You wake up to the sound of your big screen chiming in with a connection warning. The room is flooded with red and white light as text flows across the bottom of the screen: "A system error has occurred. Please contact De Santo Communications on #DeSantoCare for assistance with error code 20110709." A QR code is above it, a direct, personalized link to De Santo's customer support channel. Outside, a low orange glow hangs on the horizon — the sun is about to rise through the cracks in the skyscrapers of the Neon Pagoda's market district. A drone whizzes by your window at top speed – obscured by your dynamic glass windows, but still recognizable.
There are no messages in your queue; no Giri to be enforced. In this moment you are removed from your duties. You are free to be your own master.
Walk me through your dwelling, Tao. As an Honorbound enforcer, what lifestyle does the salary of the Neon Pagoda afford you? Who do you find sitting at your kitchen table?
The red and white lights are quite unwelcome at this hour. If the sun is starting to rise, that means I have had four hours of sleep, tops.
I stretch for a moment while lying in bed. There's a warm body in here with me. I don't have the cycles to admit embarrassment that I don't know who it might be right now. With the orange glow outside, I turn my head to look over, seeing a muss of pink hair. Junko must have removed all the bands holding her hair in the adorable pig tails she was wearing when I met her last night. This is how she looked:
Over drinks, she confided in me that she signs her name with the kanji: 純子, which means she chose the meanings of "pure" and "child" for her name. Well, last night she was neither, but she looks very sweet right now, so I decide not to wake her. Sleep sounds like the best choice here, so I try to drift off again. That seems to work until I hear some light conversation, punctuated by a tinkling of laughter. Who is that? Sounds familiar...
I know her laugh well. She's... no, I'm a regular. She spends the night when I ask. I guess I asked last night. It's not a problem, I trust her with what she can get her hands on here. Except my daisho, but they're keyed to me. I've never heard of her stealing, never had to track her down, but I don't trust easily. Get too close to a sex worker and all the sudden they want to ask for a "little favor" for a close friend or a relative. It's dangerous, I've seen enforcers taken down for it. Luu Cat's good for laughs, though. I actually kind of like her. Even shared her with Epoch a few times when I was feeling generous. It's usually a bad idea. He gets crazy jealous. Mostly that she prefers me, I'd wager. I don't ask.
My apartment is a one bedroom place eighty floors up in a high-rise that towers over the Neon Pagoda.
It is high security, an excellent view of the city and my workplace, and I've lived here for long enough to replace and/or retrofit everything to my personal taste. Sparse. That's my taste. The kitchen table, the wallscreen, even the bed all retract into the floor, ceiling, and wall respectively. It gives me space for kata, which I'm definitely not going to bother with this morning. I'm still a little intoxicated. Or high. Probably both.
As I sit up in the bed, facing the morning sun, I wipe at the gunk in my eyes with one hand while reaching for my kimono with the other. I left it on the bedside shelf. My hand brushes against the Pharmajet needleless injector. It's not mine. Not that I haven't taken drugs intravenously before, though it's been a while. I just don't plan that kind of stuff ahead. Tae Hyun does, though. He's a sales rep for a pharmaceutical conglomerate, gets lots of product for "testing", really choice stuff. This is Tae Hyun:
I grunt with displeasure as I reach for my kimono, then I stand, nude, and slip it on, tying it at the waist loosely. Luu Cat and Tae Hyun have both seen me naked, recently, of course. But it's morning, and I'm anything but sexy. I did remove all traces of makeup, at least. My eyes aren't glued shut, thankfully.
I walk into the section I mentally designate "not bedroom", where they're both seated at the table. Blink a few times, still a bit unsteady on my feet, and manage weakly, "Why. Are you both. Up?"
Junko is out cold and doesn't react when you get out of bed — she had a busy night, after all.
Tae Hyun seems to be absentmindedly collecting his stuff, in an effort to head out. He's still a little under the influence. Is public intoxication a matter of Giri, Tao? He doesn't notice you right away, but he turns to face you when you start talking. He nods respectfully.
Keira chimes in when you ask for tea, "at once, Sai Utemaki." Your kitchen comes to life, producing several cups of tea, and a small bowl of warmed up honey as you address your visitors.
It sounds to me like you spend quite a bit of cred on your lifestyle — but your work is quite regular. I'm going to say normal enforcer work is 1-cred per job unless your Daimyo has peculiar instructions, or an exceptionally difficult task. Specialty jobs will net you 2-, to 3-creds (dependant on the nature of the gig). Those jobs will only be available to you if your Daimyo is pleased with your service.
