Pairings: Mostly Gen with a dash of Feral/Red for your angsty delights, oh, and some brief Feral/Ghost
Warnings: violence, gore, mentions of cannibalism, homosexuality, rape, attempted rape, insanity
Author: Alex Kade and Lily Zen
Notes: Part of the ever-growing "Lily and Alex's Shadowrun AU"—we gotta come up with a shorter title for that. This is the prologue to much of the events that occur in Sex, Drugs, and Runners' Luck, detailing the infamous and tragic Horizon 'run.
Disclaimer: Shadowrun belongs to Shadowrun peoples. Original characters belong to us.
Red had an uncanny knack for showing up on her doorstep when she was half-naked and about to step in the bath. Really, she half-wondered if it was some kind of magical…thingy. Teva really regretted inviting him over that one time to watch an old trideo of The Tempest, but he was the only person she knew who appreciated Pre-Crash literature in the same way she did. Ever since then he'd taken it as an invitation to show up without messaging her any time he liked.
She opened the door in a rough towel that used to be white, a Hammerli pistol clutched in her left hand. "I hate your face," Teva deadpanned upon seeing his.
He shot her that smarmy, irritating smile of his, and she briefly considered gut-checking him in retaliation. "Good morning to you too," he cooed.
Teva shot him a very "Feral" look, eyes narrowed, lips flat, and the promise of death in her gaze.
Then Red held up a bag of warm, fresh beignets, and hot coffee.
She stepped to one side, letting him in the apartment, and closed the door after him.
"Still no roommate?" Red wondered aloud as he strode to the scarred breakfast counter, which was the only 'kitchen table' that Teva possessed, and set down his breakfast offerings. He was wearing a black sportcoat and tight, dark-washed jeans with his expensive loafers, which was pretty much as casual as Red ever got (unless he was on a Run where he thought it was likely he'd be getting bloodied, then he wore what amounted to his version of crap clothes; by his standards, almost everything Teva owned was crap clothes).
"No," she replied a little defensively, and shifted her bare feet against the cold floor. "Um, I'm gonna go put some pants on."
Red spared her a glance, the slightest twitch giving away his humor. "Please, no need to dress on my account. I do enjoy the sight of a pair of shapely legs…though they could use a shave." His tone dipped in mock disappointment.
Teva flushed, and glared at him. "What do you think I was about to do?" she snapped, and stomped off to her bedroom, his laughter following in her wake. "Fucking elf bastard," the adept muttered to herself, angrily yanking on a pair of cut-off sweatpants and a t-shirt, and subconsciously switching to Romanian to continue her grumbling, "Ruining my girly-time. Where does he get off showing up here with food and coffee like I don't have anything better to do?" She released a string of obscenities. Really, there was nothing quite like Romanian when it came to creative swears. By the time she returned to the kitchen, she felt marginally better.
The obnoxious prick was, of course, making himself at home, eating her breakfast (those were her beignets, dammit), and clearly surfing the Matrix on his PAN, if his focused-but-not-really-there expression was anything to go by.
"You know the rules," Teva hummed as she snuck up behind him, and stole the beignet he was about to bite into right out of his hand. "You come to visit me, you visit. No more nets."
Red huffed while his empty fingers opened and closed spastically like a claw as though to say 'where's my food?', but obligingly shut down his connection. "I don't understand what you have against the Matrix. What did it ever do to you?"
She shrugged, and stated simply, "I never really used it growing up, and I think it's one of those things that you either get the hang of then or you never really do. I'm an old, stodgy grandpa trapped in a girl's body."
"Don't you mean grandma?"
"Do I look like anybody's grandma?" she replied dryly.
After a moment of quiet contemplation, Red snorted and shook his head. "Not a chance. Grandmas are supposed to be sweet and nice, and you…are not."
"Thanks, a-hole," Feral bit out, the effect somewhat ruined as her mouth was full. She chewed and swallowed, then grabbed the other cup of coffee from the drink tray, chugging the hot liquid despite the 'caution' warning on the cap.
It always took her awhile to register that she was burning the shit out of her mouth, but when she did she danced around, hopping back and forth from one foot to the other until she got the last of the liquid down. Her mouth gaped open, and she pulled frigid air in to cool the damaged skin. "Muist!" she hissed, tonguing the already peeling roof of her mouth.
Unsurprisingly, Red laughed at her and sipped mockingly at his coffee. Uppity jackass.
"What do you want anyway?" Teva grumbled, crossing her arms over her chest.
"What else?" the shaman drawled, "Got a job. Need you on it."
