[NULL] Login: Rostam [R1]

edited May 30 in nullptr-veil
You walk into your room well after the stroke of midnight. You are in peak physical condition, but it has been a long day of putting your tempered body to work, and it will soon be time to sleep. Out your window you can see an advertisement for Al Emaar's new line of clothing: "AEX," the hypersexualized blonde touts – she's staring directly at you, and blows you a kiss that flutters across the air and fades on your window. "Wear your passion," she says with a wink. In the streets below you can hear cars roaring by, and sirens off in the distance. The walls mute the sound slightly, but the city insists itself upon you.

Walk me through your living conditions, Rostam. How does being the most trusted courier of Osprey Bionics treat you, in the way of personal comfort?

Comments

  • edited May 31

    "Darken windows." I say that, hoping that this ... my place's expert system will respond to my voice. It's about 70/30, really. It's a limited AI, not self-aware. That "upgrade" cost me more than makes any sense, as it's really a "downgrade." The sounds of the city bear down, but I am used to hearing them, day and night. Constant, humming, sometimes aggressive. Like a hive of bees (long-extinct, of course, but still a valuable metaphor) just outside the doors of my awareness. I strive to find inspiration from the Prophets, look to my antique wood-pulp collections of Rumi and Hafiz and Vonnegut and Idries Shah, but the buzz is too much for now.

    'Most trusted' is a lovely concept, and I'm paid well for it, but my needs are simple, and this place reflects that. A bed large enough for two (but rarely so occupied), a small kitchen retro-fitted to allow me to cook my own food without intervention. And my greatest luxury, a bathroom that includes a shower with four nozzles finely tuned to my body temperature and that of the ambient atmosphere. My concession.
  • It sounds like you make a decent wage off your jam, and your lifestyle is low cost. The majority of your work probably nets you 2-cred; but occasionally a job will come along requiring your unique "situation", and that will net you 3-cred. Sound good?

    Do you live alone? Someone's in the hall behind you. Is it a roommate? A neighbor? One of these infrequent visitors you alluded to?
  • edited May 31
    That financial situation seems about right to me.

    I do live alone, but I gave my neighbors a code to the apartment when I had to be gone for a week or so. Someone has to water the plants... They're a trio of older "independents"... they call themselves Citizen Archivists, but I know they're not working for the love, not if they can afford a unit here (even with three of them). Turned out, they're very social and not really big on ringing the doorbell.

    Regardless, I can tell it's not Groucho or Chico behind me, because they're not likely to have been quiet for this long. Without turning around, I say, "Hello, Harpo.
    What can I do for you?"
    He may be just the advance team for a full invasion, but that doesn't bother me tonight.
  • edited May 31
    Harpo seems pleasantly surprised that you received him so well. You can hear some haptic feedback clicking in his old-model neural interface. You have a feeling he's sending word back to the home base...

    Either way, his high-pitched old voice answers quickly. "Hello, Rostam. I was just coming back from a walk, and saw your door open. I figured I'd drop in and be neighborly!" You hear him smack his lips, an involuntary habit he has when his neurochip is working hard. "How's tricks?"

    Are you a socialite yourself? It sounds like you enjoy your privacy most of the time...
  • Privacy is one thing, but unless balanced by neighborliness and hospitality, it becomes its own trap. I turn and smile, trying to disguise my slight annoyance. "Tricks are tricks, Harpo. Can I get you some tea or a beer? Where did your walk take you?"
  • Harpo waves a hand, and shakes his head as his words catch up to his thoughts. "You know me! I just like to wander while I do my nightly dive — I distinctly remember being somewhere near a fountain? I don't really know... I was on autopilot to get my exercise in. I was having a fascinating conversation with a young sai who insisted we would be seeing a nanite-driven implant in our lifetime!" He chuckles, "well, perhaps their lifetime..."
    Do you have any way to access the veil, Rostam? I would imagine your lifestyle has closed off a great deal of that from you — maybe even all of it. Still, there must be some antiquated piece of tech that doesn't require sullying your body, that can give you basic communications and the like?

