Turn the Tables

GM: Hiller
Players: Norman, Hiller
Date: February 2071

Synopsis: Hiller had started something. Investigations on the Simmons Corporation. Now, the Simmons Corporation decided to do some investigations on her in return. Fair trade. Well, fair from the viewpoint of the moralist, but not in regard to available means. Norman, a man who knows the trade, tracked Hiller down. And he had some serious amount of resources available. Considerably more than Hiller had. Norman runs through several phases of legwork, ending up with observation and a breaking at the Crank. This would result in some serious consequences afterwards.

Prequel/Follow-Up:: Follow up from Get a grip on Simmons and prequel for some smaller plots around the Crank/Warrens (e.g. 'Eavesdrop on Angels', 'The Crank Situation').


Norman doing legwork

Franklin the border guy

With a name and a photo [of Hiller], Norman has a couple of different sources of information. He takes a quick trip out to the town of Bennet, disposable cellphone in hand. A call goes out. "Hey Franklin, what's up you big queen?" he says into the phone, laughing. The two catch up for a while; they haven't spoken in several weeks. After the small-talk, Norman delicately brings up the reason for his call. "I need a favor, buddy. You know my friend Astor? Well, you know who he is, right? Uh-huh. He … right. He's with this new girl now, and she's a little, uh, too interested in his money, if you follow me." … "I know everybody's interested in money, that's why they call it money." … "So he asked me to…hey, listen. He asked me to check up on her, and, I don't know, maybe he thinks she's a pro, or something. Or she's running some kind of game on him. Can I send you what I got on her, maybe next time you're at work you could…" … "Thanks buddy. I'll send it out right now. You're the best." *click*

Propably Dahl Franklin is not an overly greedy person, but Norman remebers him talking about a problem he had with one of the frquenters in his favorit pool pub After a few drinks, some boasting and spilled beer he got banned from the pool tables. Some guys were pretty sure, that Dahl would owe one of their friends 150 bucks. Maybe Norman could get the information from Dahl without any payment at all, but maybe it would foster the relationship if he'd just pay the bill for him. He would be very happy when he steps by the next time.

Anyway, after 3 days he calls Norman back and suggests a meeting for lunch at a small bar close to Delaney Farm Park, UCAS territoriy. A famous bar among the wageslaves from the corporations and UCAS administration. Others than frequenters would come here only by accident.

Dahl Franklin smiles at Norman as he reckognizes him. "Ey, over here," he waves with one hand and puts away the pocket secretary with the flashing news polls. Some chitachat and small talk. A nice lunch in a relaxed athmosphere. Finally, business is mentioned.

"I got your request." Mr. Franklin opens a frail document folder. "Ms. Hiller. Nice." With a quick movement he turns the open folder around on the table, in front of Norman. "It is not so much, but the SIN is valid at least. A military chick." Dahl leans forward on his elbows and peers after a well shaped waitress. Norman has some time to take a closer look. The folder contains the papers Norman sent to Dahl a few days ago, as well as one federal document. A printout of a border control front end terminal.

Border Control Record

Dahl Franklin, relaxed, waits patiently if Norman has any questions or want to order him a beer and a shot.

Norman does not. Still reading the file, he reaches below the table with one hand, and comes up with a neatly-wrapped gift box containing a trendy fashion watch and two tickets to a local minor-league hockey game.

«Auto-Judge[VALID]» Norman (#10869) spends 500 nuyen for "Gifts for Dalh Franklin".

"Oh man…hehe. Thanks a lot, pal." He seems to be pleased. But anyway, he just risked his job for Norman. "That wasn't necessary…just…don't lose the paper on the restroom, ok?"

UCAS Administration ties everything to SIN, but the armed forces tie the SIN to the soldier's service number. Mostly for security reasons. It is obvious, from Dahl's paper, that Hiller is or was a member of the UCAS Armed Forces. If Norman would like to dig deeper, he would have to knock against the Armed Forces portal. Some way or the other. At least if he would dig for service related information about her past.

Dahl Franklin, happy about the easy job, continues chatting about the national leagues and the pool contest with 3.000 N prize money next week. Before lunch is over, he appears to have forgotten why they both met in first place. Unless Norman wants anything else, both part and head on with theor businesses.

Norman doesn't have any good military connections, at least not in this country. After doing his best to make Franklin forget about that minor little violation of federal law, they depart with a handshake. Norman spends the night in a cheap motel outside of Denver, and in the morning, puts a call in to an info broker that he's been working with for quite some time.

