Monday Night Shadowrun

Conclusion

The team discuss whether they have enough evidence now to proe that Dean Costello wasn’t at the Lucom crime scene, and decide they don’t – they only have Taske admitting they were involved, not evidence that Dean wasn’t. And in fact, when Whiskey turns his commlink back on, he finds that Taske already wiped the recording he made of their conversation, since he had security access after breaking in earlier.

They decide to turn off the cluster of computers again now that the nuclear backup is disabled. when they do so, the system really does shut down this time, and in response the people in the warehouse start to look around for their virtual pets which have now disappeared. Some gsearch, some collapse depressed, and a few get angry, but none seem to identify the team as the source of the loss, in fact they don’t seem to see them still, the VR system is still running from somewhere.

They decide to try forcibly disconnecting a couple of people from the network, where they have removable trodes. The risks of brain damage are real and a couple of people pass out after this is done, but they free 3 people who stay conscious: a street thug, an accountant and a technician. The latter is the only one willing to really assist them, but they all report the same thing, that they entered the simulation via some other means (games, bar VR while drunk etc) and then lost track of time while patting little creatures that made them feel better.

At this point, suddenly all the chip heads in the warehouse suddenly look up and gaze in the same direction. In AR on one of the compromised commlinks they see a bright star overlaid, bobbing over somewhere to the south. Seems Tina is indicating the next target.

Knowing that this means someone is probably transmitting new information, Whiskey starts to try to trace it. Triangulating with the tech who helps, they identify the signal is moving slowly (walking pace) towards them from the north. Whiskey and Faceman get in the car to intercept.

A couple of blocks away the signal indicates the general vicinity, but it’s a busy road with a number of people walking and driving. By the speed they identify it’s a pedestrian, but Faceman and Whisky disagree – Whiskey thinks it’s the middle-aged woman in a wheelchair, Faceman is convinced (glitch) that it’s coming from a man’s Segway, and he takes it into his own hands by opening the car door directly in front of him, somersaulting him over. After it becomes clear the signal isn’t coming from there Faceman manages to smooth things over with a bit of apologetic banter.

Whiskey stops the woman in the motorised wheelchair, who pretends not to know why he’s doing it – it’s Tina, looking a little less glamorous than in the video, but nevertheless recognisable. After a bit of a chat, during which Whiskey drops a comment about her dead pupils, which immediately makes her break the charade, and look like she wants to kill him. Faceman steps in, briefly considering whether to subdue her – but she’s in a wheelchair in the middle of a crowded street, so instead he asks that they walk with her to the warehouse to talk things over, which she agrees to. However as the chair starts moving down the side road (away from the crowds), there’s a perceptible humming sound, more pronounced than just an electric motor. Hearing about this, Lightning starts running towards the scene on foot. When he gets them in visual range, he holds back to see what happens.

Whiskey thinks the worst (maybe a bomb), and grabs the wheelchair handles, and is immediately subject to a large electric shock – clearly a defence mechanism. Faceman decides that now is a good time to subdue her, so performs a sharp Kung-fu strike to her neck, which almost works but she manages to keep her consciousness through sheer willpower.

There’s suddenly an ear-shatteringly loud, high-pitched beeping of a personal attack alarm filling the scene, and both Lightning and Faceman are left crouching with their hands over their ears. Whiskey manages to just about stay focused but it’s painful.

Back in the warehouse with Mouse and Tor, ten of the larger, rougher-looking men suddenly run for the exit closest to the alley where the combat is happening, as if silently summoned. Mouse responds by dumping a stun ball on the area, which knocks out most of them (as well as all the others in the area). Tor also throws in a flash bang grenade which partially stuns the remainder (as well as Mouse a little since she was too busy casting to avoid it). That plus another stun ball knocks out all 10 of the backup thugs.

Lightning runs a distance away, still with his hands over his ears, until the sound diminishes enough. He then turns, quick-draws, and shoots the wheelchair in the solid area under the seat. A hole is punched right through, leaving a hole in the back which Whiskey can see a small electrical fire within, and the electric motor dies but the attack alarm doesn’t.

Barely keeping his concentration, Whiskey swings his foot up to connect with the is of Tina’s head, and with a painful sounding crunch she loses consciousness, although the alarm is still going. Faceman is making his way towards Lightning, hoping to get out of the sounds area. Lightning notices over his shoulder that 2 Knight Errant heli-drones are just appearing over the houses behind Whiskey, and they soon see that two more are approaching from the other direction. In contravention of police procedure, the barrels of their mounted cannons are already spinning up without even a hint of a “Freeze, scumbag” having been uttered yet. Maybe they’ve been hijacked to defend Tina?

Lightning switches to his big guns and shoots down the two coming from his direction before they get a chance to fire, but the other two open up on Whiskey and Faceman, who both get winged. However one of them has a malfunction and its gun jams, and Whiskey takes out the other one with two shots. Lightning takes out the remaining one before it can clear the jam.

