Part 14: Trial & TribulationsPart 14 - Trial & Tribulations
(Best experienced with headphones. There are no bad Jon Everist tracks in this game, even if Greed Zenith isn't necessarily the most memorable of the bunch.)
We're confronted by a guard roughly seven seconds after arriving at our destination. Maybe getting our name in the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest blown shadowrun in history will be enough to impress Luca's people.
Okay, guess we're in the clear. On a mission like this it's of utmost importance to avoid unnecessary attention to the last, so we need to act as inconspicuously as humanly possible. No one is allowed to suspect a thing.
No, I'm a shadowrunner here on a job. This uniform is just a clever disguise.
[A low growl, amplified by the speakers in the guard's helmet, reverberates in your ears.]
Watch it. They might think you're hilarious back at the office, but there's nothing I hate more than a wiseass.
Fine, sorry if I offended you.
Better. But keep the jokes to yourself from now on. Otherwise, I might just decide to treat you like the criminal that you claim to be.
[He drops his hand to the handle of his sidearm.]
Here's a hint: you don't want that to happen.
We could've kept taunting him for no good reason which is funny but a little unprofessional:
That's your problem, not mine. It's a free city, I'll say what I want.
Yeah? And if I feel like it, I'll toss you in a holding cell and leave you there for a week. Try to resist, and I'll break both your legs while I'm at it. I'm Security here, chuckles. You're just a glorified janitor. Remember that.
I'm quaking in my boots, tough guy.
[His fingers hover over the grip of his sidearm, but only for a moment.]
If I hurt you, I'll have to fill out a lot of paperwork. I hate paperwork.
I hear you, we're not exactly here to shop and to have a cup of soykaf at the local café either. We'll be in and out before anyone even realizes we were there.
Efficient operation you're running here. It's almost as if you were expecting me.
We were. No one gets on or off of that train without us knowing about it. Don't worry, all of the correct paperwork has already been filed. You and your crew are good for the next twelve hours.
That should be plenty of time for us to finish up what we're working on.
I'd assume so. It was your management that submitted the paperwork, after all.
Now remind me, what does the rest of my crew look like again?
We can only hope Luca's people are watching right now, you don't get to see a master of infiltration at work every day.
Oh, yeah. Right! Sorry... you see, I was running late, and I forgot my soykaf this morning.
Happens to the best of us.
Yeah. Anyway, I'll just get moving, then. Thanks for your time.
[He nods.] Have a good one.
We come across the person the guard was referring to a little ways into the small park area, standing between a pair of obelisks. In a JRPG this'd 100% be a boss fight spot.
Um... hello? Are you Ms. Rosa?
Who are you, and how do you know my name?
Wow, she's real good at this, it's almost as if she really was just an ordinary woman instead of a scarred professional hired by a powerful organization.
You sound nervous, Jana. How many runs have you been on before?
None. I'm not like you... you should probably know that.
Oh gotcha, workplace humor. "None", that's a, that's a good one. Good joke. Funny.
You'll have to clarify that. What *are* you like?
A normal person, with a boyfriend and a cat and a shitty apartment.
..."Electrician" isn't secret code for "badass rigger", is it.
If you're not a shadowrunner, what are you doing on this crew?
[Her flace flushes.] I'd rather not talk about it. Let's just say that someone did me a favor once, and that coming along on this thing is how I have to pay it back.
So this is what Luca intended to be our real test from the start, huh. Maybe something like this was to be expected, but sending an ordinary civilian to do criminal work which carries a serious risk of real combat just to raise the stakes is kind of fucked up. We accepted this job knowing we can handle ourselves fine even when things don't go as expected, but having to watch over someone else as well makes things more complicated.
Do you at least know how to defend yourself?
Well, kind of. I brought my taser, and I have a little hold-out pistol for self defense. I've done some shooting at the range. But I've never fired at a living thing before... certainly not a person. I'm hoping that we can get through this thing without me having to.
