Dateline: September 19, 2050, continuing directly from last session.
The Edgerunners stand in a dilapidated convenience store, positioned in a semicircle around an open door. The smell of death and decay permeates the air, and the sound of two objects repeatedly slamming into each other, faster and faster, harder and harder, can be heard from the open doorway, the sound echoing up the staircase from the basement below. And then it stops, and there is silence.
Wormwood draws both silenced pistols and makes ready to move down the stairs as quietly as possible, his augmented eyes set to pick up heat, and his ears to isolate and clarify even the tiniest sound. Wormwood’s keen electronically-enhanced sense of hearing picks apart the noise, splitting it into its component parts. A pictorial representation of the sound – the standard ‘double-wave’ graphic everyone is so used to seeing – appears upon his HUD, key sections highlighted as software built into his cyberears processes, separates, and identifies the sounds. The software IDs the sound as a metallic object striking a softer object, possibly canvas or a plastic. A rough estimation of the energy required to generate the sound appears – well over 5,000 joules, equivalent to a gunshot form a powerful rifle. Wormwood mentally commands his computer implant to send the sound data to the others.
Pacoy draws and readies his pistol, “I swear, there had damn well better not be some sira ang ulo tanga’s eating people down here!” he mutters sub-vocally.
“Christ, I’ll be depending on you guys down here.” Candy says in a whisper as he looks down at the stairs. They are made from concrete – old fashioned concrete, as befits an old building. It should hold up well under any reasonable load, but it wouldn’t hold up a car – not to mention the tiny detail of needing to fit it into the narrow passage. The passage should be able to hold up a battlesuited soldier or even a heavy cyborg or robot, however.
Mei draws her pistol but steps behind the others. She drops her language and mimicry modules to make room for her gun and kung fu modules.
Garrion activates his glasses and comes across coms, “Pitbull, it looks like we’re going down. Can you grab our heavy gear from the vehicles?” Pitbull does not change expression as he turns to Garrion. “Think we need to pick up the Reapers?” Garrion nods. “Yes, that was what I was the heavy gear I was referring to.” Pitbull turns and starts striding back out, trying to hide the joy he’s getting from bringing back out the Reapers. “Yeah. I think we need them myself.”
Garrion accepts his Reaper from Pitbull when he arrives and checks the action to make sure it is ready. Pitbull jacks himself in the Reaper, checks the ammo, then gives a couple of sweeps across the room to test the sync of his barrel as he hears Wormwood’s data play out in his HUD.
Wormwood begins to pad slowly down the stairs, alert and testing every footfall before he fully places his weight. As Wormwood sees the force estimate cross his HUD he pauses, then moves forward again, his twin pistols raised.
Candy nods his head to Pitbull and focuses on the sound, following him down the stairs. Pitbull nods back to Candy as he stalks along side him, using his Reaper’s sight as a guide. Candy notes the extreme focus the other pay to their silence, flattening against the wall, he allows the others to pass and takes up the read with neddler in hand.
Suddenly, a new sound comes from below. “Wait, Animal. You hear that?”
Watching Wormwood and Garrion sneak down the stairs, Mei decides to wait up top for a clear signal before proceeding. The Buzzbot quietly shadows Wormwoods decent Pitbull makes an attempt to hug the wall for stealth, but his size makes it difficult for it to make a difference. Pacoy opens his jacket and activates one of the tiny little Pinbots to move ahead of the buzzbot unnoticed
As he reaches the bottom of the stairs, Wormwood eases up flat against one wall and slides slowly around until he can peak around the corner. The first thing Wormwood sees is a solid wall of metal, bearing straight down upon his bionic eye. Wormwood frantically tries to dodge, but only succeeds in getting the oncoming metal fist to impact the corner of the wall as well as his face. The metal fist pounds right into the concrete wall Wormwood is hiding behind, and chips of concrete go flying into his face, followed immediately by the exquisite feeling of a mack truck slamming straight into his cheekbone. Wormwood goes down as if poleaxed, thinking “not my face again!”
