IM Shadows

A Splintered State

January 21, 2075. 6:15pm Pacific Time.

Ayita is enjoying a warm meal when she snaps to alert, mystically warned of impending danger. With superhuman speed she leaps across her apartment to grab her armored jacket just as her door is blown off its hinges. Standing in the doorway is a cybered-up dinosaur of a human, sporting two massive gold-chrome cyberarms and skin fused with armored plates. His jewelry, coloring, and accent strongly suggest affiliation with the Italian Mafia as he announces his arrival with a smirk. “Knock, knock.”

While the cyberwarrior hangs back, two soldatos brandishing baseball bats and pistolas rush in to accost Ayita. She sends a quick alert to her teammates and reconsiders escaping through her 2nd story window when a hail of bullets starts shredding the glass from the outside. Turning to her assailants, Ayita lets fly with a kitchen knife at a lucky soldato whose cheek is barely grazed by the blade.

Ayita’s team, having received her alert and location, goes into action. Dom, who is already on the road, becomes one with his GMC Bulldog and starts tearing through the Barrens, heading to pick up Florian on his way to the scene. Bandit relaxes in the sanctity of his abode and frees his Astral Form from his body, preparing for a Spirit Journey.

Meanwhile, the soldatos’ luck begins to run out. As one swings a baseball bat at Ayita’s head, she retrieves her Tomahawk from its place of honor on the floor of her apartment. Feeling whole once again, she brings her Weapon Focus up to parry the blow. Ayita is a blur as she nearly shatters the bat and ferociously counter-attacks. Her Tomahawk pierces her attacker’s armor and buries itself in his stomach. The soldato crumples to the floor, bleeding out, as his partner attacks Ayita from behind. Giving up on the bat, the second assailant draws his pistol and attempts to gun her down, but is unable to match her speed and agility. She connects with her mystical weapon again; while the second soldato’s armor holds strong, the force of the blow is enough to crack his ribs. The soldato cries out for help to the cyberwarrior, “Ceasar!”, before he collapses.

Caesar “Chrome” Ciarniello, scion of the Ciarniello Crime Family, had seen enough. “Get up here!” he screams into his commlink, calling down to his soldiers outside. In a rage, the gold-plated warrior storms into the apartment and engages Ayita in hand-to-hand combat.

The four soldiers outside hear Chrome’s call for help and stop firing their weapons. They begin to run into the apartment building just as Bandit completes his Spirit Walk, Astrally arriving on the scene.

With Chrome’s highly-wired reflexes, he moves nearly as quickly as Ayita, and he is obviously stronger and better armored. He is decidedly outmatched, however, when it comes to sheer melee combat skill. While he could hold out for his remaining soldiers to arrive, he impatiently opts to try and end the combat quickly, drawing his Ensfield AS-7 Shotgun from its back holster and lining up a point-blank shot.

Ayita, who could easily dodge the rapidly-fired slug, opts instead to remain in place. Filled with the defiance, awe, and glorious majesty of her mentor spirit, the savage Thunderbird, Ayita smiles and stands tall as the blast crashes into her armored jacket. The pain itself very nearly knocks her out, but Thunderbird, high above on its mystical perch is pleased with its protege, and it keeps her barely conscious.

Bandit’s Astral form enters the carnage of Ayita’s apartment and quickly takes in the situation. Looking to even the odds a little, Bandit humbly requests the presence of Brother Bear, an aggressive and protective Spirit of Beasts.

Ayita, reeling but still in command of her faculties, notes that bullets have stopped flying in through the window and decides to make her exit. In a flash, she grabs her go-bag, leaves a smoke grenade behind, and jumps out the window. Thunderbird carries Ayita safely to the ground as Caesar chases her to the window. Howling in fury as he watches her hop onto her motor scooter, he hears the emergence of Brother Bear behind him. Chaos ensues in what remains of Ayita’s apartment.

Dom & Florian soon reach the barely conscious Ayita and take both her and the scooter into the van. They make for a safe house in the Barrens where Bandit soon joins them.

With less than a day to prepare, the Runners make a plan for their meet with “Seth Dietrich”. They study maps and the security of the Ft. Lewis Zoo and decide on their approach,. For good measure, they also do their homework on Basilisks.

