Part 12: The Great Plot Dump of 2054Part 12 - The Great Plot Dump of 2054
Right, here we go. We went through a lot of trouble, not to mention a lot of people, to get these DVDs. Let's hope our end reward won't be a glimpse into Winters' private hentai collection.
The main menu shows 6 tracks to choose from. We're gonna be here for a bit, so grab a drink and get comfortable.
We'll start from the top, selecting 'Track 1'.
2034, from exactly 20 years ago.
Alright, maybe we are on the right track here. Vauclair was the "dragonslayer" who brought down the Firewing with the help of the Luftwaffe in 2012.
This whole "the murderous dragon isn't dead" -thing is not a promising start though.
[The screen clears, and the excited face is closer to the screen than it was before. The words spill out of him in a breathless tide.]
...Taking a team into the SOX to retrieve her, the radiation be damned. We will take appropriate precautions, of course, but we must go! Hermie... I think that the body may be nearby as well. Somehow, it - *she* - has survived, for all of this time...
Student protests, civil uprising... you'll be in the middle of it, I'm sure. Just stay safe, all right? And I'll do my best to do the same. I don't know what's going to happen when I step into the SOX. But I do know one thing... if the Firewing is still a danger, I *will* put an end to her. Once and for all.
[The display goes black, and the background whine fades away. A moment later, you find yourself deposited back at the menu screen.]
So in summary, Vauclair headed back into the irradiated SOX 20 years ago, believing that the Firewing was still alive in there 22 years after Dragonfall. That's some serious dedication to your job. Interesting, though not particularly helpful to us by itself. Let's try the next one.
Dr. Adrian Vauclair. The hero of the people. The Dragonslayer. My brother.
[He grimaces and rubs his eyes.]
Hard to believe it's been almost twenty years. All right. So, I'm gonna start recording these DVDs again... for me, for Adrian, for whoever might wind up watching 'em.
So, our client was the famous dragonslayer's brother who'd spent two decades trying to locate Vauclair after his SOX expedition with no success. A search which seemed to have taken its toll on the man. The pieces are starting to add up, but how do they connect?
Christ. Twenty years. All this time, and still, no leads. Even with all of my contacts, and my resources...
[He takes another long swallow of cheap liquor.]
...Even with my "legendary bullheadedness," I've made no progress at all. I haven't turned up a single god damned thing.
[He upends the bottle. Drains it. Slams it back down to the table. His eyes are rimmed with red.]
Not much of a rumor, considering. I already *know* that you're gone, big brother. I live with that every day.
[Abruptly, Winters leans forward and reaches for something off-screen. The display goes black. A few seconds later, the main menu returns.]
Pretty heavy burden to carry for two full decades. Uncertainty about a loved one's fate can definitely mess you up worse than knowing for sure that they're dead, and Winters was a prime example of that.
In any case, Track 3 is a go.
It's roughly mid-November right now, so this is from only a month back.
Stumbled upon this archival footage of Feuerschwinge's original attack. Months before the Dragonfall. Easy to forget how devastating it was... Adrian saved a lot of people by bringing her down. I've got the footage all cued up to play... starting it now. Additional comments to follow.
[The slow whir of the DVD player shifts to a high-pitched whine. A distorted, wavering image blooms into being on the screen. A time stamp in the upper right corner of the screen marks the date: July 6, 2012.]
Duty above all! No wait, I'm thinking of someone else again...
We are joined tonight by a survivor of this latest - and most horrifying - attack.
[The reporter turns to face a pale man standing behind him.]
Sir, I understand that you've been through a terrible ordeal... thanks for taking the time to speak with us tonight.
Guy looks pretty pumped to have a camera shoved in his face right after having his hometown burned down.
If you could, sir... could you please tell the people at home about your experience of the attack?
It... it was horrible. Just pure... pure chaos. So many people are dead. People I knew. Roasted alive, or trampled to death trying to escape. My own house was burned to the ground during the attack. My family... we have nothing now.
You all made it through the attack, though? Your wife, your kids...?
How long were you holed up in there?
Three, maybe four hours? I dunno. We just stayed inside until the heat died down and the screaming stopped.
And what happened after that?
When it was over - you know, when the air cooled down...
