Hi. My name is Mister Johnson. Nice to meet you. I’ve said this to at least a hundred Crosser teams in my career so far. Some of those Crossers got a fair shake from me. Fair wages for fair work. Some of those Crosser teams never saw a dime of the money I promised them because I sent them to their deaths.
Who is Mr. Johnson?
The person who will tell you what it is you’re being hired to do and how much you’re going to be paid to do it. We call this person Mr. Johnson, because that’s what he calls himself. Sure, in the Tengoku seytor he sometimes calls himself Mr. Tanaka, and in the Derabog sector he might go by the name Mr. Ivanov, but you don’t need to remember all that. All you need to know is that you’re not supposed to know his real name, he’ll be the one telling you the details of your mission, and there’s a good chance that, one way or another, he’s going to screw you over. The number of ways Mr. Johnson can screw you could fill a book bigger than the bible. The simplest, and most common, is not telling you everything you need to know. Mr. Johnson is in the secrecy business, after all, so there’s always going to be something he wants to hide. He also might be screwing you over in a more deliberate fashion—sending you into a trap, having you chase after something that doesn’t really exist, that sort of thing. Mr. Johnson is inventive. What is it the diplomats say? “Trust, but verify”? And when a journalist’s mother says she loves him, he gets it confirmed by three sources before he believes. Crossers consider both groups to be suicidally naïve; they’ve dealt with Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson is anyone who hires you to do a job. If I hired you right now to go buy me a soykaf across the street, I’d be your Mr. Johnson. That’s it. That’s the definition of Mr. Johnson. Not too complex at the surface, right? But in this little concept lie all the hopes and aspirations and fears of Crossers. Fact is, in the vast majority of cases you are doing something illegal for Mr. Johnson. Sometimes it’s a little illegal, or at least a little grey area. Sometimes you’re doing something horribly illegal. And it is due to this little fact that a Johnson is so much more than just the person hiring you. By hiring you to do something illegal, Mr. Johnson is just as guilty of the crime. He becomes a criminal. He exposes himself to repercussions. To protect himself from the law, he must slink through the moist cracks between the rocks and come live with the creepy crawling things of the night, just like you. And because Johnsons are humans, they react to this situation. The social covenants we call laws no longer apply. Mr. Johnson breaks the law, so he can no longer be protected by it. The Johnson is thus now entirely responsible for his own safety. This is where all your troubles come from. Because no matter what, it’s personal. I know I have said it — ”Nothing personal, chummer.” But that isn’t really true. To some degree or another, it’s almost always personal. Mr. Johnson risks his freedom and, more immediately, his life every time he dips in and deals with Crossers. That means he’s going to seek to protect himself, and this is going to dictate his reactions to the engagement. Johnsons are to a degree stereotypical. It’s true. You can say it, doesn’t make you prejudiced. Depending on the Johnson’s background, you can expect certain things from him. We’re going to get back to that later.
Lifecycle of an Engagement
There are, broadly speaking, three parts to your typical engagement.
The first is the meet with Mr. Johnson. There are a number of things to keep in mind here. This is essentially a job interview. Remember that job interviews go both ways. On one hand, you want to reassure Mr. Johnson that you’re the right team for the job. The key here is confidence. Not bravado—confidence. Act like you know what you’re doing. Demonstrate your expertise by asking expert questions. One thing that you should know is that “acting professional” doesn’t mean being Mr. Johnson’s whipping boy. Show some backbone. Don’t get pushed around. Dress according to where the meet occurs—not for whom it occurs. What I mean by this is that if you’re meeting Mr. J in a fancy restaurant, it’ll behoove you to dress well. Not for the Johnson, but because you don’t want to attract the attention of the people around you. If on the other hand you’re meeting Mr. J in an alley, don’t dress in a suit to please Mr. J. Dress like you normally would and use the language you normally would. Mr. J is paying for your expertise, not for him to have a pleasant conversation. Further, consider what gear you’ll be bringing. In this day and age, the odds you are walking into a police sting operation are next to none. So under normal circumstances, you don’t need to worry about getting caught packing all kinds of illegal goods. What you do need to worry about are ambushes. One of your enemies (and you know you have them) may have set up a false Johnson with a false job to get you where they want and take you down. Or a third party might hear about your meet and choose that moment to ambush you. These are going to be rare occurrences, but you may as well prepare for them, especially when