"Sounds good.\n\n"One other thing before you execute: I've got basic readouts on your hardware, but permissions are locked up pretty tight.\n\n"Armand hired me strictly for info and overwatch, but hardware optimization is my real specialty. \n\n"If you want to grant me config rights, I'd be happy to help you out however I can."\n\n[[continue|hardware]]\n\n\n<<set $marker = 1>>
You open the laptop. The screen is filled with an elaborate robot out of an anime, broad-chested and red and yellow and silver. "Biometric check failed," the robot says in a surprisingly human voice. "Enter override."\n\nYou hesitate with your hands over the keyboard. \n\n[[Type "arc".|playercarelaptop2]]\n\n[[Type "stjoan".|playercarelaptop2]]\n\n[[Mash the keyboard.|playercarelaptop2]]\n
Exoskeletons. Exoskeletons are trouble. And this looks like a good one; fully-plated, providing more protection than the best conventional body armor, with fully articulated hands that are carrying what looks to you like a proper light machine gun; the suit must be strong enough to handle the recoil on a weapon that would normally have to be supported by a tripod. \n\nYou can't see the pilot at all; their head is sealed inside their helmet. \n\n[[return|Move2]]
You wait; you listen.\n\nYou hear the sound of heavy footsteps and a slight electronic whine; some kind of motor assist, probably for the joints on a combat exoskeleton, which is bad. Another tread, softer; you barely hear it. There are no voices, but then, anyone capable of cutting you off from your operator probably has a decent telecom setup and doesn't need to rely on vocal transmissions. \n\nYou wait for the sounds to get a little closer, to enter the room, and then trigger the grenade, cook it, and toss it through the door frame.\n\n[[continue|flash2]]
Arc sends you out early the next morning; the sky is light but the sun isn't up. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries still trouble you, but they're healing quickly, and after a lot of high-calorie food and more sleep your 'ware-induced 'hangover' is finally clearing up. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries are healing, but you still feel like crap, and sleep and a lot of high-calorie food have only taken the edge off of your 'ware-induced hangover. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|groundbreakfast2]]
You charge in, trying to close the range and firing your pistol. Lethal force is no longer a matter of choice; you're in a fight for your life. \n\nThis is no rent-a-cop, though. They react faster than any baseline human, rolling forward below your shots, and firing a burst from the SMG. The first shot is wild; you hear bullets whizzing by, but none connect. \n\n[[continue|flash5]]\n
<<if $access gte 1>>\nYou're suddenly hit with an odd sensation, as if everything was slowing down. You recognize the sensation: extreme adrenaline dose, above-and-beyond your [[artificially weakened]] fight-or-flight response. \n\nYour 'ware is only supposed to hit you with this level when you've been seriously wounded, but right now you can use the edge. You keep firing, and this time you're just a little faster, and at least one shot connects. The hostile spins from the impact and drops. \n\n"Nice shot. I thought a little boost would help." \n\nThat explains it - Arc is back online and controlling your 'ware.\n\n[[continue|run]]\n\n<<else>>\nYou keep moving and firing; you have to get distance from the hostile in the exoskeleton, and assuming the hostile you're targeting doesn't have artificial limbs your legs might give you an advantage up close. But that SMG is a problem. The sheer number of bullets it puts in the air make it a statistical certainty that you'll get tagged as you get closer. \n\nSure enough, you feel one impact, then another. It's all you can do to keep your feet. \n\n[[continue|rescue]]\n\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n<<endif>>
"Excellent!" Arc says. "You're going to love it there - it's killer."\n\nShe grabs her laptop. "Ok, great. Now, you get sleep, and I've got some serious work to do. And I mean, we're not out of the woods yet. We'll need flights from another city and I have no idea how we'll get out of town, they'll be watching car rentals and all the roads."\n\nShe grins at you. "But don't worry. You've gotten me out of worse. We'll figure it out."\n<<if $flirted gte 2>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|hideoutflirt]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|groundbreakfast]]\n<<endif>>
There's a thunderous //boom// as the flashbang goes off, and a flash of bright light in the doorway.\n\nYou wheel around the corner, pistol drawn. Two hostiles. One is in a combat exoskeleton, as you surmised, and a serious one: completely sealed, plated with thick armor, and apparently providing enough mechanical strength to let its pilot handle the massive machine gun it's carrying.\n\nFortunately, whatever the exoskeleton's other advantages, it doesn't seem to have shielded the pilot from the disorienting light and sound of the flashbang, because they're stumbling, apparently oblivious.\n\n[[continue|flash3]]
Unfortunately, the other hostile looks alert and ready to shoot you. \n\nThis one is wearing extensive tactical gear - head-to-toe kevlar, decent armor but not even in the same league as the combat exoskeleton. Your digital eyes can see well into the [[infrared spectrum|infrared3]], and in infrared this hostile is glowing - a sure sign of extensive subdermal implants. \n\nThey're augmented, and apparently their augments protected them from the worst of the flashbang. \n\nAnd now they're pointing an SMG right at you. \n\n[[continue|flash4]]
Suddenly Arc is back. \n\n"Run as fast as you can on my mark - \n\n"3, 2, 1...\n\n"MARK!"\n\n[[continue|rescue2]]
"Just a little 7% increase in efficiency by routing your legs through my systems rather than the built-in firmware. So kind of you to notice," she replies, a little archly. \n\n[[continue|covert3]]\n\n\n
"Just a little further," Arc says as you step into an apartment at the top of the stairs. It's bare, sparsely furnished - it doesn't feel lived in. "This way." \n\nShe takes you into a bedroom, empty except for one simple, neatly-made bed. You feel a wave of fatigue wash over you the second you lay eyes on the bed; you almost collapse on the spot. "Come on," she says gently. She starts to pull your jacket off. \n<html></html>\n[[Let her.|playercare2]]\n\n[["I can do it."|playercare2i]]
"The electronic security on the drive itself is airtight; physical security is good, but airtight it is not. Which is where you come in."\n\n"I've got the automated systems subverted, and on-site guards are rent-a-cops. So it's a milk run, basically."\n\n[[continue|positionone4]]
You blink. That's blatantly false: you've worked a few jobs with Armand before. And it's a strange lie for him to tell Arc - Armand always tells his contractors a little about who they'll be working with. He must have told her about your history together.\n\nAnd then he picks you out of the crowd, and his eyes settle on you. But he doesn't say anything, just meets your eyes and looks pointedly at his wineglass. \n\n[[continue|watcharmand3]]
<<if $access eq 0>>\nThere are limits to what your legs can do, and this jump is nearly there - at least with no running start. You come up about half a meter short, and have to scramble at the wall. But you're lucky; you find a convenient foothold and manage to pull yourself up. \n\n[[continue|covert3]]\n<<else>>\nThere are limits to what your legs can do, and this jump is nearly there - at least with no running start. But you feel a little extra power when you kick off; you neatly clear the roof and stick the landing\n\n[["Whoa! You are good."|covert2a]]\n\n[["Not bad."|covert2b]]\n\n[["On the roof. Continuing infiltration."|covert3]]\n\n<<endif>>
She takes a deep breath and forces a smile. "Got it. Sorry I misread things." \n\n[[continue|playercaredebriefc]]
The cops don't have a perimeter set up - yet. You run through the network of walkways and reach the end of the little elite enclave, and a real street, with cars. There are sirens in the distance, lots of sirens. \n\nThere's also an autocab stand, with several cabs waiting.\n\n[[continue|autocab]]
You stroll to the west side of the target building, where a [[stand of trees]] provides shade for office drones taking a lunch outside, or going on a power walk.\n\nYou look around; it's after lunchtime and there doesn't seem to be anybody around. You take a small running start and then leap upwards with all the power the hydraulics in your artificial legs can give. \n\n[[continue|covert2]]
You keep moving, braced for the shot to come. Your 'ware has a good chance to keep you moving, at least for now, but it will definitely suck.\n\nWhat you do not brace yourself for, however, is for it to be Arc who gets hit. She screams and falls flat on her face, rolling a few yards before she comes to a stop. \n\n[[continue|cuttoarc2.5]]\n\n<<set $arcwound = 1>>
No time to think about what it means. You kneel at Arc's side. She's moaning; still conscious, but out of it, perhaps already entering shock. \n\nBullets are still whizzing by; the cops are coming. The operative is coming. You don't have very much time, so you scoop Arc up into an emergency carry and run down the street. She's not light, but with your reinforced bones and grafted muscle tissue are built to handle more. \n\n"Car," Arc moans over you shoulder. "Car... gotta... safehouse..."\n\n[[continue|cuttoarc4]]
<<if $affinity gte 3>>\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\nHer mouth quirks, for a moment, into a genuine smile.\n\n"Good," she says.\n<<else>>\nShe smiles, albeit a little weakly. \n\n"I feel - well, I feel crappy. But considering, it could be a lot worse. Thanks to you." \n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nShe shrugs. "I feel like shit. But I guess you're supposed to." She glances down to her bandaged shoulder. "Thanks," she says quietly. \n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|acwake2]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
You get out of the bed. You feel a slight wave of dizziness when you first rise, but it passes quickly. You're exhausted, but ok for the moment. \n\nYou are incredibly hungry, however. \n\nYou pad out of the bedroom quietly. The apartment is as you left it, but this time you're more interested in the kitchen. \n\nIt's simple, some drawers and cabinets, a fridge, a sink, a stove, and a microwave. \n\n[[Search the fridge.|acexplorefruit]]\n\n[[Search the cabinets.|acexplorenuts]]
You leave early the next morning; the sky is light but the sun isn't up. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries still trouble you, but they're healing quickly, and after a lot of high-calorie food and more sleep your 'ware-induced 'hangover' is finally clearing up. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYour injuries are healing, but you still feel like crap, and sleep and a lot of high-calorie food have only taken the edge off of your 'ware-induced hangover. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|likeasharkwithlessfins2]]
<<if $affinity gte 2>>\n"You should be," she deadpans. "We hackers only break out clean t-shirts for operatives with very nice bodies. \n\n"You know - expensive upgrades and so forth." \n\n[["You'll have to let me know whether it was worth it..."|flirta]]\n\n[["Ha. See you at the meet."|mehflirted]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>\n\n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 0>>\n"Oh, you should be so lucky," she says teasingly. \n\n[["Well, I can dream."|mehflirted]]\n\n[["Ha. See you at the meet."|mehflirted]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>\n\n<<else>>\n"No need," she says firmly. "I think you made it pretty clear we're associates rathe than friends, and it's a point of pride with me that I don't dress up for business. Or flirt for business."\n\n[["Whatever."|mehflirted]]\n\n[["Oh. I'm sorry if I came off like a jerk - I didn't mean to be unfriendly."|apology]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity - 1>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
"No, I'm vanilla. \n<html></html>\n<<if $affinity gte 2>>\n"I mean, I love hardware. I love working on it and I think having it is awesome, but for some reason the idea of getting implants of my own always... squicked me. Which doesn't make any sense, but there you are.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n"Never really saw the point, for a hacker. Sure, there's upsides, but ultimately I can get better hardware for less cash on external systems.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|shirta2]]
<<if $wound lte 2>>\nYou're down the stairs and out the door in moments, and walking. You'll go a ways and get a car; in fact, you're already using your telecom to make the reservations; the site for a local private car service known for its discretion is already up in your field of vision. \n\n<<else>>\nYou manage to get back down the stairs and walking, as evenly as you can manage, down the street. You've got to get a car; you sit on the bench at a disused bus stop and focus on staying conscious and accessing the site for a local private car service known for its discretion. You need rest, and treatment, and soon.\n\n<<endif>>\nYou do your best to put Arc out of your mind; what's done is done, and you still have to escape the police, and figure out what the hell is going on. \n\n[[continue\n\n
You get Arc up all three stories. The door has an ancient mechanical lock; Arc manages to produce a key from a pocket, but she gives it to you to use. \n\nIt's a small apartment, clean but bare, with blank white walls and very little furniture. You enter into an open space that includes a kitchen area and what would be a living room-space if it contained more than two plastic folding chairs. There are three doors leading off of this room; Arc points toward one, which turns out to be a bedroom. \n\nShe collapses onto the neatly-made bed, and immediately you see red on the white sheets. It looks like the effort of climbing the stairs reopened her wounds. \n\n[[continue|arccare2]]\n\n<<set $endcondition = 1>>
You catch up with Arc quickly; she's reached the next intersection. The two of you take a right, then a left, then another right. You hear shouts all around, loudspeakers demanding your surrender, sirens everywhere. But they haven't found you yet. \n\n"Car," Arc says. She's panting and clutching her side as she runs, and slowing down every step. "Car. Gotta. Safehouse. Car." \n \nYou reach the end of the little elite enclave, and a real street with cars, without meeting any cops. There are sirens in the distance, lots of sirens. There's also an autocab stand, with several cabs waiting.\n\n[[continue|autocab]]
She laughs. "Why not?" she says. "You never know - it might come up." \n\n[[continue|lovem3]]\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>
Arc gestures at her laptop. "Come over, I want to show you what I've been doing." \n\nShe pulls up a news site. Grainy pictures of both of you - surveillance from the firefight downtown - are splashed over the front page. You spot words like "shoot-out" and "terrorists."\n\n[[continue|playercaredebrief2]]
"It's just bad luck, old girl," Armand says (he can't be much above 35 but sometimes he talks like he's 135). He picks up his wine glass but doesn't drink, using it instead to gesture emphatically.\n\n"I have no idea who those operatives were. Maybe Minos is considering some corporate espionage of their own and had the operatives onsite for a meeting. How should I know? But it's nothing to do with us." \n\n[[continue|watcharmand2]]
You consider the tap water; sometimes it's fine in wealthier 'burbs, or rural areas, but there are very few cities where you'd assume it's potable. \n\nYou check the fridge; there's a carafe with a filter, mostly full. You fill the glass from it. \n\n[[continue|arccare5]]
She clears her throat. "We're going to have to get out of here soon," she says. "But we're secure for now. They won't track this apartment to me, and I took care of the data in those cabs - they won't be able track us that way.\n\n"Take a little time, ok? Finish the food and sleep."\n\n<<if $body lte 1>>\n[[continue|playercarepermission]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|playercaretime]]\n<<endif>>
You hold the water out to Arc; she tries to bring her lips toward it, but she's too weak.\n\n[[Bring the glass to her lips.|water2]]
You arrive at the meet site, in the heart of downtown. The walkways are filled with the suits of the high-end office drones who inhabit the skyscrapers here, and the gorgeous designer casual of the idle rich walking baby strollers and dogs. \n\nAlso cops. Cops in neat blue uniforms with shiny badges and handguns, the friendly face of the city for desirables. Cops in black armor with big guns patrolling in pairs, the city frowning on people like you.\n\nTheir presence is reassuring, in a way. This would be a bad place for an ambush. \n\n<<if $marker eq 1>>\n[[continue|perimeter]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|meet2]]\n<<endif>>\n
You break into a run heading straight for the front of the office building. You probably look like an office drone running late for a meeting, until you get up to speed: 30kph, 40, 50. You still haven't maxed out when the time comes for the jump. You take one last bound, land on both feet, and push off with all the power your leg hydraulics can give. \n\n[[continue|dynamic2]]\n
You crash through the window and land poised, your artificial legs taking the brunt of the impact. Office doors open; men and women in crisp business casual stare. A yellow line stretches forward on your field of vision, Arc's indicator of where to head next. \n\nYou charge down the hall; Arc's line goes to a door on the left-hand side. \n\nShe's placed a floating icon to indicate the position of a guard on the other side of door. \n\n[[continue|nokill]]
You nail the jump, and you find yourself fifty feet in the air on a perfect [[arc]] for the highlighted window. You grab the pistol in the holster under your jacket; you fire four times, four evenly-spaced shots that turn the window into a network of fine cracks. \n\n[[continue|dynamic3]]
For an instant there's a crack in his bland smile. Frustration, anger, something. Just an instant, a flash. He puts his wine down - rather forcefully. "You're right," he says quickly. "We never worked in Rio together. I must have been thinking of someone else. But we've worked together before, <<print $handle>>, is my point, and you know the kind of operation I run."\n\nHe picks the wine up again. "Maybe it's just bad luck. Or maybe one of you made a mistake." \n\n[[continue|meet8]]
"I know that," he says, carefully placing the wine glass down. "And clearly we're in some manner of trouble. You two will have to be careful." \n\nHe pauses for a moment, meets your eyes and picks up the wine glass again. He's acting weird. "But I'm absolutely certain the problem was not on my end. You know the kind of operation I run."\n\n"Maybe it's just bad luck. Or maybe one of you made a mistake."\n\n[[continue|meet8]]
"Nah. I've got no eye for tactical shit without the benefit of hacked surveillance. You're more likely to spot if something's wrong. And Armand's won't be scared of me - he might give something away he wouldn't otherwise.\n\n"So what do you think?\n\n[["No - I want to talk to Armand myself. We'll take the meet together."|cargno]]\n\n[["Let's do it - I want to be ready if this goes bad."|cargyes]]
"Your wish," Arc says with a wry smile; she reaches down and pulls another tray of food up from the ground and puts it on the bed.\n\nOnce again, you reach out and start eating almost before you know what you're doing; your body is working down a fierce calorie deficit. \n\n"How are you feeling?" Arc asks as you shovel.\n\n<<if $treated eq 2>>\n[["I'm ok. What are you doing?"|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Pretty good, considering."|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Pretty good, considering. Thanks to you."|playercaredebrief]]\n\n<<else>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n[["I'm ok. What are you doing?"|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Could be worse."|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Could be worse. Thanks to you."|playercaredebrief]]\n<<else>>\n[["I'm ok. What are you doing?"|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Like crap."|playercaredebrief]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
"I've got two insertion options for you: you can try for covert through the roof door, or if you want to go loud, I'd go for the indicated window."\n\nOne window on this side of the building suddenly flashes. \n\n"Crash that and you're close to the secure server room. So, what'll it be?"\n\n[["Let's get this over with - I'm going loud."|dynamic]]\n\n[["It's a simple job but that's no reason not to do it right. I'm heading for the roof."|covert]]
"This building is currently leased by Minos Storage Solutions. Server farm, a good one. One of their clients is storing a hard drive in there - a hard drive that our client wants."\n\n[["Got it."|positionone3.5]]\n\n[["Can't leave a client unsatisfied, can we?"|positionone3.5]]\n\n[["Sounds like hacker work. Where do I come in?"|positionone3.5]]
"Alright," Arc says. "So, mission briefing."\n\nThere's a three-story structure about a hundred meters north of you. It suddenly turns a pale shade of yellow - Arc is [[highlighting]] it for you. \n\n[[continue|positionone3]]\n\n
You hear shots behind you, and the whizz of bullets in the air around you. The cops favor SMGs and shotguns over rifles, and only a lucky shot will hit you at this range. But there's enough ground left to cover that they'll have plenty of time to try for one. \n\n[[continue|cuttoarc2]]
You lean forward. Arc glances back up; you watch her eyes get wide, but the corners of her mouth quirk upward as you bring you get closer. Your lips brush once, twice, and then you kiss - only briefly, only softly. \n\nArc takes a deep breath. "Later," she says, forcing herself to return to her task. "Good god yes. But later." \n\n[[continue|playercarebusinessrev2]]\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 2>>
<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n"Sure, sure," she says softly. "Sorry."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n"Suit yourself," she says tersely.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $wound gte 3>>\nYou struggle to remove the jacket; every slight motion brings sharp, tearing pain, and the jacket is adhered to your skin with your own dried blood.\n<html></html>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\nArc hovers, hands clasping and unclasping; she wants to help you, but she holds off. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nArc watches you with her arms crossed; she looks sympathetic, but also annoyed at your insistence on doing this on your own. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nYou peel the jacket off; it's slightly sticky with your dried blood, and every new movement of your arms and shoulders brings sharp, tearing pain. \n<html></html>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\nArc hovers, hands clasping and unclasping; she wants to help you, but she holds off. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nArc watches you with her arms crossed; she looks sympathetic, but also annoyed at your insistence on doing this on your own. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n"Come on," she says, gesturing to the bed. "Lie down." \n<html></html>\n<<if $wound gte 3>>\n[[continue|playercare3]]\n<<else>>\n[[Lie down.|playercare3]]\n\n[["Just need to get off my feet for a sec..."|playercare3i]]\n<<endif>>
You pad out of the bedroom on [[quiet feet]]. You don't remember taking your boots off; Arc must have done it after you fell asleep. \n\nThere's not much in the kitchen/living area: two cheap chairs, some drawers and cabinets, a fridge, a sink, a stove, and a microwave. \n\nThere are two doors, both closed. \n\n[[Open the door near the fridge.|pcworkshop]]\n\n[[Open the door by the plastic chairs.|pcbathroom]]\n\n[[Go back to the bedroom.|pcbedroom]]
