It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!
It's a few days before the troops regather. Lindo is fine, but Nizoni seems to shy away from him a little, like she blames your shaman for her bad experience, somehow.
When you deliver three Demon Rat tails to Grbek, he grins. "A bounty! Truth is, I expected you to be a gibbering mess, if you ever managed to make it out. You drink for free here for as long as it takes for these tails to stop twitching."
So, Jubilex, that was a big payday. Tink's got another job, in Johannesberg she says. Gives a tearful, huggy farewell to you and an uncomfortable Nizoni. Any upgrades to the Wellby-Cave, or would you prefer to keep the bonus in reserve for the next time you need resources for a run?
At some point during the week or so that the team is down, Mat pings you.
"Remember when I said I had someone I wanted you to meet? Also, when I said I talked to a cousin of mine? Well, it wasn't just about my wedding dress..."
Restock the bar and the ammo cabinet, new supplies for Lindo, even asked Tink for a list of what a hacker would need here and got that.
After thinking about it for a bit, I started taking contracts to build out the back room. A secure place for a couple team members to crash if needed. Or a hidey hole to keep people if they're on the run. Just in case. construction will be an annoyance, but it'll be worth it.
When Mat pings me, I respond, "Oh yeah? What's the deal, Mat? Need something?" I hope he doesn't need to go away and deal with family drek. I'm hunting for more work.
Mat just asks you to come with him, takes you to the van, and drives to his place on the northwest side of the barrio. It's a decent enough building, and you've been to his flat before. When you go in, he calls out. "Malin, you can come on out."
In a few seconds, the door to Mat's workroom unlocks from the inside and opens a crack. Apparently satisfied with what she sees, a young female dwarf emerges. She looks scared, but there's a basic impishness shining from her eyes than even fear can't quite hide. "Uncle Mat! You brought company?"
Mat smiles. "Jubilex, this is my... well, might as well call her my niece, the relationships get complicated... my niece Malin. Malin, this is Jubilex. He runs my crew."
Hah, that impishness does appeal. Reminds me of Niz a little. Except less spooky.
"Nice to meet you, Malin. Any friend of Mat's is a friend of mine." I say, not stating family, since Mat has trouble there. "Are you alright?"
Malin tells you her story, which begins (like so many) on the night of the Crash in '64. She was jacked in, just messing around in a VR roleplaying setting that she'd helped set up with some of her friends. She got knocked out by the surge, but recovered, and as the wireless Matrix 2.0 got rolled out at record speeds, she found that she started being able to "see" the streams of data flowing through the air all around her. Not long after, she figured out how to interact with that data. Not long after that, a group of technomancers laid siege to the UN in Geneva and all hell broke loose. The thought of someone interacting with the Matrix sans interface had always been spooky to a lot of people, but the general assumption that all technomancers were terrorists by default started a real witch-hunt. Malin got a fake wireless interface installed, bought a pair of AR glasses, and began to pretend to be a normal hacker.
A few weeks ago, she forgot to lock her door and her brother walked in while she was surfing the Resonance without her glasses. He realized what she was doing and immediately told their father what his sister really was. The family kicked her out with a little travelling money, the clothes on her back, and a strict warning never to return. The cousin Mat talked to recently sent her to him, thinking that the right place for one exile was with another.
"So, that's the story." She's been watching you for signs of fear or suspicion all this time, Jubilex. Does she see any?
Nope. None. Curiosity, sure. See, I met a technomancer, or well, I captured one for the company, back in the day. My team sat on him until he was handed over to CAS for incarceration. His named was Waldo, street name, like Where's Waldo? I got the joke. He said most didn't. Wiz stuff he could do, seemed like a decent guy.
"You looking for work and a place to stay?" I ask, since we have both. Hell, she can sleep at my place if Mat can't keep her. Living with a hacker for a best friend helps you get over worrying about hackers. They're just people. Even dwarves. She is a cute dwarf. Not that I'm into them.
