It was a long road to Kansas City. This fact haunted the back of the elf's mind as his car traveled the long highway. He glanced at along the horizon with his neon blue eyes and could only see lots of fields and the occasional patch of plantlife. The AR display started to feed him tidbits of information about the weather outside the car, his GPS readout and driving conditions miles ahead. It did little to alleviate his boredom.
For the most part, this elf looked fairly typical of his kind. Humanoid with fair features, tall and having long pointed ears. He looked to be far more athletic in build than the usual slender lithe elf. Clearly cybernetic eyes shone brightly while his short black hair barely covered the datajack in his skull.
This wasn't helped by the loud country music that was coming out of the speakers right now. He ventured a glance at his passenger, a man he more commonly known as Cayman. The long ratty looking grey coat of his had been thrown over his body like a blanket while he slept curled up in the seat. He was a tall human with a rather thin physique. His long brown hair hung sloppily about his shoulders and in his face.
This long boring ride however was about to come to an end as off in the distance the growing silhouette of a city started to come into view. At that same moment they passed a sign for the destination that read Kansas City. Upon passing this sign, the elf jabbed his elbow into his companion's side, stirring him awake with a yelp and a long stream of curses.
"Damnit all, No Name," Cayman shouted through his southern drawl. "The fuck's wrong with you!?"
"We're almost there," the elf No Name pointed out casually.
"AND," Cayman asked with no attempt to hide the growing annoyance in his voice.
"You asked me to wake you when we got there."
"G'damn asshole," Cayman grumbled while he sat up in his seat. "Remind me why we're come'in out here tah Kansas City, boss? Could be haul'in our asses tah any place on the globe ta do this drek. Like somewhere with a beach, booze an' barely clothed girls."
"Two words my southern fried friend," No Name replied with a smirk. "Easy. Money. Ares has been moving out here to set up shop on the cheap land out here. They put out a call for any Runners looking to make some nuyen, which we are currently lacking."
Cayman couldn't help but flinch at the reminder of their slowly dwindling savings. "Fair point, still, what sort'a work could a Shadowrunner do out here? Stop cattle thieves an' such?"
"When we meet this new Fixer you can ask him."
At the edge of the city a slapdash looking barricade had been set up with with Lone Star and a group of uniformed mercs. A quick scan of an arm badge on one and No Name's HUD quickly displayed the name Thunderhawks along with a cut down readout about the group. It was a checkpoint of sorts. Groups of armed killers for hire were stopping vehicles at the edge of the city before letting them enter.
"Please tell me you remembered to get that fake SIN like I told you," No Name pleaded.
"I got it, I got it," Cayman assured him before pulling a manila envelope from one of the many duffle bags in the car.
"That better not be some cheap copy machine job. Not after I loaned you the dosh to get it."
"No way, boss," he said with a proud smirk. "Got ol' Squiggy tah hook me up with the good stuff."
"Squiggy," No Name nearly shouted. "That strung out BTL junkie, you're gonna trust him to make a SIN for you?"
"The man does good wok," Cayman assured him. "When ya catch'em sober."
"Have you even checked that thing?"
Cayman stopped short of replying, eyes now locked on the card in his hand while the wheels in his head visibly turned. Curious and cautious, he took the card out of envelope and actually gave it a closer look. His eyes went wide when he saw the face of a fat dwarven woman from Indonesia staring back at him with the name Carl McLove.
"Oh, fuck," were the only words Cayman could muster. "Maybe they won't notice?"
In a panic, the elf looked to see that there was only one car ahead of them. Thankfully it had an elderly couple that was loudly arguing with one of the Thunderhawks and poking him with his cane. Thinking quickly, No Name snatched the card from his partner's hand and crushed it. He then took the cigarette lighter from the console and started burning it around the picture and barcode before handing it back to him.
"Let me do all the talking," No Name suggested.
Having a gun in his face wasn't anything new for either No Name or Cayman, their lifestyle usually caused that to happen quite often. So the moment they found their vehicle surrounded by four armed guards with the best armor and firepower money could buy, they didn't flinch.
"Gentlemen," one of the Lone Stars greeted them. "What brings you to Kansas City?"
"Work," No Name said with a big smile. "Heard about a lot of reconstruction about to go on out here with Ares setting up shop. Buddy an' I were hoping to get in on the group floor of it."
