Freelance Corporate Counter Intelligence
By Jason "Jericho" Brown
Art by andi jones
"A beer? You want me to tell you about a man that doesn't exist, and all I get is a beer? And what's with the Recorder? Oh no! Forget it, cobber! I don't stick my neck out for nobody! I ain't leaving my cheese . . .
"All the beer I can drink? Real beer? None of that cheap, Orbital-synthy stuff?? Hmm . . . I guess I can tell you a little. Just start pouring!"
"Being a spy has never been easy. Stealing corporate secrets has never been easy, either. A free lance corporate espionage expert in the One and Twenty must be one of the toughest things to be in the whole of history. That's Ash Grey.
"That's probably the first and possibly the last time that you will hear that name in conjunction with this man. You look important, I'd bet my last credit that you've had some dealings in the boardrooms of the mega corps around the planet, you've probably met him or at least seen him. However, do yourself a favor, if you see him twice, don't let on that you recognize him. Play along with his charade. Play dumb. You will live a lot longer that way.
"First time I heard about Grey was when he was working as an anti-espionage operative for a significant chemi collective that was bought out and dismantled, oh . . . more than a decade ago. He wasn't Ash then, he was just Artie Millsen. After that corp raid and take-over, Millsen found himself on the street with a pink slip in his hand. He was okay, mind you, he had a few fat accounts here and there and enough "assets" in a safe hiding place to keep him dry and fed for a few years, if need be. Counter Spook is a good gig if you can get it! Artie was always thinking . . . keep pouring, boy!
"Anyway, he found himself an unassuming apartment and called his people. Artie always had people. He told his people he wanted a new job and a big raise and he was willing to work for anyone.
"Leasing yourself to the lowest bidder is always a mistake, but selling your soul to the highest bidder is just as bad. Millsen waited by the phone for a solid month before one of his people got back to him. Big corp, big job, big check. He took it. No, he didn't want a briefing, he said, he could do any job that they set in front of him. No, he didn't care who he worked for and no, he didn't care that they were Nipponese. Okay, he got suspicious, why the hell should it matter that they are Japanese?
"Oh . . ."
"From there, Artie's life was total drek. For the first time in his career he was earning every decimal point on his credit chit. Every situation was far too complex. Feints within feints, enough to make you faint! Heh . . . that's a joke, boy!
"I gotta tell you, things were so strange. Artie was building fortresses out of smoke and lies. Chinese and Russians and some damn cunning Koreans -- all of them got dead at Artie's hands. Sure, failures happened, but he made sure that he was the only one who knew about it. His Yakusa masters approved and nodded and smiled and doted. His accounts grew with each apparent success and with each silk smooth cover-up.
"But Artie was too smart, too smart for his own good. He wanted out. He wanted to make sure that this job was a short term thing, and that he could afford to retire. He invested heavily, both in stock and other, darker tradables. And that was it! He caught himself in one of his own far-too-complex traps set for Korean drug traffickers. Damn Koreans! Boy, never go to the pick-up yourself when a paid kid will do the same job! Watching troops that you trained yourself rush down on you from the bluffs, waving flame throwers and tossing pyro grenades, is the worst end to a bad day. The Yak forgot him like the dead gaijin he was."
"Having good, safe hiding places is very important, especially to a dead gaijin! Artie returned to his hidey holes for protection and funds. The market saw a great deal of high quality goods hit the street all at once, and a man who was burned to his bones was getting a new body, and a new face. Artie Millsen was a charred memory in a distant land, and Ash Grey had a fresh identity. The new name was more than appropriate, don'tcha think? But, he found something else from the whole deal. Getting a new identity wasn't easy or cheap, but it was darn convenient. His ill-gotten cash slipped easily into a secured account. A new suit and a fresh, real silk tie got him into places he couldn't go before. Reputation? Not having one was liberating.
"Why have just one new name, Ash was thinking, just one new packet of papers? Two, three, or half a dozen of these new lives would serve him well. Ash was always thinking, always smart.
"He set to work. He was now a small group of people, all of whom needed friends and people, or at least people. Ash always had people."
"How do I know so much about Ash? Let's just say . . . I've got people."
Arthur "Artie" Millsen
a.k.a. Ash Grey, Reggie Waters, Allen Phillips, Mick Adams, etc.ST: 12 IQ: 15 Speed: 6.25
DX: 13 HT: 12 Move: 6
Dodge: 6 Parry: (Knife) 8
Height: 6 feet
Weight: 160 pounds
Advantages: Eidetic Memory (60); Strong Will +5 (20); Wealthy (20); 4 Alternate Identities (150, detailed later); Contacts (125, also detailed later).
Disadvantages: Sense of Duty: Contract (-10); Paranoia (-10); Pyrophobia (-30); Cyberphobia (-40).