Right. Well, I'll try to get you through this safely, but I can't make any promises.
[She nods eagerly.] Thank you. I really, really mean that.
Now take this in the spirit in which it is intended, but our teammates... they know what they're doing, right?
Y'know, usually one needs to wait until at least halfway through a shadowrun before everything suddenly turns into a horrible nightmare. We're seriously getting ahead of schedule here.
This just keeps getting better and better.
[The dwarf wrings her hands.] I'm sorry! I told them to wait, but they didn't listen. They just muscled on past me and waltzed through the front door.
Wonderful. We've got a job to do, and half of the team goes running off before I get here.
At the very least the remaining two people appear to have actual combat experience, even if they both seemingly picked "Berserker" at class selection. Poor Jana though, she sure has landed in a messed up situation.
There's nothing you could've done. I'm not upset with you.
[She gives you a small smile.]
I never thought I'd be in a situation like this. Frankly, I'm terrified.
All right. You said that our missing teammates are already inside. Are you sure about that?
Yeah. I watched them storm through the front doors of the building that we're going to hit about ten minutes ago. They'll still be on the first floor though! Without my help, there's no way they could've gotten too far ahead of us.
How do you know that?
If only this crew's brains and brawn had been divided more evenly amongst its members. Oh well, it looks like we've no choice but to play the hand we've been dealt to the best of our ability, even if the dealer himself has turned out to be crooked.
All right. Let's get in there before the others blow the run.
Yeah. Okay. Let's do it.
All things considered Jana is actually pretty good at firing handguns. She's straight up better at it than Glory even, though that maybe says more about the latter than the former.
Not that a piddly self-defense pistol is going to do much of anything against any actual threats. If things do go bad she'll probably be better off using her taser and patching people up with the pair of medkits she has on her person.
The building entrance is a little ways ahead and across the street. But before we follow our overeager friends inside, we'll take a quick look around the surroundings.
The building's west side has a fire escape which we make a mental note of should we have to make a hasty escape. No going in this way though.
Heading over to the east side, we get a confirmation that the whole thing about us being watched wasn't just to sound mysterious and cool. Relax man, we're just doing some reconnaissance.
The isometric view ensures that Firewing herself could have popped out for a smoke on the building's east side with us being none the wiser, but while we're in the neighborhood we stop by at the local café to have a cup of soykaf.
What do you have?
We've got the cheapest soykaf in Berlin, guaranteed!
But of course, for hard-working folks like yourself, we do have *other* options. Options that corporate security doesn't tend to appreciate very much. "Productivity enhancers." Get the picture?
This magic picture is only visible to those with the Street etiquette or 3 Charisma. By the way for clarity's sake, I'll be bolding our approach of choice from here on out.
There's nothing I love better than enhanced productivity. What are you offering?
Sounds too good to be true.
Well, it's pricey. And there are some minor side effects.... if you take more than five in a single sitting, you'll probably get a nosebleed. I don't think that anyone has ever tried drinking more than ten at once.
[She pauses, considering.]
...Yeah, I probably wouldn't recommend that.
Alright, show me.
Jolt is pretty much Haste in a bottle, giving the same +3 AP as Cram but divided over three turns and with a weaker secondary effect. This makes it more useful for spellcasters who usually have to work within the confines of cooldowns, but Cram's still king for those who can make full use of its effect. Of course you can always take both for a real good time.
We buy some as a souvenir, and order a ¥2 'kaf to sharpen our mind for the upcoming run.
That was disgusting! How can you even *sell* this crap?
Got it on the cheap, and we sell it on the cheap. Folks on the street have acquired a taste for it. Sorry if you didn't like it, but you get what you pay for. If you have more expensive tastes, try a more expensive drink.
Another life lesson richer, we cease wandering around and head inside the building in the hopes that we'll still be on time to salvage this mess.
Okay, the alarm isn't blaring and there are no corpses in the immediate vicinity. Promising.
