Monday Night Shadowrun

It's a radioactive ghoul party

Under the direction of Peaches, the team drive their van through the passageway underneath the auto shop. They pass a bar of all things early on, which Peaches explains is ‘Five by Five’, a smuggler den where she does business sometimes – if they’re ever looking to get contraband across the border, that’s the place to go. Beyond this is another lift, this time an industrial cargo lift large enough to drive into. Peaches gets out once they’re on it, draws the rusted steel grating and pulls a lever to descend, which turns out to be a slow descent of about 12 floors.

When they reach the bottom they find the lift opens on to an old ruined subway platform, which has had ramps added to it so you can drive down on to the (now inert) tracks. The whole place is crumbling, and Peaches explains that the whole place was destroyed by earthquakes when Ghostwalker attacked this sector when Aztlan controlled it. Her father and some smuggling associates had slowly dug it out over the years after for their own purposes. She directs them to drive down the tunnel to the left.

It’s all rather uneventful, they pass a number of similarly ruined stations before coming to a section where the tunnel is come rely caved in, but off to the right the tunnel wall has broken through and a rough rubble track lined with pallets has been constructed. Peaches says this is where the routes switches over to some old military tunnels, and that Faceman should don his tin foil hat now due to the background radiation (he has unshielded cranial cyberware). Tor leaves his come link on an open channel to listen for interference and both he and Lightning keep an eye on their bio monitors just in case.

The military tunnel is smaller, and also has a set of rails but they’re smaller gauge as if built for something specific like a shuttle platform. As thy drive along, they pass doors in the side of the tunnel with a basic platform and railing set up. Indications are that radiation levels are higher than normal here, but not dangerous so long as the exposure is not for extended periods. Eventually they follow a gentle curve in the tunnel and Peaches warns that there’s a patched section ahead that they should slow down for.

When the patched section comes into view, Peaches draws a breath. The tunnel suddenly slopes downwards, and then back up again, and in the middle is a gap where a section has collapsed. The far side is still attached, and so sloped sharply down into the chasm while the near side is detached, meaning a sharp drop. Peaches says that there should be a bridge here though, and was last week. The team can just make out that on the opposite side of the gap is a pickup truck, with it’s winch extending a chain down the sharp slope – so the truck must have got across, but maybe something following it broke the bridge and fell in, and they’d been trying to winch it out. However neither Mouse nor Tor can see any life signs in astral space on the other side; Lightning’s cyber eyes do pick out a pair of legs sticking out from underneath the truck though.

Everyone except Peaches gets out of the van and starts taking a look around. Faceman is considering trying to jump, but it’s a bit far and on looking downwards, there’s a faint greenish glow at the bottom of the chasm, 30m down, and Lightning’s biomonitor starts making a loud warning sign just leaning over the edge – looks like a toxic dump of some sort.

Tor sets up Joe on the roof of the van, pointing backwards to cover their rear. Whiskey gets out a grapple line thrower and sets up a rope crossing diagonally across the gap. Mouse enters astral again and scouts out the area below – it appears to be a separate sub-tunnel underneath which this tunnel has collapsed into, but underneath she sees 5 figures – ghouls – one troll sized, the others human sized, and all dual-natured. The things hiss when they see her (they can obviously see the astral plane), and Mouse quickly returns to her body to warn everyone.

Lightning drops a flash pack down into the gap which starts strobing, and everyone backs off. Tor turns around on the van to face the edge, and both he, Lightning and Whiskey take aim. Faceman jumps on top of the rope and starts walking across, using his hands on the ceiling of the tunnel to steady himself, planning to get across before the creatures reach the lip, but he only makes a bit of progress initially. He’s still wearing his tin foil hat and the strobing light makes him look like some kind of dancer/circus act wearing a disco ball on his head!

Just afterwards the troll ghoul pulls himself over the lip, holding the flash pack which starts to affect the team too (although Lightning has flare compensation which helps a bit). Whiskey shoots it out with his pistol which destroys it – which Lightning isn’t too happy with since they’re rechargeable! But still, that stops the flashing. Lightning shoots and kills the orc ghoul which has pulled himself up the other side. Peaches is frantically locking the van doors and shouting at them not to let the ghouls touch them, because they’re infectious. The troll ghoul charges toward Whiskey, but catches the rope that Faceman is walking along at the same time. Faceman jumps off, dodging and rolling and avoiding the nasty horns, but the rope is broken. The Troll ghoul takes a couple of swipes at Whiskey but misses – Whiskey draws his katana at this point. Mouse (who has retreated to the van with a terrified Peaches) tries to hit the troll ghoul with a Bugs spell, but it isn’t affected. Lightning hits it with a couple of shots but it stays standing, and Tor eventually dispatches it with burst fire from Joe, and Whiskey manages to duck out of the way of the gore fountain.

