Part 28: The Spider's GraspPart 28 - The Spider's Grasp
We somehow managed to wade through the seemingly endless waves of Knight Errant troops, but the first thing that greets us upstairs (or downstairs?) is not a congratulatory party but rather a locked cell with a bunch of bodies in it.
Members of that botched operation no doubt. We could very well end up the same way if we ever get careless in the middle of a job. Being turned to ash by dragonfire would honestly be a more preferable fate, there isn't much dignity in leaving behind a gross leaky corpse in the hallway of some corporate building.
And what lies beyond this door?
If you guessed Knight Errant, your pattern recognition capabilities are commendable. If you guessed basilisks, you've surely played this game before and that's not a guess at all now, is it.
There's kind of a lot going on in this room, so let's take it one thing at a time. The most obvious thing is of course the squad of Knight Errant which includes a Conjurer, a Captain, a Grenadier and one random grunt. Probably the toughest group we've encountered in this place so far but hardly unmanageable, at least by themselves.
To the northeast we have the aforementioned basilisks which are safely locked away for the time being, alongside the rigger we came here to silence. At least they were smart enough not to put them in the same cage or this would've probably been a wasted trip.
On the northern wall we have this ominously labeled door. We've seen more than enough reinforcing already, so making sure this thing stays shut will be our top priority.
Easier said than done as the time limit to do so is quite restrictive. The moment this counter hits zero...
Four more guards pour into the room, including a second Grenadier and a Mage. None of that terribly inefficient two-man business we grew so familiar with this time around. This can quickly turn the fight into one of the longer and tougher ones in the entire game, and is really best avoided. But how?
The answer lies here, in these computer terminals to the southwest, relatively close to our position. Here's the bad news though - the security door controls can only be reached in the Matrix, so if you didn't bring Blitz or some other decker it's inevitably Meat Grinder Street for you. It's not a very relaxing neighborhood and there's no getting the smell off of your shoes afterwards.
Now even if you did have the foresight to bring a decker into a run in a Shadowrun game, 3 turns is still a very tight window and if you don't beeline it from the start you're unlikely to make it in time. Normally you might burn one turn just heading for the terminal, but luckily Blitz comes pre-equipped with his personal pocket drugs. A hit of Cram (the non-plot variety which comes with no ill side effects) will get him where he's going right quick.
As you probably noticed, there's also a switch next to the jack-in point. Simple interactions with things like buttons and doors don't consume AP if you're standing next to them. And even if they did, Blitz is so huffed up on Cram that he could palm slam that thing repeatedly and still have AP to spare.
Well, our contract never stated we weren't allowed to release the company's highly dangerous and probably very valuable specimens from their confinement just to see what happens...
Fly free, you ugly bastards. They're not any more friendly to us than they are to our enemies despite our help, but we're further away so they should at least prove a decent distraction.
On to the main task at hand. If you weren't fast enough and only have one turn left before the reinforcements arrive, by now you're pretty much boned.
Here's why - while the security door node is immediately visible, it's guarded by no less than five IC hiding behind cover which all must be taken out before the node can be hacked. Even with the double turns in the Matrix, doing so and still having the spare AP to run over the node is practically impossible in a single real-world turn.
Of course the action doesn't stop on the outside either. As usual we first focus down the spellcaster because we don't need any pesky conjurations here. That heavy ley line in the middle of the room is real tempting, but it'd leave us a bit more exposed than necessary.
While the basilisks decide to be lazy and refuse to budge from their cell this turn, the Knight Errant spend their own moves bullying the poor defenseless Max who's unable to defend itself for as long as its owner is busy trying to stop this situation from turning into an even bigger mess.
Doing so isn't exactly a walk in the park though, even with two turns to spare. There's no time to play it safe and the melee IC in particular hit like cybertrucks.
By himself Blitz would have a tough time bringing this fight to a close in time, but fortunately he picked up an Exploder ESP somewhere between now and his previous job. It's nice to have such self-sufficient squadmates.
Exploders are only good at one thing, but it's a job they perform admirably. Spending 1 AP to blow up two IC from full health is a good deal by any measure.
Meanwhile the rest of the team spends their turn stripping the Captain of their armor (not in a pervy way) and subsequently kicking all AP out of them. Even if they survived they could never command the respect of their subordinates again.
With 4 AP's worth of cyberactions left until the time limit, Blitz smashes through the remaining IC and clears his way to the node.
That's a real load off of everyone's collective shoulders. I'd definitely give Blitz the MVP award for this particular run, but his head's bloated enough as it is.
He's not quite finished in the Matrix just yet though, now that the imminent reinforcement crisis has been averted there's time to check the second pathway nearby.
