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Kren Cooper
Hi everyone - first of all I hope this is the appropriate place for this, and that it's ok to post here.

A few weeks back, we started a new SR3 campaign with a group of players - a reboot of a campaign I ran before for a different team. I thought it might interest people to see what was going on.

Initially, we were one player down, as he couldn't make it for the campaign opening, but we'd already missed a week, he didn't want to delay us, so I did a summary write up of what went on so they could catch up. I played the missing character, mostly passively and we started. Fate conspired against us on weeks 2 and 3, before the player pulled out of the campaign, realising that real life was not going to let him commit to the regular gaming session. We looked for and found a replacement, and found they were able to catch up with event reasonably quickly and completely thanks to the write ups. Since then I've tried to keep in the habit of writing up the notes, as a track on what went on in the session, and a reminder of where we left off each week.

I hope that this might be entertaining to others, or maybe provide inspiration or content that they can use in their campaigns or groups.

*edit - apologies for the massive wall of text - maybe I should have started with just one or two posts and tried to bring things in nice and slowly... but all the write ups are on now, and "caught up" with where the game is, so there'll only be one update a week to come on. I do welcome feedback and comments though (and award gold stars and cookies for anyone making it through the story without dying of boredom...*

Campaign setting: All characters were pre-generated, using the campaign settings below. None of the players started with a character sheet, due to having IC amnesia- so for the first few weeks the characters were very carefully and tentatively exploring not only the world around them, but also what they could do, and how good they were at various tasks. As we had several in the group that were new to either Shadowrun, or SR3, this meant that we could introduce the skills and dice pools gradually, explain the workings and learn the system bit by bit. It also meant that characters had a good reason to do "dumb" stuff because of OC player lack of knowledge about the world - they could then learn / "remember" how things worked, and pick up on the game world as we went along. As a result, the first few sessions were paced quite slowly, with low level opponents whilst people got used to things, before we took off the training wheels.

Campaign start date: October 1st 2055
Characters awaken in the Chicago containment zone, a few hours after the cermak blast takes out a bug hive. All the characters are suffering from amnesia, induced by the EMP blast from the nuke - thus all have no character sheet or character information to begin with, no knowledge of skills or background, and no idea on setting.

Character setup
  • All characters start at base attributes of 5, before race modifiers
  • All characters start with English, and Tibetan at 5, with R/W at 3 using up their language points
  • All characters start with athletics, stealth and Lama-Pai-Ha (a magical based martial art) at 5
  • All characters must be physical adepts, mages or shamen, and must start with no cyber/bio wear and essence 6
  • All characters start with no more than 5,000 nuyen's worth of personal effects.
  • All phys-ads have 8 power points to spend, all mages/shamen have 55/75 spell points to spend (full or aspected). Magicians way characters start with (points X 8 spell points)
  • All characters start at grade 1, with masking and having taken Oath as their first grade ordeal. All start with karma pool of 1 and 5 good karma.
  • Characters have 25 points to spend on knowledge skills
  • Characters then have 30 points to spend on additional active, knowledge or language skills, or on racial costs.

I worked with each of the players before the campaign started to find out what type of character they wanted to play, and then build out the skills accordingly, making sure that all the bases for a reasonable team were covered.
Kren Cooper
Episode 1 – 15/1/15 (808)
Woke up in a dark, square room - some form of store room.
There were the 5 of you, all in heavy and impressive armour, each with a different colour flash - Green, Purple, Red, Yellow and Blue.
When everyone took off their helmets, Red (You) was a little shorter, Yellow and Purple were female, Blue and Green looked like twins, and Purple seemed to be more muscular / stronger. All were oriental and looked quite similar, though not identical. Purple looked like she was from a slightly different area.
Yellow had a shotgun, Purple had a sword, everyone else had pistols. You all had rucksacks with food, water and clothes in, and few different items.
Green had an electronics / lockpick set of tools, yellow had a large first aid kit, you have some books, blue had climbing equipment, purple had sharpening stones and cleaning equipment.
Shortly afterwards the door was pushed open by a fightened child, about 6-8 years old.
She was being pursued by an older male, armed with a shotgun and a bowie knife.
The team attempted diplomacy. He refused to co-operate and went for his shotgun. Mr Green dealt with the threat with an expert and deadly single shot.
You explored the area - you were in the basement of a supermarket, with all of the "useful" survival items already looted.
Exploring upstairs, the supermarket looked looted and abandoned. There was a safe that Mr Green managed to open that had some small amount of money and some records in - nothing of real note (except learning that Mr Green has a way with locked items).
In the street, Purple and Blue noticed that the trees were all bent, as if they had been hit by very strong winds
You escorted Marie (the small girl) back to the house where she lived. He uncle was very nervous about opening the door - and you have realised just how intimidating your group looks.
You have learnt that you are in Chicago, in the winter of 2055. There are giant mutant bugs roaming the city. The army has sealed the city off with a huge wall, and shoot anyone that tries to escape. The city has been cut off from the communications network, but some leaked signals inform you that they are telling the outside world that you all have the plague...Nobody in the city appears to have the plague, but there were increasing numbers of giant bugs everywhere.
Yesterday there was an enormous explosion of some sort. This ties in with the time when you appear to have been unconscious. The situation is confusing as it appears to have been a nuclear weapon - there is radiation and blast patterns consistent with this type of weapon, but the size of the blast and situation argues that it could NOT have been a nuke. You're unsure where this leaves you.
You slept in the apartment overnight, and all had a very vivid dream, all about separate subjects.
The military organise food drops into the city in random places once per week or so.
There are a number of gangs - Marie's uncle knows of: Catherine the Terrible, King Vlad, the Blue Boys, Ghoul Town, Downtown and a few other small gangs.
You approached the wall and tried to communicate. The military sent in a VTOL armed with miniguns to hunt you down. You evaded.
Later, you spotted a drone searching the city. Mr Blue tried to make contact, and this seemed to go better. Shortly afterwards, he received a terrible feeling of danger, and you all left the apartment you had been sheltering in.
Very shortly afterwards, heavy calibre artillery annihilated the apartment and the surrounding area. It was decided that you should probably not trust the military...
With the civilians in tow (Marie+uncle, and two couples that were in the same building), you went further into the city, looking for a new base.
You met a large beetle (about 8 feet long, about 3 feet high) that attacked you. You managed to kill it, mostly thanks to Purple and her magically enhanced sword. It was found that normal guns don't seem to hurt them.
You have found a slightly better apartment further into the city that has running water and power (at least so far). You are currently fortifying and enhancing this as a place to stay for the immediate future whilst you work out what to do next. Mr Green is charging up the suit power packs, and appears to be skilled with a variety of electronics. Ms Yellow appears to be slow to react in combat, but has some magical talent for healing. Purple seems very adept with her sword. You appear to be quite gifted at talking with people. Mr Blue seems to have a plan and react quickly to danger.
Kren Cooper
Episode 2 – 22/1/15 (738)
We pick up in the apartment, with some of the civilians on guard, some in the apartment, discussing what plans to make. Suddenly the alarm is raised - there appears to be a gang coming down the street, armed with a variety of melee weapons. There is a large troll, a pair of orks and 5 humans, moving in a loose mob. Mr Blue goes outside to sit on the steps without his armour on, Purple and Yellow move to the far corner of the block and hide, ready to support, Red hides inside the ground floor windows, and Green inside the 1st floor windows. The troll spots Blue and tries to intimidate him / extort "stuff" from him. Mr Blue refuses, and the situation starts to turn hostile. Mr Green initiates combat with another expert shot into one of the targets, dropping a human with a serious wound. He switches to a second, and drops him as well. Ms Purple also drops two targets, as does Mr Red. Ms Yellow moves from cover, providing a target to help decoy away from the unarmoured Mr Blue, and getting her shotgun ready. Mr Blue discovers he can cast spells, and does a credible job of giving the troll a liquid brain... By the end of the next 3 second combat pass, the troll is unconscious at the side of the road, and all of the rest of the gang has been rendered incapable of resistance. They are taken away to the old apartment, patched up enough to survive and left. The street is washed down to avoid attracting bugs or carrion, and the troll is tied up and bought inside. Shortly afterwards, a food drop is spotted. The party move with most of the civilians, secure a large quantity of food, and return to the safe house. The civilians are generally quite happy by now - they have food and water, are in an apartment with electric and running water, and have proven competent guards that will look after them. Then Ms Purple lets slip in conversation that they don't actually have a plan to get them out, and in fact they're not even sure that's what they will try to do....
The team spends some time examining each other and working to try and establish their abilities and capabilities, and managed to discover a lot more about what they can do, if not the why and who.
The troll recovers consciousness, and Mr Blue gets ready for an interrogation - only to discover that "Rikki", is more than willing to cooperate and reveal full and frank details of any subject that he has knowledge of, hoping that he will get to live. After negotiation, he agrees to work for the team, and help look after the other civilians.
Several hours later, a lone figure is observed scouting the area. The team move into positions to try and observe / monitor him - but something spooks him. He turns and flees, dropping his toolbox, and loosing his hat in the process. Mr Green seems to recognise some similarity with his dream, and indicates that he should be followed. He is tracked into the sewers, and is found in a large chamber in the sewers, along with another individual, a huge mass of computer equipment, and several hi-tech drones and guns.
The two geeks are system administrators for the Chicago area branch of Shadowland, the subversive "dark internet" used by Shadowrunners to pass information and make deals. They have been trying to restore the Chicago grid to operation since it was deliberately spiked and destroyed by the government when the city was cut off. It turns out that the components that Mr Green has were the final pieces they need to get everything online and back in order.
They also managed to access the systems in the suits, bringing them fully online, and enabling features like the internal compass, bio-monitors and GPS systems. Of particular interest was the video footage on the suits, showing the team entering an underground lair or warren, supporting another team of heavily armed and armoured individuals, against a massive force of bugs. The enemy team finally succumbed to the onslaught, and appeared to be setting off some sort of weapon... the player team turned and fled, and managed to get to the basement of the supermarket before the explosion was triggered and they all lost consciousness...
Kren Cooper
GM Notes

Each of the players was issued with a "dream sheet", containing a description something like this :
"You awake from a vivid dream in which you relive part of the action from Alice in Wonderland. You remember chasing after the white rabbit as it leaps down the hole, following through the dark spiral tunnels to its lair. Instead of a tea party though, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are both trying to fix tables and chairs with poor quality tools. You pull out your tools and help them to fix things, and they seem wonderfully happy with you. The rabbit is trying to tie together two bits of string, from separate trees, but they're too far apart to reach each other. You wonder if the long ties on your pinny would help him make the connection that seems so important to him."
This was the dream that Mr Green had. In game the scene was described as the figure having a massive shock of white hair, but with some sort of hat or cap pulled down over his head, giving him what looked like two giant white ears sticking up by the side of their head.

In essence, these are side missions, an opportunity to make friends and influence people, earn extra karma or do "the right thing", and the dreams give a possible interpretation to how they might handle the situation. When each mission is complete, and the team return to their base, they are debriefed and present to some kinds of spirits. In a mystical mandala room, they are each given a wooden bowl, and sit on the sands. Pebbles appear in front of them, each pebble relating to the karma award for the mission gone. They are free to put some of the karma in the wooden bowl - this is the donation of karma to the spirit, used to enhance spirit energy / force. In return, it uses its metamagic technique of foretelling to impart dreams that may or may not be useful. The more karma the player donates, the more clear, relevant and helpful the dream is to them (to a certain point).
To a certain extent, this lets me try to subtly direct the flow of the adventure and describe key cut scenes in detail, or have specific maps and resources ready to give to the players because they want to "work out" their dream.

