and the return of Atlas Park
Atlas, owing Nikolai Morozov a great debt for getting the team off of Mars (and getting Atlas his pain editor at a discount on short notice), and feeling adrift after Jason Park adandoned him for the Yakuza, goes back to work for Evo Corporation. He does odd jobs, moving product, protecting shipments, etc, until Morozov calls him in for a training session one day, and tells him that instead they will talk. He is conducting an investigation into Evo’s possibly involvement with the blackmail or manipulation of Corporate Court Chief Justice Hino, at the behest of a contact of his in Lone Star Security Services’ DC-based drug enforcement division. This contact, Majia Wright, has had a number of cases (related to Tempo and other things) go to the court and get quashed by Hino, unexpectedly based on her voting records. The decisions have uniformly benefited Evo and Aztechnology, and Morozov wants to know what part they are playing in this if any. So, he tells Atlas to look into it, quietly and unofficially.
Atlas begins by looking into the last person he can find evidence of having had a physical meeting with Hino, an old friend named Vance. Atlas almost falls into a sophisticated trap while tracking Vance down, but avoids it due to scrupulous research, and is now sure that something is up. The real Vance tells him that he hasn’t seen Hino in over a year, and hasn’t spoken to her in months, and that she had been acting oddly for many months before that. He attributed it to the stress of the job and orbital life getting to her, but now is not so sure, based on Atlas’ suspicions. Atlas goes to meet Wright to share this info, but she is assassinated right as they are about to meet. Atlas manages to grab her comm and flee the scene, returning to Vladivostok after hiding out for a few days.
Morozov has the data analyzed, and sends Atlas to Zurich Orbital to try to verify Hino’s presence/health. Atlas poses as a a laborer during the semi-annual supply run, and has 4 days to get the info before he’ll be stuck there for 6 months. He finds out that Hino hasn’t been seen in person for over a year, and that she has been communicating and issuing decisions solely via matrix (which is legal, but unusual). After his attempts to reach her chambers hit a wall, he is contacted by a paralyzed teenage hacker, who tells him that she has been working on a secret program (at a higher-up’s order) to maintain a digital persona of Hino, who is not aboard the station. She has helped keep this fact a secret, and gives Atlas a chip with the Earthside locations that the transmissions were beamed from, telling him that this is her revenger against her boss, who she has come to believe played a part in her father’s death/disappearance a few years back.
Atlas cuts his arm open, faking an accident, and slips the datachip into the wound, before getting sewed up and heading back down the gravity well. Morozov tells him to go check out the locations. He starts in Madrid, and finds an empty 3-story office building, scrupulously cleaned. However, on a closer look, he finds some dried blood smeared on the underside of a desk, and uses it to gain access to a biometric lock in an office, finding what looks like the remains of a secret basement computer lab. He kills 2 runners there, who are in the final stages of cleaning the site. He goes to the next spot on this list, getting some info from a spirit of unknown origin on the way. Once in Krakow, he uses the spirit’s info to gain access to an identical building, this one populated. He kills the exec in the identical office, and uses him to gain access to the bio-lock. He kills 4 guards in the basement, and retrieves some data, before jumping out of a 3rd story office building window, with security shooting at him, to make good his escape. He lays low with a local gunrunner to heal up, and sends the data to Morozov.
Morozov sends him back to Vladivostok, where he track down someone in charge of this program, who spills the beans in exchange for her life: Hino is dead, and is being impersonated by a massively expensive and advanced program to simulate an e-ghost persona based on her. Morozov needs proof of her death, and Atlas gets the name of the facility where her body is stored: an Evo subsidiary that supposedly does oceanic research, south of the city. He infiltrates the building, approaching underwater and cutting his way in through an access cage for paracritters. He sneaks through the building, before finding a secret elevator on what he thought was the top floor- he kills 2 guards and gains access. It seems there is a hidden partial floor, concealed by the pyramidal roof design. He finds Hino’s body, and gets a DNA sample, as well as a toetag referring to the “Dickens Program”. He also finds evidence of experiments being performed on paracritters and metahumans, including a skull-less man he later ID’s as a Vladivostok-based technomancer.
