Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Diversify Your Skillset

A man goes to the school of a great swordsman. The man says, "Master, how long will it take me to become an expert with the sword?" The master says "It takes five years to become an expert swordsman." The man says, "But, master, what if I spend every waking moment of every day practicing and training?" The master smiles and says "That's different. If you do that, it will take you ten years."

If being an author is your goal, if that's what you want to do with life, then you should treat being an author like a job. Work at it, get better, produce finished material. And just because you decide you're a professional word wizard who takes this shit serious, yo, doesn't mean writing will stop being fun. But odds are it will become more stressful. When you're not just writing for yourself, when you're not just writing for the pleasure of it, you become acutely aware of your audience (even if they're mostly imaginary at this point) and, more than likely, of the higher standards of performance you're now imposing on yourself.

Taking a step from writing as hobby and fun times to writing as work and fun times without replacing it with a new hobby and fun times is the perfect recipe for burnout and burnout is not what you want. What you want is a way to relax and to engage the creative parts of your mind without feeling the pressure of performing for an audience. I believe this is why so many creators and performers take up creative side projects. Stephen King is in a band, Robert Downey Jr sings, Jim Carey and David Bowie paint. Creative people are creative because of an intense desire to do so. If you also like to play video games and watch movies, that's cool, too. But you should spend some of your leisure time on something that stimulates you creatively.

Me? I run and play a lot of role playing games in my leisure time. It's how I get the bulk of my socialising and creative stimulation when I'm not writing. But ever the experimenter, I've spent a lot of time on drawing, photography, creating pixel art and, most recently, playing with Lego. I'll be honest with you, most of it is intensely, painfully, almost shamefully amateurish. In fact, a lot of it's just bad. But that doesn't matter, because I'm not creating for an audience. I might show them to interested parties - and to make a point, I'm going to show it to you - but these creative efforts are for me. They are a way to relax on my own and still be creative.

I've said before that statements like "you're not a real writer if you don't write every day" are bullshit. Real writers are people who write. There's no other box you need to tick. If you write for half an hour every weekday morning, well done, you're a writer. If you write for six hours on Saturday and spend the rest of your week living up to your other responsibilities, congratulations you're a writer. If you can and do make the time to write every day, excellent. Go you. Just because you don't have to, doesn't mean it's not awesome if you do. But you'll also probably burnout faster if you don't take care of yourself.

And you know what? The more you do in life that isn't writing, the better your writing will be. This comes back to something else I've often said: writing what you know is a challenge to know more. Your experiences away from the writing desk is fuel for the imagination.

Okay. I'm about to show off some of my non-writing creative endeavours. You will not be impressed by these. I will not be basking in the glory of these works. But neither do I care. Not caring is fundamental to the practice. I actively turn off the perfectionist parts of my brain and just create for the fun of it. If I get better incidentally, great. But if I don't? That's fine too.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

We've Boundless Pains To Share

Where I'm sitting now, on couch, in my home, was, until the late 1700s, the land of the Darug people. Respect to these original custodians, past, present, and future.
On January 26, 1788, the first fleet arrived on Australian shores and with them came the ancestors of my family. It is one event in a history of infinite coincidences that led to my birth. But it is also an event that set into motion a relatively short history of deliberate efforts to take a land from a people, and then to eradicate those people. It is a planned extermination that was frighteningly successful, and it is a mark on our history that we are not nearly as ashamed of as we should be. You may say it's ancient history, that you didn't do it, that you refuse to suffer white guilt because of what some people did hundreds of years ago*.
But there are no Australians free of that legacy. There are no Australians who do not benefit or suffer as a result of what has occurred and what has been perpetrated on the Aboriginal people. The price of white man's burden is blood. The price of luck in this lucky country is blood.
We cannot change history, but we must acknowledge it. We must acknowledge that history is a living narrative, one that touches the present, and for some, history's touch is painful. To celebrate Australia on this day is to revel in the pain that Australia's first people feel from history's white hot grasp. It is fuel for that agonising fire. This statement is not theory, it is not conjecture, it is fact. We know it is fact because they have told us that our celebration hurts.
And that's all you need to know. That's all that matters. It hurts. It hurts people now. To continue calling January 26 Australia Day is to do wrong by the country we're supposed to be celebrating, wrong by the people who make it Australia.
There is so much pain in our history, so much that must be fixed. They will be difficult problems to solve. But this is an easy one. This one has a simple solution.
Change the date.
*Aboriginal children were still being taken from their families in the 1960s. This isn't a crime of hundreds of years ago.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Male Feminism

There's been a lot of talk about sexual assault and harassment on my radar, lately. As a result, I've found myself in an above average number of discussions on women's issues and speaking out, sometimes quite harshly, for more and better action, and attempting to silence bullshit from the #notallmen brigade. Over the last month, as I've engaged in these discussions and reflected on my position as a feminist, I've come to a greater appreciation of the biggest challenge I face as a male feminist.

