Tuesday, November 6, 2012

First Nations

January 15th 2071, Thursday

It seems we're about to get caught in the middle of a turf war. This morning, about thirty gangers on bikes drove up to the bridge and three of them came into the Nets under a white flag, with the message that their leader wished to speak to Growler. I recognized their colors as that of the First Nations.

Growler agreed and called Monkeywrench, Ningbo and me to join the conversation, as well as two people as guards. The First Nations brought two guards and their leader Blood of the Buffalo was joined by their shaman Walks With Spirits. It was absolutely clear that they could just have taken what they wanted, the First Nations have, as far as I know, over a hundred members and they are heavily armed. The Scrappers with their crossbows and Streetsweepers are no match for them.

Blood of the Buffalo told us that the First Nations would be waging war on the Crimson Crush over the territory of The Verge. They wanted the Nest as their base of operations, as well as support in form of Matrix and technical help as well as medical care. We bickered a bit about the price and, after declining an offer to be paid in drugs, we came to an agreement. This will last for two weeks and then the First Nations expect the war to be over. I'm not so convinced. But we'll re-negotiate then, at least that's what we agreed on.

For now we're having guests and I don't plan on getting much free time once the real fighting has begun. Plus, there's also the question what will happen once (if) the First Nations have their new territory - pretty much the only way to get there is through the Nest. The fact that the First Nations are big in the drug business doesn't help to ease my mind one bit, but on the other hand, if it's not them, it's someone else. And Flipside will become a problem whoever is dealing with it, I don't care how harmless it's supposed to be.

Simon Says

January 4th 2071, Sunday

We have a new med tech, an ork named Simon. Glitzy met him when she was out for a drink at the Bawdy Lass. He was looking for a job and since he has been in jail, he had no luck finding one, at least not as a med tech. I remember how that feels.

So we agreed to meet for lunch at Yoshiro's to talk it over. Glitzy had already send me his resume and I have to say, I was ready to do pretty much anything it took to get him to work at the Nest.

Simon was obviously nervous, not just because this was a job interview, but because he was going into the Barrens and the Rat's Nest. He had read all the media reports about us and frankly, those are less than flattering. I probably would have been terrified as well. But after we were done talking about the basics like work hours and salary, I could tell that he wanted the job. So I suggested we go and take a look at the Nest.

The Nest still doesn't look its best and it's something of a cultural shock at the best of times for someone who has been a more or less lawabiding citizen until now. But I think that Simon was surprised by what he saw and I know the clinic impressed him. When we came in, Whistler had just taken in some kid with a gunshot wound and we let Simon deal with it. Which he did very well.

We agreed that he will start on Monday and after a month, he will decide if he is going to stay. I hope he will.

Consequences

December 31st 2070 Wednesday

Yesterday, I was just talking to Liz when Ella almost kicked down the door to the clinic. She had been to the Bargain Basements with Kerry to sell stuf for Monkeywrench and the Kabuki Ronin had recognized the colours of the Scrappers. The Ronin were on the lookout for whoever had stolen one of their bikes and a katana from them and since Rusty did wear his colours during the run, they blamed the Scrappers.

They took pretty much everything Monkeywrench had brought to the market, a loss of about 35k. And they smashed Kerry's hand, she's going to lose it and I'm still trying to figure out what to do, although the final decision will be hers.

Anyway, Growler, Monkeywrench and I talked to Rusty and he swore that neither Maggie nor he had stolen anything during that run. I already knew form Glitzy that Ray had taken the katana and Monkeywrench remembered that Ray sold him a bike. So we decided to talk to Ray because if he planned to keep this up, he'd be a danger for the Nest and we certainly would not appreciate him on our turf. Rusty mentioned that Ray did have a reason for stealing, that he didn't do it out of greed, but said that it was not his place to tell us more about this.

So I called Ray and he agreed to come to the Nest. Growler told him what happened, in the back room of the Rusty Barrel, and Ray told us that he needed money to buy drugs for his sister, who is suffering from Bowden's Malady. We argued back and forth for a bit whether the whole thing could have been avoided, getting nowhere fast.

It dawned on me that Ray was probably expecting to be taken out to the back and shot or something - if he did, he was hiding it extremely well, but the situation cannot have been very pleasant. So we agreed that in future Ray would adhere to any rules for the runs the group would be doing or bow out if the rules were not to his liking. That we could all live with.

I talked to Ray about his sister Ember. I don't have any experience with Bowden's Malady, although I've read about it. The street doc who's clinic we raided after he had been killed had been treating Ember and I still have his files, so at least I don't need to start from scratch.

Oh, and speaking of the clinic run, Eric has become something of an oddity at the Nest. People know what happened of course, there was no way we could go on hiding that. So far no-one has been giving him any trouble, but anyone who did that to his face would have to be near-suicidal anyway. I wish I could write an article about the whole thing, but that would bring so much trouble for the Nest, it's really not worth it. At the very least Eric would disappear into some lab and I would probably go along with him. I think we can both do without that experience.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Even More Family

December 31st 2070 Wednesday

I cannot believe I’m writing this: Glitzy and I are going to be parents. Of twins.

Glitzy got roughed up at a party and while I was treating her injuries, I also did a pregnancy test because we already had our suspicions. It turned out we were right. I don’t think either of us has fully realized what has happened, I still feel a bit numb and Glitzy seems the same. She has even more reason to be, though, because after a spirit trip we took (long story, more on that later) she came back with pointed ears, very much an elf. She really is one, a gene test confirms it. I have no idea what happened there, but I do know that it will take some time for her to come to terms with that development.

Our children will be a boy and a girl and the girl will be an elf, too. We chose the name Kiara for her. I wanted to name the boy after Growler, there was just the small problem that I had no idea what his real name was. So I went and asked him and I got a very suspicious look and a runaround answer. When I told him that I really couldn’t name my son Growler, I had the pleasure of the rare sight of an absolutely astounded Growler. He caved and told me that his name is Angus. So Angus and Kiara it is.

There is some risk involved with the pregancy, because they are twins, because it will take longer than usual and because they are elf and human. I think it’s a risk I can manage, although I predict a lot of lost sleep for me about this. I worry, it’s what I do.
But I cannot wait for the two. I never really wanted children, but now the thought alone is enough to make me smile. I can already see them in Glitzy’s aura, tiny, so small I could hold them both on one finger. Angus and Kiara.

Flipside

December 29, 2072, Monday

Whistler came by with his girlfriend Cecile on the 26th and I’m afrad that both Glitzy and I did not react well to her. She’s a nice girl and she and Whistler are very much in love. But while she’s quite intelligent, she’s incredibly naive. She’s also an elf poser. And she was high on Flipside, recognized me as Awakened (but not Glitzy, whom she fairly ignored for the rest of the evening).

Whistler hasn’t told her where he lives and works, instead telling her that we both work together at a small clinic in Everett, so if she does manage my talent to the wrong person, they at least would have a hard time finding me. But in any case I was less than thrilled to find out that she uses that drug. I have a hard time believing it’s as harmless as everyone tells me and I’m not at all looking forward to the problems the stuff will make for us. It is, I have to admit, a very tempting drug and I’m not at all sure I wouldn’t try it if I were not already awakened.

Anyway. It seemed that no matter what we talked about, Glitzy and I ended up snarking at Cecile. There were a couple of reasons: her very elegant way of putting things in a way to make it seem like she was indeed both an elf and awakened, her unquestioning believe of anything she has heard ot read about Metahumans, both flattering (elves) and unflattering to racist (all others). But we’re supposed to be adults, for heaven’s sake, and she’s only seventeen – I really don’t care to remember the many stupid things I did and believed at seventeen.

I talked to Whistler the next morning and he was seething. I apologized to him and today we all met again and Glitzy and I apologized to Cecile as well. When we talked about Tir Tairngire, I suggested she take a roadtip there to see the reality of that state for herself and she took up the suggestion with enthusiasm. Since Whistler, without a SIN, cannot go with her, I agreed to take her. I like her for her willingness to take a closer look, but I have my doubts that she will like what she finds.

Whistler told me that Cecile has described Flipside as a sort of performance-enhancing drug she has to take for her studies. Well. I’m sure it helps when one studies magic without magical talent, but I highly doubt that the university prescribes it for their students. Whistler thought I was lying to him about this because I was jealous of Cecile, I had no idea what to reply to that accusation. He was pissed at me (and he had a right to be), but this… In any case, I asked him to read up on the stuff and to treat the rumors about its harmlessness with suspicion. I hope he will. Whistler has never been attracted to drugs of any kind, but I’m not at all sure he’d refuse if Cecile offered it to him. But there’s not much I can do about it, I just hope he’ll be okay, both of them actually.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Family

December 26th 2071, Friday

It turned out that I got to meet Ronny and his wife Susi (or Ygreque) a bit sooner than planned. They arrived at Glitzy's place yesterday and Ygreque pretty much steamrollered over the place, taking command. I managed to gently prod her into taking Glitzy shopping with her while Ronny and I would take care of dinner.

That gave me the opportunity to talk to Ronny. He says he was very much aware that he almost got himself into a load of trouble, although he didn't realise why exactly. I guess it's not that easy to understand unless you've lived in the Barrens for years yourself. In any case I invited him to come with me to the Nest this morning for a closer look around.

I had to take care of Eric and I told Ronny to wait for me at the Rusty Barrel, Growler would be happy to let him have a taste of his poitin. By the time I was done with Eric, Ronny was more than a bit tipsy and Growler did what he does best: ask innocent questions. He later told me that he is positive that Ronny is from Boston and connected to the Irish Mafia and well-connected at that. And he confirmed what I had already guessed: Ronny is a con man. I suspected as much, he's just too smooth and good-natured to be entirely real. But what the hell, I like him anyway. I just don't trust him all that much.

