[Faustus’s note: I wasn’t actually present for this session and wrote it up based on other players’ reports; this is why it is late and out of order with session 10. Go to the end for a summary of events]
Kill, it’s such a friendly word
Seems the only way
For reaching out again
– Old oil age rockers
Date: 8th October, 2177
Mood: Deeply satisfied. This is the first time in my life that I’ve really enjoyed close combat, usually it just seems icky and sweaty and kind of dangerous, it doesn’t have any of the elegance and clean lines of rifle-work. But there was something really powerfully satisfying about beating cyber-psychiatrists to death with an iron bar, close in where you can see the horror in their eyes and smell their fear. It’s the first time I’ve relished the smell of blood in my whole life.
Outfit: Blood-soaked boiler suit and metal bar. I was meant to be wearing a nurse’s outfit, because that would be the right outfit to wear when you’re breaking into a mental asylum, but the others insisted on going disguised as electricians, so here I am in a boiler suit. Everyone knows blood looks fetching on a nurse’s outfit, and just boring on a set of overalls … and I’m covered in a lot of blood! But as always I do what the team wants, even if it means I have to be like completely unfashionable when I’m doing my day job.
So we decided it was time to get looking for Alt’s mysterious transubstantiating sister, which means we have to bust a truck-driver out of a mental asylum. The truck driver is Hog, and he was shifting Ghostshock for Alt’s psychotic brother Lima back before we iced Lima or whatever shell of a body he was currently using. We wanted to ask Hog a bit more about the deal he had with Lima but we couldn’t because he disappeared, and Alt worked out that he had been suddenly declared cyberpsychotic and locked away in some top class rehabilitation unit topside. Of course now we know that “rehabilitation” means being reconfigured into a Full Body Replacement cybersoldier, which has got to be all kinds of scary. My guess is that is what they planned to do with me when I was held in the psych ward after Tunguska, and I have been really wanting to liberate Hog and teach those cyber-psychiatrists a few manners.
So I was happy when Coyote turned up at my apartment and told me and Pops that we were ready to roll, that he had used a tenuous contact topside to set up a van and cover as maintenance workers, and that the visas for topside had come through from Pops’s contact Blacklist. So all we needed to do was get a plan ready and head up. The good news: we were leaving as soon as possible. The bad news: we couldn’t take any weapons and even my Rippers had to come out, so we were going to be completely unarmed.
First, however, we needed to secure access to some fingerprints and an access card, which is how I got to meet Lady Zodiac.
Pops knows a lot of pretty interesting people from his days as a cop and one of them is Lady Zodiac, a courtesan and sometime drug dealer who has a bit of a debt to Pops, which he won’t explain to me and which I try hard not to think about the details of. So he called her up and asked her if she was free this evening, and she was, and before we know it we’re outside some high class club on level 2, just below topside, and this beautiful woman is tapping on the window of Pops’s rundown little car. She was tall and pretty and perfectly dressed and she walked so gracefully and her voice was like music. I’m pretty sure she had some careful cyber enhancements to make it all perfect but they were really high class and subtle, so she exuded this sense of natural beauty that’s really rare in our plastic world. I had to sit in the passenger seat feeling small and uncouth and like I stank of gun oil while Pops carried on this conversation with his beautiful friend that was half flirting and half business. She was really sweet to him, and for a moment when I wasn’t staring at Lady Zodiac’s decolletage and imagining what I’d do if I was as beautiful as her, I had these visions of him back in the day, before he met me, handsome young cop with a family and a life and a mind of his own and goals and dreams that weren’t all attached to keeping me alive and finding the people who wrecked it all … like he was once a real person, and somehow Lady Zodiac floated through his life and he did something good for her like he did for me, and I bet he didn’t try to bed her either, at least they just seem like friends to me now, listening to her lilting voice teasing his rough looks and small car, and she’s looking at me all inquisitive like but not jealous, not that someone like her could have any reason to be jealous of a smouldering little nutcase like me, but then Pops introduced me to her, “this is my d-, ah, my friend and colleague, the Druid. You can call her Drew,” and she did that little moment of vague disfocused stare people do when they go online to check me out, and then that little doubletake when they see the video of one of my better jobs that always appears when the ‘net throws up information on me. Then she shook my hand and her skin was smooth and coloured like pearl and her eyes were this luscious blue-green like a gem and she talked to me like I mattered, then she whacked Pops on the shoulder and said that this means they’re quits but stay in touch and she really seemed like she meant it, and then she gave me a little wave, told Pops to wait five, and sashayed off into the club. Pops rolled up the window and looked at me kind of shy-like, but he didn’t say anything except “When the mark comes out you stay in the car and don’t do anything unless he starts shooting,” then he got out and went and lounged nearby.
