10 Apr 2013

A Writing Exercise and Shadowrun Backgrounder

For NaNoWriMo 2010, I decided to try writing a tie-in novel.  The goal was to have an interesting story in the setting while staying close to the game mechanics as narratively possible.  I went with Shadowrun, a tabletop RPG that crossed cyberpunk with Tolkien-style fantasy.  The setting has been fleshed out to allow players to wreak havoc while still giving GMs room to plot.

Shadowrun is set in the 2070s, long after magic has returned to the world.  Corporations dominate the landscape, and countries have sundered.  The technology has advanced at a believable rate, ignoring cybernetics for now.  Players are human, though there are now human subspecies, such as trolls and elves.  The player characters are freelance deniable expendable assets; think Mission: Impossible, except without the benefits.

To get a firm idea of the characters, I took a small snippet I wrote in the form of a transcript from a 60 Minutes-style news program and let my main characters provide running commentary.  This let me work out the characters' personality, which helped greatly when writing non-stop.  Just imagine that the characters are watching the same piece over the Matrix (Shadowrun's wireless Internet) in different locations.

The piece is a tad longer than the average blog post, so I've added a jump cut.  Enjoy!

A NewsNet Exclusive! Interview With a Shadowrunner!

You've experienced them in simsense! You've heard about them on the news. You might even have seen one on the street or even at your job without realizing it. But who are they, these nebulous shadowrunners? Why do they work outside the law? Where do they come from? NewsNet's own Amanda Pierce goes deep into the world of the shadowrunner to find out what makes them tick. Find out what she discovered after these messages.

Numbers, is this the interview you and Charles did? - Treehugger
Yeah. I don't think the reporter realized we work together. - Numbers
She never mentioned anyone else she was talking to, unless she wanted us to comment. - Charles
Wait. I want a couple of beers for this. - Oswald

Choose maturity level: [Family Friendly]

Family friendly? Really? - Treehugger
Free download. Some kid broke the DRM off his family's copy somehow. - Numbers

[commercial break]

At least the ads are out. - Charles
I don't know. I like the new ChocoFlavor SugaBombs ad. - Treehugger
You would. - Oswald

NewsNet NewsBreak: Are you paying too much in tolls? The hidden costs of GridGuide, coming up at eleven.

TH, when was the last time you paid for GridGuide? - Oswald
Um, I think I made a payment three years ago. Or was that a speeding ticket? - Treehugger

Amanda Pierce: Shadowrunners. The mere mention of them sends corporate security into a tizzy. In today's world, are they heroes of the common people [insert Nikki Saito footage] or scum living on the outskirts of civilized society [insert Tales of the Red Samurai footage]. The answer may surprise you. In the next hour, I will provide you with interviews with shadowrunners, the people who hire them, and the people whose job it is to stop them. But first, these messages.

Anyone think we should get sponsors? Get paid to have logos on our clothes? - Charles
That works only if we show up on camera. - Numbers
Do security cameras count? - Treehugger
No. - Oswald

[commercial break]

NewsNet NewsBreak: Can your pet be responsible for lost data? Tune in tonight at eleven to find out.

Is this for real? - Charles
Technomantic cats, yes. - Numbers
Great. I can has datafiles? - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Corporate security. RFID scanners. Checkpoints. Knight Errant. Extraterritoriality. All meant to keep you safe at your work. But shadowrunners, nebulous people living on the edge of society, not only find ways past all the levels of security you count on, they do it for pay. I caught up with several shadowrunners and asked them about their work.

Numbers, as she prefers to be called, responded early to my enquiries. She's been an active shadowrunner for almost five years, hacking her way into computer systems many people would have called impenetrable. Numbers, how did you become a shadowrunner?

Numbers: Necessity.

Hey, look at you! All proper business. Love the pink streak in your hair. - Oswald.
I haven't seen that look on you before. - Treehugger
Something new. - Numbers
I hope you saved the look. People are going to expect it. - Charles

Amanda Pierce: You look like an ambitious woman. You could have a position in any of the major corporations.

Numbers: *laughs* I did. However, there was a, um, falling out, that left me in a position where I had to either hide in a remote mountain or disappear into the shadows. I'm not sure if I made the right decision.

Amanda Pierce: Numbers represents one end of spectrum. But her story echoed throughout the interviews. I asked the same question to Jane Zero, a mage who has been running the shadows for three years.

Jane Zero: Beats grubbing for a small piece of turf in the Barrens.

