Eclipse Phase Characterization

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>>>>>DIGITAL RECORD 938-PAR-2802




>>>>>AF 12 10-AUGUST



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…not really used to this. No, no that’s fine.


{A young woman is seated at a mess table, Europa can be seen out the cruiser viewport, LEO distance. Her eyes are tracking something on the other side of the camera; face tense. She is in a sylph morph, perfect bone structure, delicate features, raven hair}






No, nothing. Let’s just get going.












Really? That’s what you want to start with? {Laughter, Negative Connotation 97.86%} That’s hard hitting stuff. Christ. What do you think I miss about earth? I miss one gee. I miss real sunlight on my skin, laying on a beach. The smell of the water and sand and fish and rot –






No, REAL sunlight. I know what I said. Not the goddamn hard radiation you have to filter through a screen out here. Safe, soft, orange. Makes you sleepy. But smells! What do I miss? How to catalog a billion lost smells, and each one a memory… {Pause} I had been off Earth before. Of course; I was a reporter even then. As we evacuated…I thought I’d feel – I don’t know – grateful I had escaped, relieved. And then I saw that blue sphere getting smaller. Smaller. It was…distorted in the viewer by the engine wash. {Sigh} Even then you could see, actually watch, the remaining green slowly turning a dusty brown as the TITANS started eating it all up or whatever it was they did.






{Long pause. Novak is looking into the distance, unfocused} Sick. I felt sick, I guess. {Annoyed, turns back to camera} Look, you can get this sort of stuff from any survivor. There are three-hundred million of us. Try something new.






No, I don’t think the TITANS are to blame. Not fully. There are a lot of questions left unanswered. Reporters, the media. They – we – got lazy. Didn’t see the forest from the trees. I think Earth governments had a lot more to do with it than we suspect, and there should have been more questions at the time.






I know it isn’t a popular opinion. But it gets ratings. {Novak rolls her eyes} That fuels me, though. I’m popular because I don’t regurgitate the state stories anymore. You ever hear the song; it goes something like “Won’t get fooled again…”






No, I can’t remember any of the rest of it, but…for some reason I distinctly remember that playing over my pad. It was when I worked on the SanSan City Grid. It was my first news beat. {Pause, shakes her head slowly} Anyway, I don’t know where I’m going with that. {Sigh, wistful 67.22%} We’ll just edit it out later. We can’t be fooled again. You ever feel like you let someone down? Multiply that by twenty billion, and you can imagine I’m having a real bad twelve-fucking-years.


{Long silence. Novak looks down at her hands, then runs a finger across her brow, pushing a lock of hair behind her ear}






Faust. His name’s Faust.






I’m well aware of the local laws on Artificial Intelligence. I avoid those planetary bodies, or take other precautions. He has the duties of a ‘muse,’ but that is insulting. Faust runs every system on –






{Annoyance, 100%} Yes, I have broken that law in the past. Let your subject tell the story, it’s reporting 101. Damn. {Novak pauses, adjusting her bracelet wearable} Faust runs every system on the Solar Cadence and I’d trust him with my life. He handles camerawork, scheduling, safety. I’m not afraid of boogeymen, or the corporate-line on machine thought. Viewers – the smart ones – respect that.






{Laughter, surprised; amused 82.17%} Maybe I am. Maybe I am. {Shrug}






Because he is trustworthy, direct, dedicated, and knows the value of truth. If you’ve got those, then I’m happy to consider you a friend, or at least worth respect. Well – look, I know sometimes there is a place for subterfuge. I deal with…let’s say all sorts of people. You have to in my line of work, and you have to see both sides of things. At the same time, my contacts, those I work with, know I don’t pick sides, I only tell the tale. But we’re in this thing together now, working to the same goal. Does that make sense?






I mean all of us. We have to be more inquisitive, adapt. It’s just like the AI issue – fear. The cure for fear is facts. Now, people are afraid these are our final days. Me? I’m not afraid of extinction. That’s going to happen…it’s going to happen some day. It’s just…it’s about choice. You need to know the score to make a choice.






{Laughter} A bit dark, but I guess you’re right. Hmm, yeah. Even if the choice is to accept our fate. It scares me we won’t even see it coming, and it’ll be our fault. People deserve to know. {Long pause, staring at something off camera} Fuck, I’m rambling. Edit that part too.






You can’t just have dead air and me philosophising. We’ll clean it up in post.






…Don’t ask me that. {Pause, brow furrowed} It’s because I have to know. I have to know. It’s all that matters to me. It’s what I have left. I’ll give everyone that, at least.


