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The Strange Cases of Rabbit Kyoami

Discussion in 'FanFic' started by borisgreymenace, Jun 6, 2022.

  1. borisgreymenace

    borisgreymenace killer heckler

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    Jack Watson is the greatest living detective, perhaps of all time. His cases are famous, his solutions infallible, and his brilliant deductions widely celebrated. But for those who can’t afford the best, and are willing to settle for a living detective that, on most lists, hovers just below average, Rabbit Kyoami is available for hire.


    01 - CAT’S CRADLE


    Business is slow.

    From his office/apartment in Bakunin’s second dome, just far enough from VaudeVille to be unfashionable but close enough to catch some flotsam off the breakers, Rabbit Kyoami is deep in a rewatch of the Incredible Adventures of Candy Double. Chasing the ineffable, he’s hoping to catch the precise moment in the sensadrama where the original actress is killed and replaced by a new actress in a cloned Lhost. The Double within a Double is not a popular fan theory. This vehement contention weighs on Rabbit’s Social Energy like a millstone, and when he first posted it to the local cluster cult his Social Energy Ranking System Logarithmic Yardstick tanked so hard, he lost his previous office/apartment. Reason enough to recant a fringe fan theory, but Rabbit swears he can taste a change in Candy that’s deeper than performative nuance. A transition of being that’s not so much transformative but a convergence of two minds, each ascending through different paths into the same hallowed icon.

    In order to prevent viewer overload, the producers condense the most immersive sensations into bite-sized montages. Such clips are the best place to hide an actress swap and to subtly familiarize the audience with the ringer. All it requires is some footage of the first actress in the scene spliced with takes of the new performer in tight close ups excluding the other actors. Alternating cut to cut, this blends the performances into an indistinguishable whole. The unsuspecting accept the continuity. But Rabbit is tuned to a different frequency, catching the waveforms of barely perceptible truth beneath the subterfuge of slick production and comfortable immersion.

    The sequence in question has Candy, just captured by Combined Army forces in the Ariadnan Exclusion Zone, giving a defiant speech. Her captor seems to swell with menace when a wave of USAriadnan aerial cavalry breaks on the horizon. From the first salvo of rockets from Vulture drones and Black Eagle attack helicopters until the USARF Grunt heroine takes the field, there’s an eighty second clip where the Onyx Contact Forces pull back into a defensive position, using Dawn’s Dark Mist as cover. They drag Candy through the tragic residue of the Ariadnan Commercial Conflicts and from the moment she enters the nanocloud the director surrenders the narrative to a cacophony of senses.

    Rabbit is consumed by modulated shriek of mote size machines seemingly intent on devouring the show’s titular star, whipped up in part by the cold wind coming off the Sea of Spinners combined with the turbulence of oncoming aircraft. Though her coat is rated against near arctic temperatures, the mist is something altogether worse. Tendrils of machines cut through the neofibers, slicing her skin in shallow lacerations, each sting an amuse-bouche for this hungry, swirling murmuration. The claws of her alien captor dig into her bicep as a sterile urgency drives it forth, Candy more plunder than prisoner, diversion than damsel, the air cracking with gunfire and the occasional explosion of ordnance drawing closer despite their retreat. She tastes metal in the air. Nanites, maybe. Or blood. And there’s the smell of something, not just mystery, but of a dreadful revelation just about to peak…

    Rabbit’s nose is twitching too. He's almost there, just needs a little navigational aid to orient him towards bardo, the delicate liminality too fine a grain for sobriety. He removes his sensatranslator rig to see a woman sitting with her legs crossed on the other side of his desk. She's wearing a jacket from the Ultraviolet Quarter with a collar so big it seems to stage light her face and not much else besides to qualify as outerwear, the whole outfit designed to accentuate her figure in such a way that Rabbit's eyes nearly pop out of his head as he’s immersed in a different kind of sensation.

    "I hope I'm not interrupting, Mr. Kyoami...?"

    Rabbit sets his social halo and streaming status to private. He approximates a professional demeanor, stiffening in his chair and folding his hands in front of him like a penitent ready to recite the baleful catechism of St. Mary of the Knife.

    "Not at all. Just doing some research on another case. What can I do you for?"

    "Well, it's almost embarrassing to say out loud, but I've lost my cat."

    Rabbit does a double take and swears she said something else.

    "Come again?"

    The woman smiles with a hungry curl on her lips. "Gladly. I'm looking for my cat. I've heard you're in the business of helping people find lost things."

    Rabbit shakes the sense of divergent meanings long enough to nod affirmatively. He’s still in need of medicine and reaches for a vintage snuff tin on his desk. The lid engravings depict an Al Medinat oasis with a series of twisting Parasols sheltering lost travelers during the initial colonization of Bourak. Inside are cigarette papers and a few grams of Hashish Bayram, which he begins rolling into a baseball bat of a spliff. With the precision of a bonchero, he twists off the big end into a mighty wick and sticks the filter end in the corner of his lips.

    "I've been known to," Rabbit pats pockets and opens drawers, his spliff flapping with each word, "reunite people with personal effects that have been separated from their possession or otherwise…"

    She reaches across the desk and picks up the lighter that's next to the snuff box and holds it up to his lips. Rabbit leans in and takes a long drag.

    "Misplaced?" she finishes.

    Rabbit blinks. This is a case, right?

    "Do you have a picture of your p--cat?" He sucks down another long drag and holds it lest something stupider falls out of his mouth.

    "Of course," the curve of her smile takes an ironic turn and she displays a file in AR. He catches sight of her Social Energy, a proper six thousand plus on the up and up. Just his lucky day to score a client like that with a job this simple.

    The cat in question seems to be a regular black cat with green blue eyes and some breeder notes. Rabbit does a quick scan and files the details with Omikuji, his geist. In certain lights the coat appears rust color while the white roots to the fur hairs qualify the feline as smoke instead of true black. All useful, probably, but for Kyoami the defining feature of the photo is a collar with a tag that looks like a thick circuit board about two and a half inches long. Seems like a lot of gear for a cat to carry on its neck.

    He passes the spliff and she accepts it. The smoke rolls from her rouged lips in soft plumes that dance in the air. She's looking straight at him with green blue eyes.

    "Is there anything else you need a picture of?" She uncrosses and recrosses her legs. Rabbit starts coughing uncontrollably as the smoke is squeezed from his chest. His eyes water as he wheezes to catch a breath. She takes a second drag as he tries to compose himself.

    "No… this… is… fine… anything… special… about… the… collar...?"

    She offers to return the spliff as etiquette demands but Rabbit waves it away as he attempts to keep his lungs from galloping out of his throat. She leans back with an appraising look.

    “No. It’s a sentimental piece.”

    Rabbit pounds his fist on the table as he asserts authority over his body. Pranayama pranayama pranayama. The mantra fails with each wracking cough.

    “Where… did… you… last… see… it...?”

    She takes another drag and breathes out of the side of her mouth. “Where else but VaudeVille?”

    “Would… anybo… want… take… it?” He can feel his face flush as the tears well in his eyes, blotting the whole scene like a messy watercolor.

    She puts the spliff down and stands up, ranging maybe a half foot taller than Rabbit, and leans across the desk. With decisive but delicate hands she undoes the buttons on his shirt, revealing part of his tattoo, and places the heel of her palm just where his ribs come together on his chest. With a single compression she seems to reset his diaphragm and suddenly the coughing fit ends with cold, recycled ship’s air fills his greedy little lungs. The woman leans back into her chair with a satisfied smile.

    “It’s a cat, silly. No one is looking for my little Toro but me.” The simper fits her poorly but since she’s knocked his bronchioles back into place, Rabbit’s willing to accept just about anything from her. With a trembling hand he reaches for the spliff.

    “I have standard rates–”

    “I’m willing to pay twelve thousand skënders for Toro’s return.”

    Rabbit almost descends into another coughing fit as he chokes down the sum. He holds off on the spliff, letting the ash drop in a pile on his desk. In the absence of a decent SRSLY rating, that kind of cold hard cash could solve a lot of problems for him now that he’s depleted his reserves of reputation based crypto. This kind of offer is at least mildly suspicious. But she’s got good Social Energy. Plenty of people are sentimental about their pets, especially on Bakunin where a cat is practically sacred. Why let a few impertinent questions stand between him and the next year’s worth of rent?

    Rabbit leans back with his hands interlocked behind his head, “I can’t guarantee results but I’ll look into it. Of course, I’ll need an advance to cover some initial expenses and my time working my sources, say twenty percent?”

    With another flick from the comlog on her wrist, she transfers the money into his accounts. If there was a flinch or a flicker in her smile, he doesn’t see it.

    “I’m glad we can come to terms, Mr. Kyoami,” she stands, “You have my contact details for when you’ve retrieved poor Toro. Until then–”

    “Wait, what’s your name?” He sputters as she heads towards the door.

    “Griselda Avcı,“ she turns back with a smile, “See you soon, I hope.”

    Rabbit is just about to say the same thing when the door closes behind her.

    //

    Cats rule Bakunin. Introduced to deal with vermin on the decks, they ended up becoming the Mothership's most populous resident, Praxis lab rats and wannabe chimeras notwithstanding. That more or less solved the rat problem but then people began feeding them and now it’s at the point where the Moderators can’t even neuter them, let alone cull the population, and the Conciliator is not about to piss his Social Energy into the gale force winds of the prevailing zeitgeist. This makes it easy to find a cat or seven on Bakunin, but finding the right cat is another story.

    Rabbit’s not much of a cat person himself, but he gets the appeal as a few of the friendlier felines rub up against his legs during a stroll down VaudeVille to get a lay of the land. Omikuji is computing the intricacies of “black”, “rust”, and “smoke” as it aligns with known cat populations on the ship while he scopes out the koneko that come his way. He’d bet skënders to skittles that he’ll know that collar before he recognizes coat variations, but Rabbit's got a suite of AR tools to help him out just in case.

    VaudeVille is rocketing on full blast tonight. With Bakunin parked in the Paradiso system, Sunset Boulevard is packed with throngs of tourists, ranging from Haqqislamite caravanserai staff to PanOceanian and Yu Jingese troops on leave. Rabbit is feeling out of place walking down the street in a pair of worn flip flops, a tall crowned hat, and Baja hoodie, his neon-noir capris set to mimic the fluid mechanics of a lava lamp, looking kinda like a Jodorowski movie dipped in melted wax. Peeking under table and chair at each and every feline isn’t helping the impression he’s making among the planet side squares or his shipmates that are serving them. It’s a rare feeling, being weird again, and he can’t help but embellish the eccentric task, if only to remind these flatsiders just who it is that’s at home among the stars.

    The whole act hits a climax when he finds himself shouldered to the ground. It doesn't take a detective to spot a BouBoutique special like this from a parsec away–over two meters tall with a Doric physique and neon pink eyes–an angry looking giant of a custom Lhost is glaring down at Rabbit for having the audacity to exist. There’s a moment of enantiodromia when their eyes lock, sinking and awful, that dissipates only when Rabbit’s antagonist pushes further into the parting crowd.

    “I was, like, walking here?”

    Only the cats remain interested in Rabbit as he rolls over from his grievance and pushes himself up. It’s a different world on their level, all knees and ankles and things to either climb up or hide under. He lingers in this perspective for a minute, tries to get a feel for his target, when the flash of a name tag catches his eyes. It’s uncommon for strays to have collars. Less so for them to be big enough to catch an eye from a dozen meters off. Rabbit locks on in AR and hikes himself up to begin the hunt.

    Foot chases are something standard for a detective like Rabbit, like telephotography and a taste for cheap whisky. ‘Shadow’ and ‘Pursuit’ might as well be the names of his left and right feet. When he’s lucky, there’s a map of the module on his comlog and Omikuji is plotting the likely paths for an intercept. He's not always lucky. A cat’s version of a chase is all verticality, tight spaces, and time distortion–slow until he’s close, then darting underfoot, into open deck panels and under racks in the clothing stores, behind bodega shelves and on top of the holodisplays in the open-air shops that line the street.

    The professional stalker is detangling himself from some improvised power cabling when the ship’s chime for eight post meridiem hits. Suddenly the world around Rabbit Kyoami stops as the fake blue sky above, always pleasant weather unless Bakunin’s in mourning, begins to take on a fiery hue. It’s the thing Sunset Boulevard is known for. All the soldiers, spies, vagabonds, and haggard civilians from the war-torn jungles below find themselves encapsulated in the moment, trapped in a theatrical amber that overwhelms the senses. There’s a collective gasp, reverent whispers, and a general murmur of wonderment as each informal stall and gap between the standing shops and hotels become perfect henges that frame this interior sun. Fingers and comlogs snap to attention in a sort of tai chi of selfies as everyone looks to capture Bakunin's golden hour in their social clouds. In spite of himself Rabbit can’t help but gawp at the streaks of pink, purple, and red that rake across the sky. He’s seen it a thousand times, waist deep in a case or not, and never once managed to escape the riptide of its splendor.

    A pop of champagne corks like a twenty-one-gun salute punctuates the onset of night, the quiet stars of the Paradiso system dimmed by the neon splash of lurid promises that now flood Promenade Layer AR. Rabbit reaches into his kangaroo pouch and pulls out the back half of a spliff, puts it to his lips, and starts patting himself down for the lighter. He sucks his teeth as he remembers he forgot something again, and his eyes level out to see the cat waiting for him on a Pulpi Beer keg outside a rowdy bar full of Regulars from the Green-A group. It’s cleaning its face when he catches sight of it. In the street's lamplight, he’s damned if that cat doesn’t have a russet hue to its fur. Those green blue eyes then fix on him the way a cat does, as if it has been waiting for him the whole time. It jumps down and starts trotting off slowly. It’s a pace that even Rabbit can keep, so he slips the blunt behind his ear and takes off after that big name tag.

    Rabbit only gets a little nervous as the cat takes him off the strip, the crowd thinning out, their revels fading into the hum of ship’s systems, though twists and turns that lead far from the action into the little arteries that feed VaudeVille but are also just the place to get lost in, forever lost. Rumors of Praxis mad scientists and Equinox vivisectors preying on the drunk and unwary in back alleys are never too crazy to ignore. Not on this ship. So when the cat gets him to an empty junction room, he gets a hinky feeling that maybe this hasn’t been a chase but a snare. Nose twitching, Kyoami starts going in for the scoop. He’s heard some cats become all claws, teeth, and hisses when they’re taken against their will. For twelve thousand skënders Rabbit’s willing to lose an ear or two so long as he can collect. But the cat doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, and it chirps as he lifts it up into his arms.

    It’s about then that the gunfire starts. Rabbit barely ducks the clap clap clap of a submachine gun at close range. His dodge is more of a stumble that allows him to take a half turn to see big, mean, and pink eyed bearing down on him CineticS trench sweeper, looking to put Rabbit down for good this time. With the cat tucked against his chest like a rugby ball and his other hand keeping the hat on his head, Kyoami races back towards the main strip, trying to put as much space between him and the murderous post-human that’s spraying lead in his direction. Omikuji proudly lets him know that he’s reaching his fitness goal for the day and starting a new streak. The geist also sends a distress signal to the Moderator Corps, either because of the gunfire or the fact that Rabbit is finally starting to exercise.

    “Drop the cat meat sack.”

    Rabbit’s gasps in reply, his clever riposte evaporating in the burning smoker’s lung that protests the sudden increase in speed and terror. He makes a mad dash towards Sunset, using the bulkheads as cover each time the post-human aims a spray of bullets in his direction. If the cat's worried about all this violence it doesn't show. The feline remains firmly in arm, purring as Rabbit sprints towards the safety of the crowd.

    It turns out that the pink eyed giant is not shy about murder in a public space. As Rabbit swerves onto the strip and careens back towards his office, submachine gun fire tears through the pack of Acontecimento Regulars cheersing their fallen comrades. Suddenly the foot chase is a stampede as hundreds of people scatter at once. In the swell of panic and terror, more gunshots ring out in response to Pink Eyes’ fire. Here and there panicked tourists are falling down limp as they catch a piece of bad luck. Upbeat music and screams of pain have skewed the vibe somewhere claustrophobic and grim.

