Part 42: The Meat of the MatterPart 42 - The Meat of the Matter
When we last left off, we were just about to escape the scene of the crime when Blitz suddenly accused Hasenkamp of being an assassin sent here to kill us. Having lured him into a room with several gun turrets, he then asked us to use the nearby panel to give him control of the weapons in order to blast our would-be killer to bits.
Hasenkamp meanwhile insists that he has no such intentions and that he only wants to leave with his mystery box from the bank vault in tow as per his boss' request. He claims Blitz is paranoid and wants to kill him in order to get the box for himself, despite not even knowing its contents.
And so it falls to us to decide the crotchety man's fate.
...Well, this is what it would normally come down to. But as we made our way through the bank, our laudably thorough exploration of the place yielded various pieces of information which all seemed slightly off in one way or another. Namely...
1. Very optimistic financial projections for Meat Grinder's loan business which the man's own accountant didn't know about.
2. Landenberg Ring's own plans to open loan centers in Drongenkippe, and a mention of a "silent partner" recently brought on for the plan.
3. A shoot-on-sight list which contained three names Blitz recognized; himself, Hasenkamp, and ourselves, attached to a warning about our plan to rob this place tonight.
Also, a recurring name which seems connected to all these things, Jürgen Plotz. An ex-employee of Meat Grinder's who didn't get along with Hasenkamp and at some point hopped over to the Landenberg side of the fence.
Now Hasenkamp did ultimately admit to also working as Grinder's assassin after not having bothered to mention that detail until now, so it's not particularly implausible that Blitz is right and he's here to off us as a threat or witness at Meat Grinder's orders. But with these three clues in our possession, we can put together a theory which if true, would mean that no one here tonight was ever meant to walk away a winner.
I think that there's something else going on here. I think that we've all been set up.
[Hasenkamp blinks.] Explain.
I think that your boss is in bed with the Landenberg Ring. I think that he's the "silent partner" that we read about.
[An astonished chuckle erupts from the old man.]
Mr. Grinder? Working with Plotz? Are you high?
Yes, but that's beside the point.
Look man, when you go on a run like this and to a place like this with freakin' Blitz at the helm, you need something to take the edge off.
I've known Mr. Grinder for twelve years. And I'm telling you, he would *never* work with that son of a bitch. Besides, if that were true, why would he have sent *me* in here to help you rob the place?
Are you familiar with the phrase "killing two birds with one stone?"
Don't get cute with me, Rosa. Say what you mean.
She isn't being cute, jackass. She's accurately describing the situation. Obviously, Meat Grinder wants you out of the way.
Blitz has either caught on or is just blatantly piggybacking on our conclusions, but the support is welcome either way.
Throwing around words like "obviously" doesn't make them true. Why the hell would Mr. Grinder want to get rid of me? I run his business, for God's sake!
[Hasenkamp falls silent, but his mouth curls into a frown.]
We also found those financial projections, remember? The ones that showed a massive increase in Grinder's future profits?
[His voice comes out flat. Disbelieving.] Those were fake.
...Or they were real, and your boss is cutting you out of whatever he has planned.
No. No way.
[He shakes his head firmly.]
Mr. Grinder wouldn't do a thing like that. Not to me.
The heck are you getting this kinda confidence for your irreplaceability from anyway, pretty sure for a guy like that everyone's just a slab of beef to throw into the mill when the time comes.
Use that business acumen of yours. What happens when the only two providers of a service merge together?
They form a monopoly. You're saying that Mr. Grinder and Plotz--
They're joining their businesses together, man! Read between the lines! It's actually not a bad scheme, come to think of it. The Ring tricks idiots into taking out predatory loans, and Grinder shows up to collect.
You get the irony of what you just said, right?
Sure. I get it. And *you* get that your boss is cutting you out of his operation, right?
I'm sure that the Landenberg Ring has plenty of accountants. Grinder wouldn't need you anymore.
Not sure whether to feel bad for the guy or satisfied to see him speechless for once.
From what you've told us about Plotz, he wouldn't want you in the picture, either. There's bad blood between you two, right?
[Hasenkamp's face has gone ashen. He nods dumbly.]
Yeah. Yeah, there is.
It all seems pretty clear-cut to me.
Yeah, we've recently grown pretty familiar with that particular feeling too.
So... I guess that means that we're all on the same team now. Right?
Pff, of all the people to get told-you'd by...
Also we have the option to respond to Hasenkamp's confession by going back to the original plan:
Blitz, I changed my mind. Waste this guy for me.
