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[Thursday July 18th, 2075; Fre∑dom’s Host, Puyallup]

Prospero’s persona slipped through the digital maelstrom of the Fre∑dom firewalls and out into the blissful tranquillity of the tropical night. The waves lapped against his robes, the current sucking at them as his presence was authorised. The sand on the beach sculpted itself into impossible arcane forms as the recent logs were transferred to his deck. Despite the recent difficulties in upgrading the tribe to the new matrix protocols the corps had foisted on them he was quietly pleased with the results and their few remaining technomancers told him that the well and the secret it protected had not been undermined by the changes.

Nerieds and merfolk gambolled in the waves, playing with a couple of the younger members of the tribe whose outlandish icons stood out against the sculpting motif of the host. Prospero welcomed their innovation, they were the life of the tribe and their ideas and insights were what kept them alive whilst older minds like his struggled to adapt to the rapid evolutions around them. Hell, he felt positively ancient these days and he was glad that his meat form was once more relegated to an inconvenience, kept alive by the machines in his hiding place in the bowls of their old home.

On the whole the integration with their neighbours, the Mechanicals, had been fairly seamless with only a few arguments about living accommodation. The invitation to adopt space within the perimeter of the other tribe had made sense and after the desperate attempts to defend the old mall it was refreshing for his people to feel safe once more. Some artful demolition had collapsed the roof of the mall so that it wouldn’t be an attractive proposition for the hordes of squatters that might come to claim their old turf.

Ever since Spindle had slipped into his whispering senility, the fate of most magic users to Prospero’s mind, Oyl had been managing their neighbouring tribe with surprising skill given her youth...not that anyone was young here anymore. Her influence had steadied their neighbours through the difficult times and her healing had been invaluable as the plague had swept through their midst.

Prospero brushed those memories aside, the views had seemed surreal from his detached location as his tribe had succumbed to the horrible hacking coughs that had finished so many off…

Thursday July 18th; Downtown District

Con pulls his collar up to keep the rain off his face and neck but has made no other observeable movement in 10 minutes or so....

Soon after the message he was waiting on comes <<Ready. are You?>>. Con counts off a few seconds then switches he comlink to wireless-off. Then unslaves his Microdeck Summit and sets S4 D3 F3 A1, Wireless....

Bad_Fuse is somewhere doing the same he figures. The both of them make a virtual path to little known local grid owned by Ares Macrotechnology. Fuse is swears it was set up just this week. Con is the lead on this one, settled with a flip of a coin.

"There it is." he thinks to himself "Ares Backend Transport, Physical. And still got the plastic wrapper on it..." He laughs...

The two deckers float their commands and press the host in consort. With that accomplished they enter in silent mode.

"Just as he thought, brand new and no patrol IC yet. At least none we can see."
"No one here but an office manager and the one device..." A rating 6 comlink. The deckers run their hack and mark the device. Still not a sign of any IC activity. Too Easy...

Not waisting any time, Con spots an encrypted file sitting left out in a main directory. Him and Fuse give it a try. But fuse is Distracted with some other Action in the device. He won't be any help here. Luckly the Encryption is weak and it disappears easily....

It's a message format. Con knows by the transmission data sent with it. Grid I.D... This is the Nairobi Grid logic, Host Serial, User I.D.... Wait, The User is a program.....

<<Backend Support Terminated. User no longer is here>>.
But the rest of the file shows positive link status before and after the message, positive activity from the support matrix...

<<Node ownership transfered. User I.D.-_____________ _____ _________>>
<<End conection>>

"The bastards lost an AI!......"

In that span of time Fuse leaves the host. Appearently satified with his run...
" I gotta get going..."
Previous Winter..... District Aurburn near Puyallup

Both Conter and Jan take a look into the shipping container and make note of the brand new cyberdeck components sitting uniformily in the plactic, form fitting-to-shape depressions.
Conter nods his satification while Jan simply straightens and takes the quickest of glances over to his right, past the almost too black van of their co-conspirator and down the street.

Jan then reaches into his coat inner pocket and produces an object about the size of a large flashlight wrapped in a thin opaque material and begins hand it to the tattoed stranger. "You can veriy the package but I'll feel you don't trust us..." He jokes.

Negotiation check.....

[ Spoiler ]

The dark stranger smiles and takes the object. "No need." He then stashes the object and heads for the passenger side of the van, and is quickly gone....

Jan then walks to his bike, The grey and black Thundercloud and stashes the trade in his empty guitar case. Empty but in a false back is stashed his trusted weapon of choice. a mean looking sword with a gently arced blade....

Conter is already gone, dissapearing down a side street when Jan roars off, case and trade strapped across his sholders.
[November 15th 2074; Mechanical's Compound, Puyallup]

Frizzen looked down the range at the plas-board cut outs. Many were rendered unrecognizable from their original meta-human images due to the bullet holes blown through them, though sadly the wall behind bore the brunt of most of the spent ammunition. He was more than a little glad that he was able to convince the rest of the tribe to help him set up a firing range in a former sub basement utility tunnel that he had set his workshop in. "Still need to talk to the tribe and see if anyone can get the stuff to rig up a proper node so I can have AR scenery and make this place more realistic..."

It all seemed to be paying off though as he watched the youths in his 'class' taking turns with a variety of weapons he had been able so save up, scavenge and even make in the case of his prize crossbow. Their accuracy was still piss-poor, but several leagues above where it had started a year ago when he had joined the tribe and taken his new name. He was even able to get one of the street kids to assist him with his work, mostly making bullets and cleaning tools, but the little troll showed promise.

The kids, mixed along with several of the 'non-combatants' in the tribe, were starting to use the range and shop to hone their shooting skills even when he wasnt here to supervise and assist them , and the place was starting to make Frizzen feel some pride, some sense of self and belonging again.

He picked back up the busted old street sweeper that had been part of a haul brought back by a scavenging party and sighed contently as he took to work on it, losing himself in his work as he re-straightened the barrel and put a new firing pin in. The schematics overlaying his sight made the job simpler than if he used the electronic paper lining his walls to show them and those were better reserved for showing the recordings of his previous steps should he need to go back and correct a mistake, or to be used with his projector when doing a 'presentation'. "Maybe I should run another home made projectile class soon..." He mutters to no one in particular before getting back to work. Repairing, customizing and modifying the tribes weapons took up most of his free time anyways, maybe in the future he can do another workshop though.

[April 19th 2075 ; Puyallup District]

With a happy sigh Bandit scurries from one set of overflowing trash buns to the next in the recycling center. So far he had collected a good assortment of empty rat poison containers, probably from a misguided and untimely doomed attempt to curb a devil rat problem somewhere nearby, and his mood was good. He had recently run out of lynch's for his preparations, and while both his healing skills in the tribe and his scavenging ability brought him some satisfaction, that pales towards the glee he got from giving his crafted preparations to his tribe-family and those nearby who paid the pack for them. Nearly nothing compared to the look on a persons face as they were told that the container of rat poison in their hand was actually a well crafted alchemical preparation. It didn't hurt that he used mere water and dye to fill them and make them look (and sometimes taste) even less appealing, nor the fact that the container was actually the lynchpin and the liquid wasn't needed to be imbibed.

He had also found a good assortment of odds and ends for his den, including another round trash can lid to add to his collection as well as the flattened carcass of a devil rat he quickly skinned and rolled up before putting both in his sack. "Happy days, happy days!" he mutters to himself, tipping his top hat to the bin he is about to plummet the depths of.

Soon he has enough containers to get started on making more preparations for the tribe-den. The flu has been hitting the barrens hard and only the strong survive.
[Thursday July 18th, 2075; Fre∑dom’s Host, Puyallup]

Caroline, or Briar, stepped naked into the host, clad only in her impossibly long and glowing silvery white hair that gently lilted in the offshore breeze. She basked in the rays of the tropical sun that which, with her deck running hot, felt vastly more real than the tepid summer sun dropping into the Seattle murk outside her room. The air was rich with the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle and the obsidian sand crackled beneath her bare toes.

She was on an atoll she had crafted herself, away from the bulk of the system, somewhere she could be alone if she wanted. Whilst she might like to rest she had work to do here at the moment and with a mental flick her bodyglove materialised out of the shifting sands at her feet, clothing her in a rippling wave of pixels that resolved into the briar clad persona that was her trademark. Another command and her deck reconfigured with her attack rating in priority, the glaive appearing in her hand tracing an arc through the air as it ionised the oxygen that was filling her lungs with such clarity.

Leaping across the azure waves she began her patrol of the firewalls, looking for those illusive signs of unwanted attention from the world at large…


Cam watched Briar’s composed face as she strode through the digital realms and was glad that he had duties to drag him away, otherwise he’d wind up staring at her for the rest of the evening and getting frustrated that he couldn’t help her. He had no illusions about his mastery of the digital even if he felt its lure almost as strongly as Briar did. Her deck whispered in her hands, brief flickerings indicating the beating heart of the matrix that she saw, but the indicators were green and he wasn’t really concerned. Although there was a sense that the damn corps obsession with control had made the matrix more oppressive, it had weeded out the numbers of annoying incursions on the Fre∑dom host. It meant that any breech was now a more serious affair, but Briar could handle herself and the local gang hackers, the most likely invaders, were no match for her wrath.

Climbing out of their threadbare couch he slung his longcoat on, leaving the basket hilt of his sword free to grasp. Blowing a kiss back to Briar, she would see it later if she bothered to review the sec cam feeds, he pushed on out into the gathering night…
[Thursday Aug 1st, 2075; Status Board]
Filters: {Whole complex} | {coming week} | {all services}
  • Building {tag} is currently without water.  A team is working to repair the break, so the water can be turned back on. See {link} for latest estimates on completion.
  • The air filtration system clean and purge at {tag} was completed yesterday.  Sensors indicate that building air quality has returned to normal.
  • The scheduled afternoon power reduction in {tag} for Monday, August 5 has been upgraded to a full outage.  The down time will be used to do maintenance before the lights really go out.  Internal sensors indicate the building system should hold together that long.  Intermittent outages possible over the weekend.
  • Reminder: If you have a project that needs additional resources, get it authorized!  Without that, your power will be turned off when it exceeds the established limits for the area and time.  Same for other utilities that have limited capacity.
[Thursday Aug 1st, 2075; Current Active Jobs List]

Ongoing Tasks [Refer to your regular schedule, please talk to your contact if you are can’t fulfil your duties]
  • Border Patrol [subset: Physical, Astral, Host, Drone (aerial/ground)] Contact: Nimbus
  • Protection Detail [subset: Tagger’s Junkyard, Seventh Junkyard, Crime Mall] Contact: Bit

  • Security Office [subset: sensor monitoring] Contact: Nimbus
  • Maintenance Detail [subset: Power Grid, Matrix Infrastructure, Drone Units, Sensors, HVAC, Water, Sewer] Contact: Bit
  • Medical Assistant [subset: N/A] Contact: Oyl

  • Food Production [subset: aquaculture, greenhouse, mushrooms] Contact: Bit
  • Physical Infrastructure [subset: various] Contact: Various
Specific Tasks [Please refer to the contact for further info]
  • Street Doc Background Check [Potential recruit for the clinic] Contact: Oyl
  • Matrix Rumours [There are stirrings in the blogger community – investigate] Contact: eBreeze
  • Courier Run [Take an item to the Toymaker (Cougar Mountain)] Contact: Bit
  • Retrieval [Returning stolen medical supplies from a shipment hit on the way to the clinic] Contact: Nimbus

[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Outside Mechanicals compound]

It was still raining when Al pulled his bike up outside the complex of old buildings he’d been told was the digs of some sort of street tribe called the Mechanicals. It had been a long few days.