Two more ghouls pull themselves up over the lip, one of which is dispatched by Lightning and the other is engaged in Melee by Whiskey and Faceman. However from behind, two more human ghouls slam into the back of the van, and climb over to try to make a meal of Tor, who spins around to face them. They claw at him but he manages to keep away from them while spraying bullets at them from Joe. Lightning turns to assist, and Mouse enters astral again to engage them in astral combat. One of them goes down under this barrage, while the other is badly wounded. Meanwhile Whiskey and Faceman keep at the one remaining ghoul they’re facing, but manage to avoid hitting it.

So far, no-one has been scratched by any ghouls, which is a very good thing.

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Rush hour in the CAS

The team drives out of Cheesman Park and head towards the second Coyote meet up as recorded in their GPS, which is basically straight across town to the East. Relatively quickly they get caught up in the morning rush hour traffic though and progress is slow. Right around the time that the traffic grinds to a halt and they’re boxed in the middle of 6 lanes of traffic, a black van cuts into the space behind them and the side door opens, letting 3 Chinese men step out and start to walk towards their van. At the same time, the door of a Vietnamese sandwich shop opens, and 3 Japanese men wa out and start heading towards them too. The traffic is basically at a standstill right now so they weave their way between the other cars towards the van. The two groups of men appear to be eyeing each other up just as much as they’re watching th team’s van, and are not looking friendly to each other.

When they get to the van, the leader of the Chinese (obviously Triad) group speaks to Faceman first and explains that they know the team are transporting something for the Koshari and would like to make them an offer to give it them instead. The Japanese (Yakuza) group makes the same offer. While the traffic creeps occasionally forward, a bidding war ensues and eventually the Yakuza come out on top with an offer of 7000¥. The Triads can’t match this but refuse to leave, just watching from a short distance.

The team decide that Mouse will create an illusionary version of the letter to give to the Yakuza (Mouse has to retain eye contact with it). She manages to create something convincing and the trade takes place. Thinking they’ll need to get out of here fast, Tor decides he’s going to make a risky manoeuvre across the opposite lane of traffic and aim to get into the alley across the street. Whiskey hacks into the van behind and gets ready with a command to send it reversing into the traffic behind as a distraction.

As soon as the yakuza get the letter, they open it. Of course Mouse hasn’t it a clue what’s inside so she makes the illusion burst into flames as if it was booby trapped. The Yakuza leader drops it instinctively, and at that point Whiskey sets the Triad van off in reverse and Tor puts his foot down and pulls a 180 across 3 lanes of traffic, amazingly not hitting anyone (but pissing a lot of people off). The Yakuza suspect a betrayal and try to give chase on foot – two of them manage to run across the traffic but the other gets stuck.

Barrelling down the alley and smashing through a chain-link fence, Tor starts pulling away from the two running Yakuza. They pull handguns and get off a couple of shots, but shooting while running isn’t very accurate and the bullets go wild. Mouse dumps an illusionary smoke cloud on them which slows them down further, while Tor takes them across the next major road and into another alley. They decide to avoid getting caught in more traffic by taking a detour quite far North, where they enter a multistorey car park and ditch the van. A bit of searching locates a couple of possible replacements, although Lightning ignores the Ares Humvee out if principle (his former employers were Ares). What remains is a bright orange people carrier, which is actually very modern, just a bit garish. Whiskey overrides the locks and they’re on their way again.

They call their next border crossing agent Peaches and hear a woman’s voice with an rather obvious southern belle accent. She tells them that they need to drive into an auto shop at the GPS coordinates. After a bit more traffic (it’s now about 8:30), they find the auto shop and drive in. Inside apart from various mechanical jacks, compressors and such they find a female Ork, dressed in jeans and a ragged T-Shirt and rubbing grease from her hands with an oily rag. She’s in her late 20’s, affable and very attractive, if you don’t mind the green skin and small tusks.

She says she can get them across the border to UCAS via a network of tunnels than used to be subways or maybe old military fallout shelters. They’re old but big enough for a van, so long as they don’t mind a rough ride at times, She also warns them that ghouls sometimes prowl the area, and that there may be some minor radiation hazards – fine so long as they don’t hang around too long, and hey don’t have any volatile chemicals that might get set off. Also she warns anyone with unshielded cranial cyberware that the radiation might be unpleasant – since Faceman’s isn’t shielded she fetches him a roll of tin foil which she says he should wrap his head with if he starts getting a bad headache!

Peaches says she’ll ride in their van as she doesn’t want to take any of her vehicles down there. She activates a series of doors and an inverted car lift and they proceed into the basement of th building and then down a steep concrete shaft into the tunnels below…

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Entering CAS the sneaky way

On leaving Mr Johnson in the back room of Denim, the team is approached by a native american man dressed in plaid, jeans and a Stetson who was at the corner of the bar and clearly waiting for them to come out. He seems to already know about their mission, referring to them as “this year’s couriers”, and offers to make their lives easier crossing the borders, for a price.