Anyone heard of her before? - Oswald
I think I ran into her once. - Treehugger
What's she like? - Numbers
Angry. But that might be from me hitting her in traffic. - Treehugger

Amanda Pierce: You're a mage. You have skills and abilities in high demand.

Jane Zero: If I was in a [bleep]ing arcology, things might have been different. But you don't get the same chances on the streets.

Amanda Pierce: What about the corporate outreach programs?

Jane Zero: Yeah, give up my freedom for a corp controlled life. No thanks. The streets were tough, but I could count on me and the people around me.

Amanda Pierce: Do all shadowrunners have an anti-corporate streak? I approached Charles, a troll specializing in bodyguard work. How did he get started in this life?

Hey! I do not have an anti-corp streak! - Numbers
No, one just had an anti-Numbers streak. - Oswald

Charles: I got involved running numbers as a kid. Even then, I was strong for my age. And, well, who's going to hire a troll built like a brick [bleep]house for anything other than carrying crap around? So I started hiring myself out as a bodyguard. Simple stuff at first, just standing around and looking mean for the guys collecting protection, then got better paying jobs.

And now you run with Numbers. - Treehugger
You're no longer allowed to comment. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Have you done any work for a corporate client?

Charles: Sure. Corp. Mob. Celebrities, even. Cred's cred, right?

Looking good, Charles. - Treehugger.
She wanted me to have that three-day growth look. - Charles
Scruffy means dangerous. - Oswald.
That makes you the most dangerous man in Seattle. - Numbers

Amanda Pierce: So, are shadowrunners a pressure valve for a society that's become more and more regimented? I caught up with Tart, another mage working at the edge of society. Why be a shadowrunner?

Tart: I have to be me.

Anyone know her? - Numbers
She looks familiar. - Charles
Never saw her before. - Treehugger
Yeah, I think I've seen her. - Oswald
Where? I've never heard of her. - Numbers
It was at Tickler's. A special feature. - Oswald
Men. - Treehugger

Amanda Pierce: What does that mean?

Tart: I can't be tied down. Well, I can, but I have to know you better. But I tried the corporate rat race and discovered that I don't like being a rat. Not my totem.

Wait, she's a mage? - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: So far, all the runners I've spoken to have a independent streak. I brought this up with Two-Bit, a dwarf rigger.

I've met him. Intense. Loves to race. I lost a month's worth of coffee to him. - Treehugger

Two-Bit: You need to be a bit of a rebel in the biz. You break any number of laws, from gun felonies down to speeding, on the job. I could be working for any corp or even the government, keeping my head down, not getting shot at. If I really needed an adrenaline fix, I could be in the military - they always need people like me in their jets and T-birds. But, in a corp, in the army, you always answer to someone, always have limits. In the shadows, I answer to me.

Amanda Pierce: Coming up, the corporate side of the argument. Later, what motivates a runner? More after these messages.

I'm motivated for another beer. - Charles

[commercial break]

NewsNet NewsBreak: The latest on the breaking soy controversy, coming up at eleven tonight.

What soy controversy? - Treehugger
The one that says it actually has flavour. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: The world of the shadowrunner. Dirty deeds, done at a price. Their targets, corporate safe holds, like where fifty-nine per cent of Seattlites work. But, there are people whose job is to stop the shadowrunners in their tracks. I contacted a number of corporations for their input for this story. Peter Tarkov, Security Manager at Federated Boeing, spoke about the shadowrunner problem.

Tarkov: They're a problem. With the number of research projects we have across all of our campuses, we have our hands full. Espionage, corporate and otherwise, costs.

Oh, please. He'd have a job even without us. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Akira Matsura, spokesperson for all security matters for Mitsuhama Computer Technologies, agreed.

Matsura: Shadowrunners present the most pressing challenge for Mitsuhama's security teams. The security added to all our buildings and facilities comes at a price, one passed on to consumers for no added gain.

Maybe if their guards didn't use full-auto all the time, it might not be so expensive. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: I brought this up with the runners I interviewed. How do they feel about being the cause of increasing prices for consumers.

Jane Zero: [bleep] them. I need to eat, too.

Amanda Pierce: Pinstripe, an ork shadowrunner, has another perspective.

Not a bad guy at all. I see him sometimes at the Big Rhino. - Charles

Pinstripe: Not my fault. I'm a contractor. If my services weren't in demand, I'd have to find a new career. I get hired by one corp to hit another.