Malin looks at Mat, then back to you. "I'd like that. I'm sleeping in Uncle Mat's workroom, and I think it makes him grumpy that he can't tinker in the middle of the night. Not that he'd say that, of course." She smiles. "Will I need to pretend, with the rest of the team? I know I have to in public, but it slows me down so much sometimes."
You know Lindo's pretty good about rolling with the punches, but Nizoni's already a little skittish. She might take some adjustment time, but she'll definitely blow her top if Malin pretends to be "just another" hacker and then Nizoni finds out the truth later.
"I'll chat with the team, one-on-one. Me? I think it's wiz, Malin." I answer, playing politics. "I plan on being honest, not lying to them. But I want to pave the way, you know? Not just drop it on them. So, you got any gear or drek you need to grab? You can sleep at the Wellby Cave soon, we're actually putting in a new room there for team mates to crash. It isn't done yet. For now, you can take my guest bedroom. Cool?"
Mat seems relieved. Not to have Malin out of his hair, but by your reaction in general. "Thanks, Jube. I owe you one or three."
Malin seems very young as she runs back into the workroom and returns with a bulging army surplus backpack. "Do I get a street name?" She looks back and forth between you and Mat.
I give Mat a wink, "I'll add it to your tab." I watch Malin go, chuckling at her excitement. I remember when I thought this work was badass.
When she asks about her street name, I clap her on the back lightly, "Of course! How else can everyone know how awesome you are!" I look at Mat. "I forget, Mat... what's your street name again?"
Mat gives you a broad wink. "They call me Stretch." Malin looks at him, puzzled. "Kidding, Malin. I don't use a street name. I've already changed my name once. But you should certainly have one if you want. That should be the team leader's job. Don't you think so, Jubilex?"
Nice volley, Mat.
"Yes, that's my job." I agree. "We'll need to see what name suits you, Malin. I'm sure we can figure something out." Wow, two dwarves on my team? The short jokes will never end.
That seems to settle things for now. "Want me to drop you two at your flat, Jubilex? And, if you don't mind, can I ask for another couple favors? Take her shopping, pick up some sort of light armor and a gun? Also, teach her to shoot it?"
"I thought all your family could fight like demons?" I kid. "Hey Malin, want to get some new clothes? Need another girl's opinion? I have some friends we could bring along if you want some help with the fashion in the barrio."
"Shopping sounds fun, and it would be good to meet some people. If you don't mind. I don't want to be trouble." Mat hands you a credstick with a few thousand nuyen and starts toward the door.
I think about refusing it, but Mat's a prideful person, so I just take it. "If you want someone who is trendy and about your age, I can pick up Spr!t3ly. If you want someone a bit older, like twenties, who's a bit more posh, we can pick up Jess." I say the last loud enough for Mat, "If you like dressing in catsuits and ninja gi, we can rustle up Nizoni. She's on the team." I leave the choice up to her.
Wondering if we'll need to hit a megaplex mall, or if we shop local. My preference is local, but Malin seems young, she'll want stylish, I bet.
Malin thinks for a few seconds. "I'm not much for trendy or posh." She looks down at herself, in a dark red scoop-neck t-shirt (remarkably free of branding) and baggy cargo pants. "And I'm not a ninja. I think I'll go for... posh. Jessi, you said? Sure she won't mind?"
"Let me check with her." I pull out my pocket secretary and type out a message.
To: Jessi Can you help me take a relative of a teammate shopping? She wants to look posh and stylish. I will buy you stuff, too. FYI - she's staying in my guest bedroom until she gets settled. -J
To: Jubilex Why not? Just finishing up a few things. Pick me up at the club? Is she pretty? -J
"She's good to go. C'mon, Malin." I head out to my car, a nice little coupe. I rarely drive in the barrio, but I have a feeling we aren't shopping local.