Within he discovers today's paydata and... another 5 IC including a buff-casting Sentry at the back? Man, Lofwyr give me strength to deal with this nonsense.
Actually scratch that, I don't want to owe that guy any favors.
I hate you so much you worthless pile of garbage data
Meanwhile in the real world the basilisks we so graciously liberated decide to ignore the Knight Errant next to them and instead head on over to make a statue out of Eiger for a turn, burning all her AP on the spot. Just about done with this place now...
In response the two conscious KE members ignore us and instead open fire on the basilisks, the Grenadier even taking cover on our side of the room. All sense has fled this place by now.
I'm not going to bore you with the details of Blitz clearing out the second IC army with the help of his remaining Attacker program, but he eventually gets the job done and we're finally done with the last of this mission's far too numerous cyberfights.
It had damn well better be worth something, it'd really suck if we had gone through all this trouble just to steal the formula for hellhound nail polish or something. Time for Blitz to log out and join the others in cleaning things up.
With the reinforcements locked out we're not in any real danger anymore, but a professional leaves nothing to chance. No sudden movements out of you!
The Grenadier and the pair of basilisks are still roaming around though. With 10 damage a shot before armor, a crit or two from this guy would still hurt like hell. Grenadiers are probably the most dangerous enemy type in the humanoid category since they pack a lot of firepower and aren't as squishy as mages.
Blitz gets into the action immediately upon his return to the world of flesh. Basilisks are the size of a small house and about equally agile, so practically every attack has a 99% chance of landing regardless of weapon or distance.
Grenadiers are a slightly dodgier lot, but not so much so as to avoid point-blank shotgun blasts. Eiger has had relatively few kill shots during this run, but she's always doing steady work behind the scenes.
Max gets some payback for those earlier cheap shots. Karma's a real jerk, and when it comes in the form of a killer robot it's a downright fucker.
It's really too bad we couldn't befriend these things, would've been cool to bring one home. Give Dante some company while we're out on missions, y'know? Or make cool statues out of burglars.
The remaining Captain ultimately succumbs to the massive bleeding caused by multiple claw-induced lacerations, and another long battle draws to a close.
Now then... we do still have a job to do. We've already done a lot of killin' of course, but that was all in self-defense.
[He looks like he's had a rough go of things. One of his eyes has been blackened, and his lower lip is split wide open. Not particularly surprising, given the temperament of his captors.
The only incongruous element is his outfit. He's decked out, head to toe, in patched black riding leathers. A pair of oversized, studded combat boots shine in the halogen glare of the cell's lighting panels. From his style of dress, it's obvious that this dwarf is not a corporate employee. He's a shadowrunner.]
[Eiger sighs.] I always hate having to kill one of our own. Still... the job's the job.
Yes. It is. All the same... it feels like we're on the wrong side of this one.
[She shrugs.] Not our call... not anymore. We took the run. We have to follow through.
The crew dialogue here varies depending on who you bring, though most of it more or less the same as above but with a slightly different combination of characters (e.g. Blitz can lament that they're on the wrong side instead of Glory). The more worthwhile alternatives include
Eiger + Dietrich:
This isn't some corporate goon, boss. Look at 'im. He's one of us.
[Eiger eyes him narrowly.] We have to kill him, Dietrich. It's the job.
The client never said that he was one of *us*, though. Bastard kept that from us.
That doesn't change...
Yes, YES, Eiger. I *get* it. The job is still the job.
[He shakes his head.]
But that doesn't mean that I have to like it.
Glory + Dietrich:
This isn't some corporate goon, boss. Look at 'im. He's one of us.
[Glory shudders, but holds her silence.]
[Dietrich lays a hand on the bare metal of Glory's shoulder. She flinches, but only barely. When he speaks, his voice is soft.]
"There but for the grace of God," eh, love?
[Glory's eyes remain fixed on the rigger, who continues to hammer impotently on the door of his cell.]
Something like that.
Blitz + Dietrich (similar to above):
This isn't some corporate goon, boss. Look at 'im. He's one of us.
Poor bastard. His team gets iced on a run, he gets captured... probably tortured... and now, the cleaning crew shows up to finish the job. All for the crime of being a "loose end."
[Dietrich shakes his head.] "There but for the grace of God," eh, Kleiner?
[He gives Dietrich a solem nod.] You said it.
If you bring no crew members at all:
Poor bastard. Doesn't even know what's coming.
Anyway, a switch near the cell frees the battered man from his confinement.