{Long Pause, places hand across mouth, 11.2 seconds} {Stands up} No. No. Scrap it. It was a mistake. This was a very, very poor idea. We’ll –


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Yunae ::: Will have to be edited for density and word choice

Yunae’s life dripped cerulean from the end of a perfect-white quill. She dipped her pale hand, wrist set but without any strain, like a violinist playing a slow fugue. The ink evened to a perfect density upon the tip, which shimmered with spotted azure hues cloaked amidst the black. Each drop was precious. The result of seven days of labor, it was mixed with crushed jade and blessed by the three priests of the temple. The liquid was imbued with everything Yunae was and ever had been; a life’s chronicle made manifest. To lose even a speck was to lose herself, cast into the shadow of forgotten people and days past.

She vowed that she would cheat death of its true prize, for in memory she could live eternal, conjured back each time history invoked her name. It was a costly endeavor, in both material and spiritual value. Even now she strained to maintain her strength as it was pulled out of her arm, into the downy feather and onto the page. But in success she would have immeasurable returns. Everything she had ever wanted was on the table before her.

Outside she could hear the sounds of battle growing closer, reverberating through the palace as steel clashed with deadly force. Shouts and screams marked the death of nameless soldiers on both sides, mourned by so few. They were destroying what she had built. Statues and paintings, buildings and the seneschals that carried her word. It sent a shiver through her, but she was safe for now.

It was a small library, but the books were Yunae’s prized possession, filled with stories of gods, heroes, and kings. In the center sat a marble table carved from a solid piece of stone, padded with silks and soft pillows. Yunae sat with pen to parchment, looking fragile but intent. So different than the warrior she had been just a day before.

It took all her might just to hold her hand in place, scratching it across the prepared skin surface that Hae’chi had retrieved. She was afraid to ask him its origin, and had left the topic to rest. Instead she focused solely on the task at hand, before the insurrection could reach this place, her final sanctuary. She pulled the sleeve of her flowing gown back, orange and red and dazzling in brightness of the Empress, to prevent it from muddling the dread calligraphy. The characters seemed to draw themselves as they formed in her mind. Each one a story unto itself.

Yunae felt light headed as she completed another symbol was completed. It was if she were there once again; the bridge at Kushu. Her hand felt warm as blood flowed down onto the hilt of her jian, buried in an enemy. Her breath was mist in the chill air. The smell of smoke. The blade catching on bone and rattling her arm as she pulled it back out. The stabbed man fell, alive a moment longer. His eyes were searching but empty as she stepped to the next opponent. Hae’chi was there too. He pushed her ever forward and gifted her martial skill from the throne of her mind, ensconced like a warlord on his chariot.

The feeling faded and Yunae was back in the library, colder than she had felt in her vision and shivering with exertion. She could just make out her reflection in the smooth tabletop, drawn and aged before its time. Her sight dimmed and she could hear the flush of blood through her head, beating a loud but tired march. Another dab of ink, and the quill was even heavier, pulling her arm down as if it was carrying the weight of the world. Still, she willed it into place and released more of her story onto the page.

This time she was a hero, welcomed home as the conqueror of the South, to parades and blaring horns. Colored bits of paper fell from windows along the Grand Walk, filling the sky with festivity. She had been watching only their fluttering shadows, lost in thoughts of the farm and her mother. Children laughed – it was so clear now, like tiny bells. Something which would never have come to her in simple memory. Everyone sang, and smiled, and cried for their savior.

She visited her mother later that night, ignoring the calls of her comrades. Xihe was alone in the quiet farmhouse. She was huddled in her simple rocking chair, staring at the wall with hollow eyes. She did not recognized Yunae. She was so small and pitiful. Yunae felt her own tears. She excused herself abruptly and left her soldier’s wages on the table. She hated this memory more than any other, but the ink would tell nothing but the entire story. And so it would all be included.

More and more of her life was imbued into the page, each time sapping more of what she was and the dwindling life that remained. Every tale was there. Every success and failure, joy and embarrassment, love and hate captured in jade-blue lettering that contained vast reservoirs of tales. Far beyond what should be possible. The chronicle neared its end and Yunae was tired, and felt that she could be blown away by a gentle breeze. The din of combat roared now, just down the hall of her Imperial chambers, and Hae’chi appeared at her side. He stood by the marble table, carried to her by a thought. He was dressed as he always was: green noble long-shirt and pants, with a jian buckled at his hip. His face, at least this time, was plain and peasant, though elongated just enough to be noticeable. When he flashed a quick smile his teeth were pointed and hooked like a dog’s. A constant of his many forms.