In this case, Mr Green had in his rucksack a number of unusual and unique components required to bring online some key hosts and core routers in the Shadowland node for Chicago. This enabled System05 (Tweedledum) to work with his engineer friend (Tweedledee) to bring back up a limited matrix capability inside the containment zone, allowing survivors to start communicating and helping each other, and providing support for the team as they wandered the city trying to work out what was going on. Karmically of course, this was a "good thing" as it helps lots of people survive better against the alien menace.
Kren Cooper
Episode 3 - 29/1/15 (1082)
We picked up with the team still down in the sewers, talking with the two System Operatives for the Chicago Matrix node. The team worked out the communications protocols needed to keep in touch with them, and re-covered the details of the information that needed to be conveyed to the outside world. The team also have a downloaded map of the city, showing the rough location of the wall and some major features, updated with the positions of some of the major gangs, and their encountered locations. They returned to the new home base, meeting up with Rikki and the rest of the civilians.
The team settled down for the night, slept, and all apparently shared a somewhat disturbing dream about a number of casualties / deaths, that were in some way related to them. In the morning, after breakfast, they engaged in meditation and focusing on their magical powers, and some more was discovered about each of the special powers that individual team members were capable of.
After some discussion, it was agreed to head to Ghoultown, down near the Lake, to see if the team could barter some form of services in exchange for better firepower. While the team was shaking down into formation, and testing their newly discovered powers, they were attacked by a pair of Fly bugs, which burst from a building. They were quickly dispatched, but the incident gave a flash of insight - the bugs it seems are in some way attracted to, or trigged by, magical power - the team would need to be careful with how they used their powers here.
They continued East, heading for the coast, and after another kilometer or so, discovered a small pack of Cicadas, just rounding a corner, looking like they were going to head for the team. Mr Blue let off a strongly focused ball of lightning, causing fairly extensive damage to the tightly grouped insects, which then swept in to attack. During the attack Mr Blue was knocked to the ground with 3 insects trying desperately to pry through his armour - but fortunately it proved too strong for the relatively light attacks from the bugs, and the rest of the team worked through the attackers, dispatching them.
After the fight the team realised that someone had opened a window in the 6 story apartment just down the road and was giving them a round of applause. As Mr Blue had taken reasonably serious stun damage whilst casting the Lightning Ball, they sought shelter in the building, introducing themselves to the man, who turned out to be a Professor in Applied Physics at the city university. It turns out that he and the 14 other survivors in the apartment block had been pinned in place by the bugs for about a week, slowly starving to death - any time people had tried to get out for food, the bugs had taken them.
Following a discussion with the remaining tenants, they agreed to come back to the base camp with the team, and integrate with the other civilians for mutual protection. The team escorted them back, and introduced the two groups, smoothing over the tensions that arose regarding logistics and power / hierarchy between them. Most of the first batch were blue collar manual workers, while the more affluent second group were more management / skilled service engineers. The team went off for a quiet discussion regarding their next steps, when there was a sudden violent altercation.
Rikki the Troll had a human (Tyler) pinned to the wall, and looked on the brink of murdering him. It appears that Tyler was a strongly motivated racist, a member of the Humanis Policlub, and did not want to take orders from, or even be near a "dirty troll". He was ejected from the house, and Green and Purple followed him discretely back towards the appartment they had come from. About halfway home, Tyler was attacked and carried off by a large Beetle spirit. It appears that he wasn't going to be a security risk.
However, during this encounter, Ms Purple had a sudden flashback - it appears that sometime in her past she had some sort of run in with racist people of some kind, and meeting another overt racist triggered these memories. She mentioned this when they returned to the base, and the team gradually worked out a way to start talking about their perceptions of what they had done so far, how they felt about things, and soon they were eliciting emotional responses from each other which was triggering further flashes of memory. Once they had a few, they in turn triggered more, and soon a flood of memories and thoughts were revealed. There was also some tickling involved, which required a certain level of nakedness. Maybe you had to be there for this bit to make sense....
However, after much conversation and discussion, the team managed to unlock most of the memories suppressed from the blast / explosion, and realised most of who and what they were - though there are still blank spots in their lives - for instance they still don't know what specifically they came to Chicago for (though they have some ideas), and how they got here.
But, by the end of this session, the team have a midscale Brownstone block under their control, with 23 people of various skill sets living in a small community, with power, water and matrix access. They have established communications with two techs living in the sewers, and have been instrumental in bringing the Chicago Matrix node back online in a stable configuration, earning their trust - and in return have been given access to the newly stable grid and effectively a city wide communications method. They have dispatched a number of bugs - Beetle, Fly and Cicada subtypes, discovering that they are attracted by magic, and tend to be very tough - requiring magic spells or weapons to really hurt them. They can be fought in hand to hand, but most of the team can hold them at bay, scoring or taking only light damage. Gunfire - certainly of the types of guns the team has - is mostly ineffective. The city remains somewhat desolate and very depressing - many thousands of people have died from either the bugs, the containing army troops, starvation and disease, or by preying upon each other - but there are isolated bright spots of metahumanity, working together to survive.
Kren Cooper
Episode 4 - 5/2/15 (853)
The team were back in the Brownstone, planning their next move, when a message appears on their suit HUDs, asking them to move at speed to a location just south of the Core. There they were to find Bettsy, a lone female who had an item of interest. The team moved to the location with some of the team having invisibility cast on them. At the location they saw a figure hunched under the steelwork supporting the elevated rail, being dragged into the darkness. Moments later, 6 gangers appeared, 4 carrying a figure and 2 providing overwatch. Mr Blue cast a Mass Agony spell, incapacitating all 6, causing them to drop to the floor. Mr Green moved to stun all the targets, but whilst moving to their location, car headlights illuminated half of the party - 2 cars not previously noticed in a lot to the side, had started up, with more gangers in them. Mr Blue managed to cast a Chaotic World spell that incapacitated them as well. There was a long burst of automatic fire from inside one of the cars, and it stopped running, whilst the second car stalled.
A pair of roach bugs were apparently drawn to the use of magic, and Ms Purple moved to deal with them, assisted by the team. Ms Yellow secured the hostage and discovered that she had been "tranked" - knocked out with a patch containing drugs designed to anaesthetise on contact with bare skin.
The live gang members, from "The Volk" were tied and blindfolded, and piled in and on the car, and the team returned to base. Bettsy and Yellow / Purple / Green stayed at base, while Blue, Red and Ricky took the gangers to a nearby empty house to conduct interrogations. Yellow uploaded files from a portable drive that Bettsy had to the Chicago Net for System05 to check out.
After a long interrogation, the 9 surviving gangers broke down into three groups - those who where with the Volk from the beginning, who didn't like how the group had changed, but didn't see a way to combat it, those who just wanted to survive and saw this as their best option, and those who were fundamentalist in their beliefs that all of the bad mojo had been caused by meta-humans. Group 1 was welcomed into the collective, group 2 were diplomed at by Mr Red until they converted, and group 3 were taken out into the streets towards the airport, left in the road and then Mr Blue attracted the attention of a nearby Wasp hive before fleeing the scene...
Back at the base, Bettsy had descended on the apartment like an elemental force of nature, and was organising cleaning, polishing, wiping and washing on an industrial scale. Most of the residents didn't seem equipped to tell someone old enough to be their mum/grandma that no, they didn't want to clean, and somehow ended up blitzing the place with anything to hand.
Shortly afterwards, the files from Bettsy started to appear via the suits, with pages of text describing the situation in Ghoultown, Special Order 162 and the behind the scenes manipulations of the city councillors and some shadowy power groups to manipulate the Ghouls into the open so they can be "dealt with", a la a "final solution". It turns out that Bettsy has an estranged son who is a ghoul, and has some personal stake in things... she also revealed the location of Jerome Standish, one of the movers and shakers in the plan to get rid of the ghouls, who is holed up in the Hotel Royal on the west side of the core.
After a discussion, the team put on hold their plans to raid the Volk for equipment, asking System05 to start to monitor the area using traffic cams, which were found to be reasonably intact in the area.
The team moved across town in the evening, covering the 9km from their base to the neighbourhood with the hotel in it. En-route, they discovered a lone female, a statuesque Nordic blond, walking alone down the streets, apparently unconcerned. After close examination, it was determined that she must be magically active, and was considerably stronger than anyone in the team. Mr Red started communications with her, attempting to use his charm and magical talents to find out information, but she shut him down cold - apparently being impervious to his abilities. She did ask if the team had spotted bugs recently, and when told about the Wasp nest, headed off in that direction.
As the team neared the hotel, the found the tops of several building lit up with a few dozen Firefly bugs. A few were attracted to the team, and a small fight ensued, with no casualties to the team. They left the area rapidly, and closed on the hotel.
The session ended with the team in a position to get eyes on to the hotel and start their recon and planning.
Kren Cooper
Episode 5 – 12/1/15 (1324)
News flash. It turns out that the rest of the team, and the world at large had apparently thought that Red was a Mr, when in fact she is a Ms. The armour must be unflattering. Maybe that’s why the blond shut her down so hard the previous week – it must be bitch vibes. (Replacement player joined the group and Red underwent a gender transformation – but Red is no longer under GM control – YAY!)
Anyway, the team were in cover, watching the Hotel Royale. Blue pulled back and summoned a few spirits – finding them much harder to control than expected, and getting less services than expected. They returned to watch the hotel. A poorly phrased command to a low force watcher spirit triggered a large noise of alarm, and very shortly afterwards someone appeared at a window and started to shine a torch down onto the street, but the team didn’t think they were spotted. After a discussion with the team, Green headed to the side alley, and started to scale up the building, heading for the 3rd floor. Part way up, he became aware of a loud buzzing, and looking up spotted half a dozen wasps the size of a large table plummeting down the building side from the 17th floor. Mr Green dived into a room through a window and took cover, and the rest of the team on spotting the menace made a break for the hotel, sprinting for the front doors. They managed to get into the hotel just in time, sliding the doors shut behind them, and watching as the wasps hurled themselves into the glass, making the doors reverberate with the impact. The lobby was a large 2 story space, decorated with low couches, potted plants and a large reception desk, with two sets of double doors leading further into the hotel, on either side of the desk. Mr Blue cast a physical barrier spell, a translucent green sheet of energy forming over the door at an angle from one to another – the team planned to slide one door open, with the barrier covering part of the gap, making room for only a single wasp to enter at a time, so they could be fought in isolation. Just as they were starting this plan, the team heard many footsteps, from both sets of doors. Moments later a handful of gangers burst through each set of doors, waving around cheap looking SMGs – they spotted the team, and pulled the triggers, letting rip with wild and uncontrolled fully automatic fire, shredding desks, couches and plants, with copious numbers of rounds hitting various team members and ricocheting in all directions from their hardened armour.
Ms Red swung into action, and using her voice modulating powers barked out a command to “drop your weapons!” So surprised by this, and such was the force of the command, that they complied. Unfortunately one of the guns, when dropped, trigged off a long burst, decapitating one of the gangers into a bloody gushing mess. As Purple, Yellow and Blues Fire Sylph took up positions near the door, fighting the wasp that had entered, Blue moved with Red to secure their new prisoners – with a watcher spirit berating one group threating them with a fate worse than death in a horrifying monologue.
As the team were dealing with the gangers, more poured out of the corridor in an unorganised swarm – with Red shouting commands to each of the lift-full sized groups as they entered, they were quickly disarmed and grouped together, an ever increasing number of gangers wondering why they all felt like their mum had just told them off, and not quite sure why exactly they had given up their weapons. The fire sylph and Purple managed to hack their way through most of the wasps, and the situation felt hectic, but under control.
Meanwhile up on the 3rd floor, Mr Green had lain quietly for a few moments, listening and observing. He caught the tail end of the gangers heading down to the lobby, and then slipped out into the hotel corridor, padding silently along to check out the rooms. As he rounded the corner from the side to front of the hotel, he could hear the sounds of a briefing, and slid along the wall to try and spy on the opponents. Peering through a crack in the door, he could spot a large number of para-military types, in body armour and fatigues, holding automatic rifles and equipped with other military grade gear. They appeared to be getting ready to head downstairs to support the first wave assault from the gangers. Mr Green slipped into the adjacent room, discovering it had been turned into a makeshift barracks, with kit strewn all over the room and many cots laid out. He found a spare headset for the radios they were using, and adjusted the comms frequency of his suit to match, suddenly drowning out the radio link with bad synth-pop hits from a music player found in one of the rucksacks. The confusion this caused and disruption to communication bought the team downstairs vital seconds, as the team leader shouted to restore order, and got his team swapped to the alternate frequency programmed on the radios. Unfortunately for him, Mr Green also swapped frequency, and using his talents he adjusted his voice, and started to issue different commands, impersonating the commander, and sending squads up to the roof and various other floors. Utter confusion reigned, and the troops split up to investigate these other reported attacks.
Down in the lobby, the door finally shattered under the relentless assault of the two remaining wasps, and engaged in combat with Purple and Yellow, who just managed to defeat them without suffering injuries. As the noise of combat died down, a deeper and louder buzzing could be heard – more wasps, descending the building outer. The team pushed into the corridor, taking out the last few remaining gangers with stun spells for the group in the eastern stairwell, and taking the surrender of the group in the west stairwell. All of the gangers were moved to the west ballroom, disarmed and told to barricade themselves in for their own protection. The team sealed the doors from the lobby, while Mr Blue sprinted up the east stairwell to support Mr Green.
Purple, Yellow and Red started to advance up the west stairwell, one the gangers were sealed into the room and no longer capable of interfering with their plans. Up on the 3rd floor, Mr Green had slid a mirror under the connecting door between the barracks and briefing suite, and had spotted the target – Jerome Standish, guarded by a few more soldiers. An invisible Mr Blue joined him, and they hatched a quick plan. Without waiting for the rest of the team, a stun ball was fired into the room, somewhat affecting the soldiers guarding Standish, and the door was thrown open. Mr Green took a step into the room, and quickly spotted more guards, one in the bathroom, one in the corner of the suite, out of line of sight from the door. A quick doubletap put him down, but not out. Mr Blue drew his magical power, and fired what he hoped would be a debilitating powerball spell across the room at Standish – however he was not prepared for the quick actions of the gaunt figure, who with some force of will bounced the spell back at Mr Blue. Blue and Green were fortunate to resist the spell themselves. The guard from the bathroom fired a carefully aimed burst at Mr Green, the rounds ploughing into the armour, but not penetrating. He immediately called for the team to switch to armour penetrating rounds, and ducked back into cover…
Purple, Red and Yellow increased speed, heading to the 3rd floor to support Blue and Green.
And on that cliffhanger note, we had to stop for the week…
Kren Cooper
Episode 6 - 19/2/15 (2028)
We pick up the action with Blue and Green in the barracks room - Green on the deck where the burst of gunfire knocked him back, and Blue grabbing him and pulling him back into cover. Red, Purple and Yellow were in the stairwell, heading up the stairs. After the cry from one of the soldiers, there was the sound of magazines being ejected and actions being cycled. Blue charged through the doorway, still shrouded in his invisibility spell, aiming to get to Jerome Standish - but finding his path blocked by the human shields of his guard squad. His headlong charge turned into a shoulder barge, as he engaged one of the troops in melee, trying to force his way through. Meanwhile, Green peered around the doorway, trying to get a bead onto the soldier hiding in the bathroom, firing off a couple of pistol rounds, for little apparent effect.

The return fire was a different matter - the soldier was smartlinked to his weapon, and a short controlled burst with his armour piercing ammunition drilled into Green with fairly devastating effect - punching through the armour and shredding his thigh muscle. As the sound of combat echoed over the comm system, the three on the stairs started to bound upwards. Yellow stuck to a pace that allowed her to interface with the suits’ battletac system, and moments later the camera feeds from Blue and Green appeared in the corners of everyone's visions, allowing them to see what was going on above. Purple with sword in hand bounded up the stairs at a sprint, but was quickly overtaken by Red, moving like a whippet. Despite his invisibility, once engaged in hand to hand, Blue found himself bogged down just enough to prevent him reaching Standish - who spent a brief second checking astral space, before using his magical power to tear down the spell cloaking Blue. Now visible, the three guards made grabs for him, and Blue was soon trapped in a whirling melee. The guards attacked with a mixture of martial arts strikes and using their weapons as clubs, and though the armour protected him from harm, Blue was gradually winded and stunned from the continuous assault from his foes. Green crawled back into the barracks room, bleeding profusely from his leg wound, keeping his gun trained into the next room as best he could, while Purple, Red and Yellow continued to run up the stairs.

Just as Red reached the doorway and was looking through into the room, with Purple heading in to stand over the downed Green, Jerome cast another spell - his arms raised dramatically above him, muttering dark phrases, a wall of filth and excrement drew up out of the carpet, whirling to form a barrier between the barracks room and main suite - looking for all the world like a sandstorm made of bodily waste and vile effluent. By this time Blue had been battered into unconsciousness, and was laying face down on the bed - one of the soldiers was trying to attach plasticuffs to him to secure their captive, but was finding it difficult to manoeuvre the armour into a position that would work. The two remaining guards resumed their shielding of their principal, assault rifles at the ready. Purple, Yellow and Red had reached the 3rd floor by now, and were moving in to support positions. The fire sylph that Blue had told to guard Red dematerialised and headed into the room as one of the guards fired a long automatic burst at Red’s position - fortunately the heavy fire/security door on the suite robbed the APDS rounds of enough power that they no longer posed a threat to her. Jerome engaged the spirit in a banishing contest and ripped it apart - but this distracted him from any other hostile action briefly. The guards continued to wait, ready to engage any hostiles, but Yellow’s modification of the battletac systems gave the team an advantage now - Green was able to take targeting information from Red’s suit, and started to fire blind, through the filth wall, keeping the guards hunkered down. Red threw a flash-bang into the room, the grenade ricocheting of the walls, and landing in the perfect position - in-between all of the remaining enemies, and detonating with a loud crack and a flash like the sun. The team bounded into the room - Purple with sword swinging sliced into one guard, then the second, before with a massive swing neatly decapitating both.

Jerome obviously made a quick assessment of the situation, did the math, and promptly jumped out of the window...With a booming command, Red ordered the last guard to stand down, buying a few seconds of indecision whilst the team took up better positions in the room. The last of the soldiers laid down his weapon, and placed his hands on his head, and the sounds of combat faded away. Yellow moved to Green, and started to assess his wounds, quickly plugging the gunshot wounds in his legs, applying disinfectants and giving him a massive shot of anti-biotics, then checking the wounds carefully started to try and repair the damage. With no immediate danger, Purple and Red looked out of the window, checking to see where Jerome had landed - only to spot him calmly walking down the outside of the building, his Gecko Crawl spell keeping him safe. He looked back over his shoulder, made some sort of invocation, then headed into the darkness. A noise, a deep thudding, sounded from the next room - something large was stirring, and pounding on the wall. After a few moments it broke through - a large elemental made of blood, bones, filth and toxic waste, crudely fashioned into a vaguely humanoid shape. Green steadied his arm on the top of Yellow’s head as she continued to minister to his wounds, and blasted a couple of small chunks out of it - his rounds doing minimal damage to the magical creature, but attracting it's attention. It moved across the room with a roar, heading for Green, but in the process exposing it's flank to Purple and Red. The surrendered soldier, his eyes pinned to Red, carefully picked up his assault rifle, carefully keeping it aimed away from the team and firmly at the excremental, before triggering a burst of fire into it - again blasting off some small chunks but causing little lasting damage.

Purple and Red moved in an attacked it - with Red managing to trip the creature with a vicious leg sweep, it soon fell under the magical assault of Purple’s katana. Quiet descended on the room again. Yellow managed to patch up the wound in Green, and then moved over to Blue, checking over his various bruises and vital signs, before rousing him. With bleary eyes and what looked like the mother of all headaches, Blue looked around the room, taking in the scene of carnage. Looking into the next room through the hole in the wall, the team were greeted with a hotel suite that had been turned into a charnel house. A tarpaulin was covering the floor, raised around the edges, containing a large pool of what appeared to be blood, sloshing an inch deep or more. Various bones and body organs were laid out, forming a geometric shape inside the area, with a circular border - in astral space the summoning circle formed a obvious barrier with magic radiating from it - astral space was polluted and made the team uncomfortable to be nearby. Suspended from the ceiling on various hooks and chains that had been drilled into the plasterwork were dozens of partial bodies, some of them children - all looking to have been ritually slaughtered and dismembered to form the circle below. Purple moved into the room and started to dismantle the circle, destroying the physical boundaries and disrupting the mana flow. When the circle was trashed, they set of the sprinkler system, flooding gallons of water into the room, washing away the filth and trying to cleanse the area. Yellow was busy ministering to Blue, performing some form of massage technique on his head, uttering quiet, soothing words as her fingers moved over the pressure points on his skull - but whatever she was doing seemed to be working, as within minutes his eyes were clearer and he was able to focus much more easily. Once again though, Yellow’s lips were cracked, her face looking sallow and her eyes bloodshot as she absorbed some of the damage to the essence of her team members. Green suddenly alerted Red - he'd picked up comms from the team that had gone up to the roof levels - they had engaged in a massive gun battle with a swarm of wasps, and taken nearly 60% casualties - but were on the way down to the 3rd floor again.

