Katherine sat within the Quest Security Services main offices in downtown Richmond. She peered out the window, watching the bustle on Broad Street outside her third story office. Broad Street reflected its name, being more than six travel lanes in width. In the early days after the city’s reconstruction from burning at the end of the Civil War, the street had rail lines in the middle for trolleys, but this mode of transportation succumbed to the draw of the never ending line of automobiles. Sometimes she would sit for several minutes at a time, looking at the people as they went about their daily activities, wondering what their thoughts and motivations were. Katherine would imagine what their day was like, envision their thoughts of loved ones at home, and contemplate the virtues of the simple life. A life lost to her ambition. She feared the fate of her favorite Shakespearean tragedy of Macbeth, where her ambition brought her ruin and even death. Where does this path lead, she thought.
After a light knocking at Katherine’s office door, a young man dressed in a suit opened the door slightly. “Ma’am,” he said, “you asked that I interrupt you when Detective Moriarty arrived. Shall I send him in?”
Without turning away from the window, Katherine faintly replied, “Yes. Please.”
As scruffy as ever, Jim Moriarty had the faint odor of a man who hasn’t bathed in a couple of days. Jim entered the office, purposefully standing next to the pair of chairs that faced Katherine’s desk. “I looked over that data you sent me. Not sure why you’d want to keep this information from official channels, but then,” Moriarty chuckled, “I don’t ask questions. I’m smart enough to-”
“Be discrete?” Katherine said plainly.
“I was gonna say ‘lay low’.”
“Of course,” Katherine replied, “please take a seat.” With a sigh, Katherine swiveled in her chair to face her desk and, across from it, Moriarty who took his seat.
“Well, seems that crew you hired came through. So quiet, and Lonestar ain’t admitting any loss of critical data. Got out clean. Things like that can go sideways quick.”
“Something you have learned through experience,” Katherine teased.
Moriarty’s brow furrowed. “Yeah, right. I try not to learn things the hard way. Just ain’t in the cards some days.”
“In any case,” Katherine resumed, “Kane and his associates have proven themselves of great value. I worried that with just Sunder and these newer associates of his, the mission would fail… or worse. Their good fortune is ours.”
Moriarty slouched backward in the office chair. “Well there’s a treasure trove of dirt in there which will keep our marketing boys supplied with anti-Lonestar propaganda and scandal for many months. Frankly, that alone is priceless.”
“I am not certain you understand what ‘priceless’ is. Aside from your ‘priceless’ data, did you find any data related to the private meetings of Goldstein?”
“Scary stuff that is.” Moriarty shook his head. “I got the relevant stuff on this data card.” Moriarty took out a small card and laid it on the desk. The desk had a large, built in screen under glass for Katherine’s computer.
“Open data card,” Katherine said aloud. The screen changed, displaying the contents of the data card laying on her desk. “Play file one.”
The screen in the desk changed again, showing an image of Goldstein’s office from one of the cameras around the room. The image appeared to have depth, rendering in detail position of the camera and accurate representation of proximity of the various subjects displayed. The man behind the desk was old and fragile, with a slight shaking in his hands. He appeared to be perhaps eighty years old, his pale skin looking almost ghostly and translucent. He was immaculate in his attire, wearing an extremely expensive grey suit, something completely lost on Moriarty.
“What is it with these old rich guys?” Moriarty asked without expecting an answer. “I could find lots better ways to spend cash than some monkey suit.”
A knock could be heard from the picture displayed, with the old man, presumably Goldstein, saying simply “Come.”
An older black human entered the frame, walking towards the desk, “Mr. Goldstein,” said the man, “I’m glad we could finally meet.”
Goldstein rose from his seat, extending his his hand. “Mr. James Cecil,” Goldstein said in upbeat, welcoming tone, “so good of his Honor the mayor to make this visit. I know your schedule is quite busy-”
“Advance to fourteen minutes, thirty-five seconds and pause,” Moriarity interrupted, “The first part of the meeting is drek about contracts, which city councilmen would oppose the Lonestar contract, yadda yadda. The juicy stuff comes in here. Resume.”
The scene shifts to the later time in the recording, with both Goldstein and Mr. Cecil sitting relaxed in their respective chairs.
“Mr. Cecil, if I can be candid,” began Goldstein,“our company and present contract is far too limited. We have the resources and capability to protect all of the citizens of the Richmond Metropolitan Area, but sharing policing with Quest Services inhibits our ability to meet the requirements of our present contract. We’re operating at a loss, which we cannot do long term. I suggest-”
“Goldstein,” interrupted Cecil, “save it. You know as well as I do that the Council districts are split, and only this compromise allows Quest and Lonestar to earn any revenue from this lucrative market.”
“Lucrative? Our third quarter earnings, or lack of earnings, has our lawyers trying to find a way out of this contract and leave you and your city with no police force at all.”
Cecil chuckled, “Really? Quest is just waiting for an opportunity. Are you saying you’ll just let Quest come in and cover the entire contract?”
Goldstein’s brow furrowed, “Planning to renege on our prior arrangement?”
“No, no, no. Look, I’m on your side here. You keep paying as you have and I’ll keep pushing for Lonestar to take over the entire contract. But you’ve not done so well in convincing the dissenting council members. Recent lapses in security within Lonestar precincts, including the attack on you directly within this very building, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it? I can only go so far. Politically, you’re bad for my image, so until you turn this around, all I can do is work behind the scenes. No public support or speeches.”