The team are initially reluctant, and a bit suspicious especially when the man refuses to go into Mr Johnson’s room with them (he says he doesn’t want to disturb him). After a bit of debate they find out he’s asking 500¥ for the services of 2 ‘Coyotes’, which is Koshari slang for someone who specialises in getting people across a particular border. They decide to take it as a back-up plan at least. Faceman negotiates him down to 350¥, and in return gets two signed introduction letters, together with contact numbers and rendezvous locations. The Coyotes are called ‘Stalker’ and ‘Peaches’ respectively, and they need to meet Stalker about 15 minutes drive away near Sloan Lake. The documents are signed Walks in Shadow.

Outside in the car park, an employee brings the van they’re to borrow around to the front. It’s a relatively basic olive-coloured people carrier. Whiskey and Tor check it for bugs, contraband and mechanical issues and find it to be both clean and fairly serviceable. They jump in and drive to Sloan Lake.

The GPS coordinates lead them to an open plain just off the road, nestled between some rocky hills. They call the number and get an auto-response saying Stalker is on his way. Faceman stays with the van while everyone else except Mouse hides in the long grass; Mouse turns invisible and sits in the back.

After about half an hour the first light of dawn is starting to appear at the horizon and a large motorbike pulls up, a low riding machine in hot rod style. A very tall man (6’7") wearing a tasseled leather jacket, with grey hair pulled back in a pony tail is riding, with a huge 2-handed sword sticking up near the back in a specially designed holder. He leaves that on the bike as he gets off, stretches a bit, and proclaims that it’s too damn early for this.

This is Stalker. He accepts the letter from Walks in Shadow somewhat reluctantly, muttering something about pre-paid contracts, and tells them that they’ll be going through some extensive caves to get into the CAS from here, it’ll be about an hour and a half underground. Although grumpy to start with, Stalker slowly warms up to the party, especially when they express interest in his stories of his runner days. He tells them that he was here when Ghostwalker laid waste to the Aztlan district (which is now controlled by the CAS), and that’s how he ended up hiding out in the caves and eventually discovering the route through.

Stalker leads them on his bike, down a dry riverbed and to a concealed cave entrance. When he opens it, a few people spot there are carvings on the walls, which Stalker says are Aztlan. He says it’s possible that some Aztlaners are still hiding out down here, since the caves are a massive warren, but he’s never seen any.

There’s room to drive the van into the cave, and the trip underground is claustrophobic and a bit hairy at times, including loose rocks, an underground lake with a narrow and quite slippery ford, and a man-made bridge section, all of which mean Tor has to have his wits about him at the wheel. Nevertheless, they manage to make it through without any significant incident, and emerge through a secret hatch in a cave in Cheesman Park, which is about half a mile on the other side of the border. stalker says he’s going to get some breakfast before heading back, and bids them farewell. Checking the coast is clear, which it is barring a few early joggers, they drive out on to the road on th way to their next stop.

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Denver calling

After returning to Lightning‘s house in the barrens, the team rests up a bit, making a few calls to their fixers to arrange for equipment. Kit / King Jack tells them at this point that he’s leaving, because he doesn’t like them and their style is too physical.

When Tor calls his fixer, ‘Moonshot’ Joe, he immediately tells Tor to turn on the Trid to Channel 49, where a news article is covering the graveyard and talking about Jet Black’s grave being desecrated. The reporter explains that ‘a passer by’ gave descriptions of suspects leaving the scene, which are displayed as photo-fit style images on the screen, and are a pretty good likeness for all the team members. Joe says they’d better lie low for a while.

Lightning’s contact at Ares, Thomas, also informs him that Frank Ivarson has seen the reports and is immediately dispatching to Seattle with a strike team to look for him. A things are starting to look a bit dicey. Thomas agrees to arrange a DNA sequencing of the tooth they’ve extracted from the corpse in Jet Black’s grave, and they arrange to get it picked up by secure courier.

Faceman contacts Fel, who is distraught and talks in a harsh whisper as if afraid someone might hear. She says she has to pretend she doesn’t know him right now and they should only talk via email. Later on, they ask her to try to arrange a viral video release hinting the there’s more to the story on Jet Black, to prepare the ground for a future countering of the bad publicity they’re getting right now.

Joe calls Tor back, and says he’s heard of a job offer they might be interested in, because it would take them out of town for a while to Denver. The Johnson is specifically looking for people with no Denver connections and is willing to arrange a discrete flight to the city. The team discuss it quickly, and decide getting away from Seattle for now might be a good idea. They have to be at a specific hangar at the airport that evening. Joe says he’s also found a potential replacement hacker for them, it’s short notice so he only has one name, but he comes recommended from a friend – his name is ‘Whiskey’ and he’ll meet them at the hangar.

Arriving at the hangar they find a well-used but still serviceable private jet, and a man in a trenchcoat. They briefly introduce themselves to Whiskey, who it turns out is an ex-soldier, quite cybernetically enhanced as well as being able to hack. Keen to get away, they board (Tor takes co-pilot which seems to have already been arranged), and they take off for Denver.

A few hours and two time zones later they land in Denver, specifically the Pueblo Corporate Council part of it. The transport company seems to have bypassed security checks (all part of the service, and Tor gets their card for the future) and a limo awaits them. As they get in, Joe calls back and explains they’re heading to a bar called ‘Denim’, and it’s some kind of courier job. They’re to meet Mr Johnson in a back room, just ask at the bar.