Geez, ever heard of the importance of good first impressions, pal?
[He jerks his thumb at the elf standing beside him.]
I'll leave it to you to keep our pack mule in line.
That's presumably not lunch that he's lugging around. Judging from how things have been going so far, Luca probably threw in a time bomb for extra motivation and we'll have 5 minutes to finish this job before it goes off or something like that.
He's dumb as a post, but he can lift heavy things. Might not be bad in a fight, either... at the very least, he can soak up a few bullets for the rest of us.
[Staring daggers at the mage, he spits out a long string of foreign words in a single, susurrant breath. The sound of it is lovely, but his expression leaves little doubt that the message behind the words is an ugly one.]
Oh, and I hope that you can speak Sperethiel.
[He shakes his head in disgust.]
Damned useless immigrants.
Boy, this is going to be one exhausting run, isn't it.
Do us all a favor and keep your opinions to yourself.
Oh, and by the way... think you could've gotten here any later, pal? I've got an important meeting to get to, and if I'm late, the shit is going to hit the--
This isn't getting us to your meeting any faster.
[James flashes a hateful glance at the dwarf, then turns his attention back to you.]
No. It isn't. So let's get to the penthouse and plant the cameras. I'll mask them against detection, and then we can all go our separate ways.
[The elf mutters something under his breath, and hitches the bulky pack up a little higher on his back. His muscles bulge under the strain of it.]
Looks like you drew the short straw on team assignments, friend.
[The elf blinks uncomprehendingly and takes a half-step back.]
I told you, he can't understand a word you're saying. Nothing's come out of his mouth but that pidgin drivel the elves call a language... a Tir Tairngire dialect, if I'm not mistaken. I wish that he'd do us all a favor and go back.
Right now I wish we could all just go back and forget that any of this happened, but alas.
Can you understand me at all?
[You mutter.] So Luca sent me in here with a civilian, an asshole, and a guy who doesn't speak German. Wonderful.
[Your words don't seem to have much impact. The elf's scowl deepens.]
Elves have marginally more luck with the foreign man:
Can you understand me at all, brother?
[The elf's dialect is completely foreign; it's quite unlike the form of Sperethiel spoken by the elves of Tír na nÓg. You only manage to catch a few words.]
You...terrible...insolence of threating! ... see if... at all?
Look, just be calm, my friend.
[Your words don't seem to have much impact. The elf's scowl deepens.]
I get the distinct impression that none of you actually want to be here. But we've got a job to do, so you're all gonna have to suck it up and deal.
[The mage leers at you.] Wonderful pep talk. Really, really magnificent. I can see why you were placed in charge of this run. Now can we please get moving? I don't have all day.
We know, we know. You have a meeting. I can get us into Aleshire's apartment, but there are a few things that we'll need to do first.
And do you know where we'll find that access panel, mouse?
Quit calling me that!
[She takes a moment to calm herself.]
And yes, I do. There's an access panel in one of the mid-range apartments on the same floor. My contact gave me a key code that should get us in.
You've said "should" twice already. That makes me feel uneasy.
At least there's one thing we can agree on.
Well, there's nothing that I can do about that. It's the plan that I was given, and we're stuck with it. Unless you have a better idea, we'll just have to follow our instructions and hope for the best.
[Jana's brow furrows.]
...Well, that's the theory, anyway.
Well if something works in theory then it's bound to work in practice too. That's how it works, right?
Alright then. Let's go.
A summary of our objectives, case you couldn't keep up with all the bickering going on.
James is a mage, and that's about all there is to say about him. If dickbaggery could be harnessed as a source of power he might be able to challenge Lofwyr himself, but as it stands he just comes with an assortment of basic spells and a Gold Trauma Kit for revival.
The nameless foreign elf carries an Uzi III and a katana, and is actually pretty damn solid at using both. Like Jana he's also brought a couple of medkits.
