Harmony Craig Bottow
Ivan the Jackle
Gabriel “Shortchange” Timms
As the door slides open, a thick cloud of vision + thermal blocking smoke pours thru. An alarm is going off on both sides of the door. Ivan ducks thru the nearby office door, out of the trid lounge, leaving Ramose and the cat there. Asp is still hiding. Scrounge and K go invisible, and K levitates. HCB takes up a position in front of them in the doctor office’s door. The team members with thermal can just make out some low to the ground shapes rushing them from within the smoke before some armored dogs break out and attack. The dogs seems to be trying to lock the team members in place, by biting and holding them. They seem able to sense magically invisible team members using scent as well. Two dogs team up on Ramose while a third goes after Scrounge and HCB. As Ramose is smashing his two dogs, one yelps, and the team hears Asp cry out “Lefty!” from the back room, and come charging out. Thru the cat’s sensors, Ivan is able to see that these appear to be biodrones, meaning there is a rigger somewhere onsite, and indicating a pretty serious level of security in this, the secure wing (appropriately named, huh?). Scrounge takes some damage, and he and K drop invisibility as it doesn’t seem to be helping. Asp is tightly holding the biodog he has mistaken for Lefty, and is trying to soothe it. The team takes out the other two dogs as some Winternight members come charging up the main hall.
The WN members are felled in a burst of full-auto fire from within the smoke just as some large forms become visible to the team. Two full armored suits come thru the door, coasting on small jet boosters located in the legs. They seem to be armed with machine gun/grenade launcher combo’s on one arm and a monofil whip on the other. Ivan opens up with the cat on the nearest form, barely scratching it. It returns fire, totally destroying the cat in a deadly full auto burst. The second mini-mech heads for HCB and Scrounge, firing while moving. It connects, but not as devastatingly. Fortunately, HCB has been holding onto the FN-HAR assault rifle that he grabbed off of John King’s corpse, and is able to return full auto fire, carefully targeting vital regions, while Scrounge and K back him up. The first mini-mech is meanwhile slice and dicing Ramose while Ivan panics in the back room, before popping out and taking a shot. Ramose is ko’d by the mech, which then heads for Ivan. Due to some incredible shooting, HCB is able to down the mech nearest him, but the other one ko’s Ivan with it’s monofil whip, taking a big chunk of the door frame and wall out as well. Ivan groans for help, seemingly summoning all his remaining energy to hold onto his last shred of life. Asp has by now determined that the biodog is not Lefty and is in the process of smothering it in rage.
HCB, K, and Scrounge all unleash on the the remaining mech from cover, while also trying to heal the downed team members, and once again due to some incredible shots manage to take it down. HCB recovers some grenades from the smoking ruined mechs, as K and Scrounge revive the fallen team members as bet as they can. The team can hear screaming and gunfire from outside the Copland facility and decide they better get moving. Asp finishes off his biodog. He is still bucknaked, holding his weapons. The team enters thru the now completely open security door, into a lobby with two creches where it looks like the mini-mechs might have been stored. There is a door on each side. They blow them open. They can hear quiet but desperate sounding whispers of “steady!” “wait for it!” “keep it together!” and such coming from beyond the doors. Ivan grabs a piece of broken glass from the doctor’s office and fashions a mirror, with which he, Scrounge, and Ramose look out one door, while HCB and Asp watch the other entrances and K astrally projects. Ramose has hauled the cat along.
