Part 49: Doom & GloomPart 49 - Doom & Gloom
We are back, and rarely has the Kreuzbasar felt as quiet and peaceful as today. Finishing the MKVI run nets us a whopping 10 Karma, the highest one-time Karma reward we've gotten so far. We've accumulated a fair amount of the stuff, gonna have to spend some when we get to our next mission.
Oh hey, Paul's calling. Hope he has good news for us, sure could use some after that major bummer of a mission.
So much for that. We're already facing what might be an angry and possible radioactive dragon and maybe a crazy cult and definitely a giant ork with a miserable attitude and a minigun, it takes some effort to qualify as "terrible" in that company.
Let's wrap up our other business in the 'basar before going to receive our latest dose of depressing news. The Schockwellenreiter are still waiting for their data for one.
Whether letting this stuff get public is the responsible thing to do is and has been up to debate, the original data is still in the hands of AG Chemie after all, but there's no other way to get rid of it so otherwise we'll be lugging around both the objective and the data until the end of this thing.
Also our reward is 2 Karma and ¥1000 which is more than we've gotten from some full side missions. Really smooths out these kind of moral dilemmas.
Speaking of information, we say hi to Burakgazi's young assistant en route to checking if Doerr's still around despite our disagreements concerning our recent mission objective.
[Kami grins at you, all spark and mischief.]
Hey there! How've ya been?
Lady you don't even wanna know what we've been through lately, and wanting to know things is your entire business.
Not so good.
Oh no! Listen, I've got to do something right now, but call me later and we'll chat over coffee okay? Be well.
Uh okay, see you.
Hey baldie, no hard feelings over the whole MKVI business, right?
Not really. See you around.
Huh, he took it unexpectedly well, actually. Almost a shame, was looking forward to seeing him fume a bit more. Hopefully their next request will be something a little less disagreeable, we can still use any help we can get.
Hey, that doesn't sound half bad. Paul probably wouldn't appreciate us sitting here sipping hot drinks while he clearly has important business with us. Hell, we know the feeling all too well.
Welcome back, Honored Efendim. How may I serve you?
Back in the AG Chemie building we grabbed a random bottle from the bar of that one exec. We weren't enough of a Socialite to tell what we were grabbing though, but you never know.
(Cheap Booze) Found this liquor in my travels. Worth anything?
Eh, no. Not quite. I receive cases of this for less discerning clientèle. I could offer you maybe ¥10?
Sure, I've got no use for it.
Glad I could be of service.
Maybe we'll just leave booze appraisal to the experts and stick to drinking the stuff from now on. But hey, ¥10 is ¥10.
That's the town covered so back to the hideout it is.
Before we go hear Paul out, let's put this last job to bed for good.
Got a message too.
Hoi again, Rosa. Well, I've recovered one last DVD for you, but I'm afraid that's all you're gonna get. You might as well use the rest as coasters... they're all beyond repair. If you look on the table beside your DVD player, you'll find the disc that I salvaged.
[She pauses. A slight frown crosses her face.]
To be completely honest, that was a lie. To recover this last disc, I was forced to... subcontract. Schrotty is still a brute of a man. I am unimpressed with his manner, and his poor hygiene disgusts me. But he is very good with old things such as this. All credit where it's due.
There's clearly more to that old man that we thought if he could fix something even the local tech pro couldn't get working, guess sometimes there's just no substitute to plain old life experience. We'll have to go check out that last disc before we leave for our next job.
Now, let's see if Herr Schmidt is willing to keep his end of the bargain despite the deal likely not having gone exactly the way he intended.
Schmidt's Message posted:
To call your work "unsatisfactory" would be an understatement. When I said that we wanted the prototype, it should have gone without saying that we wanted it INTACT and OPERATIONAL.
You technically fulfilled the terms of our arrangement, so you will get paid. But don't ever expect to work for us again.
Yeah, probably no great loss that. Maybe the next time he'll hire some sucker he'll consider culling the list of things that "should go without saying" a bit.
With that we're officially 10,000 nuyen from having Alice's fee together. Our own pockets are getting nice and fat too, mostly because we haven't had anything new to buy recently.