The team turned on their captive, who was now standing with his assault rifle in hand, but carefully pointed away from them, and recommended that he call for them to approach to begin negotiations. Red spoke with the troopers as they returned, obviously the worse for wear from their battle with the bugs high in the hotel. Wounded, betrayed and left by their former boss and facing a team wearing military grade armour they could barely penetrate, the soldiers soon were swayed by reason, and agreed to support the team. After spending a few minutes gathering gear and packing rucksacks, whilst Yellow worked on the soldiers, patching up their various wounds, both groups moved back down to the lobby level. They moved into the ballroom, where the gang had been locked in, and Red again gave a speech outlining the options open to them. Most of them agreed to come and work with the team, but there were a few that Red had doubts about - they were taken to one of the lifts, placed inside with their gear, and then left, with the lift locked down. Meanwhile, Green and Yellow had found the hotel security room, and were busy wiping the security footage of their visit. Whilst in the system, they found some of the cameras up on the higher floors were still active. Red and Purple overheard some of the soldiers talking about the "other team", and clued in Green and Yellow, and with a bit of searching they found a group of 5 women, all very attractive, and all apparently unarmed, wandering down the corridors, before launching a vicious hand to hand assault on the wasps - and apparently winning. The soldiers took advantage of this sudden respite, and after finishing off their opponents, beat a hasty retreat. The team grabbed a copy of the footage, and then spotted that someone had apparently set the hive on fire, and it was starting to spread. The team gathered their supplies, the remaining squad of soldiers and the gangers, along with all the supplies they could carry, and in a mob, moved out into the street, and headed back towards the brownstone. Looking back, they could see that the 17th and 18th floor of the hotel were well alight, and the the sprinkler system was obviously not in operation that high as the fire was quickly spreading.

After several hours of walking, the team got back to their base, and got the 35 new additions to their community squared away - cramming people into the brownstone wherever they would fit. The team called a meeting, and addressed the obvious overcrowding, describing how they were going to scout out in the morning, find a new base where the gangers could be set up, and relieve the situation. One of the locals piped up, and said that they knew of a school only a few miles away, that they worked at, and suggested they look into that, which was generally thought to be a good idea. The team, fairly exhausted from their foray out after Standish, stood down and found some spare space to relax in, and the brownstone - now packed beyond comfort - settled down for a nights rest.
Kren Cooper
Episode 7 – 27/02/15 (1626)
The team had settle down, fairly exhausted from the gunfight and expedition to capture Standish, when Mr Blue’s spirit returned – he’d found Standish from the blood sample the team had found, and had tracked him down. Much effort was made to get a description from the rather simple minded spirit, including making 3d approximations of the city from the map they had found – and eventually they worked out that he had taken refuge in the “Shattergraves” – an abandoned area of the core, site of a horrific bombing many years ago by Human extremists. Now the area is mostly inhabited by spirits, ghost, spectres and wraiths – the tortured souls of the thousands that died in the collapse of the skyscraper and the wildfire that erupted from the severed gas main that devastated several city blocks.
The team made an assessment, and realised they were too weary to fight effectively any more that night, and that Standish could wait.
Instead, they relaxed, got out of their armour to stretch and get clean, to eat and do maintenance on their equipment, and to discuss the events of the night. Ms Red led a discussion on how the assault on the hotel had gone, trying to ensure that the team worked well together in the future – taking advantage of opportunities as they arose, but not splitting the team up and separating their firepower with unconsidered actions.
Eventually, the team slept, getting just enough sleep before being awoken to make them effective, though not fully rested. The consulted with Mrs Adams, the head teacher who had advised them of the location of her school, saying that she thought it would make a good location for the enclave to move to. She provided them with a mag-loc passkey to get them into the building, and a plan of the school from her PDA.
The team plotted the position of the school – roughly 4-5 miles north of their current location, and much closer to the heart of Chicago. After much discussion, they worked out a marching order, and placed invisibility and silence spells on Ms Purple, who would take point, and letting Mr Green fade into the shadows taking rear guard. They moved through the city, aware of watching eyes from some of the apartments and condos on their route, the populace being too scared to approach the heavily armoured team. As they headed north, they saw the 6 lane elevated highway cutting across their path – Route 55. They approached carefully, keeping their eyes peeled – Ms Red in particular seeming to be on the lookout for fluffy dice, for reasons known only to herself. Whilst examining the cars that had either crashed or been abandoned, it became clear that they had all been raided for fuel, leaving only the dregs behind.
Whilst looking at the vehicles, Mr Green picked up the faint sound of engines and paged a warning to the rest of the team – inbound contacts from the east, coming straight down the highway. The team hid, and watched as the vehicles hoved into view. Leading the convoy was half a dozen big road hogs, spread into a V formation. Behind them looked to be a school bus, with a crude turret mounted at the front containing some kind of large machine gun, whilst a trapdoor at the rear allowed someone to stand on the back seat and protrude out of the top of the vehicle, his RPG aimed casually to one side. Behind the bus, two large pickup trucks followed closely behind, each with more people carrying RPGs in the load area. The team quickly debated trying to attack the convoy, but decided against it, and to continue their initial mission. As the convoy passed, Mr Blue checked them astrally, and not detecting any mage presence, dispatched a watcher spirit to follow them, and try to find their base.
The team pushed on, and were within a block or two of their target when they spotted something most unwelcome. A large corporate office building in the next block over to their school had a seething mass of wasps flying around the uppermost story, and as they approached, they saw over two dozen of the critters break off and begin to fly westwards. The team broke into a run, and moved into cover, breaking into a shop selling inks and toners, and laying low whilst the large force of bugs flew overhead. After a few minutes, they ventured out, continuing north. They spotted a 2-3 story building one block west – something to do with the Chicago PD, and spent a few moments examining it – but quickly determined that it was not a public building – it had very few and quite secure entrances, and was monitored by a large number of overlapping cameras. They pressed on and made a dash for the school, managing to reach it without further incidents.
The elementary school looked to be in good shape – it still had water and power, was fairly secure against outside assault, and once they had used the provided mag-loc passkey to enter, looked to be clean, secure and tidy. Mr Green spotted some furry dice in one of the classrooms, but declined to mention anything to Ms Red. A quick sweep of the classrooms and main buildings left them happy that no bugs were present, and it seemed to be reasonably well suited to hold their rapidly burgeoning population. Then, just as they were discussing their next steps, Mr Green tilted his head quizzically, before telling the rest of the team that he’d heard a noise. Purple and Green headed down the corridor to check it out, whilst the rest took up defensive positions, ready to give support. In the silence that followed, they heard the noise again, someone moving and trying to be quiet, coming from the boiler room and general store. Purple moved into the room, flicking on the lights, whilst Green called for the occupant to show themselves. A stocky middle aged black man, wearing some form of coveralls or dungarees peered around the mass of pipework, saw the menacing figure of Green, and immediately tried to hide again.
Ms Red moved in, and controlling her voice to produce calming and reassuring tones, coaxed the man out of hiding. Tom Jeffries was the maintenance man for the school, and after losing access to his house had moved to the only other place he knew – the school. He’d been hidden out here, in the dark, for several days, and was on the edge of hysteria from fear and lack of human contact. Red calmed him down, and with Yellow’s help, got him a com connection back to the Brownstone, and Mrs Adams, his boss.
After a quick check with the council members back at the base, the team moved into planning – sending watcher spirits out to check on the office block, and also searching for the team of vixens they had bumped into at the Hotel Royal the night before. The spirits sped off into the city, looking for their targets, whilst the watchers kept an eye on the top floors of the building, watching scores of wasps orbit the upper floors. Mr Blue summoned some more spirits, and sent them into the basement to scout out the building, as they formulated plans for getting rid of the wasp hive. The spirits returned quickly – there were a horde of bugs – centipedes rather than ants or roaches, living in the basement levels, feeding on some unfortunates. The team decided they should not enter by the vehicle basement.
After much discussion and planning, the team began building some improvised incendiaries, using supplies from the school chemistry lab and technology rooms to fashion explosives and detonators. They moved west a little, and opened a fire hydrant, then blocked up the drains with loose earth from the park, quickly creating a large but shallow lake at the intersection. Mr Blue concentrated and summoned a pair of water undines – sending one into the water pipes to block the incoming feed of water to the office block, and the other to the roof, to take out the water storage tower. Moments later, both tasks were complete, but the use of magical powers around the top of the building sent the wasps into frenzy, with a huge swarm of them appearing from the top floor and buzzing angrily around the shattered windows and now drenched rooftop. The spirits of Man, released from their service to Mr Blue, didn’t disappear with the summoning of the undines however – they stayed, watching Mr Blue, muttering under their breath about how crazy he was. Next, the improvised explosives were levitated into the air, and with a massive grunt, Blue flung them using all of his magical power, straight to the top of the building. With his massive effort the explosives reached speeds of nearly 60kph, and as they entered the building, Mr Green sent the detonation command. Several fires could be clearly seen erupting inside the building, and it became clear that there must be a large nest in there, as the top floor caught alight incredibly quickly. It also was clear that there must be a queen present, as the wasps kept flying into the building, burning themselves to crisps, in an effort to perform some activity. As the team watched, the fire quickly spread down the building, with an ever decreasing number of wasps throwing themselves into the flames, trying to achieve some goal.
The team took refuge in the school again, waiting for the threat from the wasps to be dealt with. Two more spirits of Man manifested – ones not summoned by Blue, and joined the first pair, following Mr Blue around, obviously waiting for his next crazy act.
Kren Cooper
Episode 8 - 05/03/15 (2877)
The team were located at the school, having secured the building, put Tom in touch with the headmistress, and determined that it would meet their immediate needs. There was a little discussion on the logistics involved in getting their burgeoning community from the Brownstones to here - it was a reasonable trek, and they would be certain to attract attention.
The team decided to scout out the local area, to see what was around. Their new school building took up half a block of space, sharing the square area with a building belonging to the Boy Scouts, and a music college. The block to the south had a large office building belonging to the Social Security, along with some smaller shops and services, to the southwest was the corporate offices that contained the wasp nest - by this point well alight and spewing black smoke out like a chimney. East and north east were more offices. To the north was a hotel and condo block - both apparently empty and sealed. North west was an 18 story office building, belonging to AT&T, and to the west was a blocks worth of parkland and open greenery, containing a small rise and some bushes, a small pitching and batting cage, and some play equipment. To the south west was a large squat building - something to do with the Chicago PD. Brief examination of this on the way in had revealed multiple surveillance cameras and very sturdy doors.

Mr Green went out for a stealthy stroll, to see what was going on. Whilst Mr Green was indeed very stealthy, the large Centipede bug that was lurking in the bushes of the park obviously didn't rely on just sight to hunt its prey. Perhaps it smelt him, perhaps it sensed the footsteps some how - either way, it scurried across the road at high speed, obviously intent on devouring him. It looked very similar to the creatures reported to be in the sub basements of the corporate offices that were roaring merrily - perhaps they had fled from the building, sensing that something was wrong. Not that it really mattered. It closed on Mr Green at high speed - and Mr Green decided that discretion was a good idea and with a mighty jump and some impressive acrobatics, climbed the wall of the school in record time, getting up to the roof, and alerting the rest of the team. Blue summoned a watcher spirit to go and help Green, by distracting the bug – which it reluctantly did, hovering high above the bug and taunting it. The rest of the team moved to support Green, with Purple leading the way. Green shot at it, trying to keep it focussed on him, doing minimal damage, which allowed Purple to charge in with her sword and engage in melee. It was quickly dealt with, and no injuries were sustained. It was decided that the team would move together to survey the area, to ensure they could deal with any threats.
The Police building was broken into with relative ease – it turned out to be some type of training academy – the inside being one massive open space with a ½ sized replica of some streets and shops, with various scenarios or situations an officer may face. There were no immediate items of use, so the team moved onto the Social Security building, Music College and Hotel in turn. The offices contained much in the way of toilet paper, creamer and wheely chairs, the College a wide selection of musical instruments and synthesisers – but nothing the team was really after. The hotel was more promising – hundreds of beds, masses of linen, cushions, toiletries – lots of things needed to ensure the comfort of their followers. They made plans for recovering the items wanted – there was brief discussion of instead moving into the hotel and leaving the school – but it was decided that the school was more defensible, and the access to workshops and more communal space was worthwhile.

Moving into the condo, the team noticed a malign and depressing aura about the building, immediately feeling uncomfortable. They detected no life in the building, and it looked completely abandoned. Blue summoned a hearth spirit, which appeared as a slender figure with long hair hanging down over his face. When he looked up, and moved his hair to the side, his face was revealed, the two empty eye sockets staring up at the team. The spirit recounted the fate of the inhabitants – caught unawares by some form or parasitical bug spirit; they were all infected over a short period of time. When the eggs laid in their bodies hatched, they eat their way out of the tear ducts, consuming the eyes of the host. Death followed madness, and now the building lay abandoned, the psychic echoes of their suffering polluting astral space. The team decided to move on rapidly.
The AT&T building was much like the Social Security building – obviously an administration building rather than a technical or R&D centre, it consisted of thousands of cubicles laid out in a grey and dismal hell. Still, they would not be short of creamers, coffee, post it notes or wheeled chairs…
Returning to the school, Blue was notified by a returning watcher spirit – the gang with the bus they had narrowly avoided before, was returning down the freeway – this time travelling from west to east. They were only a few minutes away. Still desiring the bus to ease the transportation issues faced with relocating so many civilians, the team looked at the situation, trying to work out if they could get to the freeway in time to ambush them, before realising that it just wasn’t possible.

However, attracted by the massive pall of black smoke from the still burning hi-rise corporate office, the gangers were just pulling off the freeway, coming to investigate – looks like the team would get their chance after all.
The gangers had 3 large SUVs in a V formation, then the school bus, then two more SUVs. Each of the trucks had two goons in the back, one with an assault rifle, one carrying some kind of missile launcher, and there was at least a driver in each vehicle cab, plus maybe three more enemies – nobody could see through the tinted glass of the cabs. The bus had some kind of machine gun mounted in a turret at the front, and a missile launcher at the rear.
The team had relocated to the 2nd floor of the social security office, and watched from concealment as the gang moved around the junction, into a position directly underneath them. Blue then fired off his spell, creating a large hemisphere of swirling lights, flashing like a strobe, while a cacophony of sound blasted those within the area of the Chaotic World spell. Throwing lots of mojo into the spell, he only just managed to avoid the drain from his efforts, but caught all 3 of the lead vehicles in the area of effect. The bus immediately started to accelerate ponderously down the road, whilst veering sharply towards the office the team was hiding in, trying to avoid the hemisphere of confusion. As the other team members moved into position, and started to fire down into the open topped load beds, trying to take out the gangers armed with the missile launchers, they were spotted in return, and took fire from the assault rifles. Again, their heavy grade armour proved its worth; shrugging off the 5.56mm fire with a variety of “spang” noises. Combat intensified, with spirits causing accidents to the vehicle and their drivers, Blue throwing a stunball down to try and take out the turret operators on the bus, and return fire stitching up the side of the building. A missile shot up from the back of one truck, taking out a large chunk of the 3rd floor wall, warning the team that the missiles were not only live, but packing some dangerous warheads. Two of the SUVs accelerated hard out of the Chaotic World spell, and slammed straight into the side of the Boy Scouts building, partially demolishing the wall, and causing injury and confusion to the passengers. The bus, having taken further hits from spells and small arms fire into the roof, firing blind at the drivers position, slammed into the side of the offices, a tearing sound shrieking through the air as long strips of aluminium panelling were ripped off and peeled back, amidst a shower of sparks.

Of the two SUVs at the back, one mounted the kerb, trying to drive around the north side of the chaos, but misjudged his approach and lost control as he entered, veering sharply south and smashing into the building, below and to the east of the team. The other performed a superbly executed handbrake turn – which unfortunately left him with no speed and a sitting target for repeated shots down, killing the crew. The bus continued to accelerate – not quickly in a vehicle of its size, but with the power of the V12 diesel engine and a rigger driving for all he was worth, it continued to plough through the side of the office, almost out of the line of sight of the team. Green started to head downstairs, ready to pick off stragglers, and to pursue the bus as needed.

Then things got a little twitchy. Some of the goons in the crashed SUVs load bed had recovered enough of their senses to start trying to get up – and were met with gunfire from the team, encouraging them to lie right back down again. Blue dropped his spell, as no vehicles would now cross its area, and instead cast a shroud of invisibility upon Purple, who bounded down the stairs after Green. However, this bought those occupants of the vehicles enough time to gather what little wits they had – and to take a big hit from their drug dispensers. Pain, fear, hesitation – all disappeared as they took a blast of Nitro-meth V from their inhalers – unfortunately accompanied by intelligence, planning and an understanding of cause and effect. The first ganger snapped off a shot at Green as he emerged from the building, missing wildly as his vision swam and pulsed from the drugs coursing through his system. The missile sped down the road, disappearing from view. Unfortunately, he was in the cab of the vehicle, and had no concept of back blast or the required safety zone – or just didn’t care. The blast incinerated the cab, sympathetically setting off explosives and grenades, and totally destroyed the vehicle.

