A Fistful of Roses, Part II: Fire and Blood (WIP)

Hey guys, welcome back to my campaign journal for A Fistful of Roses, the Savage Worlds cyberpunk campaign I’m playing in using the Interface Zero 2.0 setting. For anyone who hasn’t seen part one, you can check it out here: A Fistful of Roses, Part I: My Name Is Roxy

Alright. Posting part two of this, but as you might have noticed from the title, this is very much still a work in progress. Honestly it’s been a struggle to write this part, I haven’t been able to get it to a point I’m happy with. But it’s been a few weeks longer than I’d planned between posts, and I need to move on to other stuff. I’ll be coming back when I’ve had a chance to get some feedback so I can try to fix it up, but if I let myself dwell on it now I’ll never let it go.

A quick note. As is almost always the case, we’ve changed a few things about the setting, and made our own assumptions when something may not be perfectly clear in the book (or we’ve just missed it somehow). So we’ve assumed that the Tendril Access Processors (TAPs) that people have implanted in their heads act as general comms devices as well as providing augmented reality feeds and data access. We also changed the JUMP bikes a bit, neither the GM or I were a huge fan of the Formula One looking cars shown in the sourcebook for them, both of us had been picturing motorcycles that hover instead of having wheels, kind of halfway between a high end sports bike and an ATV. Actually I’m not even sure if they’re meant to hover or not, or are just able to leap into the air when needed. Either way, that’s how they look in our game.

All of that said, hope you enjoy it, and as always, feedback is very much appreciated.

NOTE: Profanity is a little more prevalent in this one than the first entry. I’m still working out Roxy’s character, and I’m leaning towards making her relatively foul mouthed and prone to bursts of anger.

———————————————————–

A Fistful of Roses, Part II: Fire and Blood

0015 Hours – The Strange Island, Korea Town

Shit. It’s after midnight, and I’m still sitting here, nursing another beer, waiting for Felix’s damn bartender to show up so we can get down to business. At least the night hasn’t been a total write-off. Turns out that hybrid couple those Bloody Hand gangers were hassling run the local hardware store. Said they’d have something for me in a few days, a thank you for running off the goons. I’ll have to try to keep ’em sweet, it’s always handy to be on friendly terms with gunrunners. Still, it doesn’t look like things are going to calm down here any time soon, and I’ve got other places to be. Felix and I’ll just have to have our chat another time.

I savour the last of my beer. It’s heavy and rich, bitter-sweet with undertones of chocolate and coffee. I push the glass away, the taste of  toasted hops and malted barley lingering on my tongue. Hell, forget about finding a fixer, I’d come back just for another glass. I stand, stretching, the leather of my impact suit hugging my body, a familiar, comfortable feeling. No point trying to say goodbye to Felix, he’s busy serving the crowd. A hand darts out from behind the bar, grabs my wrist as I turn to leave. Clawed and lightly furred … I follow the arm back to see Felix looking over my shoulder. He’s worried, I can see it. Slitted pupils wide, tufted ears laid flat against his skull. Something’s got him spooked good and proper.

“Trouble coming,” he hisses, leaning in close. “Your friends are back, and they’ve brought company. I figure this ain’t good for either of us, so what’s say we back each other up here. I turn to follow his gaze out to the street. The gangers from before are on approach to the bar, along with a group of their friends. Four of the others look like carbon copies of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, same shitty tatts and grubby gang colours. The last one though … looks like they went crying to their boss-man. Same sort of thug, just trussed up in a badly fitted suit instead of the leathers and muscle tops the street crew favour.

