Location: Neon City
It was too early in the morning when Koko pinged all of us; Yennav Rybasei had been in contact. He wanted us over to some sort of meat processing plant inRokkaku Dai Heights immediately.
Pocketing my media-slab, I was wondering just where Koko's relationship with a Russian Mob operator was going to eventually lead us. Every combination of the words meeting, mobster and meat processing plant sounded like it would lead to a bad ending.
I checked my .45 ACPs, pulled on my boots and trench coat then went and met the others in the morning heat, unaccustomed to the blinding low morning sun.
This meat processing plant was on the edge of The Heights' old warehouse district in a small business park that backed on to a row of retail units. Unusually for a warehouse, this was a was grey-and-brown bricked building with a few small second story windows, some doors and a couple of bays. at the front it's original old sign had long since faded away. Situated at regular intervals on the rusting corrugated gable roof were a large number of ventilation shafts.
It would have been a fairly anonymous place except for the handful of clearly tooled-up and generally easily spotted mob goons with their buzz cuts and cheap polyester Russian Osolitki tracksuits they liked so much who were kicking their heels outside and failing to look respectable.
They watched us intently with unblinking gazes as we walked over, obviously gripping weapons in pockets. Once we told them that we were expected, they relaxed and breathed.
One of the thugs bought us into a partially sun-lit hallway with a dusty threadbare carpet that led to a short row of offices, Yennav was waiting in one. It must have been an admin office, shelves were stacked with old vinyl document boxes and office supplies, a couple men sat working at desk-slabs and the room was filled with beige or brown plastic furniture. The exception was a plush looking shiny faux-leather exec chair in which a reclining Yennav sat. His relaxed posture couldn't quite hide the nervous expression on his face.
He stood up and greeted us with a forced cheerfulness and after some small talk took us through another door into a small high-ceilinged bare corridor. Dust motes floated lazily in sunlight that poured through the small windows and shone on the plain concrete floor. At the other end were a unusual set of heavy looking steel double doors.
"Leads to cold storage," Yennav offered.
Yennav jabbed a panel on the wall; the insulated doors popped a few centimetres out of the wall with a short hiss and automatically slid open. A small cloud of accumulating mist rolled out into the corridor where warm air mingled with cold.
Beyond; a mixture of weak LED strips and sunlight bleakly lit the stark brick and concrete room. Skinned animal carcases hung from rows of cruelly curved steel hooks and barbs, gently swaying in the almost indiscernible flow of cold air being pumped in by the low rumbling fans in ventilation shafts.
"There," pointed Yennav.
We followed his finger and I sucked in my breath, it led to a cyborg, hanging from one of the hooks.
It was the kind we had encountered before: Protobase Global cyborgs, monstrous braindead hybrids that were built to kill.
Except not this one, it hung there moving in rhythm with the carcasses.
"Non-active, but still functional. No danger." Added Yennav.
He went on to explain that during a conference at a mob-owned restaurant a group of the cyborgs had appeared and attacked. Yennav shook his head, explaining that during the ensuing firefight he had lost many colleagues before the cyborgs were destroyed. Though his men had managed to disable the one here in the storage. Yennav wanted us to find out who had done this to them.
The first thing we checked was the cyborg. As Koko worked at opening a small service hatch I could feel a chilly invisible grip wrapping around me like an icy boa constrictor. None of us were used to this kind of temperature, not in Neon City.
Once Koko was done, I worked quickly; behind the hatch was a port that allowed Protobase Global to program their mindless murder-machines, it was also my way in. I networked my data-slab to it and jacked in.
RAM Rat was still occupying a sizeable chunk of my data-slab's storage partition. A constantly shifting and rotating innumerable swarm of glowing data-insects, each an algorithmic subroutine that contributed to RAM Rat's brain-image wheeled over and greeted me as I appeared. RAM Rat wanted to know what we were doing.
We accessed the cyborg's programming, it had been executing a complex set of hunter/killer instructions, nothing unexpected considering what it had just been used for. We dug deeper but came up with no further data that could help us, whoever had created the programming had also been very careful to hide their footprints.
There was one small piece of data though. The cyborg's base operating code was probably written by somebody different to who had programmed the instruction set and they had left something, something that was missed by whoever had wiped the data. The base operating code still contained a timestamp, this was when the code had been compiled; it was a week ago.
The Protobase Global robot manufacturing facility had been destroyed by us long before then. There was another facility somewhere in Neon City.
