15 Minutes

Mr Hughes' bad day
No plan survives first engagement

GM’s note: This is the article that Steeleye found that led to the whole Hughes scenario. None of you read it at the time, but since the situation has gone somewhat south you might want to see if the information was worth it.

+ + Bernie’s Business Bucket List + + Front row seats to the fall of the famous! + +

Trouble at the Top!

What’s going on at Dunning-Kruger?

Greetings, fellow followers of the fickle fates of the fairly rich and not-so-famous!
Now I know you fine folks come here to feast your minds on the falls from grace of those more fortunate than yourselves, and what better to fuel that fire than a firsthand account of the fracturing of a firm friendship?
How about if that friendship features last weeks ‘Golden Boy’, The rising star of Dunning-Kruger (more like Dunning-Who-Cares!) himself, Mr. John Conrad!
But don’t just take it from me, this account comes from the anonymous blog of a colleague of theirs! Turns out Conrad’s mentor and helping hand on the stairway to success, Marcus Hughes (also a former Golden Boy of the Week), isn’t the most popular amongst his co-workers. Poor Mr Hughes. But lucky you! Because stick with ol’ Bernie and you may well find yourself riding the wavefront of calamity for Dunning-Who-Cares!

“Hughes has been worse than ever the last few months and when it comes to Hughes that’s really saying something. He’s been picking on his immediate underlings even more than normal, and he’s even branched out to taking it out on the warehouse staff as well. Fucker never leaves his office and now he’s taking strolls down to the floor to yell at people for shifting pallets too slow”

So, folks, what do we think is getting to dear Mr Hughes? Hold that thought, and lets compile some more evidence shall we?

First up we have today’s wonderful news (for you at least, my dear audience) that Hughes dropped the ball BIG TIME, and it’s come round to bite him. This is where Conrad comes into the story. now as you may recall from Conrad’s recent Golden Boy of the Week, Hughes has been the man pulling the strings behind his meteoric rise to prominence in the company. Now to some it may have seemed like Hughes was just dropping all the risky accounts on his young protege and letting Conrad take the risks, but either through dumb luck or some seriously good judgement Conrad managed to come away from everything stronger than ever. However of late things seem to have gone a little sour. Hughes has started taking on risks himself rather than palming them off to his apprentice, and it’s finally gone wrong.

Now the real question is WHY have the two bosom buddies parted ways? Could it have anything to do with Hughes’ apparent estrangement from his beautiful wife, Heiress and tennis superstar, Jenna Halton? Reports say they haven’t been appearing together at the usual functions and galas, and Hughes has been becoming more and more reclusive as whatever crisis he’s embroiled in continues to build.

Don’t forget folks, our buddy Conrad is the very definition of a playboy rich kid. Never photographed with the same girl twice, he seems to be working his way through Seattle’s C-list with no signs of letting up the pace. Could Halton be his latest target? or even his latest conquest? Has the student finally become the master?

Keep reading, beloved audience, you’ll hear all the sordid truths here as they unfold.


GM’s note: This message was originally visible to Steeleye alone. Given more recent events he doesn’t have need for secrets any more, so here you go

Mr Steele,
Under normal circumstances I would be inclined to allow the team to continue at their own pace without interference, however circumstances have aligned to provide us with an opportunity that simply cannot be missed.
One of Dunning-Kruger’s top execs, Marcus Hughes, has just made a catastrophic error of judgement with one of his top accounts. This has happened before, and his strength as a businessman lies in how strongly he he has always bounced back, but it will certainly have rattled him.
The story has gone to press but as D-K are such a small company it hasn’t caught too much major attention, but I’m sure you can stumble across it in the course of your research.

This may be our only chance to get to the normally unshakable Hughes. He’s already having a bad day, make it worse. He kicked a gambling habit many years ago, but with the right nudge you might be able to tempt him back. His favourite casino lies across a fairly nasty part of town, not a problem when he’s driving but if something should happen to his car and his commlink he’s going to have a very unpleasant walk home.

Break Hughes, tonight. Stretch him to breaking point then give him something to take his long repressed anger out on, and if you want to impress the others, make them think it was your idea…

Mr Johnson

Jimmy 2.2
Down in the Park

…He took a long draw on his cigarette and looked up towards the sky. Holding the heavy smoke in his lungs for a while before exhaling, he forced it out into the park’s cool air and watched as it was carried away by the breeze which meandered through the trees and down the finely manicured, gravel walkways.