And she was right, because five minutes later Lady Zodiac came tripping down the stairs, wearing nothing except this iridescent club lingerie, and this kind of nerdy dude was with her, holding her hand and urging her to wait. She came running across the road and she was saying something about “we can do it right here if you have the money” when she breathlessly bumped into Pops who was standing there stern in a leather jacket with this massive gun out and he dragged the guy around behind a truck and started yelling at him to turn around and stand still and was he armed and was he alone? And he was calling him by this random name even though we both knew that this guy was a technician at NaoCorps on topside called John Baylish, and he kept trying to tell Pops he was Baylish but Pops kept roughing him around and telling him to tell the truth and Lady Zodiac was squealing in this really fetching way that wasn’t actually loud enough to get attention, and Pops told her to shut up ’cause he’s from Goliath security and if she brings down any white knights that he has to kill the clean up costs will be all hers and she goes quiet with these little theatrical sobs. Then Pops start telling Baylish that he’s under arrest for a triple murder in the USA, and he don’t have any rights at all, so he better come quietly, and the dude’s like earnestly trying to tell Pops that he’s never been to the USA and he’s a New Horizon local and what is going on here? And then Pops acts all confused and tells him he better give him some ID so he can confirm that, and then he takes his fingerprints and gets the guy’s ID card and gives him a receipt on real Goliath letterhead and tells him he’ll get it back in three days or so and gives him a number and tells him to dial it every evening and give a full report of his whereabouts and he is now a person of interest in an international murder investigation.
And that’s how we got the access card and the fingerprints. Coyote worked overnight on the fingerprints and we had a bypass ready by morning. So we set off topside and I don’t think I’m ever going to see Lady Zodiac again …
We went topside on the first lift the next morning, so we could get there nice and early and be out before the end of the day. Getting to topside is easy, on this three-minute long hyper elevator that you queue for for about an hour. It goes up so fast your ears pop, and you don’t see anything outside so when you arrive you don’t even know how high up you are but it must be pretty high because the first thing you see is blue sky. Then there’s this phalanx of guards and machines you have to pass through, and they check everything, with multiple scanners that must tell them everything about even what you had for breakfast. If I’d tried to smuggle in my rippers they surely would have found out, and would have sent me straight back. I followed Blacklist’s instructions, dressed nice and simple in a clean skirt and boots and simple blouse, like a good girl going to work for the nice people, and I didn’t make a fuss and I followed instructions and I must have showed my visa to like 8 different people and been through 10 different scanners, but finally we were all through. Coyote took a bit longer because they didn’t like the look of his face, which shows that people up here have got at least a bit of sense, so we had to wait for him but they let him through which was just as well because he was our contact for everything. We had an hour to kill before the van with our contacts arrived and I wanted to go shopping but Pops said no and anyway it was really early still and even some of the cafes weren’t open, so instead we just spilled out of the reception area into this park on a kind of a little rise near some office buildings, with a street going down to a little shopping zone, so we just wandered around for half an hour checking out our first and probably our only view of topside ever.
It was pretty amazing. There was lots of grass and real trees, and there was this gentle breeze that was cool and wild and you could tell it came from somewhere far away over the sea, and you could see the sky wherever you looked, and it wasn’t raining so you didn’t need an umbrella to keep off the constant foul-smelling water, and everyone was beautiful and well dressed and no one was really armed, though I saw a few police here and there who had guns, and the buildings were all clean and looked new and there was no rubbish anywhere and noone lying on the street looking sad and dirty and when you stopped and closed your eyes you couldn’t hear a single siren of any kind. Bliss.
Then our van turned up, and we set off to kill some doctors.
In the van we changed quickly into our overalls, and we dropped off the guy who’d delivered it for us near a little tram stop of some kind. Coyote took over driving, and we headed out to the asylum, which was a NaoCorps unit out near the edge of this whole zone of upmarket medical places. On the way we dropped off Ragut’s wife at one of the cheaper clinics, with a change of clothes and what we hoped was a valid insurance ticket that Alt said she’d said up for us, then we drove on to the hospital. We parked around the corner and waited while Ghost hacked into the matrix, broke into the hospital system and set up a distraction.
