Game Thread Round 4 SR5 - Blackfyre, UngainlyFool - RPG Crossing
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  #1  
Old 07-30-2020, 08:24 PM
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Round 4 SR5 - Blackfyre, UngainlyFool


The Final Interview
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Sir Ethan
It is late in the evening, after the Skills fair, and the four competitors have all been asked to visit with Sir Ethan in his office. They sit in chairs, waiting to be called in one by one.

Colmo sways in his chair, still trying to kick the last of that buzz as he listens to Steppz yammer on, wondering if that dragon hadn't been a hallucination after all. Steppz gets up, and sits down, before getting up and sitting down, again. His choice of music and the few stretches he could do in the hallway doing little to ease his tension. Meanwhile, Bonus sits playing her performance back in her head. She'd wowed the judges with the combat evaluation. Still, was humbling Dug the right choice? He seems all business, but you never can tell with the quiet ones. Tamara just waits patiently. She'd just tamed a wild tiger, waiting in a hallway for too long is a much-needed break.

First Colmo is called in. After a few minutes, he leaves with a smile on his face. You notice the mountain mage has a strange comlink in his hands. The same model used by the four sponsors. Had Colmo made the cut?!

Next Stepzp is called in. This time, the deliberation takes a bit longer. But, like Colmo, The elf leaves Sir Ethan's office, again with a brimming smile, wearing a vest brimming with Sir Stefphonston's gang colors. Things are looking promising. But then, there is a long wait. Brom, Sir Stefphonston, Saint Cecilia and Dug all arrive, and enter Sir Ethan's office. All four of them have concerned looks on their faces and refuse to make eye contact with the two remaining runners. Through the door, you can hear a heated conversation.

"If I was involved, you would have never known anything even happened," Dug says loudly at one point.

Saint Cecilia can be heard saying, "I didn't know before the slip was caught. I would have told you immediately."

"I knew something was fishy, but couldn't quite put my finger on it," Brom states, dignified as ever.

"And I am the one who told you about it. They spelled the name wrong. Sir Ether was a dead giveaway! "

The conversation goes on for several minutes before Bonus and Tamara are called in at the same time. The Sponsors are all sitting on the wall to the left, looking at the pair of you with a critical eye. Despite this, one thing catches your attention above and beyond anything else. There is but ONE remaining comlink sitting on Sir Ethan's desk.

Sir Ethan invites you to take a seat. "I wish I could say congratulations, but we have a complication. It has come to our attention that some of the forms with judges' results from the Skills Fair have been tampered with. Specifically, both of your cards were altered, so show scores above and beyond what any of the event judges remember writing down. We have caught the culprit who swapped the cards, but we have reason to believe that one of you was in on it from the beginning. Our job here is to figure out which one of you is guilty, and which one of you truly belongs here. Moreover, we know that initial contact was made with our culprit during our Introduction session at The Waltzing Witches Tavern and Inn. Our live-fire exercise was held here, and we ran it ourselves, so we know nothing fishy happened there. "

Sir Ethan stands, placing a chrome-plated Colt Manhunter on the table. He starts pacing back and forth along the exterior-side wall of his office. "Dug vouched for both of you and is claiming your innocence. But of course he would, and we have sources that say otherwise. So, we are going to walk back over your steps and make sure your stories check out. First off, tell me everything you can remember about what you did, and who you talked to that night at The Waltzing Witch and why you thought you had to cheat when you have such skills."



OODMWelcome to the Final Round of Outplay 2020! This is a freestyle roleplay round, with no mechanics involved. The judges' votes alone will determine the winner. Having said that, you are free to use any skills/spells/abilities that you like throughout the round. Just remember, that success or failure of these will not be judged in a mechanical manner the way they have in previous rounds.
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Last edited by Bhelogan; 08-22-2020 at 04:46 PM. Reason: some spelling and grammar cleanup
  #2  
Old 08-17-2020, 07:06 AM
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Nerve wracking wait
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After the trials had been over the word had spread that results would be had that very evening. On the one hand Tamara was glad about this, seeing as it would mean no sleepless nights, no fidgeting, wondering about the outcome. On the other hand, it also meant that it might be best not to get drunk after all. She had no idea if things would be done now or if there were more tests to be had. A (mostly) clear head seemed like a good idea.

A helping of the real(!) food from the bar had served to offset some of the effects the earlier vodka had had on her. Not to mention that the tacos she had chosen had been truly sublime. Well fed and with another coffee close at hand Tamara had eventually found her way to the hallway where she waited together with the others to be told what was what. Colmo was the first in. Was that a good sign, or a bad one for her? Would they give out bad news before the good? Arguments could be made for either option.

A little while later it seemed that "good news" was the answer. Didn’t he say things went badly for him? What then did this mean? Had he grossly misjudged himself? "Congratulations, Colmo!" She said, sincerity and nervousness audible in her voice. Yes, she was happy for the dwarf, whom she had gotten along with well, but she felt that she could have shown it much better knowing her own judgement.

Next up was Steppz. Tamara exchanged a glance with B0nus, trying to judge the other woman’s feelings. Was she just as nervous as herself? And why did things take so long? Shouldn’t they already know the results? Or were they only deliberating the final decision with the candidate inside? I should have asked Colmo. An oversight that could not be undone now.

In an attempt to prevent herself from fidgeting the hairdresser picked up her coffee, taking a sip from it every once in a while. Finally Steppz left the office, apparently also having been chosen. Somehow she couldn’t feel quite as happy for the elf as she had for Colmo. How many members were the Companions choosing? Sir Ethan had said "a few" hadn’t he? Surely that meant she still had a chance. Right? "Congrats, Steppz," she managed somehow before the young man could leave. Yes, definitely not as cheerful as before.

Tamara threw another glance towards B0nus. Who’d be next?

The sponsors, it seemed, was the answer. The wanna-be shadowrunner frowned at that. Something seemed off here. "You think this is another test?" she asked B0nus. Any conversation seemed better at that point than the silent waiting. "See how we deal with the stress of the uncertainty? Not that we haven’t shown we can deal with pressure in the last few days, but it would be like them, wouldn’t it?"

Parts of a heated conversation started to spill out of the room and did not help to alleviate the tension - or make the situation any clearer. A slip? Something fishy? What was that about? Tamara couldn’t help herself and got up, walking closer to the door in the hopes of hearing more of the altercation, but with little luck. Before she could really come up with some kind of interpretation, though, the door opened and, to her surprise and further confusion, both women were asked inside at the same time.


Baseless allegationsFrom the first moment it felt like walking in front of a tribunal. Tamara regarded the five Companions and threw a glance at the commlink on the table. The implication of that one was clear. The rest not so much, though her confusion was quickly dispelled. She blinked at the accusation. All week long she had worried about her background coming out. About how the Companions would react if they found out she had no experience in the shadows whatsoever. But Dug had found out - easily, it had seemed - and had apparently just taken it in stride. Somehow this baseless allegation did not make her writhe in her seat, nervously. It did not make her afraid - though the gun Sir Ethan placed on the table certainly made her swallow. No, the charges made her angry.

