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The buzzing from your 'link interrupts..................absolutely nothing. But it does bring you out of a funk that has haunted you for a couple of days. Being alone will do that. Being really alone will do it faster. The latest guy, whatever his name was, had at least been someone who could pretend to like you. At least as long as the sex was good and the beer was free. Maybe the beer was more important than the sex because he left after the last of it was gone. He said he was going out to get more but that was three days ago.

Your head twists to where you have your stash, correction, one of your stashes of kamikaze. After all, it doesn't pay to keep it all in one place. Tempting, but kamikaze isn't a drug to fight this kind of depression. You had just about reached the point where that didn't really matter and a hit was a hit when the 'link breaks into your consciousness. You get up and look for it in the detritus of the few days spent with whoever he was and finally pounce on it, thumbing it to bring up the call. You see it is from Lux, the bartender down at Joey's Bar. You shuffle through your memories but do not recall owing him any money....yet, and take the call.


>>That you, Meira? Listen, there's some woman down here sitting at my bar and showing me a pic of you. Or someone who looks like you. And she has your name, too. Offering fifty to put her in touch with you. She's doing it quiet, like a pro, but I don't smell cop, corp, or crime on her so maybe it's on the level. What do I tell her?<<
Meira cocks an eyebrow at Lux, scratching her head quietly for a second. Her decision making process leaves a lot to be desired, and she knows it, so she takes a moment - like that'll make a difference.

"Yeah, it's me. Tell her to stay put - I'm on my way. Thanks, Lux."

Opting for a quick shower was probably the best decision she'd be making today, but it's a start. Armored clothing, pistol, monofilament whip, dose of kamikaze, credstick - should be enough to get her out of a setup. She narrows her eyes at the rest of her gear while she tunes the AR overlay of her clothing. Tempting, but she'd need a bag for all that, and that doesn't look professional. Well, it does, but it's a rather different class of profession. She settles on casual wear for the overlay, something that could pass for respectable, but not formal - don't wanna stick out too much.

Then it's out the door with the most important soybar of the day. Joey's bar wasn't too bad of a place, but it was no Ramada either. Hey, it's better than sitting and staring at the wall at home, at least. Meira looks around as she approaches - a quick glance for obvious red flags. How embarrassing would it be for a former military commander to get blown away in an obvious setup at a damn bar? You'd have just enough time to think about what a dumbass you are while you bleed out.

Once inside, she makes her way straight to the bar and leans on the counter. "Hey, Lux. You said someone wants to see me?"
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1300 Joey's Bar, Seattle

Yeah, calling Joey's Bar a dive is about right. Lots of losers in there and maybe one more just walked in, right? At least that is what some people think about you. Your old unit, if any of them even think about you at all, and most of the patrons of this bar, but never to your face. But frag 'em, they are all as much losers as anyone. Just wait until you hit the big time and can buy this crappy place several times over, right? Right? Yeah, right.

The bar is dimly lit and smells of bad booze and bad cigarettes, with an occasional whiff of some cheap skunk water perfume wafting from one of the whores who has come into the place to rest her feet and see if she can score a trick inside. The bar has nine stools, but one is broken and marked off with some black and yellow evidence tape Lux got from some contact in Vice down at the local KE precinct office. Not that the three beat cops there could do much if they were really needed. It is a bit early, so only four of the working stools are occupied as are only three of the six small tables that dot the room. A trid player in the shape of something Lux calls an old juke box is hammering out old country and western songs that have two of the drunks at one of the tables trying to croon out a tune in sync to the player and failing miserably.

Lux sees you come through the door and motions you over. He shoves a glass of something across the bar at you and nods his head in the direction of one of the two booths. From your position, you can see the back of a woman's head over the dilapidated seat. His voice is low as he pushes the drink to you. "That's her. I said she was a pro and I mean it." He points down the bar to where two men are nursing an arm apiece as well as a drink. "Dan an' Mick though they would have some fun with a pretty woman. She schooled 'em damned fragging fast. Nothing broke but their pride, which she fixed by buying them drinks. Told me to leave one for you when you got in and then went to that booth, all cool as can be. Never saw anything like it. You be careful, hear?"
Meria takes her drink, looking over at the woman.