The cyborg was a dead end.
Next Yennav showed us the front security camera footage from the restaurant. We watched the grainy silent low angled footage; it showed a platoon of cyborgs rapidly charging along the street, coming into the footage from out of the camera angle. They were directed to attack the restaurant by a familiar looking rotund Asian man, once again he managed to keep his features hidden from us. It kept us from learning anything about the attack.
For several minutes we re-watched the footage again and again, nothing new each time. Until we spotted something, we hit freeze frame and there: A ghostly, insubstantial spectral shape lurking in the shop window across the street from the restaurant.
A faint, transparent phantasmal half-reflection that showed cyborgs leaping out of a sky-freighter to one side of the restaurant but too transparent, too faint to reveal any detail. There was however, a strange smear of bright green that we were naturally drawn to.
Taking a screen grab, we fed it into my data-slab, RAM Rat and I checked it out. The image was already low-rez and when we expanded it, it only got worse. I ran a protocol to enhance the image, a predictive algorithm would reconstruct the image, cleaning and sharpening it. Hopefully it would clean and sharpen it in the right way and we'd get something.
A toy, it turned out to be a child's plastic toy stuck to the top of the sky freighter's dashboard, a distinctive colourful green troll mascot of some kind. I ran it through image recognition, it was produced by Lekorrem Toys and wasn't associated with any businesses or corporations, it had no meaning, it was just a damned child's toy. Another dead end.
We were grasping now, but perhaps it had some kind of significance to truckers? We only knew one trucker, Aisha Laverone - Lady Zero. We pinged the image to her and asked if she knew about it. she got back to us pretty quick.
The toy could be found on the dashboard of a freighter that belonged to a Ivan Wyke. How could we find Ivan, we asked? Lady Zero didn't know, Ivan shunned The Brotherhood of the Road, whatever the hell that was and was happy to take any cargo no questions asked. One last thing Lady Zero told us; he was a serious pachinko player and liked to play at the Isseki Nityou Pachinko Parlour in Highway Zero.
It was a start.
Twelve lanes of unending blurring traffic moving at four hundred kilometres per hour on street level made Highway Zero the noisiest, hottest district in Neon City. with an all-encompassing background rumble that filled the air like a low hiss of static.
A midday sun was baking the streets as we rolled into Highway Zero. It didn't take long to get to the Pachinko Parlour.
The parlour's name was brashly announced by a large, elaborate set of neon signs and shapes flashed on and off in a rolling animated sequence. The sound of bells, sirens, electric jingles, sporadic song samples could be heard from outside.
Inside, it rose into a blended cacophony of electronic noise that numbed the mind.
The brightly lit room was entirely filled by rows of zombie gamblers of every variety sat in front of gaudily coloured flashing and winking Ozoyanan pachinko terminals, almost mindlessly pumping ball after ball into the machines and watching entranced, as they bounced their way down, clinging on to the hope that a dopamine hit would be triggered by a win. A battery farm of steel ball laying zoned-out gamblers.
It was packed, every seat, every row occupied and we didn't even know what Ivan Wyke looked like or if he was even here. Finding him was going to be a slog. A different approach was needed and that approach was his sky-freighter.
Back outside, we looked around, across the road was an asphalt surfaced parking lot. A quick search and we found the colourful green troll; Ivan's truck, a dirt smeared Tulytt Arboret sky-hauler.
It was empty and had been sitting here a while, the bodywork had been cooked by the Neon City heat and was painful to touch. We provided cover to Koko as she delicately worked the truck's door lock.
With a click, it was done. As we opened the door, a wave of sun-heated, hot, stale air escaped the truck along with the rancid smell of rot, crap and sickly sweetness. For a moment everybody stood back, we all knew that smell.
Taking deep breaths we looked inside. There was a plastic coated bench that ran the width of the cabin in front, its colourful patterns worn away by use. The truck was parked up so all the dashboard systems were turned off. Most corners of the cab and the windscreen contained caked deposits of dust and grime, accumulated from years of travel and some other small pieces of trash littered the interior.
Behind the bench, the cab extended to the rear and the shaded, unlit sleeper area. Touching the sleeper area's light panel brought it to life and its soft glow revealed an unmoving figure lying covered by a duvet. We checked closer, Ivan Wyke was there, under the duvet; dead. Someone had been serious about tying up loose ends. Another dead end.