I'm flying blind.

It's an important realistion - and by no means new or ground breaking - for any male feminist to understand that they are not a woman and do not understand the life experience of a woman. I do not understand what it is like to live under systemic oppression, I have not been sexually assaulted and I face a very low chance of that happening to me in my life, let alone every day I wake up.

Not understanding these things intimately means, of course, that I must listen, I must be empathetic, I must trust and believe women when they speak about their experiences and highlight the problems they face as a woman. Feminism is not merely academic, it must be practical, it must push a cause forward, it must work to solve problems and the way for non-lady feminists to help is to be co-pilot of the cause, following the lead of women who know what the problem is and what needs to be done.

Again, nothing ground breaking, nothing revolutionary. Listening to women is "Being a Feminist 101."

But there is a practical issue.

Sometimes, even often, women don't want to talk. No, scratch that. Women often feel that they cannot talk, or that talking is pointless, or that talking is dangerous. I'm not proud of how vitriolic I've been in recent discussion, but do you know what consequences I faced for being so aggressive towards men who I saw as being a problem?


In fact, I was called a smart guy.

There's no doubt that if a woman said the things I said, the way I said them, publicly and loudly and aimed directly at a group of men, she'd have risked dismissal, patronising, invalidation at best, rape threats and actual physical reprisal.

This is the reality of feminism today. Generally, the worst a man can expect is being called a "cuck" or maybe he'll just get complimented. It's not unreasonable for a woman to expect rape threats or any number of far more personal attacks.

This is why I never expect or ask a woman to speak up. This is why I do, even when no women will. This is one more reason men MUST be feminists. But I've talked about the use of privilege as an ally, before. Go look through the blog's archives for an explanation of that. That's not why we're here.

Recapping: Male feminists can only fly blind. Male feminists must be copilots of the cause because we're flying blind. In the absence of a woman willing to speak up, a man must take the lead.

That's a hell of a recipe for a screw up.

Fortunately, if you're doing a good job listening and staying informed on the evolving philosophy of feminism and if you're letting a lady lead when she's willing to, then you're probably not going to go to astray or do wrong by anybody.

But just to be sure, I have a request. See, this blog is not just for male feminists, it's not just a reminder of the basic best practice for feminist advocacy. This blog is also for women. It's to say "We know we can't fully grasp what it's like to be you, but we're doing our best to help in spite of those limitations." It is also to to ask - having established the biggest challenge of being a male feminist - that if you see a man fighting the good fight, let him know he's on the right track and that he's actually helping.

Just to be clear, I'm not asking for women to thank men. I never will ask a woman to thank me for being a feminist. I'm not asking for validation or ego stroking or congratulations or appreciation of any kind, I'm just asking you to help us keep flying straight.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Diary of No Fate (A Shadowrun Actual Play) Prelude

As part of preparing for this game, the GM asked the players to describe a recent run that went wrong, and what the character's life is like day-to-day. Since there's no actual update on the diary, I thought I'd post those instead.

A Day In The Life of No Fate

Across from Victoria Harbour, on the south west of Kowloon Peninsula is Yau Tsim Mong. Along the water's edge is Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Tsim Mong's touristville, distinct for it's affordable middle class hotels in the golden mile and the Hong Kong slum chic that sells so well to fans of glamerous, high budget Hong Kong trids. Keep following Nathan Road inland, and you'll come to Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok. This is also the Hong Kong of the crime and kung fu trids, but it's the sleazy low budget trids. This is the bridge between Hong Kong's world of business elite and the horrors of the walled city. This is the Hong Kong of narrow roads, match box sized apartments in brutal high rise buildings, the Hong Kong of market stalls, street food and, of course, the Hong Kong of triads and tongs. This is the real Hong Kong.

