White Knights and Dark Days

Scene 2 Wrap UP
Here's the Karma wrap up for the tutorial run.

I decided on values, then made up accolades. the totals reflect major contributions. If you feel they’re too much too little, feel free to appeal, or ask the group what you can do better/did too much of. 5 is needs improvement, 6 is fine through good, 7 is great, and 8 is impressive.

Alexander – 5:3 (R:G)
Shhh – You got shock punched for sassing. I was amused. Red
Help is on the way! – Trying to save the guy Nameless shot. Green
Chill out – You found and calmed the children. Green
Table flop – Mind control and glitches are pretty hilarious. Red.
Master of minds – So many attempts at casting. Useful too. Green

Linus – 4:4
Nerd out of water – Fled every single fight, despite being arguably the most competent for them. Green
Astral traveler – Way to take to the system and learn how astral works and how magic works, and do them both well. Red
Fire master – Pretty far overboard on summoning, I was greatly amused. Red
Barrier breaker – again, critical glitches amuse me. Red
Scientist and a nerd – good dialogue and reasoning. Green

Nameless – 3:3
Bullets. Bullets everywhere. – You shot everyone you could get away with shooting. Red
Thanks, jerk – You immediately shot an unarmed man with the bullets Yulong gave you after a lecture about non-violence. Red
J/K – You gave Yulong and Alexander heart attacks. Green
Robo-talker – good dialogue, good roleplaying. Green
Name calling – amusing interactions with Yulong, and interesting results. Green

Skip – 3:4
Kaboom – you blew up everything. I approve. Red
Hillbilly – General dialogue excellence. Everything I read is funny. Well done. Green
Minefield – Even after trying to blow everything up, you still rigged up two more bombs, just because. Red
Paintballin’ – I like your use of positioning and scouting.

Zin – 2:4
Blamm-O! – Excellent shooting. Red
Hello, Operator – Smooth talked pretty much everyone. Good making use of your skills. Green
On track – Always on topic, and thinking reasonably. Good suggestions and dialogue. Green
Just a minute, ma’am – Tried to pump Lilith for information. Dangeresque. I approve. Red

Yulong – 3:5
You shall (not) pass – Ok, yeah, so you let Lilith kill some guys. It was a good effort. Red
Come with me if you want to live – Attempting to convince Alexander to leave, but then being disgusted with him. Realistic. Green
The great wheel – Lecturing Nameless, hilarious. Green
Mmmm okra – eating vegetarian, nice touch. Green
What’s over here? – Creepin’ and discoverin’ the shed. Red

Skills can be increased up to a point with just karma. Anything that cannot be defaulted on needs a trainer contact. Those can be bought with money or karma.

Same with attributes. body from 2 to 3 just means you jog more. body from 5 to 6 means you need to invest seriously in healthy foods, exercise, and specific routines, so that’ll require a trainer as well.

Any questions about how much X costs, or what you can do with X, or something like, “hey, I want X, how do we make it happen?” I welcome. Let me know what you, as players want, and I’ll try to make it happen. After all, this is about your characters in my world, not my world, as it relates to your characters.

Yes, red karma is how contacts are leveled, foci and lodges are made, character world expansion is done, and can be used to help secure exceedingly rare goods and services faster and easier. New attributes seem pretty expensive, I’ll have to think over how much they cost. Honestly I haven’t looked much at the way karma is spent according to the book, so I’ll have to do that, and then reconcile the two systems.

Asclepius:
FYI, level up maths:
INCREASE SKILL = 2 x Next level
INCREASE ATTRIBUTE = 3 x Next level
BUY SPECIALIZATION = 2 points

Yulong: Kevin, I went ahead and split all of my skill groups, because there’s no way I’m going to drop like 30 karma leveling those shits up. I bought 3 specializations: Sprinting, Swords, and Diplomacy. Let me know if you think I need to work for those, but I think they follow pretty well from his natural lifestyle. I would like to put my red karma towards finding Haku, not really sure how you want that to work. Maybe its more of a roleplaying aspect.

[ Yulong has begun to turn the wheel of his red karma. ]

So for his ‘green’ karma, Skip could always learn a bit more about explosives, since it appears he immensely enjoys that sort of thing.Specifically, he could get better at making explosives in things that look like other things.

As stuff goes, that’s going straight into the fancy-ing up his Charger, because that’s the only other thing he puts any effort into. It’d be pretty awesome if that sucker was bulletproof.

So I am thinking that Linus doesn’t quite have enough green karma (5 I think) to up what I’d want to up, so he’s going to hold on to it for the time being.

Red Karma’s going to get spent in magical ways that I don’t understand, but let’s say that 2 red karma goes to developing his interactions with Sanjay. Sanjay isn’t yet close enough to be trusted with the location of Linus’ secret lodge in a storage unit in North Durham, but he’s getting there.

3 more red karma are going into Linus’ laboratory. Not sure how karma pays, but Linus really needs to work on making a focus of some kind (hopefully one appropriate to his tradition). He also is growing vats of cultured bacteria for continued work on quantum turbulence.

[ Linus has begun to discover his red karma. ]

Nameless: I need me some memories! but I don’t want to just wake up with them returned. I’m on a motherfucking quest to find whoever stole them from me and kick some ass til I get ’em back.

[ Nameless has triggered his red karma. ]

Yulong: I believe the funds got distributed on the character sheets, it’s 10k between the 6 of us.

Put the finishing touches on Skip’s character sheet: Improved body to 4 to account for invincible hillbilly stock, added another good contact, Billy Mackenzie, and improved his rifle and demolitions skills to account for the fact that these are apparently two of his favorite things. I figure expanding his demolitions stockpile and souping up his two vehicles, a Dodge Charger and a GAZ P-179 transport truck, are good things for him to pursue during the game. I’m going to go through and add our reward to everyone’s character sheet.

View
Tutorial Run Part 5
"Let's go back to our restaurant, to speak of things to come."

The group mumbles their affirmative responses, some more grudgingly than others, and they drive off into the night in search of slow-cooked pork.

Yulong settles into his seat, dipping his fried okra in barbecue sauce and taking slow, deliberate bites. “Well, this was certainly one of the more interesting jobs I have ever taken. Besides being the death of every Brotherhood man we encountered, we also managed to meet some of the strangest characters I have yet to see during my short time here in the Triangle.”

The monk chews his food and swallows before continuing. “There was the mantis shaman at the first house we visited, who seemed to be guarding some sort of astral sinkhole which I did not comprehend. Who can say what his role was in all of this?”

“And then there was Lilith, the crimson woman with her bodyguard in full plate. I could not be more relieved we managed to keep from crossing swords with them.” The adept shoots the nameless man a telling look. “What task had those poor men failed which brought her wrath down so? And the ebon crow, what mysterious sorcerer did it serve? Was it even there to watch us, or did it have some other purpose?”

Yulong rubs at his bald head and takes a sip of tea. “Why did the Brotherhood take the orklings at all? What plans did they have for them?So many questions left to answer—perhaps things will be illuminated as the great wheel turns. And more immediately, where will our next paycheck come from? Although I do not covet material possessions, I have at least learned that progress often takes root in the soil of a fresh credstick.”

Linus plops his wings, biscuit and gravy onto the table.

“Credsticks are just a means to an end, and … well … I suppose some are bizarrely motivated by credits alone but… what I mean to say is that we each seem to have our own… motivations.”

Linus looks to the giant robot, the elf, the hillbilly, the woodsman and back at the monk.

“I’ve frankly not sure that any two of us share a motivation. But our combined … competencies … are a force to be reckoned with, certainly.”

“I, too, have questions about the strange things we’ve seen today, but I don’t expect that the answers will be forthcoming. The magical forces we encountered suggest to me but one thing that I have known already: That there are powerful magical forces at work in this area, forces I can only assume are drawn to the irradiated city of Raleigh. There is something powerful there, something to which gangs like ourselves are only pawns.”

Linusbites down on the juicy fried chicken. A rivulet of grease runs down his chin, unnoticed.

“But of course that doesn’t concern you fellows. "

“There’s something here, alright.” The snake shaman’s eyes are far away, and his sudden contribution causes the other members to pause in their eating. He rocks his chair forward and puts his arms on the table conspiratorially. “The things that happened today aren’t a meaningless chain of events, that’s for certain. Our paths do not idly cross those of a spirit familiar, a toxic shaman, and an astral hole in one day.” He sips his icewater and licks his lips acidly.

“Neither do I deign to know the origin of these mysteries, but I would put money on the fact that they draw us together again.” He sets his cup down, empty, and rises to leave, regarding them all. “I will take my share of the proceeds now. What we did today, I cannot say whether it was for good or evil. I know some kids are happy and safe tonight, and that is good. But I know there are those of this group that value destruction and death and are drunk on the power it gives them. To those of you, I give my caution: Nature takes its due from us all. If for nothing else, I will remain with this band to make sure She has it when the time for you to pay is come.”

Yulong stands with Asclepius, handing him his portion of the earnings. He doles out the rest of the reward to the other team members before turning back to the snake shaman. “Unless anyone else has something pertinent to share, I believe I shall be going as well. Alexander, you strike me as a practitioner of the quiet arts. Would you care to join me for my evening meditation? I am renting a wonderful little cottage on the outskirts of the DLA; there is a bamboo forest and a screened-in porch which is perfect for sitting in zazen.”

All this time the cyborg has been sitting unu – well…not unusually quietly, but very quietly – but he lifts his chin as Yulong talks and accepts his payment from him.

His voice cuts through the din of the restaurant, less mechanical and more plaintive than before, and he speaks with an eloquence which seems to surprise even him:

“I know nothing of myself except that I am here. I do not know any of you, and yet after the past day I feel as though I may as well ask for I have nowhere else to turn. I have discovered old talents and predilections that have come up from within, previously established habits and ingrained skills have taken over almost without conscious direction. These must have come from somewhere and I must find out where and how and why lest I collapse back into nothingness.”

His voice picks up steam and his artificial eyes begin to glow with an organic light.

“All I have to go on is the hospital I awoke in. Unfortunately, I did not leave…gracefully. I would require some assistance in returning.” The cyborg’s head turns on stationary shoulders towards Skip, assessing his sauce-smeared face, PBR can, with it’s label celebrating an award won nearly two centuries previously, paused in mid-flight between table and mouth: “It would seem that perhaps we have the most in common, or at least we share similar…methods.” His neck cranes towards the con man “and you, elf; you have a silvery tongue that would appear to enable you to go places you would otherwise not be allowed. I do not know what I can offer you but….”

his voice trails off. The realization of his utter lack of possession has hit him and he looks down confusedly at the table. Gathering his thoughts appears to take an inordinate effort, but the cyborg meets the struggle and raises his gaze anew

“…but I have talents, which you have seen, and which should not be undervalued. I may be of service to each of you in turn if you would do me this.”

It’s almost as if a flash of recognition runs fleetingly through the cyborg’s eyes; he has re-realized his worth as a shadowrunner for hire and, albeit somewhat unwillingly, has bowed again to it’s call.

Skip tips the rest of the beer into his mouth, and grins at the cyborg.

“A’ight Mister Machine-O-Man, Ay’thinks ay’gots a’place y’ can stay o’er at the cabin. We can head on o’er to that thar hospital and scope it out t’morra. Course ay’thinks ay’oughta get me s’more of them detenater caps, and s’mor explosives. Seems to come in mighty handee hangin’ out with y’all, and ay’done blowed most of em up already. And y’s welcome t’hang out, y’seem like a good ol’feller to have around case shit starts t’go sideways. Which course it ’bout always does these days.”

He ponders for a moment. “Wouldn’t s’prise me if som’them crazy folks we met today come looken fer us again. Or’if Mister Maurice figers out who done instigated som’this nonsense, he might come round askin’ questions. Well, actually, seems like that feller had bigger problems. Them human s’premasists a’ways seem t’run short on friends.”

From somewhere, he suddenly has another beer, which he cracks open. He takes another bite of barbecue. “Y’know, I herd b’out this big ol lota diesel-burnen dump trucks w’out in north ‘range county. None of em werk n’more, but ay’been wonderin bout maken that feller an offer, say I fix two of em up, one fer me, one fer him. Course this was Billy Macinzee who tol’ me bout this feller, and he n’ver seems to be ‘zackly raght ’bout mucha nothin. Anyhows ay’sure would like ona them, might com in handee. Them hydraulics is made the same way t’day as they was back then, course the pumps and all is diff’rent but, bas’cally not a dern thing’s changed…”

He continues to ramble about dump trucks, motorbikes, and various fishing stores to anyone who’s listening (or isn’t).

Linus leans over to the cyborg, closer than a man with any presence of mind would, and quietly relays a tale:

“Have you ever heard of Ascanio Sobrero my friend? Of course you haven’t. He was a chemist in the 19th century, a man I like to think was under the secret influence of the Fire Bringer before the awakening made such associations more… fluid. Anyhow he invented nitroglycerin. Never heard of that either? Well you would do well to learn about nitroglycerin, because you are it’s spitting image: volatile, powerful, explosive, and deadly. Yes… quite a lot like you I think…

“I tell you this because Ascanio Sobrero never wanted his creation to be used as an explosive, but a brash and bold man named Alfred Nobel, him perhaps you have heard of? No? Well he tamed the powerful bonds held deep within nitroglycerin and shaped it into a powerful force that reshaped the world: TNT, dynamite. Of course dozens died in the process but the invention, the invention of dynamite, that changed the world and saved millions of lives by revolutionizing transportation and industry.”

“You my friend, are nitro, and you are looking for your Nobel. This is a quest that I understand only too well. I think we could learn to understand each other, and perhaps further each other’s ends? Danger is a catalyst for invention, after all…”

The group sits and chats, the time growing later and later. Allen’s Son and Son has a posted closing time of 2 a.m., which isn’t too far out from the current time. Surely, helping the Cyborg recover his memory would be a worthy task for the high minded, put people need to pay rent and buy supplies, which just means more money. Surely there’s paying work out there. Perhaps tomorrow would bring something new, a fresh paycheck. After all, today hadn’t been a bad haul for the small group.

The cyborg inclines his head at the hillbilly and the scientist and responds simply “I can do these things.” It would appear his verbosity has subsided for the time being. As Skip rises, the cyborg rises too and prepares to follow him to his cabin.

Linus, done for the night, heads out to his van to head home. Yes, his wife will wonder where he was, but conferences always have a way of running late. Linus is already preparing a new excuse for his next adventure.

The group shuffles on, going about their daily lives. A few days pass uneventfully. Each party purchasing gear, reflecting, and trying to scrape by. A few pounds of explosive here, a mystical math book there, a hand of cards, a case of PBR. But something has to happen eventually. After all, these are shadowrunners, not robots. A few phones ring, a job offer here and there. The group decides to reconvene to discuss their options.

[I’ll be sending out options for missions to people I feel are appropriately situated to receive them. Then, as a group, or as a split group, we can decide what to do.

Yulong sends out a group text to the rest of the party: “Hello all. I received word of an easy job this afternoon. Unfortunately it involves hunting innocent wildlife which I am averse to because of my religion. But I imagine this job would be perfect for some of you. Maybe we can collaborate about possible work so everyone can make some money. Please meet at Allen and Sons and Sons tomorrow at noon if you would like to exchange work details. Sincerely, Yulong.”

Skip follows with his own message:
#
My good gentlemen,

I would like to extend the most heartfelt enthusiasm for our foreign companion’s proposed ‘wildlife hunt’. As may be apparent to some of you, I have always held the fondest memories of my youth spent hunting The Great North State’s native deer, turkey, rabbit, coon, and miscellaneous ‘varmits’ as the vernacular goes. I would therefore be most happy to offer my experience towards assisting in this matter. I greatly look forward to learning more details while we sup at the fine establishment that serves as our meeting place. I also have been presented with a work opportunity, the sort of which many of you new acquaintances may be of some significant use towards. A dear friend of mine, known as Maggie ‘Two-Cylinder’ Matherson, has been trying for some time to acquire an collectors motorcycle known as the Suzuki GSX1300R. This particular machine has the distinction of being the fastest motorized vehicle to run on gasoline, making it one of the most highly-sought after fuel-burning machines ever invented. My friend enlisted the services of a local eccentric known as ‘Craig Pullen.’ The man has proved a brigand and is now demanding more money than was initially agreed upon. I find this behavior to be most distasteful and unbecoming of a gentleman. Maggie has requested that I see to the motorcycles recovery, with perhaps a bit of violence involved so as to remind Craig Pullen of what becomes of those who don’t account for their promises and agreements. There is an extra monetary incentive for such an outcome. I will see that any who assist me in helping my friend and business associate are compensated fairly.

Yours faithfully,
Skip Sheffeld

linus follows up:

I need help 2. should be ez to work out, just need sum help wit a gunrunner. no problems, just the guns. see u at a+s.

Sent from my mobile device

Thursday night rolls around. After 4 days off, the group is feeling a bit rested, and has accomplished a few things. [any buying errands or short learning expeditions are complete.]

Meeting up just after 7 for a nice, delicious dinner at Allen’s Son and Son, the group sits down, pondering what moves to make next.

Often the first to break the silence amongst these odd westerners, Yulong decides that tonight is no different, and begins. “Hello my friends. I have thought about each of you a great deal during the last few days, and I am glad to see you are all well.” The monk beams to each of them in turn as he speaks. Some of the less cynical men at the table almost believe him.

He pulls a small rolled note from his sleeve and inspects it. Sitting next to him, Linus notices that it is lined with Chinese characters jotted in a precise, uniform hand. “So, I have received a bit of work, but it is difficult for me to justify performing the task myself, let alone be a conduit through which someone else is inspired to such action. My contact would like us to go to. . .” He studies the paper. “An. . . Umstead park, to hunt wolves and deer.”

The adept runs his finger down the characters. “three hundred yen per fang, and for the antlers, forty yen per point. He needs twelve to twenty fangs.” Yulong looks up. “That’s all he said. Skip, you sprung to mind when I first heard of the job. I would be happy to join you if I have nothing better to do, but I do not wish to do the killing. And above all I would ask that you make sure they have a swift, clean death, if it is truly their time.”

Zin flips through his personal message system, acknowledging the monk. “Let’s see… There’s motorcycle retrieval, going hunting, and… Linus, your message was certainly ambiguous. Tell us more.”

The cyborg looks to Skip and nods at him, acknowledging a willingness to go along, both on a hunt and lusting after a withheld donorcycle.

He then turns and looks Linus in the eye, almost gleefully. “I would be willing to assist you as well, if you would let me know more. Would I be able to keep any guns I found?”

The emptiness in the cyborg’s brain is almost deafening but even he knows that he must reconstruct his defensive (and offensive) shell before rushing headlong into the potential mayhem of his past.

“I can’t imagine that the Leiutenant I talked to would have a care in the world if you took a few, all he wants is the credit for nabbing this guy.” Linus responds.

“It’s an interesting story. By the way I wouldn’t be mired in any of this if they hadn’t caught my van on a security camera while I was supposedly at a conference. We can’t keep using my vehicle for these things, it’s going to lead everything right back to me. Anyway this cop comes in and demands that I track down this gun dealer named McDonald or something like that. It’s in the data he gave me, I haven’t looked at it yet,”

“Here’s the only wrinkle I can see: this guy seems to have connections. When the order came down to nab him, he disappeared. I’m wondering if he has people in the department. It’s a chilling thought, especially since it means there might be elements of the Law that don’t want him found.”

Linus tosses the data key onto the table for any and all to take a look at.

“I think I am going to need help with this.”

Linus’ story perks the shaman from his restive state. “Corruption in the law, this is surely the first anyone has heard of this kind of thing? This strikes my interest more than hunting animals or bone-burners, but I have a fourth option for us to consider.”

“The mantis shaman from a few days ago: has nobody been wondering what he was doing in the house and what his project in the basement involved? I have not been able to get what I saw in that house out of my mind’s eye; I think it is more important than we know. I’d like to investigate that when we have the time.”

[this is the info that Linus got.]

The data stick contains photographs and videos of a white human male, seemingly mid 40s, about six feet tall, with medium length brown hair, notable widow’s peak, swept back, not terribly oily. Some jawline, a bit of stubble, and dark eyes. Some of the photos include vehicles and locations. The man is seen driving a Eurocar Westwind 3K, and is also seen being loaded into a Mitsubishi Nightsky. He is rarely, if ever, alone. Often flanked by men with dubious concealment skills, the man never appears armed himself. His most usual accessory is a briefcase, though nearly as often he sports a duffel bag, or a ski case.

There are known locations, mostly in RTPC controlled area, a few sightings within Raleigh, and evidence that he comes and goes freely from Cary.

None of the evidence shows clients, visible weapons of any kind, or even any drop offs or pick ups. Whatever he holds when he enters is what he has when he leaves.

A few names are listed as well. Contacts, associates, what have you. Of the five listed, three have been crossed off as deceased. The remaining two are a city councilman in Cary, and a captain in RTPC’s security force.

The monk pushes his empty plate away. “I would like to help bring this gun dealer to justice as well, especially if it means rooting out crooked cops and keeping some of those barbaric weapons off the street.” Yulong picks up the scientist’s device and looks over the information before handing it along to the rogue.

After flipping through the data Zinedine pipes up again. “Well this is the most interesting task to me for a number of reasons, and it should interest all of you as well, since we all live under RTPC. I’ve mentioned to Linus before that I know of some amount of police corruption, but never anything this bad. There are a number of ways to approach the problem. We could pose as buyers, try to hunt down his suppliers, or stake out these known drop points. I think a stake out would be an easy first step, and I have some contacts that could help. Is there anyone that doesn’t want to clean up our police force?”

Linus grins at this show of help.

“Well if I have stepped into the deep end, it’s good to know you men are with me.”

“I agree, these two contacts are all we have, and they aren’t much. Honestly I think the security force captain would be the more informative of the two options, but he is also likely the more dangerous. The city councilman seems lower yield, but perhaps more likely to be found unarmed and without a phalanx of armed thugs in tow. Zin should, by all means, get in touch with his contacts, but I suggest we also go to his residence during the day for an easy drive by. Just see what there is to see, look at the layout, check the ins and outs. Who knows, maybe there will be a mantis shaman in the basement and the whole god forsaken neighborhood will be blown to smithereens. I hear that happens.”

Yulong leans back in his chair. “Finding this man will not be easy. . . he sounds dangerous and well connected. His file says that of his five known associates, three are already dead. I don’t think it is a leap to guess that he had a hand in some of these deaths. In addition, we know he has an inside connection on the police force. We should be very careful to make any moves which would draw his attention to us, thereby thwarting our attempts to capture him. Zinedine, you should reach out to your contacts only if you trust them. If we value our lives, I do not think we should let this gunrunner know we are after him.”

The monk frowns to himself. “I believe these two living associates are our best leads, barring any new information from your contacts. I will go to find them and see what I can learn, through friendly conversation or otherwise.” The monk looks to the snake shaman. “In the interest of keeping our tracks covered, perhaps it would be best if they did not remember our visit? Once again your talents would prove invaluable, if you are willing to join me. We can take the old Brotherhood van—it runs well enough, although it stinks of beer and tobacco.”

Linus looks a little hesitant, then sighs.

“Yes, that sounds wise, a two pronged approach. But look let’s be in close contact, yes? If this corrupt cop is about to find out someone is on to him I would sure like to know it sooner, rather than later, yes?”

Zin stands up, buttoning his armored blazer and drawing his phone in one deft movement. “Ok, let’s not all get ahead of ourselves. I’m going to step out to make a call. Yulong your idea sounds fine, but hopefully I’ll have more input.”

Zinedine walks outside and call’s Papa Xenith.

