Hong Kong: Tales from Gas Mask City
A street magician that clawed his way from the gutter through magic and cunning that'll be damned if anyone tells him what to do.
|Archetype:||Awakened child forced into prostitution now a bad ass chaos magician|
|Attributes: Priority B||Body 2
Magic 6 (Priority A)
Physical Initiative 8+1d6
Astral Combat Initiative 10+2d6
|Skills: Priority C||Skill Groups:
Acting (Con, Impersonation, Performance) 1
Stealth (Disguise, Palming, Sneaking) 1
Pistols (Revolvers) 1(+2)
Astral Combat 2
Magic: (Two of which start at 5 due to selecting priority A magic)
Ritual Spellcasting 3
I don’t like to talk about my past much. The things they did to me, the things I had to do just to survive. Debasing myself so I would have enough to eat or a place to sleep. In a city like this if you don’t have someone looking out for you your chances go from slim to nil real fast, chummer.
My parents were worthless chipheads, both of them. They sold me to Qiao Si,a low level Tong pimp, for a handful of beetles at the tender age of twelve. I went from misery to hell in a span of hours, I had to start earning my place from the moment I arrived. You’d be surprised what some pervos will pay for a few hours alone with a fresh-faced, smooth-skinned young elf; well maybe you wouldn’t but some would be surprised. Men, women it didn’t matter if they had the creds we had to play along. I fought it as first but that only made Qiao Si beat me harder. I learned a lot of things when I was twelve, how to give someone what they want, to read another’s mood in the set of their shoulders or eyes, but mostly I learned to hate. I did have the benefit of some tutoring as many liked the elves they fucked to have at least some semblance of refinement and culture, made them fell better about themselves when they humiliated me.
A lot happened to me over the next few years, but mostly I learned to survive. I won’t bore you with the gory details but suffice it to say that any way a person can be debased or degraded I’ve endured it and come out the other side stronger, meaner, and more cunning. My life really got interesting when I first began to show signs of the gift. Qiao Si had an old mama san with a touch of magic and she would ferret out those with a trace of talent and teach them to use it to better please the customers or keep an eye out for the law, sometimes just to keep ahead of the rivals. I much preferred that to my other line of work.
She never taught us a lot, just enough to be of use but never a rival. I became obsessed with learning more, there was an older magician that was a regular of mine, she wasn’t as mean as most, just kind of sad and lonely. Sometimes I had to do other things but mostly she would just sit and talk. I used every skill and art at my disposal to glean every bit of knowledge I could from her doting old mind. She was never a great talent but she taught me enough so that I finally felt like I could challenge Qiao Si.
I still dream about that night, I charmed my way passed his bodyguards by saying I had something special planned for his birthday. I walked into that dingy hotel room locking the door behind me. For the first time I came into his presence from a place of power and not supplication. He had an Indian girl there, no more than eleven; he started to scream at me, saying he would give me to a troll that had been sniffing around for some fun. As he rose from the bed and started toward me I pushed all my hate into a little ball and with a shout of fury that resonated from my very soul I sent him sprawling across the floor. His guards knew he liked it rough and it would take a lot more noise than that to get their attention.
I could taste the blood running from my nose but I didn’t care, as I laughed he tried to stand but his leg and one arm were bent at an odd angle. I could end it quick and be on my way but he had earned a lot more of my attention than that. I took his tongue first, his balls last. The girl sat in the corner while I went to work, her black eyes like polished stones, head cocked to one side more curious than afraid. I used my new talents to keep him alive long past when his body wanted to quit. In the end I grew tired of my little game and as I stood over the quivering whimpering mass I felt renewed, not as if something were ending but instead beginning.
I took out a can of lighter fluid and began spraying it over him, taking great care to get as much into the raw parts as possible. As the can sputtered empty I closed my eyes for a second, gathering my will and as I opened them I bore down upon him with all my will. As I watched the flames spread across the room I felt a tiny hand grasp mine and begin to pull me away. Her voice broke into my thoughts, her Cantonese was broken but I got the idea and we turned and ran. I threw the door open but stood to the side, his bodyguards rushed into the room at the sight of the smoke and we darted out as they entered. I slammed the door and with one last shred of will did enough damage to the door and jam that it wouldn’t budge easily.
The girl half dragged half carried me to the stairwell and we began our rapid, clumsy, stumbling descent as the fire alarms began to go off. We eventually blended in with the other patrons streaming into the lobby and walked down the street happy as you please. We got a few odd looks with her in nothing but a bathrobe and me, I later learned, with small rivulets of blood running from my eyes, ears and nose. For the first time in a long time I was free. The girl’s name was Priya, she told me it meant Beloved in her language.
We lived on the streets for a time, watching each others backs, she had as much of a knack for survival as I did, if not more. She didn’t talk much about what her life was like before we met and neither did I, and it suited us both fine. We cared far more for what the future held than the past. We ran for a long time before we realized that no one was even looking for us, no one knew we were the cause of the fire and Qiao Si’s disappearance, he kept most of his records in his head, a few asked us about I’m sure but our memory was swiftly swallowed by the city.We are still close to this day, Priya and I, she’s one of two people I’ve ever truly cared for, despite the fact that we often go weeks without speaking.