The bus continued to accelerate, the engine screaming in protest as it was pushed beyond its limits, and the team noticed a large black spray of oil burst from the rear of the bus. This promptly caught fire from the rain of sparks caused by side scraping the office, and a trail of fire pursued the bus as it continued to head for the burning building.
The ganger in the 2nd vehicle pushed the button on his trigger, and the tiny electronic brain in the seeker head scanned the area with its millimetre wave radar – and found the inviting target of Ms Purple, striding down the street, believing herself safe from incoming fire due to her invisibility spell. Unfortunately, magic is dumb, and cared not that she had been detected by Radar – and did nothing to prevent the warhead getting a lock, and firing upon her. With an almighty crack, the warhead struck her dead centre of the torso, the armour piercing sabot punching through the reinforced ballistic armour, and driving her back down the road on her arse several meters. Though incredibly tough, and impervious to small arms fire, the armour was not capable of standing up to munitions more commonly used against APCs and tanks, and it failed – disastrously. Only the fact that Purple had the increased constitution of an Ork, and a most outrageous dose of luck (using all of her Karma pool and most of her good karma) allowed her to avoid instant death – but she was still seriously wounded and battered. Yellow immediately moved down to assist –and while doing so caught sight of something whizzing past the end of the road. She didn’t recognise it immediately, but checked that her suit was recording, and made a mental note to check later. Meanwhile Blue had dropped the invisibility spell on Purple, to ensure that Yellow could see her clearly to render first aid, and instead cast levitate on himself, and propelled himself through the air after the bus, which was now driving right through the area adjacent to the burning building, dodging the lumps of falling masonry and burning debris as the rigger in charge pulled off some amazing manoeuvres to keep the crew of the bus safe. The SUV that had not crashed into the scout building managed to regain control and immediately poured on the speed trying to escape north. Red and Green continued to take out gang members with carefully aimed shots, whilst Yellow started to minister to Purple, trying to patch up her extensive wounds.

The bus driver finally lost control, spinning on some debris, and the bus lurched to the side, ploughing into the lobby of the offices, but managing to miss any structural elements – before slamming to a halt on an internal wall. Blue raced north after the escaping vehicle, and managed to crash it with a well aimed spell, before looping around at speed and heading back to the buss, which he approached quickly, dodging falling molten steel and burning furnishings as they continued to rain down on the plaza. He quickly established that everyone in the bus was dead – and that at least one of the gangers had been a shaman of some sort – that at least explained why his spirits had not been able to use their accident powers to stop the bus more safely. He snagged an obviously magical necklace from the shaman, working to remove it from the corpse impaled on some part of the bus that had not fared well in the collision with the building. A quick check showed the driver was still alive – barely, and Blue popped the quick release on the drivers harness, and then pulled out the cables from his temple that connected him to the dashboard. With a cry and a quiver, he convulsed briefly, and then died – the dumpshock from disconnecting from the vehicle so abruptly pushing him over the edge. As more and more falling debris started to strike the bus, narrowly missing him, Blue managed to loosen the machine gun from the turret, grabbed a box of ammo, and then fled – just before the ceiling collapsed above, crushing the bus and sparking a large explosion as the fuel tank and some explosives got together for a party.
Mr Green raced up to the vehicle to the north, managing to plunder a missile launcher from the smouldering remains before the SUV caught fire and was destroyed. Ms Red managed to do the same with the 4th SUV that had crashed into the building. Her knowledge of military systems revealed that they now had a number of Ballista anti-vehicle launched weapon systems – rare and controlled technology, and as they had discovered to their cost – with a devastating punch.

Yellow had activated her magical caduceus, its power radiating out around her and sterilising the area, reducing the odds that Purple would contract some horrible disease from the gaping wound. Working quickly with her medkit and years of knowledge and experience, she managed to apply dressings and synthskin to the gaping wounds, knitting flesh together, and providing a temporary barrier to the damaged organs. Now at least nothing was in danger of falling out, and the blood loss had been stabilised. With a deep sigh, she closed her eyes, laid her hands on the wounds, and began to channel magical power from her into the flesh, giving of her essence and taking the damage and pain in return. As the wounds began to magically heal and be repaired, Yellows lips cracked, her eyes became bloodshot, her cheeks sallow and wan. Blood began to ooze from her gums, and she looked like she’d gone several rounds in the boxing ring – but when she was complete, a remarkable amount of colour had returned to Purples flesh, and her breathing was much more easy and natural. They both struggled to their feet, looking around at the devastation around them…

The team assembled, and moved back to the school, taking cover in the staff room, and examining their loot, checking out the wounded, looking with dismay at the shattered chest plate of Purples armour, and sharing grim looks with each other at how the ambush had turned out and how badly things had gone.
And then Ms Yellow played back the footage, and identified the remote recon drone that had buzzed past the end of the street during the combat. The one that looked identical to the drone that had followed them several days ago, just before an artillery strike demolished the house they had just fled from.
At that point, it seemed like a good place to stop for the night…
Kren Cooper
Episode 9 – 19/03/15 (6644)
The team took stock in the entrance lobby at the school. The drone had not been followed up with explosive destruction, but they were still very uneasy about its presence. After a brief discussion, and checking with Mr Blue to make sure he wasn’t having premonitions of impending death, the decision was taken to continue with the move to the school.
Ms Red and Ms Yellow grabbed their gear and set off back to the brownstone, threading their way through the city streets, keeping a relatively low profile. As before, they were aware that at numerous times they were being watched from high windows and balconies by people too scared to come out of their homes – but fortunately they managed to avoid any attention from the bugs or other critters.
Meanwhile, back at the school, Ms Purple headed to the staff room, moved a bunch of chairs and stole cushions from some more, and eased herself down into a makeshift bed, relaxing with a sigh as she took the weight off, laid back and began to meditate. The wound was already much healed following the magical transferal of damage and attentions of Ms Yellow – if only she could get a few hours rest, the world would surely look better. After twenty minutes or so, gentle snoring echoed around the room…

Mr Green worked away in the corner, quietly, smiling slightly as the sounds of snoring came. Working slowly and methodically, he checked over the schools CCTV and security system, and worked around the doors, windows and perimeter cameras to ensure that they were all online, functioning normally and correctly focussed and aimed. He removed the camera from the lobby, and spent a bit of time fabricating a mounting bracket in the schools workshop, and then shinnied up on the roof, rerouted some cable and mounted the camera on a pole. Back in the staff room, he tested his new setup – it seemed to be working ok. Now he had a steerable camera on the roof, giving pretty good coverage around the school, that he could pan, tilt and zoom from his console. There were a few blind spots due to obstructions from chimneys and air-con units, but given what he had to work with, it was all good.
During all this, Mr Blue had gone to the centre of the gym, and slowly worked through a series of moves and attack / defence combinations, stretching his limbs, clearing his mind and focussing his energies. After a short time, he settled to the floor, locked the joints of his armour, and then his conscious form left his meat body and soared free, floating up through the roof of the school and turned in place as it hovered in the still city air. Slowly and carefully he turned, like a lighthouse, examining the roads and buildings around him, looking for signs of surveillance or hostility. After a thorough check, he floated back down to his body and rejoined his essence with his flesh, before he began to summon a watcher spirit. Out of the ether a being formed, a small androgynous schoolchild, shirt untucked, phantasmal pencil case held under one arm, translucent exercise books under the other. Carefully he briefed it to patrol around the school perimeter, looking for attackers or creatures that meant them harm, making sure that it knew it was to come and find him if it saw something dangerous. After a while the Watcher spirit left him to being its patrol, leaving a trail of dropped pages and falling pencils as it moved, these floating down to the floor before the images popped like soap bubbles and disappeared.

Ms Red and Yellow arrived back at the house, still packed to capacity with people, and immediately picked up an air of tension and disharmony. People were snapping at each other, tempers were frayed and fuses short. They wasted no time calling together the council, to find out what was going on. Red asked what the problem was, and why was the house so fractious… sure they were overcrowded, but they’d not been away that long and things had gotten a little crazy… As Ms Red settled down with the council, Ms Yellow tracked down the three volunteers for the medical training - Thomas Blekke, Alex Lopez and Ahahi Conner. Thomas was a student, currently living under the care of Ms Adams the headteacher. He seemed studious, quite bright and willing to learn. Alex Lopez was one of the soldiers – calm, disciplined and with plenty of real life experience. Ahahi was one of the gangers. Yellow was unsure if Ahahi was male or female – the features were not clear and the youngster gave no clue. However, they seemed willing to learn, though their ignorance and lack of education would make this difficult for them. Yellow began to teach them the basics of first aid, and the three leaned in to listen to her as she demonstrated techniques.

Ms Red sat in the room cleared of people so the council could discuss the issues, and asked her question again. Sandra Ward responded, calmly and objectively detailing the causes of the disagreements that had caused the schism in the apartment block. Her HR background was obvious, as she dispassionately and fairly described the issues that had arisen between the two original groups and the gangers so recently deposited in the house. Their backgrounds were too far separated, their approach to life too radical. Sure, the two groups originally rescued had different backgrounds – one blue collar working joes, the other white collar professionals. But, they both worked, they both paid their taxes, they both followed the rule of law. The gang members did not – they were loud, undisciplined, living by the right of might. Close knit, they argued and bickered constantly amongst themselves, measuring their strengths and constantly evaluating and testing the pecking order of the gang structure. But pitch an external threat – or even a criticism – against them, and they closed ranks and formed a united front against the new foe. Unfortunately, this included items like the expectation to do chores in the house, to take their turn doing guard duty (and to do it well, or at least adequately), to keep themselves clean and hygienic, and last of all, not to do things like try to sell sexual services to other members of the house.

As the discussion wore on, and other members of the house council pitched in, it became clear the gang had been based around the provision of the world’s oldest profession, and saw no reason to change. They were also into drugs and weapons smuggling – but there wasn’t much of that to do, given the situation in Chicago. However, they still had the younger members of the gang, and were still trying to ply their trade. Some of the other residents were getting involved, and that was causing strife between those that approved of such activities, and those that didn’t. It also appeared that at least two of the married couples had ended up having rows because people had been caught looking, even though they weren’t touching. Finally, it became obvious to Ms Red as the discussion wore on that Jason Two Moons, the former simsense studio manager who normally assumed the chairman role in these meetings was acting somewhat out of normal character. With careful probing and phrasing of questions, and sidelong glances and observation, she soon established that he was certainly availing himself of the services on offer, with at least one of the young girls… and perhaps was a touch smitten. Certainly when the discussion turned to the idea of relocating the workers to the school and leaving the gangers at the apartments, he became angry and somewhat obstructive.
The council meeting was adjourned, and Ms Red went to find Yellow so they could get onto the newly restored matrix and contact the team left back at the school. As Ms Yellow was packing up the supplies used for the training, she spotted Ahahi trying to subtly palm a number of needles and scalpel blades still in their sterile packaging. When challenged the youth became surely and evasive, refusing to say why they had done it. Knowing that there were more important issues to deal with Yellow issued a stern warning about taking the supplies, and made a mental note to follow up later. Once the team was all connected on the matrix, they briefly discussed the situation, and hatched out a plan between them. After a while they called in Lt Godwin, the leader of the mercenary squad, and filled him in on their plans.

Shortly afterwards, they reconvened the council, and laid out their plan for the community. They were going to split up the populous into five platoons, each with a colour matching one of the monks, who would be their leader, mascot and hopefully inspiration. Each of the teams would actually be led by one of the mercenary squad, who would still answer to Lt Godwin, creating a clear hierarchy. In the platoon would be about 5 “workers”, mixed between the blue and white collar types. They would also have 5 “gangers”, to match them. Each of the council members would also be split up into a platoon, to act as the representative for the platoon in the management of the community. In day to day tasks, workers and gangers would be paired up, to try and isolate people into small teams and cut down on social pressures. The gangers would have a buddy that lived socially, in a law abiding fashion, to educate, inspire and lead them, and set an example for them. The gangers in turn would teach the worker about life on the street, life in the new world where the law mattered less, and you had to look after yourself, and your gang. The gangers would hopefully take the stick out of the ass of those stuck up guys who thought they were better as they had a job and could look down on the SINless.

Tasks would be split up between the platoons, and a friendly sense of rivalry encouraged seeing who could perform best. When they got relocated to the school, they would also make use of the materials and equipment there to try and make armbands, sashes or even uniforms for the gangers and workers. For the gangers this may well be the first clothing that wasn’t stolen in their lives – but more importantly it was as powerful a statement as their old gang colours. A sign of belonging to something bigger, something better than the individual; something to be proud of, to represent; something to protect, and keep clean – which would require a change in their lifestyle, that may help further integrate them into the community. Hopefully this would change the social dynamic of the community and allow it to weather these growing pains.
The council was somewhat sceptical, but couldn’t think of anything better to bring to the table, so the idea was agreed. Jason Two Moons in particular seemed to endorse the plan – it was obvious that he would be able to remain in proximity with whoever had taken his fancy, and he supported the proposal such as it was. All of the council still seemed to recognise the fact that the team could pretty much demand what they wanted – with their training and the armour to protect them, there was almost nothing they could do to protest short of leaving, and their protection was worth too much.

After the council meeting had concluded, and they had split to go and begin distributing the word around the various apartments, Lucilla Adams, the headteacher, approached Red and Yellow and asked to speak with them. She had recalled that one of the school busses normally used to deliver pupils had developed a fault on the day that the containment zone was declared, and had not been returned to the city transit authority – instead it had gone to a small independent repair facility not far from the school. It was possible it was still there, and if so, that might help transport the group to the school, and would also relieve tensions. Immediately Red and Yellow contacted the others, and arranged to meet just past the freeway, to go and check out this promising lead.

Again the journey was uneventful – the civilians staying away from the armoured figures, the gangs being intimidated, and the bugs thankfully absent, and soon the team was reunited, standing under the desolate freeway, a few blocks south of the school. They struck out west, walking on one of the smaller roads that paralled the elevated highway as it headed west and towards the suburbs. As they got closer to the location of the repair shop, the team started to move more tactically, making a distinct effort to stick to the shadows, move quietly and spot for tails, ambushes and unusual circumstances.

The elevated highway rose here, doubling in height above the cracked city streets, rising up on massive pylons nearly 60 feet. The reason soon became clear – there was a rail line crossing under the freeway at a ninety degree angle – this must be part of the old elevated rail system around the Chicago core. It was obviously not in use now, there being no signs of life either up or down the track, and fresh plant growth was sprouting between the rails. Nestled in between sets of the pylons, just to one side of the rail line was their destination. Sheet corrugated steel, ancient and rusty was bolted to uprights and runners between the pylons, creating a wall 25 feet high, though covered in pockmarks and tiny holes. Down a side street under the rail line, two massive gates were covered in more corrugated metal, secured with a massive chain and padlock. Glimpses of concertina wire through the gaps in the gate showed that anyone climbing the fence had better be pretty determined. Mr Blue signalled a halt, waited for someone to grab his body and then projected upwards, his spirit looking down into the yard. It was a bleak and barren mass of grey shapes, no life, nothing natural and pretty run down. There were no signs of metahuman life – but there were the signs of perhaps half a dozen large dogs or critters of some sort. He quickly returned to his body and briefed the team. Blue, Purple and Green took a few steps towards the gate, and then stopped, turning to face the others. Yellow had turned towards Red as well, and had her head tilted quizzically - inside the heavily armoured helmet, Yellows eyes were scanning the readout that had flashed up, notifying her of a medical issue. Ms Reds heatbeat had accelerated 20 beats per minute in the last 5 seconds, but there was no sign of a gunshot wound or other trauma. A voice crackled over the comms, sounding a little hesitant.
“Dogs? I er. Um. I’m not keen on dogs”
The team paused, a little uncertain. This was the first time they’d ever heard Red speak with such a tone of voice, with so little certainty or conviction. After a few seconds pause, they moved into position, clustered around her and escorted her towards the gate, forming a shield against the threat ahead.
There was no bell, horn or alarm, so Purple clenched her fist and rapped loudly on the gate, the plasteel-alloy making a resounding noise on the sheets of rusty material. Instantly the sound of frantic barking exploded inside the compound, accompanied by the sounds of claws scratching on concrete and rock as they hurled themselves out of the pens and kennels towards the gate. Yellow watched the med report, as Reds vitals spiked again as raw adrenaline flooded her system, and her heart rate rose over 120. She toyed with the idea of reaching for her med kit and some drugs- but decided against it. Everyone had their weakness… but they had to deal with it, and she needed to know just how bad this could get. And besides – it wasn’t like there was a dog on the earth that could actually penetrate their armour. She turned her gaze towards Purple though, and gave the massive hole in her chest plate a considering look. Hmm. Perhaps a dog might get through that, given sufficient motivation…
Her thoughts were cut short by two things – the sounds of someone incredibly angry sounding bellowing at the dogs to be quiet, and a persistent and rhythmic squeaking noise. The team caught glimpses through the gap in the gates of a strange hand-barrow affair with large and crude looking wheels, rusty and decrepit as everything else they had spied. Onto this barrow had been welded a large sheet of thick and equally rusty steel, with a rough hole torched in the centre and a tiny vision slit. Sticking out of the hole was a barrel, or more accurately a pipe. Whatever this weapon was, it looked home made. Judging by the bore, it was going to be incredibly dangerous, to someone. If the construction helf, the size of the projectile would seriously inconvenience someone – even someone in mil-spec armour, just from the sheer impact energies involved. If the gun failed, it was probably going to be very messy.
As the squeaks stopped, the angry voice could be heard calling out

“Sharrup you lot or I’ll beat ya wiv stiks! SHARRUP!!!” The dogs barking slowed and stopped, replaced with a low series of menacing growls, rising and falling in pitch as they moved around and took breaths.
“Who are you and wadda you want? Talk quick, or I’ll splode ya!”
The team exchanged looks – Ms Red would normally take point here, but she was obviously not feeling at her best. The silence stretched out for a second as they each waited for someone else to volunteer, and then to their surprise a remarkably calm sounding Red answered the query. In short sentences, and with obvious pauses for breath and to steady her nerves between utterances, Red explained that she had been sent by Lucilla Adams to find out about the bus. Once her name was mentioned, the voice from inside the compound became slightly less crabby, and more accepting – though it was by no means welcoming. Shortly he announced that he would open the gates – at which point Red was quick to mention that she would very much appreciate it if the dogs could be kept back, as they didn’t want to scare them due to being in heavy duty armour suits. To her relief, the voice shouted at the dogs, sending them back to the kennels, and shortly afterwards the gates were unlocked and opened, and they were ushered inside.

