With two trolls, C.B., Sully, an unconscious Sumatomo, and Missing No, Team Quattro moves out to Missing No.’s back porch for more space. Sully keeps working on Sumatomo to keep him unconscious, while the rest of the team struggles with the ethical decision of what to do with him. Benzine calls Harry to find out if there’s any sort of magic that could wipe his memory. He says there’s nothing he can think of, outside of some sort of dark, spiritual possession that he wouldn’t recommend, but he sounds different than he has in recent days. Apologetic, says things have changed. He’s been sick with thyroid cancer, and he’s been scraping together the ‘yen to buy some sort of artifact off of a strange man. It could be a scam, but asked Benzine if him and Team Quattro could come back him up.
C.B. also called Leslie Joy to ask about a lobotomy, laying all the information out there. She gets incredibly uncomfortable about the situation though, and gets off the phone and leaving C.B. with the impression she was put out.
They wake him up, shoot him up with gamascopaline, and sick Al on him. He slaps him hard across the face, bursting blood vessels, and turning his face a dark shade of purple.
“Damien, Damien you gotta let me go! We can still set things right, it’s not too late!”
“What do you have on us? Where are the files?” Benzine asked. This went on for a few minutes as the fear of God and the gamascopaline took effect.
“There are no files, I’ve just been following Damien for the summer, put things together.”
They hem and haw, but finally determine that there’s no dead drop on them, and decide to get rid of him. C.B. doesn’t want them to do it themselves, and murder him in cold blood, so they decide instead to go to the place where they finished the Puente job.
While they pack him into an old sleeping bag, and Benzine disguises him with a physical mask spell. As they start driving, Al can hear the faraway sound of a V-Tol coming from the south, the direction they are heading from.
C.B. calls the leader of the Ancients that were helping them out at the job – she answers, and is still celebrating. She warns him that some of Knife-Ears friends might not take kindly to him getting killed. “All I’m saying, he knew the risks, but his family in the Ancients might not see it that way.” Still, she lets him know that the KESRU team peeled off them a long time ago.
The minutes drag by as they follow the flow of the early morning traffic when a sleek, black drone pulls up next to the van and keeping pace with it. Cool as usual, Al rolls down the window.
“Pull over to the side of the road, you are under arrest!” The drone called over a loudspeaker. Oncoming traffic forces the drone to swerve to the side, revealing a red scimitar on the belly of the vehicle. THey’re speeding down the highway, trying to get onto the 405. Benzine, still struggling with his wounds, manages to make a trid phantasm, and a 2nd van splits off, heading straight down the highway as they pull onto the off ramp.
As they get onto the 405, a large, stretched out, green vtol hovers up over the highway, and speeds past them. Once it speeds past, 4 drones are deployed from the racks on the back as it moves to intercept with the drones flanking. Benzine and Al switch spots, with Al reclining the seat back and rolling back over it.
Meanwhile, C.B. starts getting marks on trucks, and begins boxing the bulldog in, trying to give them what cover he can. With two to play with, he has them speeding up, and cutting behind depending on the v-tol’s location. With the height though, he’s not able to get them much.
Al throws the back doors to the van open, and ramps the Vindicator up, firing up into the sky at the mothership. With a few lucky shots, smoke starts pouring from behind the v-tol, and forcing it to back off. At the same time, C.B. jacks the oil pressure in one of the trucks, blowing the head gasket and adding more smoke to the sky. It trails behind them, billowing up into the air and eclipsing all of the drones.
“Take this exit!” C.B. shouted while spiking the last drone right on their tail. They squeal off the highway, with the trucks still following hot on their tails, maneuvering around them one more time. Coming up on the Grady Way Tunnel, they duck inside, with the trucks still plowing down the side streets. Under the cover of the tunnel, they all reboot their devices, Al and Benzine switch back so he’s driving again. Al switches the chameleon coat to a simple work van, and they snuggle into the stop and go traffic of the morning commute building up on the other side.
It’s not much further to the drop off, but Team Quattro finds themselves looking over their shoulders the whole time. The closer they get, the more desolate and barren the area looks, until they find themselves outside of the old brick building. They pull into the cratered parking lot behind the building, and pull up next to the building. Benzine drops into astral, dropping through to the sewers below where he spots the aura of the ghouls they were looking for.
