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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From the personal journal of Ash Coffin

I heard about Captain Nexx’s assault on the Grim Grinner’s supposed hideout. I can say now that it was definitely a success – for the pirates. While Nexx’s forces were victorious, true, what actually happened to him was rather humiliating.

 

Acting on the intel they’d gathered, Nexx had his company descend in force on their supposed hideout. He rushed into the operation, moving without adequate support. I suspect that his motives were not just to eliminate Mad Mabel, but to ensure that he beat me to it. The supposed target was a long-abandoned colony, dating back to the Star League era that the Grim Grinners were using as a barracks.

 

Rather then the company or more of ‘Mechs and other supporting elements he expected, Nexx’s forces instead met two lances of battered tanks, supported by infantry and a single ‘Mech (A Storm Raider that had been badly damaged in their last clash). Despite being outnumbered, outgunned and outmanoeuvred, the Grim Grinner forces fought with suicidal ferocity, running at Nexx’s heavier force with no regards for their own safety.

 

The result was basically a foregone conclusion. Most of the Grinner tanks were destroyed on the field, their crews killed. The Storm Raider was disabled, and its MechWarrior died of his injuries. A single Plainsman got away, using infernos to cover its escape. None of Nexx’s ‘Mechs were disabled, although several of them suffered appreciable damage. Nexx himself suffered a humiliating fall when his Ostroc tripped over rubble. What the Grim Grinners did do was waste our time, as well as causing us to burn supplies, parts and ammo (especially LRMs) for no benefit.

 

Nexx’s company found that they had stripped down the base, taking nearly everything of any worth. Aside from the husks of the tanks, the only other noteworthy salvage was the husk of the Cicada they disabled earlier. It’s MechWarrior was hanging from the rafters, the words “NOT LIKE THIS” scrawled on his chest.

 

Medical examination said that many of the Grinners had existing injures, and had probably fought in the failed raid on Ancholy. A number of them had then been further beaten, and a few were hopped up on combat drugs. They were more likely afraid of Mad Mabel then they were of us.

 

And, of course, they left no leads as to where they had gone. So a lot of wasted time, effort and ammo for nothing. Mabel played Nexx fantastically. In any other circumstance, it’d be amusing.

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“So we’re owed about a hundred years back pay, yeah?”

Session Four

The party sit down with the leaders of the settlement to share their knowledge.

The venue chosen is the Ironhold Militia’s Temple of Repose, the largest internal structure within the settlement, windowless, brazier lit from each corner with chairs & alter before a large wall mounted symbol of the three interlocked triangles.

The atmosphere is one of meditation and contemplation rather than divine worship.

The three introduce themselves as Tran of the Golden Suns, Lexund of the Sons of War & Riffolk of the Ironhold Militia and overall commander of the settlement of Providence.

Tarbin, fully aware that the conflict on Parlund has escalated over a period of years, outlines the party’s circumstances over the last few days.

The trio of leaders are shocked.

They inform the party that Parlund has been at war for over a century, that it is an historical belief that they were abandoned by the outside world & that the magical storms have prevented any hope of escape from their situation.

Questioned about their separate abilities to speak gnomish, elfish & dwarfish without having met demihumans (NOTE informed by a player that this is a very un-PC term….oops!), it is explained that each language was believed to be a secret language, a code developed by each allied city state should an ally defect to the enemy.

And the enemy itself?

The leaders tell of five groups, using words like “legion” & “churches” to describe them, driven by a common cause to dominate on behalf of their dark mistress but hamstrung by conflicting ideologies from achieving their shared goals.

They list them as The Bloody Hand who, as the party can readily attest (as can the Sons Of War & Golden Sun warriors who lost half their numbers as they arrived under orders to reinforce Providence), live to destroy all that swears not to their “red queen” but also The Festering Fang, The Blighted Eye, The Corrupting Claw & The Shadow Wing.

The leaders also shed some light on the writing found within the cave.

