After the ordeal at the 27th Street Jail in Tacoma, we returned home, we decided that it was time for a drink. I double checked with Sitra to make sure it was okay to hang out with the boys, and she said that she would be fine, and deal with Takashi who was in pretty sore shape. She seemed perturbed that Red wanted to go along as well. I told her we would just be gone for a little bit and would be back soon. She said that with Byk, there is no short trip to a bar.
Anyway, we decided to go to the Lunatic’s Fringe, a dive bar nearby that I had never been to. The neighborhood was atrocious, seeming like post-war Berlin, and we nearly got involved in the middle of a turf battle. Thankfully, for Drake’s maneuvering, we were able to skirt that skirmish and make our way to the establishment.
The inside was not much better than the outside, but it was a place where we could kick back and relax. Chips was there too – he seems to be omnipresent, but is always welcome.
After we had a few drinks – okay, I had a few drinks, Byk had a few bottles, we were relaxing, when we were approached by the newest “Mr. Johnson” after he bought us a round. After we agree to do work for him, he says that his company is doing research on aeronautical research, and they are being beaten in the technology race by Federated-Boeing who is expected to demonstrate their prototype – called Project Valkyrie – to Ares Technology in a week. The job for us is is several fold, with a maximum payout of $1.1 million nuyen if all conditions are met. He gives his number as LTG-2206-9000-555-3965 and we are to complete the work within a week.
This Federated Boeing facility is located in Auburn, at the intersection of Auburn-Enumclaw Road and SE 408th Street and is well known for the secrets it holds and the measures taken to keep those secrets hidden.
We decide to return home for rest, and research the following day. When we get back, I can’t help but overhear the all-too-familiar tongue lashing that Crimson Shadow receives from Sitra, in Hindi, about going on when in such poor condition. In the morning, I cooked a mediocre breakfast, perhaps it wasn’t the best to feed Confederate Biscuits and Gravy to a group with hangovers.
I started calling my contacts in the morning, starting with my future mother in law. I was calling her, intending on asking her about magical security involved at Federated Boeing, but we spent most of the time talking about Sitra and the wedding plans, and how much I enjoyed the Samosas that she made for me – “Eat, joo are too skeeny.” After an hour and a half on the phone, I finally got around to ask her about the issue at hand, and she said she didn’t have any ideas.
Next, I called my Uncle Walter to ask him about the “Project Valkyrie” and described what I knew. He was not surprised that Federated-Boeing was researching this and suggested that Omni Dynamix Corporation and Aztechnology Corporation would also be similarly interested. I mentioned that I heard that Federated Boeing offered visitor passes and asked him if he could pull any strings to get us in. He said he would look into it and call me back. When he did, I requested visitor passes for myself and Pariah who would be going as potential investors. With us, we would bring a Data Extraction Unit to bypass their matrix security so Chips could navigate their system without needing to be on site.
After Pariah was able to speak with his friend Lieutenant Case, we decided that it should be Byk and I would be the ones to visit the Federated-Boeing facility this time, two days hence. Chips explained to me what to do with the Remote Matrix Link and though I could tell he dumbed it down for me a little, I can understand why he did it. Though Pariah may think me a tech geek, I am really not – a geek, possibly, a tech geek, no. To tell the truth, I was a bit nervous to go with Byk, but thankfully it turned out okay. He and I were dressed as potential investors. The dressing up part was a little unusual for me, but Byk looked as well dressed as he always is.
We arrived along with a good size group of people, primarily other “investors” and low ranking government officials. According to our passes, my name was Jonathan Rice, and Byk was Achmed Abdusalaam. He got a strange look when they saw his pass, but when they saw the troll glaring back at them, they let him through. Though the facility itself was interesting, the tour could use some work. We were able to learn various aspects of the building’s security to help us in determining the best approach for entering the facility. Though there was some magical protections, they were minimal. During the course of the tour, I decided that I would hang back towards the rear of the group. I was able to execute an incantation of Improved Invisibility and returned to a nearby computer lab. I crept through people entering and exiting the room, and was nearly discovered when I sneezed (one of the employees had cat hair all over her dress). Someone said “Gezundheit” and it went nowhere further.
I spoke to Chips subvocally and informed him that I was about to input the device. I was able to place it on the back side of a computer terminal and quickly escape. I returned to find the tour group in front of a picture of the Boeing 80, the first passenger aircraft. I reappeared near the rear of the group and gave Byk a wink indicating that the mission was a success. He took this as a sign to cause a distraction and stomped his foot on that of a petite Japanese businesswoman who started screaming – with good reason (she will most likely need a cast on her foot after that one). Afterwards, I asked him why he did this, and he said he was providing a distraction and asked me why I didn’t implant the unit. When I told him I did, he looked puzzled.
