Ashley Hunt gained her Philosophy degree in Denver, Colorado at The University of Colorado. She made Denver her permanent home when she married her college sweetheart. Married six years the couple has a five-year-old daughter and a yellow Labrador named Oodles.
Living in the shadow of Gray’s Peak proves to be inspirational to Ashley as she sits at her desk in her home office where she writes her Romance stories and can merely look out the window to renew her creativity. She strives to make stories with beautiful scenery and intriguing plots. Heroes with great strengths, physical and mental, she pairs with strong heroines who test their limits. In the end, finding deep, passionate love. The way she thinks every relationship should be.
The following interview is with Red Viper, the protagonist of Cyberpunk Tales:
Donald: This month, we are fortunate to have Vivian from Cyberpunk Tales joining us for an interview. Welcome Vivian. Let’s start by having you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Vivian: Talk about myself? Yeah, I’m not real big on sharing, but creds are creds, and I don’t want to be a bad guest. My name is Vivian Hsu, as you seem to already know, though I’d take it as a personal favor if you didn’t spread that name around. Like most freelancers, I prefer people to call me by my street name: Red Viper.
Donald: Okay, “Red Viper,” please continue.
Vivian: Right. Well, I’m a freelancer, a merc. Lot of work down here in the Lower Sprawl if you’re not too concerned with the local corp’s laws. Gotta be willing to get your hands dirty, too. Just because corporations hire us mercs doesn’t mean they’ll hesitate at all to shoot us down. I’m a decent merc, I complete my jobs on time, and I keep my word. People say I’ve got a temper, but they’d say that about any woman who gave them what for. Hmm… let me see… well you seem to already know I’m a psion, so there’s that. Yeah, I’m a Reader. I can read minds, though most of the time it’s more of a pain in the ass than a superpower.
Donald: How so?
Vivian: You know how society is built on little white lies? Like “you look great in that dress” or “yeah, this music’s pretty good – it’s just not my favorite” or “sorry, I can’t go on that date; I have to wash my hair?”
Donald: (laughs) Yeah.
Vivian: Imagine if every time someone tried to spare your feelings with a little white lie or a tactful omission, you got to see what they really thought, whether you liked it or not.
Donald: I see. You’re right, that doesn’t sound very good.
Vivian: It isn’t. But on the bright side, I know immediately if I have something on my face; no awkward conversation with strangers required. If the guy next to me on the train notices, I notice. No way around it. It also means that every time some guy is staring at my ass, I know about that too. Yeah, dude with the sunglasses who rides the Metro from Sector 12A every morning, I know about you. You’re not clever.
Donald: What was it like the first time you entered the Sprawl?
Vivian: (laughs) You ever hear what they say about your first day in the slammer?
Donald: What, the whole thing about fighting the biggest guy you see so that people leave you alone?
Vivian: Yeah, that one. It’s not quite the law of the jungle down here, but that survival of the fittest thing is around sometimes. Basically, you don’t want to look like prey, or someone will take advantage of you, or hurt you, or worse. Well my first day, I looked like a scared, lost, rich girl, and someone tried to rob me about six minutes after I left the Upper Sprawl.
Donald: Really? What did you do?
Vivian: Shit, what do you think? I got robbed. Three guys took every credstick I had on me. I was lucky, because these assholes weren’t real interested in hurting me, they just wanted my cash. I was scared shitless, but eventually I realized that I was more angry than I was afraid. So I waited for them to turn to leave, then picked up an old beer bottle and broke it over the head of the guy that was standing closest to me. I ended up scrapping with the other two. I got cut, they got cut; turned out that I surprised them so much that I was able to get the upper hand, more or less, and I won. Got out of there with only one serious cut. I think the guy I clocked first with the bottle made it out of that street alive, but I know his mates didn’t.
Donald: Is that how you got that scar on your face?
Vivian: Donald, buddy, you know it’s rude to point out a lady’s flaws. (points to her mouth, where a thin scar bisects her lips and traces a line down toward her chin) I assume you’re talking about this one? Well, funny story, that one actually comes from the time I got drunk and fought this big Wulfen dude. He punched me in the face, and the claw on his thumb cut me pretty good. I hit him with a chair. We ended up buying each other a few beers. He’s a good guy, really, just don’t get drunk and talk shit with a Wulfen hybrid. Especially don’t talk bad about his family. Wulfen take that really personally.
