Well, this is a few days later than I’d wanted, thanks to a weekend spent with my parents and some longer than anticipated days at work.
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve joined a new cyberpunk game run by my friend Chris. We’re using Interface Zero 2.0, for Savage Worlds. Great cyberpunk setting, has a few elements that veer more into transhumanism than cyberpunk (the human/animal hybrids and so on), but in the main it’s a very genre faithful setting. Lots of hacking, virtual reality, mechanical augmentations, people wired for augmented reality, and a lot of shiny chrome and bright neon contrasted with the filthy streets and gritty nature of day-to-day survival in the urban sprawl. Being Savage Worlds, it mostly conforms to the core rules, but adds some more complex rules for things like hacking (the Science Fiction companion for Savage Worlds actually recommends using these rules for any other games that need hacking rules), cybernetic augmentation and so on, as well as adding, removing or modifying Edges and Hindrances as appropriate for the genre. One of the bigger changes is the addition of occupations, where each character has to pick an occupation based on their concept. There’s a pretty extensive list, with everything from bartenders and pizza delivery guys right up the chain to the corporate executives and mob bosses. Your occupation provides certain benefits fitting the concept, as well as a regular source of extra income every time you received an Advance (every 5 experience points). The default setting for the game is North America, but there are supplements coming out for other locations, like the Japan: Empire of the Setting Sun sourcebook.
Given how much I enjoyed the character concept I came up with, especially after seeing how she ran in the first session of the game, I figured I may as well keep an in character campaign journal for her and chronicle the events of the game. Then I decided to make things difficult for myself and write it in first person perspective and present tense, because apparently I’m a masochist. So I asked Chris what the campaign was called, and was duly confused and curious when I was informed it has been named “A Fistful of Roses”. No, I don’t know why. But I can’t wait to find out.
What I describe may not be 100% accurate to what happened in the game. There are three reasons for this. First is that it fits the in character nature of the journal, as a Human 2.0 who has been genetically optimised and designed to be better, she’s very arrogant, and liable to see things in a way that make her seem a little more impressive or central. The second reason is that I don’t have a perfect memory, and tend to forget some small details here and there. The third, but most important reason, is that I don’t want Roxy to become too much of a Mary Sue character, and that’s easy to do if you stick too closely to the events of actual game sessions, since the assumption is that most of the time, the players will succeed. I want this to be more of a dramatisation of what’s happening than a straight forward campaign journal, so I need be free to give her moments of failure and play up her flaws where necessary.
The events of this post around half of the first session, the second half will be covered in the next update. I understand that there’s going to be some setting specific stuff that may not be easy to understand. I’ll try to do up a glossary at some point for important terms. Also, I apologise in advance for the rather on the nose reference to Mad Max: Fury Road early on, but I couldn’t resist. So, on that note, let’s get this show on the road…
WARNING: Does contain a few instances of profanity.
A Fistful of Roses, Part I: My Name is Roxy
2000 Hours – Rooftop Garden, Shogun Outfitters Chicagoland Tower
My name is Roxy. My world is neon, and chrome. There’s more to it than that of course, but from this height that’s all you can see: the multi-hued fires of advertisements and signs, reflected and amplified by the mirrored surfaces of the Chicagoland sprawl. I’ve been up here for hours, watching as the sun faded away and the city came to life, chasing back the darkness with a blaze of artificial light. True night never seems to come to Chicagoland, instead we exist in a state of perpetual twilight. In most of the sprawl, the towers block so much of the sky that the streets almost never see natural light. That’s the world we live in, where something as simple as watching a sunset is restricted to those with enough influence to live high in the towers … or to those who dare to find their own way up there, risking the consequences for a chance at a unique perspective on the world.
There’s a faint pulse in the back of my mind. New message received. It appears in front of me, just another part of the hyper-reality overlay I view the world through. It’s from Reinhardt, my crew chief. Package delivered and secured … time to go. The CorpSec guard I bribed to get up here will have gone off duty already, which means it’s only a matter of time before a routine sec-scan picks me up and all hell breaks loose. Even a champion JUMP racer and media darling like me would be in a world of trouble if I was found sitting up here in the rooftop garden of a megacorp tower without authorisation. I’d get out of it okay in the end, but it’d take a lot of fast talking, and I’d probably have to call in some pretty hefty favours. Better to leave now, and spare myself the trouble.