Yunae finished the last of her calligraphy and turned her heavy head to face her old companion. She considered once again that she could be angry at Hae’chi; for bringing her to this point, coaxing fate along such dark paths. But it was quickly forgotten. Yunae had everything she had wanted, and Hae’chi had given it to her. She had lived a full life, one for which there was much to answer, yet she had been the director. Hae’chi had simply offered a way to get here. His motives were no more complex than the waves washing against the shore.

“You called for me, Your Eminence?”  He didn’t bow like her other subjects. He was far too terrible a rank to show such submission. She nodded and set the quill in the empty well, eyes drooping with exhaustion.

“Hae’chi, I have one last task for you, old friend. All these pages I have written, the sheets you brought me the other night. Make sure they are taken somewhere safe. Somewhere where they won’t be burned and lost like everything else in the palace. It’s all I have left. Would you please do that for me?”

Hae’chi smiled again, but this time there might have been some small sadness in that fiendish grin.

“I will do this for you, Your Eminence. Then I will come back, for we have one last trip left to take.”

“I haven’t forgotten,” Yunae said, her breath soft and ragged now. “The parchment,” she cried with the last of her vigor, “Hae’chi, I can’t see it any longer, is it there? Please, make sure it is safe.”

“I have it, now,” he assured her, picking up the pages of carefully prepared skin that were now out of sight to his mistress, “You are tired. Why don’t you put down your head. It is time for rest.”

“Yes, you are right. I need a rest,” she slouched over onto the cool marble as her eyes closed of their own accord, “Thank you, Hae’chi. You are my only real friend.”

Yunae drew a last, shuddering breath and was still.

Hae’chi arranged the last of the parchment and stood by his mistress for a moment, brushing a strand of hair from her face, lost in thoughts only he could know. He stood that way for a long time until turning and facing the doors just before the first crunch of impact sounded. From the other side, soldiers forced their way in. Even the massive wooden barriers did not last long against the rage that was applied to them by the men. Soon they were inside the library, weapons drawn and face to face with the Demon of the Palace. “That is Hae’chi,” they whispered amongst themselves, anger and fear keeping them rooted in place. Their leader was a handsome young man, the hero of the rebellion, Bang Junghwa. He saw the Empress lying at the table and stared balefully at Hae’chi.

“She is dead then? Yunae is dead?”

Hae’chi gave one curt nod.

“Then it is done,” Junghwa said, though he did not lower his dao. “And what is it you will do now, creature? I will kill you myself if I must.”

“That will be unnecessary,” Hae’chi said, baring his jagged teeth, “I only ask one thing of you, Bang Junghwa. These are the last words and story of my mistress, Yunae Rah. Take them and read them; in exchange I will go far, far away. You will never again find trouble with me.”

“No trick?” Junghwa asked.

“No trick.”

Junghwa considered, then sheathed his dao, “Fine, give them here. You will take her where she deserves, I assume. Where you come from? Those are the rules, yes?”

“I have broken many rules for her in the past,” Hae’chi answered, grinning in anger or perhaps frustration. “Though some rules are immutable.” He handed the writings over. As soon as they were in Junghwa’s hand, Hae’chi had vanished as if never there, along with the body of the Empress, heralded only by a gentle breeze that fluttered the sheets in his grip. The men were thrown into a brief panic, but Junghwa calmed them with a sharp word and a raised hand.

“Victory!” one of the men yelled, “She is dead, long live Junghwa!” The tension had eased and transformed into gaiety and delight. “We will burn this damned palace to the ground,” they all agreed.

“What will you do with this book?” Junghwa’s friend, and second in command asked, gripping the General’s shoulder.

“Burn any trace of her away!” the soldiers advanced as if to do it themselves, but once again Junghwa stopped them.

“No, I’ll read it first,” he stated, though his distaste was evident, “I will keep my promise. Afterward –  then I will decide what to do with it.”
Later that night, in the glow of the burning Imperial Palace, he began the story.