"Damn. Tell you what, Lux: if she decides to go loud, I'll make her chase me out of her first. Last thing this place needs is more bullet holes, yeah?" She chuckles and takes a sip of her drink, "Don't worry - I've dealt with some scary customers before. It'll be fine."

Drink in her left hand, she heads over to the booth and sits across from her caller. Her right hand rests on her knee under the table, just in case she needs to reach for a weapon. Her tone changes to a stoic throwback to her old unit.

"I was informed you wanted to see me, and arrived as quickly as I could. My apologies for the wait. What can I do for you?"
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1301 Joey's Bar, Seattle

The woman across from you in the booth is Caucasian, with blue eyes and shoulder length brown hair. She is wearing large-rimmed glasses and in her neat business suit is a bit out of place here. She has removed the jacket that matches her calf-length skirt and her white blouse has a small bit of ruffle down the front. Two buttons are undone, but only a hint of any cleavage is visible. Both of her hands are on the top of the table near a drink that appears to be untouched. When she speaks, she has a foreign accent, possibly French. "You are Meira Baquearnith." It was a statement, not a question. "You may call me Monique. I represent a very special employer who is interested in someone with your talents. Please watch this."

The woman moves one hand to the handbag at her side and brings out a small cube that she places on the table in front of you. Something about the cube is familiar, but...........then it hits you. You have seen something that looked like this only twice before, at high level briefings before a dangerous mission. is coming to you.........M93 Holo........"

Your thoughts are cut off as she presses a small button on the device and a holographic image appears. You see Karyth sitting in a chair and talking into a recorder of some kind. "Hey, Meira. I hope that you have found some help and are off that drek you put in yourself. Not that I really expect you to kick that habit alone and goodness knows the military did not show you any kindness in that regard. But listen, I think that the woman with this device is the real deal. She came here, fragging made it all the way to HERE, just to find you. I don't think she is a crook or a cop, but I do not know what she is. She claims to be working for someone who needs your skillset and had your name. She convinced me and I thought that you would not mind giving her a shot, at least talk to her. I hope it is something that can turn your life around, omae. Stay Strong, right? Karyth out."

The device shuts down and the woman takes it back, returning it to her handbag. "Will you talk to me Meira?"
Meira shifts uncomfortably in her seat. Monique had done her homework. Hell, Monique was that kid in class who did the group project solo and still made everyone else look like a bunch of chumps. You don't just walk into Tir Tangire and chat up spec ops for a recommendation letter. This was a show of force.

"You have my attention. Please continue."

She tried to sound professional, but there was likely a hint of unease in her tone at this point.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1303 Joey's Bar, Seattle

The other woman looks at you for a minute without speaking, apparently considering her words, then nods. "Very well. I have an offer that you might find interesting. You are invited to a meeting with my employer. Can you be in the park at Washington Rec at noon tomorrow? Public beach side. Find a bench and sit. Someone will meet you there." She reaches back into her handbag and brings out looks like a certed credstick, although you have not really seen one in a while. "Five hundred to show up and another for listening. Any more will depend on whether or not you are hired. It is very important that you do not show up drugged. Will you take the meeting and do you have any questions for me? I am afraid that there is little that I can really add to what I have already said, but that might depend on the question."
Meira nods. She's cornered, but at least it's not by something that wants to eat her. Well, not yet, anyway. In any event, you don't do so hot as a runner if you don't take jobs, and this one paid partially upfront.

"I'll be there. It's your job to worry about my professionalism, but I'm nonetheless obligated to tell you that I never show up for a meeting on drugs. I do have one question, though: assuming everything goes well and I'm hired on the spot, how long will I have in between the handshake and the job? I need to know how well equipped to show up."

It was at this point that she realized her drink was getting warm in her hand. She'd intended to casually sip while discussing the job, to look laid back but professional, but this woman had caught her off guard. No, that wasn't accurate - she'd thrown Meira off guard.