The Vale Of Frost is a valley located in the Northern Mountains of Parlund while the Cloven Spear is an artefact of war, wielded by an ancestor of the Riffolk in the first battle against servants of the Shadow Wing & currently displayed in the Grand Temple of Respose in the city of Iron Hold.

As night falls, the group are invited to share a meal with the inhabitants of Providence.

Tarbin sings & Trix dance afterwards to the delight of their hosts.

Nathaniel quizzes Riffolk for further information on the history of the Cloven Spear, how it’s head was split in two in killing the commander of the Shadow Wing army in that first battle just before it’s own wielder was slain by a lowly evil minion as victory was achieved.

Estelar seduces a Sons of War warrior, whom reveals his city states true feelings regarding their allies; The Iron Holders are too parochial believing they can create homesteads & defend them forever against the enemy, while the Golden Suns are too idealistic in believing they can defeat it. The Sons Of War are appropriately named for believing that the conflict will never end & only they are truly prepared for it.

Night falls, most of the settlement rests only to be awoken in the early hours by the shouts of a wall mounted guard.

To the front of the settlement, a dozen or so Bloody Hand horsemen gather at the extreme range of bowfire and loose a volley of flaming arrows.

Most thud harmlessly against settlement’s walls.

Trix reaches for the nearest arrow but can’t get to it.

Saul holds her over the wall and she wrenches it out, loads her own bow and defiantly returns it straight into the head of one of warriors, toppling him from his steed.

His comrades ride off into the night.

The others suspect diversionary tactics and spread the assembled warriors to cover all sections of the walls.

Their fears appear justified as they discover a guard fallen off the wall at the far end of the settlement, peppered with arrows.

The party spread out to look for intruders.

A swarm of disembodied heads float out from one of the trees. Their appearance terrifies the settlement soldiers as they are the heads of fallen comrades lost to the prior mentioned ambush.

Nathaniel restores order, barking at the soldiers to resume their posts while the party destroy the jabbering heads intent on tearing them apart with their teeth.

A brief discussion among the group queries to leave now or in the morning….

MoG Christmas Party 2017!

What: MoG Annual Christmas Party
Where: Waitara Anglican Church and Mark & Em’s place
When: Saturday, 9 December starting at 12.00 for lunch, till late
Who: All MoG members and their guests
How much: Bring salad or snacks or drinks – meat provided!
RSVP: by Tuesday, 28th November please

It’s nearly the end of the year, which means that Ministry of Game wants to celebrate Christmas together! This is a great time for everyone from Ministry of Game to hang out, eat and drink and be merry together.  It’s a time where we celebrate another great year of gaming together, and are thankful for the friendships we’ve made and deepened.

All Ministry of Game people are welcome, and this is a family friendly event, so you can bring family and kids too. It’s also a drop-in event, so you can feel free to turn up any time during the day for as long or short as you want to hang out, play games, eat and have fun.

You can RSVP in the comments here or on Facebook, and when you do please say what you’ll be bringing so that we don’t end up with severely unbalanced foods! Imagine a Christmas party if everyone only brought soft drinks…

Grim Grinner Gang

The Grim Grinner Gang are rather far roaming as pirate bands go. For a while they were reportedly to be hiding out on Onverwacht, lurking in one of the ruined cities there and taking paid work from one of the states. That arrangement seemed to have fallen through, and they’ve been on the move for the last couple of years. The intel we pulled off one of their crews we captured on Ancholy said that they were hiding out on Ype-Jhu, but obviously that leaves us with a whole planet to search. I’d advocate going after them before we start getting too entangled with planetary politics, however. End the threat in our own backyard and all that.

 

The Grim Grinner Gang have a culture of violence and brutality, plain and simple. They take what they can and destroy what they can’t. They particularly revel in what they do, and like to leave behind grisly piles of butchered bodies and other such charming calling cards as a warning to those that would try to resist them. Internally, they take much the same approach; only the strongest rule. If you want to be the boss, then you need to have the guts to publically challenge the current boss.

