I’ve not written this much in ages and my fingers already hurt from penning Maga’s letter. If I hadn’t told him we were nearly out of paper, I think he’d have rambled on more… Anyhow, back to my tale:
Magistrate Neomal told us to travel to Keyford for aid. Aydermen, the magistrate of that place could send food and aid to our village as well as word to the King of Ghan. Apparently, Dudley had travelled to Keyford several years ago and knew this man. Jemmy’s mother told us to find an Aeon priestess named Terishini. She thought this woman might be able to shed some light on the automata that had attacked our village. We found a boat that had survived the attack and spent the remainder of the day repairing and stocking it. Keyford was a good day and a half away and the trip was uneventful.
Keyford is a rough and tumble place. Most of the inhabitants make their living harvesting lumber from the Westwood. There is a sizable number of merchant sailors in town as well. Brawls are common as the lumbermen and seafarers let off steam. We landed our craft at the docks, and began making our way to the town proper, when we spied a group of men pushing a cart full of weapons, household goods and other objects. They were led by an obvious mutant, and Maga was immediately spoiling for a fight. Dudley and I went to speak to the men and while engaged in conversation, I noticed an insectoid limb with the same type of biological dart projector we had seen attached to the automata that had invaded our village.
We pressed the men for more information on where they had found that dart projector. Their leader, who was becoming increasingly belligerent spat out Isolon, a village in Navarene, a neighboring realm, and then turned and struck one of the men I was conversing with. Dudley immediately struck him back. With a snarl, the man pulled out a pick and prepared to attack. Suddenly, a crossbow bolt struck him in the chest! Maga reloaded his weapon, while the mutant swung at Dudley, but seeing he was outclassed the man turned and fled. Maga chased him down and killed him! Jemmy and I were stunned at how quickly things escalated.
Once they had calmed down, the other men gave as a little more information. Apparently, Isolon had been attacked. A sole survivor had made her way to Bodrov and told her story. These men thought to loot the village and sell the plunder in Keyford where they were unlikely to be questioned. The men seemed somewhat relieved that their former leader was no more. We let them keep their loot and made our way to Keyford.
Our first stop was to see the Aeon priestess. Terishini was cordial, but gave us no immediate answers. She promised to contact members of her order for more information and encouraged us to investigate the village of Isolon to see if we could discover any more clues.
We next went to see Aydermen. He was very concerned and dispatched people to help the survivors of our village. He agreed that we should investigate Isolon since the incident seemed related to the attack on our home. He outfitted us with mounts and provisions from the journey and set us up in an inn for the night.
In the common room of the inn, we heard several rumors. One was a tale of an old crone from the Westwood who rails that something will emerge from that benighted forest and sweep the surrounding kingdoms away. More importantly, we also heard that a small town north of Harmuth was attacked in a manner similar to Isolon and our home.
Isolon was a couple of days travel from Keyford. Travelling by Aneen is a most unpleasant experience, the gait of the creature takes some getting used to. Other than queasy stomachs and saddle sores, we encountered no troubles on our first day. On the second day, we met a troop of thirty or more warriors from Bodrov, led by a man named Dilron.
Dilron was travelling into Ghan on a mission of revenge. The survivor from Isolon had said that woodsmen had attacked her home. We attempted to reason with him, arguing that we had evidence to the contrary and the attack on our village bore such striking similarity to the one on Isolon that some other force must be at work. The man’s mind was made up, and we could not engage such a force of men, so we stood aside. I sent Pyx back to Keystone with a message for Aydermen, warning him that a war party was entering his territory.
We continued to Isolon finding it deserted and looted. There were signs of a struggle and some odd-colored blood in places. We found a trail of blood that led out of the village, to the west. Eventually, we found a crater that had been marked off by some kind of warning totems setup by the locals. We explored the crater and Maga stumbled into an underground chamber.
It was literally a web of passages beneath the ground. Each room seemed to have a couple passages going down and a couple going up. As we explored the place, we were attacked by an insect-like being. It created realistic illusions and attacked with some sort of mental energy. I was sorely wounded in the ensuing fight. The insect arm we recovered in Keystone obviously came from one of these beings. We explored the place, eventually defeating a number of these creatures and finally found ourselves in a chamber with an underground river. Bodies of these insect-beings were piled in this chamber. The right arms of the creatures had been severed and they looked as though they had been “cooked” from the inside out.
This is another piece of a puzzle, but we still have no clear picture of what is happening. We theorize that these creatures were some unwitting or unwilling pawn of whatever created those biological dart throwers. I am a little concerned about Jemmy, who took it upon himself to graft one of those things onto his arm…
Ok, Ildrak, I want you to write everything I say right there on that paper, just like I say it. Ok? Ok.
No, this letter ain’t for my dad, since he don’t read. Plus, he don’t care too much for me, truth told. It’s for my uncle. The one who run off to be an Angulan Knight. You heard that story before, right Ildrak?
Ok here goes.
It’s me, Maga telling you this. I know you been gone from Hyrem for a long, long time, and I wouldn’t ever know you if you were standing right in front of me, but Mama always told me you was a good man who knew his letters, so maybe one day I can find you and give this to you to read. Plus you’re a man who hates them muties and freaks just like I do. This here is the story of what’s been happening to us in Hyrem. And it ain’t good.