K seems unable to penetrate the magic barrier in the center of the next area (which he assumes are the cells/faraday cages/etc) but senses 4 guards on one side, and 6 guards with what he thinks is a prisoner on the other. Ivan checks out the 6 guards side, and the team recognizes the form of Ut-Napishtim being held to the ground by two prison guards. There are also two sets of barricades with 2 guards behind each set along the wall. Ut-Nap, sensing his chance, manages to break free from the guards and, contorting himself, get his hands in front of him. He feints for one of the guards stun batons and instead grabs his pistol and shoots him as he dodges backwards. Scrounge launches a stunball using Ivan’s mirror targeted on the two guards who were holding Ut-Nap. Ut avoids most of the damage, but his two guards are ko’d. The rest of the guards seem to be a little woozy, but shake it off. Ramose, feeling adventurous, charges out towards the nearest barrier and soaks some pistol fire before reaching it and dealing some huge damage with his vibro blade. Ivan dodges out of cover, and launches himself in a flying leap onto the other side of the near barrier, while coup’de’graceing the two ko’d guards with his roomsweeper. It is graceful and vaguely upsetting. Ut is trading blows with the guards behind the second barrier, while Scrounge supports the whole group with spells.
Meanwhile, HCB launches a grenade out the other door. As K watches in the mirror, one of the guards runs out of cover to try to toss it back. K blasts him with a fireball, also detonating the grenade. Asp and HCB charge out into a settling haze of blood and gore. They receive some pistol fire, and HCB is ko’d, sliding to a halt against the first barricade. Asp lobs a grenade over the second barricade after recovering one from HCB’s stock. He then leaps over it and dispatches the cowering injured guard. Asp is still naked. Between Ivan, Scrounge, Ut and Ramose, the guards on the other side don’t last long. Ut searches them for keycards and such, finding one that he has seen them use on his nearby cell doors. The rest of the team comes around behind the remaining guards on the other side and makes short work of them. Ut tells the team that he got caught in an undercity sweep of anyone involved in the bank heist. One of his hideouts got raided while he was there, and he thinks that the Turing Army (and anti-A.I. militia) may have tipped off Lonestar, as Ut has been working for Daedelus a lot. He thinks the TA has been watching him, and maybe other team members for a while. In prison, they have been giving him intense violence and crime aversion BTL therapy, which has fucked him up pretty seriously, as he was previously tortured in BTL by the Black Shadows. He tells the team that the prisoners, in between BTL sessions, are kept in a drugged state in stasis pods that act as Faraday cages, cutting them off from the magical/matrix realms. He doesn’t know where the specific guy they are looking for is.
The team at this point explores a bit, finding another security door (to the processing center where HCB first arrived), the treatment chamber, four cell groups filled with the stasis pods, a rising staircase, and one locked door. Asp grabs an armor vest off of one of the downed guards. Ut begins trying to pick the lock, as the team hears the sounds of guards firing inside the Copland facility that they entered thru, and gradually approaching the team’s current position. Scrounge heads up the stairs, and is almost decapitated by a full auto burst. His rat spirit tells him to flee, and he does, yelling “mech!” as he scampers down the hall and around the corner. The rest of the team takes up defensive positions as HCB crouches behind a barricade. They hear a muffled thump, followed by some clicking noises, and two grenades tumble to the bottom of the stairs. K attempts to fling one back up as everyone flees, but apparently cast “suck” instead, and fumbles it. Ut attempts to missile parry one and suceeds. Scrounge, K and Asp duck into the far hall while Ut, Ivan, and Ramose run back up the hall they are in (where HCB is still covering them).
The grenades go off, and the mech emerges seemingly undamaged by Ut’s parried grenade. HCB fires on it and it turns his way, ko’ing Ramose with a full burst as it zips forward. Ivan and Ut duck into the second cell block up, and notice the guy they came here for. Ivan begins the process of waking him. The mech is advancing on HCB’s position and ko’s him again, although the barricade absorbs much of the fire. Asp charges the back of the mech, but his sword seems to have little effect on its thick armor. Realizing the direness of the situation, he salutes his remaining comrades, and pulls one of the high explosive grenades he got off of HCB. Placing it against the mech’s back armor, he fires his pistol thru it. The resulting explosion sets off not only the first grenade, but also the remaining frag grenades Asp is carrying, as well as the grenades remaining in the mech’s launcher and the explosive charge in Ramose’s sword hilt. The series of reverberating explosions in the tiny hallway creates the so-called “chunky salsa effect.” Ramose, Asp, and the mech are shredded beyond recognition, thickly coating the floor, walls, and ceiling in a paste of gore. Most of the nearby stasis pods in the first cell room are destroyed as well, fortunately the target of the mission is in the next room up. The barricade nearest is blasted loose from the wall and launched over HCB’s prone form into the far wall. K and Scrounge run up to see what happened, and are horrified at the result. Everyone has severe hearing damage. They revive HCB and find a small fragment of broken horn attached to a flap of burned skin, all that remains of their former team mates.
