Dreamchipper Part 1

GM: TRISTA
Players: GRETCHEN, KRAFT, PHISHER, HEK.
Synopsis: This is the first part of the Dreamchipper published adventure, modified for Denver. This section of the adventure is purely for getting the team together, being given the job, and doing a little bit of searching for their first lead, which will be Flair and Tee Hee. In this part they're offered a job by a beautiful Johnson at a very loud club. One of the players spots the Johnson being tailed when she leaves, so follows and interrogates the stalker. They do a little legwork on who they might be working for, then go to the meet, taking a deal from a company CEO to recover three missing chips. During the meeting, another suit from the business turns up to disrupt proceedings, but leaves after showing how tough he was. The team are then handed the items from Tee's apartment and office and they find some clues, try to track down a few other possible leads before finally heading for the street upon which the clues lead to.
Date: 20th February 2078.


Dreamchipper - Part 1

LET ME MAKE YOU AN OFFER:

It's nice to settle in after a successful run; the nuyen is in the credstick, the rent is paid for another month, a few extras purchased as you have the cash to spare. But then time ticks by, nothing happens, you go from day to day and repeat the same old tasks. You didn't get into this for the life of a wageslave.

You each receive a call from a contact, be it a fixer or a prostitute you spend way too much time with, but who likes skipping around the clubs. Either way, they point you toward The Aurora, a club in the FTZ that attracts the typical Johnsons when they're looking for a team. Perhaps tonight is the night.

The Aurora? For those who have been there, it can change from quiet intimate cafe in the afternoon, to crazed rock club with a live band whipping up the crowd during the night. It's a casual affair, bring your best 'runner look if you want to attract attention, though they don't allow weapons inside beyond a light pistol.

Gretchen almost misses the notification for zenning out on a rooftop in a rickety lawn chair with headphones on and one hand behind her head. She watches traffic pass endlessly in the distance along the elevated highway that encircles the Denver sprawl, and with only minutes to spare, she notices the phone flashing «Message Received» when she empties out her pockets in search of a pack of pretzels she could have sworn was in this coat…

She scrambles to make the meet, darting down a fire escape, rushing to a stash of hers, then hopping on her bike for the ride downtown.

"You know you can do more than just sleep, Dutch. You paid for the hour."

"You know the rules, doll."
A sigh in the dark. "Kraft, then." There's a faint chime, and a rustle of clothing, bed springs creaking. Somewhere in the dark hotel room, a small square lights up the darkness, illuminating the skin colored plastic. "That's my bell. See you around?"
"Alright; Just leave the mask on next time. You're killing my buzz."

The drive to the Aurora was a pretty somber affair, with sky the color of static on a dying screen. Even the sunlight seemed tired, as Kraft listened to the monotonous drone and heartbeat of tires hitting line after line in the pavement. Tucking a bent cancer stick behind fake ears as he pulls off, parking a ways down. Shoving gloved hands in his pockets as he makes his way to - the club proper. Looking about as blended as a handful of nuts in a fruit smoothy, with all these pink mohawks and leather pants.

Phisher is predictably messing around in the Matrix when the commlink message comes in. He was hanging out at the Event Horizon, a hip Matrix lounge, hitting on the good looking waitress icons. As the message flashes across his eyes, he loses his joviality. A meatworld club? Real girls? He logoffs the matrix, grabbing his jacket and heading out to the parking lot across from the Jinwei Imports building. He hops into his very sexy Leyland-Zil Tsarina and heads to the club, dreading what may be inside.

The Aurora sits in a boring street full of Laundromats, Stuffer Shacks and ancient apartment buildings. Only three quarters of the streetlights actually work, the one in front of the club being one of those that doesn't, though that only helps to brighten the neon sign, 'The Aurora', in bright blue surrounded with white light.

A mass of people already gather outside, most too young to be allowed in, but they're trying to excite each other into trying. They're too young to be drinking too, but that doesn't stop them passing a bottle of liquor around their group. A well built Ork, likely enhanced with cyberware judging by his muscle mass, stands at the entrance, waving a weapons detector wand over those attempting to step inside. A whistle from the wand and he motions the person aside to a window next to the entrance, where a young woman will take said weapon and store it away, handing a keycard back for when they want to retrive it; no SIN checks required.

With her circle shades on, darker lenses flipped up at a forty-five degree angle to reveal her heavy makeup, Gretchen opens up her coat at the check, confident in her chances of slipping in with a knife and some mace in little hidden pockets clipped to the inside of her belt. She has another of her usual hand-cut tanks on, this one reading JOIN A CULT in white lettering on black. She tries to act as though she has nothing to hide…

Kraft, meanwhile, takes a moment to read the rules - nothing but small weapons - then decides to move on through to the security check anyways. 'Course just his luck that security's on the ball today..~

Gretchen is first on the scene, a whistle from the wand as the Ork waves it across, the man patting the spot before waving her over to the window, "Hand it in or you ain't gettin' inside.", another few people, then Kraft makes his move. The handcannon certainly isn't getting inside, "You know the deal.", says the Ork, pointing a thumb to the window.

The thump of the club can be heard outside, the roar of a crowd, the thrashing of a guitar, pounding of the drums. It sounds like the party has already started.

Phisher approaches the Ork bouncer with a grin, shaking his head on all the people turning in their weaponry. Phisher has no weapons of any kind on him. He chats idly with the bouncer while he gets wanded, "I'll never get why people bring in things they know is wrong. That's what you guys are here for right? Keep us from getting hurt?"

Gretchen reluctantly does as she's told, and in the process of forking over the two mace canisters and a folded jackknife into a plastic tub for stowing away, she catches sight of the cyborg private eye and the half-Chinese decker while rolling her dark eyes exaggeratedly at the bureaucratic hassle. "Fancy meeting you here," she murmurs, subjecting herself to a second approval scan before heading in.

"You've gotta be kidding me, bub. This little thing makes you nervous?"
Grumbles the old borg, turned aside from a scene that didn't quite match him. He tugs the heavy deputy out of its holster when he gets to the window, snapping out the chamber to roll the cylinder with this thumb. Letting bullets clink and drop to his palm - before putting one back in. Clink, WHrrrrrrrr-clunk. A glance to the woman, and a shrug. "Trogs, right? Always gotta ruin someone's day." The gun is gripped by the barrel and passed through. The ticket tucked somewhere with all his other odds and ends, the 'borg pulling his hat down low as he gets back in line. Grumbling. Don't get him wrong? He's not a card carrying member of the Humanis club. But they got one thing right when it comes to the damn tuskers.

"Coincidence, huh?" He asks of Gretchen, when he hears her. "Kinda like finding twenty nuyen in the 'Renz. Guarantee someone's about to ventilate your kiester for a new pair of shoes."

The Ork bodyguard sweeps his wand over Phisher twice after his comment, suspicious he might be trying to bluff his way in, but finding nothing he steps aside to let the Chinese man in through the doorway. "Have a good one, chummer.", he says, not wanting to get into conversation about the rights and wrongs.

With another wave of the wand over Gretchen and Kraft, the Ork steps aside and pushes open the door for them to enter. The music hits like a wave of sound, you can feel as well as hear the thump of the bass as you push into the room. The hour is still early but the place is already jumping, the rockerboys on stage whipping the crowd into a frenzy. Trolls mosh with dwarves, it's not a pleasant result, but the troll helps their fallen comrades back to their feet to continue the crazed dance in front of the band. The dancers, the lights, the music, 16 MaxMaster speakers blasting out across the room, you can barely hear yourself think.

Looking around, it seems more than a few 'runners got the message tonight. Familiar faces are spotted mingling through the crowds, seated at the bar, nobody big but well enough known for them to be recognizable.

The German may not be fond of dense crowds, but she's no stranger to them, either. She sidesteps and keeps an elbow held in front of her, using her other hand to guide collisions. Or to brace herself against those she can't push aside. Her search for the meet brings her near the bar, so she lines up, taking the opportunity to scope out the room, but she's not the tallest, and has to bob on tiptoes while turning in place, shifting every few seconds to hold her place in line.

Getting no answer from Gretchen - and no doubt because of the blistering wall of sound that damn near knocks the old borg off his feet - Kraft instead hunches his shoulders and follows suit. Although he takes his position almost naturally on the -opposite- side of the bar. Not so much out of dislike of the twitchy Gretchy, but rather out of instinctive need to get as many angles of fire as possible. And ways to duck behind the bar. Fingers reach up to pinch the bridge of his nose - already getting a migraine - before his hand dips into his pocket. Fingerless gloves let him grip the pocsec, and induction pads get to work.

Incoming text message, Gretch: «So. You here for the ambience?»

Gretchen's white shock of hair falls back down beyond the shoulder of a scumbag in a Tusker Du band logo vest and a reply promptly hits Kraft's own secretary.

«Not exactly. You here digging up dirt on a rockerboy?»

Phisher makes his way inside and heads directly for the bar, obviously uncomfortable as he moves through the crowd, occassionally bumping into someone and apologizing profusely as the perilous track amongst the club's denizens has him clearly out of his element. He bumps into a tall, attractive brunette at the last moment, nearly making it out of the crowd before disaster strikes, he looks at her with fear in his eyes, unsure of what to say, before she rolls her eyes at him and he scurries the last few meters to the bar. Spotting Gretchen he almost runs towards her, like a drowning man climbing out of the sea, "I really dislike these kinds of places." He announces near the top of his lungs.

«What, a man can't enjoy a little calm music and a .. what the hell? Who ruins perfectly good liquer with fruit?»

Kraft stares at the menu, false lips twisted into disgust before he tugs that hat a bit lower. His metal-and-plastic skull's going to be ringing for days after this stint.

A gutterpunk tries to interrupt Phisher joining Gretchen, stating, "No fucking cutsies, Short Round," to which Gretchen raises a middle finger and pulls Phisher into the line anyway. "You here for a reason, too?!" She yells near Phisher's ear to be heard over the music, then slyly gestures Phisher to look toward Kraft's stakeout position.

It's Kraft that spots her, an Angel drifting through a crowd of filth; 5'4", perfectly manicured, not a platinum blond hair out of place, expressive blue eyes, expensive jewellery and a tailored corporate outfit. It's almost as if the place moves in slow motion for a moment as he spots her. Not only that, but she's moving in his direction..

Moving up to his side, she places a delicate hand upon his arm, looks up at him and has to shout, "Before you settle, I'd like to talk to you.". Her large blue eyes leave his, glance to Gretchen and Phisher, including them in the offer. The woman has an aura of silent authority, she probably hasn't had to shout for years, she gives a feeling of power that only those high in the corporate circles tend to show.

Unsure of how to respond to the accusation, Phisher shrugs, "What's a short round?" Grateful that Gretchen pulls him aside, "Who are all these people? Do they actually enjoy this environment. Imagine how dirty the floor is…" he follows her point over towards Kraft, "Him too? We being set up for something eh? I got a message about a job, I imagine you did as well?"

Gretchen speaks a reply to Phisher that gets lost as she looks down to dig through a pocket. She then drops some flat-folded scrip on the bar hastily, grabbing two bottles of beer in one hand by hooking fingers around their necks. She cradles these to her chest and extends her other hand, alternating pushes and elbows to begin navigating the crowd once again with occasional hair-flipping looks back to ensure Phisher is following.

There were two types of women in the world; Golden hearts and dollar signs. The first might take pity on a down of lucker, bring along food or visitations. They're the world's candy stripers, the nurses, the angels of mercy. They're also about as pretty as a pig at the trough - when you've been the heel of the world for so long, you start looking up to everything. Then there's the dollar signs, like this blue eyed angel strolling up to an aging old 'borg like he was prime venison on the plate.

'Course, they feed the lions venison too, don't they?

"Yeah? And miss out on my favorite song?" Blue eyes and a hell of a lot of trouble. He then touches the pocsec again - «Looks like the bomb's arrived, sister. You on my six?» - before shrugging off the hand and nodding aside. "Alright, you've got my ear. Just make sure you give it back when you're done."

Phisher hurries after Gretchen, keeping his arms close to his sides unmoving as if trying to squeeze himself down an alley with the walls closing in. A very uncomfortable look on his face as he follows Gretchen towards Kraft and the woman. He smiles as they approach, but it comes across more as a fear grimace.

The blond drops her hand back to her side, then turns and starts moving through the crowd - a light touch on a shoulder, a brush against a lower back, alerting the people in her path that she's coming through. The woman makes her way across the room to a slightly less crazy area of the club, the opposite end of the room to the stage. Selecting one of the seats for herself, she settles down, perfectly placed, perfectly angled; casual yet formal.

The spaces left at the bar quickly fill, people shouting over each other at the bartenders for various drinks, while the song ends allowing a brief moment of silence before the band blast into another tune, squealing synthguitars and thumping bass getting the crowd moving once again.

Gretchen is put off by the apparent Johnson's very notable appearance, turning from side to side in the hopes of spotting her muscle, but seats herself nonetheless, scooting in to make room for the others and to put some distance between herself and the writhing masses of radness that fill the room.

Settling himself into the space with a faint sigh of relief, the old borg lets his knees hang aside a bit while he knits his hands together. Shifting to lean forward, false eyes glow dully beneath the rim of his fedora. It'd be a great look if not for the glaring flash of lights and kinetic flashing behind him from the stage. Just ruins the whole thing. Still, he watches the woman for a moment, considering; A dame in this joint without muscle? She's crazy. Either crazy strong or crazy in the head, and both were trouble with a capital T and a few exclamation points tacked on the end. His gaze shifts to Phisher as their resident 'trix 'trover joins the band, before Kraft will finally lean back.

"Alright, Blue; You've got the whole crew. Now, the question is-" A package of bent cigarettes taken from a pocket. Shaken a few times, before he relents and just has to peek inside. Damn noise. "-what can we do for you?"

Relieved to be out of the crowd, Phisher takes a seat near Gretchen, mumbling under his breath about the choice of venue, something about could have used the matrix and nobody would have had to get their feet stepped on. He folds his hands politely and looks towards the blonde woman, sitting as if he were at a corporate conference table.

The German flips her head to the side, following one face in particular through the crowd, but raises a balled fist to clear her throat as she admits to herself that it must be a case of mistaken identity. She has a pair of ear-covering studio headphones around her neck, nestled into the wide collar of her peacoat and resting on the endless loop of her white infinity scarf. She fidgets with the phones as she joins Kraft in assessing the remarkable J. Whether she's good remarkable or bad remarkable very much remains to be seen. She stands out like a sore thumb, and that raises red flags from the jump.

A delicate hand raises, adjusts the placement of a few platinum blond strands of hair; everything perfect? Then I'll begin. "Good evening.", she starts, her voice as soft as silk, smooth as velvet, "My name is, uh.. Johnson.". Is there a hint of discomfort at having to use that name? Perhaps so. "I'm looking for some professionals to assist my employers in retrieving some stolen property.". As she speaks, her gaze passes casually from one person to the next, making each one feel welcome to the conversation.

