Lodestone aka Kealt Sanja
The runners safely return to the city via their various routes, and deliver Marlowe and his team safely into the Exchange‘s custody. Thankyou receives a message from a mysterious source telling him “Keep up the good work”, and believing it to be from his benefactor, he is thrilled. He decides to celebrate by finally getting his whole rigging suite installed. He disappears into a clinic for a few days. UB! finds out that the UltraDude who was hospitalized after the LoneStar SWAT assassination is still in a coma, and no-one is paying his bills. UB!, sadly, is out of money. Rooster tries to start putting his life back together, paying Exocet to set up a new SIN, and accessing the funds that LoneStar didn’t seize.
Lodestone has a message from Detective McCormick, demanding info about the spaceport raid. He decides to ignore him, but fears he is now wanted by the Star. Lodestone returns a call from an unknown number, and talks to the Brassface man (he thinks), and promises to stop interferring in the diamond business. In exchange, Brassface suggests the LS and the team will be left alone. Although, Brassface expresses his displeasure with Rooster, so he might be in trouble. He burns most of his SINS, gets a new one from Ibn Hassan, and hides out for a bit. Hassan also says that he has made contacts with both Aden and Lofwyr’s organizations, and will make contact if LS still wants. LS tells him to contact Lof only, deciding not to trust Brassface.
Tobias, hearing all this, decides to share the info he required from Daedelus with the team. They head out to the hideout to talk, since it is the only secure place they can think of. Brassface appears to be connected to the skin-noters, who Tobias now knows are a Tamanous faction on Mars. He believes that this faction was involved with hiding the diamonds, and suggests that LS feed them to Lofwyr. UB!, humorously, has a job from Tamanous, to drive some freezer trucks out to a facility in the wastes. The team declines to participate, so he recruits some UltraDude wannabes from the Problem Children ranks. The team also receives the upsetting news that Ivan the Jackle, identified in the news as “Hamshallow’s Driver”, has been captured by the Prime Runners. This makes UB!’s recent purchase of the entire PR merch line somewhat awkward. He decides to keep wearing the hat anyway, since it looks cool.
They meet the trucks, and head out. The team tells UB! to hurry back for the “Christian Melange Presents: HCB Lives!” Crod Stompaz tribute benefit. The trucks reach the facility, and find a seemingly abandoned farm. They park in the barn, and head down a concrete tunnel into a medical bunker. The place is trashed, and they find a wrecked office, medical room, and a few executed employees. UB! spots some suspicious wiring, traces it to a timer and some explosives, and flees. Sadly, one of the the UltraDudes trips on the way out, and UB! slams the exterior door shut to dampen the explosion. They head back to the trucks, find the tires slashed, and flee the barn. The trucks blow, collapsing the barn, and an ARO phrase in German pops up in UB!’s hud. Tobias translates it as “you have something of mine”. UB! reports all this to Tamanous, and decides the message was probably for them. He gets a cab back with the 2 surviving ’Dudes and they head to the concert.
LS, before going to the show, talks to someone from Lofwyr’s org on Earth, and tells him essentially all of the info that he has. The timelag makes the convo a bit awkward, but the man tells LS that they appreciate the local assistance, and will have a local agent get in touch with further instructions. They transfer some money as an advance payment, and the agent warns LS not to disappoint. Tobias finds that there is a lot of speculation amongst commentators and pundits that LoneStar isn’t properly enforcing security in their areas. Apparently, Knight Errant has been publicizing the SWAT deaths and spaceport detention center raid embarassments. Good news!
They head to the show, and hang out a bit, and then take off. UB! shows up later, and gets trashed with Jaro at the bar, commiserating over lives lost and Ivan’s capture. He hides his PR hat, though. They eventually bail on the show to go smash some stuff in an abanodoned warehouse. Rooster and Exocet leave shortly after, and notice that someone is tailing UB and Jaro pass out in the warehouse, but are soon awakened, as they come under attack by the Prime Runners. UB! is quickly ko’d, but Rooster arrives on the scene in time to help. He commands the street sam hauling UB! out of the warehouse to drop him, and commands the cab that he and Exo were riding in to smash into the PR’s van. Lodestone summons his elemental, Baelor, to fight the street sams, while Tobias races to the scene. T also calls One Shot Wade and tells him to get anyone he can to the warehouse.
