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Jube, all your Pacific Northwest ingredients are in process. Matteo's manning the grills, keeping a close eye on the doneness of the salmon. Malin is in the kitchen, thinly slicing the trunks of the bizarre prehistoric geoduck clams and marinating them with some ponzu for sashimi, and Jessi is kissing the bodies of the huge mollusks with a sear in a hot pan, then adding some butter and white wine for flavor. You're "supervising" while taking care of the veggies and making a salad. It's all a rush.
Don Gobbi has fully embraced your intentions, lending you the Twins for prep work and promising to open his (legendary) wine cellar for the event. Guests begin to arrive, and you realize that the barrio's businesses must be mostly closed tonight. Aside from your crew, and Don Gobbi's people, Grbek is the first to arrive, bringing a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon so old that the label's almost peeled off. Felicity, the dwarf that runs the pawn shop, is next. She's empty-handed, but jumps in to help Matteo on the grills right away.
Looks like you've got a full block party going, Jube. On the compound of a Mafia boss, whose daughter you're sleeping with. Who's next to arrive? Is it a surprise they showed? Oh, and did they bring anything?
Kenzo shows up next, with a huge box of some of his best noodles, all ready to go. I offer him a big smile and my thanks. He's not really a surprise, since I made sure he knew someone special would be here. He heads to the kitchen to help out, his eyes peering for her.
"Kenzo-sama," I say as I walk back with him, moving briskly since we all have more work to do. "Are you well? Thank you for coming. Did you bring some sake? Don Gobbi has opened up his cellar, we are going to enjoy tonight."
"Yes, I brought sake, of course. I understand you've picked up some... cutlery of exceptional quality recently?" He stays inscrutable as he dumps noodles onto a platter from Don Gobbi's pantry, topping them with roast pork and slicing scallions to join the combination.
"I have. They are masterpieces, Kenzo-san. A true swordsmith in Seattle made them, and said my soul was complete with the daisho he gave me. After the party, we should go back to my place and I'll show them to you. It would be my honor."
I pause for a moment, give him a second look. "Wait... Kenzo-san, how did you come to understand that?"
I wonder if Aoife and Zeropoint are coming. She never actually answered my message. I know he's not a barrio guy, but he's a helluva fighter, and Aoife is one of us. More or less.
Kenzo smiles when you ask how he knows. "I have not always run a ramen-ya, Jubilex." He leaves it at that, finishing with the noodles and arranging an army's worth of gyoza on a separate platter.
Sprite's next up, followed by Shenzhen and Aoife, both rather more covered than usual. Before you can get much conversation, Don Gobbi steps out and raises an eyebrow at you before heading back inside. Looks like he expects you to follow.
What do you do?
Covered or not, both Shinzhen and Aoife look incredible, as always. I'm about to chat with them when Don Gobbi summons me. It's his house, his rules. I give them a nod, "I'll check in with you both later. Have a good meal."
I walk after Don Gobbi, respectful and a tiny bit wary.
The Don leads you to his study, which is surprisingly understated, and indicates you should take a seat. "I understand this is to be a war council, as well as a feast. I have picked up on hints from my daughter, and I would like to tell you some things in private that I cannot broadcast publicly. Is this acceptable?"
I take a seat, feet on the floor. I'm attentive, let him say his piece. When he asks for my confidence, I nod, "Of course, Don Gobbi. What is it that you want to tell me? Sir?"
The first thing he does is to silently unlock a drawer in his desk with a thumbprint and a retina scan. He pulls out a medallion, about a thumb's length in diameter, and tosses it to you. It's heavy, with a stylized picture of... a camel? on one side, highlighted in colorful enamel. On the reverse, there's a finely engraved quote: "È possibile ottenere molto di più con una parola gentile e una pistola poi si può solo con una parola gentile."
Your HUD translates: "You can get more with a kind word and a gun then you can with just a kind word."
The Don continues. "That is a challenge coin. This was a military thing, once, but this... show this to anyone with a connection to the business that I'm in, whether they are Italian, Russian, Jamaican, Kenyan, Irish... and it signifies that you have my favor, that they should offer you what assistance they can, and the debt comes to me. Understood?" He gives you a stern look. "Do not abuse this. But, you and my daughter have some understanding, which I do not entirely comprehend, and I believe that you have the best interests of my home in both your heart and your gut."
