[Faustus’s note: this is another enormous adventure, that unfolded over 2 sessions. I’m going to give Drew’s overview here and try put a few fragments of other moments in other posts. This battle was so epic that it’s impossible to summarize in any reasonable blog format. Scroll to the end for a brief summary of events (culled from my EIGHTEEN pages of notes)].
Date: 22nd October, 2177
Mood: Satisfied. We went in and did our job almost perfectly, and I got a really high kill rate and my Ghost came back, but this time it felt like it was a he not a she, and it was kind of angry, and I think it didn’t like it when I killed the FBR, but I killed an FBR so I don’t care what anyone thinks. Even my Russian Ghost. Which I’m a bit worried about, because it’s inside me and it comes out to help me but it seems to be angry. What is it? What did I buy? Anyway, I got it under control so it’s okay … right, dear diary?
Outfit: Hospital gown. I am getting my cyberware repaired because an EMP destroyed my eyes and half of my neuralware, and my contraceptive implant which apparently is electrical which is news to me because I thought all that stuff was chemical. So here I am in a hospital bed barely able to see, narrating this part of my story in a whisper to you, dear diary. But I’ll only be here a few days and I’m taking lots of pictures of the eye patch … I guess I’ll be able to see them properly once the repairs are done.
After we raided the topside mental asylum and liberated Hog, we owed a favour to some American dude called Blacklist. So it was time to deliver on that favour. We got a two week break before we got our job, and during that two weeks we mostly just recovered and bought some new stuff. Coyote spent a bit of time stalking the markets on the docks and came back with this old-fashioned grenade launcher thing that Pops calls Betsy, because Pops gives names to every technological item more advanced than his pacemaker (our espresso machine is called Angela). Coyote couldn’t buy me a decent sniper rifle because he’s too ugly to trust, but he made up for it by modifying this old Nomad Bolt Action rifle I have, to make it electrothermal. It’s my little personalized railgun, it doesn’t have a name or a gender but it’s really bad news if you meet it. It’s also pastel blue, so it goes with most of my outfits. I took it with me on our mission.
Our mission was pretty simple. There was a train, a Titan train, returning from the Indo Zone carrying gear for Arasaka. Blacklist wants something on the train. The train is a 10 storey high, kilometre long monster straight out of hell, and we have to break into it, steal the cargo, and get out. There are three teams: one to shut down comms across the whole train line, one to destroy the engines and stop the train, and one to extract the cargo. We got the extraction team, which is a mixture of us and a bunch of Blacklist’s American dudes, who are all flakes. The extraction was supposed to be simple: once the train stops we land on the roof, put down laser cutters, cut a big hole that falls to the bottom of the carriage, drop in on special zip lines, make sure anyone in the area is dead. Then some engineers put EMP charges on the crate, we all clear the area, the charges go off, they attach magnets, and the crate is lifted up out of the hold to a waiting AV. Then we all zip-line up, get into an extraction AV, and leave. The tunnel the train is in is tight but there’s an area where it comes out into a larger set of caverns, and that’s where we do the hit, coming down a kind of dropshaft that is maybe ventilation for the whole thing. Blacklist isn’t there but his main man, Winter, tells us this is a routine repatriation train and we shouldn’t expect trouble.
Of course he was wrong. But that’s why he wanted us, right?
Before we went in we had a one day long lockup in Blacklist’s base, preparing gear and getting familiar with each other. I spent the time introducing myself to the other Solos and their teams, memorizing who was doing what and what they can do, and making sure everyone knew my job. Coyote and Ghost spent it preparing equipment and vaping, but Pops spent it picking fights with younger men, and he even found the brother of that dude that Coyote murdered back when we first met. Understandably the big brother was upset about that but he somehow got the idea that Pops did the killing, even though a cyber chainsaw is completely not Pops’s style (he’d have used a baseball bat or some other oil age anachronism) and anyway it was Coyote who got all blood-happy on that job. So I broke up the fight and of course now it’s me and Pops that are in this punk’s sights, and Coyote is saying it’s not his problem, even though Pops is telling him to clean it up. But it’s pretty obvious that at some point on this train job this older brother is gonna turn vengeful when we least need it. I guess I just have to put a bullet in his head, but Pops told me to time it carefully, and frankly I didn’t want to do it – I’ve never shot a member of my own team before and it doesn’t feel right.
