This week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine has a perspective piece by a doctor from Kentucky, describing the changes wrought by Obamacare in its first year. The doctor, Michael Stillman, is writing from a clinic serving a relatively poor area with limited health access: 60% of the doctor’s patients had no health insurance in the year before Obamacare’s introduction. It’s a short but quite powerful piece, and worth reading if one wants to get a sense of the transformative effect of Obamacare for the working poor. Dr. Stillman writes:

Last year, I encountered a patient with widely metastatic colon cancer whose diagnosis had been delayed because of lack of health insurance. He had clearly become ill at the wrong moment in our commonwealth’s history. Before Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear decided to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and accept federal funding for Medicaid expansion, the 60% of my clinic patients and 650,000 Kentuckians who lacked health insurance received disjointed and disastrous care. They could be seen in subsidized facilities and be charged for their visits on a sliding scale, but they were asked to pay in advance for most diagnostic tests and consultations. Many of them avoided routine and preventive care — and worried that a medical emergency would leave them bankrupt.

This describes a pretty terrible situation in the world’s richest nation, and something that could hardly be imagined in any other developed nation. Dr. Stillman’s first sentence in this paragraph has a reference to another perspective he wrote last year, Dead Man Walking, in which he describes the case of this patient with colon cancer in more detail:

We met Tommy Davis in our hospital’s clinic for indigent persons in March 2013 (the name and date have been changed to protect the patient’s privacy). He and his wife had been chronically uninsured despite working full-time jobs and were now facing disastrous consequences.

The week before this appointment, Mr. Davis had come to our emergency department with abdominal pain and obstipation. His examination, laboratory tests, and CT scan had cost him $10,000 (his entire life savings), and at evening’s end he’d been sent home with a diagnosis of metastatic colon cancer.

The year before, he’d had similar symptoms and visited a primary care physician, who had taken a cursory history, told Mr. Davis he’d need insurance to be adequately evaluated, and billed him $200 for the appointment. Since Mr. Davis was poor and ineligible for Kentucky Medicaid, however, he’d simply used enemas until he was unable to defecate. By the time of his emergency department evaluation, he had a fully obstructed colon and widespread disease and chose to forgo treatment.

This is not the fate that should be allotted to the working poor. Obamacare will change this situation for a large number of Americans: in Mr. Davis’s case, Obamacare made him eligible for Medicaid, so had Obamacare been passed just a little earlier he might have been able to diagnose and treat his cancer earlier; or at the very least, would not have used up all his life savings on a mere diagnosis. The author reports that in Kentucky Obamacare has expanded access to 430,000 previously-uninsured Americans, and the same process is being repeated across the country. The Obama administration itself is forecasting a total of 9 million people will gain health insurance through the ACA, and I earlier reported on the first assessments of its impact from the Commonwealth Fund. Although most of the rest of the world agrees that Obamacare is flawed and doesn’t go far enough towards universal health coverage, this is still a huge achievement and any politician who opposes it, or any pundit like Michael Cannon who deploys disingenuous arguments to destroy it on ideological grounds should be seen as the wrecker and low-life that they are. Responsible politicians of any political stripe should be focusing on improving it, not destroying it, but sadly this is not the way the American political system seems to work.

Dr. Stillman finishes his article with this little observation:

I was once uncomfortable discussing politics with my patients, but now I routinely ask them if they are registered to vote and remind them that certain candidates do not support the legislation from which they have so palpably benefitted.

This little sentence should have Republicans and other opponents of Obamacare worried. If they can’t destroy it in the Supreme Court soon, they’re going to have to hoodwink 9 million Americans at the next election. The fact that they would even consider such a reckless and destructive policy is a depressing indictment of the cruelty and shortsightedness of the modern Republican party. I hope their intransigence on this issue destroys them at the next election, and Obamacare survives to be improved and consolidated, rather than dismantled and discredited. For where will the working poor be without it?

The science fiction magazine Strange Horizons has published an interview with Iain M. Banks, apparently part of someone’s PhD project (what a cool PhD!) in which he gives a scathing and in my opinion brilliantly accurate critique of Foucault:

The little I’ve read I mostly didn’t understand, and the little I understood of the little I’ve read seemed to consist either of rather banal points made difficult to understand by deliberately opaque and obstructive language (this might have been the translation, though I doubt it), or just plain nonsense. Or it could be I’m just not up to the mark intellectually, of course.

This is exactly what I’ve thought of the little Foucault I’ve read: a few interesting points, hammered home over and over again in incredibly pretentious and overbearing language. I would add that I have partially the same criticism of Chomsky’s political works: in my view Manufacturing Consent is a brilliant book if you read just the first 3 or 4 chapters, and after that it’s just repetition of the same point. The difference of course is that Chomsky’s writing is not incomprehensible and deliberately opaque. In my view, the value of Foucault’s ideas is significantly undermined by the pretentiousness of his presentation, and Banks summarizes it perfectly here.

Banks also nails Freud:

I suspect Freud’s theories tell you a great deal about Freud, quite a lot about the monied middle-class in Vienna a hundred-plus years ago, and only a little about people in general

In my opinion, psychology as a discipline is limited by its subject matter, which is the inner life of middle class women a hundred years ago (and more broadly, middle class people now, and mostly Americans at that). A friend of mine observed about a psychologist at his work that “she has never said anything that wasn’t self-evidently obvious basic stuff, dressed up in psychobabble,” and in my experience in drug and alcohol research psychologists were too busy looking for individual causes to notice the very obvious fact that drugs are addictive, and society is fucked up. The limitations of psychology, in my opinion, can be best summarized by this simple fact I have observed over many years of working with psychologists: if you meet a person with a PhD in psychological research [not clinical practice] you can diagnose instantly their psychological disorder by asking them the topic of their thesis. It tells you a great deal about them, and only a little about people in general. Note that the full passage from Banks in this case also likens Marx’s techniques to Freud’s, putting Marx at no higher an intellectual level than Freud. In your place, Karl.

There’s a lot of other interesting stuff about Banks’s approach to the Culture in that interview, but I thought his frank opinions about these theorists tells us a lot about him as a theorist and ideologue. He doesn’t care for obfuscation and pretension, and he is not misled by psychobabble. Perhaps in that we can see some of the reasons why his books were so popular, and he was respected in both mainstream fiction and science fiction. His death was truly a huge loss for science fiction, and by extension for the literary world generally, though the literary world generally is too busy loving Foucault and Freud to notice. More fool them!

 

No country for old men ...

No country for old men …

  • [Editor note: this is a report of a downtime that happened – run on facebook – after our last Cyberpunk session. It is one of two quite impressive downtimes we ran over the past two weeks. We’ve run another session in person since then, but that session makes no sense without these downtimes. Also these downtimes have helped to raise questions about the Cyberpunk system and world, so I’m presenting abbreviated versions of them here. Most of these downtimes took 2-3 days to play out, so what you are seeing is an abbreviated version of a lot of work …]

    GM: The dust settles, Lima’s body lies on the floor, a mangled mess of blood, body parts and broken cybernetics. If it weren’t for the mostly intact head, that body would be unrecognizable. Men and women members of Lima’s crew lie dead everywhere, and the fires of Coyote’s timely blast burn still in the corners of the hallway.

    Drew recovers after a minute, when her body tells her “MOAR! YOU NOT DEAD! MOAAAR” a surge of icy cold adrenaline boost jerks her body back online, she opens her eyes to see Hartigan carrying her away, Exalta knows where to.

    Hartigan’s off. His mind is having a field-day of nasty memories from the past, he shakes, a general wave of accomplished revenge filling him. Of course, we are talking about Pops, so none of this shows in his stone cold face.

    Ghost is looking at himself, and calculating exactly how many times he would’ve died today if he wasn’t wearing the combat armor. He has about two clips worth of bullets embedded all over his armor and is looking down at his gun like its some sort of magical artifact of absolute destruction.

    Coyote is lost in thought. If you didn’t know him you’d think he is in shock, his mind shutting down after such a close call to death, but since you do know the psychotic fix-man, you know he is already calculating new yuans in his head, going through their new inventory of nasties and reliving that awesome explosion over and over again in his head.

    Three floors of dead bodies, empty minded kids and forgotten equipment lie waiting for you; but you need to take a breath first.

    You quickly gather up and check for wounds. Amazingly, apart from Drew’s nasty hit to the side of her head, you are all pretty much unhurt (though today we discovered that the line between completely unhurt and flatlined for eternity is defined as “3 three-shot-bursts in succession”) .

    When you go down to check on Lima’s remains you see the legless, one armed leftovers of the robo-man. His face is eerily peaceful, the man probably didn’t feel pain at all up to the moment that his body said “okey dude, I give up.” The cybernetics look like they didn’t get the message, and instead of punching their cards and going back home, they continue to twitch, scream and pump synthadrenaline and hydraulic fluid towards the now missing limbs. His left cyberarm is gone, and his legs are a pulp of metal, cables and flesh. He is lying in a murky pool of blood and cyberfluids. His remaining right cyber arm is extended forward as if reaching for something. You follow its path and you notice a double metal door, it seems he was trying to get to it before Hartigan unloaded the full clip on his chest.

    You have Alt’s contact’s phone number, you are supposed to call them when the jobs done, but hey.. it can probably wait. There’s looting to be done.

    The GoldfishVan can carry the team (5 people) + 10 units easily, 20 units crowded, 35 units dangerously crowded. Units are a general (and probably inaccurate [but fuck it]) representation of space and weight. Usually a Trauma Team van would carry much less, but the Goldfishnator has been strip of all medical equipment and the turret gun. Unit costs:

    ERHAS: 2 units

    MFC: 8 units.

    Weapons and ammo: 10 units. – 4 crates of m16’s (20 rifles) + 2000 ammo. – 3 Militech Ronin rifles + 300 ammo. – 6 SMGs (HKMP9) + 600 ammo – 10 pistols. ( DaiLung St.Master ) + 200 ammo – 3 Machetes, 10 combat knives. – 3kg of TNT.