Marcia Brown

Another supermarket parking lot, another one-sided phone conversation inside a beat-up Americar. "Hi Marcia, it's Norm Conrad, how are you?" he asks her, laying on the charm. She goes on at length about cats or knitting or something along those lines. When she's done, Norman continues. "Say, uh, I have a job that's right up your alley, I think. There's this guy, Paul, that I work with at … yeah, I'm still there … yes, it's … it doesn't matter how many vacation days I have, it's not about that, I …" here, she lectures Norman about working too much (at his fictional job), and how important his (fictional) family is. He half-listens, being used to this kind of rambling from her. "So, Paul. He has a daughter that he hasn't seen in years, you know the story, he was a big boozer and now he's clean, you get the idea. It would mean a lot to him if he could get in touch with her, but, y'know, it's a big city." … "Well, your usual rate." … "No, it's on me, I'm trying to get promoted after all." … "Same account as last time, then? Great, I'll email you what he gave me. Talk to you soon." … "No, don't put Sprinkles on, I don't … because she's a cat, Marcia, cats don't … goodbye, Marcia." *click*

As it turns out after 4 days, no one ever heard about a girl named Collette Hiller. Marcia suggests that she's dead, not in town, or efficiently hiding. She offers him - of course - to do some real investigative legwork on Hiller. That would mean send out some guys asking around in different parts of town. It would cost significantly more nuyen, of course.

Pressing the thing

Marcia Brown makes a concrete offer to Norman: if he /really/ want this, she would ask four other friends of hers, every one has some real good ties in different part of town. Expect one week legwork and 1.100 Nuyen for each indirect contact (4.400 total). We're talking about investigations then, which would possibly rouse someone elses suspicion.

Norman is pushing it. 5,000 bucks on the manhunt. Marcia Brown is not a buddy, but she did mediate and pulled some strings up to FTZ, UCAS, CAS and the Warrens, since that seemed logical. Everyone who has a UCAS SIN would most likely stay in UCAS. And if she would want to disappear at all, there's The Warrens. Norman has some nice charm and paid without hesitation. So the information came back after 4 days, rather than 7 or 8. But what came back at all?

Marcia called Norman earlier than expected and asked if he would like to come over for a cup of soykaf and some donuts. Whatever way he chose, he would get the information.

"Oh boy, I did some hustle out there. Oh my. Are you sure that was worth all your precious money? - Well. But good ol' Marcia came up with something. First of all: you sure you're after the girl, not her parents? The parents' names roused some eyebrows. Is she some kind of a bolter?" Marcia gives a printout to Norman, with some newspaper excerpts on Hiller's parents.

Newspaper Snippets

The two first news sources are reliable. The last, short snippet is from an anti-goverment Matrix board, closed since several months. It was used by anarchists, freaks and left-wing radicals.

"But since I'm not sure what you want: if daddy wants her back, she's living at the Crank, room 210. At least she did some days ago. She's staying low in The Warrens. Real low. No obligatory 'jobs', no gang contacts, no shootouts no big friends, but no enemies either. She's been seen hanging around in the Cybered Arms a few times," Ms. Brown nods and offers a second 'document'. A handkerchief with 'TC, 210' on it. hastily written down with some kind of lipstick or whatever.

"Last but not least, look at this…" Finally, she offers a flyer, worn from weather and badly stained. Footprints on it. It is some kind of invitation to a UCAS Army recruition information evening. "Those flyers were distributed in the northern part of the Warrens. The speaker is a 'Collette Hiller'. UCAS Army doing a very careful recruition over there, through civilians. You know, official military personnel is not very welcome across the FTZ area. Seems she's doing some recruition there from time to time."

The two first news sources are reliable. The last, short snippet is from an anti-goverment Matrix board, closed since several months. It was used by anarchists, freaks and left-wing radicals.

Norman looks into his soykaf, trying to decide whether he should show surprise at that. The girl, who supposedly dropped out of the sky into Denver, is advertising herself as an army recruiter? And in the Warrens, no less? He decides to look a little surprised. Either she's playing a different game than Norman is, or she assumed the identity of a recruiter to the extent of having the appropriate military credentials attached to her SIN. He puts on the reading glasses he uses mainly for effect and skims the newspaper slippings.

The recruition invitation clearly states, that the information evening is private and (of course) not funded by the UCAS Army. It looks rather as some kind of 'club meeting', than an official recruition thing. And just to prevent misunderstandings: The recruition thing is meant to be 'underground'. Done by some nameless civilians but funded by the UCAS of course. Because of the strict regimentation in the multi-state area Denver.

