The Defense of Ben Gantry

By on February 23rd, 2014

Our protagonists had collected Ben Gantry from his kidnappers but before they had the opportunity to leave, two individuals, a young woman and a older man, approached the scene of the accident by motorcycle.  They came to a halt and dismounted quickly moving to assess the situation and ascertain the health and safety of Ben.  These two individuals, Ariel and Jack, were members of the squad hired in Seattle to collect him from the Salish-Sidhe Council and bring him to the Tír.  Amid the noise of sirens our protagonists agreed to allow the two newcomers to travel with them for the near term; otherwise they were likely to all get picked up by the Tír constabulary.

Olympia knew of a place they could stay, a new age store named the White Horse run by Unicorn shaman on the Tír side of Boise.  Arriving there, the one of the shamans, named Jeff, offered them a room and safety, concealing their vehicles, and allowing them privacy on the second floor of his establish.  There, the team hashed out a basic plan:  head southwest out of town toward the town of Vale and cross the Wildlands until meeting up with the old Interstate corridor at Serentaneyo (Eugene, OR) which would take them north to Cara’Sir once more.

All went well, leaving the White Horse.  Constabulary drones were still circling the accident location and the team was able to load into the van, with Ariel’s bike in the back next to Olympia’s drones, and head out of town.  The drive went smoothly for roughly the first hour, but about 10km outside the town of Vale, a constabulary roadblock had been set up.  The cars in front of the van were waved through with ease, but Olympia noticed that the officers blocking the left-hand lane seemed to be taking quite an interest in them.

When it was their turn to be inspected, Adrianna had concealed the team–with the exception of herself and Olympia–using a task from one of her spirits.  The officers asked the cousins to step out of the vehicle and others moved to search it.  Concealed members of the team exited the vehicle as well in order to avoid accidental discovery, but Ben Gantry tripped and fell out of the vehicle alerting the officers to the presence of the hidden individuals.

What erupted then was a somewhat harrowing firefight.  On the Matrix, Octan and a hacker from the other team began to square off, though neither faced the other directly.  The opposing hacker quickly moved to brick the van, keeping the team from driving away.  Octan, realizing the situation, dispatched a call for help from his contacts in the Rinelle and proceeded to hack various and sundry items for the officers.  Olympia re-entered her van but was quickly pinned down due to shotgun fire from one of the constabulary vehicles, but this ended as the Brothers Pliskin leaped into the fray.

Adrianna used her final Alchemical preparation to increase her own speed but found her self somewhat stymied by the actions of Ariel and Olympia.  The former unloaded full automatic covering fire at approaching reinforcements while Olympia directed her drones to do the same after successfully assassinating the hacker by firing at his location through the windows of the vehicle in which he stood.  In short, despite being outnumbered, the greater firepower of the team allowed them to carry the day and even capture one of the constabulary forces, Carlos.

Talking to Carlos, it became clear that he and his allies were only pretending to be law enforcement officers.  In reality, they were hired muscle sent to get Ben Gantry on the orders of Mr. Johnson, of course!  Octan’s help arrived and in spite of some trepidation from Adrana, the van was hooked up for a tow.  They tossed Carlos in back of one of the cop cars and commandeered it following the tow truck off the beaten path and into the Wildlands.

The Collection of Ben Gantry

By on February 9th, 2014

Our curtain opens over the skyline of Cara’Sir, formerly Portland, as our protagonists go about their daily lives on Sunday, February 2nd 2075.  Octan Bey, contacted by his Fixer, is given information about a meet to take place at the Ugly Mug in the university district at 7 PM that evening.  Adriana and Olympia are given similar information.  The three of them arrive, the ladies together, and are quickly suffled into a meeting room.  Waiting for them there is Mr. Johnson, a well dressed elf drinking some sort of luminescent blue drink, as well as three elven bodyguards (two male, one female) and a somewhat shabby looking ork drinking a cheap lager 1.

The job seems simple enough:  for 7000 nuyen, 1000 up front, the group is to drive to the Tír sector in Boise and find the Cat’s Meow Restaurant and Hotel.  There, they’ll be met by a contact of Mr. Johnson named Aiden Alexander who will be providing a safehouse for one Ben Gantry.  Gantry has information that Mr. Johnson and his employers, the Party of Our Roots, would find most interesting.  Mr. Johnson warns the group:  the Party for the New Age is very likely to be equally if not more interested in Gantry if the rumors about his data are accurate.

