[[The Luchadeer Incident]]20XX, New York City,
Stripes of pale red light play across Vinny Caravella’s desk, blinking in and out of existence as the neon sign outside the window turns on and off. Its harsh glow inviting customers to the bar across the street.
The only other illumination in the office is the soft green light of the terminal monitor placed off to the side of the large wooden desk.
Behind the desk in a large leather chair sits Vinny. Vinny sits almost perfectly still in the punctuated darkness, his shoulders hunched forward over the desk. His left hand loosely grips a half empty glass that is on the desk next to a half empty bottle of bourbon. It is impossible to tell how long he has been there, his eyes staring down into the glass.
[[Suddenly, the door to the office flings open with enough force that it hits the door stop and rebounds. The venetian blinds make a clatter as they swing and bounce against the glass window that makes up much of the top half of the door.|Dan's Entrance]]
Dan Ryckert walks into the office.
“Hey, Vinny. Ready to Quick Look that new Stardew Valley DLC?”
Without moving Vinny asks, “What’s it called?”
“The Pumpkin Patch”
Vinny looks up at Dan. Dan’s expression is frozen in a manic grin. Vinny senses a little too much energy behind Dan’s eyes. Vinny wonders when was the last time the company randomly tested for stimchip abuse.
“By the way Vinny when we’re done with the Quick Look I’ve got something to show you.”
[[VINNY: “Alright let’s go do the Quick Look.”|Quick Look 1]]
[[VINNY: “What do you have to show me?”|Sub-basement]]
Dan and Vinny make their way to the studio. As soon as the game launches Dan starts telling stories about growing up in Kansas.
*Thirty minutes later…*
“...so we had these sleds and there wasn’t any snow but my neighbors were farmers and had this giant pile of manure…”
*One hour later…*
“...my friend still can’t get the taste out of his mouth but it doesn’t matter ‘cause now we have to do a bunch of chores to pay off the damage we did to this stupid gate…”
*Two hours later...*
“... and that’s how I learned that you never use a damn thresher near a bunch of pigs...”
*Two and a half hours later...*
A pumpkin is successfully grown and harvested and the Quick Look ends. Vinny wonders if the stiffness will ever leave his legs. Dan jumps out of his chair with an unnatural energy.
“Come on. I want to show you something!” says Dan.
“Can’t it wait?” Vinny asks
“Come on I wanna show you something super funny. It’s down in the sub-basement.”
“What could you possible have down there?”
[[Dan: “Come on. I’ll show ya.”|Sub-basement]]The sub-basement is the building’s high security storage area.
Access to the warehouse like sub-basement is guarded by two biometric scans, a secure elevator, and a guard equipped with camera eyes and a sub-machine gun.
Dan talks as he leads Vinny between shelves filled with crates full of confidential material.
“So my secure shipment from San Francisco finally arrived this morning.”
Dan and Vinny round a corner and see someone that definitely shouldn't be there.
The punk has a large green spiked Mohawk. A circle with a large capital “B” in the middle is spray painted in day-glow green on the back of his leather jacket. The punk is standing in front of an open cryocrate hoisting a large black duffle bag onto his shoulder.
“Hey, that's my crate!” yells Dan
The punk glances over his shoulder at Dan and Vinny then takes off running.
Vinny reaches into his trench coat and draws his gun from its shoulder holster.
The instant Vinny’s hand had closed on the grip of his company issued sidearm a targeting dot had appeared in the vision of Vinny's cybereye.
Vinny centers the targeting dot on the middle of fleeing punks back then,
a bullet hits the shelving a foot above Vinny's head. Vinny instinctively ducks, losing his aim at the punk. Vinny looks farther down the aisle and sees a punk standing in the freight elevator that leads to the loading docks. This punk is holding a gun and he's firing it at Vinny.
Vinny tries to stand up to get a shot off but more bullets pock into the crates around him forcing him to stay down.