Pacoy sets the bot for assault while Candy watches on, in shock.
The sound of a deep voice, distorted by a cybernetic voicebox nowhere near as fine as Candy’s, echoes out from the chamber beyond the stairs. “Those fuckers are back, Twink!” No attack yet comes, but the sound of fast movement and yelling can be heard from the room below. “Get the fucking cops on the ball – sell ’em your fucking sister if you have to!” Another voice joins in – the same one that alerted ‘Animal’ earlier. “The damned lines are still dead! Shit!”
Pitbull stomps into a firing position and opens fire on full auto on the first targets he has sight of. As Pitbull moves into a position to see into the room, he is met face-to-face with a cybernetic monstrosity – easiy six and a half feet tall, hulking with muscle, and with two very obviously cybernetic arms. His face is mildly disfigured – a bit of blood on his scalp shows as evidence of his most recent scar, but the rest of his body is covered with them. His shirtless body glistens with sweat, but its the great maws of his hands reaching out for Pitbull that come straight to mind.
Pitbull backs up slightly as the big man bears down upon him, swiftling hitting the trigger – but the big man is faster, grabbing on to Pitbull’s arms and shooting hand in a vice-like grip, pointing the rifle at the far wall and away from his chest just as the bullets come ripping out.
Garrion brings his weapon up as he looks at the corner where Wormie collapsed and Pitbull is getting slapped around. “We’re not here to fight. Benjamin hired us to find his sister. No one else has to get hurt.”
Mei moves to the top of the stairs opposite Garrion and activates her enhanced optics, recording what she sees in case they manage to get away. She knows shes not accurate enough a shot to risk shooting that close to Pitbull or Wormwood, so instead she comms to everyone “They going to thin us at stairs! Don’t fall for it!”
Pacoy send a mental command to the Pinbot to Harry Mode, flying in an erratic pattern around the cyber-goon to distract him. The Buzzbot flies further into the room assessing other threats and looking for the best vantage for assault.
Candy calls down in Benjamin Sanders’ voice, “I want to call a trade – this is Benjamin Sanders and I have reason to belive you have my sister, Eleanor are you down there!” A voice yells back up – not the meat and metal monstrosity, but the other one, ‘Twink’. “The fuck? You bastards already took her and the others, and she ain’t got no brother! Who the fuck are you?”
Animal the meat-machine, meanwhile grabs hold of Pitbull by his arms and yanks, the Texan going sailing into the room fully this time, landing with a crash against a not-quite-soft object that gives way to his bulk. The others can only see the metal arms flash with sudden speed as Pitbull veritably vanishes from their eyes – there one moment, gone the next.
Pitbull lays on the ground, dazed and confused from the raw onslaught of the man-beast’s sudden and devastating throw, his mind briefly blank from the trauma.
Garrion steps up, close to the wall, and brings his Reaper up to sight on the big guy in the way, firing immediately – telling the lie to his words of peace earlier. The man ducks down below the attempted headshot, and barrels forwards to Garrion, but two of the heavy APHEX bullets enter the man’s chest, shredding through his subdermal armor like so much swiss cheese. The bullets explode as they enter his thoracic cavity, shredding some of his internal organs – and the man roars, still moving forward even after the damage.
Mei watches as Garrion fires rounds from his Reaper at the hulking mass before him. Knowing that these are our leads, Mei realizes the necessity of keeping them alive for at least a few moments longer. She drops her Kung Fu programming to make room for a “Field Care” package, while slipping her bracelet with pre-loaded drug injections off. Pacoy aims his pistol and waits for the target to get into view. “You can still surrender…” He shouts. The buzzbot looks for a suitable position to open fire from behind the cyber-thug. The Pinbot zips over to the other threat, continuing it’s Harry mission.
Candy calls out, still using Benjamin’s voice, “Stand down, we have a medic that can treat the big guy, but not if your attacking us. We just want some information, nothing more!”