Jan 22, 2075, 12:30pm Pacific Time

The next day, the runners load up into Dom’s van. Sticking to relatively safe roads through several districts of the Metroplex, the Runners pull up to the I-5 checkpoint at the entrance to Ft. Lewis. After registering their Fake SINs with the Virtual Greeter that appears on their AR displays, the actual checkpoint MP does a quick eyeball of the van. He checks in with Bandit as to the purpose of their visit (“To see the basilisks at the zoo!”), and, satisfied, waves the Runners through into Seattle’s greenest district.

As the Runners pull into the zoo parking lot, they debate the merits of various approaches into the Zoo itself. Chief among their concerns is whether and how they ought to smuggle weapons in for the meet. As the public policy of the zoo is that special permission is required to bring weapons on the premises, Bandit decides to channel Raccoon’s powers of persuasion. While the majority of the gate guards are attending to a busload of schoolchildren, Bandit’s subtle magic convinces an MP that the Runners have “special permission” to bring light arms onto the premises. Each of them is given a security bracelet broadcasting this fact in Augmented Reality.

With a few minutes before the scheduled meet at 3pm, Florian drags the runners past a Pride of Pegasi on their way to take up tactical positions. Dom and his trio of Noizquito drones take up position to the north of the Basilisk “tunnel”, a forested path mostly shielded from the sun. Ayita takes up position to the south, while Bandit and Florian prepare to make the approach.

Dom sends one of his Noizquitos on a fly-by through the tunnel. Among a few other sightseers, the drone spots a lone man standing and staring at the Basilisk exhibit. The video feed, being broadcast to both Florian and Dom, appears to be a good match for images of Seth Dietrich that Florian was able to obtain via the Matrix.

As Bandit and Florian near the exhibit and catch sight of the stranger, Bandit mystically scans him. In addition to a waves of fear coming off of the stranger, Bandit notes a peculiar corruption of his aura. It’s like nothing he’s ever seen or even heard of before. Not toxic, not infested, not of darkness, but something unnatural regardless.

As they near the stranger, Bandit is surprised to recognize him as the “ejected patron” from two nights ago at Bar Banshee. The oddities continue to mount as Florian and Bandit hail the him. Conversing cautiously, the Runners drop hints about wanting to get on with the planned exchange. The stranger doesn’t seem to acknowledge knowing who “Seth Dietrich” is, nor is he forthcoming about personal information himself, but he aggressively asks them questions about why the Runners are there. Quickly convinced that there’s no money to be made off dealing with this lunatic, the Runners decide to abort and start to back off. As they attempt to leave, the Runners bear witness to the awful sight of a sniper’s bullet tearing a hole in the stranger’s neck. The bullet embeds itself in the electrochroamatic glass of the Basilisk exhibit, introducing a large, spidery crack.

All hell breaks loose in the Basilisk tunnel as the stranger collapses to the ground. A nearby UCAS MP starts to ready his rife as two assassins come out of hiding at either end of the tunnel. The aggressive Basilisks, sensing the possibility of freedom, start to throw themselves at the cracked glass.

Realizing that they’re outgunned and in a vulnerable position, Florian & Bandit take cover across from the exhibit. Seeing the conflict unfold, Ayita rushes in towards the southmost assassin, while Dom commands his Noizquitos to deploy and distract the assassin near him. The MP takes aim at the northmost wetworker but is gunned down by the sniper before he can get a shot off.

With a crash, the Basilisks free themselves from their cage and begin looking for their next meal. The female sets her sights on one of several middle school children that are fleeing the scene in panic. Bandit, not wishing to see the creatures harmed, requests the presence of Brother Snake the Wise.

The assassins pin Florian and Bandit down with gunfire, but are unable to hit their marks through the cover of the forest. Florian, trusting Ayita’s combat prowess, makes the call to improve her cover against attacks from the North.

Ayita reaches her assassin and catches him unaware, driving her Tomahawk into his back with considerable might. The Tomahawk fails to crack his quality cyberarmor, but the surprise attack is ferocious enough to stagger the wetworker. As she prepares her next attack, Thunderbird alerts her to an incoming sniper’s bullet, which she wisely opts to dodge this time. Realizing that her position is vulnerable to sniper fire, Ayita breaks for the cover of the Basilisk exhibit with blinding speed.

As the northern assassin takes careful aim at Florian, he is treated to simultaneous visual and aural assault by Dom’s three Noizquitos. The wetworker’s cyber enhancements shield from the worst of the blinding and ear-piercing effects, but the distraction is sufficient to ruin his shot.