«OOC» Hiller says, "Otherwise it would collide with the Denver setting, I think."

Observations

Renting 202

Phase 2, as Norman would call it. Getting in touch with the life world of Hiller.

Norman, fitted out in some cheap casual clothes, parks his Americar under one of the few working security cameras in this part of town. It's only about three blocks to the Crank, but he walks quickly, head on a swivel. Once inside, he drops some UCAS scrip into the tray on the counter. "Gimme a second floor room for a month. Keep the change," he says into the speaker mounted in the bulletproof glass window.

The manager, an ugly and intimidating ork with the nice nick name 'Schizo', is ready to greet any customers, as well as unwanted scum from the streets. It's Mission Hills, Sinners' territory. He accepts the money without hesitation but without any friendliness or interest as well. The rent is 990 for one month. "No open fires in'e rooms. No gunfights, no meat storage or any problems that would cause me to cause you problems in turn…got that?" After the obligatory words and grunts, the (reputed) crazed ork offers the key to room 202.

Norman looks the ork in the eye and nods to him with a slight smirk. "Don't worry about me, pal. Here's another five hunnerd, you need anything from me you just come knockin', k?" he says, tossing some more scrip into the sliding tray. Norman is not a particularly large man, nor is he very intimidating. He is a bit too clean-cut for this neighborhood, however, and he hopes his appearance and demeanor suggest the aire of some sort of seasoned professional, a slim cut above the usual riff-raff of the street. He takes the key and exits.

«Auto-Judge[VALID]» Norman (#10869) spends 1500 nuyen for "The Crank #202, 30 days".

Thus, he just bought a discreet hideout. No SIN required, no security patrols, no Medevak or Docwagon. Just the Warrens. With favorite view on the Sinner's red light district. Perfect location for studies on human trafficking, drug trade and the emergence of primitive social structures built on violence and the display of power. Anyway, the large but horrible one-room appartment is at Norman's disposal. - Room 202 is the first door to the right, just after the stairs up to the 2nd floor corridor. Room number 210 is roughly 16 meter ahead, on the left side.

Norman locks the door behind him and stands in the center of the room, looking around for things that might give him an incurable skin disease should he brush against them. He makes a quick note of lines of sight, cover, and fields of fire inside the studio flat. Then, he sits on the floor and listens.

Early evening, late afternoon. The empty and shabby room has a very bad isolation. Against cold as well as against noise. Two large windows offer a view on the front street. One is broken. Some cheer and laughter can be heard. Some engines, propably motorcycles, roar in the distance and heavy metal music from a nearby pub spices the whole collage of noise. - From within the building, there comes only little sound. Maybe some kind of old fashioned generator somewhere on the top floor, rather distant? Besides, there is no apparent sound from Norman's neighbors…right now.

Norman could expect that this place has its own very distinct life cycle. The late night propably the loudest and wildest time of the day. Early morning propably a ghost town. At least, this could be guessed with common sense.

Impressions of Mission Hill on Megapulse

After perhaps an hour of listening and watching, Norman composes a tentative plan for how to proceed. First, some supplies. A half-dozen blankets to cover the windows and to cover himself while he sleeps, some preserved foods, a few disposable cellphones, and a few extra sets of clothes. He also retrieves the large rolling duffel bag from the trunk of his car, which he is pleased to find is not a burned-out hulk. Back inside, he sets about covering the windows and laying out some of his toys and goodies.

Norman certainly prepared himself before he headed out in the Warrens. As for the car: several gang sponsored road blocks at Mission Hill and Heather Gardens undertake random controls. Getting in was no problem, anyway. Cars are seldom seen in the inner districts of the warrens. Most of them are owned by locals or gang members. If Norman is going to park his car some blocks away for more than a few hours, he risks consequences. Unless, of course, he knows a reliable place where he could hide it away from vandalism or theft.

In any case, the car is a cash rental from out of town, and he has a 'special relationship' with the company. As night falls, he sits on the floor by the front windows and watches the street outside with a small pair of binoculars, video camera at his side and ready to capture anything particularly interesting.