Since we're already here, let's check what's hot on the Shadowland. No pay data to post this time so we'll just be browsing.
(I've changed the formatting a bit for easier readability)
- WorriedMother004 <12:44;01/11-13-54>
[Please help me find my daughter! She ran away from home. She is human, in her early twenties with short blonde hair and a datajack. She was last seen wearing a light blue dress.]
- WraithLike44 <13:55:44/11-13-54>
[This is not exactly the place to be looking for missing kids. How did you even get in here?]
- WorriedMother004 <14:06;13/11-13-54>
[I paid good money to get on here! I was told you people could help!]
- Ruby <14:21:29/11-13-54>
[If you've got the nuyen, you came to the right place. I sent you a number that you can reach me at.]
- Maelstrom <14:22:45/11-13-54>
[The old "help me find my missing kid" routine, a classic.]
- WraithLike44 <14:24:59/11-13-54>
[My money is on "escaped wage slave."]
- Tolstoi <16:42:19/11-13-54>
[Make sure you do your homework, Ruby.]
- WraithLike44 <04:19:59/11-14-54>
[Anyone have a good backup plan for when you get stuck with a tracer? Barely managed to bug out of my apartment after a corp hit squad came knocking. Lesson learned - pat yourself down a couple times, and make sure you dont have a tail. But if I miss something, Id rather keep my safe houses, you know, safe.]
- AlanAltbit <06:20:41/11-14-54>
[Ive had good luck with RF blockers. I have a jamming grid set up near my safehouse. It projects any signals to a few miles away, where Ive got some cameras placed. So when someone shows up there, I know they were trying to find me. Then I do a thorough sweep to find the tracker.]
- Tolstoi <06:55:08/11-14-54>
[Sharp. How long does that go on before they give up?]
- AlanAltbit <07:06;34/11-14-54>
[RE: TOLSTOI: Usually rule of threes. I keep re-projecting the signal to different locations. In my experience, they give up after the third one is a dead end and stop listening to that RF signal.]
Alright, we've put off talking to Paul long enough. Lay it on us man, we're ready. Probably.
Rosa. I have new information. I'm afraid that the news isn't good.
Yeah, I can tell. You've gathered the whole team.
[He nods.] Yes. This is something that you all need to hear.
Well, go on. We're listening.
Really? A dragon, a very upset and burn-scarred minigun man, some digital brain-frying decker-killer we still know exactly jack about, an army of armed security, and now some kinda bio-weapon on top? These people are seriously grabbing for the title of the most horror-filled mansion of all time, and there's historically been some real bad shit going down in those places.
Well, that sounds... horrible.
It is. I've heard of this stuff before. Back in the service, we called it "Doom." I've never run across it in the wild, but I've heard enough horror stories to know that I don't want to.
The stories that you've heard are correct. This... "Doom"... is an extremely dangerous substance.
Lemme guess, ingesting that stuff will rip and tear your guts or something.
[He gestures to a technical document on his computer's display.]
I've been reading up. To this day, the story of Doom remains a cautionary tale in biotech circles. Monoclonal antibody technology is strictly regulated now, and this substance is one of the reasons why.
What does this stuff do, exactly?
Well our guess wasn't that far off the mark. And to think that we originally went in there just to grab some stuff from a vault in a routine job. Now it feels like a small miracle we got out with just one casualty.
[Eiger nods grimly.] I've heard that Doom was deployed in a couple of border skirmishes back in '41. After seeing what it did to people up-close, the UCAS passed a unilateral ban on the stuff. If that doesn't tell you how bad it is, nothing will.
Okay. So, I hesitate to ask, but... what would a dragon want with this drek?
That much goes without saying. This development worries me, Rosa. It worries me greatly.
The obvious first link that comes to mind between the Firewing and dangerous radioactivity are the SOX and that ork's heavy radiation exposure, though obviously a specialized bio-weapon is a very different beast.
Whatever the case, we were already facing the prospect of a terrible death should we not find a way out of this mess. This Doom stuff is definitely bad news, but going from "we're fucked" to "we're ultra-fucked" ultimately makes little difference until we can actually find the means to actually start doing something about this nightmare situation.