Ruby invited a host of people for Christmas. I'm not all that sure I'm up to that, I still feel a bit tired, but why not. It'll be the first real Christmas I've celebrated for years.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Family

December 24th 2071, Wednesday

Glitzy has been planning Christmas behind my back and I'm facing a holiday with much more company than I usually prefer. But I'm willing to give it a try.

She also brought her son Fynn to live with her, since she has settled down. Well, as much as she can. I had about two hours of warning between learning that Fynn would arrive today and meeting him. I think it went fairly well, thanks to Jasper. There really is nothing better than having a dog for getting to know people.

I like having the kid around, he's an adorable little guy and about exactly as curious and boisterous as I imagined him to be, he is very definitely Glitzy's child in more than looks. I have no idea how it will work out between us, but for now it's fun and I don't want to worry about problems I can't solve now in any case.

We'll have a full house on the 25th, Glitzy invited Maggie, Rusty and Ray and it looks like her brother and his wife will join us as well. More about that later. I invited Whistler for the 26th and, to my surprise, he agreed. We're both not all that keen on Christmas normally. He coolly asked me if he could bring a friend and I said yes, of course. I'm afraid I laughed all the way from the clinic to the Rusty Barrel. A friend. Sure. But I've been dying to meet his girlfriend ever since I found out about her (not that he told me outright) and I'm thrilled that he actually wants to bring her. Whistler is not all that generous with his trust and I appreciate it.

I drove to the Nest today to treat Eric. He is fighting the infection and I'm allowing myself to hope that he will make it. But he's still only halfway through it all and even if he doesn't turn into a ghoul, he may well aquire some aspects of the disease, like the grey skin, abnormal teeth or even an appetite for decaying flesh.

When I was done, Liz found me and told me that there was a patient at the clinic who had been asking for me specifically. And he said he'd pay well. The guy was charming and well-educated, but he clearly didn't belong here. He told me that he was an English teacher, hiking with his wife in the Cascades and that he had some kind of bite he wanted me to take a look at. The ranger had recommended the clinic. Yeah, right.

The bite was nothing serious, a chigger bite, and I called his bluff. He told me that he had wanted to meet me, to see if I was as good as I was supposed to be and that he could not tell me anything else until we would meet again officially. Otherwise we might anger mutual friends. I was this close to simply slapping a tranq patch on his back and then he would have woken up in the back room of the Rusty Barrel, with Growler asking the questions. I guess the raid on the Nest has left me a little bit paranoid or maybe it's just that I have been living here for so long that anyone who looks so out of place and might work for the authorities is immediately suspicious for me. Especially when he asks such a lot of questions about the clinic and how the Nest works.

But the man didn't look or behave very much like a threat and everything he told me was plausible. I don't think I was very friendly, I'm not at my best behavior when I feel like I'm being deceived. He seemed honest in his interest in the Nest and he even offered to help within his means, although I didn't take him up on that offer.

He finally left, after he paid for the treatment and the vaccinations I gave him when he told me he didn't have any before coming on this trip. I did some digging and his story checked out, he really is am English teacher from a town near Winnipeg. I found him on the school's website, he's called Ronald Winters. I asked Glitzy about him because she was the only one I could think of who might have a weird connection like that and it turns out he's her brother. I guess he wanted to check on the guy who's messing with his little sister. Glitzy invited him and his wife over for Christmas and I have to say, I'm actually looking forward to meeting them.

Beanstalks

December 23rd 2071
I've had some time to breathe and to put it all together, so here's what happened during our last hours in the ghetto.

We heard rumors that Jürgen Stroop had arrived at the ghetto with Gestapo troops to get the riot under control. There was also a train from Auschwitz and with it arrived Doctor Mengele. Ephraim, who had been in a coma, woke around the same time Mengele arrived. I know, it's ridiculous that he should just fall into and out of a coma that quickly, but he did.

I asked Mordecai about ways out of the ghetto. I admit that the thought of what an incarnation of Mengele might do to us had me panicking and I just wanted out. Mordecai literally froze when he thought about the question, but he came back with a couple of possibilities. When we talked it over, I realized that even if we got out, we had no idea what to do then.

I wrote another letter to Glitzy and asked her to send me what we had scavenged from the Matrix Surgeon. It took a few hours and then we got a package with a book full of code and the broken scalpel Splash grabbed after we fought the Surgeon. I gave it to her to figure out what to do with it.

Meanwhile, I searched for EVO. The SS had been driving around the ghetto all morning, exterminating EVO where they found it. There still were some plants inside our house, where I found Lidia the other day. They didn't look so good so I watered them and I sang to them. EVO feeds on creativity and new things, I had already learned that much about it. My singing made the plants grow and after some time, the first flower appeared and even a dragonfly.

I had attracted attention and when I started to sing Who by Fire, people joined in, singing the Unetanneh Tokef. The song soon spread all over the house, moved to another house and all over the ghetto. And EVO moved with it. The plants had opened cracks all over the walls and the floor, eventually it felt like EVO was the only thing holding the house together. When someone opened the windows to listen to all the people singing, the dragonflies took off and spread EVO even further.

I don't really have the words to describe how it felt to be part of this and I don't know if I even want to try. But I think for me it was worth all the fear and terror of the ghetto.

Kerry told me what had happened next, she was caught in the ghetto with Blaster as part of the SS tropps and had accompanied Stroop and Mengele. Blaster had been carrying EVO around in his pocket and the song caused his plant to grow as well. He faked being attacked by the plant - if he had been caught carrying it, he would probably have been shot. It was a close call even so, but Mengele wanted to take a closer look at him. He asked Blaster how he felt, very genial and and friendly, right up to the point where he cut Blaster's throat. Or would have, if his scalpel hadn't been broken.

Blaster jumped him then, threw EVO at him and used him as a shield to get away from Stroop and his troops. EVO attacked Mengele and grew all over him, right into his mouth. As soon as EVO touched his face, people realized that Mengele didn't have one, that he was just as faceless as the Matrix Surgeon.

The fight between EVO and Mengele was felt all over the ghetto. It was like someone had painstakingly built a huge puzzle and then someone else came along, grabbed one corner and gave the whole thing a good hard shake. The world fractured, but pieces still held together. We slipped - there was no sense of falling, but we were moved from the house and out into the streets, right to where Mengele stood. I had held onto Ephraim and I had been able to grab Han who had held onto Kimba and the others, so we were all together.

Ephraim walked up to the Mengele thing and they seemed to recognize each other. When they touched, Ephraim dissolved, like the ghost Splash saw him as for the first time, and the Mengele thing morphed into the adult Ephraim. That shift again shook the whole ghetto. Ephraim looked around, puzzled and shocked and seemed to come to his senses. He quietly asked himself 'oh my God, what have I done?'

Blaster was the first to react after all this, he took a shot at Stroop and killed him, or should have but the man refused to die, even with his head torn off. I grabbed the scalpel Mengele had dropped and threw it to Splash. She merged both broken scalpels into one whole. I pulled Ephraim behind a Morris column because the Gestapo were taking aim at him, armed with flamethrowers. Above us, a zeppelin broke through the clouds, the same one Splash saw when Hard Corps and Petrovski Security were fighting it out on the streets and in the Matrix a while ago.

Splash gave me the scalpel and I cut into the column, trying to see what it could do. It sliced clean through the column and two Gestapo men, like a monofilament whip. With our cover now gone and more Gestapo (carrying Hinomaru instead of Gestapo insignia) arriving, we were out of options. We could have run, but where to, or we could have fought, but that would have been a desperate last stand.

The thought of killing Ephraim more than crossed my mind, but I couldn't do it. He seemed to have regained his humanity and I had to think of something Growler once told me, 'Treat people the way you want them to be to help them become what they can be'. So I decided to put my trust in Ephraim and handed him the scalpel. He took it and turned to fight the Gestapo troops. I don't know if he survived or what happened to the ghetto because in that moment the men fired their flamethrowers at us.

There was no pain and it all went too quickly to properly realize that we were dying. I woke up in the clinic and I was in and out of consciousness for a while. Diego, Liz, Whistler and Glitzy had their hands full to keep everyone alive, but they did it. We all suffered dump shock, with brain hemorrhages of varying degrees. Surprisingly, two days later everyone is out of the clinic, although we all still need a lot of rest.

The hackers have successfully eradicated Evil EVO in the Nest where it threatened to take over our technology. There are some EVO plants left, Splash's for example and although I didn't check, I'm fairly sure there is one in my containers, but Glitzy asked them to leave those alone and I think I agree with her. I hope that MCT will never be able to trace us back to the Nest. The raid on the Nest would look like a walk in the park compared to what they'd do to us, I'm sure.

I've been forbidden to work and thrown out of the clinic by Liz and just about everybody tells me I need to take some vacation time. I can't help but agree. I'll be staying with Glitzy over the holidays, but I'll still drive back to the Nest to treat Eric. There's still more to tell, but I'm dead tired. It can wait another day, I guess.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mutations

I spent the evening learning the clarinet, can you believe that? They have one hell of a good Klezmer band here. And here's something weird: I'm almost certain that the dingy cellar we were playing in acquired some wallpaper over the course of the evening. Mood-sensitive, maybe?

I also found a couple of plants pushing up through the concrete inside the house. Splash took a look at them and confirmed my suspicion: EVO. I find that strangely comforting.

In exchange for some civilian clothes I agreed to treat Mordecai's people against lice and what I found were not lice, but bugs in every sense. They do look like lice at first glance, but a closer look shows that they are more of a surveillance bug if it grew a couple of legs. They are a product of what we have come to call Evil EVO, the black mutation that grows all over Splash's container.

Splash created Evil EVO by combining EVO with a strain that had infected her and now that something has created the bugs with Evil EVO. Together with what we found out about Ephraim, that leads us to believe that MCT has stolen Ephraim's research and is experimenting with it to create Technomages.