His plan on his first night back in Seattle had been to blow some of his savings on somewhere posh to stay, a place with fancy sheets, maids in short skirts, and guaranteed security for his bike and his gear. From a plush place like that, he could luxuriate himself for a week or so, looking for a new doss at his leisure.

No sooner, however, had he stepped out of Rocco’s after leaving his new pets with the kooky blond tattoo witch (had she mentioned her name?), than he ran smack into two Gianelli boys. He hadn’t known them, but they had sure known him. Fortunately, unlike them, he’d never been one to suffer slack-jawed surprise, and they were still writhing on the ground when he got back to his bike.

Only after he’d roared away had he realized that, carrying the long guns there with all those cops around, he’d been broadcasting his fake ID and licenses in his damned PAN. Even if they hadn’t seen it themselves, any number of devices in the area would have logged it, and the mafs would doubtless get their hands on it.

Legal channels blown, house hunting would be a goldanged sight harder.

So he’d called a lady he knew named Silk. Good name. She looked like a Silk. She knew a lot of the right kind of people, sort of like Hun, but unlike him she was the real deal. The bad news was that real deals apparently had better things to do than take calls from regular folk like ol’ Al Guthrie. He got voice mail, and with few other options, he had headed for Fort Lewis.

Al loved Fort Lewis. It had huge tracts of uninhabited forests. All off limits, but if you knew how to live off the land and avoid training exercises (and fellow itinerants) it was a good alternative to the Barrens for going way off the grid. No devil rats, no toxic waste. Would have been a picnic had he not just come off a week in the woods. And had it not started raining.

For three nights and two days he’d shivered and near to drowned in a shallow den he’d dug, out of smokes, out of beer, just the turkey he’d salted, before Silk had returned his call that morning.

Trying mightily to keep his teeth from chattering: “Hey, bonjoor and all that...yeah, do find muhself in a spot o’ trouble...oh, ya heard ‘bout that?...warn’t nothin’ for it. We’d shared smokes. That Arty Gianelli’s an asshole anyway...well, good ta know the idiot’s still breathin’, but I wouldn’t put odds on how long. Anyhoo, wuz hopin’ your elegantness could point ol’ Al towards a place ta hang his hat without anyone of the I-talian persuasion catchin’ wind...yeah...yeah...the whut?...they’s whut!? you’ll pardon me fer lookin’ a gift horse an’ all o’ that, but that don’t hardly sound like this southern boy’s sorta jamboree...well, I’ll allow as that may be true, but...yeah...yeah...yeah, all right. But I ain’t gon’ go beggin’...whut?...invitation only?...well then whut in blazes we talkin’ ‘bout?...yeah, well, I hope yer say so holds some weight with these freaks...yeah, yeah, I owe you one, if this works out, that is...”

And so two hours later here he was. Barely five klicks from where the wise guys had spotted him three days earlier. Brilliant. Sitting astride his dirt bike outside the closest thing he could figure for a front gate. Elbows on handlebars, burn-melted hands well away from his sideslung weapons. Acid rain pouring down on his head, running in rivulets down the crooked line of his thrice-broken nose.

[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Outside Mechanicals compound]
Comm mode - silent ; wireless capability switched off on all devices

Eyes sharp for any sort of response, Al could see that although the rain had sent folk for cover, there was actually a lot of activity around the place. Wondering if he’d chosen the right spot, he thought of nosing his bike a bit deeper into the cluster of buildings. The limits of their comfort zone were pretty clearly marked though, so he elected to mind his manners and keep a respectful distance.

Hell, it wasn’t like he could get any wetter.

August 1st 2075

Walking briskly in the rain, Frizzen stops and looks down the street at the man on the motorcycle. 'Drek, must be new to the compound...' He thinks to himself. While he was enroute to meet with Nimbus concerning a retrieval job as well as joining the next protection run to the crime mall so he could also acquire enough supplies to get his bullet press off the ground, he decided asking what the man wanted and figuring out if he was looking to trade or trouble.

Making sure in his PAN that the safeties are off for his smg, the machine pistol in his quick draw holster on his hip, and the taser in the slide up his sleeve, he walks towards the stranger and engages his smart link system. 'Can't ever be too careful...'

"Ola chummer! What can we do ya for? You looking for someone o' sumthin in particular?"
[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Outside Mechanicals compound]
Comm mode - silent ; wireless capability switched off on all devices

Here we go, Al sighed inwardly. The ork approaching him had brass eyes with something spinning around in them, and a brass-capped tusk to match. And then there was the mohawk...with a braid in the front! Big feller, though. Looked like he knew his way around. Well, if he was going to bunk down with a bunch of techno-hippies, might as well be sociable.

"Hey there, kemo sabe, name's Al Guthrie, an' I'll be straight with ya. Lookin' fer somewhere ta lie low. Mutual acquaintance name o' Silk said this might be the place, an' I got cred. So if any o' that sounds workable, maybe ya got a patch 'o dry 'round here where a body kin talk."

[August 1st 2075; Tribal compound, Puyallup]

Null 'sheen chummer, place ya ride off to tha side for now. I'll contact tha bosses and tell 'em Silk sent ya. he says with a friendly gesture towards a nearby building front with an overhand wide enough to cover the man and his bike.

With a quick mental command Frizzen takes a quick image capture and directs his Commlink to place a message to Oyl and Nimbus while walking towards the overhang himself.

@Oyl@Nimbus <<Text based message-- Oyl, Nimbus, we got a man here looking for a place to lay low. Says Silk sent him and he has Cred, looks rough and don't know what he is looking to lay low from. {image insertion} Want me to check him and bring him to you?>>

With the message sent he sets his Comm to active so the rest of both tribes can find and see him if things go south and waits for the man to move his bike towards him.
[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Mechanicals compound]
Comm mode - silent ; wireless capability switched off on all devices

The tusker was calm and friendly. But Al sensed he was wary as well. Just to be as non-threatening as possible, he got off the bike and pushed it through the mud to the indicated overhang.

Once out of the rain: "Much obliged, amigo. Ya got a smoke?"

August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup

With a chuckle Frizzen shakes his head. "Sorry chum, no luck on that front, never took to that addiction myself. Too much cost, not enough reward. Though ya could easily bum a few from some of the others."

Scratching te sides of his head he looks the man up and down. "Ya got a name? And any chance ya willing ya say why you lookin' ta lay low or who you layin' low from? I let the boss know ya'z here but would be good to know why n' drek.". With that the ork settles himself agaisnt the wall and waits for word from above.
[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Mechanicals compound]
Comm mode - silent ; wireless capability switched off on all devices

"Al's good 'nuff." Shaking the water off a burn-mottled hand, he offered it to the ork. "Had me a disagreement with a Family man. Not sure they's all in it, but there's at least one Gianelli underboss'd like to see ol' Al's head onna pike, I reckon."
Machine Ghost
August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup

@Frizzen,@Oyl,@Bit[Nimbus]: <<{link to Frizzen’s message}
Silk sent message to expect "Al Guthrie", aka Old Al.  Description matches.  Al pulled a chummer out of a hot spot right in front of Vincent Gianelli’s face, trashing Vincent’s limo in the process.  Destroying the ride made it personal, and Vincent has not cooled off yet.  Any of family that are not as bit brain as Vincent are having trouble keeping a straight face around Vincent, which is not helping his blood pressure smile.gif  Bit, Al has strong mechanical background.  Seems to like working with his hands.  Potential resource for most any repair work around here.  Frizzen, point him at any reasonably dry shelter.  He’s not expecting 5 star.  Probably would not know what to do with it, if he had it.

@Security Office,@Patrols[Nimbus]: <<Unaffiliated visitor (Al) Guthrie {image} on site, tentatively authorized to crash.  Anybody looking, we never heard of him.>>

@Nimbus,@Frizzen[Oyl]: <<ACK N.  F., point him at the soup kitchen.  I'll see if he is as mangy as he looks while he gets a hot meal.>>

[August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Frizzen accepts the offered hand and gives it a friendly shake before pointing to a garage storage down a ways. "Tha name's Frizzen. S'a pleasure to meet ya chummer. Boss lady says to get you nice and dry and to swing by for some grub. You can store the ride here for now till ya get a better accommodations."

With that he gives the man a hand pushing his bike the few feet towards the garage, offering a spare spill tarp to cover the vehicle before "offering" to lead the way.

@Oyl@Nimbus <<Text based message-- Understood, bringing Al by the soup kitchen after storing his ride out of sight. See ya soon.

Oh and is there any of the "chicken" soup left?>>

@Bit <<Text based message-- Was wanting to come and ask when next mall run was, low on supplies for press. Busy for now but info would be greatly appreciated>>

"Tha' kitchen is just this way chummer."
[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Mechanicals compound]
Comm mode - silent; wireless capability switched off on all devices

Al held his reaction to a briefly raised eyebrow when Frizzen mentioned a "boss lady." Par for the course around here, he figured. He silently congratulated himself on his easy acclimation to the brave new world he was living in.

He nodded thanks to the big ork for his help with the bike, and for the tarp. While they walked to the kitchen he attempted to bum a cigarette off of every single person they encountered until he finally scored a smoke. Now if only this kitchen had some beer, he'd be half way to human again.

As they entered, he asked his guide, "So, not meaning' ta come off unmannerly or nothin', but if'n ya don't mind my askin', that affect yer vision some, them things spinnin' round in yer eyeballs?"

