Project Aphelion Solo Play #022: Freelancer’s Life

We’re going on a side quest! The time has come for Tomorrow to start preparing for her life after the whole Chloe business, even if it’s very, very far away from her current interests. We also get to set up some future sources of personal drama and tragedy, for no other reason than I like it!



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Freelancer’s Life

Because of the Income (3) trait Tomorrow possesses, once a month she gets an opportunity to run a Scenario that fits with her path:

Income (1+): Receive an opportunity for a Scenario within the character’s field of work once a cycle, with Credits Payout equal to the Income Trait Rank. That Scenario can be immediately accessed without required Investigation or Project. Generate the Scenario normally, or create it as you go – the Investigation Task to determine Threat doesn’t take in-game time.

I forgot it takes no time for legwork, but I’m happy to hear that. This means Tomorrow only needs to spend one day working (21st Feb), and she’ll net herself 3 Payouts worth of cash for it. Good gig? Good gig! Gotta pay the bills, you know. To be honest, 15,000c is a reasonable paycheck for an expert mage in the world of Shadowrun. (Which is telling a lot, with an annual per-capita income of a UCAS citizen around 20,000Y – most people have no money at all, and mages are rare and well-paid.)

So, what this gig is? Well, it has to be connected to her career (magician), it has to be something that can be pulled off within one day and without much preparation, other than her normal work and studies – so I think we’ll send her to be a part of some scientific conference, why won’t we? We’ll give her a glimpse of the life after all of that mess with Chloe and d’Venescu, so she knows what she’ll lose if anything goes wrong with her life in the shadows. Maybe she’ll become more careful with it (she will not).


Scenario Generation

Payout: 3 of cash, as in the speaker’s fee at the event. Tomorrow is a good if not particularly renowned arcane researcher, and with MCT now reselling her original spell formulas, she has a reason to be considered a raising star in the industry.
Legwork: Rolling Sorcery, 5v3=4, to prepare herself for the conference.
Threat Rating: Scenario rolling 3v5=3. TR 2-1 = 1
Scenario Rating: 3+1 = 4. Default Actor Rating: R2

Free Modules: 3
Free Passages: 3
Build Points: 4

Type of a Scenario: Race. Tomorrow needs to ‘win’ the conference, by convincing other mages and researches to the validity of her ideas, by making sure she’s remembered, by networking and building her reputation as a young and promising scientist – even though she’s about five years behind her peers and her credentials are just ‘finished online high school’, ‘is in year one of online college’, and ‘Mitsuhama Thaumathurgical Research has just bought exclusive right to literally all of her published research so far.’ This last one is the only one that’s not a demerit in this case. This is, obviously, a Scientific/Social scenario – finally one that allows us to use Sorcery, Sciences, elementals, and other magician-adjacent things in a peaceful and diplomatic way. Unless Scenario complications mess it all up!

I’ll skip the Gateway to not waste modules (sue me), and instead place the first free module as the Operation Module (1/3) with a free Offense Scene (1/3), in which Tomorrow just needs to not make a fool out of herself in an unfamiliar setting – no matter how smart she is and how much she’d like to be a scientist, she isn’t one. She does not have the workshop, she’s 95% self-taught, from sciences to magic, she has little patience for the scientific process, and she’d rather jump into a metaplane than sit in a lab for a month. Good luck against the one free R2 Actor that comes with the Scene and another one that we’ll buy (BP 1/4) – she needs to impress someone.
A passage connects it to Module 2.

Module 2 is a Social Space (2/3) – you know the breaks during scientific conferences? With everybody mingling, comparing credentials, exchanging business cards, and discussing the latest articles that they know they should have read, but all they could access for free was the abstract? Yeah… Let’s make it a Live Show Scene (2/3) with a free R2 Actor and two more bought (BP 3/4). The social space is generally hardest for Tomorrow to work in, so she’ll be more miserable in here.
A passage connects it to Module 3.

Module 3 is our Finale (3/3), with a Finale Scene (3/3), which comes with free 3 points of Resistance on top of Tomorrow’s 2 points from Driven (ouch). Also, with a R2 Actor in Defense. We do not have many ways of offsetting this Resistance, other than our skills, (hopefully) Familiarity, and automarks we can score though wearing proper clothes and accessories.

As it is Tomorrow’s first ever social function in which she takes part as Sarah James, a young arcane researcher with a lucrative MTR contract and grants, I’ll throw the last Build point as 1 point of Stress modifier – she’s on edge, other people are on edge, doing anything will be harder.

