Dateline: December 29th 2050, 1115 Local Time
The team – Able, Candyman, Mac, Pacoy, Pitbull and Saxby – are back at the Ottoman hotel for the second day of their contract as additional security consultants for the infamous Grey Auction. unfortunately, things are going wrong fast. Just as the morning auction was about to begin the auctioneer flipped out and began stripping then singing The Sound of Music! While most of the team subdued the auctioneer, and Mac took on that role with the hotel A.I.’s help, Candy and Pacoy followed the Night City Vice President of Umbra Corporation and her bodyguard team, who were seen leaving the auction room just as the mess began.
Rushing up two floors, Candy confronted the Umbra people as they exited their elevator – while Pacoy and one of his drones got the drop on the Umbra team unobserved. Just then, two naked women appeared from another elevator and walked right towards candy asking if he wanted to party. Ignoring them Candy challenged the Umbra people and went for his mono-wire sword.
Seeing Candy go for his weapons, the Umbra executive, Valerie Aldridge, barked a single word “shoot!”, and her bodyguards went for their weapons!
Now, while everyone is busy talking, Pacoy fires the Vortexo! into the elevator and sends his Kestrel-bot to gain a little altitude, seeking the best vantage point. “Marid – close the doors on them NOW!” He then stows the Vortexo! before drawing his Prowler pistol and balisong in a cross-defensive grip. Seeing that words have fallen on deaf ears, Candy draws forth a prowler and a wicked monoblade, both held before him in a crossed defensive stance, “Umbra, you’ve overstepped yourselves.”
Pacoy’s coil of sleepy gas roils into the elevator and the three security team surrounding Icefire drop in quick succession. The Umbra exec herself is unaffected, however – and Marid doesn’t respond to Pacoy’s call, the elevator doors remain open.
Able watches the action play out through the team’s comlink, but knows he won’t be able to reach the scene in time to seriously impact the fight. Instead, he looks to the ceiling, hoping for some luck. “Marid, are there any other Umbra operatives in the building?” Pitbull rushes down the hallway to the elevators, unholstering his Vortexo! and racking it in a few quick motions. There is only silence from Marid – and Able can now see an Ottoman security guard running into the auction room looking panicked.
Saxby pulls the napkin from the auctioneer’s mouth and straightens him up, still within Able’s iron grasp of course. “Get him out of here, this doesn’t sound good.” Mac casts his eyes around the auction floor, cursing under his breath between bids, My arms weren’t made for all of this flailing. I feel like a bloody Wright. Able looks over at his compatriot. “Saxby! Marid’s down – figure out what the hell breached our security!”
One of the two naked women, the older but still very attractive one, attempts to drape herself over Candy, murmuring, “Did you know I trained as a courtesan in Europe? i know tricks that’ll make your toes curl.” The other – younger and gorgeous – walks backwards towards Icefire with her arms akimbo, effectively blocking line of sight. “No, don’t shoot,” she says, “let’s all party instead.” Icefire steps up behind the young woman and sticks a Locust flechette pistol in her ear, “Sure let’s party on the roof!” She grins as she says it.
As Pitbull discovers the elevators aren’t working and Mac’s feed to his HUD goes dead , Saxby nods and touches his temple. “Hey poof, remember me? I’m gonna need root again.” Pitbull loudly grunts in frustration as he changes direction to the stairs but Saxby’s network query goes unanswered – there’s not even a wireless IP any more.
looks back at Able. “Marid’s,” he pauses, confused. “Offline?”
“_Elevators down, Marid down… Fuck it._ "Pitbull swaps out his Vortexo! for his Urban Fox, in similar swift motions as earlier. “This is it boys, this is war!” He roars into the comm network. Saxby bolts out the door and makes his way toward the stairs. “I’m heading to the office, somebody run interference. I don’t want any skanks with guns on me.”
Able glances at the security guard heading into the auction room, pretty clear on why he’s panicking. “Mac, Marid’s gone dark. Delay the auction and contain the situation; might be a good idea to go into lock-down or evacuate. Not sure what the threat is yet.” The Ottoman guard runs over to Able, gasping “Quick, Desmond’s gone loco – he ripped Marid’s racks off the wall!”
Cut off from Marid’s auction feed, Mac keeps plowing on, pretending nothing is gone while sending panicked inquiries to the team. This could not possibly, in any way, get any worse than it’s gotten right now. “Ladies and gentlemen, that is the last item for the moment. The next item will be up in an hour, to give your wallets and bank accounts some time to catch up with the dollars flying out of them!” Under his breath, Mac murmurs to Able, “I can’t send these people out of the building if the elevators aren’t working. You want me to assist Saxby?” Able frowns. “Fuck.” Able points to the security guard. “You – secure this man. He shouldn’t be dangerous, but someone needs to take over here. Saxby, I’m on my way to Marid’s computing cluster. Desmond is in there ripping it apart; he’s dangerous.” Saxby, relieved, breathes heavily into his comm to Mac. “Yeah, I’m on my way to the access point, in the main office. Help Able get those racks back from Desmond. Bey’s office still has jacks I-” He stops a few floors up to breathe again. “I can get him back online.” He continues jumping up the stairs.
On the tenth floor, Pacoy’s The Kestrel-bot, at it’s height above the young women, takes a shot at the Umbra executive, scoring a hit on her left arm that doesn’t penetrate the cleverly disguised armor. In the elevator, Icefire tightens a grip around the young woman’s neck and motions the older one to come toward her. “Let’s all go down to the foyer for a nice drink! Come on, cuddle close in back and this lady can stay in front.” She looks at Pacoy, “Try that again, I’ll shoot both of these high-priced courtesans, got it?”
Pitbull sends out a comm to the team. “What’s happening? Where can I be best at?!” Able starts heading to the stairwell at a gliding jog; he silently comms Mac as he moves, not wasting any breath on speech. “Turn over the room to security and have them lock the place down.” As he moves, Able tries to access the security channel and send out a wide-band alert.