As Norman expected, some things unfold with the upcoming of night, precise and predictable like the principles of nature. The Crank, located at the major crossroad of East Quincy and South Chambers, is a hub for the dark nightlife of Denver. Dark and unhealthy, in fact. Some kind of social machinery starts humming after sunset, driven and controled by the Sinner's strangling grip and money's engine. This area of the Mission Hills is its center. Hookers walk up and down the strip, specialized for every thinkable kind of sexual preference. A cramped shop just opposite of the Crank is obviously offering different kind of illegal drugs. Plain in the open. But who would complain? Considerably armed guards, some wearing gang colors, providing security. No. Wrong. They're watching and overawe the visitors. Latter come from different parts of town and very different backgrounds. Homeless persons, allied gangs, locals on the prawl and now and then some pals with a certain aura around them: readyness, self-assurance and coolness. Shadowy professionals or wannabes. - All in all, Norman watches a buzzing red light district, dominated by criminals, gangers and SIN-less folks of diverse color. Though this be madness, yet there is method in it. Norman has a certain feeling for it after five hours of watching. Actual violence is rather rare until midnight.

After midnight, the noise of the lively street mixes with a gunshot now and then, some screams of different varieties. From pleasure to pain. Norman witnesses a violent beat-up of some guy with unknown provoke dress. Old school punk maybe. He goes down under several hits of two baseball bats and boots. He appears to be lifeless afterwards, dragged from the street, into the shadow of a long burned out car, heavily decorated with graffity.

As for the building see The Crank – In addition, the entrance is right between Hiller's and Norman's room, on first floor of course. The hallway leads down to the left, where the stairs lead to the second floor, the floor where the two rooms are actually located. Everyone who walks down the corridor on second floor must pass Norman's room. There is only one stairway in use at the moment.

Though intellectually fascinating, Norman has seen more than enough misery in the slums for one lifetime. After getting a basic grasp of the sorts of characters about in the neighborhood, he focuses more on the comings and goings of the residents, and whoever else might be loitering or wandering around the building.

The builing itself seems to be a well known institution. Due to the watchful eyes of the Sinners and the fact that several troublemakers died on the doorstep of the Crank, nobody seems to be interested in causing accidental trouble. After six hours of observation, Norman counted 8 people entering The Crank and 9 leaving. Various types of individuals. Most of them, in fact all of them, didn't care for the party going on at the crossroad. All of them walked straight ahead, ignoring the drunkards or the whores' clients. The Crank is not used as a brothel as well. Unbelievable, but some people chose to actually live here. or at least: they maintain a refuge. - Among the people which came and left, there were several gangers, some mean looking guys with the air of professionalism around them and a few freaks too crazed to be put into any category.

Hiller was not among them, as far as Norman can tell.

Norman records their passage with his video camera, just to be thorough. He expects to review the accummulated footage in the days to come, looking for patterns or anyone who seems out of place. The Warrens make him nervous, but on the other hand, he rarely if ever ventures here, and the anarchy and random violence offer to him a perverse sort of security. He checks his watch and, with a sigh, realizes that he probably won't be sleeping for another twenty-four hours at least. A couple of No-Doz from his goodie bag should do the trick. He resolves to watch the approach to the building until he sees Hiller, no matter how long that takes.

First of all, he would discover soon after that the building straight oppisite to his room is a three story building, similar to the Crank. On street level, there is this drug shop, with cramped benches on the sidewalk and two large garage doors wide open. The floor above is used as some kind of chillout room. Damp lights illuminate junkies around a simple table or on mattresses. Some other rooms are more sophisticated, offering some kind of privacy. Gangers and punks, mixed with some whores from time to time, meet there for a reefer or some beer. The top floor is rather dark, windows sprayed with white. Atop of this, there must be some kind of roof teracce. Norman notices a humanoid silouette against the night sky one time.

Spotted

Norman stays awake the whole first night. Around 7 am the streets are suddenly replaced with an eerie calmness. It came so quickly, that Norman thought he had drifted into sleep for an hour or so. But with the coming of day, through the clouded, grey sky, life started to cease.

Norman, repeatedly forgetting to secure any kind of low-light vision enhancements, welcomes the sunrise. He takes exactly three minutes to stretch his aching legs, rubs his eyes, and returns to the window.

The unlucky punk is still lying next to the cramped car. Robbed, wounded, propably dead. His head stained with blood and his legs oddly twisted. Trash averywhere, and some homeless picking up whatever suits them. The whores are gone. After an hour or so, a heavy pick up stops for a few minutes in front of the Crank. Some guy with a olive trenchcoat leaves the building and jumps on. Norman was just going to leave the empty street to the video camera for a quick visit to the (shared) restroom, when he caught a glimpse on a single human, turning into the Chambers Road. She's wearing blue circular sunglasses and a hooded sweater beneath a purple leather jacket. And from beneath, he reckognizes, there shines some dar-red dyed hair, falling across her forehead. She's wearing BDU trousers in grey-green digital camo and a medium military rucksack, though nearly empty, as it seems.