I shiver as I move to the edge of the roof. It’s cold up here. You’d think I wouldn’t feel it through the suit, but I do. The interlocking plates that form the suit’s helmet slide into place, guidance info flickering into view as the suit’s nav-system engages with my neural TAP. There’s a little bar I’ve heard about, down in Korea Town, an area known as a haven for the more unusual citizens of the city, particularly the Hybrids. Should be a fun spot, and I’ve heard the owner is a small-time fixer with big-time ambitions. Could be someone worth getting to know, I’m always on the lookout for new biz. I hear the slam of a door bursting open behind me, and turn to see a couple of jackbooted CorpSec thugs skidding to a halt about twenty paces away from me. One of them’s got some kind of high-tech semi-auto trained on me. It looks heavy, he’s got to be sporting some kind of muscle augmentation to even be able to hold it steady. His friend’s armed with a shock stick and a pair of handcuffs, and is starting to edge his way towards me. Good, that should make things a bit easier. If they want to take me alive, I don’t have to worry so much about getting shot in the process of escaping.
“Step away from the ledge. You’re trespassing on private property, and you will be detained until we have determined who you are and what legal action is to be taken against you. There’s nowhere for you to run, if you surrender peacefully, no harm will come to you.” It’s the one with the gun, his partner is still slowly moving in my direction, coming in from the side in an attempt to avoid startling me. The poor bastards clearly haven’t registered what I’m wearing yet. I play along, raising my hands in mock surrender. Shock stick is maybe five, six paces away, and the gun nut looks like he’s starting to relax, thinking that this’ll be easier than expected. I almost pity them for the trouble they’ll get in for this. Almost. With a quick wave goodbye, I fall backwards, launching myself into open space. The last I hear from them is a cry of “Shit!” and the sound of a gunshot as a bullet passes through the space my head occupied barely a second earlier. Then I’m gone.
Free fall. There’s nothing else quite like it. The signs on the towers flashing past me in a blur, the whistle of air rushing by. It’s the closest I ever feel to being free when I’m not on my JUMP bike. I’m falling backwards, staring up at the sky. That won’t do at all … I manage to spin myself around, angling so that I’m lined up with the projected trajectory from my nav-system. A countdown starts running at the edge of my vision. I check my course on last time. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. I throw myself back to horizontal and snap my arms out from my body, splaying my legs out slightly. There’s a sharp jerk as the membranes between my limbs release, billowing out to catch the air, and the momentum of my vertical dive becomes a high-speed glide through the crowded cityscape. I bank around towers, trusting the nav-system to get me where I need to be while I just enjoy the ride. I’ll have to remember to thank Reinhardt again for the wingsuit, it’s a hell of a birthday present. I’m getting pretty close to ground level, must be on the final approach. As I turn into a long straight run, I can see the parachute release marker in mid-air around half a block away. The suit auto-triggers the chute when I pass the indicator, and I’m pulled back to an upright position as it slows my fall to a gentle descent
Barely a minute later, I’m on the ground, with the chute reeling back into the suit and the flight membranes pulling back tight against my limbs so I can move freely. My helmet retracts, and I take a look around. Well, I’m definitely in the right part of town, there are Hybrids everywhere. They’re not so different from me really. I’m one of the Coded, a neo-human engineered to be the best my genes will allow. Faster, smarter, and, of course, physically attractive. Some people say I’m arrogant, but it’s not arrogance when it’s the truth. I was designed to be better, and I am. Hybrids are similar in concept, but very different in execution. They’re people who’ve had genes spliced with animal DNA, gaining the traits they value most from the animal, as well as some of its physical features. Major difference between them and me? I was born this way, designed according to the wishes of my parents. They chose to be changed later on, based on what they wanted. I guess the fact that they look like bipedal animals while I can pass for a baseline human is a pretty big difference too. I spot what I’m looking for just down the road, a truck parked so that there’s easy access to the rear of it. That means that just across the road we should have … ah, there it is. The Strange Island, a bar where anyone is welcome, no matter if they’re baseline human, hybrid, cyborg or anything in between. I duck into the back of the truck and change into my riding gear. Time to meet the new fixer.
2100 Hours – The Strange Island, Korea Town
I stride through the front door, running an eye over the place. Old fashioned setup, nothing special. Booths around the walls, an eclectic mix of tables, stools and armchairs strewn around the middle of the room, and against the back wall a good solid bar, the kind that looks like it could stand up to anything short of an assault by a golemmech. Everything looks worn, but clean and comfortable. Not what I expected, I’m used to the ultra-modern style in vogue in the more affluent parts of town, all chrome and plastic. This is a throwback to an earlier stage of society, and honestly, I kind of like it. There’s a decent crowd, but the place isn’t exactly roaring. Most of the drinkers look to be hybrids of all kinds, but scattered around the crowd there’s the odd baseline human, and even a few who look like they might be human 2.0 like me. It’s pretty obvious they’re sizing me up. Most of them seem to have realised who I am, and those who didn’t recognise the face alone probably would have figured it out based on my signature armoured impact suit. Thankfully I’ve got a reputation as a bit of a party girl, so the general consensus seems to be that I’m not a threat, I’m just a rich girl slumming it for kicks. The murmur of conversation resumes as they go back to their drinks. I saunter up to the bar and perch on a stool, signalling the bartender, a Hybrid with what looks like some kind of felidae DNA. A lynx maybe, the tufted ears and ruffed fur around the head certainly point that way.