“I need a fucking hospital Damien…”
“Don’t worry, these guys are going to take a real good look inside you.” Benzine snarled. The two trolls go to the back of the van, and Al pops the sewer cover off. There are moans and hisses coming from below as the recoil from the sunlight. The drag the struggling Sumatomo out of the back, bound within the old sleeping bag, and start stuffing him in the sewer. He screams for help as the ghouls start dragging him in, caught up on the lip of the opening. Benzine leans down as he writhes, trying to hold himself up top.
“Remember when you threatened my family?” He says, then stands up and starts stamping on his shoulder to stuff him in, face twisted in rage until he disappears from view. He stands there panting, before he drops the cover back on the hole. With the job done, and all loose ends tied up, they start heading back to the fire station, only making a quick stop to drop off Topsy’s deck.
“Thanks, I really need to get me one of those.” He said, trading hers back for his own jacked up on.
“Yeah hun, you need to upgrade. This things kind of a joke.” She says with a laugh.
“I’m working on it, I’m working on it.” He kisses her goodbye, leaving her to go back to work.
“I’m thinking about asking her to marry me. What do you think?” C.B. asked when he was back in the safety of the van.
“Why you asking us?” Benzine asked.
“I don’t know, you’re my friends? I want to know what you think?”
“Honestly? You could only do worse. I mean, as long as she says yes. She’s kind of jerked you around. And she seems a little out of your league, but she puts up with you. May as well go for it though, if she’ll get locked down like that” Benzine said.
When they get back. C.B. orders some thai food, but the trolls crash out, their respective wounds wearing them down.
Later, when they’re all rested, they load up and head out to meet up with Harry. He’s a little twitchy, anxious about the upcoming meet, and hustles to close up shop.
“There’s a man, Jackson McKay, an archaeologist. He found an artifact in the shape of a flute, or a child’s recorder, that can cure any condition. And if you look at me, Ben, you’ll know I need this. It’s a long shot, but I need to take it.”
Benzine switched to astral, and saw nodules glowing a separate, darker color than his typical aura, pockets tainting the aura around it. The colors that were typically vibrant and bright were now faded and dull, withering as the dark tendrils claimed more and more of his physical body. He was weaker than he used to be, weaker than Benzine.
“Harry, you know what they say… if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” Benzine said.
“I know, I know! But I need this, that’s what the deepweed was for. It was a risk I needed to take. And if you knew the source… Benny, it’s the Draco foundation. They don’t usually peddle in bulldrek hope. Do you remember that island, that strange island that just appeared off the coast a couple years back? They made a blockade, right? But one guy investigated. He was connected, don’t know who he’s working for, but the man came back with this.”
“Harry, you know if you say the word I’m with you.” Benzine said, and turned to the others. “You guys don’t have to do this, but if you do… I’ll owe you one.”
“You know we’re with you.” C.B. said, and Al nodded. They unloaded their weapons, leaving them behind in the shop, then climbed into the van and headed downtown. They are waved through checkpoints easily enough, and come to a modern, glass building. The sun reflected from the surface, bathing the team in the golden light. Benzine’s reflection off the surface was haggard and worn, reminding the troll he could use a vacation after the weekend. They all could. But there was no help for it.
They push through the revolving doors, and enter a grand foyer, replete with columns and fountains. The receptionist is warm as they enter, and Benzine goes ham on a tray of refreshments, eating cheese, crackers, and drinking bottles of water. C.B.’s leftovers from earlier just didn’t cut it.
After a few minutes, the receptionist returns, looks at the party, and especially Benzine, with disdain. “Mr. McKay will see you now,” she says, and buzzes them into the elevator. It sped upwards, before coming to a smooth stop on the upper floors. With a ding, the doors slid open, and revealed a human in his early 50’s with brown curly hair of about average height.
“Good to see you in person, Harrow. I’m glad you could make it.”
“Me too, assuming things go well.” Harry responded eagerly.
“Well, I don’t want to waste your time, and I’ve got to make a flight tonight. If you’ll follow me?” He leads them down the hallway and enter a big office with floor to ceiling windows. There’s a big desk, adorned with family pictures.
C.B. notices that it’s not him in the pictures, and it’s not his degree on the wall.
“You’re correct. As I said, I’m only here temporarily since I have more sales to make before the day is over,” Jackson said. As C.B.’s paranoia starts coming out, it rubs Jackson the wrong way, and he starts to pack things up.
“Hold on, hold on,” Benzine said, shooting the decker a look. “This is Harry’s deal, and he’s got the money.”
