The Crank Situation

GM: Hiller
Players: Wickliff, Dalton
Date: February 2071

Synopsis: After Norman did observation and a breaking at The Crank (cf. "Turn the tables"), a chain reaction starts. Hiller tries to reveal who did the looting on her room and thus involves Dalton and Wickliff. The latter gets into some trouble together with Hiller. The Sinners don't like ferreting around and the rumors about observations at the Crank make them very nervous. A moral decision is made and together, Wickliff and Hiller decline a questionable job offer. Leaving the job for someone else.

Prequel/Follow-Up:: Follow up from Turn the Tables and prequel for reconnaissance and assault on the Saints ('Eavesdrop on Angels', 'Saint John').


Dalton: Asking the spirits

After the breaking-in of Norman and the follow-up, Hiller remembers the guy called Dalton, whom she met at the Cybered Arm. A shaman. She visits him and he readily agrees to ask a spirit in the Crank for a useful hint about the robbery in Hiller's room. The whole thing reveals more about Dalton to Hiller, as about the robbery, though.

Cybered Arm, Cramped Bar

"I've got a problem where I stayed." She hesitates for a second, then decides to take the straight way. "Someone broke into my rooms and made a mess. Is it possible to…em…get a grip on who it was? You know…through the spirits or magic or whatever the right word is?" She seems to be quiet changed. Her chitchat tone is gone and her sunglasses hide a very attentive glimpse, this is for sure.

Dalton nods seriously, and speaks quietly to Hiller.

Dalton mutters to Hiller, "There are ways actually, robbery is not easy to trace, there is little emotional residue to connect with. Someone skilled in psychometry might be able to see what happend, but its iffy. I can ask the spirits though, its possible they know where the people who broke in are. It would be a complicated question because the spirits tell the future, not the past. I have learned how to phrase the questions properly though."

"You…ask them about the future in order to learn something about the past?" she asks in disbelief.

Dalton smiles and nods "Exactly. Usually I go something like this. Where will I be when I find the guys who robbed this woman. See, thats a question about the future."

"I see" She nods. "Well, what would be your price for somthing like this?"

Dalton frowns a moment, and looks up, then shrugs "Tell you what, if I do find something, I'll charge you five kay for it. If I get nothing, its free. Fair enough?"

Hiller hesitates a moment. "That's a friendly offer. Sounds fair. - Ok." After another few seconds she nods with assured decision.

Dalton smiles and reaches out a hand "Then we have a deal. Alright, best thing to do, would be summon it at your place, it might get a better vibe there. So whenever your ready, you can take me home." he grins a bit, he is in a humorous mood tonight.

Hiller gives a half-hearted smirk as she steps away from the wall. "I warn you, I beat you up if you fool me. - I think we should go to my place."

Dalton grins "Ohh, I think you'll be impressed. I'm not guaranteeing results, but you will see a show."

It is early evening on a cold Denver day. 'What a lucky incident!' Hiller was thinking, when she walked the way back from the Cybered Arm into the Sinner's territory. Chambers Roas - Quincy Avenue. The heart of the red-light district in Mission Hills. There, where The Crank is located. Hiller is quiet on the way back, walking next to the shaman whom she decided to trust in this matter. A faint snowfall has begun again and both left a nice trail behind. Hiller would've loved to have the same kind of tracks back in her appartment 210.

The red-light district of Mission Hills was just about to awaken for another night. Early customers, a few hookers in thick and unusual heavy dress, several street walker offered some hot food or drinks. But everyone without a good reason, huddled inside. At least, this part of the Warrens had some power. Electricity for shadowy illumination in red, blue and yellow. Heating for the whorehouses, the drug stores, the hideouts.

The roommate 210

Hiller led Dalton straight through the upcoming nightfall to The Crank. A few Sinner and Crimson Smoke warriors and watchers are on the street too. Eyeing the visitors. The Crank itself is dark and quiet. Hiller's room is on the second floor, past Schizo, the undisputed boss in this place. Upstairs, a few more yards and…well. There it is.

The door of room 210 was obviously opened by force. The metal maglock casket is missing and Hiller pushes down the handle and the door swings open.

Dalton smiles and walks along fairly quietly, when he gets to the room he steps inside and glances around. "Nice place for the crank. I've heard it was pretty bad actually." He chuckles a bit and then grows a little serious as he looks at the room, even switching to his astral perceptions to see if any magical residue is here.

This large room smells of fungi and dirt, mixed with strong chemicals. Somebody tried to cover the bad smell. There are three windows. Two lead toward the street in front of The Crank. The other one leads into a small space between The Crank and its neighboring building. The front windows have recently been improved. Thick acrylic glass now replace the remnants of the former broken window glas. Dark curtains try to keep the flashy light and noise from the Warrens outside. But only with little avail.

Several carpets have been arranged on the floor, covering the frail wooden floor. Together with some newly affixed dull yellow damping on the walls, the room provides a slightly better protection against cold and noise than other rooms in The Crank. Obviously, someone has tried to make the best out of it with basic means.

The bathroom 'corner' is in a pitiful shape. The sink is the only thing that works, as it seems. Large gallons of fresh water are stored for drinking and hygiene next to it. The faucet is warded against careless use with black tape. Sparse electricity is provided by a mobile battery system. It connects to the receptacle in the wall, but if it has ever provided a recharge must be doubted. Three warm toned electric bulbs are powered, and one radiant heater.

«Plot» Hiller says, "Astral perception doesn't reveal any active spells or remnants of recent magic."
«Auto-Judge[VALID]» Dalton (#8435) rolls Intelligence for "Looking around": 1 3 3 5 5 11

Hiller closes the door behind. The whole room is practically empty, except the water gallons, the matrace and the carpets and damping. "I've already removed the stuff the burglars left me. My cot was gone, two freight boxes, clothes. They even made a mess on the floor with my garbage."

From the street, some vague shouting can be heard and distant music - some hard rock maybe. Neon lights draw distinctive shapes in the empty and torn walls. Hiller walks in the middle of the room and looks expectantly to Dalton.