"Here's hoping they actually make good on the promises they've been making us out here," the officer said with a chuckle. "Mind letting us take a look at your SINs fellas?"
Without hesitation No Name handed over his. He wasn't worried about his SIN failing, he'd gone top dollar making sure the thing would come back as damn near perfect. As far as they new, he really was Phillip Castwell. It was Cayman's that he was concerned would fail on them. Already he could see the stern look the other officer was giving him over the state of the card.
"There was a bit of an accident at our last job site," No Name explained. "Young punks on the job site were horsing around with a blow torch, Carl's wallet got cooked. You know how expensive it can be to replace these cards and how many forms you need to fill out."
They simply handed Cayman his card back with a stern warning to get it replaced soon. In the meantime they instead focussed on checking No Name's background and legality. He kept a close watch on them as they ran his number, mindful of their body language and reminding himself of the pistol under both seats if things got dicey. So far though everything seemed to be going according to plan.
"So why the checkpoint," No Name asked.
"Rumor has it there's a whole mess of Shadowrunners flocking to the city," the talkative one answered. "Life out here on the outskirts of the UCAS can be tough enough. The last thing we need are paramilitary psychopaths mowing folks down in their crossfires."
It didn't take too much longer before they handed the elf back his card and waved him through the checkpoint. Entering the city itself was a strange and almost surreal moment for the two. Kansas wasn't like any other modern city, mostly because it clearly wasn't. Setting foot in the KC was like stepping back in time. No mile tall billboards decked out in neon lights with a thousand adds running at once. No smog choked skies full of Lone Star gunships and even more god damned adverts. The city looked to be perpetually locked in the early 2000's, before the awakening, before the world had changed forever. To say that it lacked the chrome and shine of more modern cities was an understatement.
"Oh yeah, looks like there's tons'a money tah be made out here," Cayman quipped as they passed through a long stretch of abandoned houses in what used to be a suburb.
While the outskirts were crumbling and abandoned by all but squatters and burnouts, the heart of the city was still pumping. It was here that No Name and Cayman found their destination. A little bar and grill called Spence's Place. With what few concealable weapons they were told they could bring to this meet the pair left the sub-compact with a grateful groan and much needed stretch before heading inside.
Inside was clean, surprisingly so considering the drive they just had. The air was heavy with the sweet smell of cooked meat and veggies as well as the hard snap of strong liquor and cigar smoke. Soft soothing music played over the speakers to help create a very relaxing atmosphere. More than a few customers and staff gave the pair an odd look as they wandered in, clearly not following the dress code of at least having a tie.
Before any kind of incident could occur, the concierge quickly intercepted them and guided them to a room at the back of the restaurant. Without a word, No Name and Cayman trudged their way to the back room and out of sight of the fine paying folks. With as silent as the entire place had become their boots echoed deafeningly off the hardwood floors.
They were quickly ushered into a rather sizable private room that looked akin to someone's study. A few bookshelves lined the the walls, filled to the brim with actual printed books. Pieces of art helped to liven up any empty spaces the shelves did not cover. At the far end several chairs were aligned near a roaring fireplace and at the center of the room a large dinner table had been set up and loaded down with the various dishes provided by the establishment. The pair were not alone however, there were others who occupied this room already.
The first was young girl that barely gave them a glance as she continued to help herself to a stack of food, the majority of which looked to be sweets. She was a small undernourished whelp with pale skin and bright red hair that fell sloppily around her shoulders. Her lithe frame nearly vanished inside of a fur lined parka that had clearly been meant for someone larger and had seen far better days. Around her neck a tattoo were what looked to be a line of lizards placed head to tail that looked to loop all the way around. She sat reclined her chair and fully engrossed in the AR feed from the pair of heavily teched out goggles she wore.
The second person of note seemed to have little care for much else beyond the rather large black jungle cat he lavished with attention. Almond toned skin, dark eyes and well kempt long black hair gave this man a rather handsome appearance. From the look of him he was anything but physically imposing yet there was an aura that surrounded him. Even with his cybernetic eyes, No Name could never see this aura but to Cayman it was impossible to miss. For a Shadowrunner he was very well dressed in a long dark coat and fine clean clothes.