The big guy finally moves into view of the rest of the group as he falls to his knees, one hand reaching out to Garrion – and grabbing hold of the Reaper rifle, the big metal hands gripping on to it as if for dear life. You can hear the sound of creaking plastic as the shell begins to warp under the stress. Animal looks up at Garrion, a plaintive look upon his face. “Why do you keep coming after us?”
Twink’s voice sounds from the inside. “Throw your weapons down, or your man here gets a major fucking haircut!” Pitbull’s eyes clear to see a man standing above him. He has cybernetic arms, similar to but much smaller and smoother than Animal’s, and isn’t anywhere near as scarred. One cybernetic foot lies near Pitbull’s chest – but the main thing that gets his attention is the big fucking blade stretching out from the man’s arm where a hand should be, the tip just inches from his throat.
Pitbull sighs. “You got the drop on me here. If it’s my time to die, then I ‘spose it’s my time. But if ya do that, my pals over there will give ya a serious brain-ectomy. Not to mention thatcha friend there won’t live to see medical attention.” Pitbull grates out a cough of a laugh.
Garrion speaks to the big guy, “I told you we did not come here for a fight. You didn’t have to smash my friend’s face in and throw the other into another dimension. I’m sorry, Mei will try to save you.” He then looks up to the other man and drops his Reaper letting the sling support it, “We can try save your man here if you will let us. We are not who you think we are. We are tracking down the goons who did all the shooting upstairs and trying to find out where the girl went.”
Pitbull coughs another laugh. “We could always just sit down and talk this out, ya know? I only jumped in out of reaction to what your brah over there did to my creepy friend’s face.”
The blade gets a little closer, beginning to draw a little blood. “Do you always go sneaking around crime scenes with military assault weapons? You’re the second fuckers to come down here like that today; don’t blame us if you don’t have the decency to announce your god-damned presence!”
Mei sends a comm signal to the bracelet she just removed to deactivate the automatic injection triggers. She speaks alout to pacoy – hopefully loud enough for the men downstairs to hear “Give me the med kit!” Pacoy leaves the bots to continue the mexican standoff and pulls out the crash kit from his pack.
Garrion leans out a bit, yelling to the man in the room. “Look pal, I understand your caution. You are not the only one to get load of lead fired at him though. The guys who took the girl were packing serious heat so we come prepared.” The voice from the room, ‘Twink’, answers with anger in his voice. “We’re the fucking ones who were shot at, asshole! Do you see a fucking gun down here? Did anybody shoot at you? Now drop your shit, or this guy gets diced!”
“Nggg- We came down here armed because we heard loud, aggressive thumps from up there. Wouldn’t you have your best gun for that? What would you have done in our position?” Pitbull rasps, finding more discomfort from the prospect of dying then the blood draw, admittedly.
Garrion yells back. “My shit is dropped. We are adminstering aid to the big guy right now. What more do you want?”
Wormwood finally recovers enough to yell, “Hay asswipe, would you announce your presence before walking into every basement in a derelict shop in this town? Rub your two braincells together! But I promise if you touch my friend, your friend will get to heaven a second later.”
“If you’re serious, then get out from there and let me see you. All of you. Out in the open, no weapons. Now.” Twink still sounds pissed; his partner, Animal, only groans, clearly out of it and losing blood rapidly. “I’m giving you until I reach three, then you best be out here or I fucking cut him and we all go home unhappy. You fuckers have done enough today.”
Candy drops his mimicry and makes his way down the stairs slowly, hands held palm faced before him. As Candy comes around the corner, “I’m very sorry for the misunderstanding. The area is on high alert and enough have died here today. I come unarmed and open to your words.”
