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Interim 2

Kuma Healing (12FEB2058)

Val pulls into the apartment complex, through the automatic sliding gate entrance. The rest of the runners have already been dropped off, the run completed. Kuma wanted to drive his Ferrari home, but Val easily convinced him of that danger. A promise to check up on the car was assurance enough for the battered samurai. The engine purrs quietly away as Val commands the car shutdown. She moves to the rear and starts gathering some basic medical supplies. Kuma just sits in the passenger seat for a couple moments, realizing the "breach of security" that this trip has caused. "Hey Val, I need a favor from you, soka? I need you to keep this place quiet. I didn't really mean to bring people from work here. You know, for security reasons. If you could keep this apartment just between us, that'd be wiz, wakarimasukane?" asks Kuma suppressing a nervous feeling.

Val answers, "Yeah, sure. I got all kinds a secrets, patient confidentiality and all that. Heck, I could probably hire a fraggin' army of sammies if I needed to. Damn near half of the sammies in this city had their hoops pulled out of a drek storm by my crew when I was with DW."

[Lars (The player that runs Kuma): I've decided to make things interesting and have Kuma attracted to Val. He is going to stay at home, healing up. Normally he wouldn't have the runners over to his middle class apartment, but in a moment of weakness he has Val drive him there. Kuma isn't really a ladies man and is generally kind of shy about these things, so he won't make a move, but a perceptive Val might pick up on it over the next two days.

GM: The thoughts seem a little more distant, like a fuzzy memory for the heavily cybered Kuma. Having a remarkably attractive and affable woman tending to his wounds in his home manages to cut through the static of survival instinct and grim facades. The extension of mutual trust on the part of both, Kuma revealing his home address and Valkyrie trusting him enough to be alone with him, is a strong start for a relationship.]

Val seems a little more nonchalant about being allowed to visit Kuma's home than Kuma might wish. He can't read whether or not that is a simple facade of staying cool or if she really does not think it's important. Either way, she is surprisingly physical with him, helping him onto his recliner, taking his armor and boots off, cleaning and re-dressing his wounds more thoroughly. She hands him the remote to his trideo and stands up. She is tall for a human and somewhat big boned. Combined with her very overt armored jacket, she is probably safer than most walking the streets. She flashes a warm smile and speaks for the first time since entering the apartment, "Well, that should do ya for now. I'm going to run some errands and check in with some people then I'll be back later to bring dinner and change those dressings. See ya!"

She turns away and walks out the door, her baggy cargo pants obfuscating further information on her body. Kuma realizes that he is craning to look at her and sits back in his chair, uncertain how he should feel.

Later that night...

The face in the camera is Val, partially hidden behind packets of food. Kuma buzzes her in. She walks past him to the table and sets down the food. A fragrant scent of a floral garden casting off its morning dew follows her. She is dressed very differently and the grime of the ashen wastes of the morning has been washed away.

She is decked out in a tight, matte black skinsuit and a deep burgundy jacket that is probably armored. There is little question that she works out frequently. Her hair is pulled back, exposing her datajacks, which have been capped with chrome plugs that match the simple silver necklace she wears around her neck. There is a key of some sort on the necklace, like those used in mechanical locks, but a little too long for that. She slips a smaller case off of her shoulder. It is an unmarked, sturdy plastic case.

"All right, I have no fraggin' clue what this food is, I forgot to get my Korean L-chip back from Hound. I went to a little restaurant just down the street. I think it's Korean food, but I can't be sure. If there are any eyeballs or squid brains, I apologize." She laughs as she opens the containers and spreads them out on the table. She hands some chopsticks to Kuma and then starts wolfing down food as if the building were on fire. Watching her eat seems a little more interesting to Kuma than he would have expected.

Kuma eats the food, finding himself much more hungry than he had thought. Mostly he keeps quiet, but a couple of times he tries to impress Val with some esoteric piece of curious knowledge that remotely pertains to Korean food and culture. The words seem to fumble a bit, nothing like the storytelling mastery he had envisioned in his mind.

Val does show interest in what Kuma says. She asks a number of questions and they engage in an active dialogue. As the discussions closes, Kuma says something to the effect of "I don't mean to bore you." She smiles answers with, "Oh, null sheen, anything is better than sitting here watching a box. People are far more interesting than a trideo." The conversation dies as suddenly as it started.

Kuma keeps quiet through the rest of dinner and through a final wound check before Val leaves.

The next day day and night pass routinely. Val keeps Kuma's dressings clean and tended. He heals in a fraction of the time, being completely good to go on the morning of 14FEB2058, Valentine's Day, just under 48 hours after he was injured.

