Part 33: Into the Sealed RealmPart 33 - Into the Sealed Realm
By employing the not-so-latest innovations in drone technology, we've made it inside the closed-off laboratory containing Ezkibel's precious bioware with our dignity more or less intact. No obvious signs of anything being off in this entrance hall yet, so we flip a coin and check the door to the right first.
Beyond is just another nondescript and messy room, though one equipped with a computer terminal of vaguely scientific nature. Let's see if this thing still works, any information about what we might be wading into here would be welcome.
Tissue banks, animal testing... "special projects"? This all sounds perfectly safe and not at all like some horrible bioweapon monstrosity broke free and wiped the place out. We can click each of the entries for more information, so let's just go down the list here.
More or less what you'd expect to find in a cyberpunk biolab like this, nothing particularly noteworthy here. Let's try and avoid falling into the penis vats though.
Know your competition, huh. This also doesn't seem particularly relevant to the situation at hand, it's unlikely that some other company would be behind whatever happened here. Moving on.
An outside investor wanted to get ahold of the fruits of other companies' biotech labor? Well, well. Cold storage in the Executive Wing, let's make a mental note of that.
What, could there actually have been some truth to the accusations which led to the good doctor getting kicked out of Spain? Hard to believe. Downright shocking, really.
Not that we can take much of a moral high ground in this matter, or most matters that matter for that matter. And if we can make use of this bioware without the "tens of thousands of nuyen" -part to deal with the threat we and potentially countless other people are facing, isn't it all for the greater good in the end?
Well not really, but we're criminals so what do we care anyway.
It's just like that famous band, Billy & The Hellhounds. One would hope these guys had the sense to test their "experimental procedures" on something small and harmless. Y'know, like a baby goat. Get it, because then it'd be Billy the... yeah, you get it.
In reality they probably stuck four extra arms and a pair acid-excreting tentacles into a giant gorilla because that's just how places like this operate when they insist on getting inevitably wiped out. Well, we'll probably find out soon enough.
Before moving deeper into the facility though, let's go back and check that other door we passed.
Our powers of observation tell us that this served as an observation room of some kind. Let's see here...
At least it's a shorter list, if not an encouraging one. Seriously, who looks at hellhounds and basilisks and thinks "yeah I think these things aren't quite dangerous enough yet, they could use some enhancements"?
Risking a burnout or getting fired are genuine concerns in any average workplace, but these guys probably wouldn't find this particular wordplay very funny so let's just move on.
I have a hunch we already know what this poor creature ended up being called. But did nature get its revenge on arrogant man, or was the catalyst of this facility's ruin something else entirely?
No choice but to head on deeper if we want to find out, and so we'll do just that.
Both of the earlier paths converge in this larger room with a bunch more doors locked with panels, alongside a ladder leading to who-knows-where.
We first try out the two doors on the north side but both require clearance, levels "B" and "Executive" respectively. There's no hacking these doors either. Executive Wing is where we want to be, but I guess it figures that getting there won't be that easy.
The western door's panel is of more traditional design. We obviously don't have a keycard, but that's not necessarily an obstacle.
A computer in the network you say? With Decking 5 we could exploit this blatant security flaw, but since we lack all technological know-how we'll have to relegate the task to someone else.
Progress! We leave the mysterious ladder be for the time being and head on through the now open door.
Aw nuts, should've maybe taken that ladder after all.
NEW MUSIC: (also a slight volume warning, it starts very suddenly)
(One of the simpler combat themes, but it's got a good beat to it.)
Whatever happened here apparently didn't bring down the automated security, and so that job falls to us instead. We're up against pretty basic fare, a pair of attack drones and a single support one. The most noteworthy thing about these guys is that they all have 5 armor which makes Strip Armor particularly useful here.
"Geek the support drone first" doesn't quite have the same ring to it as the usual wisdom, but hasted Eiger complies nonetheless and manages to land all three of her shots like a pro. We know from experience that we don't want any of that unpleasant grenade and/or mortar business here.
The remaining attack drones strike back and while they're no Prime & Jade Rabbit, we still don't want to get crit by their 15 damage guns. Thus we make sure to keep our butt behind cover.
Here's a bad strategic decision for ya, opting for Lightning Ball against two heavily armored enemies behind cover instead of casting Strip Armor or a disable. It might look flashy, but our 12 damage spell is reduced to 4 and 0 damage respectively.
If only we were in a JRPG, everyone knows machine enemies in those are universally weak to lightning.
Eiger loses line of sight with her rifle and switches to close-range combat, lighting one of the drones on fire but otherwise getting similarly stymied in the damage front. The drone gets full cover bonus even from this position despite it visually looking otherwise, cheating bastard.
The outnumbered security fails to accomplish anything of note on their turn, so we continue dismantling them. If drones had emotions I might feel bad for the amount of abuse we've heaped on this one in particular. As it stands... eh.
Ultimately security measures of this caliber prove woefully inadequate against our collective might, and the way ahead is clear.
