Cass woke up and lifted herself to her feet. She looked at the wall across from her, with its always growing and changing mural of graffiti. It had been the closest thing she had to entertainment since she'd come to the underside of this bridge. Signs of pride for various no-time gangs, crudely worded messages to Lone Star regarding their corporate badges and where they can shove them, and various other typical sprawl-related lines and images covered the arch Cass had decided to sleep under a couple of weeks ago. New ones had been added the previous night, partially covering some statement about Aztechnology. Cass had paid little of this graffiti any mind throughout these past few days, though she did enjoy watching it shift and change – sometimes just a few square inches were painted over, other times it seemed like half of the arch had changed.
She shivered a little. October was never much fun out in the streets. Cass pulled her coat closer to her. It was an old military-styled greatcoat, three sizes too large for her. It wasn't really hers, of course. She'd taken it off of the dead body of some homeless guy. Shot in the head, and Lone Star doesn't bother to do anything about it. Damn typical of the pigs. She searched through all the pockets of the coat. Sure, she'd already done so more than a few times, but some part of her still wanted to believe there was some kind of credstick in there, even if it only had ten nuyen on it.
Eventually, she sighed, and started shuffling off from her spot. It was about when she got all the way out from under the bridge when the smell hit her. Most people wouldn't have smelt it, but most people weren't adepts. Cass was, though, which was why she was smelling something that she didn't like at all. The ghouls were on the move, and they were coming in this direction. Fortunately, they seemed pretty slow, and they were far enough away that she didn't have to leave today. Definitely tomorrow morning, though. Maybe she could find some condemned building to squat in while she was out in the streets. Maybe she'd have to swallow what little pride she had and climb down into the sewers. She didn't like thinking about that much more than the incoming ghouls. Before leaving, she took the one thing she had out of her pocket – a SIN identification card. She hid it underneath a large rock – can't be too careful when you're about to commit some thievery. Then she shook off the bite of late autumn, buttoned up her coat, and kept walking.
Though this was a relatively new area to Cass, she still knew how to navigate the streets well enough. Today, she was heading to a nearby mall to look for a good mark. Pickpocketing was really the only thing that she could consistently make money off of. At sixteen, she was too young for any decent jobs, and that sliver of pride kept her from doing much of anything on the other side of legality. That combined with no sort of financial safety net resulted in her life becoming a life on the streets or very occasionally inside a squatter's haven.
Cass shook away her thoughts. She was being oddly introspective today. Thoughts like that kept her from making her money. She arrived at the mall she'd spotted yesterday - a pretty typical place for a sprawl. Crowded with people of all metatypes, even some trolls. Here, the stores were cheap and the food was even cheaper. Still, Cass couldn't much afford to pick and choose. There were plenty of people around. She looked around for someone suitable. Unfortunately, most of the people were obviously veterans of the slums, and were watching everyone near them. Today wasn't going to be an easy day. At least, that's what Cass thought at first. Then she saw someone that wasn't as street-smart.
He was a well-dressed elf. Too well-dressed for any sprawl. Too neat-looking too. His well-groomed face and tailored clothes made Cass subconsciously fret with her long and unkempt hair. That only lasted a few seconds. She didn't know why this high class guy was in this place, but he was going to be a pretty easy mark for a quick swipe.
The approach was a simple one, especially for someone as small and non-threatening as Cass. All she really needed to do was keep her head down and look passive. She didn't have to worry about her own pockets being emptied; she didn't have anything on her. The elf was too busy looking at all the various shops to notice her coming towards him. At least, until the moment of truth – when Cass “accidentally” bumped into him, and slipped one of her hands into a few of his pockets and grabbed everything she could in one quick and fluid motion. She quickly took a step back and muttered an apology, knowing that her relatively innocent face would do all the work for her. The elf said that it was nothing, and told her that she should be more careful.
Cass stuffed what she took into one of the pockets of her coat, and got out of the elf's sight so she could get a look at what she managed to take. At first, she was a little disappointed in herself when she saw it. All she'd managed to get was a single credstick. But then she saw its color. Silver. That meant this credstick could have up to five hundred nuyen! All Cass had been able to snag before now was a bunch of blue sticks, that never had more than thirty stored, but this? Five hundred? She almost didn't know what to do with that much-
Cass slowed her breathing down. She didn't want to look too much like she'd just scored big. But she does take it to a nearby scanner. The scanner picked up the credstick's tag, and displayed what was left on it. When she read the hologram in front of her, she almost danced a little. 500. Even.
She'd hit the jackpot! That elf hadn't even used the nuyen yet! It was all hers. She still didn't know what she could possibly do with that much, but it was a hell of a lot better than the zero nuyen that she had when she woke up. This was almost enough for an entire month, but Cass decided to keep going for the day. She changed locations a couple of times to throw people off of her trail, and found a few other credsticks, but nothing even close to the silver one off of that elf. She kinda wanted to thank him.
By the time the sun set, Cass was counting out the credsticks she'd taken while walking back to her spot under the bridge. Without that silver one, this would've been a pretty bad day, she'd only stolen thirty-one credits otherwise. But five hundred thirty-one, that was a wee bit better.
Cass saw that the graffiti on her arch had changed yet again while she was gone. That message about Aztech and their blood rituals was now completely covered, thanks to a new Halloweener sign. But it was when Cass came to her spot for sleeping that she found something a lot more interesting.
It was a small package. In the exact spot she'd slept last night. What the hell was it? She went to pick it up, and saw “Ms. Scarlett” written on the side. That was the name her SIN was assigned to! How the hell did whomever dropped this know her name?
Cass tried and failed to calm down as she picked up the package. It was pretty light, even for something of its size. She unwrapped the paper it was in. The actual contents of the package became less interesting when she saw that there was more writing on the other side. It read:
Good job swiping my credstick – if it weren't for my guys, I might not have noticed you. You can keep it. Consider it, and this gift, as a taste of things to come. If you want to know what may lie in store for someone of your talents, meet me at 901 5th Avenue tomorrow at two o'clock. I have a job for you.
Cass couldn't believe this. That elf, apparently named Jack, not only knew she'd taken his silver credstick, but wanted to offer her a job, as some sort of reward? This was stupid. She couldn't do any sort of job, she was just a sixteen-year-old pickpocket. Then again, though, not only did he know she was a thief, but he knew who she was, and where she slept. So maybe if she didn't go, he'd just come and take the credstick back.
At about this time, Cass's attention came back to the actual package, and she saw why it was so light.
It was a pear.
She tentatively took a bite out of it, and was shocked at the sweet taste and the juice spilling onto her chin. No soy. It was a real pear. Less than a minute later, there was no trace left of it.
Maybe she could go see this Jack.