The punk with the bag makes it to the freight elevator. The doors close and the gunfire stops.
A few seconds later Dan and Vinny stand up. Vinny glances around then puts his gun back in it’s holster. He then spends a few seconds blinking away the ads that always appear in his cybereye after he uses his gun.
[[DAN: “What the hell was that?!”|What the hell was that?!]]“What the hell was that?!” exclaims Dan.
Vinny walks up to the empty cryocrate. He checks the ident screen and it reports “Dan Ryckert: research materials”. Vinny takes a half-step back and looks at the create. It has a red square physically painted near it’s top right corner and the letters “L U C H A D E E R” stenciled across the side. Vinny starts to get a knot in his stomach. Vinny knows that a red level cryocrate is something corporate security would shoot you for trying to move from one shelf to another without authorization.
Vinny looks over at Dan and asks, “What was in this?”
“That's what I wanted to show ya.” Dan replies
Dan continues, “It's just a stupid deer head with a mask I found in the San Francisco sub-basement when I was packing up my stuff to move out here. I thought it would be funny to say “Ha, ha We got your deer.” so I hacked the cryocrate's ident so that it would match something on my shipping manifest”
[[VINNY: “Call corporate security. Get them down here.”|Call corporate security. Get them down here.]]
Vinny and Dan are sitting in Vinny's office.
Corporate security had come rushing into the sub-basement after Dan called them. Vinny stayed quiet as Dan told them how his “Research materials” had been stolen and that “no, he didn’t know why anybody would want them.” Corporate security hadn't said much and hadn't asked much. They simply let Vinny and Dan go after they reviewed the security footage and saw that it matched Dan's story.
Now Vinny and Dan are sitting quietly in Vinny’s office silently contemplating the situation they find themselves in.
Suddenly, the viewscreen on the wall snaps on and the large angry head of Jeff Gerstmann appears.
[[JEFF: “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OVER THERE?”|WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON OVER THERE?]]“What the hell is going on over there?” the angry head of Jeff Gerstmann shouts.
“We were robbed...” Vinny starts to explain
Jeff cuts him off, “I know. corporate security just contacted me. They told me that you two could have stopped the robbery but didn't.”
Dan says “That's not true. We..”
Jeff keeps shouting, “Listen, I'm making you two responsible for finding out who did this and getting the Luchadeer back. And do it soon or so help me God I'll shut down the entire Giant Bomb New York branch.”
“Why makes the Luchadeer so valuable?” Vinny asks.
The giant head of Jeff Gerstmann turns a darker shade of red and yells, “Just find it! Find it now!”
[[And with that the viewscreen snaps off.|And with that the viewscreen snaps off]]“What do we do?” asks a stunned Dan
Vinny ponders the question for a second then says “Something big is going on and we need to find out what it is.”
Vinny taps some stuff into his wrist computer. “I just hired a hacker I work with sometimes to find out what he can about the Luchadeer. Maybe he can figure out what makes it so valuable. In the meantime I know a cop that works Vice. We should go see him right now. He might know who robbed us.”
“But we are scheduled to do another Quick Look. Shouldn't we do that before we go?” Dan asks.
[[VINNY: “Alright, let’s go do the Quick Look.”|Quick Look 2]]
[[VINNY: “We need to talk to my cop friend.”|Sgt. Austin Walker]]
Dan and Vinny are in the studio. A tractor is driving around on the screen.
“So Dan what are we playing today?” asks Vinny into the microphone.
“Well Vinny I'll tell ya. We’re playing Farming Simulator 20XX.” Dan replies
“Wow, that's some tractor you’ve got there.” Vinny remarks.
“Thanks. Say, did I ever tell you about the time as a kid my friend and me tried to jump a tractor over a truck?”
And with that Dan starts the telling stories about growing up in Kansas.
