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Honor Among Thieves

My title may be trite, but it is quite apt to the shadows. Each and every one of us have a set of rules we follow (albeit with a varying degree of complexity), rules that direct our choices as we work toward our goals. For some, their rules consist of “do the job, get paid” or “do whatever necessary to survive.” I admit, I understand the comfort and security one can find in such simplicity.

Our instinct to survive is incredibly powerful (even in those who have been heavily modified) and the trappings of wealth are difficult to ignore (especially if one comes from poverty or has tasted luxury). Each of us has assuredly seen some of these most basic rules come into play when a run turned toward danger or an easy payday occurred, but some of us follow a stricter path.

Simplicity is one of the hardest things to follow. There are a multitude of ways things can deviate from your plans. These changes shape us in many ways. Looks like the OP took some of these changes and shaped his life to follow such things.
- Marko

Some runners do not see the value in keeping a code or sense of honor, mocking us as a threat to each job or being immature or unrealistic. I have been told codes can jeopardize a job, are unprofessional, are simply a risk to the lives of the team, and other similar criticism. I find most of those risks and warnings to be unrealistic and the others to be short-sighted in comparison to the value of following my code.

Clearly, this is a point of disagreement that has existed for time immemorial, but it would be a disservice to myself and all of you for me not to acknowledge it and to reiterate my stance on that very point. In a way this document is a method of explaining why those of us with codes think and act the way we do and, perhaps, encourage some of you to choose your own path of discipline. Little do they realize, almost every runner is only a few steps away from truly following a code.

Given my experience as a runner who has been active for some time, having some limits imposed on yourself is not a bad thing. They help to prevent things like gassing a convention of sick children or trying to solve all your problems with explosives. WE ARE fairly amoral mercenaries as whole but that does not need to mean immoral.
- Jay
Not gassing a convention of sick children is also a practical choice, because it brings unacceptable heat on the person and the community. I don't disagree with your point, but it seems worth the devil's advocacy there.
- Amazon
Practical and personal frequently end up around the same lines over time. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you think primarily of practicality while just remembering to not go cackling off the edge into unnecessary violence.
- Slinger
A code can be a hindrance on, say, wetwork. But in many scenarios, it is simply a guide to work by. I follow a loose set of morals, and pick jobs accordingly. Make sure to consider a job offer and what is asked of you before you put your name in...some J's won't think twice about collateral damage and civilian casualties. Unsurprisingly, I recommend avoiding theses J's.
- Crimson
Collateral damage and excess casualties should be a serious extra cost option, and depending on the scale, that cost may well be trillions. I know I wouldn't do something like try to blow up a megacorp HQ for less than it takes to disappear with new prints, genes and a face to a life of luxury for the rest of my life. And yet some people seemed to have decided to do that for kicks.
Remember: heat from a job is something you need to balance with the pay, and ammo and other consumables are expenses. If you don't play accountant on that score reliably, you may end up scrambling for living expenses. You don't want to slide from a penthouse apartment or your own house to a studio apartment in an efficiency pod even if you don't give a dreck about morals.
- Slinger
Aye, it can be good to restrain oneself even with no obligation to.
- Crimson
Oh ghost yea. As much as i like firing Kitten, I dread the bill afterwards. If the job doesnt pay super good im not firing her and keep to something more handy.
- Gungrrl
Is kitten that grenade launcher you had that one time, or something even more likely to chew up the surroundings?
- Slinger
Bigger and heavier. With 200 good reasons to drop on the floor.
- Gungrrl

Consider, as I mentioned above, how each of us follow a set of rules. Barring a few exceptions that generally end in not-so-untimely death, we all have rules that regulate our behavior. Some are mercenary (no free work), others professional (avoid harming bystanders), and still others selfish (avoid unnecessary risks).

Each of these are arguably pragmatic in origin, designed to increase survival, establish and enhance business relationships, mitigate risk from the authorities or other powerful entities, or in some other fashion. But each of us may value one pragmatic value over another while on a run. Self preservation is ignored in favor of an increased payout or a better relationship with a Johnson, indiscriminate weapons are used because it is too dangerous to reach the target directly, and so forth.

