solid business practice of not letting her clients know a damn thing about her.

}}MESSAGE: Red here. Hear anything good lately?

Khali had just hit send when she heard someone scurrying up the fire escape. When she leaned out to check, there was no one to be seen. Turning around, she almost slammed into Rabbit. Khali tried to hide her surprise as Rabbit started talking in her ridiculous street slang, “Wuzgood,wuzgood, wuzgood, Swrdgrl?”

Frag me, I wish I knew how the runt pulls that little trick.

Khali had been able to rid herself of her Tir accent, but her precise diction made her stand out when she tried to imitate Rabbit‘s speech. "It’s a slow day. What happened to your comm?"

Rabbit smiled and backed up a few steps, perching on a decaying bench, “No cred, chummer. Burned out all the freebie ’ware. Smashed it last week to see all the shinies inside.”

Khali sighed and tossed her a fresh Meta Link, “Just see if you can make that one last a little longer. Your drops take too long to relay.”

WUZ REALLY GOOD, OMAE?” Rabbit yelled as she snatched the comm out of the air. “Just for that, I got some good humint for ya. New pushers, ya?”

Khali frowned, “Who? Ancients?” If the Ancients were moving in…

Rabbit shook her head, “Think Rabbit can’t tell keebs apart? Pushers are new, keebs AND breeders… and no bikes.”

“I don’t like the sound of that, and the Ancients won’t either. What are they selling?”

“Rabbit’s momma didn’t have no brave bunnies, just sneaky bunnies.”

“Fine, fine. Where are they?”

Rabbit pointed northeast, “Two blocks east, one block north. Got got a greasy lookin’ breeder pushin, with a keeb and a trog trying to be sneaky lookouts.”

“Thanks, I’ll check it out. Steer clear of them. If I don’t get to them, the Ancients will and you don’t want to get in their way.”

Rabbit imitated Khali’s precise speech as she scampered down the fire escape, “Go teach your honorable mother to eat dandelions, Swrdgrl.”

Some of the smog started to settle in the late afternoon, making the Barrens smell even worse than usual. The Pro’s gotta work a little harder to be seen in this and they don’t dare go in or their pimps will make sure they can’t stand the next day. Course, there’s no ‘day off’, just means the pimp will be even madder because he had to work harder sending business into them.

Nuts was lazily strolling down the street, trying to look casual. He’d heard from one of his usual clients that there was a new gang out dealing. Time to scope out the competition, casual like, he thought. Despite his posture, there was nothing casual about his eyes, hard and mean.

No one would get in the way of his business. He spotted the Night Howlers head honcho, Lupo, with his arms around one of the Pro’s on the street, holding cash to her face while he whispers in her ear and gropes her. Looked like he was buying. She took the money and walked off with him, past Nuts. As they continued on, they pass another man on the street. Nuts spotted him easily enough. Like they say, it takes one to know one. The Pro signaled Lupo by pulling his arm around her shoulders as they walked past. Nuts smiled to himself. He spotted the other dealer outright, but Lupo would need confirmation for the Howlers. Now he had it. The encroaching gang wouldn’t make it past tonight. Well that problem’s solved easily enough. And I didn’t even have to flex. He also knew where not to be, at least for tonight.

After getting Zenned to bejeezus, then drinking and catching up with ‘Rack the night before, Duck woke up the next afternoon in his drainpipe with a SERIOUS hangover. The three legged dog that stopped by every morning for a snack had apparently already come and, seeing Duck was still sleeping, left in search of greener pastures. Slowly, he came to the realization that he hadn’t woken up on his own. He was still far too tired for that. Duck had been woken up by the flashing and buzzing in his head that only an URGENT message would trigger. He didn’t give frivolous people the code to do that, so he knew it must be serious. Heavily clearing the phlegm from his throat before answering, he saw the call was from Zipline and feared the worst.

Her voice was angry. “Duck, Melinda is missing. Godra swears she wasn’t high when she was taking care of them, like I can’t see her eyes!” Duck heard her spit. “Pharos says that Melli started talking about music and Uncle Duck playing pretty music. Is she with you? For once I’d be glad if you said yes, not that I won’t knock your sorry ass hide back to your momma’s womb for taking her!” Besides angry, Duck could hear how scared she was.