[August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

With a quick chuckle, Frizzen raps on his brass cybereyes. "Nah chummer, it's all good. Love talkin' 'bout dem. Bud they're just for show. You know ascetic 'n drek. I change the colours around every so often when I'm bored and can make dem tighten or widen. Seems like my eyes narrow or widen as if real ya know?".

Frizzen starts to walk briskly again and eventually gets to a set of doors and opens them to reveal the soup kitchen. "You ain't got no allergies I hope? Some o' da best fresh food in tha Plex here, let alone tha barrens."
Machine Ghost
August 1st 2075; Oyl’s Soup Kitchen, Tribal Compound, Puyallup

The main entrance to the Soup Kitchen is down a single flight of stairs from the street, near the East edge of the area the tribes have made their own.  Passing through the doors, you are assaulted by the typical smells of bulk prepared food, but with tantalizing hints of other things not so usual in low end eateries.  The space has been renovated and re-purposed so many times, that it is no longer possible to determine what it was originally intended for.  Plenty of space though.  Enough headroom that only the largest troll would have to be careful about snagging the horns.  The area is vaguely rectangular, but the outline is broken up by sections that jut into or out of the neighbouring spaces.  Tables, chairs, benches, nothing matching, nothing fancy, in varying qualities are spread around somewhat haphazardly.  It all looks fairly solid though.  Pieces of the furnishings show signs of ‘artistic’ work, themed in technopunk styles, but not a lot of consistency.  It would appear the work was done by various craftspeople.  Some of which were not that skilled. 

Near a hallway exiting at the far right, there are a couple of people sitting at a table holding mugs of some beverage.  A small drone cleaning the floor toward the right and back bumps into a chair, the sound drawing your attention momentarily to is methodical progress.  That brings a realization.  The place actually looks clean.  Not the “you eat off the floor, don't you dare leave a smudge” sort of clean, but well used, with regularly maintenance and cleaning.  Cared for.

The rest of the people are over to the left side, nine currently visible.  A young looking troll is watching over a relatively standard food processing unit, and some food preparation supplies.  He seems to be trying to look diligent, although he is not actually doing anything at the moment.  The sort of diligence some children get when they know some ‘authority’ is watching them.  A human man and an ork woman are sitting alone with partly emptied plates before of them.  A dwarf man, human woman, and 2 elves, male and female are at a third table having a quiet conversation, no food in sight.  A mature ork woman is talking to a human man at another table, both holding soykaf mugs.

At your entrance, most glance up, then quickly away.  All but the kid and the second ork womman typify street people that survive by knowing what is happening around them, and by not drawing attention to themselves.  The Ork woman says something more, then gets up, heading your way.  It‘s hard to judge, since Orks mature so fast, but you figure she is probably less than 20 years old.  The young troll visibly relaxes as she moves away.

As she nears, she starts to speak, and you unconsciously relax a little.  It is the kind of voice that makes the listener feel at home, welcome, cared for and about.

@Al+@Frizzen[Oyl]: “Don’t let him kid you too much.  We do have some fresh, direct from the gardens, but not enough to say the whole meal is real food.

I'm Oyl.  I try to make sure things go smoothly around here.  The meals normally contain a lot of krill and myocprotein from our own harvests, but if you have an allergy to soy, we would need to take extra care.  We are fairly casual about it, since anyone with a real allergy knowns to ask.  At least they learn after a couple of times where they should have asked.  We do make it known
”, with a gesture ahead to the area with the food processing unit,  “that it is not all or only soy being served, since that is the usual assumption for someone new.

As she has been talking she also been leading the way back towards the food.  Closer now, you see that there are several sheets of electronic paper with short messages in several languages tacked up where people approaching will see them.  The English just says, “Not only soy in this food”.  The Arabic translates to something like “Food contains soy alternate”.  You see several other languages that you vaguely recognize, but nothing for Khmer or Tamasheq.  The last not being any surprise.

@Frizzen[Oyl]: “There is still some of the chicken soup flavouring, and the celery is fresh this morning.  The chicken broth base is mostly from the powdered mushrooms.

You notice that the troll is tense and fidgety again.
[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Mechanicals compound soup kitchen]
Comm mode - silent; wireless capability switched off on all devices

Following after the she-ork, leaving a trail of water dripping in his wake, the short man tried to listen but lost the thread with the allergy talk. Of course he didn’t have any damned allergies. Anyway, he was distracted by what Frizzen had said about changing the sizes and colors of his eyes. He tried to imagine wanting to change how he looked. He couldn’t. But then, he had to concede, he was a lot better looking than most people on the planet, so his attitude was understandable. He congratulated himself not only on his timelessly attractive features but on his humble but realistic self-assessment. Came back to the moment when the woman pointed out the polyglot of signage surrounding the food processor. Appreciated it wasn’t AR, but he reckoned there was plenty of that around a place like this as well.

Scratching at the stubble on his sunken cheek with a dirty yellow fingernail, he figured this Oyl was someone that could decide things. As the food was served up, he ventured, “This is a fine lookin’ spread, fine indeed. Mighty Christian of ya. But if’n you’ll pardon gettin’ down ta brass tacks, wonderin’ what y’all’s hospitality gon’ set ol’ Al back. Jist that I like to pay muh own way, ya see. Way I wuz raised. No offense meant, nacherly.”
Machine Ghost
August 1st 2075; Oyl’s Soup Kitchen, Tribal Compound, Puyallup

Oyl Nods, and gives a tusky smile.
@Al[Oyl]: “Good, we like that kind of attitude around here.

Most guests pay what they can, when they can.  Folks that have fallen on some hard times still need to eat.  I hear you want to spend a bit of time with us though.  Today is free.  After that, you can either get your own supplies, or pay about the same as it would cost to eat at one of the chain restaurants, that serve mostly soy.  You eat here, you get whatever the special of the day is.  No menu to pick from.  We try to vary that, but it does depend on what happens to be available.  Unless you check the online bulletin board, and someone
”, with a mock scowl at the kid, “remembers to update it, you won't know what that is till you get here.

Somewhat the same for a place to get out of the weather, and a place to sleep where you do not need to always keep one eye open.  With a bit of extra for us having a stranger that close. Your … recommendation will get you that far.

I believe you will recognize a saying about the devil and idle hands.  If you plan to do more than hibernate here, like a bear in a den, there is another choice.  If you have the will, and some skill, there are always things that need doing or repairing.  Both to keep the tribe running, and to bring in Nuyen from outside.  Think about putting some shifts in on short term projects, and with the maintenance crews.  Won't change the food here any, but it means an immediate upgrade on the squat, and you won't be a stranger long.  We can make sure that any work site, at least within the complex, is not going to put your face where it will be noticed by anyone from the port area.  Depending on your work, that could cover the obvious costs, and maybe more.  Not a lot of extra cash around, but we do have some … resources.  Take time to think on that while you eat.  It’s not good to make important decisions on an empty stomach

She takes a swallow of her soykaf, and her eyes go sort of unfocused for a few seconds.  Then she gets up and says,
@Al[Oyl]: “When you are done, you can let Clack”, with a gesture toward the troll, “know what you want to do.  He can pass the word”.

@Frizzen[Oyl]: “Thanks for bringing him over Frizzen”.

@Al[Oyl]: “I said today was free, but Clack is always ready to accept donations.  Either for here, or for the clinic”, with a wave toward the far side of the room where the other 2 were a bit earlier.  They are gone now, but someone just came in with their arm in a sling, and headed that direction.  Oyl walks over to Clack, and says a few words.  He responds, going a mile a minute.  She listens for a moment, then interrupts him with a word and a cutting gesture.  He hesitates, then says something more calmly.  Oyl nods and heads over toward the clinic area that she had pointed out.  The kid reminds you of a pup that just made another mess.  The look said, “I know I did bad, and I tried so hard, but I forgot.  I’ll do better.  Really I will”.
[Thursday August 1st, 2075; Mechanicals compound soup kitchen]
Comm mode - silent; wireless capability switched off on all devices

Al listened carefully to the woman while he ate. He didn’t know her from Eve, of course, but she struck him as someone who’d had to grow up fast, even for one of her kind. Maybe so fast she’d forgotten how to go back once in a while.

Or maybe all that was just her biz face.

He thought about her offers as he ate. Food wasn’t bad, but right now it didn’t matter. He downed it as fast as he could - he couldn’t decide which he needed more and faster, a dry bed or a wet beer, and neither was in this soup kitchen. In any case, he didn’t have to think long. These seemed like decent folk, maybe reliable too. He’d be happy to do some work around this place, but he wasn’t about to make a commitment until he knew them better. And maybe not then. Lot of strange and fantastical stuff here. Damned hippies.

By the time the food was gone, so was his bummed cigarette. He reached into the inside pocket of his prehistoric brown leather jacket before remembering he was out. Turned to Frizzen, busy with his chicken-ish soup, before remembering the big ork didn’t smoke. Best speed things along.

He looked at Clack. Seemed like a good enough kid. Working for a living. But Al wasn’t too sure he trusted him with a complex message. He fished his MetaLink out and tapped out a text. It read, Dear Ms. Oyl, thank you for your kindness. I will certainly be delighted to help out with the work around here as the need arises. However, I am quite busy at the moment with some personal projects, so for the nonce will take the cash option on both room and board. Your kitchen here suits my tastes just fine. For accommodation, I require no more than electricity, cold running water, a toilet and sink, and enough space for a small cot, my bike, car, and a few tools. Will pay whatever is fair, including the “extra” you most reasonably alluded to, and will pay in advance. That arrangement in place, I will then nonetheless be pleased to help you out with anything I can, preferably a repair or improvement project without a tight deadline where I can set my own hours. I can fix, install or upgrade anything with three dimensions and moving parts. In exchange, we can talk about some of the services you mentioned once you have seen my work. I abide your faithful servant, Alouicious Harlan Guthrie, esq.

