Bach stood in front of the ORS Johnson, holding his guts in and coughing blood onto the floor of Mort’s submarine basement. He was trying to ask the Johnson a question, but kept coughing up lung tissue instead. Toro walked up with a blow torch while Bach nearly coughed himself to death.
“So, you feel like talking Mr. Johnson?” Asked Toro as he tested the blow torch.
“Not really.” Toro responded to the Johnson’s indifference by burning off one of his nipples. The Johnson screamed in pain, but didn’t say much else. Upstairs, Mort was talking to the priestly Johnson and explained about how they had captured him from the previous heist.
“So, let me get this straight,” said the priest, “you cut off his hand—”
“Toro did and he had a big gun, so, yeah. Basically.”
“Okay, sure, you cut off his hand, beat him unconscious, took him here, and now you’re torturing him for information? Are you aware that torture isn’t effective, first of all, and isn’t something I condone, second of all?” Mort nodded and the priest looked increasingly uncomfortable as the Johnson screamed from below. After a few minutes, Toro and Bach came upstairs, Bach staggering and holding his stomach.
“I don’t want you torturing him.” Said the priest to Toro. Toro shrugged. “Sure, he didn’t have anything good to say anyway.” The priest was about to ask Bach something when he took a look at him.
“Oh Jesus! Bach, you need a doctor!” The priest didn’t seem to mind the blasphemy. It felt appropriate. After significant argumentation, deliberation, and coercion, Bach was sent to his doctor while everyone tried to figure out what to do with their now captured Johnson.
“So, I don’t know how anyone got in here, but yeah. He’s dead now.” Toro looked down at the body of the Johnson, a large knife protruding from his chest. There was no other sign of disturbance in the room. Bach, now fixed and looking strange, just shook his head. “Perfect.”
Upstairs Mort and the Priestly Johnson were discussing what to do. “Well, there’s still the CEO.” Mort nodded and started preparing his drones for the next mission. Toro and Bach walked upstairs and admitted to finding nothing on the Johnson. Everyone was silent for a moment. Bach, his mind racing furiously from the Long Haul in his system, spoke up.
“Well, nothing to it. Let’s go try and get the CEO. They’ll be expecting us, but with the Johnson dead, hopefully they won’t have the firepower they previously would. I’ll get us some extra muscle.” Mort prepped his drones, Toro practiced Spanish, and Bach talked to Freegrass, snagging a group of three highly qualified shadowrunners.
“Simple plan. We’ve got three minutes to get across the parking lot, infiltrate, snag the CEO, and get out. Toro will stealth across quickly, Mort will send in his drones and try to take out the sniper. Soon as the sniper is alerted, we move like hell and get back. No heroics, no chances taken; just an easy clean job. Understood?” Bach spoke on a conference call to his team: Mort, Toro, and three shadowrunners. Everyone nodded and agreed, though the shadowrunners were a little confused why their Johnson was going in with them, but money is money. Toro dashed through the shade and got close to the building as one of Mort’s flying drones popped up by the sniper’s position. Unfortunately, the sniper was well aware of the drone and a sniper shot rang through the air, the drone crashing into a bush. “Let’s move.”
The team ran across the parking lot while the sniper focused on Toro, who was trying to crash through a window into the ORS building. The sniper had taken some of a grenade, but was still functioning, though he failed to notice the elf runner climb up the building with his SMG in hand. Burstfire rang and the sniper was no longer a threat. Toro crashed through the window and in a minute, the team followed up.
The building was dark and there weren’t any walls left standing. Only the girders supporting the roof were in the area. Everyone looked around, switching cyber-eyes into low-light. At first, they couldn’t see anything, so Toro and Bach ran into the building while the runners stayed back, feeling nervous and saying “this isn’t what you hired us for, man.”
Cultists appeared out of the shadows, some with guns, some with bombs, chanting and running at Toro and Bach. Bach responded by running faster towards the back, where the CEO’s desk should be. Toro, however, jumped away from a grenade and ran at a pair of cultists taking grenades out of a box. In a flash, Toro ripped the pins out of two grenades and lept over some rubble, the blast booming across the empty building. As Bach shot up a cultist carrying daggers seriously, daggers? he could hear the whirring noise of Mort’s steel lynx’s machine gun and the burst fire of the elf’s SMG. As he got near the desk, Bach saw it was laden with gasoline and a small incendiary bomb rolling towards it.
“TORO!” Bach screamed. Toro ran up to Bach and grabbed him to get him away, but Bach wanted Toro to get the bomb and throw it away from the gasoline. Unfortunately, they struggled instead of agreed on what to do, and the bomb detonated. Bach, with his new bone-lacing and dermal sheath, soaked the explosion (thank you Dr. Kratchen), but Toro yelled in agony.
“IDIOT! All right, we’re leaving everyone, NOW!” Bach yelled into his comlink and turned, running to the exit. Bullets flew everywhere as the building caught on fire and started to burn to the ground. A minute later and everyone was out, Toro still extinguishing himself.
“So, they knew you were coming?” Asked the priest. Everyone nodded. “Find out anything?” Everyone shook their heads. Toro, feeling a little better after smoking one of Bach’s “magic healing sticks,” then said “Well I took the dead guard with us.”
Everyone looked down at the corpse. He was a guard, some nobody that died in the firefight. Bach started looking up some of the companies in the plaza they had attacked, hoping to find some more information. It took a while, but he found out that one of the Lawyer companies was a front. It instead seemed to be known for kidnapping jobs, which peaked his interest. Cross-referencing that with ORS, he found some tenuous correlations that didn’t excite him until he found the name of the dead guard connected with the lawyer company. Bach smiled.
