Tales from the Edge (Steve's Punk - Bruce's view)
Bruce "Cowboy" Wayne
The year was 1980 and life in central California was nice. James Wayne, a business statistician major at UC Berkley, met Felicia Alverez, the woman who in short 2 years he would marry. Felicia was also a student at UC Berkley, studying software design and information management. James and Felicia married, worked in San Francisco for different concerns. Both did fairly well for themselves, eventually moving to a slightly more rural part of California to start their family. In March of 1990, Felicia gave birth to a son. They named their boy Bruce after Felicia’s recently passed on grandfather. It wasn’t until their boy was four did they realize the name was more famous for other reasons.
Bruce grew up as is typical of two hyper busy parents, which is to say he was in nearly constant trouble. A part of this trouble seeking was striving for parental recognition, part of it was frustration born from boredom. It was typical in central California at that time that the ‘cure’ for this sort of behavior was the structure and mental disciple of martial arts. Bruce’s parents tried Judo, Akido, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and many others. Bruce didn’t seem to care about any of them. He remained bored, sullen, and in trouble. In a fit of parental frustration James tried enrolling Bruce in a classic fencing program. Bruce surprisingly took to this one, it wasn’t as spiritual or “hokey” as Bruce would refer to it. Bruce in fact took to it well enough he continued all through middle school and high school, eventually getting a partial scholarship at UC Berkley for fencing.
As a senior in high school, Bruce was often in San Francisco for various fencing events, or other scholastic programs. After a period his folks just had him driving up himself, he’d stay with friends, as it freed up time for them to work, or enjoy some quiet alone time. Often times outside the dojo that served as a part time fencing salle, Bruce would have dinner from a catering truck that serviced many of the improvement projects in the downtown area. Bruce would often chat with the truck’s owner, Esteban Pacheco. Bruce came to look forward to the chat’s he had with Esteban. He was funny, but offered a much different view of the world than Bruce had growing up with his folks. The world Esteban spoke of was more exciting, more dangerous, less fair, and at times mind numbingly stressful. Esteban found his stories and advice actually sunk in with young Bruce. It wasn’t long until both of them felt like a surrogate son/father.
The next year had Bruce moving to the Berkley campus. Things were fairly quiet, excepting with the collapse of the economies is the US, amongst the first items to go were the sports scholarships in the less than ‘visible’ sports. Without the funding, Bruce wasn’t able to continue at Berkley, and had to start taking classes at the new Night City University. At this point fencing was a way of life for Bruce. With no ‘team’, Bruce started a local ‘group’ which he helped teach. In the late spring one evening after the group lessons, Bruce was on his way back to his off campus apartment. He noticed a couple of folks being kicked, and knocked about by some irate, drunk, clowns. In fact it was four clowns beating the crap out of these other two guys. Bruce dropped his gear bag, fished out his heavy sabre. He then decided that discretion was better than valor, and just slashed the back of one clown, and punched the back of the skull of the other with the knuckle guard. The slashed clown wasn’t really injured, as the blade wasn’t sharp, but it hurt and stung. The one punched in the back of the head however, went down like a bag of wet cement. This got the attention of the other clowns off the two guys on the ground and fixed it on Bruce. All three clowns quickly advanced on Bruce, who backed defensively toward the mouth of the alley. Suddenly all three clowns rushed Bruce, brass knuckles, a knife, and a pipe evident. Bruce swallowed, parried and disarmed the pipe wielder, hit the knuckle wielding clown on the temple on his way by. Bruce turning in a blind rush dropped into a lunge, straightened his arm just as the last clown came rushing back with his large knife. Bruce’s sword tip flexed, but the bare flesh just below the collar bone didn’t provide much resistance. The sword torn into the clown, taking the fight out of him. At this point the other two guys in the alley were getting back to their feet, this gave the clowns pause, and they fled, dragging their two only semi-conscious members with them. Bruce picked up his bag, walking back to the two guys, asking if they needed an ambulance called. Both instantly said “No”, despite bleeding and obviously broken bones. Shrugging to himself, Bruce stuck out his hand saying “Howdy, name is Bruce”. The slightly taller of the two men took Bruce’s hand saying "Pleasure, my name is ‘Jamaica Jack’. It was then that Bruce noticed the dread locks, the small bone necklaces, and other odd charms. He’d just saved the bacon one of the local gang near campus.