He attached the message to a hundred-nuyen credit transfer and stood up. He nodded at Frizzen: “Thanks fer the welcome, omae. Meant a lot.” He deposited his tray in the appropriate place, and approached the young troll. “Al Guthrie, muh friend, but you kin jist call me Al. The good lady said you were set up fer donations, if you’ll jist point me to where ya want the cred.” Making the transfer, her added, “I tacked a message fer yer boss onto that payment, an’ I am countin’ on you ta make sure she gits it, right?” Then he slipped the boy a cash tenner and sat back down, his jeans making a wet sound as they pressed into the plastic chair.
Machine Ghost
August 1st 2075; Oyl’s Soup Kitchen, Tribal Compound, Puyallup

Clack reaches behind the food processor and brings out a reader to accept the donation.  On his very best behaviour he says,
@Al[Clack]: “Thank-you sir.  …  Mr. Al … Al”.
Al realizes, now that he hears him, that the troll, in spite of his size, really is just a kid.  His voice still has not finished changing.  Accepting the hard cred, he looks at it, puzzling something over in his head, then shrugs and pockets it.
@Al[Clack]: “Thank-you again … Al”.
He pulls the coiled universal connector cable out from the commlink strapped to his upper arm, and plugs it into the port on the reader, then gets the far away look, and does the finger twitches of someone using an AR interface.  There is brief pause, a nod then,
@Al[Clack]: “Miss Osha … Oyl, has the message, and confirmed getting it.  Stay chilled for couple”.
He seems to want to say more, but restrains himself, and gets busy’s putting the reader away, and doing not much with the food processor, eyeing Al speculatively occasionally.  Less than the specified 2 minutes later, Al’s commlink indicates an incoming text message.

@Al,@Clack[Oyl]: <<Accepted.  Clack can take 600 to cover the next week.  We’ll see then.  This {ARO} would lead you to your digs, but I notice you do not use that much.  Clack, it’s quiet today, and your shift is about done.  Switch signage to self-serve, then you can show Mr. Guthrie the way.  2nd floor, above the Tractor Garage, unit 25.  You know where the key is supposed to be, and there better not be any spares floating around.  Al, the unit has a little furniture.  Should be a cot and couch.  There is an overhang at the back that will keep the worst of the weather off the vehicles.  If you want hot water, you can fix the jammed valve.  See Bit {commcode} or Clack (or others) can direct you, to requisition tools and parts needed that you do not have in your own kit.  Same when you are ready to see what needs doing.  Welcome.  --Oyl>>

When Al looks up from reading the message, it is to see an unusual sight.  An embarrassed teenage troll has a lot of face to turn red.  Avoiding Al’s eye, he hands him the credstick reader again, then busies himself with the AR and physical signs.  When he is done, each of the electronic paper messages has an extra couple of lines after the content warning, "Please serve yourself, but keep it clean" and "Ring ARO for assistance".  Taking the reader back, he connects the cable to it for a few seconds again, then puts it down, in front of the food processor this time.  Still not really looking at Al, he says,
@Al[Clack]: “I ’kn show you where now, when you ready”.
Thursday August 1st, 2075; Mechanicals compound

Cred slotted, Al rasped, “Son, I wuz born ready. Lead on, Jeeves.”

Back into the rain, and the young troll headed one way, but Al stopped him, explaining he had to get his bike. “Hell, ever’thin’ I own in this fleeting world o’ darkness an’ pain is strapped ta that there dirt bike. An’ hey, speakin’ o’ this crazy world, why’n’cha ‘splain ta ol’ Al a bit about this place?”

He had assumed it would not take much to get the troglet’s mouth running, and he’d been right. He gathered what he could as he pushed his bike through the mud, and soon they were at the Tractor Garage. Sounded promising. Parking the bike as far back under the overhang as he could, he unloaded it. The kid offered to help, but he’d have none of it. “Man’s gotta carry his own weight.” Still, he was surprised that he was able to handle the whole load. He’d expected to need two trips up the stairs, but made it in one. The week in the woods had been good for him. He should have done that years ago, instead of wasting time on herbs and needles and all that crap.

Once inside, he dismissed the troll and took a look around. Hell of a lot better than his last place. No trid, but not flooded either. Not the Ritz, but then, given the circumstances, it was the Ritz. Wasted no time in stripping down, hanging his drenched T-shirt, jeans, socks, and skivvies on whatever projections he could find.

Looking outside, he could see it was a good eight hours or so until dark. He made up the cot and got in. This was usually the part where he prayed he’d be able to sleep, but at this moment, he didn’t care - he was happy just to lie there, dry, warm, and horizontal.
Thursday August 1st, 2075; Mechanicals compound

Al woke up in the dark. He was in a very small steel room. Then he woke up in the dark. He was still in a small room, but this one was plasboard, and this time he was really awake.


He groped for his ‘link and checked the time - 2047. Damn! He hadn’t slept that long in months. Things were looking up.

After a trial run on his new toilet, he put on his change of clothes and realized he was hungry again. And thirsty, dammit. Needed a beer something fierce. Wondered if the soup kitchen had any. Wondered if the soup kitchen was still open. He’d pulled on his Docs and jacket and was halfway down the stairs to find out when his commlink vibrated, signalling an incoming call. Unknown code.

“Yeah?...Peaches! How are ya, darlin’?...Good, good...Yeah, well, ol’ Al’s keepin’ his head down for a while...Nothin’ worth borin’ ya with. What kin I do you for?...Fine by me. Can you come south?...Nasty little joint called Zero’s, just over the line outta Puyallup an’ into the Barrens. They ain’t onna grid. On 135th jist a few blocks east o’ Meridian....Keep it frosty, kid. See ya there.”

Finished going down the stairs and got onto his bike, headed north on Meridian.

[August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Frizzen smiles and nods to Oyl before going over and grabbing some of the food. He quickly gulfs all of it down while writing a quick message over his AR field with his free hand

@Mule <<Text based Message: Hey Mule, have a trip to the Mall coming up. Want to know if you can get me 2 new AR primers, a HP primer and some parts to fill them. Cases are covered just need guts ya know? Will discuss details in person and figure out good deal for both of us.>>

@Nimbus <<Text based message: Gonna be checking up on my shop and seeing what supplies I will need to acquire next mall trip. Forward me any details and will reply unless on patrol. Thanks chummer, and stay dry.>>

Having soon finished his meal he looks over at Oyl and the newcomer and nods, waiting for the boss and him to finish. When Al thanks him he blows it off like it's no big deal and smiles. "See ya around chummer".

He quickly cleans up his tray and hurries off to the clinic to discuss with Oyl. Entering the clinic just behind him he rushes to catch up to the other ork and slows down as he finally does.

"Oyl, there's something I was wanting to run by you." . Having the boss's attention, Frizzen gets more animated, a sure sign he is about to discuss something he is passionate about. "I have been working on my hand loading and reloading systems, and currently I have it set where with even a moron watching it, it can produce a steady stream of ammunition for one caliber at a time that could easily supply our patrols and tribe with more than enough ammo.".

He stops and starts to wring his hands momentarily before continuing. "I was looking fo' your okay to up production. Currently I can have between 800 to a k prepped per hour with enough supplies at a success rate of of 99.998 percent. We don't use that much, even with the range. I am looking to see if a contact of mine can bring in twice the supplies I go through and in return I trade him da finished product at a profit, we keep what we need and tha surplus, roughly a third of production, we could trade or sell, bringing in extra nuyen for the tribe. Also, tha most expensive part of de process, tha cases for cased ammunition, are reusable. I was hopin' we could look at getting tha homeless ta bring in cases they find and we pay them essentially a deposit return like some ritzy places do fo' cans n bottles. Outta the ammunition profits a'course.". The last few sentences seem to rush out of the ork without him breathing, his obvious excitement making his speech rushed and hurried as a passionate energy seems to emanate from him.

[August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Looking around his den, Bandit smiled. The assortment of animal skins stretched along different sections of the wall, Devil rats, Demon rats, dogs, a barghest, and an assortment of felines and other animals, giving the room a traditional magical lodge look. That was one of the few things "traditional" about Bandits den though. The walls were also adorned with an assortment of trash can lids, street signs and symbols of the celebration of urban blight above him. The cans were all painted with scenes from the astral, bandits past, and visions from Raccoon itself. The signs were all street he had personally walked on, signs he had personally taken.

Along the wall next to him he had set up his alchemical 'station', a repurposed door and cabinet filled with beakers, pestles and mortars, animal parts, and assorted refuse from the street above. Many traditional shamans would look upon this collection of junk and wrinkle their nose, but Bandit was a street shaman, these were as powerful as the herbs and 'clean' reagents used by hoity-toity shamans and the chemical preparations by hide bound mages. He was jus thankful Oyl had allowed him to take this sub basement for himself. Once part of a utility sub-basement, it was never finished and while it only had two exits, one a ladder to the main floor of the building two stories above, and a manhole leading to the sewer below, Bandit had instantly found it as a perfect home.

Done reminiscing, he smiled, strapped on his gear and made the climb up to the main stores of the building, opening the hatch near workshop, nodding and tipping his hat to a tribesman nearby and skipped and danced out into the rain, making his way to the streets.

As he gets out, his PAN lights up and a cartoon caricature of a raccoon wearing a cardigan, monocle and holding a can of bludweiser pops up, informing him of the message on his commlink for the whole tribe concerning work schedules.

@Commlink <<Personal action-- Tag highlighted jobs {Patrol-Astral}{Courier Run}{Medical Assistance}>>

"Time for chow though. Food always beats rock. And paper and scissors..... he mumbles to himself as he makes his way to the kitchen and serves himself some food, seeming to mutter to himself some more.

@Nimbus <<Video message-- Scene is of food being shoved into an unseen mouth off screen-- Audio: Hey Nimbus Nimbus, thinking of helping with your littlig troll patrol. Got me a spirit I can aid with, soka?>>

@Oyl <<video message-- Scene is blacked out. Audio: Heyo boss lady ma'am. Sees your needing help with the clinic. I can do some more help if your needing, in exchange for the empty medicine containers? And no more rat poison bottles being mixed in with your medicines. And no more rat poison. Sound square? Or more rectangular? Either way let me know--Video ends with a giant cartoon happy face.>>
Machine Ghost
[August 1st 2075; Oyl’s Soup Kitchen, Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Having provided some instructions to Clack, and truncated his attempt to report everything that has been going on, Oyl heads toward the clinic to see to the latest patient that just walked in.  Before she can get there though, Frizzen intercepts her and jumps into his proposal.  Mentally assessing what she saw of the sling, she decides that the first aid can wait another couple of minutes.  She considers what is being proposed, but from a different perspective than Frizzen seems to have though about.

@self:What affect could this have on the tribe?  How could it hurt us?

@Frizzen[Oyl]: “The tribe can always use extra income Frizzen.  General policy is to encourage any business that brings in more resources from outside than it uses.  With some warnings and limits though that you should already be aware of.  We need to minimize the risk to the tribe”.

@self:Drek!  I am going to sound like [/b]Spindle[/b]!