Whiskey pulls the back off the wheelchair, still winding at the sound, and finds the ruined motor, a battery and a small server node within (but no attack alarm, it must be separate, in the arm maybe). He grabs the server and the unconscious Tina and runs towards the others, and Lighning blows up the remainder with his explosive ammo, finally silencing the alarm. Beyond, a couple of people are staring down the alley but are not approaching.

Back in the warehouse, the people there all suddenly come out of their VR experience and begin to disperse. Most don’t want to talk about their experience much but just want to get home.

Back at the motel, Whiskey analyses the server and find it contains a highly sophisticated R program, the result of many years of work probably. There a records of the hit on LuCom, not details of how the security was taken out (that seems to have come from somewhere else, maybe Taske) but information of the 8 ‘operatives’ who did it, and also a record of an agent called ‘Dr Squirrel’ by the system, but which has a commlink number and public ID matching Dean Costellos. It was the only node that was actively broadcasting during the operation, clearly indicating he was intended as the fall guy despite not being there. Compared to whatever Tina had planned next this seemed to be quite a small operation, but was quite violent probably because the controlled chip heads weren’t capable of much sophistication.

This is enough evidence that Dean was set up, so the team call Mr Johnson (via Miguel the Ork). They deliver the server data and Tina (who is still unconscious, Whiskey hit her pretty hard and not half as subtly as Faceman) to Don Casquillo, who is pleased and relieved, pays up the 6000 Nuyen they’re owed and throws in a decent linguine lunch for good measure.

Karma: 5

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Taske and Tina

The team locate the computer system in the office section of the warehouse, which is raised above the warehouse floor by about 5m and is reached by a set of metal stairs. It’s a jury-rigged bundle of digital machinery that seems to have been cobbled together from a hundred different sources, and hastily expanded many times. Old fans and air-conditioning units try hard to keep the giant pile of circuit boards, cables and junction boxes cool, with mixed success. The whole thing is such a jumble it’s amazing it works at all, but the hum and flashing lights suggest it is. Whiskey still hasn’t located the wireless no, but finds a standard optical jack on the front of one of the many clusters of equipment, so connects that way instead, in AR rather than VR to be safe.

Suddenly, Whiskey starts getting hundreds of spam messages on his commlink, which alerts him that something has broken into his personal commlink and posted his contact details on some marketing boards. He has the best security out of everyone, but something has got through, he’s not sure what. As a precaution, everyone else turns off their commlinks – Whiskey has to keep his on to work, but he disables his email for the moment, not knowing what other damage the intruder might be doing.

What he finds when connecting to the jury-rigged computer is that the system is a giant cluster of computers running some kind of custom operating system, all collaborating with a central node that must be buried in the middle of the pile somewhere. It’s running what appears to be hundreds of agent processes called things like ‘rabbit2958’ and ‘bear1832’, and basically nothing else. So it seems that this machine is generating the furry animal agents that are present in the VR system, like the rabbit that Whiskey followed, although it’s not running the VR system itself.

The team code that turning the system off is worth a try, although they’re not sure what will happen. Mouse has located a switch box downstairs. There are no people in the computer room, so they all decide to stay there (except Mouse), with weapons drawn as it’s powered down. When Mouse turns it off, there is a loud hum/whine from deep inside the pile of equipment and a female voice says “Warning: emergency power system online, vacate the area immediately”. It seems that someone has appropriated a small nuclear power source to act as backup, in a clearly incredibly unsafe manner. The team reacts quickly and Mouse turns the power back on, but all the PCs in the computer room are exposed to a burst of radiation. Whiskey and Lightning both suffer minor burns, but Tor receives major burns to his back which result in recurring sores (-1 to all rolls unless kept freshly bandaged), and Faceman’s system is rendered permanently weakened (low pain tolerance). The power comes back on and the backup system shuts down – the burst itself seems relatively short range, luckily for others in the building.

Once the system has cooled down, Lightning decides to try to disconnect the backup power source. He has to crawl through the stacks of equipment, into a hot and stuffy warren of tech until he locates the power source, which seems to be a military system of some sort which has been cut out of wherever it should be (probably buried in concrete or lead). Scary. He manages to disconnect all the cables, meaning the system should not be activated if they try that again.

Whiskey meanwhile is suddenly played a video, one he didn’t ask for and appears to be originating within his own commlink. It is a highland scene with a woman in plate mail on a promontory, an angelic cherub floating around her head and whispering to her. It’s a propaganda video, which explains how the Matrix crash of 2060 was the mega corps fault, how they destroyed lives with their meddling, and how they a doing it again. It’s a call to arms for all people wanting to be free (particularly in the Matrix), that Tina of Arc is the champion of the people, and that we should all join her in her valiant quest against evil.

Whiskey identifies the connection of the intruder in his commlink and traces it. Although he has a handle on it, it doesn’t appear to be hosted on any computer, it seems to be a free-floating node of its own of an unusual structure. Whiskey enters his own commlink and arrives (in VR) in his home node, which looks like a military control room. Sitting in one of the swivel chairs is a small figure, looking a bit like a manga character with white spiky hair and a mischievous grin.