I catch the coin, turn it over and look at it as Don Gobbi explains its power. Wow, this is impressive. I meet his look, let him be stern, don't turn away. "Thank you, Don Gobbi. I love and respect your daughter, and we both love this barrio. I won't squander this." I squeeze the coin, then pocket it.
"What do you think our chances are?"
The Don ignores your question. "I am not done. You have my full support, not just with that token. I know my dear daughter does not want to accept my money to support your bid to re-open the market, but I hope you are more... practical... in other areas. The Twins will of course support your efforts on the ground, but my organization goes far beyond muscle, and I will gladly pull in whatever resources you require. You understand what I am offering?"
I consider that offer. It's tempting, very tempting. I could use Don Gobbi's money to pay for Mac's, sure. But that feels short-sighted. If we can solve for the AI threat, Mac's price drops, and then I've squandered his interest.
I realize I don't exactly know what he's offering, so I start there. "I understand that you've got money, and influence in the PRD. I know you have several business interests that allow for movement of goods and people in and out of the barrio. Plus, you have your security and a well-defended compound. Is there anything I'm missing?"
He almost smiles. "Let us just say that my business interests are wide and varied, and that I have no affection for interlopers in the place I have chosen to be my home. If you need something to make these people crawl back into the hole from which they came, you will have it."
For the duration of this session, there is an Aspect The Don's Favor that you
can invoke in any situation where the Don's help could be useful. This will also work retroactively: much like "preparation" skills in some games, feel free to flash back or declare that something has ALREADY happened to create the advantage in the fiction.
"Thank you, Don Gobbi. I'm glad our interests align." I say carefully. Then, with relief, "I like when we're on the same side. Listen, I've gotten details on the threat to the barrio, which is why we're gathering tonight. This consortium was pushing that gang we fought recently, and they're buying up properties, bidding on Mac's, too. Well funded and motivated because it sees the barrio as an easy mark."
For a moment, I let that sink in. Then I hit him with the part out of left field. "The consortium is led by a sentient AI. It can't be bribed. We're going to have to make the barrio seem very unwelcome. It might help if we had somewhere else to pawn the damn thing off to, but I don't see anyone wanting this toxic dump in their backyard, you know?"
The Don's eyes narrow when you mention the AI. "An AI? That is unfortunate, but you are correct. I don't see that it necessarily changes the essentials of the situation. The best thing to do will be to make it simply too much effort to continue what they are doing here." He stands and gestures toward the door. "We should not keep your guests waiting much longer, I think."
I stand with him, offer him a handshake, "Thank you again, Don Gobbi. I will not take advantage of your generosity, sir." Then, we can head back to the party. I want to check on the food, then Jessi.
Don Gobbi returns your handshake solemnly and acknowledges your thanks.
Several more people have arrived while you were in his study. Spr1tl33 is chatting with Malin and Variska's laying out a mountain of pierogies on yet another platter. Grbek has set up as bartender, with a bucket of ice and an old school Boston shaker, which he opens just as you see him to pour a Manhattan for Mat.
Don Gobbi changes course to the bar as Jessi walks up to give you a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.
A smile for Jess, then, "Your father has our back. We need to figure out how best to use his help to protect the barrio. And we need to figure out what to do about the places this consortium already owns in our neighborhood."
Jessi returns the smile. "Figuring out is what all these people are here for. They came for you Jube, and what you've already done for this neighborhood. And think about this... my father offered his help to you, not me. You're the point of the spear here, but there is a LOT of spear behind you. Dazzle them, pitch them on this thing, driving the consortium away, and they'll give us all the ideas we need, and all the help." She gives you another peck. "But for now? Just make sure everyone's fed and happy. You can give speeches later."
Another quick kiss, "I'm so lucky to have you, Jess." I break away, start for the kitchen, "Better work on the fed part now."
So, who's your target, Jube? Who are you offering dumplings or pierogie or whatever to? And why didn't you expect them to show up?
"Tinkerbell! You lovely thing you, when did you get back from Johannesburg?" I say as I offer her some dumplings. "Did you know Nizoni's here? Mat and Lindo, too. We should all catch up!"
