Dateline: September 23, 2050, 21:05
As the smoke clears, the groans of the injured and the choking-gag of Candyman mark the only sound in this small circle of the city. The stacatto sound of well-controlled gunshots, pop-pop-pop, continues to echo from the Triad base to the north.
Candyman continues to recover from his bout of stomach sickness, while Mac lies on the floor, gravely injured. The police officer unsteadily gets to his feet, looks down at the newly-created bodies surrounding you, and asks “What happened?”
“They slipped.” Wormwood quips as he swaps magazines on his pistols.
After holstering her gun again, Mei – still disguised as Jingfei – comms to the team subvocally, “He’ll be a problem if they want us to come inside. Weren’t they the ones who sent him down there in the begin?”
“I’ve never heard of someone changing into a crazed freak from getting sick,” Hanks says with a bit of disbelief. “I heard rabies and syphilis do that.” Pitbull grates, training his Reaper on likely points for hostiles to arrive. Mac grumbles and hauls himself off of the pile of detrius he found himself on. “Pacoy, how’s the signal from your pinbot? Anything back from that titanic wreck?”
“Maybe,” Wormwood subvocalizes back, “But we can always hand him over again as an introductory gift, if needs.” He snickers audibly.
“Let’s hope Triads are like Boy Scouts, eh?” Pacoy mutters. Wormwood looks over at the police officer. “Hey Taffy, you don’t happen to know where the PLF hang out, do you?”
Taking out a silk handkerchief, Candy clears the last of the vomit from around his mouth and turns to Officer Taffy, “It’s a war zone up here, but we should have it under control before too much longer.” Dweezil pats the cop off as he steadies the man, having taken care of him during the fight.
The pinbot continues making it’s way towards the Triad base. As it closes it begins a rapid secession of flashing lights – a Morse Code message: UMBRA BEHIND VIRUS. LOOKING FOR INFO. ASSIST.
As the pinbot repeats in message, the buzzbot goes high for a quick recon. “On it, Mac” Pacoy subvocalizes into the comms.
Mac smiles to himself behind his mask, humming an old campfire song. “So what do we do if they’re not fond of helping old ladies across the street? Do we have a plan that doesn’t involve a positive response from the tattoos?” The response swiftly follows Mac’s comment – a shot is fired from the sniper on the conning tower of the Triad base, followed a mere second later by another. The first shot does little; the second shot strikes the pinbot straight on, sending it tumbling to the ground.
“Well hells. Plan B. Ummm.” Wormwood watches the pinbot tumble to the ground, sparks and shrapnel showering down from it during its descent. Pitbull pulls out a cigarette from the pack in his coat, and lit it as he watched the pin-bot go down in flames. “Aw fuck.” He grumbles, the dissapointment evident. “Well, so much for the Boy Scout idea…” Pacoy sighs.
Still subvocally, Mei broadcasts to the team – “They have no reason to help us. Aside from porker, do we have any leverage?” Though her grammar is improving, her accent is still detectable. “Figured that they would be happy to help, to be honest. Unless they are bought off by Umbra. That’d suck somethin’ harsh.” Pitbull grates, after a puff of the cigarette clenched in his teeth.
Wormwood sends a command to his implant, then broadcasts in the clear on the international Guard channel. “Your Lazarus calling Cargotown PLF, repeat, Your Lazarus calling Cargotown PLF. We have information on the plague and need to meet. We’re outside a pawnshop near the Triads’ ship. Anyone on this channel who can respond, come in, please!” Mac blinks at Wormwood. “That’s a brilliant idea… the Triad would need some leverage to get them to work with us, but something direct like that’s got a bat’s chance in hell to work, for sure!”
Making a point of brushing some congealed brain from a lapel, Candy nods to Mei, “What means of communication should we try next – if heliographs are not common?”
“Why not just comm them?” Mei replies to Candy. “I do it in Chinese, they’ll probably appreciate it better that way.” Candyman nods, “If your comfortable with that, lets do it.”
Mei then loads a software program to perfect her Mandarin – she doesn’t want them thinking she’s from Hong Kong, and starts to broadcast on an open line in Mandarin. A rough voice, heavily accented in Chinese, echoes through the airwaves. “You the wangbadan that had that firefight by Chad’s? What info you got?” The reply comes before Mei even starts speaking.
Wormwood bows to Mei and indicates that she’s on. “We know the origin of the virus, and we’re looking for someone involved.”
“For now I think the direct approach is all we got ’til then We search and gun down opposition as they come. Worked pretty well for the boys and I in Tijuana when-” Pitbull says as he hears the response over the comm.
Wormwood comms, “We know who started the virus and why. We need to find someone who can help everyone. I’m going to let you talk to my colleague. Wait one.” The reply comes brusque and quick. “You know who put virus here!? You know who to blame for this? Why should we believe you? What you want for information?”
