Paxton Street is located in DownTown Sector 73, close to the CanSec One gates. Starting at Ashfield Street – close to the location of the infamous “Boiler Room” – it is a broad four-lane street running in a general north-south direction.
The next big intersection (after 3 miles) is Hawkhead Avenue; from there on until its end, Paxton Street dwindles to a narrow two-lane street.
Its EastSector location clearly shows; none of the houses is higher than 30 storeys, most of them dipalidated and run-down.
Whiley the Toymaker
Old man Whiley is famous, at least in the area close to his small appartement on Paxton Street in sector 37. He is the odd one in the neighbourhood, always a smiling, nice and courteous. He is one of the few lacking the bleak and empty expression of the normal DownTown residents. People greet him, the local strong guys ignore him, probably because he is always broke to the bone and the occasional sane kid is happy to meet him, because he is the Toymaker, sole creator of toys and puppets in Sector 37.
Especially puppets. He used to work in one of the SLA Industry clothing sweat shops until he retired, sewing, stuffing and cutting clothes, but even then his biggest hobby was making puppets. His whole flat is covered by them, an endless array of puppets of every size, ranging from small to huge, some almost looking alive, frighteningly real. When he started he only used cloth to prepare his toys, but with the years he began to integrate almost every material he could come by into his puppets.
Since he wasn’t able to use those skills to stay alive, he used his talent for fixing broken clothes and similiar material in exchange for food or things he needed. Given enough food and raw materials to work on, he would make new clothes, sometimes even leather jackets and shoes. When the local tough guys showed up, he agreed to create a sign for them and fix it onto their jackets. They might not be a very tough bunch of guys, but they certainly fly the best looking gang color in the area.
But then the rumours started to fly. About the puppets, about skinned animals and skinless human corpses found in the area. And about the missing kids. Since Whiley was the only one not buying into the paranoia, the locals began to include him into their dark legends. Yet everyone that visited Whiley proved the contrary, no skins on the puppets. No strange muffled sounds or whining in the house. Only old Whiley, the master of his puppets.
Ming and “Ming’s Spicy Fruits”
Originally Ming was called Joyce, but due to the very famous TV series “Ming Lai: Tortured Souls” that ran during her childhood, everyone insisted on calling her Ming, even though she did not look the least like that Orienta actress. She hated that name, but since she grew up in the only Orienta family in an otherwise pure Mort-bred DownTown neighbourhood and because she’s never been much of a fighter, the name stuck. Living in Downtown her whole life, she survived the soft way, horizontally. From the age of twelve she went from one “protector” to the next, usually the guy that killed the previous one. Being fairly attractive, but modestly stupid, that worked well enough until her mid twenties. But when her last “protector” died and the new one turned her away, she had to re-evaluate her position in life.
She managed to seduce some more or less naive owner of a diner and in time, she even showed some skills with money and the diner began to florish, especially when Ming began to offer a select few of her staff for some backdoor services of the erotic kind, usually for very special customers. Finally the local protection racket, one of the first Orienta gangs to operate in Mort – and the only gang in the area after a vicious battle against all other gangs – came to collect their share. But instead with money, Ming offered to pay with flesh, her flesh. Due to her willingness – and experiencing the first positive effect of her nickname – she managed to become something like a mascot for the gang.
Within short time she had a nice litttle running diner at front and a brothel in the back. When her partner, the original owner of the diner, tried to intervene, she managed to convince her gang buddies to take care of the problem and to fully invest into their shared business.
Ming has established herself in several ways; still not being the brightest streetwise, she makes it more than up through being utterly ruthless and cunning when it comes down to money and financial affairs and opportunities.
Through the years, Ming met many people from the street and a whole assortement of Props, scam artists, assassins and other shady characters became her regular customers, most of them having a rather special connection to her. Quite early she realized the that her customers needed a place to conduct private business, have secrecy or just relax without fear of being stabbed, shot at or beaten. She catered for these needs and began to act as a broker, financier and bank, also making sure that the diner is a safe haven for them, where they can meet, make plans and deposit information in case a scam goes wrong and they are in need for backup . or retribution.