 

Their current leader is Mad Mabel, the self-proclaimed Cannibal Queen. Weather she actually is a cannibal is unproven, but I wouldn’t put it past them. She killed the previous leader, Black Angus in a fight and had his corpse nailed to the front of her Battlemech as a trophy. So yeah, lovely person.

 

At best estimates, the Grim Grinners have maybe two companies of ‘Mechs. However, this does include some Retrotechs and Industrial MODs. Even accounting for that, most of their designs are lower tech then ours, and they do seem to have shortages of supplies and parts. They also have about a battalion of tanks, mostly light hovercraft, that are used as much for support as they are carrying off loot. Finally, all this is supported by a mass of rabble infantry. They’re poorly equipped and trained, but many of them are desperate and hopped up on the ideas of clawing their way up the food chain through some act of insane ultra-violence. This makes ‘em dangerous, if nothing else.

 

Solid intel says that they have a single Mule class dropshipo as their only transport asset, which is in turn hauled around by a Merchant-class jumper. Both of those could be with acquiring if possible to add to our own assets.

 

The Grim Grinners don’t use any fixed colour scheme, but generally aim for lurid or gory patterns based on what supplies they have. They paint toothy grins on the fronts of their ‘Mechs to make them stand out.

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Snuff Is Enough

The crew spends a few minutes studying the map and agree they should begin where the truck was last connected to the Matrix, but first they need to get together in meat space. Elros picks up Sunny from her Auburn home and the two head for Redmond to meet 2Graves. At 2Graves’ home, the three take in an episode of Neil The Ork Barbarian while they wait for Shadow, coming all the way from Everett. They sit in silence and watch the trid, enjoying some relaxed camaraderie. It has to end soon. The bitter cold and deadly shadows await them, and they know it, but for now, for now they can relax as something like friends.

 

Shadow arrives shortly after the episode ends and the team piles into Elros’ SUV. It’s a little after 1pm when they reach The Verge. The sky is covered by thick grey clouds. As they park the SUV and step onto the streets, a light snow begins to fall, dusting the decrepit buildings and crumbling road in a blanket of brown, yellow and coal black frost. The crumbling asphalt is slippery beneath them and the air so frigid that they can see their breath. A rainbow of gang tags marks every wall in sight, some fresh, some faded, some so layered with different tags that they have become indistinguishable. This is where the Renraku truck vanished: a desolate four-way intersection. Here, the most prominent gang tag is a flaming Jack-o-Lantern. 2Graves gestures to one of them and announces:
“Halloweeners. This is their territory.”

 

There are no sights or sounds of life, but Sunny can do better than real life. She has augmented life at her call. She boots up her deck and scans the area for devices running silent. She spots four PANs a couple of streets west and a datajack on the other side of the buildings to their south. The PANs include weapons, a pistol each. Sunny lets the team know.
“Let’s go talk to the datajack first,” 2Graves says.
Shadow nods and starts walking. “Yeah. The guns are probably gangers and I doubt they’ll be willing to help.”
Sunny begins: “What should I—“
“Stay in the van,” 2Graves tells her. Elros pops the turret up on the SUV and sends his rotodrones up on guard duty above the street, then jumps into his Steel Lynx to follow 2Graves and Shadow. They pass through an alley between buildings on the south side of the road and emerge onto a similar cold and decript street jammed between looming ruins of office and apartment buildings long abandoned by their lawful owners. But unlike the street they parked on, there’s somebody here. On the far side of the road, the team spots an elf huddled in a pile of wet garbage, clutching to a page from the Seattle Times, pulling it around him like a shawl. He looks as tragic and decrepit as the buildings around him. His skin, dry and yellow like old parchment, appears to be peeling away from his bones.
“Hey, have you seen anything strange?” Shadow calls out from across the road. The squatter looks up and scans the street.
“Don’t shout. You’ll bring the whole Halloweeners gang down on us,” Elros tells him.
Shadow ignores the e-ghost and continues shouting: “Not now. I mean in the last few days.”
The squatter doesn’t reply, just lowers his gaze to the street. Undeterred, Shadow crosses the road to get closer. With less distance between them, Shadow sees that the elf’s skin isn’t peeling, but every inch of him is covered in slap patches. Some fresh and white, many decayed, yellowing, and losing their adhesion. The squatter looks up to acknowledge Shadow. His eyes – old model cyber eyes – are milky white, the right one has a visible crack through its surface. Beneath the peeling slap patches are visible bruises on the squatter’s face.
“I guess you didn’t,” Shadow says. “Did you hear anything?”
“I heard you. Got any bliss?”

