Part 77: The Scene of the CrimePart 77 - The Scene of the Crime
And so we've finally returned to where all our troubles began, and if all goes as planned it's where they'll finally be put to rest as well. No illusions about us heading into a milk run this time around though, this is going to be nothing less than a matter of life and death. Preferably with us holding on to the former and doling out plenty of the latter.
Last chance before things get hot. Let's review the plan.
[She looks to you.]
Good to go, Rosa?
I know we're outnumbered - but I also know this team. And there's no one else I'd rather have at my side.
Since the doc is unlikely to come greet us at the door like a proper host, our first objective is simply to make our way inside the manor. We cleanly spend all our 16 Karma to raise our Body to 7 (total 8) and Willpower to 9 (total 11) and then get started on the task.
Our first obstacle is the familiar sight of a console-locked door. Let's hope APEX was in control of this part of the security system as well, it'd be real embarassing having to drive all the way back to the Kreuzbasar and beg Blitz to come let us in.
Very nice. You know moments of effortless progress like this are going to be few and far between in this place, so gotta enjoy them while we can.
We're accosted by a single hellhound as we enter, but it's certainly no Dante and the lone hot dog is barbecued in no time.
Never really got rich people's fondness for statues and fountains, but at least the architects here did have appreciation for proper symmetry. This place is built much like a fortress with multiple courtyards divided by walls, so we're still quite a ways from the actual building entrance.
There wasn't enough space in the van for a battering ram bigger than Eiger, so let's find out if this console is feeling as cooperative as the last one.
Figures, so much for just getting to walk through every door until the villain's lair. We've neither a key nor a code, gonna have to look around.
There's an enclosed path west of the gate, and as we follow it we bump into our first armed guards with one of them immediately gunning for some kind of a panel behind him.
It's safe to assume he's not reaching for the soykaf maker in order to offer us some nice hot refreshments to ward off the cold, so Eiger's rifle puts a swift stop to his attempt.
A peek around the corner reveals he was indeed looking to warm us up in his own way though, as the panel turns out to be connected to a hellhound pen.
We believe in letting angry dogs lie, and quickly take out the two remaining guards before they force us into needless animal cruelty.
Too bad they were savvy enough not to hand out the master key to the frontline cannon fodder, but this'll at least get us further inside.
Looting the small enclosure to the south nets us a Premium Medkit and a taser, not that most items are of much use to us at this point. Also is that a dartboard hanging directly from a stone wall? Gotta be pretty confident in your aim or that's going to ruin a lot of perfectly good darts.
As a side note we could go and open the hellhound cages ourselves if we wanted to for some reason, but they wouldn't appreciate the good intentions of their liberators and we'd just have to kill them for no gain whatsoever.
Instead we return to open the main gate with the key we picked up. The alternate way to get through would be to enter the code "4168" using the number pad, not that such a code can be actually be acquired from anywhere.
A pair of lightly equipped guards are waiting us on the other side, though instead of opening fire they instead start retreating deeper in.
Eiger's Snap Fire takes out one and also wounds the other, but the latter manages to slip away into the darkness. Glory gives chase, but...
Ah, so it was the classic gargoyle ambush ploy, seems Vauclair's running a whole magical creature zoo in here. Gargoyles are obnoxiously tough and can attack with either sweeping claw attacks or by breathing AP-draining acid at range, making them unpleasant customers all around.
They also explode into a noxious gas cloud upon death so finishing blows are best dealt from a distance.
Toxic personalities aside, they're still only a real threat to a group like ours in larger engagements since they can take a lot of precious AP to wear down. Strip Armor softens their tough hides considerably and as with most everything else, without numbers on their side we have more than enough firepower to focus them down.
The injured guard from earlier has slipped away never to be seen again, and we proceed into the inner courtyard where we're faced with yet another gate.
Looks like they know they can't depend on APEX to be their watchdog anymore. Someone manually locked the door.
How boring of them, not that walking through the main entrance was ever what we expected anyway. We need to go and find that freight elevator.
Our search continues, and we engage another pair of guards a little ways to the west. Gotta say, for the hideout of someone called the Dragonslayer, they sure have an awful lot of dragon imagery in this place. There's also a pair of familiar-looking gargoyle statues here which we probably don't want to get too intimate with.
Making sure to watch where we step, this pair of guards is handled just as easily as the ones before.
We continue westwards while giving the suspicious outdoor decorations a wide berth, and soon emerge into an opean area where it seems the security forces have finally decided to stop playing around.
In what can be considered the first potentially threatening fight of the mission, we're facing a fairly diverse set of seven guards (plus a rigger's drone) and on top of that the area we're fighting in has three gargoyle statues scattered around, making it difficult to maneuver without waking up the cranky stoners.
That said getting the first turn is still an enormous advantage, even if we have to spend some AP getting into position. We handed our old Blind spell to Dietrich who uses it to disable the grenadier while Eiger snipes the mage from the backlines, already removing the enemy lineup's biggest threats.
Team Security get some scattered damage in on their turn, but in the process make the ever-questionable mistake of grouping up.
