Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Six's blog

By N.Barnes

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Entry 31: 28.10.70>
Man, do I fucking hate Las Vegas. Seems we can guaran-damn-tee that everything’s gonna go belly up the minute we hit town. Maybe it’s cursed.
Maybe it just hates us because we never go to gamble? I dunno, but if I never see Vegas again, it’ll be too soon. Wish we’d never ended up back there…

Few days ago, we got a call from Mal asking us to drop by his surgery.
Understandably for a guy who spends his working days elbow deep in gore, Mal doesn’t scare easily but he sounded spooked. We smelt trouble but Mal was safe and he told us he had a job for us. By way of background he started to tell us a ripping yarn and revealed that he had some close links with our old nemesis the Juggler and the Notable Anarchists. We knew Mal had street docced for them but the story he told us now made him an integral part of the team – a team which had an almighty boner for screwing over Cross Applied Technology.

The way Mal told it, Juggler had tipped them off to Dominic Cross’
acquisition of an Orichalcum book that could be used to summon the Sheddim – the goofy spirit that had Essence-raped Ash and I and left us bleeding out our auras into Astral Space. The NA had decided to spoke Cross’ wheel and raid his offices for the book and had togged up as commercial cleaners for a covert insertion before their contact on perimeter security had decided to boost his pension prospects by turning them over to the boss mid-op. They were screwed but pressing on and succeeding was going to be no more dangerous than bailing out so they forged on and you’ve gotta admire their balls.

In the middle of the tale, the door opens and the tea boy waltzes in – only this tea boy is the fucking Juggler. He’s carrying nothing more offensive than a double espresso though and Mal points out that Cross had originally employed us to stop Juggler’s attacks yet ironically we had ended up attacking Cross ourselves. We’d gone Poacher turned Gamekeeper and had been fighting the Juggler’s war for him ever since! Mal had a point, the enemy of my enemy is my friend so we all sat down with a brew and Juggler took up the tale.

The team mage, named Book, had done an Astral scout and located the Orichalcum book but it was being protected by a spirit of some kind. In real space the team had battled their way through to Cross’ private apartments and found the man coughing up blood, his eyes blackened and burnt, lying not far from the physical book itself. Seems the team finished the job and iced Cross (there’s a lot of that going around lately) but then couldn’t decide what to do about the Orichalcum Book. Their mage believed the spirit seemed keen for them to take it but they were worried about getting mixed up in things they didn’t understand. In the end, they seemed to think the Wizboy could protect himself against spiritual influence and had taken the book until they could destroy it. Bad move. Book the mage seemed to have gone screwy and was now officially AWOL with the Orichalcum Book. Juggler wanted both back and Mal was the go-between offering us 50k for our services.

Now this, this was a head fuck. I know that in real life nothing is black and white and it’s all just shades of grey, but this was totally blurring the lines between friend and foe, right and wrong. Time was when I would have shot the Juggler for less than 50k and the thought of us all trailing off after this Mage and a book that could potentially push us all over the edge into mad servitude to the Sheddim was far from appealing.

Continues: 1/4>
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However, Juggler sweetened the deal with the promise of further info on the whereabouts of Ash’ brother and also said he had been told that the Orichalcum Book could be used to banish Allisom. Helping find Blake, giving the Sheddim the Bird, shafting Cross and plugging my sucking aura wound all added up to an interesting answer to the question – what the frag’s in this for me? We shook on the deal and started swapping info – Juggler had been totally frozen out of Book’s life but we’d had tabs on the man twice in recent runs. He’d been hanging out with Dr Manton Ford poisoning the Caribou sports drink and we’d been on his trail in Vegas before Ash and I were busted…

Ford was the weaker link and we we’re all set to hit research mode. A bad Burrito I’d picked up at Deano’s Diner intervened however and laid me up a while. As I lay dying in my bed, the rest of the team quickly established that Ford had fled town. Don’t ask me where Ash got the info – I’ve realised just lately that it’s better for me not to query his dubious contacts – but he found out a crack squad of Cross’ Console Soldiers called Seraphim had spirited the good doctor away and deposited him with a Barrens’ street gang called the Whites. The way I understand it, the Whites traded their info in a deal that required Glyph to go gung-ho on their local rivals. Maybe the Whites get off on ladies fighting? Whatever, the deal went down and the gang handed over a business card for a Johnson who had picked Manton Ford up in a chopper.

