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The rebuilt de Bernales Tavern is a squat building, out of place among the taller shops to either side. It looks a bit too open and inviting for a runner’s hangout, but your contact had been very specific.

As you enter through the automatic doors you see the interior is well-lit and open, the kind of place a miner and his mates might want to go and have a few beers after a hard shift. The blast of air conditioning is a thing of beauty after the scorching January heat outside, doubly so as the gust blows away the flies that had been bothering you from the moment you were out in the open. On the wall behind the bar is an aging trideo set announcing to the world that Aztechnology will be revitalizing the Twilight franchise with a new ‘SimSaga’.
As if you needed any more proof that corporations have no souls.
With the exception of the bored-looking elf behind the bar and a prospector fighting the one-armed bandit in the corner the place is dead. Shift doesn’t change for another hour or so, but shortly after that you’d expect the place to be packed with miners looking to kick back and relax after a full day’s work.

You head straight for the toilets. Sure enough, the unisex cubical at the end is marked as out of order. You ignore the sign and enter anyway, revealing a bathroom that is, as the sign suggested, out of order. Specifically, there’s a nasty looking crack in the toilet bowl. Walking over to the hand basin you turn on the hot water. Nothing comes out of the tap but a small panel in the wall beside you opens to reveal stairs leading down and an orc with a submachinegun.
“What’s the password?” he asks.
“Rosebud” you reply, just as your contact told you to, and he stands aside.

As you descend into the hidden basement the air gets cooler and cooler, eventually reaching something approaching civilized. Eventually you find yourself in very different type of bar. The walls here were once painted a cheerful but tasteless yellow, but in the time since then they’ve been chipped and scratched often enough to leave patches of the reinforced concrete walls showing through. Unsurprisingly much of the air circulation equipment appears to have fallen off the back of a mining truck, giving the place a very industrial look. In the far corner there’s a door with a large red cross painted on it, signifying the lair of some local street-doc, while directly across from you a reinforced door hints that an arms dealer might also be in residence. Above the stainless steel bar is a banner that reads “Welcome to Haven”, with a trideo set blaring the state of origin rugby just below it. A movement in the corner catches your eye and you see a suppressed machine gun turret concealed on the roof near an exhaust fan, gently tracking from side to side.

Unlike the tavern above Haven is fairly bustling with interesting-looking individuals. The bar-keep is a bulky female troll with an impressive collection of scars who’s currently serving an elf with a massive fiberoptic mohawk, currently set to pink, and a troll-sized cyberarm ending in a large mining drill. When you arrive at your table several people are already there, though none of them appear to be the Johnson you were told would meet you here. They must have been brought in on the same job.

You sit and exchange pleasantries for a while before an orc in a pristine black suit walks over and pulls up a seat.
“Gentlemen. My name is Bruce, and I am here on behalf of my employer to retain your services. Two of the local A-level corporations, Coles and Woolworths, fund local football teams. My employer is interested in ensuring that the game between them on Saturday is won by the Woolworths team, and your job is to make this the case. Exact methods used are irrelevant, but keeping the body count to a minimum is preferred. More importantly, this cannot be allowed to look like foul play. The payment for this task will be fourty thousand nuyen or equivalent in corporate script if you so prefer, with ten thousand upfront and thirty thousand upon the Woolworths team’s victory in five days. Bonuses will be awarded should you perform the job with particular excellence. Is this arrangement agreeable?” he asks you in an upper class English accent.
Hawk arrived early. He scoped the neighborhood, determining exit points from the bar, directions of traffic flow, places he could break into if needed to throw off pursuit... and he's not even paranoid yet; currently he's just running SOP for the meet. Dee assured him everything would be chill and that the Bruce and the location are both on the level, at least as far as honor amongst thieves and all goes.

The loose cotton pants and shirt covered his chameleon suit, with the sleeves rolled up. His weapons were all back in the apartment, hopefully not to be needed tonight.

He didn't dawdle in the bar, but he didn't just head straight back to the bathroom either.

"Rosebud." He said in reply to the challenge. He had considered pausing and him-hawing for a moment, in the end deciding to simply provide the pass phrase and move on. Descending into the basement, he grimaced. I hate basements.

The automated gun turret, gives him pause. So much he nearly turns around and heads back out. A damn hacker gets that and their are definite openings for promotion in the shadowrunning community.

As the others arrive at the table, he's happy to see both Switch and Offenbach arrive. Knowing two of the three isn't a bad ratio.

When the snappy orc arrives, Hawk lets the Bruce have his moment. Ten k per is a nice stack, he thinks. But more is even better.. He looks to Offenbach. The two had drank enough nights together for Hawk to realize that his fellow runner had a way with words that he didn't. Hawk could woo and con a bar bimbo between the sheets, but Offenbach had a way of legitimately staging a debate that left frustrated; perfect kind of guy to talk a Bruce out of his nuyen.
The alarm sounded again. It's strident, obnoxious blaring cut through the afternoon quiet, demanding attention. No, no, no! With a deft twist of his wrist, Switch manipulated A/R and shut the alarm off as quickly as it had come on. As the echoes faded, he twisted and turned on the bed. Five more minutes.