Human relations! What a burner! Anyway, then the job started.
First we got to see feed of the other teams while we waited in the AV to do the extraction. The engineering team was all buzzing bikes and crazy angles, but the control team were much nastier. They spent hours crawling through tunnels and air ducts into the control room, and managed to drop down into this room that had a thin wall between it and the control area. Switch to infrared and they can see everyone in the control area, and they pop them all in a couple of seconds of controlled shooting, then blast through the wall and clear out the room. Very professional. Then it was time for us to jump, and down we went …
The train was an amazing monster of steel and carbon, it really was the height of an apartment block! It stopped about a kilometre outside of this narrow tube tunnel, in a wider tunnel that had room above the train but still not much room each side of it. Even the tunnel was staggering, like half a kilometre high maybe and criss-crossed with access tunnels and maintenance shafts that have their own little maintenance and security transport trains in them that are the size of a normal metro train carriage. The Titan came screaming out of the narrower tunnel a kilometre away and it was throwing up this great cloud of smoke and sparks as it slowed down, brakes on full. The gigantic wheels were all locked up and the carbon fiber body was melting and catching fire from the heat on the tracks. The tracks are enormous, more like two roads more than rails, and they were being torn up by the train as it braked. It was like coming out of that tunnel it was doing an atmospheric reentry, and burning from the rails up. Spikes of metal the size of cars were being thrown up from the rails, red hot from the friction, and we could feel the noise of it stopping from half a kilometre up through the baffles on our AV. We all watched in awe as this dragon the size of a city came roaring out of that tunnel into our battle zone, screaming like an army of demons and burning up in its own rage, until it came to a kind of shaking, flaming halt just a bit past the target point. Then we dropped like a stone, the entry was hard, and the AV came to a hard stop maybe 10 metres above the train, and we were all tumbling out before we even had time to get nervous. It wasn’t hard to land on the roof – there was nowhere else in sight – and we landed right on spot, setting our laser cutters and yelling “clear!” well within our timing. We all stepped back and looked away as they burst into life, and 3 seconds later there was this huge bang, then a second bang, and a big cloud of steam and super-heated chemicals washed over us. We turned back to look and a huge section of the middle of the train roof, maybe 30 metres in radius, was gone. The edges of the hole it fell from were glowing red hot from the laser cutters for a depth of half a metre but we didn’t have time to let them cool – we latched on our zip lines just outside the hot zone and then took running leaps in – me and Pops first, with Coyote and then Winter’s team members behind. Ghost stayed on top to hack anything that interfered with us, and above us the AV was already getting up out of fire range, to hover there in place with two other AVs – the extraction AV and this giant insect-like cargo AV that was going to lift the target crate out.
We fell straight through that hole into this steaming, clammy pit of hell, and nothing in there was what we were told. The carriage was 10 stories high like they said but it had been divided into mezzanine levels, all of them kind of looking down onto the cargo hold. The biggest crates were stocked in the middle on the ground floor, but these mezzanines also had cargo stacked in them. Near the top though, right where we had cut through, they also had people – soldiers – sitting on guard duty in seats like a normal train. Our laser cutters had sliced through some of these seats and the guards in them, and had made holes in all the mezzanine levels. The ceiling then fell through, crushing anyone between it and the floor and bringing all the flooring of the mezzanines with it. That ceiling and the mess it took down with it had landed on the cargo hold 10 stories down, crushing a bunch of crates and shattering, and was maybe a metre high and broken apart – perfect cover for us. Most of the soldiers in the room had either been cut in half or crushed, but there were a few who were still alive and starting to struggle out of their harnesses. Some were already out and opening fire on us as we went down – I killed one during the descent, perfect head shot with my new rifle, but there were more down in the basement level. Pops dropped a burner grenade on them and I shot one, and they kind of broke down and hid in cover quick, I think one was stripping his armour off to get out of the flames, haha.
So much for “there shouldn’t be any resistance.” Winter needs to get better spies, or is it just that these Americans can’t do anything right?