Through a discussion Whiskey identifies that this creature is Taske, a free sprite who seems to have been formed during the second crash. He discovers that Tina was actually a primary school VR teacher who became a technomancer during the crash, but the children she was teaching at the time were kill. Taske doesn’t seem to really understand exactly why this upsets her so much, but he realises he doesn’t really understand the ‘meat world’, and why ‘quarter size meat people’ should be so valuable to her. Taske doesn’t seem uncaring, he genuinely doesn’t get it – he just likes Tina (despite the fact that she’s encumbered by a meat body, sorry about that) and they formed an agreement, because Taske doesn’t like how the mega corps are expanding their efforts on security and generally building up too much power over the matrix again. They’ve formed a partnership where Tina organises the ‘meat world’ and Taske handles the ‘real world’ (Matrix), with the intention of scuppering any corp who they think is endangering the future of the Matrix and its inhabitants.

Before Whiskey disconnects Taske offers to redecorate his home node, which is far too boring (Tina’s is full of bright colours, fluffy things and rainbows, which Taske thinks is much more interesting), but Whiskey declines and after logging off, shuts down his commlink.

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Blowing the bloody doors off

The team decides that waiting for Knight Errant isn’t a good idea, so they start working on an escape plan. There’s a fire exit at the rear, but the barrier surrounds the temple completely so that’s blocked too. However the mall cops don’t seem to be numerous enough or smart enough to have covered that any other way, so they deck to try to blow it. They know that magical barriers regenerate if not breached, so they have to throw everything at it at once. They have several HE grenades appropriated from a obvious encounter, so they gaffer tape them in a bundle at the rear barrier, and Tor pulls all the pins at once and retreats. Sure enough, there’s a very loud explosion and the barrier is left with a 2m hole in it, which they clearly exit down into a rear yard area. It’s open to the sky but there’s a chained gate at the end topped with razor wire.

As they run towards it, looking back they see the barrier drop – obviously the mall cops aren’t that dumb and are giving chase. Lightning throws a flash pack into the temple to slow them down, and blows the padlock off the chain at the gate. The delay is enough, and they escape into a fairly deserted rear car park, where they split up to reduce the chance of an effective chase and arrange to meet up again back at the motel.

They regroup without being caught and consider their next move. They know that someone must be monitoring the commlinks to have set them up like that, so Whiskey risks going back in and tries to trace any signal. He quickly discovers there is indeed an active connection, represented in the zippidy-do-da world as a faint arrangement of clouds leading in one direction. They follow it, and eventually come across a large warehouse in a run-down district which seems to be the source.

The warehouse itself is relatively normal, except that the graffiti is unusual – instead of the usual urban tags it comprises mostly rough blades of grass, flowers, sunbeams and such, as if drawn by a small child. On one side of the warehouse someone has scrawled ‘Happiness is just a smile away’. Around the building (and as Mouse soon discovers via astral, inside) are a large number (250+) of what first appear to be homeless people, slumped against walls, crouched in alleyways and some lying prone. Many of them appear to be stroking invisible small creatures, and all of them have smiles on their faces. On closer inspection, they’re actually a wide range of people from street thugs and vagrants to wage slaves and mothers, all quite disheveled and all completely unaware of the team’s existence. Some have visible ‘trodes, others don’t although they may have internal links.

Picking their way carefully through the mass of people, the team enter the warehouse in search of the source of the signal. Initially Whiskey doesn’t have any luck, so they begin to search physically too in the cavernous space filled with zombified humanity.

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Enter the Dragon

As the alarms in the Buddhist temple go off, Whiskey disconnects from the VR system and realises where he is, while the others quickly check out the scene. Very quickly, a magical barrier appears around the temple, blocking off the main entrance with an opaque, plastic-like surface. Mouse uses astral to scout out the front through the barrier (it’s only physical), where she sees an air spirit in the shape of a chinese dragon floating. Unfortunately Mouse has a negative quality which means every air spirit hates her, and when the dragon sees her it immediately attacks, following her back into the temple when she retreats.

Mouse returns to her body and the dragon quickly materialises in its physical form and attacks. It focusses on Mouse initially and the others find it is highly resistant to their guns. Tor, however, uses his Adept abilities to power up his fists and is able to damage it quite heavily that way. The dragon breathes a noxious gas on as many people as it can, making many of them feel nauseous but Tor and Whiskey get particularly badly affected. Eventually after a lot of vomit and a fair time of whittling the dragon down, it eventually dissipates back into the astral in defeat.

Afterwards, they hear a number of mall cops approach the doorway. They seem surprised that the dragon attacked, and say that Knight Errant are on their way to sort out the arrest. They also say that until a couple of minutes ago, the dead mall guards’ biomonitors were not reporting anything wrong, hence why they are assumed to have murdered them (even though they were dead when the team arrived and had been dead for at least 30 minutes). The other mall cops are clearly shaken up and Faceman can’t convince them to drop the barrier and talk themselves, they will wait for the ‘real cops’. The team start discussing what to do – whether to wait for Knight Errant and negotiate, or even accept arrest to get in to the head office prison, or whether to make a break for it.