Pacoy rolls up his sleeves and prepares the kit. “Hey, we can measure dicks later. Back off, and I might be able to save your friend, cut my friend and you both die. We don’t have time to waste!” Garrion pulls the sling off carefull, using his offhand in a non-threatening manner, and places the reaper upright leaning in the corner of the landing, then steps forward slowly into the room. Wormwood briefly considers setting up a standoff by placing his pistol muzzles against the injured bruiser’s skull, then holsters both guns and disentangles himself from Garrion, keeping his hands in sight and moving slowly. “OK, but put the blade away too. We both need to show good faith here.” Mei cautiously holsters her weapon and creeps down the stairs with Candy, kneeling beside the injured man. Garrion motions to the others. “Now here we are. Do we really look like commandoes?”
Pitbull races his head for any other scenario that doesn’t end in him being dead and/or headless. Finding his only option to be swatting a blade that he doesn’t know whether or not it is or isn’t monomolecular, he grudgingly stays with the option of remaining at the mercy of a homicidal blade handed ganger. Twink angrily yells back. “That’s not all of you – get the other fucker, the one by Animal, out here too.”
Mei yells as she tries to treat the wounded man. “Pacoy, I need your help! This man loosing blood fast!”
Garrion snarls. “He’s saving your guy, you heartless bastard! If you really care about him then let us try to help.” The arm-bladed man shakes his head. “One.” Garrion looks taken aback. “Remind me not to team up with you.”
Candy spreads his hands slowly, “Pacoy is treating your friend. He has suffered a great deal of blood loss and time is precious, really Mei needs to help attend to him as well. My name is the Candyman of Desiderium Cartel, I know not if my reputation has reached your ears, but I do not believe in violence as a first option. If you need to take me as a hostage so my fellows can care for Animal, I’m worth far more than anyone else here.” Candy takes a step towards the man with a questioning expression.
Wormwood laughs, “He’s gonna die because you’re too dumb to tell she’s trying to save him…and then you’re going to die too if you touch our friend. Run the numbers, man. Mei, can you do it, or should we try to pack him in the AV and get him to Hartnell General fast?”
Twink shakes his head. “I said everyone out here, where I can see ‘em. I’m not in the mood to fuck around, and I’m not going to fall for one of your tricks again. Two.”
“We can slow your friends death a little, and get him to a real hospital, if you back off now!” Pacoy grunts in frustration while struggling to save teh thugs life. Pitbull stares at the bladed ganger, uncertain of what to do. Should he swipe his arm off and pin him at the shoulders? He’s probably cybed against that…
“Here, we’ll drag him over then. Help me out guys” Mei says and she grabs the huge mans arms and starts to drag him further into the open. Candyman throws his hands up in disgust, “Pacoy, come out here. The big guy will have to wait – I just hope he can hold on a bit longer.” Candy turns back to Twink, “We have an AV, we can get him to a doctor. I’ve contacts off the grid if that’s an issue – I’ll stay with you till we can return him to you if that will ease your mind. I do not want bloodshed.”. Wormwood calls, “You hang loose, Pits. If he skewers you because he’s so dumb he’ll let his friend die without medical attention, I’ll avenge you.” Pitbull texts back a “thanks” onto Wormwoods HUD, having difficulty saying it through the blade at his throat.
Pacoy takes a look at the dieing ganger and sigh. “If that’s how this dick wants to play it…” He reluctantly walks into view. Mei shrugs, guessing that they both know the same amount anyway. She stands and leans her back against the wall. Garrion holds out his hands, placatingly. “Ok, here we are, you have our rapt attention and you let your man die. What now?”
The man, Twink, takes a good look up the wall where the stairs are before finally nodding, sighing, and relaxing. The big blade on his arm suddenly retracts, flipping backwards and rolling up into his forearm. The man staggers backwards, then falls to the ground, leaning up against a heavy punching bag on the floor. “Oh, thank christ. I thought – that voice – but that fucker isn’t here.” He looks up at Candyman. “You sure you aren’t with those nutcases who grabbed half the fighters here and killed the rest?” This finally brings to light the room the Edgerunners are in – several punching bags set up near to the stairwell door, a square outline marked into the concrete floor surrounding an empty space in the center of the room, excercise equipment at one side – and a number of cameras, all focused upon the ring at the room’s center.
