CyberTex Session 5

The session starts where we left off. Having located Joe’s safe house, Inuyama has broken down the door, setting off a booby trap bomb. Inuyama, Hawk, and Max take no damage due to their protective ballistic clothing. The investigative reporter Kolchak has stepped out of the smoke,  introduced himself, and said he can’t believe they did that. After a brief conversation, Inuyama steps into the safe house room, on the abandoned 10th floor of a building and looks around. Hawk mutters “Never trust a journalist. It’s only off the record if the journalist is dead.”

He sees what appears to be a facility/machine room for the building. The walls are cinderblock, unpainted. There is hotwired power in the room, and a sad little refrigerator. There are two other rooms walled off within the larger room, also cinderblock walls, of obviously recent construction. Each has a door, one of which is locked with a keypad. The rest of the group enters the safehouse.

Inuyama opens the door to the smaller room. A horrible stench flows out. Apparently this is the “restroom”. No plumbing. Just buckets. Joe is obviously not in his right-mind.

Mistrustful of the reporter Kolchack, Hawk uses his rapier wit skill to set the man at ease and playfully slaps him on the back with his bionic hand. He attempts to use the concealed needle in his finger to administer a knock-out drug, only to find that the needle will no penetrate the man’s overcoat. Kolchak is wearing an overcoat made of ballistic cloth. Kolchak doesn’t notice the attempt to sedate him.

Cut to Joe, who is on the run from the cult members who attacked him in his apartment. He has his 9mm, knife, flak vest, and garrote wire. He’s evaded and killed a number of pursuing cult members, riding the top of a mag-lev train to a Vietnamese section of town, hopping down a couple of blocks from the safe house. He’s paranoid, but hey, it’s not paranoia if they really are after you, right? The streets are very crowded, misty and filled with the smells of street vendors’ food carts. Noisy and busy. Joe stops at a cart for a bowl of noodles. He notices someone following him. He stops to buy a hat to better conceal his identity and notices another person following him. He’s a block from the safehouse building. He ducks into an alley and uses his stealth skill and climbing skill to climb the wall of one side of the alley, up three floors. He rolls a critical success for stealth — he’s damned near invisible up there in the shadows. Reaching the top, he rolls over the edge to the roof of a building, and watches as two cultist search for him. He makes his was as far toward the safehouse as he can via rooftops, finally climbing down. He enters the building, reaching the 10th floor via the stairs, and sees that someone has set off his booby trap. He stealths up, and sees the old team and someone he doesn’t know in the room. He enters, surprising them (his stealth vs Hawk’s passive perception, Quick Contest) asking what the hell they are doing. Given is exposure to the code on the chip he’s been obsessed with, and its effect on Joe’s already damaged mind, the GM requires him to make a Will Roll to see if he believes these are his real friends — the ones he messaged for help — or some imposters. He makes the roll and is able to control his delusion and paranoia.

The team has had no luck finding the combination to the keypad lock, though using his microscopic vision of his bionic eye Hawk has been able to determine which three numbers are used in the combination. After the first bomb, no one wants to force entry. No matter now, as Joe walks in and opens the door. He wants his guns. Following him into the room, Inuyama and Max see a sad, plain little bed, table with a small computer and ‘net connection, and the large crate of guns and ammo that Joe is now going through. The plain cinderblock walls of the room are totally covered with nonsensical writing resembling computer code, written out with some kind marker. Small writing — weeks of work — insane. Joe is not well.

However Joe doesn’t trust Kolchak. He puts his 9mm to the reporter’s head. Kolchack tries a quick contest of his Persuasion vs. Joe’s Will to convince Joe that he’s OK. Both fail their rolls. Stalemate. Joe still not convinced. Kolchak volunteers his 44 revolver in a demonstration of friendliness. Finally, Max convinces Joe to relent.