We hit the deck and took cover, while up above Winter’s team started trying to clean up the guards on the higher levels and set up some machine gun nests. We had barely reached our cover when Ghost contacted us to tell us there were more men coming down corridors on the edge of the carriage. These corridors had doors entering the carriage in its middle, not far from us, and there were maybe five guys in each, we weren’t sure. Pops put a burner grenade on each door, one was really good and destroyed the door but the other one was a bit late. At the same time Coyote unloaded his entire kalashnikov cartridge on them, and that got them real scared. Five men were coming through then, but when the grenade and the gunfire hit two of them ducked back and one leapt into the room, shotgun in one hand, trying to pull the pin on a grenade with his mouth. I took him in the head as he came in, and hit the grenade, blew him up and made sure he wasn’t going anywhere. So there were two guys burning behind that door and two unhurt, and these guys were serious Arasaka soldiers, in some kind of cyber-enhanced full body armour with good gear and tactics. We were crouched behind cover when they opened fire on us from behind the wall, using infrared for targeting, and me and Pops were okay but the fire was so heavy it completely shredded our cover – we had to move. While we moved Coyote laid down a grenade, that kind of helped, but we were feeling pretty worried when one of Winter’s teams came down, loading suppressing fire and grenades down on those dudes. Somehow one of them got a shot off and one of Winter’s guys went limp but the other two finished the job. That got us a bit of a breather – until the cargo crate came hurtling out of the darkness and nearly smashed us all down!
While we were killing all the resistance we weren’t meant to meet, Ghost was busy hacking into systems, trying to work out what was going on in the rest of the train. He locked the doors to the carriage so no more troops could come in, then identified some kind of signal traveling down the train. He followed it to see if it was a warning, and found it was targeted at a specific cargo crate, and seemed to be intended to activate something. Going inside the crate he found a functioning cyborg activated, and entered its video feed. This was bad news – the feed activated just long enough for him to get jerky vision of a full body replacement (FBR) cybersoldier getting out of some kind of storage harness, stepping forward and smashing its fist through the chest of whatever cyborg Ghost had hacked. The cyborg died and the feed cut off, so Ghost tried another, and saw the same thing. Some kind of signal had caused the FBRs to attack each other in that crate – that crate, it turned out, was the crate that Winter wanted. Ghost told him what was going on and Winter started screaming for action, telling his engineers to come in and ordering Ghost to get the crate under the access hole fast. Ghost obliged, and accessed this kind of automated loading system on the train that moved crates around on their levels. He did it super fast, so he didn’t have time for finesse; the crate came hurtling out of the darkness and came to a screaming halt right under the hole. Engineers threw some EMPs on the crate, and we all had a couple of moments to get as far away as possible before they went off. I got that horrible tingle in my eyes that happens when an EMP goes off near me but I was just out of range, but the Arasaka marines who were coming out the other entry way were not so lucky – it hit all of them and fried their armour and they dropped on the spot. Then everything went real quiet, and the engineers came down and put magnets on the crate, then started lifting it up into the air. While it was being hoisted up I broke cover and started putting down those stunned Arasaka dudes, because hey, they’re Arasaka and plus I didn’t know how long an EMP would fry their special armour. Coyote was already starting to loot what he could from the bodies – we were all looking at that armour with a greedy eye, I think, but I am not going to wear anything that has a stupid Arasaka logo on it, so I kept my eyes on the job. I don’t count coups de grace, but outside of them I killed three men with five shots during that engagement – one of them an Arasaka marine. A good couple of seconds’ work!