Alright, time to get to work. We need to find our way to the utility room, though there's a variety of other things to see here on the first floor as well.
A restless-looking ork is pacing back and forth in the lobby. Going by experience unhappy employees are an infiltrator's best friend, so let's see if we can be of assistance to him.
I don't want to be rude, but I'm a little busy right now. If this is about building maintenance, take it someplace else.
[James' cheeks flush red. He takes a step forward.]
Watch it. You don't get to talk down to me like--
Goddamnit James be quiet
[The ork bristles.] Like a janitor? Yes I do, because that's what you are. If you want to keep wearing that uniform, you'd better watch the attitude. Now, isn't there a floor that you could be cleaning, or something? I've got a lot on my mind to worry about... important things. I don't want to be bothered.
Charisma 3 and Corporate etiquette are the two available keys to this stress-ridden man's heart.
You think that just because we're in maintenance, we don't understand what you're going through? I have six 21-B's to file before the day is out, and if I don't, I can kiss my efficiency bonus goodbye.
[He shakes his head miserably.] I'm going to botch this. And the worst part is, most of those bastards will assume that it's because I'm an ork. They already make jokes behind my back. After this, it's gonna get a lot worse.
Yeah, that is pretty rough. But it just might be somebody's lucky day!
Hey, I've got a little something here. Sounds like just what you need.
Is that Jolt? I haven't had that since I graduated from business school! Oh, man, that stuff is the *best!*
How much would it be worth to you?
[He searches his pockets, growing increasingly frantic.]
God *damn* it. I left my credstick at home.
Yeah, I've heard that one before.
Just do us both a favor and don't take anything else, okay? If you try to rob me, the security cameras will catch it.
What do we look like, criminals? ...We don't, right? Because we're totally not.
Credstick on the table. Got it.
It's not exactly the master key, but we'll take it.
There's also a boutique food kiosk in the lobby, advertising a variety of "locally sourced" foodstuffs.
Seems this place was already infested by criminal activity long before we arrived. There's nothing else of interest in the lobby, so we start our tour of the place from a small hallway to the southwest.
At the end of it we find the building's security room. The door's unlocked and the sign above it is in some kind of made-up fantasy language so we help ourselves inside.
[The guard steps forward, interposing himself between you and the terminal.]
Your security clearance doesn't authorize you to be in here.
We're doing a building-wide maintenance sweep of all major systems. Want us to take a look at your terminal?
You know how it is with us and Management. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. It's ridiculous.
Story of my life. You have my sympathies.
We could probably make use of that terminal, but attacking the guard here causes an immediate alarm which leaves violence as the only available approach. We don't have to resort to desperate measures just yet, so let's look around for a quieter way to get rid of the pesky enforcer.
Well, we'll be on our way, then.
Take it easy.
Heading east from the lobby, we come across a store selling various suits. We're probably not in any particular hurry, so we stop by to check their selection.
[The saleswoman's expression brightens at your approach.]
Welcome to Dunkley's Fine Clothier's. Are you shopping for a suit...?
Let me see that suit there.
Ah, good choice! Style *and* safety. You have a good eye! Here, let me show you to a dressing room...
The Ballistic Cloth Suit is expensive but 5 armor is very solid this early on and +2 Charisma lets you pass any Charisma check with just 4 points in the attribute. External sources of Charisma don't provide bonus etiquettes though, sadly.
We don't really need it per se, but it looks a heck of a lot classier than our old outfit and as a mage we have extra spending money due to not needing junk like cyberware or summoning fetishes, so we take it.
Suits are not the only thing of interest in this particular store, there's also this junction box in the corner.
The guard she's referring to is standing outside the window, watching over the utility room we need to get into.
So I could use this one to overload the one that the guard is standing by.
[She looks at the junction box again and nods.]
Yeah... I could feed a nice power spike into that one from here. Y'know, if you wanted me to.
What would that do?
Make a loud bang, and arc enough voltage into that hallway to knock out a gang of trolls.