Half an hour later, he managed to stumble out of bed and over to the shower, stepping over the sleeping form of his brother Christopher. The kid is going to be the death of me, he thought, as he began to wash his hair. He had spent the majority of last night trying to find his brother who had gone to "meet a guy", and never come back. He found him outside a bar after being pitched unceremoniously out the front door, had to pay for his tab plus damages, and managed to drag him home. I don't know what to do with him anymore.

Turning the shower off, he stepped out, and reached out to the Astral, seeking a form he knew well. He called softly "Mother", and felt a surge of energy in the back of his mind. As he pulled on his jeans, he could see a shape materialize in the corner of the room. Gray hair pulled in a bun, spectacles lowered over its nose, and purple cardigan over a faded floral dress, the spirit of air resembled nothing more than a crotchety old lady. Mother folded its arms across its chest. "What is it now?"

After his shirt passed the smell test, he pulled it over his head. "I need to go out and make some money, and I can't spend the time watching Christopher. He had a rough time last night, I was wondering if you could watch him for me until he wakes up. Make sure he knows he is supposed to stay in tonight, I've got a couple of stuffers over there he can have, and there's stuff to drink in the fridge. Water - and that's it." He moves to the mirror and puts his contacts in.

Mother's mouth hitched up into a grimace, but softened slightly when looking at Christopher's recumbent form. "Very well, I shall watch him until he awakes and then give him your instructions."

"Thanks, Ma." Staring into the mirror, he fixes his hair, trims his goatee, then shoves a baseball cap down on his head and puts his sunglasses on.

Heading out the door, he catches a cab to the meeting point. Great, another bar. He switches his vision so he can see in the Astral Plane as well, and moves inside. The A/R clock in his vision tells him he's got 10 minutes before the meet starts, so he orders a coffee and pounds it down, hoping the caffeine will kick in soon.

Heading to the bathroom, he gives the password and descends the stairs, giving a curt nod and a wide berth to the ork with the big gun. As he got down to the bottom, he notices Hawk, and moves over to the table. Sitting down heavily, he looks around and says with a smirk, "Underground bars, they always attract the finest sort of people. Good to see you again."

As the others arrive, Switch greets them with a "Hello" and a smile, sizing each one of them up astrally. After Bruce gives his speech, he thinks, 10K is nice, will let me pay my rent and maybe get Christopher some help. Plus I think I need a new hat.
Chrome Head
Offenbach hangs up from a fruitful conversation with his fixer Lucky Jake, smiling to himself. Finally, a job for him. He liked the money that comes with a day's work, but he also liked the adrenaline rush that comes with running the shadows. It's life or death, him or me. Those were the moments he felt the most alive in.

Throughout the day, he didn't know what to do. He must have disassembled and reassembled his pistol at least 3 times. The Trid was playing, but he didn't pay much attention. Perhaps what he would do tonight would be what's on the news tomorrow. He put on his armor clothing, a pair of well cut black pants and a light blue shirt, of which he could change the color on a whim. He made sure to look sharp, even classy, he thought. It was important to make a good impression, to look professional at the meet, even if it meant putting on a blazer in the January heat.

Offenbach took a cab to the de Bernales Tavern, arriving 10 minutes before the time he was told. Finding nothing of interest in the open area, he headed straight for the bathroom and found his way downstairs. The cool air was refreshing and put him in a good mood. He liked the ambiance here anyway, the gritty outback feel that he knew how to appreciate. He could have done without the machine gun attached to the wall though.

"A large cola with lots of ice, please." he ordered from the somewhat scary-looking barmaid before making his way to his table. He sat down holding the glass of cola in a gloved hand, poorly hiding the fact that his whole right arm was clearly cybernetic. Recognizing Hawk, he made a hand salute and engaged in small talk.

After Bruce was done, Offenbach felt pretty good about this job. 10k and we don't have to kill anyone? Piece of cake. he thought confidently. But he knew how these things worked, and he also wanted to make a good impression on the group. I guess I better make a move to increase our payday, it'll get me a good rep with the other runners.

"Say, Bruce, this job must be pretty important to you. You could wait to see which team wins, but you have your reasons to really want one team to win, or the other to lose. And we can make that happen for you. But I have to be honest, and I think I speak for all of us when I say that I expected a bigger payday, bonus or no. We can guarantee that the job will be completed to your satisfaction, which is no small thing considering the limited time frame. That's because we're professionals. I'm thinking 60 grands total would make more sense for this job. What do you say, chummer?"
Io read the message from Dee, his only local contact since arriving in Kalgoorlie, Australia few couple days back. It contained the final details of the meeting he had earlier agreed to: The de Bernales Tavern, in half an hour.