It’s about an hours drive, and they find that they’re being driven along scenic forested roads, and alongside a lake for a time. The atmosphere is thinner here too, and it’s quite chilly. Eventually they reach Denim in the early hours, which is a quite substantial place constructed like a log cabin, and decorated with many traditional Hopi Indian wall ornaments.

After getting some drinks, they head in to the back room (which Mouse and Tor have already detected as being magically shielded), which they find to be hot and smoky, with a fire pit in the centre, a smoke hole in the roof and vials, jars and various spiritual paraphernalia arranged on shelves and desks around the outside. Sitting at the firepit is a man in a grey business suit, but wearing a large raven’s mask, and smoking a long pipe. The team’s eyes sting a bit at the smoky, herbal atmosphere. Tor and Mouse notice that he’s awakened, that this is his magical lodge and he has 2 other spirit links going out of the room. He gestures to the seats around him and passes the pipe around to everyone, which induces a relaxed, slightly buzzy mood in most (and a coughing fit in Tor).

Mr Johnson explains that he needs a package delivered to 4923 Billings St, in the Montbello District of the UCAS, which is 2 border crossings away. The package is actually a sealed vellum letter, and he points out that the seal, which is tamper-proof, must not be broken. He also explains that there are those who would rather the letter is not delivered successfully, or who would’ve interested in its contents, hence hiring the team, and the choice of outsiders was deliberate as both parties wanted an independent courier. He declines to go into any more detail on the contents of the letter despite speculation.

He offers 3000¥ per team member for the job. Faceman tries to negotiate, but his heart’s not really in it and the pipe must have fogged his brain a bit, because Mr Johnson doesn’t budge. He does offer to lend them a van though since they have no transport. They must deliver the letter by midday today (it’s currently 4am). In theory the drive of that distance is possible in 2 hours, barring delays at border crossings or any other interruptns, and they have 8 hours. Seems like an easy job in the mountains?

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The getaway

The team piles into their Mercury Comet sedan as the two cars, one armoured van and two chopper drones come screaming around the corner, three blocks up the street. With Tor at the wheel, they drive off calmly at first, hoping they haven’t been spotted, and take a right into a smaller side street, accelerating away after the turn. Inside, Lightning takes aim out of the back window in case they are pursued, and Faceman readies the two HE grenades they had looted from their adversaries in the graveyard. The side street is wide enough for two cars, but is basically made up of the backs of apartment buildings, with fire escapes and secure underground garages the only features.

Shortly afterwards, the armoured van comes hurtling down the side street after them, with the two drones flying point – clearly their hopes of a clean getaway were in vain. However, Lightning gets two good shots off early (using Edge) and both drones go crashing to the ground – a relief since both of them were sporting nasty-looking Ares machine guns. At this point, a hatch opens on the top of the van, and a machine gun mount deploys, manned by gunner, who immediately opens fire with a wide, strafing burst. Tor tries to weave, but the back of the car is torn up quite badly by what seems to be armour-piercing rounds. The car is still running, but it’s unlikely to take another hit like that.

Having finally wound the electric window down, Faceman throws a grenade into the alley, trying to time it right. He uses Edge too, and gets it bang-on; the grenade detonates under the van and the shock wave rocks it on its axles – but incredibly, the driver keeps it on track and it keeps coming, damaged but not critically.

Mouse tries to distract the driver with a Bugs spell, but unfortunately he resists.
As they approach the other end of the side street, Lightning and the gunner open fire again at the same time. Lightning’s explosive ammo detonates inside the grill and the van is finally out of commission, but not before the driver gets another substantial burst of fire off in their direction. Tor, however, pulls off an impressive bit of evasive driving and the bullets carve a path through only brick and asphalt. The van crashes into the wall of the side street – a glancing impact that probably wasn’t fatal to the occupants, but it’s pursuit days are over.

Emerging from the side street at high speed, Tor takes a left, narrowly missing the small amount of traffic on the roads at this time in the morning. Lightning spots one of the other cars a way back on the road, clearly scouting ahead, but they may not have seen them yet. Mouse casts an illusion on the back of the car to disguise the bullet holes and to change the number plate. They return to normal street speeds and take a turning at the next lights. The car doesn’t follow, and everyone breathes a little easier.

The team spends the next 3 hours driving around looking for a new vehicle. While they’re at it, they cancel the upload of the disc to the public servers and contact Mr Johnson. They discover that his office has been burgled, and he realises he may not be safe and is planning to leave town for a while – once the disk is his. After explaining that the job was more complicated than they expected or were led to believe, Faceman manages to negotiate the deal up to 20000 Nuyen, up from the original 10K. Taking into account the 5K advance, payment on delivery is 15K. They give Mr Johnson the location (a deposit box at the airport, which is convenient for him anyway), and true to his word he sends the payment through about an hour later, obviously having retrieved it successfully.