Harry holds out the nearly 200k nuyen credstick, and gets a small wooden case in return. Opening it up, there’s a small, finely carved wooden flute in the native american style. Five, evenly spaced holes are carved into chestnut colored wood, leading to the smooth bore that stretched from end to end. The far side was totally open, but the other tapered to a mouthpiece that had some creative turning, with a carving just below.
“You’ll need this too, it’s the tune you’ll need to play. Now I don’t know how many charges it has-”
“Then how do we know it will work?” Benzine cut in.
“Use it now, if it doesn’t work you’ll get your credstick back.” McKay said. “As I was saying, there’s at least one charge. Maybe two to three. But I can personally say, it works. I had a bad run in with some- uh- infected six months ago. Played the flute, and I’m fit as a fiddle. Or, flute, as the case may be.”
“May I?” Benzine asked, pointing at the older man, and at his own forehead. He nods, and Benzine gives him a cursory look in the astral and finds no sign of infection. While he’s at it, he stares at the flute, and from the back of his mind he can feel a reassurance, that there is a healing nature to the artifact. Still, the gentle voice sends a shiver down his spine even though it’s a familiar one.
Without any other reasons to hold him up, C.B. helps loop the video for Harry who listens a couple times to the video, and then plays the song himself, an airy, wistful song.
He set the flute down, waiting, waiting-
The color drained from his face, and he would’ve collapsed if Benzine wasn’t there to catch him. Then, just as suddenly as it left, it flooded back into him. He stood, gasping. When Benzine assessed him again, the same bright colors had returned, and he seemed stronger than Benzine.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me I have a flight I need to catch.”
The team is ebullient as they leave downtown, flute in tow, heading back to Harry’s shop. They all start getting wasted, except for C.B. who received a call from KE asking him to come down to the station for some questioning in regards to Kosmo Sumatomo.
Benzine regales him with stories about their runs, while Harry relates stories about all the strange customers he’d met since dealing deepweed. He admits part of being a drug kingpin was thrilling, and having money was a nice change, but it got to be a hell of a lot of work.
Then, Benzine tells the others of when Benny met Harry, and how he’s kind of helped the troll. Before the night is over, Benzine asks what he’s going to do with the flute. When he mentions knowing someone who could use it, if there’s any juice left, Harry immediately hands it over.
“Take it! Absolutely. Frag me, yeah I don’t need it anymore.”
“It’s good to have you back, chummer.”
September 3rd, 2075
C.B. leaves that morning to go to his meeting at the 99th precinct, telling them to contact Gregory Jascowicz if he doesn’t make it back by that afternoon. He was the lawyer he had hired before when he had some legal problems, and he’d know what was happening with C.B. if things went sideways.
When he gets there, they ask questions about Sumatomo, about whether he asked for any money, solicited C.B. for anything, etc. etc.
“Listen, I was repaying my debt to society up until last week when I found out that I had already finished paying it.” He says, maintaining his calm throughout the repetitive rounds of questioning.
“Well, Mr. Kropop, thank you for your cooperation. We ask that you don’t leave town for the next few weeks while we continue this investigation.”
“Why not, am I suspected of anything?”
“No, did you have plans? Then we would just like to have you accesible should any more questions arise regarding Mr. Sumatomo’s embezzlement and fraud.”
“Am I going to be compensated for all the money I lost?”
“That’s a civil matter, I’m afraid.” The K.E. officer said. C.B. was summarily escorted out of the office, and set free.
As soon as he got back, the gang gathered together with Harry, and they all headed to the underground. Two guards at the entrance, Gus and Jenny let them in, with the latter following. She hands off to Blitz, who brings them the last bit of the way to a nice brownstone in the middle of the underground, ornately carved walls around it. Light streamed from the makeshift stained glass above, a kaleidoscope of colors drifting through differently colored bottles.
The team knocks, and a tired looking Castle answers. They run the plan past him, and he eagerly lets them in, calling Ellipse to hurry over. He leads the group upstairs, and Benzine pulls a chair right up to the bedside. Roxy is weak, bedridden, and had an ashy gray color about her complexion. She seemed at peace with her fate though.
Benzine laid the plan out, holding nothing back as he described everything Harry had done to get the flute, everything the team had witnessed last night. She looks at Benzine in disbelief as he finishes, not sure what to say.
“We don’t know if it will work, how much juice it has in it. He said maybe two or three charges, but we know it’s already been used twice…” Benzine trailed off, not wanting to give her false hope. He looked back to see Ellipse had entered the room and had a faraway look, unseeing eyes fixed on the little wooden box. When he blinked back, and saw Benzine staring at him, he nodded his approval.