Considering the hour, the team hunkers down for the night in Cara’Sir and leaves the next morning for Boise.  During the night, Octan contacts Diane–a leader in the continuing anti-government rebels known as the Rinelle ke’Tesrae–and lets her know that he might be coming into some information important to the Rooters and therefore, of interest to her and others in the Rinelle.  She tentatively agrees to pay him for the information, upon confirmation that it’s valuable, and gives Octan contact information for an operative with whom she works in Boise, a dwarf named Magni.

The drive to Boise goes smoothly; the team is just one more car on the road, after all.  Turning the corner onto the street where they expect to find the Cat’s Meow, however, things are not as placid.  Three men, hauling a fourth sporting a black hood over his face, are climbing into vehicles and, quickly, drive away at top speed.  Assuming that the hooded, kidnapped figure was Ben Gantry, Olympia begins pursuit quickly passing the rear car and closing the distance to the lead car.

The rear car, however, has none of that and begins to open  fire on Olympia’s van.  Adrianna, leans out a side door and attempts to use an Alchemical preparation for a lightning bolt without success.  Similarly, the ork also returns fire, and strikes the passenger of the rear car in the neck and a rider in the back seat in the arm causing him to drop his weapon.

Meanwhile, online, Octan attempts to summon some sprites and use Resonance based attacks to disable the opposing vehicles.  By all evidence, it doesn’t go well; the technomancers begins to bleed from the ears and nose and, shortly thereafter, falls into unconsciousness.  Not that you could tell; he had, after all, been in VR.

Olympia continues to close the distance between her vehicle and the lead car, but the chase case continues to pester her ramming her from behind and, later, attempting to run her off the road.  Worse:  the lead car had a ride-along mage if the geometrically proportioned sheet of ice in located at the site of a hairpin turn wasn’t some sort of strange natural phenomenon.

Adriana ordered a bound spirit to stop the lead car and, to do so, it manifested before it and used an engulf power to force it to a halt.  Olympia, reacting quickly, stopped the van before a colliding with the car, as did the driver of the rear vehicle before hitting Olympia’s.  This gave the ork the opportunity to charge over to the rear vehicle, punch through the driver’s side window, and proceed to pummel said driver.  The final passenger in that vehicle decided that, for his own health, a visit to anywhere else needed to begin, and he ran off down a side street.

Adriana exited the van and moved over the the lead vehicle now crumpled by a collision with the spirit.  The driver was obviously quite injured and the two passengers (one up front and one in the back) seemed unconscious.  Grabbing the kidnapped individual and confirming that he was indeed Ben Gantry, she dragged him back to Olympia’s van and helped him in as the ork rejoined the party.

  1. This is Antoine’s character

One down; Many to go

By on February 3rd, 2014

So, momentous news:  I think I finished the first screen of ShadowLab!  I’m quite pleased with how it turned out, though I wish that I had gotten it complete a few months ago rather than just now.

The last hitch that I ran into was to determine whether or not a character was mundane.  I decided to have all characters start that way; when a character object is instantiated (i.e. when someone starts generating a new one) it will automatically receive the Mundane “racial.”  Then, if the player decides to choose to play a magician of any sort, that racial is removed in favor of the one more specifically describing the type of mage they’re playing.  If they switch their Magic/Resonance priority to “E,” the Mundane racial is added back on after the Awakened “racials” (e.g. Magician, Conjurer, Technomancer, etc.) are removed.

This, I hope, will facilitate incompatibilities between the Mundane racial and Magical (and Resonance) skills.  Essentially, the software can now ask the question “Is this character Mundane?”  If the response is, yes, then some skills can be made incompatible with that response.  Similarly, we could ask “Is this character a Technomancer?” and use the response to prove a compatibility with the Resonance skills.  Granted, this is all theoretical.

One piece remains:  a Troll’s dermal armor has to add one to the armor “attribute;” currently it does not.  I’m leaving this for later because I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to handle the situations where a Troll purchases Orthoskin, or other augmentations to the skin which provide armor, and loses that racial bonus.  Granted, the same could be said for the combination of cybereyes and any of the racial vision enhancements.

Next:  on to Attributes and Qualities.