The next two semesters were fine, Bruce worked like crazy at school, continued to fence and was generally a happy pleasant young college student. This was doubly so when Bruce found that his father like friend, Esteban from San Francisco had moved to Night City. “The land of opportunity” he always called it. Bruce was glad to see him, and they often met for dinner or coffee. It was also during this time that Bruce introduced “Jamaica Jack” and Esteban one night over dinner. Esteban had asked after “Jamaica Jack” after hearing about the ongoing problems with the evil clown posse.
The fall semester of his junior year, Bruce’s class work started to focus more and more on group projects. One of his partners this year was Piper Reed. Piper was one of those fun, smart, outgoing types. Piper found many ways to roll her favorite pass time, roller derby into their projects. Piper was dual majoring, both in business and in computer science. It was late during the spring semester that Piper set on an idea to help local derby teams promote themselves via the web. Bruce helped model some of the business intelligence aspects of this, while he crunched data. Piper eventually spun this group project off into an actual derby league. The league took so much of Piper’s time, that rather than one more year, it required three more before she finally graduated. It was during the fall of Bruce’s senior year he started dating another business school project partner, Amaya Ito. She was a petite Japanese girl whose father had moved to Night City as part of his work. She was funny, bright, laughed easily, and was always calling Bruce “Cowboy” from the boots and hat he liked to wear. It was near New Years of that year that Bruce made a serious mistake. He and Amaya threw a holiday party, and Bruce invited Esteban. Nearly the moment he saw Amaya and Bruce together he went nuts. It was clear he had nothing good to say about the Japanese. The party was a bust, Amaya was in tears, Bruce was confused, Esteban was angry.
Bruce really didn’t have the skills to sort this sort of thing out. After a couple of weeks of hell of talking to Amaya, Esteban and everyone being completely miserable, he broke things off with Amaya. Bruce told her he wanted her to be happy and it was clear that some of his family wasn’t going to like her no matter what he did or said. Bruce promised if she ever needed anything at all, all she needed to do was ask. With that he went looking for Esteban, eventually finding him in a bar at a back table. Bruce ordered two doubles of the best tequila he could afford, and walked over to Esteban’s table. A sort of scruffy man was just pushing up from the table with a handshake and headed for the door. Bruce set the drink on the table, Esteban scowled still angry about Amaya. Bruce leaned in and slugged Esteban squarely on the chin, then sat down. Esteban was furious rounding on Bruce, who simply said “It is over, are we drinking or what?” Esteban paused, laughed, and raised his glass with a nod to Bruce. A few moments after a heavily tattooed man came to the table, looked from Bruce to Esteban and back. Esteban who’d had more than a few drinks as part of his evening, said it was ok, it was about time Bruce knew the truth. This was the night that Bruce learned that Esteban was a smuggler. Esteban moved mostly guns for the Tijuana cartel, but he also moved some drugs for “Jamaica Jack” as well. As the night wound down Bruce was impressed with the business his friend had put together. He also asked a number of questions related to how it worked, how money was laundered, what business models were used. The sorts of questions Esteban had no idea how to answer, but knew immediately would be beneficial to his own boss. Someday they would have to meet.