meeting with a new Johnson for the first time. So pack as much heat as possible. I’m going to warn you though, there is a point where you reach disrespect toward Mr. Johnson. You show up packing assault rifles with safeties off and have your Korrug sammy packing two assault cannons, and you are going to look like (dangerous) fools and turn your (soon to be former) employer off. Broadly speaking, the rules are to wear nothing bigger than an armored jacket and the weapons that can be concealed beneath it. You don’t need to actually conceal them from Mr J—you just need to show you made an effort to holster your weapons. Pistols in holsters, SMGs in slings, and (if you must insist on bringing them) rifles slung as well. Special etiquette lesson for the biotic types: Never use Biotics during a meeting. Most Johnsons are well versed in what biotic can do—the real stuff, not stuff from the trid. They are especially wary of any mood or mind-controlling powers. If Mr. Johnson notices Biotics, it almost guarantees you won’t get hired. Even if you actually pull of a mind-control power and the Johnson doesn’t notice, when he does come to his senses, you can pretty much guarantee you will have earned a serious black mark. So, let’s all repeat together: No Biotics during meetings. Etiquette aside, the rest of the meeting is for you to get what you need. There are three things you want to find out now. One, as many details about the job as possible. Two, does Mr. Johnson intend to pay you and how much. Three, does Mr. Johnson intend to kill you. The first one is probably obvious. Now is the time to ask all your questions about the mission. Don't ask any questions about Mr. Johnson or his employer or why they need this done. You’re going to have to figure this out by yourself. If you ask him, he’s just going to lie about it. Or, if he’s clever, he’s going to feed you lies within truths, and then you’re going to be fucked because you won’t know what to believe. Don’t ask anything that can be lied about. Focus on the details of the job. How many guards, where reinforcements come from, how long until they arrive, what security measures are in place, etc. It’s very possible the Johnson doesn’t know all this. In fact, it’s more likely than not. But milk him for what he does know. Sometimes, Johnsons don’t realize they know things that matter, so get everything you can. These little details now taken care of, we turn to the more unpleasant aspects of working as a Crosser: your Johnson may either not intend to pay you, or not intend to pay you and kill you at the end of the job. As a professional, you need to know how to look out for that. There are two primary reasons why Mr. Johnson may not intend to pay you: He is flat broke but still needs something done, or he thinks you are a pushover and he can get away with it. Following my advice earlier about showing some backbone should help a little against the second problem. In any case, the first warning sign is that the money is too good, or the Johnson isn’t negotiating very hard. You ask for something and he says “okay” right away. Think about it—it’s no skin off his back if he doesn’t intend to give you anything, is it? The other warning signs for this sort of play can be that Mr. Johnson shows up with an overwhelming force of bodyguards, he acts aggressively during the meeting, or finally and most commonly, you are a team without an established reputation. There is a common thread to all of these things—the rapport de force. That’s French for “who has the biggest dick.” In the normal world, contracts legally bind parties (and even then all kinds of dirty tricks can happen). In the shadows, you are outside the law. The only fairness that exists is the one you create for yourself. If you can’t back up your desire to get paid with adequate unpleasant consequences for Mr. Johnson, then he has no incentive to pay you. Think on what I just said real hard. I routinely fuck Crossers out of their money, and I’m proud to say so. Why? Because I can. If you don’t have a reputation, burning you won’t cause me any real issue. If you don’t pack enough firepower to really scare me, then fuck you, you little worm. Don’t let this happen to you. Show Mr. Johnson you mean business. And for God’s sake, never hand over the goods until you have been paid. Final thing to look for in your initial meet: Will Mr. Johnson try to kill you at the end? Ah, this is an unpleasant one. You need to be real careful here. Mr. Johnson might try to liquidate you if having any sort of witness is an issue. This typically happens with politicians or extremists. Unlike the payment thing, if your Johnson is good, there aren’t always a ton of warning signs for this. Your biggest defense is checking on Mr. Johnson’s background— past jobs, that sort of thing. Johnsons who kill their teams are typically recidivists and they earn black marks from savvy teams fast enough. You can believe me or not, but I have never liquidated a team after the job. That kind of stuff earns you serious bad rep in the community. Veteran teams can get over a Johnson not paying some green numbnuts, but killing any team, even green newbs, is taboo. So, check your Johnson’s rep in the shadows.