(Meanwhile, elsewhere, Ramose-Hotep opens his eyes: he is faced with the Gods of the Black Lands. Anubis, the guide to the dead, beckons him forward, into the presence of Thoth, the keeper of the book of life. The weight of his soul is compared to a feather, to determine whether he will ascend into the presence of Nepthys, the Goddess of the Death Which is not Eternal, or be devoured by the crocodile headed god, Ammat. He is found worthy, and is welcomed into the realm of the Neteru. Elsewhere yet, Asp reunites with his wife, and his beloved dog Lefty, bathing in YHWH’s glow)
Ivan and Ut emerge, and Ut returns to picking the lock, as the LS guards approaching thru Copland seem to be getting closer, seemingly having cleared the facility of WN, as gunfire has mostly stopped. K is monitoring them in astral space, and can tell that the huge explosion seems to have caused them to pause for a moment, however. Ut makes quick work of the lock this time, and Ivan bursts into the room to find a spider (aka security rigger) seemingly trying to disengage from his rig and defend himself. Ivan shoots him in the head, although he has a moment of existential angst as he realizes that the spider must have seen them coming thru his camera feeds and known his death was near, but been unable to jump out in time. He feels a premonition that he may someday die this very same way. He quickly enters the system and scans it for the info he needs while attempting to block and ignore the Black IC security system. He finds the controls for the security doors and opens the one to the processing center while closing the one they entered thru. He also sees the “dead” status symbols under the nodes for the biodogs and three of the mechs. There are three remaining mech readouts, but they seem to be only for monitoring and comms, and don’t have any control ability. He jacks out.
One LS guard has jumped thru the closing security door that the team entered thru, but the rest of his squad holds back, and he is quickly killed in a hail of magic and bullets. Ivan slaps around the technomancer to get him to get in the game, as they could use his help to escape. He gives him a pistol and combat jacket as well. Ivan and HCB both also grab LS combat jackets off of dead guards. They head thru the security door, K is levitating the cat along with, as the team may need the Johnson’s advie, and Ivan wants to salvage what he can. The technomancer obviously thinks he is hotshit, since he got such a serious rescue party, but Ivan quickly cuts him down to size with insults and not-so-veiled threats. His name is Gabriel, but he goes by Shortchange. As they are heading down the tunnel, they decide there is probably a security station ahead, and have Shortchange jump into the matrix to try to open the door, etc. He complains about poor signal and background interference (which K has also struggled with), but eventually suceeds. HCB dives around the corner and blasts one surprised guard from behind as the door slides open. He yells at the other guard to “freeze,” which he does. However, as the team approaches, the guard knees a switch, and a full facility alert goes into effect (they can hear the announcement over the open comm channel at the guard post). Ivan shoots him. They continue.
The reach the processing center where HCB first got jumped when he arrived, and SC hacks the door to the trolley. They hear an explosion behind them, and decide they better rush. Some of the team rushes better than others, as they are all pretty beat up and exhausted. Ivan gets the trolley running while HCB and Scrounge lag behind, K launches them into the air with levitate and starts pulling them along behind the speeding trolley. As they zip down the rails, they see a shape enter the tunnel behind them and close on them-it seems to be a fourth mech. It launches a grenade their way. HCB attempts to shoot it down and fails. K can’t do much, as he is busy levitating the team members (they are almost in the trolley now). Luckily, Ut uses his missile parry to toss the grenade back out just as HCB and Scrounge finally reach the trolley. K drops the spell and uses a well aimed fling to chuck the grenade back at the mech. Ivan sees the end of the tunnel approaching as the grenade detonates behind them, sending a huge explosion washing towards them. The trolley derails and plows thru two guards who seem to have just entered the tunnel to see what the fuck is going on. Most of the team dodges out of the tunnel before the explosion reaches, but Scrounge is hit, and then is clipped by the remains of the mech as it hurtles down the tube. He is ko’d, but quickly revived as the rest of the team enters the adjoining registration room and fries the guard behind the desk there. He doesn’t even manage to stand all the way up.