All of us have sacrificed profit or risk greater injury (or death). Once you can see and understand how you have made these “inefficient” choices, it is only a small step to fully embracing a code. Or, at least, give insight into some of us live.

A code of honor is also a starting point for trust between you and your contacts. Much of the time, you're working with folks in your network that you maybe haven't known for so long, and trust is in short supply if they think you're some cagey merc just out for a buck.
If they know you're keeping values, though, they might be more willing to trust that you'll keep your word, too. Honor and rep ain't so far apart.
- Papa Grizzly
I trust my teams to do what they should and help how they can, that's the trust I give until I know them better.
- Fyrehaus

My own code (or path as I have also called it) is what is popularly known as the Way of the Ronin, a path I have followed in some way shape or form for over a decade. How I entered the shadows may explain why I have taken to this path with such fervor and how it saved my life, sanity, and possibly soul. My parents were Yamatetsu employees - my Japanese mother a programmer and my Caucasian father an administrative assistant. My adept abilities manifested at a young age during Halley’s Comet’s passing.

My mother was delighted by this and it was a wonderful time to come into my abilities; it ended when my mother died in the Second Crash. My father, not a model employee, was unceremoniously stripped of citizenship and repatriated to Seattle with myself and my older sisters. Embittered, he turned to drugs and BTLs to escape his ruined life, bringing him into contact with far too many gangs and syndicates in Seattle. As I entered adolescence, I was thrust into a role of protecting my family from my father’s poor choices and I did it as a loyal son despite my disapproval.

Eventually, my father cut a deal with a local street doc: “experimental” technology would be implanted in me originally designed by Yamatetsu that would meld “perfectly” with my adept abilities to make me a better protector and my father would receive a new source of bleeding edge BTLs; in return, my sisters would be turned into bunraku dolls and sold into the market. Coming out of surgery left me traumatized and that alone would make anyone enraged, but when I had learned what exactly happened to my sisters at my father’s hands I could only see red. He refused to accept any responsibility for what happened, for his descent into addiction, for the loss of his family… I left instead of cutting him down where he stood.

I was lost in emotion when I struck out on my own, like a feral animal lashing out at any perceived threat in sight. Bitterness, pain, and even nihilism all but consumed me. My father, my family, my defacto daimyo had utterly betrayed me and my sisters. Every terrible choice I had made up to that point I justified by knowing it was to help my family, to honor my father’s wishes because he needed help to protect and cultivate us all. With his incompetence and selfishness completely unveiled, I had to confront the truth and it nearly broke me.

Consider how I could have reacted without a code to guide my hand. Callous disregard certainly was not an option, even to this day I still feel rage in recalling the events. My most basic instinct was to immediately kill my father, walk directly to the street doc’s location to kill him, and then slaughter everyone running a bunraku parlor (or had even a minimal connection) until I found my sisters; experience has taught us all the futility of that course of action.

Perhaps I could have bide my time, torturing each target as I worked my way up a chain of decision makers, ratcheting up the intensity until I got I wanted; but where would my life be after I succeeded, bereft of all compassion and desires after using all I am to reach a then accomplish goal? It was only when I reexamined my life and the eight virtues of Bushido did I find a way to cage and even harness my rage. But most importantly, it gave me purpose beyond my pain when I needed it most.

Woo that's some dark drek.
I guess congrats for not turning into a bloodthirsty psychopath?
- Gungrrl

Purpose, more than anything else, is the true benefit of a code. They provide focus, a framework in which to harness raw emotion that can be distracting on their own. The choices and tasks I undertake each day are all made within the scope of my path.

I tend to my bonsai trees, hone my calligraphy and ikebana arrangements, and study various topics to enhance my ability to give rei. I help my neighbors and fellow runners where I can as a manifestation of jin. And my home is kept clean by my own hands and I maintain peak physical condition to remain worthy of gi. This may appear tedious to some, but it highlights the depth of the codes that some of us follow. We do not merely follow slightly stricter rules whenever working in the shadows, we embrace our paths and they shape our lives.

This purpose can also help us who are sinking into the furthest reaches of human augmentation. Purpose, in all of its forms, can keep us sane as less and less of our bodies is our own. Relationships, codes, missions. These can keep us metahuman.
- Crimson
Indeed, deep purpose can definitely be found in surprising places.
- Ōgi

Socializing aside, how these codes can affect a run is what I believe most of you want to know. Indeed, most codes can complicate runs. I have made no secret of the restrictions my own path provides: I will not abide the killing of enemies from surprise or treachery, nor can my word or the word of my team be broken.