With this info in hand, he manages to escape the facility, and clear his debt to Morozov, who tells him this gives him the leverage he may need to make a play in the internal Evo power struggle unfolding. Atlas then flies to Hong Kong, to meet up with his old team and make some money.
Meanwhile, across the ocean in Seattle, the team meets up with Ehran the Scribe, after surviving an ambush by security personnel who may work for the Atlantean Foundation. They are told that they will fly to Hong Kong to retrieve one half of the final artifact, Shantaya’s Compass (part of an astrolabe on a chain, apparently), which Ehran believes he can combine with the other artifacts to gain much insight into astral navigation, and begin better mapping astral space, as well as performing a ritual on all of the components to reduce the threat of someone misuing them for their own purposes. The team agrees, though TY delays his travel to speak to investigators at the airport about his and LS’ involvement in the attempted bombing of their suborbital flight, in order to clear his and LS’s names. Ehran mediates this, to avoid TY being taken into custody for having fled the scene. TY also swaps his bulked up cyberarms for slimber, less capacious models, to have a less IDable appearance.
The rest of the team, arriving in HK, is met by Penelope Wang, Ehran’s local driver. She puts them up at the ultra-fancy Peninsula hotel, although SemPar splits off, having heard of a place he can stay from Edmund “Ralf” Rafelnzo. SP justifies this by saying that se is setting up a safehouse, but the rest of the team is mildly suspicious. Through Wang, the team meets a local Triad named Beauregard Shan, who will trade them info on the museum they need to steal from in exchange for them freeing his lover from an arranged marriage. They agree, and successfully kidnap/rescue the bride-to-be on her wedding day, possibly making an enemy of the Smoke Circle Triad. Shan gives them detailed museum info, and the team plans to make their move (swapping the artifact for a fake) shortly after the exhibit is installed, during the dinner of the opening-night gala.
Meanwhile, Rooster, under the guise of gathering info, goes to check out a club he heard about from a friend, and finds what seems to be the most boring bar on Earth: “The Myriad Dream”. That is, until he takes some Red Orchid! The hot new drug that the Smoke Circle Triad is pushing, it seems to allow him to astrally travel some distance, and perceive the emotive performance onstage at the club, which makes sense now. He also notices what seems to be a back room, but crashes back to his body (which he has some difficulty locating) as the drug wears off. He is instantly addicted, and vows to return to explore further.
SP hacks the museum node, and gets Rooster an invite with a brand-new SIN. He attends the gala, and sneaks upstairs during the media firestorm surrounding the Wuxing Quints arrival. He fastalks his way past security, as SP hacks cameras and sensors, and makes the swap. However, he fumbles it and alerts onsite security- SP cancels the alert, but Rooster needs to make a quick escape before anyone checks it out. Randomly, 2 young kids approach him, saying that they recognize him as a shadowrunner, and can help him escape if he helps them become runners too. Rooster, loving a good story, agrees. The rest of the team is surprised to seem him emerge onto the waterfront museum docks with 2 kids in tow, but they do seem to have a good command of the museum’s node. SP sneaks off to rendevouz with Wang with the real artifact, while the rest of the team visibly takes off with a dummy case on a water taxi. They flee to the container port, where Shan puts them up in a triad safehouse in an empty shipping Isotainer. SP joins them there, and Wang leaves with the compass to give it to Ehran.
The kids introduce themselves as Chang-Xiao and Jian-Min, 2 orphans who have hid out in the museum for the last few months, vowing never to return to the orphanage. Rooster and SP are really into it, the rest of the team not so sure. TY and Atlas arrive, and wait in the Peninsula Hotel, while SP drops the kids off at the border of Kowloon Walled City, the local z-zone, where he has arranged for them to be taken in by a techno tribe based out of the Whampoa, having made this connection though his friend ZIPit. They then go to a local merc bar, the Drunken Monkey, to meet some local runners who apparently stole the other half of the artifact (according to info that Jane has unearthed). This team sells them the location that their face went to sell the chain: the roving city Karavan, currently located in the Hindu Kush in the southern mountains of Afghanistan. They arrange to fly there with a local smuggler, Sergei Vipin, but run into some trouble on the way when they get caught in the Maya Cloud storm surrounding Tibet. They are forced to land, and endure a paranoid night of spirit hositility, massive illusions and mind tricks, and terrifying noises. Rooster does his best to hold everyone together, and they emerge unscathed, and reach Karavan the next day, the storm having receded with the dawn.
