Having spent the past hour listening to Lug the dwarf's story of the Magical Whatsis, Mouse decided to get himself a snack. As the decker was building himself an ork sized sandwich, Doc wandered into the kitchen area. The handsome elf mage was grinning to himself and softly singing the last guy nearly ruined this place, he didn't know what to do with it, if you think this country's bad off now...just wait till I get through with it.

Mmff....Doc...mmf...zat from yer......mmf....vid?

Good lord, Mouse, what on earth are you eating?

When the decker presented the contents of his sandwich by lifting the top off it and attempted to swallow so he could explain, the shuddering mage quickly held up his hand and said:

Your honor, I withdraw the question. May it please the court, I will consider the issue as 'need to know' and place myself, with the remainder of civilized society, in the category of lacking the operational requirements for that data.

Mickey grinned through a face full of sandwich and several second later, when he had swallowed enough to talk said I don't mind sharin, Doc. Ya want some?

With a single arched eyebrow the elf responded Only marginally more than I would like to focus my admittedly limited imagination on the contents of that gastronomic monstrosity, which is to say, not at all. But thank you for the generosity of your nauseating offer. I'm deeply moved. I'll stay with my own meager repast: a few ounces of Beluga Caviar, some minced hard boiled egg, a bit of onion on a few toast points, and a glass of this delightful bubbly, thank you very much.

Geeze, Caviar and Champagne, that's pretty expensive, ain't it?

Yes, Yes it is. However, when one's profession involves regularly facing death, one is entitled to the amenities that one might otherwise view as extravagant indulgences.

Ya mean chomp zat...mmmf... no use savin up?

My dear rodent. In the interest of decorum, may I suggest that you refrain from further interrogation until you have consumed that...that..thing. I will happily pontificate upon the principle just named on the condition that you say nothing and shudder attempt to digest quietly.

As the elf assembled his lunch he said You ask about the need to save up vs. gratifying one's desire's for the finer things. Since this veil of tears that we call life often requires an either/or choice, one is essentially confronted with a balancing act. I noted in passing, that our diminutive armorer was telling the tale of his first encounter with our silent swordsman. As I recall, the story ends with two crippled Sams crawling from a scene of destruction. Now, since that is obviously not their condition today and it would be illogical to assume that they were capable of earning creds in their debilitated condition, one must assume that they had enough put by for cybernetic and bionic compensation for their injuries. That should be a primary tenet of all neophyte denizens of the shadow world. The first thing one must invest in is one's future. Whether that means putting by enough for cyberparts or revealing his Doc Wagon Super Platinum wrist monitor, insuring ones survival in another way, the runner who scants his future, has scarcely any future at all.

'But Doc', I hear you mentally challenge, 'how does this reconcile with your own, Ahem, profligate tastes? If one must first secure the future, how does one enjoy the present?' A challenge certainly, but I believe it was F.Scott Fitzgerald, a writer of the last century who said that 'The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time and still be able to function.' If one doesn't enjoy the spoils of this dangerous profession, why run the shadows at all, yet if one lives only for the present, how does one survive long enough to have a future. As with so many things in life, the ability to strike a balance is key.

Now you, my young, plug headed, matrix tripper, are embarking on your career. As you mentioned when considering the options with that very dangerous data packet you chanced upon, your current desires involve wiz programs, SOTA chips and other technical wing dings. Doubtless visions of them dance through your dreams at night. But, is that the way your first creds should be spent? Mai non, mon ami. Your first investment should involve the ever threatening rainy day. Certainly, a faster, better, more arctic deck would be wiz, but what happens if this deck catches a bullet or gets melted after a disastrous foray into the matrix. As dearly as we hold your company, your utility to our organization, indeed to any team, would be greatly reduced. So, the first order of business is to start putting together the elusive spondoolay required for a backup for that very valuable piece of equipment. Now, let's say you have enough set aside for a workable replacement deck should you need it. Can you begin cultivating a taste for Dom Peringnon? Again, no. Your nest egg must grow so that you will have enough to survive a physical injury. 'But, Doc', I hear you mumble.' I'll just use the money I set aside for a deck.' Stunned by this piece of brilliant strategy, I grope for a rejoinder, finally hitting upon: BUT, what if you lose your deck when your arm is blown off? What will you do then?

