Thursday 18th May, 2051
It’s been two weeks since the Lazarus Group and their allies buried the British arm of HUB’s monstrous experimental program to create super-soldiers and enslave humanity. In that time, everyone has been busy.
Finn has negotiated a deal with the two A.I.s that run 23Enigma and the leaders of several other groups dedicated to armed resistance against corporate hegemony. The groups are merging under one combined, worldwide command structure. So far, everyone’s just calling the new co-operative “The Resistance”, but they’ll think of a cool name soon.
The team has heard from Siri! She got enough warning from the office A.I., which was monitoring Air Traffic Control, and got herself into the team’s APC in time to avoid annihilation. Since then she’s picked up Mac’s Anita and Pit’s Annabel and gotten them both to a safe location in the Free Cities.
Pits and Pacoy have been under the knife getting new faces – and Mac’s been in the machine shop getting a new face too. Everyone’s been provided with new identities by Mutate & Survive. M3rl1n’s hacking team have set up some wide-ranging viruses and protocols, releasing them into the net, and stand ready to make sure that the team’s new identities are extremely unlikely to be associated with their old records – or with any whiff of impropriety going forward. The Lazarus members have all been brought into The Resistance’s new hierarchy as revered, almost legendary, figures. They may not have any actual command authority over any group, but the assets of the whole Resistance stand ready to help them.
Finally, the whole world has been pitched into somewhat of a crisis state. Incited and fueled by Resistance operatives, anti-Corporation riots have broken out in every major city. Major acts of civil disobedience and vandalism, even outright sabotage, have been common. The scare of an almost-not-really nuclear exchange between the British Republic and Hightower Station has revealed the extent of Hightower’s defensive armory too, and many of the major national powers are now leery of the corporations and their power.
This is the new world the Lazarus Team has given birth to. As they meet for a dinner with Finn and a few other M&S commanders on that groups’ oil-rig base, the team have plenty of cause for reflection.
Staring at his reflection in the bottom of an empty glass, the man once known as Trenton sighs before refilling it. “Every time I catch a reflection of myself, I feel older. Even the name they picked to go with my face makes me feel old! I mean, come on, Lynwood Meers? I think I must have irked that magician kid something awful.”
Tillie laughs, and raises her glass to the team. “To new faces for a New World, eventually. I think we all feel older now than we did two weeks ago.” She does look tired – as one of the Finn’s trusted lieutenants she’s been deeply involved in negotiations with other resistance groups.
“You know, we are calling you ‘Lynn’, Right?” Sam teased.
The man now known as Devon Wongraven sits tall, a cigarette hanging from his lips. Only those that had known him for an extended period of time would know that paranoid scowl belonged to a man by the name of Marcus James. Or Pitbull as he preferred to be known.
Lynwood rolls his eyes. “Yeah, that’s fair enough. Not like I ever really went by my full name anyhow. Guess I’m kind of used to it.” He raises his glass before draining it completely. “May we all live long enough to see it become a reality.”
Grant leans backwards in his chair, a cautious smile on his lips. “The transition to a new life is trying at first, but you’ll all slip into the natural rhythm eventually..”
Finn looks up from his lemon sole and smiles ruefully at Grant. “Isn’t that the truth, boyo.”
Lynwood frowns, feeling his face has he does so. “Honestly, it’s not… too bad. Considering I barely had my first life for very long, a fresh start may be just what I needed. Although maybe a bit younger start would have been nice.”
“Well… Lynstromm? Lynford?… Lynwood, right?! I think we’ve all got a shit of time to get used to our new names. I’ve nearly signed my name as “Marcus” over four times, so this’ll be a long time gettin’ used to." Devon growls smiling as he stubs out his cigarette.
Finn asks, “Have you given any thought on where you want to go? Of course, you’re welcome to base yourselves here – we’d be pleased and proud to have you.”
Lynwood pauses. “Kind of want to head back to Night City before I get stuck into anything else, really. I have to find some way to explain… this… to Anita, and I’d like a properly good meal before shutting down the HUB. No offense, but it’s hard to beat the food back at the Ottoman Casino. After this is all done? Who’s to say? This isn’t a bad place. It’s rainy, but I like the countryside. Lots of history, here, too. Wherever I put down roots, though, my sister’s got to be able to come with.”