Joe having informed the group he might have been followed, Inuyama is standing guard at the blown-out door. Two obvious cultists come out the stairwell at the end of the dimly-lit hallway. Combat starts. They are fast, but Inuyama and Joe are much faster. Inuma pull his gun and shoots, hitting one in groin, nearly dropping him. Joe quickly moves out the door, using the sumo as a shield, and fires, blowing the man’s hand off and dropping him. One cultist left.

Max joins the fight, firing at the remaining cultist, hitting him with a devastating blast to the groin (LOVE the hit location chart!), dropping him. The team examines the bodies. One of the cultist has a bionic eye that is obviously a camera. Hawk determines that he was broadcasting. Inuyama smashes the eye, which was functioning even after the man was killed.

Kolchak suggests that they go to the Rot Gut Emporium to share information. They go. He tells them that all the weirdness in the recent years seems to be, according to his research, to be centered around a figure called “the Pope”, who he’s identified as Dane Van Smolt, a recent arrival from the East Coast Complex. Van Smolt apparently believes there is an alternate universe accessible via CyberSpace — a universe of powerful beings. He wishes to be their emissary in this universe, and to that end he’s become an expert on the occult, cyberspace, and the insane leader of a cult.  He’s also rich.

Hawk notices that a woman in the bar is watching them. She pulls out a cell phone. He uses his parabolic hearing to listen in. “Yes, they’re here. I’ll keep an eye on them” she says, then putting the phone away. The group decides to relocate to Pearl’s Party Dome and see if she follows. Max uses his streetwise skill to bribe the bartender to call him if she follow them out. On the way to the party dome in the Big Cadillac, Max gets the call. She left on a motorcycle. He sees her following them. They park at the Party Dome. She stops some distance away, turns and drives away.

End of session.

Other CyberTex info:

CyberTex Session 4

May 5, 2067. It’s been a year since the PCs saw each other. A year since collecting their money from the Pinky. A year since they encountered the cult. A year since things got weird.

It’s 9pm in CyberTex — Downtown Dallas. The sprawl of the DFW domes has gone transparent tonight, revealing a clear sky and stars beyond. A few satellites move overhead, noticed by few, most of them long dead. Despite the clear sky above the dome, the streets of Dallas are foggy (as usual). There’s a mist in the air, and it’s 85 degrees F. Typically weird.

Inuyama finds himself at a sushi bar. In another part of town, Hawk and Max sit, in the middle of an open, abandoned floor of an office building, facing each other across a table, their eyes, closed, ‘trodes on their head, jacked into the shared hallucination of cyberspace. Joe has been MIA for almost a year.

The 25K Inuyama made from his last job has taken some financial load off his back. For the last few months he’s been working as a bodyguard for a SimStim star, Rose Mexicali, who normally resides in DFW when not working. However, at the moment Rose is working on a shoot in El Grande, so Inuyama is unoccupied. Though he typically avoids Japanese crowds due to his reputation and history, a new sushi bar has opened in Downtown Dallas, Yoshihara’s House o’ Sushi, and he is unable to control his Gluttony — he is there. The sushi is the real thing – aquarium grown delicacies – expensive, and he’s blown through nearly his whole last paycheck. 

The place is nice. High quality decor and furnishings, quiet Japanese music. A throwback to the times before the domes – before the wars – when there was not a monitor on every wall. Not a dive at all. Lots of rich people hanging out, eating, drinking. Inyama sits at the bar, a large plate of various kinds of sushi in front of him. The sushi chef working in front of him appears unaugmented. As he sits quietly eating and enjoying some real saki, he watches the man’s hands skillfully prepare food.

Among the crowd Inuyama notices two young men in dark suits. Perfectly attired. Their body language marks them as yakuza, not usually seen in the Texas Megaregion. One of them sits next to Inuyama at the bar. Staring straight ahead, he quietly speaks. “Inuyama-San. I am Hiroto. Thank you for the many enjoyable fights. On behalf of the owners, we welcome you.” Inuyama notices an earpiece in the mans right ear. Someone else is listening. Clearly, Inuyama’s reputation is still a thing. He thanks the man. “Many would love to see you return to your true calling, but not in the sterile confines of tradition. While tradition must be honored, without change there can be no progress. Wouldn’t you agree?” says the yakuza.  “That depends on what the change entails,” responds Inuyama, who asks what is being proposed. The man, who introduces himself as Hiroto, and explains that that is a unique fighting league in Houston. “There is a weekly event in the Houston region. You may not be aware. It is not known to the general public. Should you be interested, I can assure you that your needs would be met.”