    Children: 20 units. 10 children, 2 units per children

    Food (enough for 20 people for a month): 10 units

    Clean water 1 barrel(100 liters) = 5 units. (Theres 20 barrels of water)

    Cybernetics: (require “extraction”) (1/2 unit per limb) 5 cyberarms 5 cyberlegs

    Drugs: (1 unit = 20 vials/8balls/package) *the number of doses you can get per “drug unit” varies depending on the drug. – Ghost chalk (10) – Stim (10) – Speedheal (5) – Dorph (5) – Boost (5) – K-nab (synthweed) (30)

    When you call Alt’s contact, a team will go to your location and start checking all the netrunner equipment and confirm Lima is dead. You can do that now, but you get a sense you will be asked to kindly fuck off once they get here.

    Ghost: Ghost looks meaningfully at the rest of the group “I suggest we first ‘check the area’ to confirm there is no danger here any more.”

    Drew: Drew says weakly “We should evacuate the children too – Alt won’t be interested in them.” She is looking down at Lima’s body, touching it with one boot occasionally as she looks at its wrecked cyberware. Once or twice she leans on a column, closes her eyes, sighs deeply, and says “Too fast, it’s all too fast …”

    Pops: Hartigan looks on, he is lost in thought but at the mention of the children he seems to wake up. “Yes we need to get the children out of here first. I say we move the children and then do two more runs with the gear. We can then pack up the stuff and call alt while doing a third run. Then come back and pick us up.” He looks at Coyote “You think you can do that?”

    Ghost: “Don’t you think we should evacuate the useful stuff first?”, he pauses for a moment, apparently thinking “I mean, we don’t have a place to leave the kids, they’re safe here for now.”

    Drew: “True, we don’t have anywhere to put them. Can Coyote find somewhere to put them?” [why does every campaign we are in involve huge quantities of burdensome children?] “I guess I could call my parents, but the way they dispose of children probably won’t please you Pops…”

    Pops: Hartigan pauses “True. Okay evacuate the goods first and then we come back for the children. We will put them in our apartment until we find somewhere more appropriate that does not involve them being turned into sex slaves, organ donors or experimented on.”

    Drew: “We could sell some to…” Drew starts to say, but stops when she sees Hartigan’s face. Instead she says “I wonder if Alt would be able to provide a space for them, so they don’t clutter my room?””I queue long enough for the toilet now, Pops, with you in the place. And where will you sleep?”

    GM: The children would have a real hard time living at Drew’s place, but they would “fit”. They are completely catatonic and don’t move at all, so they wont be that much of a problem. Explaining 10 immobile children would be a bit hard tho…

    Drew: “We could ask Alt to give us the top floor here for a few days?”

    “What if we put them all in the cryotanks?”

     “Then we don’t have to be here while Alt does its Alt business, but they’re out of the way. Then we find somewhere for them.”

    GM:[Only one cryotank was operational, the rest were empty husks].

    Pops: Hartigan gives Drew the you’re pushing it look. “We are not freezing the children. We bring them somewhere safe for now and then move them once we talk to Alt.”

    Drew: “Also…” Drew puts on her thinking face. One of her bags changes to display an advert for an anti-child trafficking NGO

     “I’m wondering if…” She puts her hand to her head, which is still bleeding quite a bit, and sits down as if she suddenly can actually feel pain.
     “If these children are being used to make ghost chalk, then every single criminal syndicate in New Horizon is going to want them, and anyone who knows about them.”
     “Who’s to say they’ll be safe with us? They’re evidence, right? We might get a rocket through our window before the day is done.”
     “And whatever that system up there is, it has got to be serious medical tech, right? And maybe connected to a corporation. If they find out we know, we’re dead.”

    Pops: Hartigan shrugs, although he looks quite concerned when Drew sits down all of a sudden. He moves closer to her, watching her closely. “They wont find out. Lets move them and get them hidden. No one will come looking for us for now. We then move them again once we have somewhere to move em.”

    Drew:”They won’t find out?” She frowns at Hartigan, flicks blood off her eyelashes. “We take 10 catatonic kids to a one room apartment in a district under riot control, and they won’t find out?”

     “I think this might be bigger than we can handle alone, Pops,” she whispers…

    Ghost: “You do what you want with the kids. I strongly doubt you can provide them with a better place than they currently have. In fact, if they really have been used to test ghost chalk repeatedly, I’d be amazed if they were anything but bodies now.”

    Pops: Hartigan shrugs “we ain’t alone kid. We just gotta make them disappear. Whatever pharma is interested, they don’t know these kids. We can hide them and make them disappear. And ” he looks at Ghost “we are not just leaving them here. He looks tired and sits down “how many runs you think we can make before Goliath stops us? One, two? Looters will be coming too. This wasn’t exactly quiet. Maybe we can get one batch of loot and the kids and ourselves out. Any more and we are getting into risky territory.”

    Ghost: “I imagine at the second run Goliath will start to become suspicious. That is if Alt doesn’t notice our van coming back and sending a team out to follow it when it goes back. Not telling her right away will probably kind of piss her off.”

    Coyote: “We don’t wanna piss Alt off – no we don’t” Coyote says while “extracting” the cyberware from the body’s with his nasty armor cutting chain knife. “I said load the van, call, then start doing the tours”

     “Oh, and if bringin the kids somewhere means we have to pay for it, we will take it from Hartigans cut, right?”

    Drew: “Alt won’t care about us doing looting runs. Could you get Ragout to help supply a second vehicle for the runs?”

     Coyote: “She will care about us not calling her immediately!”
     “That’s the deal and that’s how we ll play it!”

    Drew: “She won’t care that much. We have secured the site. Let’s shift everything and then worry about her wrath. Drive one load of loot out and get a second car from Ragout on the way back. We can easily pay, drop him off a crate of guns as a down payment. Bring both vans back here for the rest of the loot. John and I will stay here and guard the loot while you do the run. We can get the whole thing done in two runs if we do it like that. If we’re really lucky Ragout will be fixing a school bus.”

    Coyote: “No! I’ll pack the van and get ready. I won’t leave before we make the call. We need this contact – and we need rep. Be rational!”

    He says holding a bloody knife and a cut of cyber leg in hand

    [Editor's note: at this point the four players had a huge argument about the timing of the looting, and whether and how to save the kids. This argument went on for waaaay too long and got quite heated, primarily because we had differing opinions about both the parameters of this deal and the morality of the world. In essence, Ghost and Coyote were mistaken about how quickly we had to call Alt, and also about her trustworthiness - they thought she was completely untrustworthy but morally not dubious, whereas John and Drew thought she was trustworthy but extremely immoral. Furthermore, John and Drew - ironically being played by the two players who had most contemporary familiarity with the Cyberpunk genre - thought that morality still had some hold in this world, whereas Coyote and Ghost saw morality in very different terms. Eventually the GM stepped in to fix these misconceptions, pointing out that Alt had given us leeway to loot at our leisure, though taking too long would attract other gangsters, and suggesting we put aside the moral debate till we were more certain about the nature of the world we were in. One small consequence of this debate was that my character concept got fucked, because what I had thought was borderline psychopathy turned out to be a pretty mainstream moral framework in this cyberpunk world, and furthermore my understanding of the humanity stat as a measure of one's degree of evil was wrong, and humanity simply measures how much you can interact with others. My original concept of Drew as a girl on the edge has been changed, then, to a quirky girl with a gun - more like a highly destructive version of Anya from Buffy. Still fun to play! But not my original vision, primarily due to a complete misconception of how this world works. Once this argument had calmed down - which took a bit of time - we moved on to the room behind that double door. The debate resolved as follows, after the GM spoke to one of the players in a separate chat ...]

    Pops: Might I suggest we get Tail to look for the vehicles Lima and his gang would have. We can check as well. There are bound to be at least two to three more vehicles in the complex. Load up all the vehicles with all the loot. They had to have a way to transport gear. Then when all the vehicles are loaded with everything including the kids, if we have anything left over, we call Ragu and get him to bring another vehicle and offer him 20% of what is loaded in HIS vehicle. You guys take the vehicles bag and Hartigan will wait. At the end of the day guys, Hartigan won’t leave without the kids. But he is also seeing how much everything is starting to pull the group apart. He will make that suggestion in character whilst complaining about his knees and that he needs a beer. He is then going to start moving stuff up to the top of the building, check on the kids, and smoke a cigar. Hartigan will also mention that he knows a guy who runs a shelter called Hypo. Hypo will take in the kids as a favour to him. So we just need to transport them there. He knows where to go and they will be sage.
    GM [To clear things up]: Alt said “as soon the job’s done” but your impression was that she really didn’t care about the loot and that you have some time to clear it up ahead of time if you wan to. Nevertheless, you could win some points with her by calling her right away. (trust issues?) Her priority seemed to be stopping lima and getting the equipment.

    - The real problem is that moving around many times between D73 and southside is dangerous, but doable if you are willing to take the risk. Options have been offered for this. Lastly, its been 15 minutes since you landed.

    Ghost: Ghost stands up and goes to walk to the door, holding the SD card that he took from Lima’s chipsocket. “Shall we see what is behind this before looking for more AV’s?” Ghost inserts the SD card …

    GM: The small card goes in the slow smoothly, sinking in with a metallic sound. A small light turns green and you hear a satisfying beep come from the electrical panel. The double doors shudder and slowly start to slide open, it seems like they don’t fit exactly right or they were modified somehow.

    You see a dark room, inside a flickering light coming from the right. The sound of a feminine voice reaches your ears: “..found it! we are getting to it brother! finally….” for a second your senses spike and you are ready to burst into the room, when the voice repeats itself. “…we have finally found it! we are getting to it brother! finally…. “ the voice loops and loops without stop, and you realize it has a digital tone to it.

    The doors finish sliding and comes to a rest. Lights inside flicker a few times, then the room is flooded in white light. The SD card slides back out of the slot.

    From where you are standing you can’t see well into the room, but it seems to continue to the right.

    You walk into the room, is a white and clean room. There is no one inside at the moment. To your right you see a desk with that has an array of common objects, from mugs, pencils, papers, calculators, small cellphone there is even a few books as well. They are all very well organized and placed in what appears to be some sort of order that you can’t make out. At the far end there is what Ghost immediately recognises as another immobile cyberdeck mainframe, with a big comfy chair that seems to have cyberlinks attached to it (so someone could sit in it and connect), the cables leading to the mainframe. There are three big monitors hanging from the wall. This set up seems to be connected to the one upstairs, you can see the cables leading into the wall.

