Part 47: Man and MetalPart 47 - Man and Metal
We've successfully navigated our way through the oppressive corporate halls of the AG Chemie building and reached the heart of all evil, the executive floor. Haushofer's personal office is about to get a little surprise visit.
This particular room meanwhile is entirely nondescript and boring, so let's just head for the door.
...Maybe the visit will be less of a surprise than we'd initially hoped.
Well, that can't be good.
Nope, though also not terribly surprising considering how frequently we've seen this kind of development on our runs. The only question is whether Herr Schmidt is setting us up or if the building security have managed to figure out what's going on.
Either way we didn't come this far just to turn around and head back down now.
If we didn't know the notion to be ridiculous, it'd be easy to conclude that this otherwise unremarkable room with a lot of convenient cover and a spirit summoning spot glowing on the wall was designed to house a firefight somewhere in the near future.
Behind this room's door we immediately find another one, because when you're a big shot executive you gotta show off to the plebeians who can only afford one door. Didn't bother locking either one though, a lot of misplaced faith on nobody ever being able to crack a single 5-digit key code here.
...Huh, guess we're here. Figured we'd be in for another lengthy journey like on the previous floor, but this is a welcome development too.
That... that shouldn't be possible. Nothing can be implanted with that much chrome and live.
Bet she don't get one-upped in that particular category very often.
[Dietrich shakes his head.]
Yeah, this isn't right.
Stay cool, guys. It isn't moving. I think that it's... I dunno, on standby or something. The lights are on, but nobody's home.
Hope that's the only snake-like feature here, we're gonna need more than a pair of thick boots if that thing suddenly decides to lunge at us.
That's also a mental image that kinda makes you wish this console was at least a little further away.
Despite the disturbing nature of this thing, "Cyberzombie" is undeniably a pretty metal term.
[Blitz's eyes go wide.] Chief. Did you just read that? I am going to drive the *hell* out of this thing.
Hold your horses, Blitz. We don't know enough about it yet.
Yeah, yeah. Fine. Read up. But after you're done, I'm gonna do my thing. I mean, how many riggers can say that they've piloted a troll?
We'll talk about this later. For now, get out of my hair.
[He steps back, allowing you to return your attention to the control console.]
There's some options here depending on available party members and skills. Had we not done it already, we could extract the Schockwellenreiter's visual data directly from the MKVI here as well.
For now though, let's get some details on what precisely we're looking at.
MKVI PROTOTYPE DEMONSTRATION MODEL
This MKVI PROTOTYPE incorporates top-of-the-line cyberware from all AG CHEMIE EUROPA subsidiaries, including the ZEISS "DEADSIGHT" LASER DESIGNATOR, B.U.T. HEAVY INDUSTRIES "POWER-LIFT" INDUSTRIAL CYBERARMS, and the brand-new ZEISS "SENSE-SHELL" CYBERSKULL.
Where necessary, competitors' products have been incorporated into the platform (ARES DERMAL PLATING, UNIVERSAL OMNITECH MOVE-BY-WIRE, etc.). These systems should be considered PLACEHOLDERS for this proof-of-concept PROTOTYPE.
The BIOLOGICAL COMPONENT of the MKVI was selected for size and durability by GENERAL GENETICS WORLDWIDE. All autonomous functions necessary to maintain the BIOLOGICAL COMPONENT are original to the component itself, and should self-regulate within operational limits.
As a proof-of-concept demonstration model, the MKVI was designed for REMOTE OPERATION. A ZEISS "EYE-IN-THE-SKY" DRONE CONTROL SYSTEM has been incorporated into the MKVI's cyberskull. COMMLINK control is also possible for casual control, but for product demonstration purposes, use of the drone control system is advised.
ARMAMENTS: The MKVI PROTOTYPE comes equipped with an ARES VANQUISHER VEHICULAR ROTARY CANNON to demonstrate the MKVI's actuated strength and recoil suppression capabilities. The model is also equipped with a GLOBAL POLYMERS MONOFILAMENT AXE. For demonstration purposes, this weapon has been designed with a heft well beyond the lifting capacity of any unaugmented metahuman. The MKVI, of course, can swing it with ease.
LONG-TERM GOALS: In demonstrating the MKVI's combat capabilities, it is this office's hope that AG CHEMIE EUROPA'S newly-developed FORMULA 17 CYBERMANTIC REAGENT will prove its value to the Board of Directors, both as an astonishing technical achievement and as a lucrative new revenue stream for the Company.
- Albrecht Haushofer, Senior VP, Berlin Facility
First time we've seen a person being referred to as a "biological component", and hopefully the last. It being operable via commlink implies even we could do it, should we for some reason feel hesitant about entrusting a nigh-unstoppable killing machine to Blitz's hands.