“Deal. But the drinks are on you after this,” I shoot back at him, a grin on my face. “And I’ll be expecting some extra consideration when we’re negotiating my cut for any jobs we might work together in the future.” I’m whistling in the dark, trying to hide the rising panic. Three, even four of these guys between us, easy. Seven … Well, I hope Felix has some heavy ordinance back there with him, ’cause all I’ve got is my revolver and a pair of stun-gloves. They’re just street trash, but a near four to one advantage is going to count for a lot. I pull the gloves out of my pocket and slip them on. There’s a faint buzzing in my palms as they hum to life, and I slide a hand behind my back, drawing my revolver and flicking off the safety, concealing it between my leg and the bar

A quick glance around the bar makes it clear there’s no help coming from the crowd. Those that aren’t already semi-comatose from booze have noticed the situation that’s brewing, and have drawn back to shelter at the side booths. Only one who doesn’t look too concerned is the scruffy looking guy I saw watching me before, one of the non-hybrids in the place. He’s not even trying to hide it now, staring dead at me. I lock gazes with him, jerking my head slightly towards the front doors, just as boss-man slams the door open and struts in looking like he owns the place, his entourage fanning out to flank him. The watcher gives a curt nod, which I hope is him agreeing to help. Fucked if I know why he’d want to get involved, but right now I’ll take whatever I can get.

The goon-squad comes to a stop in the middle of the room, lackeys kicking furniture away to make room for their boss. I can smell the bastards from here, stale sweat and booze, rank enough that I’m wishing I had olfactory augmentations so I should shut off my sense of smell. First good look at the gorilla in a suit confirms my expectation, he’s a street boss, barely ranks higher than his lackeys. Greasy hair slicked back, gaudy jewellery flashing at the open collar of his shirt and on his hands. Anyone with real power wouldn’t be caught dead wearing crap like that. All money, no class. He looks me up and down, sizing me up, clearly unimpressed with what he sees, and takes a step forward.

“Hey there lil’ lady. You the one who scared my boys so bad?” he sneers. “Gotta say, you ain’t what I expected. Way they were talking, I figured I’d be looking at a real monster. All I see is a pit babe thinks she’s something special. Pretty though, maybe I’ll take you home later, if you’re a good girl.”

He starts laughing, the goons joining in, though the two from before seem a bit worried. My panic fades, rage and adrenaline flooding in to smother it. I’m seeing red, the world narrowing down to just me and him. Nobody, especially not some ganger street trash, gets to talk to me like that. To hell with this … I swing myself around to face him head on, gun still hidden from view behind my back.

“Were you talking to me?” I ask, smiling politely. “I’m afraid I was lost in thought … I was trying to decide if I should castrate you, or just put you out of your misery.” The laughter stops, the sneer dropping off his face. He’s spluttering, struggling to find something to say, anger flashing in his eyes. There’s a fierce grin spreading across my face, the snarling rictus of a predator toying with its food before the kill. My voice is cold and low. “I’m sorry, were those words too big for you? Let’s try that again. I’m going to tear your balls off and feed them to you, you insignificant piece of shit.”

He leaps at me, a wordless cry of rage bursting from him, switchblade in hand. I’m ready for it, but he’s fast. The knife grazes my ribs as I twist away. Barely marks my suit, but a second slower and it would have hit home. He pulls back for another stab, trying to put his whole body into it. Big mistake, it leaves him off-balance as I hook my foot behind his knee and pull his leg out from under him. There’s a crack as he hits the ground, his head smashing back into the hard floor. A quick stomp to his hand makes him drop the knife, and I kick it away, then kneel down, one knee hard on his chest.

“My name isn’t lil’ lady, and I’m not a pit babe,” I snarl. “I’m Roxy goddamn Rasputina, queen of Chicagoland’s race scene. Remember that, and stay clear of me from now on, because if I ever see you again, I’ll carve my name in your forehead. That’s if you’re lucky. Otherwise, well. I. Might. Just. Kill. You.”