Dalton nods "That seems like it would have been rather nasty. Alright, well, let me cleanse the place first, then I'll get started." He walks over to the center of the room, and keeps his astral perceptions on. He reaches out mentally to start sifting through the negative emotions and residue and cleaning it up, leaving a clear astral area when he is done.

Hiller steps out of the middle of the room with a nod. She approaches the door and secures the latch. Then she turns again and watches him.
Dalton sighs after about thirty seconds, and shakes his head "Nasty place the crank, lots of emotional garbage, but its clear now. Ok, next step, getting us a nice huge spirit to work with." He closes his eyes, and begins to whisper quietly.

Dalton continues to whisper, and suddenly there is an echo in the room. From out of the bathroom comes an ork, he has a cigar in his mouth, and he looks pissed off. "What the frag? Waking me up? In the middle of the evening? I gotta sleep here ya know?" The ork is somewhat transparent and see through. He watches Dalton for a moment and grunts "Damn boy, your pretty tough, alright, what the frag do you want from me." Apparently the spirit of the Crank is cranky.

Hiller's eyes would widen beneath her sunglasses, if they wouldn't have been replaced with metal many years ago. This is the first time she sees a ghost or a spirit. No…not the first time. But certainly the first time under a controled condition. Or so she hopes. Her right hand is drawn to her pistol, carried on her back. But she resists. At the moment, she's not able to speak. She exhales and watches in awe.

Dalton chuckles finally as his head droops for a moment and he nods "Thank you for coming, I am sorry to have woken you from your rest, but my friend here." he gestures to Hiller "She had some things stolen from this room and wants me to help her find them. I was hoping you could tell me where I will be when I find these people that robbed her."

The Spirit ork looks at Dalton a moment, and then nods "Alright, I can't stand guys who steal my drek too, that pisses me off." The spirit starts walking around the room, pacing and puffing on his cigar.

Dalton smiles at the spirit "This is the only favor I will ask of you, then you can return to your slumber."

The Ork nods, and puffs on his cigar more.

The translucent ork hesitates for a second at one of the windows. Maybe just like he used to to when he lived in the past. Memory and past seem to be odd things, if viewed from the beyond… Suddenly he turns and walks silently as a beam of light straight toward Dalton. He stops, watches the awakened human for a second. Then he drops his smoking cigar. But it won't ruin the floor.

"It could be right here, Awakened," he whispers in a somewhat freezing voice, as if his mood has suddenly shifted. "Nobody is anyone's neighbor in this place. So you will meet them, where you expect them the least or the most. Depends on you. But never trust the obvious. The thieves are the scavengers of the remains of the connoisseur. And they sleep wherever they feast." The Ork steps back, the ghostly cigar still smoking on the ground. It seems that he awaits to be released.

Dalton nods his head "Thank you, you may go back to your rest now." He smiles at the spirit "I'll try to keep the room clean for you, astrally speaking that is."

With something like a faint bow he retreats into nothingness. The last glimpse on Hiller, who stares in disbelief. - The room is free again, from the grip of the netherworld, though it appears to be colder than before.

"Ah…this..is he gone?" she asks after some seconds and dares to make a step into the room.
Dalton smiles and looks to Hiller "He is gone, sorta. He lives in the crank itself, he is a spirit of the building in all. He is here, yet he is not. He won't pop in on you in the shower or anything. So, does what he said make any sense to you?"

"Well, the answer is vague… He said something about 'right here', does this mean, the robbers are…em…neigbors, living at the Crank?" She runs her cold fingers through her red hair.

You say "And what about the scavanger thing? What was that all about?"
Dalton nods "Possibly, but he also said they are scavengers of the remains of the connoisseur, thats fairly specific." – "Right, thats something else….what was stolen from you?"

She puffs, "Puh,…well. My cot, two freight boxes. One with clothing, another one with some…personal documents. Nothing compromising at all. Advertisement in fact. Spare power cells,… hm. Well, some ammunition. Nothing fancy. My sleeping bag. I didn't store any wealth here. Never trusted the door either. Ah, and some used underwear." she adds with an unhappy grin. "Guess that turns them on, fetish freaks."

Dalton nods "Well, at this point, my first thought is to stakeout the crank and start reading peoples minds to see if anyone knows anything. I can do that without being spotted, and not many people will be able to resist my magics. At least not anyone living here at the crank. If I run into a powerful mage in hiding, well, I'll deal with that then. Of course, thats going to place me at a little risk, so if you want that, its going to cost you a little. I'll call this one a freebie since the info was hardly stellar."

She nods seriously and steps a bit closer. "Thank you. I think…I'll talk to some guys here first. I'll ask Schizo or maybe just the Sinner's Kapo." She nods toward the street. "I mean, if the local gang's behind this, they could tell me right away. If they're not, they're propably interested in it. Anyway…I don't wanna risk to cause me more trouble with magical investigations. Would it be ok if I ask around a bit and if I have any doubts, that there is something behind all of this, we can stick to you proposal?"

Dalton nods "Sure, if you get some leads, I'll be happy to read a few minds for you to make sure of your information. Its not really that hard." He smiles "I don't mind doing work for a pretty lady." There it is, yes, he has said it, its a line of course, and rather obvious at that.

She gives a grin and nods, "Yeah, maybe I should just pay you your money. We agreed on five k. I mean, I don't know…you just called that…thing. But if this is your price, I pay it."

Dalton shakes his hand and raises a hand "I said if I get some good information. I didn't get anything solid, so lets just call this one a freebie." He steps a bit closer towards you, and looks at you for a moment, then sidesteps and starts for the door "I'll catch you later." He reaches for the door.

She watches him carefully. She's not an idiot. And he's not an undisciplined young lad. He just proved that. He may sense some clear shift in her aura when he stepped closer and past her. She got tensed a bit. Mistrust maybe? Or just a reaction to his newly wittnessed abbilities. She's careful, that's for sure. And she's rather doing business than flirt at the moment. - "Sure, see you. And I got your number." She follows him to the door but would stay behind in her looted room.