Numbers: The costs of increased security is far less than that of the marketing campaigns to promote products. Security amounts to maybe one per cent of the cost to distributors.

That's all she left in? I had charts breaking down the costs. - Numbers
Did you animate them? - Treehugger
The percentages spoke for themselves. - Numbers
I hate talking pie charts. - Oswald
*glare* - Numbers

Amanda Pierce: I mentioned these concerns to my corporate contacts.

Tarkov: I have to protect multi-billion nuyen contracts. The loss of a prototype or even data falls on me. I need more resources, and the costs of those resources has to come out of someone's budget. FedBoeing is only a Double-A company relying mainly on government contracts; we don't have the flexibility that a Triple-A corporation has. Our clients make loud noises if the cost overrun goes stratospheric, and that gets into the news.

His department doesn't get a corporate discount? - Oswald

Matsura: Corporations will use any asset available. The existence of shadowrunners means they will be used.

Amanda Pierce: If all the runners disappeared overnight, would the threat of intrusion disappear?

Matsura: Be reduced, yes. Disappear entirely, no, sadly.

Two-Bit: Considering that MCT provides my team steady work, Matsura-san is right. Corporations will still use dirty tricks against each other. They just couldn't outsource it.

Amanda Pierce: Lorena Young, a security consultant working for Knight Errant, had another perspective.

Young: Even if runners disappeared, the void would be filled, quickly. Maybe not by independent freelancers, though. There are plenty of small companies working on the sunnier side of the edge who could step into the gap.

Amanda Pierce: Omar Shadow co-owns such a company, ShadowWorx Limited in Denver. I asked him how he got into the business.

Shadow: I wanted benefits. I was once a shadowrunner working in Denver, around the time Ghostwalker appeared.

How does he get from sector to sector there? - Charles
He probably has subsidiaries to get past the borders. - Numbers
Might not be a problem in a few years the way the city's owners keep disappearing. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: So your company provides legal runners?

Shadow: Not in those words. ShadowWorx provides trained personnel who are capable of using their judgement and minimize the collateral damage to facilities.

I can do that. I should send him my resume. - Treehugger
Don't forget your driving record. - Oswald
Shut up. - Treehugger

Amanda Pierce: Is this legal?

Shadow: I have a business license and an exclusive clientèle. My paperwork is above board.

Two-Bit: Above board? Shadow? I started running around the time he got out of the biz. He's just found a new angle, that's all.

Legal and moral are two different things. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Coming up next, the people who hire shadowrunners. Also, what is the government's response to shadowrunners?

[commercial break]

NewsNet NewsBreak: Nerps, what can it do for you? Nerps, at eleven.

Amanda Pierce: Shadowrunner, scourge and menace? Or another corporate asset? Could these people exist without the megacorporations' approval?

Tarkov: Quite frankly, I don't see a need for them.

He must be a joy to work for. - Numbers

Amanda Pierce: But other corporate insiders disagree. Mr. Johnson, the nameless, faceless employer of almost every runner in existence, works at every corporation, from triple-A companies like Ares and Mitsuhama down to unranked local firms. I talked to several, all of whom insisted on keeping their identities private. Mr. Johnson A, who would only go on record as saying that he's from one of the triple-A megacorporations, answered my question, "Why hire shadowrunners?"

Mr. Johnson A: Simple. Deniability. Shadowrunners are untraceable, short-term assets who specialize in corporate espionage. I might have several teams of them working at different angles of the same against the same target. With no defining traits, none can be traced back to me and my employer.

I think we've worked for this guy before. - Charles
They're all like that. - Oswald
I promise that, if I ever get back in a corp job, to not treat you like that. - Numbers

Amanda Pierce: And the costs?

Mr. Johnson A: I keep well within the allowable budget. All factors are accounted for. Sometimes, a team will cost more than expected. I then have to decide whether the team has abilities worth the expense.

Shadowrunners, you get what you pay for. - Charles

Amanda Pierce: Mr. Johnson B has been in the Seattle scene for several years and had this to say.

Mr. Johnson B: Shadowrunners are expendable. The company doesn't have to worry about training costs or benefits for them.

I feel oh so loved right now. - Treehugger

Jane Zero: No [bleep] we're expendable. Johnsons are good at backstabbing us when it's convenient, or when the moon is full, or when they have indigestion.

Pinstripe: The better you are, the less likely Johnson is to throw you to the wolves. Some skill sets are too in demand to just toss away.

