Description of the various characters.
While “Running The L” is a lifelong dream for plenty of citizens in hopes of ascending to the Elysian Fields with one single titanic effort, Mercenaries have chosen to make their fortune with the opposite side, placing the comparatively safe, regular income of a hunting contract over the high risk / high reward investment as a Runner.
After all, the mortality rate among Hunters is around 800% lower than among Runners. Or that’s what the small print claims.
Mercenaries make up the bulk of the substantial Lethal Running Hunter force, most of them drafted from the dregs of society and accordingly more on the muscle than on the brain side. Those who make it to their first payday frequently invest in fancy body upgrades, sporting carbo-fascicle stims, plasteel skin enhancements and blood oxygen boosters, making them strong and enduring opponents. Mercs favor low-maintenance, high impact automatic weapons, with a trusty blade as backup up their armored sleeves.
These quick-witted Hunters are frequently recruited from the Techstripper cults, disciples who failed their elevation trials and faced a lifetime melting precious metals out of salvaged circuit boards, until terminal mercury poisoning would eradicate any prospect of machine ascension.
These paltry individuals turned out to be of great value to the Board of Perpetual Entertainment, as they have all the makings of giving a Runner blazing hell: swift-footed from navigating the hazardous terrain of the Tank District disposal sites, nimble-fingered from dismantling delicate electronic devices, able to scavenge and repair Tech with but a minimum of tools – and phenomenally desperate.
Rogues are comparatively weak, lightly armed opponents, but what they lack in brawn and stamina they make up for with subtlety and tactical skill, striking unseen from the cover of stealth cowls, making away with their own pockets filled and the Runner’s empty.
Where there are people, there is crime.
And while plenty of cases are swiftly and permanently dealt with in the City, ignoring the considerable manpower of convicts would be highly uneconomic.
So it is in the production clusters and broiling larvae farms where the faceless agents of PXL Network look for “exceptional” additions to the Hunter pool, desirable qualities being psychopathic tendencies, a violent streak and/or pronounced anti-social behavior.
Suitable candidates are made an offer they cannot possibly refuse, and are transported to the Lethal Running training facilities, even though technically still in administration custody.
Where there’s money there’s a way, they say, and anyway keeping billions of Citizens entertained is commonly considered a commitment to the public good.
Clowns are the wildcards of the show, unpredictable, clever, and terminally insane (if not already when contracted then when they come out of the training cells). They revel in carnage and have zero concept of fear or mercy.
The Knight in shining (carbon fiber reinforced polymer) armor represents the tradition of unbiased strife, giving the show a veneer of fairness and a glimmer of good versus bad heroics.
Undoubtedly taking the part of the good guy, knights favor arms inspired by history with clean and honest damage, no dirty tricks, rarely any unforeseeable moves.
In fact, their sturdiness, inertia and lack of individuality have given rise to rumors. Some claim Knights are but battle-conditioned clones, unable to think for themselves, while others attribute their sluggishness to the fact that they are obviously remote-controlled automatons, steered into combat by spoiled kids for sport. At least, no Knight whether alive or dead has ever been seen without full body armor and impenetrable faceplate…
PXL Network has not given any official statement, hereby further fueling the discussion, ideas, and advertising revenues in regard to the knightly mystery.
These noxious rodents have not only survived the chaos of the Uprising and the toxic plumes of the CR-8 incident, they actually thrive on human overpopulation and ever expanding urban waste production, merrily multiplying even as everything else in the world seems to go south.
In recent decades, increased background radiation and massively polluted food resources have led to a couple of widespread, heritable anomalies of DNA. Doubtless, the most striking one is their colossal growth and enormously increased body mass, making mutant rats, for all their nastiness, the number two protein source after the cleaner (but considerably more costly) processed grub mush.
Mutant Rats are dangerous game though, often occurring in packs equipped with a mean group intelligence and amazing tactical skill, gnawing through skin, bones, and even armor in seconds. On the bright side, their physical boosts come with a drawback as well: most rats these days suffer from astigmatism and are short-sighted as a result.
Mutant Poison Rat
Although rat meat is in high demand among the lowest of the low, a skilled sub-level hunter will pride herself on her ability to discern a (somewhat) edible specimen from the parasite-crawling „Poison Rat” from a distance. The colloquial term is not quite accurate, since they are not venomous as such. They have, however, built up an amount of toxins in their bony bodies that makes them unpalatable and a guaranteed blow to the bowels. Worse, most have accumulated a multitude of contagious germs and diseases, easily transmitted by body fluids via bites, scratches or that sneaky nibble taken out of lunch left unsupervised.
The Department for Population Regulation (PR) strongly advises all Citizens to observe at least magenta grade security protocols when handling class 6 pests, as non-compliance will result in the loss of any claims to the Citizen Functionality Program.
Rumor has it that the first Mutants emerged at around the same time as the first generation Stim Machine, indicating that these pitiful, shambling creatures were human once, altered beyond recognition by gene-therapy gone rampage. Naturally, QUIP Corp has denied any responsibility.
Wherever they originated, loose tribes of mutants manage to survive in the Wastelands, scraping a living hunting in the ruins of these deserted parts of the City. Since their transformed skins and retinas are extremely sensitive to UV light, they crawl out of their hideouts only at nightfall and flee before dawn.
Mutants seem to bear a deep-set hate for everything human and will attack any traveler on sight, their low-light vision able to pick out a campfire from dozens of miles. None of them have ever been seen carrying any man-made devices, using solely their bare, clawed hands as tools and weapons. They even refrain from looting manufactured items from defeated foes, further fueling the assumption that their primitiveness is a conscious choice to shun the human race and its trappings rather than a lack of intelligence.
Humans are a gregarious species. Especially in the lower tiers of society, which make up the great majority of Citizens, the bare necessity to band together for protection has created myriads of social clusters, each with their own distinct hierarchies, customs and codes.
In the City, traditional family ties have long since been replaced by commitment to a group – from infamous intercity networks like Posthuman Power, who dominate the hyper-stim and narco market (even though the Department of Civil Discipline fervently denies such a thing even exists), to the ominous quasi-religious Techstripper cults (not to be confused with the popular Erotopop band The Cyberstrippers), to common run-of-the-mill street thug gangs.
Special caution is advised when dealing with these closed communities, as ignorance of said sub-cultural protocols makes it difficult to correctly interpret and react to their behavior. Many an unsuspecting Citizen has violently perished at a gang’s hands for reasons never known to him.