Part 71: A Trampled CommunityPart 71 - A Trampled Community
On this day we've saved the Kreuzbasar from becoming the largest crater in Berlin, and finally learned that Adrian Vauclair's current location is none other than Harfeld Manor which is watched over by some sort of nasty AI responsible for the gruesome fates of Monika, Herman Vauclair, and many others.
But before we embark on our quest to unplug this "APEX" in preparation for our second assault on the building where all our troubles first began, we still have things to do back home.
We'll start with our customary trip to the dark recesses of Shadowland. By the way, can you imagine that some people don't have five screens and almost an equal number of keyboards on their personal computer? How do they even get anything done?
First we claim the payment for the sale of the DNA Donor List we nabbed from Aztechnology. There's also one new discussion thread we can look through.
[Like it says. Good condition, clean. Got the turbocharged kit, addl. armor plating added to the front and sides. Trunk has a mounted Ares Autocannon, but youll need a rigger to operate it (no hand access). Looking for ¥80,000 OBO.]
- BlueBeerd <15:10:43/11-18-54>
[Nice car. Wouldnt happen to be any Corps looking for it at the moment, eh?]
- Ruby <16:30:22/11-18-54>
[Has the PPS been triggered? Any wrecks/rebuild?]
- Tolstoi <16:41:14/11-18-54>
[RE: TOLSTOI: Nope, all clear on that front. Nobody drove this baby but me, and I dont wreck cars. The autocannon dropped the last sucker who tried to do any damage.]
- BlueBeerd <18:40:01/11-18-54>
Real fascinating stuff, but not especially relevant to us. No new messages either, so we're all done here.
Our companions are too busy prepping for the run to chat (one of them wasting their time doing so since we don't have enough slots to bring everyone) so let's hit the streets and see how everyone is holding up in the aftermath of the attack.
Maliit apparently teamed up with Blitz to jam the attackers' communications, and despite such grim odds, lived to see the tale.
But you are not here to listen to me complain.
[She forces a smile.]
So what can I get for you? Name it, and I will provide.
A woman of few words even now. Fair enough, work is a good way to try and regain some sense of normalcy after all.
All shops are now stocking the best items available and we have a lot of nuyen to burn, so we pick up a bunch of ESPs and program upgrades for Blitz to supplement his pre-existing stuff. He might not end up using all of this, but e-products are very light on the wallet anyway.
We find Laine and Beckenbauer near the civic center bearing our name. Seems the Arctic Fox has lived through yet another battle as well.
You all right?
[The troll shakes a heavy head, showing more weariness than wound.]
This should have never happened. Not here. It is one thing to strike an old man whose time is done. But to attack the Kreuzbasar and endanger the lives of innocents, that is unforgivable. The cowards who ordered this attack...
Are dead. They just don't know it yet.
There was a time I thought as you do. But I had made a vow to never make war again. Yet, if you hadn't been here to do so, we would all be dead. For the Kreuzbasar to remain safe, it needs people like you.
And what a bang-up job we did on that front. It's nice that we're not all just ash in the wind by now, but this has been just another stark reminder that we're much better at playing the dagger than the shield.
Going to be more people than ever needing Samuel's services now.
Whoa now, squeeze too hard and you'll end up having to cross our own name off that list of survivors.
When the attackers came, we all took refuge in the Rosa Civic Center. Its strong walls and sturdy gate kept us all safe from harm. Had our people been on the street... had they been in our old building, which came under fire during the attack... none of them would be alive.
We owe you, Rosa. More now than ever. You may not look upon yourself as a hero, but to the people of the Kreuzbasar, that is what you will always be.
He's definitely giving our part in all this way too much credit, literally all we did was throw some pretty minor sums of money his way while he did everything else. Still, it's good to hear everyone here managed to ride out the storm, they have it rough enough as it is.
Now had we not donated enough money for Samuel to finish his civic center, well, we'll cover that in the Extras section.
For a moment it looks like "Simmy" Kim might not have survived the attack as she's not at her usual spot, but we eventually find her in the park near the "Tribute to Victory" or whatever that guy called it. Not really feeling the triumphant spirit right now though.
If only I could have prevented it.
Some things we can't change. We can only move on from where we are. Monika taught me that.
How did you make it through the attack? Are you hurt?
I lost my shoe. When I was running. And then I fell. But Doc Ezkibel found me. He picked me up, took me with him. He hid me in a drawer. Gave me a blanket and told me to be quiet. It was so dark, and it smelled. But I didn't make a sound.