"Really? After all the drek we went through to get to this point you think one of us cheated? And in such a stupid way, too?" A little voice in her head pointed out that, if one of them cheated, and it clearly hadn’t been her, it had to have been B0nus. Then again… She frowned. "This doesn’t add up." She frowned, looked at the wall, unseeing, logically thinking about what she had heard.

"And it really doesn’t, does it? First off, you say some kind of contact was made on the day of the introductions. Well, the Witch was wired, was it not? Dug, as easily as you, well, dug through our past," she just assumed that she hadn’t been the only one, "it should be childsplay for you to search the footage for everything about this culprit, yes? See who they talked to. That way you all don’t have take our words for whom we had contact with. After all, why would you? You won’t believe me telling you right now that I did not cheat." Even if B0nus was guilty, she would say the same, so she couldn’t really blame them for that, even though she still felt bitter about it. Then again, Dug seemed to be on their side. At least a little positive note in all this.

"And not just that. You guys are supposed to be the best in the business. That’s why we are here. Check the culprit’s commlink, talk to them. After all, there has to have been further contact with them, right? Nobody of us knew what kind of tests you had planned. Nobody could have known what to do to cheat." She shook her head. "Not to mention, how stupid do you think we are? Blatantly faked score cards? Honestly, if you truly think either of us had a hand in that, then cheating isn’t the only reason to boot that person out. Something like this doesn’t even benefit either of us." Well, it created confusion. It cast doubt on both women.

In a fit of recklessness Tamara added: "You said it yourself, Sir Ethan, why cheat with such skills?" Apparently they had made an impression. "So instead of assuming we cheated, you should consider what these allegations do: they try to discredit your best applicants!" She had made it this far and even without Sir Ethan’s words she was sure she had done well during the skill tests. If there had ever been a time to show self assurance, surely this was it. "Maybe think about who would benefit from that.

Especially in light of the fact that the real scores should be easily obtainable. Surely the judges remember what they wrote a few hours ago, no? And while you have them do that, why aren’t you a little more to the point about what makes you think either of us did this. Give us the chance to properly defend ourselves. Better yet, I would like to have a chat with this "culprit" of yours, hear for myself what they have to say."
She threw a glance towards B0nus. And I’m also curious what you will say. And she did, she should probably also think about how to get out of this fiasco as the one chosen, if it really remained at only one more slot being available.
  #3  
Old 08-17-2020, 01:28 PM
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Coming down
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The excitement and relief of having finished off the night of tests took a while to fall away from Bonus. Even though Colmo was trying his best to hang on to the tiger tail of his buzz and Tamara had decided not to get hammered as well, Steppz was drinking enough for the four of them. Bonus switched to ice water early on. It was a rare thing to have a bar ready to serve her despite knowing her age, but she wasn't in the mood to kill the natural high of adrenaline. She raised her clear mocktail at one point to the giant troll who had gotten her one earlier during the tests as he headed to the door to leave. She still couldn't grab the elf's attention he was with though.

Eventually the gut busting laughing at Steppz reliving his trials couldn't be sustained and the conversations and jokes and shared nervousness or confidence wound down along with the rest of the room. Word came down that certain decisions were being made that night and so they were all to hang around. Bonus could feel herself sweating in her chameleon suit all bound up like a magician in a straight jacket and suddenly felt the need to get out of it as soon as she could. Slipping off to the toilet (or bathroom as it would become), she found a moment to peel herself out of the armor and get into some regular clothes she brought along just in case. She bid goodnight to Ju!c3 and took out her contacts and washed the product out of her hair in the sink.

Looking up at her face in the mirror and squeezing water out of the damaged, pink tresses, she was reminded of the first night in the Waltzing Witch, collecting herself after the embarrassment with Dug and the runners who had flocked around him. It felt like ages ago. She was a different person around them now. She felt like she proved something in the mock firefight on the street and in the trials this night. She had made friends and lost friends along the way. She wasn't a joke.

Kathleen tried to smile at herself in the mirror, but she only saw Lacy there. And Lacy didn't smile much. She squeezed harder at her wet hair and then turned away from her reflection to dry her head off under the hand dryer as she had in so many bathrooms so many times before.

The bar was still crowded enough that she was able to slip outside without any fanfare. She found her little electric bike that was due for an upgrade and stashed her armor in the small compartment it had. She looked around at the lights of Stuck's Carnival in the near distance. Cabaret neon lit the dark night in this abandoned part of the metroplex and without her contacts damping the glare it filled the world with a soft glow. Not far away, the evergreens threw a blanket of white noise across the wireless landscape like a wall of natural solitude.

Kathleen leaned back to perch herself on the Dodge Scoot. The night was quiet except for the hissing of air brakes from the huge transport trucks bound for the council lands. She closed her eyes and listened to them stop at the rare highway traffic light and rumble to a start again. The air smelled clean here in a weird way, hidden from the belching factories on the other side of Auburn. She wondered if, once Lace had her legs, they'd get out the city. Maybe live with some of Daniel's tribe for a while with trees and air like this. For this moment, Katheen didn't concern herself with the what was possible. Sometimes it was just nice to dream.

One commlink. One gun.Bonus let her hair fall down over her face and watched her boots and knees bounce with nervous energy in the hall. Colmo had gotten a thumbs up as he came out of Ethan's office sporting his acceptance link. Steppz had gotten a hug. Only the two were left and Tamara floated the question that somehow sounded like a yell in her energetic state even though the older woman spoke with trademark calm.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamara
"You think this is another test? See how we deal with the stress of the uncertainty? Not that we haven’t shown we can deal with pressure in the last few days, but it would be like them, wouldn’t it?"
Bonus turned to look at her through a part in the pink curtain. "Why just us, though? Me and you are in for bad news, seems like." She frowned and went back to looking at her feet, picking a bit of some real or imagined fuzz or food off of her pants. The sponsors floated past them into the office and Bonus forced herself to stillness. The words in the room weren't exactly for their benefit, but they sounded like they were. They could have cut the sound with like some white noise generator or something, but they didn't. Tamara stood up to listen closer and Bonus watched her from her seat. It was a smart thing to do on the off chance this wasn't staged. But she couldn't find it in her to stand up. She took deep breaths and calmed herself, mentally checking her gear distributed around her outfit. When the door opened, she was as calm as she was ever going to be. Best way to face disappointment was to assume it in the first place. She followed Tamara into the room.

If she had some inkling about what they were going to say, it wasn't this. Bonus bit her lip and looked sideways at Tamara as she spoke angrily about the cheating thing. The Face responded like only an honest person or guilty person would, loudly and emphatically. She had the same thoughts as Tamara did down to how dumb the whole thing seemed, but she kept her mouth shut. Again, her thoughts went back to the first meeting and the first test question, how she had echoed Tamara's thoughts and it had gotten her nowhere with Dug. Dug. Over there watching them. Had he really stood up for them? Was this even real?

If it was or if it wasn't, Bonus thought the best plan of defense was to emulate her sponsor. She looked over at him and straightened herself up in her chair as he presented himself. She liberated her lower lip from her teeth and tried to take on an air of reserve. She wanted more than anything to dig out her comm and send a message off, but realized how that would make her look. She caught Dug's eyes and looked down at the chrome plated pistol on the desk and then back up at him.