Ephraim, the real, adult Ephraim, had experimented with AIPS victims and when he finally managed to kill a patient, he tried to get out. It seems he did, for a time, working for Horizon and trying to really help AIPS victims, but MCT got to him. The ghetto records show that he arrived here and was deported soon after that. We're not sure what our Ephraim, the small boy, is, but he may be a copy of the real Ephraim's mind, carefully hidden away. When Splash showed him a picture of the real Ephraim, he collapsed with a severe shock.

I found a woman named Lidia, dying of hunger and thirst and simple desperation. I took her to our room and got her somethng to eat, so she at least did survive the night and is not all alone any more. She's a strange one, she speaks all languages and none, I have no idea what's going on with her.

During the night, we all had the same dream of being all alone out on the street while a thunderstorm moved in and lightning struck right next to us. We woke up with what I believe were minor myocardial infarctions or at the very least V-fibs and we were the lucky ones. A lot of people are simply dead. Splash can tell apart the real people and the ones who are just programms and she says that the dead ones are all real. The programs haven't felt anything at all. It seems that someone has pulled the plug on the ones that died, separating their body and mind or that the dumpshock has killed them.

We also heard explosions and I made my way up on the roof with Splash. The outer part of the ghetto is being razed to the ground with tanks, there's heavy fighting. I decided we had seen enough when the first Stukas flew in. I doubt the historical correctness of that, but it may be a sign that MCT is starting to notice that they have a huge problem. Which probably caused them to just kill all those people as well. We need to get out of here as fast as we can, I hope that the clothes I bartered my medical services for will help with that.

I had a full-blown panic attack during the night. I saw that coming, I've been having problems to cope with the situation from the beginning and with the sound of explosions and gunfire from just a couple of hundred yards away, it was finally too much. Knowing what was happening in medical terms did not help one little bit. The others didn't notice, I think, and I rolled up on my bed, flinching at every loud noise, fighting to breathe and not to throw up from sheer fright. I'm not sure how long it lasted, but a couple of hours at least. Having work to do helps, along with the knowledge that people rely on me, so I'm keeping busy and I hope I'll be too tired to lie awake tonight.

I also miss being able to use my magic. It's weird, a few weeks ago I would never even have thought I could do something like call a ghost and now I feel like I've been amputated or something.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Day's Work

I don't remember much of the night. We were woken at 5am by Mordecai who had gotten us work permits for the broom factory. That way, we can move about and for now, we are safe. Well. As safe as anyone can be in this place.

So we went to work. Mordecai said that we should try and steal some food, the workers are fed fairly well - much better than I had imagined and definitely much better than the actual ghetto inhabitants were. With some help from Mordecai, I got a job in the kitchen and I did indeed manage to get my hands on some food and passed it on to Mordecai's people.

Splash used her technomancy to take a look at the factory. She says that the broms we're making are a representation of some dull programming tasks, something usually left to bots. We are very slowly figuring out how the whole imagery works and what we can and cannot do with it.

There is a hole in the ghetto wall, the resistance uses it to smuggle letters out. Splash has been doing some exploring with the help of a a sprite, something I would understand similar to the ghosts I can call. It found the hole as well and Splash thinks that it might be a backdoor she made during her time at MCT. It leads from Petrovski's server to MCT and for now, we cannot use it to get out. The sprite died when it tried.

The eviction of the outer ghetto has begun and so has the fighting. Someone actually managed to sabotage the train leaving to Treblinka by blowing up the engine. Mordecai would like to start the fighting here, too, but I'm not at all sure that would be a good idea right now. We don't stand much of a chance and while I will fight if there is no other way, I think we're better off right now keeping our heads down.

I admit that this is in part because I'm absolutely terrified. I found it hard to even step out onto the street this morning, I felt very much exposed. If I could, I'd just stay hidden, but I can't.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Warsaw

December 20th 2071, Sunday (I think)

I heard Splash call for help and found her on the ground outside her container, struggling with something invisible. When I tried to pick her up and pull her away, I was attacked as well by what I'm fairly sure now were the tentacles of the mutated EVO plant. I couldn't get free and blacked out.

We awoke in darkness, in a place that turned out to be a brick-walled cellar full of people. We're a group of nine: Faye, Samatha, Kimba, Cerise, Snake, Han Solo, Splash and me and Ephraim, the small boy Splash saw in her, hm, dream. Which obviously wasn't a dream.

It all looks very, very real. The amount of detail is astounding but we're not having much time to admire the view because this is a simulation of the Warsaw Ghetto and the uprising will start tomorrow. It may all be virtual, however I am very sure that dying here will mean dying for real or at least the loss of personality or any higher brain functions, which is as good as dying.

A quick search turned up some matches and candles and I also have a small bag with some medical supplies and a revolver. Han Solo has a Schmeisser and Faye has a violin and a collection of sheet music - she was accessing her music library when she got taken, it seems. We decided to leave the cellar and Ephraim guided us across the street and through the sewers to another house where we met Marcel, the leader of a resistance group. On the way, we saw a couple of bodies, shot through the heart. Faye and the others recognized them as the customers they had been online with, although how they could know that is beyond me, maybe something subliminal the system feeds them.

The simulation is not perfect in all details. People we talk with sometime slip between 1943 and 2071, Ephraim called the troups MCT and then changed to SS when asked again. We met a woman, Judith, who told us that she was a system administrator and changed that immediately to mechanic. We can get away with mentioning minor inconsistencies, but really big ones (like Judith's job) means that the system notices and activates its security system. For us, that means German troop coming for us.

When I asked to learn more about all this, Marcel brought us to a library to meet Emanuel Ringelblum, the librarian. The library is immense, much bigger than it should be and it contains plenty of anachronisms, modern books and all sorts of information. It turned out that Ephraim had brought us into this simulation to help, he found us during the raid on the Rat's Nest and thought that we would be willing to fight for them, since the system is trying to destroy us as well. Neither he nor Emanuel could tell us exactly what they needed or they would have brought the Germans. I tried to use my magic, but it didn't work, of course it didn't. But it worked for Splash. She can use a blend of her own technomancer abilities and the magic I quickly taught her to look at the naked code of this simulation, like I would look at the Astral Space.

She told me that both Emanuel and Ephraim were humans, but they are festooned by cyberware, there is not much left of them. All of us have been infected, for lack of a better word, as well, a strand of black entering our bodies and making its way to our brain. She also said that the code is alive, it writes itself and react like a living being to everything we do. I had no idea this is possible, but it certainly explains the level of realism we are seeing here.

I asked Emanuel where I could find books on Judaism, hoping to find some information on what was being done to them there, hidden by the analogy they have created. The first book I found was the story of Rabbi Löw and the golem, which is a story of artificial intelligence when you think about it. The next book we were handed was a book by Ephraim Lewis (after the name permutated a few times) on cybernetic and psychological manipulation of the human brain. A very advanced work and I think the key to what we are experiencing here.Lewis went missing after his laboratory was raided four years ago and he has been declared dead. When Splash asked, Ephraim gave her GPS coordinates for the ghetto and with some help from Snake, she figured out that the coordinates indicated the MCT lab in Seattle.

Emanuel asked us to help with taking books into the bigger part of the ghetto and we chose as many as we could carry, books on the ghetto itself (to help us navigate), books on medicine, cybernetics, history, magic, technomancy ect. They are much more than books, contain much more information than any book can. In truth, we were raiding MCT's database. Splash used the book on weapons to help her create a hand grenade and she did manage it, although she started to bleed from her nose and I couldn't stop the bleeding. My guess is that it's the representation of a brain injury, but she seemed fine apart from it and we couldn't have done anything about it in any case.

So we left and made our way into the street. There's only one way into the other part of the ghetto and that is over a footbridge. To get there, we had to cross half the ghetto, during curfew no less. We had only gotten a few meters from the library when he heard shouting and running footsteps and saw two men getting shot by the Germans. We tried to hide again and managed to get into another house in the nick of time. Emanuel was too slow and got killed, but the Germans did not see where we hid. We waited for a moment until they had gone further down the street and went down into the cellar. From there, we could make our way into a factory where we hoped to find access to the sewers. There was a manhole, but we had to climb across a fence to get there.

Most of us made it, but Faye got her clothes caught on the spikes on top of the fence. I was cutting her loose when two huge black dogs rounded the corner and charged us. I got ready to shoot them when suddenly a wall grew between the dogs and us, like the wall of the building had been copied and pasted into the street. That gave us just enough time to get into the manhole. The wall had a door unfortunately and the Germans/MCT security kicked it open quickly enough to see us vanish there. We bolted the manhole and walked the rest of the way to the bridge in the sewers, meeting other people on the way with the same goal so that we were a group of more than fifty people when we arrived.

The bridge was plainly visible from a watchtower outside the ghetto where soldiers with machine pistols kept watch, so crossing it would have been suicide. Splash brought out her grenade and one of the men volunteered to throw it at the tower. I don't know what made him do it, but he threw the pin instead of the grenade. I managed to grab the grenade and throw it before it detonated and I actually hit the tower. The grenade didn't work as planned, but created a cloud of yellow (vanilla-coloured) fog around the tower. That gave us the opportunity we needed and we ran across the bridge as fast as we could. Not fast enough in the case of the last stragglers who were gunned down. We couldn't do anything to help them, there was no cover at the other side of the bridge and we had to get inside as quickly as possible. The Germans were already preparing to open the gates to the ghetto, there were troops behind us and sirens sounding all around us.

We did get into a house and the group split up, taking cover and looking for exits where they could. It quickly turned out that there was no way to get out of the house, we were surrounded and the Germans were starting to kick the doors down. Splash saved us - there was a small rainwater sewer under the house and she created an way for us to get there and closed it behind us. We were sitting in a tunnel about a meter across and filled to a third with freezing water, but it was the safest we had been all night, no-one would come looking for us here for a while. Slowly we crawled to another house Judith knew where she said we would find a group of resistance fighters that could help us to escape the ghetto.

We got there after what felt like hours, cold, shivering and exhausted, and were met by a couple of men. One of them introduced himself as Mordecai, the leader of the group and he did say that he might be able to help us in the morning. But for now, we have a chance to rest. Splash is already sleeping, she has badly strained herself by all the manipulations she has done. Without her, we surely would be dead already.