Option Buttons

By on January 20th, 2014

One thing that I knew I’d need to build was the facility to choose options unlocked by a prior choice.  For example, once you’ve chosen to make an Aspected Magician, it’s important that you have the ability to choose if your character is going to be a Sorcerer, Conjurer, or Enchanter.

I had already made the choice to add “racial” items to the system so that skills could be made compatible (or incompatible) with those items.  Thus, skills in the Conjuring skill group could be made incompatible with Sorcerers and Enchanters.  As a result, the need for this choice to be made early, ideally with the character’s priorities, is strong.

Magic/Resonance Options

Magic/Resonance Options

What I settled on, for now, is to the right.  When you select Aspected Magician in the dedicated area for the magic/resonance options, the cog-wheel icon appears and it triggers the opening of a dialog when you click it.  That dialog gives people the choice between the three aspects.  When you click the save-and-close button, that information is sent up to the server where it’s processed, saved, and the appropriate changes to the character in memory on the server side are made.

Even better:  when you save your choice, the  text on screen shifts from “Aspected Magician” to that choice, e.g. “Sorcerer.”  Even even better:  I’m pretty confident that the same basic solution, using a slightly different dialog, will work once we have the rules in 5th edition for the metavariants.

To do:

  • For some reason, even though the database query selects multiple racials, only the first one is applied when a choice is made.
  • Save choice of magetype_subtype (i.e. aspect) when that information is sent to the server.
  • Reflect choice for magetype_subtype in dialog if it’s re-opened.

Inventories are easier than I thought

By on January 19th, 2014

So today’s efforts focused on integrating code written, believe it or not, last October, with the character object.  This code was for the ordered inventory of items.  Remember:  items are anything added to a character, from spells to complex forms to guns to racials.  And, it was this last set of items that provided the first test of the Inventory object written last October.

It didn’t go well.  After about 45 minutes of debugging that code, I scrapped it, rewrote the whole damn thing so that (a) it uses the Iterator interface in PHP to make searching and printing easier and (b) it was based on an encapsulated, inner array rather than a linked list of items.  This makes implementation easier, but requires that the list be sorted after every addition.

Time will tell if that creates too much overhead during use.  If so, the answer might simply be to generate the alphabetical inventory when it’s requested that we do so (i.e. when printing the character) but I suspect that for gear listings within the app, having a list that’s already in order will facilitate fast call and response from the server.

I also re-wrote the routines that set priorities and priority options (e.g. what metatype the character is) so that they could be called to both set and reset these choices.  Previously, this was done outside the character object and that was a fairly foolish thing for me to have done.

To do:

  • When selecting a metatype, the special attribute pool isn’t displayed on-screen until or unless there is a choice for the attribute priority as well.
  • A way to indicate if the character is a sorcerer, conjurer, or enchanter when choosing the Aspected Magician magetype.

Food Fight, or How We Left SR4 and Began to Love SR5

By on September 6th, 2013

As is traditional, Food Fight! began our travels in the world of SR5.  And, as is also traditional, the new rules confused the heck out of us.  That said, we did pretty well but these were things that we didn’t figure out during the game:

Alchemy Rolls

Since Alchemy is a brand new thing in the game, we used the Occult Investigator archetype, an alchemist, as one of the characters in our little scenario.  However, since we didn’t do a lot of the preparatory steps of a normal game, we found that alchemy didn’t really make a lot of sense.  Here are some of the details we missed:

  1. When you make a preparation, you choose a trigger for it.  It’ll work on command, on contact with a living being, or at a specific time.  These increase the drain by two, one, and two.
  2. The Potency is not simply the preparations re-named Force.  Instead, it is the net hits on the Alchemy + Magic [Force] vs. Force Test made when creating it.  As we noticed, the preparation lasts for (Preparation x 2) hours and are reduced by one for each additional hour there after.
  3. When you use the preparation, its current Potency + Force is rolled instead of Spellcasting + Magic to determine the success/failure of the preparation.

Other Miscellaneous Stuff

  • Bows take two simple actions to fire:   one to actually fire the weapon and another to ready an arrow.
  • The damage for combat spells depends on what sort of spell it is:  direct or indirect.  Direct combat spells do damage equivalent to the net hits on the Spellcasting test.  Indirect combat spells cause Force + net hits boxes of damage with an armor penetration equal to the Force.  In other words:   Indirect combat spells are bad ass.
  • As far as I can tell, there is no Limit on a defense test even if you use an Interrupt Action to add a skill to your defense.
  • Nothing seems to indicate that Drain damage does or does not roll over from Stun to Physical.  We’ll go with “doesn’t” for the moment.