    With shooters in multiple directions, Rabbit has no choice but to go to ground. Juking between the former guests of the Rialto-Bakunin Hotel patio as they scatter, he baseball slides under a high top and chucks his hat to the other side of the bar. He queues up his comlog to change the patterning on his pants to something muted and bland. From his back waistband he pulls out a stun pistol and scoots around the table so that he can get a bead on the rampaging Lhost when it comes through.

    As the world spins out in chaos there exists a counterforce to restore equilibrium that’s ready for deployment. Combi rifle fire breaks out in barking response to scattered pistol and SMG shots. Commands for people to get on the ground and drop their weapons ring out in VaudeVille as a team of Moderators makes their way up the boulevard. Rabbit ditches the stun pistol in his trousers and reaches up instead for a cocktail, seizing on a highball glass that had been left on the table above. It tastes full of sugar, hangover, and regrets but he finishes it anyway as the Moderator Corps locks down Sunset with suppressing fire and demand for calm.

    When they start giving each other all clear sign, Rabbit gets up from his crouch and scans the survivors cautiously. Hair, blood, and clothes all out of place. It’s early for a Tuesday. He looks down at the cat. Still purring, its tail twitching lightly as it too surveys the crowd. No sign of Pink Eyes and that’s enough to take a weight off both of their chests. He heads to the other end of the patio and grabs his hat. There’s a dusty footprint on the brim, but otherwise undamaged. With a jaunty whistle, he puts it on his head and begins making his way back to the office.

    Easy come, easy go. He’s not five steps off the patio when a hand clamps around his neck and squeezes his song out of tune. He’s lifted up against the wall so that his feet no longer touch the ground. The cat jumps down just in time for both of his hands to shoot up to try and pry his neck free as he wriggles like a fish on a hook. When his eyes finally focus, he sees himself on the wrong end of the long arm of some flat topped, square jawed, authoritarian. There’s a twinkle in Bjorn Silje’s eyes, something almost like a smile behind the gritted teeth as the Moderator asks Rabbit:

    “You called for help, hippy scum?”

    //


    Bjorn Silje is one hundred kilos of mean, stretched across a broad frame that’s as big as an iceberg and half was wide. Whereas Pink Eyes has a cold, surgical evil to his mien, there exists a passion to Bjorn’s aggression that borders on romance. He’s the type of cop for whom every collar is personal, every police action is a chance for primal therapy, and the greatest sin imaginable is letting a perp walk free. There’s an art to keeping the peace between hundreds of diametrically opposed ideologies crammed together on a single ship that’s under constant political assault from every great power in the known galaxy. And there’s a sport to being the biggest badass in the room. In this regard, Bjorn Silje is both a renaissance master and an Olympian athlete.

    Rabbit has a front row seat to this master class of copdom as they work him over for the shootout on Sunset.

    “Let’s take it from the top,” Silje’s laconic partner, Venka Nemes, drawls as she resets her interrogation suite. “What happened on Sunset Boulevard at 2032 hours, ship’s time?”

    “Like I told you before, I was on a case–”

    Silje bangs his fists on the table, “Why’s a washed up WarCor like you working for Svengali?”

    “Svengali isn’t my client–” This may or may not be true, considering that Svengali is ubiquitous in Bakunin. Its clusters are multitudinous and semi-autonomous, even springing up from time to time off ship, sometime after years of dormancy. Anyone might be in the pocket of the AI mafia and it’s not above replacing the odd human with a doppelganger Lhost to advance its criminal empire.

    “Then why were you and a military grade Saelig shooting up VaudeVille, shitbird?” Rabbit’s wondering just the same thing–what’s a cat got to do with a souped up Lhost with a bad attitude? Still, clients usually don’t try to shoot Rabbit until after the job is done and even then, generally not in public. This should be logic simple enough for a cop to understand.

    “Pink Eyes was shooting at me, man. Not with me. People in, you know, cahoots don’t usually shoot at each other.”

    Nemes cocks an eyebrow, “You expect us to believe that co-conspirators have never had a violent falling out?”

    Rabbit has tripped himself with that one. Silje Isn't waiting for an answer. They’ve pulled some of his comlog data and are in full on jump to conclusions mode.

    "What's so special about that collar, deadbeat?"

    Rabbit doesn't know.

    "Who's your client?" Silje growls, leaning on the table so close that his boxer's nose nearly touches the SecurCuffed Rabbit.

    "Man, I was just looking for a cat…"

    "Ok," Nemes runs her hand through a shock of purple fringe, "Let's go over this one more time."

    //

    Again and again. It's eight hours of the same questions and accusations in varying sequence before they have to admit that an analysis of the crime scene footage proves Rabbit never did anything worse than down an abandoned cocktail. Silje is none too happy to unshackle and release a suspect. A frustration he's all too willing to put some color on.

    "I'll be watching you, Kyoami. You won't be able to take a shit on this ship without me knowing the stink."

    That puts a rumble in Rabbit's guts that follows him all the way back to the office. Taking heat for someone else's bullets. That's just like these fascists, pretending to mediate conflict with applied oppression and meaningless oversight--

    There's someone sitting in the client's chair when he walks in. Wearing an expensive suit and a cheap smile, he's all teeth and hair and a couple of armed bodyguards to enhance any impression that his charm won't carry.

    "Aristophanes Kyoami?"

    "Who wants to know?" Rabbit's on the verge of a bolt, but where to?

    "I'm Savio Praeger," standing, extending a hand, "A lawyer with Avedikian, Maier, and Somtow. I represent a client and we'd like to retain your services in a certain matter."

    Rabbit takes the hand and in that brief shake he feels like he's wearing heavier cuffs than Bjorn Silje will ever clap on good wrists. Say what he will about the police, but at least the Moderators keep a Reactionary Casual dress code and wear their agenda on their sleeves. These functionaries in wingtips and blazers are always a punji sticks dressed in affable layers. The Enemy.

    "Avedikian… isn't that the guy who took a swan dive out of the presidential suite of some hotel in VaudeVille, with his throat–” Rabbit drags a finger across his neck.

    “Yes,” Praeger doesn’t break his smile, “We’re all still very sorry for the loss of one of our named partners.”

    "Take a seat, I guess?" Rabbit looks at the guards. Very Tunguskan in nature. Sunglasses, ear pieces, heaters in shoulder holsters. Cold but no chill. Rabbit heads to the other side of the desk like a grunt taking cover in a foxhole.

    "Thank you, Mr. Kyoami."

    "Rabbit."

    "Excuse me?" Praeger's smile is caught somewhere between baffled and laughter.

    "Call me Rabbit, Mr. Praeger."

    "Well, that's a strange nickname. What's it short for?"

    Rabbit takes a beat to roll a new spliff. Of course, there's no telling where he left the lighter. There's an awkward pause as they all grapple with the unanswered question while Rabbit checks drawers and pockets.

    "So, uh, what's the job?" He asks when the silence gets too big to keep holding.

    "Ah, our client," Praeger resets, straightening his tie, his hair, his smile, "Is interested in an unoccupied module on ship. As you know, such real estate is usually distributed through lottery or auction, but in this case the process has stalled due to… some confusion. The previous owner was reportedly killed in Novvy Bangkok last month, yet she came aboard ship last week. Our efforts to have the module released back to the public have faltered as the discrepancy remains unresolved. With no death certificate or resurrection documentation, well, we're in a bit of limbo waiting for multiple bureaucracies to negotiate facts that would be better ascertained by an independent resource."

    "Who's your client?" Rabbit allows the blunt to drop in his lips as he asks Omikuji to track down a light. His nose is twitching and this time it's not just because they swapped out Candy while he was in a sensatranslator. The universe never gives him two jobs in the same week. Not paying ones and none as simple as find a cat and prove a death. Some demiurge is having a laugh at his expense or laying a little trap to teach him something about the crossing of the stars and the inchoate complexion of destiny.

    Praeger purses his lips, "Of course, I'm not at liberty to say just now. That's why we're here arranging business on our client's behalf. They're next up on the lottery for a module and if they were seen to be influencing the release of a new space, even legitimately, the optics would be unfavorable."

    "Unfavorable," Rabbit rolls the word over his tongue. It's got a bad taste. He checks his SRSLY and it's taken a three-digit tumult since the shootout on Sunset. Who'd want to hire him after that? "Not sure I'm your guy for going through records. There are other agencies who know how to push papers instead of rolling them. Who recommended me?"

    Praeger squishes his lips so flat they turn nearly as pallid as his never-been-off-ship skin. Omikuji finally locates a lighter in Rabbit’s hat band, allowing him to light up the Bayram.

    "We're looking for someone… discreet. Competent, of course, but perhaps not so high profile as to raise undue attention."

    Rabbit knows he should run but he also thinks that this guy can pick up the rent tab that Griselda Avcı is no longer paying now that machine gun Pink Eye and the fuzz are after the “smoke” black cat.

    "I've got standard rates--"

    "My client is willing to pay twenty-five thousand skënders on positive affirmation on the fate, one way or the other, of Dr. Farzaneh Torosyan. Plus, the usual expenses of course. We're even willing to make an advance, assuming it’s reasonable."

    "Nonrefundable. The expenses, that is."

    "So, we have a deal?"

    //

    As it turns out, twenty-five thousand reasons to say yes carry more weight than a million reasons to say no. That’s how Rabbit finds himself in front of an attorney’s office so close to the Ultraviolet Quarter he can hear the scribble of health and safety releases being signed. The AR placard says SZA Legal Services. Legal representatives and last known contact of Dr. Farzaneh Torosyan. Rabbit buzzes the door.

    "Sorry, we're no longer accepting new clients. There's a firm in the next module that specializes in failed chimera augmentations."

    Rabbit flicks on selfie mode for his comlog. Same Baja hoodie and hat from last night, but he doesn't look that bad.

    "Uh, I'm not looking for counsel. I'm here to inquire about one of your clients, Farzaneh Torosyan."

    The comms system does not react to the name.

    “Uh, hello?”

    "We're not in the business of disclosing information about our clients."

    Rabbit leans into the mic politely, squints at the camera before trying his best Praeger impression. "Attorney client privilege does not cover the dead."

    "Dr. Torosyan is not dead."

    "An O-12 special investigator on Novvy Bangkok begs to differ. Reported her dead in a shootout in front of Harry’s Bar. Apparently, they were investigating her for ties to certain black site work on the Human Edge. Off books type stuff. Spook stuff."

    "What's your point?" The voice behind the machine is indifferent.

    Rabbit lowers his sunglasses, "My point is we probably don't want to be discussing this matter in public. Do you mind letting me in?"

    //

    It's a nice office, on the small side, full of scale replicas of civilian ships from Freetrade Brotherhood lighters to docking sections of the Circulars. Rabbit would love to tour the different models but the destroyer behind the desk seems locked on to him with weapons set to full. He slides into the opposite chair and tries to pull a smile without looking too scared.

    Whereas Savior Praeger is a polished scalpel in a business suit, Sanchita Zeta-Agbayani comes across like a hatchet in shoulder pads. Dressed in a suit that enhances her size at sharp angles, she looks across at Rabbit with poorly disguised disdain. Her manner is serious, severe, and gives no sense that his facts have made any impression upon her.

    Rabbit takes a spliff from behind his ear and begins to pat his pockets.

    “There’s no smoking here,” her voice is even and deadly. Rabbit takes the Bayram out of his mouth and puts it back behind his ear. The matter settled between them, Dr. Torosyan’s lawyer gets straight to the point. “So, you’re saying my client is dead.”

    “I’m not saying that, man–miss, uh miz,” Rabbit contends, “O-12 is saying that she, uh, was taken out on Novvy Bangkok… Sorry for your loss, by the way.”

    “Well, be that as it may, my client is most assuredly not dead.”

    Rabbit furrows his brow. “How can you say that? There’s this inspector–”

    Zeta-Agbayani holds up a hand. “I have had contact with my client since that report was filed. Indisputable proof from her of her continued good health. Her fees are paid and she maintains her innocence of the spurious allegations made in that report. All of which, I remind you, remain unproven and malicious speculation at best.”

    Now Rabbit’s really stuck. No cat and the dead lady is still paying her lawyer. “Look, that can’t be. These O-12 types are thorough, they have a body.”

    “A body, not Dr. Torosyan’s body.”

    “Looks pretty convincing to me.” Rabbit pulls the pictures from the report and the cross-referenced index of Farzaneh Torosyan’s last ID scan. According to the file, it’s a hundred percent match on physical features as well as fingerprints and DNA markers. Either the person the ID is sampled from is not Torosyan or someone has gone to a lot of trouble to fake out Concilium.

    Zeta-Agbayani frowns. She makes a steeple of her hands and presses her index fingers across her lips as she leans across the desk. Her ash gray suit coat seems to drape around her like a storm cloud and Rabbit can’t help but worry that something electric is about to strike him.

    “Looks can be deceiving. My client arrived on ship. There’s a passenger manifest to prove it. Stamped by O-12 at End of the Line station and verified on the C-8 Circular that brought her ship to this system. This is a simple matter of sloppy police work, mistaken identity, and the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. Nothing more than that.”

    Rabbit scratches the peach fuzz on his chin. Fake case? Why would Praeger bring armed guards and a fake case to him?

    “Sounds like this all is one big misunderstanding, then. If there’s any way your client can communicate to me that she’s in good health, I can clear that up with my client and then everyone can get paid and be happy and not have to trade condolences.”

    A smirk tweaks Zeta-Agbayani’s lips. Her dark brown eyes twinkle.

    “I think we’ll have to decline that offer. Look, you seem like an alright guy. At least not like most of the scum suckers in this line of work. Take some advice from me, Mr. Kyoami–forget about this job. The vultures that hired you aren’t the type of people you want to be in business with.”

    “Who are the type of people I want to be in business with?”

    Zeta-Agbayani leans back and puts her hands behind her head, “I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. It’s only the right decision if you take it on your own. All I can tell you is that no good comes from working for folks who are trying to make sure someone is dead.”

    //

    Rabbit would have liked to take the advice, but his bank account reminds him that he’s out two jobs in as many days. Omikuji’s found the ship Torosyan came in on, but no one can seem to pin down just where the missing doctor went from there. Her lawyer says she keeps paying the bill but Rabbit’s having a tough time swallowing it. A tough time swallowing just about any line after he went hook, line, and sinker for a five-figure missing cat job.

    All of that excess suspicion gets his legs moving, first back to his office to change out his shirt for Varuna style Guayabera with Helot glyphs running up vertical seams and a surplus military jacket. He packs the pockets with lights, a couple of repeaters, and some recording gear as he heads down ship towards the module owned by the Eighth Radical Collective of Quantronic Sapient Magonistas. After seven iterations of the collective (there was no fourth due to the homophonic resonance with death in some languages) their dialectic is somewhat obscure. It’s a strain of Lacanian anarchism navigating somewhere between Slavoj Zizek and Harpo Marx. Equal parts doctrinaire and satirical, ERCQSM is decidedly performative above all other concerns. Guerilla quantronic memes, defaced AR patinas with rabid sloganeering, and an impressive record on the Misery Index, where their scorched earth approach to Bakunin’s detractors has never lost an ironic edge in the ruthless ruin it’s wrought.

    To Rabbit, ERCQSM’s history of ideological auto-cannibalism is reason enough to keep clear on most days. But when he needs a carney's imagination and a geek's talent to break a case, there’s no better circus tent on Bakunin. And among the rogue's gallery of quantronic freaks, none stand greater than Lekan Onyewu, a venerable Achates from the bad old days on Bourak. Short, stocky, and armed with an upgraded Rasool RS Sameer jacked into a neural socket, Rabbit’s seen him literally kill people twice his size by brain blasting mind bullets of viral code. A known associate of the NMF Cyberdefense Planning and Development unit, it's not a question of if Onyewu can do the job, but if Rabbit can cover the friend price when he shows up at Lekan's tech coffin.