First thing, me and some of those boys I grow’d up with turned eighteen this Spring, and it was time for us to put on our fancy robes and get anointed, is that how you say it? as full adults. So Dudley shows up for the dunking wearing a robe so short his ass was half-hanging out, on account that you told him it was supposed to be real short for climbing up all those steps. No, you, Ildrak, you told him that. Oh, yeah, I’m supposed to be telling this story to my uncle. So we’re made to climb all the way, way up there to the top of the cliffs and Dudley’s like, here Maga, I’ll carry you up there on my back, on account you look kinda sickly today, and I’m like, screw you, short robe, I’ll walk my own ass up there. Then Jenny and me and Dudley and Dudley’s pa, who is the Masturstrate, what? Oh, Magistrate, and you, I mean Ildrak, march our asses up the top of the mountain. I smoked like four or five fags on the way, it took so long to climb it. And then once we’re up there Dudley’s pa says get naked and get in the water with me, and I’m like, why don’t you guys go first. So, you…I mean Ildrak, and Dudley get dunked and come out all shiny and wet and adult. Then, no shit, right as I’m dropping trou, everyone’s like yelling that the village is on fire and takes off running back down the trail, and I’m like no freaking way I’m coming up here again, so I dunk my own self. Jenny forgets and runs down the mountain.
Anyway, we get down to the village and everything is on fire and the people are all stolen away, except a couple who is fighting these metal mechanical men, and I’m like, ain’t that just typical, evil foreigners come over to our land and fuck everything up and steal everyone. And, Uncle, I’m like, I can take a whack at these guys, ‘cuz I know how to fight, but I gotta go back to pa’s and my house and get some gear. So then me and Jenny go and whack on these metal foreigners for a while. And they’re pretty tough. But we kill’t one and then Jenny starts taking parts off it saying they’re valuable. So then, we’re fighting another metal man, and we whack it down, and Jenny goes off to help his ma, who you, I mean Ildrak, told him was hurt bad, and I’m like I’m gonna get some valuable stuff off this metal man too, and then like, the robot man wasn’t all the way dead or something, ‘cuz he blew me up a little and it made my ears bleed.
So then we find….Ildrak, see I got it right, with Dudley and and Jenny and Dudleys’ dad, and Jenny’s ma, Sari, and they all saw these metal foreigners taking all the people in these bags down under the sea down by the fishing boats, and now everyone is gone. Except us. So Sari says we gotta go to Keford to tell the Aeon Priestess about this, and I’m like no way, I hate the big city and it’s a nest of freaks and mutants there, and Mama always said don’t trust big city folk. Dudley says, no they’re just people like everywhere else, and I’m like, whatever, short robe.
So we sailed a couple days down to Keford, and hop off the boat. And I shit you not, the very first person we see is a fucking mutie with just one eye and his nose all sideways on his face! Regular folk, just like us, my ass! And this mutie is leading a bunch a regular pussy looking guys pulling a cart full of junk. And I’m like I’m gonna kill this mutie scum, so I load up my crossbow, but Dudley is like, I’ll handle this, and he’s talking to the stinking mutie and trying to convince him to tell us stuff, and go figure the mutie tells him to go fuck himself, and then all of a sudden Dudley’s fighting the mutie, and I plug him, what? no the mutie, not Dudley, I plug him with my crossbow and they’re still fighting away and I plug him again real good and he’s trying to limp away, and I follow after him and reload, and then I’m like, are all the people in Keford freaks and mutants and mutie-lovers and are they gonna lock me up for killing this mutie? ‘cuz I’m not sure I want to be locked up right when I turned into an adult, and I see some guards up there by the town wall kinda watchin’ what’s going on. But then I kill’t him anyway, stinking mutie.
So the mutie and his gang had came through some town called Isobar, or some foreign name like that and looted a town totally empty of people, just like Hyrem was empty, so maybe we gotta go there to see what’s going on.
Then, uncle, we met the Aeon Priestess lady, and she was real nice, and she liked our robot parts we brung her, then we went to talk to the King of Keford, what? Ok, the Magistrate. He talked funny but, no shit, he had a pin on that was like two crossed cutlasses on a red and blue shield, and I think it was Angulan Knight pin. So I liked him. Then he let us go to the tavern and we talked to some other people with funny accents, but I liked them anyway, and they told me about another town up by Harmuth that got totally stolen away too. So there’s lots of people getting stolen away by foreigners, metal men, and probably mutants, all around the country. And that ain’t good.
So Uncle, then we had to ride on these tall, tall critters with two legs, for ever and ever and I was so sick in my gut. Probably din’t help the King, I mean Magistrate, let us drink as much as we wanted the night before. We were riding to Isobar to see for ourselves what happened there, ‘cuz Galvan knows that mutie I kill’t was lying to us. Then we crossed into another country, Navarene, I think it’s called? It looked just the same as Ghan, truth be told. And then later, there was this huge posse of glaives on the road and they looked really mad, and they were heading to cross back over to Ghan to go fuck up the woodmen who they said stole all their people. I was just about to say yeah, let’s go fuck up those woodmen, when I see one of that posse has like octopus tentacles instead of arms, and my head nearly exploded, ‘cuz this posse is a bunch of mutie-lovers! And it was all I could do to keep from starting it up with that mutie. Their boss was called Dillron, and he was a total Dillron.
