Cyberpunk 2036

Episode 33 - Child's Play

January 8th, 2040

Riptide is approached by a fixer known as Guardian. He is looking for a crew with some very specific requirements, namely that they have at least one netrunner, a pilot, and three individuals with military experience. He also is looking for a team that has been in orbit before. His inquiries led him to Riptide.

The job he is hiring for involves extracting information from an orbital workshack. The pay is a quarter million dollars. Riptide agrees to have the team meet with Guardian the next day.

January 9th, 2040

The team meets with Guardian. He gives them more details on the job. They are to travel to the Crystal Palace. There they will receive two weeks of zero-G and space survival training. Then they will break into the ESA office and get the information they need on the workshack. They will then travel to the target workshack, acquire project samples and data files. They will then rendezvous with a shuttle that will pick them up and make the exchange.

They team agrees to a price of $300,000; 20% of which will be paid up front, another 30% when they successfully complete zero-G training, and the remaining 50% upon completion of the job. They can also keep all issued equipment.

They agree to the arrangements. They are scheduled to depart from the Oakland Spaceport in six days.

January 10th – 14th, 2040

The team makes arrangements for their absence. They try to convince their employers to let them be gone for that long. Some are more convincing than others. They also do a little shopping for things that they think they may need.

Guardian was very clear about not bringing any weapons, including implanted ones. So Ripper, Helios, and Zen go to their ripperdocs to have the implants removed.

January 15th, 2040

The team travels to the Oakland Spaceport. There they meet Guardian, who gives them some final details and their passports with their fake IDs.

They then board a scramjet that takes them into orbit and docks at the Johnson Spaceport. After going through customs, they take an Orbital Transfer Vehicle to the Crystal Palace.

Everyone except Ripper has been to the Palace before, but it is no less an amazing sight the second time around. The five torus rotate around a central tube. Within each torus is a tourism paradise.

But the team is not here for site-seeing. They are met at the docking station by Mr. Mumbasa, a tall lean African who lets them know he will doing their Zero-G training.

He takes them to Torus 1 and leads them to a club called the Black Hole. He indicates that their contact is next inside. He will see them in two days to begin their training.

They enter the multi-tiered night club and spot a tall, blonde, European woman, who motions them over. She introduces herself as Tova. She is a solo who has also been hired for this mission. She lives on the Crystal Palace, so she knows her way around pretty well.

As they make small talk, they notice a short Frenchman in a suit, watching them from another table. When they look his way, he simply goes back to eating his dinner.

Tova informs them that they will be taking the grand guided tour of the station tomorrow. It will take them past the ESA office, which will give them an opportunity to have a look at the building without being too conspicuous. She then leads them back to their hotel, The Pompadour, and they settle in for the evening.

January 16th, 2040

The next day they take the tour. It passes through each torus taking them through residential areas, hotel and entertainment centers, giant parks, agricultural areas, business districts and a couple of manufacturing facilities.

It was in one of the business districts that the see the ESA office. The tour takes a break so that the tourists can stop at the local shops. They can see an exterior camera and card access on the door. Unfortunately, the ESA office is located only a few buildings down from the police station.

Soon the tour is again underway, and the team goes with it. They reach the end of the tour in the late afternoon.

Waiting for them is the short man in the suit that they had seen at the Black Hole. He introduces himself as Inspector Andre Clouet of Interpol. He politely tells them he hopes they enjoy their stay at the Palace. He also politely but clearly states that he is on to them. He knows a team of edgerunners when he sees one. He may not know what they are up to, but he knows they are up to something. If they cause any trouble, they will have to deal with him. He then binds them adieu.

The team decides to turn in early because they begin their training the next day.

January 17th – January 31st, 2040

The team spends 15 hours a day, for 15 days training in zero-G operations and space survival techniques. Acrobatic maneuvering, hand to hand combat, and shooting all work very differently in zero-G. They are reminded that even with this crash course training, they will be at a disadvantage against anyone who is used to working in zero-G operations.