Powering up the sky-freighter systems triggered a sequence of dials and instrumentation activating in a flurry of winking red-and-then-green lights. The auto-router would contain a log of the freighter's movements, we checked it, the log had been deleted. Very serious about tying up loose ends.
It was time to see how good they were at this though. Under the dashboard was a central dash-slab, it's role was to manage all the sky-freighter's systems; power management, propulsion, aerial stability, fuel usage, data readouts and of course, the auto-router. When the logs were deleted, they weren't deleted from the auto-router but the slab instead. The auto-router was in essence nothing more than a dumb terminal, an interface linking to the slab which did all the actual work.
Like all slabs, when data was deleted from the dash-slab. it would be fragmented and transferred to a specific hidden partition, none of this would ever actually show up on the auto-router. Networking my own data-slab and jacking in, RAM Rat and I searched the dash-slab, finding the deleted data was easy.
I copied it to my own slab and ran it through a reconstruction protocol.
It took a little while and we had left the sky-freighter by the time it was done but it got the result we needed, we had the auto-router logs. Ivan Wyke's last journey but one had been to the restaurant and less than two hours before that the sky-freighter had gone to an address in Kibogaoka Hill. There was our lead.
Waves of midday heat and over-bright sunlight pummelled the tram on our clackety ride down to Kibogaoka Hill. No surprise, aircon wasn't up to the job and tightly packed passengers sat or stood, silently enduring the discomfort and shielding their eyes. Nothing new in Neon City.
Kibogaoka Hill was the poorest, most neglected and underfunded district in the city and that was saying something. The city planners must have forgotten about this place when it came to the building of Neon City. The tram dropped us off at the foot of Kibogaoka's titular hill.
As the main thoroughfare wound its way uphill, narrow unpredictable side streets branched off in random directions. Other than this, every visible square centimetre of the hill face was seemingly covered by a haphazard sprawl. A blanket of favela styled shanties were draped down the steep incline. Corrugated sheeting, wooden panels and pallets, plastic coverings and tarpaulin, held together by a mix of nails, rope, wire or cable all contributed to the patchwork district of densely packed makeshift homes and shops. A tangled mess of daisy-chaining black cabling ran from rooftop to rooftop providing power.
There was nothing here for tourists and the streets were quieter for it. It was obvious we were the outsiders here, our clothes marked us as foreign and suspicious looks were thrown our way as we walked up the hill. Disaffected youth roameded the favela in bands or gangs, wearing threadbare clothes, hand-me-down boots and defiant, glowering expressions.
Throughout the shanty town the ankh image had been sprayed over many of the ramshackle walls, the tag for Kibogaoka's biggest gang, The Immortals.
Pushers dressed baggy jackets had staked every street and sat on their corners with one eye on the street and one hand on their pistols thrust deep into their pockets. A drip-drab of customers always coming and going. Meanwhile strung out, underdressed street walkers prowled the hillside for clients.
Stray dogs had the run of the shanty town and feral cats ruled the uneven, mismatched roofs.
On the way up we passed The Launchpad. Designed to deploy multi-stage rockets into orbit, the strange and empty imposing structure had never been used. An enormous tapering steel skeletal launch tower rose out of an open concrete platform and stretched up above the favela, dominating the view from anywhere in the district. It was hard to imagine how and why it got built in Neon City in the first place; and what would happen to the shanty town around it if it were used?
The shanty town climbed most of the way up the hill where it reached the commercial centre of Kibogaoka Hill and mingled with actual buildings of brick, concrete, steel and glass. A strange melting pot of hodge-podge shanty businesses side-by-side with commerical buildings and retail units
The address led to Den's Den Of Domestic Doers. It took a while wandering through the meandering, claustrophobic, random street-maze to find. It was easy to become lost in the narrow, shady back alleys and as we navigated our way we were constantly under the scrutiny of some resident of one favela or aother so we kept our wits about us.
Eventually we found Den's Den but we chose to stay back and observe from a distance Den's Den Of Domestic Doers was a manufacturer of domestic white box appliances. A largish, square. innocuous brick building that backed right on to an extensively expanded part of the shanty town, it seemed to have been a retailer that directly served the public.
A quick search showed that the business had been bought out by a subsidiary of Protobase Global. Now it was out-of-business, doors had been barricaded and shop front windows boarded up.