Meanwhile, in a gutted and abandoned floor of an old office building, Max and Hawk face each other across a plain folding table, only vaguely aware of their surroundings. Trodes on their heads, both are jacked into cyberspace decks. Max has been studying the occult for the last year, and Hawk has recently begun training him in basic cyberspace deck use. 

In their minds eyes, they float above a world of glowing geometric figures spreading out on an apparently infinite 3-dimensional plane. Directly below them is is the mental representation of Dallas, a consensual hallucination representing the data and energy of the megacity. Hawk is familiar with the basic data structures of the DFW grid. The Aztec Pyramid -like structure of the Hernandez Engineering data banks, the white cubes of various financial institutions (all protected by powerful ICE), the garish glowing towers of the entertainment industry.  The entire city is represented in some way. Not an exact geometric representation, but a data representation. Lots of data or power shows up BIG in cyberspace. But no matter how small, everything has data. Everything is there.

Below them they see what appears to be the data-form of the building where they encountered the cultists jacked into the massive cyberspace port and the cyberdogs a year ago. They see geometric forms moving around the ruined data-structure. Hawk decides to investigate. He leave Max up high, out of site, as Max’s deck has only rudimentary movement ability. Hawk activates his disguise program and moves in to observe. The geometric forms are moving about methodically, extending glowing tendrils into the shards of data that once represented the old data center. When the tendrils make contact, they slurp up the data remains. The forms are oblivious to Hawk, who makes his roll and guesses correctly that these are simply robots, harvesting that data for who knows what. He is unable to determine who or what is controlling them. 

Back at Yoshihara’s House o’ Sushi, as Inuyama and Hiroto the yakuza talk, Inuyama notices that the sushi chef suddenly stops preparing food. The man cocks his head and closes his eyes, as if listening intently. Hiroto leans in and speaks quietly with the man. Suddenly both turn to the back of the restaurant. Hiroto and the other yakuza begin drawing auto pistols, while the sushi chef pulls a sawed-off shotgun from under the counter. Three asian men in the back of the place stand up abruptly, knock over their table, and draw pistols, yelling “This is the Bamboo Circuit’s territory Yakuza scum!”  The shit hits the fan. Chaos ensues as restaurant patrons scramble and panic. Inuyama, in an amazing display of agility, dives over the sushi bar and gets cover behind the counter. Shots are fired. Inuyama draws his weapon and shoots one of the Vietnamerican gang members. Hiroto is hit but not taken out. After a brief shootout all three of the Bamboo Circuit men are dead. As Inuyama surveys the carnage his telephone pings. A message is coming in. It’s from Joe, the sniper, who he worked with last year and hasn’t seen since. “Need help – now…”

In Cyberspace, Max and Hawk debate what to do regarding the data harvesting ‘bots. They are both curious. Who would be harvesting this data? Is the cybercult reorganizing? Are things about to get weird again. The internal display in Hawk’s bionic eye flashes “Incoming message.”  They jack out of Cyberspace, and Hawk reads the message. It’s from Joe. “Need help – now.”

Luckily, Max is one of the few people who know where Joe lives. It was Max, through his contacts and knowledge of the seedier elements of the DFW world, who brought the team together last year to work for the Pinky. Inuyama contacts Max. They try to just call Joe back, but he’s gone dark. Max, Inuyama, and Hawk agree to meet at Joe’s apartment, on the 15th floor of a not-so-nice apartment tower.

