RUN #4

  • (PbEM+) "SCENES FROM A MALL"

    My name's Weaver, I'm a mallbrat, the best there is at what I do. An' what I do is make a lotta money...For me, for my boss, for the people smart enough to buy my goods. Ya gotta have a certain kinda rep to do what I do...you can't give the impression that you can be pushed around all the time. Sure, on the surface I look like the kinda kid that gets rolled for his lunch money everyday; but the point is...schmucko...looks can be deceiving. Yeah, they better be! It's all in the rep, you know, if you play your cards right, the big boys'll be scared a you cuz'a what kinda stuff you can bring down on their heads! Yeah, saves a lotta time at the local gym, lemme tellya.

    So there's this sword, see? An' once upon a time it was under my protection...well, kinda. The Bulls were crawlin' all over the place and we had blood-suckin' vampires stalking the mall. But, uh, they didn't swipe the blade...nah, it was stolen by the dame, the one I let in through the front door...the one I trusted. Sure, pretty incredibly stupid of me, huh? I'd probably deserve a few rounds, you know, if I were willing to admit it. But it's all a big game, ya see, and the name of the game is "Cover YOUR Ass." I haveta tellya, I'm a REAL good player....yeah, ACES!

    Now the boss, he makes it sound like he doesn't really care...says, "Hey kid, whatever happened to it, no big deal, ok? It's yours now, my gift to you in recognition of a job well done. Now get outta here!" Even if that were true, and it ain't exactly a good idea to count on it, we're still talkin' a rep thing. Word gets around that ol' Weaver can be pushed around...well, people WILL be crawlin' all over the mall PUSHIN' me around! Can't have it, no sir.

    Another thing is that sword is worth over 5,000 Euro (Street) and that ain't hay. Y'know, it's possible the boss was bein' real sincere here, so it's a cash-profit thing too. And now I'm hearing that Head-Man Ferret plays with a chopper like this too, an' if he thinks of me as a protégé at all, then the whole gift-thing kinda falls together. Count on it, it's comin' back to my hands...it's just a matter of when and how much it's gonna hurt.

    There's this dame, see? She calls herself Rapture but don't count on it, huh? The kinda broad that'd bite you on the neck just to see what you taste like! The kinda crazy chick that'd talk you into leaping from one rapidly moving vehicle to another! The sorta gal your mom always warned you about...that'll get you in trouble time and TIME again!! Yeah...Rapture, whatta a total pain in the butt! And there she is now...in MY mall with her black-goth-friends, swiping MY merchandise from MY stores on MY watch. No WAY she's gettin' away with this...it all ends NOW!

    I glide, effortlessly, down the escalator...I slip like a shadow past the Red Tag Items...I momentarily pause at my multiple reflections in the mirror-shades display...yeah, lookin' good!

    "AHEM! Are you people buying this" -GM

    "For what REALLY went on at the Mall look here!"

    Back to WEAVER'S Recounting...

    Suddenly, she spots me and the jig is up. Licking her lips like a snake, she moves towards me like a snake too but I'm ready with the heaviest weapons in the arsenal...groveling! She acts like it's not working but I can tell I'm wearin' her down.

    Finally, I get the dope outta her. She doesn't have the sword anymore...WHAK! Not that she sold it or anything, not that she's that smart, but she kinda lost it...WHAK! Not exactly lost, ya see, it was taken from her...taken by the Sacred Blades...WHAK! WHAK!! WHAK!!! But hold on, waitasecond...this ain't makin' any sense. The Sacred Blades are an older street gang but mainly a nice-guy one, hooked on all that honor and virtue stuff...it just don't follow that they'd beat up some goth-Girl and take her Slicer, just for kicks.

    Ok, there's more. Maybe it wasn't the Sacred Blades exactly, maybe it was their junior-gang, the wannabes called the Razor-Blades. Yeah, she's sayin' there were a whole BUNCH'A them while I'm recallin' that there's only three in the WHOLE gang. Her story's changin' faster than vids in the top ten, but ya know it's all gotta be leadin' somewhere. And with Rapture, it's gonna be that dark and lonely place called trouble! It takes a while but I finally put together the truth. Brain-Dead was struttin' around with over five thousand bucks wortha mono-blade fashion-katana at her side...bumped into the Razors and started talkin' the TALK! Bic and Schick, the boys in the gang, pretty much just stood around and sneered as their youngest member, the girl...Gillette (whose brother, Falcion, is a big wheel in the Sacred Blades), sucker-punched Rapture, gave her a black eye and TOOK the sword!