Uh, boss... are you sure? I mean, he's on our side now, and he didn't have to admit--
[Push the button.] Less talking, more shooting!
But really, we're all in the same crime boat here. Hell, we were given a job to go kill someone in the guise of helping them out literally a couple of days ago. No hard feelings now that we've managed to clear this little misunderstanding.
You were on a job, the same as we are. I can understand that.
Thanks. I was hoping you would. For what it's worth, you have nothing to fear from me now. I didn't *want* to kill you in the first place, and now that I've... um... "tendered my resignation," there are only two people who need to worry about me shooting them.
Just to be clear: I'm not one of the two people, am I?
No, Blitz. You're not. When we get out of here, I have a score to settle with Plotz and Grinder. And believe me, I will settle it.
Sounds great to me. I'll be back at the Kreuzbasar, scrubbing the filth of this place off of me. I feel like I've been dipped in grease.
Fair enough. Now, Blitz... you wanna open the door for us?
Yeah, sure. I'll just need one of you to push that button in the security terminal so that I can activate the security doors.
[He pushes the button.] All right, Blitz. I'm trusting you here.
Absolutely. Because I'm *trustworthy.* Now, I'll just activate those security doors, and--
Man, Blitz and opening doors is just not a combination that's working out tonight.
Get ready, Hasenkamp. We're about to have company.
And we were so close too. Seems these jerks have upgraded to 4-man squads now, what a pain.
Also two of the turrets are looking decidedly hostile so that's not great either. What exactly is going on over in cyberspace?
Oh right, another decker. That's like... the second time ever we've seen one, last time was in DMS when we were saving Coyote's cousin.
Who the hell *are* you, man?
I could ask the same of you. You're in *my* banking system, you little bastard.
I'm shaking in my boots, man. I mean, seriously. How *old* are you, by the way? Because you look about forty.
[The banker's face is overtaken by a menacing smile.]
I'm still spry enough to ruin your day, punk. Your ass is mine.
Remember that incredibly suspicious turret node area Blitz passed through early on in the mission? Because that's where this fateful cyberbattle will take place, and it's linked to the fight taking place in the real world in a way that's actually pretty neat.
Basically, Plotz has taken control of two of the turrets (which is why they turned hostile on our party) while Blitz controls two. The nodes can be hacked to turn the hostile turrets friendly, but Plotz can and will try to do the same. This is once again a situation where having the Excalibur is extremely useful because an extra AP can make all the difference.
Now this fight can be fairly easy or quite tricky depending on your approach.
Your first instinct is probably to summon your ESPs and go to town on Plotz. Problem is that he has an enormous amount of IP, a whopping 650 to be precise. He also has many of the same skills Blitz does, including an AoE which can one-shot your frail Exploder if you don't blow it up immediately.
Odds are this is followed by Plotz summoning his own ESP which proceeds to immediately hack one of the nodes, making you go "wait they can do that?" and turning the turret situation 3-1 in favor of Team Worse Guys. I'm certainly not speaking from personal experience on my first attempt with this fight, mind.
Equipped with the knowledge of ESPs' incredible hacking capabilities, we instead start by summoning the Exploder and sending its volatile butt to handle the east node which is the furthest from danger. I'm not entirely sure if you can end up with no ESPs to summon if you used them in the earlier Matrix section, but that would certainly make this one rather painful.
Blitz spends two of his remaining three AP to run towards Plotz, and uses the last to summon his other ESP (Attacker) which then proceeds to hack the south node. We now end the turn with all four turrets on our side which is a remarkably better situation from earlier.
Plotz spends his turn missing an attack on the Attacker and summoning his own, though this time it opts to head for the north node instead of the closer one to the west for some reason.
Fortunately Plotz's cyberassistant doesn't share his absurd toughness, so Blitz intervenes and ensures it never manages to cause trouble.
We now have a pretty decisive upper hand on the virtual portion of this fight, so it's time to focus on Plotz himself. He can still hack nodes but it's very hard for him to keep up on his own.
Of course the Landenberg goons won't just give up and fall over in the real world, so we still gotta work through these guys. You'll notice that all the turrets are on our side now which does not bode well for them though. Two Heavy Leylines also glow invitingly in the middle of the room, like a pair of runic nipples.
These guys aren't playing around either, the usual weakling rigger aside this is a pretty intimidating lineup. Certainly not people you want to fight while dodging turret fire at the same time. They're all bundled up so this'd be a great AoE spot, if only we had enough AP to reach one of those Leylines and cast our 2 AP spell...
