White Knights and Dark Days

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.

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Crusher

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