Laying on the rented bunk that occupied the bottom half of his cheaply rented space at a cheaply run coffin motel, Io swept across the empty space with a hand and with it, visible only in his mind's eye, a panorama of digitized landscape blazed across the domed ceiling; a window into the global Matrix. The pervasive wireless network reached even here, a reanimated backwater Australian ghost town in the middle of a vast wasteland, hunkered down over newly-discoverd mineral deposits like a lost desert wanderer at a pool of water. But despite the Matrix's best efforts to permeate the planet, the local atmospheric and gaiaspheric conditions caused random unpredictable interference, and the intermittent blasts of static were prone to giving Io headaches, aided and abetted by the occasional dust storms that caused his allergies to flare up.

Sifting through the dross of local Matrix activity, he searched for a few nuggets of useful information about the tavern, without much luck. It seemed to be mostly a blue collar hangout, catering to the mostly SINless miners, but nothing much else on the surface. He found some old, pre-resurrection news that suggested some go-ganger ties, although it wasn't clear whether that still held true in its new life.

With that scant information, and a fruitless search for anything resembling the Tavern's own Matrix presence (if it even existed), Io prepared himself to go there in person. He dressed in some suitably shabby workman's clothing, and locking his coffin-room, he headed for the motel's lobby. On the way, he reached out his mind to the laundry room in the basement, confirming that the washer whose electronic soul he had owned the night of his arrival was still unresponsive and jammed shut, his Fichetti pistol safely wrapped inside it for safekeeping. He figured he was safer without it. A chicken could have paid more lip service to security than the plastic locks on the rented coffins did, and with the violently strict local gun laws he didn't want anyone finding the weapon in his coffin while he was out.

Io made his way through the dusty run-down neighbourhood toward the Tavern, briefly slipping into a dusty alley to properly dirty up his working clothes. As he got to within a couple blocks, he slowed his pace and loitered along the shop fronts, checking if anyone was following and also timing his arrival a little more accurately. A minute before the appointed time, he ducked through the door of the tavern. It was empty save for a desperate prospector reduced to even more desperate measures at a slot machine in the corner, and the bartender, who ignored him with the dedication of a lifetime professional.

Following the directions in his message, he walked right on through to the unisex bathroom in back and performed the prescribed entrance rituals with due reverence. It never pays to annoy one's host, especially when said host is twice your size and whose submachine gun tracks you with engineered precision.

Io could see that this was clearly a place of business, and a significant indicator of that business was pointing its most business-like end at him from its mounting on the ceiling. He quickly headed to the appointed table, noting three people already seated there - he had been told to expect others, but without any further detail. As he took an empty chair and nodded significantly to those already seated, the AR clock in the corner of his view ticked over to the next minute - precisely on time. "You can call me Io."

The others barely had time to reply with their own aliases when a well-dressed Ork walked calmly up to the group and introduced himself as Bruce. Even as he listened, Io was already searching out information in an AR window on the names studding Bruce's short pitch: Woolworths; Coles; their respective football teams. A second window was searching out and politely inspecting any local Matrix icons, particularly those of the turret in the corner and everyone in the room.

While his world of private AR windows churned, Io watched the reactions of the rest of the group and exchanged glances with the others doing the same. After a moment of mutual appreciation around the table, Offenbach, the large man with the cyberarm, donned his best arrogant sneer and made Bruce a counteroffer. Whether it was the attitude or the French accent which ticked off the properly English-speaking Ork, Io wasn't sure, but it was clear to him from the Ork's flaring nostrils and lips that inched back revealing more tusk than strictly necessary that Bruce's feathers were ruffled. Before anyone could else speak, Io quickly inserted a relaxed chuckle that he didn't quite feel, and spoke softly in Or'zet, "Hey, you can't blame us for trying, can you?"

The Ork simply turned to Io, the slow unveiling of his tusks halted but otherwise silent. In his American-newscaster English, Io said simply "We'll do it."
Bobby watched the Bruce's face twist when Offenbach tried to engage him like a street chummer. He realized the not only was the counter offer wasn't going to be accepted, the whole team might be shown the door. Then the new comer spoke in a guttural sounding language before following it up with a simple: We'll do it.

He makes a gut check and decides to move the conversation forward as if it's a given; hopefully Bruce will be distracted from the slight and fall back into professional mode. "Low body count and no appearances of foul play: Check. Clarification. Will a high number of team member injuries construed as violating that directive, it they seem coincidental and accidental? Say , perhaps, not even related to the game..?"
Switch turned his head back and forth between Offenbach and Io as the negotiations started to sour. Either these guys fragged up royally, or their playing some deep game.

Although he was planning on taking the job anyways, it was a little disconcerting that Io had so unilaterally made the decision for all of them. I'll have to keep an eye on him during the run, that type of drek can get people dead real quick.

Pushing his cap up to scratch at his forehead, Switch wondered what the line was on this game, and if that wasn't the real impetus behind this. 40K is a lot to drop on a rugby match, if there isn't any payout on some other end.