Tink smiles and gives you a friendly peck on the cheek. "I got back a few days ago... It was a whirlwind. Johannesberg, Kyoto, Kiev, I've been everywhere!"
"That's wiz, Tink." I say as I kiss her cheek in return. "We got a new hacker on the team, you'd love her. Seriously. Want to meet her, maybe help her figure out a good handle?" I'll take her back to chat with Malin. Malin should be done with her prep, and this gets me back in the kitchen.
She follows as you lead the way to the kitchen. "I'd love to meet her, but are you sure Nizoni would approve of 'Tinkerbell' helping your hacker pick out her street name?"
"Of course she would hate it," I answer as I open the swinging door to the massive kitchen. "That's half the fun!"
You introduce Tink to Malin, who has completed all the prep on the prehistoric-looking geoduck clams. They immediately start chatting about something involving packet rates and protocols that seems to amuse both of them greatly for some reason. Really, your impromptu army of helpers has done almost everything except for grilling the caribou steaks (which have been marinating) and making fruit salad from the peaches and apples and berries.
What do you do?
I'll get to the fruit salad, mixing things together so there's a good even mix. I'm chatting with people, keeping things light. I'm not dropping any bombs until everyone's fed and there's a healthy amount of camaraderie.
You're slicing fruit and mixing it with a bit of sugar and orange liqueur when an unexpected face pops into the kitchen.
"Jubilex, your associate Nizoni got in touch. Mr. Haroutunian and I have great respect for you and your team, and we're here to help." She picks a gyoza off the loaded tray and dips it into the sauce. "And eat."
This is a complete surprise. I didn't invite clients. Glad Niz did, though. I offer a smile, "I am thrilled to see you again, Dixie. You look divine. I hope Mr. Haroutunian is well?"
Mr. Johnson makes a face when you use her name, but follows it with a smile. "You can ask him yourself, if you can pry him away from that bottle of Pappy van Winkle your friend brought."
Matteo and one of the Twins come in to grab the huge packages of caribou steaks, which have now been sitting in their marinade for long enough to take on the flavor, and the geoduck bodies. Matteo stops to let you know the salmon's ready to go.
"Thanks, Matteo." I say when he reports in, and I get the steaks cooking, the salmon on the grill, and the next half hour is constantly checking the cooking food and ignoring guests so things are perfect.
The half-hour passes is a haze. Both literally, as the smoke rises from the grill, and figuratively, as you focus intently on making sure everything comes out just right. Finally, the food is ready, all of it piled on platters on a long buffet table Don Gobbi had brought out from somewhere in the house.
Jessi brings you a glass of wine and gives a hug, sniffing at your neck. "My man smells like meat. Yummy!"
The hug and the wine are equally appreciated. "Oh? Now you like meat?" I chide her good-naturedly. "What a turnout. I can't believe how many people showed up. Even corporate execs, simsense stars and gadfly hackers. Who knew we were so popular, Jess?" I put an arm around her. I am her trophy tonight, after all.
Jessi pinches your cheek affectionately, then leads you into the crowd. You get compliments on the food and well-wishes from just about everyone, and you notice that Matteo is also working the crowd, although he seems to be cagey about letting you see exactly what he's doing.
Any particularly enlightening or amusing moments for you, Jube, as the crowd gets fed and ever so slightly tipsy?
Well, there's the moment when I catch Nizoni smiling while talking with Tink. They're speaking Salish, and I don't have my translator on, but it's adorable.
Dixie and Lindo chum it up a bit, talking about music together. Mr. Haroutunian slips into their conversation and mentions the latest Delphine track release, which brings an odd smile on Lindo's face. One I shared with him.
I traded a few shots with Zeropoint and the Twins. I did not keep up. Or try. Aoife hovered nearby, but seemed a bit distant. Maybe she's respecting Jessi's boundary, or she's afraid of Don Gobbi.
Speaking of afraid, Spr!t3 has been avoiding Jessi like she's a demon rat. Poor kid. Wish I could fix her up with someone.
Sounds like everyone's doing pretty good, Jube.