Alexander watches the elf leave, the screen door slapping shut pleasantly behind him. He scratches at the worn wooden table and muses, half to himself. “You know, we might be going about this the wrong way. We don’t know this is a bad man, just like we didn’t know those two men we left to die were kidnappers. Maybe this time we should weigh the options in favor of innocence, instead of presuming guilt. Politicians and police officers may not tread the straight and narrow path often these days, but that doesn’t mean we must condemn them, as well.”

He looks around, and sighs, feeling his words fall on deaf ears. “All I’m saying is, let’s exercise caution. Any engagement we can walk away from without drawing steel is in our favor.” He eyes the monk’s sword, the cyborg’s arms, the redneck’s firearm. “Yulong, your plan is acceptable to me. I will journey with you and the suit to root out the politician.”

The monk leans his elbows against the table. “Well, we have a hard target and a soft target, and men enough to cover them both, I think. We could divide into two groups: Asclepius, Zinedine, and I to root out the politician, leaving Nameless, Skip, and Linus to find the security captain. These divisions feel the most. . . harmonious to me. Well balanced, and congruently oriented. But I am only speaking my mind. Does anyone else have a better plan?”

“Look no one is talking about… heh, I mean… by the fires of the sun I hope no one is talking about taking anything like the approach we took with the Brotherhood!”

Linus looks around.

“Because I mean tussling with the Walled City of Cary security forces… that would be… if I can just emphasize this point, that would be quite another thing entirely from our previous activities. No no. Let’s save the … shall I say more forceful measures… for the runner himself. And please try to remember that we’d like to take HIM alive… looks better on the news that way.”

The cyborg bows his head. His quest is of the utmost importance to him but he seems to have somehow found himself in a group of people who, far from ostracizing or attacking him, appear to have actually begun to tolerate, even accept him; even without a sense of his past, a quick glance at his own modernized body is enough to remind the cyborg that these interactions must have been few and far between.

His head rises as his mind is made up. “I have a path of my own to follow. Bits of my past have resurfaced. Some useful. Some confusing. You-” he indicated yulong with a hushpuppy, “and you,” he inclines his head at Alexander, “were intrigued by the crow that followed us. I did not give it much thought beyond my frustration in lacking a weapon, and yet it appeared again to me, and led me to a portion of my past. I am content with this portion for the time being and will assist you in your chosen path, but after I must pursue my own ends. Or, I suppose, beginnings.”

Yet again the cyborg’s eloquence and reasoning is nigh on stupefying. It would appear that it takes their current milieu to reach into the depths of his tortured being to find whatever shreds of his essence remain. Soul food to reach a soul.

The men spend the evening chatting and planning. Much is talked over, and plans are formed. The groups made, the men go their separate ways, planning and plotting.

Friday morning, and it’s time for action. Papa Z is due back with the information any time now, and besides, there’s much work to be done.

Zin returns from his car smiling. “I know you all are very talented in your various ways, but sometimes knowing and organizing the talents of others is equally effective. Anyway, I have found some information on our gunrunner. His name is Terence McDonagh. His previous employer, Ares Macrotechnology, authorized him to sell small arms in the carolinas, but he has since started trading privately in larger quantaties than authorized. Additionally, he has attempted to acquire something larger, of the type that might make you drool Skip. Whatever it was, he hasn’t gotten it, and his buyer I assume and certainly his previous employer Ares are gunning for him. Unfortunately, my source has not seen him in a few weeks, which given his knowledge of his previous work should be grounds for concern. Alex, I hope that this assuages some of your concern about our current plan, although I’m afraid I can’t share more details from my source.”

Alexander holds up his hand placatingly. “Not necessarily. But it does assuage some of my concerns about bringing this fellow to justice.”

He looks around at the group. “We have our plans and targets. Yulong, Zin, shall we go? If someone can drive the BC vehicle, I can scout ahead on the astral.”

Aside, to the nameless one, he says, “Remember well what the crow tells you in the future. It will be of great interest to us all, I’m sure.”

Yulong scans the parking lot, empty save for a few truckers getting their morning breakfast. “I am ready to move. Zinedine, perhaps you should drive? We can take your car or the van.”

The monk adjusts the strap of his broadsword. “Linus, can you tell us what you know of this councilman associate?”

The scientist rubs his temples. “He will be… I think… quite hard to access. His name is Robert William. He’s served on the city council for Cary for 12 years, and he has not listed his residence. I have some other personal facts about him, of little use, but it seems that he is high enough on the food chain to be quite difficult to access. Here’s the description I wrote down… only mildly helpful, I know”

His notes read:
He is a white male, old but not elderly, perhaps mid 50s, 60ish. His hair is dark gray, and cut to a short length, though not buzzed. It would seem to be have once been black, or at least dark brown, but those days are passed. He wears rectangular glasses, and is often found in a suit.

Yulong folds his arms into the sleeves of his robe. “We will have to find these men before we can question them. We could go to their places of work and hope they show themselves, but this seems unreliable at best. Linus, perhaps you could contact your student to see if he can dig up their home addresses, or at least places they frequent.”

Linus shrugs. “Here is what I could find on the captain, not a lot, I know, but at least a starting point. The problem with all of these fellows is that they’re holed up in Cary, for the most part… It’s beginning to look like we need a way to penetrate into the city and stay unseen to get the job done”

Nathan Joiner is a captain with RTPC security, or RTPSEC. His position, responsibilities, and a short profile are public knowledge. He is the captain in charge of procurement, armaments, RTPSEC internal discipline, and the investigation of suspected RTPC inside jobs. He’s a black male, mid 40s, short hair, appears to be in good shape. He has cyber eyes, but not other visible enhancements. He often wears dress shirts and slacks, but rarely wears a jacket. Access to him can be gained by appointment, though he is unwilling to meet outside of his office at RTPSEC.

Yulong furrows his brow. “Well, it sounds like we are going to have to gain entrance to the Walled City if we are going to run this man down. Perhaps we should make some calls to contacts, to see if they can get more information on the two associates we’re looking for—home addresses, restaurants or clubs they frequent. We should also check to see if anyone can help us gain legitimate access to Cary. Perhaps someone does delivery or works with someone inside who could set us up as employees? I will call my mentor in the Crusaders to see if they ever do business there.”

The monk steps away from the group to make a phone call. He returns to the group momentarily, his phone call complete. “I have work to do for my mentor within the Walled City. He can supply a writ for two people, but they must be humans. I apologize, Zinedine. We can pursue our other marks once we’ve finished my bit of business, but we must be discreet or we will blow my contact’s cover, as well as our own—a mistake I do not wish to make so early in the game.”

The monk folds his arms into the sleeves of his robe. “Asclepius, I would have you join me, provided your nature spirits allow it. Your capacity for discretion is. . . considerable.”

The shaman nods. “My commune with Nature is greatest in the wilderness, but Her power extends well past the walls of some city-state. I imagine I can be of aid to our quest. Let’s delay no longer.” Inwardly, he is relieved; the monk has proven to be a mite more discriminatory in his dealings than their other companions. He feels their abilities will compliment each other well.

View
Tutorial Run Part 4
"Good news, everyone. I've found the kids."

Skip drives with a great big smile on his face, and is much more mellowed out. His hair is full of leaves, his clothes are covered in dirt. He’s quite happy with his little bit of reckon work, and that he was finally able to remember that the guys name was actually Maurice. He even got to shoot someone he didn’t care for. All things as they are, this was a pretty accomplished day for Skip Sheffeld.

To nobody in particular, he says, “Man, that thar was some of the most badass badassery Ay’ve ever seent. Mister robot man, ay think you an me are gonna be buds. Say, y’ still got that package? I reckon we should give Maurice a call, see what he’s doing in just a couple minutes. I sure could use some barbecue. Any o’y’all like good barbecue? Thar’s a place out by whar I live that has some dee-licious cue. Been open like a hundred years too.”

Linus opens his big nerdy mouth.

“Barbecue? You people are fucking monsters! When I said I would burn the house down I didn’t say with people IN IT! That was murder, plain and simple, and now I am an accessory. This is insanity. This is insanity. We are in very very deep now. Our only hope is that those lowlifes were known criminals and the police don’t give a flying fuck, otherwise there’s going to be a god damned investigation.”

“We have to find those ork kids before the police, because if this gets traced back to the Otto then it can get traced back to us. Fucking fuck.”

Yulong calms the scientist with a gesture. “I do not think you need to be so alarmed, Linus. I doubt either Duke or RTPCorp cares much for a few dead racists. Besides, they will probably be more concerned with that mantis shaman and his monstrous pet, not to mention the astral anomaly within the building.”

The monk turns to Skip. “I am a vegetarian, but I have developed a special fondness for hushpuppies and fried okra. I for one am starving. Let’s go eat, and maybe give this new character a call. I would also like to search the Brotherhood van for any more clues.”

“Man, they never knowed who we was till today, and ain’t like the cops give no shits about some human s’premacist gang. B’sides, it was the wrong house. Ay’d be more worried bout Maurice and his boys coming to find Otto than the police. Or that bug-man changes his mind and decides to come lookin for payback. If yer gonna lose yer shit, at least make it somethin realistic.”

Linus pauses to think for a moment.

“Shit. All… alright yes. Yes you are quite right.” He begins, turning back into his academic self, regaining some bearing.

“Listen that is the first site of death I have come upon since my training… a vile experience I would not go through again. And that was on the astral plane, it’s of a different variety. All this blood, so much blood…. so much blood.”

“I will be ready next time, I am sorry for my behavior back there… it will not happen again. Next time though, we absolutely must be more cautious! We learned nearly nothing because we had no time to search and examine the premises!”

Zinedine shakes his head. “I pointed us to Otto’s for a reason. We need to warn them of the situation before we do anything else. There isn’t a reward if the orks die from a Brotherhood retaliation. Also, what the fuck was that thing?! I’m more concerned about some mantis mage thing and a bird that’s stalking us than some stupid racists that don’t know left from right.”

Zin goes to the orks to find Otto and give him an update. He recommends that they set up any defenses they can, both magical and not.

As Zinedine goes to warn the orks, Yulong returns to the liberated van to give it a thorough search, looking through the glove compartment, under seats, and beneath the floormats and spare tire for any clues which might give them more information about the Brotherhood.

Alexander sighs, the mysteries of magic will never be explained, especially to sleepers like these. He is worried about what he saw in the house, how it got there, who created it, but doesn’t need to include the rest of his team on his worries. He is anxious about journeying to the astral realm now, but perhaps the black plume of smoke they saw was the astral realm relieving itself of a burden. It probably wouldn’t hurt to try projecting again once they are in a different space.

He travels with Zinedine to warn the orks of their botched job today, electing to stay in the car to attempt another astral journey.

Linus relays an order to the Fire wolf as they wait. “My guardian, I have one service I must ask of you before the sun falls and you are released. The house we just left contained a spirit of great power, and a force of uncertain origin. Your powers are far beyond those of a watcher, but you are likewise much more competent to achieve what I must ask. Go to the house, remaining in the astral aspects, and remain unseen to the police who have certainly arrived. Observe what there is to observe.”

“Destroy what clues you may find there around the area this van was parked, though leave all people unharmed.”

“Return to me with what you observed there. If you are seen, though, do not return. We must be careful.”

Otto isn’t terribly hard to spot. He is finishing his meal with a group of other orks, and notes your approach. He turns sullen as you approach, and stands to greet you. “I do not see the children. Do you require more of us? I do not think it is wise for us to be seen so much, especially in this place. I trust in your abilities, but all the same, I would prefer to avoid such open meetings as this in the future. Though, as you are already here, what can I help you with?”

[I’m treating Yulong’s search as a ‘take 20’ from D&D, in that he has all the time he needs, and is being thorough enough to eventually roll the best possible result. As Nameless is right there, the results will be sent to the group.]

Inside the car, Yulong finds much more than he had expected. Inside the glove box are three certified credsticks with unknown values on them and a flash-pak, almost lost among a pile of receipts and food wrappers. Beneath the seats, Yulong finds a ton of crumbs, hair, and crushed leaves and dirt. Nothing exciting there. Below the floormats, the car is oddly clean. I suppose they just never bothered to move them, and cleanliness never quite was a high priority to them. Ah, but in the storage in the back, inside the spare tire stowed under the flooring, is a veritable arsenal. Maybe they thought the world would end. I guess they were right about what, just not how or when. A frag grenade, two small boxes of 12 pistol bullets, one flechette and one ADPS (armor piercing) package, what appears to be a rusty carving knife, and a genuine survival knife. A smoke grenade. Kids in a candy store, these folks. Strange load, but a nice find none the less. Stuffed between the driver seat and the console is a written note, saying “Take them to you know where, and lock those trogs in the basement. Willis will guard them until we can move them. M’s orders, so don’t frag this up. ~Mo.” Jackpot.

Alexander slips into astral space in the back of the minivan, electing to stay in the car.

As soon as Linus is finished commanding the hellhound, it jumps straight into the back gate of the van. Heat rushes through the vents, and those in the rear cough from smoke inhalation, but in just a moment, no trace of the spirit remains.

Zin nods to the elderly ork. “I understand, Otto, but there are a few things we need to speak to you about. First, when we visited the school, an members of our group found an Astral Watcher. I know little of these things, but it was concerning. We have since found and visited a house connected to the Brotherhood. There was blood shed, but more interestingly there was a mage, who appeared to be using less-than-savory magic, from what I gather. We have not found your children, but since you have been the target, I feel we should warn you that these people are connected to magic. If you have anyone Gifted in your clan, they need to be aware of this and on the look out. I think my associates would like to speak with them if possible.”

Linus pipes up. “Well, let’s not… look… let’s not jump to conclusions here!” He laughs. “Yes there are magic users, though (pardon my correction, sir) it appears that the brotherhood is only tangentially involved with them.”

“I should mention quite clearly that the reason we are here is that we have taken action against the Brotherhood, quite against my better judgement, and we believe it will likely be in your best interests to remain… guarded for the near future. We must take action quickly to avert reprisal, and we shall, but you must be aware of the situation and act accordingly.”

He looks at Zin with a small smirk. Privately he whispers to him, “nerdling indeed, don’t speak of matters in a plane you do not understand.”

Zin’s eyes widen briefly before he recomposes himself almost instantaneously. “Either way, I’d rather one of the Gifted among us speak with them.”

Yulong slams the trunk of the van, satisfied with his search. He slips the flash pak, frag, and smoke grenades into his robe, alone with the handful of credsticks and both boxes of ammo. He looks up to find Nameless approaching silently, and they ride together in sullen quiet to join Skip for dinner.

The adept orders fried okra, hushpuppies, and baked beans, and sits down at the sticky wooden table. He tosses the note casually in front of his partners. “I found this in the Brotherhood van. It must be referring to our kids. This is certainly some relief; I had feared that shaman might have used them in some sort of blood ritual.” He takes a drag of iced tea. “What do you two make of it? It sounds as if we may not have been far off—they are simply hidden in a basement somewhere. And there may only be one man to guard them. Perhaps we should split up and cover the last three houses on Linus’ list?”

The cyborg’s not a man of many words, but after wolfing down nearly two full pounds of BBQ and a large plate of ol’ fashioned mac’n’cheese he seems satisfied. He largely ignores the note Yulong has tossed before him and instead gazes inquisitively at the monk.

“You found more ammo.” A statement, not a question. “I need more. You don’t.”

The monk meets the cyborg’s gaze. “Yes, I found some bullets.” He regards the nameless man carefully, taking a swig of tea without averting his gaze from the cyborg’s cold, artificial eyes. “But I am not convinced that giving them to you is the way.”

He leans his elbow against the table. “Let me tell you a story which my master used to train my mind. A fable, if you will.” Yulong starts in without waiting for consent. “There was once a war in Japan, fought for no good reason, and the tides of battle went one way and not the other, so that the Japanese army was forced to take up residence in a Buddhist temple.”

“The abbot of this temple was named Gasan, and Gasan instructed his cook to feed the officers the same simple food which the monks ate. One of the officers got very upset with the abbot, and said to him, ‘Who do you think we are? We are soldiers, sacrificing our lives for our country. You must treat us as such!’”

“To which Gasan responded, ’Who do you think we are? We are soldiers of humanity, aiming to save all sentient beings!”

Yulong snaps his fingers once to emphasize his point. “Do you see? The man most worthy of respect is the one who values all other life above his own. Only then can he break the cycle of karma—the chain of suffering caused by suffering.”

The monk leans back in his chair. “So, because you do not understand this basic truth of cause and effect, you suffer. And it is plain to see that you suffer, nameless one. And because you suffer, I believe you are not ready to wield steel with justice. No. When you are a soldier of humanity, then I will give you your bullets.”

The monk has barely finished his last sentence when the cyborg stands up from the table, adjusts… himself, ambles past a confused server, and bangs through the door to the privy.

Yulong shakes his head and looks at Skip. “The same goes for you, cowboy. I know you do not relish death the way that man does, but it was obvious you enjoyed killing that man today.” The monk stretches, and rubs his bald head. “All the same though, it’s entirely possible you saved my life, and for that I thank you. The perils of bringing a sword to a gun fight, I suppose.”

He shrugs. “Skip, you are a resourceful man, and know this land far better than I do. What would your next step be?”

The cyborg returns from the bathroom, swiping a basket of huspuppies from a table as he passes. The earnest faced patron seated at the table quickly quashes a protest.

Nameless walks behind his chair but refrains from sitting in his seat. “Too long. Leave now.” He murmurs. The haze that had cleared momentarily during combat appears to have risen again and it is clear he is uncomfortable and unsure in such a public place. He fishes the van keys out of his pocket, as if to remind the others—well honestly, more directly Skip—that he’s got them, and turns and heads towards the door. He hasn’t paid for anything.

Skip drains his sweet tea, and leans back on two rickety chair legs. He ponders for a moment, then he reckons for a minute more.

“I knows a place that nobody comes looken fer anybody, if y’d like to avoid gettin into trouble. S’long as y’aint used to electricicity or nothin. Big cabin up north of here, real old, hundred years or more. Prolly haunted with alll sorts o’shit fer you fellers to feelahzifize with. Ay’aslo think it’s a good time to give that — Maurice — feller a ring on his telerphone.”

Skip looks especially pleased to remember the guys name. He dials the man’s number and brings the phone to his ear. “Maurice! Yer boys done got lit up! Yea, fucken unbelievable dude, like there ain’t nothin left there. I was down the block ramblin round with my goodbuddy Doyle when I herd them shots. Carter told me to call you sometime, he was real-real nice. Said I reminded of his buddy Charlie from growin up. I’ma go find out who did this and kick their god damn ass! Look the cops was here already, but I hitched their van — no it got ransacked. Maybe I can come give it back to ya. You and I got similar sympathies, I do believe.”

As Nameless moves to leave, Linus and Zin walk in through the door. Alexander remains in the van, still in the astral space.

Zin calls after the cyborg. “Hey metal-man, I think it would do us some good to do a debrief after what happened at the house don’t you? Let’s sit for a bit. We still have a mission to do, and you still owe me for that pistol.”

Alexander awakens to find himself in the back of a van in the parking lot of a barbecue restaurant. I suppose it is about dinner time. He walks inside, a little groggy, and sees the group sitting at a table, eating whatever it is them folks eat. Hush puppies, fried okra, pulled pork. Sounds mighty good.

The serpent uncoils himself into a cheap plastic chair, which gives him a loud static shock. He doesn’t seem to notice, and rubs at his temples before addressing the other runners, “Good news, everyone. I’ve found the kids. They’re being kept in the first BC safehouse on the map, in a basement. They’re scared, but unharmed.”

He listens as Yulong recites the contents of the note that he found. His glasses drift off the bridge of his nose and he pushes them back up, “Then we’re on a tight schedule. There’s only one person guarding them right now; if we move quickly we will be able to take him by surprise.” He makes a reach for the Nameless one’s pilfered hushpuppies, then thinks better of it and chooses a pair of bread rolls instead.

Skip comes in smirking at his cell phone. He mutters, "Ain’t sher what’ay’think’a’him. Ain’t seem to be no guy in charge, warnt no intrested in no van neither. Hey I know a guy who’ll buy that van, won’t give much, but’s bettr than bein seen drivin that junker. Course shitheap like that kinda useful for blendin in some neighborhoods. Fucken GE motors, gone t’shit since they moved off gas hybrids. New ones even shittier, a’ter gets a little dirt in it. Any’all e’er ridden in a six-speed gasoline-burnin’ 2012 Dodge Charger? Ain’t nothin liak it since been built… Course th’older ones was even more fun to drive, b’fo they ’stalled them damn antee-lock-brakes an airbags… "

Yulong stands up from the table. “Perfect. Excellent work, Asclepius. We should get moving immediately. I will go pay.” The monk shoulders his broadsword and goes to the counter to pay the party’s check with his found credsticks. He also orders the nearby couple another basket of hushpuppies and a round of beer before following the rest of the group out the door.

Linus follows along, ordering hushpuppies and a pork butt sandwich on his way out. He stuffs his face with the goey and delicious sandwich, glad that hogs haven’t proven sentient after the awakening.

Yulong’s credstick is run. Even after paying close to 100nY for the party and the fresh beers, the stick still has 350nY left on it. Not bad for a ganger grunt.

The group piles into the cars, food, drinks, and all. It ain’t exactly the fanciest meal they’ve eaten, but it’s far from the worst. On the road again, they chatter across comms and among themselves. They arrive about 20 minutes later. This house is a little farther out, off the beaten path. The house itself is dark on the outside when they arrive. A lone light seems to light the interior, coming from the back of the house. Nice enough place. The group stands, assembled, about 50 yards away, having parked, gotten out, and seen nothing of interest surrounding the house.

Bc sh 1 front

Yulong folds his arms into the sleeves of his robe. “Alex, you have been here before, on another plane. What can you tell us about this place?”

The Asclepius furrows his brow. “The ground floor is guarded by a single man, in the kitchen through the front hallway on the left. He’s within earshot of the basement door. I think there’s only one way into that basement, that’s where the kids are…”

He scratches his stubbled chin, “oh, and the man is scared. Really scared.”

The monk raises an eyebrow. “Scared of what?”

The shaman shrugs his shoulders, “I don’t know.”—a reptilian smirk—“but I bet I can find out.”

Yulong eyes the more violent members of the group suspiciously. “Dare I say it? Can we try to take this one alive? We would be able to learn things about the Brotherhood and their threat to us if his brain stays inside his skull.”

“I can entice him out of the house and learn what he knows,” Alex explains. “When he’s clear, we need a group to go in, find the children and bring them out here. Nameless one, I’d like you with me to hold our guest captive in case he tries to escape. We also need some people to watch our surroundings for signs of the enemy.”

Yulong crosses his arms. “I do not mean to insult you, shaman, but the last time we trusted you to control one of these men they tried to kill us. What about this situation makes you think things will come out differently?”

Alexander snorts, “The fault there, monk, lies not with me. Those men were expecting a conflict. You have heard that those who live by the sword die by it as well? Some people are destined for violence, and violence is what they deserve.”

“Anyway,” he continues, “this is one man. Like birds, a single mind is easier to catch than a flock.”

Linus crosses his arms. “I will so very happily wait outside. And what better time to summon my guardian, presuming there are no objections?”

Skip grunts to himself. “One feller guarden all those kids? Seems a might too simple, course maybe these fellers just that dumb. Can y’make him tell us who’s hidin in ther ‘fore we go in? Fucken kids might be armed, who the fuck knows. Watch th’ news man, shit like that goes down all the time.”

He pauses. “Also, ay’think would be prudent to blow this her’ shit up when we’s done, cause that would abs-o-lutely fuck up Maurice’s entire perspective. Guy was shaken in his shoes when I talked t’him.”