“SWEET! I knew we would need his body! Man, I’m so AMAZINGLY smart!” Toro cheered and fist-pumped. Bach regretted mentioning anything to Toro, but they now had a lead to the conspiracy. And Bach looked forward to rooting it out.
Bach walked over to Mort after several hours of reviewing old ShadowSEA news clippings. He looked hyped up, more than normal, and Mort wasn’t sure whether it was the Long Haul or just Bach. In either case, Mort quietly activated his steel Lynx. Can’t be too safe.
“All right, I’ve been looking at some old news, and I think we’ve been looking at ORS with too much of a narrow lens. What about all the stuff that’s been happening around the world? Look at the weird things happening in Australia! And we’ve only been looking at tech, what about awakened? You with me?” Mort nodded and said some platitude, watching Bach’s gun hand carefully. Bach thought Mort was acting suspicious, but didn’t care enough to investigate. Without further ado, he took a seat, and fell into the Matrix. Mort told the Lynx to keep her gun trained on and gave the machine a quick pat on the head. “That’s a good girl.”
In the Matrix, Bach started looking into Australia and found an Overseas Relief Service base in Australia, as well as lots of suspicious ORS activity in a city called Pine Glen. He also found four other relevant ORS bases across the world. The conspiracy started to take a global form, but it still confused him. Curious, he looked into Online Reuplink Systems, and all the businesses they took over. All there businesses had to do with satellite connectivity, a concept that floated around for a while on keeping a stable matrix, but grounded matrix connections were simply faster. An idea occurred to Bach; what if there was a disaster on land so large it knocked out the matrix, and the only way to get access was through satellite? Then ORS would have the cornerstone on the matrix. Bach smiled. Clever.
The priest Johnson received a call from Bach, who frantically related the conspiracy to him in an almost unintelligible string of paranoia. After thinking about it, the Johnson agreed such a thing looked fairly accurate. “So we need to find where a vulnerable spot would be, where would an Earthly disaster be placed to knock out the matrix?” The Johnson contemplated and said he’d look into it. Meanwhile, Bach started looking into Awakened activity, but nothing fruitful came of it.
“Hey Bach,” Mort said on the phone, even though they were physically three feet apart, “I need to go to the crime mall. Want to come with?”
“Sure, that sounds good. I need to pick up some flechette rounds anyway. Easier to kill robed targets with flechette…” Mort nodded and muttered “okay Bach…”
They were on the road when Bach started to look more into the lawyer firm that seemed to have connections to ORS. At first, it just looked like a shady company, so Bach sent a quick message to Reardon, asking him to investigate the place as well. Snoops can pick up things Bach missed. But Bach had a particular specialty; hacking into business financial accounts. It didn’t take long to get basic access.
The firm had made no money in the past months, and was hemorrhaging creds across its main subsidiaries; the ORS companies. Bach smiled. “That’s a Bingo.” Hoping to garner more information, Bach upped his security rating and look a gander, but found nothing enlightening. ICE was starting to mill around the node, so Bach discreetly transferred about fifty thousand creds to his account (why not make a little money, eh?) and started to jack out. As he left the node, he noticed a small glowing button following him, some strangely inactive piece of ICE. Curious.
Mort was driving along elevated highway, having a great time envisioning the missiles he was going to purchase, when his van’s proximity alert pinged. Mort took a quick look; nothing. Then the flat tire alarm went off. Then the back door light went off, indicating it was open. Mort wondered what was going on, when he noticed all the cars on the road were swerving and pulling off, the elevated highway undulating and waving as a small earthquake built up around the area. Mort pushed the van faster, needing to get off the highway before it collapsed, but the earthquake seemed to be all along the highway. He launched off the highway, hoping the event passed soon. The highway settled down, cracks along the foundation and some parts of it destroyed, but nothing too severe, all things considered. Problem was the ground below the van continued to rumble.
Bach looked at the ICE with some interest. It looked familiar to him, like a memory he had forgotten. First he wanted to get it off of him, so he found some other person’s signal and tried to switch matrix identities with them. Bach’s persona flickered and all of a sudden he was a short fat bald man, while that guy’s persona grew in size and a large black coat was draped on his shoulders. The ICE was not fooled. Bach flickered again and felt annoyed. Perhaps it’s harmelss? He gave it a quick examination and found that it was a psychotropic ICE, and it was doing something to his brainwaves. Wonderful.
Mort drove through the seismic tremors with increasing concern. He decided that maybe Bach could find out something and turned around to see Bach was unconscious, but muttering something. As Mort got closer, he heard the cultists chant whispered from Bach’s lips. Mort tried calling Bach, but his comlink was locked and no response came. As the van drove on, and Bach continued to chant, the earthquake continued. “Bach?”
Bach finally decided enough was enough. In the matrix, he pulled out a gun and fire a shot into the ICE, his attack program shattering the tether between them. But he was still too curious. Quickly, Bach made a matrix cage program and entrapped the ICE entirely, nowhere for it to go and no one for it attach to. Unfortunately, this caught the attention of other, more aggressive ICE programs in the node, so Bach worked quickly to disassemble the psychotropic ICE and find its code. After that, he jacked out and opened his eyes.
Mort was staring at him. “You okay?” Bach nodded and asked “why?”
“Well, you were chanting and the ground was rumbling like a minor earthquake.” Bach nodded, nothing really making sense to him, but he pretended like it did. “Oh yeah, don’t worry I fixed that. Won’t happen again.” Mort shrugged and said “all right, well, let’s just get to the crime mall.”
Bach agreed and couldn’t wait to further examine the ICE code, hoping to understand what piece of tech could make earthquakes follow you around.