The Razor's Edge
by Stephen Gabriel, © 2002
> Hey chummers! The name is Razor. I doubt if any of you have heard of me, I retired from the shadows about five years ago. You are probably too young to have known me and anyone old enough to know me is most likely retired either of their own volition or that of a bullet. I'm here to talk to you because a lot of people want to know what it means to run the shadows and how to survive it. I'd like to say just keep it clean, but that means so much more than you would ever think. So, I'll start with a few basic topics to help you fit in the big picture.
I know you are all sitting there thinking that you know what the big picture is and that you know your place in it and I'm here to tell you most of you have it wrong. The big picture is this, the world, the corps, the crime syndicates and the governments are all massive ecosystems, huge living entities composed of smaller entities all the way down until you reach the little people themselves. The big ecosystems vie for control of the whole thing through market position, sales, voters and the like. Sometimes they vie too much and people like us get called in. Now here's the clincher, we AREN'T part of the system. We don't belong. We are a parasitic infection that is allowed to exist as long as we don't get noticed. Once we get noticed, we eventually get hosed, one way or another. We are not part of society. We are outside it. Their laws and rules protect them, not us. That also means that no one gives a drek if you or I get hosed, captured and tortured, brain-wiped or executed on the eleven o'clock news. So there you have it, the big picture, and we aren't in it, because if we were, they wouldn't be using us. Don't ever forget this fact or it will kill you.
We get involved in the big picture when things go wrong or when somebody in there wants things to go wrong. That person comes to us with an offer of employment, temporary at best, not always honorable, almost never legal and all too frequently lethally dangerous. This person, Mr. Johnson by any name, uses us because of our skills and our anonymity. They don't hire us because they like us or care about us. They hire us because we can do the job and can't be traced back to them easily. This relationship implies a degree of professional trust between the Johnson and us and it's important to understand what this trust implies or you could end up hung out to dry or dead. First and foremost, take the Johnson at his word in the meet. That means no detect truth, no mind probe, no anything of that sort. If the Johnson can afford to hire us, then he can afford to bring along some of his own muscle and if his people don't kill you, your fixer will. Now that doesn't mean you have to trust him afterwards, just take him at face value at the meet. If you just happen to learn something about your Johnson, use it for your own protection but NEVER try and leverage a Johnson with his own dirt unless you are absolutely positive that his own people will hang him for what you've got. Do it wrong and you will never walk away from him alive. Your Johnson expects a certain degree of truth and you should remember that when you deal with him. Lying to your Johnson is a quick way to permanent retirement, lying to your fixer is even faster. And if you do have any problems or questions about your Johnson, talk to your fixer. Most will help out because it's not just your life or rep on the line, it's theirs as well
Part of dealing with your Johnson is paying the proper respect. This person wants to pay you to do something, they are your client and you should treat them that way. And respect goes a lot farther then just that. Remember the big picture? Respect is one of those things that is going to get you through the drek alive when it all rolls down hill. Remember to pay respect where its due and it will eventually come back to you. You respect your fixer and the Johnson because one is your boss, the other your client. But don't forget the others out there, your contacts, bouncers, gang bangers, security guards and just about anyone else you meet out there. Show them a little respect and things go a lot smoother. Make sure your contacts know how special they are to you as well, a little nuyen goes a long way with these people and they can help out a lot. Bouncers and security guards and even Lone Star are a lot easier to deal with if you respect them because then they see you as legitimate people, not the low life below-the-law-scum that you are. Even gangers deserve a certain modicum of respect, especially if you are on their turf. On the other hand, you need to know when to drop the respect and resort to force, whether it's intimidation or fighting. My advice, try the respect road first, it's easier and you can always thump it out of them later on. Also remember that paying respect to someone can get you a big payoff later on--a friend. People remember those who paid them respect and in turn may try and help you later on if they can.
Lastly, I want to talk about your profile, the image that the people on the street and in the corps perceive of you. Optimally, someone in our line of work wouldn't have one, we'd never be seen or noticed. That only works in the trids, chummer. Every place you go, there are cameras and sensors and watchers and people. And they all see a little bit of you and the more they get, the bigger your profile becomes. And when it gets big enough, they'll come looking for you and it likely won't be a nice get together. If you look back, you'll quickly realize that your profile depends a lot on how you fit in overall, how you treat your Johnson and how you show your respect. The better you understand and handle these, the smaller your profile becomes because people that respect and trust you will value you and they are less likely to talk about you. Another part of your profile is equally important, the physical evidence part.
I have no idea how most of you can survive a week, let alone a year, with the way you go into places! Some of you don't even hide the basics, like identifiable tattoos, unusual hair colors or cuts, or unique clothing styles. And let's not get started on things like loose hair, fingerprints and distinctive odors! People remember what stands out and what makes you unique on the streets can also make you easily identifiable in the shadows. So take some time before you go in and clean yourself up, hide that hair and those defining body marks, put on some latex gloves and maybe give thought to wearing a ski mask or something else. What they can't see, smell, record or pick up, can't be used against you.
The last part of your profile is your reputation and it's not about finishing the job, it's about how you finished it. The two biggest baddest worst words on a run are "collateral damage." That means you damaged or acquired something you shouldn't have, used excessive force, or injured an innocent. This is the part of your profile that will get you less jobs or killed, or both, the fastest. It speaks of lack of professionalism, lack of trust and lack of intelligence. Collateral damage makes your run visible and makes people want to come after you. If you steal a secret formula from a lab, they will quickly try to recover from it. If you steal the formula and blow up their facility, they'll come looking for you. So, chummers, play it cool, do what the Johnson wants and don't take anything you aren't supposed to or hurt anyone you can avoid. That doesn't mean you can't return fire with deadly force, just don't go killing the cleaning lady who walks in on you.
Well, that about sums up what I wanted to talk about. To be brief, keep it clean. You'll live longer that way and you just might even live long enough to retire, like me.