The diner itself is located in 1 Paxton Street, in a house that originally was a Shaktar HotBath. But slowly after the collapse of 300, the Shaktar population began to dwindle in the sector and soon the bath was left deserted. Since then it has seen various incarnations, from hotel to chop shop, the latest being Ming’s Diner. The diner takes up the whole ground floor, the area that was initially the great entrance hall, carried by intricately adorned and ornamented columns full of Shaktar mysticism that still remain, but nowadays harbor a distincly Orientan flair. Most of the front has been replaced by windows, since protection is more or less steadily available at the diner, and a variety of neon signs cover the outer walls.
The entrance windows have elaborate Orientan decorations; lamps, dragons, fans and the like, but for the initiate they are far more than simple decoration, for they are color coded to reveal if it is safe to enter the diner or if authority figures such as Operatives, Shivers or worse are present and they also give clues to the nature of the threat.
Entering the diner through the double doors, the huge dining area is surprisingly clean and flooded in dimmed, predominantely red light coming from the fleet of red ballon lanterns that can be found everywhere. The steel tables are covered with cheap, but clean table cloth and the chairs are more comfortable than their first, harsh impression would suggest. The area is shaped like a septagon, with the windows taking up 3 of the seven sides, the bar taking up another 3 and the doors to the kitchen, toilets and the back rooms upstairs taking up the seventh side, directly next to the entrace. The sides adjoining the entrace harbor several cubicles and booths, separated by thin walls and statues, perfect for private conversations. Not surprisingly the sounds are not carrying far and the lights are even dimmer than in the rest of the area. None of the waiters lingers longer than it is necessary at those tables.
Food and drinks are inexpensive and the quality is DownTown standard; nothing special, nothing fancy, but affordable. The kitchen is close to the stairs; it is not possible to enter the stairs without being seen and having to pass by two massive cooks toying around with huge steaker knives, who only seldomly chop some meat, but spend the rest of their time watching the stairs and the diner. No one uses these stairs without having been invited by the lady herself, or having been cleared by one of her two nice waitresses, who will lead new visitors upstairs to introduce them.
Trying – and succeeding – to get past the cooks without invitation is a bad idea, for the tenants of the upper levels of the building all belong to Ming’s Orienta trang partners, who are using the upper floors as home, meeting and staging area. A fight is usually a very bad, short-sighted and lethal idea.
The first floor is the original bath area, and it is a class beyond the usual DownTown standards. Coming up the stairs from the diner, the corridor widens into a small hall that has a clean and hot pool with running water. The floor of the pool is covered in a colourfoul mosaic, the imagery full of Shaktar myths. The lights on the wall are working, and clean, red, fluffy carpets cover the floor. Around the pool, the floor is not covered by carpets, revealing the original floor – a combination of mosaic stones and polished marble. A second flight of stairs leads up to the second and third floors, both of which are galleries built around the pool hall with a number of adjoining small rooms, while a third, circular stairway ascends beyond the two gallery floors without exit and then opens up directly into the fourth floor. Aroud the galleries a durable and intricately ornamented railing with a white, wooden hand-rail prevents the customers from falling into the pool below. Along the walls there are pictures, all showing erotic scenes, ranging from tasteful to outright pronographic. The rooms on the second and third floor initially were the bathing cabins, now two or three cabins are connected into one room, rather spartanic, reminiscent of hotel rooms. They are cleaner as can be expected from DownTown and most have a running shower. For an extra price, even a short five minutes of warm water can be organized, however, only for the very special or very wealthy customers.
