Prologue/II D47457341 !!V3MQp2LmRj 2017/06/01 (Thu) 05:08 No. 196672 ▼
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You weigh your options. You like King, they're good people, but holy shit sometimes you wish you could smack them around a bit. King is notoriously paranoid compared to yourself or anyone else, which is completely hilarious to you when you consider that for their entire life, King has kept off the radar. Not even someone such as yourself, who has worked with them before on several "Robin Hood" runs to help the drek, has seen their face. They dress up like a hero from those old Toku shows, calling themselves "Zero" and using a voice scrambler to mask themselves. Somehow, they also lack an internal RFID, which can only mean they were born outside of the normal channels, meaning that King has pulled the impossible; in the modern era, King is a ghost. You don't even think its King who emails you directly, but a surrogate they use, probably a decker they pay off.
As for MKULTRA... you love her to death, but she's always looking to get into some sort of trouble. Some new kids moving into town is exactly the kind of trouble she'd want to get into as well. Hell, she's probably already done some decking and found out everything about their lives... before they moved into town. But trouble isn't really what you're up for, at least not now. It's always fun to go on a run with MKULTRA, but lately you've been more curious about your magical capability, and you'd like to see how hard you can push it. Purifying water so kids can drink it or causing a flower to bloom to please a youkai is fun and all, but you think if you could harness this energy you could put even those tree-hugging psychopaths in Ireland to shame.
You set your fingers on the desk and a holographic keyboard comes to life. You send off message received missives to King and MKULTRA, just so they don't think you died in a ditch somewhere. You reopen the email that Swarm sent you and read it again, trying to figure out just what the hell to say. It's hard for you to talk with others - an unfortunate consequence of growing up the way you did made you hate most humans, which is probably why you hang out with youkai more - but there are some people you think are worth it. You think Swarm is worth it.
Hey, I got your message. I'll drop by in the morning if that's cool. I'm beat for now.
That should be good. You go to flip off the monitor, but before you can do so, Swarm replies instantly.
Subject: Re: Re:
Great! I get up with the sun so I'll be ready before you even arrive. Be careful cutie <3
Well, at least Swarm is pleasant. Hard to find a nice kid nowadays. Course, it could still be a ruse, and she's just a front for someone or other. You've been wrong about people before; not always, but it's happened. Still, Rule #4 in the runners' rulebook is never go into a new situation unprepared. You flip your monitor off and with another motion flick a manual switch underneath it, one the blends into the fake wood. A false panel slides open, and you pull out a light handgun, a Model 75 Light Fire. Nine millimeter, 16 shots, semi-auto, and small enough to fit under your hoodie. This thing has saved your ass on many runs, and probably will for many more.
You inspect the weapon, ensuring its clean, then set it to the side. Firearms are illegal for citizens to carry in Japan, as they always have been, but you found a way around it. It helps when you know all the gunrunners in Gensokyo, including, but not limited to, the Yakumos. Hopefully you won't even need it - you prefer to not shoot people in the face - but against humans a bullet is just as good as slinging a spell. Speaking of, you stand up and make your way to an old box you've had since you were a child and open it. Inside is a bunch of stuff of What Could Have Been. Talismans, Purification Needles, these weird orbs with the symbol of Yin Yang on them, and a Shrine Maiden's attire. You mom passed all of this on to you, but you never got the chance.
Your mom... you pick up the red-white outfit and stare at it. She and your dad always had a strong sense of right and wrong; how would they look at you now? When you think of them, you can only ever see their brains splattered across the room, witnesses to a murder that they never meant to see. You can still recall the smell of gunpowder, the regretful look the Lunar Rabbit gave you when she saw you cowering under the kitchen table. You recall the Eientei emblem on her blazer, splattered with flecks of your dad's blood because he refused to die so she had to stab him fifteen more times, just to make sure.
Whatever. Crying about the past doesn't make them come back. You toss the outfit back into the box and pull out the talismans. You've never used these particular ones, but you remember enough lessons from your mom that you can copy them. They're way weaker than what these probably are, but they're effective enough when dealing with low-level youkai, should they prove to be a problem. And it's usually the weaker ones who want to start shit; the older ones have more restraint and are more willing to create centuries-long plans and wait for pieces to fall into place. It's rare that a long-lived youkai wants to start shit all the time. Anyway, copying the talismans takes no effort on your part. A quick word of power and a wave of your hand and its done. Still, it takes energy, so you head back to the microwave, grab your cold soy, and sit on the couch to eat.