"Madden?" she asked automatically, referring to the troll they regularly used as muscle on Runs.
Red grinned. "Oh, he's already in on it. We flipped a nuyen to see who had to ask you; you've been crabby lately. I don't know what you did to Madden, but he's scared to come over here now. Anyway, I lost the coin toss, obviously."
His flippant manner only made her feel even testier. "What do you mean I'm crabby? I'm crabby? I just got fucking kidnapped, and forced to Run for some super creepy dudes. I couldn't shower, those bastards did not feed me, and they took my favorite knife!"
The elven man began to open his mouth to speak, but Teva wasn't having that. She pointed one menacing finger in his face and growled out a wordless warning.
Wisely, he shut up.
"And then," Teva cried out, continuing her rant, "just when I get home, you fuckers start leaving me messages and showing up on my doorstep demanding that I just wind up my crank again and go, go, go; shoot, maim, kill whoever the hell you want me to! Like I don't need to fucking recover from my ordeal, because clearly I'm all stoic and bulletproof and shit, and I don't, like, have feelings, and it's impossible for me to be traumatized!" She let out a wordless harpy screech, and shook a wide-eyed Red by the shoulders. "I need to shave my legs!"
Automatically, he gripped her shoulders in return, and shouted in a panicky voice, "Okay! Shave your legs! Please, goddess, shave your legs! I didn't know it was that important to you." Red tugged her forward against him, and since he was sitting on her stool instead of standing up she wound up sort of with her nose smushed against his hair, smelling his herbal-and-subtle-cologne-and-something-like-storms fragrance, and that close it was overwhelming, particularly to her enhanced olfactory sense.
She turned her face away, taking shallow breaths. Really, the cologne was just too much. Teva felt a headache coming on. "What are you doing?" she grunted.
"Hugging you," Red replied.
After a quick pause, Teva murmured, "I can see that. I guess what I meant to ask was 'why'?"
"Because you're all…distraught and…woman-y."
"I'm going to punch you in the jugular for that," she told her sometimes-friend, her tone very level and calm.
His arms tightened.
"Really, let go," Teva stated, "This is so awkward." And it was. Her arms were trapped between them, so she wasn't really hugging back, and he smelled, and the whole thing was making her want to throw up a little in her mouth.
"Sorry," he said sincerely, "I thought I was helping."
When Red dropped his arms she immediately took three steps away from him, and tried breathing discreetly through her mouth. When all that happened was that she tasted his cologne instead of smelled it, Teva grabbed her cup off the counter and waved the coffee under her nose, inhaling the aroma until it burned away even the memory of that way-too-aromatic embrace. "Don't ever hug me again," she ordered, "Not unless you're cologne free. That shit is, like, driving an icepick right into my brain."
Red blanched, and shrugged. "I always forget about your sense of smell. Sorry about that."
"Yeah, well," Teva took another whiff of her coffee, "I'm not your girlfriend; I'm not gonna cry on your shoulder, and beg you to make my problems better."
"Not even with the magical healing power of my cock?" Red teased with a raised eyebrow.
"Hell fucking no. You keep your magic wand to yourself," Teva snapped, and told herself not to blush. That would only make Red's teasing worse, she knew. It wasn't her fault that she was less promiscuous than he was, that the thought of sex with somebody she actually knew and respected and, well, liked could still make her blush and squirm with embarrassment. She just wasn't as sexually active as most of her cohorts. Part of that was due to the fact that she didn't want to be romantically involved, and so subconsciously she avoided that emotional trap; another part of it was due to the fact that she genuinely wasn't interested in most people, and her mind sort of thought of them all like sexless dolls. Being reminded that they had genitalia and sexual interests, and taking that mental filter away from her was just odd. It was a strange thing to think of her friends as people who fucked. That kind of knowledge belonged in bedrooms and porn sims.
She shook her head, clearing it of her mental tangent, and asked, "So what's the job?"
Red made one of those nonchalant movements of his shoulders that on anyone else she would have called a shrug, except it was too graceful, too elegant, and rife with meaning to be just a shrug. "It's a little on the ambitious side."
Feral rolled her eyes in annoyance, and took a sip out of her cooling coffee cup. "Don't be coy; just spit it out."
He smiled, and inclined his head in a faint nod. "As you wish. I have a contact who is acquainted with someone—" That was Red's usual way of saying one of his Fixer's had a job lined up. Sometimes to have an actual conversation with Red, one had to decode his ambiguous lingo. "—who would like some information from Horizon. The challenge is that Horizon has a closed system. A hacker would need to be on the premises in order to gain access."
"And you have one in mind?" Feral asked with a raised eyebrow.