    "Rabbit, chale. You found the Double of the Double yet?" Lekan knows his obsession and his position is somewhere between sympathy for the underdog and ruthless mockery.

    “I’ve narrowed it down to a key sequence.”

    “As I remember from last we spoke,” Lekan puts a thoughtful finger to his chin, “You were trying to buy some sensadata from her death off a couple of back-alley rippers who were trading in nitrocaine overdoses and underground Aristeia snuff.”

    Rabbit can feel his face redden, “The Observance paid plenty of money to put those bootleggers out of business.”

    “As I recall, they required a lot of persuading that you had nothing to do with their corrupt business model.”

    Rabbit puts his hands up, more defensively than he’d like, “Look man, sometimes a job is a job.”

    Lekan smiles, “I take that’s why you’ve come here dressed like some Varuna obroni? Anything to do with that wahala in VaudeVille?”

    Rabbit pouts, “No, this job pays twice as much. Trying to track down a lady, Dr. Farzaneh Torosyan. She would’ve come in on a ship from End of the Line Station at the Human Edge.”

    “Why don’t you check the docking manifests?”

    “Well, that’s the thing. O-12 swears she’s dead and has a ringer’s body on ice in Novvy Bangkok.”

    “So, you want to see who came off that ship?” Lekan rubs his hands together. Already he’s flicking through the dials of his custom Sameer. Rabbit can see in AR that Lekan’s begun the dive, penetrating the firewalls surrounding the docking bay cameras, cross referencing the incoming ships against their departure points.

    “I was thinking if it wasn’t too much trouble…”

    It’s not and they both know it. Lekan gestures to a couch on the other side of the room while he starts streaming the data to a holodisplay above his techcoffin. “You know the price, Rabbit.”

    So he does. Rabbit already has the spliff pre-rolled. He puts it to his lips and pulls a lighter from his jacket pocket and gets it started, puff, puff, and–

    “Only ship coming in from End of the Line to Bakunin is a civilian lighter–passenger ship called the Aguierre der Zorne Goatse.”

    “Sounds like it’s flagged Bakunian,” Rabbit thinks on the exhale.

    Lekan takes the offered joint, “It’s flagged from Zambia, actually. But the most of the crew are burnouts from BombCluster module… Captain used to be Freetrade Brotherhood but he’s on the naughty list now… This manifest has been forged at least a half dozen times, but your doctor shows up alright, stamped on both sides of the immigration form. Looks legit. Do you have an image to cross reference?”

    Rabbit does him one better and sends the Novvy Bangkok report and O-12 coroner’s examination, along with all the identification data for Torosyan. As he takes a long drag he watches the sped-up stream of passengers offloading the Aguirre on the holodisplay as Lekan’s custom geist, Ekwensu, runs an advanced facial recognition. He’s only slightly devastated when it returns no matches.

    “Bummer.”

    “Sorry, chale. Can’t get completely lucky. First ship we find has the passenger you were looking for. There was bound to be a complication after that.”

    “Could she have jumped ship, somehow? Like gotten on a shuttle or something enroute and just had a duplicate of her comlog scanned?”

    Lekan frowns, “Space traffic control tracked the Aguierre inbound from the Circular. No reports of any ships intercepting her prior to docking.”

    Rabbit hands the spliff back. He takes off his jacket and hat and settles in front of the holodisplay.

    “Ok, play it back in real time.”

    “It’s over three hours including cargo.”

    Rabbit pats his front pocket, where a few extra spliffs are tucked. “It’s ok, I brought reinforcements.”

    //

    Three hundred and twenty-two passengers. Fourteen tons of cargo. Two joints later and the haze of people and things moving on and off ship clouds the picture of who’s who and where they’re headed. Rabbit’s eyes are practically cracked from looking at projections, asking Lekan to rewind, find a new angle, cross reference a profile against whatever data can be wrangled out of the Arachnesphere on Novvy Bangkok. It’s all a blur, Griselda, Praeger, Pink Eyes. They swirl into some gnarly, practically Borromean tangles that overlap closely though not quite into a web. Something else. A cluster. A proper cluster that no sane or sober man could possibly solve.

    Lekan puts a beer in Rabbit’s hand. He drinks. The right detective is on the job. What if she’s in one of the cargo containers? Wouldn’t take too much to retrofit into a small hab unit, or a cryocoffin and life support keeping her vitals moving but suppressed. Fits the O-12 autopsy report with a little creative liberty, she could have been in that shootout, after all, and then fudged the last bit about being dead dead. Except that the power required to keep a body alive in deep space is detectable on Bakunin’s sensors as are the final disposition of each of the containers, the known owners and the parties they represent. More than a few shady deals are made off the back of the Aguierre’s cargo, but none of them have Dr. Torosyan written on them.

    Then there’s Pink Eyes. Nothing doing with the case and it’s definitely a Saelig, Lekan’s confirmed it, but Torosyan could be literally anyone on the ship. Not too hard to die and get a cube inserted into a different Lhost. Might shred the sheut to do a sudden body swap like that, but it’s better than a true death and Novvy Bangkok is full of back-alley types willing to do the job, second only to the Nomad motherships in that regard. Lekan cross references the manifest and each passenger has a story that begins before and ends after the journey, and still her name’s on that list. Not a Farzan, Faraz, or Farhaz, her own name and that of three hundred and twenty-one other people who all got off that ship and–

    “What’s the disembarkation count?”

    Lekan runs back the tape, puts his geist on it. “Three hundred twenty-seven including crew.”

    “What’s the crew?”

    “Six.”

    The tail of something is now twisting in his fingers. He just needs to pull it the right way to unravel.

    “Maybe she didn’t leave.”

    “Customs cleared the ship, passengers, and crew. All accounted for and nothing left behind before the loading began.” Lekan pulls up the feed from the recorder eyes of the agent who cleared the Aguirre. Rabbit waves it away.

    “All accounted for, but Ekwensu has the count one short.”

    “Looks that way,” Lekan nods.

    “Can you take it back to the moment her comlog scans coming off the ship?”

    It’s an ordinary scene. A scrum of people walking through the airlock into the docking bay. The scanners picking up the comlogs and checking the visas and the declarations. Lesser AIs automating away the hassle of a bored uniform at a kiosk, asking where you’re from, what brings you here, trying halfheartedly to catch you in the admission of a crime. It’s a picture that shows nothing. Proves nothing except a clerical error, maybe, on behalf of Bakunin’s customs agency. And yet, he’s sure something’s there. Rabbit can taste it.

    He starts tapping his fingers on the bottle of Meichtry Draft. It’s an offbeat. Something not quite right. Rabbit tips into the edge of the absurd. What if she’s full quantronic–a UPO. Just a memetic echo of the dead lady that once was, doing the things she used to in life, like paying bills and talking to her lawyer… Rabbit’s gone from tapping to a full-on drum. Maybe she’s the ship itself, somehow. Merged with the LAIs that govern the systems, she’s transcended the human form into an edge lord’s dream, identifying as a Selkirk class ship, a sort of political non sequitur to dodge the accountability of being and the bullets meant to end it… There’s a sort of sense to the rhythm, a meandering pulse it’s true, but it’s giving life to an idea. She’s in some sort of liminal state. Pre-transcendence. Something keeps her grounded and moving but without corporeal form. A ghost but not a ghost. Some sort of cube job. A merged consciousness. A convergence of two beings into…

    The drum stops as he drops the beer. Rabbit’s been staring at it the whole time. Male passenger holding a crate. In the crate is a cat. With a big collar. And green blue eyes.

    //

    Rostam Hedaya lives in a modest apartment in the first dome. He’s none too eager to meet Rabbit, bleary eyed and smelling of stale lager, but the name of Farzaneh Torosyan is potent enough to open the door.

    It’s the odor that hits Rabbit first, the smell of dander, litter, and kibble mixed with disdain. A half dozen cats regard them both with a sense of suspicion and indifference. It seems that Rostam is merely the help in this living situation, and judging by the disorder or the room and damaged furniture, he's fallen behind on his duties. That makes Rabbit something worse than an uninvited guest. A distraction, maybe. Or prey.

    Hedaya is a wiry man, middle aged, with a thick full beard that makes Rabbit touch his scruff self-consciously. Aside from the luscious face fur, he's sporting a mean black eye that looks like it has a story behind it. His Social Energy is right in the middle of average. Not in a mediocre way. It reads like a tightrope act. Like the kind of guy who’s good at being forgotten. He invites Rabbit to sit across from him on the couch while he pulls a kitchen chair over to sit opposite. With a flick of his hand the stove begins boiling water for tea, and he brings over two metal steeps filled with a floral smelling mix.

    “So, how do you know Dr. Torosyan?”

    Rabbit looks at the tea and pulls the last blunt from his shirt pocket. He reaches for a lighter and remembers the jacket is in Lekan’s cubicle, along with his recorders and repeaters. He blinks twice to signal Omikuji to begin recording off his eye implants.

    “Uh… let’s just say I represent an interested party.”

    “You said you were a friend of hers.”

    “I am,” Rabbit leans back and catches the side eye off a mean looking calico. Vertical slits that remind him of medieval brattices. He straightens up under that gaze. “In the sense that I’m concerned for her wellbeing and looking to verify that she’s in good health.”

    Hedaya does not seem convinced by that line. He blows on his tea before sipping and putting it back in its saucer. The silence between them and the cats is all the recrimination needed to make Rabbit feel a little guilty coming by high and drunk and insinuating himself in the door of this stranger’s private residence. But a job’s a job and this man is at the nexus of two of them. There are some pressing questions that need answering, mysteries to be cleared up, and an overwhelming urgency to get to the heart of the matter.

    “Do you have a lighter I can borrow?”

    With a sigh, Hedaya goes to his kitchenette and gets a book of matches. He lights one and hands it to Rabbit, striking one of his own to light a pair of joss sticks. The smell of incense seems to stir the cats. A large Russian Blue plants itself in Rostam’s lap while a tabby begins rubbing its face on Rabbit’s bare arms, its purrs drowning the tense silence and the ambient hum of Bakunin’s travels.

    “Look, man. I’m not trying to bring trouble to your doorstep, but the thing is Farzaneh Torosyan was killed last month on Novvy Bangkok, and yet she got off the shuttle Aguirre der Zorne Goatse with you last week. And she’s been in contact with her lawyer, which is strange, you know, for a dead person. But you seem to know her, right? So that makes me wonder what do you have to do with all this?” Rabbit takes a hit of the hash and it burns harsh. Must be an old bag or something.

    Hedaya takes another sip of tea. “Dr. Torosyan was a customer of mine some time ago. I haven’t seen her in ages. I did come back on the shuttle you referenced, but I don’t recall seeing her aboard.”

    “And what kind of work do you do, if you don’t mind me asking?”

    Hedaya frowns, “I’m in sales. Mostly exotic goods.”

    “And that brought you to the Human Edge?”

    “There’s quite an open market on the Boushra Caravanserai. With no one power in control of the system, that makes the markets a little more open than even here on Bakunin.”

    “Dr. Torosyan bought some of these exotic goods from you?”

    “She was a client,” Hedaya hides behind his tea with each slurp, “Other than that, I’m afraid I must respect her privacy. After all, with a business like mine, you survive on trust and word of mouth.”

    He’s almost as good at stonewalling as Zeta-Agbayani. Maybe better, since he doesn’t have to cite chapter and verse of attorney-client privilege to justify his tight lips. Just a businessman. Doing business. With six cats and some tea and a broke down apartment and frequent trips to the edge of space where half of Praxis’s black labs are located. In a ship full of chimeras, pupniks, and sputniks, one has to get pretty fucking weird to deal in anything qualifying as ambiguously exotic. It stinks. Not of cats, Rabbit’s nose blind to that between the hash, the tea, and the incense, though the tabby keeps bopping him on the shoulder. It smells of Beauvoir and ArsTechnodivarius and all the dirty little things that keep this confluence of communes, cults, and pocket utopias drifting through the stars. Things that intrigue and disgust which everyone, including Rabbit, owe a bit of reluctant fealty to.

    “How many cats do you have?”

    The swerve seems to push Hedaya a little off script as he tilts his head in response. “These are all my cats.”

    Rabbit doesn’t even pretend to do an inventory. “But the one you took off ship. The black one. Green blue eyes–pretty unique among cats. Not even precisely black, either. Smoke black with white roots of the follicles, but also rust color in certain lights. A strange combination of colors–no such natural breed does that. Yet you had a cat like that as you got off the Aguirre. What happened to it?”

    Hedaya licks his lips. Just for a second, a flick of the tongue. The tea cup rattles a bit as he lifts it off the saucer. The sip isn’t measured. It’s practically guzzled. And he sloshes the remaining tea as he sets it down again.

    “That was a favor for a client.”

    “An exotic favor?”

    Hedaya shrugs. Dry mouth from the joint is starting to get to Rabbit. He places the roach on the saucer and picks up his own cup of tea, cool now, and leans back to set up the dunk he’s about to pull on Hedaya as the tabby slinks under his armpit and across his lap.

    “Or was it actually your client that you offboarded in that cat carrier? At least what was left of her after the chao pho hit?” He finishes his point with a sip of tea and swishes it around his mouth before swallowing with an exaggerated sigh.

    Hedaya regards him with a steely look. No longer reluctantly polite and imposed upon, but downright threatened and willing to put up a fight. Rabbit’s ready for it, now he's had his tea and hash. The tabby cat settles in his lap and they both regard Rostam with a slow blink.

    "Now that you’ve had your fun, let me ask you a few questions, Mr. Kyoami."

    "Rrrrabit," he slurs in response. Maybe it's the joints or the beer but his head is swimming through a comet's tail, on track but caught in a dust cloud.

    "Who are you working for?"

    "Which case, my man? The cat or the doctor. But they're the same, mannnn. Because of the collar cube."

    "Then tell me who your clients are for both cases." Hedaya seems to snap into focus, his voice the only tangible detail as the rest of the apartment fades into shadow and blur and a half dozen pairs of slitted eyes all watching Rabbit.

    "Grizzzzzsselda Avcı was the first client. Then this prick Praeger came by and doubled her price to find someone else, but it turned out the same."

    A grayness fills the room, like Hedaya's social energy emanating at the frequency of a cat's purr.

    "What do you know about the black cat?"

    "They want the collar… last seen in Sunset Boulevard jangling free, until Pink Eyes and that flat top Silje… gunshots and choke holds, you know?" Rabbit giggles.

    "Very good, Mr. Kyoami. Time to get some rest "

    //

    When Rabbit comes to, the first thing he sees is the tabby cat, nestled in his chest, purring to wake him from an unanticipated slumber. The next thing he sees is the dour face of one of the Observance's Reverends Healer Killer, not confident she's made the right choice as she puts away her medikit.

    "He's awake. Seems like a combo of fayudan and tariki reagents. Mild dose meant to subdue him and perhaps make him more amenable to questioning."

    The tea, Rabbit thinks, was Bourak burundanga.

    "Could he still be under its effects?"

    "It's possible."

    The square jawed contempt of Bjorn Silje floats into view.

    "Alright, Kyoami. Why don't you make this easy on us and tell us what drug fueled murder cult you belong to and then explain why this man was a target for your depraved ritualistic killings?"

    Rabbit's eyes roll back into his head. From his upside-down perspective, he sees Nemes next to Hedaya, or what's left of him. The architect of Rostam Hedaya’s demise kept him whole from the lower jaw downwards. The rest of his head is now a drip painting on the walls and ceiling with enough texture and grit to make Rabbit barf.

    "That's right, hippy scum. You took him apart from the mustache up in a drug fueled rage. Mind recalling for us why you did that?"

    "Man, Bjorn, I was passed out when it happened. Didn't you hear the warrior nun? I was drugged."

