Cyberpunk 2036

Episode 19 When the Chips are Down

After returning the missing boy to his mother, the next few weeks are quiet. Torrent is a bit disturbed that a coworker at Raven Micro-Cybernetics seems to know that Torrent is the one selling the Wraith program. Torrent claims to know nothing about it, but then begins to rethink how he is selling the program as clearly someone has started putting the pieces together.

Helios begins making some security related modifications both to the tow truck and his motorcycle. Zen works on figuring out how to use her resources at Infocomp to learn about who it is at Arasaka that wants them dead.

April 28th, 2038

Zen is hanging out at The Afterlife when a man in a black suit approaches her. He introduces himself as Webbs. He has an offer for a quick job. He is going to make an exchange in two hours at the Blowtorch, a club on the west side known for its tendency to play grind core. Its 500 bucks for a couple hours work. Zen agrees. He insists they go there straight away. Although he offers to share a cab, Zen insists on taking her motorcycle, despite the pouring rain.

On the way, she calls home and asks for backup. Riptide, Jonathan “Saito” David, and Torrent agree to help her out. Several rain-soaked minutes later, she arrives at the Blowtorch, right behind Webbs. They head inside. The other three arrive a few minutes later. Riptide and Torrent keep an eye on things from the outside. Saito heads in and takes a seat in a position that allows him to watch Zen and Webbs’ table.

While they wait, Webbs tries to make small talk and buys a drink for himself and Zen. Saito observes a Japanese man in a black suit by the bar, watching the table.

A few short moments later, Zen notices two young punks moving towards them. They brandish pistols and immediately start shooting. Webbs is hit in the arm before Zen can get between him and the attackers. She begins to push him towards the door, doing her best to use the crowd as cover. She then becomes their target. Her armor protects her from most of the hits, though she does take a grazing wound to the head. Saito, who had been watching the Japanese man, begins to move towards the two punks.

Zen gets Webbs safely to her motorcycle where she applies quick first aid to his bullet wound. Unfortunately, he looks much paler than he should for a relatively minor wound. He then complains that he does not feel very well. She orders him onto her bike and tells him to hold on. She then races to the ripperdoc Trapper John.

The two punks burst out of the club just as Zen drives away. Apparently they do not have a means to follow and dejectedly walk in the other direction. Torrent and Riptide follow them for several blocks, at which point the two punks make their way into a corner bar. Riptide and Torrent follow. Inside they hear the two argue over whether it was a successful job. One feels they failed because they did not kill Webbs. The other sees it as a success because they were paid up front.

Much to Torrent’s surprise, Riptide pulls out his two pistols and puts them at the back of the punks’ heads. Torrent quickly fumbles for his gun and follows suit. The two punks state that they were paid up front by some guy with a southeastern accent to go into the club and kill Webbs. Who the guy was or why he wanted them dead, the two of them didn’t know and didn’t ask. Realizing that he was dealing with a couple of over-their-heads rookies, Riptide confiscates their weapons and leaves them be.

Zen is racing to the ripperdoc’s when she feels Webbs let go. She stops the motorcycle just as Webbs collapses onto the street. She calls for Saito who is already on his way in the van. When Saito arrives, they get Webbs into the van and go to Trapper’s.

Unfortunately, Trapper has to point out that he is not a body bank, as Webbs is Dead on Arrival. They pay Trapper to run a toxin screen, which he indicates he will have the results of tomorrow.

Zen goes through Webbs’ suit and finds about $1,500 cash, an odd-looking data chip, and a business card. This business card is for Frank Harnes, a sales manager for Unlimited Concepts’ Orbital Division. On the back are several notes. There is a note to call John Burks, but there is no number. There is a phone number for a Frita Loay’s, and along the bottom a Net address. Torrent examines the chip, but it is of a type he does not recognize. It will not work in a standard chip reader.

Meanwhile, back home, Helios is hanging out when the power suddenly goes out. He goes on high alert, and makes contact with the other team members as the back up generator kicks in. However, it appears that the storm has knocked out all power in their area. It comes back on a few hours later.

