November 14, 2012

Billie's Journal - Red Mask

Seattle 20 Jan 2051
Zero reminds us that respirators aint going to work against the Red Mask. We'll need either NBC suits or a full-face gas mask at a pinch as the stuff can get in through the soft tissue around your eyes. Finlay wakes up our Martha and she puts out the word for us.

I stock up with a jerrycan of unleaded just in case we need to set something on fire. Martha comes through, at least with the gas masks. She gives us the address of a restaurant in Chinatown, telling us to call ahead and then park around the back. The team make a point of telling me that these dudes are Chinese and more likely affiliated to the triads than the yakuza. I know the difference, well sort of.

We make the call on the way in the van. Zero asks if she can get some chicken noodles and I realise I'm hungry too, so add my order to the list. The guy on the phone seems unfazed by our request. We pull around the back and Finlay knocks on the door. A balding chinaman appears wearing a greasy cook's outfit and after a quick discussion, two scrawny chinese guys haul out a crate with six gas masks. Finlay hands over the cash and the cook hands him a bag with our carry out.

We eat on our way to the clinic. Dances is waiting for us. We have some pictures of the dead guy and his buddies from the clinic's cameras but no names. About all we have to go on is that the guys look more like bums than gangers. We ask about and splash a little nuyen. One of the locla gangers, hopped up on god knows what, points us towards an old parking garage to the west, where he says some squatters are living. We drive on over, taking care to put on the  masks before exiting the van.

It's quiet. Too quiet. Not a light on in any of the surrounding buildings. Not that there is power in this part of town, but people usually find some way to keep the dark at bay, whether it's a solar charged battery, an illegal power tap or just a plain old fire. There's not even any rats skittering around.

We enter the underground garage unopposed and it soon becomes pretty clear why. There aint nobody living to oppose us. There's a bunch of dead squatters spread over the two levels of the garage. About fifteen all told,  and all dead from the Red Mask. Some of them been dead quite a few days. Makes me glad of the mask as it keeps out the smell as well as the virus.

We pile up the bodies. It's nasty work and douse them with the petrol. Should get rid of any evidence of the Red Mask. While we're doing that, Zero picks up a wireless signal and traces it back to a camera stuck on the ceiling. It's burst transitting stills from the garage every couple of minutes. Not live footage but enough to follow what's going on. She loops the footage to show us wandering about like when we just came in and then follows the signal to see where it goes. Not far as it turns out. It still in the barrens, in a slightly better part and just far enough away to be out of the infection area.

Concerned that we might have been made and that we will lose them, we decide to drop by right away. At this time of night there aint too many vehicles on the road. Hell there ain't too many vehicles on the road in this part of town any time of the day. So we take a swing past the location and park a couple of blocks down the street.

There are at least a couple of cameras covering the building, an old warehouse on the corner of the block. They look similar to the one we found in the garage, some cheap wireless piece of Yamatetsu drek geckoed to the wall.

Zero jumps into the matrix and quickly gains access to their system, discovering several more cameras, a sentry gun and a couple of laser tripwires. She loops the cameras, shuts down the tripwires and takes control of the sentry gun. In the meantime, Leon takes a swing past the roof in the astral and spots some twisted spirit of man lurking about up there. While Zero stays with the van and monitors the security system the rest of us head out and up the fire escape.

Leon dismisses the spirit, or at least that's what he tells us and I go to work on the manual lock on the skylight. Only takes a minute or two but feels longer. I drop in behind Finlay and flatten myself against a rather flimsy internal wall. Finlay has already dealt with the two sleeping beauties in the room and we creep out into the hallway.

Then all hell breaks loose. A dude appears with an SMG. Dances picks him off through the skylight while Finlay moves to a covering position. I push into the next room. At first I don't see anyone but Finlay catches a glimpse of movement with his heightened senses and hoses a long burst through the wall at the guy trying to ambush me.

Checking that the room is clear, I move to the next one. I open the door to see two girls huddling behind an overturned bed. Well one is huddling. The other glares pure hatred, then throws a grenade at me. As it bounces out the door, I roll in shouting a warning to the others.

There is a loud bang and flechettes fill the hallway. The thin plasterboard walls take the sting out of them and my armor does the rest. Finlay's lead hose chews up the huddler while I double tap angry girl. Then there is a roar behind me. Another dude is now visible through the remains of the plasterboard on the other side of the building. He is staggering back as Finlay's gun cuts a swathe across his chest but he also has his finger on the trigger of an autoshotgun and Finlay rolls desperately to avoid the hail of flechettes spewing in his direction. I squeeze of a couple of rounds at the dude. The first barely clips his skull with what sounds like a metallic ding, but the second hits square between his eyes.

Then I feel a surge of magic, like someone trying to crush my skull. But it's deflected and weakened and I just give a soft groan as I fight it off. I mouth a silent 'Thank you' to Leon and Dances. I hear the soft crack of a silenced high velocity pistol as Dances targets the mage, then I spot him myself. Another double tap takes him down and silence returns.

