Dreamchipper Part 2 (1 of 2)

GM: TRISTA
Players: GRETCHEN, KRAFT, HEK, LAZ (CAMEO).
Synopsis: Here the 'runners have managed to track down some leads to point them to Cascade Road, where Flair is rumored to be hiding out somewhere. They talk to a store owner and then settle down to wait. Spotting Flair they follow him to his apartment and find Tee holed up. After questioning the pair they start gathering information from their contacts, Gretchen finds herself in the middle of a drive-by, and they eventually hear of Freya being in a Warrens streetdocs. Heading over there, they find the last details from her while outside the serial killer roaming the Warrens strikes again, this time it's someone Gretchen knows from a previous plot (Them). Swearing revenge the team travel to the Rathskeller to meet up with the Johnson, but are ambushed by Junior inside as he tries to put a stop to their meddling and claim Global for himself.
Date: 7th March 2078


Dreamchipper - Part 2

INFORMATION FROM HEK:

Even on the edge of the Warrens, there are still functioning data terminals. They are no easier or more difficult to crack than those in the FTZ core. And so Hek is able to provide additional data to Gretchen. A data transfer that never happened, as far as the terminal and anyone reviewing the audit logs is concerned.

The decker known as Tee Hee also studied computer science at Denver University. An intellectual stand out and brilliantly high achiever, he suffered with few friends as all too many highly intelligent people tend to do. Despite that, he manages to keep in touch with his old professor, Dr. Hendrix.

Given an extremely generous employment offer from Aztechnology, many people were surprised when he accepted a position with Global Technologies. The bet paid off and due in large part to his contributions, the company has become a leader in their market.

Though brilliant when jacked into the matrix, outside of it he has troubles functioning. Unfocused to the point of not being sure where he is at times. This likely contributed to his lease lapsing due to lack of payment for his apartment near Global Technologies. He has not been seen since, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

CASCADE ROAD:

Cascade Road. It's another place close to the CAS/Warrens border, though the actual border crossing is a couple of miles north from your present location. The area is as you would come to expect from being so close to the wall; it's rough, dirty and barely protected, with a few homeless scattered around the area for good measure. The Breadboard is toward the end of the side street, while Orion's is on the other side of the street and mid-way up. Both are starting to come to life, with the door to Orion's already open, a small, gray haired lady visible through the opening, shuffling around the store and getting things ready for custom. The Breadboard is still closed and shuttered but some light shines through the gaps in the shutters.

The buildings on Cascade Road aren't too tall, most are two or three stories at most, with the odd apartment building rising higher. They all have the typical flat roof with fire escapes, a place to watch the road from on high. Or if a lower vantage point is needed, there are plenty of other stores or doorways to use. Perhaps a seat in the local cafe next to the window; there's a fresh supply of soykaf and faux-cherry cakes. There are also alleyways leading to the back of businesses, where the trash is dumped and collected and several homeless are usually scouring for pickings.

Gretchen slows as they begin to trek down the side of the grocery, gazing out at the surroundings in thought, trying to relate everything in terms of geometry.

The German mutters to herself as she and Kraft walk, turning her head as though trying to check every angle at once. "…if I were going to try something…" She says this in reference to the team's infiltration of GT. "…alleys, rooftops, spotter in the cafe or a hijacked camera…" She's reciting a lot of previously discussed info, and doesn't mind — this is her process. "We need to talk to Wunter, ask which direction the VTOL evacced to pick the right camera feed." She rolls her eyes in thought, biting her lower lip as she does memory 'inventory' of the public cameras she spotted in her circuit of the area beforehand.

"We're a ways away from Global Tech here, sister. I'm not worried about spotters - I'm worried about runners. Doubt the whirly bird ran this way; But there might be a few mooks here we can put the screws on. Someone's gonna talk, it's just a matter of finding the right levers to twist. Now keep your peepers and ears open for a number that looks nervous when we start flashing T.H.'s photo - and Flair's as well. They take a dive out the window, we need to have a good idea which way they want to run."

Kraft checks his pocsec one last time, before finally moving towards the front of the organic store. "Got a fun alias, dame? Otherwise, this is gonna involve a lot of tap dancing."

Gretchen murmurs, "…Sally will do…" She's too preoccupied with thinking about the GT raid, seeing invisible monsters at the periphery of her sight and fighting through her perpetual exhaustion which, at this point in her life is just the natural state of being. She does diligently keep those smoky-eyed peepers out for conventional and unconventional escape routes though, that's a deeply ingrained habit.

From inside Orion's Organic Grocery comes the sound of singing; it's not good singing, it's the voice of an old lady who's popped too many happy pills this morning. ".. and we dance, dance, dance.. mmhmm.. hmm..", she hums to herself. A quick glance in and she's even trying to dance around her mop as she cleans the floors.

Taking a moment to rub his hand over his face - and make sure the 'polite' polymimetcs are still in place, the old borg reaches up to knock on the door. Getting rid of his usual smirk for something a bit more natural.

'You open?' He mouths.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « When we get in, you want the biddy or you want to peek at the back of the shop to see who else is around? »

Hearing the knock, the woman stops trying to dance with her mop and looks over at the door. The little old grey haired lady tries to straighten up, but has one of those permanent hunches, so shuffles her way over to the door and pulls it open. "Well hello there dear.", she says in her perfect grandma voice, "Of course, come in, come in..", the woman pushing the door wide, causing it to hit a little buzzer that sounds in the store to alert the workers that someone is entering.

The lady straightens a few wisps of grey hair, rests her mop against the wall, wipes her hands on her top, then motions in to the shop, "What were you looking for? We have vegetables toward the back. Our carrots are fresh in today.".

Gretchen leans into the shopping ruse and puts on her best 'trying to get some shopping done because this is the only time I'll have to spare on it today' face. It's a far less complex ruse than the description would imply, based on word count — she simply consults her phone for the time, looks to the woman, then presses her black lips into a thin line of pretend impatience.

Kraft's knock draws the woman to the door, and Gretchen enters right along with, occupying herself with checking out the 'spontaneous purchase' racks near the checkout lanes, but grips her phone in her pocket in order to present the 'have you seen this man' spiel if the dick doesn't go there first.

Upon entering the store, the scents from the organic produce are immediately obvious. The store itself has two caged checkout registers near the exit, while further inside are four long isles of canned goods and a small section of organic products that give the shop its name. The smells originate from that area.

"Carrots? Heard they were good for your eyes. Listen, is your mother or older sister about? I've got a pretty serious tea issue here."
Yes, it was a horrible line to try on the old granny. But the slight upward twist of lips shows its all harmless fun, right? Getting down to business, the old borg clears his throat.

"I've a friend that's a bit of wire head, ma'am, and the guy's got stress out the wazoo. Buddy of mine told me he was in the same position, got something called … hm. Something something blend. Honestly speaking? I'm not even sure what it was called, but said it cured what ailed. Got any ideas?"

Just paving the way to a conversation, that's all. Even while that transducer kicks in, a silent communique right down the wire from the back of his skull, hidden between collar and fedora.

«Think you can wiggle some details out of this lady, see who's been picking up tea? If you can, I'll mosey on towards the back to pick up our 'blend'. Otherwise, might check the back of the store, see who else is on duty. Maybe we'll get lucky - ha! - and find out they've got something besides a mongrel and an old latch for security, sister.»

The old lady gives a motherly laugh at Kraft's comment, "Oh you..", she says, placing a hand to his arm before moving it away just as quickly, ".. my husband would tan your hide if he heard you.". Turning slowly, she starts pacing toward the organic section of the store, still talking to Kraft along the way. She doesn't look back, just assumes he's following, "Mind you, he doesn't hear so well these days.".

The woman passes her bucket along the way, points it out, "Watch you don't trip.", and on she goes to the organic area. "You're probably looking for our special blend. Everyone around here /loves/ our special blend, it sells out just as fast as we can get it, but for you I might have one hidden away.". She stops at the organic display; packets of potatoes, carrots, fresh fruit and other vegetables, rubs the little grey hairs sprouting from the end of her chin. "Hmm, now where did I put it..", she ponders to herself.

Gretchen drifts over to Kraft at the transduced question with a hint of a 'nod to self' as though approving of a package of authentic (if genetically engineered) dried mango at an exorbitant price. She carries this with her from this point on. In fact she grabs a second one for good measure. Furthermore, she refrains from pulling out the torn tea label, instead opting to ask about Tee Hee's appearance. "Maybe you know our friend? We just want to make sure we get him the right tea. About yea high," she offers, raising a hand, at which point she describes his more prominent features and concludes with, "…kind of a stressed-out dork?" Like you do.

"Worth every stripe, ma'am."
States Kraft, with the slow grin. Keeping the light respect due to someone who's managed to grow grey in the Queen City - without being plugged - he keeps his hands in his pocket as he moves along after the old broad. Patience was a virtue - one of the few he hadn't drunk out yet. "Sorry to hear the troubles he's having. Had my hearing busted out too, so I know the feeling."

A snap of the fingers. "That was it. Orion's Special Blend." And then Gretchen joins in. Kraft nodding aside to her, reaching up to catch his chin in between thumb and forefinger. "Yeah, sister's got a point. We're swinging by to visit - cold weather, ain't it? - and figured we'd do him a solid. Best to get it right the first time, doll." A clap of the hands.
"Heh. Prattling like a choir boy after church; Never caught your name?" Sneaking suspicions are like that; They creep up on you.

Not spotting where she stashed the tea, the old lady turns around to face the shelving behind her, ".. maybe over here..?", she ponders, until Gretchen pops up out of nowhere. "Oh hello dear.", she says politely, then looks from Gretchen to Kraft and back again, "You're together? You do make a cute couple.", she adds.

Listening to the description of Tee, she shakes her head unknowingly, "That could be anyone, my love. We have so many strange young boys around here nowadays, with the tavern along the road there..". A tiny step closer, lowering her voice. Or she thinks she's lowering her voice, but it just changes tone slightly, "They do that computer magic with the things in their heads.", a tap of a finger where a datajack might be, "Strange boys they are."

"Miriam..", her response to Kraft.

Gretchen nods in confidence to Miriam at the computer magic, muttering, "I don't trust it either." She then looks to Kraft, the plastic-faced cyborg with a heart of chrome. "…do I dear?"

"Hansel."
A hand held out, before a thumb is flicked to Gretchen. "Gretel. Half siblings, actually, though I'm sure she appreciates the compliment, Miriam." A sideways grin to Gretchen, a hearty chuckle at her 'do I dear' comment. See? Sibling teasing. And then he nods conspiracy like. "Oh don't I know it. Gives me the darn shivers, pardon my french, thinking on them boys running up and down the wires. 'Course, it's not all young souls; Sister here had a professor who worked Denver U, ran a course all about those wires and finnangles. What was your professor's name again, Gretel?" A glance to Gretchen, and a raised eyebrow as he nods towards the womans' pocsec.

The use of 'dear' was obviously sarcastic… Gretchen clears her throat to recover from the convolution of lies and pipes up with, "Hendrix. He was way into cyber, but…" She grimaces and rolls her eyes to reinforce her feigned mistrust of the unknown miracles of modern technology, leaving her statement unfinished because siding with Miriam was the entire purpose for her speaking up, and an incomplete comment serves that purpose just as well, if not better than an overly elaborate explanation.

Gretchen then picks up an apple and begins to eat it on the spot.

The Ford Americar is ubiquitous on the streets of North America, and even the security version that Hek drives with obvious armor is not all that uncommon. Summoned to lend a hand, Hek is more than happy to find himself parking the vehicle there roughly equidistant between the market and the decker hang out. Having put together a basic disguise to look like 'not-Hek', he remains in the car after shutting off the engine.

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « I am on site out here on the street. »

The door labelled 'Private' opens and a grumpy looking man slowly walks out, he's balding with grey tufts on the side of his head, wearing clothing that are 30 years out of style. He mutters to himself as he shuffles his way toward the checkout registers.

Miriam, however, pays him no attention, she's given him plenty over the years. "Hansel and Gretel. Just like the story? How strange.", she says, a hand going to her back, rubbing the permanent hump. Her attention goes from one to the other as they talk, then to Gretchen. "Hendrix, you say? No. No, no Hendrix that I know here. Arthur?", she peers over at the old yet new arrival, "ARTHUR!", she tries again, which gets a grumble and a peer from the old man, "What is it woman?", he grumbles, Miriam asking, "Do you know a Hendrix?", "A what?", "A HENDRIX!", she calls. He just grumbles and waves his hand in her direction, continuing his slow shuffle toward the checkout desk.

"Yep. Old names in Germany, grimm or no. 'Course, I was born and raised right here on good soil in the Queen City. Can't say the same for sister here.." Kraft glances aside as Arthur walks out, pursing false lips briefly. And then it's back to talking to Miriam. "Tell you what; Might ought to pick some up for him as well. Maybe. Hm. Sis, you got a picture of your professor?"
And then to Miriam. "Figure you seem like a pretty sharp cookie, ma'am, if you pardon my assumption. You get a lot of young ones drinking - you think this fellow'd like it too?" And he's waiting for Gretchen to show her hand.

Gretchen continues to chomp on her apple without a seeming care in the world — no regard for the general etiquette of pay before eating — then bites into it to hold it hands-free. She pulls her pocsec out and reviews the data on Hendrix really quick to recall his first name. She's rapidly gathering up too many items to manage, what with the mango, apple and now phone, which she keeps angled away from the elderly woman until the picture is requested. She flips to a pic of Dr. Alex Hendrix and holds it out to Miriam, falsely smiling black lips behind the apple gripped in her teeth.

The old woman is onto Gretchen; how could she not be, she's eating an apple right in front of her. It's all being clocked, registered and tucked away inside her decades old skull. Peering in closely at the holographic image of Dr. Hendrix, there's not a pause to put the image into processing, it's instant recognition, "That's your Hendrix? Oh no dear, we know him as Flair around here. Funny old man he is, I think he..", looks over at her husband, lowers her voice, as if she needs to with his hearing, ".. he has a crush on me.", then her voice is back up to normal. "He's in here every day, always carrying that silly rucksack. He still thinks he's eighteen, I swear it.".

Over at the counter, old Arthur almost creaks as he bends down to beneath the counter, pulling up a shotgun and placing it down in front of him. Another creak and he goes down for some ammunition too, placing the box to one side so he can start loading the weapon. Shaky fingers makes it a tiresome task. "Ah, here it is.", Miriam finally says, picking out the pack of special blend she'd been keeping, stored behind a selection of cans. "Flair does like his tea.".

Kraft lifts eyebrows, then rubs his hand over his face. "… Pay first, -then- eat. They can't get the weight right otherwise, Gretel. This isn't Stuffer shack, show a little respect." Grouses the older borg, eyes drifting over to where Arthur's slowly loading a shotgun. Well. That's not going to end well. Finger itch, but there's still time to duck. Or pull. And then his attention's back to the old woman when she's pulling cans, letting his hands drift out of his pockets at last.
"Got enough for a few days?"

«Paying out for your fruit'll put you closer to the old geezer anyways. Where that clipper can't swing.»

Down the confectionery aisle, a rather tall and bulky First Nations gentleman holds a biodegradable shopping bag looped through and hanging from his elbow, arm tucked tight against his body to hold a brass-topped cane in place under his armpit, just about, over which his hand is curled. With his other hand, he is trying to achieve optimal distance—that elusive space where it's close enough to still read the ingredients on the damn box of crackers, but far enough that his middle-aged eyes can focus.

Gretchen tries to shrink, shoulders hunching forward, head dipping. With an attempt at an apologetic look at Miriam she slinks sort of behind Kraft and tucks the packs of dried mango up into an armpit to shoot a quick text to TightFist. « Clerk has a shotgun, just FYI… » She does this with practiced ease, taking only a moment, then pulls the apple from her mouth and defends her actions by stating, "I'll pay for it all when I have the god damn tea, Jesus…" She says this with her mouth full, and turns to Miriam sheepishly, swallowing before she adds, "…sorry," as a catch-all excuse for whatever breaches of etiquette she may have committed.

*clackclackclack* The rattling of a shotgun shell as Arthur tries his best to get it in the damn hole, but his fingers aren't as good as they used to be. *click* In it goes. The old man puffs out a breath, that's one down, old fingers reaching out for another of the shells.

"That's alright dear..", Miriam replies to Gretchen, ".. we have much worse in here some days.". There's no mention of how they deal with that though; a mystery wrapped up in old smell and grey hairs. The woman holds out the pack of tea toward Gretchen, more than enough there to last a while, then continues on about her old stalker, "If you want to see Flair, you've got a long wait. I've never seen him out and about before noon.", she says, shuffling steps now moving her away from the pair to check over the new addition to the store, calling to the gentleman along the isle, "Hello there dear, do you need any help?"

It takes a few moments for the enormous old man to realise Miriam is speaking to him, but he does eventually. He turns to smile over and down to her, then shrugs and limps over, using the cane while looking over everyone there. "I am allergic to soy, of all things, must be careful with the ingredients and all," he adds, smiling at Gretchen before focusing back on Miriam. He waits his turn, his eyes lingering a few extra seconds on the shotgun.

The old lady shuffles close to the man that towers over her, she was small anyway before she got her old age stoop. "Oh you poor dear..", she says, ".. I'm not surprised. Did you know that soy can shrink your pecker? Happened to Arthur. Isn't that right dear?", she says, speaking to Arthur who looks up from his shotgun, "What's that now?", he grumbles, "YOUR PECKER DEAR!", she calls to him, his hearing is so terrible. That causes his fingers to drop the shell he was holding, which clatters to the floor and spins before coming to rest. "Oh..", he grumbles, slooooowly crouching down to try and gather it back up again.

Miriam forgets about him for now, back to the large man before him, "Everything here is organic. Mostly.", she explains, "Do you like carrots, dear? We had a new batch this morning."

Taking up the Orion tea - now that he's mostly forgotten in favor of the NAN Man Injun - Kraft glances aside to Gretchen with a curious expression. Lips don't move, but hips don't lie. Err, transducer doesn't lie.

«This your friend, sister?»

Hek'll catch that too. Text-to-speech, lacking in emotion despite the curious phrasing. Tinman indeed. And then - while Miriam's distracted and Arthur's bent over - Kraft decides to take a peek around the back end of the store.

