Sex doesn’t distract Judy today; the explicit BDs on her desk are too vanilla.
Today's workload is the cheap stuff: BDs easily harvested and mass produced to bring the Moxes quick money. People could pick up racier material from Night City's public advertising. Still, it's for the good of the gang, and Judy’s happy to throw herself into work if it keeps her mind busy.
Amping them up is routine, something Judy could do on auto-pilot, but she tries anyway to lose herself in the software. She focuses on touching up emotions and amplifying sensory outputs. It’s satisfying to shape millions of nuances into something incredible. There's a beauty here. If Judy was good with words, she’d put the feeling in a poem, but she's always been more of a visual person, so she allows her work to speak for itself.
After the BDs are done, Judy blasts Radio Vexelstrom and busies herself with a personal project. The task didn’t help with her nerves; she’s still strung out and unsure if she needs a stronger distraction or if she should just give in and freak out. Evelyn’s grand plan sits heavy in the back of her mind. It’s an itch that makes itself known, and the more Judy dwells on it, the more her conscience tells her she’s gotta get Evelyn out.
Evelyn will be back soon. Returning with a solo and a plan from the great Dex DeShawn and - Evelyn swears DeShawn's not just good, he's ‘the best’, but - everything about this plan makes Judy's skin crawl. Konpeki Plaza is a corpo fortress, Arasaka's too big to piss off, and a fixer is only one degree of separation from incrimination. This heist is stupid risky, and if it goes down, it’s taking Evelyn with it.
Judy’s lab’s double doors slide open, filling the room with the scent of Evelyn's bergamot perfume and her signature cigarettes. Two sets of footsteps shuffle in and an unfamiliar voice hums, pleased.
Judy picks her head up. "This-" is a terrible idea, she wants to say, but her tongue trips over itself.
The stranger standing next to Evelyn is tall. Her silver hair reaches just past her ribs, and she’s armed with enough high-end cyberware to make any scavenger drool. Even in the half-light of her lab, Judy catches the sheen of Kiroshi optics and the grooves on her arms hinting at a missile launcher. She’s ex-corpo, judging by her posture and her enigmatic smile; every corpo-rat makes that smile, and Judy hates it because it feels like a veiled promise and a threat rolled into one. It’s also damned effective at making Judy lose her cool.
Evelyn clears her throat.
“Judy, this is V,” says Evelyn. Her voice is conversational, but the knowing in the slant of Evelyn’s mouth tells Judy she’ll get teased to death later. "V is the solo on DeShawn's team."
“I’m one of the solos,” V says. She glances over Judy’s system, gaze trailing the monitors and casings. “You got some real sweet tech. I'm guessing you're Evelyn's braindance guru?"
Evelyn hums. “Judy installed my rig and put together the raw BD of Yorinobu’s suite. She'll be setting you up with the roll. You're in excellent hands - Judy's the best braindance editor I know.”
It's Judy's cue to speak, but she can't quite string together a thought under the weight of V's eyes. Instead, she shifts in her seat and sighs, "Enough already. Gonna make me barf."
Evelyn snorts. "Is the roll ready?"
"Compiled and ready for you, Evie. You, uh…" Judy forces herself to look V in the eyes. The solo is smiling that omnipotent corpo smile, and Judy wonders if V can tell how dry her mouth is. "...Ever done raw braindance?"
"I’m no BD virgin, but I only ever got my hands on the tame stuff. You'll have to walk me through this," V says smoothly. She talks about it like it’s easy, like navigating through an infinite amount of sensory information isn’t a goddamn miracle. Judy’s not sure if it's a corpo bravado thing or if V’s just crazy.
As if she heard, V adds, "I'm told there's a bit of a learning curve with a raw BD."
"Yeah. A bit ," Judy repeats, scoffing. She gestures to the netrunner station, “Siddown. I can calibrate a headset for your tech, then we’ll walk through a simple BD to get you adjusted. Wanna make sure you catch everything you need for the job."
V is already strutting towards the station, but Judy can almost hear her smile. “Yes, ma’am.”
Must be a corpo thing , Judy thinks, biting her lip. They all do that thing with their voice; they make everything sound like a flirt. Judy shakes it off, opts to focus instead on calibrating V’s headset, but that quickly turns out to be another mistake.
V’s diagnostics are a dream. Her cyberware lights up Judy's dual monitors, and Judy has to stop herself from gasping outright. Names - big names flash on the screens. Kiroshi Mark II. Militech Missile Launcher. Self ICE. Smart Link. Kerenzikov.
Somewhere behind her, Evelyn laughs and squeezes Judy’s shoulders. Evelyn hasn’t squealed like that in years, not since she won a job at Clouds and became Yorinobu's companion. It’s a laugh of complete and utter victory, and Judy’s hit with the dizzying realization that this stupidly risky heist is real.
It’s real, and Evelyn just might pull it off.
"You guys okay over there?" V asks. There's a tilt to her voice, like she knows her cyberware makes her the hottest thing on the block. Which, fair. "Got any trouble with the calibration?"
"Wasn't expecting to calibrate for Kerenzikov, nevermind nanorelays. Damn V, knew Evie was getting a solo, but I didn’t know you’d come stacked."
"You get what you pay for," V says silkily. It’s the most Corpo answer Judy’s ever heard. Her gut instinct is to scoff, but she’s still reeling at the cyberware crowding her monitors, still tallying the eddies needed to afford this tech.
“I guess you do,” says Judy, stunned.