Raiding the Farm

By on July 6th, 2013

[Author’s Note:  This is about two months over due.  As a result, it’s a little sketchier than I like for a game log, but summer has happened and the frequency of gaming was basically nil over the last few weeks.]

When the team returned to Longfeather with information relating to the zombie cocaine and its connections to Gary, Indiana, he confirmed the suspicions of some of the team:  the cocaine appeared to be connected to Aztechnology considering the use of Blood Magic and the Aztech’s interests in Gary.  Thinking it over for a few minutes, Longfeather asked the group if they’d be willing to work with him further.   Before negotiating further, Longfeather paid them for services rendered and told them to think it over.  He’d meet with them again in 24 hours and discuss the plan.

24 hours later, the team returned to Longfeather’s hotel and met with him and the Kid again.  Longfeather explained that the people he represented wanted the location in Gary to which Claudia tracked the bad guys to be raided.  He and his boys could distract the Aztech security on site, but he wanted the team to move in quietly, raid the facility, and steal whatever pertinent information they could find, and then bugger off during the distraction.  Talking it over, the team agreed to do the job if Longfeather could provide some magical support, primarily for counterspelling.  Longfeather agreed and sent the Kid along with them.

Longfeather mapped out the facility, to the best of their knowledge, highlighting the building in which the servers appeared to be located (based on electrical usage and node density) and pointed out the locations that he and his boys would be attacking in succession.  The team deliberated the best means by which to gain entry onto the facility — including a lake assault — and opted for a side gate through the fenced perimeter.

The team moved into position at the appointed time and, along with the Kid, waited for Longfeather to begin the festivities.  They had three guards at the side door to deal with but, luckily, once the boys opened fire at the main gates, one of those left and a second left the more secure guardhouse and stood prone outside.  Not wanting to draw too much attention to themselves, the team asked Claudia to try and get closer so that she could try to hack the guardhouse, but she was seen by the external guard.  He wasn’t sure what he was looking at, but he drew his weapon.  Realizing that things were about to get noisy anyway, Dru (note:  or maybe Foxface) simply shot the guards and the team quickly moved onto the compound.

Sprinting for the target set, the team was able to gain access with a keycard nicked from the guards  Inside, they were somewhat stunned to see a small coca farm under guard by a few more Aztech goons as well as a few additional non-combatants dressed as scientists.  These latter individuals ran as the bullets started to fly exiting the building where the team entered.  According to their intelligence, the servers were located in the basement of the building, so Claudia moved to find the computer room as Dru and Foxface handled the guards.  Shots were heard outside, but lacking any evidence that they were under fire, the rest of the team proceeded to the basement stairs.

Dru tossed down some smoke to try and hide their movements, but the basement level appeared empty.  Moving quickly, three rooms were identified, the first was administrative and the third was the server room.  The second one was quite obviously a Blood Magic ritual chamber of some sort.  Claudia moved quickly to begin hacking the servers and transferring as much data as she could grab to her commlink.  Meanwhile, the team in the hallway came under fire from the first floor.  Douglas moved a drone upstairs, but it came under full-auto fire and was pretty much shredded but while it provided a distraction, Dru and Foxface was able to handle the shooter.

Claudia had copied the data by this point and the team exited the way they entered.  On the way out, Dru grabbed a plant sample from the farm, by which I mean to say she uprooted an entire coca plant and took it with her.  Leaving the facility, they found the scientist-types all shot in the back — likely the result of the gunshots they had heard earlier — and the team hightailed it back to the van letting Longfeather know that they were on their way out.  They met up with him back at the hotel, gave him the data and the coca plant and parted ways after completing what was, for them, likely the closest thing to a “standard” shadowrun that they’d dealt with to date.

