Star Punk Dreams – Part 5

“A basic rule of thumb about hackers is that we live to peek at things that others have hidden, it’s our nature.”

Laughing Man, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

They wasted no time in taking care of Charlene, especially after her employer agreed to cover the costs.  While she was in the surgery, Yin checked her phone.  She had two job offers.  One was from a doctor who had gotten her number through a referral.  Most doctors practiced medicine in the major hospitals and clinics available to the upper echelons of the city or in the arcologies, but many of them owned “doc-in-a-box” clinics and med tech centers.  These were lucrative side businesses for the doctors because they were joined in these ventures by the pharmaceutical corporations and neighborhood loan sharks.  According to his message, this doctor was upset at a splicer who had set up shop near one of his clinics – he wanted Yin to convince the splicer to move, in the doctor’s words, “his cybernetic hack shop” further away from the doctor’s clinic.

The second offer was from Eddie Frost, a chemist who manufactured several street drugs of the illicit variety.  Eddie’s message was short and to the point, a dealer who sold Frost’s products was cutting the purity of the product and Eddie wanted the dealer to cease the practice.  The thought of drugs made Yin realize how wasted she felt and how she could use a good stim.  But not the stim Frosty Eddie made, it was called “rabbit”, it did the job – Yin just didn’t like the side effect which made her feel jittery.

Even though the offer from the doctor would pay more, she decided to take Eddie’s offer.  She made the decision based on a personal prejudice, to Yin all doctors were greedy conniving sniveling bastards.  Like all prejudices, it wasn’t rational or right to pin that description on all doctors, only the ones she had dealt with.  She sent Eddie Frost a text setting up a meeting in the evening.  Yin needed sleep.  Eddie quickly responded that the evening would be ideal.

There were no responses to the texts or calls she’d made to Margo.  Before she’d gone into surgery, Charlene said the group had made it out of the arcology and were in debriefing, debriefing would take hours, especially for the net runners.  Yin didn’t have a key strip or access codes to Margo’s apartment.  She also knew that she would get little rest if she returned to her shared one room apartment.  The best option was to find a pod near the subway station close to Eddie Frost’s lab. 

Yin’s first order of business, however, was to buy a charcoal gray overcoat.  The overcoat was ideal for the streets.  Wearing an overcoat, you could carry a fair amount of ordinance and still maintain a silhouette of being unarmed.  A dark color made the silhouette appear even smaller.  Yin needed the coat, in the early morning hours people were too busy or hung over to notice someone carrying a large pistol – not the case for later in the day.  Yin also splurged and bought a pair of black visor-sunglasses.  Theses were just plain sunglasses with no tech.

The train ride to the Escondido station was uneventful, so uneventful the only thing keeping Yin from falling asleep was the massive headache developing as the last of the stims began wearing off.  Emerging from the station onto street level, she was visually assaulted by light reflected from the Equis Corporation’s signature building, a sixty story ziggurat of curved silvered glass.  The building lived up to its nickname for it really did look like a massive silver tit.  The array of towers on top even suggested a nipple of sorts.  But Yin had other things to do than gawk at a huge breast, she looked up and down the street until she found a bright yellow sign with a green frog logo, the Gekota Capsule Hotel.

Capsule hotels were hotels with sleeping pods, or nap pods, instead of rooms.  Each pod was four feet tall and eight feet long.  Unlike regular hotels, you could only rent a pod for up to twelve hours.  They were cheap, the trick was to find one that didn’t smell of urine or other bodily fluids.  Yin was so tired whatever the mattress may have smelled like was far down on her list of priorities.  The headache was killing her. 

“Do you have anything for a headache?” she asked the hotel clerk.

The clerk was a thin blonde haired man with equally thin lips.  He had mirrored contacts though, making it hard to tell if he could display any type of emotion.  He made a sweeping gesture toward a vending machine.  Yin looked at the staggering array of products in the vending machine, there were pills, tabs, caplets, gels, vials, vapes, sprays and mists.  She turned back to the clerk, “Do you have a bar?”

The thin lips curled into a smile, “Next door, to the right” he said.

Yin could have easily used another two hours of sleep after her stay in the pod.  The headache had subsided to a dull pain; what she wanted now was coffee.  There was a Green just a few doors down from the hotel where she stopped to pick up a cup.  She checked her phone and had messages from Margo.  She smiled and gave Margo’s number a ring.