Then we got to Isobar and like, everyone is gone, just like back in Hyrem. But we found a trail of yellow blood, like from the insect arm that the dead mutie had. Oh, I never told you about that before. Anyway, the trail lead to a big crater in the ground with some old markers sayin’ don’t go down there or you will die, and so we went down there. And then I fell down into a hole in the ground I din’t see, and it was dark and things crawling on me, and then everyone came down on a rope which was better than falling. Then there’s tunnels. Lots and lots of tunnels and rooms going down and down. And then everyone’s acting weird and seeing shit that ain’t there. And THEN there’s a fucking seven foot tall cockroach. And so we’re shooting at it and…Ildrak is looking pretty messed up, like that cockroach had been using his brain for a punchin’ bag. We kill’t the roach and keep going down and down, then fight another roach-thing, who makes Ildrak run after his invisible girlfriend. We’re totally lost. We’re all beat up. I’m lost, but somehow Jenny knows right where we are, and we gotta keep going down. Then another roach-thing is just about to feel my club in his face, when he sends me to a bad, bad place. I’m all alone in a cavern and there’s muties everywhere, and they’re all poking me and laughing at me and calling me names. Uncle, it was a madhouse down in those tunnels. But my buddies musta kill’t that bug, because I came back.
But sure enough, we found the underground ocean-river flowin’ through the cave and Jenny’s flesh compass was workin’ good. What? Oh, I better explain more. The compass don’t find flesh. It’s like made of flesh and it finds north, but only when it’s near salt. And that ocean-river was salty, alright. Right beside the ocean-river is a pile of those insect people, all with one arm hacked off. We all are guessin’ that whoever is stealin’ folks everywhere, took their arms to get the dart guns attached to them. Or somethin’ like that.
Uncle, Ildrak is telling me that he’s almost out of paper and next time I gotta be shorter with my story. It’s hard when everything is so fucked and don’t make any sense. So for now, I’ll roll a fag and we’ll rest up and get outta this dark place and go find who done all this crazy shit. And I’ll say, talk to you later. Your nephew, Maga.
My name is Ildrak. I’ve never kept a journal before, but I feel I must have some sort of record, to let Anell know that I desperately tried to save her.
I grew up in Hyrem, a small fishing village on the western shore of the Ryness Bay. I was a foundling. My adopted Father told me a story of how a beautiful woman beckoned to him to the eastern shore of the bay while he was out fishing. He must have been disappointed to find her gone when he drew his boat to shore and only a synth bassinet with myself and a fledgling owl (whose name is Pyx) inside. I’ll credit him that he didn’t leave me there to die. He brought me back to his home and added me to his already large family.
I’ve never fit in. I was always “the foundling” to the other villagers. I had no interest in fishing and while I do feel a pull towards the Westwood forest where I was found, the woodsmen would never take a skinny lad to harvest lumber. I only connected with one soul in the village, my dear Anell. A restless soul, like myself, she dreamed of leaving Hyrem and finding her way in the wider world. I’ve a certain talent for illusion and we hoped to make a name in Qi or some other city as stage magicians.
As is tradition in our village, when a child reaches their eighteenth year, they undergo a ritual passage into adulthood. It is no great ordeal – a baptism by the magistrate is all – but the family and friends of the person usually gift them with a few shins or other goods to help them start a household. Anell and I agreed to wait until I had undergone the rite, collected my presents and then slip off into the night while the rest of the village celebrated. Oh, how I wish we’d not waited…
I was to undergo the rite with three other youths. Maga, a sickly warrior obsessed was mutants. Jemmy, son of the village healer and an explorer at heart. And finally Dudley, the magistrate’s popular and well-loved son. (He is perhaps the opposite of me in every respect.) The ritual is held atop a hill, some distance from town. I’d been dunked and Dudley had just had his bath when we noticed smoke billowing up from the town below.
Now, I have a peculiar ability in that I can share the senses of a willing creature, so I sent Pyx aloft to see what was amiss. The village was under attack! Lances of energy set buildings alight. We didn’t tarry, but hurried back to the village as quickly as we could. By the time we arrived, the battle was nearly at an end.
We crept into the flaming ruins, searching for survivors. Maga and Jemmy went to find weapons. Dudley spied a seven-foot tall automaton attacking a group of villagers and strode off to confront it, hurling bolts of energy as went. I had only one thought in mind: “Find Anell and get her to safety.”
While my companions sought conflict, I slipped through the village in search of Anell. As luck would have it, one of the automatons discovered me. I tried to avoid it using my illusions, but it was most persistent. Finally, I ducked around a corner, ran straight into the magistrate and fell flat on my back. The magistrate pulled a cypher from under his coat and made to attack the thing, but was felled by a paralyzing dart. I had concealed myself behind a rain barrel as this exchange took place and the automaton abandoned his search for me. Snatching up the magistrate, it bore him down to the beach. As I recovered the cypher, I saw the magistrate placed into some sort of huge sack. A few other sacks were also on the beach and I watched in fascination as another automata dragged one of the sacks into the depths of the bay!
