Thankyou aka Eckhard Roberts
The team finish their raid on the Komun’Go floors of the ACHE, successfully killing the 2 leaders and around 20 of their followers, who don’t seem prepared to deal with the level of firepower the team has brought to bear. Many more of them are stunned by Ro’s shock glove, though not as many as are wounded or killed by Ortega’s axe. They make sure the leaders will stay down, and return to the Kenran-Kai, where they link up with Tonie Dick, who has finally arrived after kicking around Europe for a while on the Grand Tour. With their show of good faith completed, they are free to skip work duties on the Yak floors and continue to do other jobs throughout the arcology. TY, feeling lonely, asks Daedelus if he can get calls out at all, and when informed that he can’t, TY tells Daedelus that he is upset at being unable to contact Jane. Daedalus asks for access to TY’s call logs, and constructs a construct of Jane that can communicate with TY. Daedalus uses this boost TY’s self-esteem, and keep him functional, though this also means that TY’s descent into cyberpsychosis has advanced significantly. They even have some “3-way” convo’s, as well as chatting with the SYD program, which Daedelus has upgraded slightly.
They also make contact with a Gianelli Family mafia dwarf smuggler, Elvira Palladino, who they hire to help them travel throughout the ACHE. In exchange, they negotiate with Gaspar Blaise, the underboss, to do some work for the mafia. They are to undertake 2 tasks: first, find out what is going on with the Wings of Predation, as they supposedly have mafia ties but have been refusing contact, and never sent back the envoy that Blaise sent up. Second, put an end to the “flesh tax” enacted by the 162’s ghouls and cannibal Disassemblers, as it fucks up the mafia’s ability to safely move people around, one of their main businesses inside.
They start off by securing some gear for TD while they heal up from the raid on the Seoulpa, he was only able to smuggle in some novacoke. They decide to look into the witness protection job first, and head up to the Vory floors, once again forced to bribe the Octagon triad with a ritual link. The Vory run bars, drug dens, prostitution, fighting pits, and gambling clubs, and are popular with the enlisted personnel working in the ACHE for these services. They also serve any other residents who can pay, and TD arranges to trade some drugs for info with a bartender. They get a contact, the elven madame Teresa Mihalyov, who will put them in touch with Yefrem Sokoloff, the witness they are supposed to extract for Dana Oaks. They return with the drugs, and bribe Mihalyov, who tells them where he is, but also says that some others just came through also looking for him and that she couldn’t stop them.
They race back to the small safe room, where they find 2 shedim ripping down the door, and manage to kill them before they get to Sokoloff. The shedim look ex-military, and seem to have come from the Death To All gang, who control the top block of civilian floors in the ACHE, and have a rep as being ultra-dangerous to cross. They bring Sokoloff back to the Yak area, and arrange to have him protected in exchange for securing an additional ticket out, whenever they figure out how to get him out. It seems Juro Maki is an ambitious sort, and doesn’t plan to remain exiled in here for his whole career. They decide to next deliver the mysterious package for the N’Drangheta.
They head up to the Wings of Predation turf, paying their usual bribe to the Triad. They also get stopped for a “flesh tax” on the 162’s floor. They confront the ghouls, killing one feral enforcer, before Tonie and Ro manage to step in and negotiate a peaceful solution. The team finds themselves very grateful for TD’s presence, though that may just be his tailored pheromones at work. They will eliminate the other flesh taxers: The Disassemblers, as the Gianelli Family feels only 1 “body disposal” organization is necessary, and the team likes ghouls better than cannibals (as they don’t have a choice in the matter). The team agrees to arrange this with all the other major syndicates as well, and the ghoul boss, Sarkand, agrees that they will halt the flesh tax if the syndicates ensure that they are fed.
Allowed to continue, they are also stopped on the Halloweeners trap floor, and are attacked with thrown flaming pumpkin-head bombs as Ro and Ortega clear the blockage in the elevator shaft. They are all wounded, but drive off the attackers and continue. They reach Wings turf, and disconcertingly find that the woman they are to deliver the package to, Amita Jain, is waiting for them as the doors open. She says she can heal their wounds, though a small or girl lures Ortega off to play hide and seek, which the others don’t notice at first. Though Aemon is unconscious, and the others wounded, Ro gets a bad vibe, and hands over the package while brusquely refusing healing. They head back for the elevator, while calling for Ortega, but the halls have rearranged since they passed, and it takes a bit.
