Usually the team gets a few weeks or more between major actions, but this time there is no rest for the wicked. Only two weeks after the Southside Scandal, another opportunity comes knocking.
February 3, 2038
Riptide is contacted by Hand who has a job offer. He introduces Riptide to Janet Towlend and Logan Bilstants. They want to hire the team to transport an unspecified cargo from the Oakland Spaceport back to Night City. The cargo is set to arrive tomorrow night via an Orbital Air shuttle. All they need to do is take the provided cargo van to pick it up, and return the van with the unspecified cargo back to Night City. If all goes well, it should be an easy payday of $8,000.
The team meets the two corps at the Forlorn Hope and pick up the van. It turns out that the man providing the wheels for this operation is none other than “Hollywood” Henderson. He shows off the van, with armored sides, vehicle link, and super-charged engine. Most interesting is the feature in the pack: a sealable biohazard containment vault. This gets the team wondering about the unspecified cargo that Janet described as “slightly illegal.”
They take the van back to Jimmy Two Teeth’s, to check it out. Helios, not surprisingly, finds it equipped with a Lowjack tracker and disables it. They then take it back home and get ready for the following day’s run.
February 4, 2038
The team, minus Torrent, heads to Oakland. Helios and Saito are in the van, while Zen and Riptide follow behind on their motorcycles. The drive takes three hours, and at 8:00 PM, they find themselves at the Oakland Spaceport.
Helios drives up to the cargo pickup gate and gives the papers that Janet and Logan gave him to the guard. The guard directs them to a parking area he refers to as the “interceptor lot.” It is located directly off of one of the airstrips. The van is allowed to pass through, but the two cycles are not allowed to follow. They decide to wait outside the gate.
Helios and Saito sit in the van in the interceptor lot for nearly an hour when they see the descending lights of the orbital shuttle. Everything seems to be going smoothly, right up to the moment that the shuttle slams into the tarmac and begins to slide sideways down the runway. When the wreckage finally comes to a halt, Helios and Saito drive up in the van. They get out but wait alongside the vehicle.
The passenger access hatch on the shuttle bursts open as two men in Metal Gear leap onto the tarmac, guns at their shoulders. Saito attempts to talk to them, but they immediately open fire. Luckily the Helios and Saito had the open armored van doors to protect them. They return fire, but most of their shots bounce off of the two solo’s heavy armor.
Hearing what is happening over the radio, Zen and Riptide drive along the perimeter fence to get as close to the action as possible.
The armored doors can only take so much damage as the solos empty their entire magazines at Helios and Saito. Saito’s door fails and falls off the hinges. He is hit several times, the shots ripping into his armor. One round strikes him in the leg, smashing the bone within.
Helios gets back into the van and guns the engine. He attempts to run down the two solos, but they jump out of the way with lightning fast reflexes. Helios is able to slam on the brakes before colliding with the downed shuttle.
The solo on Helios’ side continues to open fire on the van. The other solo moves towards Saito, who was left behind when Helios took off. The solo’s A-80 rifle is empty however, so he pulls a knife and converges on the prone Saito.
Zen and Riptide get as close as they can along the perimeter fence. Zen begins to cut through the fence while Riptide takes a few shots at Saito’s opponent with his ramjet pistols. Its at the far end of the pistol’s range, but one shot finds its mark and momentarily rocks the solo back. Saito is able to use this opportunity to grapple the solo’s legs and pull him to the ground.
Helios uses his grenade launcher and fires a flechette grenade into his target’s chest. The spikes drive into the man’s armor, but he stays standing. Helios presses the advantage and engages the solo in hand to hand. Using his wolvers, he is able to get through the man’s compromised armor and take him down.
Saito continues to struggle against his opponent. The two are on the ground in a grappling match. With Saito’s broken leg, it’s only a matter of time before the man gets the upper hand. Finally, in a desperation move, he takes a detonation cap, arms it, and forces it into his opponent’s armor. The cap detonates with in the confined space of the Metal Gear armor. Despite multiple ruptured organs, the solo stills lives, but collapses unconscious.
Riptide, who has taken over fence-cutting duties, tears a hole big enough in the fence for Zen to get her motorcycle through. As she races to her friends’ aid, the sound of sirens in the distance begins, and emergency crews begin to move toward the scene.
While Zen checks on Saito, Helios rushes into the shuttle and begins to look around. All of the passengers and crew are dead, many by gunfire. He finds the cargo hold, where he discovers a hole blown out on one side.
He also finds an open crate that matches the serial number on the voucher he was given. There is a small hole punctured in one side. Was it a bullet hole, or perhaps a piece of orbital debris that punctured the shuttle during reentry?
Inside the crate is an open case containing slots for three large gas cylinders. The first slot contains a cylinder with a hole punched in it. It appears to be empty. The second slot contains an intact cylinder. The third slot is missing its cylinder.
Helios now also hears the approaching sirens and hoists the one intact cylinder over his shoulder and heads out the shuttle. Zen already has helped Saito into the van, as Helios runs up and places the cylinder in the van’s biohazard vault. They make a quick exit, bursting through the tear in the fence that Riptide had made.
Riptide places a call to Hand who gets him in touch with Janet. She explains that the cylinders contain an experimental combat drug called H454, designed to heighten awareness and reflexes. It is currently in gas form to help control how much is dispensed. In high quantities it causes rages and paranoia.
She also explains that she had three solos on the shuttle, guarding the cargo: Jackson, Spender, and Weston. Her description of them matches the Metal Gear clad solos.