Making my way through the village, I discovered our healer Sali in a pool of blood. She was delirious, but I was able to staunch the bleeding and promised her I would look for her son Jemmy. A short time later, I stumbled across my young foster brother Ulrie. He told me that the automatons had taken many of the villagers prisoner, encasing them in some strange sacks and dragging them below the waves. I told him to look after Sali while I went in search of her son.
I found him and Maga engaging an automata but a short while later. I discharged my cypher at the thing, but missed it utterly. While Jemmy and Maga made short work of this metallic creature, I made my way down to the beach in hopes that the magistrate had another cypher. As luck would have it, he indeed had another ray emitter. I hurried back to the fray. We managed to take down another of the automatons, but the rest retreated below the waves.
Only the Magistrate (Neomal), Sali, Ulrie, and the four of us remained in the village. The magistrate had no idea what type of being had attacked, but he instructed us to travel to Keyford and ask for assistance there. We’ve gathered weapons and supplies and will set out in the morning.
Anell, I know not where you have been taken, nor what you have endured, but I am coming for you!
Suki Greenberg rapped on the bathroom door again. A low, moaning sound came from within. “Come on out Kozo.” She coaxed. “We’re not here to kill you. I swear it.”
“Want me to kick it in sweet cheek?” Suko Goro asked as he approached from down the hall.
“No. He’ll come out eventually. What did you find out?”
“Toshiro looks like shit.” Goro begins. “I mean way shittier than usual. Sure looks like he swam out of an aircar that crash landed in the fucking ocean. Nobody else is here. They’re probably all at the bottom of Tokyo Bay like he said.”
“Shit. What else?” Suki says pulling a pack of cigarettes out of her coat pocket.
“They completely fucked up. Got ambushed. Had their asses handed to them. Toshiro figured he’d be doing everyone a favor by cutting that data cable instead of just hauling ass out of there. Snipers raked the hover car as he flew by. Knocked the fucker right out of the sky. I’m amazed that son of a bitch managed to swim out of the wreck after he ditched it in the bay.”
“Damn it.” Suki replies while distractedly patting down her pockets.
“Let me get that for ya babe.” Goro says holding up his lighter. Suki accepts the light, taking a long drag from her cigarette. Goro watches her for a minute, pushes back his coat and rests his hand on the saya of one of his retractable katanas. “Want me to terminate Toshiro’s employment?”
Suki thinks about it for a full minute. “No.” She says. “At least not now. Get your ass down to Tokyo Bay and see if you can find anything else out.”
Goro casts look towards Toshiro’s door, shrugs and then heads towards the elevator.
Suki makes her way over to the common area. Bobby’s reassembled SRAM leans against the arm of the overstuffed couch. Kitsune’s ‘goodie bag’ lies on one of the cushions. Looking down at the coffee table she spies a piece of paper weighted down by an overflowing ashtray…
HARUNA BIOLABS QUARTERLY EMPLOYEE REVIEW FORM
Employee Name: Nosumi Matsuma
Direct Supervisor: Suki Greenberg
How would you describe your job performance in the past quarter?
I am exceeding expectations for my position. I have participated in several initiatives in the past three months. My supervisor has repeatedly commended me for the deal I brokered with Ishii. I have served as de facto leader for many of our missions despite the fact that more tenured team members are on the team.
What have you accomplished for Haruna BioLabs in the past quarter?
- Participated in meeting with Neon Chrysanthemum members. Wounded during ambush by (as we later discovered) “Azure Shield” elements of Tokyo PD.
- Brokered deal with Neon Chrysanthemum to sell “Juice Boxes” and “KitKats”. Repeatedly praised by direct supervisor for the favorable terms of the arrangement.
- Participated in multiple attempts to conclude our deal with the Neon Chrysanthemum. Acquitted myself adequately during ensuing firefights.
- Uncovered Sakai had betrayed Ishii and was working with elements of the Tokyo PD know as the Azure Shield.
- Discovered the secret meeting place of the Azure Shield. Led the mission that resulted in crippling the organization. Recovered a significant amount of company property that had been stolen by the Azure Shield.
- Led team that investigated the Makita Zalprex Lab. Determined the building had been destroyed by rival interest. Discovered body of (presumably) off-world agent with unique retrogenics. Recovered sample of these retrogenics. Found and recovered evidence that Makita is experimenting with extra-terrestrial DNA. Recovered samples for analysis. Defused potential firefight when confronted by security agents from Makita. Estimate savings of 1500 yen in ammunition and medical supply expenditure.
- Led team to the Fuego Night Club. Picked up significant intel from Makita Exo-biology personnel. Engaged rival team assassination squad after they hit the scientists.
Note to self. Wrap this up with the next mission Suki briefed us on. Should be a cakewalk – how hard could it be to knock out a bunch of hackers in the old Hotel Imperial?
What can you do to serve the corporation better?
