Bills to Pay

Piracy
A proud tradition

The fixer’s name turned out to be Warren, and they were both intrigued by and suspicious of his intelligence. If true, it promised a decent payout, and being able to pirate a shipment at a point of relative vulnerability could turn up some nice hardware at the perfect discount. And it certainly was true Paramount’s appearance driven up prices as people tried to stockpile before the crackdown. On the other hand, a dealer just giving up information was a little too good to be true.

So they looked into it.

A quick call to Warren turned up the intersection where he said he’d lost a bunch of inventory. It was just inside one of Paramount’s newly acquired Hoods, apparently because he’d decided to shift the goods to a different warehouse at the last possible minute. Xiaofeng made his way to the crossroads in question, found a little 2nd-floor cafe overlooking the roads, and settled in to watch. He was also of course serving as a local node from which Val and Guei were hoping to find a cam that might have some footage of the day in question. The new Paramount monitoring network was prominent, as much for display as for surveillance, but its security would be mean, and besides, it was too new. Luckily, there was a pawnshop just off the intersection, and its external cams had good coverage of the area.

It was just a little independent place, and its security didn’t present much challenge for Guei, who hopped from Xiaofeng’s commlink into the store’s public site with just a few minutes of effort. Once there he pilfered the stored footage from the day Warren had given them, sent it to Val, told the store’s site to start advertising a 75% off discount to all Paramount personnel, then hopped out.

Across town – way across town – Cami and Jack were having a look around the location Warren had given them for the exchange. It looked like they were doing their best to keep it out of public eye, probably precisely because they didn’t want to attract the sort of attention represented by these two. They weren’t even in the Sprawl-proper anymore, they’d actually ridden Jack’s bike out past the reeking shantytowns, through the slush of snow, ash, and piss, to find the border where nature warred with Seattle. Here, at least, nature had mostly won the fight against what had been the extremely small town of Corrinton.

It was late January, so the dead, empty homes and businesses were blanketed in a thick carpet of mostly undisturbed snow. Towering evergreens had marched a good ways inside the town, cracking and buckling asphalt and concrete, even widening the holes in a couple roofs. They decided to stash the van in the town’s old service center, the snowdrifts halfway filling the garage whose door had long since been dismantled and looted for scrap. They’d halfway covered a desiccated corpse in one cover, a discovery which caused brief alarm, until Jack had a closer look and determined that it looked like the poor guy had probably died of exposure or starvation.

There wasn’t much to surveil, and with both Cami and Jack being unaccustomed to a harsh and unrestrained winter wind, they elected to head back before long.

Val’s analysis of the pawnshop’s footage didn’t turn up any carjacking, truckjacking, holdup, or anything else that looked plausibly like what Warren was talking about. So she, Xiaofeng, and Jack decided to make a visit. Since he’d been relatively free in his contact with them so far, it didn’t take long to track down his physical location from his online presence.

They arrived to find a nondescript stairway sinking below the level of the sidewalk to provide access to a plain metal door into a basement. When he answered the doorbell in intercom, he sounded a little surprised to see them, but let them into his lobby before too long. That lobby turned out to be a small, featureless, reinforced room: diagonally across from the door they’d entered was another door with no visible handle or maglock, and in front of them Warren was standing behind bulletproof glass.

Negotiations went sour quickly, and Warren, obviously scared, asked them to leave. Xiaofeng spotted the vents in either side of the ceiling and, suspecting gas, punched a hole in the pane standing between the fixer and them. He started to bolt at this but, while Guei was struggling with hacking in to his defense systems, Val made the bluff that they’d already compromised his systems, and if he ran his own traps would be turned against him.

He relented and owned up that he hadn’t actually had his stuff jacked, he was just trying to get them to jump in on a shipment he’d picked up word of. There was bad blood on both sides, but he swore the info was good, and for now, the deal was still on.

By the next day they were set up. They’d picked one of the few two-story houses up the street to set up in, then looked outside from the attic window and seen their van’s tracks through the snow, right over the top of the smaller set of tracks from Jack’s bike. After a great deal of debate and inspection of the clear, open skies, they decided that the best disguise would misdirection. They got the van back out, drove over, on top, and across their own tracks, started a bonfire, and gathered trash to spread around it to suggest a recent party. With Cami directing the disguise efforts, they were soon quite convincing, and when two heavily armed and armored offroad trucks showed up later that day, they seemed as satisfied with the results as Cami had been.