@Frizzen[Oyl]: “Are you absolutely positive that what you produce is going to be electronically and forensically clean?  The less legal gear we sell at the mall often has multiple uses, can could change hands a few times, but even there we try to make it hard to track back to us if it gets confiscated by authorities.  Other than the deliberately steampunked of course.  Ammo is never legal without the appropriate license.  And if KE or one of corps discover that we are manufacturing for sale on the street, it could get real serious fast.  Have you talked to your contact about taking batches of finished?  Ammunition is not all that expensive.  How much could you cut the regular price and still make a profit?  We know here that your quality is good, but why would an outsider choose your reloads over factory?  Your contact would have to sell them as a no name brand, or fake something up to make them look like corp produced.  Does he actually have a market for them?  I expect most will go for supplies like that from a major corp.  Bullets need to always work, and they have known quality control.  They slide seconds and rejects into the sales occasional too, but they are known.  We are not known, and don’t want to be, at least for this.  If he is intending to use the tribe as a reference source, don’t sell a single round to him.  How well do you know this guy?  Can the whole tribe, not just you personally, trust him to not sell us if he starts getting heat?

Your reloads are as good as factory, but they are going to be recognizably different too.  Given the channels being used, eventually, probably sooner than later, some of those rounds would get used in a crime that gets investigated by forensics professionals.  They would have no problem telling that they are not from a standard manufacturing process.  That happens a few times, and someone is going to start looking for the common source.  We do not want to be in that spot light.  We can manage that when most of them are going to be used locally in the barrens.  Even the heat that does not like us much recognizes that we use our skills to reduce external costs, so local reloads are not really a surprise, even if not strictly legal.  They start showing up in Bellevue, or the raid on some corp facility though, and there could be official attention from forces we do not want on our doorstep.

It also sounds like you want to use some other resources, probably one of the kids, to keep the production going.  For that you need to talk to Bit.  He does the prioritization and allocation for discretionary items.  I handle the policy level.

The shooting range and training have all been good, and supplying ammo for the patrols is great.  Any external sales need to be handled very carefully.  I can not see the possible benefit being worth the extra risk to the tribe.  You can increase production to cover the direct needs of the tribe, on top of what the range uses, and a bit for a few local friends.  Also I do not want excessive amounts of either supplies or inventory sitting around.  If I understand at all, the raw material you use could be used for explosives as well
”.  She holds up a hand to forestall the expected response to that, “Yes, I know it’s stable, and your handling procedures are perfect, but any volume might interest someone else who wants thing to go boom to try a raid.  Word would get out sometime, at least to the locals, and we do not want any tempting targets.  I bet you could figure out how to use if for a bomb.

If you need some extra casings, we can put a note up in the kitchen.  Since most potential collectors probably know little about the different calibers, other than what the box says, I expect we will need to pay by the KG.  Allow for that when you set a price, and limits on how much we can accept.  You are going to end up with a high percentage of unusable and damaged that are going to have to end up in bulk scrap.  A few images of good and bad examples with the note could help.  Blatant attempts to bring in junk, we can deal with, though you will need to spend some time, even if just over a camera connection, to check batches as they are brought in.

Now I really should go check on this guy’s arm.  Check with Bit, if you still need it with those limits, and if you think you can convince him that the reloading is more important than something else he has people doing
”.  Not wanting to discourage more ideas, she says before heading over for a close look at the arm, “That sounded like a really good idea, but I, have to look at bigger picture.  What is good for the tribe today and will be next year and beyond.  You can not automate it near as much, but repairs, modification and customization of weapons seems a lot safer source of income.  Mechanics are not as likely to draw direct fire as manufacturers.  Even when working on illegal equipment.  You do not have to know that it is illegal.  This is the barrens.  You obviously don’t have the resources to tell that the licence shown to you was fake”.
Machine Ghost
[August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

[b]Bandit gets a couple of text messages, a few minutes apart.

@Bandit[Oyl]: <<We can always use extra help at the clinic, to keep better coverage.  Sick in the barrens does not know about office hours.  Put your name down against some of {these} open time slots, or offer to trade with someone in another spot.  I catch you zen’d out though, and I’ll knock the top out of that top hat.

If you want to twist shapes around, go with a rhombus.  That way, you can get what ever angle you want by squashing it the right amount.  Of course, the way you go on, you are move of a trapesoid.  A little skewed, and generally uneven.

@Bandit[Nimbus]: <<What shift are you currently sleeping? Spirit can stay busy while you are sacked out, unless you sleep so sound you will not notice if it gets trashed. You want to call up just after sunrise or sunset?>>

[August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Frizzen looks at Oyl and nods his head. She was right on all counts. The heat it would ring down could be disastrous, let alone if anyone tried to raid them. Aswell he hadn't though of RFIDs being in the cases. Sometimes growing up in Redmond had its perks, other times, like when remembering the availability of some technologies, it had some big drawbacks.

When she gets to the point about explosives he has to stifle a smile, 'Atleast she doesn't know about the several kilos of ANFO I got stashed for different applications..' he thinks to himself as she continues on. After she if finished an looking at the slinger arm, he gives himself over to though for a few minutes.

"Perhaps I should focus on keeping patrols fully supplied, the range stocked and a small surplus set for all calibers and round types we need, and perhaps look into finding a way to forge some specialty ammunition, maybe some gel and hollows..." He seems to stare off for a moment before looking back at the other ork. "Thanks for letting me bounce the idea off ya boss, gonna go see what I can get started on."

And with that he sets out to make his way back to the range and his workshop & suite.
Friday August 2nd, 2075; Mechanicals compound

Al pulled back into the compound sometime after three am, two cases of beer strapped to the back of the bike. Parking under the overhang, he climbed up to his room with his booty.

He tried for a while to drink himself to sleep, but knew right away that wasn’t going to work. So he got out the Erdnase and some cards - the ones with the Thai girls - and set back to work on his palm change by the light of the dim bare bulb hanging from the ceiling.

[August 1st 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Smiling while reading the replies he has received, Bandit starts to skip as he walks out the kitchen. While he had come down from his last trip relatively recently, the crash wasn't bad this time thankfully, and while he wasn't craving another hit anytime soon he knew he would need some more soon too. He always did his best 'tricks' and scavenging while using.

As he skips he slows down and starts to compose a few messages while enjoying the rain.

@Oyl <<Text based message-- Sounds great, I can do some of the afternoon shifts! I am setting up stuff with Nimbus about getting spirits to help when I sleep, and that leaves the nights free for me, for me, for me. And no worries about me using while working, I won't do that again after the time I nearly did give rat poison to that troll a few weeks back. Catch ya around, I may go for a walk and see what I find for a bit>>

@Nimbus <<Text Based Message-- Heyo, I usually crash between 4 or 5 in the morning till noon sometimes 2. I am setting up with Oyl to get back into the clinic and start helping out again in the afternoons, so I can see about asking a few weaker beast or air spirits for help with patrols? Perhaps have them follow the patrol leaders command or however ya want me to set it? Either way let me know when ya can, going for my walk>>

And with that he walks out of the tribes compound area, and looks out at the assortment of buildings around him, the people making their ways around, the tribals, hanger-on and the squatters nearby and smiles. The smell assaults his nose in the most pleasant way.

He spins around and closes his eyes, stopping after the first signs of dizziness. When he opens them he is facing east of the compound, ad that is the direction he heads off in.
Machine Ghost
[August 2nd 2075; Al’s Apartment, Mechanicals Compound, Puyallup]

Sitting on the worn but serviceable couch, working the cards, Al hears a quiet, sort of tentative knock at the apartment door.  Looking up, he realizes that it is full daylight, though still early.  Using due caution, Al checks who it is before responding.  The conveniently low tech covered peephole shows him a fidgety troll holding a toolkit.  The optics are good enough for him to recognize the chatty kid from yesterday.  Nobody else visible in the hallway.  What was his name anyway?  Oh yeah, Clack.

As soon as Al releases the inside manual deadbolt, and opens the door, Clack starts what sounds like a rehearsed speech.
@Al[Clack]: “Sorry to bother you so early Mr Guthrie.  I was going to do this last night, but you left before I got out of the shop class.  I need to fix something in the apartment, and I need the maglock key card for a minute too”.

At the look that gets him, he rushes on “Some of us were using this place for sort of a clubhouse before, since it was not being used for anything else.  It was supposed to be a secret, and we were real careful to always cleanup.  We thought nobody knew, the sensors in the hall were supposed to be disabled, but somehow miss Oyl knew.  There are a few copies of that key around, and I can’t be sure I got them all back.  The only way I know it will be right, is to change the lock and your key to a new pattern”.

Finally allowed in, Clack closes the door, and immediately gets to work.  That does not stop him from talking, but it does slow him down a little.  He pulls another key card out of a pocket, and waves it across the sensor beside the door.  There is the distinct clunk as the bolt for the maglock engages with the door, then another as a second wave releases it again.  Satisfied, Clack sits on the floor, to get to a more convenient working height.

@Al[Clack]: “These locks are pretty good.  Completely standalone.  No connection to wireless, or a building node.  Means any changes like this need to be done right at the lock.  Also means matrix security can not monitor them for tampering, or override them.  They are I am told difficult, but not impossible to hack, but from outside it needs a kit something like this, some skill, and some time.  Someone messing with the lock in the hall is visible to the cameras out there, as long they are working.  Security office can see that.  From here it is way easier to change things.  Had to wait to do this until I could get the tools, and you were here with your key. Both have been updated”.

As he was talking, Clack removed a tool from the kit, and used it to carefully release the fasteners holding the sensor in place.  Once that is off the mechanism and electronics for the lock are visible.  He takes another unit from the bag, and connects the attached cable to a universal data jack in the lock that was covered by the sensor.  Next, the coiled cable in the commlink on his arm is pulled out and connected to a data jack on the portable unit and he inserts Al’s card in the slot in the external card reader.  He moves slowly, with pauses, like someone reading then following instructions.  With everything hooked up and verified, he starts gesturing in mid air, commanding the interface that only he can see.  The gesture are rather broader than usual, the sign of either a novice user, or an interface that is in default mode, and not customized for the current user.  Probably the later, since he handled the credstick reader at the soup kitchen with minimal fuss.  He is still pausing between actions though.

Disconnecting the original cable from the lock, Clack waves the card he brought with him over the sensor that is hanging on its cable.  Getting no result, he nods, and tries it with Al’s card taken back out the reader.  That gets a solid pair of clunks as the lock engages and disengages again.

@Al[Clack]: “There!  Now this lock only recognizes your key”.