Perfect place for a dwarf girl looking for a genuine cultural experience! No Fate loves it. Sure, it rains from late spring to early winter, and sure' that's run off from the thousands of high rise window mounted AC units, and sure that's bad for her allergies, and sure there's three times as many gangers here as anywhere else in Hong Kong, but she's got a flash apartment. It used to be a HoHan Guesthouse, back when Yau Ma Tei still attracted visitors. Rok owns it now, rents out sections to local runners. No Fate lives in a basement apartment. You kind have to go down a couple of dead end streets and through an alley or two, into an empty plaza that the HoHan backs onto, then through the garage door off to the side of the old mural, but it comes with garage and workshop space, so who's to complain that it's a little hard to find and you don't leave the house without a loaded gun? Rent's good, electricity and water work, and Rok's a nice guy. Probably.

On a regular day, a day without Business, No Fate wakes up early, real early, dons her respirator, a "just in case" backpack, and some armoured running clothes and goes for a run around Yau Ma Tei. Toxic weather be damned, a girl's got to stay fit. After her run, around when most other people are waking up, she has a light nutrisoy breakfast and checks her regular Gunhaver and the Shadow Commando fan bulletins for news, leaks and on-set photos, then it's round the house chores. You know the kind, scrubbing down benches, helping the autovac get under furniture, washing sweaty clothes and vomit covered rugs, maintenance on the Ramshankle, oiling the warhawks.

Lunch is street food. Always street food. No Fate's apartment is a stone's throw from the Yau Ma Tei 'Poor Mystic's Market', which, in addition to the plentiful junk stores, alchemists, and talismongres, serves up great local Cantonese street food. Occasionally something not soy or krill based even falls off the back of a truck and makes its way into the market food. Either way, for the most authentic and freshest synthetic food substitutes, you go to a market.

After lunch, now loaded up on energy and faux carbs, No Fate heads out for a little urban exploration. There's still lots of Hong Kong she hasn't seen, so whether it's parkouring her way across Kowloon or riding the world's longest elevator all the way to the top, there's a lot for a foreigner to see. A few deck jockeys have told No Fate that the local tours are even better in VR, less crowded, breathable air, minimum risk of being mugged, but she finds it hard to believe a virtual ride up the world's longest escalator could be nearly as exciting as the real thing.

Come evening, the Tsim Sha Tsui markets open up. These are an experience in and of themselves, and No Fate is a sucker for an experience. She does most of her shopping at the markets. She wouldn't dream of going anywhere but Mr Choi for the off-the-rack necessities like pants and firearms, and she'll stop in there if she needs to fence something from a run or restock on ammo, but for everything else (like replacement commlinks, synth-leather boots, and smartlink goggles under the counter) there's no place like the night market for good prices and no questions. She's pretty sure the Gunhaver Replica Armoured Dusters aren't authentic, though, so watch out. The other great thing about the night markets is more street food. The markets stretch across multiple roads, closing off traffic for the evening. In addition to food stalls, local restaurants adjacent to the market set up extra seating on the road, making themselves a de facto part of the market experience. You haven't lived Hong Kong unless you've been sat between two stranger on a chair made for a human, served steamed dumpings in a synth-bamboo steamer and given troll sized chopsticks to eat with.

If there's no shopping to be done, No Fate might browse the markets on her way home from her explorations, but will head home early, throw on a runner trid or two, eat a simple nutrisoy dinner and get to bed early, lulled to sleep by the distant sounds of gang violence her neighbours gearing up for their own Business.

A Run Gone Bad

About a month ago, my fixer contacted me to arrange a meet with Mr Wu. We met in a booth at a Mong Kok restaurant. There was me; White Noise, the decker; a mage named Sun; and a chromed heavy called Quan, our so-called security expert. White Noise had a respectable enthusiasm, Sun was a walking mystery, and in five minutes I could tell Quan didn't know security from his own ass, but he looked like he could squeeze a KE riot helmet into drek with his bare hands, so maybe security expert was a euphamism.

Mr Wu wanted us to get into the board room and president's office of Soba Foods (a subsidiary of Wuxing Inc) and plant some bugs. B&E, standard biz, but I hadn't gone five steps from the restaurant before I got another buzz from my fixer. Special instructions from Mr Wu: My number one responsibility was to keep Sun alive. I had to assume Mr Wu had special instructions for everyone else, too, and that set the alarm bells ringing.

It's like Gunhaver says: Running with only half the info is running blind, and the shadows are deep enough. Still, Gunhaver always takes the job and so do I.