Dalton nods and smiles, then heads out of the apartment and vanishes from sight. Its one of those magical things.

Wickliff: Counter espionage at The Crank

A second visit

The first time Hiller met Wickliff was several days ago. She bled on his doorstep from a stabwound she got on the streets. Desperation forced her to knock blindly at room 322 and ask for help. Wickliff was polite, professional and very careful. But he offered her a medkit. Hiller would remember this. And she promised to herself that she would return it later and say 'thanks' for it. However, after her room got looted, she decided to leave the Crank. And she propably should've done it without any further hesitation. But instead she visited Wickliff again for a 'thanks and goodbye'.

Hiller walks down the corridor on 3rd floor. Straight toward 322. Knock, knock.

Glancing up, the sleekly built occupant of apartment 322 apraises the door carefully, before leaning the pressure regulator he's maintaining against a wall. Standing up, he reaches for an armor jacket, zipping it up, and picking up his Colt, holding it behind his back as he moves to the door, slowly. He takes a look through the peep hole, before sighing a little bit. Moving a little to the side, he opens the door, though its caught on its privacy chain, "Yeah, what do you need?"

"Hey pal, ah," she hesitates. Obviously she's in a good mood. Her voice has something charming. At least she's not bleeding on his doorstep! It sounds like she feels a bit stupid but doesn't really care for it at all. "I thought I owe you some. I guess you've a clue, hm?"

"Riiiiight. The Medkit." His Maine accent is strong, and quite unusual for the region, "Hang on." The door closes, and the chain comes undone, before Wickliff opens it again, taking a step out and closing it behind him. His jacket is open, and he tries to be friendly. But, its a rough town, with rough people, and he doesn't know the woman who came knocking from Eve, other then what her blood looked like. He keeps a respectable reactionary distence, "Can't be too careful. How's the wound?"

Hiller gives a nod and a half-hearted smile. In her left hand is a new medkit, quiet similar to the one Wickliff gave her 10 days ago. In her right hand is a sixpack of good old 'Papst Blue Ribbon 2059'. "The medkit did its job. Thanks. Good as new!" Basically she's wearing similar things like when they last met. But instead of a BDU shirt she's wearing a simple black tank top or something like this beneath her armor jacket. After a brief scan of Wickliff she simply offers both, beer and medkit, to him. "Well, anyway. I should've been equally paranoid than you are. Take this for your help. And as a goodby as well."

Wickliff takes the medkit, peering at it to make sure its stock and standard. He'll probably go over it more when he gets back, and shakes his head at the beer, "Sorry. Life's too short to waste time drinking beer. No offense intended." He provides a tight smile, "Can't blame you for the goodbye. Leaving the comforting trappin's of this local bilge?"

Hiller is a bit surprised about the rejected beer but nods. "Yeah, I'm leaving and em.." She looks down the corridor for a second. "There's one thing you would propably be interested in. The reason /why/ I leave."

You say "I thought it would just be fair if I tell you. Do you have a second?"

Wickliff narrows his eyes at the military woman, crossing his arms over his chest, peering down the corridor, before motioning with one hand for her to continue, "I always seem to find myself free where local intel is concerned. What sorta scuttlebutt you got?"

"Thing is, I think Schizo downstairs has a deal with some guys who are spying on the logers in The Crank," she lowers her voice a bit. "I used to come and go in the early hours and, two days ago, when I returned at 8 AM or so, I saw some weird thing at one of the windows on second floor. I would bet my cybereyes that someone operated a video camera or something similar. Anyway…'Don't ask stupid questions' is the local motto, isn't it?"

You say "I asked Schizo about room 202. Well, the answer was not very friendly, of course. I thought: 'Screw it. Let them spy on the hookers and drug dealers'. But next evening, I found my room broken-up and plundered. You should be careful."

You say "I'm pretty sure, someone in room 202 or some of the other rooms are spying on everyone who enters or leaves."

Wickliff's frown deepens, "We'd be best to figure this out /now/. I don't take kindly to my privacy being invaded, and I /certainly/ don't take kindly to random breakins. Did you catch whiff if it was the local authorities, or another intereasted party?"

You say "Hm. Schizo doesn't like me as it seems. He cursed me away. Room 202 is not for rent at the moment. So much I could pull out of his nose. I asked some of the girls on the street and a warrior from the Sinners, they said that there is no one supposed to film from the Crank. But, well. Who knows. But I didn't make a big thing out of it. And I don't intend to. What do you think?"

Wickliff furrows his brow, "I think we need to get a few of the less reputable residents together, and go ask Schizo some pointed questions, and then gain entry to the space, and ask some for /greater/ pointed questions. But…" He shrugs, "I'm not going alone, for sure. Could be some morons, could be some people far more dangerous. This town is bursting with too many small-minded people who big-minded guns, and quick-minded copper. I'll have to do some digging. Thanks for the heads up."

You say "Well, if you wanna check something out now, I would accompany you. If you want. I've already checked out, so to say."

Wickliff looks skeptical, glancing at the woman up and down, "That depends. You any good with a firearm?" He asks, with a raised brow, "Don't expect you to back me up, but if things blow up, I'd like to not be the only guy shooting."

"I've fired a weapon before," she states flatly, "though I'm not interested in starting a heavy gunfight here. This could bring up a medium-sized war. We're in the very heart of Sinner's cash cow - red light district. Go ahead and I'll cover you of course." Hiller taps at her back, maybe she's indicating that she's wearing a pistol or something similar.

Nodding, Wickliff opens his door, and throws the Medkit in, before manuvering his jacket, a shoulder holster with a nice heavy Colt Manhunter briefly becoming visible, before he settles the black armored jacket, motioning his head forward, "Lets get on it." He says, striding forward, "You can leave the beer."

Hiller gives a brief nod and puts the beer just in front of the door to room 324. With an attentive look back down the corridor she follows Wickliff without further hesitation.

