Location: Giovanni's Pizza, 95th and Sandpoint
Interactions: Mysterious Stranger, JV and Oshun
Equipment: Standard Gear
“95th and Sand Point.”
The driver laughed at him. A sharp, swift cackle that sent his head snapping backwards.
“You want me to take you that far North Side?” He laughed again. “You must be outta your damn mind.”
JV, less amused, leaned deeper through the cab window. “I can handle myself just fine.” He rumbled, opening one side of his trenchcoat and gesturing towards his revolver.
The cabbie’s head bobbed up and down like a buoy at sea. “Oh yeah, I’m sure your 10ft, bulletproof, mean muggin ass can my man, but I ain’t talkin’ bout you.” His hand dropped from the wheel, sticking out a thumb towards himself. “But this guy right here has got a life, one that he’d like to keep.”
Grunting as he pulled back from the window, JV thrust his coat closed. That was the second cab to turn away his business. Maybe that’s what he got for being cheap, trying to take human operated road only cabs like all the other broke people in the city. Muck from the tires kicked up as the car sped off. Freezing rain started to fall. The man’s fists tightened, he didn’t like the idea of crawling back to anyone but time was wasting and the decision not to wear more layers was exacerbating his sour mood.
“Oshun?” Even his thoughts came out as if he were speaking through gritted teeth. “Get me an AutoCab.” A car beeped from above the road, throwing on an indicator and making its way down. Odd. Usually she appeared in person, or well, digitally in-person. Was she mad at him? Or letting him cool off steam?
JV shook the thought loose as he entered the back of the cab. The man was on the job, who cared what the program thought. Leaning towards the empty front seat, old habits, JV directed. “Nine-” The car jerked forward, practically throwing the man against the back of the cab. A small screen on the back of the empty drivers seat lit up as a woman’s face, white as porcelain, appeared. “Good morning sir, we thank you for choosing AutoCab as your riding service today. Is this appearance to your liking?” Her lips were full, pouting with a matte red lipstick as her head tilted from side to side. Despite her oriental appearance her eyes were unnaturally wide, clearly meant to mimic an anime character.
“Sure.” He replied, shifting around in the seat to mould his own groove. “Whatever.”
“Excellent, Sir.” The image on screen zoomed out with the figure curtsying and clapping before returning to the characters face. “Our ride North will take approximately 35 minutes as traffic is considered to be ‘heavy’. Your Cybercom has already given us your destination and your preferred ridealong interaction. Please enjoy ‘general cab chatter’.”
“Crazy weather we’re having today right, sir? Can’t believe traffic is backed up all the way to-”
Ok. She was mad.
“Just apologise to her.” A little voice from inside beseeched. JV’s hand clutched his face, squeezing it tightly as a deep exhale caught the back of his throat. Even his conscience worked against him, dubbing Oshun’s voice, torturing him. “And what about this job? Aren’t you the least bit curious as to-”. “Gah! Mute!” He snapped, causing the figure on screen to nod in compliance, dissipating into blackness. “Everything just fuckin’ shut up.”
Rain tapped on the glass as the rest of the cab held its breath in silence. A familiar sting nipped at the base of his skull. Slithering up like a snake from his spine, the feeling crawled past the cerebellum towards his frontal lobe. His hands tingled as his veins itched. His blood boiled, yearning, begging. It was only one call away. One call and he didn’t have to feel anything anymore, he could take so much it would override the detoxifier and-
“It’s ok, I’m here.”
JV’s hand dropped from his face as his head turned. There sat Oshun, smiling as her cybernetic etchings glowed a luminous, calming amber. Her hand hovered over his leg, phasing through as the cab jerked in a turn. JV slumped as his head flopped back into the headrest. He sharply inhaled as if about to speak but turned to look out the window instead. His way of saying ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’.
The cab dipped, parking on the side of the road, dinging as it reached its destination. “Keep it circling above, ready for a quick pickup.” JV said as he climbed out. Jammed together between an old timey barbershop and a dilapidated tattoo parlour sat Giovanni's Pizza. Its neon sign buzzed and flickered above the door with several letters failing to light up. “Vanni’s izza ay?” the man chuckled, turning towards his Cybercom.
“Was that an actual joke?” Oshun shot back, her hand lightly slapping the side of her cheek as a faux surprised look washed over her face. JV smirked, shaking his head. He deserved that. “5 o’clock.” She whispered, her voice suddenly becoming strained with intensity. Whipping around, he noticed several figures across the cracked and broken plasticrete road with all but one standing in the shadow of an alleyway.
Under the dim light of the neon glow, a slender, punk dressed young man stood with his eyes unmistakably bearing down on JV. The Haitian’s hand disappeared into his coat, widening his stance as he did so. A telegraphed warning. On the opposite side of the road, the man backed slowly off into the darkness of the alley, all of the figures evaporating along with him. “I don’t like this.” Oshun groaned.
“Since when is this worse than normal?” He replied, turning to head into the shop. Pushing the door open a tired, worn out digital voice welcomed him. “Benvenuto!” The pudgy Italian looking hologram flickered as it spun a virtual pizza into the air. The restaurant had an old world feel to it; diner red booths, a counter plastered with cracked and peeling vinyl, sneeze guards covering empty ingredient dishes and a silver clad kitchen in the back. Clearly, the register was the newest item in the place and even that was an outdated Cyber model. It was a homage to a world that perhaps was a simpler time, an accolade that would almost make anyone feel at ease, well, except for the decapitated body in the centre of the room.
