A Nest of Vipers

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A Nest of Vipers
Date2082-05-28
Location
Downtown, Tacoma
Status Threat Level: High
Factions Involved
ShadowHaven Mitsuhama Computer Technologies
Absolute Zero
Black Samurai
Shine
Vip3r
Zenith
Kakei Steve
Petrovski Security Goons
Casualties and losses
Vip3r became addicted to Novacoke.
This run took place over multiple sessions.


Summary

Vip3r gathers a team to kill Steven Shimada, but the mission takes a different turn when things don't quite go to plan.

Background

In Family, Duty, Honor, Vip3r received a call from Steve in which he addressed her by her birth name and revealed personal information about her birth family that even she wasn't aware of. She independently discovered his ties to MCT, and Shine convinced her to have him killed for the information he holds on her. Then, in Cultivation Crisis, she learned that he also signed off on the contract that put her adoptive parents, Ken and Laura Tanaka, under lifelong MCT control. Furthermore, he had been withholding a letter from her mother that would've shown her much sooner that she hadn't been abandoned during her time in lockup. This further convinced her that Steve posed a threat to her, and added to her determination to kill him. Originally, she intended to do so with the backing of the Eighty-Eights Triad after earning a place as a member, but after abandoning that particular goal in Entering The Gates,

Hard Drives and Divination

In the same locked drawer where the letter was being kept, Vip3r also found a pair of hard drives. One held the forged documents that Huan-Shi Bai requested, but Vip3r has been putting off investigating the other one until now. She's expecting information on the Tanakas' case, and she finds it.

Steve has been handling a lot of the above-board acquisition for one of MCT's newest, most bleeding-edge projects, to which Ken and Laura Tanaka have been assigned as staff. The files she reads through refer to as a "perpetual testing initiative." Many of the assets for this project have been pulled from NeoNET, and there are many mentions of a "Subject T-355." She also finds a memo about the "erratic and unpredictable schedule" that work on this project demands, as well as logs on the progress of constructing a new facility--which seems to be moving forward at a worryingly fast pace.

Vip3r realizes that she may not have much time to set her plan into motion, but the level of involvement between Steve and the Tanakas has her concerned. Worrying that the two goals may be at odds with each other, she reaches out to Delphi, based on her reputation as a seer, for some kind of guidance. The PI invites her to meet at her office to discuss the decision she's been agonizing over, and suggests that Vip3r also buy a dose of oneiro if she would like to glimpse the future herself.

At Delphi's office, Vip3r tells her that she has plans to extract two people who are important to her, and she worries that working against Steve--who is involved with them, and who Vip3r believes is posing a danger to not only them and herself, but to the Haven as a whole--may compromise that effort. More specifically, she asks if her attempt will hurt more than it helps.

Delphi assenses her, and performs the ritual of augury and sortilege with a deck of tarot cards.

The Magician, upright - good start. It means that you're full of potential, that you have everything you need to manifest your will right at your fingertips, and the time is now to make the most of your abilities. I'd say that's a good omen at least; it's not an assurance of success, but it means victory is within your grasp.

The Lovers, upright - interesting... typically it means connections, meaningful relationships... but I think with this context it means that you're going to have to make a choice - it'll probably be difficult, something meaningful to you, a sort of test of your values. It's a sort of 'follow your heart' thing, but don't be afraid to look at things from all angles and take a third option if it presents itself.

Justice, inverted. - The system is rigged, with a blind judge and crooked lawyers... it indicates consequences, but that they might not be fair, for you or anyone else involved. I think that what it all means together is that you've got to really evaluate whatever choice you're going to have to make - be sure that you have all the information, and aren't holding onto anything that might sway you to make an unjust decision.

Vip3r returns home, and contacts Betz to ask her for whatever information she's able to find on Steve and on the Tanakas. Specifically, she wants to know whether Steve has any enemies or ongoing conflicts that might motivate someone else to kill him, so that she and her team can set up a false trail leading away from themselves, as well as information on the Tanakas' schedules and the degree of their involvement with him, in case killing him might compromise their trust in Vip3r. Betz leaves to consult her network, promising to return later with her findings, and Vip3r lights up the oneiro for a glimpse of what awaits her in the future.