Red shook his head. "Not yet. I've got to comb my contacts and see who's available."
Tipping her head to one side, Teva said very slowly and uncertainly, "I could ask…"
The elf shot her an incredulous look. "You know a hacker?"
She resorted to the age old gesture of flipping someone off in retaliation. "Hey, I meet people. I make new friends."
"Is he good?" Red asked.
"Um, duh," Feral volleyed back at the shaman in a voice that indicated she wouldn't have said anything at all if he wasn't. "So what do you need me for if this is mainly a hack job?" She rolled her shoulders as she was beginning to grow stiff from standing still for so long.
The shaman patted the stool next to him.
With another exasperated glance at the ceiling, she slipped onto the seat, and stole another beignet from the bag. Teva bit in, and moaned as the fresh flavor hit her tongue. That was the nice thing about Red; he was so into having everything, or at least as much as possible, be real, and expensive, and high class that whenever he came around she always felt free to indulge in the leftover luxury. It wasn't that she didn't like stuff, she'd just never gotten used to having it around. Like anyone who'd lived most of their life eating soy-foods, even a fluffy little pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar became a decadent treat. She chewed with her eyes closed, and licked the sugar off of her thumb and index finger after she'd set the rest down on a plate, and seriously, Red had been there way too many times if he knew where her plates were and was comfortable enough to help himself.
She opened her eyes lazily, smiled like the charming little girl she'd never been, and said, "I forgive you for interrupting my girly-time."
"Thought so," Red murmured under his breath smugly.
Just for that she punched his shoulder.
He frowned at her, and huffed, "Really, Feral." Reaching up, the ever-image conscious elf casually smoothed out an imagined wrinkle from his jacket sleeve.
"Anyway…" she prompted in an annoyed tone, and picked up her beignet for another bite.
"Protection. Muscle. What else? A hacker is pretty much a sitting duck once he's jacked in, and the data isn't the only thing we need to get. At the same time I'll be leading another team through the corp to the hard copy data storage, and another team will head to the testing lab to grab the prototype of the drug that our Johnson wants."
"Three-pronged assault," Feral mumbled absently with her cheeks stuffed full of delicious doughiness. She swallowed hurriedly, using her coffee to wash it down. "So let me get this straight. You want to execute a three-point hit on Horizon HQ. And how the hell are we supposed to do that?"
Red started grinning mischievously. "We're going to walk in the front door, of course. Why do you think I asked you if your tech-friend was any good? We are all going to need fake SINs for this."
"Balls," Feral spat out, "Are you serious? Fake SINs for what, six people? That'll take forever!" Even a techno-dunce like Teva knew that it took time and skill to create a viable fake SIN. "And who the hell are you getting to run the other team? So far all you've said is it's you and Madden, and now me. My hacker makes four. So who are the other two fuckheads?"
"I haven't decided yet," Red retorted primly. "But you can rest assured they'll be good. Of course, I'm open to suggestions."
"Fuck you," Feral suggested.
"Mm, an option," the elf agreed coolly with a little smirk on his face. "Trust me, I have a plan."
"Every time you say 'trust me,' it usually means I'm about to do something stupid," Teva sighed, and stuffed the rest of her pastry in her mouth, grabbing another one before she'd even started chewing it.
The shaman followed her greedy move with his eyes—judgmental eyes that silently wondered where she put it all—but merely smiled. "When have we ever not gotten out of a situation unscathed?" he asked rhetorically.
Glaring at him, she mumbled something indistinguishable, but if the look in her eyes was anything to go by, it was certainly critical.
"This is foolproof," Red replied. "Contact your tech. I'll take care of the rest of the team. And don't worry, Teva, everything is going to go smoothly. We'll pull this off right under their noses, and be out before anyone's the wiser."
"Famous last words," she grumped, and bit savagely through another treat.
Red left after breakfast with a repeated reminder to phone him as soon as she heard anything from her acquaintance because "I have to get this moving quickly, and if your friend isn't in then I have to start making other arrangements."
Teva muttered, "yeah, yeah, yeah," and shooed him bodily out the door. "Thanks for the beignets, but you've outlived your usefulness here."
"Whoreface," she shot back, and slammed the door.
Out in the hallway, Red shouted, "Shave your legs, Sasquatch!"
"I'm going to kill him," she muttered to herself as she stomped away from the door, rubbing the spot above her left eyebrow with one finger. "One of these days I'm just gonna kill him."