Sun had a plan to get us in via the roof of the Soba Foods building after business hours. The building next to it had an observation deck, and he could use magic to get us from one roof to the next. Once there, White Noise could give the security system a hiccup and we'd walk in theough the roof acces.
Sun went over first, followed by Quan. While White Noise and I waited our turn, she told me she knew Mr Wu had given me special instructions, that she'd got them too; A request for a particular paydata while she was in Soba Food's system. That prompted her to do some extra leg work on the job. She found out Mr Wu worked for Eastern Tiger, he'd given us all extra instructions except Quan, and I should be on my toes because this job was bigger than corp espionage. Then Sun grabbed her and she flew across to Soba Foods before she could tell me anymore.

Going in from the top via the stairs, we hit the board room and the president's office in no time and didn't run into any security. White Noise stayed on the roof to deck in safety. We were done and about to buzz when she started freaking over comms. I assumed she'd been tagged by ice, but she screamed security had found her, the whole thing was a set up, we were fragged, and needed to bug out. I agreed, but Sun finally dropped his bomb on us: Bugging the building was only half the run.

Turns out, the president of Soba Food has a daughter, and her apartment had a bad infestation of roaches, so while it was being cleaned, she'd taken up temporary residency in the Soba Foods office building. This was now a snatch & grab.

Quan had other ideas. He pulled his gun on us and told us to sit tight and security was on its way. He was a plant. Probably not even thebreal Quan. Sun panicked and tried to hit him with a spell but it backfired; blew half his brains right out his nose. Quan said something about the feng shui working to disrupt unwanted magic, an arcane security courtesy of Soba's parent company. I didn't ask for details, just shot the bastard in his knees and in his eyes and did what White Noise suggested: I bugged out.

Good thing about being small is, in a modern building, you can always find a McLane exit.
I don't know what happened to White Noise, but Wuxing Security hasn't come knocking on my door, so I'm guessing she's dead. I called in to my fixer when I was clear and laid it all out for him. Chummer wasn't even mad, just told me to duck and cover for a few days.

Never heard from Mr Wu or Eastern Tiger, but it's like Gunhaver says: The big corps have got a memory a thousand Mr Johnson's long.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

No Offence Intended

Trigger Warning: This blog includes words and language associated with hate and bigotry. These terms are used in an academic discussion of art and no hate is endorsed. If this language has a negative impact on your mental health, maybe skip this one.

Spoiler Warning: I'm going to spoil parts of Pilgrimage and Summer's End in this blog. If you haven't read them, go read them. You'll enjoy them. Keep reading at your own peril.

In the first chapter of Pilgrimage, Roland is people watching in a bar and he sees Lloyd enter and intimidate Griffith. Not knowing the context and being just a little drunk, Roland assumes Lloyd is hitting on Griffith and, in a moment of casual homophobia, describes Lloyd as a faggot.

Since the book's release, one person has told me they could not stand for the use of the word and did not read further. I get that.

But the word exists. People use it. The fact that a reader might be disgusted by Roland's usage is kind of the point. Roland is a terrible person. That's the beginning of the arc, and his use of the word helps show the reader how terrible he is. Roland is less obscenely homophobic later. It perhaps doesn't come through quite as well that homophobia is somewhat inherent in the culture that Roland exists in at the beginning of the story. These people are real, that culture is real, homophobia and the word faggot are real.

Is that justification, though? Haven't I gone on record saying realism is poor justification for the events of fiction?

Both film maker Mel Brooks and Mark Twain have famously used the word nigger in their works. Works of comedy. In the case of Mel Brooks, it is appropriate to the era of Blazing Saddles, but Blazing Saddles is so anachronistic and so unconcerned with realism that one can hardly say it uses the word as an acknowledgement of reality. Mark Twain was writing in a period where nigger was not only in open common usage, but was acceptable by the society around him. There are places in the English speaking world where it is still accepted by society.

But as I've said, realism is poor justification. I think this applies. Just because people say nigger and faggot does not give us licence to use those words as a reflection of that ugly reality. Hell, there are black Americans who choose to reclaim the word nigger and use it to described themselves and those around them. There are also black Americans who frown on its usage in that way. Even then, I'm not convinced that its use by some people as a positive or even neutral term is implicit permission to use the word.

It's generally accepted that Mark Twain and Mel Brooks have used nigger in a permissible way. The reason for this is the same for both of them. Social satire. They do not just use the word as set dressing, they acknowledge the history and weight of the term, and juxtapose its meanings against characters that defy the stereotype suggested by racism. Bart and Jim are not just main characters who happen to be black, they are black heroes that challenge a villainy that is accepted in society both in the plot and in the subtext. There is a thematic weight behind their usage that recognises that these words are tools of oppression and dehumanisation and that their acceptance by society is a crime.