The owner of the voice was a small and wrinkly man, a white human male in his fifties, wearing dungarees stained with rust and oil, with heavy duty work boots splashed with mud and fluids laced up tightly on his feet. A baseball cap with the Chicago Cubs logo was pulled down over his lank blond hair, the brim only just above eye level. Two beady eyes widened in shock as he saw the armour, before narrowing again as he squinted at the team. He introduced himself as Henry Cavill, owner of the scrap yard.
Now inside the team could see into the yard properly – and immediately spotted the school bus, propped up on chocks with its back right wheels lying on the ground by the side of the axel. The yard was ramshackle and run down, the tool sheds leaning at slight angles, the doors wedged into the ground and tools showing signs of neglect and decay. In the back corner was a rotting caravan with horrible yellowed net curtains covering the windows – it was so old it didn’t even have polarised glass! To the side of the caravan were a pack of mangy looking mongrels, slinking around each other and ducking in and out of the kennels and around various boxes and crates, keeping up the monotonous growling. Henry shouted at them to be quiet again, and threw several stones over in their direction, much to the disgust of Yellow – until she realised two things. Firstly, not one of the stones actually went that close to any of the dogs – he was either an awful shot, or was deliberately aiming near but not at them. But secondly, none of the dogs flinched – they were obviously not concerned about the stone throwing at all, and didn’t actually show any signs of fear. Interesting…

She was broken out of her reverie by the conversation – Cavill was explaining to Red that the bus was broken, and that he didn’t have the parts to repair it. He would have ordered them in, but just after the bus arrived, the wall went up, and his phone went dead, and he’s been cut off ever since. The teams spirits plummeted, and they realised how much they’d been counting on getting hold of the bus. Fearfully, the probed further, trying to find out what was wrong
“Suspensions gon, init. No more leaf springs see. Rides flat as a pancake, bounce off everyt’ing. Horrible.”
The team probed further – ok, the suspension was bad, the handling would be terrible, the comfort impaired – but would it run? Cavill confirmed that it would – though he reckoned that it wouldn’t last more than 12 months riding flat, before the rear axle was totally trashed and would need replacing too. Suddenly they were back in action!

Talking with Cavill more, they described their community, and what they were trying to do, and why they needed the bus to move the civilians, with a view to recruiting him to join them. His workmanship seemed poor, looking at the state of the yard – but even a 3rd class mechanic was better than no mechanic at all. However, as they were describing how they had recruited their civilians, their hearts fell again when they mentioned Rikki.
“Duurty trogs. Duurty I tell ya. Waz probably them fat green shits that bust the suspension on tha bus I tell ya. Be berra off wivout em”
Great – just what they needed. Another Humanis Policlub member, to stir up some casual racial hatred in the community. Their thoughts flashed back to Tyler and his argument with Rikki, and the potential for disruption in the fragile peace they had engineered. Red dropped in a few more descriptions of their members – Gino Holmes the heavy weapon specialist ork from the merc team.
“Orks? Duurty creatures. Can’t trust em. Tusks? Pah”
Maxim Wiley – the stocky dwarf gang enforcer with the tattoos all down one side of his face and neck.
“Dorfs? Duurty! Cant trust sommat whats arms and legs aint the right size. Evil critters I tell ya”
What about Albert Frost, the professor of Physics, an educated elf, surely he was allright?
“Elf? DUURTY! Cant trust em at all. Not a word of truth in em I tell ya. And black you say? Well, that ain’t right either is is. Duurty!”
Red folder her arms in front of her, about ready to give him both barrels for being a racist son of a bitch, when it clicked what he’s said. She took a calming breath, and tried again.
What about Mercedes Lopez. Surely she was ok, a nice human lady, in her late forties, hard worker – a hotel maid until the wall went up and civilisation broke down.
“Lopez? Sounds foreign to me. Duurty, I tell ya. Probably got twenty kids, sponging off my taxes. Illegal no doubt too. Bet she slacks at work. Durrty”
Lucilla Adams? White, human, professional? Someone he dealt with? Surely she was….
“Duurty! Imean, she’s allright as things go, but I bet she bribed someone for her job right. Spread her legs no doubt. Can’t get to a position of power without greasing someone’s pole right? Duurty”.
Red switched off her external speaks, leaving only the comms between the suits active. “Well, at least he’s an equal opportunities bigot. He doesn’t like anyone, regardless of race, creed, colour, sex, marital status or ability. If nothing else, we can use him to unify the rest of the community against his abuse…”

So, Cavill was in. He said that he’d get the wheel on the bus sorted, if someone would help him, and then start packing and getting his dogs ready to move. Yellow watched as Reds heart rate which had been trending down over the last few minutes immediately spiked up again.
Purple moved to help him, being the strongest of the team, and the hole in her chest plate attracted his attention. He headed over to her, and with no particular sense of shame or restraint grabbed hold of the sides of the armour and bent in close for a look, and then reached in and started probing at the hole. Startled, Purple asked him to stop, quite forcefully – which he promptly ignored. Like System05, he seemed to exist in his own little world, and paid scant attention to society imposed rules of conduct if they didn’t suit him.
However, potentially, he was also the closest the team had found to an armourer, so Purple put up with the poking for a minute, as he examined the whole, muttering that she must have taken a duurty powerful shot, probably from some duurty thug. After a minutes examination though he stood up and reached into his pocket, extracting a small tin of chewing tobacco and extracting a small wad which he inserted into his cheek, chewing slowly.
“Can this be fixed?” Purple asked, gesturing at the hole.
“sure it can. But not here. You need a proper fact’ry init. It’s bolloxed that is. Probably made by some durrty Jap corp too I bet. Slitty eyed bast’ds. Duurty.”
Purple sighed, and moved to help with the wheel, spending the next few minutes working under Henry’s direction to get it mounted on the axel and the bolts tightened up. Mr Green volunteered to drive the bus, having the most experience with driving, though this was mostly with cars, and considerably smaller and easier to manoeuvre than something like this. Checking the bus he found it had a good sized tank of diesel, so he had a couple of hundred kilometres range – though the engine was none to efficient. Still, it should be more than enough to handle the move to the school.

After 10 more minutes, they were ready to go, and the team boarded the bus, slowly and carefully pulling out of the gates and heading down the road at a stately 10 miles per hour. Green sat jammed in the driver’s seat, the seat jacked all the way back, and still only just fitting in the space in his bulky armour. Muttering under his breath, the team were quiet, letting him concentrate on handling the bus around the cramped city streets. True to his word, Cavill’s pronouncement about the ride quality was accurate – it felt like every bump or crack in the road was about 3 feet high, and there was a constant horrible grinding noise from the back of the bus. It also handled like a pig, and Mr Green fought constantly to keep on a course and not swipe obstacles and obstructions. After half an hour of travel, they made it back to the house, and disembarked, getting ready to start organising the move.
Much to their surprise however, there was a waiting committee – Lee Greigson strode out of the building onto the porch, clipboard in hand, accompanied by two of the mercs holding their assault rifles at the ready, scanning the street for trouble.
“Are you ready for the first group boss?” he called, his eyes seeking out the red flash on the otherwise identical suits. At a mute nod from Red, he turned and hollered “group one! On the bus, go go go!” Within a few seconds a small stream of people appeared out of the door, loaded down with holdalls, bin bags, suitcases and rolled up sheets – whatever they could scrounge together to carry their meagre belongings. A few of the gangers came out to the side of them, brandishing their sub machine guns and striking poses that they probably thought were military in bearing, and also stared up and down the streets – ready to spray wild fire in long uncontrolled burst at any foe. Still, it was better than the alternative.

Lee walked over to Red and the rest of the team, checked his clipboard and then looked up “first group should be loaded in 2-3 minutes, I’ve got them broken down into 4 main travel groups, based on the size of the bus from Ms Adams description. I’ve got a few of the gangers and one of the mercs to ride with each group for security, and to keep the far end secure. The first group will empty out all their bags when they get there, and send them back with the bus on the 2nd trip, ready for the 3rd group to load into – so they’ll be a small delay whilst they pack. Likewise with groups 2 and 4…” he continued to explain his plan as the bus was loaded – it appeared that he’d worked out pretty much all the details required, and there was nothing for the team to do but watch and wait – all the details were taken care of. Well, almost all – it was soon clear that between the travel group, the gangers, soldiers and all the gear, the bus was going to be pretty much packed to capacity. Getting a boost up onto the roof, the team secured rope in through the skylights, and made a series of runners to hang onto so they could surf on the roof, getting a good viewpoint to guard the vehicle en route, even if it had to turn sharply.

When the vehicle was loaded, Mr Green moved back to the drivers cab, started the bus up, then promptly stalled it. The bus gave an almighty shudder, and some complicated crunching noise, and then the engine died. It all went quiet. He turned the keys and tried to restart the engine, feeling the horde of eyes focussed on his back, obviously feeling the pressure. The engine refused to turn over again.
The team, all the passengers on the bus, and the security detail watched Hernandez Lopez stride down the steps from the building and onto the bus. If they remembered right, he was a scrap metal dealer, part of the original blue collar group. He approached Mr Green and bent towards him, pitching his voice low.
“I used to drive trucks this big. Want me to give it a go?” Mr Green slid out of the seat, shrugged in his armour a little, and then climbed up onto the roof to join the rest of the team. The passengers were still deathly quiet. Hernandez adjusted the seat, checked the controls and then fired up the bus, the engine catching first time. Slowly he moved away from the kerb, accelerating carefully, and changing gear with slow deliberate movements.
“She doesn’t handle so well Mr” he called up. Mr Green made no response – unsure if he was being genuine, or just trying to cover the embarrassing stall. As they started to move off, Mr Blue started to cast a spell, forming a protective barrier over the hole in Purples armour – a sparkling and iridescent wall of yellow force the glowed brightly. It wouldn’t be as strong as the rest of the armour, but it was better than nothing…
Still, with Hernandez at the wheel, gaining confidence in how the vehicle handled, the bus was soon heading down to the school. Again, the team saw curtains twich – but if nobody was going to try attacking five suits of heavy military grade powered armour walking down the street, absolutely nobody was going to attack five suits of mil-spec surfing on a school bus trundling down the road at 25 mph. The journey to the school was uneventful.

The next problem arose when they got to the school, and group one turned to the team expectantly, asking where in the school they were assigned to live – and the team realised that they had not planned this part at all. They quickly recovered though, directing the group into the school and to the data terminal, directing them to call Lee and Lucilla back at the house to discuss and come up with a plan. Hernandez drove the bus around the block, not risking a 3 point turn in the unfamiliar vehicle with broken suspension, and soon the team were heading back. The return journey was equally quiet.

By the time they had returned to the house, the second group was ready to go, and the bus was quickly loaded, driven around the block and trundling back towards the school again. Arriving at the school, the entranceway had a mound of belongings piled up to one side, small piles of individual property starting to slide and merge into each other, as they were shaken out of bags and cases so they could go back with the otherwise empty bus. Again, the team rode back on the bus, heading back for group three.

They were about half way back to the house, when they became aware of a group of nine large wasps buzzing down a side street, heading straight towards them. The range was about a hundred feet, but they’d seen how fast these creatures could move, so they had only seconds to prepare. The team slid off the bus, using the ropes to slow their descent, and landing hard on the pavement, cushioned by the solid plasteel armour. Blue began to gesture, gathering magical power towards him, which only seemed to further enrage the wasps, who by now had split into two groups – one of four, and one of five. Blue released a mighty ball of energy, chains of lightning burst from the body of the wasps spirit he targeted, brilliant blue and white strobes of raw power arcing and chaining from one body to the next, whilst a thunderclap of superheated air exploded outwards. The bus made a throaty roar, as Hernandez stamped his foot down on the accelerator, and the bus began to ponderously speed down the road.
A split second later, and the group of wasps burst out of the smoke and shimmering air, looking hardly scorched, but very angry – now aiming straight at Blue, who began to walk backwards, keeping the range open. Purple and Yellow ran for a building on the corner, kicking in the door and making sure the team had somewhere to retreat to if need be. Green pulled his pistol and put two shots into the lead wasp, getting good hits, but not appearing to do much in the way of damage. He started to fall back too.
Ms Red was fiddling with something slung on her back. Struggling somewhat to loosen the straps, she took out the heavy missile launcher that they had recovered from the road gang, and with deft movement extended the tube, swung the sigh mechanism into place, activated the seeker head and aimed at the second group of wasps.
Beep, beep, beeeep, BEEEEEEEEEP! As the seeker head locked on, she pulled hard on the trigger, head tilted to the left to keep her eyeline away from the rocket exhaust. The APFSDS warhead sped down the street, flying straight and true, accelerating so fast it just left a streak in the air. When it found its target, it struck dead centre, the projectile moving so fast that the wasp had no chance to dodge or move. It punched through the head of the creature, smashing down into the thorax, just starting to tumble, when the proximity head was triggered, having just enough density and motion to detect that it was “inside” the target. The high explosive payload detonated, and the specially shaped jacket was forged into hundreds of sharp flechettes, bursting out from the central sabot, filling the air with razor sharp and lethal death. Ms Red blinked in surprise – this was obviously not what had been used to shoot Purple – if it had been, they’d have been scraping her out of the suit with a spoon. Still, it seemed to do the job – the group of five wasps on the right was immolated and destroyed by the monster explosion.

Mr Blue refocused his energies, drawing more mana from the world around him, and throwing all of his power into it, this time hurling a massive charged ball of pure mana from his fingertips. The ball struck the centre of the group of four, and this time was obviously more effective than the lightning bolt. Raw magical power blasted off wings, burnt fur, broke limbs and separated body parts. Twisted and broken corpses fell from the air.
Green swung his pistol left and right, checking. No… none of them were moving, none of them still a threat. Purple and Yellow turned and emerged from the house – obviously they didn’t need to have anywhere to retreat to this time!
With a wave and a shout, the team turned and broke into a run, pursuing the bus, which had reached the heady speed of 27 mph by this point. They saw it wobble slightly as Hernandez checked his mirrors, and then the blue smoke belching from the exhaust abated as he took his foot off the pedal and started to coast, letting the vehicle naturally shed speed. The team ran after him for several hundred yards, the distance opening, holding steady, and then closing as the bus lost more and more speed, until eventually they caught up to it, jumping up into the doorwell one at a time.