Ooh, burn. - Treehugger

Amanda Pierce: How does Mr. Johnson hire a shadowrunning team? Typically, he goes through a middleman known as a fixer, who handles the recruiting. I caught up to one such woman, Ms Baba Ganoush, a Seattle fixer for ten years.

Ganoush: Yes, I am what's known as a fixer. I arrange meetings between people, for a price.

Amanda Pierce: Ms Ganoush, can you walk me through a typical call from a Mr. Johnson.

Ganoush: There's no typical call. But I can give you a hypothetical situation. Let's say you, Ms Pierce, needed a piece of evidence to back a story that was being held in a corporate vault somewhere. Let's call this company Example Inc, to keep your sponsors from getting angry calls.

Amanda Pierce: Lets, thanks.

Ganoush: You, or, more likely, a designated associate will call me to hire some runners. After some negotiation on costs, I get the details of the job. I then make a list of potential teams and make calls. Depending on availability and speed, I will make a deal with a team, give them the full job details as given to me, and give them the time line. Once the job is done, the runners report in to me and I send confirmation and, in this case, the evidence to your Johnson.

Amanda Pierce: And if there's a problem? What happens if the first team doesn't report back?

Ganoush: I send out feelers, see if any have surfaced. Emails, calls, if the job's important enough I'll send my own people to take a look at the runners' usual haunts. Let's say Example Inc is a subsidiary of Sample Corp, whose security department has a reputation for being ruthless against intruders. I might hear at some point that the team was caught in the act. At that point, I report back.

Yeah, and there's times she does jack-shit. It depends on what's in it for her. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Are there many corporations that kill shadowrunners?

Ganoush: There's a few with the reputation. Mitsuhama has its zero-zones - zero intrusions, zero survivors. Aztechnology also has a rep on the street for ruthlessness. Keep in mind, though, that if the target is important, even a mom-and-pop store will shoot first and interrogate the bodies later. Most of the time, though, killing runners out of hand is bad for business. The only people who would want to work for you are the rejects.

Numbers: I've done a few jobs for Ms Ganoush. Most of the them, she handled Johnson. A few times, though, she made the introductions then faded. This happened only when Mr. Johnson didn't want to risk leaking information.

You really didn't just say that, did you? - Oswald
What? - Numbers
You let Ganoush handle the Johnson? - Charles
Oh, God. *blush* - Numbers

Two-Bit: Ganoush's example is bang-on. The thing to remember is that Ganoush, like all fixers out there, is in it for herself. She's going to play both sides to take them for as much as possible.

Tart: A fixer is good to know. Not only will he help in getting jobs, he knows people who can supply all sorts of goods, legal, illegal, and grey.

Amanda Pierce: Bottled Klein, former medic who now patches up and augments shadowrunners, had this to add.

Bottled Klein: Fixers have a lot of power in the shadows. They have connections with corps, organized crime, runners, dealers, even governments. It's never good to get on their wrong side. One gangster who fancied himself a mover and shaker crossed Baba Ganoush, skimming off the top. Once she discovered it, the cops found his body hanging from a lamppost in Redmond.

From what I heard, he was missing parts. Cyber and organs. - Charles

Amanda Pierce: With shadowrunners facing off against corporations on the streets of our city, what does the government think about the situation? I talked to Madison Smith, spokesperson from the UCAS Department of Industry. Ms Smith, how does the government feel about shadowrunners?

Smith: The same way the government feels about any other sort of spy.

Amanda Pierce: Are you saying that shadowrunners are working for foreign countries?

Smith: Not in the way that you're thinking, no. Shadowrunners are no more or no less loyal than anyone else in this nation. However, in the past, various intelligence agencies used cut-outs - local experts and middlemen - to perform tasks best not tied to the agency or its nation. With corporations gaining extraterritoriality through the Shiawase decision, the use of shadowrunners should not be surprising to a student of twentieth century history.

Amanda Pierce: Does the UCAS use shadowrunners against other nations or even corporations?

Smith: I cannot confirm nor deny that. However, we have seen other countries doing so. Aztlan, for one, has been caught using runners in CAS territory. The various Native American Nations aren't above the occasional misdirection using shadowrunners, either.

They do. I ran into them back when I was an investigator in Manhattan. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: What is the government's policies on shadowrunning?

Smith: As long as they're working against one corporation or another, it is out of the government's hands. Extraterritoriality comes with a price.

In layman's terms, fuck you, megacorps. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Next, how do shadowrunners do their jobs? And, what can you do to stay safe if you discover a shadowrun in progress? Stay tuned.