“Please, Please do it. You have to try.” Castle pleaded. She nodded, and C.B. pulled up the instructional video one more time. Castle opened the shades, and motes of dust drifted through the air, painted greens and reds from the colored glass. The sounds of the underground lingered in the air, echoing up through the open window as the same wistful song played over, and over again until she was able to program her cyber arm to hit the notes just right.
She gave a small giggle that did little to ease the tension in the cramped space. “Well, here goes.” The same notes slurred into one another, the mournful melody blending with the cheerful calls of children and parents from below. When it finished, she set the flute down and laid back.
Just like the night before, what little color was left faded, and she gasped for air. Her back arched, lifting her chest off the bed as she convulsed. She eased back as color flooded back to her face, and she gulped in air. When she finally relaxed, Benzine assensed her one more time. He looked at the others and grinned.
Roxy jumped to her feet, steady as a rock. “Well, lets get it checked out! I just gotta change, the mumu look isn’t doing it for me anymore.” Without hesitation, she started changing right in front of them.
They head to the clinic, and people openly stare and point at Roxy who, last they heard, was on her deathbed. The clinic was no different. Benzine led Roxy to Courtney, whose mouth hung open.
“Wha- Roxy! You should be in bed.”
“That drek got old! Just check me out, give me a clean bill of health. I’m ready to party!”
“Let- let me get the doctor.” She disappeared, and came back with someone who checked her over, and declared her cancer free – pending more testing of course.
“How’d this happen?” Courtney asked.
“Oh… it’s a long story.”
“We- Benzine saved her. Some sort of magic,” C.B. said, and immediately started sending messages over the PAN, telling him to ask her out. Uncomfortable since she said she was married before, and wanting to change the subject, Benzine made his regular contribution to the clinic of 4k nuyen. Instead, it almost made things worse.
Benzine got a message then from the Tuskgutter fansite that read:
The bitch is back!
Tonight, Midnight, at fucking Dante’s!
Benzine loosely invites Courtney to dinner and drinks with them all at the Rhino, and leaves it at that. Turbo moves in to talk to her, as Benzine goes to find Ellipse and talk with him about magical matters, namely making himself stronger.
Everyone gets ready, and they head to the Rhino where they take over the joint and chase out the usual tourists. Benzine sees Courtney standing in line and invites her over. Everyone drinks and is merry until about 11, when they make their way over to Dante’s.
It’s very orc and troll heavy, far more than what downtown is used it. It’s a far cry from how it looked yesterday, just a block or two away at the Draco Foundation. There are signs everywhere that read “The Bitch is back!” with different gang signs dotted around to show they were represented. The usual clientele are kind of surprised, the other 8 floors of the club conducting business as usual, taken aback by the rowdy crowd gathering outside.
A tour bus pulls up outside, and Amy and Billy, the lead singers of Tuskgutter jump out. Ooblach ooblach is blasting over speakers as the two trolls move aside. Roxy jumps out, screaming along off time. She’s jumping around, kicking over garbage cans that Castle is trying to pick up, when she twists in mid air. Castle, right behind her, is covered in a red mist. He catches her, as a second bullet catches him, and a third takes off half of her head.
The signs in AR change to read:
The Bitch is dead.
Shit starts kicking off, the K.E. officers starting to look panicked as people start realizing what’s going on. Benzine pushes forward, sees Roxy down, and switches to astral. His body collapses to the ground, and his astral form flies up and out, looking for anything that might be suspicious. But with all the auras, all the confusion, and the massive skyscrapers, it’s only seconds before he realizes there’s nothing he can do.
When he rejoins meat space, Turbo has Harry cornered with two of his goons restraining him. He’s screaming in pain, his arm twisted behind his back, as Turbo interrogates him. Benzine shoves him, and the two trolls holding the elf make a move towards him, who snarls at them to let Harry go, napalm dripping from his fingers to steaming and hissing off the asphalt.
Turbo, recognizing the threat, tells him to let him go, but to keep him close. He’s the only lead they’ve got. They help C.B. and Topsy get out of there in her car, asking the decker to keep his eyes out on the ‘trix, and share whatever info he can dig up while the trails hot. Meanwhile, Al is trying to push through with his own ride.
Benzine walks over to Roxy’s body, cradled by Castle. Courtney is trying to take care of his gun shot wound, but he keeps shrugging her off. As soon as Al gets the van around, they all clamber in. Turbo squeezes in with his two troll bodyguards, shoving Harry roughly into the van and eliciting another warning from Benzine.