“I have personally sought some outside talent to stir up problems within the Quest Services precincts, but after the events of last year, not many Shadowrunners are available.” Goldstein paused. “Many runners lost their lives trying to kill me. Obviously unsuccessfully. FInding talent who can create havoc within those Quest areas is proving to be… difficult.”
Cecil shook his head, “Not my problem. Perhaps you can use your employees. I’m sure you have some, discrete operatives. Otherwise, you could look outside Richmond. Whatever. Just fix it. I need for you to discredit those councilmen supporting Quest, and you’ve not done that. And if I need to bail you out, we really need to renegotiate our terms.”
“Perhaps you have a suggestion,” Goldstein asked. “We can come to some financial arrangement. If you do.”
“Hm,” Cecil said, “I do have a thought. Sheriff Walters is a close personal friend of mine. As you know, the city jail and youth detention center are next to downtown, in Shockoe Bottom, within the Quest security zone. I could arrange for riot and mass escape from the jail into the heart of Quest’s most secure zone. They may have authority over the jail, but there are enough former city employees still employed there that can stoke the fires and release that fire throughout the city. Such gross negligence would do much to shake the city council’s confidence in Quest services. Perhaps give you the edge you need. What value would you put in that?”
Goldstein appeared to be in thought for several seconds. “Yes, I think your bank account will receive an additional payment. If the desired outcome is reached, then a second payment.”
“That will do just fine.” Cecil smiled, reclining back in his chair. “This may take a little bit of time to arrange, but I’m sure we can make this happen. You’ll want some deniability around this, so forgive me if I can’t provide you with specifics. And, to be clear, this additional payment does not replace our prior arrangement of a five percent commission for a Lonestar contract. Now, we want t have the highest realistic contract rate for Lonestar, so what are you going to do to help us reach this mutual goal? I sure do hope you have a plan, given your lack of privateers available to you.”
Goldstein’s posture stiffened at the condescension from Cecil. “Implying a lack of resolve on my part is… unwise. After all, the limited numbers of privateers was my doing, and no small market mayor will threaten me without risking his own safety.”
“Seriously? You’re gonna threaten ME?,” Cecil leaned over the desk from his chair, “The ONLY reason we’re even having this discussion is because you needed ME, not the other way around.”
“Not a threat at all, your Honorable Mayor,” said Goldstein, leaning back in his chair with a smile. “A demand for appropriate respect. You do not carry the level of favor and influence you believe you have. Keep that in mind. To your question, yes, there are plans to, ah… test the capabilities of Quest Services at their home. I can assure you that the efforts will not be traced back to Lonestar or to you specifically. Though, the ORC terrorists may harm or kill innocent bystanders. Sadly, such is the way with terrorists.”
“Or those impersonating them I suppose,” replied Cecil. “Word on the street is that the Ork Rights Committee is far more cozy with Quest than perhaps you realize.”
“Perhaps, but when the ORC is implicated, we shall see how cozy, as you put it, Quest is with them.”
Cecil leaned back, relaxing from his earlier bristling. “So, trying to make this about race, are you?”
“Isn’t it always?” Goldstein asked rhetorically.
Looking away from the screen, Moriarty said aloud, “Pause recording.”
“Well, that truly is important.” said Katherine. “Interrupting the plans at the jail will be difficult. If we increase security, we may still not stop whatever is planned, and look impotent.”
“Worse,” added Moriarty. “We look incompetent. Even with added security, we couldn’t prevent whatever it is from happening. Added to that, this intelligence will surely be known to Mayor Cecil. And what of your ORC friend?”
Katherine’s brow furrowed, “The ORC is of no concern to us.”
“So, um, Cap,” Moriarty replied, “one of the reasons you hired me was for my insight and ability to investigate, right? First, you’re a terrible liar, so it would likely be best if you left any street level negotiating to me. Second, I know you’ve been to that ORC compound in the Petersburg Barrens many times. All unofficially, of course. So, I suspect you’ll be making another of those unofficial visits down there. Or did you already give Sunder, Kane, and those ’Runners a copy of all these files I wonder?”
Katherine fixed Moriarty in her stony gaze. “Are you challenging my judgment?”
“Not at all, ma’am,” answered Moriarty. “You know I hold you in the highest regard, but I’d be of no value if I only saw the side of the world you showed me. Though, your answer was enough to tell me that you did pass that information along. You shouldn’t play poker.” Moriarity’s tone turned friendly and jovial.
Katherine’s demeanor changed to something akin to two old friends sitting on a porch together talking about the day’s events. “Perhaps not. Was there anything else?”
“Ah, well, I did save the best for last,” answered Moriarity. “Resume play and advance to fifty-three minutes.” Both Katherine and Moriarity turned their attention to the image on the screen.
On screen, Mayor Cecil is seen leaving the office, with the office door held open by presumably Goldstein’s assistant, an older white, human woman dress in trendy attire. The assistant comes into the room and closes the door behind her. She fixes her gaze to the floor as she walks into the room.
“Master,” she says, “we need to turn off the office recording. I am surprised that you chose to leave it on.”
“Quiet, you wretch. Such footage is necessary and… helpful for my plans. Office recording off-”
“Pause,” says Moriarty. “There, look.” Moriarty points to the frozen image. Goldstein in in these last frames of the recording appears to change shape, his normal skin turning a purplish crimson, his eyes drooping and turning black. His hands and fingers increased in length, with long, sharp black finger nails.
“That’s not Goldstein,” says Katherine as much to herself as to Moriarty.
“No ma’am,” answers Moriarty, “Definitely not.”