Mac clears his throat then speaks into his podium mike, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I wanted to direct your attention to my pal Paul, here, who is going to issue some instructions to you shortly.” He gestures at a security guard, whispering short instructions to lock the place down before Mac saunters to the stairwell, then bolts up the stairs towards where the AI’s racks are stored, not sparing the horses in the slightest. I shouldn’t have thought it couldn’t get worse… “Pitbull, I think Pacoy and Candy might have their hands full with some beautiful ladies if you wanted to get in on that action.”
Pitbull continues on his run to the stairs. “What floor, Abe?! Fuggit! Pacoy, Candy what floor are you on?!” He barks into the comms. As Able hurries up the stairs, he broadcasts to Pitbull. “Candy and Pac are on 10; me, Mac, and Saxby are taking the computer issue on the 30th.”
Two floors above Pitbull, Icefire ushers her two naked hostages towards the stairs down, “I’m leaving this gig, and you people have more to do than stop me, don’t you?” “Candy, Do you think we should risk a bum-rush?” Pacoy subvocalizes into the comms. Icefire grins, “Also, if you do manage to stop me, you’ll have an Umbra rapid response unit in full armor, with gunships, to deal with too…” Candyman’s answering grin is if anything even colder, “I don’t much care what fire you rain down – I’m tired of cowering from the likes of you. I will fight beside the Bey this day and cast you down!” Candy punctuates his words with a swift slice at her torso, right where her monoblade rests in its harness, and another across her armored chest. Candyman’s slicer bites deep into Icefire’s torso – once, twice! She screams as the monowire parts her armored dress fabric and goes down in a heap, blood spurting everywhere but still screaming. The two naked women, now with blood on their skins but unperturbed, try to wrap themselves around Candyman instead.
Able takes a moment out of his run to try and find the Imazighen’s comms channel; resting on a landing, he leans against the wall as he closes his eyes and communes through the interface. He curses when he isn’t able to make it work; he doesn’t have the training to find and access a comm channel like this. He hits up the team’s link as he begins running up the stairs again. “Saxby, patch us in to the Imazighen comm channel. We need backup, and we need to alert the Imazighen, now.” Saxby stops on a landing midway between floors. He looks around in space, searching for the comm channel. “Got it!” Saxby patches in the Edgerunners. “Attention Ottoman Security, this is the White Lion. The Ottoman is under attack. Need a security escort on, um,” He glances around. “Floor 33. We need an assault team at the elevators on 8, and a security team to detain Desmond on 30. Do not shoot to kill, we have reason to believe he’s been hacked.” He bolts up the stairs again.
Mac shouts up to Able, whose footsteps he can hear pounding up ahead of him, “So what’s the Imazighen going to bring to bear on this? And how the hell do you train for a twenty-two story sprint?” Mac lets the thought of the whiskey wrap his muscles in warmth to keep them limber.
Suddenly, Saxby’s ears fill with a cacophony of noise as he isolates and taps the Ottoman comm-net. All is confusion. Some are yelling about Desmond having killed Haroun the security chief by ripping his head off, others about an orgy in the nightclub on the 19th, still others about Mr Choppa the sensie star blasting guests with a shotgun by the rooftop pool!
Able shakes his head as Saxby starts pouring it out. “Cancel that. Imazighen, the Ottoman Hotel is currently under attack by Umbra agents. Expect a rapid response team to arrive momentarily. We are working to patch Marid back together, but in the meantime we need to hold fast. Be aware that malware that can hijack a user’s neural implant to control their actions has been set loose. Allies may be enemies.”
Candy looks with grim satisfaction over the corp bitch in the floor, then comms the team, “Lazarus, an Umbra operative just reported that rapid response units in full armor are on their way, gunships in transit as well." Pitbull stomps up to Candy and company. “Oh, ni-” He freezes mid sentence. “That’s the Umbra chick! Shitshitshitshit- o-o-oh God! Guys, gets ready for a firestorm!” Pitbull says with the most excitement that has yet to be seen on him. Pitbull swears under his breath, desperately wishing that he hadn’t stowed his Reaper in the van. Though he knows that it wouldn’t have done dick to Powered Armor Response Teams, it was still a nice security blanket…
Saxby stops on the 20th floor and steps out. He approaches a nearby elevator and jacks into the control panel. Accessing the elevator, he steps inside and mashes the button for the 30th floor. He rapidly rises up the floors.
Mac doesn’t bother breaking his stride. “Gunships? That’s all? The big bad Umbra just has some whirlybirds to throw at us?” Mac starts laughing, sending echo’s up and down the stairwell. “Already been fake-shot with a knife in my face – gunships ain’t nothing.” He shouts up to Able. “Wanna put bets on who gets to the top first?” Able just shakes his head at Mac, putting more effort into making it up the rest of the way.
Pacoy pulls a roll of vacuum tape out of his jacket pocket and begins restraining the two nude women, gritting his teeth as they giggle and purr to his every touch. As Pitbull watches, Icefire bleeds into unconsciousness, and a patch under the kin of her right forearm begins to blink red. “Shit.” Pitbull growls. “It’s all about to hit the fan…”
“No, no, no, Pits, we dealt with that already. That was e23, not Umbra. And wouldn’t rotors be more appropriate? Wait – aren’t there guns on the landing platforms to protect the tower? You familiar with that kind of hardware Pitbull?” “I am familiar with machine guns, but I know they can’t be too differ’nt. I’ll see what I can do with ’em.” Pitbull growls in reply to Mac as he heads towards the long fifty-storey climb to the roof.
Candy walks over and spits on Icefire’s face, “Fuck all of them. The Bey is strong here, if we stand by the Imazighen, this will be a great victory. The Bey will know where we stand and embrace Lazarus Group as a brother.” “_Galit!_” Pacoy mutters, noticing the bio-alarm on Icefire, “This one is cut deep, Candy.” Pacoy acts quickly to give her basic first aid, seeing if he can stop her from bleeding to death. Pacoy double checks his work, then heads to the elevator where he is reminded of the Umbra guards. He quickly trusses them up.