At one point when you're talking a little shop with Zeropoint, Haroutunian wanders over and shakes your hand. "This is a fine spread, Jubilex. And quite the assortment of guests. I've not met Mr. Gobbi before, but it seems like we know many of the same people." He lowers his voice before he continues. "I wonder if you might consider making an introduction? We've been experimenting with creating an... idoru, a synthetic star, and I think one of your friends would be a perfect model for the visuals." He nods toward Aoife, standing not far away. "She has a certain edge that I've been asking for, but the artists haven't been able to capture."
Aoife the idoru? That would be amazing. "Please, Mr. Haroutunian, come with me. I'd love to introduce you to her. She's a remarkable person." I walk over to her with The Boss and wait for her to acknowledge us. "Aoife, darling. I'd like you to meet Mr. Haroutunian. Mr. Haroutunian, this is my friend, Aoife."
Aoife blinks, then turns on the charm. "Yes?" She holds out a hand to Haroutunian, somehow begging to be kissed rather than shook. He responds in kind, brushing her knuckles with his lips and looking back up to meet her eyes. "My dear, may I make you a proposition? It is not sordid, I assure you."
What do you do?
Easing back a bit, I add, "Mr. Haroutunian is the CEO of Motown. You should listen to what he has to say, Aoife." I'll hang back otherwise, let the man work his magic.
It really almost does seem like magic. Aoife's attraction, her energy, is normally unsettled, so balanced toward the sexual that interaction is fraught, but Haroutunian provides some sort of grounding to the circuit. You can see the tension leaving Aoife as he explains what he's looking for, and parts of her brain that are normally reserved for finding angles and weak spots start really engaging with the ideas.
After a few minutes of conversation, Aoife nods. "Yes, I'd like to do that, Mr. Haroutunian. I'll stop by next week." She turns to you, takes a step to give you a kiss on the cheek. "And thank you for the introduction, B... Jubilex."
The kiss is sweet. I swear I feel like blushing. "It was my pleasure. But he picked you out of the crowd. He has excellent taste." I'll continue working the crowd, the time for the big speech imminent.
Aoife smiles again, and despite the calming effect that Mr. H seems to have had, there's enough heat in the smile to be a promise that you feel below the belt. "I'll thank you properly soon, Jubilex, regardless."
After you disengage, you wander through the throng some more, chatting it up with various friends. Someone has taken charge of providing tunes, and the techno-salsa beat that seems to drive the barrio filters through the air along with the chatter and the smell of food. Variska walks up to you, her tall frame showing a stoop that has gotten increasingly pronounced over the last several months. "Jubilex, this is lovely. It is good for all of us that you make friends and care about them, I think."
Aoife's promise. I definitely think about that as I move through the crowd. I should check on shaman fetishes to get us some protection. I've been pondering a return to Corktown. That was a singularly horrifying and incredible experience.
I put a hand on Variska's arm when she approaches. "I asked people to come, but this is the strength of the barrio here. I'm glad you're here, Variska. I'm glad you're one of my friends." I pause for a moment, then ask, quieter, "Unrelated to this," I twirl my finger around, indicating the gathering and the as-yet unspoken reason for it. "I was wondering if you could put me in touch with a shaman who's good at making protection fetishes. It's for a side project I'm considering, and Lindo and I don't see eye to eye on it. Anyone in PRD or beyond who is discreet and meets your seal of approval?"
Variska raises an eyebrow, but ponders your question. "Protection from what, Jubilex?"
"Like I said," I explain, calm and quietly with her, "It's a side project, low priority. Just hoping to sneak into Corktown. That's all."
"You're playing in dangerous territory, Jubilex." Because trolls age so quickly, she seems much older than you despite the fact that she's likely just about your age. Even knowing that, there's some serious gravitas that comes across when she speaks. "But stop by the shop. If I cannot help you myself, I can send you to someone."
With a nod, "Thank you. I won't be by until this whole mess with the barrio is settled. Thanks for your discretion. I'd tell you I'll be careful, but well, I'm heading to Corktown, so we both know that's a fib. Let's just say, it'll be worth it to me." I move closer and give her gentle hug, then excuse myself. Anyone else need to bend my ear?