Meanwhile, Ortega plays hide and seek in a sort of daze, and finds himself in bizarre winding corridors that seem disturbingly insectoid, eventually finding the girl floating in the center of what looks to be a large cocoon chamber. She tries to lure him in, but he finally overcomes her spell, and flees, but is poisoned while doing so. He reaches the elevator and the team flees, though they come under mental attack, and some are overcome by some calming buzzing. They figure these are insect spirits, and determine that the Gianelli’s envoy is probably gone for good. Daedelus says that he scanned the package with TY’s radar, and that it looked like BTL’s, which makes sense for a possession-focussed faction to distribute. They report back, and meet the mafia boss, Lilian Pierno, who confirms that rumors of insect infiltration of the N’Drangheta have long been floating around, and thanks them for their service. She also agrees to the 162’s terms, and says she will send Gaspar Blaise around to the other syndicates to spread the word.
They heal up, and gear up to take on the Disassemblers, who the 162’s warned them are lead by a wendigo. They head up, and manage to avoid trouble, though some once again succumb to the insect’s siren song. They reach the D’s floor, and venture out, as a trap closes off the elevator behind them. They seem to be in a bone pit, and fight some feral-seeming cannibals clad in bone armor, before ascending. They discover some human cattle pens, and move on, planning to free them later. They ascend another level, and find a grotesquely fat wendigo seated on a bone throne, accompanied by a mage and another group of cannibals. They defeat them, though they are repeatedly mind-controlled by the wendigo, and do some damage to one another. They take the wendigo’s horned head, as Aemon knows it contains valuable reagents, and also head back to free the prisoners, many of whom are missing limbs.
They head back down, dropping the prisoners off on the Anarchist Oracle floors, and are told to seek out a man named Tumelo Krantz if they return that way. They also stop at the Triad floors, and trade the wendigo head for free passage for the next while. They also offer to teach TD a spell, and he warns them of the insect spirits, for which the thank him and see they will try to offer some protection for those passing by that area in the elevators. The spirit or mage he is talking to introduces himself as Yeung Lin. They also meet up with some Vor underbosses, Salomon and Sybilla Niemczyk, twin humans, who they also provide the same warning to. They say that the boss, Sevastyan Ozolinish, will appreciate it, and that it clears them for engaging in a firefight on their turf. It also helps the the Vory have gained a lot of turn at the Seoulpa/Dogmen’s expense, given their weakened state.
Some other turf has also changed hands after the team rests up and restocks: the Anarchist Oracle has expanded into Disassemblers turf, as has Death To All (from the opposite side), and the 162’s have driven out the adjacent Night Hunters, the remaining members having settled in the last floor between AO and DTA. The Wings of Predation have pushed down into Blood Brothers turf, who have fully allied with the Chulos to hold their remaining floors. Wings has also pushed up into First Nations turf, and the Dogmen and Komun’go have moved up and joined forces with them, sharing an anti-Yakuza agenda and cultural heritage. The Blood Mountain Boys have taken some of the Seoulpa floors, while the Vory have taken the rest. The allied Ragers and Crimson Crush are now cooperating with the 162’s to destroy the human-supremacist Troll Killers, who are trapped between them. It seems the ghouls are well-stocked on food for now…..
Next up, they decide to deliver the message for Tibor Dobos, though they are leery of the shedim, as the woman they seek, Santa Notaro, lives on the DTA floors. They get up there and are unsettled to see that the DTA guards have SWAT armor and assault rifles, which all look like outdated model military surplus. Still, better than what the team can get in here. They say they are there to see Notaro, and the guards tell them that one of them can come along, while the rest wait. They have set up a pretty effective kill zone around the elevator, so the team agrees. Ro heads up and meets with Notaro, passing over the data chip, after which Notaro leaves the room, seemingly to confer with someone a room over. Ro doesn’t see them, but hears Notaro enter what seems to be a medical isolation tent, as well as hearing medical equipment running, and feeling a disturbing chill. Notaro returns with another message chip to bring to Dobos, completing their job. Ro leaves.