Mac watches Mei carefully, half an ear to the group. He speaks low, watching areas that Pitbull is not. “Gotta be careful in case some Highbinders come out to wax us.” He slowly begins unloading his shotgun and slotting the shells back into his bag while loading stunner shells instead.
Wormwood again comms, “What we want is to negotiate without being shot. We have proof of who is to blame.” Pitbull puts more enthusiasm in his search, just knowing that these guys are just as trigger happy as he is. He hisses, “Just like Tijuana”, as he sets his eyes on a buring trash can.
Still speaking in Mandarin, Mei replies to the man, “We can tell its caused a lot of problems here in C-Town, way we got that proof…well, lets just say its personal. We’re getting to the bottom of this. You know this area, we know that info. Its a fair deal.”
Candy nods to the others and comes on the line, “I’m the head of Desiderium, a cartel near the Night City Core and just abreast of the Gray. We have been investigating the incident at Hartnell Community General Hospital for the Bey. The hospital was targeted due to a handful of plague survivors located within the building and a connection to a political entity causing issue to Umbra Corp. Does this peak your interest?”
Mac parks himself near Pitbull, leaning back against a convenient chunk of rubble, closing his eyes and focusing on his breathing, listening intently to the negotiations, his shotgun laying on the ground next to him. “What are we going to do about that?” Hank points over at the injured Mac. “I reccomend you keep that gun ready, Mac.” Pitbull grates as he continues his systematic sweep of the area. Candy looks back, “We will add medical treatment to the communication trade request.” Mac grunts at Pitbull. “Bub, I can barely keep my eyes open. That… hurt…” He drags his shotgun across his lap halfheartedly.
Wormwood switches to the team secure channel, “Candy, tell them One Eyed Wei wouldn’t like it if they didn’t listen to you, that you know The Emir personally.”
There’s a pause before a reply comes. “We meat. Secure location, off-site. Say, harbormaster’s office. Thirty minutes. You late, you dead.” Candy replies, “Want to point us in the right direction?”
Wormwood spins around. “Dweezil, Taffy, we need to get to the harbormaster’s office inside 30 minutes. Either of you know the way?”
Candy switchs back to comms, “Is it possible we could meet with One Eyed Wei, its quite dangerous out here, and the Emir would be quite distressed if we came to harm on his business.” Mei comms to Candy – directly on a closed circut – “I do not want to meet with Wei. If he’s there I need to be gone.” Candy comms back to Mei, “Understood, I’ll make it clear I’m the one they talk to if it comes to that.” There’s a short pause before a reply arrives. “Hah! You can meat Wei if you willing to wait ten hours for him to get here and pop cap in yo ass. And tell that electronic ji nu that she sound like robot!” The radio echoes with laughter for a few moments before it cuts off.
“I know, man. Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. But I said you weren’t going to die as long as you stuck with me. Pitbull said, as he relaxes. “And it looks like we may be good, now.” Pitbull says as he pats Mac on the shoulder. Mac lets out a tiny whimper, then starts laughing at himself. “I’ll hold you to that. Man, what I wouldn’t give for some eel juice. Are we moving, or can I bunk here?”
Seeing a lull in the action, Pacoy recalls the buzzbot and stows it in the charger.
Wormwood shrugs. “Guess we rely on our guide to get there, then.” Dweezil nods. “It down by da boats, mon.” Wormwood nods. “Cool, lead on natty dredd. Pitts, see if you can find something Mac can use as a crutch.” Pitbull nods. “Very well.” Pitbull starts rummaging through the rubble, grummbling as he finds things that looked-but-aren’t suitable. “There we are.” Pitbull grunts as he finds an actual cane near the debris of the pawn shop. “I can bet the limp who needs this is probably dead or infected. We’ll call it yours now, Mac.” Pitbull as he holds the cane at Mac, handle out. Mac gratefully takes the cane from Pitbull. “Thanks Bo. Who knows, maybe I can make this look good.” He spins the cane around experimentally but almost drops it. He hobbles along behind the group, wincing every few steps, but otherwise keeping up, his bag slung over his back and his shotgun dangling in his free hand.
Candy rolls his eyes, “Fucking dense chinks, never liked dealing with the pretentious bastards” and calls the Emir’s office.
Dweezil puts his arm around Taffy, steadying the man as he begins heading at a roughly 60 degree angle from the Triad base, aiming for a point on the waterfront about two miles away. Mei speaks quietly outloud – “Lets get moving. Hank – I want you watching for ambush points – just in case they don’t like our info.” Wormwood quietly takes the left flank, eyes scanning and pistols at the ready. Pistol and balisong still in cross-defensive grip, Pacoy cautiously advances, wary of an ambush. “Understood,” Hank states in conformation. Hanks looks for open windoes and Ambush points along the paths we might travel. Pitbull stays in the back-end with Mac, watching their collective backs.