Or so it seemed: For a disused business, we counted a large number of security cameras pointed at all the ways in. There was something strange about the shanty town behind it as well, it was in someway too large and the shape was too uniform, too predictable, as if it was something else.
During our surveillance we had drawn the attention of an old woman who was watching from the doorway of her wood and plastic shanty home. Bill approached and introduced himself, she was fairly evasive, untrusting and immediately warned him off, telling him it wasn't safe here. Bill smoothly moved the conversation on and she continued. All the original staff from Den's Den had gone missing as as well a number of locals, no one knew why. If this was a new cyborg manufacturing facility for Protobase Global, then we knew why.
As Bill was talking, the rest of us had noticed rough-looking locals beginning to congregate close by, armed with makeshift clubs they were giving us frequent surly glances, talking heatedly amongst themselves and shifting about as their numbers increased
Maybe they thought we had something to do with the disappearances. Maybe they just didn't like the look of us.
Whatever the reasoning, this wasn't the time to correct those views, so we moved on.
After relocating to a back alley more out of the way, we decided to scout out the shuttered retail unit. Koko sent Kevin to investigate, the spy-drone zipped over and began scanning the target. As expected, the doors and windows were heavily barred and protected, we needed another way in. Kevin increased altitude and breezed over the flat roof.
The search revealed several pieces of information, no cameras watched the roof and there was at least one unprotected skylight up there, finally, Kevin pinged us a warning alarm. Her on-board Geiger-counter was picking up an unusually higher than normal radiation count, a radiation leak was somewhere out there!
We gave each other questioning glances.
Koko instructed Kevin to perform a sweep of the area and used the different Geiger readings to triangulate the source. It was narrowed down to a plain, unbranded office block not far from Den's Den. Nothing could be seen through the windows and it seemed too quiet to be in normal usage. Trigger took a look with his thermals. About a third of the way up the tower he started seeing hot spots and then some sort of thermal image of a grid pattern.
Roderick volunteered to take a look, none of us felt particularly confident enough to approach. He ran over with his distinct robotic gait and disappeared around the back of the building, came back a couple of minutes later and reported his findings.
From the outside, it looked like a typical office block but inside it was a single vast room the size of the whole interior. Inside Roderick had found a cluster of small sized missiles. They were all labelled The Rokkaku Group.
Roderick showed a video he'd recorded of the missiles
The missiles were definitely too small to carry payloads into space; which is what the Rokkaku Group were known for. They must be something else, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles? With the radiation they were pumping out, it had to be.
There seemed to be no link between Den's Den and the missile base, they had to be unrelated we reasoned.
It was time to infiltrate Den's Den. We got to the roof unseen and forced the skylight open without any trouble.
In went Kevin, she saw a large room, perhaps the size of the entire ground floor. It lacked any furniture and contained only one thing. Protobase Global zombie cyborgs: standing there inert, a good twenty of them! There was room for a lot more.
We'd seen them like this before, this was just the end of the manufacturing process. Elsewhere was the manufacturing plant, where Protobase Global thugs had dragged hapless innocent people to their brain-deaths by cybernetic-lobotomy.
Amazingly, Koko had bought a rope with her, it was a Angolan Pruiticos cord, constructed of weaved long-strand polymers, it was thin enough to easy fold and carry but thick enough to grip by hand. It was also incredibly strong for its thickness. The cord was tied off somewhere secure and we descended, Trigger was first, eager as ever.
Our breathing and rustling clothes seemed loud in this quiet mostly empty room and our footsteps slapped on the vinyl coated floor. Other than the barricaded doors and windows, there was only one way out.
Looking at the cyborgs, I asked RAM Rat what he thought of inhabiting one. They were mindless and he wouldn't encounter any A.I. conflict. He didn't seem too keen on it, on the other hand his choices were limited right now, so he decided to try it out.
I knew where the cyborg networking sockets were and easily connected my data-slab. I jacked in watched the thousands of expanding and contracting, swirling, gleaming data-motes that represented RAM Rat's consciousness funnel off out of my slab like digital water sloshing down a plughole.
for a few minutes RAM Rat walked around, flexed his arms, adapting to the two-and-half metre tall construct with its four arms loaded with weapons. He didn't seem too unhappy with the results.
