The Sabak Tournament Finale

The penultimate day of the Sabaac Tournament, having come to its conclusion, led to a variety of activities being undertaken by our heroes.

Evie showed Satele a device that he ‘acquired’, and it was determined that it would give a slight advantage to Coromo Moro. Evie held onto the device to decide what to do with it.

Vivacia, exhausted after a challenging day of gambling, went to sleep early – both to rest and to avoid being caught in anything untoward on Cloud City.
Skorssar, Jaydo and Evie also retired early.

Cupcake went to scope out the possibility of any of the competitors engaging in cheating. Going past the Ugnaughts, and then running into a Gand Findsman led him directly to a fellow who had supplied Creeska with a card that had the ability to appear as any card desired by the player. This information would be most useful on the morrow.

O’Keefe contacted Satele and reminded her that Lieutenant Arandis is almost certainly the Imperial that is paying off one of Darga’s men. It only remains to be seen who is dealing with him…

Satele set up an automatic search of the holonet: cross-referencing the names of the final 5 contestants against various search terms. She then went to sleep.

At 2am, she awoke and got the results:

  • Creeska – has won multiple tournaments around the galaxy (and been thrown out of some – no details given)
  • Silas Draver – won various tournaments, and been involved in bar fights
  • Coromo Moro – Has been imprisoned multiple times on smuggling charges – there are currently several small, outstanding bounties on him
  • Lady Fioro – There is nothing on her. Nothing…
  • Vorn Ziday – She became incredibly wealthy pretty much at the same time as the empire arrived on Neimodia…

This gave her an idea – as Lady Fioro and Vorn Ziday seem the most suspicious, she would see if she can track payments into her account.

She wandered down to a computer terminal near a cantina, and set herself up to hack the Sabaac tournament registration details. This resulted in the bank details, and some other personal information of the two players being downloaded…and an alarm being set off. Satele walked swiftly away, but when it seemed like she would be caught leaving the scene of the crime, turned and ran towards it – asking what the problem was. She was then detained. 200CR and her name and address ensured that she was able to return to the hotel room, leaving bank payments untraced.

The next morning, each person went about their daily business. Satele and Jado headed to the tournament in time for their shifts. Satele was assured of being first if the dealer droid malfunctioned, and Jado (along with the entire team of security) was reprimanded for allowing a weapon into the arena the previous day. Their pay was forfeit if any weapons were allowed in.

Jado kept a close eye on the neighbouring door (closer in fact than he kept on his own entrance) and noticed the other guard accept a payoff to allow entry to two humans with concealed blaster rifles. Jado contacted the head of security, giving him descriptions and details of the transaction and parties, resulting in the arrest of all three.

Skorssar realised that there were at least three other pairs working with the two apprehended thugs, while Satele – from inside the arena – realised that they were trying to set up a perimeter.

Vivacia did not do amazingly at Sabaac, but this was overlooked when Jado spotted Creeska slip his cheating card into his deck. Security was called and the players were granted a recess as Creeska was led away into custody. Coramo Moro approached Vivacia, asking for tips and pointers to have more of a chance to win as Switch had told him of their agreement. Vivacia, however, thought he was a bit weird and denied any knowledge of any deals. Moro stormed off angrily, and Evie went to calm him down. Successfully, it may be added.

During the break, Satele located the other humans who had adjusted their positions to create a triangle around the tables. Unfortunately, she also gained the attention of two of these fellows. As they walked towards her, she turned on her commlink so that the others could hear the resulting conversation.

Alas, they wanted very little conversation, and instead Satele was manhandled through the crowd towards the bathrooms. As she tried in vain to resist, Skorssar ordered pop-corn and pushed his way through the crowd, feigning a need to vomit. Cupcake and Jado followed. Jado, ostensibly, under orders to prevent Lord Skorssar from taking matters into his own hands.

Over the comms, upon Satele’s disappearance into the bathroom, Satele’s chattering could be heard, followed by a sickening crunch and silence as she was punched in the head. This halved her HP and left her reeling – even less able to defend herself from the assault.

Skorssar, finally, burst in and interrupted Satele’s pummelling with a swift (and hard) punch to the stomach – causing the assailant to evacuate his stomach contents and thus completing Skorssar’s claim to a stomach upset.
Cupcake set himself over the door to prevent interruption and Jado entered to deal with Skorssar. Instead he arrested the thug in time for the rest of security to arrive and take him into custody.

Meanwhile, the game started up again, and Vivacia was defeated, fair and square. Four players were now left. Arandis went all in, and Lady Fioro had a perfect hand, raking in the win. Unlike his methodical stacking at the conclusion of each of the games, Arandis deliberately placed his cards in a particular order in the centre of the table:

132.17: clearly a frequency for the slave controls of the ship in orbit…

TO BE CONTINUED…

Have yourself a Merry Gaming Christmas, and roll on 2018!

It is that time of the year again. Christmas decorations are going up (or have been up for a couple of months), the shopping extravaganza has begun, and we have our Christmas party on the 9th December! (Don’t forget to RSVP by December 5th by commenting on the post!)

As the year winds up, there are a few things that we’d love to give you a heads up about!

Firstly, as Term 4 of 2017 is nearly over (Our final week will be on Tuesday the 12th December), we would like you to complete the MoG Feedback forms (click here to download and print the general or guided form) and hand them to your GM. We also have a new option for you – a google form version! To fill out feedback online, click here! Your response will then be emailed to your GM by a member of Exec (most likely Helen or Chloe).

We want to make sure that we run MoG so that you love MoG – and to do that, we need your help! You have the opportunity to give us your feedback as to how you think MoG is going – there is space for you to do this on the Feedback forms and your GMs will pass the information onto the Exec team. We also need you to complete the Weekend away survey by clicking here!

In 2018, we will start informally (ie. board games, takeaway dinner) on Tuesday the 23rd January, with Term 1, dinner and games starting on Tuesday the 6th February.
The final week of Term 1, 2018 will be the 10th April.

Friday the 26th of January will be our annual Australia Day of Gaming! Save the date now – more details will come in the new year!

Keep an eye on this post, as we will be updating it with our Term 1, 2018 games in the next week or two!

Happy gaming!!

 

Some Christmas Cheer…

Waitara Anglican Church (who support Ministry of Game being able to happen) have some events coming up for the Christmas Season! See their website for details (more to come) – and come along!!