Waiting patiently for the ork to answer Hawk's question, he pulled up his connection to the Grid via his trodes and did a little digging.
Chrome Head
The short silence after he had asked his final question followed by the quick moving along of the others tipped Offenbach that he had probably misread this Bruce, or the situation, entirely. A bit dumbfounded, he decided to keep quiet for the rest of this meet to avoid making things even worse. What the hell did I do wrong? he kept thinking.
We’ll do it.

The Bruce raised an eyebrow, apparently take off guard by the sudden acceptance.

“Most excellent. Is there anything you need to know before proceeding?” he asks.

"Low body count and no appearances of foul play: Check. Clarification. Will a high number of team member injuries construed as violating that directive, it they seem coincidental and accidental? Say , perhaps, not even related to the game..?" asks Bobby in clipped, professional tones.

The Bruce nods.

“The exact methods are entirely in your hands, the only requirements are that the game is played, Woolworth’s team wins, and foul play is not suspected. Beyond that, anything goes. Remember that the players will have access to magical healing, which may make injuring them less of an issue than it once was.” he clarifies.

A window on Switch’s AR display lists the results of his matrix search. Several of the top results are related to gambling on the outcome of the match, giving a possible motivation for this job.

“Are there any further questions I can answer for you?” the Bruce asks, slipping four unmarked credsticks from a pocket in his tailored suit and placing them on the table.
Switch shunts the data away for future reference. "Is there a preferred method for reaching you should we have future questions? I have some ideas of how to proceed from here, and don't want to take up more of your valuable time. However, I can't speak for the others, they might have further questions."

Switch starts making mental notes: Need to have someone check into the player's financials to see if we can convince one or two of them to take a dive, so to speak. We can look into having this Yoshiro miss the game, perhaps his sub has less of a penchant for impartiality.
((OOC: Crap - I thought I had posted this, it was sitting in preview. Please mentally insert before Lobo's post for better narrative flow smile.gif ))

Although he felt both relieved that his meal ticket no longer seemed about to walk away from the table and self-conscious that he had basically short-circuited the negotiations without so much as a discussion, Io knew that to seem hesitant now would probably go over even more poorly with the rest of the assembled crew. He kept his expression calm and confident, leaned forward and spoke again to Bruce.

"Yes, I have some questions: One, do you have any reason to believe that the other team may have hired someone to engage in similar, ah, off-pitch plays? That is, should we be concerned about protecting the Woolworth's team as well?

"Two, what constitutes 'particular excellence', a high score differential, a longer-term advantage to the team, exceptionally good or bad media coverage for the appropriate team or sponsor?"

"Three, does the 'no foul play suspected' condition mean that we can't directly intimidate, extort, or otherwise influence anyone involved, or is it more of a 'no media leakage' clause?"

"Finally, do you have any specific intelligence details already gathered on the Coles team organization that might be of assistance?"

With his questions asked, Io sat back, trying to projecting a relaxed demeanour. He had, after all, been in worse situations than an awkward negotiation amongst armed criminals.
The Bruce nods to Io.
"It's not out of the question that Coles has employed some insurance of their own, but if they have they've kept it quiet enough that I haven't heard about it. As to what constitutes an excellent performance on this job, a game that appears to be in the Coles team's favor until the last quarter would be ideal. No foul play suspected is primarily for the benefit of the media, but it would be inconvenient if the local gambling establishments had an opportunity to avoid paying their debts at the game's conclusion. As to your final question, I'm afraid that the Coles executives have been working hard to keep any potentially dangerous information out of interested hands, though if the situation changes I will inform you immediately."

A contact number appears in everyone's AR windows, attached to the name "Bruce".

"That number will remain valid until the end of the week. If you impress me on this job more permanent contact details may be forthcoming."

((OOC: If no-one puts forth any further questions the Bruce leaves you to your work.))
((OOC: Forgot about this, so EDIT:))
Offenbach's drink arrives.
Bobby listened as Bruce added details to the sitrep. Brief and vague, as expected. He nods to Bruce for the responses, then sits back to listen. Nothing more to learn from him it seems.

He continues to listen until Bruce makes his exit, then looks to his team and introduces himself to Io with a handshake, the only member of the team he hasn't met before. "Hawk; physical asset." He then turns to the rest of the team, "Shall we relocate to a more secure briefing area?" He knew he was using 'the speak' that tags him as military; for the moment it served his purpose for an air of professionalism to the Bruce. Later he would begin to play other roles.
Io shakes the proffered hand and nods at Hawk, noting the milspeak jargon familiar to him from his previous life. The handshake gives him a moment before replying, while he mentally debates whether the other two would catch the jargon, deciding that if they don't he'd like to know that fact. He responds in kind: "Sigint."

Shall we relocate to a more secure briefing area? Io nods his agreement.
Chrome Head
Offenbach thanks and pays the barmaid before taking a short sip from the drink. "Good to meet all of you. People in the biz call me Offenbach. I'm a master of infiltration, hiding in plain sight is where I operate from. And I can handle myself with ease in any kind of confrontation, though I'm no military man myself. I want to apologize immediately for my faux pas with Mr. Bruce. I talk too much and put my foot in my mouth sometimes, but I assure you that most people just love me." He was obviously proud of listing his skills and also wanted to minimize his earlier mistake.