It was time to move on, there was only one way out. Koko opened the door and immediately closed it. She had seen a security camera attached to a wall opposite the door pointing right at it. Time to be cautious. Koko opened the door a few centimetres and left it ajar, enough to allow Kevin through. She floated into the corridor and zipped up close to the ceiling, out of camera shot
Kevin's video feed showed us that the door led into a plain corridor running left-right with grey vinyl flooring, off-white walls and lit by strip lighting. To the right, along the opposite wall was a door and beyond that at the corridor's end, another door.
By our calculations, something was up. Those doors would be leading into the shanty buildings. The buildings had to be a disguise for something else.
As we were discussing this, we saw the far door open, from her vantage point Kevin watched as a Protobase Global rentaguard strolled down the corridor. He turned his head as he passed our door and stopped, he'd seen it was open and was reaching for the handle. We threw ourselves to either side of the door, except for RAM Rat who was still learning how to move.
The door swung open and the rentaguard was taken aback with a look of shock by one of the cyborgs standing at the door.
Before the rentaguard could react, Trigger reached out and yanked him into the room, closing the door and hitting him with a stun-baton. He crumpled to the floor.
We had an in now! Stripping the rentaguard of his grey and black uniform, Bill used his implants to disguise himself as the man and returned to the corridor. Koko tagged Kevin on to Bill and the drone quietly followed him, sticking close to the ceiling.
The first door led to an office of some kind, Bill could hear voices on the other side, he continued to the far door, returning the way the rentaguard had come.
Passing through, Bill was greeted by the hum and motor-whine of automated machinery at work. He was in a production factory of some sort. A large high vaulted room of exposed support girders with corrugated steel walls and a concrete floor, lit by a mixture of spot lighting and elevated windows. Hidden by the false shanty town outside. Two rows of elaborate orange and grey industrial robots with custom appendages were studiously working on a small assembly line, building cybernetic microelectronics on the conveyor belt with their unnaturally swift and precise movements.
Bill spotted a door marked Security Office. Inside was a solitary rentaguard sitting at a desk-slab and a bank of screens.
"Take a coffee break," said Bill. "I'll man the fort here till you get back."
Rentaguard didn't need to be told twice and was out the door.
We had ten minutes, maybe fifteen.
The desk-slab needed to be hacked, Bill contacted us and over comms I directed him through the system. It was the standard Karseakk security setup that we'd seen on Protobase Global slabs before. Before long, Bill had shut the camera feeds down and we were in. Now we had a chance to find out more about the rotund Asian man. Did he work for Protobase?
The security slab wasn't linked to the corporate servers. We needed a terminal with higher security privileges. So we came up with a plan.
Bill went back into the corridor and through the office door between the factory and us. Inside was a cluster of replica wood desks, four wage-monkeys with their tired, stressed faces and cheap off the rack neutral grey Turkish Radicuz suits looked up from their terminals and at Bill.
"Security drill," Bill explained. "Please exit the area in an order fashion,"
They glanced at each other questioningly.
"NOW," Bill shouted and they quickly made their way out.
With them out of the way, I jacked my Nonohiki into one of their desk-slabs and began my search.
When the material world faded into the background only code remained, a domain governed by the unfeeling embrace of inevitable mathematics and unflinching logic, where everything made sense.
The Protobase Global servers were a massive data-image, a cubic construct that spanned kilometres of virtual space. Unlike the constantly evolving data-spheres of the GLOWNET, these isolated monolithic data-vaults rarely changed and only in relatively small ways when they did. Protobase retained vast quantities of data at any time and employed tens of thousands of people worldwide. Information here was stored within cuboid structures, there were cubes-within-cubes and data-vault led to data-vault in convoluted pathways. A direct search would be futile.
I programmed some bio-parameters into a search protocol and let it do its thing. It came back with twenty or so hits, a lot more manageable. It didn't take long to find something.
All of the results bar one were dead ends and gave us nothing. Someone had cleaned out the Protobase databases but this one thing had eluded them. A record of an old security card that had expired years ago. It contained a slightly out-of-focus typical head-and-shoulders photo, it was the rotund Asian man and the card had a name; Nozi Kinko.
It was time to go, we had what we needed for Yennav. Before leaving, we decided that the remaining cyborgs here needed to be destroyed. It was a opportunity for RAM Rat to learn about his combat systems (after we left) then afterwards take the back alleys out and be picked up by our roaming RV. Which worked out well, RAM Rat couldn't come with us, his massive body was too conspicuous.