Meanwhile, Aemon has gotten himself into some trouble: while trying to impress the guards, he agreed to trick shoot some playing cards out of his friends’ hands, and does so with great success. However, he then tries to impress them by mentioning that his team killed 2 of DTA’s assassins a few days previous, and the draw down on him. He tries to flee but the elevator is too far. Ro and Tonie negotiate a deal: they will hand over Sokoloff in return for freeing Aemon, and allowing the team to pass through DTA turf to the military zone above. Notaro agrees, and Aemon knocks himself unconscious by head butting a wall, to deny the DTA soldiers the pleasure of beating him up while they wait for the team to return.
The team convinces Sokoloff to record a statement about what he knows before they move him “for safety”, which isn’t hard as he and TY have bonded over shared conspiracy theories. He tells them that he has uncovered real proof of the activities of The Black Lodge, and their high-level infiltration of government in both DC and Seattle. He suggests that Kenneth Brackhaven, as well as many senators, congressmen, and bureaucrats are all secretly under the influence of this nefarious group, and outlines what he knows of their activities, saying that he was only able to discover them due to some incautious acts they undertook during the artifact rush, specifically in DC during the closing of the Watergate Rift. He says that they have a base out at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s old plantation, and operate in a cell structure, but with an overall hierarchy that he has begun to uncover. After he winds down, Ro ko’s him with a shock glove, and TY turns off his emotion-processing software and kills him. They figure that DTA was going to do worse, so they feel this is their best option.
They swap for Aemon, and DTA doesn’t seem overly upset that he is dead. Aemon, upon waking up, feels terrible for his actions, as does most of the team, although Ro points out that they can now get paid for completing the hit for Dobos, which cheers them up slightly. They don’t imagine that Oaks will be thrilled though. When informed of what Ro experienced when upstairs, Aemon says that there is likely a master shedim up there, as they have a cold, deathly aura that they emit in a large area around them. They stock up on gear a bit more, in case they have to fight more spirits, and head up for the military floors. They make contact with Ea Skavgaard, who tells them she has a few jobs for them. There is a rogue unit that up in the levels that the military is still clearing of Deus’ leftovers, and she worries that they may have been infected by something. She wants them taking care of quickly and quietly, as she is reluctant to send teams into the area for fear of losing more people, which would have a dangerous effect on morale. For similar reasons, she needs the 2nd job kept quiet: bodies of military dead have been going missing while being shipped downstairs for burial. She assumed it was ghouls or cannibals, but has looked into both and it doesn’t seem to be them, so she is concerned. The team tells her about the shedim in DTA, and she says this confirms her worries. This is why she needs outside contractors, as she doesn’t know who she can’t trust. She tells them to start in the medical wing, where they perform autopsies.
She also has another job, this one a request from higher-ups outside. “They” want a popular anarchist preacher named Tumelo Krantz eliminated, as he has been rallying a surprising number of civilians to his cause, and agitating for reforms in the way the ACHE is administered. Skavgaard doesn’t seem thrilled about passing this task on, and seems to emphasize that non-lethal options would be acceptable to her, at least. They agree to check all this stuff out, and she gets them all civilian contractor passes, cleared to work as janitors in both the main living and command area, and the FOB above it. They check out the bodies first, and manage to ID 2 shedim working together: one medical tech, and and a comms officer who has access to elevator controls and logs. Skavgaard tells them she can transfer the medic up to the FOB, and the comms guy down to the reactor levels in the basement, giving the team a chance to eliminate them in transit while providing a convenient way to cover it up, and hopefully avoid alerting the shedim that she is onto them (as they would likely target her next).
They decide to split up to hit them both simultaneously, and TY heads up the drone turret-defended floors between the main mil area and the FOB to hack a turret and set up his trap. He hardwires into both the elevator and a turret (with Daedelus’ help), and manages to kill the surprised shedim with 2 FA bursts, before crushing his head to be sure. He then obscures his tracks, and sneaks back downstairs just in time to see a ready team in full mil spec armor race past to investigate the “AI incursion.” He is sent back to his housing floor until they get an all clear. Little did Skavgaard know that he had an actual AI helping him, which will add credence to her cover story. The other team makes a deal with the AO to use one of their floors to target the shedim, who they have warned them of as a threat (since they basically share a border). They make a fake Halloweeners pumpkinhead bomb, and kill the surprised shedim with that, guns and axes, before chucking the corpse onto the Halloweeners level, to provide a cover story. They use a 1-time elevator override code that Skavgaard has given them, and which she says will look like it was a hack on their system by the gang. They then head to the Vory floor, to throw off anyone watching the elevator, before swapping elevators and heading home. They rest up, and stock up a bit more.