After we completed the tour, and Drake picked us up, I called Chips and learned that we were successful. That was a relief. We headed back to the Clubhouse to fill the group in and learn what Chips had discovered from the network prior to them running their matrix security check. Sitra was there, reading Post Modern Bride, and talking about how I shouldn’t forget that I had a fitting for my tuxedo tomorrow and how we had a wedding cake tasting to go to tomorrow as well. I was thinking that I wished I had a clone of myself, so I could send the clone along, and I could relax with a Loco Lemonade and finish my book instead. Pariah was out following up on some of the information Chips had gleaned and Byk was modeling his myriad of suits for Sitra to find the one she thought would be most appropriate for the wedding. Red was still recovering from the injuries she had received from the ordeal with[ Wei Lange and bored out of her mind. Takashi was moved to a different facility for treatment after he was stabilized and in improving conditions. Drake was doing whatever it is Drake does.
After Pariah filled us in on what he had learned from Zany and Pookie, we decided that we would go back to the Lunatic’s Fringe that evening. When Sitra was asking me about what I thought about various species of flowers for bouquets, (of course, I can never choose the right ones)) – I was suddenly relieved when my phone rang. The number was unfamiliar to me. After a few questions, I learned that it was Hunter, the son of Urlan Manes, one of our earlier employers. He wanted to meet about our current mission. He must have heard about it through our first Mr. Johnson, Roxanne Wunter. I told him that we would be at the Lunatic’s Fringe that evening if Hunter he wanted to meet us there. It was a plan. Before we left for the Fringe, Sitra reminded me about our appointment in the morning.
The Lunatic’s Fringe was as pleasant as ever. We found a table in the back, and as soon as someone resembling Mr. Manes entered, I stood up and approached him, introducing myself. Next to Byk, I have never been more physically intimidated. Thankfully, he is a nice guy.
Apparently, Hunter he had some loose affiliation with a group called Casualty Count. When he said this, I could see Pariah shudder. He said that they were contracted out to do the same job we were with Federated-Boeing and when he told his father about this, he was told we were doing the same job and not to cross swords with us.
We told him we would welcome him along on the job on our team. After all, with Red still recovering from serious injury, we were virtually down a team member. He then told us that Casualty Count, a large mercenary group, was planning on striking the facility the day after tomorrow. Luckily, Sitra hadn’t booked anything for that day – yet. We decided that we would launch our mission at the same time, and use the Casualty Count as a diversion. Pariah contacted Lieutenant Case and was able to get a private consulation with Federated-Boeing that same day, to approach the job from the inside. I called it an early night, so I could be up the next morning early.
The day with Sitra went well, and her excitement over the wedding is hard to miss. When tasting the cakes, I always watched her expressions first to know which one I would think best. My tux has been ordered. When I told her that our mission was to be held the following evening, she said that I better not get hurt, because we are supposed to meet Reverend Knox two days after and she wants to make a good impression. She has been rehearsing her story for him and we have been working out the details.
When the time came, Byk, Red, Hunter and I rode with Drake to Federated-Boeing, while Pariah was on the inside. We waited for the sound of the strike, and made our way to the entrance. When the guards looked us up and down, Byk feigned a shot at one of the attacking helicopters. They looked at us strangely, but allowed us through. We made our way towards the fighting, and found Pariah already engaged in the firefight with Casualty Count. A group of them were inside the facility and were working on securing the prototype. Others of their group were fighting the Federated-Boeing guards. We have taken some damage so far, with all of us being injured in one way or another, yet the fight goes on….
The battle at Federated – Boeing got worse before it got better. After Byk set up his cannon, the new line of combatants sprayed him with flames. Despite being on fire, he managed to empty a few shots into each of them. Next thing I know, a grenade comes careening out of the warehouse, and strikes Byk square in the chest. The explosion isn’t catastrophic, but certainly enough to take the big man down.
Try as I might, I am unable to unleash a spell that will bring down the enemy. Either, they resist the effect, or worse yet, I cannot get beyond the pain I am experiencing in my body and mind to perform the incantation effectively.