Quirks: Refuses to be seen in the same suit twice; Makes use of a large collection of colored custom contact lenses; Cannot sleep unless he secures doors, windows and alarm system; Will not sit with back facing door or window; Insists on learning the original language of his employer or adversary, so he can think like him/her.
Skills: Acting-15; Administration-15; Camoflauge-15; Carousing-14; Computer Operation-18; Demolition-16; Disguise-17; Driving (Auto)-14; Economics-16; Escape-15; Fast Draw: Knife-13; Fast Draw: Pistol-16; Fast Talk-17; Forgery-17; Guns: Pistol-18; Guns (Lt. Auto)-16; Intelligence Analysis-18; Interrogation-14; Karate-16; Knife-16; Knife Throwing-15; Leadership-18; Parachuting-16; Pilot (Small Helicopter)-16; Poisons-15; Politics-20; Psychology-18; Research-17; Savoir-Faire-20; Shadowing-15; Stealth-18; Strategy-23; Streetwise-18; Survival (Urban)-15; Survival: Jungle-15; Tactics-23; Tracking-16; Traps-14.
Languages: Mandarin-15; Korean-15; Japanese-19; Russian-15; Rumanian-15; Spanish-15; German-15.
Weapons: Glock 17 9mm Semi-Auto Handgun: 2d-2 crushing; H&K MP5: 3d-1 crushing; Dagger: 1d-2 impaling.
HistoryArthur was always a smart kid. He started off on the streets, destitute but determined. He knew that he could work his way up, that the steel and glass towers were not impenetrable. He taught himself to read and worked any job he could get, legal or not. At the age of 15 he signed up with a corporate security provider, telling them he was 17. By the time he was 18, he was a combat veteran and signed up with a mercenary unit working heavy corp contract ops in the southwest United States, Mexico and South America. By the time he turned 21, he was a distinguished soldier and an established leader. Artie signed up for another tour in intelligence for the merc company. At 25 he went to work for a large corp as an "Information Acquisition Specialist" (read "spy"). Arthur went through a series of several short contracts, sometimes working for a company he was working against a week before. At 27, he got a job with a struggling Chemical Manufacturing Collective that was trying to compete with the big boys. Instead of having a large military arm and espionage arm like all the other corps, they hired Artie to come in and help them avoid all of that. It didn't help. Within six months the other larger corps sapped the collective of resources and capital. Finally the collective collapsed and Artie was on the street.
The recorded account that was quoted at the beginning of this dossier is surprisingly factual and complete; the speaker is probably an adversary of Ash's. The ambush on those Korean traffickers, and Ash's subsequent burning, were extremely traumatic for him. His burns were second- and third-degree in most places, in others they were to the bone. He contracted several infections almost immediately. His eyes were badly burnt, he had near-total cataracts. Not only was he nearly killed, but he also wandered in the jungle for several days with a terrible fever, nearly blind, and on the verge of madness due to his wounds and the fever. He survived due only to sheer determination and an unbreakable will. However, his extraordinary, photographic memory allows him to remember everything. He can still see the looks on the attackers' faces, he can still feel liquid flames washing over his body and he can still hear his own strangled screams. Ash has struggled with nightmares on and off; most of those dreams have involved being awash in uncontrolled flame. He will avoid open flames at all cost -- someone striking a match to light a cigarette is enough to make him flinch if he isn't careful.
After Artie's "death," the Yakusa had papers filed listing Arthur Millsen as "Missing and Presumed Dead." They were very happy with his service, even his death was a good job. Not only did Artie "die" in that trap, but so did some significant Korean competition for the Yak in that region. His Yakusa bosses knew that Artie was not happy in his work, and they were preparing to end his contract on good terms, they were simply waiting for the end of a few of his projects. After Artie's "death" most of those projects finished themselves up to the advantage of the Yakusa, all due to exemplary planning. If the Yak found out today that Artie was still alive, they might be angered by the way his contract ended, and his apparent disloyalty, but that would be an extreme reaction. Artie performed beyond their expectations, and left very little to be cleaned up. A very professional contract.
This was Artie's and is now Ash's motto and modus: The Contract is Everything. Ash will stick out any contract, no matter how much he dislikes who he is working for or how bad the work may be. Ash feels that if he agreed to a contract without knowing what was coming, then that's his fault for being stupid. A professionally performed contract will lead to several opportunities for more work. The Contract is Everything.