You see, my tusky friend, balance is as necessary as it is difficult to maintain. You must first find some way to survive the low cards that life may deal you before you can play check and raise with the big boys. Balancing demands and desires is a lifelong activity. Seeing that the ork decker had completed his meal, the dashing elf offered up his long stemmed champagne class in a toast to balance. When Mouse looked at him quizzically, Doc responded Oh, you want to know about my balance? Wellllll after you've been through enough sewers and had enough friends and lovers die before your eyes, after the nightmares which ruin your sleep pale to the horrors you witness when awake, in short, after you've run the shadows long enough, your perspective changes. You find that having the most powerful spell foci, the most deadly magesword, the most devastating fetishes and spell locks, the most comprehensive library of spells, the greatest collection of powerful spirits bound to your slightest whim, all don't mean as much as being able to relax with friends and enjoy some of the finer things life has to offer. You are currently too young, inexperienced and poor to play the prodigal. Concentrate on being able to survive the next disaster fate throws your way and eventually you will have enough tools and enough backing to make a decision that is not predicated on the need for the biggest gun. Then, my lad, your good friend Doc will launch you on a course of dissipation and unrestrained hedonism guaranteed to keep your senses reeling and your credstick empty.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have talked myself into a dreadful thirst which only Vintage Champagne and Vintage films can cure. Doc concluded as he carried his laden tray back to his film room.

Mouse wandered out to where Hamon was throwing knives at a wooden post propped up near one of the warehouse's massive pillars. Doc's ok, but he loves to hear himself talk. At least I won't get a lecture from Harmon, the decker thought, he hardly ever speaks. After several minutes of watching the Gillette's easy measured throw bury the knives in the post, the sam turned and silently offered the decker the knives.

Really? Could I?

At the razor's nod the ork mimicked the motion he'd watched for the previous 10 minutes and grimaced as the first dagger hit the pole and bounced out. His next toss glanced off the pole and skittered across the warehouse floor. The third throw hit the pillar, the fourth gouged a piece out of the pole before clanking to the floor. The fifth hit nothing and sailed into the distance, prompting Mouse's cry of But you made it look so easy!

Hamon raised an eyebrow and pointed at the deck slung over the ork's shoulder and then at Mouse. While the ork was absorbing the silent reproof, the razor pointed to Itami and the chopper parts strewn around the warehouse floor and then at Lug among his piles of captured weapons and ammo bins.

So, you're sayin that, we all got somethin that's tough to do that we make look easy?

Hamon nodded and then caught the attention of the passing Glendower. Silently offering the team leader a friendly challenge by indicating the pole with a throwing knife in each hand, the samurai received a smile and a slow nod in return. Catching Mouse's eye, Hamon demeanor said Watch this . With a deep breath the sam nodded and the uncoiled like a spring, throwing his daggers with great speed at the pole. The decker didn't really see the phys ad move, but the blur gave him the impression that something had happened. The three walked together to the pole and Owen removed his pair of shuriken, separated by an inch while Hamon took out his daggers which were about 3 inches apart. The Sam bowed and received Owen's bow in return. As the Phys ad walked away, the stunned decker said in a hushed voice That was unbelievable! You threw both of those so fast and you used both hands to throw and they were only three inches apart! But the Boss! They were even closer and he didn't get into a stance or anything! Wow!

When the young ork seemed to be content with the demonstration and not to see the wider lesson, the swordsman shook his head and quietly said Always somebody better.

After a few minutes of thought Mouse said So, your saying we all have something that we are good at that the others can't do. It looks easy because we've gotten good at it but there's always somebody better. Is that what your saying? Hamon nodded and asked Conclusion? as he began again throwing daggers at the pole. So even though I'm good enough to make something look easy to people who can't do it, I should practice so I get better because there's always somebody out there better than me. You're telling me to quit wandering around and go practice in the matrix.

Hamon raised an eyebrow and then went to retrieve his blades. Damn! Mouse thought He lectured me and only said, what, four words. Drek, this guy is amazing. And instead of trying to impress me with his abilities, he demonstrated that the Boss was better at it than he was. No ego, no brag, just here's a lesson you need to learn. Wow. Bad Billy and Vader and Hassan were always trying to prove that they were the deadliest or the fastest or the best. Hamon could probably take each of them in his sleep but he never talks the talk. He almost never talks at all, but he still told me what I should be doing.

Well, hell. Before I start practicing, I'm gonna get a breath of air. The decker thought as he stepped outside. As he looked around the outside of the warehouse, the decker enjoyed a moment of reflection Doc uses so damn many words and Hamon uses so few, Mouse thought, but both of them are trying to help me. Maybe that's another part of being a pro, knowing enough to advise somebody who is new to the shadows. Hmmm. Before I go bombing around in the Matrix to practice I think I'm gonna see what Itami can teach me. What's that?

As he was turning to re-enter the warehouse, Mouse noticed a Manila envelope lying on the ground inside the fence. Looking around, the decker saw no one in the vicinity, ambled over and retrieved the bulky envelope. He noted that it was marked IMPORTANT but didn't have a name on it. Thinking that it was probably intended for the Boss, Mouse took it inside.

Bum-bada-dada-dada-bump-bump-bah. Itami was in rare form as he simultaneously rebuilt the chopper engine while replacing the damaged armor on the rear of the Roadmaster. When Mouse waved in passing, the rigger/mechanic signaled him over and asked What ya got there, chummer?

I dunno, Itami. I found it outside. It's marked important so I figured I'd better let the boss see it.