They encounter a massive trade bazaar composed of almost every type of imaginable vehicle, parked and built onto in such a way as to create a complex system of alleyways and open squares, which could be dissasembled and on the road in a few hours. Looming over it all, 2 massive airships. They all receive a copy of the Yassa, the rigid code under which all Karavanli live, and which all are expected to enforce. They read it carefully, as many of the violations are punishable by death. They trade for info, and discover that the chain has been gifted to the Kizillkristal tribe, who control the airships, specifically Captain Miia. While finding this out, Atlas rebuffs a marriage proposal from a young woman from one of the tribes (having carefully read the Yassa, he rejects her offer of a gift, which would have betrothed them), angering her, but they assuage the tribe with an unfusion of goods. While travelling the city, TY stumbles into a woman, causing her to drop a package. She asks him to pick it up, which he does, but is then unable to find her. Inside is a blackened human heart, which has no astral presence and regenerates injuries done to it. Disturbed, they debate leaving it or keeping it, and decide to keep it, feeling they could at least trade it for something perhaps.
Eventually, seeking airship passage, they manage to trade the disturbing heart to the Pjelykost tribe for a berth on the Aman Iki’s next scouting voyage, leaving that evening. They board, encountering a surly dwarven steward, who mocks them incessantly while aboard. They have a fancy feast, a custom for the first night of a trip, and everyone is shocked when an elderly Azanian crewman, Nelson Rosslee, recognizes TY. They retreat to a cabin and catch up, with TY learning much about his youth, family, village, and past, and Nelson overjoyed to find a living tribesman, having thought them all to have perished in the attack so many years past. He tells TY to stay in touch, and to get revenge for him as well if he gets the chance.
After the feast, LS and Atlas hook up with various crewmembers, while Saul finds an exterior view to ponder life. He had earlier conferred with Jane about the heart, and was told it could have a shedim connection, which disturbed him greatly. TY, SP, and Rooster stay in their quarters. They are all awoken by the sound of gunfire from the upper portions of the ship. SP sounds an alarm on the public node, hust before it is shut off, and the team heads upstairs, telling others to keep to their quarters. They find a 1/2 dozen dead and injured Kizilkristal guards on the way, and LS saves one of their lives. They find a group of Japanese shinobi stealing from the large storage room that the airship uses to house all of the gifts the the tribe is given, and dropping dozens of flying drones into the air outside a tear they have cut in the hull. The team bests them, as they fight a delaying action, with most of the shinobi escaping using squirrel suits, though Atlas kills one (kicking him into a compatriate and sending both flying out of the hole), TY shoots down another as they zip out of range, and a 3rd suicidally detonates an explosive to allow the others more time to escape. Sadly, it seems the only thing they actually stole was the chain! Examining the drones left behind, and the corpses, and parsing their cover story for being aboard, they determine them to be acting on behalf of the Yakashima corporation. While hatching a plan with Miia to attack the corp, and get revenge/get the artifact back, the team suddenly blacks out, and awakens in prison garb, in small cells, in an unknown location, unsure how they arrived.
They manage to escape the cells, and travel through a series of mysteriously opening doors, eventually retrieving their gear and getting their comms back on (though Rooster is still at a reduced capacity, as his geas hasn’t been fulfilled for some days). They encounter a woman in a computer lab, who introduces herself as SYD and asks for their help escaping the building, telling them she has been opening doors for them and preventing cameras and sensors from alerting more guards. She tells them they are in a Yakashima building in Neo-Tokyo. They flee through an empty parking garage, and into what seems to be the Neo-Tokyo night, but as soon as the cross past the security fence, they once again black out and awaken in jail cells. SP ID’s this as having been a UV node, which they exited by “escaping”. However, the facility seems to be the same, and they now know some things about the layout, and seem to have an ally on the inside. LS is once again freaking out due to all of his foci, and his pain editor, being deactivated, causing him crippling addiction-related tremors. Everyone is shocked to see him this way.