She turns and spots you watching her. \n\n<<if $affinity gte 3>>\nShe grins and switches off the com bud in her ear that she's been using to talk to you. "Whoa," she says. "<<print $handle>>, in the flesh." \n\nHer telecom suite doesn't disguise her voice at all; it's the same, though a little richer, more melodic, in person.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $business gte 3>>\nShe smiles and switches off the com bud in her ear that she's been using to talk to you. She walks over and shakes your hand. "Pleasure, <<print $handle>>."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 0>>\nShe walks over and switches off the com bud in her ear that she's been using to talk to you. "Good timing," she says, nodding. "He's waiting."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nShe gestures you over. "Come on," she says, switching off the com bud in hear ear that she's been using to talk to you. "He's waiting."\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|meet5]]
Unfortunately the exoskeleton is too heavy and solid you to knock the pilot down, even with the incredible force your legs can produce. And now you're prone at their feet, with a massive machine gun trained on you. \n\n<<if $access gte 1>>\nSuddenly Arc is back. "Try the leg sweep again," she says.\n\nYou reverse the strike you just made, the hydraulics in your leg firing the other way to bring your heel slamming into the hostile's other foot. You can feel the extra power; you're not sure exactly what Arc did, but it's working.\n\nThis time you overcome the exoskeleton's weight and traction, and the hostile collapses in a heap. That'll buy you more than a moment: exoskeletons allow remarkable agility up until you get your legs tangled up, and then untangling them is an unholy mess.\n\n[[continue|run]]\n\n<<else>>\nYou roll away as the hostile opens up with the machine gun. You only take one hit from the first burst, a graze, but it's a huge gun and it's enough. \n\n[[continue|rescue]]\n\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n\n<<endif>>
Arc shrugs. "Safe as I can make it. It adds an additional element of risk, but so does not knowing what's going on. I took a chance.\n\n "The cops are mobilizing big. They're everywhere and they're actively looking for us. They got a bad tip that we're somewhere in Roxbury and they're going house to house. So getting out of town will be good - though not easy. \n\n"But what's really interesting is that it's not just cops talking to cops - they're getting their marching orders somewhere else.\n\n"I //think// it's some species of Feds."\n\n[["Feds? The hell?"|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<if $brown eq 1>>\n<<if $brownretort eq 1>>\n[["That woman, 'Agent' Brown - she said something, something about how I wasn't 'above the system' anymore. If she's a Fed... maybe this is the start of something..."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n[[That woman, 'Agent' Brown - if she's some sort of augmented Fed agent, that would explain how she was hooked in with the police.|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n[[I saw a woman downtown with the same IR profile as one of the operatives at Minos. Maybe she's some sort of augmented Fed agent."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $watchedarmand eq 1>>\n[["Armand did his best to signal us - these Feds must have gotten to him somehow."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\n[["Armand said something weird, something about 'black ops law enforcement' - maybe he was trying to tell us something about this."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<<else>>\n[["Could they have gotten to Armand?"|playercaredebrief4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
"That we do," she agrees. "But this place will be secure for a while. They won't track it to me, and I took care of the data in those cabs - they won't be able track us that way.\n\n"Take a little time, ok? Eat and sleep." \n\n<<if $body lte 1>>\n[[continue|playercarepermission]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|playercaretime]]\n<<endif>>
"...Fuck, yeah, I get that," she says. "I'm sorry. I won't ask again. Look, I'll see you at the meet, ok?" \n\n[[continue|meet]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
<<silently>>\n<<set $peril = $peril - $kill>>\n<<endsilently>>You hold your position for what seems like an eternity, Arc working steadily behind you.\n\n<<if $peril lte 1>>\nShe's exposed, but by some miracle she doesn't take a hit. You're not so lucky, but your 'ware clamps down on the pain, and for now you're still fighting.\n\nFinally she lets out a whoop. "Got it!" she says, and the segway's engine comes to life. This is a [[high-performance]] model - probably maxes out at about 30kph - no great shakes, but hopefully enough to get Arc some distance from this mess. \n\n[[continue|arcsegway]]\n<<else>>\nYou're both exposed. Your cover is crap, and you take a hit; you'll feel it like hell later, but your 'ware clamps down on the pain and the blood loss, and for now you're still fighting.\n\nFinally, Arc let's out a whoop. "Got it!" she says, and the electric engine of the segway roars to life. \n\nBut she throws her arms into the air in celebration - and takes a hit squarely in the shoulder. \n\n[[continue|arcwounded]]\n<<endif>>\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n
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It doesn't take you more than a few minutes to use your telecom to access your slush fund and get a car from a private service outside. While it drives the two of you to the ER, you're making reservations on the next flight out of the city. Not that you'll use them - getting through security screening is hard enough for you without throwing an APB into the mix - but they'll be monitoring new flight reservations, and they might waste resources watching the airport.\n\n[[continue|ER2]]\n\n
Arc grins. "Ha! Yeah. So you went in there. It's a mess. I've got a smaller one in my real place that's more focused on electronics, but this is where I come to do robotics and cybernetics. \n\n"Robotics was my first love, you know. How I got into computers."\n\n[[continue|playercaredebriefb]]
Then it hits you. \n\nIt's one of the stranger artifacts of the shift towards paramilitary build-up among big city police department. \n\nDisplaying insignia or a badge gets less important, because the real power of the police is no longer in the law, but in their stockpile of weapons. Eventually, the weapon is the badge.\n\nThese are the cops. \n\n[[continue|arcrunscops2]]
<<if $wounded gte 2>>\nYou rush forward. Her gun barks once and you feel the impact; you're already so full of adrenaline and endorphins that you barely feel it.\n<html></html> \n<<else>>\nYou rush forward. Her gun barks and the shot connects; your 'ware cuts off the pain after just a few moments. You're still moving, though at who knows what cost.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\nOne swift kick, your right leg rising and snapping with improbable speed at an unlikely angle, and the submachine gun goes flying. She watches you with narrowed eyes, backing away, ready to scrap, wary of your legs. \n\n"Step away from Agent Brown!" shouts a voice behind you. You glance. Cops, and plenty of them. Time to leave.\n\n[[continue|archacksfast]]\n\n<<set $brown = 1>>\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>
She's quiet for a long moment. "Fine," she says finally. She sounds tired, suddenly. "That's fine.\n\n"I've got a place. Little island, nice beaches, complicated extradition treaties. I'll head there tomorrow. You can do your lone wolf thing. \n\n"There's a sleeping bag in the closet. You can sleep in the living room. If you'll excuse me, I've got things to do." \n\n[[continue|likeashark]]
"That's very gallant of you," she says, her tone suddenly ice cold. "But I don't //need// your gallantry. \n\n"I'm willing to do this with you, but I'm not going to beg. So this is the last time I'm going to offer - do you want me along, or not?" \n\n[["If you're sure you want to, you'd be welcome."|partners]]\n\n[["No. I'm keeping you out of this."|bigsolodefc]]
You're communicating back with her using subvocal transmissions, meaning you don't actually speak, and she doesn't actually hear your voice.\n\nHer telecom suite is giving you a voice; she might be hearing a speech synth drone, or (more likely) a pre-selected default, an Irish man or a women in her fourties from the American South or any one of a thousand possible voices that come standard with any decent professional telecom suite. \n\n[[continue|meeting2]]
"Yeah, 'whatever' sounds about right," she says. \n\n[[continue|playercarebusinessguarded]]
Your reflexes are wired; your pistol flies up faster than it has any right to, and your hand knows much better than it should where your eyes are pointing. \n\nBut she's fast, as fast as you or faster. You both fire together; she lets out a cry and the weapon drops from her bleeding hand. Her shot hits your midsection; your 'ware clamps down on the pain, keeping you up and moving for now.\n\n[[continue|quickdraw2]]
You get behind the lemonade stand and hear bullets ping off its heavy steel frame. You draw your pistol, taking a moment to regret that you didn't take any of your real firepower along for this job. \n<html></html>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThe cops are still closing in, guns out. You have to buy her some time. You raise your pistol.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nThe black-clad assailants are still closing in, guns out. You have to buy her some time. You raise your pistol.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[Shoot to kill.|arcruns3]]\n\n[[Just make them think twice.|arcrunsnonlethal]]
You pop up and take aim on the nearest black-clad figure. A few squeezes of the trigger and he's down. He may or may not be dead; he's in some sort of armor, but your pistol is no pea-shooter. \n<html></html>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThe other two cops think better of a direct assault and hunker down behind a stone planter; they seem content to take pot shots at you as more cops move in, more black-clad figures and tactical gear as well as uniformed beat cops - they aren't just for show and giving directions. \n\nThe first two keep up pretty lively suppressing fire, and you're only able to get off a little harrassing fire of your own to delay the reinforcements. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|arcruns4]]\n<<else>>\nThe last two think better of a direct assault; they take cover and start returning fire. \n\nAnd more of them, you see, are moving in. \n\nWhere are they coming from? Who got this many shooters into the heart of downtown without the cops noticing? And where //are// the cops? Where are all those groups of police with the black kevlar armor and the automatic weapons from before? \n<html></html>\n[[continue|arcrunscops]]\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $kill = 1>>
She's quiet for a long moment. "Fine," she says finally. She sounds tired, suddenly. "It's not like I can make you work with me. Not like I would want to.\n\n"I've got a place. Little island, nice beaches, complicated extradition treaties. I'll head there tomorrow. You can do your lone wolf thing. \n\n"There's a sleeping bag in the closet. You can sleep in the living room. If you'll excuse me, I've got things to do." \n\n[[continue|likeashark]]\n\n
<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThen she appears: the modified operative you fought at Minos. She discards the bulky coat and she's wearing a flak jacket underneath. One of the cops hands her an SMG. Then a burst of fire from all directions forces you to duck.\n\nThey're keeping you supressed so that she can make her move. You're out of time. \n\nArc is nearly to the next intersection, but she's slowed down - she's running with obvious difficulty. It doesn't look like enough of a head start to you, but it might have to be enough.\n\n[[Cut and run - go after Arc.|cutandrun]]\n\n[[Arc needs more time - get ready for the augmented operative.|tangle]]\n\n<<else>>\n<<if $peril lte 2>>\nThere's a sudden burst of fire from all directions that forces you to duck. They're getting dug in. \n\nArc is nearly to the next intersection, but she's slowed down - she's running with obvious difficulty. It doesn't look like enough of a head start to you, but it might have to be enough.\n\n[[Cut and run - go after Arc.|cutandrun]]\n\n[[Fire blind into the plaza - buy her more time.|fireblind]]\n\n<<else>>\nSeveral shots ricochet off the pavement near the bricks at your feet, forcing you further down into cover. Someone's found a better angle on you. You're almost out of time. \n\n[[Cut and run - go after Arc.|cutandrun]]\n\n[[Fire blind into the plaza - buy her more time.|fireblind]]\n\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
Arc sends you out early the next morning; the sky is light but the sun isn't up. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries still trouble you, but they're healing quickly, and after a lot of high-calorie food and more sleep your 'ware-induced 'hangover' is finally clearing up. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYour injuries are healing, but you still feel like crap, and sleep and a lot of high-calorie food have only taken the edge off of your 'ware-induced hangover. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|bigbreakfast2]]
Arc smiles gratefully and brings her lips to the edge of the glass. She drinks a few mouthfuls of water and lies back.\n\n[[return|arccare6]]\n\n<<set $glass = $glass + 1>>
"Totally cool! Forget I asked." \n\n[[continue|strange2]]\n
"Hey there," you [["hear"|hear]] in reply. "How's it going?"\n\nYour operator's voice is warm and throaty and low, with this little hint of teasing in the tone. It's a nice voice.\n\n[["Things are good. How are you?"|!2a]]\n\n[[Give the pre-arranged security challenge.|!2]]\n\n\n\n\n
"That's what I'm afraid of," she says, seriously. "I love hardware as a system, as something in front of me that I can understand. I think it's neat. But somehow, if it was inside of me, I think I would feel like... like..."\n\nThere's a long pause, which she breaks by clearing her throat and changing the subject. \n\n[[continue|strange2]]
"I never thought about it that way," she said. "I guess it'd be hard not to think about other people differently, once you're so much faster and stronger than they are. And with all the nervous stuff you have, the stuff wired directly into your sense centers - wow, the temptation for [[social addiction]] must be intense. \n\n[[continue|strange2]]
"I know a little about it," Arc says. "The drugs to prevent rejection are supposed to be pretty nasty. And that's leaving aside surgical maintenance, mechanical failure, medical malpractice, corporate licensing issues... and just breathing is illegal in some jurisdictions. Particularly for the kind of stuff that you're packing."\n\nShe's quiet. "I'm not sure I could handle it."\n\n[[continue|strange2]]
Any police-issue personal scanner will reveal enough questionably legal hardware to get you taken in. You haven't kept up with the ordinances, but last time you were in this city your body was a class d felony worth a fine of not more than $200,000, and/or a prison sentence of not more than 2 years.\n\n[[return|perimeter5]]
The door near the stove opens into what's probably meant to be a second bedroom. Arc seems to be using it as a - workshop?\n\nThere's a gray grounding mat spread across almost the entire floor. Atop the mat everything is electromechanical chaos: cables, circuit boards, gears, servos, disassembled motors, scrap metal. There's a workbench in the middle of it all, covered in components of all kinds; you see a soldering iron, about a dozen species of screwdriver, any number of implements you can't readily identify. \n\n[[continue|pcworkshop2]]
You wait; you listen.\n\nYou hear the sound of heavy footsteps and a slight electronic whine; some kind of motor assist, probably for the joints on a combat exoskeleton, which is bad. Another tread, softer; you barely hear it. There are no voices, but then, anyone capable of cutting you off from your operator probably has a decent telecom setup and doesn't need to rely on vocal transmissions. \n\nYou wait for the sounds to get a little closer, to enter the room, and then trigger the grenade, cook it, and toss it through the door frame.\n\n[[continue|frag2]]\n\n<<set $marker = $marker + 2>>
Rogue cops, compromised allies, augmented enemies. You've got your work cut out for you. And you have to handle it all alone.\n\nBut the sun is rising, and you're alive and free for another day. \n\nAnd a quick internet search through your telecom rig tells you there's a place with great eggs nearby.\n\nYou'll just have to hope the rest will work itself out. \n\n[[end|credits]]
<<if $flirted gte 1>>\nArc's arms are splayed out toward you; her fingers brush lightly against your arm. Her face is creased in discomfort, but other than that she seems fine. \n<html></html>\n[[Move closer to her.|arccaresnuggle]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nArc's face is creased in discomfort, but other than that she seems fine.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[Wake her.|arccarewake]]\n\n[[Get up without waking her.|arccarerise]]\n\n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<set $treated = 1>>\n<<endif>>\n
<<if $wound gte 1>>\nYou feel like you have the mother of all hangovers - the after effects of the prolonged supreme effort your 'ware allowed you. Sleeping helped a bit, but your head is pounding, and your head is frustratingly muddy. \n\n[[continue|rested.7]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\nArc's arms are splayed out toward you; her fingers brush lightly against your arm. Her face is creased in discomfort, but other than that she seems fine. \n<html></html>\n[[Move closer to her.|arccaresnuggle]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nArc's face is creased in discomfort, but other than that she seems fine.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[Wake her.|arccarewake]]\n\n[[Get up without waking her.|arccarerise]]\n\n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<set $treated = 1>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
You pop up and take aim on the nearest black-clad figure. A few squeezes of the trigger and he's down. He may or may not be dead; he's in some sort of armor, but your pistol is no pea-shooter.\n\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThe last two cops think better of a direct assault and hunker down behind a stone planter; they seem content to take pot shots at you as more cops move in, more black-clad figures and tactical gear as well as uniformed beat cops - they aren't just for show and giving directions. \n\nYou keep up suppressing fire, slowing down the reinforcements as much as you can. You have to keep their attention away from Arc.\n\n[[continue|archacks3]]\n\n<<else>>\nThe last two think better of a direct assault and hunker down behind a stone planter. They seem content to take pot shots, which suits you fine; you're just trying to stall them, anyway. \n\nBut more black-clad figures arrive, moving carefully and staying in cover, a full tactical deployment. It occurs to you that this assault is incredibly brazen for downtown at midday. Who got this many gun men into the heart of downtown without the cops noticing? And where //are// the cops? \n\n[[continue|archackscops]]\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $kill = 1>>
Arc and Armand greet each other as she reaches his table. "<<print $handle>> should be here soon," she says. The quality of the audio changes, gets noticeably tinnier; she's set the tiny com bud in her ear to pick up ambient sound, so you can hear Armand. \n\n"Of course," he says. His voice is deep and resonant.\n\n[[continue|perimeter4.5]]
Arc continues to protest, increasingly incoherently, until she loses consciousness. There's no going back now, if she doesn't get some good care soon she won't survive. \n\nYou order the autocar to slow to a crawl as you pass by the emergency room entrance. A pair of paramedics stand outside an ambulance, smoking, watching the car warily. You hop out of the car, lay Arc at their feet, and are back in the car before it's past their ambulance. \n\n[[continue|\n\n
"I'm... excited...," she adds a moment later, picking her words with care, "that this isn't the last we'll see of each other," she says. \n\nShe's still grinning. Very wide. It's a bit infectious.\n\n"This is gonna be fun."\n\n[[continue|groundbreakfast]]
Arc puts the black bag down; you see that it's emblazoned with a red cross. A first aid kit, an extensive one, from the look of it. She pulls out a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and a white cotton bandage, wrapped in plastic to keep it sterile.\n\n"Keep eating," Arc says, tearing the bandage's wrapper. "It looks like your 'ware has done a pretty good job stopping your bleeding, but we should clean and bandage your wounds." \n\n[["That's fine."|playercare5y]]\n\n[["No, don't."|playercare5n]]\n\n[["I prefer to do it myself."|playercare5self]]
She comes back a few minutes later with her hands full. She carries a glass of water in one hand, a large plate in the other, and a big black bag hangs by its straps from one of her arms. \n\nShe lays the plate down beside you; there's a bowl of mixed nuts and chocolate, three foil-wrapped energy bars, and a row of salted crackers. \n\nYour body responds powerfully to the sight of these things, and you have a handful of the nuts and chocolate in your mouth before you're aware of reaching out for them. \n\nArc's 'ware expertise obviously extends to basic medical care for implanted individuals; this is exactly what you need right now. \n\n[[continue|playercare5]]
<<if $wound gte 3>>\nYou don't have the strength to do anything but fall down onto the bed, even if you wanted to. All the punishment your body has taken, all the overclocking and pushing through that your 'ware has been enabling, is hitting home. Your mind is blank except for a vague awareness of hunger and fatigue. \n<html></html>\nThe thought wanders ponderously through your exhausted brain that this is a normal side-effect of a prolonged adrenaline surge. Your blood sugar must be dangerously low - and that's beside all the nutrients your body's 'ware-induced healing overdrive is burning through, and the trauma itself. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYou're happy to follow Arc's advice. All the punishment your body has taken, all the overclocking and pushing through that your 'ware has been enabling, is hitting home. Your thoughts are fuzzy. \n<html></html>\nThis is all a completely normal side effect of a prolonged adrenaline surge. Your blood sugar must be dangerously low - and that's beside all the nutrients your body's 'ware-induced healing overdrive is burning through, and the trauma itself. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"I'll be right back," Arc says, leaving the room.\n<html></html>\n[[continue|playercare4]]
She's gentle, but moving even a little brings a sharp, tearing pain, and your own dried blood has adhered the jacket to your skin; Arc peels it off carefully.\n\n<<if $body lt 1>>\n"Come on," she says, gently taking your arm. "Lie down."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n"Come on," she says, gesturing to the bed. "Lie down." \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $wound gte 3>>\n[[continue|playercare3]]\n<<else>>\n[[Lie down.|playercare3]]\n\n[["Just need to get off my feet for a sec..."|playercare3i]]\n<<endif>>
You feel her pockets and find her cell phone and manage to get it out and dial the city emergency line. You tell the operator there's a woman, dying, gunshot, and give the address. \n\nArc protests weakly from the bed, but she can't stop you or even get up.\n\nYou hang up when the operator assures you an ambulance is on its way. You have to get gone.\n\n[["I'm sorry, Arc. It's your best shot."|ambulancekind]]\n\n[["Well... good luck!"|ambulancecold]]\n\n[[Leave wordlessly.|ambulancecold]]
Thanks for playing! \n\nARC: a cyberpunk adventure is by me, David Rogers. Please <html><a href = "http://www.twitter.com/cityofdave">tweet me</a></html> or <html><a href = "mailto:dnrogers@gmail.com">email me</a></html> what you think. Bug or typo reports are much appreciated. Special thanks are due to Lindsay Eagle and Chris Larson.\n\nThis game was made with Twine. You should <html><a href = "http://twinery.org//">check out Twine</a></html> yourself - <html><a href = "http://www.auntiepixelante.com/">Anna Anthropy</a></html> has written an <html><a href = "http://www.auntiepixelante.com/twine/">awesome beginner's guide</a></html> to get you started! \n\nYou can see the rest of my games <html><a href="http://davecity.tumblr.com/games">here</a></html>. Or [[play again|Start]] to try different choices.