“Chill chill chill, girl! Chill,” he said, calmly. “Aight hold up. Breathe for a second, wiz? Aight, first off, no. Mel ain’t with me. You know I always set shit up in advance when I’m chillin with them girls.” His scratchy tenor voice echoes off down the pipe as he speaks.

“Second off, I aint gonna say told ya so about Godra. Instead, I’m just gonna say that you can call me anytime to watch them girls. I aint even bout to charge ya nun, neither, wiz? Now third, and I know this ain’t what ya wanna hear, but drek ain’t so bad. Member last time? BOTH them girls ran off? This time we still got one and we can use her to track Mel. Make it easier, right? Where ya’ll at right now? Send me an ARO. I’m comin to meet ya. I can call a homeboy for a ride if you’re far off.”

While he talked, he strapped on his armor vest and made sure his Ingram was clean and loaded.

“I’m at Dead-Drop,” Zipline said. “And Phee is saying she couldn’t hear no music. She don’t know where her sister went. She went to go get Godra ‘cause she figured Melli was just carrying on and when she got back she was gone. I’ve got Two-Shot and Bucky out looking for her and I’m on the street tryin’ out to find her.”

Duck nodded, even though she couldn’t see him. “Word. You stay where you’re at and I’ll come to you. Bout to call my homegirl right now. One love, girl.” Duck had finished getting dressed and was walking away from the drainpipe as he ended the call, headed toward Arc’s shop.

Sure, I could call Rack, but I don’t like to bug him unless there’s money involved. Plus, Zip and her boys would give me no end of shit if I rolled up on the back of some breeder’s growler.

He mentally composed a message to Arc as he walked the 14 blocks to her shop.

}}MESSAGE: I’m on my way to your place right now. Need a lift to the Dead-Drop out in H-I. I’ll pay ya fifty for the one way. See ya in ten.

Khali was moving through the streets, looking into the information that Rabbit had passed along. She thought she had found them when her comm buzzed. She looked it over and nodded when she saw it was from Sam.

She turned a corner so that her quarry wouldn’t spot her if they looked her way, then answered the call.

“Always good to hear from you, sweetheart, but I was about to be busy. What’s up?”

Sam‘s voice came through clearly, "I’ve got a job you might be interested in, 500 cred. They’ve got a couple of extra security spots open at one of the warehouses. It’s 2 nights with maybe more if you’re reliable and can keep your mouth shut. Turns out their regular security is getting spooked by all of the recent commotion and a couple of their guys have quit. Let me know if you’re interested because I need to let them know in the next 2 hours."

Khali didn’t need two hours. “I’m definitely interested. Where’s the warehouse? When does it start and how many bodies do they need?”

“That’s my girl,” Khali could tell Sam was pleased. “They need 2 minimum to replace the 2 that quit and would like 1-2 more with everything going on right now. I’ve got a couple of calls out but you’re the first one I’ve actually gotten in touch with. It’s a warehouse off of 25th & NE Park. They need guards there overnight for the next few nights because they’ve got a shipment coming in too big to divert to another warehouse.”

Khali knew the area. It was a rough area with a local gang. Of course, the ‘guards’ there were all from that gang. A nice little racket where the corp paid the gang to make sure nothing happened. It was also very close to where the last of the murders had happened. When gangers wanted out…

“I’m in, and I might have a lead on another girl in need of work. I’ll let you know as soon as I hear back. Send me a message with the times they want covered and who to meet.”

Then she shot out a quick message.

}}MESSAGE: Got a line on some security work for tonight and the next few. I’m babysitting a warehouse and they need more bodies. I could definitely use another set of eyes that I can trust. Interested? Need to know in the next two hours.

After that, she walked by the alley and took pictures of the new arrivals with the image link in her glasses. She packaged it up and forward it in another message.

}}Khali SEND MESSAGE Nails
}}MESSAGE: I got some intel you might be interested in. Don’t suppose you’ve given anyone else permission to deal on your turf? =ATTACHMENT=

Red could hear a commotion out in the hallway, sounded like one of the kids screaming at someone, probably for stealing her beer. Red was about to poke her head out the door when her comm chimed. Unrecognized commcode. She hesitated a moment, but then answered.