Public intoxication isn't directly a matter of Giri, no. Offending someone's honor is, and someone out of their wits can easily cross the line. If Tae's only "a little" under the influence, I'll let him go without trouble. I return his nod.
Once the cups are full, I take the first two and leave mine at the counter, turn to my guests who are leaving, and pad over to offer them each a cup. I would offer breakfast, but my morning routine is primarily nutrient and protein-based and barely worth sharing. Perhaps I can convince Junko to stick around, offer her a breakfast somewhere. There is a bodega at ground floor, their bagels smell nice. I've never had one, I pass by there on my way out and smell it every morning.
She does take that cup of tea, though, with a smile. "You're always so considerate, sweet pea — that's why you're my favorite!" She adds a heaping helping of honey to the cup before even drinking it.
He takes a big sip of tea, and calms him visibly. After taking a moment to collect himself, he looks around the apartment, and asks, "(Have you seen my jet? I cannot find it.)"
"Taa!" the door is sliding shut behind her.
Tae looks embarrassed, but is thoroughly enjoying the drink. It does seem to be screwing his head back on right... Is there anything in this tea other than tea? Nanites that break down drugs? Tagged protein chains that neurochips translate into source code? Or is most food unmodified, and straight organic these days?
Most food is engineered protein chains. There are several brands of nanite-food available, too - the most popular is from a company called Byte-sized (I know, it's groan-worthy). There's a healthy market for hydroponically grown food, but it's very posh. The green tea is honest-to-goodness green tea, grown in the ground and everything. It's one of the most expensive consumable things I own. Green tea does have its own restorative properties.
"(Shit,)" he mumbles, rushing to clean it up with his sleeve. "(my apologies, sai.)" Once the floor is dry, he downs what's left of his tea, and carefully places it on the table. "(Thank you again, sai, for a lovely evening. Prosperous day to you.)" He bows again, and makes for the door, leaving you alone with Junko.
What does your morning routine look like, Tao? Do you have a strict regimen? Or are you more "fly by the seat of your pants"?
Tae Hyun does a terrible job of cleaning up the tea, but I let him finish his attempt for a moment longer. Ah, he's satisfied with it, good.
I return Tae Hyun's bow. I do not bow to mirror his sloppy manner; I bow as I have been trained all my life, but I do let a smile spread on my face. Junko's plaintive whine is music to my ears. Once Tae Hyun has left, I grab a towel from the kitchen, drop down to my knees to thoroughly dry the spot he left, then I hustle to my bathroom, putting the towel over the drying rack.
Even if her eyes are closed, I slip an arm over her, my free hand pulling her chin up slightly so I can kiss her. "Hey, Junko-chan, in an hour, let's head down to the bodega. I want to get you breakfast, hai? Let's spend the morning together." More kisses, insistent, bordering on hungry, moving across her jawline. I pause to gauge her reactions, is she truly worn out, or perhaps her youth might give her some vitality in the early morning?
Normally, my morning routine is tightly scheduled. I should be performing kata right now. In ten minutes, I would start my High Intensity Interval Training. I didn't get exactly ten percent body fat overnight. But, I won't lose it by throwing one morning away, either.
Sounds like you're triggering that intimacy move to me.
I take advantage of her semi-conscious state to explore her body in the light of the early morning. At Neon Pagoda, the lights and VR obscured her. Last night, we coupled in the hazy glow of drinks and drugs. Now, it is just the two of us, and I'm in the mood to learn more about her. By the time I've roused her into reciprocating, I have gleaned much from this young lady.
When the Honorbound shares a moment of intimacy with someone other than a target, be it physical or emotional, they later learn what Giri they owe other people and may ask them any one question from Absolution immediately, regardless if they have taken the move already or not.
ABSOLUTION: When you become intimate with a target in order to better know them, roll. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7–9, hold 1. during the scene, spend your hold 1 for 1 to ask them questions:
* What was your lowest moment?
* For what do you crave forgiveness, and from whom?
* What pain do you hide away from others?
* In what ways is your mind or soul vulnerable?
I choose to ask: "In what ways is your mind or soul vulnerable?"
If you wanted to twist her arm, even a subtle hint at the ticking of that clock would likely get the job done.
After a solid hour of mind-bending sex, you take Junko down to the bodega for breakfast. This is one of the best spots the Neon Pagoda's market has to offer. Junko buys the highest priced bottle of nanite-infused water she can find and starts chugging it. She seems to be enjoying your company, though.