...we do pocket some Cram, but the only other thing here is a vent which would require a drone to get through...
Oh, right. We usually make do without the assistance of "combat stims" but there's no way we can pass up on an opportunity this delicious.
Oh yeah, now we're about to have a party.
After the leyline- and drug-fueled lightning clears, nothing remains of the rigger or his drone and the three survivors are going nowhere fast either. The Enforcer got crit for -5 AP on top of the ongoing AP damage which is downright magical. And speaking of magical crits...
Boom! Man, Heavy Leylines are just the best. Bet Hasenkamp's feeling pretty happy about not having to try and kill us right now.
Meanwhile in cyberspace, Blitz has that putz Plotz cornered but the middle-aged nerd still puts up a decent fight. In a single turn he summons a new ESP, heals himself and blasts our Explorer to cyberbits with his AoE yet again. If all enemies were as lively as this guy we'd be in real trouble.
Still, the ESP is quickly taken out which lets Blitz and his Attacker ESP to continue unloading on Plotz with impunity.
It still takes two full turns' worth of attacks to grind through his mountain of IP, but eventually Plotz crumbles and the king of this particular cyberhill is decided.
Plotz is down, chief! Wherever he is, he won't bother us any more... after the beating I just handed him, he'll be down with a migraine for the rest of the day. All four turrets are back under my control too! Go to town, chief... I've got you covered.
Good job, man.
Gotta admit, we do make a pretty good team when all is said and done. Taking out Plotz doesn't automatically turn the turrets friendly by the way, so it's good to get it done first.
The remnants of the Landenberg assault force are deep enough in negative AP that getting to actually take a turn is but a distant dream for them. Standing on a Heavy Leyline reduces Flamethrower's cooldown from 1 to 0 which means we can just throw 'em around like normal attacks too. Have I mentioned that Heavy Leylines are great?
Alright, that should do it. Now then, let's get the hell out of
Oh what, there's more? They really saved up for this last fight, huh.
The turrets in the back greet the newcomers while the ones closer by are feeling too lazy to do anything for some reason. The guns can put out some pretty serious damage, they're a little inaccurate but they always fire twice and crit pretty often. Definitely something we prefer seeing on our side of the ring.
Now I could list the stats of the second group and talk about what they can do, there's a captain and a conjurer and something something whatever, but Lightning Ball just came off of cooldown and we're still standing on that Heavy Leyline so let's just cut to the chase.
Whoa, déjà vu.
Hasenkamp who has mostly been assisting with his grenades and laser pointer sorry, designator chimes in with a reminder that he's still pretty damn strong with that revolver of his. Maybe he was a wild west gunslinger in a previous life or something.
A combination of magical and turret fire tear through the remaining two Landenbergians, and this time we're done for real. Ultimately not a single enemy managed to take a single action which turned this potentially pretty tough and drawn-out battle into a complete clowning. That's what happens when you don't manage to geek the mage first.
Well. That takes care of that. And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go take care of Mr. Grinder.
My former employer won't be needing this anymore. Give it to your pal, Blitz... I'm sure that he can find a use for it.
Hey, all riiight!
At the end of the day Blitz got everything he wanted, his debt has been cleared, his creditor's about to be ground down in his own mill, and he even got his damn box all the while sipping soykaf at Burakgazi's. Man, maybe he really is the Chosen One or something.
What does it do?
Beats me. From the connections on the bottom, it looks like it was made to plug into a cyberdeck. Beyond that, I'm as in the dark about the thing as you are. All I know is that Grinder wanted it. That should be good enough for the Red-Haired Disaster.
Just don't get the two mixed up, heh.
What about Plotz?
Never did like the man. I'll give him a chance to scurry away, let him get his hopes up for a day or two. Then I'm gonna chuck his ass into a wood chipper.
Like figuratively or... oh.
Is that really necessary?
[He shrugs.] Probably not. But it's the little touches that make this job worth doing.
Remind me not to piss you off again.
I'll keep it in mind.
Long-term plans are a luxury we kind of don't have in our current situation, but it's always nice to have options. See you around and good luck, we didn't really get along at first but you ended up being pretty alright in the end. If not a little terrifying.
Time to leave Drogenkippe behind, hopefully for good this time. We'll bring Blitz his box, give him a good kick in the ass, take a long shower and then see what fun surprises the next day has in store for us.