Image may contain: 1 person, text

 

The Day-To-Day Business of Business

It’s been a busy week for the team. They’ve completed three jobs in quick succession and were starting to feel heavy with cash and – as is always the case with a runner’s life – heavy with new problems to take care of. Except for Shadow. Shadow doesn’t need to fence a truck or save a homeless man, he just has to go home.
“You look like you’ll all be busy for a while, but I just want to put my feet up and rest. So, since our business is done, I’ll be going home.”
“I can give you a ride,” Elros says, “but I need to make a few calls first.”
“Don’t bother over me. I’ll make my own way. Does anybody know where the nearest train station is?”
The team answers his question with blank stares.
“Bus stop? No? Light rail? No? I guess I’ll call a taxi, then.”
“Do you not know where you are?” 2Graves asks.
“Yes, we’re in Redmond. But there must be some kind of transport around here. Redmond is still civilisation, isn’t it?”
“No. It’s really not.”
“No hotels, no buses, not even a stuffer shack. What kind of place—“
“It’s the barrens!”
“Nevermind.” Not one to let a little thing like urban decay shatter his stiff upper lip, Shadow sets on a new plan: he’ll just buy a vehicle. Elros agrees to drop him at a dealer after taking 2Graves, Sunny and B back to 2Graves’ clinic. There, Shadow buys himself a brand new Suzuki Mirage. He doesn’t even flinch as the dealer runs his fake SIN and driver’s license. By way of thanks for the ride, Shadow makes a call to a contact in Tir Tairngire’s cover operations division. They could have need of a branded Renraku truck. His contact says:
“Maybe. I’ll get back to you,” and Shadow passes the message to Elros, then heads home for that much desired rest.

 

Elros, however, has his own contacts and his own plans. Now he knows of a probable buyer, he decides to investigate the cost of keeping the van. He has his van carry out the rest of the team drop off on dog brain, and calls his one contact, Bull, and asks if he knows anybody who can clean up a recently acquired van, the kind acquired with a five digital finger discount. Bull sends him the number of Joe’s Garage, a chop shop in Auburn. Elros makes the call immediately and connects with a gruff voice that says
“What?”
Elros says hello and presents his problem.
“Fuck off!” the voice says and the call terminates.
Elros tries again, this time speaking English and not his customary Sperethiel. “Do you service trucks?”
“Trucks, cars, people. You name it, we take care of it.”
“Did you say people?”
“Forget about it. We can do a truck. What do you need?”
“I need a truck cleaned, some windows replaced, a new paint job and a couple of modifications.”
“What about ownership?”
“Already changed.”
“What about detonation?”
“Why would I—“
“Forget about it. Bring it down to the shop and I’ll take a look.”
Elros tells Joe – or whoever – that he’d be down promptly and programs the dog brain’s next destination. He then occupies himself with a review of the truck’s diagnostics so he’s not conned into paying for services he doesn’t need.

 

At 2Graves home and street clinic, Sunny and 2Graves grab a snack and sit down to watch an episode or two of Neil The Ork Barbarian. They invite B to join them, but the elf junkie quickly gets restless and begins to wander aimlessly around the apartment. 2Graves keeps an eye on him so he doesn’t wander into any weapon lockers, but for now he’s not causing problems. She’s made a promise to help him, but her head is still ringing from taking a couple of flashbangs to the face and now she just needs a beer and a moment to catch her breath and organise her thoughts. But an episode and a half later, B starts muttering to himself, scratching at his skin and, no longer content to wander, begins to grope around at his surroundings. The pain has begin to dull, so it’s time to work.
“B, it’s me 2Graves. I’m going to help you”
“Have you got any bliss?”
“No. No more bliss. I’m—“
“I need bliss. I have to go get some bliss.”
“B, you said you were a doctor. If your patient said he wanted bliss, what would you do?”
“I just… I need bliss. Have you got any bliss?”
“Come with me. I’ll get you sorted.” 2Graves takes B by the hand and leads him towards the bathroom. For the first time since she got home, she notices the dried slap patches peeling off his body, trailing like breadcrumbs wherever he walks. 2Graves sends Sunny to buy some clothes from the nearest working vending machine. Sunny is out of the house just in time, just before the struggling and the screaming starts. B’s cries hit 2Graves with a twinge of guilt, but it’d only be harder if Sunny was here panicking with him. It’s the sudden spray of water that does it: a sudden sensory overload shocking B’s system. If he had working eyes, he might have seen it coming, but blind and zoned out, all the junkie knows is he was on the street, then picked up and pushed into a van by strangers, and now he’s in a strange place with strange people that aren’t giving him food anymore, now they’re dousing him with water, stripping away his clothes, forcing him around who-knows where for who-knows-why. Before long, the real withdrawal symptoms will kick in and it will just get worse. He’s not nearly strong enough to overpower 2Graves, not by a long shot, but it’s that guilt that gets her, the guilt that makes it hard. Even through the detached haze of all that chrome, she never stops feeling the guilt.

 

2Graves keeps B in the shower until he wears himself out. By the time Sunny gets back, he’s screamed himself hoarse and can’t make any more noise. Together, they drag him out, wrap a towel around him, escort him to a bed in the clinic and 2Graves hooks him up to a drip. He’s too exhausted and perhaps too afraid to resist the needle with anything more than a scared flinch.
“What now?” Sunny asks.
“Detox. We feed him, we keep him warm, we let his system reset. Then we can work on his eyes.”
“Are we doing the right thing? He doesn’t look… He doesn’t look grateful.”
“Of course not. We’ve kidnapped him, we’re holding him prisoner, as far as he knows the shower was water torture and just the beginning.”
Sunny stays silent.
“This is what you wanted, isn’t it? To help?”
“What if he doesn’t want help?”
“I don’t… Actually, there might be a way to find out. Watch him a moment while I make a call.”