Val stops by one last time Thursday morning to check up on Kuma. The wounds have almost completely healed and Kuma is left with only a lingering soreness and aching. As she's gathering her medkit to leave, "Hey, if you're not doing anything this Saturday [16FEB58], there's a Screamers game on channel four I was going to watch. I could grab some synthbeers and you could come over if ya want?" asks Kuma, trying to act non-chalant.

Val stops and stands arms akimbo in a relaxed stance, craning her head as if looking for the answer. "Hmmm. I pretty much only watch the trid when I am recovering from wounds. The isolation and inactivity drives me crazy otherwise. I prefer to watch the games live and when I can't do that I usually watch them at a sports bar Downtown called Bullets & Balls. Tell you what, before I go on my hot date tonight, I'll try and score some tickets for us. If that doesn't work, you're welcome to come on over to B&B. Wiz?" She smiles and waits for Kuma's answer, her hand on the front door.

"Wiz," responds Kuma, masking his disappointment at the mention of Val's hot date. "Let me know the stat. By the way, thanks for the help," adds the samurai. She gives a nod and leaves. "Time for some range time to clear the mind," says Kuma to himself.

Kuma Visits Truman [15FEB2058]

"You look top shelf, my friend," finishes the street doc as he walks over to the trash bin and toss a pair of latex gloves away. "That medic work covered all the bases."

Truman turns to Kuma with an expectant 'anything else?' look. The human man looked worn and battered under the strong fluorescent lights, although Kuma knew him to be in his early fifties and still in good shape. A close-cropped buzz cut and some forearm tattoos described his former career with the army, although Kuma learned quickly that that was an off-limit topic. Still, the man hadn't lost his edge working the shadows these years.

Kuma hops off the examination table and grabs his sweatshirt. "No sir, I'm good physically. Although there was something I wanted to mention. I heard there was some trouble here a week or so again between some passing clients. I have spare time in my new line of work and you've fronted a lot of good work for my chrome over these years. I was wondering if you'd mind me hanging out in your office as extra protection? No charge, just keeping my friends and resources safe, wakarimasuka? This war is look to turn bloody before it washes."

Truman looks suspicious and he doesn't try to hide the emotion. "Hey omae, now that you're loose . . . well, I don't know how to say this, but . . . you might be more dangerous to have around than not. A lot of the Yaks will know you and get pissed, and my Family friends will assume you're a Yak and that I am showing favoritism. I appreciate the offer omae, but I think it would do more harm than good. If the need arises, I will give you a call right away. You can rest assured your on my 'Oh Shit!' alert roster." Truman smiles and nods towards the door. "Now get out of here before we start smooching." He says wryly.

"Hai, wakarimasu," says Kuma a little bothered by the situation. "You gotta look out for the biz. You know where to reach me," says Kuma as he finished dressing. He then heads out.

Everyone receives a message from Val [15FEB2058]

The machine queues up the next message. The video lights up with Val's smiling face. "Hey there omae! I've got some wiz tickets to a private booth for the next Urban Brawl game! You gotta come. It's tomorrow. Let me know the deal, we'll meet at Bullets and Balls first and head over from there. So ka?"

Kuma calls Kim [16FEB2058]

"Kim, thanks for the work the other day. Things worked out and I think I got my foot in the biz now. Anyways, I'm calling about some work I want you to do for me. First off, remember that ID you set me up with a month ago. I finally have some more cred to chrome it up and I want you to put in some more work in making the identity more solid. I know you could spend all year jacked in and sleazing DMV sites, but I only got 7k for the work now.

"The other work is more sensitive. Remember that work you did for me while I was still in the clan? I want you to keep on scanning through the shadows for some solid leads about those events. I need to put a bullet in the skull of those slitches, but I'm not going to geek the whole city or randomly start dropping yaks, even if they are double-talking fraggers. I'll slot you a thou a month for that work and some extra when you get some I can bite.

"Any questions?"

Kim perks up, "Yeah, omae, sounds straight. I'll add a few things here and there and see what I can do; I'll call ya if there's any problem. The long term thing sounds null sheen. It's sort of a hobby anyway, keeping tabs on the underworld. Scan this, word is that the some groups are looking to ties up loose ends. Dangerous and intimate knowledge falling into the hands of enemies, and drek like that. Seeing as how you just left a pretty close-mouthed team recently, you might be looking at a premature retirement package, if ya know what I mean. I'd avoid eating at sushi joints or tea houses for a couple months if I was you, omae. And keep your six jacked." His beaming face leans forward and a band across the screen reads "Ready for transmission." Kim says, "Just slot that cred friend and I'll get my deck jumping."