Teva walked to the little bowl on the counter where she routinely dropped all her miscellaneous items in as soon as she walked in the door. It was a misshapen little orange-colored pinch-pot that had been one of Tamsin's first attempts at 3D art, and one of the things that Teva had taken from her family's old apartment when she had returned briefly to Tampa. Most of the items had been sold and carried out. Her last night there Teva had slept in a sleeping bag on the bare living room floor, even the rug having been sold earlier that day.
There was some spare change in the bowl as well, a few bobby pins she'd obtained from who knew where, and a small utility knife, the kind with a few different tools tucked away in the handle. Always good to have a knife handy.
She fished out the commlink, and tapped a button to bring up the display. "Call Switch," she stated, and the comm automatically browsed her list of saved numbers and dialed out. For every ring, the comm beeped once on her end, and subconsciously she began to count the seconds between each beep until the guy she was trying to get a hold of picked up.
"Will that be all, Mr. Knox?" the man at the counter of Switch's current hotel check-in asked.
It was his third one in as many days. Normally he didn't have too many issues with the Wylie's Gala franchise, but the game had changed and he was constantly on edge, paranoid about everything. Staying in one place for too long could result in any number of things...like being kidnapped and thrown in a cell by the Creeper Twins, to use as a completely random example. That had happened while he was Will, when he was supposed to be secure in his corp world with its walls and security. This was outside, on the streets, and though he'd been out here "living the life" more times than he remembered over the course of the past few years, it had still been a bit of a wake-up call for him.
Yep, being on the move was a good thing. Switching from place to place as readily as he switched IDs, just like his name implied. He was just doing it a little more often nowadays.
Plus, to be honest, he just couldn't find a place that lived up to what he wanted. Maybe he'd try to step up to one of the Gold Lions for a while. He was sure he could be fairly comfortable there.
"Oh, right." He laughed as he got the keycode from the clerk. "Sorry, spaced out on you there for a second, huh? Which way is my room?"
"Top floor on the right, sir."
Will smiled and gave the guy a little two-fingered salute, and made his way to the elevator. His PAN picked up the little, "fraggin' chiphead" comment the guy mumbled under his breath.
That was good. Chiphead, yeah. No one paid any attention to random chipheads checking into hotels. He could get into that role. It'd keep him off the grid for a while.
He keyed the code in for his room and sighed when he stepped in. It looked just like any other Gala room out there - single bed, small table in the corner, a chair, available trid player, a-
"Oh my god!" Will ran over to the little food preparation area and laughed. "How old is this?" He snapped a photo with his glasses and sent it off to Cos. The man would get a kick out the old-fashioned microwave. "Gotta be just for decoration."
He looked around more, then frowned as he realized it wasn'tjust for decoration. They really expected their clientele to heat their food in that old contraption.
"Nope. Looks like I'm eating out."
Quickly, he checked the nuyen in his accounts.
"And eating out cheap. I hate that stuff."
Disheartened, he lifted his bag onto his bed and began to unpack. Typically he didn't bother, but honestly he was tired of running around. As cautious as he was trying to be, it probably wouldn't hurt to stay in this place for a few extra days. The clerk thought he was just a "fraggin' chiphead" after all. No one would come looking for him there.
Later on, Switch was lying in the middle of the floor as some action trid played all around him, staring up at a 3D war helicopter flying overhead. It was sad, really, but he missed Henry. As much as he preferred his viewing pleasure on his sim mod, this was as close to his little moments at home with his stupid toys that he was going to get at the moment. He'd take what little enjoyment he could for the time being.
His comm alerting him to a call made him jump slightly. Sighing, he paused the trid and took his time putting his glasses on his face. The PAN showed him Feral's profile, to which he sighed even louder.
"I don't really want to die anytime soon," he mumbled to himself as the display kept flashing in his vision. He turned his head to the side and caught a glimpse of the half-eaten soy burger dropped in the garbage. Cringing, he felt himself giving in to his weakness.
"You are so pathetic," he muttered, and sent a mental order to answer the call. "Feral, I will love you forever if whatever you want me to do involves either real food, or earning enough nuyen to buy real food."
Feral chuckled at the greeting. "I can maybe do both," she answered, sliding into her kitchen to grab a glass and some water from the fridge spout.
Seriously, Red had the hook-up; she might be able to arrange for some real food for her cohort if he agreed to do the Run. She had no idea how exactly Red was able to get all that stuff, but he could, and so she regularly made him bribe her with food to get anything done. Meeting to discuss a Run? Bring food. Crashing at Teva's place to avoid last night's lay that wasn't awake yet, or some people that may or may not want him dead? Bring extra good food. Informing Teva that she was going to pay him back for the watch? Bring something to eat; maybe lace it with a little something to keep her calm.