    The left monitor is off, the right monitor shows the flicker of lots of maps of the city and once in a while what seems like the feed from security cameras. In the middle monitor you see a looping video of a girl, must be around 16~18, light brown skinned and dark hair, hazel eyes, she is smiling towards the camera. The video is in loop, and she keeps saying. “…we have finally found it! we are getting to it brother! finally…. “. The background is blurred and hard to figure.

    The right wall is covered in clippings of maps, pictures of different people you don’t recognize, there are printed articles on different terrorist attacks in NH and central America. It goes on and on all over the wall. It is all very weird, mainly because it is.. paper. You can see someone has scribbled all around with a red marker, linking some articles to different people in a pattern you can’t identify. Sometimes the writings get strange, there are notes and notes of “her soul” but is mostly unintelligible blabber.

    The room is very clean and there’s a weird smell of .. cinnamon?, you can’t pin point it, it smells sweet without being overwhelming.

    Pops: Hartigan follows cautiously and stops staring at the screen and then to the notes. He is quiet, taking in the scene through the eyes of a detective. “Ghost can you photograph everything exactly as it is now? Before we take it?”

    Drew: We can take paper, right? Drew slings her gun , breaks out her phone and starts taking pictures. “On it pops.”

    Pops: Hartigan nods “this is big…. Bigger than just those children. We need everything before Alt gets here.” He stares at it all and gives a smile in the direction of Drew. You wonder who is is talking to when he says “good girl….always prepared. Your mother would have been proud.” Hartigan looks at the video first. Hartigan will check the video and books to get an idea of what exactly all this stuff is.

    “I think we need to clean up this film.”

    GM: Again the background of the video is blurry, her face is really close to the screen covering most of it (seems.. zoomed in?). It appears to be inside somewhere, maybe a room.

    Pops:Hartigan looks towards Ghost “can you pull anything that would help us identify where she is from the vid?” He nods to Drew “we don’t touch it yet, but we will need to take it with us later. Why the loop though… Is she someone important? What is the soul?” He is muttering to himself, taking in the facts and bouncing them off himself to try to build a picture.

    GM:The books don’t have any covers to them. They seem more like diaries or some sort of account books.

    Drew: “Soul? Sounds like gibberish to me.. is it cool to touch the books pops? It isn’t computer stuff, we could take it right?”

    GM: all the writing on the walls and books is in Spanish. Hartigan can read Spanish but it will take time.

    Pops: Once drew has finished photographing them, Hartigan will carefully check to see if they can be moved. “We take everything. You got photos of the whole room? Ghost is this stuff good to take?” He asks indicating the machinery. “Let me check the books first and then we pack all the papers. We will need this stuff. As for a soul… I think it might be your personal identity inside the machinery….”

     Everything can be moved. The books are carefully organized, but they are not attached to anything in particular. The papers on the wall can also be taken down, you notice some of them are glued to the wall or using strong tape. You could probably bring them all down almost intact (albeit a few broken corners) without ruining them, but the whole pattern will come apart.

     GM: It takes about 30 minutes but you manage to carefully put all the papers inside the plastic weapon crates without them folding dangerously. You add plastic panels and put weapons and other loot on top to keep them pressed and tidy.

    Drew: Alt specified she doesnt care about limas brain or chipware. Drew will look to seee if he had any. Maybe he saved data there.

    [Editor's note: in the meeting with Alt, Drew very carefully explored this issue, asking Alt if she had a problem with Lima's head being wasted, because head shots are very important for killing people in this game but heads are also where chips and brainware are stored. Alt explicitly stated that she didn't care about Lima's head, which is going to prove a very, very important fact to have clarified ... what Drew  did next is just a small part of this].GM: You do see the socket from where Ghost took out the SD card, seems to be memory socket, its to the side of his neck. (I said forehead first, I was wrong)

    Drew [Out of Character (OOC)]: Is the SD card obviously capable of being a storage device?

     GM: [there were some typos here that led to amusing jokes about sodomy]: maybe, but you won’t know till you investigate it.

    Drew: The SD card is the key to door and lights, right? Is there a manual override in the room?

     GM: Not any that you can see. The SD card opened the door and turned on the lights, then it went out of its hole and the room remained lit.

    Drew: [Drew asks some questions about the way the SD card behaved, and confirms through these questions that if we take the card, it will not be obvious that we have taken the card - ie that the door to the weird room might have been open when we arrived here, and we didn't use the SD card to open it ... this would prove very important later]: Okay, let’s take it.

     “Does he have anything in his head, near the chip socket, that we might want?”

    GM: “No!” Nasal filters?

    Drew: “Scary dude like this keeps his best data on his person. We need the SD card!”

     “If they see the door is closed and twig that we moved stuff inside, then they know we opened it. But if we opened it then that means we took the card… Which Alt might think is hacker stuff. But if it was open when we came here…”

     Drew gestures at gum marks and fresh tape stains on the walls. “Think they won’t guess?”

     Ghost: Ghost nods “True”, he sighs and looks at the equipment in the room “Sorry, this is just a situation I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.” [editor’s note: here Ghost is referring to the presence of a fat stack of really cool hacking stuff that he can’t touch … this would be clearer in the unedited thread, but trust me, the unedited thread is WAAAAY too long]

     Drew:Drew puts her rifle against Lima’s head near the chip socket, and yells in a cheery voice “clean up on aisle 3!” Then she puts a bullet right into the chip socket, angled to destroy it but leave the face partly intact. It is messy, but there is no evidence he ever had a chip socket or an sd card.

    “Take the card when you leave ghost.”

     [Editor’s note: there follow extensive descriptions of the looting that follows. We will come back to the contents of this room in a later post …]

    [Editor’s note: this description includes Coyote looking for more vehicles]

    GM: you start searching were it makes more sense, upstairs and the areas surrounding the hospital. Its messy, you need to climb and crawl through rubble and fallen buildings. After a while you start thinking: they would need a place that is both flat yet covered so people wouldn’t spot the AV from above. You keep on searching for this hangar like place, but after 40 minutes you give up; you’ve travelled a bit too far away from the hospital already, it wouldn’t make any sense to keep transport so far.

    You return to the hospital, walk down the stairs and decide to look around the floors; nothing. But you get a few moments to organize the loot along with the rest.

    You’ve given up hope, but decide to check the bottom floor (lobby) for loot, on your search you find yet another double door, this one opposite to the Lima room, but well hidden. Indeed you wouldn’t have spotted it unless you were meticulously searching for hidden stashes and more loot. The door is closed, but seems unlocked.

     The door opens to a elongated room fill with abandoned hospital equipment. You notice that any valuable electronic parts other than frail useless pieces of metal or plastic have been removed.

    You continue down the room, as you reach the far wall you notice a hole has been carved into it, leading into a tunnel that runs perpendicular to the room. The metal tunnel, probably some sort of utility duct or abandoned railway is about 10 meters wide.

    It leads off into darkness to your left, but to your right you notice the same type of Christmas lights and construction site lights that were used upstairs laying a path down the tunnel. You follow the dimly lit tunnel, it seems to incline a bit downwards. As you proceed the tunnel expands wider and wider, and you begin noticing the remnants of old fallen columns, front of buildings, husks of metal that used to be cars and other mementos of D73.

    The tunnel finally ends in a cylindrical chamber, perhaps 80 meters in diameter, with a hole in the middle in which you can’t see the bottom. There is a wide and sturdy walkway that goes around the hole, and when you look down you can see the same walkway repeat to the infinite. It looks like a shaft/vent or maybe what used to be an underground intersection of some kind. Up there is only darkness, as the tunnel/shaft seems to be covered by either fallen buildings or the whole thing was an underground system to start with.

    And then you see it, to your right there is a platform protruding from the walkway, on it sits … a whaler. Looks like a hovercraft that actually resembles a whale, it is very bulky with a tail that ends in rotors. To both sides of it I has two hover engines that also double as chunky propellers and a cockpit that resembles the head of a killer whale. You notice there is mechanic equipment lying around the thing, probably needed constant repair. There is also a few tanks of compressed air and a MFC that seems to be connected to a wall, recharging somehow.

    Coyote quickly identifies it, whalers are a type of semi-hover crafts that were really common in New Horizon before the Crash. They are really slow and hard to maneuver in the air and can’t fly very high, but they are supposed to be airtight and capable of operating underwater. Goldfish hunters sometime use them to seek out the big mutant fish schools underwater and report their current location to others who will swim down with tougher vehicles.

    At that time your com has a receiving message from Tail. “Hey anikis! big dirty choombas are coming, they dont seem friendly. Can I fly away?” You hear some sounds as if tail is around, or moving stuff around. “… now now.. where are the guns on this beetle?”

     Coyote:  “Ghost can you find out if these are Limas boys, another hunting party or alts crew?”
    “Tail, have they seen you? If not stay put!”
    “Guys, if there’s is another hunting party we have to call Alt immediately. They’ll be heavily armed and ready to claim this victory for themselves!”

    [Editor note: there follows a rather long and unedifying discussion of what to do next which really goes to show how gangsters make bad decisions when they are under pressure. We ultimately decided Ghost and Tail would fly the Whaler down the pit and away, while Coyote would escape from above in the “Goldfishnator”. Drew and Pops would stay behind to defend the area until Alt’s agent could arrive. Given the size of the force coming in, as described by Tail, this was probably not gonna be pretty. Preparations began].

    Drew: while the discussion about the kids is happening – before we all separate – Drew does this:

     She squats down suddenly onto her heels, like a Shibuya girl waiting for a friend. From her ubiquitous bag she pulls out a small make up case
     From this she pulls two q-tips, that she puts between her fingers, a small hello kitty (New Horizon Kitty actually, riding a mutant goldfish) pocket mirror, which she balances on her knees, and a swab.
    She fiddles with the mirror a moment, then cleans off the cut on her head. Then from the make up case she pulls a sterile needle and thread kit and very roughly stitches together the edges of the wound.
     She throws that away on the ground, does a brief check with the goldfish kitty mirror, pursing her lips like a girl doing mascara on the train.
     Then she pulls out a tube of superglue, and dabs it along the lines of the freshly-sewn cut, which is still oozing blood.
     She then deftly manoeuvres the q-tips and uses them to force together the edges of the wound until the superglue binds.

    One of the q-tips is now stuck to her skin so after she has discarded the free one, she pulls a little vial of nail polish remover – which, you note, she doesn’t need, because her nails are cybered – and brushes it lightly over the q-tip, then levers it away from the skin. This too she throws away, before primly returning the hello kitty mirror and nail polish to her case.