But things didn’t go so smoothly with that crate and whatever was inside it. It was nearly at the hole, being dragged up towards the cargo AV, when everyone heard a massive bang inside the crate. The cargo AV stopped lifting it, and it hung there in the air at the centre of the wrecked carriage, these big bangs coming out from inside it, and it was slowly rocking in the air from the ferocity of the bangs. We all stared up at the crate, everyone thinking the same thing: FBRs inside, trying to get out – and us trapped on the ground floor …
We didn’t have time to care though. We’d had a few moments to gather our wits (well – everyone else did. I was walking through the rubble shooting paralyzed Arasaka dudes in the head). But now Ghost contacted everyone again to tell them that more soldiers were coming from the end of the carriage. They must have regrouped there or something, because they hadn’t come through the doors, which Ghost was now lowering so that the engineering team, led by a Solo called Carbon, could get through. They were coming through on multiple levels: 10 troops on the ground floor and another six coming through doors on each side of a higher level. These weren’t Arasaka monsters but still, more than 15 guys with automatic weapons is kind of nasty, not my idea of the best way to rob a train. This Winter guy probably needs to improve his methods, because in the next 30 seconds a lot of his guys got slaughtered …
So thanks to Ghost we had time to prepare. Me and Pops took cover, and Coyote kept looting. Pops laid down grenades while I put out headshots, and up above Carbon was firing these exploding arrows that do really nasty things. Ghost joined in, using the automated cargo-loading system to shift crates fast, in order to knock people off of balconies or crush them, but he was distracted by one of the soldiers, who was some kind of weekend hacker and kept using his hacking to try and shut Ghost out of the train’s systems. Our hacker oscillates between incompetent and glorious, and this was one of those days when he was glorious, so he shut out the stupid soldier and crushed some guys (who were on fire anyway, because Pops was being a grenade master even though his eyesight is fading and his hands shake), Pops went to work with the grenades, some of Winter’s team were doing heavy machine gun cover, and Carbon was doing the Robin Hood thing with incendiary arrows. While we were fighting these guys, the engineers were trying to fix EMP grenades onto the crate to try and calm whatever was inside. One got shot down by the incoming troops before Carbon could pacify them, but the other one got an EMP grenade on. We all cleared the area but this one guy got shot down as he was fleeing, one of those stupid Arasaka guys got him in the leg, and so I had to run back and grab him even though the EMP was set. I ran as fast as I could but he was too heavy and too badly hurt, and we both got caught as the EMP went off. My eyes went haywire, but he was worse off – his neural processor and nerve boosting was connected to his muscle system, and he had a nose filter that went wild, so first of all he couldn’t breathe and then he was kicking and spasming. I was blind and my eyes were going crazy but my legs were still working so I just kept dragging him out of the zone, because I had a real fear that that crate was going to fall.
And that was when my Russian Ghost started to come out. Just like when me and Pops were under pressure at Lima’s place, it started to rouse. I tried to fight it, but I was fried. Exhausted after all that fighting, I’d taken hits to both my legs during the second push by those 16 guys, and now my eyes, a bunch of my fashion cyberware, and probably some stuff deep inside of me was wrecked, just so I could save this spasming guy who I was pretty sure was soiling himself because his body was completely wrecked. The Russian Ghost knows when to come out, and now was a pretty bad time. But I wanted to get out of here, not run off into the shadows on the whim of some insane cyberware, so I thought I should try and fight it down.
And that was when the crate burst open. Before the EMP went off something had smashed a hole in the crate and stuck its arm out, but the EMP temporarily paralyzed it. We (except poor blasted me) were cut into a feed showing the vision of the engineer on the crate, who was investigating this arm. We saw x-ray vision of the crate, lined with FBRs, and different images of the thing that had its arm stuck out of the crate. The engineer was leaning over the edge of the crate, looking more closely at the arm, when the arm twitched, then grabbed him, smashed him into the crate and threw him to the ground like a rag doll. Then it tore its way out of the crate, and hauled itself out onto the top of the crate. It was an FBR. A full and complete Full Body Replacement, in Arasaka corporate logo.
This was kind of unexpected for us, because FBRs are meant to be the exclusive technology owned by Goliath, and Arasaka is not meant to be taking on any security role in New Horizon – they have an agreement that ensures Arasaka keeps its military assets out of New Horizon. But here it is shipping military assets it isn’t meant to have into a city it isn’t meant to be investing …
Not that we had much time to think about the geopolitical ramifications, because the FBR tore the crate apart like paper, climbed out on top, and leapt the 20 metres from the crate across to the level Carbon was on. We only had one way out – up – and this thing was in the way, so we all went to work. I was standing near Pops, blind and both my legs bleeding, but I could feel the Russian Ghost coming up inside me. I knew what was coming, so I handed him my rifle, whispered, “the Ghost is coming,” and moved away from him, falling down as I went. I could feel it coming up, rushing through me like a wave of fury with an almost human voice, yelling “Brother! My brother!” at the FBR, and clamouring at me to let it out.