The men and woman serving “personal favours” are mostly the usual bunch of DownTown street sluts, but also some of the beautiful girls of Ming’s serving staff from the diner. The only difference to a street hooker is that for the higher price at least a dry and clean bed is provided. And as a very positive extra, they are not as diseased as the rest of the DownTown Street Sex Gang and that alone is for many visitors a good reason to spend their earnings in this establishment. Prices range from fairly acceptable, to ouragous, depending on looks, being a regular and the mood of the staff.
The two top floors both belong to Ming’s partners, the Orienta Trang that operates out of the building. The fourth floor originally was a Shaktar saloon with excellent acustics and during its time it was renown for its customers’ sombre interpretation of famous Shaktar arias. Today the saloon harbors a dance-floor for the Trang members and their ladies (and for the more famous and willing prostitues from below). The dance-floor is as gloomy as the diner on the ground floor, and its decoration consists of the same weird combination of Orienta embellishment covering columns, murals and stairs painted, carved and embossed full with images ans symbols of Shaktar mythology. Four walls of the dance floor are covered with mirrors, creating the illusion of a far bigger room than it actually is.
The stairs to the fifth floor are hidden; they can only be reached through a door near one of the bars, fiercely guarded by the staff at the bar, who all have an assortment of various weapons under the counter. Next to the stairs, the floor is elevated along one wall, giving enough space for one huge table that comfortably sits 12 people, usually covered with Orienta orange cloth embroidered with the symbol of the Trang, the pale white coils of the chaos dragon. Here the top management of the Trang comes to discuss, party and watch over their following during the nights and here messengers from other trangs or in rare cases local gangs are also received. For important meetings, the whole dance floor can easily be converted into a meeting room; on such days a long mahagony table with matching chairs is the only thing left on the dance floor.
The top floor consists mainly of the spacious living quarters of the Trang members, as well as small storage rooms for the bare necessities of life: drugs and weapons. No outsider is ever allowed to enter this floor and this rule is rigidly enforced at the bar overlooking the door to this floor on the dance floor level below.
All in all, “Ming’s Spicy Fruits” in Paxton Street is a very popular place, known for the clean and more or less healthy food to some and the special services to others. It has a big crowd of regulars and even for the occasional visitor it is a nice and safe change from the ususal service that can be acquired on the streets of DownTown.
The Tool Shed
This little store is fit into a side alley between 15 and 16 Paxton Street. The alley ends up in a large dead end, sourrounded by 12 storey tall apartment blocks on all sides.
The Shed, run by Trimble and Walt is located in the middle of the alley, behind a sturdy and rusty iron gate, in the shadow of several sheets of transparent plastic plane that span the entire breadth of the alley for several meters, billowing in the wind but constantly leaking a stream of dirt water through the seams on the wares displayed below. Both have founded this little shop, concentrating on mechanical repairs, several years ago. Here they try to fix everything that is brought to them by their customers; broken radios, TVs, the occasional motorbike and sometimes they even sell some of their spare tools. The shop is a confusing assortment of metall junk, plastic crates, storage shelves and finally a workbench, leaving barely enough space to move through the narrow confines of the alley to then end. Sometimes, if asked nicely enough or offered enough money (which is usually the reason), one of them even fixes stuff at their customers’ homes – may it be the door, after one of the usual burglaries or something trivial like a broken pipe.
Even if the repair services are an important part of the social interaction around Paxton Street, the Tool Shed has yet more than this to offer.
Beginning right after space sheltered through the plastic planes of the Tool Shed up to the end of the alley the ground is filled with a vast assortment of trash, rising in several hills, growing steeper towards the end of the alley. Movement through this field of rubble is tricky at best, and outright treacherous at worst. All the ground level windows and doors of the apartment blocks in this area of the alley are closed with thick pieces of wood, plastic, brick or similar materials. At the end of the alley only one metal door is accessible, but this is usually locked.