    She then frowns, pulls out the mirror and checks her face again. Then she pulls out some mascara and dabs it over the wound and surrounding area, then returns everything to the case. Looks up at you all staring at her and says “What? I can’t get blood in my eyes when I’m fighting! And I’m not gonna die with two-toned skin!”
    Then she stands up, smooths down her Black Peace Now kimono slip thing, and unslings her assault rifle. “Come on pops, places to go, people to kill.”
    GM: Tail finishes working on the Whaler and closes everything up. He watches as the kids are being dragged in and placed inside the whaler. He looks at them confused, as he tries to talk them. Then a bit annoyed when they dont answer. Then he just ignores them. After everything is loaded, Tail goes in and starts the Whaler, warming it for take off. The thing coughs to live, its thrusters taking a few tries to come alive. “We goood!” You hear tail voice from the cockpit.
    Pops: Hartigan checks his ammunition supplies and pulls his coat closer around his body. He seems calm and at peace with himself. He waits patiently for Drew, before moving away silently into the building. Watching the two of them move out, you can see the practiced ease of a pair that has been working together for a long time, each unconsciously covering the others blind spots and moving in a staggered formation to maximise their protection.
    … And there the downtime ends, switching to a new downtime that is basically a massive battle …

 

Everyone knows that Obama’s Democrats just got their arses kicked in the mid-terms. The dominant political narrative is that it was a disaster, right? Those stupid Dems, acting on political principle and bringing in a second rate universal healthcare system by running roughshod over the bipartisan Republicans to overrule democracy, no wonder they lost the mid-terms right? This is the dominant narrative amongst political pundits, and all debate seems to be focused on Obama’s repudiation, the coming destruction of Democrats, and the fundamental conservatism of the American electorate. This is how pundits speak.

I’m not American, so although I feel myself qualified to speak to some extent on the theory of American healthcare policy, I don’t feel like I really know anything about US political debates, so I just assumed that the story being presented by these pundits was some kind of biased but basically correct analysis of the situation, I think you know the kind of interpretation I mean, regardless of your politics: accepting the broad truth of the facts presented but maybe having a different interpretation of the implications and the long-term trends and outcomes for your preferred side of the debate. As a non-American who thinks Obama is too right-wing to make it in my own political culture, this is all just academic angels-on-heads-of-pins stuff. However, recently I stumbled on a counter-narrative to the standard view of Obama’s bloody nose, and it got me thinking about the broader issue of how political pundits analyse politics, and whether anything they say is worth anything while they remain ignorant of statistics.

The counter-narrative is that Obama did better than expected, and although the Democrats got a bloody nose in the elections this is normal, and they didn’t do badly at all. This counter-narrative is exemplified by this post I found on Greg Laden’s blog, which is so simple it’s ridiculous. Laden plotted number of seats lost vs. presidential approval rating for all mid-term elections since 1946, using Excel, and showed the line of best fit. The implications are pretty obvious – there is a direct relationship between presidential popularity and number of seats lost in a mid-term, but this mid-term election Barack Obama was not at the bottom of the range of approval ratings, and he did significantly better than presidents would usually do given his unpopularity. The Democrats should have lost about 40 seats in the House, but they actually only lost 10 – a huge victory. A weaker analysis of the Senate suggests he was facing a uniquely hostile senate election, and probably did well given the circumstances. These analyses are very rough and could be done better (e.g. logistic regression adjusted for number of seats, confounders for presidential party etc) but they probably wouldn’t improve on the basic findings: the Democrats actually did uniquely well given their circumstances.

My guess is if you extended these analyses to an analysis of results of the following presidential and congressional elections, you would find that the number of seats lost in the previous mid-term was a big predictor of success, with the implication that even though most political pundits are saying Obama has flumphed it, the data implies Clinton’s job is going to be extra easy thanks to the Big O, and the congressional elections will also be better than normal. But I suspect my reader(s) have not got that impression from the popular press. Where have pundits gone wrong?

If one thinks about the average pundit, it’s pretty obvious what the problem is: they’re a journalist, and journalists are generally thick as shit. Your average political pundit is going to be barely literate and completely innumerate, and they are going to be firmly of the belief that their experience, connections, colleagues and unique insight into the way people in the halls of power think gives them a unique power to analyze political events. I think this is not true, and that it’s physically impossible for modern political pundits to have a broad enough base of experience to provide any insight into the political process: instead, they are simply retailing gossip from their mates. I will prove this by comparing political pundits to actually intelligent sports journalists, and for my example I will choose that most reviled of sports commentators, the UK football (soccer) pundit.

Let us first consider the average political pundit in the USA. He’s a man, obviously (this is serious stuff!), aged in his 40s, with a 20 year career. Given his age he probably graduated from a journalism degree (they were starting to take off 20 years ago) but he may be a graduate of some other field. He probably has some “Econ101″ (in the derogatory sense), so he’s swallowed all the typical rubbish about government debt and how the Chinese own America and so on. He reports deficit busses as if they’re serious politics instead of theatre. Of course he’s an idiot. But he has experience! He has 20 years of experience! But what does this 20 years of experience mean, actually? He has seen, at most, 11 congressional elections (they happen every two years). Of these, if he’s really lucky, three might have been elections occurring in the second term of an incumbent president (e.g. Obama and Bush junior) and maybe six are mid-term elections. Precisely one occurred in the aftermath of a major terrorist event. No one he knows or has ever met has seen a black man elected president. At most 3 of those 11 elections happened against a backdrop of internet-based political activism. He has seen a maximum of six presidential elections, probably four, and has seen the presidency change parties at most three times. He has colleagues that he might be able to discuss elections and the politics with, but these colleagues have seen no more federal congressional elections or presidential elections than he has – they all talk about the same 11 events. This is his “experience.” His boss – let’s imagine a man 20 years his senior – might have 20 congressional elections, 4-5 elections in the second term of a presidency, and maybe 10 mid-terms. This boss has had the remarkable experience of seeing a presidency retained by the incumbent party on a change of president – once. Once. The entire cadre of political journalists have this experience to their name. When it comes to second-term congressional elections, our putative political “expert” is like Lieutenant Gorman in Aliens. “How many drops have you done, Lieutenant?” “Three. Simulated.” What does Private Hudson think of that?

Now let us compare with an equivalent British football pundit. He has seen 20 FA Cups, and assuming he has done his job assiduously has watched every team in the Premier league play every other team 20 times every year. Those games he couldn’t watch he has had a chance to review when needed (eg before crucial matches), giving him experience of watching any one team play probably 15 or 20 times a year, for 20 years. Obviously he focuses on the top teams, but he is able to replay hundreds of games for any team that enters the FA Cup. He has only seen 5 world cups, but he has also seen 5 European cups, and watched the players from the European cup in the Champions League, plus been able to watch international friendlies, African cups, etc. Where he is unfamiliar with a part of the football world, he will have access to mulitple colleagues who are familiar with other areas (Europe, Asia, lower divisions, Americas, etc.) and where he has not been following a team he will have access to a huge compendium of commentary from those who have. There is no chance at all that his colleagues have been raised and trained on the same football experience as him, so when they meet to discuss the football world they will be able to bring potentially radically differing views and experiences to the meeting and, if they take the job seriously, will be able to take away as many different views as there were people at the table. This pundit’s boss will have seen 40 FA Cups, has seen football powers come and go, was around before the era of the oligarchs, etc. This is why football critics are able to identify whole movements in football (like tiki taka) and also identify when they fade away. This is why football pundits can speak authoritatively about, for example, the transitions in the German national team.

The football pundit has experience, and collegiate connections. He or she has access to a broad and deep pool of knowledge. The American political pundit, on the other hand, has hearsay and gossip. The American political pundit cannot claim to have anything that rises to the level of “experience.” He and his mates have seen the same five presidential elections, the same 11 congressional elections, the same two second-term mid-terms. They go to the same cocktail parties and talk to the same media reps. They are peddling nothing better than the perceived wisdom of their five mates, and that wisdom is shallower than the gene pool that your average journalist is drawn from. They are in every way inferior to football commentators.

This problem of political punditry could be solved by application of a simple skill – basic data analysis. Greg Laden’s posts show that, in the absence of experience, even basic data analysis skills can be enormously useful. But political pundits are ignorant of anything resembling data, and they will push back strongly against the idea that analysis can improve their work. As a classic example of this, consider the hostility Nate Silver received for his work predicting American elections, or the way the Poll Bludger was treated in Australia (outed by a major newspaper for disagreeing with their pundits). Because the problem is simple – 5 or 10 events is not sufficient to provide anyone with real experience, at least in a world as complex as politics. It’s not that these commentators are incapable of analysing from experience – they just don’t have the experience. In the modern world, we would never take dating advice from someone with 5 conquests, but we routinely listen to men and women who have seen no more than 5 or 10 elections. This is the level of experience sensible people dismiss as “anecdote.” And in such a circumstance – when you or I know we have insufficient experience to inform our decision – what do we do? We go to data. But political pundits can’t go to data, because they are numerically illiterate. So instead they basically peddle gossip.

The problem with idiots peddling gossip from a politically and socially privileged pulpit is twofold. The first is obvious: they’re wrong. Why should I listen to someone with 5 presidential elections under his belt? How can he possibly have enough knowledge of what goes on on the federal stage to be able to provide cogent commentary? But the second is more insidious: they’re vulnerable to manipulation by powerful or moneyed forces. There are lots of thinktanks out there in the wilderness of American politics, peddling lies that are paid for by various big companies. Why would someone who has only ever seen five presidential elections, and who doesn’t have any ability to properly assess the history of elections, be able to properly analyze political theories put forward by bought-and-paid operatives of the big think tanks? How is experience going to protect someone against the lies these organizations put forth, when their experience is so limited it provides them no context for judging any analysis?

