I checked my watch: it said November. I'd slept in of course but we were running short on initiators and it was all I could do to wake up at all. Grey skies gazed down upon a grey cityscape leaving me to blend in as best I could. An old suit would do, though it would probably be best to hide what cartridges I had - one could never be too careful.
Dressed, I sat down in the kitchen and poured myself a glass of Des le Mond Orange Juice. I stared out at the half-completed warehouse conversion and idly read the corporate banners that had been draped over the crumbled scaffolding.
I pick my playing deck from a pocket and spread the cards over the table in front of me. My options had been limited for some time now. It's true that I better understood the subtleties of my deck but I needed to remain vigilant for the next opportunity to win back some new behaviours. All of this was draining my energy reserves - I needed to re-index my options to get some speed.
It was not as if I was totally without skills, of course, but the barter economy had begun to dry up. Even currency was generally frowned upon and information had no power if you hadn't the energy to act upon it. I pulled out an old book and leafed through the pages slowly: there was no point in taking any unnecessary risks.
Once I had spent endless evenings sat poring over the few cards left to me, examining the possibilities, considering feints and gambits, generating strategies and play styles. Nowadays I shuffled the cards but the result was always the same. It was time for a change of scenery.
Night had already fallen when I finally ventured out. I took a short cut through the Old Mills building. There were more luxury flat conversions at work on the top few floors for those that could afford them but the lower areas had been left abandoned. Even the rats hadn't moved in. I thought at one point I could make out the thudding pneumatics of an old Model 'J' Ahriman Lace Loom but I must have been mistaken. They don't make those any more, of course.
The Player sitting opposite me places an Event card onto the table. I return with a basic Behaviour Response card. He follows with a Behaviour of his own. I decide to play an Event card to strengthen my position. All fairly innocuous and in many ways a basic opening strategy for either player. My opponent declares that multi-card play should begin. Now we will see...
He places a Traumatic Past History onto the table, seemingly negating my efforts thus far, and follows it with a Negative Subliminal, turning even my supporting Event card against me. Suddenly it was all turning bad - it was a classic manoeuvre on his part, really, but one that I had been ready for. I play a Benefactor card and lay a Key Development Phase card across it: this allows me to invert the Traumatic Past History card and the entire table flips back in my favour. The sharp intake of breath from across the playing surface tells me what I might have suspected: a win was as good as in the bag.
From one darkened alley I stepped out into a flood of light and sound. Crowds of revellers pushed past me and across the pathway a queue had sprung up outside the door to the Epiphany Club. For one moment it seemed to me that all of these people were somehow shadows cast from another world, so distant and yet in other ways just a footstep away.
I sit and stare at the new card that is my prize. It was true that I'd been awaiting resources for some time now, and this would do. The picture is nothing special, but as my eyes glance over the Power Icons along the top of the card new strategies and playing styles leap unbidden into my mind, and an idle scan through the Special Instructions and Card Overloading Options only confirms what I begin to suspect.
A half-remembered dream tugged at my awareness as I sank easily into the driving seat, but I could not recall it. I checked my watch: it said Tuesday. I keyed in the ignition code then leant forward to the radio and tried all my favourite stations. I heard only static but it did not matter: a change of tracking had been long overdue anyway.