An aging female voice behind Lynwood says, “Night City may be a bit of a reach, for now, even with new faces and names young man.” The team turn in their seats to see Lady Emily of the Gomi Emporium, along with her tiger and her assistants – and Siri, Annabelle and Anita!
Siri immediately runs to Lynwood and hugs him. “You still emit the same background electronic noise, brother – to a robot, you still ‘smell’ like you!”
Grant looks up and down the table, glancing at each face – old and new – in turn. “I hate to end the warm-and-fuzzies of a mission accomplished, but ‘where we go now’ can’t just be decided based upon where our favorite place to eat is. Hightower isn’t going to be sitting there nice and pretty and waiting for us to strike, and these covers aren’t going to last forever – especially not with the girls disappearing so soon after our deaths. Hightower is going to continue its plan for this world, and we need to be prepared to preempt it.”
Sam sees Mac reunited with family, and chokes back a response, Pacoy Aquino is dead as far as his family knows.
Lynwood laughs, embracing his sister. “Well, I’ll be. First I had thought you had died, and now I’ve got both my girls at my side. Lady Emily, I am forever in your debt.” He lets go of his sister and gives Anita a big hug as well.
Devon stands, and saunters over to Annebelle in a familiar militant yet languid fashion. “’Ey, babe. I would ask if you recognize me, but if you did then clearly I did not disguise myself well enough. International terrorism is a bitch to get out of.”
Emily waves off Lynwood’s thanks with typical upper-class aplomb. “Not at all, young man. We are all of us in your debt, and I for one will not forget it.” Meanwhile, Annabelle has wrapped Devon in a bear-hug. “You still feel like you, babe – the only man I never could beat at arm-wrastlin’.”
Lynwood looks over at Grant. “Even so, with Hightower looming overhead, it gives us one big advantage. We’re hidden, it isn’t. We know where we need to go, but all that matters is how we get there, and how we get home.”
Grant nods. “True, all – but what we don’t have against it is time. Hightower holds the initiative; if we are ever to win this war, we will need to seize it back. And I am loathe to speculate on ways we may actually finish this.”
Anita settles herself into Lynwood’s lap, and cuddles. “Siri took us to Rising Free City. We’ve got a small apartment there, us three girls, but we could easily get somewhere else – or more than one somewhere.”
Tillie nods, and rises to walk around to rub Sam’s neck as she speaks. “That might be good. There’s a spaceport near Rising, isn’t there?”
Sam smiles and whispers to Tillie while hooking his thumb towards Devon and Annebelle, “It’s like watching badgers mating on the science channel.”
Lynwood sighs, both frustrated and content at the same time. “I know a few ways that it can go down, and I don’t like most of them. Why don’t we treat it just like any other job? There’s no reason that it should be different, even if it does mean the end of the world as we know it. I figure the first thing we do is figure out how to get to Hightower, because without that, the entire mission is a nonstarter.” He turns to Anita. “This job might not be as safe as running as a PI, but when the chips come down, saving the world is a damn sight better than spying on some Russian thugs.”
Devon reciprocates her bear hug before kissing her on the forehead then twice on the lips. “You’re definitely the prettiest part of this whole trip. Christ on a cracker, I’ve missed ya.” Devon looks over at Emily as he and Annebelle part from their hug. “And aren’t you a sight for sore eyes. Last I saw you, Lazarus wasn’t even a thought!”
Returning to the present situation, Sam add aloud “A Spaceport would be nice, we have to start talking logistics.”
Anita is the first to grin, followed by Siri. “Honeymoons!” she suggests.
Siri turns to Grant, and goes down on one knee, an impish grin on her face. “Would you do this poor robot the honor of marrying her, Sir?”
“Abe-erm-Grant! I had no clue, I tell you hwhat!” Devon guffaws.
Lynwood laughs. “That’s actually a beautiful cover. Bout damn time, too. I always did want to see Devon over there in a tuxedo. What do you say, Anita, you want to get hitched?”
Grant smiles down at Siri, a look of clear affection upon his face as he runs his hand through her hair. He brings her head forwards, kissing her on the forehead. “That’s an excellent suggestion, Siri; a honeymoon would be excellent cover for getting us into orbit, where we can move on the seat of power of the threat.”
Sam pales at the thought, and smiles nervously to Tillie.