The Face finished and looked at her. Bonus said, "Remember what you said in the hall." It was the best she could do to relay her thoughts to Tamara without being obvious. She knew with the one commlink that this was the end for one of them, but somehow the way the XC were putting this on them made her rally around her competitor. She'd rather Tamara won than they did. "I guess we are supposed to gather that they already went through this, Tamara. Meetings can be hidden, voices garbled, security files can be erased. The guy planting fakes couldn't be broken or was in a way to make what he said or had on him unreliable. Whatever their scores were, these changes were close enough to not be spotted right away. Maybe me and you aren't the cream of the crop, Tamara. Maybe these fake scores just put us over. Steppz and Colmo, they're the top. You have a partial picture, you're looking to clean up the res, right?"

Bonus took Tamara's hand and squeezed it. If this was for real, that gun on the desk showed the XC thought they were just as extra-territorial as the corps. Turning the the sponsors and Sir Ethan, she released her hand and said, "I'll cut right to it. If you're wondering who could cheat if it is only one of us, it's me." She paused and looked at asian man specifically. "I've got what it takes, Dug. If you think I wouldn't lie, cheat, and steal to get what needs getting, then you didn't dig up enough info on me. I'd do it, if I thought it could be done or if I thought it might do for me in the long run. But none of that is true here. This isn't some harmless con. This is our rep and yours.

So, I'll play along. First person I saw that night was your orc bouncer. He waved me in like it was some private joke. I just figured, well, it's me right? Not the first time I've had that look. Second guy was the bartender who gave me Sidelong's drink. If you call blowing off a creep at a bar some sort of communication, I guess Sidelong's the third. Your man behind the bar gave me that first credstick, so that's it except for talking to the crowd before you, Dug."
Friends call him that and enemies call him that. Which one am I now?
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  #4  
Old 08-18-2020, 07:25 AM
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The Final Interview
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Sir Ethan
Sir Stefphonston raises from his seat and claps. "Well you heard them guys, neither of them did anything wrong, we can all go home now." His voice dripping with sarcasm as his eyes dart to the weapon on the table a few too many times for the pair's comfort.

The dwarf slams his hands onto the desk and locks eyes with Tamera. "Can you look me in the eye and tell me you did nothing untoward during the skills fair?" He gives no time for an answer. "Dont even bother, watch."

A hologram forms from the table, showing the orcish judge helping with the hairdresser's costume. "Wait for it, wait for it." Sir Stefphonston says with growing anger.



"That was cheating, wasn't it?" the man on the display says, adjusting his sunglasses.

"Not if she say it ain't." The orc says with a casual shrug.

"Good point."



The display goes dark, and the dwarf slams the table once more. "You're right, missy," he says, turning to Bonus. "We do have the place wired, and would you look at this?"

The display returns to the human and orc judge as Bonus approaches. They smile and nod, and the human slaps the orc on the back as the con continues.



"We aren't going to do that, are we? Dug will eat us alive!" the man on the display says, with a nervous expression.

"Do we have any other choice? She gets what she wants." The orc says with a worried look.

"Good point."



Sir Stefphonston goes to slam the table once more as Celia grabs an arm mid-swing. "Dont you think the table has had enough, dear?" She says boring daggers into the dwarf with her stare.

"Yes, this is not your street justice. This is business." Brom says, adjusting his cufflinks as he continues. "All of the intercepted communications mention a she over and over. Since Dr. Saoirse, Vapor, and Sim0ne are not in the winner's circle with us, we can likely rule them out. We also have intercepted several communications with Ju1c3, the one responsible for altering the votes the first night and covering the compromised judges' tracks."

Bonus' messages with the decker flash quickly on the screen as well several Tamera had with the man, all stopping just shy of incrimination.

"Pretty sloppy work if you ask me." Dug says in response to Bonus' admissions. "And no, I dont think you got caught to throw me off the trail. I know that you know that I know that you know etc." The well-dressed man tents his hands and rests his head on them.

"Pretty damning stuff if I do say so myself." Sir Ethan says to the space between the contestants. "One of you is framing the other. That much is obvious to see. The question is, who gets this," he gestures to the comlink, "and who gets this," he gestures to the firearm on the table. "Still so sure of yourselves? Of the person next to you?"



OODMWelcome to the Final Round of Outplay 2020!

This is a freestyle roleplay round, with no mechanics involved. The judges' votes alone will determine the winner. Having said that, you are free to use any skills/spells/abilities that you like throughout the round. Just remember, that success or failure of these will not be judged in a mechanical manner the way they have in previous rounds.

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  #5  
Old 08-18-2020, 09:56 AM
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Assertions of guilt and innocence
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Tamara closely watched Bonus as the young woman - with everything that had happened the cosplayer had somehow stopped thinking of her as a girl - had her say about the matter. Her first words elicited a raised eyebrow. That certainly was a good point. If it was a test, though, what was the point? She threw a weighing glance towards Sir Ethan and the sponsors. Did they wish to see if the two of them were willing to stab each other in the back? Or the opposite?

Given the threat of a bullet for the one not coming out on top, it seemed like turning on each other might be the most sensible option. Or was the threat also part of a potential test? Certainly this whole thing, including the Companions’ reactions did not add up.

Tamara had to stop herself from pondering the matter too deeply for the moment, lest she fail to follow Bonus’ statement. And that would be important, for sure.

She found herself nodding slightly. Yes, true, they probably had watched the feeds before. If that still left them wondering, though, whoever was behind this had to be pretty good. Or the Companions themselves weren’t quite as good as they were said to be. The other part however, she still refused to believe. Never mind her performance during the introductions and the fighting, the skill tests she had rocked!

Bonus squeezing her hand surprised Tamara a little, but she did return the gesture. The expressed solidarity felt reassuring. The young woman also made a good point about their reputations. And she left Tamara wondering what it said about her that she could not, without hesitating, say that she would have cheated her way through this. And why the hesitation? The proposition here was to become a criminal after all. Doing whatever was necessary was part of that, no? Was it simply pride about actually being good at something and proving it to them and herself? Or was it something else? At least it felt to her as if there was a difference between pretending she had experience that she had not and outright cheating. At least the former still required her own skill to succeed at the con.

With thoughts like that, maybe I should have talked to Cecilia on day one, she thought wryly, while Bonus listed the contacts she made during that day. She herself could have exchanged Sim0ne for Sidelong, but apart from that it sounded pretty much the same. Ultimately, not helpful.


Dilettante discreditations Sir Stefphonston spoke up next, rather angrily. Far more worked up, in fact, than she would think was warranted. Especially once the video was shown. She did remember the short interaction with the judges. It had not exactly been war-deciding. Tamara nearly rolled her eyes about it, but frowned instead, stuck on the conversation in the video. Was that what they had said? Something about it sounded off, but there had been a lot of talk earlier in the day and even with her good memory she wasn’t quite sure about the exact phrasing the judges had used.

A look over to Bonus tried to gauge her reaction to the second clip. Was there also something off? What was laid out next suggested to her there would be. Tamara really had to fight not to laugh. It really got sloppy. She had never even exchanged comm codes with Ju1c3.

