Dateline: September 19, 2050, continuing directly from last session.
After an intensive interrogation of a harried client, the Edgerunners went soaring off into the unknown, chasing after the mysterious sister of the client, apparently kidnapped on the streets of a once-middle-class, now decaying, urban zone. The Edgerunners have searched her hotel room, finding little but a well-defended ‘hide-out hotel’ room, the entire floor empty. A wireless video camera lay upon the television, with a nice view of the bed – and there was a strange drug and a medical-quality applicator in the mini-refrigerator. The team found little in the way of answers – only more questions.
Now, the team has congregated at the location of the firefight where the target, Eleanor Sanders, was likely taken. A dilapidated building that once contained a convenience store sits in front of the team’s parked vertol, the van is just pulling in to a neighboring parking space. Bloodstains cover the asphalt under the vehicle’s chassis – if the bodies hadn’t already been moved, the vertol likely would be sitting upon one right now. Across the street is an Amon Zero archive – a church for the Amon Zero cult, and the location of the sole witness that the team knows about.
The archive’s building is a renovated Catholic church, with understated decorations replacing the extravagance of the original owners. The archive has a wrought-iron fence surrounding its carefully-maintained grounds. The heavy double doors leading into the chapel are shut, and not a living soul is in sight.
Garrion steps out of the van as Pacoy pulls up. “What have you guys found out here so far?” “There was a firefight,” says Wormwood, deadpan. Pitbull rolls his eyes, but Wormwood continues, “Other than the blood, though, there doesn’t seem to be all that much out here. Maybe we should ask across the street.” Pacoy shuts down the van, double checks his gear, and joins the rest of the team as Mei checks the rest of the street – more of the same as the old convenience store – a few run-down storefronts and abandoned buildings, a soft discord against a backdrop of well-maintained residences and commercial properties. She speaks softly on the quiet street, “The lack of anything worth visiting here other than Amon Zero makes it pretty plain why she was here. Candy, do you have access to their records to see if she’s been visiting them?” “Good call, Mei,” Wormwood says, “They’ve got to know something. Wait…Candy, you actually know these weirdoes? Don’t they, like, freeze people’s heads or something?”
Candy puffs up, “They are not, as you put so cruelly, weird. We have all lost family in the course of our lives – Amon Zero seeks to make Ghosting a viable option for all people. I respect and support, financially even, their goals and aspirations. In regards to my access – I’m a new member and the archives are priceless…but I may be able to get down there. I’ve been before.” “From the slot misunderstanding with the Toes straight to getting mixed up with a cult trying to find a little head… Sounds like Candy!" Pacoy says with a wide grin. Candy rolls his eyes at the joke with a grunt, but can’t hide the slight smile at his lips. Pitbull scoffs and growls. “The dead should stay dead.” Candy looks to Pitbull, “It would make your job a lot harder if death was not so final – Ghosts don’t particularly fear bullets do they.” “"That, and its just not right,” the gruff soldier replies, “Wouldn’t it cheapen life if death was just a slap on the wrist?" He grunts a laugh. “That was profound. Quote me if ya’ like.”
As the others discuss things, Garrion has been scanning the area quickly. The scene doesn’t appear to have been professionally forensically treated – even modern forensic methods would typically leave some evidence that they had been here, and they’d definitely have cleaned up a bit more. Specifically, Garrion notices a few shell casings – actual shell casings! – on the ground near the convenience store entrance. He steps over and using a pen picks a few up and slips them into a bag for testing later.
“What you got there, Garrion?” Wormie asks, heading over. “I had a look around on full augment but I’m no bloodhound cop.” Garrion smiles, “Well we coppers do have a use sometime you know,” he chides Wormwood. “I got a few casings. We can scope them out later to see if we can ID who was using them.” “Casings for what?” Wormwood asks, puzzled. “Guns. You know the stuff that comes out after you shoot.” What the ex-cop is saying finally registers with Wormwood, who is entirely used to modern caseless ammunition. : “Jeez, those are old, aren’t they? Why on earth would anyone use primitive guns to shoot the bodyguards?”