Ding! The elevator doors slide open on the 30th floor. Saxby immediately scans wirelessly for Desmond’s cpu. His scan shows a single Umbra implant among the several on the floor, as he hears gunfire echoing from the security center. He steps out of the elevator and attempts to hack into his mind.
Candyman: Candy looks down at Icefire, and switches to team comms, “This Umbra agent is not going to give anything up. Unless you can hack her mind Able – she’s worthless to us. We need to get to the Bey and marshal the Imazighen. Battersea is their leader, with him out, Pit can you lead them?” “Oh, I can lead them. The question is, will they follow me?” Pitbull growls in the comms. Candy comms back, “Pitts, your the scariest mother fucker I know, and an experience soldier to boot. What better leader could they hope for with Battersea down. You’ve had as much battlefield experience as any of them and more – just trust yourself and I’ll do the rest.”
Still standing stoically just outside the elevator, Saxby brute hacks into Desmond’s cpu back door. Copying the hack from the auctioneer, he puts Desmond into a heavy narcotic state. Able steps out of the stairwell onto the 30th floor, breathing heavily. He looks over and notices Saxby, standing right in front of an open elevator. He just blinks for a moment. Ahead, he hears the gunfire slacken somewhat, then someone shouts “He’s down – rush him!” Saxby looks over at Able. “Desmond’s down. Get those racks back up.” He steps back into the elevator and presses the button for the 60th floor. As the elevator rises, Saxby begins compiling a script to juice up Marid.
The security floor is a mess. Several Imazighen lie dead or wounded, there’s smoke from a fire in the air-traffic room, and Desmond Battersea is slumped, bleeding from a neck wound, behind the security barricade to the computer core room. Able frowns as he stomps off towards the computer core. He takes in the scene in front of him, and summarizes it in just one word: “Fuck.” Mac runs up the last few steps to the 30th floor, nearly barreling into Able, standing just outside the doorway, his breath measured and calm as normal. “…What the heck happened here? Where’s the kid?” Able indicates the computer room to the gathered Imazighen. “We need to get in and fix what Battersea broke. The White Lion’s going to the Bey’s office; we’ll fix the computing system.” Able glances at Mac. “He reactivated one of the elevators. Don’t think the others are working yet.”
“That prat. Couldn’t have given us a lift, huh? Seems like you might have needed it – breathing a bit heavy, are you?” A grin flashes across Mac’s face. “You might have to let me know exactly how to help out – I’m better off reconstructing shredded documents, but this is a pretty complex system.” Mac sets himself to trying to right Marid’s racks. “Let’s get Humpty Dumpty sorted out then, yeah?” As Able and Mac start trying to repair Marid’s hardware, Saxby arrives at the Bey’s penthouse suite – to discover the heavy tungsten-steel door is locked fast. He steps out and frowns at the door just as Pitbull growls over their comms, “Sax-man, can you get an elevator up? They will be here ’fore I can get to the 60th floor.” Saxby reaches behind him to send the elevator back down to 30 then pulls out his laptop and copies the Marid script from his neural computer. He then proceeds to refine it, adding in exceptions for each of the edgerunners. “Let’s see, definitely want to use these big guns-” he taps furiously on the keys.
Able closes his eyes as he surveys the remains of Marid’s system, a new personality slowly taking hold of his body. Able’s body slightly changes, his hair growing out, his arms getting slimmer, shrinking a little in height, his nose narrowing down – his face in this personality looks a bit like a mouse, and the rest of him doesn’t significantly differ.
“…you’re not going to try and cut my spine, Able, right? That is you, Able? Right?” Mac appears a bit apprehensive.
“Who needs me more guys? Able or Saxby? You need a lift while I’ve got the only working ride, Pit?” Pacoy comms frantically. Able shakes his head at Mac. “Don’t worry. I’m in control. We can do this.” Able comms to Pacoy. “We could use your help, Pac. We’re rebuilding Marid on 30.” Pitbull stomps into the elevator and punches the button for the 60th floor with a little more force than necessary.
Saxby pings the air, searching for Marid. Realizing he is still down, he pulls out his various jacks and lays them out, readying them for the workstation.
Candy walks to the elevator and flicks the blood from the monoblade before sheathing it,“Thank’s for the lift White Lion.” Saxby comms back. “It’s not over yet. Help them get Marid hooked back up, I’m ready to call in the cavalry.” “Thirtieth Floor, Mainframes, Lingerie and apparently Dead Imazighen.” Pacoy announces as the elevator dings in at 30, then rushes off to assist Able and Mac. Mac throws a look at Pacoy from underneath a mainframe. “Lingerie? Only ’cos you took the elevator up here, Pricilla. Able and I ran the whole way.” A teasing grin boils up from somewhere in the tangle of wires surrounding him. Candy stays on the elevator, “I’m gonna cover Saxby, he’s alone up there and no telling who’s hacked and dangerous. See if the Bey survived this.” The Elevator closes on those last words. “Hell, Mac – no one ever accused you of doing things the smart way!” Pacoy grins as he begins pulling out tools “What do we have here, now?” Mac starts laughing, holding a bunch of frayed wires out in both hands. “Well, we’ve got a… this… and I think it used to be plugged in over… here?” He gestures to a mangled server bracket, or a desk chair – it’s hard to tell which. “Got any wire clippers? Or a nail file? Or a new mainframe? That’d be useful right about now.”
Up on the 60th, Saxby hears a quiet voice say “Who the fuck are you, motherfucker?” At the same time, something cold, metallic and wide-bore presses against his neck. Saxby freezes. He puts his hands up and slowly stands. “Choppa? Oh shit, I’ve been looking all over for you!” Saxby immediately begins scanning for Choppa’s cpu as the man behind Saxby growls, “Whaddaya mean, pencil-neck? Talk fast.” “They’re after you. I just need a minute to get inside the system.” Saxby locates Choppa’s cpu and searches for the backdoor. “I just need a minute, OK? Still with me?” Saxby asks, his hands still in the air. “We’ve only got a few minutes, are you still with me?” Saxby presses him. Choppa growls, “that’s not news, geek. i know they’re after me, and you’re a they…ah, you know what I mean!” Saxby looks at him, confused. “Not me, I’ve been looking for you. You saw me downstairs, right?”