Zero informs us that we seem to have woken half the neighborhood. She also detected but was unable to intercept all of the 911 calls. Lone Star take their own good time coming out to these parts but they will come eventually.

We quickly check the place. In the room where the mage was, we find a bunch of medical supplies and some text tube racks containing what looks like vials of Red Mask. We haul as much as we can down to the ground floor and load it into a van done up as an ambulance. They kindly left the keys in the ignition, so when Zero gives us the heads up that Lone Star are on their way, we hightail it out of there.

Seattle 21 Jan 2051
I make a quick call to Crow before hitting the sack. She wants a meet and suggests we go fishing. After checking with Seaside and hitting the sack for a few hours, we are back on the road. Well more like on the water. We follow Crow's instructions and soon spot a fishing boat, somewhat bigger than Seaside's. Pulling alonside, it's clear that they are not really fishing at all. Most of the crew seem unfamiliar with being on a boat and while fishermen tend to be a hardy lot, these guys are just a bit too buff. Crow appears on deck in her cheap suit and a haze of smoke.

We quickly transfer over the two teenagers Finlay clocked along with the vials of Red Mask which a couple of techs, in NBC suits, carefully take off our hands.  We also hand over the desktop that was running their security system. It has all has the footage from the camera at the garage on it. There's a short standoff between Crow and Zero about handing over all copies. Zero finally agrees to delete her headware copy. Doesn't really matter though. While we don't have the original video file, her meat brain memory is like a vice, so she won't forget any useful information she saw.

To show her gratitude, Crow doesn't have us killed and even hands over a briefcase filled with corp scrip. Even after paying off Seaside, it still comes to about 10k each. Not bad for a night's work.

November 4, 2012

Billie's Journal - Zero

Seattle 16 Jan 2051
We've been keeping a low profile for a couple of weeks. We might not have made any money on that last run, but most of us are sitting pretty from the proceeds of our little trip to Amazonia. It won't last forever, but at least we ain't starving.

Bunking at Seaside's ain't exactly luxury accomodation. We've got a few cots and some space heaters set up between his collection of cars. Harlequin's or I should say my Mustang has pride of place amongst them. I think the old fella spends more time polishing it than working on getting his other cars fixed up. I've taken it out for a spin a couple of times, but it's not exactly inconspicuous and drinks gas like it's going out of fashion.

Zero suggested ripping out the engine and replacing it with a multifuel and I thought Seaside was either going to drop deap from a heart attack or shoot her on the spot. Talking of Zero, the girl's been acting mighty strange. She's always had the tendency to spend too much time on the matrix, but since we finished our last run, she's pretty much barricaded herself into one of the Hummer's and even spent a day blacking out the windows with a marker.

I know something bad went down with her while we were trekking across Amazonia and hoped she'd open up to me or Finlay about it. As she hasn't yet, I do the only thing I can think of and climb in the front of the Hummvee and plain out ask her.

Poor girl spills her guts. Seems that before we met, she had been hooked up with some Russki by the name of Maxim. Well, seems like this fella wasn't the most stable of sorts but they had something going. He was a big deal with some soviet corp. It's part of Yamatetsu now, but when Zero met Maxim he was number two son of the family business and head of security. He caught her trying to steal some of their data but rather than gank her, he took a shine to her and the pair of them absconded with some paydata and some prototype cyberware.

They were on the lam together for a while until a run against Aztechnology went bad and Maxim got himself ganked. And not in a nice way. Flayed alive and dropped in an acid vat according to Zero. She figured he was dead and moved to Seattle where she hitched up with the padre and Finlay. Well seems like he somehow came back from the dead. Zero reminds me of the time we had to drop her into a bath of ice to keep her from cooking alive. We thought it was black ice but seems like it was something more. She says it was more like the astral trip we took way back in Scotland and that she had a vision of Maxim alive and in a hospital.

She's been trying to find out more since then, but he found her first. He was the one that broke into our garage the night we hit the plantation down in Amazonia. He convinced her to go on a run for him when she should of been covering our asses. It didn't go as smoothly as planned and while she did manage to do what he asked, the mark was the fragger that left his handprints on her neck. That's not all he did to her.

I'm out of the car and halfway to the door before Finlay gets a grip on me. Even amped up, he's too strong for me and keeps me pinned down till I run out of juice and expletives. Turns out she already told him a week ago.

When I've cooled off we discuss options. We can't really go up against Maxim's family or his folk's corp. It's part of Yamatetsu and that means we'd be going up against them. But we need to take Maxim out of the picture plus any data they have on Zero. And the Yamatetsu fragger that put his hands on her. He dies. The trick is going to be how to make it look like it was Maxim and his folks that hit him. We're gonna need the rest of the guys for this.

Unfortunately, when we call Dances he tells us he's gonna be held up at the clinic for a few days. He had been looking to do some doctoring work and Finlay had put him in touch with one of his contacts. While she hadn't been impressed with his attitude, and frankly who is, she had been impressed by his skill with a scalpel and agreed to try him out on the graveyard shift.