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Follow the white rabbit

Faceman makes some enquiries at the coffee shop, and learns that their computers have been down since the early hours of the morning, around the time it sounds like the crime at LuCom went down. They managed to get some basic tills working but most of their systems are still offline, they’re waiting for IT support. Faceman offers Whiskey’s services in getting them back up, thinking they might find some useful information at the same time.

In the meantime the others are checking out the area. Behind the building they find a grate leading to a storm drain which looks like it’s been moved, but don’t initially see anything else when they look into it (they don’t open it yet). They climb onto the roof of the LuCom building, passing some windows that look like a tech lab of some sort, and a large frosted glass window too. When they get to the top, they find air conditioning ducts which have infra-red beam security on them, and an access hatch that’s almost certainly alarmed and which will need to be cut to bypass it.

Mouse checks out the surrounds while invisible and finds no magical barriers, but does see a security guard at the reception desk illuminated by the soft night-lights. He looks very alert.

Whiskey goes to Faceman in the coffee shop, who is enjoying a free coffee and muffin in return for the offer of help, and starts work on their computer system. He finds that although the hardware is fine, the entire system has been wiped down to the OS level, meaning getting it up and running is a long process, and there’s likely to be little recoverable data. Quite what could cause such a widespread wiping of computers in the area is puzzling – an EMP weapon would have wrecked the hardware, and the reported 15 minute window wouldn’t have been enough for a hacker to do all this themselves – and why would they?

Back in the alley, Tor hears a crackle coming from the grate, and investigates with the others. They discover 2 bodies lying in the drain about 10m from the grate, both of them have comm links which are on, but displaying white noise and making a hissing sound. One of the bodies is a street punk, with nanite trodes in the form of a yellow smiley facial tattoo, the other looks like a middle manager. Both have VR rigs modified for hot sim (no safeties). The team recovers the bodies and take the comm links. They’ve noticed a man outside the coffee shop watching them go into the alley, so Mouse covers their exit with a concealment illusion.

Back at the motel, Whiskey examines the commlinks. He finds them to be horribly corrupted, with fragments of code seeming to randomly activate, and the interface a mess of noise and juddering iconography. The only constant is a VR node which regularly pops up before disappearing back into the noise. It’s a hot sim rig, so a little dangerous, but Whiskey connects to it in VR to see what he can find.

He immediately appears in an idyllic world of rolling hills dappled with warm sunshine, softly waving trees, wild flowers and small furry creatures. It’s extremely realistic but also very twee, and there’s excessively cheerful ‘zippidy do dah’ background music on a continuous loop, but which is somehow not as annoying as you might imagine.

As he looks around, a white rabbit hops up to him, scratches one ear endearingly and looks him right in the eye, before hopping off again, stopping not far away to look over it’s shoulder at him, obviously expecting him to follow. When he does, the rest of the team are surprised to note that Whiskey gets up and starts walking in the real world too, which is not normal (VR turns off your muscle movements usually for safety).

The white rabbit continues to lead Whiskey through his excruciatingly happy world, and somehow it integrates real world obstacles into it so that Whiskey navigates the real world perfectly – a door becomes some long grass he has to push aside, a parked car is a rock, a road is a burbling stream with a quaint wooden bridge running over it instead of the real-world dingy overpass, etc.

Whiskey finds himself being drawn into the simulation quite a lot, even catching himself humming the ‘zippidy do dah’ song on one occasion. When the other team members get concerned, particularly when Mouse grabs his hand, Whiskey sees dark, twisted goblinoid shapes reaching for him instead. He’s hanging on to reality, but only just at times.

The white rabbit leads him across many a hill and dale (many blocks) with the team following behind. Eventually he reaches a large alpine log cabin. In real life, this is the Happy Canyon Mall, a place dominated by a large Chinese restaurant, miscellaneous other Asian speciality stores and a Buddhist temple. The rabbit leads him up some external stairs (mirrored in the mall), in through a second-floor door into a hallway (this is actually a balcony running around the mall’s second level).

The rabbit finally hops into a large eating hall, in which is a large table stacked with many roasted game: boar, deer and the like. In the real world, the team follow him into the Buddhist temple, where there is a large area of mats, on top of which lie the bodies of 3 mall guards. Two seem to have been shot by the colleague behind, and the last appears to have committed suicide. All have comm links on their belts showing the same white noise pattern as the 2 bodies in the drain.

In VR, the rabbit stops, turns around to face Whiskey (in front of the banquet table), twitches his nose and disappears in a small cloud of rose petals. In real life, the mall security alarms all go off at once, as if suddenly triggered (not by the team).

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Clearing the Mafia's name

The team recuperate and train for another week, sorting out their gear at the same time. Then, a call comes in from an orc named Miguel, a jovial sort of bloke with one large gold tusk who invites them to meet his boss, the Don of the Casquilho family, to help with a little problem they have – they’ve been recommended by Omar Chavez. They’re to meet tonight at Marcel’s Pizza House, an up-market joint in the CAS.