The woman has a slight bulge beneath her jacket, it's very slight but Kraft picks it up, there's a pistol under there but it's a light one. But never mind the light pistol, what about the man Kraft spotted as he left the bar? The detective can't bring in his handcannon, yet this guy had a katana on his back and a heavy pistol holstered.

"Time is of the essence, I'm afraid, I need to ask you if you're interested. If not..", a faint motion of her hand toward the dancefloor, where a few other 'runners are dotted around.

The German rattles off a quick few comments about it being suspicious as hell to even be seen sitting here with a suit, so it had better be worth her while for all the excuses she's gonna have to make up.

Phisher leans forward as the Johnson begins talking, nodding at her phrasing as if he was taking in the details of a corporate consulting project, "What sort of property? Who stole it? What are the conditions for success?" He pulls out a pocsec and begins taking notes.

"Depends on how much essence there's left to go around, Ms. Johnson." Begins Kraft, as Gretchen starts rattling her teeth. He glances aside to her, but smoothly moves in to play the wingman, making sure to pronounce the 'miz' in 'Ms. Johnson'. "You tell us we've got five minutes to get to Denver International, well.. I've got a lotta things tucked in me, dame, but a jet engine ain't one of them. So let's say we're interested - if we get a few more crumbs outta this pie you're baking. Like the round heel said, what've you got and when do you need it, to start?"

Gretchen stops her tirade as Kraft and Phisher join in, and she folds her arms, leaning back to nod at each of their questions in turn.

Perhaps a little taken aback by the word play, Ms. Johnson leans backwards into her seat, takes a moment to adjust the fall of her tailored skirt, clasps her hands together and rests them in her lap. "I'm not here to go into detail..", her voice having to raise as the thump of the bass gets louder with each passing beat; the song is reaching a crescendo that's going to have the crowd leaping like popcorn in a frying pan.

"As you mention, this isn't exactly the place for a business meeting. My employer would like to meet with you in person before we proceed. If you're interested I can offer further details, but be assured..", sensing a certain nuyen value might help seal a deal, ".. the reward will be quite. Sizeable.".

Gretchen's posture relaxes ever so slightly.

"Huh. Well, size does matter; That's what I keep getting told, at least."

States Kraft with a sideways twist of fake lips, before tipping that fedora of his up a bit. Getting out of this trog infested rat hole and into somewhere proper? That's already got him in fair spirits. Especially that damn tusker up front; He saw someone bigger and badder swinging a blade and holding a piece that made his look like a toy popper. Damn slope brow probably just hated cyborgs. A bent up bit of cancer is popped out of the carton, which gets crushed; Last one, after all. This placed at the corner of his mouth, but not lit up just yet.

"Alright, Blue; Your boss going to have the details again, or are we going to be dancing around each other all night? Much as I enjoy a good two step, Ms Johnson, if time's of the essence we haven't got a whole lot left to shake tail and twirl."

Phisher is clearly more comfortable around the corporate ambience this woman is giving off than the loud and boistrous activity of the rest of the bar, clinging to the meeting like the last bits of air leaving a sealed room, "A meeting to schedule another meeting." He smirks, "If I had a nuyen for every one of these…" He shakes his head slowly, "It's less about risk to reward ratio for me. I need to understand the chance for success. A million nuyen for a project doomed to fail, is still a project doomed to fail."

Gretchen's nodding to the other runners' questions intensifies, as does the narrowing of her eyes toward the authoritarian woman. She pulls her lower lip inward, chewing it in thought as she looks to Phisher, then to Kraft as she tries to predict what they might say in order to come to a wordless consensus.

"He will have all the details..", Ms. Johnson tells Kraft. The woman glances briefly over her shoulder, a slow and casual look to ensure her bodyguard, the man with the katana, is still keeping an eye on her, before her attention casually returns.

Perhaps certain she's found the right people, despite the other 'runners in the bar, she turns to Phisher's comment, "Why don't you meet with him and discuss the problem?", it's politely put, a tone of eagerness, as if to entice him into risking it. "We will meet at the Rathskeller at exactly 1:00am. Please, don't be late. When you arrive, ask for Urlan and you will be directed to the meeting from there."

The Rathskeller. A bar on the CAS side of the Warrens wall, a run down part of town that attracts people from both sides. Despite it's location, however, it's a popular place for corporate types to dress down and relax after a hard day in the office.

"One am? That's dangerously close to cutting into my all important moping time, Blue."

Grouses the old borg, steepling fingers once again. Point being, he couldn't afford to pass up opportunity's - shady as they were. His hand slips into the side of his jacket, plucking a small black bit of electronics out. And that disappears into his pocket, hand remaining down there as he keeps speaking.
"So, Blue - are you the blinder or what? Seems like an awful lot of double backs to send you here then send us across to the other half of Denver. You got anything at all for us besides a name and a place?"

Induction pad, meet micro-recorder. Maybe their 'trix head can find something with a vocal match.

If it's a mutual agreement, Gretchen will check the time on her secretary (and skim the missed texts from Kraft just earlier), then agree to make the one am deadline for phase two — Urlan. Scooting up from her seat which is butting right up against the wall of clubbers, she offers the suit a nod while tugging at the lapels of her peacoat. Her shirt's graphic is presented clearly, as is her chest banner and tangle of necklaces in the deep v, but she readies for the next leg of the evening.

"Let me ask /you/ a question.", the Johnson starts, the woman rising from her seat, brushing her clothing down into their perfectly tailored fit. "If you wished to hire a team of heavily armed and likely unstable individuals for a job, would you walk into a room full of them and pick them out yourself, or send someone else to pick the best suited and least likely to kill you?".

The woman gives a polite smile, a tip of her head toward Kraft, "I'll see you at 1am.", then she turns and makes her way toward the door. Across at the bar, the man with the katana shifts and moves to follow, falling into pace behind her.

As the woman leaves, Phisher puts his notes away and stands up as well, he turns to Gretchen, "1am? And I just got Karl Kombat Mage III: Modern Street Warfare." He looks genuinely upset, "Those little punks were gonna pay dearly. I guess they get a free pass tonight."

The German cups her hands after tugging her coat, aiming a reply at the decker's ear, "It's really fragging good. The scene where Sheena Stone shows up in a surprise franchise crossover was my favorite part! She infiltrated the drone field like a badass!" She totally spoilers the surprise twist, but it's loud enough here with the shredding and moshing that her accent makes it fairly difficult to hear. Maybe.

Kraft just smiles that wry little smile as Blue heads out of their little powwow, before the smile drops like a thugging trog who just picked up a higher education dataslate. "First thing's first, I'd learn not to be in a place where I need a heavily armed crew of sociopaths, lady." He grouses to himself. Once she's out of earshot, of course, before he turns false eyes to Phisher. "How quickly can you load up your deck, kid? I've got a voice sample - and I'd like to see if she's gonna make any calls. Alternative is trying to tail the broad." False eyes to Gretchen.
"I don't know about you, but this smells worse than a slope jaw's pigsty. A little shade's just dandy so long as it pays, but I like knowing which end of my kisser's catchin' lead first."

The Johnson makes it to the door and checks back behind her, ensuring her bodyguard is still close. Taking the lead, the beast heads out into the street, the beauty following on his heels. With the crowd bouncing and the lights flashing, it's very hard to keep tabs on her, but Kraft manages it, until someone steps into his field of view.

A small man, dirty, twitchy, dressed in synth-leathers and looking out of place; he looks over at the team still at the booth, then turns and follows the Johnson out into the street, slipping past a few teenagers trying to force their way in.

"Mm. Anyone else catch the mook in the leathers? Seems like that dame's lousy with tails tonight."

Sigh. Electric lighter out; Click. Coils heating up. Touched to dogear; cancerous smoke flicking out from between lips as he tilts his head back, waiting for Phisher's reply.

Phisher is too busy trying to avoid bumping into people in the crowd as he makes his way to the door to notice anything. He seems intent on just getting out and away from the crowd currently.

Gretchen turns up to Kraft, puzzled, as they make their way out. "Who???" She pulls on a black beanie withrdrawn from a pocket, then gloves and finally pulls a fold of her white scarf overhead. She tops it all off with an urban camo hood. Clueless, assuming she misheard, she heads toward the weapon check to retrieve her items by cashing in the corresponding key.

Shaking his head slowly, Kraft lets the other two make their way out first, shoving and elbowing, while he just pinches the bridge of his nose. He needs bullets, a drink, his car and a new armored vest. Not necessarily in that order. Finally he pushes off the couch and makes his way out, sourly picking up his hand cannon from the window with his ticket.
And checking the single bullet's still in the same rotation he left it in. Trust but verify. Finally it's time to head back to his Zephyr, taking a moment to run a wire to a certain transceiver down deep in his coat. And plug it just above the spinal cord, in his metal skull.

Ring-a-ding-ding. «Anyone still on this channel?»

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Lout und clear, Falcon. »

Phisher is running now, glad to be out of the club, making his way quickly across the street towards the parking lot and his trusty Tsarina. He climbs in quickly, the transceiver in his coat buzzing as it receives a signal. He pulls the mic and ear piece out of a pocket and holds them up to his head, «Go ahead.»

Gretchen is saddling her bike, walking it out of its space to bypass a group of milling rockers before she fires up the engine.

SEWER RAT:

The way out of the club is a lot more chaotic than when you came in, several female teens trying to bluff their way past the Ork checking ID's, others trying to squeeze past after a weapons scan; the Ork has his hands full, though not as full as the Troll that follows along behind as you all leave the club. Two teenagers hang helplessly under each arm before he throws them onto the street, smacking his hands together as if to brush off dirt. The four whine and grumble, but decide to give it up for the night.

The Troll heads back inside to gather up another load that managed to sneak through, while the woman behind the window goes about gathering up weapons and returning them to their respective owners. About a block away to the north, the Johnson and her bodyguard can be spotted, walking casually away, while a small grimy man acts as if he isn't following them, but clearly is.

Vision mags were a curse, sometimes; You could see for miles. But in the Queen City, what you saw wasn't always pretty. Grumbling to himself, Kraft tilts his fedora down and grimaces as his transducer does the silent text-to-speech across his taccom.

«Kid, I asked this before but now with a new twist; How quickly can you get into the 'trix? I'm gonna need some camera work. Our Missy Blue looks like she's got a tail or two. And I've got a voice sample too, if you feel up to cracking open phone lines to listen in.»

«Alptraum? I'm moving up to keep an ear on our payday, since we've got a few hours to kill. You heading off or sticking around?»

Damn, damn, and double damn. The Zephyr's door opens; A certain wrist-mounted grappler pulled from storage, strapped beneath a sleeve. And Kraft? Well. Time to play tail-around-the-rosey.

Commlink-Phisher> Phisher sends, « I don't have any of my decking stuff with me. Those are illegal you know. I'd have to drive back to my place. »

There's a time to go wandering down dark alleys, and there's a time to get safely outta sword swinging. There's a trick to slipping in the shadows; Part of it's not wearing pure black. 'Cause dark ain't black, it's got shades of brown and grey, and bumps and dusts. Kraft takes one look over his shoulder, raises his arm - and he's up with a faint clink far above. Rolling smoothly over the edge of the building as the wrist-grapple winds the rest of the way in. Staying low as he watches over the edge, following along. And, of course - drawing that heavy handcannon.

The height varies from building to building but is easily within jumping range, especially for someone with hydraulic jacks. The shifty tail continues following the Johnson and the bodyguard, at times he makes it appear as if he's not interested in them at all, then a clear path has him jogging to the next corner to keep watch on them.

Two more blocks and the detective can hear the whine of a helicopter, the buildings end at a road and across the road, a helicopter is landed in a clearing. The Johnson crosses the street and climbs into the chopper, her bodyguard following along, while on the ground below the twitchy little man stops at the corner to keep a watch. He raises his wristphone and talks into it, waits a moment then replies again before cutting the connection.

It's faint, but those ears were worth every 'yen. ".. she just boarded a chopper..", he pauses, the voice on the other end is too far away and too faint to pick up, but then he continues, ".. yeah, a team of three. A samurai with a hat, some weird lookin' woman and some oriental geek..". There's another pause, a wait for the other end to finish, then, ".. right." and the call ends.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I'm heading to the Souk.» The girl eases her bike past the Aurora infiltrators sprawled on the pavement in front of the club and prepares for some Aurora infiltration of her own, slipping into the 'Rens by way of Heather Gardens courtesy of Druid, a gold-toothed Royal with a heart of tarnished brass and an eye for all that glitters. If she happens to spot Phisher on her way out, she'll caravan with him, passing him to lead the route with a nod as she zips in and out of the oncoming lane. «I need to check on some things before the Rathskellar. »

Phisher eases the Tsarina into traffic following Gretchen's bike for a bit before turning off towards Chinatown. «I need to gear up. Not going that close to the wall without something shooty and decky. I will meet you there.»

Kraft'll sit low and wait until the chopper's off and away; Just another bit of brown detritus in a city filled with brown crap. Well, Blue was rich - but who was the rat in leathers? Like any noir detective worth his salt, Kraft takes a single look at his pocsec to check the time - and send a text message - before he starts loading gel rounds into that heavy hand cannon.

There's a loose thread in this knitted sweater, and he can't help but tug at it.

«Lady Blue's legit rich, but some rat in a sack's jawing on about us. We've got somebody else's attention as well. Watch your backs, sister, bub.»

The whine of the rotor blades grows louder and the chopper takes to the air, drifting easily before twisting and heading across the city in an easterly direction. The dirty rat below watches the helicopter leaving, then thrusts his hands into his pockets and starts strolling off along the street.

When the helicopter twisted in the air, a noticable logo was printed onto the side, though Kraft doesn't seem to recognize it from anywhere.

The 'Borg's shot runs true - the ratty man spread upon the ground with a nasty cut on his skull and a knot the size of an egg, even as the explosive BOOM rolls outwards. Kraft lifting his gun arm up again, letting the smoke drift as his eyes briefly track the fleeing helicopter. Didn't catch any wind on the logo, so that's one for the kid. Hope Kraft can draw.

And now it's time to make his way down for a heart to heart with Jimmy Round-Corner there. After getting him trussed up somewhere high in his short pairs and shaking him down for ID. Where there's threads loose, there's always some private dick looking to pluck strings.

There's few things worse than unconsciousness and helplessness. One of them's not waking up at all, or just in time to see the ghoul who's about to make a meal out of your neck. One of them's waking up next to a trog you don't remember, and the guy snores like the railhouse in full swing. One of them's waking up in a hospital and realizing you haven't got lips to scream with. Or a shoulder to scratch your nose on.

Then there's the Rat's particular situation when he wakes up; With a cup of freezing cold water splashed across the minor bruises from his forward fall, and denver's freezing air playing 'how-do-ya-do- with his delicates and some plastic twine holding him to a cheap patio chair. Not to mention the fall off the building just half a foot behind him. The clatter of the paper cup to the ground, and the smell of cheap cancer in the air. And in front of him? Why, Kraft - sans polymimetic mask to make him all pretty. Cheap plastic planes that slide and hitch across one another to make his 'face', eye-lights on so that looking him face to face is gonna be irritating. Like trying to stare into a flashlight. And then there's the hand cannon, loosely draped from skin-colored fingers.