*Thirty minutes later…*
“...so my friend and me are stuck doing chores all day for my neighbors. And at this point our job is to, every few feet, push these fifty pound seed bags off the back of this huge flatbed trailer. The trailer is being towed behind this tractor that's being driven by my neighbor's son who is about our age…”
*One hour later…*
“...so we use the backhoe to prop one end of the trailer up on some hay bales making it into a ramp. Unfortunately, the only truck around that we can try to jump is this stupid diesel fuel truck they used to gas up all the farm equipment…”
*Two hours later...*
“...they had a real tough time telling them apart. Luckily, the neighbor’s son had gone to the dentist the week before...”
*Two and a half hours later...*
Some wheat is successfully grown and harvested and the Quick Look ends. Vinny taps a message into his wrist computer. A few seconds later he gets a reply. Vinny looks up at Dan.
[[VINNY: Let’s go. My cop friend had agreed to meet with us.|Sgt. Austin Walker]]The dinner is mostly empty. At one of the tables off in the corner sits a group of three friends meeting up for some food before
a night out.
The only other patron is a lone cop sitting at the counter. His blue uniform is old but crisp. Three blue chevrons adorn his sleeve.
Sgt. Austin Walker stares down at his synthburger. His gaze seems to go unfocused for a few seconds as if he’s lost in thought. He snaps out of it and unconsciously pats his front shirt pocket feeling for the outline of the small cylinder that's inside. Austin feels his attention start to fade again and he wonders if he should do something about it. It had been over 24 hours since he had last dropped he figured. Maybe he was due.
The bell above the dinners door rings and Vinny walks in followed closely by Dan. Vinny spots Sgt. Austin and he and Dan take seats at the counter on either side of the cop. Vinny introduces Dan, “Dan this is Sergeant Austin Walker of Vice”
Sgt. Austin nods at Dan. Dan says “Nice to meet cha. What does Vice investigate anyway? I'm not clear on that.”
“Mostly drugs and weird sex stuff.” responds Sgt. Austin. Sgt. Austin shifts to face Vinny “which is where I came across that symbol you sent me. It's a tag used by a gang called the Bakalars.”
“Are they known for doing highline burglaries?” Vinny asked.
“Hardly. These are strictly lowrent scumbags. Mostly running cyberhookers and selling Gundam. They are suspected of doing the occasional insurance theft where they help people “steal” their own property. In the end the owner gets their stuff back and they split the insurance money.”
Vinny is quite as he considers this information.
Sgt. Austin eyes him for a second and then asks, “What's your interest in them anyway?”
“They stole something from the Company's high-security storage area.”
Sgt. Austin blows air out of his mouth as if he is expelling smoke from a non-existent cigarette. “That kinda thing is way above these knuckleheads. That insurance thing they do is just a sideline for them. I can tell you this. If they did do it then they were hired to do it and they had help.”
[[DAN: “WHAT’S GUNDAM?”|WHAT’S GUNDAM?]]
“What’s Gundam?” Dan interjects seemingly apropos of nothing.
Both Vinny and Austin turn and look at Dan.
Sgt. Austin speaks first, “Gundam is a street drug out of Japan that we started seeing about nine months ago. When you take it it makes it so that you never have any mental blocks. When a person is on Gundam they are as sharp as they could possibly be.”
“That sounds awesome! Why isn't everyone taking it?” remarks Dan
Sgt. Austin’s voice gets stern, “For starters if you take enough of it you become dependent. Your brain literally won't work without it. Secondly, because of how it's made. To make Gundam you need neurochemicals taken from a living person's brain. And these neurochemicals aren't something anybody would want to give up willingly. In Japan there are warehouses filled with racks of people with the top of their skulls removed so that their neurochemicals can be pumped out. And they keep on pumping until that person’s brain is shriveled and they're replaced with some other poor bastard that got on the wrong side of the wrong person.”
“And the Bakalars sell this stuff?” Vinny asks.