A Ceasation of Gang Activities

By on May 18th, 2013

The next phase of our team’s investigations led them to meet with members of the Astral Space Preservation Society (ASPS).  Setting up a time to meet with Gabrielle Hecht, the lead shaman working with the University researchers, the team took the opportunity to ask her more about what could be causing the magical effect seen during the zombie attacks.  While Gabrielle was very interested to hear about the awakened component in the cocaine and concerned with respect to the possibilities of blood magic, her expertise lay in other areas.  She suggested the team speak with her colleague, Zhi Peng, a Wujen working with her and the ASPS researchers.

Zhi Peng invited the team to his residence in Naperville-Bolingbrooke (N-B).  Upon hearing that they were headed there, Claudia and Douglas immediately announced their intention to remain behind.  They parked the van in Westside and remained linked to the team’s comm system aided by the enhanced Matrix connectivity in N-B.  Peng’s residence was spacious and warded, giving Foxface a moment of pause, but despite the astral security, Peng was welcoming and quite the conversationalist.

Peng’s exact experience with blood magic was never fully explored, but his insights indicated that the blood magic involved in disrupting the ritual may be the result of a blood spirit or, worse, a free blood spirit.  He was not personally aware of any such spirit operating in Chicago, but on the other hand anything’s possible.  He cautioned the team to be careful and offered his assistance should they need it.

Left with only a single remaining lead, the team turned to investigate the drug dealers who sold the cocaine to Ben Thompson, one of the unfortunate victims of the most recent zombie attack.  They had the location of the drug dealer’s base of operations from the GPS system located in Thompson’s vehicle and, proceeding there, they found an alley way blocked off by felled street lamps.  Claudia, unusually enthusiastic about purchasing drugs, and Paul approached the alley.  Purchasing the cocaine was quite simple an a quick assensing later, proved it to be the zombie coke.

Paul quickly moved to question the dealers as to their source.  And by “question” I mean shoot the crap out of them.  Douglas deployed drones to assist and Dru moved to help as well.  The dealer and his cronies were quickly dealt with and Paul turned to kick in the door of the building out of which the dealers had emerged.  Breaking in, Paul caught a group of gang members descending a stair case and opened fire, pinning them down.  A few returned fire, but Paul’s armor was able to handle the brunt of damage.  Between he and Dru and the drones, they were able to handle the gang members and a gunpoint interrogation revealed that Smiling Jim was the person they wanted to talk to and he would be in the building a few down.

Cuffing the talkative gang member to a tree, the team moved to find Smiling Jim.  Drones deployed into the alley behind the buildings revealed gang members exiting the building and leaving the scene of the gun fight, so the team entered the front of the building.  They could hear gang members on the second floor and, with the aid of a flash bang, quickly dispatched them and took Smiling Jim, who appeared to be moving to escape with the rest of his gang, into custody.

Jim didn’t have much for the team to go on.  He indicated that the drugs they were dealing were coming into town from the Koshari but that another gang member, Manuel Ramos, was the one who handled such things.  Ramos had already escaped with others from the gang but Jim was … persuaded … to call him and set up a location to regroup at the remains of a local park.  The team let Jim and the other gang member free and proceeded there.

Unbeknownst to them, Jim immediately called Ramos back warning him of the ambush.

The park had seen better days.  The remains of a pond, now filled with garbage and at least one rotting hulk of a vehicle, as well as a broken-down building were the center piece of the area.  Three hobos seemed to have been living in a lean-to but they had little to offer with respect to the situation.  Dru and Claudia quickly noticed gang members approaching from the east and the team quickly took up defensive positions preparing to meet with Ramos.  Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that Ramos was not among the approaching members.  Drones dispatched by Douglas to get a closer look were unfortunately seen by the gang members who quickly drew weapons.

A bit of a standoff began until one of the hobos yelled out, “Look out behind you!” and additional gang members who had approached unseen from the west were revealed.  One of them opened fire on the hobos and Foxface, who had taken cover with her rifle, returned that fire.  Dru dispatched another with knives as the drones began to strafe the eastern group.  Claudia hacked one of the members of that group and convinced him that surrender was the better part of valor, but unfortunately that individual could not convince the others of that fact.

Foxface killed all of those who arrived and opened fire on the hobos and moved to rejoin the rest of the team as they and the drones killed the remaining gang members other than the one who had surrendered.  Or so they thought.  As they approached the surrender monkey to question him about Ramos, a fireball launched from across the pond incinerated the gang member and wounded Claudia and Douglas’s drone.  Dru and Foxface, undamaged by the blast, turned to find the mage.  Foxface, identifying his location on the Astral plane, shifted to her natural form and charged across the park.  Dru, using Foxface’s trajectory to guide her shots, fired in the general vicinity of where she thought the mage to be.  A cry and a grunt indicated that she hit somebody and, moments later, Foxface leaped and attacked someone hidden in the brush.