Personality ::: Needs tidying and a better connecting structure

Fat raindrops twanged on the prefab, corrugated steel office. The walls shuddered in tune with the grumble of thunder. Inside the fluorescent lights flickered nervously at the slight disturbance. Jack tilted his display glasses down the front of his nose in anticipation of a power loss. Satisfied that the grid would hold out, he sighed and went back to monitoring the collection of drones patrolling the perimeter of the shipyard. A fifty-million nuyen fleet of armed remotes on an outdated electrical system. The decision makers sure knew how to kneecap the most expensive of purchases. He scrolled through the transmitted video, keeping a close watch for any threat codes from the Zaubers. The Zees had their own analysis software; they were more likely to notice something suspicious than Jack’s unaugmented eyes. Scrolling text and haptic feedback were all he really had to monitor. Late-shift security required little training, no nano or installs, and minimum effort. The datawork was the worst part. Logging and inspecting hundreds of ships and manifests per day. It’s why they paid him the “big creds.”

He chuckled and popped a Rush – prescription of course. It was fast acting, supposed to keep him alert and energized; mostly it just kept him awake and nervous. A foghorn went off, just as another nearby rumble of thunder crashed through the thin walls. The door to the office opened, then slammed fully ajar as the wind pushed it out of control. A figure in a poly-rainslicker scuttled in and closed the door against the gale. Water pooled at his feet, as Chester caught his breath. His eyes had a faint blue haze in the shadow of his hood, a side-effect of the display contacts he wore.

“You scared the piss out of me,” Jack said, watching the other worker shake the wet from his person. Chester put his hood down and grimaced. He was older, worked on the docks for years. Technology had passed him by for a promotion. Didn’t even have a ‘Link installed – face-to-face was how he liked to talk. Even with drones, the human touch was still important for security and inspection.

“Pretty bad out there,” Jack tried.

“Yeah, bad,” Chester said. “We got a problem; the Vetruvius that just came in. Think we have some immigrants.”

Smuggling people was always big business. God-damned annoyance, too. The paperwork that went into that kind of drek… Jack redirected a few of the Zaubers to the Vetruvius and set them to standby. It was one of the massive container ships, out of the Seoul metroplex. Seemed more trouble came from that way, those ships. The divide between the rich and poor was a problem wherever there were corporations running things, but in Seoul the owners were practically a different species. A lot of people thought there might be something better in Seattle or maybe an arcology somewhere. Jack figured not. Work with what you got. Right now he had a container ship full of suspected illegals. Going outside was the last thing he wanted to do.

“Ahright, let’s zip, Chester.”

The wind and water gripped him in his poly-rainslicker, pressing the material tight against his body. The walk to the containership was long, on the furthest berth from the office. The few, scattered lamp posts did less to light the way than the whiteout lightning-bursts that webbed the clouds. On the horizon, the city was a gray mountain. At the center, the Baekho Corporate Tower lanced into the sky like a rope thrown from the heavens. The storm seemed furious with the intruder. It flicked impotent fire at the top of the building every few moments, like one of those cheap Van Degraff generators. The swarm of flyers and fog-thick nanos that watched its upper reaches had retired against the storm, leaving the exterior smooth and naked.

The Vetruvius’ top decks were empty, but when they approached a message pinged Jack’s Personal Area Network. The ship’s captain wanted a word. Jack told him to stand down for an inspection and set an automated response for any further requests. In Jack’s mind that pretty much confirmed things. When they were anxious to talk, they had something to hide. Most ships had something to hide, but only some of it was his business. He and Chester carefully ascended the ramp. One of the Zaubers followed, it’s wheels sluicing water behind its boxy frame. A .308 autogun looked for someone to greet in the only universal language.

Chester led the way through the labyrinthine cargo, before stopping at a set of orange, metal containers. They were made of the same metal as his harbor office, probably designed with similar comfort in mind, he mused. Chester held a sniffer up to the box, reading something in his contact-displays with a distant gaze.

“Says its furniture and home supplies, but there are organics. Must have a ruptured filter.” Chester had to yell against the rain to be heard.

“Open it up,” Jack said. Chester nodded and punched a code into the container’s lock. It blinked its refusal. He tried again, with the same result. He jammed an overrider into the access port and the lock clanged free.

They pulled the doors open. Lightning flashed, drowning out their small lights. A heavy, rancid scent floated out, warm and cloying in the cool rain. The silver wrappings of dried meals were scattered about the floor of the alcove. Amidst the detritus were people, lying still on the metal ground. Some of their eyes were open, others half-shut. When Jack’s light settled upon a man’s face he had to look away. It was rigored in pain, a trail of blood leaking from one eye.