By the time I’m done, I’m almost screaming, punctuating each word with a high voltage slap across the face, stun glove crackling with each blow. His eyes roll back and his head lolls to the side. Unconscious. Well, I feel better. Now to deal with the lackeys. I look up to see all six of them holding guns. Only two trained on me, the other four are split between aiming at someone behind me, Felix I assume, and off to my right. Following their aim, I glance to see my watcher standing next to me. He’s sidled up to me at some point, and has a rather nasty looking sawn-off shotgun at the ready. Well now, that’s evened the odds somewhat. Standing, I bring my own revolver to bear on the group. Six on three … Might be better to try to talk this out, now that I’ve dealt their boss.

The second I open my mouth to talk, they open fire. Somehow none of them manage to hit, but I hear the wood of the bar splintering as bullets chew into it, bottles of spirits and the mirror behind them shattering into a million shards. The smell of cordite fills the air, mingling with the odour of cigarettes and weed. Guess diplomacy is off the table … There’s no real cover available, and getting over the bar would mean turning my back on them. I drop back to one knee to present a smaller target. Can’t get a clear shot, they’re using the tables they overturned before for cover. Felix and my new friend seem to be having better luck, I see one of the gangers lose half his ribcage to a shotgun blast, the back of another’s head disappears as two rounds plough into his face. Explosive rounds? Looks like Felix came armed for bear. Makes sense, given that some of his customers actually might be part-bear.

There’s a cry of agony from behind the bar, and the sound of something big hitting the floor, then silence … Damn it. Why’d I have to go jinx this. Can’t see what’s happened, but I’m not hearing Felix’s semi-auto firing any more. Okay. This has to end, now. The boss is still unconscious next to me, so I grab him and press my revolver to his temple, giving a piercing whistle. As suddenly as it started, the gunfire stops. The room is dead silent, all I can hear is the ringing in my ears.

“Hey! Unless you want me to splatter this poor bastard’s brains all over floor, I’d recommend you bail, right now.” I’m gambling a lot on this, hoping they actually care enough about their boss to back down. There’s a head poking up over a table, checking to see how serious I am. This is no time to look weak, so I throw him a feral grin. “You think I won’t do it? You’ve got until the count of five to be heading for the door. One…”

“Alright! We’ll go. Just let us take him with us.” They’re standing up, no guns in sight, hands out to show they’re empty. They must think I’m stupid. Soon as I hand him over, they’d be back to shooting us. Confidence is key here, can’t let them see how worried I am.

“Counter offer. How about you go, he stays, and after I’ve had a nice little chat with him about the dangers of coming back here with any stupid plans for payback, I’ll send him home, safe and sound. Scout’s honour.” I’m trying to sound relaxed, willing them to just take the offer and go. Come on you bastards, cut and run. They’re huddled together, all I can hear is panicked murmurs. Finally, they turn back to face me.

“Okay. We’re leaving. But if you harm him, you’re dead.” They back off slowly, heading for the door. The second they’re outside, they turn and run. We’re clear. I check the time, nearly quarter to one. Longest half hour of my life.

My shotgun-toting friend wanders over, and I get my first chance for a good look at him up close. Slightly taller than average, looks to be in decent shape, but not ripped, though it’s hard to tell with the trenchcoat he’s sporting. Scruffy dirty blonde hair down to his shoulders, and enough stubble that it looks like he hasn’t shaved for a few days. He’d probably be handsome, if he took the time to clean himself up a bit. If I had to put money on it, I’d say he’s like me, a human 2.0. Could be baseline, but if so he’s hit the genetic jackpot, looking this good after what looks like some rough living. He stows the shotgun somewhere in the depths of his coat, then kneels down and starts patting down our guest, frisking for weapons. This isn’t his first time dealing with this kind of situation, that’s for sure.

“Thanks for the help. You got a name?”

“Keith. All good, I was getting bored anyway. Teaching some gangers a lesson seemed like it’d pass some time,” answering with a cheerful lilt to his voice. He seems calm, comfortable with the situation, but I can’t help but notice he didn’t volunteer his surname. Could be nothing, I’ll leave it for now, but it’s something to keep in mind.