Pilgrimage has thematic weight. My intention was always for the novel to be a complicated and mature story about redemption and friendship. Roland his a terrible person, his homophobia establishes that he is a terrible person and the novel does not endorse him as he is at the end of the book, but rather his redemption.

Summer's End also has thematic weight. The story acts as something of a metaphor for the expansion of cities at the expense of small rural communities, and it takes a heavily anti-city approach. It attributes corruption to cities as natural and youthful innocence to small towns. Summer's death and the cover-up are the city and the country at odds. But nary a usage of bigoted language in the whole novel. If Summer's End has something to say about humanity and society, would it have justified using a word like faggot?

No. It's not enough. Blazing Saddles and Huckleberry Finn aren't just about society, they are specifically about race within western society. I mean, that's probably obvious. The justification works not because they are intelligent works, but because the usage of nigger is part of that intelligence.

Does Pilgrimage meet that test? When I wrote it, I thought it did. I was pretty confident that it made it clear that I and the novel did not endorse hateful language or homophobia. I don't. I used the word to a specific and deliberate purpose that highlighted that Roland is bad and his views are bad.

Or so I thought.

It certainly does the job of establishing Roland is a bad person. But does it also establish that his language is bad? Not really. In fact, it relies on you acknowledging that the language is bad to understand Roland's views are harmful. That this language is wrong, as a specific subtextual point made by the narrative, is not really there.

But then, in a sense, Mel Brooks and Mark Twain also need you to understand that the language is wrong, but neither Lloyd of Griffith are homosexual and so it lacks that juxtaposition to of stereotype to hero. You the reader must acknowledge the language is hateful and that the hate is wrong. And basically everything Roland does in those early stages of the book is wrong. He's unkind, violent and unhelpful. Everything he does is wrong in some way, and a lot of it is hurtful to those around him. That is the point.

At this point we've done something of a circle around the subtext. It both relies on reader's assumptions and pushes an anti-hate agenda. In fact, the whole novel has a strong anti-hate agenda. As a result, I'm conflicted. Using the word faggot was meant to accomplish something and it accomplished it. It perhaps also accomplished more, but didn't accomplish as much as it should. Ultimately, what I am sure, is that it was clumsy.

And it's not up for me to decide whether I went too far. It's up to the reader. And if I did and you were offended, I am sorry. My use of the word was intended, but the offence was not.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Diary of No Fate (A Shadowrun Actual Play) pt4

One week later...

The smog was light, this morning, and the air conditioners were only drizzling by the time I put on my armoured running clothes, my respirator, and chucked a medkit, Fightgar and Firebert into my backpack. This junior Shadow Commando knows how to be prepared!

I saw all the usual suspects on my run: Lai Ying, the fish guy; Sau-ha, the junk guy; Tak-Wah, the cabbage guy; Mei-Yee, the reagent woman; Li, the rock guy; Li, the other fish guy; Li, the soy beef guy; and Steve. I'm not sure what steve does, but he was there, too, just like every morning. I said good-mornings to them all and a few even said good morning back, like, at least three. It's only been six months, but they're already warming to me. I thought it'd be hard to make friends with Ares assigning you relationships, but I guess I was wrong. 

Speaking of friends, by the time I'd finished my run, Panda had sent me seven messages. Most of them emoticons. I'm not sure what they meant, but they seemed like friendly emojis. She's been doing that a lot this week. I appreciate it, although since I had to use the Metalink for Business and now Panda, Spook, and Sailor Van can contact me on it, I'm going to have to throw it into the harbour, as well. No offence, chummers, but the metalink is for Sapphire, not for No Fate.

I also saw a lot of triad teamsters out early. Much earlier than normal. All of them flying colours, but not the same colours. I made a note to look out for any important looking funeral processions. I saw Rok out on his balcony, when I got home, on his 'link, looking like a vatjob about to Overstress. I wanted to offer my sussing services, but you don't interrupt a man on his 'link. That's just rude. Anyway, I figure Rok for a mentat, and let's be honest, kludge is more my style.

It took me most of the last week, but I'd gotten the apartment cleaned, santized, and everything smelling like lemon again. I do love the smell of lemon. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to smell fresher. I have enough lemon air fresheners for them all. But all that meant the Ramshankle and the warhawks were overdue for routine maintenance. Like Gunhaver says, it doesn't matter what skills you're bringing if the only gear you've packed is drek.