“They’re all dead,” Jack said, too quiet to be heard. It wasn’t uncommon, but Jack hadn’t seen one so packed, or so peculiar. Chester’s light fell upon the slightest movement. A girl, standing near the back, amidst the mess and death. Her mouth moved, speaking words lost in the deluge. She looked resigned, perhaps in shock. But her eyes drew Jack in; aged well beyond their years. He walked towards her – it was against protocol, there could be disease or violence – but he wasn’t going to just leave her in there.

Jack stepped over the bodies and leaned in, speaking loudly over the metallic echoing.

“Are you ok? I’m here to help.” He said.

Her mouth moved again, and he put his ear near to hear.

“I waited. I waited as long as I could,” she repeated. Over and over and over.


The Renton branch of Crusader Private City Security was busier than any metro stop, and just as dangerous. Overcrowded, violent. Renton wasn’t an A-zone; that meant it was underfunded, overstaffed, and rewarded for harsh policy. Brent pushed his way through the booking room, barely ducking a sharp elbow that a perp swung his way.

“Razor install!” was the call. Three officers piled on the elbow throwing punk, careful to avoid the four-inch blade that had sprung from his elbow. Brent joined the scrum, pinning the offending appendage with his right arm. The electronics of his own installs whined at maximum output. The gutterrunner’s elbow crumpled like concrete under a jackhammer. He became much more pliant after that.

“Thanks, lieutenant,” the booking officer was apologizing as Brent headed for his desk. It was a stupid mistake; should have been a scan for hidden weapons, then a shot of Docile just to be safe. But it was late night, there was a gang-war going on, and not every protocol could be followed. He sat down, scanning the reports that had been filed. He could see the booking officer already had a demerit on the night. The cameras and oversight smart-program that judged everything that occurred in the precinct didn’t care about extenuating circumstances. It decided a situation had gotten out of hand, and someone had to be to blame. The poor sap could file a challenge for all the good it would do.

“Hey, Granger,” Brent looked up from his screen – god it must be twenty years old! – and saw his Captain approaching. Anderson looked tired, dark bags hanging over a nose broken flat long ago. He was chewing a toothpick, with his slight Kentucky drawl spilling out the side of his mouth.

“You got kids, don’t ya?” Anderson said.

“Just one,” he answered, brow knitting, “A son. Why?”

“Immigration and Interdiction brought one of their problems in earlier,”


So, it’s a little fuckin’ girl, and she seems god damn strung out.” It seemed to Brent that Anderson was trying not to seem like he cared. It was entirely out of character. The job could be a nightmare, and the Captain was a prick, but maybe he had a feeling or two. Brent couldn’t suppress a grin.

“Alright, smartass,” Anderson growled, lolling the toothpick across his mouth, “It ain’t a vacation. Just make sure she’s gonna be ok, I don’t wanna have to file any expiration papers before Eye-Eye takes her back. 60292. Ten minutes, tops, just check on her.”

“Yessir,” Brent clipped, heading off to detention, chased by a loud-whispered ‘shithead’.

Detention was on the basement floor, little more than long halls of concrete rooms. It had an antiseptic, sterile appearance, more akin to a hospital than a Private Sec firm. Everything was painted in matte, off white, the cell doors made of semi-transparent poly-steel. Banks of old-style rail lights cast an irritating, fake glow on everything. It was the cleanest part of the precinct – no one was brought here until they were poked, prodded, deconned, Dociled, and logged. He made a few motions with his wearables, scanned the prisoner list with his retinal installs, and brought up 60292. A ghost trail only he could see directed him down one of the corridors.

She couldn’t have been more than sixteen, probably younger. She had been given a plain blue tunic and pants and she sat perfectly still on the concrete bunk, but her eyes were frantic, frightened. He scanned her file. Seoul, cargo ship – there it was. No Docile for her – Christ, she probably could have used it. He’d seen scared kids. Domestic abuse. Gang-bangers grown up too fast; cornered by Crusader, or shot and that dawning realization, staring at the sky, that they were going to die. That was life out in Renton. But this girl had a coldness and surety to her fear that seemed ready to snap like a rubber band. Old eyes.

“Hey, kiddo,” he started, trying to add some levity. She watched him but stayed silent, and he found it harder to smile over unanticipated nerves. “I’m Lieutenant Brent, with Crusader Security.” He showed her his badge. “Is there anything you need? Are you ok? You seem upset…”

“Please, don’t be nice to me,” she said. There was an edge of desperation in her voice. He wasn’t sure how to answer.

“Why? What’s wrong?”

She propped herself standing with a quick push. “You have to let me out of here, or I’m going to die,” she said.

“You’re safe here,” Brent told her. He wasn’t sure it was true. She didn’t look like she believed it. “What’s your name?”