 

Elros parks his van and truck outside Joe’s Garage and materialises his persona in AR. A hulking troll with dark blue-tinged skin and one horn wearing a jumpsuit that says Joe steps out of the garage and greets him with a hint of a Russian accent.
“You call earlier?”
“Yes,” Elros says.
“Which one?”
“The Renraku truck.”
Without another word, the troll begins inspecting the truck inside and out, rifles around the engine, and sends one of his human mechanics underneath. After conferring with his assistant, seeming to satisfy himself of the condition of the truck and says to Elros:
“You mentioned you wanted a modification.”
“Yeah. I want a Gridlink and override installed.”
“I can do that. I can also fix the window and do the paintjob. The tires are okay, but the engine has heat damage up the back and your blood stains have dripped onto the rear axel. You ever see what blood stains do to an axel?”
Elros curses quietly to himself in Sperethiel, takes a moment to compose himself and says “There’s nothing wrong with the engine. I did a diagonistic, myself, and I know blood stains don’t do anything to an axel. Just the fix the window, paint the side, and clean the blood off the inside.”
“Suit yourself, but I should let you know I don’t have any LT-21 windows in stock. I can retrofit from a newer model, but it’ll take some extra time and manpower.”
“How much is it going to cost?”
“All up, leaving aside the axel damage – and that’s on you – it’ll be 8k.”
“Are you kidding?! Look, Bull recommended you because you can service it for a reasonable cost. I could do this myself if I had a body.”
“You want a body, now, too?”
“Wait, what?”
“Nothing. But, hey, any friend of Bull is welcome here. You should have mentioned that earlier. I’ll drop the price to 8k.”
“That’s not a price drop.”
“It is when you count tax.”
“What tax? Look, nevermind. I’ll give you 4,000. That more than covers parts and labour.”
The troll looks over the van again, strokes his chin, then back at Elros and says, “I’ll tell you what. I can do the clean and paint for 1k, I can do the modification and repair for 3k, and because you’re kind of an ass, I’ll charge you an extra thousand. That’s 6k, and I guarantee you won’t get any cheaper anywhere else, or my name’s not Greg.”
“Fine. Just do it.”
“Excellent. We’ll be done in three days!” Business done, Elros takes his SUV and leaves Joe’s Garage. He has no home to go to, but he does have a long night of playing Age of Neil: Barbarian Adventures to help him relax after a long long day.

 

The following day, Thursday January 18th, begins bright and early for Shadow, Sunny and B, with a call on 2Grave’s commlink.
“Good morning, Sunshine!” Carter, her fixer, says with his usual morning pep. “I hear you’ve been busy making enemies down in The Verge.”
“You have?”
“First blowing up a factory, then a shootout with Lonestar, now taking down BTL dealers. You’ve had a big week. I’ve got something else for you, if you’re not too tired.”
“Any details?”
“Only that it involves helping little old ladies cross the street. I’m giving you first offer since you’ve got that heart of gold thing going on. Meet is tomorrow morning, here at the bar.”
“Got it. We’ll be there.”

 

2Graves sends the details on to the rest of the team and continues with her soykaf breakfast. Any other day, she might be asleep, but this morning she’s expecting company. Said company arrives promptly at 9.30, buzzing her apartment from the street. 2Graves lets the man in and opens her door. A few minutes later, George Hampton, well dressed and well scrubbed talismongre, steps inside carrying a synth leather briefcase.
“Good to see you again, 2Graves, Sunny,” he says. “Where is the patient?”
“This way,” Sunny says and gestures for him to follow her to the clinic. There, George looks over the barely conscious B. He hasn’t eaten yet, he woke up and screamed early in the morning, then settled into a dazed state for the next few hours, sweating profusely, occasionally muttering to himself, and shivering constantly.
“I won’t waste time,” says George. “Please, give me some space.” George sets down his briefcase, opens it to reveal a collection of shaman fetishes and reagents. He lights some incense, waves a bone wand over B’s body with one hand, beats a small drum in his other, and begins to chant in a low rhythmic voice. The ritual only takes a few minutes, and by the end George is looking more raggard and much sweatier than when he first arrived. “He should wake up any moment, now,” he tells 2Graves and Sunny. “His system will be clear of any toxins and, until sunset, he will be remarkably sober. After that, you can expect the withdrawals to begin again. The road will be difficult for him.”
“Thank you, George,” 2Graves says. “How much do we owe you?”
“Forget it. I never properly paid you back for what you did. Please, call me again if you need me.”
“We will,” says Sunny. “Say hi to your daughter for us.”
George nods, and with a smile, packs up his kit and leaves.

 

Shortly after, B wakes, sits up and moves his head as if looking around.
“Where am I?” he asks with none of his usual hesitation of weakness of voice.
“It’s a clinic,” 2Graves says. “My clinic. My name is 2Graves.”
“Right. Yes, of course. 2Graves, Sunny, you brought me here. But, something’s off. I feel strange.”
“You’ve just been seen by a shaman. He said you would be sober until sunset.”
“A shaman? That explains it. I feel like, like a curtain has been pulled over half my brain. All these thoughts and feelings are there, but suppressed and I can actually think straight.”
“B, do you have a name?” Sunny asks.
B hesitates, runs a hand over his face, then says. “B. B is my name.”
“Your real—“
“B is my name.”
“Okay. B, then,” 2Graves said. “You told us yesterday that you’re a doctor. Is that true?”
“I was. Quite a brilliant one, if I do say so myself. General practice and the occasional surgery. I had a practice in Chicago.”
“What happened to you? How did you go from doctor to bliss addict?”
“No.” B shakes his head and, for the first time, looks vaguely in 2Graves’ and Sunny’s direction. “No, you don’t get to kidnap me and interrogate me. God, I’ve been so frightened since I got here. You had no right to do any of this.” He doesn’t sound angry, but thoughtful, as though he’s processing it all as he says it. He opens his mouth to speak again, but stops and lets the silence drag on until Sunny speaks:
“Do you want us to keep helping you?”
“Yes. Yes, after being able to think like this for so long, I want to… I need to escape. Help me keep clean, help me fix my eyes and get back on my feet. If you can, I’ll gladly help with your clinic until I’ve repaid my debt.”
“All right. We’ll keep helping, won’t we?”
2Graves nods. B thanks them again, then lays back and asks them to let him rest and think a while by himself, while he still has a clear mind.