Talking to Shizo

It takes a few minutes to wind down the stairs, and Wickliff does so casually, his gait stalwart and professional, and it maintains that sort of class when he enters the lobby. His street clothing, like Hiller's, is tough enough, without being gutter, or flashy. He marches forward, raising his head to Dwyre Schizo, the propreiter. "Chummer, I've got some concerns."

That's the point when Hiller stays behind, using the contorted hallway and lobby to stay out of sight from Schizo. A good spot to cover Wickliff, though. Should somethin awkward happen. - Schizo looks up. Small, dull eyes, but with an unnerving intelligence glistening within his green toned ork face. He's wearing some kind of heavy armor jacket. "Whatisit?" he grunts. - The hallway is empty except Hiller, Schizo and Wickliff.

The sailor crosses his arms over his chest, puffing out his chest, but not attempting to be at all overtly intimidating. It just didn't pay to push people around. At first. "I've been hearing some disturbing things. Now, I don't pay for a lot here, but I, and a lot of the other residents pay for a certain degree of privacy, scan? I've been hearing things about surveillence… break-ins. Got any words about that?"

Shizo grunts again and leans forward in his massive wooden chair. Eyes narrowed. "Who says this?" he demands in a harsh tone. Wickliff may sense that this guy is not someone you should mess with easyly. Why is he called Shizo anyway? To run a place like this for several years and to be still alive, gives another hint that he rules the place.

Wickliff's face doesn't move a muscle, "I am. Right now." His eyes search, subtly, for a threat on the manager's person, hoping Hiller was keeping an eye on his rear, "I'm not here to tell you how to run your business. But I am here to address those troubling whispers going around. I like staying here. Its a nice place. I want to keep staying here without any unexpected problems with other tenants. I wanna save you the trouble of having to deal with things like that." His tone remains level, and firm, though he keeps intimidation or confrontation out of it. He didn't have the resources or want to use force to bully Dwyre, so he avoids drawing as much ire as possible.

He snorts in a loathing way. "Yeah…damn it. There's no reason to push the thing, got it? Nothing of your concern, damn it." There is a hint of resignation. Maybe Wickliff's not the first to address this matter? "You're living on third, ain't I right 'chummer'? The breakin' was a…misunderstanding. Nothing of yours." His right finger points toward Wickliff. "And for that…video thing? What about that?"

He looks suspiciously at Wickliff. Maybe he's not so familiar with this part of the story.

Wickliff shrugs his shoulders, "I don't like hearing about misunderstandings. They happen on the basis of false information, and that false information can point to my flop just as much as the one next to it, shipmate." He furrows his brow, "I just said surveillence. It sounds like you've had a few people other then me come up and ask silly questions. I don't like the idea of being filmed doing much of anything. If I did, I'd move to a coffin motel downtown and smile for the drones." He puts a bemused look on his face, "I don't expect you to tell them to stop, though they might if more of the…. 'community' gets involved. But I'd like some peice of mind, for the duration of their stay. Is there anything we could work out?"

"A stupid cunt in 210 left her room open and some guys took advantage. That's all! And I give a shit if the boys pillaged her or not. I told 'em if I catch them, I'll snap their rotten bones. They're in good standing with the Sinners as me! So the Smokes respect this place. It was the cunt's fault. - And for that surveillance thing…the cunt told me, yeah. I don't care. Maybe the pal in 202 /did/ spy on her or on the hookers or whatever. Maybe he did not. She's gone now. And I give a shit for both of them. And I give a shit if you complain." With a harsh gesture he settles back in his chair, glancing at Wickliff.

Overreaction and retreat

And 3 seconds later, the front doors open behind Wickliff.

Wickliff seems about to make a retort before the front doors open. He catches it out of the corner of his eye, turning his head briefly to judge the new entrants…

Three guys and a woman enter the hallway. From their looks Wickliff can tell, that Schizo must've pushed some button beneath the desk or there is a camera or mikrofone somewhere in the hallway. One of the guys - the last one - remains at the doors with a Spas-22. Hiller is in the hallway that branches to the right. Imagine Schizo's desk at the corner where the entrance hallway and the hallway to the stairs meet. If Wickliff turns his head to the right, he looks down the corridor toward Hiller and the stairs. If he looks back he sees the entrance with the four people. If he looks straight ahead, he looks into Schizos unpleasant face.

The whole situation is not violent yet. Two guys and the woman walk toward Schizo's desk. Obviously ready to handle problems, but not inclined to start them…now.

Wickliff frowns as he spots the four dangerous looking people, as anyone with a SPAS-22 should be classified, as that wasn't exactly the guttertrash weapon of choice, if nothing else then cost. Unfolding his arms, he holds them palm up, "Point taken." He says, simply, before backing up, sliiiiiding back towards the stairwell, not turning his back on the four individuals.

One guy is wearing a bright red synthleather armor jacket, which clearly distinguishes him as a member of the Crimson Smokes. The woman in the lead has a shaved head with something like a cat with nine tails tattooed above her left ear. Neatly detailed. A Sinner. - Wickliff moves back. The three apporach the desk, their eyes follow Wickliff. Unfriendly and most likely uncaring for his health and future wellfare. "What is it?" - "I thought for a second someone was calling me pussy in my own house," Schizo replies.

"Anterro…we've to talk" Schizo continues to the Crimson Smoke member in a casual manner. The man shifts his focus to Schizo while the other two are still watching Wickliff.

Wickliff shakes his head, slightly, still backing away, before he gets to the hallway, "Improving my security setup is probably a better route then fucking with that kinda muscle." The sailor says, non-chalantly, and very quietly, to Hiller, as if he was dealing with a logistics problem. "We should head back up until the prospective combatants decide I'm a coward and leave."

Hiller leaned against the wall, 9 or 10 yards back into the corridor and joins Wickliff's retreat. Obviously not amused either. "Shit…" - Both may leave the hallway upstairs. Last thing they see is a business-like conversation between the gangers and Schizo. Most likely Wickliff is part of it as well. Hiller must've been seen, but no one cared obviously.