She's either a really good electrician, or these junction boxes fail to meet quite a few safety standards. But let's at least try the diplomatic approach before getting all zappy.
I'd rather you didn't, at least yet.
Fine by me, just thought I'd offer.
We circle around to the utility room hallway on the other side of the window. Sure enough, that's a familiar-looking box on the wall there.
[The guard's stance shifts slightly as you approach.]
Can I help you?
Yeah, could you open the door to the utility area? We have some work to do in there.
"Delta", "Theta", what's the difference really. They're all just words and words aren't real maaan
You're not listening. We have work to do in there.
I heard her loud and clear, mop-jockey. Now *you* listen to *me.* Nobody without Delta clearance gets through this door, period. I'd suggest that you talk to management. If you really do need to be in here, they'll upgrade your clearance. Otherwise, piss off.
Charisma 3 opens up a lot of paths in this game, including here.
Cool down, we're on the same side here. This is a Dispatch problem, I'm sure of it... I don't envy you guys having to work with them every day.
[His shoulders relax.] Yeah, I hear ya. I swear, it's amazing that anyone gets anything done at all around here. Tell you what. You don't need to go all the way back to management... just call in and get your clearance changed. I'll let you guys in as soon as the authorization comes through.
Charisma alone isn't enough in this case however, as the conversation simply ends here instead unless you're also as well-versed in matters of Security as we happen to be.
Nah, I'd better go take care of this in person. But one thing before I go... instead of this week's protocols, they sent us out with *last* week's. Anything change since then?
Right there with you, man. Now, about those protocols...
Yeah, let's see... they changed the Emergency Assistance Code from "November" to "Indigo." I think that's it, everything else should be the same from last week.
"Indigo." Yeah, thanks. Now I'd better head back to Management to get that clearance issue sorted.
Don't I know it. Take care of yourself.
Yeah, you too.
The final place of interest is the cyberware store in the northwest corner of the floor. Seems they already have a couple of customers doing some browsing here.
[Upon seeing your uniform, her nose wrinkles.]
Oh, hello. Are we in your way...? We wouldn't want to keep you from your work.
[Her spray-tanned husband chimes in.]
Right. The last thing we'd want is to come between you people and... whatever it is that you do.
Uhh, yeah... we've got some repair work to do. The flux dilator is leaking coolant. A real messy job, believe me.
Four out of five doctors recommend regular dilation of your fluxes. The fifth didn't listen, and we all know what happened to that guy.
[His eyes widen.] Is that dangerous? We should call security!
No need to panic, it isn't dangerous or urgent. Say, what are you looking at, there?
Our little Hans deserves the very best, and he'll need it if he's going to compete with his classmates at the Academy. That means headware from AugmenTech. We may not be as rich as the other parents, but this, at least, is something that we *can* do.
I'm surprised that they sell cyberware for children. Don't the kids... I dunno... outgrow it?
[The man sighs.] Yes, he'll need another one in a year. And every year after that, from now until college. But I suppose that's the price of success.
What about the kids that can't afford cybersurgery?
Yes. But that "someone" won't be our Hans.
It's an unfortunate situation, of course. But then, that's the world we live in, isn't it?
So the rich kids get the deck stacked in their favor, and the kids who got where they are on merit get shafted. Sounds about right.
Like I said. It's the world we live in.
Yeah, it is. You wouldn't want Hans to wind up at the bottom of the heap, like me.
Just imagine the flattest possible voice you can for that one.
I should say not. You seem like a good woman, and I don't mean to insult you. But you know how cutthroat it is out there. Hans will have every advantage, even if I have to mortgage the house to provide it to him.
That's big of you. I should get back to work.
[She waves her hand.] Goodbye, now!
What a depressing conversation that was. Let's do some browsing ourselves instead, cyberware isn't exactly our thing but it never hurts to check.
[The woman behind the counter smiles at you, her cheeks dimpling.]