The cyborg cocks his head to the side, a gesture more akin to a puppy than the bloodstained terminator he appears. He does, however eventually nod in recognition of the monk’s logic. His conciliatory gesture however is to merely shelve his larger gun in favor of his original pistol.

Linus mutters to himself, “right well, better get to business.” He places one hand at his temples and weaves the other through the air.

[Linus Casts force 4 increase logic, which will be followed by force 5 summon spirit presuming nothing goes wrong.]

The monk clears his throat. “I said I meant you no insult, snake talker. As I have also said before, caution is the heart of safety. If we are to act harmoniously, we must be able to trust each other.”

Yulong pauses to think. “I will gladly go in for the children, once you have lured the guard outside. Since Alex, Nameless, and Linus are waiting out here, it would be. . . well-balanced for you two to come inside with me.” He gestures to Skip and Xenith.

Linus waves his hand in the air for a moment, and the other hand, touching his temple, glows blue for a fleeting instant. Such a simple task for a man of his intellect.

Perhaps because of his earlier endeavors, or perhaps because it is simply getting late, Linus summoning isn’t as strong as it once was. Lighting yet another match, and blowing through the flame into astral space, Linus manages to coax forth a spirit, though after a long pause. Proud, powerful, recalcitrant. Try as he might, Linus’ weariness will only allow him to wrangle two tasks from the powerful apparition. Still, a spirit as powerful as this one does not come easily, nor often. Linus does feel some relief as the astral presence of the spirit imparts a feeling of warmth and courage to the scientist.

Linus, in need of no favors yet… waits for the group to decide its course. He does pause to note the position of the sun.

The sun set about 20 minutes ago, it is now roughly 9:30 at night. It has been a long day. It’s not totally dark, but it’s not exactly bright out either. It’s definitely low light conditions, getting darker.]

Zin slicks back his hair. “I’m more than happy to help with the kids. Sometimes there are non-monetary rewards to this work. Seeing a non-human might put them at ease.”

The team splits up, with Skip, Zin, and Yulong to one side, and Alexander, Linus, and Nameless to the other. As one prepares to take the adult hostage, the other preps to extract the children.

The cyborg looks to Alexander to lead the way. Stealth and planning are not his forte, and even he recognizes that this is no time for a treasured frontal assault.

Yulong steals forward through the front yard, past the scattered trees, angling for the right hand corner of the house. He keeps his eyes at the windows, straining to make out shapes in the dusk.

Alexander follows Yulong’s lead, skirting around to the left-hand side of the house to get a look into the kitchen window.

The man inside is either distracted, hysterical, or blind. Two men clump their way noisily through his front lawn, barely hidden and moving like cartoon thieves, and he doesn’t even stir.

Alexander rounds the corner of the house, noting a man in the back kitchen of the main house, frantically yelling into a phone, pacing around a circular table. There’s a grill stashed in the cubby between the rear, attached shed, and the one bedroom.

Bc sh 1 left side

Yulong makes it around to the right, and sees… nothing. There’s no windows. Odd, but given the purpose of his visit, not terribly out of place.

Bc sh 1 right side

Yulong continues to pad undetected around the side of the house in search of a back door.

Alexander stealthily gets within eyesight of the man and casts a spell of absolute control on his feeble, mundane mind.

[He casts Control Thoughts at force 5 on the man in the kitchen.]

Yulong sneaks around the back, only to find that sheds don’t have back doors, and this house is probably not up to code as far as fire safety goes. Looks like any entrance will have to be to the shed or main house, which do not connect.

Bc sh 1 back

The group may be in luck, however. The man hangs up the phone, sits down, and drops his head into his hands, clearly distressed. Then he stand suddenly, knocking the chair out from under him. Straight as a board, he stands still for a second. Then, just as straight as ever, falls face first into the table. Flipping the flimsy circle with his weight, the man lands on the floor, and groans. He doesn’t move for a long few moments.

[Alexander’s control thoughts spell has worked, though the glitch has made the man fall on his face and become concussed, jumbling his thoughts.]

The cyborg looks at Alexander with new-found respect. He’s incapacitated many a man, but he’s never knocked someone out with his mind before. Strange tricks. Troubling tricks.

Looking through the window, the cyborg attempts to use his thermal vision to ensure that this man is the only living creature in the room.

Yulong hears the loud crash-bang of the man concussing himself, but continues to tread with caution, unsure of his fate. He skirts around the edge of the shed, locates its small door, and tries the doorknob carefully.

Alexander wills the man to come to the window and climb outside, to join him, not breaking eye contact with him.

Crashing his way through the yard like a lawnmower hitting a pine cone, the Cyborg makes it to the window just in time to see the man willfully crawling out. Or at least, attempting to. Poor guy’s head won’t let him climb, so he drops his upper body out the window, and tries to push himself free. With no such luck, the Cyborg quickly becomes bored, and pulls the man from the window to the ground. With the man on his back, propped on his elbows, gun in his face, stupid, concussed grin on his face, Yulong makes it to the shed door.

Metal knob, pretty rusty. Not the safest. The door itself is barely more than plywood and hinges. If it ever did lock, those days are long past. The knob turns easily, and the door swings outward a few inches, lilting on its hinges.

Yulong peers through the crack, craning his neck to see into the gloom.

The cyborg hoists himself up through the window and into the house and quickly appraises his surroundings.

Alexander reaches into his pocket and readies his handheld taser gun, in case the man decides to become more willful than he is already. Straining with the effort of casting two spells at once, the shaman place his hand on the forehead of his victim and digs his mental fingers through the poor man’s mind, reading what he can about the activities surround the kidnapped children: motives, current and future plans.

[Alexander casts Mind Probe at force 5, sustaining the Control Thoughts spell as well.]

Yulong, try as he might, is unable to make out much beyond the doorway. The door blocks the light from the street, and darkness has closed quickly. The shed has a lawnmower, some tools hanging up, an empty workbench, and a basket with long-handled yard implements. He does notice, however, that the shed itself seems to extend far past the interior walls of the building.

The Cyborg grips the window, and hoists himself through. Crunching the soft pine frame of the window, and cracking the lower piece of sheet glass, the Cyborg manages to make his way into the kitchen. Whoever he was in his previous life was not a cat burglar, and losing all of his memory has not awakened any sort of innate sneakiness in the metal man. The kitchen is small, perhaps 10 feet by 12, with what were once white counters, now thoroughly, disgustingly yellow. The cabinets have fared better, and are merely an off-white, bordering on gray. Though that may just be the grime from years of fingerprints. The stove, somehow still a resistor coil model, is beyond fetid. The fridge will remain undescribed. The house, as it is, is a mess. The man flipped the table, and one of the two chairs now lies towards the living room. A lone bulb hangs from a chain a foot down from the 8 foot ceiling.

Alexander winces, headache quickly settling in, and attempts to read the man’s thoughts. With the man’s recent concussion, and Alexander’s mental effort of sustaining control, the effort isn’t his finest moment.

The monk cocks his head curiously at the strange dimensions of the room. He lifts his broadsword slowly from its sheath, activates the face of his phone to act as a light, and shoulders his way carefully into the shed.

Alexander wipes his brow, straining his mental powers even more. The shaman knows that the mind quickly develops a resistance to the probe and so chooses his focus carefully. His sorcery ravages the man’s enfeebled mind again, questing for one word: Maurice.

[Alexander casts Mind Probe again, at force 3.]

Zin and Skip have managed to shuffle their way over to Yulong. With handguns drawn, the men flank the adept, and venture slowly into the shed. What little light does make it into the shed illuminates the worst cover-up in history. The side wall, with the tools hanging from pegboard, is clearly fake. There’s not even a back to the pegboard. It can be seen right through to the actual walls. Not to mention the sweep lines on the floor that nobody bothered to even kick dust over.

Zin oh so sneakily sneaks over to the pegboard and looks for an opening mechanism. No good to scare the kids by breaking everything.

Mechanisms are for professionals. This is pegboard, a frame made out of 2×4s, and some hinges. Behind the door there’s a roughly 4′×4′ area. A sturdy metal cellar door, barred by thick chain looped through massive eye bolts drilled into blocks of concrete on either side, bars the way.

Yulong glances at Skip. “It looks like you might get to blow something up after all.” He sheathes his sword, then stamps heavily on the door, calling out to any children who might be below.

Faint screams echo from below. Metallic bangs echo through the night, but the door hardly moves, it just seems to settle, loosing dust into the air. Door must be thick, stopping all those screams. Kids sure seem scared, too. Been missing a few days now. Probably hungry too. Too bad about that locked chain.

Zin tries to pick the lock. As he reaches for his tools he mutters, “someone make sure the idiot that went out the window didn’t have a key on him.”

Alexander frowns and trades his taser for a small disposal syringe of Narcoject. He uncaps it and jabs the venom into his victim’s neck, one quick bite to ensure his silence. This man would be no help to them in the state he’s in, and they can’t afford to have him giving out their description to any BC hit squads.

[Narcoject does 10 stun damage, immediately, with no side effects. After this, he casts Alter Memory at force 3, removing the last few minutes and erasing his and Nameless’ faces.]

Linus moves towards the shed, where things are starting to go down. His warhound in tow on the astral plane, he stands outside the shed facing out, scanning for any threats on the physical and astral planes.

The kitchen is pretty gross. You can see into the living room enough to make out a couch, an old TV, a TV dinner tray with some food remaining on it, a pair of sneakers in reasonably good condition.]

As Alexander casts his spell on the mind controlled, unconscious man, his headache worsens slightly, causing him to wince. But, free from the burden of sustaining his earlier spells, he has no trouble scrubbing the man’s mind clean of any and all pernicious thoughts. Should he wake up at all from his concussed state, he will not remember any of the group, or why he’s outside.

[Another stun damage for Alexander brings it up to 3 total. Also, you just knocked a concussed man back out. How very kind of you.]

[The lock is a traditional key and cylinder lock, uncommon in this day and age, but not unheard of.]

Zin, man of many talents that he is, kneels down, and gets to work on the ancient lock. Man as smart as he is, with the right tools and more than enough time, he makes short work of the lock. Pulls the lock off, tosses it aside. Unbinds the chain. Pops open the door. A wire disconnects from the inside of the door, pulled free by the movement of the door. Closer inspection, it’s a magnet, with some sort of trigger switch connected to an electrical lead. Goes all the way down the newly discovered stairs, all the way to a second door. Big, iron, flat mess. Big lever handle on one side, looking like a restaurant fridge door. Exactly like one, actually.

“Thunk…Thunk…Thunk….”

Three metal beams slam across the lower portal horizontally, about 2 feet apart, and a solid 2 inches think.

[Skip’s enthusiasm for dynamite will be carried forward for the day. You folks have until 1 to decide how to open this, or Skip gets his way.]

Linus looks in on this mess. “We could try to melt our way through… might be a little more quiet than dynamite… maybe….”

He looks at the massive door, and out to the man lying prone outside the lawn.

“I’m really starting to get the creeps about this place. Why bring the kids here only to leave them practically unguarded? None of this feels right.”

Yulong edges cautiously down the stairs with the hillbilly and the elf, playing the light of his phone over the heavy door. “Well done Zin, although I’m not sure if you’ve made matters better or worse. . .” He eyes Skip toying excitedly with a remote detonator. “I have to agree with the scientist—I’m also not sure that explosives are the answer here, or at least not what we should try first. There are children on the other side of that thing. A few grams too much of that compound could kill them all.”

The monk rubs his bald head. “What about the wiring? If the tripwire closed the bars, surely you could do a hotwire or something like it, to reverse the circuit? I’m afraid electrical engineering isn’t one of the 72 Shaolin arts, so I can’t be of much assistance, but I can’t help feeling that if we can just determine how it works, we won’t need to resort to more dangerous, fiery measures.”

Left alone outside, Alexander takes it on himself to move the body of the unconscious man. He puts his arms underneath the man’s shoulders and drags him onto the front porch, and then into the hallway, just inside the front door. He takes up overwatch at the front window, nursing his headache as the cyborg bangs around in the rooms behind him. Putting a call in to Yulong, “Monk, I couldn’t get much information out of the man inside, but one thought he had did worry me: he seemed to be under the impression that a dangerous BC ganger was on the way out here to relieve him. I think we should make our stay here as short as possible.”

Linus edges nervously down the stairs and examines the bizarre mechanism, hoping that it is not too different from his lab apparatus. Before he does so, he mutters to Yulong “Are we 100% sure the kids are the only ones in there? One guard isn’t much of a guard… I’d like to be sure the next tripwire doesn’t set off a sentry gun. The nonliving can guard a door nearly as well as the living.”

Yulong’s phone buzzes, and he answers, listening intently for a moment before hanging up. “Okay. Understood.” He looks at the other men in the basement. “The shaman says there is another Brotherhood agent coming, more dangerous than the first. I don’t know how you three are going to get those kids out of there, but you better do it fast. Give me your keys, quick, I’m going to move the cars around the street so it doesn’t look like anyone is here.”

The monk dashes upstairs, the keys jangling in his grip. He tosses a set each to Asclepius and Nameless. “Here, help me move the cars away from the front lawn. If he does show up while we’re still here, at least we can have the element of surprise.”

Linus sits down on the floor up against the corner of the door jam and slumps into it as he projects astrally.

As Alexander cleans up his handiwork, dragging the man around the side of the house, up the stairs, and back into the house, Nameless trudges through the living room to meet him. Tossing the man on the couch inside, Alexander shakes his head, clearing the fog. His head pounds, but he is unharmed. He is also not used to casting this often, or under such duress. Divining poker odds is lighter fare than scrubbing concussed minds.

Skip just grins for a long while. “Y’all ain’t ne’er done blastin’, huh? Why do you blow up a door when you ain’t gotta? Door ain’ the one stoppin’ us. It’s them bars. Just gotta blast ‘em apart. Now I only got 3 blastin’ caps, but I ain’t dumb, gonna rig me another one up right good, blow apart them bars, get them kids.”

[Skip begins improvising a blasting cap from the rounds of pistol ammo in his pocket. He will finish…soon. Within a minute or two.]

Linus, meanwhile, begins to look over the door. He is no mechanical expert, nor an electrician, but he isn’t an idiot. He can tell the magnet in the lead tripped it. To solve it, the magnet would surely need to be secured once more.

Yulong races outside, quickly moving the cars to the side yard, where the cover of darkness keeps them from being readily seen. There’s nowhere close by to hide all three, but hopefully having them off the street will allow the runners the element of surprise.

A phone rings inside.

Linus, slumped against the wall, moves through the barrier astrally. There’s not much to see. However this device works, it is purely mechanical, or, at the very least, in no way magical. Without any astral significance, the device is clearly visible, but the details elude the man. Might as well try his magic, eh?

As he returns to his physical body, Linus places his hand on the wire, and focuses his mind. Feeling the wire, the lead, the magnet, thinking it through. The lead is the key. Once engaged, the door can be opened. But not right away, and not from the inside. It actually is a fridge. An industrial fridge, retrofit to provide air, but no chill. If the bars slam, they can be reset by engaging and disengaging the magnet in a specific pattern. Then, after 10 minutes, the bars will open. Someone went out of their way to fit this to be hard to undo, allow a response time, and have absolutely no computer or magic parts.

Skip finishes his blasting charge in about a minute. He’s creepy good at this. Using two of his spare revolver rounds, he has somehow managed to hillbilly rig another explosive. He’ll have to wire it to a timer, but that’s not tough. He begins to shape explosive charges in semicircles. Using 3 pounds of his precious TNT, he mutters “better pay me back, stupid kids.” He proceeds to the set up phase of his plan.

Yulong returns to the house, listening to the phone ring. He curses under his breath. “Wo cao. . . Asclepius, I could emulate his voice perfectly with my adept powers if I knew what he sounded like. Can you show me with a spell? Quickly, they will be expecting him to answer.”

Zin dashes to the phone. “Alex get in here!”

Playing his best racist, Zin attempts to con whoever is on the phone into thinking everything is fine. He uses Alex’s knowledge of the man to inform his con.

The cyborg glances almost longingly at Skip’s improvised rig before trudging after Yulong. His set of keys go to the stolen van. It’s a big vehicle and heavy, and the cyborg is worried about driving it on a soft surface for fear of either leaving tracks or getting it stuck. “We shouldn’t assume he’s coming up the driveway” he mutters to Yulong. It’s the first time the cyborg has used the word ‘we’.

[Kevin, what’s the outside like? Is it a soft lawn? pine needles? gravel? is there somewhere I can take it through the trees or around back of the house with out it being too noticeable? Is the driveway up to the house relatively sheltered? how big is the clearing around the house?

If there is a safe way/place to move it, he’ll do so. Afterwards he’ll head back to the house and take up a defensive position in the highest window he can find with his best long range gun.]

Asclepius frowns. “I could grant you a memory of his inner thoughts, but I am weakened, and anyway he was too confused for me to read properly. Whoever he is, I don’t think you’d have an easy time mimicking the way he talks. Maybe it’s best that we don’t answer the phone?”

Yulong folds his arms into the sleeves of his robes, listening to the phone ring. “Well if we don’t answer, he’ll know something is amiss regardless. We might as well roll the dice, see if Zinedine can trick him or at least find out how far away he is.” The monk looks expectantly to the roguish elf.

“In that case, the man was very agitated and spoke with a southern drawl,” the shaman offers. “He was trying to speak a mile a minute. Zinedine, maybe if you talk fast enough they won’t know it’s not him.”

The lawn of the property, if it can be called that, is mostly crabgrass. A few patches of real grass exist, but their continued life is a mystery to all but mother nature. There is a long gravel driveway that leads to the shed door, but stops a good 10 feet short. Small bushes live in front of the porch. Dusk has fallen, and darkness is settling quickly. The street lights nearby light the streets, but there are enough scraggly pines and young hardwoods in neighboring yards to protect the sides and rear of the house from immediate exposure.

After Nameless and Yulong park the cars in the side yard and rear, ready to tear down the driveway, Nameless returns to the living room, taking up position kneeling on the floor next to a window, to the right of the door. The light from the kitchen shines into the opposite side of the room. The imbalance partially obscures the Cyborg, which suits him just fine. With his revolver drawn and loaded, he settles into his battle center, hyperfocused, ready to flip the mental switch on his improved reflexes at a moment’s notice.

Zin reaches for the phone, holds it to his ear, and answers.

“Right, I’ll get packed. See you in a few.” Zin warns the others that they have 5 minutes and there are some ‘goods’ that we don’t know about yet. Also, this guy has no idea there are kids downstairs, and the second group of cleaners is going to be packing a lot of heat.

Yulong cocks his head at the news. “That’s strange. They’re coming for something other than the children? We should search the house while they’re still working on the door below.” The adept starts in the kitchen, turning out cupboards and drawers in his search.

Yulong rummages through the kitchen, uncovering untold wealth in the form of rusty silverware, cheap plastic plates, a slightly dented mixing bowl, two baking sheets, a lasagna pan, three pie tins, and a brownie pan. The fridge contains a myriad of beer bottles, deeply unfresh produce, and suspicious meet products. He finds nothing of value among the remains of the kitchen.

Emerging back in the physical plane Linus yells “Damnit!”

“There’s nothing we can do about this damned door save blowing it open or, and I hate this idea, closing the door behinds us that Zin just unlocked. Even then it looks like it would take time for the mechanism to disengage and open these forsaken bars.”

Linus kicks the door, hurting his foot. “Doubly damned!”

Disappointed with his search, Yulong continues into the living room, checking around the trid’, beneath the couch, and along the walls for hidden compartments. He takes a look at the pair of sneakers, and glances at the unconscious thug’s feet to see if hes wearing shoes, or if his feet would even fit in the discarded pair.

Zin starts using his sneaky sneak skills to look for more hidden compartments, under floors and in the walls.

Yulong rifles through the living room, tearing open the cushions, looking behind them, tapping the walls, and turns up nothing. Some loose change, more than enough crumbs to reconstitute an entire bag of chips, and, for some reason, two forks. Other than dust and dark mold, Yulong finds nothing of note behind the trideo. He even rips off air vents, only to be greeted with disgusting slimy dust. The unconscious man on the couch has no shoes on his now grass stained socks. They would appear to be a match. Perhaps today wasn’t such a good day for him to relax.

Zinedine fares slightly better, finding a combat knife in a compartment in the front door frame, but is at a loss to find anything of real value, much less what he imagines the man was talking about.

Three minutes have passed since the phone call ended.

Skip sets the charges, warns everyone to back up, yells to the kids to get to the side walls near the front of the room, wires the trigger to his remote detonator to his revolver, empties out the shells, aims at the shed, and pulls the trigger. maybe he just likes to imagine he’s got a gun that big. Maybe he does it because he looks bad-freakin-ass when stuff blows up near a man holding a gun. Either way, there’s a big ol’ sound, and a surprisingly small explosion. Pyrotechnics, apparently, aren’t involved in every combustive reaction.

Returning to the scene of the blast, the group discovers that Skip, crazy as he is, is actually pretty good at this. Two of the bars are severed at the wall. Not cleanly, not neatly, but blown through none the less. Shrapnel and hot metal litter the staircase. The third bar hangs on, but barely. A tiny bridge remains, about the total size of a bullet, holding the bar in place. Once removed, the door can possibly be open. screams echo from the other side of the door, though no obvious shrapnel holes show in the door.

Yulong rushes around the corner of the house, his face a mask of concern. “It’s too late, they’ll be here in minutes. We don’t have time to get the kids away before they arrive, and I don’t think we want this to become a running battle. I say we keep the younglings below, and make open combat with the Brotherhood when they arrive. It’s the only way to keep the children safe. Does anyone have a better plan?”

There are now two minutes until the Brotherhood man should arrive. The metal has clearly been damaged, and two of the bars have fallen to the floor. The last hangs by a thread of scarred and partially torn iron. It’s not thick, it’s just jagged and hot.]

With two minutes remaining, that’s enough time for the cyborg to quickly abandon his post and make his way to the damaged seal. He pauses a moment to examine the remaining boor before giving it a mighty kick The cyborg then immediately stomps his way back to his window hole-up without so much as a glance inside the door.

The Cyborg, creepy emotionless face locked in, returns to the back shed, and levels a strong stomp on the bar. It creaks, but does not give. A small movement, but something stronger, or more violent, will be necessary in order to break this barrier with enough time to search the room beyond.

Linus looks incredibly distraught. “Damnit there’s no time! This has been a hell of a fucking day.”

Linus addresses Yulong and Alex. “In what condition did you leave the man in the house? This sounds crazy, but what if we closed the door at the top of the stairs and see if they ignore us? I can send my spirit ward to observe at the entrance. We can lay in wait and potentially ambush the men if they come down here.”

Skip grabs the cyborg’s shoulder. “Aight hold up—them kids is better of whers theys is, cause this mister sunofabitch is on ‘is way. Ay’reckon we best be settin up ar ambush, then we get em out after we kick his ass.”

To Linus he adds, “holin up in a stairwell strikes me as a terribly instrategic position ’case we get found out. You can hold up here ’case you want to wait it out, but we gots to surround this motherfucker lest he proves hiself to be some badass motherfucker.”

Skip and the Cyborg leave the stairwell. While the Cyborg returns to his post inside the darkened window, Skip looks to where he wants to hole up. The rear of the house is dark, and quiet, but the trees beyond are sparse, thin. The yard backs up to another house, and the treeline is, at best, two trees thick.

Zin shakes his head. “Bad idea, there’s a second group coming that will be far more thorough, and I believe that includes moving the kids.”

Yulong strokes his chin as he listens. “Yes, it may not be best for all of us to stay here. Perhaps some of us can hide in the dark of the woods surrounding the house.”