"Oh yeah, chrome work on the run there. They were pretty happy with the results on the whole. There seemed to be something weird going on with Lim, the guy who hired you, but Mother and Shinjo are happy and that's as good as it gets when dealing with them. Ya know, if you feel like sitting back and pulling other people's strings, you might be a good replacement for their lost members." Kim grins then breaks into laughter, "Yeah right. Take you off the streets, you'd wither up and die. Ya got anything else for me omae?"

Piker's Messages [16FEB2058]

A bone tired Piker shoves open her door and trudges into her apartment. The smell of fresh carpet and the wiz water cooler lift her spirits. Life is good even if she feels half-dead. Her vid phone shows a message. She walks over by the vid phone and says, "Play phone messages." The first five messages are hang-ups. The sixth is not.

Piker's vidscreen turns on, showing Kuma's rugged asian face. It's difficult to read his state of mind, but Piker thinks he is relaxed. "Piker, Kuma here," begins the samurai. "I wanted to know if you'd be interested in getting together later this week for some sparring time? I've purged my old ties and there's no better way to keep the edge than in the real." Kuma pauses for a second and then adds, "But if you're busy, maybe you could just slot me a good place to find some sparring action on my own."

There is a seventh message as well. The video lights up with Val's smiling face. "Hey there Colossus! I've got some wiz tickets to a private booth for the next Urban Brawl game! You gotta come. It's this Saturday. Let me know the deal, we'll meet at Bullets and Balls first and head over from there. So ka?"

The machine clicks off and the apartment goes silent once again. Cool, clean air washes over Piker from a ceiling fan overhead. It feels good, but the more she meditates, the less important personal comfort seems to be. She wonders if that is a good thing.

Piker realizes she only has a few hours before meeting the group at the urban brawl game. She showers and gets ready; and then grabs a bite to eat before heading to the game.

Take Me Out To The Brawl Game [16FEB2058]

It's the Saturday after the run and there is an Urban Brawl in the Redmond Barrens. The Sioux Council's Lakota Arrows are facing off against the home team, UCAS's Seattle Screamers. Val has managed to score a Brawl Room, a private room for tonight's Urban Brawl, and invites the team along. The top four floors of the Warwick Hotel downtown have been blocked off for patrons of the Urban Brawl. Rooms like this are for people with clout, a whole lot of nuyen, or both. CEOs, dons, and oyabuns are the kind of people that can secure rooms like these.

Alex seems right at home, as does Val. Of course, both of them usually seem right at home wherever they are. Kuma looks a little on edge, reverting to his stone cold demeanor. Piker finds it hard to resist touching things and pointing out amenities, making the hotel staff nervous. Hound is quietly taking it all in.

As they walk down the corridor, the rules of Urban Brawl are emerging from speakers in sultry woman's voice. She is identified as Chrome Kitty, a SimSense porn star. The attempt to make the rules sound sexy is odd, but so is Urban Brawl. It is the Warwick of course, so classical music is the backdrop, making the setting somewhat surreal.

"Urban Brawl is played in four quarters of 30 minutes each. A play lasts for a maximum of five minutes or until the play ends. A play ends when a goal is scored, the clock runs out on a quarter, an official declares the ball dead, or a wipeout takes place. A wipeout occurs when all players on a given team are taken out of the game in a single play due to surrender, wounds, or death." A reverberating booming sound punctuates the sentence.

"Each team is composed of thirteen players. Four scouts, four bangers, two heavies, and one blaster make up the eleven offensive players; they can score a goal. The remaining two players are the outrider and medico; neither of these players can take possession of or advance the ball." A hawk's screech is heard over the speaker. "Scouts wear light armor and carry a personal sidearm." The sound of a stick banging on a trash can is heard over the speaker. "Bangers wear medium armor and carry a personal sidearm." The cocking and firing of a shotgun is heard. "Heavies wear medium armor and carry a personal sidearm as well as the player's choice of one heavier small arm."

The heavy report of machinegun fire is heard over the speaker and the voice reverberates the word, "Blaster." The woman continues, "Blasters wear light armor and are equipped with a gyro mounted machinegun Ooh, such a big gun."

"Two balls are in play simultaneously." The woman's voice giggles. "As if that's not enough fun, both teams try to score simultaneously. Jacked there, chipped that." She giggles again.

A man's voice interrupts, "All right fans, Kitty is going to cool off and I'll fill in the the boring details. Both teams advance the ball. Penalties are called for . . ." the announcer shifts into high speed legal disclaimer speak, ". . . arson, deliberate attacks on disabled or surrendered brawlers, deliberate attacks on brawlers under a penalty, illegal intelligence, insufficient offense, leaving the brawl zone, roughing the medicos, roughing the officials, unauthorized ball carriage, unauthorized destruction of property, unsportsmanslike conduct, and use of an unauthorized firearm." The announcer finally takes a breath. "Whew. Today's Brawl is brought to you by Ares Macrotechnology, better technology for a safer tomorrow; Renraku . . ."