I ponder my response. I don't want to tick Jessi off, I don't want to lie. I don't want to just say "she's a dwarf" as if that means she shouldn't worry about me. Not that she does. I'm much more discreet, although this does mean I'm a one woman man while Malin's around. Not that I'm not most of the time.
To: Jessi Wiz, on my way. Yes, she's adorable. -J
Malin throws her backpack in the back seat and hops in next to you. She seems about seventy percent eyes and ears, taking in everything but not chattering about it. She does ask an occasional question about a building or person, though.
When you get to Banana Peelz, Jessi is just stepping out the door. She slips into the back behind Malin, without complaint, and gives you both that crooked smile. "Hi! New in town?"
I have to do introductions, of course. "Jessi, this is Malin. She's Mat's cousin. Malin, this is Jessi, my.. I'm going with girlfriend. Does girlfriend work for you, Jess?" I glance back at her, and that lovely smile.
Jessi chuckles. "Well, I usually just call you my bitch, but you may not do that, so girlfriend works. It's good to meet you, Malin. What level of shopping is this? I mean, picking up a few things, makeover, full wardrobe?"
Malin sighs. "That..." she indicates her backpack, "...is my wardrobe. My uncle's lending me some money until I make myself useful. Thank you so much for helping me!"
Jessi seems to be looking forward to the challenge. "We have a clothing emergency, Jubilex. To the mall, stat!"
I am in for it now, but hey, I'm investing in a wiz hacker, making the team better. Plus, Jess can be happy with her staying at my place, and she might even like new clothes enough to stay happy.
"Yes, ma'am!" I chuckle as I drive off to the megaplex.
You make your way through the city to Motor City Megaplex, smack in downtown. It's about a three mile drive which would usually take well over a half hour, but the navigation system Mat installed ensures that you're pulling into a parking spot in the garage ten minutes after you leave. Jessi draws Malin out with questions, clearly making a shopping plan as detailed and tactically sound as anything you ever come up with for a run.
Are you joining the ladies for the whole operation, or separating off for a bit to pick up the more... street-level accessories Mat asked you to take care of?
"If you ladies don't mind, I've got some shopping of my own to do. Bibs and bobs for Mat to tinker with." I'm pleasant and happy to break off on my own.
Jessi nods. "I'll open a channel. There. You should be able to find us when you're done." An arrow pointing at Jessi appears in your field of view through the AR glasses, distinct from the dozens of ads and come-ons pouring in from the stores around you.
You pull up the map the Mall keeps wanting you to look at, find the Ares Outlet, and follow the directions until you get to the store, which would look like weapon heaven to a citizen. It's shiny, all whites and steel-grays, and the weapons and gear are shiny as well. They're definitely marketing to corp drones looking for a little extra security, but the store is well-stocked. An equally shiny young woman, wearing a tight gray short-skirted suit and with her dark hair up in a tight bun, greets you. "Good day, sir. How can I be of service today?"
I give her a grin, but I'm not trying to play like I some drek-hot runner or something. In fact, I'm playing it like I might be corp. "I'm looking for a smaller model, something easily carried, smartlink, not too much kickback. Like a carry-around piece. What would you recommend?" I'm checking her out. Because I'm me.
She knows you're looking, expects it. You assume she works on commission, so it makes sense. She's clearly also pretty perceptive. You see her take in your stance, evaluating. She leads you toward a rack of smaller handguns. Of course, she points out the most expensive item on the rack first, but it's pretty sweet. "This is the new Ares Bobcat. Eight round magazine, will take any .32 round, including smart ammo. Wireless smartlink, award winning user interface. Predictive recoil suppression and shake compensation." She pauses, looking you over again and reaching a decision. "And it will fit in a purse. I assume this is for a friend?"
"It's for a cousin of a friend. She's new to town, my friend asked me to help her out." I grin. "It's baby's first handgun. I'm going to teach her how to shoot, all that jazz. I want something sturdy. This looks nice." I'm playing the game here. Let her sell me or flirt with me. If she flirts first, I know the product isn't as hot.