The sounds of the commotion behind him persisted and had caused him to take a few casual steps further down the path, disassociating with it as best he could. Dipping into the altercation with mild interest, a smirk spread across his thin lips as the croaky, old voice told the rookie exactly what it thought of him and “his sort”, the stammering apologies seemed only to add to the amusement. Taking another long drag, Jimmy glanced at the event momentarily before turning back; despite the kid’s inexperience, he was starting to like Gary. He had an innocence, an earnestness, about him which was endearing, somehow managing to endure; not yet beaten out by the realities of the line of work he was embarking upon. In another life, he suspected they would have got on really rather well…and he couldn’t shake the nagging feeling which sulked through the dark places of his mind that She would have liked the kid too…

Pierre 2.2

I went to freshen up as the bastard headed outside to smoke another death stick. If I was as lucky as they say I am he’d have died from that shit by now.
I stared down at the sink as it filled with rust coloured water. My head was pounding even through the inhibitor, I needed a hit to bring the world into focus but there was no time for that now. I splashed the cold water over my face and headed downstairs. As i reached the bottom I look over at Celeste and scowl, she smiled back with an enigmatic look that only made me scowl harder.
It had been two days now since she had made sure i was ‘out of the way’. Celeste still turned tricks with a couple of clients, god knows why with this one guy, he was a mean bastard. She always made sure I was out when he was coming and i knew why.
Jimmy was stood by my bike drawing the last from his cigarette, I swung my leg over and plugged in with a thought the engine purred in to motion as I looked round. “You coming?”
On the way to the park I rode too fast and way too close to everything else on the road. Jimmy hated riding pillion with me and I love making him hate it. At the park I slid the bike to a halt next to Lanche’s clapped out old Bulldog.
“You all right?” I asked Jimmy, fully aware he was probably contemplating murder.
“Fine” came the curt reply as he flicked another cigarette to his lips. A smile crept across the corner of my mouth as i turned and walked into the park. If you didn’t know Jimmy well, and if you didn’t have some of the best visual enhancements money could buy, you’d have missed it. Through all that practiced smoothness, all the crisp body language, there on Jimmy’s forehead was a tiny bead of sweat.
We wandered in sience through the park, only nodding to acknowledge Lanche and the kid when we met.
Well, this was supposed to be a meet. Where was the contact?

Jimmy 2.1

Legs on autopilot.
They carried him through Seattle’s aged and wracked streets without thought or question.
Step followed step.
He knew these streets; new them like a spider knew its web, like a rabbit knew its field: every sight memorised, compared and contrasted to normality for signs of change and danger; the distance to each bolt hole ingrained into his soles, his subconscious able to read the very mood around him.
These were his streets…or they had been. Before…

Passing a Tactical Chunder which had been Wing Lui’s place last time he had been in this part of town acted as a stark reminder of how long he had been gone. He paused outside the store, the humming pink neon letters reflected unsympathetically off the rain-slick pavement in the early morning’s muted light. A look of distaste passed over his usually unreadable face, as he jabbed a hand into his jacket pocket and drew out his cigarettes. Gnashing onto one, he pulled it from its place amongst its brothers. As the packet returned to his right pocket, his left hand rose and flicked his Zippo open. The small flame seemed embarrassed by its own inadequacies, beneath the glowing neon, the wind conspiring to kowtow it before the pink inferno.