"Welcome back to the world of the living, bub. At least for the next few minutes."

With a sudden start the rat faced man awakens, cold water shaking him from his dreams of beautiful corporate women leading him away from his life of crime and into their awaiting arms, a warm embrace.. and then there's Kraft and his mechanical face staring at him. "Whaddafuk!?", he panics, spluttering through the water, the sudden jerk causing him to tilt backwards in the chair toward the edge of the building. A glance over his shoulder and he squeals in more panic, seeing the fall behind him, shifting his arms and legs to try and push him back away from the fall. It works, barely, the chair comes back down with a clunk.

This is truly one unpleasant looking man; shabby, unshaven, pox-marked skin and twisted features, long dirty hair pulled back into a single tail. "What the frag? What d'you want? Ow..", a pain in the back of his head. "Did you shoot me? You fraggin' shot me!"

"Yeah? Mostly because I wanted to see the stupid mook ol' Nicky sent this time, bub."

States the cyborg, palming his cigarette for a moment as he hefts the hand cannon. A flick of the thumb to push the cylinder out, and he rotates it slowly. One, two, three, four, five, six bullets clink out and bounce on the ground; The the cylinder snaps closed with a flick of the wrist, run across his arm to rattle it in rolling.

"I figured you lot'd learn after I buried the last three of ya. But here you are; Putting your damn foot right back into my house. So here's the thing, mac; I'm gonna shoot you. And this time, I'll hang your yelling, screaming keister off the top of this building while you bleed out. Maybe then Nicky's boys will take the hint and get the hell off my back."
The hammer draws back with a final *click*. "Whatta think on that?"

Squinty, ugly eyes watch the bullets fall from the gun, follow them down to the ground. "What?". The man confused at the name 'Nicky', looking back up to the cyborg, the man straightening up in his seat. "No chum, you got the wrong man, you got me confused, I don't know no Nicky. Who the frag is Nicky? Nicky ain't no friend of mine and if he /was/ a friend of mine, right now, he ain't gonna be no friend of mine.".

The man shifts his arms, tries to shift the binds, looks up at Kraft almost pleadingly, "Come on man, I ain't nobody, I don't know no Nicky. Lemme out and I'll forget all about it.."

*WHAM*

The hammer of the gun strikes nothing but an empty chamber, then clinks as it rolls to the next chamber. Kraft's got that grim smile pushing up the side of his face while he draws hard on the dogear's cherry. "You're a lying sack of crap. You think I can't hear you chatting away on that damn phone from three streets away? You were jawing on me after I met up with the blue eyed Johnson, mac. So you're with Nicky. Hell, maybe the next one of you mooks'll be smarter, and -not- be footpaddin' after me. Maybe the next one will think, 'whatever the hell Nicky is paying ain't worth being found hanging from the roof with my insides making nice Pollock painting on the brickworks'."

With the hammer striking down, the man squints his eyes tightly closed and jumps at the sound, twisting his head away as if it's going to protect his ugly mug. Visibly quivering in his strapped in seat, the man slowly looks back up to Kraft, "Wait. Wait wait wait..", he tries moving again, but he's well and truly stuck to that seat. "Nicky is the name of the chummer hirin' me? Frag, I ain't dyin' here for hundred yen. I don't even know who it was, he just called and hired me to follow the blonde chica and report back, that's it. Swear! You got that fraggin' gun on me, I ain't lyin', just an easy hundred for followin' her and reporting on what she's doin' and who she's meeting. That's it!".

Finger slides off the trigger guard; The slow, inevitable clink of the heavy springs tightening - before the hand pauses. Gun muzzle lowers slightly, the bald cybernetic monstrosity tilting his head. Eyelights thinning as he squints.
"Bull spit."
He begins, but he sounds uncertain. "Nicky ain't interested in no damn blue eye." Wrist tightens back up again, the slow footfalls of the old borg closing in on the man tied bareback to the chair. The cold press of the gun muzzle against somewhere soft and pliable. "If there's something worse than watery drinks and big eyed dames I hate, it's rat-fink lying sons of bitches. But let's hear this, Go on. What number this guy call you on, huh? What's he look like? Sounds like a god damn dream to me, some fairy godfather floats down on high to hand poor ol' you a hundred slims to follow some Blue eye around and nothing more."

"I swear that's it! He calls me on my number, wires me hundred 'yen for followin' this blond corporate chica. I don't even know her name, just what she was wearin' n' drek..". In the cold and wet, if things could shrivel up any further, they certainly do when feeling the cold press of the gun barrel. His eyes squeeze closed, his face scrunches up, as if waiting for the bang and the pain to hit.

"I dunno what he looks like, I swear, it was just a call. Hey! Hey!", suddenly he finds a possible escape route, "I got his number! He told me to report back, maybe it's your Nicky, yeah? 567-2384, that's the number. 567-2384. Can you just.. can you..", he stutters, ".. can you just move the gun now..?"

«567-2384 — that's the number our rat-fink man was supposed to report us on. Pass that along to the kid, huh? Maybe he can dig something up from it. Looks like we've got two parties here, sister.»

The silent transduce, as cold metal finally parts ways with warm squishy. The click of the hammer closing back again, foot falls moving aside. The stink of bad cigarettes a bit stronger. ".. Alright, bub. Alright. Let's say I believe you. Let's say, for the sake of your mama, that I'm -not- considering adding a permenent sunroom to your gizzards. What else this guy want you to do, huh?"

There's a deep release of a breath once the gun is moved, the man slumping in his seat as if the wires that were holding him up had been cut. "That's it man, just follow the chica, see what she was doin', then report back to him. He wanted to know who she met with n' that's it. He said he might be in touch again n' he hung up.".

"If I'd know I'd be trussed up like a fraggin' pig with a gun in my face, I wouldn't have done it. Frag.", he says with a shake of his head, ugly features looking up at Kraft; he's beaten and defenseless, but he's still ugly as all hell. "Come on chum, just.. lemme go. I got kids. n' a mom waitin' for me. And my pa's got cancer..", that might not all be entirely true.

A hand on the back of the chair. The slow tip backwards, as weight and momentum begin to cross the threshold. "Bad choice of words, bub." Begins Kraft. Before he'll let go, letting the chair settle back onto all four legs. One hand disappearing into his pocket while the other keeps hold of that deputy, the old borg's footfalls moving away now. "Kiss your mama that she gave you enough brains to remember a damn telephone number, mac. And quit jockeying assholes with guns; One of these days it's gonna end up bad."

He'll do a lot of things for money, but he never did get any joy from cruelty. Leaving the man up and strapped to the roof for now, to vent or pray or whatever the hell he needs to do to get over it. Although he will take a moment to stop by a telephone booth, slide an anonymous cred and make a call.

"Yeah, LS? Hey. Some pervert's got his jockstrap around his ankles and playing 'diddle me this' up on the roof. Think you can get him off? I got kids, brother."

Now he won't freeze to death either. Time to head to the meetup~

INFORMATION GATHERING:

The German is scarfing down a styro-bowl of 'just add water' ramen as the signal comes in from Kraft. Her rounds of the Warrens market have led her to the back of a van where an elf with hate crime scars on the tops of his no longer pointed ears slings pre-packed stuffers and keeps water from five gallon jugs boiling on a small campstove. Gretchen slurps the last few bits of noodles, drinks the broth, then tosses the packaging and a plastic fork in a fire barrel, seeking a place to respond where she's unlikely to be overheard. With her shoulder against the wall in the entrance of a small concrete parking structure she responds with, « I'll pass it along. » She can be heard speaking the phone number aloud ever so quietly as she writes the digits on a tattoo-free space on the inside of her left wrist with a black marker. « I'm still looking into Urlan and Global Tech. I'll be in touch. »

The Souk isn't usually the best place to ask questions about corporate individuals, but a Dwarf working at the tech booth seems to recognize the name, especially when mentioned that he's something to do with a corporate lady. "The only corporate Urlan I know is Urlan Manes, CEO of Global Technologies. I dunno if that's the one you're talking about though.".

Pushing him on this 'Urlan Manes', he continues, "Well, from what I hear he's hard on his staff, but fair to work for. I mean, you know where you stand with him, you know? Good or bad, I'm told you can count on him to do what he says..". Leaning forward, he lowers his voice, "I wouldn't wanna be getting into any tussles with him though, he got in a fight with this Ork? Broke his arm, straight fracture. Snap.", he winces as if feeling it. "Tough omae.".

Gretchen graciously exchanges a carton of Course cigarettes (stay on Course, as they say) and a stack of MREs for the info from the dwarven techie before browsing a number of stalls idly, checking the time in the meanwhile. After rolling around the info on this CEO for a few laps around an island of stalls with knockoff trids and simchips, she texts the gumshoe. « Looks like our next appointment may be linked to Global Tech for what it's worth. »

"Hey, how are things?". Is Tony's first question. He listens to the various questions about information on Urlan and Global Tech, explaining a few things he seems to know. "There's something unusual going on at that company, I mean, they're sitting on the L36 skillchip and haven't declared a dividend in ages. I hear they even scoped out a high powered loan to finish a new project they've been working on; that's not right, that skillchip should have kept them on high for years."

A pause and he continues, "But that isn't all, I heard from a chummer in Ares that Global came in with some 'breakthrough' skillchip, but it must have been too hot 'cause Ares let it pass. So what do they do intead? They take it straight to the UCAS military. Makes me wonder what they've got.". The man taps away at a keyboard while on the phone, "I'll send you a datadump. It should hit your inbox about.. now.".

GLOBAL TECHNOLOGIES, INC
Home Office: Denver FTZ
President/CEO: Urlan Manes

Principal Divisions:
Division Name: Back Door Technologies
Division Head: Roxanne Wunter
Chief Product/Services: Military, commercial, and private skillsofts and memory modules

Division Name: Martelli Entertainment
Division Head: Thomas Martelli
Chief Product/Services: Entertainment simsense modules

Business Profile:
Global Technologies is a rather grandiose name and not at all the truth. Since its inception in 2063, the company has managed to make only modest advances in the highly competitive field of skillsofts. Its only office is located in Denvers FTZ district where 127 employees, mostly deckers, have turned out a series of mostly lackluster products.
Recently, however, the addition of several new employees just graduated has changed the morale, product quality, and focus of the company. Its latest product, the Colt L36-Mark VII, is the premier hand-gun skillsoft in Denver today.
The Entertainment division was recently brought under the corporate umbrella. Once a separate company, it almost went bankrupt from fierce competition by Hollywood Simsense Enterainment before Global bought it up. Urlan Manes hopes to revitalize the division with an influx of Global nuyen.

Security Forces:
Global Technologies maintains no military assets. The numerous guards who work for the company are all hired from Knight Errant Security, a division of Ares Macrotechnology, as needed. Global typically hires security deckers and mages, as well as standard muscle.

Gretchen wires some cred to Marchino then browses the datafile, considering possibilities. She muses over comms, wandering aimlessly through the darkened parking structure. « Data on the J… If he is who the suit claimed, then it sounds like we're meeting with a local CEO… Skillwires, matrix… Rent-a-cop security… »

«Just another mug in this town, sister.» Comes the text-to-speech response a moment later. «Got any pictures on the underlings? Maybe we can get a gam at Blue Eyes as well. If she's someone close, that'll tell us just how careful to the vest they're playing this. Sending a chief instead of some pencil pusher sounds stranger than a slope-brow trying out for the london orchestra.»

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « If I had to make a guess though, this run is probably related to a new chip… »

A quick search of the matrix finds the datadump that was already supplied, but with it are small images of the CEO and Division Heads. Urlan is an American Indian and proud of it, he wears his hair long and dresses in suitably native clothing. The Division Head of Back Door Technologies you have already met; Roxanne Wunter was the woman at the Aurora who offered the job, a beautiful blond who works just as tirelessly on her appearance as she does for Global. Thomas Martelli is a massive and hideous Ork, though he seems to enjoy the corporate lifestyle, wearing elegant suits and capes.

The Sinners don't seem to know anything at all about Global Tech or chips, while Virgil suggests heading to his bar instead of the Rathskellar, there's a better class of person at Dayna's Tavern.

Begrudgingly, Gretchen wires out more 'thanks for nothing' cred to Jem, a narrow-faced Sinner with a penchant for knives and Virgil, the ork whose logic is hard to argue with. Links to the pics are sent out to Kraft and Phisher, along with the comment, « Racial diversity is alive and well at Global Tech, apparently. » The image of Thomas Martelli, the ork who heads the mini-corp's entertainment division is one that Gretchen finds particularly hilarious. Orks in capes.

THE RATHSKELLER:

Halfway between the CAS and the Warrens, the Rathskeller sits in an uncomfortable area; it's not as bad as the Warrens, but it doesn't have the security or footfall of the CAS. The bar itself sits in the middle of a mostly rundown block of old corporate buildings, most of which are little more than three or four floors high. Some of the businesses are still active, others are abandoned, steel shutters covering the windows to keep out squatters.

The Rathskeller itself has also seen better days, the broken neon sign declares that the club is the, 'Rat s eller', an unfortunate dropping of letters that was probably intentional by some gang with a sense of humor. The heavy steel doors out front pull open while muffled music seeps into the street from beneath.

The weather is starting to turn, droplets of rain drop from the overcast sky. It doesn't even class as a shower yet, but it's working up to it. There are several vehicles parked along the street outside the Rathskeller, most have an average price tag, while a few others are in the high corporate range and probably have equally high security attached.

It felt tight. It always felt tight, squeezing that polymimetic face back over his plastic and metal head. But what was the alternative? Walk around looking like the love child of a toaster and Casablanca? Just focus on the future - getting a real face of his own someday. That thought brings a smirk to the dick's face, the false lips illuminated by a dying cherry.

"That's right, mac. Someday I'll be a real boy again." He glances to the mirror, watching the way his own false eyes whirr and refocus, before looking away again - the smirk dying like the sunlight under an incoming Denver rain.

«I'm heading over early, sister. See what's about, maybe get eyes on the big wig showing up.»

Might as well keep the team up to date. The Zephyr's whirring bringing it - not up to the Rath itself, but close enough for a sprint around a few blocks. This time making sure to park on the FTZ side of things. And then it's a walk along the sidewalk, head down to let the drizzle bounce off his fedora as he tries to take in the action from the side..

The street outside is mostly void of life; there's a troll across the road from the bar, close to one of the abandoned corporate buildings, ranting to himself as if he's arguing with someone who isn't there, his clothes are threadbare and dirty, he's no doubt homeless. Near the entrance to the club, one lonely looking elven woman with a much-too-short skirt and cleavage-baring top is perhaps trying to ply her wares, though there's nobody around right now to offer them to. Instead, she pulls out her phone and starts playing around with it for something to do.