 

Sunny, watching through the video feed of Elros’ lynx is overcome with horror at seeing the man’s sorry condition.
“We have to help him, guys. Look at his eyes. Somebody really hurt him.”
“I didn’t bring my cyberware tools with me,” 2Graves says. “Even if I did, they look beyond repair.”
“I could fix them,” Elros says. “I mean, if I had a body.”
“Well you don’t, so it doesn’t matter.”
“But you have the tools, right?” No longer satisfied to sit and listen to her team bicker, Sunny climbs out of the SUV and hurries through the alley to join them. “Let’s put him in the van and take him with us. Hey there, friend. What’s your name?”
“They call me B,” the squatter answers. “Got any bliss?”
“No, but I have some Amber Gel. Come on, come with me.” Sunny pulls B to his feet and enlists Shadow to help him back to the van. 2Graves spots several onlookers peeking out from broken windows or empty doorframes, a mix of hunger, sadness, and curiosity on their faces. Each is as pathetic as B in their own unique way. Without a word, 2Graves gestures for Elros to head back to the van too, then she moves to catch up with Sunny. They don’t get far before the onlookers begin crawling out of the ruins and by the time Sunny has B loaded into the van beside the heater and eating a tub of amber gel, a dozen squatters of every shape and size and metatype has surrounded the team. Elros commands his drones to come down and ready their weapons. The turret on the van swivels to take aim at the hopeful, desperate pack of squatters. None of them flinch at the show of force, but the sudden drop in their mood is palpable. They are not scared, they are resigned. They have nothing in their life that death can take from them.

 

Shadow looks over the group of homeless, picks out an elf and approaches him.
“Have you seen a van?”
“Sure,” the elf stutters out with effort. “Got any food?”
“I do.”
“Then I’ve seen a van. I’ve seen three vans, if you want. Give me the food and I’ll tell you.”
“Does the van have a Renraku logo on it?”
The rest of the gathered squatters begin to shout in a pleading chorus: “I know that van! I’ve seen it! I can take you there!”
Shadow keeps his focus on the elf before him. “Well?”
“Yeah, I know where it is. The food.”
“Van first. Then food.”
“Will you show me the food? I want to see it.”
“Sure.” Shadow reaches into his coat pocket and takes out an expensive protein bar. Never has he been so thankful for his healthy snacking habits. This is what makes an excellent negotiator. What is so simple for him is now his greatest adv—

 

The hungry squatters fall on Shadow in a single mass, snatching and clawing. The protein bar disappears from his hand and the writhing, tearing swarm of starving vagrants battle amongst themselves over the morsel until Elros commands his rotodrone to fire its taser. It takes two shots and two twitching drooling squatters on the ground to send the group into a scatter. Elros retrieves the protein bar from the road and, with a gesture to the unconscious elven vagabond, says to 2Graves:
“Can you wake that one up? He said he knew where the van is.”
“Sure,” 2Graves says. “Help me get them both off the road, first.”