"I have an acquaintance who has a line on a really big job. You interested?"
Will sat up and switched off the trid completely so he could pay better attention, then slid over so his back was up against the end of the bed.
"A: how badly is this going to get me killed? B: what are we doing, exactly, and don't do that thing where you try to make it sound less like it's probably going to get me killed. C: who's on The League? And D: how badly is this going to get me killed?"
"So basically you want me to be brutally honest?" Teva asked rhetorically, sipped her water, and walked back to the bag of beignets. They weren't warm anymore, but they were still good. Red had left them behind, possibly in an attempt to further her good will toward him. She pulled one of the remaining two out of the bag, and hopped back up on the stool, leaning her elbows on the counter as she picked a small piece of pastry off from the rest.
"Okay, so, on a scale of one to ten, ten being dead and one being alive, unharmed, and much richer, I'd say this job is probably a two unless somebody fucks up, in which case our chances of survival decrease significantly." She popped the piece of food she'd been playing with in her mouth, and chewed a little loudly than she would have otherwise. "But Red seems to think his plan is foolproof, and truthfully, he's pretty clever when it comes to picking runs he can pull off with both style and aplomb. He doesn't really like to get dirty, you see." Teva swallowed and took a noisy sip out of her glass. "Basically, we're going to need fake SINs for the whole team, that's six, and we're all just going to walk on site and rob them blind."
Grabbing the beignet, she took a big bite, moaning slightly as she chewed. "Man, have you ever eaten a beignet? These things are incredible." Yeah, it was dirty pool, but whatever worked, right?
Will let out a little whimper at the mention of beignets. "You're a horrible, evil person. I hope you know that."
Teva giggled as Switch called her an evil person. It was true, at least in this instance.
He mulled over her actual words for a few seconds, trying very hard not to be distracted by the sounds of real food being consumed. He talked out loud to himself as he sorted it out in his head.
"A two on the scale...if The Tagalongs don't mess things up, so I'll bump that up to at least a four, minimum. Some guy with a plan that doesn't like to get dirty; not dirty is good. I'd say bleeding from possible gunshot and/or stab wounds would be considered dirty. New SINs for the whole team, which was six... Wait, six?!" He quickly flipped from addressing himself back to talking to Teva. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to rig up a fake SIN? What sort of time frame am I working under?"
She licked the traces of powdered sugar from her finger, and drawled, "I was worried you might be alarmed by the whole SIN thing. I'm a tech-tard, so no, I really have no idea how much work goes into the whole process, but I had an idea that it was a little more difficult than I thought it was."
She shifted in her seat, throwing her legs up on the other stool. "We've got nine days before we have to hit the target." …Which she still hadn't actually named because she didn't want Switch freaking out on her just yet. "That's the only day that we'll have a way in for everybody. You and I would be going in as outside building safety inspectors, making sure that everything is up to code. Team B has a way in thanks to two new lab personnel that are being hired that day. Team C is going in as manual labor subcontractors. Obviously, the real people will need to be safely removed a day or so ahead of time. The medical personnel definitely; Team C will be taking legit jobs with the subcontractor with their fake SINs, then you'd have to hack them to make sure they get scheduled to work at the target that day. You and I would definitely need SINs. The beauty of being building inspectors though is that their visits are always impromptu. One never knows when the state is going to show up and poke around. The other two identities might be easier since they're already established. We'd just need to change the images and some of the data on the established SINs to reflect that of our people. That's easier, right?" Feral asked uncertainly. "It sounds easier," she murmured under her breath, and took another noisy bite of beignet.
Will groaned as Feral kept rattling on about the SINs, trying to catalog the work involved in all that.
"So my pal, Red, the guy who's putting together this job, he totally brought me breakfast this morning. He knows the way to get me to cooperate is through delicious eaties. What's your favorite food?" Teva asked nonchalantly.
"Nine days?" Will nearly squeaked, ignoring Feral as the panic hit home. "Super hacker that I am, I can't pull that off by myself, even with the easier job of hacking a pre-made SIN. Lucky for you, I know a guy that can help. Unlucky for you, he charges up front, and I'm a little loooooow right now..." He was making his 'god, I don't want to call in 'Carn for help' face as he talked. Maybe he could just sort it out through Kiki...
"And I like manicotti. The kind with real cheese and beef sauce. Oh, and chocolate mousse for dessert." He paused for a second in though. "I don't really even know if that's my favorite dessert or if I just like the mental image I get when I say 'chocolate mousse,' though." He chuckled at the word and its coinciding mental image of a giant chocolate moose. "I also like plain vanilla ice cream if this Red guy can't get mousse." Another chuckle escaped his control. "Moose. Haha!"