As they are walking to a different table or booth, Offenbach turns to Io. "So what does sigint stand for? Significant intellect?" he says with a smile.
Is he being serious? Is he ribbing me for butting in?

With a neutral expression, Io replies matter-of-factly, "It stands for signals intelligence. Also known as a matrix specialist, decker, hacker, console cowboy, bit jockey, grid wizard, basement-dwelling neckbeard, parasitic leech, or fucking idiot who should keep his mouth shut and stick to his job, depending on your point of view." Io flashes Offenback a quick but friendly smile.
This should provide a good chance to work with Offenbach. If his skills equal his bluster, we'll make a good 'boots on the ground' team.

Bobby/Jack/Hawk stood up, pushing his chair in. "My place is a mess... and the neighbors aren't really friendly. Anyone else offering up their place... or perhaps have a more private locale?"
Io shook his head. "If nobody has a suitable place, I suspect the proprietors of this fine establishment would either have such a thing available or would know where we can find one. For a price, of course. Were you thinking a few hours or a few days?"
Switch says, "Since we're passing around job descriptions, my name is Switch, and I'm magical support."

One thing to think about before we decide if we want somewhere for a couple hours or a couple days is whether or not we are going to, ah, extract anyone, for purposes of leverage against a player. If so, having a spot we can hold them for a couple of days is useful.

He shrugs. "Or, we get somewhere for a couple of hours and then go look for somewhere out of the way as well. Either is fine with me."
Offenbach makes a couple of calls as you leave and through a combination of luck and skill manages to find a middle-class couple in need of a house-sitter for the week. Another call, a fake name, some sweet talk and some haggling and you’ve got a base of operations that leads back to no-one and a couple of hundred nuyen in the bank at the end of it, providing the place is in good condition when the owners get back. He even manages to convince the owners to let him house-sit without a face-to-face meeting. They’ll be gone within the hour, and won’t be back till Tuesday next.

The group heads over to your new digs and, after scoping out the neighbourhood to make sure this isn’t some kind of elaborate trap and getting a feel for how to escape should trouble find you here, checks the place out. It’s a slightly below average middle-class wage-slave home, probably leased from a triple-A for an obscene rent. The owners appear to like their 1 am infomercials, and have every useless device you’ve ever seen advertised during bored insomnia. They even have the latest NERPS! The hot water tap on the bath is broken and there’s an AR tag telling you that a plumber is booked to fix it on Thursday at around 11 am, so you’ll have to be here to let him in. There’s also an ancient-looking and heavily scarred tom cat watching you from a seat in the lounge, and feeding the ungrateful animal will probably be part of your house-sitting duties.

On the bright side, most of you aren’t used to getting paid to use an inconspicuous hide-out. Offenbach is furious that he missed the penthouse suite that was up for house-sitting offers about five hours ago.
Switch enters the house and looks around, picking up a sleeved blanket before shaking his head and putting it back where he found it. Never a big fan of cats, he stays on the other side of the room from the big Tom, scraping cat hair off of a chair before sitting. "I've definitely stayed in worse. I'm going to check things out in the Astral, Io - can you make sure no one is listening to us electronically?"

With that, he leans his head back against the chair, and wills his spirit to leave his body, and do a sweep of the area.
Wow. Talk about pulling it out of the fire... Getting us paid to use the safe house.

Bobby walks the perimeter of the property before heading inside the house to evaluate the team's security situation. "The price is right."

Once the initial sweeps of the various mediums are complete, Hawk takes a seat at the kitchen table with a glass of iced tea. "Not sure what everybody else is thinking, but I'm thinking we need to reduce the odds by making a couple of key players unavailable. Perhaps spend some time watching the other team for someone with the same idea. Any shenanigans at the game will surely be detected by security. Thoughts?"
Chrome Head
Bon! At least I did good this time. The team will see that I can be useful.

Offenbach was satisfied with the house he managed to get a hold on, the small extra pay was a nice touch, and yet he really wished he could have gotten the much larger penthouse.

In response to Hawk, Offenbach offers the following: "We want to aim for a late win, while keeping the score close for the first half of the game, or more. This can be done in various ways, including pulling a 'shenanigan' during the game, and I don't think we should discard that idea, or having some player or referee pull said 'shenanigan'. One thing to consider is that we can skew things heavily into one team's favor, and then have some key players on that team intentionally keep the score tight for the first 3 quarters. Not easy to pull off, but it would score us the largest pay. So we should look for players to pay off, intimidate, or black mail, on both teams, as well as the referees."

