Shifts in Power
Jadaenna "Snowflake" Ritter
A pale young woman with faint, almost white hair, and a gaunt, hungry frame that conceals surprising strength and speed. Her eyes have an unsettling habit of seeming to stare through to the core of a person.
What the team knows:
She was caught up with them at the attack at the Leaky Brain when meeting with a contact, Eva Reyes
What the street knows:
“So, like, there I’da been crashin’ at them old warehouses up near Killin’ Road- Yeah, sure, they’re fallin’ down, but two walls an’ a bitta roof’s better’n nothin’- an’ for the last couple’a nights, this one chick’s been squattin’ in Stumpy’s spot. Now Stumpy, he’da gone an’ scrapped for that spot before, an’ that cane o’ his is made outta old rebar so he does land a hit, it ain’t gonna be no small thing. Anyways, he goes to chase ‘er off- We’re figgerin’ she’s just some new junkie wandered in from somewheres- an’ she just looks at ‘im. Don’t say nothin’, just lockin’ eyes… and Stumpy? He backs hisself down an’ gets a new spot.
That ain’t th’ thing, though! So next coupla nights, she’s there. Ain’t nobody see when she comes or goes, just, mornin’? She’s gone. Night’s gettin’ cold? She’s there. Not sayin’ nothin’, not doin’ nothin’, just… starin’. Flyball, he swear he caught her sleepin’ once, goes to lift her stash- One sec she’s down, next, she’s got eyes wide open an’ a shiv ‘gainst his jewels. Some others- wake up’n the middle’ve the night, and there she is, just watchin’. Creepy stuff. Still, ain’t nothin’ too strange, we leave ‘er ’lone, she leaves us be- We can work wit’ that.
Thing is, near a week’ve that gone by? Godsdamn pack’ve devil rats swarms in one night, lookin’ ta nosh the lot’ve us. Slim gets bit first, starts screamin’ ‘til the rats take ’is throat out, but ’least it gets the rest’ve us movin’. All this, and the chick? She don’t make one move ‘til a couple’ve ‘em make for her. I don’t catch what ‘xactly happens, on account’ve I’m too busy tryin’ to keep my own self outta it, but there’s this big ol’ crunch-splat kinda sound, cuts right through all the hollerin’ and the screechin’, an’ all the rats, big ones an’ the small ones both? They just stop an’ turn. An’ there she is, elbow-deep in one’ve ‘em goin’ the long way, the other, gettin’ it’s neck broke under ‘er foot. Bare foot, mind- Chick don’t got no shoes, then.
‘Godsdamn’, I said, ‘We got ourselves a sammy!’ Explains all kindsa stuff, really, but I weren’t thinkin’ it much then. ‘cause next thing? Th’ whole damn pack turns an’ mobs her. The rest’ve us, we’re gettin’ while we can, but me? I take a look back ‘fore I’m gone, an’ I swear, she’s dancin’ through them things. Sure, she takes a couplea bites, but she don’t even slow down none. Even nails like, three’ve ‘em t’gether at once usin’ Stumpy’s cane, like some kinda giant shishkamabobber. I just kinda had ta stay an’ watch, after all that- an’ wouldn’ ya know it? Th’ white lady there, she gets all them big ones down, the small ones, they bolt on outta there- An’ her? She goes right back to her spot and settles in like nothin’ happened.
Seein’ all that? Figured mebbe it won’t hurt none to get her over ta Eagle. He’s always lookin’ for talent, and ain’t shy ‘bout passin’ out a finder’s fee. Lady gets a break, I get some scratch? Good deal all ’round."
“Snowy? Yeah, Bluetooth brought her up to me. He tell you the rat story? He loves that damn rat story. Anyway. Most bums come to me, tell me they found a boosted up street sam squatting in a dump? I’d figure they’re dosed. But Tony, he delivers solid news, doesn’t stretch things out none. Well, much, anyways, not about what matters. And he’s got an even dozen devil-rat tails to prove it. So she’s probably legit, I figure, so I go for a meet.