Pariah fell next. Thankfully, Hunter is an efficient fighter too, and dispatches the remaining combatants outside, limiting the battle front to one side of us. Drake finally arrives on the scene, and I have never been happier to see him. I am not sure what took him so long to get there, but at least he has come to the firefight. He shoots remarkably well for someone who I have barely seen dispense a firearm.
I know I don’t know much about shooting, but somehow Red pulls a maneuver I could never have dreamed of – the bullet seemingly went around a corner, making two 90 degree turns.
Once I felt that the remainder of my allies could mop up the enemy, I went to work trying to stabilize Byk. Blood was gushing out from various locations all over his body, with some of them being cauterized by the fire, and his skin still smoldering in other areas. It was tough work, but he was able to be stabilized. By the time I completed work on him, the remainder of the group had allowed the last member of Casualty Count to flee, and Drake was working on Pariah. and not having much success. I told him I would takeover, while he manipulated Project Valkyrie. Red grabbed the data, and Hunter searched a couple of bodies.
On the way back to the Clubhouse, I had the opportunity to heal myself and improve the situations of everyone else, using magic and conventional means. Byk made an amazing recovery, while Pariah only improved somewhat. I knew that Zany wouldn’t be too happy with him, but at least he was coming home alive and the mission was a success.
Sitra admitted Red and Pariah to the medical bay. Red was in deep trouble with her, and was immediately restrained to the bed, like they used to do in insane asylums. Sitra told me that Red constantly complains about the crappy programs Pariah watches – Hope Springs Eternal. I told Sitra that she is just a kid. She seemed surprised to learn that she was only 17 years of age. She then raided my personal library and came up with a required reading list for Red like she was in school.
Sitra was happy that I was uninjured, and again repeated that she was nervous about our meeting with Reverend Knox in two days. I reassured her that she knew her story down pat and she had nothing to fear, plus the documentation we needed recently came through, so she was in the clear.
Two days later, Sitra and I met with Reverend Knox. Unexpectedly, he separated the two of us immediately, and while I waited, interviewed her first. When she came out, she looked frazzled. When I went in, he asked some basic questions, like if I had ever been married before. I told the truth and said I had not, but that I had been engaged. I had to explain her the details of her death to him, when he asked me if I had fear of commitments. He asked me if I loved Dot as much as I loved Sitra and I answered absolutely. (Wink, Wink). After a few questions about our living situation – our official residence at the Renton Ambassador Suites, and not our actual living arrangement – and about our expectations of marriage and family; he seemed reassured, though seemed concerned we were “living in sin”. When he asked me what I did for a living, I told him that I was working as a nursing assistant for [[Dr. Maroni]] – I will have to remember to tell him this. He asked me what I thought about Dot having the potential of earning more money than I, and I said that would be okay by me.
After we were done with his list of questions, he brought a concern up to me. He said, “Listen, I have interviewed many couples, and I think that you two are compatible, but I have to say, I am not sure of her religious convictions. When I asked her some basic questions about the Christian faith, she was totally off. Like when I asked her about the gospels, she said she didn’t care for that kind of music, and when I rephrased it saying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, she said that she liked their Abbey Road album the most. I asked her what religion she was, and she told me she was a Christian. I asked what denomination of Christianity she followed, she said the one with Christ.” “In most cases, I would require her to attend some religious education courses prior to marrying you, but since your Uncle Walter has been a good friend of the church, I will let it slide.” We scheduled another meeting in a month, to finalize details. On the way back to the Clubhouse, we had a little discussion about the Christian faith and exchanged a few laughs.
After a sufficient number of our group was healed, I called Mr. Johnson, to confirm that we had secured the device and performed the tasks asked of us, and we decide to set up a meeting at midnight, approximately five hours from then. We are to meet at Second Avenue and 108th Street in the Redmond Barrens. Not the ideal location, but I can understand the precautions. When we arrived there, the location seemed a little more suspicious. Instinctively, I switched to astral vision, and saw way more people there than expected. I called Mr. Johnson, to let him know that I was not comfortable meeting him there, with all of the other people there. He reassured me by saying this is the Redmond Barrens, and those were indigents. How he said it, made me even more suspicious, so upon disconnecting, I projected astrally to investigate these indigents. Well, they were certainly much more cyber enhanced than any other bum I had seem before. I also had a sneaking suspicion that I was being monitored. I called him back, and with Byk blabbering in my ear, I told him that we were not comfortable with the location, and asked to reschedule. Byk was getting on my nerves, and I considered the possibility of surgically implanting the phone somewhere not too comfortable on him, next time I had the opportunity. Mr. Johnson was mildly upset with the change in plans, but decided to reschedule for the following night, at the Lunatic’s Fringe, where we had originally met them.