It is advisable to make the trip to the back of the alley and beyond only when invited by either Walt or Trimble, although Walt seems to be the better choice, as he is usually the deciding part of the two. The lucky ones who decided to force the issue ended up beaten senseless, while the unlucky ones who were too insisting or were waving around some piece of hardware, were never seen again after entering the dead end.
Behind the steel door, a junk-covered, slippery stairway leads into a basement storage and display room, filled with several cloth-covered shelves and wooden display benches. Here a great variety of weapons can be found, together with the friendly neighbourhood arms dealer Stash, a feral Ebon who decided that selling weapons provides a higher profit and longer life expectancy than his former job as a Prop.
The weapons are usually of the DownTown makeshift varity, ranging from knifes, huge spiked clubs, bats and chains, to some crossbows as well, although with the ongoing gang war some better equipment has found it’s way to Stash’s displays.
For the reliable and well-known customer, or if known or vouched for by Walt or Trimble, Stash also carries the not so readily available stuff, locked away one room further. Here – depending on season – “anything goes”: from Firearms to Grenades and various “special offers” everything is for sale and Stash’s favourite customers can prepare to kiss their funds goodbye and leave with a reassuring weight in their pockets, bags or hands.
Stash is never alone with his customers. He has at least one merc of his outfit at his side all the time, while the rest of them, all equiped with rifles, rigged silencers, and low-vision scopes are usually scattered in the apartment houses around the alley, covering the dead end from the upper windows for a superior field of fire, changing the junk field into an kill zone if the need arises. With Walt and Trimble covering the only exit on the ground floor, so far everyone who tried to take out the operation failed.
It is not known where the Tool Shed gets it’s equipment from, no shipment has ever been seen delivered and no one except Walt and Trimble has been seen outside the alley’s dead end, but it is rumoured that at least one of the buildings has a direct access to the sewer system.
The Little Pig
This small club, located in the basement of 50 Paxton Street, managed to stay open for the last couple of years. There are no big advertisments from the outside, no neon sights or such; you really have to know that the “Little Pig” is in this building to find it.
The house looks inconspicious, like any other DownTown appartment house; 15 stories high, sludge-grey façade, pools of dirt and trash on the pavement in front of the door and dirty rainwater gushing openly onto the sidewalk through the broken rain-drain like thorugh a puncutred artery. The door is in its final stadium of decay, originally made of reinforced wood now only the metal skeleton remains, with a few strands of gel-like, oozing wood. Directly behind the door a narrow corridor connects to a hallway with a flight of stairs that leads up to the first floor and and a small, rusting steel-door at the end of the hallway, excessively covered with advertisments and unreadable graffiti; the entrance to the basement. Directly next to this door another opening allows passage into the backyard of the building, overcrowding with barrels, dirt, trash and the rusting remains of a former shed.
The entrance hall of the building is commonly occupied by apathic winos, who spend all their monthly check on the spirits available at an off-license only a few convenient houses away. The stairs that lead to the first floor are made of wood, but are treacherous through the constant barrage of rain and collapsed in a few places. Only the brave try to master them.
The steel door to the basement opens to a narrow and steep stair of rough stone, with worn-down and curved in steps, leading down into the darkness. A few naked lightbulbs, some of them constantly flickering on and off, provide a hazardous illumination. At the end of the stairs a narrow tunnel goes off to the right, while another steel door, this one locked, clean and marked with a warning sign, allows entry into the generator room of the “Little Pig”. The corridor to the right is long and as narrow and dark as the stairs that led into the basement; this time, howver, the illumination consists of salvaged traffic lights. The corridor ends without any other doors or corridors in front of two two sturdy doors, the entrance to the “Little Pig”.
