The call comes in earlier than expected. Mr. Johnson contacts Crusher in the usual way, his tall human messenger delivering a neatly hand-written note that reads,
I request the services of yourself and your team for a personal errand of mine. There are no corporations backing this venture, so you need not worry about the complications involving them.
Since I am financing this offer myself, I will increase your rate over the last job. I am offering a sum total of ¥35,000 for your team on completion. I must warn you, however, that this run will be significantly more dangerous than the last.
Pending your agreement, I will be at the Silphid, tonight, at midnight.
Crusher puts in com calls to Ling Fei and Moonclaw, letting them know of the time and place. Ling Fei offers to pick him up, and the two of them pull up to the bar at ten before midnight to find Moonclaw already waiting for them in the shadows. They exchange greetings and head indoors to meet with Mr. Johnson once again.
Upon entering the Johnson’s customary room, the team finds it empty of his usual companions; they are also surprised to see that the suit has, so to speak, let his hair down. His shirt is unbuttoned at the neck, his hair deviates from its usual razor-sharp lines, and his eyes have an air of tiredness about them. He gestures for them to sit across the table from him, and he begins.
“Forgive me for calling you all in on such short notice, but this is a matter of personal importance. There has been some difficulties involving another shadowrunner team under my employ, and I require your assistance in dealing with them. Since they have shown to be untrustworthy, I hope you will see this as an opportunity to prove your own trustworthiness to me. Do so admirably, and you will certainly find yourself in my good graces for the foreseeable future.”
He takes out a pack of cigarettes with gold filters, and casually lights one with a zippo and a flick of his wrist; then the pack is gone. “I hired a gang to undertake a corporate assignment for me some weeks ago. I usually don’t deal in gangs, but time was short and they were the only group available with the freedom and manpower to do what I required. The job was a smash and grab job, much like the one you’ve just completed for me. What my sources didn’t reveal to me prior to this job was that this team was not to be trusted. They took the item and the data I sent them to steal, and are in the process of fencing it to the highest bidder.” Mr. Johnson blows smoke angrily up into the air; it hangs around the ceiling lights in small halos before drifting away.
“What they were after was a secret corporate R&D joint venture, a Knowsoft project codenamed ‘Culexus’, which was financed by several well-known cybertechnology and magical research firms. What the nature of the project is, exactly, is hard to tell, but it was rumored on the streets that these corporations had found a way to bestow a state of Awakening on the un-Awakened. Sounds impossible, true, but the research commonly conducted by these corporations leads me to believe this feat is not in the realm of impossibility.”
He looks at the runners levelly, and adopts his familiar, Johnson’s business tone. “Alfred Beard, I need you and your team to find this gang, kill them, and take back what is mine: the Culexus Knowsoft and its documentation. Use whatever means necessary.” He slides an old-fashioned paper dossier across the table. “This contains all the information that I have gathered on the gang and their whereabouts. I warned you that this mission would be dangerous, and so I am offering you the services of my bodyguards; they request only ¥5,000 each, and will accompany you wherever you order them. They come highly recommended, and I can personally vouch for their skills both on and off the battlefield.” He tents his fingers in his customary manner, and sits back in his chair.
Ling Fei steps forwards and casually picks up the dossier, inspecting the contents as Crusher speaks. “Well sir, we’ll certainly take the mission, and we’ll certainly be in touch if our plans call for some big muscle. The only thing is. . .”
“The only thing is” Ling Fei intercedes, looking up from the packet, “¥35,000 yen for a run that might cost us ¥10,000 just to come out of alive just isn’t that much cred. The expenses I incurred on that last run alone cost me the whole paycheck.” She steps forward and leans lightly on the desk with her left palm, her other hand on her hip. “I’m not trying to hussle you here, sir, but we’re trying to get ahead in this business, not just make ends meet.” The elf lets her lips curl into a winning grin—”How does ¥75,000 sound to you?”
[Ling Fei attempts to use her negotation(bargaining): 3(5) skill.]
Mr. Johnson grows still more businesslike, obviously a little insulted at the idea that shadowrunners would haggle with him like a common merchant. “I am sorry, but this is impossible. The price stays where it is. Maybe when you have made a name for yourselves or proved you can handle combat situations without fucking them up.”