They look into the Anarchist Oracle floors next, under the pretense of checking up on the people they dropped off there. Krantz proves to be a skilled orator, though Tonie is able to recognize his as a fellow slick operator, and by scanning his brain can tell that he is a lot more cynical and self-serving than he lets on (but who isn’t?). However, he does seem to be interested in the well-being of the people under his care, though he seems to be doing it to build a power base more than for their own good. He seems to be hiding here while amassing followers, but it is unclear what his ultimate goal is. He also doesn’t seem to know what happened when he notices TD’s mind-reading, luckily. He has organized a loosely cell-based structure, wherein different necessary tasks are overseen by different cells, and he tells them that he is proud of the fact that they are the fastest-growing faction in the ACHE, now that people are pushing back against Wings, the rumors of their true nature having spread. Tonie questions how “truly” anarchist this place is, as Krantz seems to be in charge, and Krantz says they are welcome to attend the daily meeting and see for themselves. He and the floor bosses all attend every meeting, but otherwise attendance is open, though non-mandatory for all others living in their turf.
Aemon and TD team up to assense Krantz, trying to figure out what he’s up to, and see that he has a lot of gene treatments, as well as a nano-hive and a huge amount of nanites, which worries them- he may be infected with whatever Butch wanted them to look into! They decide to take him out, fulfilling the job for Skavgaard, as well as hopefully gathering some useful data for Butch. TY sets up a trap whereby he will use his priority elevator codes (as a civilian contractor) to bring the Night Hunters down to the daily meeting, as they have rumors from AO guards that the NH-ers have some sort of beef with Krantz. The team will “intervene” to help out, avoiding suspicion hopefully, but only once Krantz is eliminated. Ortega only feels ok with this since he figures this infected guy can’t actually be a good leader.
They pull off the plan, though Ortega has to wade in and “accidentally” finish off Krantz with his axe while pretending to help, before the team helps the floor bosses (who all prove to be remarkably skilled fighters) kill of the Night Hunters. With Krantz dead, a floor boss named Faris As’as Darzi steps up- he has disturbingly similar speech patterns and movements to Krantz, and upon assensing, the team confirms that he and the other floor bosses (as well as the Night Hunters) are all crawling with nanites. Worried that they may have become exposed, they return to the yak floors, and spend a few days gearing up for the upper levels, and assensing themselves- TY and Ortega are the only infected ones so far. Daedelus tells TY that if he grants him access to more systems, he can help fend them off. The team discusses smuggling in an EMP to try to clear them that way, but decide against it, worried about what effect it will have on ‘ware. However, Daedelus instructs TY in the secret building of an EMP, which he sets off on Ortega in the night, bricking his cybereyes. TY manages to convince everyone that he was also in the blast zone, but Ro is starting to get suspicious. However, Aemon does verify that both of their nanite levels seem to have dropped, though Ortega’s dropped a lot more than TY’s (whose was also higher initially).
They decide to construct another EMP each, and smuggle in supplies to do so, just in case they need to do it again: Aemon says it seems more like mitigation/treatment than a cure, but that it does seem to work for now. They decide to at least check out the Copland, populated mainly with ex- Lone Star officers who have turned to crime since losing their jobs. As this is a much safer place (especially for cops) than a prison, they get sent here. It also allows them to use their area here as a “proof of concept” for what it would look like if they got the contract to police the whole civilian portion of the ACHE. They meet the “criminal liaison” Peggy Kyles, who brings them to her boss Daniel Alderhof, who proves to be a chatty, folksy type. They warn him of the shedim and bug spirits, and he thanks them and plies them with drinks for more info. They don’t want to share more and insist on leaving, though TY (at Deadelus’ suggestion) radars him and spots a nano-hive, so he may also be infected. However, his assistant appears clean, and he makes no effort to stop them leaving, so they do so.