"I've never had chocolate mousse," Teva sighed longingly. "It sounds delicious." Fantasies danced in her brain about treats she'd never eaten. Unfortunately, she had quite the sweet tooth. It was a weakness that Red exploited ruthlessly.
She filed away the information about manicotti and mousse (ice cream if mousse was unavailable) for future reference.
"How much nuyen are we talking to get this guy to do some magical tech-wizardry for us?" she asked quickly. "Because that's something I'm going to have to talk over with Red. Maybe he can get us an advance or something so none of us has to go balls deep in investing our own cash."
More calculations ran through Switch's head, and as the numbers ticked off inside his brain, he inadvertently displayed them on the screen inside his glasses. He did an initial total for all six based on 'Carn's usual prices, then subtracted things away that he could handle on his own with his own nuyen.
"Okay, here's the max damage," he said, and rattled off a number. He spat it out quickly, knowing it was probably higher than she'd been anticipating. 'Carn wasn't cheap, but cheap could get you dead really fast.
Feral sucked in a sharp breath at the number that Switch gave her. "Damn," she sighed, "Red's not gonna be happy." Grumbling under her breath, she stated, "Oh well, he should have picked a smaller job. His fault."
Before Teva could really begin to protest the amount, Switch jumped ahead with hopefully some more helpful ways to cut some corners. "That's including the price to buy all new comms. If we could, I don't know, 'borrow' a few from a ganger here and there, or something, we could just reprogram the IDs on those models. And the medic guys? If I can get their actual comms, it'd be a ton easier to just replace the information right on the original unit than transferring the SIN to a new one. I can handle that in like a day."
"So we can steal some comms, and that'll cut down the price a little?" She released a long, slow breath, doing some logistical thinking, which wasn't always her strong suit. Feral was more of a point-her-at-the-enemy-and-let-her-go type. That was the reason that she never actually ran the Runs she went on. She got too annoyed with holding all those little threads together. "Alright, so I'll contact Red, give him the price for our new lives. Is your guy going to need these comms in advance? Because then we've got to figure out how we're getting them to him. I won't steal from gangers where I live. That would pretty much be like sticking a sign on top of my building that says 'shadowrunner lives here.' Plus, the job is going down in L.A. So we've got to keep things like travel time and mail time in mind. I mean, are you anywhere near your guy right now? Are you just going to pick up the SINs and bring them to L.A.?"
"Fuck, getting ahead of myself," she snapped, and put on the mental brakes. "So are you in or what? Because if I'm talking nuyen with my connection, I've got to have a definite answer for him instead of just hypotheticals."
"It's better if he can build the SIN and profile straight into the comm - leaves less of a trail - but he also happens to be the best Eraser I know, so whatever he uses to store the data on in the meantime will disappear as soon as he loads it onto the unit. Of course, there'll be a fee for that too. He pretty much charges for everything." Will rolled his eyes and moved on to the next issue at hand. "And 'borrowing' comms on the downlow is easy. I do it all the time. You just have to-" He paused, a confused look crossing his face. "Wait, is there something I know about living on the streets that you don't?" The confusion turned into a small smirk. "Oh my god. Looks like the 'corpse' has some street cred after all, huh? Let me just...I need to bask in this moment for a second..."
"Switch," she growled his name in warning. "Let me be perfectly up front with you: anything technology-related is not my forte. If you need to know how to build a bomb or rig an arson scene, or pretty much anything about guns or martial arts, I'm your girl, but don't ask me to explain how a commlink works or anything about the Matrix, because I don't fucking know. And the more you gloat right now, the harder I'm going to hit you when I lay eyes on you. You're kind of skinny; I don't think you can take it."
Teva started picking idly at her nail beds, pushing her cuticles away with nails that were clipped short and rounded. "Now, how does one 'borrow' comms, my little corpse-geek?" she asked pleasantly.
"You just kind of suck the fun out of everything, don't you?"
He huffed out a heavy sigh before continuing.
"It's not that technical, by the way. I can't believe you haven't heard of these guys- sorry, that wasn't a gloat. Please don't hit me. Anyway, there's this 'hooder organization that calls itself SINless City - it's a play off the old comi...nevermind. You probably won't know what that means. They're generally okay guys, though, lifting commlinks off thugs and gangers who probably stole them from somebody else, anyway...some poor, unsuspecting victim that they left bleeding in the street...jerks."
