The ‘Cybered Arms’
On the corner of 2nd and Zelazny in Little Italy, there sits an oblong-shaped establishment which fronts the street and backs onto a dingy alleyway. Next door is a Garage which seems to be in the throes of restoration, the roller door kept securely locked and closed, with chickenwire keeping the upper windows safe.A dataterm on the opposite corner is scarred and looks like a model from down South N.C. way, the hood battered and the sides scarred by gunfire. Long scrape marks in the tarmac of the street slide all the way up to the front of bar, stopping roughly a meter away.
The frontage of this bar is brutal. Once an ailing ‘theme’ bar covered in flashy chrome trimmings and neon, it changed ownership eighteen months ago and the inner and outer facade have changed dramatically. Great slabs of sheet steel lie riveted across the once-wide front windows with three-inch slits bisecting them horizontally, looking remarkably like gun ports. These sheets are scorched and dinted, yet are holding. The surrounding brickwork is blackened and paint is blistered.
The front doors are twin tinted Lexan swinging doors, opening to a small antechamber with matching untinted doors two meters away, and from here one is able to see into the bar itself.
Seedy could be an adjective to use in describing the inside of this establishment. Thin shafts of light from the plate steel windows lance in and cut through the smoke haze, highlight the dark, dark carpet that seems to have no distinguishable pattern or color. Stools line the walls and a high bench runs almost the entire length or each side wall, pausing only for the cigarette machine. Fax flimsies, curled photos and hardcopies from gun catalogs are scattered along the strips of cork that line the walls, as well as scrawled phone numbers, LDL numbers and node addresses.
A cramped bar that seats five abreast is crammed into the back wall, and doors to the restrooms are adjacent; to the left of the bar. The bar itself seems quite new, done in stainless steel and metal grillwork, with the spirits behind a high metal grille, only the tops protruding. A steel cyborg head, titanium teeth bared and dark optics forever dormant, is mounted above the bar, polished but for the three bullet entry holes along the side of the skull.
The Cybered Arms opens at one in the afternoon and patrons begin to filter in around half an hour later. Behind the bar is the manager, a solo by the name of Keegan. With short cropped brown hair, twin chromed cyberarms (coincidence) and a custom SSG Crusher sitting low in a thigh holster, Keegan serves brusquely and knows how to keep order in the bar. It is a well-known fact that Keegan packs thermite shells in her rebuilt shotgun/pistol, and keeps an extinguisher handy in case she misses. She’ll light up when a friend or regular enters, and engage them in chat, gossip and a gentle insistence to drink more before she gets angry.
Upon entry the patron will encounter either Duke or Duceros on the door. Duke is a tightly-muscled freelancer with a curled Stetson and fast blades, and she knows how to handle an assault rifle fine, too. Duke initially drifted in when between jobs, but has taken a semi-regular position when Keegan was impressed with her crowd control and efficiency.
Duke shares the door shift with Duceros, a tall, fairly wiry nomad who has stayed behind in N.C. while his pack moved down the coast. He’s hanging around to gain contacts and safe areas, getting a good knowledge of the city for when they return. He’s also on the lookout for work for his people. For now, though, he minds the door with a crowbar and Volt pistol. Duceros is quiet and taciturn until you ask him about his family.
The clientÃ?Â¨le now can vary, but the mood could be ‘enforcer’. Many of the Mafia heavies like to drink here, and the partners in the bar (often OS) have dragged in many of their peers, a range of freelancers, street sams and ex-mil veterans. Weapons are tagged and bagged at the door, but regulars can often find themselves through the doors with a simple nod and a smile.
The impression is that the Cybered Arms may well be one of the oldest buildings in N.C. Even though the City itself has a short history, it seems accelerated decrepitude is the order of the decade, and the bar resonates with a palpable aura of fatigue that makes a day in the bar long, slow and strangely comfortable. Soft music plays just to take the bite off the silence, and a perpetual thin haze hangs in the air, appearing at about four in the afternoon and lasting until the early hours of the morn.
It can get packed and rowdy, especially when a team decides to come in and celebrate a successful op, and often fills well after midnight when partying edgers just want to wind down. A good eighty percent of the clientÃ?Â¨le are regulars, and blow-ins either leave immediately or end up coming back again and again. Some say it is the feeling of enclosed security the little bar generates.
Keegan retaliates by stating that a well-aimed HLAW could take down one entire wall.
Keegan is partners in the bar with a Jamaican fixer known as Reefer, the manager of the initial owner, Escobar. Escobar was a Portuguese tech with a tendency towards bloody violence and beating things with a hammer. He is remembered and well-loved by his old friends, as Escobar was killed when the magazine gangfired in the same gun turret his head was sharing.
While Reef runs a freelance team that has been out of the country for some time, Keegan has no hassles running the bar, and the local Mafia dues have been paid. After much deliberation, Escobar paid a yearly fee to the local Mob representative and subsequently the Arms is now under the safe eye of the Italian Mafia.
This bar is not a hiring hall. It’s a respite for the solos who don’t want to be spotted in the Afterlife or are sick of maintaining a killer image for all the try-hards who saunter into Hades late at night. The Arms, or ‘Escobars’, as some regulars know it, is a place where any sort of edgerunner can let their hair down as well as their carefully-erected street defenses.
Keegan: “Yeah, sooner or later everybody asks about old Ronnie. He was a helluva freak. Used to come in here and just pour vodka down his steel throat, nobody knew if it was having any effect because nobody knew how much flesh was left. Then he’d leave to go hunting down the C-Zone. ‘Least that’s what he said.
“I’ve known Escobar to do some stupid things, dying amongst them, but his stupidest had to be putting Ronnie on staff when he was OS for two weeks. We lost about ninety percent of our clientele, and two of them dead from Ronnie’s bouncing technique. Escobar ‘relieved’ Ronnie once he got back but it took a month for everybody to drift back.
“Then Ronnie went Barney. Absolutely Barney Rubble psycho. Took Yolanda, our other barmaid, the guy next to her, then went the bar when Escy fired at him with a pump full o’ thermite. Mind you, Axe at the door was squeezing his 3516 like the rounds were contaminated, and Reef, his manager, whipped out this beast of a Superchief and started drilling his head.
“Ronnie busted Escy’s leg and was about to put a fist through his head when Reef’s shot dropped him. We’re all standing around feeling sheepish ‘cos a fixer popped the ‘psycho. So anyway, we scraped out the human bits and mounted ole Ronnie right here above the bar.”