As we were making our way out of Kibogaoka Hill, Trigger's media-slab pinged, a package had been delivered to his apartment. Then, on route to Trigger's, Bill got a call from Katsuo Nakamura, he wanted a meet at his place in Rokkaku-Dai Heights immediately.
Once we were safely inside Nakamura's well-to-do high-rise, we sat on his plush sofas as he gave us tea and explained what he wanted. Binary Johnny was making another run tonight, this time into Diver City at midnight and wanted us as muscle again. Johnny had the low-down on Oshin Amalgamated; they were expecting delivery of massive excavator robots at the desalination plant. These would help with the installation of the underwater nuclear heaters that would be used to disastrously raise the water level in the bay. Johnny was planning to sabotage the robots with a virus. Nakamura told us to meet Johnny at the pier in Highway Zero.
There were still hours to burn and plenty of time to get to Trigger's apartment. It was a small plain package that had been delivered, inside were a couple of tubs of White Lotus Liniment and a name; Orin Kichi. The package was from Prophet Wei and he wanted to rub this chump out.
A search revealed that Orin Kichi went by the handle OK Daddy and was a pimp that rolled in the back alleys of 99th Street. A report stated that he was suspected of murdering two working girls but there was no evidence.
99th was always crowded, even during the afternoon's lowering glare of the sun, the noisy, neon-lit allure of quick-fix entertainment was too much for the moths of the City of Electric Dreams looking for a good time. Amongst the restaurants, gambling dens, game parlours, karaoke bars and bars of 99th were the working girls - and boys, as much as part of 99th as anything was.
We asked around, rumour on the street was that OK Daddy was a nasty piece of work, vicious and thuggish but nothing confirming that he'd committed murder. After finding one of his girls, she gave us the address of a hotel in the back streets where we could find him and that he could be recognised by his tattoos.
I had no inclination to do what Prophet Wei demanded, on the other hand OK Daddy was not what you'd call a nice person and getting rid of him seemed like a good idea. We had not seen any solid proof that he had killed the prostitutes so we decided that running him out of town was they way to go.
The din of 99th was somewhat lessened in the back alleys, most of the amusements and hospitality didn't reach this far and the twisting, shady narrow ways were mostly given over to densely built multi-storey brick-built residential units.
The hotel that the address went to was small and looked like a converted old townhouse. Inside, the unlit tatty entrance hall led to a living room converted to reception. There was a miserable looking girl sitting at a desk, distracted by a media-slab and there was someone else....
He was tall and wiry, with a thin, almost gaunt face, spikey black hair and looked Japanese. He wore a well cut pair of silvery-grey trousers from a two piece Oltrante suit and a tight fitting white vest. His exposed arms were covered in two sleeves of elaborately designed tattoos, displaying his Yakuza affiliation. OK Daddy.
He was leaning against a wall, eying us and polishing a pistol. It was a nice piece, a nickel plated Pouegnu Arms FK4 9mm automatic with a black grip.
We confronted him. He refused to admit to having anything to do with the murders, we told him we didn't care and we wanted him out of Neon City. Kichi, shifting his weight to his feet, began gesticulating angrily, looking from us to the girl. We pushed the matter, he needed to leave. He became more stressed, waving the pistol in our direction, his a face a desperate mixture of fear and anger. The girl scrabbled out of the room, screaming
The situation looked like it was going south. It was obvious that Orin Kichi didn't want to lose face to us and wasn't going to back down but the odds were seriously stacked against him if he kicked off.
In the end, we didn't give him a choice. One swift move from Trigger with a stun-baton put him on the ground. Discussing the matter, we came up with a solution.
Dragging an unconscious person into the street and then stuffing them into the trunk of a sky-taxi may not have been commonplace in Neon City but neither did it turn heads. Which is what we did with Orin Kichi after the sky-taxi we booked arrived. We jumped into the cab and the lights and noises of bustling 99th dropped away as the cab gained altitude.
Putting Orin Kichi on to a train to somewhere far away had been an option but there was a risk he might come back. Our answer was a lot better.
The sky-taxi dropped us off at the closest Planetary Guardian Defence Force recruitment office. It was a cramped space, the walls were lined with photos and video screens of square-jawed, attractive young people in various photo-opportunistic poses in their uniforms and peaked caps. Opposite the door was a plain desk containing a desk-slab, against one wall hung a rack of pamphlets and leaflets about the benefits of joining the PGDF.