The saleswoman (her nametag reads "Dita") listens intently. "If you really want her to learn how to shoot, this is a bad choice. Too many training wheels, will lead to sloppy habits if she uses something else later. It's a good gun for a nervous sarariman, but if you ever want her to really develop skills..." She moves toward a case at the back of the store and pulls another .32 off another rack. It's a duller gray, looks more serious somehow, despite having less bells and whistles. "X47. Smartlink, but none of the other drek. AR sight. Maintainable without Ares-proprietary parts. If anyone asks, tell them you came in looking for this. The boss would complain if she knew I didn't give you the hard sell on the Bobcat."
I nod. Dita is sharp. I like Dita. I take the gun, hold it in my hand to feel the weight. "This. This is a nice gun. I'll take it." I give her a grin, "Why don't you upsell me on some things so your boss realizes what a treasure he has here?"
Dita winks. "I have some really cute lightweight Kevlex vests and jackets. And of course you'll need ammo. And a cleaning kit. And... don't you think she needs to be able to handle a knife, too?"
That might take me over Mat's credstick, but I'm good with it. I'll cover the difference. Which means all the clothes are on me. Still, it's worth it to outfit my new teammate. Also, Dita.
"Wrap it up, Dita." I say. "I'll take it."
As you're paying for your haul, a discrete ping from Dita requests permission to open a private channel. When you accept, she shoots over a burst of contact information. And two photos.
The total comes to about what the first gun would've cost on its own, which is to say, yes, it uses up just about all of the nuyen that Mat slipped you. You're confident in the quality of your purchases, though, and the only thing that was ridiculous was the cleaning kit, which came in a cute leather case.
Are you going to find the girls right away, or is there any personal shopping you want to do? Or just sitting in the massive food court and wasting a little time? Or just wasting time, I suppose.
Nice. I will definitely put her in my Contacts. Will message her later.
I'm going to shop for a new coat, just a walking around coat. Something nice, not too showy. Once I have that, it's Food Court City.
Jubilex, describe unto me the platonic ideal of a walking-around coat, and I'll tell you where you find it and how much it costs.
The thing about a Megaplex is that there simply aren't enough full-on chain corp stores to fill the enormous space. You take off the glasses and wander for a while looking into windows without the constant intrusion and hassle of dismissing the various automated pitches that assault your retinas. Finally, in one of the less desirable corners (surrounded by fiercely competing baby stores, right next to a gigantic Sanrio Brand Happy Fun Time store with truly disturbing mascot characters gesturing for you to enter), you see the coat in the window of a small leather shop. The shop sign's in French, but the "Going Out of Business" sign is in English.
The little man that greets you when you enter tries to project snootiness, with little success. He's clearly desperate to make a sale.
This right here would be nice, even if it's too much for the summer:
That is the coat you saw in the window, and it looks like it's exactly your size. Karma? Kismet? Anyway, there's someone here anxious to sell something to you, and it's right there.
"Can I help you, sir?" The little man's sweating, nervous, trying to be ingratiating but failing.
"Good afternoon, sir." I greet him pleasantly, still filling the corp worker role. "I noticed that out-of-season leather longcoat. How much is it?"
The salesman looks at you hopefully. "Ah... 1200 nuyen?" This is clearly a pie-in-the-sky, hopeful first offer.
I make a disappointed face, "Really? In this heat? I'd thought it would be priced to move. It really is a nice coat." I'm looking to build some Rapport with the guy before I wheedle him down.
He's more anxious to move product before he gets kicked out of the space than he is to get top dollar (nuyen, whatever). However, it's notable that his first offer was fair, in terms of the quality of the coat and the workmanship that went into it. In terms of season and commercial shakiness, you can definitely talk him down.
Why don't you give me that roll, Jubilex? As I said, he's anxious to move that coat, so you're rolling against a static difficulty of Average (+1). This is an Overcome roll with Rapport.