This is an example of the importance of data analysis to modern life. There are many problems where we as individuals lack anything resembling a coherent required level of experience, but where data contains the knowledge of multiple generations, there for us to analyze. Even simple data analyses will take us somewhere, help us to get a context for the problems we’re trying to understand. Someone with hundreds of football games and 20 FA Cups under their belt may be wrong about their understanding of the subtle forces at work in football – they may need data analysis to help them see clearly what is going on in there – but they have the experience to draw from, and indeed if we did data analysis we might well be just looking for numerical patterns in the information the pundit already knows. This is an example in which data analysis can help an experienced expert to better understand their work. But in the case of political punditry it’s different. There is no expert, because people die before they can become experts. Instead we have a gaggle of gossip-mongers. In this case data analysis doesn’t complement their experience, because what they have is not experience, but a couple of moments. Data analysis should replace their work. They are irrelevant, and probably rather than analyzing the actual history of political movements in America, they are regurgitating some canned idea from a think tank. And how can they do anything else? They, personally, are ignorant and naive, but they believe themselves to be experts.

Which is why you shouldn’t believe anything political pundits tell you about elections. At best they’re inexperienced; at worst they’re inexperienced, ignorant, and retelling hearsay from someone who probably has a vested interest in crafting hearsay. Ignore them, and look to the data.

 

Or, perhaps to phrase the question a different way, is the era of the small political party over in modern democratic Anglosphere politics? The question occurred to me today as I read the latest reports of the implosion of Australia’s Palmer United Party, which has been in the Senate now for perhaps four months and is already facing its first split, if reports are to be believed.

The Palmer United Party (PUP) is a new entrant in Australian politics. It is run by Clive Palmer, a mining magnate, and is variously depicted as a political insurgency or a vehicle for Palmer’s self-aggrandisement, depending on who you read. It was entertaining to watch for a while, but the major parties seem to have been fairly sanguine about it, and the leader appears to be batshit insane. There are other small parties in the Senate at the moment but they’re quirks of Australia’s mutant electoral system and won’t last. In terms of quantifiably important parties there are only really two minor parties in Australia: the Greens on the left, and PUP. We could add the Nationals to the calculation here but they are in coalition with the Liberals [Australia's "conservative" party] so are usually seen as a “major” party despite their declining vote share and limited number of seats. The UK has the Greens on the left, and UKIP on the right, both seen as “minor” parties in contrast to the (soon-to-be-extinct, poor darlings!) Liberal Democrats. So it would seem that small parties are flourishing. However …

The Greens and UKIP are actually quite old parties now, having been formed in the early-to-mid 1990s. The Australian Greens, for example, were formed in 1996 federally, and existed before that at a State level – they emerged out of the famous Franklin Dam protest of the 1980s. UKIP in the UK formed in 1993 and was originally a small scale and largely liberal national self determinationist party, growing very slowly until it adopted its racist patois. In fact most of the small and functioning parties in both of these democracies were formed long before the modern political era – the Greens, for example, formed three Prime Ministers ago, which in Australian political terms is a lifetime. Both the Greens and UKIP are characterized by a strong political platform and ideological underpinnings, and whether or not one agrees with their policies, in political terms I think they have to be accepted as coherent. The Greens have a broad leftist environmental and social justice platform, not compatible with our social democratic institutions, built on a manifesto co-authored by one of the world’s most respected philosophers. UKIP are built on trenchant opposition to one of the core European modernizing ideas, and have a coherent and ideologically consistent central goal. Ironically UKIP probably owe a lot of their success to the European parliament they oppose, since it was through strong election results in the European parliament that they convinced the British public they might be worth backing at home. But whatever you think of their politics, UKIP put in long, hard years of work and have slowly built their platform around a central critique and ideological purpose, that taps into the core beliefs of a large part of mainstream Britain. PUP, on the other hand, went from nothing to a handful of senators on the back of their founder and lead senator’s private money. They have no fundamental ideological purpose, and no experience of politics.

But would PUP be the only party that would tear itself apart in the modern political environment, or is it impossible for any new party to form in the modern environment? I think there are three reasons why the time when parties can form and grow and remain stable has passed.

The modern media environment is much more punishing: Back in the early 1990s journalism was not yet under threat from the internet, investigative journalism still existed outside of movies, and it was almost impossible for political candidates to get caught out saying stupid things in non-official forums, because video cameras were big and expensive and Facebook didn’t exist. Furthermore, there was a general assumption that private and political beliefs could be kept separate (for example, I didn’t know the Greens’ political leader, Bob Brown, was gay even though I voted for them) and politics was treated as less of a gotcha game. The media cycle could be measured in weeks or days rather than hours, and it was much easier for small parties to keep a low profile. It was also harder for small parties to get air time, because air time was tightly controlled by a small clique, but I think it’s pretty clear that the modern media environment makes air time for small, amateur parties very dangerous. In the 1990s, “vetting” a party member involved checking they didn’t have a criminal record. Now it means sifting through blog posts, years of Facebook bullshit, dating sites, photos and footage held by friends and exes … And it also means dealing with the risk that organizations like the News of the World have been hacking your phones, something that was reserved only for heads of state in the 1990s. In the 1990s, that most horrible of things, “media training,” was a kind of boutique investment for parties that were starting to hit the big time; in the modern era, it’s a survival necessity, and the major parties have a huge advantage too. This, I think, is also part of the reason that major parties tend to recruit from within their own structure. Enforced conformity is a real bonus in the modern media culture. PUP recruits its members from actual real life, which is political disaster – real people say all sorts of stupid shit.

In modern politics you need huge amounts of money: The amounts of money floating around in modern politics can be eyewatering, and kind of embarrassing when you think about the quality of people representing you. UKIP is almost entirely dependent on a single rich, crazy ex-conservative party donor who forks money over by the truckload. After the paper mill Gunns recently launched a defamation (?) case against the Greens’ leader, he had to take a personal donation of some fucktons of money from an Australian entrepeneur in order to deal with the court costs. Nick Griffin, the only idiot ever to have tried to mainstream British Fascism through the British National Party, was bankrupted recently by court cases. That kind of thing started in the late 1990s, but when the Greens and UKIP formed these kinds of financial pressures weren’t an issue. This is especially fortunate for small parties in Australia, since they receive state funding if they pass a certain vote threshold. Indeed, PUP has been in dispute with the government over staffing levels, since they don’t get the staffing support of a major party (their seat count isn’t high enough) and that kind of support is expensive even if you’re a mining  magnate. In the UK there is a further problem of fair representation: the Greens and UKIP are denied seats in the House of Lords even though their vote share has been growing, because they aren’t “major.” The only solution to these problems is to have more money, and for a minor party to get money requires pretty exceptional circumstances. It’s pretty obvious how this works for PUP: they don’t have “policy platforms,” they have “Clive Palmer’s whim.” He is funding the party and he chooses its policy and its tactics (shudder). For the major parties this is not a huge problem – Labour have union funds and the Tories have corporate donors – and the political issue from our perspective is about governance and disclosure. But from a minor party perspective, it’s a real challenge. As an example, suppose independent leftists in the UK wanted to start a party of the workers that wasn’t tainted by the legacy of Blair and that genuinely represented workers’ demands – one imagines that such a party would be quite nationalist and anti-European, but also very socialist and strongly anti-corporate and opposed to the banking industry. Whether or not you support the potential policies of this bunch of imagined anarchists, it’s pretty easy to imagine that there’s no way they could ever raise enough money to compete successfully in modern politics. But I contend [without evidence] that in the early 1990s they could have – the Greens in Australia and the UK did [I don't claim these are anarchist workers' parties] through drawing on existing environmentalist networks. The kind of money you can raise from even strong, coherent community movements today will last about three minutes against a corporate-funded major party. Which is why only parties of the Oligarchy will arise now, and they’ll be so incoherent and selfish that they’ll never last.

The ideological context is much more confusing: The developed world has drifted for 20 years without a major ideological clash, and the only real ideological clash still left is that between capitalism and environmentalism – a clash that doesn’t have to exist and is, in any case, already represented by mature small parties across the developed world. Everything else has drifted into different theories of how to manage capitalism. There’s just no ideological space for modern parties, and unless something new appears – libertarianism springs to mind, but it’s been hideously unsuccessful to date – I can’t see that there is much chance of new parties being able to find an ideological niche. Furthermore, party membership is declining rapidly, and political engagement occurs in different places now. For example, wikipedia puts the membership of Japan’s ruling party, the LDP, at 800,000 in 2012. In just one week, the Japanese branch of Change.org raised 46000 signatures on a petition to deny seedy sexual assaulter Julien Blanc a visa[1]. Political organization is different now, and the way citizens engage with their polity has changed. In theory this could make political growth easier, but I think in reality it has opened new avenues of political activism, and as the Julien Blanc case in Australia showed, ordinary citizens can use these new modes of power effectively outside of mainstream political culture. This combination of a lack of centralized ideologies that can support new parties, and new alternatives to mainstream political activism in an environment of technical managerialism, make the political context very different. As an example, the Victorian police were key agents in the response to Julien Blanc, tweeting about how wrong his views on sexual assault are and updating the public on his movements. The Victorian Police, ladies and gentlemen – who were famous for tigger-happy murders in the 1990s. As another example in the same vein, if you want to see how far politics has changed in the past 20 years (since the Greens were founded, for example), sex workers can now view police as a key ally in their quest for worker safety, primarily through the activism of sex worker community associations, public health organizations, and even church organizations. This changed relationship between police and sex workers (and even injecting drug users) has bipartisan political support in Australia – Tony Abbott may wink at a radio DJ about a 60 year old phone sex worker when he thinks he’s not being watched, but he almost certainly won’t be changing the laws and social policies that affect sex workers. Obviously most of these achievements were built on first steps by a labour government, but that was only the beginning – the major achievements in sex work law in the past 10 years have been achieved through the work of a much broader coalition of forces working outside of political circles, and legislation has been almost an afterthought. In this context, the role of political parties changes and the role of new political parties becomes much harder to pin down.

There are probably counter-arguments to these three points, and other reasons why parties might be easier to form now than before (e.g. the internet). There are a couple of parties that got thrown up into the senate at the last election through sheer fluke, who everyone expects to be swept away at the next election. One (the Democratic Liberal Party) has a coherent (but batshit insane) ideological basis, and the other (the Motoring Enthusiast Party) appears to have been started as a joke but its representative appears to be taking his responsibilities seriously. Perhaps from their future we can see whether it is possible for new parties to grow in the modern era. I wonder if they will prove me wrong?

fn1: They visited immigration to appeal for rejection of his visa yesterday, I think. I personally would prefer that he were allowed into the country[2] and arrested for sexual assault at the airport. He has video evidence of his crimes. That would be fantastic.

fn2: Although it obviously gives me great pleasure to see this man being given the kind of welcome he deserves in Australia, I don’t like the idea of people’s visas being determined by popular referendum. As a resident of a country of which I am not a citizen or permanent resident, the implications of this as a political strategy are fairly obvious and not very pleasant.