Right then. We have a few different ways to go from here, including the area we saw behind the glass in the observation room.
The door closest to us leads to ladder town with a ladder down, likely connected to the first one we saw. We've already met our sewer level quota, so we'll stick to ground-level exploration for the time being.
The observation chamber, or whatever you call it, contains a grand bounty of ¥55 lying on top of a closed pod. There's some blood spatters on the screen and desk nearby, but based on what we read that might just be the result of these guys' standard examination procedures.
Alright, let's check those double doors up there next.
Dum dee dum OH HOLKY FUCK
Fucking hell, don't just charge us completely out of nowhere like that! Are you out of your mind man?
That... that was really meant as a rhetorical question, but uh...
Er, anyway, did you take the shameful dumpster diving approach when entering the facility? Well if you thought you'd heard the last of it you're dead wrong, as in that case this encounter start slightly differently:
Y-you there! Who are you?
[He stalks toward you, his hands twitching. When he gets within a few feet of you, his nostrils flare and he begins to choke.]
Good LORD! W-what is that gut-churning *stench?*
Well, there was this dumpster...
No matter! I will suffer through it, for the good of my realm!
[His hands clench into fists, and his face goes beet red.]
As for you, foul vagrant... how *dare* you enter my domain?!
Easy there, pal. I thought that this lab was abandoned.
Abandoned?! This is my territory! My *home!* You are an invader in my territory, madam, and you have *murdered* my peasantry!
[Dietrich mutters under his breath.] We've got a live one here, boss.
[The man continues his rant without pausing for breath.]
You are a murderer! A monster! You will pay!
Well he did get two out of three right, gotta give him that. But that aside, what... exactly is happening all of a sudden?
Hold up. Who are you?
This... this is going to be something else, isn't it.
There's a strangely tempting choice here:
(Attack him.) All right, Your Majesty. Consider this a declaration of war.
But I guess we should try and er, establish diplomatic ties.
Slow down there, "Knight-King." What are you talking about?
I am the sovereign ruler of this building, now and forever!
[He puffs his chest out even further.]
By right of succession, the former laboratories of Sutterlin BioScience belong to *me!*
Succession? Who died?
Ask a stupid question and all that I suppose.
Once, I shared authority with another, my dear friend Heiner. Our duumvirate led this building into a golden age; together, we liberated the Animal Testing Labs and annexed them into our territory. But then Heiner got eaten by Billy, and the burden of leadership fell onto my shoulders.
I think the minds of everyone present are growing increasingly troubled the longer this conversation goes on.
Your "peasants" opened fire on me. I destroyed them in self-defense.
No! They wouldn't do that! They were gentle and kind! You're an outsider. You don't understand the bond of trust and respect that we shared!
Can't argue about that.
Well either way, I have good news for you, your highness. The door's open. You can leave now.
Leave?! Abandon my kingdom? Never! For I am a proud and benevolent ruler! This is *my* sovereign territory, and I will *never* abandon it!
Man oh man. This guy's a handful and a half, but we still have a job to do and "Philip Rex" here is the only one left who knows the place, if we can get him to cooperate. So let's try and play along for now.
All right, "sire." I'm sorry about your "peasants," but I'm on an important... um... "quest."
Tell me about this quest of yours, good madam. Leave nothing to the imagination!
[He leans forward, smiling.]
You have my rapt attention.
That's an uncomfortably high amount of attention, but we seem to have gotten on his good side somehow so let's just get to the point right away before he changes his mind again.
I need to get my hands on the bioware prototypes that are being stored in the Executive Wing.
I think I've read about this "Billy." He was Sutterlin's albino basilisk, right?
"Was" is right. Now he is so much more... a creature of legend! Years of experimentation have remade the beast into the ultimate killing machine. He's smarter than ten men, and five times as deadly!
If that's by local standards, I don't think we have much to be worried about.
If this "Billy" is standing in my way, I guess that I'll have to kill him.
[He snorts.] A fool's errand. Heiner tried to kill Billy once... he thought that by eating the beast, we could steal its power. Hubris. Billy devoured my friend for his insolence, and the last remaining copy of Keycard E was lost.
I have eaten nothing but vat-grown metahuman organs for a year and a half, stranger. I would kill for a choco nub.
Hold on, wh-... No, actually, no. We don't need to hear a single word more about this subject. We're just going to move right on and pretend we never heard that last bit.
I think that I've heard all that I need to about Billy. Just tell me how to get into the Executive Wing.
Using this, you can descend to the underworld and face Billy. If you should survive the encounter, search for the long-missing Keycard E. Use it to reopen the Executive Wing, and I will see to it that you are richly rewarded!
Back in control, we could go back and talk with Philip some more, but for the sake of preserving our own minds let's first check out the area he charged in from. Aside from some holding containers right out of a sci-fi horror movie and a bunch of computers which we can't make use of, there isn't anything of note in this section though.
The smaller room to the back does hold something we can interact with however.