Using enhanced hearing, the troll has clearly lost his mind, his ramblings make no sense at all, ".. fraggin' kill you.. next time, I'm gonna.. you wait I'll.. WHAT?! I said it was her but it was me, it was me..", a chuckle, ".. it was me. Where ya goin'? Whadda ya think.. no, no, I'll stop it..".

The elven woman plays with her phone, brings up various matrix apps, decides she's bored with that so brings up her contacts list and selects one of them. Placing the phone to her ear, she moves away from the edge of the street and across to lean against the wall. "Hey Pixie, how you..?", a pause, the woman listening in, "Stop. Who killed who?", another pause as she listens to the other end, "Oh my god, that's horrible!", the conversation continues.

The old 'borg doesn't let his steps halt; That was the good thing about hitting the pavement, letting your legs carry you along at a sedate pace. You had time to think about where you were going next without worrying about the natural gait being interrupted by a sudden change of plans. With the long ribbon of cancer following behind him, Kraft turns towards the club proper. Looking, as it were, to get -inside- that thumping noise chamber and see just how many brain cells he can rattle loose this time.

Damn kids and their damn noise.

The elven woman looks up at Kraft's approach, but is either not interested in bumping uglies with a cyborg or has had a sudden change of heart concerning her career choice. Looking down and away, the woman starts walking off, talking quietly into her phone, "How could someone do that? I knew her, I can't even imagine…"

The doors to the club pull open rather than push in, revealing a narrow hallway with a single window to the side and a steel and wire mesh gate at the end with a single crossbar that can only be opened from the other side. A single human bouncer stands ready to raise the bar, but the Dwarf working behind the window looks at the new arrival expectantly. The music raises slightly upon pulling the doors open, and though it's clear and loud, it isn't too oppressive, especially when compared to the noise at The Aurora. Through the steel and wire mesh can be seen a dirty bar; no dance floor, no stage, this is purely a meeting place. The music is piped into the bar to cover the inhabitants conversations, several large tables are scattered around, surrounded by deep padded vinyl chairs. Several scantily clad waitresses also move around the thin crowd, pausing at tables before moving on.

«Plot» A floorplan: https://www.mipui.net/app/index.html?mid=mt1079bqi6v

«Our man's already got eyes on the place or I'll get a damn toaster built into my thigh, sister. Keep an eye out in an hour or so for some slit in ears and a trog playing 'gid-oudda-here' on his phone like some bad monday night sitcom.»

The old borg transduces, taking a moment to adjust his jacket and shake off the droplets of light, freezing rain. And then it's time to move up to the dwarf, keeping his gaze low under that fedora as he talks. "Evenin', mac. What's the pay to get inside this joint?"

Gretchen has some last minute biz to handle at the little walk-by booze shack she helps with now and again in the heart of the bazaar, so stops in to chat with Barry and his son Wyatt, the proprietors of the B&W to discuss matters briefly. She takes mental notes on what's running low and informs the men that she'll try to arrange to get more synthahol smuggled past the wall in the next few days. She checks the time, and still has a while yet before she needs to head to the Ratseller, so occupies herself with working the bar for ten minutes while Wyatt lugs a few fresh cases of beer in from the rusted step van he and his father live out of. Barry — father dearest — putters around with power tools as usual, putting unnecessary screws into the makeshift supports of the cobbled-together shack as any senile old man is wont to do.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Not surprised. The suits probably rented the whole place for the night. Every patron is probably a plant. I'll keep an eye out. »

The Dwarf looks upwards to Kraft, rubbing a chubby hand through his beard, "First timer, huh?", he ponders. "Well, whatcha got? A couple'a hundred?". He seems serious for a moment, then he chuckles and waves it off, "I'm fraggin' with ya. No charge chum, just drop off ya hardware and my.. colleague here..", a thick thumb pointed to the waiting bouncer, ".. will let you in.".

If the music sounds familiar, it may because they're top selling tunes from last year. There's nothing inspiring about this club, nothing that would draw a crowd like the Aurora, but the people inside likely prefer it that way. There's nobody from the younger generation visible through the mesh, that's for sure.

"Yeah. Usually not my gig, but I've got a birthday to hit." Begins Kraft, before he slips that hand cannon out of his holster; Still had that single gel round in it, so he rotates it just off the hammer. He'd have to pull it six times to fire, but at least now he'll know if anyone screwed around with his weapon. Bullet will be out of place. Handing it over as he leans on the counter, glancing past the bouncer at the end and towards the scantily clads.
"One good thing; Not a lot of kids. Proper women for once, nice and curvy. You get a lot of young corporate hotshots running around in here, bub?"

When the hand cannon is placed down in front of him, the Dwarf looks at it as if there might be some joke attached, but he can't seem to find the humor in it. "Hardware, chum, not pop guns..", he says, sliding the mini cannon away to let the investigator keep it.

His arms come down, resting his weight on his forearms, a more comfortable position for a chat. "Hotshots, not so hot shots, a few major CEO's, some small up and comers.. the corps seem to have taken a shine to this place.". He looks Kraft up and down for a moment, "What 'bout yourself? Not a corper, you must be here meetin' someone, am I right? Some corp bigwig offerin' a payday?"

The hand cannon's tucked away with a sideways smirk, before the old borg laughs quietly. "Yeah, sort of. I'm usually the one running the chores down. I might not look it, mac, but there's some cats out there who got a thing for a tinman." A false eyed wink, before shrugging. "Same sort you get in the Lyve Wyre, you know? They just like being seen all shiney. A man's gotta make a living one way or another."

"Bigwig? Yeah, sort of. In fact, I'll bet you twenty you ain't never seen anyone bigger than mine in here." Just to show he's serious, the old borg draws out a credstick and thumbs up to twenty. A cat-like grin. "Nicky Pipper. CEO of his own start-up, running rampant along the UTE and making his way up towards the top. Man's got a company with a hundred strong employees, and already looking at opening up a second acquisition. Now, tell me none of your paper pushers match that, huh?"

The Dwarf raps the tips of his fingers along the bench he's leaning on, "It ain't policy to be talking 'bout the clientele..", he starts, another tug on his beard, straightening out the curls, a glance at the bouncer standing at the gate with his arms crossed, staring straight back at the Dwarf. They lock eyes for a couple of seconds, but the Dwarf breaks first.

"Yeah, probably ain't wise if I wanna keep the job, ya know?". He thumbs his way toward the gate, the bouncer already moving a hand on the bar, ready to raise it when you approach and let you into the area. "You have a good night, eh chum. Keep the price high n' the danger low.".

Once Barry has the stack of boxes moved in from the van, Gretchen lets him take over bartending once more, which for the B&W, consists almost exclusively of handing off quick shots in plastic to-go cups and cans of beer to marketgoers on the move. It's not a sit-down establishment, it's made to capitalize on the transitory, festival-style nature of the Souk.

Bidding the father and son duo farewell, she treks back to her bike, stowed in a streetside troll-sized coffin compartment down a narrow alley of market stalls, then begins to make her way Rathskeller-ward.

"Huh. Yeah, I guess.. that's probably wise."
A chargrinned old borg tucks his cred back away, having been caught white-handed bragging about his 'client'. He clears his throat, tips the fedora down, and pauses. Reaching up with a hand to touch the behind his ear, where -normal- people get datajacks. "Go for Paulie." He murmurs. ".. Oh. Yeah. I can do that. I've gotta get back before Nick gets here, though. Yeah. … Alright. Give me five, will you? I just got in the place. I want to get something down my throat first."
Still talking to his 'phone', he nods to the bouncer as he heads in. Heading towards the table on the far side, near the office and bar. There to settle in for a few minutes and let some scantily clad number take his order.

Also to look for a good spot to do a little planting on the underside of the table.

Once inside the room, a closer look reveals it to be a little worse than expected. The room is generally unkempt, the smell of stale beer hangs in the air, and your feet stick to a floor that's had several layers of alcohol spilled over it in its lifetime. Most of the furniture is old and patched, though each table does have a white noise generator bolted to the center. There are a few low conversations being held around the room, small groups of people, while three waitresses, the bartender and four bouncers are gathered around the area. One particular large troll stands in front of a closed set of doors, dressed neatly in suit and tie, large arms crossed over his chest.

One of the waitresses moves over to take an order, is all smiles and pleasantries, who leaves and heads up to the bar to claim whatever was asked for. With the white noise and the ambient music, overhearing anything is a chore.

Place might not be so bad after all. Tacky floors, bad booze and loose women. The music could use some work; That old migraine was still making its way back again. Ordering something appropriately dark and hopefully with less cockroaches in it, Kraft gives the slopebrow minding the door a once over from the side of his nose before he'll lean forward. Elbow on the table, fingers pressing behind his ear again. That 'I can't quite hear you so getting lower will help the ambient hammering noise' pose that jackasses the world over attempt.
It'll also give him a chance to sticky that teeny tiny case up under the table, lens towards the entrance. He'll keep that pose for a few minutes, nodding up at the scanty broad's bosom when drinks arrive. And then it's a few sips while he enjoys the 'ambience'. Albeit he's going to be more tone deaf than a slit ear in a re-enactment of ORC's founding.

Back to the Wall, with a capital W, Gretchen slips the Royals another credstick keyed to their current toll and motors through a narrow subterranean passage dug into the basement of an old, unfinished subway station, dodging past piles of refuse and rubble to eventually slip through a gridguide maintenance access point below the CAS sector that somehow 'fell off the grid' in years past. An old service elevator sees her and her bike to the surface, into a warehouse held by a small offshoot group with a loose alliance to the Saints, and therefore the Royals by association. She walks the machine from the lift to a large rolling door under the watchful eye of three hoods with street gear — small-caliber weapons and more bravado than brains — to be let back out into the night. Her engine barks rapid-fire staccattos as she fires it up to weave through alleys and back streets, just a single headlight zipping by between buildings.

The drink wasn't exactly cheap, but it /is/ good, which makes up for the cost. Leaving the camera in place, time ticks onwards. People here keep to themselves or are here to do prearranged business, so nobody wanders over to try and start idle conversation, they conduct their business then move on or sit around to wait for the next appointment to arrive.

It doesn't take long, however, for Kraft to spot something out of the ordinary. Everyone here looks corporate, or perhaps street level fixer, except for the one man sat the very end of the bar, near the tap room door. This ork is straight off the street and nurses a beer that's taking far too long to drink. He makes occasional glances at the entrance when he hears the metal cage rattle, but otherwise keeps to himself.

Like the old song and dance says, 'time to get the hell out of dodge'. … Well, old's relative, and the song's more of a 'budda budda budda' sound than anything else. But it's got a tempo you'll dance too while it's punching shines through your torso. Having done his diligence in making sure he's finished the watered down swill - with a twist of false lips - the old 'borg'll shuffle out of his seat and tap his ear again. "Yeah, yeah, I'm on my way. Just get it ready for pickup, alright? I gotta be back here in time.." False eyes flick to the side, taking time to drag along the thick jawed trog watching the gate like the Renz own gargoyle. Looking for fine details on his way out the door; Out the door, down the street, around the corner and back to the Zephyr. Where he can get hands on that vidlink transmitter with an inducted datajack and watch the door from afar.

«Only a little ways left, sister. Where're you and the kid?»

There's nothing special about the Ork, nothing whatsoever. He's bland, dull, uninteresting, someone to be ignored and avoided; but that's exactly how he wants to play it. The old borg investigator knows a stakeout when he sees one and that's about the best description for what the Ork is doing.

« Incoming. I'm parking a little distance away, walking up. » Gretchen pipes in on comms as she closes the distance, sounding as though she applied her citybreather face mask along the way. « The kid is setting up. I hope. » She crosses imaginary fingers and eases to a crawl, killing her headlight before rounding a corner near the meet location, but out of line of sight.

«Watch your back. Got a stake out inside and two mooks watching the front. I've got eyes on the inside too - but I'm not in there right now. Seeing if Mr. J shows up. … Possible he's already in there. This smells worse than a trog mother cooking up shoes for her litter, between ratfink playing spotter and now this.»

Gretchen wrinkles up her nose and murmurs to herself in German at the disgusting mental image of the goblin supper then replies to Kraft. « Well, we came to do a face to face, so… I'm heading in. I'll keep my eyes peeled. Hopefully it's just business as usual, but… That can get pretty unusual sometimes— forget what I said— except for the heading in part. » Gretchen is more train-of-thought-ing than focusing on the conversation as her mind is too busy conjuring up conspiracy theories. « See you inside. »

She trusses up her bike with an old plastic fern found lying beside a dumpster, then 'city walks,' hands in pockets and head down, around the block toward the bar, eyes peeled for the spotters out front. The dark lenses of her flipshades are down, and behind them she wears her night vision contacts so it balances out maybe.

As the the clock ticks ever closer to 1am, the small spots of rain turn into a light shower that bring more clouds with it, the light from the moon fading into a blur behind the grey above. Before Gretchen arrives and with a little over five minutes to spare, two bright beams of light pierce through the darkness, round the corner toward the Rathskeller. An extremely expensive and extravagent Mitsubshi Nightsky seems to glide through the street and comes to a slow stop outside the club. The doors open and three people leave the vehicle, though the driver remains inside.

Less than a minute after the people leave the car, the video footage appears on Kraft's monitor. The man from The Aurora enters the club first, his katana still strapped across his back, checks the area is clear before waving in Urlan Manes, a large native american man in his thirties or early fourties. He steps toward the camera and past it, out of sight, closely followed by the beautiful blonde Johnson. Another check of the area and the bodyguard follows behind, the three disappearing out of the angle of the camera.

«Blue eyes, J, and McSlasher just went in, doll. I'm taking this time to walk in as well; Watch to your left as you come in. Should be a plain slopejaw watching the door; About as jumpy as a dwarf in a big and tall outfitters. No one else walked in with them yet, or peeled off.»

Comes Kraft's response over the transduced comsystem they've got setup, once he watches the three go in. After a few minutes of waiting to see who else comes in, it's time to tuck away the vidlink and get moving himself. «.. Coming in after you.»

Gretchen hums acknowledgement so as to not move her lips even though she still wears her mask. This reminds her to pull the small nose- and mouth-obscuring breather off before entering, however. She pockets it as she closes the final stretch, eyeing the Nightsky, then taking a deep breath to steel her nerves. Shootouts have occurred in plenty of clubs over the years. She hopes tonight isn't one of those occasions…

At the entrance proper, Gretchen squares up against the door man, still hunkered into herself, head down and shoulders drawn inward as she tugs her beanie from her white hair with a quick grab and tucks it into a pocket. She awaits the normal routine — weapons check, cover charge, etc, with the air of one who does this sort of thing on a very regular basis.

The Dwarf remains at work, waiting for customers to arrive so he can remove any serious hardware from them; heavy pistols are allowed, but anything bigger has to be stored for later retrieval. Once the exchange is complete, the bouncer opens the mesh gate and allows both parties inside.

The inside hasn't changed at all, the crowd is thin but intent on their conversations. Credsticks are exchanged, datachips pushed back and fore, hands up and a shake of the head when the deal goes sour. The waitresses, not having much to do, have also gathered into a small group to chat amongst themselves, though one does glance over at the new arrivals, keeping an eye on them to see if they might eventually need something.