Social Network Addiction Disorder. Officially added to the DSM V a few years ago, you remember. It's a huge risk for people with implanted telecom suites, and that risk is multiplied for people with nervous system implants like yours. The whole width and breadth of the internet and your entire social network, available every moment of the day and pumped directly into your brain.\n\nFor people in your line of work it can be very literally fatal: there are documented cases of operatives who were killed while composing social posts in their heads during firefights.\n\nIt sounds so stupid, but it's one of the hardest things.\n\n[[return|whynotb]]
<<if $clue eq 1>>\nYour biggest clue to the big picture, though, is still the hint that Armand dropped. \n<html></html>\n'Black ops law enforcement going rogue to target high-level freelancers.' That's what he said. Exactly what he meant, you don't know. But whatever's going on, it includes the ambush at Minos, co-opting the city police, and whatever they did to get to Armand. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $brownretort eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nAll that data doesn't help you know what's really going on - not yet. The woman from Minos - 'Brown' (you don't believe that's her real name, anymore than you were born <<print $handle>>). She said you weren't beyond 'the system' anymore. Who knows what that means, exactly. But it does mean that somebody out there is gunning for you.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $brown eq 1>>\nAll that data doesn't help you know what's really going on - not yet. The augmented woman from Minos, "Brown" - she's undoubtedly one of "them". But you don't know much about her, other than that she's plugged in with the police, and somebody paid for a lot of cyberware for her. \n<<else>>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nAll that data doesn't help you know what's really going on - not yet. But something big is going down. The agent from Minos who followed you downtown, the way the police turned on you, the fact that they got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<<else>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. But something big is going down. The ambush at Minos, the way the police turned on you, the fact that someone got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|asharkwithlessfins4]]
You glance up at the third-story windows of the building; the blinds are drawn in Arc's hideout, and the windows are dark. You know she's busy inside, though, packing what she can and preparing for the risky trip out of the city. She's going to head to an airport a few states over - but she wasn't free with the details. \n\nBut true to her word, she did help you out: a clean ID, and an intel packet you haven't even begun to sort through. She turned up a lot in a short amount of time: there are names, photos, addresses, phone numbers and IPs, even radio frequencies. You've got more of a headstart than you have any right to expect. \n\n[[continue|likeasharkwithlessfins3]]
You rush forward. Her gun barks once; the pain is wrenching, but you can feel it leaking away as you 'ware compensates. You're still in the fight, at a cost.\n\nOne swift kick, your right leg rising and snapping with improbable speed at and unlikely angle, and the submachine gun goes flying; it impacts the wall and falls to pieces. She watches you with narrowed eyes, ready to scrap, but wary of your legs. \n\n"Step away from Agent Brown!" shouts a voice behind you. You glance. The cops have moved up; they're all around you. It's time to leave.\n\n[[continue|timetoleave]]\n\n<<set $brown = 1>>\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>
And apparently someone forgot to tell //these// cops that they shouldn't go after an operative. Or more likely, somebody told them they had to. \n\nYou're in some kind of deep shit, and you have no idea what kind.\n[[continue|watchplaza8]]
You find the access stairwell with no trouble; there's an electronic lock. "Open sesame," Arc says over the channel, and the lock clicks open. \n\nArc provides a yellow line along the ground for you to follow. At the door leading out of the stairwell she has you wait while some employees pass by, discussing "quarterlies" with some urgency.\n\nAfter Arc gives the all clear, you follow her line to a doorway just around the corner. She's placed a floating icon to indicate a guard on the other side of door. \n\n[[continue|nokill]]
"Doing well! I'm psyched to work with you, actually, I hear all good things. And I have to be honest, I'm just getting the readouts on your implanted hardware and I am //excited// to see you in action with this stuff!\n\n"You want to do Armand's security thing?"\n\n[[Give the security challenge she's expecting.|!2]]\n\n[["Right, the security challenge is 'Armand needs to relax.'"|!relax]]
All food is genetically modified, of course, it's just a matter of how. Most of it has been optimized for easy shipping and high sugar content. At this place, it's probably for //umami// or some ridiculous thing.\n\n[[return|meet2]]
Arc frowns, and considers your words carefully.\n<<if $arcwound eq 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Ok," she says finally. "Ok, maybe I do. I don't like you, I'm not under any illusion that you like me - but you went above and beyond for me. I know that. And I appreciate it.\n\n"You want to go after them? I'll help you."\n\n[[continue|partners]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n"No," she says finally. "You've done right by me, but I've done the same by you. Without me you'd never had made it out of Minos. \n\n"As professionals, we're square. And as people? I don't wish any harm on you, <<print $handle>>, but you haven't given me any reason to want to stick my neck out for you. And I'm not gonna.\n\n"Stay here tonight. Rest up. But tomorrow, I think you better \ngo."\n\n[[continue|likeashark]]\n<<endif>>
"Override attempt failed," the robot says. "Enaging countermeasures in 5...4...3..."\n\n"At ease, Heavyarms," Arc says. "'Kilroy was here.'" \n\n"Voicematch confirmed - passphrase recognized. Countermeasures suspended." \n\n"You should know better than to go messing with a hacker's laptop, <<print $handle>>," she says, turning over to face you with a sleepy smile. "There's a miniature explosive installed on the motherboard. Might have taken your hand off." \n\nShe winks. "Or is she joking? No one knows."\n\n[[continue|playercaredebriefb]]
You persuade her to drink a little more water, and give her some aspirin for the pain - small comfort, but the best you have. \n\n[[continue|arccare10]]
You dress the wound properly, wrapping sterile gauze around her shoulder and taping it in place. \n\n[[continue|arccare9]]
"No hospital," she says weakly. "No hospital." So her position is clear, at least. But you're the one who has to make the call. Your first aid skills are pretty solid, although you're not sure what supplies she'll have on hand. But the safest course, medically, is to get her to a hospital as soon as possible.\n\n[[Call an ambulance and bail.|ambulance]]\n\n[[Get her to a hospital and leave her outside.|ER]]\n\n
<<silently>>\n<<set $care = $sheet + $pressure + $elevate + $assure>>\n<<endsilently>><<if $care eq 0>>\nArc is lying on the bed, moaning in pain. Red is spreading around her on the sheet; the wound in her shoulder is trickling blood.\n\nYou have no medical supplies to work with.\n\n[[Elevate the wound.|elevate]]\n\n[[Rip the sheet for a bandage.|sheet]]\n\n[[Apply pressure to the wound.|pressure]]\n\n[[Tell her it will be alright.|assure]]\n\n<<else>>\n<<if $elevate eq 0>>\n<<if $pressure eq 0>>\nArc is lying on the bed, moaning in pain. Red is spreading around her on the sheet; the wound in her shoulder is trickling blood.\n\n<<if $sheet eq 1>>\nYou have an improvised bandage. \n\n<<else>>\nYou have no medical supplies to work with.\n\n<<endif>>\n\n[[Elevate the wound.|elevate]]\n<<if $sheet eq 0>>\n<html></html>\n[[Rip the sheet for a bandage.|sheet]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[Apply pressure to the wound.|pressure]]\n<<if $assure eq 0>>\n<html></html>\n[[Tell her it will be alright.|assure]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nArc is lying on the bed, whimpering softly. The sheets are stained red with blood. You've slowed the bleeding, but not stopped it.\n\n<<if $pressure eq 2>>\nYour improvised bandage lies over Arc's wound, saturated with blood.\n\n<<else>>\nYour hands are covered with Arc's blood.\n<<endif>>\n\n[[Elevate the wound.|elevate]]\n\n<<if $assure eq 0>>\n[[Tell her it will be alright.|assure]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $pressure eq 0>>\nArc is lying on the bed, moaning in pain, her head and shoulders propped by pillows. The sheets are stained red with blood. The flow of blood from her wound has slowed but hasn't stopped. \n\n<<if $sheet eq 0>>\nYou have no medical supplies to work with. \n\n[[Rip the sheet for a bandage.|sheet]]\n\n[[Apply pressure to the wound.|pressure]]\n\n<<if $assure eq 0>>\n[[Tell her it will be alright.|assure]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nYou have an improvised bandage. \n\n[[Apply pressure to the wound.|pressure]]\n\n<<if $assure eq 0>>\n[[Tell her it will be alright.|assure]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nArc is lying on the bed, her head and shoulder propped by pillows. Her blood has stained the bedsheets red around her, but you've slowed the bleeding signifantly - for now. \n\n<<if $pressure eq 2>>\nYour improvised bandage lies over Arc's wound, saturated with blood.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYour hands are covered with Arc's blood.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $assure eq 0>>\n[[Tell her it will be alright.|assure]]\n\n[[continue|arccare4]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|arccare4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
What she really needs is a blood transfusion, painkillers, antibiotics, surgery, stitches - a hospital, in other words. But it's not an option. They'll be watching the hospitals; even if you can get her admitted and get away clean, she'll be arrested. \n\nAnd after that small army that showed up at the plaza, it's obvious the two of you are extremely hot, though you're still not sure why. Maybe that means a 20-year sentence for terrorism or murder or who knows what. Maybe it means extraordinary rendition, a secret prison, no trial, and who knows what to follow. Better to die. \n\nYou're going to have to do this yourself.\n\n[[continue|arccare3]]\n\n\n
You go back into Arc's kitchen/living area. There's not much here: two cheap chairs, some drawers and cabinets, a fridge, a sink, a stove, and a microwave. \n\nThere are two doors.\n<<if $glass eq 0>>\n<<if $kit eq 0>>\n<html></html>\n[[Find a glass for water.|glass]]\n<html></html>\n[[Open the door by the plastic chairs.|bathroom]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[Find a glass for water.|glass]]\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $kit eq 0>>\n<html></html>\n[[Open the door by the plastic chairs.|bathroom]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[Open the door near the fridge.|workshop]]\n<html></html>\n[[Go back into Arc's room.|arccare6]]\n
"Water," Arc groans. You've got the bleeding sufficiently under control that you can leave her for a moment. And Arc might have something in the apartment that would be useful.\n<html></html>\n<<if $wound gte 3>>\nYou stand and have to stand still for a long moment to fight off a wave of dizzyness. You close your eyes to recover yourself, a mistake - the sleepiness that closing your eyes triggers is overwhelming; you could drop off where you're standing. And Arc would die. You have to keep going. \n<html></html>\nYou head back into the living room.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $wound gte 1>>\nYou stand up, and a wave of dizzyness hits you. You're tired; you need some time to rest and look after your own wounds. Arc's injury won't wait, though. You push through it, and head back into the living room.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYou head back into the living room.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|arccare5]]
You clean Arc's wound with alcohol and a cotton swab. She winces but makes no noise.\n\n[[continue|arccare8]]\n\n\n\n\n
Arc is still on the bed. She's still moaning, but getting quieter, fainter; she's tired, and low on blood.\n<<if $glass eq 0>>\n<html></html>\nShe calls softly, over and over, for water.\n\n[[return|arccare5]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $glass eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nShe calls softly, over and over, for water.\n\n[[Give Arc the water.|water]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $kit eq 1>>\n\n<html></html>\nShe lies still, relieved by the glass of water. Your improvised bandage is saturated with blood. \n\n[[Treat Arc's wound properly.|arccare7]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nShe lies still, relieved by the glass of water. Your improvised bandage is saturated with blood; you need to find something better.\n\n[[return|arccare5]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
An icon appears in the top left of your field of vision as you approach the location Armand gave you, to indicate an incoming call. \n\nYour operator is making contact.\n\n[["Hi!"|!]]\n\n[["Hello."|!]]\n\n[["Yeah?"|!]]\n\n<<set $marker = 0>>\n<<set $access = 0>>\n<<set $affinity = 0>>\n<<set $business = 0>>\n<<set $handle = "Redbreast">>\n<<set $name = "Case">>\n<<set $wound = 0>>\n<<set $body = 0>>\n<<set $kill = 0>>\n<<set $talked = 0>>\n<<set $flirted = 0>>\n<<set $peril = 0>>\n<<set $sawagent = 0>>\n<<set $distance = 0>>\n<<set $brown = 0>>\n<<set $arcwound = 0>>\n<<set $elevate = 0>>\n<<set $sheet = 0>>\n<<set $pressure = 0>>\n<<set $assure = 0>>\n<<set $care = 0>>\n<<set $glass = 0>>\n<<set $kit = 0>>\n<<set $endcondition = 0>>\n<<set $treated = 0>>\n<<set $pcworkshop = 0>>\n<<set $clue = 0>>\n<<set $watchedarmand = 0>>\n<<set $brownretort = 0>>\n<<set $care = 0>>
Your appetite wakes up when you lay eyes on the food, just as fierce as before. You sit down and start to chow down; with all the work your 'ware had to do today you've got a fierce calorie debt to make up. Arc's laid out some soy-based protein bars; they're bland but you find yourself scarfing them, acting out your body's need to replenish itself. \n\nYou look up at the sound of laughter from the bed. Arc's woken up, and turned to watch you with obvious amusement.\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n"You are so. Extremely. Cute right now!" she giggles. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n"The stories about augmented appetites sure aren't exaggerations," she says, winking.\n<html><html>\n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|playercaredebriefb]]
You pop up and begin firing back into the plaza. There's no such thing as "safely" shooting at someone in a firefight, of course, but you aim intentionally low and wide. Killing anyone will just make everything worse. \n\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThey break their pursuit to take cover before resuming fire - but more cops are starting to move in.\n\n[[continue|arcruns4]]\n \n<<else>>\nThey take cover but they start returning fire. And more of them are moving in. \n\nWhere are they coming from? Who got this many shooters into the heart of downtown without the cops noticing? And where //are// the cops? Where are all those groups of police with the black kevlar armor and the automatic weapons from before? \n\n[[continue|arcrunscops]]\n<<endif>>
She laughs. "I don't know, I think he makes it work. I mean, it's different. Always room for some of that, right?"\n\n"Well, cool. Cool cool cool. Good to meet you. So what's your handle?"\n\n[["Call me..."|handle]]\n
"Oh god, those ties! And he's so proud of them, too! I said something about the one he was wearing and he talked for ten minutes about how proper knots for neck ties are a lost art."\n\nShe chuckles. "Cool. Cool cool cool. Good to meet you. So what's your handle?"\n\n[["Call me..."|handle]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
Arc frowns, and considers your words carefully.\n\n"Damn it, " she says finally. "You have a point.\n\n"This is the biggest mess I've ever been in that I know so little about. Retiring early and hiding out on a beach somewhere is tempting, but this time, it might not be enough.\n\n"Our best chance out of this, at least until we know more, is to go on the offensive. And our best chance at that doing that is together. \n\n"So I've got your back."\n\n[[continue|partners]]
<<if $arcwound neq 1>>>>\nAt a first glance, though, Arc's data confirms what she surmised last night: the people behind this seem to be Feds. And that's a kind of trouble you haven't dealt with before.\n<html></html> \n<<else>>\nArc's data seems to point to a strange, troubling conclusion: the people behind this are Feds. And that's a kind of trouble you haven't dealt with before. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\nThe Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. They're less corrupted by corporate interests than local police, but that doesn't mean they're less corrupt, just that the fingers pulling their strings are hidden in a very deep, very dangerous darkness. \n\nYou know the corporate world, all the politics, all the bullshit, and all the tricks. Feds means national security, means national intelligence programs - means you've got a real mess to sort out.\n\n[[continue|asharkwithlessfins5]]\n
You glance up at the third-story windows of the building; the blinds are drawn in Arc's hideout, and the windows are dark. You know she's busy inside, though, packing what she can and preparing for the risky trip out of the city. She's going to head to an airport a few states over - but she wasn't free with the details. \n\nYou put her out of your mind; your partnership with Arc is over now, and you've got a job to focus on. \n\n[[continue|likeashark3]]
<<if $clue eq 1>>\nYour best clue is the hint that Armand dropped. \n<html></html>\n'Black ops law enforcement going rogue to target high-level freelancers.' That's what he said. Exactly what he meant, you don't know. But whatever's going on, it includes the ambush at Minos, co-opting the city police, and whatever they did to get to Armand. \n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut what Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. "They" must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark3.5]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $brownretort eq 1>>\nThe woman from Minos - 'Brown' (you don't believe that's her real name, anymore than you were born <<print $handle>>). She said you weren't beyond 'the system' anymore. Who knows what that means, exactly. But it does mean that somebody out there is gunning for you.\n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut what Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. "They" must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark3.5]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $brown eq 1>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. The augmented woman from Minos, "Brown" - she's undoubtedly one of them. But you don't know much about her, other than that she's plugged in with the police, and somebody paid for a lot of cyberware for her. \n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut what Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. "They" must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark3.5]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. But something big is going down. The agent from Minos who followed you downtown, the way the police turned on you, the fact that they got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut what Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. "They" must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark3.5]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. But something big is going down. The ambush at Minos, the way the police turned on you, the fact that someone got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<html></html>\n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut what Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. "They" must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark3.5]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
Rogue cops, compromised allies, augmented enemies. You've got your work cut out for you. And you have to handle it all alone.\n\nBut the sun is rising, and you're alive and free for another day. \n\nAnd a quick internet search through your telecom rig tells you there's a place with great eggs nearby.\n\nYou'll just have to hope the rest will work itself out. \n\n[[end|credits]]
<<if $affinity gte 5>>\n<<if $flirted gte 2>>\nTo your complete surprise, she responds by kissing you briefly but firmly on the mouth. "Be safe," she says. Any number of emotions play across her face in a single instant. Then she starts running as fast as her legs can carry her. \n\nYou don't any time to think on it, because you hear more gunshots; your assailants lost sight of you momentarily when you entered the walkway, but now they're back in view - and much closer.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\nShe hesitates a moment before nodding. "Alright," she says. "Be safe." She leans in and gives you a quick peck on the cheek. "You're ok." Then she starts running as fast as her legs can carry her. \n\nYou don't any time to think on it, because you hear more gunshots; your assailants lost sight of you momentarily when you entered the walkway, but now they're back in view - and much closer.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nShe nods. "This is where I would say, 'I won't leave you alone,' she says. "But you seem to know what you're doing with this whole getting-shot-at-thing. Be safe." \n\nShe turns and runs. "And thanks!" she calls over her shoulder. \n\nYou hear a gunshot and turn back towards the plaza. Your assailants lost sight of you momentarily when you entered the walkway, but now they're back in view - and much closer. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $business gte 3>>\n<<silently>>\n<<set $peril = $peril - 1>>\n<<endsilently>>She nods. "Don't cut it too close," is all she says.\n\nShe turns and runs. "And thanks!" she calls over her shoulder. \n\nYou hear a gunshot and turn back towards the plaza. Your assailants lost sight of you momentarily when you entered the walkway, but now they're back in view - and much closer.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nShe looks conflicted for a long moment, but ultimately she nods. This is your area, she's willing to let you call the shots. "Thank you," she says gravely. "Really. Thank you."\n\nShe turns and runs. You hear a gunshot and turn back towards the plaza. Your assailants lost sight of you momentarily when you entered the walkway, but now they're back in view - and much closer.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|arcruns2]]
You reach one of the pedestrian ways leading out of the plaza; flanked by high buildings, it's shadowy even in the noonday sun. It's probably usually jammed with lunching office drones and shopping elites at this time, but the stampeding crowd has emptied out this end. You can still see the mass of people fleeing up the street. \n\n[[continue|rescuearc3]]
You go for the hostile wearing the exoskeleton. \n\nThere's no way your pistol can penetrate that armor; you don't bother, and instead get close and low, sliding across the last several meters to close the range faster, and try to trip them up with a sweep of your mechanical leg.\n\n[[continue|right2]]\n\n\n<<set $marker = $marker + 2>>
The job Armand hired you and Arc for is going down on a small campus that's home to a number of well-financed young start-ups. It's very beautiful, more charming (though also less luxurious) than what you'd see at a megacorp complex. Green parks and stands of trees separate buildings constructed with fashionable organic curves and mirrored glass. \n\n[[continue|positionone2]]
You land straddling her, your knees pinning her arms down. She struggles for a moment, but she's not shifting your mechanical legs an she knows it. \n\n"You're good," she says grimly.\n\n[["Back at you. What was someone like you doing at Minos?"|tangleretort]]\n\n[["Tell me who you work for and I won't blow your brains all over the sidewalk."|tangleretort]]\n
"Thank you so much for saying so, <<print $handle>>, I'm glad you like the ensemble! You've seen it before, you know, although I'm not sure you realize it. This look was the rage in Rio de Janeiro the last time we worked together there. Well, you remember." \n\nYou're not immediately sure what he means by that. You never worked with Armand on a job in Rio. \n\n[["Armand, there were operatives waiting for us. I'm talking military hardware, fully upgraded..."|meet7a]]\n\n[["What the hell are you talking about? Rio?"|meet7b]]
"I'm sure I don't know, <<print $handle>>," he says, picking up his wine again. "Certainly nothing on my end. The client, the intel, everything I provided was top shelf. Like the Rio de Janeiro job."\n\nYou're not immediately sure what he means by that. You never worked with Armand on a job in Rio. \n\n[["Armand, there were operatives waiting for us. I'm talking military hardware, fully upgraded..."|meet7a]]\n\n[["What the hell are you talking about? Rio?"|meet7b]]
Arc reaches out and grabs her laptop. "Take a look at this - I got some work done before I fell asleep."\n\nShe pulls up a news site. Grainy pictures of both of you - surveillance from the firefight downtown - are splashed over the front page. You spot words like "shoot-out" and "terrorists."\n \n[[continue|playercaredebrief2]]
Arc smiles, then beckons you over, pulling up her laptop. "Come over - I've been working."\n\nShe pulls up a news site. Grainy pictures of both of you - surveillance from the firefight downtown - are splashed over the front page. You spot words like "shoot-out" and "terrorists."\n\n[[continue|playercaredebrief2]]
