Ji Ho caught a murder case, his first real Murder case since the EVE incident got him sidelined at the station. This was good for me since he was sidelined he could subtly look into Kyle’s disappearance. Granted it didn’t do a lick of good, the trail was still cold. We needed a break, I needed a break, and Ji Ho’s case was just the thing.
Some scum named Edwin Hinson got himself shot dead on the plaza level of a parking garage. I say some scum because Hinson had quite a few priors; racketeering, fraud, and blackmail (more on the latter later). The men who shot him, 3 of them, were dressed like hooligans and wearing some kind of freaky metallic face paint, they also jumped right off the plaza level to the street below after they offed Hinson. What kind of people do that, Augments? Gangbangers?
The security footage Ji Ho showed me was useless, the department had a high powered facial recognition system but it couldn’t make heads or tails of the perps, my systems could do no better. The freaky face paint screwed up all chances of ID-ing the killers. Face paint Jo Ho swore he’d never seen bangers or mobsters wearing before. Well, to be honest, the footage wasn’t entirely useless. When Hinson was accosted he made a rather interesting inquiry.
“Did one of their husband’s send you?”
This is what lead us to believe it wasn’t a random killing, that and the perps didn’t even take his cash. Ji Ho looked into Hinson’s financials.. and the guy was loaded… well just recently loaded. He made a few big deposits recently (150k, 3 times over the past six months) all routed through a place called the Velvet Room… a virtual playground.
That is why Ji Ho came to me. The Velvet Room is one of those fantasy fulfillment places. You jack in make and avatar, visit various exotic locales and have all kinds of relations with who knows who. The more expensive places try to class up the joints, and the Velvet room was a cut above midgrade. The type of place that doesn’t even let you log in without a full sensory emersion rig. Luckily… I currently own 2. (ok One fit for real use, the other cobbled together from spare parts, but hey it works, mostly.)
But before we donned leather-clad avatars it was time to do a little digging. Luckily poor Mr. Hinson’s computer was an open book, and he was a pretty skeevy creeper. He had some second rate screen capture programs running on his rig. They recorded some steamy conversions he had with women in the Velvet Room. How skeevy was this Hinson? Let’s just say his handle was “StudMuffin69”…. Yikes.
Reading through his chat logs it appeared he had a pretty intimate relationship with someone called “EXXotica” I quickly isolated the username in the chat and some interesting things came to light.
Studmuffin and EXXotica got quite steamy in virtual space for about a year. However, EXXotica tried to break it off about 6 months ago so she could “Work on her marriage.” That is when Mr. Muffin (I mean Hinson) decided blackmail was his best play. Those payments of 150k came from EXXotica. What did Hinson want with the funds? Well based on his browser history he was looking to trade up. Prosthetically. Limbs that is. Ji Ho forgot to tell me the poor guy was artificial from the waist down. Some old war injury. He was looking to buy some higher end prosthesis.
The original plan was to dive into the virtual playground and chat up this Exxotica. Play up some handsome rich guy unlucky with love. I had pegged Ji Ho to play the bait, but he had someone else in mind. That is how I met Bishop. Ji Ho brought him to my flat. (don’t worry I was getting ready to relocate anyway) Bishop and Ji Ho go way back. Like schoolyard friends way back. Anyway, Bishop is apparently a con man who dabbled a few times in corporate espionage. Maybe a few too many times. He is a smooth talker and thinks quick on his feet. Just the type of person who can con their way into Exxotica’s life.
The problem was EXXotica had left that life. Her last log into the Velvet Room was 9 days ago. She spent a long time in a room called the “Scorpion’s Den” and then left and hadn’t been back since. Warming up to Exxotica was out of the picture, but Ji Ho had a hunch. That “Scorpion’s Den” had something to do with it. The room wasn’t listed in the Velvet Room’s Menu selection. He figured it was in that room that EXXotica hired someone to kill her blackmailer.
I had to scrap the HungDragon1020 avatar I had built for the Velvet Room and try something different. That is how SouthernScarlet was born. A friend of EXXotica’s in deep trouble with her man, looking to no longer fear coming home at night. I hate role-playing I’m not any good at the quick lies, but I tried to prepare to go in. However, Bishop stepped up to the plate. He’d take on the role SouthernScarlet and con his way into that Scorpion’s Den and find out who this EXXotica was. I wasn’t sure how good Bishop would be at doing a Gender-bender emersion but he actually took to it just fine.
Just in case I booted up my spare rig and had Ji Ho on Standby.
Bishop came on strong.. and asked about this “Scorpion’s Den.” He was taken there where he met a man called the Reg Aston. Reg was quite a player… or so I thought at first. Until he quickly started asking Bishop more questions about how (S)he knew Exxotica. Reg was not buying Bishop’s story. So Bishop flipped the script. He convinced Reg that he was actually there about the money Exxotica owned Reg and his men for the murder of Hinson. They confirmed they knew about the crime but weren’t the ones that dealt with the money. To their knowledge, Elizabeth Connelly had already sent it.
We had a name. (though why he used that name and not Exxotica bugged me.. just seemed like an easy slip up.)
Ji Ho made a couple phone calls and got an address for Mrs. Connelly. She lived in Yutani Memory System’s Archology. Apparently, it is also where she and her husband Luther also worked. Bishop got out of the Velvet Room and off the two of them went. While I stayed behind to cover our virtual tracks.
It wasn’t but five minutes later that Ji Ho called me back up… they had a tail. Someone was following their hopper. Less than a minute later. That person was firing at Ji Ho’s hopper.
I was on it. By hacking into the traffic control system I was able to pinpoint their pursuers hopper. With some rather delicate hacking, I was to screw with the hopper’s altimeter which caused its safety features to make the craft drop out of the sky like a rock. Not before, however, someone from the vehicle leapt out and onto Ji Ho’s hopper. Some quick flying, a few kicks, gunshots and a missing window later, the man was removed from Ji Ho’s hopper. He was instead jumping from hopper to hopper in the traffic like a freaken flee. (he was obviously robotically enhanced)
By this time the pursuing craft had disabled their safety feature and were coming up from below.
If it worked once. Why not again. I hacked into Ji Ho’s hopper and did the same thing to it. Causing it to crash down on top of their assailant’s vehicle. This did not quite have the desired effect that I wanted. After the two hoppers separated one of their assailants was hanging on their hopper from below. Bishop through some reflection in some passing sign saw the person affix something to Ji Ho’s hopper.
Ji Ho was calling in back up while I had an idea. I quickly threw the vectors into my computer and with some luck and a little bit of insanity (to be honest it was like playing that cool new racing sim) I took control of Ji Ho’s hopper and scraped the bottom of the vehicle across the top of a billboard. (ok that is what I intended to do… but my math was a tad off. The hopper hit a little lower than I intended, I’m surprised it was still flyable) Lucky for them my plan worked. As they raced away the billboard blew up in a massive explosion.
Wounded, tired, and barely flyable, Ji Ho and Bishop made it to the YuTani Memory System’s Archology, only to find it swarming with YuTani Security, already in the midst of their own murder investigation.