He gets busy disconnecting the remaining cable, fastening the sensor back in place, and putting the tools away.  Getting off the floor, he does a final check with each of the keys, then hands Al the card that activated the locks, and puts the other back in his pocket.

@Al[Clack]: “Apologies again for the hassle, but we were not expecting anyone to use this place for real.  There are better empty places around.  S’why we picked this one to use ourselves.  Be we did keep it neat, cause the empties do get physical inspections regularly, to make sure nothing is going to cause problems.

How are you liking the complex so far?  Friend of mine found a vid on the ’trix someone shot at the docks more’n a week ago now.  Did you really drop that mobbies Caddie Nocturne in the bay?  From more than 50 meters?  That was an awesome splash, but the ride would have been fun to play with.  Our automotive class could have stripped and rebuilt it.  That would be a better use for it

Turns out some dock worker caught the fate of the car on camera, and the footage has been making the rounds.  Wondering how he looked, since the light was not great, Al asks if he can get a look.  Clack tells him the view on the little ’link does not do it justice, and pulls a small holo projector out of the toolkit bag.  A few small gestures later, a 1 meter holo opens showing the car already in the air on the way up.

@Al[Clack]: “This is already enhanced about as much as it gets.  The commlink camera used to take this was not great”.

The person with the camera had gotten a late start, or the beginning had been cut out.  Missed all for the leadup where Hun and Burntha had guns in their faces.  No sign of them here.  There was a good view of Arturo gesturing and babbling, trying to get the car to come back down safely.  The view followed the car as it was slowly hauled up, and swung over the water.  Then the release and fall.  After the impact, the camera swung back to the group, getting a fuzzy shot of the rage and horror on Arturo’s face.  It cut off shortly after they started shooting at the cab.  Al, or even the cab, had never been in the view.  Just the car, Arturo, his goons, and pieces of the dockside.

Answering a few of Clack’s many questions, and asking some of his own, Al learns a few more things.  The Mechanicals tribe does a lot of low and high tech salvage or scavenger work, collecting what they can from scrap and abandoned buildings.  After rebuild or repair, using more salvage and ingenuity for parts, the results are sold to bring in cash to support other projects.  The things currently available, at least the legal stuff, is all posted on the public node.  At Al’s prompting, Clack brings the inventory page up on the holo projector.  There is an amazing range of gear there.  Not a lot of choices for some things, and no real volume of anything.  Some of it has been ‘decorated’, to try to enhance the value.  Using gears and very old mechanical technology as a theme.  Looking over the content, with Clack pointing out things of interest, to him at least, they continue to talk.  When Al broaches the subject of ID’s and the hassles of getting licences for things that “ya just need”, Clack hesitates a bit, then sympathizes, but he is hiding something.  Al also sees that the node has information about the repair and customization services that different tribe members can provide for clients that have something of their own that needs repair, or that special modification.  From the services being offered, it is obvious that they have to have some fairly large shop space.  When asked about it, he readily admits, bragging even, that the tribe has space and tools, and that some individual members have their own as well.  Pushed a little, he admits there are more spaces available that are setup for use as a shop, but not currently being used.  He cautions though that using them would need approval that is not normally given to outsiders.  He seems to have something on his mind though.  Weighing whether to mention something.  Al spots an item: 12 aquariums, take 1 or all.  Not quite what he was thinking, but the included images show some have lockable mesh tops.  Probably intended to keep a cat or something out, but looks sturdy enough to keep things in too.  Others could easily be sealed full airtight, for fully controlled environment.  He asks Clack about some lamps to go with them.

@Al[Clack]: “You looking to grow a small garden in here?  Some grow a few spices that way, but most contribute and use the bigger rooftop gardens and greenhouses instead.  Heat lamps, not grow lights?  OK that should be in standard supplies, not the stuff for sale.  We have some processing for the mushrooms used in the kitchen that needs to be temperature controlled.  For some reason the lights work better than heating elements in some places, even though light is not supposed to be needed.  Pay Bit, or Oyl, and you can have them out of inventory.  Next supply run will replace them.  I’ve seen those aquariums.  They are better than new.  I got quite a lecture on poor manufacturing practices and material properties.  If I had not already known them, I would have learned a few new words too.  Some Mechanicals can be real … vehement? about shoddy work.  The sealant on those was degrading badly.  It was all coming loose at the edges, even though it was most new when we got it.  At least according the info we got out of the tags.  Now though, they are not going to collapse if you lean on them a little.  At least it was good glass.  It would take more than a pistol round to crack that stuff”.

The lamps and bulbs in inventory are just line items, but Clack opens links to the manufacturer information, which show they are both individual bulb replacements, and full mounting hardware, including wire shields to make sure someone does not accidentally get their hand right on the hot bulbs.  Not needed for a normal light, that puts out almost no heat, but a good idea with the heat these can output.  Interfaces are provided to control the bulbs with almost any combination of time and temperature (using an external temperature sensor sold separately, natch), or other data feeds can be used to in the decision logic of when the lights are on and off.  Proximity is suggested for extra safety.  Bake on the Mechanicals node in the for sale stuff, there is a large section on drones, aerial and ground, in different sizes and configurations, with notes about extra cost / extra delivery time options available.  Not what he is looking for.  The next section though has some ground transport.  A few already customized, but more standard with notes about modifications available.  In there is a just the thing.  A Gaz.  Pointing it out, he gets a quick run down.

@Al[Clack]: “Been left as a standard configuration, so can be modd’d any way you want, without need to undo other work.  Had some damage, mostly from lack of maintenance, when we got it.  Fully repaired and back to factory spec, with enough time to burn in and check for glitches.  Purrs like a kitten.  Or maybe growls, since it is designed for more work than play.  It’s sitting over in the barn … that’s vehicle barn …, where most of the shared vehicles are kept when not signed out.  It is not on the list to sign out though.  Just a handy place to protect it from the weather, and show it off.  It also gets some discusion from the mechanics around here, about how they would like so customize it, if they had the chance, time, parts and other resources.  General wishful stuff.  You should see what Sprogget did with a Peng You awhile back”.

Clack finally decides to add some more information.

@Al[Clack]: “I hear you got a decent intro through someone we already trust a fair bit, ’n some here liked what you did to that Gianelli guy.  We really do not like paying the sort of protection his type provides.  You are not like family, t’get full access, but I think you can wangle a little space to use.  Juice tells me that Dumptruck sprayed beer all over when he saw the face after the Caddie splashed, ’n he never laughs, since … well since forever.  He has the garage downstairs, and works mostly on the bigger rigs.  He’s got some of the oversized hoists and overhead crane.  Right now though, there is nothing really big in the schedule, and there is space at the end.  Enough room for something like that drowned Cadillac anyway.  Or the pickup.  He has a temper, and is touchy about others using his tools, but he’ll prolly rent you the space for awhile.  Likely no special rate, even if he did laugh at the video.  He’ll want you out quick if something big comes in, but you hold hard for the initial ’grement, and he’ll agree to find another spot and help you move over first if that happens.  There’s always some place that is not real busy, or somebody with a shop that is helping full time at another for some project.  Even the empties if it comes to that, once thwe’ve seen you work with tools a bit.  He was working late on a project, so probably won’t be in the shop until after noon.  I got stuff to do ’fore then, but if you want, I could introduce you official like about 2.  He knows who you are after security passed the message around yesterday, so you don’t need that, but if you want?  Bit is already over at control, or he was just before I got here anyway.  If you want to ask about the P-179 or supplies from inventory.  Comm the contact info about the aquariums first, and leave a message.  I don’t know what their schedule is right now.

I need to get going pretty quick, or I’ll be late.  I don’t need more lectures or chores
”.  Picking up the toolkit, and verifying that he has everything he is supposed to before heading toward the door, he says
@Al[Clack]: “’preciate if you didn’t mention the clubhouse.  I don’t need any extra ribbing either.  Oyl knows, but I don’t know who else.  If she was going to spread it, I wouldn’t have heard about it in a mostly private message.  She won’t even 'remember' it for later.  She has other ways to get things done”.

Hand on the door, ready to leave, he stops for a few seconds, then turns back with a strange expression on face.

@Al[Clack]: “Uh.  I uh, I passed some information to a friend.  I just got a message that says for you to check your commlink.  You can trust the source, at least for doing biz.  File name 'free contact'.  I got to go now”.
He almost runs out.

Digging the commlink out of his pocket, finds the icon for the indicated file sitting in the middle of the display.  Opening it shows a counter that started at 10 minutes, and is counting down from that.  The associated text says
@Al[{nonexistant}]: <<Greetings Alouicious Harlan Guthrie.  We have at least a couple of mutual acquaintances.  Information provided indicates you may be looking to acquire suitable documentation for identification and/or licences for an alternate public profile.  I have access to the resources to provide that at standard cost based on the desired quality.  You get what you are willing to pay for.

If not activated, this message will automatically delete when the timer runs out.  If you do not wish wish to engage this service at this time, no action is needed.  You will need to arrange contact again when you are ready.

If you do want to exchange cred for services, activate the icon below.  Be prepared to supply any special requirements, beyond physical biometrics that you wish to be associated with the profile.  That includes name, occupation, address, hobbies, interests, family, skills that are appropriate to the desired profile.  Standard and random packages are available, but customization for specific situations is not much more difficult.  Your choice will determine how matrix aware people and systems will perceive you.  Care is recommended, to make sure that this will at least somewhat match what less electronic senses will see.  Full details are not required immediately, but will be needed but finalization of the package.

{Activate Me for contact now}

The timer continues to count down as Al reads, but not fast enough to rush him any.
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals compound

Al was frankly amazed to encounter someone that could talk so much - and repeatedly surprise him so much - that he was quite literally speechless. Every time he was about to answer one of the troll-child’s queries, the boy just started off on another topic. After a while, Al mostly just let him ramble on, taking lots and lots of mental notes.

In any case, during the first several minutes he was too engrossed in watching the boy work to talk. Al loved locks, and although he considered himself probably the best lockpick currently west of the Mississippi, he was unfamiliar with this model and watched every step of the reconfiguration keenly.

And then came the movie. One of the most satisfying things Al had ever seen, watching his own handiwork on the holo. The look on Arty’s face really was priceless, and Al wondered which of his coworkers had taken the footage so he could buy the man a drink. Still, the end was a crushing disappointment. After delaying his rise to Hollywood stardom for so many years, as the drama unfolded Al had begun to think that this might be that moment that catapulted him to Tinseltown glory - dodging bullets as he moved along the boom, then the spectacular dive into the Sound. But nothing. It left him feeling vaguely depressed, and a little angry, though he realized that the cameraman had probably been trying to protect him.