The monk turns to Aspera. “What if you were to create the illusion that the elf was the man they left here to guard? We already know he can imitate the man well enough. Then Zinedine could see what it is they are here to collect, as well as steer them away from the children below, while the rest of us hide out in the woods to swoop in at the first sign of trouble?”

Skip looks around for some garbage, a cardboard box or a paper bag, or whatever. If he finds something, he’s going to hide the package of TNT from earlier inside and leave it in the road by the driveway, try to make it look like it was thrown away. Then he’s going across the street to find an out of the way place to hide.

Linus mutters to himself: “Have an elf stand toe to toe with a humanist gang… and I’m the failed strategist….”

“Good strategy or no, I will stand between them and the children. And in the meantime I’ll see if I can get the hulking door open…. Be sure to seal me in as you leave.”

“If violence is about to ensue, com me immediately. You have not yet tested the capabilities of my hound.”

The houses across the street have a few lights on. This isn’t the sort of neighborhood where heads get stuck out doors to investigate loud noises, but it’s not exactly Neo-Detroit either. each house has a mailbox near the driveway, and the ganger house, and a few others, have trash bins by the curb.

Skip finds himself a spot behind a neighbor’s car in an unlit driveway in a seemingly empty house, one removed from the house across the street from the gang. Along the way, he stashes the TNT someplace ‘safe.’

[One minute remains.]

Yulong shakes his head. “No, no time for complicated plans. We must be ready.”

The monk hustles upstairs and takes cover opposite the nameless man. He draws his blade and nods solemnly to the cyborg. “You have shown restraint and a willingness to care for others tonight. This is good—tame your mind and perform selfless acts, and you will find the Way. You have earned these.” The adept tosses over two boxes of pistol ammo.

Alexander, swept up in the sudden action, watches the team file into the house, and hears the story of the trapped door and basement. He had heard the explosion; certainly, anyone in half a mile heard that, and Lonestar had likely been summoned. For the second time that day, he questions his decision to join these people. They couldn’t see the way of things, couldn’t help Nature be set straight. Only he could do that, and his task was all the harder due to their rebarbative love of destruction.

He stops at Zinedine and grabs him. “Elf, if you want to stay and try to fool whomever comes, I can fool them, make you appear as him.” He points to the unconscious body on the floor. “It is your choice. If not, I suggest you help me hide this body and follow the others upstairs.”

Zin purses his lips in frustration. “He expects me be ready to go with something that we haven’t found yet. I don’t see how this is possible, but I am much more concerned about the second group to follow him. The children are of no concern to the first man.”

“Well… look. The man on the phone was really confused, he may not have known what it was to begin with,” Alex suggests. “If they press you, try telling them you were never told specifically where or what it was.”

“I didn’t see any indication that he knew there was something else in here, but I didn’t ask specifically. What do you want to do?”

Honks echo through the night. Tires screech. A van, headlights on, makes the gentle turn a little too sharply, and fishtails as it rounds the corner. Tearing down the street, the van’s headlights wobble from side to side as the driver struggles to maintain control of the vehicle.

The van pulls up, stopping in a cloud of tire smoke in front of the house. Continuing to honk loudly, the man driving, a human, medium height, a little heavy, wearing a white T shirt and jeans, opens his door, and begins yelling.

“Emmanuel, Come on man, we ain’t got time for this! Just got word, Lilith is on the way, and you know what that means! We got to get out of here, drek’s no good, it’s time to roll!”

The man is oblivious to the runners in the windows, and is clearly not thinking straight. The car remains running, and the man looks around anxiously.

The cyborg grabs Zin by the scruff of the neck, and pokes his gun into his back. He bangs open the front door and drags him towards the driver. When he gets close enough for a sure shot, he’s just gonna shoot him.

The man looks shocked, then suddenly terrified. He leaps back into the car, yelling:

“Frag man, they’re already here! God damn robot death squad! I’m out of here!”

He stomps the floor of the van, attempting to grind the pedal into the engine like a cigarette butt into concrete, and the van begins to accelerate away.

[If you want to stop him, you’d better hurry.]

The cyborg throws Zin aside and takes careful aim at the van. It may be receding in distance but the driver is going straight backwards making the shot, relatively uncomplicated of a… creature, of such prodigious skill.

The man, trying to peel out in a van, can only wish for more horsepower. As he attempts to do so, the Cyborg steps onto the porch, removes his gun from Zinedine’s back, and fires an APDS (armor piercing discarding sabot) round as carefully as he can, activating his wired reflexes as he does.

The round screams out of the Cyborg’s weapon, faster, leaner, sharper, deadlier. It makes a beeline for where the man’s head is. Fortunately for the ganger, his van musters just enough horsepower to jerk him back in his seat, and jostles him as the gears change. The APDS slug punches a clean hole in the door frame, and makes a somewhat less clean hole in the man’s left shoulder as it whistles through, from rear to front, fast and strong enough to dislocate the clavicle. The man screams in pain.

“No, please! I got a wife and two kids! I don’t even know what they got here!”

The cyborg fires again. He’s aiming for the body, the driver merely needs to be stopped, killing isn’t the priority right now, so he aims for the larger target.

The second bullet springs from the Cyborgs gun with a louder than average crack, reflecting the nature of the ballistic. The casing quickly splits, leaving the tungsten dart to seek its target hungrily. The round neatly pricks a hole in the driver side door, and quickly comes to rest in the man’s hip joint. While not heavy enough to shatter the femur, the dart was solid and quick enough to make contact with bone, and the man certainly knows this. Jerking from the impact, in agony from the pain, the man quickly careens to the right, slamming his no longer accelerating van engine block first into the steel mailbox of the house across and to the left of the ganger safehouse. Whether he survived is not currently known, as he is now 35 yards away and obscured by the angles in the van and the darkness.

The cyborg, satisfied that his prey has been largely incapacitated, goes tearing off into the darkness at speeds only he can reach.

The cyborg makes for the van, shouldering Zin aside. He makes it halfway across the street and most of the way down, coming to 10 yards away, before anyone else can react. Such quickness, it’s incredible.

Skip continues to lay low, his ears pricked for the sound of approaching cars.

He gets his rifle out for when the van of more folks arrive, but keeps the remote detonator at the ready. Skip hopes the cyborg remembers about the bomb he planted when the next batch of folks roll around. That feller’s got a tendency to run up on folks without thinkin bout it.

Locked below in the stairwell to the basement, Linus yells into the room beyond, “we are friends of Otto, we are here to help!”

With that he asks a service of his summoned spirit. “Would you kindly break through that fucking door?”

Scared, anxious, and all sorts of jacked up on adrenaline, the scientist decides that now is the time for action! pulling his matchbook out, he lights a match, tosses it towards the barred door, and whispers “Come, my hound, and open for me this door.” When the match hits the concrete floor in a burst of sparks, each spark remains alive, shifting, twisting. Each grows into a small flame, no bigger than a golf ball. Each of those pops, crackles like a wet log in a fire, and spits out as many again sparks. Each new spark sputters for a moment, then bursts into flame as well. The collected miniature flames begin to grow taller, and soon a tiny conflagration rages uncontrollably near the mage. The flames flare white, and a loud bark echoes through the tiny space. All the flames extinguish but two extinguish at once, and Linus is left looking at the fully formed body of a hellhound, eyes smoldering, flaming still. The hound’s ears perk up, and it turns toward the bar. Growling, barring its teeth, Linus notes a change from bone white fangs and incisors, moving toward a bright orange. As the color changes, the outlines of the teeth seem to blur, until they flow slowly into each other, as shifting coals. Suddenly vicious, the hound bites into the small connective piece of iron, and sparks fly. In a less serious situation, one would be forgiven for thinking this a game of tug of war, but nothing about these participants warrants such a playful name. The hound tears his jaw free, and Linus notes deep, knifing marks on the iron. Progress has been made, and quickly. One or two more solid tugs, and the beast should have the bar on the ground. Though, changing out a lock for molten metal isn’t really a net change in danger.

Skip hops up from his hiding spot, Warhawk out, loaded, cocked, and laser sight on. He sprints to the man in the van, peering in the passenger door. Unconscious, or at the very least, as good at acting as he is at bleeding. And this man is no novice bleeder, by the looks of his current situation. The engine of the car smokes and whines, having sustained serious damage from the steel mailbox. The van, a 7 seater, is empty, save the driver.

Skip checks beneath the van’s smoking hood to see if the car is still drivable. His next move is to open the passenger door, turn off the car, search this guy for weapons or his phone.

With the man unconscious, an end has come to major combat operations. Longer actions are allowed, and out of turn, though nothing fancy.]

Sword vibrating, hungering, smelling blood, the somewhat more tempered monk makes himself hidden among the trees, crouching low, waiting.

Linus’ hellhound once again tears at the door, managing to take another nick out of the bar. One more should do it, as the bar has begun to sag, and the metal appears to be weakening.

Skip and Nameless reach the door at the same time. The man is clearly unconscious, and Nameless opts not to end the man’s life as he did with the previous man he punched.

“God damnit man!” Skip hollers at the cyborg. “This here shitbox done got destroyed! We needs a tow-truck t’ get it out. Fuck it. Let’s leave him in ther, wait for his boys to show. Ain’t goin nowhere anytime soon.”

Skip leaves the keys in the ignition, switched off. If he can find an empty liquor bottle in the recycling, he’ll throw that in there too.

He keeps a very close lookout for the rest of the guys.

Asclepius swears at his teammates; another man injured by gunfire, and this one a family man. He rushes out to the car to take a look at the injuries and gauge their severity, judging whether the victim will live or die without his help.

Alexander rushes across the street, managing to stay upright on his wobbly and tired legs, and looks the man over. He will survive, for a while at least. He’s in shock, and it’s doubtful that his body can stop the bleeding, but keeping him alive, at least for the time being, should not be an issue. It will, however, require immediate attention.

A muffled clang can be heard from the shed.

Alexander returns to Skip’s van, where he had stashed his medkit. Returning, he opens it and applies coagulants and bandages to the man’s two gunshot wounds. The medkit, helpfully, talks him through staunching the bloodflow; the recorded voice is British, for some reason, which he finds strange.

[LOG (2) + First aid (3) + medkit rating 6.]

As Alex returns to the crashed van, the cyborg puts a strong hand on his chest. “I did not kill him, but if the van cannot be moved, it would be best to make it appear as if he crashed of his own accord. We give up too much by helping him, and we do not know who are how many are approaching. You would endanger the lives of your comrades to most likely only delay the passing of this man.”

The cyborg glances at Skip “rigging this van to detonate—how quickly can you do it?” He pauses momentarily to note Skip’s answer before bounding back towards the house. Yet again the immediacy of battle has begun to clear his mind, even to the point of recognizing that his second headlong charge in several hours was most likely needlessly rash. He reaches the kitchen and swoops a sixer of the fetid looking beer cans under his arm.

He quickly returns to the van and pours two cans out on the floor, dumping them next to the driver’s seat. He tosses two more onto the passenger side, one onto the dash and places a half emptied one into the unconscious man’s hand.

Skip gets to work rigging the car, and Nameless runs inside to get the beers. As Alexander stands, upset, with Skip under the hood, loud honks pierce the night. Foghorn-esque, these are not the sort that civilian cars make.

A commercial vehicle, and a big one at that, are on the way, and closing quickly.

Skip’s instincts tear him in different directions.

“Feller warn’t about to kill us, I don’t know bout blowin it up with him insides it. Jes don’t seem right. Course when we beat tracks and get on outa here, I think it’d make a mighty fine fireball. Let’s hole up and see what them boys got with em. Maybe theys unarmed nobodies too. Ay’says we bring him insides fer they get here.”

Skip rigs up the car to explode if anyone turns the key.

He hears the horn go off. He cracks a smile, and goes “Aww, shit, here we go!”

Skip takes up his previous position, but not before taking a healthy gulp of beer.

Skip retreats quickly to his previous hiding spot, having disconnected the starter battery and used the leads for other, more explosive connective reasons. Alexander is left to hustle the injured man inside by himself.

As Alexander retrieves his medkit, he dropps the unconscious man on the floor next to his drugged friend. Opening the kit and demanding specific instructions, the medkit happily obliges, and pops out various syringes and bandages at appropriate times. The blood stops flowing quickly, and the man seems to stir. [Great success, if you succeed each of the next two rounds, the man will recover 6 damage, of the whole bunch he took earlier.]

The honking continues, louder still. As the group waits, it only grows, impossibly loud. Clearly, the people on the way aren’t interested in surprise. Chilling.

“Fuckin fuck fuck. Fuckin’ robot,” Zinedine spits. Concerned mostly for himself, Zin dashes to the trunk of his car to retrieve his still-assembled SM-4. He hides himself in the woods and adjusts his tie before thumbing the safety of his milspec rifle.

The cyborg eyes the distance back to the original house, shakes his metal head, and follows Skip towards his position, reloading his gun as he goes.

Something big this way comes.

There’s a streetlight at the western end of the street, where the man came from, and where the honks now close from. Good thing too, otherwise it’d be too dark to know when to lose it and flee for your lives.

An armored transport car rumbles to a stop at the end of the street, 150 yards away. A luxury SUV pulls up behind it, turning down the street. The rear doors of the transport pop open, and two figures in sleek armor step out. Vivid black, with deep crimson outlining and detail. Shinguards, armored boots, hip plates, impact shielded ballistic chest guards, small but hardened spaulders in eerie crimson, streaked with black. Helmets without features, composed of what is assumed to be mirrored glass, like drone heads, or statues worn down over time, rest atop each soldier. Each piece of armor seems wrought from the darkness, given light and life by the rich crimson, shining in the streetlight, that outlines the seams and colors the plates. The soldiers are lithe, tall, and seem to have worked more on agility than brute strength.

The SUVs rear door pops open, and a woman steps out. deep red hair, the same color as the detail on the soldier’s armor, flows from her head to well past her shoulders. She wears a similar suit of armor, though seems to have dispensed with subtlety altogether, and has chosen to color hers a mirror of the others. Crimson, with dark, shining detailing in black. She nods to the soldiers from the transport, and they bow slightly, then straighten.

One of the soldiers kneels, and the standing soldier reaches back into the transport, retrieving something hidden by the doors. The standing soldier hands something long to the kneeling soldier, who shoulders the tube, and flips something out of the body of the tube. The group can’t quite make out what the soldier is holding, but doesn’t have to wait long to find out.

A split second later, a high pitched, burning sound comes from the newly arrived group, and the runners see a streak of flame and hot exhaust propelling what appears to be a large dart down the street.

The rocket hammers the van, tearing apart the rear gate, and detonating as soon as it enters the chassis. White hot fire rips the van apart from the inside, sending slivers of aluminum, plastic, and alloys in every direction. Some bite into the pavement, others embed themselves in neighboring walls and vehicles. A few make it to trees to puncture bark. The kilo of explosive loaded into the engine block doesn’t help the situation. By the time the blast is finished, fractions of a second later, the tires are the only parts that can identify the wreckage as a vehicle, and those are scattered across three lawns, with the fourth tire nowhere to be found.

Yulong crouches lower into the shadows and shifts his vision to the astral plane, checking the armored figures for a magical signature while he waits for them to make their next move.

The adept then quickly shifts back to the physical plane, to prevent his aura from lighting the woods on the astral plane and betraying his position.

The explosion rattles Alexander, making him lose concentration on his task. He flips off the voice function of the medkit and proceeds to bandage the wounded man in the living room of the house, keeping a furtive eye on the intruders, wondering what fresh new madness he has been thrust into this time.

Alexander continues to bandage, and succeeds in replacing the dislocating scapula. The injured man moans, and begins to stir.

The cyborg may be the combative type, and he has his own brand of rash courage, but he is not an idiot, and as much as his gears are whirring to engage these interlopers, he know discretion is the better part of valor for the time being. He retreats to a more concealed position [if he doesn’t have open ground to cover to do so] behind the house across the street.

The Cyborg, previously crouching behind a car with Skip, works his way backwards, and moves to a more secure position behind the bricks of the garage the car in the driveway should, be all rights, be in right now.

Zin breathes a sigh of relief to see metal-man not play his usual role of psycho-bloodthirsty-maniac, but these ‘cleaners’ are not taking their job lightly. As his scope moves to the head of the man with the RPG, he recalls that they expect 2 men, not 6, perhaps they think their job is done besides moving/killing the kids. If he starts to set it up again, he’s dead.

Likewise Skip is going to lay low for the moment. Taking on two awesome armored guys with a hunting rifle is a bit beyond his paygrade. He does get his rifle ready to go and hunkers down next to the car.

The woodsman checks the dark figures for any obviously unarmored targets. The neck, possibly the head? Knees? Inside the shoulder? And the lady isn’t even wearing a helmet.

He will let the others know that we’ve got some ‘Legit Baddass Motherfuckers’ on the way. Maybe they can draw them to the ‘inconspicuous’ bojangles box he left by the driveway.

And man, that’s a nice truck theys drivin.

Yulong pushes himself to remain calm, using the meditative techniques of his livelihood to slow his pulse and even out his breath. He keeps low and still, waiting for the newcomers to show their agenda.

[Yulong is delaying his action until the enemy(?) acts.]

The people are pretty far away to observe in detail, but fo’ free I’ll go ahead and tell you that they don’t have any glaring weak spots.]

The group tenses, readies, and waits. Alexander, still working diligently to heal the wounded man indoors, continues his task unabated.

The soldiers return to the back of the armored van, and are handed objects obscured by the door. The woman in red reaches back into the rear of the SUV, and puts on a helmet, bright, deep crimson, featureless like the others, but with a hideous death mask applied in black paint, of a grinning skull. The woman begins to walk leisurely towards the house. The soldiers, flanking the woman, reveal their additions to be assault rifles, a matte black. She is, as far as the group can tell, unarmed.

As the soldiers make their way down the street, a fourth figure hops from the back of the van. The armor all matches up, but the newcomer has no trace of crimson, only the shined, inky black. They hurry to take their place, staying behind the advancing group, though not far. They too, appear to be unarmed.

[Round two, fight! The order will be Crimson lady, soldier A, Nameless, soldier B/Skip/Yulong/dark soldier, then Zin/Alexander/Linus. Lots of ties. Everyone’s actions are considered simultaneous unless one specifically needs to be resolved first, in which case intuition and then reaction are the tiebreakers.]

The soldiers continue to advance down the road, now only 130 yards away. The armored van and the SUV begin to creep after the soldiers, blocking off the road.

Nameless hunkers low in the shadows, flexing his fists, one meat laced with titanium, the other metal through and through. The cyborg pauses to count the number of enemies he faces.

There are two soldiers, a crimson lady, and a black soldier. All the soldiers are moving and delaying their action. You may yell a single phrase per turn.]

Yulong watches with trepidation as the distance between the two parties shrinks. He feels the dao move him to action, and does not resist. The monk steps from the brush, out onto the road. His right hand is held up and open, his left holds his broadsword down and low. “Wait! We share a common enemy.” He inhales sharply, feeling his qi leap from the reservoir in his stomach to his throat chakra. “You will let me explain.”

As the monk steps from the shadows, inching into the light from the streetlamps, he commands the group to halt their advance. The two soldiers immediately snap their strange rifles up to meet the threat, then relax as the monk’s voice washes over them. The crimson woman laughs as the soldiers lower their weapons.

“Well, Adept, it would appear you have their attention, so why not mine as well? State your case, and know you have amused Lilith.”

“Lilith.” The monk inclines his head. “I am Zhuang Yulong, of the Shaolin order. I represent a team of shadowrunners hired to retrieve a number of children kidnapped by the Brotherhood of Cain. We have tracked them to the basement of this house.”

He gestures to the flaming wreckage behind him, without averting his gaze from the red woman. “It appears you too have no love for this Brotherhood. Now, it is said that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Allow us to take the children back to their parents unharmed and in turn we will not meddle in your affairs. I am certain there is no need for further conflict tonight.”

[Yulong is using his negotiation skill, rolling 10 dice.]

Lilith laughs, and the monk feels distinctly mocked.

“No love for the Brotherhood? You, who knows nothing of who I am, or what I do, believe to know my reasons for doing as I do? I have no love for inept thugs, or those who cannot do simple tasks assigned to them. You do not seem that type. The children are not my concern. If you wish to make them yours, I will not stop you. What is of concern is that these men have failed. You being the reason is amusing, but not excuse enough. Let’s make a deal. You look like a smart fellow. You know where I’m going, and you know what I’m going to do once I get there. You will leave the bodies of the men you killed here. Or, if they live, you will surrender them to me. They will be made example of, and there are no two ways around that. I’ll even ignore that you stole a car from one of the men. He’s dead, and I doubt he’ll miss it. I’m going to keep walking, and as long as the men are in the house when I arrive at it, whatever else you want to do is acceptable to me.”

[Yulong has used a point of edge to make this test. He initially got only 1 success on 10 die, and used edge to reroll all the die he missed, getting 4 more hits. Edge is your luck attribute, and it can be used to help you ‘must-win’ tests, and as a way to negate glitches, critical glitches, and death (or at least attempt to do so.) Edge is spent just like karma, and will be rewarded similarly, for in character and in context awesomeness. Everyone will start with 4 edge as the max, and proper use of edge will result in the max being raised slowly.]

The monk regards the woman for a moment, weighing her offer. Finally, he consents. “Very well, the children for the men. It will have to do.” He stands aside, resting the flat of his claymore upon one shoulder.

Lilith and the soldiers continue to walk towards the safehouse, in no hurry.

[Unless someone wants to shoot at them, this is, once more, the end of combat. Act as you will. Everyone can take about a half-dozen actions if they wish, before Lilith reaches the house. Proceed.]

Alexander finishes patching up the wounded driver and packs up his medkit. He hasn’t heard any more gunfire or explosions, so he figures the people in black have better things to do than kill
them recklessly. He lays the man out on the floor, next to Emmanuel, snoring fitfully.

Yulong sheathes his blade and heads back towards the small house, calling out for his teammates in the night. “You can come out, we have negotiated a truce. Let us bring our charges home.”

He hustles into the house ahead of the crimson warriors to explain the situation to Aspera. “Asclepius, for once we have reached a peaceful settlement, but. . . as always, this coin has two sides. The red woman demands the lives of these two as balance for the children. I’m afraid she will cause them great suffering, but I see no way around it. Sometimes even heaven itself cannot stop the wheel of karma on its vast rotation. For the greater good, please do not stop her from taking them.”

The shaman balks. “She… just wants to kill them? For what reason? They’ll both live through tonight to see their families, there’s no reason for this!” His mind races, thinking of a way to save either man. He looks out the living room window onto the lawn, at the approaching woman. He wonders whether she is prepared to engage with him in a contest of wills. If she is Awakened, she might be a powerful mage, hiding under that crimson shock of hair. His eyes flash into the astral to perceive the woman’s true nature.

[Flipping to astral perception for a moment to catch a glimpse of the advancing group, and to see whether any of them are Awake.]

Linus ushers the children quietly up the stairway and opens the door. He plans to take them to his van as directly and quickly as possible, but as his eye catches the woman and her approaching body guards he freezes for a moment, sizing up her power and strength. His hound and watcher remain at his side on the astral plane.

Alexander looks around the mundane and wrings his hands. “Damned fools… Yulong, I cannot permit us to simply hand these men over, knowing they will be killed. They weren’t armed, and we assaulted them; I will not be held responsible for their deaths when Gaia’s judgement is rendered.”

Linus turns to his spirits on the Astral plane: “If those people move a finger against these children,” he says “You use your full powers to defend them… whatever it takes.”

