Part 3: These HandsUpdate 2 - These Hands
In a time like this, Stark needs friends. He's got some very powerful enemies that he can't face alone, but he's also in need of individuals with unique skills sets, maybe those not accustomed to physical combat. In any case, we can't get any help in Tackett's lab.
It's time to go.
I'd hate for this to go to waste. This image was originally from bedpan's abandoned BloodNet LP. It's probably not converted from the 16:10 aspect ratio. Let this be your guide to knowing where exactly we are in future Manhattan.
We travel by subway, and the red arrows are all the available stops. Time passes as we travel between locations, thus our bloodlust goes up, and our humanity (eventually) decreases.
Our first stop is the Houston Matrix Rovers. Penn Martinez sounds like someone who can help us get into Tackett's well.
We're picking up the PULSE EMITTER, a jury-rigging component, and the PATCH CORD. The patch cord is one of the best items in the game.
With a functioning decking unit, we can take our entire party into cyberspace. Without one, we have to rely on a partner with a decking unit in their inventory, and then we can only take one. Without this cord, we'll never get anywhere in cyberspace, because we can only rely on a party member's decking skills if they're in c-space with us.
Penn Martinez is here, so let's talk to him.
Too much noise, not enough signal. That's why I'm here.
You need it, you got it. But, damn, you look casters up, like you're dying or something.
Actually, I'm undying. That's the reason I'm here. I'm taking stock. You're one of my few friends in this town, Smiley. I need to know if I can count on you and the Rovers.
Smiley. That's adorable.
Anything we can do, Ransom. We wouldn't be much use to you on the streets, but we'll do what we can from here and in the net. If you come across any computer code that you don't know what to do with, we can probably help you. Bring it here. Introduce yourself to the new guy if you haven't yet. His name's Hakim Maghsoudi. Apparently he used to do some mercing himself when he was younger.
You need a place to jack in, you got it. Anytime. I'll add your vital stats to the room's locking mechanism. You can use our machines whether we're here or not. We're about as shielded from the Company as we can be.
It's good to have friends, but this isn't the kind of help we need right now. Maybe that new guy can join us.
We can eventually get Hakim to join us, and he is required to complete a certain side quest, but we won't be able to get him anytime soon.
There's someone called Reflex Symptoms here. He looks kind of like a balding Seth Green.
For some reason he doesn't like Stark's war paint.
Yeah. Like it, Flex? I think it makes me look soulful. You look burned. What are you into these days?
Wasting time with a dbase I clipped from Hunan Storage. Includes source code documentation for several models of memory chips. Not that I can milk anything from it, the documentation's so piss poor. Damned Chinese code's fragile as a soap bubble. Their government in the late twentieth century was a worse info tyrant than a megacorp. Country's still trying to catch itself up.
I'm involved in something. Might need your help.
You always need our help. Why don't you learn to program? You could stop being a beggar then.
Learn to code? When I got a hacker who cares about me like you, Flex?
Ram it, Stark. I got Chinese to debug.
That wasn't much help. Who else is here?
So weary eyed! Maybe he's examing a future diamond.
We've actually got some data on Goldfarb in our contacts.
Yeah. I knew him from when I used to work there. Keeps his ears open, hears stuff. Good contact to have. Nice guy too, but I've lost touch with him. Company says he quit, but didn't have an address for him.
Well, I was facing with an angel who hacks for the Company. She works in Pragmatics and gets her jollies spinning the net. Sorta dwells on both sides. Couple weeks ago she told me about a guy named Goldfarb who worked in Marketing.
I'm not sure if he's in love with her or if he's saying she's a data angel, which is another term for decker.
Yeah, that's him, Timmy Goldfarb.
Turns out old Timmy was doing his own unauthorized decking. Got into notional labs data cluster and started experimenting with Morph Codes that are stored there. Know what a Morph Code is?
I've heard things, but nothing I'd trust.
Sweet Jesus. I could use a cigarette, I think. I'm no philosopher, and I'm happy about that, because I don't want to think about the implications of that stuff.
So your friend Timmy finds a cache of this stuff and starts messing with it, except this stuff's for pros only, right? Don't try this at home, kids. He botched the program merge between the Morph Code and his soul box. Ended up with severe brain damage.
He's running crazy on Wall Street with a loose-knit gang of psychos called the Autonomy Dogs. Calls himself Wild Child now.
