Bills to Pay
Former SecOps manager and martial artist Adept
Xiaofeng is an Asian man, about 5’ 10” and 175 lbs. He appears to be in his late 20s or early 30s, and has a moderate build – strong lines and broad chest, but the suggestion is more of cultivated athleticism than muscle. His hair is growing out around his face, dark brown, with a section pulled back into a long queue, half of which has been dyed light blue, terminating in a heavy iron ring. He dresses conservatively in traditional Chinese clothes, the only concessions to modernity being the boots that he wears and the earbud and small microphone that link to his commlink. Perceptive viewers will note that some of the bulk of his chest is the silhouette of a conservative armored vest.
Wu Xiaofeng’s parents and their siblings immigrated to Seatle en masse from the PRC about fifty years ago, seeking jobs in a number of new branch enclaves of larger, prestigious corps that had spread their influence globally. Their hope was that, outside of the congestion of the PRC’s monstrous cities, but inside the corporate world, they could be both competitive and exposed to the best possible opportunities. Xiaofeng grew up in a ‘commuter’s neighborhood’ – adjacent to an established enclave, a place to start trying to make inroads to be accepted into the corporate world as a lower-ranking employee. His parents operated a modest off-site oxygen bar, which provided a quiet and non-corp space for corporate employees to relax and meet outside of the watchful eyes of management. It worked passing well as a sort of ‘safe harbor’ for many of the wage slaves – particularly important for those corps that regulated inter-employee socialization. In many ways, it worked too well – even the customers that might have been able to make inroads for the Wu family were hesitant to sacrifice their ‘haven’ to give them a chance.
Xiaofeng’s personal chance arrived when a bit of corporate espionage went south. Fleeing the enclave’s private security force, the spy barged into the oxygen bar, pointed his gun in Xiaofeng’s face, and demanded to be led to a back exit. When the security force caught up, their target’s arm was broken in two places and his gun had been conscientiously emptied of bullets and placed on a counter. The descendants of Chinese Boxers, the Wu family had always insisted on martial arts training as part of the cultivation of the image of health and natural lifestyle choices for their children. Methods that had merely cultivated discipline and fitness in his cousins, however, had united with Xiaofeng’s Awakened nature, producing a truly remarkable talent.
The security firm, Red Sash Pavillion, soon made a formal offer of employment to the eighteen year old Xiaofeng, beginning to groom him as an asset for their company. He finished his mandatory training and security checks within the next year and became a junior member of the company, working his way up from wanding people at doorways to actual placement on security patrols. Xiaofeng’s ascent was only hastened by his removal from his family and his increased financial security – he quickly found that the less exposure he had to the cheaper, chemically or hormonally modified food and atmosphere that he had lived on and in during his childhood, the more developed his mystic ‘muscles’ became. Finally, Xiaofeng’s rise reached its peak after 10 years with the company. He had risen from absolute nobody to a position as a shift manager, the highest he could hope for before the retirement or ‘retirement’ of a more senior employee. Xiaofeng had the lifestyle that his parents had hoped for, filling a modest position in the corporation’s attached company and living in a modest apartment inside the enclave, while diligently sending a significant portion of his less-modest paycheck out of the enclave to support his family. If everything had gone his mother’s way, he would have soon had a modest marriage and a modest family of his own.
Things did not. Xiaofeng’s cousin, Wu Dawei, had taken the family line about traditional and natural values to heart. A member of a Green cell, he managed to make his way inside the enclave to visit Xiaofeng, then steal confidential security files from his cousin’s home. The Green attack that followed left fifteen citizens of the enclave and half of Dawei’s cell dead, and the security inquiry that followed traced the source of the leak easily to Xiaofeng. Blacklisted and humiliated, he went unconvicted but immediately fired, most of his corporate-granted assets seized, and his prospects detonated by the black mark of the event on his record – no one was certain that he was a Green sympathizer, but why take the risk for one (admittedly-competent) security grunt?
Xiaofeng hopped neighborhoods and, for the next three years, attempted to establish himself as a small-scale security company. He peaked with a mere three employees, Bulletproof Security and Escort services always only-just making ends meet. A number of odd jobs during this period developed Xiaofeng’s skill set to its present levels – but no matter how skilled, he was still only one security grunt. When Xiaofeng finally, furious at his inability to make headway, accepted his first borderline job, it was like a new life for him. Thrashing his way through a small detachment of ill-trained corporate secops was child’s play, and the pay he got for the embarassment the incident caused was enough to pay to balance his company budget and pay for room and board for the next month and a half! Xiaofeng continued to accept higher-and-higher profile jobs whenever available, and built up a moderate reputation among those in the security business that needed a strong hand that was not attached to their wrists.
It was at this point that he had his inspiration – to perform larger jobs, he would have to diversify the skills available to him. Incapable of handling the endeavor alone, he set out to use his security contacts and the good faith he’d been building up to put together a modest team of skilled individuals. Xiaofeng’s endgame – the cash flow and reputation necessary to make it back into the world he’d been cast out of – was finally coming into sight on the horizon.