You flip channels to a music show and leave it there. You half focus on the screen as boys and girls dance around onstage, turning your thoughts inward instead. You should take a shower tonight instead of in the morning. You also need to find that address Swarm left for you. You consider what kind of person she must be to write something down on paper. You didn't even know people still used paper, but from what you could tell she's still fairly traditional. Hell, she's practicing Shinto! People following religion in the 2070s? Perish the thought!
The meal is cold and bland, just like everything else made out of soy these days. You question whether or not it's even soy. It could be artificial soy, which is basically maximum recursion when it comes to fake processed food. Would fake, fake food recurve into real food? Would it be twice as fake? Is wasting your time on pointless question how you want to waste your life? No, of course not, there are far more pleasant things to waste your life on. Like eating real food. You stand up and walk into the kitchen, tossing the soy container into the trash, and step into your tiny washroom. All that's really in here is a pile of laundry and a washer-dryer, but even with those two things it's cramped as fuck in here. Claustrophobes need not apply.
At any rate, your pants from last night are easy enough to find sitting at the top of the pile. Skinny jeans courtesy the nutjob you call a friend. At least they looked good on you, although you prefer more functional wear normally. But hey, it's not every night you get invited to the most expensive nightclub in Gensokyo. Sure, you'll probably owe someone down the line, but a little enjoyment every now and again won't kill you, and besides, you might have made a new point of contact. Of course, there's little a kid fresh out of high school could possibly know, but if she really works at a Shrine, all sorts of people go to places like that to ask for forgiveness. She might be useful down the road.
She also has that burning heart like you did at that age, with the difference being that she might have the magic to back it up. Time will tell. Anyhow, you find the card with the address to the Shrine and set it down next to your talismans. There was the problem of how the fuck you're gonna get there but you figure things like this have a way of working out, mostly because it's so completely inconsequential that the Universe probably won't fuck you on this one. You take your clothes off and walk into your bathroom, or rather the hole in the wall that has a toilet, sink, and standing shower.
The water pressure blows because of course it does. It takes a solid minute for the hot water to kick in, and then you get to play shower tag with the hot/cold knobs until it falls into that golden zone between Actually Antarctica and Literally Boiling. You get about five minutes of furious scrubbing and soaping before the hot water kicks off, but by now you have that down pat. You get out of the shower cleaner, but of course when you're hooked up to the city water, it can't ever be truly that clean. The only source of clean water is the lake in the middle of the city and the fairies sure as hell aren't giving that up. They've seen what happens to clean water in this day and age.
Oh well. You double check to make sure your windows are barred and locked and that your door is secure. You kill the lights and lay down on the couch. You pull the blanket off the back of it and cover up, staring blankly at the ceiling above you. "It's cold tonight," you say to no one in particular. You wish the heating system would work more than a third the time, but the only people who get good working central heat also make six figures a year in this city. The drek don't get that kind of luxury. You're not bitter about that, though; it's not yourself your worried about. Your mind wanders to the people who still live on the streets, human and youkai. If you had a place to call your own that wasn't this ratty as fuck apartment, you'd definitely take some of them in. You feel like it's the Right Thing To Do.
Fuckin Eientei. Fuckin Yakumos.
You wake up with a start. You don't really dream much, but you had a vivid one this time around. You dreamt of yourself, wearing that Maiden outfit in your box, living at a Shrine on the edge of the world. It was nice. It was peaceful. Even your psycopath of a friend was there, and the two of you were sitting on the steps, drinking tea and watching the fairies play. You smile at the fading dream for a few minutes, wondering if that kind of life would even be possible for someone like you. Maybe not this life, but another one.
A peal of thunder brings you back to reality. You toss the blanket aside and sit up, stretching. If only reality was half as pleasant as that peaceful dream, but at the same time, there's no sense in dwelling on things that cannot be. Next to the couch is a basket of clean laundry. You'd put it up if you had anywhere to put it, but since you don't, the basket next to the couch does fine. You fish out a pair of denims, some underwear and a bra, and a red plaid shirt you're pretty certain was in style never. You don't even know where it came from. You throw it all on.
A beanie sits on the arm of your couch. You throw that on, too, since otherwise you'd have to mess with your hair, which is gonna fuck up in the rain anyways. You put your hoodie on and grab a satchel propped up on the back of your couch. Carefully, you put in the talismans, your keycard, and the address to Swarm. A holster hanging off a lamp straps your Light Fire to the small of your back, hidden under your hoodie. Finally, you put your AugReal and earbuds on, grab a few credsticks, and head out. The door seals behind you, and its time to go. You step out into the rainy streets of Gensokyo.