"I also had another idea on my way here. We could have one or more player ingest illegal drugs, performance enhancing or otherwise, and then leak a story in the media to ensure they get tested before the game. I'm not sure it can work, but it's not too hard to pull off and it would look - how do you say this - incompicu.. inscompi.. sorry, inconspicuous. Anyway, that's all I got for now."
Io studied the house as they approached. It seemed like a typical suburban house, which meant that a thorough investigation was in order to verify that first impression. Stepping through the front door, he starts scanning the immediate area for hidden icons, and double-checking any that aren't to make sure they are what they appear to be. He turns to Switch when he hears his name, and replies, "On it.". He eyes the alarm system's icon - he'll have to do something about that, wouldn't want it to be calling Lone Star while they're camped out here.

Alongside his Matrix inspection, Io checks the various rooms, starting in the front-facing room with the large window where Switch is settling in, pulling the curtains shut and placing his cheap commlink on the window sill tuned to a radio talk show. He proceeds around the room and the rest of the house, physically checking the various pieces of furniture and fixtures for any kind of hidden surveillance and checking for any wireless signals coming from somewhere they shouldn't be.
Switch opens his eyes, and looks around. "Well, the area is clear, Astrally-speaking, that is."

"I've got a couple of thoughts - some piggybacking on what others have said. One, we can have players 'take a dive' so to speak. We can bribe them, or threaten them or their loved ones. Mind you, I'm not advocating we actually hurt anyone's family, we just have to convince them that we would." He pauses for a moment, and then continues. "We can make people unavailable for the game. This could include the original ref, as he seems to be impartial. This could give us the ability to the the backup ref into the game - and he might be more easily swayed to make the right calls."
Hawk listens to the discussion them makes a few replies. To Offenbach: "I understand the last minute win; make it a surprise to everyone.. I would counter that we save a ace in hole for a late win and try for an early win that happens before the game starts. A layered strategy. As to 'largest pay', not sure where you are getting that...? The bonuses are for excellence. Pulling it out by our teeth at the end is generally not seen as excellence. I like your performance enhancing drugs idea; that should allow us to clear the top player or two."

Turning to Switch, "Agree about the threat. We can't make a threat that actually involves contact with the families. The family talks and suddenly there is substance to foul play. I also really like your idea of vetting the referees and making some of them not available as well."

He recaps the current conversation. "So, top players out with performance enhancing drugs. Vet the referees and selectively remove a few. Accidents? Out of town trips?" He sighs, then addresses the team as a whole with additional ideas. "How about the night before? A party to wear out the team? Slip in some hookers? How about some contingency plans for the day of the game? Things we can do if the game starts turning against us?"
Chrome Head
Offenbach is annoyed at Hawk's dismissal. "English isn't my native tongue, but I'm pretty sure that Monsieur Bruce said that to him, an example of good performance would be a tight game, or even a game that appears to be won by the other team, followed by an unexpected reversal in the last quarter. And I'd like the Bruce to be happy with our performance and to be paid appropriately more. So yes, I think we might want to consider focusing on things that can be triggered half way through the game. And as for the families talking, as long as we keep everything we've done quiet until the moment we're paid off, I don't see any problem."
Hawk's brain cramp affecting his memory ends with Offenbach's restating the Bruce's words. Oh shit, he did say that...

He turns to Offenbach, "I stand corrected. However, my thoughts remain. A pro game is a crap shoot at the best. If we allow the opposing team to retain the upper hand early on, I am at a loss as to how we might pull out the game in the end without detection." Diplomacy. A good runner is also a diplomat.

He takes a deep breath, laces his fingers, rolls his hands backwards, extends his arms, cracks his knuckles, them places his hands on the table. "Allow me to start again. I generally do not gamble. I lay out a direct path to success and execute the plan. How might we pull out a win in the 4th quarter, in a highly volatile situation like a game in progress, without a certainty of success, from a losing position without leaving traces of a fix?" He gently raises one finger without lifting a hand off the table. "With respect, the families talking after the fact, or other evidence showing up, affects my reputation as well as has people looking for the people who put the fix in. To me, that is not acceptable."
"Well then, if we are worried about people talking after the game. Then that negates approaching anyone. If they know about the fix, then if they decline our offer, we are screwed, and if they accept and talk after the fact, we are screwed."

Switch turns his cap around backwards, a habit when he is deep in thought. "Here is a list of information I think we need at minimum." He thinks for a minute, the DNI transcribing thoughts to an ARO he causes to pop up in front of the others.


Complete list of every player on Woolworth's team
Breakdown of best players/key positions
Complete bio of these players, including:
Family (if any)
Same information on the Refs
Drug testing rules for the league (including when they are tested)


"And that's just off the top of my head"

Switch wiggles his fingers and levitates a beer over to him. He cracks it open and takes a sip. "Anyone think of anything I missed?"