"Thanks," she says absently, "I appreciate it. But it shouldn't have come to that. \n\n"Who the fuck were those guys, anyway? And what were they doing guarding hard drives in a commercial server farm?"\n\n[["It was a setup."|card]]\n\n[["Maybe Armand knows."|care]] \n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
"Let's blow this disgustingly-overpriced popcycle stand!" Arc yells. She hops on the segway and is off, burning rubber down the pedestrian way.\n\nYou stand, emptying your clip to force the cops into cover; they oblige - all except for one figure. \n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nIt's the agent - the one who was at Minos, who's taken cover with some of the cops. She glares at you; her eyes are cold and calculating.\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nShe doesn't look like a cop; she's dressed like one of the elites who usually flock in this area, except that her eyes are cold and calculating - and she's lit up in the infrared. Lit up exactly like the kevlar-clad operative back at Minos. \n<<endif>>\n<<if $peril lte 1>>\n<html></html>\nShe calls out for a gun - but the cops are all cowering in cover. You turn and follow Arc, and breathe a sigh as relief as your legs get up to speed.\n\n[[continue|archacksfast]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nOne cop darts out of cover long enough to give her an smg - and she's charging, and you're out of ammo.\n\n[[continue|archacksslow]]\n<<endif>>\n
A "high-performance" segway is a patently unnecessary machine, but those words magically raise the price tag a good deal, which makes them more desirable among the people who ride segways.\n\n[[return|archacks3]]
She falls asleep, though she's fitful. There's not much more you can do for her now, except hope. And get some rest yourself.\n\n[[continue|rested]]
You glance up at the third-story windows of the building; the blinds are drawn in Arc's hideout, and the windows are dark, although you know she's busy inside, packing what she can and preparing for the risky trip out of the city. She's going to head to an airport a few states over - but she wasn't free with the details. \n\nShe did help you make your own arrangements, at least. You have a flight booked out of the country in five days in another state, and a clean ID that should get you through customs. \n\n[[continue|hittheground3]]
The rest - including the tricky bit of getting out of the city, and the really tricky bit of where to hide in an ever-shrinking world - is up to you.\n\nDoing this without Arc is going to kind of suck. You're pretty good in a firefight, or when infiltrating a building, but in a world where every kitchen appliance has an online presence, a hacker makes hiding a whole lot easier. \n\n[[continue|hittheground4]]
Everybody who lives the life of a freelance operator lives with the threat of something like this happening: a job gone wrong, the wrong enemy pissed off, too much heat called down. You aren't entirely unprepared. But at the same time, you hadn't counted on this job, this milk run against Minos, going wrong, and you don't have your whole life tied up in a bow, ready to drop.\n\nYou feel a headache start to bloom in your temples, and mentally you have your telecom rig search for nearby breakfast joints.\n\nIt's going to be a long day. You need some coffee.\n\n[[end|credits]]
"I don't plan on it," she says icily. \n\n"Who the fuck were those guys anyway?" she asks. "And what the fuck were they doing guarding hard drives at a commercial server farm?" \n\n[["It was a setup."|card]]\n\n[["Maybe Armand knows."|care]] \n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity - 2>>
"I'm not sure," she says. "They had a top of the line electronic warfare suite, either implanted in one of them or built into that damn exoskeleton. They sent out a broad-spectrum jam, a good one - I had to get into some pretty funky frequencies to reestablish contact.\n\n"Who the fuck were those guys, anyway? And what were they doing guarding hard drives at a commercial server farm?" \n\n[["It was a setup."|card]]\n\n[["Maybe Armand knows."|care]] \n\n<<set $business = $business + 1>>
There's a brief silence over the line. "...you're right," she says. "Thanks. \n\n"Who the fuck were those guys, anyway? And what were they doing guarding hard drives in a commercial server farm?"\n\n[["It was a setup."|card]]\n\n[["Maybe Armand knows."|care]] \n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
"Done," she says. "Uploading a route for you, and then I'll be offline. I want to be there for this. I'll keep voice running on my mobile - I don't want you to be cut-off if there's any trouble."\n\n[["Ok - I'll See you there."|meet]]\n\n[["Great. That got intense, huh?"|chat]]
"Yeah," she says. "I guess it kind of is."\n\n"Listen, I'll set it up and send the route to your car. But let's play it safe. I've got a dead drop on the way you can stash the hard drive in for now. And when you get there... maybe it make sense for me to make contact and you to hang back - you play operator for me, this time. What do you think?"\n\n[["No - I want to talk to Armand myself. We'll take the meet together."|cargno]]\n\n[["Let's do it - I want to be ready if this goes bad."|cargyes]]\n\n[["You don't want me to take the meet?"|whyarc]]
"What do you mean?" she asks. "You don't mean... you don't think that Armand..."\n\nNeither of you complete the thought. It hangs in the air for a long moment.\n\n"...I've been texting with him," she says finally. "He says he wants to meet. In person."\n\n[["Ok. Set it up."|carf]]\n\n[["That's... convenient."|carg]]\n\n<<set $marker = 0>>
"That's a good idea," she says. "I've been texting with him. He says he wants to meet. In person."\n\n[["Ok. Set it up."|carf]]\n\n[["That's... convenient."|carg]]\n\n<<set $marker = 0>>
"The cops are mobilizing big. They're everywhere and they're actively looking for us. They got a bad tip that we're somewhere in Roxbury and they're going house to house. So getting out of town will be good - though not easy. \n\n"But what's really interesting is that it's not just cops talking to cops - they're getting their marching orders somewhere else.\n\n"I //think// it's some species of Feds."\n\n[["Feds? The hell?"|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<if $brown eq 1>>\n<<if $brownretort eq 1>>\n[["That woman, 'Agent' Brown - she said something, something about how I wasn't 'above the system' anymore. If she's a Fed... maybe this is the start of something..."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n[[That woman, 'Agent' Brown - if she's some sort of augmented Fed agent, that would explain how she was hooked in with the police.|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n[[I saw a woman downtown with the same IR profile as one of the operatives at Minos. Maybe she's some sort of augmented Fed agent."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $watchedarmand eq 1>>\n[["Armand did his best to signal us - these Feds must have gotten to him somehow."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\n[["Armand said something weird, something about 'black ops law enforcement' - maybe he was trying to tell us something about this."|playercaredebrief4]]\n<<else>>\n[["Could they have gotten to Armand?"|playercaredebrief4]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
"So that's the media's take," Arc says, "predictably. Meanwhile, I called in some markers and got patched into some of the local police networks."\n\n[["Is that safe?"|playercaredebrief3b]]\n\n[["What did you find out?"|playercaredebrief3]]
You only get the first word out, though, before you hear someone yell behind you: "HANDS IN THE AIR! HANDS IN THE AIR!"\n\nYou spin around. Black masks, bulky black kevlar, sub-machine guns. Three of them.\n\nHoly crap. Whoever they are, they're pretty bold. An attack in force in broad daylight, in the middle of the city? They're running a hell of a risk. \n\nBut it does leave you in a tight spot. \n\n[[continue|watchchoice]]\n\n<<set $watchedarmand = 1>>\n<<set $peril = 3>>
"The way I see it, we have two options. We go to ground, disappear completely for as long as we need to. Or we go big, we go after whoever's behind this and we burn them. I don't even know what that means, but we hurt them bad enough that they won't - or, I would prefer, can't - come after us again.\n\n"What do you think?"\n\n[["We should hide until this blows over."|ground]]\n\n[["We go after them."|big]]\n\n[["I'm going to hide - alone."|groundsolo]]\n\n[["I'm going after them - by myself."|bigsolo]]\n\n<<set $care = 1>>
Arc shakes her head. "I just don't know. Maybe I can find out, with enough time, but time is something we don't have much of.\n\n"Somebody - maybe these Feds, maybe somebody pulling their strings, maybe someone else altogether - compromised Armand and set us up. Now they have the police combing the city for us. The question is, what do we do?" \n\n[[continue|playercaredebrief5]]
You watch her as she works. She's intent on the task, her lips parted slightly in concentration, her brow furrowed. \n\nShe glances up at one point, and your eyes meet. You're both quiet for a moment, and then she blushes and suddenly becomes very focused on what she's doing.\n\n[["You're cute when you blush."|playercareflirt]]\n\n[["..."|playercarebusinessrev2]]
Just as you're on your way back out, you spot one more thing that catches your eye: a hefty machine attached to a flexible hose that ends in a metal implement. A bulky metal mask lies beside it. \n\nAn arc welder. \n\nMakes as much sense as anything.\n\n[[continue|playercareexplore]]\n\n<<set $pcworkshop = 1>>
It's hard to tell what she might be doing in here exactly. You see two computing towers in various states; she might be building or upgrading PCs, but that wouldn't explain all the mechanical components. \n\nYou spy what looks like a partially assembled robotic arm on the workbench; given her enthusiasm for cyberware, that might be one function of this mess of a workshop.\n\n[[continue|pcworkshop3]]
"Hm, ok, down to business, I can respect that. But maybe you can give me a security challenge, first?"\n\n[[Give the security challenge she's expecting.|!2]]\n\n[["Right, the security challenge is 'Armand needs to relax.'"|!relax]]\n\n<<set $business = $business + 1>>
You keep the pistol ready at your side and poise to strike out with your legs, your most potent weapon, and you wait.\n\nTheir timing is good, but you get a moment's warning as all the suppression fire suddenly stops at once. An instant later, she flips gracefully over the lemonade stand. \n\nShe lands and tries to aim, but before she can your legs lash out and she goes flying down the walkway. You leap after her, pressing the advantage. \n\n[[continue|tangle2]]
Your 'ware makes a fight-or-flight response partly redundant - and potentially dangerous. A burst of adrenaline makes people stronger and tougher and helps them react faster, but at a cost. Judgment and higher reasoning are affected, and the fighter-or-flyer crashes before too long. \n\nSo your 'ware restrains adrenaline production - until things get really, really bad. Then it gives you a larger than normal dose of adrenaline to let you make one last desperate effort. \n\n[[return|flash5]]
<<if $affinity gte 2>>\nShe meets your eyes, take a deep breath, and nods. The sobbing stops, though tears are still streaming down her eyes. She rises painfully to her feet and climbs up onto the segway. \n\n[[continue|arcwounded2]]\n \n<<else>>\nShe nods, still sobbing, and starts trying to get to her feet - trying and failing, for a long time. The cops start to advance and you're forced to lay down more cover fire. You take another hit, a solid hit in your off-hand arm; even with you're 'ware helping you push through, you won't be doing anything much with that arm for a while.\n\n[[continue|arcwounded2]]\n\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>\n
She nods seriously; she looks doubtful. \n\n"Ok. Maybe later?"\n\n[["Oh, definitely later."|playercaredebriefc]]\n\n[["Maybe. Let's talk about it more."|playercaredebriefc]]\n\n[["I'm not interested."|kissnever]]
<<if $affinity lt 0>>\nShe glares at you. "Fuck you," she says, voice raw. She stops sobbing, though tears are still streaming down her face.\n\nShe rises slowly to her feet and climbs up onto the segway. \n\n[[continue|arcwounded2]]\n<<else>>\nShe just stares at you numbly. She starts trying to get to her feet - trying and failing, for a long time. The cops start to advance and you're forced to lay down more cover fire. You take another hit, a solid hit in your off-hand arm; even with you're 'ware helping you push through, you won't be doing anything much with that arm for a while.\n\n[[continue|arcwounded2]]\n\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n<<endif>>\n<<set $affinity = $affinity - 2>>
You find a clean corner of the white sheet on Arc's bed, grip it, and rip. It tears easily in your strong hands. You're left holding a long, uneven strip of thin cotton. \n\nYou fold the cotton into a square, several layers thick. It's not much of a bandage, but better than nothing. \n\n[[continue|arccare3]]\n\n<<set $sheet = 1>>
She stops what she's doing; the blush deepens. "Well," she manages a long moment later. "You're pretty cute when you're not full of holes. So tell me that again when you're not." She glances up, grinning wickedly. "And see what happens." \n\n[[continue|playercarebusinessrev2]]\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>
Lilly 730ax Hyperform Prosthetic Limbs. Top (safe) land speed of 80kph. Enhanced strength for lifting, jumping, and close quarters combat. \n\nThe legs themselves were expensive, like, down payment on a building in Manhattan expensive. The surgery to have them installed was several times more. \n\nYou hustled a long time for these legs. Now they hustle for you. \n\n[[continue|hardware]]
"Come on, Armand," Arc shoots back. "<<print $handle>> isn't going to buy it. The odds of operatives like that just happening to be in a shitty little server farm the day we go in are astronomical and you know it." \n\n"That's true," he replies. "Astronomical is exactly right. Where //is// your counterpart?"\n\nA uniformed cops advances on the girl in leather. She sees him coming and walks off in the other direction; he seems content to let her go. She can't be older than 16, you see as the angle changes. Probably bought the jacket in a hip vintage store with mommy's credit card. No threat.\n\n[[continue|watchplaza3]]\n\n
These are serious operatives. There are two of them; one figure in [[tactical gear]] on your left and one in some sort of [[powered exoskeleton]] to your right. \n\nYour fast reaction seems to have caught them off-guard, however; you have a moment to make your move. \n\n[[Attack left.]]\n\n[[Attack right.]]
You pop up and begin firing back into the plaza. There's no such thing as "safely" shooting at someone in a firefight, of course, but you aim intentionally low and wide. Killing anyone will just make everything worse. \n\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThey break their pursuit to take cover before resuming fire. It grates on your instincts but you stay out of cover and keep shooting; you have to draw their attention away from Arc. \n\nAnd more cops are starting to move in.\n\n[[continue|archacks3]]\n \n<<else>>\nThey take cover but they start returning fire. It grates on your instincts but you stay out of cover and keep firing; you have to draw their attention away from Arc. \n\nMore of them are moving in. Where are they coming from? Who got this many shooters into the heart of downtown without the cops noticing? And where //are// the cops? Where are all those groups of police with the black kevlar armor and the automatic weapons from before? \n\n[[continue|archackscops]]\n<<endif>>
You raise your pistol and let several shots off, just to make them think twice about advancing on you. \n\nThe withering fire dies, and for a moment you think you managed to scare them - maybe a lucky hit? But then you hear the sound of steps, and a woman flips gracefully over the lemonade stand. \n\nWhile you're still wondering where the hell she came from, she sticks the landing and levels an SMG on you. She's wearing a bulky flak jacket over fashionable tight jeans and a plain white t-shirt. The clothing doesn't conceal her infrared signature. \n\nIt matches the light-armored operative from Minos. \n\n[[continue|fireblind2]]
You turn back to the plaza and empty your clip to force the cops into cover. They oblige - all except for one figure. \n\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nIt's the agent - the one who was at Minos. She makes eye contact with you, and calls out for a gun.\n\n<<else>>\nIt's a woman. She doesn't look like a cop; she's wearing the fashionable garb of the elites who usually flock in this area, except that her eyes are cold and calculating and watching you - and she's lit up in the infrared. Lit up in ways that match the operative you met wearing kevlar back at Minos. \n\nShe calls out for a gun.\n<html></html>\n<<if $peril lte 1>>\nBut the cops still have their heads down, and you turn and follow Arc, and breathe a sigh as relief as your legs get up to speed. Her infrared signature isn't consistent with artificial legs - there's no way she can catch you now. \n\n[[continue|archacksfast]]\n<<else>>\nOne cop darts out of cover long enough to give her an smg - and she's charging, and you're out of ammo.\n\n[[continue|archacksslow]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n\n\n<<endif>>
<<if $affinity gte 2>>\nIt bobbles uncertainly as she finds her footing, trying to take direction from her uncertain footing, and for a moment you're afraid she's not going to be able to drive it - or that she'll try and take a spill. \n\nBut then it takes off; she's braced her good shoulder against its handlebars and is leaning on it heavily, but she's balanced herself well enough to operate it.\n \n[[continue|arcwounded3]]\n<<else>>\nFinally, Arc gets to her feet and climbs up onto the segway. \n\nIt bobbles uncertainly as she finds her footing, trying to take direction from her uncertain footing, and for a moment you're afraid she's not going to be able to drive it - or that she'll try and take a spill. \n\nBut then it takes off; she's braced her good shoulder against its handlebars and is leaning on it heavily, but she's balanced herself well enough to operate it.\n\n[[continue|arcwounded3]]\n\n<<endif>>
Like most casual administration of your hardware, you grant Arc config rights by thinking really hard about it. You picture the admin screen and it appears in your field of vision; you focus on the Hardware menu and the Permissions submenu and they open in your field of vision, then you focus on the options you want. \n\n[[continue|grantrights2]]\n\n<<set $access = $access + 1>>
She comes back a few minutes later with her hands full. She carries a glass of water in one hand, a large plate in the other, and a big black bag hangs by its straps from one of her arms. \n\nShe lays the plate down beside you; there's a bowl of mixed nuts and chocolate, three foil-wrapped energy bars, and a row of salted crackers. \n\nYou're body responds powerfully to the sight of these things, and you have a handful of the nuts and chocolate in your mouth before you're aware of reaching out for them.\n\nArc's 'ware expertise obviously extends to basic medical care for implanted individuals; this is exactly what you need right now. \n\n[[continue|playercare5]]
The fridge is disappointingly bare, almost completely empty except for some cans of [[Shot]]. \n\nBut as your eyes do one quick scan, you see something in the bottom drawer, and find clusters of grapes. They're in your hands without you deciding to reach out for them. Your 'ware has been overclocking your body pretty relentlessly ever since Minos, and now your body wants these calories badly. \n\nThe grapes are a little overripe, a little too soft between your teeth, but they're cold and sweet and you can't remember anything ever tasting so good. \n\n[[continue|arccarerise2]]
<<if $marker eq 1>>\nYou tell Arc to get ready to run, and push off into the air with all the strength your legs can muster. \n\nYou get about ten feet of air, do a neat backflip, and land at a run heading toward where Arc and Armand sit in the cafe.\n<html></html>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThe cops start shooting, firing off [[fully-automatic bursts|copshots]]. \n\nFortunately they can't really aim with full-auto at this range. For now, luck is with you and you avoid a hit. \n<<else>>\nThey start shooting, firing off [[fully-automatic bursts|shots]].\n\nThey can't really aim with full-auto at this range - but there's a lot of lead in the air. You take a hit in the shoulder; there's a shot of pain that fades as your system floods with endorphins. You're not sure how bad it is, but you feel able to keep moving, so you do. \n<html></html>\n<<silently>>\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n<<endsilently>><<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $peril eq 2>>\nSeeing you trying to make your escape, the black-clad figures abruptly start shooting, firing off [[fully-automatic bursts|shots]].\n\nFortunately they can't really aim with full-auto at this range. For now, luck is with you and you avoid a hit. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYou stand, and the black-clad figures abruptly start shooting, firing off [[fully-automatic bursts|shots]].\n\nFortunately they can't really aim with full-auto at this range. For now, luck is with you and you avoid a hit. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|rescuearc.5]]
<<if $affinity gte 2>>\n<<silently>>\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>\n<<endsilently>>You have very good vision; you can see her eyes widen a little, and her cheeks get a little red. "I would very much like to hear more about that," she says, with mock irritation and a pleased little smile, "//later//."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 0>>\n<<silently>>\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>\n<<endsilently>>She raises her eyebrows appraisingly. "Oh my," she deadpans.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nShe snorts. "In your dreams."\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|perimeter3]]
Arc nods slowly. "Ok," she says. "Reset, fresh start. Cool. But don't push it. I forgive quicker than I forget."\n\n[[continue|playercarebusinessguarded]]\n\n<<set $affinity = 1>>
You sit on the edge of the bed and slowly, carefully start unlacing your boots. \n\n"If you say so," Arc says skeptically. \n\n"I'll be right back - take it easy, alright?" she adds, leaving the room. \n\n[[continue|playercare4i]]\n\n
One of the many custom reflexes programmed into your upgraded nervous system, an overhand blow that lands with just enough strength to render a target unconscious on a direct hit without causing any permanent trauma. \n\n[[return|nokill]]
Arc sighs. "Ok. If that's what you want, I'll respect it." She picks up her laptop. "I can get you overseas. \n<html></html>\n"I really liked working with you, <<print $handle>>. Good luck."\n<<if $flirted gte 10>>\n<html></html>\n"Get some sleep," she says. "I've got a lot to set up. I'll go work in the other room."\n<html></html>\n"Unless..." \n<html></html>\nA question hangs in the air between you all of a sudden. An invitation. Your heart beats a smidge faster.\n<html></html>\n[["Stay."|hidesolo]]\n<html></html>\n[["Go."|hidesolo]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|hidesolo]]\n<<endif>>
She screams - there's no other word for the sound.\n\nShe's sobbing, shouting. You've been shot before, but never without the aid of your 'ware to minimize the damage and take the edge off the pain. \n\nArc has the benefit of neither your 'ware nor your experience. She's hurting. And you've got to get her moving, gunshot or no, or you're both dead, or in jail for life. \n\n[[Arc, I know it hurts, but you've got to get up. Please - we need to get out of here.|arcwoundeda]]\n\n[[Arc, get your ass up now or I'm leaving you behind. Move it!|arcwoundedb]] \n\n<<set $arcwound = 1>>
You leave early the next morning; the sky is light but the sun isn't up. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries still trouble you, but they're healing quickly, and after a lot of high-calorie food and more sleep your 'ware-induced 'hangover' is finally clearing up. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYour injuries are healing, but you still feel like crap, and sleep and a lot of high-calorie food have only taken the edge off of your 'ware-induced hangover. \n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|hidesolo2]]
Ocular replacement is just a no-brainer, really. It's a safe, common procedure and much less invasive than most of the nervous system work you've had. \n\nIn addition to seeing into the IR and UV ranges, your vision is 30/20 and you'll never have to worry about far-sightedness. And on your model of prosthetic, eye color can be reconfigured at any time with a few minutes work. \n\n[[return|frag2]]\n\n
Ocular replacement is just a no-brainer, really. It's a safe, common procedure and much less invasive than most of the nervous system work you've had. \n\nIn addition to seeing into the IR and UV ranges, your vision is 30/20 and you'll never have to worry about far-sightedness. And on your model of prosthetic, eye color can be reconfigured at any time with a few minutes work. \n\n[[return|flash3]]\n\n
<<if $affinity gte 0>>\n<<if $body lte 0>>\n"How do you feel about your implants?"\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n"If you don't mind my asking - and please tell me if you do - how do you feel about your implants?"\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[["I love them."|feela]]\n\n[["Being implanted is strange..."|feelb]]\n\n[["I don't know, I haven't really thought about it."|feelc]]\n\n[["None of your business."|feeld]]\n\n<<if $body gte 1>>\n[["I'd rather not talk about it."|feele]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<display signoff>>\n<<endif>>
"Hear" never seemed quite right to you for communications directly wired into your auditory context by your implanted telecom rig. But you haven't come up with a better verb.\n\n[[return|!]]