Gore bled from the body's neck, spurting over the ground and pooling at the feet of an android. The thing had no skin, it’s body was just a twisted concoction of metal and wiring, a beast built with no love lost. Its face had been painted crimson, skeletal in appearance with ferocious fangs instead of teeth. Unmistakably inhuman. Light glinted off a katana held in the thing's right hand as drops of blood dripped from its razor sharp edge onto the floor.
Off to the Cybercoms side sat a man in a sharp looking suit. He was poised on a wooden chair with his hands clapped together as if he were watching a play. Bald and bearded, he was clearly of oriental descent with a giant dragon tattoo etched into the side of his head. A large scar formed a line that ran from his forehead to his cheek, leaving the eye in the centre that separated it blind. Looking over at JV, the man smiled devilishly. “It’s too bad you walked in.”
Electricity from the katana crackled to life, searing off the remaining blood as the Cybercoms stance changed in an instant. Drawing the sword to its hip with both hands, the android pointed the tip towards JV and charged.
Instinctually, the Haitian’s hand had dropped to the grip of his revolver from the first sight of the blood and was now whipping out the handgun. “Three shots, don’t empty it.”
Bang, bang, bang.
Alas, this was no western and hip fire was inaccurate even at the best of times. Two shots glanced, with the third missing completely. The Cybercom was on him, closing the gap and thrusting the sword out with both hands. Luckily, JV was faster, side stepping the thrust and pushing the android off balance. It wasn’t enough to knock the thing over but it was enough to gain a single moment. Bullets weren’t the only thing in the man's arsenal as he had simultaneously been hacking the target.
The android jolted, frying in perceived pain before dropping to the floor, incapacitated. Flinging out his arm, JV aimed down the barrel towards the man in the chair.
“I’m just here for the pizza. Hand it over or I'll kill you.”
With his bottom lip upturned, the stranger glared back in disdain. His eyes flickered back and forth between JV and his downed Cybercom before narrowing with a sense of contemplation. The Haitian was unflinching in his stance with his triggerfinger ready to pop off at a moment's notice. Tension swelled across the room like a cloud of poisonous gas until finally, the seated man let out a sharp, forceful exhale from his nose, dismissively smiling.
“No.” His voice was deep and yet somewhat smooth. “You be a fool to shoot me.” The sentence was thick with accent as a half smirk grimaced his face. His blind eye shifted, rolling around in his head, darting back and forth.
“He’s calculating scenario outcomes.” The voice of Oshun whispered from somewhere in the ether. “If you’re going to shoot, now would be the time.”
Standing, the man continued. “My death will haunt your every move, JV.” The Haitians name lingered in the air, sounding as if that word alone had been said robotically.
“Something about today, or maybe it’s tonight. It’s just… different.”Damballa’s prediction echoed through JV’s thoughts, gently tugging like strings of curiosity. Pulling just enough to stay his wrath.
Ignoring the threat of the gun the stranger continued to stir. With a hand gripped around his opposing wrist, he appeared to loosen it, causing his hand to disappear and be replaced with a sharpened sword. The metal arm flexed back and forth, limbering up for a fight. “I’ve business here. We make a deal. I don’t kill you, but you work for me now. Be a Samurai’s friend,” he shrugged, “Then, pizza is yours.”
Ah, the Samurai’s. Aunt Nettie’s favourite group of degenerate mercs. Bootlickers with lucrative contracts that paid by the bucket load. “Heh,” JV chuckled, “Sure, so long as it don’t mess with the Prophet’s business, what do I care?” The Haitian‘s gun dipped, lowering it from a potential headshot to a torso. “Hand me whatever the pizza actually is and then call when you’ve got a job.”
The strangers face twisted, conjuring up a wicked grin. Mechanical sounds from his arm whirred as the blade disappeared. “Wise choice, JV.” Dusting off his suit, the Samurai took in a deep breath, rolling his head around before looking towards the ceiling. “Pizza is all yours.” He exhaled as his arm widely gestured towards the back of the store. Still wary of the man, JV glanced across the counter and into the kitchen, spotting what looked like a stack of pizzas in the back. Snapping his attention back to the stranger, he watched as the man slowly edged his way around the Haitain, slithering out the front door like the snake he was.
“Phew.” Relief escaped JV as he brought sleeve to brow, wiping a few beads of sweat from his forehead. “Next time, we enter in the back way.”
Oshun pixelated into view, her face heaving with disappointment. “So you’re a Corpo and a gang member now?”
JV smiled, taking the opportunity to reload his gun. “You’re the one always telling me to ‘branch out’.”
The Cybercom sighed in frustration as the Haitian moved behind the counter. Blood was strewn across the floor, from pools of the stuff to violent splashes up the wall. Bodies of men in suits and kitchen hands had been left where they dropped, all decapitated. “Oh god.” Oshun whispered as JV looked ahead. There, in the corner of the room, floated a stack of pizza boxes, held in some kind of holographic warming device. Reaching them, the man thumbed his way down the pile finding the name ‘Endo’ written on the side of three of them. JV’s shoulders dipped in relief as he parted the stack, grabbing the prize with his hand.
Warping across to JV’s side, Oshun poked her head around the man’s shoulder like a cat. “Aren’t you curious as to what’s in them?” The Haitian scoffed, “I think we’ve had enough trouble for one day. Call the cab back down, let’s get these pizzas delivered.”