April 29, 2038

The team learns that a high strength synthetic poison killed Webbs. Trapper figures it likely came from a Japanese biotech lab. Beyond that, the team does not further investigate the matter.

April 30, 2038

Riptide is home alone cleaning his guns when he feels a tap on his shoulder. He attempts to judo flip the person over him, but the intruder easily parries the attack. Riptide goes for a pistol, which the man makes no attempt to stop. He does tell Riptide to relax. He just wants to talk. The man is Japanese and dressed in a black suit. The man asks if Riptide has the chip. Riptide says he does not have it on him, but he knows where it is. The man indicates that he is willing to pay for the chip. When Riptide says tells him to name a starting price, the man states that he is willing to pay $100,000 for the chip. Riptide agrees without further negotiation.

With the price agreed upon, the man hands Riptide an envelope to “prove” that the offer is serious. In it are five tickets for transport to Crystal Palace. There are also hotel accommodations for two nights as well as a Crystal Palace credit chip worth $10,000. The orbital flight is in Saturday.

The rest of the team returns home to learn the news. They are surprised to learn that the tickets are in their real names. Also, the question was brought up as to how he got in without triggering any of the alarm systems.

The biggest questions are what is on the chip and who is willing to pay so much for it. However, the team chooses not to look into it.

May 1st, 2038

The team goes about their regular routines, still not feeling a need to look into what they have gotten themselves into. They do take precautions however. They make sure that one of them is carrying the chip at all times, and make sure that that person is never alone. Saito begins to wear full combat armor around the house so that he is ready at a moment’s notice.

May 2nd, 2038

On Sunday, Riptide and Zen are at the Mallplex shopping. Helios is working in the garage, while Saito is camped out in Torrent’s apartment, with Torrent who currently holds the chip.

Torrent steps out of the bathroom when the armored window in the living room has a hole punched in it followed an instant later by Torrent’s right arm exploding at the bicep. Time seems to stand still for a moment as Saito and Torrent stare at the stump where Torrent’s arm was attached just moments ago.

Then gunfire erupts outside, breaking the moment. Torrent collapses as Saito runs to him, staying below the window. Helios is on his way to investigate when one of the doors in the garage explodes. Just as he recovers his senses, two men armed with squad assault weapons begin to riddle the garage with bullets. Helios tries to return fire, but is pinned down by the gunfire.

Saito ties a tourniquet around the remainder of Torrents arm. He is stabilized but will need medical attention soon. Saito grabs the massive Arasaka WSSE/R sniper rifle and crawls out into the hallway. Helios is there trying to avoid the lead storm blasting its way through the hall. Saito is able to spot one of the assailants and takes a shot. The .50 caliber electro-thermo round punches through the man’s armor, blowing most of his chest out his back.

Helios is able to crawl back to Saito’s position. As the other man changes position to regain line of sight with Helios, Saito is waiting for him, and his next shot takes the other man down as well.

Saito decides to go back into Torrent’s apartment while Helios decides to take a look outside the garage. Outside they can see members of Death in the Afternoon exchanging fire with men armed with assault rifles.

Saito looks out the window where the shot that brought down Torrent came through. As soon as he sticks his head up, a shot is fired from the building across the street. It goes low, striking the wall instead. However, this sniper is also using electro-thermo rounds, although of a smaller size. The shot is big enough punch through the wall and go through Saito’s armor. Luckily it has spent too much energy to be lethal at that point.

This does give Saito a chance to spot his opponent. Both snipers line up their shots, but Saito gets his off first. His shot is also low, but the .50 caliber round still packs enough punch after going through the wall and body armor, that it kills the sniper.

Helios steps outside the blown out garage door and is immediately hit by a sniper round in the chest. It goes through his armor, but his enhanced musculature helps keep it form being fatal. He goes down nonetheless.

Aware that Helios is down, Saito returns to the garage and based on where Helios was hit, figures where the other sniper is hidden. Another sniper battle ensues, this time ending with Saito’s headshot decapitating the other sniper.