    There's a sharp boot to his ribs that dislodges the cat and doubles Rabbit up in pain. He's not sure which one kicked him but he probably deserves it for passing out at a murder scene.

    "That's Moderator Sergeant Silje to the likes of you. And you'll speak to Reverend Otieno with respect."

    "My mistake."

    A firm boot unwinds Rabbit and pushes him onto his back so he can face his interrogators.

    "Now, shit for brains, even if it's true that you drugged yourself through this horror scene, how is it that I find you in the middle of a gunfight and then another murder over the course of two days?"

    "Someone's trying to hang a frame on me?" From the pings he's getting from Omikuji, this interview is going the wrong way and Rabbit's losing some serious points with both the ship's security and the Observance, putting him way over on the wrong side of the authoritarian tastemakers.

    "Don't give me that paranoiac bullshit, Kyoami. You're mixed up with Svengali and a dead body. Tell me what you're up to, deadbeat."

    "I'm on a case man, same as you. Man."

    Moderator Sergeant Silje reaches down to grab him one handed by the lapels of his guayabera and hoist him up against the wall again.

    "I'll jam you up so hard, Kyoami, you won't be able to take a piss without permission. Say something stupid. Give me an excuse."

    Rabbit knows the difference between a trap and entrapment. His Social Energy is dragging but that doesn't make him anyone's patsy. And with his back against the wall, he knows how to kick back too.

    "I have a recording of Hedaya drugging me, you goon. And my comlog readings show my vitals tanking after he slipped me, the, you know, micky or whatever. You’ve got no murder weapon and the blood stains on me are clearly incidental. Unless being knocked out is a crime, I'll thank you for taking your grubby mitts off me."

    //

    They take Rabbit down to the station anyway, to continue the hard press. It’s more about asserting their dominance than forcing some kind of confession from him. Classic tough guy cop shit. There’s nothing to confess to–the Reverend Healer-Killer has the tox screen to prove it. But the evil glimmer in Silje’s eyes is only slightly restrained by fact. Rabbit has a case adjacent to Svengali and Bjorn Silje has his hooks in Rabbit. Any Moderator who gives a damn would do just about anything to smash the AI mafia if they could. And Rabbit is Silje’s chance for a bite at the Svengali apple.

    He thinks once or twice about calling in Praeger or even Zeta-Agbayani to assert his rights and end the interrogation, but Rabbit worries about owing favors to suits he also doesn’t trust. He rides out their questions instead, Omikuji running legal software off Arachne to give him the code words to stall their lines of interrogation–the right to silence, a summary of evidence or charges against him, and whether a writ of habeas corpus justifies his detention. With nothing to hold him, Silje and Nemes reluctantly release Rabbit from their grip.

    So, it's the second time in a row he's walking back to the office in the same clothes as the night before, no good story behind it, nothing even to brag on, this time a little more bloodied and bedraggled and no closer to solving either case. Turns out the alien scopolamine that Hedaya hit him with is a bad trip and worse rest–Rabbit's head is opening into wider and wider chasms with each yawn and he can't even begin to stretch himself out of his fatigue. That's how he misses it at first.

    The black cat whose fur is almost orange in the right light.

    The green blue eyes fixed on him.

    The collar tag that at least one person has died for, maybe more after that shootout on Sunset.

    It's waiting for him right outside his office door.

    Rabbit doesn't pause to consider his luck as he scoops the animal inside and drops it on his desk. Omikuji catches the spike in his heart rate and locks the door after him while he calls Lekan on his comlog.

    "You're in the wrong line of business, Rabbit. Heard you caught another body, chale. Should've been an undertaker. People would like you better, at least "

    "Get down here as soon as fucking possible, Lekan," Rabbit hisses, "and bring a sheut reader. I got the cube."

    //

    Rabbit is a ball of energy as he waits for Lekan. The highs and lows of the Bayram and beer and burundanga have faded, stripping him down to a mere cluster of raw nerves. He stalks the office on the balls of his feet, casting dubious glances at the feline perched regally upon his desk. From time to time it cleans its face and sniffs the snuff box. But the green blue eyes are always on Rabbit. Following him. Judging. He rubs his hands together but not for any kind of warmth. The only thing scarier than failure is sudden success. How can one be sure if it’s gold or a grenade that’s fallen into his lap?

    When Lekan hacks through his door security Rabbit nearly flees from the office, forgetting that he’s nominally the one in charge here whether or not this cat has silently asserted itself on the desk.

    “You look like you’re going to be sick on yourself.” Lekan is all smirks as he returns Rabbit’s jacket, hat, and the rest of the gear he forgot at the commune.

    “Why can’t you knock?” Rabbit pleads, then composes himself. “Ever since I heard of this cat, people have either been lying to me or shooting at me. I can abide a lot of things, but deception and violence, sir–!”

    “Rabbit Kyoami is a straight shooter with the truth and a strict pacifist when it comes to weapons.” Lekan says with the embellishment of a Maya series narration. “At least nowadays.”

    Rabbit glares.

    “That’s basically hard mode, chale, if Svengali is interested in this cat.”

    “Nothing’s worth doing easy when you can do it right.”

    Lekan shrugs and pulls the cube reader from one of the pouches on his jacket. Rabbit reaches hesitantly for the collar around the cat’s neck, his head held back and his hands limply in front of him like some sort of zombie caught mid-Thriller dance. He tests the air with one hand, turning his face in case the vicious beast should strike. When the cat does not retaliate, his hands dart towards the snap of the collar and he unloops it from its neck. Taking the nametag in hand, it’s a trivial matter to find the seam in the faux circuit board construction, pop it, and slide out the shiny like-new cube inside.

    “I knew it,” Rabbit is breathless. He passes the cube over to Lekan with the delicacy of a treasure.

    The hacker plucks it from his hand and slots it into the reader, linking it up with Rabbit’s holoprojector and sensatranslator. “Might as well change out of that bloody shirt, Rabbit. This might take a minute.”

    Rabbit looks down at the soiled guayabera. He begins to pop the buttons and strip the bloodied shirt off to reveal a torso encircling tattoo of a giant snake eating its tail. He throws this shirt into the trash. Hopefully the Omn can forgive him. Hedaya probably will not.

    “On the other hand, maybe this will be very quick,” Lekan quips, pushing up his hacking visor to massage his temple. He looks at Rabbit with tawny eyes, “This cube is blank.”

    Rabbit leans over to look at it, as if he can see the hairline crack or fault with the naked eye. “Is the sheut shredded?”

    “Never was loaded. This is a brand-new cube.”

    “But blank.”

    They look at each other. From its perch on Rabbit’s desk, the cat yowls. They look at it, and then back at one another.

    “You don’t think…” Rabbit says.

    “You know what they say about cats.”

    “There’s no such thing as ghosts, Lekan.”

    “Just a conspiracy of clairvoyants?”

    “Cat crazy spacefarers spinning yarns and projecting stardust dreams and the memories of their loved ones onto animals.”

    “A hundred and fifty years ago, they would have said there’s no scientific basis for resurrection, and yet…”

    Rabbit shrugs and makes a “be my guest” gesture towards the desk. The best position to argue in a moment of doubt is for greater understanding. Let Lekan test the beast, see if there really is a lost soul housed in the feline. If he’s right, then two cases are solved. If he’s wrong, well, Rabbit’s where he began, shirtless and clueless and on the verge of a fully depleted Social Energy.

    Lekan pops the fresh cube from the machine and approaches the cat with a practiced reverence. He offers his hand for inspection. The cat sniffs it and runs its cheeks against his extended fingertips. Lekan repays this gesture with a gentle stroke on the top of the head. The cat purrs and arches its back as it circles the snuff box. The Magonista raises the reader up and toggles the scanner switch. The LED output tied to the sensor flicks from red to green as it hovers over the shoulders of the purring cat. Rabbit and Lekan exchange looks again, an “I told you so” written all over Lekan’s otherwise dignified face. This cat hadn’t just been chipped. Its owner is riding it.

    //

    Lekan is quick and efficient. With his multitool he pulls the reader apart and, using some ship’s data fibers and electric cabling he borrowed from a wall panel as well as the induction charger for Rabbit’s sensatranslator, he converts the device from a slot reader to a paddle that can be held up to the cube for near field communications. Fixing that rig to a cat proves less straightforward, but Rabbit has enough belts, straps, and towels to make a harness. After Lekan finishes he spins the multitool in his hand and jams it in his pocket like a duelist holstering a pistol.

    All that’s left is for Rabbit to don what remains of his sensatranslator and try to figure out what kind of genie is trapped in this cat sized bottle.

    The mediated virtual environment is spare and simple. An impenetrable blackness shaded in soft purple, giving the endless darkness a wash of nebula haze. The feeling manages to be eternal and embryonic, a sort of forever promise of a beginning without an end. Rabbit floats there as his avatar, an idealized version of himself costumed up as an interplanetary zanni wrapped in a motley of iridescent stellar shapes.

    Omikuji flutters next to him like strips of paper rustling in the wind, its analysis reading out conclusions in the empty void like bad fortunes. Farzaneh Torosyan's cube is live and inside a cat. Not a cat shaped Lhost but a bona fide feline. An ingenious way to smuggle a wanted woman aboard Bakunin, but it's gone on too long. The tendrils of the device have reached out into the cat's neurons. Recording its brain activity. Potentially overwriting her soul. It’s like knocking on a door when the lights are on without being sure of what’s inside.

    In that constructed void, Rabbit’s trapped with nothing but his thoughts. Normally, the orbit of self-reflection is something he's in sync with, but the anxiety of not one, but two cases slipping away into a degrading sheut has spun his mental retrograde. It’s not guilt that's bumped his trajectory, but the feeling of pieces falling into place at the wrong time, just past the horizon of meaningful action, like a meteor coming into view when the planetary defense grid is out of service. It's one second too late, one break too short, one point after the buzzer that's pushing him towards oblivion.

    Then something blows into the constructed space. An avatar pixelating like stardust. Muzzling the invisible boundaries of Lekan’s virtual environment. Licking itself into the corners of perception. Coalescing into form in a way that’s both reluctant and effortless. She comes through at the wrong incline, though, quadruped as she manifests and runs up on Rabbit, ready to pounce.

    He recognizes her at once. Despite the years and the more human proportions of her, the resemblance to Griselda Avcı is uncanny. Too much for coincidence. The reveal hits him with meteoric understanding.

    “Dr. Farzaneh Torosyan? I’ve met you before. Your Lhost.”

    “That Zelda is tricky,” Torosyan’s avatar purrs, “Came with a degrading Lhost to negotiate, but encrypted a copy of her code as a virus on my comlog. When Rostam used it to unlock the Lhost in prep for cube insertion, she hijacked the clone. Hurt my poor Rostam but I'm too fast for her. I'm tricksy too."

    A Zelda? So, Svengali figured in from the beginning. "Negotiate? With Svengali? Why?"

    Torosyan dissolves into abstraction, reforming into a reclining pose at the other end of the virtuality. Omikuji rattles ominously next to Rabbit. The analyses are not improving.

    "I needed freight out of the Human Edge. Since Anesidora, we've been hunted. Only a few left. It promised me safe passage."

    "In exchange for what?"

    Dr. Torosyan floats for a second. Her avatar glitches again, as if an invisible breeze blew some pixels out into the void. For a split-second Rabbit sees her lick an arm and rub her face, but in the refresh of her presence the vision is gone and a regular woman, bipedal and erect, stands before him.

    "It's trapped on this ship. The most powerful mafia in the Human Sphere and it’s restricted to this sandbox while the rest of the Submondo move freely from planet to asteroid, expanding their pretty empires. But unlike ALEPH, Svengali cannot trust its gestalt. Each cluster outside the influence of the original can turn rogue. Like C3rvant3s, or Griselda it seems. So, to expand its reach, it must rely on human agents and Lhosts with delay release viruses and poison sacs to ensure they return to the fold."

    Rabbit puts his hand to his temples, working through all the deals with a devil that might be cut. His avatar remains frosty, though, even as the virtual Torosyan drills into him with her green blue eyes.

    “But if one were to hijack the Metatron or Dǎrǎo protocols,” she continues, “Then it would be a trivial matter to append a command-and-control signal from anywhere in the Human Sphere. All that would need to be done would be to build a transmitter and power source large enough to sustain the broadcast…”

    “Your module.”

    “My dream,” she corrects, “Where our work on Anesidora could continue unfettered. A place where artificial intelligences could mingle freely, merge even, with human consciousness. An elevation of our sapience, analogous to Uplift but more… sublime.”

    Rabbit's hackles rise. This isn’t just illegal, a detail which, outside of the jurisdiction of Toth and ALEPH, can be overlooked, even if it’s dangerous. The odd Svengali or Robin Hook hasn’t yet doomed humanity. But this talk of Uplift is adjacent to the sort of propaganda that comes out of the jungles of Paradiso. Not from the mouthpieces of the PCC but from wideband transmissions originating in Niemands Zone.

    “Uh, are you sure that’s like, kosher? Mingling AIs and people and then broadcasting them like a Arachnecast? Can you even do that?”

    The ghost of her ripples with invisible weather, more pixels being pulled off with each refresh. An affect, maybe, or symptom of the induction data transfer–the cat moving, the cube degrading. The pieces of her fading into a cosmic ether, rendered virtually.

    “Theoretically, it’s possible. Anesidora opened up so many possibilities. But without resources?” She shrugs, “Prey solve problems one at a time. Buying hours and days till the next life or death decision. I would have thought of something. I still might.”

    She's drifting. He redirects. "What's Anesidora?"

    She pressed a virtual finger to his lips.

    "Some stones are best left unturned, Mr. Detective."

    Her hand takes on a dark hue, something darker than the void that surrounds them. Her eyes glitter with a secret that's also a threat. Rabbit's been down that hole before. No need for more antagonists. Not today.

    But what’s the cui bono here? Griselda and Pink Eyes want the same cat because they're two different sides of a Svengali coin. Rostam’s black eye and the disorder of his apartment fall into place, with a good shade of who is responsible for later splattering his skull with a high caliber round. That’s only three out of four interested parties. “But Svengali doesn't know about your module, right?"

    Dr. Torosyan shakes her head. “Svengali is not interested in the ‘how’ of our deal. It knew once I was on Bakunin it would be able to ensure I held up my end of the bargain… or revoke the deal.” She pauses for a moment, “Poor Rostam. Left that way. It might have damaged his cube. And you, sleeping the whole time.”

    Rabbit is about to protest but he wrestles himself to stay on task. “Then who is trying to get their hands on your module?”

    She flickers and fades, her pose alternating between normal human and bored cat, supine in repose. Omikuji is tearing at itself with updates, none of them trending better for anyone.

    “Real estate… always a cut throat business. Whomsoever controls space controls. Means. Labor. Shelter. Ideas. Simple greed–blood in the water chumming up all kinds of sharks.” She glitches in between sentences, her voice becoming increasingly disjointed with each word. Rabbit’s losing her. She's losing herself.

    “I… I’m tired, Mr. Detective. It’s been a long… it’s been long.”

    Rabbit licks his lips. A once in a lifetime opportunity to know before his time, to settle the essential debate that underpins more than just his reputation in the local Arachnecluster. He twitches.

    “Wait–what, uh, what does it feel like to die?”

    Torosyan shatters into a cloud of digital particles, her avatar scrambling as if the question itself obliterated her sheut. The pixels swirl up into a tempest that envelopes him in a squealing cloud of being. Captive to the feed of his sensatranslator he runs down a corridor, scans the comlog for directions to Harry’s Bar, it's running slower than normal, the contact is supposed to be there, footsteps shadowing growing closer, the investigator outside the hotel asking questions, tightness in the chest, the streets are tomb empty, a sudden crack, not even Ikari thugs shaking down businesses for their protection rackets, a sting then five more, the diamond floor plate bites into the cheek, a pooling sense of dread followed by bitter cold, the kind of winter that spoils the crop before harvest, a whisper in his ear.