So the dragon has a bio-weapon. All right, good to know. But that doesn't change what we need to do.
I'm with Rosa on this one. This is interesting... scary, even. But it doesn't actually change anything.
I agree with Dietrich. We need to focus on what's in front of us. Whatever the dragon's larger plans might be, the fact is that she is after *us.* We shouldn't let ourselves get distracted by anything else.
Technically we already have enough to cover her fee if we paid some from our own pocket but eh, dragons live a long time, a few extra days of odd jobs aren't going to make a difference.
[Eiger nods.] Good. If you need me, I'll be getting prepped for the next run.
Right behind you, love.
[Dietrich casts a backward glance at Glory. If any of this has had an impact on her, she doesn't show it.]
C'mon, Glory, let's go.
Now then, we've been handling a lot of personal requests lately so it's been about 15 updates since our crew members last felt talkative. Now that we've finished a major run, in fact the final such run discounting Frau Müller's job which is still in the backburner, it is once more time to do the ol' crew tour.
Everyone else has shambled to their usual spots but Dietrich's still hanging around where we gathered, so we'll just start with him.
Whatcha need, boss?
Any thoughts about that last run that you'd like to share?
There was nothin' about that run that didn't disgust me. What they did to that troll...
It wasn't right, boss. On any level. I don't care what anyone else tells you, you listen to me, Rosa; what you did, killin' that thing... it was the *right* call. Yeah, it cost us some nuyen. But letting that thing live would've been a travesty.
We'll cover what Dietrich and the others' thoughts are about handing over the MKVI in the Extras section.
Back when we took on Humanis, you said that you fought in the Night of Rage. I'd like to hear more about that.
[He nods, then fishes in his jacket pocket for his flask.]
All right, boss. We can talk about it. So I already mentioned that Berlin's punks and anarchists joined forces to fight off the racists, right? And after a long, bloody fight, we beat 'em. What I didn't mention is how I figured into all of this.
When we rallied to fight the racists, my followers came along for the ride. Bunch 'o young kids, all full of piss 'n' vinegar 'n' the immortality of youth. I was full of that good ol' Dragonslayer spirit, pissed off and itchin' for a fight. And so I led those kids into the fray.
They waded into the riot right alongside me, yellin' and screamin' with their fists in the air. I don't remember a whole lot of the fight itself, boss. But I do remember the aftermath.
A lot of the kids that followed me had grown up listenin' to my music. They had all of my attitude, Rosa... but none of 'em had my magic. And youthful enthusiasm is no defense against a knife or a handgun.
Better for me to stay out of the public eye an' stick to the shadows. My stint as a role model was ill-advised.
The real blame lies with the garbage who did that in the first place, but he no doubt knows as much already. That kind of responsibility will still stick with you, even if you know your cause was right.
Another topic that came up last time was that of the Dragonslayer always demanding Dietrich to challenge bigger targets and that inevitably leading to him taking on a dragon too big for him. He seemed pretty resigned to his fate, so we floated the idea of changing that target into something more figurative.
Have you put any thought into what I said earlier?
Yeah, boss. I have. It's an interesting idea, but there are risks. I'm thinkin' that this might not be the best of times to approach Him about it... He's the source of my magic, remember. If our discussion turned into an argument, He could take all of that magic back in a heartbeat, and then where would we be?
We have the opportunity to tell him it's not worth the risk and to leave it until the current crisis is over which'll drop this matter for good. But that makes for a pretty lame conclusion.
From what you've told me about the Dragonslayer, I don't think He'd like the way you're talking. Since when has He ever encouraged you to back down from a fight?
[He shrugs.] But maybe that's not a bad thing. It'd take a lot of the guesswork out of life. I dunno, boss. If you have any thoughts about this, I'd love to hear 'em.
You've already done some damage to Humanis. How about them? Could they be your new "white whale" after we're done with all of this?
Tempting. But like you said, I've already kicked the holy hell out of them. Twice. If I'm gonna do this, it needs to be a step forward. The Dragonslayer won't be satisfied with me retreading old ground.