Winter’s in Night City aren’t all that bad, the summers on the other hand can melt a man to the pavement. Mid-August is always the worst of it, hot, parched, relentless even on the central coast. It was especially blistering the day Bruce first met Herman. Herman was a scrawny kid trying to shelter in part of a box near the dumpster to Bruce’s apartment. You saw these sorts of folks all the time of course, but only rarely saw a kid, when you did they were usually not alone they traveled in packs. Bruce had just done some courier work for Esteban; picking up a unknown package and moving it to a pickup point. Bruce decided he needed to do the right thing, and invited the kid up for a cool drink. Herman was quick to respond, “yes”, and up they went. As it turns out Herman was new in town, really new to California. He said he was a “Walker” and had lost most of his family on the way here. During the course of an afternoon’s conversations Bruce decided he needed to help Herman settle in. There was the extra space that Amaya had been using and Bruce told Herman he was welcome to it. He also took some time showing Herman around the neighborhood and which places to avoid.
It was a few months on, nearing Christmas season again, when Bruce came home from school to find that Herman has moved on. However there was a note and a HUGE box in the living room. Inside the box was one of those wall mounted televisions a really expensive one. The note was pretty short. “Bruce, thanks for all you’ve done. Hope you like the TV, it is compliments of a guy I saw who was nasty and rude to a waitress uptown. I know you might not approve, but some chumps need a lesson taught. One of the lessons I took away from my trip was that, while it is possible to steal to survive, survival isn’t enough. It’s the ,who, you steal from and why that matters. This guy needed an object lesson. So his credit card bought you some stuff, some stuff for the waitress and a bunch for that pack of clowns you told me about. I sort of hope he goes looking. I also managed enough get enough stake to set myself up. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. – Two Snakes”. Bruce spent some time hanging his new TV and found himself thinking, “I guess the kids going to be ok”.
It was early March that Bruce got a call from Esteban asking him to have a bag packed for the weekend. With not much on his school schedule, Bruce agreed. Esteban showed up and the pair of them drove east and south. For the first few hours other than some small talk it was all quiet in the truck. Eventually Bruce couldn’t take it and asked “Where are we going?”. Esteban was quiet for a while longer but eventually responded with “We’re going to see my boss”. The rest of the drive was quiet. They ended up driving up into the mountains, up a nearly washed out road to a little cabin with a private airfield beside it, a small plane sitting on the grass and gravel runway.
Esteban got out of the truck and at about the same time an older man came out of the cabin. Bruce was nervous and not really sure why he was here. This would all be explained in time.
Bruce was introduced to Edgardo Leyva-Escandon. It was simply said that he was ‘with’ the same cartel that Esteban worked for. The three of them walked into the small hunting cabin, and sat around the table in the kitchen. Esteban asked Bruce to explain about some of the questions that he’d been asking that night back in Night City. Bruce still nervous asked the same questions about how the money moved, how it got laundered, what economies of scale the discount bankers were charging. Edgardo smiled and nodded, asking some of his own questions of Bruce. Bruce answered them, and thought on some possible ways to improve the process. For Bruce it was like a cross between a presentation meeting, a brain storming session and an interview. By that evening both Edgardo and Esteban were smiling. Edgardo was so pleased he suggested they take the evening and go shooting. Bruce had never fired a gun before and was hesitant to admit it. Edgardo noticed, and told Bruce not to worry, it just meant he didn’t have any bad habits. Over the course of the weekend the three talked business, shot and drank. Just before driving back Edgardo gave Bruce a wooden box, lined in crushed red velvet, on it rested a pistol. “This is just like the pistol they gave Wyatt Earp, a Colt Peacemaker. The saying goes that God made all men, Sam Colt made them equal.” Bruce was instructed to get a permit as soon as possible so it was legal. He was also handed a briefcase with some cash in it. He was told to try his hand at laundering it, it was only $250,000 but it was enough as a test.