Wickliff figures its not worth the trouble. He'll make sure his guns are all good to go, and not sleep very much, not that he needs to. Otherwise, its not worth getting a local gang pissed at him when he's not getting paid.

Wickliff and Hiller hurry upstairs! Back to Wickliff's room. Or at least in front of the room. "Damn it." Hiller scratched her forehead. "What do you think?”

The mariner shakes his head, as he stops back in the hallway, taking a look towards the stairwell, and keeping an eye on that, "I think theres something going on, and I don't need to be involved. I don't conduct business here anyway, and I take precautions. I'm a professional, I have my contingencies. So, unless I find reason, I won't take any action. If they don't take any action, we're good. If they do, well, we'll have to have a discussion between professionals. If they decide not be professional about all this… /then/ I'll have a problem.

She looks up at him, maybe in a little different way. "Sorry for this. I didn't expect them to be /this/ snappy. I'll see that I leave the place as soon as the pals downstairs shove their asses back over the street. They're running a drug haven across the street. Meeting point of some sort. They must've come from there." Hiller takes a breath. "Well…I'll leave now. You said you are a professional?"

The lanky sailor raises his brows in bemusement, "I don't stay here because I'm a drug-addled joyboy, that's for sure. But yes. I'm a professional. And no apologies. You didn't select the action for me." He shrugs at the drugs, "I don't like it, but I don't like a lot of whats going on here. I don't have the resources to deal with it though, and it keeps the area free of police."

"You seem to be alright," she says seriously. "May I ask you for a name?"

Wickliff nods, extending his hand, "Lieutenant Charles Wickliff."

Reaches for his hand for a firm grip. She returns in a military manner: "Sergeant Hiller, Sir. Retired," she adds with a faint smile. "Maybe we meet again. Take care."

And so she leaves. Downstairs. Unknown to her is the fact that Schizo bears some serious grudges against Hiller now. And that a guy with a shotgun is still blocking the exit. Unknown to /us/ is the question if she'll make it out of the building untroubled or not.

Sinners coming for Wickliff

The Geneva Conventions first!

We remember: Wickliff was so generous and offered some help. Rumors about burglary and observations did not help to convince him from the opposite, so to speak. He headed down, talked to Schizo and learned that the ork was well informed or at least knew more than he told about the break-in in Hiller's room. After a brief conversation he must've pushed some alarm button. Four gangers appeard quickly. Not too rude, but ready for heavier situations. Wickliff decided to retreat before things could develop into something nasty.

Hiller left Wickliff half an hour ago or so. Everything was quiet. Then he may hear something of interest.
«Auto-Judge[VALID]» Wickliff (#3585) rolls Intelligence: 4 7 8 11

Wickliff, back in his room, propably had some feeling under his skin already, that something was wrong about the situation downstairs. Maybe he's still contemplating the situation when, suddenly, boots can be heard on the corridor outside. At least three people, walking down the hallway. Heavy boots, and they seem to know the direction very well.

Pausing with the continued maintainence of his SCUBA gear, Wickliff perks at the sounds, frowning. The events of the past couple hours didn't make him exactly… superbly comforted with his own security. He activates several modes of his vision, switching to thermographic to see if he can get anything through the thin walls, before zipping up his armor jacket and picking his Kalishnikov away from its ready position against the wall. He crouches, waiting. Could just be a party, after all.

If this is going to be a party, Wickliff must be the one to throw it! He just zipped his armor vest closed when the steps shuffle to a halt close to his room. A hard knock at his door follows briefly after. "Hey guy. We have to talk!" a dark female voice calls out. "Keep your guns down and don't do anything stupid. Me name is Holly." The tone is demanding, used to authority, as it seems, but rude. How did she know Wickliff has a gun in his hand, anyway? Ah, well. Maybe just a good guess.

Wickliff has the eerie feeling that the name Holly was meant to ring a bell in the hood. But it doesn't. How does he react?

Well, considering Charlie's pretty stoic, well-spoken, and healthy for a Z-Zone dweller, it doesn't take a long drought or logic to tell he might be fine with a gun. Wickliff manuvers himself to the kitchen counter, placing his shoulder against it, peering out from his position too the door, "Evening Holly. I won't start shooting if you don't indicate a hostile intent. But stupid and smart depend on my appreciation of our tactical situations, respectively. We can talk through the door. What can I do for ya?" He says, in his rather characteristic Maine accent.

The reply comes quickly: "I think we've a common friend here." Brief pause, a shuffle, hushed voices. "Seems she's a bit reluctant. Anyway. I have questions about the things you talked about with Schizo. I heard you're a nice an' easy customer here, omae. So don't make any trouble. I wanna know what the chica with red hairs told ya. And you know who owns that fucking street. So don't even try to do something stupid."

Now, Wickliff reckognizes the voice. It belongs to the ganger he saw downstairs earlier. The Sinners with the cat tattoo. Beside the ongoing conversation, there is little noise right now. Some chatter, shouts and an engine from the street, but nothing unusual. It is early evening, around 2030. The streets just start to get crowded. Since the conversation isn't really meant to be private, any other neighbor of Wickliff must be well aware of the situation.

"Yeah, you own this street, not the next one." Wickliff says, sighing. He leans his head against the counter for a moment, removing the magazine from his rifle and checking the ammunition supply. Its an action purely for comfort, of course. He can see the amount of ammunition left on the LED display on his rifle, the display on his HUD, and the comfortable warm sensation from the rifle's trigger, running up through the limited simsense rig. He slaps the magazine back in the rifle, his mind given a few extra seconds to figure things out, "Have to be a little more specific on our mutual friend. I certainly hope you're not torturing the woman I /think/ you mean. That'd be a violation of the Geneva Conventions. As for what she told me?" He ponders. At the moment, he certainly couldn't /think/ of a reason /not/ to tell them. "Some individuals were watching occupants of this particular tenament, possibly with the approval of the proprietor. I stay here because I value my privacy, so I had something of an issue with that."