 

Once they have the road clear of squatters, 2Graves applies some rudimentary first aid and Shadow recommences negotiations. The vagrant confirms he knows the location of the Renraku truck and can take the team to it. Shadow offers half the protein bar in advance and half when they find it, and the terms are agreed. Sunny, meanwhile, makes a different offer to the other tasered squatter. She gives him her scarf wrapped around a 250 nuyen cred stick and sends him on his way, encouraging him to buy some food. She tells B to wait in the van while the team goes to finish the mission. B, vitalised a little by the warmth and food, agrees to wait, but seems mostly confused by his circumstances.
“All those people,” she says as the group begins to walk again. “They were so hungry. This is terrible. How many poor people are there?”
“More than we can help,” 2Graves says. “There’s probably a couple of hundred within a square kilometre of here.”
“We have to do something!”
“Right now we have to finish a run. Worry about them later.”
“You’re right. But I at least want to get B’s eyes fixed. I’ll pay for it if you can do it, 2Graves. And a detox.”
“Run now, Sunny. The rest can wait.” 2Graves checks the clip in her ingram and chambers a round. The quick maintenance helps her to refocus. It’s not that she doesn’t care, not that she thinks Sunny is wrong, but what can she do? Is she supposed to save everybody? Save the world? Sure. She’ll get right on that just as soon as she can afford to pay her rent.

 

The elf squatter walks the crew a few blocks north of where they parked, takes them down an alley and stops at a rolling garage door at the back of an office block. Elros sends a flyspy in through a broken window and after some exploration, finds a door to the garage and sees the Renraku truck they’re after. It’s locked up tight, but Elros can see the blood stains in the cab.
“This is it,” he tells the team. “Now we just need to get in.”
“I’ve got a crowbar,” Shadow says, pulling said crowbar from one of the numerous concealed and seemingly bottomless pockets of his greatcoat.
“What else have you got in there?” 2Graves asks.
“I’ve got a duffel bag with my wilderness survival kit?”
2Graves arches an eyebrow at him.
With a playful smile, Shadow admits: “Okay, I don’t have that. But I do have a medkit in here somewhere, and a gun. And a crowbar. Want to do the honours?”
“Sure. Give me a hand.” While the two of them work on breaking into the garage, Sunny gives their guide the second half of the protein bar and offers him a credstick loaded with 250 nuyen.
“Buy food with it. Keep it secret, too. I don’t want anybody to hurt you for it.”
“Thank you,” the guide says, stuffs the credstick into the pocket of his coat and makes fast tracks.
“You shouldn’t do that,” Elros says.
“Do what?” Sunny asks.
“Give them money. They’ll just spend it on drugs or gamble it away or just drop it in the snow.”
“He said he was going to buy food.”
“If he spent his money wisely on things like food, he wouldn’t be homeless. All of them, they’re in this position for a reason. They got themselves into this situation and they’ll stay in it until they get themselves out of it.”
“That’s… That’s awful.”
“It’s—“ a loud crack and screech of metal cuts Elros off before he can finish. 2Graves rolls the garage door open, hands Shadow his crowbar back and says:
“Stow it, you two. Let’s see if the gear is here.”

 

The van is locked, but 2Graves makes quick work of that problem by breaking a window in the cab. Without a key, they can’t start the van, but there’s a switch to unlock the back. There’s also a data port for Sunny to plug her deck into and, with it, she’s able to, upload Elros to it, and the elven e-ghost reprograms the truck to recognise him and him alone as the owner. While they work on that, Shadow and 2Graves open the truck and discover…

 

Nothing.

 

Disappointed, but hardly surprise, they regroup around the van and 2Graves announces their discovery:
“It’s empty. The simsense gear is gone.”
“But we have a truck. Well, Elros has a truck. Renraku might want it back, though.”
“What’s that?” 2Graves says and makes a nod towards the passenger seat. All eyes follow hers, but only Sunny sees what she’s talking about. Sitting on the passenger side floor is a datachip stamped with a burning Jack-o-Lantern symbol.
“Is that…” Shadow asks.
“I think so,” Elros confirms.
“Only one way to find out,” Sunny says. She picks up the sim chip, slots it into her sim module, and presses play.