In her vision, she sees her adoptive parents, somewhere dark and windowless and seemingly underground. Data flows by on rows of computer terminals too quickly to comprehend, and her father's haggard-looking face reflects in one of the screens while her mother sullenly shuffles through papers at another desk elsewhere. It comes with the feeling of hopelessness and confinement that reminds Vip3r of the MCT black site she was held in. It shifts to a feeling of warmth and safety, and memories of life at home. For a moment, there's a sensation of two outcomes at once, until the dream fades and Vip3r returns to consciousness.

After getting some sleep, she contacts Delphi again for help interpreting the dream. She tells her that it's good that she's seen a positive outcome, even if it wasn't the only one, and reminds her to have faith in herself and in the people she plans to call on for help. "These things have a way of working out," she says, and wishes Vip3r luck.

The Meet

With that, Vip3r contacts the other runners and invites them to meet at her Bellevue condo. Since Zero is her roommate, and Zenith and Shine live in the unit downstairs, it's a convenient meeting place.

She sends them each of them her file on Steve, and the group begins to discuss a plan. Since Steve is a SINner with a powerful criminal organization behind him, Vip3r wants to make it as difficult as possible to trace the heat back to them. Her best idea is to make the attack look like it could've been carried out by a rival syndicate--probably the Vory or one of the Triads that competes with the Eighty-Eights. They consider hitting him at a Loveland mahjong parlor he's reported to visit, but his appearances there are sporadic enough that the idea is quickly abandoned. After some discussion, here's what they decide:

The Plan

  • Brick his car while he's on his way out of his Downtown office
  • Pull up next to him in a borrowed GMC Universe with the branding of a company that doesn't exist, and offer him a ride. Once he's inside, Vip3r will interrogate him and kill him.
  • Prior to doing any of this: enter his apartment (which is in a AA zone in Downtown) with a fabricated maintenance request, and leave a nest of devil rats there to appear as the likely cause of death.

To set things in motion, Vip3r visits the Bronze Towers Apartments where Steve lives, and poses as IT repair to gain access to its host. It has a nested host for utility and tenant information, and there is a portal to the Foundation in its floor. Upon entering the nested host, Vip3r almost immediately notices that there's a sinister presence inside with her, slithering through the host's sculpted pipes. She tries to blend in herself as she searches for the information on Steve's apartment, and feels it looming over her for what feels like an agonizingly long time as it almost spots her, then it eventually turns around and leaves. Drawing a connection to what she's read about a threat only ever referred to as Them, Vip3r is eager to do what she came here to do and get the frag out of this host. She discovers that Steve lives in apartment 2712, and that there's already maintenance scheduled on his malfunctioning wine fridge. It's an easy enough task to edit the file to bump that maintenance up to the following day when Steve will be in his office, and after she finishes that, she leaves the host.

The next morning, the news about the DA's Light the Shadows initiative surfaces. The runners all watch in horror from their homes--especially Vip3r and Black Samurai, who were involved in the event that sparked the announcement--and realize that they're going to have to take a much different approach if they're going to pull this off. They reconvene at Vip3r's condo again and discuss what they'll be doing differently.

The Plan (Version 2.0)

Shine reminds Vip3r of the discussion in which she resolved to kill Steve, and reiterates that the point she wanted to reinforce was that Vip3r needed to figure out what kind of information Steve held over her. Vip3r's real objective shouldn't be a vengeance quest, but a mission to keep her information safe. If he had records on her that MCT did not, then Vip3r would have to erase them before killing Steve in order to prevent MCT from acquiring more information on her and putting her in further danger. Having Steve killed would need to be a secondary objective, and Vip3r would need to determine what information he was storing at his home and his legal office--as well as the actual nature of his connection to Ken and Laura Tanaka--before taking any violent action.

The old "pose as a repair crew" trick is as good a method of entry as any, so Vip3r figures she might as well stick to it. She, Shine, and Black Samurai know enough Japanese to convincingly pull the con off. The new (tentative) plan becomes:

  • Enter Steve's apartment, find whatever records he's keeping (which are likely offline), and determine what kind of action to take.
  • Since this entry will at least appear to be legit, he probably won't suspect anyone to break into his office later on.
  • Lure him to a mahjong parlor in Loveland that he frequents. Kidnap him, and make it look like a hit from another syndicate.
  • Take him, blindfolded, to an Eighty-Eights safehouse in Puyallup, to squeeze the last of his knowledge out of him.
  • Finally kill him while he can't fight back.