[commercial break]

NewsNet NewsBreak: Gang warfare in Bellevue. We have highlights of the running gun battle between the Nova Rich and the Leather Devils. Only on NewsNet, only at eleven.

Amanda Pierce: Shadowrunners. Unlike popular depictions of them, they're not antisocial criminals bent on violence. Still, over the past forty years, there have been countless reports of running gun battles in the cities of the UCAS, CAS, and NAN states as police and corporate security chase shadowrunners. Why does this happen? I asked Peter Tarkov, security manager at Federated Boeing, and Akira Matsura, security spokesperson for Mitsuhama Computer Technologies how such chases can start.

Um, we run, they follow, I stomp on the gas, they crash into barriers. - Treehugger
Who crashes into barriers? - Oswald
Once! Just once! - Treehugger

Tarkov: Shadowrunners will run once security discovers them. It takes time to determine if they have crucial data or physical corporate assets. Letting them go to discover that they do is not optional; security must pursue until data integrity is known.

Matsura: MCT's policies is to prevent the problem from leaving corporate property. If the intruders have made it past corporate demarcation, local police are called in. Escalation is only done for extreme threat to MCT's employee and corporate well-being.

Yeah, it's not because once we leave MCT property, we're no longer in their jurisdiction. - Oswald

Pinstripe: Mitsuhama can say that - they have their zero-zones. Nothing in or out. In Seattle, it's the Ares runs that can be a problem now that Knight Errant are the cops.

Must be nice having an in with the cops. - Numbers
I bet it's a one-way street, though. - Oswald

Two-Bit: Of course we run from security. It's a question of numbers. Corporate security forces have more personnel. As a runner, I have a job to do. Taking on several platoons worth of guards isn't usually part of the contract.

Amanda Pierce: How do shadowrunners do their jobs, given that corporate security is waiting for them?

Jane Zero: Hit and fade, chummer. We have to get in and out so fast that security doesn't know what hit them. [bleep], arranging for a gang war outside corp turf works, and if you can blame things on gangs who've given you [bleep] before, even better.

I'm getting the feeling that she wasn't really angry that I hit her bike. - Treehugger
No, she was angry about that. - Charles

Numbers: Deception, mainly. Most corporate locations still need to get their employees in and out. Even if people are living on corporate property, supplies need to be brought in and garbage taken out. Anytime an exception is needed to get people in and out of a building, you get weak points. Validation of ID can be spoofed, whether it's electronic or the human touch.

Two-Bit: As much as I love the adrenaline rush that comes from being rigged to a high performance car, quiet's always better. Detection means the run's blown. The longer you're in a corp facility, the higher the chance of discovery. My hacker can give the team some extra time, spoofing radio chatter, jamming signals, even taking over drones. Once a security grunt arrives, it's time to leave.

Tart: Ugh, drones. Hate those things. I prefer dealing with the guards. They're more, um, appreciative of my spells.

When you were off ogling her, did you know she was a mage? - Numbers
I didn't know she was a runner. - Oswald
What sort of spells can't affect drones? I've seen mine pop after a wagemage hit it with magic. - Treehugger
Illusions. And I'm not going to speculate on what type. - Oswald

Charles: Not all runs involve breaking into a corp. Courier runs, bodyguarding, these are usually quiet and don't get the cops involved.

Pinstripe: Controlling the battlefield is key. Corp holdings are under corp control. Your team's hacker and rigger should be doing everything they can to change that fact.

Amanda Pierce: How much planning goes into a shadowrun?

Numbers: It depends on how much time we're given. If my team has a few days, we'll scope out the locations, get an idea of traffic and security response, then possibly do a dry run. If it's a last minute job, we improvise, using knowledge from previous runs as needed.

Do you have any idea how boring it is doing this background work? Why didn't you tell her that? - Treehugger
She didn't use my graphs. She didn't want "boring". - Numbers

Two-Bit: You just can't waltz into Aztech without a plan. That's a good way to get cut down and used as a sacrifice.

Tart: A little bit of chaos never hurts. Security can't know what you're up to if you veer from your own plan.

So, security doesn't know what you're doing if you don't? - Treehugger
It's Zen. Or insane. - Oswald

Pinstripe: Let your team's experts have a say in the plan. The ex-corp drone knows more about how a corp works than the go-ganger.

Jane Zero: Know when the plan is [bleep]ed. Cut losses, leave, return at another time when better prepared.

Charles: The old motto is still true - "Watch your back, conserve ammo, and never, ever, deal with a dragon."