Pitbull sighs, reaches into his coat, pulling out an alchohol pad, a bandage, a cigarette and a lighter. After applying the alchohol pad and bandaging to his throat, he lights the cigarette he stuck between his lips, and takes a long deep drag.
Wormwood blinks, “What voice – Benjamin?” He looks around, his eyes finally taking in the scene around them. “Well hells, a pitfighter gym.” Mei nods. “Could explain all the gym clothes you find at her place. Elanor fight here?” Garrion looks confused. “Let’s back up a second. Who are you with and why were you holed up down here?”
Candyman opens his mouth and gestures at the augments, “I’ve met Benjamin Sanders, it was me mimicking his voice, if that’s who you’re talking about. He wants to hire us, Edgerunners you understand. The arrangement is only tentative as yet, no contract. We’re trying to find the guys that pulled the bomb gag off this morning – that’s what brought us here.”
“Fuck – he…” Twink shakes his head. “That fucker ran this place, right up until last night. This morning. Whatever.”
“You mean he owned this place? Or he ran this shit over with guns?” Pitbull grates as he takes another hard drag on his cigarette.
Twink raises his hand and tilts it up and down in a ‘so-so’ gesture. “We knew him as Anderson, and everything was going great. Great prize money, especially if we could beat one of his boys and girls. He wanted the best, ya know? So we fought his people, got paid, made some great vids – and then last night, shit all changed. Said we’d done good, and he just had one last special fight for tonight and then we were done – if we won, we’d be set for life.”
Garrion frowns. “So why are you scared of him now?”
Twink shudders. “Christ, we should have known it couldn’t be that good. We get here, get ready – and then the fucking army came in and started fucking shooting. His fighters were in there with us, and we were fighting ’em off – not winning, christ we lost a few right off, but holding our own.”
Garrion continues his questioning while Candy and the others sit and wait to hear the story play out. “Were any of you up in the street? Who was fighting up there?”
“Ugh. Deal like that really was too good to be true. Trust a sleezy rich-fuck’s kid to be a sleezy bastard.” Pitbull adds, scooping his Reaper back up, checking it for damage.
Twink shrugs. “The street? I don’t know who the hell they were, but they ended things, and they ended them fast. Some of Andy’s goons backed off a bit into our melee, and went up-top. A few minutes later there was a big boom, rattled the whole damned place. Then someone tossed a sleep-gas grenade down here, and that was it. I was just awake enough to see some new people – no idea who – come in and go straight to Andy’s fighters. That’s when I nodded off. When I got up, only a few of us were left, and all of Andy’s people were gone.”
Garrion nods. “So the big question you’ve not really answered. Do you know Elanor?” On a hunch, Wormwood subvocalizes, “Hey Garrion, show him that hypo you found, see if he knows what it is – and oh, yeah, maybe ask him if he wants Mei to see if his pal’s dead yet.” Garrion pulls out a syringe, “Do you recognize this?”
Twink nods. “Yeah, El was one of Andy’s girls alright. Christ, she was good. Faster than anything I’ve ever seen, damned near as strong as Animal even without using cyber – shit. She was probably the best of ’em.”
Pacoy recalls both bots, the hostilities seeming to be ended for now, as Twink picks up the hypo, looking at the vial in the back. “Yeah, this looks like what Andy’s people were taking. All of them, that same drug – or looked like it.”
Garrion subvocalized to the others, “This stuff could be what made her so fast and strong.” Aloud, he asks, “do you know why they took it and what it does?” Candy nods, “Can we even be sure they are related then, that Benjamin Sanders is his name or that what we know about his day job pertains to who we met? He may just be another rich fixer looking to get his prize fighter back from the military. Or trying to get his product back – all of this a series of illegal drug trials” Candy’s confusion at the situation is evident.