 

The team spends the rest of the day in relaxation and leisure. Then, on the following morning, Friday January 18th, they gather at the Errant Knights bar in Redmond, only a stone’s throw from 2Graves’ apartment. Carter is inside and behind the bar, but the establishment is closed and so the only other patron is their contact: a little old Japanese lady by the name of Ms Johnson.
“Thank you for coming. I’ll get right to the point, I suppose. My husband and I own a restaurant in Auburn called Teppan Yummy. We have a close relationship with a farmer just outside Seattle who keeps chickens. It’s really nothing but a hobby farm, but he breeds enough chickens to sell to us. The cost is low for us, which means we can sell dishes with real chicken at our restaurant at a fraction of what others charge. But the last two shipments we’ve been expecting have been stolen and the drivers killed. After the first one, we added some dashboard cameras in case it happened again. It did, at the same place: The intersection of 197th and 324th Streets, not far from Lake Morton. I’ve brought the video for you to review. I thought it might help.” Ms Johnson slides a datachip across the table to them. “The next shipment is tomorrow, and we’re worried it might happen again. In fact, we’re worried it might keep happening. I’d like you to make sure the delivery arrives at the restaurant and, if possible, find and stop whoever is attacking our shipments.” She offers them 10,000 nuyen for the job and agrees to pay half up front.
“I think we can help you,” Shadow says. “Would you be able to provide us with the number of the farmer?”
“Of course. I’ll let him know you’ll be calling.” With that deal made, she leaves the runners to plan, thanks them and Carter, and heads out the door and into the city streets.

 

The runners begin by watching the video. The dash camera shows the delivery van driving through Auburn. The night sky is remarkably clear, and the moon is visible between the buildings. Of course the lights of the sprawl make seeing any stars a fool’s hope, but it is none the less a rare sight. As the truck enters an intersection and begins to turn, two holes appear in the windscreen like cigarette burns and blood sprays across the dash. At the edge of the frame, a body slumps forward and the truck begins to rapidly veer away from the road. But before it can crash, bright headlights appear at the mouth of an alley and a Bulldog with no plates screams out onto the road and crashes head on into the van. The video ends with a few seconds of static.
“At least two people, then, a driver and a sniper,” 2Graves says.
“The windows were tinted. The Bulldog could have been on autopilot,” Shadow says. “Either way, it was clearly an ambush. The obvious choice is to change the route and avoid the ambush entirely. We could even send that van through as normal, and load the chicken into another. What about the Renraku truck?”
Elros shakes his virtual head. “I doubt it’ll be ready on time and, even if it was, it’s not refrigerated.”
“Well then we could hire a van, send it along the normal route and have the actual van go on a detoure.”
“But then we’re still sending somebody to die in an ambush,” Sunny says.
“Autopilot. No driver, no harm,” Shadow says with a shrug. “It’s fool proof.”
“It’s suspiscious,” 2Graves says. “No, your first plan was the best. Change the route and then escort it that way. It’s probably only going through this intersection because it’s the shortest route.”
“Maybe we could change the timing, too. In fact, why don’t I call the farmer and see if he’s ready now. We go at a different time, we ruin the ambush plans entirely.” Shadow turns away from the group, punches the number into his commlink, and connects with the farm and a baritone Japanese voice.
“Hi there. We represent Teppan Yummy, and we’re wondering if your chickens are ready to go tonight?”
“Chickens? What?” the Japanese voice asks, sounding short on temper. “Who are you?”
“Did the owner of Teppan Yummy not tell you? She’s hired us to make sure your van makes it to the restaurant.”
“No. She didn’t tell me anything.”
“Well, now I’m telling you. So, chicken delivery tonight?”
“No. The chickens will be ready tomorrow when we make the delivery. If the delivery was ready now, I’d deliver it now.”
“That makes sense. Well, how about we meet you when the delivery is ready, so we can check security and escort you the whole journey?”
“I don’t need security the whole journey, only where the ambush is.”
“We’ve got a plan to avoid the ambush. What time should we meet?”
“Fine. The truck crosses the border into Seattle at 9 o’clock. I’ll meet you then.”
“Excellent. We’ll see you then.” Shadow ends the call and turns back to the team. “I’ve set up a meet tomorrow when the truck crosses the border. I guess the farm is in Salish-Sidhe.”
Sunny grins. “All right. Sounds like we have a plan!”

Session Six

After the full frontal attack on the settlement by The Bloody Hand is defeated, the group’s leader comes over the rear wall flanked on either side by a half dozen floating undead heads.

As the party rush back to engage, the mounted & caged demon child approaches the wall. The settlement’s archers let rip with a volley of arrows but as he dies he screams “Kill each other” & half the battlement’s guards start attacking everyone else.

Doran subdues one but the chaos is distracting from the enemy swarming into the camp from the rear so he rushes to engage them instead.

The ranger Tarbin engages a pair of floating heads, his blows failing to connect again & again so that he can only ward them off for so long until one of them bites a chunk out of his arm.

Saul swings a beautifully accurate blow against a floating head, cutting it cleanly in two, only for the Bloody hand Leader to pin him with an arrow.

Nathaniel throws Magic Missiles ™at the Bloody hand leader before firing his longbow to greatly effect. The Bloody Hand leader aims true & tears a chunk out of one of Nathaniel’s lovely elf ears.

Doran smashes floating heads, one after another, in to gory pizza with his new warhammer.

The Bloody Hand leader & Saul clash in melee, Saul delivering a mighty blow but is cut down but the savagery of his foe.

Doran finds himself face to face with Saul’s foe almost immediately after his compatriot hits the ground but Nathaniel puts an arrow in the Bloody Hand leader’s ear (and out the other) before the dwarf can be bested.

Nathaniel comes to Tarbin’s aid while Doran tries to heal Saul but his clerical magic falls short and Saul remains unconscious.

The battlement soldiers who remained sane finally subdue their frenzied comrades but not before four of their fellows lay dead on the ground. Bound & mad, kicking & screaming they are brought to the Temple Of Repose & given a sleeping broth to calm them down.

Tarbin’s wound is cleaned but he worries about infection & requests he is kept an eye on, just in case…..

The dead are taken care of, the settlement soldiers beheaded and buried, the Bloody Hand beheaded and burned. The demon child’s copse burns for a full day leaving behind blackened bones.

Days pass, wounds are healed & the party find themselves advising a more sombre but more confident settlement.

Everyone is training with weapons while plans are made to take better control of the surrounding plain and forests.

Tarbin supervises the digging of trenches around the walls as Nathaniel explains the manufacture of ballistae.

EVERYONE LEVELS UP!