The first room is small and rectangular, with a counter to pay and leave your hardware complete with a couple of brutes to convince anyone that paying and giving up the weapons is actually a good idea. Directly opposite of the entrance is anther set of steel doors, closed and marked with a hastily sprayed on “The Little Pig” in dark-red, smeared letters; the true entrance to the club. The first you notice after passing through these doors is the rather chilly and wet atmosphere of the “Little Pig”. This is because the main area of the club, an area of roughly 20 by 20 meters width and 4 meters height, was initially the water-storage of an old cistern located underneath the backyard. The ceiling at the centre of the main area has a hole that opens to the backyard above the cicstern, originally used to channel the water from the backyard into the cistern. Nowadays the hole is covered with an iron grating, rusting in several places and not too stable, but still strong enough to support the weight of a grown man. Through this hole a never ending shower of rain falls into the club, as well as a stream of fresh air, necessary for ventilation as the club is lit exclusively with candles and with the fires of trash burning in corroding, battered barrels. The floor underneath the central opening is covered with iron grates, that hide a clever system of drainage canals, so that the rainwater that falls through the hole in the ceiling into the club can pour down into the canalization. Some say, however, that this same water is used to run the restrooms and the bar, but these rumours are usually not commented on.
All the walls in the club, as well as the ceiling are all painted in a dull, non-reflecting black, so that the club appears like a black limbo, sparingly illuminated by flickering and unsteady lights and a few rotating, colorful beams from the dancing area.
The dancing area in the far left corner of the club is sheltered from the constant downpour of rain. A couple of flashing lights are fitted to the ceiling and the columns supporting the ceiling around the dancing area, which itself is about half a meter lower than the rest of the club. The floor of the dancing area is covered with squares of hammered steel, all somewhat hollow so that the music is constantly accompanied with a stomping beat from feet crashing to the rhythm of the music onto the metal plates. As there is no proper DJ, you only get canned music controlled by the folks behind the bar, who like to put on some aggresive and fast stuff and turn the volume to deafening.
The dancefloor is usually deserted until 1 o’clock, or until the booze scale has reached a high enough level to make the people daring enough to brave this area. At around 2 o’clock the floor is usually packed with all kinds of people, dancing to the music, which to an outsider looks like a major sized brawl.
Running the complete length of the right wall, the bar is a slab of blackened metal, with lots of dents, nicks and messages scratched into it with small, sharp, pointy things. It rests upon a block of dull-grey aluminum, supported internally with strong iron girders. In a shelf behind the bar, a huge assortment of unmarked bottles and casks is on display. The wisest choice is to know what to ask for, because choosing blindly can leave you exactly that. Next to the bar, a locked door leads to a storage area. According to rumours the storage area is only the beginnig of a whole labyrinth of rooms and tunnels that are said to run the entire length of Paxton Street. Nobody is knows why they are there, but everybody is sure that they are there.
On the left wall an irregularly shaped opening, actually an unfinished breakthrough into the next room, leads into a dark area with some chairs and tables, forgotten about in a chaotic pattern. The volume of the music here is a little bit more acceptable, but you still need to speak at the top of your voice to make conversation possible.
The “Little Pig” is usually open 24/7, except when the staff is not in the mood to open. Most of the time there is no big crowd around, but this is more or less due to the opening times. On the other hand there are almost always guests around.
The Barber Shop
On ground floor of 67 Paxton Street there are two little shops. The left shop is one very traditional shop, a barber shop owned and operated by the 52 year old Owen Sheannesy and his family for a long time. The shop was founded back in 841 by Owens grand-grand father Pete “Magic Scissors” Sheannessy, who worked at that time for 3ird Eye News as a hair stylist. He was quite well known in some circles, but a “mess up” with the hairs of a very famous and influential news speaker got Pete fired. So considering his talent, this left him only with the option to found this little barber shop in DownTown to support and keep his family alive. Owen seems to have inheritated the talents of his ancestors with the scissors and knives, but the times have changed and the demand for a good haircut today is abysmally low in DownTown. Fortunately, the opening of Ming’s Spicy Fruits gave his business a little boost as well as a small and steady income from Ming and her girls. It is enough to keep him and his familiy alive, although he is secretly dreaming of following his grand-grand father’s footsteps aspires to work for the high and mighty, living in their shadow, enjoying some luxury and fame.