So, you’ve met the Johnson, got as much info as you can, and are reasonably sure he does not intend to screw you over as a matter of course. Now comes that whole middle part we Johnsons typically care so little about. We want you to go away and only surface when the job is done. The name of the game now is simply “don’t call me.” But it’s a little more complicated than that, so it’s worth talking about it a tad more. If everything is going well, there is no reason to talk to Mr. Johnson, so don’t. Every time you communicate with your Johnson, you risk exposure. As the mission progresses, you have to be more and more discreet. You’ve been doing legwork, asking around about this or that, doing some Matrix, Biotics, or physical recon. Even if you’re really good, there is a chance your target might start thinking something’s up. They might not know the exact target site or the exact goal, but they may start having an inkling they are being targeted. Once that happens, they are going to start trying to figure out more. As Crossers, you guys don’t exist and are very hard to investigate. But Johnsons are typically known. Other shadow players know about each other. They know who works for who, and it’s a lot easier to set up surveillance against a Johnson than it is against Crossers. All that to say, if you contact your Johnson, you might contaminate yourself. Like a virus jumping hosts, you’re going to end up with a surveillance team gunning for you. Oh, and, by the way, there is an unwritten rule in the shadows that Johnsons don’t attack other Johnsons. Crossers, however, are totally fair game. The preface to this whole “don’t call me” bit was “if everything is going well.” Have you done a lot of runs that went exactly according to plan? Yeah, didn’t think so. Problems happen. Being able to manage those problems without resorting to calling your Johnson is a mark of your maturity and professionalism. That being said, if you hit such a large snafu that your mission is fundamentally compromised, it’s time to call Mr. Johnson. Trust me, we would rather know that something is completely off than have you keep quiet and bungle dealing with it. I once had a team call me because the VIP I sent them to extract got extracted an hour earlier by another team. I asked them if they knew where the other team was. They said yes, they have been monitoring them. I asked them why the hell they had called me then, just get in there and nab him back from the other team. So, bad reason to call me—it was within their power to get me my VIP. I don’t care if the mission parameters changed from silent-sneaky hotel infiltration to boom-boom-bang kill-all-the-other-runners. Can you get me my VIP? Yes? Then do it.
As tense as the initial meeting might have been, nothing compares to the handoff. This is when you return to Mr. Johnson with success in whatever endeavor he had you doing and collect the rest of your payment (you got paid a portion upfront, right?). Everything you have been doing leads up to this moment. This is the moment of truth, as they say. If you want to survive—nay, prosper—then pay attention here. The first thing you need to do is make sure that you have leverage. Beware of runs where you do something and … that’s it. You have nothing to give to Mr. Johnson. You simply want payment. These are bad. If you have leverage, Mr. Johnson needs to be careful to get what you have before doing anything stupid. Extractions, thefts, that sort of stuff—these are the best. Sabotage, assassination… these are risky. You already did everything you needed to do as part of the mission. You have no more leverage. The only incentives Mr. Johnson now has to pay you is keeping a good reputation and avoiding you being pissed off and coming for him. These two points are not that big of a deal for most Johnsons. So, ideally, always make sure you have leverage. If you’re going to kill someone, make sure you are paid almost entirely before you pull the trigger. If you got, say, eighty percent of your payment, it’s almost childish for the Johnson to hold back the remaining twenty percent. But flip those numbers around, and suddenly Mr. Johnson might figure he’d rather keep the money. I’m going to tell you a little secret—every time we Johnsons fuck you over money, we get to personally keep that money, since we always report that we paid it to you. That nice, untraceable money ends up in our bank accounts. Papa needs a new Westwind, baby! So, keep in mind the incentive to not pay you is pretty strong. Next, always control the environment. You have leverage right? So you tell Mr. Johnson where to meet. If he wants his prototype, make him come and get it. During the initial meet, I advised you to display some etiquette and show some restraint with your weapons and armor. Not so now. At this point, treat Mr. Johnson like a potential hostile. Set up an ambush. Get your sniper in position overlooking the meet. Let your combat monster bring his Centurion combat axe. Have your hacker scan the Johnson’s team to detect weapons. Go nuts. Be prepared. And what’s more, go ahead and let Mr. Johnson see you are in charge here. You might not want to reveal your sniper’s position, but visible weapons and letting him know you have a bead on his guys is a-ok. You are basically trying to intimidate him. If you succeed, he will pay you what he owes you. Up to this point, he may have thought he’d get away with not paying you. He may have even thought he’d simply liquidate you. Now is the time to show him those things would be really bad ideas. However, two rules. First, don’t get carried away. Never ask for more than was agreed. This is a sure way to not get hired again. Holding a gun to your Johnson’s head and saying you deserve more is robbery, not professionalism. Second, while at this point unleashing a little bit of detection @[Biotics](spell:639fa502-2ece-4313-b72b-c177ca1ddd6a , maybe even some illusions is okay, using any sort of mind probe or control powers is out of the question right until the point bullets start flying. Until that time, no matter how hairy it gets, never manipulate your Johnson. This will earn you a black mark and, quite probably, a bounty on your head. Overall, the handoff is always going to be a tense affair. Even if the initial meet went off splendidly, all bets are always off at the handoff. Will both parties deliver on what each promised? Was either party tailed to the meet? Is anyone going to crack under the stress and fire off a shot? You have to understand Mr. Johnson’s perspective in all of this. He might not be a saint, but the Johnson is just doing business. Crossers are seen as killers and drugged-up psychopaths who love nothing more than sticking it to the man by murdering a Johnson. SINless savages, really. Unpredictable. As a Crosser, you need to learn to use your unpredictability to your advantage. Mr. Johnson should never be comfortable around you—but neither should it seem obvious to him you plan on killing him, because you can bet your hoop he’s going to act first.