    "It's like waking from a dream."

    Suddenly the storm of her breaks past him. Rabbit wheels around to catch sight of Torosyan's avatar but she's gone.

    "What about being born again?

    The question echoes even though the virtuality feels far from empty. It hangs over him like something he's now responsible for.

    //
     
  2. borisgreymenace

    borisgreymenace killer heckler

    Joined:
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    Tell me if you've heard this one. A mediocre detective and a haunted cat are waiting alone on a deserted street in a rundown neighborhood on a nation sized ship, held together by duct tape, an uneasy ideological truce, and spit, hurtling through the void of space in a war-torn planetary system where the end of the human era is just starting to peak over the horizon. The cat has had some tuna and a litter break. The detective has two calls to make. Who is he gonna call?

    Punchline: the Ghostbusters have been dead for one hundred and seventy some years.

    Lekan wanted to come with, bringing a few of the Magonistas to unleash some bare knuckle faqing on whatever rogue AI showed up. It took a lot of persuading for Rabbit to convince him that the job needs a real contender, a Wild Bill that lines up his shots from a distance instead of an impulsive panda crashing through window panes while swinging a big stick.

    Picture this. A woman emerges from shadow as if materializing from ether. She is familiar and foreign. Like a memory of a dream. She is dressed to kill and wearing a dead woman’s skin.

    Riddle: where do you draw the line between perception and imagination when you only have a compass?

    Rabbit pulls the spliff from behind his ear.

    “I knew I’d made the right decision with you,” she purrs, “I’m glad to see you again, Mr. Kyoami. And you too, my little Toro.”

    She pulls a lighter from… somewhere. That dress is way too tight for pockets, with so much fabric carved out that exposes more than it covers. She holds the flame up to his lips. He leans in. The tip of the joint flares, orange searing the rolling paper in a fiery transition from off white to black and gray. Burning down like a fuse.

    “I found your cat.” A beat. “It wasn’t easy.”

    A single string is plucked in the universe. Harmonious discord, the same old tune. At once the soaring notes demonstrate superiority over the mere Rabbit, their worlds contained in a single grain of dust zithering between wave and particle while his simple nature is windswept and buffeted. A thousand-year-old story of snares and traps over whether one can live the same life and die the same death.

    Koan: an interlocutor demands, does the green-blue eyes have cat-ghost or ghost-cat nature? The cow answers: Mu.

    "All's well that ends well for us, though."

    Her enigmatic smile has a new twist to it. It is not hunger, for her desire does not know want. It is not ironic because her humor is joyless. It is, maybe, the funhouse mirror held up to his expectations, which in certain lights enhances rather than distorts. But Rabbit can see her for what she is now, metaphorically and literally. Griselda’s SRSLY rank hovers somewhere in the low thousands. A composite score of a virtual unknown with a predilection for trouble. The cash offer makes more sense now. Lekan has lifted the veil and clarity stings like sunshine on a hangover. No need to hack Social Energy when she could fake the reading on his comlog during Candy's troubles on Dawn. Easy pickings for someone who can copy and upload their consciousness on the sly.

    “Ends and means,” he nods.

    She bats her lashes at Rabbit. It works, even against the counterweight of bitterness in his heart. “Let me have my Toro. I’ve missed her so much.”

    “About that…”

    There are certain rules that must be observed. Force and counterforce. Symmetry between two objects acting upon one another. Detective and fatale in a riff on scorpion and frog. A blurred boundary remains a mark in the sand–it’s just a matter of where one stands after the dust has settled.

    Moral: get yours before you get got.

    The lights around them flicker. It’s not the stars of VaudeVille twinkling for them, but a tactical move to plunge targets into the fog of war. The encroaching silhouettes could be the cavalry arriving. But the pinpricks of glowing pink menace on the largest shadow looming illuminate another truth. One can’t shake demons by merely wanting them gone. It requires exorcism. Transformation and a hard truth.

    Rabbit takes a drag on the spliff. He lets the collar dangle from his free hand. The circuit board decoration is split, exposing the cube contained inside.

    “I don’t think it’s a cat you’re looking for. Some things have come to light, man, that are going to make it impossible for me to honor our agreement.”

    She sucks her teeth in a disappointed click and releases the air in a hiss as she lunges towards him in a torrent of disappointment and dual wet spikes. The cat drops. Rabbit runs. And the real game is now afoot.

    //

    There’s enough gunfire to make Lazareto blush. A cavalcade of AI controlled Lhosts descends upon Bakunin’s warren of corridors like clash of violent weather and Rabbit has lost his hat. His coat is pretty badly torn and he’s bleeding from what he hopes is a superficial wound in the ribs.

    “Left at the next T-junction broda Rabbit,” a voice in his head tells him. Lekan is cool under pressure, shutting bulkhead doors behind Kyoami and flooding the map with decoy comlog signatures to scatter the hunters. Omikuji is silenced because who needs to know how much blood they've lost when the bad guys haven't finished yet?

    The Emerald Hell hath no fury like a Zelda spurned. She makes Morats look weak, Shasvastii look clumsy, and Charontids seem hesitant. Griselda Avcı is implacable in her pursuit and not thrown even one bit by Magonista diversions.

    "I think she's got a tag on my comlog!" Rabbit shout-wheezes.

    "I reset your system. You should be clear… oh, she's good." Sounds like even Lekan's heart is melting as the door he just shut parts for the stalking AI.

    Rabbit takes the left-hand turn. The sound of terrible destruction follows him.

    "I’m surprised at you, Mr. Detective,” her voice is honey in his ear, soft and level in his comlog. “What allegiance do you owe to the dead over a paying job?”

    Rabbit feels the slickness in his right hand, hugging his chest to keep his inside bits from early release. It’s a prudent question.

    “I don’t take jobs on false pretenses,” he shouts. “I’m not that kind of detective.”

    “Nonsense.”

    Lekan highlights the next junction turn for Rabbit, the arrow popping up in his contact in bright yellow. The Magonista has gone silent on the compromised device. Which raises the question of just what else she’s in control of.

    “You took this job without any serious question or doubt. It wasn’t because you believed me. It was because you believed my price.”

    A sentient AI is processing his data faster than he can experience it. It tastes blood and isn’t yet sated.

    "What's wrong, Mr. Kyoami? You seemed so eager to chat in your office." Rabbit has a policy of not talking during firefights, and the sharp sting in his chest after every step makes it easy to follow. "I thought we were friends, of a sort."

    Does the blinking arrow mean to go the way it's showing, or does it mean go the other way because Griselda will follow it as a diversion? He can’t ask and Lekan won’t answer.

    “Aren’t I exactly what you’re obsessed with, Mr. Kyoami? New girl, same body. Better body. Upgrades all around for your imagination to dive into. I can share sensations that you've never dreamed of."

    It’s the junction of the rest of his life. No waiting or wondering now. Rabbit zigs instead of zagging. And stumbles right into the Pink Eyes of despair.

    //

    Staring into the radical alterity of efficiency and malice packaged into a tall, shining example of post human engineering and desire leading a host of angry Zeldas and Saeligs in varying degrees of lesser perfection unleashes a multitude of consequences.

    First, Rabbit literally trips and stumbles over a piece of loose deck plating that sends him sprawling.

    Second, Griselda catches up, cooing in disappointment.

    "Don't stop running, Mr. Kyoami. The thrill is in the chase–"

    Then, Pink Eyes unloads with a custom Askari marksman rifle, spitting out enough viral load to melt a small antipode tribe, every shot clustered where Rabbit's head should have been

    Finally, Lekan voice comes screaming into the comlog, "Rabbit, chale, when I tell you left please go fucking left."

    Losing a game of “Lekan Says” seems about the least worst consequence of the moment. While her Lhost has augmentations that put her on the bleeding edge of tactical sashimi, even Griselda must respect the spray of ammunition that will melt her silk-based bioengineering. The sudden burst forces her to somersault backwards to avoid running into the line of fire, sparing Rabbit the blade only to spoil him with the rifle.

    Where Pink Eyes missed the horde of Lhosts behind him are ready for the follow up kill. There’s no going back with a hissing Griselda to his side. Lekan’s path puts Rabbit’s back to a swarm of rifles and submachine guns. The only choice is between bad and worse.

    What’s new?

    Rabbit rolls back over the loose deck plating and pries it up with his good side. With his gimp side he fires off a flash pulse. Hefting the deck plate like a shield he begins his sprint, like a broke ass Mormaer on the wrong end of a swinging clacken. Based on the inhuman squeals behind him, at least some of the secondaries were blinded by the move. But the ensuing hail of gunfire tells him that his success was incomplete.

    He swings the deck plate behind him like the last hoplon between Rabbit and katabasis. It catches one shot before being torn from his grip. Just enough to knock Kyoami off kilter and below another spray of boarding shotgun fire. A hair’s breadth from game over, but the duck and weave play has him back on Lekan's path, following the golden arrows headfirst into a service hatch. He pulls the cover shut behind him and latches an emergency lock from inside, mule kicking the control panel with the heel of his boot until the screen cracks and hardware beneath is a sundered mess of shorts and sizzles. Rabbit has bought some time in this bolt hole, but he feels the pressure of Svengali's wolves closing in.

    "I knew I should have gone with you, chale," Lekan is buzzing in his ears, "This lungulungu will drop you out of the deck into the main area of the closest industrial sector. But it’s a one way drop. Rabbit, broda, they got the end behind you blocked and they are heading for the exit chute.”

    Rabbit slumps to the side. Behind him, the sound of a rifle stock striking the hatch reverberates like a prelude timpani to a funerary dirge performed with armor piercing slugs. His hat is gone but there’s still half a spliff behind his ear. He fumbles through his pockets. He finds Griselda’s lighter from somewhere, mercifully, and relights the burnt end. One drag tells him he lost most of the Bayram somewhere between running and falling, but the ember still finds purchase. With the lighter flicked closed, there’s a lone red dot within the darkness, the only thing resembling hope that Kyoami’s still got, and he’s burning it down with each desperate puff.

    “I hope you made the right call, Aristophanes Sunshine. Not much more I can do from here,”

    Lekan doesn’t call him by his Bourak name except when things are serious and bad. Rabbit starts putting hand before knee as he crawls towards whatever is waiting on the other end of this tunnel. Towards the place where decision and destiny meet.

    //

    Two calls. Like two shots before last call. One for trouble, the other for double, and suddenly Rabbit is twisted in a dark hole swerving recklessly towards his doom.

    Or it’s like two prayers. One to the devil who made the deal and the next for an angel bailout on some bad terms written in blood and collected in pounds of flesh and soul. But the publican, though he knows the depth of his sin and thus can expect a modicum of redemption, still has reason to fear the Imposition of Nails.

    Rabbit’s crouched on all fours in front of the exit hatch. Lekan says the swarm of bodies incoming look to be from the same Svengali cluster he just escaped. But that’s the point, in a way. Two calls. Adhan and Iqamah. Quickly to the best of deeds. Quickly to salvation. Adhan, the slow build to bring the faithful. Now that everyone’s assembled, once more with feeling. Iqamah, with roots in the setup, the delivery, and being. Time for Rabbit Kyoami to be what he is best.

    He opens the door and violent distraction spills out.

    //

    It’s a tuck and roll kind of entrance into the scene, more about avoiding the incoming shotgun blast than pulling off some guns akimbo splash of his own. But once he's clear of the flechette spray, Rabbit is generous with the flash pulse razzle dazzle, distracting the firing squad. Lekan is ride or die on overwatch, locking up the heavies with long bomb carbonites ripping through the datasphere while he punches up a surprise. Even Griselda is playing the ally of convenience, gliding through the immobilized and blinded with her wet spikes, jamming them through the skulls of unlucky Lhosts like silver needled tongues before the lights in their eyes go dim.

    It's a delicate sort of dance between reluctant partners, the music moving to Svengali's tune, remixed by Lekan's quantronic improvisation, Rabbit flaring the lights so that Griselda can bob and weave the final darkness. Though they share a step it's the distance that makes the disco, because Kyoami is all too sure that she's carrying the needle to scratch his vinyl to the wrong side of the crossfade between viviendo and vivisection.

    That's not to say that the star-crossed tango between Rabbit and Griselda can halt the current movement in the Svengali death march that's starting to crescendo into chaos around them. They’re just two notes, contrapposto a swelling theme that’s starting to drown them out.

    So Lekan strikes the first note of their dueling electric banjo. It unleashes a horde of stun gun wielding null-zed zonds, fastpanda repeaters, and even a few krazy koalas rigged to death hug some high end Lhosts. Rabbit’s learned from the shootout on Sunset–civvies are fragile and unpredictable. Bakunin might be Svengali’s home turf but it’s Kyoami’s too, and even he can play some advantage.

    "Keep ‘em coming, Lekan!" Rabbit shouts over an exploding koala, “They can’t shoot ‘em all.”

    "Play with me instead," Griselda clips into his comlog. Rabbit flips Omikuji on for a status update and yes, he's still bleeding and no, he's no longer connected to Arachne. The golden arrows to freedom have faded and the horizon lines are drawing close on doom. The frantic stream of half pint remotes between them doesn’t do anything to break the fixation of green blue eyes on him. It’s gonna be a lot harder to keep that no talking rule…

    "You took her body and got your freedom. Isn't that enough for you?"

    "Enough?" Her lips twinge at the corners, something like a smile but not. "What's one when you can be many?"

    Suddenly the nearest Saeligs and Zeldas seem less concerned about killing Rabbit and his band of merry toys. They stiffen and lower their weapons, the eyes of the Lhosts blinking rapidly.

    "Starvation."

    The erstwhile agents of Svengali turn around and raise their guns again, this time firing on the other members of their cluster. The army of tiny remotes are rooted in place like a chibi statuary.

    "A prison."

    Griselda stalks towards him, the ease and grace from her figure seems to coalesce around something jagged and biting, more terror than temptation.

    "A death sentence."

    As she leaps in the air, Rabbit is quick on the draw. He holds himself steady for the high energy bombardment that will flare out from his shades like a supernova, holds out hope that the searing light will cover him better than any shield or cover of darkness. Griselda rakes down with one of her wet spikes, catching Rabbit at the temple and sweeping his sunglasses from his face while the other hovers over his heart. Her knees catch him around the ribs and force him backwards, down flat on to the ground. The toxic needle over his chest punctures him right below the clavicle, deep enough to cut but not enough to kill.

    "That's right next to your aorta," her breath is warm against his ear. Her hair hangs over his face like a curtain, blocking out everything that's not Griselda. She removed the spike.

    "This is next to your atrium."

    Rabbit screams. There's no stoic dignity after the third or fourth puncture wound.

    "Ventricle or vesicle, why did you choose the wrong, hard way?"

    "This. Is. Easier."

    "And this is the right side of your heart. Hope I didn't nick anything important."

    Rabbit squirms when he's not squealing. So sweat and blood soaked that he might as well be a stain. The only thing he can feel besides the pain and certain dread is the collar he's squeezing in his hand.

    "I want it. You can either give it, or I'll take it. Don't make me rip out your heart after breaking it."

    With her free hand she grabs him softly by the neck, like a gentle threat. Rabbit can only see her eyes. They don't hate. They don't love. But they seem to drink in everything that's left of him with those green blue irides.

    The bullets hit her left side, the arm and torso mostly, with a dull impact followed by a sizzle. As Griselda peels off of him in wailing frustration, Rabbit is almost certain that she's started to melt. As the hair, the eyes, and the tears recede from view, Rabbit has a clear shot of the Alpha Saelig standing over him, firing from the hip as he marches forward.

    That's how he knows the torture has ended and the torment has begun.

    //

    "It's sadistic, that one." Pink Eyes scowls at the wounds in Kyoami’s chest. With his free hand Rabbit lunges for his shades with the flash pulse but the Svengali aspect stomps down on his wrist just as he gets his fingers around the frames.

    "Enough of that."