Ding the elevator doors open behind Saxby and Choppa. As soon as the elevator doors open, Saxby crumples to the floor and covers his head, simultaneously running a confusion script to blind Choppa. Choppa reels, as if stunned, as Saxby hacks his implant – presenting a perfect target to Pitbull and Candy. Candy steps off the elevator and looks upon the scene, the floor filled with trashed electronics all in the shadow of a very large man, Candy moves in with Prowler at the ready, “Stand down or I’ll be forced to put you down" even as he lets a shot off to disarm. Pitbull’s eyes widen as he sees Choppa with the shotgun pointed at Saxby’s head. He instinctively makes a whip-fast motion with his gun hand, firing his Urban Fox at Choppa. Three shots echo around the lobby as Pitbull fires his Urban Fox – and the famous sensie star Mr Choppa dies, as every round impacts his back! Saxby turns around slowly and opens his eyes. “Oh shit. You just killed Mr. Choppa,” he says, stating the obvious. Pitbull looks down at the corpse. “Well, shit. I think I just killed myself a celeb’.” Pitbull, his eyebrows furrowed, growls as though he were remarking on an odd weather pattern.
Pacoy gets to work on the damaged system, grinning at Macs comments as he repairs the mess, “I thought you were the Boyscout, Mac? Here I am being the one all prepared!” Able continues plugging in wires, inserting racks back into place, and otherwise trying to put some order back into this mess – hopefully in time to protect the Ottoman from the Umbra-sized shitstorm that’s about to fall upon them. He swiftly turns and makes his way through the bar then on and up to the roof , pistol still drawn, and still turning over in his head the possible ramifications of shooting a celebrity. Hope that doesn’t bite me in the ass later…
Mac chuckles ironically, “You want me to start a fire with this?” He pulls out two live wires and sparks them together. “That’s about all half this stuff is good for.” He looks disparagingly at an optical drive that’s jammed open. “That and as a drink holder.”
Candy takes a position by the elevator with his monoblade ready at neck level, “Let me know if you guys see anything,” making a point of ignoring the dead man in the floor. Saxby stands, his eyes fixated on the slain celebrity. He runs a continuous ping, searching for Marid. “Come on guys, get him up.” He says quietly to himself. He runs over the Marid script in his head again. He stares at the body, and a grin crosses his face. He makes a few quick modifications to the script. Saxby runs a few quick searches on servers, then sends the information to the rest of the crew. “Here, like this.” Mac sends back, “Yes ma, whatever you say. It’s not like we’re doing this with factory fresh parts here, kid!” Saxby shakes his head and mumbles “Newbs” under his breath. He turns around and kicks the door. Clang! “Come on!”
As Pitbull spills out into the roof garden, he can see several bodies floating in the infinity pool – and three specks rapidly approaching the hotel tower over the busy Night City skyline. “Fuu-uuuck…” Pitbull growls, as he surveys the scene, taking mental notes on each turret. “If I have to go for any of these, it’d be that’n…” He growls to himself, noting the one in the most defensible position. Pitbull’s augmented vision sees two helicopter gunships and a large AV transport with doors already open – and armored figures standing in the doors. He stomps over to the turret he chose, and starts his work with it. Flipping switches, checking screens…
A vidpanel beside the door Saxby kicked comes on: it’s Jacob the Juice. “Saxby, that you? What’s happening out there?” Saxby places both hands on either side of the console. “Hey, yeah, it’s me. We’re under attack, um, big time. Can you get me in to the office?” Jacob sputters, “Are you pulling my pud, dude? I’ve got the Bey himself in here, safe. Why would I let you in?” Saxby shakes his head, frustrated. “Look, if I try anything, you can blow my head off, I swear. I need root access to Marid. It’s our only hope against-” Saxby looks around, hearing the rush of rotor blades. “Against them.” Candy comes up behind Saxby, “Jacob I’ve got him covered with my blade, he can’t try anything, this is our best shot against Umbra.”
Able curses as the news of the incoming gunships reaches him. “Shit. I’m going double-time, even if this takes it all out of me.” Time starts to expand as Able pushes himself under a desk, his hand seeming to reach out in slow-motion to grasp an errant wire. It seems to take minutes for the wire to reach the connecting slot, even as Able’s other hand grabs for another one. The others can see Able’s hands almost blurring with their speed, but to Able it all seems to be moving in slow-motion – except for the thunderous pumping of blood in his ears.
Pitbull settles into the firing chair and lines up his shot. “C’mon, bitch… C’mon, bitch…” He hisses under his breath as he pulls the trigger.
Saxby and Candy hear the Bey’s voice say “Let them in, I trust Cand…” then the rest is obliterated by the sound of a heavy fast-firing cannon letting rip outside! Saxby ducks, cursing. He pops back up and shouts into the console. “Open the door!”
Able punches the final button and every telltale lights green as Marid’s hardware begins to reboot. Mac sighs, kicking aside a wayward piece of broken hardware. “I’ll be damned. Able’s got some quickness to him!” Able’s breathing more than heavily as he slides out from under the mainframe, his hands shaking as he gets hit by the aftershock from coming back to slow-time.
Ping! Saxby’s search finally connects. He turns away from the console and taps his temple. “Marid! Marid, baby, it’s me. Let me in.”
Pitbull launches a stream of 14mm projectiles at the lead copter, which is hit by a single round – not enough to down the gunship but all three Umbra response vehicles veer off. Pitbull shakes his head angrily as he redoubles his attempt at aim. “Too long since I fired one of these…”
As the gunships circle around, heading towards Pitbull’s turret, Saxby establishes contact with Marid again and the Ottoman net comes alive. In everyone’s HUDs a white lion struts, then yells in Marid’s cartoonish voice. “Woah, the plane, boss, the plane!”