Is that why we avoid jobs for and against Saeder-Krupp? - Treehugger
No. - Numbers

Amanda Pierce: Coming up, what to do when you discover a shadowrun. And, later, can you be a shadowrunner? The answer will surprise you.

[commercial break]

NewsNet NewsBreak: Toxic particulates in the air you breathe can kill you in seconds. The full story at eleven.

Amanda Pierce: Shadowruns. Illicit intrusions into corporate property. They could happen at any time, anywhere. What should you do if you find yourself in the middle of one? I asked Federated Boeing security manager Peter Tarkov this very questions.

Tarkov: Keep your head down. Don't try to stop the runners. They are dangerous and well-armed. Let your security department handle matters. Do try to see what the intruders look like so you can give security an accurate description.

Because that works well with Numbers. - Charles
My counter-argument is Treehugger – Numbers
People tell me my ears are cute. Brings out my elfiness. - Treehugger
We can only hope that people are too scared to noticed you're not an elf. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: I asked the same question to shadowrunners.

Jane Zero: Don't be a [bleep]ing hero. That's a good way to get dead. I'm the one with the gun, not you. Don't get my attention.

Two-Bit: Get down, stay down, don't interfere. Bullets don't have anyone's name on them, just "Occupant". As much as corp propaganda likes to paint us runners as villains, we don't all like collateral damage. We're not going to spray automatic weapons fire or toss several grenades into the secretarial pool for no reason. That tends to get runners who do dumb [bleep] like that get the attention of corpsec, the local cops, even the Feds. And, in the biz, attention is never good.

Is it me, or is Jane there being portrayed as violent and dangerous? - Oswald
She is violent and dangerous. - Treehugger
You ran over her. I think she has a right to be pissed at you. - Charles
She might be playing up to the role, too. She's just too over the top street trash in this. - Numbers

Numbers: I've been on both sides of shadowruns. Best thing, stay down, make notes. Get a photo if it's safe. Cover your ass. Security will be looking for insiders helping. If the runners force you to do something, make sure there are witness beyond just the security cameras. Protect yourself.

Speaking from experience? - Treehugger
Yes. - Numbers
Someday, you'll have to tell us what happened. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: All good information for when you're inside a corporate facility. But what about on our nation's highways and on our city streets? What can we do there if something happens? Akira Matsura, security spokesperson for Mitsuhama, explains.

Matsura: A car chase is unpredictable. The pursued wants to escape. The pursuers do not know where the pursued is going. This is a situation best left to the local police. They have the training, for the most part. Corporate security usually doesn't have the equipment or personnel to maintain a pursuit. However, there are cases where security must give chase. The best way to avoid injury is to not be in the way. Keep a channel tuned to traffic updates or have updates sent direct to your commlink when you're driving. Keep alternate routes in mind. If you hear sirens, pull over and let the emergency vehicles through.

Two-Bit: Ah, the car chase. Gets your blood pumping. Yeah, just avoid areas where there's a high speed chase. Cars travelling over a hundred klicks don't have huge margins of error. Someone not paying attention steps out in front of me or a cop car, that causes a mess. I hate cleaning up messes.

Not one word about the barrier. - Treehugger
Can I mention the tree? - Oswald

Charles: Public gunfights are a pain. A stray bullet will hit something. If it hits someone, that's felony murder, and it gets a lot of attention from the media. Like I tell my clients, just keep your head down and wait for the loud noises to stop.

The voice of wisdom. - Numbers

Amanda Pierce: In the course of my investigation, I discovered that shadowrunners specialize in specific types of jobs. They either start in the specialization or later drift into one or two. I asked my contacts what sort of job they prefer.

Charles: Bodyguard work. Sometimes courier work. Extractions can be fun, even if they're difficult.

Fun? - Oswald
I get to cut loose a little. I don't use the revolver much otherwise. - Charles

Two-Bit: Anything involving being on the road. Smuggling, courier, being the getaway driver.

Numbers: Infiltrations. The quieter, the better. Ideally, I'm gone long before anyone discovers I was even there.

Pinstripe: B&Es, that's break and enter, extractions. I've even done wetwork, paid killing, but it depends on the target.

Tart: Anything that lets me interact with the target. Cons, seductions, sweet talking guards, even.

Seductions, huh? - Oswald
MEN. - Treehugger

Jane Zero: Anything to get people to notice the Barrens. You think I'm a criminal? Take a look at the sheer hell people living out there go through. That's the real crime.