They enlist Peaches to get them across the border again, and meet Miguel at the side entrance – Marcel’s is already very busy and there’s a queue at the main entrance. Miguel’s dressed in a fashionable suit that doesn’t fit him properly and is as affable as he was on the comm, apologising when he insists that they have to give up their weapons before meeting the Don. After that formality, he leads them through the kitchens into a back room, which has a large one-way mirror looking into the main restaurant, which is heaving with customers and a large number of scantily-clad waitresses, about 1 in 3 of which have unusual (but not unattractive) mutations marking them out as children of the comet. Behind a large round table is an old man of about 80, dressed in an expensive but old-fashioned suit and flanked by 2 bodyguards.

Don Casquilho invites the team to sit, and food soon arrives in the form of high-quality pizza, spicy fries and beer – none of which seems to be synthetic. The Don comes across as a concerned old man, and reveals that one of his ‘grandsons’ in the family, Dean Costello, has been framed for a double homicide and data hack at a company called Lucom: he passes across a news report with the details. Although Dean has a criminal record for hacking, and a history of using relationships with women to gain access, this sort of violence is absolutely out of the question and this must be the result of a frame. The Don wants the team to gather evidence to clear Dean, and to find out who framed him. The job is worth ¥2000 up front, with ¥3000 on completion (Faceman negotiates that up to ¥4000).

The team clarifies that if their evidence should indicate that Dean is guilty, they will still be paid – but the Don is adamant that that’s not going to happen, he knows Dean is innocent. He gives them a fake ID that will let them pose as Dean’s lawyer so they can speak to him at the Knight Errant division he’s being held at.

After a bit of discussion, the team decides to scout the LuCom building first. They find it’s located in a small commercial park, surrounded by a number of other small corporate buildings, with a coffee shop and electronics store facing it across the road. The first thing they notice is that there aren’t any AROs (Augmented Reality Object) showing up anywhere in the entire commercial park – even the coffee shop, while open, is completely devoid of any hovering price lists or daily special announcements. This is very unusual, it’s like all the AR nodes in the area have crashed.

The only ARO in the whole area is a hovering ‘Police Line: Do Not Cross’ AR tape scrolling around the corner of the steps at the front of the LuCom building. tape It’s evening, and the LuCom building is mostly dark, although given the events they probably gave most employees a day off anyway. About 4 metres up, a Knight Errant blimp drone is making a patrol around the front of the building, with a wide angle lens recording everything.

Faceman heads into the coffee shop to get some intel, while the others decide where to start their investigations.

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Scorpions down, next!

After Drax dropped, the last remaining biker who is a way away on the stunt track decides it’s time to make a run for it, and speeds away on his bike. However, Tor zeroes in on him with Joe, and one last burst sends him sprawling into the dirt.

Meanwhile, a high explosive grenade with a crucial component missing (the pin) is attached to Drax’s belt. Since Whiskey is down, running away would be condemning him to almost certain death, and carrying him would be too slow to make any headway. Lightning makes a decision and dives for the grenade – a risky manoeuver. However, with the help of a little Edge he manages to pull it cleanly from Drax’s belt and throw it into an empty area of the car park, before it detonates harmlessly in a ball of flame.

The team finish off any survivors and get Whiskey back on his feet with a quick healing spell from Mouse. They decide to try to take some bikes with them, most of them seem to be standard Harley Scorpions, but Drax’s has been customised – it has no wireless node (all manual) and has some custom gyroscopic stabilisers in it, meaning it coasted gently to a stop even after Drax leapt off it. At first, refuses to start (Tor is the one trying to get it started, having the mechanical knowledge and also wearing a non-conductive suit just in case of booby traps).

Meanwhile, after looting the Scorpions weapons they decide they’re interested in Drax’s cyberware, so they decide to take his arms and torso with them. Lightning also decides to send a message by placing Drax’s head on a spike near the stunt track’s entrance. It’s all a bit of a gruesome amateur surgery moment.

After having difficulty getting Drax’s bike going, Tor wheels it near to the various body parts that are left of Drax and find it starts when he gets close to his head. Also at this point, Whiskey has been checking the Scorpion’s commlinks and find that one of them raised an SOS to the rest of the gang just before he died, so they decide to leave in a hurry. Tor really doesn’t want to leave Drax’s bike behind, so decides to take his head with him and figure it out later. Whiskey takes another regular bike, and Faceman tries to, except that when he starts it, the engine burns out ina shower of sparks (his Gremlins strike again). So he goes with the others in the car instead.

Driving away from the scene deliberately away from the route they arrived, it suddenly occurs to Tor that since he has Drax’s head, which has an embedded commlink, there’s a good chance he could be tracked. Since he can’t drive the bike without the head, he quickly returns to pick up another bike instead, regretting leaving the custom machine behind.

They take the long way back to the warehouse they’re renting in Denver and don’t encounter and problems – for the moment, they seem to have got away with it, although at the expense of Whiskey having to rest up for a while.