Toshiro is responsible for considerable property damage on nearly every mission. We can use this to our advantage. Envision a remodeling company that cleans up after the team’s missions. We could turn a profit in this space. Using day labor from the Kanghai Floating Shantytown and the construction adhesive our chemical division refined from the poutine samples secured from Parkfield Biolabs, we can undercut competition significantly. More importantly, such a business would be a great cover for any follow up missions. Underbid the competition, insert operatives into the drywall crew and we have relatively unrestricted access to the site. I can put together a SCOPE document for this.
We’re on a hiatus from Zaibatsu after a near TPK. I’ve got a post in the works, but Icculus has to get back to me with all the names I forget or misspell in my write-ups:-)
We decided to give Numenera 2 a go. We’ve abandoned the characters and campaign we were playing a few months ago. Honestly, the rules changes are so minor we could have kept them, but the GM had “gotten his muse” back and wanted to run his own campaign rather than finish off the “Sun Below” stuff. We generated characters and so far we have:
Dudley is a Heroic Glaive who Absorbs Energy
Ildrak is a Stealthy Jack who Crafts Illusions
Maga is a Mutant Glaive who Hunts Mutants
Jemmy is a Curious Delve who Augments Flesh with Grafts
We started the campaign last week and I’ll have a synopsis up later on.
“Ok, Goro time for the debrief.” Suki says tossing her empty bottle onto the growing pile of trash that hides the room’s only garbage can. “I just don’t get it. The first half of the mission goes without a hitch and then you totally fuck up what should have been the easy part.”
“I got a little caught up in the moment…” Goro replies.
“You’re supposed to be professionals. The explosion at the fight club is all over the news. There’s a tenement in that building. If emergency responders had been a few minutes slower that fire could have spread. If it got tied back to Haruna it would have been a PR nightmare.”
“You’re fucking hopeless… Get on with it.”
“That Aikiko bitch you’ve been blackmailing finally gave us something.” Goro begins. “This scientist fuckwad named Takagi shows up at Nobuda’s office and is trying to sell him some shit. Nobuda blows the fucker off, but as soon as he leaves, our buddy calls in his top operative Kido and tells him that he’s got to find out where this fuck is and steal all of his research.
“So, this Takagi used to work for Haruna, but has been rotting in prison for the past few years. Apparently he was trying to implant human brains into combat androids or some such shit. All highly illegal. Problem is he got caught. Guess we’re not the only fuck ups on the payroll, huh?”
“I’ve been meaning to talk to HR about the hiring process.” Suki says.
A tinny, electronic voice sounds from across the room. “Turn me around you fuckers!”
“If you ever reboot that project, I can get you a brain on the cheap.” Goro smirks.
“Anyhow,” he continues, “you ask us to run this fucker down before Nobuda can get his hands on him. All we’ve got is a shit picture of Kido, so Kozo runs him through the face-recognition software and we get a hit down near the Kantai Floating Shanty. We head on down and pay a visit to old Mamma Chang. She wasn’t happy to see us, that’s for sure. Guessing she got some trouble after we whacked Jimmy and Xiang a while back… Kitsune put his new face to good use and charmed the old bag. She’d seen Takagi and told us he was holed up in a warehouse just down the street.
“We head on over and case the place. It’s huge and full of squatters. Nobody wants to fuck with us, so we head on up looking for clues. We find a steel plate welded to block the staircase to the third level. Kitsune find some blood trails and then discovers a hidden switch that opens this plate up. We head on up and find ourselves a ripper-doc’s lair. Looks like a battle raged in this place. Two gorilla-sized goons laid out on the floor with the tops of their heads sawn off. Amateur job. Fucker scooped out their brains looking for something. Couple of dead street samurai we figured were Makita operatives. No sign of Takagi or Kido. We tried to follow the blood trails, but lost them once they left the building.
“Decided to head back upstairs and take some pictures of the brainless guys to see if our lab-rats could figure anything out. While we’re dicking around with that, Toshiro hears noise over by the stairs. Bunch of fuckers start screaming at us about killing one of their cousins or some shit. Guess Jimmy and Xiang had a fan club… Toshiro replies with a couple of grenades which kind of ended the conversation.
“Meanwhile, that Aikiko starts earning her keep. She must have hacked into the security cameras at her office and gotten a updated image of Takagi. Kozo runs it through his software and sees this fucker waiting on a bullet-train platform. Son of a bitch is headed for the space elevator. We just have time to fly over there and hop on the train. Make our way to his car and Kitsune starts having a pleasant conversation with him. He’s got two apes with him, so we’re hoping the ‘come back to work for your old employer’ pitch will work. No dice. Kitsune hits him with a hypo of happy juice, while his two bodyguards start working themselves up into a frenzy. Kitsune injects one of them and I kick the other fucker in the head. Lights out. We hop off the train when it reaches the space elevator, jump the platform before security arrives, then call Dopinder to pick us up. Deliver the mad doctor back to you nice and neat.”
“Yup.” Suki says. “That was good work. Now let me hear how you screwed the rest of it up.”