That's all the information the terminal has to offer, but nothing's stopping us from taking a closer look ourselves. We do have someone who knows a thing or two about cyberware installations.
It is a little hard to miss.
The cyberware is high-grade. Quality stuff, but not milspec. The arms look industrial in design. Interesting choice, but there's nothing wrong with it.
Huh. The control system looks interesting... like a drone control interface, but it's wired into the base of the skull. From the positioning, I'd say that it's connected directly to the thing's brain stem.
This "thing" is our payday, Glory. Explain yourself.
This... this troll... it's still conscious. *He's* still conscious. They've outfitted him with an inhibitor chip. He's trapped in his own body, screaming to get out. This isn't just a prototype, Rosa. It's a *person.* We can't just cash him in for a paycheck.
We kind of figured that might be the case, though things sure would've been simpler had we been wrong. It doesn't technically change anything as far as our mission objective is concerned, but...
Can you do anything about it? Help him in some way?
[She takes another look at the control module, scowling.]
No promises... but I can try.
Not here. Let's get him down to the garage first. I want to have the van close by in case anything goes wrong. In the meantime, we're gonna have to activate him.
[She falls back to her regular position in the group.]
Just remember, Rosa... that's a man you're giving orders to. Not a machine.
If she's right, the idea of handing him over to Schmidt or the Black Lodge feels a lot less appealing than before. Now obviously handing over or killing a key person is not something a runner can afford to find too objectionable, but if there really is some poor bastard's awareness kept imprisoned and chemically suppressed in that mutilated body, it's a little harder to pretend like this'll just be a routine job.
That being said we do have to make sure, we can't really afford to risk the kind of money we were promised unless it's for a very good reason.
Gah, reading auras has not been a pleasant experience lately. But we are not about to get knocked out by something as pathetic as just looking at something. No way.
Messages don't get much clearer than that. Bah, times like these almost make you wish you were the sociopathic mercenary type who aren't dragged down by such meddlesome obstacles as having a conscience.
Well, nobody's problems are going to be solved if we leave him here so let's follow Glory's suggestion and first bring him down to the garage, see what can be done when we get there. Not particularly enthused about the idea of piloting this guy though, so we might as well say a quiet prayer and grant Blitz his wish.
[The Cyberzombie's massive hands flex twice, and it takes a half-step forward. Its mouth twists into a wide grin.]
...but, uh... I think that I could get used to it.
Forget it, we hand over a weapon of this magnitude to you for any longer than strictly necessary and we might as well call the Firewing and tell her to chill because we already have the whole "razing down Berlin" business well underway.
I've got it, chief. The MKVI is under my control. But it's strange... this thing's reactions feel... *off,* somehow. It's almost like there's somethin' else in here with me.
I'm not surprised. But we can talk about it later. For now, we should concentrate on getting out of here.
Guess someone hasn't really been paying attention again. Eh, maybe better that way.
Incidentally if Glory isn't around, it's possible to get the same kind of insight and come to the same conclusion about the MKVI's nature with Biotech 2. Without either, it's still possible to recognize the inhibitor chip and infer that someone's still home that way, just in less detail.
Without Blitz, Drone Control 4 allows for rigging into the MKVI as well. Else it needs to be slaved to a commlink which results in it having 1 AP fewer than it would otherwise. And speaking of...
Yeah, the MKVI is in our party now and he is monstrously strong. His Strength is completely off the charts, he has no trouble either landing or avoiding hits, and anything less than tank shells would only make him laugh were he not an unholy abomination of flesh and steel trapped in a hell existence of unceasing suffering.
Now sure, the Cyberzombie is not gonna be able to help you with your math homework, but if a teacher's giving you trouble he'll have zero issue leveling the school building for you.
Just as advertised it also comes with its very own minigun and a giant axe which for some reason has the damage equivalent of a baseball bat, both tools that complement having 4 AP (3 if not rigged) and the combat stats of the Terminator quite nicely.
And it probably doesn't need to be explicitly mentioned that all the cyberware slots are filled past the normal Essence limit. Nothing especially interesting here as far as the individual pieces are concerned, though "Cyberskull (Obvious)" is kind of funny.
That about covers it, so let's start heading back.
Oh hey, it looks like things have gotten livelier out here in the Chamber of Obvious Foreshadowing. Couldn't have seen this coming, huh?
Can't believe it's these wasp-looking clowns again though. You'd think they would've gotten the hint by now.
I've got a better idea. You drop your weapons, and I won't order Tin Man here to tear you in half.
[The Knight Errant captain pauses a moment before responding. When he speaks, his voice is dripping with scorn.]
Try it. See what happens.
I don't like the sound of that.