    My kinda dame. But it's still my kinda sword. Time to go into a little overtime. Suddenly, Rapture ain't of any more use to me so I send her off without so much as a dime for a fresh cuppa hot "joe." Nah, we ain't gonna storm the Razors! Nah, we ain't gonna storm both the Razors and the Sacred Blades!! Nah, will you JUST get the heck AWAY from me!!! GEEZ!!!!

    So now I gotta plan. Ok, maybe not really, but enough of the facts to try and dream uppa plan...anyway, there's other stuff to do. Fr' instance, all of the heavy goods have been taken outta the mall which means all of the heavy PROFITS! Big problem, and Alfonzo ain't helpin' with his "whatta we gonna do, I can't get ahold of the boss!" routine. Look, just keep flipping the pies and usin' the REAL sauce and keep Miguel outta the kitchen! The rest of it's on MY shoulders.

    I dig up the plans for the Mall-Underground and give 'em a scan, can't figure out why they seem sorta incomplete. Anyway, looks like "X" marks the spot and I found a good passage...easy to secure with the right equipment...outta the way...hard to spot...easy for me to move in an' out of....yeah, poifect! It's a little dusty but no problem...all we need now is the right kinda hardware to wire the place. But ol' Alfons says he can't get it timely without the boss' help. Yeah, alright, quit'cher cryin'.

    But before I can handle that it looks like I gotta mall-brat convention goin' on at Hotsa Pizza. But it ain't just a bunch stylishly-dressed punks sniffin' for my blood in the water, nah...I'm bein' honored by the presence of "5-Fingers Willy" from New Harbour, "Outlet" of the Campus Mall, and "Clearance" from the West Side Mall! It's pretty clear they ain't here for the lunchtime special and it don't take no special genius to figure just WHO they came to see. I take a chair.

    Willy's talkin like he's hot-stuff, gonna push me around...lights up a cigarette, gettin' ready to blow smoke-rings at me. Neh...I lay down the ashtray I scammed from XTC for his butts and it kinda puts things in perspective. Stone the Solo? Yeah, he's a REAL good friend'a mine! So we talk the Slammer and we talk XTC and we talk how a so-called low-level kid like me with my little po-dunk, haunted mall, is gettin' into places like that and what's goin' ON! Mainly, I take the fifth, sayin as how I'm doin' business for guys like Stone...it ain't the sorta thing I can talk about, right? Hey, not only is it TRUE, but it helps me crush their little heads!!

    Outlet's pretty quietly impressed, looking at me with her violet-tinted eyes; while ol' Clearance there...he just plain wants my autograph! Willy's pissed, figuring that a punk like me who owes his whole POSITION in this place to him, ought'a be more loyal and stuff! This brings us back to the bit a moment ago about the place bein' haunted...don't think I didn't notice.

    Seems about a year ago something happened to put the kibosh on "Boutique" the previous Mallbrat on the East End. She disappeared kinda mysterious like on the same day as three ArcoRunners, Two Squats, and one each of the Tinkertots and the Vidiots. Basically, that was her support squad. Geez, I got ONE Guardian not exactly on the payroll an' that's it! Anyway, you hearing this? That was nearly a YEAR ago and I just moved in three months back! The place has been kinda fallow since then. The Vidiot got a short piece of his own attack on tape (big shadow and then a scream), kinduva last hurrah, and that's ALL anyone knows. Later bunch of Arcos bumped into maybe Nichobean and got the scare in them but good, that's what's with the "Off-Limits" warning! I dunno, maybe Camby had somethin' to do with this, could'a been he needed a buncha test subjects to finish his experiments and find out just what exactly blood type his serum demanded. Kinda, I'm just guessing here.

    The point is that when Willy planted me in East End without so much as a warning, he really figured I was just bait to see if the mall was still a stalking ground or not. Oh yeah? "Hey Alfonso...NO extra cheese for THIS guy!"

    Well, all I can say is if Camby was the menace (not that I used his REAL name), then, hey, he was messin' with MY business and I dealt with it, OK? So we break up soon after, though Outlet slips me a note, says she wants to have dinner with me later on at Camberdella's, a nice Italian place on her side'a town. Sounds good to me sister, I'll bring an appetite.