Gretchen narrows her eyes, either critically, like examining a painting or with deadly intent — who knows what's going on behind those overly blackened eyes? — to assess the Amerind in the distance before turning back to Miriam, then to the borg to accept the tea. This requires her to bite the apple once more in order to free a hand, so she murmurs her thanks through the treat, but at the woman's comments to Arthur she barks out a laugh of sheer joy and surprise, turning it into a fake cough. She pulls the apple from her teeth again and turns the hand to press the back against her mouth to hide her laughter. To Kraft she mirthfully murmurs, "Let's fucking go before I die laughing… Oh you're" She watches Kraft move off and doesn't try to prevent him, making her own way toward the shotgun-wielding peck Errr, Arthur. Cautiously, oh so cautiously, so as not to surprise the man, she begins setting down her collected items for purchase, keeping the half-eaten apple well in view.

The big injun holds out the packet at arm's length. "Truly? I had no idea soy…is that why all the asians have," err, "Well, I'll defer to your expertise though I have to say, how do you possibly source organic? You must have friends in high places and a customer list others can only dream of. You're doing something right, m'am, that's forsooth!" he offers, most approvingly, then hands the box to Miriam.

He was so close too, Arthur has his fingertips to the shotgun shell, it was rattling around a bit but he was so close.. then someone came to the counter. A grumble and his old legs slowly rise again, pushing his age old body back to its full height. "Hmm..", he mutters, starting to tap numbers into the register, you can't be putting labels over fresh fruit and vegetables after all. "Six nuyen. Please.", the last word added on as an afterthought. He carefully moves the shotgun aside, he doesn't want to scare off his customer.

Over the other side of the store, Kraft gently opens the door and peeks inside. It seems to be a storage room, but there are steps leading upwards across the room, no doubt to the living area. That's not what catches his eye, however. Next to a gathering of boxes is a food bowl, 'Fido', stencilled into it, a blanket next to that, and on that blanket. Well, damn if that isn't a hellhound, though the friendliest looking hellhound he's ever seen. It has a goofy look on its face, tongue lolling out, though the firey eyes and smokey wisps rising from its razor sharp teeth are a little distracting. Also around the store room are various shamanistic items; a dream catcher rests above Fido's bed, so he can have sweet dreams.

Walking along with the huge indian, Miriam explains, "Loyalty and generosity.", a look up at him from far below, "Those will get you far in life. You make all sorts of friends, some who supply you with fresh vegetables every day.". Reaching the organic section, she motions to the selection for the indian to look over.

Akula limp-canes over to the carrots. "Truth, absolute truth, M'am," he says, smiling down from almost two feet above Miriam's eyes. Then he turns, tucks the cane back where it was and begins using both hands to paw through the vegetables. He seems to be enjoying it a bit much, in a way someone who hates smoke might breathe when first able to step outside from a smoky room.

Meanwhile out in the Americar, Hek keeps an eye on the pedestrians in the neighborhood. He remains aware and alert on the off chance that he might recognize Flair or Tee Hee from the research he did on the two of them.

Well, that settles that. Letting the door close quietly once more, Kraft heads back to join his 'sister', a thoughtful frown on his face. He does his best not to grimace - not when he's still got the 'friendly casual shopper' going on.

«Hellhound in the back; Goofy looking mug too. Guess cameras are a bust. Tell your friend it's time to book; I've got a few trees to shake before the decker bar opens, sister.»

Of course, he still thinks Akula is Hek. That was just way too convienant an opening, and the man did show up just when Gretch's mysterious friend was supposed to. Nodding amicably to Arthur, the old borg pipes up while Gretchen's talking. "Nice clipper, mac. Where'd you pick her up at?"

The old lady gives the indian a pat on the arm, "You take your time dear, no rush.", then she leaves him to his shopping and starts shuffling her way back across the room to where she'd left her bucket originally. No chance of cleaning the last bits of floor now, so she scoops it up and places it nearby, away from where customers might trip over it.

The old man doesn't have the best hearing, but manages to pick up most of what Kraft was saying to him, his tired hands raising the shotgun though in a way to display it rather than aim it. "This 'ere is all 'pletely legal I'll have you know, dammit. I got the permits! Yessir.", it's too heavy to keep raised for that long, his weak muscles having to place it back down again, "I know me a Star when I sees one, pesky investigators always..", "Arthur!", the man's run of moans coming to an instant stop at Miriam's word. He grumbles and leaves the conversation behind, focusing on that distant shotgun shell resting on the floor, bones creaking as he starts to crouch toward it.

"He's lovely really.", Miriam explains to Kraft.

It's not so much the shotgun that scares Gretchen, it's the skill level of the user…

"Yeah," she offers briskly at Arthur's cost statement, "Heeeere you go…" She refuses to make eye contact with the man, but her contempt for his weapon handling skills may be shining through her assumed 'casual shopper' persona, reflected in her slow, German drawl. Her primary focus is on getting out of sight of Arthur, pronto. She slots cred, bites the apple to use both hands to shove the small packages into her messenger bag, then bolts out the customer entrance/exit with an 'afterthought' wave over her shoulder and a quick glance at the trainwreck that is Arthur's weapon handling skill. She leaves Kraft to his own devices in favor of the street.

Once outside she lights up a cigarette and leans against the exterior wall, alternating drags and final nips at the apple core while keeping an eye out. She risks muttering into comms as well. To whom it may concern: « …the fuck. They let anyone buy a weapon these days… And a goddamned hellhound?! I'm ah, out front. Got snacks on snacks for anyone interested. Could be a looooong day… »

Although far from the most subtle of actions, Hek's brief flickering of the Americar's headlights is enough to get Gretchen's attention.

"Sounds like my old man."

States Kraft wistfully to the old biddy; Just toss in a few more bruises and a drunken rant, and you'd just about be spot on. He then shakes his head ruefully. "Don't mind it, ma'am; It's flattering to think I look like someone off the Star. Must've done something right." The private dick giving one last glance to Akula, false eyes blinking, before he upnods towards Gretchen. "Thanks again for the tip, you've been a doll. Catch you around.."

And then it's time to follow Gretch outside. «That went about as well as a dwarf juggling ladders. Still we know that Flair's about all days and nights, and right now he's the one I'm angling has hooks in TH. .. We still got a few hours to burn before the decker bar opens, sister. See if your injun friend can meet us 'round out of sight?»

Gretchen, in a state of high alert, checks the light-flashing Americar, shoots a quick text and comms out in a quiet murmur all at the same time. « Forget the native, no clue. Americar flashing out front. »

Though by this time, Kraft is likely already present alongside her. "Let's uh— Shotgun!" She starts to speak to Kraft on the sly, creeping along, then her mood shifts and she breaks into a speedwalk toward the passengerside door of the Americar.

"You two have a nice day.", Miriam says as Kraft decides to leave the store, though his enhanced hearing can pick up her comment to Arthur, "What a lovely couple. Siblings my hooter.", she chuckles to herself. Inside the store, Arthur finally claims the fallen shotgun shell and manages to bring it back up with him to the counter. Another puff of a sigh, that was exhausting, and he continues trying to load the weapon. By the time the store closes he might have it done.

Outside the store, things are picking up now the stores are opening. Though it's only a little after 8am, people are starting to wander around already, the local cafe is filling up with people wanting breakfast and a few people edge past Kraft as he leaves Orion's, so they can get themselves something nice to cook for lunch.

Akula continues to rummage for an inordinate amount of time. Is he shopping for veggies or hiring them?!?! In any case, some make the cut, and he ambles up to the counter about twenty minutes later, having been keeping an eye on things for as long as reasonable, while also scoring some incredibly tasty greens.

"By the by - and I know I am dreaming here," says Akula to Miriam, "Any of these good fellows you know carry wild or at least certified disease-and-antibiotic farm salmon, or, since dreaming is Free—tuna?"

STAKEOUT:

That little tidbit of info stops the old borg in his steps for a moment as he tries to process what just happened. The big injun wasn't a screen so he could sneak a peek, just an.. actual customer, who happened to show up at precisely the right time. Reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose, Kraft takes a moment to breath in deep and pat down his pockets with the other hand. Damn. Carton isn't bent up enough. Realizing he's not going to get his air flavored cancer any time soon, he'll take Gretch's lead and enter Hek's Americar. Settling back and tipping his fedora.

"Sounds like we've got a few hours to wait, sister - and mac. Think I'm going to count pinholes in my eyelids for a bit." He begins, settling in. A synthetic man on a synthetic seat, although he keeps talking. "Our angles the professor, bub. We think he's the one that turned TH - and he's the one that can help us locate the chips. Or TH himself."

The Americar is utilitarian, its interior sparse and completely synthetic. From the plastic dashboard and center console, to the stuffing inside the seats and the 'cloth' upholstery engineered to repel stains and anything organic that might try to catch a ride. "While we wait for tea boy, can you tell me what you need me to get from the trix kids?" Hek asks his passengers …

Some time after a simple introduction of "Fedora, Beanie. Beanie, Fedora," Gretchen tries to bum a ride back to her bike, frivolously left in a Stuffer Shack parking lot, as the group plans, schemes and trades ideas. With at least a brief window of personal time, she returns her bike to a safehouse in the CAS district, and if need be, will catch a cab back to a predetermined team meetup just before lunchtime.

With everyone gathered in the Americar and discussions continuing, time ticks ever onwards. The number of people on the street grows over time, with a variety of faces, colors and races making themselves known over the passing hours. A street band even stops by for an hour, adding some entertainment to the area for their short stay. With the conversation fading and nothing happening on the street, the radio gets switched on to see what might be happening in the world.

"As soon as we eyeball this slot, one of us is going to need to start back tracing where he came from." Hek looks up into the rearview of the Americar, past the private dick lounged out and fixing to catch a few zees. Gloved hands come up to mostly unfurl his balaclava down over his ears and eyebrows. "As much as I hate to leave the ride here, I will do it. I can pick him up on the way out of the store and piggy back into the residence with him." There is the utmost certainty in the way Hek speaks about his abilities to do what he suggests. "Once I get in, I'll hit you on the comms and we'll figure out how to get you in."

"Excuse me…" Hek says, and then disappears. The drivers seat is literally empty. It is eerily quiet, as eyes suddenly fail to perceive what other senses know is still there. The beanie, and the man wearing it is gone. "Coming through." The glovebox opens and a chrome accented automatic appears more or less out of Gretchen's lap and is tossed inside. *Thunk Click* The latch catching.

Low power mode; Somewhere between sleep and awake, with the polymimetic face not twitching or moving without some stimulus from the plastic features that lay beneath it - them still as well, with the brain cycling into REM. Kraft, for all intensive purposes, just looks like someone switched him off while he cat naps in a stranger's car. Even the faint yellow glow of his false eye's iris is switched down, no longer transmitting to the meat in the metal, dull and lifeless gaze.
When the yaking gets up again over the drone of the radio, there is a whirr of deeper breathe, dull illumination returning with faint flickers and starts. Like watching an old lamp come back on, flicking from side to side as he reorientates. ".. Mm? 'Bout time." Hands go to the back of his neck, twisting once to work out an imagined krink with a soft whine of servoes before he straightens up further. Frowning out the front of the window. "Sounds fine to me, Jack. I-" And then Hek is gone. A blink a few times, and a sardonic smirk.
"Sounds like just the thing to get out of that blind date with a slopebrow, mac." He begins, then nods. "Alright. I'll head to the Zephyr; If you need a second tail, I can keep pace a few streets over."

The Americar's heavy passenger door opens less than a quarter of the way, lingers in that state for a few seconds, and then closes again. In that brief period of time, a certain density seems to leave the car and with it, the sense that Kraft and Gretchen are the only occupants of the vehicle.

".. another murder inside the Warrens has Lone Star investigators combing the scene. While unusual, as the Warrens is outside their area of interest, a Lone Star spokesman told us that due to the brutality of the murder..".

And just as the news was getting interesting, there is the good Dr. himself. The small gray-haired man comes walking along the street, though is glancing around as if expecting someone to be looking for him. He looks like an ancient student with jeans, engineer boots and a Denver University sweatshirt. His long hair is pulled back into a ponytail and he carries a bright blue rucksack slung over one shoulder. His steps take him steadily toward Orion's Grocery.

The report mentioned the murder in Mission Hills, notes about undercover operatives moving in to investigate.

Gretchen is leaned in toward the nearest speaker as the good doctor appears and Hek makes a very hasty exit, but shifts fully back against the seat to let the driver by with a minimum of surprise, genuinely focused on the broadcast. Reality sets in only a moment or two late, at which point she, deeply puzzling over the rapid split now that the stakeout has paid off, just slips out of her peacoat to reveal the camo hoodie beneath, wads it up and stows it in her bag. Out of the Americar and onto the street. Dark lenses flipped down, breather mask over nose and mouth. Hood up and walking.

The old student makes his way into the store and is out of sight for a couple of minutes, then the fine doctor returns, another quick and nervous glance around before he starts heading back the way he came. There is no real speed to his movement, he's too old to pick up much pace, but he does carry the gaite of someone who doesn't really want to be out in the open right now.

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « Mic check »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Loud and clear, mac. You want your wheels left here or you want them coming along? Looks to me like between the two of you, you've got plenty of tails on the mook. »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « You feel like orbiting? I'll take another path on foot for contingency… »

Society has a predictably orderly flow. Pedestrians stay along the walkways up against the buildings. Vehicles transit the wide lanes inbetween those buildings and everyone goes on about their merry way. The good doctor does not appear to be moving too quickly, and Hek is well and completely invisible for all intents and purposes, so waiting for the man to get from here to there is something he is capable of doing.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Yeah, sure, sister. Someone's got to play taxi. »

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « This guy is too slow for a vehicle tail. Just sit tight and bring the transport around. »

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « Once I figure out where this slot is doss'd at. »

If there's anyone keeping a lookout for Flair as he walks through the streets, it's not at all obvious. The old man continues walking along Cascade Street, then takes a left and walks past a row of apartment buildings. He stops then at the sidewalk, checks his bag of goodies from Orion's, considers something for a moment, then shakes his head - ponytail flopping - and decides to carry on his merry way.

His path doesn't take him far, however, he crosses the road once it's safe and enters another apartment building. This one is old and not looking in the best of health, there's no immediately obvious security outside, but inside, on the ground floor, is a single security camera that slowly whirrs left then right, scanning the entrance and across to the stairwell.

Flair seems to be taking his time, and Hek has all the patience in the world. Kung fu training produces many virtues, including courtesy. The sort of thing that makes one wonder whether the dottering old decker even notices that an almost spiritual force holds the door and prevents it closing too quickly behind him.A DNI wired spiritual force, thinking thoughts in morphed into data packet bursts pulsed out on short range encrypted frequencies.

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « They got drek all for SecTech in here in the lobby. Should know unit number and location soon. »

Digital signal processors anchored to skull bones and wired in place auditory canals contemplate the ebb and flow of residential living on Cascade street. Just another sub-division of the ant colony. Feet shuffling along floors. Cabinets banging. Trideos and sound systems tuned to different streams of programming. All of it muted by walls and doors, stairwells and multiple floors.

Remaining outside, scouting a lap around the building for good measure, Gretchen murmurs a reply which sounds distorted from her little citybreather. « Keep us posted, I'm sticking outside, checking things out. » She examines the building, making sure to look for alternate entrances and exits, eyes running from ground floor to roof on each side of the apartment building as she skulks the crowds with her hood up.

The old man slowly climbs the stairs with an unknown stalker right behind him. The inside of the building isn't much better than the outside, with flaking paintwork and rusted metal railings lining the stairs. Flair steadily climbs the stairs, stopping for a breath after the second flight, then he takes the last few steps up to the third floor. Along a hallway he goes, past a row of doorways, before he comes to his own, '308'. He presses a thumb against a maglock and the lock slides back with a clunk.

ONE-ROOM FLAT:

With a push the door creaks open, his stalker no doubt close behind, the room opening to a nearby table and four cane chairs, set up next to a small kitchen area on the right. Added as an afterthought, it has room for a sink, small refrigerator and microwave. The room itself is the 'late-american decker' design; stacks of computer disks, trade journals and printouts all across the room, pinned to walls, and spread across the floors.

Further inside is a single chair in front of a small desk, a cyberdeck on top, while directly opposite is a doorway into what is undoubtedly going to be the bathroom area. The back area of the room is taken up by a sleeping area, with a single twin bed and closet. In the middle of the floor sits Tee Hee, currently jacked into the matrix.

"Hey Tee, I'm back.", Flair tells him, though the man is on a different planet right now. The old man carries the bag across to the kitchen area.

The exterior of the building has another doorway, though this one is locked from the outside, has a push open from the inside; a fire door for the residents. There doesn't seem to be anymore noticable security out there.

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « Apartment Third floor. Three-oh-eight. I have eyes on Flair and Tee Hee. Secure the lobby and the stairwell at the second floor. »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Three-oh-eight, great. Let's hope they have something good for us… » She slips into an alleyway, then behind the profile of a dumpster as she speaks quietly to the team on her way toward the front of the apartment building. « I'm … » She just falls silent as the sound of a door is heard squeaking in the background. « …inside. »

Inside the apartment where Hek now stands, unseen and unheard, Flair puts away his selection of items from the store then opens one of the cupboards to pull out some organic tea. He busies himself moving back and fore, gathering mugs and water.

While Flair is busying himself with the tea; with little hiccups and snickers at first, it might be guessed where Tee got his name. He starts softly laughing to himself while inside the matrix, his body rocking back and fore, a grin on his features. The man himself has an eclectic style, a weird mish-mash of clothing, while his hair is shaved along the sides, the remaining hair worn in a severely spiked, neon blue mohawk.

Gretchen settles into as casual a stance as she can muster for loitering in a stairwell during midday with urban camo and her face obscured. It's one of those 'better to look like a creepazoid than risk revealing your appearance' sort of situations. « …stairs. » She speaks this ever so quietly to confirm her position.

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « Tee Hee is jacked in. Presents no threat currently. Flair is in kitchen. Otherwise unoccupied. »

The German peers up and down the stairs warily, pressing gloved fingertips to one ear beneath her hood for a moment. « We just need the chips… »

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « I am going to ask them where they are. Stand by. »

To a third party observer, the sight would look rather odd. One second Flair is putzing about the kitchen working on brewing some premium tea, and the next he collapses forward over his own core and drops straight down to the floor. The only third party observer is on the other side of a RAS cutout in the matrix.