“Yuh-” she stopped herself, looking askance, “It doesn’t matter.”

“I’m just trying to help you, Yuh-it-doesn’t-matter,” He almost chuckled at his joke, but stopped short. She was crying, a single tear staining her cheek and falling as a dark blot on her shirt. “Look, what’s wrong? You aren’t in any trouble.”

The girl looked him in the eyes, locking his in place with the severity. “You seem like a good person, Brent. Do you think I could hold your hand? I’m scared.” She came near to the barred door. Her hand was outstretched, but something in her expression seemed to hope he would refuse.

“Sure,” he said, extending his install-free arm. She cupped it in her small grip, even placing it against her cheek. Then she bit his hand until the blood came.


Tessa Wendelin Kim watched the dawn spill through the Cascades. From three kilometers above, in her sanctuary at the pinnacle of the Baekho Tower, the sepia light that crawled along the ground was like a rising tide. Her grandfather had insisted the corporate tower match the height of Rainier. The cost of construction, buying the downtown property for a base wide enough to accommodate such a monolith, had been astronomical. Even the Sulaiman Arcologies, spread across the globe, chose less developed areas in an effort to suppress costs. But Dae-Ho had been a visionary – or so Tessa was told. Appearance meant so much back home in Korea. Her grandfather had died before she was born. Her father’s life had been claimed in the Black Easter attacks that had sparked the shattering of the European Union. A stupid, random chance. The wrong boardroom when the first separatist bombs went off. Now she was a twenty-five year old woman, at the head of a corporate empire that rivaled any nation. She was surprised just how boring that position was.

“You seem preoccupied,” a voice said through the speakers of the penthouse. Tessa lacked a Persolink, had none of the aural or ocular installs that even the modestly wealthy demanded. It had been Baekho, forty years ago that had developed the technology. And yet her body rejected anything from the simplest mechanical augments to the newest nanotech. A family curse. Without cognition enhancements, ThoughtSifters, or the basic ability to bridge a direct-neural link with computers it put her at a grave disadvantage. The voice, Dul, was Father’s answer to their genetic error. Well, his second answer after Hana. Hana had had…difficulties.

“Just thinking,” she answered Dul. The dawn had extended to the break walls that kept the high sea from devouring the Metroplex. The color of the day would remain gray and dull red for much of the morning, the thick smog altering the refraction. “Have the Chakrabarti made a decision yet?”

“Not yet, but based on their corporate accounts and private ‘Link entries, I believe they’ll close soon.” There was a brief pause as Dul ran complex predictive computations. “A personal reminder and gift might speed things up based on their previous behavior. Should I prepare something?”

“Please do,” Tessa said. Dul was data. He offered glimpses of the future, like a digital oracle. Other systems – the data haven in Singapore, the Belgrade Singularity – could offer similar capabilities, but Dul possessed an intuition, a human factor that those lacked. He was a companion, everywhere there was electronic communication.

“Is that all?” Tessa asked, “I don’t think you’d bother me with something so minor.”

“I believe Yuna is in Seattle.”

Tessa’s exhaled through her teeth and gestured for a display. One of the floor-to-ceiling windows became opaque and a three-dimensional display took its place. “Show me.”

The grimy interior of a building resolved itself in insect multitude; the viewpoints a voyeuristic menagerie of odd angles where cameras kept watch. It was a madhouse. Security personnel bickered and fought with their captives. To Tessa it was hard to tell the difference between the different actors. Everyone looked so unkempt, so dirty. It was rare she saw the crowded ripeness of the city. Her mouth turned down in an uneven sneer.

The display expanded to a young girl, flanked by a pair of government officials. The display noted her preoccupation with their badges, and they were highlighted with info-graphics, identifying the men as Immigration and Interdiction. Dul brought up a file on the girl.

“You think that’s her?” Tessa asked. A gentleman in a black suit entered the Baekho penthouse carrying a delicate porcelain cup with light green contents. He handed the plate to her and bowed, backing out of the room without making eye-contact.

“I thought you would appreciate a drink,” Dul said.

“Mm,” she sipped.

“The girl has no Resident Number, nor an entry in the GeneBank. Immigrant from Seoul. The container ship on which she arrived was denied port entry for weeks. She was discovered surrounded by the bodies of other illegals.”

“Medical report?”

“No diseases found; a full autopsy is pending, but based on witness statements it could be cerebral hemorrhage,” Dul said. “Four hours later an officer was injured interrogating the girl. She died twelve hours after that; the officer hasn’t reported for his next shift.”