They once again make their way upstairs, though everything seems a bit harder this time. They retrieve their gear, and SP kills a guard with their monofil whip, becoming somewhat horrified at what it is capable of only after- they are also somewhat shocked that the rest of the team doesn’t even bat an eye at the gore. They return to the lab, and don’t find SYD, although they do find a small harddrive that she insisted on bringing the first time they escaped. They grab it, and she tells them that the chain they seek is a few floors up, although she has much less access to security above the floor they are on. SP and SYD stay behind to provide hacking support while the team ascends. They clear floors, killing or ko’ing guards as they go to leave a clear escape route, while SP hacks sensors to stay off. They eventually reach a security office, but have alerted the guard within, who nearly kills LS with a grenade launcher- LS once again feels himself pulled back from the brink of the Dark Realm by a grounding force, which feels like his spirit friend, Baelor. They kill the guard, and TY grabs the launcher. The chain isn’t here, so they head for Yakashima’s office on the top floor. SP and SYD deactivate the turrets and cameras here, and they enter, finding the office unlocked. A lifelike trid projection of Yakashima greets them, and congratulates them on besting his security. He gestures to the chain on his desk, and tells them to take it and give their regards to Master Ehran- he seems to concede defeat, at least for now. They grab the chain, and flee, relieved that when they exit this time, they seem to be in reality. SYD leaves them, jumping into the Neo-Tokyo grid, but leaves a contact to call her at.
They all have a number of increasingly frantic messages, and after responding to Jane’s, they get a ride to a safehouse- she apparently had followed them as far as NT and was trying to locate them. She suggests they leave quickly, as Atlas is persona non-grata with the local Yakuza, and Yakashima may make a move to recover the artifact. Jane arranges transport out for the team, with the chain, aboard the Calico Ghost Town, a smuggling/shipping vessel captained by Erika Gwyn. Jane herself will once again fly seperately to try to draw off pursuers. They leave, and after a few days at sea are assaulted by pirates, who they quickly fight off after Gwyn offers them money. However, the pirate attack (wittingly or not) seems to have been a distraction while a stealth chopper approached from the rear and begins dropping a team onto the bridge. LS manages to cut their rappelling lines with an acid wave, and damage the ruthenium coating on the chopper. TY begins gunning at it, and manages to clip it with an EMP grenade and some high-ex, doing some damage and seemingly causing the rigger to revert to manual control. The EMP also fries the ships bridge equipment, as well as Saul’s comm. Saul casts a quick barrier spell, absorbing the strike teams gunfire for a round, as they get back to their feet. The chopper fires down the deck at TY, Atlas, and SP, to try to keep them pinned. A and SP advance while TY provides covering fire, though he is ko’d and heavily injured by the choppers machine gun. Mages, seemingly inside the chopper, manage to banish Baelor, who has been sent to attack their craft, and cast spells at A and SP to delay their arrival. Saul massively overcasts a stunball at the strike team, ko-ing them all, as well as himself and Gwyn. LS, in desperation, follows up with a massive acid wave, killing 3 of the 5 strike team members outright. The other 2 reawaken from stimpatch autoinjection, and begin ascedning new rappelling lines dropped from the chopper, seemingly intent on escape. The chopper kills LS with it’s machine gun, though he is once again pulled back from the brink of death by a grounding spirit. He vows to retire after this mission, and to slay the Dark Realm spirit, so that he will not go there when he one day dies for real.