“Yah, the costs of getting it this side of the ocean are so high that there's almost no profit in it. That coupled with the punishment for getting caught with being so severe means none of the big gangs will touch it. The Bakalars can sell it because nobody else cares about it. Otherwise, the big gangs would stomp them.”
“Listen Vinny if you're going after the Bakalars you need to be careful. They don't carry the weight other gangs do but they can be vicious little shits.” As he talked Sgt. Austin tapped on his wrist computer.
“I just sent you the address of warehouse out in queens that has ties to the Bakalars. Give that to your corporate security. Maybe they can get the cops out there to take a look for whatever it was the Bakalars stole.”
With that Sgt. Austin Walker gets up from his stool, puts some cash down on the counter to pay for his untouched meal, shakes Vinny's hand and walks out the dinner at a pace that suggests he's agitated by something.
[[DAN: “That was interesting.”|That was interesting.]]
“That was interesting.” Dan says
“Yes, it was.” Vinny replies.
Vinny goes on “I’d better send Jeff an update. Then we'll go back and talk to corporate security.”
Vinny begins to tap on his wrist computer. Dan helps himself to Sgt. Austin’s synthburger.
After a while Vinny finishes his update for Jeff and sends it off. He then finishes two cups of coffee while Dan divides his efforts between eating and regaling Vinny with a story about how he once accidentally burnt down his neighbor’s field. Eventually both the fries and the story come to an end.
“...and because some of the diesel fuel soaked into the ground instead of burning they weren't able to grow stuff on that land, I think, ever again.”
Vinny and Dan get up and start to leave. Vinny takes one step and his wrist computer starts to ring.
“It's the hacker.” Vinny mouths to Dan as Vinny presses the answer button.
Dan’s hand is on the diner door. He stops and watches Vinny take the call.
“What’d you find?” Vinny says into the all black image on his wrist computer.
“We had better talk in person. Can you come by?” A vaguely electronic voice responds.
[[VINNY: “I'll come over now.”|I'll come over now.]]
VINNY: “I'll come over now.”
Dan sees Vinny finish the call. Dan pushes the diner open and walks outside. Vinny follows a few steps behind.
Vinny is standing just outside the diner door when Dan from about eleven feet away turns and asks, “So, what did he have to say?”
“He wants us to come see him. We'll head over there now.” Vinny responds.
Startled, Vinny and Dan look over to see a black panel van with a day-glow green Bakalars tag spray painted on the side come to a screeching halt in the street about twenty feet away.
The sliding door on the side of the van opens. Inside are two men with guns pointed in the direction of Dan and Vinny.
The men in the van start firing.
**BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM.**
Dan instantly goes down. He falls backward, crumpled like a puppet whose strings were cut.
Vinny drops to the ground making himself as small as possible against the wall of the diner.
Vinny tries to pull his gun but struggles to get it out of its holster.
Finally, Vinny's gun clears its holster and he begins to return fire. Vinny rapidly fires three shots and he sees one of the gunman fall backward onto the floor of the van. The other gunman shouts something to the driver and the van speeds off.
The time from the van door sliding open to the last shot fired was about ten seconds.
Vinny blinks a few times then looks over at Dan. Dan is lying on his back, his legs bent under him at an unnatural angle. His unseeing eyes are half open. The hair on the side of his head that is visible is matted with blood. A huge pool of blood is forming under Dan coming from somewhere on the side of the head that Vinny can't see.
[[About twenty seconds later Vinny begins to hear sirens.|About twenty seconds later Vinny begins to hear sirens]]
First the police came. Then the ambulance. Then the coroner.
After about four hours of explaining to a patrolman and then a detective that no, he was not “trying to buy drugs or a cyberhooker when the attack happened” and that no, Dan was not, in fact, “trying to buy drugs or a cyberhooker when the attack happened” and that yes he was sure that neither he nor Dan were “trying to buy drugs or a cyberhooker when the attack happened” and the Detective talking to several witnesses that confirmed Vinny's version of events, Vinny was free to go.