“The reports did say the winning group seemed to be using improvised weapons,” opines Mei. Maybe they couldn’t afford modern guns?” Candy adds, “Well guns that old would not be on any registries. It might be for that purpose – some have trust issues with guns off the grid.” “Garrion, do you think these look like they could have been from a zip gun, or just really old guns?” Pacoy asks. “Who knows, part of the mystery.” It takes Pacoy only a few moments of looking at the shell casings to come to a decision – the bullets were machine-loaded, and old. Probably from some pre-Collapse stockpile. They were used in old-fashioned guns, too – the only kind that really can use this ammo.
The windows on the Amon Zero archive catch Mei’s eyes – at first, they appear to be normal tinted windows – not those garishly stylized stained-glass windows, just tinted enough that you can’t see anything but shadows moving within. But as she looks closer, the window comes to life – a full-motion, full-color vid display appears upon the surface, showing a woman sharing Mei’s physical features but significantly older in a bed, a young child who could reasonably be her daughter or granddaughter at its foot, crying. The jagged lines of a heartbeat monitor appear to pulse on the screen, once, twice – then it flatlines.
Words appear on the screen: “Don’t leave your loved ones to get by without you – pass on your wisdom, and be with them forever.”
A new picture appears – Mei’s face as she is now, young, on a ghostly-looking see-through body – a vid of a hologram. She stands in front of the child, clearly talking with her – teaching, if the blackboard behind her is any indication. The child suddenly laughs, and Mei’s face smiles. More text appears: “Come inside, and learn how you too can live forever.” It holds for a long moment, then the video disappears.
Everyone else has been following Mei’s stare. “Wow, if these nuts were any creepier, they’d probably be on our roster…” Pacoy whispers while shooting quick glances at certain teammates. Mei recovers quickly, “Amon Zero has cameras pointed at us right now. They probably had them running when the fight broke out, as well." Wormwood stops in the middle of the street, a few paces behind Mei, “Wow, Jedi mindfucks. Neat.” He begins to look for possible locations for any cameras, turning his Acute Vision augments up to max again. Wormwood is unable to pick up any cameras at this range, even with his telescopic vision cranked up – but it’s quite possible that they are extremely small, or built to be concealed. In fact, if he looks right at the apex of the window, there appears to be a small circular metal ring at the very tip – quite possibly demarking the lens of a camera, but it could also just be a stylistic design on the window.
Wormwood flips a claw-tipped finger to the window then walks up behind Mei, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost. Don’t worry, it’s just psych trickery. Nothing real, there.” Pacoy opens his jacket and activates one of his tiny Pinbots to get a closer look at the ring. “Okay guys, these casings look like old-school machine loaded stuff, probably before I was born. I have a Pinbot scoping out the building, do you think we should enter the building and take a look around now?”
Candy sighs, “Pacoy, I told you I am a member of Amon Zero. If you could keep those thoughts to yourself I would appreciate it. Amon Zero is doing good works, trust me on that.” “Thanks, I can’t help but picture the screen filling up with images of the fire-fight and the dead guys ghosts teaching kids at a chalkboard now…” Pacoy says and shudders. “I mean…. no disrespect or anything, but come on…you have to admit, that is unsettling!”
Pitbull looks at Candy, concern etched into his face. "How do you know they aren’t just some kidney-stealing scam, Candy? Any one with that kind of sales pitch is just too shady to be trusted.” Wormwood hears him and calls over, Wormwood: “Oh hey, yeah Pitbull! They mindfuck you into giving up your ghost then sell your corpse to Resyk for organ transplants. Good scam!” Candy turns on Pitbull and lays it out honestly, “I’ve been in the archive Pitbull, I’ve seen all the Ghosts – most dormant for lack of space in the mainframe. Ghosts are the future of mankind – we are already sticking computers in our head – its only the next logical step.” Pitbull shrugs and lights another cigarette, “True, I guess. Still not liking the idea.”
Mentadak arches an eyebrow at them all, “Is this really the time for a theological discussion boys? Lets focus on the task. Candy, who has access to that footage?” Noticing the Pinbot, Candy steps away from the group, “I’m going to head on in, before your irritate them and the doors seal shut….Well Mei, I believe any of the Moderators have that privilege.”
Wormwood snorts, “Theological my ass. Can ghosts bump uglies? If not, how are they going to be the future?” Pitbull looks at Wormwood. “Right? It’s not much of a future if all you can do is yack to your family forever, y’know?” Wormwood laughs," Especially, my family, dude." Then he chuckles and nudges Pitbull, “Hey, maybe the reason for old guns and bullets is old ghosts were using them! Wooooo!”