Yeah uh, might want to save your thanks. We have the option to shoot Thorvald on the spot right now which Eiger finds quite agreeable, and everyone else less so. But that's maybe a touch cold even for us, so we'll cover that alongside other alternate paths later.
Afraid you're wrong about that. I was sent here to tie up loose ends... namely, you.
[His eyes go wide. He raises his trembling hands in surrender.]
Whoa there, chief. I... I don't know what your client told you...
He said that your team botched a run. Went loud too early, and got a lot of people killed.
Us? *We* botched the run? That's bullshit, man! *We* did everything like we were supposed to. Like always! It was that bastard's bad intel that got us hung out to dry!
Please, hear me out. I promise, I'll make it worth your while if you do.
Couldn't hurt to hear what he has to say...
It doesn't matter what excuse he feeds us. Nothing can change what we have to do. A contract's a contract, Rosa.
[His hands clasp in front of him in a sign of supplication. You can see the terror in his eyes.]
Go ahead. Talk.
Eh, information is everything in the Flux, right? Can't hurt to get another version of the story.
All right. Okay. So, we go in, right? Me and my team. And we're doin' just what the client told us to.
According to the client, the *reason* why Knight Errant showed up was because your team started slaughtering the lab staff.
That's bullshit! *They* attacked *us*! And then Knight Errant showed up, and everything went to hell.
The lab staff attacked a group of armed shadowrunners? Talk about employee dedication...
There's also a Shadowrunner etiquette choice above if you made the mistake of picking that one, thinking it'd be useful since you're playing a shadowrunner in a setting called Shadowrun. Or maybe because it was one of the less bad choices in the previous campaign. But alas, Shadowrunner etiquette is in fact the least useful one of them all and literally never comes up again after this mission.
(Shadowrunner) Quit trying to shift the blame. Adapting to unanticipated situations is part of a shadowrunner's job description.
Oh, for Christ's sake. What were we supposed to do? Thanks to Fuchs' bad intel, we left all the heavy ordinance at home. "No collateral damage," he told us. Funny how little KE seemed to share his concern. Took 'em all of two seconds before they started lobbin' grenades at us.
You know where I'm coming from, pal... I can see it in your eyes. You've been on jobs that went south before. The only difference between you and me is that you were lucky enough not to get caught.
Look. I can see that you're skeptical... I get that. Can't blame you for it, either. You don't know me from Adam. But I know one thing that you *will* understand. I'd like to offer you a trade.
You let me live, and it's all yours. I'll put a fucking ribbon on it for you. Then I'll disappear, never bother any of you again. Scout's honor.
I don't know... got any proof that you were actually a scout?
[He nods slowly.] Fifteen, huh? I... I can match that. You let me live, and I'll pay your wage. *Plus* the inducer. Hell, you could even tell your client I'm dead and bill him, too. *Double* your earnings. Whaddaya think about that?
Mostly that it sounds too good to be true, there's approximately zero chance we'll be able to waltz out of this with 30k in our pocket and with nobody any the wiser.
How'd you come by the fifteen grand?
I hit a big payday a while back. Put the extra cash in my rainy-day fund. Trust me, pal. I can pay you the money. You help me out, and I'll transfer it to you myself... we just need to get back to the room where I stashed my PDA.
And what does this "Pain Inducer" do, exactly?
Well... as long as we're still in the building with our target within claw's reach, we might as well keep our options open, right?
Deal. Let's get you out of here.
You won't regret it, friend. Promise.
Aw relax Eiger, don't be such a Morrigan. It'll be fine, we'll just play it by ear.
Now Thorvald's not gonna be fighting a thing, but since he technically counts as a party member for this segment here's his overview anyway:
5 hit points won't carry anyone very far. We do have some spare Medkits but eh, he'll live. Maybe.
Knight Errant avoided the classic RPG mistake and properly stripped Thorvald of all his gear before locking him up, but luckily for everyone they did let him keep his clothes. It's already been a long day and the sound of sweaty dwarven testicles flopping around sure wouldn't make it feel any shorter.
As we're passing by the local body storage...
My old team. Sorry sons of bitches. Bet they never thought I'd be the last man standing.
I'm usually right in the thick of the action. Easy to get shot under those circumstances. If I hadn't been downstairs when KE smashed in, I'd be in that pile with them.
Funny. In my experience, riggers usually stay away from the thick of combat. They tend to use their drones for that.
Well, I ain't that kind of rigger. Drones ain't my thing, so much.
Nah. I'm a spider... my specialty is taking over building systems. To do that, I need to find a data tap. And to do *that,* I need to charge on in with the rest of the team.
Don't deckers usually handle that kind of thing?