Shit. That's worse than what happened to Harry Goldfarb.
Where can I find them?
They hang a lot around Wall Street. Their leader is a guy named Sabaccatus St. Aubens. Rich guy. His father ran a chain of virtual wares shops and left Sabaccatus a pile. Sabbs was a little unstable though. Got involved heavily with the Genetic Purity Council. Even went out on raids with the Scrub Teams until he got shot up pretty bad in a fire fight with a South American ethnic gang called the Bolivarian Front. Only way his doctors could save him was by giving him a hefty-looking implant. He couldn't handle being transformed into something he hated and went completely over the deep end. Do yourself a favor, Stark and forget about him. The Dog's are crazy people. Killers. Psychotic refuse. Let it go.
Now we've got a new location. We'll be sure to visit Timmy Goldfarb eventually. There's one more person to talk to here, and he's currently decked into the net.
It's Ransom Stark, Rags. I know you hate being bothered when you're all virtual like this, but Penn tells me you've been collecting whispers about the Star Chamber. I'd be interested to hear about it.
He certainly did not, and he has absolutely no dialogue relating to the Star Chamber. The Star Chamber seems to be some sort of group of individuals very high up in the TransTech heirarchy.
Gimme a second to put things on hold here. All right. I'll give you a synopsis of what I know, but you'd be better off giving up this obsession with the Company. Not like you're the only guy they've ever screwed over. Understand, now. What I'm getting is all second, third hand. Memos on the executive bulletin boards, suits trying to get a fix on what's happening in the Star Chamber, but that's like seeing the future in tea leaves, you know. There appears to be some kind of conflict within the governing Star Chamber. A couple of members named Witte and Yatchisin have lined up against an exec named Abraham Van Helsing, accusing him of putting personal business ahead of Company priorities. I guess he's diverting sizable corporate assets for unaccounted purposes. Now this is freakin' amazing for a couple of reasons. One, the Star Chamber execs give each other miles of elbow room. I mean, this Van Helsing guy must be making a hog of himself, because, two, Van Helsing's senior exec on the Chamber. I mean, the boards talk about this guy like he's Beelzebub himself, been with the Company forever, and no one seems to know his whole story. People wet their pants over this guy, so things must be out of hand for Witte and Yatchisin to challenge him like this.
More bad plot progression. What little we didn't know about Van Helsing is dumped on us in one conversation.
What's this Van Helsing doing?
Why be coy about it? Though I'm not sure anyone's buying it with that stupid smirk on your face.
If it wasn't secret no one would give a damn, Stark. I don't know, but from what I gather, we're talking massive expenditures over a long term, real estate purchases, hardware, secret projects in the Notional and Syntactic workshops. Apparently, Van Helsing's outfitting several sites in the city with force field emitters and holograph projectors. Fat cats are paranoid by nature. Witte and Yatchisin probably figure Van Helsing's out to bugger them.
Hey, Notional Labs were the ones involved with the Morph Codes!
They're probably right. Any idea how I can contact Witte or Yatchisin?
Why not just tube to their penthouses and ring their bells? We're talking about TransTech Star Chamber execs, Stark. They're about as accessible as the President and more powerful. What do you want? A midnight meeting in a parking garage? How about the mens room of the Waldorf? You can run the water while you talk in case the place is bugged. Whatever you got in mind, Ransom. Drop it. You're going to end up lying in some alley with your chest kicked in.
We'll see if anything comes of this.
Our next stop is The Abyss, where it all began. We need friends, and supposedly Lash Givens is hanging around here.
Looks like some new faces are around here.
Here's the deal: The Abyss is full of people to hire. I'm going to show all of them off, and you'll all vote for who we pick to be in our first party. As we meet new possible party members (or get to the point where we can have already-known characters to join our party, like Elvis), there will be another vote for 1. if they should join, and 2. who should they replace, if our party is full. More instructions will be at the end of this update.
Our first possible partner is this guy.
Relax, I ain't looking. I'm here to hire mercs. Need the best on my side.
You're looking at him. Fighting, decking, you name it--I'm the finest. Plus, I would add an element of style to your little endeavor. Looks like you could use it.
Yeah, well style ain't gonna save me when I'm on the wrong end of a white noise blaster. What makes you so damn sure of yourself?