Chrome Head
Offenbach agrees to go along. "All right, we'll try to do it without ever being seen by anyone, sure, but it really takes away some very good options. I would personally focus more on Cole's team than Woolworth's, as they're the ones we want to cripple. And we can't go wrong with the referees, as long as they accept our money, since blackmail seems to be off the table now."
Hawk winces. I have been misunderstood. "I don't have a problem with blackmail. I just want to limit contact with the number of people. For example: kidnapping or being seen by family could be complicated. If we blackmail, I propose it should be direct contact with the mark. For example, a subtle threat of violence including picture of family members going about their business, but not showing up in their kitchen or detaining the family members."
Chrome Head
That makes more sense. Offenbach pitches in again. "So ka. It's on. We have a lot of options but not that much time to explore them. Is anyone of you good at digging the info that would get us started?"
"Sorry I misunderstood you Hawk." Switch said sheepishly. Taking another swig of his beer, he says, "Regardless, we still need all of that information, and I'm assuming that the fastest way would be some digging in the Matrix - which isn't my forte."
Io walks back into the room at that point, having completed his rounds of the house, and eyes Switch's ARO. "Yeah, I can do some of the digging, although I'm not sure we'll have time to be that thorough. And most of the more sordid stuff you'll probably have to hit up a few local dealers. But I did find one piece of info while we were back at the tavern, a news article a while back on our friend the Coles' captain. It seems he's done some dabbling with illicit substances in the past. He says he's clean now, but another black mark may do in his career. Now, I'm not one to arbitrarily go and ruin a guy's career just because it was convenient, at least not if he's actually innocent, but the threat of doing just that could be some pretty powerful leverage. Maybe we can even squeeze some extra cash out of him."

Io takes a seat. "Aside from that... hmm. Multiple injuries or substitutions right before the game might look suspicious, but maybe we can do something a little more subtle that'll impact a large number of the players? I dunno, give them food poisoning or something like that? I'll look into what kind of comms they use during games, if any, maybe we can interfere with that somehow to our advantage. And the technicalities of the league's officiating, like whether referees' calls can be overturned or not, that sort of thing. We may not need to influence the refs as much if they're using vision enhancement and we can just mess with their perceptions."

A brief search of the matrix reveals the information you require, all publicly available. However, deeper investigation starts to reveal inconsistencies that imply the public information is fake. The only way to be sure is to access the Coles and Woolworths internal files, though depending on how important they consider this the files may be accessible from the mainframe at any branded supermarket or may require a trip to the local branch office. Fortunately the Mana storms that disrupt communications make keeping local files essential.
Hawk breaths easier. We are back in sync.

He looks over the first pass of data and the options laid out to get some valid intel. "So, let's talk through the outlet option. Business hours, off hours or middle of the night? Hmmmm.... how about this: If we abduct the manager, have him get us in, past security early in morning. Get what we want, then make make it look like a robbery. Drop the truck in in the Zone and make it look like we, in turn, were hit by some gangers. Thoughts?"
Switch looked a little confused. "While I completely appreciate the need for professionalism and caution, this is a supermarket we are talking about, right?" He leans forward slightly, "Maybe its done differently here, but where I come from they tend not to have lots of security. Are we overthinking it?"

"I am completely fine with being convinced otherwise, and perhaps the Australians take more significant steps to guard their produce than we do." Scratching his cheek, he says, "Io, where exactly do you need to go once we get you inside the place to help you bypass security?"
Hawk leans back, offering some measure of explanation. "Just trying to keep up a smoke screen as to our true intent." He looks around to the others, waiting for their thoughts.
Chrome Head
That bastard seems to come up with the most convoluted plans! Offenbach was the kind of runner who would never go for the most direct route. Always careful, always watching his back, but not unwilling to take risks either when the situation calls for it. "That's so sneaky of you Hawk, I love it! We should definitely hide our trail as much as possible, though within reason. It doesn't take a lot more effort for that extra step in this case. I think we should do it."
Once again the matrix reveals its secrets to you, and in no time flat you've got a general idea of the security you'll be running up against. At the location nearest to you current position your primary human opposition is going to be two to three 'stars who for whatever reason were assigned to mall cop duty instead of real police work, or whatever approximation the 'star usually manages. From the promotional photos on the center's matrix site you're guessing that the most dangerous thing they can do to you is call for backup, though they do appear to be carrying tazers. The main problem is likely to be the fairly comprehensive camera coverage a complex like this will maintain, and you'd guess that they probably have an RFID system which will flag unauthorized persons entering restricted areas. It's a pretty standard setup, with no indication that they have anything out of the ordinary security wise.
Io shrugs in answer to Switch. "Anything that's hooked up to their host should do for an access point, whether it's a camera, a public terminal, or a cash register. An access point that's out of the public eye would be better, for obvious reasons. Whether that's in the stockroom, the manager's office, or a broom closet, your guess is at least as good as mine at this point - I've never been there, and they weren't considerate enough to mark all their networked toys on the mall map for us. I think it's unlikely that the mall security systems will be connected to the Coles system, though, and anything out of the public eye is going to be in those "employees only" areas, which means either coping with their RFID system somehow, or doing a hit & run. I have nothing against exercise, but I'd prefer to not be noticed in the first place, if possible."
"Well, let's take a moment to see what this place looks like in the Astral." Switch leans back and closes his eyes again, concentrating on allowing his spirit to leave his body.
The target is about three blocks away, a few seconds of astral travel at most. Taking care to stay concealed by the life force of a decorative tree in the carpark you watch and wait. Sure enough, there's a watcher spirit on patrol. While you doubt he's any direct threat, the real danger with him is the possibility of him alerting his summoner during the run. Taking him out directly isn't really an option as the telepathic link will let the summoner know that his spirit was killed, once again alerting them to magical danger.
After being gone about 10 seconds, Switch opens his eyes. "Magical security is minimal, there is a single watcher flying around the mall."