Yulong places his hand on the shaman’s shoulder. “Trust me Alex, no one shares your concerns more. But this woman is a powerful caster—your illusions will not fool her, and if you aggravate her I fear we will not all walk away from this run alive.”

The monk shakes his head. “Think of it this way: these men chose their own path when they started down the road of hatred and kidnapping. If they are worthy of redemption, Gaia will see them reborn in a worthy form.”

For the second time, the shaman scoffs haughtily at the monk, “Maybe in your world people come back from the dead, but rebirth is not the way of Nature. Those that are killed are consumed by those that follow. Do we know for a fact these people mean us no harm? No. Do we know for a fact these two men were kidnappers? No. They are in this situation because of us and we must take their lives in our hands.” He does not budge from his protective place over the two unconscious men.

A memory tickle linus’s hippocampus. He looks out at the men once more, looking for a particular symbol that he saw earlier that day.

Yulong matches the shaman’s condescending tone. “Do not confuse your dogmatic ideas with the nature of reality, snake charmer. It is said that a bronze Buddha sinks and a wooden Buddha burns—just so, your attachment to a single-minded path distracts you from the Way.” He steps closer, whispering. “I have just steered those children and our team from the jaws of death; if you would steer us back, then turn the tiller yourself.”

The adept wheels and stalks out of the house, hoping to rush the orklings away before anything, or anyone, can upset the terms of his delicate truce.

Linus is busy jogging out to the van and opening the sliding door, ushering them in.

As the scientist ushers the children into his van and the stolen transport van, the soldiers continue to close. The monk and the shaman argue in the living room. Those hidden around the building, the hillbilly, the playboy, and the robot, must consider their actions.

Managing to suppress his inner instinct screaming for conflict and violence, the Cyborg simply shifts his weight from his right foot to his left. He’s not ready to materialize until he has a better handle on the situation and his sights do not waver from the advancing soliders.

Zin goes to help with ushering the children. He pauses as he walks past Lilith. “Ma’am, this trade may seem to tie up loose ends for you, but I think you’ll find the Brotherhood to be a bit more of a problem than you believe. Perhaps these men will be more useful as a source of information than worm food. Our healer can help you extract information if you wish. Waddaya say?”

[Zinedine uses his fuck-yeah-I’m-a-salesman skills. He’s also trying to figure out her motives.]

It’s tough to talk to someone who’s face you can’t see. Even tougher when two silent sentinels have assault rifles with underbarrel grenade launchers trained on your lightly armored chest.

“You people continue to assume that this is a topic that can be negotiated. I’m not here to chatter on with runners. I’m here to show these men why failure was a poor choice. Think of it as a learning experience. I know exactly what I need to know, which is two things. More than you, and enough for me. End of story.

No wait, let me guess. You’ll pay me double. You’ll beg me. Let me save you time. I’m already here, which means now it’s a point of honor and pride to me. Step aside."

[The children are loaded into the stolen transport and Linus’ van. They didn’t much like the looks of the stolen van, but they seem too traumatized to object much. Linus is currently with Yulong at the cars, but anyone who wants to get there has plenty of time. At this point, people can take about one more action, and then they will be assumed to be getting in the cars, unless they object. (A perilous objection, to be sure.) The shaman remains in the house, as of now, and Skip and Nameless are across the street. Skip, you are welcome to recover your dropped ‘food’ if you would like. Zin is across the street, having talked to Lilith, and is helping secure the children, and getting into his own car.

There are 7 kids, and you’re driving a 7 seater. basically, you own a Honda Odyssey. I’d assumed you’d load 4 in yours, and then 3 in the other one. If you want to load 6 into yours, let me know. That would leave one kid alone, however]

The woman, the armed soldiers, and the soldier in black cut off the road towards the door. They are taking the most direct route, and will not pass close enough to Skip’s I.E.D. to ensure fatal, or even serious, results.

The three soldiers and the woman will reach the house before long.

Alexander makes a WIL check to leave his charges, getting two hits.]

The snake shaman stubbornly holds his ground and watches the team file the kids into their vehicles, leaving him alone in the house. He knows he can’t charm or beguile his way out of this one, not easily, and eventually decides that discretion is the better part of valor.

Taking a last look at the two men on the ground, he decides to leave them to their fate, but not before attempting to help them one last time.

He packs up his medical supplies and strides out of the house, casually looking at the approaching woman and tossing an influence spell in her direction, laden with the thought, “I will spare the men inside”.

[Casting Influence at force 3, 13D6 to hit and 10D6 to resist DV 2. Don’t forget to roll to notice spellcasting.]

As the shaman walks out of the house, the soldier in all black snaps his head to make eye contact with the shaman, or at least, as near as the shaman can tell.

Lilith pauses at the threshold, confused.

The dark soldier speaks.

“Sir, we asked nicely.”

Turning as he speaks, the man brings up his armored right hand, and levels a cross at Alexander.

Caught by surprise, Alexander can’t move fast enough to avoid taking the shot to the chin, and electricity arcs from the glove into the shaman’s skin, rattling his thoughts, and jarring his mind. Good thing Alexander chose to pass to the right, as the soldier’s glove fails to make solid enough contact to incapacitate the shaman. Not that the shaman would feel much different at this point.

“Ma’m, we are here to kill these men, on your orders, and we will do so. Mercy is not for us to decide.”

Hearing those words, Lilith grins, turns, and pats the nearly unconscious, though still standing, shaman. Gently, on the shoulder.

“Good one tiger. Better luck next time. I say that because if you attempt again, and fail again, it’ll be the last thing you do. Now run along.”

With those words, she pushes the shaman roughly down the steps to the departing cars, and turns, moving into the house, as the armed soldiers and the darkened warrior stand on the threshold, facing outward.

Yulong rushes from the van to catch the staggering shaman on his way out, supporting his weight as they stagger back to the van. “I am sorry, Alex. The path of righteousness is not always paved with gold. Now, are we ready to bring these children home?”

Skip gets up and dusts off his jeans just a little bit. He casually finishes his beer and sets the can down where he was hiding, then picks up his “Bojangles” and scuffles over to the van, but not without taking a good look at the armored truck down the road.

“Maaan,” he says, “Ay’wish ay had on’a them armered trucks. Buddy a’mine from way up in V’giner was workin on r’storin on’a them old Wells Fargo money trucks. Hada six hunderd sqar inch V-10 engin, got it runnin on old frier oil. E’reywhar he drove, smelled liak fried chicken. We used t’call it the Chicken Truck cause’a that, but we ain’t ne’er kept no chickens in’t. Don think this here bomb’d do much t’a truck liak that one. Shit. Did y’all see that van go up? God damn! We aught’a get on’a them Arpeegees liak that feller had. Wonder how much’e wants fer it. Y’think they’ll trade it for a couple of ’em kids?”

After getting eyed by the more ‘upright’ members of the group he adds, “R’lax ay’s only jokin. Take at leas 25 kids fer a rocket liak that.”

“Sure’is too bad a’bot them fellers in th’house. Ay’do wonder jes What The Fuck is goin’ on tween these Cain fellers, and why so many folks is upset with them. Ay’mean the orcs is pissed cause of them kids, the bug guy’s pissed at em, now this her killer badass lady and her badass mofos too. Sure am glad m’name ain’t Morris. Erm. Maurice.”

Zin starts up his car, does a bit of peeling out (on gravel, so it kinda fails). Then he rolls down a window and hollers at the woods. “Hey metal-man, you ready to leave? Get in!” The cyborg reluctantly climbs in, and they head out to Otto’s.

Linus is long gone, ignoring everything else around him to get the kids home. “Don’t worry, kids, this will all be over soon and you’ll be safe at home.”

Having phoned ahead to Otto, the group is told to go to the old church next to the park they first met Otto to return all the children.

As they turn into the parking lot, they notice plenty of other cars, and a group of orks on the steps of the old brick building. Otto in front, Aka not far behind, and many unrecognized orks surrounding. The group parks, stow their weapons, and exit the vehicles. Children cry, parents cry, it’s a touching moment. Those dirty, tearful, whimpering orklings, safe once more. Soon as they get a hot bath and a hotter meal, they’ll be right as rain. Forever mentally scarred rain, but some things can’t be helped.

Otto finishes hugging one of the children, and the young boy runs to Aka. As the child scurries away, Otto comes to talk to the runners.

“Thank you for what you have done. I cannot imagine it was easy, and, judging by the news today, it was not the safest either. I am glad to see you all safe and unharmed. You have my thanks, and the thanks of our little community here. If ever we can help you, please do not hesitate to let us know. I must return to my brood, and it is far best bedtime for all of the children here, and for most of the adults as well. Here, I have put your payment on this credstick. I know you cannot verify it just yet, but you will have to trust me. Plus, you know where I live.”

Handing the credstick to Yulong, he pauses for a moment to hear out any comments the runners may have, then heads back to Aka and his grandson.

Yulong clasps his fist and bows to the orkish elder, his face beaming with the joy of seeing so many families reunited and the pleasure of a good deed done well. He accepts the offered credstick graciously. “Thank you for this, Otto. I have something for you in return.” The monk fishes out the three credsticks he found and hands them to the ork. “I do not know how much these are worth, but please use them to invest in the security of your community. This world is a dangerous place, and one nuyen spent on prevention is worth ten spent on recovery. Perhaps you could hire a rigger to install some point defense drones around the schoolhouse, or some similarly low-cost deterrent.”

The adept turns to regard the rest of his rag-tag group. Their run was successful, if moderately disfunctional. He could see among them the potential for camaraderie and success, but just as plainly the fissures of dispute and hatred were already beginning to form between them. He was unsure which path they would follow.

Yulong folds his arms into the sleeves of his robes. “There are times when I doubted our abilities, but clearly I was wrong. I think we have done well, and probably deserve another round of barbeque. Let’s go back to our restaurant, to speak of things to come.”

Linus looks at his watch and grimmaces. “Yes, I think I can join… my wife believes that I am at a conference and will return quite late, but let us be brief, yes?”

The cyborg stirs upon Yulong’s relinquishing of the cred sticks but subsides quickly enough. That is not a battle to be fought at the moment, nor was it plunder he had taken directly.

His first act must be to find armor and weapons. He has no idea how he wound up in a hospital or anything that came before. It is only the complete and utter absence of identity that prevents this reality from being any more unsettling than it is. Instead the cyborg merely feels disjointed and incomplete.

He scans his fellow shadowrunners (he supposes they are fellows, now). An Elf, more flash than substance. Two Monks/Shamans/Frauds, ersatz mystics enamored with rituals of an ancient and best forgotten past. A cowardly nebbish more prone to pretension than action. And a drunken hillbilly with a penchant for…fireworks. And yet somehow this collection hadn’t proven themselves totally inept.

The cyborg’s gaze lingers on the redneck, headed towards his new vehicle, beer still in hand. Of the motley gathering, the cyborg felt the closest, well, connection to him. His brief foray with the elf for weapons had netted him a measly peashooter at an exorbitant price. But, this yokel seems to know a thing or two, in the most backwoods way possible, about making things simply go boom and that was something that boded well.

So, the cyborg turns and pads after Skip, catching up to him as he’s about to enter his car. Nameless’ bulk prevents Skip from closing the car door. “Where can I get a gun?” he asks; “A much, much, bigger gun?”

View
Tutorial Run Part 3
"Them three fellas on the porch weren't much for friendly folk."

Skip comes ambling back through the woods from the North, and arrives at the cars just as Linus and Alexander rouse from their journey on the astral plane. The group, whole once more, has got some planning to do and knowledge to share.

Alexander shakes his head for a moment after waking back in the material world. He looks disoriented and confused, and scrambles up into a seat, eyes unfocused. The fat vehicle bumps on the road and he groans, “The transition between realms has gotten worse, friends. I don’t think we should go back into astral space unless absolutely necessary; it feels like something is terribly amiss with the fabric of nature in this place.”

Settling himself, “Here is what we found: the house ahead has three men sitting out front which will spy our approach unless we move carefully. The don’t appear armed or dangerous, and there was a visitor who spoke with them before leaving. Strangely, the house itself was protected by a strong astral barrier. Linus broke through and we saw that the interior was empty except for two people in the basement, one of which was Awakened. There were no signs of the kidnapped children, either.”

“What we couldn’t see was whether they were affiliated with the BC. We should at least attempt to determine that. I am very interested to know what the two people inside the house were working on, as well.”

Linus nods a concurrence. “I have never had this much discomfort ‘landing’ back in the plane of the physical world. I am tempted to guess that something is interfering with the boundaries between the astral and the mundane, though I could not say what it might be.”

He takes a breath. "Alex described the situation perfectly. We have three options here. We can attempt to take the house by force, and I don’t doubt that we could given the resources of this group, but it could waken the Brotherhood to our intentions and bring risk to the children. Second we can try infiltration and subterfuge. This is not my area of expertise, but I can provide support in the event of disaster. Third we can continue to “case” … is that the word, case? We can observe this and perhaps the other houses to improve our chances of finding the children."

“For my own part I must say I am intrigued by what is going on in that basement. If these men are with the brotherhood, I have no idea what a mage would be doing with them. And if they are working on a device, it could be extremely informative to learn of its nature. The thugs may be planning something.”

Skip sits down on the bumper of the van. “Them three fellas on the porch weren’t much for friendly folk. I reckon they’ve got some guns hidden somewheres, and they certainly didn’t want nobody to know what they was doin. They weren’t tough motherfuckers, just regular motherfuckers. One of them was named Clint and he gave me the telephoney number to his boyfriend Marcus. So I reckon maybe Marcus knows where them kids is at. But I need to wait a bit of a while ‘for callin ’im, cause they think I’m drunk right now.”

Skip finishes his beer and throws the bottle into the bushes.

Linus mutters to himself… “Oh they ‘think’ that, do they?”

Yulong folds his arms into the sleeves of his robe. “I’m afraid there may be more depth to this run than Otto led us to believe. The two houses we have checked are by far the closest to the ork community—since the children aren’t at either location, the facts seem to point to a more calculated approach than simply stealing a bunch of children and driving to the nearest safehouse.”

The monk scans the assembled faces. “I think we should enter this house and learn what we can from its contents. A collection of documents or a mind well-questioned will be far more valuable than simply searching at random for the children.”

He adjusts the hang of his broadsword before continuing. “Here is my proposal: we approach the safehouse openly, posing as agents sent by Marcus to check up on the activity inside. We’ll try to talk our way in with this story, relying on Asclepius’ talents to bend their minds toward compliance. If they resist, we can incapacitate them and force our way in.”

He gestures to Zinedine and Skip. “You two will have to stay, Zin because you’re an elf, and Skip because they’ve met you already. You can provide cover for when things go sour. The rest of you would be free to wait in the wings or approach with Alex and I. What do you say?”

Scratching his chin, the snake shaman says, “an interesting plan; I may be able to help. Might I suggest that yourself—” he points to Yulong, “—and Linus talk to the men? Call me on my comm unit so I can hear the conversation. The three of us will wait nearby in the car, in case something goes wrong.”

A hint of a reptilian grin shows in his laughing eyes. “Tell me your cover story and I will implant it in their minds before you arrive. You should have no problems getting in.”

Yulong shakes his head. “Incredible! And I thought my powers of persuasion were supernatural. Truly does the Sangha takes many forms. Very well, let us develop our story. What exactly did you see down there? What should we tell them we are checking on?”

“We couldn’t see clearly what they were working on,” the shaman murmurs. “Only that it was two men, in the basement, intent on some task. Simply tell them that Marcus called earlier today to let them know of your arrival, and that you should be let in immediately to check on ‘it’. Try not to be too specific about your task.”

Turning to Skip, “Can you find us a place where we can see the porch, unobserved? And I’ll need to borrow someone’s rifle scope.”

Zinedine looks at his scope a little sheepishly, realizing it’s the same as Skip’s. “If you don’t mind Asclepius, I’d rather hold onto mine if it doesn’t make a difference. If things go south I like to be prepared.” The elf heads checks the breach of his rifle, excited at the prospect of cleaning up this trash in the house.

Alexander shrugs. “That is fine. I may not need it, but our friends’ lives will be on the line and I’d like to take every precaution necessary.”

Skip scratches at his scalp with one finger, then adds, “I jes’oughta letyaknow, ay’ain’tsure percisely who that Marcus or Morris or whoever feller quite is, or who’s he’s in charge of. The conversation had alreadey become unplesantlike at that point. They don’t buy no bullshit neither, and they made me all kinds of unwelcome first I come up there.”

He contemplates for a minute. “Sure would like to blow that house up, that’d look real awesome.”

Yulong regards Skip skeptically. “Well. . . Let us at least try the way of persuasion first. Just be careful with that rifle while we’re downrange, please.”

He grabs the hilt of his broadsword, loosening it in its sheath with a satisfying snap. “Linus, I have a feeling you will find a way to make yourself useful.”

Linus looks somewhat shocked that he has been volunteered. Looking around as if to ascertain if everyone can possibly be serious, he sees that everyone appears to be mobilizing for action.

“Well then.” He waits.

“Well then… I guess I shall go too, though I hope perhaps… you will all be sure to guard my corporeal form, it’s somewhat less fragile than my astral self.” He lets out a nervous smile.

“As for blowing something up, I can assure all of you that I could put that entire tinder box in ashes without a second thought, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

“Perhaps I should pose as a mage come to assist with the project in the basement? I am not sure that I can possibly hide my astral powers from the man there if he is alerted to my presence.”

The monk turns to leave, heading through the woods toward the house. He looks back over one shoulder. “Nameless one, your company would not go unwelcome. You have the look of a man who could use a good fight.”

The cyborg’s head rises, and his body straightens. His eyes turn towards Skip, and for the first time they appear to contain something that may even resemble excitement.

“Do you have what we need?” he asks.

Skip hands the nameless cyborg a small package wrapped in brown wax paper.

“Ok mister machine, if shit goes sideways in thar, y’drop this somewhere’s theys not gonna see it. Maybe if y’put it down in basement, i can tell Marvis how it musta been the mage who blowed it all up.”

He ponders for a minute.

“I’ll be god damned if this all goes any much the way its sposed to.”

Yulong stops on his way into the trees. He looks back at the men behind him in disbelief. “Are you all serious? Surely more can be achieved by taking these men alive than would be gained by putting the whole building to fire. I don’t pretend to lead this party; we could put it to a vote if you wanted—I know you Westerners are fond of those. My vote is to take them alive over obliterating them and anything which might be useful.” The monk looks glowers at them impatiently.

“Not at all!” Linus grins. “Just good to know we have an insurance strategy!”

“I for one am curious about that device in the basement… let’s go take a look.” Linus trots off after Yulong.

Skip, having handed the package over, takes off with Zinedine and Asclepius, using the small cover the thin forest provides to creep their way down to some 90 yards away. Problem is, there’s no cover on the other side of the road, and no way to get there without being spotted for sure. The men settle down, assemble rifles, and settle for their sidelong view of the porch. Hitting someone on the porch shouldn’t be a problem. Now, hitting someone other than the idiot rocking on the end, that’d be tougher.

Yulong, Linus, and Nameless discuss their backstory, entry, and exit strategies.

The group prepares for their first true encounter with hostility, and must plan accordingly.

As he walks with teammates, Yulong puts in a call to Alexander, engages the speakerphone, and mutes his end, giving the shaman a one-way audio link to their conversation.

The monk loosens his sword in its sheath. “I hope you know what you’re doing, Asclepius. Empty one, try not to attack them unless it’s absolutely necessary. Linus, stay behind heavy metal here in case combat is drawn. Let me do the talking.”

Linus nods in agreement. “Sounds quite a lot like what I had intended to do….”

Alexander holes up in Skip’s beater, hiding himself as best he can in the vehicle. He takes the countryman’s rifle sight and trains it on the porch, listening to Yulong on his comm unit for the cue he needs, watching who amongst the men on the porch will speak first.

Linus follows Nameless, trying to keep him and Yulong between him and the presumed gangsters on the porch. Before they come into view he casts ‘increase logic’ on himself to buoy his powers for the moments ahead.

With the shooters in place and their rifles trained and assembled, the shaman in a spot where he can see those he will cast on, the last of the group makes their way to the road, intent on approaching the house. As they come within sight, they can see that something has shifted. The men who were playing cards seem less interested in the cards, and more interested in ‘sneakily’ scanning the area. The man who was rocking continues to drink his beer, though he is now braced against the door frame, trying to act casual, with one hand consistently behind his back.

As the group approaches, the men playing cards turn to face the group, and the man by the door yells “Stop where you are!”

The approaching group is forced to stop some 30 yards short of the porch, across a small street.

The man tosses his empty beer of the porch, shakes his head for a second, and then turns to his friends. “Maurice called me this morning, told me they’d be comin’. We’d better let them in, Mo said they wasn’t to be messed with, and that we’d be best on the sidelines here.”

The man on the left of the table yells “Maurice calls me you fraggin’ trog! These are them lookin’ too closely!”

With that, the men at the table dive for the columns of the house, drawing their weapons, as the standing man yells “Naw man, he called me! I’m tellin’ ya!”

Shots ring out from the side of the yard, where the gunners have set up, the gig is up. The man at the table who spoke first and dove for cover completes his slide. Unfortunately, the columns of the porch provide cover only from the front. The poor fellow, unaware of the danger that a hillbilly 4 beers deep with a sport rifle poses, doesn’t even see the shot as it is fired. Too bad this isn’t a case of what you can’t see can’t hurt you, as the bullet rips into the man’s neck just below his skull, blasts its way through his throat, and leaves a sizable exit wound before skimming off his shoulder. The resulting fountain of vital blood tells the onlookers all they need to know.

“Boooooyaaaaa” rings out from the woods, giving away the snipers’ position, but not before Zinedine gets his round downrange as well.

The second shot is notably quieter, cleaner, though no less precise. The man diving for the other column has enough time to put his back to the barrier and turn his head partway to his dead companion before a high powered round rips through his right shoulder, blowing through his tricep and shattering the humerus on its way to being lodged deep in the man’s chest. deep crimson quickly coats the man’s undershirt, and his eyes glaze over. If he is not dead yet, he certainly won’t be much longer for this world.

The third man stumbles back, knocking the door open, and screaming “HELP! HELP!” His back is quickly fading from sight, but those in front of the house might be able to take quick action.

The cyborg galvanizes into action the moment the porch crew began to splinter. He might not remember his name but he certainly remembers the only form of combat worth a damn: full frontal assault. The mincing elf and the drunk, albeit likeable, hillbilly can hide behind things and shoot from afar, but the man trying to regain the house will be fortunate to be merely shot before the cyborg can physically lay a hand on him.

Nameless draws his gun and fires at the remaining, retreating enemy, and simultaneously sprints/bounds at full, and considerably enhanced speed towards the front door.

Yulong curses under his breath. “Wo cao… Wait! Damn, at least leave one alive!” The monk dashes forward after the cybered warrior, ripping Sil-Snyen from its sheath in mid-stride.

The Cyborg charges ahead at full speed. Something in him has shifted. He no longer seems out of focus, hazy, or wary, he merely is. The Buddha would have been proud, bloodshed aside. His legs quickstep in incredible motion under him, as he seemingly produces a revolver from nowhere, levels the barrel, and squeezes off a shot at the retreating, stumbling man.

The shot whizzes through the doorway, catching the poor man in the shoulder as he stumbles, and staggers him on his feet. As he buckles and recovers, he manages to slam the door shut with his outstretched arm, hopeful for the scant protection a plywood sheet can provide. It must not be his day, as the door hammers shut only to pop open again. Someone ought to inspect that frame, is what.

[Running test was a success, the Cyborg will reach the top of the stairs once he expends his movement.]