Brother Snake materializes as a Giant Mountain Kingsnake awash in magical energy. The Basilisks supplicate themselves to the Kingsnake’s commanding aura, and remain in place at its behest. Once they are firmly under its sway, it commands them to return to their enclosure.

The tide begins to turn as the whine of approaching Response Drones becomes audible. Sniper fire seems to have stopped, and the assassins start to make their escape. Heading southwest, the northmost attacker loses Dom’s Noizquito in the cover of the forest, but has more difficulty eluding Ayita’s pursuit. Despite his obvious enhancements, his foot speed is no match for Ayita’s, and she makes short work of his head start. Before she is able to reach him, however, the assassin disappears in a cover of magical concealment. Lacking any mystical sight of her own, Ayita snarls at her denied opportunity to count coup. She joins the rest of her team in their efforts to flee the scene.

Florian and Bandit reach the Wellness center and find themselves out of immediate danger. Feeling it safe to spend a few moments in VR, Florian vengefully scans the nearby Matrix, looking for a device profile that’s a likely match for the sniper’s rifle. After filtering out the UCAS military-issue weapons, he spots a stealthily-connected device that seems a likely match. After doing a full scan of the device and confirming the weapon’s profile, Florian launches multiple Data Spikes at the rifle, frying its internal circuitry. He then finds the commlink serving as the rifle’s firewall and spikes that once before its owner takes it offline. With some a small need for vengeance sated, Florian snaps out of VR and heads for the exit with Bandit and the rest of his team

On their way out of the Zoo, Bandit stops at the gift shop to acquire an offering to make to Raccoon. While he could easily afford to pay for the 14.95¥ plush Basilisk, such an offering would ill befit his mischievous mentor. Instead, Bandit attempts to abscond with the plush toy in plain view of the shopkeeper. While his palming attempt is shoddy, Raccoon looks on approvingly as Bandit fast-talks the shopkeeper without mystical aid. Distracted by pandemonium in the zoo, the clerk actually believes Bandit’s “I paid for it already!” exclamation for a critical second, during which the team high-tails it out.

Dom pilots the van through the chaos of the parking lot and has it waiting for the team on the other side of the exit. The team loads in and peels out of the zoo, making for I-5. The Bulldog’s sensors don’t pick up any pursuing drones or vehicles, so it appears that the Runners have made a clean getaway.

As they’re traveling on I-5 through Tacoma, a call comes in to Bandit from his fixer. He lets the Runners know that their escapades at the Zoo have already made the newsfeeds, and recommends that they lay low for awhile. Dom takes the team into the Northeast Tacoma Docks, where Bandit knows of a manufacturing facility that doubles as a safe house. The Runners drop 1,000¥ for a few nights of relative safety, and take moment to review the news and handful of commcall messages that have been left for them.

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Into the Shadows

January 20, 2075. 7:00am Pacific Time.

Dominic Torreto, passed out in his cluttered garage/apartment in the Redmond Barrens, is violently awakened by the sound of banging on his metal door. He groggily issues an “open” command to his Home Area Network, revealing a half-dozen Knight Errant officers led by two plainclothes detectives. Without a whole lot of discussion, he is thrown into a patrol car and brought Downtown. Before he’s cut off from the Matrix he orders the autopilot on his GMC Bulldog Step-Van to relocate nearby and await further instructions.

Upon arriving at the station, Dom is thrown into a lock-up with three local Shadowrunners that he knows only barely by reputation. He shares a cell with Jeffrey “Bandit” Laveur, a Raccoon Street Shaman of peculiar charm. In the lock-up next to them are two female Shadowrunners, Anka “Neph” Husak, a clean-cut Matrix Investigator who shares an obvious personal bond with Bandit, and “Ayita”, a Tribal warrior of some kind who is manacled in extra-strong braces.

The Shadowrunners are subjected to a series of clumsy interrogations regarding a delivery-truck hijacking the previous evening. Detective Jared Quinn, a Dwarf and lead detective on the case, and Detective Larry Redoak, a cybered-up Native American Ork, reveal that four perpetrators fled Downtown through Bellevue and into the Barrens last night. Desperate to appear proactive whenever there is violence on a Downtown Street, the investigators seem to have fished up the first four Barrens disreputables they could get their hands on. Unfortunately, none of the Runners seems to know anything about the hijacking, and none can be convinced to implicate their cellmates.

