Cyberpunk 2036

Episode 18 Thicker than Blood

The team gets about six weeks of down time between missions. During this time Saito and Zen quite their part time jobs and begin street salvage operations. Helios puts time in as well for the new business.

April 6, 2038

Riptide gets a call from Hand indicating that he has a job offer and to meet him at the Cloud 9 restaurant. Riptide promptly shows up, and over a rather expensive meal he learns that a corp named Alys is looking to hire for a job that pays $10,000. If he wants it, he should show up with the team at the Night City Fine Arts Museum.

Riptide contacts the team and they arrive at the Museum at 11:00 PM. Hand is there waiting for them and escorts them into a closed section of the museum. Alys, a tall slender red-headed woman in an expensive suit and wearing even more expensive jewelry, is waiting for them. She explains that her son failed to come home from school that afternoon. The school is a secure facility. The staff does not know how he was taken. Her son’s name is Jace and he is nine years old. There has been no attempt to demand a ransom. She wants the team to find him and bring him back safely. There is a $1,000 bonus if they deal with the kidnappers.

The team presses her for more information, but she is not forthcoming. She refuses to give them any personal information, including her last name. She does indicate that the school he was kidnapped from has been told they would be coming and to cooperate with the investigating team.

The team’s first priority is the safe return of her son. The second is that there must be no media involvement what so ever. They agree and she gives them a picture of Jace as well as a $1,000 cash advance.

The team returns home where Zen has Torrent hack the computer system for the Bartholomew School for Advanced Studies. He finds vendor information for IntCop, the security service there and Upstairs Downstairs, which provides custodial and food services. He then finds a student record for Jace Grant. His legal guardian is listed as Alys Grant, living at 1705 Cloud Villa. He finds the faculty records and learns that the school has a new teacher this year, Isaac Hussein. As he is looking, a trace program gets the jump on him and he is forced to leave. He tries to return a short time later but finds that the school’s computer has been taken offline.

April 7, 2038

In the early morning, Riptide, Torrent, and Zen go to the school to meet with the headmaster, Ms. White. They find that the school is located in a poor part of town. It is not the Combat Zone, but its hardly downtown either. A security fence with a manned gate surrounds the entire property. They are told by the guards to check in any weapons. They give Zen an odd look as she turns over her AK-47.

With that business taken care of they are allowed onto the property. The primary school facility is located in the center. On the west side is the dorms for students who live on sight as well as a music center. On the east side is an athletics field along with a large field house and gym.

They are escorted into the schools administration office where they meet Ms. White, a grey-haired woman in her 60’s. She has a strong maternal instinct and refers to the students as “my children.”

She indicates that they have never lost a student before. There is a camera on the gate, but know indication of Jace leaving through it. The fence is alarmed, and was never set off. Jace had his last class that ended at 4:00 PM and he has not been seen since.

Zen inquires about his last class and Ms. White indicates that it was Dr. Phil Carry’s corporate law class. They wish to question him, but she says that he called in sick today. They ask if he calls in a lot and she says no, but the frequency of his absences has been on the increase lately. Other faculty have also remarked about his seeming to be nervous and agitated lately.

The team returns home. Torrent begins to research Dr. Carry while the others attend to day jobs. Dr. Carry has no criminal record and has been employed at the school for several years. Prior to that he taught at a University in Houston.

At 7:00 PM, Torrent, Saito and Zen go to Dr. Carry’s home. Zen and Torrent take the elevator, while Saito takes the stairs. Torrent and Zen knock on the door and Phil Carry answers. They discuss Jace, whom Phil describes an average student. The only thing that struck him as odd, was Jace’s recent interest in parental rights laws.

Phil’s wife then bursts forth from the bedroom, wearing a gown and tiara, interrupting their interview. She refers to the team as her subjects and seats herself before them in a stately fashion. Embarrassed, Phil escorts his wife back into the bedroom.