Unfortunately the distraction Ghost chose was kind of big. He told us later that he discovered the Husk around here was constrained, like someone had chained the remnants of the Husk to the walls of buildings and structures, so instead of trying to arrange anything elaborate he just unchained some parts of the Husk. This cyberwaffle doesn’t make any sense to me, but the effects were pretty clear: the computer systems of the entire hospital district started going crazy as the Husk started fighting to regain control of cyberspace, and security systems started failing – along with lights, power systems, and even lawn sprinklers. We gave the chaos a few minutes then drove up to the car park at the front of the asylum, got out in our coveralls as cool as could be, carrying toolkits that contained nothing more serious than a metal bar and a comms unit, and walked up to the front doors. These doors were open and there was a guy at the front reception desk but when we explained that we were there to start fixing the trouble he just waved us through. He was furiously punching buttons and talking on what looked like eight different phones, and as we talked to him we heard this big bang outside and looked around to see a patient had just fallen from up in the building. As he waved us on we heard him saying to someone on a phone, “All the window locks have deactivated and the windows on the secure level are going mad, someone just fell out. Yeah, there’s a team on the way up now to check.”
At this point Pops told me to go back to the van, keep it ready to run, and keep an eye on what was going on outside. I did what he said, but that didn’t exactly go according to plan …
So I don’t know what happened inside but they told me later when they came out. They got as far as the level Hog was on, but at that point some kind of Artificial Intelligence started cruising around cyberspace looking for the source of the Husk’s release, and it saw Ghost. He tried to fight it first but it was way too powerful and really dangerous so he had to run, and it sent guards to his physical location to get us. Pops ambushed the guards and killed them both with just his bare hands (and his cyberleg – Coyote tells me he stomped one to death with it, mostly on his groin). To add to the confusion Ghost managed to release all the locks on patient doors while he was running from the AI, and so patients started coming out on all the levels. At this point the AI started activating the hospital’s full defenses, and these big blast shields started lowering over the front doors. I was worried I’d be left out the front with no way in, and that the way out would be blocked, so I drove our van straight into the glass doors. It smashed them but didn’t go through, and I got out and inside the building just in time for the blast barriers to cut our van in half and seal the hospital shut.
This was when I turned around, iron bar in hand, and saw the first cyber-psychiatrist come running out from the hospital, hoping to leave by the main door, a few half-sedated patients shambling after him.
What could I do? I beat him to death and made sure I did it thoroughly, but there was another one coming through when I got done, and I had to corner him at the reception desk. He was throwing phones at me and screaming and crying, but I got him a nice crunching blow on one knee when he turned to run and he fell over and slipped again trying to get up over one of the desk chairs. So I dragged him back by one leg and explained to him what all the problems with his profession were while I smashed all his limbs. I had to finish up a bit quick though because then this doctor and this nurse came backing into the room, with this little gaggle of really angry-looking patients coming after them. The nurse was a big, nasty-looking man holding a hyperdermic needle of some kind, and I didn’t want that in me so I slipped around behind them under the cover of the reception desk and pushed the dude in the back, so he went forward into the patients. He looked real surprised when it happened, and he started yelling when they were grabbing him and kicking him. The doctor was even more surprised, because he turned to me and didn’t understand what I did and he said “Little missy, you aren’t a patient are you?!” And he had that condescending look in his eye that some older men get when they see me and they don’t think I’m anything more than long hair and a set of breasts and maybe something for them to put themselves in, and I hate that look so I jabbed my iron bar in his eyes and then I pushed him up against the glass and made some pretty patterns all over it. I was still grunting over my artwork when another group of nurses came in. They were all big men too, which got me thinking that they have very special requirements for the nurses in this place, and the patients don’t seem to like the nurses at all and these nurses were talking about some patients they were especially scared of but when they saw me one of them said “Uh, no way man” and they all ran out of the other door. I always thought nurses were more sensible than doctors! I didn’t bother chasing them because another doctor came in – you can tell the doctors because they have longer coats and this supercilious manner that gets your anger up before you have even cleaned your iron bar off from the last one – and he saw me and started trying to run back down the way he came but I went through those doors like a demon and I caught him just before the men’s bathroom with a sliding trip because I’m a lot faster than some unaugmented, paunchy middle-aged sadist, and I was on his back before he hit the ground. He tried crawling but the floor was really slippery and I don’t weigh that much but it’s hard to crawl when you’ve got a piece of iron smashed into your spine and then I kicked him a bit and then the door opened and this really ragged-looking group of patients came in so I left him to them and moved back to the main reception area, because Pops was calling me to catch up with them.