All food is genetically modified, of course, it's just a matter of how. Most of it has been optimized for easy shipping and high sugar content. At this place, it's probably for //umami// or some ridiculous thing.\n\n[[return|perimeter]]
"I'll be at the meet soon," Arc says. "See you there."\n<<if $marker eq 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Or you'll see me, anyway."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n"I sure hope Armand can make this make sense."\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|meet]]
<<display "signoff">>
You arrange Arc's pillows at the head of the bed and then shift Arc so that her head and shoulders rest against them - elevating her wounded shoulder above her heart. It should help stop the bleeding. \n\nArc cries out when you move her, but she tries to help you as best she can.\n\n[[continue|arccare3]]\n\n<<set $elevate = 1>>
"Aw, that's no fun," Arc says. "But then, I guess I don't exactly love the idea of getting killed, or disappeared by some crazy conspiracy.\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n"And I don't mind the idea of being stuck somewhere alone with you. Maybe tropical. Lots of beaches, lots of bathing suits.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"I think I've got just the thing, actually," she adds after a moment.\n<<if $arcwound eq 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Go into my workshop, the door by the fridge, and grab my my laptop, will you?"\n<html></html>\nIt takes you a few moments to recover the laptop from the mess in Arc's workshop, but you track it down and bring it to her.\n<html></html>\n[[continue|ground2]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|ground2]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n"I can get us started."\n<<if $arcwound eq 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Go into my workshop, the door by the fridge, and grab my my laptop, will you?"\n<html></html>\nIt takes you a few moments to recover the laptop from the mess in Arc's workshop, but you track it down and bring it to her.\n<html></html>\n[[continue|ground2]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties. \n\n[[continue|ground2]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
"Ok, no worries. I'm set here, in that case. Execute insertion when ready." \n\n<<if $marker eq 1>>\n[[continue|dynamic1]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|covert1]]\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $business = $business + 1>>
Arc, suddenly serious, offers you her hand to shake. You do, and she smiles grimly. "Ok. It's on." \n\nShe grabs her laptop. "I've got some work to do. Phase one is research. I'm going to figure out who the hell these fuckers are. You rest up; you'll need your strength for phase two."\n\nShe grins at you. "This is gonna be fun." \n\n[[continue|bigbreakfast]]
<<if $marker gte 2>>\n<<if $marker eq 2>>\nThere's a row of windows dead ahead. Arc highlights one. "There!" \n\nYou fire a few rounds into the glass as you run, and take your best leap through it without breaking stride.\n\nYou land hard in a shower of glass, but you keep moving. \n\n[[continue|exfil]]\n<<else>>\nYou're headed right for the window you broke through earlier. You jump out and land hard, but you keep moving.\n\n[[continue|exfil]] \n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $marker eq 0>>\nYou run down the hall, up the stairs, onto the roof. "North," Arc says, and there's an arrow in your field of vision. You follow it and leap from the building at full tilt.\n\n[[continue|exfil]]\n<<else>>\nYou run down the hall. Arc's flagged a door her distinctive yellow; you take it, and then follow her trail up a flight of stairs. You slam open a door at the top and now you're on the roof. \n\n"North," Arc says, and there's an arrow in your field of vision. You follow it and leap from the building at full tilt.\n\n[[continue|exfil]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
"Why?" she asks. \n\nHer tone makes you picture her leaning forward, eyes big. \n\n[["Because they let you do so much cool stuff!"|lovem]]\n\n[["I could never do the work I do without them."|lovem2]]\n\n[["Because hardware is power. Hardware means nobody pushes you around. You're free."|lovem]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
She laughs. "Fair enough. Ok, I'll see you at the meet."\n\n[[continue|meet]]
There's a brief pause. "How do you mean?" she asks.\n\n[["I treat them like they're a part of me. But they're not."|whynota]]\n\n[["They change your perspective. You don't look at the world the same way. I wonder if they've changed me."|whynotb]]\n\n[["Everybody talks about the superpowers. Nobody talks about the side effects."|whynotc]]
<<silently>>\n<<set $handle = prompt("What's your handle - the name you use when you're doing business?")>>\n<<endsilently>>"Pleasure, <<print $handle>>. You can call me...\n\n[[continue|titlesplash]]\n\n
<<if $body gte 1>>\nThere's a long pause. "I'm sorry," she says tightly. "I shouldn't have asked." \n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 0>>\n"Wow, ok. You brought it up. Whatever, sorry I asked, forget it."\n<<else>>\n"Yeah ok, I don't know what the hell your problem is, but I have done nothing but help you so far. You don't want to talk about your 'ware, that's cool. You don't want to be civil, that's fine too, I'll keep my mouth shut."\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<html></html>\n[["Whatever. I'll see you at the meet."|meet]]\n\n[["Sorry, I'm not trying to piss you off - my 'ware's just a personal subject, ok?"|cleartheair]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity - 1>>\n\n<<set $body = $body + 1>>
It's hard to tell what she might be doing in here exactly. You see two computing towers in various states; she might be building or upgrading PCs, but that wouldn't explain all the mechanical components. \n\nYou spy what looks like a partially assembled robotic arm on the workbench; given her enthusiasm for cyberware, that might be one function of this mess of a workshop.\n\nIn any event, there's nothing in here that will help you stabilize Arc.\n\n[[continue|arccare5]]
A skilled hardware operator can get better performance out of your more complex augments by taking manual control and making adjustments on the fly. \n\nYou probably don't //need// that edge for this job - it sounds like a cakewalk. And there is an element of trust; with config rights to your 'ware, she could seriously mess you up if she wanted to for some reason.\n\nAnd besides that... it's an intimate thing. You'd be granting her control over parts of your body. \n\n[[continue|configrights2]]
The pedestrian way is your only means of escape, but it's also a deathtrap.\n\nNo cover, no escape for about five hundred feet; the high-priced boutiques already have steel shutters slamming shut on their storefronts, triggered by [[panic buttons]] inside. If you and Arc head down there at her current pace, you'll be shot down well before you reach cover.\n\n[[continue|rescuearc3.5]]\n\n
"This," Arc pants, bullets whizzing by you both, people screaming as they run to get away from you and the gunmen, "is why I like to do the computer part of the job." \n\nShe's running gamely, but she's not in shape for this. Already she's breathing hard, and setting a pace that is, for you, painfully slow. Either she's going to need transport or you're going to need to get her more time.\n\n[[continue|rescuearc2.5]]\n\n\n
"Thanks, now let me take a quick look... lemme see, hormone control, full nervous upgrade - I've worked with this UI before, great - electrical enhancement for the muscle grafts, uh huh...\n\n"Wow, this //is// good shit," she says finally, with decided approval. "Armand really isn't fucking around on this job. Good."\n\n"Ok," she says several long moments later. "I'm set. Execute insertion when ready." \n\n<<if $marker eq 1>>\n[[continue|dynamic1]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|covert1]]\n<<endif>>
"Don't worry about it, yet," she says. "I'm seeing what I can find out about what happened, and what's going on now. \n\n"You try to sleep. You've put your badassery well beyond question; now sleep, and let me do what I do."\n\nYou're too exhausted to argue with that.\n<html></html>\n<<if $body lte 1>>\n[[continue|playercarepermission]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|playercaretime]]\n<<endif>>
It takes you several minutes to clean and then to dress all of your injuries. Arc leaves for a moment and comes back with a laptop computer. She starts busily clacking keys.\n\n<<if $affinity gte 3>>\nShe glances up every few moments, monitoring your progress and giving encouraging smiles. You finish off the trail mix during a brief break and she goes out into the kitchen and comes back with more. \n<<else>>\nShe glances up periodically to monitor your progress. You finish off the trail mix during a brief break and she goes out into the kitchen and comes back with more. But she becomes increasingly absorbed in her laptop.\n<<endif>>\n\nFinally you're done; you lay back with a sigh.\n\n[["What are you doing?"|playercare5self3]]\n\n[["We can't stay here forever. What's our next move?"|playercare5self3]]
"Drop the gun!" she shouts. //Cop//, your instincts are screaming at you. The command is dripping with her cop-ness, if it wasn't obvious enough aleady. "Put it //down//, shit stain!"\n\nGetting arrested is so, so, //so// not an option. You're not getting out of this without it hurting. But you have to do what you have to do.\n\n[[You have a gun too. Quickdraw on her.|quickdraw]]\n\n[[Get close - your legs will give you the edge.|disarm]]\n\n[[You don't need to take her out - just get past her.|runrun]]
You have the advantage, despite your injury; she glares at you down the barrel of your gun. But it doesn't last long.\n\n"Step away from Agent Brown!" shouts a voice behind you. You glance. The cops have moved up; they're all around you. It's time to leave.\n\n[[continue|timetoleave]]\n\n<<set $brown = 1>>
Arc is awake and sitting up in bed as you come in. "Like the place? Not much here. I swear my real apartment has, like, art on the walls, and furniture, and everything. I just keep this place for emergencies."\n\n[["Smart."|playercaredebriefb]]\n\n[["So what now?"|playercaredebriefb]]\n<<if $pcworkshop eq 1>>\n<html></html>\n[["And as workshop?"|pcbedroom2]]\n<<endif>>\n\n
<<if $affinity gte 0>>\n"That's... kinda hot."\n\n[["Oh really? I'll make a note of that."|lovemohyeah]]\n\n[["Oh. Um... Don't get the wrong idea."|lovemcoolit]]\n\n[["That's... kind of weird."|lovemcoolit]]\n<<else>>\nShe sighs. "That's cool. 'Ware is cool."\n<html></html>\n[[continue|lovem3]] \n<<endif>>\n\n
This terrible firing discipline tells you two things: you aren't up against high-quality operatives, and they don't care how many people they hurt to get you. \n\n[[return|rescuearc]]
You hear stirring from the bedroom. Arc calls you. "Hey," she says weakly. "Guess I dozed off..." \n\n[["How do you feel?"|acfeel]]\n\n[["I was worried about you."|acworried]]\n\n[["We should talk about our next move."|acwake2]]
Going up against cops changes everything. \n\nOperatives like you have an informal detente with law enforcement. You work mostly for corporations, and the cops ultimately do as well. Generally, if you leave law enforcement alone, law enforcement will leave you alone, unless you inconvenience them by getting caught in the act. \n\nBut that arrangement is unspoken and very fragile. The public mostly thinks of operatives as terrorists, and if you're actually caught, you'll be treated like one. \n\n[[continue|archackscops3]]
And apparently someone forgot to tell //these// cops that they shouldn't go after an operative. Or more likely, somebody told them they had to. \n\nYou're in some kind of deep shit, and you have no idea what kind.\n<<if $kill gte 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut you do know you just made it a lot worse by shooting that cop.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\nThe thought crosses your mind: what was the last thing Armand said? Something about a police black op? He was acting so strangely, but - was he trying to tell you something?\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|archacks3]]
Arc frowns, and considers your words carefully.\n\n"Fine, " she says finally. "You have a point.\n\n"You want to rush into the lion's den on your own, that's not my problem. But I'll see if I can't get you some more intel, some fresh IDs that they won't tie back to you, anything else I can think of that might help. And don't say I never did anything for you. \n\n"That's tonight. Tomorrow, I'm booking a flight and I'm gone. And you can march off to your death at whatever speed you want." \n\n[[continue|likeasharkwithlessfins]]
<<display "signoff">>
Huh, is that what her handle means? Or is it like, Joan of Arc?\n\nYou push the thought aside. Not important.\n\n[[return|dynamic2]]
You have very little time to make your move. \n\nGetting away from multiple armed attackers will be hard enough for you; and you'll need to get Arc out too. Professional ethics about ditching partners aside, if they capture her now they'll crack her connection and be able to track you, among other, more unpleasant things. \n\nBesides, if they try to track you like they tracked you here, a hacker will be invaluable in staying one step ahead.\n\n[[continue|rescuearc]]
You wake up, some time later. You don't remember falling asleep; you were so exhausted you must have dropped off. \n\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\nThe dressings on your wounds seem to have held up. The pain is a lot worse - that initial rush of hormones from your 'ware has completely worn off - but you haven't reopened any of the wounds in your sleep. The sight of the clean bandanges is comforting; one thing your 'ware is not great at is fighting infection.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nSome of your wounds reopened in your sleep, probably as you turned, and the bedsheets around you are stained red. The bed is probably ruined, unfortunately for Arc. \n\nAnd one thing your 'ware is not great at is fighting infection. It's too soon to tell if the wounds will become infected, but these are hardly ideal conditions.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $access eq 2>>\nYou feel restored after sleeping, and after all those calories you shoveled into your mouth. Bad as the pain is, you feel alert and clear and ready to exert yourself, if need be. \n<html></html>\n<<silently>>\n<<set $treated eq 2>>\n<<endsilently>>\n<<else>>\nYou also feel like you have the mother of all hangovers - the after-effects of the prolonged supreme effort your 'ware allowed you. The sleep and the calories you shoveled into your mouth will help, but for now your head is pounding, and your head is frustratingly muddy.\n<html></html> \n<<endif>>\n[[continue|playercaretime2]]
She sighs contentedly. "Good. That's very good."\n\n<<silently>> I'd like to kiss you."\n\n[[Kiss her.|kissyes]]\n\n[["Yes, please."|kissyes]]\n\n[["Not right now."|kissno]]\n\n[["I'm not interested."|kissnever]]\n<<endsilently>>[[continue|playercaredebriefc]]
"Well?" Arc prompts you.\n\n[["Yeah, why not? Granting you config rights now."|grantrights]]\n\n[["No, thank you."|norights]]\n\n[["I don't give those rights out. Period."|neverrights]]
"Ok, ok," she says. "Message received. I won't ask again." \n\n"I'm all set on my end. Execute when ready." \n\n<<if $marker eq 1>>\n[[continue|dynamic1]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|covert1]]\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity - 1>>\n\n<<set $body = $body + 1>>
<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n<<if $arcwound gte 1>>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties. \n<html></html>\n"What do you say? I don't usually ask someone to move in on the first date, but..."\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n[["Well, if you promise there will be bathing suits..."|hideout]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[["Sounds perfect - thank you."|hideout]]\n\n[["It'll do."|hideout]]\n<<else>>\n"What do you say? I don't usually ask someone to move in on the first date, but..."\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n[["Well, if you promise there will be bathing suits..."|hideout]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[["Sounds perfect - thank you."|hideout]]\n\n[["It'll do."|hideout]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $arcwound gte 1>>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties."\n\n"So where are you going to go? I can help you with the arrangements, make sure they're untraceable. Even help with an ID, if you need..."\n\n[["Oh... I thought..."|denied]]\n\n[["We should stick together."|denied]]\n\n[["Just get me out of the country. I'll figure out the rest."|prehidesolo]]\n<<else>>\n"So where are you going to go? I can help you with the arrangements, make sure they're untraceable. Even help with an ID, if you need..."\n\n[["Oh... I thought..."|denied]]\n\n[["We should stick together."|denied]]\n\n[["Just get me out of the country. I'll figure out the rest."|prehidesolo]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
A figure coverd head to toe in bulky black kevlar, with a full array of pouches and pockets that appear to be fully utilized. Their face is obscured the old-fashioned way, with a black ski-mask. They're carrying a submachine gun which is pointed in your direction.\n\nThe most notable thing, though, is that they're glowing in the [[infrared spectrum]] - a sure sign that they're packing a lot of implanted hardware.\n\n[[return|Move2]]
Arc works for several more minutes to clean and then to properly bandage your wounds. \n\n"We're going to have to get out of here soon," she says, coming back from the kitchen, where she washed her hands. "But we're secure for now. They won't track this apartment to me, and I took care of the data in those cabs - they won't be able track us that way.\n\n"Take a little time, ok? Finish the food and sleep."\n\n<<if $body lte 1>>\n[[continue|playercarepermission]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|playercaretime]]\n<<endif>>
Arc calls out an address when the autocab asks, in a polite pre-recorded voice, where you'd like to go. It turns out to be another cab stand, where she has you switch to another cab. Arc repeats this process three times; it takes time, but each cab is tracked by the cab company, and each trip recorded. This will slow down anyone who tries to follow you by checking the cab records. \n\n[[continue|autocab2]]
"Child's play," she says carelessly, but she's breathing a little too hard for the flippancy to really come through.\n\nNonetheless, her hands are steady as she runs up to a segway and pulls a bulky multitool from her pocket. "I need thirty seconds."\n\n[["Child's play."|archacks2]]\n\n[["I'll do what I can."|archacks2]]\n\n[["Too long - forget it. Run, I'll cover you."|arcruns]]
"Nice moves," Arc says appreciatively. "That's a great reflex macro - I like that you've given yourself non-lethal options.\n\n"Try the keys on her belt - one of them keys will open the secure door." \n\nThe door in question is the other exit from this small security room, a steel gate with an impressive-looking lock - purely physical, and therefore hack-proof. \n\n[[continue|serverroom]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
You leave early the next morning; the sky is light but the sun isn't up. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries still trouble you, but they're healing quickly, and after a lot of high-calorie food and more sleep your 'ware-induced 'hangover' is finally clearing up. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYour injuries are healing, but you still feel like crap, and sleep and a lot of high-calorie food have only taken the edge off of your 'ware-induced hangover. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|hitthebricks2]]\n\nCongratulations intrepid HTML file examiner! You have found an Easter Egg. This was a passage created at one point that effectively duplicated the passage title "likeashark." I'm not sure now why I created it in the first place, but upon testing I did extensive revision on likeashark and the following passages; I rediscovered this passage after and just pointed all the links that led to it to likeashark, rather than duplicating the revision.