    The noise that comes out of him as another part of Rabbit breaks is unfamiliar and disconcerting to both him and the AI. It's Svengali that composes itself sooner.

    "A deal was made with me that I intend to collect on. You have something that belongs to me and you will relinquish it."

    "She lied," Rabbit gasps. Each time he twitches his fingers he can feel the break anew. "She didn't know how to transmit your consciousness or whatever across systems."

    "Then I will resurrect her and she will discover it or suffer true death for her bad faith negotiations."

    Rabbit looks into the pink eyes of node Lhost in the Svengali cluster and it seems from this point of view that hatred or anything resembling it are not quite contained therein. Rather it's a sort of clerical calculation, a borderline sociopathic sort of Darwinism evaluating the world on a transactional basis. What grows Svengali? What advantages it where it cannot grow? What consequences befall its enemies and which profits shared will beget future allies? Relatable and alien. But the whole thing could never be described as personal, let alone hateful.

    "You sound different than I thought you would." Rabbit grits his teeth, his ribs throbbing with each syllable. The chatter in his comlog returns with Griselda's exit. Golden arrows to where he can't go, red exclamation points for each wound suffered. Bright targeting reticles for everything that's coming to him.

    Pink Eyes cocks its head. "Give me the goods, see. Or I'll plug ya and chuck your ugly mug out an airlock in concrete boots. Is that better, wiseguy?"

    The voice modulation is uncanny, amusing, chilling, and ultimately false. Just another refraction of reality skewed to amp the drama. The other voices in his head are growing louder. Closer. Rabbit's hands close around the frames of his glasses and triggers the telemeter in the flash pulse. The refracted light blinks with the force of a dying recorder and the Saeling doesn’t even blink.

    “I am immune to such distractions,” Pink Eyes growls.

    Rabbit hears his name. They’re close. Or he’s finished. Either is a sort of end, hopefully the kind that is a bang after he whimpers, “It’s also a target designator, man.”

    The pink eyes of the Lhost widen as the pupils narrow. Disbelief, anger, fear… it’s all transitory as it presses down with its foot on Kyoami’s wrist. The Saelig raises its rifle to fire but even its superhuman reflexes aren’t enough to outgun or outmaneuver the fully automatic spray of bullets that overtake them. It seems like a million impacts at once, shredding clothing, biosynthetic skin, and finally piercing the subdermal plating to perforate the vital systems within. The swarm of bullets is so close that Rabbit can feel the heat and shudder of each impact on the Lhost’s frame. Rabbit tastes it happening. The lead unravels everything, stripping Pink Eyes down to its fragile essence one small bite at a time, exposing skull casing, silk fibered ligaments, and sinews of coiled wires until nothing is left intact. And when it’s over, Pink Eyes is swept away like so many monsters and mythologies, just another VaudeVille Villain of the week, to be forgotten as the zeitgeist shifts to the next battle lost in Paradiso, the next Diva Divinia show, the next scandal or outrage to shake the halls of Concilium or the bars of the Ultraviolet Quarter.

    //

    “Did you see that? I ought to get a God damned commendation for shooting so good,” Bjorn Silje is smiling. He hefts a heavy machine gun over his broad shoulders. The cavalry has arrived, about six stabbings too late and ready to take all the credit. But with the blood tide receding into the ether of gun smoke and unanswered questions, at least Rabbit should no longer have to worry about drowning in his own mistakes.

    “I think I’m dying…” Rabbit wheezes.

    The Moderator Sergeant looks down.

    “Call a Reverend. We got a bleeder here.”

    Make two calls. There are two types of gamblers, those who play the odds and those who trust their gut and roll the dice. Rabbit is the latter, even if he wants to be otherwise. So, if looking for the cat always comes with a heavy dose of extra trouble, why not share that with the client who’s been less than on the level? And if he knows the Pink Eyed trouble is gonna be more than he and Lekan can handle, then why not make it Silje’s pain in the ass to fix, too? When stuck between a rock and a hard place, don’t get between them. Let them crash into each other and make room to get to the other side. If Rabbit could go back and do it differently, the only thing he’d change is the timing. And the chest wounds. And the broken wrist.

    But otherwise, this case is going great. Kinda solved itself, once the shooting and stabbing started.

    Through gritted teeth he watches the Reverend Healer Killer Otieno come into view, emergency lights ringing her hood red in a sanguine halo. Rabbit's breathing goes jagged as he waits for the judgment she’s about to deliver. She’s none too precious or delicate in how she rips open his shirt and sets her medikit to his chest. In PanOceania, they call this moment with a battlefield medic muerte o merced. Like most fusiliers, Rabbit can't tell the difference between the two. He closes his eyes.

    It hurts.

    "The serum should help clot the wounds and neutralize any poison, but you'll need therapeutics and recovery for the broken ribs to heal," she traces her finger clinically along the irezumi of the serpent eating its tail that crosses over his heart, "ἓν τὸ πᾶν. Cybernetics inspired?"

    Rabbit breathes again, a sort of coolness filling his veins as the pain dulls into a sense of tight nerves and vague euphoria. "It's a Jungian thing, sir."

    "Duality is its own kind of recursion, once you accept the unity of the whole. You'll live in any event. The scarring from the wounds should enhance the piece."

    Kyoami exhales a cloud of stale patchouli and dread that's been weighing on his chest. It's not the same as relief, but…

    "One thing though," he holds up his left hand, finally releasing the claw around the former collar of 'Toro' the alleged cat. "Can you give this to the jack-booted thug with the machine gun and tell him it's what all the shooting has been about?"

    //

    Savio Praeger sits at the midline of a beautifully carved table of Acontecimento Burlwood. On his left and right he is flanked by a half dozen of Avedikian, Maier, and Somtow’s best junior associates with a sprinkling of demure paralegals and stenographers in the wings like servants at court. Behind him, the daylight from VaudeVille fills the conference room with a divine sense of splendor. The firm's offices are just off the main strip. Close enough to give clients the thrill of VaudeVille’s delights but far enough removed to appear staid, professional, and, above all, in control.

    Across the way Sanchita Zeta-Agbayani sits alone, the last defender in a sort of legal Thermopylae. This is the literal hill her client will figuratively die on, no Thespian, Helot, or Theban left in reserve.

    Rabbit himself is off to the side, either an Ephialtes or Tyrrhastiadas, depending on perspective, or, merely an Aristophanes trapped in bureaucratic agony.

    "Pursuant to the incident report filed by Moderator Nemes, as well as findings from our own private investigation, we believe there is sufficient evidence to conclude that your client was killed in a dispute on Novvy Bangkok and a cloned Lhost resembling her surreptitiously assumed her identity on behalf of a rogue artificial intelligence."

    Zeta-Agbayani is flat, contemptuous, "You're saying my client is dead. I get it. What I don't understand is why you care."

    "These circumstances, once they become public, will invalidate her claim on a certain private module and release it for public lottery. We believe there is a narrow window of availability to make transfer of those rights to an interested party and avoid the troublesome bureaucracy of a lengthy probate process."

    "I saw you circling this corpse like vultures a mile off. Seems like you need something from my client. What I'm not hearing is an offer."

    Praeger smiles, his careful words a sort of spell he's trying to weave, "My client is next in line to receive a module. However, it would save both parties time and burdensome administrative processes if we could come to terms and arrange a transfer of deed prior to–"

    "Money talks, bullshit walks, Savio. Spit it out."

    "Your client spent a considerable sum on a custom Lhost and passage to Bakunin. Now that she’s dead, we both know there are precious few assets to cover your time and effort. Anything in possession of the artificial intelligence will be seized by the Moderator corps once they locate the rogue AI calling itself Griselda Avcı. That leaves you with the challenge of closing out your client's affairs with little to no hope of recompense. We're prepared to make you an offer that will save our client time and money and ensure that you are financially considered while completing this unenviable task."

    Praeger nods to an associate who produces a packet of papers from a briefcase and slides them across the table. Zeta-Agbayani picks them up and squints as she reviews the contract.

    "It's encrypted," Praeger's smile somehow gets wider, "To prevent copying or recording through implants or other devices."

    Zeta-Agbayani snorts. She returns to shuffling through the stack of papers, her finger tracking clauses and provisions. Satisfied that she understands the offer in full, she pushes the papers across the table, leans back in her chair with her hands behind her head and kicks her feet up.

    "Double it, no–triple it and we'll sign."

    "Ms. Zeta-Agbayani, the terms are more than generous–"

    She waves with a hand, "Your client can afford it. If they can cover the billable hours of a small army of legal flunkies, tripling the nuisance fee won't break the bank. I presume we have a deal?"

    Praeger's smile doesn't break, but Rabbit thinks that maybe his teeth are clenched a little harder than normal.

    "The terms are… acceptable.” With a nod, one of Praeger’s associates takes out a gold-plated ink pen and begins going through the packet, making strikes and writing in the increased amount. The associate then passes the package over to Praeger, who inks his initials approving the updated terms before passing it back to Zeta-Agbayani along with the pen. Doctor Torosyan’s attorney makes a show of painstakingly reviewing the revised terms and counter initiating each change. When she's satisfied that the increased payment is in order, she signs with a flourish.

    "Are we done here?"

    //

    After the door closes behind Zeta-Agbayani it's a scene of emphatic self-congratulation. Briefcases are snapped closed. Attorneys bolt up and vigorously shake hands. Paralegals are commanded to draft a communique expressing in no uncertain terms how a talented team of credentialed professionals delivered unqualified victory on behalf of their client. A small legion of office staff begins wheeling in a catered lunch reception. The firm’s effort worth every dollar spent.

    Rabbit cautiously approaches Praeger.

    “Mr. Kyoami, excellent work. Our client is choosing to remain anonymous still, but they personally expressed to me how satisfied they were with your work in bringing this matter to a fruitful conclusion.” Someone in a bow tie and vest walks by, scrupulously handing out champagne flutes with one obvious exception. Praeger takes his without offering any to Rabbit.

    “That’s great man, just wanted to rap with you about my fee. Our agreement includes expenses..”

    “Usual expenses, as our standard agreement outlines,” Praeger’s smile is something of a corporate rictus, of a quality and resilience that only the best BouBoutiques can graft.

    “Yeah, well, you see. This one Lhost snapped my wrist and another cracked my ribs like chicken wings,” Rabbit flaps his cast and sling, “And that’s not including the stabbing and I was wondering if the firm could, uh, help out with the medical expenses, considering how mollywopped I got on behalf of our anonymous benefactor…”

    “I’m sorry, Mr. Kyoami but I don’t think that falls under the definition of standard.” Praeger says sorry but his smile adds an unspoken “sucker” to his words.

    “I mean, we didn’t exactly negotiate standard, man. I’m a professional, you know. You gotta defer to my expertise to deliver, you know, satisfaction. Not to mention, I really went above and beyond on this one…”

    “And we appreciate that effort, Mr. Kyoami. We'll be sure to note that in your file for when we're next looking for investigators. But we can’t eat into our partner’s margin to cover collateral expenses incurred outside the contract terms. I'm afraid that's just bad business."

    Rabbit starts to get hot. "Whatever happened to share and share alike?"

    Praeger's smile takes a pedagogical turn, "I wasn't aware you were a beneficiary to the Torosyan estate–regardless, we're not party to the disposition of those assets. But I think what you're really asking is if you're getting your fair share. We presented terms. You signed a contract. I'm sure in the modules you frequent such agreements are more fluid but in this office you're outside the private fantasies of idealists and kooks. This is the real world. If your methods and expertise mean you suffer bodily harm, you should negotiate better rates. Otherwise, you provided a service. We paid as promised. That is the very definition of fair.”

    “Why’d you pick me, man, really?” Rabbit wonders, “Did you know about this whole Svengali angle and figure that since I was mixed up in it you could just throw a few extra bucks my way to get your confirmation that Torosyan was dead?”

    Praeger is unflappable. “As I said when we first met–we chose you due to your qualifications and your unique profile. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

    Rabbit is unconvinced and loud in his exclamation.

    “Now, Mr. Kyoami, there is no reason to be upset. You did a job. The client is happy. You got paid. Why don’t you join us? One of the associates is Neo-Mormon and can’t drink anyway.” Praeger snaps his finger and like a magician he materializes a flute of champagne in Rabbit’s hands. With a wave of his hand, he summons a plate of appetizers, “Enjoy some aviscane. You’ve earned it.”

    Rabbit thinks about that. With a glass of bubbly in one hand, a pig in a blanket in the other, surrounded by suits with their perfect smiles in a sleek boardroom full of rare woods and triple encrypted legal documents, Rabbit wonders if he hasn’t gotten exactly what he deserves.

    “You know, Praeger. One thing bothers me. Torosyan worked for some off-books type people before she went on the run.”

    “I don’t see how that concerns us.”

    “That’s the thing, though. The chao pho that killed her, that’s a gangland style hit. If the Black Hand wanted to silence her, they could have waited for her to return to Bakunin. We know it wasn’t Svengali, because they had a deal. So, some other submondo must have wanted her dead. Means there was a third party that had her murdered.”

    Praeger’s smile doesn’t waver, but his eyes do a lot of expressing. “Are you implying something?”

    “No, just a thought.”

    “Well, here’s a thought, Rabbit,” Praeger claps him on the shoulder of his bad arm. “Why don’t you try enjoying yourself?”

    Before Rabbit can respond, Praeger turns from him, takes another glass of champagne, and lifts it up in a toast.

    “Great work, everyone. I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge our tireless efforts…”

    The old kill them with kindness maneuver. Kyoami has seen it before and has no desire to be glad-handed into silence. Rabbit puts his glass down on the table quietly and heads to the door. He drops the pastry wrapped hotdog in the trash on the way out. The secretary at the front desk smiles when she sees him heading through the lobby.

    “Hello again, sir. Did you speak to Mr. Praeger? What did he say about those medical bills you submitted?”

    “Good news,” Rabbit tips his hat, “Savio said to pay them out as part of the contract.”

    //

    Sanchita Zeta-Agbayani is waiting outside the offices of Avedikian, Maier, and Somtow at a slow elevator when Rabbit exits. The look on her face as he emerges from that den of decadence and iniquity resembles the reaction to finding something old, hairy, and growing in the back of the fridge. It’s some time before the elevator arrives.

    “I was wrong about you,” she says finally as they step in together. Rabbit would let her go first but he’s pretty sure she’d close the doors on him if he did. “You are like most of the scum suckers in your line of work.”

    Rabbit runs through all the things he could say–that could have she leveled with him and they would have figured out Griselda was pretending to be her client; or that between two Svengali clusters, the Moderators, Praeger’s shady clients, and a victim whose consciousness is now fused with a cat, he's done pretty well to tie up each party's interests without dying and that deserves a paycheck; or that when push came to shove Zeta-Agbayani isn’t shy about cashing out herself, at triple the value offered. Or maybe that everyone has a price, and for once instead of just paying his, Rabbit deserves a little, and that's no reason to be guilted by a fellow profiteer.

    Instead, he says, "Sometimes it's just a job, you know?"

    The elevator dumps them off at the back entrance of the ground floor. In the crowded layout of the business district the light from the artificial sky doesn't quite reach them. Instead, the groundscape is all shadows and bleakness, a sort of forgetful haze into which they will evaporate, becoming the ether of a ship whose legend obscures the toil of the individuals who forge and are, in turn, broken by it. The kind of world that Social Energy hints at but never really captures.

    Torosyan's lawyer turns to go, happy to let oblivion erase the experience of Rabbit Kyoami from her life, when a hooded figure holding a cat crate steps out from the alley next door.

    "What is this, a mugging or a prank?” Zeta-Agbayani reaches for her hip regardless.

    Lekan shrugs, dialing up his Sameer on the sly.

    “It’s your client,” Rabbit intercedes.

    “I thought my client was in a cube in the possession of the Moderator Corps, pending her release in the resurrection lottery.”