Mac puts his hand on Able’s shoulder as he crouches beside him, “…You okay buddy? Hey Pacoy, you got some popsicle sticks or something? I think Able might start seizing again…” He groans inwardly, taking his glasses off and shoving them in his pocket, removing his HUD from view. “Showoff…” “Nah, Mac – He over-exerted himself, cyber boost and all of that. Give him a sec to catch his breath.” Pacoy responds, after giving Able a quick look
The door to Bey’s penthouse opens – with Jacob just inside it leveling a sub-gun at Saxby cautiously. behind him the Bey yells “Let him in, Jacob! He has work to do!” Saxby scoops up his laptop and jacks as the door finally creaks open. He pushes through and heads toward the Bey’s desk.
Pitbull’s eyes widen in surprised confusion as Madrid takes over the turret, jerking him to better aim.
Saxby yells, “Candyman! Cover me, I need a minute.” He places his laptop down on the desk and starts pulling out cables from the drawers. “OK, this one here, and then this one.” He tries to ignore the gun pointed at him. Candy follows quickly behind, monoblade still in hand, a reassurance to Jacob. “Um, let’s see, how did I do this yesterday? Green one here? No, yellow.” Saxby mumbles to himself as he fiddles with cable jacks.
Marid comes on comms: “Captain, we’ve got three Klingon ships off the starboard bow! Firing phasers now!!” The sky is suddenly filled with fire as all four of the Ottoman’s turrets open fire towards the oncoming Umbra gunships – the shells missing ahead of their noses by scant feet before exploding in mid-air. “That’s a warnin’ pardners, come any closer I’m a-gonna shoot yer sock off,” Marid drawls.
Able shakes his head as he tries to stand up, clearly needing some support right then. His entire body is completely covered in clear, odorless sweat. “I’ll be fine; just the aftershocks from the neural boost.” Mac grabs onto Able’s arm and hoists him up after righting a mostly-intact chair in case he decides to sit himself down. “Well, we did our part. Lets hope Pitbull and the rest can take it from here. Not a lot we can do from in the guts here.”
Pitbull grimaces with Marid’s words, as he continues to be swiveled about in the seat of a now-Marid piloted turret. Glad I don’t get sea-sick He thinks, darkly as he continues to turn with the turret. “Got it! OK, let’s do this.” Saxby opens up the hyper-aggression script he previously compiled and uploads it to Marid. “Time to get angry, poof.” He runs the script. The next instant, Marid growls, “Aw fuggit, time to die anyways!” and fires again – catching one copter full force with all four cannons and sending it spiraling in flames down into the streets.
A cruel smile spreads across Candy’s face as Madrid lays into Umbra’s private army. Saxby patches into the hotel intercoms. “Attention, Ottoman. If you are not Ottoman personnel, lay down your weapons immediately or suffer lethal consequences.” At the same time, the lights all over the Ottoman’s public areas turn red, then begin to strobe – while the PA system begins to send out deep ultrasound. The now-active security cameras in the security offices show hundreds of customers fold over, vomiting and undergoing epileptic seizures. The elevators fill with sleeping gas and sonic barriers cut on in every stairwell, isolating each floor. Next, halon gas fire systems flood service areas – and foam dispensers send their contents down into every public room, from suites to the casino floor. “Or, y’know, that.” Saxby chuckles and backs up from the laptop. He nervously scratches the back of his head and looks at Candy. “Well, the, um, elevators are working again.”
Mac attempts to rustle up a stiff drink to offer to Able and Pacoy, blissfully unaware of the choppers raining down in the streets outside. “Good thing clean-up was not part of the contract!” Pacoy says, eyes wide at the footage.
Candy sheathes the monoblade, “Pacoy stabilized the Umbra Agent who started this – she’s down below by an elevator last I saw. We did not have the time to question her, but I can retrieve her, if that’s your wish brother.” Saxby looks at Candy. “There’s got to be more. Umbra sends in one agent, and it’s their VP? I doubt it. These guys always travel in packs. We need to search everyone.”
Pitbull quickly becomes used to the movements of the turret, as it lances fiery death into the gun-ships. He leans back and attempts to become comfortable. Heh. Just a beer, and this’d be a helluva show… Above, in the sky, the Umbra survivors flee the scene, unable to stand against such firepower. However, from the city Core, a small fleet of Police AVs and drones are coming fast. Marid, still appearing as a White Lion, exults over comms, “here come the second wave, boys – set phasers to malky and we’ll play Space Invaders!”
Able watches in cold, detached fascination at the – carnage isn’t the right word, but close enough – that’s going on throughout the building. He doesn’t make a movement to join the action – he just sits in the chair provided for him and breaths, trying to gain full control over his body once again.
Saxby looks back at his laptop. “Uh oh,” he breathes as the Bey grabs him by the lapels, “Shut that fucking defense net down, now!” His spittle lands in Saxby’s face.
“SAX! NOT THE COPS!” Pacoy comms, freaking out. “Cops? What? Pacoy?” Mac scrambles for his glasses and fumbles about, looking for the master power switch
Pitbull returns to alert with Marid’s words. “Fucking balls…” He growls as he attempts to get off the “ride”.
Able frowns when the police AVs come on the scene, and he leans forwards, facing the main computer console. He watches closely, monitoring the defense system – trying to gauge when the thing will fire.
Saxby nods at Bey. “I was going to, really.” He leans over his laptop and cancels the script. A few more taps and it’s removed completely from Marid. All over the building – and on the roof – peace suddenly descends, only broken by the moans of the Ottoman’s wealthy clientele. Without being asked, Saxby begins unplugging his jacks. “Don’t worry, I’m on it.”
Marid the White Lion comms, “Clean up on Aisle Four…and Six..and Seven…and..oh, it’s ALL a mess!”