Fuck, you forgot to brush your teeth. You grumble silently. Whatever, it's fine, there's a convenience store outside that sells some of that gums that brushes your teeth for you. You begin down the stairs and activate your AugReal, patching into all the required networks. Universal wi-fi ensures that everyone has a solid connection to all of the Corp-backed music and video channels. All the comforts of home while being out on the road, or, in your case, down a flight of stairs. You tap into a livestream of lofi music and head out the front door. A quick jaunt down the road a bit brings you to the convenience store... although that might be too kind. In reality, it's a vending machine attended to by a fairy. Inside the vending machine are all the essentials - mostly beer, but in your case some morning-fresh gum designed to hide the smell of alcohol on your breath. It's overpriced to shit but when you're in a hurry, anything works.
"Good morning Hakurei," chirps the fairy as you jam the credstick in its slot. You tap the glass where the gum is, watching it fall to the slot. "Still looking for work?"
"Not right now," you reply, pulling out an earbud. "I'm heading across town today to meet a friend. Say, does the maglev still head to Suwa District or did it finally shut down?"
"Uhhh...." you watch the stupid little creature attempt to process what you said. She blinks a few times then brightens up. "Oh, yeah, it died. Mmhmm. The tengu took it out for some reason. It's safe, though, they cut the power to it. Eientei says they'll fix it soon tee-em," you nod. "The kappa have been working on it, though, they're all over Magtown right now."
"Thanks little bit," you pat the fairy on the head and walk toward the maglev, a rail line some thirty feet off the ground. Magtown is a homeless slum that sprung up under the maglev rail system. There's several, but the one here in this district was the first and biggest. It's mostly youkai who couldn't adapt to the modern world, but you find it's also a good play to lay low. Most of the youkai are friendly enough, and the community leader keeps them from eating too many humans.
But it's fine. Magtown likes you most of the time. You keep Eientei off their backs mostly by existing, and besides, Corp. police rarely come by here anyway; instead they throw sentries at this part of town, which inevitably get torn apart by the kappa after a few days. In any event, it's at least as safe as the purely human districts are for other humans. There's only one human that you know they're not a fan of, and she's nowhere to be-
"Yoooo!!!" a voice calls.
Marisa Kirisame, AKA "MKULTRA".
MK was born in America, grew up in the sprawl that is Seattle. Her dad was a decker, her mom a vigilante. Both of them fought bravely for the little guy, and like your own parents, they got gunned down when a Corp decided they didn't like them. A legendary decker called The Fox took her under his wing, cultivated her, shaped her personality... and probably drove her nuts.
When she was with The Fox, she spent more time in Cyberspace than she did in real life. A few forced dumps too many caused her to suffer from Dump Shock, and growing up she alternated between babbling nonsense in Binary and becoming one of the best goddamn deckers on the planet. Too bad Fox wanted her for criminal reasons, so when she was still a teenager, MK used her skills to steal Corp. secrets just to turn around and sell them to another Corp. Went against everything she believed in, caused her downward spiral into being a fucking nutbar.
Somehow, though, she managed to get away and made her way to Gensokyo. The two of you met while your folks were still alive. You helped her get set up here, taught her the rules of the City, and in return, her crazy ass was your bedrock when your parents were killed. As time went on, the two of you forged a deep fucking friendship. She became your information source; it's said there's not a terminal in Gensokyo that doesn't have the phrase "mindcontrol" written in its code somewhere. And she did it on her own, too; no one helped her, the Corp resisted her, and you're pretty sure that the only reason the Yakumos didn't come after her was because of her connection to you.
She's the smartest woman in real life and in Cyberspace. She's the best goddamn decker you know, and you've met some good ones. Too bad she runs on Internet logic, which makes her certifiably insane most of the time.
It's fine. You love her to death. Hell, you're probably crazy too anyway.
MK saunters up to you and puts an arm around you. "I was wondering when you'd make your way over here," she says. "Been waiting all morning."
"Of course you have," you sigh. "How'd you know I was gonna go check out this new kid?"
"Ever since the other night when she was flirtin with you," Marisa laughs. You blush a bit and look away. "Hey, it was cute, 'sall I'm sayin!" She pats your back. "Oh, you're still bein' cautious, I see."
"Well, yeah, I don't know this girl's family. What if they're nutty like you?" you answer, smirking. Marisa chuckles again, and you see that gleam in her eyes that says she's up to no good. But sometimes, someone who's No Good is exactly what you need.
[ ] Invite Marisa along.
[ ] Go it alone.
I was gonna have this update go all the way to the Shrine but it was getting to be a bit much, so I introduced MK a bit earlier than I expected to.