(Rolled: 4df+2. Total: 3. Rolls: -, +, 0, +)
The salesman caves pretty quickly, seems grateful that you're buying at all. How much do you wind up paying for that coat, Jubilex?
Eight hundred nuyen. But, I also get several ties, shirts and slacks without haggling for them. I'm rather sure in the end he made some commission.
With two big bags of your purchases in hand, you make your way to the gigantic food court. Of course, eighty percent of the shiny little chain restaurants are serving some variant on "soy protein with-or-without sauce, plus a variety of fried starch products," but there are some little gems scattered around. Are you eating? Just looking for a place to perch while the girls continue their campaign to conquer the world of retail?
I grab a soycaf and find a place to perch. People watch, listen to some samba music. Relax.
The food court is like a wilderness safari park where you can watch corp drones and their families in their native habitat. You've already filtered most of the spam out of your AR interface, but the occasional open node from someone's Personal Area Network pops up. Resumes, CVs, lists of qualifications. One high end call-girl is apparently very open about her job, even says references are available upon request.
Just about as you reach the bottom of your soycaf, you get a request to voice connect with Jessi. "What a cutie! She's in the changing room, just wanted to let you know you can join us if you want, but we'll be done in half an hour or so, and it will probably go faster if she's not worried about impressing you. You've made quite an impression."
"I have?" I ask, a little surprised. "I guess that's good. You having fun? I'll probably kick it here at the Food Court."
"Hey, what's your budget? I'd like to kick in some, Malin's really sweet and more than a little lost. Little sister material, even if she's got a secret." Shrewder Than You'd Think, indeed.
"She's going to be working on the team for a bit," I answer honestly. "Set her up. I've got it. And something for you, for being so great about this."
You hear Jessi clear her throat. "Money is not my problem, Benny. If you want to buy me a 'thank you' present, then buy me one. I've got enough affection-as-credit from Daddy. Ooh... she's coming out. Never thought it would be this easy to dress a dwarf!" She closes the connection.
Ah drek. I should buy her a "thank you" present. For dressing a dwarf.
I'll head to Kay's, see if there's something that catches my eye. Earrings would be nice, dangly ones that would make her eyes sparkle even more. Or a nice necklace. Which makes me think of that silver pendant. That pendant was so simple, but elegant. Yeah, I'll look for something like that. I only have half an hour, so if the right piece isn't there, I'll just owe her one.
Seems like you're looking for something special here, Jubilex. Why don't you give me an Investigate roll. It seems like the "Lothario" part of Street Samurai Lothario applies, here, so you can certainly apply that after the fact. Any result over +1 will get you something that Jessi will like. Above that gets you closer to the "perfect" gift.
I'm willing to go a different way here, let's talk if you like.
I was hoping to Notice something that really fits the bill. I'm not much of an investigator, really.
Since you're in a rush and not making a systematic survey, I'll allow Notice, but since it's taking in the inventory quick, the "pleasing Jessi" bar is at +2. Everything else remains the same.
Noticing a nice gift:
(Rolled: 4df+2. Total: 1. Rolls: -, +, 0, -)
I'll spend a Fate point to activate my Lothario Aspect for a +2. That means I make it with a +3
Nothing like that pendant pops out at you, but you do find a pair of elegant, dangly earrings that will definitely set off Jessi's elegant neck and sparkling eyes well. Not too long after, Jessi pings you. "Ready? Meet us at the car... I hope your trunk is empty."
"On my way." I answer as I finish paying for the earrings. I'll head to the car. Yes, other than a couple hidden weapons, the trunk is empty. For now.
You get to the car. Malin and Jessi are already there, with a number of bags from several shops. Jessi catches your eye. "We kept it practical, mostly. Even picked up a black Dickie's coverall with lots of pockets, for..." She lowers her voice to a whisper. "...runs."
I kiss her on the cheek, "You're amazing." I slip the jewelry box into her hand, "For later." Then I'll open up the driver door, get in and start her up, take Malin back to my place. Jessi, too, of course.
