Part 81: The Shadows' VerdictPart 81 - The Shadows' Verdict
And so this is it at last, where one way or another it's all going to end.
We definitely know the way we'd prefer, it's the one where we get to walk away and return to a home that isn't a swathe of hellblasted ruins and infected with an unpredictable virus that could crack the very foundations of the world, but Audran seems to believe this whole thing jumped the shark long ago and is in dire need of a reboot where dragons can't make a mess of the whole plot. That, or a post-apocalyptic spin-off.
As we step into the open, we find the mutinous first mate and his crew already hard at work crashing this ship and its volatile payload into the harbor.
You aren't unleashing that dragon, Audran. We'll kill you before you do.
No, seriously, how did you ?
[His eyes glitter, triumphant.]
Oh, I get it! You made a deal, didnt you? You made a deal with *her.* That bitch in the jar upstairs helped you, and in return, you're gonna help her climb back into her meat body again. Am I right?
And what did she promise you? Gold? Jewels? Eternal life? She offered all of that stuff to me, too. For decades.
...Literally all she did was mention a panel in the floor that we probably would've spotted sooner or later anyway. Dunno why he's this shocked that we escaped to be honest, we've seen walk-in fridges that were trickier to escape from than that room. Hell there was like a half dozen escaped firedrakes in those tunnels already too, and since we're probably not talking Houdini's secret lizard descendants here, it seems pretty safe to say these guys just suck at confining anything below dragon-sized.
Isn't that nice for you.
[His deformed face twists into a vicious smile.]
Doesnt matter. With that monster's help, I'm gonna change the world. At the very least, the dragons will die, and at most, who knows? We'll just have to wait and see.
Last chance. Stop this, or we'll put you down.
Hear that? That's the sound of change. Beautiful, isn't it?
Hell yeah it is
(It's like that Revolver Ocelot meme but with the names of the game, the section, and the track. Oh, and it's also the last boss theme so you should probably listen to it. Downright somber compared to the bombastic Double Cross from the previous game, and notably the only Jon Everist track in the original expansion together with The Haven until he took over in Director's Cut and the sequel.)
We begin our final battle facing just three hostile mercenaries and a lone barrel who presumably bears no ill will towards us and is simply a victim of circumstance, while Audran himself is hiding in the control booth for the time being.
Now this being the final battle, there's obviously going to be some twist to it beyond just gunning people down, namely the fact that the virus injection process is already underway. In practice this translates into a turn limit with the process advancing by one every turn, and if it ever hits 10 it's game over both for us and Berlin.
They key to counteracting this viral flow lies in the two pump stations in the middle of the chamber. There's also a Matrix Pump Access to the side where a decker could assist by activating auxiliary vent systems in cyberspace, but for our Blitzless lot they may as well be located in actual space for how much good they'll do us.
We start things off playing by the book and geek the mage first. Mages here have a more support-focused spell set from the usual (Aim III, Heal Wounds I, Lightning Bolt II and Weaken Armor III) and notably also come with the unique spell Deflect III which works like a single-target version of Dietrich's aura and reduces all damage taken by the target by 6 for two turns.
Glory reaches the west pump station this turn and activates it.
The pump stations themselves don't have an effect on the infusion process, instead what they do is unlock their respective vent hatches attached to the tubes through which the virus is continously flowing into the dragon. Activating one vent hatch interrupts the flow for a turn, in effect pausing the counter for that turn, while activating both vents at the same time reduces the counter by one.
On turn 2, after clawing the two remaining mercs out of cover, Glory gets to work on the hatch. While this pump -> hatch process can be repeated as many times as one likes, activating a hatch takes that character out of action both for that turn and the next one.
Ultimately though the whole virus thing is just a distraction from the main goal which is good old-fashioned killing work, a field in which we have plenty of experience by now.
Obviously we're not dealing with just three mercs here, and turn 3 brings in more from the east and the south.
And... also from thin air, apparently? That's new.
Sure enough, the second wave involves the first appearance of an Executive Bodyguard who are high-stat physical fighters equipped with a katana, a pair of grenades, and a cloaking device allowing them to close the distance before striking. They're a pain to land hits on and themselves deal AP damage in melee, making them quite an annoyance if not that big of lethal threat on their own.
Glory remains out of commission for now, but we begin our third turn by having Eiger snipe the merc to the east. Then Dietrich
Ow ouch what the hell man, it was our turn! We'd call this a new low for you, but you're already at the very bottom and we're not busting out the shovels until it's time to dig your grave.
So yeah, taking down enough mercenaries brings the main man out together with an extra pair of Mages. Audran himself comes packing his trademark minigun which now also shreds armor, a pair of hand razors and a medkit, and much like the Adversary-corrupted spirit we fought at Feuerstelle, he can act twice per turn unlike normal enemies who are restricted to one. It goes without saying that taking two minigun bursts per turn is not a good time even for the most dedicated of masochists.
While he can melt the HP of anyone not in cover very quickly, defensively 135 HP is actually not all that much for a final boss. He largely relies on his maxed out armor and the two mages casting Deflect III on him first chance they get, but this reliance on damage reduction over HP means he's very vulnerable to armor reduction from, say, the mage spell Strip Armor or Glory's Fray Armor.