How did her editor leave that in? - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Coming up next - what does it take to be a shadowrunner? And how do shadowrunners get their street names? All after these messages.

[commercial break]

NewsNet NewsBreak: Desert Wars: How does your favourite team stack up against challengers. Details at eleven.

Damn, I forgot the season was starting. I need to go put a few bets down. - Charles
Who do you like? - Oswald
I think UniOil will win overall, at least on points. Renraku will take the company level, though. - Charles
Should I put a bet down on that? - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Welcome back. So far tonight, we've looked at how shadowrunners work, why they do it, and even how they got into that line of work. I asked them if anyone could become a shadowrunner. Here's what they had to say.

Two-Bit: Joe Corporate Worker? Doubtful. The average suit is blissfully unaware of what happens outside his bubble.

Jane Zero: [bleep] no. You need to be ruthless. A cubicle farm isn't the same as the streets.

No. You never have to worry about people backstabbing you over a petty squabble and watch as people less qualified than you get promoted because they know how to brown-nose. - Numbers
Whoa, chill. - Charles
That little bitch has no idea of what it's like in the cube farms. We might not be on the edge of starvation, but that doesn't mean it's all sunshine and unicorns farting rainbows. - Numbers

Tart: You have to be ready to give up a lot of comfort until you get successful. Running the shadows is as hard, maybe harder, than working in a cube.

But pole dancing apparently isn't. - Numbers
You haven't seen her on stage. - Oswald

Pinstripe: Maybe, possibly, but you need good contacts, people you can trust to keep you out of serious trouble while you adjust to the life.

Charles: I used to not think so, but a teammate is ex-corp. Anything's possible. You just have to put your mind to it.

Thank you, Charles. - Numbers

Numbers: It's possible. Helps to be desperate, at least at the start. It's amazing what you can do when you don't have a choice.

Amanda Pierce: Shadowrunners in popular media are known for their handles. I asked Professor Edwin Newberg, a member and researcher in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington and noted author, about the use of code names by shadowrunners.

Prof. Newberg: Street handles have multiple purposes. The first is to anonymize the bearer. He or she is no longer part of society; rejecting a given name symbolizes that break. Many societies have similar rites as a person gets older, going from a child's name to an adult's. With magic back, names have gained power. Working under an assumed name makes it difficult to be targeted by ritual magic.

Is that accurate? - Treehugger
Good enough for the mundane. I can't ritually target John Smith just by knowing his name, but neither can I if I have a blood sample without a name attached. But, and there's always a but, if you tend to think of yourself as Treehugger more than your given name, then your handle becomes powerful. The good thing about that is no one really expects you to place your identity on your nickname.. - Oswald
What if someone's self-identity isn't strong? - Numbers
Let's hope I never have to use a ritual to find you. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Go on, Professor.

Prof. Newberg: Second, the street handle enforces a camaraderie amongst shadowrunners. It's a similar phenomenon seen in Air Force fighter pilot call-signs around the world. The new name reinforces the idea of being part of a select few. The estimated number of shadowrunners in Seattle is in the low thousands. Maybe at most thirty percent will continue past the first year.

Amanda Pierce: What causes such a sharp drop off in numbers?

Prof. Newberg: Various factors, mainly death, injury, and arrest. Those who make it through the first year usually get enough experience to avoid the problems that plague rookie shadowrunners.

Vague, much? - Treehugger
Would you be happier with violent death? - Numbers
Yes. - Treehugger
I'll remind you of that comment, TH. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: How long can a shadowrunner last in their chosen profession?

Prof. Newberg: There isn't enough data yet. The first shadowrunner as we know it appeared in the 2040s. That's only thirty years.

Amanda Pierce: Weren't there similar people before 2040?

Prof. Newberg: Indeed there were, but the concept of hiring professional expendables as opposed to random mischief makers only developed in the middle of this century. The industry, for a lack of a better term, is still in its infancy.

And it needs its diaper changed. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: Can you estimate the longevity of a runner for my viewers, Professor?

Prof. Newberg: Hackers who survived Crash 2.0 should be active until they decide to retire or run into a version of black intrusion countermeasures, known as black IC, that breaks past their firewall. Physical abilities aren't as important for a hacker as his or her knowledge of programming and software security holes. On the other hand, the archetypal street samurai, even with modern cybernetics, will start having physical problems by the age of 40. These problems will be due to age and to body stress and overstress caused by implants. And I haven't even started to break things down by metatype. An elf could conceivably have a longer career as street muscle than a troll, despite the trolls physical advantages.