They had found Hog but he was strapped into this huge machine and they didn’t know what to do so they had called Alt to investigate. While Alt was doing her megadata download processing thing another six guards came at them, but Ghost managed to lock down the closet they had gone to for weapons, but then this huge dude with cyberarms came into the room to rip off the panel, but Ghost used the software he’d been given by Alt a while back, hacked into the dude’s cyberarms and shut them down. Then they managed to get to the stun guns while he was getting all confused and his friends were backing away, and started stunning them. Then they got Hog out of the machine following instructions from Alt, but they had to leave fast so we all ran up to the roof of the hospital. There were helicopters coming from somewhere, with guards in with real guns probably, but Ghost managed to hack into their systems and crash them, which probably killed quite a few topside guards but really who cares when the joy of battle’s raging through you? Though Ghost seemed to because he set down the second helicopter without damaging it, which enabled the four heavily-armed guards inside to enter the hospital and come up to our level. We were panicking and telling Ghost again how he needs to learn to consult more when Coyote activated our get-out-of-hospital-free card: he smashed a medivac insurance card Alt had given us, which calls the medivac team tied to the card. Up on topside those teams arrive fast, and we would only have to wait maybe two minutes. Unfortunately those guards emerged after a minute, and we were running madly from cover to cover while we waited for the medivac. The medivac came real fast and when it arrived it laid down some really heavy suppressive fire with its machine guns, which I guess goes to show that topside is not as peaceful as it looks if the ambulances up here are just as vicious as the ones down below. Once it set down we threw Hog in, and we all piled in after it, but those guards didn’t let up easily and they let rip a final volley into the back of the ambulance before its doors closed. That volley hit Ghost square, and tore his legs up so bad he died on us right there.
Fortunately there’s no better place on New Horizon to die than a medivac vehicle. They got him back and kept him alive at the same time as they gunned down the last guards, and then they took us on this insane hectic ride out of topside, down the centre shaft, to this unnamed and dubious building. It took maybe 8 minutes of reckless flying and during that trip none of the medics in the car asked us any questions, they just worked real fast on Hog and Ghost. Nobody asked me any questions either, except Pops raised one eyebrow at all the blood, and Coyote flicked a lump of probably brains out of my hair with this real decent big brother-little sister gesture that made feel part of a real team. Then the back doors opened and this crew of grim medical professionals unloaded Ghost and Hog and we were led into this really bland waiting room for a couple of hours and then they came out and told us that Ghost would live but without legs. Since when does a hacker need legs? He’ll probably be happy to see the back of them. We discussed recovery options for a few minutes, then Pops observed that we were all beat and I really needed a shower, and we decided to come back and talk about it when we were all better.
So that, dear Diary, is how we smashed up a hospital on topside just so we could liberate a no-good drug dealing trucker from a bunch of sadistic doctors, and the first step on my road to rebalancing some of the things that have been done to me since Tunguska. I’m happy about what I did, and I’m reconsidering my opinion of close fighting, but it’s good to remember what the Falcon said about lackeys:
Kill them along the way, but count your bullets, for there are more worthy targets
I didn’t waste any bullets on those cyber-psychiatrists, but I’m listening to the Falcon’s advice, because hopefully liberating this Hog dude is going to get me one step closer to some more worthy targets. But for now anything we learn depends on his medical team, and we have a big job to do for Pops’s contact Blacklist, to repay him for the topside visas. So I gotta rest, and do a train robbery, and dream of bloody restitution. Good things come to girls who wait!
Summary of events for those who can’t bear Drew’s breathless prose:
- The team have to go topside to liberate a contact of their sometime-employer, Alt
- They got visas from a dude called Blacklist, to whom they owe a job
- To get access cards to the hospital holding Hog, Pops set a trap for a staff member called Bob Baylish
- The trap used an escort called Lady Zodiac to lure Baylish out of a nightclub where Pops could pretend to be a cop arresting him for triple murder; to prove he was not the murderer Baylish handed over his ID card and fingerprints
- They went topside using the visas, and used the ID card and fingerprints to move around the facility
- Ghost set a distraction, but it was an insanely big one – he freed the Husk to go crazy in cyberspace, which set all the security systems and lawn sprinklers going wild
- They found Hog and got him out, but had to beat about 8 guards to death in the process
- While they were doing this, Drew killed a lot of cyber-psychiatrists
- They all fled to the roof and called in a medivac team using an insurance card Alt gave them
- While they were loading into the medivac team some heavily-armed guards fired on them and killed Ghost
- It’s very hard to die when you’re shot to death inside a medivac car, so Ghost survived after some work
- He’s going to need an anti-gravity wheelchair but whatever, it’s cool
- Time to move on to Blacklist’s job, to pay for the visas!