Johnson turned out to be a Lone Star Facilitator – a can do man who made things happen. I was back on point by this stage and Croner filled in the blanks for me. We met up with the guy and he was happy to talk about his brief stint working for Cross. He had made Manton Ford disappear and replaced him with John Austin, an executive for TecTonic who lived in Nixon.
We well-remembered Nixon and particularly the CAT facility at Pyramid Lake where we had swamped the technology being used to produce clones of Dominic Cross in dozens of feet of dirty lake water. It didn’t take too long to put two and two together and sure enough CAT were trying to rebuild the facility and Ford was slap bang in the middle of it. Surveillance went badly when my FlySpy was spotted by an eagle eyed brickie and we decided we had to move fast before we were thoroughly rumbled. We assaulted the facility as stealthily as possible but the alarm had already been sounded and before we knew it, a chopper was dropping a Seraphim Elite FRT on our heads.

The fire fight was intense and brutal. We weren’t equipped for heavy combat while Seraphim were togged up in military gear, but even their Elite were just console soldiers when you got right down to it and we had faced them before and knew how to defeat them. Ash and Drifter hit the deck and needed resuscitation and then, just as we were ready to Cas Evac Ford and high tail it before Seraphim reinforcements arrive, Ash goes totally postal, sobbing over the console soldiers’ corpses and tearing their helmets off. Only afterwards do I realise that he’s worried Blake has been drafted into the elite…

Ford sang like a canary. I get the impression the team’s ‘innovative’
interrogation techniques were more than he knew how to handle. I think Ki-rinn threatened to ram his teeth down his throat, Glyph let him drool on her cleavage and Ash just sobbed about the loss of his brother. I don’t do interrogation so I kept well clear. Props to the guys though, whichever method it was that worked, it got results and we were soon off to Vegas, back to the Volcano Club – scene of our last sighting of Book and my ignominious beating at the hands of a Lone Star patrol trooper.

Ki-rinn quickly established that if Book was inside, he was with the movers and shakers on the high rollers tables. I deployed drone observations while Frosty and Glyph tarted themselves up. They would play a young, flush couple splashing the cash inside while I kept tabs on them and Ash played fire support. I’d managed to pinpoint Book’s motor in the car park so we were confident he couldn’t easily give us the slip.

Continues: 2/4>
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Ki-rinn and Glyph demonstrated a remarkable skill for wasting their money on bad bets. They played the ‘easy mark’ nicely and had obviously soon caught the attention of someone in the casino who wanted to strip their credsticks bare. They were escorted into the private elevator and whisked up to the private card tables. Shame Ki-rinn wasn’t quite so good at placing surveillance devices inconspicuously. My IBall Drone had been rumbled straight away so we were effectively blind. A tense half hour ticked by until Frosty dropped the dime in the callbox and tipped us off to the fact that he was sitting opposite Book. He and Glyph had been forced to go in unarmed and there were guards on the high stakes floor so Ki-rinn needed a rapid distraction before he lost the shirt off of his back.

Ash grabbed K’s sniper rifle and moved into position as our poker playing duo painted the guards by Smartlink. I held my breath as Ash took the shot – he was shooting high, through at least one wall and into an unseen foe… It was impossible to work out what was going on – the paints started to wheel around chaotically as a fight ensued. Ash was firing, reloading, moving and firing again, smashing shots through the wall. Worse, Glyph and Ki-rinn might have painted the enemies but we really didn’t know who was who or where our friends were. Each shot Ash fired could have hit Glyph or Ki-rinn or shattered the Mage’s skull like an over-ripe melon preventing us from ever finding out where he’d stashed the Orichalcum Book. We started losing paints. At first I wasn’t sure if they were ticking down confirmed kills but then so many of them flicked out at once we knew either Glyph or Ki-rinn was down. Ash was out of sniper rounds and helpless and then the rest of the paints disappeared. Both of our chummers were down, definitely shot up; at best unconscious and at worst dead and we had no way of working out which it was.

Ash and I sat in the van just looking blankly at each other. It seemed like hours but I guarantee it was just a matter of seconds. We didn’t know what had just happened to the other half of our team and going in to find out seemed like suicide. It didn’t take us long to decide to commit suicide though – what else could we do? Ki-rinn and Glyph had risked their lives to rescue us last time we were in Vegas. Looked like it was time to repay that debt. We at least knew Book was still inside, but it was a fair bet that he and the Red Samurai security in the joint would know that we were coming. We stealed ourselves for an assault. Frag Vegas.

I made a call to Nunzio and paid for a few Mafia goons to come and lend us their guns. Ash got hold of a shiny new rifle and we planned to go in hard and fast. My drones would lead the assault – parts come cheaper than lives – backed up by Ash who would lead in our hired heavies. The casino was emptied by Red Samurai and the disgruntled gamblers turfed out into the pre-dawn gloom told us we were expected.