“Right. Well, you mind keeping an eye on sleeping beauty here? I’ve gotta check on Felix.” I’m already moving away, stepping up to the bar. I can’t see him from here … I clamber over, trying to avoid the worst of the broken glass littering every surface. Blood. Lots of it.  A trail of it leads to where Felix is lying face down, one arm stretched out towards the storage space below the bar. He’s out cold, and the pool of blood is spreading, but I can’t see the damage with him lying this way. Have to roll him over. Gently, I ease him onto his back, checking for wounds. No hits to the head, chest is fine … Oh, hell. His right shoulder is shredded. I can see fragments of bone through the mess blood and torn flesh, matted fur soaked with blood. Looks like he took a few heavy shots there. Need to move fast, he’s still bleeding badly, and there’s not much I can do for him here. The shelf he was reaching for has a medkit on it, I tear it open and start sorting through the contents while my comms app dials an encrypted channel. We need an ambulance here fast, and going through the normal emergency services isn’t going to cut it … There’s the a click in my brain as the connection is established, and a dry, androgynous voice echoes in my head.

“Miss Rasputina? This is most unusual, we don’t normally –,” they begin. I don’t have time for this.

“Cut the crap. I know this isn’t normal, but this is an emergency. I need ambulance and police onsite at the Strange Island in Korea Town, as soon as possible. Sooner. Get them here, NOW!”

“Understood. They’ve been notified, and the situation has been given priority. You understand we’ll have to report this to –“

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I’ll deal with that later. Gotta go,” I cut them off, killing the connection. Medkit looks good, seems Felix was prepared for trouble. Smart move in this town. I rip open a couple of oversized emergency support patches, covering his mangled shoulder as best I can, then strap his arm down to his side to stop any movement that might cause more damage. The painkillers and stimulants in the patches should help keep him comfortable, and the coagulants will help slow the bleeding. It’s not going to be enough if that medical team doesn’t get here soon though. It’s all I can do for now though. His breathing has already eased a bit, not as ragged and harsh as it was a minute ago.

“Keith? We’ve got ambulance and police incoming. Felix is hurt, bad. Any sign of those gangers?” I call out.

“Looks like we’re clear. No one out on the street that I can … wait … Can you smell that?”

“Smell what?” I ask, sniffing. There’s something there, faint, but getting stronger. I can’t put my finger on it though, the tang of the drugs from the patches on Felix is messing with my sense of smell.

“It smells like…” there’s a pause, and I can almost see him peering around. “Fuck! It’s smoke. They’ve set the goddamn bar on fire! It’s coming in from the back.” Spinning, I look to the door just behind me. There’s thin plumes of smoke curling in around the top of it, getting thicker fast.

I pull up my contact, send a message demanding they alert the fire department as well. The back room is going to be full of flammable materials, between the booze and all the cleaning products a bar would have. As I vault the bar, I’m just in time to see the crowd start making a rush for the door. Damn. This is going to turn into a stampede, and more people are going to get hurt. Without thinking, I grab my gun and fire it straight into the back wall. The resounding crack stops the crowd in their tracks, and they turn to see what’s happened. Now that I’ve got their attention…

“Quick and calmly. I see anyone pushing, next shot goes in their head,” I’m bluffing of course, hoping they’ll listen. I point out a couple of the bigger patrons towards the back, hybrids designed for strength and toughness. “You and you. I need some help here getting Felix out. One of you take his legs, the other grab his upper body. Careful of his shoulder. Get him across the street and make him as comfortable as you can. Keith, you bring the ganger, we’re going to have some questions for him. Get some of the crowd to help restrain him if he looks like he’s waking up.