A Ms. Johnson was already quite rare, mostly because of crap like Lux mentioned, and Johnsons hate getting their hands dirty. That's what runners are for. Hell, she could have at least opted to meet somewhere nicer and not have to defend herself. It was pretty clear at this point that she'd manage to get in contact no matter what. And glasses, who even wears glasses? Magic users? Antique collectors? No, a magic user would make more sense. Meira had seen what physical adepts could do. This Johnson was getting more intimidating by the minute.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1305 Joey's Bar, Seattle

The woman smiles at you. "I would expect that you will be on the clock from the moment you shake hands, Ms Baquearnith, what you make of that is up to you. However, I do remind you that Washington Rec was recently the site of a terrorist attack on innocent people and the authorities have increased their surveillance of the area and would probably frown on someone taking a lot of weapons there. I believe that you will have adequate time to get your equipment after signing on, if you choose to accept the job."
Meira nods. Simple enough, once you get past everything Monique had done to get to her. Johnson had to be the biggest man in the room, or biggest woman, as it were. This one got her wish.

"Washington Rec, noon tomorrow. I'll be there."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1305 Joey's Bar, Seattle

Monique nods then slides out of the booth, grabbing her jacket and putting it on. Taking her handbag, she smiles briefly at you then turns to leave. She pauses briefly at the door before leaving the bar. Lux waits until she is gone then looks over at you and holds his hand out with his thumb up before rotating it between thumb up and down several times.
Meira winces and mimics the action, hovering around half way between thumbs up and down. She shrugs and finishes her drink all at once, then takes the empty glass back to the bar, slipping the certified credstick in a pocket.

"If anyone other than you had poured that, I wouldn't have touched it. She creeps me out, but she pays, so that's something. Give me another drink and word on the street."

She takes out her normal credstick now and offers it to Lux.

"Something light - I have work tomorrow."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1306 Joey's Bar, Seattle

Lux pours you a light drink and slots your 'stick. "Well, they do say it is better to be paid than not paid. But I hafta agree; she gives me the creeps, too. But to be honest, she coulda broke those arms instead of just twisting them good, so the woman knows moderation and how much violence in enough violence. That's gotta count for something in her favor, right?

He shrugs, "What do you want to know? I might have something if you are interested in a quickie. Jack Arbor is looking for someone to escort him into the Barrens tonight. I would classify this as not only dodgy but risky."
Meira takes a sip and rubs the back of her neck. Escorts suck - you want trolls for that work. For all their bitching about stereotypes, it makes escort jobs a lot easier if you see a massive troll next to the client. Hell, she could stand right in front of the client and he'd still probably get shot. Meira didn't exactly cover a large area. Plus, she was better at staying hidden, anyway.

"I mean... work is work, but if I get shot before this other job, four-eyes won't be happy. Might have to pass on that one. Actually, I'm going dark until further notice. Something about this job feels wrong, but, you know, money. I'll give you a call when it's over."

She finishes her drink, and offers a sarcastic salute to Lux before heading out. She had a pre-mission routine to go through with her gear, and recon on the meeting site. Fiddling with her com, she takes out a subscription on business wear for her AR outfit overlay, then makes her way toward the park.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1456 Washington Recreational Park, Seattle

Washington Rec is beautiful, even in the slight rain that is coming down by the time you get there. A slight breeze off the lake brings a bit of a chill to the otherwise warm day, but it does not seem to have chased all of the beach goers away. Or the obvious KE presence. Patrols have certainly increased here and each patrol consists of at least two officers. At least the evidence tape has been removed from where all the people had been killed last Saturday.