Also, we’ve updated the Scenario rules a bit, and Actors now come with appropriate gear (R2, giving them 2 points of Clout, 2 points of Resistance, 1 automark and 1 soak in the main focus). Also, for obvious reasons, all Actors in this scenario are R2 Scientific/Other (doesn’t mater what the Other is, because all focuses but Scientific get 1 dice at that point).


Preparations

As this is a scientific/social event, I’ll put Tomorrow in her designer clothes (giving her Res 1, Soak 1, and 2 automarks in Social Tasks), with elegant jewelry appropriate for society scenes (+2 automarks in Social Tasks) – note they will only matter in the Live Show scene, as the first and the last are scientific, not social – pretty clothes mean nothing if you’re arguing the validity of your hypothesis on genetic changes of magically manipulated cat fur. Or at least, they should not matter.

Wits’ End, as always, is right there to be used, so is the Sorcery toolkit (1 Clout), Career trait (1 Clout for Sorcery/Conjuration/Sciences/Investigation), SpamBox (let’s use it finally!), and Pheromone Emitter (leave nothing to the chance!). Steven is also at arm’s reach.


Let’s Go!

The Payout and Scenario Rating are rather low, Tomorrow is reasonably chill. She doesn’t really want to be there (Driven trait and its ugly side), but they’re paying, and she knows she needs to start building her life after. Hence, 1 point of Stress, 2 points of Resistance. Also, because Tomorrow hates wasting time, she’ll just blast through the whole thing as quickly and efficiently as she can. She will, of course, play dirty as hell, and steamroll through all opposition if possible.

I’m running the Scenario on mid zoom, with Offense/Defense initiative. The MT for each Scene has a Challenge of 4.

There will be some narrative at the end, but I don’t care enough about this conference to flesh it out. It’s a side quest, yo.


Module 1 – Offense Scene

Defense:  A – R2 Scientific/Technical, Debuff, Conservative Control, Fam 6. B – R2 Scientific/Technical, Marker, Balanced Control, Fam 3. Defense starts with 2 automarks on their side, each of them also has 2 Clout, 2 Resistance, and 1 soak when attacked personally. Each has 4 SP and 4 MP, and 1 PA and 1 MA.
Offense: PA 2, MA 2, SP 8, MP 8.

Scenario Complications: 3v5=1 /4

Offense: Tomorrow: MA Sorcery+1, 5v4=4 towards MT. MA Conjuring+1, 5v6=2 towards MT. PA (comb) TaB, 3v6=2. SP 8/8. MP 8/8. MT 6/4.
Steven: MA Accident vs Defense A, 3v6=1 action lost. MA Accident vs Defense B, 3v6=2 actions lost. PA TaB. SP 6/6 MP 5/6.

Defense: A: Conservative, so PA spent on TaB. One action lost through Steven’s Accident.
B: Two actions lost through Steven’s Accident.
Because they didn’t score any marks, their automarks go to waste.

Offense wins with 6/4 MT at the end of the interval.


Module 2 – Live Show

This is a Social scene – which means that Defense doesn’t have its gear – but we do. Tomorrow is a person who walks through most social situations by the sheer force of being a tall, slim, beautiful elf (a brunette at the moment, as her blue hair belong in the shadows). Expensive designer clothes, nice jewelry, poise and style buy her more in social engagements than her charisma and conversational talent ever could. As such, we walk into this scene with 4 prescored marks, 1 soak, and 1 Resistance against attacks – but a lot here depends on the Familiarity with the Defense! Defense, however, rolls only 1 dice on their things, because they’re all socially-inept scientists!

Defense: A – R2 Scientific/Technical, Tank, Aggressive Defense, Fam 7.B – R2 Scientific/Social, Marker, Conservative Defense, Fam 8.C – R2 Scientific/Investigative, Marker, Conservative Control, Fam 6.

Scenario Complications: 3v5=3 = 4/4, 0 net. Rolled a 5, no complications this time.

Offense: Tomorrow: MA Activating Wits’ End. MA Investigation+1, 4v6=3 towards MT. PA Agility+1, 5v8=1 towards MT. PA TaB. SP 8/8 MP 7/8. MT 8/4
Steven: MA Accident vs Defense A, 3v4=2 actions lost. MA Accident vs Defense B, 3v4=1 action lost. PA TaB. SP 6/6 MP 4/6.

Defense:
A: Two actions lost due to Accident.
B: One action lost. Conservative = TaB.
C: Conservative = TaB. 1v5=1 against Tomorrow and her progress, reducing MT to 7/4.

Offense wins with 7/4 MT at the end of the interval. Wits’ Ends activates at the beginning of the next interval.