    So they leave and I break out in a cold sweat over all the times I was down in the basement thinkin' I was safe an' secure. I hear Willy wants ta move outta New Harbor and become more of a Fixer...yeah, good idea, might not wanna stick around in one place TOO long, creep!

    While we was all showin' off, Outlet dropped a dime 'bout a place SHE'S been, an exclusive nightclub called the Afterlife. Three floors of basic debauchery...bottom is the main party level, that's all she saw...second floor is a little heavier, with all the rich ducks and their unhealthy preferences...and you don't wanna KNOW about the third floor. Things start to click!

    But first...I gotta see Ferret. An' that's too bad because after dragging my feet over to the warehouse, I see that he's moved out and a buncha rubes are haulin' fish where guns used to be. Yeah, an' nobody thought to leave me a forwardin' address. This ain't, eh, lookin' so good.

    So ok, it's gonna be a long night. I gotta dinner-date at 8:30, gotta catch the end of the Slasher's hockey game to meet up with Guido so's I can meet up with Ferret after, and then I need a nightcap at XTC! Figure, these days, a kid's gotta work HARD for his piece'a the action! An' yeah, I wouldn't have minded having Diomedes along as somethin' of a bodyguard, but it seems he's come down with some kinda flu. At first it sounds like he's gonna cash it in on the Carbon Plague, an' I WARNED him about that kinda thing! I'm a thoughtful kinda guy, so I send him some flowers and take ANOTHER long bath and a buncha vitamins. Later on it turns out he just caught a nasty bug and he's fine.

    Yeah, mainly dinner with Outlet's nothing fresh, other than the food is better than anything I'VE ever tasted. Campus Mall is more touristy, ain't no fancy hardware, but a lotta 'spensive gifts, an' art an' stuff and a whole mess'a snooty restaurants. I'd already heard that Outlet mainly deals in information and this gets confirmed by the friendly third degree she winds up givin' with in trying to scan the news as to just what went on with Camby and the East Side. Yeah, tough break, sister, I frustrate her a little, not spillin' everything. gotta be careful when you don't know who she's brokering for.

    From her I find out how my plan with the Razorblades is making out. See, I was trusting in their sense of honor and general feelings about Rapture and Goths, an' spread the word that the Sword was rippe, s'gonna cause a wholelotta trouble, and ain't the "honorable" booty they thought it was! Anyway, this is basically working, so the vidiot's fee for the newscast paid off. Unfortunately, before they return it, Gillette wants Rapture on her HANDS and KNEES. So get in line!

    I also get more dope on the Afterlife, and what it might take to get someone I'm thinkin' of inside. Seems like all you need is a "Pass", proper ID (there's people who still care about that sorta thing), and the right kinda fashion sense. Clearance figures Forge of the downtown minimart can handle the ID stuff, long as the subject ain't TOO young looking, in which case he's gotta come up with the proof of hormone/age-suppression stuff and then we're talkin' BIG bucks! Nah, that shouldn't be a problem. So alright then, she handles the bill. MY kinda dame!

    Sneaking into the Hockey Stadium ain't gonna happen, but once I get one'a the cheap seat tickets and get inside, slipping anywhere's just no real problem. So I get down in the team's area and hang around outside the changing room. Turns out boss-man Ferret's there anyway an' I casual-like, bump into him. Yeah, he's impressed, ok? An' he's got his main squeeze with him, nice respectable lady name'a Christina Hernandez. Good thing I didn't say anything stupid cuz this turns out to be His wife, runs a fancy doll-store uptown in one'a them skyscraper office buildings.

    So anyway, he takes me up to his skybox and we talk business. Yeah, so ok, we need this shopping list and then the East End's reopened for business! Figured that's what he wants anyway, right, since he left his six-man goon squad in place as the mall security (thanks to Outlet for THAT one), an' I was right! Somewhere in here he takes a jab about the sword, says something' like, "Yeah Weevil, since you don't have it wit' ya then the rumors I wuz hearin' must be true and it really was, eh, ripped off. Neh, I don't mind sayin' I'm a little disappointed..."