The team do find another vehicle, a GAZ P-179 with extended cab (basically a luxury pickup with 2 rows of seats), and successfully break into it. Thinking a nice truck like this probably has a location tracker, they ask Kit to jam it until they get chance to deal wi it properly, which he does. They decide to retire to Lightning’s apartment since Faceman’s is likely to be too insecure, and consider their next move.

Karma awarded: 8 (each)

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Graveyard shootout

Having decided they didn’t like being forced to accept the deal that Jet Black’s representatives were offering, everything kicked off in the graveyard. Lightning, Faceman and Tor all opened fire on the leader (female vampire), getting surprise and using some Edge to get an extra drop on them before they could react. She appeared to be quite resilient, but round after round of explosive ammunition soon overcame her and she dropped, dead before she hit the floor.

Faceman leapt forward to attack her two main bodyguards with his sword, who were unable to use their guns because Mouse cast Hot Potato on them. However, they fought back with blades mounted in their forearm greaves. Faceman seriously wounds one of them early on while fending off the the other.

The other four guards they knew about at the gate start running towards the scene. However, at that point another man somersaults over the mausoleum, landing behind Faceman and attacking him from behind with a monofilament sword, wounding him. In addition, from the flank someone else stands up from behind a gravestone and flings a lightning bolt at Lightning (aptly enough), injuring him slightly – Mouse is covering him with her counterspelling at this point which helps.

In the chaos, Kit / King Jack drops to the floor and enters VR, searching for any damage he can do to devices they’re carrying. He hasn’t got much time to be specific though, so picks nodes at random and starts to hack them, hoping one will cause mischief. He manages to crash a couple of nodes, but it appears that he’s probably just hit commlinks right now, which is inconvenient but not stopping any fighting!

Meanwhile, Faceman asks for some backup, and Lightning and Tor focus their fire on the somersaulting swordsman. Faceman also turns around to put his back to the most wounded bodyguard (who actually retreats) and to face the new foe. Between them, they manage to take him down but not before Faceman takes another scrape.

At this point, the four guards from the front gate start opening up on the area – Mouse dives for cover but strikes her head on a gravestone on the way down, meaning the group is no longer so well protected from spells. The main part of the team at this point are surrounded on three sides, taking some cover behind gravestones, although Tor still hasn’t been spotted in his tree.

As he went down, the swordsman dropped his weapon, and both Faceman and the remaining bodyguard notice that there’s a flashing light on his palm. A moment of mutual recognition passes between them, but at that point the mage drops a darkness spell on the area and everything goes black. Faceman and Lightning both run towards the abandoned church and emerge from the darkness, but it’s given the wounded a bit of cover. A large electrical discharge goes off inside the darkness and leaks out into the light – it seems that the swordsman’s dead mans trigger was actually a stun / EMP weapon of some sort. While running, Lightning shoots at the four guards coming from the gate and takes one down. Tor is sniping at them still and wounds another.

The darkness drops, and the mage gestures towards them again, but whatever he tried doesn’t work. He has time to wince and look annoyed before Lightning, taking full cover against a gravestone from the gate guards, shoots him twice in the chest and he drops. The remaining lightly-wounded bodyguard has charged back to Faceman, who parries his attack and knocks him down (unconscious). However, the three remaining gate guards are now close enough and go into burst fire on the only remaining target they can see: Faceman – who also has no cover since he was engaged in melee. He takes three wide bursts, and drops.

Tor and Lightning dispatch two more of the gate guards, and Mouse hits them with a stun ball which takes down the last. There is no sign of the bodyguard that Faceman badly wounded near the start.

It’s all over in under 20 seconds. Lightning stabilises Faceman and Mouse heals him a little to get him back on his feet. Most of the opposition are already dead, except for three – one who escaped, the other bodyguard who has been knocked out by Faceman but who isn’t dying, and the guard who was knocked out by the stun ball. After some debate, they decide not to kill them, and take the bodies and the two prisoners into the abandoned church.

After reviving the bodyguard, they have a rather acrimonious ‘chat’ where the bodyguard, who they learn is called Zhazz makes clear that they’ve made some very powerful enemies. Faceman and Jack want to just kill him, but Lightning, Tor and Mouse aren’t in favour for various reasons (military principles of killing defenceless prisoners and that it won’t prevent them being chased down). Lightning and Zhazz, who is clearly very upset that his boss is dead, agree to settle this mano-a-mano one day.

Tor has found a groundskeeper’s shed, has got shovels, and is in the process of digging up Jet Black – to see whether he’s really there, and to see if he’s got a ring with the encryption key as Marli claimed. It’s a long job, so Lightning helps (there’s only room for 2), which means it takes about an hour, while Faceman and Kit keep watch. They can only dig out part of it in the time so don’t really have the option to replace everything neatly, but they do find a skeleton in the rather plush coffin, with the remnants of long black hair and no rings. The skeleton is already 20+ years old but it does appear to have several broken bones. At this point, they hear the squealing of tyres from a few block away and decide it’s time to go, leaving the grave partially covered.