After spending their morning being wrongfully accused by the police, the Runners are visited by a severely-dressed, fast-talking human woman sporting a bob of neon orange hair. She introduces herself as “Imaginary” Annie Goldsmith, Attorney at Law. After threatening Knight Errant with allegations of “wrongful arrest” and “unlawful questioning”, Annie gets the Runners sprung from custody. She demands no payment for her services, but requests that the Runners accompany her for a chat and a drink at the Soybucks down the street. Bandit takes a moment to Assense Annie, revealing that she sports no cyberware implants and that she has an Awakened aura.

Annie and Ayita both order cups of soykaf. Neph orders a tea, Dom downs four espressos, and Bandit enjoys a cup of soy milk. Explaining that she often likes to connect people that she thinks can help one another out, Annie presents the Runners with the opportunity to do some business. She’s none-too-revealing on the details, but she assures the Runners that there is some extremely light work available to be picked up. In addition to presenting them all with her ARO business card, she leaves the Runners with a matchbook, quickly bids them goodbye, and scurries out of the Soybucks. The Runners examine the matchbook: it is branded “Banshee”, a dive bar located in the Barrens, squarely in the territory of the 162 Ghoul Gang. Inside the cover is scrawled the message “7p.m.” and a commcode number.

Not wholly comfortable with the circumstances under which they were approached for this job, the Runners take precautions prior to the meet. Bandit summons “Salmon”, a Water Spirit attuned to Detection tasks, and asks for an astral scan of the bar. Salmon returns moments later with little to report aside from some weariness gained from swimming through the slightly toxic astral background of the West Barrens.

Neph, not wholly trusting Invisible Annie, does a Matrix search on her. The Runners are able to take a little comfort in the revelation that Annie has a fairly solid reputation among the Seattle underworld.

Dom has his van pick the Runners up and bring them all back to the Barrens. They individually pass time until 6:30pm that evening. Hoping to avoid spending too much time in 162 territory, the runners aim to arrive early, but not too early.

Upon arrival at Banshee, the Runners survey the scene. Bandit asks the Spirit World to hide his earthly presence while he provides a live video feed of his reconnaissance to the rest of the team. He narrowly avoids collision with a patron being “ejected” by the bouncer, sneaks underneath the batwing doors and past the surly Ork, and establishes visuals. Dom directs his Fly Spy drone to provide another vantage point, and follows with a sweep of the surrounding area. Ayita takes up position outside the bar, surveying the tactical situation. Neph scans the spotty Barrens Matrix for a commlink listening under Mr. Johnson’s commcode. All of the team’s recon points to the same conclusion: sitting in the recessed back corner of the Banshee, secluded from the 162s, Blood Mountain Boys, and other rowdy bar patrons, Mr. Johnson awaits.

Having ruled out any obvious ambushes, Dom maintains drone overwatch from the van. Ayita moves in, taking up a position at the bar to provide some on-site physical security. Old chummers Bandit and Neph make the approach. Mr. Johnson, an Asian human in a plain suit, greets the Runners warmly and invites them to join him for a drink (he recommends that the Runners avoid the “beer” and stick to the synthahol…Bandit drinks plain, Neph opts for cherry-flavored). Pressed for time, Mr. Johnson presents a simple mission to the runners: retrieve a commlink from a piece-of-drek Ork drug dealer named “Oxycode,” who is staying in Room 312 at the Novelty Hills Sleep & Eat. Johnson assures the Runners that the job is a simple milk run, and the pay reflects that. Bandit handles the negotiations and manages to score a few thousand more nuyen for their trouble, but the Runners are looking at a measly 6k at best. Still, in theory, it ought to be an easy night’s work.

The Runners load up in Dom’s van and he peels east through the Barrens to the Sleep & Eat. As they pull up to the converted warehouse, Dom’s drones quickly sweep the building and the surrounding area. They discover a backdoor to the hotel, which seems like the most appealing entry option (at the very least it keeps them out of view of the half-dozen Crimson Crushers loitering at the Stuffer Shack down the street). In order to maintain the lowest possible profile, Neph puts her disguise talents to work on Ayita, making her look like a streetwalker who would fit in around these parts. Bandit once again asks the Spirit World to hide him from sight.

With its service port easily accessible, the cheap Maglock protecting the back door is no match for Neph’s superior hacking skills. Though it takes her a few seconds longer than expected to get the door open, as a spot of bad luck trips her up and she feels compelled to scrub all traces of the Novelty Hills Sleep & Eat logo from her Persona.

