“And remember, I’m paying you to be discrete.”
- Mr. Johnson
The runners each received a thick, red envelope through their contacts. After exercising various degrees of paranoia in inspecting the envelope, each runner opened it to find: a letter printed on real paper, a hand crafted wooden sigil, and a credstick containing ¥2,000.
Each runner gains ¥2,000
The letter invited them to an exclusive club in downtown Seattle called “Andante.” Known for very little other than the colored mist floating around its door and the enormous troll standing in front of it, it took some legwork just to figure out how to get there.
Paranoid as ever, Black Lotus arrived a full hour early to inspect the place. He also arrived hopped up on Psyche. The bouncer begrudgingly let him through, slipping Lotus a dose of Zen to calm him down. Crossfaded and disoriented, Lotus slept off the drugs and missed the meeting almost entirely.
The rest of the runners trickled in between 10 minutes early and 10 minutes late. Their Johnson, a tall, blonde woman in jet black pants and blazer, greeted them with a smile and encouraged them to exchange pleasantries, reminding them that they’d better get to know each other if they were going to commit to ongoing work with her. The pleasantries only lasted until the last runner was seated, however. Johnson made a pivot to business hard enough to give the party whiplash.
Johnson informed the party that Renrarku intended to revive a years old project locked away in the Renrarku Arcology. The project had originally been abandoned after the second great matrix crash, and she wanted to make sure that Renrarku found their project had been conveniently erased with the crash. For the runners’ trouble she would pay ¥6,000, ¥2,000 of which had already been paid in advance, with possible bonuses for clean and expedient work. She refused to elucidate on the nature of the project or the data that needed erasing, saying they’d know it when they see it, and left the runners to plan just as Lotus decided to wake up and join them.
“Look, man… I just need to meet with Dave. You know, my dealer?”
– Black Lotus
The first problem the runners noticed when scouting out the Arcology was that it had become a centerpiece in the Seattle gang wars. At the moment, the all-elf Ancients had control of the building and the nearby territory. They had won it, Princess discovered, with the help of the Yakuza and a promise to keep the area stable and violence free to keep the smuggling routes nice and lubricated. The halloweeners were still in the area, though, and aggressive as ever, as Speed Racer learned by way of motorcycle chase.
Every runner came up with their own method of breaking into the arcology. Lotus attempted to bluff his way in, but the Ancients guard wouldn’t have it and gave Lotus a quick punch for his trouble after a racial slur or three was thrown. Lotus instead just levitated himself atop the building, where he noticed something was wrong with the 42nd floor. Monarch leapt over from an adjacent building and broke into a window. Pox and Joker forged electronic documents indicating they lived there and walked through the front door. Princess stopped by a local bar and schmoozed his way into the bedroom of one of the ancients, amusingly making him the only one to enter the arcology legally. Red Coat and Speed Racer just waited outside in the van where they could hang out with their best friends (grenades and drones, respectively).
Once inside, Pox and Joker also noticed something was wrong with the 42nd floor – it didn’t exist on the matrix. A black box of noise located in the middle of the building, it clearly needed investigating. Inspecting the elevators, they noticed the keypad was actually a maglock, and that with the right combination they could get the elevator to take them to the mystery floor. More importantly, they had the Matrix to figure out combinations for them, so they broke into the panel with Monarch’s help and loaded up the control panel with MARKs to give them full control, with Joker physically plugging into the device to keep GOD off their tails. Lotus joined them shortly thereafter.
The 42nd floor did not contain much. A few cameras, pressure sensors in the halls, and empty rooms on every side. And a massive server room holding an Ultraviolet grade host. Joker looped the camera feed and Lotus levitated Pox through the halls to ensure they arrived at the host without setting off any alarms. Pox jacked in.
“Are you sure you don’t want to see a show?”
Pox had never been to Sea World, but if she had, she would have recognized it immediately. The crisp, blue water, “Splash Zone” marked bleachers, and stale popcorn smell would all have been intensely familiar. The bleachers were empty, however, save for one character who looked straight out of a Tri-D Game sitting in the back. Bringing up the process list, Pox was surprised to find one, orca.exe, consuming 99% of the machine’s CPU and RAM – an impressive feat for any program running on a rating 12 host.