You drive back to your place, and Malin and Jessi get busy putting clothes and what-have-you away in the spare bedroom. Do you bring the weapons and such in now, or wait until you and Malin are alone?
Eventually, they finish, and Jessi announces that she's got to head back to the club because she's managing tonight. She asks to speak with you alone, though, before she goes.
I bring in the gun and armor, but I don't make a thing out of it. Casual. I'll bring it up with Malin later.
When Jessi asks to talk with me, I head out to the balcony with her, "What's up?"
Jessi looks back through the glass door and makes sure Malin isn't looking before she pulls you into a deep kiss. The people on the street? She doesn't care about them. "The earrings are perfect. I'm going to wear them tonight when I change for work." She gestures inside with a nod of her head. "She's a little naive, but decent socially for a hacker. I assume that's what she is, since you're going to use her on the team? Anyway, I'm sure she'll be fine with you and Mat to look after her, but keep an eye on her."
Mmmn. Kissing Jessi.
I don't break contact when she tells me about her. I nod agreement about Malin being a hacker, my hand on her hip. "Thanks, Jess. You're sweet to care about her."
"Doesn't cost me anything to care, and she's nice." She gives you another kiss, a peck on the cheek this time. "I really do have to go. Can't let the inmates run the asylum for too long. I'll check in later." She moves back into the apartment, gives Malin a hug, and heads for the door.
I walk out with Jess, see her off, then come back to Malin. "Any clothes you want to show off? I've been a runway attendee for Jess a bunch of times." I smile, head over to the bar to pour myself a drink. "What do you drink, Malin?"
Malin shrugs. "I'm pretty easy, but whiskey or dark beer if I have the choice." She flops into a chair. "Not feeling much like a model right now, Jubilex, but thanks for the offer. This afternoon was nice, and you and Jessi have been really great, but still... two weeks ago, I went to bed at home, and by the next time I slept I was an exile. Like that." She snaps her fingers.
I head over to the fridge, grab a couple of the brews I stock for Mat. Dark, bitter beer, she'll love it, I bet. I open a drawer to pull out a bottle opener that looks like a small guitar. The hole in the middle of the guitar is where you pop the top. Got it at a casino in Qatar. Good trip.
"That's drek, Malin." I say honestly. "No offense, but your family, from my outsider perspective, is short-sighted and judgmental." I offer up a toast, "I know the past two weeks have been rough. But you're Marcus Wellby now. It's all looking up." I wait for her to join me in the toast, "To brighter days."
Malin smiles at you with slightly wet eyes and raises her bottle of Doctor Strangelove's Best Bitter. "Thanks so much, Jubilex. This is the first moment I've felt really hopeful in two weeks."
I take another drink, "You should thank Mat, really. I'm just an opportunist. Been through three hackers in as many jobs. Now, a technomancer dropped into my lap who I can mold into the perfect runner. Plus, she's cute to boot. It's pretty much my best day in a while, Malin." I give her a sly wink.
"So, anything in particular you want me to keep an eye on? I can set up an independent sprite to keep an eye on the traffic if we come up keywords and parameters. Like a semi-sentient search agent. Any regular clients or... nemesises? Nemeses? Nemesi?"
"I've got a few things you can keep watch on: Samhain, an up and coming street gang local to the barrio. Aztechnology, anything encroaching our turf. And Delphine, the music singer. I just want to know if she's mentioned anywhere new."
Malin goes "away" for about thirty seconds, then blinks. "Okay. We'll probably want to refine the parameters I created the sprites around, except for the Delphine one, tighten the net as we go, but I've got a start that we can funnel. Let me know if there's anything else that occurs to you. They don't take much essence to build, and I can let them run independent for a week or two without giving too much thought to it." She starts to say more, but realizes that she's kind of babbling, and stops herself. "I'm not used to talking about what I really do."
"Essence?" I ask as I sit down. This seems like a sitting down conversation.