Finally taking their leave, the party mount up and head in the direction of the city of Ironhold, travelling for days through forests both thick and sparse, coming across the occasional atrocities of war, a burnt out wagon by the side of the road, a hung corpse from a tree….

Tarbin insists on scouting ahead and on the fourth day encounters a scene of evil industry, a group of men cut down trees & load them onto wagons.

Their blue hair & cloaks mark them as agents of the Corrupting Claw, antagonistic allies of the Bloody Hand, but it is the jagged rods & cogs & metal plates inserted into their bodies, that allow them to work with awkward efficiency, that mark them as men to fear…..

Session Five

As dawn breaks, the party consider their options with settlement leaders.

Tarbin is willing to hold off for a few days to allow their horses time to recover while everyone is afraid what will happen if the Bloody Hand engage in another attack.

The settlement soldiers are divided into three groups; one to man the walls and one each to teach Providence’s teenage & adult citizens (men & women) how to fight with spear and bow.
The bows used are the ones taken from the barbarians the party killed while spears are sharpened sticks.

The settlement blacksmith is convinced to make a dozen spear heads.

Throughout the day & at regular intervals, pairs of Bloody Hand warriors ride from the forest and circle the settlement, out of bow range & shouting abuse, before returning to their wooded exit point.

The group set up an ambush on the far side of the fort, covered in dirty blankets amid the grass & paired with a warrior from the settlement. Those inside will give one of two signals; a blanket will be waved if a pair of horsemen is coming while a horn will be blown if a larger group appears.

A blanket is waved shortly after & minutes later a pair of mounted warriors trot into view.

Once within range, volleys of bow fire take down their horses before they are engaged in armed combat.

Saul suffers a savage wound before he cuts his opponent in half with his great axe. Doran is also wounded but outnumbered six to one, the second warrior is dispatched.

The bodies are decapitated & stripped of weapons while the horses are dragged into the settlement to provide additional vittles’ for all involved.

Threat Profile: Mad Mabel

Extracted from Interstellar Expeditions Spinwards Operational Area updates, 3130

Age: 37 (Born 3093)

Position/Rank: Leader of the Grim Grinner Gang pirate band

 

Despite her colourful moniker, Mad Mabel represents a definite threat to our continued operations. Violent and unpredictable, the self-proclaimed cannibal queen has become a plague to the worlds of the “south-east” Outworlds Wastes. Her operations are particularly bloody and violent, often deliberately inflicting collateral damage in order to discourage further resistance or simply for the sake of it. Most worrying for us, she seems to be deliberately targeting our own operations for reasons we cannot begin to fathom.

 

Investigating her background tells us something about how she came to be where she is, but offers little clue as to her motivations. As far as we have been able to determine, Mad Mabel was born Mabel Goodwin to a lower-class family in Waterburg, Onverwacht. She fell into gang violence early, and became an enforcer with a reputation for brutality and sadism. In 3108, she was implicated in the death of her step-father, although nothing was ever proven. By 3113, she had moved up in the world, committing a series of high-profile armed robberies that were characterised by needless violence.

 

Escaping off-world ahead of the authorities (after apparently killing the rest of her gang), Mabel used her ill-gotten wealth to buy her way into the Terror Tigers pirate band. Training to be a MechWarrior, she rose though the ranks of the band through getting results and bringing in ample spoils through a combination of her skill and propensity towards violence. However, she found herself effectively locked out of further advancement due to Gruppenfurher Nakamura’s policy of baring women from command positions.

 

In 3122 the Tigers clashed with the Grim Grinner Gang over a series of caches discovered on the dead world of Mandaville.  Mabel used the opportunity to further her own career by betraying the Tigers, leaving them outmatched and outmanoeuvred by the Grim Grinners. The bulk of the unit were captured and forcefully incorporated into their ranks, with Mabel among them (Nakamura was executed to serve as an example). Her propensity towards violence suited the Grim Grinners well, leading them to a string of successes in raids across a number of worlds.

 

Quietly building her own powerbase, in 3127 she moved against Matthaias Grande, their then leader and challenged him to a duel for command of the band. After a bloody battle she was triumphant, taking Grande’s severed head as a trophy and proof of her authority to lead. Thus far she has faced at least three challenges to her command, all of which have ended in the brutal deaths of the claimants.

 

Mad Mabel is violent and unpredictable, and shows sadistic tendencies as well as a complete disregard for human life. Whether or not she is a cannibal remains unproven, but regardless she does actively play up on the claim. Her men remain loyal to her, largely due the success and rewards that she has bought to the band under her command; however, fear of crossing her also plays no small part in this. Those that fail her are usually killed or assigned suicidal duties as a way of ‘atoning’ for their mistakes. She is not, however, a mindless berserker, and shows clear tactical sense on the battlefield. She knows when to fight and when to run, and is not given to wasting resources on lost causes.

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Audio Log #68112-Rho

Voice 1 (98% match Clay ‘Skinner’ McCaskil, Grim Grinner Gang): So tell me what the hell just happened. And be precise about it. Don’t leave anything out.

Voice 2 (83% match Freddie Vinh, Grim Grinner Gang): My lance were on patrol in the south hills. We detected a group of unidentifides and went to investigate. I figured it was the same people who busted up Gormel’s men, so we went to check them out.

McCaskil: And what did you find?

Vinh: It was them all right. Four ‘Mechs, a Koshi (EDITOR’S NOTE: Likely referring to Lt. Tudor’s Koschei), Hunch (EDITOR’S NOTE: Hunchback), Cent (EDITOR’S NOTE: Centurion) and Cronus. They knew we was there and came right for us. Their leader, in the Koshi told us to stand down.

McCaskil: And you told him where to stick his offer, of course.

Vinh: Yeah. So we opened up on ‘em, but they hit back hard. A couple of ‘em nearly cored Bucks’ Jack straight out, so he tried to pull back while the rest of us pushed forwards. It looked good for a moment, but then, well, slag it. It all went to hell.

McCaskil: Tell me.

Vinh: Chen’s Hactchetman got its head shredded by the Huch. He was there one second, and gone the next. A moment later, Bucks was torn apart as he was trying to pull back.

McCaskil: And what were you doing?

Vinh: I mean, I was trying to take a few down. I got some good shots in on the Hunch, and took one arm off the Cent, but I was outnumbered. Especially after Butta’s Phoenix went down without a leg.