Around them, the rest have gotten back to business. Garrion raises his voice, “That’s nice information to know Pacoy. We should keep our eyes open for more clues to these weapons. I’ll try to pull some prints or other information from them, if they weren’t wearing gloves.” Mei follows Candyman towards the building “One way or another, there are answers in here.” She then comms to the party, subvocally, “Let me know if you spot a moderator in here. If we can’t get the vid today, I may be able to pass as one and get it myself later.” Pacoy waits a few seconds before recalling the bot. “You know, Candy – you’re right: We are all pre-judging this place, How bout you give us a tour and we can make enlightened decisions?” He says with a smile. Candy looks back to Mei, "Wormie does not understand, bumping uglies, all that takes place is a randomization of genetic information. It would not be impossible to execute the same processes with digitally uploaded information – take less time and resources and would produce a fully functional “adult” individual."
Wormwood still won’t let his train of thought drop. “No, seriously. Remember Able and his multiple personalities, all software loaded? If someone found a way to do that against your will, hack your interface and make you a puppet for a ghost AI system…” Then , as Pitbull agrees and states he thinks ghosts may become just ammo for a new weapon, Wormwood catches what Candyman’s saying. “Jeez, Candy – and people think I’m weird. At least I get that flesh isn’t a prison, it’s a palace.” “Well, it’s not like the thought of stealing an Army Spiderbot and uploading the Generals Ghost never crossed my mind…” Pacoy says to Wormwood. Pitbull nods at that and points at himself, “I don’t think I’d be good for Ghosting anyway… Unless you’re thinking of a tactical advisor rather than babysitting grandpa.” Wormwood nods too, “Or an assassin pretending to be a babysitting grandpa.” Then he walks up to the front door of the Amon Zero building and turns, bowing mockingly to Candyman. “Shall we, oh man of no fleshy desires?”
Seeing that the others aren’t going to let this slide, Mei weighs in. “On the same token, what if you attached your ghost to an android body? No longer would you exist on a shelf, you could conceivably keep your consciousness alive for hundreds or thousands of years. You’re just as liable to be killed or hacked as a ghost as you are to be killed or duped as a living being. Its an interesting idea, at the least.”
“If I can copy and paste you into several storage devices, you aren’t a person – you’re a program. An extremely advanced program, sure, but just a program.” Pacoy rationalizes. “Where do you think they get the first ghost from Pacoy? Its a copy of a human brain,” Mei replies in turn. Pacoy grins at her and quips “So video is alive too?” then continues, “What about anti-viral meds and organ transplants?” Mei lets out an exasperated sound, “I’m not going to try to define where the life line lies, I’m only suggesting it may be a bit more blurry than you believe.” With that Mei follows the others into the building. Pitbull laughs, “Besides, its not enough that the rich can live better than us, but they can live forever too? Talk about ‘best of both worlds’, damn it.”
As they all enter the Archive, Garrion growls softly, “All this mumbo-jumbo is great but shouldn’t we be looking for our witness or video records?” Pacoy makes a gesture of defeat, two hands in the air, still grinning, “Okay, I’ll stop belittling Candy’s beliefs until we get an inside scoop. Let’s check it out.”
However, as Candy climbs the steps he rejoins the debate, “For millennia humankind has sought immortality in the lasting accomplishments that remain after their death, in family to carry on their genetic code, and in the opiate of religion. Amon Zero, and by extension Ghosting technology, makes such half gestures unnecessary. Imagine a human mind able to plumb the depths of its chosen field without issues of fatigue or the grind of years – perhaps only growing faster and more keen with the passing of years as computers advance. All the resources dedicated to food production could be eliminated – its truly the path to an Ubermensch.” Pitbull’s ready for that. "And what makes them any different from the “Super-computers” in all those “Super-computer uprising” stories? I’m not too happy on the idea of being enslaved by a machine who’s ‘logic is undeniable’." Pitbull says, stomping up each step behind Candy. Pacoy, meanwhile, whispers to Wormwood, “Mankind has sought mind-altering drugs since the dawn of time, but that doesn’t mean it needs a church…” Wormwood nods, “Just a good, honest street dealer.” He grins.
Candy continues unfazed," I have no loyalty to the past, trapped in those shackles, I serve the future. Human or not is of little consequence in the end – what really matters is that intelligent life, carbon based or not, moves forward. If computers that can learn and have emotion are not human, they are our creation, and I would gift them the future irregardless." Pacoy refrains from rolling his eyes as he holds the door open for Candy “After you, sir – I await enlightenment.” Pitbull, realizing he can’t shake Candy from his argument, simply replies with. “Just don’t come crying to me if one of them things tries to enter your head or something.”
The interior of the archive is nearly as subdued as the exterior – no flashy lights, no fancy statues, not even any candles. The furniture is a modern take on the old pews, comfortably cushioned but still obeying the same basic form. The color scheme skews towards shades of gray, with black occasionally used to accent. The lights are a bright white and inset into the walls and ceiling, a bright constant light. There is a large open area at the other end of the room, all the seats in the room aimed in that direction. A simple podium stands in the center. The chapel isn’t empty – in fact, it’s surprisingly full. Many different people are sitting in the pews or standing off to the side, chatting quietly. There doesn’t appear to be any service going on right now – they likely came into the archive for comfort and company after the violence outside. At the podium stands a single holographic man – a Ghost for sure, smiling and speaking down at several people directly around him.
“I think I left my tin-foil hat in my briefcase…” Pitbull grumbles under his breath. Wormwood whispers back, “Damn, and nothing even worth stealing.” The two move to a private comm channel, subvocalizing. “Not true, the only thing worth stealing is in a very obvious pulpit right now.” Wormwood replies, “True that, and one day we might consider that there’s several K apiece in ghosts, but I meant easy-to-fence valuables.” Then Pitbull answers with “I know, but it’s a thought worth having. And apologizing for if Candy gets in a ruff’ about it.” The two fall silent and begin to look around properly.
There are two women in clothes that signify their station as workers for Amon Zero – simple robes, these two in lightly tinted purple. This signifies that they are in training and deal directly with the archives. A man in a similar robe, this one black, with a white collar, turns your way. His robe signifies that he deals directly with the people and communes with the Ghosts, serving as a conduit between those still trapped in flesh and those free in cyberspace. As Wormwood turns, gawking, he stops and freezes in place, staring intently at one of the two women in lavender robes.
The woman looks young – which could place her at anywhere from 15 to 45, but given her position is probably in her twenties. She smiles quietly at what one of the congregation around her just said, looking down a bit at the floor a bit shyly. Her long, dirty-blond ponytail swishes slightly as she moves her head, and as she glances over towards the newcomers Wormwood notices that she has ice blue eyes. He slides away from the rest of the team and takes a seat on a pew where he can both overhear them and watch the girl, then switches his augments to record and palms a nanobug, ready to plant it if he gets a chance.
Mei comms to the party, “By the way, call me April in here. Candy, what do they know you by?” Candy comms back, “I go by Mr. Cassidy duBoise, Hugh can claim me that way if something goes south.” Pitbull chimes in with, “And call me Dave while we’re here. I do not trust them as far as I can throw them, even with just my name.” Pacoy’s demeanor changes completely inside of the building, adopting the quiet respect years in strongly old-school Catholic Filipino family demand he shows in a place of worship. Silently, he looks about the room for anything untoward. Garrion simply hangs back, clearly uncomfortable in this place and letting Candy and Mei do their thing. Pitbull suspects Candyman might be distressed at how happy Wormwood and himself were about ransacking his ‘church’, and comms him. “Sorry, bro. Just don’t trust this place. I can respect that its your faith, just don’t expect me to march into it too. But sorry all the same.”
The man in the black robe makes his way towards the group, a smile on his face. He narrows in on Candy immediately, and nods to him and the rest of the group once he gets closer. “Mr. duBoise, it’s a pleasure to see you in our archive. I’m Head Archivist Stouder. What brings you and your friends to our facility, today? I understand that you normally attend services in Mulligan Hill. I hope you didn’t have anyone involved in that nasty business this morning.” Candy steps forward," Good afternoon Head Archivist. We have no business directly related to any of that gruff business, but a friend of mine had family in the area at the time. She disappeared in the chaos – he is quite panicked. I’ve talked to him at length about Amon Zero, so he asked if I could come here and get help. Is there anything you can do to help me Head Archivist Stouder?"
Mei comms to Candy, subvocally, “We should avoid mentioning her specifically if possible, just in case they are involved.” Candy comms back, “Don’t shit where you eat, I doubt they have anything to do with it,” but Mei insists on caution. “I don’t see what stake the group would have anyway, but an individual could be involved, or in the room listening.”
Unaware of this silent-channel by-play, Stouder gains a worried expression on his face as he hears Candy’s news. “That’s horrible news, Mr. duBoise. I should hope you can find your friend’s relative – there are quite a few distressed by the attack, though I am pleased to note that all of our congregation appear to have survived intact.” He pauses a moment, deep in thought. “As for what help I can offer – I’ll afford you anything I can spare, as long as it does not interfere with the Archive or violate our privacy policies. I trust the police were less than forthcoming with information?”
Candy hazards a weak smile, “That is good news, we’ve been worried for our friends here, Mulligan Hill sends its concern. I noticed that the Ghost at the entrance is unfamiliar, I was worried for a moment.” He frowns, “They did not even do a clean sweep outside. I hired some experts – the cops are way off the mark at the moment. Would it be possible to speak privately, in your office perhaps? I do not want to concern other members with a discussion on such a recently distressing a topic.”
Mei steps forward, speaking to the Archivist and Candyman both – “Your help would be appreciated.” She nods her head in a bow “My name is April. If possible, could you tell me if there was anybody here at the time of the…disturbance? I understand they’ll be shaken up, but their answers could lead to another family brought back together. We’d need to talk while its still fresh if possible.”
(Meanwhile, Wormwood quietly stands and moves to another seat, closer to the front. As he sits down, he palms his nanobug onto the pew where it has a wide view of the room. Pitbull stares the room up and down, before noticing Wormwood sitting among the pews. “What is he doing over there?” Pitbull breathes to himself.)
Stouder nods, and waves his hand towards a door that blends almost seamlessly with the surrounding wall at the side of the chapel. “Of course. My office is right this way.” Stouder turns to Mei. “April, I’m afraid it was only me and the ancestors. The attack happened so early that the archive was quite deserted of the flesh.” Mei smiles and says, “Well, at least fewer had to suffer through that trauma then.” as she follows Stouder into the office. Pacoy follows too, and offers a hand to the ‘priest’. “Sir, I am Pacoy Aquino, an engineer working for Mr. duBoise, and I couldn’t help but notice that fabulous window display you have out front – would you happen to save the footage?”
As soon as the three team-members and the Archivist have gone into the back, Wormwood quietly slips out of his pew onto his knees, puts his head in his hands and begins to sob loudly. Garrion notices him instantly and elects to stay behind near the entrance to the building. “I’ll be on comms. I’m staying behind to make sure everything is kosher out here and with the vehicles.” Candy replies over comms, “Thanks Garrion, appreciate it – Pacoy would be irate if some thugs stole his toys, heh.” Pitbull too comms to Candy. “I’ll watch the entrance and this… chapel? Sanctuary? Well… this room either way. Keep me posted, especially if something goes down.”
As the three enter the office – modern, elegant, and understated like the rest of the building, but also obviously expensive, with a powerful computer on the desktop and a holographic display – Stouder turns and leans against the desk. The door slides shut silently behind them.
Mentadak has been running a computer search on her implant and silently comms to the party, “Hey, I’m looking into this Stouder guy. Turns out he used to work for one of Benjamin’s rivals. Retired a long time ago though. You think maybe Ben or his dad is setting them up? Or maybe this guy never really retired? Anybody able to try and look into a money trail?” It’s Candy who replies, “Well our clients father has been retired a while as well. Still, this is starting to smell dirty – Stouder seems to honestly want to help but its possible he does not suspect our angle as yet.”
Stouder turns to Pacoy as the others stand around and answers his earlier aloud question. “The ActiveGlass advertisements? I don’t believe the full footage is recoverable – they take snapshots, rather than full video. It does log the snapshots, and keeps a record of all those it sees.” “Would it be possible to for me to get a look at those records? It may provide a huge help to Mr. duBoise friends,” Pacoy asks politely. Candy nods, “If we can spot her and limit our profiling of others on the scene to a slim time window it would help a great deal.” Stouder nods his head. “Of course – we’ll lend every ounce of help we can. Ancestor’s know the police never even showed up, so at least somebody is looking in to this.”
Back in the chapel, one of the two women in purple robes kneels down by Wormwood, concern etched in her face. She doesn’t speak – not yet – and instead silently consoles Wormwood, touching him on the shoulder in a comforting gesture. As he looks up at her, he notices that it’s the woman he had his eyes upon earlier. As Pitbull eyes him uneasily, and seemingly choking back his sobs, Wormwood looks up at his helper, “I’m ok, really – it’s just he…,” he gestures at the holo, “is so..right! I lost my mother when I was very young and I couldn’t help but miss her.” He smiles softly, “I must look ridiculous, I’m sorry,” and takes her shoulder to help bring himself to his feet. “I’m Randall. Thank you, most sincerely." As he rises, Wormwood palms another nanobug into a crease on her robe, then ventures another smile. “it must have been very upsetting, what happened this morning – you’re holding up very well to be so helpful.”
Something of his well-practiced duplicity must show in his eyes, because the Initiate Librarian suddenly backs off from Wormwood, a snarl on her face as she sees through his charade; as she stands, she grabs the back of his head and slams it face-first into the pew in front of her.
“Piss off, creeper! Try your wounded-pony act somewhere else!”
Garrion and Pitbull react instantly to this sudden violence, running over. Garrion tries to sound as unthreatening as possible as he gasps, “What’s the problem here, miss?” Wormwood simply stands and shakes his head then feels at his broken nose – and grins through the blood at the girl. “That was unexpected. But I know now.” He turns and walks out of the Archive like a man who’s just been given a present. “Ma’am, I -” Pitbull starts to say as he sees Wormwood stalk out of the chapel, holding his nose.
Back in Stouder’s office, the Head Archivist has activated the holographic display on his terminal, showing a multi-faceted slideshow of the events that transpired early this morning. Mei sets her implant to begin recording all the displays and begins a data-feed to her colleagues outside. As the slideshows begins, it comes off much as had been reported on The Edge – a group of four professional-seeming warriors with military or police-level weaponry fighting it off against a dozen or more – it’s not quite clear – significantly less-well-armed, less-well-trained attackers, who finally only won due to driving an old truck into the group and then it blowing up.
What the news didn’t report is where the groups came from, or what happened after the event. The first group on the scene was the more-numerous one with the lower-quality gear. They moved into view almost in a parody of a cop show, using hand signals and faux-tactics they probably got off a vid. The other group shows up a few frames later, running out from the abandoned convenience store across the street. They use proper tactics, cover, getting into flanking positions, and generally rain hell on the opposition with their military-quality assault rifles. One person can be seen running from that doorway a few frames after the professionals. The figure wears male-appearing clothing and has a masculine shape, but that’s all that can be told from the frame – his face is hidden by the angle of the shot. It takes quite a few frames before the explosion occurs and the bodies finally hit the ground, then the rag-tag bunch storm towards the storefront, though it is now largely obscured by smoke and the wreckage of the truck. This obscuring becomes even worse as a large van parks in front of the storefront itself – the only thing that can be seen past it are the shadows of the people behind it, playing across the ground to the side of the van.
Garrion, watching the feed to his own computer on his H.U.D., heads outside to check the area in the video feed. He passes Wormwood, who has snapped his bleeding nose back into place and is now sitting in the team’s AV, fiddling with the controls on a computer monitoring scanner – a squid that will let him read the data from any computer screen within 100 yards. Garrion goes over to the store and goes inside, looking for signs of struggle and capture.
Inside, Mei asks, as she scans the photos for Eleanor’s face or something like the drugs Garrion mentioned earlier, “Archivist, do you recognize any of these people? Anybody who comes here often?” Candy remarks, “The van was there a long time, a wonder the Night City PD did not show up.” He switches to subvocal comms, “Do you think she might have stunted this herself – she would have contacts in the NPD. Twenty minutes is quite a lot of time after something as big as a car bomb…though it looked like our clients hired guns were not acting.” Mei replies subvocally too, “You think she set up her own kidnapping? Hired some nobodies to off her guards so she could get away? Like her guards were more babysitters than guards?” Pacoy adds, “Hmm.. could be, but with her contacts access to her brothers money, she could have done a much better job. I don’t know why, but something is screaming ‘Daddy Dearest’ to me…”
Garrion answers them, “I’m on it now. If she was captured there should be some sign of a recent struggle in here.” Wormwood chimes in on the comm-channel, “None of you are asking why she and her guards were holed up in a derelict store opposite Amon Zero. It’s not exactly un-noteworthy. Why was she here, in this place, at all? And what’s the connection to the drug Garrion found?” He puts up his eavesdropping monitor and goes to join Garrion.
Mentadak continues to theorize subvocally, “Dad would be the one with the better guards. If she had to hire these guys, she would have to do it without using the family money and tipping them off right?” Pacoy continues, “But she had 2 days with her brothers accounts and 2 years with her contacts – remember, she was gone and came home on her own – why come back just to kill some rent-guards? If she wanted to run, she could have stayed gone. If I was a gambling man, and I am, My money would be on her coming out for that drug, and Daddy not wanting her to have it.” Mei reply is a flat, “Nobody said she came back willingly.” “Her brother did. Either she came back willingly for that drug, or she lied to her brother and was forced back. Then again, he could have lied to us, and we’re here to flush her out… we really need better intel…” Pacoy muses.
Candy looks away from the screen pointedly, “That run down storefront, does it have any significance. My friend said he was staying in a hotel nearby, why would she be in there. Do you know any rumors or the like about that place Archivist?”
(Outside, Garrion slowly realizes that the old store smells off somehow. Sure, it shouldn’t smell good if a bunch of people died here not too long ago, but it’s not quite that. After picking around the place for a moment, he gets a big whiff and realizes – it’s the stench of death – and decay. : “Oh, hell yeah, something is dead here. Let me see if I can find it.”)
The Archivist thinks for a few moments, pondering Candy’s question. “I’m not sure, honestly. The store there closed up shop years ago – before I came to work at this archive, even. But now that you mention it, we have noticed a bit more activity there recently – people going in at night, then coming out in the early hours of the morning. Maybe a few dozen at a time. I figured it was some kind of gang hideout; I hope your friend’s relative wasn’t involved in a gang.”
Candy shakes his head, “Be a real fall from grace – she is from a good family. Still, I could understand my friend being tight lipped about something like that.” He taps the side of his head, “We have all the important slides saved, I suppose we’d best investigate that building now, before our leads grow cold. I greatly appreciate the assistance Archivist.” Stouder clasps his hands together in front of him and gives a slight bow. “You are welcome to it; it gladdens my heart to see one so concerned for the well-being of his relatives to employ the services of his friends. I wish you all the luck your ancestors can loan you.”
Candy bows and turns towards the door, “Ancestors watch over you Archivist.”
Across the street, Wormwood has joined Garrion as both look for the unobvious. Both have their augments turned up to their maximums and as Wormwood searches the scene, he notices a slight infra-red warm-spot behind a fallen piece of shelving. “Hey Garrion, over here.” Wormwood slides out a steel claw and probes the warm spot.
“What did you find there Wormie?” “Dunno. This bit’s warmer than the rest.” Garrion flicks on his IR glasses. “Sure is. Is it active or residual? Help me move this Wormie.” He looks around at Wormwood for a split second then exclaims, “Hell she didn’t smack you that hard did she? By the way what did you say to her?” “Ah shit!” breathes Wormwood, as his nose begins to drip blood again. “I was just making nice, hoping to get some info on the events this morning – she freaked out, thought I was coming on to her, I guess.” He chuckles, “She does have spirit though, doesn’t she Garrion?”
Garrion, without much of Wormwood’s help to be perfectly honest, is able to muscle the fallen shelves out of the way. They fall to the ground with a crash, revealing an open door on the other side – and a staircase beyond, leading down into the ground.
“Bingo!” he calls over the group channel, “Come in team, we have a secret passage. Get down here as soon as you can. Our gal may have escaped through here and they never got to her."
The rest of the group hurry across the road and into the derelict store, to find Wormwood and Garrion at the head of the discovered stairs, Wormwood spraying something on his nose to freeze it some and stop the bleeding. Pacoy gawks, “Wow, who improved your face?”
Wormwood waves Pacoy to silence and the team make ready to descend the stairs with Wormwood in the lead, drawing weapons as Pacoy activates a Pinbot.
As the group stands around the entrance to the staircase, the electric lights keeping it brightly lit, they hear a soft pounding sound come up from below. It starts off slowly, rhythmically, before quickly escalating to a crescendo of fury, as if warning the Edgerunners of the danger they’re about to face…