Sometime in 3304....
The studio apartment was a mess. There were boxes upon boxes of seemingly random components and hardware stacked along the walls. A figure lies on the couch with a cover thrown over its head as it snores lightly. A holo-display is casting a dim blue hue over the apartment. The display's volume is muted but a classic horror film continues to play on it. The counter separating the kitchen from the living room is littered with empty milk cartons and dirty bowls.
"Incoming Contract!" Comes the voice of a female A.I.
The figure on the couch mumbles something but doesn't budge.
"I'm sorry to bother you Ghoulie but you did tell me to wake you when something came through." The A.I. said apologetically.
"Ugggh, don't sweat it sweetheart." Maul says as he uncovers his face and sits up. His bare feet splatting on the cold hard floor. "You're just doing what I asked. Don't apologize for that." He grunts as he gets up to walk over and open the refrigerator causing a splash of light across the small apartment. He squints his eyes and grabs a carton of milk and quickly closes the refrigerator door.
"Ashley, could we bring the lights up a bit? Not too bright though." He says as he walks over to the computer on the opposite side of the apartment.
"Just tell me when." Ashley the A.I. warns as she starts slowly bringing up the lights.
Maul sits at his computer and takes a huge swig of his milk. "That's good. Thank you." He says without even opening his eyes to check the brightness of the lights. The light reveals his bare arms and torso covered in tattoos ranging from classic horror film characters to random 8 bit video game characters. The name "Ghoulie!" was tattooed across his knuckles.
One of the computer monitors flashes a smiley face. Ashley had been integrated into everything in the apartment and would occasionally attempt to show emotions through such actions. That is, as much as an A.I. can properly show emotions.
"Was that the correct emotional response, Ghoulie?" Ashley asks.
"Well that depends, are you actually happy right now?" Maul responds.
"I'm not sure. How does one know if they're actually happy?"
Maul takes a moment to think her question over. "That's a good question, Ashley."
Another smiley face appears on the monitor. "Thank you." Ashley says proudly.
He takes another swig from his milk and reads the title of the new contract in his inbox.
"Looking to hire a skilled tech enthusiast. I've lost access to important data and need help with it's recovery."
He sighs after reading it to himself. "Xero and his fucking "codes". I'll just message him directly and see what he wants."
Navigating to a secure chat, Maul sends Xero a message asking him what he needed.
"Ashley, turn on some tunes
while we wait for Xero to get back to us with some real details."
After a minute the computer dings indicating a new message.
"Sorry Gh0uli3, you can never be too safe, you know? Anyway, there is this dude that's going to be at a bar on your station later tonight. He's carrying some information with him that is vital to one of my ongoing contracts and I was wondering if you'd help me out by retrieving it for me. Normally I'd just hack the asshole but this guy doesn't believe in relying on tech to transport important info. You did good on that cartel job, so I figured maybe you could get the info out of him by force or something. If you end up getting your ass handed to you, I'll still send you some credits for at least trying. Maybe it will cover the cost of the medical bills LMAO. Anyway, I need you to get him to answer this: "What is the price of peace?" Tell me exactly what he says and I'll send you 30% of the take from this contract."
Maul rubs his beard as he reads the message. He takes a moment to consider the potential threats of a job like this but finally agrees to the job. Xero may have been a paranoid schizo but he was always good about paying people when they'd help him with a contract.
He walks back over to the couch and sits down, grabbing his socks off the coffee table and sliding them on. He grabs his boots from beside the couch and puts them on. He then begins digging around in the covers looking for a shirt.
"Ashley, did I have a shirt on when I came in last night?" He asks as he continues looking around for his shirt.
"Yes, but you had spilled something on it before arriving home. I recall you coming in and saying "What the fuck is this? It smells like eggs. I don't even like eggs. How did I get eggs on my shirt." and then you threw it in the garbage."
"....Oh yeah" He mutters as he walks over to the closet and pulls out a semi-clean black t shirt and slides it on.
"I'll be out for a bit, Ashley. Watch the house and keep it safe, okay?"
"Always, Ghoulie!" She replies cheerfully.
Maul smiles as he presses the button to open the apartment door.
"I'd be lost without ya, Ash."
A smile flashes on the holo-display as he exits the apartment.