That took me through to lunch. I saw Rok pacing by his window, still on his 'link, still looking like somebody pissed in his Commandos-Os.

I headed over to the Poor Mystic's Market on foot. After a busy morning, I had a craving for something with more body than soymeat on a stick. This girl needed some carbs. I was also in the mood for a traditional Chinese dish. It must have been my lucky day, because Li was cooking up fresh steamed rice and Mongolian Soy Lamb. Omae, that ticked all the boxes. I ate by the stall and made small chat with Li. I mentioned the unusually high number of triad gangers on the street, even for Yau Tsim Mong. He said he had a bad feeling, like something big was about to go down. I remarked about funeral processions, mostly for my own amusement, but Li got it. He totally got it. Wiz. Another classic flatvid fan.

All out triad war hadn't broken out when I finished lunch, so I said goodbye to Li and headed home. No sign of Rok in his windows, so I knocked on his door. No answer. I gave him a call, left a message to contact me if he needed help with something. Us dwarves have to stick together, you know. Rok appreciates that kind of sentiment. I even knocked on Upstairs Li's door to ask if he'd seen Rok, but Upstairs Li just said he'd seen him leave around an hour ago and didn't know where.

Note to self: Next time you need a name for a fake SIN, go with Li. There's a million Li around here. Li? Lis? How do you pluralise Li?

With Rok nowhere to be found and no problems for me to solve, I decided to head back to Kowloon and continue exploring the abandoned amusement park. There's a couple of roller coasters I haven't run, yet. I'm starting to think maybe I should try and fix them up, see if I can't get them running. Maybe Sailor Van would like to help. I'm sure he knows how to fix stuff. Upstairs Li said there were supposed to be some monster birds out that way, which got me more excited, but I didn't see any. Disappointing, I know. I also received a lot more emojis from Panda. Lots of spam, stress faces and then drek. I told her that's what happens when you eat too much dairy, but that it would pass. Literally. And I guess it did.

I took a detour to Tsim Sha Tsui on the way home. I finally remembered where I put the stolen gear from the Happy Cow run, so I stopped in at Mr Choi's to fence that. I asked him if he'd seen Rok (he hadn't) or if he knew anything about the triad show of force around Yau Tsim Mong (he didn't.) He had noticed it, though, and word was something big was coming. He warned me not to go wandering around unarmed and unarmoured, and that maybe I should look at getting a better jacket. He also said that shorts and pink hair aside, I did have a habbit of dressing and carrying myself like an off-duty knight, and one day that's likely to get me shot by a ganger. He has a point, and I guess old habits die hard, but I that's a problem I have a solution for.

Say it with me now: No Fate shot first!

Just call me Greedo.

Mr Choi didn't have anything new besides sound advice in stock, so I headed into the markets. I was long overdue for a new 'link, two, in fact, and found a stall selling three for the price of two. Wiz. Past and future harbour tours aside, the Metalink is drek and I've been meaning to upgrade. Three new Sensei's in the bag, my work was done and I had an evening of market browsing to do. Or, so I thought.

Rok called, sounding like he'd found the guy who pissed in his Commandos-Os, and he was planning Garbage Detail for them. He told me that I liked hero work and I had friends, so he had a meeting for me, tomorrow at lunch with Ms Wu.

No markets for this girl. I buzzed. Junior Shadow Commandos know they need at least seven hours of sleep to be at their best, and Gunhaver accepts nothing but the best.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Diary of No Fate (A Shadowrun Actual Play) pt3

Note to self: Buy new commlink. Don’t let Panda near it.

Did you know there's actually more smog in Hong Kong in the morning? It's true! I usually wait for the sun to be up before I go for a morning run, but since I had to meet Stardust and Mr Choi this morning, I went for a run just before dawn. Maybe it's the way the sun rises in the spaces between skyscrapers, peaking through the AC clouds dripping condensation onto Yau Ma Tei, but for whatever reason, when the sun first climbs over the horizon, scattering its brilliance across the skyline, you can really see the smog over Kowloon Bay in light and colours that you just can't any other time of day. What a world we live in. I was going to say this to Stardust when I pulled the Ramshankle up outside Mr Choi's store, but when I saw her, I was suddenly struck by how much her hair looks like a splendid soggy sunrise. It completely threw off my train of thought. Luckily, Stardust was quick to remind me that we were here for some reason and that it was, or should be, something important, and we should get going.