That's already some 40 HP and all his armor down, and we've barely even started using our AP. Hell...
With the power of DRUGS we can have more AP than we started with! Audran you absolute fool, you should've known that everyone saves consumables until the absolute final battle and still you went and made yourself the final boss. Well here's your reckoning, you short-sighted bastard.
And a- hold on let's get this guy out of the way first
And just like that, The Man With the Minigun deflates like a limp balloon, and ultimately puts up about as much of a fight as one too. Good riddance, asshole didn't deserve some epic showdown anyway.
The mercenaries might have lost their boss, but as we already know from the Kreuzbasar bomb job they're immensely dedicated to their craft and will keep trying to kill us to the end, so we do still have to wrap things up here.
Oh by the way, every four turns Firewing breathes belches some fire in the area in front of her, dealing 20-30 armor-piercing damage depending on distance with an extra 4 damage for two turns afterwards. Notably the hatches are within dragonfire range, so it's easy for an immobilized character or two to get grilled pretty bad there which can really mess with your plans.
And speaking of the dragon, Audran being downed has not stopped the infusion process so the clock is still ticking.
Fortunately as his one final act of incompetence, Audran brought the emergency override switch with him to battle. Not the smartest play even by his standards, and those standards have proven themselves to be lower and lower the longer we've known him.
Glory takes the key to the console which is like, right there, and we have officially saved the day! All that remains now is clean-up. If you may, Eiger.
Very good. One more Executive Bodyguard appears way behind schedule and takes a swing at us, but it doesn't matter anymore. They're done. They're all done. We're all done. It's over.
Oh Audran, you can't even face your final moments with dignity, clipping with the same console which put a stop to your grand plan like that. How embarassing.
Yes, you're probably very eager to give us some meaningful last words, really open up to us about your thoughts and feelings during your last moments in this world. And you know, we are usually all about listening to people, hearing their stories and listening to their views. We're something of a... "dialogue completionist", you might say.
But that said.
You happen to be someone very special to us, and so only this once, this one time, in the presence of such a special friend...
...we're willing to make an exception.
Huh. Guns aren't really our thing, but gotta admit, that was pretty satisfying.
The trash has been disposed of, but saying that there's still an elephant in the room would probably be a serious insult to what is actually occupying the space here.
Well, there's our exit, and there's our dragon girl as well. Putting an end to Panacea was a nice and straightforward objective without too much ambiguity involved, but now we have a trickier decision ahead of us.
Like all proper villainous undergound bases, this console also comes with a built-in "blow it all up" -button, presumably large, round, and tempting red in color. We can always just press this and bury everything here if we choose to.
But first, what are we going to do with you?
Guess it can't hurt to have another chat and see if we can get some clarity for the situation, maybe she'll have calmed down a bit from last time.
She is so close so very close now...
No... ...defiled... I am DEFILED!
SHALL RENDHIMFLAYHIMBURNHIMBURN ASH! NOTHING LEFT BUT ASH!
[She stands there, panting for a moment - spent. Then her eyes narrow, focus, ice over.]
It will be slow, Vauclair... I will *make* it slow... Delicious...
No, doesn't seem like she's doing much better now. Maybe some good news will help?
Vauclair is dead, Feuerschwinge.
Will you release me now, human? makemewholeagain
Yeah about that, we were kind of hoping we'd have figured this part out by the time we got here, but neither our tunnel trek or putting Audran down, as nice as it was, really ended up yielding any help on that front.
Im not sure thats a good idea.
IT IS yesyesitis itisitis
Honor our agreement, small one... What must I do, kind human... tellme and itisyours
We have the option to ask for TRINKETS AND BAUBLES
Treasure. I want treasure.
[Her face falls.] havenone i do not take no treasure nobaublesnogold onlythegreen onlythegreen
Audran said that you offered him treasure.
wasalie lied to him... dragonshavetreasure everyoneknows everyone
butnotI I do not take The treasure is... thegreen thegaiashee notreasure foryou whatelsewhatelsewhatelse
Surely there is something I can say...
You can answer some questions.
But really, who cares about treasure, or even Audran or Panacea or Berlin or whatever, because this right here is the moment our whole journey has been building up to.
We've traveled to all sorts of strange and dangerous places and everywhere we've gone we've asked question after question, we've asked bums, we've asked criminals, we've asked ghouls, we've asked spirits, we've asked the lowly and the great, the humble and the arrogant, the natural and the supernatural, none have been spared our inquiries.
And here, at the very end, we finally have in our reach what is to be the crowning jewel our career: Busting out a list of questions in front of a Great goddamn Dragon!
no no ask
Ask your questions little human so I may be done here. The long sleep awaits... The long flight will finally end...
Oh boy oh boy, where do we even start, maybe with something light.
Why did you do it? Why kill all those people?
[The gaunt woman covers her mouth with her hand, a look of horror in her eyes.]
You did do it, right? You burned thousands of people to death.