When the Companions obviously were done she spoke up again. "What I am sure of, is that you seem to be blowing this whole thing entirely out of proportions. But I’m getting to that in a moment." She turned to Sir Stefphonston and met his eyes. "First off, you are entirely correct of course, I have done something untoward during the tests." A slightly embarrassed smile went with the following statement. "I did give a rather charming red-head an unsolicited kiss." Hopefully for some in the room this might serve to lighten the mood, though she figured that the dwarf might well have a fit over it. You can never get everyone on your side, though. Don’t even try.

"Then there is that diletant drek." She indicated the messages she allegedly had exchanged with Ju1c3. "I never had Ju1c3’s comm code. In fact, I asked Sidelong for it during the combat test, something your camera’s would have caught.

At that point all of us still believed that we were fighting the real thing. And before you point out I could have pretended to not have the code for this very moment: let us be real here, I am not a fighter. You said yourself, Sir Ethan, there was no cheating during the combat test, so, if I had been cheating (and also without it) I needed all the edges I could get during the fight. Why then would I limit my chances of advancing by pretending not to have the code?"


It dawned on her then what had been wrong with the video. "And that video. It was obviously altered. The orc handed me a fake eyelash that had fallen down. Nothing more, nothing less. He never touched my costume." She threw a weighing look at Dug. "But you know that, don’t you? Bonus has the right of it." What had Sir Ethan said? One is trying to frame the other. Why though? "So, this was set up from the start, you say? Then why does it just involve the two of us? We could not have known we would both be here today. In fact, I am pretty sure that both of us would have thought the other would be present for the combat test." Even more evidence - in her mind at least - that this was not Bonus’ doing. And Tamara hoped that she interpreted the other woman’s words and actions correctly, too. They had better chances getting through this together than alone. The pack survives.

"I stand by my assessment: a third party is trying to set us up. Who knows, maybe that party is you." She put the challenge out there, weighing the reaction she got before getting back to her postulation that things were being blown out of proportion.

"Let’s look at this. Why are you all suddenly so bloodthirsty?" The aging woman threw a pointed look at the gun. "A few days ago you handed out nuyen to anyone brave enough to step onto a stage and then have a conversation with the four of you like it was candy. Regardless of how well they did or how suited they really were for the job, too. Then you did it again after the combat test. And that despite losing a lot of hardware in the process." She clearly meant Dug’s drones.

"Then, also during the fight, you had us go against illusions instead of real opponents. Nobody was seriously hurt, despite the fact that you had the means to do so. And now, suddenly, you are willing to kill because you claim one of us cheated and despite the fact that you could have the real results easily by talking to the judges." She looked from one to the other. "Either this is about hurt pride, about someone meddling with you and you being mad about not having caught it before it happened, or you’re trying to see what we will do when faced with such allegations." She nodded to herself. "Truth be told, the former case would really throw a bad light on you. And the latter… well, by all means, let’s see what other "damning" evidence you can produce."
  #6  
Old 08-18-2020, 12:57 PM
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The fix
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Ju1c3?

Tamara could see Bonus go pale the more "proof" was leveled against them and the more the dwarf rattled his table-shaped saber. Guilt for sure, or maybe something else was putting fear into her. Her eyes darted back and forth as she tried to work through what was happening to them and how it was all designed. She spared a glance at the woman next to her and shook her head.

It was all too dumb. Despite what Dug said, why would anyone in their right mind be so stupid as to finger themselves with evidence. There was nothing to hide that changes were made. Wherever that trail led and to whom, it didn't matter. You didn't set up yourself and think you would get out of it. Could Tamara really think she could pull that off? Why would she?

The fix was on, and now all she could think about was how to get word out to Daniel. He knew to check on them on occasion, but Lace hadn't been eating, hadn't been taking care of herself at all lately. Three days ago, she had to get an IV from Mel just to keep her sister hydrated after a jeeking bender. She gritted her teeth as the elf made an off-hand comment about killing one of them. All Bonus' thoughts went to how to get that message out. Someone had to take care of Lace if they were going to kill her. Could she get to her own gun in time? There was no way against five of them. Was there?

She listened to Tamara try and act as her own lawyer. So far the mother hadn't tried to throw her to the wolves. Would they break her though? Bonus was fully convinced now that they meant business. She had misled Tamara into thinking this might be a test by her own immature arrogance. When Tamara brought up their sudden anger and blood lust, Bonus responded quietly. "Trust. It's what he said at the beginning," she pointed at Sir Ethan, "Trust is a hard thing to come by. Someone trying to cheat their way in, well, that's just laughing at the XC's cred, isn't it? If someone could worm their way in that way, what else could they do to shake down the whole operation like rusty beams. This isn't a test, Tamara. They really think we did it." She looked at the Crossing Companions then, "Trust goes both ways. I didn't trust you people at all. But you know that already..."

Cecilia was keeping Stefphonston in check. Maybe there was an angle there...enough to give her a moment with her comm. "You're not going to really let them murder one of us, are you?" she asked the ork incredulously. Saint Cecilia. She. Bonus squinted her eyes and the high and mighty holy woman. Tamara said it off hand, maybe they were in on it. Or maybe just one of them. What did Dug say that first day? He had to take care of one of hers soiling her rep? How many of Cecilia's applicants made it? None. One even defected to Dug...the Doc. Cecilia could put the fear in the two deckers, for sure, the way they talked on the clips seemed like someone powerful had a hold over them. But would she go against everything she preached just to get even with Dug? Was there something deeper? Whoever made it through was never going to live this trial down. Two of Dug's sponsorees, taken down so easily. No, three! There was Ju1c3 too!

Under her young skin, they couldn't see her jaw tighten but it did. I got Ju1c3 all mixed up in this by having him poke around. It's all my fault. She couldn't accuse Cecilia without more to go on. Not without more proof. Not with her junkyard dog ready to rip her throat out. She flashed daggers at Stefphonston. She wanted more than anything to pull her gun and plug him with round after round until he dropped. But that was a death sentence.

Thinking of the Dwarf got her thinking about his relationship with Cecilia. They were obviously into each other. Bonus saw their sly looks at the introductory meeting. She didn't think he was in on it though. Maybe he was just the trigger man. Maybe... "So you found the forged cards, Sir Stephonston? Sir Ethan said some of the judges forms were rigged. Who of the judges had their cards altered?" She made sure not to look at Cecilia. Instead she quirked an eyebrow at Dug. She needed to get someone on the other side thinking, not just Tamara and her.
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  #7  
Old 08-19-2020, 07:49 AM
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The Final Interview
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Sir Ethan

"Why are you all suddenly so bloodthirsty?" Tamera asks of her accusers.

"That is easy enough to explain." Dug chimes in. "Our Dwarf here watches too much trid. The cop slams the table, they threaten the deepest darkest hole in the Lone Star facility, the crook cracks, and the credits roll. Real-life is never that easy. It also helps to have a good cop when one tries to play good cop, bad cop." He pauses, to shoot Sir Ethan a tired expression. "This trial was not my idea, but we are a democracy when it comes to matters impacting the entire company."

Bonus catches frustration on Celia's face at the mention of democracy. She can tell that the orc has no taste for these proceedings either.

"You're not going to really let them murder one of us, are you?" Bonus pleads to the woman across the table.