On cue, a killer whale launched from the pool and splashed onto the deck. And then, through a big, toothy grin, it introduced itself: “O.R.C.A.” – Omniscient Retrovirus for Cybernetic Augmentation. The other icon introduced itself as well: Cloud – Incredibly annoyed at this fragging whale. Orca explained that it had been years since it had seen anyone, and all it really wanted to do was put on some shows for them and leave. Cloud retorted that Orca had already done the shows, and could they leave already?
Pox did the math and realized that this Cloud character also had to be plugged into the host and jacked herself out to notify her allies. By the time she jacked back in, Cloud and Orca were gone.
“Just have your fragging whale already!”
“Gone” was a relative term. Cloud had jacked out of the host, but he was still in the building, and the potion of invisibility he had drank didn’t fool Lotus and Joker. Cloud fled, tripping every pressure pad and other alarm he could on his way out, Lotus repeatedly igniting him with Flamethrower spells as he did so. Cloud, with the assistance of another matrix persona, wrested control of the elevator from Joker and tried to make his escape out the nearest window, but a combination of the gel grenade Monarch had thrown to get LOS, multiple close range gunshots into his armor, and a particularly powerful Flamethrower caused him to fall limply out the window more than leap. In a desperate attempt to get them off of his trial, Cloud did release Orca into the matrix, however, which Pox quickly scooped up.
As Lotus jumped out the window to save Cloud, he noticed things had started to heat up a bit outside. So did Speed Racer, whose eye-in-the-sky drones alerted him to a small Halloweener army coming to storm the arcology, a fleet of black vans rushing in behind them, and the Knight Errant way out in the distance coming from the other direction. Moving quickly, Speed and Red Coat fatally rammed a number of warring gangers as they pulled into a back alley, hurtling grenades and remote sniper fire to disable the encroaching cops and corporate security while they let the two gangs fight it out. Monarch and Joker punched it down the elevator, using smartrope to get them and Princess safely to Speed’s van while Red Coat unloaded to keep the path free of gangers. Lotus safely levitated Cloud down into their captivity and then floated himself off into the distance. Speed peeled out and left the Arcology and its violence behind.
On the way home, however, a Water Spirit popped into the back of the van, disabling Monarch and Red Coat with confusing nightmares. With aggressive gestures, it demanded the release of Cloud. Princess tried to shoot it, and when the spirit jammed his gun, he instead agreed to release Cloud, but they’d be keeping his Cyberdeck. When they dumped Cloud out the back of the van near Puget Sound, the spirit had no choice but to agree. Joker would later fence that cyberdeck for a pretty penny.
Each runner gains ¥7,000
Left stranded at the arcology, Orca activated Pox’s commlink and pointed her to a secret passage that would lead them underground and out of the building. Pox quickly followed the path, eventually coming to a room filled with hundreds of thousands of icons all shaped like tiny fish. After some prodding, Orca explained to her that his purpose was to guide these fish, and left it at that. Dropping out of AR, Pox inspected the icons in their physical form – two large vats of swirling, silver liquid. Not wanting to get caught carrying mysterious vats more than half her size, Pox compiled a sprite to Cookie some of the tiny fish icons so she could track their movements and actions later.
She also decided she’d keep the Orca, rather than delete him as Johnson was paying her to do, and name him Panda.
Lotus didn’t get away cleanly, either. On his way home, he ran into another mage who decorated himself with a pair of large angel wings. It didn’t take much to figure out that this was Seraph, the alchemist who had provided Cloud with the potions and alchemical grenades Cloud was using in his escape. Seraph had little to offer Lotus: “Really, man?”, a headshake, and a long, silent glare before they parted ways.
When the party reconvened, Joker distributed their payout from selling the cyberdeck and Pox explained that she’d be keeping Panda. After all, Johnson wanted the project terminated and permanently out of reach of Renrarku and others, and they had done exactly as promised.
At Andante the next Tuesday, Johnson was understanding of the lack of finesse in their work. Nobody had expected there to be a gang war, much less a rival runner team trying to steal the data that same day. She paid them the full amount as promised (with a few small docks for unprofessionalism), and after a quick grilling of Pox to make sure the data really was gone, parted on good terms.
Black Lotus gains ¥3,000
Monarch gains ¥3,500
Each other runner gains ¥4,000