I let it.
From that point on I don’t know what happened. Pops told me later. The FBR tore into Carbon’s team but Carbon stood its ground, fighting hand to hand using its capoeira when things went wrong, but before the FBR could get fully into battle Pops managed to get a good shot into its leg with my rifle, tearing the leg apart and really slowing it down. I somehow managed to leap up onto the crate and then onto the back of the FBR, and it turned around to face me while it was fighting Carbon so I started trying to punch my way through its chest, to remove the chipset that we had seen being torn out by other FBRs on Ghost’s feed. Inside me my Ghost was going crazy, yelling at its “brother” in rage and joy, and that’s all I remember from the fight. Winter’s team were shooting the FBR and laying down suppression on the ground floor to make sure no more soldiers tried to join in, and Pops was firing more shots from my rifle to try and get a second lucky hit. With me pummelling the FBR, Carbon was able to shoot arrows into its legs, and at some point it realized we were going to smash its leg and bring it down so it leapt down from the balcony and disappeared into the shadows. At this point I managed to wrestle control back from my Ghost, and collapsed to the decks. Carbon started dragging me back to the zip lines, and everyone started retreating. While we had been fighting off the FBR that crate had been lifted out into the tunnel and the waiting grasp of the cargo AV, and now the extraction AV was getting ready to lift out the soldiers; all we had to do was get on the ziplines. While Carbon helped me and Coyote started lifting out, burdened under the weight of our loot, Pops moved to help the guy I had saved from the EMP; he was starting to recover his function but still couldn’t move himself. When Pops grabbed him and latched him onto a line he whispered, “Thanks man. You gotta know, as soon as you get to the top En plans to put a bullet in you.”
And then we all lifted out, with Pops dropping a line of burner grenades behind us as he went, to stop that FBR from coming after us. Me and Carbon got to the top first, and by now my sight was slowly returning, the EMPs wearing off, and so I could see En standing near the extraction AV, rifle in hand, waiting for Pops to come up. But worse still, somehow I could see the FBR. It was creeping up out of the side of the train, it must have cut a hole or something, and it had some kind of cloaking device on so no one else could see it. I don’t know how I could see it but I could still feel the Russian Ghost inside me, raging to get at it, so maybe it was helping me. The FBR was completely oblivious of me and Carbon – it had the AV in its sights, and why not? The AV was hovering just above the train roof, its main access doors open, and it was full of troops, some of them already injured, most of them just standing there panting in their full body armour, waiting for the rest of the team to come up. They couldn’t see it, they were just there, sacks of flesh and blood waiting for it to come and rip them open like birthday presents. This FBR had a radline, which is this new electromagnetic weapon that messes up cyberware, and if it hit the right part of that AV with the radline it would short the controls and bring it down. Then the FBR and all those soldiers would slide off the deck and down, and at the bottom the FBR would be free to rip them all apart. And there at the front of it all was En …
What’s not to like?
I waited. I was thinking about it. Carbon was behind me moving forward. I put in a message on our team’s private line, telling them not to get on the AV and telling Coyote to get off, but Carbon wasn’t on our private line. It was gonna get on that AV for lift out, and the FBR was gonna get on with it. I could hear Pops coming up, nearly at the top, and En was there waiting … I just needed to wait a few more seconds. But between me and the FBR there was a machine gun set up on a tripod, just in case, but it was halfway through being dismantled and recovered, and it was facing the FBR. All I had to to was step forward, grab it, and open up.
I’m not the kind of girl who shoots people on her own team. I stood there watching for a moment, everything blurry and dazed through my messed up cybereyes, and I thought I could let it all happen, but then I thought about the kind of Solo I am, what happens to my rep if I let my team be slaughtered because of some kind of stupid human relations problem between some idiot whose brother was dumb enough to throw himself on Coyote’s tender chainsaw mercy, and I decided that my rep is more important than saving Coyote from his past mistakes. And Carbon was right there with us when this monster was trying to rip our hearts out, so I can’t just let it get on that AV and get dragged down to its death. I figured up until now Pops has survived a few gunshots, so I should do what is right for a Solo.