"Then it has to be a coincidence," Armand says. "I know for a fact that the op wasn't compromised on my end." \n\nHis wine glass is still in his hand; he gestures with it to emphasize the word fact. \n\nAnd suddenly you get it.\n\n[["Oh, shit."|watcharmand4]]\n\n[["He's being monitored!"|watcharmand4]]
Arc nods weakly and forces a smile, but it quickly dissolves into a grimace of pain.\n\n[[continue|arccare3]]\n\n<<set $assure = $assure + 1>>\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
Tangling with somebody in an exoskeleton is a bad move. You go for the softer target to your left, closing the range and firing your pistol. Lethal force is no longer a matter of choice; you're in a fight for your life. \n\nThe hostile in the tactical gear is no unmodified rent-a-cop, though. They react faster than any baseline human, rolling forward below your shots, and firing a burst from the SMG. The first shot is wild; you hear bullets whizzing by, but none connect. \n\n[[continue|left2]]\n\n
You spring, your mechanical legs straining. There are a lot of guns behind you; you need distance. \n\nYou hear the cops open up, and even a few bullets whizzing by, but none of them connect. You catch up to Arc, red-faced and sweaty and panting hard, sooner than you'd like; she hasn't covered as much ground as you thought. \n\nShe nods a weary greeting; for once, she doesn't have a quip. \n\n[[continue|cuttoarc]]\n\n
Arc shrugs. "Ok, you got it. I can get you overseas." She picks up her laptop.\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n"I really liked working with you, <<print $handle>>. Good luck."\n<<if $flirted gte 10>>\n<html></html>\n"Get some sleep," she says. "I've got a lot to set up. I'll go work in the other room."\n<html></html>\n"Unless..." \n<html></html>\nA question hangs in the air between you all of a sudden. An invitation. Your heart beats a smidge faster.\n<html></html>\n[[Stay.|hidesolo]]\n<html></html>\n[[Go.|hidesolo]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|hidesolo]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n"I've got a lot to set up," she says. "I've got a sleeping bag in the closet. You can sleep in the other room."\n\nShe's starts typing busily as you stand up to go.\n\n"Bye."\n\n[[continue|hidesolo]]\n<<endif>>
The door near the under-furnished "living room" opens into a small bathroom. There's not much here, a standing shower, a toilet, a sink, a mirror. There's a bar of soap, a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste. And a large black bag with a red cross on it. \n\n[[Grab the bag.|arccarebag]]\n\n[[return|arccare5]]\n\n
The door near the stove opens into what's probably meant to be a second bedroom. Arc seems to be using it as a - workshop?\n\nThere's a gray grounding mat spread across almost the entire floor. Atop the mat everything is electromechanical chaos: cables, circuit boards, gears, servos, disassembled motors, scrap metal. There's a workbench in the middle of it all, covered in components of all kinds; you see a soldering iron, about a dozen species of screwdriver, any number of implements you can't readily identify. \n\n[[continue|workshop2]]
She laughs. "Ok, I will totally accept that as proof that you know Armand. Honestly, it's like, we're talking over satellite uplink with AES-512 encryption and he's still stuck on this Cold War BS!\n\n"What a stiff. Have you ever met him in person? Seen how he dresses?"\n\n[["Tell me about it. The last job I did for him, I literally had instructions to abort if the countersign didn't rhyme."|!a]]\n\n[["Let's get to it."|!b]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
Your 'ware makes a fight-or-flight response partly redundant. A burst of adrenaline makes people stronger and tougher and helps them react faster, but at a cost. Judgment and higher reasoning are affected, and you crash afterward. \n\nYou start out stronger, tougher and faster than a baseline; your fight-or-flight response has been weakened (though not eliminated) to avoid the downsides of adrenaline. And if you're ever in a seriously bad situation, your 'ware gives you a larger than normal dose of adrenaline to let you make one last desperate effort. \n\n[[return|left2]]
"Sounds good. Texting Armand now; I'll upload the route to your car as soon as I hear back."\n\n[["Ok. See you there."|meet]]\n\n[["Great. That got intense, huh?"|chat]]
<<if $affinity lte 0>>\n"Great. I can get us started. \n<<if $arcwound eq 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Go into my workshop, the door by the fridge, and grab my my laptop, will you?"\n<html></html>\nIt takes you a few moments to recover the laptop from the mess in Arc's workshop, but you track it down and bring it to her.\n<html></html>\n[[continue|groundsolo2]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties. \n<html></html>\n"So where are you going to go? I can help you with the arrangements, make sure they're untraceable. Even help with an ID, if you need..."\n<html></html>\n[["Just get me out of the country. I'll figure out the rest."|prehidesolo]]\n<html>\n[["Actually, that island sounds perfect - room for two?|denied]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $flirted eq 0>>\n"Oh, gotcha. Hmm. Let me show you something.\n<<else>>\n"Oh. I thought... well, I mean, we... uhm. Let me show you something.\n<<endif>>\n<<if $arcwound eq 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Go into my workshop, the door by the fridge, and grab my my laptop, will you please?"\n<html></html>\nIt takes you a few moments to recover the laptop from the mess in Arc's workshop, but you track it down and bring it to her.\n<html></html>\n[[continue|groundsolo2]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties. \n<html></html>\n"It should be safe as houses. And it's //nice// there. You know?\n<html></html>\n[[continue|groundsolo2]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
You slide closer across the bed, and, very carefully, put an arm around her. You pull her closer. She stirs, then wakes. She smiles when she sees you.\n\n"Hey. I feel a little less like death, I think." \n\n[["Good. You had me worried."|acsnugglea]]\n\n[["Good. We've got to figure out our next move."|acsnuggleb]]\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>
Diners scatter; some run, some dive to the ground or take what cover they can find behind tables and chairs. Some cry out in pain, victims of your assailants' bad aim and homicidal tactics. Arc is ducking behind the table; Armand sits with a puzzling passivity. \n\nYou grab Arc's arm and pull her after you. You need to get out of here. \n<html></html>\n[[continue|rescuearc2]]
<<if $arcwound eq 0>>\nIt's a little like being very, very drunk; you're so tired you can barely focus your eyes. And on top of that, everything is starting to hurt. A lot. \n\nThere's a little indicator blinking in your field of vision - your artificial nerves are receiving pain inputs past their maximum threshold, which are being disregarded. \n\nThe maximum threshold is pretty damn high.\n\n[[continue|playercare]] \n<<else>>\nBut you've taken a lot of gunshots today. You've been running on insanely elevated levels of adrenaline and endorphins, and you're starting to crash, hard. It's a little like being very, very drunk; you're so tired you can barely focus your eyes. And on top of that, everything is starting to hurt. A lot. \n\nThere's a little indicator blinking in your field of vision - your artificial nerves are receiving pain inputs past their maximum threshold, which are being disregarded. \n\nThe maximum threshold is pretty damn high. \n\n[[continue|arccare]]\n<<endif>>
Armand's arranged to meet you both in an outdoor cafe in a plaza between office towers in one of the city's wealthiest districts. Urban renewal has created several beautiful pockets like this for the pleasure of the urban rich. There's not a road for blocks - the glitterati and corporate VIPs use segways or bicycles to get around - and the city traffic is just a rumble in the distance. \n\nThe cafe looks like the kind of place where a sandwich costs $45 and comes with fries from some weird gourmet [[genetically-engineered]] potato. \n\n[[continue|meet3]]\n\n
"You close?" Arc asks. She doesn't realize you're right behind her where she waits at the entrance to the roped-off dining area.\n\nShe's about 30, and her whole look seems calculated to announce her opposition to this place and these people. Her hair is bobbed and tucked carelessly behind her ears. She wears a camo-green tank and faded jeans, and pulls off the simple look with a punky intensity. \n\nShe's not a small person, and her considerable height and girth lend that intensity force and power. You watch a young suit stare at her as he goes by; one raised eyebrow from her and he flinches away, spooked. \n\n[["You might say that."|meet4]]\n\n[["I'm here."|meet4]]\n\n<<if $talked gt 0>>\n[["Mm. You are rocking that clean shirt, by the way."|meetflirt]]\n<<endif>>\n
Armand has a sumptuous brown sports jacket and a red bow tie, and he's sipping a glass of wine but he places it on the table as you sit down. He's handsome and surprisingly young, given the antiquated costume.\n\n"Hello, you two," he says with a bland smile. "Still kicking, I see, despite your little adventure. Arc told me all about it." \n\n[["Hello, Armand. You're looking well."|meet6a]]\n\n[["What the hell happened out there, Armand?"|meet6b]]
You glance up at the third-story windows of the building; the blinds are drawn in Arc's hideout, and the windows are dark. You know she's busy inside, though, preparing for the risky trip out of the city. You're going to need to lose some heat before you try passing through security for an international flight.\n\n[[continue|groundbreakfast3]]
You slide closer across the bed - very carefully - and put an arm around her. You pull her closer. She stirs, then wakes. She smiles when she sees you.\n\n"Hey. How do you feel?" \n\n[["Fine."|playercaredebriefc]]\n<html></html>\n<<if $treated gte 1>>\n[["Could be worse - thank you."|playercaresnuggle2]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $treated gte 2>>\n[["Better - much better."|playercaredebriefc]]\n\n[["Better - much better. Thanks to you."|playercaresnuggle2]]\n<<else>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
A smart-looking waiter greets you with a smile and leads you, without prompting, to where Armand sits in one corner of the roped in dining area. \n\nIt's an interesting place for a meeting. On the one hand, the public setting is a form of protection: it would be a fearless pretty fearless bunch of freelancers who came after you in a place like this, with so many police and solid citizens around. \n\nOn the other hand, you're painfully exposed; you scan the plaza looking for some kind of surveillance, but the truth is that you'd have to be lucky indeed to spot it. \n\n[[continue|meet6]]
She gasps and looks up in surprise. "Whoa! Sorry, you startled me. Hi yourself, champ. You went out like a light. How are you?" \n\n<<if $treated eq 2>>\n[["I'm ok. What are you doing?"|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Pretty good, considering."|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Pretty good, considering. Thanks to you."|playercaredebrief]]\n\n<<else>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n[["I'm ok. What are you doing?"|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Could be worse."|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Could be worse. Thanks to you."|playercaredebrief]]\n<<else>>\n[["I'm ok. What are you doing?|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Like crap.|playercaredebrief]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
Arc frowns. "You put the job together, Armand. And our communications were secure - you know the kind of operation //I// run." \n\n"I do, Arc." He gestures at her forcefully, red wine swishing in his glass. "You're good - usually. But I don't see any reason to think this isn't another mess like in Manilla." \n\nArc looks puzzled. "What mess in Manilla!? Manilla was the smoothest job I've ever operated on! What is going on, Armand? You're acting weird. You've been acting weird ever since I told you the job went south."\n\n[[continue|meet9]]
He looks increasingly agitated. And there's something //off// about the way he keeps fidgeting with his wine glass. You and Arc exchange a look. Armand is usually quiet, calm, grave, and completely unreadable. \n\nArc's look is a question. //What do we do?//\n\n[["Look, do you at least have some idea who they were?"|meet10a]]\n\n[["I don't like this. C'mon, Arc."|meet10b]]
You've got a //lot// of implanted hardware. \n\nThere's the simple stuff, naturally: reinforced skeleton, grafted muscle, enhanced skin density, and so forth. That's just there, yours to use. \n\nBut some of your 'ware is more complicated. You have a hormone management system, for instance, that controls useful biological responses, like adrenaline or endorphin production.\n\nAnd of course there's the [[legs]]. \n\n[[continue|configrights]]
And apparently someone forgot to tell //these// cops that they shouldn't go after an operative. Or more likely, somebody told them they had to. \n\nYou're in some kind of deep shit, and you have no idea what kind.\n<<if $kill gte 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut you do know you just made it a lot worse by shooting that cop.\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nThe thought crosses your mind: what was the last thing Armand said? Something about a police black op? He was acting so strangely, but - was he trying to tell you something?\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\nThe thought crosses your mind: what was the last thing Armand said? Something about a police black op? He was acting so strangely, but - was he trying to tell you something?\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|arcruns4]]
Going up against cops changes everything. \n\nOperatives like you have an informal detente with law enforcement. You work mostly for corporations, and the cops ultimately do as well. Generally, if you leave law enforcement alone, law enforcement will leave you alone, unless you inconvenience them by getting caught in the act. \n\nBut that arrangement is unspoken and very fragile. The public mostly thinks of operatives as terrorists, and if you're actually caught, you'll be treated like one. \n\n[[continue|arcrunscops3]]
Finally, you pull up outside a three-story brick building in a bad part of town. Graffitti lines the whole first floor; iron bars cover all the windows. \n\n[[continue|safehouse]]
On the last leg of the relay you start to feel woozy.\n\nYour 'ware has kept you fully functional so far. But all it does is make your body tougher and let you push through trauma. You still got shot. And on top of that, your system has been flooded with an intense hormone cocktail ever since Minos.\n\n[[continue|autocab3]]\n\n
It's a nice day in the city. Urban renewal has created several beautiful pockets like this for the pleasure of the urban rich who dominate downtown areas these days. There's not a road for blocks - the glitterati and corporate VIPs use segways or bicycles to get around - meaning the city traffic is just a rumble in the distance, and the air is relatively clean. \n\nThere's a lot of foot traffic, but except for a few pairs of cops you don't see anything worth worrying about. \n\n[[continue|perimeter4]]
You spy Armand first, sitting in an otherwise-empty corner. He's a very handsome man, in his 30s but youthful-looking; he has a sumptuous tweed jacket and a red bow tie, and he's sipping a glass of wine. He almost fits in with the swanky surroundings, but not quite - a little too old-fashioned. He cultivates a look that's subtly off, just a bit eccentric.\n\n[[continue|perimeter2.5]]\n\n
You glance around. Safe as this place tries to appear, you feel awfully exposed. Something as simple as a [[stop-and-scan]] - never impossible for anyone who doesn't look rich enough - could really ruin your day.\n\nFrom here you have a good view of Arc and Armand, and you can see most of the plaza. But as good as your upgraded eyes are, you still only have two of them. \n\n[[Watch Armand for anything that seems off.|watcharmand]]\n\n[[Watch the plaza for signs of trouble.|watchplaza]]
"Hold on - I've got you on an external headset and I'm putting on a clean shirt before I head out." \n\nThere's a moment's silence and then a rustling of fabric passing over her mic. \n\n"Ok, I'm on my way now." \n\n[["You don't have implanted telecom gear?"|shirta]]\n\n[["Dressing up for me? I'm flattered."|shirtb]]\n\n[["See you there."|meet]]\n\n<<set $talked = 1>>
You say her name, softly. She blinks awake after a moment, and smiles at you. \n<<if $flirt gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Oh, gosh, sorry," she says as she comes fully awake, pulling her arm back. "I didn't mean to... sorry." \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"Guess I dozed off." She starts to sit up, feels something, frowns, and thinks better it.\n\n[["How do you feel?"|acfeel]]\n\n[["I was worried about you."|acworried]]\n\n[["We should talk about our next move."|acwake2]]
<<if $body gte 2>>\nArc nods reluctantly. "Ok. I know bodily integrity is a big deal to you. We'll trust your 'ware, then. But //eat//, ok? Your 'ware can't work on nothing." \n\n[[continue|playercarerefuse]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\nArc freezes. "Are... are you sure? I know your 'ware helps, but you'll heal a lot faster and more safely with the right treatment. And I know it's not my area, but I do know first aid." \n\n[["Yes, I'm sure."|playercarerefuse]]\n\n[["No, you're right. Go ahead."|playercare5y]]\n<<else>>\nArc frowns. "Alright, if that's how you want it. You know you'll heal better with the right treatment, right? But whatever, your funeral."\n\n[["Yes, that's how I want it."|playercarerefuse]]\n\n[["No, you're right. Go ahead."|playercare5y]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<set $body = $body + 2>>
Armand's arranged to meet you both in an outdoor cafe in a plaza between office towers. A little area with tables under umbrellas outside one of the areas classier eateries. The waiters wear white shirts and black ties; the customers are gorgeously dressed, some for business, some casually. \n\nIt's the kind of place where a sandwich costs $45 and comes with fries from some weird gourmet [[genetically-engineered|ge2]] potato.\n\n"I'm sitting down now," Arc says softly. "Armand's already here."\n\n[[continue|perimeter2]]
You have very little time to make your move. \n\nGetting away from multiple armed attakers will be hard enough for you; and you'll need to get Arc out too. Professional ethics about ditching partners aside, if they capture her now they'll crack her connection and be able to trace you, among other, more unpleasant things. \n\nBesides, if they try to track you like they tracked you here, a hacker will be invaluable in staying one step ahead.\n\n[[continue|rescuearc]]
<<if $marker eq 1>>\nYou slam the door open. The security guard is dressed in a black cotton uniform and a black cap. She goes for the pistol on her belt, but her reflexes are unmodified; she might as well be standing still. \n\nYou close the distance in a flash and deliver a light strike to the throat; she gags, her hands flying to her windpipe, and you deliver a powerful but [[measured]] blow to the soft spot on the top of her skull. She falls unconscious. \n<<else>>\nYou open the door and slip in silently; the guard is watching a bank of monitors, looking bored. She never knows you're there; you stand behind her and deliver a power but [[measured]] blow to the soft spot on the top of her skull. She falls unconscious. \n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|nokill2]]
This terrible firing discipline is sadly typical of big-city police departments; their equipment and tactics get more paramilitary every passing year. And increased corporate influence has all but erased the ideal of cop as a professional public servant, except for people who like old tv shows. \n\nThe cops are just the best-equipped street gang, now, and their corporate masters the richest crime syndicate.\n\nBut none of that explains why they're coming after you. \n\n[[return|rescuearc]]
You juke left, your legs straining to pick up speed as you run along one brick wall of the walkway. She fires after you; you hear the shots impacting against the bricks. And then you're by her. She may be quick but there's no way she can run as fast as you, not without legs like yours. \n\nAnd then one of her shots connects. There's pain that fades as your 'ware triggers a wave of endorphins. Your 'ware is working overtime to keep you moving, at who knows what cost. \n\nBut you are moving. And your path to Arc is clear.\n\n[[continue|pathtoarc]]
"Sounds good. Texting Armand now; I'll upload the route to your car as soon as I hear back."\n\n[["Ok. See you there."|meet]]\n\n[["Great. That got intense, huh?"|chat]]\n\n<<set $marker = 1>>
Your lips meet, warm and soft. \n\nThe two of you hold the kiss for a long time. When you finally break away, her cheeks are flushed. She looks happy. \n\n[[continue|playercaredebriefc]]
<<if $affinity gte 3>>\n"Oh, you'll know," she says. "I'll make sure of it."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\nShe laughs. "Don't worry - you'll be the first to know.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n"Yeah," she says with a laugh. "We'll see."\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|flirted]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>
Ocular replacement is just a no-brainer, really. It's a safe, common procedure and much less invasive than most of the nervous system work you've had. \n\nIn addition to seeing into the IR and UV ranges, your vision is 30/20 and you'll never have to worry about far-sightedness. And on your model of prosthetic, eye color can be reconfigured at any time with a few minutes work. \n\n[[return|Move2]]\n\n
The third key opens the secure door. Arc provides another yellow line leading you to your objective, a rack of steel cases, each containing a different hard drive. \n\nArc highlights the one you're after in yellow. You know your way around electronics well enough that unattaching it safely only takes you a few seconds. \n\n"All set," Arc says. "You're go to exfiltrate."\n\n[[continue|ambush]]
She nods. "Yeah, come on, he's sitting down."\n\n[[continue|meet5]]
The cabinets are mostly bare except for a few glasses, some cheap plates, and dust. But just when you're about to give up, you open one last cabinet door and see just exactly what you were hoping too: a bulk-sized plastic bag filled with nuts and bits of chocolate. \n\nYou've torn the bag open before you know what you're doing. Your 'ware has been overclocking your body pretty relentlessly ever since Minos, and now your body wants these calories badly. You have to make yourself chew. \n\n[[continue|arccarerise2]]
Paranoid security being just one of the many charming features of the affluent class's obsession with itself. \n\n[[return|rescuearc3]]
You see two alternatives. \n\nThere's a cart set up to sell overpriced water, fresh-squeezed juices, and gourmet snacks right at this entrance. The proprietor is long gone. It should be sturdy enough to serve you as passable cover. You could hold off your assailants to gain Arc time. \n\nThere are also a number of parked [[segways]] and bicycles along one wall. The ones that don't have physical locks undoubtedly have some sort of biometric security, but if you could hack one it might give Arc a chance in hell. \n\n[["Go! I'll cover you!"|arcruns]]\n\n[["Any chance you can hotwire a segway?"|archacks]]
Green spaces like this are one of the great privileges of white collar corporate servitude. \n\nThere are people living within miles of this spot who have probably never seen a tree.\n\n[[return|covert1]]
<<display "signoff">>
<<if $wound lte 2>>\nYou're down the stairs and out the door in moments, and walking. You'll go a ways and get a car; in fact, you're already using your telecom to make the reservations; the site for a local private car service known for its discretion is already up in your field of vision. \n\n<<else>>\nYou manage to get back down the stairs and walking, as evenly as you can manage, down the street. You've got to get a car; you sit on the bench at a disused bus stop and focus on staying conscious and accessing the site for a local private car service known for its discretion. You need rest, and treatment, and soon.\n\n<<endif>>\nYou do your best to put Arc out of your mind; what's done is done, and you still have to escape the police, and figure out what the hell is going on. \n\n[[continue\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity - 2>>
<<if $arcwound neq 0>>\n<<if $wound lte 0>>\nYou help Arc up the stairs - practically carry her, really. You've managed to slow Arc's bleeding significantly with direct pressure and some torn off strips of your shirt, but she's lost a low of blood, and she's in shock. Disoriented, dizzy and weak, she can only walk with great effort.\n\n[[continue|arccare]] \n<<else>>\n<<if $wound lte 1>>\nYou help Arc up the stairs - practically carry her, really. You're not unscathed yourself, but your 'ware is very good at helping your body deal with trauma, up to a certain point. You're wounds have mostly already clotted over as your 'ware triggers more platelet production. You will need medical care soon, however, and plenty of time to rest. \n\nArc doesn't have the same advantages. You've managed to slow her bleeding significantly with direct pressure and some torn off strips of your shirt, but she's lost a low of blood, and she's in shock. Disoriented, dizzy and weak, she can only walk with great effort. \n\n[[continue|arccare]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $wound gte 2>>\nGetting upstairs is a bit of a problem. You've managed to slow Arc's bleeding significantly with direct pressure and some torn off strips of your shirt, but she's lost a low of blood, and she's in shock. Disoriented, dizzy and weak, she can only walk with great effort. \n\nYou're in better shape despite your multiple wounds. Your 'ware is very, very good at helping your body deal with trauma up to a certain point; serious injuries trigger massive platelet production, and most of your injuries have clotted over and are no longer bleeding freely. You think your organs are all intact, as are most of your (thankfully reinforced) bones. \n\n[[continue|safehouse2]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $wound gte 2>>\nArc has to help you get upstairs. Your 'ware is very, very good at helping your body deal with trauma, up to a certain point; serious injuries trigger massive platelet production, and most of your injuries have clotted over and aren't bleeding freely anymore. You think your organs are all intact, as are most of your (thankfully reinforced) bones. \n\nBut you've taken a lot of gunshots today. You've been running on insanely elevated levels of adrenaline and endorphins, and you're starting to crash, hard. \n\n[[continue|safehouse2]] \n<<else>>\nArc offers to help you up the stairs but you wave her off. You've taken some punishment, but your 'ware is very good at helping your body deal with trauma, up to a certain point. You're wounds have mostly already clotted over as your 'ware triggers more platelet production. \n\nBut you will need medical care soon, though, and plenty of time to rest.\n\n[[continue|playercare]] \n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