The complete lack of sound makes the whole situation even the more bazaar. One would expect a loud exhalation of breath, sputtering coughs… even a *thud* as Flair's body crumples to the floor. Yet all of those traditional perceptual cues are simply absent.

And so the spiritual force who has been enlisted to assist with the re-acquisition of pilfered property leaves the unconscious professor there on the floor and opens the front door for Gretchen. Wide open, all the way back to the hinges, but caught just before the knob knocks against the wall. Hek not there. Just a giggling Tee Hee, chasing whatever digital dreams he is on about.

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « Not sure how I feel about running counter IP acquisition. »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « You weren't hired to have feelings about anything, » Gretchen mutters as she bounds up the stairs, down the hall and into the apartment, face to face with Hek as she speaks the final word. To Kraft, as she gently shuts the door with a final masked and hooded glance down the hallway, « We're in. Are you orbiting or joining us in the good doctor's apartment? »

Gretchen nervously tugs her hood as far forward as it will stretch, and snugs her gloves tight as she takes exaggeratedly slow, almost cartoonishly slow tiptoe steps into the kitchen to eyeball the unconscious Hendrix. « Jesus Christ… »

She kneels and begins to check for life signs, shooting a nasty glance to the spiritual, spine-breaking force that is Hek. She does slow visual examinations before daring to touch the man, laying fingers on his jugular.

The old guy is out cold, Hendrix laying on the floor of the kitchenette in a twisted shape. Testing for life signs he's breathing normally, though a closer diagnosis suggests perhaps internal bruising from the kick. It's not life threatening, but is certain to be painful when he awakes, whenever that might be.

Tee is still in his own matrix-world, rocking back and fore a little and giggling to himself quietly as he does. Looking at him, it's hard to believe he turned a corporation completely around almost single handedly, he has the appearance of someone lacking in mental faculties.

Gretchen leaves the doc behind, rising to start skulking to the other corners of the apartment, constantly flicking her eyes from Tee's giggling to the floor before her, then out to the furnishings, constantly on the lookout for any notable chips in convenient stacks of three…

The apartment is a complete mess with printouts and disks spread all over, old pizza boxes - still with a cold slice in one - stuffer shack candy wrappers, clothing thrown around instead of placed somewhere tidy and on it goes. There are chips, but nothing like you would expect considering you're looking for GT Prototypes; these would be easily noticable and, as prototype chips, not just data that can be copied, they would be a one of a kind stand out chip. But nothing.

However, opening a few drawers and checking the desk, you find a pair of tickets to the Hollywood Simsense Entertainment party on Tuesday night. It was already revealed that Flair was invited and there are the tickets. If a HSE party has anything, it has sim stars and starlets and upcoming talent, as well as some interesting characters, though tres chic clothing would be the style of the night.

Starting up the AmeriCar - and feeling not guilty at all about adjusting the seating for his own comfort, as well as fiddling with the mirrors - the old borg begins rolling at a sedate pace down the block.

«Depends on you, sister. If you think you can shake giggles the clown on your own, I'll play lump on a log and watch the doors. Otherwise I'll come up and we'll one-two-tango.»

There's not much to the process, unless someone decides to throw grenades in the suburb. Kraft looking to park across the street, slotting himself in and tucking his chin down so he can stare at his blank pocsec screen. Might as well look busy. And keep an eye out.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Look, there's nothing here aside from tickets to the party, the doc and Pinocchio. » Gretchen ever so quietly seeks out a plastic sandwich baggie in the kitchen, stepping over the doctor's sleeping form with a grimace of tension behind her breather mask. She makes her way to the pizza box, folds the slice in half, only touching crust pieces, then deposits it in and seals the bag. Into a pocket it goes. She then folds her arms and watches Tee Hee in pity and confusion. « Why don't you head in and we can figure out what to do… »

Grumbling to himself, the old borg will finally exit the AmeriCar and pause just inside the door to stare upwards. Stairs; His old enemy. Although half way up, he'll slip a certain little mini-camera out of his pocket and stick it to the side of the stairs. Somewhere not immediatly obvious, pointing DOWN towards the base. If you think you're being too paranoid in a place like Queen City, then you aren't paranoid enough. She was like a two-bit hooker; Doubtless you'll have a good time, but at the end of the night you'll be short a wallet and itchy.

Slipping the vidlink into his pocsec for now, and keeping it in his palm so he can keep an eye on it, the borg wanders into the apartment proper. And takes a good look around at the mess.

".. What happened, dame? You were only in here for few minutes." He grouses, before eyeing the giggler. "Grab something long and supple; Let's snap Giggles out of his wire party."

Gretchen narrow-eyes the borg behind her circle shades, only glancing toward him out the edge of her grey-splotched hood as she swings her bag under her left arm from its place on her back. One hand pulls back the top flap while the other rummages, and she extracts something long. Not so supple, but it should serve.

Tee looks in a daze, far away eyes, slack jawed with a side grin, rocking back and fore to an unheard tune as he giggles to himself. His neon blue mohawk sticks upright, revealing the datajack and wire at the side of his head, line running down to the cyberdeck in his lap. He sits cross legged on the floor, oblivious to the world around him.

"Nice slugger."

Comments the old borg, reaching into his back pocket to pull out - a carton of cigarettes! The box is a bit more crushed now after being given the tar-tar treatment by his rump on the seats, and he finally breaks the cherry by peeling off the seal. A bent up dogear into the lips, and a fancy lighter from Tee Hee's box used to flame it up. The cherry glowing a few times as he grimaces. "Mmph. Not loose enough."

Then it's time to get out the micro-recorder and set it on the table top. "I'll tuck grey-beard somewhere he can't be seen so he can 'nap', yeah? You wanna shake Giggles awake?"

The German hefts the baton to just feel its weight, deliberating, resettling her grip on it multiple times. Her free hand tugs the rifle sling she keeps her messenger bag on to slide it around to her back once more, and she slowly circles Tee Hee. « Is it safe to unplug the boy? » She's considering options, anxiety running high, but hopes are up there as well — hopes that the doctor won't hold a grudge, and hopes that these two aren't actually in league with Martelli and the runner squad who did the extraction on Global.

Gretchen murmurs behind her mask, and into comms due to the proximity of the little mic extending from the earpiece down along the back of her jaw. First she's heard sighing to herself before she slips a small patch from a pocket, crouches down within arm's reach of the boy and quickly but gently darts it out to stick to the back of his neck « …Why don't you pull his jack when I go for his hands… » She creeps around to the boy's side opposite where he's connected to his deck. « On three… » She looks to Kraft for confirmation of the hasty plan.

Almost as soon as the patch is touched to the skin, the effects start to hit the neon mohawked decker, his rocking back and fore slows, his giggles fade and he starts to tilt to the side as if about to fall. A skilled enough decker, he has enough time and skill to send a message from mind to icon, triggering a graceful logoff that allows him to return to the here and now.

Before the three count is up, Tee looks up at the people around him, mouth drawn into a sleepy grin as his eyes start to droop too, the tranq patch almost sending him off to sleep. "Are you friends of..", but then his sleepy eyes spot an unconscious Flair and sleepy eyes pop open wide, a sense of panic, then the tranq calms him down again and he flops against the wall. "Ah, frag.", he mutters, knowing he's been caught and his time is likely up.

The German fights back a spasm as a mental blockade nearly slips, but she stays somewhat focused, albeit suffering the taste of bile in the back of her throat from a physical reaction to the near loss of control over untrusted and undesirable manifestations of will.

A quick dart of her hands retrieves a small bundle of plastic zipties from a pocket and she sets to restraining the boy by the wrists, then the ankles, giving the kid a quick riot cop restraint imitation, linking multiple zipties through each other to serve as links.

Wrists tied, feet tied, Tee makes no effort to resist, he's barely conscious as it is and there's a very large cybernetic looking investigator standing nearby. He has difficulty keeping his eyes open, that tranq patch has him right on the edge of consciousness. "We can.. talk. That's what.. people do.. isn't it?", his words sound dreamy, far away, but even with that his voice sounds strange, as if he's not used to talking to people or knows exactly how he's supposed to do it.

The old borg watches grimly when the kid wakes up, giving him only a grim smile while the ribbon of nicotine crawls up his false face and along fake eyes. When Gretchen starts hiccuping and grimacing, he glances aside and finally talks. "Steady on, sister; We need this one alive." Well, if they're rough, might as well get off on the right foot. He takes a knee down beside Hendrix, putting a finger to the old man's throat; Yes, Gretchen had done the same thing, but Kraft wasn't there when she did. Verifying he's still breathing, the borg taps the recorder to make sure it's capturing sound before he'll walk over to a trussed up TH.

"Alright, Giggles. Pretty damn sure you know why we're here, and pretty sure you know why. So yeah.. we're gonna talk." A glance up to Gretchen. "Got a cup of joe in that satchel or something? This guy's half out of it."

With the knowledge fed from Hek's search, as well as the comments made about him from person to person, and now finally meeting him in the flesh, while there's nothing medically wrong with him - nothing a few pills and a nightcap would help at least - psychologically there does seem to be an issue.

"Is Flair.. Is he alive?", the man asks, that slack jawed grin returning as he stares up at Kraft, having seen him check for lifesigns. "Are you here.. are you.. am I going to die?".

Gretchen's reply to the caffeine request is simply to heft her battered riot baton once again, testing its weight before giving Tee Hee a warning jab to one of his feet. It's not activated, and not even a bruise-worthy poke, just a nudge to keep the kid paying attention through the chems. "Open your eyes," she barks, the command hissing through vents.

Gretchen aims the palm of her free hand toward Hendrix, gently with fingers splayed out while looking to Tee Hee. "He'll be fine…"

The borg doesn't answer for a moment, keeping the ass-burger mook on the hook as he lets the silence draw out a few more heartbeats. Then grunts, and turns towards the kid. "Alive for now." He finally states, tipping his fedora low. "To both questions."
He then straightens up, moving that glowing dogear to the other corner of his mouth as he lifts hands, flexing one fist into the other palm. There's no crack - there's no bones anymore, after all - but they do whine as servos flex. "Alright, Giggles. Your buddies don't care whether you live or die, but sister here's got a soft spot for idiots." A grousing tone. "So lay it out on the line for me. You? You ain't even part of the job. You want to stay hooked up and jack around on wires for the rest of your life with greybeard here, that's fine and dandy. But right now you're in my way of finding what you stole and getting it back to your.. -former-.. boss. Savvy?"

Tee's shoulders slump with relief hearing the responses, "Oh.", glassy eyes staring off ahead of him for a moment, before he looks straight at Gretchen. "People say that if you die while in the 'trix, you become a ghost in the machine.". For a moment he appears alive, thinking about the 'trix and living there for an eternity, but that fades out as the questions hit him.

"You.. you're looking for the chips. The chips.", a nod to himself, a tilt of his head, head straightens again. "I don't know where the chips are. Cooper took them. Took them and put them in his jacket.", his arms try to move, try to copy the actions of moving things to his jacket, a jacket he's not wearing. "He.. he was the leader. He might have the chips. Might have them.".

"Cooper, huh? Ain't that a kick in the bait and tackle."

Grumbles Kraft, moving to his usual hogsplay of talking around what he's really after. He grimaces, false teeth gripping the dogear, filling the room with the sweet/bitter stink of cheap tobacco. Or the cheapest equivalent, guaranteed to be just the same! Like diet and regular cola. About as similar as a duck and a killer whale. Sure, both float, but you don't lose an arm to squeaky.
Shaking his head to clear it off that tangent, Kraft steps a bit closer to squat down. "Alright. Who else was with Cooper, kid? And why did -you- help them? Your boss is mighty pissed with you right now. You done him wrong, and it's gonna be on you to make that good."

Gretchen lowers the baton a bit, but rolls it in a wide spin with a twist of her wrist. "Manes isn't fucking around. And Martelli's on the warpath, 'Waaaagghhh!'" She drawls this out lazily, not yelling or acting overly aggressive, though she does lean forward a few inches and display the baton to emphasize the German-accented disdainful war cry.

Feeling the large man moving closer, Tee tilts his head back, leaning against the wall as he is so he doesn't fall; he's still barely conscious. "Cooper. Cooper was the leader. I don't know who else. He called one Fr.. Freya. She got shot real bad. Real bad. Cooper he said to leave her, but she was real bad. We should have stayed.".

The man swallows hard at hearing about Mane's and Martelli, glassy eyes looking back to Gretchen at this. "It was Martelli set it up. Set it up. All of it. He said to me, he said. He said I could have a credstick and a Fairlight Excalibur.", his glassy eyes brighten again at the thought of a super-deck, "Have you seen an Excalibur? That thing is..", he lets out a breath of awe, a tilt of his head as he leans it back against the wall, drifting off into dreams of riding the 'trix with a deck like that. "He's bad, too. Real scary bad.".

Looking back to Kraft, he says, "Junior is going to take me back. He's taking me back. When Global merges with HSE. HSE. They're merging.".

"Yeah? Junior tell you that himself, Giggles, or did Cooper let you in on that plot?"

Asks Kraft, his face a perfectly neutral expression, his voice curiously soft. A check to make sure that recorder was recording - yep. And then back to slowly pacing. "Freya, hm? What happened to Freya eh? They end up leaving her or did they take her off in the chopper with the others?" Moving the tone from snippy as a new pair of scissors to soft as a gal's hand when she was slipping your wallet out.

"Yeah? What sort of deck you got there, then, Giggles?" A lifted eyebrow. ".. Pick up any souvenirs from your time in Global's wires?"

Gretchen makes a pantomime of 'Duh' as TH slurs out his take on how much of a threat Martelli could potentially be, then breaks from the interrogation to go check on Hendrix once more. She puts the same binds on the doctor, one around each wrist, looped together as cuffs, and the same for the ankles.

She then fetches the tickets, perusing them in full view of the decker's groggy line of sight.

Tee's eyes slowly close and he seems to have passed out, but it's brief, he manages to snap back to life with a shake of his head, though he picked up everything that was said. "Junior. Junior told me. I had to help Cooper. Had. Had to help him inside to take the chips and then. Then I had to clear the files and hide a copy. Hide them on his computer. Junior's computer. All the data is there, on Junior's computer. He'll make them again after the merger. HSE.".

Looking up to Gretchen, that slack jawed grin appears again, a tilt of his head, glassy eyes admiring. But he's shy, he looks away, looks across at his still unconscious friend in the kitchen. "They left her. We left her there. We should have stayed. A big man helped me, helped me get in the chopper, but not Freya.". With the change of subject, however, he's back awake, "Cyber-6, enhanced response system, my software is top of the line. It's not the best deck, Flair's is better, but it's good. It gets me in.", his slacked jawed grin looks up at Kraft again, eyes searching to see if the man is impressed.

Gretchen sets the tickets down then, taking the opportunity to stow her baton back in her bag before beginning to pace, her bootheels plodding in a steady rhythm. She pulls her phone and furiously texts the contact info provided by Roxanne. « Why the fuck didn't you tell us more about the downed runner? »

There's maybe twenty seconds before Gretchen gets a message back from Roxanne. « Not secure. Do you have information to share? »

«Funny. Blue eyes didn't mention they had one in custody. Better keep that under our hat.»

Comes a silent transducing for Gretchen, while Kraft's lips twist into a faint grin. "Yeah? Personally, I'm saving up for those.. Mm, Malvatronics Outrunner." A slow shrug of the shoulders. "If you're gonna do it, do it right, you know, Giggles?"
A draw on the cigarette, the cherry going bright as he considers all the angles here. Junior's got his hand in the honey pot - and a copy of the files? "Alright. So what you're saying is Junior's already got that data loaded on his terminal. Sitting and waiting for Global to tuck under his boat, before he reveals it. You know if Cooper and crew were keeping the sticks, kid? .. Better question; You know -where-? The sooner you get me what I want, the sooner you can go back to waiting for Santa Trog to come down the chimney with your new Excalibur."

"Malvatronics are old tech..", Tee's speech clearer when he's speaking about the matrix, "Cyber-6 is old, but I keep it up to date, upgrades.", slacked jawed grin staying in place at the talk of computer hardware. But then it's back to normal, talking about real life; that's such a pain, it gets in the way of everything. "It's all there. On his computer. Junior's computer. Not the chips though, the chips. Chips are gone. They left me, took the chips. I. Maybe they..", a pause as he considers it, the possibilities here, something he never thought of until now. "Oh no..", glassy eyes staring up at Kraft. "What if they used them? Use them? That would be bad. Real bad.", his face showing his worry.

« Why the fuck would you give out an unsecured number??? I'll be in touch. »

Gretchen snorts a deep breath verging on a growl through her mask as she taps out another quick message, not having taken heed of Kraft's warning to withhold info. She fumes silently, pocketing the phone, to sidle up near Kraft, a small figure, but a visibly upset one in camo, jeans, boots and with face obscured by black smogmask and circle shades. "You have to erase Junior's copy for us, Tee Hee. Get us a copy, so we can get you your job back. Under Manes, not Martelli. You understand the significance of that?" She bobs her head from side to side, looking very carefully into the boy's low-lidded eyes like a police officer testing a drunk's perception with a moving finger.

Gretchen tucks a loose strand of platinum white under her hood. Hastily, and sheepishly.

Kraft turns his head and body, keeping his lips from being read as he points them firmly towards the otherside of the room. Murmuring low for Gretchen's benefit. "Erase it? Hell, that's our smoking gun, sister. That's our leverage. We put that with the recording, then Manes has his chips back — all he has to do is storm the slopebrow's office. After that comes cleanup."

And then Tee Hee keeps talking. Kraft turns his head a bit more, facing the young punk decker directly.
"Malvatronics old tech? Hell, giggles, -I'm- old tech. I do alright." A grumble, before he shoves his hands in his pockets. "Bet that's exactly what they're gonna do, Giggles - so what's wrong with them?"

« TMJ. » It's three letters, the response from Roxanne, but it possibly tells a whole story. If you can read between the lines.

"Junior is taking me back. Taking me back.", Tee responds to Gretchen, looking up at her through those glassy eyes, "After the merger. If I take the files, he'll be mad. Real mad. I don't think that's a good idea.", a shake of his head, "Not good. Not a good idea.", just thinking about that massive ork being mad at him gives him shivers. "No. Bad idea."