Urlan and friends are nowhere to be seen, though judging by the camera angle they likely approached the closed doors that a large troll is guarding.

Having unbuckled the twin waist belts of her unconventional peacoat in the process of relenquishing her shotgun which is easily of a size to keep in her bag, Gretchen steps in with black shades and black lips, mussed white hair to her collarbones, and a vintage Led Zeppelin tee showing above black jeans and low boots with tapered chunky heels. She scans the room, hands in pockets, bangs wisping over her lenses. She rakes the hair back with an indelicate hand, then approaches the bar, hair now swooping largely to one side at random.

Kraft checks his shoulders as he moves back towards the club proper; No sign of the gabby goober or the slit skirt, so maybe he'll be getting that toaster after all. It pulls a sour frown to his face, although he doesn't make eye contact with the chauffer as he's moving back towards the entrance. Flicking his cancer stick off to the side for now before heading in -
Giving the dwarf his usual upnod and side grin. Taking a moment to let him see the hand cannon again - guy was doing his job. Also because who else is going to be next to all the big hardware but this guy ? Best to keep a grin on his face when crap hit the fan worse than a diarrhea riddled troll-
And finally, into the club proper. And right back to the table he had before, not even looking at Gretchen as he slips into his seat to check time.
«On your rear, dame, and I mean that coordially. Never saw more than three come in on the big man.»

With a squick-squick of footsteps on the sticky floor as Gretchen approaches, the bartender looks up from tending to his bar. Only the Ork still sits there at the far end, though he's just hanging up his phone after a brief call and rising to his feet. The beer is quickly finished, then he pushes it away and starts heading for the door.

"Anything I can get you?", asks the bartender. He's a tired looking man, someone so bored of their job that it appears as if they're just going through the motions so they can eat each day, rather than actually caring.

Gretchen pretty visibly checks the room out over her shoulders as she approaches, then states, "Meeting Urlan…"

Hearing the name, the bartender looks Gretchen up and down curiously, perhaps a look of disbelief behind those bored eyes, but he doesn't care really, he's just paid to check on these people. "Back room..", the bartender says in an uninterested tone, raising a hand to catch the trolls attention before angling one finger down to point at Gretchen. The troll nods in return.

"Enjoy..", he says, with as much sincerity as he can muster, which isn't much.

She smooths her hair into a semi-proper center part before approaching the troll's kneecap.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Troll. » Gretchen addresses the troll as such, but through the miracle of open comms, she sends an indication of her destination to the 'borg. « Danke. »

«Guess that one's going to teach the fat lady to sing.»
Comes the transduced comment, as Kraft takes a moment to slip the tiny micro-camera off the bottom of the table with a slight jerk of his fake wrist. When Gretchen shifts past him, the fedora wearing ol' borg slips out of his seat to follow. Hands finding their way to his pocket, moving to take position behind Gretchen's shoulder. And at the troll's waist. Damn trogs. False lips twist a moment in distaste, but he lets Gretch do the talking for now.

"Mackie.", the troll corrects. He's as large as to be expected for a troll bouncer, but is decked out in the finest clothing; suit, tie, fancy shoes, the whole nine yards. Pushing open the door, he holds it long enough for you both to move inside.

The back bar is much nicer than the front with several tables of higher quality, a large redwood bar against the back wall, while the music is a lot softer in the room. The air is cleaner, the floor polished to a shine. As the door closes behind you, the music cuts out altogether, hinting at soundproofing for the area.

At the bar, sipping some weird foaming blue concoction, is the beautiful Ms. Johnson. Her clothing has changed since The Aurora, a little more casual but still tres chic. Gretchen notes that her hair looks a little tousled and there's a light bruise on the side of her neck. Further down the bar sits the bodyguard, a drink in one hand, the other hand hidden from view.

Noting the arrival of the team, Ms. Johnson rises from her seat and takes two steps forward. "You made it.", she says with a nod, a glance at her watch, "And right on time, too.".

Gretchen tries to present a united front, approaching with Kraft as she is, not glancing in his direction but toward the Johnson and cohort. Neither does she focus on the woman's recent hickey. She does make a gesture of good faith by lifting up the second, darker lenses of her glasses which now protrude from the frames at a forty-five degree angle to reveal her heavily blackened eyes, too much shadow, too much liner. Just right.

Acting as the weight in the room - 'cause every femme fatal twitch needs a hard broiled dick to keep her side of the breathing space stable - Kraft pulls his fingerless gloved hands from his pocket, taking a moment to eyeball Blue's butcher in one corner. Before false eyes swing back to the woman herself; It was tempting to bark out that name, but if there's one thing he knows? It's never show how much you know until it's time to get paid.
"What can we say, Blue? You made an impression. So let's get to brass tacks and fast, so your fans quit hanging around outside the bar." Pressure on. "Where's our Mr. Johnson with the fine, upstanding deed he needs us to perform on his behalf?"

"And straight to business.. I like it.", Ms. Johnson replies, a glance to the bodyguard before she makes a motion with one hand toward the nearby door. "This way please.". The bodyguard, however, is already on the way, moving up to the door to hold it open for the blue eyed beauty and the strangers that follow.

"Fans outside the bar..?", she asks casually as she walks along, seeming genuinely curious about that.

Gretchen simply points an index finger across her chest toward Kraft as he makes the opening gambit, raising her eybrows as if to declare, "What he said."

"Hm? You didn't know?"

Kraft's false eyes slip over to the bodyguard, a single eyebrow lifting. Before he rolls his shoulders in a quizzical shrug. It's all a gambit in the end; Can the Johnson get nervous enough to play ball without being so nervous as to take their ball home? He'll stay on Gretchen's six for now, minding her shoulder while he's checking the side of the room. It also keeps his gaze off that keister of Blue's and firmly locked on business. There still beats a heart - well, whirrs a heart of a man beneath all that plastic. Probably. But dames were trouble, money was trouble, and dames with money were double trouble. Dames with money and guns? Might as well sign out that life insurance, mac, you ain't coming back.

MANES MAN:

"Didn't know what?". Ms. Johnson looks increasingly confused, judging by her sour expression it isn't a situation she likes to be in. Leading you both through the door, you find yourselves in a small room. Inside is a legless vinyl couch and a card table with five straight-backed wooden chairs. A single bare light bulb hangs from the ceiling, while seated on an arm of the couch, next to a white noise generator, sits Urlan Manes, a large native american indian.

Urlan forgoes the usual corporate attire, instead sticking to his culture, wearing a leather jacket with matching fringed breeches and loin cloth. No shirt, instead a bone vest, brightly decorated with colored beads and small feathers. His feet are covered by thick-soled moccasins, intricately designed with hundreds of hand-sewn beads. He flips a switch on the generator as you enter the room, then rises to meet you, a faint relaxing hum coming from the box.

Gretchen idly offers a quiet, "Mr. Manes," in acknowledgement, revealing at the very least that she was aware of his public ventures if not more. She takes obvious, deliberate motion toward one of the assembled chairs, looking between the corpers. Regardless of attire, that's the box she's fitted them into, and there is little that could change her mind on the matter.

Casting a sidelong look at Gretchen, Kraft looks to settle in a cross-fire pattern at corner with the twitchy woman. Who the hell drops the cards on the table when the first hand hadn't even been drawn. Lips twist sourly, but he can't argue with the nuyen she's been bringing in. Leaving Blue to wonder for a moment, the old borg idly begins patting down his pockets again.

"Figured we'd get another run around, Mister Jay.." He says, purposefully avoiding the name 'Manes'. ".. and I was starting to feel like we'd stepped on the carousel. Good to finally meet you in the flesh; So to speak. What's on your mind?"

"Urlan Manes.", the large indian replies to Gretchen, though with a tilt of his head, a show of respect and appreciation that she knows the surname. "Son of Isheer Many-Manes and president of Global Technologies.". A wave of his hand sees the bodyguard leave the room, closing the door behind him, while Urlan takes a seat on the arm of the couch again. "You've already met Roxanne Wunter.", he adds as the beautiful blond moves behind and to the side of him, placing him firmly in charge of proceedings.

He turns his head to Kraft at his question, "We would like to acquire your services for a task. A simple one, perhaps.", he skips over the whole 'run around' that Kraft insinuated. "Last night, a member of my staff assisted several thieves in stealing three data chips from my company. Although the defense was a spirited one, all of the thieves managed to escape.". The large man adjusts his seating before continuing, a momentary break of emotion as he states, "The one who turned against me was like a son. But that is no more."

"Damn shame when blood runs foul."

Sympathizes Kraft, for all its worth. Since they're using real names now, he steeples his hands and purses lips. "You get any footage of the thieves, mac, or got a bio on the man who helped them?" A glance to Gretchen, before those false eyes go back towards Manse.
"And when we find them.." Not if. "… what's the word on your former employee?" Best to get that out of the way up front. IT'll help set a nice round figure for later, and precisely what mindset this big injun was in.

"If you want us to go up against a team that can handle runs on corp facilities…" Gretchen just muses in a moment of silence, looking grim, and leaving her thought unfinished, letting the message of 'this is something of a big request' get written out between the lines.

"As with most of my staff, my employee is a talented decker who ensured that all footage was wiped. We have nothing except eye witness accounts from my security team.". There's nothing on the streets about this at the moment, though if there was then the 'runners wouldn't be very good ones.

"The thieves themselves are of little consequence..", the large man lifting a hand in a 'brush them aside' gesture, "The stolen merchandise, however, is vital. I must have those chips back." From Kraft, he switches to Gretchen at her comment, "I understand the way of the world. The workman.. or woman..", a motion toward Gretchen, ".. is worthy of their wage. I am therefore willing to pay very competitive rates. However, I need those chips delivered here, into Roxanne's hands, no later than 9am Friday.". It's currently Sunday night, which gives you four and a half days.

"That's some fancy footwork your man did, then."

Begins Kraft, reaching into a pocket to pluck out - a pocsec! Tapping a few times with his finger, before simply holding onto it and letting it rest face down against his leg. Resting his chin on the other arm's fist as his gaze flicks between the two.

Only interested in datachips, not the thieves. So it's not revenge and punishment. "Alright, brother. The thieves might be of no consequence.. but I've already got an idea where to start. Just tell me one thing - your witnesses. How did they describe the thieves? Metatype? Tall, short? Leggy like Blue or wide like your man in the corner? We'll chop shop at the 'conveniance' fee for retrievals once we -" A nod to Gretchen and himself "-get a few more details."

Gretchen chimes in with a rattling off of lines that amount to, 'The more we have to work with, the sooner you'll have your chips back.' She tries to ease into the tender topic of 'How good was the security they breached,' among other things in support of Kraft's tentative agreement.

At the questions from both sides about footage and transcripts, Urlan raises a hand to silence the two. It's hard to resist, this man has a feeling of corporate power that street 'runners rarely, if ever, see. "I have limited time, Roxanne will assist you with all your questions. Right now we're making a deal. I'm not about to spill information about my employees and their witness accounts before you sign on the dotted line. Do we understand each other?"

"And so my offer is such; Thirty two thousand five hundred per chip returned, per person. Roxanne tells me you have a third, the deal shall extend to him too. Though I don't understand why he isn't here, I believe it must be a pressing matter so I'll let that slide.".

Gretchen hushes at the man's insistence. And the numbers are a big part of it as well, that can't be denied. She raises an eyebrow to Kraft to see what his assessment of the offer might be, then mutters apologetically about the decker's absence.

"You never leave a man on the outside, Mister Jay?"

Comes the question, using the honorific that Runners have used since time began. Roughly sixty six years ago, give or take. That wry grin crossing his features, before false eyes slip to Roxanne and another lift of an eyebrow. "Funnily enough, I heard you were the man with the knowledge." A roll of the shoulders, and his gaze is back on Urlan.

"Thirty two? Hm. Considering this was enough of a hurry to send a helicopter along for Ms. Blue there, let's aim for a little more cheddar, mac. I've got a lot of rats to feed if you want this done before those chips leave Denver."

The comment about leaving a man outside brings a slight curl at the corner of the mouth, Urlan respects that and nods appreciatively. Though he is a business man and should walk all over Kraft's attempts at securing a better deal, Kraft holds all the cards; Urlan needs a team to do the work and, this close to having one, can't accept them walking out unhappy. "We'll round it at thirty three and I'll pay a thousand if a chip returns damaged, we may be able to pull some data off it still."

"I do ask, however, that this run be accomplished silently. Even a hint of your activities could be disastrous. Due to pressing concerns I will not be able to devote the attention necessary to the project and am, therefore, giving complete control to Roxanne.", the large indian motioning to the beauty at his side. "Deal with her as you would deal with me."

Gretchen's opinion on the CEO shifts ever so slightly toward the better as far as she's concerned. He's still firmly in the 'Corpers - Do Not Trust' category, but he seems up front enough to get shifted ever so slightly nearer the 'One'a the Good Ones' pile. She nods to Manes, then to Wunter as the management responsibilities are passed along down the chain of command — the corporate ladder in action, right before her very eyes.

She also kind of likes his fringe, but still… Corp is as corp does, even if they have some flair.

"The only lead we have right now is the decker, my previous employee. It pains me to say his name is Tee Hee.". Urlan's face shifts between confusion as to why someone would call their kid that, and annoyance for how the person, he considered a son, turned against him. "He's a very bright boy, but for reasons unknown, he helped the thieves. I assume he left with them. An exhaustive search of his apartment was fruitless, as was an examination of his office. I fear he may have gone underground. Roxanne will give you any additional information you might need."

Continuing on while he's on a flow, he adds, "Let me stress two points to you. First, and most importantly, /do not/ attempt to use the chips once you find them.". He stresses that point quite strongly, allows a second for it to sink in, "They are prototypes and have not been sufficiently tested, their use could result in severe permanent neural damage. Secondly, these chips are unique. There are no backups because the thieves trashed the datastore that led to their development. They should not be damaged unless absolutely necessary.".

Treat Blue like he'd treat Manes? .. So find her sleeping with the fishes, take the valuables and call the KE to do their job. Got it. The thought brings a sardonic grin to the old borg's features, but that bit about keeping quiet twinges. Still, the old borg shrugs it off; The redskin's crafty enough that he might not be able to shake the odd details out. Roxanne, though? Ol' Blue's got orders to gab with him and Gretchen. That's a lot of leeway he can step on.

"Not my style to slot the unknown anyways, Mister Jay. I've got enough hardware in my skull as is." And then he tilts his head before pursing his lips. "Alright. I'll need Blue's number - and T.H.'s address." NO way he's saying 'tee hee' outloud. "I've got a lot of questions, but I figure it's time to hit the pavement, get a scent on this. Besides.. all the people following Blue here along the streets, like that ratfink I caught sniffing her tail to the 'copter, I don't think it's best we step too close on each other's shoes."
Let that bombshell sink in. "Now, final thing for you, Mister Jay. Let's say we hit paydirt, but the man's threatening to throw the chips down the 'trix and let all that precious data loose. His fingers on the key, my fingers on the trigger; You want the data destroyed rather than released? It'll never come to that, but best to know up front."