Apparently, one cylinder was compromised and the three were exposed to a massive overdose of the gas. In normal humans, the affect will only last a few hours. Unfortunately, due to bio-implants, nanite surgery, and chemical alterations, the three had far from normal physiologies. Early tests indicated that on such an individual, the effect maybe permanent.
Janet indicates that the team must account for the third cylinder if they are to get paid. But, she also understands that the mission now involves more work than they contracted for. She offers them a $2,000 bonus if they bring back the last cylinder intact, and another $1,000 bonus if they can bring back Weston alive. All of those enhancements make for an expensive loss each time they lose one of these guys.
Zen and Helios drive Saito to the closest Oakland hospital. They give the med techs just enough time to put Saito on a gurney before they peel out of the parking lot.
In the mean time, Riptide drives around the perimeter of the Spaceport on his motorcycle, looking for signs of the third solo. He finds nothing of interest though, and rendezvous with Helios and Zen.
The three take another tour around the facility, hoping that three sets of eyes are better than one. Sure enough, along the west side of the perimeter they find another tear in the fence. The darkness makes tracking difficult though and they see no sign of the solo’s passing.
Gambling that he may have went through the near by woods, they drive along the edge of the tree line. On the far side of the woods, they do spot recent tracks. But those tracks are short lived as they soon come to an asphalt road. Not finding any tracks on the other side, they assume that their target must have followed the road.
February 5, 2038
Zen and Riptide turn their motorcycles south, while Helios takes the doorless van north. A couple of miles up the road, Helios spots an unconscious man lying in the ditch. He reports it to the other two, but keeps going, not wanting to lose any more ground.
Zen and Riptide turn around and head back north, eventually coming upon the person. Zen is able to wake him up. The man, named Ed Morris, was driving his Mitsubishi Sedan down the road when he saw a man waving for help. He pulled to a stop but did not open the window in case it was a trap. Unfortunately, the window was of little use as the solo punched clean through the glass and yanked Ed out of his car. The last thing he remembers is getting hurled into the ditch and left to watch his car go north before he lost consciousness.
Zen and Riptide start to head north, but after a few minutes, Zen gets an idea and turns back around, Riptide follows. They find Ed still along side the road holding his cell phone. Zen asks if his stolen car has a lowjack system, which Ed affirms. He is currently waiting on a return call. As if on cue the phone rings and Ed talks to the voice on the other end. When the conversation ends, he indicates that his car has come to a stop in the small town of Youngston. Zen offers him a ride back to his car, which he accepts.
Helios, who is almost a full hour ahead of the other two pulls into Youngston and begins looking for the stolen car. As he searches, he sees a commotion over at the sheriff’s office. Driving over there he finds the stolen car along with several locals looking like they are getting ready for war. When he inquires about what is going on, he is told that some lunatic drove up, shot a couple of cops, and is now holed up in there with a cylinder he dragged in.
Helios convinces the posse to wait until his companions arrive and not attempt to storm the place alone. They agree, and a little over a half an hour later, Zen and Riptide arrive. Zen in turn convinces the locals to wait outside and let them handle the problem. The locals reluctantly agree again.
Helios heads to the front entrance, Zen to the back entrance, and Riptide to the side entrance. Helios finds his door unlocked. Riptide’s door is locked, but he quickly defeats it with his lock picks. Zen finds her door locked, but is unable to shim the latch with her knife.
Riptide starts to investigate inside the door when Zen convinces him to switch places with her. While they play musical doors, Helios heads in. The lights are on, but nobody’s home. He clears the reception area, and moves down a central hall. He then attempts to move into the holding area but is brought down by a hail of gunfire from the waiting solo.
Hearing the gunfire, Zen rushes in to find Helios’ position. Riptide runs to the back door and goes to work on the lock.
Zen pulls Helios clear and then begins exchanging gunfire the solo that is holed up in a doorway. Both expend their ammo with little effect. Zen works to switch magazines while her opponent drops the rifle he was using and grabs a smaller caliber rifle.
Riptide picks the lock and rushes in, only to be greeted by an anti-personnel mine that is wired to the door. As he picks himself up of the ground and scraps off bits of shredded armor, he mutters to himself that he should have anticipated that the solo would have rigged the one door he couldn’t watch.
The firefight between Zen and the solo begins again. The new rifle that the solo is using is of a smaller caliber, but Zen quickly realizes that it is loaded with armor piercing bullets as the burst from the rifle begins to shred her armor. A heavy user of AP rounds herself; she realizes she does not like them nearly as much when she is on the receiving end.
Riptide comes around the corner on the other side of the solo and opens fire. Unfortunately, the solo has himself so well positioned that he is protected from both of them. Even though both the solo and Zen are exchanging AP rounds, he has better armor and the better position. Riptide decides to run down the hallway, leaving himself exposed, but denying the solo his cover advantage as well. Riptide’s ploy pays off, as he and Zen are able to bring the solo down in the crossfire.
Zen checks on the solo, who is still alive. She uses some handcuffs she finds to secure him. She is also able to identify him as Weston.
Meanwhile, Riptide goes looking for the canister. He checks everywhere, leaving only one room behind a closed door. Apparently not learning his lesson from the last door he went through, he marches in and is hit by shrapnel as the mine strapped to the canister explodes. Both and Zen are exposed, but they are able to get to open air with little more that some nausea and lightheadedness.
They put Weston and Helios into the van. They entrust their motorcycles to the keeping of the grateful locals. At 5:00 AM, they find themselves back in Night City. They arrange an exchange at the Forlorn Hope. They are paid the $8,000, plus the $1,000 bonus for bringing back Weston alive. The two then drop Helios off at the Hospital, and return home for some much needed rest.