To Kraft, the man turns his gaze, "They're prototypes. Prototypes. They're not ready, they're for display, to show investors. They. The chips. They..". He pauses for a moment, gathering his scattered thoughts back together. "You know BTL? BTL. Dreamchip? It's like a BTL, but it gives a personality. A personality that we design. And skills too, it's a skillchip and a BTL. Skillchip. BTL. But it doesn't work yet, if they put them in. If they plug them in.", a tap of his head against the wall, clank against the metal datajack port, "They become the personality. Person. Become the person. And they're gone. The real person, gone. Lost forever.".

Gretchen pulls the phone back out and glares at it angrily, holding out the screen for Kraft to view « TMJ.» — Her frustration is clear judging by body language, tossing up her free arm, then planting that hand on her hip. "So we've got an egomaniacal tusker with a soul-stealing chip…" She shakes her head at the boy as she pockets her phone yet again. "…I don't think he gets to keep it."

"Sounds about perfect to me, considering the client."
Grumbles the old borg, before he palms the cigarette. Letting it slowly flicker between the knuckles of his finger as he frowns sideways. "What would you do, sister, if you could make someone you know - say a partner - into a complient, obedient fellow with a slot and a grin?" And then its back to TH.

"Last question, Giggles; And think hard. You don't want people playing with those chips and wrecking heads, you're gonna need to figure out where Cooper and his crew would've taken them."

"I don't know. Don't know.", Tee replies, a lazy shrug of one shoulder, glassy eyes looking up at Kraft. He's being honest. "I met Cooper. Met him to take the chips. When we were done, they dropped me. Left me. Dropped me off. I came here, to hide with Flair. Until the merger. Until Junior calls and the merger.".

"Will you let me go? I said everything. I said it. Everything.", a hopeful but glassy gaze passed from one person to the other. He's helpless.

The phone pings again, this time the message is encrypted with a simple passcode. What the passcode would be is up to you to work out.

Gretchen looks to the phone, but doesn't try to enter a guess quite yet, instead turning to Kraft and TH. Before she'll offer a reply about letting the decker free, she demands to know, "Who else knows you're here? Cooper, Freya, Junior? Who?"

Tee is a simple minded man, so he answers as simply as he can manage, "You. Him.", a glassy eyed look up at Kraft, "And Flair.", his gaze moving over to the still unconscious doctor. "Why hurt him? Flair. He's old. He can't hurt you.". A shake of his head and he looks back down, his eyes drooping again as the tranq patch struggles to do its work.

Gretchen's attention goes back to the puzzle on her phone, and we're not talking Tetris…

Thinking on the names, Gretchen comes up a blank with Freya, but Cooper seems to tickle a few brain cells. With Tee saying he was the team leader, it does bring to mind a Marcus Cooper, a fixer and face in the Denver area, though most call him the Historian. He's most recently been dealing with a go-gang called the Blood Rumblers.

The Blood Rumblers are your typical Warrens/CAS border go-gang; they roam around, cause trouble, steal what they want, shoot up a few things then are gone at top speed before anyone can catch up to them. The Crimson Court aren't much better, but are purely on the CAS side of the Warrens border, roaming the darker neighbourhoods with little security coverage. Both gangs also offer protection and are surprisingly good at it, considering the speed at which they can reach an incident. Some might say they're better security than official security, though the cost is dear.

While Gretchen is thinking of Cooper, Kraft is thinking Freya sounds familiar, especially with Hollywood Simsense being mentioned. That can only be one person, surely; Freya Goldenhair, an elven magic user who usually resides outside of Denver in the native lands, but is called in occasionally for high paying work which has usually come from HSE. A talented magic user and one who has been around a while, it's surprising to imagine she actually took a hit this time as she's always gone through runs unscathed.

Phone in hand, Gretch paces, considering what to attempt. "What if this is pass/fail..?" She idly tosses out frustration questions and flings her hands in the air as she does so. Her hidden eyes dart between Kraft and the captives in her relays from one side of the room to the other, but always return to the phone's screen which she sternly frowns at behind her small breather.

"Well, sister, we've got a deck right here. From what I've heard, it's a hot Cyber 6."
Grouses the old borg, even though his false eyes don't shift from TH. "Why not put the file in and see if Giggles has anything to shift the encryption off? Speaking shifting.." Kraft grips the dog-ear back in pale lips, before bending down to help TH up; Intending to walk him into one of the other rooms. "Alright, Giggles; Sit tight and behave, and you'll be scott free. From us. Savvy? We need to talk to your greybeard next.."

«Freya. Freya. I know that name; Freya Goldenhair. Does hits for HSE; You know what I say about coincidences, sister.»

When Kraft picks up Tee, he almost loses his balance, the man having to use some strength to keep him upright. With the tranq patch and the bindings, he's not exactly stable. The only decent place to leave him in this small apartment would be the bed, which the man is happy to accept, laying himself down and closing his eyes. That edge of consciousness is growing ever closer and he doesn't have the will at all to reopen them to see what the two might be doing here.

Gretchen takes a leap of faith in trying to enter the only password that she feels might instill even a slight sense of trust — if she were able to get it in one, then it could mean Wunter was on the level. This could all be superstitious nonsense just as easily though. Nonetheless, she thumbs in a short, concise entry, hesitating with each press of a button.

<B>
<L>
<U>
<E>

Perhaps she took a shine to the name, or the person using the name, or it may indeed be a show of trust that the team would understand. The encryption fades away, spins the letters and numbers until they show a coherent message:
Line tapped. After Tee turned against the company, Junior inisisted on monitoring communications. If you have information to share, I will be at the Rathskeller at 11pm. If not, I will enjoy a quiet drink. Thank you for all your help. Good luck.

Having neatly deposited TH in a bedroom to pass out, the aging borg comes back out front, dusting off his false fingers. Glancing once to Twitchy playing on her phone before he moves to Hendrix. Looking to situation the old man pretty much where they had TH a moment ago, the lazy unconscious lump of lead. Grunting a moment as he ashes off into the trashcan.

"I've a few people to call before we shuffle off after Cooper, sister. If Freya's bleeding out but got off grounds, she'll need a patcher. And I doubt Denver Metro's answering her calls. Someone saw something; We get to her and put a squeeze on, we've got Cooper." A glance aside. "Got anyway of waking up greybeard here, or do we start raiding the fridge?"

Gretchen's hand slips into her bag and grips her tarot deck which is old and worn, held together in a tight stack by a thick rubber band. She doesn't try some sort of deliberate reading or the like, she simply considers possibilities and insintently wills her very hardest. Willing as hard as she can will.

When the reply shoots back, she breathes a sigh of relief, unaware that her breath had caught in her throat in anticipation. She yelps then, through the vents of her mask and scurries to Kraft to display the info, phone held up where they can both read it.

"I grabbed a slice of pizza," Gretchen confesses, laying a hand over the front pocket of her hoodie.

"But yes, I can get him — urgh," She moves to Hendrix and shifts his body so he won't smash his head on a corner if he flails on waking up. She shoves his body into the center of the linoleum patch that marks out the kitchenette. "I can wake up ze good doctor…" She rummages for another patch.

"If you're hard up for a snack, sister, there's always the soup kitchen."
The old borg sounds more amused than annoyed, however, as he reviews the new data. "Hm. Blue likes to get dirty, then, if she keeps hitting the Rathskeller. Alright, sister, here's what I'm thinking.."
Begins Kraft, settling in for a good monologue. "Marcelli's on the take, nabbed the chips to get turn his partner into a permanent corporate benraku. Smile and bend, got it? The he gets his company back, and loads more besides. Blue's either ignorant or on the take, because I can't see her standing aside for that. My gut instinct is never trust a blonde, so I'm playing she's dirty."
A long draw on the cigarette as he puts his thoughts together. "We see if greybeard here has the same things to say as Giggles. If so, we can dump these two and move on with life. I betcha Cooper's got his own plans for the slave chips; Why else would the Rumblers be making goo-goo eyes at the Crimsons? Yeah, I should've known. Coincidences are like assholes, sister; They're everywhere and they're all full of shit. So now we've got a threat on two fronts - Cooper getting all wiseguy with the Rumblers, and the copy of the data in Marcelli's palm. That one we let lay for now - that's our smoking gun with the confession here. We know precisely where it is, and Manes can shut that down fast with ihs goon squad."
A third draw. "So the real danger is Cooper. I betcha he's holed up with the Rumblers - but if Freya's been plugged and isn't doing the high-step shuffle on a noose in global's basement or Marcelli's basement, then she's gone somewhere to get patched. We finish here, I make a few phone calls, see if I can put a squeeze on her. That'll pinpoint Cooper; That's the easy part. We finger him, get the chips, save the city from a corp-zombie apocolypse and go drink 'till we're blind. That about cover it?"

Once the stimulant patch is applied, it's only a second before the old doctor is gasping for breath and sitting upright, eyes wide from the sudden injection of the old wake-up juice. Gretchen, being right in front of him, is the first to be spotted, then he's quickly looking around to see who else might be here, but focuses again on Gretchen. "Who are you? What have you done to Tee?", having noticed him unconscious on the bed. As the sudden high from the stimulant patch fades, he doubles over forward, groaning softly at the pain in his chest from the kick.

"What!" That wasn't a question so much as a declaration of there being nothing wrong with snagging a perfectly good slice of pie that would have just gone to waste otherwise. "Only like a day old…" She mutters quietly to herself, also adding a confirmation nod with, "…coincidences /are/ like assholes…" She frowns and folds her arms, staring down at the doctor, but her hands dart out, fingers splayed in surprise when he comes to, and she backs away a few steps. "Calm down," she hisses through vents, "Fucking calm down, Alex…"

"Relax, Mac."

Begins Kraft, stepping to the side of Gretchen. Once more acting the muscle to Twitchy's crazy. Letting the smoke off his cigarette ribbon about his fedora as he keeps that grim smile on his face. "There's worse things than waking up with strangers. For example; Not waking up at all after what Giggles pulled. You're lucky you got nabbed by us first; You and Giggles ain't even part of the job. Alive's just as good as dead. You savvy so far, grey?"

The old doctor watches Kraft move around to be beside Gretchen and slowly shuffles backwards, so he can lean against the kitchen counter, still another wince from the bruised chest. "Sure sure.", he replies, "I suppose you're the hit squad, sent to clean up after Tee's theft. Well, what you waitin' on? Asking lots of questions, find some answers, then pop us clean, is that it?", his tone is less than respectful considering his position, but then, he has been out cold for the last ten minutes.

Gretchen peers over her shoulders to try and catch sight of Hek, who she's sure is still, impossibly, around here somewhere, but focuses back in on Hendrix. "You're in a shitty situation," she rattles that off quickly just due to adrenaline, but she makes a calm nod of comprehension. "But we want to talk, or you wouldn't have woken up. So look at the bright side, doctor."

"She's got a point, bub. If we just wanted you to sing and die, I'd've started making sausages out of your fingers. So tuck that stink eye back in your skull."
Grouses the old borg, frowning. "Like I said; You and Giggles aren't even the job. You're just in the way." He rolls his shoulders, moving over towards the fridge to crack it open. Nothing puts helplessness into perspective like having a stranger paw through your cooled goods. "Let's start with that theft, huh? I'd ask Giggles the Clown, but he passed out before I started. Looks like it's on you to tell us what's going down. .. Course, we'll ask him next. Either one of you lying to us, we're gonna have to have a harder talk. And Twitchy here looks slim, but it ain't -me- you gotta worry about."

The old man watches Kraft open up his fridge and despite being tied up and conscious through the use of narcotics alone, he still gives it his all, "Keep your nose out of my freezer! It ain't bad enough to tie up an old man, beat him to the floor while his back is turned, now you got to go stealing his pizza too? Fraggin 'runners.", he grumbles, looking away and up to Gretchen, "Back in my day 'runners had respect for each other. A jobs a job, you know? It ain't nothin' personal. You kids these days with your eyeliner and fancy hats, you wouldn't have made it back then.".

A real chip on his shoulder, this one. "I'm sixty three years old, I gave all that up years ago. What would I know of the theft? Tee tells me he stole something from his work for a team and has to hide up, so I hide him up, now here we are. You could have just knocked if you knew where we were. No respect, 'runners these days. None at all.", a shake of his head and he looks over to see how Tee is doing.

Gretchen subconsciously lets a hand drift to the hoodie pocket with the bagged slice of za in it as she responds to Hendrix with a sternly aimed index finger. "Things fucking change, doktor, and not often for the better." She follows the man's eyes with a turn of her hood and offers, "The kid is fine, he's sleeping off some Nyquil. Worst thing that might happen is that he'll piss himself. The more you share with us, the better you'll be helping him."

"Don't piss in my cup and tell me it's Georgia Sweet Tea, mac. Money's always been money, and runners always been runners." Grumbles the old borg, not bothering to turn from the fridge save to lift an eyebrow. "What, you didn't hear our third knocking? Figure it's still echoing around your bones." Closing the fridge at last, and glancing down to his pocsec with the vidlink in - keeping an eye on the staircase - he finally looks back to Hendrix. "Yeah, and like I said; You're damn lucky it was us that found him first. Otherwise, you might not be seein' sixty four, and Giggles in there would be chuckling his way down the Denver sewers. Catch my drift? So cut the yakkey."

"So why don't you start from the beginning, bub. -What- did Giggles tell you happened? And where did he put the chips his buddies and he nabbed?"

Not there one moment, and then there the next. In the darkest corner of the apartment, of course. The old man's rantings seem to amuse him, as evidenced by the subtle smile that seems set to disappear at any moment. It appears that the German and the Grumpy Borg have the interrogation well in hand, so Hek just remains alert and listens to the world around them… warily on the lookout… listen(?)out for company.

Keeping his eye on Tee until he spots movement, the doctor turns his attention back to Kraft and Gretchen. "Well then, sweet cheeks, if things change then I ain't speaking. How's that for change?". The old man gives his most condescending smile to the woman, then turns to Kraft at his comments. "Coming in here, knocking me on the floor like I'm nothing. I suppose that makes you feel tough, huh? Sneaking about and knocking out old men? You try that against Aztechnology sometime. Punks.", he mutters as an afterthought, his gaze drifting around the apartment to see what else might be amiss while he's been out. "The less I know the better. Tee's a friend I used to teach, he wanted a spot to hide up and that's that. I didn't ask, I didn't want to know.".

One moment his gloved hands are empty. The next he is holding a compact Walther. "Sounds to me like he doesn't have anything else for us." Hek says deadpan, with all of the emotion of someone who evaluates people by their immediate utility. The handgun implying his preference on what to do with those who are no longer useful.

Gretchen subtly shakes her head at Hek in an attempt to get him to at least not fire. She decides to try to keep the man talking in order to develop a bit more likemindedness. Best case scenario, he might actually have something useful for the runners. "Doctor," She holds her hands out again in that 'everybody be fucking cool' gesture that humans just understand instinctively (trogs maybe not so much, and who the fuck knows what elves think). "Doctor… Alex. Can I call you Alex? Talking is in everyone's best interest. You die," she points, then jabs a thumb toward Tee Hee. "He dies… It doesn't matter." She drawls in her accent through hissing vents, trying to keep working the aged techie to come around to the team's way of thinking. "But if you help us out, we might have reason to take a vested interest in your survival through the shitstorm on the horizon. Big shitty clouds are rolling in thick…" She swirls a hand overhead.

Hek nods solemnly but keeps the light caliber pistol pointed at the floor. "Big ol' cloudsa drek."

Kraft doesn't start when Hek suddenly appears; Years of poker games beneath the skirts of the precinct for that one, long before he got wrapped into a tincan. But he does spin that heavy calibre deputy out of its holster, neatly sliding the cylinder out and rotating it with a thumb to check the ammo. Click.. click.. click. A flick of the wrist snaps it closed, and he rolls it on his wrist; Clicka-clicka-clicka-CLUNK. This sunk back into its hidden quick-draw holster beneath his lined coat.
"What, you want a medal for growing into a coot? Tough titty, old bird. Your boy Giggles put his foot right into the middle of a big, steaming pile of 'Corporate Business Interest', mac, and I can guarantee we're not the only ones about to come visit him. He's a witness, bub. And a witness is like the wednesday special at a trog-hotdog stand - they all get chewed up and flushed."

With Hek pulling a gun, Flair turns his attention to the man. "You'd like to, wouldn't you? You really would. I've seen your type in my time. Put a bit of cyber in you, pick up a few ex ex rounds and suddenly you're the latest action hero on a mission. Pfft.". He shakes his head, looks away.

At Gretchen's calmer approach, the man seems to calm somewhat, consdering her for a moment before carefully picking his response. "I told you, I don't want to know, but between me and you..", a quick glance from Hek to Kraft, now he has a weapon out too, ".. not these tactless monkeys..", and back to Gretchen, ".. me and you. It's all Martelli. The board of directors are meeting Friday, it's no big news that Martelli's going to make Manes look incompetent and take over. The HSE merger is already on the cards, waiting for the leadership change.".

Gretchen chimes in with, "Speaking of which, just what did you have planned for the Hollwood Sims event?" She looks to the pair of tickets, then steps aside to pick them up and peruse them.

Hek ignores Flair's presence there in the room, intentionally speaking around him and to the other runners as if he is not there. There is a psychology there at work, letting the professor know that his existance is not a factor. "He seems to know a drek load about the political landscape and what is going on for someone who doesn't know anything."

"They're already hiring.", Hendrix replies to Gretchen, "They offered me a position once the merger goes through.". Hearing Hek's comment has him switch attention, "You newfangled 'runners might not investigate your prospective employees, but I do. You think it's a coincidence that the chips that are set to keep Manes in his seat disappear right before a board of directors meeting?". He shakes his head, looks away, "This ain't even my 'run, why am I sharing with you?"

Catching on Hek's game, since they both comprise the 'tactless monkies', the old borg shrugs his shoulders. "What did I tell you? Let Twitchy talk. She's got a thing for idiots what get themselves in trouble, bub. Likes to see them still breathing at the end of the day." And then his hand comes up, palming his dog-ear cigarette and drawing on it nice and slow. Letting his mind wander while the old coot spills.
Turns out, Gretch's way works a lot of times.