Tell me, Tao, how do people treat you when you're walking the streets? Are you a regular person to them when you're off the clock? Do you carry your Daisho with you everywhere you go?
Today is a special morning - I'm not carrying my daisho. It's almost always with me. After a thorough shower with Junko, I slipped into a brown leatherette tank dress, boots and an over-sized purse, all matching, of course. I even threw in a little hair gel to give me some flair. It's the most "girly" I've been in a while.
I don't share this with Junko, but I'm hoping to avoid the worried glances and pale faces I see when I walk these same streets as an Honorbound. With my daisho, enforcing Giri. People, even neighbors, they are extremely nervous around me, bowing lower, re-doubling their efforts to watch their words, so careful not to offend. I am a conversation killer.
They don't understand that I am not a sheriff of all I survey. I enforce Giri for my daimyo, petty squabbles that have no impact on my lord are easily overlooked. If I enforced Giri for everyone under the shadow of the Neon Pagoda regardless of my lord's needs, I would never cease my work.
Have you ever been to High park, Tao? It's a zen garden, privately funded by a corporate cabal that has the Daimyo's ear — you basically need to be friends or family with a prominent CEOs just to get to the gates. Your Daimyo spends time there — does he afford you that privilege?
I have been to High Park, but only to report to my daimyo, Taigen-sama after enforcing Giri. He's asked me to report to him there in front of others, a show of force. It is demeaning. I do not like it. I am not afforded the privilege of going there on my own. A small part of me wants to go there with Junko-chan as her guest, but it is unwise.
"No... let's go to Greenfields instead. High Park is so stuffy, let's go where we can be anonymous." It's a subtle tag on her own insecurities that I hope will avoid High Park and the trouble it would cause me.
She resumes chewing and smiles. "OK, sure! Are you off duty today? We could make a day of it..."
When does your Daimyo expect you to report in? How does he normally give you assignments?
Taigen-sama wishes a virtual check-in by noon, but never before nine AM. He has extensive business dealings across the globe, which necessitates an odd sleep schedule. My daimyo will inform me via a text-only message that he wishes to see me. Then I have a "very short window" to go to see him at the Neon Pagoda. I must be physically present, no virtual meetings will do. He wants me to hear instructions with my own ears, ask questions with my own lips, and bow with my own head.
Every now and then there will be a corporate sponsored stall, run by your average joe, hawking whatever food, or goods, their family has made for generations... Street meat, holos, jacks into the veil... Junko makes a point of buying some holo-flowers
– posies – and sticking them in her glasses. You can only see them in augmented reality, but they go nicely with her hair.
You get the sense that Junko is really enjoying herself. You know that one day, her father will call on her to marry someone she's likely never met, and this life will come to an end as she serves her father, and new husband's ambitions to climb the corporate ladder. It's almost impossible to imagine her doing that now; talking as she does about clubbing, and meeting "such interesting people" all the time. Her life, like this date, will eventually be interrupted by duty...
For now, though, it's just the two of you. Junko got way too excited by feeding the ducks... It's possible some of them are going to be a little too chubby to fly for a while. "Is this normally what you do on your days off? This is so relaxing!"
I know you're indentured to your Daimyo, but tell me about the mechanics of indentured servitude in the city. Can slaves own slaves? Can slaves buy their own freedom? Can a slave hold Giri over their masters? Are there any social restrictions, such as class, that protect people from becoming slaves?
Indentured servitude ostensibly has an exit clause. If the servant somehow obtains enough funds to buy their way out of debt, they are free. Of course, servants are rarely paid and often debt grows with interest, so the number of indentured servants who purchase freedom is very small.
Slaves can own slaves, yes. If you provide a service that would be worth Giri, the recipient must repay it, or the service provider may, in some circumstances, be able to take that person into their service. This only applies to civilians, of course. If you are an executive, or a member of the elite, then the chances of becoming a slave are incredibly small. It's good to be on top, you know.
A slave cannot hold Giri over their masters, it is immediately applied against their account. If that Giri would clear their account, then it is held to an Enforcer, an Honorbound, to ensure that the slave did not create the circumstance for their own freedom. If the exchange is legitimate, then the slave is free. There has never been a Giri so great that the master becomes slave to the one they formerly owned. Well, I read a Kindle novel about it once. It was poorly written, but amusing.
Jet Zephyr was accused of releasing anonymous "inflammatory" statements involving Kai's company – Yamada Bionics & Algorithms – and how Jet's small business would never do business with YB&A again — on account of payment delinquency, and failure to adhere to their end of several contracts. Jet, who claims not to have released the statement himself, was held accountable for the statement regardless — and because Jet refused to name the perpetrator, he has generally been assumed to be responsible for it.