“Hey, Mac – Don’t try and look tough for the chica, if things get too rough, let me know, you might need more than that temporary patch. I got meds and tools if you need to stop.” Pacoy subvocalizes into the comms. “Worst case, we can split up if you need a rest so Candy can make the dead line. I don’t like that scenario, but it’s beterr than you walking the last bit of life out of yourself!” Mac winks at Pacoy. “I’ll let you know, but I just want us to get to the dump. I’ll make it there – might not be much if it comes to a scrap, but I won’t slow you down. Might have to take you up on some meds later, though. And who say’s I’m just acting tough, eh?”
Candy mutters to himself kicking errant rocks in a fit, “Damn it, asking to meet with someone thousands of miles away. Do your homework Candy!” Mei pats Candy on the back. “It was a fair request – Asyah’s reported several sightings of him here in the last few months,” Mei reassures him. Candy nods, somewhat placated by Mei’s words.
It takes the team a while to make their way up the streets and to the harbor proper; there are a few close calls, and Pitbull has to shoot a few roudy citizens of the lovely Cargotown, but all-in-all it’s just another stroll through a riot-infested urban center. Pitbull can’t help allowing a couple whoops of triumph as a few kills were either humorous or well placed.
The harborfront is a mess, a shambles, and a horrific scene of bloody murder all rolled into one. Broken-down boats, ripped apart shipping containers, and what looks like a washed-up submarine mar the view, but the scene is decorated with the corpses of what look like more than a hundred Cargotown citizens, and these ones weren’t killed by the virus. A good number of them look uninfected, and the scene of carnage ends abruptly approximately fifteen yards from the fenced-in cargo holding zone, the harbormaster’s office a medium-sized building directly to the right of the entrance. Past that fifteen yard zone, the ground is, well, not pristine, but visible. Not covered in gore.
Wormwood takes in the scene and can only make a simple exclamation. “Woah!” Candy says in a icy tone, “Tragic.” Pitbull takes in the scene. “Yep. Tijuana, with more water.” Pitbull says, dead-pan. Mac stops, teetering. “Who blipped these poor
- this doesn’t bode well.” With his cybereyes turned to maximum gain, Wormwood holds a hand up in a signal to halt and scans the area.
Pitbull saw no indication of their death, as he stiffles memories of a few tactical missions that ended like this. Good times with some, bad times with the rest. Pacoy stows his knife and reaches into his jacket, feeling exposed without the eyes of a bot, and launches a pinbot to check out the area.
Wormwood subvocalizes on comms, “What the hells did this. Monoblade, maybe?”
“Theres something odd about these wounds – look. Its like they were all hit by the same thing.” Mei stops to take a closer look at her surroundings.
Candy narrows his eyes looking over the desolation, “A trap or some kind of field perhaps?” Pitbull mutters into the comms. “Maybe a long monowire whip. Don’t ask me about that story.” Mac looks worried. “If it’s a field…that’s bad juju.” He casts around for something to throw, into the pile of bodies. “Is there another way around?” Hank asks with concern.
Pacoy’s eyebrows lift up. “Careful, guys – it looks like a trap. I think they have a water-cutter set up as a defense!” Pitbull lifts his Reaper to his eye, and scans the area on a multispectral level looking for any indicators of a trip-wire or a sentry operating in the area. Mac gestures with his shotgun at the two origination points of the cutters. “If you don’t want the daylight let into you, eyes on those points. Thats where the cutters are coming from. I think they might flip up.”
Pitbull notices a slight movement inside the harbormaster’s office, but it’s only a glimpse. The rest of the harbor is unnaturely quiet. “Got them, thanks Mac,” breathes Wormwood. “Candy, want to give the office a shout, see if our Triad friends are there yet?”
“Any of these Vehicles still work, we could use that to test penetration and maybe a slight understanding of the capabilities of the target array.” Candy looks around for a relatively intact slab of metal on wheels. Pitbull lets down his sight. “Don’ like this one bit. I see movement in the office, but nothing. This place appears dead, from my look.”
Candy nods and tries to raise the Triads, “Triad Office, this is Candyman the informant, we are at the docks. We have detected a water cutting defense and would appreciate guidance on how to proceed.”
“I’ll defer to you, Candy; I have a small ground bot capable of jumping a fence – breach of ettiquite when dealing with water-cutter-wielding potential ambushers?” Pacoy subvocalizes
The voice that comes back is, well, not very believable. “Water cutter, you say? No, no water cutter here. We all friends, yes? We no have impenetrable defense system for backyard access to home base. No, of course not. How we simple Chinee farmers get such a thing, anyway? We poor, we have no money. You must be silly.” On second thought, maybe he was being a mite sarcastic.