They run back to the car just as, about 3 blocks up the street, 3 vehicles come screaming around the corner; a van of some sort and two sedans. Not everyone spots it, but about 20 metres above them, two helicopter drones are with them, each with some kind of gun barrel slung underneath. Kit is so surprised, he falls flat on his face in the road and has to be picked up. They all scramble towards the car to try to make their getaway…

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Marli's house, and negotiating with vampires

Entering the extensive but spooky house whose grounds take up an entire block, the team is met by a hologram of a woman in her mid-twenties, with fashionably cropped blond hair and a tattoo of a star next to her left eye. This is Marli Brennan, former lead singer of The Shadows and friend of Jet Black – or at least, it’s a hologram of her. She should be in her late 40’s by now though, so this can’t be an accurate representation. She leads them through the house, which is kitted out with holographic projectors in every room and quite a number of fibre-optic cameras of the kind used by mages to extend their range.

‘Marli’ leads them into a sitting room decked out with leather sofas and asks them what they want. When they tell her about the disk and ask about a decryption key, Marli get’s a bit distant, reliving the past. She says that Jet Black wrote those very personal songs at a difficult time for all of them, and decided that they should only be listened to by them, and only when they were together. For that reason he paid someone to create extensive encryption on them in such a way that they could only be decrypted with a combination of 3 keys, and they each had one (barring Jet Black himself who kept a master). 5 others had the other keys, the 4 members of The Shadows and ‘K-Spot’, who was Kerwin Loomis’s father. K-Spot was a sound engineer, but not a very good one; it just turned out that he was a great friend to Jet Black in some bad times, so was always included. Marli had a copy of the songs once, but they were lost in the Crash 2.0 in ’62 because she never had a physical copy.

When asked, she said that even if she could decrypt the songs, she wouldn’t want to, because JB had always made it clear these songs were not for general release. She wouldn’t go against that. When pushed, she held her ground on that but said that there we others that she knew who ‘represented Jet Blacks interests’, who might be willing to make a deal. She would call them and took Faceman’s contact number, with the agreed secret word being ‘lobster’ to identify any caller.

The team left and had lunch. Kit had left a spider drone in the house before he left, and used it to try to hack into Marli’s system while she was contacting these others. He was in a rush so did it on the fly, and while he got it, he tripped an alert. An IC appeared in the node which Kit took out quickly, but he needed to erase the alert log in order to remain undetected. Unfortunately because Marli was active in the system, she had seen the alert too so interrupted him, so Kit dropped out, knowing that Marli probably knew it was them.

A little later Faceman got a call from another woman, arranging a meet and offering considerably more for the disk. She gives an address which looks like a church on the map, and a time of 11pm. The team scout out the area and discover that it’s a disused church with a surrounding leafy graveyard, and Jet Black’s grave is within it, adorned with tributes from fans even more that 20 years on. Tor plans to hide in a tree to cover the area, and Kit sets up an automated system which will upload the disk’s data at 1am the next morning if not stopped, to give them a bargaining chip.

Night falls, and Tor installs himself in the tree before the other team members enter to make the meet. Although everyone is keeping a watch, they don’t notice anyone else enter, yet at the allotted time a flare sets off near Jet Black’s grave, revealing a woman dressed in tight black leather flanked by two others. Mouse and Tor are surprised to note that they can’t see them in astral space.

The woman identifies herself as someone who is handling Jet Black’s affairs, and seems to know a bit about them, including their Mr Johnson’s identity and where Faceman lives. They offer double what Mr Johnson is paying, plus 5000 each to keep their mouths shut. Some tense negotiations ensue, during which time the woman makes it very clear that they want to do a deal nicely, but will resort to heavier tactics if the team refuse or are unreasonable in their demands. The final offer is beaten up to 30000 plus 5000 per person, but they refuse to go any higher. At this point the woman smiles rather aggressively, and the team notice that she has elongated, sharp canines, probably a vampire. Only Mouse has any knowledge of vampires other than horror stories, and knows that it’s actually an awakened disease called HMHVV – they’re not undead, but they’re also empowered with the sorts of things the stories talked of, like enhanced strength, speed etc.

The team now have a choice to make – stick to the original deal (good for reputation) and make less money and probably have to fight off one or more vampires, or take the better deal and not have to fight, but take some reputational damage for not completing the job they were given?

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Delphia rescued

Lightning, Faceman and Tor are in the warehouse waiting for another forklift to open the door. Kit, who is staying in the rowboat outside, enters VR and hacks into the network as a standard user account to see what’s going on. He notices that one of the main gates is suddenly opened, and at this point the lighting both inside and outside the warehouses comes on. A Lone Star patrol car is entering the compound for some reason with two rentacops inside.

The cops chat to a couple of workers, and one of the cops and one of the workers break off and start casually making their way towards the warehouse that the team is hiding in (barring Mouse, who is still outside with an invisibility spell on). Kit is watching through the cameras, and spots some kind of financial transaction going on – it seems like these cops are taking bribes, probably in return for not checking the facility too closely.