Hmm, maybe this could give us a more reliable account on what exactly has been going down here in the past couple of years. Worth a shot at least, let's search the video archive and see what we get.
Could it be that "Philip Rex" over there is imitating the tone of this cheesy fantasy show? Wait, how many times has he watched these exactly?
Dear god, the poor bastard. What could've happened here that left him stranded in this nightmare existence of sustaining himself on cloned organs and bad Slovakian television? The oldest archive footage is from 18 months ago so it probably won't have the lockdown on it, but maybe we'll learn something else.
I'd be willing to bet that we can hold out for two to three months on what's stashed away in that snack bar. We're sure to be rescued before we run dry.
Philip, or Phil, is looking a lot less unhinged and unshaven here. It's almost weird seeing him like this.
The snacks are great and all, but they can't be our staple foodstuff. We need to stretch them out as far as humanly possible. And that means supplementing them with something more substantial.
[There is a long pause.]
You don't mean...?
Look, just think of it like farming, right? If we look after our crops, we'll always have food to eat. We have enough supplies on hand to keep the tissue cultures in the OrgChem Wing growing indefinitely. What I'm talking about is growing meat for our own survival. That's all it is.
*Metahuman* meat, Phil. Synthetic hearts and livers and kidneys, grown to be implanted into people like you and me. You're talking about eating people parts. It's fucking disgusting, and I won't do it.
You're talking like they're never going to rescue us.
We're in Berlin, Heiner. What "they"? Who do you think is coming? We need to be prepared to survive here for a long time. Maybe years. And that means making the most of the resources at our disposal.
You're talking about resorting to cannibalism, man.
No. I'm talking about eating meat.
Guy was clearly sharp as a tack back then. Despite his rather goofy demeanor in the present, the circumstances are actually pretty damn tragic. What a horrible situation to be stuck in, and for so long.
The next bit of footage is from four months later, 14 months ago from the present.
[Heiner's voice crackles in over the intercom. Philip doesn't look up.]
I'm going now, Phil. No more arguments, okay?
[There is a long pause. In lieu of responding, Philip takes another bite of meat and gnashes at it with his teeth.]
We already know he never came back from that trip, though the part about eating it to gain its power appears to have been a slight embellishment. Phil was clearly having a hard time already, losing the only other human presence must've really done a number on him.
The next bit of footage is from three months later, 11 months ago from the present.
Indeed, some real cheesy fantasy theme is audible in the background of the video feed. Don't worry, I'll throw in a link to it later.
Oh, man! That's it, that's the show! I forgot how bad the dub job was!
[Philip stares, glassy-eyed, as the show begins. The synthesized music blares.]
Please make this stop.
My life is sworn to PROTECT those PEASANTS, she-elf! Run back to your enchanted trees if you will, but a KNIGHT-KING will *NEVER* flee!
[Her voice comes out in a lilting wail.] But Titonius! You cannot die! I... I *love* you!
Then go to your father, and beseech him to rally his elf-troops southward! For if TITONIUS REX falls, LIGHTNINGHOLD will fall! And Lightninghold WILL NOT FALL!
Truly, a fate worse than death. Almost makes you not want to watch the next bit of footage from three months later, 8 months from the present.
[Philip's lips move silently, mouthing the words as they are spoken. Evidently, he has committed the entire script to memory.]
[The breathy actress lets out a sharp gasp. Phil mimes the motion, and a tear begins to trace its way down his cheek.]
But Father! You can't mean...
Yes, my daughter. *I* was the one they called "THUNDERSPEAR" - the sworn enemy of Titonius Rex's people, the Honga barbarian tribe!
Then all of this is your fault! The Jubuthons, the threat to my beloved's soul... all of it!
It was the only way to save Trala-sheen, my darling daughter. Trala-sheen... and your *mother,* whom I hid away when you were but a girl. She's *still alive,* Brenna-thay!
I think we've seen enough. Too much, probably. But as one last thing let's take a look at today's footage, from when we invaded the kingdom.
Danger. Danger. Intruder Detected. Security Protocols Engaged.
[Philip rests a hand on top of the little drone.]
I admire your bravery, noble vassal. But this is *my* fight. I, Philip Rex, will defend this land with my life - indeed, with my very soul!
Sir: Please Clear the Area. Hostiles Inbound.
No, noble spirit. It is *you* who must...
I Repeat: Clear the Area. Hostiles Inbound.
[Philip nods slowly, his face beaming with pride.]
Maybe you're right. I am already Knight-King; perhaps this is *your* time to shine. I will not rob you of this moment of glory. I will allow you your moment in the sun! And when you return victorious, I will grant you lands and titles to reward your heroism.
Please Clear the Area.
Alright, that'll do for today. Next time we'll seek another audience with the Knight-King and then embark on our grand quest to rid the kingdom of the terrible monster making its nest in the darkest depths of the underworld.
We must, nay, we will succeed in our task. For riches, for glory, and for those who have fallen.
And above all else... for Lightninghold.