As described above, Ash is quite skilled, and skilled in a wide variety of areas. This is especially important in Ash's case, because he has survived on skills alone. He has no cyber enhancement. As a matter-of-fact, Ash has a fear of cybernetics. Not so much the devices themselves, but having them in his body. He has never and will never willingly be cybernetically enhanced. He feels that cyber is a crutch for the weak, that if he can't get his skills in a gym or in a library, what's the point? This is probably just a justification. Ash had a bad experience as a merc -- a very enhanced buddy of his caught some type of cyber-virus and self-destructed in a rather ugly manner. Ash has also had nightmares where he is put under the knife and given monstrous augmentations. He has thus survived on skills learned in the military and several years of corporate service, and that alone.
However, Ash has a problem that he doesn't know about, and a big one at that. When Ash arrived at the backwater medical facility on a small island in the Pacific that repaired him, he was nearly beyond hope. He had scraped up enough cash to impress the doctors, and made promises of more. But the time that it took to get that cash and to get to that island had made his condition worse. He was blind and wild with fever. The doctors started immediately -- they had access to most modern facilities and supplies. Everything that was wrong with his body could be repaired with enough time and enough cash. All, except for one detail -- his eyes. When he first came in, the doctors were more than happy to order high grade cyber replacement parts, even illegal upgrades. But Ash insisted, even pleaded, that everything be as natural, as human, as possible. It took longer and was more expensive, but the doctors complied. But, when they got to his eyes, everything broke down. They could get vat grown eyes that were terribly expensive, but money wasn't the issue, the producers were simply out and had an eight month back order. Donor organs were as scarce. The few black-market contacts that these physicians had were unable to produce. The doctors were eager to please this man who claimed he couldn't remember his name. He had lots of good money, and more seemed to pour in no matter what outrageous demands the doctors made. So, they decided to do something underhanded and unethical. They found an incredible pair of custom cyber eyes, so close to the real thing that even an x-ray would not show the difference. They offer no special enhancements other than 20/20 vision. The doctors told Ash that due to the extent of his wounds and to their lack of facilities, he would never again have fingerprints or a printable retina, but everything else should be fine. Ash was so pleased with this that he asked no questions and bought the story at face value.
The problem is that he is now walking around with a pair of cyber eyes. His fear of cybernetics is complete, it is more soul gripping than his fear of flame. If he ever discovers that he has been duped he is likely to rip the eyes out of their sockets, or to hunt down the doctors that did this to him, or both! Ash guards his fears closely, he realizes the weakness they represent.
Ash currently has four working aliases. Since the attack, he has gone through several dozen, yet the Ash Grey persona has remained. In most cases, a blown fake identity will uproot other fake names and records, simply by running a fingerprint or retina print record search. Ash Grey is listed as having had extreme surgery and no longer has finger or retina prints. His other identities seldom have fingerprints, for one reason or another. If they do have fingerprints they are fakes. But they always have a retina print. Ash has a set of colored contacts made up, in several colors, with a fake retina print. He is always careful to wear one persona's contacts when in that persona, and to change them when he becomes another persona. Thus, his new identities tend to cost him two to three times as much as the listed cost (GURPS Cyberpunk, pgs. 19-20.) Each identity has characteristics and Contacts (CP. 20 -21) of their own, they are detailed below.
Ash GreyAsh is as a rich playboy, living off a large insurance settlement he won after an accident 150 nautical miles off the Hawaiian Islands that left him adrift for days and in need of drastic surgery. Ash uses this I.D. for very little other than vacations or legitimate purchases. This persona is for escape and leisure, and for his true friends. The name "Ash" is almost a password with him -- only his closest confidants know him as Ash, and none, so far, have revealed it to anyone who didn't need to know.
ContactsAce Feinstien -- If a trash dumpster had wings or rotors installed, Ace could pilot it. Ace was the one who found Ash out in the jungle after the attack and brought him to that Pacific hospital. When this nameless man came up with a new identity from nowhere and fistfuls of cash, Ace knew that he had to become this man's best friend. Ace is the only person in the whole world who Ash trusts, another weakness that Ash guards.
Ace is a pilot, pirate and protagonist of his own legends. He has dozens of stories to tell, will do so willingly and expands on them with each telling. Ace is a test pilot and mercenary who sells himself to the highest bidder. He is very connected to the merc community. Merc gossip and the flow of who's hiring whom is his specialty. Ash contacts Ace via merc want-ads with the word "ash" in them.
Ace has Streetwise-15, is usually reliable, and is available fairly often (roll of 9 or less), 20 points.
Mick AdamsMick has become someone to know "in the business". Mick doesn't have a job in the music scene so much as he gets invited to all the right parties, gets backstage passes and tickets mailed to him for the entire tour without requesting them, and always looks and acts cool no matter what.
ContactsCherri Methane -- Mick found Mercury Gloss playing in a run-down club in the middle of nowhere important. They were rough, unrehearsed and in desperate need of an image, not to mention a fashion consultant. Their saving grace was their lead vocalist and bass-player, Cherri Methane. She had a real gift, was a talented musician and was beautiful. Cherri and Mick were never lovers, but Ash played up the rumors that they were. Mick then set to work honing them as an act and finally hosted a party with all the right people. Cherri and the rest of Mercury Gloss were discovered and were deemed an overnight success. Ash laughs a lot about that term on reflection of his two years of hard work.
Cherri owes her entire career to Mick, and will do anything for the man she calls "Angel Mick." The rest of Mercury Gloss feels the same way.
Cherri is very connected in the music scene and in the media in general, she is effective skill 15, she is rarely available (roll of 6 or less), but is completely reliable, as she could never see herself lying to Angel Mick, 15 points.
Allen PhillipsMr. Phillips is an arranger. When someone needs a service, they come to Mr. Phillips and he makes a few phone calls. An hour later, the people who are to perform the service are standing by. Sometimes, for simpler tasks, the service is done in that hour. Mr. Phillips knows the right people and has the skills to get things done.
ContactsCarlos Ferarra -- In the world of mega-corps, there are three ways to solve a problem between two rival corps: buy-out, warfare and arbitration. Mr. Allen Phillips can arrange off-shore accounts and silent-partner investors, he can arrange for mercenaries and information on mercs hired by others (via Ace) and when neither of those options are deemed appropriate, he will hire Carlos Ferarra to mediate and arbitrate.
Carlos is as close to an ambassador as the modern world has. He will act in the name of one corp to influence another. Or, when this fails, he takes equal payment from both sides and tries to get their lawyers to agree on the same terms.
But, Carlos' life is lonely. He spends more time on aircraft just traveling than he does on land. He spends more time in hotels and resorts than he will ever spend in his luxurious home. Carlos craves a real social life and the company of beautiful women. Ash, in his guise of Mr. Phillips, provides this for him whenever possible. In return, Carlos makes himself very available to Mr. Phillips and tells him about his latest meeting, the most recent merger, who really owns whom. This information is so valuable that Ash went so far as to hire a group of mercenaries to provide constant security for Carlos. Carlos Ferarra is Ash Grey's cash cow.
Carlos has Diplomacy-21, he is available quite often (on a roll of 12 or less), and is usually reliable, 80 points.
Reggie WatersThere are times when you need to make purchases, even legitimate ones, that require you to have a reliable, secure buyer. Reggie Waters fills that niche for Ash Grey. Ash rarely uses Reggie, and then usually just as a name over the phone. Rarer still are the times when Ash shows up and claims to be Reggie Waters. But, when you want a job done right, you sometimes must do it yourself.
Reggie is the only name that could link Ash Grey to Artie Millsen. Before Ash was attacked, he used the name a few times over the phone to make purchases. After he attained the new "Ash" identity, he also bought the "Reggie Waters" identity. If anyone takes the time and can find the right people, they might be able to figure out Artie/Ash's secrets.
ContactsRusty DeGaut -- When Ash was laid up in that island hospital, he rolled the dice and called his best source, Rusty, and once again posed as Reggie Waters. Rusty liquefied Artie's assets and set up the funds for his surgery and the accounts that would allow Ash to live. He even arranged for the "Ash Grey" identity. Rusty is a street broker, a dealer and a fence. He could find the last strike-anywhere match in Alaska, and would sell it to you for a 60% mark-up. However, Ash doesn't trust him. Rusty is good at what he does, but he has no loyalty. Rusty will survive at all costs, and will burn every bridge to guarantee this. Ash would hate to lose the "Reggie" identity and doesn't want to sacrifice himself or expose himself no matter what. Since Rusty could turn-coat at anytime, Ash rarely goes to him.
Rusty has effective skill 21, he is very connected in the black market and the drug underworld, he knows "the flow of the blow." He is fairly available (roll of 9 or less) but is unreliable, 10 points.
Adventure SeedsAsh is a catalyst. Maybe you met him as Mick Adams at a party and he had just the right information, or maybe he gave you the number for Mr. Allen Phillips who could get you a job working for a mega-corp on an upcoming run. Or maybe you sat across from him and Carlos Ferarra in a board meeting where the two of them under-cut you and took you for everything you had. Or maybe you have something to sell, and Reggie Waters showed up to buy it, and he had just the right person to transport it, a guy named Ace. Maybe Mr. Phillips called you up to be security for that chart topping band, Mercury Gloss. Ash Grey has his fingers in as many people's pies as possible. Maybe even your party's pie is missing a plum.
Ash works best as written for GURPS Cyberpunk, but with minimal revision could work in a space setting, or even the world of the 1990s. With a simple stat and attribute rewrite, he could be usable in several other game systems.
Article publication date: July 30, 1999
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