They also smuggle in a bunch more drugs to bribe checkpoint guards to let them out of the military FOB into the levels still being cleared. Skavgaard provides them with patrol schedules for the floors below the rogue unit’s speculative area of operation, and they get ready to head up. They also give her the names of the guards they bribed, as she wants to keep an eye on them, knowing they’re willing to bend the rules (though she also seems to be willing to). They warn her of the possible infection in the AO and LS levels, and she says she has heard about some similar problems cropping up elsewhere, and says she’ll look into it. They scan her also to be sure, but she seems clean of both infection and inhabitation. They make an extraction plan with her, wherein they will hide in some cleared floors just ahead of the FOB when they are done, giving them a few days to complete all their jobs upstairs before the military moves their whole 15 floor base up another 15 floors, at which Skavgaard will send them an “all clear” signal to emerge from their hiding place, and she can smuggle them out of the ACHE. They also arrange a future ticket out for Maki to use as he pleases.
They bribe the checkpoint guards and the comms officer monitoring the checkpoint, and sneak past the patrols, barely scraping by on luck, though the patrol schedules prove invaluable. They get past the area that the military has cleared and is readying to move into, and also through the area they are actively clearing. They then reach the area where clearing has begun: a 50 floor stretch where only scout units are patrolling until the rogue unit is dealt with. There may still be some active Deus tech here as well, they are warned. They are glad to have Prosper Bellini with them on these levels, and he seems much calmer in his element here, amidst the ruin of the Shutdown. They sneak past some scout patrols, and head for a “medical level” where Bellini says Deus performed many of his experiments. He also takes them to some sites that he thinks will provide good data for Ro’s structural analysis (which she is performing for Renraku). He tries to show them a large “meat sculpture” that Deus made of fused together people, but it seems to have been destroyed, as do a number of sites that look like they may have contained useful data. Disturbingly, the damage seems recent, and though the weaponry used looks military, the tactics don’t: the military is carefully cataloging and sorting the things they recover, not just wantonly wrecking it. So, this is likely the work of the rogue unit.
They reach the medical floor, and find a horrifying abattoir: there are no walls, and as they move in, medical spotlights spring to life and follow them, illmuninating innumerable operating tables, stasis tanks, freezers, and still active auto-docs, which try to reach out and grasp them as they move through. Hearing smashing in the distance, they try to set an ambush, but the lights make it hard to hide. Aemon assenses 2 others on the floor with them, and they seem to also notice the team. They get in a hard fought firefight with the 2 men, both wearing mil spec armor and using assault rifles (though thankfully their grenade supply is exhausted). They defeat them, with TY making sure that stay dead after hacking into the medical drones. However, Daedelus informs TY that in this process he has become infected with another presence, and asks for full access to his systems. TY agrees, and Daedelus says that he has managed to subvert a significant percent of TY’s nanite population, though if the other 2 “presences” controlling nanites in his body team up it could be problematic. Disturbingly, the 2 dead soldier’s seem infected with nanites as well, and have fused with their armor to some extent. The team puts their rifles through a large autoclave, hoping this will render them safe. It bricks the smartguns, but the mechanical portions still work fine, so they find themselves much better armed. They retreat a few floors to heal, fearing further attacks from the rogue unit (there may be up to 5 more soldiers).
TY informs the team that he gained a lot of medical data from his hack: Deus was apparently experimenting with how to use human brains as digital storage, and had made significant advances along those lines, as well as experimenting with nano-toxins and nano-delivery systems for drugs. Butch and others will likely be very interested. They set up a perimeter, rest a bit, and prepare to seek out the rest of the rogue unit, before advancing to the levels where Deus’ drones are still active. Ro is getting increasingly creeped out by TY, though this awful place is having a strong effect on everyone: Aemon is getting cruder, and Ortega seems to view it as some Dante’s Inferno style parable, and doesn’t seem capable of being fully present.
They heal and rest for the night, and then head back up to the medical level, but Daedelus takes over TY’s sensors and alerts him to some tripwires, so they retreat as a massive explosion tears through the floor. They pick their way through the rubble of the ruined medical units, and find that it seems to have been set off with grenades, some breaching charges, and an influx of oxygen into the floor. They come under fire from a sniper, and manage to eventually take him out while creeping forward. They get another AR and find that this member of the rogue unit is also fused to his armor. They begin to speculate that the rogue unit has some particular objective, and is trying to delay the team, as this woman fought to the death in a rearguard action.