[She glares at you over her hand. Nods her head yes.]
burned burnedandburnedandburned yes
allsocold I woke to the cold, the gray... whereisthegreen human? WHEREISTHEGREEN?
What is it? What is the green?
This doesn't seem to be going much of anywhere, let's try another one.
What do I get if I release you?
[The dragon inside the woman looks at you, perplexed.]
Get? What do you get from giving a sapling water... Or from holding a child against the terrors of the night?
...the nurturing compounds upon itself.... ...tightens the fabric... rootstothesoil childtothemother
Well, it was worth a try.
How do I know you wont hurt anyone else?
swear it Feuerschwinge will swear it.
How do I know youll keep your promise?
You must trust...
Lady we're a veteran shadowrunner, and you don't survive long enough to be one if you take every dang glass-encased dragon woman you come across for their word. The only people we really trust are our team, and even then we're not about to lend Blitz cash or anything too crazy like that.
I don't know, I'm not the trusting type.
[She looks at you sharply.] takecare, little Rosa take care
Trust a dragon? Do I look like a fool to you, lizard?
BEWARE YOUR TONGUE LITTLE HUMAN IT WILL BE YOUR UNDOING
I AM FEUERSCHWINGE SHE WHO WALKED WITH THE FIRST BEFORE THE FALL SHE WHO WITNESSED THE VAST MULTIPLICITY
THEY CRAWLED FROM THE FACE OF THE WATER thespreadofman thespreadofman thespreadofman
[She thinks.] You will trust because I will lay my oath... Swear. yes swear sweartohurtnomannobeast
Nor tree, nor crop, nor building.
The forever task?
This is getting a little tiring, wonder if there's a kiosk selling German - Great Dragon dictionaries anywhere down here.
sacred itissacred theforevertask
now letmego or endme but release me... release
We have a few options here to try and figure her out. By default we can ask the crew, though only Dietrich has any kind of an answer and it's not much:
Anyone know what the hell shes talking about?
[Dietrich rubs his chin.] I think so. At least a little. It sounds like she thinks shes on some sort of eternal quest. Like some sort of guardian or something.
Otherwise Intelligence 3 and the Academic etiquette can be used to make a better deduction. But even those crude methods are for those cursed with shudder an even number of eyes, while we can simply look into the matter ourselves.
It can't be bad every time.
Rosa? Can you hear me?
What is she doing?
Seeing the truth, I think.
You woke up to find your world destroyed, didnt you, Feuerschwinge? We killed the green.
Youre not lost. You said you would begin again, remember?
That is the eternal task, yes. To sleep the long sleep. Begin again in the next age of the world.
[She wraps her arms around herself, quietly shivering.]
Lost. Feuerschwinge is lost. There will be no long slumber. The world is dead now. Feuerschwinge is dead.
[She looks at you sadly. Longingly.]
Will you finish it, little human? Will you end Feuerschwinge?
Well this is it folks, no pressure but whatever we choose will undoubtedly leave its mark on the entire world here. Do we
1. ...strive to convince Firewing that all green is not yet lost from the world like she thinks, take her by her word that she will simply retreat to her sleep without hurting anyone, and free her?
2. ...release her from her despair and let her rest, ensure she can't go back on her word and threaten metahumanity again, and kill her?
3. ...simply decide that making a choice of this magnitude is way above our pay grade, leave her to her imprisonment, and just walk away? Because yeah, we can totally do that too.
Audran's dying monologue will be relegated here to the Extras section because the spotlight is no place for losers:
Forty years... forty years and we finally had a chance to make a difference and you blew it.
You're the one who's bleeding out on the floor. Looks to me like *you* blew it.
[Audran smirks through the pain.]
What was the point of any of this, Audran? Why kill Vauclair?
[He coughs up a great wad of bloody phlegm.]
You looking for my secret motivation? Like, maybe... I was burned by a dragon as a kid... and now I want them all dead? Gonna have to... disappoint you.
[Another bloody cough. Sounds like he's struggling against a collapsed lung.]
World... whole world is... going to shit. We're on... on a runaway train to Hell, and someone... ...Someone has to make it... jump the tracks...
The Intelligence and Academic alternatives to interpreting the Firewing's ramblings are pretty much just her saying what we saw for ourselves, but the latter at least includes some mythology trivia:
(Academic) Ive heard something like this before. It was in relation to the Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzi.
[The gaunt woman stops her pacing. Slowly her eyes rise to meet yours. They are lucid. Unblurred by time or torture or separation from her body.]
Damu-zid. That is one of the names, yes. Damuzid of the fair-spoken mouth, of the ever-kind eyes. The names change but the forever task *is*.
(Academic) Damuzid was a shepherd-god. Are you a shepherd too, Feuerschwinge?
I am the shelter. I am the shield. I am the shelter. And I have failed.
I smelled it first, long ago, when I awakened from the long slumber. The stink of it choked me and I retched. Then I saw it - for as far as my eyes could see. Far, far to the horizon. Humanstone and metal. Glass and flickering lights. Sprawled across the Land, slicing into the sky. Lording over the green. Smothering the whole of the world.