Subconsciously, Gretchen runs fingers through her hair at the mention of testing the chips out personally, which serves to illustrate her distinct lack of jacks. She does look to Manes earnestly with regard to the question about destruction of the data, sharing the sentiment — not going to happen, but best to know the head honcho's thoughts on the matter in plain English (though German would be preferable, but when in Rome…).

"We have everything that may be of interest from Tee's apartment and office here with us. Roxanne will show you what we have. Trust me, our team went over his residences, you will find nothing we haven't already found.", replies Urlan.

At the question about how to proceed should things go rapidly south, he declares, "I would rather the bullet destroy the man's finger, but I shall leave that to you. You know our deal, you know what you receive for damaged goods. I'll leave it to you how you should proceed in such situations.".

Looking from Kraft to Gretchen and back again, he nods, "And I believe our business is concluded, Roxanne shall help you with any requests you may have, but for now..". Then suddenly the door to the room bursts open, interrupting Urlan in mid-sentence. He looks at the open door, Roxanne straightens nervously, slips a hand beneath her jacket.

PARTY CRASHER:

Gretchen scrambles over the card table, dropping to the other side with a twist and a shove to drop the rickety thing onto its side. It's not much, but… Well, there's not really any more to be said about it — it's a toppled-over card table, but Gretchen clings to the far side like her life depends on it, because it very well may…

There's something to be said about being more machine than man at this point; Namely, that something is 'a damn shame'. There were things you could get out of flesh and bone that machines hadn't quite gotten right yet. But on the otherside of that tinman coin was the ability to react a hell of a lot faster than most softies. That big ol' hand cannon is drawn with a rustle of coat, Kraft sinking down in the seat - his fedora tipping forward with the motion - to get his skull out of alignment with whatever's coming next.

There is a moment of silence, nothing but the clatter of a chair as it's knocked over by the sudden shifting of the card table. Then there's a frustrated, yet also relieved, sigh from Urlan as he catches sight of those about to enter the room. A glance to Roxanne and she moves her hand away from beneath her jacket.

Two orks step through the door first, dressed in three piece suits with walking capes thrown over their shoulders. Each carries an Ares Slivergun, resting the weapon in crossed arms. Even though the room is dark, they both wear mirror shades. They move to flank the door as a third ork steps through the door..

You both recognize him from the matrix download; Thomas Martelli. Dressed in the same atire, but noticably larger and taller than the other two, this ork is built like a linebacker. Uglier than most orks, he makes no attempt to conceal his grim features; a pencil sized toothpick is lodged in the side of his mouth.

"Junior..", Urlan says to the ork as he enters the room, a mix of greeting and 'what the hell are you doing?'.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Figure this is what you call a 'hostile takeover', sister? »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Mmmm… » Gretchen growls deep in her throat, a subtle affirmative reply to Kraft's transmission without revealing her thoughts on the matter in so many words. One hand on the edge of the fallen table, she rises slightly, head and shoulders above, holding a small blade near her hip that twinkles with diamond-coated luster. She then speaks to the room, demanding some sort of an explanation. « The fuck is this?! »

While folks are being all cordial and not shooting at each other - for a few seconds - Kraft takes the time to roll his thumb against the cylinder of that heavy duty deputy. Turning his shoulder into the chair so he can keep an eye on the folks -NOT- paying him.. and also to get his feet under him. Mechanical fingers are quick and subtle in their work, hunting out the rattle of ammo and neatly slipping it in while his features are drawn further and further into a grim frown.

Hearing Gretchen's demand, Urlan raises a hand, waves the woman down as if to try and calm her so as not to push the new arrival. But, it's too late, 'Junior' also caught the question. "The fuck is this?", he says, even his voice is ugly, that snarling growl that movie villains try so hard to perfect, but never quite reach. He hasn't quite reached it either. "Yes, Urlan, why don't you tell us what the fuck is this?"

The huge ork steps into the room, leaving the guards at the door, "I wasn't notified of this impromptu company meeting.. I assume this is your 'team'.", his voice include the air quotes.

"I left a message..", Urlan smiles, ".. Perhaps if you'd check your machine from time to time..?".

In her crouch behind the table, Gretchen bobs slightly with each breath, only rapidly taking her eyes from the orks to glance from Kraft's reload to Manes, then back to Martelli. "Etiquette would dictate a call before storming into a closed conference room. But trogs aren't really known for their grace — can't hide green skin behind a cape…" Gretchen drawls this low and quiet, risking it all in the hopes of making Martelli to do something stupid — stupider than he's already done by bursting in.

A slight upward twist of lips as false eyes move aside to Gretchen; Well, looks like twitchy's got some sense after all. Usually -he's- the one mouthing off like that, and some weepy eyed willow crying 'racist' with tears like they'd plugged a garden hose in the back of their skull. The cylinder clicks rapidly as its rolled against his wrist - an age old custom - before he snaps it closed with finality. Letting it droop down beside his knee for the moment, since neither the big Boss nor Ms. Blue are pointing weapons just yet.

"Figured you'd be showing up next, Martelli." comes his drawl, as the private dick bluffs his way. "Your ork out front and your ratfink in the alley eh?"

The large ork chuckles at Gretchen's comment, "Etiquette /would/ dictate a call..", his attention turned swiftly to Urlan, a frown crossing his thick brow, ".. wouldn't you say, Urlan?", his question has a slightly different, but obvious, meaning. Not even looking at Gretchen, his arm raises, a thick finger pointing at the woman directly, "I like this one. Let's hope she proves to be as efficient and loyal as your pet, Tee Hee.".

Urlan reddens noticably at that, Junior's hand dropping back to his side once he notices the rise he was hoping to get from the man. They lock stares for a few moments, then the ork grins and spins away, pulling the pencil sized toothpick from his mouth. "If you decide you need my assistance, well.. you know where to find me.", he tells Urlan.

The comment from Kraft, however, causes the large ork to pause, a slow turn of the head to look at the cyborg with a loaded weapon. The stare this time switches to Kraft, his eyes narrowing, it's obvious he's been caught out but he certainly isn't going to admit it. "You and I..", he starts, pointing a finger from himself to Kraft and back again, ".. we're going to meet again.". His attention switches to his guards, motioning them to the door, "Move.".

Gretchen's posture doesn't shift. She's stuck in an adrenaline feedback loop, her mind constantly playing out a scene of bloody mayhem, narrowed eyes staring at the door, unseeing, while her nostrils flare with every breath.

"Here's looking at you, kid."

Comes the comment from the old borg. What? He's a trog. He's, what, twenties? Suckers are grown men by the time they're thirteen. Damn slopebrows don't live past fourty, mostly - the one good thing they've got. Still, that sardonic grin remains on his face - 'got ya' expression. It was a gamble, but who else would've been hiring joes to follow their partners? Hell, who else'd have an interest? Although that does strike a name off his 'suspects' list for the setup of the theft in the first place.
.. Well, more like blurrs it. Maybe underlines it with a question mark. Grimacing, the cyborg'll wait until thick-as-a-brick has stepped out with his possee before glancing to Urlan.

"You gotta get a better lock, mac."

One of the orks moves first, clearing the path ahead, slowly followed up by Junior who doesn't deem it worthy to glance back. Once he's safely left the room, the third ork moves along behind, closing the door behind him.

"Of course, Junior. I'll be in touch.". Urlan tells the closed door with a hint of sarcasm. With a shake of his head, he turns to face his team, a light sigh to release some tension and perhaps a hint of 'thank fuck he's gone'. "Excuse Junior.. Thomas.. he can be an annoyance, but he's not relevant to our deal." Now standing, he turns to Roxanne, checks that she's not too stressed out by the scene that played out, but she nods and gives the large indian a smile.

Gretchen finally comes to, rising, but still braced for a fight judging by body language. She doesn't close her knife either, but flips it in her palm so that the small blade rises up into her coat sleeve. She shudders as the nerves begin to dissipate, leaving a knot in her stomach. "He's obviously fucking relevant," she begins angrily, but clenches her teeth shut with an audible snap, glaring at Manes.

"Guess that explains your fan club, Blue."
Comes the commentary from Kraft as he pats down his pockets, and makes another face. Damn. Out of bent dogears. You know how long he has to keep a carton tucked down by his waist in order to get that proper soft bur on the papers and the bend that loosens up all the cheap filler? It's a long time. Making a note to buy a carton and just stick a few boxes under his heels or in his back pocket, the cyborg snaps his gaze to Gretchen and then to Urlan.

"She gets twitchy when people slam doors around her. While they're behind her. At a meet. Likes to collect the fingers afterwards." He deadpans, before he finally holsters that hand cannon and goes back to holding onto the pocsec. "Alright. Blue? I'll need your digits and not a damn thing more right now. If 'Junior's not your cause and effect for T.H., then I've a few other spots to run down. As for his effects - you swept 'em with a spook, Mister Jay?" False eyes flick back to Urlan. "I mean a deep down, beads in the hair, bones on the necklace spook? One that'll tell you which way your nose was pointing last tuesday by looking at your pocket book? If not - I'll still need that damn address to do this proper."

You don't trust someone else's work; Especially not in this mixed up and muddled situation. This case had grown hairer than a troll hooker.

HEE WENT THATA WAY:

The large indian places a hand against Roxanne's arm, just for a moment, nods to her reassuringly, then turns back to face his team. The wave of questions, thoughts and comments hit him, but he brushes them aside, "I will leave all this in Roxanne's capable hands. I'm a busy man. My apologies.". He respectfully bows his head, then makes his way to the door. Anything you want is going to have to come from the blue eyed beauty.

"There really was nothing at his apartment.", Roxanne starts, as Urlan shows himself out, "We sent a team to his apartment first thing this morning. It seems he forgot to pay his rent as he was kicked out about two weeks ago. Our personnel entered the apartment but found it hadn't been entered in at least the same amount of time. An extensive search turned up nothing, so we have no idea where he's been sleeping for the past two weeks."

"His office was a little more interesting..", she continues, ".. but Tee was a boy who preferred life inside the Matrix, he had very few personal items."

Gretchen's free hand drifts to her chest where she just so happens to have some bones on a necklace of her own — a sparrow skull to be exact — and she clenches her fingers around it subconcsciously, obscuring sight of the chest banner inked there, reading 'Leap of Faith' in German.

She finally loosens her jaw to murmur through thin black lips to Roxanne after Manes steps out. The CEO obviously isn't running a very tight ship. Perhaps the relaxed dress code should have tipped her off. She reassesses the man's traditional fringe and where she had once appreciated the eccentricity and individuality, she now apparently finds it lacking. "If Martelli isn't already the source of all your woes," she begins, her accent thick thanks to not focusing on her English quite as much as in less stressful moments, "I guarantee you he will prove to be soon enough…"

She takes a deep breath, turns so as to not keep her back to the door, not even a shoulder, but she does right the table to hear Wunter out without leaving the room in shambles.

"It's not personal items I want to see, Blue."

States Kraft, still using his favorite nickname for Wunter. Hands slip inside his jacket pocket as he glances back aside to Gretchen, nodding to Urlan as the big boss moves on out. He purses his lips, before chuckling. "While it's usually the trog in the room, sister, we got to keep our angles open. I've a few other ideas I'll run down - later." A telling glance towards the bodyguard, before he speaks to Wunter again.
"I'm gonna need to see how T.H. thinks. Get in his head a little, to see where he's coming from. Part of that's how he lives, see? So; Digits and address. I'll have a hell of a lot more questions later, and I don't think you'd like some of the places I'm heading, lady."

Having remained at her original spot since Urlan left the room, Roxanne moves from where she's standing to an area behind the couch, lifting up a large plastic cube. "Between you and I..", she starts, replying to Gretchen, the woman carrying the cube toward the now righted table, ".. it wouldn't surprise me. Thomas has always been resentful, ever since his father willed his company over to Global.". She places the box on top of the table, then takes a step back, "It does seem far fetched. It would hurt him as well as Urlan, those chips are set to be a large investment for the company."

Reaching into her coat, the platinum blond beauty pulls out a card, a picture of herself on the front, smiling that pearly white smile, a number on the back, '567-3272'. The card, she offers to Kraft. "I don't want to block your investigation, perhaps you have an eye for things that our team doesn't. His address is 57 Maiden Way, it's an apartment block a few minutes walk from Global offices. Tee..", she starts, trying to frame the words into the most polite light, ".. he was very naive and forgot things constantly when outside the Matrix. Like, how to get to the store, or his way home. I'm surprised he's lived for as long as he has, if I'm honest.".

"Sounds like a dodged bullet for the gene pool, Blue."

Grouses the old borg, as that number whirls into the pocsec - and the card disappears into his lined coat. If he can find their own damn trix kid, maybe he can see about getting a tail on Blue as well. The only one in this joint that's only half suspected is Urlan, and only because he's shelling out a lot of dough to be turning a fake. Reaching down to fiddle with the pocsec with his actual finger for a moment as he frowns. "So this naieve kid who couldn't manage a grocery run without a wetnurse leads three crack thieves into the heart of your building to nab a prototype." A glance up, and an eyebrow raised. "How much you paying your guards, Blue? .. And there's the witnesses as well. What'd they see, that the cameras didn't?"

Meanwhile, the back of his skull whirrs as the transducer nestled down further kicks out lines. «Which one do you want? Office or apartment, sister? We're not gonna find much at the apartment, but maybe one of the neighbors spotted someone wandering the sidewalk over and over, or this boy out of his coffin more often.»

« And don't forget the old saying; If you're getting stabbed in the back, check the ones standing behind you first. Nothing says 'promotion' faster than the CEO losing hold of the company and the second having to take the responsibility upon her shoulders»

After hearing out Wunter, Gretchen looks to Kraft and mutters a single word in lightning-fast German, "…hintergedanken," then licks her teeth behind closed lips, making a strange sort of sneer while shaking her head and staring at the door.

She flips her head back to the others. "The ork has ulterior motives — a vendetta, /something/. I don't think he really gives a shit about GT if he can get the chips for himself, which he's clearly already done, and is flaunting it in your faces right along with his stupid capes…" She presses a palm to her forehead and fumes for a moment before giving Kraft a look. A determined look, but she doesn't reply to his transduced question because she doesn't have the ware to maintain the secrecy he's trying to maintain.

Large blue eyes twinkle with amusement at the comment from Kraft, a brief but musical laugh, "When you put it like that, it does sound terrible, doesn't it?". The woman raises a hand, straightens a few strands of hair, "But Tee.. he's a genius inside the matrix, the real world is a hindrance to someone like him. Not only that, but his design skills are incredible, he's lead the way to several breakthroughs in the area of skillsofts and simsense.". Her hand drops back down, reaching out to the cube, removing the top to show a variety of items stored inside it. "He was working on the inside, he shut down the cameras, he guided the thieves through our array of guards and then he escaped with them.".