I thought we were Friends
Despite my advice, or perhaps because you didn’t follow it, you find yourself betrayed by Mr. Johnson. Oh, woe is you, life is so unfair, the world is so bad and unfair. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic. There are ways to come out of this, and even ways to come out ahead. First, let’s look at the ways it can all go sideways. We already talked about Mr. Johnson deciding he doesn’t want to pay you, or thinking everything might be much simpler if you’re dead. The third option is that you were hired for a suicide run. Perhaps as a distraction while a second team did the real work, perhaps you were meant to get in, do the job, but getting out was not part of the plan. Maybe you’re not supposed to die—just get caught with your hand in the bag and set up as the fall guy. If you are either lucky or really good, you might see the betrayal coming. If that happens, well, simply walking away from the job might be an option. But you Crossers tend to be headstrong, so walking away probably isn’t your style. No, you probably want to have your cake and eat it too. That’s fine. What you need to do now is concentrate on Mr. Johnson. You need to tail him. You need to find out why he’s going to betray you. If it’s just for personal greed—he wants to keep the money for himself and thinks he can get away with it — then you need to get leverage on him. You need to figure out what he fears. It might be physical threat. Many Johnsons have solid bodyguard teams and feel pretty invincible. Show him you can reach him wherever you want, whenever you want. If bodily harm doesn’t scare him, damage to his reputation might. In this case, we’re talking blackmail material. Almost every single Mr. Johnson is hiding something from his employer. They almost all embezzle in one way or another on the side, or are scheming some move to put them ahead of their bosses or allies. Get some dirt and let him know you have it. I don’t recommend messing with loved ones, though; that’s crossing the line. Most likely, though, you just won’t see it coming until the guns are drawn, things look pretty bad, and you’re wondering how things go so fucked. Stay cool. First of all, between capture and death, always pick capture. Live to fight another day. Sure, things might be unpleasant for you for a while, but you’ll get over it. In case you don’t know, few Crossers ever do jail time. Typically you will instead be forced into service for your captor. That’s not so bad. Heck, you might make new friends. But it’s just so ingrained in your “stick it to the man” Crosser mentality never to back down that most Crosser teams get themselves gunned down rather than getting captured. This is almost certainly what your betrayer is counting on. As soon as you’re in a setup, do everything in your power to be unpredictable. Of course, all that being said, if you’ve got the firepower to blow out of the ambush, then by all means, do so. I’m not advocating laying down arms at the first sign of trouble. Just know your limits. If you get jumped at the meet by Mr. Johnson’s own men, then stage a fighting retreat as quickly as possible. As a rule, Johnsons are cunning. If he is attacking you, you can bet he made sure he’d win. So get the fuck out. You are in an environment he controls. This will not end well. Retreat. Accept you won’t see your money for a while, maybe not ever. Don’t die on top of it. After you survive the initial betrayal, it’s time to think about making things right. You should put your emotions (especially your street samurai’s emotions) aside for a moment. Your first priority is getting paid. This may still be possible. For a lot of Johnsons, this is nothing personal. It’s a sort of game, really. So if you want money, you need to get leverage. I said you needed leverage at the handoff meeting; maybe you didn’t have that last time. Now, make sure you do. Get something of value from Mr. Johnson and sell it back to him. Note that this can be his life. Be careful how you do this. This is like a game of chess for Johnsons. Often you just need to let them know you have them in checkmate. Don’t go further than you need to, even if it would make you feel really, really good. Avoid physical violence if possible. Oh, at this point, Biotics of any sort is totally allowed. If you can get in sight of Mr. Johnson and cast an Influence spell to suggest it’d just be such a good idea if he transferred you the funds he owed you, then go ahead my friends. You can finally let the mojo sling to your little black heart’s content. If you can’t get the Johnson to pay you what he owes you, then consider salvaging what you can. Once you’ve been betrayed, your reputation really won’t take a hit here no matter what you do. So if you can sell out Mr. Johnson to his enemies for a little cred, go ahead. If you can sell secrets you learned during the course of the job to an info broker, go ahead. Sell whatever you have on the Johnson and this job. The loyalty and silence the shadow community expects from you is no longer in effect. Do what you gotta do. If all else fails, you can try to salvage some emotional capital and flat-out go for revenge. If you’re going to do this, get your objective straight. You either want money or you want blood—you can’t have both. So if you decide that you’re gonna gut Mr. Johnson, then don’t listen to the deal he will inevitably lay in front of you. If you manage to slice through the Johnson’s security and you’re holding a gun to his head, you can expect him to start talking NuCred. And, in most cases, it’s a real offer. Johnsons have access to funds pretty much at all times, so when he says he’ll give you ten thousand NuCred if you walk away now and let him live, this is probably a serious offer. If you do decide to take it, all members of your team need to be on the same page. First of all, Mr. Johnson isn’t going to give you any money until he feels he is out of danger. This almost certainly means you will be exposing yourself to additional security measures, so for this to work, your team needs to be in position to cover all angles. The Johnson has to feel safe enough that, once he gives you the money, you won’t just kill him anyway, but not so safe that he thinks he no longer needs to pay you anything to escape. It’s a difficult balancing act. Second, you and your team must control your emotions, because if you accept the last-minute payout, it is no longer kosher to kill him on top of the money. If you do, the shadows will judge you. This is because it is true that, if you aren’t paid, it’s fair game for you to retaliate in whatever way you want. But if you accept money, then that needs to be the end of it. You kill a Johnson that paid you—even if it was under duress—then it’s all over for you. The rules of our community can seem odd and arbitrary sometimes, but you need to know how you will be judged, and there is no sense arguing with them. This is simply a fact of life. It’s not fair, but that’s how it is. That being said, it’s okay if you pistol-whip the slag once or twice.