At several points while being interviewed Vinny had tried to explain that there had been a robbery and that this attack was connected but in the end the detective looked at Vinny with suspicion and told him that this was probably either “a gang initiation or a mugging gone wrong.” At that point Vinny could tell the detective wanted to ask him if he was “really really sure that he wasn't trying to buy drugs or a cyberhooker when the attack happened” so Vinny let it drop.
[[The last of the cops has left. Vinny is sitting in the diner drinking a cup of coffee when his wrist computer starts to ring.|wrist computer starts to ring]]
Vinny looks to see who’s calling then he answers.
“Where are you? I thought you were coming right over. I need to talk to you. I know what makes the Luchadeer so valuable” the black screen exclaims.
[[VINNY: Something, um, came up. I'll be right over.|Something, um, came up. I'll be right over.]]
CyberNavarro is more machine than man and Vinny is standing in his apartment.
Vinny looks at CyberNavarro. CyberNavarro’s face looks like someone removed the flesh and then reapplied it on a metal skull with a slightly different shape. CyberNavarro looks mostly human from the waist up but from the waist down it's a different story. Below the waist where on most people you'd find things like legs and hips CyberNavarro has nothing but thick metal tubes and cables and a single large armature that supports him and allows him to pivot around the center of the room in a large circle. Vinny can tell where the perimeter of the circle is because it is ringed by terminal after terminal.
Vinny just entered CyberNavarro’s apartment a moment ago and is now standing just outside the perimeter of CyberNavarro’s circle.
Suddenly, CyberNavarro slews away from the terminal he is looking at and comes to a quick stop in front of where Vinny is standing.
“Thank you for coming over.” says CyberNavarro in his vaguely electronic voice.
[[“What have you found?” asks Vinny.|What have you found?]]“I know why the Lucadeer is so valuable. I started by tracing its history as far back as I could. The farthest back I could go was when it was owned by Giant Bomb back when Giant Bomb was an an independent business. You do know that Giant Bomb used to be an independent business, right?”
“Vaguely.” replied Vinny
“Well anyway when the Company bought Giant Bomb everything they owned became property of the Company including the Lucadeer. But right before that, sometime after the Company had agreed to buy Giant Bomb but before the regulatory paperwork could be pushed through Giant Bomb’s creditors got spooked, real spooked, they really started to believe that the deal was going to fall through.”
“Yeah?” Vinny stated.
“So the creditors panicked. They wanted to liquidate Giant Bomb’s assets including its domain name. This would have killed Giant Bomb and the Company’s deal. So the Company had to promise the creditors something to get them to back off and it had to be something big. But it couldn't be cash or stock because that would have been subject to the same regulatory approval the creditors were already afraid of. That’s when somebody at the company had the bright idea of what to give them.”
“What was it?” Vinny asked
“A board seat. The Company promised to give the creditors a board seat if the deal to buy Giant Bomb didn't go through.”
“What? Why would they do that? A seat on the Company's board is worth way more than Giant Bomb could ever be?” replied Vinny.
“You have to understand that from the Company’s perspective it didn’t matter because the deal was one hundred percent locked. They just needed time for the paperwork to go through. So with that promise in hand the creditors were more than willing to agree to give the Company the time it needed to finish the deal.”
“So what does this have to do with the Lucadeer?” asked Vinny
“Well for the same regulatory reasons the Company couldn't just sign a contract promising the creditors a board seat if the deal fell through but someone st the Company figured out that by using some obscure legal maneuvers the Company could designate a proxy object for the board seat. Think of it as a bearer bond, whomever has the proxy object is entitled to the board seat. The only trick to it was that the Company had to pick something Giant Bomb owned as the proxy object so that in the event that the deal fell through and the creditors liquidated Giant Bomb’s asserts the creditors would end up with it. They Company could have picked anything: a pencil, a coffee cup…”
“But they picked the Lucadeer.” Vinny finished for him.