I might be in the market for some cyberware...
Then you've come to the right place!
[She gestures at the terminal in front of you.]
Please feel free to browse our catalog. We have a *huge* stock of performance-enhancing augmentations to make *you* into the person you've always dreamed you could be!
Leonization is the term used for an extremely expensive combination of extensive gene therapy and cellular repair techniques done to halt and reverse the effects of aging, in effect restoring one's youth and extending one's lifespan. Because if there's one thing everyone wishes for, it's that the ultra-rich and powerful don't even die off properly.
Hey, this headware looks interesting. Mind if I take a look?
[She glances at the screen.] Looking at the new Encephalon, huh? Good choice. Our regional supervisor has one, and it is *amazing.* Totally worth the price!
...And what is the price? It doesn't say on this screen.
We're doing a special right now. Yours for only ¥250.
Like buying dollar-tier game bundles, we don't really need it but the cost is low enough that we might as well grab it for our collection.
That's... actually really cheap. All right. Please have it sent to the TRIAGE Cyberclinic in the Kreuzbasar.
[She swipes your credstick and punches a few buttons on her PDA. A flimsy slip of paper spills out of the terminal you're standing at and into your hand.]
Man, we're really bad with money.
Thank *you*, ma'am! Have a great day!
No more fooling around, we do have some actual work to do. We'll start by returning to the security room, now equipped with some insider knowledge.
I already told you, you can't be in here. Get moving or I'll have to escort you out.
Your buddy across the way wanted me to give you a message... "status Indigo, comm compromised." Does that mean anything to you?
The guard runs off, leaving behind an unprotected little security terminal.
Simple enough not to require any special skill checks. Maybe this'll give us some extra breathing room.
Making our way back, both guards are now conveniently located in the hallway with the killer junction box. If you have Jana overload it too early, you obviously miss out on this juicy opportunity. Of course without the Security etiquette you can't reach the security console without violence anyway, so you have to either go loud or skip that part.
It probably goes without saying that approaching the guards now is an unwise move and makes combat inevitable:
You there! Maintenance lady! Stop right where you are.
Is there a problem?
You're damn straight there is. You lied to me - nobody called a Code Indigo, and when Dispatch took a closer look at your work orders, they found that they were fakes. You're all coming with us.
[James' hands ignite with arcane energy. His mouth curls into an ugly smile.]
This is the end of the line for you, boys. Bad luck.
Hold on, everybody... we can still talk this out...
[Jana begins to stammer out an agreement, her eyes wide]
Yeah! W-we don't want any troub--
[The guards jerk their weapons out of their holsters and turn to fire.]
Take 'em out!
We opt for the less blatantly idiotic path this time. No guarantees for this pattern to hold in the future though.
So... is it time to zap some guards?
Eh, they're probably just unconscious. Despite Jana mentioning a "loud bang", this approach is seemingly completely silent as everyone else on the floor goes about their business completely unperturbed. Or maybe sudden hallway electrocutions are just considered one of the everyday risks of corporate life.
Either way, this shocking turn of events has earned us higher clearance and thus access to the almighty utility room. But hold on, didn't we already have Theta clearance and it was Delta that we supposedly needed? So they really were just words after all!
Nothing to loot here, so let's just get to it already.
All right, that should do it. I've bypassed the security lock on the elevator. We're good to head upstairs.
That was quick.
Touching. I don't know what this has to do with getting me to my meeting, but please, by all means, keep waltzing down memory lane. We'll wait.
Are you ever not a dick?
If only we could just give this guy the boot... but sadly we didn't have the presence of mind to pick up the "hide cameras" spell from Aljernon ourselves.
Here's the elevator. Against all odds, we've somehow managed to get this far unscathed despite the group of adult kindergarteners we've been forced to herd around. If we can just keep things together for a little while longer, we might actually be able to pull this off without everything crumbling around us like a piece of dry streuselkuchen.
Let's cross our fingers and head on up.