Unfortunately, between the bullet wound and the magically enhanced attack of an enraged fox shifter, the mage–who turned out to be Ramos himself–was about to die.  Douglas, who had dispatched his medical bots to investigate the hobos, retasked them to run across the field to assist Ramos but it was clear they wouldn’t make it in time.  Claudia, though, did and was able to stabilize Ramos.  They took him into custody and, after collecting the weaponry and bodies of those gang members fit to be sold to Mrs. Lovett in Northside and checking on the hobos (who were fine), the team left the area.

On the way to sell the bodies, Claudia began to investigate Ramos’s commlink.  It was going well until she noticed another icon on the node with her which immediately attacked before she could prepare her defenses.  Douglas turned over the van to Dru and moved to assist Claudia on the Matrix.  Worse:  a group of go-gangers pulled up behind the van and indicated that it should pull over.

In the physical world, Dru began to pull the van over as Foxface, pulling open the side door of the vehicle began to fire on the gangers, specifically a large ork who, while standing in the back seat with his upper body through a sun roof, had fired upon the van with an assault rifle of some sort.  Dru fired and struck a gang member driving a motorcycle, who through a valiant effort, remained upright and in control of his vehicle.  He, however, did decide to drive on and search for easier prey.  The other motorcycle driver agreed.  Unfortunately for the ork, though, was not so lucky.  A few more shots from Foxface and he slumped over the roof of the car bleeding onto the windshield as the sedan sped off into the night.  Even better:  he left his weapon behind!

Meanwhile, on the Matrix, Douglas successfully struck the other icon with Black IC locking his connection on and keeping him in the node.  Revealed as using the icon of an ancient Mesoamerican warrior and left with no option other than to kick Douglas off of the node to release the Black IC lock.  While Douglas distracted the warrior, Claudia used her Paladin sprites to defend herself and, later, Douglas which she threaded up a Track program and began to search for the icon’s location eventually finding it in Gary, Indiana.  Shortly after doing so, the attacker’s commlink was shut down, dumping him from the Matrix.

Non-Optional Conversations

By on May 4th, 2013

And we begin on a dark, cold, cloudy night in Chicago.  The researchers began arriving about one hour prior to the start of the trial.  Or, it should be known that their undergraduates did so.  They began to set up the field with the mana ebb for the trial by placing some sort of sensing equipment around the perimeter connecting it via wires back to a data collection unit.  Additional atmospheric sensors were also rigged up and prepared for the trial.

Seizing the moment, Claudia leaned against the computer systems to create a skinlink with it.  She quickly compiled a Courier sprite and asked it to collect the information that was being collected and prepare to transmit it back to her when she reconnected to the unit.  Oddly, the sprite seemed extremely helpful and was more than happy to perform this task; it actually seemed a little sad that it wouldn’t be working with Claudia further.

The researchers from the Astral Space Preservation Society (ASPS) arrived about 7:30 PM.  They began to prepare the field in ways particular to their idiom.  Two Asian gentleman began meditating and preparing themselves, while three others moved about the space doing various forms of woo.  Finally about 7:45, Bartlett, Quinn, and Kaufmann arrived along with three of their grad students:  Aaron Lee, who the team had met before; a woman named Beth Sidney; and an Indian man named Nitin Rao.  The grad students moved to check the work of the undergrads as Bartlett and the others began to chat with their colleagues from the ASPS.

Longfeather and the boys took up defensive positions along the north end of the field and began to prepare themselves for the assault.  Various automatic weapons were drawn and checked and our team took up positions.  Claudia remained on the field with the researchers while the others took up positions in buildings across the street as planned.  Things were fairly calm for the first 45 minutes to an hour and then the Renraku Stormcloud deployed by Douglas began to pick up movement on the ground approaching the field from the north.