Sir Stefphonston takes several deep breaths, sounding like a billows fueling forge. "This isn't murder. It's justice! It's a matter of pride, of tradition! That's why our emotions run high. We invite you into our home, share our ambitions, and our treasure with you, and one you sought to seek more than her fair share. It's not the way people I associate with behave, with one glaring exception, of course." He doesn't look Dug's way, but the implication is clear.

"Let me translate emotionally stunted dwarf for you." Dug says, removing his head from his hands. "He's mad at himself for being tricked, and it's easier to be mad at you instead. That about sum it up?" Deep breathing is the only response to the man's jab.

"The trial was my idea, actually." Brom chimes in. "One of you is a diamond in the rough, babies, bathwater, all that. I'll also say that the shadows have plenty of use for cheaters, liers, and people with the brass to pull this off, once again, babies and bathwater. We just need to know who gets a seat at the table and who gets chained up outback." He pauses before offering a correction. "Metephoric chains, of course."

Sir Ethan waits to see if the others have anything else to add before he continues. "You and I agree, Miss Tamera. This is tantalizing for sure, but I have over a dozen names in my link that could do this, and half a dozen who wouldn't have gotten caught doing it. Let call the first witness, shall we?" The elf gestures and the door opens, allowing the compromised judges entrance before closing.

The orc sits at the head of the table, while the jokester sits at its foot.

"Get on with it." Sit Ethan says.


left-aligned image
The orc breaks the silence first, without looking at either of the accused.

"I'd heard the stories of the companions and thought, they couldn't all be true. So, when the invitation came to watch them flex, how could I refuse? Then, getting randomly selected to be a judge, I thought it was my lucky day! Then I get this."

The orc makes a tossing gesture as messages scroll on the projector.

<<This wasn't random.>>
<<We have your sister.>>
<<Instructions will follow.>>


"My lucky day, alright." He trails off until a glance from Sir Ethan makes him continue. "Then I get told that this one wins and this one wins, or else." He gestures to the woman without looking at them. Messages flash on the screen, confirming his story.

"What was I supposed to do?"

The joker looks as if he's waiting to crack wise until he frowns for the first time since you've met him.

"Wow, I didn't know, man." He pauses to consider his words before just blurting them out. "I'm just a scum bag." He says with a shrug. He throws up a series of conversations offering him nuyen in exchange for the submission of pre-written votes. "What can I say, the random stranger's story moved me... INTO A BIGGER HAB." He says, with a nervous laugh.

"Read the room drekhead, you ain't funny." The other accused judge blurts out.



OODMWelcome to the Final Round of Outplay 2020!

This is a freestyle roleplay round, with no mechanics involved. The judges' votes alone will determine the winner. Having said that, you are free to use any skills/spells/abilities that you like throughout the round. Just remember, that success or failure of these will not be judged in a mechanical manner the way they have in previous rounds.

Administrative NoteForgot to mention in my last post, but I did secure AnotherDragoon's approval for use of Ju1c3 in this fashion


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  #8  
Old 08-19-2020, 09:11 AM
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Not a baby and not the bathwater
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Bonus listened to the Crossing Companions basically ignore her like they were following a script. She crossed her arms and got her commlink in her hand under her jacket as she sat back in her chair. So Dug didn't want to be here and either did Cecilia. She still wasn't off the hook in Bonus' mind. Maybe this got out of her control and spun into something she didn't want to happen. It figured Brom was behind this trial. He loved this sort of drek. Get a bunch of people around a table and watch them argue to see if there is a baby among the bathwater.

They didn't answer her question and instead tried to drag this whole thing out by bringing in one judge at a time. When she listened to the two tell their story first she got red in the face and shifted angrily in her seat. "Um, yeah. I guess it's good to know you don't know drek about me after all," she snorted as she leveled her words at Brom and Ethan. They seemed to be the target audience. "I would never threaten...family." Bonus was fuming and couldn't seem to hide it. She looked like she was moving to reveal more, but held back. They don't know about Lace. She safe for now. But who knew for how long? "I'd do lots of things. But not that. If this is real, I'm sorry they did that." She said the last to the ork judge and no one there could doubt her sincerity.

Getting over that first hurdle, she started to process the rest of this. "So you all think that Tamara and I knew the judges you randomly selected and also knew enough about them to put the screws to them? Who exactly do you think I am? That dragon in disguise??"

Then there was the business that this didn't line up with anything they charged in the first place. "I don't see a mention of a she anywhere in here. 'She gets what she wants' and 'not if she says it isn't'. Who is the 'she'? What other contact did you have with the person behind the messages that you aren't saying conveniently?" she asked the ork in frustration.

"And you!" she raised her voice at Ethan. "You said the judges scores were altered from what the judges remembered they put down. But these guys just said the fix was in before they even did the judging. They knew the scores they put in were rigged as they put them down, so how were they altered?

Sounds like you all need to get your own story straight before you keep accusing us of this. Why don't you just tell us all the judges so we can make some sort of connection between them. Someone had to know them ALL well enough to make them change their scores. Find the common link and you find the cheater."


She pulled out her comm and sent a message as fast as she could making it seem like she was just opening some screens. It was to Daniel.
<<L>>

She tried to erase it as quickly as she sent it and them looked at the judges.
Dice Palming to slight of hand send the message and delete it without them knowing.:
8d6smch5 4 ✘, 2 ✘, 6 ✔, 5 ✔, 5 ✔, 1 ✘, 6 ✔, 1 ✘ (4/8) 2⇑ 2⇓ Total = 30
(30) "Taking notes. This is getting too loopy for my brain." To sell that, she opened her app and started taking down some actual notes.
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  #9  
Old 08-19-2020, 09:33 AM
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And suddenly there were two...
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So Bonus did no longer believe that the third party Tamara was still convinced was behind all of this, were the Companions. It was a possibility, sure. And a dangerous one at that. At least in combination with the obviously hurt pride on the other side of the table. Her eyes momentarily flickered to the gun, but went back to the people standing in judgement over them just as quickly. She knew that if she started to think too deeply about the potentially lethal outcome of the meeting, it would only cloud her judgement. Which in turn would hamper her chances to make it through this, making it more likely that...

She forcefully clamped down on that line of thought. No! Those thoughts belonged to the hairdresser Diane, not the wanna-be runner Tamara. The latter had to focus on what was being said. Might it be important who had found the evidence? Who had started this? When Dug spoke up it left her to wonder in earnest if maybe Bonus had hit on an important point. Or was he trying to be the mentioned good cop? And if not, then who made the final decision?

Inwardly she groaned. Intrigues and schemes and plots within plots. This was like one of those over-complicated - though, if done right, highly entertaining - matrix dramas she enjoyed so much. How did people get out of the situations there? Logic. And plotarmor, Tamara thought drily. Pity one couldn’t buy that at their local fixer’s.

After Dug had given his interpretation of Sir Stefphonston’s speech, she chimed in: "And what do you think about this whole thing, Dug? About someone trying to play the Companions? How did you want to go about finding out who did this?" Allegedly he had claimed their innocence after all. But before an answer could be forthcoming the show continued and before long they actually got to hear the story of some of the judges.

A deep frown appeared on Tamara’s face as she thought about what she had heard from the judges and from the Companions in the last few minutes. Maybe she couldn’t be quite sure about the exact wording of conversations during the tests earlier, but her memory was most certainly good enough for this.

She was about to comment on the fact that the stories about the scorecards clearly did not match, but then Bonus beat her to the punch. Clever girl. "To me it sounds as if there is more than one party involved in this."

Oh, I know: maybe both Bonus and me had the same idea and tried to cheat. And only through both individual attempts overlapping did you even catch on to something being wrong. Does that match the story you got going in your heads? Tamara was very, very tempted to say just that, but in all likelihood it would sound immature and petulant. Neither of which would help her case. The fact remained, though, that this was either the most amateurish attempt at cheating to ever happen, a not very well thought out test scenario or indeed two(!) parties trying to cheat in their own way. What were the chances of that?

"Unless anyone can explain that away in a logical way, that seems more than likely" Why, though? That was the big question, right? Whether or not Bonus had cheated herself, why would another party try to cheat for either of them? Who benefited from this? Figure that out and you got it.

Not Bonus and not herself. The guys, maybe? What had supposedly happened to the judges might have been Steppz’ style, but the manipulations of the feeds did not exactly sound like Colmo. Other candidates made no sense at all. The Companions themselves then? If this weren’t a test and some of them had made an attempt to muddle the waters, discredit them… It might fit better. The manipulation of the judges might have been Sir Stefphonston’s style. And the alteration of the feeds… if it had been Dug, she was sure nobody would have noticed. The Butcher maybe.

"We have the altered video feeds and conversations that look like we cheated - those clearly were meant to discredit. Then score cards that were exchanged for altered ones. Possibly in order to make you check into what was going on, so you would stumble over the altered evidence. And finally there are the threatened and bribed judges, that clearly do not fit into the picture. And not only due to there not being a mention of a “she”, as Bonus pointed out." Tamara also nodded along with the request to learn more about the involved judges. That would help with that part of the puzzle.

She wondered… "Say, Sir Stefphonston, what gave the forged cards away?" If he had bribed the judges, he would have noticed the altered scores easily.

And one more question, this one to the judge: "Out of curiosity: did they? Have your sister, that is? And if so, what did she say when you got her back? Which… you did, right?" Otherwise he likely wouldn’t be here, talking without appearing to be forced to do so.
  #10  
Old 08-20-2020, 07:42 AM
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The Final Interview
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Sir Ethan raises a hand as Bonus questions her accusers. "These were the only judges we believe compromised, and per this man's messages," he gestures to the orc at the head of the table, "the randomizer was compromised, assuring their selection."

Celia speaks up for the first time during the proceedings. "I told you this wasn't the time for this! It's just as confusing for us. We didn't know the fix was on until moments ago while we were planning to induct you both. We're only about three minutes ahead of you on this, and they didn't want to give you time to escape or to get your story straight." She says, not indicating who they are.

A look of anger creeps into both Ethan and Dug's faces. She was not supposed to say that, but it does put a few more pieces into place.

Stefphonston responds to Tamera's question, a good deal of his angry replaced with confusion. "One of you spelled Sir Ethan wrong. It's pre-printed on the cards we issued, so the fraud stuck out." He paused, obviously thinking critically about the situation for the first time.

Ethan nods for the judges to continue.

The orc nods sheepishly. "Well, no, they didn't have her. The pictures were forgeries, and in my panic, I didn't confirm them. She's even safer now. Thanks for giving a devil rat's hoop, though." He says to Bonus sincerely and nods thankfully in Tamara's direction.

The human jokester looks as if he's choked on his gum as he forcefully taps his comlink again and again.

"Let me guess, the money is fake too?" Dug says over the confusion. The judge at the foot of the table nods before hanging his head in defeat.



left-aligned image
"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." Brom says as he starts putting the pieces together. "It was only a matter of time until we pissed someone off stronger than us. A well know established mobster in this areaMr. Stuck's friendship isn't as fruitful as far as advertised, it seems."

Dug looks at each of the judges and waves them away. "They dont know anything. It's time to get the mastermind in here." The human judge snickers at the level of sarcasm put into the word mastermind.

"Shut your soy shute." Stefphonston says, anger flaring once more. "He was good enough to put one over on you. Let's hear what the boy has to say."

Ethan nods, dismisses the compromised judges, and remains standing as a troll carries Ju1c3 in bodily, dumping him into the chair at the head of the table. "You have made quite the mess of things here, and we have some questions for you. Ladies, since you seem to have a better handle on this, why dont you start us off." The elf said, while not so subtly throwing shade on the sponsors.

"I plead the fifth?" The decker chirps.

The troll's grip on his shoulder tightens until one of the ceramic plates in his jumpsuit cracks.

"Hey Bonus, a nice evening for a chat, right?"




OODMWelcome to the Final Round of Outplay 2020!

This is a freestyle roleplay round, with no mechanics involved. The judges' votes alone will determine the winner. Having said that, you are free to use any skills/spells/abilities that you like throughout the round. Just remember, that success or failure of these will not be judged in a mechanical manner the way they have in previous rounds.

Administrative NoteI did secure AnotherDragoon's approval for use of Ju1c3 in this fashion
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  #11  
Old 08-20-2020, 08:16 AM
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Progress
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So it seemed that they had finally hit on something. Could it really be that the Companions had no more clues about what was going on than Bonus and herself? They had already started to lose some of their luster in Tamara’s eyes, but this really drove the message home. They weren’t quite as fabulous as word on the street made them out to be. "While I understand the idea of catching us off guard, not taking the time to calmly and logically analyze the situation seems pretty unprofessional," she observed rather coldly. "I would have expected better from you all." Despite her words she specifically looked towards Dug and also Brom. The dwarf was clearly hotheaded and Cecilia might be too idealistic for her own good to take the time for proper analysis, but the other two should have been more calculating - and more assertive towards their compatriots.

At least it did not sound as if they were calling for Bonus’ or Tamara’s blood anymore. That was the best news she had heard in the last few minutes. She also hadn’t missed the fact that apparently they had originally planned to induct both women into the Companions. The wanna-be runner threw a glance towards Bonus, trying to judge if she had also caught that. Maybe, with proving that they had not cheated, that would be back on the table. There was hope yet to get exactly what she had set out to get when accepting the original invitation to the Waltzing Witch!

The mention of the mobster, of course, raised new questions. Was he supposed to protect the Companions? Why would they need that, though? The words of the dragon came back to Tamara and she made a mental note to follow up on that. Before she really could, though. Ju1c3 was ushered harshly into the room. "Ju1c3! What..." Tamara could not keep the instinctive worry out of her voice during the exclamation. The young man had not appeared to her like a sinister force. Maybe he had been played like the judges?

"Ju1c3, we have seen several altered videos and audio and chat messages." She had her voice back under control and while the outright worry was gone, she was still going more for the concerned grandmother and less for the hardened investigator. Honey and vinegar. "Did you have anything to do with that? And if so, why? Did someone pay you to do it? What can you tell us about them, if so?" Tamara leaned forward and added a bit more quietly, as if only to him. "Listen, honey, they are really quite irate - as the gentletroll behind you can attest to. I’d wager just coming clean with whatever happened is the best and safest course of options."