I began running with street gangs, a ganger with magic is a rare enough thing that I found myself valued for another set of skills for the first time in my life. She got herself a real job, well more respectable than running in the streets any how. It began with a blog, she posted commentary on anything that held her attention and soon had a pretty big following. She’s even more popular now and is part of a network that shares info back and forth, some sort of free press initiative, free information taking on the corps and sticking it to the man, that kind of thing. She makes a living but she could make a whole lot more with her skills at decking if she cared about the creds.
I began to spiral out of control, my magic was beginning to consume me, control me instead of the other way around. I used it as much as could, whenever I could. No matter the question the solution was magic. I learned whatever I could where ever I could. I wasn’t picky about tradition, if it worked for you then it stood to reason that it would work for me. Every trick I learned I began to hobble together in a ramshackle tradition of my own. It was around this time that I met the only other person I give two damns about.
I was sitting at the bar in some dive, staring at my shaking hand as wave after wave of tremors passed through my body. We had just thrown down with a rival gang and I had made an example of their leader, a spectacular example, and was now paying the price for yet again pushing myself too far beyond the limits of my ability. I registered and ignored a presence in my periphery until a chromed hand reached out and poked me in the elbow and a deep voice like iron across gravel broke through my thoughts.
“I’d give everything I have and more for what you’re wasting, you’re gonna burn out real fast, son.”
“I’m not your son, frag face. Slot off or I’ll show you why you shouldn’t mess…”
I didn’t finish and he didn’t even turn to look at me as a casual back hand knocked my on my ass. He grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and carried me out the door throwing me to the gutter. He leveled a gaze at me that could’ve made the most glassy-eyed deckhead think straight.
“Look at me son. Don’t just look but really look. See what is really there.”
I was pretty sure I knew what he wanted and I shifted my sight to the astral, I could do it but not well and it made head throb, I preferred slinging spells. Something in his demeanor made me try, I knew if I didn’t he would lay me flat but there was more to it than that, something about him deserved my respect; it was a sentiment I didn’t often feel. What I saw caused me to immediately double over and retch. His soul was barely hanging on. He had so much cyber installed that he barely qualified as a person any more, but what I saw that horrified me most was a tiny sliver of the talent still shining, encased, entrapped in all that chrome.
“I was once a hot shit mage myself, on a run that went side ways seven ways to hell. My comrades pulled me out but had a choice to make, I could survive but I wouldn’t be the same, I’d lose much of my talent. None of them were magicians so they didn’t know, couldn’t know the choice they were making. What they were about to take from me. I wish the drekheads had left me to die, to pass on from this earth whole. What happened to me through fate you’re doing to yourself by choice. Whether you know it or not.” He stood with his hands on his hips, waiting for some smart ass reply.
I almost spoke before thinking. What held me back though was a single thought, here I was with something that set me apart. Something that gave me power for the first time in my life and I could tell when I really thought about it that it was also killing me.
“What should I do,” I asked.
“You need a teacher. I used to be one of the best. I can’t show you the practical parts, but I can teach you the theory. But if you’re going to do it, it’s gonna be my way.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a dog eared business card with nothing on it but an address, tossing it on the ground in front of him. “Don’t answer now. Think on it and if you’re ready to really learn, to get your shit together meet me there first thing Monday morning. If you’re late or don’t show you lose the one chance I’ll offer to help you. Disappoint me and you’ll regret it, if you survive.”
He turned and walked away without another word. I picked up the card he had dropped and after a quick search discovered it led to wharf and docked house boat.
Did I go?
Sure as shit I did, I was so scared I’d be late that I spent the night sleeping on the dock in front of where it was moored. He was a British ex-pat that had ran the Shadows as a mage for hire but he mostly worked as a fixer now using his old contacts to find work for young up and comers. I cut all my former ties with my old gang, he thought Priya was good for me though so her I could stay in touch with. He approached my training old school. I became his apprentice, doing chores around the boat, running errands, nothing too bad actually, cleaning toilets and fetching laundry were a far cry better than doing what I had done for my first job. In exchange for work he would dole out lessons piecemeal. A bit here and there and it was up to me to stitch it together into a whole. He introduced me to a lot of his peers from the old days and I learned what I could from them, in much the same manner, trading services for knowledge. He said it mellowed me a bit too, I don’t know about that but I’m grateful all the same. They seemed to adopt me as a mascot but I quickly caught on that it was because through me my mentor was the closest he had been to magic in a long time. Rather than making him bitter it seemed to bring him some peace passing on what he could no longer use.
Two weeks ago he told me to get off my ass, get out in the city and see if what I had learned was worth a frag.
I’ve run drugs, sold myself, sold others, stolen, beaten, blackmailed, and I’ve killed; I’ll do even worse to anyone that tries to hold power over me. I climbed from the gutter through hell to be where I am now chummer and no one, not you, not Mr. Johnson, sure as drek no corp asshole is going to tell me what to do.