Albrook has a lot of bars. The Web’s largest city had a commensurately large appetite for booze. And as bar culture around the Web was different, you could find it all reflected in Albrook – Esperian pubs and Tasnican beer halls were the most common, but there were Eblanese sake dens, high-class establishments, and dives. There was even the famous Drunken Soldier Tavern, a veritable historical landmark, where (it was said) Celiose and Chrystalis would go drinking.
Albrook Harbor (“the AH”) had plenty of seedy, cheap dive bars serving inexpensive beer and grog to merchantmen and dockworkers servicing the busiest point of transshipment in the Web.
Osprey, of course, knew that all job searches required a good bit of legwork – simply sitting in the apartment all day on the computer sending out resumes would not do! Even in this OmniNet, hyper connected age, meeting people face to face was the way to go. He knew that there was always extra work to be had at Albrook Harbor. Most of it was menial day labor, loading and unloading ships, but occasionally voyages leaving for unsafe parts of the Web needed extra security. There were captains who needed rough men ready to do violence, and they came to the Rowdy Ray’s Tavern and Bar, home of two-GP shooters and well-known haunt for violent freelancers.
Osprey’s plan was simple: saunter in, look badass (which was easy enough!) and let the job offers roll in. He didn’t expect to find anything long-term, but anything to get a paycheck and build the resume was worth it.
Walking into Rowdy Ray’s Tavern and Bar, Osprey almost fit right in among all the other job-seekers – though, with his best ninja gear and Shiva’s edge, he was certainly more dapper than the scads of ex-GA veterans for hire that made up most of the tavern’s clientele. With all his confidence, he sauntered up to the bar.
“Give me the spiciest buffalo wings you have!” he demanded.
The bartender was momentarily taken aback. “Are you sure?” he said, shocked. “I should warn you, there are some mean sons-of-bitches that come through this place, but not one has ever finished a full plate of our spiciest buffalo wings.”
“I said bring them!” demanded Osprey. “I insist upon maximum spicination!”
“…do you want milk with that, at least?”
“No, I am lactose intolerant,” said Osprey.
Gravely, the bartender nodded.
This bold move had the desired effect. Osprey could feel the whole attention of the bar on him. Amongst the drab sea of washed-out GA types, he noticed a few more colorful characters: a beat-up looking Tigran, very far from Alter; a lady gunslinger from west, thoroughly dressed for the part; a “Mr. Johnson” working for some AAA corporation, with a suit clearly too nice for this establishment; and a man with a top-knot wearing loose fighting robes, with a large dao-style broadsword in a scabbard on his waste. It was this last man, who looked like he was from Fabul, who approached Osprey.
“Nice sword,” he said.
Osprey proudly grasped the hilt of Shiva’s Edge. “It is my most prized piece of equipment,” he said. “Forged from the frozen breath of a dying god.”
“Allow me to introduce myself,” said the man, “I am Jin Gangdao, Red Pole of the Golden Axe Triad.”
Osprey had drawn the wrong kind of attention. The Triads were a notorious Fabul-based criminal organization. Despite his strong desire for gainful employment, and despite the fact that as a professional spy most of what he did was not strictly legal, there was a fine line between doing questionable things for a legitimate employer and entering Albrook’s underworld.
Still, he was curious. Albrook was a Zozoan Mafia town; for a Triad Red Pole to be here, and in traditional Xsian dress, was quite bold, on par with ordering the spiciest wings available. Something was afoot, and Osprey wanted to know what, without giving too much away about himself. Quickly, he conjured one of his patented bird-themed cover identities. “I am Pete Pidgeotto,” Osprey said, “fencer extraordinaire and all-around useful guy to have in a fight.”
“Pete,” said Jin Gangdao, slowly. “You interested in a job?”
“What kind of job?”
“One where you would get to use that sword,” said Jin Gangdao. “My organization is…new in town, and we are a little shorthanded.
Osprey smiled. “I’d be interested.”
“Good,” nodded Jin. Jin slid over a napkin with an address on it. “There’s a smuggler who needs to be a taught a lesson. Be at that address in two hours.”
Osprey nodded. Of course, there was one more thing needed to sell the fake identity: “What about…compensation?”
“You’ll be rewarded an honest night’s pay for an honest night’s work,” grinned Jin. “And, if you do a good job, there may be more work in it for you.”
“Excellent,” said Osprey. “I must go and get my gear. Barkeep! Please make my spicy wings to go!”