The familiy business consists of Owen and his Wife Gwen. They are helped out by their their daughter-in-law Jennifer and the grand-daughter Newt, when help is needed and personel is short – a very rare occurrence in the barber shop nowadays. Owen’s and Gwen’s son was killed a year ago, when running across some Dust Riders in a very foul mood and Owen has still not forgiven the crime, but it secretly thankful to the unknown assassin who wiped out the whole Dustrider gang recently through a well-placed bomb.
The barber shop has clearly seen better days, although not recently. But some years ago Pete could get hold of a collection of used furniture for a fair price, which enabled him to replace the worn and used-up furniture that already was present in the barber shop when he himself was still a kid. With the “new” furniture, he can now run the shop in an orderly and clean fashion, a cut above the usual DownTown standards.
Upon entering the shop the first thing noticeable is a small area with a coffee table and a sofa inviting the customer; not in a big demand most of the times. To the far wall is a small desk with the cash register and behind that a shelf with a variety of shampoos, creams and other cosmetics for sale. Most of them are SLA fabricated, but amongst them the odd unmarked bottle from the family’s private production can be found. Most of these go back to some receipt or special formula of the family’s hero Pete.
Further into the shop are three barber chairs, side by side, facing the normal assortement of mirrors, desks, shelves and barber equipement. The far wall is filled with pictures, mostly photographs and cut out news paper clips, many of them showing the family legend in his best times with the high and mighty. But there are also some depicting all of the owners of the shop, standing arm in arm with the powerplayers of the block around Paxton Street. This is perhaps the one and only documentation about who was the driving force and influential around Paxton street during the last decades. This collection is rounded up with pictures of the local regulars, heavy-hitters, legends and crooks; the newst pictures show Owen together with Miss Ming and her partners, right next to an aged looking photo of Owen arm in arm with old Whiley, the Toymaker, whose payment (one of his dolls) is now the wholly owned property of Owens 4 year old grand-daughter.
Directly next to the barber shop in 20 Paxton Street is the Jelly’s Off-License storey. It is a small little shop for the usual assortement of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, magazines and assorted other stuff. The main selling area is very small, just 3 times 5 Meters, but packed with shelves, although most of the shelves are only half filled. There is a refrigirator at one side, filled with a collection of cool drinks, but as usual, they are more expensive than their non-cooled counterparts available on the shelves. Strangely enough for this area, especially as the shelves are only half-stocked, the assortement of wares is very good. And to his customer’s great surprise, Jelly can usually produce most things from a small storage area in the back, even when asked for something special or unusual. The real reason for the empty shelves is to minimize temptation for Jelly’s customers to just come in and take without paying, as well as to minimize loss if the temptation proves too strong. Since the number of robberies went up recently, Jelly has had the counter reinforced and installed some steelbars.
The helping hand in the store is Hudson, a completely confused weirdo, even more paranoid than Jelly himself. One day Hudson showed up, smelly and run down and asked for a job, but before Jelly could turn him away a couple of street punks bursted into the store trying to get some freebies. Without even being asked for help, Hudson took care of the problem swiftly and mercilessly and Jelly glady offered him the job afterwards, not only to help in the stores and to clean, but also for protection. Both are metally a little om the unstable side, but while Jelly is only greeedy and paranoid, Hudson is prone to bursts of violence and anger, complemented by an unhealthy dose of neurotic paranoia. When Hudson is not in a paranoid fit, he tends to whine about almost everything, but strangely enough Jelly and Hudson seem to get on quite well together.
Another strange relationship is between Hudson and the Barber’s little grand daughter. They don’t like each other, but they are often seen on the streets bickering and shouting at each other for the one or the other reason. First a source of concern, because of Hudsons fits, it now is a source of contious amusement for both the Jelly and the barber family .