He explains that she used to be a computer engineer who was always a fan of online role-playing games. However, while playing one that used a brain-dance interface, she suffered a sever trauma. Since then, her ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality has been greatly diminished. He suspects that someone planted a malicious virus in the game that attacked her mentally. He has had to stay home frequently as of late because her condition has been deteriorating.

Before leaving, they ask him about Isaac Hussein. Phil explains that Isaac is a psychology teacher who has a fascination with street culture. Beyond that, Isaac seems like at normal person.

Torrent places a call to the number that Alys gave them. He leaves a voicemail message indicating that he wishes to speak to her.

April 8, 2038

Riptide returns to the school in the morning and begins to watch video footage of the gate camera. He keeps track of all of the incoming and outgoing traffic and compares it to the traffic on other days. It takes him all morning and well into the afternoon, but eventually he spots a Upstairs/Downstairs truck that made a non-routine visit to the school the day Jace disappeared. Furthermore, it leaves shortly before it’s discovered that Jace is missing.

Torrent does some more research into Alys Grant. He learns she has a middle management position at Infotech. Comparing the average salary for a woman in her position to the likely lively expenses that she has to maintain her lifestyle, Torrent suspects that Alys has an additional source of income.

Based on the information that Riptide had learned, he and Zen go to Upstairs/Downstairs. They speak with a manager there and learn that the non-routine visit to the school was to pick up some floor equipment for maintenance. The driver of that truck was Rya Mendez. They ask to speak with her, but the manager indicates that Rya has resigned her position. He does however, have her home address.

Around 7:00 PM, Helios and Zen go to 3722 Brownstone, the listed address for Rya Mendez. Interestingly enough, the homes on Brownstone are in fact Brownstones. They knock on the door, and after several locks are released, a gray haired woman in her late 60s answers. She says her name is Marta and she owns the home. Rya rents a room from her. She left this morning, and Marta has not seen her since. She knows little about Rya’s personal life and little useful information is gained from her.

The two continue to stake out the home waiting for Rya’s return. At 9:00 PM, a man in a trench coat pulls up on a motorcycle. He goes to the door and knocks. Marta answers and the two talk for a few second. Marta disappears back into the house and returns a few moments later with a couple of envelopes, and gives them to her visitor. He returns to his motorcycle and drives off.

While Helios maintains watch over the home, Zen tails the man back to downtown. He heads into the The Afterlife, and Zen follows. She watches at the bar while he drinks his beer alone. He then reluctantly pulls out the two envelopes. He opens the first, looks at it briefly, and then rips it up. The second is a letter, which he reads intently. When he finishes reading the letter, he is all smiles and happily puts the letter back in his jacket. He orders a shot, which he quickly downs, then he is back on his motorcycle.

Zen follows him deep into the Combat Zone. She stays alert as possible, as there are fewer more dangerous places to be after dark then the Combat Zone. She tails him to and old apartment building. It is dark inside, as there appears to be no power anywhere on this city block. She calls in, and Saito indicates that he is on his way to back her up. While she is waiting she pulls out the torn pieces of mail that she snatched off of the bar before leaving the Afterlife. She pieces it together and sees that it’s a bank loan rejection letter addressed to a Nick Desmond. The address is 3722 Brownstone. Apparently, Marta has another roommate.

When Saito arrives, they go into the building. The hallways are pitch black. Saito leads the way using his infrared optics to see. They head up to the upper level, and begin listening at doors. Most of the rooms appear to be occupied by squatters. When the come to a door, beyond which they here the sound of things being push around. They knock.

There is a moment of silence and then a voice responds, wanting to know who they were. They ask to be let in, but the voice refuses. He does admit to being Nick Desmond. Questioning him through the door reveals that he pays Marta a small monthly fee to use her home as a mailing address. She gets his mail, takes his messages, and if anyone asks, will say he lives there. He states it’s a lot easier to get a job and be taken seriously in general, if people think you have a permanent address.