 

Inner city treasure hunt

Inner city treasure hunt

Date: 6th September 2177

Weather: Rainy

Mood: Elated, but sore. I’d forgotten how much it hurts to get shot in the head, but I’m so so so so happy that my Russian ghost came back to me. Even if this time it made me sick and weird and I heard voices …

Outfit: Obviously today I wore body armour – flak vest and pants – but I had this old short-skirted kimono slip that I got at Black Peace Now. It’s designed to go under a corset so you get the flared arms and the mini skirt all to match, but if you slit the slides a little you can wear it under the flak vest, so you don’t look like totally dassai just because you’re out on a job. The kimono’s really cute too because the pattern is water swirls and cybernetic goldfish, which was totally apropos, but unfortunately now all the gore and gunpowder have ruined it. Still, I got a whole bunch of interesting diaries and 10 little sisters, so I guess it’s for the best! I always wanted a little sister, and my parents wouldn’t let me make one out of the girls they were trafficking, so maybe I can make one with one of the trafficked girls we found, if we can fix her brain. But not totally, ’cause I don’t want her talking back to me. She can be my little sister and we can totally wear kimonos and kill people together. Like a girl unit!!

News: I don’t know why Pops watches so much TV news ’cause it’s all so stupid, and he always gets really angry. And it’s not like there’s ever anything new on the News, why is that? There must be stuff going on in the world but it’s like the people working at the media companies can’t be bothered going outside, and they just sit at their desks reading press releases from the corps, and then there are these boring adverts for the corps, which is like why would I want to hear about press releases from the corps if I can just watch their adverts? Which are boring anyway? No wonder no one cares about the News, it’s so boring you’d think there was a conspiracy to make us not care! But the riot scenes were fun. The District 68 riots are heating up, and Goliath don’t seem to want to stop it, and two big corps are arguing over whose fault it is. There’s also reports of more cyberpsychosis, which is good because it means Pops can get out of the house and earn some money to pay for his place on the couch. But he might not be able to compete with the new Full Body Replacement (FBR) cops, who are cops who have had all their parts replaced with cyber but are somehow completely immune to cyberpsychosis. I wonder what drugs they’re getting to keep them this side of the edge? If I see one I will ask. Of course the Imperfects object to this kind of policing, but they’re just idiots, so whatever. But there is some kind of court case going on about two boring corporates suing each other because one corporate thinks the other one is shipping cheap cyber that causes pscyhosis. So I guess we need those FBRs.

Anyway, so we did the job earlier today. We were going to kill some cyberpsycho called Lim, but to find him we had to prepare the Extreme Range Husk-Aligned System first, which meant we needed to find a van and a Micro Fusion Cell (MFC). Of course Coyote new a dude, who knew a dude, who knew some guy called Ragu who runs a dodgy repair shop, where we could get ourselves a van. We just needed an MFC, and it just so happened that Ragu had this little kid with him called Tail who knows where to find cars easy-like. Suuuure, Tail. Tail is this little vagabond with a cyberleg he made himself out of some spare parts from a barbie doll and three old clocks, and he’s got the kind of old scars that make you think maybe he’s been through several families and hasn’t yet learnt the exact right time to start running away, so he still has the gunshot wounds. ‘Cause if you spend 5 minutes with him you really start twitching for your gun. Anyway he told us about this gangster event where cyberdudes box each other, and all the gangers turn up and park their cars, and we can just swing on in and steal one. But on the way to the event we found one of those low-rent car parks that promise you cheap parking “at your own risk.” Well, anyone who parks there has insurance right …? So we stole one of the cars. We nearly had to kill the two guards, which would have been kind of catastrophic for them, but Pops did his confused old man shtick (how does he do that so well?) and I flashed some leg, and off they went to do whatever sad car park guards do, and off we went with someone else’s car. Finders keepers, as Twitch would say if he hadn’t been beaten to death by lizard-skinned transhuman weirdos.

So then it took three days to make the ERHAS, and then we were ready. We painted a dodgy goldfish on the side of our van, and got some goldfish meat free from Madam Chu, which gave us the perfect cover for cruising slowly around District 73 – it looks like we’re delivering mutant goldfish meat to the stalls in District 73. Did I mention Madam Chu? She helped us recycle the booster ganger we caught after they trashed my bike. I don’t think he was dead when she recycled him, but we didn’t have much money so we couldn’t afford a better disposal plan. It was nice of her to give us free mutant goldfish meat though, those are the little things which get you coming back for repeat business when you need to recycle more boostergangers, which I think we are gonna be doing.

Once the ERHAS was made we suited up and went off to District 73. It took us about three hours before Ghost got a hit on the place we were looking for, so we cruised in and settled down nearby. We left Tail there with instructions to come in fast if we called him, and headed into the zone. Lima was inside this huge old automated hospital thing deep inside District 73. District 73 is a war zone, all smashed up and wrecked, so damaged it doesn’t even have proper Husk or network connection. During the catastrophe the roof fell in so there are parts that are completely crushed, and it gets weak sunlight through the rain from up there in the broken ceiling. Lima’s hideout, this old hospital, must have been pretty tough because the centre of it was intact even though a chunk of roof fell on it back in the catastrophe. The centre part had these holes in the top that used to be hover car entrances, and inside all these rooms connected to the hovercar entrance. The idea was that the ambulance floated in there, and then the patient was taken straight to an emergency room where a robot doctor diagnosed and treated. We couldn’t go in the hovercar entrance without being noticed, but we could creep in through the rubble on the periphery of the building. We were able to sneak up on some idiot guard and Pops iced him with two shots from his silenced pistol. When we checked his body he had nothing, but he looked latino and he was covered in all these really old-fashioned ganger tattoos, so it looked like we’d come to the right place. We moved inside the first hovercar entrance into this kind of reception area, which was all broken up and rainswept. We were moving quietly, so we could take positions at the old reception counters. There was a kind of collapsed space there, and a bridge leading over to another room, that seemed to have a bank of cryotanks or something and wasn’t so open to the elements. In that room was an open fire and five or six semi-naked guys sitting around completely high on drugs. One guy was yelling at them from a nearby window, and looking irritable. He was obviously not high and armed. Pops sneaked up closer and then shot the guy with his silenced pistol – the guy went down straightaway. Then Pops walked up to those five guys around the fire and executed them, chilly and merciless. They were so far gone – probably on ghost chalk – that they didn’t notice as their friends dropped in the fire, and then it was silent. And it smelt bad because one of those guys was roasting in the fire until it went out.

On the other side of the fire there was this kind of set of rooms that looked like they might have been recovery rooms in this hospital. There were maybe five or eight, in a kind of half circle all facing in on this central area that once contained ten of those high-tech liquid recovery chambers, where you float in some goo while you’re repaired. I think I spent some time in one once but I don’t know. They were like pillars in a central hall ringed with glass-fronted rooms, and each room had a bed or two beds in it. The lights were out in some of the rooms and the tanks, but one tank was lit up and filled with goo, and the lights were on in most of the rooms. We crept up really carefully but we didn’t need to have, because most of the rooms contained teenage girls, all naked and just sitting or lying on the beds, staring vacantly out of the room. Three of the beds had men in them, the same kind of tattooed latino gangers as we killed at the entryway. Two were asleep, so no threat, but the third one was raping one of the girls in what I guess was his room. She was just staring vacantly into space while he rode her rough and ragged, which was weird because she didn’t even seem to know he was there, but of course Pops didn’t care about her not caring and you could see him getting all hypertensive and doing his daddy face at the sight of it. I made myself scarce, moved over to one of the other rooms with the sleeping ganger, who I covered with my gun. Coyote went and did something fast and horrible to the other sleeping guy, who didn’t even wake up, and then I stood there in the doorway of the ganger’s room, my shadow kind of vague and giant-sized on the wall from the pinkish light of the recovery chamber behind me. The guy woke up pretty quick when he heard his friend start screaming, but I gave him a warning and he just kind of sat still on the bed while we both listened to his friend dying. This guy must have been around a bit, because he didn’t show any expression when his friend cried for help, and he didn’t flinch when the cries got weaker and the noises got more fleshy. Once the kicking sounds had stopped and the guy gave up whimpering I moved in from the door and Pops joined me, dripping blood from this big knife and splattered all over with it. I didn’t have a lot of time to look at him but he seemed kind of serene. I think at this point the guy realized that his number was up, and he didn’t bother listening to Pops’s “we can do this easy or painful” speech, and launched himself at me. As usual, my rifle jammed, so I had to sling it and hit him with rippers, which is really inelegant at a time like this. I got in a very fine slice down his inner thigh though, just a bit higher up and he’d be permanently emasculated. Then Pops strode in with his bloody knife, there was a bit of grunting and some splattering, and the guy was done for. I guess he didn’t feel like talking, but it probably doesn’t matter anyway because nobody learns Spanish these days, so what were we going to talk about? Authentic Peruvian sepicche? You can get a really good one down at that little collection of stalls in the coriolis side of the docks, but I don’t think anyone in our little team has Spanish good enough to give directions, so it was probably best that we didn’t waste time on pleasantries.

We had a brief chat about the kids, who were basically walking catatonics. Who zombifies kids? We didn’t have the med skills to figure out what had been done to them, but we had a bad feeling about the girl in the recovery chamber. Our little raped girl had obviously been hurt by her recently-eviscerated cassanova, though most of the blood on her now wasn’t her own so it was hard to tell, but maybe they had planned to stick her back in a recovery chamber afterwards. There is no depth that cheap gangers won’t sink to, but the weird thing was that all these girls had been lobotomized in some way we couldn’t understand. They weren’t catatonic with fear or resignation, something medical had been done to them. Pops wanted to call in Tail and lift them out now but we didn’t want to risk this: we didn’t know if anyone was watching and would assume our car leaving meant the job was done, and we also didn’t know if Tail could drive well enough to come in through the broken hovercar entry quickly and get out again without Coyote driving. So we shepherded the girls into the rooms again, cleaned up lovergirl as best we could, and promised them we’d liberate them when we came back.