“I’ll have a pint of whatever you’d recommend with a whiskey chaser,” I say, giving him a smile. He’s a slight little thing, with golden eyes that constantly flick around the room, checking all the corners. When he’s not doing anything, he holds himself perfectly still, looking like he could fade into the background at any minute. The smart money says he took the traits for stealth and infiltration during his gene-therapy. Military Hybrid maybe? Spec Ops? But then what’s he doing working here? He places a pint of some dark beer and a shot of whiskey in front of me.
“Haven’t seen you here before miss. What brings you to the Strange Island?”
Straight to the point then. Well, a direct question deserves a direct answer, and it’ll give me a chance to watch his reaction “I’m looking for the owner. Word is he’s a man who knows where the best parties in Chicagoland are. He around?” His eyes narrow slightly. Bullseye.
“I’m the owner. Call me Felix,” he says, looking me over warily. “You obviously didn’t know who I was before you got here, so why is Roxy Rasputina looking for a bartender in a Korea Town dive? Don’t try to tell me you’re looking for advice on where to party, I find it hard to believe you need any help with that.”
“I’m looking for a partnership with a fixer, someone with the contacts to get me some regular biz. I hear you’re the man to talk to.”
He grins like the Cheshire Cat, wider than I expected, and all teeth. “I think we might be able to work something out. Hang around for a while, once the night bartender comes in we can talk somewhere more private.” He bustles off, taking drinks orders and clearing tables. I spin around on my stool, leaning back into the bar, nursing my drink. There’s a man sitting alone in the near corner, watching me, but I pretend not to notice. Could be that he’s one of my minders, though if so he’s sloppier than the usual guys. Or maybe he’s just a fan. I’ll keep an eye on him, but there’s no need to panic just yet.
It’s been around half an hour when I notice a couple of new faces walking in. Based on their tattoos, they’re probably Bloody Hand gangers, which means they’re plain old human. They’re notorious for their hatred for anything different, so what are they doing in a bar in the middle of Korea Town? They’re the minority here … odds are they’re here to cause trouble. They end up next to me at the bar, ordering a couple of drinks. Within minutes they’re hurling abuse at a hybrid couple minding their own business at a nearby table. I sigh and look over at them.
“How ’bout you lay off, huh guys?” I ask, trying to play the peacemaker, though I can already see it’s not going to work. The closest ganger is glaring at me, almost snarling in rage. At least they’re not armed, at least not yet.
“Stay out of it bitch, unless you want a smack.”
Well, for a ganger, he’s a veritable wordsmith. Looks like I need a little something to help to drive my point home. I slip my hand down to the holster nestled in the small of my back, wrapping my hand around the comfortable grip of my revolver. Old fashioned, but a classic, and it’ll never jam. A quick sweep of my arm brings it up dead centre on his forehead.
“What I want is a nice quiet drink, same as everyone else here. Would you like it if I came down to your favourite bar and started slapping your friend’s cock out of your mouth? No? So don’t bother us when we’re trying to relax. Now shut the fuck up before I ventilate your skull.” The stupid git’s gone cross-eyed staring down the barrel of my gun, and looks to be about a second short of pissing himself. Thankfully we’re spared the horror of that when his friend grabs him and drags him out the front door. I holster the gun, then signal Felix for another beer.
That’s it for now folks, hope you enjoyed it. I’d like to give a big thanks to all my friends who read and provided feedback on this as I was writing it, but especially to John for some advice on writing techniques and Kane for being my unpaid (but very much appreciated) editor. If you’ve got any feedback for me, I’d really appreciate it (especially if it’s constructive feedback/criticism, as this is an attempt to get myself back into creative writing).
Next update will be my review of T.J. Burgin’s novel The First Tail. Should be up Sunday night. After that I’ll get to work on the second part of A Fistful of Roses, which will pick up not long after this one left off.
Written while listening to Antimatter, a UK melancholic rock band. Their early albums were a odd mix of elements of electronica, gothic rock and trip hop, often with guest female vocalists. After the first two albums they shifted towards a very melancholy acoustic rock sound, then started adding more prominent electric guitars on the fourth album. I’m currently listening to their latest album, Fear of a Unique Identity, which feels like it combines their whole range of styles over the years, and has merged them something really beautiful.