Part 22: Dawn of the Wizard AgePart 22 - Dawn of the Wizard Age
We've slipped from the greasy paws of the Crew Background Zone, but we're out of the dialogue woods yet. Laine here has never been big on long conversations though.
You take a tumble, old timer?
I may walk with a crutch, but I'm not so feeble that I can't do without it. And time's are that it makes a decent weapon. Someone comes at me, thinks me weak. And I show him otherwise.
[Leaning to one side, Laine's crutch is caked in more blood and what appears to be bits of hair.]
Tell me who did this to you.
Just a punk with some bad ideas. Forget about it.
You sure you're all right?
I've suffered far worse, as you might imagine. And I don't need you or anyone else babying me.
Fair enough. I'll leave you be.
Next we'll check if "Simmy" Kim is lucid enough today to hold a conversation.
What, is everyone getting beat up tonight? What kind of lawless neighborhood... oh, right.
Are you all right, Kim?
I'm fine. Just another day in Berlin. Did you want something? Because I've got things to do, you know. Zaak says he has a new sim for me. One with aliens and a little girl I need to save. She's waiting for me, and I can't let her down.
Is there something going on around here?
There's always something going on. It's the Flux, right? It gives, it takes. Sometimes it takes more than it gives. And some things it takes are gone forever. Friends that disappear. Family that dies. People like Monika.
The only part that you repeat forever in real life is that incredibly cringeworthy memory of yourself that always pops up out of nowhere, no matter how many years its been.
So, how'd you end up in the Kreuzbasar anyway?
I don't know. I was living on the streets since I was a kid. Had no family, no home. I got mixed up with some... bad people. And I had a bad day. Ended up owing them money. Too much money.
Medicine, huh. We know Monika seemed to have encouraged her BTL use and Zaak is her provider, but it's still a little unclear what the connection between her and the crooked doc is. Based on what we've heard about the man, it's probably nothing good.
I... I really don't want to talk about this anymore, okay?
Alright. You take care of yourself.
Whatever I have to do.
Since we're right next to the place we stop by Der Weinkeller, once again finding Lucky Strike at the counter. Might as well ask her about the Lodge too, maybe she's done work for them.
Yeah, well, I was hoping that you'd want to chat.
Oh? Well, color me intrigued. What'd you wanna talk about?
Do you know anything about an organization called the Lodge?
Duerr's group, you mean?
[She tips back her glass and swallows.]
Sure, I've done a few jobs for them. They pay well. The whole "ominous secret organization" thing they try to keep going is a little weird, but whatever - money is money, and they've got it.
What can you tell me about Duerr himself?
I can't imagine any amount of money would be enough for us to start taking that guy's potato face seriously.
Afraid that I can't help you dig any deeper - he's an occasional client. And even if I knew more about him, I wouldn't tell you. Shadowrunners who kiss and tell have a funny way of dying young.
Right. So, been finding much work recently?
Yeah, but the Kreuzbasar isn't the best place to do it. There aren't a ton of jobs out here if you don't have a network.
We could ask her to get a network by joining our crew, but she's not interested. Which is just as well, our safe house is pretty cramped as is, plus those glowing tattoos look like they'd make it hard to sleep at night.
You don't have people in the Kreuzbasar?
Nope. My crew is in Mitte. There's lots of work out there if you can handle it, but life isn't as pleasant there as it is in the Kreuzbasar.
It's a nice enough place, but I don't know if that's the word I'd use.
No? I would. Compared to most of Berlin, the Kreuzbasar is about as quaint as it gets. Hell, it's verging on bucolic with all of the hand-holding and the rooftop gardens. You've found yourself a lovely, picturesque little corner of Berlin, Rosa. Guess I have to give your old boss some credit for that.
Right. Of the three people we've met today only two have been beaten recently, no doubt putting us well below the municipal average.
And what about this bar? Is the bartender here any good?
So are you a wine drinker, then?
Me? No. Never developed a taste for it.
[She tilts her glass, swirling the amber liquid inside.]
I'm not a big fan of sweet things - never have been, not even when I was a kid. I've always preferred smoke.
If you don't like wine, why hang out in a wine bar?
Because it's usually empty in here, and I don't like to be bothered. And as hopeless as the bartender is, it's tough to mess up scotch if you order it neat. Now, do you have another question, or...?
Okay, hint taken.
Nah, I gotta run. See you around.
Yeah, see ya.
We next find ourselves near Cafe Cezve, with Kami keeping watch outside.
What are you looking for exactly?
[The girl taps a finger thoughtfully against her chin.]
Well, youre new here. I know that you knew Monika, and I've got a vague idea about what went down the night she died. But I wanna know what you think your most exciting adventure has ever been.
Hang on. How the hell did you hear about that?
To be honest I'd be more shocked if she had somehow stayed in the dark about that one. Hell, I'm pretty sure there was a detailed breakdown of everything that went down in the local newspaper while we were still fighting our way out of the manor.
[She smirks playfully.] Remember, I'm Altuğ's ears and hands outside of the cafe. We share a lot of intel, he and I.
So what is the story between you two then?
[She glances away briefly before returning her gaze to you.]
I suppose I can tell you. If the Monika thing was a secret of yours, it's only fair I share one of my own.
I felt more comfortable with him than I ever did with mein Vater -
[Her eyes narrow only for the briefest moment at the word.]