Show over, the boy finally calmed down enough for some conversational give and take. Kid was a veritable cornucopia of knowledge, leading Al to exclaim, “Hell, boy, you’s a tour guide, welcome wagon an’ social committee all rolled inta one great big package. Someone orta stamp ‘ask me, I’ll know’ right there on yer warty forehead.” The boy blushed and they spoke further. As they talked, Al started mentally adding up what the boy said and all the things he’d seen so far. “You know," he said, "fer a buncha damned hippies, y’all run a real tight ship here.”

The kid seemed at a loss for how to respond to that, so Al changed the topic to IDs, which turned out to be another non-starter. But soon Clack was jabbering away again. Together they located most of the items on Al’s mental to-do list right there in the compound.

And the next thing Al knew, the trollkin was gone and he was looking at a mighty queer message on his commlink. But the kid had said they were good people, so what the hell.
He followed the directions on the screen, and soon he was basically telling the tragic and woeful - but easy to remember and probably easier to back up electronically - tale of one Joseph Salesco, an out of work mechanic with UCAS citizenship who had a penchant for hunting. Poor Joey had lost his wife and two children to a house fire in Compton, CFS, before the Japs had annexed the Bay Area. Since then, he’d been drinking his way out of one odd job after another, and was now ‘residing without an address’ in Seattle. After some biometrics were collected via the ‘link, Al texted that he wanted the best there was, and shotgun and hunting rifle licenses as well.

That done and stomach rumbling, Al headed out the door for the soup kitchen, feeling like a new man with a fresh Lucky between his teeth and an open beer in his hand.
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals compound

Down in the kitchen, there was a fair collection of folk - street urchins and bag ladies mixed with what looked like working Joes, sprinkled through with a fair mix of outlandish Victorian-looking frippery made of various metals. Might have been some of the same people as yesterday, but he honestly didn’t care enough to remember.

No one greeted him, but no one challenged him when he filled his tray up with food, and that was just fine.

While he ate, he accessed the inventory page Clack had shown him. Sent a message to the aquarium people that he’d be happy to have their three biggest units for the asking price, and where and when. By the time he’d finished his powdered eggs and soy-bacon, he had his reply. An hour, half a pack of Luckies, two more minutes of small talk than he was in the mood for, and a hundred-and-twenty nuyen later, he was back in his little room with three good-sized units. It was just as the troll kid had said - best glass he’d seen on this sort of thing, outstanding sealants, and firmly latchable mesh tops. Al was starting to like these hippies more and more.

Once he’d rearranged his scant furniture to be able to keep the three aquariums-cum-terrariums near the room’s best power source, he texted the famous Bit - everyone was always referring to this guy - to order the exact heat lamps he wanted. Another hundred nuyen later and a delivery time was set for later that afternoon. Just enough time.

He put his brown leather jacket on. His jeans were still a bit damp so he was wearing his fatigue trousers, and he filled their cargo pockets with shells. Then he grabbed his Defiance, went downstairs, and mounted up.

[August 2nd 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Having spent most of the night working on hammering out, molding and bending the parts and doing the finishing touches on his still, Frizzen finally crashed out late in the night.

It would be awhile before he had it set up and running, probably 2 more days and then he would finally be producing his own product. He has even stored up spare and waste grain to use in the mash as well as different spices for experimenting. Though if he was ever to make cheap Hurlg he would need to get his hands on some nutmeg, actually lots of it.

Waking with a light sweat he groaned and lifted his tired and aching body out of his cot and walked over to his workstation, taking out a glass and a bottle of cheap discount rye. Pouring himself a glass he threw half of it back before scratching his face. Thankfully he wasn't growing facial hair at fast enough of a rate to need a daily shave, so he have his silent thanks to whatever god watched over this godforsaken barrens and pulled on his clothes before grabbing his Colt from its rack, as well as a selection of his tools. He had finished fixing up the vision magnification on the Smartlink system, but a few tweaks were needed and as he never seemed to have enough time he decided to bring it with him to work on while eating.

Working his way over to the kitchen, he waved absentmindedly to other tribals and the hanger-ons he passed while going through the schematics for his modified Colt and reviewing his alterations and tweaks he had done over the last week.

It was still early morning and thankfully near empty, allowing him to take out his tools and start to tune the magnifier portion of the smart links camera, the oiling tag beside the plate of cooling breakfast. He notices the newcomer he had greeted the day earlier, Al, enter the room and waves hello to him as he checks his messages.

@Frizzen{Mule}<<Text based message-- Hey Frizzen, have the plates and the gear you ordered, will have delivered later today. Got my cred reader working, transfer or stick is accepted now mate. >>
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Puyallup Barrens

Al did his best to stay at speed as he headed southeast through the wasteland of Puyallup. He’d never made the time to venture deep into the Barrens before, but he’d heard it was rough. So he went armed, he went wary, and he went by daylight.

People mostly went to Hell’s Kitchen by chopper, but he couldn’t get what he needed from the air.

Almost immediately out of the compound gates, once he was past the zone the Mechanicals had staked out, he saw gang signs. And gangers, though mostly sleepy and hung over, as it wasn’t yet noon. The colors and markings changed almost by the block. He dodged a few thrown bottles and rocks, keeping his speed as high as he could through the gauntlets of wrecked cars and crater-sized potholes. They’d expect him to eventually come back; he’d have to take another route home.

He’d seen worse, but it was bad enough. And it broke his heart. Teheran had made this place seem safe as houses, but there’d been no one really alive - at least not in any Christian sense of the word - in that place to suffer for it. Here, there were all sorts of folks in a state the angels wouldn’t wish on the devil. And kids. Lots of kids. Like Bangkok or Mumbai. Most would be dead in a year.

Thankfully, the ghetto soon gave way to just a whole lot of nothing. The road fell even deeper into disrepair - he was using it more just to navigate than anything else - but at least there were fewer obstructions. The recent rain kept the dust down, which was one of the reasons he’d come today, but puddles of volcanic ash could be more slippery than ice, presenting their own hazards.

But the Growler didn’t mind any of these things, and it ate up the miles without complaint, suspension getting a fine workout. Al passed a fair number of decrepit industrial facilities, but most were set well off the highway, and those that weren’t he went offroad so as to give a wide berth.

Eventually he reached what must have been Hell’s Kitchen. The smell of sulphur became first pronounced, and then almost painful. The road disappeared, but he went deeper in for a while, until he’d spotted enough steam emissions come up out of nowhere that he wanted to be able to hear and to watch his step better. Dismounting, he took out the shotgun and slung it over his shoulder. He’d seen a pack of dogs in the distance.

But dangers or no dangers, this was what he’d been after.
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Hell’s Kitchen

All around him was the most glorious abundance of volcanic creation he could have hoped for. He’d been thinking for years he needed a fetish harvested from this spot, and the arrival of his friends had given him an extra reason - he’d use some swatches of old carpet for the base, but they’d love the cool of a layer of fine ash spread over the top. And some of these rocks would be perfect for when they needed to shed.

Leaving his bike, he walked deeper and deeper into this world of fire and brimstone - something right out of the Good Book - until he had to quit breathing the air, the fumes were so bad. He started to realize he should have brought goggles, but then he remembered he really didn’t need them anymore.

First the harvest. He took his time, letting himself be guided to precisely the stones that would be most pleasing to his patrons. Only one patron?!? What had that witch been on about? Her words had been eating at him, from somewhere deeper in his mind than he could pinpoint, and harvesting fetish material made him feel much better. One bubbling pool drained back into the earth, leaving a shallow bowl of bones - animals that had assumed the boiling froth would not return. Not knowing when that would happen himself, Al quickly chose the best of the bones and added those to his collection.

After that it was short and simple work to fill a big bag with ash and a few large, jagged rocks.

Air running low, he went back to his ride. Where the pack of wild dogs was sniffing about, picking up his scent. Of course, now that he was back, they wouldn’t need it.

As they rushed him, Al almost shed tears. They were some of the most magnificent beasts he’d ever seen. Practically skeletons, but hard. Tough as nails and fearless. Well, damned close to fearless, anyway. He dropped the first two and they still kept coming. But after three and four they’d had enough.

How he would’ve liked to take a few home. They put old Spike to shame, truth be told. But they were too far gone. Spike, he could still remember his place in the universe, with a little reminding. But these, it’d take him years. And he’d be in Hollywood by then.
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals compound

He’d half expected trouble on the way back - the gangers would be stirring by now - and word of a lone biker might have spread. But once he was back on what passed for a road he intersected with the path of an armed convoy headed north from Petrowski Farm, and he just rode in their wake back to more civilized parts.

He was back home in time to take delivery of the lamps. It was someone, the person that had delivered them. Probably a human. Five minutes after the exchange he couldn’t really recall. He had hoped it would be Bit, but that would come later, he reckoned. He went out and rummaged through trash and gutters for an hour or so, then back to the room and in another hour he had everything set up but the lamps. Took another hour to program them just the way he needed them - writing code was not something he did quickly - and all was in readiness. He’d go and rescue them from that witch woman once it was late enough. And he’d probably give her a piece of his mind, to boot. Filling his head with crazy ass thoughts.

But in the meantime, hell, it was dinnertime already. Entering the soup kitchen, he wondered if he’d see Frizzen. He’d seen the big friendly ork at breakfast, but he’d come in just as Al had been heading out.

Got himself some grub, staked out a sweet spot back in one corner, and lit up a Lucky. He wasn’t sure if smoking was allowed in here, but figured if it wasn’t, he’d find out soon enough.

[August 1st 2075; Eastern Puyallup]

Having wandered for nearly an hour aimlessly Bandit stops. He realizes he is in a worn down, dilapidated area of the barrens. Quickly checking his commlink's map software offline he realizes he is only a bit away from the compound, but hasn't actually been here before. He quickly realizes this could be prime scavenging territory and with a smile starts to look around for signs of life in what was once a single family home.

With several quick yanks with his crowbar the boarding covering a side window comes loose, and he is able to make his way inside. He quickly scurries about the house, confirming there is no signs of habitation, and after several minutes concludes no one has been here for years, probably before he was even born.

Settling down in the living room of the building he starts to draw symbols of air into the dust and chants to himself in a tuneless way. After 30 minutes nothing seems to happen other than the temperature dropping and some dust flying about.


Perplexed, Bandit goes upstairs and tries again, this time after opening windows in the rooms he finds.