Malin takes a moment to organize her thoughts. "What I do has something in common with what a shaman does, and something in common with what a hacker does. I'm not sure how much you know about either of those things, but I'll try to break it down a little. What we call 'sprites' are like a hacker's agents, little bits of semi-independent code tasked to do one thing—watch for intrusion attempts, monitor traffic, run a search funnel, whatever. Sprites are also like a summoned spirit, though, because they're part of the fabric of the Matrix but powered in part by the technomancer's own will, what magic-types call 'essence.' That's a finite resource, so even the strongest of us can't have too many existing at once, especially sprites that keep doing their jobs when we're not actively paying attention." She looks to see if you're following.
I sort of follow. "You are a Matrix shaman. I got it. Pretty wiz. No idea why it would freak people out, considering dragons weren't a thing a hundred years ago."
"You have no idea because you don't even think about the world you live in. Not an insult. You are surrounded constantly by data, even when you're not wearing your AR interface. Your port is continually pinged and queried, interacting with the digital atmosphere. Now, a good hacker could get into that with tools and effort. I can do it with a thought. And I can do it from anywhere in the world, as long as I can find you. Now imagine you have a cyber-eye. Or arm. Unless they're eight years old and haven't had any serious maintenance since then, they communicate wirelessly, at least in part. I get close once, long enough to beat the encryption of your PAN and get a unique identifier for that eye or arm, and I can make you see what I want, or lock that arm up, from the comfort of my living room. Without any hardware of my own, which means that, unless you put a bullet in my head or lock me in a Faraday cage, you can't stop me."
She stops again after that little monologue, takes a big gulp of her beer, then chuckles just a little. "Why You Should Be Afraid of Me, by Malin Ironwood."
Shit. That is scary.
"Well," I answer as I take in what she's shared. "You've never killed someone before, I take it? I have. I have willfully chosen to take a life. It's part of my job. My least favorite part, but part of it. Marcus Wellby doesn't take wetwork jobs, but in the course of doing business, it happens. So there's potential danger. And there's actual bonafide danger. I'm going to help you be both."
I give her a cocky little grin, "And I figure you'll be thankful enough not to take me out."
That gets a little grin. "Oh, I'm a good witch, not a bad witch." She goes into her bedroom, comes back with the gun. "Is it okay if I link with this, without loading it? Just a little 'getting to know you' time."
"Of course. Be my guest. "
Malin focuses, but keeps talking. "The smartlink is interesting, but pretty basic. Not going to do anything now, but I think I can customize it a little, once I've got some practical experience to work with." She turns the weapon in her hand, looking at it. "It's kind of... pretty, isn't it? For something that has violence as its only job, I mean."
"I chose a pretty one, just for you." I quip, then take another drink. My tone is light, just being chatty, not honestly making any moves here. I also don't want to offend the girl, or make her feel skeevy. "There is a certain beauty in machines built for a purpose. Guns are just one of the sexiest damn things on the planet."
Malin brings out the knife you purchased, as well. "No tech at all, here. And not a machine. But still, there's a certain beauty. This does one thing, and every little bit of the design is aimed at doing that. I think it could be good, learning. My brain moves in branching paths, and this goes like an arrow. One way."
I nod, "Focus. It's important in combat. Frankly, it's important outside of combat, too. But more important when someone wants to kill you. Do you want to learn a little now?"
Malin looks at the knife, then at you. Then, she nods, sits up straight in her seat and puts the knife on the table.
"First thing to know about this knife," I say as I walk over to pick it up, "Is that you want to slice, not stab. Think of it like a numbers game." I slice the air with a backhand example, "You've got a higher percentage chance of connecting with your opponent with a slice. Even if they give up a forearm, that's enough to wear them down."
I flip the knife up, catch the flat of the blade, offer it to her. "Hop up. I want to show you some good stances." I'll let her take the blade, then move around behind her. I tower over her, the tiny thing. But I can help her position her feet, and I'll work with her on balance, and where to get power, also, her wrist. Have to make sure she holds her wrist correctly.