McCaskil: Keep going.

Vinh: I mean, I’m no coward, right? I ain’t gonna leave no-one behind, right? But I knew that I wasn’t going to do jack on my own, outnumbered four to one and all that. So I tried to pull back to, you know, warn you of what was happening. Only barely got out too. Bastards shot my Griff in the face with a fracking PPC.

McCaskil: Well, guess they know where we are now.

Vinh: I’m dead. When Mabel finds out, she’s going to kill me.

McCaskil: I’ll deal with her.

Vinh: What about me?

McCaskil: You better get over yourself, son, and soon. They’re coming for us, and if you ain’t ready to fight when they do, I am going to gut you myself.

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Lucky breaks and other weapons of war

Taken from The Wastelands War, Galatea Free Press, 3145

 

While the Wasteland Legion had taken one of the Grim Grinner Gang’s operational bases and destroyed or disabled two lances of armour, they actually had very little to show for it. The few prisoners they had managed to take alive refused to reveal where the main body of their force was (likely being more afraid of what Mad Mabel would do to them if they talked then anything that might happen if they didn’t), which left the Legion with no leads.

At this point, their options were few; the Pirates could have been anywhere on the planet and the Legion lacked the capability to effectively search for them. Eager to regain the initiative, Captain Nexx had his men scour the base for anything that could lead them to their enemies. Time was a key factor here, as there was every chance that the Grim Grinners could lift off from the world and leave them with a completely cold trail.

Instead, a series of unrelated events gave them the information that they needed.

It began with the discovery of a piece of equipment in the discarded junk that the pirates had left behind. Lieutenant Tudor, one of the Legion MechWariors, identified it as coming from an industrial-scale fusion reactor rather than being a BattleMech component. The ruins of one such facility, a relic of the planet’s long-dead colonies, lay about a hundred kilometres away, which seemed to be a logical source for the part.

Captain Nexx dispatched his recon lance to investigate. Arriving at the facility without incident, they found that it was presently occupied. A small band of civilian explorers had come to the facility, looking to salvage parts from it. Instead, they had run afoul of hostile local wildlife that had claimed one of their number.  While they were not overly forthcoming as to their origins, they explained that they were eager to avoid contact with the Grim Grinner Gang, and knew where they were headquartered.

McKinnon and Baden, two of the Legion MechWarriors, struck a deal with the explorers. If they cleared the facility of the animals, then they would be provided with the location of the Grim Grinner Gang. Being both better trained and equipped, the pair of them were able to clean out the pack of creatures, which had apparently retreated into the ruins in order to nest. The explorers proved to be good to their word, revealing that the pirates had retreated to a ruined city several thousand kilometres north of their present location.

The Wasteland Legion had scored the location of their target and made a major breakthrough in their campaign, simply because the right people were there at the right time.

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Seattle Times Friday 17 January 2076

Artwork by Tim Bradstreet. I think. If not, it’s Rick Harris or Joel Biske.

Elros Solves The Homeless Problem

With a foot on the Halloweener’s bleeding knee, he reaches down and searches through his pockets. He comes away with a small synth leather pouch stuffed with datachips stamped with the Halloweener emblem. They’ve seen these before. More BTLs.
“They look like they’re worth about 400 nuyen,” Shadow says. “Now, where are you making them?”
“I don’t make them, just sell them.” Each word comes through clenched teeth and deep breaths. He tries to push Shadow’s foot away from his open wound but Shadow presses down harder. The ganger screams in agony.
“Stop that! Stop!”
“Answer my questions, and it ends.”
“What questions? I don’t know what you want!”
“Where’s the stolen simsense gear?”
“Simsense gear?” the ganger screams. “I don’t know about simsense gear. Why are you asking me about simsense gear? Why are you three strangers and your drones asking me about Simsense gear after killing me and my fellow Halloweeners out here in the open?”
“Ah, crap,” 2Graves mutters. “Get him into the truck, quick, before we have the whole go-gang on us.”
“Truck? You mean that Renraku truck? You three well-armed strangers who took my BTLs are putting me in that truck with the licence—“ before he can finish, Elros tases him into silence. 2Graves and Shadow load him into the Renraku truck, close the door, and Elros gets both vehicles moving. Shadow searches the ganger one more time, finds a cheat metalink and crushes it under his heel.
“So he can’t be traced,” he explains.
“You didn’t want to check it out, first? See if it had any useful information?”
“No. What are the odds there’s anything on it we could use? Help me wake him up.” A few slaps to the face and pokes to an open wound later and the ganger is awake and screaming again, but the screaming comes to a sudden stop when the ganger notices where he is.
“Why am I in a truck?”
“Nevermind that. Who supplies you with BTLs?”
“All right, all right. Just stop stepping on my leg.”
Shadow steps on his leg.
The ganger screams. “A tenement! There’s an old tenement where we pick them up for street sale.”
“Where is it?”
The Halloweener reaches into his pocket. “Where’s my commlink? Give me my commlink?”
“Why?” 2Graves asks. She already knows the answer, and she figures Shadow knows it to, but she wants it said out loud. She wants him to hear his mistake.
“I’ve got a map. I can show you where it is on the map.”
Shadow shrugs. “Commlinks gone. We lost it. Can you take us there?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to think straight right now on account of all the p—“
2Graves kicks the Halloweener’s knee, eliciting another agonised yelp.

 

She steps away from the conversation and with a tap on her commlink, opening up a channel with the rest of the team.
“We’re hitting a dead end with this one. We might need to go pick up a commlink from one of those bodies.”
“Halloweeners are there,” Elros says. He commands his flyspy to share footage with the rest of the team, giving them view of eight Halloweeners gathered around the scene of their most recent battle.
“What about that deck?” Shadow suggests. “There might be something on it. If nothing else, we could try and steal it. Decks are worth a lot of money.”
“I’ve still got my rotodrone over there. The decker is asleep.”
“So we drive over there, head up-stairs, take it, search it, find our map and get ourselves a new deck.”
“Shadow, we don’t… Never mind.” The ferocious eye-rolling is audible in Sunny’s tone. “I’m already hacking it. I don’t need to be near it. Geez, join the rest of us in 2076, would you.” Sunny already has two marks on the deck, one more and she’ll have full control. In VR, with one eye on the deck’s icon and the other eye on the video feed from Elros’ rotodrone, she runs her hacking program and marks the deck a third and final time. But as she does, the door to the room opens and a young Halloweener. Elros commands his drone to tase him before he can bring anymore unwanted attention, and the drone complies, firing at the Halloweener. The twin electrodes strike the ganger and he yelps in shock, but it’s not enough to bring him down. Elros calls his rotodrone back just as three more Halloweeners burst into the room, AK-97s up and at the ready. They’re too late to get a shot at the rotodrone and they’re too busy picking up the unconscious decker to notice Elros’ flyspy slip in through the broken window and tail them out the door. Elros follows them down a flight of stairs into what appears to be a Halloweener bunk house. At least a score of gangers are loitering about the open plan floor, checking weapons, lounging on mattresses, knocking back cold ones and talking Business. With so many eyes, Elros knows it’s only a matter of time before he’s spotted and he decides to bail on any further investigation.
“We’re not getting that deck out of there. The place is swarming with Halloweeners,” Elros tells the team.