When they arrive, they see bullet holes in the wall outside the door, in the hallway. The door to Joe’s apartment is cracked open. Knowing what Joe can do in a fight, they are somewhat terrified for their own lives should they make a mistake. Max makes his stealth roll and moves up to the door. Inside he can see the feet of a dead person laying on the floor. He listens. Hawk uses his enhanced parabolic hearing to listen. Nothing. No movement inside. No sound of a gun being cocked or a new magazine being popped in. Max nudges the door further open, and sees a dead cybergoth on the floor, face down. Most of the back of his head is missing. Hawk uses his eye’s bug detector and enhanced vision and see a tiny camera in the hallway. They move into the apartment. No booby traps, though they did search. The group searches the apartment. Inuyama uses a foot to roll the dead guy over. White male, leather jacket, facial tattoos, huge mohawk, chip slot on one side of his skull, cyberspace input jack on the other side. His defining feature is the bullet hole square between the eyes. Joe’s work, for sure.

There are a lot of bullet holes in the walls, The large plate glass window in the front room is shattered. Max looks out. They are 15 floors up. Two floors below, and about 10 feed out, is a mag-lev track for the elevated train. Far below on the ground are two dead cyberpunks. No sane person would try to escape by jumping down two floors on to a train. Joe almost certainly made his escape that way.

The team continues to search the apartment. They find Joes’s computer in the back room still on. The video feeds from his hallway security camera and the one in the front room are still on screen. Hawk is able to find the footage from the last hour. The hall camera shows a gang of cyberpunks coming down the hall. The interior camera shows the door being kicked in. The dead kid in the front room starts to run through, only to have his brains blown out the back of his head. More shots as punks rush into the apartment. Joe comes into view, shoots toward the window, and then runs toward the window and out of the frame. Two punks run after him. The rest run back out and down the hall.

They continue searching the apartment. Hawk finds a hidden compartment in the wall. He examines the wall for booby traps, and finding one, activates the panel. A drawer slides open containing a paper journal. Joe’s journal. The read the last couple of pages…

April 4, 2067. The nightmares continue. Feel like I’m  in hell.

April 7, 2067. Haven’t written in a few days. Finally got some sleep. The sleep of the damned, but sleep none the less. Can’t even describe what I see when I shut my eyes. Words fail.

April 8, 2067. Spent the day staring at code in this damned chip. Wish I’d never taken it, but then I don’t really wish that, do I? Have no idea what I’m looking at, yet I can’t put it away. Can’t throw it out. Can’t destroy it.

April 9, 2067. Contacted on ‘net today by someone wanted to buy the chip. The thought fills me with dread. I know it’s responsible for the terror I feel, but I’m like a simstim addict. Tried to end it all today. Autopistol in my mouth. Couldn’t finish it.

May 1, 2067. Spent the last few weeks drunk in a safehouse. Only thing that seems to help. I sense a war is coming. Need to be ready, but fear my mind is dissolving. Don’t know how much longer I can go on. Sometimes I’m not sure who I am. This all started when I took the chip from that lab with the monsters. I wonder if the other guys are having the same thing? I should contact them, but they’d just think I’m mad. I was a mental case already, before all this. Best to isolate myself…safer for others…keep them safe from what’s out there.

May 5, 2067. Contacted again today. Someone wants this chip. Well fuck them, they can’t have it. Someone on my monitor – they’re coming. They found me. They’ll be very, very sorry they did.

Given the dates that Joe was apparently in his safe house, Hawk is able to use cell records and computer traces to find the location. It’s another old building. This time the floor is abandoned except for, possibly, the safe house apartment. They approach the door and knock. No answer. They listen. No sound. Nothing.  They try calling Joe again. He’s still gone dark. No answer. No ringing phone inside. Inuyama backs up and runs toward the door, using his strength, speed, and power to break it down. Booby trapped. A bomb goes off. Their ballistic clothing saves them from serious injury.

Their ears still ringing from the blast, a figure in a trench coat steps out from the clearing smoke and dust. It’s not Joe.

“I can’t believe you guys did that. I’ve been wanting to meet your boys for a long time. My name…is Kolchak.”

End of session.