Yulong, incredibly light on his feet, similarly glides across the ground as he draws the carved blade. It begins to hum softly, smelling blood and combat. Holding the now awakened blade in a ready stance, the warrior leans forward, and propels himself faster yet towards the porch.

[Running test net nothing, Yulong will reach the bottom of the stairs once he expends his movement for the turn.]

The lone living soul on the porch continues to ooze thick crimson, and slumps to his right, coming perilously close to the steps as he comes to rest on his side.

Alexander rushes forward out of cover, his eyes suddenly wide with fright and anger, “STOP SHOOTING! Look what you’ve done!” He rushes out of cover and bolts straight for the house, arms covering his head and face as he runs.

Zinedine turns to Skip, “Sweet shot! You really need a silencer on that thing though. I know a guy if you’re interested. Do you think we should get moving after giving our location away like that?”

Skip grins and goes “What’s the point of shootin something if you’re gonna be all quietlike about it? But I agree we oughta move cause them bodies are gonna give us away, and they might could have some more folks on their way, fellers inside get to making some phone calls. You find somewhars t’cover the front and I’ll head around back case any of them try t’ get away.”

Skip begins to move towards the rear of the house, staying under cover.

As Skip circles around back, Alexander comes tearing past the prone riflemen, wailing and waving. Not terribly agile to begin with, and near hysterical at this point, he misses a downed branch, tripping as he clears the forest, and falling flat on his face a few feet into the side yard, still 80 yards away from the porch and the barely living man.

Yulong throws himself forward, willing his legs to greater speeds. He shifts his claymore to his left and searches out a flash pak grenade in the depths of his robes with his free hand.

The calm that has come over the cyborg is refreshing. This is the first time he can remember being this aware and this alert in a long time. His circuits buzzing and processors whirring, he too attempts to coax and extra burst out of his neglected legs. The man he hit who collapsed behind the door didn’t appear to have been hit badly enough to ensure death. He must finish him. It must be a fearsome sight to behold, an inhuman face cracked in a reapers grin….

Linus yells “SHIT!” and look completely horrified at the mayhem that is commencing around them. His adrenaline pumping, he stays fixed to his position. On the edge of panic, he finds just enough presence of mind to center himself for the summoning of a Fire Spirit to guard him in this moment of danger.

[Linus attempts to summon a force 5 fire spirit.]

Linus freezes in his tracks, and falls inward, oblivious to his placement in the middle of the road, with no cover. This is not a man used to combat or danger, that much is clear. As Linus focuses, he begins to weave his hands through intricate patterns, as if writing equations on an invisible board, or quickly checking off items on a list. A few seconds later, he produces a matchbook from his pocket, and strikes a single match. The match flares, and quickly settles. Linus drops the match, opens his eyes fully, and steps back, whispering a nearly inaudible “come, and guard your master.”

The flames of the match seem to flicker, to grow slightly. The fire expands to the size of a tennis ball, and a clawed paw rips forth from the pavement. Smoldering and dark with heat like long-lit coal, the paw claws into the asphalt, and the fire flares. Another paw from the depths, another flare, and a burst of flame that doesn’t recede. The flames quickly coalesce around a snarling, furious head, with a long snout. Long, lupine teeth glow as hot iron, and smoke pours from the jaw. With a growl that ejects flames through the horrifying mouth, the back of the hell-hound materializes from the flames of the match. Now standing shoulders to waist with Linus, easily clearing 230 pounds, with its simmering bright eyes at chest level, the spirit has been realized. “Consider yourself protected, mage.”

[Linus pretty much wrecked shop on this one, the spirit owes you another 5 favors, and you took no drain. Also, the spirit will not burn down the house unless instructed, in which case, pookey will burn that mother down.]

Oblivious to the truly terrifying ritual behind him, the Cyborg charges forward, once more leveling his gun for a shot, and propelling his legs even faster. It would seem his legs are currently at their limit. Perhaps his metal reflexes need tuning? His hands, however, show no such signs of malfunction, as he squeezes the trigger, loosing another round into the back of the retreating man. The bullet strikes far closer to home this time, Cyborg’s aiming is coming back online, it would seem. As the bullet screams for the man’s heart, and the man’s left scapula is shattered, forcing the bullet higher, sinking into his shoulder, failing to exit the other side. With a good many chips of bone and gore on the ground by now, and fatal lacerations to his interior from the shards, the man falls forward, unable to even lift his hands to stop his fall. He too, continues to draw breath, though he is surely in shock.

Appalled by his teammates’ senseless slaughter, Yulong realizes he must act in the name of the Dharma before more suffering is caused. Still in a full run, the monk tenses his abdomen, sending a line of qi to his throat chakra, then bellows his command at the cyborg, throwing out waves of domination and compliance. “DO NOT KILL THESE MEN.”

The air faintly ripples between the Cyborg and Yulong, and the Cyborg hears the command.

Both men charge the stairs, with the Cyborg sprinting faster, clearing the steps in one bound, leaving Yulong at the bottom of them. Once on the porch, the Cyborg quickly tucks away his own weapon, and cleanly snaps up both of the guns from the downed men on the porch.

Skip, having picked up his rifle and run off to the rear of the house, continues his hillbilly gait, and clears the back of the house by about 10 meters, sliding behind a downed pine and leveling his rifle at the back door.

Nameless tosses the smaller pistol behind himself, towards Yulong, away from the men, and retains the heavier gun. He cocks his steel fist back, and hammers it down on the skull of the man still drawing breath on the porch. A sickening crunch emanates, and the Cyborg withdraws his fist, with pieces of bone, hair, and skin still stuck to it. The Cyborg’s eyes pull back from the daze he was in. Perhaps he has returned from his rage? Perhaps he merely plots his next move.

The young Xenith starts heading around off to an angle about 45 degrees from the front door so anything that heard the gunshots is at least slightly slightly wrong about where he is. He sets up his rifle aimed for the front door but draws his pistol and checks his surroundings before putting his eye to the eyepiece. He’s looking for incoming threats and that damn bird. A million thoughts run through his head as he tries to figure out what to do next.

“Shit,” the shaman breathes as he wipes grass off his front and continues running for the house. Maniacs… I’ve got to stop them before they kill everyone else. He tucks back into his run for the porch and the one remaining victim.

The cyborg reaches up and smashes his fist through the head of one of the wounded men. Not trusting his voice to carry over the gunfire, or be heeded, he reaches out to the cyborg and implants a suggestion in his mind, “Take the remaining men alive.”

[Alexander casts Influence at force 4 on Nameless.]

Alexander’s thoughts scream through the astral space, reaching the Cyborg in time. Panicked as he is, Alexander manages to impart “take a man alive” to the Cyborg. Not quite what he intended, but should get the job done. Running as fast as he possibly can, Alexander has made it halfway across the yard, a mere 50 yards off the porch, and some 56 from the man down just inside the doorway.

Zin tears across the road, slipping into a copse of old crepe myrtles and bushes in a neighboring lawn, apparently long abandoned. Once more concealed, he checks his surroundings, and spots birds all over the place. He can’t place any particular bird, and the gunshots have them all flapping, fluttering, and fleeing, fast. Faster than you’d expect, but then again, birds are a flighty bunch. Pistol drawn, he doesn’t manage to set the bipod of the rifle squarely, and it slips a bit, he’ll have to recenter it before he can fire it again. [Lots doin’ there, you moved, drew the pistol, and checked surroundings, so the rifle setup will have to wait for next round.]

The monk takes a step up the stairs, draws the pommel of his broadsword to his cheek, and levels the point at the cyborg’s chest. “Do not kill again, empty one. I do not believe I can best you, but I will try.”

The Cyborg, standing on the porch, hears Yulong, but merely smirks at the slow, puny, meat bag telling him what to do. Maybe he’ll kill this guy. Maybe he knows they need information. ‘empty one’ who does this chump think he is?

Linus has just seen more blood in the last ten seconds than his previous ten years, and that includes three births. He chooses this time to make a most hasty exit, and the hellhound trots easily alongside his new master, growling fiercely at the house. Linus runs as fast as his legs, weak from years of science and nerdity, will carry him. Only 100 yards to go. The hellhound barks loudly, bristling.

As the dust begins to settle on our little group, an unearthly keen is heard from the interior of the house, like pure unadulterated horror pumped through an old speaker. The entire house shutters for a moment, as if a localized earthquake had just occurred. Splintering wood echoes from the center of the house, and a horrendous beast, a green, chitinous, half man, half insect, with the scything arms of a praying mantis, erupts from the dark interior. seven feet long, with odd bug-eyes of ruby, mottled green, ranging from pea to emerald, and far too many legs on the extended thorax. Another unearthly wail, this one louder, closer, resounding with anger, fury, and blind rage, and a three foot long talon hammers down into the injured man, crunching through ribs to knife into the floor, clean through.

A voice from inside the house calls “Enough. I do not know why you have come, but you know nothing of that which you now interfere! You have ruined months of work! Explain yourselves!”

No source for the voice can be located, but then again, it’s hard to look beyond the horror standing just beyond the doorway.

Zinedine bellows to Linus. “Hey Nerdlinger! Get over here with that fire dog of yours and help us out!” Zin is also scared shitless of this magical shenanigans.

Skip sprints his way across the backyard, hoping to remain unseen. He closes the gap considerably, but remains 20 yards away from the door, though he does manage to shoulder his rifle and draw his pistol. The TNT remains holstered, too much in his hands already. The back door looks pretty shoddy, same plywood nonsense as the front, and the doorjamb itself is lookin’ a little wobbly.

The Mantis man opens its mouth to reveal an odd row of sawblade teeth, dripping oily, dark green something. The Mantis spits in the man’s eyes, and corrosive smoke begins to fill the area immediately. It hisses at the men in the doorway, and brings its horrid talons down once more on the downed man, decapitating the man, his smoking, melting head rolling out of sight inside. Returning to a ready stance, the Mantis holds back, crouching slightly, as if waiting for a signal, or backup.

The cyborg may be nearly lost in bloodlust, and he may finally be hitting his stride, but this creature in front of him is so bizarrely unlike any other he’s ever seen that it actually gives him pause. A quick assessment drums up the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and given that the bugbeing isn’t actively attempting to attack….

Yulong backs slowly away from the porch, his blade held cautiously up in a defense position. He calls back to the voice inside. “Keep your beast at bay! We will not attack if you do the same. We come looking for the Brotherhood of Cain—they have some children who belong to us. Tell us where we might find them, and we will be on our way.”

With the Cyborg and Yulong backing slowly off of the porch, the beast scampers forward quickly to fill the doorway, though it stays inside.

Behind the Mantis comes a man, about 6’4", clad in what would appear to be armor made from the same chitin as adorns the Mantis. As odd as it seems, the man appears to be wearing an intricately and masterfully fashioned suit of armor made from the shells of giant mantis-men, complete with helmet and gauntlets. Two of the horrid talons seem to be strapped to his forearms and elbows, protruding a good foot and a half past his hands. He takes his helmet into his hands, revealing long, shiny, jet black hair, and speaks.

“It saddens me that you had to find me here, now, like this. It simply will not do. We should have known better than to work with such amateurs as the Brotherhood. If these men were involved, you’re welcome to what knowledge you can glean from them. I cannot, however, allow you access to their minds, nor their persons, at this time. They drive together, in some sort of van. It’s parked in the garage. Peruse as you will, but know that security will soon be on their way. Now, I have helped you, so you will help me. Put the bodies inside. I have matters to attend to, and my companion here isn’t built for such chores. This isn’t the time for chatter. Should you find me in more peaceful times, know that we need not be enemies.”

Having said his bit, the man returns his emerald helmet to his head, now staring at the group through eerie ruby bug eyes, turns, and walks back through the dimly lit house.

The Mantis backs up slowly, covering the man’s retreat, and stops in the next doorway, leaving access to what looks to be a small living room that has seen better times. Two dumpy couches are angled to watch a trideo, propped up on a board and cinder blocks.

[Combat has ended, unless someone wants to try something. Proceed as such. Time is very limited in this situation, as the gunshots and such have certainly called the authorities to the location. In this case, you will need to be off the property by tomorrow afternoon in order to escape being caught red handed.]

Yulong spins his sword once above his head and sheathes it with a flourish. He ascends the front steps to stand in the doorway. “A moment, please. If it is competent associates you’re looking for, my companions and I are a. . . strange, yet effective troupe. Surely we can do more for you than haul bodies.”

The monk shifts his qi, activating his astral sight so he can appraise the mantis warrior.

Linus continues his breakneck run for the van.

Nameless lifts a corpse, sifting through the pockets quickly but casually. The man has 80nY, and an additional 4 bullets, strangely not in a clip. The other body remains unattended.

[Nameless already lifted both guns from the men outside, though he tossed one down to the yard, and the man inside is lying on his gun, if he even had one, near the Mantis, it will be harder to get to.]

The man turns curiously to regard the adept, grins, and says “I sincerely doubt I’ll be needing the sort of services you offer any time soon, but I shall find you if I do. For now, the bodies will do.” before disappearing around a corner in the back.

[Astral info has been sent to Yulong.]

Nameless tosses the first body inside, and moves to the second. Now covered in blood, Nameless has made quite the mess. This man was clearly winning at cards, and has 200nY in his pockets, as well as a set of three keys. One is a car key, the others appear to be to houses. With no ceremony, the Cyborg plops the man down atop his companion just inside the doorway, and makes for the third. As he does so, the Mantis lowers, flexes a razor claw, and extends one insectoid leg, baring fangs once again.

Linus’ pace has not slowed, and his hellhound remains vigilant. 75 yards to go! Linus finds himself beginning to breath heavier. He knew that science took its toll, but this seems extreme.

Alexander jogs to the front porch to ascertain the situation of the bodies. It’s grim, but hard to tell which man had it worse: impaled by a fist or the claw of the giant insect-spirit. He steps around the blood and enters the house, not bothering to help with the bodies. Those who lived by the sword surely could handle their own messes.

The presence of an insect shaman—a toxic shaman, he should say—was a blight on this place, but it wasn’t in his power to remove the man. He had never met a male mantid shaman, but surely someone powerful enough to control one mantid had others, and who knows—maybe even a seer spirit numbered among his brood. That would be interesting.

He takes a look around the house, looking for signs that the kidnapped kids were ever held here. As he does so, he shifts to astral perception in order to see the true nature of things. A hand shifts to his knife instinctively.

[Making a perception check in physical space, then shifting to astral for a cursory inspection and shifting back.]

Linus just keeps huffing it as fast as he can until he reaches the van. once he arrives, breathing hard, he puts it between him and the house and coms Yulong. he stage whispers into it “What the FUCK was that? I thought we agreed that this wasn’t a FUCKING shadowrun!! Jesus christ they probably heard that shit all the way to Cary!! Fuck Fuck Fuck. I fucking Kids man! I can’t be knee deep in this gangster shit!”

Yulong staggers back from the doorway, clutching his head. He bumps up against a pillar and leans heavily against it. His phone buzzes in his pocket and he dives into the sleeve of his robe to fetch it out. He listens intently before responding. “No, no, the danger has passed. It appears to be some sort of spirit bound to the will of this strange mantis shaman. But there is something else in the building, something dark. I would tell you to come look for yourself, but I don’t think you’ll like it.”

The monk stands upright, the phone still to his ear, and scans the unceremoniously piled corpses, trying to remember which one claimed to know Marcus.

Skip realizes what has happened, he can hear the speaking, the walls aren’t terribly thick. Unfortunately, the back windows are both barred and boarded, as are, oddly, all the windows in this building not facing the front.]

The monk scans the area, seeing nothing of interest in the shabby room, wary of the Mantis man. He cannot recall which man had mentioned knowing Marcus, and is unsure if he was ever told in the first place. Regardless, the men are now dead, and no comms have been recovered, though a set of keys and some pocket change have been.

Alexander practically jumps out of the house, striding quickly and looking worried. “We have to go. The authorities—or worse—are surely on their way. If you’re quite done desecrating your victims, we need to vacate IMMEDIATELY.” He heads for Skip’s vehicle, parked a little ways down the street, “And you all can move those dead men yourselves. Their weight is on your shoulders, not mine.”

The Cyborg seems somewhat frustrated with what he’s found in the dead men’s pockets. However, keys to a truck and loose bullets bode well for future goods. The mantismage mentioned a truck but the cyborg is wary of being directed there. He pauses for a moment before figuring that using it as a trap would be a needlessly complicated way of attacking his party.

He sets out in search of the truck and whatever gear it might contain, gun at the ready for additional surprises.

The Cyborg finds the van, as expected, in the garage to the side of the house. Pretty rusty, light red paint, probably used to be regular red. ‘Salmon’ now. It’s got two sets of rear tires, odd. Messy. Seats are all torn up. Van reeks. 30nY in the front console. Hey, a GPS unit. And a box of 24 pistol bullets. Two condoms. Expired. Poor guy. Oooooh, sneaky, a key hidden under the driver side seat. Idiots.

Zinedine has absolutely no desire to have anyone in his family recognized by a giant mantis, but cleaning up the bodies is more important. He heads towards the house to see how he can help.

With the bodies piled inside, and the van ransacked, Alexander is becoming notably more edgy and anxious. Sirens come to the ears slowly, building, far, closing.

linus, his breathing slihtly calmed, coms Yulong again.

“What do I need to do? Did you find anything? I think we need to get the hell out of here.”

Yulong clenches his fist, looking over the bodies with dismay. He knows one of them had claimed to know Marcus, but that lead, their only lead, was quickly bleeding out. He shakes his head. They could stand and fight, but. . . No, now was the time to leave—the reed which bends is the one which survives the storm. Besides, there could be more clues in the Brotherhood’s truck.

The adept turns and jogs after Nameless, shouting instructions as he moves. He calls back into his phone, “Linus, the authorities are coming. It’s time to leave. We can talk later.” He then waves to Zinedine. “There’s no time, get to your car!” Then hollers to the back of the house, “SKIP! Let’s get out of here!”

Zinedine gladly bolts to his car. “Meet at Otto’s place!”

Linus looks frantically for the keys.

Frantic as ever, Linus remembers that Skip has the keys.

With the house a mess, all three thugs dead as ever, the van in the garage ransacked, and sirens on their way, the group decides it’s time to at least get back to their vehicles and on the road. Being arrested, or worse, on their first mission would simply not do. As they clamber into the cars and head back toward Otto’s meeting place. About a half mile from the house, they pass numerous Duke and RTPCorp Security vehicles. No sooner have the vehicles faded behind the group than an ear-splitting wail, like a grieving mother at a funeral, sped up to be even higher pitch. A huge plume of black smoke mushrooms in the rear-view mirror, and evaporates as quickly as it had come, carried away on unseen winds. Each member of the group feels cold, alone, for a moment.

It is nearing dark by the time the group returns to where they had met Otto. The sun has begun to set, and it is nearly 8 P.M. The group piles out of the cars in the park, where many orks remain, enjoying the long, warm days of late spring. Dinner smells mighty good around now.

View
Tutorial Run Part 2A
"Parking down the gravel road, your little group is surrounded by hardwoods of moderate age."

As the four man team meanders back to Linus’ van, Yulong’s pocket begins to buzz. He draws his economy phone from a pocket in his robe and answers. “Hello Zin. Yes, it’s marked House 3 on the map, on Marly drive off of South Miami Boulevard. I have no way of knowing if that is where they are, but I believe searching the closest houses first is as logical an approach as any. We are headed there now—perhaps we will meet you there.”

The monk hangs up and turns to the party. “It sounds like our friends have about wrapped up their business. We should begin ours. Our new friend here is driving. Since you two are going to scout ahead on the astral, I will take shotgun, to help keep an eye out for danger. Objections?”

“None” Says linus. “I rather like having a chauffeur and body man.” He giggles to himself. “Why don’t I just recline in the back here.” Reaching the van, he unlocks the doors and throws his much more mechanically competent friend the keys. Then he hops in the sliding side door to sit in one of the reclining chairs in the middle row. He pops it back into full recline and gets comfortable.

“This has the added benefit of keeping me out of sight. May I recommend that we stop about a block away? We can look ahead from there, and we’ll be well placed to take action quickly should the need arise.”

Following the hermetic’s lead, Alexander arranges himself cross-legged on the floor, partly wedged between the front bucket seats. “Follow me, mage. Keep us safe but do no harm to the living while we are there. I won’t let you.” He punctuates the sentence with a meaningful stare, then casts his spirit upward into astral space.

The van starts quickly, and the motor begins the whine typical of electrical motors. The group heads off, down Alston, to take a left on Riddle, then a right on Ellis. When that dead ends on Miami, the group goes left.

[The astral folks are getting their own thread wooo.]

Skip drives about as recklessly as the car will let him, constantly complaining that there’s no power to electric motors. He advises Linus to get his governor taken off. He knows a guy who can do that. In fact he knows two. The guy he’s talking about drives a motorcycle that can go five hundred miles per hour. So he says anyway. Skip’s never seen it.

Upon approach, Skip gets a bit more focused and tells the others he’s going to drive by first and take a look at the place first.

Skip and Yulong drive by at a normal speed, not terribly out of place in their run down minivan. What you see is depressing, but not surprising. An ancient shotgun house, wooden, with a large front porch, with a gravel drive on the left, and a detached one car garage beyond that. The house itself is pretty square, single story, with an apparent addition, also ancient, onto the back. There’s no small amount of litter and garbage on the surrounding lawn, which seems to have been neglected since roughly the Awakening. A few scraggly shrubs and trees grow slowly and stiltedly along the road and property lines. Three men sit on the porch. Two appear to be interacting at a table, playing cards, and the third sips a beer slowly.

Skip suggests parking on the old roadbed of Mineral Springs, then walking over to watch those fellas for a while.

He also offers to go talk to them and “See what kinda guys they is.”

Parking down the gravel road, your little group is surrounded by hardwoods of moderate age. The foliage and seclusion give a sense of safety, though perhaps the lonesomeness is something to be wary of. You’re not quite certain, but you’re likely no more than a few hundreds yards away from the safehouse, though you’d be behind it now, having not seen the rear at all.

[Rim there’s a map somewhere of where this safehouse is located. I dug it up for easy access. ]

Yulong laces his fingers over the pommel of his broadsword. “You may scout ahead if you wish, but I believe at least one of us has a duty to stay here and guard our allies while their souls are abroad. Do as you like, but please do not get noticed if you go.”

Yulong hears gravel crunch behind the van, and turns just in time to see Zin and the cyborg arrive, going slowly as not to scratch Zin’s car. The sleek ride pulls up next to the van, and the group finds itself once more reunited.

[Linus and Alexander are both still astral, but the rest are all here.]

Yulong steps from the van and nods to the other runners. He speaks in a hushed tone. “Hello friends. I hope your business was successful, although I also hope we won’t need to use your new purchases. The mages are still projecting, and Skip has suggested ranging ahead to get a closer look.”

The monk leans against his sword. “I have decided that I shall stay here, to watch the casters while their spirits are away.”

“Which way do you suggest we scout?” the cyborg croaks.

[Kevin, can you describe the surroundings for me and Danny?]

You’re on a gravel drive that dead-ends into woodlands. The trees are mainly old growth pines and some medium age hardwoods. The foliage is pretty dense, as spring has come in force. You have about 15 yards of clearance and grass, then not terribly thick woodlands. The house in question is through about 150 yards of woodland, and is unable to be seen from this location.

Nameless scans the treeline for any cameras or listening devices which might detect his approach.

“Well,” says Skip, “I think they’re gonna notice when I go up and talk to them…”

Skip sets leaves his rifle in the van and then sets off to go play the overly-friendly-hillbilly card for everything its worth. Maybe a few off-color remarks about Orcs and the like. He heads through the woods and starts to walk down the road towards the house, signing country music loudly.