At the head of the room, beside the fire and nursing a glass of scotch, stood a man that saluted the pair with a nod of his head as they entered. He was a middle aged man with slicked back black hair and dark eyes. The fire danced across his grinning visage creating an almost devilish appearance in his worn features. He wore a well pressed and clearly tailor made suit that screamed "I have more money than you," at the runners. Clearing his throat he happily greated No Name and Cayman.
"Ah, good, our other two have finally arrived," he said with a smile. "Come in boys, help yourself to some food, take a minute to rest and relax. After all, Spence takes care of the Shadowrunners working for him."
"Well thank ye kindly, sir," Cayman joyfully replied before helping himself to whatever caught his eye. "Real fine spread ye got here too sir, reminds me'a back home."
No Name wasn't far behind his companion. Grabbing a plate and helping himself a few choice dishes and pouring a tall glass of beer. A wash of cold bitter liquid poured down his throat and sent a relaxing wave through his entire body.
Spence then gestured towards the young woman. "This, erm, charming young lady goes by the name Salamander."
The introduction only managed to tease out a grunt in response as she stayed deep in her matrix surfing and occasional snacking.
"And the man with the big cat is Yoatl."
"And the big cat's name is Ralla," Yoatl was quick to point out with a shred of annoyance in his tone. "And these two are?"
"Call me No Name," the elf replied. "The good'ol boy beside me is Cayman."
"Those are stupid names," Salamander chimed in while still looking to be busy ignoring the room.
"Well this is going well," Spence said with a clearly plastic smile. "Now then, I've got an upfront business to go maintain for moment, when I return we'll discuss your first mission. Until I get back, take your time to get to know one another."
The room remained quiet for an eternity of five whole minutes after Spence left them on their own. That was until No Name spoke up. "So, guess we're working together," he said. "We should lay out what we bring to the table, so that we know where our strengths lie. I know my way around a sword and a gun, got my fair share of cyberware plugged into me and I've got some real good people skills.
Cayman had been several bites into a slice of pie when No Name jabbed him in the side with his elbow again. "Not too much tah say 'bout me. Got some magic spells tah make me sprier than a jackrabbit in spring. Top'a that I'm real good with a pair of pistols."
"I thought I sensed an energy about you," Yoatl recalled. "I'm a mage myself, and Ralla is my life long companion and protector."
The panther gave a low rumbling growl to emphasise the point her master was making.
All eyes slowly and rather awkwardly found themselves resting on Salamander expectantly. But the young girl didn't answer or look up from her comlink. Instead she just kept surfing the matrix and snacking on whatever was in reach.
"Sooooooo, Sal," No Name finally spoke up. "What is it you do?"
At that she came to a screeching halt. She slowly lifted her goggles to fix the elf with a rueful glare in her green eyes. "I'm your tech support. I hack things. And if you call me 'Sal' again, I'll brick your fucking cybereyes."
"But it's a good nickname, real strong."
"I don't care, call me Salamander."
"I'm telling ya, Sal'll catch on."
"No it won't."
Before things could escalate much further, Spence returned from his duties around the the establishment. "I trust we're all getting along in here."
"You bet we are," No Name quickly replied with a wide smile across his face.
"Good, good," Spence said as he poured himself another scotch. "Well I've got some bad news, your fifth man is going to be delayed. Small incident coming into the city. But not to worry, this first job'll be a regular milk run. Think of it as my way of testing how you lot'll work as a team."
"Bout that," Cayman chimed in. "What ye got in store fer us?"
"And what does it pay," Yoatl added.
"Pay's pretty standard, three hundred nuyen apiece, plus bonuses depending on how you perform the job," Spence assured the room. "Job's super simple, our client would like us to look into why a formally empty warehouse downtown now suddenly has a full security detail and chain fence around it. They are willing to pay extra if you manage to find out what's being stored there."
"Any stipulations on how we handle this," No Name asked.
"None," Spence answered. "How you approach this is up to your discretion, although, it would be prefered if the facility and its contents were not damaged."
"Time frame," the cybered up elf asked.
"Tonight," Spence said with a grin. "I assured the client that I would give them the results of our recon tomorrow and we always deliver on time."
"Go ahead and finish your meals," Spence added. "After all, no point in Shadowrunning on an empty stomach. Oh, and, for future reference, use the employee entrance around back. My establishment's clentell are not to have their meals disturbed."