    A boisterous pair of young men come in your front door, and immediately call out to you. It is, of course, Groucho and Chico. "Hey, Rostam!" Chico calls as they close the distance to you. "Did I hear beer was on the table? It was a long day at work, man. Long day. Hey! How've you been? You're lookin' good my friend!"
  • edited June 1

    I do have a set of glasses with a retina display, a pair of gloves with haptic response, and an earpiece. And on the wall, under a picture of ancient Isfahan, are three little lights that blink when I have a message to check. Left to light: Osprey, personal, and the rotating code I use for moonlighting jobs.

    "Come on in. Sure, I've got beer." Sadly, I'm out of the cheap stuff. All I have in the cold box is the second-to-last case of Cloud's Nest Imperial Stout, which should be sipped, savored. With a mental shrug, I move to the little kitchen and grab four, along with glasses. "Been good, Chick. Didn't have a run today, myself, so I just relaxed."
  • edited June 1
    Groucho bows respectfully when you hand him his drink. "Thanks. I don't know how you keep yourself so fit without a biofeed — I have one, and I had to turn on nutrient alerts just to stay in my healthy zone... All it takes is one whiff of street meat, and all of a sudden I'm 1000 Calories over budget."
    Chico laughs, "That's because you're a damned pig, Grouch." He takes a big gulp of his beer, and you can see his iris' glowing. He's probably getting a report on the breakdown of the drink right now. "This stuff ain't bad. Pretty strong for organic stuff..."
    Harpo takes a sip of the beer, but you can tell he's got some flavor filters turned on, so the beer matches his tastes a little more closely. "I'm sorry to pry Rostam, but I noticed you had a visitor over earlier today. Was that your employer?"

    Tell me about your Osprey contact, Rostam. Who pays your bills?
  • edited June 1

    I ignore Groucho and Chico for now, even though the "ain't bad" from Chick makes me want to launch into a rant. "Yeah, Harpo... sort of. That was Salomé. It makes them nervous when I come into the office, because they can't track me the usual ways. She's my... handler, I guess you'd say. I make her nervous, too."

    This is Salomé, if you're curious:

    image

    She pays the bills on this place and puts creds in my account. Also, she tells me what needs doing. Today was more a "courtesy" visit... I'm actually not sure why she stopped by. Talking to Sal (she hates it when I call her that) is always a little difficult, unless she has a specific goal in mind.

  • Sounds like a real paper pusher — if you'll pardon the anachronism.
    Harpo nods, and takes another sip of beer, "I guess it must be difficult, out in public... I know I'd be nervous around someone I couldn't ping on the net. I'm sure she's just not sure what to make of you."
    Groucho reaches over and pats you on the shoulder. "We were thinking of heading to the dojo tonight — well, Chick and me were, anyway. You in?"
  • edited June 1
    "That actually sounds like a good idea... I haven't moved much today. Anything particular you're working on?"
  • edited June 2
    Chico downs his drink, and whoops loudly. "Now we're talkin'! I downloaded a few new katas today and I'm aching to try them out. I just upgraded the servos in my arms to get better than full-range-of-motion, and I think I can actually pull some of them off."
    Groucho interrupts with, "he thinks he can finally best you. Finally convince you to upgrade the ol' meat-sack with some top-tier cybernetics." He taps his implant to draw your attention to it, "or at least get some extra processing power to up those reflexes... I you have no idea what you're missing, man!"
    Harpo leans over, the bottle still in his hand, and adds, "I put money against him, I'll have you know."
    Chico punches the old man, playfully, "Can it, Harp! Tonight is my night. I can feel it!" He smiles, and looks over at you expectantly, "what do you say? Rematch?"
  • "Sure, Chick, I'll give you a rematch." He's not going to win, of course, but he can use the occasional lesson in humility.
  • edited June 5
    Chico is very pleased with himself, and he leads his buddies to the door. "This is going to be fun," he says, anxious to get going.

    I should add that Chico is really only able to do Tai Chi. He's OK at it, given that he started out pretty late in life. He relies pretty heavily on his implants to make up for his age, and lack of experience – hence downloading all his forms from the veil.

