I think that we are too relieved to have escaped Renraku at all to want to look back on it. The guys told me their story about fighting block by block through an army of zombies and vampires once, and maybe the Arcology is my own little horror story, if it hasn’t replaced theirs, as well.
Aside from the small business of cashing in on the Draco Foundation’s reward for information on room 1835 in the Arcology, I’ve spent the rest of my time finding a cure for whatever Doc and I picked up in there. Lucky Doc, he seems to have cured himself by passing it on to his unlucky wife. At least I know that there is plenty of medical interest in finding a cure. I haven’t gotten any results back from the magical community, either. One shaman offered that we could be turning into wendigo’s, but when none of the symptoms fit the idea, I’m not sure why he even bothered.
Even though I’m not terribly interested in the distraction of another shadowrun just now, when I got the call that Red had scheduled a meet with a Mr. Johnson I gathered my gear and headed over. My “gear” now includes a briefcase full of field rations so that I can keep up my strength. Even though I’m eating ravenously to keep up my weight, I can only imagine the toll this “disease” is taking on my body.
Once everyone has met up at the HQ, we pack into Drake’s van and head out. The only big change I notice is that Pariah, who had gone missing for most of the two weeks since our return, has shown up with a flat top. I made a joke about him re-joining the army, and the way he tip-toes around in his response seems to raise everyone’s eyebrows. He’s not forthcoming, so we quickly change the subject to the mission at hand.
The initial mission brief is just that – brief. We’re meeting some guy named Zilch at some bar named Lenny’s Tap. Red was contacted through her secretary service. As I recall, we ended up on the menu of some dragon the last time Red brought a mission to the table, so I can only hope she’s using a better source this time around.
Thank the spirits that be, when we arrive at Lenny’s Tap, we are not strip searched and anal probed for a change. Nice to know that there’s still places that respect the customer. More importantly, I feel safe walking into the place knowing that I can defend myself. Those places that don’t allow guns are just setting up the customers for the perp that doesn’t follow the rules – which is every perp I know.
I’ve got a bad history with drugs – namely in that I was framed to look like a homicidal addict. I’m reiterating this because Lenny’s Tap looks to cater to drug abusers, and our Johnson, Zilch, turns out to be the pusher. I’ve spent plenty of time around addicts since I’ve been on the run, so I push down my detest, and put on my business face.
We enter the backroom “office” Zilch uses and my eyes are immediately drawn to his red lapel pin in the shape of shield with the Latin “veritas” spread across it. I’d dreamed of going to Harvard growing up, but you don’t do that on the Lonestar salary my dad earned. If this is the result of a business education there, I’m glad I chose Albers. But I digress.
We make our introductions and quickly zero in on the business of why he called us. It turns out his son, Cooper, has been kidnapped by a street gang called the Night Hunters. They accused him of shorting them on a deal, and have retaliated by taking his son for ransom. He swears to us that he did the deal clean – they got their drugs and he got their money. Nothing adds up, though, since they wouldn’t have paid without having received and checked the drugs first. The second mystery is that his partner – who handled the transaction, didn’t show up for work this morning. The natural question is whether he isn’t running a game on the gang and/or boss. Regardless, Zilch seems to be genuinely worried for his son’s safety.
We take a step back to consider the job. Everyone wants to help rescue an innocent teenager, but we’re not interested in the partial payment of drugs he offered. In retrospect, I’d say we got distracted with those two items, since we didn’t ask some important follow-up questions. In the end, we managed to bump up his nuyen price rather than take any drugs. I know that we could probably off-load them, but as I said earlier, I’m not keen on getting involved with anything that might fuel a dying fire.
We accept the mission to rescue his son, but we make it very clear that his woes are just starting if he’s gotten on the bad side of a major street gang. We’re certainly not looking to dismantle such a large group, so he’s likely going to have to go on the run if he wants to avoid any further reprisals. With that, we pile back in the van and head off towards the address of his missing colleague, “John.”
Along the way, Pariah makes a call to a ganger he knows in the Night Hunters. At the end of it, he reports that the Night Hunters haven’t dealt with Zilch or his henchman in months, and they certainly haven’t had anything to do with a kidnapping. That fits with my own thoughts, since they would’ve had to go well outside of their turf to pull off the kidnapping, and invade someone else’s territory in doing so. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Zilch’s home falls inside Halloweener’s territory. I could probably call Spartan to double-check, but Pariah seems pretty confident in his information.
When Drake turns the corner in view of John’s place, we see that Lone Star is swarming the place, with gunfire being exchanged from the guy’s apartment building. I tell Drake not to stop, but to drive past their blockade as inconspicuously as we can; to which he nods to say he’s already on it. The rest of us rubberneck as we roll past.
Pariah suggests that Red and I might try to sneak in from the back side. I can’t imagine how we’d do it given the situation. SWAT or FRT, doesn’t matter – their teams are pretty similar in composition. There’ll be combat mages, heavy weapons, and heavy armor all moving aggressively and on high alert. Just the fact that they’ve got the street cordoned off means that they’ll already have every exit covered and snipers in position. Cordoning off the street is an afterthought for these guys.
I suggest that Doc might take a gander from the astral, but warn him not to get too close, as there’s bound to be combat mages. He only nods off for a few seconds before he’s back to report just that – the place is crawling with security forces, frightened tenants, and combat mages. He couldn’t get close enough to see anything helpful. With a shrug, we decide to drive on to Zilch’s doss.
Drake pulls up outside a spacious mansion in Queen Ann Hill. I know the place, though I never knew who lived here. Given the fight for every inch of space in this packed city, you don’t miss a place that has more lawn than building spreading across half a block of prime real estate. We’re gawking on the street outside the gated driveway when Drake whistles our attention to a Lone Star patrol coming up behind us. We all pretend to look at maps or navels as he passes, and Drake starts driving again to avoid suspicion while we decide how to proceed. A van full of goons sticks out like a sore thumb in this neighborhood.
The one thing we picked up on during our brief stop was that the driveway gate was ajar and swinging freely. Seeing Lone Star at both of our stops isn’t helping things, either – it’s got the hairs on the back of my neck doing jumping jacks. After a brief scan of the property’s security, which largely confirms what Zilch had told us, I focus on the surrounding blocks to try and detect any surveillance. Everything is quiet, however, “too quiet” we decide, given that Lone Star should’ve at least taken an interest in that swinging gate.
Pariah is itching to swing into action and again suggests that Red and I sneak up on the place and try to scope it out inside. I recommend a more cautious approach, given that the manor is covered by security cameras and sits in the middle of wide open lawn. Red has a camouflage cloak that actively blends with the surroundings. She may well be able to approach the manor without being detected at all. The best I could do is cover my face to avoid identification. She agrees with the assessment and heads on in. I can’t help notice the glare of disapproval from Pariah – he seems to think that I’m chickening out or something. I continue to fill out my plan by asking Doc to sweep the place from the astral. He likes the idea and a moment later his chin is resting on his chest as he zips off to Neverland.
Pariah, meanwhile, decides to phone Chips for some information on the residence. Good idea, I tell him to look for ways to cut off the security feed while he’s at it. They soon get distracted with some irregularities regarding the property’s ownership, in that our Johnson is supposed to have died a few years ago and there is no record of his ever having a child.
When we turn the corner of the block that covers the entrance gate, I hop out of the van and do a casual stroll down the sidewalk. I’m half waiting for a sniper from a rooftop to pop me, but again I don’t see any indications of being watched from the neighborhood beyond a cat basking in a window. When I get to the gate, I can finally report why it’s ajar – it bears the scars of a shotgun blast to the lock. Red makes it to the front entrance just at that moment and reports the same thing with the front door. I continue my stroll back to the van which has parked in the street at the far end of the block.
Red reports back that she’s pushing on inside the manor. She finds a group of attending cleaning bots inside the front door, who have already swept up all indications of the break-in aside from the damaged lock. Doc snaps back awake and reports that the place appears to be uninhabited at the moment. Red picks up the pace of her search with that comforting news. When she finds the kid’s room, she reports that the place has been ransacked. A crumpled note on the bed tells his father that he went over to his friend Tommy’s place for the day. A further search of the home finds the security room, where a security bot has been destroyed along with about ten minutes of camera footage from the morning.
With a twelve hour head start, we’re going to have a hard time catching up with the kidnappers who appear to have busted into the place. When Red gets back to the van, she gives Tommy’s address to Drake, which she managed to track down using a phone number she found inside. The drive takes us into Bellevue and a quaint apartment villa called, “East Seattle Bellevue Halls.” As we’re pulling up outside the place, it’s obvious that there has been a fire fight. Bullets riddle the walls of the building, and brass casings litter the street.
I suggest that we drive on again, as Lone Star can only be moments away. This neighborhood is pretty upscale, and I’m surprised that we aren’t already hearing sirens from the regular patrols of the area. Instead, the place is eerily quiet and the rest of the team vote me down in favor of investigating. A quick astral sweep by Doc finds people huddled in their apartments, and no life signs in the target apartment. In a nod to my concern, Drake stays in the van with the engine running. Otherwise, Red and Pariah head for the apartment where little Tommy is supposed to live, and Doc and I check out the rest of the complex. As has been the case all along, we keep in contact through our sub-vocal radios.
Red and Pariah immediately discover that Tommy’s apartment has suffered the brunt of the damage from the gun fire. The door and walls outside of it have been riddled with bullets, while there are only scattered and random holes in the walls throughout the rest of the courtyard. The door had been kicked in, allowing the two to push their way in. They immediately discovered the family had been executed inside. A quick phone call finds Cooper’s phone lying on the floor.
I bang on their neighbors door and call out in an officious tone, “Lone Star – open the door.” A few breaths later, a tentative voice asks to see some ID from the other side of the door. I shrug and hold up my wallet so that he can get a good look at its silhouette through the peep hole. Knowing that this won’t help him any, but that he’ll feel better for having followed the protocol everyone learns from watching their trid shows, he opens the door. I tuck my wallet back inside my coat pocket as he fumbles the latch open.
I introduce myself as Detective Morgan, and brusquely ask what has happened here. He tells us that some maniac with a machine gun came onto the property spraying his machine gun. He warned everyone not to call the Star, or he’d blow us all up with bombs he’d planted in the courtyard. I couldn’t believe that the whole complex had fallen for such a line of BS. Seeing my look of disbelief, he rushed to add, “we called Lone Star anyway…they just never came.”
Completely rattled, I did my best to finish up the interview. They didn’t know of anyone who had a grudge against their neighbors. I told them that reinforcements were en route, warned him to stay inside until they had arrived, and we all made our exit.
Drake made a call to his friend Arianna in Lone Star. With a little nudging, she spilled that Lone Star was purposefully avoiding three patrol zones, the apartment, the manor, and Lenny’s Tap. We also get some closure on what happened at John’s place. It seems that when SWAT stormed the apartment they found it empty, as John had slipped out through a trap door that dropped to the parking garage below. Drake punched it for Lenny’s Tap. With everything we’d learned, we had a hell of a lot more questions for Zilch, but more importantly, we all suspected that he might be in danger.
When we arrived, we found everything to be normal. I again scanned the surroundings for any signs of a stake out, even more on edge knowing that Lone Star was actively engaged in this – even if only by actively not being engaged. They knew something was afoot and are apparently helping it along. Orders like that, followed without question, can only have come from high places. For the Star to put an operation ahead of the public safety added a scary twist; it was the kind of thing that my former department would pull. The fact that the department’s heads are still active in the Star, pulling strings, puts a shiver down my back that even fighting a dragon can’t match.
While everything appears to be normal, one thing isn’t – Zilch isn’t in his office. A quick check with the bartender finds that his partner, Johnny, showed up about an hour ago and the two of them had walked out of the place like old chummers. My guess is that one of them had a gun pressed to his back. The good news might be that we’ve cut the kidnapper’s lead from twelve hours down to one. The bad news is that we have absolutely no clue where they could’ve gone.
I suggest we head back to the manor. We know of three places that Lone Star is actively avoiding for some reason. We’re standing in one, the last place was a blood bath, leaving only Zilch’s home. This job is turning into much more than the quick snatch and grab that we’d hoped for, and I’m only glad that I brought enough food to last a while.
1.) How did Zilch know to contact Red?
2.) What happened to him in the Carib League where he is supposed to have died?
3.) How does that play with his revival and the sudden appearance of a teenage son?
4.) Might the boy simply be illegitimate, and he’s simply taken over parenting from the mother?
5.) Who started the gunfight with John that brought Lone Star in?
6.) Why is Lone Star willing to breach John’s place, but not the other three listed?
7.) Why is Lone Star purposefully avoiding the three areas where they know crimes and murder are being carried out?
8.) Who has the pull to block the patrol of these areas? a.) Lone Star corporate, b.) City Government, c.)?
9.) Why does Zilch say a deal went bad when the Night Hunters say there hasn’t been a deal in months?
What we know:
1.) Everybody is lying, lots of people are dying, but the kid does seem to have been kidnapped.