 

Not that it matters for Sunny. While everybody else was wasting time chasing clues in boring old meat space, she’s hacked the deck and pulled a map off it. She considers planting a data bomb just to screw with them, but suddenly her connection drops and the deck’s icon vanishes. She figures one of the Halloweeners finally had an intelligent thought in his head and turned the deck off. No matter. She has the map. She shares it with the team. The map shows The Verge with a number of buildings marked by red dots. Shadow shows the map to their prisoner and asks the prisoner,
“Can you show us on this map where you get supplied with BTLs?”
The captured ganger points to one of the dots.
“Just as I thought, it’s where the decker was hiding. Now, let’s go blow—“
“That’s not the same building,” 2Graves says. “It’s not even in the same direction.”
“So we don’t need to go back, get the deck, and shoot every last Halloweener inside? Because I’d really like to do that.”
“I noticed that, but if Sunny has to wait until after the run to detox B, you have to wait until after the run to get yourself killed trying to lay siege to a Halloweener fortress.”

 

Shadow and 2Graves open the truck doors and toss their prisoner outside. Elros collects his drones and plots a course for the BTL suppliers. He stops both vehicles outside, unloads the team, jumps into his steel lynx, and sends the vehicles to circle the block a few times.
“I’m not seeing anything inside on the Matrix,” Sunny says uncertainly. “We sure this is the place?”
“The whole places looks sealed up tight. No way to do physical recon,” Elros says. They all draw the same conclusion: the building has been cut off like a Faraday Cage. They’re going in blind, which can only mean:
“I’ll go first and talk to them,” Shadow says and double checks his gun is in its holster. “Just follow my lead.” He strides forward, comes to the only visible doors, and pushes on them gingerly. The doors swing open to a shot corridor and another door. The team gathers inside the corridor and pauses.
“Oh, yeah, just before we go on,” Sunny says, “I decided to do a search on any lakes in the area and there’s a James Lake at the south end of the Verge. EVO Maps has a street view of the area and while I can’t be certain, I’m pretty sure that’s the area I saw in the BTL. Maybe we should go there?”
“But the guy said he gets his BTLs here, so the equipment must be here,” Shadow says.
“But I saw the BTL being recorded by a lake. There’s no lake around here.”
“So they probably moved it again.”
“Or this is just a distribution centre,” 2Graves says. “For all we know, it’s another bunk house. If Sunny has a strong lead, maybe we should check the lake first.”
“But we’re already here so we might as well finish following this lead.” Shadow’s growing impatience begins to outweigh his usual charismatic charm. He doesn’t know why they’re all suddenly being so difficult and arguing with his plans. It’s like they didn’t notice how well all his plans worked out before. Did he not basically accomplish the Ares factory run single handed? This kind of mistrust and disturbing lack of faith is exactly why he never tells them what he’s—

 

The door opens.

 

An unusually clean-cut man – a white human in his 30s wearing a leather jacket but no spikes, chains or piercings in sight, just a datajack and a friendly smile – sticks his head through the door, looks at the well-armed drone, well-armed 2Graves, and the frustrated Shadow and says without hesitation:
“May I help you?”
“Yes,” says Shadow. “I would like to buy some BTLs.”
“Of course you would. Come in!” The Halloweener throws open the door and ushers the team of runners inside. The room beyond the corridor looks like it might have once been the lobby of an apartment building, but now it is a BTL den. Five Halloweeners in all are scattered across the room, three openly carrying their weapons and looking tough, one sitting by a dataterminal at the back of the room, and the friendly sales-ganger welcoming the team inside. A few dozen doped out junkies lay sprawled over the floor or sitting against the walls, none apparently conscious of their surroundings. “Now,” says the dealer. “What are you interested in?”
“Well, what’s popular?”
“Big this month is musicals. We’re even offering a special on romantic musicals.”
“Sounds great. I’ll take one of them.”
“Of course you will. Just the one? They’re cheaper by the dozen. You understand they only work once, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I know. This isn’t my first BTL.”
“All right, sir. Suit yourself.” The Halloweener shrugs then turns to 2Graves. “And for you?”
“Something calm and soothing,” 2Graves answers with a clenched jaw. She’s following Shadow’s lead but her trigger finger is getting itchy, but she hasn’t decided if she’s going to shoot Halloweeners or Shadow first.
“We can do that. Now, how about yout?” the dealer turns to Sunny and smiles. “What are you in the mood for?”
“Oh, no thank you. I ate before coming. But do you have any bliss?”
“Sorry, only BTLs here. Nothing? No. All right, please take a seat, and I’ll go and load up some chips for you.” The dealer gestures the team towards a park bench positioned beside the door, then crosses the room and opens a cupboard near the dataterminal.