Looking to Gretchen she motions to the box, lowering her voice to tell the woman, "This is what we retrieved from his office. This is literally everything.", her tone of voice insinuating the fact that Tee really didn't have much hold to the real world, considering the sparseness of the contents. Hearing her out, Roxanne nods in understanding with Gretchen, "If that's the case, then I hope you uncover enough information to bring that to Urlan and the board of directors.".

Back to Kraft, she tells him, "The security told us, from person to person, that there were three to five thieves.. there were too many conflicting accounts to verify that, but it's between those numbers. At least one took a bullet, a female.. and that they arrived by VTOL, so we're looking at either a rigger or someone with a lot of 'yen to spare.".

While the box and its mysterious contents do indeed intrigue the German girl, she tears her eyes away from it to retreat to the door for a peek out into the back bar area. She keeps her knife at the ready and slips the door open only an inch to get a quick look…

"So here's the real question, Blue;" Begins Kraft, false eyes watching the lady carefully. Focused not on her eyes but on her lips and ears. Watching for those tell tale signs. "Your security gets a look at these mugs - three or five or so - and decides to go back to playing cards instead of taking a shot or two?" Hairier than a troll prostitute? More like hairer than a dwarf house wife in a Nair famine. Although he does spare a glance for Gretchen when she goes to peek out the door. Twitchy, much.

And finally? Finally, it's time to casually open the box. THE BOX. While he waits for answers.

«VTOL. Seems to me that T.H. was good on the wire but bad at real life, sister. Bet we can find some fun footage - from the neighbor's cameras. Most wire-heads forget about them.»

The bar looks the same as when you first entered; the bartender stands behind the bar drying a few glasses, the waitresses patrol the area tending to a small party of guests that sit at their own table, white noise hiding their conversation. The large bodyguard with the katana still waits at the end of the bar, watching the door and taking a glance over when the door opens a touch. Nothing too unusual out there.

"Our security team engaged as soon they knew we were being assaulted.", Roxanne replies. "They reported a mage in the hallway and that's when shots were fired, the woman took a shot in the shoulder but managed to escape through a fire door. Some sort of spell was cast against the door, blocking the security teams pursuit.". Her hands reach behind her, find the edge of the table, fingers delicately resting there as she leans back against it. "Others were spotted and engaged, but they escaped. Anything else I can explain for you?", she asks politely.

The box contains a variety of items; a breadboard, two circuit boards, a miniature toolkit, an electronic toy, several resistors, tickets for something, a disposable lighter, a stack of data chips, a simsense player, a holocube and a package of herbal tea.

Meanwhile, Gretchen tries to put pieces together, assessing the crew that infiltrated GT. She mutters over her shoulder as she peeks out the door. "Flight-capable, trix-capable, corp infiltration-capable…" She turns back, staring daggers due to the lasting effects of the prior intrusion — spiked adrenaline is still running high, and she grips her small blade, holding it fiercely down at her side. "We're up against bad odds," she drawls, heavily accented. "…with very little to work with." She approaches the box now, but tosses another glance toward the door before rummaging.

"A few things later on, doll face, but nothing right now."

States Kraft, glancing once to the holocube and simsense. A lifted eyebrow, before he gathers up the tickets to quietly check them out. A glance up, before he asks simply: "You need a receipt for this, Blue? Otherwise, I've a few things I need to run it through."

With a gentle push, Roxanne raises straight again, tucks her jacket around herself a little more comfortably. "If that's everything, I do have work to do. If there's anything else, you have my number.". With casual steps, she starts moving toward the door, but waves a hand dismissively behind her at Kraft's questions, "They're all yours.".

First on the scene is Gretchen, her herbalist nose picking up the scent of tea! This is genuine organic tea and, lifting it up to get a better look, there's a tag on the front that reads, "Orion's Special Blend.", and underneath in smaller letters, "Orion's Organic Grocery, Denver.". Then in comes Kraft and spots the tickets, two, which are to last weeks urban brawl game, never used. The toy is a cute little female in an anime style that does a dance when activated.

"We'll be in touch," the German mutters to Roxanne, finally snapping her knife shut and pocketing it. "Brawl, anime, tea…" After giving the special blend a quick whiff, (purely reflexively — she gets little from the gesture due to nasal filters tucked up into her sinuses) Gretchen huffs and tosses one of the circuit boards back into the box along with the tea. "You think these are important?" She then pulls out the loose transistors, considering that they could have some specific purpose that she's drawing a blank for.

The breadboard and circuit boards mean very little to either person, though at a guess the circuit boards are likely for a cyberdeck judging from the layout. The resistors are likely part of the boards, a work in progress perhaps. The toolkit is more interesting; it's a complete computer and electronic microtool kit, well used, with an inscription on the case that says, 'Future Good Luck. Flair.'.

The simsense player is a standard model, no modifications, with the chips holding a selection of viewing material, from movies to instructional sims on advanced microelectronics.

Waiting until 'Blue and Crew' have left the scene, Kraft frowns for a moment and nods his head. His thumb tucking up the flap of the kit; Flair. A glance to Gretchen's grip on the tea; Orions Organic Grocery. "Absolutely, sister. These tell us who the kid was dealing with. He didn't pick up his own groceries, yeah? So what's the bum doing hitting an organic shop to pick up teas and get engravings on his microkit? We met a lot of people in the last few hours, doll, and not one of them was named 'Flair'."

He begins, before gesturing to the anime doll. "Years of personal stuff reduced to a box, most of it utility - save for this. So either the kid's a damn big fan of googly eye Sally here, or we've got ourselves another cache. You want the honors, sister? If there's nothing in there, we probably need to find out where all the other gooks that love this show hang their hat at."

"And then there's the cube, and whatever's on there."

Gretchen nods to Kraft, lifting Googly-Eyed Sally, turning it over with a frown and very little regard. As for having the honors…

She nods, then unceremoniously drops Sally to the floor and attempts to crush it underfoot.

*crunch* Poor Sally, she lived a sad life, made to dance at the push of a button. But it's all over now. Her head snaps off, her body crumbles, electronic guts spill out, but sadly no clues spill with them. RIP Googly-Eyed Sally.

The holocube, however, has a series of images that you can flick through with the touch of a button. One after another, holographic photographs pop into view. After the first few it's obvious that they're of a younger Tee, he's always in the center of the image, usually surrounded by friends at college. Eight photographs in all, but one of them is not quite like the other. One features an older, white-haired man, smiling up at the camera from his desk, cyberterminal in hand. The caption reads, 'Dr. Hendrix'. With the professional eye of an investigator, Kraft notes the coffee cup clutched in his hand has the word, 'Flair', imprinted onto the side.

"Huh. Mentor or something?" Gretchen lifts a heeled boot up from the misfortune-cookied remains of Anime Sally like she's just stepped in gum as though to spot any useful bits in the miniature wreckage. The holos are the most immediately rewarding clues of course, and she takes close looks at Tee's face, those of his friends, and Dr. Hendrix, aka Flair, perhaps most of all. "Professor? …father?" She compares features as she thinks back on Urlan's 'like a son' phrase. "You think maybe he died," she says, gesturing to Hendrix, "and Manes took Tee under his wing or something?"

"At this point, he might as well be Santa comin' down the chimney, sister. We've got a good solid thread, but this case ain't cracking with us sitting here."
States Kraft, with a frown, before he tucks everything back into the box. "What bothers me, sister, is the tickets. -Two- tickets to the brawl. For a kid that couldn't wipe his own rear without a wet nap and a wet nurse. I figure either he got sweet on someone who used the poor fool, or he found out a tug feels better in the real world."

"So. Divide and conquer or birds of a feather flock together, doll? We headin' to the same space or we dividing the labor? We got a lot of places to hit up."

While putting the items away, one more small thing is picked up, about to be dropped back into the box, when Kraft notices the disposable lighter has a rather eyecatching pattern. It's a cheap item, but the circuit diagram worked into the body does look nice. Twirling it around, the name 'Breadboard Quaff n' Stuff' is worked into the pattern.

Gretchen seems to disregard the tickets, stating, "He probably tried to use them to get a date and got turned down, didn't want to fly solo." She looks to the detective with a heart of chrome and purses her lips. "I'd rather not risk running into a full crew of these guys on my own if it's all the same to you…" She watches the borg begin to examine the lighter and leans in looking puzzled. "You're supposed to know how to do this gumshoe routine. I trust you. Rather not strike off on a wild hen chase." Did she mistake the word 'goose?' Why, yes, she likely just did.

False lips purse in thought as Kraft's eyes catch the pattern just before dropping it back into the box. A whistle for Gretchen's attention, before he holds up the lighter with a lifted eyebrow. "That's three places our hapless mook kept going too. How much you wanna bet whoever's got face to face time with this T.H. also has his ear?"

Gretchen mouths the name on the lighter, then looks puzzled once more, asking, "…kitchen supply store?"

"No sproken dus, huh?"
States the gumshoe, wryly smirking aside as he butchers crap he's heard on the trideo. The nods into the box, pointing out the practice circuitboard. "Good to learn on. How to wire, how to set up resistors, sister. Deck head was trying to branch out, seems like."

She coughs at the quick idiot's guide to deck hardware and turns slightly to conceal a sheepish expression. "…Ja, of course…" She quickly changes the subject, running a hand through her hair which serves to redistribute the casual messiness of not-quite shoulder-length white from one side of her head to the other. "Apartment, Hendrix, this…" She kneels to collect the head of the dancing action figure to toss it back into the box, followed by the other parts, all a cracked jumble of plastic and electronics now. "So maybe we check the apartment first, slip over to Orion in the hopes of finding whoever delivered groceries to Tee, figure out where the anime fan club hangs out on the trix, and then… Go after the good professor?"

"May not have to worry about the crew; Not if we can turn the kid."
Begins the old borg, running his false thumb across the lighter. "Good a place to start as any. We're also gonna have to make chums with the neighbors around Global; Enough of a chum that they'll let us look at their outside camera footage for the VTOL. Corporations are a bit like STDs in that regard; What one catches, they all do. They'll have eyes on one another's airspace and their own."

The lighter is bounced a couple more times, then tucked into his pocket. Good replacement for that cheap electric one he has. "Good portion of cracking a case is like building a wall; You put up a few flimsy pieces then throw crap at it until it sticks. By the time you're smoothing it down, no one can tell the difference. You got a ride, sister?"

"Motorcycle, mhmm," Gretchen murmurs, nodding as she readies herself to take off, buckling the belt of her peacoat, slipping on gloves and hat. The beanie is tugged tight onto her head, folded just at the top of the frames of her circle-lensed glasses. With everything they'll likely glean from the events here, she's eager to be on her way elsewhere.

"Alright. Grab what you need, and meet me over at the apartment. Get ready to do some gabbing as well - one of us is going to have to shake down any neighbors the kid's got, while the other takes a real hard look at that living space. Cleaned out as it is." The old borg takes up the box, tucking it under an arm as he continues.
"Hope you weren't expecting a full night's sleep either. You'd be depresses how quickly five days slips away."

".. That's what I would be saying if it weren't already 1 AM. Hm. Alright, which part of these mooks is still awake right now?"

"Sleep and I don't see eye to eye much these days," Gretchen says, looking up to the detective with an all too serious expression, sunken eyes surrounded by far too much hastily-applied shadow to help conceal bags, though it may very well serve to emphasize her perpetually low eyelids and reddened whites. As for where to hit first, "Grocery or apartment, I'd say, considering the time."

Unless prevented, Gretchen makes her way from the not-as-secure-as-one-would-hope back room of the Rathskeller out to her bike, keeping comms open with Kraft. She mutters once she steps back out onto the street, « Meet you at the kid's apartment? »

"Apartment first, so we can get a looksie without folks getting too nosy on us. Then the grocery." States the old borg, thoughtfully. "That'll give us time to run down the night shift on the corps around Global, grab a catnap and see about shaking down the kid's neighbors too. Gonna be a busy few days."

And thus, while Gretch the Wretch heads to her bike, the old borg is found making his way back around the block to his Zephyr. That grim expression on his face.

«Sounds good; Expect me to be a little late, sister, I've got to make a smoke stop.»

With the time closing in on 1:40am it's becoming harder to stifle the occasional yawn; unless you're a cyborg who can switch that option off. On your travels you perform a quick trix check on the named locations. Orion's Organic Grocery is a small mom and pop operation near the CAS/Warrens border, a grocery store that features real organic food, none of that soy drek there. The Breadboard is a small tavern three doors away from it on the same block of Cascade Road, which is a side street in a residential neighbourhood.

Despite the late hour, the manager of Tee's old apartment is still mostly awake, he grumbles when forced to shift his fat butt up the stairs to the old room. There really is nothing of interest to be found, it's been cleaned out, checked over and turned upside down by Roxanne's security team. Whatever was there has either been taken or there was nothing there to take in the first place. The neighbours are sleeping, perhaps trying in the morning might be more civilized. Perhaps not.

While on the subject of civilized times, Orion's has a daily opening time from 8 'til 8, while the Breadboard opens at 11am and closes at 1am. Both locations are currently closed.

Giving the apartment manager the soft foot for letting the two odd couple in so late at night, Kraft steps back to the road, adjusting his fedora down as he considers their next move. Briefly plucking a brand new carton of cigs from one pocket - and shuffling it into the rear pocket of his trousers. All the better to get that natural crushing effect.
"Strike one, sister." He states, grousing. "Alright. All we learned is Blue's boys are good at playing house wife. I took a quick look at the two stores - the Breadboard's a tavern, and the grocery place is some hippie commune too good for a proper meat flavored demi-soy. They're also on the same street. Remember what I said about coincidences?" A glance aside. "They're both closed right now. But if you're up for it, I'm gonna take a drive around Global's neighborhood. See if any of the nightshift is bored. That, or give a 'friend' a call to pop their security footage out for us."

Gretchen puts hands to her hips after leaving the apartment to end up back on the street with nothing to show for re-tossing Tee Hee's spartan apartment. She checks the time and looks down the block toward the Breadboard, breath slipping from her breather vents in small puffs of steam. "Could try getting into the pub — give some fake story about leaving my credstick or something, but…" She leaves the idea incomplete, not having much faith in that plan, as trying to lie her way in only to pry for info about an ex-regular probably wouldn't be looked upon very kindly. She instead nods to Kraft with a frown about their fortunes then looks to her bike. She takes a deep breath, mulling things over, then offers, "Sounds like a plan. I'll cruise through there too, to see what I see, and make some calls to ask about Hendrix. He seems important enough to the decker to warrant looking into." She tosses a thumb over her shoulder toward the apartment building just searched fruitlessly.

"Especially personal gifts."

Grumbles the old borg. Seeing as they're pulling an all nighter, Kraft allows that sardonic smirk to cross his features again. "Get a cup of joe warmed up for me while you're there. Figure we'll wrap this by three, just in time to flip on the juice and kick up heels for an hour or so. My 'buds' aren't so happy about being woken up; Need their beauty rest, see?"

With the late hour, traffic is sparse as the city finally sleeps. Except for a few security patrols and some late night revellers returning home, most are in their homes or apartments, wageslaves getting ready for the start of the working week come morning.