[Is there a convenience store around? B/c If there is, he’ll go get a few beers first].

The cyborg doesn’t say anything to anyone but ducks off the path to the right, mirroring Skip’s movements, but angling outwards so as to come in at a flanking angle.

[I know my guy isn’t much of a stealth guy, but given how poorly armed I am right now, I’m probably not gonna go in straight up. Roll whatever I need to to move quietly and stay out of sight].

Skip squints at the cyborg. “If yer in there mister, just stay far enough away these sonsabitches ain’t see you. I speak the language of fuckers like them.”

When Skip gets to the road, he opens a beer [if available] and starts to stagger a bit, singing country music loudly.

There is a minimart not too far away. Skip manages to down a few beers, and is now carrying what remains of his 6 pack back past the group on his way to the house. The cyborg begins trailing him through the trees, but has to stop once reaching the road. There is a span of two houses, totaling about 100 yards, where there is no real cover to speak of. The back of the house is more accessible, but there too is roughly 50 yards of open space. From where the cyborg stands, he can discern no security measures beyond the men on the porch, though nearly every window is blacked out or boarded over.

Zin glares at the other runners. “Are you all fuckin crazy? why did I get in this van? Skip, I hope you know what you’re doing.”

View
Tutorial Run Part 2
"They like to call themselves the Brotherhood of Cain."

Yulong folds his arms into the sleeves of his robe, carefully studying the faces of his new companions. “Then it is agreed, we will go to this first house in force. It seems abundantly clear that our first priority is to rescue the ork young by any means. It is my hope that we can do so without bloodshed—ignorance and bigotry should be tempered with reform, not death. Violence will only beget more violence, and if these communities must live so close together, it would be better they were in harmony than otherwise.” The monk sighs, rubbing the crest of his bald head. “Given the reputation of this ‘brotherhood’ however, such a feat may prove impossible. . . .”

He shrugs, adjusting the hang of the broadsword slung across his shoulder. “I think it would be best to approach at a distance, scout them out before we proceed, to learn where they are keeping the children and their strength of arms. I will admit I have little talent for espionage; my skills of voice and blade are of little use without my foe before me. Surely at least one of you has the means to see and stay unseen?”

Alexander raises his hand, for the first time talkative. “The street life of a city gang doesn’t attract the talents of the Awakened. I would bet that they are quite unprotected on the astral plane. When we know where our destination lies, we can ask for spiritual guidance to lead us to our quarry. It may also be possible to trick these shallow minds into simply handing the children back to us. Of course, either way, no information must be left which could lead back to the ork neighborhoods or to our group. I will take care of that.”

Linus looks up, having been scribbling some completely unrelated equations on his datapad. “I certainly agree!” he begins. “A cycle of retribution is exactly what these bloody troglodytes are looking for. We need to either strike so decisively that nothing is left of the group, which frankly is a ridiculous idea and beyond consideration, or use our wits to play them against each other.”

He pauses. “Alexander, are you suggesting that you have ability to scout their location? I myself have access to such means but my astral kindred are of a … fuck, what’s the word … a luminescent nature. I can bring them to our aid but it may be the less subtle of our options.”

Yulong listens intently, stroking his chin. “Yes, I very much like the idea of some sort of diversion, turning them against another group so they would not think to retaliate against the community again. My friend in the lab coat, I’m sorry I don’t know your name, could you possibly find more information on other groups in the area, maybe a rival supremacist gang who we could pose as or frame?” The monk checks himself, and bows to the group, clasping his fist in greeting. “I apologize for my rudeness, I had not thought to introduce myself. I am Zhuang Yulong, of the Shaolin Order.”He turns to the shaman. “And you seem to have insinuated that you can control their thoughts. Can you describe exactly what you can do, so we can fully explore our options?”

Alexander smooths his long, shiny black hair and pushes his glasses further up on the bridge of his nose. “Controlling thoughts is one talent I possess, yes. But it is the least subtle of tricks, and leaves the victim completely aware of the manipulation. The most believable way to control another person is to make them want what you want; but there are far more ways of doing this than simply willing them to action. I control what people see, hear and feel, even what they remember. Convincing them to release a few worthless children will be beyond child’s play. Since we are introducing ourselves, I am Alexander, follower of Asclepius, at your service.” He smiles around the circle of runners.

“And I am Linus Ruthhh….. let’s just go with Linus for now. I will conjure a small friend from the “astral plane” as you call it. To be perfectly honest with you I think the astrality business sets completely the wrong tone, but that’s a totally different discussion and I’ll just leave it for another time. If you gentlemen will kindly wait for a moment," Linus steps away from the group, looking up and down the street for observers.

[Presuming no one is around besides the members of the group, Linus attempts to conjure a Watcher to look for the children.]

Alexander sits on the ground, cross-legged, and places his hands in his lap. “I will join your watcher on the astral. Let it go first, that they might be distracted—tell it to look for a group of children. I will follow and see what I can discover.” Rocking back on his haunches, his body goes slack as he projects himself into the astral plane.

Yulong centers his mind and body, sending his qi up from his dantian to pool at his forehead, activating the third eye chakra. He opens this third eye upon the astral plane to see Linus perform his conjuration and watch the astral forms depart.

The monk cries out to his teammates, and points up into a nearby tree. “Look, on the astral plane! What is it. . .” The monk warily draws his claymore, the blade humming as it clears the scabbard, as if it were struck by a tuning fork.

The cyborg comes to life, clearly his mind might be missing but his combat reflexes haven’t dulled. His left fist clenches and un-clenches, and he glances about more rapidly than a human should be able to manage.

Linus quickly whispers to his watcher: “hold here, I have need of you.” He then turns to look into the tree. Holding his hand against his head, he assenses what is there, and its purpose.

Asclepius flexes his astral form—half snake, half man—and assenses the bird in the tree. If it is a spirit sent to watch them, better to know who bound it and gave it its task.

Turning from his new pet, Linus looks up into the tree.

Zin looks confused, but tries to figure out whatever the hell is going on. “Fucking astral bullshit.” He puts a hand on the pistol at his side as he does his best to look at what Yulong is freaking out about.

Yulong lowers his sword. “I do not think it means to harm us.” He turns to Zin and the cyborg, to fill them in. “It appears to be some sort of astral being, with the appearance of a crow, black as night.” He regards Asclepius’ fearsome astral form. “I cannot get close enough to communicate with it. Should we even try? I’m afraid I have little experience with the metaplanes.”

Asclepius materializes on the physical plane in order to communicate with his teammates. His form shimmers in the air on the physical plane, translucent, a muscular, reticulated tail replacing his legs, and forked tongue flicking in and out. “Let’s leave it be, for now. If it appears to be tracking us we can destroy it easily. Linus, if you will instruct your spirit to investigate in the direction of the kidnappers, I will follow it.”

Linus jerks his head as he re-emerges in the physical plane. “Indeed, though that creature was … magnificent. I have never seen anything quite like it. We must hope that whoever sent it is not somehow allied with the Brotherhood of Cain. Though I doubt anyone so exquisitely skilled could be.”

He turns to his astral watcher, a macaque monkey with flaming hands.

“I have need for your service, little one. Some ork children have been taken by a group of men and are being held captive. We believe that they are being held in a house up the road. Go to the house and seek the children. Please also look for any being with a strong Astral presence in the house, being sure to keep your distance since it may be an enemy. See what you can see, and report back to me here.”

Linus shows his watcher the destination on his datapad and jestures up the road.

“Make haste, we will wait for you here.”

And off they go, a strange sight to be sure. A tiny monkey with flaming paws followed by a terrifying serpent man. At speeds unimaginable in the material plane, their shimmerings fade from sight in a matter of moments. From here the story will be between Nick and the Watcher for a moment, though probably not too terribly long.]

With a sigh, Yulong returns his sight to the material plane. He sheaths his broadsword with a flourish, which ceases its low ringing as soon as it leaves his hands. “Ah,” he says to no one in particular, “the thrills of working with magicians. Never a dull moment guarding an unconscious body while they soar off on great adventures in a land unseen.”

He takes a seat against a nearby maple, resting his claymore across his lap. “Perhaps we can get to know each other more while Alexander does his work. Linus, you strike me as a man of knowledge and integrity. What brings you to the life of a shadowrunner?”

“Lab equipment does not come cheap, and my studies have taken me far afield from the safe playpens the university could support,” Linus says. “And as you might expect, a man with a wife and children can’t take too much out from his paycheck for his higher pursuits, lest it be noticed. Frankly I can’t believe its come to this but I’ve developed… debts… that must be paid. And really, would we call this ‘Shadowrunning’? That’s quite dramatic. We’re not really ‘Shadowrunning’, are we?”

The monk produces a throwing knife from the folds of his sleeve and begins to whittle carefully at a twig. “No, this particular job I suppose I would not call shadowrunning. Public service perhaps. Although I believe the general act of collecting with other transient men to perform freelance jobs could fall under the category.”

He pauses for a moment to cut two small notches at the end of his stick before continuing. “What about you, my elven friend? I have yet to hear your name, but I can tell by your sharp attire that you are not a poor man. What brings you to the life of shadows, however you might define it?”

Zin tries to be nonchalant about leaving his hand in his coat, but it isn’t terribly subtle. “Jeez, you know how to give an elf a heart attack. You guys can call me Zin, I basically fell into this stuff through work, which is a long story. I should tell it to you some time. Basically I found out the world wasn’t as nice as I thought it was, and now I’m finding out more. Speaking of heart attacks, I’m wondering what happened to metal-man over here and whether he’s actually trustworthy. I guess he can hear, since he hurt his arm when I pissed him off earlier.”

The cyborg glares at Zin again. “Be careful what you say, elf, or next time my arm won’t seize.”

There’s a pause where the cyborg appears to be struggling internally with something, but the moment passes, and he looks up and states, “I need ammunition. Shotgun shells. I don’t see the point of searching for orclings.”

Zin let’s his arm off his gun: “He speaks! Glad to know you care about the little ones, too. Should I keep calling you metal-man, or do you have a better name I can use?”

The cyborg stirs. “there is no name for me. not any more. it’s all gone.”

Linus eyes the man/machine with some trepidation.

“Yes, let’s be sure to go in fully prepared” Linus says, “But I am beginning to wonder if this Brotherhood doesn’t have connections we should be thinking about. If we must begin shooting… and I can’t believe I am saying this, but these child abductors may leave us no choice… we should shoot to kill, and shoot to kill everyone.”

“You all,” he jestures at the cyborg and the monk, “may have no life in this city besides ’running, but I must be very careful not to betray myself.” Linus points his finger emphatically to emphasize the point. He looks out through the trees towards the bird-watcher.

“What the hell have I gotten myself into…” he mutters.

Turning back to the cyborg he breathes deep, then nods his head as if he as made a very serious decision. “Right then, nameless one, I think it would be wise for us to make an ammunition run. We can take my vehicle. What do you say?”

“Hold up, aren’t you waiting on your little whatever to return?” Zin asks. “I’ll take Mr. Metal, if he doesn’t mind, and if he fits in my ride. And Linus, remember that a nameless robot man is likely to attract a bit too much attention at your regular gun store.”

Zin calls Bob again, asking if there’s a place that would help out.

Alexander snaps back to life, returned from his astral journey. “Well, it looks like the closest point on the map—house #2—is just an underground gambling ring. There are some guards outside and some unhappy men inside, but I couldn’t see any of the ork kids. There was one man in a back room, looked like he was monitoring the place, but his eyes were blind to our familiar and I. We might be able to get some information out of him but I’d like to check out the other known locations first.”

Linus looks concerned.

“Yes, right. Now where is Zenodotus? I hope he hasn’t landed himself in trouble.”

The cyborg looks from Linus to the elf and shrugs. He shambles over to the elf’s side and looks at him expectantly.

As your group begins to pair up and split off, the body of Alexander twitches, as if startled in the night. A few moments later, Linus’ head turns to regard something you can’t hear. He appears to listen intently for about a minute, then…

Concerned, Yulong activates his third eye chakra to see what is happening to Asclepius on the astral plane.

Zin’s hand goes for his gun again. “Metal-man, all I can get you is a pistol for… Oh now what?”

Yulong waves away Zinedine’s worries. “Relax Zin, there is no immediate danger—it’s only that our shaman seems to have had a less than pleasant astral journey. Alex, are you hurt? What happened?”

Linus finishes his chat with Zenodotus, his astral aatcher.

“I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it seems that the ork children are not where we’d hoped. We’ll have to either look in the other houses astrally or … well … or find a way to interrogate someone from the Brotherhood who might know. Is… Alex alright? Bloody hell what is wrong?”

[Linus assenses Alex to try to determine the nature of any possible injuries.]

The snake shaman recollects himself. “I felt… a strangeness while entering my body. Like the world grew dim for a moment. I feel fine, however; maybe this has to do with the astral bird nearby. I’d rather not project again while it’s here. Linus, did you see a spiritual bond from it to another magician, or is it a free spirit?”

Linus looks off at the bird with a strange look of wonder but also, maybe, jealousy.

“That creature is a watcher for someone, or something, more powerful that I have ever seen or known before. What it is doing here and what association it may have with this business with which we currently find ourselves engaged… that is beyond me. It behaves as though our being here is a … curiosity, not the reason for its presence. I wonder whether or not it will follow us if we move from this place. It may… be wise to move from this place.”

Yulong picks himself up from the ground and adjusts his robe. “If you think that is best, then we should go. Yet I fear there might be an opportunity lost if we go without inspecting it or trying to communicate. We assume it is hostile, yet have no evidence either way.”

The monk leans against his broadsword. " I know little of the spirit world, but I do know that watchers are of the weakest category of astral being, even if it was summoned by a magician of great power. Surely the three of us could defend ourselves if it did respond with violence. What is the worst that could happen?"

Zin scowls impatiently. “If it isn’t really interested in us, then why is it watching the location where the kids were abducted? What else is here to watch? Also, if it’s so weak, how did it make Asclepius feel a ‘strangeness’ whatever that means. Let’s bail. We can come back if we have too.”

Linus reaches in and pulls out his authoritative voice, the voice of the professor lecturing his students. The edge of condescension rings through.

“Frankly I wouldn’t expect anyone here to understand the nature of an astral Watcher in all of its particularities, nor would I expect you to notice the tell-tale signs of a watcher’s surprise and curiosity upon encountering a subject different from that expected. That watcher,” he points to the tree line, “is not here for us, though having found us I can not predict the consequences. I do not know for whom he works but I detected no malice of intent. We are being watched, that is certain, by someone or something of powerful magics.”

Linus pauses for breath.

“I can ascend to the astral plane and try and converse with the watcher, or I could send my own spirits to converse with it. Either of these are options. I will not conceal my apprehension at these notions, having witnessed Alex’s difficulty emerging into the physical realm, affected apparently by the mere presence and deep magical aura of the small creature barely even within our sight. He is unharmed, and of that we should be thankful.”

Another breath is taken.

“I am drawn to the inevitable conclusion that we must try one more time to engage with this watching bird. It’s master is clearly powerful, and we put ourselves at grave risk to continue without decyphering whether he or she may be friend or foe in this endeavor.”

Linus sighs… having worked out for himself his next move.

“Friends, guard my body, I do not know what to expect from this next encounter”

Linus sits on the ground, then lays back into a comfortable position. Closing his eyes, he brings his hand up to his temple as though engaging in a complex calculation.

[Linus ascends to the astral plane.]

As Linus drifts out, the bird takes note. A few moments later, it swoops down, quickly, startlingly, and lands a few feet from Linus. Cawing, the bird begins to pace near the body.

Yulong projects his sight onto the astral plane, to appear in both spectrums to the dual-natured bird. He crouches down to the creature’s height, holding his palm out down and low in a gesture of greeting. He calms his thoughts and breath, letting his astral signature emote calm and benevolence. “If you can understand my words, black watcher, then know that we mean you know harm. Who is your creator, and why have you come?”

The creature regards him with beady eyes and caws once in response.

Yulong puts his hands up and takes a step back. “I will not hurt you, little bird. Be calm. Are you afflicted? Do you suffer?”

The bird caws at him again, more irritated this time.

The monk eyes the bird suspiciously. “Did someone send you after us?”

You get the distinct impression the bird is beginning to get agitated, frustrated, ornery.

Not you. Not matter. I stay, you go. No see me. Not again.”

Yulong straightens his back and shakes his head at the bird. “Cheeky little creature. I don’t think we’ll get much more from him.”

He slings his broadsword over one shoulder and looks around at the group. “Shall we proceed to the second house? The three of you seem to have your own cars; Asclepius and I will need a lift. I will ride with you, Linus, if you don’t mind. There is something comforting about a minivan. They remind me of home.”

Zin shrugs his shoulders in boredom. “Well at least it’s not turning into a fiery demon or something. Metal-man, how does a 500nY pistol sound to you? You have the money on you, or is this coming out of your cut of the bounty? That’s right he doesn’t talk much… nod once if you already have the money.”

Zin looks expectantly at the cyborg, reaching for his keys.

Linus wakes and shakes is head a bit.

“What a bizarre creature. A Watcher of some sort, maybe, and oddly ornery. We should be on our guard for astrally aware creatures in the road ahead, but I hopefully it hasn’t been ordered to follow us. Yes, why don’t we take my van.”

There’s a rustling in the bushes. Skip emerges with some leaves in his hair, and burps loudly. He zips up his fly.

“Y’all headed o’er ta get them kids? Can I drive?”

Linus raises an eyebrow, then thinks for a second. “Fine, we may need to walk the planes again before we enter the house, and I certainly can’t be behind the wheel to do that. You can drive, the monk comes with us… who else can drive? And to which house are we going?”

Yulong nods to Skip. “Welcome, friend. There is another house nearby—it’s on your map, Linus. East of here, I think. I believe Zin and his short-tempered friend were trying to buy more guns, but I cannot speak for them. Whoever is coming to look for the children, we should begin. There are only so many hours left in the day.” The monk starts off toward the parking lot.

Alex throws his lot in with the woodsman, Skip, and Linus the scientist. He says to the mage, “Perhaps we can journey ahead during the trip and secure what information we can from the spirit world.”

“Is there to be an ammunition run?” Linus asks. “I sure would like to know that if that hulk is on our side, that it is packing.”

The cyborg looks confused for a moment…nods…and then shakes his head. He seems perplexed by his own ambiguity.

“It will be worth it,” he croaks.

Zin turns to the group. “Alright, we’ll catch you all up at the next house. Neither of us seem to be helpful astrally speaking anyway. See you soon.”

Linus nods. “Very good. We will certainly not take any action until you arrive.”

The scientist grabs his keys and chases after Yulong.

The cyborg man climbs into the passenger side of Zin’s car, and the two quickly motor away, Zin clearly enjoying displaying his rather expensive ride. Yulong and Alexander accompany Linus to his minivan, within which Skip has already begun adjusting mirrors, seats, and radio stations. Leaving behind Skip’s original ride, the group go their separate ways.

[what now, folks? Where to? I’ll be doing separated updates from here on until we reconnect.]

View
Scene 1 Wrap Up

I’d like to take a minute to talk about Karma, the intangible
currency. In my game, I’ll be using two kinds. I’m basing it off
some Hindu bullshit I learned while getting my equally bullshit
degree. One is positive Karma through good living and lifestyles,
which we’ll be calling green Karma. The other is red Karma, which
will be earned from unexpected, surprising, badass, or ingenious
actions. Green Karma can be spent on your character’s skills,
abilities, and contacts. In other words, improving your self. Red
Karma can be spent on improving your world and items. In other words,
improving your chances and potential. Red Karma will likely function
differently for everyone. For example, Linus can spend his GK on
developing his lab skills, and then use his RK to either ease the
locating and purchasing of new equipment, or pour his heart and soul
(and RK) into an experiment. Cyborg can use RK to recover memories or
try to find newer, better, cyberware. He can use GK to learn how to
take care of his parts better. Yulong can use GK to learn more skills,
and RK to acquire magical doodads or buy hints about his long-lost
sword he’s looking for. Hopefully you get the idea. So, the
breakdown, where I make things up and give you Karma accordingly. The
names mean nothing, just fun for me. In the future, the breakdowns
will be larger numbers, and not as even, depending on what you do.
That doesn’t mean do random shit so I reward you, just play exactly as
you want and be helpful, and I’ll reward you for it.

Zin:
Slick and Well Dressed – I really liked your character fleshing out.
I also appreciate the level of social status and involvement you gave
him. +1 GK
C’mon Man! – Your contact wasn’t helpful, but you staying in character
the whole time, and I was not expecting that call. +1RK

Cyborg:
Sticking to your RoboGuns – you said nothing. It was hilarious, and I
approve. +1 GK
SNAP! – you critically failed to push a pompous elf, but the attempt
was appreciated. +1RK

Linus:
First Adopter – Your staying in character and enthusiasm are
unrivaled, and I appreciate that. +1GK
Google-Fu – Nice use of contact, very specific questioning, helped me
a lot to figure out what to provide. +1RK

Yulong:
I Come from a Land Out Yonder – Great character, great dialogue so
far. You’ve clearly done this before. +2GK (cause he helped so
much.)
Trust No One – Super thorough inspections, unexpected checks, keeps me
on my toes. +1RK

Alexander:
Know your Role – Excellent character development and integration.
Good story, good dialogue. +1GK
Brotherly Love – You told Yulong to shut up and progress the story, and
then checked for footprints in a schoolyard. Awesome. +1RK

Skip:
Yokel – I loved the post you made, very well done, fleshed out the
character a great deal, and made me laugh. Way to add an event to the
timeline that totally fit. +2GK

As a final note, I’ll be adding your Karma points to your character sheets. And, per new thoughts and good ideas, each scene will feature a special award, a GM chosen award for whatever I feel is appropriate, for whatever reasons I feel like giving it out.

GM Special goes to Linus. For excellent character development, perfect acting, great use of contacts, interesting questions, complicated choices, and overall enthusiams. +2 Karma of your choosing. Well done Linus.

That’s it! On to part 2!

View
Tutorial Run Part I
"Hello, thanks for coming."

“Hello, thanks for coming. Let me say my bit, and then we can talk things over. My name is Otto U. Sanford."

The old ork smiles a broken, frustrated smile. The kind of smile one musters up when there’s too much at stake and hope is running out. His skin is a strange dichromatic swirl of crimson and light blue, covered in what can best be described as the finest ill-fitting thrift store suit any of you has ever seen. His deep green eyes bulge slightly, and his horns jut up from the top of his head like ebony elephant tusks.

You find yourself here, in this place, for a variety of reasons. Maybe your lab janitor asked you for a favor, maybe you’re here to pay of a gambling debt. Maybe you stumbled out of the woods, bewildered but in the right place at the right time. What matters isn’t how you got here, but that you are here.

You look around the park that you’re all gathered in. The place has seen better days, to be sure. The play equipment, what still stands, is more rust and splinters than fun. The shelter and tables nearer your little group seems to have fared a bit better, but sitting would be best done cautiously. A glance at your companions reveals a motly assortment of folks. A weird little man, constantly snapping his head about, on the lookout maybe? A muscular and oddly calm Asian man, dressed like some kind of fairy tale sage. A middle-aged nerd, fresh out of the lab, and looking worse for wear. A slick, overdressed man who probably makes too much money for too little work. Some kind of fragged up cyborg monstrosity. Human? Drone? Dangerous? Unsure. You snap your head back around to Otto, getting the feeling he’s looking at you, and knows you’re not focused. He was right, you missed a fair bit of his speech.

“So I turned to everyone and anyone who would listen. And thank Ama you folks turned up. I’m not a Johnson, and I’ve never hired you people before, but we’ve got nowhere else to go. They took them.”