Do you honestly think that they didn't install a safeguard in that thing? That we couldn't take it back from you at a moment's notice? Now drop your weapons, or I'll have that abomination tear YOU in half.
Admittedly we didn't consider that option, no. But from where we're standing there seems to be one easy solution to that problem.
[Attack.] You can't order him to do anything if you're dead.
So yeah, the enemy Rigger is capable of making the MKVI change teams which is Bad News, though "at a moment's notice" apparently means "after 2 turns" and also requires that the Rigger is alive. These are pretty significant design flaws when you consider that the purpose of the MKVI is making things extremely not alive at a very high speed.
The Knight Errant have come with a pretty decent crew this time around, they've a little bit of everything and most of their lineup have a source of area damage in the form of either spells or grenades. Grouping up continues to be a bad idea, but it's also a bit hard to avoid since this room is pretty cramped.
Blitz opens the fight by whiffing a 99% chance to confuse the Captain with his fancy new ability, very promising. For some reason controlling the MKVI doesn't reduce his AP the way turning on his drone does which is convenient.
The enemy Mage is both standing on a Leyline and completely exposed, so we don't need to hit up Sun Tzu to figure where to start the killing from.
The bizarrely confident Captain also gets dropped on the first turn, proving that even a foam axe will do the trick so long as you swing it hard enough. And hey, the man himself told us to "try and see what happens" and we have now done exactly that. Hopefully this has been an equally enlightening experience for all of us.
Incidentally the MKVI's axe has the usual set of melee abilities while the minigun comes with two attacks, "fire a lot of bullets" and "fire a shitload of bullets". Which let's face it, do a pretty good job covering most situations where the use of a minigun is applicable.
On the KE turn the Grenadier whiffs their shot but the Enforcer nails us right on the noggin with a concussive grenade. Which is not great because while the MKVI can handle himself fine, we're still a bag of flesh and blood in a cool suit and suddenly a very easy target for the remaining Knight Errants.
The Conjurer (whom the MKVI tried to kill off after taking out the Captain but sadly fell a little short) summons an Inferno to give us additional trouble. "Us" in this case doesn't include the MKVI himself who happily dodges literally every attack both the spirit and the KE try to land on him. Really, the rest of us are only slowing him down here.
The start of our turn comes with a warning that there's one more turn left to take out the Rigger before the MKVI hops over to the other side of the fence. Two turns is an eternity though, and since taking out the Rigger at any point reverts its control back to us we'd pretty much have to actively ignore them for this to become a legitimate problem.
Glory knees the lights out of the Grenadier, allowing us to focus on squishier targets while he takes a nap. Grenadiers have had a lot of trouble actually landing their shots on us but their launchers' damage potential should never be underestimated.
A few minigun bullets and one hearty axe swing later, the MKVI has solved his own problem the only way it knows how.
Unfortunately the same can't be said of our problems. A double crit in the form of a shotgun blast from the Guard and an Acid Bolt from the Conjurer actually manage to take us out for what just might be the first time ever. Back in Seattle this would've been the end of it right here, but on this side of the pond it's nothing our Trauma Kit doesn't immediately solve. Still, a good reminder that getting stunned is just as nasty for us as it is for the enemy.
The unexpected developments continue as the Conjurer who rudely threw acid at us simultaneously loses control of her Inferno, which then expresses its newfound freedom by first lighting half the people in the room on fire and then proceeding to turn its summoner into a pile of ash with Flamethrower. Such is the circle of life.
With the threat of losing control of the MKVI eliminated, winning the fight now is purely a matter of not dying like an idiot... again. Glory and Max whose teamwork has been yielding a lot of good results in recent times continue to do solid work bringing down the Guard. Then the Cyberzombie goes to town.
The stunned Grenadier never had the time to recover, and unfortunately for him this particular alarm clock is a lot better at putting you to sleep for good than at waking you up.
The Enforcer who took part in the assault on our person gets completely obliterated from full health and from across the room with efficiency that a still image wouldn't have done proper justice.
...Maybe this project isn't all bad after all.
The rogue spirit's the last one to go, and that's all she wrote.
Oh yeah! This thing is awesome, boss! You sure we can't keep it?
Those Knight Errant drekheads have a little surprise coming their way.
AG Chemie oughta send us a check for all the field testing we're doing for them, and it's not looking like our prototype knife is done cutting through Knight Errant butter just yet either. Things are about to get messy down on the 24th, and this time it won't be just in the storage closet.
-- EXTRAS --
Not that much of interest to show off here, only a couple of interactions with the MKVI that were mentioned but not available to us.
First, rigging into the MKVI yourself instead of having Blitz do it:
And second, extracting the Schockwellenreiter's visual data directly from the MKVI: