Dateline: Continued from last session, 0630 local time.
The short but brutal fight for Toenail Tower is over. Losses: the Sharks: 3 dead, 4 wounded. Desiderium: 3 dead, 8 wounded. Toes: 9 dead, 16 wounded. The remaining Toes are given a swift ultimatum – join Desiderium or flee – and some stay to be overseen by Candy’s lieutenant Francheska. Shania Chacon, Garrion and Candyman stand in front of the tower, the slimly gorgeous Dream Corps security chief silently sizing up her captors as they organize the mop-up. Around them, the members of Desiderium are administering first aid to the wounded and looking over the dead for valuables worth stripping prior to selling the carcasses to Resyk Inc. as Pitbull stalks among the surrendered, eyes searching like a predatory cat for anyone who has the nerve to fight back after the fight, Reaper poised in a ready position. High above them, atop the tower, Able stands by Chacon’s luxury AV, examining it from a distance and trying to determine whether it has any extra traps or security systems other than the sonic screamer security system that comes factory installed on this model. Nearby, Pacoy releases another buzz-drone and sets it to patrol the sky.
Looking in through the windshield with his Reaper’s sight set on high, Able spots the tell-tale apertures of an internal gas delivery system under the pilot’s seat. He sighs and begins gathering items to help him disable the car’s security system – a set of pliers left lying around, some wires ripped from the wall of the building, a piece of rebar, and other odds and ends. “Hey, Able, Do you need to borrow some tools?” Pacoy calls. Able looks up from his scrounging, “Yes, that would be good.” “Hang on, let me grab the GOOD stuff from the van”
Meanwhile, down below, Candyman is getting frustrated. "No, report to the Aequitas, over there. Yes, the tall woman over there,” he points, “now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve some time sensitive business to take care of.” Seeing him turn her way, Chacon speaks with a hint of French accent, “You seem to be in charge here – at least it was your voice offering me safe conduct. Well?” She arches an eyebrow. “Yes, Mrs. Chacon. Your safety is assured, but we have some requests that will expedite the process.” Chacon smiles at Candyman, “I don’t think it would be good form to give in to requests without some comme-ci-comme-ca, now would it?”
Garrion leaves Candy to his negotiations and touches his throat mike, “How are things going up there Able? What security is in place?” Able’s voice comes back quickly, distracted by his problem: : “Gas suppression system in the cockpit, and the model comes standard with a sonic screamer ‘theft alarm’ system. Give me a few minutes and we should have it open and ready.”
However, that a few minutes may be too long a time is confirmed an instant later as Wormwood breaks in on comms from his position at the Dream Corps facility, “Whoa, the lights all went out at Dreampark! I hope you guys are ready for our guy when he bolts!” Pitbull grimaces in frustration at the news but just keeps surveying the area, remembering that they are still in the Zone and there is always someone dumb or crazy enough to attack a group of armed people. He is reminded once more of Mexico, “All we need now is some jackass with a bomb strapped to ’im, and it really will be Mexico.” He growls over his own mike. Coming on the tail of Wormwood’s warning his message is clear – the team have things to do and no time left to waste.
Candyman, smooth as silk, monitors the radio talk between his team-mates and continues talking to Chacon without an obvious break in his cool. “Good form? This is simply a case of hi-way robbery my dear. I suppose if you’re unwilling to be forthcoming, there are other ways you can be made profitable. I would like to keep things civil however and not involve whatever Corp you work for, we would be interested in having the security codes to your VTOL – insurance should cover it, though I don’t know the policy on such when parked within a Combat Zone. Though, you could report it lost in another location if there is a conflict in policy. The tracker will be going off line shortly and that should be proof enough that it was confiscated. I’ll give you a moment to produce those if it is your pleasure, I need to speak to my compatriots a moment.” Candy takes a step and begins to sub vocalize over Comms. “She will likely have leads on the Ghost, where the drop may go down, should we press her on those or just plant a bug and let her go unmolested?”
Garrion approaches Chacon, “I don’t suppose you would be kind enough to give us the codes for the bird? We will get it soon enough anyway. If you cooperate you may get a little sweeter deal from C-man here.” Able speaks up as he looks through the tools Pacoy has now returned with, selecting a few choice bits before turning back to the vehicle, “Getting those codes would be nice, but not required. She does not need to be told anything of the Ghost, though if you do mention it try and make like we’re working for the British government.”
A new voice breaks in on the team’s comm-net: “Yaffle here,” the mad professor of hack cackles. “I’ve been monitoring Dream Corps and something weird is happening there. The whole Night City web-home just locked tighter than a drum, the phones went down and there’s some kind of high-output interference on all wireless channels in the area. Wormwood won’t be able to tell you when the bird flies."
At the same time, Chacon looks worried and touches her jaw just behind her ear, then looks panicked before composing herself. “let us trade, s’ille vous plait – if you please. I’ll unlock my AV if you’ll at least favor me with the name of my captor.” Candyman spots the telltale gesture for what it is and decides to ratchet up the pressure. he swings around on Chacon, no longer playing games. “That radio silence is not just on your end, it looks like Albert Deitner is making his move. We’ve been monitoring him for some time – we will need your cooperation. We can’t get any line on him with our eyes in the sky blinded, you’re all we have. If you need more information than that – it will need to wait till Deitner is secured.”
Pitbull decides to add his own pressure: “If we need a lil’ interrogation, I can help with that,” he chuckles, low and dark. Chacon pouts, then nods, “Mais Oui, yes, I see the necessity. He must have convinced Alice to go along with his plan, somehow. You plan to stop him? But why?”
Garrion sub-vocalizes, “Who’s Alice?” Able continues his prep for breaking into the Air Vehicle, grabbing a few choice items to make temporary earplugs with in case he needs to go in without the codes but he hears his companion‘s query over the radio, “Alice is the computer AI that runs their facility.” Garrion nods, although Able can’t possibly see it, remembering his briefings, “Ah, yes. Giving computers names just creeps me out.” Candy meanwhile clears his throat and continues, allowing a well-acted slight English accent to creep into his voice, “He has double crossed more than just Dream Corp. If you could provide the codes – we will have plenty of time to talk with Deitner contained and present.”
Just then, the AV in it’s rooftop parking spot beeps twice. Able looks up as the AV beeps, frowning. He puts his makeshift earplugs in his ears and begins to approach the vehicle, ready begin the process of popping it open and disabling the tracking system.
Chacon moves up close to Candyman, putting one hand on his arm and squeezing gently, “Already, it is done, Mon Vieux. If I cannot stop him myself from profiting, then at least I can put, how you say, a spanner in his works….I see now, reclaiming your lost property. Mais vrai.” Candy nods, “We appreciate Dream Corps cooperation and my superiors will be informed of your contributions in my report.” Chacon draws herself up and unexpectedly salutes, “Then I claim my parole. I would ask for my escort now, please. The vehicle is yours and she is fast, non?”
Above, the car’s pilot door pops open when Able hits the release. No alarms sound. He swiftly leans in under the dashboard with a multitool and wirecutters and in a few moments a small box slides out into his hands. Striding to the roof’s edge, he tosses the box down the sixty feet to Pitbull, who catches it one-handed. He calls out, “Give this to one of the Toes.” Pitbull laughs and subvocalizes on his mike, “Will it blow up?” Able’s response comes by radio: “Have him move around the city, falsifying the location signal for the vehicle.” Pitbull laughs again, still wishing the box could explode, and walks over to a Toe to explain what he needs to do with the box. The toe nods then takes off at a run.
Meanwhile, Candy has been studying Chacon, seeing if her unexpected gesture is a test. he finally nods then returns the salute even as he begins to escort Chacon to his Aequitas, “Yes, quite right, when Deitner is in custody and the mission complete she should be returned to you. We thank you again for your cooperation, the matter has become time sensitive.” Garrion asks her, “Now do you know if Deitner has any tracking devices we can hone in on?” and Chacon replies “I have given my parole, I cannot aid you further – but if there was a tracker and he was up to no good, would he not have disabled it already?” :“Not if you planted a secondary he didn’t know about,” Garrion observes, “Farewell then.”
Swiftly, the team shake themselves into order for the next phase of their plan. Able sits down at the pilot’s console, plugging in to the interface and starting up the engines. Once he’s settled, he closes his eyes and goes dark for a few seconds as his implant loads up a different mind emulation. The AV’s powerful fans spool up in a rising whine, then a roar. Pacoy meets Garrion down below as he calls out on the radio, “Okay, Me and Garrion can take the van, offer ground support, We’ll head out now.” Garrion agrees, “Let’s go get this guy.” As they run through the Shambles maze back to Pacoy’s van, they pass Chacon and a bunch of Desiderium members, then as they rush through the marketplace they glimpse more Desiderium freeing four very dazed looking waifs, dressed in skimpy but filthy lingerie, from the old railway carriage there. Pitbull heads for the AV, his assigned position. As he slips into the rear passenger seat he arms his weapon’s underslung shotgun with tangler ammunition, puffing off of a cigarette he got from one of the Toes. Candyman joins him having seen Chacon off with her escort and taken care of that other little matter that had been on his to-do list.
Able leans back as he slips fully into the interface with the vertol, looking about the area with the AV’s sensor systems in order to make sure nobody is in the way of take-off and that everyone is in their seat. “Prepare for take-off.” He performs an abbreviated preflight checklist, then sets the vertol to flying, taking the sports AV off the Tower roof in a combat launch which barely clears the roof edge before it tilts upwards and accelerates, pressing everyone back into their seats. Candy grunts out, "Took that time sensitive stuff to heart, ehh-mphh? “ Behind him, Pitbull calmly checks the jacking between him and the Reaper, then lays it over his lap and closes his eyes for a moment as he settles his mind for the coming task, cigarette still hanging from his mouth.
The AV banks sharply to point directly at the Dream Corps facility as Able dodges around traffic and buildings in order to get them there as soon as possible. At the powerful Cadillac sports-coupe’s top speed, it only takes about four minutes at full blast to get in radar range of the Dreampark, which is dark to both normal and infravision, a hole in the gleaming lights of the city. There’s one anomaly – a glaring hot-spot on the second floor of the central building shows a fire there. In closer, he can see frantic activity over to the left, by the hotel on the main Dreampark theme campus, where flashing neon lights show the park’s EMS are packing up and heading for the fire at the TRC as fast as possible.
Able begins flying low, approaching the facility, but getting ready to get out of dodge in case the anti-air guns begin firing. As he approaches, he begins squawking on open radio frequencies, hoping someone can hear them. “Dreamland facility, I am flying above your position. Can anyone read me?” Only static answers on every reachable channel – a massive electromagnetic jamming signal is being sent from somewhere nearby. It’s even interfering with close-in implant modem bandwidth, his computer implant informs him, but not enough to matter yet.
Behind them, by a few miles, Pacoy races the van through the city streets as fast as the electric motor allows. Garrion radios, “Able do you copy? What is the situation? Any eyes on the package?” but only static answers his call. Pacoy has the same problem. “I’m getting some kind of weird interference, but I’m not sure what is going…” he tells Garrion.
In the AV, Able reaches into the computer’s circuits and begins attempting to trace the source of the interference; if he can triangulate it, perhaps they can take it out. Closer now, they can see a large, smoldering, hole in the second floor of the central building – but the AV’s radar system is now beginning to show snow-like interference too. Candyman observes, “They must be panicked, they are blind and deaf down there.” Able nods, “The entire place has been turned into a giant jamming station. Every single antenna connected to the network appears to be on and broadcasting random static. We’re going in; Candy, prepare to ask the locals where the package disappeared to.”
Suddenly, the multi-media screen in the AV’s cockpit clears and an image of a young woman clutching a white rabbit is displayed. Able reacts by instinct, maneuvering the vehicle into a hard dive and taking evasive action of a different kind – he uploads his personal firewall software into the AV’s mainframe computer, activating it and giving it instructions to not let the little girl in. Then in a remarkable display of piloting skill he pulls the AV smoothly out of it’s dive and takes a hard, sharp turn – going into a holding pattern around the facility at the same distance it was when the AI gave its warning.
“Ms Chacon?” the girl says, as if scolding a pet kitten, “I can’t allow you to come any closer. AJ has been most specific. I shall release the guns if you try.”
Candyman thinks fast. His tongue writhes and seems to become fluid in his mouth before settling into a new shape, then he speaks in “A.J.” Deitner’s exact voice. “Ah Alice, Chacon has been dealt with, no longer will the witch interfere.“ Candies tone is manic, copying Deitner’s speech patterns as he heard them over the bug Able had planted in Deitner’s apartment. “Now, let me in – I need to get this damned sword into other hands.”
The AI on the screen looks confused. “AJ, why are you out there? You promised me you’d take the General away so they couldn’t replace me with him. Is something wrong with the plan?” Candyman lies smoothly, “Chacon botched the VTOL before she was dealt with, I was barely able to navigate back here and I’m lost as far as the meeting area without the navigating systems. I don’t know who else to turn to here, everything’s falling apart Alice!”
There’s a flicker on the screen, almost subliminally fast, then Alice frowns. “AJ, I have another AJ claiming you are in imposter. He’s in the vault now. He says I should shoot you down. I’m experiencing a program conflict. I shall have to obey my protocols and ask Tony for guidance. Wait one.” The screen goes to static as below the circling AV as EMS vehicles are beginning to arrive at the TRC building and spray retardant foam on the fire there. In the tall building on the right end of the complex, lights begin to flick on.
The screen lights up again within a minute – Alice has spoken to her “father”, Dream Corps computer guru Anthony Styleman. “AJ, whichever of the two I am speaking to is the real AJ, I am so sorry I had to speak to Tony contrary to your instructions. He says I was deceived. He has invoked root privileges and is restoring power. I am powering down the wideband broadcasts now and the air-defenses will then reboot. I will miss you, AJ, I believed we were friends.” The interference on every channel abruptly halts as a luxury AV hurtles up from the depths of the earthscraper complex on the right end of the TRC and turns out to head over the ocean. On the AV’s now-working sensors, the fleeing vehicle appears as an Audi Sphinx, a luxury limo vertol some significant margin slower than the team’s own.
Candy gives Able a true panicked look, “Over there!” Candy points to the fleeing AV. Able answers in his calm-pilot drone, “We can catch up if that’s him; we need to know if it’s a decoy. Ask Alice if the false AJ is flying the vehicle. Pitbull, how long until those air defense guns reboot?” “It will take five to ten seconds for them to reboot. We need to hurry.” Pitbull growls in reply, knowing the big but short-range Phalanx cannon on the facility’s rooftop will make mincemeat of their machine if they‘re still nearby when they come back online. Recognition crosses Candies face, “Alice, we are friends, is the doppelganger in my Audi Sphinx? If this is the end of me, I would at least want to face the one who has turned the situation against us.”
The screen lights up for a third time: “That AJ says you are the false AJ, AJ. Tony says I shouldn’t talk to either of you any more. good bye.” Able immediately hits the throttle, speeding after the Audi. :: “Pitbull, prepare to intercept the target. Estimated time to intercept…ten seconds. Preparing to open the hatch once we are alongside.”
Pursued at over 200 mph, the target AV hurtles out above the muddy coast, then banks hard left to follow the coastline east. It begins to weave, then Able and his companions see the door on the near side pop open and a dark-clad figure lean out. The figure clutches a PDW and begins to fire wildly out at their vehicle but luckily the burst goes wide.
(Not to be left out, Pacoy wrenches his van into a tight turn and only just makes the coastal freeway on-ramp, then puts the pedal to the metal as he and Garrion pursue their airborne quarry, determined not to be left out. Garrion checks his own weapon and hangs on tight – at these speeds even a crashweb isn’t a guarantee of safety. “You drive and I’ll direct you,” he growls at Pacoy, worried the man will crash trying to watch the fleeing vertols.)
In Chacon’s caddy AV, Pitbull rolls his neck, opens the door to the blasting wake of their flight, and takes aim at the figure with the PDW. Able flies steady for a moment, giving Pitbull enough time to aim and fire, then Pitbull curses under his breath as he misses. He flicks the butt of his cigarette out of the open hatch as he takes aim again.
Candy glances around the city below him, then at the AV ahead, leaping to a logical conclusion: “AJ is going to head inland soon – he will be on course for Mornington, where the British Consulate is located. ETA about 4 minutes. We need to cut him off!” he yells over the noise of engines and slipstream. Able, still eerily calm, simply uses their radio net, “Roger. Moving in closer; Pitbull, get ready to take them down once they’re over land,” then continues to update Garrion in the same unhurried tones as the latter radios, “What’s going on up there. We’re having a little trouble keeping up here. Any clue to where he is heading in case we lose you?”
Pitbull shouts over the din of wind-noise, “Get in closer! I want to use the shotgun!” then resumes aiming, taking a couple of seconds to carefully take in his mark, but the man in the target AV’s door opens up again – missing but causing Able to take evasive action and spoiling Pitbull’s aim. “Shit!” Pitbull roars, and attempts to get another bead on it. “Come on, mothafucka… Come on, motha-fuck-a…” He mumbles to himself. Able maneuvers to a position behind the target AV; now in order for them to fire at them, the man in the other AV will either need to fully lean out or the AV will need to turn away from Mornington.
The two flying cars zip past Bay Point municipal airport, luckily there are no jets landing or taking off, then head towards the Port Authority – a mile of deep water docks, warehousing and cranes. As it passes the landmark office tower on the waterfront, with it’s expanse of curved glass and famous seafood restaurant, the target Audi turns left again, coming back inland and crossing the freeway. In the pursuing van, Garrion sees a chance to get more involved. “Step on it and get me up a little closer. I’m going to try to take out his engine as he crosses the freeway,” he tells Pacoy and the van’s electric motors scream as Pacoy coaxes more speed out of them.
Meanwhile, Candyman has been trying to reach Friedlander Bey’s office, crouched down out of the windshear as he strives to be heard. The screen on the AV lights up; a slim blonde in a silver shirt: “Hello, the Moroccan Palace?” Candy looks up, "Yes, hello. This is Candyman with Desiderium. We are pursuing a target over your territory – the “Ghost”. If any assistance can be made to bring it down, its an Audi Sphinx, it would be greatly appreciated. It’s heading towards Mornington."
He is interrupted from behind by two loud thumping coughs as Pitbull holds his breath and mentally squeezes the shotgun trigger twice, crying out in obscene joy as both tangle-shots arc into his targeted engine. The target AV pulls up like it hit an invisible wall of air, the other three engines screaming in compensation. Immediately, the Sphinx begins an auto-descent, it’s safety programs over-riding its pilot. It slides down out of the sky and pancakes into the rough ground beside the freeway. The doors all pop open and three black-clad figures begin to spill out. “Ha-Ha! Yes! What a rush!” Pitbull roars out, brandishing the Reaper in triumph. Able banks and dives hard, following the target to the ground. As the men get out, the AV hovers over them – Pitbull pointing his rifle right at them.
Candy speaks to the screen again, “We just got two tangler rounds in its engine. Its descending.” The blonde only replies, “I’m sorry, is this an unsecured line?" Candy looks at the screen confused, all the chaos about him making focus difficult, “No, I think not. We’re just south of the docks, we should be rounding them up in the next bit, give the Bey my regards. Candyman out.”
Around Candyman, everything is happening faster than he can take in. Below, Pacoy has pulled up on the side of the freeway and prepared to launch a new bang-bug while Garrion is hanging out of his open van door, aiming his Reaper assault weapon at the three black-clad enemy security team members protecting Deitner. Able slips into quick-time, putting the AV onto an augmented reality interface as he opens his eyes. Aerodyne control indicators and status messages flash in Able’s vision; control surfaces decorate one arm in seemingly holographic imagery. He flicks off the crash webbing and turns in his seat, stepping up and raising his Reaper battle rifle to join Pitbull at the door, ready to fire. The AV continues to circle the downed Audi, one corner of Able’s mind still controlling the AV even as he goes into battle. Behind him, Pitbull has regained his composure and now mentally flicks the selector onto full-auto, and unleashes its unbelievable fury onto one target, raking the PSTer.
Pitbull gives a cowboy whoop at the sight of his target, shredded by full auto fire. Garrion squeezes off three rounds and two of them find their mark, bringing down his own target. The last remaining bodyguard lets fly a burst at Garrion which flies off harmlessly into the dawn but Pitbull switches his target to the last member, and lets loose another full auto salvo which shreds the man’s armor and flesh. As fast as it began, it’s all over.
Able pushes a few buttons that only he can see floating just above his right arm as he holds onto the Reaper and the AV stops in midair, descending to park right next to Deitner’s Audi. The AV’s fans continue roaring, and Able jumps to the ground, rifle in battle position as he approaches the Audi. Pitbull keeps his aim solidly in the vicinity of Deitner and his dead goons as he exits the VOTL, closely followed by Able. They find Deitner curled up in his pilot’s chair, sobbing and having messed himself – his arms clutching at a silvered suitcase with various ports built into the side. "Remember, I am still quite fine at interrogation if needed,“ the others can almost hear Pitbull smiling on the comm.
Candy gets out of the VOTL a bit stiffly and walks over to Deitner, looking down on him from behind Pitbull and Able. “We don’t need your life, just so you know. But, it could be arranged,“ Candy nods at Pitbull, “but I just assume no have it come to violence. Well, more so than it has.” Able pokes Deitner with his rifle, nudging his hands away from the case, as Deitner sobs, “Don’t kill me…don’t kill me…don’t kill me…” Able grabs the case, then steps back as Garrion approaches, “Good job bringing this thing down.”
Candyman looks down on Deitner, no sympathy in his eyes:, “No doubt the Corps will no longer trust you, they will turn their back if not exact revenge. I wish you the luck of it – though you’ve brought it on yourself.” Candy looks over him a moment longer, “We’ll be taking this VTOL – I’d be willing to secure you safe passage out of the country for the codes and your cooperation.” Pitbull shakes his head, a disgusted look plastered across his face, and steps up. “You coward! You even shit yo’self! You types always think that money is a great replacement for a set of balls! Well, I think you now know it isn’t, you f—k-tard!” Pitbull spits on the ground, and points his gun square between Deitner’s eyes, “Now give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just pop yo’ ’ead now?” Deitner looks up wild-eyed at Pitbull and simply whines.
Candy pinches his nose, “Best choose to cooperate, this one,“ Candy hooks his thumb at Pitbull, “is difficult to control when he does not know where one stands.” Pitbull gives the gun a slight jerk, “I’m not hearing any reasons from you, boy!”
Deitner looks at Candyman like a drowning man looks at a lifebelt: “Anything! I want to live…just let me…” he trails off into more sobs as Able steps forwards and cracks his rifle on his skull, knocking the sobbing executive cold. “Cops will be arriving any minute. We need to leave.”
Pacoy calls, “Hey, meet back up at the Tower? I don’t want to be here when the cops get here…” Candyman agrees and points at Deitner, “He’ll have useful information and probably had the foresight to put funds offsite for when the trade went down. Put him in the van and meet back up at my place. I’ll phone the Bey in transit, see if he can recover this wreck before the cops show up.” Pitbull chuckles, “Looks like he just gave me a reason for ya, boy. For now, at least,” then yanks Deitner out of his seat, and carelessly hauls his body to Candyman’s van, throwing him roughly into the back like a sack of trash. Able takes the valuable suitcase containing the ghost back to their stolen Cadillac while Pitbull and Garrion begin to police up the dead security team’s guns. “Let’s get going.,“ Garrion yells as they finish, “We don’t want to have to explain any of this or have witnesses look at us too long.”