So we have been shanghaied into this fight and for now, all we can do is try to survive and to get back to reality again. What we can do after than remains to be seen. I don't think I have ever been this scared my whole life, the thought of leaving the relative security of this room in a few hours is terrifying. I'm not at all sure we will make it. I'm also not sure anyone will ever read this, but I hope. Nothing else for me to do.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Interlude

December 19th 2071, Saturday

It sucks being right. Faye and the others are in the same state as Snake and we cannot get them offline. Let's hope we can bring them all back.

I spoke to Eric, Gliettes and Slicer, we have to decide now what to do with them in case they really are infected. All three chose to be killed if it comes to that. I really wish it won't and if it does, I hope it happens slowly. The last thing we need right now is a freshly turned ghoul on a rampage. In theory, the medpacks should inject them with enough sedatives to knock them out the minute the infection sets in. But I cannot guarantee that this will work with a rapid transformation.

Killing them will be my job of course, it's my responsibility. But I felt that I needed a backup plan, so I talked to Growler about it and he agreed to do it if I wasn't around for some reason. He's not happy about it. Welcome to the club.

I'm afraid I really messed up. No, I know I did and I've known it for years, ever since I decided to keep the whole story with John to myself. I just didn't have the courage to tell Growler and it didn't exactly get easier the longer I kept silent about it. I let it slip when I talked to him this evening and I have to admit, I'm glad it came out. I just wish I'd told him sooner. Growler has always trusted me implicitly and he had always had my back. Although he didn't really say anything, he obviously was hurt when he found out that I had been keeping this secret for years now. What's done is done, though. I can't change it and I'll have to live with it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fleurs du Mal

December 18th 2071, Friday

I almost forgot. Whistler has been keeping it a secret, but he's got himself a girlfriend. Not that I've seen her, but he was less discreet than he obviously thought. It was probably not very mature of me, but when he asked me if it was okay for him to leave for the night, I told him yes, of course, she probably already misses you. The look of total amazement on his face lasted only a second, but from Whistler that's more than enough.

Is anyone surprised that I didn't get a full night's sleep? No, I didn't think so. Sometime in the early hours I was woken by Splash who was screaming her head off in the street and when I ran outside, I found Claire unconscious next to her. Splash didn't make much sense, but she seemed to think that she was responsible. Did I mention she was completely naked? So I gave her my coat and brought Claire into the pub. Liz brought Splash inside.

Claire came around fairly quickly, screaming about getting shot at. Liz calmed her down while I talked to Splash. She was holding onto something and I finally got the idea of taking a look at her with AR: she was holding an old rifle and she wore threadbare clothes. Both rifle and clothes looked amazingly real, more real than pretty much anything I've seen in AR before. She told me that she had had trouble sleeping and when she went online, she had a feeling of being watched. When it didn't stop, she went to Liz to get something to sleep. Liz gave her a Prozac and I have no idea what Liz was thinking. Not much apparently. I'm almost sure she didn't ask one single question before handing out that pill. I'll talk to her tomorrow, we're both not at our best right now and it would only end in a shouting match. It still may.

Anyway, Splash took the Prozac and went on a really bad trip. Glitzy has given her an EVO seed a while ago. EVO is a program bordering on AI that evolves into a sort of miniature jungle with all kinds of animals and plants. Pretty impressive and pretty invasive. Splash imagined some ants from EVO talking to her and followed them only to be swallowed by one of the black flowers her EVO produced.

She ended up in a tunnel with a little boy who gave her the rifle and told her that they had to fight for their lives. People were kicking down the door behind them, so they ran and came to an abandoned house. A glance outside showed tanks and soldier, all wearing the MCT logo. Splash was hit in the head by something, lost consciousness and woke up again, only to discover that she was still wearing the clothes and holding the rifle. The clothes had a Star of David sewn to them, by the way.

I called Glitzy because I thought that she might know a bit more about this, especially about the EVO part. Splash stalled for a while, but she finally admitted to us that she is a Technomancer. She also told us that she had lost her, hm, spirit guide for want of a better word. She called him to take a look at the rifle and when he touched it, he simply vanished. I can only imagine how that feels - I've only encountered Mr Snautz a couple of times, but he certainly is a part of me and losing him would be a catastrophe. The spirit guide at least could tell her that the rifle is a sort of combat program.

Splash said that she has made some changes to her EVO that resulted in weird black flowers and climbing plants that have already migrated outside of her container. We went to take a look at the plants and discovered Snake, Splash's boyfriend, unconscious and entangled in the plants. I tried to pull him away and the plants let go, but left bleeding wounds. I'd rather not risk hurting him, so I left him where he was, who knows what the plants and the wounds symbolize. The really weird thing is that Snake is hooked up to the Matrix without a comlink or any other device that would allow him to access it, not even cyberware of any kind. We suspect that the Matrix Surgeon may have something to do with all this, but we're not sure at all.

Fuck. I just realized that no-one has seen our cyberwhores for a while. They were working to earn money to rebuild the Nest and one of them came to get food and stuff a few times, but not recently. I should check on them, they had been a target for the Surgeon last time.

Aftermath

December 18th 2071, Friday
The first night back at the Nest passed quietly until one of the Squatters had an accident with a mine left behind by the Picas, but he'll live.
In the morning repairs were at full swing, people were doing their best to rebuild their homes. The clinic is mostly burned out and I've lost much of my equipment, but I got a tip that there was an abandoned street clinic where we just had to walk in and take what was left. I should have known that this was too good to be true.

Gilettes, Slicer and Eric left to get the stuff and returned a short while later. They did have all the equipment we needed, but they also had a run-in with a ghoul. Slicer and Gilettes are pretty much unhurt, but Eric has deep clawmarks. At least there are no bites. All three are now in quarantine and I'm doing my best to prevent the virus from infecting them. I do think that they have a chance, but apart from Growler and Liz, no-one knows what exactly happened to them or we might well have a mob on our hands.

Speaking of ghouls, John has recovered from the pneumonia, but when I drove out to check on him, I ran into ghoul hunters.  I managed to get away after a short shootout and drove back to the Nest. There was no way I was going to search for John in that situation.
I reached him on his comlink and he told me that he had killed the two hunters I had injured. Glitzy and I decided to move him to another location, it was much too dangerous for him to stay there, one of the hunters had escaped and they would be back.

We loaded his belongings into the van and John got in at the back, closing the doors behind him, allowing us to keep our distance. Glitzy drove us to another abandoned factory where the smell of chemicals will mask John's own smell. He also has access to the sewers there. On our way back to the Nest we passed John's old hiding place and a group of hunters had gathered there, at least thirty people, surely enough to kill any ghoul they might have found.

Most of the Picas, former Picas I should probably say, have now left the Nest. Maggie threw most of them out in the afternoon, as a demonstration that she now belongs to the Scrappers and that the Picas no longer exist. That went pretty well, all things considered. We'll see how she fits in with us. There are now only six Picas left who are injured too badly to walk, the rest only had minor injuries.

I'm going to spend the night at the Cow to keep an eye on Eric. It will be at least two days until the infection sets in, if it does, but I still feel better not leaving him alone.

Oh, and Liz actually assumed that I would leave the Nest and my patients for a roll in the hay with Glitzy when I told her that I had to leave for an hour. I couldn't tell her that I would be relocating this ghoul I know, but even so I'd thought she'd know me better than that. Yes, okay, it can't be easy for her seeing me with Glitzy, but damn it, she didn't manage to tell me how she felt for three years. I hope she gets a grip on herself and soon.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Home Again

December 17th 2071, Thursday

We have recaptured the Rat's Nest. I'm too tired to sleep, so I can just as well write it all down.

During the Radio shack run, we got our hands on toy drones. Those things are pretty agile and big enough to carry a payload. After some trial and error, people got quite good at piloting the drones, so we loaded them up with flashbangs and rigged them to explode.

With rush hour traffic in the Barrens at full swing, we managed to get close to the Nest undetected and hid in the hills of garbage. The Picas had turned a fifty yard stretch around the Nest into a death zone with no cover at all, so an open attack would have been suicide. The drones could get into the Nest unseen we hoped and so an army of Hello Kittys, garden gnomes, bunnies, little doggies and teddy bears made its way over the open ground and reached the containers, coming from several different directions.

My drone was attacked by a dog and I had to explode it. At the time, the group that entered the Nest via the main street was already hidden under the wooden sidewalk and took that as a cue to explode as well. Others made their way further into the Nest. All in all, we created chaos and confusion among the Picas and like we had hoped, many of them took a dose of Kamikaze to get ready for our attack.

Now we sat back and waited for an hour, I estimated that the drug would by then have worn off with almost all the Picas and then they would crash, become incapacitated or at least seriously handicapped. Splash came up with the idea to play a high frequency tone over the loudspeakers of the Nest and even at a distance of a hundred yards, it grated on the nerves. It must have had quite an effect on the Picas, high on drugs and awaiting an attack at every moment.

I took the time to conjure up a couple of Watchers and a ghost and asked them to find and confuse the Picas during our attack. I chose the ghost of one of the Picas I killed, with the hope that the sight alone of someone they know to be dead would at least startle them.

Under cover of darkness and with a couple of our people laying down suppressive fire to keep the Picas from shooting at us, we crossed the death zone and attacked, again in several small groups and from different directions. The Picas had gone into hiding, the Nest was silent and empty, even the squatters had disappeared.

I went with Blaster and Cameron, who went up on the containers as our spotter. Blaster ran into a trap and almost got shot by a Pica who had hidden in some trash. After a short fire fight, the kid went down and we continued, further into the Nest. The containers are only a couple of yards apart and we already knew that there would be traps, so turning a corner and even walking down the small alleys was nerve-wracking. We discovered a wire across our way just in time and Cameron spotted some movement in a second storey container. He shot an explosives dart through the window and the Pica who had been hiding there caught fire, crashed through the window in panic and landed right in front of us. We took the time to roll him over to extinguish the flames, but not more. It's probably going to haunt me, but this was not the time for compassion.