The Repair Job

The work order is set for 1 pm that day, and Vip3r's plan seems easy enough to execute; Steve lives alone, and pilfering records from an unoccupied apartment is a trivial task. Unfortunately, the team discovers that Steve's apartment isn't so unoccupied when they're greeted at the door by a bunraku puppet, an elf woman who looks unsettlingly similar to Vip3r's biological mother. They're caught off guard by the unexpected complication, but Vip3r covers by immediately getting to work on the wine fridge and attempting to diagnose any software problems (which she actually finds, and knows how to resolve) while she and her companions discuss strategy over DNI. Unnerved by the woman in the kitchen, Shine excuses herself to the bathroom so she can look around while Vip3r and Black Samurai keep her distracted enough to not notice anything out of the ordinary. A watcher spirit prowls the hallway, but Shine manages to circumvent it and make her way into the office. She finds no physical records, but there is a terminal operating on a wired connection. Vip3r goes to check on it, saying she needs to wash her hands in the event there may have been any residual cooling chemicals in the fridge's circuitry. There are a few files of interest within, and since Steve isn't expecting the offline terminal to be hacked, punching through the security within takes little effort.

Vip3r finds files from when Steve initially tracked her down. He had a Matrix investigator draw links between Piper Mori (the identity she was born with) and Piper Tanaka (her last legal SIN), and there is a directory saved to the database where the relevant information is stored. Vip3r also discovers an open encrypted file on Ken and Laura Tanaka. She copies what she finds, and returns to the kitchen to finish the job that the team is ostensibly here for.

Upon closer inspection at home, the file Vip3r found appears to be some kind of legal document. Vip3r skims it, but finding it too dense and dry to properly understand on her own, she has Zero call [Sarah Snow] on her behalf and asks her if she can put her in contact with a lawyer who can interpret it for her. Sarah tells them to come and meet her at a fancy restaurant downtown, where she's currently doing novacoke with a lawyer friend who's willing to review the contract for a legal fee of ¥500. Vip3r forks over the nooj, and she and Zero do novacoke with Sarah while the lawyer reads over the documents.

Their inspection reveals that the contracts, which are owned by MCT, detail moving the Tanakas to on-site housing in a new facility. It's currently under construction, but the information about where it's located or when it will be finished has been redacted. Steve is signing all of the paperwork on the Tanakas' behalf, and he appears to be deliberately slowing down the move.

A Crossroads

Vip3r leaves feeling conflicted. While she hates and resents Steve for the knowledge he holds over her, she's beginning to realize that going after him might not be the right goal. As she lets GridGuide take her and Zero back home, jittery from anxiety and novacoke, she finally gets a call back from Betz with the information she requested.

Betz has discovered that Steve's role in the project, beyond handling contracts, is making sure MCT's actions are in line with codes on ethical treatment of virtual kinetics—which, to be fair, are bulldrek bare-minimum. She also manages to figure out the exact dates and times of the moves detailed in the contract Vip3r found. They'll be taking place on the 29th and 30th, a little under two weeks from now. There is no confirmation that they'll be taken together; in fact, it's likely that they won't be, as they're already working nearly opposite schedules which keep them separated almost all the time. It's entirely possible that the process could be sped up without Steve's interference, which means that Vip3r will have to act fast.

Vip3r returns to her home, which has been serving as the central HQ for Operation Murder, to tell the rest of the team about what she's discovered and how it's starting to give her second thoughts about her initial goal. She's determined to find out what Steve knows, but worries that slipping up at any point in a further investigation will totally compromise her more important goal of getting her parents out of MCT's possession. Worse, if Steve suddenly leaves the equation—whether by being killed or taken captive—the transfer could become much more immediate, and Vip3r will have nearly no chance of extracting them at all.

The plan shifts to attempting an extraction for either of the Tanakas, since securing both at once will be almost impossible. Shine suggests simply talking to Steve to figure out what additional information he has on them and what he still holds on Vip3r, but Vip3r immediately shoots her suggestion down because she worries that asking Steve for his knowledge would alert MCT to her plan, making success impossible.

They seem to be at an impasse, unable to act. Shine becomes increasingly more distressed about how many times the plan has changed while Vip3r agonizes over what to do, until Zenith finally invites the technomancer to talk with him on the balcony.