“Yinnie, where are you?  Are you ok?  I was scared shitless I would never see you again.”

Yin interrupted her friend, “And hello to you, too, Margo.  I’m perfectly fine, have you heard from Charlene?”

“Charlene?” Margo paused and then replied, “Charlene’s fine, but you’re the one who’s important to me.”

Yin laughed, “I bet you say that to all the girls carrying stolen data in their head.”

“That’s not funny, Yinnie.  Come back to the apartment and we’ll find a dealer.”

“It’ll have to wait until tomorrow, I have a job tonight” said Yin.

“A job?” asked Margo, “with what you have in your head, we’ll never have to work again.”

“Maybe I like working” replied Yin with a snicker.

“Don’t lie to me, we grew up together, remember?”

“I hear you Margo, and I promise I’ll be there as soon as this job is over.”  They exchanged their goodbyes and Margo hung up.  Margo wasn’t happy with Yin.  Yin was confronted with the thought she may have taken this job just to antagonize Margo.

The Escondido section of the city called itself the “arts district” of the city, Eddie Frost’s lab was in the arts district, so was the giant silver ziggurat.  Yin wondered what the Equis Corporation had against art or if it thought a giant silver boob was art?  The club which fronted Frosty Eddie’s facilities was on a street with a huge street market.  Strolling through the market, Yin’s senses were assailed, reminding her how hungry she was.  She paused at a food stall and bought a large cup of tteok-bokki, this one had fishcake as well as rice cake and it had crispy pieces of fried seaweed and every morsel was coated with a spicy chili radish sauce. 

She stood across the street from the “Bimbo Dysfunction” finishing her tteok-bokki.  Yin wondered if the club’s name had any significance or if it was just a current trendy name, some clubs seemed to change names, and often ownership, two or three times a year.  There was a steady line of patrons waiting to get into the club.  The club’s door was guarded by the stereotypical big muscled bouncer in a black suit with a shaved head, she had to be one of the biggest women Yin had ever seen.  Next to the bouncer was standing a scruffy haired young man wearing a tight red blazer, a blazer so tight, Yin could make out the small caliber pistol in the inside pocket.

Yin sauntered across the street to the front of the line and disposed of her paper cup in the trash receptacle at the bouncer’s station.  The narrowed eyes of the bouncer were on her the whole time.  Yin nodded to the woman and gave a small bow.  “Excuse me,” Yin said, “I’m Loong Yin and I have an appointment with Mr. Edward Frost.”  As a courtesy, Yin extended the thumb, index and middle finger of her right hand and then touched her left shoulder.  The street gesture allowed the bouncer to know Yin was armed without alarming the people in line.  The bouncer nodded with widened eyes and texted a message on her phone.  The response was instantaneous.  The bouncer turned to the scruffy haired young man and said “Sam, please escort Ms. Loong Yin to Mr. Frost’s office.”

Eddie Frost’s office was plush, filled with overstuffed furniture surrounding an actual wood-grained desk.  The club’s music was a dull thudding noise one could hear through the walls.  Mr. Frost himself was a fit man in his early forties.  There was a small amount of gray about his temples in an otherwise sea of dark hair.  He rose from behind his desk with a wide gregarious smile and seemed to bound across the room while extending his hand.

“Loong Yin,” he said shaking Yin’s hand, he smelled of chemicals, “I’ve heard of you and it is a pleasure to meet you.  Do you go by ‘Loong’ or ‘Yin’?  I’m quite terrible with Sino-ethnic names.”

“I’m Loong Yin” said Yin sounding awkward.

“Of course, of course, very professional,” said Eddie, “but what do friends call you?  My friends call me Eddie, ‘Frosty Eddie’ by some, you can call me Eddie.”

Yin replied, “As you wish, Mr. Frost.”

“Eddie,” he interrupted, “and I’ll call you ‘Yin’, that’s correct, right – family name first, given name second?”

