Dinner got weird before dinner got weird. While Basil was in the middle of reciting his thesis on the societal impact of your debut album, Becca Sanders put her hand on your knee. She was holding her slate and the proximity transferred something to yours. You take a glance and see it’s her room key. At first you figured she was inviting you to a threesome, which was titillating but complicated, then a second message arrived: a local network address and decryption key. You look over at Becca. She smiles politely and squeezes your knee under the tablecloth, but her eyes are strained.
So after the AI deal goes sideways and everyone’s all pissed off at everyone else, you excuse yourself and hightail it to your room and let the cypher key loose. It takes you to a private digital whiteboard at an anonymous address. You go cold. You go so cold you don’t ever think you’ll be warm again.
Sixteen years. The board contains sixteen years of obsession. Basil Chen has been following you since nearly the moment you were published. There are photos. Impossible photos. Photos that exist but no one should have. And photos that shouldn’t even exist. Detailed data about your daily routines, your likes and dislikes, your appetites, your kinks. Little journal entries containing his thoughts, his fantasies, little stories.
You trace the timeline. You watch fandom evolve into fanaticism into obsession. Then there’s a moment. A moment where you had just started that very public relationship with the drummer from A Million Pieces and Basil had just lost his first company to a sexual harassment scandal. A moment where things got very dark. He lost it. He started blaming you for his failures. And he hired a lowlife ganger to try to kill you.
His notes barely take notice of the assassination’s failure and continue on for years. The fantasies getting darker and more violent. It seems like every time you have a major success, he becomes angrier and tries to have you “removed from his life”. His marriage to Nadine and success of AAI slows things down a bit, but it still simmers there. At the end of the timeline there’s an explicit photo, Basil having sex with Becca, it even looks like it was taken at Hotel Artemis. Becca’s face has been replaced with yours.
You spend two hours staring at the data. You go through phases of fear, of abject terror, of rage, and then…finally…calm. You just built a network of connections and smuggled your friends and a platoon of Marines off of Grove. You survived Myrr. You killed hijackers on Korolev with a damn loading crane. And you just found out why you’ve been living in fear for fifteen years. You found out who.
There are a thousand things you could do that would make sense. You’ve got a crew of very dangerous and well-connected friends, the best lawyer in the Reach, and righteousness on your side. But you don’t do any of those things. You don’t do the right thing. You do what’s right.
You go to the ballroom and retrieve Angelica’s stunner from the speaker. Then you go to Becca’s room in the corner of the first floor and let yourself in. The room smells of booze and sweat and sex and there’s a haze of some sort of smoke in the air. Becca’s in the bathroom off of the room’s vestibule, naked, drunk, and disheveled. Her eyes widen in surprise when she sees you, but then she soberly picks a crumpled dress up off the floor of the bathroom and pulls it over her head. She squeezes past you, her clammy hand brushing against yours before silently letting herself out of the room.
“Becca?” Basil’s voice from the bed. “Was that the room service?”
You step forward into the room, which is all very neat and organized, except for the bed which has obviously been doing a lot of work the last few days. Basil is naked on the bed, glistening with sweat and holding an empty rocks glass in one hand. There’s some sort of incense/local cannabid burning in a censor on the bedside table amidst a number of empty bottles and glasses. When he sees you he bolts upright in the bed, the glass falling to the floor, and self-consciously runs his hands through his hair. It’s the first time you’ve seen him even remotely off-balance.
“Tomoe! I didn’t-” and then you shoot him with the stunner and he drops back to the bed like a sack of potatoes.
Firing the shot releases something in you, like crossing the last barrier between Civilized Human and Enraged Human With A Legitimate Gripe. You silently curse the stunner for not being a proper firearm, but you have a pretty good idea how it works, and a pretty good idea about how the nervous system works, and you shoot him again in exactly the right spot under his arm so the jolt lances across his heart and puts him into arrest. You’ve descended into a cold rage that the stunner can’t quench, so for good measure you grab a steak knife from a discarded room service platter on the table and stab him in the heart.
You sit there for a time, looking at him. You don’t feel any sadness or regret, or if you do it’s drowned out by the tidal wave of relief. A weight you didn’t even realize was crushing you is suddenly gone. Eventually though, practicality starts to creep in. You begin to wonder if you’ve destroyed Jack’s project (and the retirement funds of all your friends). You vaguely recall Jericho Common Law being quite ruthless to foreign criminals. But you’re famous. And famous people are trained on what to do first if they ever find themselves in a mess like this.
You go to find Dirk. You figure he’s still in the bar, so you head to the stairwell right around the corner of Becca’s room and head down. And you almost miss it. Some heightened instinct, some bit of something out of the corner of your eye makes you pause in that dark, ground-floor stairwell and look around. You find Becca’s body under the stairs. Her neck has been broken quite violently and her body tossed into the darkened corner under the stairs behind a stack of boxes, splayed immodestly in her wrinkled dress.
After picking through the slaughters on Myrr and Korlev, one more body wasn’t really shocking.
Poor thing. Was your first thought. Then:
This is bigger than me.
It’s obvious that there’s more going on here than Becca tipping you off. And maybe, just maybe, the opportunity exists to get out of this mess clean. Or cleaner. Once again there are a thousand things you could do. But this time you decide to do…nothing. You resolve yourself to watch. To wait. You and the rest of the crew will figure this out and, frankly, your part in it might just be able to wait.
You slide some of the boxes out of the way with your foot to make sure no one coming through the door could possibly miss Becca’s body. You climb the stairs back to your room on the second floor. You hide the stunner as well as you’re able. You shower and have a cup of tea. Then you fall asleep. Peacefully.