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Memories of an old-school runner

[This is effectively the history of my longest term character, Echo, who I played from 2051 to the 70's]
Ok, so you want to know the story of an old hand in the shadows? Fine. I won’t bother much with anything that happened before the 50’s, save that I was born and bred to a working-class family in Everett in ’27. Like many kids of blue collar stiffs in the metroxplex, life didn’t work out too well. I was pulling jobs before I finished school. Turns out I was ok at it because I had a key advantage – patience. After my first few runs I realised that confidence and arrogance gets you killed. So I built a process and for the next few years I worked it religiously. I took small time runs, kept my head down and out of trouble, worked the streets and my contacts like a job, made hay while I could and waited for an opportunity, which for me came in 2051.
That year was a watershed - fashion was awesome, music was good, and I was starting to pull jobs that left me with a lot of nuyen and access to people willing to do obscene acts to get it. My big break came when the big hitters like Fuchi finally got the idea that their corp spies and street agents stuck out like sore thumbs when trying to track down people that had done a run against them. Their solution? Hiring runners permanently to act as covert hit squads. Bloody business, but it came with guaranteed cash plus huge bonuses for timely kills. So when my crew got approached by a Johnson some time in a seedy club in uptown, how could we refuse? For the first few years it was easy money. No one knew who was bumping off runners, and no one suspected legit teams to be in on the deal. We spent most of our time setting up fake runs against Fuchi to maintain cover, while quickly tracing and putting down those who do it for real.
That didn't last long though. In 2055 someone hit a teleporting SAN into the Fuchi North America PLTG and ID'ed my teammate Arkady (Freebaser, on account of his prodigious novacoke habit) as a hitter through an internal memo. For the next 5 years it was all about damage control. People soon worked out that I (Echo) along with Hannah (Scarlet), Akiko (Adders) and Rie (Primetime) had all been working against the very people we were supposed to be down with. Life in the shadows became lonely after that, and we were forced to take on new faces and new ID's to get by and had to rebuild street reps for new streetnames. We did okay, and managed to make a few choice hits over the next few years, but things were never the same. Everyone was all 'once bitten, twice shy.'
Things between Hannah and me, which had gotten quite good after a few years, abruptly ended when she took on with a fellow mage. My lack of astral sensitivity was too big a barrier between us, but I suspect my newly reconstructed face was also too hard to deal with. By 2057 we were relegated to just another black ops squad performing runs against Fuchi's enemies. The work was good, but abruptly became more difficult during the Corp War. From June 6 2059 an undeclared war reigned in the shadows, with black squads from various corps hitting each other to gain some form of advantage in an increasingly erratic market. I killed a lot of people in those engagements. Fortunately for me, they were a lot of the people that resented me for hitting against 'the code' so long ago. The work got more and more dangerous, and our various corporate handlers got more and more desperate. The result? increased payments. We were working like dogs but living like kings. It was too good to be true.
How right I was. June 2060 happened and then it all went to hell for a second time. What a fucking mess. The numbered corp we worked for got picked up in the Fuchi buyout. So, like all good company men, we present ourselves on the Matrix to our new masters at Shiawase MIFD. Things did not go according to plan, at least for me. Being Gaijin, of questionable loyalties and often used by Novatech aligned Fuchi subsidiaries, I was considered a liability, along with Arkady and Hannah. Akiko and Rie, despite being female were at least of Japanese ancestry. While our orders were to stay put, Akiko and Rie were ordered via their private communicators to eliminate us. Coolly, they walked into the living room of our safehouse and told us to disappear, that if they saw us again they would kill us themselves. At least the numbered corp didn't hold our corporate citizenship or bank accounts - they had been transferred (by whom? No idea) to Jintao O'Gorman Pan-Pacific Investment Fund, which became part of Novatech. I still have citizenship apparently, though given I was a Shiawase employee, albeit for about an hour, I'm most likely persona non-grata.
And with that the gravy train ended. We couldn't take any of our possessions, as it would arouse too much suspicion. To make matters worse, we had to provide bodies for them to display as proof of kill. To this day I've wondered which family never got to ID their son at the morgue. At least for once it wasn't me that put him there. I didn't ask Arkady and Hannah who they used and in fact I never spoke to the four of them again – at the time it was too difficult and now too long ago. I heard that Arkady ate pavement from upon high in ‘62 running guns in the Cascades, though my source wasn't 100% tight. Had a drink to his name in a bar in Tangier just to be on the safe side. Scarlet is, according to some of the folk still willing to chat on Shadowland, working out of Los Angeles as a film consultant. She's black now, really went all in on the ID change. Me? I tried to go back to work, but there was nothing for Echo, at least nothing that paid decent. Since I started hitting for the corps, my name was mud. I took on a new alias and a new market while the West Coast scene cooled down.
Trying to get across the Atlantic without a visa and a respectable ID is tough, and with no cash available to me I had to risk taking on with a ship’s crew for room and board as no T-bird runner would do it on credit, at least for me. I made port at Dakar. First night I paid a cab driver in little bottles of whiskey to take me from my flophouse to the pitfights. I signed up for the open division and within first week had killed half a dozen opponents at the cost of the better part of my right ear. Over time I built enough cash and street cred to move onto better things. I took on work for one a petty warlord that ran Nouakchott with delusions of a kingdom. The pay wasn't what I was used to, but it cost nothing to live and I was going to need to learn the lingo - a dialected French, but it would do - if I was going to make it as a prime runner in multilingual Europe. It was easy work, but some of the things we did… nightmare fuel. Out there, life was cheap and I was determined to make my way to a place where my ass was worth a drekload more currency.
After 6 months I split, along with about 100 grand in uncut diamonds, one of the warlord's girls and his Jeep. Apparently there used to be a cross country race that went from Dakar towards Morocco in the 2000's and, battered though the old map was, it got us to the straits of Gibraltar in one piece. I'd hoped things would be different with Jaineba, but she split about 4 days after I got to the straits along with the jeep about 30 grand worth of stones I'd hidden under the dash. I guess railing one of the girls of a violent sociopath in the back room of a makeshift casino doesn't make for a long-term relationship. I managed to buy passage on a boat shipping hash bound for Marseilles. From there, I made my way to Calais. It is in Calais that I would coin my new nom de guerre, Sands. I would spend the next decade making a name for myself in the Eurozone, mainly in France.
I focused on leveraging my contacts down south and did a brisk trade running magical reagents and stones out of Africa for a grey-market merchant collective out of Bordeaux. I had become moderately successful there, building a solid rep, network of contracts and had even started working regular side jobs with a couple of French brothers and a British expat page 3 girl. Then once again, my life went to shit when I found a message in my matrix drop box. It was from my brother, who must have spent a small fortune to track me down. Apparently he’s successful and married. Also turns out I have a niece, Keeley. She's very talented, and apparently she's gone missing. He asked to meet me, back in the old stomping ground, Seattle. At first I said "Fuck it, why should I drop this new life on account of him?" But then I realised I didn’t even know why I’d built this new life in the first place. I’d been living my life trusting the process – work the streets, make hay, be a good little saver, wait for things to go it drek, get out and start again. Family was as good a reason as any to get out and start again, again. So once more, life bails on me just as it turns good. Once more, I'm riding my luck on a last-minute fake ID hack job at customs for a suborbital to throw my ass in a parabolic arc west. Once more I'm hiding in a bolt hole that has somehow remained undisturbed for the better part of a decade and worrying about whether my beautiful life (and expensive gear) in France will be there when I get back. But that’s ok. I’ll survive – just got to trust the process.
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