'That's her.' Norman recalls the pictures from Knox. The face: pale. Rather small. Sunglasses, red hair. Norman's intuition says, that's her, though she appears very different, compared to the picture of her in a blue conservative business suit.

"Bingo," he says to himself, reaching blindly for the digital SLR on the floor next to him. A few slight twists of the 300mm tele lens brings the girl into focus, and he fires off as many frames as he can while she's in view, manipulating the zoom a little here and there to catch as many different perspectives as possible. The video camera sits on the window sill, recording her mannerisms for later review.

It seems to be unlikely, but there is a certain chance that she may reckognize something when she raises her head toward the Crank, before she crosses the street toward the entrance.

The woman looks up - straight toward Norman! No, wait. That's impossible. Or was the camera flash turned on? No, of course not. Norman may freeze out of instinct for a second. She reckognized something. A movement of the curtain? A reflection of the tele? But she doesn't hesitate. She simply heads on, leaving Norman soon out of sight and with the uncertainty if she /did/ see something or not. At least, she did not break into a run or appear otherwise obviously alarmed.

Though a bit unnerved, Norman isn't overly concerned. Very, very few people know who he is, and even fewer know what he looks like. Once she's out of sight, however, he shifts position slightly so as to look out the window in a less obvious manner. He waits about thirty minutes, in case she comes back, and then he retrieves a large machine pistol from a hidden compartment in his duffel bag. He sits on the floor and waits, unsure of her reaction to being photographed, but prepared to ventilate the next person to knock on his door.

After one minute, steps can be heard from the corridor as someone comes up the stairs and passes Norman's room.

One part of Norman's brain is trying to visualize the person walking down the hall, tracking them with his pistol. The other part is wondering if he should have gotten the taser instead.

The steps are not heavy, but determined…and walk right past his door. Many explanations possible. Only a few would include Hiller of course. Anyway, since his SMG isn't effeiciently suppressed, Norman should consider that automatic fire in this place and at this time could cause problems. In fact, could cause massive killing, if someone considers the average level ob violence around the 'hood.

…and knowing what this particular machine pistol sounds like, everyone and their brother would be drawn to the scene out of concern or curiosity. As the steps pass, he continues to sweep the pistol across the room and off to the side, knowing also that it could easily perforate these thin walls. A minute passes, then two. Satisfied that he isn't about to be ambushed, he engages the safety and holsters it, making a note to keep some earplugs handy. And the taser. And perhaps a grenade or two….and knowing what this particular machine pistol sounds like, everyone and their brother would be drawn to the scene out of concern or curiosity. As the steps pass, he continues to sweep the pistol across the room and off to the side, knowing also that it could easily perforate these thin walls. A minute passes, then two. Satisfied that he isn't about to be ambushed, he engages the safety and holsters it, making a note to keep some earplugs handy. And the taser. And perhaps a grenade or two.

The quiet time would last for another three to four hours. The Crank itself is silent, mostly. Then, the street gets reclaimed by some faint signs of life. A car or two from time to time. People waking around. Drunkards stumbling home. Sinners' 'Street Patrols' drive by on cycle.

Further observations

After those few tense minutes pass, Norman would have taken the Universal Receiver from his bag and activated it in high-squelch mode, hopefully only receiving signals within the building and thus saving him the trouble of sorting through the tens of millions of discrete RF signals bouncing about the city.

Norman needs ten minutes in order to figure out that there are 12 significant profiles active in the closer vicinity. Two are very distinguished. High flux rating in the upper GHz. Maybe sattelite uplinks or something like that? The building itself filters most of the ether chitchat. Nevertheless, 4 cellphone transponder stations can be identified. They're just the carrier signals. That leaves 6 frequencies within the usual cellphone spectrum. So finally, six cellphones are operating from this or a very close building.

Norman, having no other information to go on and having far more experience tapping VHF and UHF transmissions, chooses one at random, inputs the frequency to his head radio, and sets it to decrypt the signal.

Norman's knowledge and routine with decryption and broadcast makes it an easy job. Five minutes, and one of the distorted signals shift and transform into understanable language. “can't tell. If he'sn't going to tell, how shoulda know? - Ah come on…" Two male voices arguing.