What is the public's view of the Daimyo, and Kai? Taigen produced some documents allegedly proving that YB&A paid their dues on time and that Jet sent an email expressing his deep admiration for Kai — did you believe they were real? How did you mete out justice?
The Daimyo is strong, and fair. He cares deeply for his fief and the people in it, as long as they are honorable. Kai is not yet what his father has become, but I hold hope that he will mature. I am not a businessperson, but Yamada's influence has contributed a great deal to the success of YB&A.
I believe YB&A paid their dues. I trust the email is accurate and true. It is certainly the act of a hacker who wishes to bring Jet low. Regardless, Jet is responsible for his company's actions, and his refusal to name a perpetrator or publicly denounce the action means he is complicit. I took his left hand with my katana. He is not allowed to wear a replacement for one month. His avatar can appear however he wishes, but if I see or hear of Jet Zephyr wearing a cybernetic or replacement hand in the next thirty days, I will consider his payment of Giri null and void, and will seek payment again. He is well aware of this.
and stone cold. He nods, "good. Your daimyo is pleased with your service. I will consider your speed in resolving the matter favorably when it comes to the matter of your outstanding debts." He pauses a moment, and you can see his eyes flickering as he processes some information.
"I hope you will not think poorly of me, that I do not offer you more challenging work; but you have kept my court in order, and I have only one task to offer you — while it may not be challenging, it is a sensitive matter that I know you will give your full attention." The avatar of a young lady appears on your screen. Your facial recognition software immediately pegs her as Sarah Pike. She works for Osprey Bionics as a mid-level R&D project manager, and she is well known in several gaming communities online. She also had a rather public feud with a prominent figure you're familiar with: Mnemosyne.
"Sarah stands accused of stealing something very valuable from me — the only functional prototype of classified technology Osprey was developing for YB&A. Osprey has graciously provided us with the employee access logs for the lab in which it was developed, and Sarah's was the last UUID that entered the lab before it was reported missing." Taigen's face takes on a dour look, and Sarah's avatar disappears. "I am tasking you with extracting the truth from Ms. Pike, and to punish her accordingly. If – for whatever reason – you do not find Ms. Pike to be at fault for this, then you are tasked with determining who is. As always, your judgment will be considered absolute, and you will answer only to me."
He pauses, and his expression softens. "Have I made myself clear?"
Ohhhh Sarah Pike! I've watched her streams of Overwatch play with Tae Hyun. She is a cutie, very colorful language, and her play is top notch. She has a large following, I didn't know she had a sarariman job, too. I wonder why she works at Osprey? R&D, brains, beauty and personality. Nice combo. I hope I don't have to punish her like I did Jet.
As my daimyo speaks, I'm filing away his details with a mental note to research further on this feud. I thought that was done and over. Another flame war? Nem must be protected.
Until my daimyo had called upon me, I'd been rather affectionate with Junko-chan, touching her hand, pulling her into a kiss, putting an arm around her as we sat on the grass. Since my daisho is not here, I felt comfortable in a sense of anonymity. Now I am an Enforcer, and the caress of her cheek is my last moment of affection. I am fully committed to my work.
Oh, I get my daisho before pursuing anything, of course!
This morning has me feeling Peaceful, and it is with this refreshing emotion that I take up the chase!
(Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 10)
That generates Two Hold, spent for the following:
THE ART OF THE PURSUIT:
When Tao assimilates all the information they have available on a target, roll. On a 10+, generate 2 hold. On a 7–9, generate 1. Spend that hold 1 for 1 when actively on the hunt for them in order to:
* Discern their position or a weakness in their life to exploit in order to do so
* Discern what security they may have or what kind of a threat they’d be
* Discern their greatest weakness and strength
* Discern what makes them feel safe or secure, and what makes them feel afraid
You know she takes her employment at Osprey for granted, spouting whatever beliefs she has into the veil, at any opportunity. Osprey has a public record of keeping their corporate housing reasonably well surveilled, and have a long-standing history of taking out enforcers to protect their employee's Giri — but you also know that she's never been the same since her public feud with Mnemosyne – she's become paranoid about forming connections in the real world, as opposed to with the persona she's created for herself on the veil. If you're looking to talk rationally, the veil would probably be the place to do it. If you're looking to intimidate, then a face to face meeting is probably best.
Where does your Uber take you?
I am headed to Osprey corporate housing. On the way, I reach out to Mnemosyne. If she is available, I'll see if she's willing to help me with this.