First, he checks in to ask how she's feeling about the decision going forward. Vip3r tells him how she killed another technomancer on her most recent submersion by forcing him to trigger his own databomb. Even though she offered him multiple ways out of the situation that didn't involve further violence, only killing him as a last resort, she admits the choice was incredibly distressing and she didn't feel comfortable with it. “I'm not a killer,” she tells Zenith emphatically, and concludes that killing Steve—which is likely to be disastrously counterproductive to her goals—isn't a choice she can live with. In turn, Zenith tells Vip3r about his own experience as an assassin, and how over time, killing becomes something normal and trivial. The ability to draw the line that Vip3r's drawn is easily lost, and Zenith recommends that she hold onto it as long as she can.

However, Vip3r isn't keen on letting Steve remain a threat, but she doesn't know how to eliminate him. Zenith hesitates for a minute, then tells her that he has a solution that will ensure that MCT will no longer have her records. It's likely to come at a huge cost, though, and they should only take that route if Vip3r's absolutely sure. She spends a minute weighing the potential outcomes, then concludes that if she eliminates her information in MCT's systems, she'll be rid of Steve's leverage over her and can approach him on more equal footing. Zenith nods, and tells her he'll make sure that happens.

Zenith talks to Shine about the situation, asking her to tell Harriott to spend the night with her girlfriend and to turn off all of their electronics so they can't be hacked. He then travels to his safehouse in Redmond to contact Amrei Veidt, asking her to hack into MCT's systems to locate and destroy all information on “Piper Tanaka” and any other identity or designation that might be related to her. She agrees, and tells him it will be done within 24 hours. When he asks Amrei for the price of her favor, she doesn't request any money; she simply sends him a brochure for a summer internship program in Essen.

The Plan (Version 3.0 FINAL)

Now that Vip3r is in a more advantageous position, she's finally able to plan. She knows that it's possible for information to change based on what she learns from Steve, but she's relieved that action is finally possible.

Vip3r will go to Steve's office at Equilibrium, with Black Samurai and Zero accompanying her as bodyguards, and determine what additional information he might have, if any. Zenith and Shine will wait in Zenith's Shin-Hyung outside. Vip3r will not kill Steve, or attempt to have either or her companions kill him unless it becomes absolutely necessary. (Which it shouldn't.) Immediately after leaving the office, they will drive to Tacoma to extract Laura Tanaka, who will be home by the time they arrive. Zenith and Shine both know Dr. Isabel Wirth, a doctor at Deireadh An Tuartheil in Tarislar. One of them will call her and ask her to remove Laura's cranial bomb while Vip3r suppresses it.

Satisfied with the extent of this plan, the runners all decide to get some rest and prepare for the tasks that lie ahead.

The Run

Vip3r and her entourage arrive at Equilibrium in the early evening, before it opens. She tells the bouncer she's there for a meeting with Mr. Shimada, and identifies herself as Piper Mori when asked for a name. Steve agrees to see them, despite the meeting being unscheduled, and is clearly unnerved that all of Vip3r's information has suddenly vanished from every system he has access to. She asks for information on the Tanakas' living situation, and he's surprisingly willing to volunteer what he knows, though the only thing Vip3r hasn't already discovered is his knowledge about the model and functionality of the cranial bombs they're fitted with. She thanks him for his cooperation, asks that he not speak of their meeting to any of his associates, and turns to leave peacefully—though she does cast a lingering glance at one of the swords on his wall on her way out.

From there, the team immediately sets out toward Tacoma, worried that they're racing against the clock. Once they arrive, they scout out the neighborhood; Zenith and Shine on foot, Black Samurai in his Shin-Hyung, Zero on the Astral, and Vip3r on the local grid. Black Sam encounters an issue when he's stopped by a rotodrone, its pilot's voice broadcasting over a speaker and demanding to know why he keeps circling the block. He spins a shockingly convincing story about how he's struggling after a bad breakup and keeps driving by her house to see if she's there. Not wanting to deal with whatever the hell this is, the drone backs off.