On the open channel I said to Carbon, “don’t get on the AV, the FBR is right in front of you,” and stepped up to the gun. The FBR somehow heard that and turned to face me, dropping its cloak shield, but it was too late. I hit full auto on the machine gun at close range, and just kept squeezing. At the same moment Pops breached the hull, and he and En opened fire on each other at the same time. En missed but Pops got him right in the chest and he went down like all our targets do, limp and gone. Guys poured out of the AV and grabbed him, yelling their fear, but they all just assumed he had been taken down by the FBR. Pops, Carbon and Ghost ran for the AV, I grabbed the machine gun and ran too, Carbon dragging me along, and the FBR lay there on the train roof, twitching and thrashing, cyborg ichor spurting out of it, completely useless.
I killed an FBR. Me! I am the DRUID. Dedicated Retribution Unit. No one will demobilize me again. Not even an FBR.
The doors slammed shut in the AV and we were all off. Me and En, we sank back in the hold and collapsed, him shot in the chest and me exhausted, ghosted out, clutching the machine gun like the only lover I ever had (I have never had any lovers, unless you count men who paid someone else for the use of me). The AV was roaring out on an insane trajectory, and we could all see why on the feed. While we were playing at arcane solo games with that FBR, Arasaka security had been closing in on us, in force. They took down the control team and came roaring up the tunnel, and they were riding a wave of wrath. A wall of lead and missiles was coming down on us and it was all we could do to haul out of there. It looked a lot like we were gonna die in the hold of that AV but then someone yelled “Engineers up!” and we all felt that strange, tingling feeling you get when a serious EMP goes off near you. We were entering the exit tunnel at that time, and it turns out the engineers had mined the tunnel with a whole ring of EMPs. They went off just in time and the pursuing AVs fell out of the sky like Icarus in that old oil age music video, tumbling back down onto the distant train.
We did it! We were out. We smashed a Titan train, and came out smiling.
Nothing can stop us. Nothing. I am coming for you Arasaka, I am coming for you. Your corporate boys in their suits, with their special measures and their business plans and their smug conquerors’ joy … I’m coming for you. You aren’t going to be so smug when this little shipment of FBRs explodes in your face, when the video goes across every news channel. And that’s just the start, because after your precious corporate reputation goes down the toilet I’m going to come for your worthless souls. I’m going to collect them like Anguta, so you better start locking your doors and checking your guns. You can swim with the beasts, you can flee with the storms – it’s nothing to me. You’re mine. I will destroy you. I am the Dedicated Retribution Unit, and I will destroy you.
The short summary
- We had to do a train heist for some American dude called Blacklist, as payment for our venture topside
- While we were preparing for the heist, Pops discovered that the brother of a guy Coyote killed long ago is on the mission and wants to kill us. This idiot is called En
- The train is huge
- We hit the train, dropped in, had a big battle with some soldiers – killed them all
- Ghost got the cargo we were looking for out into the right position to be robbed
- The cargo contains Full Body Replacements – it appears Blacklist was trying to steal Arasaka FBRs
- Why does Arasaka have FBRs? They’re strictly Goliath tech
- At the same time as the cargo got into extraction position we had to deal with another 20 soldiers
- We dealt with them
- An FBR in the cargo was not quiescent, it broke out
- We fought it. My Russian Ghost came back, and we beat the FBR. It fled
- We evacuated, but a guy Pops saved told us that En was gonna put a bullet in Pops as soon as he emerged from the train
- I got topside first and discovered the FBR creeping up, invisible under a cloaking device, to our extraction AV
- There was a machine gun right next to me. I grabbed it and destroyed the FBR
- At the same time, Pops hit the deck and he and En had a stand off that En lost, but En wasn’t dead – just stunned
- We all piled onto the AV, En’s buddies rescued him
- We got out. Mission successful.
fn1: This is actually the point where the first session of this train robbery ended!
fn2: This crazy capoeira-fightin’, exploding-bow wielding intersex maniac played by a guest player!
fn3: Actually I rolled a massive critical success, three 10s in a row, on my awareness check. This has got to be the best-placed critical awareness check in the history of role-playing because that FBR is an absolute actual monster, and there were guys on that AV we wanted dead …