Soon enough after he starts to chant again he feels the air around him chill, a cold breeze coming in from all windows at once. Dust is thrown about the room and picked up until it coalesces into the shape of a shrouded humanoid. Soon he is chanting louder and the words tub into mere sounds, the spectral image of a humanoid raccoon superimposing upon Bandit's features. Impressions of supplication, trickery and bargaining are in the tones of the sounds, natural and supernatural and all at once the sound stops as the spirit materializes.

"What do you require shaman", the voice echoes, the sound as if a vacuum was put into reverse.

Smiling, Bandit stands up and bows. "Thank you for heeding my call, I have need of your services. I would ask of you to search the surrounding neighborhood of buildings and dwellings for any signs of meta human and sentient life and report back for me"

Without a word, the spirit nods it's assent and rises, flying out the window as it's materialized form dissipated and it returns to being merely an astral being as the initial summoning is out of the way.

[August 2nd 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

The parts were all in place and the system set up. Using ballistic hepatic to form the bullet and using a low heat ignition he had set it so the bullets would flatten before hitting their targets, and he had designed one of the spare holding plates for the loader to partly indent and groove the tip of any bullet to result in a highly functioning, if DIY, hollow point round. The test runs for the first batch of each had gone well, making and firing a 20 round batch for his primary calibers, and now he knew he could produce them in usable quantities for the tribe for any SMG, assault rifle, heavy pistol and machine pistol they brought him.

The delivery boy sent by Mule had come along with two kids armed with shoddy AKs as protection. They may have been only a few years younger than him, but being an ork, those few years make a big difference. The cred transfer had gone through great though, and he was settled in with parts for his shop to last him a week, as well as a busted up Defiance on top to boot.

He now had a project to work on the next few hours, as the barrel had been bent, a new firing hammer would be needed, the outer barrel needed smoothing, the stock and chamber needed refurbishing and just some general TLC. Not to mention the installation of the smart link. But as his stomach growled, he realized the baser need to eat yet again, and yet again internally griping on the organic need to eat and drink. Well drink non-alcoholic drinks to be precise he thought as he grabbed a spare flask from one of the workshop drawers and filled it from a bottle of cheap street rum.

With a heavy sigh he sets off towards the kitchen, bringing his new toy along with a container of gun oil, wood polish and a set of rags. No reason to waste work time with eating when he can do both.

Making his way back into the kitchen, he barely turns any heads carrying the weapon in. Most regulars have become accustomed to Frizzen bringing his work with him to eat. He sees Al and gives the man a nod, grabbing the seat across from him and deposits his gun and tools before quickly grabbing a bowl of soup and an assortment of other victuals.

Sitting back down he starts to clean the outside of the shotgun, using his AR gloves to mark out where the barrel with have to be smoothed out internally and externally, forcing himself to occasionally break to take a spoonful of soup and a swig from his flask.

"So how ya likin' da hospitalities chummer? May no' be posh bu' better than most C zones natch?".
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals compound

"Well, aside from havin' ta find the most important amenities muhself," Al replied, holding up his cigarette and nodding at the near empty can of beer on the table, "can't really complain."

The little man looked even smaller sitting across from the hefty ork. But his eyes were on the tusker's work. "Defiance T-250. Ol' Al's weapon o' choice, that is. Prefer the pump action, as a matter o' personal taste."

[August 2nd 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

""Ha! Ya Oyl does her best too keep tag kitchen 'poisonless. A lotta young 'uns, people on the good side o' da wagon and just people who really don't need this drek live and eat here ya know? Plus less of it means less reasons fo' some crew to make a grab fo' tha place."

With a shrug and a smile though, Frizzen lifts his flask up, the smell of synth-ahol, nutmeg and various other spices wafting from the opening. " "Tho' there ain't no real rule agaisnt drink in' ya own supplies. And every so often ya find a liquor store or liquor cabinet from ages ago that wasn't picked clean before you were born on a scavenge to supp wha' you can make o' buy."

With a sigh and resigned look, he then puts down the defiance." "Done all I can here wid dis. Gonna need to take it to a shop and fix the rest up lata'. And ya, gotta love the sound an' feel of tha pump action. Though for a firefight I prefer to keep it to gas fed unless it jams. Sometimes ya need to be able to pump as much 'shot inta crowd as fast as ya can. Still looking to get tin' ma self another Spaz or Enfield. Military precision and semi-auto wid full auto capability, large drum fed mag, take down a crew of trogs in a moment.""

With a smile plastered from ear to ear he starts to eat up and toasts Al. ""Though Clara will always be my first love. Customized grip and under barrel rest. Slimline frame, custom seated shock pad, smoothed full aligned smart gun system, gas vent barrel system, high ammo mag with gas fed dual redundant auto case ejector. Never had a rifle like her, and probably never will again."
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals Compound

Had to love anyone that cared about their weapons enough to give them names.

Al let out a low whistle of appreciation. "Boy, you kin talk up a right river o' fun 'bout guns. Ol' Al genrally don't go fer so many bells an' whistles, but gotta admire yer commitment. Ya load yer own ammo, too?"

[August 2nd 2075; Tribal Compound, Puyallup]

Laughing Frizzen looks over at Al and smiles. "What can ya say? I'm a little obsessed. Have met Ares and otha' corp drones who know less dan me an than some. Not much I care 'bout Otha' than hardware and well... Tha's about it. Hell I've evan turned down legit work wid different places and not so wid legit people.".

With a laugh he hands offers over his flask, a strong ethanol smell mixed with the overly noticeable smell of nutmeg and cinnamon wafting from the opening.

Thinking back to what Oyl said earlier, Frizzen decides to play it casual, " Ya I do load somma my own ammunitions, mainly for Clara and my predator Betsy. Ya know how Betsy's are, they be damn predators." With that he gives off a loud laugh and a wink before continuing on. "Other than tha' the ammo comes from trades and drek from da mall and gun runnas. What do ya shoot wid?"
[Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals compound]

Cam entered the soup kitchen, drawn from his rounds by a quietly distressed ARO. Shaking the ash from his coat he let it fall back to leave the sword hilt free. It wasn’t a threatening gesture, just a gentle reminder…

<<@Nimbus [Cam]: I’m just swinging into the kitchen. Mrs Gear is complaining about someone smoking in there. Our newcomer looks relaxed enough, I’ll just have a quiet word and explain we’d rather he didn’t>>

His eyes adjusted to the brighter light in here and he briefly assessed the room and the people eating in here. It wasn’t hard to spot his target, laughing with Frizzen…

“Frizzen” he nodded to the taller orc. “And you must be Al?” he eyed the gaunt individual that had been on their watch list for the last couple of days. “Can you take that outside please, you’re disturbing people. There’s enough crap in the air out there that nobody will notice.” He smiled, just enough to make this a friendly gesture, just...


Someone’s snitched on you…ah well, was probably too good to be true anyway. The boy that is addressing you is dressed in faux Victorian, even down to the cravat and his ‘link being on a chain in his waistcoat pocket. The waistcoat is styled with the cogs and miscellaneous mechanical parts that you’ve seen so much of in the last couple of days and you realise that these are moving ever so slightly and have greater depth than they should, a digital display then, but subtle...these Mechanicals certainly take their steampunking seriously!

The more functional greatcoat is open so that you can clearly see the fragging sword at his hip. Looks like a relic but you’ve no doubt that it is sharp, some sort of cavalry sabre perhaps? Hovering over his shoulder is what you guess is a drone but it looks very much like a fairy of all things, slightly glowing eyes scrutinising you…

Without bothering to wait for a reply the cocky youth turns on his heel and moves off to another table where an anxcious looking human woman is eating with someone who is presumably her son given the family resemblance…
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals compound

Damned arrogant dandy-boy hippie. Al absently wondered if they'd make such a fuss if he swapped his tobacco for deepweed.

As the fop hadn't waited for a reply, he took a last long drag, pinched it off, put it in a pocket for later, and in its place accepted the flask from Frizzen. Not missing a beat, he answered the ork's query. "Used ta load buckshot near 'sclusively, an' mightily wished I'd had some today when I run inta some dogs down Hell's Kitchen way this afternoon. Since comin' ta this fine burg, though, found most anyone worth killin's all venlared up. So switched ta slugs a while back. "Bout outta those now too - ain't kept muh supplies up, no call to recently. Now ol' Al finds hisself in a bit of a misunderstanding' you may've caught wind of regardin' some individuals of I-talian descent. Startin' ta think about lookin' round fer some o' that discardin' sabot magic."

His voice sounded like sandpaper on slate, and he stopped long enough to take a pull of the ork's hurlg. "Damn my eyes, boy, you do guns like ya do moonshine, we gon' be good friends."

August 2nd 2075

With a chuckle he watches as Al puts out his smoke and takes a swig.

"Thanks chummer, this is tha raw drek I got fo' now. Should be gettin tha aged stuff done in a bits, takes time fo tha' and it ain't like imma gonna give up tha sauce just ya wait. Just need ta add more nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and caramel. Still don't taste tha best but hey, gotta start somewhere."

He looks around at Cam talking and chuckles. "And don't ya mind him, he's a good hombre. Little insular but hell he was born to tha tribe, so whaddya expect natch? But push comes ta shove and drek hits da fan he's one of da few I would have next ta me wid tha sword. Plus I shoulda told ya to put it out but drek, didn't even cross my mind. Shifts ova and I'm a bit in tha sauce and relax mode ya know?".

Taking a swig of his horrid Hurlg and wiping his mouth, he looks back at Al as he puts the Defiance in a sling across his back, revealing a clock-work brass predator on his hip as well as well as a wicked looking machete. "Ya may be best ta stock up on tha basics ya know? You got someone you can ring up o' a good fake to get some legit like?".

@Cam <<text based message-- Sorry about the smoke chummer, didn't even think about it. You on sec patrol or your time now? And when am I gonna see you in the range with your shotgun again? I know you ain't ever gonna half as good at it as your sword work but packs a hell of a punch.>>
Friday 2nd August, 2075; Mechanicals compound

"Already inna mail," Al replied, at that moment realizing how foolishly trusting he'd been. He hadn't misjudged the troll kid, but the youth might have been conned. Well, worst that could happen was that he was out half his savings and bad people had his biometrics. "Not shore how long it'll be, though. Trouble is, buyin' kit legit, ya got yer tags an' micro-engravin's an' all other manner o' crap ta deal with. An' then how ya gon' shoot anyone? Helluva lotta fuss. Nah, reckon there's someone 'round here kin hook ol' Al up."

He gave the departing ork a salute and applied himself to finishing his meal. He had a date with a witch.
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