Pitbull rolls his eys at the words of the petulant Triad. Candy stares over the blasted landscape a bit slackjaw, “What the fuck…. A test, I think. What’s the Mandarin for macho Idiocy? Could just be faking the accent, too.” Wormwood nods. “I’ll bet a months worth of loot that fence has razorwire or worse woven into it too.” Pitbull eyes the fence with distaste. “Or worse would be right, is my bet, Wormwood.” Pitbull smiles, as he stares at the walls. “Sum lo balls?” Pacoy snarks to Wormwood
Mei broadcasts in Mandarin , “Seems kind of backwards to want to kill us. I’m sure you want to know what we know. Can’t do that if we’re in this pile of bodies here. You going to do the trade or not?”
The door to the harbormaster’s office opens and a man steps outside. It’s impossible to tell much about what he looks like, as he’s covered head-to-toe in sealed combat suit. He waves you forwards, then yells out in a slightly less heavily accented voice. “You bai chi gonna come over or you too scared of the dead, need someone to hold your hand?”
Wormwood laughs and steps forward, walking towards the man, confident as all hells. Mac throws a wary look at the man, sorely tempted to begin walking, if only to find a place to sit himself down. “I’m hoping that there isn’t a Chinese angle on this…” He slowly begins making his way after Wormwood. Mei follows, but stays significantly behind Wormwood.
As Wormwood gets closer, the man suddenly looks up as if he’s remembered something and waves his hands in a ‘no, no’ gesture before dropping back inside for a moment; half a second later he pops back out and waves Wormwood forwards again. The man shouts out. “Sorry, forgot to turn off the claymores! You’re clear to come in.” Wormwood smiles. “Many thanks, tin man.”
Candyman straightens his back and begins to walk calmly across the dead – praying the AEPS serves as well as it has in the past, “Fucking idiots” a bit louder “make sure Amon Zero gets my flesh sack if this turns out all wrong.” Pitbull marches in stride, next to Mac, as he makes his way to the body-armoured man, kinda hoping that he’s the petulant ass on the comms.
Candy over closed comms, “They like games so much, what do we have to insure we get out alive once they know what they want to know?” Pitbull racks his Reaper in reply. Mei replies to Candy, “Thats why I told Hank to keep his eyes out.” Wormwood grins at Candy, “Feels good, doesn’t it? The chance you’ll be dead soon makes everything come alive!” Mei quirks an eyebrow. “I like the opposite feeling more…,” the puzzlement in her voice audible through the accent.
“Sumpain crazy-ass tae…” Pacoy mutters as he cautiously advances. “The chance that they’ll be dead soon makes me feel even better, Worm.” Pitbull smiles as he walks past another wet, eviscerated carcass. Candy shakes his head, “Hardly, all I can think about is how Desiderium will crumble and all my children left destitute in this world…becoming hopeless and bringing crime back to the sector.”
Worm smiles back at Pitbull. “You know what’s best, though, Pitts? Making them hope they’ll be dead soon, then disappointing them.” Mac looks between Wormwood and Pitbull, eyes betraying a slight mixture of confusion and worry. “Never worked with claymores, sorry.” Hank subvocalizes “I have.” Pitbull grunts. “Heheh, fun.” Mei replies to Hank – “Just keep your eyes out for more than this guy – that is what I am more worried of.”
Now that he knows they are there, Wormwood scopes out the location of the claymores using his augmented sensors and passes the locations to Pittbull’s implant, then starts checking for hidden ambushers. Pitbull notices those locations, including one near the eviscerated guy, and comms back, “Thanks” to Wormwood. Detecting no-one else, Wormwood takes up position by the door where he can keep an eye outside. Nothing seems to be coming in this direction, but the riot continues to rage on the outside.
As Wormwood approaches, the man waves them in. “Come in; bosses get here soon. We do this right and now, get good trade all around.” Candy smiles, “Information in the right hands, this chaos will be over before weeks end, then we can both be making the green again.”
Mac stumbles in and looks for a reasonably comfortably place to collapse in a miserable heap, shotgun draped across his lap, facing the door, but can barely keep his eyes open. Mac enters the office first and falls into a heap on a comfortable reclining chair, nicely stuffed and with a leather covering. The chair is situated in front of a big bank of monitors with an old-fashioned joystick and solid-state keyboard in front. The monitors show visuals from all over the damned district, but most of them show the approaches to this location. The room is otherwise nicely appointed, but a bit bare. There are two doors in this relatively small room; one of them is heavily reinforced steel, the other a normal office door.
Pacoy takes a quick look at the bank of security electronics.
Mac sighs and shuts his eyes briefly. “Now here’s a man who appreciates the nice things in life.” He struggles to keep his eyes open. “How do you manage to do anything but relax in this chair?” Pitbull keeps his eyes on all entrance and windows to the room, not trusting this as much as he could damn well eat it. Candy give the steel door a looking over, “Certainly does, there a drink in this hole.”
Worm look back at the others, turning from the door a bit. “Hey Pacoy, you should rig up some toys like this lot for Mr C’s digs. Then we could send invites out to some street gangs to come party and let them test it out.” Pitbull looks over at Wormy. “Not sure if our… hosts would like that,” he grates darkly.
“Hmmm… makaluma. Workable, but nothing state of the art.” Pacoy mutters mostly to himself as he eyes the security system. Mac casts his tired eyes over to Wormwood. “You’ve got a strange idea of fun, mister.” Wormwood smiles thinly. “You have no idea, Mr Private Dick.”
Candy pulls out a flask from his vest and pulling the breather to the side, hits it hard, “Hell of a day.” Mac adjusts his breathing mask and rests his eyes for a minute, trying to stay out of Pacoy’s way. “Don’t worry, Wormie, with time, money and consent, I have plans for Candy-Land.” Pacoy winks. Pitbull drags out another cigarette and a lighter at the sight of Candy’s display of stress relief. Candy leans heavily against a wall and stares down his nose at Pacoy, “O, you do now, pray tell…later.”
The roof of the room catches Wormwood’s eye; the room has a very large, very heavy ‘trim’ around the corners, kind like an air duct punching its way into the rest of the room, rather than being hidden behind the walls. There are some slight imperfections in it spaced evenly, indicating the presence of panels that can slide away. Wormwood sends a feed of the locations immediately to everyone’s implants, then subvocalizes to Pitts, “We may have to open up the tin can here – be ready”.
Mei replies subvocally, “I wish at least once in a while it could be easy.” Pitbull comms back. “Oh I’m ready. I’ve seen enough hints. This Reaper ain’t leaving my hands.” Candy subvocalizes, “Only way to get ahead, least we have our lives.”
Wormwood clears his throat, “Excuse me, but what are the ports in the ceiling for – gas or guns?” The group’s host steps into the room and closes the door behind him; it shuts with a ‘click, thunk!’ as a heavy bar locks it into place. Mac’s eyes snap open with the ‘thunk’, although he otherwise doesn’t move. There’s a slight ‘pop’ in your ears; Pacoy recognizes it as the room becoming pressurized compared to the outside. “Pressurized room, guys, heads up.” Pacoy subvocalizes.
The man doesn’t answer Wormwood; instead, he steps back a bit before reaching behind his neck and pulling up on his mask; it swiftly comes all the way off, leaving a man with blond hair and blue eyes staring back at you. He is very, very much white.
Wormwood points both pistols at his head. Pitbull’s eyes narrow a little at the sight of the man, mostly out of suspicion and confusion. Mac swears under his breath. “Well I’ll be damned. Last time I saw a chinaman this white he was pretending to be a geisha in a local theatreplay.” The man looks directly at Wormwood, damned near ignoring the pistols. “Who the hell are you people and what do you know about the virus?”
Wormwood spits back. “Who the hell is asking?” Candy slips his mask off in turn, a sign of trust and respect, and steps out infront of the group “I’m Candyman of Desiderium, I’m pleased the Triads could meet us. I hope we can be of use to one another.”
Pitbull’s grip slackens on his Reaper, but his eyes do not leave the man standing before them. One man. Couldn’t be too much of an issue, right? Mei tilts her head at the sight of the white man, and again at Candy’s words, but decides to just stay quiet for the moment and let it play out. The man snorts a laugh. “Ah, no. You aren’t meeting the Triads tonight; do I really look like a Chinee man?”
“Guessing you’re with the PLF then?” Mei responds. The man nods. "Good guess. Raymond Hayes. Sorry for the deception; we don’t advertise our presence, and we’ve sort of co-opted the Triad’s radio network. They rely too much on that old aircraft carrier of theirs; the metal leaves it impossible for anyone to get an independent signal, so they use a local wi-fi network and topside antennas. All of which can be redeployed if you’ve got the knowledge and the codes. But you didn’t answer my question. Who are you, and what do you know about the plague? "
Candy pinches his nose, and swallows his anger. Wormwood lowers his pistols, but doesn’t put them away. Mac shifts his hand slightly and toggles the record button on his Audio Recorder.
Mei drops her Mandarin module to load English, and speaks without an accent. “Kind of a long story. Ever heard the name ‘Elanor Sanders?’” Mac tries to lean forward slightly, trying to judge the man’s reaction. “Or Lyle Ganderson?” Pitbull continues to stare, taking puffs off of his cigarette as the conversation goes.