During the day, Norman manages to tap on several different cellphones. He even tap some more than twice, accidently. None of this phones seem to belong to Hiller, sadly. There are two cellphone signals though, which did not transport voice. Rather their signals carried data streams, as far as Norman could tell. Maybe some guys use their cellphones for trix access.

Norman continues to sweep the airwaves, occasionally dipping his toes into the other spectrums to see if he's missing anything. After a day or two he settles into a routine of carefully watching out the window, tapping nearby cellphones, doing pushups and popping No-Doz, and occasionally sleeping a few hours here and there. His aim is to farm as much information about Hiller as he can from within his apartment, and from analysis of her routine, compose a plan for proceeding further.

Norman is a patient man. Good old style observation. Still useful in a fast moving world! Four days of hiding ahead of him. Four days of lousy food, little sleep, lot of nasty things to see and many noises to hear. Four days out there in this shabby appartment in the Warrens may appear like a month. Was there even an outside world? - Norman succeeds in living by his strict time schedule, using no-doz, draining on his constitution. Sometimes, when he wants to sleep, the Warrens wouldn't let him. And after the second day he should be well aware, that it is not a good idea to use ear plugs. There are definitely armed men in the Crank. Even one or to small groups, carrying weapons openly from time to time. An incident happened on the third day on first floor. Someone sceamed the shit out of himself. Someone better stays indoor these days.

As for Hiller, it is not easy for him to keep track of her. The cellphone idea doesn't bring up anything of interest. On the second day he loses her. She returned unexpected, which means that she must've left The Crank hours ago, unnoticed. Damn. But he takes his time and struggles to put the pieces together. And he knows how to do this. As far as he can tell, she never received any visitors. And she's away from the Crank regularly. It seems, that she's using it as some kind of refuge, or she's living elsewhere several days at once, from time to time. Norman concludes, that she leaves the Crank for two or two and a half days, then returns to The Crank for one or two days. Is she working elsewhere or just switching places? But this assumptions are not verified. Without an efficient way to control her absence or presence, he's not able to track her efficiently.

It was the fourth day, when Hiller was gone and Norman left the Crank for a check on his car and for some supplies from the Rez. The friendly ork Schizo intercepted him at the front door. "Ey! Pal. You whitehead breeder aren't causing any trouble eh? Cause some chica from 2nd floor asked a few days ago if she could move in for 202. Eh? Got me? I told her, the only place she may move to is the damned street or down on the floor, giving head. Har har!!" - The crazed ork remembered the 500 bucks very well, and maybe he expected another 500 for this friendly service?

What is left now are two chances. One for the question what happened to Norman's car through the four days. And the second, if something would happen to room 202 in the next night, when he was back…

When Norman returned to his car, it was time for a palm face. His car got placed atop of some four neat brick piles. One window shot and another one punctured with something like a pole or bat. The license plate missing, the trunk disembowled. Worn, torn and covered with stain. This car definitely did its last breath and wont drive ever again.

Breaking in 210

The girl is giving Norman a lot of different looks, and that's troubling to him. Either she's smarter than he is, or she's getting lucky. Either way, he's somewhat prepared. A quick call to a friend, and he has a ride out of the sprawl on standby. The last thing to do before bugging out is to take a quick peek inside her safehouse, and that means another long day or two.

It was the morning of the fourth day, when Norman discovered his old car cramped and beaten up. And he learned this morning, that Hiller asked for his room three days ago. At this very morning, Hiller had left the Crank around seven AM (she prefers to leave and enter the Crank during the dead hours in the morning, Norman would guess). When Norman returned to his room at 10 am, the video camera hadn't recorded her return. He could be pretty sure about that. Daylight and few people on the street allowed a good and plain view to the entrance. Unless, of course, she used some other entryway. But this would mean using a window or some heavily barred backalley door. From what Norman could figure out so far, he wouldn't expect Hiller to return before the next morning. But there was always the risk of unpredictable behaviour of the subject.

After reviewing the footage that shows Hiller leaving, Norman makes a snap decision. He quickly gathers his entry tools, sticks a taser and a small silenced pistol into his waistband, and then pulls his polymask over his face. Without any makeup or touch-up work at all, the polymask looks like some kind of grotesque science experiment gone wrong, or something from a particularly gruesome slasher film. No one will mistake it for anything but a mask, but at the same time, no one will associate his own face with the floppy jowls and droopy eyelids of the loose-fitting mask. That done, he checks the hallway from behind his door with a dental mirror. Seeing it all clear, he takes a deep breath and opens the door.