Mr Choi had my pants ready and a stockpile of heavy pistol gel "hats" to distribute to Panda and Spook. I introduced him to Stardust and they got to talking about clothes and fashion right away. Mostly about mine, now that I think about it. Neither of them get me. I have a style and my style is fine. It's, like, Knight Errant chic. Yeah, French. You know it's fancy. Anyway, while I tried on the pants, I mentioned that we had another request concerning the upcoming run and Stardust would fill him in. I'd already asked Mr Choi for one rush job and he'd thrown in some free pants, so I didn't want to press my luck. He's never been unfriendly to me and I'd like to keep it that way. The thing about dwarves is that everything’s arctic until it isn’t, then it really isn’t. So, while I slipped into something a little less comfortable (What? I like my shorts! They’re my thing!) Stardust discussed our need for disguises. She had seen the logo for a Mitsuhama owned security company (Overwatch) while floating over Happy Cow facility. We needed some fake Overwatch maintenance uniforms as a cover, and we needed them in less than 12 hours. Mr Choi could have them for us in eight, and he had samples of the Overwatch uniform patches (and a whole lot of other patches) already, but a rush job costs rush job money. Then, out of interest, Mr Choi asked about the run and when we explained, he agreed to lower the price if we brought him back a sample of Smoke Eel (or was it Smoked Eel? Eel Smoke? Smoking Eel? Drek, I don’t know. They all sound terrible.) A small task to save creds. Null sweat. This was, after all, why I brought Stardust. She has a certain mysterious charm about her, Avant Garde and tribal at the same time, with just a touch of the elven. It’s unique, and some dwarves have a natural appreciation for unique. Like Mr Choi. I’m talking about Mr Choi. He’s one of those dwarves. My mind is always on the job, and when it’s not on the job, it’s on finding the next job; just like Gunhaver.

Speaking of jobs, the hours before always have that calm before a storm quality. They click by slow, then, like the sunrise, suddenly it’s go time. Like a dwarf’s affection, it’s arctic until it’s hotter than a wizworm’s temper. Stardust and I parted ways for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, Spook and Sailor Van had fetched the corp profile and the boat. Panda no doubt preloaded on spam the way you preload on soy before a long run, the way you preload a heavy pistol with gel hats before a smash and grab. Make no mistakes, brawl fans, there’s never been a grab where something or somebody didn’t get smashed. Other than collecting the uniforms at four o’clock, I spent my day asking that eternal question that burns at the heart of all metahumanity.

How’s the serenity?

What? You didn’t think you’d get through the page without an obscure flatvid quote, did you? Omae, you know me better than that.

I threw Firebert, Reynolds, my Ganhaver Replica Armoured Duster, and a random selection of tools from the workshop into a duffel bag, loaded up the ramshankle and burnt rubber all the way to Sailor Van’s boat house (sure, you can’t burn much rubber in a ten-minute drive at 40k/h, but what rubber you can burn, I did.) We piled in the loaner boat, went over the plan again, geared up in faux Overwatch jumpsuits, and let Sailor Van (he boats and drives, I see where the name comes from) take us out to Happy Cow. We skirted the cliffs, waited for the water zonies to buzz, then moused into the nearest dock. So far, chummers, this is what we call wavy.

How long could it last?

We dropped ourselves at the far side of the island, with a couple K woodland between our dock and the Happy Cow facility. Sailor Van had the dog-brain move the boat around to the south dock, closer to Happy Cow, and we jammed over-land on foot. Apart from a stumble here and a minor navigational glitch, we made wiz time. We hopped a fence, using my Gunhaver coat to cross the barb wire (they say you’re not real, Gunhaver, but you’re out there with me on every run. If that’s not real, I don’t know what is) and headed for the barghest pens. The last thing any of us needed was a run in with a critter as angry as chromed up chiphead running bad sims. Good thing we’re professionals with a plan, because that plan got us to the pens the same time as the zonies, or in this case, just one zonie with his head too far up his drekhole to notice us. This is why you hire KE, chummers. Always get the best. We waited until the zonie got close, then Sailor Van took a swing at him. He might have weathered that and come through okay if Spook didn’t follow up with a burst from his Ingram. We bound him, left him in some bushes, relieved him of his professional tools (including his helmet, with integrated ‘link), and headed for the labs.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to know we wouldn’t have critter problems. Panda, flash deck jockey that she is, even turned off the cage’s matrix connection so they couldn’t be let out once the drek hit the fan. I mean, so far the run was wavy, but how long could it last?