As they pulled up outside the brownstone. Hernandez burst from the drivers cab, heading to the house – apparently oblivious to any danger, shouting for the people to come out. In rapid and excited terms he started to describe the battle with the wasps, frequently lapsing into Spanish and then having to repeat himself as the described THE most exciting battle against bugs it was possible to imagine. Obviously a fan of action movies, the teams actions were described, exaggerated, and described again. Suddenly they found they hadn’t slipped down the ropes, they’d backflipped from the roof of the bus. Mr Green had emptied the clip, blinding several. Ms Red has shouted “yippe-ai-eh” whilst firing the rocket – something she could certainly not recall doing. Purple had apparently chopped up some coming from the rear with her sword. Yellow had… the description seemed to pause here, and he seemed somehow lost for words for a moment, before rallying with a description of her tactical genius in organising and co-ordinating the others firepower. Nine wasps became twelve. Became twenty. Hernandez could have sold this movie to any simsense studio for an eight figure sum, without them batting an eyelid. If he was allowed to continue, there would probably have been people riding off into the sunset, and possibly some sort of romantic involvement. By the time he’d finished with his description, everyone remaining in the house was out on the porch, the stairs or the front yard, clapping and cheering – with the exceptions of the remaining mercs and the LT, who were retaining at least some professional composure and maintaining overwatch up and down the street. The LT was staring at Red, with one eyebrow raised in an “oh really?” expression, but with a small grin on his face none the less…
If nothing else, their reputation now seemed secure as some kick-ass ninjas who were going to save them all.
Kren Cooper
Episode 10 – 27/03/2015 (4137)

The team managed to get the rest of the civilians loaded into the bus, and after a quick sweep of the brownstone to check for overlooked items, climbed back onto the roof. The mercs got into the two cars they had gathered so far, and the convoy headed back to the school – this journey being uneventful. On arrival, they found the pile of belongings in the lobby was shrinking, as people carried them off to the various classrooms being converted into dormitories and living spaces.

Each of the team split off into the two rooms in the upper level of the school where their “platoon” was being set up, helping them hang drapes to create sub-rooms, set up and move furniture, and talking with the people assigned their colour – working to get to know them somewhat. After the belongings were all squared away, several trips were made with nearly all hands to raid the hotel at the end of the block – grabbing mattresses and pillows, curtains and linen, miniature toothbrushes and tiny bottles of shampoo – before returning to the school to continue turning it into a home.

Finally the team commandeered the drama studio for themselves, set out their gear and got to relax – getting out of their armour for the first time in days, getting a hot shower, clean clothes and chance to kick back for a little while, before getting a good nights’ sleep.

In the morning the team rose, ate a quick breakfast and donned their armour again. After a quick discussion, they decided to move out round the edge of the core part of town, heading west, then north before finally coming back east a little, into the Shattergraves. They were going to finish the job – pursue Standish, capture him and hand him over to the Ghouls for justice. Or vengeance. Whatever… they were pretty much the same thing. They could also check out Mr Blues odd dream, which they got him to retell, to see if they could glean any more information from it…

“You wake from your dream with a start and a scream, covered in sweat and find the others gathering around you to check on your condition. This was less a dream, and more of a nightmare - a dark twisted place full of death and danger. Cold, dark nights full of writhing grasping mist, as you wander alone amongst impossibly tall gravestones. Death and decay is all around you, with a feeling of incredible malice and hatred. As you run across the broken ground between the gravestones, it feels like something is always a step behind you, breathing down your neck and almost catching you... until you reach an open space, surrounded on all sides by the tall, broken and decaying grave markers. Now the horror stands before you, a ghostly spirt, lost and alone and crying for vengeance. Tall and skinny, it stands with pale translucent skin, deep hollow eyes and rotting and matted hair plastered down over its face. A bright flash erupts in the air, fixing the scene in your memory as the spirit seems to fade into the darkness, leaving behind nothing but a greasy mark on the floor. The feeling of danger intensifies around you, and you run, you run for your very life, with heart pounding until fit to burst, running through the gravestones with this nameless floating death pursing you and the spark of life you carry. As you finally burst from between the gravestones into the normal world, light returns as you awake.”

The team moved out, quietly padding down the streets, keeping to the shadowed side of the buildings, and moving forwards tactically – Purple leading the way, Green bringing up the rear. They stepped quietly, maximising the use of buildings and layout to move quietly through the city, keeping any eye out for bugs and predators. Progress was slow, but steady, and the sun finally started to lighten the skies enough that no amount of stealth would prevent them being seen with ease. They picked up the pace, relying on speed now rather than subterfuge, and advanced north. Again, curtains would sometimes twitch as they were spotted, but no one was willing to challenge or meet with the heavily armoured and imposing figures – at least not until they were about two thirds of the way to the Shattergraves. As they’d advanced north the character of the buildings had changed, the towers getting taller and taller with each passing block. Shops now filled the bottoms of the glass fronted behemoths - large department stores, malls, commercial properties of all descriptions. Rising above them were floor after floor of offices, filling scores of levels, until finally the tops of the towers were large and exclusive condos and penthouse apartments for the rich and wealthy. Many probably were nests of some kind – but thankfully they were so high now, that they were not disturbed by the teams progress. One tower block was still in metahuman hands however – they spotted the armoured figures and were soon aiming assault rifles at them as they watched their progress. The team were unsure if they were actually aiming, or just using the weapon sights for a closer look at them. They moved on, unwilling to take the risk – and who knew what type of rifle or ammunition they had? There were probably safe in the suits, but why take the risks? A few moments later though, movement caught their eye, and they watched as someone up on the 8th floor picked up and threw a chair out of the window at them. Given the height and the poor aim, there was no real danger of injury – but it was obviously not a friendly gesture. The team pushed on, checking back over their shoulder as they moved out of sight, ensuring that there was no pursuit.

They turned east, pushing back towards the lake shore, deeper into the core. Within a block, a few of the team started to feel uneasy. At first Blue, then Purple, then Red. The aura of the city changed – becoming dark and twisted, even more so than the normal despair and malaise found elsewhere around the bugs. Then, they spied the reason, as they moved onto a wide boulevard and advanced.

The Shattergraves. Twisted and ruined buildings, destroyed by fire and explosive, rearing into the sky like massive jagged and blackened teeth, a blight upon the city. Block after block of devastation on either side of them and stretching away out of sight ahead of them. Structural steelwork exposed and twisted into bizarre shapes, some with construction material still hanging off their deformed latticework, some just melted and cooled spikes of cold harsh metal. Rubble piled high, some up to several stories, making treacherous slopes, thousands of hiding places and a hundred different ways to fall and hurt yourself. The team stopped and surveyed the scene, all of them feeling the palpable aura of hatred and pain that was still bound to the physical structures. The bombings and fire had killed tens of thousands, and their tortured souls still stalked the area, the pain and misery of their death polluting the world and twisting astral space into a dark and dangerous environment.

Taking a deep breath, they moved onwards, in tactical formation, focussed outwards and looking for danger. As they entered the shattered spires and started to walk deeper into the burnt out ruins, a wind began to blow, carrying the faintest sounds of moans and screams that echoed oddly on the distressed architecture, making it sound like there were dying people all around them. One reluctant foot after another, they pressed deeper.

As they descended a slope, Yellow slipped a little, sending a boulder tumbling down the slope, clattering loudly and starting a tiny avalanche of debris. Almost instantly a swarm of Devil Rats, each the size of a house cat boiled out of the slope, exploding out of scores of holes and gaps, flowing around and over each other and the legs of the team. They could feel claws and teeth scraping off the heavy military grade armour, unable to get a purchase, unable to penetrate. Blue risked a quick glance in Astral Space, assessing their auras and quickly determining that they were filled with disease and toxins, vile creatures carrying unimaginable filth – they most certainly were glad their armour sealed them away from these vile little creatures. The swarm seemed to realise that they could not get at the creatures inside these hard suits, and boiled away, scurrying into the ruins once more. In silence, the team pushed on, further into the abandoned buildings, feeling the air around them become more and more twisted and unwelcoming. Yellow looked where she had kicked the rock, trying to place her feet more carefully, and something shiny caught her eye – she plucked it from the debris and gave the weapon no more than a cursory glance, before thrusting the dagger into a pouch to examine later, when it was safer.

A shriek pierced the air, a mournful wail that rose and fell, undulating across the wind. The noise hit the spine, creating a feeling of intense unease and paranoia. Yellow watched her readouts, noticing the slight raise in heart rate of the whole team. She and Red exchange glances, trying to think of something inspiring to say to help focus their minds, but unable to find the words to compete with the heartrending noise. They pushed on in silence. Again the scream came, this time stopping Purple in her tracks, making them all flinch. The mournful noise carried the sounds of agony, loss, despair. It was a sound that welcomed death, for it was less painful than living. Red pushed some buttons on her wrist console, and suddenly a blast of music echoed through the speakers in their helmets…

“Hey Mickey, you’re so fine, you’re so fine you blow my mind, Hey Mickey!”

The spell was broken. The sounds overrode the wailing from the city, drowned out the cry of despair and gave them the impetus to move on again. Purple took one step, then another, pushing ahead as she fought to get her breathing under control – and then she saw it.

The gaunt figure started to rise out of the ground ahead of her. Pale ghostly limbs, long tatters of clothes, deep gaunt eyes starting out from underneath the lank and bedraggled hair caked with filth and waste. It raised a hand towards her, and started to shamble forwards, stumbling over the uneven terrain. A terrible rattling voice hissed a word out of its rotting mouth, inaudible at first, as it closed the distance. Purple froze in place, studying the apparition as it closed on her position.

The others froze, not being able to see the figure from their position, blocked as it was by the rubble and tangled remains of the broken buildings. After a few seconds, they started to move around a little, soon catching site of the wracked body as it emerged from the car sized lumps of plascrete and approached them. Straining at first, they finally could hear what the figure was saying, hissing, as it struggled to push air through the rotting remains of its mouth.

“Me… lisss…..aaaaa”

It repeated the word, over and over again, as it approached them, turning from one to the other. The voice rose, becoming more strident, urgent. Angry. And then they noticed – it was only glancing at the three of them that were female, ignoring Blue and Green. The voice became more angry, more demanding, as it closed and continued to receive no response. As it crossed the last of the distance between them, Red called out in a carefully modulated voice, putting all of her powers of command into it – “STOP!” The shambling figure ignored her and lunged forwards, its gaunt and rotting hands scraping down the outside of her armour, scratching the paintwork, but not penetrating the armour at all. But they didn’t need to it seems. Purple froze again, not moving a muscle, whilst Yellow flinched as her readouts went crazy. Heart rate and adrenaline spiked, respiration rose and became hyper-rapid, but shallow. And her brain function started to decrease, heading towards a flatline – it was like the creature was sucking the very life from her, and Purple was unable to resist its touch.

The team sprang to the defence of their comrade. Bullets destroyed large chunks of the exposed bones, throwing back the creature and driving it to the ground as the rounds chewed through its body and destroyed what little cohesion remained. The gunshots echoed around the graves, bouncing off the wrecks, doubling and redoubling until it was a cacophony of noise. The figure collapsed under the gunfire, thrown back a few meters from Purples feet. The team moved forward to check on it, and were horrified to see the bones slowly shifting as the damage repaired itself, and the creature seemed to regenerate before their very eyes. Another fusillade of bullets drove it to the ground again, but still it started to reform.

With a deep sobbing breath, Purple seemed to regain her senses, and though moving like she was exhausted after running a marathon, swung with her sword, hacking deeply into the figure, and finally it was still. Was it the magical nature of the sword? Was it luck? Was it an accumulation of damage? They were unsure – but at least the creature lay dead and unmoving now. Mr Green suddenly spied something of interest and bent down carefully – just in case. There, attached to the belt on the decaying and ragged clothing was an ID badge, proclaiming that the figure was a Mitch Truman of Truman Technologies. On the pass was a half torn and destroyed photo showing a somewhat average looking young man. The shape vaguely fitted the figure in front of them, but it was hard to tell given the levels of decomposition and decay it had suffered. Green pocketed the ID card, and looked towards Blue, asking him if he felt that this was the expected resolution of what he had dreamt about?

“I don’t know… lets push on a bit further. I… it just doesn’t feel quite right yet”

They advanced.

A hundred yards later, as they moved into a narrow area between two devastated towers, a wall of filth and debris suddenly sprang into existence, separating Purple from the rest of the team. Stretching from one shattered building to the other, and over three meters tall, it blocked the line of sight between them. At almost the same moment another of the large excrementals sprang into existence at the back left of the rest of the team, moving swiftly forward to try and catch Green unawares. Like a viper though, Green detected its presence and swung around to face it and defend himself from its attack. He was somewhat distracted though at the last moment, as were the rest of the team and Purple with jerky movements raised her sword over her head, and then with a powerful flick of her arms, threw it into the rubble ahead. It flashed end over end, and disappeared with a metallic clatter into the tortured mass of broken stones. Purples’ gasp of frustration and surprise echoed over the suit radios.

Red considered for a moment, thinking furiously. Purple loved her sword – she never let anyone touch it, cleaning it fastidiously and taking fanatical care over it. She would never damage it, never act in a careless manner with it – so something must be affecting her, compelling her to do so. So something could probably see her…. She scanned around the area, eyes flitting from one building to the next, and quickly spotted something out of place. There, clinging to the wall about five stories high was Standish. He was obviously using the same spell he had used to escape the hotel, his left hand and both feet seemingly stuck to the wall, whilst his right hand was aimed down at Purple, his hand manipulating the air in front of him as he controlled her movements like a marionette. Her eyes narrowed slightly, as she raised her pistol. She ignored the sounds of combat to her left – she knew that Blue and Yellow would support Green, leaving her free for just a few seconds. She had to make it count. The sight picture was complete – the white dot at the front of the pistol lined up with the lines at the rear, neatly aimed at the centre of his torso. She squeezed the trigger gently at the bottom of a deep breath. The pistol barked once – spitting a slug up at the figure hanging motionless on the wall, thinking his unusual position and elevation would keep him safe.

The bullet entered through his belly button, smashing into his stomach causing massive damage as it bounced around his body. It must have hit something inside that caused it to ricochet, as it didn’t exit – though copious amounts of blood spurted out of the entry hole. With a scream of agony, the figure lost its grip and flopped down, his limbs sticking momentarily to the wall when they hit, before momentum tore them away again. The body flik-flakked down, over and over, doing three full spins before it had lost enough energy to hang limply from the wall at about the height of the first floor. As the figure lost concentration, the spell affecting Purple vanished, as did the wall of filth. She sprinted forward, staring at the spot she had last seen her precious blade before it vanished, with a snarl on her lips.

Meanwhile the excremental was battering away at Green with mighty clubbed fists, leaving smears of waste and filth wherever it met his limbs as he blocked and counterattacked. It was not skilled, relying on its great bulk and power to try and smash him to the ground, but it was also so massive and strong that when Green managed to land a few blows, it barely seemed to register. Blue focussed on its magical aura, and locked his gaze upon it and began chanting under his breath, seeking to unravel the magics that held it tied to this plane. The elemental roared, locked in combat with Green physically, and now with Blue mentally, as it sought to prevent its banishment. Yellow moved in to support Green, and after a few moments so did Red. They encircled the beast, moving in concert in smooth movements that could have come only after months of training together, diving in to strike, blocking attacks meant for one another, slowly wearing it down, distracting it, striking at exposed limbs. With a grunt, Blue focussed his will upon the foul beast, stripping away layers of protective magic, reducing the magical potency further and further until the creature just seemed to melt away.

Silence fell upon the scene.

Purple searched carefully and then gave a cry of triumph, holding her sword above her head after recovering it from the crevice in which it had landed. As she looked up at it with joy, her cry of triumph became one of anger as she saw the massive blemish that defaced it down one entire side, courtesy of some rebar sticking out of the rubble. She looked past the blade to the form of Standish, feeble in his attempts to hold his entrails inside him with one hand, whilst his other three limbs kept him suspended. Bending her knees deeply, Purple squatted, her backside almost touching the floor, before launching herself explosively up in to the air. Her hand reached for and found the jacket, her fingers clenching around the material as she plucked him from the wall, falling down with her. At the last moment her powerful arm swung him over her head, dashing him to the floor next to her in a move that would have wrestling fans screaming with delight. His body went limp as the ground slammed into him, driving all breath along with consciousness out of him. She raised her sword again, ready to bring it down in a vicious blow that would cut him in half.

“NO! Alive. We need him alive” called Red. The sword paused, then lowered slowly, as Purple stepped away from the precipice of her rage. She stepped back, breathing deeply, calming herself.

Yellow moved over to examine the body, and with a look of disgust, pulled out her first aid kit and started to examine the wound. He was fading fast, the massive blood loss and trauma to his stomach made worse by the brutal slam into the hard tarmac. She pulled out dressings and medications, applying them to the wound, but recoiled in horror as the edge of the flesh seems to ooze yellow ichor and smoke gently where the adhesive tried to grip. It was as if his very flesh was toxic, refusing to bond with the pads, and blood started to dribble out of the hole again. He continued to die, his life essence fading with every second.

Red walked over swiftly, and looked down at her, as she struggled to save his life with conventional means, somewhat surprised that it didn’t seem to be working. Looking around at the appalling conditions that Yellow was working in though, the twisted and evil malaise that lay over both the area and the subject – perhaps it was not surprising that it was not that simple. “I’m not going to ask you to do any more. It has to be your choice, your decision. You know what’s involved”.