With the back door opened, the Runners quickly but discreetly make their way up to “room” 312 of the coffin-hotel. Several knocks by Ayita go unanswered, but the Runners are able to detect a faint light peeking out through the bottom of the door. A quick hack by Neph disarms its even weaker Maglock and the door pops open, revealing a dead Ork lying on the ground next to two commlinks. One is a run-of-the-mill Sony Emperor and the other is a Limited Edition Hermes Ikon in Matte Black with Lime Green trim. The Runners search the body (presumably of Oxycode) and discover a Browning Ultra-Power pistol and a credstick. Heeding the old street maxim, they leave the gun and take the credstick (later revealed to be worth 150 nuyen). They search the room further but decide to cut out after about a minute of scrounging about.

The Runners head straight back to the Banshee. As they have no way to tell which commlink Mr. Johnson is interested in, they present him with both. Surprised at the development, he examines the devices and checks another he was carrying himself. Satisfied, he pockets the Sony Emperor, pays the runners with a satchel of credsticks, and advises them that they might want to try and make some money off of the Ikon. He then disappears from The Banshee after nodding his farewell to the barkeep.

The job complete, the Runners retire to their evenings. Hoping to sell the Ikon, Bandit tries to get word to his Fixer that he has some merchandise to move. Neph, concerned about bringing potentially hot merchandise to her apartment, gives the commlink to Dom for safe keeping. Then she checks in with a buddy of hers at Knight-Errant Dispatch on the status of the hijacking case that kicked off today’s ordeals. So far, nothing.

January 21, 2075. 9:13am Pacific Time.

The next morning, Neph calls Dom and asks him to bring the commlink and pick her up. Jumping into the back of the van, she slips into VR and goes to work on scrubbing the device clean. Dom keeps on the move in order to thwart any efforts to trace them.

The Ikon puts up a surprising amount of resistance to Neph’s efforts, but there is little it can do in the face of her persistence. As soon as she achieves her first Mark on the device, her AI Agent “Ray” points out what’s already become obvious to her: the Hermes Ikon is hiding another, even more sophisticated Matrix Device within it. Stoked with curiosity, she hacks this second device and discovers a single encrypted file. The hidden device tries Neph’s patience as she runs her Decryption routines against it, but she is ultimately successful. The device gets one last laugh, though, as Neph discovers that the recovered file is merely a fragment of a larger one. She shares the data with the rest of the team, along with the name of the commlink’s owner: Seth Dietrich. The file is obviously incomplete, and yet it is densely packed with fearsome words: “bomb”, “terrorist”, “murder", "FBI”, “copycat killer”, [Governor] “Brackhaven”, and “Operation Daybreak” among them. [Copy of file available here ]

Bandit, armed with this new knowledge of the advanced device, gets ahold of his Fixer and tries to negotiate a sweeter deal for this unique hardware. He unfortunately isn’t able to make enough headway to get an enticing offer. He reaches out to Imaginary Annie for information, but his conversation is cut short when he mentions she might also be at risk due to her association with them.

Concerned with the danger inherent in having paydata this hot, Neph recommends destroying the commlink outright and the team agrees. Before doing so, she re-encrypts the file fragment and moves it into storage onto a Datachip, which she immediately takes offline.

Ayita puts in a call to her NAN handler and asks about a name found in the fragmented file: Agent Kowalski. The handler recognizes the name of FBI Agent Jennifer Kowalski, and remembers her infamous demise (found hung from a flagpole on Renraku Corporation property), but knows nothing of what she was investigating at the time. He offers to dig around for further information as a favor, and Ayita takes him up on it.

Neph spends the afternoon searching the Matrix for information on file owner “Seth Dietrich” and discovers his reputation as an honorable, especially effective FBI investigator. His status is currently considered MIA (and has been for the past few months) in the midst of an investigation into Governor Kenneth Brackhaven. Brackhaven is under suspicion of various criminal activity directed at the Seattle Ork Underground, the newly official political district that he failed to legally prevent from being recognized.

Several hours later, Ayita receives a commcall from someone claiming to be Agent Seth Dietrich. The caller is aware that Ayita was or is in possession of his missing commlink, and he offers 60,000 nuyen for its return. After learning that the commlink has been destroyed, he is relieved at least that the data on it has been preserved and is willing to pay the same amount for that. He insists that the meeting take place the following day at the Fort Lewis Zoo at 1500 hours, next to the Basilisk exhibit. After conferring with her teammates, Ayita agrees.

Mere moments after Ayita hangs up with “Dietrich”, the door to her apartment is blown violently off of its hinges…

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