You wouldn't necessarily say that Malin is a "natural" at the actual physical elements you're trying to teach her, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with her focus. She soaks up every word, and you realize quickly that, while she can't always do what you're showing her the first, or even the third time, she recognizes immediately where she falls short.
In brief, she's a good student that will have a long road to travel before she's a good fighter, but she's absolutely determined to do well, and shows no sign of impatience or frustration.
How long do you work with Malin right now, and what's your best moment as a teacher?
I'll work with her for a little over an hour. Enough to hammer in the basics, see what she can pick up, let her work up a little lather. No, I'm not into sweat, it's all about cost. When you work hard and succeed, it feels better.
The moment where I feel best is when I see the flickers of confidence in her eyes.
After an hour, Malin is clearly tired, but absolutely exhilarated. Her grin on the last set of exercises is almost feral, her focus totally engaged. When you call time, she flops back into a chair and kicks her legs happily. "That was totally wicked! Umm... do you have another beer? I'll put the knife down."
I head over to get her a beer, grab myself some water. "Glad you enjoyed it. That's only a taste of it. I want you to get ready for a real run. As a... well, a hacker, you'll need to come with us. You'll need to protect yourself. Maybe even us." I bring her the beer.
"And I like me. So, it's in both of our best interests that you become a badass runner."
For thirty seconds or so, Malin has a faraway look on her face, similar, but not exactly the same, as the look you've seen when she dives into the Matrix. "I think, maybe, that getting kicked out of the family may be a blessing in disguise. I mean, no one at home ever thought I could be badass, and I know Uncle Mat wasn't happy as Matilda, but he seems to be better now... Anyway, thanks." Yeah, there is a little puppy-love look going on, but that's only part of it. You have opened a door, and Malin seems ready to walk through it.
"You're welcome, Malin." I say as I raise my glass to her. "After your beer, you can take a shower while I get supper started."
Exhaustion aside, Malin pops out of her chair with a "watched too many action movies" kung-fu chop and kick. She grabs her beer, chugs it, and heads for the shower. Over her shoulder, she calls, "I need protein! I'm in training."
I'll pick out a few salmon I did some prep on, start working on a simple baked salmon dish, some rice and steam up some veggies. I know dwarves have different builds, but I'm hoping to make sure she's fit and ready. Tomorrow we'll head out for a jog.
You have a full side of salmon, already dressed, from an old friend, a former runner that retired to Cockburn Island in Lake Huron a few years ago. You drizzle it with olive oil (expensive) and lemon (hydroponic, from the neighborhood, cheap) and bake it up, throw some rice in the cooker, and get the veggies started steaming. By the time Malin comes out, dressed in a cozy "lounging around" outfit that she forgot to take the tags off of, everything is ready.
"Smells delicious! I didn't know you were a gourmet chef, too!"
I wave a playfully dismissive hand, "I'm far from a gourmet chef, those people are artists. I like to dabble a bit." I motion for her to take a seat, then I plate her food with as much style as I can manage, and serve her. "Beer doesn't go so well with salmon, so I've chosen a wine for us, Malin." I head back to finish up my plate, then bring it out, with the wine, and pour her a glass. I put the bottle down, and remain behind her for a moment.
For a moment, I consider leaving the tags. They don't bother me at all, but little slips can make a difference to a Mr. Johnson. I slip out my little switchblade, and say, "I'm going to remove your tags, not stab you, alright?" Then I pop the blade, and quickly and gently grab the tags and slice them off, pocket the tags and close my blade. Then I head to my seat and sit down.
During dinner, I ask her about her home life, pleasant things, idle chatter, just things to get her talking.
You and Malin are most of the way through your dinner (she's very appreciative) when she says, "Hey, you said Samhain? Lone Star just logged some graffiti and vandalism at a shop not far from here. A talisman shop?"