Sunday, 19 March 2017

Welcome back to Seattle, have some NERPS

So it’ been a while since I last wrote one of these things. Much of that has been due to relocation, Yep, we left behind awesome exciting classy and cool New York to return to dingy grey acid rain smog and volcanic ash filled Seattle. Yeah, I know it doesn’t seem like a fantastic move, especially given that in the process we gave up a luxury penthouse apartment with swimming pool and all that, but there was some actual logic to the decision.

As cool and awesome as New York is, it’s Runner population is still rather small and insular (Plus they’re all weirdoes) and tends to only operate within the bounds of New York itself. Conversely, Seattle is the Runner capitol of North America, and Its Runner population is accordingly higher. It’s also where Johnsons go to recruit for jobs not just across the city but across the continent and, yes, worldwide. So as boring a city as Seattle is compared to New York, it’s so much better for our job prospects.

Besides, now that Dayglo’s real personality had returned, she was more than a little cranky about us essentially squatting in her place without her knowing.

So we flew back over and unpacked our stuff, finding that the Firehouse was more or less exactly as we’d left it. Abbey was even still there, like she had been for the last however long. I went out to basically reconnect with the Seattle Runner scene and get back in to what had been going on for the last few months. More importantly, it was aimed at getting us back to regular employment with whoever was available, rather than being essentially stuck on a long-term contract for a single Johnson forever (an idea that, by the way, is as distasteful as it is dull).

Of course, I wasn’t the only one doing some work. Freddie was investing a lot of the cash from the last job into a comprehensive set of upgrades, most importantly to his Vehicle Control Rig. That was going to leave him laid up for a bit because, what do you know, expensive and invasive cybersurgery does that. Likewise, we seemed to have actually mislaid Captain Cancer somewhere in the move back to Seattle, but I’m not entirely fussed about that.

Now in Sampo flavour
 Anyway, back on track. Our first job came to us more or less by accident. I was at the Skeleton having a good time (Still not as good as I would be having in a NY club, but...) when I was basically approached by a rather angry and obvious Mister Johnson. There was a number of things about him, but the most striking was the massive bruise on his forehead. His pitch was even more straightforward, based around an angry sand repeated cry of “They took my NERPS!” That got my attention, and I tried to calm him a bit to get some details.

The short of it is that his car had been ambushed by a group of mercenaries in what was clearly a targeted hit, They’d rammed the car, smashed their way in, knocked Johnson out and then stolen a case containing his NERPS. Oh, and they had also shot and killed his driver, but this fact didn’t seem to resister that much for him. As this had only happened about an hour ago, the trail was still hot; he wanted us to track down his attackers and get his NERPS back.

The things that a runner does, huh?

I agreed, given that it was going to be quick and easy money. Grabbing Abbey, we went to check out the crime scene. It was pretty much as expected; Knight Errant officers had cordoned off the area, securing the now trashed car and the dead driver. They’d also found a bum who had seen what had happened and, as such, was the only witness. We eavesdropped on their questioning of him, which got us a few details. The thugs had been driving a black van and been wearing masks, which was super-unhelpful. They’d ram-raided the car, shot the driver, taken the case and then gotten the hell out of there.

So a black van in Seattle is super-unhelpful as it basically accounts for every single runner who has a GMC Bulldog, which is a lot. But it still was a lead, and enough to get us pointed in a usable direction. We called up Neon and got her to hack into the traffic cams at the intersection to find the events that had occurred. She turned up the ram-raid in question with a black SUV (And not a van, thank you bum in the alley) which gave her a lead. From there, she was able to track its location across the city.

It had been weaving a slow, deliberately evading pursuit route towards a park in downtown. Armed with that info, Abbey and I took off to intercept and recover the NERPS in question. The SUV had stopped and two of the goons had gotten out. Across the park, a Mitsubishi Nightsky had pulled up, with a Troll in a nice suit unfolding from the back seat. Clearly he was going to collect the NERPS from them. We didn’t want to happen.

Normally I’d open up with a grenade attack on the goons, but given that this was in the heart of Downtown that’d be a bad idea. That’s the sort of thing that would have a HRT down on you in seconds. Instead I ambushed the Troll, knocking him flat with my shock gloves. Unfortunately, everything after that went very sideways.

I leaped on one of the goons, but he managed to evade me and get off a warning. The others in the SUV decided to take off, but one of them left me with a parting gift in the form of a fire spirit. God damn mages. I hate it when they do that. So I was left with the spirit while Abbey was riding ion top of the speeding SUV. God damn it, I was so jealous of her right then.

Realizing that my weapons were more or less arse-useless against the sprit, I tried to take cover behind the most solid thing around. In this case it was the Nightsky, which the Spirit promptly tried to blast anyway. I got an idea for how to fix the problem and scurried around to the back if the Nightsky, quickly prying open the trunk. Fortunately, my plan paid off as there was the requisite fire extinguisher in the back. Brilliant.

Wasting no time, I popped up and ran straight at the Spirit, hitting it right in the face with a burst from the extinguisher. It did not like that at all, leaving it clawing at its face and in whatever passes for pain for spirits, buying me some time.

This was a cool car until it rolled and crashed. Ah well.
Abbey, in the meantime, had been dodging stunbolts from the mage in the SUV. She smashed in one of the windows and leaped into the vehicle, much to the surprise of the two occupants. Before either of them could do anything, she pulled on the handbrake and then grabbed hte case. The SUV did not take it well, flipping and rolling just as she jumped clear of it. Again, so jealous.