[The reporter nods, and the man continues.]
...We stepped outside. There was nothing left. Just smoldering wreckage, and this dense cloud of black, oily smoke. And the stench in the air... God, that smell. It smelled like roasting meat.
[There is a long pause. From the tortured look on his face, you can tell that the man is struggling to decide whether or not to continue speaking. Eventually, he does.]
Getting the kids started on the mental scarring early. Hope they at least didn't pay her up front.
I just couldn't bring myself to open that door. I couldn't risk my family like that. Not for her. Not for anyone.
Thank you, sir, for taking the time to speak with us.
You heard it here, an absolutely chilling account of tonight's attack. Again, the town of Stolberg has been reduced to ash, another victim of the Firewing. Stay with us for more up-to-the-minute reporting on Feuerschwinge's reign of terror.
Nowadays all kinds of weird supernatural stuff messing up one place or another is par for the course, but a dragon attack in 2012 would've been a hell of a thing to wake up to.
[The screen abruptly goes black as the video cuts off. A few moments later, you find yourself returned to the Menu screen.]
Let's. On to Track 4.
Well, that was a bust. Little progress on Feuerschwinge, either.
[He shakes his head.]
I dunno. It's weird... the information is there, it's just... *wrong,* somehow. It's too well laid out, too simple. Real life is messy, and this feels just a little too... neat.
[Winters' image disappears. The display goes black. A few seconds later, the main menu returns.]
That was a little thin, but it's probably safe to assume that changing his focus on the dragon instead of his brother was the beginning of the end for Winters. This was recorded only a couple of weeks ago.
November 9th, a mere day before our expedition to the Mansion of Murder.
There are ghost stories spreading around the decker community. Stories about deckers disappearing, and then showing up again later, but... *wrong,* somehow. Scary stuff, and I'm starting to think that it's true.
[Blitz leans in for a whisper.]
I know the stories he's talkin' about, chief. Never really put much stock 'em... not until now.
Another mystery piece. Deckers disappearing we've seen pretty damn concrete evidence of, but there's no coming back from that.
That's a bit of a leap.
If what Tolstoi told me was true, Hellebore live-posted the event. She described her killer, this great big ork with skin grafts. Then the whole thread disappeared. Gone without a trace.
This just keeps getting better and better.
"Leap," Eiger love? Sounds like he's on the right track to me.
[Eiger holds her silence, but concedes the point with a small nod.]
She's covering her tracks. Working the shadows. Preparing to rise again. And that means that I *have* to find you, Adrian... for everyone's sake. Thankfully, I've got a lead. For the first time in two decades, I've got a solid goddamned lead.
Not hard to guess where those coordinates pointed to.
So now, I've got a target. A place to start digging. The "Harfeld Manor," conveniently located on an isolated stretch of countryside, miles away from prying eyes. Matrix records indicate that some sort of data vault exists beneath the estate, so that's what I need to get into.
...And this is where we came in.
[As if on cue, a familiar image winks onto the monitor to Winters' left. Monika.]
I think I'm gonna tap Schäfer for this job. She's got the skills to bypass whatever security they're running out there, and she's gullible enough to take the job in the first place. I'll feed her some line about Flux State security, and she'll eat it up with a spoon.
Winters was clearly a mess and kind of a cold bastard to boot, but he wasn't an idiot. He had Monika completely figured out as well.
[On the display, Winters' mouth parts into a broad grin.]
Time to put plans into motion. By this time tomorrow night I should have the information that I need. And on the off-chance that Schäfer gets taken out, well... that'll tell me something, too. Can't make an omelet, and all that. ...Until then.
[Winters' image disappears. The display goes black. A few seconds later, the main menu returns.]
Only one more track to go.
Okay. Okay okay okay. Back up, slow down. Start from the beginning.
[Winters closes his eyes and makes a visible effort to calm himself. When he speaks again, his voice is steady.]
Got the call from my contact in the Kreuzbasar. Schäfer killed on the estate run. Matrix security at the estate cooked her brain.
Well, I won't go down without a fight. I've still got my contacts... still got my connections. And the Flux-State can be a hell of a weapon for the man who knows how to manipulate it.