A forklift finally goes into the warehouse but the cop and worker follow it in, the worker keeping the door open by punching a code into a keypad. Lightning, Tor and Faceman hide behind some crates, and just hear the duo talking about baseball. They wander into the office area, oblivious. Due to all the lights being on, the team decide to sit tight and not make a break for it. While they’re waiting, Kit successfully manages to hide from a wandering IC which enters the camera node he’s currently in by threading his Stealth complex form.

Eventually the cops leave and the lights are switched off, at which point the team sneaks back out under the cover of darkness and by following the next forklift, returning through the drainage system. Kit sees the icon of a spider (metahuman security) enter his node and quickly logs out before there’s a chance he could be discovered – they know there’s at least one Technomancer on staff and don’t know what their abilities are.

The team paddles downstream and beaches on an abandoned, rubbish strewn slipway. Tor switches to astral vision and spots a small group of go-gangers hanging around by the road. Not wanting anyone to have seen them near the scene, they decide to slip away through the rubbish-strewn dock area, with Lightning carrying Kit because a) he doesn’t like dirt and b) he’s not really capable of sneaking. They make it back to the car and head back to Mr Lo’s.

The Lotus Card Room is largely deserted by the time they get back, but after some banging on the door Mr Chen is still there to greet them, and he shows them through to Mr Lo’s office. He’s very pleased with the team’s reports of success – although Lightning gives him a recording of the operation from his cybereyes, Mr Lo seems content to trust their word in the first instance, confident that if it turns out that they were lying, the Yellow Lotus Triad can find them and ‘correct the misunderstanding’. The team is duly paid 12,000¥ and Delphia is released into their custody.

The team return to Faceman’s apartment. Delphia looks jumpy and nervous, but is convinced to rest for a few hours. She says that she was the only Carrion Studios member present when Jet Black recorded the songs in question, and that he was extremely protective of the final recordings, not even letting her handle the media as she normally would – he arranged everything himself, and took everything with him when he left. She had been surprised that the album never appeared afterwards. She did say that members of the Shadows had dropped in from time to time while the recording was going on, and that they were clearly aware of what he was doing; if anyone knows how to access the recordings (except Jet Black himself), it’s likely to be one of them, but of course only one member remains alive, and she’s been underground for years. She says that Marli Brennan still lives in Seattle, but under a pseudonym – and Delphia knows where she lives. She hasn’t spoken to her in 18 years though, and has no idea how she’ll respond if they suddenly try to contact her.

Delphia is keen to get out of the city for a while, since there are a number of other people who may now be after her (a series of deals fell through because of the Triad business), but is convinced to stay a little longer to try to mediate with Marli. She’s jumpy though, and is looking for her next BTL hit.

The next morning, the team head down to the address that Delphia specifies, and find an old stone house surrounded by a wrought iron fence, which takes up a whole city block and has rolling, slightly overgrown landscape full of mature trees. The house is gothic in style complete with gargoyles, and looks a bit like a stereotypical haunted house. Given how space is at a premium in any city, Marli must have been very wealthy to afford this.

They press the buzzer on the speaker box by the gate and a woman’s voice answers. She’s about to hang up and say she doesn’t do interviews any more until Faceman mentions having something of Jet Black’s. She pauses, and then the gate clicks open and the woman asks them to make themselves comfortable in the lounge, where she’ll receive them in a few minutes.

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Framing the Vory

Faceman and Mouse entered Mr Lo’s office, where he confirmed that he’s holding Delphia, or ‘Lady Blue’ as he refers to her. He explains that it is no longer about the money she owes, but a case of setting an example – however Mr Lo was is coincidentally looking for someone to take on a delicate operation, which if they delivered on would be sufficient to convince him to look the other way this time.

The Yellow Lotus Triad concentrate mostly on drug dealing, including BTLs but their most lucrative operation is speciality awakened drugs. It’s a market they’ve cornered and they don’t like competitors trying to disrupt it, but the Vory (the Russian Mafia) are making an attempt to do exactly that. They’re bringing in their first significant shipment of awakened drugs from Aztlan, and Mr Lo wants them disrupted. He would prefer that rather than destroy the drugs, that they tamper with them to provide unpleasant effects for the users, meaning the Vory’s reputation will be ruined in this area, cementing the Triad’s position. Mr Lo will pay an extra incentive of 12,000¥ in addition to freeing Lady Blue if they manage that. However, if they can’t do this, destroying the shipment will be sufficient – although they only get Delphia and no money. Mr Lo provides them with the substance required to tamper with the drugs, which he explains is quite volatile and should not be inhaled. The shipment is being held in a secure docking facility awaiting transfer tomorrow, so they must act tonight.

After consulting with the others, Faceman accepts the deal and the team head down to the docks. Mouse does astral surveillance and discovers no magically active defences, but also very few humans; the entire dock appears to be automated, including the cranes, fork lifts and security, with a small group of about 4-5 riggers located in office huts controlling things. There are lots of cameras around the perimeter and it’s safe to assume that all the cranes and fork lifts have sensors too, but they notice drainage grates which lead to the river. If they could get to the river side grates in between ships, they could come up through those.