Henry Leon is available and he drops round so we can fill him in. Zero thinks that one of her contacts, a hardware supplier by the name of Wallace, might have been the one that sold her out to Maxim. She says he's been acting funny lately and when she checked out his store recently, he had upped the security from 'nothing special' to 'pretty serious'. At least that's what I get from the description she gives.

Problem is that he knows what Zero looks like and none of the rest of us really have the skills to look at his security system. We also don't want Maxim to find out that we're looking for him, so Finlay is arranging a B-team to hit Wallace's place to copy the security logs. That means we need to sit on our hands for a couple of days till Martha sets up a team to hit the place. Fair enough, because I got a bit of unfinished business of my own to sort out.

Seattle 17 Jan 2051

When we tramping through the Amazonian jungle it finally hit me what the tissue sample in the padre's container of liquid nitrogen probably was. Martha, the toxic shaman, or one of her cronies. I remember him acting a bit strange at the abandoned camp we found up in Aglonkin territory and figured he must have found something there. I place a call to a number listed only as 'Crow'.

I swear I can smell cheap cigarettes when the person on the other end of the line answers. I tell her my name and then we have one of those strange conversations where we talk about the subject at hand without saying anything about it directly. She tells me she'll call back and sure enough I get a call in less than half an hour. She tells me to take the sample to Council Island and not to worry, they're expecting me. I tell her she'll need another container as I need to keep the one we have. I don't tell her that's because the other sample in there is the few drops of Ehran's blood that Dances recovered from the rapier. She just tells me to get there ASAP.

The Rapier is fast but it just don't have the class my Harley does. Unfortunately, the cowboy package aint that common and the yaks are still likely looking for it. So it's sitting next to the Mustang at Seaside's. The roads are wet and a little slippery, but as I'm sticking to the speed limit to avoid attention from KE it's nothing I can't handle.

The injuns guarding the main access to Council Island barely look at me. In fact, they look at me like I got the plague or something and hurry me through. I can guess who's behind that. The woman at the reception obviously either didn't get the memo or is working for 'smoking woman' as she nonchalantly hands me a tourist map and points me to the path towards the totem poles.

I wander along the path. It's cold and wet and no real tourists are out in this weather. As I approach this one totem pole with a big raven or more likely a crow on top, there is a young couple waiting for me. They are dressed like tourists but carry themselves like spooks. We quickly make the exchange and then I make my back to the main entrance.

On the way I come across an old injun wearing just a loin cloth. Frag, must be a medicine man, because I'm wearing thermals under my armor and I'm still cold. Worse, the last time I ran into one of these dudes in some backwoods bar up in Salish, I clocked him for calling me a bitch. Turned out he was actually calling me 'she-wolf', apparently it's the same word in Salish. Also turns out he was actually trying to give me some medicine man juju advice about my totem or latent adept abilities. Too bad, I only found that out when he posted bail to get me out of the local jail. And then only two days after the local law had locked me up for my own protection. So needless to say I give this one a wide berth. He doesn't pay any attention to me, just carries on singing and dancing around one of the totem poles. But the big ass, ghostly wolf he summons does watch me all the way back to the exit.

Seattle 18 Jan 2051

Today is quiet, the main highlight being Finlay trying to set up Henry with the daughter of one of his contacts. He knows some old lady in the archives at city hall. She has been more than happy to give him copies of old building plans on the off-chance that the big ork would take her daughter out on a date. When Henry discovered Finlay had a contact at the archives he was mighty interested and more or less volunteered to take the girl out on a date to get access to the archives for whatever little side project he is working on.

Then, late on in the day I get a call from Crow. She suggests I might be interested in the late news. I switch from a rerun of some old space cowboy show to the news. There is an item on a fire at a biotech firm. Several employees are reported dead and there is also at least one other body belonging to the 'eco-terrorists' that started or caused the fire. Did that sample let them track down Martha and the fire was the same spell used to toast the padre? Doubt that Crow will give me the satisfaction of confirming it, but for now I guess we can close that chapter of our lives.

Seattle 19 Jan 2051

Or maybe not. Today we get a call from Dances. He's been out of the loop for a few days. Apparently some dude came into the clinic where he was working with some sort of nasty virus. He was in bad shape when his buddies dropped him off and didn't last long. Dances didn't want to take any chance of it spreading so locked down the clinic.

When he mentions the symptoms, my stomach drops. Finlay asks him if he can send us a picture of the body. Frag me if it don't look like the Red Mask. I tell the team about the news item and we put two and two together and get five. The only good news is that we know the virus burns itself out in 48 hours, so Dances and the other people at the clinic are in the clear. However Dances says that the dead dude was brought in by a couple of guys, who may well have been infected. Great, so even if that fire killed Martha, we still could have a Red Mask plague on our hands. Now, where the frag did I leave that respirator?