LS fights a mage in astral space, while Baelor demolishes one of the street sams, smashing his head into a fine pulp, but is defeated by a combo of sniper fire, and the other street sam. The PR team flees through the alley into the sewers, and LS sends some watcher spirits to try to tail them. The snipers ko Rooster, while Jaro heals UB! a bit. They haul Rooster into the warehouse and take cover as gang cars approach. Tobias plans to try to chase the PR team into the sewers.
The Tale of the Dark Warriors
Jack and his friends made it back to the safety of the inn in the village outside the walls of the Red City, where they knew they would be free to speak without the Evil Guards keeping an eye on them. The people in the village loved them well for all that they did against the Evil Guards. The sorcerer who they had rescued also joined them for a well-deserved glass of ale after his perilous imprisonment and the amazing rescue.
“Thank you very kindly for rescuing me,” said the sorcerer. “I know that you are good and true, and Jack is most clever indeed. Now I will cast a spell to see if I cannot divine the location of the friend of the Mighty Bard, whom you seek.”
The sorcerer pulled out a crystal ball, and looked into it carefully. His brow furrowed, and he looked grim.
“What is it?” the friends asked. “Will we find the friend of the Mighty Bard, and rescue him?”
“I am afraid that the future is darker than you may wish,” said the sorcerer, shaking his head sadly. “You will meet this dwarf, but when next you meet him he will fight you and try to kill you.”
“But why will he fight us?” cried the Firey Barbarian. “We are trying to help him!”
“I’m afraid there is dark magic afoot, from distant lands. Even with my powers, I will not be able to aid you any further. Prepare well for this, for he has powerful allies. I believe that you will know them, too, and that they were once friends of yours, corrupted by this dark magic.”
“I am very saddened by this news,” said Jack, “but we thank you for your leal service in the fight against the Evil Guards.”
The sorcerer then left into the night, and they never saw him again.
“On the morrow, we should try to find some friends to help us with this fight,” said the Spring-heeled Bowman. “Perhaps the Good Guards will be able to help us, as they have been helping the villagers by giving them swords and spears and clubs to fight the Evil Guards. Perhaps they will know of these dark magics, and can help us fight them.”
“That is a good plan,” said Jack. “We will find help tomorrow.”
They spent the night, worried about which of their former friends they would have to fight.
When the cock crowed, they all arose, ready to go find the Good Guards to help them dispell the dark magic that had enthralled their friends. They started walking along the road to the Keep of the Good Guards within the walls of the Red City, when they were waylaid by three strangers. All three had dark cloaks, and their eyes were pitch black.
“You must die,” said the leader of the Dark Strangers, “for you have defeated the Evil Guards too many times, and made fools of them, and are stopping their plans.”
“We will never surrender to the Evil Guards!” cried Jack. “Now tell us of the dark magic that has compelled you to fight us!”
“We will not tell you, we will only fight you.” said the leader of the Dark Strangers. “Brothers! Attack!”
The party leapt into action. The Huntsman summoned his mighty bear, and he cast spells at the leader of the Dark Strangers, who used to be a good wizard, before the dark magic had changed him. The Firey Barbarian swung his axes against one of the shorter Dark Stranger, and the Grey Paladin charged the taller Dark Stranger with his powerful shield. The Spring-heeled Bowman leapt up to the rooftops of the village, and began to shoot arrows across the road to another rooftop, as he had noticed that there was a fourth Dark Stranger hiding there, who was also shooting arrows back at him. Jack danced around, without a sword and without a shield and without a bow, but he used the magic of his powerful voice to command the Dark Strangers to drop their guards and to check their swings.
Before long, the leader of the Dark Strangers called to his friends to flee deep into the alleys of the Red City, and he threw up a great cloud of smoke to aid in their retreat.
Jack and his friends had been only slightly injured in the attack, and they quickly regrouped and ran through the gates of the Red City, looking for the Dark Strangers before they could do anyone any more harm.