Each truck had a machine gunner on an armored pintle turret in back, and it was a pretty safe bet the rest of them were armed too. It was a lot of firepower, and the team was seriously considering just staying in the attic, letting the deal happen, and telling Warren to steal his own damn weapons. Eventually, more out of a desire to not have wasted all the effort on the fake party than anything else, they decided to go ahead with it anyway.

Cami used the window sill, now empty of actual window, as a support for her rifle, and took careful aim on the further of the two gunners. It was a difficult shot: he was hunched a little behind the turret armor, shifting constantly with nervousness and a desire to get out of the cold, and and the winter wind was mercurial and difficult to account for. Val helped out, running analyses on the man’s movement patterns and gust frequency, putting relevant data up on Cami’s goggles, until eventually the stealth specialist felt confident in the shot. The round hit the man in the chest, and although his armor kept him from instant death, it was hard to see what kind of medical care he’d be getting out here.

With the first shot fired, Cami felt the calm of a professional at her work, and shifting her aim fluidly to the second gunner, her next shot took her target directly in the forehead. He too was wearing armor, but nothing short of military battle armor can turn a direct hit to the head, and he did die instantly. The firefight that followed was brief and brutal, with the truck’s passengers and drivers springing out of their vehicles with assault rifles, engaged almost solely by Jack with his Predators.

Cami was dodging suppressive fire when a spirit was called up to take physical form from the boards and beams that made up a corner of the house’s attic and, its dry timbers groaning and creaking, it clubbed her to the floor. She scrambled up and called downstairs for Xiaofeng’s help while running down herself. All of this kept her so busy she wasn’t even able to see it when the gunner she’d only wounded struggled back to his feet only to have his frozen weapon blow up in his hands and shower his face with shrapnel. Meanwhile, Val decided to pop in the van and tell its pilot program to take her towards the two offroad trucks. There was a mage hiding behind them somewhere, and she didn’t want to leave him to work magic unmolested.

Unfortunately, by the time she got there, Cami had reached the second floor and was helping Jack drop the last couple riflemen. The footing in long-abandoned houses is, sadly, not the most reliable, and a rotten spot gave way at just the right time to throw off a shot. Against all probability, about 120 meters away, Val was knocked to the ground by the bullet as it punched through her stylish (and now ruined) armor and lodged itself in a shoulder blade.

It was astronomically poor luck, but sometimes these things happen on a run. The gunmen were dead, anyway, and Jack and his top-grade first aid kit were able to keep the wound from being too debilitating until they could get back to a real medical center. There was no sign of the mage that had called up the earth spirit, but at that second they had to deal with the weapons shipment that had arrived to find unexpected carnage.

Luckily, Guei was able to dig account information out of a commlink, the sellers got their payment and departed without hitting their panic button and burning the goods. The team stashed the armored truck outside the Sprawl, hooked the trailer up to the van, and headed back in to find out what they’d won.

Posting this without proofreading, and they’re always so much longer than I think they will be. But, need sleep.

View
Interim

An ambulance pulled in to one of the few public hospitals in the Sprawl and a small, unassuming woman got out on her own, then paused, listening. Behind her she could hear the driver talking to the intake staff.

“Yeah, we picked her up in the Drydocks. Yeah.” Here he paused for a long while. “Yeah, she probably does. But she already paid the transportation fee, she’s probably good for it.” And after a final pause: “Are you people a hospital or what? Do you want us to take her to North General? Fine.”

She turned around and looked back inside the vehicle, face carefully impassive. The young medtech in the back of the van looked apologetic. “Sorry about that. They’re ready for you inside. Don’t worry, the intake nurse is a beast, but they’ll take care of that shoulder for you.”

Cami turned around and started walking towards the lobby, already able to see an increased stir of activity inside. A patient with a puncture wound from the Drydocks called for careful handling. She brought a hand to her throat and cheek to make sure she wasn’t imagining the first hints of a fever.

- -

When Jack came by later that night, the virus was well underway. They’d doped her up against the pain, but it was still obviously intense.