The two suggestions we can give is either enemies of the Flux State, or Saeder-Krupp. Sending him squarely against the biggest corporation in the world run by Lofwyr himself doesn't really feel like the immediately less suicide-by-dragon -type option we're looking for here though.
Then why tie yourself to a specific group at all? I say, keep it fluid. Stomp anyone that threatens the Flux. Isn't that what Berlin is all about?
[He cocks his head.] Interesting. That's a different approach, but I like it. Hang on a second, I'll ask.
Be honest, are you just thinking about punching people right now Dietrich
[Dietrich opens his eyes and turns to face you.]
Yeah. Yeah, I think that He'd like this plan just fine.
That was it? That was all it took?
The Dragonslayer doesn't mince words, boss. If He didn't like the plan, He'd've told me.
Well hey great, it's nice when things just work out sometimes. There's no telling what lies in store for the future of the Flux State but anyone gunning for the place is definitely not going to have it easy now.
Y'know, Dietrich... now that you've got a handle on your connection with the Dragonslayer, you could probably reach out to your old community again. Berlin's punks could benefit from your experience.
[He nods.] Yeah, boss. I was thinkin' the same thing. Maybe I could give back a bit, and fix some of the damage I caused in my misspent youth. After we're finished dealin' with the crisis in front of us, that is. It's a good thought, anyway. I'll keep it in mind.
Great. See you.
We'll check Blitz next.
[At the sound of your approach, Blitz stubs out his cigarette. He gives you a curt nod.]
Rosa. I'd offer you a smoke, but that was my last one.
Pff, as if we'd go anywhere without a supply of our own.
Any thoughts about that last run that you'd like to share?
[His eyes light up in excitement.] The MKVI was an *incredible* piece of engineering, chief. Never seen anything like it before. And the fact that it was rigger-enabled... oh, man. The potential ramifications of this technology are *staggering.*
It's a pity that we had to kill the thing. I mean, yeah, I *get* it... it must've been horrible for the troll that they installed all of that stuff into. But it was a thing of beauty, all the same.
You're still a monster, Blitz. ...but it's true that in combat that thing could do some work. Anyhow, how's stalking the ex-girlfriend going?
How'd that whole "Emilie" situation work out? Turn up anything new?
Yeah... well, sort of. It's mostly speculation, truth be told.
So what's the deal? Is she working with the Azzies, or what?
No... I don't think so. But I do have a new lead.
Wow. To be honest, I didn't think you'd find anything.
[He grins.] Oh ye of little faith! Word to the wise, chief... when Blitz is on the job, you should always expect *results.*
Absolutely no argument there. You know what else got results, the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs. Just saying.
[Blitz's smile dies away. He turns his eyes down to the floor.]
I can, uh... I can tell you what her note said, if you want.
[He presses forward without waiting for a response.]
It said, and I quote:
Huh. Frankly the immediate conclusion we made was that she had just dumped him because well, she was in a relationship with Blitz after all, but maybe there really was something more to it.
So... I found her. And she wants nothing to do with me. Again. No explanations. No apologies. Just a verbal pat on the head. I've shown "admirable self-control"? *Really?* She makes it sound like I'm a toddler, or something.
So did you lay off, like the message said?
Hell no! I wasn't gonna stand for that! Where does she get off, stealing from me and then acting like it was *my* fault? I tried to trace the message, like any good decker would.
I note your use of the word "tried."
[He nods grimly.] She's good, Rosa. Better than I ever thought she was. I couldn't trace the damned thing. I *could* keep digging, though. I mean, if she noticed me doing it before, I must've been close.
You're an idiot, Blitz.
Hey! Could an idiot turn up *another clue* in under a day? No? I didn't think so. So take your insults and choke on 'em.
Now, before you say anything... I was *more discreet* this time. I can be subtle if I have to. Nobody noticed what I was doing, and I *did* find another clue.
I hesitate to ask.
That's okay. I'll tell you anyway. I found a connection between Emilie and Saeder-Krupp.
Well this is Germany, dig deep enough and you'll probably always find some connection to Lofwyr's joint sooner or later. But he probably means something more immediate than that.