Leaning back again she was curious to see what the answers here would be. Once again it seemed strange that he would implicate himself in the messages they had seen, but that was a piece of information that she didn’t feel like sharing right now. Better to see what he would say for himself.

Meanwhile, there was the point of the mobster. She turned towards the Companions. "With your rep, why would you need the protection of a mobster? Especially since it’s not only your rep, really. The skill fair earlier? That was quite marvelous. No, miraculous, even. If you can pull something like that off, why bother with a mobster?" And back to the who dunnit: "And do you have anyone specific in mind that you could have pissed off?"
  #12  
Old 08-20-2020, 04:31 PM
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Not good enough
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So they just found out and tried to see if anything shook out of the tree? Bonus relaxed a little in her chair, glad that her stunt with the commlink hadn't been called out and that this wasn't exactly the death sentence she thought it was. She didn't really agree with Tamara on where she landed. Maybe that's the way her brain worked but Bonus would have been on board with how it went down. Sometimes you had to move fast with info. Drek gets stale in a Matrix second.

There was a shared look between the two women. Bonus had, indeed, picked up on what they said about being in line to get accepted. But where Tamara was full of hope, the teenager's eyes were melancholy. "Would we? I mean...Would I have made it without the faked scores?" she asked Saint Cecilia. The XC had bigger concerns at the moment than Bonus, but for the girl, this was important. The line between optimism and pessimism moved with life experience and the two applicants had been moved in opposite directions it seemed. Her mother had instilled it early. When she was nine, she was tasked with watering the plants around the suite where they lived and her mother hung over her as she did watching her every movement. When she got mad and yelled at her mother for not trusting her, she said something that stuck and played back over and over in her mind all those nights on the street, "People will always hope you can but assume you can't, Kathleen. It is metahuman nature. It's up to you to prove them wrong."

She nodded back to the ork judge when he thanked them, but her lips were pursed in a straight line in thought. The mention of Stuck got her wondering what was going on here. When Ju1c3 was led in, she didn't want to look at him, but she couldn't keep herself from it. She was torn between running up and embracing him and boosting her muscles to lay him out with a left hook. As the ceramic plate on his armor cracked under the troll's grip, she flinched. But when the Decker said, "Hey Bonus, a nice evening for a chat, right?" she felt like she was punched. Right in the gut.

Tamara spoke for her and she fumed in silence, listening to her calmly try and get him to cooperate. Maybe that was best, just make him feel safe and let him spill it. But Bonus felt betrayed. Staring at him, at that gentle face that had laughed with her on the dance floor and winked at her over a drink sitting around Dug and had lied right to her face at the Banshee with Steppz, she couldn't help but confront him, even if it undid what Tamara skillfully set up. "They said you were monkeying around from the beginning." Her voice started off soft but teetering on the edge with emotion. "You didn't think I could do it alone, did you?" Her words picked up volume. "You thought you were helping me. Well, you weren't! I can handle myself, choob. I get it. You thought you were being the knight in shining armor, but why get Tamara mixed up in this? Did you come in gunning for her? Did someone come gunning for her?"

She broke away from him and focused on the only thing in the room that wasn't a person, the electronics console in the center of the large wooden table. She couldn't face looking at any of them. Sponsors, Ethan, Ju1c3, Tamara. It would have been plain on their faces and she just couldn't look at it: The little girl got fooled by a boy.

She was reacting and had been since the beginning. Denying, pleading, fearing, fighting, bargaining. She had been doing everything but thinking. Staring at the inanimate object she finally let her brain catch up. Tamara's last questions to them solidified in her mind. Bonus wasn't smart. Street smarts weren't really a thing. It's just what stupid people said to make themselves feel better. But she did understand people. You had to in order to fool them. And people had motivations. Prove them wrong.

When she spoke, it was to the console. Looking at those faces, she would have gotten side tracked. "The Waltzing Witch, none of us have ever heard of it. There's a reason for that, right? You pick a place, any place in the sprawl to hold your tryouts, even your own places and someone was going to have contacts there, right? Every place had eyes and ears that weren't yours. And what you were doing here, you didn't want that kind of competition--that kind of interference. So what do you do? You build your own place. Out in the sticks in a place owned by one guy. Stucks. He says you can build whatever you like on his blocks and for a price you're under his umbrella. Full control, down to the combat test outside. I'm not sure why, though. Why you're recruiting like this. You're planning a job. One that's going to pay enough to make what Dug lost in drones seem like nothing. That's a big job. One that makes big enemies."

She looked down at her comm, "Ju1c3. Tell Tamara who you made a deal with. Who made you think you could pull this off and made you get your own hands dirty?" She flipped open the page from earlier that night and sat staring at the fancy looping autograph given to her by one, huge, impressive judge.
Iddryr "Id"

When you get bigger than the street, when you run against AAA without breaking a sweat, whose attention is there left to draw?

Never make a deal with a dragon...

"And please tell me it wasn't Id."
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  #13  
Old 08-21-2020, 09:53 AM
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The Final Interview
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Celia looks to the others but ignores Dug Nodding his head from side to side. "We're, not from around here." The pair could tell she was selecting her words carefully, but somehow, that simple statement carried a lot of weight.

"We needed strong allies as we moved our resources to this area. The tryouts, the parties, the free-flowing money, they were all us staking our claim." She tosses a few gold coins onto the table. "These are far more common where we're from."

Brom clears his throat. "There will be time for confession after we've sorted this matter. Isn't that right, Celia."

The pair of runners relax slightly as the five across the table seem drained of all anger, and instead, are in various states of reflection and confusion.

Ju1c3 seems stunned by the coins on the table, but recovers, claiming his share of the confusion. "Wait, what?!" He throws an angry glance Sir Ethan's way. "You're the ones that hired me to do all that. You said it was all part of the tests. I even kept all the vid logs as a souvenir, and not as leverage at all." He extends a cable from behind his ear. "I'll show you!"


left-aligned image

Ethan looks as confused as the decker connects to the hologram projector and it shows Sir Ethan hiring the man to rig the contest. "That's not me. Are you trying to frame us as well?" The elf says, angrily.

Dug chimes up as something strange happens. His face goes from smug contempt, obviously about to chide Ethan or the decker, to a realization so profound you expect an ARO lightbulb over his head, to a look of shock and horror as he scrambles for the gun on the table. He aims for Ju1c3, missing his shot by a mile, as he collapses onto the table, his face locks up, and a drop of blood leaks from his nose.

<<That was close.>> An electronic voice chirps from the projector.

<<Thanks for the ride. Couldn't have done it without you.>> Ju1c3 looks on in shock at the realization of what he'd done.

<<It's amazing what one can do to a system, and those protecting it, once around the firewall.>> It continues as Sir Stefphonston's arms reach behind his back and grab his ankles with a few unhealthy pops as Sir Ethan's eyes turn deep blue with faint lines of white text on them.

"They've followed us." Brom and Celia say in unison as a strange symbol replace the humanoid outline.

<<If you'll excuse me, I have a database to copy and delete.>> The voice says mischievously, as chaos erupts outside the conference room.





OODMWelcome to the Final Round of Outplay 2020!