These restrictions do not apply only to me - I will not turn a blind eye to my teammates violating these basic guidelines, thus why I share them openly. I am not ignorant or shortsighted regarding how difficult my restrictions can be at times. I know exactly how much simpler it would be to eliminate a target with a sniper rifle from an extreme range or to merely tell an extraction target what they want to hear so they will come along without a struggle.

But for me to take those actions, or knowingly allow them to occur, would be anathema to what has become apart of my core being, no matter the value of pragmatism in the moment. Such violations can shake one down to oneself’s core.

Of course, codes are not all doom and gloom or extreme detriments to a team of runners. In fact, there is a degree of reliability and consistency one brings to a team if one follows a code, if the rest of the team understands the code’s tenants.

For example my teams have known I say what I mean and my word is my bond - they have never needed to doubt that I will do what I say I will do. And while my disapproval of some tactics may appear squeamish or naive, my dedication to seeing something through to the bitter end has been established on plenty occasions. Is not being assured of the professionalism of a teammate worth reasonable limitations on tactics? How much can one trust someone who will do absolutely anything to satisfy the base instinct to survive or gather profit?

For me, the best possible operation runs like a swiss watch - every variable is predicted and controlled within acceptable parameters. This amount of preparation takes discipline, skill and no small amount of guts.
One of the biggest variables in a mission is your team of runners and how they will act under pressure. Will they run and hide like a scared old man, or will they nut up and get the job done?
Knowing a guy keeps to a code makes me feel more secure - that variable is maybe less flexible, but more predictable.
I'll take that trade any day.
- Nevermore

There are some common elements found in the various codes followed in the shadows and some of them do carry pragmatic value. Many codes restrict murder and lethal force, either the methods used (as it relates to my makato) or targets (such as innocent bystanders), which has its own practical value. Not all of our jobs bring us to Zero-Zero zones where the opposition will assuredly kill us and we are irrevocably stained as dishonorable actors.

Many jobs will bring us into contact with security guards who are not authorized or capable of lethal force or extreme violence is counterproductive to the job. Relying upon indiscriminate killing only establishes us as dangerous and a threat to the overall order; it provides the corporations and governments the justification of killing us out of hand instead of using gentler means that allow us to live another day. All of us are aware of colleagues who disappeared (willingly or not) after committing large scale violence.

Further, opportunities can be found in keeping to such restrictions in lethal actions. Avoiding innocent casualties can force your team to be more precise in planning a job, perhaps by using more subtle tactics or forcing the target onto a particular battlefield.Unless the job calls for something in complete opposition to one’s code, maintaining the discipline of one’s restrictions merely encourages creativity, thoughtfulness, and precision in planning a job.

Keeping one’s word is a common element in some codes as well. For me, I strive to be mindful of each moment in time, knowing exactly what I am promising to do with my statements. Following a restriction like this helps give your Johnsons the confidence you will not double cross them and assure your teammates of your loyalty and reliability relative to the specific job and what you have promised to do.

This also means you may have severe complications if the team decides to double-cross the Johnson in a pre-emptive fashion or if promises are made to incidental persons that become untenable to maintain (such as promising to not kill someone’s brother before you learn he has become an uncontrolled toxic shaman). Some codes are not quite as strict regarding the absolute bond of a promise but do require honorable behavior in all dealings. One would think the value in such a restriction is obvious even in the face of a disrespectful Johnson.

There are many other somewhat less common but shared restrictions found in the various codes followed by runners. Some codes followed by various criminal syndicates forbid speaking with law enforcement or, in extreme cases, even accepting anything of value from the authorities (including using items stolen from the government).

Other codes forbid the harming or exploiting the weak and innocent (clearly that would conflict with some of our jobs). Still others regulate how one interacts with spirits or the dead. I am not an expert in any of these codes, merely an amateur student of philosophy and ethics and those who follow these codes would do a far better job than I in describing the nuances of their path.