Saito contacts Jarvic to get an REO Meatwagon ambulance for Torrent and Helios. He then speaks to Neil, the leader of Death in the Afternoon. They had driven off the other attackers. They had questioned a survivor that they had captured, and he indicated that they were hired by a tall redhead who wants the team eliminated.

A few minutes later, Riptide and Zen returns. Saito fills them in on what happened. He first assumed it was someone after the chip, but based on what Neil told him, it seems that Alys Grant is trying to tie up some loose ends. Riptide calls Hand who knows nothing about it, but said he would look into the matter.

The rest of the day is spent repairing the damage to their home. They also check in on Torrent and Helios who are both stabilized and doing okay.

May 3rd, 2038

First thing Monday Morning, Riptide gets a call from Hand. It seems Rya Mendez got her old job back at Upstairs Downstairs and went back to work at the Bartholomew School for Advanced Studies. Either she or Jace Grant slipped up, because Alys got wind of what was going on. She then somehow figured out that Rya was the kidnapper, and decided to get some payback against the edgerunners who claimed the matter had been dealt with.

Obviously, this is an issue that cannot be ignored. However, it will have to wait, because the team, at least those not in the hospital, need to get to Oakland to catch an Orbital Air flight to the Crystal Palace. They also have to rethink their protection, as firearms are prohibited on board the orbiting station.

A three-hour drive takes them to the Oakland Spaceport, from where they take a 6 hour flight into orbit. Once in space, they board the Johnson Space Platform, where they await transport to Crystal Palace. Shortly there after, they are on an OTV heading towards the Crystal Palace. About half way through the to hour journey the shuttle shakes and depressurization warning lights go on. Luckily the team paid attention to the preflight safety briefing and were able to find their pressure suits under their seats.

All three are able to get their suits on, but now the shuttle is tumbling through space. Most of the crew is dead, due to a tank that ruptured up near the command cabin. The few crewmen that remain ask if anyone knows how to fix the damaged navigational system. Unfortunately, Riptide, who has a knack for such things, is busy holding down a hospital bed back in Night City. Zen, Saito, and Riptide take a look at the problem, but it is clearly beyond their capabilities.

So instead, they are left to wait. They continue to tumble through space for several hours before a rescue craft is able to arrive, stabilize them, and tow them the rest of the way to Crystal Palace. This gives the team time to contemplate whether the explosion was an unfortunate accident or was someone trying to make sure that shuttle never got to Crystal Palace.

Finally, in the late evening, PST, they arrive. Crystal Palace is a massive cylinder of glass and chrome encircled by numerous rings that rotate, giving the inhabited areas an impressive .7 G.

Inside looks like Las Vegas during its heyday. It’s an endless series of entertainment attractions wrapped in holoscreens and flashing marquees. Less than half of the people are locals, known as Highriders. Most people are visitors, like the team.

They check into their hotel rooms first. Saito looks through his for any listening devices, and discovers one behind a painting. He takes it and places it in Zen’s room, while everyone sets up camp in his room.

They head out and find a nice restaurant where they enjoy a good meal, which they pay for with the credit chip. They then spend the remainder of the evening at the casino. Riptide and Zen lose money at the slots, but Saito comes out ahead at the Black Jack table.

During the course of the evening, Saito notices an Italian man watching him. Zen notices a Chinese woman watching her. Riptide does not notice anyone taking an interest in him. They make no attempt to approach these tails, and instead call it a night and return to their room. They find a message waiting for them to meet in a specified room at 7:00 PM tomorrow.

May 4th 2038

In the morning, there is a knock on Saito’s door. Room service has brought a breakfast on the house. Saito tells the bellhop to enjoy the breakfast him self, and sends him on his way.

Today, they spend the day seeing other areas of the orbiting habitat. They visit the arboretum and check out some of the stores. Saito finds a cyberware store that sells sleek, but expensive orbital crystal cybernetics. He finds a cyberarm that is durable, but light weight, weighing little more than a normal human arm. The price tag is $7,000, but he purchases with the credit chip, to give to Torrent.

While visiting a bar in the afternoon, a man in an Italian suit approaches Riptide, acting as if they have meet before. He comments that it is good to see Riptide again, and offers to shake his hand. Riptide is hesitant at first, but then notices the man palming a piece of paper. Riptide shakes the man’s hand and watches as the man walks away.