Module 3 – Finale

Back to science! A R2 Defense Actor comes with 2 points of Clout, 2 points of Resistance, 1 soak, and 1 prescored mark. This finale is a debate, and success means destroying your opponent in a debate. This means that the base difficulty is set up by the Familiarity with the Defense…

Defense: R2 Scientific/Technical, Marker, Balanced Defense, Fam 5.

On top of that, 5 points of Resistance (+1 for 1 Actor attempting it) and 1 Stress modifier, setting the difficulty for the Finale at 12. 2 Clout from Sorcery toolkit and Career, minus skill level. No prescored marks… Oof. Okay, let’s do it.

Offense: Tomorrow: (Wits’ End activates, 5v7=1, Wit=5, MA 3.) MA Conjuration+1, 5v8=1 towards MT. MA Sorcery+1, 5v6=3 towards MT. MA Investigation+1, 5v8=3 towards MT. PA Stealth+1, 5v8=2 towards MT. PA TaB. SP 8/8 MP 5/8. MT 9/4.
Steven: MA Accident vs Defense, 3v6=2 actions lost.

Defense: Defense got controlled out of actions, so it folds. No marks scored, so their 1 automark is wasted too.

Offense wins with 9/4 at the end of the interval, ending the Scenario with 5 net marks.


Wrapping Up

Payout: 3 points of cash
Rep: +3
Familiarity: It wasn’t a Scenario for anybody’s benefit but ours – and there’s nothing that can be done to the very low Familiarity Tomorrow has with herself.
Net marks: 5
Skill learning: Sorcery +2, Conjuring +2, Investigation +2, Agility +1, Stealth +1

Scenario consequences: Rolled a 4 + 5 = 9, a positive consequence with magnitude equal to Payout+1.

A Faction appreciated your efforts, and gifted you information about a potential next Scenario with Payout equal magnitude. If caused by hostile move, the target Faction’s most hostile competitor appreciated it.

Damn. Looks like we got a follow-up from this conference. And looks like this Scenario actually needs a Faction to work with it. I could come up with a Faction, but I’d rather leave it to the chance. Let’s generate a new Faction!

Faction Rating: 3
Focuses: Investigative / Scientific
Behaviors: Beneficial Growth / Exclusive Growth / Beneficial Defense
Assets: R2 Investigative Facility, Intelligence Center. R1 Scientific Facility, Academy.
Trait: Exploitative Faction (add 2 priority to Projects acquiring Resources from the environment and gain control of Resource nodes)
Familiarity: 4 +1 as they appreciated the efforts of this Scenario = 5
Connections: 0, unconnected to other Factions in the game so far

Huh. It looks like some kind of private security company, interested in bringing on the latest magical protections into their repertoire. As you may have noticed in the Finale, Tomorrow’s debate did most certainly include the matters of stealth, concealment, and security, because this is what she specializes in. Having a company – we’ll call them Alp Group, thanks to an online random generator – hire her as a consultant for a client sounds like a reasonable idea. They might also be interested in somebody updating their students (Academy!) on the latest development in magical stealth. As there’s no need for any delay, I’ll just assume that somebody from that company was also at the conference, and Tomorrow was handed a business card with a ‘call us, we mean business’ on it.

The Scenario in question will be testing defenses of a client’s facility, possibly with some guest visit to the Academy, with 3 Payouts worth of cash and 1 Payout worth of R1 contact in the Faction – a possible future employer, counting towards the number-of-contacts in career progression.


February 21st, 2056

‘To your first perfectly legal gig!’ exclaims Friese, raising a glass in a toast. ‘May it bring you a lot of money but little satisfaction, so you don’t ditch us all the next morning.’

‘Fifteen kay, with a chance for repeat business. That’s… a lot of money. More than you’ve ever paid me,’ answers Tomorrow in a soft, dreamy voice; Harmon’s brownies keep proving more than adequate in relaxing the mind and body. She makes herself more comfortable in Wheeler’s arms and stretches her legs on Friese’s sofa. ‘And I did almost die, like, five times for y’all. I went into a deadly metaplane for you. Twice!’

‘They’re overpaying for you, more like it. We know what you’re worth, criminal scum.’ There’s no malice in her friend’s voice, no anger or envy – just sympathy, mellow and warm.

‘I like being overpaid. But I won’t leave you. You’re both too pretty.’ She tastes the words on her tongue, considering them for a while. ‘Unless at some point I’ll stop being so shallow and start looking for people with virtues and shit.’

‘Oh no, not the virtues.’ Wheeler, unlike his two favorite magicians, said ‘no’ to the drug-filled sweets and is now looking at his companions with amusement. ‘This relationship is doomed the moment you look for any substance. I got nothing to offer but my blue steel look.’