Tillie shrugs at Sam as if to say ‘not my idea". "It’d be an excellent cover." she says aloud.
Devon, looks over at Annebelle and smiles, “Well, hun, waddaya say? Care to tie the knot with a gun toting psycho-Texan with more issues than can be fit in a fleet of U-Hauls?”
Merlin – who it turns out is a spotty kid of about 17, shrugs. “Easy enough to enter fake marriage certificates, for those who don’t want the real thing.” He sticks his tongue out at Tillie.
Annabelle kisses Devon thoroughly. “Absolutely, sweetcheeks! I can support us on my tips, I wait at a strip-club in Rising now, until you can get a real job. Or we can rob a bank and open our own place somewhere!”
“Well, We Are planning a honeymoon at the biggest bank in the known universe!” Sam smiles.
Lynwood starts laughing, almost bouncing Anita out of his lap. “Oh, please, someone tell me they were recording that.” His eyes snap to Sam. “Oh, you just had the most brilliant idea…”
Siri grins at Sam like a fox in the henhouse. “A father should provide for his children, shouldn’t he?”
“Call it a dowry,” Sam agrees.
Lynwood puts on his best clade drawl. “I think it’s time that the butter and egg man got taken for all his juice. I think we need to rob that bank, gentlemen.”
Finn starts laughing so hard he almost chokes on his fish. “Is it like this around you people all the time?” he finally manages to wheeze.
Grant glances at Finn. “I’ll admit, this is a little different from the norm. We typically plan our honeymoons and robberies in series, not parallel.”
Grant’s comment sets Finn off again.
“You know, Lyn is going to look like a Grade-A cradle-robber,” Sam winks, “We’ll have to doll Anita up to look like a trophy wife.”
“Yeah. That sounds doable. I wonder if I can get into Whirlwind security. I’m sure I’m more than over qualified, and a paycheck like that would keep us good ’n cozy.” Devon laughs as he brushes his fingers on the side of her face.
Tillie gets serious. “We’d need a lot of gear for a job like that. How do we get it there?”
Lynwood grins. “Don’t you remember what I used to look like? She always was a trophy wife!” He stops and looks at Tillie. “Simple. Some things we can take with us, like they did in the old days. Violin cases and all that jazz.”
“We have the skills,” Sam mentions, “But we need a ride.”
Grant thinks, then states. “We suborn the vehicle we’ll be taking, then on approach we let off a care package that we’ll pick up after we’re through customs. We’ll need to get access to Hightower’s exterior, though.”
Devon walks back over to the table and grabs a bottle of whiskey. “Anyone want anything? Annebelle? Whiskey? Wine? Beer?”
Emily’s aide, the fixer “Ragdoll” has been quiet until now. “I can work that out,” she now says, “I’m owed by a couple of people at shipping firms that supply to Hightower. We’ll just send a crate or two up with stealthed compartments. Or if the gear is small enough, I can provide luggage with stealthy pockets.”
“I know a few customs agents,” Sam nods, “Even with a new face and ID, I should be able to grease the right wheels to get a little extra leeway.”
Lynwood nods. “When I was under, Sam figured out a way to slow down the rate I burn through oxygen, so I can pick it up if need be. Or we can take advantage of Ragdoll’s offer. I’ll take a beer if you’re up, Devon.”
Grant quirks an eye at Ragdoll. “After the little nuclear war we sparked, security will be much tighter. Are you sure that the current smuggling routes will still be available?”
“Do you think we’ll need any heavy weapons? A grenade launcher or an RPG? Something to take out asshats in powered armor?” Devon growls as he pours himself a shot.
“That’d be even better,” Ragdoll tells Lynwood. “If Sam and I can get a package aboard, and through earthside customs, we can just have a magnet grapnel on the canister and push it out the airlock on final approach – no need to go through the stringent Hightower entry port customs checks at all.”
Grant simply nods. “Yes. Heavy weapons are in order for the fall-back plan.”
Tillie adds “And explosives too.”
“Wouldn’t be a honeymoon without them,” Sam adds.
Lynwood shakes his head. “I’d stay away from anything too explosive – there are innocent people up there, and we can’t have them suffering for the crimes of my father.”