Having fought off the assault, they heal up for the rest of the voyage, and reach Portland. Ehran requests that they get to DC ASAP, as someone stole the sextant from him and brought it there, destabilizing the Watergate rift. He has someone else on retrieving the sextant, but needs them to bring him the chain to use all of the artifacts in a ritual to try to save DC. He offers further pay, and they accept. The hire Ricky Steelsky to smuggle them to DC on a T-bird, while SP takes a commercial flight to confuse or split pursuers. They arrive, and rendevouz at the airport, with TY driving one of Ehran’s Nightsky limos. They are attacked on the streets of DC while driving through crazy traffic (mostly fleeing town) and avoiding police/army barricades with matrix assistance from SYD. They fight off the car full of runners pursuing them, and then TY makes an incredible check to keep them from flipping as a massive shockwave blasts out from the Watergate bunker- they jump the car straight over the army barricades, and manage to all stumble out, relatively unhurt. The pavement is buckled and damaged, and the car’s wrecked, so they proceed on foot, with Rooster delaying to command all the nearby army personnel not to attack them.
They are about halfway to the bunker when a chopper swings out into the street behind them and opens fire- the first few bursts scatter over the area, but Atlas quickly goes down once they focus fire. TY dodges and weaves to avoid the same fate, and they reach the steps, just as an orange great dragon descends from the sky above, wrapping the chopper in a bubble of energy and setting it down on the ground, still contained. Atlas auto-injects and rejoins the group. They recognize the orange dragon as Hestaby, and enter the bunker to find a familiar painted elf man, Aina Dupree, an elderly man, Ehran (with the Phaistos Disc and Compass disc), Jane (with the Piri Reis map), and 2 more ex-Tir Princes (carrying the sextant). Ehran tells Saul and LS to stay inside, and Jane tells the rest of the team to guard the entrance. A Persian woman also enters, carrying a sealed box. After her arrival, the rift pulses again, pulverizing the roof of the bunker building. Ghostwalker appears far above, and descends into the building, smashing another chopper on his way in. He reaches out for all of the artifacts, and Ehran requests the chain from Saul, who passes it over. With the artifacts spinning in the air before him, GW performs some sort of ritual, which seems to pull mana from everyone in the room, without their ability to resist- the rift expands, and GW enters just as it snaps shut. Time seems to slow down as a huge wave of force blasts out. Dupree seems to be trying to cast some sort of defensive spell to try to redirect it, and almost everyone inside drops from the massive drain from the ritual. None of them seem to have expected GW to do what he did. LS, barely hanging on to consciousness, sees 3 large blood spirits manifest and grab the sextant. He tries to slay one, and damages it greatly, but it is absorbed into one of its compatriots, which grows stonger, and LS passes out without seeing more.
The rest of the team, outside, is sent flying. Atlas and TY manage to land on their feet and avoid any damage, but Rooster and SP are heavily injured. Buildings and streets nearby are heavily damaged, and the nearby soldiers begin advancing toward the remains of the bunker as they watch. They race inside, and grab LS, Saul, Jane, and Ehran to get them out of there, seeing the dragons fleeing, and others limping off. Dupree looks dead, and the painted elf seems distraught. They flee, carried by a massive air spirit, as the military closes in.
Once out of central DC, they link back up with Steelsky, and get smuggled back to Seattle, where Ehran pays off their debts, and presents the team with 4 small tokens: when activated with a power word, each will set off a ritual, the effect of which will last for 1 hour, or thereabouts. Each has a different, potent effect, and will surely prove useful to the team in runs to come. They swear to leave artifacts alone for a while, and decide to take some time and rest up. However, The Order of St George gets in touch and tells LS, Rooster, and TY that they are honor-bound to participate in one of two upcoming missions (their choice). In concert with Aztechnology (the new possessors of the Sextant), they can assault Sirrurg, the Destroyer, ending his depradations once and for all. Or, they can return to Europe, and join the massive assault on Alamais’ dragon supremacist lair near GeMiTo. They have 1 week to decide. LS tries to talk his way out of participation, offering details of the events at the Watergate Bunker, for propagandizing purposes, and is told that this contribution may suffice, if he can also convince some others to participate in the dragon fighting. They try to decide what to do…..