The truth is, everyone wants to bend your ear, Jubilex. Something you started noticing after taking out that gang, but only now are really picking up on? People are calling you "Mayor," like it's a nickname but also a title. Just as you're wondering if it's time to give your spiel, you notice a few new arrivals. Trapper and Bughouse both, from the Lobos. They've been "co-leading" the gang for months, each trying to figure a way to get the other out of the picture without anyone knowing. For them to arrive together... that's something.
What do you do?
Mayor? Yeesh. No pressure, right? Still, it's a chip I can use in a few minutes.
Trapper and Bughouse showing up together? That's hopeful? I need to go chat with them. Trapper reminds me of me, clever and looking for angles, but a bit caught up in relationship drama. Bug's tough as they come, but a bit narrow-minded. Together, they could be on helluva team. I'll head over, grabbing a couple beers before I reach them. "Bug! Trapper! Good to see you two!" I hand them each a beer, Trapper, then Bug. "Thanks for coming. I'm honored that you are here. Both of you."
Trap gives you a polite, formal kiss on the cheek, and a tight smile. She's attractive but hard, broken down and put together by her "responsibilities." Bughouse is younger, and he's more aggressive, too. He returns your handshake with a little extra pressure, testing you and evaluating. Trapper speaks first. "Understand that those culos that hired outsiders to mess things up are still poking around, yeah?" So, apparently, the purpose behind this party isn't so much stuck in your head. Nizoni-as-organizer is formidable, apparently.
"Si, they are. They want what we got, and I'm trying to get everyone riles up enough to fight for what we have." Thank you, Niz. You are my angel. I meet their eyes, "Can I count on the Lobos again?"
They both nod. Bughouse says, "Claro que si, ese."
Anything else before your big moment, Jube?
No, nothing else. Been waiting for the best moment, and it's here.
I grab up a champagne glass and a fork, clink the glass a few times to get attention. Then, I'll step onto a chair, then a stout table. I'm almost as tall as one of the twins now.
"Hoi chummers," I begin. "How's tricks?" I hope that gets a chuckle. I ramble on a bit, "I'm amazed at how many of you came out tonight, and so happy to see your faces, see you enjoy some of Seattle's best food. Big thanks to Don Gobbi for hosting this shindig!" I let some applause happen, I know there has to be some, this is a great set-up. "If Don Gobbi hadn't stepped in, poor Vince would be hosting all of you at Second Chance!"
With that over, I start up my pitch, "As many of you know, the barrio's been a special place for me. I was born here, grew up here, went out into the wide world, and came right back where I wanted to stay. This is my home. Just like it's all your homes, too. This community, this extended family we have, it's important. It's vital."
I pause for a bit, make eye contact with as many as I can, Jessi, Nizoni, Lindo, Mat, Malin, the Lobos, Don Gobbi, Variska, even the twins, and everyone in between. "This barrio is our place. Nobody else's. When those fragging Halloweener wanna-be's tried to take our drek, we fought back. Together. And we sent them packing!" I pause again, waiting for their response. I need to get a gauge on these guys
OOC: Possibly Create an Advantage here?
Creating an Advantage with Rapport (using my Ear to the Ground stunt for a +2):
(Rolled: 4df+6. Total: 5. Rolls: 0, -, 0, 0)
Good. Good! They're into it. I see the fire in their eyes, the passion. I needed to stoke that fire. Speaking of fire, that gives me an idea how to launch into the big reveal, "Those gangers, those invaders, they didn't just suddenly decide the barrio was ripe for the taking. There was someone paying them, pushing them to do this. And have you seen the old buildings on Post and South? As soon as they went up for sale, someone snatched them up. Jessi and I, we're trying to buy Mac's, to keep it in the barrio, we need a grocer like Mac's, you know? Well, we're getting outbid, also by some corporate backers. The same backers that are picking up buildings as soon as folks abandon them, or can't afford them. Like Abuela's tenement, where the owners moved in some punks to drive folks out. It's all connected, my friends. Gentrification isn't the threat here, either."
I look at each of them again, "There's a single force trying to push us out, and we're not going to all make a bunch of nuyen, because they aren't working for profit. They don't even care about credits." I lick my lips, trying to figure out how to phrase this.