Getting back to town, Bruce got to work, not only getting his permit but also washing the cash for Edgardo. It took some doing, but Bruce managed to wash the briefcase of cash and only loose about 20 percent to the laundering process, which was much better than the 40 or 50% that Edgardo had said he typically saw. With that news passed on through Esteban, Bruce was asked to come to the “business’ meetings. This is where Bruce’s real education began and where he could immediately find applications for all of the business school learning he’d been taught. He began laundering money for Esteban and things improved steadily from there. That’s when the letter from his folks arrived. Mom and Dad had been getting along alright after the collapse, it was tough but they worked hard at it. That was until recently when they both were just let go. The banks had also called and were giving them 90 days to move out or prove new sources of income. Given the economy it seemed unlikely they would find something that quick. Mom’s brother David offered to take them in down in Los Angles. He said they could use some business minded folks as the reconstruction operations were a little chaotic. Dad also said he was sorry but he wasn’t sure how much help he and mom would be for that last year in college. Bruce wrote his folks back letting them know when they needed to move he’d happily drive up and help and that he had a good shot at a paying internship that should help cover tuition. A few weeks later Bruce drove up the San Francisco to help his folks move. There were a lot of trucks and guys on motorcycles there to lend a hand. Uncle David said it was members of the Aldecados and the family looked after its own. Mom and Dad got packed and started the move to LA.
Senior year was an interesting one for Bruce. He had school days, business nights with Esteban. He wrote his folks who were now setup ok down in LA with uncle David. Mom and dad seemed to be fitting right in and were able to help out. Both of them claimed it was nice to feel like you were actually accomplishing things again. Bruce knew just how they felt. On one of his rare off nights, Bruce decided to go somewhere new, and decided to check out the Hacienda casino. It was an interesting night, a lot to see and do. While sipping a beer he overheard a guy in a suit complaining about a problem with a shipment stuck in customs. The guy apparently had had a few too many and it wasn’t difficult to figure out the deal was a little sketchy on the legality side, and the guy was in a real pinch.
When his ‘friend’ moved on, Bruce wandered up and introduced himself. He explained how troubling tariff and inspections can be and that there are some other options. The guy was interested enough he suggested they move the meeting to someplace more discrete. Back in his room, Bruce looked around the place, nothing obvious stood out as a problem. “So your company 4th of July party is going to be a bust without fireworks?”. They guy nodded saying nothing. “I’m given to understand importing them can be very time consuming, not to mention the taxes. I happen to know some folks who make fireworks fairly domestically, and they might be able to fill your holiday order in time for your big event.” Catching on now they guy nods, saying “It an important event for my company.” Bruce nodded before continuing. “The folks I know can compete with the overseas manufacturers without a problem, and might be able to offer a cash discount as opposed to your standard credit and billing procedure. Now, I know you’ve got an order in customs, but who knows when it is going to be inspected and released.” They guy started to look nervous again, which Bruce figured was tied to the ‘inspected’ part. In a whisper Bruce continued, “Now I know you often work in teams, and not every team member pulls his or her weight.” The man nods. “Now I’m not sure, you’d know more than me, it would be important that the blame for the delay in customs gets placed on the person shirking their fair share of the work.” The light of avarice flared up in the man’s eyes. “Now I know you’ll want to make sure your ducks are in a row and that you get the list of what you need for your event together. Grabbing and pulling off a piece of the room stationary, Bruce continues “Here’s an address, why don’t you courier your list over to me tomorrow. Do you have a card or number where I can contact you?” The man hands over a business card which he writes on the back a cell number. Looking the card over and extending his hand Bruce says, “Thanks David, name is Bruce I’ll look forward to hearing from you in the morning then. I’m given to understand that the Hacienda has some very fine private entertainment, you should treat yourself.” With that Bruce headed out the door. “David Whindam BioTechnica, Hmm..interesting”, thought Bruce as he rode the elevator down. The next morning an RCS courier dropped off a sealed envelope with a list of guns and ammunition in side. Bruce called Esteban asked if he wanted to meet for breakfast.