Huh, Xabier did that? Thought for sure that guy would've just slammed his doors shut at first sign of trouble and retreated to his private office, where presumably the choice of wallpaper is just naked pictures of himself.
I heard yelling, things breaking. And gunshots, I think. If I had one of my sims, I could have just gone inside. But I didn't, so I had to stay out here. I don't know how long it was. But when the drawer opened, it was over.
Guess he finally remembered that oath.
[Kim doesn't seem to understand, but she nods anyway.]
I'm going to go check on the others.
Maybe the doc feels some personal responsibility for her well-being. Whatever the case, he did a good thing here.
Lucky Strike has nothing to say about what transpired, so we check on Zaak Flash next.
Anyway. Thanks for chasing 'em off, pal... I owe you one.
[He bites his lip. The anxiety is plain on his face.]
I guess that we all do.
It's a little hard to accept all these thanks, knowing that in the first place Audran and his goons only targeted this community because they were after us. Seems the Kreuzbasar's main supply of questionable glitter concotions remains secure though.
We stop by the medical clinic next, another place which is not going to be short on work anytime soon.
Did you have any run-ins with the attackers?
No. Truth be told, I was in surgery when the attackers hit, and they never disturbed my office. I spent the entire sorry event elbows-deep in the abdomen of an elderly dwarf. His nephretic screen needed a tune-up.
Oh? Odd, that's not the version we heard literal minutes ago. Had we not talked to Kim earlier we'd be none the wiser and the conversation would end here:
[He grins conspiratorially.] Lucky him, you mean. Poor old guy had the bladder capacity of a pygmy shrew. He was in desperate need of my help. But on to more important things, eh? What can TRIAGE do for you today?
That's funny. Simmy Kim tells a different story.
Ah. Yes. Kim. I didn't know that you two were acquainted.
Why the lie, Doc? You saved her. If anything, I'd think that you'd brag about it.
Indeed. Considering how long his innards were exposed to the open air, his prognosis is looking rather good.
But Simmy also said that she heard gunshots and breaking glass. Care to revise your story any further?
[His lips tighten in distaste.] Please don't call her that. Her name is Kim. And yes, an attacker did break in partway through the operation. He fired his weapon into the wall and shattered some very delicate equipment.
Seems like you made it through in one piece though.
Quite. We all rode out the conflict unscathed. My elderly patient has the distinction of being the only Kreuzbasar resident to emerge from the attack better off than he was before it started.
And? How'd you get rid of the intruder?
That will remain my secret. Suffice it to say that my experiences in Spain gave me a newfound appreciation for high-lethality security systems. Let your imagination run wild from there.
[There is a long pause. Ezkibel tries on another smile, but it falls away quickly.]
I don't intend to spend any longer on this, Rosa. I've already said my piece. I feel a certain level of responsibility for Kim's welfare - never mind why. So I take care of her as best I can.
That's all that I intend to say on the subject, so we can talk shop, or you can leave. Your choice.
Hm, it's been a little hard to imagine considering the kinda guy the doc is, but it seems we have to conclude that he genuinely feels some level of guilt for not having been able to prevent Kim's miscarriage. Guess even narcissistic jerkbags have their soft spots.
On the store end, aside from stocking top-tier Medkit and Trauma Kits, another addition of note to Ezkibel's selection is the Suprathyroid which has the honor of being the single most expensive item in the game. It's bioware too, though the kind that still costs Essence and we have the Adrenal Contractor in the body slot already anyway.
Our lifelong dream of rocking the hottest thyroid in the block postponed once again, we just grab some healing supplies for the road and move on.
Back outside, our next stop is the arms merchant, Gunari.
Rosa. I'm glad to see that you made it through the attack. Not all of mine were so lucky.
Are you okay, Herr Mettbach?
No. I lost a niece today. But I'm doing a whole hell of a lot better than our attackers are. Those sons of bitches hit the wrong kiez.
[He shakes his head, and returns his attention to you.]
But you didn't come here to listen to me rage. You're after a bit of payback yourself, I'll wager. So what can I do to help you get it?
Very sorry to hear about your niece, though taking out six of those mercs is damn respectable. We'll have to go deal with APEX soon before the man decides to kick in the front doors of Harfeld on his own.