Global Technologies sits at the corner of an intersection, though it takes up a wide amount of that corner, a blue neon sign displaying its name, clear doorways at the top of a series of steps. Other small businesses are around the other sides of the intersection; a small software company, a laywers building and a small cafe suitable for the wageslaves who spend most of their time here. While there are security cameras facing outside, most watch the entrance to the buildings rather than the intersection itself.

On Gretchen's circuit of the neighborhood, she calls out a few likely buildings near GT's campus that might have angles on the runner party exiting, but she wasn't able to do any close examination due to trying to keep a low profile, but she offers her suggestions to Kraft as she travels a different route, obeying traffic nice and casual like a good little late night commuter. « There's a cafe, a few small bizzes, one of them might have some decent footage if we're lucky… »

In an effort to not draw any undue attention, she expands her route after making a single lap around, now in search of the nearest twenty-four hour joint — Stuffer Shack or the like. « I'll grab you a cup of kaf. Black? Gotta make a few calls first though. »

«Black and lumpy. Like my soul.»

States Kraft; Despite the emotionless text-to-speech from his transducer rolling through the wire jacked into the back of his skull, one can almost feel the grouse. «I should be able to drink it with a fork by the time they're done, sister. That's how you know it's good.»
A little ways later, having made his own circuit in trying to get a good perspective on Global's world, he'll head towards their destined spot. This time aiming for the parking lot like a normal red-eye joe rather than some kook who keeps parking blocks away to walk in.

«Any word back from the kid? We need a wire head something fierce.»

Over comms, just a few blocks away, Gretchen stirs vanilla creamer into cheap kaf while murmuring and sneaking glances over her shoulder. « He's AWOL, probably fried his brain on the regional grid or stumbled into the wrong triad in Chinatown… » She then pours Kraft's cup, refrains from doctoring it up and seals both with disposable lids. « I'll be here at the Stuffer Shack. Bike's out front, can't miss it. Don't take too long, or the kaf'll go cold. »

Following that, she swaps to her phone and steps outside, balancing both styrocups on the dash of her Triumph between the handlebars, leaning them ever so slightly against the dials and gauges where they sit with some support as opposed to being balanced precariously. She tries getting ahold of Phisher one final time before swearing in German under her breath and opting for the Latino tech-slinger from the Souk…

The Stuffer Shack has seen enough customers for one day, as has the young woman who works behind the counter if her bored face is anything to go by. She's lazily chewing on gum, blowing out pink bubbles that snap back with a pop only to be chewed up again. Elbow rests on the counter, chin on her hand. At least she has some company here, a security guard also looking bored and restless near the exit. Soykafs are handed out with disinterest and the girl switches her attention to the trid monitor, meant for customers but a bored girl working the night shift has to have something to do.

".. the brutality of the murder has Lone Star sending undercover operatives into the..", the news reporter has time to say, before the teen points the remote at it to find something more interesting to watch. It ends up being some bouncy electro-pop tune that sits neatly between catchy and plain irritating.

The alias TightFist is usually spoken about in the shadows as a man worth working with in the physical realm. Someone able to move in and out of secure facilites and restricted parts of the metroplex with the ease of someone who belongs there. More recently, the name has started appearing in the Nexus and other local matrix hosts as a competent researcher who can discretely deliver actionable results on expedited timelines.

The communications protocol is simple enough to be useable, but complex enough to deter casual intercepts. A call to a burner phone is enough to put Hek in possession of Gretchen's number. A few minutes later, he has relayed his cyberdeck feed up through a satellite constellation and back down into the Denver RTG. With the aid of a couple basic utilities, Hek puts through a call to her comm, wrapped up in a layer of moderately complex encryption.

« TightFist: My time is your time. What can I do for you? »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « (As phone) Gretchen clears her throat and tries to enunciate slightly better than her lazy German drawl as she connects with TightFist's comm utility. « Might have some freelance if you're taking projects right now… » She sips her coffee, having removed her breather, and relishes the flavor and the feel of the caffeine hitting her system as she chats. She gives the basic details without naming names or any potentially incriminating terminology before concluding with, « We could really use another pair of eyes on this one. Global's offering decent pay, but it's a pretty short window… » »

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « Understood. Do you need me on site? »

Gretchen keeps her voice hushed, even starting up the engine of her bike to let it idle, serving as a touch of white noise to cover the discussion from any passersby who may drift into the Stuffer for a late night snack.

Using her cup to block any potential viewers from reading her lips while she chats with TightFist, she offers five grand up front for the research, speaking just loud enough to be heard over the rumbling of her bike. She eyes the public terminal just outside the Stuffer Shack and assures that she can make the transfer the moment they end the call.

Gretchen breathes a sigh of relief that she tries not to show, but the extended cloud of breath-steam in the latenight air betrays her attempt at concealing her mood. Once the call is complete and basic details are relayed, she hangs up, shuts her bike off once again and pantomimes a moment of sheepish 'duh' confusion for the cameras, as though she forgot something of critical importance which she corrects by heading to the public term to transfer over a nice little bundle of yen for TightFist, from fake account to fake account, easy as pie. Following this she resumes her vigil for the cyborg private eye, sipping her flavored kaf and puffing on a Course brand nicostick. Stay on Course, as they say.

The German follows up the credit transfer with a data transfer from the pocsec itself, filling in a few of the gaps data-wise, that she didn't want to speak aloud, so that the techie has a few more tidbits of info to work with in his datasearch.

It's 'round about this time a certain cybernetic dick comes walking back into Gretchen's life, sans his usual dogeared smoke. Those are still getting nice and softened in his back pocket, between his many sit downs and stand ups. It takes a while to get that proper loose roll, somewhere between 'about to fall into pieces' and 'lets all the good flavor out'. Damn machines always roll them too tight, and he's too much of a fan of classics to go rolling his own like some damn Shaman park hippie.

Which just means the old borgs going to be griping more than usual, catching sight of Gretchen coming back from the terminal. "Someone's been busy?" He asks, curiously.

Hek finds himself spending more and more time in the matrix these days. His avatar manifests as a dark skinned peasant from ancient China who dresses in the traditional tunic and pants. Of course his is black, with the wide white cuffs favored by Sifu's since time long past. With his connection routed out of a warehouse on the northern edge of the Warrens and up into the satellite constellations, the reality filter in his deck transforms the Denver RTG into an expansive country sprawling out beneath the mountain peaks where he works in a small, simple shack.

The nearly autonomous frame core takes the form of a comely woman, able to discretely gossip and move about the matrix. Over the course of many hours, she makes many trips up and down the mountain to bring tidbits of information for Hek to browse through. He filters the signal from the noise, extracting pieces of information here and there, and weaving them into comprehensive "go to" on Hendrix.

Even the most skilled operatives cannot not leave some trace of their passing through the digital, always connected society. Those traces are what Hek packs together into a comprehensive, indexed file for Gretchen and the team. A file encrypted with a complex pass phrase and passed along to Gretchen through a public terminal. A terminal whose access logs fail to record the connection, the transfer, or anything at all about Gretchen's use of it.

ENCOUNTER 1:

The hours start to roll by, the morning sunlight trying to push through the cloud cover overheard. While Gretchen sits on her bike, so the world comes to life, more vehicles starting their commute from home to the office, the Stuffer Shack becoming more populated as the early risers search for a soykaf and a twinkie to stem the hunger of that missed breakfast.

Hearing it from a distance at first, Kraft most likely with his enhanced hearing, three heavily armed go-gangers rumble along the road, weaving in and out of the light traffic. They must be either brave or stupid, they're way off turf and in the heart of enemy territory, but there doesn't seem to be any rush or panic on these three. The group rumble past the Stuffer Shack and continue along the road, before turning a corner where you lose sight of them.

In the meantime, Gretchen fills Kraft in on the details of her exchange with an as-yet-unnamed contact, with the promise of some further info. Perhaps taking refuge in his economy vehicle to discuss matters and get out of the wind chill while they wait out the sunrise.

With the area being so close to the Warrens, security here is light at best, an occasional Lone Star sweep is all you're likely to see unless things turn violent. The go-gang were the Blood Rumblers, but this is Crimson Court territory, another go-gang that patrols the area to act as 'security' while Lone Star are busy arresting people for littering.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Blood Rumblers in the Crimson Court… Lots of red… »

With a quiet whirr, the zephyr starts up. Kraft sitting up from his slouched position, nursing the cold cup of stimulants and sluggish dirty water. He sighs, adjusting the hat atop his bald head and making sure the polymimetic mask hadn't sliipped too much from the plastic planes behind it.

"Might as well see what a bunch of suicidal gooks are up too, sister; Better than watching the grass grow while we wait for eight." Pulling out of his parking spot, and keeping the lights off for now, Kraft intends to follow the rumbling motorcade - although keeping straight at first, in case it's one of those 'shoot first, shoot second, shoot third, then ask questions' situations before turning in. Better to cruise by and get a look down the straight way before turning in.


Subject: Dr. Alex Hendrix
Alias(es): Flair
Employment History (Past): Professor, Computer Science (Denver University)
Residential History:
- Mile High Condominiums (Owner / Former / Sold)
- Mountain Vista Apartment Homes (Tenant / Former)
- Campus Housing, Denver University (Tenant / Former)

Analysis: The matrix persona known as Flair controlled by Dr. Alex Hendrix. Flair has been active on the matrix for decades, though his access has been sporadic as late. Similarly, Dr. Hendrix's digital presence shows a tapering off over recent years. At this time, there are no records of any financial transactions, residential contracts or other traces normally associated with an active SIN for Dr. Alex Hendrix.

Analysis (Speculation): Dr. Hendrix has either transitioned onto another SIN, or is actively working to obfuscate any traces of his life. Not knowing the extent of Dr. Hendrix's capabilities, it is possible that he is working with additional parties to conceal his whereabouts or obtain alternate SIN registrations.


Gretchen hits the remote security trigger on her bike as she and the gumshoe pull out of the lot in pursuit of the Rumblers. <BwoopBwoop> Shock and anti-theft activate, and she slips a bit lower in her seat, equally curious about the clear invasion of turf going on before their very eyes. "Bad news bears—" She gasps in surprise as her phone vibes in her pocket — "Decker came through! Let's see…" She begins sifting through the data. "Hendrix… Comp sci, sure," she shrugs, listing off the info as Kraft drives. "…no current residence, s'weird… Sporadic trix presence… No SIN activity… He's gone underground… Coincide-"

Information comes flowing in as the vehicles take to the road, Dr. Hendix is trying to conceal his whereabouts, or perhaps someone else is. Managing to avoid the morning traffic, the vehicles turn the corner to follow the path of the bikers. The bikers are a few blocks over and have actually stopped alongside a couple of the Crimson Court go-gangers. Weapons are out, but it's noticeably calm for now, especially when you consider they're in the heart of enemy territory. The group exchange words, the Rumblers slide their weapons away, show their hands, exchange a few more words. The only thing Kraft can pick up with his enhanced hearing as they draw close enough is, "Consider it.", and the Rumblers start moving again. Oddly, the Court gangers don't try and run them down.

-ence!" Gretchen reflexively reaches for the 'oh shit' handle above the passenger window, startled from her perusal of the datafile on Hendrix with a yelp. As they pass the scene of uncharacteristic biker diplomacy, she slinks even lower in her seat, only glasses and beanie above the edge of the door, angling to get a glimpse of the scene.

"'Consider it'…? Too many damn threads in this case, sister. What the hell did we step into this time?"

Grouses the old borg, before shaking his head. "Alright. Mark that one down on the pocsec; Two go-gangers having a friendly conversation rather than shooting each other up like a couple of trogs playing darts. Right on the same damn street. Don't know if it's even related or just another bit of Queen City flashing her ankles at us."

Taking the next side street so as to not present a tempting target, Kraft settles down in a grouse. "Alright. Let's hit the grocer, flash a few images and see who remembers T.H. That, or this Flair guy. Damn well expensive thing, looking to move into a new SIN. If our genepool ducking gook's got a soft spot for an old professor, figure it'd be pretty damn easy to convince him to do just about anything."

Gretchen whips her hat off once the vehicle comes to a stop, musses up her white hair in anxiety, then futilely tries to smooth it back down before replacing the black knit hat with a firm pull that forces her glasses a little down the bridge of her nose."Jesus. At least they weren't opening fire in rushhour traffic. But…" She recovers her 1980s wannabe iphone from where it slid behind her in the seat during the evasive manoeuvres, then does a simultaneous headshake and nod as if to say, 'nope,' and 'yep,' at the same time."He ducked out. Bounced. Skipped town. Beat feet. Flair's on the lam…" She turns to look to Kraft in the elevated rearward driver's seat, twisting. "That's… maybe good…" She seems very unsure if that will truly be helpful, but is trying to look at different angles."

The Court go-gangers move on after a few moments, engines rev loudly and wheels squeal as they spin the bikes around and head off deeper into their turf. The traffic continues to grow as the time ticks on, now past 7:30am the morning commute is in full swing.

Hek puts a comm call through to Gretchen, trusting the encryption on the channel and the brevity of the communication to obfuscate the exchange of information. "Sifted some additional gems out of the data stream. Your guy has been spotted at the Breadboard Quaff n' Stuff, a known decker hang out. Also, heard that he might be subcontracting his talents out to Hollywood Simsense Entertainment. He also has tickets to a party that they are throwing this coming Tuesday."

"Call him mint jelly, 'cause he's on the lam."

Grumbles the old borg, as he sedately manuevers along a winding path back to where they came from. While he's not privy to Gretchen's conversation, the old borg can't help but turn his head, letting hearing amps do the work while he finds a place to park.
"Thirty minutes to kill, sister. Care to take a walk along the back and pick out a good running spot?"

Through one of myriad miracles of the matrix age, Gretchen receives the deets from TightFist and rattles the items off as quick as Hek can synthesize the spoken words. "Breadboard," she says, thumbing over her shoulder in no particular direction. "Simsense..? Party on Tuesday…" She flips up the dark lenses of her glasses on their little hinges to reveal the bifocals beneath. "He doesn't seem to make much use of free tickets from what I've seen." She thinks to herself that an urban brawl opportunity shouldn't be squandered, not a simsense party. Her eyes dart to Kraft, then out along the street as they walk, then into the nooks and crannies of the alleys and serviceways. Rooftops as well.

"If I was gonna try something…" Gretchen mutters to herself, forgetting about the phone as she responds to Kraft's words by trying to spot the places that allowed the best mobility. "Shit. Sorry. Danke. Thanks for the update. I owe you. Anything else you can find, please keep it coming."

"Those tickets are another thread anyways, sister. We figure out who bought them and -why-. This gook didn't care for the physical, all lost in la la land; So why bother keeping tickets to a game he never went too?"

Grouses the old borg as they take a trek around the back of the grocer. His own false eyes swinging up as well; He knew the value of getting atop of things more than most flatshoes, considering his various tools. Go go Inspector Kraft-it. Besides, they had about less than half an hour to kill. Might as well see who was around the back end of the organic shop.

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