<<if $business gte 2>>\n"And you're all about the job. That's cool. I get that. I respect it. I guess it's like hacking, you don't get into it if you aren't passionate about it."\n<<else>>\nShe sighs. "That's cool. 'Ware is cool."\n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|lovem3]]\n
You get out of the bed, wincing as even the most careful movements bring on little bursts of pain. You feel a slight wave of dizziness when you first rise, but it passes quickly. \n\nYour first thought is that you might find some more food, but Arc has anticipated this, and there's another tray of high-calorie food waiting at the foot of the bed. Arc's also has a laptop resting beside the tray. \n\n[[Eat up.|playercareeatup]]\n\n[[Examine the laptop.|playercarelaptop]]\n\n[[Exit the bedroom.|playercareexplore]]
<<if $affinity gte 0>>\nShe spins around and grins when she spies you. "I know, right?" she asks, giving you a little twirl. "And look, I accessorized perfectly! //Denim//! It goes with everything!\n<<if $affinity gte 3>>\n<html></html>\n"And you have to admit," she adds, smiling, "I wear it well." \n\n[["That I will gladly admit."|meetflirtb]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[["Excellent shirt, high marks."|meetflirta]]\n\n[["Ha! Is Armand here?"|meetflirt0]]\n<<else>>\nShe frowns. "Uh huh, whatever. Come on - Armand's waiting."\n\n[[continue|meet5]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity - 1>>\n<<set $flirted = -1>>\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>
\n
She shakes her head. "Yeah, sorry, <<print $handle>>. The fact is, I kind of think you're an asshole, and I do business with assholes - I mean, you kind of have to, right? - but I don't do suicide missions with them. \n\n"Stay here tonight. Rest up. But tomorrow, I think you better go."\n\n[[continue|likeashark]]
You could stop and try to slow her down, or you could just try to get the hell out of here - without mechanical legs she probably can't keep up with you and Arc on foot. \n\nEither way is likely to hurt; she's got a clear line of fire and her gun ready.\n\n[[Close the range and disarm her.|closerange]]\n\n[[Get the hell out of here.|runrunrun]]
Arc is easy to spot walking down towards his table. She's about 30, and her whole look seems calculated to announce her opposition to this place and these people. Her hair is bobbed and tucked carelessly behind her ears. She wears a camo-green tank and faded jeans, and pulls off the simple look with a punky intensity. \n\nShe's not a small person, and her considerable height and girth lend that intensity force and power. One of the waiters stares at her as he goes by; one raised eyebrow from her and he flinches away, spooked. \n\n[["I'm here - I'm seconds away if you need a rescue."|perimeter3]]\n\n[["Roger that. I'm in position."|perimeter3]]\n\n<<if $talked gt 0>>\n[["Mm - you are rocking that clean shirt, by the way."|perimeterflirt]]\n<<endif>>\n
<<if $affinity gte 5>>\nArc nods slowly. "You know what? Yeah. It may not be the smart choice, but it sure as hell is the one I'm excited about. I mean, yeah, our opposition seems to be incredibly powerful, and we don't even really know exactly who the opposition //is//, but fuck it. They don't know who we are, either. Or they wouldn't have messed with us.\n\n"Let's do it."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\nArc nods slowly. "You know what? Yeah. It may not be the smart choice, but it sure as hell is the one I'm excited about. I mean, yeah, our opposition seems to be incredibly powerful, and we don't even really know exactly who the opposition //is//, but fuck it. They don't know who I am, either. Or they wouldn't have messed with me.\n\n"Let's do it."\n<html></html>\n<<else>> \nArc frowns. "Yeah - I'm not so sure about that. If we aim at these people we had better not miss. You're good at what you do, I'll give you that, and you've done right by me when it counted, but for something like this..." She shakes her head. "Something like this, I need someone I trust, ironclad. And we're not there.\n\n"Why should I do this with you?" \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n[[continue|partners]]\n<<else>>\n[["What the hell are you talking about?"|becausewhu]]\n\n[["Because you owe me."|becausedebt]]\n\n[["Because this is bigger than that - our lives are on the line."|becausestakes]]\n\n[["Whatever."|likeashark]]\n<<endif>>
You glance quickly behind you - and spot the shooter right away. She's standing near the entrance to the walkway, running after you. She must be a cop but she doesn't look like the others. Plainclothes, for one thing, a fashionable jacket to blend in with the elite enclave.\n\nAn IR signature that's a dead match for the kevlar-armored operative from Minos, for another. \n\n[[continue|cuttoarc3]]
She gives a little curtsy. "Play your cards right," she teases, winking suggestively, "maybe someday I'll show you - my //nice jeans//. \n\n"Come on, he's waiting."\n\n[[continue|meet5]]
She grins. "Why thank you," she says. "Play your cards right, maybe someday I'll show you..." She winks suggestively. "...my //nice jeans//. \n\n"Come on, he's waiting."\n\n[[continue|meet5]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
Arc smiles and wets the bandage with the alcohol. "This will sting," she says. It does, but she's gentle.\n<html></html>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\nShe works carefully and methodically, speaking a stream of playful nonsense to distract you. "This totally makes us even, by the way." she teases. "I mean I know you saved my life or whatever, but my first aid skills are in demand. I'm talking wide renown here. Really you should count yourself lucky."\n<<if $affinity gte 4>>\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|playercare5yflirt]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[["Oh, I know. Actually I set this all up, just so I could see what real first aid is like."|playercarejoke]]\n\n[["Thank... But listen, we can't stay here forever. We need to figure out our next move."|playercarebusiness]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[["Oh, I know. Actually I set this all up, just so I could see what real first aid is like."|playercarejoke]]\n\n[["Thank... But listen, we can't stay here forever. We need to figure out our next move."|playercarebusiness]]\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nShe works carefully and methodically to clean your injuries. "Thanks," she offers as she finishes. "For everything. I owe you one." \n\n[["Whatever."|playercarerude]]\n\n[["Forget it. Listen, we can't stay here forever. We need to figure out our next move ."|playercarebusiness]]\n\n[["No problem. I'm sorry we didn't get off to a good start. I'm glad you've got my back."|playercareapology]]\n<<endif>>\n\n<<set $treated = 1>>
Shot is an energy drink. It's a controlled substance in some jurisdictions.\n\n[[return|acexplorefruit]]
"Ok, no problem," Arc says. "Just thought I'd ask. Now rest, ok? Eat up, and sleep if you can."\n\n[[continue|playercaretime]]
You reach the exfil site without incident, although you hear a lot of sirens coming from all around. There's an autocar waiting for you; one of Arc's yellow lines leads you straight to it. It pulls away the moment you slam the door behind you.\n\n[[continue|exfil2]]
"I'm sorry," Arc says as you drive. She's pissed, wound up. "They shouldn't have been able to cut us off like that. I got lazy, I wasn't watching for ECM."\n\n[["It was supposed to be a cakewalk. We both let our guard down. Don't sweat it."|cara]]\n\n[["You came through when it counted."|carz]]\n\n[["Wonderful. Don't fuck up like that again."|carb]]\n\n[["What happened, anyway?"|carc]]\n\n
You know a sprung trap when you see one. You back into the server room on silent feet and reach into your pocket. You're carrying very minimal combat gear; you were supposed to be in and out fast enough to preclude a proper fight. But you do have a surprise or two up your sleeve. \n\n[[Reach for the fragmentation grenade.|frag]]\n\n[[Reach for the flashbang grenade.|flash]]
Unfortunately the other hostile is in a full combat exoskeloton that seems to have weathered your grenade just fine. It's a fully-enclosed suit - no weak spots - with fully articulated hands that are are currently holding a massive light machine gun. \n\nWhich is now pointing straight at you. \n\n[[continue|frag4]]
There's a sound, a deceptively quiet kind of //crump//. And then an audible cry. You wheel around the corner, pistol drawn. \n\nTwo hostiles. One in serious tactical gear, kevlar from head to toe, a serious helmet, no skin visible. This hostile is lit up in the [[infrared spectrum|infrared2]], a sure sign of implanted augmentations.\n\nAll that armor wouldn't save an unaugmented human from a grenade detonation in an enclosed space at close range; the shockwave would get you if the shrapnel didn't. With an augmented person it's harder to tell, but the hostile is lying prone and out of the fight, at least for now.\n\n[[continue|frag3]]
Unfortunately, the exoskeleton is too solid and too massive for even a kick from your artificial leg to take it down. And now you're prone at their feet as the the 'skeleton's pilot trains the massive machine gun on you. \n\n<<if $access gte 1>>\nSuddenly Arc is back. "Try the leg sweep again," she says.\n\nYou reverse the strike you just made, the hydraulics in your leg firing the other way to bring your heel slamming into the hostile's other foot. You can feel the extra power; you're not sure exactly what Arc did, but it's working.\n\nThis time you overcome the exoskeleton's weight and traction, and the hostile collapses in a heap. That'll buy you more than a moment: exoskeletons allow remarkable agility up until you get your legs tangled up, and then untangling them is an unholy mess.\n\n[[continue|run]]\n\n<<else>>\nYou roll away as the hostile opens up with the machine gun. You only take one hit from the first burst, a graze, but it's a huge gun and it's enough. \n\n[[continue|rescue]]\n\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n\n<<endif>>
There's no way your pistol can penetrate that armor; you don't bother to try. Instead get close and low, dropping into a slide for the last several meters, and try to sweep the suit's legs out. \n\nTop-of-the-line exoskeletons allow pretty impressive range of motion, but relatively complex motions like standing can sometimes cause a problem. You might do some serious damage if you can get the hostile down on the ground. \n\n[[continue|frag5]]
<<if $access eq 0>>\nYou go through the admin menu to grant Arc's connection, which has stayed open through everything, basic config rights. The interface is thought-based and hard to navigate at the best of times, let alone when you're as exhausted as you are, but you're able to get through it.\n\n"Great," she says with a smile. "Now rest, ok? Eat up, and sleep if you can. I'll get your 'ware purring like a kitten."\n<<else>>\n"Great," she says with a smile. "Now rest, ok? I'll get your 'ware purring like a kitten."\n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|playercaretime]]\n\n<<set $access = 2>>
"Not sure," Armand says, lifting the wine glass to his mouth. "I haven't had a lot of time to look into it yet. Pretty much the only thing I can rule out is some sort of black ops law enforcement going rogue to target high-level freelancers." \n\nYou and Arc exchange another look. "Well, I don't think anyone suggested that, Armand," Arc says. \n\nAnd as she speaks, over her shoulder you see someone break into a run - a black-clad figure with a gun. Your eyes automatically sweep the plaza. There are more of them; at least two others. \n\n[[continue|meetchoice]]\n\n<<set $peril = 3>>\n<<set $clue = 1>>
You stand and turn to go; Arc follows your lead. Once you're a few steps a way she says softly "Are you sure this is wise? Armand's not a good guy to piss off." \n\nYou're sure it is. You see several black-clad figures spread through out the plaza, converging on you from different positions. At least three. \n\n[[continue|meetchoice]]\n\n<<set $peril = 2>>
<<if $access gte 1>>\nYou're suddenly hit with an odd sensation, as if everything was slowing down. You recognize the sensation: extreme adrenaline dose.\n\nYour 'ware is only supposed to hit you with this level when you've been [[seriously wounded]], but right now you can use the edge. You keep firing, and this time you're just a little faster. At least one shot connects. The hostile spins from the impact, and drops. \n\n[[continue|left3]]\n\n<<else>>\nYou keep moving and firing; you have to get distance from the hostile in the exoskeleton, and assuming the hostile you're targeting doesn't have artificial limbs your legs might give you an advantage up close. But that SMG is a problem. The sheer number of bullets it puts in the air make it a statistical certainty that you'll get tagged as you get closer. \n\nSure enough, you feel one impact, then another. It's all you can do to keep your feet. \n\n[[continue|rescue]]\n\n<<set $wound = $wound + 1>>\n<<endif>>
"Nice shot," says Arc, her voice reappearing as abruptly as it departed. "I thought a little boost would help." \n\nThat explains it - Arc is back online and controlling your 'ware. She overrode your hormone control to administer adrenaline. \n\n[[continue|run]]
She sighs deeply. "No rest for the wicked, right?"\n\n[[continue|acwake2]]
"Oh yeah? I guess that, if I //had// to get shot, having you worry about me isn't a bad little consolation prize."\n\n[["How do you feel?"|acfeel]]\n\n[["I'm glad you're awake. We've got to figure out our next move."|acsnuggleb]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
"I missed my calling as a surgeon," she says. "I thought the life of an illegal operator would be all hacking montages and champagne back at base. But no, mostly it's math and blood and guts." \n\n[[continue|playercarebusinessrev2]]
The wiring in your visual cortex is mostly intended to allow recording and transmission of video; Arc can currently see everything you can see. \n\nDirect transmission //into// your visual cortex, to alter what you see, is tricky, and potentially dangerous. You've had to abort missions before because of operators who messed up your vision.\n\nArc's input, however, is clean, clear, and completely non-disruptive.\n\n[[return|positionone2]]
You juke left, your legs straining to pick up speed as you run along one brick wall of the walkway. She fires after you; you hear the shots impacting against the bricks. \n\nThere's a sharp pain in your back, a pain that sweeps over you and then disappears before you can really feel it; you feel the endorphins kicking in. She's no amateur, and now your 'ware is working overtime to keep you moving, at who knows what cost. \n\nBut you are moving. And your path to Arc is clear.\n\n[[continue|archacksfast]]
The Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. They're less corrupted by corporate interests than local police, but that doesn't mean they're less corrupt, just that the fingers pulling their strings are hidden in a very deep, very dangerous darkness. \n<html></html>\nYou know the corporate world, all the politics, all the bullshit, and all the tricks. Feds means national security, means national intelligence programs - means you've got a real mess to sort out.\n<html></html>\n[[continue|likeashark4]]
"Why thank you!" she enthuses in reply. \n\n"Lilly hardware is the best in the business, but their firmware really lags behind - way less than optimum efficiency. I'm routing your legs through a modded version on my local. It's pretty amazing the difference it can make."\n\n[[continue|covert3]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
Arc purses her lips. "Listen, <<print $handle>>, you're good at your job, but hiding together increases my risk. Plus it, you know, involves spending weeks months or years together in close proximity, and no offense, I'm not sure I want to do that." \n\nShe sighs. "Listen, crash here tonight. Let me know if you need anything, I'm happy to help with arrangements or whatever. Tomorrow I'm out of this town, and I'm gone."\n\n[[continue|hittheground]]
"Now move it!" Arc says. "Those two are packing serious hardware and you're not equipped for a slugfest."\n\nYou run past the now prone hostile; the priority now is getting out of the building and to the exfiltration site. \n\n[[continue|run2]]
The soles of your artificial feet are of a high-tech material that's softer and much quieter than an unaugmented human foot. You've taken your shoes off for a tactical edge more than once. \n\n[[return|playercareexplore]]
But that doesn't matter now; your partnership with Arc is in the past, and now you have to wrap your head around a new problem. \n<html></html>\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\nYour best clue is the hint that Armand dropped. \n\n'Black ops law enforcement going rogue to target high-level freelancers.' That's what he said. Exactly what he meant, you don't know. But whatever's going on, it includes the ambush at Minos, co-opting the city police, and whatever they did to get to Armand. \n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nBut what Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. "They" must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\nThe Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. In theory they're less corrupt than local police, being further removed from corporate money, but they're also less accountable. And the different agencies are bloated bureaucracies and notoriously prone, in the last few years, to "rogue" (or at least deniable) operations from isolated cells.\n<html></html>\n<<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $brownretort eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nThe woman from Minos - 'Brown' (you don't believe that's her real name, anymore than you were born <<print $handle>>). She said you weren't beyond 'the system' anymore. Who knows what that means, exactly. But it does mean that somebody out there is gunning for you.\n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nWhat Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. Brown must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\nThe Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. In theory they're less corrupt than local police, being further removed from corporate money, but they're also less accountable. And the different agencies are bloated bureaucracies and notoriously prone, in the last few years, to "rogue" (or at least deniable) operations from isolated cells.\n<html></html>\n<<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $brown eq 1>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. The augmented woman from Minos, "Brown" - she's undoubtedly one of them. But you don't know much about her, other than that she's plugged in with the police, and somebody paid for a lot of cyberware for her. \n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nWhat Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. Brown must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\nThe Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. In theory they're less corrupt than local police, being further removed from corporate money, but they're also less accountable. And the different agencies are bloated bureaucracies and notoriously prone, in the last few years, to "rogue" (or at least deniable) operations from isolated cells.\n<html></html>\n<<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. But something big is going down. The agent from Minos who followed you downtown, the way the police turned on you, the fact that they got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nWhat Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. The agent from Minos must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\nThe Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. In theory they're less corrupt than local police, being further removed from corporate money, but they're also less accountable. And the different agencies are bloated bureaucracies and notoriously prone, in the last few years, to "rogue" (or at least deniable) operations from isolated cells.\n<html></html>\n<<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. But something big is going down. The ambush at Minos, the way the police turned on you, the fact that someone got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<html></html>\n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n<html></html>\nWhat Arc found last night sheds at least a little light. The agent from Minos must be some sort of Fed. \n<html></html>\nThe Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. In theory they're less corrupt than local police, being further removed from corporate money, but they're also less accountable. And the different agencies are bloated bureaucracies and notoriously prone, in the last few years, to "rogue" (or at least deniable) operations from isolated cells.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\nRogue cops, compromised allies, augmented enemies. You've got your work cut out for you. And you have to handle it all alone.\nBut the sun is rising, and you're alive and free for another day. \n\nAnd a quick internet search through your telecom rig tells you there's a place with great eggs nearby.\n\nYou'll just have to hope the rest will work itself out. \n\n[[end|credits]]
You glance up at the third-story windows of the building; the blinds are drawn in Arc's hideout, and the windows are dark, although you know she's busy inside, packing what she can and preparing for the risky trip out of the city. She's going to head to an airport a few states over - but she wasn't free with the details. \n\nDoing this without Arc is going to kind of suck. You have your skills, but in a world where every kitchen appliance has an online presence, a hacker makes everything a whole lot easier. \n\n[[continue|hitthebricks3]]
The door near the under-furnished "living room" opens into a small bathroom. There's not much here, a standing shower, a toilet, a sink, a mirror. There's a bar of soap, a manual toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste. \n\nIt's a purely functional room that hasn't actually been used much; a total blank. \n\n[[return|playercareexplore]]
<<if $sheet eq 0>>\nYou put your bare hands against Arc's wound, pushing down firmly and steadily. The blood flows up through your fingers, and you adjust your position so your palm is squarely against the open wound. \n\n<<else>>\nYou press the bandage against Arc's wound and push down, firmly and steadily. Red seeps into the white cotton immediately and slowly spreads through the fabric.\n<<endif>>\n\n<<if $affinity gte 4>>\nArc gasps in pain; her breathing gets heavier. Her hand flutters weakly to try to push you away, but she fights the reflex.\n\nHer eyes find yours; they're a very dark blue, you notice for the first time. There's gratitude mixed with the pain in her face.\n<<else>>\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\nArc cries out in pain; her breathing gets heavier. Her hand flutters weakly to try to push you away, but she fights the reflex.\n<<else>>\nArc cries out in pain and her breathing gets heavier. Her hand flutters weakly to try to push you away, but she fights the reflex.\n\nHer eyes find yours, filled with a complex mix of gratitude, resentment, and just pain.\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|arccare3]]\n\n\n<<if $sheet eq 1>>\n<<set $pressure = 2>>\n<<set $sheet = 0>>\n<<else>>\n<<set $pressure = 1>>\n<<endif>>\n\n
You glance up at the third-story windows of the building; the blinds are drawn in Arc's hideout, and the windows are dark, although you know she's busy inside, packing what she can and preparing for the risky trip out of the city. She's going to head to an airport a few states over - but she wasn't free with the details. \n\nShe was very helpful in making your arrangements, though. You have a flight booked out of the country in five days in another state, and a clean ID that should get you through customs. The rest - including the tricky bit of getting out of the city, and the really tricky bit of where to hide in an ever-shrinking world - is up to you.\n\n[[continue|hidesolo3]]
Everybody who lives the life of a freelance operator lives with the threat of something like this happening: a job gone wrong, the wrong enemy pissed off, too much heat called down. You aren't entirely unprepared. But at the same time, you hadn't counted on this job, this milk run against Minos, going wrong, and you don't have your whole life tied up in a bow, ready to drop.\n\nYou take a breath of the cool morning air, and mentally you have your telecom rig search for nearby breakfast joints.\n\nIt's going to be a long day. You need some coffee to go.\n\n[[end|credits]]
You leave early the next morning; the sky is light but the sun isn't up. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries still trouble you, but they're healing quickly, and after a lot of high-calorie food and more sleep your 'ware-induced 'hangover' is finally clearing up. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYour injuries are healing, but you still feel like crap, and sleep and a lot of high-calorie food have only taken the edge off of your 'ware-induced hangover. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|likeashark2]]
Arc shrugs and passes you the bandage and the alcohol. You unscrew the cap from the bottle, wet the bandage, and begin the painful work of cleaning your wounds one at a time. \n\nYou wince at the first stinging touch of the alcohol. This isn't fun, but it's necessary.\n\n[[continue|playercare5self2]]\n\n<<set $treated = 1>>\n
Then it hits you. \n\nIt's one of the stranger artifacts of the shift towards paramilitary build-up among big city police department. \n\nDisplaying insignia or a badge gets less important, because the real power of the police is no longer in the law, but in their stockpile of weapons. Eventually, the weapon is the badge.\n\nThese are the cops. \n\n[[continue|archackscops2]]
You head back out of the server room. "Armand's arranged a vehicle to meet y-" Arc starts - but then she abruptly cuts out\n\nThat should be impossible, given the quality of your respective telecom setups. Something's wrong.\n\n[[Move.]]\n\n[[Get ready.]]