Will shook his head. "City has the comms erased before giving them back to people who might actually need them. They've got these drop boxes all over the place...well, sort of. We call it a drop box, but it could be a trash can or a flower pot or some street performer's hat - anything. You slip a request in the box - discreetly, which means don't hover around it waiting for some sort of confirmation code or something because you won't get it, and they'll just pull up and leave if you draw attention to the box - and tell them where to leave the comm, then you can pick it up the next day - sooner if they like you. It's all done anonymous, no questions asked. Problem is, you only get one at a time, and however they go about monitoring the system, if they catch you trying to get more, you don't get any at all. Oh, and they 'like you' if you drop a comm back in a box when you're done using it, so if we could not destroy these when we're through, that would be awesome for everyone involved. You could get your own SINless City flier miles!"
He smiled at that, but hurriedly continued in case she didn't think his brand of humor was funny, which he assumed she didn't.
Fear is good, she reminded herself. When people are afraid of you, they generally try not to piss you off. Making Switch a little leery of her was just good business. After all, they'd only done the one Run together, and that was under duress. She'd had very little time to gain a sense of his true self. There was no telling just what he was capable of. In short, trust was earned, and Switch hadn't put in quite enough hours yet.
She did, however, snort at his terrible pun.
"The only real technical part about the process is that the drop boxes change location every hour, and if you don't know where to look you'll never find it. If you guys can pull the commlinks off the two medics, and have two other people posted in different cities, I can put in a drop for one comm over here and have you guys get the other three. Just give me the city and a time, and I'll get you a box. I'd jump on that, like, tomorrow at the latest. You can send me the three and I'll get them to my guy, but hang onto the two from the medics. I'll reprogram those when I get to L.A."
He paused, realizing he had gotten himself all caught up in the explanation and details of the Run, and thus may have forgotten one tiny, important piece of information.
"Speaking of L.A...who are we hitting? And the fact that you haven't told me that already makes me want to add another number to the scale of 'I'm going to die,' just so you know."
Teva decided to dance around his question in favor of one of her own. "Since the comms are already erased, couldn't we just request them from our current location? We have multiple runners nearby, enough that if we each got a comm from the drop box, we'd have our three. No need for extra stops on the way then. So where's the drop box in New Orleans?"
"Ohhhhh god, you're avoiding the question," he whined, ignoring pretty much everything she just said. "That increases my chances of dying to like 87%. I haven't even had a chance to rebuild my Liberator army. You do know I kind of depend on those little guys to keep me alive when my body's just lying around being a big 'kill me, I'm in your system!' target, right?"
Poor guy, Teva thought. She chuckled out loud before remembering she should probably not do that. Switch was apparently the nervous type. Don't want to freak him out any more than I have to.
With the slightest hint of an exasperated sigh, Feral drawled out, "Relax. It's not as bad as you're making it out to be. We're just gonna go walk right into Horizon, rob them blind, and be out before they even know we were there. It'll take us thirty minutes tops; less if you're as good a hacker as you say you are." She kept her tone cool and unworried, displaying none of her own misgivings. Feral trusted Red to set up a Run, to pick the right team, come up with a plan that would get them in and out as safely as possible. He was good at that kind of masterminding. She had complete faith in his ability to plan.
However, life didn't always go according to plan, Teva was aware. Sometimes people made mistakes or something changed in the environment; something as small as a guard taking a cigarette break a couple minutes earlier than usual could take all the careful plotting in the world and smash it to hell. That was when you had to think on your feet, and sometimes that involved a scrape or two. Her point was that nothing was foolproof; the world was not a set of ideal conditions.
There was no need to explain any of that to twitchy Switch though. He'd probably disappear in a hurry, and she'd never find him again. Not that she'd blame him. She was, after all, only about 80% confident that Red's job was going to go as smoothly as he insisted it would. That wasn't exactly a ringing endorsement of any kind.
"And don't worry about your lack of…liberator army," she drew the words out slowly, still getting used to Switch's general oddness. "You'll have me. I'm way more badass than any toy." At that, Feral's voice turned smug. She didn't have to fake her self-assuredness there; Teva knew she was a BAMF. In fact, she was one of the BAMFiest BAMFs out there, and if anybody tried to tell her differently she'd be happy to use her favorite rebuttal: fist, meet face.
"Horizon? Like the Horizon? You're insane! You and your crazy five other Runners are insane! No! There is no way I'm going to-"
Like she'd thought, he began freaking out. Teva rubbed the sinus cavity above her right eyebrow in annoyance. Techs; they were all fucking pussies at the heart of the matter. That was why they'd rather play with the Matrix than pick up a weapon and do some real work. "Can you shut up?" she muttered aloud unintentionally, but Teva doubted he could hear her over the sound of his own whining.