"The Geneva Conventions?" the female voice, Holly's voice, asks in sudden hesitation. This propably got her offguard. Maybe someone's laughing quietly outside, but Holly shuts em up, then continues dryly: "Well, your sweetheart is right here. No great harm done so far. That's for the Conventions. For the other matter…no one is expected to spy on anyone here. And if you're /really/ interested in your privacy, you should consider stepping out of your little rabbit hole right now. As I said we've to talk. If I had any interest in smoking you out, I would've done so already." The moment Wickliff decided to give some answers, and some true answers as well, Holly's voice shifted a bit. Still demanding, but no longer straight away aggressive. Who knows what Hiller told her about Wickliff?

Confrontation

Charlie raises an eyebrow. It sounded like she actually /cared/ about the conventions. That was awful strange, for a ganger. He wheels his head back and forath, thinking of the situation, "You'll excuese me for being paranoid. Alright. You're men keep theirs holstered, I'll keep mine hanging, and off the trigger. We both keep a reactionary distence between each other. You'll agree to that?"

"Turn to the left and the corridor is all yours," she offers sarcastically but in agreement. Shuffle can be heard again and though the thermographic vision isn't really useful, it appears that at least the thin door is not occupied and the undistinguishable blop of heat remains at a six to eight feet distance.

Shuffling around the room, Wickliff snags his ready combat harness, putting it on over the armor, adjusting it quickly. He tosses his Colt in a thigh holster, and clips his AK to a harness, letting the rifle hang. Putting one hand over it, he steadies the weapon, before approaching the door, opening it carefully, and peering through the crack for a moment, before exposing his body carefully, peeking to make sure that no one had their guns pointed at him. If this is the case, he'd step out, shutting the door behind him.

Basically, he reckognizes the four gangers from first floor and Hiller. But with some noteworthy differences. All of them are standing 8 feet away, blocking the way to the stairway. The corridor in narrow, but two men can easily stand beside.

First, there is the greatest threat. The guy with the Spas-22. He just stepped back into second line. The stock is folded out and pressed against the shoulder, but the gun points down.

Second, Holly. She's tanding in front. A heavy pistol in her hand, pointing straight down. Holly is tough built, clad in a black leather jacket, heavily armored. Thick boots and leather made flared pants. Her head is shaved and above her right ear a hand-sized tattoo is plain to see. It shows a neatly detailed cat with nine tails.

Left from her, there is a blonde guy, dressed in dark leather, standing behind Hiller. His left hand has a firm grip on a solid cable tie zipped around Hiller's neck. Obviously she took one or two deft punches to the head. Her nose is bleading and her sunglasses appear to be rearranged by someone else. Her temple bruised. - From her posture, Wickliff suggests that her hands are tied on the back.

The last guy, the second one in gang colors, though different, hides behind Holly. But he seems to be unarmed.

Wickliff stands in the corridor, frowning at the condition of Hiller, taking the entire situation in stock, before his eyes alight on Holly. He provides a tight, professional smile, "Alright. I'm here. What do you want to talk about?" Despite everyone's guns pointing down, the tension is still quite high. It'd take a second to pull the gun up, and Wickliff wants to avoid any electronic twitching that'd give him the immediate edge. Given the situation, there should be a slow Spanish guitar twanging in the background, with a tumbleweed.

Hiller is standing by herself, at least. Her sunglasses still hide her eyes (again). A great disadvantage now. No eye contact. But she's well aware of the situation, that's for sure.

"Allright," Holly nods in some kind of satisfaction. "That's how I like it." Her eyes scan Wickliff's equipment, which he carries like a professional and shakes her head. "Ok. I think we should tune down one or two notches. - Put the sweeper down." She commands to the guy with the Spas-22. And you," she points to Wickliff, "secure the AK. I've a nice key to an unused apartment, three three two. We'll have a talk like professionals there. I have something to offer."

Wickliff raises both eyebrows, peering at the group again. Still, the dude with the SPAS is the biggest problem. A woman with a heavy pistol… not so much. And he'd still have his loaded pistol, if anything happened. As the ganger fixes his SPAS-22, Wickliff cybernetically puts his AK on safe, before slowly, deliberately, removing the magazine, and ratcheting the slide to remove the round in the chamber. He pops that round back into the magazine, placing it in a pocket, and leaving the AK in its empty, slide-locked form hanging. He motions towards the room, on the same level, "Then by all means, Ma'am. After you."

By this time, Wickliff spotted a baseball bat in the hand of the guy behind Holly. His black hair is clean and well cut and he wears a bright red synthleather armor jacket with black sleeves. His face shows open aggresion. "Idiot!" he yells with a smirk. "Hands to the wall, Maine boy!" His baseball bat points toward Wickliff now. - "Shut up Anderro…," Holly hisses. "Just behind you, end of the corridor." And with a last glance back to her fellows, she starts moving toward Wickliff. Her own pistol manually secured and holstered on the left hip.

"I'd urge you to keep order among your men." Wickliff says, calmly, his hackles rising, but his hands remaining at the relatively safe location on his empty rifle, instead of closer to his pistol's holster, "No offense, but if things go sour, I tend to aim for the officer first." His voice is even, non-chalant, and any ire is directed towards her uncontrolled subordinate, before he takes a step back, moving towards the door…

+x Civilized talk, finally
The whole group moves to room 332, at the end of the corridor. Holly takes the lead, followed by Wickliff and the rest, with some distance. The door is quickly unlocked and beyond lies a very ordinary room in the Crank. Like most. But some things are different. The door lock, the door. Both seem to be replaced and of notably better quality. The general condition of the room is bad, still. But the windows are not broken and there are carpets on the floor, though worn. - Anderro, the guy with the bat, and the Spas-22 guy remains at the door. Holly and the blonde guy with Hiller move into the large, empty room. The room measures 8x7 yard and finally, Holly, Hiller and her guy all stand in front of Wickliff. Two guards at the door. Plainly visible.

Once in the room, Wickliff turns towards the group, leaning himself against a counter with the casual attitude of a veteran soldier-of-fortune. He rests his hands on the top of his empty rifle, motioning towards Holly, "Lets hear your offer, then."