Merlin looks worried. “Our chances of being able to support you with intrusion computing up there are pretty slim to none, you know. You need to figure on how to get around a security and surveillance network that’s totally controlled by the Big Bad.”
Lynwood winces. “That’s a good point. I can’t imagine I can walk in through the front door undetected.”
“We can work on a good security plan,” Sam says, “It’s what we do. The other major logistics we need to worry about is the quadruple bachelor party!”
“The one thing I have a little training in is powered armor operation, thanks to a little siege in Mexico City. I could brush back up on that if we need it for this showdown.” Devon growls after downing his shot. “In fact, I wanna pilot one of them fuckers again! That was good fun!”
Grant shakes his head. “The only way to do that and retain surprise would be to use a HUB model. Otherwise, we should expect power armor troops of their own to be ready to receive us.”
Lynwood snorts as he takes another drink. “If we can get some sort of schema of the place, I think I could figure out a way for us to dodge some of the security measures. A bit like we did in downtown earlier, but on a larger scale. I think I might be able to anticipate where HUB will be looking.” He looks to Devon. “That sounds like… an excellent plan, if it goes wrong.”
“I think Devon is the first man I’ve met that wants to register for power-armor for his wedding gift,” Sam teases, “Grant is right, Hightower keeps a bay of them.”
Grant chuckles. “We should know; we already met them when they dropped on our heads in Omaha.”
Lynwood rolls his eyes. “I can’t afford that, but I will get you some lovely Tupperware.” He looks to Grant, then to Tillie. “Actually, I feel like we should bring explosives. A lot of explosives, in fact.”
“Aww hell, even if that were the case I know babe would want to pilot one.” Devon turns to Annebelle and flashes his new pearly white teeth. “Trust me babe, it’s fun. It’s like riding a four wheeler but like a hundred times cooler!”
“And some EMPs.” Tillie adds. “There may be more of those super-soldier creatures too.”
“Oh, yeah,” Sam agrees with Tillie, “EMPs will find no end of use up there.”
Lynwood looks around Anita to catch Merlin’s eye. “Say, you got any rocket scientists that you work with? If plan B goes the way it always does, I want to know how we can do the most damage without burning a piece of the Hightower into Night City.”
Grant puts a hand to Lyn’s shoulder. “I’ll run the equations.”
Sam grins ear to ear, “Glad you asked Lyn, I am fully up-to-date on all sorts of space-science,” he taps his temple.
A gravelly voice speaks. “If you’re gonna drop Hightower on Night City, gimme enough warning to get some dupes with sensie rigs at ground zero, m’kay?”
Lynwood looks up at Grant, then at Sam. “Run them, then run them again, Sam. I know how we operate. We’ll end up blowing the place apart, and before that happens, we need to trigger a full scale evacuation, and make sure we don’t hurt anyone with the explosion.”
Devon looks around, clearly confused. “That level of creep-i-tude can only be from one fucker I know…”
A man walks into the room, with Wormie’s old girlfriend Emily walking three paces behind — on a leash. He’s tall, but most of it is leg – and the legs whir beneath his black designer jeans when he walks. He’s also pretty-boy handsome, but with a darkness about his looks that looks like it’s right of the covers of some popular “adult romance” sensies.
“It looks like I wasn’t the only one who got in too deep and had to visit the surgeons” the man says.
Lynwood stands up, carefully depositing a slightly off-put Anita into his seat. “Well I’ll be damned, if it isn’t the man formerly known as Randall. You’re all pretty now, and your nose isn’t busted up! Nice gams, pal.” He offers his hand.
“Unholy Hell,” Sam beams, “Look who shows up in the hopes of crashing a honeymoon! Couldn’t pass up a chance to catch a garter, could you!” Sam walks over and hugs his old friend, patting him on the back.
Grant snarks, “I’m sure that’ll be fixed in right order, Lynwood.”
“Damn, son! How long did it take you to grow that mop? We couldn’t have been gone that long!” Devon guffaws again, as he gives him a very uncomfortable bearhug.
Wormwood – surely – looks distinctly uncomfortable at being hugged so closely. “Hey, c’mon guys. I’ve a persona to preserve here, m’kay? I’m ‘Clark Morrisey’ now – renowned up-and-coming and avant-garde director of sensies for a particularly niche market.”
Grant quirks an eyebrow. “…and this is different from Randall how, exactly?”