Donald: So how long did it take for you to acclimate to living in the Sprawl?
Vivian: Let’s put it this way; I was born to rule the boardroom of a big time corporation, maybe even to sit in their Senate seat and rule what’s left of America. At least, that’s what my parents designed me for. But the joke’s on them, really, because as shitty and rough as things are down here, I love it. I wouldn’t trade lives again if you paid me to. The first month was hard, but I learned quick. Really, I’m still learning, but I think well on my feet. After all, that was another thing I was designed to do.
Donald: Designed? What do you mean?
Vivian: I was a designer baby. My parents hired a genetics firm to take samples of their genetic material, and then the lab generated a few thousand different fetuses with a variety of different traits. They selected for beauty, charisma, a quick wit and a strong memory – all things that would be assets in the boardroom. Then they had the lab replicate the selected fetus until they got one that came out with the markers of psionic ability. It’s impossible to just make a psion, but by the law of averages, they knew they would get someone like me with the brute force approach. I don’t know how many potential daughters they made and threw away. I’m not sure I want to know, really.
Donald: So, what was it like the first time you were in serious danger and had to really protect yourself down in the Sprawl?
Vivian: Well, I told you about the time I got robbed, but I wasn’t in a crazy amount of danger at that time, at least not by my current standards. (laughs) Alright, so there’s not much chance I’m gonna make it to thirty-five. Live fast, die young, right? (laughs) Right, right, your question. Well on my first job as a freelancer, my brand new boss got sold out to the corporation we were supposed to be robbing. Everyone was killed but me, and that was by sheer luck. I probably should have died up there, but I got lucky. Several times. I did make it out with the thing we were supposed to be stealing, so I got a pretty big payout. It’s sad, but that actually jump-started my career. Gave me a rep as a survivor, and someone who would get the job done no matter what.
Donald: How did you first learn that you were a psion, different than your parents?
Vivian: When I was ten, I happened to be in the room when my father was having a conversation with a lower-level executive from another company. I don’t even remember what they were discussing, but I remember the guy my dad was talking to lied about something. It wasn’t a bad lie or anything, but I heard him say something with his mouth and then immediately say something utterly different without moving his lips. I was a kid, so like any little stinker, I just blurted out that the guy was lying, and told my dad what I’d heard when he’d spoken without his mouth. That was pretty awkward. My parents explained to me what I was after that. It seemed normal at the time, you know, when you’re a kid you assume everything happening to you is normal. It wasn’t until they hired a tutor to teach me to close that Inner Eye that I really found out that not everyone was a psychic.
Donald: How did you get the name Red Viper?
Vivian: Well, the Red part is self-explanatory. I’m one of like eight redheads that frequents the Greasy Wheel, and every single one of us has been called Red at one time or another. Usually, a new nickname develops over time. For me, the name Red just stuck, especially since I didn’t feel like telling everyone my real name. The “Viper” part got tacked on after this big chromed-up asshole tried to push me around about three months after I wound up in the Sprawl. He picked me up and slung me over his shoulder, probably thinking it would be a nice display of dominance over the little mouthy woman. I bit him on the neck, where he didn’t have armor. Got him pretty good, and he was bleeding something fierce. The guy probably would have crushed my skull if another freelancer at the bar hadn’t stepped in. He said something to the other guy about “grabbing the viper by her tail,” and that pretty much sealed it.
Donald: Who is your best friend, and how did you meet?
Vivian: My best friend would have to be my favorite street doc, Michi. She and I ran into each other for the first time when I tried to break into a mid-level Pharmacorp’s stores for some painkillers I couldn’t afford. Figured I could sell whatever else I found there and make a few creds. Turned out I was in over my head, and I almost got myself shot a couple times by the android security guards. In a stroke of luck, however, Michi happened to be robbing the same storeroom at the same time. She was a great deal more professional than I was, and she got the drop on the security guards with some kind of electromagnetic pulse weapon. She helped me get out, we ended up talking over breakfast and coffee at about two-in-the-morning. We got on like a house fire after that.
Donald: Well, thank you, Red. I must say that was very interesting. I definitely look forward to reading about more of your fascinating adventures in future books in the Cyberpunk Tales series.