They head up, with Bellini leading the way. He takes them to more data stores and the like, but all seem to have been recently destroyed. They find some military corpses, stripped of gear and helmets, and determine that the rogue unit wiped out the non-“infected”, and also determine that only 2 infected soldiers remain. They manage to scrounge a little more ammo, and seem to be catching up to the last 2 soldiers, who seem to have run out of grenades and are smashing and shooting things to destroy them now. They reach the floor below the still-sealed levels (301 and above) and lay a trap, with Ro hiding in front to detonate EMP’s as the troops enter. They spring the trap, and the EMP’s seem the help, though Ro is grievously wounded, being so close to them. They manage to drop them after a hard fight, and find they are also fused in. They scrounge a bit more ammo, as Tonie and Aemon try to patch everyone up. They find the military barrier sealing off the top floors, but it has been opened with a breaching charge, though some of the damage seems to have been repaired, strangely. They set up camp, and rest for the night while keeping watches.
They shoot some small drones that emerge from the hole, they seem to be small centipede-like segmented insectoids, but don’t have any visible means of attack. Perhaps repair drones? They scatter a few more groups of them over the night, they seem to flee when attacked. After resting, they enter the hole- Bellini seems almost excited, raising Ro’s suspicions, but she is unable to spot him doing anything odd. They head in and find an enormous multi-story cylindrical chamber containing what seems to be a heavily damaged mainframe. There are a huge number of drones in the process of repairing it, including some of the centipedes, a lot of small spider-like drones, and a smaller number large starfish, 5-limbed radially symmetric things that cartwheel about the room at all angles. TY radar scans them all, and the team almost heads into the room when Daedelus warns TY to check his radar: the floor is covered in a thin layer of nano-goo, which is creeping slooooooowly towards them.
TY plugs into the mainframe to see if he can gain drone control, but it seems to be so fried (from EMP’s mostly) as to be non-functional. It was definitely extremely powerful at one point, but the repair drones seem to be operating on auto-pilot: the system gives the drones work commands every time they return to charging stations, but the command interface seems trashed, so TY abandons that plan. He also finds footage of the rogue unit entering this area, seemingly on a scouting mission, and some of them becoming infected here. They carefully creep around the edge of the room on a layer of destroyed components that the drones are constantly dropping from above, and safely reach the far side. TY grabs one of the starfish as it spins past, but this seems to trigger it defense mechanisms, and the spiders and centipedes all flee while the rest of the starfish race to attack. TY takes the one near him to examine, after Aemon shoots it, and Ro uses their final EMP to trash the rest of them, taking some damage from their cutting tools in the process.
They head up a ramp spiraling around the exterior of the chamber, and find a charging station. TY scans that too, and they move on, coming under attack from a large drone that grapples at them with electrostatic fur and razorclaws. They manage to put it down, but it looks to be one of the hunter-killer “medusas” that Bellini had warned them of. They head into what seems to be an ever-shifting maze of some sort. They get swarmed by some small bat drones, but they don’t seem to do anything aggressive, though they do dispense some kind of fluid onto the team. They determine that it is flammable and get a bit worried. They manage to skirt some more nano-goo, and with Aemon’s magical navigating, emerge from the maze unscathed. They are almost instantly swarmed by more bats in what looks like an elevator bank, including 1 extremely large bat that fires a flamethrower at them. They manage to shoot it down before it lights them up directly, but all take some severe damage in the ensuing explosion. However, that seems to have taken care of the bats.
They head to “elevators” which seem to merely be tight tubes with precarious ladders inside. They ascend, along the route Bellini suggests. They emerge into another large chamber, with 4 pathways headed out from it at 22.5 degree increments. They come under attack from some ruthenium coated melee drones, who do some severe damage, mostly to Ortega who is ko’d by one of their barbed tails. They revive him and debate which path to take. Ortega marks the halls “1” through “4” with his axe, but Bellini tells them that drones and Deus’ agents used to erase or falsify the marks when the Resistance would leave them. Curious, the team gets info from Bellini about these “agents”, and he describes a factional breakdown, sorted by color-code, with this top area being the “Whites” level. He says Deus called many followers to the arcology before the shutdown, and kept the useful