It is subtle, but it is there for people who are used to being wary of such things. The slight twitch of the index finger squeezing on the outside of the pistol's trigger guard. The brief, completely blank expression on Hek's face. An internal war between the darkest inclinations of human nature, and whatever humanity is still left in the outwardly human appearing man standing there.
Hek, cognoscente of his own inclinations and the propensity for this to go sideways, excuses himself. "I'm going to go wait outside in the hall." He speaks to Kraft, figuring that the old borg will understand better than anyone else there in the apartment. (Cityspeak)

Gretchen levels a circle-lensed stare at Flair. "You don't have the luxury of choosing whether or not to be involved, sorry." She shakes her head and shrugs. "And no, I don't believe in coincidence. It's obviously all part of Martelli's 'master plan'…" She steps forward, embellishing her disdain for the caped ork with a mocking, grandiose parting of her hands as though presenting something of great value. Like the plastic people in the new Americar ads.

Gretchen says in Cityspeak, "Word."

Grouses the old borg; He couldn't help but notice, alas. Old instincts. False eyes flicking down, up to the blank expression on Hek's face, then over to Flair as Gretchen keeps working her mojo. Seeing as Twitchy's got the bag on this one - she's got rapart with the damn hippie. So Kraft settles himself back by the counter, sucking down his cancer riddled smoke and thinking as he listens. With a sneaky glance to make sure the micro-recorder was still going. Good for six hours.

Leaning his head back against the kitchen counter, Flair looks upwards at the roof, at a circle of greyish black damp that's been slowly growing since he moved in. "I should really get that fixed.", he says to himself, now seeming to be disassociating himself from the conversation at hand. He's a talented decker, an ex-runner, he's been around the block a few times; he's either going to die or he's not, that decision was made before the 'runners entered the door, no doubt.

"That's about all I can tell you.". He finally says. "Do what you've got to do."

Gretchen stews on the situation silently, arms folded and pacing, then commits to a quick course of action consisting of rooting through the most likely junk drawers in the kitchenette, digging out a pair of scissors, then displaying the blades for Flair with a tilt of her head and a slight lean. Following this, she underhand tosses them out across the room to a distance that would buy the group some time to skedaddle as the old man worms his way to them. Her breather vents hiss from a deep breath being exhaled as she lets herself out into the hallway.

Out in the hallway, Hek gets on the phone and explains the situation to Smiley. No, no… he does not actually need Smiley to do the work. No, it does not matter how much Smiley needs the nuyen. There is no way Smiley is going to be okay sitting in a small apartment with two highly intelligent runners, all amped up on nova coke and bad reflex boosts. Yes, a couple of the homeboys will be fine. Yes, of course they need to be strapped. No, they can't bring the chicas. Done and done.

Kraft is last out the door, that fedora still tipped low. He tilts his head as he listens outside, glancing down to the pocsec; Still no movement on the ground floor stairwell. Not seeing anything isn't a perfect cover, but most people don't bother looking up. At last, after Twitchy skedaddles, the old borg plucks his micro-recorder up from the tabletop. Sliding the tiny thing into a pocket after stopping the recording; He'll have to get some memory sticks or something. Backup of backup copies. Never know when a confession comes in handy, he'd learned long ago.

But for now? Now it's time to simply leave. Although he does make sure to keep the door -unlocked- for Hek's boys.

"Alright bubs." He begins, before closing his lips. That transducing text-to-speech coming live on the comms, without his jaw shifting.

«Next thing we need to do is shake Freya out of whatever tree she came out of; And we need it before we got meet Blue. I've a few people I can poke - how about you two?»

With his eyes starting to droop as the stimulant patch effects start to fade, Flair ignores Gretchen moving around until she's right in front of him with the scissors. Watching her leave the apartment, just as she reaches the door he offers a respectful, "Thanks..", before the stimulant patch finally wears off completely and he returns to dream land.

Gretchen has to speak out her replies, so keeps it brief and vague, but she confirms some thoughts on the matter. « I have a few ideas… » For the moment she simply scoots along, separating from the others on her way down the stairwell and out the building, hood up and tugged far forward as before, to slip back out onto the streets.

Hek makes his way back to the Ford and starts the engine. Once the time comes to leave, he shifts the photovolic paint a few hues towards the white end of the spectrum. After a few blocks, the car is no longer the same color that it was when it was parked near the apartment.

«Alright, alright. We'll meet up again at Rathskeller's.»

Grumbles the borg, giving the others time to clear out before he'll start down the stairwell as well. Plucking the micro-video as he goes from its sticky spot on the side of the stairwell. And tucking it back into another pocket.

It's a bit of a walk to the Zephyr, but at least it gives him time to finish his smoke in peace.

INFORMATION GATHERING:

Gretchen decides to make a call to one Mr. Tadiusz Ferenczy, a man whose name she couldn't pronounce if she even tried. Luckily, he prefers to just go by Mr. Johnson. "Anything you can get me on Freya would be much appreciated…"

The Johnson might have something, he offers to meet within an hour at a diner in the CAS district; he's late for lunch so he can spare a few minutes while grabbing himself a meal. The travel shouldn't take long as you're in the southern CAS sector at the moment, but after driving less than a mile along the edge of the Warrens border you spot two members of the Red Rovers go-gang riding alongside two from the Blood Rumblers, as if they were on the same team. The group seem to be heading for the Warrens border crossing.

Tadiusz greets you at the diner, wearing a longcoat to try and hide his uniform, and buys you lunch in return for payment for information rendered. "Freya Goldenhair. I've put work her way before, but she's not cheap. I made a few calls before coming here and it sounds like whoever sponsored her last run left her for dead. Now I'm not saying anything, you understand? But someone matching her description and bleeding all over the floor fell into Dr. Bob's Quickstitch over on Mission Hills. You didn't hear that from me though. You want anything else?", a nod toward the menu, meaning food rather than information.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « We need to stop in at Dr. Bob's, boys. (Whether in range for comms, or by text, call or trixmail, I share what I learned from Tadiusz with Hek and Kraft). She does so dearly wish to grab a bite to eat — she's stressing and exhausted, but she lays a hand over the slice of pizza in her pocket and declines the J's offer. She does however, lean across the the table as an afterthought to grab a handful of the little plastic jam and jelly containers. If she's lucky there will be an apple butter one in there. « I'm heading out to Mission Hills. »

Across the border and into the Warrens. It doesn't take too long to find Vinny, a few questions from the locals have you pointed in the right direction. Asking about Marcus Cooper, aka Face, aka the Historian, handing over a few cred and talking the talk has him spill some information. "Well, the way I hear it..", he starts, ".. he got wind of this new plug-in and had to have it. Had to, like, the world was going to stop if he didn't. He's been so focused he ain't even answering his calls, that ain't good for a fixer.". Taking a bite of prime meat, or rat on a stick, he continues. "He was working on something big, heard from a friend of a friend of a friend, if you know what I mean, that he even scored Griffin for the job. You heard of Griffin, right? Some corporate razor from Downtown, real tough nut.".

Another bite of the rat and it's offered across for Kraft to have a nibble. "Now here's the thing, see, thing I'm hearin' is that the Historian is now giving the Blood Rumblers orders. He was always like that..", fingers crossed, ".. with them, real close, but it used to be they'd tell him what they wanted and he'd jump. Total 360. Or 180. Or whatever the frag.".

Information gathered and time to move on, but as Kraft walks past a nearby alleyway two joyboys can be heard talking together, "I'm telling you Raymond, it's not safe working the streets anymore, not with that psycho out there. You hear Simon was all cut up in that alley?", pointing to the alleyway opposite, "It's not safe, I'm telling you. We shouldn't be out here."

Walking with Vinny was a bit like strolling through a swamp; You're bound to get splatters on your clothes no matter how careful you are. Still, it was a real crunchy bit; The info wasn't bad either. "Griffin? Now you're bending my ear, Vinny…"

«Cooper's been after this chip for a bit. Might be that he bent troghead around to his line of thinking. Also running with a razor named 'Griffin'. That name strike a fancy with either of you?»
Whether pocsec transduced call through induction pads or right down the ol' comline.

Deciding the enjoy the last of the good weather, the report mentions incoming rain, mist and thick fog for the coming days, Hek ends up meeting Hector Ramirez, the massive Ork cop, at a small park. "The gang situation is gettin' out of hand over there, it started in the Warrens and is leakin' out to this side of the wall. What I've picked up is some fixer took over the Blood Rumblers, some guy called 'Khan', but he ain't happy with just taking Blood Rumblers territory, he wants the whole Warrens."

The cop takes a sip of his soykaf before continuing on, "Now, I'm hearing different reports, but it comes down to this; the Blood Rumblers have made a pact with the Red Rovers, Eye-Fivers and Spike Wheels. All the drek we've seen so far, that's just a run up to the main event. Word is there's a war council gathering, all those gangs are going to be meeting at some warehouse near Seven Hills and then those hordes are going to barrel through the Warrens. That's outside my jurisdiction, but hell. Keep your head down or it's going to get blown off when they come riding through.".

Hek relates everything that he gets from Ramirez regarding Khan's recently patronage of the Blood Rumblers, and also the pact between them, the Red Rovers, Eye-Fivers and the Spike Wheels. He leaves out the part about the war council, because there is no percentage for him getting involved in the middle of a gang war.

When the meeting with Ramirez is over, as Hek is walking away his phone rings. It's one of the gang watching over Flair and Tee and they seem to be in the middle of a firefight. "Frag, hold on..". There's more gunfire for a moment, the sputtering of SMG's, then all goes quiet. "We good?", he asks someone near by, "Yeah, all down..", comes the response, then he's back talking to Hek. "We didn't expect that last two. We just had some orks come through, but put them down. Dumbest fraggin' orks, what sort of ork wears a cape? Frag. You want us to move these guys or stay here?"

Hek makes a snap decision. "Move them." He instructs the cholos, figuring that the spot is blown. "Make sure to take the tech too, but don't let those guys use it. Take them and the stuff to…"

STREET ENCOUNTER:

As she so often does these days, Gretchen calls on Druid, a decidedly unmagical member of the Royals to arrange passage through the slum border wall on her bike. She travels only a short distance south to the hood dominated by the Crank and the bliss market to meet up with Jem and Benny, Sinners enforcers — one a narrow-faced woman with a thing for knives, the other a she-ork with a heart of brass and a fondness for cheap beer by the gallon.

The two talk between themselves, trying to figure out between them which Griffin you might be talking about, though mention of him being a Downtown type certainly helps. Benny speaks up first, "We know Griffin, he comes up here from over there wall there.. he likes spending some time with the girls, if you know what I mean. Prices must be high Downtown."

Jem jumps in, "He hasn't been seen since he hooked up with Cooper for a job, from what I heard he didn't even turn up to launder whatever he got got for payment.".

Benny interrupts, "That's not true..", she says, ".. he has been seen. Tammy said she saw him over at the Dungeon dressed up in one of these deep red suits and cloaks he likes so much, but the girl she was with was calling him Jack.", she shrugs, "Tammy is usually so out of it though, it have could been anyone.".

Gretchen spends a few minutes chatting with the girls on the front steps of a tenement where they're on neighborhood watch, scanning the street for any johns who seem shady or who cause too much trouble with the dealers and working girls in the area. They crack a few beers and the German is thankful for the opportunity to sit down for a few minutes in relative calm.

"Fragging cloaks and capes, ugh." Gretchen has removed her breather and hood by this point and tugs at her white hair, starting to show just a bit of roots for not having stopped at the salon in the past few days. "Jack huh…" She tucks this info away for later thought and discussion, and dives into another line of inquiry: "…heard of someone goes by Khan..?" She sips her beer and squints one eye behind her shades.

"Khan? There are like three hundred Khan's around here, give us somethin' to..", Benny starts. Around the corner comes the roar of a bike engine, then suddenly a Blood Rumbler screeches around the corner, travelling high speed along Sinners turf. He whips out an SMG as he goes and starts opening fire on any gangers he can spot while on his mad crusade. The bullets rake along the floor, ping close to your head, rip up the wall just above Benny and Jem, but nobody is hit. A little further down and the SMG opens fire again, clipping another of the nearby Sinners and spinning her with the impact, dropping her to the ground. Other Sinners gather quickly, pulling out weapons and opening fire in return.

Benny and Jem do the same, rising to their feet, pulling out weapons and aiming at the quickly retreating biker.

Gretchen drops, crawls, rises and peeks, all within the span of an instant, just a blur of black and white flailing on the pavement. Beer bottles are knocked from the steps to roll and shatter on the sidewalk, but she takes some action right along with the Sinners, rolling to bring her shotgun to bear, aiming vaguely in the direction of the doomed biker from where she now takes cover behind the concrete steps leading up into the building, lying on her back, with head and shoulders and Ithaca barrel poking out.

Hastily, the German takes a shot, bracing one forearm against the lowest step leading to the apartment building, but it goes wide. She pulls the weapon to her chest and pumps, expelling the now-empty shell casing from the bottom, and it pops out to land beside her, twirling with the force of the ejection mechanism. She hasn't even had time to process what the hell is happening, but when in doubt, fight fire with fire. She scoots once more to try to aim up a second shot…

The roar of gunfire is almost deafening, Jem and Benny open fire with SMG's, two of the still standing Sinners start firing too; joygirls scream, pedestrians dive for cover, homeless scurry into shelter, for a few brief moments the Warrens is again alight with gunfire.

The biker stays low on his bike, weapon angled for a straight strafing run as he rides, a noticable wire running from datajack down into the bike itself. Bullets are left in his dust as he rides on, only a few making him swerve and duck with the speed of transferred thought; and then he's gone, around the next corner and northwards out of Sinner territory.

The one Sinner who had been hit pushes up to her feet, raises a hand, "I'm good!", though the hand goes straight to her shoulder where the impact tried without success to penetrate her armored jacket. Jem and Benny are furious, stomping back and fore, wanting to shoot something else now the adrenalin is running. It's Jem that speaks first, "These motherfuckin' assholes, that's the third time since this mornin', and it ain't just them, it's the Rovers too. If they want a war, they've got a fuckin' war!", she declares.

Benny breathes heavily for a moment, trying to push down the energy rush, then settles back into her place on the steps. "Fuck, dropped my beer. Gretchen, if it ain't the bikers, it's some psycho cutting up our girls. I thought this place couldn't give us any more shit n' here we are."

Gretch moves once the biker is out of sight, rising into a crouch beside the steps and, much to her surprise, finds that her own beer was toppled over but the glass remains intact, and there's still a final sip left, albeit a flat, foamed up sip. She knocks it back regardless as she rises to standing, letting the bottle fall to the ground at her feet where it finally shatters, surrounding her single shell casing with shards of brown glass. "They're stirring up trouble. Shit's about to get real, and fast…" Exhaustion begins to set in after the adrenaline spike of being shot at, and she begins to consider how long she might have to lay low before things get too real, and too close for comfort. "Look, I'm working with some people, and this shit with the Rumblers is a big part of it. There's more to it, but…" She tugs her beanie back on over her messy white hair and knuckles her Lennon shades back up onto the bridge of her nose. She shakes her head and stares after the biker's route, looking from Jem and Benny to the other Sinners down the block. "…I'll keep you posted, but this shit," she gestures out along the path the biker traveled, as well as toward the brand new gunshots that mar the facade of the tenement. "…this is all just a screen for some bigger corp takeover drek." Whether it's spot-on, or simply conspiracy theory, only time will tell…

Benny reaches over and grabs Jem by the arm, who immediately resists, but a look from Benny has the woman calm down, "Sit down, Jem.", she says in a friendly tone and, though Jem is still rooting for a fight, she does as she's asked and takes a seat. Hearing talk of the Rumblers and corporate takeover, Benny puts two and two together, "That's the Khan you're asking about then, right?", the woman rubbing her sleeve against her nose before resting back on the seat. With the adrenalin still high, she's a little twitchy, watching every corner, listening for every sound, ensuring she's safe now the moment has passed.

"Fucked if I know what's going on with that gang, one minute Cooper's giving orders then some Khan takes over and is bringing gangs together for a major fuckin' rumble. I s'pose this Khan is one of your corporate goons?", she asks. "I heard they've got some war council brewin'. We'd storm the place if we could, but we ain't crossing that much territory for no man.".

Gretchen frowns a thin, black-lipped frown, nostrils flaring from the deep breaths her lungs are still demanding post-driveby. She definitely lives up to Kraft's nickname for her, twitching, as though trying to look in all directions at once. "All I really know is, yeah, Khan's some sort of fixer, might be working for an ork suit named Martelli — Has to be. Martelli wants Global Tech, and he's probably gonna take the ship down in flames if he can't take it by force." She slumps, exhaustion creeping in with every passing second. She sluggishly climbs the steps once again to the concrete landing outside the front entrance of the building to resume her seat on an overturned plastic crate. "I'm not sure exactly what's going on with the go-gangs, but there are going to be some new alliances, or a lot of dead foot soldiers very, very soon…"

With the flow of the conversation shifting from one topic to the next, but staying inside a bubble, Benny picks up on that, "Wait? Martelli? Martelli Junior? We don't know him, he don't come over here, does he Jem?".

Jem speaks up, "His boys do though, fuckin' orks in capes. You ever seen anything so stupid? That's not the fixer, Gretchen, Martelli was working with Cooper is what I hear. No idea what he was doing, I s'pose he had something to sell or buy.", she shrugs, let's Benny take over.

"I don't know who this Khan is supposed to be, but Jem's right, he was dealing with Cooper. Word from his boys to our girls to us is he's been trying to get tight with some Hollywood Simsense suit called Pengrave. I dunno if that helps or not, but our girls have good ears.", a shrug.

Jem takes over again. "You look tired Gretchen. Had a long night?".

Gretchen lets out a deep breath through pursed lips that causes her cheeks to puff out and collapses even further, elbows resting on her knees where she sits on the crate. "Long night, long couple of days, and barely any sleep leading up to /this/ shit." Her accent is doubly thick for being as tired as she now feels, and she vaguely gestures in the direction the Rumbler disappeared to. "Pengrave though, hm?" She tiredly looks between the two women and before she can help herself, yawns open-mouthed like a silent roar. Afterward, she smacks her lips and begins to dig for a cigarette in her jacket pockets, dusting some street dirt from her black peacoat in the process.

"Well, I've got a line on how to get in touch with Cooper. I think so anyway. I'll see what I can do about getting this figured out, but watch your backs. And tell Mercy to increase patrols. A little bird told me the council meeting is going to be in Seven Hills, and that they're all going to ride afterward to make a spectacle out of the whole thing. It's…" She sighs, blinking as she lights up a Course with a green chem match. "They're gonna celebrate by going on the warpath, so lock up tight. Set mines if you have any. It's gonna get really fucking ugly."