 

In a dimly lit dining room, Sunny sits in a gilded claw foot chair. A long mahogany dining table extends into the darkness in front of her. Silverware and ornamental ceramics are piled with charred meats. Looking closer, Sunny sees that they’re all human remains. A collection of burnt hands sit on a platter, on the plate in front of her is an arm missing chunks of flesh, exposing the bone. Sunny stands and steps away from her chair. The walls are draped with black tarps, but she sees a partiall exposed window and in it her reflection. She’s wearing a heshen mask over her face. The sight fills her with pride. Outside, she can see ruined buildings circling a frozen lake. Sunny turns and walks along the table until she reaches the other end. Sitting at the far side of the table is a human man in nothing but his underwear. He’s in a similar dining chair, but his wrists and ankles are zip tied. Without taking eyes off him, Sunny reaches down to the table and picks up a carving knife. The human begins to scream and struggle against his bonds. Sunny has never felt so excited. She gives him a moment to realise the futility of his desperation, then begins. Switching between the knife and a stun baton, Sunny spends 15 minutes of torturing him before he dies. She enjoys every moment of it. It is an unmatched thrill. She’s never known joy like this.

 

Then Sunny wakes up, rolls over and vomits. She knows it’s awful, she knows what she’s seen is wrong, but in those first few moments when the BTL ends, she wants to go back. She forces any thought out of her mind, purges herself of the impulse like she’s purged her stomach, and assures herself that it wasn’t her. She didn’t do the killing. She’s not a monster.
“It’s…” she coughs, wipes her mouth, and stands up. “It’s a snuff BTL. They’re using the simsense equipment for snuff BTLs.” For a moment, nobody has anything to say. Then Shadow says:
“New plan. We find the equipment and we kill them all.”

 

Nobody objects.

 

Elros drives the truck out of the garage and brings it up beside his SUV in the street. Taking both vehicles, the team Drives a few blocks west to where Sunny sawed armed PANs when they first arrived. They park some distance back. Elros sends his rotodrones into the air to prepare for whatever comes next. 2Graves uses the door of the SUV to steady her assault rifle, and looks ahead. Just as they expected, four Halloweeners. She puts on in her sights.
“I’ll go and do my face thing then, shall I?” Shadow says, but begins walking before anyone answers.
“Got your gun?” 2Graves asks.
Shadow pats his holstered pistol through his coat. “Yep.”
Sunny watches him until he’s out of ear shot, then says “He’s going to get shot.”
“Yep,” Elros agrees.
“Everybody be ready,” 2Graves tells them.

 

Shadow approaches the group of Halloweeners casually. They’re dressed in chains and black leather, the flaming Jack-O-Lantern printed on the backs of their jackets. Each has a Browning Ultra on their hip. Subtle, they are not.
“I’m marking their guns,” Sunny tells Shadow over her commlink. “Give me a minute before you start.”
Shadow continues his approach a little slower.
“Drek. Okay, that didn’t go so well. Hold on.” Before Shadow can ask what happened, the four Halloweeners draw their guns and start looking around. One begins tapping on his commlink. Another take his ‘link out and makes a call. Another sees Shadow approaching and calls out:
“Yo, chummer. This is Halloweener territory. You want to walk around here, you’ve got to pay the toll.”
“What if I don’t want to walk around here? Can I go walk somewhere else?”
“Too late for that. You’re already working, which means you’re paying the toll. 200 nuyen.”
“Seems expensive just for walking.”
“I don’t get a frag how expensive you think it is. That’s the toll.”
“All right. Have you got a credstick so I can make the transfer? I don’t carry any, myself, and obviously I don’t carry money.”
The Halloweener stares dumbfounded at Shadow. “Are… Are you an idiot? The toll is 400 for idiots. You owe us 400.”
“Okay, but I still don’t know how I’m going to pay it.”
“Well, what have you got that’s valuable? That coat looks nice?”
“I’ve got this,” Shadow says and takes his medpack from one of his innumerable pockets. “It’s probably worth about 400 nuyen.” Shadow extends his hand towards the Halloweener, keeping his eyes on the ganger, smiling his most foolish smile. The Halloweener reaches out to take the medpack. Just before his hand closes, Shadow drops the medpack and as the Halloweener watches it falls, Shadow draws his pistol.