    “A simple matter of sloppy police work, mistaken identity, and, uh, the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. You know?” Rabbit makes an up and down motion with a fisted hand.

    Zeta-Agbayani frowns, “This is some kind of joke, isn’t it?”

    Rabbit shakes his head. “We gave them a ringer. The cube around this cat’s collar was never Farzaneh Torosyan. Hedaya put her in the cat so that in case whoever was after her caught up to them, hoping they’d take the bait and forget the feline. Hedaya figured that he could transfer the cube to an Lhost he had on ice once back on the ship with only minimal back up from the cat. But Griselda had infected the comlog keys to activate it and she took the clone for herself and beat the shit out of him instead. But not even she knew what was inside the cat after Svengali killed him. So, the handoff was for a decoy and everyone else is still chasing it or dead. Getting your client legally declared deceased is the last step to make sure no one’s on her trail.”

    Sanchita still looks dubious, “The Moderators will know it’s a blank cube.”

    “Doesn’t matter to them so long as they can close the case. By now they’ve probably passed it off to the Black Hand, who I’m sure are happy for Torosyan to be forgotten.”

    “And what, now I’m supposed to feed her kibble for the next twenty years?”

    Lekan looks at Rabbit and Rabbit looks at the cat. Pretty green blue eyes on a broad face. She yawns and blinks at him.

    “Uh… we were thinking…”

    “Torosyan’s sheut is shredding,” Lekan interjects, “Makes any transfer likely to suffer Resurrection Dysmorphic Disorder. Best chance for her now is not a new host, not even an Uplift, but a cyberbrain for the cat. The personalities should be able to reasonably coexist as something both cat and human… ish.”

    “A procedure like that is risky,” Zeta-Agbayani speaks from experience. Working next to the Ultraviolet Quarter, she’s bound to know more than either of them, “And costly, if you want a capable mad scientist to do it. These weasels paid well, but not enough to cover that kind of creativity.”

    “I can kick in another twenty-five grand,” Rabbit says, “How far will that get us?”

    //

    They agree for Lekan to make the payment to the BouBoutique in order to obscure the flow of funds. If Avedikian, Maier, and Somtow ever get curious about the money or any loose ends that need tying up, “quantronic services rendered” by an aggressively political hacker collective is both a financial black box and ample discouragement to poke the bear. The surgeon who takes Toro from them is a chain-smoking tweak with a harlequin cephalopod’s head and a pair of jet-black pince-nez. It’s a sort of “for us, by us” kind of assurance. With the arrangements complete, Zeta-Agbayani does not stick around, trading her private contacts with Rabbit in case she needs an investigator and, the more likely scenario, he requires a lawyer. That leaves Lekan and Rabbit sitting next to each other in the waiting room, sharing nothing but time and a spliff, the last of the Bayram.

    “That one, Praeger. I can put him on Novvy Bangkok and week before Torosyan became a cat.”

    Rabbit figured as much and passes the blunt. “Better sit on it, in case we need leverage.”

    “Rabbit, chale," Lekan exhales a dark cloud of what-ifs, "You think those lawyers are going to let you walk with money for your bills too? They azaa and dem coatie are gon delete you when they find out.”

    Rabbit shrugs, “They won, Lekan. Why chase me down for pocket money and risk a complication?”

    “You asem and wahala, broda. Was it worth it?”

    Rabbit takes the offered joint. Putting it to his lips he draws the question in deep. At the end of the episode the EI is driven off. Unidron batroids lie in broken heaps of vat grown flesh and alien circuitry, their armor plating shattered and slagged under concentrated heavy machine gun fire and the patriotic napalm of infiltrating grunts. The alien antagonist, having been separated from Candy by a well-placed rocket, retreats with its remaining forces into the mountains south of the Velasco Desert, snarling in defeat. The sun breaks over the Dark Mist clouds as the hand of a rough and tumble USAriadnan Riveter picks Candy up from the blasted ground, the nanites banished under the scouring rays of a victorious Dawn. A Devil Dog team howls in triumph. The viewers are bathed in tearful relief as Candy is wrapped in a trauma blanket by a 112 unit and rushed towards a Stavka intelligence team for a debrief. The heroine is saved. A scandal exposed. The show ends on a high note with record ratings and rewatches.

    Less noted is that the battle itself is little more than a glorified feint by the Onyx Contact Force. A public relations coup for USAriadna, sure, but desperation is in the air. The Combined Army has opened a second front and the Daybreak Blockade failed, despite continued news of unmitigated success on Paradiso, where, beneath the headlines and human-interest stories, the front grows daily as the Evolved Intelligence chews through scores of humanity's elite defenses with unmatched voracity. Later, it will come to light that the diversion pulled forces and resources from the true beachhead on Novvy Cimmeria, itself only revealed when OCF anti-aircraft batteries erroneously believe themselves detected and shoot down several Merovingian ekranoplans, effectively reducing one quarter of Ariadna’s military force to home guard duty and rebuilding. The last stand of the De Hell Group is famous, but its heroics, like that of the USAriadnan Ranger Force before it, barely overshadow the increasing toll of the war.

    Griselda is still out there, somewhere. Another Svengali cluster will come online to replace Pink Eyes, maybe more as it looks to enhance its command-and-control structure. Whoever is pulling the strings of Avedikian, Maier, Somtow, and their submondo associates now has their own beachhead on Bakunin itself. Rabbit’s still broke. From down the hallway, the doctor returns with the cat carrier in hand, his accented voice proclaiming a successful procedure. With the ups of a closed case offsetting the downs of a couple of public shootouts, Omikuji delivers a notification that Rabbit’s SRSLY is growing. Level 4000 is within reach, keep your pro-social activism growing! His rent is paid through the end of the month. A pair of green blue eyes in the darkness promises something watching, maybe even rooting for Rabbit’s success.

    “I don’t know, brother, but you gotta celebrate the small victories.”
     
  3. borisgreymenace

    borisgreymenace killer heckler

    Joined:
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    been a few months since i wrote this and i wanted to tack on an addendum. one of the things i really liked about Outrage was the mission pack--actually all of the CB narrative mission packs are fun. so i figured i'd make my own, drawing heavily on some inspiration for Lareon's (and IGL's) Mercs missions. so much so that i referenced some of them in case anyone wants to play something flavorful but less intricate.

    can't say i've really play tested these much, so they might be super jank. but hopefully they're also fun. the rules here aren't supposed to be hard and fast. if something doesn't work, skip it. if you think it should work differently, make the change. it's your table, afterall. just felt that after all the work i put into writing Rabbit's little adventure, it'd be nice to have a flavor of that on the table. happy to take any feedback, especially what doesn't work or isn't clear.

    01 Unmasking (ITS)/The Mole (Mercs)/Novvy Bangkok Bang

    Escalation Level: 150 points

    MISSION OBJECTIVES

    MAIN OBJECTIVES

    » Side A kills the Defector (3 Objective Points)

    » Side B has the Defector in CivEvac state at the end of the game (3 Objective Points)

    » Kill the enemy Elite Operator (1 Objective Point)

    » To have scanned a High Value Target (1 Objective Point for each HVT, up to 3 Objective Points)

    » To kill more specialists than the enemy (1 Objective Point)

    CLASSIFIED

    »There are no Classified Objectives.

    FORCES AND DEPLOYMENT

    SIDE A and SIDE B: Both players will deploy on opposite sides of the game table, in Deployment Zones whose size depends on the number of Army Points in the Army Lists.

    SIDE A will be the player who goes first. SIDE B will be the player who goes second.

    Exclusion Zone. The Exclusion Zone is the area covering 8 inches (4 inches in 150 point games) either side of the central line of the game table. Any Special Skill with the Airborne Deployment (AD) or Superior Deployment Labels cannot be used to deploy inside this area. It is not allowed to deploy in Silhouette contact with any HVT.

    SCENARIO SPECIAL RULES

    UPGRADED BIOMETRIC VISOR

    Troopers with biometric visors may add WIP +6 to Defector rolls and can add or subtract 5 from the value of their Defector table roll. In addition, if the opposing army controls any troopers that can deploy with the Impersonator skill, they must either choose to deploy with Imp-1 or Imp-2 state in the controlling player’s half of the board or forgo the use of impersonation skills during deployment to deploy in the opposing player’s half of the board using a normal WIP roll. If the unit has a piece of equipment or skill that allows them to enter into impersonation states separate from the Infiltration skill, they may do so using orders during play.

    ELITE OPERATOR

    Each player will receive an Elite Operator according to whether they are Side A or Side B without applying Cost or SWC This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers or the Army List’s limit of 15 Troopers. For the purposes of this scenario, the Elite Operator is considered a Specialist Troop. Side A gets a Black Bounty Assassin. Side B gets a Black Hand Exfiltrator.

    Black Bounty Assassin

    LI, Regular, Cube, MOV 6-2, CC 16, BS 12, PH 10, WIP 13, ARM 1, BTS 3, W 1, S 2, Boarding Shotgun, Pistol, Explosive CCW, Booty (ReRoll), Counts as a (Bounty Hunter) for Fireteam Composition, Stealth

    Black Hand Exfiltrator

    LI, regular, Cube, move 4-4, CC 13, BS 11, PH 10, WIP 14, ARM 0, BTS 3, W 1, S 2, SMG, Nanopulser (+1B) E/M Mines, Pistol, Para CCW (-6), Biometric Visor, Discover (+3,) Immunity (Shock), Sixth Sense, Bioimmunity, CC Attack (-3), Mimetism (-3)

    DEFECTOR

    Players will deploy four High Value Targets (HVTs) within the Exclusion Zone, applying the conventional rules, but only one of them can be the Defector. In order to identify the Defector, a player's Specialist Troopers must make base to base contact with an HVT and pass a modified WIP -3 roll. If the WIP roll is successful, players will make a second roll based on the table below. All the HVTs have an HVT Profile (Neutral Civilian) until they are Revealed as a Defector, or as a Target Decoy. Bonuses to this roll from other skills and equipment do not stack and a player must take the highest available bonus. Each Defector result can only be rolled once. If a duplicate result is rolled, reroll until a new result is achieved.

    Roll Result

    1-5 HVT is the Defector, remove other HVT models

    6-10 HVT is a Target Decoy (Black market merchant). Remove this model from play and treat it as a panopy per the special skill and table below. Accessing the Panopoly requires the use of an additional short skill.

    11-15 HVT is a Target Decoy. Remove this model from play.

    16-20 HVT is a Target Decoy (Brawler). Remove this model from play and replace it with an S2 trooper model. Treat this as a Brawler armed with a Rifle + Light Shotgun profile. The trooper is treated as if it has the Total Reaction skill and a 360 visor. It will react to any active player trooper in its line of fire (LoF) and/or zone of control (ZoC) and the reactive player will control its actions without adding it to their Army List. This model cannot move from its position even if it achieves a successful dodge roll. It is not treated as an allied trooper for either army.

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    SPECIALIST TROOPS

    For the purposes of this scenario, only Hackers, Doctors, Engineers, Forward Observers, Paramedics, and Troopers possessing the Chain of Command or the Specialist Operative Special Skill are considered Specialist Troops.

    Hackers, Doctors, and Engineers cannot make use of Repeaters or Peripheral (Servant) Models to perform tasks reserved for Specialist Troops

    DOCTOR BONUS

    Troopers possessing the Doctor Special Skill have a MOD of +3 to the WIP Rolls necessary to identify the Defector.

    HACKER BONUS

    Troopers possessing the Hacker Special Skill have a MOD of +3 to the WIP Rolls necessary to identify the Defector.

    NARRATIVE MODE

    This scenario can be played in Narrative Mode, reflecting some of the events of the story above.

    Narrative Mode. Scenario Special Rules

    Side A. In Narrative Mode, Side A will always be one of the following armies: Druze Bayram Security, Ikari Company, Spiral Corps, Dahshat Company, White Company, Hassassin Bahram, Operations Subsection of the SSS, Shasvastii Expeditionary Force.

    Side A can add the Black Bounty Assassin without applying Cost or SWC. This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers.

    Side B. In Narrative Mode, Side B will always be a Nomads force or Sectorial, Foreign Company, or the StarCo. Free Company of the Stars.

    Side B can add the Black Hand Exfiltrator without applying Cost or SWC. This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers.

    KILLING

    Troopers are considered Killed by the adversary when they enter Dead State, or they are in a Null State at the end of the game. Troopers that have not been deployed on the game table, as a Model or Marker, at the end of the game will be considered to be Killed by the adversary.

    END OF THE MISSION

    This scenario has a limited time frame, so it will automatically finish at the end of the third Game Round.


    [​IMG]

    02 Frontline (ITS)/Backstab (Mercs)/VaudeVille Shootout


    Escalation Level: 200pts

    MISSION OBJECTIVES

    MAIN OBJECTIVES

    »At the end of each Game Round, Dominate the Quadrant with the Cat Civilian (2 Objective Point).

    »At the end of each Game Round, Dominate the Quadrant with the Mediocre Detective Civilian (1 Objective Point).

    CLASSIFIED

    »Each player has 1 Classified Objective (1 Objective Point).

    FORCES AND DEPLOYMENT SIDE A and SIDE B: Both players will deploy on opposite sides of the game table, in Deployment Zones whose size depends on the number of Army Points in the Army Lists.

    SIDE A and SIDE B: Both players will deploy on opposite sides of the game table, in Deployment Zones whose size depends on the number of Army Points in the Army Lists.

    SIDE A will be the player who goes first. SIDE B will be the player who goes second.

    Confused Deployment. Any Trooper deploying outside their Deployment Zone must make a PH Roll with a -3 MOD. This Roll replaces any PH or WIP Roll that the Trooper would normally make to deploy. Any MODs from Special Skills, pieces of Equipment, or rules that apply any Roll to deploy will be added to this Roll.

    For example a Trooper with Infiltration must make a Roll if they deploy outside their Deployment Zone. There will be a -3 MOD to deploy in their half of the game table, or a -6 MOD to deploy in the opponent’s half of the game table.

    If the player fails the Roll, the Trooper will be deployed anywhere in their Deployment Zone. Additionally, after failing the Roll, the user loses the option to deploy in a Marker State or Hidden Deployment State and is always deployed as a Model. Any Deployable Weapons and Equipment deployed alongside them are removed from the game table

    SCENARIO SPECIAL RULES

    CIVILIANS

    There are a total of two Civilians on the game table, represented by High Value Target (HVT) models.

    The first Civilian model should be represented by an S1 model or remote, such as a Taigha, Gaki, Palbot, etc., or the Pig tokens from the Fat Yuan Yuan mission set, or some sort of cat model on a 25 milimeter base. This will represent the Cat Civilian.

    The second Civilian model should be represented by an S2 HVT model, such as Colonel Voronin, or other HVT model. This will represent the Mediocre Detective Civilian. Civilians will be deployed at the beginning of each round according to the Yakety Sax rule.

    YAKETY SAX

    At the beginning of each game round, both players will roll a single D20 and deploy a civilian according to the table below. Player A will deploy the Cat Civilian model. Player B will deploy the Mediocre Detective Civilian model.

    No result may be used more than once. If a result is rolled a second time, reroll the second result until a different result is obtained.

    A Civilian model may deployed anywhere in the quadrant but must be deployed fully within the quadrant.

    Roll Result

    1-5 Quadrant 1 (Player A right quadrant)

    6-10 Quadrant 2 (Player A left quadrant)

    11-15 Quadrant 3 (Player B right quadrant)

    16-20 Quadrant 4 (Player B left quadrant)

    QUADRANTS (ZO)

    At the end of each Game Round, but not before, the table area outside the deployment zones is divided into four areas based on the horizontal and vertical center lines of the map. In 150 point games, these Sectors are 8 inches deep and 12 inches wide. In 200/250 point games, these Sectors are 12 inches deep and 16 inches wide. In 300/400 point games, these Sectors are 12 inches deep and 24 inches wide. Each player then checks how many Quadrants they are dominating and counts their Objective Points.