I opened the batting by sticking the drone van through the casino’s front windows, laying down covering fire from the HMG as I deployed the drones and as the meat made its way in. The ground floor was open plan and Red Samurai didn’t stand a chance – we were clear and making a move on the first floor.
Trouble was, Red Samurai now had the edge. They knew where we would be coming up and had the escalators covered. Until those escalators were working again, the drones were effectively useless – unable to reach the next floor. It meant the meat had to go in first and take the brunt of the enemy fire and they suffered. By the time I had drones in support, we were men down and limited on medical supplies. One of the Mafia goons, Mario I think, got Ash back on his feet with a nano-medkit and the extra automatic fire from the drones helped tip the tide in our favour.

On the second floor, a nasty surprise in the form of twin-linked sentry guns awaited us but I know what I’m doing when it comes to confusing sensors. A grenade brought down debris from the ceiling tiles to confuse the targeting computer while the drones zipped in. By the time the drones had been acquired, Ash was able to pop up from the stairwell and finish the job properly with no casualties.

Continues: 3/4>
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The sentry guns were covering the glass elevator to the High Rollers floor and we again realised anyone using the lift was making themselves a sitting duck. Sending the drones first was an easy compromise so I patched Ash in on the camera feed and we sent them up. I flattened the Steel Lynx down on the elevator floor and that gave us an edge of surprise over the Red Samurai who were expecting man-sized targets. The cameras revealed a private bar that looked a dead match for the room Ki-rinn and Glyph had described. Six guards were dotted around the place and amongst them was the Mage from the Notable Anarchists, Book.

I popped the Steel Lynx up and started firing through the glass as targets presented themselves. Book threw himself over the bar to take shelter from a volley from the Doberman and on the other side of the room I saw another set of elevator doors open and vomit out Glyph, guns blazing. She was alive! And now we were rocking! Attacked unexpectedly from two different directions, we had Red Samurai on the run and the glass elevator began to descend again to collect Ash and Mario.

My exultation was short lived. Book has a couple of mage tricks up his sleeve and reduced the Doberman to smoking metal with a stream of acid out of the end of his fragging fingertip and then the Steel Lynx ran out of ammo. I saw Glyph go down in a hail of gunfire and my only option was now to run distraction. The Lynx drew the guards fire while Ash piled into the lift, before a couple of grenades blew it right off of its legs.

I was blind. A little dump shocked and completely fragged for intel – all I had was an occasional burst of gunfire relayed to me over the comm. I was out of combat-effective drones too. My one consolation was that the grenades used on the Lynx hadn’t gone Ash’ way but it was small beer compared to the creeping realisation I’d have to go against everything I’ve learnt lately and put my carcass on the line in a firefight against Red Samurai with nothing but my Ares Pred. What else could I do? Three of my friends’ lives and the success of the Run could hang on whether or not I was there to put a bullet in one of the fraggers. I ditched the van and ran for the escalators.

By the time I got to the top floor, things had gone from bad to worse. I could see the bodies of Glyph, Ash and Ki-rinn scattered about the room and it was only our Hired Help Mario who was preventing MDK. Almost whooped with joy to see him knelt over Ash, spraying suppressing fire from an AK in Book’s direction while he stuck the nano-medkit into my boy. Ash eyes cracked open and I could see he was able to fight on. With Mario keeping Book’s head down, Ash and I flanked the fragger. As Ash wheeled around one end of the bar, Book turned in that direction, no doubt with some vicious spell in mind. I rose on his blind side, opening my flick baton and clubbing him over the back of the head as Ash pulled the trigger and thumped a Stick Shock round into his grid.

Book was out for the count. His Rentacops were goners. We were all alive. A quick medical once over convinced us neither Glyph nor Ki-rinn was about to shuffle off of the mortal coil and we discovered that the devious swine Glyph had somehow managed to lay her hands on the Orichalcum Book during her attempted escape. We knew it wouldn’t be long before Lone Star, a Red Samurai FRT or more of Book’s friends came running. Ash, Mario and I carried Glyph, Frosty and Book downstairs double time and blazed. We’re en route back to San Fran now and you better believe I gave Las Vegas a big old bird as we crossed the border and left the dusty hell hole behind. It’s a shame Mario lives there. I liked him – he proved to be a good man in a pinch and we swapped numbers after it all, but I don’t imagine I’ll be too keen to visit!

Mood: Bone weary. I needs my sleep, but not until we hit SF!

Ends: 4/4>

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