There were stairs down, and some lifts at the end of the medical room next to evisceration-boy’s rape room. The lift doors were partly jammed open but we decided we aren’t the best at climbing, and so we took the stairs. This turned out to be one of our wiser decisions, because as soon as we got to the bottom of the stairs we were in another gun battle. The stairs opened into a big pair of dimly lit rooms full of rubble. The main room had a fallen pillar in the middle, and beyond that a kind of mess room with some tables and chairs. There was a guard in the middle of the room who wasn’t expecting us, and two guys near the pillar, then a fourth guy at the table. There was a door out of here into some complex of rooms beyond, and a smaller room with a door near the stairs that ran along the side of the main room. We hit the room shooting, and the guys panicked; two took cover behind the pillars, one died instantly, and the other one tried to jump up from the table and put his helmet on. Ghost went into the local net and started scanning for trouble; he told me that the narrow side room had broken walls and could be used to get a crossfire position, so I ran in there while Coyote and Pops pinned down those two guys on the pillar. Coyote was shooting madly but he managed to gun down that guy in the middle of the room, who was the only guy in here with an assault rifle. The other two behind the pillar panicked pretty quickly. I took up a covered position inside the side room, with a view through the damaged wall into the main room, where I could cover the exit door and shoot the guys behind the pillars. When they realized they had lost their cover they tried to run, and they both made it through that door. Ghost told us there were more guys on the other side, who were running out of this kind of mess hall in there. Someone else took up a position inside that mess hall, facing the door we had to go through, obviously planning suppressive fire. Sadly for him, Ghost told me, and I discovered the walls were thin here and I could see his infrared signature through the wall. While he was setting up to gun down whoever came through the door, I opened up a whole clip of ammo straight through the wall. It was very satisfying in infrared, because for a brief moment his heat signature blossomed like a pretty flower before it all faded out and cooled down, mostly on the walls. We went through the door.

The other guys who were on the other side of the door had fled, so we had time to search. We found a kind of storeroom back in the main room, that contained a bunch of ghost chalk and some guns, as well as an MFC unit. Loot! The door opened out to a hallway, with the mess hall and the unfortunate cover-guy on the left and a door at the far end, that the guys had run through and locked. We searched it all but there was no other way through. Ghost’s camera work wasn’t complete here, but he thought he could see the guards on the other side of the door, waiting for us. This is when Coyote pulled out his dynamite. Turns out Coyote’s a bit of a firebug, and his explosives skills are pretty fine. He blew the door and parts of the wall straight in, so clean we barely got dust on us, but with such a big and fierce bang that everyone on the other side died instantly. The whole room through there was a wreck. We moved quick and quiet through the smoke and dust, and Pops put down anyone who was left groaning, though I doubt it mattered. We realized things were going to be a bit unstable in there – I nearly got hit by a falling light – so we went on fast. Past that room was a hallway leading down, that opened into a big room full of columns. We came into this room in the hallway, so we had access to a kind of gallery looking down on the room – a perfect shooting position. There was a bonsai tree in the middle, only it was a gigantic mutant bonsai which is completely tasteless, but not as tasteless as lima, who was in there with some of his bodyguards, on the ground floor. Unfortunately my team are clumsy and noisy boys, so the only person who got into the room undetected was Yours Truly. As soon as I got in Coyote did some kind of gigantic sneeze, and Lima and one of his bodyguards opened up with huge suppressor fire on the doorway.

So here we were at the battle with Lima, our job on the line, and there was me the minstrel in the gallery, two of his bodyguards and him down there in the room, one in the gallery, and all my buddies trapped behind a narrow door that was under suppression. I had managed to put myself in a crossfire position between two of those guys, so I shot them both straight away, but they were armoured and neither went down. Then Ghost surprised us all by actually showing some spine – he was wearing that stupid body armour of his that he was wearing when we first met him, and it’s so tough that he just walked straight through the suppression fire and started shooting. But Coyote and Pops didn’t have anything like that to work with, so they just had to stay outside the door waiting for Lima and his bodyguards to think of a more creative tactic than shooting at the door. Me and Ghost killed two of the bodyguards and started shooting Lima, and that’s when things turned nasty. Lima took cover in a position that I could see would put him in line with his remaining bodyguard if I moved, so I tried to run to a better vantage point, but his bodyguard shot me as I was running. Most of it missed me, but one lucky hit took me in the head and that was goodnight from me. I don’t know what happened after that, but a bit later I woke up with a massive headache, being carried by Pops who was swearing and crying. What kind of grown man cries just because his friend got shot in the head?

The boys told me later that after I went down Coyote and Pops suddenly found the ability to crawl, and got out of the doorway. Then Pops went crazy, he came running over to me, grabbed my gun (that had armour piercing ammo) and started shooting madly at Lima, while Ghost kept shooting the bodyguard and Coyote ran over to help me. I had left strict instructions on all my social networks that I am not to be revived if I am shot in combat, because it’s dangerous and stupid to cry over spilt blood when the enemy is up and fighting, but Coyote probably can’t read or has some macho hero complex or something, because he ignored my rules and wasted time trying to wake me up. Meanwhile Pops was burning through ammo like a boosterganger in a speed lab, pouring bullets into Lima until he finally gave up and consented to expire. At least Pops had the good sense to listen to my instructions. So that’s when I woke up, and I think the final bodycount is like 12 to Pops, we didn’t really count Coyote’s because they were mostly body parts and we aren’t forensic scientists, Ghost got maybe 3, and I got 3 at the most. Bottom of the league table and equal last with a netrunner. I really, really need a better gun.

Anyway, when I came back I had this weird sickness and a weird, tiny voice in the back of my head like a different person. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point in that battle my Russian boosterware came back – maybe that’s why I was able to take on two guys at once from the crossfire position, instead of being gunned down like a dog. I don’t remember it so clearly, but that’s why I was running to take on Lima and his bodyguard from a better position, and if I had been a bit luckier I’d have got there and been able to kill them both[1]. I’m really happy it came back, but I don’t know what it is and now we have some money I’m thinking of paying Madam Chu to do a bit of investigating.

Oh yeah, we got money. But that and the weird room with the obssessive post-it notes – that’s a story for another day!

fn1: In the cyberpunk rules you fumble on a 1 on a 1d10. I rolled 7 ones in maybe 12 skill checks during this session. The boosterware kicking in was actually the GM’s decision. When I rolled my 6th one, everyone told me to change my d10 which was obviously loaded, so I switched to another d10 and then that d10 also rolled a 1 (immediately after the previous roll!) So the GM said “this is bullshit, you can reroll that one” and explained it away as my Russian boosterware kicking in. This is the reason my bodycount is only 3 even though my PC is the solo: every time I fired my gun I rolled a 1. I threw away the die I had been using and one player was aghast, saying “I have never seen a player actually throw away a die before!” But that die has rolled me fumbles at something like five times the rate everyone else is getting them – I had five in the previous session too, which is why our ambush of the boostergangers that should have ended in one round took five rounds of struggle. In fact my poor luck with fumbles led to us creating a new house rule about the use of the luck stat! In comparison, Coyote rolled no fumbles in the whole session, and his roll for the explosives was two 10s in a row, giving him a total for the skill check of 43. I also fumbled my initiative roll in that last battle (another 1!), so Ghost got to act before me even though my lowest possible initiative score is 16 (on a d10). Losing the initiative in that final battle was crucial, because it meant I couldn’t kill the guys doing suppressive fire before they acted, and I didn’t know what they were going to do, and it made that battle so hard that we thought we were all going to die…

Drew heads off for some wetwork

Drew heads off for some wetwork

Date: 3rd September, 2177

Weather: Rainy

Mood: Frustrated

Outfit: right now I’m in a Gun Teddy crop top with ice packs on my belly, but yesterday was a job interview so I went conservative, pastel colours and a pleated a-line, nothing too fancy because I didn’t want to look arrogant, which is just as well because sub machine guns really did a number on my tights. But I didn’t want to look like I don’t have class so I loaded up a SubOne clothing line on one of my digital bags, and DoBeaver donuts on the other bag so I have that Office Lady chic going on. I think it worked because Alt seemed to like me. Shame about the blouse though, between the suppressive fire and the oily rain I think it’s past repair. No loss, I shredded it when I got home and used it to clean my rifle.

News: Apparently the strikes in our home district, D68, are getting worse, because some dumb biotech company called Biotechnica has decided to move all the residents of D63 up here, and there’s nowhere for most people to live, and people aren’t happy about it. There’s some kind of wrangling going on in the courts between them and some other corp called Zentech that wants to find out why they’re moving people around, probably some kind of stupid biohazard leak or something, but no one’s talking. Also there are giant goldfish eating people down at the docks. But that’s probably just a coincidence right?

Today Pops told me I should read more, because apparently Solo of Fortune is “low brow.” We had an argument because I was angry about armour, and he told me that there was a time back before, when people could go about their business in the street without wearing any armour, and that in many countries they didn’t even carry guns. This was back before the collapse and The Incident With His Daughter, so it’s like ancient history now, even before Pops’s time, but it sounds kind of weird, right? And this is when I realized that I’m happy I never got an education, or at least not a real one, because what’s the point of learning about things if they just make you mad? I mean, it’s just too bad for some old grandma and grandpa that once they could wander down to the shops in their bikini back when they were young, and not worry about getting a cap in their toosh, I guess now those old folks must think things are pretty sad and wrong, but what does it mean to the rest of us? The only reason Pops even feels anything about whether it was better back in the Oil Age or not is because he gets sentimental about dumb stuff he reads in old books – what’s the use of that? I tried pointing out to him that knowing who sunk the Zeppelin doesn’t pay for this apartment, but he just got all snippy and told me icebergs can’t fly. I guess he doesn’t like nautical history, or something. Anyway that’s when he got all Serious Dad, and told me I should read more books.

Anyway we only had our argument because I was getting angry about armour, and I guess Pops is right that things would have been better way back when grandma and grandpa were young, because then probably those four booster dudes who trashed my hoverbike wouldn’t have been wearing armour, and I would have blasted them all straight into next week instead of having to run home through the rain with a feeble 50% kill rate. Which is why I’m frustrated.