    "So like, hey boss...eh...don't worry...I mean, yeah sure, the sword was definitely ripped by someone else 'cuz I sure wouldn't do anything like that to you, yaknow? But, eh, you can count on ol' Weeze...uh, Weaver to have it back already, no problem, right? heh. Just didn't figure on carryin' it everywhere I go, ya know, it's real valuable, right? But if you want I'll...eh...bring it to our next meetin', yeah." Piece'a cake, ok, an' now THAT'S done.

    So Ferret sets it up so that Tony (one'a his security-boys from the mall) gives me a ride crosstown so I can have a quick chat with Rapture at her Goth hangout in the Campus Tower. No, I ain't stupid enough to climb up there and have my neck become an aperitif for these skintone-challenged pretty-boys. Eventually she comes down and I put the question, "So, eh...lissen, if I get you and a pal, into the big bash next week at the, you know, Afterlife, are YOU willing to apologize to Gillette for bein' a jerk and, eh, get my chopper back?"

    I take the way her eyes bugged out as a real big "yes!" Now it's just to XTC and...yaaaawwwwwnn...my night is over.

    I walk in the back, place is REAL quiet, the cook's happy to see me and makes a quick duck out to talk to Stone. Warning bells are flashing that this is just WAY too easy but I let it slide. Stone comes back, mentions that the place is empty cuz its always closed on Mondays, relax, and ushers me in. Then he plops me down at a table with four of the most famous guys in modern legend. Yeah...over there is Johnny Silverhand, rocker-boy supreme, anti-guv terrorist, and HEAD of the Eden Cabal. Leanin' on his shoulder is Alt, his rumored-to-be dead girlfriend. Across is Morgan Freehand aka the Hammer, ya know, the solo who knocked off the Vice-Prez and a heckuva good chunk of the cabinet? And in the middle is the hologram of the disembodied head of Rache, a rouge A.I. What can I say, ya know, drinks all around on me!

    So ok, they wanted to know what was up with Doc Camby and how I got involved with delivering the disc and anything else interesting that I sorta mighta heard or seen. And, you know, basically I pretty much told 'em...eh, everything and didn't leave out so much as a dot or a dash. You gotta problem with that? So they're real happy to have made my acquaintance and seem overall pleased when I mentioned that, "nah, you can't just be totally focused on making money...sometimes you gotta do what's right too!" Yeah, I was having to think pretty fast on my feet here but that seemed like it'd play kinda well.

    Things break up, I getta chance to talk with Stone. Seems Morgan saved his life once so he figures he owes these fugitives from justice a place to meet once in a while and a free drink or two. Long as nothing happens and things stay safe...mainly for his daughter's sake...he's happy. Yeah, he's gotta kid, I met her briefly, her name's Valerie, a school-chick around fifteen. She came down while me and "the guys" were talking. Seemed pretty nice and polite; some time ago got used to famous killers hanging around with her Pops.

    Anyway, I got the pass for the Afterlife from Stone like I figured...he said it's pretty dangerous and I said, "hey, relax, like it's not for me." Even mentioned it's a buy-off for my Goth-Girl acquaintance to do me a little, eh, favor. "Oh yeah, I totally, you know, agree, Mr. Stone. She's completely out of control...gonna get herself in REAL trouble someday. Whadayathink, huh? yeah, HER parents must be REALLY something!!"

    Well, it's still a few hours before dawn, an' it's been a long, hard day and the night was even longer. But it all feels worth it when a complex operation and arrangement is gonna go off without a hitch. Yeah, piece'a cake.

    Sure enough, I get the ID from Forge, no problem, and set up a makeover at the stylist so that Rapture and her "date" will be allowed inside the Afterlife. what happens after that, eh, it's not really my concern, ya'know? But around the time I'm supposed to meet her, whadayknow, she ain't anywhere to be seen! Great...stupid, brain-dead chick, makin' me WAIT!! So I had time to kill and I DID happen to notice Valerie wandering by, so I popped on over to, you know, be social and all. And she says, "Ok, Rat-Boy, let's get this thing settled and out of the way! Huh, what's the surprise? You didn't expect me to humiliate myself wearing my COLORS, didja?!"

    There's not much I remember about our meeting with the Razorblades, her apology, and me getting the sword back. Everything's a haze. All I know is these new kendo lessons better, you know, kinda take real quick so that I can offer at least, eh, a couple'a seconds of resistance before Stone kills me....yeah.

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