Val steps up to an elevator and slots a card key. The team steps in, barely fitting with Piker, and the chatter of the speaker fades to nothing as the doors close. There are no visible surveillance systems, but the whole team is confident they are present.

Ajax says offhandedly, "Almost a shame to be cut off from the chatter, I'm not really an expert on the game. Maybe one of you can fill in the rest."

Hound pipes up almost immediately, "Yeah, well they covered most of it. The field is a patch of city, about three blocks by four blocks. They come in a day in advance and run everyone out in a technically legal fashion, then rig up a truck load of drones and cameras."

Val interjects, "More like half a dozen truckloads."

Piker adds, "Yeah, and da area has to have open roads on DA perimeter."

Hound continues, "Right, like I was saying, each player has yellow lights that show when he is out of play whether due to a penalty or surrender."

Piker interjects, "Fraggin' chipless cowards."

Hound, "Yeah, well sometimes it makes sense, especially if your leg is blown off and no one thinks to call you wounded. Of course, the yellow lights have a particularly big stripe along the spine..."

Piker speaks up, "The Outrider is der only way to move fast on DA field, but she can't advance DA ball and needuh can her passengers. The medico is totally hands off."

Val interjects, "Damn right!"

Piker continues, "DA udder eleven do DA scoring and shooting. Oh yeah, DA outrider can shoot people, run dem down, whatever. She can be offensive like dat, but she can't just be offensive in moving DA ball."

Hound faces Ajax as he speaks, "Speaking of the ball, it's bright yellow and sorta like a soccer ball, but made of smooth dense plastifoam and painted a painfully bright yellow color. It's not supposed to be fashionable, just visible. Oh, and the players have to carry it in their hands or tucked under their arm."

The conversation pauses as Val reaches the door of the room. She slots a gold-plated card key and the lock opens silently. She leads the group in, stops turns and wave them in with a flourish. The room is spacious, decked out with banks of trideos, comfortable furniture, and a full, if small, bar, replete with three beers on tap. Val stretches out her arms, smirks, and asks, "Will this do?"

The team members nod and smile their approval and settle down for an evening of violent entertainment. Piker heads straight to the bar, Kuma heads to the chair in the corner farthest from the door, Hound plops down in the seat with the greatest view of the banks of monitors, Ajax scan the room carefully as he walks in and then sits in the middle of a large sofa, spreading his arms wide and sinking into the large cushions, flanked by the two party girls he brought along with him. They giggle, smile and cuddle up to him. Val smirks at the display and plops down in a large armchair and throws her feet up onto an ottoman.

Piker passes the various team members, handing out real beer, not the synthbeer they usually drink. The last person she hands a beer to is Kuma, and she sits down near him in a Troll-friendly armchair. She says to Kuma, "Hey I got yur message. Sure, I don' mine gettin' togeder and sparring. Actually, I was going to do some sparring tomorrow, you in?"

Elise Calls Kuma About Bullets [02MAR2058]

"Yeah, Kuma, I can't seem to find any of the rounds you were looking for. As far as I can tell, APDS are only made standard for autocannons and the like. I might be able to track down an Armorer willing to help you out with making some custom rounds for your SMGs. Heck, I can't even find any of these babies in the autocannon variety. The fort is tighter than a drum and my military contacts keep trying to push off explosive and incendiary rounds on me, they don't seem to understand the idea of subtlety, they think a big bang is always good; a real pain in the ass. Sorry I couldn't help ya, but I did try."

"What I did manage to scrounge up was some basic AP rounds as well as Teflon-coated rounds. I have a box of 50 of the AP and two boxes of 50 of the Teflon-coated. Do you want either of those?"

"Probably, these streets seem to be getting more dangerous every day. How much are those running? Who am I sleazing, as long as I'm not selling my soul, I'll take all of it," says Kuma.

Elise smiles, "Yeah, I figured. That will run 2200."

An encrypted transaction window pops up on the vidphone, the flashing "2200" waiting expectantly.

Kuma slots the cred and arranges to pick up the ammo at Elise's next available opening.

The House Always Wins [18FEB2058-12MAR2058]

Kuma does some gambling with 15k

  • sporting events - lose 3k
  • bets at street racing - lose 4k
  • a weekly poker game - win 2k
  • a weekly visit to some underground casinos - lose 4k

Net loss of 9k.

No color here, too much interim stuff to resolve.