“Viruses as a rule are difficult to combat medically, and HMHVV is one of those we still can’t guarantee much against. About all we can do is give her body the help it needs to do its best fighting off the disease.”

The doctor standing next to Jack snuck a sideways glance at him, then returned his view once more to the hospital bed inside the glassed-in quarantine room. She was writhing in slow motion and her sweat soaked the sheets. The doctor began to make a motion towards clapping Jack on the shoulder, then thought better of it and walked away.

- -

While Cami and Jack were in the hospital, Val and Patchwerk were making the rounds of the sprawl. Val made contact with Doc Rock for a couple light implant jobs. That was easy enough, but looking for the next thing was more difficult.

She chased down electronic pathways while Patchwerk chatted up some old friends here and there, but where ever they went, weapons of all sorts were drying up. Eventually Val found some sort of broker online, being very careful about screening his traffic, who offered to sell her what she’d need to smartlink her pistol. Too bad he wanted almost eight hundred nuyen for the thing, even without installation service.

“Look, lady,” he said, “with those goons in gray showing up, there’s a run on everything that goes bang. They ain’t been able to actually shut much down yet, but people are panicking. If you ain’t willing to pay, someone else is.” Val could hear the sound of something metallic bouncing against something plastic in the background. “Hey, I got an idea. About a week ago, someone jacked some stuff I was moving. Don’t know how they found out about it, but I wasn’t about to let myself get killed over a bunch of guns. Tell you what, though, after they jacked me I did some asking around, and I think they’re selling the stuff as a lot way off to the West, right on the edges of the sprawl. If you were to obtain that shipment, I’d be willing to buy anything you didn’t want to keep. Half price. Interested?”

View
What are we signing this contract in, again?

Pleased with a pretty decent payout about a week in to the new year, everyone mostly took a week or so off. Patchwerk hung out with her dad at the restaurant, Val practiced violin, and Xiaofeng broke a few boards. But mostly, they lounged. Bumping a team out of a cushy informal contract with one of the big players was a nice start to the new year, and although it came with its own risks, it also took a little edge off of the hunt for new runs. And, sure enough, on the evening of the 19th, Ran Isha, the Honda security suit that had taken the handoff of Khalid, showed up outside their door.

Either because he was trusting, confident, or just dumb, he didn’t hesitate before stepping inside, leaving his bodyguards in the sedan. That said, he clearly didn’t plan on spending that much time inside, just long enough to drop off the outline to a job, upload a data packet with details, and settle on a price. Then he was back in the sedan and on his way to wherever it is the corpies sleep.

The job itself was pretty straightforward wetwork, but came as close to formalizing a longer-term contract as anyone ever gets. They’d already bumped off one member of the other shadowteam in the process of stealing their livelihood, and it looked like the survivors had decided to take a piece for themselves in response. They’d stolen a prototype of some sort from Honda by abusing a personal relationship they’d formed with someone inside the corp and were holed up in an abandoned foundry just inside the Drydocks while they tried to auction it off. Val had managed the bargain the contract price up to $45k for the kills, with a $12.5k bonus for delivery of the prototype intact.

Within an hour they were on their way, Patchwerk’s van carrying herself, Cami, Jack, and Guei and clearing a path through the slush for Xiaofeng on his bike. The normal light, noise and smell of the Sprawl faded as they came closer to the darkened border of the Drydocks. A quick peek with one of Patchwerk’s rotor drones revealed a circling zep drone on recon above the only building with working lights in the area. She brought it back down before it was seen, then they went back to pushing forward on the ground.

They were the only vehicle that had been by that route any time recently, but there were plenty of footpaths criss-crossing through the snow. The glow from the foundry grew more pronounced as they approached, eventually revealing that had someone had set up floodlights around the massive door that had once taken deliveries of raw material and sent out maritime structural components in exchange. It was a heavy enough slab of reinforced steel that it had never been cannibalized, and one way or another, someone had managed to get it rolling along its track again.