They spend the next week laying low and training (with the exception of Faceman, who manages to catch the odd evening of clubbing), before the next job offer comes in. This one involves going to lunch with Mr Johnson at quite a nice restaurant called the Aspen Chalet. After getting their food, Mr Johnson explains that he wants to hire the team to disrupt the business of another corporation – anything including sabotage, harassment and kidnap, so long as no-one is killed and no damage is done to the facilities or environment. After a little back-and-forth they discover the reasons are to do with a takeover bid that Mr Johnson wants to accelerate.

The team are split about the job; Lightning, Faceman and Mouse don’t want to do it, feeling uncomfortable strong-arming one business for another (and not impressed by the ¥5000 each on offer), while Whiskey and Tor just see it as a job for one faceless corporation over another. On a majority vote they decide to turn the offer down.

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Shoot out at the stunt track

Revision from last time: Faceman has joined the biking convoy and in response, one more Scorpion gang member is riding rear guard, bringing it up to 3 at the back in addition to Drax out front.

Drax leads them north through the Aurora Barrens. Tor and Mouse tail them in the car, staying well back, about 250 metres. After about 15 minutes riding, Drax pulls off into a side road which is choked with old dumpsters and abandoned cars, which eventually leads to the ruined car park of an abandoned and mostly wrecked baseball stadium. Drax accelerates away towards the half-collapsed stadium, expecting the others to follow.

The team’s initial plan is to try to get the other gang members to stop by faking a technical problem with one of the bikes, which Whiskey handles discretely by telling the bike to cut out over its node interface. The gang members are having none of it though, th circle around and tell the others to leave him behind, having failed the test if he can’t keep up. Realising it’s not going to work, Whiskey starts the bike up again and they continue.

By this time, Drax has disappeared inside the stadium and the floodlights have come on, revealing that the main baseball field is now nothing but churned dirt, but on which has been built a stunt track out of random bits of metal and shipping containers, comprising jumps, targets for shooting practice and other tests of riding skill. Drax has ridden up a ramp which leads to a platform above the track, jutting out of the ruins of the spectator stands, and has a megaphone in his hands. As the others ride up and stop at the edge of the pitch, Drax instructs one of the gang members to demonstrate the test, and he rides on to the track towards a modest jump over a few oil barrels.

At this point Tor is driving very quickly to catch up and is almost at the car park. The others decide to shield themselves from Drax (who has a formidable Ares Alpha with under slung grenade launcher) by ducking under the spectator stands and trying to take out the other goons quickly.

They do this, and Lightning and Whiskey both quick-draw and wound the two gang members on the bikes behind them. They draw their Uzis but can’t fire them immediately, instead dropping behind their bikes for cover. At this point Tor and Mouse are screaming into the car park, with Mouse taking over the driving as Tor gets his gun set up for firing. He draws a bead on the biker who is demonstrating the stunts, and wounds him too although it appears that his armour takes most of it. Faceman moves quickly to the biker Whiskey shot at and engages him in unarmed combat, but the goon manages to block his initial blows.

Although they can’t see him at this point, Drax is racing down the slope, enraged.

Another volley from Lightning and Whiskey’s guns take out the two closest bikers, but the third has stopped his bike on the ramp and unloads a burst into Whiskey’s back. It’s a good shot and Whiskey’s unlucky – he goes down. Tor’s second shot at this biker goes wild.

At this point, Drax comes screaming out on his bike and leaps off it at the first person he sees, which is Faceman. Drax doesn’t use his gun, he has a large sword emerging from his right cyberarm and looks like he wants things up close and personal. He barrels into Faceman and is moving crazy fast, getting two attacks in, both of which Faceman just barely deflects with his martial arts. The weight behind Drax’s blows from those 2 cyberarms suggests that if they connect, it’s going to hurt – a lot.

Lightning shoots Drax in the back twice, which leaves him badly wounded although he doesn’t seem to notice as much as he should – the wounds reveal shoulder blades that appear to be titanium laced. Realising lightning has some nasty firepower, Drax turns his attention toward him, but doesn’t connect – those wounds are slowing him down. Faceman gets a disorienting strike on him too, and Mouse also hits him with a Bugs spell which distracts him still further. The combination of his wounds and these effects mean that when Lightning fires again, he hasn’t got a chance. Realising the new giant bullet wound he just received is the end, as he falls Drax reaches for his belt and pulls the pin on a grenade, hoping to take them with him…

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Hunting for Scorpions

The team take a little time out in the mansion of Omar Chavez. They give Omar the details they have of the people they clashed with at Jet Black’s grave, with their identifying features edited out (and those of Zhazz). Omar listens with great interest at all of the information they can give about Jet Black’s associates and says that in return for leads on this, he will help them smooth over the problems they have in Seattle.

The team decides that they want to take down the Scorpions, the biker gang they’d avoided near the end of their last mission but who had gone on to kill a passing motorist instead as part of their initiation rite. Whiskey broke into the DMV database to discover the driver had been a family man working for Renraku, which reinforced their determination.