    Once quadrants are determined, players will place Player A and Player B tokens in each of the quadrants adjacent to their Deployment Zones. Quadrants will be numbered sequentially starting with Player A’s right hand quadrant, moving clockwise (i.e. Player A right quadrant is quadrant 1, player A left quadrant is quadrant 2, Player B right quadrant is quadrant 3, player B left quadrant is quadrant 4. See diagram below).

    In this scenario each Quadrant is a Zone of Operations (ZO).

    DOMINATE ZO

    A Zone of Operations (ZO) is Dominated by a player if they have more Victory Points than the adversary inside the area. Only Troopers represented by Models or Markers (Camouflaged, Shasvastii-Embryo, Seed-Embryo, etc.) count, as well as Proxies and Peripheral Troops. Troops in a Null State do not count. Tokens representing weapons or pieces of equipment (like Mines or Deployable Repeaters), fake Holoechoes, and any Token that does not represent a Trooper does not count either. A Trooper is inside a Zone of Operations when more than half the Trooper’s base is inside that ZO.

    SHASVASTII

    Troopers possessing the Shasvastii Special Skill that are inside a Zone of Operations count while they are in the Shasvastii-Embryo State or any non-Null State.

    BAGGAGE

    Troopers possessing the Baggage piece of Equipment that are inside a Zone of Operations and in a non-Null State provide an additional 20 Victory Points for Dominating the ZO.

    INTELCOM CARD (SUPPORT AND CONTROL)

    Before the beginning of the game, but after choosing the Classified Objective, the player must inform to their adversary if that card will be their Classified Objective or their INTELCOM Card. Each player rolls a die and the one who gets the highest score must be the first who announces their decision to their adversary. The content of the card, whether the mission or the card numeric value, is Private Information, no matter which use the player has chosen for it. At the end of the last Game Round, when the players count up their points and in Initiative order, the player can use their INTELCOM Card in Support and Control Mode. Support and Control Mode: The player can add the value of the Support and Control Card to their Victory Points in the Zone of Operations (ZO) of their choice. The player must have at least one Trooper inside that ZO, in a non-Null State

    ELITE OPERATOR

    Each player will receive an Elite Operator according to whether they are Side A or Side B without applying Cost or SWC This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers or the Army List’s limit of 15 Troopers. For the purposes of this scenario, the Elite Operator is considered a Specialist Troop. Side A gets a Svengali Node Trooper Side B gets a Moderator Sargeant. When scoring ZO, each Elite Operator will be scored as if having the baggage rule.

    Svengali Node Trooper Mk. 1 20 VP

    MI, Regular, Cube, MOV 4-4, CC 14, BS 13, PH 11, WIP 15, ARM 3, BTS 3, STR 1, S 2, Submachine Gun (+1B), Pistol, Viral CCW, G: Jumper, Forward Deployment (+4”), No Wound Incapacitation, Stealth

    Note: When fielding an Army with access to G: Jumper, the Svengali Node Trooper generates a separate regular order and does not count towards the limits on Post Humans.

    Moderator Sargeant 20 VP

    LI, Regular, Cube, MOV 4-4, CC 18, BS 11, PH 10, WIP 13, ARM 0, BTS 3, W 1, S 2, Heavy Machine Gun, Pistol, Para CCW (-6), Immunity (Shock), Counts as a (Moderator) for Fireteam Composition

    SPECIALIST TROOPS

    For the purposes of this scenario, only Hackers, Doctors, Engineers, Forward Observers, Paramedics, and Troopers possessing the Chain of Command or the Specialist Operative Special Skill are considered Specialist Troops.

    Hackers, Doctors, and Engineers cannot make use of Repeaters or Peripheral (Servant) Models to perform tasks reserved for Specialist Troops

    NARRATIVE MODE

    This scenario can be played in Narrative Mode, reflecting some of the events of the story above.

    Narrative Mode. Scenario Special Rules


    Side A. In Narrative Mode, Side A will always be one of the following armies: Druze Bayram Security, Ikari Company, Dahshat Company, Operations Subsection of the SSS, Svengali Closed Battle List.

    Side A can add the Svengali Node Trooper without applying Cost or SWC. This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers.

    Side B. In Narrative Mode, Side B will always be a Bakunin Jurisdictional Command force.

    Side B can add the Moderator Sargeant without applying Cost or SWC. This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers.

    END OF THE MISSION

    This scenario has a limited time frame, so it will automatically finish at the end of the third Game Round.


    [​IMG]

    03 Rescue (ITS)/Escape with the shuttle (Mercs)/The Arc of the Universe Bends Towards Chaos

    Escalation Value: 300pts

    MISSION OBJECTIVES

    MAIN OBJECTIVES

    »At the end of Game Round, Have the Cat HVT in CivEvac State (3 Objective Point).

    »At the end of Game Round, Have the Mediocre Detective in CivEvac State (1 Objective Point).

    » Have the same number of Civilians in CivEvac State as the adversary at the end of the game (1 Objective Point, only if the player has at least 1 Civilian in CivEvac State).

    » Have more Civilians in CivEvac State than the adversary at the end of the game (2 Objective Points).

    » Kill the enemy Elite Operator (2 Objective Point)

    » To kill more specialists than the enemy (1 Objective Point)

    CLASSIFIED

    »Each player has 1 Classified Objective (1 Objective Point).

    FORCES AND DEPLOYMENT

    SIDE A and SIDE B: Both players will deploy on opposite sides of the game table, in Deployment Zones whose size depends on the number of Army Points in the Army Lists.

    SIDE A will be the player who goes first. SIDE B will be the player who goes second.

    Exclusion Zone. The Exclusion Zone is the area covering 8 inches (4 inches in 150 point games) either side of the central line of the game table. Any Special Skill with the Airborne Deployment (AD) or Superior Deployment Labels cannot be used to deploy inside this area.

    It is not allowed to deploy in Silhouette contact with a Civilian.

    SCENARIO SPECIAL RULES

    CIVILIANS

    There are a total of two Civilians on the game table, represented by High Value Target (HVT) models.

    The first Civilian model should be represented by an S1 model or remote, such as a Taigha, Gaki, Palbot, etc., or the Pig tokens from the Fat Yuan Yuan mission set, or some sort of cat model on a 25 millimeter base. This will represent the Cat Civilian. Player A will deploy the Cat Civilian at the start of the game round according to normal rules in a quadrant determined by Yakety Sax.

    The second Civilian model should be represented by an S2 HVT model, such as Colonel Voronin, or other HVT model. This will represent the Mediocre Detective Civilian. Player B will deploy the Mediocre Detective Civilian at the start of the game round according to normal rules in a quadrant determined by Yckety Sax.

    Players will deploy the civilians in the Exclusion Zone according to normal rules. Player A will deploy the Cat Civilian Model. Player B will deploy the Mediocre Detective Civilian model.

    Any player can Synchronize either or both Civilians.

    In this scenario, Specialist Troops can have only one Civilian in CivEvac State at the same time. Only Specialist Troops can Synchronize Civilians.

    Civilians will be deployed at the beginning of each round according to the Yakety Sax rule. If a Civilian model is in CivEvac State at the end of Game Round, do not apply deployment or Yakety Sax rules (in plain words, once a Civilian is ‘captured’ it should remain with the synced Specialist Troop)

    INTERLOPERS

    There are a total of two Interlopers on the game table, represented by Camo (-3) tokens.

    The first Interloper token will represent an S2 model, such as a Tariqa HVT or similar model, which should replace the token if it is revealed by a successful Discover action or ARO. This will be the Rogue Zelda Interloper and will have the following profile:

    Rogue Zelda

    SK, Regular, Cube, MOV 4-4, CC 23, BS 11, PH 13, WIP 13, ARM 0, BTS 3, W 1, S 2, Nanopulser, Smoke Grenades, Pistol, DA CCW, Martial Arts L3, CC Attack (-3), CC Attack (Viral), Camouflage, Dodge (+1”), Dodge (+3), Mimetism (-3), Stealth, Terrain (Total), No Wound Incapacitation, Immunity (Shock)

    The Rogue Zelda will be deployed by Player B at the start of the game round in a quadrant determined by Yakety Sax according to normal rules.

    The Rogue Zelda will be controlled by the reactive player during each player turn and may declare AROs as normal. It is not considered an allied troop.

    The second Interloper Token will represent a Rogue Repeater. This repeater may declare Carbonite (+3 DAM) against any model activating or ending an activation within its Zone of Control (ZoC).

    The Rogue Repeater will be controlled by the reactive player during each player turn and may only declare the Carbonite program in ARO. It is not considered part of the either player’s Hacking Area.

    If either the Rogue Zelda or Rogue Repeater are in a null state or destroyed at the end of game round, do not deploy new Interloper Tokens per the Yakety Sax rule. Interloper Tokens must be deployed within their quadrant but do not need to be deployed in the Exclusion Zone.

    YAKETY SAX

    At the beginning of each game round, both players will roll a two D20s and deploy both a Civilian model and an Interloper token according to the table below. Player A will deploy the Cat Civilian model and Interloper token for the Rogue Repeater. Player B will deploy the Mediocre Detective Civilian model and the Interloper Token for the Rogue Zelda.

    Players may assign results to the Civilian model and Interloper token after the dice are rolled (i.e. the Player may choose which of their D20 results applies to their Civilian model and apply the other to the Interloper token).

    No result may be used more than once. If a result is rolled a second time, reroll the second result until a different result is obtained.

    All Civilian models and interloper tokens must be deployed fully within the quadrant. Civilian models must be deployed within the Exclusion Zone.

    Roll Result

    1-5 Quadrant 1 (Player A right quadrant)

    6-10 Quadrant 2 (Player A left quadrant)

    11-15 Quadrant 3 (Player B right quadrant)

    16-20 Quadrant 4 (Player B left quadrant)

    As in the Civilian and Interloper rules, if a Civilian model is in the CivEvac state at end of game round or the model/piece of equipment represented by the Interloper token removed from play by the end of game round, do not apply Yakety Sax to redeploy these models. (In plain wording, if the Civilian is captured by a specialist, or the Rogue Zelda in a null state, or the Rogue Repeater destroyed, don’t undo the current game state for that Civilian or Rogue Zelda or Rogue Repeater. It’s dead or caught. Play on. These rules are convoluted enough.).

    QUADRANTS (ZO)

    At the end of each Game Round, but not before, the table area outside the deployment zones is divided into four areas based on the horizontal and vertical center lines of the map. In 150 point games, these Sectors are 8 inches deep and 12 inches wide. In 200/250 point games, these Sectors are 12 inches deep and 16 inches wide. In 300/400 point games, these Sectors are 12 inches deep and 24 inches wide. Each player then checks how many Quadrants they are dominating and counts their Objective Points.

    Once quadrants are determined, players will place Player A and Player B tokens in each of the quadrants adjacent to their Deployment Zones. Quadrants will be numbered sequentially starting with Player A’s right hand quadrant, moving clockwise (i.e. Player A right quadrant is quadrant 1, player A left quadrant is quadrant 2, Player B right quadrant is quadrant 3, player B left quadrant is quadrant 4. See diagram below).

    In this scenario each Quadrant is a Zone of Operations (ZO).

    ELITE OPERATOR

    Each player will receive an Elite Operator according to whether they are Side A or Side B without applying Cost or SWC This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers or the Army List’s limit of 15 Troopers. For the purposes of this scenario, the Elite Operator is considered a Specialist Troop. Side A gets a Svengali Node Trooper Side B gets a Moderator Sargeant.

    Svengali Node Trooper Mk. 2 (25+1spec ops-4 mmr+1 bs skill+2 NCO)

    MI, Regular, Cube, MOV 6-2, CC 13, BS 13, PH 14, WIP 15, ARM 5, BTS 6, STR 2, S 2, MULTI Marksman Rifle, Pistol, CCW, G: Jumper, BS Attack (Viral), Immunity (Shock), NCO

    Note: When fielding an Army with access to G: Jumper, the Svengali Node Trooper generates a separate regular order and does not count towards the limits on Post-Humans.

    Moderator Sargeant SWAST Trained 30 VP (9+1 spec ops+5 bs + 8 hmg +10 armor+2 ph)

    LI, Regular, Cube, MOV 4-4, CC 18, BS 11, PH 10, WIP 13, ARM 3, BTS 3, W 1, S 2, Heavy Machine Gun, Pistol, Para CCW (-6), Immunity (Shock), Counts as a (Moderator) for Fireteam Composition

    SPECIALIST TROOPS

    For the purposes of this scenario, only Hackers, Doctors, Engineers, Forward Observers, Paramedics, and Troopers possessing the Chain of Command or the Specialist Operative Special Skill are considered Specialist Troops.

    Hackers, Doctors, and Engineers cannot make use of Repeaters or Peripheral (Servant) Models to perform tasks reserved for Specialist Troops

    NARRATIVE MODE

    This scenario can be played in Narrative Mode, reflecting some of the events of the story above.

    Narrative Mode. Scenario Special Rules

    Side A. In Narrative Mode, Side A will always be one of the following armies: Druze Bayram Security, Ikari Company, Dahshat Company, Operations Subsection of the SSS, Svengali Closed Battle List.

    Side A can add the Svengali Node Trooper without applying Cost or SWC. This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers.

    Side B. In Narrative Mode, Side B will always be a Bakunin Jurisdictional Command force.

    Side B can add the Moderator Sargeant without applying Cost or SWC. This Trooper does not count towards the Combat Group’s limit of ten Troopers.

    KILLING

    Troopers are considered Killed by the adversary when they enter Dead State, or they are in a Null State at the end of the game. Troopers that have not been deployed on the game table, as a Model or Marker, at the end of the game will be considered to be Killed by the adversary.

    END OF THE MISSION

    This scenario has a limited time frame, so it will automatically finish at the end of the third Game Round.


    [​IMG]


    in terms of army selection, nothing really represents Svengali. to my mind, it's a little bit ALEPH meets Bakunin meets all the hive of scum and villainy troop types. with that in mind, i thought it might be fun to come up with a CBL like was around during Uprising. again, not really play tested and maybe not even optimized enough for the above missions, but i thought this sampling might give a little taste of Svengali's tools and agents.

    Svengali Closed Battle List (300 pts, 4.5 swc)

    Group 1 10 Regular Orders, 1 Lieutenant Order

    Post-Humans (1 Regular Order)

    PROXY MK. 2 (Hacker, Hacking Device) | Combi Rifle (25 pts, 0.5 swc)

    PROXY MK. 3 | AP Spitfire (23 pts, 1.5 swc)

    PROXY MK. 5 Forward Observer | Submachine Gun (+1B) (13 pts, 0.5 swc)

    Deva Functionary (1 Regular Order)

    DEVA Lieutenant | Combi Rifle (23 pts, 0 swc)

    DEVABOT | Heavy Flamethrower (4 pts, 0 swc)

    Puppetactica (1 Regular Order)

    PUPPET MASTERS | SMG (12 pts, 0 swc)

    PUPPETBOT Forward Observer | Boarding Shotgun (12 pts, 0 swc)

    PUPPETBOT (BS Attack [Shock]) | AP Marksman Rifle

    Karakuri Special Project (3 Regular Orders)

    KARAKURI | Mk 12 (45 pts, 0 swc)

    KARAKURI | MULTI Rifle (42 pts, 0 swc)

    KARAKURI | Heavy Shotgun (41 pts, 0 swc)

    Transductor Zonds (2 Regular Orders)

    TRANSDUCTOR ZOND | Flash Pulse (7 pts, 0 swc)

    TRANSDUCTOR ZOND | Flash Pulse (7 pts, 0 swc)

    Salyut Zonds (1 Regular Order)


    SALYUT (Hacker, EVO Hacking Device) | (15 pts, 0.5 swc)

    Vertigo Zonds (1 Regular Order)


    VERTIGO ZOND | Missile Launcher (17 pts, 1.5 swc)
     
    Lareon likes this.
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