Part 67: Paid in ExcessPart 67 - Paid in Excess
Once again we find ourselves in Alice's modest domain in the Altstadt Spandau U-Bahn station, just as dim and quiet as it was last time. Quiet is good though, it's unlikely any company we'd meet out here would have our best interests in mind.
There aren't even bathroom floor drugs to be found this time, and you can be sure we checked, so we turn our attention to the old arcade machine employed by Alice as her secret contact point.
A real money grubber even by arcade machine standards... Well, here goes nothing.
...Well that's ominous. Judging by everything we heard from Paul about Alice, she doesn't seem like someone easily spooked.
Now we don't know the first thing about the inner workings of the Matrix apparently it's a series of tubes of some sort so we're probably not in much personal danger from that front, but we'd bet our braids that this is related to what happened to Monika and Winters. And if someone even at the top of their game feels like their only recourse in the face of this threat is to go dark and disappear, those two probably never stood a chance.
Unfortunately we're not really in the position to drop everything and flee ourselves, dragons have a lot of natural and material advantages when it comes to being a champ at hide and seek.
All we can hope for now is that whatever is in this thing was worth it and will help us find the direction we've been looking for.
Actually, let's pause here for a moment, because there's something interesting but pretty obscure here that'd normally go in the Extras section but I feel like is best covered now when it's relevant.
See here's the thing: Had we deposited enough of our own money to the Alice fund to be able to completely skip at least one of the four major missions the MKVI run, the Aztechnology run, the AG Chemie run, or the Humanis run we would've actually been on time to meet Alice herself instead of getting a brief message from her.
So let's cover that while we're here, starting from inserting the payment.
Alice? What's goi--
Tell me what's going on, Alice. Now.
[Without a word, she bends to grab something from under her desk. A moment later, she lifts an aluminum briefcase onto the desk.]
[She flips the case onto the desk, then shoves it toward the camera.]
[Alice kicks her seat back and stands. Her movements are becoming more and more erratic.]
Your answers are on the chip.
[She checks the clock again.]
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run.
I paid you fifty grand. I expect a little more than a chip and a "thanks for your business."
You should drop your search for Vauclair. Drop it *now* and run far, far away. If you don't, you're gonna get yourself killed.
[She leans in to stare into the camera. On the screen, you can see that her eyes are badly bloodshot.]
And stay out of the Matrix, Rosa. It isn't safe.
This path yields 4 Karma not present in the other path, no doubt as minor compensation for everything one'd miss out on by skipping an entire mission.
Now then, back to our normal business.
The ratio of questions to answers just keeps getting more and more lopsided. Whatever is on this chip had better finally balance the scales some.
Sometimes you wonder if it hadn't been smarter to spend all that money we saved up to just really live it up for a week or two instead of chasing these dubious leads from one danger to another... at least go out with a bang. You know, the good kind.
Bet Blitz would've been all for it at least. Maybe Monika would've approved too, probably with that usual mischievous grin on her face. Always thought she'd go all the way to her grave like that, grinning to the end.
Turns out we were wrong. Wasn't a grin at all.
Paul, huh. Feels like he only ever calls outside of a run when it's bad news. Maybe Firewing has turned out to have a twin sister and actually she's the real mad one. Guess we gotta hear it.
Oh. Oh shit. Oh shit this is not good
What the fuck
What the FUCK have you done, you patchwork piece of shit?!
Now we press our advantage. Jam their comms, Ortega.
[The sounds of hurried motion recede into the background.]
All right, remember, people: Amsel was the brains of the operation, but the rest will put up a lot more fight. Flush 'em out and take 'em down, one by one.
[Another voice chimes in - a young man this time.]
Sir, look at Amsel's wrist. The PDA... I think that it's recording.
...What the hell are we supposed to do now?