February 1st – February 2nd, 2040

The team is given a couple of days to rest and recuperate. Those who travel about the Palace notice that they are being tailed by Interpol operatives.

February 3rd, 2040

In the morning, they receive a large care package from their employer. It contains sneak suits and space operations suits. They are also issued Militech flechette pistols and shotguns, as well as combat knives. Also in the bags are IR goggles, a biohazard satchel, an Aztech 600 Assault Deck, a tank of sleep gas, a OTV piloting chip, some smoke grenades, and false tags matching their IDs.

They are given the plan as their employer has laid it out. They are free to improvise as needed. The plan calls for them to divide into an Alpha and Beta team. The Alpha team, which needs to include Mouse, breaks into the ESA office, finds the location of the Bauer Biotech workshack, finds the OTV that is scheduled to go there next, and then insert the team’s IDs into the Clear List at the docking port’s security check point.

As soon as Beta team gets word of their success, they will pass through security into the correct docking bay. There they will secure the OTV and have it ready to launch by the time the Alpha team arrives

The team will then take the OTV to the workshack. Once docked, they will again break into two teams. First, they will secure the life support terminal and introduce the knockout gas into the ventilation system. Team Alpha will then find the Administrator’s office and begin downloading key files. Team Beta will go to the labs and grab samples. The knockout gas will only last a few minutes, so they will have to move fast.

Once they have everything they came for, they will get back into the OTV and head to a rendezvous point to meet with a shuttle. There, they will ditch the OTV and take the shuttle back to the Palace.

What could possibly go wrong?

They decide to break into three teams. Team Alpha will be Mouse, Zen, and Tova. They will break into the ESA office. Team Bravo will be Helios and Ripper, who will head to the docking bay and be ready to move. Team Charlie will be Saito and Riptide, who will act as a decoy to draw away any Interpol attention.

Alpha team arrives at the ESA office. Using a device she borrowed from Ripper, Zen spoofs the card reader and they enter the building. All three are wearing sneak suits, and use them to maneuver around the cameras without getting spotted. They make their way up stairs and go to the office as indicated in the information packet that came with Mouse’s deck.

Mouse jacks in and goes to work while the other two stand guard. Several minutes go by as Mouse sits motionless at the desk. Soon Zen hears two sets of footsteps coming up the stairs. The footsteps travel straight down the hall towards their office. Soon there is a knock on the door, followed by the jingling of keys.

The door opens and a security guard points a flashlight right at Mouse. Zen grabs the guard’s extended arm and pulls her in. There is a brief struggle that ends with both security guards tased and knocked out.

When Mouse wakes up, he reports that he has dropped their IDs into the docking bay security. He also says that the OTV they want is the Louie Bleriot at Dock 14. They radio the others with the update.

Both teams Bravo and Charlie are convinced that they have lost their tails, if they had any to begin with. They rendezvous just outside the docking terminal. They enter and go through security. The guards check their IDs and let the pass.

The four enter the zero-G docking bay and make their way around the circular room. They notice an armed guard sitting in a break room. They reach the airlock for the Louie Bleriot and try to convince the load master that they have some cargo for him. When the load master refuses to accept the cargo, they draw their pistols and force the crew into the airlock. Once inside, they find the skipper and secure all three crewmen in the cargo hold. They then radio team Alpha and let them know that the OTV has been secured.

Zen, Mouse, and Tova head to the docking bay. They pass through security and float through the docking bay to the airlock. Once everyone is on board, they debate what to do with the crew. Ultimately, they decide to keep them in the cargo hold.

Helios jacks into the controls for the OTV. The skill chip in his brain feeds him the information he needs to undock the vehicle, and the Louie Bleriot slowly moves away from the Crystal Palace.

It’s a six hour journey to the workshack. Mouse’s data grab reveals that the workshack is operated by Bauer Biotech, a German biotech company. He is also able to pull up plans for the workshack. The craft has two central modules, called A and B. Each central module has three module extending out like spokes. Modules 1, 2, and 3 extend from the center of Module A, and modules 4, 5, and 6 extend from module B. The life support controls are just passed the airlock on module A. Module 1 contains the terminal the Mouse needs to access, while modules 5 and 6 contain the labs where they need to get samples. The team makes their final preparations.