This is a freestyle roleplay round, with no mechanics involved. The judges' votes alone will determine the winner. Having said that, you are free to use any skills/spells/abilities that you like throughout the round. Just remember, that success or failure of these will not be judged in a mechanical manner the way they have in previous rounds.

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Last edited by Imveros; 08-21-2020 at 10:34 AM.
  #14  
Old 08-21-2020, 11:10 AM
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Bonus’ question to the Companions and her words to Ju1c3 betrayed an insecurity that Tamara found surprising. Nearly as surprising as the outrage she showed about the cosplayer getting mixed up in what Bonus clearly thought of as an uncalled for act of chivalry. "Bonus, dear, do not underestimate yourself. You have proven yourself in various tests and are also showing that you can navigate through muddled waters of intrigues and scheming. Most importantly, you clearly learn fast. Have more trust in yourself." Hopefully those heartfelt words would not come back to bite her when it came to the conclusion of these tryouts.

Of course, Tamara realized, that was under the assumption that it was still a good idea to throw in with the Companions. Yes, she still needed the money for Jake, but what kind of enemy had messed with things here? Someone to stay away from, even if it meant having to somehow make do without the money influx? When does the risk start to outweigh the rewards? She had to think about that.

It didn’t remain the only thing to wonder about for long. Celia’s statement elicited a raised eyebrow from Tamara. When the orc tossed several golden coins onto the table her first, somewhat irrational thought was: From where? Switzerland? While that certainly was a country she associated with money and gold, the guess seemed unlikely to fit to Celia’s weighty declaration. Not to mention that the images on the coins did not seem to fit at all.

Tamara rubbed her temples. Things had been convoluted before, but now they became outright, headache inducingly weird. And Ju1c3 did not help matters at all.

Listening to him and then to Sir Ethan’s angry reply she really could not help herself: "Now you know how that feels." Petty the comment might have been, but oh had it felt good. Even if just for the instant it took for the room to be claimed by bedlam.

The wanna-be runner was still wondering about the emotions she could see on Dug’s face when the man snatched up the gun and tried to shoot Ju1c3. So unexpected was the attack that she did not even jump up from her chair, let alone seek cover. Her aging mind was still playing catch up when the hacker collapsed and a new, electronic voice, that Tamara barely noticed, joined the conversation.

Drek.

DREK!


Was… was Dug dead? She could not, for the live of her, tear her eyes away from her sponsor. Yes, she had seen people die during the firefight, but between the adrenaline and the drugs it had been possible to stay reasonably detached. And by the time the fight was over the illusions had been revealed.

This, though? Somehow it having hit a person she had known, however briefly, made the situation a lot worse. Especially since he - all of them, really - were supposed to be those top dogs around. The apex predators. Yet here, suddenly, was someone who clearly was more powerful. Someone who was clearly willing to kill.

The whole fiasko of false accusations had already made her reevaluate the wisdom of joining the Companions. This development? It definitely raised the risk involved by a proverbial drek-ton. And she couldn't help Jake if she ended up collateral damage, which seemed increasingly likely.

Tamara looked at Dug’s unmoving body, at Sir Ethan's plight and then shot a glance towards Sir Stefphonston before averting her gaze in horror at what she saw there. Brom’s and Celia’s reactions did not inspire confidence in her either.

Gosh, look at the time! Slowly, so as not to draw attention to herself - regardless of how useful that would be against the digital intruder - she rose from her chair. Stretching out her arms she placed one hand on Ju1c3’s shoulder and the other on Bonus’. "Let’s get out of here before we’re next. No sense in dying for… whatever this is about."

Whoever was behind the digital entity had played all of them expertly and Tamara did not think they had a chance stopping them. It was time to cut their losses. Hopefully the youngsters agreed and would follow her out the door and out of the bar to what she hoped would be safety...
  #15  
Old 08-21-2020, 11:54 AM
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"Japanese: WTFNantekotta?!"

It's what came erupting from her mouth when Dug hit the table. Gold coins, the double cross with Ju1c3, people talking like they were all aliens or some drek... it was too much to process. Bonus was out of her league. So instinct took over. It's what saved her hoop up until now and it was what was going to get her out of this. As the mysterious Matrix entity made itself heard, relishing the subtle way it had manipulated events to get itself inside the Crossing Companion's system, Bonus shot up out of her chair and got between Tamara and the rest of the people in the room. If there was one person left in this room that she trusted, it was somehow the one who she had been at odds with in the beginning. They were going to make it out and they were going to make it out together. Irony? Was that the word? Bonus had dumped most of her English class words from her brain.

Her pistol shot out of her arm slide and aimed at Sir Ethan (or what was formerly Sir Ethan) even as it popped and sizzled from the wireless laser sight getting bricked with everything else in the room. Eh, she didn't need the sight anyway. "Unplug, Ju1c3!" she yelled, hoping the Decker could jack out of everything or whatever Deckers did before the entity fried his brain.

Her head swiveled around the room at the Companions in various states of outside control followed by her pistol like a Mexican standoff with only one visible weapon. The girl pulled a trauma patch and slapped it on Dug's neck. It was the least she could do even though it was probably too late. The weird symbol undulated like a double M, but it meant nothing to her. The way out was the same window they had jumped through in the combat test and she regretted having armor piercing rounds in her Fichetti. Suddenly a warm hand was on her shoulder. Tamara.

"Yeah, my thoughts exactly." she replied to the Face through gritted teeth, still tracking from target to target to target. In a flash, she changed where the muzzle was pointing and squeezed off three rounds into the plate glass window. Neat little holes formed in a triangle in the glass with only a small webbing of fracture. "Brom, be a doll and throw a chair through that."

Everything had been explained in a really weird way. Everyone was a pawn. None of it mattered. But before they fled to the street, she had to know. "Hey, you! Maria Mercurial or whoever the hell you are!" she yelled, hoping the entity was still listening. "Why us? Why Tamara and me? Why not the others?"

Epilogue: a choose your own ending
left-aligned image
The tires on the electric bike chewed up the pavement as fast as the limiter would allow. Rain had swept through the sprawl overnight leaving puddles of neon paint from Auburn to SeaTac to the undefined outskirts of Seattle itself. It seemed as though the world wanted to shower off the stink of the night as much as the rider on the bike did.

Bonus, she went by. The street doc came up with that handle for her without knowing it. Her bonus life had taken her from Mel's to the shelter to the long year on the streets and on to forcing her way into shadow runs with rougher and more dangerous types than she would ever be. But these few days at the Waltzing Witch and with the people she met there and the things she had seen would stand out to her as some of the toughest and most memorable for many years to come.

Overhead the first rays of morning were glancing off the very tips of the steel and glass monoliths just as the mountain peaks of the Cascade Range would snag the last light of sunset. It felt like a new start. Kathleen yipped and whooped and wove into the standing water simply to hear it part with a hiss. Kathleen was her name from before, known now only to a few. Officially she was no one.

The forest of downtown arcologies were just registering on her bike's autopilot when her comm buzzed angrily in her pocket and sounded with a few chords of Howling at the Moonmoon. As much as she wanted to ignore it, she couldn't and she cursed herself for taking her contacts out the previous night. They would have displayed the caller. Instead she pulled over in the still dark street. It was Daniel.

 

 
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