Pierre 2.1
This rookie's going to be hard work

So our first job done Cal hooked up a second meet with Mr Johnson this time at some high class cyber bar. I can’t stand cyber space nothing feels right and a cyber bar, What’s the point of a bar you can’t drink in? Well meets are meets so I jack in with the rest of them, I’m not suprised to see the rookie looking like some kind of giant gun toting robot. Always the same with cyberspace, every one pretending to be something else. At the club door two moron apes in penguin suits stop us and ask the kid to put his weapons way, dumb shits. Even someone as bad around the net as me knows combat programs and avatar styling are two very different things.
Inside we’re directed through to a back run where a generic suited man is siting, we all take a seat and he start to tell us about Dunning-Kruger Corporation he’s just geting started when he looks across at Steeleye and asks him to stop probing his persona! What the fuck was the rooke thinking? I’m the muscle of the op and even i know what the word “Anonymat” means. I hope Jimmy talks some sense into this kid before i have to beat it in. Well the corp don’t throw us out there and then but he definetly is starting to see us as some kind of joke operation. Well anyway Dunning-kruger is some high end eletronc’s importer pulling in good from the far east, but there also bringing in B.T.L chips well, thats high end eletronics and highly illegal eletronic’s to boot, litte chip that you stick in your head make you think you living in some perfect litte bubble word where you’re a god, in reality they leave you starving to death spending your last yen on the things desperate to get back to your perfect litte bubble one last time. Give me a good shot of Cram any day.
The suit tells us they’re passing the chip on to a gang called the Red Hats, now these guys i’d heard of. A smallish street gang, didn’t hold much turf but they held on to what they had with serious violence, so other gangs just stay off their turf.
The job itself was simple enough. Discredit, disrupt and bring Dunning-Kruger business under the spot light of the media and Lone Star so that the red hats looked elsewhere for their B.T.L supplies.
In addition this corp had paid up some intrusion and stealth specialist by the name of Ghost to work with us, ghreat that all we need another new guy hope this ones more clue’d in than Steeleye. The suit hands over contact deitals for this ghost and we finish up the meet and jackout.
Sat im Cals I tell the others what i know about the red hats and then hit my self with a shot of cram and a line of novacoke as Jimmy trys to find out what the fuck Steeleye was thinking, he get frustrated with the lack of any sensible answer and leaves. I follow suit figuer I can hook up with Jack see if he knows any more about the red hats than me, leaving Steeleye with lounch doing net search’s and trying to hock up with this Ghost to redeem him self.
Its late when I get to the La maison rouge not that it matter’s with a club thats doors don’t shut, and i’d called ahead so jack was waiting with a beer when i got there, now thats a man who knows how to keep his customers happy. Turn’s out he dosen’t know any more than me about the Red Hats well it was a long shot, and any how he’d just had a delivery at some realy good price’s but i restrained my self and only topped up my supply’s no point in getting busted for dealing. I stay drinking and danceing in the club till the early hours then head back to my flat to sleep off the come down.
I get woken by Jimmy in the early hours of the afternoon. waking me at this time i could kill that bastered.

Gary 2.1
It gets harder...

Part One

I can’t believe Mr Johnson embarrassed me like that! Being made fun of in front of the others wasn’t part of the deal! You don’t see a bunch of ’runners ripping on the new dude on the VR TV shows!

I’ll show him, I’ll show them all! I am useful, and this mission is going to prove it.

Dunning-Kruger. That’s our target. We have to discredit them enough to make the Red Hat Gang look elsewhere for their BTL supplies. Shouldn’t be that difficult, just like when I spread those rumours about Cindy Kellhauser back in High School. Hack a ’net here, change some data there and boom- smear campaign. Piece of piss.

We were told we’d have an additional resource for this mission- a hacker called ‘Ghost’. Not that we needed another hacker after me but it might be useful to have more eyes on the ground.

Since we were still in the net after our meeting with Mr. Johnson I send a message to this ‘Ghost’ and asked him to meet me in VR to discuss terms. I crafted a false cyber chat room and populated it with fake accounts to make him think we were in a public secure room. He totally fell for it too- the amateur. He used a false avatar- some fat black woman to appear innocuous but he didn’t fool me. I got all his info downloaded to my hard drives. I know he pretends to be a girl (as well a fat black woman) so he’s clearly a weird one. Anyway I thought I’d give him a chance. I tell him what he needs to know and he even says he’s already been paid- fine be me, saves some nuyen I guess.

Meanwhile the others spend most of their day drinking at Cal’s Bar (or shooting up in the case of Pierre) and they said I was useless! My drones followed them though and saw what they got up to.

We eventually get a call from Ghost- he’s got some information to tell us and wants to meet at a local park. I call the others and organise the team. Lanche drives me there in his massive van while my drones scout ahead.

We all meet at the appointed spot and I see Ghost watching us across the way. Turns out he actually IS a fat black woman- or so I thought. She was clearly a decoy but was really bad at her job because she goes and phones Lone Star to come arrest me for ‘harassing’ her! Anyway the real Ghost eventually shows himself after I block the lady’s response call. Ghost is one of them weird elf-types. Really feminine looking too, but then I guess most elves are a bit androgynous. Weird metahumans. Despite his (her?) species, Ghost knows a bit about what he (she?)’s talking about. Ghost gives some ideas and we brainstorm a few plans in the park.

We do a bit of digging on Dunning-Kruger and get a list of their main players…

Target: Dunning-Kruger

- 21/04/78 –
..Incoming Mail..