Shortly thereafter, Claudia was also able to see a large group of people — Douglas counted about 40 — approaching the site.  Our team decided on a wait-and-see policy to try and get as much information about what was about to occur.  Longfeather and his boys demanded that the approaching individuals halt, but their tone and demeanor indicated that they were not expected to comply.  In their defense, they did way until the last possible moment before opening fire.  The first few bursts killed many of the horde, but perhaps Longfether and the rest had waited a bit too long; a few moved through their line and continue to approach the ritualists.  Worse:  this put the ritualists in the line of fire.

Still curious to see what was unfolding, Claudia fouled one of the few remaining safe lines of fire before she was pushed to the side by one of the boys.  The graduate students that arrived with Bartlett erected some magical defenses but with ten or so of the “zombies” still intent upon reaching the ritual, those defenses were overcome.  A few of the zombies were confused and driven away, though.

Watching via the Astral from across the street, Paul noticed something:  one of the graduate students, Nitin Rao, was gesturing wildly and generally appeared to be working magic in defense of his colleagues, but there were no astral signatures created by him apparent.  For whatever reason, he was not actually performing magic; he was simply performing.  He alerted the others, but there was little they could do.   By this point, six of the zombies remained upright and the ritualists had scattered to either side of the lot in what appeared to be a coordinated maneuver.  Longfeather and his boys set themselves to fire on the last of them, but before they could do so, knives were drawn by some of the zombies and they fell upon each other.  First, the unarmed were slaughtered by the armed, and then the armed zombies casually slit their own throats or self-disemboweled.

The mess was enormous.

Realizing that she was not likely to receiving any more interesting information from the data collection systems, Claudia moved over to the device and collected the information that her sprite had collected.  Then, using her medkit, she collected a sample of the blood spilled by the zombies.  Paul and Dru left their concealment and joined the others in the lot and the team began to analyze the corpses for identification.  Many were obviously street people and lacked any ID, but a nine of them carried their papers.  One of the less messy corpses, identified as Ben Thompson, also included an AR tag with an in-case-of-emergency contact number.

The team had four leads:

  1. Ben Thomson’s address and his ICE contact.
  2. The blood samples that could be analyzed.
  3. The data from the researcher performed that night.
  4. And, the fact that Nitin Rao was only pretending to cast magic.

A quick analysis of the data revealed that the ambient magic within the area had been rising from it’s lowest point fairly steadily during the research.  The only truly concerning part of the results was a sudden and sharp spike of power when the zombies killed each other and themselves.  Concerned, Paul very carefully analyzed the blood on the field and was able to detect a faint signature on it.  Bringing this to Longfeather’s attention, the mercenary also attempted to see what Paul saw.  He was unable to do so but believed Paul and knew that it was likely significant.

Next step was to take a look at Thompson’s residence.  Driving there didn’t take too long; he lived only a few miles away in Northside.  Arriving, there was a car in the driveway but the house seemed otherwise vacant.  Dru noticed someone lurking in the shadows down the street, but he claimed only to be out getting milk.  The team ran him off and returned to the Thompson place.  Breaking in and searching the place, they were able to find his stash of the zombie cocaine.  Examining it, Paul was able to find the same signature that he discovered in the users’ blood on the drug.  The house clearly indicated that someone else lived there:  a woman but with a separate bedroom.

It was time to call the ICE number.  A woman picked up, introducing herself as Irene Gross.  The team asked to meet with her about a matter of some importance and she asked them to come to her “office,” a local strip joint named Gentleman John’s.  They drove over there, met with Irene, and gave her the news.  She didn’t take it well but was able to indicate that Ben’s dealer was a member of the Crows.  Irene was also able to tell them that the vehicle back a the house was Ben’s.  The team returned to it and Claudia hacked it to get location information off of it.  Using that information, they were able to determine the likely location of where Ben met his dealer.

But, at this point, it was fairly late.  Deciding to call it a night, the team reconvened in the morning to take a run at Nitin Rao and determine if he was involved in some way with the cocaine.  Tracking him down to his “dorm” they found him living in a room in Westside coincidentally not too far from the hotel where the team first met Longfeather.  He was asleep and so the team carefully performed a cursory search of his apartment and found little of interest until Dru uncovered some pro-Human paraphernalia.  Douglas armed himself with a knife from the kitchen, crawled up onto sleeping Mr. Rao’s chest and the team proceeded to wake him.  He fairly quickly revealed that he was working with the Human Brigade inside the CZ which routinely works to sabotage efforts to clean up the Zone which would destroy their power base.  Frightened, not only by the looming Troll, but also the knife-wielding teddy bear on his chest, it was clear that Rao had nothing further to tell them.