The other groups reported that the Picas were using Molotov cocktails and jury-rigged flamethrowers, we could easily hear the screams, the gunfire and the occasional explosion. Five Picas ran through the alley across from us and before the could react, both Cameron and I had shot one of them. The others hid behind the corner, just like we did. One of them spotted Cameron and fired at him, but missed. Blaster cut the fight short with a hand grenade, none of them survived that. By the time we reached the main street, the fight was pretty much over.

Most of the Picas died, they fought hard to keep the Nest and very few of them surrendered or ran. Only about twenty are still alive and most of them are badly hurt. We lost none of our people, mainly thanks to the armor we were wearing. But we have people who are badly hurt, with gunshot wounds or severe burns. I set up a makeshift field hospital in Growler's pub and got to work, luckily I got help from Cameron, Liz and Glitzy. Still, it took hours to treat everybody, especially since the Picas had abused the squatters who stayed behind when we left the Nest in every way imaginable.

Whistler had a shrapnel wound in his leg and lost a lot of blood, but he'll be fine. I'm worried about Gargle who took a bullet to the foot and I'm not sure I can keep the wound from becoming infected. Rusty has been hit by both a shotgun and a Molotov cocktail, he has third degree burns and, at least for now, he's blind. When they brought him in, he was in shock, but by the time I got to him, he had started to freak. I had to drug him to keep him from going into a total panic and right now, I'm waiting for him to wake up again so I can tell him that the blindness will not be permanent, as far as I can see. I'll try to get some sleep while I wait, it's already three in the morning.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Close Call

December 14th 2071, Monday

I forgot: after John had been in such bad shape last time, I went back to see him and to give him some stuff that would make surviving the winter easier for him.

He looked even worse this time, but from a distance, I couldn't really tell what exactly was wrong. I had to get close to be even reasonably sure what to treat him for. None of us were very happy with that idea and I'm not in a hurry to do that again. It was a close call, John almost lost it and only just kept himself from attacking me. I prefer not to think about my chances against him.

He suffers from pneumonia. I gave him antibiotics, but to be honest I have no idea if they will actually work for him. We'll know more in a few days. If they don't work, I'm afraid I will need to come up with something and that won't be possible without examining him again. It might be possible to put him under with a couple of tranq patches, but who knows if he'll agree to that. It's a lot to ask from him and I hope I won't have to.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Radio Shack (private)

December 14th 2071, Monday

So. I helped Glitzy pack up her things and we moved to a house she had 'acquired' in Snohomish. As soon as I saw it, I felt at home there. It's not all that big, but more than enough for one or two persons and deep in the woods. I didn't even know how much I had missed nature until then.
There's a ton of work to be done and the first thing we did was to fumigate the house, the mattress seemed capable of walking away and I don't even want to know what was hiding in the woodwork. While the bug bombs did their work, we drove to the warehouse where the Rat's Nest people would be holding their council of war. Since Growler so elegantly dropped the job of leading into my lap, I would be the one to chair the meeting and I had a serious case of stage fright.

It went fairly well, all things considered. We came up with a good amount of money that will pay the debts we have and will help with rebuilding the nest, but it's nowhere near enough. So we need money and that's where the new Radio Shack that was to be opened today came in. Saphira had contact to someone willing to pay a fair amount of money for us to rob the store and what made the offer even more attractive was that we could get a lot of things we would be needing at the Nest.

Splash hacked into the security system, rerouted all the alarms and opened the doors for us. There also was a night-watchman, but he proved even less of a problem than we'd thought. When Splash changed the door codes, he got locked into the security room and since she looped the cameras, he never even noticed anything wrong.

With four trucks and twenty people, we were in and out of there in under half an hour and as far as I know, we never triggered an alarm. But when we left, we could hear sirens coming towards us, so something or someone had tipped Hard Corps off. Before we could panic too much, there was a huge explosion and gunfire, someone was clearly attacking the cops. We took that as our cue to leave quietly and drive, well within speed limits, to the storage facilities we had arranged earlier.

Watching the news, we found out that there had been a well-planned attack on the security forces, with quite a few casualties. So the stuff we stole is way too hot to sell or keep, we'd be asking for trouble. Fortunately, we came to an agreement with the Johnson to sell him the stuff and we'll be able to buy what we need at a very low price.

We've been pawns in the conflict between Knight Errant and Petrovski Security yet again, I guess. Someone wanted to fuck with Knight Errant at least and a robbery directly under their noses definitely doesn't make them look too good. Anyway, we need to be careful that we don't get hurt badly by that game.

And speaking of badly hurt: we tried to get our hands on the Hard Corps guns that people stole from the cops back at the Nest. Seven are accounted for, but three are missing and may well have been sold to the Picas. If that turns out to be true, we may have a problem on our hands when we try to retake the Nest.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I hate Fridays

December 12th 2071, Saturday

So, let's see. By noon yesterday, I had operated on Growler and stolen and disposed of a body. A few hours later, the police had raided the apartment next to ours. And a few hours after that, the Russian mob kicked down our door.

Rivet's memory's still not any better and he absolutely wanted to talk to Jury. I did some checking and the man's a boxing promoter, Jury Medwedew. I can't say I was feeling very comfortable about it, but I had too much on my mind to really think about it and so Rivet made the call from the apartment. Believe me, I wince when I think about it.

Basically, we gave the Russian mob the address of our safe house, it wasn't that hard for them to trace the comlink. There was enough time to get everyone out and on the roof, Rivet took off out of the window and down the street.
Since the Russians didn't capture him, I was taken hostage and it was made very clear to me that I would die if Rivet didn't turn up soon. With Glitzy and the others on the lookout for Rivet, there was nothing to do but wait. That I did tied to some pipe in a backroom of the boxing club where the Russians has brought me.

I can't say that I was treated badly, apart from getting tethered like some animal. I even managed to sleep a bit. But I was terrified. The helplessness was the worst part, just waiting to see if someone would put a gun to my head. I would have fought, but what chance would I have had.

One of the guards, Dimitrij, talked to me, about books if you can believe it, about Schiller and the old Greek authors. I admit I liked him, but I couldn't forget for one second that he would shoot me without blinking if the order came.

The whole situation ended fairly undramatically when Rivet walked in. He had decided to surrender and he had come to an agreement with Jury. I'm not at all sure that we have seen the end of this, but I was let go and Rivet and I walked out of there unharmed.

Glitzy and I have spend the night at her place. Well, at the place she's been allowed to stay by the original owner. But we've lost that as well because we both forgot to clean up my comlink after the Russians had hacked it while I was their hostage. It's not like they will be turning up here now, but still, so when Glitzy wakes up, we'll move.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Organ Failure (private)

December 11th 2071, Friday

I said I expected trouble from Whistler when he found out about Glitzy and man, it's sucks being right. He really has an uncomfortable gift of picking out weak spots in someone and then saying just the right thing to hurt. We had it out, in front of everybody no less, at least until Whistler walked out on me yet again and I'm fairly sure that this would have been the last I would have seen of him if I hadn't followed him. As it is now, we've come to a solution we all can live with fairly well. Whistler wants to live on his own when we have the Nest back - something I thought about as well, if I had seen any way of making that offer without making him think I was throwing him out.


I had asked Growler to come see me at the Cow after breakfast last night. What he did was knock on the door at sunrise and one look at him was enough to tell me that he didn't have any time to waste. His kidney had already been in bad shape, but now it was failing completely and rapidly. Dialysis gave me enough time to get my hands on a nephritic screen. Growler tried to squirm out of it, saying that he was already feeling much better. He agreed to let me operate when I told him bluntly that he was dying and would be dead in a few days without the operation.

It was touch and go for a few minutes, but Growler pulled through and the screen is working well. When he found out that he wouldn't be able to get drunk any more, Growler gave me hell. He knows that he has been ignoring my advice and my warnings for years, though, and he also knows I didn't have any choice. Won't stop him from complaining, I guess, but I can live with that.

The nephritic screen was of course second hand and I acquired it together with its former owner, so I had a body on my hands that needed to disappear. I took Glitzy to see John.

John is a ghoul who has retained much of his sanity. Other players may not want to read the following.

Neil has met him about three years ago when John (as in John Doe) came in with severe wounds from a wild animal. By the time Neil had figured out what was wrong, John had killed the nurse who worked at the clinic back then. Neil tasered John and tried to save the nurse, but she was already dead. Since telling anyone about John may well have meant losing the clinic, Neil decided to let both the nurse and John disappear and drove out to a complex of ruins where he knew bodies could be hidden with no-one ever finding them.
John had come around and was tearing apart the body of the nurse in the back of the van. Neil waited until all was quiet again and then opened the door, ready to shoot John. He did not have the heart to do it when John begged for his life, confused and scared by what he had done. So Neil let him go. The people at the Rat's Nest didn't ask too many questions about the nurse, people who simply leave without letting anyone know are not unheard of and she never was really at home at the Nest.
Neil does what he can to help John and considers him a friend, although he always is careful around him, especially when John hasn't eaten for some time.


I've been meaning to do that anyway. I've never been able to tell anyone about him, but I had the feeling that Glitzy would be more accepting than other people and I was right. John is in bad shape, he clearly hadn't eaten for who knows how long. I have to get my hands on some warm clothes and other stuff to make sure he doesn't simply freeze to death one night. Glitzy also warned me that she had no problems smelling him and that hunters may have even less of a problem.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Trolling

December 10th 2071, Thursday
After our night at the hotel, Glitzy and me were having breakfast when Saphira called and told Glitzy that Splash had been abducted by a troll bounty hunter. Apparently, there is a reward by Petrovski Security on capturing her, which was news to me. But we all have our secrets and this is not something you just tell people.