[Winters takes another long pull from his glass, grimaces, and swallows.]
Time for me to make my play. Ghost stories or no, missing deckers or no, I've gotta jack into the Matrix and start pulling strings. The countermeasures that I installed earlier should be more than enough to keep me safe for the twenty minutes I'll be in there.
Hindsight's a real son of a bitch, ain't it. Though looking back is probably easier when yours is broken, you can just sort of bend backwards.
[He drains the rest of the glass, then tosses it back over his shoulder. A moment later you hear the dull clattering sound of hard plastic on linoleum.]
Schäfer's death was tragic. She was a staunch supporter of the F-State. But still, all things considered...
Famous last words. And if we don't figure out a way to get out of this mess he got us into, we're gonna have to start coming up with our own pretty soon.
[Blitz whispers into your ear again, more harshly this time.]
What the hell is this? Why didn't you warn me about this before I came here?
We didn't know... not exactly.
Hey, everybody! Blitz is scared!
We're all scared, you idiot.
Not *exactly?* I didn't come here to get hunted by a dragon! I'm not even a part of this!
You are now, whether you like it or not. So quiet down and stop bothering her.
You've SEEN what happens to people who get too close to this. I'm dead, and dozens of others have died. YOU'LL BE NEXT unless you can FIND ADRIAN.
[The screen cuts back to static. The message is over. The DVD tray slides out of the reader.]
Well, we're probably fucked.
A dragon. Son of a bitch. Green Winters sent us up against a dragon.
I'm really starting to regret the fact that I didn't just stay at the hotel.
Wait a second. We don't know for certain...
[The room falls silent. Eiger and Glory exchange glances. After a moment, Dietrich continues.]
Just think about it. The decker that Winters got those coordinates from was posting about Feuerschwinge. Then she was killed by that same orkish bastard that attacked us after Monika died. That's a direct link between the dragon, the scarred ork, and the Harfeld Manor.
...and then Winters was killed by the same thing that killed Monika.
That "thing" remains a question mark, surely Firewing herself can't be eating people in cyberspace. Guess if anyone would have the resources to create such extraordinary defense measures it'd be a Great Dragon, but these particular measures don't even seem content on sticking to just defending.
Exactly. My gut tells me that the dragon is down there, Rosa... someplace far beneath the surface. I think that we knocked on the door to her lair without even knowin' it. And I think that, given what we've seen, the dragon will do whatever it takes to keep us quiet about it.
Man, modern dragon lairs suck. Whatever happened to classic moat tentacles and black knight dance floors?
Okay. Going on the assumption that there *is* a dragon, and that she *will* come after us... what do you propose that we do about it?
I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to follow Winters' advice. We're gonna find Vauclair.
Yes... Rosa is right. Finding Dr. Vauclair should be our priority. If we're going up against a dragon, we need to find ourselves a dragonslayer.
Winters spent twenty years searching for Vauclair, and it got him nowhere. How do you propose that we find him?
With the help of an information broker.
I'll go talk to Altuğ, then.
[Blitz scoffs.] Alice? Best of luck... and I hope that you're rich.
[Amsel raises an eyebrow.] For this? Rich enough... even if only just.
Who is this "Alice"?
[The console spits out a stick of black plastic. Amsel plucks it from the computer and hands it to you.]
Here. Your key to speak with Alice.
[Amsel nods.] An encoded credstick, yes. 10,000 nuyen. Alice will not show her face for less. This represents the last of my personal savings, Rosa. Make this meeting count.
10,000 nuyen? Just to talk to her?
Boy are we in the wrong business.
[He nods again.] Her standard fee. Alice is in a position to ask it, and we're in no position to argue.
Just like I said. Why doesn't anyone listen to me?
So where do I need to go?
Don't call it that in front of her, though. Word on the street is that she hates it.
Please hurry. While you're out, I will work on acquiring new contracts for the team. Alice is the best there is at what she does, and her services carry a price tag to match.
Well, no time like the present. There's some new bits of dialogue in the Kreuzbasar, but we'll get to that later. Instead we make our way directly to the U-Bahn station.
We board the train from the usual place, and arrive a short while later.
The "Rabbit Hole" is actually a small arcade. Because nothing says fun and games like some dark corner of a German metro tunnel.