Jem, still a little high on adrenalin and wanting to shoot the hell out of something, stands upright at the mention of a warpath. "Let 'em come, I'll fill that whole fuckin' street with their bodies until they can't get through.", a hand going to her weapon again, the woman pacing off in the direction of the street where she'll make a stand.

"Thanks for the warnin', Gretchen.", Benny replies, while Jem is doing her thing, "I'll pass it on. Here..", she reaches into a pocket, pulls out a set of keys and throws them upwards in a steady arc toward you, ".. go get some rest. My room's 205. Don't touch the beer though or I'll kick your arse.", she grins. The woman gives a friendly upnod, then looks over to keep eyes on the currently unstable Jem, who is having a personal rant at the world and waving her weapon around.

Gretchen thanks the Sinners for their help, both in terms of info and a couch to crash on for a few hours, and sends the leads to Hek and Kraft across town in the hopes that they'll be able to use any of it in their own investigations. She does pop open Benny's fridge to admire the beer, though, once in the apartment (and the cases stacked beside the fridge that simply couldn't fit) but she decides to just focus on sleeping. She sets her phone alarm for three hours, figuring a decent nap should be good for now. There's just too much going on to risk sleeping much longer. With her primary concerns handled for the time being, she curls up on the couch using her coat for a blanket and zonks out, willing herself not to have nightmares as usual, but it rarely, if ever works out.

As the conversation turns to operating in the Mission Hills, Hek begins to shy away. At first he lapses into silence, content to allow Kraft and Gretchen to determine the best course of action. Once the division of labor comes up, he suggests that, "It's going to be best if I wait in the car on this one."

Gretchen dreams of electric sheep. Not in a metaphorical sense, but in a 'her favorite trix game right now has collectible ro-baaaaah-ts hidden around each level and when you find all fifty you get a little realworld sheep bot' sense.

MENDING THE SHADOWS:

Dr. Bob's Quickstitch is an actual honest, no hiding, not so good but better than nothing, clinic set in Mission Hills, an area almost 'but not quite' on the outskirts of Sinners territory. Not that it displays itself openly, there's no bright neon signs announcing services here, nothing but a doorway with a sign next to it displaying the name. At least the sign looks decent.

Pushing open the door and heading inside you're hit immediately by the smell of disinfectant, followed by the steady murmur of voices as visitors to the clinic chat with each other in quiet tones. The waiting room is decorated with dilapidated furniture and tasteless wall hangings, while an older nurse sits behind a plexiglass secreen, rapidly entering data into a well worn terminal.

It appears slow here at the moment, a couple of rocker types wait at a corner, while the remainder of the inhabits seem to be squatters looking for some free medical service and perhaps, if they're lucky, a warm meal to see them through.

The meetup was a rockier than the foot path around the Rez, but at least it didn't involve more lead than a rigger playing pop the bunny. The old cyborg - Kraft - can't even fault Twitchy for taking a snooze. Hell, he's feeling like swinging through the John anyways after Vinny's grease-onna-stick makes its rounds through the mishmash of his guts. Tastes better than the baby gruel he's been forced to eat for a long time, at least. Liquid dinner's a real thing when most of your insides looked like Jackson Polluck went murderous.

Shaking off that dour thought, Kraft pauses to take a slow look around and mutter. "I've seen fresher daisies in the stink lines under Orc Town." Grousing as usual, even as he plucks his cancer stick from between pale lips and moves towards the old nurse.

Gretchen actually wakes up to her alarm for once (though she hit the snooze button a couple times for good measure). She digs a little concentrated energy drink from her bag, tucks her peacoat in to reveal the urban camo hoodie that was under the coat before, and moves out to meet up with Kraft near the clinic, albeit sluggishly. Before heading inside she does a lap around the block out of habit, and smokes a cigarette for breakfast in the process.

She makes her way in to meet the borg, flipshades down to conceal her eyes and breather over nose and mouth. Hood is up, gloves are on, and her bag is slung over her back, cinched tight.

A trip around the block is good exercise, but doesn't reveal much about the clinic or note anyone out of the ordinary. However, considering this is Sinners territory, the amount of joygirls around is dramatically lower than normal. Only the dedicated seemed to be out.. either that, or there's a lot of work happening tonight.

"Funnily enough, doll, it ain't service I'm after."

Begins the old borg, quietly thumbing across his pocsec; Mostly to keep his hands busy as he transduces aside to Gretchen.
«Mind keeping a peeper on the back door, sister? I get the feeling you're about to see how a bleeding keeb runs.»

"Looking for a friend of mine; Heard she got poked something fierce. Yellow Fleece; 'Course, now-a-days she goes by 'Goldenhair'. Elf NAN-nies, am I right?"

Just in the entryway of the clinic, Gretchen catches Kraft's message and turn an about-face. « On it. » She resumes her walk (though she did bring her bike) and posts up on a corner with a view down two sides of the exterior of the Quickstitch. « And… This may just be my imagination, but… not many joytoys working the corners this evening… Probably nothing, but… » She leaves the rest unspoken, unsure of the potential cause, but wracking her mind for theories. Some of those theories revolve around mutants that happen to be very difficult to lay one's eyes on.

With a deep intake of breath, the nurse stops her typing, blows out a breath of frustration; there's always something guaranteed to interrupt the work you've been trying to complete. The woman looks up at Kraft, her eyes are a tired grey color that matches her messy hair style. "I wouldn't know about that, sir. If you'd like to take a seat, I'll check with my superior.".

The woman motions toward one of the dirty beat-up seats in the waiting room, then stands and makes her way over to a quieter area of her small booth to contact someone on an internal phone. Kraft hears her, of course, his enhanced hearing picking up her side of the conversation, "I'm sorry to bother you Dr. Wilmoth, we have someone here asking about Freya.", she obviously knows who it is, Freya wasn't a name given by Kraft, "Yes sir.", a pause, "Of course.", "No, I won't.", "I'll give them the signal.".

And that's that, the conversation is over.

«Well, that went downhill faster than a troll at a dinner party. Trouble, sister; You got the backdoor?» A pause, however, as he digests the bit about joygirls being off the streets. «Must be a two-for-one special. Let me know if you start getting headaches.»

A curl of finger pull aside his jacket, that grim smile on the old borg's face. Damn; Didn't have time to load out gel. While the old broad's got her back turned and chucking up her 'superior'? Kraft's just going to slip right on through those doors before anyone can do anything stupid. Like try to get armed or run out the back. There might still be time to salvage this before he has to go knocking heads together. Maybe.
Nothing's ever easy in Queen City.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I /always/ have a goddamn headache… »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « They make a drink for that. Doesn't help, but you don't remember it afterwards. »

Gretchen mutters to herself, lurking outside after having drawn her Alta from her bag and tucked it into her belt, as well as a compact machine pistol that now hangs on a sling at her side.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I've been to the Dropoff. No stranger to the Damn. »

Outside, the forecast weather is starting to change; with the approaching night, darkness is already falling, so rises a thin mist. It's still thin right now, not so much a hindrance on sight, but reports have it growing worse over the coming days. From her angle, Gretchen can spot the rear fire escape, a door with no way of opening from the outside beyond some light explosives or a few well placed Ex Ex rounds. There's an eerie silence outside, perhaps caused by the fog, there's something not quite right in the air; or is that just Gretchen paranoia?

The doors from the clinics waiting room open easily, they're meant to, to allow quick passage for more seriously injured patients. Unfortunately for Kraft, waiting on the other side of the door are two heavily armed security guards, one on either side of the wall; assault rifles are the hardware of choice for these two. Hearing the doors open they both look in that direction, checking on who is coming through. They make no move, but one does speak out, "Wait until a doctor calls you, chum.".

Damn, damn, and double damn. -Nothing- was ever easy in Queen City. Holding up one hand to steady the security guards, Kraft tucks a finger into his breast pocket. And draws out - the beaten carton of cigs. Taking a moment to tap it on his wrist as he starts talking. Should've been more patient; He's been getting pull-happy of late.

"Sorry, mac, I ain't got time to wait-" He turns his head, making sure Old Nurse Helga Von Doom can hear him "-for no damn signal. Now, you boys may not know it, but I'm here to save your life." Crack the top; Dig out a dogear. Tuck it in the corner of his lip. "I just got loose from a shop that was shot to hell and back for holding one witness; Not a single survivor save the guys who listened to me and ducked. That lady your boss is stitching? She's number two." Only a little lie; To be fair, Hek's boys didn't leave any survivors from the attacking team. Just the cape wearing leader. "And I meant harm to Freya - the dame your boss is patching up - I wouldn't have knocked on the metaphorical front door. Trust me.. the guys that're coming next? They ain't coming to chat."
One part for the nurse; One part for the guards.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Well; A chop shop that pays attention to the environs. How's that back door looking? »

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Cloudy with a chance of creepshow… »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Two security guards and a nurse talking to her boss about 'sending the signal'. Not sure I'm gonna get much further, sister. »

There's a definite chill in the air, a shiver down the spine for Gretchen, something doesn't feel right in that alleyway. Is it the feeling of someone watching her? A threat from somewhere she can't see?

"Look chummer, I don't give a frag who you are or where you've come from..", one of the security starts, moving from the wall, assault rifle moved to both hands, not aiming but certainly ready to at a moments notice, ".. but if you..".

One of the doors open and a voice is heard first, "It's fine, lower your weapon..", the voice sounding educated, smart, a doctor walking out of the door and into the corridor. "I'll deal with this.". A tag on his white coat reads, 'Dr. Wilmoth'. "You're looking for Freya? What would you be wanting with her?"

The German tries to blend, but has the jitters something fierce. Maybe it's the energy drink she chugged on her way here, or maybe it's the looming tendrils of ominous fog that threaten to tighten their grip on the city tonight…

She constantly shifts her grip on her Steyr, still hanging on its sling at her hip, with heavy, extended barrel dragging it to point directly downward for the time being. « Door's sealed from outside, no handle. I could try to work something out, but even if I can weasel it open, it's gonna be alarmed, so… » She paces, keeping an eye on the door from a bit of a distance, with a building corner to duck behind if need be, but her now-begoggled eyes can't help from drift over her shoulders, across the edges of rooftops and up into the sinister skies..

Do not light the cig; Do not light the cancer stick. The smooth motion to draw a lighter and flick it open keeps starting with a flex of fingers, and ends up tucking the fedora a bit tighter on a bald skull. If there's one thing Kraft knew about docs, is they almost all hate smoking in the ward.

"Mostly a word or two, doc." He begins, lifting both hands in a placating gesture. "About the boys that left her spraying DNA all over a hostile territory fpr a few nuyen. That, and what they stole. Them what falls behind stays behind, and all that drek. There's a clean up crew sweeping up everything; I'm just lucky I got here first. So are you. And so is she."

Gretchen is nothing but raw nerves all of a sudden, what with the tension of having a potential 'situation' on their hands — a situation with at least two armed guards — plus the horror movie special FX to top it off. « …I have a really fucking bad feeling about this… »

The doctor, a handsome man, clean and neat, considers options for a few moments; he would rather not have a clean up crew randomly shooting their way through his clinic, after all. "One condition. You leave your weaponry at the desk, or you have two twitchy security guards aiming assault rifles at your head through the entire meeting.". The security does look a little twitchy, it's a fairly safe bet they'd love to be shooting at someone given half a chance.

There are times when your ears just pick up noises they normally never would; sound bouncing off the surroundings, channelling their way along alleyways and echoing across empty land. This must be one of those times. There's a gruesome sound coming from nearby, a gurgling of blood in the throat, an attempt at screaming that misses the necessary vocal cords, a ripping of flesh.. then silence.

Hek, apparently placing more priority on janky ass ghetto strippers working the BDSM angle instead of being in the clinic with the team, lingers in the Dungeon and follows the team's progress on the comms that he has wired DNI into his dome. A frown impresses itself semi-permanently upon his lips as he finds himself sitting there without any way to influence the outcome of whatever drek is about to hit the fan at the clinic.

The Dungeon is also lacking of talent tonight, it's as if the joytoys have mostly taken a night off except for the die hards or needy. The crowd is sparse in response, a few people having walked in, seen the effort for a Monday night and decided to go elsewhere. There are a few people gathered in groups; two chatting at the bar, group of three at one of the tables, one of the dancers is up on stage shaking it for all she's worth but perhaps it's too early for the show to begin; it is only just after 6pm after all.

"Fair deal, doc. Hell, if I get shot, at least I'm in the right spot."

What's the alternative? Draw leather and shoot the two boys? .. well, technically that's an alternative. But Kraft's never quite bought into that bloodthirsty business. The heavy handcannon brought up, letting it dangle so that it's not a threat to the twitchy guards. Kraft pushing on the cylinder to unlatch it, gripping it by the barrel so he can pluck the ammo out. Leaving that one gel round as usual, before he closes it with a curled thumb. *Clunk* This? This is left at the desk per request, with a false eyed wink for the old broad manning it. "Mind your digits, doll, it's got a kick."

And then it's time to play 'follow the doctor'.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « …a /really/ fucking bad feeling… »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Spill the beans, Twitchy. What's going on out there? »

Hek realizes that he is going to be there for a while, so he spends some nuyen on 'company' so as not to stick out like a sore thumb. There at a table in one of the corners, he spends more time listening in on other people's conversation than on whatever the current stripper on his lap has to say. Luckily for him, the stripper is about as interested in what is on his mind as he is in hers, which is to say not at all.

Happy? Not so much happy, but content that Kraft is disarmed, Dr. Wilmoth waves the man onwards, a hand raised briefly toward the security to let them know it's fine. He walks along the corridor, takes a left, then a right and comes to the end of another corridor with a clean white door labelled '6'. He waits for Kraft to catch up, then pushes the door open. "Freya, there's someone here to see you.", he says, holding the door open for the man to step inside.

FREYA GOLDENHAIR:

The inside of the room has several bouquets of flowers, clean fresh air compared to the outside disinfectant, a single bed with clean linen. Sitting up in the bed in a light blue hospital smock is a strikingly beautiful Elven woman, though she seems tired and somewhat pale. "You are quite persistent, aren't you?", she says, a bow of her head toward the doctor so he can close the door behind Kraft, leaving them alone. "I hear this is about the 'run that put me here. How can I help?". She's quite knowledgable, considering it would be impossible to hear the conversation from this far away. Though she is a mage.

The German is about as one edge as she can be, which is saying quite a bit, all things considered. « …it's like the exact scene from Mindcrawler where… » Gretchen murmurs to herself, trying her best to remain inconspicuous but likely failing miserably — she's pacing, nervously gripping and re-gripping her weapon as she tugs at the sling, and peering into every patch of growing fog with noticeable bobbing motions of her head as she flips to and from thermographic readings in a steady cycle. Her explanation of the movie scene centers around the appearance of the titular mindcrawlers that travel through dense fog and… « Just— fucking hurry! » She sounds very instistent, but manages to cease her nervous rambling.

One of the conversations in the dungeon is something that's on everyones mind tonight, "So where the frag are all the girls?", one asks, the other replying, "I dunno. I heard somethin' about some serial killer stalking the Warrens. When the frag doesn't that happen?". The first responds, "I heard someone else talkin' about that? You know anythin'?", to which the other replies, "Nothin'. I heard he's slicing them up real bad though, like frag, this guy's a sick fuck.". "If it's a guy.", the other reponds, to which he just nods, intrigued by the idea.

Tipping the fedora again as he moves past the Doctor, Kraft takes a moment to take in the sights; Flowers, flowers, everywhere. Who the hell sends flowers to a runner? No, correction; What type of runner is so well known that she gets flowers? Not that he can complain; The keeb was easy on the eyes, he'll give her that.

That was the worse thing a female could be. If she was comely or even scarred up like she walked out of a trog pitfight, then he could almost trust her. It was the lovely ones that went right for the balls, though.

Grimacing enough to pull his false lips into a thin frown, he grumbles for a moment before taking his dogear out of his mouth and tucking it - behind his ear.

"Good ears." He begins, the grim smile twisting into a wry grin. "Not so much the run itself, doll, as the blowout that came after. Heard Cooper and Griffin left you lurched; Wondering if you feel like a little come uppence is in order. Down to brass tacks, doll, I'm sniffing out those chips before they turn everyone 'round these parts into a slack jawed Yes Man. I've seen the tapes." A grimace as he glances to the side. The grimace remaining as false eyes flick back and forth at nothing.

".. You got something to poke holes in here? I think you're about to have more company than some yakkety dick in a coat."

«Keep your shirt on, I'm working here.»

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « How did I end up out here when there's a serial killer on the loose, anyhow..? »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Poor life choices. »

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « Slots in the Dungeon are all thwacked out on that. Barely any working girls on the hustle. Everyone's worried 'bout gettin' their throat slit. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Seems like a common theme. So what's all this got to do with a war gang, mind burning chips and corporate take overs? This one's fishier than the Black Lagoon. »

Gretchen swallows a lump in her throat and keeps her back to a wall, one eye over her shoulder and two hands on her weapon after snapping a small shoulder stock into place and a flashlight on the top rail. She doesn't flick it on, still relying on her goggles, but tinkering with the weapon gives her something to do with her hands other than tearing her own hair out from sheer anxiety. « …shoulda gone to the Dungeon, myself… »

"I was standing right next to you.", Freya explains about her 'good ears', it's common knowledge mages can astrally project. Hearing the name 'Cooper' has her sneering. It's not a good look for her, but then she probably hasn't had to wear it often. "Cooper. That jerk is a rat, plain and simple. He'll get what's coming to him for leaving me behind like dead meat.", a shake of her head, a shifting of slender legs beneath the clean linen sheets. "I don't know what happened to the chips.", the woman explains, "I wasn't there. It wouldn't surprise me if Cooper was there for them alone, though, he probably thinks they'll make him more powerful. Do you know why they call him the Historian? He's really into history, considers himself an expert, especially when it comes to battles. The battle of this, general of that, and don't get him started on Genghis Khan.".

"I'll give him a battle, once it's out of here. One that'll last all through history."

There's an echoing again through the faint mist, dancing down Gretchen's alleyway, a hint of malevolent laughter that slowly fades away. It's hard to pinpoint it, the sound seems to move oddly in this weather.

"You're the last one left alive - outside of Griffin - that knows the rat fink."