Splash had managed to call the Hellhounds as well, but they were too far away, Glitzy and me were much nearer and we did find her comlink, so we could follow her. The troll brought her to a warehouse, with some gangers keeping a look-out in front. We found the back door and snuck into the building. Neither of us would have any chance against a troll in an all-out fight, so a surprise attack was our best bet.

He had Splash in a small office divided off the main room and a scream from her made it clear that he was trying to get information, by means of electric shocks as we later found out. We could reach Splash via comlink and she distracted the troll long enough for Glitzy to sneak behind the door of the office.

I made some noise to lure him out of the door and it worked, but only just. Glitzy attacked him with her stun baton and I used my taser on him, it was enough to drop him. I added a tranq patch because I didn't want him to wake up too soon. We got Splash out of the restrains and left, but not without scavenging what we can use. It's not something I'd do normally, but with the Rat's Nest in the hands of the Picas, we need all the weapons and equipment we can get our hands on. I doubt the troll will be very happy about this when he wakes up and I really hope he never finds out who exactly did this.

Enough of Ghosts (private)

December 10th 2071, Thursday
So I found a teacher or rather Saphira found one for me. Glitzy works for her as a courier and I had already met her once when she taught Blaster how to fight with a knife before the duell with the Spikes.

She had caught my eye back then, but when we met at some hotel so that she could teach me about magic, I certainly wasn't in the mood to do anything about that. That's what I thought at least, it seems my subconscious had other plans. A ghost materialized and well, let's just say we both confronted our desire for each other much sooner than we normally would have.

Anyway, I'm feeling a bit more at home with my magic now. I called my first ghost on purpose this morning. My grandmother, which may have not been the best choice considering what we had been doing, but I felt safe with her and it worked fairly well.

And Glitzy...I've fallen hard for her. I've never been someone to fall in love quickly and I've avoided even harmless flings in the last years. Maybe that's why it has hit me so hard, but whatever it is, I don't care. I just want to be with her and luckily she feels the same.

I expect trouble when Whistler finds out, but the first real trouble came from a direction I had absolutely not foreseen. When we got back to the safehouse, Liz used her shockhand on Glitzy and walked out, simply stepping over her body as if nothing had happened. At first, I didn't even get what had happened, but when I did, I was angry enough to bite Liz's head off. It took me some time to help Glitzy, luckily for Liz probably.

When I went to look for Liz, she was standing on the stairs outside, crying hard. I had an idea why she attacked Glitzy, but I wanted to hear it from her anyway. I feel like an idiot for not seeing it, but Liz has been in love with me all that time now. It just didn't register with me. But even if it had, it would have changed nothing. She is...or was...a friend, but not more. And being in love with me does not entitle her to decide over my private life, as she seems to think it does.

Liz and Glitzy fought it out amongst themselves not long after that and Glitzy won. I really hope that Liz will be smart enough to leave well alone after that.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ghosts (private)

December 9th 2071, Wednesday
I don't know what is happening with me. I didn't take the whole near death-thing very seriously, but what happened today...I can't just shrug that off. Whistler nearly died because of me.

Let's have some order. We brought the Scrappers back from prison and I took Whistler with me to the apartment where we're staying. That was probably not a very bright idea, with Maggie also staying there, but to be honest I didn't want him out of my sight and I cannot keep them apart forever. Whistler froze when he saw Maggie and he was that close to simply attacking her. I tried to get him to back down, but he wasn't listening to me.

And then a fucking ghost appeared. It sounds so ridiculous written down, though it was anything but in real life. It was one of the Picas I had killed during our attack on them and he tried to shoot Whistler, he seemed intent on protecting Maggie. I had a short moment of dizziness before he materialized and a bit of a nosebleed, not that I noticed at the time. I did my best to protect Whistler, but how do you fight a ghost? We couldn't touch him and there were too many people around to just try and shoot him, although I think that wouldn't have done much good anyway. The bullets from his gun would have been deadly, I'm sure of that.

It was only a question of time before the ghost would get a chance to kill Whistler. I had no idea what else to do, so I yelled at Maggie to talk to him, to tell him that she didn't need protection. She shouted at the ghost to go away and he did. The thing is that I almost felt like she was talking to me.

It seems that I called the ghost. He was like the personification of my need to protect Maggie. I never wanted this to happen, I would never do anything to hurt Whistler. But I had no control over it and I have no idea how to keep it from happening again and how to handle it when it does. I'm scared to death, frankly. I need to find someone who can teach me as quickly as possible.

It has probably cost me Whistler's trust as well. The thing with Maggie was bad enough, but this... He says he doesn't know me any more and I can't blame him. I don't know how to fix this or even if it can be fixed. Maybe not. Probably not. Whistler doesn't trust easily, it took ages for him to open up to me even a bit and now he has shut down again completely.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

After the Storm (private)

There are some things I'm not going to write about for everyone to read. Here's one of them:
While I was being beaten by the cops, I didn't lose consciousness as much as I stepped out of my body. It was a freaking near death experience, complete with white light.

I found myself standing next to the cops and I felt pity for the poor guy they were busy beating, but it was all a bit distant. Maybe I was just distracted by the fact that Mr Snautz, Rivet's Great Dane, who had been shot during the raid, was talking to me. Rip was also there and he wanted me to come with him, he said he had found a way out (through a window under one of the containers that glowed with a bright light).

I was somewhere between taking it all seriously and "you've got to be kidding me". I mean, I never bought into all that spirit stuff even as a kid and now here I was, talking to a dead dog. In any case, Mr Snautz asked me whether I really wanted to go back. I did - following Rip may have been the easy way out, but I wasn't willing to leave my friends and the people who depend on me. God (or whoever) knows I've been thinking about just leaving the Rat's Nest often enough, but if there ever was a time for making a graceful exit, it's long gone now.

So back I went. I have no idea what triggered all that, maybe really just a blow to the head. My whole body hurts when I move, but I'm not all that badly injured, nothing life-threatening in any case. Maybe it was just a way for my subconscious to kick my butt, to get me to acknowledge that I had a lot more responsibilities than just myself. If that was the case, it worked, thank you very much. Next time, how about something a bit more subtle?

After the Storm

December 7th 2071 (continued)
We had moved Rivet to the Cow (clinic on wheels, a converted van), the bathhouse was not really the right place for someone in his condition. This morning, he surprised me by waking up, I would have guessed that this would have taken much longer. Unfortunately, he suffers serious memory loss and thinks he has been injured during a regular boxing match. He also believes that we have 2066, so he has currently no memory of anything concerning the Rat's Nest. I was less delicate than I could have been in telling him, but he'll have to face the reality soon enough whatever I tell him.

We have suffered our first casualty, one of the Scrappers had been knocked unconscious by the water cannons and no-one found him until morning. He froze to death. He had a wife and three children.

I was on my way to tell his wife when shots were fired, four or five, very quickly. The target were the Hard Corps cops and four of them were lying in the middle of the street, dead or dying. My first thought was who in the Rat's Nest would be stupid enough to do that? And speaking of stupid: Splash actually ran right towards them, whatever she was trying to do. She went down as well, it looked like she had been hit, but there were no shots. I decided that she had probably come to her senses and was playing dead. She later told me that she had been absolutely certain she had been hit twice and died. I don't know what happened, she's perfectly fine, although she seemed a bit dazed from the whole experience.

One of the cops, the lieutenant, was still moving. I couldn't let him bleed to death, so I ventured out to drag him back to cover. He had been hit badly and was bleeding out. I had crossed about half the distance back to the containers when the rest of the cops came running, guns at the ready and shouting at me to drop the lieutenant and to get on the ground.

I put the lieutenant down and knelt next to him, trying to keep at least one hand on the wound, and shouted at the cops not to shoot. Next thing I knew, six cops were on top of me and all I could do was curl up while they beat the shit out of me. I got at least one good blow to the head because I lost consciousness for a while.

When I came round again, the cops were trying to fight off just about all the dogs of the Rat's Nest plus a mob of people. I did the best I could for the lieutenant so that he wouldn't die right there and then and I tried to calm the people down, the last thing we needed were more dead cops. It worked - the cops all were beaten badly and people took their guns, pretty much all their stuff, but they'll all live. Good enough for me.

The lieutenant was not in great shape, but he realized that I had saved his life. We came to an agreement: the cops would keep silent about what exactly had happened and the people of the Nest would get out before Doc Wagon arrived, which would be in about 15 minutes tops. He tried to negotiate for their weapons, but even if I had been willing to get them back, there was no way anyone would have returned them.

So we left the Nest as quickly as possible. We'll see what will be left when we get back. For now, we're in a number of hideouts Saphira has come up with. She has also come up with an attorney, Al Goodmann, who she says is well worth the money he asks. He told me that he thinks he can get our people out of jail by tomorrow since there were a number of ... irregularities with the raid, the lack of a warrant not being the least. I hope he can deliver.

Oh, and I almost forgot: a couple of our dogs (Rivet's pug Mr Wrinkles and my Rott Jasper among them) turned up at Splash's hiding place and pretty much wrecked it. Don't ask me how they found her, in fact don't ask me why they suddenly went all Baskerville on the cops who attacked me. I have no idea what's going on there. Anyway, I took Jasper and the other dogs with me, Blaster kept one of the strays.
I'll try to get some sleep for now, while I can.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Damage Done

December 7th 2071
I felt marginally more friendly towards the world in general after about eight hours of sleep and some food. Rusty told me that he had shown Maggie around the Rat's Nest and that she'd be working to support herself. We even managed to arrange some sort of day care for Daniel.
Not that this matters now. The Rat's Nest has taken a hard hit, we're struggling to survive, just so Ares/Knight Errant can feel good about themselves.

We were woken by the sound of helicopters and, I kid you not, Ride of the Valkyries. A couple of choppers flew over the Rat's Nest at low altitude and dropped CS gas canisters on us. People panicked and started to run, trying to take cover. I managed to close the door of the clinic before too much of the gas could get in and just to be on the safe side, I put Rivet, who's still unconscious, under the oxygen tent.