All of this information came from Cami, who’d hopped out of the van and snuck forward close enough to get a good look without getting noticed from inside. She had, however, been noticed from outside, and even with a warning in her earbuds from Val, she only had time to clip a hungry ghoul with one round from her holdout before he’d dug his claws into her shoulder and neck, right at the seam of the armor. Xiaofeng took off running to the rescue, while Jack’s wired reflexes got him on to Xiaofeng’s bike and down to Cami before the ghoul could strike again. Ghouls are tough, but two hard punches to the kidneys from behind will put most people down, especially when they’re made with a retractable blade.

Hopping back on Xiaofeng’s bike, both Jack and Cami had time to whip by Xiaofeng, still running, and now pursued by a small pack of four ghouls, attracted by the commotion. Luckily for him, they were well in range of one of Patchwerk’s armed ground drones. Between the sound of the bike, the van’s engine, and the smell of blood as automatic fire ripped one of them to chunks, the remaining three thought better of things and bolted.

As soon as the disturbance had started, the recon zep had started drifting over to investigate, so Guei wasted no time forcing his way into the rigger’s commlink and handing access codes to Val to shut down the sentry drone while he turned the combat drone on the top floor against its mistress. As soon as she saw it turning outside of her control she began to spam frantic shutdown commands, but by then it was too late: Guei had been in possession of admin privileges to her commlink for far too long.

Bypassing the blockaded first floor, the team made its way to the second-floor outside door, inside and past the power-down sentry on the second floor, up to the 3rd, where the combat drone Guei had taken over was also powered-down and awaiting collection. They were surprised to find two Orks there, evidently hoping to ambush them as they tried to pick up the prototype, but they were both disabled before there was even really a fight. There was some debate about what to do with them, but the final decision was that the least risky option was to execute them, use the bodies as bait to distract the ghouls that were apparently trapped on the first floor, and make their escape. You’ve gotta watch out for your own in the shadows.

View
The Snatch
First paycheck of the month

The team awakened Thursday morning to find that their prodigal technomancer, Guei, had returned. The ways of mages and ‘mancers are mysterious, and the team had long gotten tired of asking questions he wouldn’t or couldn’t answer. He’d been with the team nearly as long as any of them and never proven false, so it had gradually become the norm.

The team hashed out their plans for the day and got ready to go just as Val put through a notice that was getting broadcast on every frequency, channel, and site that the corps controlled and a few they didn’t. The scowling face of Electra Theoderides, Paramount’s current CEO, informed pretty much everyone in no uncertain teams that the rules were changing. For the background for her speech delivery, she chose to let viewers see her engineer teams knocking down some unfortunate tenements and putting up an HQ to her liking while regular and paramilitary forces looked on.

A quick double-check of Seattle geography confirmed that Paramount wasn’t going to present any immediate problems so they set it aside to deal with later. Cami and Patchwerk went to walk the route they were hoping to guide Khalid into to make sure they wouldn’t have too many surprises waiting for them there while Jack and Xiaofeng headed back to their chosen meeting point with Honda to do a more thorough recon and prep job there. They managed to uncover a recently infiltrated recon-bug drone, whose tiny electronic brain quickly became Guei’s target. After punching his way in past its necessarily limited firewall, he edited its video and audio feed to harmlessly loop stale data back to Honda.

The route Cami and Patchwerk were walking was a semi-secret rooftop highway, a branching web of rope bridges, planks, and knocked-over ladders. It rose, fell, branched and merged over a generally North-South course, and would take Khalid within a few hundred meters of his intended halfway point of the nightclub in T-Town. They narrowly avoided getting in between a trio of drunken rooftop thugs and the crowd that decided they were through with having empties thrown at them. They finally decided that it would make the most sense for Khalid to ascend to the aerial path relatively close to IBM, and the best-known entrance point that far north was an abandoned luxury condominium building.

After meeting up briefly at the drop point to conceal one of Patchwerk’s combat drones and go over positioning for the handoff, the team split to their respective homes while Jack went to check on his old friend Kent in Deerhollow. Their plan for making the coastal route too scary to travel had been to ship a few kegs to Jack’s old friends and start up a party that would hopefully involve some of the neighboring Hoods in one way or another. When Jack got there he found the gang kicking around the booze, looking at the pillar of smoke rising to the South, and definitely not drinking. Deerhollow was in the first ring of Hoods to be taken over by Paramount, and the sounds of firefights punctuated by heavier ordnance had dampened spirits. Nonetheless, especially if the bar’s free, you may as well drink away your sorrows, and Jack ended up spending the night with his old pals and helping them empty the kegs.