With the NERPS secured we called up Mister Johnson, Explaining what had happened. He was glad to have his precious cargo back, but also not surprised to find that a Troll had been behind the theft. Said Troll was the Executive VP of Market Development who had been gunning for Johnson’s job, and trying to sabotage him. So Johnson instructed us to rough him up a little and leave him in a bad part of town for laughs. Given that he was paying us, I saw no reason not to.

That was fun enough, but there was more to come. While we’d been out chasing NERPS, my Fixer had called me up with a pair of job offers. One of them had struck me straight away, and I’d agreed on a meet. This was done in the Matrix with both the offering Johnson and the subject of the run.

A subsidiary of NeoNET until they can escape.
That's a good plan right now.
The man in question, one Doctor Singh, a researcher for Transys-Neuronet was looking to get the hell out of therre and put himself on the market as a free agent. Given the way that NeoNET is currently burning to the ground that seemed like a smart plan. As an added incentive, he was going to bring with him a prototype reaction enhancement system. That piqued my interest, and I agreed to Johnson’s terms to extract both Singh had his prototype.

Johnson was kind enough to provide us with some details as to where Singh was. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a Transys Neuronet research facility on the outskirts of Seattle, one that was very deliberately isolated and Secure form external intrusion. Access was limited only to those with the right electronic passes, and it wasn’t like NeoNET just handed those out to anyone.

Reaching out through Lightspeed’s Data Haven, we found somebody who could fake us up some IDs. _maureen (Pronounced “Space Maureen”) was a decker who specialized in this sort of stuff, but the catch was that she needed one to work form in order to clone the new ones. With that as a lead, we went out both to recon the facility and look for any opportunities to get in. The Recon was not encouraging; Transys Neuronet had deliberately hidden the facility in the forest to give it maximum cover, and it had no obvious weak points in its external defenses. We got some info form Singh that only added to our woes; the building had a fleet ot security drones run by a Spider located on the top floor.

The good news was that no amount of security can protect you from having stupid people on your staff. So when three suits left the compound in an obvious party van, we followed them across town, figuring that those were out best shots at getting a card to clone. Unfortunately, they proved to be too stupid for even my expectations, driving all the way down to the Jackal’s Lantern, the hangout of the Halloweeners gang. So we had to act fast before the three of them were killed, harvested for their organs and then had the rest set on fire because Halloweeners do that.

I headed in there to find the three of them at the bar, talking amicably with a group of Weeners who were obviously sizing them up and figuring which organs to harvest first. I managed to detach one of them from the group, effortlessly conning him into coming into one of the back rooms with me. A quick shock later I had relived him of his commlink, leaving his unconscious body for the Weeners to do with as they pleased. If he’s going to be that stupid, then I’m not going to help him.

_maureen was good as her word, creating a trio of fake IDs for Mikaela, Sydney and Kevin. Abbey volunteered to be Kevin, using a physical mask spell to cover the obvious glaring problem. With that in place, the three of us headed on-site, breezing past security who didn’t even give us a second glance. It did help that we all dressed appropriately, even Neon who was sulking because smart business wear doesn’t allow for glowing cyan/magenta highlights. To help cover us, Abbey had borrowed a slightly used Shin-Hyung that had probably had at least one dead body stashed in it in past.

Once inside we split of into three teams, each with a specific objective. Abbey was going to retrieve Singh, Neon the prototype and I was going to take out the Spider to cover our retreat. That’s when it inevitably went sideways, as Singh revealed that they’d stepped up the program and installed the prototype in a test subject. So rather then escaping with a prototype that could be easily collapsed into a briefcase, we were going to have to abduct an unwilling individual who was now equipped with cutting-edge reflex enhances and skillwire systems.


Nothing good ever comes out of a place like this
So while I was trying to take out the Spider, Neon and Abbey went off to deal with the prototype. In this case the prototype was now installed in Chang, one of the cleaners there. When they found him, he was using his newly acquired Kung-Fu skills to beat up sparring drones with all the skill of a master. Oh, and he was obviously enjoying it, given that he’d just gone from bottom of the corporate Food chain to valued employee and one-man killing machine overnight. So much so that it was clear that he wasn’t going to come willingly. Likewise, Singh confirmed that Chang was not going to be allowed off-site either.

So we changed the plan a little. I was going to boof the spider, and then Neon and I were going to walk out the front door With Singh. In the meantime, Abbey was going to find an alternate exit and take Cheng with her, one way or the other. When you’re a runner, you learn to improvise, fast.

I headed up to the top floor and effortlessly slipped past the bored security guard, making my way into the Spider’s lair. Fortunately, he’d made himself an easy target; he was jumped in, sealed up tight inside his cocoon. After over-riding the locks, I quickly shocked him into unconsciousness and then sealed him up again. That way, nobody would even notice that he was out until he missed a check-in and they came to physically check. Or he suffocated inside his pod. It could happen, I did have to disconnect some stuff first

As we were diving out the front door with Singh, Abbey was busy convincing Cheng that she was here to take him on a training exercise to test his newfound skills and enhancements. This lead to her smuggling him out through the kitchen and then setting fire to a part of it to cover her escape. The pair of them then went out through the garbage disposal, exiting somewhere in the woods where we picked them up in the car. Chang was... Confused about this training scheme, but we managed to keep him distracted long enough for us to meet Johnson and do the handoff.

So Singh gets a new home and Chang gets... I dunno, something I suppose. But above all else, we get paid. Welcome back to Seattle, chummers.

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