The corridor seems to be empty and the usual silence is apparent on that floor. Only from below, there comes the sound of laughing. Propably the entrance hallway. Three or four guys talking vividly. Sixteen yards to the right, there must be room 210.

«Plot» Hiller says, "Roll Intelligence please. Open perception test."
«Auto-Judge[VALID]» Norman (#10869) rolls Intelligence: 1 2 3 3 5 11

With his toolkit already in his left hand and ready to be flung open, Norman darts (quietly) into the hallway and towards room 210. With practiced speed, he attacks the lock, almost paying more attention to his surroundings than to the task itself.

Norman has to pass 8 other doors on his way down the hall. His feather-like steps most likely unheard by everything and everyone except ultrasound detectors, cybered heads, or paranoid shadowrunners. - Quickly he approaches room number 210 and starts to work on the maglock-doorknob. It takes 30 seconds to remove the case. The cramped aluminium case comes off easily and reveals a standard set of door electronics. Norman is a seasoned security system expert. The maglock only has an audible alarm connected. Standalone system. If he would fail, it would scream like hell. But it doesn't. Another half minute of work. Patience. The corridor to the left… and to the right…

«Auto-Judge[VALID]» Hiller (#10245) rolls 3 vs TN 14 for "The floor is not deserted…": 2 3 11 = 0 Successes

Footsteps in a room accross. Someone's there, walking on the wooden floor. But finally the maglock surrenders to Norman's treatment. He's just about to replace the case, when he reckognizes something odd. His eyes briefly scan the doorframe, more out of a habit, and on the top between door and doorframe, there protrudes something. A very little piece of white. What is it? Not larger than 5x3 mm.

A tell. Well, he expected that, in a way. Though in 2071 there are far more effective methods, in fieldcraft the simplest techniques are often the best. He does make a note of it, but whether she discovers the break-in or not is irrelevant at this point. A deep breath, and now it's time for speed and violence of action. As quietly as he possibly can, Norman shoves the door open, lunges inside, draws his taser, pulls his tools inside, and yanks the door (mostly) shut.

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. - In one corner of the room, there is a simple cot, made of aluminium. A sleeping bag unfolds atop. Two large storage boxes, used by cargo agents, are placed nearby. They contain the few things the inhabitant of this wracked place owns. - 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.

From a stationary crouch, Norman quickly clears the room, sweeping the taser left and right in rapid, carefully-controlled movements. Nothing. He forces himself to breathe again as he slowly, almost reluctantly tucks the taser back into his waistband. Still on one knee, he checks his immediate area to insure he doesn't step in something, knock something over, or trigger a devious and cleverly concealed explosive trap. Seeing none, for the moment, he slowly stands and peers about, looking for a place to start being nosy.

There is a garbage basket, those two freight boxes and the cot. Hygiene suff is stored in a hanging toiletry kit close to the sink. The first impression is: someone lives here my minimal means. Norman sneaks to the kitchen corner and sees several remnants of fast food meals of different types. Big Kahuna, Asian Slim Downtown, Red Rock Diner… The hygiene stuff suggests that a woman lives here, but with little need of fancy stuff. Norman finds styling gel (new), cheap deodorant and several things more. Is he looking for something specific? - More interesting may be a used med kit next to the sink and tha gallons with drinking water. Close to the cabinet is a laundry bag. Nothing special here, unless, again, Norman has something special in mind.

Norman hurries over to the cot and the boxes. One is open, one is closed and maybe locked. The open box reveals clothes. Underwear, simple shirts and several BDU trousers. Camouflage units in green-grey digital pattern. Everything is neatly stored. And atop of one pile a form-fitting armor suit is placed.

The question at hand is: what is Norman's major interest? Where goes the closer look?

The garbage reveals some bills, between the lunch boxes. Most of them are from the diners, but there is one from downtown "Henricksen's", an appare store. She bought some nice things there, two weeks ago. Business suit or something like this. - Then there are some flyers. Advertisement from the CHROME, the Cybered Arm, Cool Cat Club, Franky's Sports Bar and The Ragdoll. And with the help of lady luck Norman discovers a beer coaster. And there is a phone number written down. But no name. The number is "5602". Ah…end one last thing. A small sealed plastic bag. Through the transparent material, blood stained bandage can be seen.