[He chuckles.] Yeah, they often do. They don't do it *well,* mind you. But they do. Deckers can *manage* a building, sure. But when I rig into a security system, I *become* the building. Anything hardwired into the system becomes a part of me. Turrets, doors, elevators... you name it.
Right... maybe tone down the creepy a notch there, pal.
There's also another Shadowrunner choice above. In fact, all but one Shadowrunner etiquette choices are confined within this single mission. The only exception was the one in the sewers which would've allowed us to lower Ezkibel's asking price for feeding the ghouls, and Socialite would've done the job as well.
(Shadowrunner) A security rigger, huh? Don't see too many of those in the shadows. Lose your corporate job?
Corporate life... well, let's just say that it wasn't for me. I needed to work in an environment where my creativity would be rewarded.
I think we might've seen some signs of your "creativity" on the way up here.
[He shrugs.] Might've. Can't say one way or another until you show me what you're talkin' about.
Either way, my condolences for your team.
[He lets out a low chuckle.] No loss, believe me. I hated those pricks.
If you knew 'em, you'd do the same. Miserable bastards, the lot of 'em... no appreciation for creativity. ...Anyway, we should probably get movin', don'tcha think? I don't wanna be here when more of those Knight Errant bastards show up.
Seems like a real pleasant guy to work with. The more strangers we meet the better our own team looks in comparison, personal differences and all. But he's not wrong, this isn't the best time to stop for a picnic. Dead people make for unappetizing scenery anyway, unless you're a ghoul I guess.
The main floor is as silent as we left it. Deadly silent, if you're feeling especially clever. But what counts is that we're in the clear for the time being.
As we reach the scene straight out of a cheesy slasher movie from earlier...
See something funny?
Oh, no... nothin' much...
[His smile broadens, and a stream of giggles comes pouring out of him.]
No, it's... uh... it's pretty horrible stuff, man.
You said that you were a "spider," right? Is... this... your handiwork?
[He looks you dead in the eye, and for a moment his expression remains unchanged. Then his smile broadens, and a stream of giggles comes pouring out of him.]
That doesn't look like a Knight Errant employee. Looks more like a lab tech to me.
[He nods enthusiastically.] This was a *fun* one. Little prick couldn't believe it when I set the autosurgeon on him. He kept tryin' to get away, but wherever he went, one of my arms was there. Rrrrrrrrip. Rrrrrrrrip.
[Glory gives you a significant glance. You can see the disgust in her eyes.]
I'll point out other stuff when we see it... there was this one guy that I locked in a room with a manipulator arm...
[He wipes a tear from the corner of his eye.]
It was fuckin' *classic.*
[Abruptly, Enstad's laughter stops.]
The fuck is he talkin' about? We have a deal...
[She swivels her head to look you in the eye.]
If you don't want to kill him, step aside. *I* will do it for you.
I'll help. It's what we should've done in the first place.
Well this sure took a turn. I mean the guy seemed a bit off from the start, but... damn man. Well, guess we'll have to
And who's this bunch then, did some Matrix cosplayers get lost on the way to a con?
My, my. The intrepid Rosa, with her target in tow. What a surprise.
Who the hell are you?
Herr Fuchs sent us to check up on you. Given his recent troubles with shadowrunners, this should not come as a surprise.
[The Company Man smiles at Enstad. The rigger shrinks back against the wall.]
No more than your betrayal surprises me.
Yet another Shadowrunner choice here which solves the situation immediately, in a way:
(Shadowrunner) [Kill Enstad.] Betrayal? No. Enstad was never going to leave this building alive. Allow me to demonstrate.
What happens now?
You will relinquish Enstad to us. We will dispatch him, quickly and cleanly. As you were meant to.
And what about my pay?
It'd certainly be bad news if we were branded as unreliable, especially after Paul vouched for us...
My offer still stands, pal. You kill this asshole and let me walk, and I'll give you the same money, *plus* the device. And I won't try to guilt-trip you, neither.
If you have the slightest degree of professional integrity, you will surrender the rigger. Now.
What if I killed him for you instead? I was planning on doing that all along.
Right from the beginning, of course! Pinky swear!
[He hesitates for a moment.] If you kill him, here and now, I will report to Herr Fuchs that you fulfilled your end of the contract. But you must do it now. No hesitation, and no trickery.
Unique trinket or Mr. Fuchs' goodwill, huh... Well, since this is a pretty good cut-off point for this update, I think I'll leave this one up to you folks. What'll it be?
(In case you were wondering, yes, we can still kill Thorvald afterwards even if we spare him here, but the practical outcome remains more or less the same. Beyond that, no spoilers if you already know what happens, as usual.)
(Voting has concluded.)