It was a typical morning at Denny’s, Bruce asked for a quiet booth in the corner. He had his laptop and a newspaper, telling the lady he was expecting company. Esteban showed up a few minutes later. The two of them ordered breakfast, eventually Bruce asked if Esteban wanted to see the paper. He said yes, glued to the inside of the paper was Whindam’s list. Scanning it over completely Esteban folded the paper setting it beside him. Bruce asked “Oh hey did you happen to see the forecast for the 4th? Are the fireworks going to get rained out?”. Esteban grinned replying “It should be bright and sunny.” Bruce was pleased, “What were the lottery numbers last night?” Still grinning Esteban gave Bruce the price figure. Nodding both men finished breakfast talking about the day, how each other have been doing. Bruce walked out of Denny’s and down to the local “Quickie Mart”. He picked up a pre-paid cell phone, activated it and called Whindam. “Good morning David, I’ve got those figures we discussed. It looks like the margin should come in at about 350,000. That’s inclusive of my cut which was 10%. Actually Esteban quoted 250,000. But Bruce needed to cover tuition bill that was ‘looming’ wanted to send his mom and dad a little something, have some extra for Esteban. Whindam said “That’s quite a lot…” to which Bruce interrupted “I know, but when you consider the ROI and the speed to market you are looking for, I think if you crunch the numbers its more than reasonable. I’m not sure how much your off shore is charging, but I think you’ll agree the bid is more than competitive.” Bruce had looked at legal arms prices for material on Whindam’s list and it was worth as much as about 500,000 depending on the economy it was headed for. “Can you take delivery on the 30th? They would like to get 25% upfront, which will cover the production startup costs for the run, I’ll courier over the banking details to you this afternoon?” Whindam was impressed, this was smooth, transparent and the guy knew his business. “Sure, this afternoon. Just have the courier leave it with the guard at the desk, they will page me”. Bruce called and opened three accounts with some of his own personal funds, of which there wasn’t much just some graduation money from Edgardo; one account with Banco de Cuba in Havana, another with Sealand National, the last with Merril Agusta and Finch. He sent the Banco account number to Whindam. Everything moved quickly and cleanly, netting a nice payday for everyone involved. Esteban was especially pleased that Bruce thought to make sure he had a ‘bonus’ for him. Bruce was able to pay off the college, so he was free and clear of that debt, and to pick up a few things for himself.
It was late August when Bruce met Benjamin Barenbaum, who as often as not called himself “Snap Dragon”. Bruce had been out to visit with “Jamaica Jack” and some of his crew and was cruising back to his place, when he caught sight of a black guy, head in a map walking into what was going to turn into Maelstrom turf. Jogging up quickly Bruce said “Wait up mate” the guy dropped his map turning. Bruce noticed right off this guy had some sort of training, he was entirely too smooth and very controlled in the way he moved. “Umm..that’s probably turf you don’t want to be on” nodding up another block, “where you headed?” asked Bruce. To which Benjamin replied “I’m looking for this place, pointing to a spot on his map circled in red felt pen”. “Oh hell your way off, I see the problem though. There are two Macado streets this one here and another over…there.” I’m betting you are looking of this one.” said Bruce while pointing. “What’s over there?” Bruce inquired. “Hopefully new apartment and dojo space, if I can swing the price” replied Snap Dragon. Sticking out his hand Bruce said “Name’s Bruce, pleased to meet you…” “Benjamin” “Pleased to meet you Benjamin. Why don’t we walk over together and take a peek see”. It was an interesting walk, mostly they talked about where Benjamin was from, about martial arts, Bruce actually warming up to discussion of differences in sword work. They both arrived at the spot and it turned out to be a good one for Benjamin with a little apartment right above the work space. As he was leaving “Here’s my number, if you need anything or just want to hang give me a call. Maybe I can rent your work space some evening for a work out?” With that Bruce left Benjamin to his moving in and as it turns out a few nights a month he rents Benjamin’s dojo space to do some classical fencing with his local club.