“You got Kozo trying to run down this Kido fucker while we were dealing with Takagi. Guy’s showing up all over the place, but never stays still for too long. You want this guy, dead or alive, so he doesn’t bring back any info to Makita. We’re all fucking puzzled why he hasn’t gone back to Nobuda already though… Finally, Kozo gets a good hit on this fucker. He’s gone into a fight club called Haha Ha Ha.”
“I thought it was called Hahaha Haha.” Suki interjects.
“Fuck Suki, I don’t want to get into this with you. Kitsune and Toshiro argued about the name the whole fucking drive over there.”
“Apparently Kitsune is a regular at the place. Knows the bouncers by name and gets us in without a cover or a weapon scan.”
“Here’s this Kido fucker. He’s probably weighing in at 65 kilos soaking wet. Son of a bitch is all hopped up on combat drugs and challenging the big boys to death matches. Fucker is winning too. He throws down the gauntlet to all comers; like anybody is going to be stupid enough to take that bet. Kitsune starts telling him he’s a fucking pussy and he tears into us. The three of us put him down pretty quick, but the ring Oni get their panties in a bundle because it wasn’t an ‘honorable fight’ or some shit. The come at us with naginatas and knuckle-blades. It was a fuck of a fight. Kitsune got knocked on his ass, but he gave a pretty good show. Toshiro and I tore into these guys and finally killed them all. As we’re slapping Kitsune awake, the bouncers head over and tell us they’re going to make us pay. Fuckers. Kitsune couldn’t talk his old pals out of mixing it up with us, so we left them bleeding on the floor. Fuck, we were almost the ones left to die…”
“And the fire? Toshiro, I assume?”
“Nah, that was me. I grabbed one of his grenades and pitched it through the door when we left. Guess it landed near the liquor and started the whole place on fire.”
“Fuck Goro, what were you thinking?”
“Like I said, I got a little caught up in the moment…”
“You know, I don’t give a shit, but I’m gonna go take one.” Toshiro says storming out of the room.
Suki and a thin, well-dressed man turn to the rest of the group.
“Well, who is this douche-nozzle?” Bobby asks, slotting the freshly-cleaned ignition assembly back into the SRAM.
“Don’t you recognize Kitsune?” Suki replies.
“Oh, got him another face change, huh?” Kozo asks. “Looks like a pro job this time… Uh, I didn’t mean anything by that…” He trails off.
“While you dip-shits have been killing people and blowing stuff up, I’ve been bettering myself.” Kitsune says proudly. “Took an experimental ‘wetware’ retrogenic that lets me download skills and then polished off my MBA.”
“From?” Kozo prompts.
“Uh… Upper Asahikawa University…” Kitsune mumbles.
“The fuck!” Bobby interjects. “Even I know a degree from that place ain’t worth wiping your ass with.”
“Hey!” Toshiro calls from the bathroom. “We’re outta toilet paper!”
“Can’t you shut him the fuck up? I swear I can hear him over my VR games he’s so fucking loud!” says Toshiro from the common room sofa. He shoves a pile of empty pizza and takeout boxes over so he can sit.
“I said turn me around! I’m staring at the fucking wall all day long, you fucks!” yells a tinny, mechanical voice from a speaker box. The box is set on top of a makeshift computer deck with the keyboard ripped off and tossed aside and many random wires and capacitors soldered into the motherboard haphazardly. Next to the assemblage of electronics is a clear jar filled with a slightly cloudy liquid. Some of the wires from the computer deck lead into the jar and appear to be attached with alligator clips to the protruding spinal cord of a decapitated human head floating in the liquid medium.
“Who plugged the speaker into him anyway?” asks Bobby Datsun, a joint dangling from his lips as he sits at the table cleaning his disassembled SRAM.
“I guess Ichioka came over to fix the Ubi robot. Then he saw what was left of it and gave up. Kept muttering ‘these guys are total dicks’ under his breath. Then he saw Sureji’s head and got out his soldering iron and went to town. Next thing you know, Sureji’s voice is coming out of that box screaming, ‘turn me around! Itch my ear! Wipe my nose! Wah wah, fucking wah!’ Fucker is lucky to be alive.” says Goro. “Ichioka was here for like two hours, you didn’t see him?”
“Nah, bro. I was in the fucking Zone!” says Bobby.
“Turn me around!” yells Sureji’s head again.
“I don’t think he can hear us, can he?” says Kozo rolling up a catalog of prospective eastern european brides as he enters the room. “Want me to turn the jar around?”
“NO!” shout Goro, Toshiro and Bobby simultaneously.
“Fuck that,” says Goro. “I spun him around on purpose. I don’t want to see those cold, dead eyes.”
“You mean kind of like yours?” says Suki Greenberg coming off the elevator and gingerly stepping over the blasted ruins of a robot on the floor. “You all ready to go to work?”
“No, mine are more like shimmering liquid pools of ebon, baby. What’s up Suki? You here for a meatstick injection?” says Goro and holds up a hand to her for a fist bump.
“Best behavior, fuckwads! There’s someone I want you all to meet…,” she starts.
“Turn me the fuck around, assholes! I know you’re there!” yells Sureji’s head.