‘Good enough. I’ll be earning millions soon and you’ll make a nice arm accessory.’ Tomorrow downs a shot, then stares at the glass for a while. ‘I have an awful déjà vu. Must be too many parties lately. But hey, I survived my first meeting with all those corp mages! And I beat their old asses at their game. You should go with me next time, Lil.’

‘Hard pass. I hope I won’t be staying in Denver for long.’

‘You won’t?’ Wheeler sounds about as surprised as Tomorrow feels, which makes her suddenly uneasy. She’s used to not being up to date with her friends’ lives – but he’s rarely startled by anything.

‘Ah, well.’ Friese picks up a bottle and refills all three glasses, then hands one to her boss. ‘You know I always wanted to get back to Prague. I’ve been studying the anomaly and the metaplane for the last eight months. With all that research? They’d take me back. I checked. They’d already take me back for the fall semester, but… you know.’

‘Busy fighting a war.’

‘Well, yeah. Bad timing. The question is: will you let me go?’

Tomorrow untangles herself from Wheeler’s embrace and moves to the other side of the couch, grabbing a bowl of chips and switching to a spectator mode. Her eyes trace the tense, invisible line between her best friends.

Wheeler straightens up, looking at his second-in-command. His words are slow and precise, with just a hint of warning: ‘You know there’s no easy way of leaving.’

He doesn’t add ‘for either of us’, but Tomorrow hears it loud and clear. They already had that conversation. They had many conversations since she moved in, and the future was one of the main themes, together with the commitments and the ties that bind both of them – some virtually unbreakable.

‘Oh, I don’t plan on leaving…’ Friese shakes her head, both in denial and to clear it from the haze. Tomorrow stretches to touch her friend’s hand and helps her out with a minor detox spell, causing Friese to sigh with relief when the drugs and alcohol in her body metabolize. A moment later, in a much steadier voice, the mage adds: ‘More like relocating. We got business in Prague, do we not?’ She waits until Wheeler nods. ‘So, I could work there meanwhile. And I’ll be of more use afterwards. You could have a properly educated mage, not a cybered-up one-handed half-burnout. All I need are two years to finish my degree. A couple of initiations and I’ll get my magic back to where it was before this metaplanar mess. But I need to focus on the studies if I am to be useful ever again. To you or to the Cutters. Or to myself, whatever.’

‘I got nothing against your studies, you know that. You’re basically free to do whatever you want if we’re not under attack. But why Prague? Can’t you finish your degree in here?’

‘I…’ It sounds more like an inhale than a beginning of a thought. ‘Do I absolutely have to tell you? Or is there a chance I can cash in on four years of friendship and ask you to trust me that I need to go, at least for some time?’

Wheeler’s steady gaze doesn’t leave Friese’s eyes even for a second. ‘I’m going to need a reason to arrange your relocation,’ he finally says. ‘It doesn’t have to be the reason. You’ve earned that much. I don’t really know our people in Prague, but I’ll…’

‘…Czech them out,’ mutters Tomorrow and earns herself a groan and a sigh. ‘Lil, can I cash in on a measly one year of friendship and weasel out the real reason from you later? I promise not to tell him.’

‘No.’ Friese doesn’t even look in her direction. ‘Thanks, Adam. I really appreciate it. I’m not trying to ditch the Cutters, even if it were possible. I just have some unfinished business there that I left to fester for way too long. If you’re still around here when I’m done and you’ll want me back as your right hand…’ She stretches the fingers of her cyberhand and salutes Wheeler with a self-deprecating smile.

‘I might be in Chelyabinsk, but in any case, you’d be welcomed back in my unit. You’re a decent XO.’ Wheeler receives the salute with perfect poise. ‘We’ll have to go through the defenses, so we can set up replacements, but if you need to go, I won’t stop you. I’ll talk to the HQ and see what can be done. Let me know if you require any help with that festering business.’

‘Thanks, man. I owe you.’

‘You do,’ agrees Wheeler with a calculating smile. ‘And rest assured I’ll be collecting. But right now, you can chill and refill that evaporated booze in your head. We’re good.’ He picks up a glass and raises it in a toast. ‘To Friese becoming an even bigger nerd.’

‘With a sexy mysterious past,’ adds Tomorrow with a barely contained giggle, before downing her shot and steering the conversation towards their usual sharp-edged, pleasant banter. 


Coming up!

Tomorrow’s first legal gig, I suppose – it technically doesn’t have a date attached, but as a freelancer myself living the gig economy life, if you have a gap in your work schedule, you fill it in with more work the moment it becomes available.

And then we owe Phase a visit. With some more drama incoming!

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