I’ve alluded to the fact Johnsons come from a few broad backgrounds that determine, to some degree, how they will act and react. Before I get into the details of each, a word of warning. Every Mr. Johnson, no matter his background, is an individual. To expect every Johnson to conform exactly to the stereotype of his background is foolish and potentially deadly. It’s good to come in armed with some understanding of what is important to these types of Johnsons. It is stupidity not to observe your Johnsons, do your research, and adapt to what is in front of you. You’ve been warned.
Let us begin with the people who invented Crossruns: corporate Johnsons. More specifically, mega-corporate Johnsons, meaning people who work for at least AA-Rank Corporations. Going back to our definition of Mr. Johnson, we said this was anyone that gave you work. In most of the other groups, Mr. Johnson is an incidental role. The person has some other occupation—he merely becomes your Johnson due to the fact he has a need that came up in his sphere of responsibility, and you’re the solution. In megacorporations, Johnsons are typically professionals exclusively devoted to hiring and dealing with Crossruns and Crossers. They do nothing else. They are honed professionals who live for what they do. Most have no lives outside of work, typically working eleven or twelve hours a day, every day. You can’t get a degree in Johnsonning, however, so most of these people started out their careers as lawyers, project managers, consultants, or (of course) as military or security officers. At some point somewhere, they are identified as prime Johnson material and trained into that role. Universally, only top performers get drafted as Johnsons. If you thought becoming Mr. Johnson was a thing that happened to shamed employees, think again. Johnsons are vital to the megas, and the work they do is very demanding. Meeting with Crossers is only one part of their jobs. Corporate Johnsons have a lot of responsibility in terms of planning ops, forecasting scenarios, and absorbing a non-stop flow of information regarding rivals, on top of networking with their peers and all manner of shadowy figures. These guys often take a lot of designer drugs to stay on top of their game. Combine that with the alpha personalities and complete lack of moral compass, and these are some of the most dangerous individuals in the world. Each megacorporation has its own unique culture, so each Johnson is going to be influenced by that to a big degree. However, they all have in common their razor-edge alpha personalities and exacting standard. It is very unwise to fail a mission when you’re playing at this level. Megas pay better than most other employers because they expect more from their resources. You’re going to need to be resourceful and persistent in your efforts. If things go badly, you need to keep at it. If someone on your team dies or gets seriously injured in the course of the mission, you have to be ready to keep going. The megas have no shortage of work, so if you do well, you will get called back again and again. For some Crossers, this is actually a dangerous thing. You people value your freedom so much, you do really stupid things sometimes. But if I’m laying down the cards as they are, it is definitely a concern for many teams to become too attached to corporate Johnsons. This can make them seem like company men. Sometimes it’s more than perception, of course. Corporations love sure things. They love to bind sure things into contracts. If you do well in the corporate sphere, it is indeed quite possible you’ll get an offer to become company men. You’ll be paid a nice retainer (for those not use to corporate payment scheme, let me translate: You’ll be paid good money to sit on your ass), have steady work, and most likely have access to preferred gear. Unfortunately, a lot of your kind consider this to be selling out to the man. Which is crap that shouldn’t matter to anyone, but we all have our priorities, I guess. It can make things harder for you in the shadows, as some of your contacts can become suspicious of just how far you will go to please your corporate bosses. Would you sell them out? That’s really all it boils down to. Corporate Johnsons love spending the corporation’s money, so these are the guys you’re going to meet in fancy restaurants and the VIP booth of the more exclusive clubs. This serves several purposes. First, it puts you in your place. It’s a display of his power. If he’ll blow this kind of NuCred just to meet you, imagine what he’ll do if you cross him. Second, Johnsons love their creature comforts, so it is a perk of the job for them to enjoy these lavish outings. Lastly, Johnsons piggy-back on the establishment’s security. The AAA-security rating of those downtown places, or the club’s detail-oriented security staff, enhance Mr. Johnson’s own protection team, all while he enjoys a blowjob from the joygirl under the table. With corporate Johnsons, you always have to worry about the politics going on behind the scenes. Johnsons do all the hiring and they manage you, sure. But the idea of the run doesn’t come from them. They are merely employees doing their job. They pay you, but it’s not their money. This means the real stakeholder of the mission isn’t just Mr. Johnson. If at all possible, you’ll want to find out who is behind all this, or at least get a sense of who it might be, because you’ll need to read the situation. This goes back to my earlier points about preventing a double-cross of some sort. You could consider this a sort of advanced technique for Crossers, because finding out this kind of stuff isn’t easy. Johnsons will always do everything they can to obfuscate who they really work for, often even hiding what corporation they work for. Tracing the links back to the source is not easy; it can also greatly annoy Mr. Johnson, so be discreet. A certain amount of fact-checking is expected, but invading your Johnson’s commlink (and getting caught) might very well get you fired.