Yellow paused for a moment, then with an almost unheard sigh, placed both hands over the wound, and concentrated. Magic built up and flowed between them, hindered and restrained by the corrupted nature of the place and the target, but flowing as she poured her will into her actions. Slowly the oozing stopped, as the severity of the wound diminished – just a little. Just enough. Still unconscious, and near death – he stabilised. Still unconscious, he lay surround by a pool of ichor, his breathing shallow and irregular – but alive for now. The team listened to the sound of heaving and dry retching as Yellow fought to keep her breakfast down, as the horrific taste of his essence coursed through her body from their sharing of souls.

Green meanwhile had climbed deftly up the building, looking to see if there was anything up in his perch, and finding a small rucksack packed full to bursting with something. He didn’t bother checking it, instead throwing it over his shoulder and descending rapidly, his movements up and down the building sure and simple, as if he was climbing a ladder, making the whole thing look easy.

The team shared a look, and made the decision to pull out. Battered, bruised and armour covered in filth and excrement they retraced their steps. Once again, the rats swarmed over them – trying to climb up Purple to get at the slumped body of Standish slung over her shoulder, being sent sprawling as she battered them away. As they left the Shattergraves, the air gradually cleared, and the feelings of despair faded. They left without a backwards look, happy to leave the tortured souls of the thousands of dead behind them.

Slowly they moved south, taking a wide berth around the office building that had made it quite clear they were not friendly, heading for the repair yard where they had met Henry just the day before. They were uncomfortable taking Standish to the school - it felt like it would defile the place, and none of them were happy with that. Instead they used the terminal they had seen the day before to call to the school, and arranged for the Merc platoon to bring Bitsy to them in a car, before returning back to guard them civilians. A few minutes of searching, and they uncovered a hand cart that they used to bind and secure Standish too so they wouldn’t have to carry him, and they also fashioned a makeshift gag and blindfold that they applied to him, just in case he recovered consciousness.

Red turned to Bitsy, and asked her if she was up for a little walk. She explained that perhaps it was time to go meet her son in Ghoultown. And perhaps she could introduce the team to the Ghouls, so they can hand over Standish to them – the architect of the plan to wipe them all out.

“Miss, I’d walk all the way to Boston to see the look on their faces and what they do to him”.

The team prepared to move out, heading east for the lake shore and a meeting with the ghouls.

Kren Cooper
One week off on holiday, one week scrubbed due to unexpected shifts from players. frown.gif

As there is no write up for this week, instead I'm posting the "dreams" that each character had. Hopefully the Green and Blue dreams will sync up with the reports of the session, and it would be possible to see the link between them. The players are working on Yellow at the moment, having worked out that they need to hand over Jerome Standish to the ghouls for trial.

You awake from a vivid dream in which you relive part of the action from Alice in Wonderland. You remember chasing after the white rabbit as it leaps down the hole, following through the dark spiral tunnels to its lair. Instead of a tea party though, Tweedledum and Tweedledee are both trying to fix tables and chairs with poor quality tools. You pull out your tools and help them to fix things, and they seem wonderfully happy with you. The rabbit is trying to tie together two bits of string, from separate trees, but they're too far apart to reach each other. You wonder if the long ties on your pinny would help him make the connection that seems so important to him.

You dream took you back to feudal Japan. As a wandering diplomat from the imperial town, you happen across a young samurai lord, just carving out his domain with his followers. After watching him for a while, you determine that his followers are not all loyal to his cause and you trick one of them into revealing his plans to usurp the lord... in the resulting fight, he is killed. Although an outsider, and not one of the samurai class, that earns you the lords favour, and he spares you from servitude.
Telling him that he has passed the test the emperor foresaw, you present him with some gifts and declare the local lands to be his by imperial mandate... and also tell him the tale of the Mandate of Heaven. This tells of the divine right to rule based on position and power, but also requires the ruler to care for his subjects, protect them and see to their wellbeing. In exchange for this care, the subjects recognise his divine right to rule and follow him loyally, strengthening his position and power. As the first step, you advise the lord to pass out medallions of station made of flashing medal to reward their loyalty and faith, and show of your trust in them. The lord is empowered by your knowledge, and assures you he will rule well over his subjects, and sends you with an honour guard to the borders of his land

Your dream has you standing in a court room, full of blank faced people. In the dock are dozens of sick people, sent to a hospital to die, alone and feared. In the prosecutors chair is a well dressed man, oozing power and wealth, pointing out the failings of the diseased and justifying their deaths.
You open the gate to the dock, ushering out the sick people, causing uproar in the court, and then with a mighty heave grab and thrown the prosecutor into the dock instead. You launch a tirade against him, revealing that it was his evil schemes that made the people sick, that is was his actions that lead to their plight. When next you look around the court, everyone but yourself and the prosecutor looks sick, but they ignore you as they advance on the now less powerful man in the dock. As you turn and leave, you hear his animal screams for help as they attack him.

In your dream you are a disembodied spirit, tagging along behind a small but determined child. He's wandering the streets, looking under cars, behind bushes, up trees and down in sewers... always looking but never finding. He's anxious, upset and longing for whatever is lost, never resting, even though he's obviously tired. This seems to go on for hours, maybe even days... until he is dirty, dishevelled and walking like he is asleep... You spot something unusual in some debris, and for no reason you can think off, strain and struggle to attract the boys attention. It's almost as if your will is enough to steer him, and he turns and seems to spy something. Scrabbling up a mound of bricks and stonework he screams in delight as he pulls out a teddybear from the rubble - a teddybear with the head of a dog, with a long beard and carrying a sceptre, dressed in a white cotton kilt or skirt. It looks odd and out of place, but the child seems incredibly happy to have it back. As he curls up around it and starts to fall asleep, he turns to look back at you for the first time, smiles and you feel an incredible sense of peace and fulfilment

You wake from your dream with a start and a scream, covered in sweat and find the others gathering around you to check on your condition. This was less a dream, and more of a nightmare - a dark twisted place full of death and danger. Cold, dark nights full of writhing grasping mist, as you wander alone amongst impossibly tall gravestones. Death and decay is all around you, with a feeling of incredible malice and hatred. As you run across the broken ground between the gravestones, it feels like something is always a step behind you, breathing down your neck and almost catching you... until you reach an open space, surrounded on all sides by the tall, broken and decaying grave markers. Now the horror stands before you, a ghostly spirt, lost and alone and crying for vengeance. Tall and skinny, it stands with pale translucent skin, deep hollow eyes and rotting and matted hair plastered down over its face. A bright flash erupts in the air, fixing the scene in your memory as the spirit seems to fade into the darkness, leaving behind nothing but a greasy mark on the floor. The feeling of danger intensifies around you, and you run, you run for your very life, with heart pounding until fit to burst, running through the gravestones with this nameless floating death pursing you and the spark of life you carry. As you finally burst from between the gravestones into the normal world, light returns as you awake.
Kren Cooper
Episode 11 - 1/6/15 (back after an unexpected several week break due to R/L stuff happening to several of the players

They were lucky enough to find an old wheelbarrow in the repair yard, and used it to more easily manoeuvre the gagged, hooded and tied-up Jerome Standish. There was some brief discussion of the route to Ghoultown. From where highway 55 intersected with highway 94, they had three choices. East to the lakeshore along 55, then south along the shore, which Betsy said were expensive high-rises. Or used to be. South down the 95 to near Ghoultown, then look for an exit. Or cut through the streets any which way that worked.

In the end, the open field of view and speed of travel afforded by the highways seemed too tempting to resist. More chance of some ganger human interactions, less chance of insects, though. Betsy did well to keep up as they jogged along – a lady with a will of iron and a refusal to quit was standing her city in good stead. And that she wanted to go see her son probably helped a lot.

There was discussion as they travelled. Ms. Yellow was very definite about what she wanted from the ghouls, and the team agreed to back her up. She didn’t think this was a difficult call, since she was willing to go with the bottom line of just handing him over and hoping they could walk away if the ghouls didn’t feel like being reasonable.

It got a little harder as they got closer to the junction between 55 and 94. This was because there seemed to be an increasing number of abandoned cars, which required more diversions around, and slowed them down a bit. It was also where they came to make a choice over which sides of the square they took to get to the Cabrini Developments which had been given over to the ghouls as part of the directive awarding them meta-humanity status. In the end, Ms. Purple pointed out that as all the highways were raised, the 55 had to lower to ground level before the lake, whereas if we went south and used the 94, we might not find an exit convenient to Ghoultown, and have to rope/levitate off the highway.

As they moved east along the 55, the car density dropped a little again, and with some thought, Ms. Red hit upon a reason why. People from the south of the city knew there was a wall there, so drove north, and vice versa. Same with folks to the east and the west. Once they’ve checked one side then the other, where else was there to go? They continued along, Betsy breathing hard, but not requiring help. Then someone spotted a small group of people heading up the highway towards them.

Immediately the group headed into cover, where they could, and Mr. Blue went invisible. Brief discussion was had about what to do, as the figures approached. A group of six humans, with two men carrying backpacks and home-made shotguns, and a woman corralling along three children. The woman was also carrying a bed sheet package of much stuff, and the children were laden down as well. They were moving easily along the outside lane, and Ms. Purple’s additional height and the information from Ms. Red earlier gave her her own light bulb moment.

The outside lane, where the upcoming group are, is cleared. It’s not only been cleared most of the way and they’d not realised, but it’s been cleaned by something ramming abandoned cars off that one lane, which suddenly makes sense of the state of some of the cars and the haphazard appearing abandonment. It has only been done on that one single lane of this carriageway, not even on the other side. For emergency vehicles, perhaps? No. The group of gangers with the school bus. It’d had a ramp on the front. Or it had before it’d driven into a main support for a burning building full of wasps and had it collapse on top of it. They’d been driving freely up and down the highway when they’d been seen, so they’d cleared themselves a route. It was obvious in hindsight, but we’d had a number of very full days with minimal sleep.

The cars weren’t big enough to fully hide an armoured person, so Ms. Red poked her head up at a safe distance from the incoming group and greeted them appropriately. They weren’t expecting her, and jumped, the two men swinging the guns around to focus on the threat, then away again once they were reassured, passing perilously close to the dangerous ends aiming at one point at the children, making the team wince. Ms. Red came further out from the vehicles and attempted to chat with the adults for information. This was disrupted by one of the children making a break for freedom from the woman and trying to run to Ms. Red. “Transformer!” was the call, leaving puzzled expressions on the faces of the team, as the woman corralled the child back under control and away from the danger.

They were in a hurry, they said. They needed to get moving and get off the road before the Flying Circus came back. The Flying…. Oh. The gangers with the bus. “They won’t be back,” said Ms. Red, making a flat statement. “We dealt with them earlier – I didn’t get along with their lifestyle choices. So, what were you running from?” It turned out that they weren’t running from anything as much as trying to find somewhere better to stay safe. Sighing at the breaking of the promise not to add more people to the enclave, Ms. Red gave them directions towards the school, the justification running through her mind. They had children. It’s for the children.

Not far after that, the highway sloped downwards and gently deposited them by the lakeshore. It had been a very nice area, it appeared with the shoreline covered with high-rise condominiums. Emphasis on had been. It appeared much quieter now, with a lot less life, and many of the floor-to-ceiling windows smashed, leaving the buildings with an air of abandonment and neglect. In fact, it looked desolate, with almost an edge of despair and an unseen miasma of gloom. Almost a barren-feeling landscape, where once it would have been full of life of the residents going about their business and the visitors from other areas of the city off to spend time recreationally by the lake. There appeared to be very little life, with only small signs of movement. At least it didn’t look like anyone would be throwing chairs at them here, was the quip from one of the team.

They headed south, and whatever bugs lived here, weren’t active as time crept on to mid-afternoon. Nor were there any other sightings of humans. The road signs were still up, though, showing Funland in a kilometre, a museum and garden in two kilometres and then the Cabrini Development in three kilometres. The Cabrini Development was where all of Betsy’s documents said had been converted into Ghoultown.

Funland was at the end of a large pier, off out into the lake, and according to Betsy was a computer game place, very popular with the younger males. It appeared abandoned now, but Mr. Green was clearly eyeing it speculatively, and wondering what technology might be left. Then it was the museum, set away from the road a little in large gardens, now somewhat overgrown. It looked shut up, but there was something in the manner that suggested it was occupied, rather than abandoned. It certainly didn’t look like they wanted visitors, and as it was going to be dark soon, the team wanted to press on with Betsy and get rid of Standish as soon as possible. No one wanted the long term responsibility of the toxic mage, nor the short term responsibility to be any longer than it had to be.

The Cabrini Development was surrounded by a very high wire wall, shaped carefully to make it hard to scale, and the zoom function in the armoured helmets showed frequent guard towers and paired sentries carrying rifles of some sort. Sniper rifles, was the team assumption made when a bullet spanged into the tarmac between the boots of Ms. Purple. She had been out at the front as usual, and the noise had the team pause to huddle and discuss.

The team were aware that a shot from the sniper rifle would have neatly pushed through the initial surface of their armour, but lost any further armour-penetrating power to tearing up the body inside the armour, and would then just bounce around inside, shredding the wearer of the armour in a most unpleasant and fatal way. It was clear that if they’d wanted to hit the team, they would have done, and that it was a warning shot. Given the distance it had been made at, the avenues of communication open to the team were limited.

So, Ms. Red prepared her eloquently unthreatening body language, and turned on the loudspeaker in her helmet. Her usual expert negotiation yielded an agreement that they could approach the fence to discuss matters of mutual interest, with Ms. Yellow almost bouncing from foot to foot in her nervousness about how this encounter would go, now that they had arrived.

They approached the fence, and Ms. Red then popped her helmet, took it off and tucked it under her arm, and prepared to exercise her vocal muscles with some persuasive yelling. She told them that at least one of the matters of mutual interest involved evidence proving the guilt of one Jerome Standish in plans to wipe out the Cabrini Development and the ghouls housed within it under the legal resolution that gave them meta-human status. She’d really prefer not to yell the entirety of the matter across the fence, though, so would they be willing to grant us, and Betsy, who was here to see her son, closer conversation?

Ms. Red and Mr. Blue had been monitoring the crowd as Ms. Red had been talking. Mr. Blue had eventually let his invisibility spell go, having spotted a small number of the ghouls appeared to be clearly watching him anyway, backing up Ms. Yellow’s earlier statement that they were dual natured and could see magic, so he’d be glowing to magical vision. A crowd of ghouls had gathered near the fence as word had spread that they had visitors, and silence had fallen when Ms. Red had mentioned Standish and his final solution. The silence had two flavours. About two thirds of the crowd appeared eager, almost blood-thirsty, with faint mutters of “Knew it!” carrying on the lake breeze. The other third of the crowd looked almost disappointed. Whether it was that they hadn’t wanted the rumours to be true, or just that human nature was expressing its worst characteristics as ever, and they hadn’t wanted confirmation that humans were still humans.

“I am Raymond Miers, and I grant you safe passage into our compound for tonight. The entrance is a block and half to the west,” came from one of the ghouls with a commanding presence. Red politely confirmed that he had the authority to authorise that, and they headed for the gate. The discussion on the way agreed that Red and Yellow would go in, and the rest of the team would stay outside with Standish for safety.

This plan was kiboshed almost immediately by the ghouls. They were quite happy with it, but pointed out to the team that after dark, the area outside their very big and imposing gate was left, and was freely roamed by bugs. It was then decided that as they’d been agreed safe passage whilst it was dark, that they might as well all go in, rather than risk Betsy. This turned out to be the best decision, after all. Yellow then popped and removed her helmet as well, and they led the team in. Ms. Red, followed by Ms. Yellow, walked up to Ray Miers, and offered to shake his hand. It was obvious that his immediate learned reaction as a ghoul was not to touch, which was followed by the thinking part of his brain realising that the armour protected the pretty lady, and reaching out to shake her hand. Yellow then also offered her hand, and it was shaken with less initial hesitation. This… humanisation of the team in their treatment of Miers got a positive reaction from the small crowd, and inclined them to at least listen to the team, it appeared.

As they trooped into the compound, the day slipped into dusk, and they followed Miers over to an open space towards the middle of the compound, where there were a small number of chairs and a gathering number of ghouls. Some of the chairs were occupied, and more were being occupied as more people arrived. Once all the chairs were full, Ray signalled to Ms. Red to start. Rather warily, as they were very much surrounded, at a distance, by more than enough ghouls to be able to kill all of the team, never mind the sniper rifles, the team stood at ease to support Ms. Red in attempting to legally kill Standish, give the ghouls a PR coup that might just be useful to all ghouls, find Betsy’s son and get them all out of there alive! Oddly, Mr. Blue noticed that the area felt more normal than the miasma of despair left outside in the abandoned area.