“Then it looks like we’re all getting what we want,” chimes Evelyn. She squeezes Judy’s shoulders and her expression begs focus, please. “How long until her headset is calibrated?”
Judy cocks her head and sizes up her tech dancing on her screen. “Might be faster to calibrate while the set’s on her, Evie. Though...you’ll be chillin’ in the raw BD for a bit. You mind, V?”
The corpo smiles and shrugs. “How bad could it be?”
Judy chuckles, “Hey, that’s the spirit!”
Evelyn clears her throat. There’s a question in the arch of her brow: No, seriously, how bad could it be?
Judy elbows her playfully as she gets up, headset in hand. “Chill, Evie, she’ll be fine. I’m not gonna scratch your shiny new solo, she’ll be sitting in a paused BD, is all.”
Judy walks towards the illuminated netrunner station, ignoring the fluttering in her chest, and embodying a coolness she doesn’t feel. V caught Judy’s eye in the half-light, but now? Laying under the bright lights of the netrunner’s station, she’s something else.
“I’m shiny, huh?” V drawls, bowing her head forward. Judy’s breath catches as she crowns the device on her head and tucks a strand of soft silver hair away from the rig.
“Hang tight,” Judy manages. Her voice is stiff, and if she entertains V’s question, she’ll be a goner. Evelyn would absolutely kill her, then. “You’ll be paused in the BD until the rig figures out how to work with your tech. Think you can manage?”
Pretty eyes glance up at her through long lashes. It’s the Kiroshi. Corpos gotta make the high-end tech look like that , Judy thinks helplessly, even as V’s smile turns playful and daring.
“We’ll see. Talk to you on the other side, Judy.”
The rig flashes to life and V sits back as the BD’s first scene blankets her face.
Judy hears a familiar click of a metal case opening. The sound of a lighter flicking to life, followed by the heady scent of Evelyn’s signature cigarettes. Judy doesn’t smoke, nor does she let anyone else smoke in her lab, but Evie is an exception. Her best friend doesn’t do it to spite her; when Evie smokes in the lab, it’s because she’s nervous and needs a place to shoot the shit.
“Can she hear us?” Evelyn asks.
“Nah, you’re dark when the setup’s still calibrating. Give it another ten minutes and I’ll have the headset connect to our audio.”
“Excellent. So.” Evelyn exhales. Smoke crowds her face, and she waves a hand in V’s direction. “What do you think?”
Judy’s lips quirk. “You know what I think. Just wasn’t expecting your solo to look like- well.”
“To look like what?” Evelyn deadpans. "A professional ? I told you I was getting the best for this job.”
Judy rolls her eyes at Evelyn’s tone. Her best friend always assumes the world’s against her when she’s stressed.
"I guess she's...appealing," Judy admits. It's an understatement. V is stunning, and her cyberware could set an entire gang of Scavengers up for life. “Her tech is preemo, Evie. No idea where your fixer found her, but she’s a one-woman army. Almost feel bad for the suits she comes up against, but...”
Evelyn exhales, waiting.
“...I’m worried about you, is all. Thinking you should lie low, or get more distance between you and this heist till it blows over.”
“You worry too much, Judy. Everything is going to work out.” Evelyn takes another long drag. When she exhales, smoke clouds her. The top of her head catches the bright lights over the netrunner station. She looks like a ghost, illuminated from above.
“I meant what I said earlier: we’ll all get what we want. After this job, we’re done working for Tygers and amping up porn BDs. Don’t you see that this is our break? We’ll have enough eddies to quit working for other people. We can finally make a fucking difference in this city.”
It’s hard to fight Evelyn when she gets like this. Evelyn thinks so far ahead, and it kills Judy to bring her back down - to make her consider that maybe, she’s not immortal.
Between the two of them, Judy was always the quiet idealist. She’s been burned too many times by corpos, been in the right but on the wrong side of the system, and was punished for it. Night City taught her early to keep her head down, play by the rules, and brew rebellion quietly.
But Evelyn’s never shied from making her ambitions known. Her best friend’s confidence is addicting; it’s what drew Judy to her in the first place, and it’s something Judy hopes Evelyn will keep for the rest of her life.
Evelyn has stars in her eyes, but Judy would be an awful friend for letting her go in blind. Something about this plan makes her throat itch; a sense of foreboding on the horizon.
“You know I’d help you with anything, Evie. I just want you to be careful. You’re not messing with a gang, you’re fucking with Arasaka, for Christ’s sake.”
“Arasaka isn’t invincible,” Evelyn snaps. She says it like she knows, like she makes a hobby out of taking on corporations and bringing them to heel. “All these institutions think they’re untouchable, but they’ve forgotten that nothing is untouchable in Night City. We’re teaching them a lesson, Jude. It’s like a big fat cherry on top of a stack of eddies.”
Judy doesn’t know what to say to that. Sometimes Evelyn hears what she wants to hear; it’s like they’re speaking two different languages. Judy is speaking from Earth and Evelyn is floating in the Crystal Palace, talking about Earthlings the way corpo execs talk about people.
“Evie-” Judy’s operating system buzzes to life, and an alert flashes across her vision. V’s cyberware is calibrated.
“Rig’s set up,” Judy says, resigned. She’ll continue this conversation later, when they don’t have a solo that can bring down the building on a thought sitting pretty between them. “Good to connect to audio when you’re ready.”
Evelyn crushes the butt of her cigarette under her heel in a well-practiced motion. She nods.
“Let’s connect and see what else this merc can pick up. Smile, Judy. You’ll see: everything’s going to be just fine.”