Street sams also tend to see more bullets coming at them. - Charles
You put yourself between bullets and clients, Charles. - Oswald
I also put most of my pay back into armour. I'm not dumb. - Charles

Amanda Pierce: I showed my interview with Professor Newberg to the shadowrunners for their feedback.

Tart: He missed the obvious reason why we have street names. You can't find "Tart, the mage" in any of the public databases. Pity.

I think you can find her under Escort Services. - Numbers
Meow. - Oswald

Pinstripe: The comparison to fighter pilots is one I hadn't thought of. I wouldn't call shadowrunning as elite as becoming a pilot, but the comparison works.

Two-Bit: The way we runners give each other names is similar to how the fighter pilots do it. Few of us can choose a name. The rest, well, if you're lucky, you get one that isn't insulting. The name usually comes from something you've done or how you look. It's like a nickname. One smuggler I know, she's managed to wrap her car around a tree on her first run. Between that and believing elves are nature's caretakers, she got called Treehugger after that.

I can't believe he told the world about that! - Treehugger
It's not exactly a secret, TH. - Charles
Who will want to hire a driver who crashes? - Treehugger
Maybe they'll ignore it for your inner elf. - Oswald.
*glare* - Treehugger

Amanda Pierce: What do you feel about the professor's estimates of how long your career will last?

Jane Zero: Career? [bleep], this is a way of life. I don't expect to reach retirement.

Numbers: No idea. Nice to know that I could continue as long as I kept with the tech curve, but I have a retirement plan in mind. I'm not staying in this life longer than needed.

I'll miss you when you retire, Numbers - Treehugger

Charles: I've seen some of the older guys, trying to keep up with the young ones. The good ones work around and through aches and pains.

And the bad ones? - Treehugger
Push too hard and burn out hard. - Charles

Pinstripe: We orks don't have that long a lifespan anyway. I won't have that much longer to live naturally at forty. But, I have seen a veteran. Skater, this old elf that helps the Ork Underground from time to time, she's been around since the fifties. She survived Crash 2.0 and adapted to the new wireless networks. She even got a vehicle rig. But, yeah, she's an elf. You can't tell how old she is by looking at her.

Oh, man, I was wondering why he wasn't at the Big Rhino this week. He must be avoiding Skater. You just don't call her old. - Charles
You know her? - Numbers
I've met her a couple of times. She hangs around the Ork Underground. - Charles
Wait, an elf goes to the Big Rhino? - Treehugger
She's been there since the Night of Rage. She helps out behind the scenes. - Charles
Odd. I think I was supposed to arrest her once. Massive data theft from the Humanis Policlub's systems prior to the Crash. I treated it with the appropriate priority. - Oswald

Amanda Pierce: One last question. How did you get your street names?

Numbers: I was an accountant, working with numbers. Came natural.

Charles: Someone called me that while I was working and it stuck.

What is your real name? - Oswald
Mike. - Charles
And they called you Charles? How boring. - Treehugger
Yeah, not all of us can get a name after crashing a car around a tree. - Oswald
Shut up. - Treehugger

Bottled Klein: I showed a Klein bottle to a young hacker.

What's a Klein bottle? - Treehugger
Are you serious? Go research it. - Oswald.

Pinstripe: A guy in the old gang called me that the first time I wore a suit.

Two-Bit: Someone thought it was a crack at my height. It stuck.

Jane Zero: My mom called me Jane. Zero is the amount of tolerance I have for bull[bleep].

Tart: I like to [bleep]. A lot. *winks*

She can't be for real. - Numbers
More real than your implants. - Oswald
*glare* - Numbers

[commercial break]

NewsNet NewsBreak: Seattle Timber Wolves highlights, live at eleven.

Amanda Pierce: Shadowrunners. Far more complex than portrayed in the media. A key component in today's corporate world. Expendable, useful assets who also watch out for your interests. Violent, dangerous people with motives as varied as they are. Copies of this program are available at NewsNet; ¥9, ¥14 with full sensorium interviews. Please join me next month as I take a look at corporate-street romances. Are they like Romeo and Juliet, or will it become tragic? Thanks for watching.

I can't believe she made that comparison. - Numbers
What? Seems reasonable to me. - Treehugger
Go read the play. - Oswald

NewsNet NewsBreak: Are advertisements for news broadcasts helpful? Our panel discusses this tonight, at eleven.

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