"Times are changing, mercenary," she says. There's a fervor in her eyes suddenly. "Nobody's beyond the system anymore. Nobody." \n\n"Step away from Agent Brown!" shouts a voice behind you. You glance. The cops have moved up; they're all around you. It's time to leave.\n\n[[continue|timetoleave]]\n\n<<set $brown = 1>>\n<<set $brownretort = 1>>
"Give you good night," you say, the security challenge.\n\n"Farewell, honest soldier," she responds, the correct countersign. "God! Armand has got to get over himself, am I right? We've got AES-512 encryption and a satellite uplink and he still insists on this Cold War BS."\n\n[["Tell me about it. The last job I did for him, I literally had instructions to abort if the countersign didn't rhyme."|!a]]\n\n[["Let's get to it."|!b]]
"Come on, Armand," Arc shoots back. "<<print $handle>> definitely isn't going to buy it. The odds of operatives like that just happening to be in a shitty little server farm the day we go in are astronomical and you know it." \n\nArmand puts his wine glass down. "That's true," he says. "Astronomical is exactly right." He looks around the plaza, and immediately picks the wine glass back, an oddly nervous gesture. \n\n"Where //is// your counterpart?" he asks. "You know I've never worked with <<print $handle>> before - if there's a security problem maybe that's where it is." \n\n[[continue|watcharmand2.5]]\n\n
"<<print $handle>> is close," Arc breaks in, a little too urgently, trying to get his attention back. She doesn't realize he's already seen you. "Gave an ETA of a few minutes last time we spoke." \n\nShe looks uncertain; she isn't sure what the blatant lie means either. "Why would an operative compromise an op in a way that leads to them getting shot at?" she finally asks.\n\n[[continue|watcharmand3.5]]
"What do you mean?" Arc says, carefully. \n\n"Please, old girl, have a little faith," he says. Still holding the wine glass.\n\n[["He's signalling with the glass..."|watcharmand5]]\n\n[["Whatever he says with the wine in hand is false!"|watcharmand5]]
Arc sits back. "So what should we do?" she says. She's good at this two-conversation game. \n\nThe wine glass goes down. "I'm not sure, Arc." That's probably true enough. But he immediately picks it up again. "We should be safe here. Once <<print $handle>> gets here we can take as long as we like to come up with a plan." \n\nMeaning he thinks the two of you should get the hell out.\n\n[["Keep him talking - we need to find out everything we can."|watcharmand6]]\n\n[["Get out of there!"|watcharmand6]]
Hard drive under one arm, you draw your pistol and dive out into the hallway. \n\nYou're surrounded. And not by building security. \n\n[[continue|Move2]]
"Yeah, of course," she says. "I'm not asking for access, I'm asking for permission. You gave me that access so I could help you in the field; this is different. I never go mucking with someone's hardware without asking."\n\n[["Sure."|playercarepermissiony]]\n\n[["No."|playercarepermissionn]]
You run with as much speed as your legs can lend you. Even with the agent - "Brown" - out of the picture, there are still a lot of guns behind you, and you need distance. At least your path to Arc is clear. \n\n[[continue|pathtoarc]]
You reach out and shake her gently, and say her name. She blinks awake after a moment, and smiles at you. \n<<if $flirt gte 1>>\n<html></html>\n"Oh, gosh, sorry," she says as she comes fully awake, pulling her arms back. "I didn't mean to... sorry." \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"Guess I dozed off." She sits up and stretches. "How are you feeling?" \n\n[["I'm fine."|playercaredebriefc]]\n<html></html>\n<<if $treated gte 1>>\n[["Could be worse."|playercaredebriefc]]\n\n[["Could be worse - thank you."|playercaredebriefc]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $treated gte 2>>\n[["Better - much better."|playercaredebriefc]]\n\n[["Better - much better. Thanks to you."|playercaredebriefc]]\n<<else>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n
You take what cover you can behind the bicycles, but you're painfully exposed, as is Arc. \n<html></html>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nThe cops are still closing in, guns out. You have to buy her some time. You raise your pistol.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nThe black-clad assailants are still closing in, guns out. You have to buy her some time. You raise your pistol.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[Shoot to kill.|hackskill]]\n\n[[Just make them think twice.|hacksnokill]]
"Ha! Are you serious?" She cackles. "Hilarious! Have you ever met him in person? Seen how he dresses?"\n\n[["Yes! Tweed, v-necked sweaters and a bow tie! Hilarious!"|!a2]]\n\n[["Oh god. A fashion victim from a hundred years ago."|!a3]]\n
"Ok, ok, I get it," she says with a laugh. "But //if// I may be so bold as to ask, what do I call you? What's your handle?"\n\n[["Call me..."|handle]]\n\n<<set $business = $business + 1>>
"We're going to have to get out of here soon," she says. "But we're secure for now. They won't track this apartment to me, and I took care of the data in those cabs - they won't be able track us that way.\n\n"Take a little time, ok? Finish the food and sleep."\n\n<<if $body lte 1>>\n[[continue|playercarepermission]]\n<<else>>\n[[continue|playercaretime]]\n<<endif>>
"What happened out there, Armand? <<print $handle>> is freaking the fuck out. Like, I'm worried for my health. What's the deal?"\n\nAs she speaks, she casually glances down at her wrist computer and taps at it a bit. You get a text from her, which scrolls across your visual field:\n\n<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\nsry sm1 has 2 b bad cop <3\n<<else>>\nsry sm1 has 2 b bad cop (:\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nsry sm1 has 2 b bad cop... ps not sry >:)\n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|perimeter5]]
"No idea. I mean it could be anything, right? Armand's never screwed me before, but the guy's a cypher. I've tried to dig up dirt on him before and there's nothing. His digital footprint is negligible, I can't link his business social accounts back to anything personal, and he's nowhere in any databases.\n\n"But as good as Armand is there's always somebody better. Maybe he's the one getting played. Hell, the whole point of this may be to get to him." \n\n[[continue|shirt]]
<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n"Aw, you //do// care!\n\n"It's all part of our exciting package of services here at Arc Industries. Customer satisfaction is our top priority.\n\n"Of course if you die, you don't count as an unsatisfied customer, but what can I say, I'm passionate about my work."\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n"Yeah, it's what I do," she says curtly.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|shirt]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
"You know, I've never worked with <<print $handle>> before," Armand says. "If there's a security problem maybe that's where it is." \n\nYou blink; that's blatantly false. You've worked a few jobs with Armand before. And it's a strange lie for him to tell Arc. Armand always tells his contractors a little about who they'll be working with; she'll know your history together.\n\nBut then the man in the cheap suit gets a phone call, and you focus in on him. He greets the call with a big smile, but his face immediately falls. Within moments, he's almost to the point of tears. Whatever the drama is there - professional setback? family illness? - it's purely personal, and neither your business nor important to your survival. You look discreetly away.\n\n[[continue|watchplaza4]]
"<<print $handle>> is close," Arc says to Armand, sounding a little agitated - she must have spotted the lie too. "Gave an ETA of a few minutes last time we spoke." \n\n"Why would an operative compromise an op in a way that leads to them getting shot at?" she asks after a momentary pause.\n\n"Then it has to be a coincidence," Armand says. "I know for a fact that the op wasn't compromised on my end."\n\nThe woman in the bulky coat is walking with purpose, her eyes hidden behind big sunglasses, seemingly oblivous to the world around her. But there's something - she's glowing in the infrared. She's implanted. And in fact, that IR signature looks awfully familiar...\n\n[[continue|watchplaza5]]
"How can you possibly know for sure?" Arc says, raising her voice slightly. \n\nThe woman in the bulky coat looks almost identical in the IR spectrum to the hostile operative in kevlar back at Minos. \n\n"I don't get surprised, old girl," Armand says. He sounds tense all of a sudden. \n\nAnd then for just a moment, the woman in the coat glances at you - and then looks immediately away. \n\n[["We're made."|watchplaza6]]\n\n[["They're here!"|watchplaza6]]\n\n
There's a pause in Arc and Armand's chat. "What should we do?" Arc says, addressing the remark, you assume, mainly to you. \n\nThe woman's working her jaw now; it looks like a tic, but it might mean she's transmitting subvocally. \n\nYou see several flashes of movement all across the plaza. Cops. All the cops reach up to listen better to their earpieces. Then you see the nearest group of black-armored SWAT officers, three of them, turn and start moving toward you.\n\nThe game just changed.\n\n[[continue|watchplaza7]]\n\n<<set $sawagent = 1>>
Going up against cops changes everything. \n\nOperatives like you have an informal detente with law enforcement. You work mostly for corporations, and the cops ultimately do as well. Generally, if you leave law enforcement alone, law enforcement will leave you alone, unless you inconvenience them by getting caught in the act. \n\nBut that arrangement is unspoken and very fragile. The public mostly thinks of operatives as terrorists, and if you're actually caught, you'll be treated like one. \n\n[[continue|watchplaza7.5]]
Thank god you have a little warning before the cops are on top of you. But you're going to have to make the most of it. Your hardware gives you an edge - even the most lavishly-funded police departments tend to invest in heavy arsenals rather than implanted cops - but these three are packing automatic weapons they won't hesitate to use. \n\nAnd there's another problem, too: if you kill any of these cops - or even hurt them badly - the informal professional courtesy of cops for freelancers will go right out the window. At that point odds will be pretty low that you'll survive to face trial.\n\n[[continue|watchchoice]]\n\n<<set $peril = 1>>
"Right. Sorry," she says simply. \n\n[[continue|lovem3]]\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted - 1>>
//Segways//. Ridiculous playthings for people with too much money. There was a time when they were almost forgotten, one more instance of an envisioned future becoming the quaint past. \n\nBut after the advent of exclusive urban enclaves like this, they enjoyed a resurgence. This is, after all, essentially a playground for people with too much money.\n\n[[return|rescuearc3.5]]
Arc frowns, and considers your words carefully.\n<html></html>\n<<if $arcwound eq 1>>\n"Ok," she says finally. "Ok, maybe I do. I don't like you, I'm not under any illusion that you like me - but you went above and beyond for me. I know that. And I appreciate it.\n\n"Stay here tonight. I'm going to see if I can get you some intel to get you started, some new IDs, anything else I can think of that might help. Tomorrow, I'm gone. After that, you can do what you want."\n\n[[continue|likeasharkwithlessfins]]\n<<else>>\n"No," she says finally. "You've done right by me, but I've done the same by you. Without me you'd never have made it out of Minos. \n\n"As professionals, we're square. I don't wish any harm on you, <<print $handle>>, but you haven't given me any reason to want to stick my neck out for you. And I'm not gonna.\n\n"Stay here tonight. Rest up. But tomorrow, I think you better go."\n\n[[continue|likeashark]]\n<<endif>>
"Sounds good.\n\n"One other thing before you execute: I've got basic readouts on your hardware, but permissions are locked up pretty tight.\n\n"Armand hired me strictly for info and overwatch, but hardware optimization is my real specialty. \n\n"If you want to grant me config rights, I'd be happy to help you out however I can."\n\n[[continue|hardware]]\n
She shrugs. She looks drawn and pale, and she has to force a smile. \n\n"Pretty crappy, but... you know, not bad. Considering."\n\nShe gestures to her bandaged shoulder.\n\n"//Thank you//," she says. "Seriously."\n\n[[continue|acwake2]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 1>>
"Right," she says, and the moment is broken. "On it. And you get some sleep." \n<<if $arcwound eq 0>>\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\nShe stands, very gingerly, taking it slowly with her injury, and goes out.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"See you tomorrow," she says from the door way. She flashes one last smile. "It's gonna be an adventure."\n\n[[end|credits]]
<<if $arcwound eq 0>>\nIt's some time later before Arc gets up.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nIt's some time later before Arc gets up, very gingerly, taking it slowly as she gets back on her feet for the first time.\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"Ok, now I've //really// got to get to work," she says. "And you should get some sleep."\n\n"See you tomorrow," she says from the doorway. She flashes one last smile. "It's gonna be an adventure."\n\n[[end|credits]]
Which calls you back to your current mission: breakfast for two, to go, from a local greasy spoon recommended by Arc. \n\nThe sun is rising, you have a plan and a partner, and Arc says the food at this place is to die for. \n\nThings are starting to look up.\n\n[[end|credits]]
You take the medical bag; this will be a big help. \n\n[[continue|arccare5]]\n\n<<set $kit = 1>>
<<if $affinity gte 1>>\n"What, military-grade operatives lying in ambush in a second-rate server farm? Nah, no big deal," she says teasingly. "Not when you're working with a good operative, anyway."\n\n[["Or a good operator. You had some pretty good tricks back there."|chata]]\n\n[["Any idea what's going on?"|chatb]]\n\n[["See you at the meet."|meet]]\n<<else>>\n"What, military-grade operatives lying in ambush in a second-rate server farm? Nah, no big deal," she says wearily. \n\n[["Thanks for your help back there."|chata]]\n\n[["Any idea what's going on?"|chatb]]\n\n[["See you at the meet."|meet]]\n<<endif>>\n\n
You and Arc have wound up in the middle of something big. You still don't know what it is, and you don't really want to know. You're a specialist-for-hire; ambushes, armies of police and mysterious augmented agents aren't supposed to be part of the job. \n\nYou're just lucky you have a way out - and the help of a skilled hacker. \n\n[[continue|groundbreakfast4]]
<html><font size = "36">ARC</font></html>\n\n(a cyberpunk adventure)\n\n[[continue|positionone]]
You glance up at the third-story windows of the building; the blinds are drawn in Arc's hideout, and the windows are dark. You know she's busy inside, though, preparing for the risky trip out of the city - losing the heat you've drawn in this town is a necessary first step.\n\nArc's already set up squeaky clean new identities for both of you, complete with IDs and an impressively extensive fake digital footprint. On top of that, she's already produced an sizeable intel packet - names, photos, addresses, phone numbers and IPs, even radio frequencies. No big picture answers yet, but it's a start. \n\n[[continue|bigbreakfast3]]
<<display "signoff">>
"It's just bad luck, old girl," Armand says. He can't be much above 35 but sometimes he talks like he's 135. \n\n"I have no idea who those operatives were. Maybe Minos is considering some corporate espionage of their own and had the operatives onsite for a meeting. How should I know? But it's nothing to do with us." \n\nYou scan the plaza. There's a very narrow range of socially acceptable fashion in areas like this; you look for outliers. You find several: a young woman in a too-worn leather jacket, a grizzled man in a too-cheap suit. A woman in a flowing coat despite the warm weather - there are a lot of things she could be concealing under it. \n\n[[continue|watchplaza2]]
"You're good at what you do. We have complementary skillsets. And I like you - we work well together.\n<<if $flirted gte 2>>\n<html></html>\n"Plus the place is right on the beach, and I bet you look pretty amazing in a bathing suit.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"You should come with me.\n<html></html>\n[["When you put it like that..."|hideout]]\n\n[["I'm sorry - I don't think it's a good idea."|deny]]\n\n[["No - just get me out of the country, I'll figure out the rest."|prehidesolo]]
<<if $affinity lte 0>>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties. \n<html></html>\n"So where are you going to go? I can help you with the arrangements, make sure they're untraceable. Even help with an ID, if you need..."\n<html></html>\n[["Just get me out of the country. I'll figure out the rest."|prehidesolo]]\n<html>\n[["Actually, that island sounds perfect - room for two?|denied]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $arcwound neq 0>>\nIn a few moments you're looking at a virtual tour of a little beachside bungalow on her screen.\n<html></html>\n"I got this place with the proceeds from my first big job through an assumed ID - completely clean, I never use it," Arc says. "Little island in the Indian Ocean. Very complicated extradition treaties. \n<html></html>\n"It should be safe as houses. And it's //nice// there. You know?\n<html></html>\n[[continue|groundsolo3]]\n<<else>>\n"You're good at what you do. We have complementary skillsets. And I like you - we work well together.\n<<if $flirted gte 2>>\n<html></html>\n"Plus the place is right on the beach, and I bet you look pretty amazing in a bathing suit.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n"You should come with me.\n<html></html>\n[["When you put it like that..."|hideout]]\n\n[["I'm sorry - I don't think it's a good idea."|deny]]\n\n[["No - just get me out of the country, I'll figure out the rest."|prehidesolo]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
The lights go out. The fire alarm rings, and the sprinklers activate. \n\nYour eyes handle the change in light levels easily - plenty of natural light is coming in through the windows down the hall and under office doors - and you're off and running. Your hormone control systems are firing up, killing the pain from your injuries and feeding you adrenaline to keep you moving. \n\nArc has provided another trail, going past the hostile in the exoskeleton. You sprint past them as they stand dumbfounded about in the darkness.\n\n[[continue|rescue3]]
<<if $marker eq 1>>\nArc's yellow trail leads you right back to the window you broke through earlier. You jump out and land hard, but you keep moving. \n\n[[continue|exfil]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $marker eq 3>>\nArc's yellow trail leads you right back to the window you broke through earlier. You jump out and land hard, but you keep moving. \n\n[[continue|exfil]]\n<<else>>\nArc's trail leads you straight out a window. You fire a few rounds into the glass as you run, and take your best leap through it without breaking stride.\n\nYou land hard in a shower of glass, but you keep moving. \n\n[[continue|exfil]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
"The way I see it, we have two options. We go to ground, disappear completely for as long as we need to. Or we go big, we go after whoever's behind this and we burn them. I don't even know what that means, but we hurt them bad enough that they won't - or, I would prefer, can't - come after us again.\n\n"What do you think?"\n\n[["We should hide until this blows over."|ground]]\n\n[["We go after them."|big]]\n\n[["I'm going to hide - alone."|groundsolo]]\n\n[["I'm going after them - by myself."|bigsolo]]\n
Arc shakes her head. "I just don't know. Maybe I can find out, with enough time. But right now we have to figure out what we're going to do now.\n\n"Somebody has it out for us. And we can't just sit here and wait for the blow to fall."\n\n[[continue|acwake4]]
"So we don't know what's going on," she says, carefully lifting herself into a sitting position. "I mean, we know the shit hit the fan. And we know that for some reason the cops are after us. And we know that they got Armand.\n\n"And not much else."\n\n[["Could this all go back to Minos? Maybe they're not just a little server farm..."|acwake3]]\n<html></html>\n<<if $brown eq 1>>\n<<if $brownretort eq 1>>\n[["That woman, 'Agent' Brown - she said something, something about how I wasn't 'above the system' anymore. Whatever that means."|acwake3]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n[["That woman, 'Agent' Brown - she was no local cop. Somebody's pulling the strings."|acwake3]]\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\n[["I saw a woman with the cops with the same IR profile as one of the operatives at Minos. She's no local cop... maybe someone's pulling the strings?"|acwake3]]\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<if $watchedarmand eq 1>>\n[["Armand did his best to signal us - somebody got to him somehow."|acwake3]]\n<<else>>\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\n[["Armand said something weird, something about 'black ops law enforcement' - maybe he was trying to tell us something."|acwake3]]\n<<else>>\n[["Could they have gotten to Armand?"|acwake3]]\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>
You catch up with Arc a few moments later; she has the segway up to speed, and the cops in the plaza are disappearing behind you. \n\n<<if $arcwound neq 1>>\n"If we can get a car, then I have a safe place we can go," she calls. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n"Car," she says, with difficulty. "Got a safehouse." \n\nThe segway swerves dangerously for a moment before righting itself. She's barely holding it together. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\nThe cops don't have a perimeter set up - yet. You reach the end of the little elite enclave, and a real street, with cars. There are sirens in the distance, lots of sirens. There's also an autocab stand, with several cabs waiting.\n\n[[continue|autocab]]
You wake up, some time later. You don't remember falling asleep; you were so exhausted you must have dropped off. \n\nYou're on the bed, still fully clothed, still in your boots, across from Arc, who's sleeping fitfully. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<html></html>\nYou vaguely remember taking a little time to treat your own wounds after Arc passed out, and the dressings seem to have held up. The pain is a lot worse - that initial rush of hormones from your 'ware has completely worn off - but you haven't reopened any of the wounds in your sleep. The sight of the clean bandanges is comforting; one thing your 'ware is not great at is fighting infection.\n\n[[continue|rested.5]]\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n[[continue|rested.5]]\n<<endif>>
<<if $affinity lte 0>>\nArc shrugs. "Ok, if that's what you want to do. Me, I've got a really nice place on an island on the Indian Ocean, but it's your call - and your funeral.\n\n"I need you to understand, though - if you want to hide, I'm happy to help you make arrangements or set up a fake ID. But if you're going after them, alone, I can't afford to stick my neck out any further than I already have.\n\n"Too much chance that you'll be taken." \n\n[["Fine by me."|likeashark]]\n\n[["Whatever."|likeashark]]\n\n[["Come on, Arc - you owe me more than that."|becausedebt2]]\n\n[["But there's also a chance I take them - in which case the heat is off of you."|becauseinterest]]\n\n<<else>>\n"Oh... I see." \n\nShe's quiet for a long moment. \n\n"Listen, <<print $handle>>, if you go after these people alone - I mean, that's a death sentence. I mean, whoever these people are they have a whole city police department jumping on their strings. \n\n"Let me help you."\n\n[["No - you'd slow me down."|bigsolodef]]\n\n[["No - it's too dangerous."|bigsolodefb]]\n\n[["No - I work alone."|bigsolodef]]\n\n[["If you're sure you want to, you'd be welcome.|partners]]\n<<endif>>
"I want to ask you one last thing," she says.\n\n"I can do a lot to help your recovery by adjusting your 'ware settings. There's a lot it can do, but it could also do more harm than good if it pushes your body to hard. Would you like me to?"\n\n[["Sure."|playercarepermissiony]]\n\n[["No."|playercarepermissionn]]\n\n<<if $access neq 0>>\n[["Don't you already have access?"|playercarepermissionaccess]]\n<<endif>>
"Well, you were. But - thanks for apologizing. I'll think about it."\n\n[[continue|flirted]]\n\n<<set $affinity = $affinity + 2>>\n\n<<set $flirted = $flirted + 1>>
You look through several cabinets; they're not quite as bare as the rest of the furnishings, suggesting that Arc does use this apartment regularly, perhaps even live here. You find glasses in the cabinet over the sink.\n\n[[continue|glass2]]\n\n<<set $glass = 1>>
You leave early the next morning; the sky is light but the sun isn't up. \n<<if $wound gte 1>>\n<<if $treated eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nYour injuries still trouble you, but they're healing quickly, and after a lot of high-calorie food and more sleep your 'ware-induced 'hangover' is finally clearing up. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\nYour injuries are healing, but you still feel like crap, and sleep and a lot of high-calorie food have only taken the edge off of your 'ware-induced hangover. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[continue|hittheground2]]
<<if $treated gte 1>>\n<<if $affinity gte 3>>\nArc is curled up on the bed beside you, fully clothed, snoring softly. Her mouth moves softly in her sleep; a laptop lies beside her, closed.\n<<if $flirted gte 3>>\n<html></html>\nShe seems to have crept closer to you in her sleep; you feel her body, warm and soft, against your side. She has one arm draped lightly over your midsection.\n<html></html>\n[[Move closer to her.|playercaresnuggle]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $flirted gte 1>>\n<html></html>\nShe fell asleep some distance from you, but her arms are splayed out toward you; her fingers brush lightly against your arm.\n<html></html>\n[[Move closer to her.|playercaresnuggle]]\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n[[Wake her.|playercarewake]]\n\n[[Get up without waking her.|playercarerise]]\n<<else>>\nYou hear the sound of gentle tapping. Arc has dragged in one of the plastic chairs; a laptop is open on her lap, and she's typing busily.\n\n[["Hi there."|playercarehi]]\n\n[["What are you doing?"|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Is there any more food?"|playercaremorefood]] \n<<endif>>\n<<else>>\nYou hear the sound of gentle tapping. Arc has dragged in one of the plastic chairs; a laptop is open on her lap, and she's typing busily.\n\n[["Hi there."|playercarehi]]\n\n[["Find out anything?"|playercaredebrief]]\n\n[["Is there any more food?"|playercaremorefood]] \n<<endif>>
The streets are quiet this early. You take a second to think about your next move, once the two of you are safely out of the city. \n<html></html>\n<<if $clue eq 1>>\nYour biggest clue to the big picture, though, is still the hint that Armand dropped. \n<html></html>\n'Black ops law enforcement going rogue to target high-level freelancers.' That's what he said. Exactly what he meant, you don't know. But whatever's going on, it includes the ambush at Minos, co-opting the city police, and whatever they did to get to Armand. \n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $brownretort eq 1>>\n<html></html>\nAll that data doesn't help you know what's really going on - not yet. The woman from Minos - 'Brown' (you don't believe that's her real name, anymore than you were born <<print $handle>>). She said you weren't beyond 'the system' anymore. Who knows what that means, exactly. But it does mean that somebody out there is gunning for you.\n<html></html>\n<<else>>\n<<if $brown eq 1>>\nAll that data doesn't help you know what's really going on - not yet. The augmented woman from Minos, "Brown" - she's undoubtedly one of "them". But you don't know much about her, other than that she's plugged in with the police, and somebody paid for a lot of cyberware for her. \n<<else>>\n<<if $sawagent eq 1>>\nAll that data doesn't help you know what's really going on - not yet. But something big is going down. The agent from Minos who followed you downtown, the way the police turned on you, the fact that they got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<<else>>\nYou still have no idea exactly who you're setting out against. But something big is going down. The ambush at Minos, the way the police turned on you, the fact that someone got to Armand - you're up against something big. \n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n<<endif>>\n\n[[continue|bigbreakfast4]]
<<if $arcwound neq 1>>>>\nAt a first glance, though, Arc's data confirms what she surmised last night: the people behind this seem to be Feds. And that's a kind of trouble you haven't dealt with before.\n<html></html> \n<<else>>\nArc's data seems to point to a strange, troubling conclusion: the people behind this are Feds. And that's a kind of trouble you haven't dealt with before. \n<html></html>\n<<endif>>\nThe Federal enforcement agencies are many, and they're unpredictable. They're less corrupted by corporate interests than local police, but that doesn't mean they're less corrupt, just that the fingers pulling their strings are hidden in a very deep, very dangerous darkness. \n\nYou know the corporate world, all the politics, all the bullshit, and all the tricks. Feds means national security, means national intelligence programs - means you've got a real mess to sort out.\n\n[[continue|bigbreakfast5]]\n
Rogue cops, compromised allies, augmented enemies. You've got your work cut out for you.\n\nBut the sun is rising, and you're alive and free for another day - and you're not in it alone. Which calls you back to your current mission: breakfast for two, to go, from a local greasy spoon recommended by Arc. \n\nYou're going to get all the coffee you can carry. The two of you are going to have a long day. But at least it won't be boring.\n\n[[end|credits]]