The lady doesn’t look like much, first glance. Soy-flats that are falling apart, skinny- Recent skinny, like she hadn’t been eating much- and yeah, you’d figure some kinda junkie, not a badass. But you look in her eyes? I’ve seen eyes like that. Natural killers, every one of ‘em. Not like some sam that’s so chromed up he’s about to go chop-happy any second, no- More like, you ever see any spec-ops types? Snipers, the like? Those ones that you know, they look at you and see like three ways to geek you right off, and wouldn’t think twice about any of ’em if you give them cause. The real deal.
See, I’d also heard something else interesting. Couple weeks earlier? Baron Thorn, that drekhead that ran the slot shop down with the Roses? Yeah, he’s bragging at a meetup that he’s got some white-haired exotic in from a couple of smugglers from way out East- Jersey or something- that found themselves a hitchhiker. He’s going on and on about how he’s gonna break her in himself and- yeah. Anyway, couple days later? Word gets out he’s been found dead, locked in one of his own red rooms, arms and legs broke, and OD’d from like, every damn thing he used to keep his girls strung out. Thing is, he’d been there for days and nobody noticed a thing until the smell got bad enough. And the room? It was locked from the inside. That’s some ghost story shit right there. But you put that together with Tony’s story? Yeah, I figure she’s worth a shot.
So I give her milk runs- Light stuff, you know? Stuff that needs doing, but you aren’t going to be out much if the person flakes. Message runs, getting eyes on the other crews nearby- No sweat. She turns around, turns her cash right into gear- Typical sam, right? Not like it’s much, and hey, we’ve got some to spare. Now, about then, the Kents are nosing around our turf, and we’re already working the Cutters to the east. Nobody wants no war on two sides, everybody knows where that goes to. So her? She’s strapped, she delivers, and she’s not us- Not really. She gets caught, she’s some random sam, not a Concord. So I figure, get her to distract the Kents.
What’s she go and do? I don’t know the details- I don’t wanna know- but one of their boys winds up hanging by his ankles from a streetlamp up on the edge of the Saints’ turf, and missing his eyes. Now the Kents figure it’s a message from the Saints, they start gearing up for a war over there instead… and me? I’ve got a jar on ice that I don’t really want to open just yet. So what I figure? Maybe it’s worth getting her some jobs somewhere else in town. Sure, she does good work, but I don’t want her staying around here longer than she needs to. Creeps me out.
- So why Snowflake? Well, we’ve already got an Icer. Can’t go and get them confused. Lucky thing, she doesn’t seem like she minds any."
What actually happened
Once upon a time, there lived a princess in a tower of gold. Okay, not really a princess, and not really gold, but it may as well have been- A rich little girl born to the right parents in the right city in the right corp? Here’s someone who could go just about anywhere. But oh, the princess had a heart of ice, and the presence of a ghost. Strangely quiet, both in demeanor and in motion, she was always just a little set apart from her peers. (Not that having a father who was VP of Acquisitions and mother who was the head of R&D wouldn’t have done that already.) Never much to be in the middle of things, she’d always just sort of… lurk. And observe.
Still, her parents did their best to instill her with good, Corporate values. Obedience, civility, an adherence to The Almighty Contract, and a calm, rational approach to solving problems.
To the savvy, it comes at very little surprise that her first kill was at sixteen. Her second, only moments after.
Really, her father should have known better. After all, having a mistress is certainly a breach of contract, especially if one is brought home when everybody else is supposed to be away. But young Jadaenna, she came home early that day. There was really only one logical thing to do. Admittedly, the other woman, she was more of an afterthought- A very loud, very shrill afterthought that was just making it impossible to think about what she should do next.
Her mother took the news surprisingly well. She’d suspected, of course, but she couldn’t bring up the issue without creating a scene- Though, of course, a small issue still remained that her daughter was still a murderess who wasn’t showing the slightest sign of remorse. (Well, she did apologize for the mess, and she did try to clean it up, but come on, she was only fourteen. She wouldn’t learn the trick with the soda water until later.)