“I don’t see any simsense recording equipment here,” 2Graves says through her sub-vocal microphone.
“There’s nothing on the Matrix, either,” says Sunny. “Looks like some people upstairs but no simsense studios.”
“Oh well, I guess we can kill them,” Shadow says with a shrug. Without waiting for second opinions, he turns and draws his weapon. Elros and 2Graves follow suit, aiming at the Halloweeners on guard. Three fatal bursts of fire erupt at once and half the Halloweeners in the room are dead.
“Surrender!” Sunny shouts at the two remaining.
“Okay,” the Halloweener by the dataterminal says and stands. “But, one question. You know what else is popular this month?”
“Is it—“
“No, it’s murder.” The Halloweener hits a button on his terminal, then ducks. Immediately, the junkies open their eyes and stand up. Expressions of hatred and anger seize their previously vacant faces and the mob moves towards the team of runners. Seizing the opportunity to hit them by surprise, the dealer steps out of the cupboard, grenade launcher in hand, and hits them all with a flashbang. The explosion of sound and light stuns all of them except for Elros, whose mechanical body is immune. But his targets – the Halloweeners – are obscured by a horde of junkies and his drone won’t be immune to them. Worst of all, they’re poor people. In a panic, he lays down surpressive fire on the room, but the junkies aren’t in their right mind, or even their own mind, and instead of ducking for cover, they continue to advance into the fire and are mowed down by Elros’ mad spray. 2Graves regains her wits and takes a shot at the dealer, putting a burst of assault rifle rounds into the door he’s using for cover. It’s not the lethal attack she was hoping for, though, and the dealer steps out of cover again – now sporting some fresh bullet holes in his body – raises his grenade launcher in an unsteady grip, and fires. The round falls short and lands in the centre of the room, placing the runners, the Halloweeners and the BTL fiends in the blast zone. But when the smoke clears, only Sunny and Elros are standing.
“You okay?” Elros asks.
“Please. A couple of flashbangs are nothing compared to the biofeedback I’ve suffered.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah. I’m just going to sit down for a while.”
“Before you do that, can you do some first aid on the others.”
“Sure. They’re on the ground, so I can do that while sitting down.”

 

Moving slowly, taking her time, and insisting to the steel lynx that she doesn’t need first aid mansplained to her, Sunny gets 2Graves and Shadow on their feet again. 2Graves dead checks the gangers, Shadow searches for clues, and Sunny checks out the dataterminal and finds a nicer simsense experience to broadcast to the unconscious junkies. Their heads are throbbing, there’s splotches in their vision, and stepping around the destroyed corpses of innocents makes the whole experience a little awkward. But they’re not too out of it to jump to attention and aim weapons at the door when it opens and an awkward looking B stumbles in.
“I heard gunfire. Is everybody okay? I’m a doctor, although I guess I can’t do much right now.”
“We’re fine,” Elros says. “But how did you get out of the car? Where are the cars?”
B looks around for a moment, unsure of where to address, then says “I don’t know.”

 

The team abandons this end and head back outside. Elros is relieved to discover the vehicles are still making their rounds, and calls them back so they can pile in again. Next stop…

 

James Lake. The snow is still falling and the lake is frozen over. Cold black dirt surrounds the lake, no doubt once the scene of lush grass and family picnics. There’s plenty of buildings larger and larger to choose from if somebody wanted to set up an illegal simsense studio, but the team is certain the building they want is an abandoned green grocer called Fresh Harvest. It’s not only that the building appears to be another Matrix deadzone, and not only that it has been boarded up and sealed shut like the BTL den that lead them to their conclusion. It’s the enormous flaming Jack-o-Lantern spray painted on the street outside Fresh Harvest that makes the shadowrunners think this is the place. The only problem is, what do they do about it? They’re lucky to be on their feet after taking two flashbangs to the face. They consider calling in Renraku now and letting corp security deal with it, but if the gear isn’t here they lose call credibility. They’ll already lose some if they ask the client to do the heavy lifting on the run. They could wait, give themselves a few hours to recover before going in, but the Halloweeners will be on alert. A bunk house, a BTL den and some street toughs have all been hit in one afternoon. If the team waits any longer, they’ll either reinforce their BTL operation or move the recording gear. Maybe both. No, it has to be now.

 

Elros does a circle of the building with his Flyspy and checks the room. No sign of an entrance, no sign of a gap in the security. But there’s a ventilation system on the roof that has been sealed and could be a quiet access point for a drone. Shadow climbs up and, with his sword, cuts an opening. Elros sends the drone in, navigates the vent tunnels and eventually gets into the room. There’s only a few gangers inside, including one big SOB wearing a hessian mask. The set-up is the same dining room Sunny described, but a little less ornate. All around the room, simsense recording and editing hardware has been set up.
“This is it,” Elros confirms and backs out.
“Does the serial number match?” Shadow asks.
“I didn’t get close enough to check. There’s five gangers inside, including our masked killer.”
“I don’t care whether it’s the gear or not. If it’s not, we’ll keep looking. Either way, we’re shutting down this operation.” 2Graves loads up the grenade launcher taken from the BTL den and approaches the building. “Shadow, cut me a whole. We’ve got to hit them fast, before they can respond.” Nobody argues with 2Graves. They don’t want to put themselves on the wrong end of her sudden grim determination. 2Gaves knows she’s not being professional, she knows they’re in a tight spot and anger is not the way to move forwards. But frag that, they hurt her friend and they’re going to pay.

 

It doesn’t take long. A handful of flashbangs fired one after the other into the store through a hole cut in the front door, first there’s panic, some wild blind fire that hits the reinforced doors impotently, there’s screaming barely audible over the sound of grenades bursting, a crash of overturned furniture, and then at last silence. Then the team kicks in the doors, checks the serial numbers on the simsense gear and confirms it’s what they’re after. While 2Graves deadchecks the Halloweeners, Sunny places a call to Ms Johnson.
“We’ve found your recording equipment,” she says. “I’m sending you the address.”

“That’s wonderful, dear. We’ll pop over right away.”

 

Right away indeed. In minutes, three helicopters are unloading a Renraku security team. Ms Johnson herself is last out of the helicopter, with assistance of a ladder for her dwarven stature. She’s beaming with pride as she approaches the team and says to Sunny,
“I knew you’d do well. Thank you all so much. I have the rest of your payment here, and don’t worry about the rest, we’ll get all this to the reclamation centre. Did you happen to find the truck?”
“Nope,” says Shadow.
“No,” says 2Graves.
“A shame. Oh well. Thanks again, dears, and take care.” Ms Johnson hands over some credsticks and heads into Fresh Harvest to supervise the rest of the operation.
“Good job, everyone,” Elros says. “Well played. Now we’ve got a truck.”
“I guess we weren’t asked to retrieve the truck,” Sunny mumbles. It doesn’t sit well with her, but she’s the minority opinion so there’s no point arguing.
“Whatever. Just come pick us up with one of the vehicles. I need a drink.”

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