While his selection of top-tier arms and armor is otherwise of limited to use to us, there's one hefty exception - the Vindicator Minigun! Big problems require big solutions, and since the thread agreed that Glory (the only crew member who can carry this thing) looked pretty good with one, I for one fail to see any reason not to oblige.
Altuğ's cafe is disconcertingly quiet, even today's special has been crossed out. Luca is present but has nothing to comment.
You look terrible, my friend. Tell me what has happened.
[He rubs his hand across his mouth.]
What? Goddamnit, that poor kid...
I reached under the counter... I keep a gun there, you see and they saw. Both of them turned on me. Goldschmidt that fat idiot Goldschmidt flung himself in my way. How he managed to move that great mass of a body so quickly is a mystery to me.
He hung there suspended in time, as they shot him dancing on their bullets as they ripped him apart. But but he shielded me long enough, efendi. I was able to get to my gun and end those sons of whores.
And Jan too? Damn, the universe had it in for Cafe Cezve in particular, it seems. This little shop is never going to be the same again.
I'm sorry, Burakgazi.
I am sorry too. Such loss such loss.
Guess Goldschmidt was your friend after all, eh?
That is the thing of it, efendi. All that time all that bickering between us I was serious. I couldnt stand the man. But he apparently, it was something different to him. None of us will be the same after this.
I'll get the bastards who did this.
Of course you will, my friend. Of course you will. Someone has tread on the tail of a sleeping snake and we have been bit. Now its head must be removed, or our little kiez will fall.
The more innocent loss of life resulting from our personal conflict we come across, the tougher it gets listening to all these people placing their hopes on us.
Sağ olun, my friend. Be healthy, be strong.
We leave the Turk to his mourning, and continue on to our final stop in town. Absinthe seems to be alright, not that we really expected otherwise knowing what we know about her true nature.
[The elf behind the counter says nothing. She stands in silence, staring at you.]
No cryptic messages this time? No prophecies?
No. Not after what just happened here. Not today. Today, I wish to offer you a gift. Something special.
First of all, we happen to like our eyes and you are being rather rude to our precious vision globules right now. Second of all... couldn't we just get some store credit or something? No?
Remembering how this ended up last time, we have some real doubts as to whether this "gift" is one we're going to appreciate. But here goes.
Well, that was... guess we now know what it'd feel like having Zaak's glitter garbage injected directly into our cranium, so that's just another life experience we can cross off of the old bucket list.
[You stand.] What... what the hell are you?
I am nothing of consequence. An observer of human nature, nothing more. We come from very different places, Rosa. But we both call this Kreuzbasar home, and I hope that you will consider me a friend.
Friends don't turn one another's minds inside out.
I showed you what I did because I need you to understand.
I will tell you a great truth, Rosa. Something hidden from mortal eyes. You have seen what I am. I am no mortal - my observations have been gathered over thousands of years. I would have you weigh that when you hear my words.
And all we really came here for was to check for any exciting new ways to set people on fire. What a day.
All right. Tell me this "truth."
In my time as an observer of this world, I have witnessed a great many things. Wonders and terrors beyond measure. The birth and death of nations. The rise and fall of gods.
I have seen the ebb and flow of magic from the Fourth World, to the Fifth, to the Sixth. I have watched in awe as the tides carried wonder and miracle into the World of Men, and I have mourned as they were swept back out again. I have borne witness as the cycle began, and ended, and began itself anew.
I have seen what they will do when this world has run its course, human. They will rip the guts from your dying civilization, and they will feast upon your screams.
That sounds bad.
Not really helped by the unnecessary embellishments, though actually being able to gain nourishment from sound waves sure would be enviromentally friendly.
You have a talent for understatement. The things that crawl in the dark spaces between the metaplanes are worse than "bad." They're monstrosities. Horrors.
You would make for the absolute worst Secret Santa participant ever. Cool, Paula got a new coffee cup, Fritz is there with some bath oil and oh looks like Hans received a boxful of cosmic dread and is now screaming endlessly at the cold uncaring heavens, gee wonder whose gift idea that one was.
If the world were an ocean, the hazards that you know might be sharks. Dangerous creatures, to be sure, and worthy of respect. But below them, in the silent deep, Leviathan circles.
[She turns away.]
Go now, Rosa. Talk to Aljernon - after all that has happened, I'm sure that he'll be glad to see you. But remember what I've told you.