Dry blood. Obviously.

Useful though that may be, Norman has a better idea. The number on the coaster is worth committing to memory, but he chooses not to take anything from the garbage, which after a moment's thought, he flings haphazardly across the floor. Next, the clothes in the box. He rummages through those, partly out of curiousity and partly out of method acting. Then, the dirty laundry. He empties it out onto the floor, scatters it about, and selects a few undergarments to stuff into the pockets of his cargo pants. He dumps the hygiene kit into the sink and searches through it for a toothbrush, or a comb.

So much for subtlety. - The clothes in the box are clean and washed. Ready for use. Norman reckognizes, that there are two or three sets of BDU with actual insignias and patches from the armed forces on it! That's not the suff that chicks wear if they wanna look tough. They're uniforms and may tell to a knowing observer a little story of its own. But is Norman familiar with military decoration? - He may collect some underwear with ease. None seem to be very exceptional. Most propably she's not a hooker. Finally, the hygiene kit reveals a comb with a few short, dark red hairs, as well as a battery powered toothbrush.

The uniforms only hold his interest for a moment. He knows she was or is UCAS Army; her specific affiliation doesn't concern him, though like a good little spy he stores the mental images away for later recollection. He pockets the toothbrush and toothpaste, pulls some of the hairs off the comb, and makes for the door. He steals a glance at his watch. Not bad, but he could have done it faster. Fieldcraft is a young man's game, he thinks, with a slight smirk. The last step, before he stops off in room 202 one last time, is to quietly rip apart the maglock casing and leave the door slightly ajar.

Luckily, Norman prepares the maglock and stages a breaking without any obvious onlooker. The scene is left behind with clear and obvious signs.

Once inside 202, Norman sends a pre-arranged text message to his waiting ride. Everything of interest goes in his large black rucksack. He stops at the door and takes a last look around the room, a final check for anything incriminating. Nothing comes to mind. He slips quietly out the door and down the stairs, making only the slightest effort to (casually) sneak past Schizo. Rucksack in the trunk, recline the passenger seat, and have a long-awaited cigarette. The drive out of the Warrens feels like a large, smelly weight being slowly lifted from his shoulders, like the aftermath of an accident at an abattoir. He blows smoke out the window and begins thinking about the next phase.

Schizo doesn't care for Norman's leaving. When he steps downstairs for his ride, he passes three guys and a woman, standing near the entrance. One wearing gang colors. Another carries a Spas-22 openly in his hand. Barrel pointing down to the ground though. Still chattering loudly. Two take a look at Norman, but only with little interest. His ride carries him savely to Heather Gardens and finally the ramp exit to the CAS sector and Interstate 225. - Hiller's hideout stays behind. Who knows what will happen to the room until she returns? Maybe she just lost everything left behind to pillagers…

«Auto-Judge[VALID]» Hiller (#10245) spends 1200 nuyen for "Replacement of several legal items which got stolen after Norman's breaking into Hiller's room (The Crank, 210)."

Follow-Up

Norman has retreated and contemplated further steps. But his little breaking would release a series of serious incidents afterwards. The rumor would come up, that there was a looted room and propably some observations on the inhabitants of the Crank. After Norman left Hiller's room messed up, some gangers (Crimson Smoke) pillaged the room. No big deal and just a little worry for Schizo. The Smokes are allied with the Sinners. But unfortunately, Norman was spotted by Hiller when he used his video camera to observe the crossroad at The Crank. And Hiller asked Schizo, some hookers and a Sinner warrior about it. That started the problem.

When the rumors started to spread out, Schizo got pissed off. And the Sinners started to take this whole thing seriously. Until then, the breaking in Hiller's room 210 and the observation in room 202 were two different things for Schizo and the Sinners. There was no connection so far. Schizo only knew that Hiller got robbed and did some weird talking about someone spying on the street. But the rumor came up anyway:

You receive word from The Crank (Sun Feb 20 11:22:01 2011):
Some say there happened something at the Crank. A room on second floor got broken-up and pillaged. And there is the rumor that someone did secret observations on some of the tenants. Schizo doesn't seem to be amused at all. Compromising of inhabitants is not good for the business. Not even in the Mission Hill red-light district. Rumor has it, that the Sinners are taking the little incident seriously. Everyone who lives at the Crank may reckognize more gang attention on the house than usual. Maybe some other gang fucked up on Sinner's territory?

Thanks to Norman for forcing me to detail my character a huge step further :D

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