Helios docks the OTV to the workshack. The workshack crew questions why they are a half day early. The team claims that the normal crew is out sick with a case of “Armstrong’s Revenge” and they are filling in. They are early because they have their own work to do as well.

Ripper, Helios, and Riptide enter the airlock. As the inner door opens, they see a security guard waiting for them. Down the tube is an engineer working on a laptop at a table.

The security guard tells them to leave their delivery there in the receiving room, and a technician would move it to storage later.

Riptide begins shooting the bull with the security guard as the others go back for another load. When they return, Helios has the tank of knockout gas. While the guard is distracted by Riptide’s storytelling, Helios hooks up the gas to the environmental system. He and Ripper immediately put on their breathing masks. Riptide waits until the guard is starting to look woozy before putting his mask on. He breathes a little of the gas himself, but is able to keep it together.

The engineer notices that the guard is passed out and approaches asking what happened. Helios produces his flechette pistol and orders the man to comply. Close examination reveals that the engineer has nasal filter implants.

The rest of the team enters the workshack. Zen, Tova and Mouse float over to Module 1 which is the administrative module. Inside, they see Marie Marnard, the head of the facility, floating unconscious at a table. They are about to move on when somebody activates an alarm.

Saito opens the hatch to Module B in which three security guards, having heard the alarm are drawing weapons. The two closest have flachette pistols, while the third pulls a shotgun off of a rack. Deadly needles begin zipping across the module.

Mouse enters what appears to be Marie’s bedroom when a technician jumps from behind a partition and gets Mouse in a chock hold. Zen goes to free him, but the technician is very adept at moving in the zero-G environment, and he seems to counter Zen’s every move.

In Module B, Saito launches himself at the closet guard and engages him in hand to hand. Ripper begins to trade shots with the other two guards. Riptide and Helios bring up the rear. Helios continues forward to join the fight while Riptide hangs back. Wondering how many other people had nasal filters, he begins securing the hatches to modules 2 and 3 to prevent getting caught in a cross fire.

In Module 1, Mouse is still locked up in a chock hold by the technician. Zen is now locked up on the technician trying to break his lock. Tova is waiting for an opportunity to take a shot.

In Module B, Ripper takes down one guard, while Helios charges the third. Ripper is about to join Helios when another guard appears from the hatch to Module 5. He and Ripper exchange closing shots as they too engage in hand to hand combat.

Zen, tired of losing time in this melee, takes her stun gun and hits the technician with a full charge. The disabling blast of electricity hits him and passes on to Mouse and Zen as well. The technician is unconscious, Zen, is knocked out as well, but Mouse comes out the best. He shakes of the after effects of the taser and with Tova’s help, gets set up at the terminal.

Saito chokes out his opponent. Helios hits his target a couple of times with his taser, but the big man won’t give. Ripper grapples up on his opponent, and starts rabbit punching him in the face. Riptide comes up from behind and grabs the man’s arms.

Helios finally takes down his opponent just as Saito comes floating by to help Riptide secure the last guard. With three people on him, the guard finally concedes he’s lost, and they secure him with the others.

Riptide and Saito head over to the lab in Module 5. There they find several unconscious engineers floating about. They begin grabbing samples.

In Module 1, Zen wakes up to see Tova floating over her, trying to get her to wake up. Mouse is still zoned out at the terminal.

Ripper and Helios go to Module 6. This one is secured with an electronic lock, but it’s nothing that Ripper’s trusty decoder can’t handle. They are soon in, but quickly discover that this lab looks nothing like the one depicted on the official drawings.

The module is lit in a dim red light, and features 6 large glass tanks. There is something organic and alive in each tank.

Suddenly an electronic voice says “Alert! Alert! Module security seals compromised. Initiating security protocol.” They hear the popping of exploding bolts and the whole workshack vibrates for a moment. Then the voice says “Auto-destruct sequence has been activated.”