Twink shakes his head. “Naw. I mean, we guessed it bulked ‘em out or something, but I don’t know what it was, exactly. Pretty sure they were testing it out, though – trying to make the better fighter, better athletes through chemistry.”
Garrion nods to the others. “It looks like we need to tail ‘Ben’ and find out a little more about our client.” Wormwood gets a big grin. “Heh, good job I bugged his ride, then.”
Pacoy subvocalizes “So, Andy/Ben is melee training and field testing a privite goon squad super drug, plans on killing the witnesses/mooks when Team C arraives and tosses around some chaos. Big Boom, Ben-Ansy’s Ace goes missing, and he hires use under the pretense that it’s his missing sister?”
Twink looks down at his friend, bleeding on the floor. “And, christ – Animal needs to get to the hospital. Our comms have been down since the damned baloon went up. Couldn’t even get anything if we went outside.”
Wormwood indicates the stairs with a hand. “We can get him to hospital. Want to tag along?” Twink nods. “Yeah. Yeah, that’d be good. Thanks.”
As the group begins to get the big meat slab up the stairs and to a hospital, Garrion tries to summarize the situation. “So let me get this straight. Ben or Andy comes down here and opens fire on all of you and then bugs out to the street where another group tries to grab Elenor. That the jist of it?” Twink nods, a worried look on his face. “About, yeah. Though he wasn’t here in person, except at the beginning. He sent in his soldiers to do the dirty work. Guess it was final exam day.”
Candy thinks a moment, “Could this be related to Umbra Corporation – they announced developing new techniques to improve their AthletePlus+ line. Certainly runs in the same vein.” Candy smiles slightly at his pun. Wormwood gets a bright look in his eye, smiling. “Could be, Candy, good thinking! But we need to get the big dude to the hospital and it’ll take all of us to shift him. The guy here can tag along and we can ask him some more questions when he knows his buddy will be OK, right?”
Mei speaks. “You’re right. That in the news too. We can discuss on the way.” Mei turns and steps over the brute on the ground, heading up towards the AV, where she climbs in the back.
Twink looks unsure. “I dunno. Wouldn’t Umbra just do this in one of their normal labs or something? Or use Umbra security to get their girl back? I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if this had a corp involved somewhere, but…” Garrion snaps his fingers at the mention of Umbra. “Ah shit, those Umbra fuckers. Nothing would please me more than to have them involved in this crap. Its just like them.”
Pitbull slings his rifle back over his arm and wordlessly lights another cigarette from the one he’d just smoked down to the butt. Wormwood stands at the head of a makeshift stretcher, Animal lying down upon it. “C’mon guys – I need to fly and these two will be in the AV with me and Mei, so meet you at the hospital. Ready to lift him?” Garrion grabs his Reaper from the corner where he propped it up and assists carrying the big guy out.
Candy follows from the back. “Could be a competitor – someone stole some of their drug and Umbra hired the bomb crew up top to keep it all low key. Their stocks would require that this all stay quiet, a massive fight involving corp assets would draw eyes and questions.”
Twink stands up, a tired look on his face as he moves over to Animal’s unconcious body. “Alright. You guys take care of Umbra or Andy or whoever, and I’ll see that Animal gets taken care of – and I’ll try and keep him from going out to kill you afterwards.”
“Still, the Sanders story just doesn’t make sense: all of the leads led strait here, if this was test goon getting captured, ‘Lost Sister’ is hardly the best angle to play…” Pacoy ponders.
Candy nods. “Well, I take in people who have lost their families and are alone, maybe he was trying to play me. If he is a fixer, he would have an angle on me.”
Wormwood, Mei, and the cyber-fighters head up the stairwell, on their way to the waiting AV and a hospital bed – their going slow, as they must carry a quarter-ton of muscle and metal all the way there. The rest of the group stay in the fight club, looking around and taking in any more clues – the better to try and fit this puzzle back together.