Suki mentally urged the elevator to speed up. The fact that Toshiro was the one who called increased her sense of urgency. ‘If they let that fuck-up call for help, he must be the only one standing.’ She thought. The elevator doors slid open and she stepped into the hallway. Moving quickly to the apartment door, she keyed her override code into the electronic lock’s keypad. The first thing that greeted her eyes was the disabled form of the cleaning robot Ichioka had sent the team. The thing was riddled with bullet holes.
“Hey Suki!” Toshiro’s voice. “That you? I’m in the kitchen.”
Carefully avoiding the puddle of coolant that was seeping into the carpet, Suki made her way to the kitchen.
“Oh my fucking god!”
Sitting on the kitchen counter was a cranial containment unit, hooked up to… Was that a car battery? Sureji’s dead eyes stared at her from behind the clear plexon wall of the unit. Toshiro was pulling a steaming bowl out of the microwave. He was covered, practically head to toe, with a brown, pasty substance and he smelled like… Gravy?
Toshiro slammed the microwave shut and turned around. “Want some noodles Suki?”
“No, I don’t want any fucking noodles. I want answers. What happened? Where’s Bobby and Goro? And why is Sureji’s severed head sitting on the kitchen counter?”
“That was my totally my idea.” Toshiro says proudly.
“Cutting off Sureji’s head was your idea?” Suki took a half step back and surreptitiously reached for the autopistol in her coat pocket.
“Yeah. Oh, he was dead though. And I actually didn’t cut his head off, Goro did. And I guess Goro wired him up too. But putting his head in the jar was totally me. Like the initiative?”
Suki eased her hand off the butt of her gun. She walked up to the counter and examined the CCU. ‘Christ.’ She thought to herself. ‘Those leads look like they’re in the right spot. How did those stupid bastards pull this off?’
“Where are Bobby and Goro?”
“In their rooms. Goro’s lost a lot of blood. You probably should take a look at him or maybe get another one of these head things sent over here if he’s bled out.”
Suki closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose for a few seconds. “Give me a report!”
“Me?” Toshiro looks dumbfounded. “You never ask me for a report…”
“You’re the last man standing. Spit it out.”
“Ok. Uh. Well. We all took those drugs you gave us to try out under combat. Mine sucked. I couldn’t smell anything. I took some more later on and nothing else happened. I still can’t smell a god damned thing…”
“That should have worn off an hour ago… How many doses did you take?”
“Two. Two was the limit. Jesus, what were you thinking?”
“I don’t know. I was hoping to get something useful, like Goro seemed to get all smart and shit…”
“Never mind, we’ll cover that later. Get on with the mission.”
“Uh, that hacker guy…” He trails off.
“Ichioka.” She supplies.
“Yeah, Ichioka. Anyhow, he calls you and says that he’s been fucking around trying to make an AI or something and it kind of got loose and tried to kill his ass, so you ask us to head over to where he’s working and shut it all down.
“We get down to that warehouse Haruna keeps near the old docks. Lights are out, but we can see movement inside. Intel was there were probably a couple security robots on site, but it looks like more than just two things moving around. We take up positions by the door and open up. These security robots come out swinging and some modded utility bots are backing them up. It was a fuck of a fight. Bobby and I didn’t take a scratch, but Sureji and Goro got scraped up pretty good.
“So anyway. We move into the warehouse and it’s piled full of crates from that Parkfield company we hit a few days ago. What the fuck was all that shit?” When Suki doesn’t respond he continues. “Anyhow as we’re moving through this maze of crates a voice comes over the building speakers and it sounds just like that scientist bitch that Goro killed…”
“Yeah. That’s her. The one we grabbed at the museum. Man, that was a good mission. Did you see the footage Kozo put together to cover our tracks? That little dwarf…”
“Stay on the fucking topic, Toshiro!”
“Ok, ok. That dwarf just cracks me up is all. Anyhow, this Isumi voice is all like, ‘I’m gonna fuck you guys up’ and ‘you better leave while you still can’ and shit like that. So we finally get past all those fucking crates and we see a fenced-off area and this little robot patrolling it. And the fence looks electrified and of course, all the computer hardware is locked away behind it and there’s no way to cut power to the building because it’s on its generator which is also somewhere behind that fence…
“So I stay and keep an eye on this thing, while Bobby, Sureji and Goro start looking around to find something to take that fence out. Goro and Sureji found a med lab with that Isumi’s head. They pulled the head, but she only mocked us when Goro punted it across the warehouse. Sureji remembered that there was an exoloader back by the entrance, so he and Goro head back to see if they can fire it up.
“About this time, we hear a couple of cars pull into the warehouse. Goro and Sureji go to check it out while Bobby and me try to figure out what to do with that robot. Anyhow, I open up on that little robot thing and it sprays me with this glue shit and I can barely move. Meanwhile a pile of fucking Yakuza un-ass from the cars and start blasting away at Goro and Sureji. They were taking heavy fire, so Bobby runs back to give them a hand. I drop a grenade to try and break this glue shit off my feet, and it works, but I can still hardly walk. I move back towards the entrance as fast as I can while the firefight is going on. When I get close enough, I pitched a couple grenades at those Yakuza to soften ’em up a bit.