Big Twelve Johnsons
Every corporation in the world strives to have its own unique culture. Corporate culture is both planned as well as naturally occurring among employees. For the largest corporations in the world—the Big 12, the AAA-Rank Corporations — corporate culture is so pervasive that it affects everyone and everything, even operators with both feet firmly in the shadows. Corporate Johnsons all reflect the culture of the corporation they belong to — to a degree. Again, never for a second think Johnsons are going to be cookie-cutter examples of their corporation’s culture. The influence is going to be there, but each Mr. Johnson may take it in their own direction.
Ah, criminal syndicates. The people that lacked sufficient business acumen to become megacorps. They are certainly big players in the shadows. So, here I’m talking Mafia, Triads, Yarkuza, as well as smaller regionally important outfits, and then possibly some of the larger international gangs and that ilk.
Even more so than corporations, syndicates strongly encourage a certain kind of mentality within their organizations. Traditions, cultures … prejudice. This makes syndicate Johnsons a tad more stereotypical than corporate Johnsons, so use that to your advantage. Almost all criminal syndicates are racist and prejudiced in some way. These are organizations that strongly require a certain sense of fascism among their members and cultural insularity. Kind of stupid, but make sure you’re up to speed on these things. Having a female biotic try to negotiate the run with a Mafia traditionalist is a very poor idea. Make sure you know what their biases are and use them to your advantage. Or, at the minimum, make sure you don’t have a disadvantage. Syndicate Johnsons are very often much closer to the source of the run than corporate Johnsons. You’ll rarely deal with the big boss himself, because you pretty much become big boss by making sure other people dirty their hands for you, but very often you’ll be dealing with the number two guy. The title varies—Consigliere, Wakagashira, Lodge Master, etc.—but it’s always the same thing. The number two guy runs the day-to-day operations. The lowest it will typically go is the layer of bosses below that, like a Capo or something of the like. These guys typically can’t—and don’t want to—hide their identities very well when hiring you, so figuring out the picture behind the job tends to be easier, so long as you are knowledgeable in underworld politics or have contacts that are. This should help you read the job and figure out what’s really going on. Most syndicate jobs that require Crossers tend to have a tricky political element to them. More plainly, someone needs to hide something dirty from someone else. Guys making moves for themselves are common, or syndicates that wish to strike out at each other but aren’t ready for war. If you’re lucky, you’ll get hired for something as simple as the fact they need your skillset. Syndicates have tons of goons, but precise black-ops teams with physical, Matrix, and Biotics assets are a bit rarer. Very frequently, though, you’re helping someone climb the ladder up over the corpse of his boss. Be very wary about these types of jobs. If it works out, you’ll have a new friend in a position of power. If it doesn’t, though, you probably have a date with some cement boots in the near future. Oh, and by the way — syndicates are really good at finding Crossers. They live in the same muck you do and know the same type of people. On that subject, I think syndicates are the second most likely group to decide that the best course of action is to liquidate you after a run, whether you succeed or fail (we’ll talk about the holders of the number one spot on that list in just a minute). Syndicates do extremely illegal things but have survived as organizations because they do everything imaginable to obfuscate their traces so the law can’t touch them in any truly damaging way. One of the best ways to cut an evidence trail between the crime and the boss who ordered it is to simply kill everyone who knows anything about it. They constantly do this with their own people—I hope you don’t think they will feel in any way shy about doing it to you. Do your background checks and figure out what’s going on. Above all, always keep leverage on syndicate Johnsons. Make sure they can’t torture crucial information—or your strong sense of will—out of you. Syndicates are bullies. The only way to rise to the top is to be more ruthless, more aggressive, and scarier than everyone around you. Syndicate Johnsons understand violence. It permeates their culture. You must show respect to them, like gorillas deferring to the alpha male. If you don’t show respect, then maybe you don’t fear them. And if you don’t fear them, you’re a trigger pull away from taking their place. This is how they think. So it is very important you don’t give them a reason to suspect you think you are better than them, because out of pure self-preservation, they will need to put you down. Similarly, violence is part of how they communicate. Syndicate Johnsons love showing you examples of what happens to people who fail them. If you find yourself in a Lodge Master’s abode and there is a guy being skinned alive next to you, don’t be surprised. They are just setting expectations. Again, you can use this to your advantage. Bullies universally go away and whimper in a corner when they meet a bigger badass than they are. They are used to picking on the weak and disabled; they aren’t used to being hit back. Don’t let your syndicate Johnson dominate you. You are not one of his goons, and you need to show him that. You need to growl back twice as hard and hit back twice as hard. But you also need to make it clear you aren’t interested in taking what belongs to the Johnson. This is unusual to them, so you will have to establish that messing with you isn’t worth the effort, but that he doesn’t need to preemptively kill you. On the more agreeable side of things, organized crime Johnsons love to reel you in with a little bit of sugar. Many syndicate Johnsons, especially following the conclusion of business on the first meet, will invite you to indulge in some vices. Girls or boys, drugs, liquor, and everything in between. A little taste of the good life to get your buy-in, or, even better, get you hooked and dependent. I know you Crossers love your sex, drugs, and rock and roll, but try to indulge in moderation. Nothing is ever free, chummers. Whatever you do, though, never think you have friends in a syndicate. It’s always the guy you least expect that is going to come for you.