Turning back to the bar, he looks at the paper and reads the message. It indicates that the messenger, or whom ever he works for is willing to pay $200,000. They are to meet in a specified room at 6:00 PM today.

They decide to return to Saito’s room to discuss their next move. After considerable deliberation, they decide to go to the meeting at 6:00 PM.

At the appointed time, they arrive at the room. A tall blonde Scandinavian woman opens the door. She escorts them into the suite, where another woman, nearly a twin, awaits. Riptide notices that they are both carrying flechette pistols.

A man emerges from one of the bedrooms and greets them. He says his name is Karl, and he speaks in a light German accent. He asks to see the chip, which they produce. He places it in a special chip reader, and after a few keystrokes, watches blueprints flash across the screen. Satisfied, he produces a credit chip and places it in another chip reader. The display indicates that the chip has $200,000 on it. He turns the chip over to Riptide.

When the team begins to question him about what is on the chip, he seems surprised that they know so little about what they are involved in. He explains that he works for the European Space Agency, and that the blueprints come from NASA. Any further questions are deflected, and the team makes their exit.

Realizing that NASA, as it appears their original buyers were, will be vary displeased to learn they sold the blueprints to the ESA, they try to book immediate transport off of Crystal Palace. Unfortunately, the next shuttle does not leave for another three and a half hours and their NASA meeting is in one half hour. They have to figure out how to lay low in an enclosed environment.

They decide the best thing to do is hide in plain sight. They decide to stick to populated areas where there would be too many witnesses. So they find themselves milling about in the Palace’s main shopping center. They keep an eye out for anyone coming their way and always keep each other in sight.

Despite the vigilance, Riptide is startled to find the black clad Japanese man standing behind him. The man points out that it is now 8:00 PM, and that Riptide failed to show for their meeting at 7:00 PM. The man demands to know why the team failed to show. Riptide admits that they have had another offer for more money.

Needless to say, the man is quite displeased. He asks if the deal has gone through yet, to which Riptide falsely replies that it has not. The man berates the team for accepting a free ride to Crystal Palace, free lodging, and a $10,000 credit chip as a goodwill gesture, only to then betray him as soon as someone comes along flashing more money. He indicates that he awaits the team’s decision, but if they do not go through with his deal, he expects to be reimbursed for all of the money they have spent.

The team then spends considerable time deciding what to do next. Ultimately they accept that their bed has already been made. Since the ESA has the data chip, they are unlikely to sell it back. Even if they did, who’s to say they have not already copied it. So they go to the room that was designated for their meeting with NASA and explain that they have taken the other offer. The Japanese man demands and receives reimbursement for the money they used. He then inquires to whom they sold it to. Riptide gives him the hotel room number. The man produces a pocket computer and looks up the room. He then chuckles and wishes the team a safe ride home.

May 5th, 2038

After an “over-night” flight, they find themselves back on terra firma at the Oakland Spaceport. By the early afternoon they are back in Night City. Bothered by the Japanese man’s chuckle, Riptide immediately tries to cash the credit chip he got from the ESA. His suspicion is realized when the chip comes up empty.

Once they are settled back in, Riptide attempts to contact Hand, but finds that the normal contact number has been disconnected. They stop at the Forlorn Hope and talk to the Professor. He indicates that word on the street is that someone turned up the heat on Hand and that he has split town.

Finding themselves in the hole financially from the NASA/ESA deal, and now without their main contact for corporate jobs, the team returns home and begins the work of repairing their headquarters.

May 6th – May 10th, 2038

The team starts working their street contacts to find out what the story is regarding the contract that was put out on them. It seems that no one is currently out to get them. Perhaps Alys felt she made her point with the last attack on their home. They also find out that Rya Mendez has been deported, and that there is a contract out on Hand. They also continue work on their home repairs.

With two of their members hospitalized, a lucrative deal botched, their home trashed, and their corporate contact on the run, things haven’t looked this bad since they first got to Night City. On the plus side, it can’t get any worse. Maybe.