Zenith and Shine sneak in through another house's backyard while Vip3r keeps a watchful eye out for security equipment, disabling an alarm and an ultrasound sensor to allow them to sneak through the back door. Once inside, Zenith's motion sense tells him that there are two guards downstairs and one upstairs, with another person who is most likely Laura Tanaka. Shine takes the upper floor, injecting Laura with Cryo and preparing to get her out of the building. But just as things are going smoothly, Zenith missteps and gets spotted by the guards.

The whole team springs into action as a fight breaks out. Zenith tries to create a safe exit for Shine while Vip3r hurls forked dataspikes at the rigger's RCC and rotodrone in order to disable them. A powerful guardian spirit appears in the house and Vip3r is ambushed by the security team's decker, whose dataspike (which comes with a link lock) nearly kills her. Zero immediately pulls her into a tactical bear hug of healing, but just as the spell begins to take effect, Vip3r sees the persona of a GOD agent looming over her, preparing to strike her down. She has just enough time to shoot off a quick DNI message to the team to let them know she doesn't expect to survive and thanking them for everything they've done for her before GOD's orbital laser blasts her directly in the brain-- but somehow, when the smoke clears, her persona remains standing, drilling the GOD agent with a defiant stare as they try to figure out how the hell their attack didn't kick her off the grid. The decker's persona abruptly rezzes out as Black Samurai kills him, driving his sword through the windshield of the car he sits in, and now that the link lock they imposed is severed, there's nothing preventing Vip3r from safely jacking out.

The fight is far from over, however. Inside, the guardian spirit engulfs Shine, knocking her out of the fight and nearly killing her. Zenith immediately fires back and disrupts it, determined to protect the woman he loves. Another spirit outside is quickly advancing on Black Samurai and threatening to cut off his entrance to the house, but Zero's heal spell takes hold just in time, allowing her to join the fray and snipe it with a casting of Spirit Zapper. Black Sam's arrival finally turns the tide, and once the security guards are dead, he and Zenith drag Shine and Laura Tanaka out of the house. They load them into the back of Vip3r's borrowed GMC Universe and prepare to make a quick escape.

Aftermath

The runners race down the highway toward Deireadh An Tuartheil, as KE vehicles pass by on the other side in droves to respond to the incident in Tacoma. Vip3r drives the Universe, white-knuckling the steering wheel the whole way through a horrendous nosebleed, as Black Sam follows in his Shin-Hyung with Zenith in the passenger seat. Zero sits in the back of the Universe so she can stabilize and heal Shine on the way to the hospital. When Shine regains consciousness and asks Zenith where he is on the DNI, he immediately climbs out of the Shin-Hyung, balancing on its roof, and jumps between the vehicles and in through the Universe's passenger window.

The team arrives at the hospital safely. Laura is immediately taken into surgery and Shine is admitted for care. Meanwhile, Vip3r waits outside the operating room adamantly refusing any assistance or attention until her mother's cranial bomb is fully removed and there's no more risk of harm to anyone involved, despite the warnings and concern from the nurses about the distressing signals coming from her biomonitor. When everything is finished, Vip3r releases her focus on the Resonance Veil she's been sustaining on the bomb, calmly checks herself in, and lets herself lose consciousness as she submits to much-needed medical care. She enjoys a brief reunion with her mother when she wakes up, and Zero takes her home once she's cleared to leave.

Zenith and Shine resolve to finally tell Harriot about their relationship. Black Samurai goes to the Daisy Chain, and finally gets Jacqueline's number.


Rewards

20 karma

40 CDP

-40 MCT reputation (for killing 4 Petrovski Security personnel)

MCT knows what each of the runners' astral or resonance signatures look like

1 skill point in "The Power of Love" and "The Power of Friendship"

Optional: 1 Montreal Devil Rat to keep as a pet

Optional Contact: Dr. Isabel Wirth (C4/L2 ER Doctor) for 5 RVP or 10 CDP

For Black Sam: Optional Contact: Jacqueline Grant (C1/L3 Bartender) for 3 RVP or 6 CDP

For Vip3r: May buy off Records on File (MCT) at chargen price and remove "Kill Steven Shimada" from Driven

Game Quotes

Player After Action Reports (AARs)

Vip3r

I gotta try really hard to think straight on this one, my head feels... wrong. I guess that's what taking a fraggin' Thor Shot to the brain does to you though, huh?