Yin didn’t really want to get too friendly with Eddie Frost.  People always seemed to assume they would pay less for services if they were “friends.”  She listened as Eddie Frost gave a small lecture on the manufacture and distribution of drugs.  He pointed out that many of his drugs were generic formulations designed to give the poor an affordable option.  He was a bit of a hypocrite, he was prosaic about his crusade against the overpriced products of the pharmaceutical corporations, he was a passionate poet when talking about his lucrative entertainment drugs – the ones considered illicit by the authorities.  He finally got to the point.

 “One of my distributors, the dealer Charlie Yost, is behaving in the most irresponsible way.  He is adding filler to my products.  He thinks he is making more money by selling more product, diluted product.  It has become a quality issue, the diluted product doesn’t perform well, leaving clients unsatisfied and switching to product made by my competitors.  Charlie’s behavior needs to be corrected – that is what I want you to do.”

The job seemed simple enough, find Charlie Yost, deliver a firm reprimand, and leave in one piece.  They haggled a little over the compensation for the job, Eddie Frost trying to leverage a nonexistent friendship for a lower fee.  Yin didn’t have many friends and Frosty Eddie was not among them.  They settled on a fee near the middle of each other’s expectations.  After a final handshake, Yin bowed, turned and walked across the office.  Opening the office door letting in more of the club’s thud-thud thumping music, she heard Eddie Frost say, “Happy hunting.”

The Game

My first Encounter was a job offer where Margo hired Yin to protect her while on a raid. The Job Offer counted as the first involuntary encounter of the campaign. Accepting the Job Offer meant the job, an Escort Encounter would be the voluntary encounter for the campaign period. In the 5150 No Limits rules a campaign period of one involuntary encounter and one voluntary encounter, if desired, is one month.

As with most things in 5150 No Limits, you can choose to allow your story to determine the time intervals. My character has played in a Job Offer encounter, an Escort encounter, a Raid encounter and a Travel encounter in just two days of her time.

It would have been easy after the end of part four to allow a few weeks to pass before the next encounter. There were story fragments swirling around in my head as to possible directions the story could take. So, I rolled for the next involuntary encounter and got a two – a Job Offer. None of the story fragments in my head involved another Job Offer, so I rolled again for the involuntary encounter and got another two. I really didn’t want to do another Job Offer, I had other cool ideas. You may think this is cheating and maybe it is, but it’s my game, my story, I don’t want to play another Job Offer. This time, I grab a whole handful of dice and roll – I roll eight dice in all and get four twos.

Ok, so now I need to play another Job Offer, but why? The answer finally hits me, Yin is not completely on board with having stolen data stored in her head, she didn’t sign up for that. She needs to figure out Margo’s game. She has a couple of job offers, a little work will help her think and after talking to Margo, maybe she can antagonize Margo enough to tell just exactly what are Margo’s plans for her.

I wish I could tell you exactly how I developed this part of the story. Somebody on a MSNBC talking heads show asked how a politician concentrating on the middle of the country could relate to the west coast with its high tech companies with “snacks and nap pods.” That statement made me remember a video I’d once seen about pod hotels in Japan. Then in my trending YouTube feed was a story about Korean street food. I just finished reading Virtual Light by William Gibson where near future L.A. has a building that looks like a giant boob. I google L.A. architecture and find that there is a ziggurat type building planned to be built in L.A.

I don’t know about where you live, but in Dallas, they usually build artsy buildings toward the arts district part of town. So a lot of random things came together to help flesh out the story.

Believe me, playing the encounters don’t take a lot of time. Suspending your belief and immersing yourself into a post modern Cyberpunk-style story doesn’t take long either to enjoy a rewarding story as the result of a game.

What does take long is when you want to share that story with others in a way you hope is entertaining.

I hope you are enjoying the adventures of Loong Yin. All comments and suggestions are welcome and they really do help inspire me to keep going.

5 comments

  1. Reading about your bouncer, it struck me that the 5150 universe setting provides a neat solution to one of the on going problems/arguments in wargaming: What really constitutes a 25,, (or 28mm or 15mm) figure?

    In our world, we maintain statistics on average size of a human, male or female. Some figures just aren’t going to fall into that range in comparison to other figures in historical games. In 5150, if it’s a great figure, buy it, and work out the back story to go with it (and have fun doing it).

  2. I have enjoyed this storyline immensely. I hope you keep it going. I know it must be a lot of work, but it is better than most cyberpunk books I’ve picked up lately. Anyway, thanks for the effort.

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