So... do you think that she works for S-K, then? That she stole the encrypted data from you to give to them?
Well... maybe. I don't know. It's confusing. I was also able to track down some message fragments connecting her to the Schockwellenreiter.
One day, when aliens arrive on Earth to harvest our brains, you'll be hailed as the savior of mankind. Because when we send them yours, they'll be too scared and confused by what they find to ever bother us again.
[He frowns, then shakes his head.] But then again, maybe she's with the Schockwellenreiter, and she's screwing both the Azzies and S-K over. If that's the case, then maybe she was with me because she genuinely wanted to be.
In either case, I should make an effort to find her. I mean, she's playing a dangerous game, whether she's with S-K *or* the Schockwellenreiter. Maybe she's gotten herself in too deep... she might need help! I mean, why else would she send me such a cryptic message?
Alright, it's time to make the decision which determines how Blitz's personal storyline ends by either encouraging him to back down or keep chasing her. Now he's clearly being irrational about this whole business, but we can't really pretend like we don't share some responsibility for things to have progressed this far. It kind of was us who initially pushed him to go digging for her again in the first place after all. Hey, it seemed entertaining at the time!
It has since become evident that this is clearly more serious a matter than we initially thought. Also the tone of the message wasn't particularly malicious, it sounded more like she did what she did out of necessity and her intention was always to eventually come back.
And if all this is related to that information Blitz stole from Aztechnology, it's entirely possible that we might be in the process of messing things up big time if we keep trying to shine a light on the shadows she's clearly trying to hide in. All in all, it's probably time to stop this here.
Um, Blitz... that message was anything but cryptic. She wants you to stay far, far away.
Yeah, that's what she *said*... but I'll bet that she didn't *mean* it. She probably just didn't want to worry me. Or maybe she said it under duress! I mean, you've gotta agree that it's at least worth checking out.
Blitz. Listen to me. This is a bad idea, and nothing good is going to come from it.
You worry too much, chief! I'm the *best,* remember? So where's the harm in digging a little deeper? I mean, Em might *need* me!
Dammit you arrogant dunce, you're long overdue for a serious wake-up call here.
If this is how you acted when you and Emilie were together, I can see why she left.
[He recoils as if you'd punched him.]
Whoa. That was a pretty messed up thing to say, chief.
It was also accurate. You routinely ignore those around you because you think that you know better. I'm here to tell you... you do *not* know better.
Blitz. LISTEN TO ME. You need to show some more of that self-control and *drop* this.
See that you do. I'll talk to you later.
We can only hope that we actually got through to him and for once he'll do the smart thing. Next let's see how Glory's doing.
Hm? Oh, the whole nasty cult membership business, Adversary worship, burned her mother alive trying to kill her father. Right. Not a lot of cheery topics lately.
So. Now that you know what I've done... what I *am*... are you here to tell me off? I wouldn't blame you if you were.
No, Glory, I'm not here to tell you off. Truth be told, I wanted to check in and see how you were doing.
Not great. Struggling. About how you'd expect.
Yeah, understandably not the easiest topic to talk about. Unfortunately taking this conversation further will start Glory's personal mission which we'll leave for last, and so we'll have to wait a little longer to see where things go with the whole Harrow's cult business.
Any thoughts about that last run?
[A tinge of red crawls up Glory's neck.]
Rosa. Look at me.
[She extends her sculpted metal arms. Chrome glints in the flickering light.]
I'm... I'm not far from being what that poor troll was. When I think of what they did to him...
Aw. Don't think it actually ended up costing us that much in the end, but it means a lot to hear that nonetheless.
Alright so it's a bit sudden but there's literally not enough space in one update to cover everything until the next mission, so we'll cut things off here which is about halfway. Next time we'll get to that last DVD and get started with Eiger's personal mission.
-- EXTRAS --
There's a decent chunk of alternate dialogue we didn't cover for largely obvious reasons. We'll just go down the list here.
First, returning the MKVI to the Lodge and reporting a successful job completion to Duerr:
The prototype was delivered safely. Herr Schmidt won't be happy about it, though.