The park overlooks the lake and its public and private beaches and you can see a number of benches are available for you to choose from.
Meira takes a leisurely stroll through the park, making note of places of interest: cover, blind spots, poor terrain, street access. It was a different kind of sneaky - one she wasn't completely comfortable with. Scouting in plain sight required a certain finesse. It also didn't lend itself to getting every detail you wanted, but it would have to do, especially with this much security around. Gathering what she thought she could without drawing suspicion, she headed out, making her way back home to prepare her kit, and perhaps give Karyth a call.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1730, Meira's House, Seattle

Your journey through the park yields you with a couple of good sites for the meet as well as some poor ones. Most of the benches are along the main pedestrian walkway that winds through the park, but there are a few along the narrower paths that go up into the trees that line the edge of the public area.

As you arrive home, you see a small moving truck parked in front of the house next to yours, which has been vacant for a couple of months. As you watch, two young men of about college age come out of the house and go to the back of the truck. One stops to wipe some sweat from his forehead and smiles at you. "Hey there. You one of my new neighbors? Names Matt. Matt, Carson."
Meira looks at them for a moment before remembering to smile back.

"I guess I am. I'm Meira." She gestures toward her place without really looking at it. Then looking at the moving truck she adds, "Need a hand? I'm probably not your bulkiest neighbor, but more hands, yeah?"

You never know who you're talking to, and even if it's a hassle, she wanted to make sure she made a good first impression. Besides, she still has plenty of time to check her gear and get a good night's rest.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1730, Meira's House, Seattle

Matt smiles and puts out a hand to shake. "Meira? I like that. It makes you sound so....exotic. And yeah, thanks for offering to help. Lots of stuff in there, even though it does not look like much." He motions to the guy on the other end of the couch they are carrying off the truck. "This mug is Ralph Otter, and yeah, he's heard all the Ralph otter do this and Ralph otter do that jokes you can think of."

Ralph waves. "I second the thanks for the help. It would go faster if the slave driver was not standing about yakking."

Matt, shrugs his shoulders and smiles but he picks up his end of the couch again and they head off towards the open door of the small house.
Meira grins at the remark about her name. It was all she could do to not laugh, and at least her mom had deemed fit to give her something everyone could pronounce. She shakes his hand, then hops into the back of the truck once they're clear, looking for a box she could reasonably move on her own without giving away her bioware. She wasn't the strongest person she knew, but that suprathyroid gland is still a hell of a thing if you're not expecting it.

Wednesday 12 June 2076 1836, Matt's House, Seattle

You carry the first box inside Matt's house and add it to the growing pile. The box is conveniently marked with the room it goes to and you pretty much know which room is which since his house built just like yours and about ten other places in the immediate neighborhood. Pretty soon the truck is empty and the guys are moving setting up the living room. Matt looks at you and smiles and you note that he has a nice smile. "Hey I've ordered some pizza and sodas. The least i can do is offer you some snacks for the work you have done." He motions to the large trid screen Ralph is just connecting to the wall. "You into trid games? Heard of Vampire Hunter? It's great in that it lets you play your character the way you want against an advanced AI. Lots of fun and I have about eight sets of controllers, so it is no problem. What do you say?"
Meira checks the time and thinks about it for a moment. She was going to have to cut them off at some point in the not too distant future to have enough time to prepare, but if they were taking care of dinner, that's one thing she wouldn't have to deal with. Besides, she needed to make sure Karyth was well off the clock before giving him a call.

"Hey, can't say no to that. I gotta clear out of here by nine though - I have work in the morning."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1836, Matt's House, Seattle

Both men grin and Matt says, "Cool. That gives us a couple of hours. Come on Ralph, let's get the console set up. So, Meira, what do you like on your pizza?"

Ralph opens a large box and begins pulling stuff from it and setting some of it up on a coffee table in front of a long couch. He looks up at you as he begins connecting the components together. "Ever tried this one, Meira? Even if you haven't played it before, it is super easy to catch on."
Meira glaces at the game. It just looked like every other game to her, and these things rarely got it right. She vaguely remembers Karyth shouting about how wildly inaccurate the lack of kick was while another squad mate laughed and sprayed with full auto in some other game during their time off. The gun was rendered to look like an AK-98, but kicked like a squirt gun.

"The works. Hard to go wrong with the works. Not a hardcore gamer, but I'll see if I can't get lucky."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1840, Matt's House, Seattle

Ralph finishes setting everything up just as Matt comes back into the room. "Pizza is all ordered. So, Meira, do you have any problems with VR? This is the latest thing and is supposed to be very realistic, but it is best played in VR. If you are some kind of morality cop, all we have is Cold SIM, but.........."

He sits at the left end of the couch and Ralph takes the right, leaving you with plenty of space to sit between them. "You will need some room to swing your arms, especially if you are not used to the VR effects."
Meira didn't know much about VR, but she understood the concept. Putting your body to sleep in the presence of people you don't really know isn't always the best idea, even if you do have shock weave to keep their hands off you. On the other hand, people don't take well to being told you don't think they can be trusted. She'd just have to jack out at the first sign of trouble, assuming she noticed. Of course, that includes taking a bad hit in game - cold SIM can still knock your ass out if you're not careful.

She plops down in the middle of the sofa and shrugs, "Not familiar. I'll give it a go."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1841, Matt's House, Seattle

The guys smile and Ralph hands you the controllers and shows you what the buttons are for before giving you a headset. Matt slips his gear on and looks at you. "Cool, Here we go. Pull out any time if it gets too intense. See you in the game."

When you have the idea of the controls down, Ralph helps you adjust the headset and then walks you through slipping into VR, reminding you that you need to slip back out slowly to avoid problems with shock. When you hit the button you are transported to a different world; a world that is just as real as the outside. A large man is waiting for you and introduces himself as Matt and soon you are joined by Ralph. They walk you through the ways to use your new body then walk with you to a small building that you have seen others walk into. "This is the game entrance. Your first step will be to create an avatar for yourself. Feel free to play with the settings and get one you are comfortable with. Afterwards, we can show you some of the basics. We probably don't have time to get too far into the game in the two hours, but at least you will see what some of the fuss is about. Oh, and I just got a call. The pizza will be here in an hour, so that will work perfectly to give us a break and talk about what you like or dislike about the game. Ready?"
Meira nods, then realizing she probably won't be seen doing that, answers, "Ready."

She rushes through the customization - something that vaguely looks like her is good enough. With both of them in game with her, she's a lot less worried about it. This neighborhood isn't exactly a hotbed of drivebys. With that in mind, she starts fiddling with the customization a bit more, trying to approximate her hair and tattoos a bit better.

"Okay," she chuckles, "Seriously this time. Let's do this."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1841, Matt's House, Seattle

When you emerge from the customization chamber, you see two men waiting for you. One is a large man while the other is somewhat shorter, but quite stocky and both are dressed in the same sort of generic clothing you have on. The taller one waves you over and says, "Hey there. You are just as cute here as at home. We decided to start new characters with you so we would not overshadow your learning. The clothes you are wearing are generic fist level stuff and you will be able to upgrade from that to better stuff just be walking around and killing some of the lower level monsters. The idea now, though, is to go over to that building and pick out your starting class. Some people believe that the Vampire Hunter is the most versatile class to play and it does have a lot of advantages, but you can select from that or one of the other classes available. Let's go into the chamber where you can pick. Don't worry about picking the wrong one because you can delete it if you do not like it and try for another one. And feel free to take your time; Ralph and I are patient and will wait for you and be sure to ask questions if you need to."

The two men walk over to the next building and Matt holds the door for you to enter, following you in.
Meira smirks, trying not to roll her eyes. Being a vampire hunter sounded like a hell of a thing, but that's just the norm in this game.

Walking over to the building she was pointed to, she asks, "There a class that stands in the back, or hides, maybe? I like the idea of not getting shot, stabbed, mauled, or whatever. Not an expert on getting mauled, but it sounds like something I don't want."

She isn't an expert on getting shot, either, but once was quite enough to tell her she didn't want that again, even if it was just simulated this time around.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1903, Matt's House, Seattle

Matt's avatar laughs. "Yeah, everyone asks about that the first time. Sure, you can try out one of the mages or an crossbowman. They both stay to the rear and support the others, but I got to tell you that it is very likely that you will be engaged in close up fighting no matter you pick. There will just be less of it with those two classes."

Ralph coughs. "Don't forget the other side, Matt."

Matt looks a bit confused but then the light dawns. "Uhm yes. There is always the other side to play as well. You can be a werewolf or vampire. Some very tough characters but also very hard to play well. Still, they are available if you want to try them. Some of the toughest characters in the game are the Elder Vampire Lords. Very cool characters."
Meira had at least heard of crossbows before. None of the other options sounded that appealing to her, and assuming it was a hand crossbow, she might be able to get away with holding it like a pistol. Otherwise... well, she'd held a rifle before, but it wasn't exactly her core competency.

"Crossbow sounds good to me. Let's get in there and kill something."

Time to see what all the fuss was about. She suspected she might end up dismissing its inability to portray real combat, but these guys didn't need to know that.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1910, Matt's House, Seattle

As you choose your class, you are guided to a man who hands you some starting gear, to include a light crossbow. At your question, the man tells you that you need to prove yourself before being issued a hand crossbow. Matt and Ralph finish gearing up as well and the three of you head out of the far door of the building. You see a wide stretch of green ahead of you with a path that leads to a large arch. Several other characters are heading to the arch, all of them dressed similarly to you. Matt points to some of them. "You can tell what the classes they are by their starting gear. It gets harder as the characters advance. You will find some really nice stuff at the higher levels and lots of good stuff at even the mid levels."

As you approach the arch, you can see that there is some sort of energy field that shimmers as people pass through it. Matt stops you and touches your arm. "Got to warn you that the environment is very realistic in there. The devs did a super job on making it very realistic. You can try to do anything you want to do and are limited by your inventiveness and your abilities. Your gear does have an effect, too. We can work together and help each other out. Just remember that you will get better as you go on. Ready?"
Meira nods, "I'm ready."

Inventiveness and abilities? She certainly had a few select skills, but she found herself doubting that they would be very helpful in this setting. That works in her favor, though - she said she wasn't familiar with these games already, and doing a little too well in something supposedly realistic may frame her in the wrong light. She could always lose on purpose, but she wasn't sure she had the acting chops to pull it off convincingly enough.
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1925, Matt's House, Seattle

From a realism standpoint, the game is A-fragging-mazing! There might be things you can think of to improve how you are performing, but some of the stuff is obviously just practice. Matt and Ralph help you out by providing you as much protection as they can while you learn how to use the crossbow. The levels do not seem to be gimmee's, either, and you pretty much have to work hard on everything. The sights, smells, and sounds are as real as if you were actually there and you can feel yourself sweat in the muggy heat of the starting location. Clothes catch and tear on the underbrush and the first person viewpoint really makes you keep looking around.

After what seems to be a long time, Matt,s avatar comms you that it is time to pull out. "Dinner is here. You can pull out from right here if you like and the scenario will continue, but that can be bad if you come in without one or both of us already here to protect you. There are safe spots scattered about that allow you to pull out safely. An added bonus is that you can be inside the house and talk to any of the other avatars that are currently inside as well, provided that they are online, of course. The closest safe house is just over here."

They guide you to a small cabin that is not too far away and allow you to go in first. The inside of the cabin is like being inside a lodge. There is a fireplace that is currently unlit, and a bar stretches across the back, complete with a handsome bartender and a couple of waitresses to provide beverages and food for in-game consumption. Matt tells you that the food and drink help you heal faster than just resting and you can buy some to take with you from your stock of game cash. Ralph leads you to a couch and has you sit down, at which time a menu board pops into your vision. One of the options is to exit the game.

When you are out and back in the meat world, you have to blink your eyes a few times and shake your head to recover. Ralph goes to take care of the pizza guy while Matt collects the game gear you were using and leads you out to the dining room table. Once you are sitting down and pizza and soda are in front of you, they both look at you. "Well?"
Meira offers an amused nod, reaching for the soda. It was certainly reminiscent of jungle ops - the environment at least. There was a bit of effort involved with not getting too into it - barking orders, scouting ahead, and hitting the 'kaze were all off the table. At least the enemies were different enough that she never felt like it was a real mission.

Using these simulations for training was always considered bad form. Sure, upper brass kept trying to push it on people, but soldiers who still remembered what the field was like didn't appreciate newbies showing up and acting like their video games counted as experience. Her team never even used them to get acquainted with an area before a mission.

"The environment felt plenty real, can't argue with that. I've never fired a crossbow before, so they could have just made that part up and I'd never know the difference. And I got to kill stuff, so that's pretty fun."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1930, Matt's House, Seattle

The guys laugh as they bite into pizza and Matt nods at you. "It can take some people a while to get enthusiastic about the game, and I have found that some people would just rather do other things. I hope that you will at least give it another try."
Meira starts eating. It was easy to forget that this neighborhood had real food when you typically forego it in favor of something in a bar form to save time. Being a good neighbor wasn't all bad.

"I can give it another go sometime. Probably not tonight, though. What brings you two to the neighborhood?"
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1933, Matt's House, Seattle

The guys seem a bit disappointed that you are done, but both smile anyway. Matt has part of a slice of pizza in his mouth when you ask the question so Ralph answers. "I am not in the neighborhood, actually. I am just here to help Matt move in. He just broke up with his cheating slut of a girlfriend and needed some help."

Matt goes all red. "Hey! No need to call her......."

Ralph shakes his head. "Call her names? Bud, she was cheating on you with at least two other guys and you want to call her nice things? You are just too nice. I would call her lots more than that except we have a pretty girl in the house."

Matt looks over at you. "Sorry for my friend, but he is right, even if a bit blunt. My girlfriend and I had issues with her lack of fidelity and I thought it best to leave."

Ralph laughs. "Dude! Seriously? Issues are for emags. What you had was her fu...." He looks at you and blushes just a bit. "Sorry, Meira." Then he looks back at Matt. "Doing it with some guy in your bed while you were out working your butt off to pay the bills. And he was just the one you caught her with because your boss gave the office a half day when his team won the Urban Brawl semis. Remember, she said there was another guy before that one."

Matt looks down at the table then back up. "Yeah, that's what happened. Sad story, sad ending. But now I am here. Let's change the subject. What do you do, Meira?"
Meira tries to think of how to best recover from that bit of awkwardness, and elects to simply acknowledge it and push it aside. She's never really been much for empathy, and it shows - especially for an elf. She shrugs her eyebrows and leans back.

"Sometimes you just gotta get away, ya know? I haven't been out of Tir Tangire long, myself. Lost my job as team lead, and the firing was messy. I can't list it on my resume, and I had to ditch all my friends back home, but at least I learned from it. I work acquisitions now - rich people too big for their britches want all kinds of stuff, but can't figure out how to get it on their own. It's easier for them to pay someone else to do it for them, and I'm happy to take their money."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1936, Matt's House, Seattle

Matt nods. "Yeah, getting away and starting over. I guess that just about says it all." Both guys seem to stay away from asking about the firing, but Ralph seems to look at you closely when you talk acquisitions.

"So what sort of acquisitions are we talking about here? Like fetching groceries or something a bit more sketchy?"

Matt chimes in. "Ralph! Come on, that is not a question you should ask. She barely knows us."

"Why not? If she does sketchy, I might have a lead for her if she is looking." He looks at you. "So, are you looking?"
Meira chuckles. "Sketchy" for guys like this probably means BTLs, at worst. But hey, who knows? Matt's the skittish one. Poor kid can't even swear. Maybe Ralph knows what he's talking about.

"I've done groceries, sketchy, and everything in between. People usually just want a new toy, but clients vary. Just so you know, there are some jobs I won't touch, but I'll listen to all of them."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1937, Matt's House, Seattle

Ralph nods and grins. "I might just have a contact. Let me talk to him and get back to you."

Matt gives you an interesting look. "What won't you do, if you don't mind saying?"
Meira cracks a grin and goes for another slice of pizza before answering.