Otto quivers a little, and steadies himself before continuing.

“Those beasts, those inhuman, evil people, took them. First it was just the slurs, they called us grunge, filth, gobbos. Then a few broken windows, loud cars at night. Nothing we weren’t used to. Then, out of nowhere, in broad daylight, they took them.”

Otto sets his gaze, staring at something a ten miles and at least as many years away. He continues speaking. Not to you, not to anyone, far as you can tell. He speaks to whoever or whatever might hear him.

“I want them back. Mago, Hank, Mel, Parnassus, Emily, Drevon, Alonda…. All of them. What kind of man takes children? All we wanted was to live in peace. But they won’t allow it. So we turn to you.”

Otto’s eyes suddenly focus, he snaps his gaze around the group, hatred, desperation, excitement, anxiety, they all flood out of his eyes. The old ork can barely contain himself.

“I can pay, I assure you. We all can. Just please, help us. You’re our best chance to see our children, our grandchildren, our future, alive again.”

Otto looks at you expectently, as you shift from foot to foot. Except that ‘borg, he hasn’t moved, shifted, blinked, hell even breathed that you’ve noticed, since you got here.

“Well? Can you help me? Will you help me?”

Will you?

Yulong waits for the others to speak, content to stand in silence. When no one else moves, he steps forward, claps his fist, and bows to the ork. His voice is deep, smooth, and almost impossibly soothing, like the smell of sandlewood on an autumn night. His English is good, but his meter and pronunciation betray that it is not his first language.

“I do not know these other men, Otto, but I promise to help you. I am sworn to end the suffering of all beings, your family among them.” He turns and gestures to the rest of the group with an open palm. “My friends, I implore you to join me. There is no better deed than that done for another.”

Linus, looking around uncomfortably, mutters something about ‘the proper authorities’ under his breath. Looking up, he dispells his air of discomfort in a blink and is suddenly a commanding (if not particularly intimidating) professor.

“My good man it would certainly be both my power and inclination to help. I trust the remuneration will be sufficient. I must say I know none of these other… fine… individuals but I trust this will be a simple effort.”

His smile has a vague curl of disgust around the edges.

[ (???) I’m not quite sure how I got here, my circuits seem to be malfunctioning a bit leaving holes in my memory. But clearly none of the people have immediately tried to kill me. But I don’t trust them. Or this ork. But he said something about paying for something.]

Zin turns to Yulong: “I don’t know about that deed for another bit, but no one should mess with kids. I hope the pay is good.”

Linus interjects. “Indeed, about the pay… sorry to… be so crass.. but how, err… I mean there are some supplies for my research that would be… In what form will we be compensated for the considerable risks?”

Otto slowly nods his head, puts his hand on his forehead, and slowly brushes back his whispy gray hair past his horns.

“Yes, of course, your payment. We’ve managed to scrape together about 10,000 nuyen. I know it’s not much, but you must understand that we’re poor orks from a poor part of town. Most of us are lucky to have roofs over our heads, and our collected money represents not merely our pocket change, as it would for some, but nearly all of our collective savings. I know many who have borrowed from relatives and employers merely to sweeten the pot. I myself have wiped out my life savings in hopes of securing their return. What good is an old ork with money, if he has no joy? What good is it to save for the future if the future is taken from you?”

He pauses, inhales, exhales, and continues.

“Please, I know it’s not much, but we have nowhere else to go, and not much left but the clothes on our backs and houses we’re lucky to keep warm and dry in. Know that we will help you in any way we can, and pray for the return of our young.”

Otto shifts uncomfortably, waiting for his answer. His mottled crimson skin seems to glint in the sun, then be washed away by the lighter shades of blue. He brushes his hair back again, habitually, as he stares expectantly at the group.

“Please, I’ll tell you all I know, if it will help you make up your minds. The people who took our children are, as far as we know, the same ones who have been inciting violence and destroying property in the area. They like to call themselves the Brotherhood of Cain, and they’re some sort of human supremacists. They like to dress in black clothing with white graphics and logos. We’ve kept track of a few of the license numbers of the cars that have come through, and they always come and go from the same direction. We’ve only ever seen ten or so of the thugs, mostly men, and mostly young. They seem pretty poorly coordinated and don’t seem to have an end goal, other than our misery. They shouldn’t, couldn’t, pose much of a threat to a group of brave, dedicated, skilled men such as you.”

(Skip) “Maaann, I remember them fellas was the ones that dumped all the glue and mercury in Stone creek. I guess they was just trying to, I dunno, drive all them Trolls out of the camps by the river, but that shit absolutely fucked up the fish thar f’ever. I been lookin fer an excuse to get em back ever since. Sides, I think that thar Charger needs some flame holographs, the ones that make it look like yer more on fire the faster yer goin. I can help yall out, s’long as this aint gonna turn into some really long thing or nothin. I got drinkin to do later today. So where them kids at anyways?”

Linus glances at Skip skeptically: “Yes, this really sounds like the most devolved sort of human behavior. I think if you just tell us your best guess at where they are we can correct this injustice. I may need to go back to my… er… office and collect a few things first, but I can meet up the rest of you shortly. Let’s get this taken care of.”

Yulong puts a hand on Linus’ shoulder. “Patience, please. There are others among us who have not said their piece. They may have talents we need to see Otto’s family home safely. You, who are Awakened like us, what say you? And you, with the arm of steel, you have barely moved this whole time. Will you join your cause to ours? And you as well, who could miss you, a giant among men. I would fear nothing with you on our side. What do you say? Will you help?”

[ (???) My cyborg says nothing, only moves his head far enough to take everyone in.]

Alex Aspera considers himself an expert reader of men, despite his long seclusion from them. It turns out that communing with nature makes one an excellent interpreter of the unseen and unsaid, and from that introspective temperament comes an inclination to paranoia.

The shaman raises his brown eyes and licks his lips, staring softly but intently at Otto, searching his features. “I feel your pain, lost one. The fear of you and yours shows plainly on your face. I promise to do what I can to discover the truth of what is at hand.” He takes special note of the ork’s reactions, subtle facial gestures, and involuntary movements.

[Asclepius uses his Negotiation (Sense Motive) 4 skill to determine whether there is any hint of an ulterior motive.]

[ the check has been made. It was an opposition check between Nick’s charisma and skill, and Otto’s charisma and skill. Checks such as this will reveal more/less info based on net successes. The roll is GM-only, and the results are also secret if they do not involve words, and are not told to the group at large. It will be on the characters who make tests to tell the results.]

After a few moments of silence, Otto motions to one of the orks in the background. An old female ork, slightly hunched, with a ivory scarf covering her white hair and small, glistening black forehead horns, wearing a dark green dress with evidence of wear, approaches. Her skin is a pale, almost seafoam, green, with streaks of dark, dull brown on her exposed hands and forearms. She walks at a normal pace, but uses a tall stick with an intricately carved head, showing what appears to be some sort of amalgam of demon and ork, with greatly bulging wild eyes and an open, horrifically grinning mouth. The carving is only two or so inches tall, but the work looks like it would have taken weeks, if not months, to accomplish. As she turns to face Otto, the staff shifts, and you find yourself staring at two other faces, arranged in a triangle around the head of the staff. One looks incredibly distraught, and the other seems eerily at peace.

“This is my wife, Aka Sanford. She’s been leading the residents in information gathering, and can help answer your questions as well.”

Aka whispers a few words to Otto, and turns to face the group.

“Thank you for coming so quickly, as my husband has said. You look so very strong and capable, I have no doubt that you can save my grandson, Mago. We have all faith in you. Come, look over what we’ve found.”

The old woman attempts to hand out a few pieces of paper to each person present. Among the papers are ‘MISSING’ posters for each of the children, 7 in all. Accurate pictures of the children accompany a few tidbits. Last seen wearing, please call, that sort of thing. Another leaf holds the license numbers and makes of suspected ganger cars, a total of 5 full listings (plate, make, model, color), and 3 suspected affiliates (wanted ads from the local authorities who the orks claim to recognize). A long piece of what would have been legal paper has been filled out with what is known about the assailants. They are human supremicists, the orks do not know why they are being targetted, they tend to wear dull black clothing, but often have bright white lining, piping, or accessories. A large logo with BC in shiny white is often found on the back of jackets, and sometimes on other pieces of clothing as well. A final sheet holds maps with where the cars have been spotted, and which direction they usually come and go from.

As she finishes passing them out, she walks back to Otto, and grasps his hand.

[The cars have been coming and going from North Alston and Angier, coming South and headed back North under 147. The location of your meeting has been put on the map, along with the routes. I’d recommend bookmarking it, or at least saving it.

The cars tend to stick to the bigger roads, though the orks have made no real attempt to tail them beyond the freeway. The players are free to investigate, leave, play on the playground, do whatever the hell they want. Wooo, scene 1 almost done!]

Alex asks, “Did anyone see the children get taken? Where did it happen exactly—have you been keeping watch for more of these BC in this area?”

Aka lifts her head and responds, “We’ve been homeschooling our children in the neighborhood for a while now. We take turns hosting groups of them at our houses for a week at a time, and teach them what we can. The Brotherhood came while most of us were at work, around 2 in the afternoon, and busted into the house with all of the 9-12 year olds. The woman who was teaching that day saw a car full of Brotherhood ruffians and a van arrive before she was knocked unconcious. We haven’t seen any Brotherhood since the incident, but it happened just Thursday, two days ago. The house they were taken from is on Cherry Drive, right next to the main road.”

As the shaman speaks, Yulong takes a closer look at the skin of the two old orks. He has encounted plenty of their race before in his travels with his friend and mentor, the Crusader Behuniak, but none with skin coloration quite so strange or curious.

Unfortunately, the two orks wear too much clothing on this hot day to reveal much more of their skin patterning. Aka appears to have dull light green skin, somewhere between key lime pie and seafoam, with mostly straight streaks of a very dark brown, slightly shinier, running parallel to her veins, in what you can see of her forearms. There is no brown on her face, though a few streaks can be seen on her neck. Otto’s skin, which you can see on his neck and hands, looks like two disparate paint colors one swirl into mixing. his face is mostly blue, though a large red streak runs up one side. His hands, conversely, are mostly red, with only the right pinky and ring finger blue.

Yulong scans the handful of papers before passing them along. “Well, the pay is not great, but these ruffians should be no trouble for the likes of us. Should we split up, then? I believe a few of us should stay to guard the community, in case they return. Others may want to strike out into the surrouding area to search them out, as it seems unlikely they live far from here. If anyone has friends who might be of use here, you could get in contact with them.”

The monk folds his arms up into the sleeves of his robe. “I will be the first to admit I have little skill in the art of tracking, and there are few in this country I would call friend, so I for one plan to stay here among the people, to keep watch, gather information, and perhaps beggar a meal from a kindly home. However, I am only a simple man with little experience in these matters, so I’m sure my plan is not the best.”

Otto smiles at Yulong, and says “We appreciate your concern. However, we are not hiring bodyguards. We can take care of ourselves well enough on our own. They have yet to come against us in force, for one reason or another. Our offer, and our concern, rests with the return of the children. If your compatriots deem your actions wise, so be it, but I do not believe the adults of this community will fall victim as easily. We will certainly be looking to secure our neighborhood in the future, but for now, what good is securing a barren lot? I am sure you are strong in your beliefs, and righteous in your intentions, but perhaps you would be best put to use in the field of battle.”

The cyborg stirs, shifting almost restlessly to his right foot and then back to his left. His body recompresses a little and returns to an inert state

Zin speaks to the group, “Alright, let’s not run go running into these Brotherhood folks without getting our legwork done. Metal-man, you awake in there? You helping or what? I’ll go find out as much as I can about this Brotherhood and their whereabouts, and don’t forget that we don’t even know they did it yet.”

He turns to Otto, “I know you’re in pain. We’ll do what we need to to get these kids, with or without Mr. Silence over here (thumb over the shoulder to metal-man). If there are any other details that come to mind, don’t hesitate to call. Here’s my number. Now when and where did you say they were abducted from again?”

[I’m double checking to make sure his story is straight. Roll things as necessary.]

Yulong smiles at the elderly ork’s protests, spreading his hands in a compliant gesture. “As you wish, my friend. If you would rather us seek them out, I would be happy to comply. Although I would like to speak to the woman who was witness to the attack before we depart.” The adept takes a step closer to the ork, maintaining eye contact. He clears his mind of extraneous thoughts, focusing his Awakened energies on the tenor of his voice and the aspect of his face and body language, his every fiber committed to conveying a message of dominance and inescapable compliance. “But first, if there is anything you are hiding from us about this job, any dangers or facts you would keep hidden, I would know them. You will tell us everything.”

[Yulong is using his Commanding Voice adept power on Otto. Pg 176 Street Magic. The sum of his leadership + CHA is 9. (Leadership is part of the Influence skill group).]

After going over the details again, Zin thanks Otto and turns to poke metal-man one more time. I wave my hand in front of him. “who is this guy anyway?”

The strange one appears to be provoking the cyborg. He contemplates simply snapping off the man’s hand but concludes that would cause more trouble than it’s worth at the moment. Instead he simply shoves him in the side [not sure about how this roll works or the proper terminology but I guess my simple strength versus Zin’s? I’m not trying to hurt him, just shove him hard enough to move him quickly away from me. I guess to be honest, I’m probably not being that careful though].

The cyborg then speaks for the first time. His voice is guttural but, unsurprisingly, not entirely human sounding. It sounds as if it’s coming from a long way off or a long ways down.

“Do you have guns and ammunition?” His eyes are intense and glow from within. Something has awakened.

[In this case it’s purely a strength vs. strength opposition test, with whoever wins winning, and net successes increasing the effect. Rob is pushing with his robot arm, and has strength 8. Danny has strength 3, and is surprised by the action, so I’m giving him -1 more. It’s 8 dice v. 2.]

The robot raises his arm to push Xinedine, puts his metal hand on the elf’s chest and pushes, hard… The elf doesn’t move. As the robot strains, the elf looks confused, and steps back. The robot’s arm stays in place, unmoving and unresponsive. After some grinding of gears and effort, the robot manages to return the limb to his side, though it’s functioning will need looked at before long to ensure no permanent damage occurred. [ladies and gentlemen, we have our first critical glitch, rob rolled 3 glitches and no hits. Sorry buddy.]

Otto looks peculiarly at the robotic man, and answers, “We can’t afford much more than food and shelter. What guns we may have in our community are our only means of protection. I’m sure you’ll understand that we’re loathe to give up our only insurance with the events that have transpired. Should you need to purchase supplies, we can front you perhaps a few hundred nuyen, but we will need some sort of assurances.”

[How interesting! Dice can be a bitch.]

[In response to Yulong’s actions]

Otto’s eyes seem to drift out of focus as he glances over and locks eyes. A blank expression covers his face.

Aka Sanford places her hand on her husband’s shoulder, and squeezes gently. His head seems to clear, and he slowly shakes his head, as if he’d walked into a room and forgotten something. Making eye contact once more he speaks.

“Friend, I have told you all that I know. I long for the return of the children more than you can know. I appreciate the delicate and often underhanded work that you and your companions often have to undertake, but please believe me when I assure that this is as it seems.”

Yulong bows to Otto. “I apologize for my forceful tone, sir. You must realize that in our line of work caution and preparedness will always provide more protection than kevlar. For some employers, a shadowrunner’s most desirable quality is his disposability. But I do not believe you fall into this category, and I think we have taken enough of your time. If you can direct us to the house where the children were taken from, we would like to ask a few more questions there before we begin our search in earnest.”

[Directions are given, the house is not far.]

Otto nods, and says “Yes, of course, you should look over the actual scene. It is a short walk, just on the other side of this park. Please, follow me.” He heads off West, around a small pond, and through a thin, poorly kept tree line. You emerge from the trees on Cherry Road, and walk a few houses down to find the house the children were taken from.

[The house has been added to the map.]

As you arrive at the house, you are surprised with how ordinary it is. Just three houses down from the highway on the left, and right next to the park, it seems idyllic. Problem is, it’s not exactly in the heart of the slums. With only a few other houses on the street, and the closest things being a highway and a park, it’s not hard to see why the kidnappers picked this place to hit. Easy access to the highway, few neighbors, lots of tree cover from the park. If they had come at night, not a soul would have noticed. Traffic on the highway is slow, but then again, it’s not exactly rush hour. Otto knocks on the door, and a woman answers.

This new ork, the schoolmistress, looks just shy of middle age. She has light brown skin, like dry Carolina clay, with a dusting of dirt. Her hair, raven black and shiny, is tied back in a loose bun, more of a looped pony-tail. She’s thin, dressed in ill-fitting jeans and a old white T-shirt under an orange blouse that shows a few different thread colors, indicative of either the homemade nature of the item, or of many repairs over a long time. She has small horns protruding from the front of her head, not much different in color from her skin, perhaps a touch darker. Her incisors seem elongated and push at her lips, but no more so than a kid with braces might look swollen. A painful bruise graces her left temple, and she still looks a bit dazed, or maybe just tired.

“Clara, these are the men we’ve found who think they can rescue the kids. I know it’s a lot to ask of you, and I’m sorry to make you relive it, but we desperately need your help to recover them. I want you to know, first and foremost, that none of us blame you, and we’re all in this together to get them back. Please, help the men in any way you can. Aka and I will be here for you while they ask you what they absolutely must.”

With that said, Otto ushers Clara out to the front steps, and seats here. Aka slowly walks inside, weirdly long cane in tow, and hollers back “Clara honey, do you mind if I make tea? I’m a bit thirsty, and I’m sure these men could use a sip or two.”

Clara responds, “Aka, you know you’re welcome to whatever you’d like. It’s in the cabinet over the stove.”

[With Clara seated, Otto standing beside her, and Aka inside, all eyes turn to your group. What’ll it be, gentlemen?]

Linus mutters to himself “’Scuse me a moment chaps, need to step out and have a word…” and walks off the front porch. He dials in to the matrix and puts a call in with Sanjay back at Duke, a student of his. “Sanjay, he whispers, it’s Linus… listen I’ve got a bit of an odd request but I’ve gotten myself into a strange muddle. Can you look up this pack hoolagens calling themselves the Brotherhood of Cain, particularly their local … branch or whatever they call it. I don’t need a research paper just a little look-see sort of a thing… if you can manage it. Call me back in 15 minutes with whatever you find.”

Likewise, Alexander excuses himself wordlessly and exits the building. Taking a deep breath of the putrid city air, he resigns himself to working with this team of violence and brutish means. Making that poor woman recount the stressful kidnapping might lead them to good information, but in his opinion the mental anguish for her wasn’t worth the price. He silently trots off, eyes cast low to the ground to look for clues that the gangers might have left behind—dropped equipment, even a bootprint which would lend him some information.

[Asclepius looks for clues with Perception (Visual) 2 (4)].

A buzzing in his pocket startles Linus. He looks at the time, and only 10 minutes have passed. Looks like Sanjay came through. “Hello, Dr. Templeton, it’s ah, Sanjay here. I don’t know what you got yourself into where you’d need to know about these guys, but I hope you’re not in too deep. I put together a data packet for you, and I’m sending it over now. Also, I’m supposed to be in class already, but this sounded urgent, so how about you get me off the hook with Masuka for being late in addition to our usual lab space for a night agreement?”

[The data packet has been sent to Linus, what to reveal and when to do so are up to him, he’s welcome to copy-paste my message if he wishes.]

Yulong rests his broadsword against the porch railing before settling into a rocking chair adjacent to Clara. He calls out into the house, “Aka, I drink green, if you don’t mind.”

The monk then turns to the young woman. “I always appreciate an American who drinks real tea, not this sweetened nonsense. So rare, especially here in the confederacy.” He smiles to her, and puts a sympathetic hand on her arm. “Can you tell me Clara, what happened on thursday, when those men came?”

[Yulong rolls 10 dice for any social tests. (persuasion 4, CHA 5, +1 for kinesics.) Swag for miles.]

Zin hollers at his buddy Bob Frankton, asking him for any background on the Brotherhood and whether they buy drugs (legally or otherwise) from him. He also asks for their addresses if possible.

Linus barks into his com “Yes of course I’ll have a word with Masuka, and thanks very much for this,” his eyes growing a little wider as he thumbs through the data packet.

[Zin’s contact has answered the call and private things have been discussed.]

The younger ork recalls the events of the day. She didn’t hear them approach, which isn’t too surprising given they live next to a busy highway. The door wasn’t locked. It’s the middle of the day and sometimes the kids get to play outside. The men just drove up, walked inside all slick like, held Clara at gunpoint while they herded the children outside to a getaway something Clara never saw, and then one of them pistol-whipped her in the side of her head. She woke up about an hour later and called Otto, who she then smiles at. By then the men were long gone.

She recalls hearing some sort of metal hitting metal outside, perhaps a tailgate or a sliding door on a van. Three men came inside, but she heard more shouting from outside. All the men were young-ish, human, and white. Two brunettes and a blond. Black pants, white Ts, black jackets with patches on the arms and shoulders, she doesn’t remember much. All of them had the same shiny intertwined letters BC in a patch over their heart, about 6 inches high by six inches wide.

[Far as you can tell, every word she tells you she truly believes. Otto corroborates and seems to trust her as well. She’s clearly in shock, but doesn’t seem under duress currently.]

Linus walks in on the discussion and holds up the report from Sanjay.

“This is all well and good, men, but I think we have a good lead on where these nuts took the children. If I may say they are a quite worthless pack of superstitious barbarians and I’d be pleased to incinerate whatever their excuse for a hideout is when we’re done with it.”

he holds out the report for anyone interested in taking a look:

Sanjay sent you:

1) map with suspected/known BC hideouts.

2) A list of known members and arrest records. The list of suspected members is about 30 people, known members is about 20 and there have been 7 arrested. All of the arrests are for things like random assault and dumping violations. There’s not really enough to establish a pattern, but the reports seem like they got caught because they were either too stupid to get away, someone set them up, or they they wanted to get caught. Few on the list are more than petty criminals and lowlifes, as far as you can tell. (not very far, you’re no cop, but accessing police records is likely to be a LOT tougher and more expensive.)

3) A backstory/police intel on the Brotherhood. It’s a human supremacist group with limited access to the Walled City of Cary (proper name), which is usually only given to wealthy humans. The M.O. for the group seems to be hate crimes, environmental destruction, general havoc, and disorganized crime. They’re suspected in a number of arsons, toxin dumps, and intimidation schemes, but none of them appear terribly organized. Apparently the group sees itself as some sort of Biblically inspired savior organization of humanity. They eliminate the unclean so you don’t have to suffer it sort of stuff. They see the Awakening as the Rapture, and believe that we now live in the thousand years between the original rapture and the end of the world, in which the good must be guarded and evil struggled against. Evil, in their sense, means anything that’s not a human, though they’re willing to consider metarace sympathizers evil as well, regardless of race.

Yulong studies the map for a moment before handing it back. “Excellent work, Linus. It looks like one of these houses is right up the road on Alston. . . here, the one marked ‘house 2.’ And another still is nearby.” He stands, slinging his sword across his shoulder. “I think we should go and see what the rat’s nest holds. Aka, my tea will have to wait.”

The monk looks around at the group. “Does anyone have a car?”

Aka comes back with two mugs of tea in hand, handing one to Clara. “Oh that’s alright, we know you’ve got places to be. Best of luck to you boys!” With her words spoken, she sips the tea herself, and motions Clara back inside.

Otto remains to see you off, and to answer any last questions.

With the runners walking back through the woods, Otto himself heads inside. Left to sort out rides, the runners now must plan the next part of their rescue.

End scene 1.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.