Hang on a second. The rigger said. He calmly wiped his hands on an oily rag and putting a half smoked flick stick back in his mouth asked Where'd you find it?

Inside of the gate, on the ground. See it's marked.....

Whoa. Hold on there, kiddo. Don't bring that any closer to me. I can hear ya just fine from where I am.

Seeing the look on Itami's face the young decker realized he was in deadly earnest. Mouse may have lacked experience but he was no slouch mentally and immediately understood that Itami's caution indicated that he might be holding some kind of bomb in his hand. Oh, drek the decker said as his eye's locked on the envelope. Oh, drek.

Psst! Hey, Mouse. Mouse. When he gained the young ork's attention, Hanzo smiled reassuringly and putting his hands on his hips said We don't know it's deadly. We don't know it's not. Let's not panic yet. Tell me what ya think we should do.

I'll...I'll take it back outside. Then if it blows up at least the rest of you will survive.

Noble, dramatic, yer hearts in the right place, but what if it's remote controlled? If they see ya bring it back out, They'll know their plot failed and probably blow you up for spite. What else could we do?

Uh...Do we have a safe or uh.... could we bury it?

Possible, but...if it was me, I'd probably have a timed trigger in addition to rigging it to blow if it was opened, so we probably don't have enough time to bury it. What other options have we got?


Hey, hey, kid. Ya panic, ya might kill us all. I ain't running away. I'm right here. Calm down. Talk to me. Ya got the brains to get us outta this, just use 'em.

Drek, I'm sorry, but this is scary. What do I do?

Think, kid, think.

Ok, we don't have time for anything fancy and we're probably being observed......uh, a drone! Could we put it on a drone?

Good one, kid. I'll get a floater. We'll tape it on and get it outta here.

Within seconds the Condor LDSD-23, with the envelope taped to it's side was traveling up through the roof access and into the sky. Initially Mouse just sat on the warehouse floor with his hands shaking as Itami rigged the long range observation unit to greater and greater heights. When Hamon noticed the activity, or rather missed the rigger's humming, he came over and gave Mouse an inquisitive look.

I..uh stupidly brought in an envelope, and uh, Itami asked what if it was a bomb. We taped it to a drone and he floated it up.

When they had trouble seeing the drone through the roof access, the pair moved over to where the rigger was sitting. Itami activated one of his hidden roof top cameras and activated a screen so that his team mates could watch the drone ascend. After another minute, the young decker said,

So it was just a lesson you wan......


Mouse grabbed the back of a seat and lowered himself into the chair as the size of the distant explosion appeared on the view screen.

Yep, c12 and a timer. That's the way I would have done it. Itami said. Good thinking on your part, kid. Even a rolling drone couldn't have gotten it far enough away fast enough without endangering anybody else.

Frag. That was.....you.....oh, drek. Mouse said, turning a little green and grasping his mid section. Is that the way you usually do it?

Usually? Kid, I never been in that situation before in my life. I didn't say ya did a good job to flap my gums. Yer solution worked. Yer, uh... not gonna get sick again, are ya?

But...but..how could you just stand there and calmly talk to me. Calm me down, with a bomb... that....if you really knew we could be blown to bits, and that I never......?

Kid. You saw the size of the blast generated by the packet of c-12 that was in there, right? Here's an indicator of the scale , Itami said while pointing to the monitor. From where you were standing, we'd all have had to have been under cover way the hell over there indicating the far corner of the warehouse. and even then most of the building might have come down.

As Mouse was swallowing over the size of the deadly blast and trying to keep down the huge sandwich he had just eaten, Itami continued You work in the matrix, right? Decisions made and actions taken in fractions of a second, right? The Boss also sez yer da finest speed chess player in the city, right? That means you do analysis and strategy in seconds that takes other guys hours, right? So if the choice is between you and me, who is better equipped to come up with a plan to handle a time sensitive, life or death decision? You are. When you are thinking about possibilities, I advise you based on my experience if I see a flaw. That, and supporting you so you can come up with a plan is my part. Once you came up with a plan, it was my job to make sure it worked. I decide on the best drone for the job and make sure it does the job you've planned. We each do what were best qualified for in the situation.That's how the team survives.

When Hamon patted the decker on the shoulder the young ork smiled weakly until he saw the Gillette was offering him a small trash can with black plastic ears attached which had MOUSE'S BUCKET painted in childish lettering on the side. Chuckling, Itami said When yer done with that ya probably ought ta join us at the table. Letter bombs are something we'd all better talk about. Indicating the bucket again, the rigger said But, you take yer time. We'll wait for ya.

I'll be fragged if I'm gonna give those fraggers the satisfaction Mouse thought as he lurched up to follow his friends. Or maybe Itami's lesson is not to be ashamed to admit what you need the queasy decker amended as he tucked the bucket under one arm and went off to the war council. Man! I hope the lessons get easier!