Comes the response from Kraft, leaving aside the bit about her standing right beside him the whole time. Damn spooks. He files the bit about 'Ghengis Khan' away for now; Something about the go-gangers is finally clicking in. Wasn't Khan all about horses and calvary? Makes sense if you start thinking about bikes as thundering equines or whatever the hell you like. Personally, Kraft prefered his own two feet or a water-tight car. The rain was vicious in Denver.

"You got nothing to help me put one over him? Lady, you want the man, you can have him. He's not the job - hell, you're not the job either, easy on the eyes as you are. The job's just the chips, and trust me when I say they're a nasty bit of work. He might just be right if he can get a few brutes slotted on them. His own slave army, and you're sitting pretty in the middle of ground zero."

"So I'm not asking out of a sense of morality here, sister; I get the feeling you got dollar signs where a heart would be. My type of gal. No, I'm asking out of a sense of revenge. Where do you -think- this mook would keep those chips? Something that'll make him a general in every sense of the word. On his person? He got a favorite stash house?"

Gretchen's breath shudders through the vents of her mask, and she feels suddenly, oppressively claustrophobic here, tucked in the corner of an alley between bullet-riddled brick and burned-out Buicks. She breaks the hermetic seal it holds over her nose and mouth and gasps like she's just surfaced from the depths of the ocean to take the first breath of air in ages. The mask is pseudo-polymimetic, so strap-free for maximum convenience to commuters and criminals alike, and into a pocket it goes. She swaps it for a pack of her smokes and pulls out a hand-rolled joint saved for only the most special of occasions. Or the most nerve-wracking…

She leans against the nearest wall and flicks her lighter once, ever so briefly, concealing the momentary flame with her body and cupped hands before drawing a lungful of smoke, then exhaling a cloud that blends with the fog and drifts…

"Not the last..", Freya corrects, a shake of her head, a brief push of long golden hair pushed away from her eyes, curled behind an elven tipped ear. "The rigger might know something. I didn't really get to know here, we talked for a minute or two but there was nothing in common so.. You know how it is with tomboys like that.", she says, as if thinking Kraft is a little higher class than street trash, "Her name was Val. Maybe you know the name?".

Outside in the alleway, Gretchen exhales a breath that pushes the mist slowly along the alleyway, clearing a spot that desperately tries to be refilled by the cold, damp air. As the mist clears at the end of the alleyway, so she catches movement, a figure running past and onwards. Then a second, and finally a third, though the last is walking and checking over a heavy pistol as she goes, a click-clack to check the chamber. The woman, whoever it is, checks down the alleyway to see what might causing the breeze, before she's gone from sight also, following the others.

"You can have it for free.", Freya tells Kraft, "They stabbed me in the back, I'm happy to do the same. In the chopper he told me, 'The chips are mine. You're both along to provide cover.'. What he intends to do with them, I don't know. I don't even know what they do.".

While you don't know the woman, there has been brief rumors about a rigger called Val who seems to have scored something big, as she's being throwing the nuyen around lately. The money may have gone to her head, however, as she's disassociated herself from her old friends and is now calling herself Cleo.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Got a name; Val. The rigger who was running machine. Goldielocks here doesn't know diddles from squat, but she's a spook so mind your manners. Heard a bit about someone like that just recently moved into money; Calls herself 'Cleo' now. Still getting the heebies, Twitch? »

A chill wind doth blow, and while Gretchen finds the restored lines of sight somewhat reassuring, the hairs on the back of her neck are still at attention due to the darkness and the screams and the rumors and — the running figures?! She ducks out of sight at the first glimpse of motion and skitters a short distance, right hand snugging the butt of her weapon's stock into her armpit while the other flicks the cherry from her joint and slips the roach into her pocket. « THREE RUNNERS » She hisses, hood whipping in the sudden breeze, as are sheets of discarded packaging plastic and ancient, half-biodegraded McHugh's wrappers. « Ein, zwei, drei, heading your way..! »

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « What is with all of these different names? Those chips doing some sort of persona-fix drek? »

The breather mask is retrieved, cupped and re-adhered over Gretchen's nose and mouth as she tries to get gone, slipping into the nearest shadow while maneuvering for a bit of distance and perhaps a better viewing angle.

"Val, huh?"
Kraft squints for a moment, the ol' ticker working over. He always tried to keep his ear to the ground - you never knew when it might come in handy. His features smooth over, though, as he rolls his shoulders. "I know -a- Val, sister, but I don't generally run with that type." Yeah. Slightly higher than street trash. Kind of like how a trash can lid is higher than the trash inside the can. He shakes his head slightly to clear the dour though, before nodding once.

"Better than bupkiss, and much obliged, dame. But word of advice; I ain't kidding when I said I'm here to save your life and the Docs too."

"Those chips aren't a joke, and 'Cooper's looking to play Caesar. Get out if you can hobble." A glance off the side, and a short curse. "Curses. Make that -now-. Sorry, sister, I've got to get back to my piece before we're all resting in peace."

And now its time to swing the door open, a final fedora tip to Goldielocks and a tilt of the head.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Got it in one. They'll get you trained right up into an obedient, slack jawed, starry eyed minion. Broken promises and all. Guess that's why the hit job. »

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « And no stepping back from that ledge either. Burnt into the grey, mac. »
Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « Twitch, I'm gonna grab my piece and try to slip out the back door if they're running around to the front. How's the walk? »

With a slight pained look, Freya pushes herself up in bed, a faint bob of the head toward Kraft. "I'll be gone before you know it.". Before he's gone, she manages to get a, "Take care out there.", 'runner respect, then the door is closed behind Kraft as he heads out to join Gretchen.

STREET ENCOUNTER:

At the end of the alleyway, a turn to the right has the runners in sight. They're a little further down, at the next alleyway, but have stopped. The one with the pistol stands, shaking her head, before stepping into the alleyway, the other two are clearer now; both human, a male and female. The female has stepped in close to the male, seeking comfort, crying at something the male is staring at inside that alleyway. Neither have spotted Gretchen.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « You know the back door is gonna set off alarms… » She tries to advise against making a huge display as she zooms in on the trio of strangers. « Look, people are screaming, running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It's a horrorshow out here… » Maybe she's exaggerating a little bit. « Maybe… maybe they're not heading into the clinic… They're looking at something… »

Having gotten the all clear from Gretchen, picked up his hand cannon and - well, made his way back out the front, taking Twitchy's advice to heart - Kraft pauses just around the corner to thumb the chamber of his Deputy open and reload it. He considers the single gel round still left in there, before leaving it and slotting six more Ex-Ex in. There's something satisfying about the setup as he closes it, spins it on his wrist and lets it *Clinka-clinka-CLUNK* into position. Tucking it back into his hidden quick-draw, he'll start meandering around the corner to get a cross-fire setup. Juuust in case.

«Guess there's one way to find out; I dropped a coincidence before and it turned around to nip us in the aft. Figure it's best to meet this one head on. Got my side, sister?»

Time to roll up on the three, with his fedora tipped low, a glowing cherry dangling from lips and his hands in his pockets.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « I'm… here… » She swirls her head around just to get a firm grasp of where exactly 'here' is, but she feels pretty well-hidden at the very least. Her gloved hands white-knuckle her modded up peashooter, and she rocks her shoulders back and forth ever so slightly in the shadows, keeping a close eye on these interlopers. « Look, I didn't want to say it before… » She whispers ever so quietly, and ever so tensely. « …but I think another girl was murdered… »

As Kraft moves in, he can pick up the words spoken between the three and a previously unseen fourth. Without being able to see them properly, it's hard to pick out who's talking, the mist is making the sound a little odd. ".. I was only away for a few seconds, I just.. I needed to go..", "It's not your fault.", "How could someone do that to her?", that last is easy to pick out, the woman is the only one with tears, her voice is cracking and shaking, "I heard the Star are investigatin', maybe we should..", "The Star ain't gonna do drek n' you know it.".

The two remain in an embrace at the mouth of the alleyway, the two others, two females, are out of sight inside the alleyway.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « At least one is packing… »

"Star won't. Guess you'll have to find someone else."

Comes the voice of Denver's Dirty Angel as he slips out of the fog, false eyes casting just a slight yellow aura from the dully glowing iris. The cherry of his cigarette glowing as well, bobbing as he speaks, letting the heavy dregs of fog roll off him like clawing hands. It's the best way of saying 'hey here I am' instead of popping up to get shot by nervous gangers and grieving girls. He'll move as close as is appropriate to get a look at the crime scene, palming that cigarette in between forefinger and midfinger as he does. Just one more line of white fog to slip through the air, though scented with cancer and nicotine.

Gretchen remains in hiding, caught in the eye of a swirling eddy of intersecting gusts of wind that peculiarly picked up moments ago, and the fog at the outskirts of the winding alleys here continually tries to seep in, but is battered away.

The female with the gun spins at the sound of someone approaching, raises the pistol, but seems to recognize the man so slowly lowers it back down. The woman is a member of the Sinners, no doubt about that, as is the woman in the arms of the now noticably large man, likely a bouncer or security of some sort from appearances alone. Another woman stands alongside the Sinner, but it's also not immediately obvious who she is. The woman is crouched down next to a female figure in the alleyway.

When Kraft is able to get a decent view, he sees a young woman, no older than eighteen, long red hair and pretty features laying on her back on the ground, her arms out to either side of her. She's wearing a long coat but that too has been pulled open, the crop top she was wearing sliced and pulled away to expose her flesh. But it's not just her flesh, it's beneath the flesh. Her torso has been sliced open from hip to throat, skin carefully peeled back with the skill of a surgeon to reveal the internal organs. The womans small handbag lays on the ground next to her, items from inside scattered, while a little further off lays a discarded Ares Predator pistol.

The woman crouched next to the body says nothing, just studies what she's seeing, while the other three shift and move after the Sinner lowers her weapons, not speaking, just giving the old borg some space.

The old borg pauses when the gun's pointed at him - but he doesn't taken it personally. Getting guns pointed at you was practically a Ren 'hullo' these days. And then a nod to the young lady - the Sinner - before his eyes drop back down to the victim. Something old and familiar settles in the back of the noir detective's mind; Like he should be wearing a white splatter coat, something plastic on his shoes and trid-cam setup. It's a troubling thought, shaken off with a faint shudder while he pops that dogear back into his mouth. Giving the grieving sister a bit of space, the old borg squats down with a faint whirr of servos. He reaches up, tapping the side of his temple; Go go Kraft-it Eyelights. There's a soft pop, clinking a few times like old lightbulbs before eyelights shine forth, highlighting the scene - his coat rustling in the after math of the breeze kicking itself down the alleyway. He gives that a hard thoughtful frown, even as tendrils of mist drift through his illuminated gaze. He stands up, the headlights of his gaze swinging this way and that, spotlighting where his attention goes.

Here, the first tiny spatter, eyes whirring as they zoom. There, the scuffle. There, a few threads in the brickwork. And finally here. He gets down low, never touching the body, damn near putting his cheek on the concrete as he looks towards the back of her head. And - finally - the eyelights flicker and die, leaving that disquiet, faint glow of his false irises.

He straightens back up, takes a moment to tighten and loosen his tie, then draws hard.

".. Strong. Whoever hit this dame was strong as an ox, got her right over head and down again. But whatever he was looking for, he didn't find it. Someone hear something and come running?" A glance at the others.

The question from Kraft is answered by the male of the group, gently disconnecting himself from the upset female who instead stands there with her arms wrapped around herself, looking away, not wanting to see the body. "I told her to stay in sight while I took a break, you know? Nature calls n' all that.". He looks at the body, shakes his head, "I was only a few seconds chum, twenty, thirty. How could he do that so fast?", a shake of his head in dismay.

As the private eye goes through the routine, Gretchen begins to skulk closer, inch by inch, and as she goes, the wind accompanies, eventually gusting across the collected grief-stricken group and the unfortunate victim. With a very familiar hand cannon lying near her body on the concrete, clearly ineffective in its ability to keep the woman safe.

Commlink-MALTESEFALCON> Kraft sends, « I think you're fine now, twitchy; This group's not looking to pop anyone's skull just yet. »

Familiar indeed. The girl who has turned away spots Gretchen skulking closer, takes a few steps to intercept, "Gretchen, you don't want to see..", she says, but she knows she has no way of stopping her. The body is, of course, that of the once Johnson, the person who called in help for the Sinners, who made Gretchen and Kraft well known names in the gang; Candy, the pretty little redhead who deserved much better.

As the German creeps up, closing the distance, she makes her presence known by intentionally scuffing the heels of her boots louder than she otherwise would. Upon being spotted, she lowers her Steyr to hang on its sling, then raises both hands empty. Her fingers curl in and she presses the pads of her thumbs together as though to make the hand-heart that was so popular with the anime kiddies once upon a time, then twists one hand down while keeping the thumbs together so that the hooked fingers now form an S. S for Sinners, but the broken heart implication is a part of the hand signal as well, so the twist is necessary. "Wha…" She spots the bloom of red hair and begins to move a bit more urgently.

Squinting into the sudden hard burst of wind, Kraft braces one foot back and one hand on his fedora while his heavy lined coat whips and snakes about. He turns one shoulder towards the breeze, looking everywhere -but- Gretchen to try and spot the sudden breeze. "The hell's going on with the gale? This thing's blowing more than a ORC rights speech." He grouses, before looking to grip Gretchen's shoulder before she can rush too much closer. Grim faced.

"It ain't pretty, sister. Don't muck about with her either - I get the feeling this is all slid together somewhere in the muck."

The woman crouched near the body, still an unknown at this point, rises to her full height, which isn't much above 5'2", then moves away. A sudden breeze hits the area, throwing discarded trash in random directions, the woman stepping over a rolling can that clatters along and bumps against Candy's cold, dead thigh. The woman, having watched Kraft do his work, places a hand against his arm as she moves away, "Mind if I talk to you?", but doesn't wait for an answer, moving away from the alleyway and the group to stop at a nearby doorway. She reaches into a faux-leather jacket and pulls out a commlink, places the earphone to one ear while she speaks, "We have another one.", she tells whoever is listening. "I don't know, it's the same as before. I have someone here who seems to know what he's looking at, I'll get back to you.". A momentary pause then she seems to become frustrated, "If I had some fuckin' resources on this I..", but she's cut off before she can finish.

Forensics be damned, Gretchen skirts away from Kraft's outstretched hand, twisting and yanking her shoulder without halting her hurried momentum toward the mutilated girl with a wordless groan through mask vents. She staggers clumsily away as the borg's fingers rake at black, white and grey camouflage, and she falls to a knee at a slight distance. Directly before the fallen Predator that now lies futilely on the concrete. The gust rises in intensity, whipping refuse and clothing, sending electric and datacables in whip-like undulations, then… It comes to an abrupt halt and the German presses her palms to the ground, head hung just above the weapon, silently despairing.

Casting one glance towards Twitchy - and then down the length of his own nose towards the soggy, ruined dogear - the old borg grouses and spit the cig aside. Into his hand. Because hell no is he going to leave DNA evidence floating around near a mutilated corpse. Keeping it folded into his palm, he moves to follow the woman who pressed on his arm, frowning in thought.

When it looks like she's talking to someone on the other end of the line, Kraft'll wait for a moment to let her finish. That, and to eavesdrop a bit more. When it seems like she's finished, then he'll finally speak. "How many so far?" Comes the first question, followed right on the heel with a second: ".. And what's been missing in the others?"

With the breeze, Candy's slightly curled, long red hair twirls and sways, pulled along by the brief wind, making it seem almost alive for a moment. And then the breeze passes and she's anything but alive; her entire chest exposed, internal organs on display, blood spread around the body that's slowly congealing with the passing of time. At least her eyes are closed, the bash to her head when she was thrown to the ground was enough to cause a lights out. It's something, she didn't suffer, though from the work that's been done on her, the attacker would have preferred it if she did. It's obvious in the way he treated the body afterwards.

The woman, now near the doorway, shakes her head and pushes her commlink away again, looking up as Kraft approaches. Reaching into her faux-leather jacket, she pulls out a Lone Star identification, let's Kraft see it but ensures the rest of the world doesn't, "Kerri Barton..", she tells him, the I.D. disappearing just as quickly, "This is the fourth. They're usually missing an organ, but it seems whoever it was was scared off. What did you see?", a nod toward the alleyway, "You seem to have experience.".

While the treatment of the body is not occult related, there is a certain science to it. Whoever did this is medically trained, knew how to peel open the body like an orange, it's so neat it simply has to be someone with surgical skills.

Gretchen is breathing rapidly through her vents, feeling intense waves of psychic pressure at the emotions, the fear, the zen and adrenaline cocktail, and not the least of which, her oppressive exhaustion, even for having taken a bit of a nap prior to this. She releases a shuddering breath that starts high and drops to a growl as one hand idly paws at the pistol, its weight like that of an anchor. She rises as though with a great amount of effort, slowly, and with the Predator at her side, fingers gripping and re-gripping constantly. The German simply stares at a point on the ground one meter to the side of Candy's body as the faintest wisps of final body heat escape the pooling lifeblood to blend with the fog as it seeps back into the alley.

After a muffled and brief conversation, the more senior of the Sinners moves over to Gretchen, places a gentle hand to her shoulder. "We'll deal with this, Gretchen..". You might not know her, but she knows you. "You don't need to be here. We'll call you..", she says, a look down at Candy, staring at her for longer than intended, ".. for the funeral.", she finishes, followed by a deflated sigh.

Gretchen's grief jumps to denial and then anger rapidly enough that she forces herself to turn further away from Candy, hefting the weight of the pistol over and over again though the barrel remains pressed against the fabric of her leggings at her thigh, pointed downward. "Why the fuck is this happening, what— what do you know?" She swears in denial, guttural German curses with fourteen syllables per concept, shaking her head in denial.

The male of the group steps away, brings up a cellphone that he taps some numbers into, places it to his ear. "It's Max. We're gonna need a van over here..", he starts, moving further away from the group, the volume of his voice dropping as the returning fog disturbs the usual flow of sound. The Sinner, name unknown, shakes her head to Gretchen, "I dunno Gretch', it started Sunday night n' now we have four dead girls and it's only been a day. The others were worse than this..", she says, another look at Candy, ".. much worse.". How that's possible considering her internal organs are on display is hard to understand. The woman looks at Gretchen, searching her mind for answers to placate her, but there's nothing there, there are no answers, so she ends up simply shaking her head unknowingly, a sparkle of moisture in her eyes. The Sinner is hardened, but this. This is worse than any gang battle she's been in.