She asked if Betsy’s son could be found, and a runner was sent off on that errand. Then she began the presentation by saying that whatever else happened and was decided, the group were not intending to take Standish away with them. There were some mutters from the crowd at the possible implication that the team might have thought that they could take him back out, mainly from the more militant and aggressive parts of the crowd. The crowd then quieted as she followed up with the reasoning that he’d wanted them dead, and thus the team all agreed that the ghouls had the right to justice from him. Whatever form that may take. The team were going to leave Standish with them, to do with as they chose. However, the team did have a suggestion as to what they might want to do with him… Put him on trial.

Ms. Red was in her element, laying out the team’s suggestion with utmost eloquence, and doing a fantastic job. The short form first – they had evidence that he had committed crimes for which they understood the sentencing would normally be life-imprisonment, which no reasonable person would fault them to changing to death under the circumstances in Chicago. Oh, and they had recordings of him spell casting as a toxic mage, just in case the other charges weren’t enough. There was an indrawn breath at that by many across the compound. Why not put him on trial, and have him found guilty before performing sentence? Some of the ghouls appeared to be confused as to why they’d bother – why not just kill him?

Ms. Red then continued with Yellow’s suggestion that they record the trial, and that it can then be broadcast across the matrix in Chicago, and if and when possible, across the wider world. They could use this opportunity to show people that they were the meta-humans the designation order had declared them to be, rather than the ravening monsters that Standish and his ilk wanted them to be seen as. There would be some people who would see the recording and not care and not think and not change, but could the ghouls pass up this chance to try and convince people who might just think and might just change their opinion? Not just for themselves and ghouls in Chicago, but potentially for all ghouls world-wide.

They could just kill him, yeah. Or they could make themselves a weapon of mass positive public relations which might just make things a bit better for ghoul kind worldwide, eventually. That seemed to resonate with at least one of the council, a man who Mr. Blue had noticed seemed to be hearing things more than seeing them. The council asked for the evidence to be presented. It appeared that they wanted to be sure themselves before they committed to anything. They sent off for a generator and various gadgets. Mr. Green, as the technology expert, helped the ghouls wire in the lights and big-screen projector, and Ms. Yellow did the necessary tweaking of the files to have them viewable at size and remove items from the recordings of Standish which might identify the team where she could.

They handed back over to Ms. Red. She began by explaining that, thanks to Betsy, they had been given evidence which confirmed that the designation order and Cabrini Developments project were part of a bigger plan, in which Jerome Standish was implicated, whose objective was to make sure that the ghouls had no expectation of long term survival. As she talked through the documents, Yellow manipulated the display to keep up, and recorded proceedings. They moved on to the two sets of recordings of Standish in the hotel and in the Shattergraves, including the footage of the room in the hotel which he’d… decorated to enable the excremental summonings.

Then it came to time for him to enter a plea. It was agreed that he’d be unhooded, but would remain gagged and blindfolded to prevent spell casting and could plead by head movements. He was still unconscious, but a little water woke him up. Once the ghouls got a good look at him, someone asked what had happened to him, and Ms. Red rather nonchalantly said that she’d shot him, he’d fallen down the building then Ms. Purple had bounced him off the ground.

Standish’s body language, such as could be displayed in his condition and restraints was wary, and tensed further when Ray Meirs told him what he’d ben accused of and asked him how he pleaded. He pleaded guilty to intent to wipe out the Cabrini refuge and the ghouls, and not guilty to toxic magedom.

Mr. Green was very surprised when the council chose him to present the defence for Standish – because he’d not said very much. Much of the defence was that the evidence was circumstantial, but the case for the prosecution was finalised when two ghouls were called forward to determine if he was a mage or not as expert witnesses. They decreed that he was a mage, and thus the recordings, whilst still circumstantial, could be counted as valid. This ended the defence’s presentation, and the council looked at each other to consider their verdict.

A moment later, a large number of red dots appeared on Standish’s chest as it slowly rose and fell with his laboured breathing. Then, at some unseen signal, his chest dissolved into a red mass as a number of bullets removed him from life. The compound broke into cheers of mass celebration.

After a few minutes, the council called the ghouls back to a semblance of quiet, and declared the team as “Friends”, which appeared to them to carry a specific meaning for them. It certainly meant the team were being treated more cordially, and were welcome stay overnight and return at any time. At this point, they split off to follow their interests and inclinations. Betsy was seen sitting very closely with a young ghoul, where they were gently hugging at times. Other than that, the ghouls appeared to make a specific point of attempting to remain a good few feet away from any of the team. It was also noticed that outside the compound, up and down the shoreline, the buildings lit up with a very pretty display of glow-bugs. Very pretty unless you knew that unclose and personal, they’d be big enough and want to eat anything human.

Mr. Blue spent most of his evening chatting to the two mages who had certified Standish, trying to find common ground and sharing understandings on general principles. At one point, he went to find Ms. Purple, and brought her and the Anubis-headed dagger that Ms. Yellow had found to see if the other mages had any better knowledge of the magical item. They deduced that it was a weapon and detection focus, and thus very valuable in cash terms. More than that, it would be of great magical and sentimental value to its owner. However, the ghoul mages explained that any attempt to ritually track the owner would be much better done away from their compound, as it was a lot more likely to bring in bug spirits, so that idea was shelved for the moment.

Ms. Yellow spent a good portion of her evening and the night with Nellie, an orc who made Ms. Purple look like a delicate flower. She had previously been a paramedic and she and Yellow spent the time happily trading information on immediate wound care on one hand and plant-based medicines on the other. Nellie told her that they were very short of medical supplies, as no more crates at all were dropped in their area, as they were the only people. They didn’t need the food, but they could trade it away, but the lack of medical supplies was seriously harming the ghouls.

Mr. Green had followed his inclination and offered to repair electricals if he could. The others were rather amused by the never-ending queue of people who then lined up to take advantage of his skills, making him very popular. His popularity rocketed when he realised that they had no power in the refuge, but did have access to a junction box where it came in. He called on Ms. Yellow to mess with the computer terminal as he spliced and poked around with the wires and they (and that building) were rewarded with a hum of power restored. This gave the ghouls one place with heat, light and power. Somewhere some of them at a time could sleep and be warm and be able to make use of the matrix connection that our pair were putting together. They were back online.

The next morning, they woke from a good and safe night’s sleep, and had some final things to take care of before they moved out.

Ms. Yellow had had the idea of posting a “found item” listing on the matrix, and see if they had reasonable takers. The plan, and eventual listing was intended to be subtle, and simply referenced a dagger of unique appearance having been found, which was obviously of great sentimental value, and could the owner get in touch. They were rather surprised when Ms. Yellow had gone to post this to receive messages from a very happy Sys Op 5 showing how much of the city had reconnected since Mr. Green had given them the doo-hickey needed – there were hundreds of nodes now up, and sharing information. The city was more of a whole entity again and feeling much less like a number of stranded groups of survivors.

It only took a short time for Ms. Yellow to go through Sys Op 5’s messages, but there’d been a number of responses to the lost property post already. One of them seemed promising, simply claiming ownership, and confirming that the owner would like the dagger back. Ms. Yellow sent a private message apologising for the inconvenience and asking for some description or proof that the dagger they had was the same one as the respondent had lost. The respondent was online, and posted back a very peculiar picture. With a little manipulation, the team realised that it was an extreme close up of one of the decorative areas of the dagger, and a reasonable proof of recognition, and probably ownership. It was then followed with a message including a com-code. The team shuffled around to get Ms. Red to the screen, and they dialled the code.

A man of middle years with some deeply graven wrinkles appeared on screen. Ms. Red held up the dagger for his proof and sharp eyes saw a tremor of relief cross his frame. A little conversational back and forth agreed that they’d meet him around midday at the junction of highways 55 and 94, and the team asked if he’d be willing to trade information for his dagger. That seemed to surprise him a little, but he agreed readily enough. They then took copies of his picture and asked both the ghouls and Sys Op 5 if they recognised the man.

The ghouls came up blank, but Sys Op 5 recognised him and was a mine of information. Apparently Kyle Teller was somewhat known in the city now, at least by name and reputation. He used to work for the FBI as a paranormal investigator, and then went freelance. He was doing something in Chicago and was trapped inside when the wall went up. Since then, he’s been part of an enclave based around the Wrigley Field stadium, which is rumoured to hold a hundred or more people and a group of special operations soldiers. It is also rumoured that they have some sort of route or passageway to outside the wall.

Final thing to do was a quick check in with the school. Oh dear. Once they connected, a council member was called and rather uncertainly told them what’d been going on, in terms of good news and bad news. It turns out that they had received a food drop, which was good news. The bad news was that it’d arrived with an armoured drone in the schoolyard and the drone had stayed. It had delivered a message and now scanned everyone entering the yard, saying, so far, “No military hardware detected!”. Not that any of the soldiers had risked going anywhere near it, of course. The message said that the school would get no more food drops unless they handed over the terrorists. It had identified the terrorists by showing a picture of the team when they had visited the wall on their initial reconnaissance, making it more than clear who they wanted.

Having calculated that they have a little while before they need to find Betsy and head off to meet Kyle Teller, the team sprang into mental or physical action, either considering their options or hunting for information. Mr. Green contacted Sys Op 5 to see if he knew of any easy way around the drone or to jam the signal between it and its rigger, which he didn’t. He wasn’t sure if he could maybe make a jammer, but he certainly wouldn’t be trusting it himself if he could….?

Time to think and plan.
Kren Cooper
Episode 12 - 29/06/15
The team started in the Ghoul enclave, having had a relaxing night’s sleep in one of the safest places they had found so far in Chicago. Checking with Betsy, they found that she wanted to stay with her relative, and they were free to push on at speed. They retraced their steps, heading north and back the way they had come, following the roads travelled the previous day as far as possible. Along the way, Yellow started talking to the team, raising a number of points that had been preying on her mind…
“Assumption – the wall and the containment has worked and no bugs have gotten out, or the bugs that have gotten out are keeping their heads down for now and are unknown – backed up by the fact that the wall is still manned and the containment is being kept up – if the outside world was also going to heck in a handbasket, then they wouldn’t be able to or care enough to keep up the containment. With knowledge of the plague, it should be possible to work out two rough ballparks for the earliest and latest likely times at which the city could be considered clean. For a value of clean where the occupants of the quarantine will mainly either have been infected and survived or been infected and died and the period of any survivor being actively infectious has also passed. Once the city and all surviving occupants should be “clean”, there shouldn’t be a reason that they can’t send in teams of MOPP military to start pulling out survivors, wash then down, give them new clothes and move them on somewhere. They don’t even have to do refugee camps, as the time for the city to be clean should give them enough time to arrange place for the survivors to go. Even if they only take out legal survivors with SINs.
Once that’s done, then they would be able to napalm it to the bedrock, probably including all the SINless and the ghouls if I’m being harsh. It cannot run on indefinitely, for two main reasons. External costs of various sorts (financial, emotional) to the government of maintaining the quarantine for one, and the second is that the main deaths in the city are people and the only long term survivors are the bugs, and the longer it remains locked down, the further the ratio skews from humans to bugs. Eventually it’ll be a containment breeding ground of bugs with a few very lucky or careful humans, maybe.
How comfortable are we going to be leaving the city, being pretty sure that everyone left is going to die sooner rather than later? Is there anything at all we can do to orchestrate a mass-breakout, and not have it kill most, if not all of the escapees? And can this be done and successfully filter out the bugs and flesh-forms? I’m really not sure that a mass-breakout is in any way viable, but the alternative is… unpleasant.”
The team discussed the ideas, bouncing back and forth between them whilst they walked. They tried to work out how likely the story of the VITAS plague was holding, what the residual value of the city, and the equipment left in it was, and how this balanced against the cost of the containment. Of the likelihood of Machiavellian plans at work regarding breeding grounds and research by the mega-corps or government.
An hour or more later, they realised that they needed to keep their wits about them all the more now, especially if this “Kyle Teller” was in any way connected with the UCAS or one of the big corps.
Not long before the meeting spot, a female was spotted running at the team from a large apartment block, calling for help. The team moved to the building, and were told there was some sort of bug down in the basement, with the clear expectation that they would resolve this situation. Carefully they moved down the service stairs, into the lower levels. As they rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs, they could make out a room full of refuse and detritus, along with a single massive roach – perhaps 20-25 feet long, and about 6 feet high. Antenna twitched at them, and it crouched, ready to attack.
Blue let rip with a mana bolt, straining to throw all of his efforts into it, and channelling power from Red and Yellow to help him. The sheer size of the creature absorbed much of the energy, and even though it lacked much in the way of mental defences, it remained standing after the attack. With a rasping shriek of rage, it lurched forwards, lightning fast, to attack Purple, and she had to throw everything she had into defence, to avoid being impaled by the massive pincers. Her sword slid off the thick chitenous armour, barely scratching it, even when Green darted forwards to try and help her by distracting it. Blue gathered energy again, and let rip another powerful Manabolt spell, and finally managed to down the creature. As they took stock and recovered, they noticed that the room had large numbers of eggs scattered around it, and while they watched, another small cluster oozed out of the body onto the floor. The team spent the next few minutes destroying all the eggs they could see, before scattering a few grenades around along with some fuel – after checking the sprinkler system was still operational – and then set of the explosives and destroyed the lair with cleansing fire. Returning up stairs, they were met with a small group of cheering survivors, who treated them like conquering heroes. Pressed for time, the team moved on to their rendezvous.
At the meeting, the team deployed carefully around the small park on the corner of a large intersection, and settled in to wait for Kyle. He arrived, and spotted Blue under the cover of his invisibility spell immediately – confirming that he was a competent mage. After a brief discussion, and the return of his foci, he invited them back to a safer spot to discuss life in the Zone. The team agreed, and Kyle called someone on his radio. Within a few seconds the team spotted movement – Red quickly identified them as military from the way they moved and handled their equipment – and a couple of snipers or marksmen emerged from buildings overlooking the grass. The group moved off to the north, travelling several blocks until they saw a very bizarre sight.
There on the corner of the main road and a wide boulevard was a restaurant or café. With the neon still lit, and the very faint sounds of music leaking out through the doors. A couple of orks stood guard outside, openly brandishing assault rifles and plenty of chrome, but they obviously recognised Kyle and his group, and were willing to let them vouch for the team. On entering the building, it was like entering another world – the world that was. Clean, tidy, well lit… the smell of freshly cooked food filled the air, whilst a tall, painfully thin elf worked the decks and music pumped out of the speakers located in each corner.
Kyle took the team through to a back room, and patrons moved off the dance floor at his request whilst sturdy benches were bought over for the team to sit on, so they didn’t need to strip from their armour. Relaxing again, the team was surprised when food – real food – was bought over to them, including large glasses of freshly made chocolate milkshakes. The team removed helmets and set to devouring the food.
Negotiations began – and it was soon obvious to both Red, negotiating for the team, and Kyle – that both parties knew more than they were letting on, and both were trying not to show their hand too early, whilst at the same time trying to be somewhat friendly and helpful. Kyle obviously felt that he owed them, and owed them well, for the return of his foci. The team meanwhile had picked up that Kyle was a player in the town, and obviously knew a great deal about what was going on.
After much discussion they had established that it was best to leave the refugees in the school – getting them to the dome was risky, and would also push the population up too fast and high to be a good idea. Kyle would pass the word to “some folks he knew” to make sure the food drops continued, and would also see about getting supplies to the ghouls. Kyle revealed that he was in town to find two young adults by the name of Truman – and the team realised they had met one of them already. Explaining the story of their meeting with the undead apparition, they showed the ID card they had found in the shattergraves, and it quickly became apparent that one of the two was very definitely beyond saving.
Kyle also showed them some of the bulletin boards that System05 had put back online – and it soon became clear why the young woman had run to them for help. There were several pictures of the team in their armour, engaged in various battles with the bugs over the last few days. Most looked to be from street cams or handheld devices like wrist comms, but the footage clearly showed the team kicking ass and taking names… and the follow up text and stories from those saved left the reader in no confusion about the situation. Word was spreading throughout the city – or at least those where the matrix was back up in some limited form – that helping these people if you could was a good idea, as was calling on them if you needed help. At least System05 had not put any shots up without their helmets on…
Just as they were getting to the end of their discussion, Kyle’s pocket secretary sounded an alarm. It looked like Melisa Truman had been spotted up in the North West part of the zone, and he turned to the team and asked if they would be willing to go fetch her and bring her back to the dome for him, whilst he went to have a chat with various parties to see what he could do about the food drops and the possibilities of getting people moved around.
With a sigh, the team attached their helmets again, and got ready to head out.
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