Mac notices a slight reaction to the name of Eleanor, but it’s overshadowed by the reaction to Lyle; a deep frown shows on his face. “Yeah, I know Lyle. Good guy. He did some good stuff for us.”
Candy’s eyes get hard, “So that game at the docks with the claymores and dead bodies – you don’t have control over any of that. Its a nice trick utilizing their communications weakness and all, but this is their sector, how does it serve you to intervene yourself in our business.” Ray shakes his head. “That shits the real deal; this is a god-damned fortress. Took half a year to set it up even after we bought it from the Triad with some defenses in place.” Ray points his finger at Taffy, still being supported by Dweezil. “The god-damned fuzz aren’t tearing this place down! And we had to beef up security after the virus got loose. Do you know what would have happened if all those people got on the boats they were heading for? Christ, this shit would have gone global in days. If we didn’t have that security set up, you could kiss civilization goodbye. I don’t know what the hell that shifty motherfucker was thinking, but he made one massive bloody mistake tinkering with that virus.”
Candy grins with empty mirth, “Nice place, you have a fortress, the Bey has his, the Triads theirs, and even I have one. It means nothing – what can a handful of squaters do other than slow us down. I asked to meet with the Triads, not a bunch of idealistic pissants that think they know how to fix the world. This shit is Corp run, you think you saved the world! Don’t make me laugh.”
“Got that right.” Pitbull mutters. “We’re not interested in tearing anything down as of yet, think of us as an ‘interested 3rd party’.” Pacoy says “Which shifty mother?” asks Wormwood
The man shakes his head. “You’re a fucking idiot, you know that? The triads don’t know shit about the virus. You’re here because you do.” Mei places her hand on Candy’s shoulder, “Though they aren’t who we were after, they may still have the info we need.”
Mac nods. “Look, C-man, the PLF are connected to this virus thing – lets not get too riled up here. They worked with Lyle, and I think we can trust them. You perked when I mentioned Elanor’s name. It was her brother – or at least, some one impersonating him – that got us involved.”
Ray tilts his head slightly, then steps back. “Sorry, but the boss says it’s time for me to stop talking and for you to start.” There’s a ‘whirring’ sound as the panels that Wormwood previous identified slide open, revealing five robotic assault gun turrets; the guns swivel down, pointing at the Edgerunners. The barrels look awfully big when you’re staring right down them.
Candy shrugs off Mei’s arm gently, “It does not excuse their games, their violation of protocol, or their self aggrandizing bull shit. You think we are here to save people, to help the Triads? They are fucking competitors. We are here to make money – your organization, you just told me broke the bank on this,” Candy hammers the wall with a fist for emphasis, “piece of shit. So how are you going to make this right?”
Wormwood subvocalizes, “That’s it C, drive a hard bargain.”
Ray shrugs. “Maybe by shooting you in the face? You don’t have the power here. What is it that you’re after? We aren’t going to give you money. If you don’t want to talk, we’ll just blast you away and let the gas take the rest of you out.”
Pitbull ducks low into a defensive stance as he prepares his Reaper and hoists back on his breather mask.
Candy puffs up, “You’ve enough enemies now, your workers right shit has the Corps killing you in the streets. You wanna piss off the folks who OWN the streets! You just shanghaied us from a Triad meeting, I’m the Bey’s man, and your whole world is falling apart outside. Be a fucking dumb cunt – you’re worlds the one thats turned upside down in the shit pipe.”
Ray looks up at the sky for a moment. “Can I please just off this one? He doesn’t seem to get it.” He shakes his head. “Boss says no.” He shrugs. “Look, you’re the ones who contacted us first, right? Why are you so angry that you got who you were looking for?”
Candy throws his hands in the air, “Cause you conduct business like a bunch of power crazed children? The information we have helps you a hell of alot more than it does us, so how about you show some fucking appreciation we came out here.”
Ray shakes his head. “You haven’t told us what this information is. Maybe if you would actually let us know something, rather than just demand we suck your cock like a fucking princess who just got rescued from the evil dragon, we might be able to talk.”
Wormy tries to calm the situation. “Hey, Ray, is it? My friend is a bit worked up about the whole deception thing. I’m more of ‘hedge the bets’ kinda player. We have information, we want a collaboration. We can work out who stepped on who’s toes later…”
Mei sighs… business in the America’s, and speaks aloud. “Look – Candy is pissed you pretended to be someone else, and he thinks you’re wasting his time. You’re pissed cause you think we’re wasting yours. Neither is the case. Elanor Sanders, do you know her?”