Saxby notices the console. “Oh yeah, sorry about that.” He grins as he types in a few commands, reverting Marid to his previous form. Candy hides a grin, “We might want to sell any stock we have in Umbra – this is going to be expensive for them to cover up." Pitbull stomps out of the now inert turret, making his way to his comrades with little disorientation. Able leans back, now that the defense grid is back to normal. He frowns as he contacts Rossum, uploading to them the events – and a warning about Umbra hardware. “Damn. I’m going to have to start carrying a flask around again.”
Within minutes, NYPD swat teams descend on rappel lines and enter from the ground floor, as the Ottoman staff begin the long process of rescuing its customers from the chaos caused by Saxby’s programming. Saxby blinks. “Cover up?” He immediately pings Veracity Blaize. “Rawr, Lion has prey for you. Umbra software has hard-coded backdoors, easily hacked to create a mess like this. If I see this on your public feeds, I’ve got even more for you.” However, Saxby only gets a “leave a message” from Blaize’s implant.
Over comms, the team hear: “This is Bey. Lazarus to my suite, NOW!!”
“Great” Pacoy sighs. Able stands, a little wobbly but getting better by the moment, and leaves the computer core. The face he borrowed for a while slowly slips away, his own shining forth once again. He turns to Mac and Pacoy. “I hope we aren’t going to be tasked with explaining this.” Pitbull clenches his eyes shut as he gets the message. He continues walking with a new destination in mind. This will be just a trip to the principal’s office. Or so he’d imagine, due to never having public schooling. Mac sighs too, “…yep. Definitely need to start carrying a flask.” Mac looks a bit sheepish, looking towards Able. “You can lean on me if you need to, or if you’re not fit for walking, Pac and I can drag that chair along.” He looks around the computer room. “Candy can explain it. I think. Maybe.” I sure as hell would have a bit of trouble. “Come on, lets get going before this mess gets blamed on us. Looks worse than when we started.”
“Mac, maybe you might want to… Freshen up a bit before we see the Bey. He did saw no drinking for the duration of the contract, and things are a little FUBAR right now…” Pacoy suggests. “Why, do I look like I’ve been on a bender or something?” Mac looks at Pacoy curiously. “I mean, I feel fine – I don’t think I had that much to drink earlier…” Able enters the elevator along with Mac and Pacoy and hits 60. He comms to the Imazighen as they move. “Check on the elevator banks on 10; there should be a number of prisoners there, including one severely wounded. Secure them, especially the wounded one.”
Candy stiffens and eases away from Saxby a step, “To prevent the White Lion’s demise, and in our hope of rebooting Marid, I’m afraid another guest in excess to the Umbra agent meet with harm. I’m sorry to report that the sensie actor Choppa is dead outside. Still, Lazarus group was operating far outside their comfort zone and training – doing their best to see the contract was upheld. First and foremost was the protection of yourself, with the Umbra agent in our hands, we can lie all the blame at their feet and with the inside knowledge of this negative publicity, make a pretty penny off their stock. I’m sure we can find other ways to turn a profit off this as well, Mr. Bey.” Saxby clears his throat. “And just to point this out – If I could do this, so could anyone else. Me, Umbra,” he pauses for effect, “Enigma 23.” Candy shakes his head, “To a degree. It seems the primary cause of this was a backdoor in Umbra hardware – and it seems Battersea was co-opted. He has access to the highest levels of security and that was the cause of the breach. Just as Saxby has been given the inner most clearance. Umbra can no longer be trusted – these back doors no longer being a theory but being put into practice.”
Bey looks at Candyman, “Umbra? What?” He suddenly pales and swings to Jacob, “Go, find out of the City Chairman is alright! He was going to try the nightclub.”
Pitbull arrives at the suite and stops in front of the Bey. He snaps to attention and gives a military salute to the Bey, and holds. Bey motions disgustedly at Pitbull, “Yeah, whatever, boy-scout.” Pitbull grimaces, as he goes at ease. " Sorry, your Eminence. Just showing respect." Pitbull growls and remains standing.
The hotelier and mob boss begins to pace, “We’ll have to cancel the auction now, it’s unavoidable. Shit-fuck! Candy, what the hell am i supposed to do about this mess? I can’t expect to get quality guests if i can’t guarantee their safety. Start at the beginning and explain everything.” Saxby comms to Candyman. “His network is full of backdoors and security holes. This isn’t our fault, it’s his. He’s lucky I was here.”
Saxby looks at the Bey. “Your eminence, all due respect, but you invited this in. Marid is a whore, as AI’s go. Anybody could have done what I did, only much worse. And these hacks, the auctioneer, Mr Choppa, is a result of your open policy on neural cpu’s. If I were you, sir, I’d ban all Umbra implants and blame it entirely on them. For all you know, I’m in your head right now. Time to upgrade your security.” Bey rounds on Saxby and puts one perfectly manicured finger under his nose, “I asked Candyman to explain, Saxby. Open your mouth out of turn again and I’ll drop you off the roof, personally. Cest vrai!” Saxby smirks, no stranger to finger pokes from the rich and powerful. “As you wish.”
Mac whistles along with the elevator musak while surreptitiously checking to make sure the smell of alcohol isn’t on his breath. When the doors open, he makes sure Able is able to get out before walking alongside him and Pacoy to the Bey’s room where they all stand quietly, cautiously, and listen to the others.
Candy nods but fixes a drink and throws it down before starting, “Well this is kinda just bad luck brother. Our late friend, Garrion, he was onto a backdoor in Umbra hardware. They put out a hit for him because of what he knew. The backdoor would let them into anyone who had their hardware installed – get into your head. They hit several of your employee’s and guests with this technique moments ago. They could have hit any organization in the world with this backdoor. It’s honestly not something we were prepared for. Our focus was directed at Enigma, we dealt with that organization. Gregori is dead. We filled our contract to the best of our ability – we only just arrived from my home when the broad hacks occurred. It’s an independent event, an unfortunate and unlucky one.”
Bey opens a box and takes out one of his expensive cigarettes, “Allah, I am so fucked. So who turned on all the defenses and turned them up to eleven?”