The fall was busy and the winter slower, but Bruce was able to make the ends meet. His folks were getting on well. Business was going well, well enough that he’d had a couple of meetings with Egardo without Esteban. It was starting to look like things were finally set to go well. Then came the day that Bruce heard the unmistakable rumble of motorcycles out front of the building. Looking out the window, a couple dozen bikes showed up, parked all around the front of the building. That’s when Bruce recognized his uncle David getting off one and heading into the building. Bruce went to his door, about when David was going to knock. David looked grim.
Bruce took a few steps back, not saying a word and David came in. Bruce shut the door to find David in the middle of the living room looking at him. “You’ll want to sit down son”. David then told him that his parents were murdered. David was pale, angry, and horribly sad. Bruce took it all in, got up went to the kitchen, pulled out his bottle of tequila and walked back to the living room taking a long pull. Silently he handed the bottle to his uncle and David drank. Bruce spoke his voice rough, “Who and how?” David looked paler still and explained how they found the bodies, what had been done to them, and lastly who. The Raffen Shiv, specifically a pack known as the “The Survivors” all long walk survivors, they hate the government any anyone who deals with them like the Aldecados. Bruce took it all in, growing pale and angry himself, before saying “I’m not ready, I need time”. David spoke up saying “No no, you don’t need to take care of this, this is my fault and I’ll fix it”. An angry Bruce replied “Fix it? How do you fix dead? How do you fixed raped and murdered? How do you FIX burned alive?” David responded quietly “By killing them all, every last one of them”. Bruce took a deep breath, “I’m in good with the Mexican gun cartel, if you need supplies while I get ready, you let me know”. David looked confused. “I needed money and they were hiring, don’t ask” replied Bruce shortly.
The next part of the year Bruce is clearly driven. Everyone who knows him notices or comments on it, and Bruce gives them no answers. If Bruce isn’t making a deal, he’s working out at the dojo. He first picks up a few tools. He talks to a clothing designer, gets a belt made. It isn’t a belt like you’d get to hold up your pants, but a tool belt. Except in this case the belt has a low slung holster for his colt which he now cares and practices with. It also has a frog for caring a sabre on his left hip. He buys some ammunition from Esteban that he calls dual purpose it is made to chew through armor or to chew up people. Next he buys the best sword he can buy, ordering it custom from Kendashi direct. As a second thought he also orders another, but has to go to a custom outfitter for it. A sword cane, made out of mono crystal, concealing in a solid walking cane. Remembering Edgardo’s admonishment all those years ago, he gets permits so everything is legal. They look at him funny until he explains he’s an instructor for his local fencing club. Then they just seem to nod, more out of confusion but not out of interest.
In the midst of all of this ‘focus’ Bruce does meet someone new, John Paladin. John is classically “not from around these parts”, he’s English. Retired army or some such. Taking in the good life in central California? Regardless of the why it seems like John is going to be good for business. After a few weeks after meeting, its clear that John is trying to pick up some gear. But he’s foreign and that’s making the problem somewhat more difficult. Ok so it is making it impossible. Bruce steps in as he could use a cash score for his next part of “Getting Ready”. John wants a big pile of gear, actually lots of little piles of gear, scattered all over. Bruce helps him source the gear at a profit, and find ways to secret his caches around the city though various deals he has set up. This latter piece done as much a favor to Piper as it is for anything as they seem to be a couple. The deal money makes it possible for Bruce to pick up a few ‘enhancements’ for his eyes, ears and for his nervous system. After a few weeks of being layed up in hospital beds Bruce’s new eyes are ready as is the bridge that lets him work left or right handed. Initially his ears ring a bit, but that goes away as his body adjusts to it. While layed up in the hospital Bruce hears that Paladin and Two-Snakes went and ‘rescued’ Kowalski’s girlfriend. Sadly of course Bruce finds this out when he ends up sharing a room with the shot but not dead Kowalski. Small world.
The latter half of 2019 was all about having fun. Bruce was still training, but he was also dating anything in a skirt. One or two dates a person, sleep with them and move on. He knew the day was coming he’d feel “Ready” and it would be time to go to his own private little war. He also knew he wanted to get in as much to ‘live for’ as possible.