    You walk through the late night streets, your three cheerful neighbors chatting and laughing the whole way. Tell me about the area of the city you live in. What is this neighborhood known for? Eventually, you make it to the Neon Pagoda, whose dojo you've been accepted into, as a testimony to your skill. Tell me about the dojo – who runs it, and how did you get in their good graces? What do you owe them?
  • This neighborhood? It's known for great noodles and credit fraud. The building we live in is kind of an anomaly... a high end co-op put together by some independent operators a few years ago... but the rest of the neighborhood isn't the greatest.

    The dojo manager is an interesting case. Their first resleeving was probably before I was born, and they've been through a few since then, both male and female. Seigi, they're called now. "Justice." I got in their good graces the traditional way... hard work, humility, and the occasional flash of brilliance. But... I owe them for more than time in the dojo, more than their training. I was bleeding, bruised, near dead from being overwhelmed by a nearly mindless "marching society" all connected at the neurochip, that was directed to grab what I was carrying by some opportunistic virus. Seigi happened by in all their retro glory and pulled me out. I don't entirely remember how.

    This is Seigi:
    image
  • edited June 7
    imageYou arrive at your destination a few minutes later. The Neon Pagoda is basically the nexus of the city, and the seat of power for Daimyo Niiro "The Yamada" Taigen. The approach from the market fills your eyes with colors of every possible description in the form of neon signs, and QR codes that are otherwise undecipherable without a neurochip, or some AR glasses.

    The four of you enter the Pagoda proper, into a large open hall. The walls stretch up several stories, and the floor beneath you is a thick glass, overlooking the nightclub on the level below. The dance floor is crowded with people, and you hear the loud thrum of rhythm and bass reverberating through the walls. You make your way across the great hall and into an elevator, which brings you up two stories to the dojo proper.

    image
    Sensei Seigi – a timeless being, as ancient as the dojo itself – is finishing up a lesson with a private student, who you all recognize as Kai Taigen, the Daimyo's eldest son, and heir to his estate. It looks like they were wrapping up. "Remember, Kai," you hear him whisper, "you must be vigilant in the face of these threats. If you let them into your heart, it will poison you long before they strike."

    The pair bow to each other, and Kai looks over his shoulder at the group of you, before disappearing out the side door of the dojo, opposite where you entered.

    Seigi smiles when he sees you, Rostam, and he claps his hands loudly.
    "My star pupil! I wish I could say I was surprised to see you here, but somehow I knew you'd come. Enter! What brings you here at such an hour?"
  • edited June 7
    I smile and give Seigi a respectful bow.
    "Sensei, thank you for the welcome. My friend here has just upgraded his servos, and he wants to test himself."

    My smile becomes a little ironic. Sensei knows that the truth is that I'm testing myself.

  • Seigi eyes the archivist over, and smiles back. "Is that so? Now this I must see... Please! I'm in need of some entertainment!" He clears the floor for you, and stands next to Harpo, and Groucho
    Chico eyes Master Seigi with caution, before stepping onto the mats. He steps into a starting Tai Chi pose, and Seigi looks on in glee. Chico waits for you to get ready, and launches into a surprisingly quick attack — well, not for you, but surprisingly quick for someone his age — intended to catch you off balance.

    What do you do? How are you treating this match? Light-hearted friendly, or are you legitimately testing yourself here?
  • I intended to be gentle with this, but I can test myself this way. I will win, that's my goal... but I hope to do it without humiliating Chico. That's a bit trickier. It's better for him if he actually tests his limits as he wants to, and it's better for me to get some exercise and practice with limited responses.
  • edited June 9
    Chico moves with a precision that is completely unlike him. Normally his movements are exagerated and clumsy. Boisterous and rudderless. Now he shifts his weight subtly and purposefully, every time you approach him. It's becoming clear as you take in his movements that you've seen this style before — it's a mirror copy of Grandmaster Tsung-Li, of former Olympic fame, albeit performed with less improvisation – and much less expertise.