No matter how much Pitbull crunches his odds, they don’t seem to stack for him in this scenario. Remembering that he doesn’t like the idea of dying he comms Candy, “Candy. Please change your tactic here. We’re already on shit creek, and this guy’s got the paddles.” Camdy comms back, “I don’t deal with fucks, I’m a businessman, not an ass licker. Someone else eat their shit.” Pitbull frowns. “But is that worth dying for, man?” Pitbull comms back to Candy. “I’ve got my ethics, lose those and I’m not worth shit.” Candy comms back. “I know. But this doesn’t look like the time for getting angry about it.” Pitbull comms to Candy. “Candy, seriously – you are barking at a feral dog here!” Pacoy subvocalizes. “Tell them what you want, I wash my hands of these cunts.” Candy moves back to the wall, watching the gun track him with a sneer.
Ray shrugs. “No skin off my back. I’ve been told not to share any more information until we get some in return.” He tilts his head down for a moment, then nods. “Eleanor is one of the patients downstairs.”
Wormwood sighs. “Umbra let the virus loose as an experiment, hoping to get a synergy with cybernetic implants they could use for a super-soldier program I’d guess. We have implant data to prove their involvement.” Mac looks straight at Ray. “Not sure if you know this, but Lyle’s dead. It looks like he was offed on purpose.” Mei adds to Wormwood’s statement. “And she’s more of a test subject than a patient.”
Pacoy speaks out loud to Ray, “Do you have some place a little safer to talk? These aren’t really ideal “friendly conversation’ terms, I’m afraid.” Ray smiles and the guns suddenly retract into the walls. "Ah. In that case, you’re free to go. We already knew about Umbra’s involvement, but thanks for telling us. We might recommend you get in contact with the actual authorities about that if you’ve got proof.
Wormwood frowns and shrugs. “Want to fill in some blanks for me? What exactly were they trying to do? And how did Eleanor become mixed up in all this stuff? I’ve got a pal named Twink will want to know.”
Ray shakes his head. “They were doing a super-soldier experimentation project, as you mentioned. Eleanor Sanders, among others, were enrolled in an experimental drug trial to try and cure muscular dystrophy – or so they thought. Umbra didn’t tell them that they’d be installing puppet implants and that the drug was a cocktail intended to produce super-athletes for the next Olympic games.”
Wormwood nods. “Thus the pit fights. But Eleanor didn’t seem affected the same, according to Twink. Did it work on her?” Ray nods. “Exactly. We got wind of it about a year ago, and our cell was put together to put a stop to it and make it right.”
Pitbull furrows his brows, wondering why a stunt like this would be just for the Olympics.
“I’ve got a suggested deal. You get our proof, all our recordings and data — you take it to the news stations, it’s ironclad – and you probably know the right people to talk to. In return, you give us a biosample from Eleanor. We can sell that to a corp I know and screw with Umbra’s bottom line at the same time.” Wormwood nods. “Turning that data in will give your group some legitimacy in the eyes of the public. Its not a bad deal.,” Mei adds.
Ray paces back and forth a little. “The fighters that Umbra put together took to the cocktail pretty well. Eleanor did better because she was fit and a trained fighter and all that, and I guess original genetic composition was good, but they all did well. Nothing like the Red Plague outside. That… was a bit of a side effect.”
Worm nods. “That’s handy to know. We’ve no sample from one of those fighters though. Give us one and we have a deal we can live with.” Pitbull has still not relaxed, certain that this issue still has room to get bloody. Ray stops for a moment, thinking. “That information. We could use proof like that, but… What do you have that shows that Umbra made the Plague itself?”
Worm shrugs. “Would you need to? We all know. That it’s a Gen-Nu would be bad enough, that they’d kill for it, kill in a hospital to keep it quiet, would wipe billions from their value overnight. Just a thought too – as far as we know her father was genuine even if her brother was an Umbra plant. He might want her back. Eleanor, that is.”
Mac’s face drains almost imperceptibly of color as his lips start moving and no sound comes out, informing the group of what he just realised. “This just makes this whole thing hotter than a summer full of Sundays…” Mac goes over his line of thinking once again…
The evidence the group has shows that there’s a distinct connection to Umbra – they’re interested, and they did Bad Deads. They also were the ones responsible for Eleanor and the other fighters. But those fighters were not infected with the Red Plague, and nobody they encountered in their daily life got infected with the Red Plague.
The evidence instead suggests the Red Plague originated in Cargotown, but is related in some fashion to Eleanor’s group. The primary connection between Eleanor’s group and Cargotown? The PLF. Further, the Red Plague was mentioned to have been a modified version of a Gen Nu virus – but that the modification was sloppy. Not the work of a decent Umbra lab. But, just maybe, the work of an underground semi-terrorist group.
In summation: The PLF released the Red Plague – probably as a result of an attempt to modify Eleanor and co’s variant, or maybe they were just trying to boost their own guy’s strength, or maybe they were trying to cure it. The PLF was primarily interested in your information because they do NOT want to be connected to this disaster in any way.