Saito and Riptide felt the vibration and looked out a window to see what has happened. They watch as Module 6 begins to float away from the workshack. It all looks rather serene.

Inside the module, Ripper and Helios are frantically tearing the place apart until the finally find an electrical access. Helios is able to trace the lines for the self-destruct and disarm it.

The two are enjoying a moment of relief when they hear the sound of someone knocking on glass. They look to the back of the module and see a large fogged glass window. They float over to it and Ripper spots a display control. With the push of a button, the glass becomes clear revealing a small bedroom beyond. Inside is a small boy with an oddly squat form and opposable thumbs on his feet. He begins speaking to them in German.

Mouse finally awakens and says they won’t believe what Bauer Biotech is up to. Zen tells him to explain it on the way and they head back to the OTV. Mouse says that apparently Bauer is apparently trying to bio-engineer a human being better suited for living in zero-G. He says that Module 6 contains modified human clones, six in gestation and well as one fully active clone. He even has a name.

“Ich heissa Erik” the boy beyond the glass says. Ripper engages his German chip and beings to talk to the boy. Erik says he has lived in the module his whole life. He refers to Marie as his mother although he knows it’s not really true. The edgerunners may not be lawyers, but they know that this type of research is about as illegal as it gets.

The rest of the team piles into the OTV. They have a number of problems to deal with, but first and foremost is that their team member who can fly the OTV is floating away in Module 6. So they go to the cargo hold and release Toby Scanelli, the OTV’s pilot.

They quickly explain to him the situation. He says they cannot dock with the module, but they can use the grapple arm to secure it to the OTV. He then tells them that unless anyone of them knows how to operate the grapple arm, they will need to release his engineer as well. The engineer is promptly untied.

They maneuver over to the module and are able to reel it in. Toby is about to ask them what to do next when there is a bright flash of light and a loud pop. Two holes now appear in the ship in opposite sides. In between them stands Phillip the engineer who looks down at the large hole burned through his chest and then collapses to the ground.

Mouse says that there is a high power laser on the workshack used for communications. Much like Module 6, it may have been modified off the books, and now is being used as a weapon.

They others scramble to repair the damage. Thankfully, their shopping trip back on earth included some slap patches. Their crash course survival training taught them how to use them. It takes some effort to get the job done, especially with the inertia shifts from Toby trying to avoid the laser.

Once everything settles down, they assess at their situation. They try to think of a way to get Ripper, Helios and Erik over to the OTV, but that does not seem possible. Tova is concerned about their meeting with the shuttle. Their contract said “minimal damage” and here they are towing a piece of the workshack.

To make matters worse, Toby pointed out that they have lost a lot of their oxygen reserves. They have barely enough air to get back to Crystal Palace, but not nearly enough to get them to the rendezvous coordinates that they gave him. The lab module has even less air than they do.

They take stock of what they have. Some of them have breathers with replaceable one hour air cartridges. They also have emergence bubbles, designed to protect against decompression and have two hour air supplies. If they can get the shuttle to agree to meet them a little closer to their current position, they just might make it. But if the shuttle refuses to change the rendezvous point, they will not have enough air to get to Crystal Palace and they are doomed.

The other option is going back to the Palace. The problem is they are towing a “stolen” chunk of a workshack, that there is no good way to explain. They decide to make for the shuttle.

They also discuss what to do with Erik. Saito is concerned that their employer will treat him like a lab rat. He will either end up imprisoned in another lab or on a dissecting table. They others agree that handing over Erik isn’t an option. Tova says it will take some work, but she can perhaps find a Highrider colony that will take the boy.

They ask Mouse if he can erase any record of Erik from the files he stolen. He says it won’t be easy, but he has nothing else to do for the next several hours.

Eight hours later, they make radio contact with the shuttle. The shuttle agrees to move to them, cutting the remaining travel time in half.

About another hour later, with air in both the OTV and the lab module becoming thin and stale, the make visual contact with the shuttle.