    It becomes evidently clear to you that you're not fighting Chico — you're fighting an AI controlling Chico's body; and while it's certainly challenging, no skilled martial artist would consider Chico victorious if he somehow managed to slip one in past your defenses. You gradually ramp yourself up to match his newfound "skill", and you quickly find yourself stalemating the AI. Every punch you throw is countered with a redirection, every grapple he attempts slips from his hands at a critical moment. You're all over the mat, and his roommates are roaring — Seigi is shaking his head, amused by the whole display.
    "Quit toying, Rostam," he calls, "he's had his fun!"
    You could always take this up a notch, and end this outright — but at this level, it may be difficult to pull that off without hurting Chico. Not badly of course, but he may need someone to check the diagnostics on his sleeve.

    What do you do?
  • Potential (beginning of session move):
    (Rolled: 2d6+0. Rolls: 5, 1. Total: 6)
  • Rather than ramp things up directly, I decide to take this orthogonal, make a move that the AI will see as a mistake and use its reaction against Chico. Taking a risk, I move in, faking a stumble to let my neighbor actually complete a grapple, then drop and roll, reversing the flow and using gravity and his momentum to exchange roles so that I wind up on top and in control. "Ready to end this, Chick?"
  • The AI takes the bait, and you both go tumbling down — but you quickly learn that Chick's archivist salary doesn't afford him the most lightweight prosthetics. The AI scrambles to correct, and land properly, but it ultimately just makes things worse, and it slams you both into the ground. He rolls over you, and you end up on top. You might actually bruise.

    He looks up at you, dazed from the move, and you can feel him turn off the "sport" mode of his sleeve. He throws his hands up in defeat."Yeah, I'm done... Sheesh you're fast, Ros! What was that last move?"

    You spot Groucho begrudgingly handing Harpo, and Seigi, a stick of creds.
    Seigi claps loudly, glad to be done with this one-sided competition. "Excellent! Rostam, drinks? I seem to have come into some money!"
  • edited June 11
    "Groucho, why would you ever bet against me?" Yes, I can feel the bruises, and I take a deep breath as I stand up, wincing only a little. "Chico... I'll show you sometime, but it's hard to explain in words. A little judo, a little aikido, but mostly... I recognized your AI." After grabbing a towel and mopping off the sweat, I give Seigi a brief bow. "Sensei, I would love to help you spend some of those credits you won off the sweat of my brow and the bruises I'm going to hate tomorrow."
  • Groucho throws his hands up in the air, and pleads with you. "He said he had it this time! Even you have to admit he looked damn impressive out there! How was I supposed to know you're better than ... Uh..." he looks to Harpo, "What was that grandmaster guy's name again?"
    Chico laughs, "alright, alright... I guess there's no substitute for your ten-thousand hours, right?" He makes his way over to his roommates, and they start teasing him over his loss.
    Seigi raises a hand to silence you, "that's why I switch out at the first sign of trouble — not so much as a blemish, I always say! No sense in getting attached to a sleeve that withers and dies." How do you feel about all this, Rostam? It seems like you've taken the limits of your body as a personal challenge to overcome without the aid of technology — but what if something happened that your body couldn't overcome? A lost limb, or a crippling disease... I could see you taking those new limitations as yet another challenge; but when it comes down to it, and death is at the door, will you die in your own, unaltered body?

    Seigi puts a hand on your shoulder, and guides you over to the elevator. It seems the trio will either join you at their own pace, or not. "Are you not getting bored with these mundane challenges, Rostam? Ferrying litteral ambrosia from one wealthy hand to the next, and never once taking a drink? Life takes on a whole new meaning when we shed the shackles of our mortal bodies..." The elevator opens as he approaches, without input, and he steps inside. "Think of how boring my life will be when you're unable to entertain me with your little skirmishes!"
  • edited June 12
    I have not yet found the limits of my body, so why should I expect to? I'm not a fool... I understand that I could be crippled or killed a thousand ways at any time. An auto-bus hacked, a punk with a slug weapon trying for a mugging, an exotic disease escaped from some R&D lab. But how is someone like Chico different in that? The world is out to get us all, in the end.

    Why I don't have any... enhancements, in the first place is a long story. Childhood illness, some mutated strain of Scarlet Fever, so I didn't get the implant at the age most kids did, and by the time it was deemed safe, I just flat refused. Eight years old, staring down my father and the so-called doctor, shaking my head. I'd seen mâmân die by that point, lost in the Veil, unable to come back to us, to sing lullabies. An "anomaly," but I knew I didn't want to get lost.