“Good job,” she placed the green tea latte on the sideboard and nodded her approval.

“Crusader ‘net security has always been lacking,” Dul acknowledged. “Right now it’s a 57% identification,” He continued, changing the subject back. “What would you like done?”

Her father had often told her, before he was murdered, that a family’s pride was the most important and dangerous thing it possessed. He had not explained at the time why, but, he said, that was the reason Yuna was a grave threat. Bring her close, he had told her – make amends. Father had made a mistake. However, now she was Tessa’s problem. One that shouldn’t escape the fold. The intelligence agencies might already be piecing things together, Sulaiman perhaps. There was a trail of bodies all the way to Baekho’s doorstep. It was a shame, but it was the easiest solution.

“It’s close enough. Find her,” Tessa ordered, “And kill her if you can.”


Yuna knew she was alive because the symphony of voices returned. When she woke up they were always loudest, demanding attention, demanding answers. Whispers in the dark. But in the end they were only remnants, ghosts. They had no say. All they could do was balance the unnatural hunger to live she now felt, with a revulsion at what she had become. Right now, other things required her attention.

There was a pain in her chest. A number of sharp, tearing agonies that caused her to gasp in shock. Yuna’s eyes opened. She tried to sit up. The pain roared its displeasure and she relaxed, falling back onto the scratchy pillows of the sofa. Where was she? Damn, who was she? “She.” Ha! What an outmoded title. Yuna clamped down on her teeth and silently sighed. No soreness – then there was no hurry. A gentle touch on her shoulder, her eyes opened again. A man stood next to the sofa looking concerned. He was handsome, probably south-east asian, with a shaved head and a tattoo under one eye that changed shape between a number of pre-set configurations.

“You one-point?” he said. Yuna grunted, holding her hands in front of her eyes. Large; worked but relatively young. Decidedly male.

“The fuck a Crusader doin’ in a nug, alone?” the man asked. Nug. No-go zone. Areas of the city where security rarely extended, except in the form of riot police and para-military vehicles. Crusader. She could see the badge on her lapel. A sword orbited by three stars. Yuna closed her eyes; the last thing she remembered was the Seattle docks. The pressure that built near her gums, warning her it was almost time to transfer – and also the point at which any further experiences would be muddled, incomplete, or lost. “They cut you up cho’; surprised you made it. Not my problem.” He said it like he expected an apology more than a thanks – or payment. Yuna went traditional.

“I owe you one,” things could have gone bad if her savior had tried to call for help. Even the city rent-a-cops might have figured her out. “Why didn’t you get a hold of C-Sec?” She knew the answer as she asked it.

“They punt your head? Someone like me show up with a carved ‘Sader? I got a job, have to show up every day. At-will employment, right? Fuck, shoulda let you go static.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t have any trouble. I’m…not with Crusader anymore,” Yuna said. “Hey, you got a mirror?” She interrupted when his eyes got suspicious.

“You aren’t gonna look right for a while,” he said.

“I don’t really worry about my appearance,” Yuna replied with too much truth.

He handed her the display from an old Krishna L-series. The dead screen had enough reflection to show her Brent’s face. Her face now, at least for a time. The appearance was drawn and worn, with a bruise seeping across one side. So they had punted her head. Great.

Yuna checked the bandages next. Her wounds were well tended. SureSkin had filled in the worst of the knife cuts, self-sealing bandages applied the pressure.

“This is good work,” she said, tracing the wrappings.

“Field medic in ‘72. Didn’t get my Rez Number like they promised, so I came to Seattle.” He shrugged, but she recognized pride. Nobody had gotten their Rez Number; wasn’t enough of the original EU left to keep promises.

“I’m…Brent,” Yuna said.

“Don’t want to know you, but I’m Kosal.”

“Alright, Kosal. I need a rest. Then I won’t be your problem anymore. Cho’?”

“The sooner you’re gone the better.” Kosal said.

Yuna was already drifting away. She checked that Brent’s ‘Link was still shut down and let the symphony sing her to sleep.



Memories didn’t work like that before the clinic in Busan. Before the nanite install, Secession War spook tech. At least Yuna didn’t think so; but what evidence did she have but her unreliable recollections. More like digital recordings, projected on the back of her mind. They were too complete, linear, sterile. Yet the periphery always a hazy, decaying, white-nothing, like the tracings of an unfinished painting. When they were her memories. She had to fight against the stowaways, the unintentionally copied images of hosts past. Those were jagged, angry things. Screams of color and emotions without context, worse than any nightmare.