"The barrio is under attack. There is a sentient AI that thinks we're easy prey. It has created an entire force of people and businesses and pressures to try and drive us out, so it can take over." This is crazy talk, but I am addressing elves, dwarves, trolls, and orks. "We have to make this AI hate the thought of the barrio. We have to fight back in every way we can think of. It's smart. It thought we were weak, complacent, easy prey. My friends, we have to show this inhuman thing that we are the biggest pain in its chrome ass that it could ever imagine. Only then will we get our barrio back."
Another pause, then, the ask, "I need your help, but I don't have the perfect plan. What else have you seen out there in the barrio that seems amiss? What can each of you do to make us all stronger?" This is question and answer time, chicos and chicas.
A wave of astonishment passes through the crowd. Sentient AIs are rare, and rogue ones exceedingly so. This is horrorshow stuff, Jube. Don Gobbi meets your eye, nodding in satisfaction at the way you've conducted yourself so far. He's said all he needs to say.
An old man, one of Abuela's friends, steps forward and catches your attention and that of the crowd. Despite Andres' age, his voice is clear and strong, and you recall him singing at the block party after the gang was defeated. He looks first at his closest friends and neighbors, then at the rest of the crowd. "Amigos, pobres que seamos, en la forma en que muchas personas piensan acerca de la riqueza, pero son ricos en amigos, y la suerte de tener a este hombre como "El Alcalde de Barrio," si?" He repeats himself in accented English. "My friends, we are poor, in the way that many people talk about wealth, but rich in friends, and lucky to have this man as "The Mayor of the Barrio," si?" Then he turns to you. "I am too old to fight, but I spent my entire life as a machinist, first for the UCAS Navy and then for a factory across the river. I can build, and I can fix, and I can tear down and sabotage. I stand with you." He holds a hand out to you to shake.
This starts a flood of offers, many from people you've only said hello to previously. One woman who you know must have left her toddler at home, says that she will cook for anyone that is too busy with this fight to cook for themselves. Grbek allows as how he could call in some favors from some old Army buddies. The kind of favors that tend to end in people dying or things blowing up. The barrio's two lawyers, normally fierce rivals, offer to unleash a torrent of paper. Turns out that one of them used to work for the government, so she knows from paper.
Most of these people call you "Mayor" or "Alcalde," Jube. How's that feel?
Which offer was most surprising, and who is it that raises your suspicions?
Alcalde sounds impressive, and if they need a figurehead, I Marcus Wellby fill it for now. See what I did there? It feels scary, the title, the trust these folks are willfully putting in me. As long as I can keep my team and my close friends involved, I think we can pull this off.
I have Malin keep track of who's offering what. Jessi is better at organizing this level of effort, I'll work with her after.
The offer for increased coordination with Lone Star that Officer Stonewall offers was not something I expected. I didn't even recognize him out of uniform.
Kenzo's offer to "make people disappear" was disquieting, for sure. There was a surety to it, a simple statement of fact.
You've got an army, Alcalde, and more than an army. You've got lawyers and spies, cooks and wetwork specialists, money and munitions. More resources than you've ever had at your disposal, all gathered behind you like the shaft of a spear that you and your team make up the point of.
Seems like you've framed the problem well: Make Delray too prickly a porcupine for this bear to bother with. You've got competent people you can entrust with the various areas of the operation, so you don't really even have to do all the planning.
Once the surge of offers subsides, everyone's looking at you for some last word, and then it's time to choose your "war council," whatever inner circle you want around you to set the ball rolling.
I choose Jess, Grbek, Dixie, Trapper andBughouse. My team is part of the group, too.
When it looks like folks are waiting for something to cap the night, I stand up on the table again, wait for quiet, "My friends, my neighbors. Thank you all for tonight, it means so much to me to know that my love for this barrio is shared by you all. Now, there is a bunch of food and drinks still left! I want you all to party hard tonight! I also don't you to break any of Don Gobbi's stuff, too! But mostly, enjoy each other, enjoy the celebration of our extended familia!" I raise a glass to that, and down it with enthusiasm. At some point, I meet eyes with Jessi, give her a smile. "Tomorrow... we go to war!"
There's a brief moment of silence, then a single voice starts to shout rhythmically, "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido" *. Other voices take up the call, and eventually a melody breaks out.
Shit, Jube. You could start a revolution if you wanted to, right now.