Across the street, the kids from the school were all over the place and I helped Miss Patterson to get them all safely inside. By that time, Knight Errant was already moving in with Citymasters, water cannons and troops in full riot gear. We did not know what hit us. Apart from the Knight Errant troops, there were Hard Corps troops, who moved off into the side streets. And let's not forget the news reporter and camera team who were there to report on the crackdown on this center of crime.

Not many of our people really fought, but those who did went down hard. I saw one Scrapper take a shot at a helicopter with his crossbow and he got gunned down, at least only with gel ammo, but bad enough. I took him back to the clinic, trying to talk people into surrendering quietly on the way.

It didn't take long for Knight Errant to kick the door of the clinic down (not that it wasn't open anyway). I was ordered to take off my white coat, which I did, and to let them move Rivet out, which I did not, I wasn't about to let those thugs move a comatose patient. My refusal earned me a stun baton to the leg, so that was the end of that. I found myself out in the street where I knelt in the freezing mud along with rest of our people.

They brought out Whistler, who didn't resist and seemed fine so far, he was put in line next to me. A short while after that, I saw them bring Maggie, Liz and Rusty, who had been mercilessly beaten. I had no problems diagnosing the broken leg and probably internal bleeding from across the street. The cops told the reporter that they had caught Rusty while he was raping Liz. The screams of pain and fear from the side streets made it clear that they were discovering many more such scenes. The Hard Corps guys were obviously there for the dirty work.

The clinic was dubbed a drug lab for the camera and fire bombed. The same went for the school. Sorry, for the BTL lab. Miss Patterson was arrested by a Copyright Infringement and Patent Violation unit and by arrested I mean dragged from the building by her hair and slammed into the doors of the Black Maria face first.

Nearly all the members of the Scrappers were arrested as well. They also arrested a couple of people picked at random for being rat shamans. I know everybody they picked and none of them have ever shown any signs of being Awakened. One of the people chosen was Whistler. I lost it when they hauled him away. I simply jumped one of the cops and managed to knock him down, but they didn't have much trouble overpowering me. I think I got hit by a stun baton again, my legs gave out in any case. After that, they had the chance to demonstrate one of their new weapons for the camera, a Pain Inducer. I have never been in such pain in my life and I would rather face a gun than that thing again. I have no idea how long they used it on me, it felt like an eternity, I was screaming and writhing on the ground. When they finally did stop, I was in no condition to get up, let alone fight. Which didn't keep them from using it on me again.

I think I blacked out a bit after that, purely from exhaustion. The hell of the Pain Inducer is that you just don't lose consciousness. I'm told that the reporter called it humane. Professional torturers will love it, I'm sure. Anyway, what was left of our people were then getting medical care, provided by Ares. After hours in the freezing cold, we all needed it, but that didn't make any of us feel better about it.

When night fell, they left, leaving ten of the Hard Corps guys to secure the area. Yeah, right. One of the doctors asked me if he could be of any help. I slapped him, I just couldn't help myself. We did get some medical supplies, but that's just a pittance, especially considering the state people are in after the Hard Corps cops worked them over. Almost everybody has been beaten and many of the women were raped. Oh, and they left Rivet on the side walk, I guess they saw no sense in wasting money on him.

We got to work to make at least a few containers habitable again so that we would survive the night. We crammed as many people as possible into the pub, the bath house of the Viets and a few other places. Splash got the recycler to work again, even though it was badly damaged, so we could replicate blankets and clothes from the scrappy stuff Ares left us with.

During the night, the Hard Corps guys actually knocked on the door of the bath house and wanted to come in because they were cold. I told them that if they came in, people would lynch them, machine pistols or not. They backed down and left. Take a guess what they did to keep warm. They set fire to a couple of containers. The fire destroyed a big part of what was left of the Rat's Nest, but nothing we can do about it now.

At least we survived the night and we can get to work on rebuilding. Saphira outdid herself and managed to get us supplies that will help with keeping our people alive. As much as I cursed it, the Rat's Nest is my home and it breaks my heart to see it like this. I lost many friends yesterday and I have no idea when, if at all, we are going to see them again. And Whistler. Damn it, that kid who just walked in from the street a couple of years ago. I feel about him just as I imagine I would feel about my own child. Not knowing where he is and what will happen to him hurts. It hurts.

Sick of it all

December 5th 2071
The fight was about as brutal as I thought it would be. We came there expecting some backyard fighting match, but the Spikes had turned it into a free for all-carnival and a lot of money was changing hands.
Blaster and Rivet actually won. Not easily, but they did and I doubt that their two opponents will do much fighting in the near future, or at all, depending on the skill of the shaman who was called in for help. I don't think it was a good idea to take the Spikes' cuts, though, that was asking for trouble. We left as soon and as gracefully as possible.

Rivet's been badly hurt and just about managed to hold himself up until we were a fair distance from the Spikes' turf. He's in a coma and will be for a few more days. I cannot say whether there will be any lasting damage, from the head wound in particular, only time will tell.

So that was last night. Oh, I'm also now the owner of Rivet's winnings he got from betting on himself. I guess the clinic will get some new equipment, not to mention Kerry will get a new weapon. Which is something pretty much everybody will appreciate, since she won't shut up about not having one.

I've been leaving Whistler alone for the last few days, but I ad to decide what to do with Maggie and I needed to know what exactly happened when he was captured by the Picas. That was not a conversation I was looking forward to. He told me that Maggie had beaten and tortured him. Beaten, yes. Tortured, as he told it: no. I've seen his injuries and no-one did anything like that to him. He wouldn't talk to me any further and I didn't want to accuse him of lying just yet, so I went to talk to Maggie.

I'm sorry to say that her version of the events scanned much better with the facts. I probably wouldn't be much more thankful than Whistler, but she did save his life. She says he already had a gun to his head when she got the Picas to keep him alive, to try and get information from him and of course for banter. She also says that he dissed her in front of the gang and that she beat him with a baseball bat for that. After this, he talked. I can't say I blame him. Whistler blames himself plenty, though. He finally told me the truth when I confronted him again. He needs to come to terms with that by himself, I cannot help him with that. I can just say that I don't give a fuck what he told the Picas and that I'm glad he came out of this alive.

Rusty, the Scrapper who guarded Maggie's container came by to tell me that he was up for another shift and I told him that Growler and I had decided to let Maggie run free if she wants to. He seemed on the verge of saying something and I was already tired of having to drag the truth out of people. When he refused to tell me what had happened, I slammed him into the wall. Not my proudest moment. Rusty did tell me that some of the Scrappers had taken revenge on Maggie for the whole Pica fiasco and that he stopped them. So yeah, I just roughed up the only halfway decent guy who actually did see something wrong with what happened. Go me. I'm sick to death of this whole place. I can't believe I actually had so much naivety left to believe that she would be left alone.
I need to sleep, I haven't had more than two hours at a time for days. The Rat's Nest can go fuck itself for now.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hostage to Ice Cream

December 4th 2071

I got a call that one of the Picas was standing in front of the gates, asking to speak to someone in charge. That person was me, everybody else was not around. Seems to me I'm doing a lot of this leader crap lately. I should ask for a pay rise. Oh wait, I don't get payed.

The Pica officially declared war between the Scrappers and the Picas, no surprise there. Then he offered to trade Whistler for Kerry's automatic weapon, plus Maggie's stuff or at least the part that belongs to the gang. I told him I had to ask Kerry about the gun, but other than that the trade was fine with me. We agreed to meet an hour later.

Kerry was very much not in favor of giving away her gun and I had to promise to get her a new one as quickly as possible. Ammo was not included in the deal, so she stripped the gun. Rivet and a couple of other orks accompanied me and I have to say if I do have to walk into such a situation, having an ork with a giant crossbow watching my back definitely makes me feel better.

The agreed meeting place was the Iceman, a guy short a few sandwiches of a picnic who sells ice from an armored car. He went postal when we arrived, but that's normal for him. If you can't face down a shotgun to buy your ice, then the Iceman is not for you.

Shortly before the Picas arrived, Splash called me and actually asked me to bring her some vanilla icecream back. With sprinkles. WTF? What is it with people and ice cream? Says the guy with the 15 packages of the stuff in his freezer and no idea how they got there.

Anyway, the trade went down without problems, no-one tried to shoot anyone. Whistler had obviously been badly beaten, he was barely able to walk. The Picas had also drugged him, probably to make him easier to control. Rivet picked him up and we drove back to the Rat's Nest.

Back at the clinic, I got to work on Whistler, neutralizing the heroin he had been injected with. There were a few broken ribs, a broken ulna and if I had to guess, I'd say someone had worked him over with a baseball bat. At least he still had all his organs.

Maggie saw him and called something over, making Whistler freak out completely, I had my hands full calming him down. So I already have a pretty good idea that she was at least involved. For Whistler's sake, I arranged for Maggie to move into another container down the road, I don't want her here with him.

Rivet asked me if I could supply him with an antidote to Kamikaze. The Hellhounds and the Scrappers had a run-in with the Spikes. Instead of an all-out gang war there will be a duel between two fighters of the Spikes and Rivet and Blaster. He's hoping that the Kamikaze will give him an extra edge. I also agreed to come with them, for on-site first aid, in exchange for a gun for Kerry.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Retreat

We retreat into one of the houses for cover and to give us some time to deal with Slicer's injuries. It becomes fairly obvious that the ganger girl we have captured was no run of the mill street brat, she has clearly had some education and her possessions were just a bit too high class, starting with her commlink and ending with her trode net. Her manners are pure street, however. Oh, and she has a terrier-ish mongrel that follows her around, but he keeps his distance after I aimed a kick at him.

We still cannot raise any of the other groups, but things are getting in motion there. Twitch and Splash leave their rooftop and manage to escape the Picas before they can ambush them. Rivet's and Liz's group are still holed up in an apartment, with Liz trying to get Gilette stable enough to move him.