"First of all, I hand you over your little lovely chica. I strongly suggest you keep her mouth /shut/ while we talk." With a rough push Hiller is released from the grip and stumbles forward, next to Wickliff. If Wickliff isn't totally ignoring the street talk, he would know what Sinners often do to kidnapped persons. Some would bluntly call it slavery. Lucky day for Hiller, maybe. - Hiller gives a brief nod to Wickliff that shows that she's ok and has no intention of speaking a single word for now.

Wickliff nods tersely, sharing a glance with the pilot he barely knows, "Behind me, shipmate. We'll have some words when all this is over." He says, lightly, before looking towards Holly, "Gracious of you. I appreciate it." He says, with a bit of an appreciative nod. He stays silent, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

"Second,I know guys like you. So don't feel caught or misunderstood." Interestingly, behind her unappealing smile, there flickers something that could be called business-like. "You stay here since several months, always on yourself. No big things, no hookers, no brawls, no interest in anything outside your walls. Armed to the teeth. Chit chatting with…", a look to Hiller "what should I says 'team mates'? - So we both skip the hy there and hello here. I'm Holly, Kapo for East Quincy Avenue cross Chambers."

Holly continues: "Maybe you think now: 'ah, great, the wannabe boss bitch, in charge of local dictatorship'. I would strongly object. In fact, I foster participatory democracy and municipal self-government. Do you have any idea what that could mean?" Wickliff finds it hard to assess her properly. It seems that she's heading to something, not only wasting time. And she's waiting for a reply, as it seems. Her boys are quiet now, eyeing Wickliff carefully. It seems that this Anderro is second in command, or at least he thinks it.

Wickliff frowns slightly at the introduction, before inclining his head, "Lieutenant Charles Wickliff, Independent." He responds, in polite introduction. He shrugs at her claims of leadership, "Bigger governments have tried, but you've got a strong claim, though there are stories to how you treat… 'guests.'" He provides a very tight smile, though his tone indicates disapproval with those particular rumors, "But, the local political arraingements, as of yet, are of… limited concern, to me. No offense intended."

"Ah, you say that. But I guess you will think it over. Whoever contributes to the community, has the right for personal fulfilment. Whoever just sticks around, doing nothing, giving nothing, caring shit, those guys deserve not even the minimum. They don't even exist when it comes to body count. That's all about it. - I offer you the chance to contribute something and to receive something in return." Holly shifts her eyes to Hiller for a moment. "In some way you two made the proposal by yourselves. As you /may/ have heard, we had some problems with observations. That's not a nice thing to do. There are other hints that suggest the same. And I've decided to take this seriously. Therefor, I need someone to carry out some…hm…shall I say 'direct action'? Is that the right term?" She looks to her left with a grin, to Anderro. The baseball bat guy was totally focused on Wickliff and turns his head away, totally surprised. "Anyway," Holly continues, "we're awaiting information on one or more 'subjects' which are tied to those observations. We want them for questioning. But without any breadcrumb trails to our porches."

Holly says: "You follow so far?"

Wickliff frowns slightly, pondering, "You want a direct assault on the observation site, you want an extraction conducted, and then you want them brought before you for an interrogation, with no one knowing you were the ones who've taken them? That about the scan of things?" Wickliff says, for comfirmation, glancing at Hiller for a moment, before turning back to Holly.

Hiller seems to hear the whole thing for the first time. Her face is cold as stone, only her forehead betrays her surprise. She returns the look to Wickliff, then shifts her eyes back on Holly.

And Holly nods, "Yeahy," with an ease as if she just asked for some help with an unusual heavy crate. "Though 'assault on the site' sounds tempting, I guess we shall cut that part down to the minimum. We want answers, not a public statement on Channel Nine."

"Are you interested?" she asks plainly.

"Its a Z-Zone, somehow I don't think the local screamsheets will be running any exposes." Wickliff furrows his brow, "It sounds tempting, but I'll need to confer, in private, with my collegue first. There are some… rather troubling legal issues regarding the operation you've detailed, that warrent a private discussion. Would that be amicable to you?"

Holly looks to Hiller again, "With her?"

"She'd be my colleuge via force-of-arms, so, yes, with her." He nods to Holly, "Her hands are still bound, I assure you, that given the terms of our truce, they will remain as such, so she doesn't provide me with any tactical adventidge in your absence."

She ponders three seconds, then suddenly she simply nods two times and a amused smile breaks the stern face again. "Alright. Keep her bound or not, I don't care. I'm across the street at the DH. Anderro will wait for you outside the room. He can show you the way or deliver a message." And with this few simple words the whole situation relaxes. The two guys at the door shuffle and open the door, though Anderro is pretty pissed about the delivery boy part, as it seems. Holly just turns away and starts to leave, followed by the blonde guy who had his grip on Hiller. "Don't let me wait all eternity. I've got other offerings."

Wickliff nods, "We'll be as prompt as possible." He assures her, "You'll have our answer within the day."

In favour of morals

So the whole group leaves the room, only Wickliff and Hiller remain alone. A few words can be heard outside, then the bunch walks away - with this Anderro guarding the door from the outside, if the orders are executed.

Reaching into a pocket, Wickliff produces a knife, motioning for Hiller to turn around, "You've gotten me involved in /quite/ the pickle."

Hiller gives a deep breath, relief mixed with bother. "Man,…" She turns and offers her tied hand. They used cable zipper for her hands as well.

Wickliff removes the zipties quickly, before removing the makeshift collar as well, telling her to be still while he's doing it. When that's done, he folds the knife back up, and goes through the process of reloading his Kalishnikov, "You heard the whole thing, what's your read on this? And what do you know about the Sinners or her claims on government, anything?"