A few minutes later the bar is empty except for me. I check the door on my way past. The heat radiating out is so intense that even from a couple of inches away, my hand feels like it’s going to burn. There’s a bloody inferno raging on the other side. So much for hoping they’d just set a smoke bomb or something off as a distraction. Time to bail. Jogging across the street, I join Keith. He’s got a few hybrids holding down the bastard in the ill-fitting suit, including what looks like an octopus hybrid. Heh, I’d like to see him try to slither out of that grip. I really hope those suckers hurt when they come off. Keith’s staring back at the bar, and I turn around to watch the scene with him. The door to the back room looks to have burnt through, and the flames are spreading through the main room. The bar has gone up like a Roman candle thanks to all the spirits spilt all over it during the shootout, and the resulting conflagration resembles nothing so much as Hell itself. Most of the crowd from the bar are still hanging around, and plenty of other bystanders have shown up. Everyone loves a free show after all … Must be a hell of a sight for anyone passing by, a mob of gene-modded post-humans standing around watching one of their few refuges from reality burn to the ground.

Damn it. This is my fault. If I hadn’t humiliated those first two morons, or lost my cool with their boss, none of this would have happened. I should have known that they wouldn’t just accept it. They always have to try to save face, otherwise their lives in the gang are pretty much finished. I couldn’t be diplomatic, no. I had to show how much better I am than them … and what exactly did that accomplish? An almost certain loss of an arm for Felix, and the absolutely certain loss of his livelihood. Not to mention the favour I had to call in, and I can guarantee that’s coming back to bite me sooner rather than later.

Well, if things have gone this far, may as well take it all the way. I’ll just have to teach the Bloody Hand that you don’t mess with Roxy Rasputina or her friends and get away with it. Once Felix is back on his feet, I’ll talk to him and see where we go from here. For now though, I need to find out where they’re working from. I don’t think they were really expecting to kill anyone in the fire, it was just their way of sending a message, a nice big “Don’t fuck with the Bloody Hand”, so odds are good they’re still somewhere in the area, watching to see how things played out.

There’s sirens approaching, louder every second. As soon as it’s obvious they’re headed this way, I hear a couple of motorcycles roar to life in the alley nearby. That’s gotta be them. I yell at Keith to keep an eye on Felix, that I’ll be back soon, and sprint to my truck. As I throw open the doors of the trailer, my suits helmet is already emerging, locking into place around my head, ready to ride. The interior lights flicker on, spotlights gleaming off the beautiful beast resting in the middle of the trailer, a mountain of smooth curves and chromed steel, my Toyota Locust JUMP bike. Even at rest it screams of speed and excitement, hairpin turns and near collisions. I throw myself over the seat, running through the start-up sequence as I fire off the authorisation code to the on-board computer with a thought. The familiar, comforting whine of the engine kicks in, and I feel the bike raise off it’s cradle, hovering smoothly. There’s nobody can outrun me on my Locust, so if I’m going to have any hope of catching those bastards and seeing where they go, this is it.

The engine pitches higher as I open up the throttle, rocketing out of the open trailer. There’s a car straight ahead, coming up fast. Flick of a switch, and the TITAN JUMP system engages, magnetic launchers mounted under the chassis firing, launching the bike into the air. The mag fields compensate as I land, dampening the force, and I swing around tight into the alley. I’ve heard rumours about the Bloody Hand working out of Little Italy. Nav system is already displaying the most likely route there, so I’ve got a good chance of catching up to these scumbags somewhere along the way. My wrist twists the throttle hard, and I’m gone, speeding away, the neon signs that line the alley blurring past me faster and faster, the sounds of sirens and the glare of the fire swallowed up in the darkness behind me.

———————————————————–

Next post from me will be a review of Enter the Janitor, the first book in Josh Vogt’s comedic urban fantasy series, The Cleaners. After that I’ll be back to work on the next part of A Fistful of Roses. I had hoped to get back to work on The Unusual Suspects soon, but it appears the artist I used to commission the character pieces from is no longer accepting jobs, and I’ve yet to find anyone else. I kind of like having the artwork for the updates, so I’m going to hold off on it for now until I can decide what to do about it. 

Evs has a few updates in the work as well, we can expect to see more painting guides and general wargaming discussions from him soon hopefully. 

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