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.