 

Elros shoots first, launching a surprise burst of assault rifle fire from his drone. 2Graves follows suit, putting a couple of shots into a Halloweener head. Sunny has three of the Halloweeners’ guns marked and launches a dataspike, turning it into slag in the ganger’s hand. Before she can hit another one, a warning sign pops up in front of her. Somebody has just tried to mark her deck.
“They have a decker,” she tells the team. She runs a quick search and spots the decker’s avatar a few hundred metres north. “Sending coordinates.”
“I’ll get him,” Elros says, and sends his second rotodrone to deal with the hacker. Shadow and he Halloweeners swap lead with each other, but the Halloweeners are outgunned and caught off guard. 2Graves takes down another with effortless ease, sighting them in her scope and pulling the trigger with the serenity and of an expert marksman. Sunny frags another of their weapons, blowing off the ganger’s hand as she does. The last Halloweener standing looks the situation over, gives it a second thought and bolts. He doesn’t get far before 2Graves puts a bullet through his knee and Shadow tases him into submission. Not far away, Elros’ rotodrone breaks through a window and with its own taser, knocks out a Halloweener decker.

Shadow holsters his weapons and signals for the team to join him in the upcoming interrogation.
“Now,” he says to the Halloweener. “I’m going to ask you some questions. But first, what have you got on you worth 400 nuyen?”

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Silience – Session Three

The party are joined by a delightful gnomish barbarian by the name of Trix.

She’s more than happy to go along with the group’s decision to find the Bloody Hand Clan’s camp and destroy them.

Nathaniel remembers to decapitate the corpses of the barbarians they’ve just killed.

Tarbin leads the party through the forest to the camp even though everyone else can (more or less) see in the dark because (like y’know) he’s the ranger.

The camp is revealed as a large open clearing, one hundred feet long and sixty feet wide.

A single tent stands in the middle.

Four warriors huddle around  a camp fire near a dozen horses at the camp’s southern edge while a crude wooden structure stands opposite, glowing red light visible between the cracks in the walls & a bored sentry outside.

Trix believes the light might be a glowing magic crystal but noone can tell.

The paladin Saul gets a headache from the evil radiating off the camp’s occupants.

Once the warriors fall asleep, Tarbin & Trix sneak in to coup-de-grace them.

Two are disposed of before the sentry notices them.

Doran then charges to engage as Saul & Nathaniel fire arrows wildly.

The two remaining sleepers awake and furious melee is engaged leaving all the warriors dead but many of the group (Tarbin especially) sorely wounded.

Doran emits a wave of positive energy to heal the party and a voice is heard from the tent.

“I can smell you all”

A shape moves from the tent  into the forest to reappear from behind the wooden structure.

A tall man dressed as the other Bloody Hand warriors but confident enough to allow the party to act first.

Nathaniel burns the warrior’s hair with magical fire, Trix decorates his armour with an itty bitty arrow while Tarbin scores a palpapile hit to the stomach with his composite bow.

The tall man charges in RAGE!

Saul charges to counter but is brushed aside with a savage blow.

Doran & Trix join in the melee but Doran is mortally wounded in the flurry of violence & it takes an arrow to the eye from Nathaniel to lay the berserker down.

Nathaniel, Trix & Tarbin examine the hut & consider the source of the red light that flickers & glows inside.

After much consideration, Tarbin alerts dwelling’s inhabitant, a lone Bloody hand clansman, who opens the door and is shot dead without warning by the ranger.