Behind the desk, at the desk-slab sat a recruiting officer in his own uniform and peaked camp, he looked at us wryly as we dragged the unconscious Orin Kichi in.
We explained that the unconscious man was here to join the PGDF, the recruiter didn't question our motives and instead began filling out paperwork on his slab. No doubt he'd get a nice recruitment bonus for this.
A few minutes later and the recruiter looked at Orin Kichi and pointed at his desk-slab as he told us he needed authorisation from the candidate before he could finish the paperwork.
Whilst looking the recruiter in the eye, I dragged the unconscious man to his desk, yanked his arm up and pressed a thumb against the desk-slabs bio-reader.
Signature Recognised flashed a message on the desk-slab. Orin Kichi was now the newest recruit of the PGDF, he would be going off planet on his ten year term without delay and wouldn't be coming back anytime soon. Problem solved.
Moments before we left, the recruitment officer stopped us and gave us a complimentary gift for recommending a friend to the PGDF. An action figure; one of the Ace Space Captain of the Fourth Dimension range - a Chuck Comet one!
Wired Neon Cities
Since lockdown 2 is still in full effect, we're still playing over Skype. This means that we're looking for another minimalist RPG that's easy to manage over video chat.
After a discussion, we've decided on a cyberpunk game.
For the game we've chosen Wired Neon City. The game is basically a hack of In Darkest Warrens and has mostly identical rules.
The magic rules have been removed and replaced with rules for augmentations and hacking, making this iteration of the rules slightly more complicated, that's not saying much though.
Characters choose from 6 classes and have 4 stats.
All actions are rolled against these stats by rolling a single six sided die. The higher the roll, the better.
There's not much more to add.
You can read about our adventures in In Darkest Warrens here.
Bill Harkleroad: Played by Mark.
A man with smooth moves, a smooth face and an even smoother voice. Didn't so much Kiss The Blarney Stone as bought it breakfast in the morning. A tailored suit and designer shades are deadly weapons in this operator's hands.
Koko: Played by Michaela.
This greaser girl knows her way round a 3/8 wrench, or a fuel injection manifold, or a titanium transmission synchromesh or a... well you get the idea. If it's got moving parts, she can make it purr, climb or land on its feet.
N. 'Nox' Fluke: Played by Giro.
Doesn't talk about why he was disowned by a family with a (dis)reputable name. Lives one day at a time on his data-slab skills. The City of Electric Dreams may be his home, but the GLOWNET is his universe.
Trigger Mortis: Played by Kevin.
Cold-hearted and dead-eyed, Trigger always keeps one had close to the hilt of his carbon-folded nano-edged street-katana. As the name suggests, he's quick to solve problems in a very fast and very cutting manner.
Buy this campaign here. 234 pages of Cyberpunk goodness!
Welcome to Neon City
During the day the Sun beats down on Neon City reflecting off the chrome and glass of the skyscrapers and making them painful to look at. That's okay, they don't like looking at you either. The heat at street level seems to muffle the constant cacophony of city noises whilst amplifying the smells of people, detritus and street food. The heat is oppressive and the air is bad but you're used to it. Everyone's used to it by now.
At night it rains and the slick streets reflect the lights of the city above creating an illusionary city below. Both of them beyond your grasp. It isn't much cooler at night but the damp air tastes better.
The streets are always crowded. People, some bicycles, a few wheeled drones. There are no cars on the streets of Neon City, there's no room for them. Trams run on raised rails just overhead and subways rumble beneath your feet,
Countless carriageways snake across the sky taking traffic in different directions. The constant rumble of the vehicles is the city's voice. Above these are the corporate monorails, slender wires traversed by luxury pods. Higher still swarm the sky taxis like a cloud with individual cars dropping and rising constantly, metal rain.
Just at the limit of vision planes can sometimes be spotted and, rarer still, an orbital shuttle rising high and fast or dropping back to Earth, balanced on its plume of fire.
Universal credit keeps you fed. A dream of something better somewhere else keeps you alive.
The campaign newsletter
Hey You! is the campaign newsletter i prepare each week. It contains in-game information that the characters can use about areas they're in or about to travel to and serves a s a recap of what they've achieved and what missions or jobs are still waiting to be completed.
You can get your own copy of Wired Neon Cities by clicking the link below.
This write up of our game was written by Giro, you can read this and other similar articles on his website Three Spellcaster and a Dwarf by clicking the link below.