Finally:  the blood sample.  Lacking the resources to do much with it, the team dropped it off with the Anarchist Black Crescent for analysis.

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Cocaine Zombies?!

By on April 27th, 2013

Our next adventure began at a hotel.  Or, what used to be a hotel. Only a few blocks from the Containment Zone, the building was actually in fairly solid shape.  Outside, a few Native Americans, based on hair color and dress, watched as the team approached.  When they parked, one approached and after a short interrogation, lead them to their contact, a man who identified himself as Longfeather.

Entering the lobby of the hotel,Longfeather thanked their guide, calling him the Kid, and asked them all to sit.  He and Foxface had a moment and it was fairly clear to her that he saw through her mask, recognizing her for a Fox shifter.  The job sounded odd but intriguing:  a group of researchers with the University of Chicago and the Astral Space Preservation Society (ASPS) had run into a small problem that they didn’t understand.  Longfeather’s “boys” weren’t really equipped to figure it all out and so he decided to hire some runners to help him out.

These researchers, looking into ways of correcting mana ebbs throughout the CZ, had hit upon something promising.  But, every few weeks during their trials, a shambling horde of street people would descend on their outdoor research location.  The first time it happened, the researchers defended themselves with magic and they thought it was an odd, but singular event.  The second time, it was fairly clear there was a pattern.  But, luckily, the researchers had–by that point–hired Longfeather and his crew for security.

It was Longfeather who noticed the pattern in the attack timing:  they occurred on the full moons.  Sure enough, 28 days later, another assault took place and was easily fended off by Longfeather.  It was after this one that he decided to get some help tracking down the motivation, if any, for the attacks.  All he had to go on was some rudimentary toxicologies performed by colleagues of the researchers at the University that showed a cocaine-like substance in their blood.

The team agreed to the job but demanded to meet with the researchers from the University.  Douglas had already cross referenced astral research and the University to hit upon a likely researcher:  Professor Harold J. Bartlett.  Longfeather was able to confirm that this was the lead researcher and a meeting was set up for the following afternoon in a building in Northside that the University uses as an annex, considering main campus is deep inside the CZ.

The building was fairly secure but relied on the fact that the average street gang had little interest in University research and that the research performed within didn’t include drugs or chemicals that would have street value.  Claudia hacked the building and gained security level access for herself and for Douglas and they used the camera systems to perform a brief reconnaissance of the interior.  Foxface, in fox form, watched the outside and was able to see Bartlett, recognized from a photograph found on the Matrix, enter the building.  As 3 PM approached, the team entered the building and were met by Longfeather, who had placed himself in a camera blind spot in the lobby.

He led them to the third floor office suite for the professor where they met “Aaron” Lee, a Chinese grad student, as well as Drs. Bartlett, Quinn, and Kaufman representing the team from the University.  The doctors explained more about their research.  In short:  they had developed a method by which ambient mana resources could be siphoned from an area of higher mana concentration to an area of lower in a process similar to diffusion.  This processed could be directed in such a way to “drain” a specific domain and move its resources to a specific ebb.

The researchers were aware of the potential for this to be used as a way to reduce the potency of a domain, but they did not believe that this was what motivated the strange assaults.  In fact:  care had been taken to identify a mana ebb that returned to its original magnitude after Cleansings and domains were selected such that they were not Aspected toward any specific tradition to avoid angering any one.

The next step of the investigation was to visit the place where the research was performed.  Astral investigation revealed a background count of -2 in the area so the various magical types decided to avoid entering the ebb.  Claudia was able to hack a motion sensor on a nearby rail line using her Skinlink echo to confirm a weekly schedule of research events and a great deal of motion on the nights of the full moons.  The team determined areas in which they could support Longfeather during the expected assault encountering a crazy hobo who was able to give them the direction from which the horde approaches: the north.

Also, having found the location of the site, the team also tapped some contacts, specifically Paul’s friends in the CPD to learn more about major players in the area.  The two gangs identified, the Crows and the Lords, seem to contest the area to some degree.  Either one could be the source for the cocaine-like drug the hordes have been on during the attacks, but before researching more about the gangs, the team prepared to watch a research trial and help deal with the expected assault….