This leaves us free to heap enough area AP damage on them to stun nearly the entire enemy lineup with just two spells, which for all practical purposes ends the fight then and there.
It's a little anti-climactic as this can be a genuinely tricky fight especially if you fail to notice the gargoyles ahead of time, but there really isn't much to say about the rest of the "battle" as Eiger and Glory basically just gun down the guards one by one with some lucky crits in the mix helping things along.
As usual AP is the king of stats, when you have a lot of it and your opponents have none of it, they have about as much of a fighting chance as pins against a bowling ball. And we happen to have an excellent average.
Funnily enough the worst hit we take comes after the battle as one of the party members we can't control outside of combat steps on a gargoyle tile and we get acid all over the team. Noxious Breath is no joke, trigger one or two of these things to join the fight and it's easy to find yourself to be on the losing side of the AP war instead.
After disposing of the excessively lifelike sculpture, we carefully maneuver our way to the elevator at the back without further incident.
The east stairwell can go right ahead and please itself, we'll just be taking the elevator in the meantime.
That's step one complete. We've already had to shed a lot of blood and we aren't even inside the place yet, but it'd take serious optimism to expect things to get more peaceful from here.
Now we could end the update here but it's been a bit lacking in highlights so far. Let's keep going a while longer, shall we?
Wow, this could almost be nostalgic if the memories from our last visit weren't so thoroughly terrible.
This bit of hallway was the last we saw of this place, back when everything went to shit and we were fleeing for our lives. Not today though, today we're leaving either victorious or in body bags.
As we open the "vault" door to where we first came face to ugly mug with Audran, we're spotted by yet more guards.
They're inside the lab! Call for backup!
The whole security network is down. Take cover!
A sound tactical decision, but woefully insufficient when you're both outnumbered and outgunned to this kinda degree.
Another generous donation into our key collection? Don't mind if we do.
It probably won't stay quiet in here for long. We should keep moving.
Not just yet. There could be valuable intel in here, and we don't even know how big this facility is. We should sweep the area for clues before pushing forward.
All right. Fine. We'll search the room, but let's do it quickly, yeah? I don't wanna get stuck in here again.
We can agree on that one, this room could've ended up being our tomb had Monika not managed to mess up that one terminal we used to eventually get the doors open.
Sadly we never got the chance to give proper thanks to the hero herself.
Is this where it happened?
Yeah. This is where she died.
Her killer seemed to be banking on that too when it wore her face and tried to convince us to free it, but at least we've now ensured that no further deckers will needlessly lose their lives in the Matrix.
Well, not in numbers past the standard mortality rate in any case.
The keycard we picked up will probably take us further in, but let's first see if we can learn something from here.
This project name doesn't sound familiar, but we appear to know the secret admin handshake so maybe we can enlighten ourselves on the subject.
Ooh, all these big sciency words are setting our nerd heart all a-flutter. Let's start from the top.
Heh, that supposed to be a challenge? We read stuff like this like it was the morning paper.
Our scientific conclusion from this can only be that somebody's likely to sic salamanders on us somewhere down the line. What's next?
Please, scientific jargon is basically our third language. Right after German and searing magical fire, the universal tongue for times when there's simply no room for ambiguity.
Fascinating stuff, but without context it's hard to say what the exact end goal here is. Not banking on it being anything good though.
Oh no, where in the world could we find such a skilled mage, who could possibly be sufficiently cool and intelligent enough to interpret something this difficult?
Ahaha, oh that's right.
This seems like a pretty big deal, though we have a funny feeling that despite these unlimited applications the people here are not that interested in the beneficial ones. One more entry to go.
Somehow this is sounding even worse than expected, and we didn't set our expectations particularly high here.
I don't like the looks of this, Rosa. I don't like it at all.
Seems Glory has made much the same deductions as us, but we're not giving up the spotlight that easily.
(Intelligence 7) There isn't enough information here to know what this "Panacea" is, but I can take a guess.
I'm all ears, boss. Lay it on us.
I think that Panacea is a sort of a delivery system for Doom. It's a virus... airborne and highly infectious. And it can produce Doom antibodies on command. But the radioactive payload that they carry is... stable, somehow. Dormant. The magical research ties it all together. I don't think that any of this would work at all if magic weren't involved.
What all of this tells me is that we need to shut Vauclair down. Whatever mad-scientist bullshit he's planning on pulling with this stuff, it isn't going to be good for us.
Agreed. Let's keep moving... we need to put a stop to this.
Though Glory could've provided the same conclusion about Panacea, deducing it ourselves nets us 5 bonus Karma. Without the 7 Intelligence or Glory present we'd simply move on without having learned about its nature. The other skill checks seem to be purely for flavor.
So on top of everything else this manor is involved in the development of some kind of highly infectious virus, and if that didn't make the residents evil enough, they've apparently gone and attached it to a dangerous radioactive bio-weapon as well. But for what?
Vauclair has a lot of explaining to do, so let's try and find the man as we continue to delve deeper into the facility, next time.