First she wipes off her already dried blood from nose, mouth and chin, rather halfheartedly. Then she simply slumps against the wall with her back. Blows her nose free from the dried blood. Only then she pulls off her crooked sunglasses and looks straight at Wickliff with her true eyes. For the first time. Well. They're plain silver. No pupil or iris. That's a pity, cause her natural eyes would've shown simple gratefulness. She starts to say something, but changes her mind instead. "Well, I /know/ that she beat me up just to be sure that the story was right. They're pretty serious about that observation shit…" Her hand runs through her red hair and she looks out of the window from where she stands. "She didn't even care about the break-in. It's all about this observation."

"Besides that…the Sinners are quiet tough. Not the stupid whores most would expect from girl pimps. I dunno nothing about 'government' talk though. Guess it was her scam. 'Kapo', hm, don't know. She's some authority, that's for sure." Hiller adds.

Wickliff nods, frowning, "I've got to admit, I've got a bad case of curiosity on what's going on here, and I don't like being observed, but, unless you have any objections, I'm rejecting this job at-its-face."

She rearranges her sunglasses. Now, that Wickliff knows that her eyes are just as expressionless, it's a little bit as if she wouldn't wear any sunglasses at all, maybe. "The other guy, Anderro, is a ganger from the Crimson Smokes," she says after a moment. "They're supposed to be allies. If it's all about gangs, it is certainly nothing of unimportance." She steps away from the wall, rubbing her neck. "Well. One thing is for sure, we should not reject the offer without even listening to the offer. That would be a major mistake. Maybe they think we're on the other side of the river, wherever that is. Or we're just frightened or we don't care for their rules. I mean, at least she /offered/ us something. But what?"

She raises her head to Wickliff. Her face stern. Seems that she's regaining her posture.

Wickliff shakes his head, "It doesn't matter /what/. She's asking us to extract people we know will be physically tortured for information, since I doubt these slags have any access to /useful/ techiques. Beyond that, we'd be assisting an organziation that, from my admittedly poor read of the streets, regularly conducts slavery. She even admitted it. So we'd be participants in a war crime, and accessories to a crime against humanity." He frowns, "You haven't been for-hire long, have you?"

Hiller gives a dry snort. "Ah, well. You're right, in every aspect, I think." She manages a faint smile. Unsure she looks to the door. "Damn," is her quiet sum-up.

Wickliff shrugs, "First lesson of being your own man is that you've got a choice in the jobs you take. The second is that there aren't any more external rules. Killing people for a living leaves a haunted enough life. You've got to draw a line somewhere." He nods, "I'd get back to moving. I'll let our pal know that we're not intereasted. If they think we're on the wrong side of things… well, they get to see what happens when they throw a bunch of street slags against a professional or two."

Takes a breath. "You're right. It's most likely some gang war or drug thing. The 'DH' is the 'drug haven' cross the street. - Wickliff, thank you. Whatever comes out of this situation, I'm with you."

Departure

"We'll pass our message through the goon at the door." Charlie peers at Hiller for a moment, before shrugging, "Someone's gotta make sure the war's are fought fairly around here. Just remember this." He gives a smirk, "And keep me in mind if you ever need a pal for a job without the moral issues this one's got." He turns away from her and goes towards the door, "Chummer, extend my compliants to the Kapo, but inform her that my associate and I will have to pass on her job due to its violation of the International Convention on Human Rights and the Geneva Conventions." He reaches into his coat, producing two bills, "I don't particularly like doing this, but here's two-hundred 'yen. I call it a courtesy fee, you can call it a tribute. Make sure it gets to her. Because I'll be bringing it up if I see her again, scan?"

Hiller raises her hand up for a facepalm when Wickliff brings up the Geneva Conventions again. She can't help grinning at that. But she moves quickly then, next to Wickliff. One eye on his pistol, should problems come up.

Outside, Anderro raises his chin and bat as Wickliff leaves the room. "I knew it, sucker. Bad for you! You should've accepted her protection. Who do you think she is, eh?" He snaps the 200 nuyen. "Ya think you can buy yourself an easy piss off, eh? But you're wrong, fucker." With the money, he moves backward, using is bat for harsh provoking gestures. "We'll see us sooner than you think." And with this last word he slams the bat against Wickliffs door, underlining his statements.

Wickliff watches the man go off passivly, before turning towards Hiller and motioning with his head, "His priority on the death list is pretty high." He mumbles, "I'm going to have to move my things, it looks like. We may have to move against them, if they decide to play difficult." He shrugs, "I suggest getting out of town."

Hiller says, "College boy," after Anderro. Then she frowns. "I knew you would say that. I'm sorry. This is shit. I'll have a talk with this Holly later, but I agree. We should both leave the Crank. At least for a while. And there is another reason for that. Of which I didn't tell you yet." She hesitates. "I suggest we retreat together, exchange phone numbers, part and discuss the whole matter later. - Come on, let's go."

Second Rumor

You receive word from The Crank (Mon Feb 28 08:13:05 2011):

For the second time within a few days, something happened at The Crank. One of the residents on 3rd floor got some rather unfriendly visit. Some say a local Kapo of the Sinners was involved and even a Crimson Smoke color could be seen. Gang issues at The Crank? Sounds unusual, but two or three traditional frequenters in the red light district say so. Others object, saying it wasn't about gang issues at all, but about 'business issues'. Whatever the truth is, no one crossed the line and made use of intense violence. Though this time, it is rumored that some guns actually pointed at each other. - More and more occupants of The Crank start to complain about this increasing disturbance of privacy. And rightfully, cause privacy is the /only/ thing you pay for at The Crank at all, isn't it?

Follow-up

Wickliff and Hiller declined the job offer. So the Sinners would have to look for someone else. In fact it did not take very long until some other resident of the Crank responded to the rumors and started looking for Holly. But that's another story.

Hiller finally offered her help to Holly as well. Against Wickliff's advice. She had some serious doubt about the situation. She felt that what Wickliff told her was very true. On the other hand, she did not dare to turn her back to the Sinners. Hiller feared retaliation. So she made a small deal. She would help the Sinners to a certain degree. In return, Wickliff and Hiller herself would go untroubled on Sinner's territory. All the problems called settled and even, hopefully.

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