My skills speak for themselves. I'm even better than I look. That's why my fee for a job is 25,000 dollars. You always get what you pay for. You want the best? If not, don't waste my time.
He's a good fighter, but mediocre everything else. I suppose he's good for when we buy stuff, but money isn't a problem.
What our companion's armor looks like has no actual consequence in the game, but I imagine it'll impact how much you like a character, given that there are some very flavorful ones.
The next person we'll talk to is sitting on the steps, in the green shirt.
Looking for work, Cisco?
I've got a job you'd be perfect for.
Kind of riggin' I used to do is for young guys. I'm washed up.
That's bull. I know about you. Know what you can do. When I first went freelance, the scroungers buzzed you and Hakim all the time. You two are legends, man. You don't just quit on that.
Legends so noteworthy that Stark didn't bother to mention it when we met Hakim.
Hmph, Legends who don't know when to quit end up being dead legends. Hakim is a business man now. When he's ready for me, I'll be his partner. We don't need the danger.
This could be a big score. Make you for life. Involves hitting the Company. You were the best at that, and I'll bet you're still pretty damn good. I'll be decking pretty deep into the network. No telling what Company tech you could get your hands on.
Ahh! I'm not a mark, kid. Don't try and sell me. Talk to Maghsoudi. He always made the decisions for both of us. If he goes for your deal, I'm in as well. These days he hangs with a group called the Houston Matrix Rovers.
Even if we go back and talk to Hakim, we can't recruit either of them at this point.
That guy in the red is "[a] huge, murderous-looking man [who] dominates this area of the bar."
I might be looking to hire some hard guys. You look like you got the muscle, but do you got the references, big guy?
This should be good. If you listen to his speech, he's got a voice that sounds like it belongs to some ancient wizard.
You just say God's work?
The angel of the Lord comes to me at nights, in visions and voices, and tells me of good and evil. Do you see my hands? These hands strangle God's enemies. These hands crushed the throat of the Socialist Party candidate for mayor of Chicago. These hands broke the neck of the Bolshevik leading a strike against the St. Louis Corn Syrup Cartel. These hands hurled the president of an East Coast bank from the roof of the Sears Tower to his death below.
Those would be credentials all right. Eloquently stated too. What about vampires? And TransTechnicals? Would those be God's enemies too?
The voices . . . are unclear about the companies. God's authority over man is reflected in the companies' great power and wealth. There may be . . . a link between the corporate and the divine. It is confusing. But about the night walkers there can be no doubt. They are spawn of Satan and must be crushed by these hands of God. For 4,500 dollars I can join your struggle. Will you have me?
I dislike Bolshevism as much as anybody else, but this guy is fucking crazy. Still, he is an option. Moving on...
We've actually got some info on her in our handy-dandy notebook.
Haven't been myself. Listen, I can trust you guys, right?
Always could. You laid your own neck on the line for Garrick and me many a time when we nearly crossed the line with TransTech.
Where is your old man anyway?
We would've needed to talk to Fizz anyway to get this location. We are required to go there to complete the game.
Let's put it this way--if you were bounty hunting the undead, you'd be able to take that Cuban cruise with the money I'd bring in for you.
They got you, Stark? Of all people? I can't believe it! Nobody could ever touch you when it came to combat. I mean, I hope you're O.K., but how'd you let your guard down long enough to get taken like that?
Hey, I'm human, O.K.? At least half, anyway. Now what I need is to keep my half-breed hide alive. And there's more. Incubus is real, Rymma. And these guys want it. If we don't get it before they do, we're all goners. I'm gonna need the best people on my side.
Sign me up. That is what you're getting at, isn't it?
We can only recruit Garrick, an optional companion, if we have Rymma with us. We won't encounter him until later in the game. You'll understand why in time. We can still recruit Rymma if we turn her down, so if you all want to recruit Garrick (we'll vote for that when we meet him), we'll need to come back and get Rymma.
She's a hell of a companion at this point in the game.
Traffic signs as armor? Wait... that arrow is drawing attention to somewhere...
Next up, we've got the guy with some kind of sunglasses on.
Let's give it a shot.
Hey there, Nimrod. How they going?
Wonderful voice acting.
Yeah, I'm having fun too. Um, listen, you working on anything?
I'm not currently contracted to anyone. If I lacked discipline I would be at what might be called "loose ends."