Io considers Switch's report. "Well, I have a couple things I need to get, hopefully won't be too long, but I don't know. In the meantime, maybe you could scout the place out in the flesh?".

Io stands up, walks over to the window and collects his commlink, and heads upstairs to make a call.
Hawk nods. "Disguises would be prudent for even a recon, though I think over thinking this would a waste. What say we do a quick recon, lay out a quick plan, grab the manager tomorrow - or at least a dry run. Then get your data, maybe a truck load, and make off."
Chrome Head
Offenbach is ready for action. "Yeah, let's do it! First we check out the layout and assess future possible problems during the dry run. Then we go back with the big guns."
"Alrighty then - if we are going to head out, let me just call some backup.", says Switch with a wink.

Closing his eyes, he reaches through the astral to his favorite of the 5 spirits who have bonded to him. Lorelei, won't you grace us with your presence? Come to me.

The air shimmers for a moment, and then, hovering in the room over a pool of water which never seems to get anything wet is a beautiful naiad, shimmering as the light passes through her. Her form acts as a giant prism, splitting the light into a rainbow cascading around the room.

"Yes, dear?", her voice comes out as a purr, sending a shiver up Switch's spine. If I could just figure out how not to drown...

Putting his mind back to business, he says, "We are off to do some scouting, love - won't you join us?" As the spirit nods yes, the motion causing interesting parts of her to bounce up and down, Switch shakes his head from side to side as if to clear it, and says to the others, "Shall we go?"

You arrive at the local shopping center at about ten minutes past five. It's a small complex, even when compared to the others within the city, and as closing time draws near many of the specialty shops are already packing up for the day. You split up to scope the place out, recording what you see and hear either on optical devices or by holding your commlinks at a discreet angle and using the integrated cameras.
The shopping center is far from breathtaking. It's a single story complex designed for convenience items rather than a comprehensive shopping experience. After entering you split up, both to cover more ground and to avoid looking conspicuous.

Io wanders through the center at a leisurely pace, for all the world just another customer browsing. In spite of this his keen eye takes in every security camera, motion sensor and RFID scanner along his route. His observations not limited to merely the physical, it quickly becomes apparent that the mall's security features are hard-wired to some kind of hub device which then transmits each section's data to the security office. While this is a good thing from the point of view that a single hack can compromise an entire set of cameras at once, a subtle probe reveals that these hubs are better defended against hackers than the individual cameras would be. It occurs to Io that if it came down to it simply shooting out the hubs would render large sections of the system blind.

Switch traces the route between the entrance and the plastic doors that lead behind the scenes to the Coles office, carefully taking note of every possible security issue along the way. The first is naturally the main entrance, a high-ceiling glass airlock with automatic doors on both interior and exterior exits, designed to limit the escape of cool air and keep out flies and similar pests. If it were to lock down during a security alert then the team would probably be better off simply breaking out through one of the nearby window-walls rather than trying to go through here, if only because this exit offers twice as much glass between you and freedom as any alternate route. The expected sets of cameras and other security devices line the path, though those are Io's domain. A fire containment shutter hidden in the ceiling could prove problematic if lowered to block your escape should the run go bad, and state-of-the-art-10-years-ago freeze-foam fire suppression systems are set up to cover the floor in fast-hardening fire resistant foam, which could be a problem if activated during your run. The store itself has a set of fire/security shutters that descend to cover the front entrance, and includes the standard set of cameras and RFID readers to alert security to shoplifters and anyone stumbling into staff-only areas. one final thing that catches Switch's eye is a patch of residual background count, which may be useful if astral opposition appear.

Hawk circles around the outside of the building, keeping his eyes open for sniper roosts and escape routes. most of the nearby buildings are houses, though for obvious reasons any sniper coverage will be limited to one or maybe two angles. Hardly ideal. The search for alternative entrances and exits goes somewhat better, as staff fire escapes dot the unregarded back of the building while a small loading dock sits hidden out the back. Neither option really works as an entrance, but getting out is another matter.

Offenbach heads out in search of security guards in an effort to get a feel for the opposition. it doesn't take long to run into a jovial fellow in a Lone Star uniform, and striking up a conversation with the man is far from difficult. It turns out that anyone assigned to this kind of detail didn't make the cut for proper law enforcement due to fitness or psychological issues, and the most they usually deal with are shoplifters and the rare violent drunk.
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