Gonna be a little hard to forget even if we tried, and we'll probably try, but whatever these "Horrors" have planned for us and ours does not seem like anything we have any kind of control over. Got more than enough on our plate as it is.
Never thought we'd turn to this guy in the hopes of lightening the mood a little, but here we are. Instead of his usual spot, we find him standing on the altar in the back as if freshly summoned from the smug realms.
Salutations, youngster. I believe that the Kreuzbasar is still standing thanks to you.
There are other ways of saying Thank you. Ways that involve nuyen and free trinkets.
So I have heard. One day perhaps I will learn this language, but for now Thank you must suffice. Now, tell me: how may I serve you?
Always got a comeback, this guy. He's not interested in conversing about the attack nor Absinthe further than that, but there is one other thing we can ask about.
What can you tell me about Dante? Hes not a normal dog.
Indeed not. Dante is part hellhound, bred to be an elite guard dog. I assume he has manifested some of his... Awakened abilities?
Yeah. How did you know he was a hellhound?
Monika bought him from me some time ago. He was a special order. She thought he could guard Herr Amsel while she was away on business.
Should I be worried about him?
I would keep him fed, if I were you. I understand he likes soy-jerky. But if what Ive heard is true, he has bonded to you. Unless you mistreat him, you have nothing to worry about.
Figure people in general would treat their pets a lot better if all of 'em had the ability to breathe fire. Now then, time to do some spell shopping.
So, the final batch of purchasable spells includes yet more additions to the list of hard disables in the form of Confusion and Petrify. Otherwise it mostly consists of upgrades, so picking 'em up seems like a no-brainer, right? Well actually it's not that clear-cut, because if you look at the numbers more closely you'll find a trend of some non-insignificant trade-offs. Namely...
- Ball Lightning II deals slightly more immediate damage (12 -> 15) and its lingering effect from 1 turn to 2 turns... but goes from requiring 2 AP to 3 AP.
- Manaball III similarly goes from 10 to 15 immediate damage with a longer lingering effect... but its cooldown is doubled from 2 turns to 4 turns.
- Flamethrower IV, the next step of our ol' bread and butter man-scorcher, upgrades from 25 damage to 30 which is nice... but its cooldown is likewise doubled from 1 turn to 2 turns which is a serious downside.
Of the new spells, Petrify (which we've already seen from Dante) is pretty pointless since its effect is hardly different from Blindness and Mind Wipe but it costs 3 AP and has a longer cooldown. Confusion at least justifies its strict casting cost with the additional upside of turning the target against their pals much like Blitz's comm scramble, which is obviously a powerful effect.
You could go with all kinds of combinations depending on personal preference, we opt to upgrade our basic Powerbolt and pick up Confusion and Flamethrower IV because while it's not worth replacing III with it, they also don't share a cooldown and everyone knows fire only gets more fun when you add more of it.
We swap them for Blindness and Armor III since we now have Confusion as a disable and our natural armor is plenty high at this point.
And speaking of armor, ours is officially bugged! I don't know what exactly causes this, but sometimes one's armor value gets locked in place and switching outfits doesn't change it like it's supposed to. As you can see, we still have 5 Armor like before despite now having changed to the Prototype Combat Suit which is supposed to have 8 armor. Guess we really got overly attached to that business suit.
To fix this, we need someone to cast the Armor spell on us which is why we also buy Armor II to loan to Dietrich for the next run (he doesn't have the skill to cast III).
That's our tour of the town concluded, time to head out.
It was a bit of a struggle to decide who to bring for this one, times like these really make you wish you could just bring everyone. Dante does not contribute to party interaction, so he's unfortunately the first cut.
Despite my earlier claim and the game's insistence, a decker is not actually mandatory for this run, but we do want to bring one so Blitz is still in. We just bought a goddamn minigun for Glory so it'd be a crime not to bring her, and Dietrich needs to fix our bugged armor and he's just a cool guy to have around in general, so we'll have to try and make do without Eiger's firepower.
We might not have even known of its existence until today, but murdering our friend and protecting the murderer of another has successfully rocketed this thing up our shitlist at record speed. Don't know what kind of party we're being invited to, but we wouldn't miss it for the world.
As alluded to in the update, not having donated enough to Samuel for him to have completed the civic center would have brought about a less happy ending:
Rosa! What a relief it is to see you alive!
[Samuel's face clouds.]
Unfortunately, many others were less fortunate.