“Hey baby,” a voice on the other end purred. “Thought you might come by tonight. I’ve got a good bottle of wine and a few tickets to a concert this weekend. You could stay over and we could enjoy each others company. Call me back and let me know. But don’t take too long.” It was Nicholas and once she got over her initial surprise, she realized it was a coded message. “Come by tonight”-dead drop, “tickets” meant info was at theater, “company” was near her old office. “Don’t take to long” told her the info was time sensitive. She hadn’t recognized the number, so he was using some kinda burn comm to transmit a coded message???? Frag, that was curious. But she wanted the work.

“You’re too good to me, see you then. She had just hung up when khaliKhali’s message came through. She sighed. It always happened like this. You get nothing for a few days, then multiple calls all at once.

}}MESSAGE: Might not be able to come by tonight. Have a date with an old flame. If things go well, we might be looking at something a little more interesting than a babysitting gig. If things get especially interesting and you need some back-up, though, give me a ring and I’ll see what I can do.

Before long, Red had her bike down at the dead drop. That part of town always made her feel uncomfortable, maybe even moreso than the Barrens. It was unnerving when something as simple as running into someone who recognized your face could spell untold disaster. But the best way to avoid drawing attention to yourself was look like you had a reason to be there. Also, it was much easier to walk around like you owned the place when you practically used to own the place. Still, she was on the lookout for any trouble.

His eyes snapped open to take in the intact ceiling above him, leak free Arachnid was clean and warm, safe from the elements. But he sure wished that there was a bit less light, because the pain was immense. Duckdown always knew the best place for grog and, well, maybe he’d enjoyed that man’s company a slight too much the previous night! It sure felt like the seven fires of hell burning inside of his skull, so he’d clearly had a good time. How he had managed to return home safely was a different question, one he’d ask later after the cold water cleared his head from the hangover fog. Equipment was on the rack where he always left it, so at least muscle memory was good for something after all.

SPLASH! He slapped water across his face. Gods, that feels much better. Spinning on his heel, he began to strip down and then put on his ‘work’ clothes. As per his routine, he flashed into the astral plane, assensing what was around him. As usual, nothing of note. He dialed up his ‘link, leaving one of those fancy voice to text messages for Duck. “Duck mate?” he said into the air. "You make it home alright? Didn’t drink me under too much, eh?"

Leaving that message to simmer for a moment, he reached up to the rack to pull the tactical belt down, clip it to his pants and fasten it tightly, taking a swift moment to lock the buckles at their various points. After, he looked in the cracked mirror, adjusting the ‘formal’ whites and smiling back at his reflection. He paused for a moment to pull out his commlink and examine the time and date. Oh, drek, my bike! He’d completely forgotten about his bike in the spirit of attempting to outdrink his closest ally in this middle of nowhere he called home. Swapping to the next number with one hand and drawing his sidearm with the other, he dial up Arc, leaving his second message of the day.

}}Arachnid SEND MESSAGE Arc
}}MESSAGE: Hey, Arc. Sorry for yesterday. I’ll be over to collect the bike soon, thank you~.

He stepped out of his tiny, cramped apartment while checking and charging his sidearm with the heavy chachink. By the time he had holstered and secured it, he was already out the front door, heading to the shop where Arc held his bike in good repair. Or as a hostage. Who knew?

He very nearly had to step over the top of Peach when he shut the door behind himself. He never quite paid all that much attention to the man, and this afternoon was hardly much of a difference. Except is was a bit early for Peach to be wasted. He smiled at Arachnid, most of his teeth rotted out.

“Hey, what’s your hurry? Everybodies always hurrying. Ain’t nobody ever got time to listen to the music. It’s pretty music.” He turned his head away from Arachnid, smiling and staring into space.

Before Arachnid could form up an appropriate response, Peach gathered himself upwards and stood before tottering away, effectively ending the conversation. With a delayed pause, the white dressed man with dark equipment stared at him strangely for a few seconds before shaking his head and turning off towards the stairs. It was a rare elevator that worked in the Barrens.

He tried at least to make good time towards Arc‘s little shop where his bike currently resided. He was weary on the footpath and distinctly up edge. The afternoon light was quickly fading. The murderer might take another victim tonight or Arachnid’s sensei from White Serenity would pull him for something that needed doing. Collected but alert, one might’ve said. Kind enough to rap his knuckles on the side of the partly open door that led to Arc’s garage-workshop with a wave at the same time “Ho there, friend!” He called out, trying and probably failing to keep all of the tension he was feeling from his voice…

Arc was still working on the Growler when one of Lupo’s Night-Howlers came in the door. Arc let go of the wrench she was working on, standing up slowly and lifting up her goggles. She took a puff of her cigarette and widened her stance a bit. She had kept half an eye on the door and she could identify a Howler when she saw one, otherwise the drekhead would not have made it two steps in.

“Hoi, need you to drop whatever job yer doin for some breeder and fix this. Lupo’s got a job for us tonight and if this ain’t working we don’t get paid.”

Brow furrowed in a surly expression, the girl adopted a stance she was accustomed to with these Howlers: aggressive, confident, intolerant of bulldrek. “Hoi, you know mah bizness is mah bizness, Sraa’ksa, ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.” She glanced back over to the Growler…a few parts reassembly was needed, but the job was pretty much done. Lucky her. “Near done anyway. Aight, you’re in luck, whatchu got for me?”

He laid out a duffel bag on the table with a very solid thunk and unzipped the bag to reveal a fraggin grenade launcher. Arc gave a long, low whistle, running her hands almost admiringly over the barrel of the launcher.

“Hooooo, my, where in the drek did a tusker like you get ahold of a fraggin’ Ares Antioch-2?” she asked.

Without another word, the goggles were on, AR displays examining the device as she put her hands over it. She quickly pulled out a multitool to test a few spots. Howlers with grenade launchers, needing them tonight…dammit, Lupo, what are you up to… Several moments later, she let out her breath, flipping the goggles up, and turning to the ganger.

“Aight, listen up, Flak. I know the nights are lonely, but ya gotta stop using this thing as a slothole, you hear me? Your barrel’s grimed up, a few of the action circuits are fried, and there’s some drek sticking to the trigger pin. Grab a beer, or whatever Stuffer Shack’s got nearby, I’ll hook you up. Usual fee, I don’t do charity!”

The ganger nodded and headed out. Free from distraction, Arc grabbed her kit and went to work, the parts practically molding under her fingers as the Ares was field stripped. She passed a cleaning brush coated with solvent through the barrel. Various chemical and lubricants went over the thing, as well as a soldering iron over the internal circuitry. She hummed as she worked, absorbed in the task at hand.

All in all, the job took about half an hour to forty minutes, a nearly pristine grenade launcher on the table in the shop. Flak had long since returned and she bagged up the weapon for him. "Y’all ain’t getting a bow; that drek is extra.” Grinning, she handed off the bag. “Whatever drek Lupo’s got going down, I don’t wanna hear about it, got it? Unless it’s going down here, I wanna know if I need to close up.”

“I’ll tell Lupo you fixed it,” Flak said. “You can send the bill to him. And don’t worry about that hide of yours. Lupo wanted you dead you’d already be there.”

Arc nodded. Waving and shooing him off, she watched him go, leaning against the garage door with hands in pockets. A chirping sound interrupted her reverie, and she pulled up her battered little ’link. It was Arachnid.

Heaving a sigh, she took a last puff from her cigarette, flicking the butt onto the street and punching in a reply.

}}Arc SEND MESSAGE Arachnid
}}MESSAGE: Null sweat, chummer, you know that. Come on by, your lady’s waiting, and let me tell you, she is Purring now!

Allowing herself a grin, she sighed as she decided to wait for Arachnid to show, closing her eyes and letting the slight breeze pass over her, hands in pockets.

Her comm chimed again. Message noting that some parts were coming in. Then another notice. Oh hey, it’s from Duck. Now what is that tusker up to, I wonder.. Grinning, she read the message. a ride.

Of drekking course. Why else would that hoop need my help? Rolling her eyes, she took a glance at her other message. Parts for pickup? Huh…Punching in a quick reply to Duck, she sent it out in a moment.

}}MESSAGE: Hoi, you’re in luck, omae. I gotta shipment needs pickup on the way. This some job you working with Rack? He’s coming here for his Growler any minute. Bring the cred, I’ll be waitin.

Flipping her link closed, she heaved a sigh, a small grin starting to form on her face. Seems like tonight won’t be so boring after all. At the very least she could share it with people she at least knew wouln’t put a bullet in her back. I hope.

The tall skinny ork’s lanky legs and long stride had brought him maybe 2 blocks in the time it took Arc to hit him back. One more thing I like about this girl. She punctual. And she understands fuckin economy of motion. He considered responding to the message, but figured, Fuggit, I’m bout to be there soon anyways. Thinking about her waiting there for him before she can get moving on her plans made him feel like kind of an asshole and he really wanted to jog the rest of the way there, but he’d been in this sprawl long enough to know that that was how you drew attention to yourself. Instead, he maintained his solid pace through the slums he called home.

He wan’t terribly worried about Melinda just yet. He and his sisters used to run off all the time at that age. Usually ended up getting into a buncha shit and got hurt, but they were always fine. Just to be on the safe side though, he fired off a couple messages on his comm while he finishes the walk.

}}Duck SEND MESSAGE Nuts/Deen/Alonzo
}}MESSAGE: Message: Not really an emergency, but keep an eye out for this girl here, will ya? Names Melinda. She’s my brother Lenny’s kid and no one can find her. Possibly seeking live music.
*}}*Pic attached. She’s the taller one on the right wearing her dad’s oversized bike jacket. I’ll owe ya one if ya get eyes on her. =ATTACHMENT LennyFam6=

About 10 minutes later, he found himself in front of the door to Arc’s shop. He could smell the industrial lubricant through the door and he grinned as he turned his hand backward, palm facing him and rattled his knuckles against it, reminiscent of a drumroll. He did this for about 3 seconds, then took a step back away from the door, holding his arms at his sides with his open palms facing the door, tilting his head up a teeny bit so the security camera can see his face clearly. Then, he threw on his best “Cobain” smile.

Arc narrowed her gaze as she waited for the two men to show up, flipping through her link, debating whether or not to bug Lupo with the bill. Ah, frag it, a little distraction is less than that trog deserves. She suppressed a chuckle at her thoughts as she recorded an AR message to the troll, using her persona to relay it to him: a short, armored warrioress from some fantasy RPG, leather and chain adorning her body and sporting an exposed middle, her voluminous windswept hair reaching her lower back and framing a battle-painted face. A little cliche and tacky, but the image amused her.

}}MESSAGE: Hoi, big guy. You just got served with an invoice from the Arc. Your boy Flak came in for a repair of his ’nade launcher. You know the drill, I expect my fee within the week. Happy hunting~

Her icon blew a kiss, an obvious display of sarcasm as the message ended and was sent out. Closing her link, the girl stood up just as her door was rapped on, straightening up from her leaning position to identify her newest visitor through the opening. Blades, guns, human, like something out of an old post-apoca trid. “If it isn’t the street spidah. ‘Rack, get yo’ ass in here.”

Dusting her hands off, she stepped up and shut the door behind him, a click of the latch being heard. Leading the way, she brought him to his ride, which clearly had been cleaned off for good measure.

“Aight, so your camshaft is fully tuned, so you shouldn’t get any trouble on tha gear shift anymore. Exhaust should be smooth, and that pull you felt on tha throttle is history. She’s all yours, omae…anyhow, what drek are you gettin’ into with the Duck? He’s due over any seco—ha?”

As if by some invisible cue, the garage door got its drumroll sounding, an obvious indicator of their favorite ork…and the only tusker that doesn’t cause the bile to rise in her throat. Darting over in a few steps, she kicked the door open and pulled it up to greet the skinny ork, arms wide.

“As if speaking of the fraggin’ devil himself! I was just about to close shop.” She let him in, and rejoined Arachnid in the middle of the garage.

“Whatever trip you two gots goin’ on tonight, we better make it fast chummers. Just got wind of a Howler op in the works tonight. Big bang likely, let your friends know, aye?”

As she spoke, her hands were busy, grabbing her vest from the rack on the back wall and slipping it on, the howling wolf symbol on the back plate briefly visible before she donned a gray hoodie. The cover to her Ford was pulled aside, revealing the clean, if not rustic, ride of hers, clearly ready to go.


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