Monday Night Shadowrun

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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The dive formerly known as Carrion Studios

The team decided to rest for a day to recover from the wounds they’d picked up at the junkyard. There was some debate about whether they should lay low at a random motel to reduce the chance that whoever else is after the disk would find them, but in the end decided to crash in the comfort of Faceman’s apartment.

The next evening they head to Healy Productions, a two-bit amateur recording operation which twenty years ago used to house Carrion Studios, which was written on the back of the disk. Even though it’s midnight, the lights are on and the door is wide open, revealing a corridor with peeling old gig promotion posters on the walls. This leads to a reception area where a young woman with a pink Mohawk and teal fake eyelashes sits behind a desk, chewing bubble gum and looking distracted, probably by some Simsense program. Faceman makes some small talk before asking about Carrion, which the girl has never heard of. She’s heard of Jet Black though, her Dad liked him back in the day, but she had no idea he was ever in the building. She yells down the corridor for ‘Stan’, in response to which an Ork with white hair pushing a mop and bucket appears. He remembers Carrion, reminiscing about the good old days when the studio was among the most renowned. He said he started just after the dates in question, but that there might be some records in the archive store. He remembers the lead studio engineer at the time was a really hot woman whose name he forgets, but he remembers she had blue dreadlocks and got into BTL problems after Carrion went under. If anyone was in on that recording session it would be her, and all the details should have been noted in the studio records.

Stan takes them down to the archive store and unlocks it – he says he doesn’t have to worry about them stealing anything in there, the bosses would probably be happy if they took some of it off their hands. It’s a 4m x 4m room, musty smelling, full of old archive boxes stacked right to the back wall. The team take a section each and start searching.

Aside from a really nasty cardboard cut that Faceman manages to inflict on himself, they spend a boring hour searching. Then finally Lightning finds a box at the back, buried under several others that is labelled ‘Carrion 47-49’, the period they’re looking for. Unfortunately, that section of the room also contains a pack of Devil Rats, awakened creatures about the size of small dogs who magically conceal themselves before ambushing those who are disturbing their nest. Because of their concealment they take the team by surprise and cause some minor wounds but are nevertheless not a huge threat. Mouse quickly discovers that they’re dual-natured and are easily visible in astral space even when concealed, so she and Tor switch to astral vision. They fight / evade their way back to the door with the box, and a bit of burst fire from Tor and Lightning finishes the nest off with only a few minor scratches and bites taken. Stan comes running back at the sound of gunfire and apologises for forgetting about the rat potential – it has been a few years since he’s been in there!

So the team now has a box of studio records to go through to try to get a lead on who might have been present at the recording session of the disk.

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Disk: acquired

We resumed with Mouse facing 2 grunts and a mage in the cul de sac where Kerwin Loomis had been cornered. Kit / King Jack hot-footed it around the corner to the opposite side of the stack to jump into a Fly Spy drone, which he planned to use to retrieve the disk. One grunt and the mage turned around, the other keeping an eye on Kerwin. Mouse dropped a Hot Potato spell (makes people think metal is hot) on the area, causing the second grunt to drop his gun, although she also let the bugs spell lapse so the other grunt came around. Kerwin also dropped the disk as it feels red hot to him. The mage threw a Stunbolt spell at Mouse, but it had no effect on her. Before dropping his gun the grunt that turned around also shot Mouse with his taser, giving her a nasty shock. She retreated around the corner calling for backup and the opposition also try to take what little cover they can in the cul de sac.

Meanwhile, Lightning, Tor and Faceman were running to this location, Tor driving the car through the gates and Faceman trying to assemble his collapsable bow. Lightning and Faceman get there first, Faceman staying out of sight while assembling his bow. Lightining shoots around the corner and wounds the mage badly – he uses Edge to re-roll some damage resistance to stay up. Lightning calls for his surrender. In response, the mage switches away from non-lethal spells and drops a maxed-out (but not overcast) Powerball on both Mouse and Lightning, and rolls well enough to do some serious damage. Mouse’s counterspelling saves her, but Lightning is not protected – he fails his resistance and a wave of energy wounds him quite badly. Being a Direct spell, it ignores armour and resonates directly with living tissue. However the downside of Direct spells is that they’re more draining, and the mage passes out immediately after casting it. Simultaneously Mouse drops a Stunball on the area and knocks out one of the two grunts, and Kerwin.