Rivet decides to check on the Picas and meets a couple of them downstairs. Here's a tip: if you spray an ork with gasoline and set him on fire, you better be damn sure that you run faster than a burning ork. The sight of Rivet, stampeding down the street on fire with one of the Picas held by the scruff of the neck is certainly impressive enough to clear the coast for a few minutes. Particularly since he survives surprisingly unscathed.

The group uses their chance to get on their bikes and drive towards the Rat's Nest, but not without another shoot out. With Picas on both sides of the narrow street, Rivet takes a few of them out by spinning his bike and a few more are taken out by friendly fire. They make it through and head for the Rat's Nest. Gargle had been hit and passes out on the way, so Rivet drives back and simply scoops him up, without even slowing down.

Twitch and Splash have arrived at our hiding place in the meantime and we decide to make a break for it as well. With Slicer taped securely to the bike (not my favourite method of transporting patients, let me tell you), we drive out into the alley. The Picas have taken a few squatters as hostages and are forcing them to walk towards us, hiding behind the adults. That keeps us from firing at them, but it's an obstacle for them as well and we manage to get to the main street, if you can call it that. We're ambushed by the same Picas as Rivet's group, unfortunately for them Kerry is still in possession of her automatic weapon and makes quick work of them.

Back at the Rat's Nest, the alarm goes up – there's a good chance the Picas will come for us. With the clinic's equipment, it takes a few hours, but Slicer and Gargle will be able to walk out of here tomorrow. Maggie, the ganger girl, is unconscious after coming down from whatever high she was on. I make sure the baby is healthy. Well, as healthy as any baby can be under these circumstances. We'll deal with her tomorrow, her commlink and her stuff goes to Splash. The terrier actually kept up with us, he's now outside, snarfing down Jasper's food. Jasper seems more puzzled than anything else by the yipping ball of fur, so I'm fairly confident that he won't eat him while I sleep.

December 1st 2071
Weeelll, more than two hours sleep would have been nice. But we don't do nice here and Splash came by with Maggie's cracked commlink. The data on it is something the Picas will want back for sure, their complete finances and business transactions. They make a surprising amount of money, dealing with drugs, weapons and apparently bioware as well.
That doesn't bode well for Whistler. We know that the Picas have at least his bike and I still haven't been able to reach him, so I tend to believe Maggie who told me that he has been captured.

Not like she was all that eager to talk, but in exchange for her dog, with her diary cracked and with Blaster and Rivet playing very effective bad cops to my good one, she got a lot more talk-active. The last straw was the baby. It's not the first baby I delivered here, but the one I worry most about. He seems healthy, but I'm sure that Maggie's drug use will have at least some effect on him later. At least he won't be sold for spare parts, which is what would have happened to him if Maggie had stayed with the Picas. She had clearly hoped that we would take the baby from her but once she held him, there was no going back for her. Not to mention that the Picas would probably just kill her now that she has been staying with us, however involuntarily.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Honeypot

I said I had a baaad feeling about this whole gang raid thing. Man, I was so right.

Whistler had found out a few useful things about the kiddie gang, like the location of their headquarters. Apart from Splash, Blaster, Kerry, Liz and me, we took a couple of gangers. Whistler would serve as scout. Gargle had a bone to pick with the Picas anyway and as far as the others were concerned, anything for a decent fight. This is especially true for the orcs and so we set out on motorcycles to the sound of Rivet playing war songs on his bagpipes. Yes, that was about as conspicuous as it sounds, but I didn't kid myself that this was going to be a surprise attack anyway.

Splash stayed behind at some distance from the warehouse that the Picas use as headquarters, to set up a drone that would gather additional information for us. By that time, we had already been spotted. I decided to split up, to approach from two sides and from about then, things went downhill fast.

The group that went straight ahead had its way cut off and we heard shots. Blaster, Kerry, the two orcs Rip and Slicer and me went around and promptly lost our way, maps are just not very reliable here. By that time, we had already lost contact with Whistler, but I tried to tell myself that this was the fault of the at best spotty Matrix connection.

Splash assembled a map, but it took her a few minutes. During that time, we discovered the burning bus that had been dragged into the street and that cut off the first group's way back. To get to them, we would have to take a detour.

Rip took off after one of the Picas who shot at us (not that he hit anyone) and dove after the kid through a basement window, where he got stuck. By the time Blaster and Slicer had pulled him out, the kid had already emptied his gun into Rip's face and this time, he had aimed much better. I doubt that Rip would have survived that, the steel bar that rammed into his body when he was pulled out only killed him more quickly. Blaster tossed a stick of dynamite into the basement, so we can probably assume that there were casualties on both sides.

Splash managed to open a connection to Liz and she told me that they had been attacked and forced into a building about 100 meters from us. All of them except Gilette were unharmed, but Liz warned us of a trap. No surprise there.

By the time we had rounded the corner, we could hear a young girl's screams from a small alley. One of the Picas, a girl of about 13 years and highly pregnant, was lying on the ground, covered in blood. Here's why it sometimes sucks to be a doctor: this screamed TRAP!, but there was no way I was just ignoring the chance that she really was hurt. 

Kerry offered to come as well to give me cover, but Slicer was having none of that and insisted on driving into the alley with his motorcycle. What seemed to be just a big puddle turned out to be a hole deep enough to swallow both the bike and Slicer and the situation was not improved by the pipebomb thrown out of a window right into the hole.

With Kerry giving us cover, Blaster and I managed to pull Slicer out of the whole. He actually survived the explosion, but he needs some serious medical attention. The girl was still screaming and I inched closer, my gun drawn. When I squatted down beside her, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and was just quick enough to shoot two Picas, killing one of them. I had my back turned on the girl and that was an almost fatal mistake, she pulled a gun and shot me in the back twice.

The armor coat caught the brunt of it, but it was still enough to knock the breath out of me. Adrenaline is a wonderful thing, though, and I managed to take the gun from her, putting her in a stranglehold until she passed out. I would have loved to keep her under with a tranq patch, but who knows what drugs she took, she clearly was on something. Meanwhile, Blaster knocked out the Pica I hadn't killed.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mazel Tov

I got a few hours of sleep and a wakeup call at 6am: Kimba, one of our cyber prostitutes, had been plugged in overnight and they couldn't wake her. I'm frankly crap at anything involving the Matrix, so I needed help. Our local hackers were almost all out on business, except Splash and Han Solo and once we had kicked the door to his container down, it turned out Han didn't look much better than Kimba.

We brought Han and Kimba to the clinic and plugged in to find out what went wrong with them. We got help from Caidian, who hangs around with the hackers and managed to trace Kimba and Han. What we found was...sick. Take a look, if you want. You've been warned.

FYI, the hippogrif is Splash, Neon Man is Caidian, Michelin Man Blaster and the dragon tank is a program of Splash's.

A room resembling a cross between an emergency room and a night club, with a stage where a band of surgical instruments plays Klezmer, Nippon sytle. Across the room, two people are having sex on a huge bed that looks like an autopsy table, while a masked surgeon is performing brain surgery on them. He removes slips of paper from their open heads and puts in new ones, while directing their movements with strings, like puppets.

Entering the room are a huge hippogriff, a stick figure with a lab coat and a medical bag and another figure, shining in neon colours, along with something that looks like the lovechild of a dragon and a tank. They are met by a masked geisha and the hippogriff produces invitation cards, which the geisha accepts with a smile, a bow and a cheery Masel Tov!

For a moment, they just stand and stare at the scene, then Neon Man produces a machine gun and shoots at the surgeon, missing completely. The surgeon turns, showing his face to be a Kabuki Guy Fawkes, but he continues his surgery, ignoring the intruders - who have been joined by Michelin Man.

Lab Coat Man moves over to the bed and starts to cut through the strings attached to the pair. Menawhile, the hippogriff and the tank dragon attack the surgeon, while Michelin Man gets into a fight with the surgical instruments who have turned on the group...all the while still playing Klezmer.

The surgeon is very much unimpressed, but he does flinch when Michelin Man grabs a clarinet from the band and starts first to play counter to the rhythm of the band and then to play into the surgeon's ear. Neon Man gets attacked by more surgical instruments and disappears, while the surgeon is apparently done and begins to close the heads of the pair on the bed.

The continuing attacks on the surgeon by the hippogriff and the tank dragon finally show an effect: the surgeon's shape grows grotesquely distorted until he is sucked out of the room.

Lab Coat man opens up the heads of the pair again and starts to sift through the paper, removing the notes the surgeon put in and restoring the original contents of their heads.

*end sim*

Brain surgery is not my strong suit, but both Kimba and Han Solo woke up and seemed fine. They didn't remember anything except meeting online and a very pleasant feeling. Kimba had a strong craving for vanilla icecream, though, and Han said that he had some words stuck in his head in a language he didn't know. On a whim, I said vanilla ice cream in Japanese and they both flinched, the word was enough to cause a reaction. So I either missed something or the black ice program had already made changes that are beyond repair. We're thinking that it was an attempt at brainwashing them, who knows for what purpose.

And speaking of missed something: Faye`s meat puppet program was activated remotely while we were busy operating. She grabbed a syringe and would have injected me with it if Blaster, who had gone offline already, hadn't grabbed her. She claims she cannot remember anything and I believe her. The syringe was filled with a stimulant and it would have been unpleasant, but not lethal, so that seems like a fairly desperate attempt...considering that there are much nastier things here to use.

The council decided to upgrade Matrix security as much as possible and to keep everyone off the Matrix for tonight. We still have the code that the ice tried to implant into Kimba and Han, but none of use can make any sense of it. A psychology softskill would help and I can get my hands on one, but it will take a few days. Which is actually a good thing because we need some time to get our hands on that kind of money. Kerry suggested a raid on the gang that has been making trouble around here anyway (the ones that Blaster encountered), that would kill two birds with one stone. Although I can't say I feel very confident about being a part of this. It's not that I can't hold my own I a fight, but this is different, planning it like that.