Extremists … now we’re getting to the fun part. Extremists are terrorist groups—very much including eco-terrorist— as well as insurgents, freedom fighters, rebels, but also secret societies, political organizations, biotic groups. All of those kinds of people. Anyone who believes in something. Anyone who values, above all else, something other than NuCred. God, these people make me sick. Extremist organization Mr. Johnsons are almost always the bosses who call the shots. This is because most of these group work in cell structures where the less members know, the better. So, really, nobody but the top guy of a local “cell” or whatever they call themselves (sometimes it’s “chapter” or “parish”) knows anything at all about the big picture going on, so really nobody would know you need to be hired. That means that in order to talk to anyone who can do anything, you have to talk to the boss. Extremists do fund quite a lot of shadow work. The reason is often very straightforward: they need your skillset. Extremists often have a lot of members very much willing to break the law and/or hurt unbelievers, but what good qualities these people bring to the table in terms of enthusiasm, they cancel out by lacking in skill. If we’re talking about armed groups—terrorist and the like—then the jobs are often pretty straightforward with little political aspect to it. These guys need you as mercenaries to supplement their forces and reach where they can’t, plain and simple. However, it is the very opposite with nominally unarmed groups such as secret societies and policlubs. Because they often want to present themselves as peace-loving, perfectly rational and law-abiding people, they need to secretly hire you to do the real dirty work that is the entire point of their existence. The classic example is Humanis, an organization that goes to great length to present itself as “not anti-non-human but pro-human,” hiring you to go and burn down an orphanage for Vosk children. While these two halves have different reasons for hiring you, they unfortunately have a similar tendency to think it’s a great idea to kill you when you’re done. These guys are amazing at rationalizing murder away and for the most part have little concept of long-term consequences and reputation in the shadows. As soon as they don’t need you, there is a strong tendency for them to eradicate you. Most likely, you are an unbeliever to their cause anyway, so you’re just another unclean they need to burn in their crusade sooner or later anyway, right? Now is as good a time as any to kill you. So, above all other Johnson types, be real careful about what work you accept from these crazies. The covenant that binds us all together—reputation—doesn’t matter to these people. They will promise you mountains of gold when all they have is ten NuCred in their pocket. They will lie to you about everything—anything to get you to do the job. And then when you’re done, simple math comes up. Do they need you again? If yes, then you’re okay. If not, then it’s really a question of how many casualties they will take taking you out. Note that I’m not saying “if” they will take casualties, but “how many.” Throwing away the lives of trusting believers is what these guys do best. Losing a dozen to kill four or five runners isn’t a big deal—assuming their supply of loyal underlings is holding up adequately. Given that they care nothing about honoring agreements and care only if they have a future need for you, how do you make sure you get paid? Obviously, make yourself indispensable. Show your potential for The Cause. You can easily do this by going beyond the parameters of the mission. Hired to burn down an orphanage for Vosk? Then burn it down and then burn down the nearby school mostly attended by Vosk. And, of course, make sure there are plenty of Vosk in those buildings when you burn them down. Then get video footage of Vosk begging for their lives as you watch them burn and give it to your Johnson when you come for the handoff. He’ll like that. If you work for extremists, then you need to be all in. If you show that you’re one of them, then they will trust you. Trusted mercenaries are hard to come by, so you’ve just made yourself useful. And by showing the same insane bias these people have, whatever it may be, then you’re showing that your loyalties lie with the group. So if you get arrested, you won’t talk. That’s good. They like that. But, whatever you do, do not be an obstacle. Do not suddenly grow a conscience and decide you don’t want to complete the job. Do not act disgusted at their hidden hatred. If you meet them, you’re on their radar now. Extremist group are paranoid—very paranoid. Mostly they have reason to be so, as governmental and corporate spy agencies and law-enforcement agencies like to keep tabs on them. If they’ll smoke you for simply not being all in, imagine what they’ll do to you if they think you’re actively against them. You just went from having an employer to having an enemy hunting you down. All in all, if you ask me, you have to be pretty desperate to work for extremist groups. But I understand sometimes you just have to pay the bills. If you play your cards right, though, there is no reason you can’t prosper. Whether you can sleep at night after what these guys ask you to do is another matter.