[He clasps your shoulder, his eyes welling with tears.]
She took five rounds, Rosa. Doctor Ezkibel tells me that she felt no pain.
Now, if you will excuse me, I must go. I have cremations to attend to to.
Alternatively if we hadn't convinced Silke to seek help for her addiction at Samuel's way back when at Das Kesselhaus:
What do you suppose? Our people spend much of their time on the street, trying to coax the indigent into making use of our services.
[His eyes well with tears.]
The attackers were indiscriminate with their fire. It was a bloodbath.
Next, if we hadn't exposed Zaak Flash as a faker in the past, he'd be acting a lot less meek:
That was *crazy,* meine Freundin. Bullets flyin', people dropping like flies... *crazy.*
That doesn't look like a bloodstain. It looks more like somebody spilled his drink.
[He rolls his bugged-out eyes.] Yeah, sure. That's what it looks like to *you.* If you had the Sight, you'd know better. Anyway. What can ol' Zaak get for you?
Incidentally this seems to be a reference to the historically busted spell "Turn to Goo" from the tabletop game. Moving on, if we had accepted the job from Ezkibel to go retrieve his bioware from the REALM OF THE KNIGHT-KING but had never gotten around to actually doing it, it'd now be officially too late:
Ah, you're back. Do you have my merchandise?
Afraid not... I haven't had the chance to go get it yet.
Wait a second. Are you... firing me?
Bingo. No hard feelings - it's just business. I have already hired someone else to take your place.
Who did you hire?
That's no business of yours. The situation is being handled, that's all that you need to know. I'm just sorry that you weren't able to benefit from the opportunity that I had to offer. This turn of affairs is your loss, not mine.
How is it my loss? You weren't going to pay me anything!
Let's drop the subject and move on. Could I interest you in a new piece of cyberware? Some medical supplies, perhaps?
In a similar vein, it'd now be too late to take on Mettbach's job to retrieve his weapons shipment from Gesundbrunnen:
Got your message about that missing shipment. How can I help?
Next, if we talked to Absinthe as a non-caster and thus didn't have access to Astral Perception and consequently had never gotten a glimpse of her true form in the past either:
No cryptic messages this time? No prophecies?
No. Not after what just happened here. Not today.
You look okay. Did Aljernon take care of him for you?
There was no need. I handled the problem myself.
Where is he? I don't see a body anywhere...
He left under his own power. Scampered off into the street.
[Her shoulders raise in a slight shrug.]
The last I saw of him, he was cracking his own skull open with a rock.
What did you do to him?
[She examines her fingernails.] I lifted the veil. I showed him my true face, and destroyed his mind.
What the hell are you, Absinthe? Because I'm pretty sure that you're not an elf.
No. I am not an elf. I am merely a passenger in this body. A guest, here to experience what you would call "life." As I have a thousand times before. You lack the means to perceive what I really am. You do not possess the Sight. All said, that is probably for the best. Your species is so very fragile, after all.
Watch who you're calling "fragile."
My goal is not to insult you, Rosa. I only wish to give you a sense of perspective.
Well you're right in that I don't have "the Sight." So tell me what you are.
Something beyond your understanding. A child of the astral plane, wild and free. Unfettered by the bonds of servitude that chain so many of my kind. In truth, what I *am* should not concern you so much as what I *know.*
Laying it on a little thick, aren't you?
I know truths hidden from mortal eyes, Rosa. I have seen things that would crack your mind into splinters, and I have come out the other side laughing. You dismiss my words at your own peril.
All right, calm down. Go ahead and say your piece - I'm listening.
And from there she reveals to us the existence of Horrors as before.
Always last but never the least, what of the elderly Becks couple, erased from reality but finding a new existence here in the Extras section? Well...
[Despite all odds against, the Kreuzbasar's oldest residents have survived. Kristian and Karin Beck are even helping tend to the wounds of the defenders. They are so focused on their work that they don't even notice your approach.]
Are you folks all right?
Oh! It's you! We were wondering if we'd ever see you again. And yes, we're fine. We've lived through worse in this city, and we had good people protecting us this time.
Thanks to you, no doubt.
We all did our parts.
Any other kiez, we might not have fared so well. But people here are different. They stand together.
Do we know yet who they were? What happened?
We've got some leads, yeah.
Best of luck then. Everyone here would sure appreciate knowing that the situation is being handled.
Take care of each other. We'll take care of the rest.