    And since... it's not religious, or even philosophical. It's personal. I've gotten along, even done well so far. A lot of sunk costs in being who I am, you know?

    I grin at the old "argument" resurfacing."My little skirmishes wouldn't be nearly as entertaining if it wasn't me, sensei. I'm okay with being the cup-bearer and never sipping."
  • Seigi sighs, and nods. "I suppose I'll have to settle for mocking newcomers with you as a senile, much less attractive version of yourself." The elevator stops on the convention hall floor, and Seigi steps off. "Come. Kai Taigen has invited us to drink with him tonight – he has some boring corporate schmoozing to attend to." He smiles, "besides — the good bartender is here tonight."

    Seigi takes you into the bar proper, and leads you into the center of a crowd surrounding the Daimyo's son. He pushes his way to the front, and embraces him — which is a shock to everyone in attendance but Kai's honor guard. Seigi leads him over to you, and says, "Kai! This is my star pupil — Rostam."
    The young man smiles widely, and bows respectfully. He's immaculately maintained, and surprisingly low tech for someone of his standing. His eyes narrow, and he points at you. "Rostam... I've seen you before. You handle high-priority deliveries for Osprey, right? I think you've handed my assistant more than one valuable box in my time at YB&A. It's a pleasure! Come! Drink with us!"
    Have you ever met Kai personally? What did you think of him?
  • I give an equally respectful bow. I've met Kai, once. He's personable and seems to handle his privilege and wealth with grace, but there's an air about him. Like the angle he seems to be working is just a decoy from what's really going on.
    "Thank you, sir. I rarely drink in such esteemed company."
  • Seigi and Kai guide you over to the bar, and order a few drinks. You notice over at the other end of the bar, is Havana — who you shared a rather emotional moment with some time ago. She's fussing over some guy at the bar, who's clumsily trying to clean him up from something she evidently spilled... It looks like the Honor guards were making their way over to them, but Havana is trying to slip past them.

    Kai puts his hand on your shoulder as he hands you a drink. "So tell me, Rostam — you're a student of Seigi's, but you're doing courier work? Have you ever considered joining the Honor Guard? Or even work enforcing Giri? It seems like such a colossal waste of your talents to simply run errands for people."
  • And how is the Honor Guard or Giri enforcement not essentially just running more dangerous and politically fraught errands for more dangerous and politically fraught people? I don't say this out loud, of course.
    "I find it sufficient, sir. My needs are met, and I find the occasional challenge worthy of Seigi's training." I smile humbly, but my eyes are tracking Havana, trying to divine the situation.
  • Go ahead and roll Analyze, Rostam.
  • Analyze, with Powerful (+2)
    (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 5, 4. Total: 11)
  • Regarding Havana:

    What, if anything, seems out of place?
    Which enemy is the biggest threat?
    Is this going to get worse before it gets better?
  • What, if anything seems out of place?
    The crowd is watching as Havana drags a young man out towards the washrooms, and the Daimyo's honor guard moves to intercept them. The Daimyo's honor guard shaking people down isn't an odd occurrence. Heck, even the Daimyo's son being present at a corporate convention isn't a big deal... But something in the darkness, up in the rafters of the bar, catches your eye. Nobody else seems to notice it, or even seems interested in looking up there — but your keen and untampered senses pick it up immediately:

    image

    Someone is watching the man that Havana is dragging to the washroom. Whoever they are, they do not belong here.

    Which enemy is the biggest threat?
    Those honor guards, if turned against you, would be your biggest threat – without a shred of doubt – they are trained killers, with the best bionics money can buy. That said, until they view you as a threat to the Daimyo's son, it's whoever is up there in the rafters.

    Is this going to get worse before it gets better?
    Yes. He's moving through the rafters to get a better vantage on Havana and her companion.

    What do you do?
  • edited June 16
    I make a quick bow with no apology and move off, tracking this shadow in the rafters. I've seen Havana effectively naked, and I can't ignore that responsibility.
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