The final category is a broad one—the amateurs. Amateurs are people who do not normally operate in the shadows at all. These are people who really don’t know Crossers and don’t have a clue about the rules of the game they just stepped in. Some examples of amateurs are the scientist who personally hires you to sabotage a rival’s project, the rich guy who wants you to retrieve a rare artifact, or the parents who hire you to find their daughter who disappeared in the Barrens (invariably, she ends up being an insect-cultist psycho, but that’s another story). Amateurs aren’t dangerous per se. They lack the means to kill you for whatever reason. The mad scientist might try to kill you once you acquire that thingamajig, but it’ll typically be a silly, over-elaborate plan that you just sidestep pretty easily. I mean, these people haven’t ever killed anyone before. They don’t know how it’s really done. They don’t know actual Crossers, just what they saw on the news or the secondhand stories they overheard. The tradeoff to the safety of dealing with amateurs, and possibly the good karma you get for helping someone who really desperately needs your help, is that the pay is shit. A few personally rich assholes aside, few amateurs have the thousands of NuCred it takes to properly compensate runners for their time. You’ll typically get some cash and then maybe something really precious to the person, like a family heirloom or something. I know two types of Crossers who take amateur jobs—the ones who end up refusing most of the payment, and the ones who milk Mr. Johnson dry. You’re either the type that is going to see those poor parents cry their eyes out when you tell them you had to put down their insect-cultist psycho daughter for the good of humanity and then feel really bad, thinking they’ve been through enough, and accept a few hundred bucks (if anything) and leave it at that. Or you’re the type that’s going to do the job as an excuse to come back and extort everything these people have simply because you can. I mean, your beefy muscled cyberarm is the size of that schmuck’s torso and your handgun is the size of his head. Is he going to say no? If they were dumb enough to invite you into their home, then you’re going to clean them out. Easily justified considering even after you rob them—excuse me, “accept due payment”—tomorrow they go back to their plush corporate lives, and within a few years they’ll have rebuilt their life savings. You? Tomorrow you’re waking up in a slum and risking your life for another job, and the odds of you being alive in ten years are slim to none. So get paid while you can. Assuming you actually decide to go through the motions of accepting the amateur Johnson’s job, be aware that the intel they will have on the job is going to be worthless. They’ll either know nothing, or the intel is going to be so biased with wishful thinking that relying on it would be extremely hazardous to your health. (Example: “Our good little girl has gone missing! She is helpless, please save her!” No—she is an insect cultist, not a good little girl.) All things considered, amateur Johnsons require some patience, but it can be a nice change of scenery. You might get a feel-good factor from doing these jobs, which I’ll grant can probably be nice every now and then, though that will directly correspond to a serious decrease in cash payment. Or, go for the other side of the coin and realize amateurs are easy marks for you to milk for very little effort or consequence. By definition, they have no experience in the shadows—therefore no contacts they can use. So whatever you do, it’s unlikely your reputation will be affected since nobody is going to hear about it. I mean, your conscience, if you have one, will know, but that’s your business.
Table of Contents
Mr. Tanaka, Mr. Ivanov, Herr Schmidt
Administration / Management
Every major Corp has one (or several)
By hiring you to do something illegal, Mr. Johnson is just as guilty of the crime.
Other Associated professions
Mr. Johnson & NotorietyAs noted in the Notoriety section (Reputation), “Insulting or otherwise pissing off a Johnson” can earn you some Notoriety. Johnsons are an arbitrary bunch who play by an odd set of rules. As all Johnsons are unique individuals who take more or less offense to various things, the gamemaster is the ultimate judge of whether the Crossers broke any rules of the shadows and Mr. Johnson took offense. However, the following things are generally considered unprofessional and will earn Crossers a bad reputation, sorted from minor to major offenses:
- Showing up at a meet heavily armed in an environment that doesn’t warrant it.
- Betraying a Johnson, by actively spilling the beans to the target(s), keeping the leverage for yourself after accepting pre-payment or otherwise sabotaging your own Job.
- Being caught hacking the Johnson’s commlink under normal circumstances.
- Being noticed using Manipulation Biotics under normal circumstances.
- Killing a Johnson who paid you.