They discover via research that the gang’s known haunt is a bar called The Dirty Gutter in the Aurora Barrens, a section of the UCAS part of Denver that has been scheduled for demolition for years it no-one has figured out quite how to start it, given that it’s a lawless slum and hive of gang activity. They steal an extra car to make the journey down there in the early evening.

The first drive-past shows a fairly large bar with a neon sign above it and a large number of low-rider bikes (many of which are Harley Scorpions) parked outside. A few rough-looking men are playing cards outside, and from inside the sound of loud thrash metal and lots of voices can be heard, although the windows are too dirty to see anything but basic shapes.

They park up a few metres away, and walk up to the bar. The toughs outside get up and clock their approach, but make no move to interfere. Whiskey asks them if they serve food inside, which elicits a snort and a laugh, then they head inside.

The doorway is guarded by 2 trolls who spot their most obvious weapons (Tor’s Joe and Whiskey’s katana) and ask them to give them up. They don’t check very thoroughly for anything smaller though, suggesting plenty of other people could be packing here. The place is large, with a central bar and is about 50% full, with every 3rd person or so having a Scorpions insignia on their clothing or tattoos, meaning about 20 people. The team head to be bar, where a burly bartender serves them.

After ordering drinks, he comments that they’re new and asks whether they’re looking to join the Scorpions, since they look like they can handle themselves (initially he can just see Whiskey, Lightning and Tor). Then he notices Mouse, and comments that if they’re runner types, they’d better not be here for a ‘mission or some shit’, because Drax will tear their arms off if they cross the Scorpions.

The team move to a table to enjoy their drinks, and a little while later a large man, obviously Drax, is seen making his way through the now heaving crowd. He seems very popular, but many of his friends appear to be on the receiving end of some painful-looking slaps on the shoulder from what the team know to be full cyber arms (they’re still natural looking, apart from being massive). He eventually gets to the bar, where the barman talks to him and points over at the team. At this point Tor and Mouse have separated from the others and gone outside to check out bikes.

Drax walks over and ask Whiskey and Lightning why they want to join the Scorpions. They say that they’re ex-military and have been drifting a bit and want to do something interesting because they’ve never been in a biker gang. Drax is a bit skeptical, but reveals that he used to be military too, with Ares (which Lightning takes note of!). He says if they want to join, they have to go through initiation, which means some test of driving skill, and then taking out a random person they find on the road – extra points for fatalities. When they accept, Drax signals to a couple of other bikers and tells them they’re coming along, and they all go outside. Drax collects a large assault rifle on the way out. At this point, Tor and Mouse are watching from the car.

Drax assigns a couple of the gang’s bikes to Whiskey and Lightning, and tells them to follow him. He tells the other 2 bikers to bring up the rear – presumably to keep an eye on them. They’re obviously not as senior as Drax, but they’re not youngsters either. Mouse and Tor scan them in astral and find that they’re cybernetically enhanced too, both have cranial implants and one has an artificial nervous system, the other has bone lacing of some kind. Both have dual SMGs in holsters under their jackets.

Whiskey and Lightning pass the first test of getting on the bikes and getting rolling, behind Drax and followed by the other 2 bikers. But when do they make their move?

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Package delivered - to the Mafia

We pick up the scene as two ghouls are still standing, in the tunnel, one attacking Tor on top of the van, and one between Whiskey and Faceman. They’re both badly wounded though, and one shot from each of Lightning’s pistols brings them both down.

Things go quiet for a second, but a couple of the team spot some movement underneath the truck on the opposite side of the gap in the collapsed tunnel floor. It scuttles backwards out of sight – Mouse astrally projects to take a look, and it turns out to be a other ghoul, this one perhaps a little smarter than the others as it’s taking cover after watching the others get killed. Mouse keeps an eye on it while Whiskey sets up another rope across the gap with his line thrower.

They start to climb across, Lightning and Whiskey first, then Faceman. Lightning drops to the other side just ahead of Whiskey, who is on the final part of gap where the road drops off at a very sharp angle into the tunnel below. Faceman has just started his trip. Mouse notices that the ghoul under the truck peeks around the back wheels and point at where the rope is anchored. A second later the rope snaps, torn apart by a Powerbolt spell. So, not your average feral ghoul then. Whiskey drops and tries to catch the edge, which he does with some help from Lightning who grabs his shirt. Faceman deftly lands on the edge on the other side.

Using the momentary distraction, the ghoul gets out from under the truck and flees into the darkness of the tunnel. Mouse follows in astral and keeps pace easily, and after a few seconds getting back on solid footing, so do Lightning and Whiskey on foot. Lightning already has a gun out and shoots, hitting the ghoul in the back, while Whiskey quick draws his weapon while sprinting. The ghoul, sensing the game is up, spins around and fires off a desperate Stunball, damaging Whiskey somewhat but Lightning gets away with it because of Edge. One more shot and there’s one less ghoul shaman in the world.