Their prep work done, there wasn’t much to do Friday but wait for the night to kick off the op. Cami was picked to shadow Khalid on foot, something that turned in to a problem when he exited his enclave and hopped in a cab. Luckily, Guei didn’t have any trouble hacking into it by way of Cami’s commlink, especially since all he was doing was keeping tabs on its location. The team scrambled, ready to ditch to a different snatch point, but Khalid ended up coming right to the building they thought he would, complete with Jack and Xiaofeng on the roof.

While Cami tried to catch up in a cab of her own, Khalid got close enough for Jack to peek over the edge of the roof with his cybereyes and spot not only Khalid, but a dwarf shadowing him. Patchwerk, worried about this unknown, hopped on Jack’s bike from where it had been stashed next to her van and rolled up next to Khalid to try to seduce him on board. A man that’s already paranoid – with good reason – about being tailed is a hard target for seduction, however, and since he was in sight of his goal, the abandoned condos, he broke into a run.

Val was able to listen in on the dwarf’s encrypted radio traffic without too much difficulty, and Guei hacked in to Khalid’s commlink in hopes that he’d have enough cyberwear to make it worthwhile. He wasn’t disappointed to find a pair of cybereyes in the young scientist’s skull, but he waited to blank them out until he’d burst out of the door on to the roof, where Xiaofeng went to tackle him and Jack leveled a Predator down the stairwell, waiting for the dwarf. Cami arrived, almost out of breath, in time to go for a tazer shot at him, and Patchwerk tried for a stun grenade. Too bad for the dwarf the tazer missed and the grenade bounced right back out of the hard concrete stairwell, because as soon as he rounded the corner a round from the heavy pistol punched right through his armor, chest, and out the other side.

An airborne drone overhead had followed the cab and then Khalid on foot, but in the excitement the hacker and the ‘mancer hadn’t noticed its transmissions and the sammy and adept hadn’t been able to filter the sound of its rotor out of the general noise of the street. They did notice the sound it made firing a couple bursts, but they weren’t exposed on the roof long enough for it to do more than clip Jack in the shoulder. Guei was, after a struggle, able to shut down its engines as it tried to tail the van and the team left it to plummet into the street and shatter on the asphalt, causing a multiple accident and several injuries.

The handoff went mostly smoothly. Cami made it there first, settling down with her Walther rifle, ready to back up the team with sniper fire if things went pear-shaped. Khalid, of course, was alternating between struggling helplessly and sobbing, or sometimes both simultaneously. When the Honda pickup crew arrived, it came in a black armored sedan, three Honda bikes, and a mid-sized cargo truck. The truck backed in and swung its doors open, revealing two medtechs and a gleaming white and chrome exam room and table, complete with restraints. The sight of the table through the magnification of a scope triggered something deep in Cami, causing her to seize up in a panic attack. Luckily for the rest of the team, there was no need of any sniping, as the shakily agreed-upon sum landed in the team’s Californian account as soon as Khalid was in the hands of their medtechs.

Honda took off and, after collecting the shaken stealth expert, the team rallied with Val at the T-Town club for a meal and a few restorative drinks. Thirty grand was a respectable sum, and January was yet young. The next morning they found that someone had probably tried to steal Khalid back from Honda, but the new guards in Paramount grays had driven them off. As far as they were concerned, however, it was time to start looking for the next job.

(Note: posted this without any proofreading or anything, so feel free to comment with any typos, events I missed, etc.)

View
A beginning
A slow week for the team picks up

The team so far is a small group, assembled by disgraced corporate security man Xiao Feng. The mysterious Chameleon serves as the team’s eyes in the shadows, while Valentine’s fingertips can warn them of any tremors in the web. The diminutive Min-di, a.k.a.: Patchwerk controls a small squad of terrifyingly well-armed doll-drones, and Jack the sammy elf serves as the team’s surprise muscle in a fight.

