Between runs, the runners got up to some hijinks.
Crimson, Koh and Shandor are invited to a practice match for the nascent Bournemouth Urban Brawl franchise. Their victory is forestalled by the arrival of the Canford Reclamation Society. Though their assault was easily rebuffed, one of the would-be revolutionaries was the mayor’s son – and the mayor’s legal force proved more challenging for the franchise. Arthur tagged along to spectate, and happened to meet a grubby dwarf chick who he got on very well with. They also met their mildly psychotic street-vendor friend, who’d worked out a plan to sell custom figurines of the Brawl players to the spectators.
Milo, hired by a jealous husband to keep an eye on his late-working wife, discovers a ritual under development. Its mystic formula mentions dragons and Saint George. The ritual is delivered to some generic-looking suits. Later, more ominous suits present Milo with the Official Secrets Act and serious warnings to keep schtum about what he’s observed. Oh well, he still got paid…
Greg’s hacker clique had discovered a mysterious set of files left in the wake of the weird Matrix outage of the previous weeks. Each pointed to a Matrix address. Greg followed one to the DVLA, and recovered an encrypted file marked as one-third of an executable. Combined with the other two parts, it complained of being run in the wrong place. Triangulating the physical locations of the three sites led to an empty node, where the file summoned a message from a construct identifying itself as 387X211C. “Evaluation completed. Candidates acceptable. Await instructions,” it told the assembled deckers before vanishing. 387X211C, it turns out, is the name of a NeoNET AI, tasked to develop enhanced communication protocols…
Episode writeup by Crimson follows
Crimson reaches her ’link just in time to see the “message deleted” notice and has to resist the urge to throw the thing against the wall.
Luckily, Koh calls her a short time later, with Shandor and Cheryl in on the call. She sounds excited.
Koh picks her up in the morning as promised and for once lays off the insults and only raises an eyebrow when Crimson pauses for her customary chat and fluttering of eyelids at Scott.
They drive to the address indicated in the message by the Urban Brawl League message. It is a poorly-taped off area if the Barrens demarcated by red and white tape strung between electric fence posts.
Shandor and Cheryl are waiting and are obviously looking forward to the coming contest. Shandor vaults off the ruined wall she is sitting on with a “Let’s go” and leads the way to what Crimson guesses is the official’s trailer. On the way, she stops the other three girls, at first because she has spotted Arthur in the spectator’s area in an argument over where the VIP area is and why there is no bar, then because she spots familiar figure manning one of the stalls.
It is the enterprising hobo who tried to sell them a length of rebar before. He is still wearing his old suit with the paintmarks on his skin attempting to mask the holes in the suit but he now appears to have a business model, at least.
The team nods all round and they take their positions. Crimson tucks the ball under her arm and waits for the starting lights to go out. When they do, she takes off as fast as she can. Rounding a corner, she sees the other team’s bike coming straight at her and sticks out her arm in an attempt to clothesline the rider. He sees her coming, however and swerves to avoid being knocked off the bike.
Meanwhile, Shandor has moved up and is shooting two-fisted at team blue’s runners, taking out one and pinning the other in cover. Crimson is heading for the endzone when the other medic pops up behind a piece of rubble and opens up, clipping Crimson with one of the stick ‘n shock rounds. Ignoring the pain, Crimson runs at the medic who is frantically trying to draw a bead on the approaching elf and kicks her in the hip. Hard. The medic goes down, leaving Crimson with a simple run-in.
“One-nil, red” one of the circling drones announces.
Crimson high fives her team back in their endzone “What next?” she asks the team.
“How about you go for a stealthy approach while I run interference with Cheryl and Koh picking off anybody from the top of that building?” Shandor nods at a derelict low-rise with good views of the approach to their goal.
“Worth trying.” Koh says and makes her way to the top of the ruin. Crimson sneaks around the back of a shattered apartment building towards the goal when she hears Shandor’s guns firing rapidly, followed by groans and a muffled thump as the gunslinger takes down one of the opponents.
As she is approaching the endzone Crimson hears an engine coming towards the game area and sees a black panel van barrelling towards the two runners Shandor gunned down. The sliding door opens and a hand reaches for one of them, only to be hastily withdrawn when it is hit by a stick ‘n shock round, courtesy of Koh on top of her building.
Shandor once again lets fly with her pistols and takes out the driver who slumps forward with his foot on the gas. The van picks up speed, heading straight at Crimson. She makes sure the game is won by touching the ball down, then runs straight at the van, vaults off the bonnet and comes down hard on the sunroof which shatters, dumping an angry elven close combat adept in the middle of a group of men clearly not ready for this.
One of them says “This was a terrible idea”. He is right. Crimson introduces his head to the side of the van, then feels guilty when she realises how poorly-prepared these guys are and holds off. Just when she is about to open the door and leave the intruders be, the van collides with a building, throwing Crimson and the four men forward against the bulkhead. Crimson hits her head, hard, and can feel two of her recently-healed ribs crack again. The four men are less lucky and are knocked out cold. When her vision has stopped blurring Crimson opens the side door and notices a blinking bracelet on one the men as she jumps out.
A calm mechanical voice says “Vital sign interruption detected. High threat response team is on its way.”
Shandor who has wandered over, takes a quick snap of the guy “Wonder who he is” she says as she supports a limping Crimson.
The game effectively over, the team scarper before the Doc Wagon response team can mistake them for a threat to their charge.
Crimson limps into her home and is once again intercepted by Scott, whose smile turns to a look of worry when he sees the cut in her scalp and how she is protecting her bruised ribcage.
“Traffic collision. Some idiots thought it would be a good idea to crash an Urban Brawl match.” She explains, studying him, still trying to work out why he is different. She is very good at reading body language and thinks his concern for her is genuine. Why then is he not pushy like pretty much any other guy Crimson has ever dated?
“Urban Brawl. Jeez. Do you need any help?” he moves to lend a hand and she suddenly realises what it must be. He must be one of those very rare breed of men not full of themselves, even more, he does not even seem to realise that he is incredibly attractive.
Finally satisfied with her assessment, she lets him open the door for her and smiles at him “Thanks Scott, I’ll be fine now.”
“Claire?” he calls after her.
She turns “Yeah?”
He walks up to her awkwardly “Ummm. I’ve wanted to ask you if you’d like to get something to eat tonight. You said we should get together again last week, didn’t you?” he manages. “That’s if you’re feeling up to it.”
“I’d love to” she tells him “did you have anywhere in mind?”
“Well, there’s this Greek place in town that’s pretty good. Athena.”
Crimson has not been there but has heard of it and its reputation is good “Sounds great. Can you pick me up at seven?” she asks.
“Sure, see you then.” He says with a smile that makes Crimson’s day and walks back to his office.
In the lift to her penthouse her commlink rings. Shandor has identified the man with the bracelet. “It’s only the mayor’s son. The idiot threw in with the Canford Reclamation Society, a bunch of jackasses who think that by causing enough trouble Canford will somehow return to what it once was. Anyway, the upshot is that the Urban Brawl Commission is being sued by the mayor and the PBMA. Looks like our UB careers are over” she says sadly.
“I’m sure they’ll be back. Otherwise there’s always Greater Portsmouth to try. Cheers for the info. Gotta go get ready, I’ve got a date.”
“Yeah I know. Your ‘link called me and was on while you were making googly eyes at your security guard, so I caught most of it. Don’t worry, I won’t tell Arthur. He might be busy anyway. Did you see him hook up with that drunken dwarf hobo lady? They were getting along like a house on fire. Seems like he’s found himself a soulmate” the orc grins exposing her fangs. “Have fun and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do” she hangs up.