"Do the Run, Switch."
Will closed his eyes as he felt the command rather than actually heard it. Without telling Feral he was changing lines, he flipped over to talk to Phantom.
That little blip in the audio feed made Teva think he'd hung up on her. However, a moment went by without her little comm informing her of the disconnection. That was when Feral figured it out, and she clenched her jaw. "That little fucker put me on hold?!"
That's it; he'd definitely earned himself a smack. The adept made a mental note not to hit anything vital when…if she saw him again. He was probably halfway to Australia by now, running so fast he left a trail of dust behind him. Jeez, you mention the name of one little megacorp, and the rabbits go to ground.
She ate the rest of her breakfast, silently fuming. Still, she left the comm connected because who knew? Maybe he had some legitimate reason for unceremoniously putting her on hold aside from being a rude little shithead.
"Do you listen in on all my calls, or did I say some sort of magic code word?" Switch snapped on the other line.
"Horizon. We need to hit them too. We can use your Run as cover for ours," Phantom's voice whispered to him.
Will shook his head. "I'm the only sane one here. When did that happen? When did I become the sane one?"
"We won't get in the way. You do yours, we'll do ours, but we'll ride in on your hack. They've got four technos in holding, Switch. You can help us help them."
The usual types of images and emotions of the four experimental subjects flooded Will's senses, and he knew he wouldn't be able to say no to that kind of suffering.
"I hate you so much right now. If I die, I'm coming back as a ghost in your system. Then you can see what it feels like to have some random guy in your brain telling you what to do."
"Thank you, Switch."
"Yeah, yeah. You're paying me for this one. I hope you know that."
"I'll leave you a gift."
Phantom's presence slipped away at that point, leaving Switch sulking in his wake.
"I am so dead."
Sighing, he flipped back over to Feral's line. "Fine, I'm in. And to answer your previous question, you can't all hit that same box. SINless doesn't exactly advertise their services. If you all go in one after the other, they'll suspect something's up. I'll track down a drop location that you can hit, but you'll have to tell your guys to wait for it to change between hours. And for the love of a box of s'more bites, please be casual about it."
When Switch clicked back over to her line she didn't mind admitting that she was surprised. "You're in?" Teva repeated incredulously. "What happened to 'you're crazy; no, no, no, whine and a little cheese please'?"
'Fucking hackers,' she mouthed to the empty room.
"Why the abrupt change of heart?" Because, yeah, like that wasn't suspicious or anything.
"It wasn't abrupt," he argued. "I just took a little self-reflection time, realized I was being Clark Kent instead of Superman, and came to the conclusion that you guys would be so completely screwed if I didn't help you on this. As much as I don't want to be dead, I'd have to feel bad if some second-rate chiphead you hired from Hackers-R-Us got you all killed. Then there'd be guilt. Nobody wants that. Especially me, because I have enough on my shoulders right-" Switch, you're rambling."You know what? Don't question me. I changed my mind, take it or leave it."
He huffed out an annoyed breath. He probably should tell her that he had just essentially volunteered their Run to possibly become a tail chaser for Phantom's extraction, but that probably wouldn't go over well. He already expected to get a punch in the arm at the very least, and turning that into a bullet to his kneecap didn't seem like such a great option. No, he'd have to keep his little side Run a secret...unless it got in the way. Then he might have to say something...
"I'm in a Gala in Atlanta right now," he mentioned, hoping to just get the details of the Run over with and get off the line. As a superhero, lying was an essential part of surviving, but it didn't mean he particularly enjoyed doing it to someone who might actually be on their way to being called something of a friend...plus, he wasn't always necessarily good at it. "Send the comms to Caleb Knox at the LockShip by Meyers on Hollywood Rd - I've got a box there. Once I get them, I'm off to FDC to meet my guy...who I'll need to pay, soooo..."
She rolled her eyes, and bit out, "I'll get you your money. Send me an account number to transfer the cred into when you figure out the location of the drop box."
Feral paused, feeling that little itch at the back of her brain that said something fishy was about to happen. "And Switch, look, I hate to be all cliché and shit, but if you fuck me over, I'll probably kill you myself. Just sayin'. You might not want to try double-crossing us or anything crazy like that. I don't take that lightly." Her warning was issued as casually as could be, but underneath the deceptive airiness of her voice there lay a thread of steel. She hoped he heard it; she really wasn't in the mood to get jerked around.
Without another word, Feral disconnected the call, and tossed her comm back in the bowl of miscellany.