Existential crisis, Nimrod? I didn't think you were the type. You've worked for the Purity Council, right?
The Genetic Purity Council has at times contracted me to kill certain individuals who do not meet specified demographic profiles. Yes.
That's what I thought. The rage gangs and cyberpunks are terrified of you. What would it cost me to, uh, contract with you?
For the transfer of 14,000 dollars my services can be contracted. Are you making me an offer to join you?
If Nimrod joins us, a lot of people will hate us.
I can only imagine that this armor was drawn up by one of the artists' metalhead sons.
Last in this room of the Abyss is
That green arrow in the bottom right means there's another room to go in.
We've got some info on Slash in our contacts list.
We'll meet a much more loveable addict soon. One that doesn't look like Frankenstein.
Yeah, well, I got bigger things on my mind than lookin' pretty.
Obviously. The only time a man gets a look like that is when he's bein' hunted. Looks like you could use a hand. I may like a drink now and then to calm my nerves, but I'm a damn good shot. Got the senses of a hawk ever since I got my ocular and aural implants. You hirin'? I'm cheap. Only fifteen grand.
15 grand for a whiney fighter. I just realized that the skill Bribery isn't covered in the manual. As far as I know, it's never used in-game. Same as Pick Pocket.
The only thing reedeeming about this guy is that he looks like he's wearing some sort of Tusken Raider outft.
Here's the other room of The Abyss.
That's one way to get the point across. We've also got info on her.
This is our "[m]editerranean beauty"?
Just looking around. Looking for the right mercs--fighters, deckers, the best.
Well, you're looking at the finest of fighters right here--if you can afford me. I love the fight. Live for it. Always looking for any excuse to cause a little pain.
You seem pretty sure of yourself. But arrogance never saved my skin in the heat of battle. I need skill.
Well, if you have doubts, why don't you find out for yourself? Maybe you'll live long enough to make a decision.
She just attacked us!
I don't want to explain combat right now. This update is getting long enough as it is.
We can kill Maranda and her table-mate, but that's not going to do any good. We get some items, but nothing spectacular.
Hit 'ESC' to go back to the location you're already in. No time is spent traveling, that way. The same thing happens if you manually select which location you're currently in to travel to.
She's a little to off-the-wall for my tastes. Now we'll talk to her tablemate.
What does our computer have to say about her?
Another goddamn fighter.
First rate fighters. You look able.
Oh? In the mood for a fight?
No. Need 'em on my side.
Well, my specialties are high-tech weapons and firearms. I could hit that birthmark on that pasty face of yours from 300 meters. What are you up against?
Vampires, TransTech, gangs. The usual.
Sounds like a real challenge. I work for ten grand plus the latest piece of equipment I'm in the market for. This time it's a white noise blaster. You want me?
We'll have to go get a white-noise blaster before we can recruit her.
Is it worth the money, time, and increase in bloodlust to recruit another generic fighter?
Now let's talk to the big guy in the lower left.
Killed me? What did I do to you?
Yes! Ha, ha, ha, ha! You were working for Pandemic Broadcasting, breaking up a ring of media pirates called the Twenty-Fourth Frequency. The Frequency hired me to off you. I tailed you for days, watching your moves, learning your routine. Ha, ha, you never saw me! At the time, you would stop into the tattoo parlor on East 81st every evening. I think you were sweet on the redhead with the facial tints, eh? When you left the shop you walked several blocks through an alley to 83rd Street. I had picked the rooftop where I would post myself, was ready to do you in, when the Frequency failed to make their payment to me on time. Deal off! Job canceled! Ho, ho! But a close call for you, my friend. You seemed like a decent fellow. I'm glad I didn't have to kill you. Here, let me buy you an ouzo.
This guy's personality has been played out in many-a-video game.
Nah. That's all right. I hate the stuff. I'm here to talk business. You really tailed me for several days? Damn, big bugger like you, you must really move.
Business? You need a mercenary? I guess I've proven my skill, eh? I'll tell you what. Because I almost killed you, I'll cut my price for you. Ten thousand dollars. Just enough to pay my bills. I'd work for less, but my accountant would kill me. Ha, ha, ha, ha! A joke, you see. Ha, ha, ha! So, do we have a deal?