Using the zonie’s ‘link and key, we let ourselves into Happy Cow Ice Cream’s labs. We opened the door and stepped into a security check point. They looked at us. We looked at them. We looked at them. They looked at our stolen helmet and key. We looked at them reach for a PANICBUTTON.
They looked at me draw a taser. We looked at the taser glitch and the battery pop out as I pulled the trigger.

Turns out wavy lasts about that long.

The run went from arctic and wavy to wizworm hot and covered in drek in less time than it took me to scoop up the battery and try the trigger again, and if you haven’t noticed, omae, kamikaze junkie’s can’t match this girl for speed. Things went real bad real fast, is what I’m saying. We’re talking S03E24 season finale ‘Who Will Have Guns?’ bad. But we’re still professionals, and while Panda and Sailor Van focused on getting us through the remaining doors and into the security office, Stardust, Spook and yours truly put our focus on dusting zonies. Non-lethal dusting, of course. Stardust laid down some heavy mojo, Spook hit them with his gel loaded Ingram, and while I wanted nothing more than to bring out Reynolds and Firebert and let them have their say, it was faster and quieter for me to use the zonies’ own tasers on them. When I ran out of darts in one, I borrowed another one.

Even though we were out-numbered and couldn’t stop the zonies hitting their PANICBUTTON, it looked like we’d get the sitch under control. Then the drones rolled out. Two tiny tanks opened fire on us, bleeding Panda while she tried ducking for cover behind a security cyber terminal. Poor Spook panicked and shot one of the drones with his gel rounds, which splattered ineffective on its chassis. Poor guy. Running’s not for the faint of heart. Still, he’ll learn. We all start somewhere.  Panda wanted to try and disable and adopt one of the drones for Van to rig, but we’d hosed this job enough. I made sure both drones fried before they could frag us.

Security down and bound, drones turned to slag, and an empty research facility before us, we set to work on the grab part of this smash and grab. Panda gave us security clearance, and watched over the security systems with Van. Spook, Stardust and yours truly found some coolers and searched the labs until we’d found Mr Wu’s experimental flavour, plus a few extras, including Mr Choi’s Smoke Eel (smokey eel?) and the formulae for both. Job officially done, we bugged out before any we could get in deeper drek.

We made the rendezvous with time to spare, handed off the samples and the formula, then headed back to my place. I had the closest freezers and we needed to store Mr Choi’s ice cream until morning. And as for that other ice cream…

As for that other ice cream.

That damned ice cream.

Five flavours, mostly marine flavoured. Cute names like Oystravaganza and Caramel Krill Swirl. It all seemed so innocent.

Then came the vomiting, and the orgasms, and the wiglies, the brain bending, mind numbing, eye opening, jaw dropping, cliché listing experiences that sprayed across my living room floor, clogged my sink and overflowed from my toilet. None of the flavours sounded apetising, so I passed. Never have I been so thankful for my delicate and risk-averse gwailo tastes.

I like to think I’m a welcoming host, but even yours truly has limits and even this girl needs sleep eventually. I let them all take their experimental awakened ice creams to do with as they pleased, cleaned up, and went to bed. By morning, the escrow had our money, bonus and all. That’s good because I’m going to need to replace my rug.

It really tied the room together.


Carl's player note: Skimmed over in this entry is our embarassing lack of preparation in regards to the formulae we found. We needed to hand it off in a matrix dead zone but had no datachips. Fortunately, every device has plenty of storage, electronic eskis included, so Panda plugged her deck into one of them and transferred the file with the physical sample. This, unfortunately, came with a malware attack, which then spread to No Fate's commlink with the smoke eel formula. Rather than bother trying to fix it or risk further damage, No Fate chucked her 'link in the harbour, popped over to a Snack Shack for a data chip, and had the formula transferred to that once Panda finished cleaning the malware from her deck. Salvaged the formula, but couldn't salvage her collection of spam pictures. Hence, No Fate's reminder to herself at the beginning. Her diary is really all about her wins and her love of Gunhaver trids and classic flatvids, so such a mistake has no place in her personal notes.

I also failed to mention, in the last entry, that Stardust, in her astral projection, had seen the critters being used to patrol the grounds and the Overwatch logo on security uniforms/equipment. No Fate didn't see it, but she was filled in, and its omission was an oversight on my part. Important information that No Fate should have mentioned but I, in my worry that the entry was dragging, forgot. Thus the sudden mention of them in this one.