Drake calls his friend at Lonestar Security to see if they can lend any help, and she apparently told him she would try. We arrive at the “illustrious” club, and Hunter decided he would stay outside and keep an eye on things. The normal crowd was there, and soon some more people arrive – five people in a van and two magically active people. When viewing the group of five astrally, I discovered that they were indeed the same group present in those containers the night before. We tried plying them with drinks, but they turned us down. Soon afterwards, a Lonestar Security battalion arrived on the scene, blocking the parking lot. It seems to me, that perhaps this “friend’ of Drake’s may like him a little more than he lets on. This roadblock however causes Mr. Johnson to leave before entering. When he calls, we agree to meet at a new location, in one half hour. After we are able to get through the roadblock, the group in the van is tailing us. Byk threatens to blow them to smithereens, and they take an alternate route. After Drake launches one of his drones in the air for surveillance, he noticed his is not the only one up there. It seems we have a sticky situation on our hands….
When we arrived at the location for the exchange, the same one as the night before, the same individuals were there, hiding amongst the storage containers. I called Mr. Johnson and asked him again if those people hiding among the shadows belonged with him. When he said no, I repeated that we did not feel safe meeting him here, and felt that it was in his best self interest as well as ours that we should meet elsewhere. He said no, that he needed this device now, and the deal should be completed. He feared that if we were to meet elsewhere, he would be led into a trap. He then threatened to ruin our image if we did not complete the deal. I was stuttering and stammering on what to do next, when suddenly I heard Byk counting down from three. Next thing I know, the door bursts open, and Byk begins peppering Mr. Johnson and his associates with bullets. DREK!!!
Nex thing you know, the one bodyguard is a puddle of blood and guts, and Mr. Johnson is running, diving for safety. The other bodyguard disappears. I didn’t know what to do, should I help Mr. Johnson, or this person, who is supposed to be my friend, who just mowed down our employer and put me and the rest of our crew in danger. I tried reasoning with Mr. Johnson at that point, but it was too late.
I decided I would not get directly involved in the conflict, and would do as little as possible to help Byk. I told him that the other bodyguard was coming toward him and after that I tried to find out who these other individuals were, the ones cowering behind the freight vessels, though to no avail. The invisible bodyguard started fleeing and Byk shot up the car that Mr. Johnson was fleeing towards. When he began to advance on Mr. Johnson, I returned to my body and decided now was the time to act. Byk shot the legs out from under him and walked over to him and said something into the man’s headphones. I went to Mr. Johnson’s side and hoped to repair some of the damage Byk had caused and healed his leg. Drake suggested we should get out of there before reinforcements arrived, and I concurred, though I would have almost rather left Byk there. Bykk explained that that was his version of negotiating and that when Mr. Johnson threatened our future ability to find work, his idea of preventing this was to just kill them. He also said that was plan B. I told him that was no where near plan B, and not even near plan ZZ. Next time I need some tranquilizer darts for him. Needless to say, I will not be talking to him for a while.
I am glad that I was not the only one who felt the same way, as Pariah was quite upset about what he had heard. I couldn’t even begin to translate the words that flowed out of Sitra’s mouth at him, about how much he endangered the life of her soon to be husband. Strangely though, when it was mentioned that Mr. Johnson was an employee of Aztechnology, she seemed happier and asked if we “killed the bastard”. Those are certainly not the words that would normally come out of her mouth.
Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed after that point. Pariah advocated trying to contact Mr. Johnson to apologize and offer Project Valkyrie at a discounted price, if not free. I thought that was an excellent idea. Unfortunately, Mr. Johnson, nor anyone else answered.
Through various avenues, we learned that Mr. Johnson is actually named Tobias Gormante, and his head of Aztechnology’s Special Project’s Division. Pariah made a call to Aztechnology and was directed to someone else besides Tobias. This man, for obvious reasons, was not impressed by our performanc, though concluded that they were still interested in making the trade, though did not want to meet face to face. They would still pay the previously agreed to amount, and wouldn’t jeopardize our ability to find work elsewhere, though we wouldn’t be first on their own list for future requirements.
We traveled to the drop off point the following day, and after some preliminary scoping out, Pariah opened the storage locker and deposited a copy of the data and the prototype. Inside, as promised, was a briefcase containing a cred stick totalling the amount owed to us. Thankfully, despite that major blunder, the job was completed successfully. We net 174,666 nuyen each.