“Exactly” confirmed CyberNavarro.
“Who would have known about this? Who would have known how much the Lucadeer was worth?” asked Vinny his mouth running dry.
“Anyone involved in the deal at the Company, at Giant Bomb, at the creditors. And anyone they told.” CyberNavarro speculated.
[[“I know who did this. I know who did all of this.” Vinny says barely above a whisper.|fin]]20XX, San Francisco
Jeff walks past rows of quite empty cubicles. He is always the first into work and today is no exception. The computer on his wrist chirps. He looks at it and smiles as he reads the delivery confirmation it displays. Jeff rounds the last row of cubicles and heads for his desk.
A shadowy figure steps out from hiding and walks up behind him. Jeff feels a sharp pain. Jeff’s eyes widen and pain turns to fear when he realizes that the barrel of a gun is being pressed to the back of his head.
“How did you know?” Vinny asks.
“How did I know what?” Jeff says, noticeably relaxing at the sound of Vinny’s voice.
“How did you know it was the Luchadeer that was stolen? Dan had changed the ident numbers on the cryocrate. I had just found out when you called. Nobody but me and him could have known what was stolen.”
Jeff snorted, “I knew before Dan left San Fransisco. I knew as soon as he hacked the cryocrate. ”
Jeff continues, “Security detected the ident change and they came to me for an explanation. I told them it was nothing. Just a routine refiling of mislabeled materials.”
“You wanted the Luchadeer in New York so it would be far away from here when you stole it.” says Vinny.
Jeff turns around so he’s facing Vinny. Vinny’s gun is level with Jeff’s face. “Dan handed me an opportunity. You don't get far in this place by passing up opportunities.”
Vinny's voice fills with anger. “You killed Dan! You tried to kill me!”
Jeff shrugs, “You were getting too close. I put you on this so that it would appear I was doing everything I could. But the Bakalars needed more time to arrange shipment and I couldn't have you interfering.”
Vinny’s anger surges and he presses his gun against Jeff’s forehead, “I won't let you get away with this.”
“Oh please, what are you gonna do, shoot me? The amount of security this place has you wouldn't make it to the front door.”
Vinny hesitates then growls, “I’ll go to the police! I'll tell the Company.”
“What would you tell the police? Do you have any proof that I did anything? No, as far as the police are concerned it was Dan that stole the Lucadeer. He then got himself killed over it. And the Company? You forget that I control a board seat. Now that I have it they don't have the luxury to care about how I got it. If you start throwing accusations around with the Company the best thing that could happen is that you'd be out of a job. But trust me there are worse things than being out of a job, a lot worse.”
Jeff turns and starts to walk towards his desk, away from a stunned Vinny. The hand at the end of Vinny’s outstretched arm still holds a gun but now it’s pointed at nothing.
Jeff sits down at his desk and just before he puts in his earbuds he says, “No, you'll go back to New York. I'll even see to it that you get a small raise. And come Monday we’ll start the process of finding a replacement editor.”
And with that Jeff puts in his earbuds and starts typing away at his computer seemingly oblivious to Vinny's presence.
Vinny lets his arm drop to his side. A second later he holsters his gun under his trench coat and blinks a few times.
Vinny walks to the door. As his passes through it he thinks to himself:
“I need to get out of California.”
“I need to get back to New York.”
“I need to get back to my office.”
“But more than anything, I need a drink.”
*The Luchadeer Incident* is a text-only neo-noir set in 20XX New York. The employees of Giant Bomb find themselves in a tale made of action, intrigue, and clicking on text links.
*“I never heard of this game let alone approved a pull quote for it.” - Brad Shoemaker*
*“If this game doesn’t win an award for having the best writing it will definitely win for having the most.” - Paul Graham*
*“Text-only games are the highest form of gaming.” - Nobody*