They’ve been working together for a while now, and have actually managed to put down some roots. They’ve chosen a primarily troll district for their combination office, garage, and armory, mostly because it has a reputation for keeping a close watch on outsiders. On the other hand, that means they’re expected to contribute, and after a little over a year of residency, one of Freddy’s innumerable nephews drops by. Jack is crashed on the couch in the upstairs office, while Min-di is tinkering with her lethal toys in the shop. The doorbell is rarely used, so she responds naturally enough by checking the door camera with her workbench camera. She doesn’t see anything too alarming: a troll adolescent, with nothing more dangerous than the bored sneer common to his age group.

She yells upstairs for Jack to get the door, and with only minimal grumbling the cyborg clomps downstairs, pulls it open, and says hello. The kid’s message is pretty brief: “my uncle wants to see you.” The phenomenon of every troll in the district being a niece, nephew, brother, sister, or cousin of Freddy is well-known, and although they’ve never been invited before, they’re aware of how to get to his place.

Freddy lives in a construction site that was abandoned before it got off – or at least above – the ground. The supermassive skyscrapers require supermassive foundations, and for one reason or another, they abandoned this project after they’d sunk the hole and poured the base slab. Freddy has apparently consolidated the old foreman’s shop and administrative trailers into an interconnected complex in the middle of the slab and lit the whole area with floodlights. A small clump of generators hums, clatters, and chugs nearby, and the trailers themselves have been plated in makeshift armor. It wouldn’t do much to stop real ordnance, but it’s well capable of stopping standard small-arms fire.

Another of Freddy’s nephews makes himself a nuisance outside until Freddy himself slams open one of the steel-shuttered windows and yells at him a little, but enthusiasm in a doorguard/footman probably isn’t a bad quality.

Once inside, the party learns that Freddy has, one way or another, received word about a snatch planned to take place outside one of his clubs three days from now, something he’s not real pleased with. He names the snatchee and, without expressly giving the team a job for it, lets them know that they’d have his gratitude if someone happened to preempt the snatch outside his territory, and especially outside his club that’s popular with the moneyed thrill-seekers of upscale Seattle society. Oh, and he happens to have this anonymous commcode that might get any interested parties in touch with someone that might like to get their hands on the unfortunate young man in question.

As the team is walking back from the meeting with Freddy, Val gets a call from her admirer Killian, who says he’s been hearing about some Honeywell project named Caitlyn. Honeywell is primarily a U.S. corp, and its branch in Seattle is substantially smaller than any of its facilities back east, serving primarily as a corporate sales and investment location. The rumor mill is full of all sorts of hypotheses about Caitlyn, only made more obsessive by Honeywell’s stalwart silence on the subject. Val makes the intuitive leap to Caitlyn Watson, the last governor of Wyoming, but from that point the team decides to let the notion simmer on a back burner.

Val then turns her attention to finding out more about Khalid Vresh, the young man Freddy doesn’t want to see anyone fighting over in his backyard. She turns up an older research article with Khalid’s name on it as a graduate researcher. He’s since disappeared from public academic view, and is apparently working as a postdoc deep in IBM’s heavily protected Seattle research campus. However, he also seems to have made at least one trek out to meet an unknown third party, either willingly or by coercion. That third party looks just as scary as IBM, and is certainly extremely heavily armed.

Attempts to use the commcode the next day are tense, cat-and-mouse affairs as Val tries to track their signal back to its point of origin and they try to do the same. In a moment of brilliance, Val gains the upper hand, pinning the commcode to somewhere within Honda’s territory on the net, while their trackers are still lost in the countless whispering nodes of the Seattle net. At the same time, Cami makes her way on to the IBM undergraduate campus with a guest pass and sets up watch outside the gleaming tower that prospective students can see (but not touch!). She’s a professional, and the bored security teams and public-safety-oriented security systems of the IBM undergraduate campus present no challenge to her.

The team sets up contingency plans and spreads rumors of increased danger to attempt to drive Khalid down a possible travel corridor they feel most comfortable with, while finalizing their shaky negotiations with the faceless representatives of, apparently, Honda. They name a meeting spot for the handoff, and Patchwerk’s recon drone gets there before someone comes by and does their own recon of the area. There’s about 48 hours to go and the team is trying to nail down as many loose ends as they can before things get hot.

GM note: players, please leave comments with anything I’ve left out or underplayed or misrepresented!

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.