Last night we had our interview with Alt, this super sketchy hacker who thinks she some kind of computer god but looks like a strung out hippy with an LED fetish. Now we’ve extracted Ghost from his apartment we have a full team, and the minimum for this job with Alt was that we had a hacker, I don’t know why we need a journalist as well, let alone some weird dude with glow-worms for skin, but now we have the team we went to meet Alt. He/she runs this mega nightclub on the edge of district 73, and when they say the edge they really mean it – it’s built into the walls of New Horizon’s central well, so it has an amazing view and lots of stylings. Which is kind of spoilt by giving it a dumb retro name, but I guess the.edge is an honest name, if nothing else. It’s a pretty fancy place, to be honest, and we went with Switch, the dodgy dude who fixed us up with this job, and he got us all in with minimal hassle. Well, I should say, he got us in with minimal hassle, but not himself. The club is full of these transhumanist weirdos, who’re into gross-out genetic manipulation stuff, and he ran into this lizard dude called Copia who really didn’t seem to like him – seems they had a disagreement about some low quality goods that Twitch ran him, colour me oh! so surprised! – and before we could get to meet Alt this lizard dude and his big scaly mates had taken our fixer away for a chat. Just as well as it turns out …

As close to the Husk as mortals can get

As close to the Husk as mortals can get

After Twitch went away to renegotiate his fees with the lizard guys, we were led off to Alt’s interview room by these lights in the floor of the club. This club is huge – it must be six floors down, and the main dance floors are on this kind of crystal room that actually sticks out into the New Horizon well, and has a crystal floor, so if you’re dancing there you’re able to see right down into the well, which would be cool if it wasn’t always raining down there. The floors are huge, like the size of a department store, and they’re split apart into different zones and dance floors, so they have everything. For 100 Nuyen you can get a kind of membership card that’s programmed to your tastes and has the latest Support Vector Machine Intelligence, so it learns your tastes from your movement through the club and your music purchases and it can guide you through the club to places you want to go, plugs into the set lists so you can time your dancing just right, and if you’re taking stimulants I’ve even heard it reminds you when to drink or renew your dose. Pretty cool, but for 100 Nuyen I can get 300 rounds of AP ammo and have money left over for pearl tea, so I passed on the music junkie experience. It’s a shame I didn’t bring any AP with me …

When you go down to the lower floors they change into the usual seedy stuff you come to expect from somewhere on the edge of District 73 – rich suits screwing around in masked balls, business deals being conducted in sushi bars with human tables, that sort of thing. Nothing to write home about, but Alt’s place was pretty ordinary in comparison. Just this glass tunnel full of lights and then a waiting room, and after about half an hour we were led into this kind of interview room with a big desk and a couple of bodyguards, and a glass floor that hung over the well. I guess Alt doesn’t like to employ agorophobes. Alt is this completely weird transhuman man/woman, sitting in this huge chair with all these super-flashy dreadlocks coming out of his/her head and his/her eyes rolled back like an ash-junkie, lights twitching and running over all the hair and the face. Ghost didn’t seem impressed with most of it, but I’m not gonna take lessons on Husk fashion from some dude who wears a spacesuit while he works and put his address on the public web so the only reason he has all his organs is our timely intervention, about which we still have some loose ends to discuss btw Ghost if you’re hacking my diary and reading this right now. After a few minutes of pretending not to care he/she rolled his/her ash-junkie eyes forward, and then he/she does this trick where he/she searches for data on one of us, and while he/she’s searching all these pictures of the person flash in those big anime-girl eyes. Ghost wasn’t impressed by that either, but that’s probably because he/she thought I was interesting and he would “do”. I guess he gets that a lot …

Our chat with Alt was pretty short and simple. Alt is looking for this guy called Lima, he’s an ex-cyberpsycho who ran away with some info of hers, and she wants it back. He is wicked cyber – all his arms and legs are metal and he’s loaded up with stuff – and his psychosis is probably not treated, so he’s also wicked dangerous. She wants him dead or alive, “dead would be easier,” and the only minimum is that we don’t touch or damage any hacker gear he has lying around. We find him, we ice him, we call her agent to come collect the gear. Any non-hacker stuff is ours, and we get 15k Nuyen – not 10k like Twitch said! No other minimums except that we can’t let anyone know Alt ordered the hit (like I would! I’m a girl with standards!) and we have two weeks to get the job done or no money. Of course she may have given others the job too, so we may have to ice some rivals but she won’t care. Collateral damage is not an issue, which is good because Lima is hiding out in District 73 which is a gangzone, so we’ll probably have to ice a few locals to get to him. Shame we don’t get paid extra for urban renewal, but you take the jobs where you can. We agreed and left.

I have to run all the way down there?

I have to run all the way down there?

Unfortunately things went a bit sour when we left. Four booster gangers in purple were waiting in the bar when we came out, they were dressed in purple and obviously from the same gang that we had to liberate Ghost from a few days ago. They were watching us too and they left ahead of us. We were delayed when we got outside because we found Twitch lying in a pool of his own worthless blood, three transhuman lizard dudes giving him a well-deserved kicking. By the time I’d asked them if they were going to kill him (so we could sort out changes to the cut of the profits) and Coyote had told him off for trying to rob us, I think he was past help, so Coyote tossed him some painkillers and we left, but by then it was too late. When we got to the car park we found the dude Twitch had arranged to protect our cars smeared all over the wall, and our cars trashed and graffiti’d. Those stupid booster-gangers are some kind of American degenerates, so they’d scrawled stars and stripes all over my bike and smashed the headlights. OhMYgod! Also Coyote’s car was pretty trashed but whatever, it’s a clunky thing. But he was pretty angry even though his car is some steroid-jacked pile of junk, and he got Ghost to find out where these dudes went. Ghost hacked into the computers of the carpark and found they were going out the slow way, going around this big spiral to the top, but if we could get Coyote’s pile of junk running and Ghost could hack open a service gate we could go right up the middle of the park and catch them at the top. There were only three of us – did I mention that Pops and Huang Lin had “more important” things do do than meet our employer!? – but we decided to do it anyway. I took the sun-roof, rifle ready, and we broke into the central column and Coyote took us up so fast I thought we were going to hit orbit. Coyote may have bad taste in facial design and the communication skills of a trained ape, but he’s good with a car, and he got us up there and into a perfect ambush position really fast. I was standing in the sunroof with my gun on the exit, and Ghost was using the cameras to track the boostergang car, so I was ready as soon as they came out. We sprung our trap.

Unfortunately they were coming out in a fast loop, maybe worried about an ambush, and pretty much as soon as they hit the exit they were heading straight at us, even though they didn’t know where we were – just bad blind luck. I unloaded a whole clip into the car, it should have minced all four of them but because Coyote had to jerk our ride around to avoid their car I only hit three. They were coming straight at me and so close I could see their shock when they realized they were right in my line of fire, and even in the heavy rain it was so clear and close that I could see the guy in the back right looking oh so shocked as he got brains from the guy in front all down his face. But I didn’t kill those two in back straightaway, and then we were behind them. Coyote was whooping and yelling and shooting this enormous pistol of his while he drove, but he still got really crisp control of his bashed up old car, so we got a stable platform for another shot from behind. I got another chance from there and tried to shoot the driver but my gun kicked – there’s something wrong with it, it nearly jammed three times in a row, cheap American trash – and I missed. Ghost had hacked into the car though and he slowed it down on the turn, then Coyote drove us over the top and down in front, so the car had to hit us. Which it did, and that knocked my next burst wild too, so I couldn’t shoot again and then as we were rocking away from the impact those two guys in back went full auto on us with two submachineguns. They tore the guts out of all the funky leather seats in Coyote’s car, and we got covered in stuffing and springs from the chairs and a bit of light scratching from all the shattered glass and metal but somehow – I do not know how – they didn’t get a good hit. Not that it matters, my skinweave can handle most light weapons like that. I guess I’d be dead now if I was dressed like Pops’s grandma! But their car was pushing us towards the edge of the carpark now, and it turns out the outer edge is right against the New Horizon Well, so we were going to go over the edge. Ghost stopped their car dead with some kind of hacking, but Coyote thought it might be cool to go over the edge anyway and sank us down the side over the well, so that only my  head was visible, and I had a perfect line of sight to put three bullets into the driver. And that’s when my stupid gun jammed and I had to drop out of sight. Coyote pulled the car up now so we could see what to do, while I was trying to unjam my gun, and took another shot, and Ghost managed to do something nasty to the driver so he started twitching and spazzing. The two guys in the back must have not seen me stripping my gun down in the car, because they obviously decided they’d had enough and decided to do a runner. Right-hand-door guy got out and sprinted back for the exit tunnel, but left-hand-door guy tried to haul over to an air-con duct for cover. Unfortunately for him reality caught up with him halfway across and he collapsed under the weight of his wounds. I guess even a cheap American assault rifle will find the measure of a man once it has sunk four bullets into them. Eventually. But not before he got a chance to waste my new tights and tear up a cheap blouse. I need a better gun. I mean really, two dead out of four, when they were sitting in a car 10m away from me? My old team-mates would laugh at that…

Anyway, the job was pretty much done now. Coyote finished off the hiding dude, and he and Ghost stuffed the driver in the car to have a chat later. I tried to drive off with the booster-gang’s car but the cops were onto us too fast and I had to run. I got back to my scooter and got away before anyone could catch me, and got back to my apartment wet, bruised and trashed. Somehow in the firefight with the rocking of the car I got slammed into the side of the sunroof and took some bruising, and I think I got hit when the booster dudes redecorated Coyote’s back seat. Not happy. I’ve stripped and cleaned that gun three times but I can’t find what went wrong. From now on I need a spare assault rifle, but fortunately after they had their chat with the booster-gang driver Coyote and Ghost found a repo man and were able to recycle him, so we got a bit of money, maybe enough to scrape together for a second rifle.

So we are still entangled with that stupid booster-gang, who obviously still want Ghost for some reason. Trust our luck to get a marked hacker. But we need him, because we’re going to have to do some high-grade hacking to find out where this Lima dude is, and in order to do it we’re going to need to build some kind of device called an Extreme Range Husk Aligned Scanner, which means we can cruise around district 73 while Ghost scans around looking for signs of the cyberpsycho. Then I ice him. Simple. Then we find the rest of that booster gang, and I find creative ways to make them pay for my bike. I’ll tell you all about it as soon as it happens, dear Diary!

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