63 endurance. It makes sense, but who wants a fighter with 63 endurance. Don't let me dissuade you, though, because I can handle any party you throw at me.
Of course Stark keeps dirt on his former lover in his computer.
Yeah, like you give a damn, Monique. Don't mess with me, I'm not in the mood.
Sounds like Stark isn't over her.
Shelve the self-pity, Mr. Lonelyheart. It isn't selling. I'm genuinely concerned. You're as pale as a corpse.
I don't want to involve you in this mess, Monique.
Howler, you better. I'm still your friend.
Howler. I bet there's a story there.
Some heavy stuff. Involves TransTech, cyberspace . . . and vampires. Which is what I've become; that's why I look this way. Deirdre Tackett's been kidnapped because of me. Everything's gone wrong, and if I don't get control of things soon I'm doomed. I'll be like this for . . . ever. Until somebody drives a stake into my heart, that is.
Which you've already emotionally done to me.
Don't be too proud to ask for help, Ransom. Want me to tag along?
Weird outfit. Kind of like a court jester's getup.
Lash Givens is in the red at the table.
Listen to the tindeck link for Lash's heartwarming southern cybergentleman accent.
That about sums it up, Lash. You can't believe what's coming down.
So what's got ya? Somebody inject ya with a designer virus? Nanomachine? Ya look like you've lost half your blood, boy.
Wish it was a bio-weapon. Those can be countered easy enough. This'll sound crazy, Lash. Those vampire rumors you've been hearing? They're true. I've seen them. I've become one of them, or nearly one of them. A vampire named Van Helsing--yeah like the guy in the Dracula legends--he lured me to his penthouse on a bogus job. He was looking for Tackett, and when he got what he wanted out of me . . . he . . . he did this to me. I couldn't stop him; he was too damn strong. He forced himself on me . . . My implant's the only thing keeping me even partially human. And it won't last forever. I don't reverse this soon, it'll be too late. I'll be a vampire forever.
A few key phrases in there makes it sound like he's talking about... something else.
Y'all serious aren't you? Y'all . . . a . . . vampire? My God . . . look at ya. What the hell do we do about this, Ransom?
I don't know. I've gotta find a cure before it's too late. And I have to save Deirdre. Van Helsing's grabbed her. He's after Incubus. Turns out that's for real too. I owe that woman my life, Lash. I have to rescue her and try to put an end to Van Helsing's evil.
Brother, you are in serious shit up to your earlobes. Maybe I better I come with ya on this one?
He's a fighter with some pretty good additional skills.
Looks like Lash done an' wrassled his own neck!
What about the person sitting next to him?
Thats a pretty odd description.
Are you available for action?
Kinky as that sounds, I pass.
Then you're looking for a merc? I'm available now, handsome. Dead shot with most energy weapons and hell on wheels when it gets close and nasty. I've split my time between working for the suits and all kinds of wired revolutionaries, whoever pays most. You need me, I'm yours for 13,000 dollars.
What the fuck is that?
We've got one more guy to talk to.
The medicine. The drugs, man. The drugs.
You got the wrong guy. I work for nobody.
Suminasen, your highness. Excuse me. I suppose people work for you, that it? What's your line of work? Looks like red lifters is your shobai. I've seen that pasty look before in your business.
I'm no dealer, but it looks like one could make a fortune off you.
I like a little red lifter on occasion. In fact, if you're lookin for someone to work with you, my schedule just might open up if you were to send some lifters and five grand my way. Mind you, that's for one job and one job only. I don't work with a guy more than once. Too dangerous. Interested, tomadachi?
We've got to get some red lifters for this guy, in addition to the 5 grand. Easily done with a trip to the pharmacy, and by pharmacy I mean back alley drug dealer.
He's a good fighter with an execellent Jury-Rig skill.
But the best part is that he's a drug-addicted Santa.
What I want you all to do now is vote for 5 mercs that you want to come with us. Here are the available options:
Leeza Five Eagles
Montigue St. Clair
Money isn't an issue, and don't worry about who's got what skills. I'd rather have you all vote for the party members you like the most. The top 5 vote-getters will join us in the next update.
Find a way to get into Deirdre Tackett's well, hope.
Collect the other four pieces of Charley Flyer's mind.
Visit Timmy Goldfarb down at the Autonomy Dogs
Penn Martinez will help us with complex computer code
New Locations Gained