“Uh… enlighten us?” Pitbull comms back, confused and worried. Mac comms over the details, slowly and precisely, to everyone in his group, ensuring nothing can be heard by anyone else.
Ray is turned away from the group as he thinks and listens to his superiors. “Crushing Umbra like that – that’d be good. But details matter. We’d need to make sure the evidence is rock-solid, that it all fits together nicely.” Pacoy nods. “It will. Open the door for us, if you please. We’ll arrange a data drop and retrieve the samples when we’re out clear of the Zone.” He shakes his head. “The damned Plague is getting worse, too. We’re getting close to a treatment – Eleanor and the others have been a big help, but we can’t get the damned puppet implants to shut off without frying their brains.” He sighs, then turns back around. “Alright. You mentioned Eleanor’s dad – he’s some kind of bigwig, I think? We tried to get in contact with him through Lyle, but… well, you know how that turned out.”
Ray seems to make up his mind – or the people giving his orders do, at any rate. “We can do you one better than a sample. We’re willing to give you Eleanor herself, in exchange for getting her out of the Zone. We’re safe in our little fortress, but we don’t have the personnel, the training, or the mobile firepower to move her through the Zone safely. You do. In exchange, we want you to speak with Eleanor’s father. With his resources, we should be able to crack the puppet implants and maybe even move forwards on a treatment and vaccine for the Plague. You get your bio-sample, plus whatever reward the old man offers for his daughter. It’s a good deal.”
“How contagious do you think she is? Keep your masks on!” Pacoy subvocalizes to the group. Wormwood frowns. “Is she safe to move?” Mei replies to Pacoy, “She’s been in the fight club for weeks and they were fine. I’m sure she’s fine.” Ray nods. “She’s safe, so long as she’s unconcious. Completely non-contagious. If she wakes up, well… You heard about how well she fights.”
“That’ll do then. We can’t get her out the way we came, but Taffy here should be able to help with that.” Mei answers. “How are we moving this person? I don’t think walking through the streets until we get to a ‘better’ locations, is a good idea.” Hanks subvocally cautions. Mac grimaces at the idea of another hike. “Look, is there any way we can get a boat out of here? I don’t think I’m up for another walk, even if it is escorting a pretty lady out of here.”
Wormwood turns to Dweezil, “Dreddman, can you whistle in some transport from here, on our dime?” The mentioned of the sea perks Mei’ – “Actually, is the sea quarantined? I may be able to get us out if it isn’t.”
Worm nods. “OK, PLF man, we get on a boat with Eleanor and we squirt the data to you. Done deal?”
Ray grimaces at the idea of taking a boat. “Boats might not be best, and I’d recommend against going by air. We’re under quarantine, if you remember. We’ve seen a few boats get blown up. You’d have better luck with a submarine; the Triads use one to smuggle in food and out people, but they’re charging an arm and a leg for the service.”
Pitbull comms Candy, “Got any of those to spare, brah?”
Worm looks over at the officer. “Okay. Taffy, think you can talk us through the cordon as repayment for saving your life?”
Candy comms over to Cabrini-Grean, “HQ, this is Father, please inform the Triad’s that their reputation was being used falsely and has been besmirched. When I get back I’ll continue communication with them – PLF is on our shit list boys. See any in the streets, gun them down.”
Dweezil looks off in the distance for a few moments, then turns back. “Silvafish be available, mons. Gettin’ us free from da babylon, but it be costin’ ya bigtime. PD got fish in da water.”
Worm smiles. “That works too. Well done Dweezil! And guys, I set this up so I’ll get the fare, not Candy. On the condition I get it back double if we make any money, mkay?” Taffy is a little woozy, almost falling down now. “The main gate; I can get you through there. Gotta be in person; gun down anyone not in person just in case officer in distress. Gotta, tired…”
Mac sighs and laughs at Wormwood. “You mean a completed job that actually gets you paid? Yeah, I can agree to that.” Candy turns on Ray, “PLF foots this bill. The Triads would have offered to let us bunker down and ride this out for the info and aid we offered.”
Ray shakes his head. "No can do, man. This Plague isn’t going to die out any time soon, and by then it’ll be too late to help them. Besides, you really want to live here for a few more months or maybe even a year? No, the deal is you transport the girl out however you want and speak with her father. You get the cash reward from the dad and sell the genetic material to whoever.
Worm nods. “I said I’ll pay. It’s decided. let’s get Eleanor and get out of here.”
“I’ll front it if I have to! Pitbull snarls. “I’m tired and I’m sick of this town. Now it really is just like Tijuana, in that I don’t want to fuckin’ be here.”
The group continues to debate their exit strategy as the sun finally sets over the burning city.