Mouse scouts ahead in astral while the others figure out how to get the other team members across the gap, those that can’t climb well. Peaches says they can jury-rig a bridge with some girders they stashed a little way down the tunnel, but it’ll take up to an hour, and they don’t have that kind of time (the 12 o’clock deadline is only just over 2 hours away). So Whiskey makes a simple cradle which people can sit in and be pulled across with, which is much faster, and they decide to try to get the truck working.

The truck’s former owners have to be removed – one in the passenger seat, one under the front of the truck, both with their flesh badly chewed – but after that macabre job is done the truck won’t start. Lightning isn’t a mechanic but does establish that the electronics are undamaged (including the entertainment system), the power unit just seems to be dead. Peaches takes a look once she’s crossed the gap and gets it going again in short order. The truck was in the process of winching a car out of the gap, but the team decide it’s not worth trying to complete that process, not only because of the time but also that the car has been sitting on top of those radioactive barrels for an unknown amount of time and is probably highly contaminated by now. So they cut the rope and leave.

The truck is a little more exposed (at least for everyone except the 3 people who can fit in the cab), so the rest of the trip is a little more tense. However, it turns out to be uneventful and they emerge via another cargo elevator into a nondescript warehouse building on th UCAS side of the border. Peaches lets them out and takes her leave, still a bit shaken from the ghoul experience but gives them her contact details for the future.

The warehouse district is separated from UCAS section of downtown by a winding road through forested hills. As the team get on the way, they soon hear the sound of rumbling engines behind them. Mouse scouts in astral again, and sees 7 leather-clad bikers, six of which look quite young, and one who looks like a grizzled, middle-aged man with many tattoos and (as Mouse discovers via his aura) a large amount of cyberware. They’re travelling fast and will catch up with the truck in a few minutes. Mouse quickly returns to report, and the team have a quick decision to make. They decide the bikers are probably spoiling for a fight they don’t need, and plan to take the truck off the side of the road and for Mouse to conceal it with an illusion. This goes relatively well as far as they can tell, and in a couple of minutes the bikers roar around the corner. Their insignia suggests something related to scorpions.

They’re shouting at each other as they ride three abreast, and the team manage to catch what they’re saying. Turns out that the six younger ones are on an initiation of some kind and the older guy is observing, and that they need to find someone for something. Most of the bikes go past without looking, but one of them (a youngster) slows and stares at the truck, confused. He calls to the others but they’ve already carried on, having seen nothing, and don’t really listen to him – he looks torn for a second, then hits the throttle again to catch up with everyone else.

After they’ve gone, the team get the truck back on the road and resume their journey. It’s not long before they notice a plume of black smoke coming from up ahead, and they shortly pass a car which has left the road at speed and ploughed into a tree. The road leading up to it is criss-crossed with skid marks, some from the car and some from 2-wheeled vehicles. They check the car but the single occupant, a male wage slave by the looks, is dead. The biker gang is nowhere to be seen – looks like they passed their initiation though. Lightning’s jaw tightens at this, vowing to kill them next time he sees them.

Eventually they reach their destination, 4923 Billington Street, which turns out not to be an office as they assumed, but a plush mansion. After stating their business they get waved through by large men in poorly-fitting suits, and are met by a middle-aged balding man. He says that the sottocapo would like to meet them in person, downstairs in the gun range. When they accept, he leads them there – the range is a reasonable size, kitted out like a small private club. A large fat man is currently pointing a gun down one of the lanes while a skinny, bent-over elf gingerly walks down holding a target over his head. When told to, he stops and turns around, and suddenly the fat man unleashes a fully automatic burst which rips the target to shreds, narrowly missing the elf’s fingers. The fat man (the sottocapo) chuckles to himself as the elf whimpers and probably wets himself, and turns to the team, pulling earplugs out as he walks over with his hand outstretched.

They deliver the document as agreed, within the deadline and without breaking the seal or letting it fall into the wrong hands, so the sottocapo is very pleased, and they are paid immediately. However, he seems to want to talk about another subject too. He has heard that the team came from Seattle, and he happens to have heard about a little ‘mix up’ that happened around Jet Black’s grave, and has seen the mugshots. He’s curious, because he’s a long time Jet Black fan and wants to believe that he’s not dead – and the publicity that Faceman asked Fel to put out to soften the bad press they were getting intrigues him. He says there have been a good number of conspiracy theories, but no-one has been crazy enough to dig up Jet Black to investigate before, and he laughs at the audacity. He wants to know more, and is willing to help them out with their ‘publicity problem’ if he can get in on this story. They agree to talk more, and he offers them his hospitality in the extensive mansion for a while.

Karma award: 4

New contacts:
Mark Longfeather, Koshari chief (loyalty 1, connection 4)
Stalker, Coyote and ex-shadow runner (loyalty 1, connection 2)
Peaches, mechanic and coyote (loyalty 1, connection 2)
Sottocapo Omar Chavez (loyalty 1, connection 4)

Faction associations:
Koshari +1
Chavez Mafia +1
Yakuza -1

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