- and we talked a lot when I was waiting around for my friends. He must've been fairly comfortable with me too, otherwise he wouldn't have offered me a job!
What is it that you do, really?
Technically I'm the barista, but like I said before, ears and hands. I run his errands, I gather gossip, and sometimes I even make coffee.
Might as well slip inside for a cup while we're here. No hookah options for us, sadly.
Is that the woman who has taken over for Monika, Burakgazi?
Jan is in his usual seat, and perhaps he has been since the last time we visited. Or perhaps since the dawn of time itself. Perhaps we're all just figments of Jan Goldschmidt's caffeine-riddled imagination. Would explain why everything's such a damn mess.
Who does it look like, Your Rotundity, the Pope from the Vatican?
Give her a soykaf! A big one! And put it on my account! I like the cut of her jib.
A LARGE soykaf? My, you *are* the generous one, Goldschmidt! Are you sure you can afford such a gesture?
[The fat man frowns.] And a scone! I was going to say, and a scone as well! Nothing is too good for her!
Everyone's been so depressing lately that it's comforting to see the little cafe family still being their usual selves.
A big soykaf AND a scone later, we now have the necessary energy to deal with the suffocating smugness inside Aljernon's magic store. All shops have upgraded their wares by the way, but for us it's only really relevant in here.
Another prophecy. The last prediction that you made came true... how did you do that?
Though it wasn't really made obvious, the Humanis compound was the school building she mentioned the previous time.
You are confused. I didn't *do* anything. I merely related what I saw.
[She blinks, then looks away.]
What I shared with you... it was an observation. Nothing more.
Whatever, lady. Luckily Aljernon's cryptic wisdom howitzers are still undergoing maintenance, so we manage to avoid that particular shelling and can jump straight to shopping.
Before we do that though, we burn through most of the Karma we've accumulated over the last couple of missions and increase our Willpower and Spellcasting to 7, in the process unlocking the final spell slot and the ability to illegally peep on Ley Lines even through walls and fog. The reason we do this now is...
...the fact that it gives us access to most of Aljernon's spell selection which has gone up not just one, but two tiers from before! In fact he now sells the strongest possible versions of quite a few spells, about 25% into the game. Truly, balance is for non-wizards. Who don't use rifles, anyway.
Here are the completely new faces. Blindness is damn near identical to Mind Wipe, that is to say borderline broken, but on a separate cooldown. Glue is far too situational, it'll ruin melee enemies but there aren't nearly enough of them to justify using a valuable slot on it. Plus throwing some glue on the ground is just a real lame use of magical power in general.
Stunball II is nice on paper but it kind of costs 3 AP to cast which we don't and won't have for a very long time to come, and even if we did it's not so good as to burn an entire turn on. In addition to Manaball, Ball Lightning and Fireball are the two big AoE damage contenders, both with enormously long cooldowns but different damage focuses. I like to pick Ball Lightning because AP damage is just too valuable, but obviously nothing's stopping you from just taking both and going to town like some fucked up nightmare version of Merlin.
We'll opt for a balanced mix of utility and damage, keeping one slot for Mind Wipe and upgrading our basic Powerbolt while we're at it. As I mentioned back when we shopped here last, high-rank Armor spells are incredibly handy as they in most cases either cap or remove armor completely in a single cast. We were no slouch in combat before, but now we're now practically kitted for endgame.
Between the various merchants there are also a whole bunch of different outfits available now, but we'll stick to our business suit for the time being. Oh, and we also sell all the old junk while we're here, it's always good to have some spending money in case something comes up.
As we wonder where to find unwilling targets for our new and improved spell arsenal, an opportunity presents itself in the form of a maintenance worker reeking of side quest and excrement hanging around near the southern U-Bahn station.
Sure. What's the problem?
Well, me and my buddy Viktor got called in from the next kiez over. Somethin's wrong with the sewers around here.
My best guess is that your pumps have shut down. Happens from time to time without proper maintenance. When the pumps shut down, the waste started pilin' up, and it's causin' some pretty major overflow problems downstream.
Doesn't sound like something I'd be good at. What do you want me to do about it?
From the face this guy's making, I'm not entirely convinced about that "nearly" part. It's like he's trying to do his best Max Payne impression and failing tragically.
The problem is probably somethin' basic. A clog that needs to be cleared, somethin' like that... restarting the pumps should take care of it. But no goddamn way am I going in there. If you'll do the job for me, I'll give you the nuyen we were paid for it. I don't need it, you can have it all. I can live without the money, but someone's got to fix those pumps before I can leave.
How many nuyen are we talking about, here?
Five hundred. For a job this quick, it's good money.
That sure ain't much, but we did just burn through most of our cash reserves in a shopping spree, so...
Fine, I'll do it.
You're a life-saver, chummer. If you find Viktor... well, if he's still alive down there, tell him I'm sorry.
Well we managed to avoid a sewer level for this long, but our luck was bound to run out sooner or later. You stay in this line of business long enough and those stinkin' tunnels will always come for ya in the end.
The sewer system is one of the few places around which seems unlikely to require any Matrix knowledge, so we'll take this opportunity to leave Blitz out and give Glory a chance to stretch her claws a bit.
Alright, let's get this done then. But hey, at least there are no random battles in this game so it's physically impossible for this to be worse than most other examples of the ol' classic.