The team exits onto the launch pad and quickly heads for nearby fields to gain some cover. They move in the direction of Trogville. They eventually reach cover safely, and all grab onto each other as K levitates them in one big ball. He stays low to try to avoid detection and flies as fast as he is able towards the silo near the former Humanis factory where they stowed the launch gear. They arrive, and Ivan and Gabriel begin attempting to access the cat’s datacore to get the final escape instruction. They eventually succeed in retrieving a garbled version, and determine that they first need to launch a charge to blow the silo roof, and then alternate flares and pods until everyone is launched (so that the pilot of the stealthcraft with the hook can swoop in and get them all in a line). K and Scrounge are on lookout and see helicopters circling the main facility in a widening grid. HCB hollers up to them to return, as they are ready to launch.
Ivan shoots up the charge, blowing the roof, and then shoots a flare, followed by HCB’s pod. The team members can see the helicopters have all now turned towards their position and are approaching. K goes second, Scrounge third, and Shortchange fourth. Ivan warns SC not to try to access the matrix while in the upper atmo or space, to which he gets in only a quick “wha…” before his pod slams shut and launches. Ut goes fifth, the cat sixth, and then Ivan realizes he has a slight problem. There is no one to press the button to launch his pod. He snaps the controls off the launcher, jumps in his pod, presses the button, chucks the controls out, and slams his door just in time as his pod ascends the tube. As he launches skyward he sees the nearst helicopter launching a series of missiles towards the line of pods. The flares seem to pull most of them away from the pods, but the one carrying the cat takes a direct hit, sending it flaming to the ground. Ivan’s pod barely avoids the floating debris. Luck seems to carry all of the remaining pods into the atmo, and they are hooked in reverse order, and hauled into the stealthcraft, which appears to have an active camo skin projecting the starscape behind it.
The pods all fill with fluid once they are set in their creches on the ship, and the team feels the craft put on some serious g’s. Most pass out. They eventually are launched out of the ship down into the Mars desert (nice tight dispersal again) while in their capsules. None of them can see any sign of civilization anywhere nearby. The pods split open, and once again give the team members 20 seconds to disembark before immolation. They do so. They are waiting around and scanning the horizon while SC whines. Most of the team feels relieved to be back, especially since they can access the matrix/astral plains much more freely and easily here. They hear a thumping sound approaching, which a few of them recognize, and one of the Johnson’s one legged mono-stabilized “rabbits” appears bouncing towards them. It stops nearby, and Mr Johnson emerges. He greets the team, expresses his sympathies for the absent team members and presents the team with a datastick containing access codes to their payment accounts. He verifies that SC is all right, and ushers him into the rabbit. He tells the team that their medical account has been set up to be accessible at either of Doc Todd’s clinics. The team verifies that the money is good, and start talking about how to split it. The Johnson warns them about the heat from the bank job: apparently a daughter of a friend of the mayor’s was killed during the bank heist, and all hell has been breaking loose. There have been a lot of raids on undercity gangs, so he warns them to watch out. He tells the team he will be in touch if he needs them again. Then he departs. Ivan calls up his car, and the team waits while he races it to their location.
Scrounge decides that this is his last run, and only takes 2000 of the payoff, to set up his retirement. The team decides to all chip in for extra medical for HCB to fix his ‘ware, and they decide Ut will get 8000, since they did save his ass, but he also was kind of instrumental in their escape. Ivan returns April’s angry messages about Yann’s hospital bills, and they figure out a deal. They head towards Todd’s country clinic with thoughts of new gear, and maybe new faces….
up next: the team recovers and arms up for the next run