Leave him to us. And regarding the MKVI, don't worry... the prototype is in good hands now.
[He slips a credstick into your hands.]
Enjoy your pay.
Being a Socialite and bringing the actually valuable bottle from the AG Chemie run to Burakgazi:
(Fancy Booze) I recently procured a bottle of 50 year old Islay scotch. Would you perhaps be interested in acquiring it from me?
Islay, you say? Might I examine the merchandise?
[He takes the bottle and his smile fades for a moment as he become all business examining it with a critical eye. Then, as quickly as it faded, the huge smile is back.]
Quite a little treasure you have found, I'm sorely tempted to ask from where, in hopes of procuring more you see. But no, it would not be polite. I would perhaps value that bottle at ¥400?
(Charisma 5) ¥500, since I've got the only supply in town.
Thank you my friend, I have a buyer already in mind for this little gem. Or perhaps I shall keep it myself, it is good to always have something special on hand for a celebration!
Next up, Herr Schmidt's alternate messages after reporting the job as completed. For delivering the MKVI to him intact:
Your reputation is well deserved! The interests that I represent are deeply impressed, both with the MKVI itself and with your work on this assignment.
Please accept this payment with our compliments.
And for delivering the MKVI to the Lodge instead:
Here's your money. Don't ever contact us again.
PS - When your new "friends" turn on you, I'm gonna spit on your grave.
Dietrich's response is identical regardless of who you recommend as his new target, so we'll jump to Blitz and telling him to continue chasing Emilie instead of laying off:
I think that you should go after her. She's clearly in over her head... what if she needs you?
You're right, of course. You are *absolutely* right. Besides, it's not like she can send me a distress call. Her communications are probably being monitored! I'll bet that she's spent the whole past year waiting for me to come riding in to the rescue!
[Blitz claps his hands, then rubs them together in excitement.]
Get set, chief. You're about to witness an *event.* When my *gung-ho personality* and *legendary skills* come together, the whole *world* stops and takes notice!
I'm sure that it does, Blitz. I can't wait to see how this plays out.
You won't have to wait long. I know just the place to hit: that same Aztechnology data node that I stole the information from in the first place. I already know that I can get past the security, and my gut tells me that I'll find Emilie there.
Thanks for the encouragement, chief. I knew that this was the right thing to do, of course, but you've helped to quiet any lingering doubts I might've had.
[He nods at you, an expression of supreme confidence on his face.]
And now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a damsel in distress to rescue.
Finally, everyone's responses should the MKVI have been sent to either client.
[Glory looks you in the eye. Transfixes you with her gaze.]
You handed him over, Rosa. Like a piece of merchandise. Like a *thing.* We shouldn't have done that. I should have *stopped* you. But I didn't. And I don't like what that says about me.
Look. I get why you handed the MKVI over. It was the job, after all. But I'd've been a *lot* happier if you'd killed that thing.
I'm glad that we handed it over intact. I mean, I feel sorry for the troll that they installed all of that stuff into, and all... but as a feat of cyber-engineering, it was a thing of beauty. It would've been a pity to destroy it.
Eiger wasn't on the run so I'll include all of her's here. She's the only one with different lines depending on where the MKVI was sent to.
I'm not gonna lie, Rosa. This one is gonna stick with me for a while. What they did to that troll was *sick.*
This is probably gonna surprise you... but I'm happy that the MKVI is dead. Yeah, Herr Schmidt was pissed. And sure, our reputation got dinged. Neither of those are good things. But I'll take them over being a part of what they were doing to that troll any day.
Walking out of a run with a clean conscience is a rare pleasure. Savor it while you can.
MKVI sent to the Lodge:
I understand *why* you went off-mission and handed the MKVI over to the Lodge. It was the wrong call, though. We shouldn't be double-crossing our clients. We're better than that.
And finally, MKVI sent to Schmidt:
On paper, you did everything right. We did our job to the letter, the client got paid, and everyone went home happy. But between you and me, I wish that we could've put that poor creature down.
The MKVI was a real live person once, just like you and me... and we handed him over to Herr Schmidt like a piece of merchandise. This one's going to sit with me for a while.