I start rummaging through the duffle bag the police left with me when they dropped me of in this motel parking lot. I can’t say that I’m thrilled that they didn’t give me a chance to switch out of the county jail jumpsuit beforehand. I’ve no more than got the bag open than I hear a door open over head and see a dwarf come to the rail of the second floor walkway and look down on me. I instead start refolding the flap on the duffle while he trots over to a stairwell and makes his way down to street level and over to me.
He whips out a hand while asking, “are you the one we’re looking for?” I turn the question around on him, “are you the one looking for me?” I’m pensive, but the friendly grin on his face overwhelms me such that I accept his welcome and shake his hand. He waves me up to their motel room where the light of a trideo floods from the still-open door. I take one last look around at the digs, it’s about as run-down a motel as you could find on the strip, with even the light in the “M” of the neon motel sign out, so that it reads, “otel.” I squint to see if the letters “B-A-T-E-S” aren’t out, as well. Nope, looks like the owner was smart enough to take them down.
I heft my duffle and hurry after the dwarf, who introduces himself over one shoulder as he climbs the stairs. “Name’s Drake,” he says, to which I give the auto-reply, “I’m Rook.” He half-whispers, “watch out for these guys,” while hiking a thumb towards the motel room. I don’t bother to tell him that he’s already at the top of my list for suspicious characters. What can I say, I’ve got trust issues after all I’ve been through. I stop in the doorway of the motel room, and take in the scene. It’s a tough-looking crowd, and I start to worry that maybe I’m not the one they’re looking for upon seeing the elf girl on the bed. She looks like she got in the way of a truck, and I worry that maybe this is some kind of gang initiation thing…if it weren’t for the cheery dwarf who seems oblivious. There’s a mean looking hombre sitting at a coffee table and flipping channels on the trideo with a remote control, but he’s eyeing me up while he does it. Drake starts complaining that he was watching some show, but the crowd doesn’t seem to care.
There’s a gaunt looking dude sprawled on the other bed in the room. He’s got a big frown for me, as well. Yeah, well I’m not happy about it either, chummer. I guess my expression speaks loudly enough that they get the message and take pity on me. The guy in the chair stands up and waves me across the threshold with his cyber arm. “Hoi, chummer, I’m Pariah,” he points to the guy on the bed, “that’s Doc, and she’s Red.” He gives them both a worried frown, and finally explains, “we just got our asses kicked, so you’re just in time.”
They’re kind enough to let me get out of the jumpsuit and freshen up before we get down to business. They’re also nice enough to warn me about the dead body in the bathtub. I arc an eyebrow and Doc pipes up, “he’s not one of us, he was one of the guys doing the kicking.” Well, they gave worse than than they got, anyway.
Back in my business clothes – slacks, turtleneck, and pistol, I’m feeling a bit more at ease. I reintroduce myself to the rest of the group, finding that Drake was fixated on the trid screen from the moment he entered the room and didn’t bother to pass along the only info we’d shared to that point. I then passed along the message that the DA had ordered me to present to Doc, “your court appearance is scheduled for Monday.”
After that we settle in so that we can tell one another why I’m here. Thankfully they start, because I honestly don’t have a clue outside of the fact that I’m supposed to help these guys tackle a violent street gang. They weave a pretty scary story. It starts with the gang we’re after having taken down the mafia, the police, and Lone Star. I’m over-fraggin-joyed to hear that I’m helping Lone Star, even indirectly. The only reason I’m here is because the LVPD stapled a bomb to the back of my head, though, so…null perspiration.
They’ve found the gang’s headquarters and tried casing it out earlier this evening. The girl Red got hit by a sniper, and she’s in rough shape. She looks like a kid, even by elf standards, and I can’t for the life of me figure why she’s here. It turns out Doc got into some kind of magic duel, which explains why he looks so roughed up. So, half of their team, me not included, are skating thin ice at the moment. For all that, they’ve discovered that they’re dealing with the Russian Mafia, who seems to be trying to take over the crime biz – slot that, the whole fraggin’ city, and not just some street gang, as I had thought. They know some pertinent details, too, such as where the gang is from, and that their leader’s name is Vasilyev.
It doesn’t add up to me, though, and maybe that’s why LVPD thought I’d come in handy. I’ve hung with gangers enough to know that if they’re trying to set up shop here these guys are going about it the wrong way. It doesn’t make sense that they are making this much noise and making so many enemies. What’s more, they’re not hiding where their hang out is. It’s only a matter of time before LVPD calls in some heavy hitters like the army to bomb them back to Moscow. I’m not doubting the capabilities of the group before me, but we’re not the heavy ordinance I’m talking about. So, I lay it out, “I don’t care how big this gang is, what they’re doing just isn’t sustainable – could they be looking for something and all this violence is just their way of getting it?”
I can see that Pariah wants to smack me for asking such an obvious question – not because I asked it, but because they didn’t think of it before now. Instead, he replies, “how about we grab someone and find out?” We spend some time spinning out ideas on how best to hit them and get someone to talk. Doc, who hadn’t shown much interest in my arrival given his condition, retreats to bed to rest up, knowing that whatever we figure out, he needs to get back in shape for it. When he turns around to climb into bed, I catch the glint of metal on the back of his head, he’s got a cortex bomb rivetted in place, too. I wonder if we all have one?
We polish up a plan over the course of the afternoon, which involves hitting a sniper that we’ve spotted during a review of some video footage from the dead guy’s camera, and some scouting by Drake’s drones. I remember a course I had in Lone Star that warned against profiling. It had an odd way of promoting it instead, by the instructor’s technique of providing constant examples of stereotypes we shouldn’t think of. Stuff like, “you shouldn’t think that all trolls have bad breath just because they have tusks,” or in this case, “I don’t want you to think that every dwarf is a rigger just because most of them are.”
It seems that Red is the team’s spook, but with her out of commission, I offered that I was pretty good at tip-toeing, myself. I can’t say that I was eager to prove myself to these guys, especially when I could see what happened to Red, but it is what I’ve been trained for. I watched Doc applying a fresh dressing to the girl’s wound and had to really think about if I was ready for something more than a training exercise. I’ve been on the run for almost a year now though, and so far that training has kept me alive against some pretty rough odds.
With evening come, we head for the mafia’s HQ. I admire these guys’ sense of humor – they’ve rented a limo as their operations vehicle. Drake drops us south of the target site, and Pariah, Doc, and myself head in. I understand that Drake will be providing overwatch to warn us about any unexpected twists. Our plan is simple, but risky. I’ve got to sneak up behind a sniper on a roof and capture him quietly. Pariah will keep me covered from another rooftop, and Doc will spy astrally to make sure I don’t trigger any magical alerts. As we climb up onto the roof of an adjacent building to our target, Drake passes along some details about the terrain so that I can plan my route to avoid being seen for as long as possible.
Not that I have to worry much about being seen – Doc cloaks me in a spell of invisibility and floats me across the street seperating our roof from the sniper’s. From there, I do a passable job of stepping lightly over the gravel-covered rooftop to get up behind the guy – who is standing right where Pariah said he’d be. I don’t waste any time. My shockglove is already charged up, so I deliver a stong chop to the back of his neck. The strike is targetted for a vital area thats good for incapacitating on it’s own, but the guy hears me at the last second and spins just enough to make it a glancing blow. Fortunately, the guy slips on the loose gravel and does a header straight into the wall in front of him, knocking himself cold. I keep the shock glove in contact with him all the way to the ground just to make sure he stays out.
I look back and see Pariah giving me a silent cheer from the other roof. I heft the unconcious sniper, along with his gear, and haul him back to the limo. A quick search of the guy satisfies us that he doesn’t have any means of being tracked, and we head off to another dive motel to interrogate him.
With a dead guy in their bathtub, I’m worried about just how rough these guys will be with interrogation. I’m definitely not getting involved with any torture. Thankfully, things stay perfectly civil, other than us restraining the guy in a chair before waking him with a stim patch. It turns out that we need a translator for this guy, and Pariah surprises me by breaking into Russian with him. What the Russian lays out over the course of a short conversation seems to confound the team around me.
By now, I know that the group wasn’t cobbled together by LVPD. Aside from me, it seems that they’ve been working together for a long time. I can’t share in their knowing looks, but everyone else seems to “get it” when Pariah tells us what the Russian has told him. They’re here looking for some guy named Charles who can lead them to some magician named Igor. I nod my head sagely like I have a fragging clue what they’re talking about.