Bathroom floors are pretty much the treasure chest equivalent of Shadowrun. We actually found an auto-injector for Hyper before coming across the stuff itself, huh. Still not worth sacrificing precious inventory slots for though.
But we're not here for bathroom drugs, that's a hobby you can practice at home. This lit-up arcade machine is much more interesting.
Hopefully this is for paying Alice and we're not just gonna end up with forty thousand credits for Pac-Man.
[On the screen is a dimly-lit office. The place looks like it was pulled straight from an old detective movie, from the venetian blinds on the windows to the great swathes of shadow that paint the walls black.
Center-stage, sitting behind a large mahogany desk, is the silhouette of an impressive-looking woman in a charcoal-gray suit. The tip of a cigarette glows cherry-red in the shadows. She leans forward into the light, and you catch your first glimpse of Alice.]
I hear they make a pretty good shampoo for those pesky glowing hair tentacles, might want to look into that.
We're on your dime, friend. Tell me what you're looking for.
I need you to find someone for me. Dr. Adrian Vauclair.
[She raises an eyebrow.] The dragonslayer? Interesting. He's been missing for a long time.
Yes, he has. The question is, can you find him?
Deckers can interject here to speculate about Alice's identity:
Speaking of corpses, Alice... I think that I might know who you really are.
[Alice leans forward. Her smile spreads into a predatory grin.]
There was a member of Echo Mirage named Alice. Alice Haeffner. She died back in 2029, fighting the Crash Virus. Rumor has it, she still exists in the Matrix. Still calls herself Alice, too.
You may recall one Johnny Clean who was also part of that team. Allegedly.
An interesting theory. But I fear that my price to confirm or deny it would fall well outside of your price range.
[Alice leans back in her chair.]
For now, let's get back to the business at hand.
Fifty thousand? I swear, if it next turns out Green Winters had a dead man's switch, Firewing can torch this whole city with us in it.
When I get my credstick, you get your information. This is the deal. Take it or leave it.
Price gouging, huh? For a neo-anarchist, you behave an awful lot like an old-world profiteer.
[She smiles sweetly.] I wasn't aware that there was a difference between the two.
Now, do we have a deal? Or don't we?
All right, Alice. It's a deal.
Okay. But remember: you say go, and I go. From that point on, you're on the hook to pay me my fee. No turning back. No refunds. Are we square on this?
I don't see what choice I have. I need that information.
Good. I'll be in touch.
So it once again comes down to trying to make a large sum of money, though this time nobody's even pretending that we'll get to keep it for ourselves. Time to return to Paul, though I'll let you skip the trip back.
Rosa. Did you make contact with Alice?
Yes, I did. She accepted your payment, and I ordered the search for the information we need.
Very good. I can't imagine that this will be cheap. What was Alice's stated price?
You're right on that count. 50,000 nuyen.
Actual, proper shadowrunning in your Shadowrun game? It's more likely than you think.
While you're working to earn Alice's fee, I will continue to dig for clues about Feuerschwinge. If she is, in fact, roosting under the Harfeld Manor, then there must be some evidence to support that fact. A dragon is a large thing to hide, after all.
Be careful, Paul. Remember what happened to Monika.
I will never forget. Don't worry, Rosa. I'm going to conduct my investigation the old fashioned way... through contacts, and deduction, and careful observation. I will not jack in to the Matrix until this entire sorry episode is finished.
That's probably wise.
That's right, we only saw the contents of one of the DVDs. Maybe we'll bump into that hentai collection yet.
Finally, I have been checking up on our friend... the ork with the skin grafts. I haven't heard anything back yet, but I'll keep you appraised as the situation develops.
Sounds good, Paul. I'll go check up on those jobs.
One last thing before you go, Rosa. Samuel Beckenbauer wanted me to pass a message to you. Do you know him? The ork who runs the shelter across the way?
Yeah, we've met.
Ah. Well, he has a job for you... he wouldn't discuss it with me, but he promised that it would prove worth your time.
I'll keep it in mind.
That was kind of a lot to digest, so we'll cut it here.
Next time: Job hunting! Actually starting the main part of the game 4 months into the LP! Please look forward to it.