He seems to think for a second, the grimace on his face growing deeper. “I will tell you what I will do. I will personally foot the hiring bill for one of my bodyguards; if you choose to hire the other, so be it.Whose services would you prefer?”
The elf looks serious for a moment, as if weighing her options, before drawing back from the desk and crossing her arms across her chest. “Fine. As hard as I’m sure your troll employee is, I think we would prefer the services of your other man, the one we’ve been in contact with.” She turns to her teammates to see if they have anything else to add. Crusher nods once, the soldier in him refraining from saluting. “Sounds good sir. We won’t let you down.” With this, the team turns and makes their way out of the building.
Once clear of the Johnson’s room, Crusher turns on his diminutive partner. “What were you thinking? Trying to bargain with our only real hirer like he was some drekkin’ street vendor?”
“Hey, I just saved us ¥5,000 yen. Or were you going to foot that part of the bill?”
Crusher’s expression is strained, the labor of swallowing his argument visibly testing him. “Right. This time, you were lucky enough to not get us thrown out on our asses. In the future, though, make sure you know who you’re dealing with before you start that sort of drek.”
“Alright, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any harm. Just trying to squeeze a few more cred out of him, that’s all. Anyway, let’s get back to the car and we’ll check out what sort of death trap we’re walking into this time.”
Mr. Johnson hands the team the com number for his human bodyguard, explaining that, should he be called, he will meet them wherever they need, whenever they want. The team makes their way out to Boxcar Rebellion and begins leafing through the dossier. It contains a greasy polaroid photo and a single printed page containing a description of the gang, shamelessly culled from some Matrix infonet blurb:
It seems that this gang identifies itself as a splinter cell of a larger gang, East Coast Massive (ECM). This large organization, originally founded in the fringe Confederated American States, emigrated inland in the late 2030’s, reaching Chicago in 2039. Street speculation is that this gang first exhibited activity during the chaos immediately following the Feb. 7th Nights of Rage global riots. Specifically, some claim that they were a driving force behind Alamos 20K and the Sears Tower bombing, though this remains speculation.
ECM has been a major player in the Chicago criminal trade and black markets in the 22 years since then, marketing mainly stolen tech, drugs and paraphernalia. After their first few run-ins with the law, they learned to grease the right palms and operated mainly on the criminal up-and-up. There was no further confirmed criminal involvement on the part of the gang until 2052, when the invention of 2XS BTL’s drove the gang into the very lucrative business of trafficking BTL’s and information. They were eventually caught red-handed and most of the top brass was sent to jail for life on conspiracy and terrorism charges.
Since then, they have diverged into many splinter cells within the Chicago area. Each of these is in competition with the other and there is no central leadership, so coordination with the gang at-large is doubtful. This particular gang has established a semi-permanent residence at 7106 S Harvard Ave, Chicago; this is where they were last seen. Gang members will be marked by the colors yellow and black, but there are civilians in the area, and in the building, as well. This area is known to be a location of heavy drug trading and other illicit behavior.
In true Mr. Johnson style, the letter ends abruptly. The included photo is blurry and out of frame, but shows the runners’ target clearly.
Ling Fei leans back in her seat and looks at her companions. “Well, I still don’t really see what the drek we’re supposed to do.”
Crusher scratches his chin in thought with a cybered hand before speaking; “pretty straight forward really. We know where the chips are, we just need to go get them. I think the first thing we need to do is get a little recon in, see how tight those gangers run that old fort.”
“Finally, something worth my time,” the shaman snorts—”Might as well get out there now while the shadows are still out, and I’ll worm my way in.”
Ling Fei frowns. “Right, but suppose these clowns are actually. . . you know. . . using these knowsofts. Won’t they be able to see you?”
Moonclaw glowers. “Impossible. Something like that. . . It couldn’t work.”
Crusher nods in concurrence. “I have to agree, that’s some pretty far out drek. But I also don’t put it past them. Moonclaw, approach that place assuming it’s spooked. If there’s any trouble, pull back and we’ll let the drek hit the fan as a team.” He checks the action on his assault rifle and begins snapping grenades to the inside of his coat. “Ling Fei, get us to this neighborhood and we’ll let Moonclaw move up on it solo.”
Ling Fei turns forwards in her chair and buckles her seatbelt. “You’re the boss, boss.”