Kraft turns his head up just a touch as the fog rolls back in, and the strange wind dies as soon as it began. He glances over his shoulder at Twitchy and her friend, his lips pressing to a grim line again. But he doesn't quite make the connection yet between her exterior grief and the strange atmospheric phenomena. Twitchy's upset and with a gun; These two things go together about as well as a fire juggler standing in a pile of thermite. He then turns back to the PI, with a shrewd glance to the side. Keeping his ears open while he adjusts his collar.

"Reckon you start getting bodies like daisies, its time to send in the snoops." He quips, but his lips never move from their dire frown. Casting his voice low to keep anyone else from hearing without some effort. "Whoever hit her was strong as an ox. Snapped a knife across her throat like he was cutting sausage for breakfast, lifted her right off the ground and stamped her into the building - and then into the ground - hard enough to punch her lights out. She didn't weigh a thing to this guy. Or gal." He amends. "Then pulled her open neat and pretty to rifle in her pieces. I'd call it ritual, but it didn't last long enough; Those guys like to play, you know? That or he heard the friend coming back. More importantly is this; The gook hit during the brief window the friend was off. Which means the perp was -waiting- and -watching-."
A tug of the cartons. A soft sigh. He -just- got them worked into shape, and now he's going through them faster than a trog at a buffet. "So what's the connection, mac? What do the four have in common.." A glance up. "Besides being Sinners?"

Amplified hearing, everyone.

Gretchen begins to pace, bringing her hands to rest against the back of her bowed head, hood hanging low. The weapon remains in hand, weighing on her mind in more than just the physical sense. She now avoids looking at the girl's body, taking a few autonomous steps toward Kraft's direction as her mind reels, then she spins on a boot heel and marches back toward the Sinners. A chill runs down her spine as she considers just how near the culprit could be, and she begins reflexively whipping her head from side to side again as she had been earlier, checking alleys, rooftops and shadows, craning her neck as though it could help her peer through the fog more effectively.

"I've put that question through my mind so many times..", Kerri says, moving from the doorway to be closer to Kraft, so she can keep her voice low, ".. but I keep coming up blank. The only connection is that they're all street walkers. They're all sliced across the throat, then their internal organs are exposed and.. for the first three.. something was taken, two out of three was a heart, the other was a kidney.", a shake of her head, as if that's only adding to the confusion. "Look. I can tell you've been on my side, I could use some help out here. They've dumped me here with minimal resources as a token effort, but..", a pause, a glance at the alleyway to the Sinners who would likely consider her to be target practice, ".. we're not all bad. I don't want to see this happening anymore than they do.". The woman brings her gaze back to Kraft, having to look up due to height difference, yet somehow that doesn't even remotely intimidate her, "If we can share information, we might be able to do some good here.". Reaching into a pocket, she pulls out a card, offers it to the man in front of her. The card reads, 'Officer K. Barton', then a number beneath it. "Take it.", it's more a question than a demand.

Gretchen slowly acknowledges her poor weapon etiquette and reluctantly slips the barrel behind her belt, just beside an old vintage belt buckle that depicts a generations-old style of boombox made from mold-poured nickel alloy.

With the weapon tucked in her belt, Gretchen asks one of the Sinners in a tight-sounding, mask-Vadered rasp, finding it difficult to speak, "How long has she been wearing patches?" She just wants to know when Candy had stepped up from 'belonging on corners' into patrolling them. The situation has the distinct feel of someone dying on their birthday in the German's mind.

"Great. Someone's a fan of Jack the Ripper."

Grouses the old borg, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose as he keeps listening. Although he does take the card in the fingers not busy holding his DNA laced cig, his other hand dipping into his pocket. A touch on the pocsec, induction pads do their work even as the card's disappearing into the volumonous pockets. Someday someone's going to turn him upside and start shaking, and stuff won't finish falling out until Tuesday. He turns to look over his shoulder again, making sure his face and lips are always hidden by profile to people beside or behind him. "Alright, sister; I've got a pretty good gut feeling on this one; But if you want resources, you're gonna have to poke a bear a bit. How do you feel about some mook looking to play Caesar and drive a merry wargang all across the Rens, burning down everything in its wake? I figure your lot's already in the boil, so collaring this before it starts'll go a long way to building up some PR gank. And I'd be lying.."
"If I said the two weren't likely related. So here's the next question; We know what was missing. Anything added?" Raising his voice, Kraft turns his head towards Gretch and calls out. ".. Hey, Twitch? I need to borrow your head for a second, sister."

Who or whatever was here previously is long gone. Even with the fog, there doesn't seem to be much movement out in the streets, nothing but the usual procession of homeless trying to find a spot to rest for the night, a few gangers walking through, those lucky enough to have an apartment to stay at shuffling quickly through the growing fog. The soft hiss of heavy tyres against solid road grows from a distance, a pair of headlights piercing beams of light through the fog, the vehicle passing the alleyway and continuing onwards along the street.

"We'd just started..", the new Sinner tells Gretchen; she's still shivery, emotional, disturbed by the scene, unlike the other who has been through a fair few gunfights in her time, and she still doesn't look much over twenty. "They'd just started. Mercy brought them in after what Candy did for.. you know, with the missing girls.. what you did. This was her.. third time out?", that question asked of the younger recruit, a glance over, the girl nodding in response. "Third. We tried to give her a new weapon, but she insisted on using what you gave her.", a shake of her head, a hint of sadness washing over her. "She had a lot of respect for you, Gretchen, after how you went out of your way for her.".

Gretchen's lip trembles behind her mask but just in the nick of time, Kraft's call provides the much needed call back from indulging in her thoughts which in turn prevents her from drifting too far into the looming sadness that grips her mind like the fog grips the streets. She clears her throat, looks to the young street tough who is only a few years younger than herself, nods solemnly, and swallows. *ahem* "…ah, yeah, wha..?" She forces herself to march over to Kraft and the undercover.

The Lone Star undercover agent huffs a faint laugh at Kraft, "Jack the Ripper? That's ancient history.", but then she has a moment to think about it, realisation flooding into her soft brown eyes, "You.. actually, might have a point.". Kerri lets the card leave her fingers, then takes a step back; it's awkward having to angle your neck back so far when you're so small talking to someone so tall. "I heard the gang division were on that. You think it's connected somehow?", she asks about the biker situation, "I can't see that.", but she isn't aware of all the details. "There's nothing different about this one, except nothing was taken, which we can blame on being interrupted.".

Looking back at the alleyway, the woman asks, "Is everything going to be okay here? I imagine they're going to have some gang burial.. thing..?", unsure how it might work, but expecting it nonetheless.

"When it comes to murder, doll, never doubt the classics. And I just happen to know a mook who's got a thing for history; Khans, Caesars… Even calls himself 'The Historian'. Sound like someone up for a little re-enactment, doesn't it?"

Grouses Kraft as Gretchen comes over, making sure she can hear the last bit of that. A respectful nod of his head, before he gives her a softer frown than he usually does. Considering her emotional state.

"Twitch, you had a run-in while you were snooping around here earlier, didn't you? This is…" A glance to the undercover, before Kraft neatly slides in his own history. ".. Katy. Old friend of mine from back in pre-tincan days. She's got a couple of strings and some buds of her own in all this. Mind telling her about the big meetup on those go-gangers, and the name of the jackass running the show?"

"She'll be cremated," Gretchen replies to Barton, eyeing the other woman suspiciously as she comes up, pistol in her belt, extended-barreled mini-machine gun at her side on its sling still. Having said that, a quick 'reality bites' moment forces an uncontrollable 'snarf' of sadness-induced congestion, to which she quickly reaches up, separates the seal of her breather where it adheres to her nose and around the mouth. She pulls it away put spins her wrist to press the back of the hand against her lips and the underside of her nose.

At Kraft's question, Gretchen nods slowly once, then it becomes rapid; automatic almost, as she blurts out, "…I heard her scream… I heard her scream…"

"…The uhm, excuse me…" Again, the German clears her throat, then carries on, wiping a cheekbone with a knuckle. "War council in Seven Hills… It's all being masterminded between the Rumblers, Eye-Fivers, Spikes… Crimson Court, you name it…" She elaborates on the nitty gritty, choosing to trust Kraft's judgement on the assumed history the two claim to share, not asking questions. She'd rather have the info known than let more harm come to the neighborhood, because say what you will about the Sinners as a collective, people are still just people at the end of the day.

'Katy' starts to raise a hand to dissuade that conversation, "I have my hands full with..", until she hears Gretchen's reaction. Her hand slowly drops back down, a tilt of her head, the sadness coming from Gretchen hits the undercover operative too. Allowing it to wash over her, she stays silent and allows Gretchen to continue, explaining the situation with the gangs. "I'll call it in..", she says in a quiet voice, still a little taken aback by the emotion coming from the woman before her. Perhaps she didn't expect people this side of the wall to have actual emotions, to care about their lives or those around them. "I know a few people, I'll let them know."

The woman reaches into her pocket, pulls out her commlink from before, but before she starts making any call she asks, "Do you know who might be behind the council? There must be some powerful leader taking over here, to gather the gangs like that..?", the woman looking from Gretchen to Kraft and back again, searching for an answer.

The cybernetic dick nods his head once, brusqely, doing his best not to make eye contact with Twitch when she's weeping over another dead body in the Rens. Lips twist down in just a touch of guilt; Wasn't there a time he wouldn't been hurt too? But that motor of a heart just keeps whirring along, without a pulse to go by. Clearing his throat, the old borg - for once - looks a bit put out on where to go next.

".. If you, uh.. need to take some time, Twitch, to see .. uh.. see her off.. I can handle things for a few hours.. " A clearing of the throat. How the hell do you handle weepy? Moody, twitchy, violent; He's come to expect most of these out of Gretchen. Weeping, sad, and vulnerable? Not so much. And then it's time to talk to the Lone Star again, with a grim smile.

"Mm hm. Calls himself a few things, bub. Mostly just.. 'The Historian'. Got a power mad man who looks at people the way a toddler looks at a stack of blocks; Seeing how he can tear it down and put them back together. Starting to catch a glimpse of my strings now? Trust me when I say he's gotten ahold of a few tricks that'll let him turn the Warrens into his own personal toybox."

"And this? This is just a taste. History's got a lot of dark spots, lady; A lot like this jackass."

Gretchen does a double, then a triple take over her shoulder, each time angling ever so slightly more toward Candy's body with one arm held tight across herself, the other still pressing the back of her hand over nose and mouth. She then storms back over to toward the girl and angrily begins pawing at her bag, slinging it under one arm to access the contents. "Jesus fucking christ," she declares, angry at the universe and having to gulp for breath as she draws out her peacoat that had been folded and stowed. She tries to keep herself from looking into the gaping chest cavity as she drapes the coat across the fallen girl.

The Historian triggers a memory in the officers mind, "Cooper? The fixer, face, general pain in the arse that we can't seem to blame for anything?", Kerri responds, nodding in understanding. "He's got a sheet a mile long, but do you think we can pin anything to him?", a shake of her head, a faint smile of disbelief. "I'll call it in.". Watching Gretchen head off back to the body, she decides to slip out of this engagement for now; her number has been passed on if anymore information is available. "Keep an eye on her.", she suggests to Kraft, "It looks like whatever this is just turned personal.".

With a step backwards, a respectful nod to the old cyborg, the officer turns around and starts pacing away, though has her commlink to her ear as she goes, "Mac, you there? I've got a lead. You know a Cooper..?", her voice fading as she starts disappearing into the fog.

Kraft watches for a moment when the woman disappears, and - for a moment - the metaphorical clockwork he has in his chest pings. Damn familiar, working with a detective. He glances down at his hands, and can almost -feel- the nitrile blue gloves, the weight of the bonesaw..
Snapping out of it, the detective gives a shake of his head and turns around to watch Twitch lay out a coat over a body. He'd been running under the skirt of Queen City a long time; Long before he got pasted and zipped into a can.

You learn not to look up, because it's never pretty.

Gretchen stands back as the others load Candy into the van sent to retrieve her. The pistol she provided the girl in the past didn't offer much protection, but she leaves her coat with the body to at least provide a semblance of dignity in her mutilated state. She occupies herself with anything, -anything- to keep from dwelling on the mindfuck that threatens to incapacitate her rational thought processes, so recalibrates the Predator's smart system, swaps magazines for armor piercing rounds, tightens her armored vest worn beneath her hoodie, and puts on her warface. She sets her jaw and dials up Cynthia Hallston en route to the Dungeon…

Two calls going out about a 'Val', a rigger with a VTOL that isn't afraid to get her hands dirty outside of an engine. Kraft reaches Mister Grey, who isn't happy to hear from his old 'friend'. "Oh, /now/ you're calling me. Let's just get this over with, what do you want, you metal encased fuckwit?". That's off to a good start. "Val? Yeah, I've dealt with Val. Not so much now, she's too good for us street types now, got herself a new man by the name of Pengrave over at Hollywood Simsense. Some dumb junior looking for a promotion. I tell you what, she can do so much better."

Meanwhile, Gretchen reaches out to Cynthia, the corp exec with a heart of steel, "Oh hello sweetie. Val? Well, I did hear her name was Val, but she prefers Cleo now, don't you know? Her new man is throwing a party tomorrow. Aren't you invited? Oh my, I have a few tickets if you'd like to go.", a pause, a question from Gretchen, "Hmm? Oh, Queen Anne Hill in Downtown, they're celebrating some new HSE simsense release. No doubt more trash to burn the brain cells. Still, it's supposed to be quite the event, I heard even Mercurial is going to be present, though she's long past her best. Her cosmetic surgeon needs to retire!"

Twenty hundred hours and still more threads than sweaters. Kraft was going to have to start 'krafting' a solid sweater out of this yarn ball or they were going to wind up with their nips hanging in the Denver freeze. With that in mind, his conversation with Mister Grey gets right into the midst of it.
"Yeah, figured you could take a break from tugging peckerwood and do some god's honest work for a change.. Mister Grey." There was a line; Kraft wasn't about to cross it. He frowns at the information, grimacing. "Hollywood Simsense? Yeah. … Fair deal, I'll pay for that. Try not to blow it on keeb hookers."

When Gretchen is finished with her call, a ping echoes on her pocket secretary, three electronic tickets forwarded from Cynthia for the bash of the month hosted by HSE. "Wear your best dress. No dear, buy a new best dress. Love, Cynthia x", a little note says at the end.

Gretchen finishes her terse call with Cynthia and consults with Kraft and Hek via comms as she slowly creeps her bike from the clinic. After sharing the more pertinent details and suspicions on the situation she concludes with, « Got us tickets to the party tomorrow night. Maria Mercurial's apparently going to show… » Under other circumstances she would be thrilled, but right now it's taking everything in her power to turn her rage, frustration and desperation into focused intent on ending Jack/Griffin's warped existence.

Commlink-TightFist> Hek sends, « All is quiet here.. though the girls are starting to get uppity. Got their hands deep in my pockets, taking my nuyens. »

The Dungeon hasn't changed since Hek first arrived, there's a distinct lack of patrons and a lack of entertainment too. Since the last dancer, nobody has come out and only the canned music has come through the speakers. A few more have appeared, at least, with the hour growing later, though it's not as busy as usual for this time of day. The woman dancing for Hek takes her payment and wanders off backstage, and another doesn't return to replace her for now.

Commlink-ALPTRAUM> Gretchen sends, « Let's… » Gretchen half-sighs, half-growls in indecision, torn over multiple courses of action. « Let's meet at the Dungeon and… discuss plans, but we need to meet Wunter. Afterward… » She leaves the latenight plans unstated, but ideas are brewing and she lets her bike drive itself at a slow roll as she sits upright to shoot a text to Jem. « Gonna need to wear patches tonight, can you arrange that? If this killer is going after your girls, I need to look the part… »

"Where all the white women at?!" Hek has had a bit to drink at this point, and probably should not be driving anywhere that might require transitting a DUI check point. Poor quality or not, alcohol is alcohol and he has had enough of it to take the edge off.

Part 1: Recover Hek.
Part 2: Breath mint.

He might be more metal and plastic than meat at this point, dependent on baby food and a diet consisting of cancer and spirits, but even he's got standards. And this hombre's pickled. "Alright, bub; Your sister's looking for you."
he, being Kraft. Because apparently third person typing is hard.

"Place is dead anyway." Hek gripes as he stands up from the booth. "What's next on the agenda?" Conversing casually with the borg as he walks out of the uncharacteristically depopulated strip club.

The message comes back across the comms, from Jem to Gretchen, "We'll have your back, Gretchen. Give us the word and we'll be there.". Not bothering with simple footsoldiers, Jem and Benny will be there in full force with weapons loaded.

The bartender of the Dungeon waves a few of the other patrons over, speaks quietly, then leads them to the exit a little ways behind Hek and Kraft. It seems they're closing up for the night, which is very uncharacteristic. The serial killer seems to have a lot of the girls spooked, they're not coming into work.

Gretchen is perched on her bike outside the club when the men step out. One foot is on an appropriately-termed foot peg, while the other is planted on the ground for balance though the kickstand is down and the engine is off. She's engrossed in a phone call, murmuring insistently, and her body language reads as do or die, with a generous dash of paranoia.

Kraft'll do the usual 'annoyed older man' escort for Hek until the wobbling chollo can take a break from his Oscar's nominated act to walk straight. Then it's time to gather around Twitch, and lay things on the line.

"I'm going to cut right to the chase here, macs; This is grim. Three former runners who think they've stepped out of a time warp and don't realize they're living in the modern world." Says the noir obsessed cyborg flatfoot. "Of the three, Jack's the most mobile. We know where Cleo'll be tomorrow, and we know where Khan's hold up. I figure we go to the meetup with Blue, give her a shake down, then find some bait for the big man."
A glance to Gretchen. "Savvy on that?"

"You're callin' the shots omae." Hek says agreeably. "I'm here to back your play."

Gretchen looks to the men after concluding her call which provides her a sense of relief, though it doesn't lessen her inherent extreme level of tension. "I'm ready to go," Gretchen practically barks through her mask, having replaced it after watching the ghetto funeral procession only minutes prior. In the back of her mind, she runs through whatever she can think of in terms of preparation for playing bait, and the predominant focus is on hiding as many weapons as possible under an outfit with minimal layers of kevlar… Agreeing to head out, she fires up her bike and doesn't let the men out of her sight, caravaning so as not to be caught out on the streets solo tonight.

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