Congratulations on a job well done gentlemen.
You have proved your ability to kill dumb animals. Don’t think it will always be that easy.

I expect assets in my employ to be versatile and imaginative, your next mision will be a perfect chance to demonstrate that. Your target is a corp called Dunning-Kruger. D-K are a small time shipping firm who import specialist electronics from all over southeast Asia. I will discuss the more sensitive aspects of the job in person, but the methods you use to discredit and disrupt their business are up to you. However, bear in mind that this MUST NOT look like a hit. Dunning-Kruger are to be the victim of a series of unfortunate coincidences and unforseeable disruptions. Certain members of the board have powerful contacts and any backlash from your discovered involvement will not end well for any of us.
Never forget that you are deniable, disposable assets. If you involve me directly or lead anyone back to me the consequences will be severe. But of course, you already know that.

- Mr Johnson

Pierre 1.2
Jesus, these barghest just got hard

Having dealt with the last of the pack,Steeleye’s drones picked up the gardeners shed not far from us.
So we headed over to check it out, well I say shed most people would be happy to call this a home. Looking around the outside we couldn’t see any signs of the Barghests forcing their way in, but we figured we’d best check it out inside just in case.
Pistol in hand I eased open the double doors, as they swung free we heard a low growl from inside and my eyes picked up the thermographic outline and the red glowing eyes of a pair of barghests.
Jimmy set off a magical flashbang but it didn’t seam to slow them down, nor did the three rounds I put into them, then they were on me.
My savate skills failed me as the first one sank his teath deep into my arm, the second biting into my side.
I heard the cilck of Lanches shotgun jamming. This was going to get nasty.
With my free hand I swung at the one biting my arm hiting him clean between the eyes, he shook all most wrenching my arm from its socket in a death rattle and as the second Barghest’s teeth sank deeper into my side I felt the colour drain from me.
When I woke I found Jimmy with my med kit open patching my wounds as best he could, the Barghests were dead and we were inside the shed with Steeleye’s drone’s lighting the room.
I told Jimmy I’d finish the patch up job so they could check out the rest of the shed as there were two internal doors leading off from this room. The first door lead into an empty break room with nothing of real intrest or value. As steeleye approached the second door it was flung open and a wild eye old man burst into the room. Lashing out he caught Steeleye, sending him flying across the room, and as ‘Lanche approached to help he screamed a deep terrifying howl that made Lanche turn tall and run.
I saw sudden tranquilaty and then anger run across Lanches face as Jimmy worked his magic, and Lance turned and charged back at the old man, his punch bore down but the old man dodged out of the way with unnatural ease.
My head still spinning I lifted my predator IV and squeezed off a shot. My luck held. The round cliped past Lanche’s armor and caught the old man unawares striking him straight through the chest. As he dropped to the ground his head spun to look at me. I thought for a moment I had signed my own death sentence, then he spasmed suddenly as steeleye’s taser blast ran throught him and he droped to the ground dead.
After we had time to breath we identified the corpse as that of the gardener, Jimmy said he had been possessed “Either that or he’d been at my Kamikaze”. Then it was just a case of cleaning up after ourselves while i patched my wounds.

Lanche 1.1
The Meet

I let the engine idle. A few more moments to collect the jumble of thoughts bouncing around like burst boils in my head. Unfortunately musing wasn’t going to bring answers, it was time to dredge up the past, and hopefully earn a Yen or two. Barely more than nods were exchanged between us. Jimmy was playing with a lighter absent mindedly, it was a gift from Celeste…
Pierre looked like shit. Actually more like a corpse that had found death boring, and decided that the party wasn’t over. The Johnson had them pegged without too much bullshitting, nice to hear i’m not the only bum one step up off the street, existing out of a vague promise that tomorrow could be marginally better than today. Everyone needs money at the end of the day.

The work the Johnson proffered us was whacking some pack of big dogs with a fucked up howl, this we had ascertained at Cal’s drinking hole. Stepping past the threshold felt like doing a time warp. A better time and place, and all that other fucked up emotional shit that came along with it. Drowning the stupid sentimental bullshit, seemed like an idea in an attempt to keep my game face on. The Barghests (he was told to use the proper name, big fucked up dogs wasn’t flying as a name) meant it was a combat round to open the line with their new employer.