How fortunate, then, that she’d recently received approval for a new research proposal for a new product line: Designer agents, spies made-to-order. And of course, she’d need a number of subjects to work with, but why not start with one who’s already demonstrated a personal loyalty and no small measure of natural aptitude for the work? And so, the destiny of the princess changed to that of a knight, albeit one of shadows.
The initial goals had been rather overambitious- The initial plan had been for agents capable of insinuating themselves into any environment, loaded down with invisible, undetectable modifications to bring them up to and past the peak of metahuman performance without raising even a glimmer of warning on the most sensitive of technological or mystical detection.
Corporate oversight, however, had some issues as the project developed. Namely, the cost, and the time it would take to see any usable returns. See, the problem with low-impact, high-performance bioware is that while it can certainly be effective, it’s also extremely expensive. Add in the training time for all the fields that a successful spy would need to excel in, and the procedures required to make an agent immune to unfortunate things such as magical scrying and detection (along with the intra-corp political backlash from fairly accurate accusations of nepotism and departmental rivalries), and, well, it was almost inevitable that certain features would have to be cut, and why, the entire project should just be rebranded. After all, it’s much, much simpler to simply train and develop a more effective soldier, and really, wouldn’t a home-grown commando team capable of facing off against the likes of the Red Samurai or Firewatch be just so much more impressive? And most importantly, marketable?
So, corners are cut, costs are saved, and the end result, rather than being a silver-tongued espionage specialist with sidelines in seduction and sabotage, and not-so-little Jadaenna is instead a rather more conventional engine of mayhem, albeit with a leaning towards more subtle and precise work such as slitting throats or silencing sentries from some miles away- An entire range of options!
And, well, then it’s time for another annual review, and the higher-ups would like to see some evidence of progress for their investment, and no, no, simple laboratory demonstrations are just not realistic enough. No, what the partially trained-and-modified team of commandos-to-be need is a field test! Yes, give them a little of the old trial by fire. If what the Doctor had been professing was true, why, they should certainly be up for a simple little mission by now.
The results were much as anybody with half a brain could expect- While individually, the subjects were certainly quite skilled, the lack of leadership or teamwork experience spelled doom for the unit as a whole, especially when a tragic miscommunication resulted in the unit’s reinforcements (in the form of a more conventionally trained extraction team) opening fire on the would-be super soldiers, leading to retaliation, escalation, and in general, quite a distressing scene. Why, not even all the bodies could be properly identified after the explosive ordinance had been deployed!
All Jadaenna really knew, though? One moment, the mission was progressing, well, mostly fine, and then, everything simply went mad. Forces that were supposed to be friendly weren’t, people she’d been training with for years were dying, and there was only one way to survive- Run. (And kill, but that was a rather more secondary concern at the moment.) Even with her artificially-enhanced memory, the entire thing was quite the blur. The next thing she could recall clearly, she was sneaking onboard a light aircraft making ready to depart, having abandoned the easily traceable gear that had managed to survive the firefight. Her wounds and fatigue catching up to her, it was all she could do to find a hiding spot, and she was just so tired…
When she next awoke, she was hundreds of miles from everything she’d known, and, her hiding spot not being nearly as clever as she’d hoped it had been (smugglers do tend to be rather good at spotting things that don’t belong in their craft), she was also being sold as an unexpected but not entirely unwelcome profit to a flesh-peddler in Portland. Fortunately for her, her would-be owner rather underestimated the threat she presented, and after what she felt was an equitable (if somewhat hasty) exchange, she departed via the ventilation shafts.
Now, being without instruction, objectives, or a support network, after so long being a part of a much larger whole, left her somewhat at a loss of what to do with herself. It was only after a minor, if fortunate, incident that she was able to come up with some sort of direction rather than base survival. She had been, after all, contracted to complete a mission. There may have been some complications along the way, and she needs rather more in the way of information to reveal what her true objectives should be…
But the job isn’t done yet. And you never, never, default on a Contract.