Upon learning this, they head back to Marta’s. Its about midnight, but they don’t let this stop them from banging on her door. Eventually she answers. They demand to know about Rya. At first Marta is evasive, but Zen explains she knows Rya doesn’t actually live there. Marta admits that she runs this service for a number of clients, as it provides a nice income to get her through her late years. She is still hesitant to reveal any information about Rya, until Zen explains that Rya may be involved in the kidnapping of a child. Upon learning this, Marta relents. She goes through her records and says she has a note indicating that Rya lives in the 12th Street Alley, Hillview. Hillview is the same part of town as the Bartholomew School for Advanced studies.

April 9th, 2038

In the early morning hours, the team reunites, except for Torrent, and head down to Hillview. Unfortunately, the streets are not labeled, and there is no way to identify which street is 12th Street. They have already drawn the attention of the local street punks, so Zen approaches one. He is naturally unhelpful until she gives him $50. He then gladly points the way to the 12th St. Alley.

The team moves in. The first thing they notice is the smell of someone cooking meth, or whatever the latest variation is, that’s popular this week. They skip the shack that is the source of that smell and visit the next one. They wake up a woman and question her about Rya and the boy. The woman indicates that the Rya lives in the last shack on the left.

A thunderstorm rolls in and begins to dump rain into the alley, as they close in on their target. Helios knocks on the door. This is followed by a rapid shuffling sound from within. Not wanting to take any chances, Riptide kicks in the door and sees Rya Mendez attempting to hide the boy under the bed.

While, Helios and Saito stand watch outside, Zen and Riptide question the woman. She says that she moved here from Colombia 10 years ago. While she was working at a hospital, she was paid to take part in some genetic testing. A short time later, she was approached by a doctor asking if she would be willing to be a surrogate mother. There was a woman who wanted to have children but was unable. In exchange for her services, she would be given a nice apartment to live in. Since she was living on the street at the time, she agreed.

As the time grew close to give birth, she began to regret her decision, and wanted to keep the baby. She hired a lawyer, but learned that the contract she signed gave her no legal claim to the child. When the baby was born, it was taken from her immediately, before she could even see him.

She began to snoop around, trying to learn who had the child. But then, shortly there after, she was fired from the hospital. Her apartment was then taken away and she was back on the street. The contract entitled her to the apartment only while she was caring for the child.

Despite these setbacks, she continued to look for her son. Eventually, she found him at the Bartholomew School for Advanced Studies. She took a job at Upstairs/Downstairs, and got a position at the school as soon as one opened up. Her intention was simply to be close to Jace. However, she soon realized that he was very unhappy at home. He preferred to stay at school rather than have to go home to a mother he said didn’t care for him.

Eventually, Rya could not bear it any longer and told Jace who she was. The two then formulated a plan to escape to Colombia. Rya has tickets for a flight that leaves later today. She begs the edgerunners to let her and her son go. It is clear that Jace would rather stay in this shack with Rya, rather than return to his much nicer home with Alys.

Their pleas fall on deaf ears, however. Zen reminds Rya that she signed a contract and that a deal is a deal. While she closely watches Rya, Riptide snatches up the boy and carries him out the waiting van at the end of the ally. They leave Rya to her sobbing as they drive out of Hillview with the boy. Riptide places a call to Hand, who is very pleased to hear that they have found the boy. He asks if they took care of the kidnappers. Riptide lies and says the kidnappers were just some punks who were looking for a ransom, but they had been eliminated. Satisfied with the answer, Hand has them meet outside the Forlorn Hope at 6:00 AM.

Since 6:00 AM is only a couple of hours away, they decide to stay mobile, rather than return home. Zen tries to feed and console the boy, but he wants no part of any of it.

At the appointed time, they arrive at the Forlorn Hope. Two cabs arrive. Hand steps out of the first one, and asks them to turn over the boy. They do, and he escorts the boy into the second cab, which immediately drives away. He then returns to the first cab, and gets a credit chip from Alys who waits inside. He gives the team their pay, and then leaves in the first cab.

With the deal done, they returned home. All in all, it was a good mission. They found the boy and got their pay. Not losing any of their vehicles, or even having to fire a shot, meant this mission cost them very little. Unless of course you count the pieces of their humanity that they had to cash in.