This caused me to pause and assess the group I was with. Jimmy didn’t look so down and out, keeping up the façade of cool laid back suave mother fucker. Combat effectiveness debatable, how much is faked you can never know with him, but always expect a trick or two, never usually had to worry about his back, just the feeling you should be watching your own. Pierre i have seen go from zombification to frothing lunatic more than once, I didn’t doubt that still held true. The other two, well. The dwarf seemed to be obsessed with blowing things up, but she seemed like too much of the hippy type to apply that to anything non-metahuman, if that was even her speciality. The tech kid, who had been doing all the data mining, didn’t look like the combat type. I adjourned the drinking whilst ear protection was being sought after.

When the kid finally realised you have to pound the outside of the truck for anyone inside to hear you. I briefly wondered how long pierre and Jimmy let him stand outside the truck like a gimboid, probably should have been reading the updates being sent. With a sigh i send the command for the door to open, having a comm built into your head was still freaky but fun. Steelpants or whatever his name was found me sitting at a small fold out table reassembling my sidearm. As i started to rehouse the shells back into the clip;they’d been sat in there awhile, it reminded me to ask what kinda sidearm he was packing. Almost facepalmed when he showed me his shiney awesome electro sticker. Sidetracked i thought i should advise him on investing in something that used bullets or shells but we were meant to moving out.

The pack was meant to be hanging out out of town on some rich snobs land. We weren’t allowed to drive across much to my annoyance. So when we trudged across to the small forest aways across some nice picturesque open gardens I dragged my feet the entire way. Childish and immature admittedly, but amusing. My vote to use explosions to kill the dogs was quickly quashed, too much damage to the land or some such crap.

So we headed into the woods. Unsurprisingly they chose to adopt the ‘gather behind the troll’ tactic. The Kid had these nifty little spybots, not sure how much practice he’d had using them to hunt. When the first wave came at us it caught the dwarf doing some voodoo hippy tree hugging, me and Jimmy trying to stay above the drunken haze, and pierre, god knows what haze he was in. We saw them moving amongst the shadows, keeping us on our toes. The first wave hit us with a howl that threatened to tear reality away from your consciousness. Like a freaking fuking banshee ripping at your sanity. Blinking back the stars and what felt like an Apocalyptic headache, i was greeted with not so much a ghostly apparition, but several hundread pounds of frothy mouthed pointy toothed hell hound. Hounds. Plural. One to the left in the woods, which Pierre took off after. One back right, had the hippy scurrying back towards us. Steelpants, stepped up bold as brass and found out why electro stickers suck balls in bad situations. As i pulled the remmington out its holster and aimed it at the charging beast i heard the salvo of destruction that was Pierre unleashing his drugged drowned Demon on a sanguinary mission.

‘Come then beastie, lets dance’. The pistol bucks violently in my meaty mitt, a shotgun shell is kicked out from its side, the hounds head disappears into a bloody mist. A frothing mouth with pointy teeth and a ruined face emerge still at full tilt emitting another psychosomatic howl.
Not good.

As i big as i am i don’t want to be stuck in close with these things for too long.
Jimmy started overloading the beasts poor brains, sending them off in startled fear, it won’t hold, but it buys time. Pierre drifts from the woods towards the Barghests in front as a tornado would drift into a wooden house. It buys me space to use my Remmington again. It barks and bites twice more, and then ‘Click’.
Definitely not good…..

Pierre 1.1
This situation may call for more cram...

So I get this call from Cal saying he’s putting the old team back together, can’t say the offer of work wasn’t welcome but I wasn’t so sure about working with the others. Hadn’t seen them since…
Any way I say I’ll meet up, and spent the rest of the day getting high. Had to get my head in the right place in case things got heavy.
At the meet there are two new faces. Green by the look of them. They may help smooth out some of the awkwardness the old team has.
Cal says he has a simple job for us, ease us back in and give the new guys time to find there feet. Some rich guy’s estate has an unwanted pack of barghest living on it, we just needed to clear them off.
A few quick net search found that these things are basically dogs with paralyzing barks, that last part got the guys spooked started saying we needed to get sound damping equipment. “Whatever. Shoot them in the head. I’m guessing they die just like everything else”
I told them to call me when they were done, and checked my kit before I left the meet. You never know if Jimmy’s been up to his old tricks.
It was two days later when i got the call. At least thats what the clock said, I’d been partying with Josette, one of the girls from La Maison Rouge, celebrating my return to running. Man, that was a heavy two days.
So we headed out to this estate and guess what, shoot these barghest in the head and they die just like every thing else.

What the hell Cal? this is a job for RentoKill not shadowrunners, but i need the money and like he said easy first job get us back in to it"

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