Pitbull forks a thumb at Saxby, while lighting a smoke of his own. Candy bows his head and steps back a step, “I really don’t understand much about neural nets brother." Saxby stands idle, silently publishing on a few of his usual forums. “Umbra hardware is not to be trusted. Hardwired backdoors allow anyone and anything to root your ass where you stand. Want to see what it looks like?” He uploads a picture of Choppa’s bloody corpse and publishes. The Bey begins to stream Arabic, guttural curses.
Pitbull raises his hand, awaiting permission to speak. “Yeah, what?” Bey growls. “To be fair, the systems would have jumped into- erm- eleven upon such a sudden activation. Saxby had no immediate control over them, he could only just watch as the system snow-balled itself.” Pitbull takes another drag off his smoke before adding, “I saw the same thing back in a bunker in Mexico…” Mac throws a look over at Pitbull. “There’s no snow in Mexico, Pits…”
Bey stops his pacing for a moment, listening, then says to the air, “Send that to the Lazarus too.” Moments later, the team’s HUDs fill with a scene: Icefire showing the Ottoman security guards a laminated card, “See, corporate passport – diplomatic immunity. If you stop me walking out of here or allow others to do so my company will sue this hotel into oblivion” she says. “Oh, you can keep these three – they know nothing,” she continues as she steps over an Umbra bodyguard to walk to another elevator. You see the doors close and the floor indicator head downward.
Saxby throws his hands up and sighs. Mac grimaces, “…well don’t that just beat all. That lady’s slipperier than a pig covered in grease and engine oil.” ’bout as pretty as one too. Pitbull loudly roars a curse as he crushes his cigarette in his fist. " I will hunt that fuckin’ bitch down myself if I have to!" Candy’s eyes grow hard, “Make her leave by car, I’ll kill her ass in the street. Better yet, we staged that raid on DreamWorks, I say we hit Umbra. We can’t let them see weakness. This is war!" Able frowns. “A diplomatic passport does not excuse an act of war, Emir.” Saxby comms into Candy. “This is what Gregori meant about the rats. Bey, Umbra, all the same.” “You can say she died in the cross-fire of the chaos…” Pacoy suggests. “Hell, send her by escort. We attack it and pin it on Enigma23.” Candy says flippantly.
The Bey waves all of them to silence, then whispers, ‘No, I know how to play this game. The city cops will issue a warrant, a judge will issue a subpoena and Umbra will give her up eventually if the cops can make a case – all of which takes time, and she won’t be safe during all of that time if I have any say in it." Candy cools, “Yes, Emir.” Pitbull chucks the ruined clump that was his cigarette at the trash can, which bounces off the rim, and huffily lights another one. Saxby pantomimes a whipcrack, then innocently turns and stares at nothing out the window, still lurking on his forums. He follows up with several posts outlining the precise way to exploit the Umbra backdoors, just as he had done on Mr. Choppa and the Auctioneer.
Bey looks at the roof, “Oh who will rid me of this troublesome woman?” he muses, then he looks down, directly at the team. “Whoever it was won’t find me ungrateful. OK, here’s what we do….” he begins to pace again as he thinks. “I didn’t expect you boys to be the army in a war against a sovereign corporation, I admit that. But the auction’s a bust. I’ll recover – I’ll talk to Blaize, maybe…Saxby, you have logs of the Umbra backdoor stuff?”
Candy kneels and draws his monoblade holding it before him, “I would be pleased to place my eyes upon her and my blade upon her throat. I only need know, dead or alive.” “I don’t think we need any more bloodshed, Candy,” Mac murmurs, “let her be taken in by the police and given her rightful due.”
Saxby turns, a little startled. “Logs? Oh right, of course. Like I said though, it’s pretty easy to do. Probably public information by now.”
Bey nods, “Good, I’ll want you to turn anything you have over to Blaize and maybe NCPD – we’ll see on that second one. I’ll take as much out of their hide as they’ve taken from kine, and a little extra.” To the air: “Jacob? Buy as much stock as you can in Umbra’s competitors, sell umbra. They’re about to have some bad PR and their stock will fall. Good. Then get Desmond to a clinic and have his implant replaced fast – it wasn’t entirely his fault, tell him he owes me his life but he gets to live.”
Candy glares at Mac, pain not anger in his eyes, “Umbra struck against the innocent. Umbra used women as shields – raping their very minds to do so. I will not stand for it. Umbra is the darkest demon of the night. It’s already taken our brother Garrion from us. How much more must we forgive!" Mac scowls, “I’m not asking you to do any forgiving. I get it that she and her ilk have wronged you and others, but if you seek that path out, you risk yourself. Be civil – let her live. Let her face justice for her crimes.” He sighs heavily and looks at Saxby. “And this is why I’m never getting modded. Ever.”
Saxby backs up a step, “You kill that woman, though, that’s nothing. Small-time gangster shit,” he says as he looks directly at the Bey. “You want to do something big? Take down Umbra. Expose this.”
Bey snorts, “Take down Umbra? It’d take more than this, son. But they’ll hurt for it and I’ll make some back off their hurt.” Saxby nods. “Sure, they’ll take a stock hit. But you know who I’m betting runs all the latest Umbra hardware? Give you two guesses.” Bey sits, still thinking hard, “I’m going to pay you guys in full for the time to now, so half your fee. It wasn’t all your fault either. Who, Saxby?” “Umbra themselves. You give me a few weeks and some hardware, I’ll have every last bit of their IP on the public feeds. Want to know what the secret sauce is? Want to know who brought down the Ad Astra? Who knows what they’ve got on those networks.” Pitbull growls his addition into the conversation, “Their whole tech divisions stocks are going to drop so hard, they’ll be talkin’ like chipmunks, I’ll tell you what…”
Able quietly begins setting up an op-plan on his implant; a glimmer of hope stirs behind Able’s eyes for the first time – if the Bey is generous enough, and he can find others like him, Able might have a chance at buying out his contract after all.