"So, sometimes rich people want drugs - there's actually a whole lot of drug abuse at the top. That's fine, if people wanna get high and they're not hurting anyone, I say just give them what they want, right? But there are some drugs that... well they're not for getting high. The only purpose is to mess someone up. I heard about this thing called K-10. One hit has a non-trivial chance to give you permanent brain damage. You couldn't pay me enough to mess with that."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1937, Matt's House, Seattle

Ralph shakes his head and Matt talks for both of them. "So why would someone want to get these drugs. I can understand a bit of recreational high. Heaven knows I did some of it in college, but what you described is sick. Why would anyone want to take that stuff if there was that sort of risk?"

Ralph nods then says. "Hey, I got to split. Might drop back over tomorrow to see what progress you have made. Nice meeting you, Meira, and I really hope to see you again. And I hope you like the game. Matt here sure put a lot of effort into making it as real as possible."

He stands up and Matt groans. "Ralph! You weren't supposed to say that."

Ralph laughs. "She would have found out sooner or later, dude. Oh, and Meira, ask him about the hot tub some time."

Matt has a bit of a red face after Ralph leaves and he tries to cover that by offering you one of the last two slices of pizza.
Meira shrugs. She knows damn well of at least one application, but the reality of the situation is that an attempted improvement on kamikaze hits way too close to home for her, especially given the consequences.

"Dunno. All I know for sure is I want no part of it."

She offers Ralph a smile and a wave as he leaves, then accepts the pizza.

"So, what is it you do, then? Is the VR world or the gear your doing? Both maybe?"
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1937, Matt's House, Seattle

Matt blushes a bit, but only a bit, and his eyes are excited. "Yeah, pretty much both. I am sort of a matrix geek, I guess you could say. I lead the design team over at Horizon Games that created the game. I had some help along the way and I consulted with lots of other people to try to get the realism factor as high as possible. Then I was not happy with the hardware platforms being used so went to work on that, too, but I had a lot of help there, too."

"Oh, and that hot tub Ralph mentioned? The former owners knocked out a wall between the two smaller bedrooms and converted the space to an exercise room. They got some of the latest fitness machines as well as a hot tub and sauna. But when I met them, they did not look like they used it that much."
"Maybe they had one hell of a new years resolution that didn't make it past February."

Meira chuckles. She never heard much from the previous neighbors. All she really remembers is them averting their gaze if they happened to step out of their door at the right time to see her. Hard to say if it was the tattoos, the hair, or the ears - there's always something to piss someone off.

"Sounds like you crack the whip at the office. So you say you had consultations - what, did you find some antique weapons collectors to interview? That sounds like fun."
Wednesday 12 June 2076 1940, Matt's House, Seattle

Matt laughs. "I like that and will have to remember that and not become that sort of guy. But, yes, you are probably right and they got it and then did not use the fancy equipment. I like working out a bit, though, and that room was a nice selling point for me when I was looking for a place to move to. And I am not sure that I crack the whip. I like to think I am pretty laid back, but I do appreciate results and try to make sure that my team is made up of people who want to do the work and not just there to collect a check." He points a finger to the ceiling at your question. "Yes, actually. I did interview people with collections and curators of museums, as well as different groups of re-enactors, who were generally quite willing to show me how things work. It is all a ton of fun and I really enjoy my job. I was lucky to get the position."

He looks a bit worried. "You sure this is not boring you? We have not talked about you at all. What makes Meira tick. What do you like?"
Meira rolls her right shoulder a bit, putting her left hand on it.

"I run, I watch the trid - sometimes simultaneously on a treadmill. My stamina is okay, but I'm fast. I do yoga. Harder to watch the trid that way. I've always liked stuff you guys typically don't. You know, romantic comedies, soaps, that sort of thing. I drink sometimes, but only the harder stuff. Less calories - and you can call that a pro-fitness tip." Meira grins at her own joke and adds, "I'm not the most exciting person, really. You have some cool work experiences, and they're fun to listen to."
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