Yuna tested Brent’s body. The pain was still there, but manageable.

Messing with Shadowrun

The snow in Seoul never came down white anymore. At least it never seemed that way to Rockstar. As soon as it hit the permacrete it was gray at best, a slurry of trash and oily runoff more often. Same as anything else in the sprawl. That included him. New Jersey had been so much easier, he thought to himself. He was retired, living off the royalties of those Nanopaste commercials and an Urbanbrawl pension. Sure, the Shore had the filthiest water in the world, but some people managed to stay clean. Here? Here, everybody had a price.

‘Cept his team of course.

He flicked the burning nic-stic into the alley and watched the cherry tumble end over end. The sparks danced and skittered like willy pete, putting crazy shadows onto the night. One of Pixie’s fly-spies made a whirring noise as its camera tracked the sudden movement.

Let’s be chilly, HOA,” he heard Pixie’s voice in his comm, using his old nickname “We’re on schedule.

Actually they weren’t. He had checked his internal chronometer almost every minute. Nana and Glossy were about ten clicks late, but Pixie always tried to look on the bright side. The waver in the voice gave her away. Maybe it was just the bad connection.

After the DOS incident they had gotten the gang back together. He had remembered the excitement, the adrenaline, of running the shadows. He had forgotten – intentionally – the real emotion of the work. Worry. So often it was a waiting game. Each ‘run a dance on margins so thin it was like tightrope-walking monowire. You rarely got out entirely whole.

The weight of his Ingram Smartgun sling always seemed greater when he was stuck on overwatch. He gripped the plasteel stock with his cyberhand for comfort. A skittering sound broke his thoughts, and he wheeled to find the source.

A line of rope trailed from the building above, as a lithe figure slid down with preternatural grace. As she landed, she hefted a satchel at her side and nodded to Rockstar.

“Got it,” Nana said. It came as an echo to the Orc as he heard it both from her and the commlink. “Glossy should be coming out the front door now.”

I have him in sight,” Pixie chirped in his ear, and now Rockstar did too as another drone’s image link beamed the scene from around the corner into his cybereyes. Glossy nodded to the camera – he had gone in without comms, a necessity on this job – and began to walk purposefully down the street.

Ok, that’s a clean ‘run everyone.” Rockstar exhaled, “Let’s hit the meet point and figure out what we’ve got.


The safe house was an empty third floor commercial birthing down one of the narrow side streets of the Gangnam Barrens. The innards were empty, the windows covered in black tarp. The metal framing bars of missing dividing walls stuck out of the floor in odd places. A few trid-displays, Pixie’s tools, and the remnants of an earlier meal were scattered.

“Guys, can’t we keep things organized?” Glossy said, as the others filtered inside. Pixie sat on the floor with one of her drones, while Rockstar and Nana fell into a sofa that was six inches higher on one side. Dust spewed into the air. Nana choked; Rockstar tried to play it cool.

“I’ve something for you!” Rockstar said, extending his middle finger toward the tall elf. They both laughed.

“Alright, Nana. Bring it out here.” Glossy bobbed his head at the satchel she carried.

Nana unhinged the top strap and slid a narrow cyberdeck from inside. It was an old Renraku Kraftwerk. The chrome highlights had worn off in places, leaving a patchy patina. “Pixie, you have a display?” They wired it in and Nana clicked the ‘deck on.

“I uploaded the file per the instructions, everything is good on that end. What I downloaded… Well…”

“What’s up?” Pixie asked.

“Well it wasn’t very large. No more than a few megapulses. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s image or even text-based.”

“I thought we were looking for a program.” Rockstar said. His voice was a storm in the distance. They all knew that when the mission suddenly changed, the hammer could come down at any time. It was added reason to be on edge.

“Alright, here goes.” She clipped the datajack into the socket near the base of her neck and took control, bringing the file in question onto the screen as a 3D digital representation. It took no time to access. “It’s definitely text,” she mumbled, her eyes closed in concentration.

On the trideo the team could see a long string of letters appear. They silently tried to read through it, as beneath them the noraebang patrons on the second floor belted out the latest Concrete Dreams single in a muffled falsetto.

“Looks encrypted,” Pixie said.

“Yeah,” Nana bobbed her head, “One second.”

The text began to scramble and jumble about the virtual page until rearranging in a familiar pattern.
“Guess it is a program,” they could hear the sigh in Rockstar’s voice, “That’s old programming code. Pre-Matrix stuff.”