“I’m not sure what the fuck happened, but apparently Sureji got hacked down by this bitch all dressed up like a fucking ninja. I think Goro killed her. She was all cut up when I got there. Anyhow, that’s when I said we should stick Sureji’s head in the jar. Pretty smart, huh?”
Suki just glares at him, so he continues.
“Not much else to tell really. We shot the fuck out of that little robot and then we tipped a pile of crates over the fence to short it out. Isumi was getting pretty nervous by this time and tried to talk her way out of it, but we were kind of sick of her shit by then. Goro pulled the core out of the computer and we brought it back home for you. Anything else or can I finish my noodles?
“I guess that’s good enough.” She sighs. “But what the fuck is up with your cleaning robot?”
“Oh, I emptied a mag into it when we got back. Ichioka sent us that fucking thing. What if that computer AI bitch hitched a ride in it? Better safe than sorry.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t blow the damn thing up.”
“Well, I only got a couple of flash bangs left and figured they wouldn’t do shit to it. I’ll fill out a req for some plastic explosive to finish the job after I take a shower.”
The slap can be heard throughout the common room. “How dare you lay a hand on me! I’m a princess god damn it. Now, get your sniveling carcass out of my sight before I get really angry.”
Kozo backs out of the bedroom, his hand covering the red weal spreading across his cheek. “Ouch. What the hell?”
He walks slowly into the common room. Bobby and Sureji watch him enter and then start laughing raucously. “Oh fuck.” Bobby says, catching his breath. “That was fucking priceless.”
“Yeah, real funny assholes.” Kozo says dejectedly. “What’s the point of a love doll you can’t fuck? I thought I was gonna finally get some…” He wanders over to the couch where Suko Goro is sitting, smoking a cigarette and with a bag of frozen peas on his lap.
“Damn it Goro. I wanted to eat those.” He whines.
“They’re not the wasabi peas you dumb shit. I found them in the back of the freezer. Pretty sure they were left by the last guys Haruna had bunking in this shithole.” In response to Kozo’s cocked eyebrow, he continues. “Let’s just say I found out my doll’s specialty the hard way.”
Kozo snorts, but quickly suppresses a laugh when he sees the look on Goro’s face. “Tell me about the raid.” He says, changing the subject. “I mean, after I got you guys in the warehouse I lost contact. I don’t have a clue what happened once you got into that sub-basement.”
A fair bit of whining and haggling ensues. Goro finally relents when Kozo comes back with a couple Red Dragons.
“Before I get going, I want to know what you knew about this fucking thing.” Goro says taking the proffered beer.
“Yep. I’ve been digging up a little dirt on Suki. Just in case, you know? Turns out she and this Daisuke guy were fucking each other back in college. She’s been having an ongoing affair with him ever since. I don’t care what she told us in the meeting, I think she let something slip before the whole Sesimbra job. He turned it over to Parkfield and they fucked with our op.”
“Shit…” Goro mutters.
“I’m not even sure if Haruna sanctioned the hit on Daisuke or if she was using us to cover her ass. We’ll never know. The op was a success so she can always say she was taking initiative or some shit. She’s pretty fucking smart Goro and she’s been in the business for a long time. I’m sure we’re all disposable assets as far as she’s concerned.”
“Never doubted that.” Goro replies. He stubs out the rest of his cigarette and takes a long slug of beer. “Explains a few things though…”
“Uh, you were gonna tell me about the operation?” Kozo prompts.
“Yeah, sure. Uh, Suki wanted to get a little payback on that Canadian fucker and after you ran down where he was holed up we drove on down to the factory. We sailed in after you hacked their system and popped the door for us. A couple of rent-a-cops came up shouting and shit, but they backed off pretty quick when they saw the hardware we were carrying. Found our way up to the main security station to have a little chat with their boss. He’s sitting in the office with some other douche who decides he’s going to be a hero. Goes for his gun and then starts eating bullets from Toshiro’s LMG, stupid bastard… His boss does his best to assist us, though the dumb shit doesn’t have a clue what is going on. We end up knocking out the security and leaving them zip-cuffed while we dig around.
“Eventually we find a secret door near the elevator; stairwell leading down that ain’t on the floorplan you pulled for this place. We go down, deep underground. There’s a huge fucking facility down there. There’s probably several kilometers worth of corridors in that fucking maze. We didn’t explore the whole thing, but Suki figured out what was going on quick enough: they’re force-growing clones and wiring them up as sex dolls. Clever fucking operation, but illegal as shit.
“We tangled with a bunch of these bio-modded Canadian boxer fucks, but in a fist versus sword fight you know who comes out on top. Finally found Daisuke’s quarters. Suki’s all like ‘he’s a ninth degree black belt’ and ‘don’t kill him he’s mine’ and shit. We didn’t know what to expect when we went in, so Toshiro hucked in a couple flash-bangs, then we tore into the room. I left Daisuke bleeding on the floor and Suki finished the job with her poison fangs.”
“Suki’s got poison fangs?” Kozo asks. “That is so awesome.”
“Yeah, real awesome. I wonder if they’re retrogenics or was she born with them?”