A voice from the shuttle introduces himself as Hikaru Shoten. He clearly sees what they are towing and has half a mind to leave them there. Riptide explains what has happened, keeping things on the level, minus any mention of Erik. Hikaru decides that they are worth salvaging.

Ripper and Helios go into Erik’s environmentally sealable chamber. They give Erik a breather with the last of their oxygen cartridges, and place him in a sealed container that Helios was able to jury rig during the trip. A man from the shuttle EVAs over to the module and opens the hatch. The decompression blows out anything not bolted down. He then drops off two survival suits. After he re-secures the hatch, they open the sealed room door.

Their ears pop as the air the room rushes out to cover a space three times its original volume. The effect is disorienting, but they are able to get the suits on. They using a cable line installed by the shuttle crew, they transport themselves and their lab samples over to the shuttle.

Everyone on the OTV is transported over as well. The team bribes the surviving OTV crewmembers with enough money to recover their craft, repair it, plus some extra money to keep their mouths shut.

During transit back to Crystal Palace, Saito transfers Erik from the containment box over to his equipment bag. When they arrive at the Palace, they turn over all of the lab samples to their employer, whom they learn is No-Ahme Caldwell, an American/Japanese bio-engineering firm.

Riptide discusses the matter with Hikaru and the corp agrees to pay them the remainder of their fee. Ripper inquires about a bonus since what they found was far more valuable than anyone thought, but Hikaru says any additional money earned was offset but the company have to ferry them back to Crystal Palace.

They leave the No-Ahme offices. Helios goes to book flights back home. Zen heads back to the Pompadour to get a shower and much needed rest. Ripper takes their contraband equipment that they acquired and puts it in a storage locker. While doing so, he spots a tail that he recognized as an Interpol agent.

Riptide and Saito make their way to another hotel to keep then boy until Tova finds someone to take him. They are about to stop at a clothing store to get him some proper close, when an electric vehicle pulls up. The dark window rolls down and inside is Inspector Andre Clouet.

Clouet asks them to get in the car. Riptide bulks and says unless they are being arrested for something, he has no right to make them get in. Clouet, in his usual polite matter, says that he can pretty much do whatever he wants. They are not under arrest, not yet anyway, he is just curious as to what they have been up to, and what is in that duffle bag that they won’t let out of their sight.

As they see Interpol agents begin to walk up the street from both directions, they decide to get in the car. Realizing that they were not going to avoid showing him what’s in the bag, Saito unzips it and Erik pops his head out and introduces himself.

Clouet’s natural assumption is kidnapping. Riptide however, weaves a convincing story about how they did a rescue operation to recover the boy. Clouet says that Interpol should take over from here but they tell him that the only thing left to do is to turn him over to his parents which they were working on. Clouet accepts their story but insists that an Interpol agent over sees the exchange. They agree.

As soon as Clouet leaves them be, they purchase some clothes for Erik. Saito is able to find some shoes that will fit him somewhat comfortably, but that at least hides his feet. The boy lacks the strength to walk in the .8 G gravity of the Palace, so Saito carries him to the hotel.

Tova contacts Saito. She has found some Highriders that will take him in. He tells her about Clouet and that whoever picks him up will have to be able to convince them that the boy belongs to them. Tova, who seems as concerned about the boy as Saito is, says she will take care of it.

Riptide and Saito stay with Erik. The rest return to the Pompadour, and they all get some much needed rest.

February 4th, 2040

The next day, Zen, Helios and Mouse head back to Earth, while the others stay behind.

February 5th, 2040

Tova arrives with a Highrider family. They have papers and a story convincing enough for Interpol to agree to the hand over. Riptide and Saito prepare to go home, but Ripper says he will be sticking around a little longer.

As Riptide and Saito prepare to leave, they are met at the docking station by Clouet. He says something still seems off to him about Riptides story, but he isn’t sure what. So he thought he would see them off to make sure they were actually leaving.

They then went through security to take an OTV to the Johnson Space Platform. From there it was a bumpy space plane ride back to Oakland and a cab ride back to Night City.