Kit’s reaches the disk inside his drone body, and deftly picks it up with a tiny robotic arm and pincers before flying back over the wall of debris.

Only one grunt is left standing. Lighting and Tor (who has now reached the other side of the stacks) both shoot at him, but he dodges both shots. He draws his Colt Manhunter and gets one shot off but it goes wild. Lightning puts him down in his second pass.

Kit looks at the disk he’s retrieved and finds it’s an optical format that stopped being used decades ago, in a paper sleeve labelled “JB Carrion Studios ’48. For enlightenment, seek out absent friends”. When Kerwin wakes up and panics that he can’t find the disk, the team pretend that they don’t have it (or rather, Faceman does since he can do it with a straight face), and intimidate him into telling them more about it. He says that his Dad left it to him, along with the crappy Coda bar, and that it’s worth millions because it contains previously unreleased tracks by Jet Black, one of the most famous rock stars in the last 50 years. He’s obviously devastated at having lost it, not because its sentimental value but because he viewed it as his only chance at making a bit of money.

When they start hearing distant sirens, the team hastily leave the scene. They decide to head back to The Cathode Glow since it’s the only place they’ve seen tech old enough to potentially read the disk and they want to make sure it’s the real deal. After paying the eccentric owner a couple of hundred Nuyen for use of an old computer in a back room, and some hasty wiring and soldering of an interface, they manage to read it. The top level of the disk is encrypted, but Kit breaks through it in a few minutes. Underneath that is a number of short previews of tracks, which are clearly written by a talented person but which are very low quality. The rest of the disk is a data blob which is encrypted in such an extensive way that a brute force attack would take years, and requires a key to decrypt. Kit also detects a data bomb attached to it which will likely erase the data if tampered with. Assuming that this contains the full quality tracks, clearly having the decryption key is vital to realising the worth of the disk.

The team debate whether they should re-negotiate the price of the deal knowing what they know now (Faceman’s suggestion), or as Lightning and Kit suggested, trying to find the decryption key so that they can complete the contract on the original terms (good for their reputation), but then be able to offer Mr Johnson the key for a significantly higher sum, as a separate deal. The latter is more work, but it retains their reputation for fair dealing while still making more money.

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Scrap yard scrap

Lightning and Faceman entered the scrap yard behind the Coda bar, looking for Kerwin Loomis. They split up to search faster, with the leader of the gang protecting Coda initially following Faceman before splitting off.

Lightning encountered the first resistance, finding a man in a dark coat armed with a Yamaha Pulsar taser who told him to back off. Lightning shot the gun out of his hand (by actually shooting his hand), prompting the man to draw his Colt Manhunter instead. At this stage, since Lightning was using his silenced guns, things are still quite discrete.

Meanwhile, Faceman spotted two other grunts at the base of the crane in the middle of the scrap yard, but they hadn’t noticed him yet. He decided to take them head on with his katana by closing quickly, but focussed his attack on one of them, wounding him and putting him off enough that he shot wildly. The other grunt shot Faceman with his taser though.

Mouse quickly scouted the area in astral space, identifying that in addition to the people already spotted, there was a sniper on the roof of the crane cab (Lightning had seen a laser sight earlier but hadn’t seen its source), and a man at the far corner of the yard being chased by three others, one of which seemed to spot her in astral space. Kit / King Jack meanwhile found a safe in the back office of Coda and started to break into it.

Lightning dodged the grunt’s shot from his Manhunter (which made a lot of noise) and dispatched him in his bioware-enhanced second initiative pass, moving to the corner to try to take out the sniper. The sniper was aware of him by then though because of the grunt’s gun shot, and took a shot which only missed because of good cover, and because Lighting switched to a full dodge for that pass. Lightning switched to Slap and Tickle with explosive ammo and took out the sniper.

Faceman was shot by both grunts, using Edge to avoid the first but the second taser took him down. Lightning ran across and shot one of them, while the Ork gang leader ran from the other direction, having been attracted by the gunfire, although he missed the grunt. The other grunt surrendered. Lightning used his medkit on Faceman who came around, and promptly killed the prone grunt.

Mouse and Kit (having broken into the safe and looted it) went around the edge of the yard to find Kerwin backed into a corner, climbed up a way on a stack of cars, threatening to destroy the disk if the 3 people facing him didn’t back off. Mouse dumped a Bugs spell on the area, which affected one of the grunts, and unfortunately Kerwin, who glitched his roll and fell off, dropping the disk. The other two turned around…

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