Guess I’ve been called out to say a bit here as well. Hrm. I guess this is a “code of honor.” It’s more like a self-imposed challenge to be completely honest. Proof that you’re better then the new matrix in a way.
Yeah, I could be like literally every other decker and fling spikes at any device that is tangentially obstructing my team. Or, I could hack the hell out of it, do so quietly, and do so with Style. So I chose to be stylish and silent instead of little more than a Data spike with limbs, and put out more than Dissonant waves. It takes style. Finesse.
Of course, it means you have to be one step ahead of the matrix security. You have to know what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and When you’re getting out. Too stupid, too impromptu, or too slow, and you end up a pile of ashes and pixels. And maybe dead and/or traced too. Depends on the host really.
That said, expect other matrix users to confuse won’t with can’t. Most deckers out there are cocky, in some spectral game of one-upmanship combined with brinksmanship. It’s apparently a tradition older than the matrix itself. It makes it annoying to work with other matrix assets, since not only do they often want to cramp your style, but unlike Meatspace team members, who will make concessions, most deckers have too much pride to let it be known they were polite to another decker.
- Ikaros
Speaking as muscle, I appreciate a subtle decker able to hold themselves back. Sure, sometimes I do need Owl to drop an attack helicopter out of the sky for me. But many more times, the careful and self-regulated approach is better.
- Crimson
Hope it was not too annoying to work with me then.
For me, i do what i need to without holding back in my hacking. If i need to data spike then i send it flying, if the team need that helicopter to keep to the ground then it going to get a fuel leak. I like to keep all the good cards in my hand, any left are useless to what i doing, no pride will let me keep a good card were it be useless.
- Junk Prince

All of this may seem overwhelming, especially considering the variety and sometimes contradicting codes and restrictions; however, there are a few simple things every runner can do to avoid complications relating to a code. Ask whether your teammates strictly follow a code and be open about your own code.

The limits of what we are willing to do are just as important to share as what we are capable of doing, if not more so. Do not criticize or extol the virtues of codes. While I hope others fully understood my path and would follow it, all I truly require is for the team to respect my path and the team only requires knowing what I will and will not do as opposed to why.

Do not attempt to go around your teammate’s back to circumvent a code. Doing so will only ensure your teammate’s ire and is the equivalent of betraying the team in our eyes.

Mutual trust and understanding are the key to effective runner teams; dealing with a runner’s code is merely just one aspect of maintaining effective relationships with your team. It also means sometimes some of us are not a good fit for a job (I have turned down offers before instead of forcing the issue), but that could be said of nearly every runner (alive and dead).

I hope this file will give everyone further insight into those of us who follow codes and help prevent any future conflicts. And as always, I am available through our VPN’s messaging system if you wish to discuss things further with me.

  • Ōgi
This, and the earlier conversation we have had, has been most enlightening. My condolences are your past, Ogi. You have been most helpful. I encourage everyone who reads this to take a second read and closely consider his words. Ogi is a man to be listened to and respected in our line of work.
- Petrus
Mutual trust and understanding are the key to effective runner teams; dealing with a runner’s code is merely just one aspect of maintaining effective relationships with your team.
Anyone who doesn't understand this is an incompetent and/or a liability. Everyone has limits, and we ought to at least be somewhat appreciative of those who are open and up-front about theirs for the team's sake.
- Crow
Mutual trust is quite important. It is more important for others to have your back than taking a different plan.
- Crimson
Yea, how can you even think about pulling a run off when ya can't trust the team with to not kneecap you and leave you for KE.
- Gungrrl
Its actually really easy. Hell I have been doing it since the start.
- Ultimate
We could all just not act like a pecker to others unless we are paid specifically to be. Just sayin' that is a lot simpler than all of this philosophizin'. That seems to me to be a lot looser of a code and more adaptable than all that jazz.
- Scuter
Im just expecting to go on a run where a J wants me to do one thing and Mr.Ihaveacode will say lets not do it that way and do something else all because they dont want to break there precious code. Better take a fuckin long walk off a short pier with that shit.
- Ultimate
As I noted above, it is up to each of us to select our jobs in consideration of our own requirements - attention to such detail is a requirement to surviving as a shadowrunner.
- Ōgi


Page last modified on December 26, 2018, at 09:30 AM