For like, my whole adult life so far, the whole concept of choice has been pretty much foreign to me. It's all been “go where you're told to go, and do what you're told to do,” right? Even after I got out of prison, I didn't really get any kind of choice in the jobs I took, until that whole clusterfrag went down with Yang. And now I've got choices and control and all that drek—you know, like a real person who's a real adult—and I don't know what to do with it. I don't know how to make choices, and it's so much worse when I know that none of them are good.

But I think I made the right ones here. Fuck, I hope so.

I think I figured out what I needed to know about Steve. He's a scumbag and I can't stand him and I think the world would be a little better if he got hit by a truck—wait, am I allowed to say that?—but I think I made the right choice by not geeking him. None of this was his fault, and I don't think I should've blamed him for it in the first place. I'm glad I got Mom out, too. Seeing her after all this time was... really, really good; it's like I didn't even realize how much I missed her until she was there in the room with me. I just hope things are good when she goes to work for Cross, and that things go okay when I go to get Dad out.

I'd say it'll be nice to have a family again, but... I kinda already have one, in a way. I'm lucky to know the people I know. Zenith and Shine and Akira and Zero are all great runners who are great at what they do, and they've got my back no matter what. That's not something you get to just have in the shadows, and I don't know what I managed to do to deserve that.

Absolute Zero

Okay, so, once upon a time when I was a kid who had to see the psych every month to get my addy scrip and the therapist every couple of weeks to work on...myself...I was told that journaling can be helpful when your brain is being shitty. I know this ain't exactly a journal but I figure, eh, close enough. So here we go, just gonna lay all my thoughts out exactly as they come to me.

so much blood so much blood oh god so much

Alright, well, maybe not exactly as they come to me. Let me start over.

Once upon a time, not too too long ago, I killed a guy. An innocent civilian. It was an accident. Self-defense. And it was the worst day of my entire fraggin' life. That's still true, but this job tried real hard to take the belt.

You ever run hypotheticals in your head? Thought experiments? What would you do if somebody you cared about was in trouble? You probably think you know. Or at least have some idea. You don't. You don't know a goddamn thing until they're bleeding out in your arms and all you can do is take the first hail Mary option that comes to hand, the first thing that runs through your head that makes any modicum of sense whatsoever. It worked out this time. Thank whatever spirits or entities might be looking down out there. Next time, it might not be enough.

I should have taken that decker out before he even thought to breathe in her direction. Should have put an ice spear right between his eyes. Should've smeared him on the pavement. But I didn't, and she paid for it, and I almost lost her and it's my fault. I have to get stronger. I have to be better. I have to stop caring about whether or not the guys on the other side get hurt. Anybody that wants to get to her is gonna have to come through me. God help 'em if they try.

Black Samurai

I've been fairly confident of my general immortality for a while now. I've been stabbed, shot, mostly stabbed, blown up, and all sorts of heinous things. I've punched a corpo in the face when using my real name. I've made a close ally from the very org I've waged a blood war against. I've come out alive after my vendetta.

The people around me--though--they aren't half metal and uninterested in a long lifespan. Finn, Piper--shit, even Hank...my actions might get them killed. My inactions might get them killed. I need to be smarter--to be better. I need to get my shit together. I don't want to keep being the liability.

Fuck.

I need a drink.

Zenith

Sometimes you gotta help a chummer out. Even when it's not in your best interest. Admittedly when Vipes first told me about this, I thought it was going to be a fairly simple hit. Sure the guy was a Yak, but I've hit syndicates before and not been caught. So no major problems. The issue that we run into that Vip3r didn't actually need him dead really. She wanted him dead sure, but there are other ways to make sure they can't use info against you. I called in a favor from someone I didn't really want to call in from, but it was the way that Vip3r could get on an even level with the fragger.

Course then we get to the next part, and we're pulling someone innocent out of an MCT fire. I try not to kill unless I'm getting paid for this, but these fraggers deserved to eat the bullets. Though it means that a megacorp can find me if they want to. This is a problem. Lets just hope I'm low enough priority that it won't become too big of a problem until my other problems are cleaned up.

Zero and Black Sam I hadn't worked with til now, but both of them are quality runners. Zero is a bit too nice for this line of work, but she's got Vip3r's back, that's more important sometimes. Black Sam has his own issues, but knows his drek.

Can't say I'm sad to be moving out of Bellevue soon though, too much concentration of folks in my personal life around here.