They take a while finding a suitable boat and eventually steal a rowing boat. Faceman loses an oar on his first attempt but they recover (Tor takes over) and make it to the river-side grate just after a container ship leaves. Lightning uses his grapple gun to scale the mossy wall, and his monofilament chainsaw to make a hole to climb through. Besides rats, they seem to have the drainage tunnel to themselves.

After carefully picking their way up the tunnel to the manhole they want to use, and disabling the pressure switches that are hooked up to the alarm, they wait until there’s a gap in the fork lifts (Mouse scouts in astral for this) and quickly climb out, creeping carefully in the shadow of the warehouses. Mouse turns invisible as her attempts at sneaking aren’t great. It turns out the warehouse doors are automatic so they slip through after a fork lift enters.

Lightning and Faceman search the warehouse while Tor guards the door from the inside, and Mouse from the outside. After some searching, they locate the crates in question. Levering them open they find that the inside of the crates are lined with some kind of ivy, which seems to be acting as a seal. They quickly shake out the pollutant, which is a kind of faintly glowing dust which floats around a bit. Faceman holds his breath and manages to avoid inhaling any. Mouse & Tor stay away, concerned that their awakened senses might be more susceptible to either the drugs or the pollutant.

The job is done and so far they haven’t been detected. However they need to wait for another fork lift in order to exit the warehouse cleanly. While they’re waiting, Faceman and Lightning start to get curious about some of the other crates, and Lightning points out one with an Ares Macrotechnology symbol on it. They lever it open to find it packed full of SecureTech PPP System armour. They decide against taking this and wait as another fork lift approaches…

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Rise of the Triads

The team took the records from Carrion Studios back to Faceman’s apartment and began searching through them. After a few hours they found the session records for the Jet Black session in 2048, which it turns out only had a single engineer present, called Delphia, and the sessions occurred in the dead of night. After a but more research, they discovered that she is no longer in the record business, but has turned to being a BTL dealer of some kind, moving from place to place regularly. They manage to find her current contact address, and Lightning and Tor head down while the others rest (it’s now daylight).

The place is a pretty shabby rented apartment and they initially expect to just stake it out, when Lightning spots some signs of a struggle at the back window. They call Mouse to get her to do some astral surveillance while Lightning kicks in the front door (which seems to have already been kicked in) and Tor goes in through the rear fire escape. Turns out that there are 4 dead bodies of young men (teenagers really) in the apartment, and one badly wounded, who tries to draw a gun but quickly backs down when Lightning says he’s not here to hurt him. Lightning does some first aid on the kid, who then explains that some Triads stormed the apartment and abducted Delphia, he doesn’t know why but probably because she owes them money. He says they walked through him and his friends with embarrassing ease, they were supposed to be Delphia’s security. They all talked in Chinese but he caught the leader’s name, a ‘Mr Lo’. He identifies a tattoo on their necks which the team figures out is the Yellow Lotus Triad, a lower-ranking triad group who are basically just organised drug dealers. When the kid hears they’re going after Delphia, he says to watch out for the really fat guy with a sword, who moves faster than you’d believe. He also insists there was a little miniature chinese dragon flying with the attackers, which glowed blue and took a bite out of his friend. He swears he wasn’t tripping.

They establish that Delphia’s commlink was turned off when they abducted her and they can’t use that to trace her. However, Mouse spots the aura trace of a spirit (probably the dragon) in astral space, and starts tracking it. This leads her to an establishment called the Lotus Flower Card Room, in Chinatown. The place is very unwelcoming to non-Chinese, with all the signs in Chinese, no AR translations and any non-Asians standing out in the crowd quite conspicuously.

The rest of the team head down there after Mouse has returned to her physical body. Faceman speaks Cantonese and Mouse is Chinese, but the guy on the door, a small but very muscular Chinese man with a huge tattoo of a tiger running across his torso and one arm, says that Mr Lo is very busy and can only see them if they come back at 7pm. The team aren’t keen on that idea but are unable to convince him otherwise, and they’ve noticed decent security around the side entrance (at least one camera and a watcher spirit) so return at the allotted time. When they return the place is a lot more busy, full of Chinese men playing Mah Jongg, with a bar and kitchen serving food and drinks. The same tiger-tattoo man is on the door, and beyond the entranceway, which is equipped with a milliwave weapons scanner, the team can see a very large man with a sword over his back watching the room, and an old man sitting cross legged in the corner playing Chinese instruments. Mouse and Tor take a look at the auras in the room and note that the large man is Awakened, and so is the old man, who also has a couple of astral links flowing from him (either spirits or his magical lodge). Mouse mentions that the Triads generally favour magical abilities and shun cybernetics.

After removing most of their weapons (barring knives / swords which they are allowed to keep – Lightning also gets away with one ceramic hold-out pistol although the other is found), they,re allowed in and kept waiting at the bar for a little while. All the patrons notice them quite obviously, and the atmosphere is not all that comfortable, although Faceman seems not to notice. Eventually they are told that Mr Lo is ready to see them, although only Faceman and Mouse are allowed into his office…

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