After a quick discussion, they decide to head back to the underground, even though it’s undoubtedly under heavy watch. Benzine’s able to guide them down into one parking garage, linking with another that lets them out 3-4 blocks away from Dante’s and bypassing the blockades getting set up by Knight Errant. As they drive back to the underground, Benzine gets a message from C.B. about the man who sent the message, a runner by the name of RedFever5. He keeps it quiet, not trusting anyone except C.B. and Al with the information right now. Benzine feels justified with the decision when they get back to the Underground, currently blockaded by HTR, and Turbo wants to plow directly through them. Benzine stops him there, calling him dumb as drek and saying there are entrances all over and he’s clearly not thinking right.
Turbo accedes, then leads them to an alternative entrance nearby. A jamaican man, a block or two away from the main entrance, lets them stow the van in his garage while a door leads them to his basement, and a small, dingy tunnel.
Dark and dusty, the taller of the group have to hunch their way through. As they do, they can hear the squelch as brain matter slops onto the poorly poured concrete path they’re led down. The other side opens to the underground, which is in pandemonium. The group hangs back as they get their coordinates, and reach out to Ellipse. He says he’ll send a car.
Benzine asks Al to keep an eye on Harry for him as he checks on Courtney, and heals Castle as best as he can. Turbo also gets in touch with C.B., who’s surprised when he finds out Benzine hasn’t shared the name with him yet. Turbo plays it cool, acting like nothings wrong, and looks up whatever info he can. There’s no RedFever5 specifically, but there was a runner team out of Boston that deviated from most runner jobs to exclusively wetwork. The leader is always numbered, and now primarily focus on antimeta jobs. When the car arrives, there’s a lot of arguing since Turbo wants to take the car, put Harry and Benzine in it, and take Roxy straight away. Benzine thinks that’s fucking stupid, and that the others should take it and him, and Harry, and whoever else can walk. In the end, they put Castle and Roxy in the back who’s now stiff from rigor mortis. Courtney and Al pile onto the bench seat in the front with the driver who’s a little pissed after Turbo pulled him out and said he was walking initially. Benzine, Turbo, Harry, and Turbo’s thugs are walking.
As they rush to Ellipse’s through the tunnels and across boardwalks, they run into Babe the Ox, the leader of the Spikes with a big contingent of his gang armed to the tusks. Turbo tries to talk him out of stirring up trouble, but BTO isn’t moved. He tells him in no certain terms that if he doesn’t get out of the way, they’ll all be the first to catch lead. Afterall they didn’t get dressed up for nothing. Benzine had pushed Harry back though, making it clear that the two of them had nothing to do with it.
“Give ‘em hell, then” Turbo said stepping out of the way. BTO laughs as he walks past.
“Aint doing shit as usual. Let’s fucking go.”
Ellipse’s house is a very well kept, victorian brownstone that is all skewed and twisted after it slid into the underground during an earthquake, a prominent turret facing out into the street, the tower cocked to one side. Some of the windows even looked new.
Ellipse stood out front, an angry look painted on his face as the walked up. When he saw Turbo shove Harry, it darkens even more.
“What the- he’s a guest. What are you thinking?” He said, then turned to address a visibly shaken elf. “Are you ok?” He leads them all inside, except for the thugs Turbo brought with him. Turbo sends them away, and helps himself to beers in Ellipse’s fridge, holding one out to Benzine and one to Harry. The troll just stares him down, and he shrugs handing it to Al instead. Once they’re comfortable, Ellipse gives them the situation.
“Things are getting wild up there. All the gains we’ve made are going out the window. They’re not even covering the assassination – only showing a lot of armed orcs and trolls, some armed and taking to the streets. Just look.” He turned on the trid, and the familiar face of Trisha Takanawa popped onto the display.
“-you can see the streets of downtown are flooded with rioters fighting with law enfo-” She clutched desperately at the v-tol as the camera shook. “Oh god, were those gunshots?” She went pale.
“It seems some protesters are shooting at aircraft in the vicinity as well. This is something we’re used to seeing in Bogota, not downtown Seatt-”
Ellipse switched it off. “It’s been getting worse, and it seems the guitarist of that band that was there caught it all and is spreading it around which is just gasoline on the fire. They’re young, they’re angry, but like I said – the advances of the past 20 years are unraveling.”
Benzine asks Al to watch Harry, huddled on a chair in the living room sipping his beer, and walks upstairs to check in on Courtney and Castle . . .