Within stands an ugly male child, about four years old, red skinned, glowing in red light & heat, radiating evil that the paladin Saul can detect without effort.

Trix enters to kill it.

“Don’t kill me” says the child and much to her consternation Trix puts down her axe as directed.

“Don’t kill me” says the child as Tarbin as notches an arrow.

He releases and puts an arrow in it’s chest & it falls over dead, igniting the floor of pine needles & turning the dwelling into a fiery torch.

The corpses are duly & dutifully decapitated before the party rests the night.

Come morning, Doran is refreshed enough to wash a healing wave of  positive energy over everyone and the group set off for the settlement, each horse either ridden by a party member (Tarbin takes the best for himself) or laden with the clan’s axes, shields and arrows.

As they approach the settlement’s gate, it’s wall fill with apprehensive warriors, bows notched and aimed at the them.

The party stops at a respectful distance.

One of the wall’s warriors shouts abusively in orcish “To hell with your red queen!”

Saul’s reply that she can indeed go to hell, causes some confusion amongst those facing them & encourages the a trio of warriors to leave the settlement, mounted on the warhorses.

One wears grey armour, his armour hopliticin design.

Another wears gold with the face of the sun on his breastplate.

The leader shines in silver, his breastplate carrying a triple linked triangle symbol.

Tarbin displays the collection of Bloody Handed clanman’s heads & the party is invited into the settlement.

Inside the tall walls, hundreds of tree trunks carved and hewn into a rectangular fortress & mounted by dozens of bow ready warriors, stand seven wooden structures surrounding common fenced ground of crops and livestock.

Six of the building are dwellings, made obvious by the scores of women & children peering curious & cautiously from the doors, but the seventh larger building sat square between two massive oak trees has the look of a temple.

As they are directed within, Nathaniel ponders his belief that the triple triangle symbol suggests a conservative,  close, family based society while the others realise that although everyone seems to have never met a demihuman before, the silver clad leader directs his soldiers to take care of the horses in gnomish…….

From the personal journal of Burney Nexx

Two weeks of travel to Ype-Jhu and several days in the field have given me a chance to get to know the men under my command a bit better. It’s enough to tell me that they’re a real mixed bag, ranging from the loyal to pirate scum.

 

Bolts is one of the good ones; a native of Santa-Ana who joined the revolution when he was just a kid. He’s a MechWarrior and a technician, which gives him a whole range of useful skills. He’s assigned to my command lance, so I’ll be able to ensure he’s well looked after; that he’s also got the company’s heaviest ‘Mech is useful.

 

McKinnon is an interesting case, being someone from the Inner Sphere. He’s a gambler and boozer, but there’s definitely an air of sophistication to him that is otherwise lacking in this outfit. During the voyage, he had everyone hanging off his every word as he described his various past exploits and some of the worlds he’s seen. It’s amazing the things that they take for granted that would seem like impossible dreams to us.

 

Baden’s one of the ones I could have done without. A former pirate, he joined us only after the alternative was hanging. I don’t trust the man at all, and I’d sooner be without him, even if he is a good pilot. Fortunately, he’s assigned to the recon lance, so he’s Vossler’s concern.

 

While Lancaster’s another pirate, she had the intelligence to turn on her fellows and sell them out to us. She’s definitely made the right decision, and I do respect her for that. She’s a lot smarter than the average pirate and I think that she could go places if she plays her cards right.

 

Back to the subject. After several days of fruitless searching for the Grim Grinner Gang, we finally had contact after a fashion. Vossler’s recon lance was returning from a sweep when they were intercepted by a pirate lance. This setback turned out to be a blessing in disguise; while they did take more damage than hoped for (especially Vossler), in return they were not only able to escape with useful intel but they were able to do a fair amount of damage in return. One of the pirate ‘Mechs, a Cicada, was disabled, and another two were heavily damaged. Not a bad exchange.

 

And with the intel they’ve gathered, I have enough to make a move on the Grim Grinners and end their threat here and now.

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