Devon sets him down and makes an attempt to brush off the disheveling he may have done to Mr. Morrisey. “How ya been man, and dare I ask why you gotta girl on a leash?”
Lynwood rolls his eyes. “Some airtight alibi that turned out to be. Anita, this joker is… well, I don’t think he’s changed that much. But he’s one of the damn best men that’ll be at our wedding, that’s for sure.” He takes one look at Devon, unable to help himself. “It’s because he’s got her hitched!”
Wormie grins at Grant. “Well, now I’ve a little chip in my head that means I don’t get a compulsion to follow women home any more, and now the sensies I make are for more public distribution. Meet my main star, and my new wife – actually, you already know her.” Emily waves and unclips her leash, then comes up level with him and ruffles his hair.
“Public persona,” Clark grins again. “Oh, Candy sends his regards and says if there’s anything he can do, just to ask. He’s getting in with the 23Enigma guys now, so he’s onboard with the mission – had a change of heart after seeing that vid you guys recorded with BadMadDad talking about the Amon Zero scam.”
“That’s a load off,” Sam sighs, “I was afraid he turned to the darkside, well, darker side, anyways.”
Grant glances at Sam. “You’re surprised? You have been out of contact with him for a while, haven’t you?”
“Tell the fop I said yo, and make sure that ol’ Saxby isn’t bad mouthing reporters and tell him he needs to lay off the Mountain Dew.” Devon growls as he lights two cigarettes and passes one to Annebelle.
Sam looks to Grant, “Last I talked to him, he was funding Anon Zero, and talking about the ghosts ascending to godhood. When Father showed his hand…. It wasn’t a huge leap.”
Clark laughs, “Oh, he still thinks he can be a silicon God. He’s relying on us taking down HUB and his relations with 23E nowadays though. He wants to be like Father, I think, one day.”
Lynwood sighs. “Why can’t people just be happy being people? See, I’m just looking forward to settling down with Anita here, and getting together with my drinking buddies. No need to get deified.”
Grant shrugs. “That comes easy from someone who’s already experienced it, what with your e23 worshipers and all.”
“Only man I’ve ever met that was creepier than our old buddy Randall,” Sam gives Clark the wink and nudge.
“Candy didn’t creep me out. Sure, I don’t know if I want to hear about his bedroom antics, and, yeah, he was nuttier than a squirrel, but he was still a good dude.” Devon grates as he drags off his cigarette again.
“Creepy doesn’t always mean Bad, Dev,” Sam points out, “Clark is a hell of a guy.”
Lynwood shrugs. “I never asked for that. I suppose that’s the difference.” He looks at Clark, then casts a side glance at Sam. “Say, buddy, when you were having those legs put in, you couldn’t have had them give you some lifts? You’re shorter than you were last time!”
Sam laughs, “I was thinking of a chicken-hawk on stilts!”
Tillie leans over and whispers to Sam, “By the way, you know your friend flew in on Emily’s plane, right? He’s just been waiting for the right time to make a dramatic entrance.”
Sam winks at Tillie, “He’s a real drama queen, but he’s going to get us inside Hightower.”
Clark ignores all the jokes about his height and sits at the table. “Okay, the Lazarus I know has never been reactive a day in its life. We’re going after Father, right? Care to lay out the plan quickly again for me so I can get up to speed?”
Grant summarizes, “Honeymoon in the skies. Assault the systems, take it down from the inside. Gear waiting at arrival or dropped off in-situ. How we’ll be dealing with the Earthward computing cluster has not yet been decided.”
“Gear up for Wedding plus Armageddon, Take out a digital god. Save Humanity. Well work on details as we get our shopping done.” Sam says, already compiling a list.
Devon zones out of the conversation as he pulls Annebelle in close, and kisses her again. “I hope you got a good idea on what you wanted for a dress. Looks like we won’t have much time to pick things out or send invites and shit. But this sounds a hell of a lot like fun, don’ it?”
Lynwood relaxes back into his chair, idly playing with Anita’s hair. “It’s simple enough, compared to what we’ve done in the past. I’m honestly more worried about if ‘nita and I should sing at the weddings. Well, that, and making sure we don’t ruin humanity’s future in trying to save it.”
Grant leans towards Lynwood. “I’m more worried that there will still be a humanity to save.”