The Emir turns to Candyman, “I cannot ask this of you brother, but a favor would be repaid many times over, do you understand me?” He then turns to Saxby again, "It is a nice thought, young Lion – but alas, they are “out of our league” in that respect. Their AI and Black Ice would likely crush you like a bug." Saxby actually laughs, “You know a lot about network security, I take it?” He asks, half-mockingly. The Emir for some reason chooses to ignore the mockery and simply gestures, ‘No, but I’ve had reason to be told the same about another corporation of Umbra’s stature."
Candy nods, “I declare Jihad on Umbra. They care nothing for humanity – body, mind or soul. They are a blight that I would have Desiderium cleanse from this Earth. I know such a thing might not occur not in my mortal life time, buy even when my spirit moves freely on the net I promise I well guide my children as a consuming judgment for their countless atrocities until they but their name remains as a whisper of a cursed thing.” Bey nods and makes a sign of benediction at Candyman, “I think you have chosen a true Jihad, my brother. Wherever I can, even at risk to myself, my power will stand in the shade behind you.” Candy stands and sheathes the blade after a brief kiss upon the flat of the blade, , "That is all I require my Emir.” Mac sighs, hunkering down in his trenchcoat. Language like that is going to get him in trouble some day. He slinks over towards an out of the way chair and flops down without ceremony.
Bey turns to Able, “What of the terrorist, Gregori?” Pitbull raises his hand, then does a slice motion across his neck with his index finger, smiling through his cloud of tobacco smoke. Saxby stares out the window. “That’s what happens to people we don’t like. They get shot.” He hums the theme song to Mr. Choppa’s last sensie. Able nods too, “He has been killed, and was to be delivered to Umbra for their posted bounty. I’m not certain whether that is still in the cards, though we may be able to do so via a cutout.” Candy glances sideways and muses, “The bacteria in his bowls should still be able to produce explosives a while longer yet if we give him his own infection. We might be able to pass on his gift one last time post mortem.”
Jacob’s voice cuts through the comms, “We found the Chairman. He was still—-inside—- Fuscia Skyes the heiress, under a pile of hedonists in the club. He’s ok, if embarrassed as hell. It appears Skyes has an Umbra implant – and spiked half the drinks in the club with an aphrodisiac.” Bey claps his hands, “That works in my favor. Thank you, Jacob.” he turns, “I’ll match Umbra’s blood money for Gregori, and be pleased to do so. You still have his damned bug?”
Candy bows, “We certainly do Emir.” Friedlander Bey smiles coldly, “Imagine if it was directed against Umbra, my brother…” Pitbull can’t restrain an ear to ear smile at the thought of a shit-bomb on Umbra.
Able turns to Mac. “Send The Emir your notes on what Gregori revealed during the interrogation.” Able turns back to the Bey. “His ‘e23’ network appears to be interested primarily in destroying the corporations and the Glitterati, convinced they’re all being controlled by some sort of distributed AI.”
Pacoy wonders, “So, am I the only one that thinks the whole e23 thing might have been set in swing by Umbra? It kept us nicely diverted from their schemes, brought in one of their most wanted… the prof was brilliant, but not playing with a full deck – it’s conceivable.”
Mac spends a few seconds fiddling with his pocketwatch before flicking the edited audio over towards the Bey, sans as much of Able’s secret identity as possible. He nods at Able as he does so, then holds his hands up. “If you’re planning on killing that many people all at once, I want nothing to do with it. At all. That’s not right – not all of those people are guilty! Not all of their families deserve that pain!”
Bey stands, “Go now – I’ll arrange time with Blaize and perhaps others. I need to get my hotel cleaned up and you need not to be here to answer questions that we don’t already know how we will answer. I’ll be in touch soon – and you’ll have your payment within the hour.”
Saxby turns and looks at Mac, surprised. He looks to the others for their reactions. Candy stiffens, “You might think that, but I was…corp once. You stop looking at the masses as people after awhile. Sleeping with the devil corrupts you – and its better they pass on while they are still partly human.” Pitbull walks over to Mac. “A statement must be made. This attack has hit more of the Bey’s face than his assets. A show is needed to repair it.” Pitbull growls matter-of-factly to Mac. On the way to the elevator Pacoy nods to Mac, “We have some serious discussions we need to have about the overall aims of our little Lazarus party.”
Mac sighs. “But do their families, their children, deserve to be widowed and orphaned? They’ve committed no crime. None.” He covers his eyes with the palms of his hands briefly. “If you’re set on this course of action, I want no part of it, in planning, execution, or whatever ill-gotten gains come from it.” No… no blood money for me. Didn’t work out the last time, and it certainly wouldn’t be any better on a larger scale. He nods at Pacoy as he heads out as well, hands shoved deep in his pockets, head bowed solemnly.
A crazed look fills Candy’s eyes, “They will always have a home Mac, with Desiderium. That’s what we are here for – I provide a home for the homeless and hope for the hopeless.” Mac snorts, visibly biting his tongue before ducking out the door without a word.
Able walks out with the others, a frown on his face. “I’m not contracted to commit mass murder; a small bomb, a message – Gregori’s body laced with the bacteria – that I can accept. Something on the scale of the Ottoman – no.” Able begins walking after Mac, glancing back as he goes. “But I will consider working on other jobs with you, when my Rossum duties do not interfere. The Umbra VP, for example…” “Count me in on that, too.” Pitbull growls as he overhears Able.
I really like that Lazarus is not one happy family. Such differences in opinion/morale always make for interesting roleplay – as long as the players don’t take it out of the game…I had a group like this once. I still have nightmares…
Oh, and Marid is hilarious. I wouldn’t want him as my house AI, but he’s brilliant.
Glad you’re enjoying the moral element, Bookscorpion – we deliberately set out to show transhumanism “with the dirt in the corners” and cyberpunk that wasn’t just all flashy ware and bigger guns.
The story behind Marid – Friedlander Bey loved Disney’s Aladdin when he was a boy…